Category: Politics Page 1 of 6

A Man Comes In Out of the Weeds

Jay Inslee is the Governor of Washington, and he’s running for President. He deserves serious consideration. 

He’s a Climate Change Warrior. It’s his one  issue, and he knows it well. He’s in the weeds on it, and he can go high when FEPOTUS  goes low. Not only that. He can explain it in a way that even a Luddite Real Estate Salesman can understand. Inslee has the kind of game that could give Trump a run in the red states. That’s a winning formula. 

Inslee is promoting himself as a one-issue guy, although that doesn’t do him justice. He explains that environmental policy is also job policy and education policy. After he opens on the environment, he pivots to these more accessible issues. He comes across like a seasoned, well-rounded intelligent guy who can put some meat on the progressive skeleton. 

Inslee served two terms in Congress. He can speak about the federal government with some authority. His pitch about Congress is that the filibuster has to go to get environmentally positive laws on the books. 

Inslee plays like someone who knows the business and how things get done. If he gets a hearing, he might find some traction. If he is the standard bearer, he has the kind of game to take Trump on. He won’t get bullied, that’s for sure

Getting some traction though is Inslee’s biggest hurdle. He slots into the middle-aged, white guy niche with Beto O’Rourke, who is already establishing himself as a formidable candidate. Beto’s sucking up money like a Roomba, and has some mojo reminiscent of Obama and Bill Clinton. Inslee has more substance, less charisma.

Too bad, it’s not even clear that the middle-aged, white guy will be this year’s model. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris  and Joaquin Castro are off and running.

The glass ceiling division, Senators Warren, Gillibrand and Klobuchar.  Each of them has a strong progressive agenda, with Klobuchar a popular midwestern figure.

Then there’s Bernie and maybe Biden, a slightly more seasoned variant.

A total of 22 candidates so far, and it’s early still  it’s too early to draw any conclusions about who can win beat the Groper. The Democrats must win back Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida to be assured of victory. Whoever runs strongly through middle America will be the Democrat to beat.  In a one-issue race, it’s the only issue that counts.

No Takers on Trump Nothingburger

The White House proposal Saturday to end the shutdown was a feint, an illusion  of compromise.  Actually, it was a Nothingberder. 

The administration proposed three years of temporary protection for the Dreamers, which was DOA.  The White House thought to act because the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear its  appeal of the lower court’s rejection of Trump’s DACA termination. The odds are about 20  to 1 against the High Court taking the case (the final posting for this year’s cases will occur Tuesday). In effect, Trump was offering ice in the winter. Pelosi and other Democrats would not consider it. 

Even worse for the White House, Trump’s pitched looked like amnesty to his supporters, which will piss off Rush, Ann and the 2016 base. Trump’s proposal should never have seen the light of day.

Mike Pence said that the proposal showed the administration is reaching out. It doesn’t seem likely. The Trump base hated it. The Democrats didn’t give it a thought. Media on the left and right ridiculed it. The proposal was just another misconceived publicity stunt.

It’s 2016 All Over Again

Future Ex-President Trump got soundly thumped for his speech from the Oval Office. He said nothing new, looked as if he were embalmed and couldn’t wait to get off the air. Yet, when it was over, I had this disquieting feeling, like I had not really heard him at all; as if it passed right through me.

The Democratic leadership followed him up, chiding him for his lies. I knew that I had heard this before; not just the other day from the White House lawn, but three years ago on the campaign trail. They still haven’t learned that this approach fails with an audience that is willing to forgive him his trespasses because it thinks that he stands for a greater truth. The Democrats would do well to take this seriously. They must meet the substance, not the form, of the argument. The Democrats are missing the forest for the trees – again. This myopia guarantees another four years out of power.

FEPOTUS wants to build a Border Wall, but nevertheless admits that it is not an answer for Border Security. The Democrats do not want a Border Wall but they recognize the need for border security. They dismiss the Wall as a medieval answer to a 21st Century problem. They claim that Trump is lying about a crisis at the border, and they argue that if there is a humanitarian crisis, Trump has caused it. They reached a stalemate, and our government has decided to put itself out of business.

The government shutdown is entering its third week, with federal employees going without a paycheck. FEPOTUS said two weeks ago that he was proud to own the shutdown. Although he has retreated from those words, he might just as well double-down on them. He will live or die by them. Republicans have begun to retreat publicly. At least four Senators would vote to reopen the government but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t put the measure up for a vote. Each side vows that it will let this stalemate drag on until the other side caves. In the meantime, 800,000 federal employees and their dependents are in existential peril.

The Democrats and the media see this as all on Trump.  They are preaching to their choir, just as they did in 2016. They are not addressing the anger and frustration of an active and discontented part of the electorate; which put is faith in Trump, notwithstanding his lies, insensitivity, corruption and sheer incompetence.  Although Trump has scaled back his thirty-foot concrete monument to a steel fence, the true believers have not shrunken from their belief in the need for a barrier and a belief in him.

The Democrats should have called for hearings on the first day of the new Congress. They should have a parade of witnesses on the situation along the border and other witnesses as to what is needed. If there is a crisis, then the adults, our adults, should be fashioning a solution. At least, it would show that they are taking the concern seriously enough to investigate and move toward a solution. That, more than any words, would show that they care about the truth of the situation and the solutions needed for greater border security.

If the Democrats do nothing, FEPOTUS can call off the shutdown with impunity. He’ll say he, not Democrats, “cares” about the federal workers. He will take credit for offering a solution, however ridiculous it may be. The Democrats, having done nothing, will be made to appear closed in heart and mind, and they’ll have way to fight back. Hillary Redux.

Democrats may not agree that there is a  need but they will do themselves a disservice by trivializing the concerns of those who do. Deplorables Redux. To Democrats, Schumer and Pelosi’s rebuttal to Trump looks earnest and responsible. To non-Democrats,  it sounds like a hectoring scolding, and they appear to be smug and petulant – much the way Hillary did. They’re misreading the situation again, again, again.

Mick Mulvaney: Out of the Sandbox

Donald Trump wasn’t conservative enough for Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney said that candidate Trump was a terrible person, and he wouldn’t vote for him. Nevertheless, he accepted the President-elect’s offer to run the Office of Management and Budget. Later, he added the title of Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau after Obama appointee Richard Cordray was fired.

As CPFB director, Mulvaney immediately fired all members of the agency’s advisory board and defanged the pro-consumer agency. As  OMB director, his office has become a way station for the stray lobbyist or dissatisfied donor. Yet, after two years of service, Mulvaney is not the object of a criminal investigation. High praise, indeed.

On paper Mulvaney, a deficit hawk, is an unlikely chief of the OMB, which has overseen a historic increase in the national debt.   Mulvaney claimed that the United States would outgrow its spending hikes, which so far is not the case. Growth as measured as a percentage of GDP fell from the promising 4% range into quicksand of 2%. Mulvaney’s hoped-for growth by tax cut has not materialized.

Trophy Hunter

All the more surprising is Mulvaney’s willingness to take on another job, this time as Acting Chief of Staff. He’s going to hold on to the OMB title, avoiding the necessity of  ramming another anti-agency industry hack through the Senate confirmation process. Mulvaney coming aboard with the title of Acting Chief of Staff gives him cover if he is dumped like Priebus and Kelly were. It also gives him control on domestic policy and relations with congress. At least, Mulvaney has more latitude to conduct government business in a comparatively conventional way.

Translating Trump

Can Mulvaney do what his predecessors could not? For starters, he is trying with some success to translate Trump’s impulsiveness into political norms. This morning on Meet the Press, he addressed many  pressing issues.  On the border wall: “We gave [Democrats] an offer [between the $5 billion figure and the $1.6 billion figure] and we’re waiting to hear back from them right now.” His statement is addition by subtraction. The administration will drop its settlement number to end the shutdown, making it sound like the usual congressional horse-trading. Still, no DACA, no wall, as far as the Democrats are concerned.

Mulvaney tries to be plain spoken-ish. “The president is not going to not accept money for a border wall.” Mulvaney also shifted the administration on getting Mexico to pay for the wall.  He conceded matter-of-factly that the administration cannot actually make Mexico pay for the wall. He  suggested that Trump’s promise was aspirational,  not transactional.  For Mulvaney, Mexico’s greater deterrence of Central America migrants becomes a stand-in for the wall. The slatted fence with the points is another stand-in for the wall. Without fanfare, Mulvaney downgraded the wall from BBW (Big, Beautiful Wall) to FWB (Fence with Benefits). Border wall has been re-purposed as border security, opening the door to non-wall measures which are acceptable to the Democrats and don’t look to Trump’s base like surrender.  Congress will make a deal sooner or later, and Mulvaney will be smack dab in the middle of it.

Mulvaney is the Message

Mulvaney also is also seizing control of the message. If this morning’s appearances are a preview of things to come, Mulvaney will get the chance to move the congressional pile and to propose compromises that don’t completely forfeit the boss’s political capital.

Making It Real

According to Mulvaney, Trump now realizes that he can’t fire the Fed Chief.  If so, this recognition is uncharted territory for the Accidental President.  Mulvaney chalks up Mattis’ firing to a difference in philosophy between Trump and Mattis. Of course, it is just as much a difference in process, which Mattis identified as a reason for leaving.   Mulvaney is trying to forge a real-world convergence of American politics and Trump’s alternste universe.

Shortly after the Sunday shows, the White House announced that the nomination of a new Defense Secretary has been advanced from to January  3rd from February 28th.  The announcement is meant to assure the public that this administration is not the shambles it appears to be, and to persuade the public that there is at least one person ready to lead the Pentagon under this president. Mulvaney’s fingerprints are on this too.

Out of the Sandbox

For the moment and until further notice,  Mulvaney will play the adult in the room. He is attempting to project himself as the savior of a lost administration, or at least the voice of reason drowned out by the White House din.  If this is political calculation by Mulvaney, he is playing it smart. ​

Kelly never had any political arrows in his quiver.  He is a former general, not a former legislator. On the other hand, Congressman Mulvaney was washed ashore in Washington bu the Tea Party tsunami. Paradoxically, he’s trying to build an unsinkable platform using the DC swamp as his foundation.

Surfing the Blue Wave

Does anybody remember the election in 2016 — because one of the same patterns is emerging. The polls are giving the Democrats an 80% probability of taking back the house. Uh oh, Trump may have them right where he wants them.

In 2016, polls overwhelmingly projected Hillary Clinton to win the election. Nate Silver’s forecaster, Fivethirtyeight.com, before Election Day gave Clinton a 70% probability of winning, and he has been a very accurate forecaster of elections. By 11 P.M. that night, after Pennsylvania was called for Trump, her chances had dropped to 5%, and that was being generous. To focus attention, it’s better to think that she started with a 1 in 3 chance of losing, which is what happened. The Democrats have a 1 in 5 chance of not taking back the House. Is that a cold shower or what?

A probability of 80% assumes that everything goes as the Democrats expect. If things do not go perfectly, the percentage diminishes rapidly. The polls get a whole lot more accurate once voters go to the voting booth. Forecasting polls are a snapshot and contingent; who answered the phone and who didn’t. They are inexact and can’t be treated as a foregone conclusion. Don’t look at the 80%; look at the 20%. That’s the key.

Don’t hold your breath until the House turns blue. Get out and canvass, make phone calls and get everyone to vote. If you’re in a safe district, assuming there is one, work for a district that is contested. Participatory democracy means pushing beyond complacency and escaping your own gravity. Step out of your front door and roll up your sleeves.

The Kegger Plays His Trump Card

Yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee predictably satisfied the expectations of political junkies, #metoo activists and garden-variety voyeurs. The crowd also experienced the rare surprise of the cool and collected Brett Kavanaugh putting on his angry Trump face for the galleries and the folks at home. Trump’s Justice in utero wasn’t going to go out without a Trumpian rant.

Kegger spent several days in White House captivity, mastering the Trump playbook. He roared about the Democrats’ chicanery, lamented that his days of teaching and coaching girls’ sports may be over, and raged that the coveted prize, a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court was being pulled out of his hands. He didn’t use the words “rigged” or “witch hunt,” and he wept and cursed his fate. Otherwise, it was unvarnished Trump-speak. Trump’s hand was up the Kegger’s back, moving his lips and waving his arms.

The Republican senators had hired Rachel Mitchell, an able and experienced sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to question accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in their stead. Mitchell took each majority members’ five-minute segment in the Ford questioning, and she was scheduled to do the same with the Kegger. However, chairman Grassley and his bloc, fortified by the nominee’s new-found belligerence, decided to take back the microphone.

First up, Lindsey Graham (R-NC) lay the groundwork for the rest of the afternoon. Turning away from the judge, he fixed his pole axe on his Democratic colleagues.

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy!”

His target was his friend, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who bore the brunt of accusations that she held back Ford’s accusation until after Kavanaugh’s first hearing finished.
At long last, the combatants dismissed Ford and Kavanaugh, the proxies for the war between the statesmen. The Repubs were in high dudgeon over the Dems’ treatment of Kavanaugh, and the Dems were tacitly taking their revenge for their rivals’ dismissal of Merrick Garland in 2016 – and for a bagful of other indignities and slights.

The public got to see what kind of shit show we’ve enabled in the halls of government. Blame everybody — we’ve demanded winner-take-all politics, and now we have it. The Democrats led by former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) set this in motion by eliminating the filibuster in connection with judicial appointments below the Supreme Court level This reduced the vote to a simple majority. When Mitch McConnell (R-TN) extended the rule to Supreme Court confirmation, the nuclear option, the stage was set for extreme appointees who did not require bipartisan support.

In 2016 Merrick Garland was put forward by Barack Obama, a centrist judge who previously had garnered the approval of both parties. He did this to dare the Republican house to gamble on the outcome of the presidential election.  McConnell, in complete control of the Senate, refused even to consider his nomination, rolling the dice that, if Clinton had won, he could always activate Garland’s nomination. With Trump in the White House and a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell has been rolling sevens, judicially speaking. The Democrats, outmaneuvered, lament lifting the filibuster in the first place.

Dick Durbin (D-IL) had predicted in January that ending the filibuster would be the “end of the Senate,” as we know it. Yesterday, he lamented that his prediction had come true.

“It’s interesting, a Republican senator this morning in the gym raised the same question with me. And I said, ‘I think we’re learning our lesson here.’ That eliminating the filibuster on the Supreme Court at least, and maybe the other federal positions, has really created a much more political process. It is better for us to move toward with something that is bipartisan and try to find more moderate people to serve on our federal judiciary.”

Good luck with that. It’s a great aspiration but no one in this Senate presently will lead the institution out of its quagmire. So much needs to be unwound to return to lower-case d democracy in our politics. The Senate and House must reclaim their preeminent places in our government, and the imperial presidency, begun long before Trump, must be contained. These changes require the Supreme Court to recognize congressional primacy, and Brett Kavanaugh won’t let that happen — unless his puppeteer loses the White House.

Who Said Life is Fair?

Three accusers so far, and we’ve only gotten as far as freshman year. Imagine what’s in store for Brett “Kegger” Kavanaugh as an upper-class man at Yale. Boola, boola.

All of his accusers could be mistaken or lying, but the odds are against it. Predict It, the UK bookmaker, had confirmation at 96% last week, now down to 30%.

Kegger’s self-driven PR campaign hasn’t moved the needle. It didn’t help that he was sharing the headlines with Bill Cosby’s sentencing for drugging and raping a woman (and a lot more whose cases were too old to be brought). It’s bad luck too that there’s no statute of limitations in a Senate Confirmation hearing to protect 100-Keg from his own history.

Kegger caught another bad break being before the Senate and not a courtroom. No one has to presume his innocence or give him the benefit of the doubt, even if his sponsors have brought in a prosecutor and want to turn the hearing into a quasi-trial.   He could use a little legal aid about now.

Kegger is by far the sweatiest Supreme Court nominee in my lifetime. He looks like he’s got hives. He’s lost  his composure. When he appeared on Fox News two nights ago, begging for fairness, you could smell the tension. Why so uptight? Come on, man, we’re impartial, just calling balls and strikes. It’s not our fault you’ve got a big strike zone and a few holes in your swing.

There are plenty of second acts in American lives, and Kavanaugh has had his allotted two. He’s parlayed his privilege from high school hedonist to Judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Not bad, but now Kegger’s looking for a third act, and that curtain’s not going up. He shouldn’t complain. He’s a judge on one of the most respected courts in America. He’s lucky; in fact, he works for Merrick Garland.

Considering Kegger’s questioned past and his proven lies in earlier confirmation hearings, he’s gotten more than his share of fair. There are jurists out there as good or better, who couldn’t get so much as an interview. Merrick Garland comes to mind.

Do you remember telling your parents that something was unfair and their response? Life isn’t always fair. Kavanaugh should wipe away his tears and return to his very special job, which he is very lucky to keep. For now.  A criminal complaint has been filed before the Committee on Judicial Conduct against Kavanaugh, alleging perjury during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings.  The committee chair?  Merrick Garland.

Standoff at the Red Hen

Stephanie Wilkinson owns a small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. She was summoned to the Red Hen from home last Friday night after getting  a call from the chef.  The staff thought that Sara Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, had just sat down with four or five other people.  They didn’t know what to do. Wilkinson drove over.

When Wilkinson  walked in, she was happy to see that the staff had been sensible enough to take orders and begin service. She eyeballed the dinner party and then caucused with the staff in the kitchen. Wilkinson asked the staff what they wanted her to do. One person mentioned Trump trying to keep transgender people out of the military. Another talked about Trump’s terrible detention and separation policy and that Sanders lies for the administration.

Wilkinson reflected that several people on the staff are gay and that Lexington was a tiny blue speck in a big, red field.  She walked back into the dining room, introduced herself and asked Sanders out to talk on the patio.

Sanders is a steely professional. Her jousting with the press corps is a running story.  Unflappable and prepared, she is just what her talkative boss wants. As the detention policy entered its second week, the reporters were getting personal with her, trying to break her rigid stand in support of the President’s despicable policy, one which he reversed unhappily last week before dinner.

Press secretaries  normally are measured by their performance in answering tough questions. They prepare for a daily briefing by being ready to advance their boss’s cause on the day’s hot issue.  

“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.”

Sanders Meets the Press.  

Earlier last week, Sanders dodged a lot of questions and echoed her boss’s statements.     

“That’s fine. I’ll go,” said Sanders.  

A couple of weeks,ago, in a lawsuit about a religious baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the Supreme Court avoided deciding how to square the baker’s beliefs with the couples’ civil rights. 

The Red Hen Affair is different. No one’s constitutional rights were violated by Wilkinson refusing service. The guests were asked to leave because Sanders is an effective mouthpiece for the administration’s cruelty and insensitivity. 

I disagree with the White House policies, and I disagree with Wilkinson.  She should have served her guests, as she would expect to be served.  In fact, it’s a shame that Wilkinson didn’t let them stay.  It could’ve been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

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.

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