Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Democratic Party Establishment Desperately Needs Reform-- Instead It Got More Schumer, Pelosi And Hoyer

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Friday night Bernie was at Dominican University in Marin County, ostensibly to promote his new book, Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In. In launched right into an attack against the Democratic Party establishment, blaming party elites for creating the environment in which Trumpism could thrive. His point, not unlike Thomas Frank's in Listen Liberal, is that Democratic Party leadership abandoned the working class and offered them nothing with which to address the severe economic dislocation brought on by the globalization the elites had embraced.

Bernie told the crowd that he looks "at this election not as a victory for Mr. Trump, who wins the election as the most unpopular candidate in perhaps the history of our country but as a loss for the Democratic Party." To Bernie, as it has always been, the defeat of the Democratic Party was all about their unwillingness and inability to address gross economic inequality. He had no interest in the critique of Trumpism that blames the phenomenon on racism, sexism or the rise of the alt-right. "I don’t believe that at all,” he told the overflowing crowd. "I think a lot of people ended up holding their noses and voting for Trump because they are in pain... There are a lot of people in our country who are hurting and they are hurting very, very badly. The political establishment is not hearing their pain; the financial and economic establishment could care less about their lives; and the media establishment is not dealing with the reality of their lives... and along comes Mr. Trump."

He attacked Obamacare from the left-- for leaving out millions of people, for overly expensive prescription drugs and for prohibitive deductibles that puts insurance out of reach for many struggling families. He talked about an increase in drug addiction and stagnating life expectancy for the poor and that, in the end Trump would disappoint the people who turned to him to solve these problems. Trump's own tendency towards oligarchy will make things worse for working people-- much worse.

What does he want to do? Easy: "transform the Democratic Party from a party led by a liberal elite to a party led by working people and young people and people who really want to transform society." He is trying to rally Americans not beholden to Wall Street.

Shaun King is a Bernie-oriented reporter for the New York Daily News. Last Wednesday he wrote a scathing piece on the Democratic Party leadership that I've been trying to work into a DWT post. It doesn't go after the party elites from the same direction Bernie prefers (economically) but King's analysis is no less crucial. A Senate staffer clued him into the soft bigotry of Senate leaders. Here we've talked a lot about the not so soft bigotry within the ranks of the House Democratic leadership, particularly Steve Israel who has enforced his ugly racist diktat as head of the DCCC, namely that African-Americans should not be candidates for Congress except in black-majority districts. But King didn't have obscure grubby little hacks like Israel in his sights, but Democratic Senate leaders.

“They are all so phony,” the staffer told me. “Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it’s all one big lie. That they’ve been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the “Underground Railroad.”

“Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They’ll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn’t the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn’t. The Senate looks just the way want it,” the staffer told me.

I must admit that I had also bought the lie-- hook, line, and sinker-- that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.

“No, that’s not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you.”

What I learned next made my jaw drop.

“Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American,” the staffer said in disgust.

“But hold up, hold up,” the staffer continued. “I haven’t even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?”

“Who?” I asked-- having no idea what the answer was.

“Tim Scott,” the staffer replied. “The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate.”

It was like a punch to the gut. It’s one thing for the elected officials in one of the most important halls of government in our nation to be just 2% black-- that could be blamed on voters or demographics or fundraising, but the fact that only one U.S. Senator has hired a black chief of staff, and that senator is a Republican, is an indefensible choice.

It doesn’t stop there.

According to a recent study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, of the 336 senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate, 0.9% of them are held by African-Americans. That’s three people.

This is inexcusable and it has a devastating impact on the positions and priorities taken by senators themselves.

“When Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, I practically begged my boss to issue a statement. My request fell on deaf ears,” the staffer said.

It’s no wonder the Senate has done so little of substance on issues that truly matter to black folk.

The lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate is so severe that it was called “one of the world’s whitest workplaces” in a scathing critique authored by The Atlantic’s Russell Berman. Berman also highlighted how the online magazine, Diversity Inc., “the nation’s worst employer for diversity.”

“We’re pissed,” the staffer said referring to the small but close-knit community that has formed among staffers of color. “Many of the interns and junior staffers of color come from a generation where we really don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to make a difference and this type of soft bigotry from the Democratic Party needs to be exposed.”

...Yeah, Donald Trump’s a bigot, but Senate Democrats aren’t far behind.




This morning, Glenn Greenwald wrote at The Intercept that "ever since he announced his candidacy to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has been the target of a defamation campaign that is deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable. At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party’s most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel" And that smear, Greenwald writes reveals much about Washington. "Ellison is a mainstream liberal Democrat... What makes him such an easy and vulnerable target for smear campaigns such as the one Saban and the ADL are pursuing is that he is Muslim-- a black Muslim to boot... If you’re a Democrat, it’s easy to embrace the language of anti-Islamophobia when it comes to condemning Donald Trump and other Republicans. It’s more difficult, but more important, to do so when that poison is coming from within the Democratic Party itself. One of the few silver linings of the ugly Trump rhetoric on Muslims can and should be (and has been) a unified rejection of this sort of toxicity, regardless of where it comes from. Democrats who are sincere about wanting to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry can do so by defending Keith Ellison from these incredibly ugly, baseless and defamatory attacks."

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Virginia Special Elections-- January 10

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Rocky Holcomb (R) and Cheryl Turpin (D)

Virginia has a Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe, an overwhelmingly Republican House of Delegates (66 Republicans to 34 Democrats) and an almost evenly split state Senate (21 Republicans to 19 Democrats). Virginia Republicans are notorious for outrageous gerrymandering and unless the Democrats either retain the governor's office-- McAuliffe can't run again next year-- or win a Senate majority, the Democrats will be screwed there once again after the 2020 census. Keep in mind that statewide-- so no gerrymandering--the Dems do great. Both U.S. senators are Democrats. In 2012 Tim Kaine ousted George Allen 1,944,992 (53%) to 1,758,857 (47%) and in 2014 Mark Warner was reelected against Ed Gillespie 1,073,667 (49%) to 1,55,940 (48%) in a very Republican year. Obama won the state both times-- 53-46% against McCain and 51-47% against Romney. Hillary just beat Trump 1,916,845 (49.9%) to 1,731,156 (45.0%). And all three constitutional offices are held by Democrats, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring. It's just the gerrymandered state legislative districts and congressional districts that are so dire for Democrats.

So here's the lay of the land. State Sen. Donald McEachin was elected to Congress, opening up the 9th senatorial district, which covers all of Charles City County and parts of Henrico and Hanover counties and part of the city of Richmond (Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip, Court End, Capitol Square, Jackson Ward, parts of the Fan District, Carytown, Windsor Farms, Brookland Park, Ginter Park and Washington Park). The district is so blue that Republicans don't even run there. In 2014 Mark Warner took 72% of the votes there.-- the same percentage that Obama got over Romney in 2012. McEachin was reelected last time he ran with 90%. Del. Jennifer McClellan is the Senate candidate to replace McEachin and it's pretty much a done deal. So, an easy Democratic hold.

The other Senate seat, the one the Democrats really need is probably out of their grasp-- the 22nd district. It encompasses part of Lynchburg and all of Amherst, Fluvanna, Goochland, Prince Edward, Appomattox, Buckingham and Cumberland counties and a small sliver of Louisa County. It's very red. In 2014 Gillespie beat Warner 57-40% and in 2013 Cuccinelli beat McAuliffe 54-38%. Romney beat Obama 56-44%. State Senator Thomas Garrett beat Jane Dittmar for the open congressional seat 58.3% to 41.7%, Robert Hurt having decided to retire. So the state Senate seat is probably a GOP hold. In the 2011 race for the seat, Garrett beat Democrat Bert Dodson 58.1% to 41.8%. This time Goochland County Supervisor Ken Peterson is competing with Richmond attorney Mark Peake for the Republican nomination. Yesterday former Fluvanna County Sheriff Ryant Washington won the Democratic nomination at a district caucus. It's the most important of the 3 special elections for a Democrat to win but it would be really tough, some would say impossible.

The most competitive race is for a very swingy red House of Delegates seat in Virginia Beach, where Del. Scott Taylor (R) beat Shaun Brown, a Berniecrat (62-38%) when Scott Rigell decided to retire from Virginia's 2nd congressional district. Republicans have had better turnout in the district and have usually been winning it-- but never by much. Romney edged Obama by a handful of votes but it was basically a 49-49% tie. Gillespie beat Warner 50-47% and Cuccinelli beat McAuliffe 48-46%. On the other hand, Tim Kaine beat George Allen 51-49%. So this is definitely a pick-up opportunity for Virginia Democrats, who will be represented by public school teacher Cheryl Turpin against Rocky Holcomb, an intelligence officer in the city sheriff's office. Holcomb graduated from Regent "University," which is in the district. Turpin went to real schools, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.

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From one president to the next, it seems a reasonable enough request, no?

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Today from The Borowitz Report: today

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an Oval Office meeting that White House aides described as “friendly but strained,” President Obama politely asked President-elect Donald Trump to wait until he is officially sworn in to begin destroying the world.

According to the aides, Obama said that, while he understood that Trump was eager to create potentially cataclysmic diplomatic crises around the world, tradition dictated that he wait until he is actually President to do so.

Obama cited the example of George W. Bush, who waited until he took the oath of office before wreaking destruction on a massive scale.

“There’ll be loads of time for you to do stuff like that,” Obama reportedly said.

During the meeting, which lasted nearly an hour, Obama repeatedly asked Trump “if he understood what was being said to him,” the aides reported.

After the meeting, Trump spoke briefly with reporters but cut the session short to “jump on a phone call with Kim Jong-un.”

“He’s a terrific guy, he’s doing just a terrific job over there,” Trump said, of the North Korean leader.

Obama did not take questions from reporters but was later seen sitting at his desk, holding his head in his hands.
I dunno, it seems a reasonable enough request. But look who's being asked for reasonableness. -- Ken
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Gun Violence Is Preventable-- But Trump's Election Means There'll Be Four More Years Of It

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If you watch the ad above very closely the first time, it won't shock the hell out of you the way it shocked the hell out of me as it approaches the end. It's an amazing ad and it's the reason for this post. Please watch it. You'll thank me.

I'm not sure how many NRA shills the Democrats brought into Congress. I do know that two very sane gun safety advocates-- Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and Ruben Kihuen (NV)-- replaced two total gun loons, respectively, Frank Guinta and Cresent Hardy. Other Republican gun nuts who won't be coming back to the House in 2017 include Joe Heck (NV), John Mica (FL), David Jolly (FL), Jeff Miller (FL), Ander Crenshaw (FL), Rich Nugent (FL), Curt Clawson (FL), Renee Ellmers (NC), Marlin Stutzman (IN), Ed Whitfield (KY), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Matt Salmon (AZ), Randy Forbes (VA), Robert Hurt (VA), Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Stephen Fincher (TN), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Randy Neugebauer (TX), John Kline (MN), Dan Benichek (MN), Charles Boustany (LA), John Fleming (LA), Joe Pitts (PA) and Scott Garrett (NJ). Good; they all have blood on their hands and the American people are better off without them in Congress. Unfortunately, almost all of them were replaced by more NRA shills; that's today's Republican Party.

Back to the Democrats, I know they elected at least two exceptionally bad NRA creeps-- Lou Correa (CA) and Darren Soto (FL). I know about them and their sordid relationships with the gun lobbyists from their records in their state legislatures. We'll have to wait and see how some of the other new members vote in the House. I would suspect a conservative like Vicente González (TX) but we'll have to keep an open mind and wait and see, right?

That said, the NRA spent $30 million helping to elect Trump this year-- and many millions more electing gun nuts to the House and Senate. Aside from $19,065,039 in independent expenditures for gun loons, the NRA spent $764,450 for House Republicans, $15,500 for House Democrats and $151,350 for Senate Republicans as campaign contributions. The Democrats they paid off were Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and Tim Walz (MN). The biggest recipient of gun bribes this year was Paul Ryan ($139,982) and other House Dems who got money from gun groups besides the NRA included Ron Kind (New Dem-WI), Gene Green (TX), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR) and Ben Ray Lujan (head of the DCCC-NM). Here's the NRA's ugly perspective on the results:



As the L.A. Times pointed out over the weekend "At the top of LaPierre’s wish list is an absurd and dangerous federal law to require any state that issues permits for carrying concealed weapons to recognize similar permits issued by other states, even if they have different eligibility and training requirements and even if they have less stringent restrictions on gun ownership. Proponents of so-called concealed-carried reciprocity equate it with state driver’s licenses, which are recognized nationwide. But that’s a false comparison. All states follow similar standards for issuing driver’s licenses, and basic vehicle and traffic laws are largely standardized. That’s not so for gun laws, which vary widely by state, not to mention that county and city governments are allowed to enact their own restrictions based on local needs and preferences.
The reciprocity movement is nothing more than an effort to drive states’ concealed-carry laws to the lowest common denominator. Consider Utah, for instance. To qualify for a Utah permit, which is available to nonresidents and is already accepted by 36 other states, one need only be 21 years old, not be deemed ineligible under federal laws (no felony conviction or history of drug and alcohol abuse, for instance) and complete a Utah-certified Weapons Familiarity course, which can be taken outside the state. In fact, Utah has certified 169 instructors in California alone. Utah’s limited restrictions have made the issuance of concealed-carry permits something of a cottage industry for the state. Two-thirds of Utah’s 632,276 permits as of the end of last year were in the hands of nonresidents.


By comparison, California-- with 33 times Utah’s population-- has only 79,834 active concealed-carry permits, according to the state attorney general’s office. Among other things, California has a more stringent training regimen and requires a person seeking a permit to show good-cause for needing to carry a concealed weapon.

A federal reciprocity law, depending on its final wording, could require California to recognize concealed-carry permits issued in Utah and other states, which it chooses not to do. A California resident could simply apply for a permit from Utah and start walking around Los Angeles with a hidden handgun, no matter what California voters and lawmakers say.

Four bills-- one in the Senate and the rest in the House-- would create such a law and are likely to be reintroduced in January.  Trump backs the concept. They could become law. That would be a disaster for public safety and a cynical usurpation of the long-standing right of states to determine their own gun laws.

Whether a federal reciprocity law could withstand a constitutional challenge will depend on its final wording. Congress has the authority to preempt state laws to regulate interstate commerce, but it’s unclear whether that would apply to a law ordering states to recognize gun permits issued elsewhere, since that isn’t a matter of interstate commerce. In its 2008 Heller decision (which we think was wrongly decided), the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment confers on individuals the right to own a gun for protection in the home. But it also recognized the rights of lower-level governments to regulate guns, and since then has declined to hear appeals of lower court rulings upholding local and state gun regulations, including those barring carrying weapons, concealed or otherwise, outside the home.

But we can’t be confident the Supreme Court will continue to defer to the states. Reasonable minds in Congress need to head this off before the NRA and its legislative acolytes make American even more dangerous by undercutting reasonable gun controls.

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If Ryan Pushes Through His Plans To Wreck The Health Care System, The GOP Will Lose Over Two Dozen House Seats In 2018

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The closest Blue America ever came to actually endorsing a Republican was in 2012 when thoughtful Libertarian Justin Amash was the GOP candidate against rot-gut conservative hack, Steve Pestka, an anti-Choice crackpot and vicious homophobe. Michigan's local anti-Choice organization endorsed Pestka over Amash. We didn't exactly endorse Amash, but we told our Michigan members to consider him.

If I had to guess which of them voted for Trump last month in the secrecy of the voting booth, it wouldn't be Amash. Friday Amash told a reporter from The Hill that he doesn't think Trump has an understanding of the Constitution-- if he's even ever bothered to read it. "He seems to believe that government works like a business and he is the CEO of the business, and that is not how it works. We have separate branches, checks and balances, federalism. I don’t think it’s out of any bad intention. I think he just views the job in a sort of  'extra-constitutional' way, outside of the Constitution. I don’t think our framework in this country really comes into play when he’s thinking about how the job should operate." Smash has attacked Trump for appointing Jeff Sessions Attorney General and for strip U.S. citizenship from anyone who burns a flag, and has been one of his harshest Republicans critics about Trump's obvious and glaring conflicts of interest and about Trump's crony capitalism approach to Carrier. "It’s cronyism. We have a Constitution. The president doesn’t just get to do anything he wants. He has to work within the constitutional framework, regardless of why people elected him. And deals like that hurt the people of Indiana; they don’t help the people of Indiana. They redistribute resources and offer benefits to one company when another company down the road doesn’t get those same benefits. Sometimes competitors don’t get those same benefits. That’s just central planning. That was tried in the Soviet Union. It didn’t work very well... My job [on the House Oversight Committee] is to uphold the Constitution, follow the rule of law and represent all my constituents. I think we should treat [Trump] the same way we treat any president. That means we need to make sure there are no conflicts of interest, just like we would do if Hillary Clinton had won.If we were going to look at the issues for Hillary Clinton, then we should also look at them for Donald Trump. I just think the same standard should apply."

Amash founded the House Freedom Caucus and progressives disagree with him on almost everything. But not everything. When it comes to health care, though, Amash is plain old GOP bad news. There are a few Republicans who understand that destroying Obamacare-- let alone Medicare-- is extremely harmful to America... and to the GOP. Sarah Ferris and Scott Wong reported Friday about a handful of mainstream conservative Republicans who are getting nervous with Ryan's, Pence's and Price's stated intention of dismantling the social safety net. The ones who are nervous aren't the extremists in the South whose constituents are too stupid to understand what's about to happen to them but Republicans in swing districts primarily in the suburbs.

The repeal and not-replace plan that Ryan and his team are hellbent on passing is freaking out Charlie Dent (R-PA), Ryan Costello (R-PA) and John Katko (R-NY), who will be the first to go in a 2018 wave election in the GOP actually dismantles Medicare.
One lawmaker said the moderates were “getting skittish” about leadership’s plan to replace the sprawling healthcare law within about a year of Trump’s inauguration, which they said would run too close to the 2018 midterms.

“It’s going to be technical, all the insurance stuff. It’s hard work, putting that in play. But that’s the beginning of the next election cycle,” the lawmaker said.

GOP leaders in the House and Senate are aiming to pass legislation dismantling most parts of ObamaCare using a budget tactic called reconciliation in Trump’s first 100 days. The tactic would allow legislation to be approved in the Senate to avoid procedural vote filibusters.

Top lawmakers have acknowledged it would not go into effect immediately because Congress needs a transition period to pass a replacement. But that plan has spurred an intra-party battle among some conservative lawmakers and groups that argue it should be repealed immediately.


Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent much of Friday morning’s meeting outlining the broad logistics for the legislatively difficult move to repeal the law, which would require close coordination with the Senate.

Ryan confirmed that using reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare would be one of the chamber’s first acts in the new Congress, according to a readout of the meeting.

Another lawmaker in the room, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), said he believed there was an appetite for spending more time on working to replace the law.

“This whole process will be done thoughtfully. We do not want to move in haste,” said Murphy, who is vying to lead the health subpanel of the Energy and Commerce Committee next year. “Just as a surgeon does not jump to surgery without doing a proper diagnosis with x-rays, the same thing here.”

The repeal-and-delay strategy-- which has gained traction since Trump’s election-- will also require a separate strategy to replace the law. It will likely involve cooperation from Senate Democrats, which could drag out the replacement process.

“We know we can do a lot of repeal through reconciliation but you can’t do replace through reconciliation,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Budget Committee.

He said working with Democrats on a replacement would be one of GOP’s toughest issues: “There will be a lot of drama with this over the next year.”
The NY Times explained it this way on Friday: "Republicans in Congress plan to move almost immediately next month to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as President-elect Donald J. Trump promised. But they also are likely to delay the effective date so that they have several years to phase out President Obama’s signature achievement... [There's] a growing recognition that replacing the health care law will be technically complicated and could be politically explosive."

There are 20 million people who have coverage now and many of them are Trump voters-- and Trump has said there are parts of Obamacare that he doesn't want to see fall by the wayside, expensive benefits that Republicans have no idea how to pay for. The Republicans want to make sure nothing substantive happens to cause anyone to lose any benefits before the 2018 midterms.
“We are not going to rip health care away from Americans,” said Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which shares jurisdiction over health care. “We will have a transition period so Congress can develop the right policies and the American people can have time to look for better health care options.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, said: “I imagine this will take several years to completely make that sort of transition-- to make sure we do no harm, create a good health care system that everyone has access to, and that we repeal the parts of Obamacare that need to be repealed.”

But health policy experts suggest “repeal and delay” would be extremely damaging to a health care system already on edge.

“The idea that you can repeal the Affordable Care Act with a two- or three-year transition period and not create market chaos is a total fantasy,” said Sabrina Corlette, a professor at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University. “Insurers need to know the rules of the road in order to develop plans and set premiums.”

Details of the strategy are in flux, and there are disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. In the House, the emerging plan, tightly coordinated between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Pence, is meant to give Mr. Trump’s supporters the repeal of the health law that he repeatedly promised at rallies. It would also give Republicans time to try to assure consumers and the health industry that they will not instantly upend the health insurance market, and to pressure some Democrats to support a Republican alternative.

“I don’t think you have to wait,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, told reporters this week. “I would move through and repeal and then go to work on replacing. I think once it’s repealed, you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics, and everybody coming to the table to find the best policy.”

Under the plan discussed this week, Republicans said, repeal will be on a fast track. They hope to move forward in January or February with a budget blueprint using so-called reconciliation instructions, which would allow parts of the health care law to be dismembered with a simple majority vote, denying Senate Democrats the chance to filibuster. They would follow up with legislation similar to a bill vetoed in January, which would have repealed the tax penalties for people who go without insurance and the penalties for larger employers who fail to offer coverage.

That bill would also have eliminated federal insurance subsidies, ended federal spending for the expansion of Medicaid, and barred federal payments to Planned Parenthood clinics.

But in the Senate, Republicans would need support from some Democrats if they are to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The budget reconciliation rules that would allow Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act have strict limits. The rules are primarily intended to protect legislation that affects spending or revenues. The health law includes insurance market standards and other policies that do not directly affect the budget, and Senate Republicans would, in many cases, need 60 votes to change such provisions.

Repealing the funding mechanisms but leaving in place the regulations risks a meltdown of the individual insurance market. Insurers could not deny coverage, but they would not get as many healthy new customers as they were expecting. Hospitals would again face many uninsured patients in their emergency rooms, without the extra Medicaid money they have been expecting.

Even a delay of two to three years could be damaging. Health policy experts said the uncertainty could destabilize markets, unnerving insurers that have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars on policies sold in insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

“Insurers would like clarity on the shape of the replacement plan to continue participating on exchanges if Obamacare is repealed,” Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners who follows the insurance industry, said Friday.

Republicans are hoping that Mr. Trump will be able to use his bully pulpit to lean on vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in states Mr. Trump won, such as Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.

...“If they are looking at fixing what’s there, I’ve been wanting to work with Republicans for years now,” said Mr. Tester, whose state cast just 36 percent of its vote for Hillary Clinton. “But if they are going to take away provisions like pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, 26-year-olds, I think they are barking up the wrong tree.”

And some moderate Republicans see peril in repealing first and replacing later, favoring instead a simultaneous replacement to ensure a smooth transition.

“We are firing live rounds this time,” Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said. “If we repeal under reconciliation, we have to replace it under normal processes, and does anyone believe that the Senate Democrats, with their gentle tender mercies will help us?”

Republicans said they would work with the Trump administration on replacement legislation that would draw on comprehensive plans drafted by Mr. Ryan and Representative Tom Price, the Georgia Republican picked by Mr. Trump to be his secretary of health and human services.

Any legislation is likely to include elements on which Republicans generally agree: tax credits for health insurance; new incentives for health savings accounts; subsidies for state high-risk pools, to help people who could not otherwise obtain insurance; authority for sales of insurance across state lines; and some protection for people with pre-existing conditions who have maintained continuous coverage.

Republicans said they hoped that the certainty of repeal would increase pressure on Democrats to sign on to some of these ideas.

Democratic leaders, for now, feel no such pressure. Republicans “are going to have an awfully hard time” if they try to repeal the health law without proposing a replacement, said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next Democratic leader. “There would be consequences for so many millions of people.”
And consequences for plenty of Republican legislators. Leaving out the likelihood that the DCCC will continue recruiting unelectable conservative candidates, there are at least two dozen districts that plausible progressive Democrats could flip in 2018 if Ryan decides to push what he's threatening and the Senate goes along. If the DCCC miraculously ceased to exist, these are all seats that could fall to the Democrats immediately-- and win back the majority:




CA-49- Darrell Issa- 50.3%
NY-24- John Katko- 61.0%
CA-25- Steve Knight- 54.2%
CA-10- Jeff Denham- 52.4%
NY-19- John Faso- 54.7%
CO-06- Mike Coffman- 51.3%
IL-12- Mike Bost- 54.3%
NY-22- Claudia Tenney- 47.0%
TX-23- Will Hurd- 48.5%
ME-02- Bruce Poliquin- 54.9%
IA-01- Rod Blum- 53.9%
VA-10- Barbara Comstock- 52.9%
PA-07- Pat Meehan- 59.7%
CA-21- David Valadao- 58.0%
MN-02- Jason Lewis- 47.0%
IA-03- David Young- 53.5%
NJ-03- Tom MacArthur- 59.5%
PA-08- Brian Fitzpatrick- 54.5%
NY-01- Lee Zeldin- 52.5%
NJ-02- Frank LoBiondo- 59.4%
PA-06- Ryan Costello- 57.3%
FL-26- Carlos Curbelo- 53.0%
MI-11- Dave Trott- 52.9%
FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- 54.9%
WA-08- Dave Reichert- 60.0%
IL-13- Rodney Davis- 59.7%
NE-02- Don Bacon- 49.4%
PA-15- Charlie Dent- 58.4%
MN-03- Erik Paulson- 56.9%
NY-02- Peter King- 62.4%
NC-02- George Holding- 56.7%
AZ-02- Martha McSally- 56.7%
WI-07- Sean Duffy- 61.8%
WI-08- Mike Gallagher- 62.7%
TX-21- Lamar Smith- 57.0%
WI-01- Paul Ryan- 65.0%
Blue America is just getting started-- recruiting candidates and working on strategies to help win back the House. We have several candidates who are planning to run and one-- Doug Applegate-- who came within just a fraction of a percent of beating the odious Darrell Issa last month-- already running. Please consider contributing to Doug's campaign here on our 2018 Blue America page. Remember any of this? Keep this video for when Ryan and Price get going:

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Will France Be The Next Democracy To Fall Into The Grasp Of Neo-Fascists?

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About a week ago we looked at the upcoming French presidential elections from the perspective of the primary of the center-right party, Les Républicains, which have since had their run-off and selected the further right of the two party front-runners, François Fillon. The betting is now that Fillon will eventually face neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen. But what about the Socialists, you wonder? French conventional wisdom is that they've made a hash of governing and stand no chance. In fact, this week their standard bearer, President François Hollande, announced that he won't seek reelection, a not entirely unexpected development, although he is the first French President to not seek reelection since the 1940s.
With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.

Hollande’s decision leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is a tough law-and-order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.

If he does run, Valls will face opposition from several former government ministers who are part of a leftwing rebel movement, including the ambitious former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who is fiercely critical of Hollande’s pro-business line.

Hollande’s popularity slumped right from the start of his presidency in 2012. He beat the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy after a classic leftwing campaign in which he targeted big business and pledged to raise taxes for high earners. He began his presidency with a leftist programme that included a wealth super-tax of 75% on top earners but he shifted course midway through his term.

Grassroots supporters were further alienated by a pro-business switch in 2014, a wavering over security reforms, and labour laws that brought thousands out onto the streets in protests early this year.

Hollande was accused of a lack of preparation, zigzagging on policy and being unable to keep a lid on his government’s internal feuding on how to address the economy. His initial attempt to style himself as a “normal president”-- paying no heed to the superficial trappings of office-- backfired and endeared him even less to the electorate.

Accused of lacking authority and coherence, dithering over policy decisions from tax increases to pro-business reform, failing to kickstart the sluggish economy and failing to protect France from a series of devastating terrorist attacks, he was eventually abandoned by his own core of Socialist party voters who felt betrayed by his muddled, stop-start pro-business reforms.

One recent poll by Odoxa put him at only 7.5% in the first round of the presidential race, behind the right’s Fillon, the far-right Marine Le Pen, his former economy minister and maverick independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The Socialist primary will be next month and then the first round will be April 23 and the runoff will be on May 7. Every recent poll shows Fillon and Le Pen emerging from the first round-- which would be akin to a face-off between Ted Cruz and Trumpy-the-Clown. And polling shows Fillon then trouncing her, in the most recent poll-- with a mammoth sample size-- 67-33%. Recent polls also show that with the Socialist, Valls, or the Independent (ex-Socialist), Emmanuel Macron, making it through the first round instead of Fillon (very unlikely) either would beat Le Pen handily as well.

So is France safe from the scourge of right-wing nationalism sweeping through the neoliberal democracies of the West. Well... as safe as Americans were from Trump. Russia is certainly expected to do whatever they can to make sure Le Pen wins-- from money to whatever kind of stuff that worked for them with Trump. And would left-leaning voters actually vote for a really awful right-winger like Fillon to stop Le Pen if the run-off, as looks likely, is between them? Remember, he's a dull, anti-gay bigot who opposes women's choice and is vehemently anti-union. He bills himself as a disciple of Margaret Thatcher, a widely reviled figure in much of France. Looking at his platform, I can't help but think that despite this month's popularity polls, Le Pen's fascist siren song will crush him, especially if many on the left refuse to vote. If Hillary was the candidate of the status quo, Fillon is the candidate of the stats quo ante.



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Fascism Is On The March In Europe-- Elections Tomorrow In Austria And Italy

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Tomorrow Italy votes on a package of complex referendums that are extremely difficult for voters without post-graduate degrees to understand. But rejection could be another devastating blow the EU. The BBC tried sorting out what it means and why it's important. The reforms Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is trying to impose on his fractious country are tied up in the referendum and he says he'll step down if they lose-- the 3rd domino after Brexit and Trump in "he onward march of the right-wing (neo-fascist) populists. Italy's been there before-- and it worked out badly for them. Unfortunately by making the referendum about himself, Renzi has put the country in unnecessary danger with plenty of voters looking at the referendum as nothing but an opportunity to punish a government they have beefs with.
Renzi has had strong support from global leaders... The concern is that if Renzi goes, Italy's politicians will squabble, the country's fragile economy will suffer, borrowing costs will spike and once again Europe will be facing a crisis in the eurozone.

Waiting in the wings are anti-establishment parties like the Five Star movement which is promising that if it eventually wins power, it will offer a referendum on retaining the euro. The very idea of another vote sends shivers down the spines of Europe's leaders.

Five Star's leader, the former comedian Beppe Grillo, has spoken of an "era going up in flames." It is a similar sentiment to that expressed by Nigel Farage, UKIP's former leader, who declared after Mr Trump's victory that the "democratic revolution" is only just beginning.

If polls retain any credibility after this year of political shocks then a No vote is expected on Sunday. The financial markets, caught out by both Brexit and Trump, have already factored in a Renzi defeat.

There is no doubt that Italy needs reforming. The tangle of bureaucracy and judicial delays snares investment projects, reforms get diluted or blocked in the two houses of parliament and the Senate, with its 315 members, needs shrinking.

But there are legitimate concerns that Renzi's plan will lead to a centralising of power. The winning party will gain a premium of seats, ensuring an absolute majority. Five Star campaigners argue that the "reforms serve to give more power to those who are already in power."

...The risk is that a No vote and a Renzi resignation would tip Italy into an early election. And that might give the Five Star movement and the anti-establishment Northern League an opportunity of success at the polls.

The prospect of two Eurosceptic parties gaining ground in the eurozone's third-biggest economy might well rattle the markets.

Government ministers will tell you that unemployment is inching down, that the deficit is falling and that labour markets have become more flexible. But the economy is 12% smaller than when the financial crisis began in 2008.

Italy's banks remain weak. The problem of non-performing loans has not been sorted out and the country's debt-to-GDP ratio, at 133%, is second only to Greece's.

The Italian vote is not about Europe or the EU but it will be interpreted as an indicator of the strength of the anti-establishment winds blowing through Europe in the aftermath of Mr Trump's unexpected victory.
Obama has been very supportive of Renzi's referendum and made a big deal about a recent trip to DC which played well in Italian media back home. Trump's not on the same side-- to put it mildly. Meanwhile European socialists met in Prague today to figure out how to deal with the rise of neo-fascism-- they call it populism-- in the western democracies. Jeremy Corbyn had his hands full, admitting "that populists have been successfully identifying many of the problems faced by people across the country, but their solution-- to attack minorities-- was not the answer... It's clear that there is a problem of the alarming rise and acceleration of the populist right all across this continent. Be it UKIP in my country, Donald Trump and the language he used in the presidential election in the United States, or what's happening in Hungary with Jobbik or Marine Le Pen in France, with her National Front. Politics has been shaken across the world. We know why the populist right is gaining ground and it's increasingly hard to get our message heard. It's up to us to give a real political alternative."

The European left-- much like the old and clueless out-of-touch Democrats in DC-- is grappling to effectively frame an alternative explanation for the problems they face and come up with solutions, that include increasing social justice and inclusion. Corbyn should sound familiar on this side of the Atlantic:
"The gap between rich and poor is widening. Living standards are stagnating or falling. People feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalisation. They feel powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power.

"We have to deal with those issues and we have to deal with them quickly and seriously.

"The populist right do identify many of the problems but their toxic solution is actually a dead end. It's about attacking minorities rather than facing the real issues that many communities face.

"So, unless progressive parties across Europe are prepared to break from the political establishment of the past, which has sought to manage the change of globalisation, then we are going to have problems."

Mr Corbyn went on: "We have to offer a different economic message. It's about convincing the long-term unemployed that the reason there is no work for them is not because of migrants, it's because of an economic programme of deindustrialisation and insecurity.

"We have to make clear that our public services are being run down because of austerity and often very predatory privatisation.

"We cannot and must not abandon socialist principles, because many tell us that is the only way to achieve power.

"We have to put forward a very clear economic message-- one of social justice and inclusion."
Polls show that tomorrow's presidential vote in Austria could well go to the neo-fascist candidate Norbert Hofer, an anti-immigrant gun nut, said it be backed surreptitiously by Putin. Polls show him leading Alexander Van der Bellen, the Green Party-backed independent by double digits. The two mainstream parties were eliminated in the first round. His Freedom Party (FPÖ) was founded by Nazi SS officers in 1956.
[A] win for Mr Hofer would also be a blow to Europe’s political mainstream. It would mark a grim milestone: the continent’s first democratically elected far-right head of state since 1945. It would also present a headache. In the past its neighbours isolated and upbraided Austria for its flirtations with nationalist extremism: like when in 1986 it elected as president Kurt Waldheim, whose wartime Wehrmacht unit had been involved in war crimes; and when, on the formation of the 2000 coalition, other EU member states imposed sanctions. Now, with authoritarian populists on the march in much of the continent (take Viktor Orbán across the border in Hungary), it would be harder to single the country out.

Europe would also be subject to such an election result’s global significance. Mr Hofer may represent an old party, but his political style is somewhat new and part of a bigger trend. Like Donald Trump in America, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, the FPÖ leadership has sanded off the most overtly racist edges of traditional far-right politics and blended flag-waving, anti-migrant social policies, a redistributionist economic credo and the language and style of anti-establishment insurgence. So notwithstanding the distinctive aspects of Austria’s election, it is the latest test of this formula’s ability to create electoral upsets; perhaps even another omen of a strong showing by Ms Le Pen next spring. These phenomena may have their differences but they are also intertwined: each populist success in one country emboldening, enlightening and maybe even detoxifying counterparts in others. Once Austria was ostracised. Now others are Austrianising.



UPDATE: Good News From Österreich

Despite polls showing neo-fascist Norbert Hofer 10 points ahead, savvy Austrian voters elected independent Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen president today. There is general rejoicing all over Europe as this is seen to be a set-back for the Putin-backed neo-Nazi revival that has been gaining strength everywhere across the continent (not to mention Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania). Estimates show Van der Bellen besting the Nazi 53-46%. During the campaign, Van der Bellen's comment on Trump's victory was that "his campaign style, the sexist attacks were unacceptable. As regards content he has raised concerns-- let's give him several months."

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Trumpy-The-Clown Gals, Ann Coulter And Tulsi Gabbard

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Ann Coulter had an anti-Trump impurity breakdown on twitter yesterday, ostensibly over Nikki Haley, although as you can see above, she got a little more general a few minutes later. Remember, Trump took his whole xenophobic shtik directly from Coulter and she made like she was worshipping at his bigoted alter for the duration of the campaign-- primarily because he wanted to round up Hispanics and ship 'em to camps and beyond. She's a Pence-and-Ryan hater and flipped out when Pence told Scott Pelley of CBS News today that he and Ryan are going to work on an immigration bill. That's what inspired the "If Trump sells out" tweet.

But she does hate Nikki Haley. Remember a week or two ago when she wrote that if Trump wants an Indian Secretary of State, he should pick Tonto. Although Trump has no use for Native Americans at all, he is smitten by Hindu nationalists and just loves Narendra Modi-- and crackpot right-wing cultist Tulsi Gabbard, who he interviewed a week or so ago, ostensibly for some second-tier job that the crazy-ambitious Gabbard would never take anyway. Haley got an errand-boy job (UN Ambassador-- no decision-making allowed) so that Secretary of state gig... well, I bet Tulsi would eat all the requisite frogs legs to get that. I'd guess she has as much a chance as Dana Rohrabacher... but Steve Bannon sure likes her, so who knows.

Maxwell Anderson, a Hill contributor and Tulsiphile, thinks he knows: Tulsi Gabbard is the pick for Secretary of State, not Mitt Romney. After all, like Trump, Gabbard is an American nationalist and an Islamophobic maniac. "Whoever," he wrote, "the President-Elect taps to be his secretary of state will play a crucial role in shaping the President-Elect’s vision for the future of American foreign policy. One person reportedly 'under serious consideration' to fill the position is United States Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who made headlines in February when she resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Bernie Sanders for President."

Never mind that she played the Bernie card to help her in her plan to primary progressive Senator Mazie Hirono (an actual progressive), not because she agrees with Bernie on much of anything. His ProgressivePunch score is "A" (as is Mazie's), while Tulsi's is "F." Just keep in mind that an "F" isn't a "C" or a "D." You have to work really hard on a wide array of issues for a long time to earn an "F." He continued that "Gabbard embodies the very essence of the President-Elect’s ideological departure from the interventionist policies that have plagued this nation for the past two decades" pointing out that Gabbard, from a very prominent, very right-wing family ran for the Legislature in 2002 (age 21) and became the leader of her state's small but noisy anti-gay faction.


Tulsi with her fanatically homophobic dad, also part of Chris Butler, aka Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda  Paramahamsa's crackpot cult

The legislature was too hot for her and she enlisted in the Hawaii National Guard and volunteered to deploy to Iraq, very loudly singing her own patriotic praises every step of the way, like many aspiring politicians do. Anderson doesn't quite see it that way; he misses Gabbard's entire essence.
Gabbard is not one to play politics. On Monday, the President-Elect invited her to Trump Tower to discuss the United States’ Syria policies and approaches to fighting terrorism. Rep. Gabbard did not let her differences with the President-Elect dictate whether she accepted his invitation.

After their meeting, the Congresswoman put out a statement describing the substance of the meeting, and declared, “Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance.”

Rep. Gabbard stands on principle, not politics, and that makes her an impeccable choice for Secretary of State.

The other name that has received a lot of attention lately is failed 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Given Mr. Romney’s gaffe-filled trial run at diplomacy during the 2012 campaign, it is difficult to understand why he is even on the shortlist. Mr. Romney was proven to be nothing more than a choke artist.

But more broadly, Mr. Romney was the establishment figure that went after the President-Elect in the harshest and most vile manner. Mr. Romney even came out of the woodwork, trying to cling onto whatever relevance he thought he had, to deliver an address in which he called then-candidate Trump “a phony, a fraud” and accused him of “playing the American public for suckers.”

While Trump supporters are among the most loving and compassionate people in this country, Mr. Romney is likely to elicit more pity than forgiveness from them. That is not only because of his implication that Trump supporters are stupid (i.e., being played for suckers), but also because he carried the mantle for an old order that is utterly despised by the people of Middle America for turning its back on them.

Even if Mr. Romney altered his positions to fit the President-Elect’s agenda (e.g., not taking a hardline approach to Russia), he would still fare no better in the minds of those in Trump Country. After successfully crushing two political dynasties dismantling two political establishments, a return to Romney would symbolize a return to grazing the same unproliferous political pasture that yielded nothing but failure.

On the other hand, the President-Elect could be playing Mr. Romney for, well, a sucker. There is perhaps no act of revenge more cold than pretending to bury the hatchet with a rival only to stab them in the back with a paring knife. Yet that same vindictiveness-- in the form of slapping companies that outsource American jobs with a tariff on imported goods-- is what drew many to Trump in the first place.

If this is the case, then it puts the President-Elect in another situation where Mr. Romney, perceptually, is “begging” him for something. The first time it was for then-citizen Trump’s endorsement for President in 2012. This time it could be for secretary of state.

The only difference is that this time, Trump might actually say, “Mitt drop to your knees.”
Meanwhile, Trumpists-- like Bill Mitchell-- are sick of Coulter and pushing back.



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Ryan, Pence And Price Have A Problem: Even Republicans Want Health Care

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Yesterday, Greg Sargent started the news cycle rolling at the Washington Post with a simple question: Will Donald Trump really go through with all of it?. Like many of us, Sargent is rightfully worried that Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell "may soon be going forward with an agenda that could inflict radical, disruptive change on millions of people," especially in regard to gutting the Affordable Care Act and destroying Medicare. "We don’t know," he wrote, "how far Trump will actually go. It’s also true that Republicans are taking steps to mitigate the short-term impact of some of the changes being mulled, and are struggling internally with the details in ways that suggest their best laid plans could conceivably go bust. But is there any particular reason not to anticipate the worst at this point?"

Los Angeles Congressman Ted Lieu is thinking along similar lines but he focused on another GOP threat to healthcare-- V.A. privatization. "As the Member of Congress representing the nation’s largest VA hospital," Lieu told the media, "I oppose any effort to privatize VA healthcare.  My opposition to privatization is guided by the voices of veterans and advocates in my district, who understand that we can improve service delivery to our veterans without tearing the VA down brick by brick.  On average, our veteran population is older and sicker than the rest of America-- they have earned and deserve a world-class healthcare system designed to meet their unique needs. Finally, as a veteran myself who served on active duty, I humbly believe that a veteran should be at the helm of the VA.  Our nation’s warriors deserve a leader with a profound understanding of their service and sacrifice.  They deserve a leader dedicated to guaranteeing timely access to the highest quality care."

A poll taken between Nov 15 and 21 by the the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 1 in 4 Americans want the Republicans to repeal Obamacare. 52% of Republicans would like that to happen, significantly less than the 69% would said they wanted that to happened before the election, but majorities across party lines support many Obamacare provisions-- though not the mandate-- which basically pays for the goodies they all want. This is what the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents all support from the Affordable Care Act:
allowing young adults to stay on a parent's insurance until age 26.
no copayments for many preventive services.
closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole."
financial help for low- and moderate-income people to pay their insurance premiums.
a state option to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
barring insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person's medical history.
increased Medicare payroll taxes for upper-income earners.

Some Republicans are getting nervous about moving from demagoguery to actually taking away people's-- voters'-- healthcare. But not all. Ryan, Pence and Tom Price are all willing to set themselves aflame on a pyre that burns up Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security if it comes to that. Trump... perhaps not so much-- not that anyone knows what Trump thinks about any policies. In his column yesterday, Paul Krugman asserted that Trump is about to betray the white working class voters in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who made him the electoral college winner.
The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week-- seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter-- was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed-- and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers.

The first thing you need to understand here is that Republican talk of “repeal and replace” has always been a fraud. The G.O.P. has spent six years claiming that it will come up with a replacement for Obamacare any day now; the reason it hasn’t delivered is that it can’t.

Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to: You can’t cover Americans with pre-existing conditions without requiring healthy people to sign up, and you can’t do that without subsidies to make insurance affordable.

Any replacement will either look a lot like Obamacare, or take insurance away from millions who desperately need it.

What the choice of Mr. Price suggests is that the Trump administration is, in fact, ready to see millions lose insurance. And many of those losers will be Trump supporters.

You can see why by looking at Census data from 2013 to 2015, which show the impact of the full implementation of Obamacare. Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.

Why did they do it? They may not have realized that their coverage was at stake-- over the course of the campaign, the news media barely covered policy at all. Or they may have believed Mr. Trump’s assurances that he would replace Obamacare with something great.

Either way, they’re about to receive a rude awakening, which will get even worse once Republicans push ahead with their plans to end Medicare as we know it, which seem to be on even though the president-elect had promised specifically that he would do no such thing.
As Krugman pointed out, during the campaign, Trump solemnly swore to not cut Medicare (and reassured his fans that he would replace Obamacare with something "great." So how did Pence talk him into an extremist crackpot like Tom Price as Health Secretary?


TalkingPointsMemo provided a handy reminder and roadmap to Ryan's plans to assault and destroy Medicare, his life's dream. Will Trump be able to-- or even want to-- stop him?
Ryan has been pushing his privatization plan-- or what he calls "premium support"-- for years. It's been part of his annual budget blueprints, and it has evolved over time. The basic idea is that Ryan would give the elderly a set amount of money to buy health insurance rather than Medicare's fee-for-service system where the government pays doctors and hospitals based on the services they provide.

How much money the elderly would receive to buy insurance, the quality of the plans available, how the government would regulate them and the rate at which the benefits would increase have varied over the years and sometimes have been unclear.

As Medicare is currently configured, American workers and employers contribute equally to the public insurance program via the Medicare payroll tax. When people turn 65, they become eligible for Medicare's guaranteed coverage, pay premiums and receive a robust package of benefits.

Looming as the biggest unknown is whether Medicare-- in its current form as a single-payer, guaranteed-coverage, fee-for-service system-- will remain intact.

Will Medicare be eliminated explicitly, as it has in past Ryan plans? Will it be changed so substantially that the long-term effect will be to weaken it so that phasing out it out is inevitable? Or will Ryan seek to change Medicare in fundamental ways while still preserving its most important protections?

How committed President-elect Trump and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), his nominee as secretary of Health and Human Services, are to Medicare privatization is another wild card in the mix.

"It is quite clear at this point that Ryan and Price would say they are retaining traditional Medicare as an option, but the question is under what terms. Is it provided under terms that would allow traditional Medicare to continue and flourish? Or is it conversely under terms that would cause it to wither and perish?" said Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Over the years, Ryan's plans have evolved, in part because of pressure from his own members. Ryan told the New Yorker in 2012 that he recognized his plan needed to be accepted by more than just a few conservatives in the House. He needed to develop a plan that met the vision for the broader Republican conference.

...[T]he underlying principle for Ryan's plans comes from the conservative idea that private businesses are more efficient at managing health care than the government would be. That, some experts argue just isn't true. Medicare, by and large, is a fairly efficient program. Seniors manage to get a lot of health care they are happy with for a decent price.

"Medicare is more efficient than private insurance for two main reasons. One it is able to pay providers less and second it also because of its size, it has lower administrative costs as well," Van de Water said.

Health care experts who have spent years analyzing Ryan's plans note that there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Here's what we do know:


Ryan's 2008 Plan On Medicare: Ending Medicare

In 2008 when he was the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Ryan proposed that traditional Medicare should be replaced with a voucher program. The idea was that individuals would get a set amount of money from the government to purchase health insurance and eventually Medicare would be phased out.

...Ryan's 2011 Budget: Ryan Works To Phase Out Medicare

In 2011-- after months of listening sessions with his Republican colleagues-- Ryan released his budget, titled Path to Prosperity, which again proposed a major overhaul to Medicare, but had greater support in the wake of Tea Party takeover of the House of Representatives by Republicans who ran on cutting the federal deficit. It left Medicare intact for existing beneficiaires but newly eligible participants would be funneled to an exchange where private insurers competed and individuals could choose private plans. This was Ryan's phaseout plan.

...Experts argued that the plan would put more cost on individuals than they would incur under traditional Medicare and that administrative costs associated with the plans actually eradicated any savings to the government.

"The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the Ryan plan the cost-increasing effects would swamp the cost-reducing effects, so much so that by 2030 the overall cost of care for the Medicare population would be at least 41 percent higher than it would be under Medicare and the amount that enrollees would have to pay directly would more than double," Henry Aaron – a Brookings Institution fellow who co-wrote his own premium support plan in the 1990s– wrote in a paper on premium support. Ryan claimed in numerous interviews that his proposed changes to Medicare actually were based on the plan that he and Rivlin developed together. “Alice Rivlin and I designed these Medicare and Medicaid reforms,” Paul Ryan said at the time, according to the Washington Post. Rivlin, however, fully rejected Ryan's revised "premium support" plan.

...Ryan's Plan Has Evolved To Leave Some Form Of Traditional Medicare In Place

In more recent years, Ryan's plan has evolved. The idea is still the same. Senior citizens would get a set dollar amount to buy health insurance. Yet, instead of giving voucher recipients only the option to buy private insurance on a health insurance marketplace, the elderly could choose to use their subsidy to buy traditional Medicare.

...[S]ome health care policy experts argue that traditional Medicare could still be jeopardized under Ryan's later privatization plans. Here's the issue. Under Ryan's privatization plan, it's understood that the government will give a set amount of money for individuals to buy insurance, but that dollar amount would be determined by a bidding process of private insurers. Experts are not convinced that quality protections would be strong enough so they worry that the competitive bids could be far cheaper than traditional Medicare in many places, but not be near the quality of the coverage. In that case, individuals who might be interested in going with traditional Medicare to ensure they had more protections may have to pay out of pocket.

"They might have to pay more and they might have to pay a considerable amount more depending on where they are," said Stuart Guterman, a senior scholar at the Commonwealth Fund. "It’s not overtly phasing out Medicare, but it does clearly put pressure on some folks in some areas."

Guterman also worries that even if traditional Medicare were an option, it might be strained if enough younger, healthier beneficiaries opted for private plans, older, sicker individuals stayed with Medicare. It could result in Medicare slowly losing it's power to set competitive prices for services.

“I think it’s a legitimate concern if the mix shifts so that fewer and fewer Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in traditional Medicare. Then it would be harder for them to set prices effectively," said Guterman.

2016: Ryan Blames Medicare Overhaul On Obamacare

On the campaign trail, Trump boldly declared that Medicare would remain the same for seniors. He argued that the program was not going to be touched. But as soon as Trump won, Ryan appeared on Fox News and argued that something had to be done about Medicare and hinted that it might come as part of the repeal to the Affordable Care Act.

"Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke," Ryan said in an interview. "So you have to deal with those issues if you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

The reality is that changes to Medicare made by Obamacare actually made the program more solvent, not less. The Medicare trustees wrote in 2010 that "the financial status of the Hospital Insurance trust fund is substantially improved by the lower expenditures and additional tax revenues instituted by the Affordable Care Act. These changes are estimated to postpone the exhaustion of HI trust fund assets from 2017 under the prior law to 2029."

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