Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

If You Like the Tax Code, You’ll Love the New Healthcare

There’s an old jibe about legislation: A camel is a horse designed by committee.   At least it’s true when sides are compromising to find agreement. Rarely does the process generate an outcome of equine beauty.  On a positive note, the result may be functional and sturdy, if a bit ungainly.

We long for simple answers: a flat tax with no deductions or customized loopholes. Sadly, it is a creature with the beauty of a thoroughbred but not much horse-sense. America’s a complicated country. We’d all like a one-size fits all plan that’s fair.  At the moment our tax law is complicated but nobody thinks it’s fair. We might be able to write a plan that a four year-old would understand but there will be critics – always- and simplicity does not necessarily result in fairness.

Universal healthcare the presents a simliar challenge. While a single payer plan with the same benefits for all resulting in high quality care is a worthy goal, in our heterogeneous country, One does not want to bear the burdens of the Other – no matter  if One has benefited historically from the Other’s free or cheap land or labors.  So be it.

Our benighted health care plan has absorbed an inordinate amount of attention for 7 years, even more so since the ascendancy of Ubu Trump.  This year’s  several variations had  the virtue of being simple but had nothing much to do with health care. They were about the RE-redistribution of wealth.  They didn’t tackle costs at all. If anything, insurers would have had freer rein to break the insurance market into segments. As for Medicaid, that “problem” would be eliminated first by burdening states with financial and administrative responsibility. The states then could make their budgets by curtailing the program in every different way imaginable.  The result would be Health Care 1.0, a return to the politics and economics of the  past. State by state coverage would kill the possibility of broad, diverse pools, the kind that make universal healthcare viable.

 Trumpcare would have disfavored the old and infirm who, with or without pre-existing condition coverage, would have to bear their own costs directly. The young and feckless could take their chances and ride bareback. Still, the young and feckless should appreciate that even if they eat right, exercise regularly and take good care  of themselves, one day they’ll get sick and die. Don’t bother to ask – the high deductible tolls for thee.  

And that, good people, is why there are horses and camels. While the GOP caucus has been fiddling, Senators Alexander and Murphy  have been trying to put out the fire. They’ve come up with a plan to stabilize the insurance markets, one which appears to have Ubu’s approval as a stop gap, one of those temporary measures that ripen into monuments. At least the future ex-president would not get to pull down the system by unilaterally defunding the subsidies and playing hide-away with the enrollment program, which is his current game plan. Democrats will vote for it. The ball is in the GOP’s court.

 The Alexander-Murray Plan, which is bipartisan (!), starts by accepting that Obamacare is the law and that the subsidies must be restored to maintain it. In turn, states would be permitted to offer a policy variant that affords less care and therefore costs less.  Healthcare lite perhaps, but health care nevertheless.  In a capitalist system, money always holds privilege. That’s an explanation, not an endorsement -and that’s why many of our horses have humps.

Prez to PR: I Know a Boat You Can Get On

UNICEF Puerto Rico Relief

How You Can Help

As far as Puerto Ricans are concerned, future ex-President Donald Trump has given literal meaning to the expression, “fair weather friend.”  The entire island was devastated by Hurricane Maria: no power, food or drinking water; destroyed buildings and submerged land.  Puerto Rico got pulverized, worse than Naples, Florida and Houston, Texas combined.  

You wouldn’t know from the White House reaction that anything but a Boricua Festival was going on down there.  The future ex-President, while barnstorming for 2020, has been consumed with  NFL and the NBA players who are protesting against police brutality, a subject he chooses not to acknowledge (see, e.g., Arpaio pardon). While he’s been profaning African-American athletes and lecturing them on ingratitude, the people of Puerto Rico, mostly Latino US Citizens all, have been largely ignored.  Some would say that he ignores them because they have no federal voting rights.Maybe he’s drawing plans to turn it into Trump Island.

Trump is sending a message to Puerto Rico. In so many words, “Vaya con Dìos.”  His purposeful neglect is part of the Bleaching of America, a White nationalist  regression to a White Protestant majority. Okay, and add White Catholics from Western European stock. Oh, and Jews – we’ll get back to you. But the brown people south of Key West need not apply.  Please don’t scratch the Wall. It was just painted.

Trump said that he will not rest until Puerto Ricans are safe, just before he took his afternoon nap.  In Puerto Rico, Governor Ricardo Rosselló begged for aid to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.  As reported by CNN:

“The governor joined others in emphasizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. ‘We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,’ he said.”  
 
Lest the carrot fail,  he added the stick. Rosselló continued:
 
‘Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.’
 
Now, there’s a thought that would twist the Presidential nutsack. Massive immigration turning powerless islanders into weaponized voters once they establish state residency. As a matter of fact, Democrats are planning settlements in rural Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania for all comers. The runoff will land in Florida.  One would think that’s enough to scare Trump into action.  Of course, he’s overselling FEMA’s response, sending teams in to towns to take claims. 
 
Maybe he’s hoping the territories, thoroughly disgusted will decide to break away. Maybe he’s counting on that. In that case, you can expect new suitors offering Yuan, Rupees and Rubles.  Don’t say it can’t happen. China has run roughshod over Africa and no doubt would like to establish a beach head in San Juan, once the beaches are rebuilt of course.  Chinese Russian or Indian entrepreneurs,.  Anyone with the money to rebuild Puerto Rico will effectively own it.
 
Trump may chase Latinos out of the US but he is inviting other global powers into the Western Hemisphere.  President Monroe would be rolling over on his doctrine, John Kerry’s rejection of Monroe notwithstanding. The US would be very sorry to see Sanskrit, Cyrillic lettering or Chinese pictographs along the barren Condado boulevards.
 
The Donald’s dilemma: Rebuild the US territories and maintain hegemony or cast them aside, leaving them open to other influences. The tempests and US indifference have created the potential for Colonialism in the Caribbean. This may sound ridiculous.  Nevertheless, whoever saves the people of Puerto Rico will then hold the trump card.
 

The Specter of Arlen is Haunting America

The late Arlen Specter rose through Pennsylvania state politics to the office of U.S. Senator. His journey was instructive.  From 1951-1965, he was a Democrat. He read the shifting winds, running as a Republican  and winning the race for Philadelphia District Attorney.   In 1980, he was elected Senator, where he remained for the rest of his career.

He was often controversial but mostly effective in the Senate.  His inquisition of Anita Hill in the momentous hearings on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, the rebuke of his party over its impeachment  of Bill Clinton, his criticism and investigation of Bush II’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans, are a few highlights of his Senate tenure, which ended in 2010, after his defection, when he was defeated in his bid for reëlection. 

Specter was part of what remained of the centrist element of the GOP. As the party veered farther to the right, he broke ranks more often with his Republican caucus.  As the polarization in the Senate became extreme, his crossing over became critical, sometimes being the vote on which a bill hinged. He was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of the 2009 Recovery Act.

Feeling the changing mood of Republican voters, in 2009, he switched parties,  becoming a Democrat again. He constituted the 60th Senator in the filibuster-proof Senate that passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  Later that year, he was defeated by a Republican challenger. 

Last week’s Republican primary in Alabama brought Arlen Specter to mind. Roy Moore, twice thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for trying to turn his back in time, bested Luther Strange, placeholder after Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become Trump’s Attorney General.  Trump, spilling political capital, jumped into the fray, backing  Strange. To the liberal eye, Moore and Strange don’t seem very different. But for those more attuned to the subtlety of Republican politics, there may be a world of difference.

There is a splintering among Republicans. There is the off-the-charts reactionaries, like Ted Cruz, archly conservative and just plainly arch. Then there is someone like Mitch McConnell, deeply conservative but pragmatic, without the evangelical overlay.  There are one or  two centrists left, who, like Specter,  weigh in on matters from a non-ideological point of view. Susan Collins of Maine falls within that bracket. She deliberates over issues like healthcare.  She is an endangered species.

And in a category all his own, Rand Paul.

If the party fractures, some incumbents will have to decide if they still belong under the Republican flag. The farther right the party moves, the more likely the remaining centrists will have to find a new home.  They may not join the Democrats, as Specter did, especially if the Elizabeth Warren wing is ascendant. Possibly, there may be a coalition of moderates from both camps, which may be sufficient to hold the necessary majorities to legislate.

A Pox on the Donor Class

When the True Media reported that the latest Repeal Obamacare Putsch is being spurred by the fury of Republican donors, I was, well, furious. This GOP-controlled Congress has spent most of its term trying to repeal our health care law with nothing to replace it. Improvements are out of the question. It’s a tax reduction wolf  in sheep’s clothing. 

These Senators are so beholden and beaten down that they cower before their corporate overlords. Money in politics has made the very idea of representation laughable. Our system is grotesque, a freak show unspooling daily, reality TV with consequences.  The wealthy GOP backers have been promised repeal for seven years, and they’ve paid a pile of money for it. With repeal failing, the donors are shutting the spigot. The pols are groveling to save themselves from financial ruin, from having that carpet of cash pulled out from ‘neath their feet. This is their last chance.

The exception proves the rule.  John McCain, diagnosed with brain cancer, no longer cares about the money, and he’s virtually alone in opposing the bill. He’s calling for bipartisanship, a pitch for unity in the waning days of his career.  Maybe he thinks that this will become his legacy, pushing Sarah Palin into the second paragraph. 

It would be naive to think that money in politics is new.  Its impact was never so blatant, its minions so obsequious.  They’re dispensing with hearings and an analysis by the impartial Congressional Budget Office. It’s yet another Bum’s Rush that affects one-sixth of the country’s economy.  Desperation’s in the air. Failure has few friends and fewer financiers. 

 

The Art of the Stall

One negotiation theory holds that your opponent will give in if you’re unpredictable, maybe really unhinged. Take North Korea, for example. Kim Jung-Un gets people thinking that he’s a rabid dog who’s broken into his master’s cocaine stash. He may say he’d drop a nuclear bomb on the US even though he knows that we’d turn the Hermit Kingdom into a radioactive sinkhole. That’s why he hasn’t done it and probably never will.  The Crazy Card works only when the other guy believes it, doesn’t know when it will happen and has a lot more to lose. Still, the lunatic might extort some lagniappe, like reduced sanctions because, well, you never know.

A career spent playing the Crazy Card against banks, bankruptcy trustees and trade creditors may convince a person – maybe a real estate developer-that outrageous behavior and the threat of self-destruction will always scare his enemies into submission.  When it comes to government work, though, that particular ploy isn’t transferable. It’s no longer a game of one-on-one. It’s one maniac invested with power threatening to unleash his demons against a roomful of powerful and, perhaps, less crazy people.

The other drawback with the Mad Dog act is that it is usually good for one roll of the dice. Once you show that you’re not really so bonkers, it’s tough to draw the same rubes in for a second round.  Say he’s screwed every major bank in the country, they’re not likely to jump into any more of his deals. It’s about that time that he would call Moscow or Cyprus banks for some of their cash, to put into American real estate, a nice way to clean up a hamper full of dirty money.

Playing crazy doesn’t work so well when your opposite number is  the rest of the developed world.  If he goes to the countries of the Paris climate accord and threatens to pull out, those other countries don’t feel any pressure to cave.  He’ll only hurt himself while the rest of the world watches.  It’s especially transparent when the ink on the resignation won’t be dry for a while.  No genuine threat, no imminent peril.  Those other countries will Ignore him.

The future ex-President promised to withdraw from the Paris climate accord because he thought it was one-sided. He went ahead and did it but no other signers gave him so much as a shudder.  Lately, getting no traction, the White House leaked that maybe it won’t withdraw or that it would reëngage if it could get better terms.  It took two 500-year storms to convince him that he was playing a losing hand. At some point, the Mad Dog will be thrown a bone, face-saving only, then he’ll get back in his kennel.

He’s trying a similar tactic with DACA, with a six-month sunset provision, to give Congress time to fix it before he blows up nearly a million Americans.  Within days he undercut his own declaration, because he realized from the backlash that he couldn’t carry out his plan. And to put a cherry on it, he bypassed his own party and made a deal with the Democrats.

The Wall is another exercise in the Art of the Stall. His first outrageous declaration – that he’d build a border wall and get Mexico to pay for it.  There ‘s still no wall. Mexico refuses to pay for it. He didn’t even get Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, his new BFFs, to kick in. About now, he’s deployed a group of five contractors to the southern border with some sheets of aluminum siding, a roll of chicken wire and some paint chips while  he looks for a bank to finance it.

No, Not Another Outbreak of Clinton Fatigue!

Pundits are speculating, “whither Hillary,” prompted by the release of “What Happened” (sans ?), her campaign memoir. Unfortunately, she is thrust back into the national spotlight. If it were solely a book tour, that’s one thing. However, people are gaggling about Clinton’s future role in the Democratic party. That road leads to ruin.

If I were her adviser and if she were receptive to advice, I’d tell her to step back. She, along with former Presidents Obama and Clinton, and former Veep Biden, doesn’t belong on the front lines anymore. She is now a party elder, a Super-Duper Delegate, a Democratic MasterCard. She is a power broker but no longer for herself. We’re not ready for an octogenarian in the White House unless it was Poppy Bush paying a social call. She is still formidable. She can play a part in realigning her party for the next chapter in our nation’s life.

Hillary should turn her considerable brain power and experience to building a new generation of public servants. She can mold a new class of men, women and fluids, whose values and political skills will draw powerful support.

I’d tell her to speak at colleges and high schools and even elementary schools all over the country, with little or no honorarium. She can be a role model as a former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential candidate. She can teach and write about political science and politics. In other words, part Work Horse, part Show Horse.

Indeed, we’ve got to get the Russians out of our politics and back into their own, but that’s work for the current office holders. The record on 2016 is closed. Hillary has now said her piece. It is part of the historical record. It’s time to finish that particular book.

We face new challenges, and we need the best talent to rise to these challenges. The best thing Hillary can do is to help return honor and glory to public service, which in her case means receding from it.

Trump Tacks to Test The Wind

I made a list of all the reasons the future ex-President swiftly adopted the Schumer-Pelosi pitch this week.

– I immediately struck Crisis of Conscience and Enlightened Self-Interest but did retain Unenlightened Self-Interest as a possibility.
– He needed funding in place for Harvey and Irma.
– Payback to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for paying him back.
– Recognition of the consequences of his DACA position after the protesters hit the streets, combined with knowing that this Congress won’t pass a savings bill without Democratic support.
– His reputation. He don’t know much about history, we know, but he knows about public sentiment. He wants better poll numbers, and a petting session with the opposition might drive his disapproval rating down. He doesn’t want a lasting reputation of incompetence or of being the most backward-facing chief executive in our history.
– It’s not about Russia.

Likely he put the squeeze on his Congressional leaders to bring the divided party together by weaponizing the Democrats with a big basket of year-end budget issues, DACA among them.

Who knew that running the free world could be so complicated?

This may be too much credit for him, or maybe this is the first bold move in a game of three-dimensional chess. If so, who’s his tutor?

The GOP rift has been the Bane of Boehner and looms as the Ruin of Ryan. The House can only pass draconian bills if the Speaker has room to bargain with a more moderate Senate. If not, Congress can realign by bringing a handful of moderates together with united Democrats. This is political heresy, but for Trump, politics is a means to an end.

Maybe we will finally reach common ground on DACA, tax reform and health care. Or maybe this is an aberration. He may retreat to his base. Follow your Twitter account for the latest change of course.

It’s no time to break out the hats and hooters naturally. It’s a very good time to press issues that will deliver broader acceptance to a besieged President.

Congress to Salvage DACA? Dream On

After Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 Presidential run, the Republican Party elders decided that they had to reach out to Hispanic voters to recapture the White House. Despite their stated goal to improve the effort, three years passed without significant outreach. Yesterday the GOP finally extended its hand to the Latino community. Unfortunately, the hand was holding a net and a grappling hook.

AG Jefferson Sessions announced that DACA, Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals, would terminate, effective immediately. This action primarily affects Mexicans, who entered the US as kids. These kids, many now adults with at least a high education or a service history, a means of support, a record free of serious criminality and substantial. ties to their communities and families, will be refused the opportunity to remain here. They’ll be forced to return to their country of origin, in which they will be strangers and will have to make a new start.

The formal declaration was farmed out to the Department of Homeland Security, not the Immigration and Naturalization Service, suggesting this to be a security issue. It’s not. The rollback of the brown segment of the population is part and parcel of the administration’s goal of the Bleaching of America. The GOP tent is not big enough to allow brown Americans, even those who serve the country, pull their weight and obey the law. The administration’s intention was clear by its failure to make a serious Congressional effort to address the issue over the past sixteen years.

Every outbreak of nativism and violence brings reminders of the temporary legitimation of White Supremacy and intolerance in the 1920s, when the robed Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. The movement went back underground. It’s never gone away.

The point was driven home with the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s attitude was clear from his support of the cockamamie Birther attack on President Obama. He put on the finishing touch in his candidacy declaration. Striding to the microphone in his gilt palace, he declared Mexicans, specifically, criminals and rapists, unleashing the white supremacist fervor to purify the American Birth Stock. We’ve already seen the emboldening of their xenophobic movement in Charlottesville and in the Justice Department.

Their tactic repulsed Latino citizens, not just the Dreamers which DACA was meant to assist. Outrage was immediate. Protesters took to the streets in many cities and states that are home to a significant Latino populace. Trump, expressing faux compassion for the Dreamers, granted a six-month window for Congress to come up with a plan before canceling deferments and renewals. This is ripe, given the GOP’s inability in this Congress to reach a consensus on any meaningful policy so far. More than a few GOP senators in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have meaningful Latino voting blocs they are not willing to ignore.  On the other hand, their party as a whole reconsidered its effort to capture the Latin vote, then concluded that if they can’t join the Latinos, they’ll beat them.

 

No Messenger To Kill, No Message To Deliver

The midterm election campaigns have started. You might have missed it if, like me, you unsubscribed from the Begging Machines; blocked the robocalls; refused those few pleas that are still sent by mail.

The first quarterly report is in, and it’s dismal. The Democrats have no message for these times. They have announced no plan, no agenda, no defining vision. They slog from year to year with the same beloved bromides but no strategy. They could have been the party of Take Back Our Country, but they missed out on that one. Their platform reflects the views of a majority of voters, but they aren’t clever enough to beat the Republicans at the Game.

What they need first is a vision that sweeps into it the disaffected voters whose departure cost the 2016 elections. It doesn’t have to be novel, only compelling. Spoiler alert: it has to be more centrist. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got elected on mainstream platforms. Much as one might see the virtue of revolution, revolutionaries don’t win elections here – although Bernie Sanders might have pulled it off against Trump.

The second issue is the messenger. When the most popular figure in the Democratic Party isn’t a regular member – a socialist septuagenarian- the problem is readily apparent. There is a scarcity of electable candidates.  The current aberration aside, the path to political success hasn’t changed. Hard work, a solid, affirmative vision and a little charisma, and they have a chance to catch fire.

America is a global power still, wrestling like other developed nations with the challenges of industrial turnover, technology and scarcity. It’s a time for creativity aimed at broader communal goals. We’ve been through this before. We can get through it again.

 

Closing Time: GOP Begins Its Push for Trump To Resign

 

It’s one thing when former Vice President and ex-officio former President-elect Al Gore called for the future ex-President to resign.  It’s quite another when, the following day, two GOP Senators – prospective jurors in any impeachment proceeding – smacked him on the snout, saying  that he has demonstrated a lack of the moral authority to be President.  It says that he has lost the Senate. Now, the only thing standing between him and impeachment is a House full of vulnerable candidates who will be running in 2018.  Rupert Murdoch has jumped ship. Steve Bannon is working his exit strategy.

 If he doesn’t resign it may be forced on him. With Nixon, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling forcing him to disgorge his tapes was the final blow. Trump is not in obvious legal jeopardy, as was Nixon. Still, he has alienated many of his allies, and has given no coverage to his team.   He has appalled many of those who voted for him. He is a lame duck, six months into his administration.

He risks starting wars along the 38th parallel and the Mason-Dixon line. 

 As Trump will admit, he is not an experienced politician. He knows how to lie, he just doesn’t know when. People say he is impulsive, unable to contain himself.  In Tuesday’s return to Trump Tower, after delivering a short statement on infrastructure, he was goaded into further discussion of the fallout from Charlottesville. No doubt his staff had prepared him but he couldn’t contain himself.  It tripped a circuit breaker in his head, and sparks flew out of his mouth. That would not have happened with a disciplined politician.  A seasoned pro would have stuck to the script. He can’t do it, and doesn’t want to do it. 

There’s blood in the water.  The nobles are fleeing.  The generals are ignoring his commands and publicly rebuking him.  The Senators are meeting in the Capitol’s  recesses. Mike Pence is getting fitted for Air Force One flight jacket.  Plots are being hatched,  and people are positioning themselves for regicide if he does not go quietly.  

 Here’s the deal. He won’t quit unless it’s clear that he will lose his fortune or the children their fortunes or liberty. Impeachment won’t happen. Besides, it would take too long.  As for the GOP, time is against them. The longer it takes to make the change in the White House, the worse their chances in 2018’s House election.  So, do you wonder which lucky  party leader will get to say, “You’re fired.” My guess is that he’ll have a Kentucky drawl on his tongue and a smirk on his face.

 

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