Could the Almighty have such a refined sense of irony that poor white Trump voters were punished this week by G-d leaving their health benefits intact? Maybe G-d does not really believe in karma? It was real problematic for a lot of folks to have to take healthcare entitlements and handouts from a skinny black dude. But times change, and now we have a really rich, old, large, obnoxious white man in the White House. It would be awful if everybody who needed to get low-cost care got cut off now. Thank goodness the Freedom Caucus understood all this and preserved our Obamacare just when we were starting to think of it as the Affordable Care Act (surprise!). Just hoping the
Does Donald J. Trump realize that he is president? Is he saying he is going to actively sabotage the Affordable Care Act so that we the people will be reduced to begging for relief? Does he realize that one of the men standing next to him today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, has plenty of regulatory discretion over the health exchanges. Price can undermine the health of Americans in many ways. Or help make things easier for people trying to get health care via sensible and flexible administrative rules and regulations. Trump is never willing to be blamed, for anything, but from today forward controlling the “narrative” and deflecting accountability is going to get harder.
New President Trump’s first day included an executive order to “ease the…burdens” of the Affordable Care Act. I hope journalists will ask “for whom.” The reality is, easing a burden somewhere probably places a burden on some “forgotten men and women” without lobbyists to smooth their path. Easing regulatory burdens sounds great if you do not weigh the costs and benefits. Journalists, could you ease up on rehashing every tweet and every impediment to your access. The real issue is, where will the burdens shift with the new regime. None of us really knows yet where they will shift, but let’s focus on explaining real issues that are going to help or hurt real people. Trump’s first executive order is about “incidence,” which in economics refers to where burdens lie–who pays? “Cutting red tape”–that’s gaslighting. Let’s dig deeper. Trump is getting ready to rebrand the health care system. Real journalism will not take any of it at face value, in fact really real journalism will cut out Trump’s propagandizing middlemen/salespeople/gaslighters and go straight to explaining who benefits (Cui Bono) and who gets it on the nose.
Speaker Ryan is right that “Obamacare is collapsing as we speak.” That’s because his Republicans are voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Thus it is collapsing. Platitude solved.
Personally, I am happy to see that horrible Obamacare law go down. That’s because my coverage, which is great so far, is with the ACA. Oh, really? You don’t say. Hmmm… where did you say that protest march is next week?
Repeal or no repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we are all captives in the Trump America Risk Pool. Sure, there are problems with Obamacare’s risk pool dos and don’ts, but they are pretty much limited to health care. The Trump risk pool is a wider, deeper problem. For example, the news that we may well have a suborned and blackmailed president next week: that puts all Americans in a scary risk pool, even if it is of our own devising. (Scary enough that Trump is almost halfway right that his tax returns are a minor concern now.) As Charlie Pierce put it today, “everybody is waiting for somebody else to do something. It’s like we’re all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well….the president-elect may, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, have debts no honest man can pay.”
P.S. if you are ready to see Obamacare go down the tubes, because your own terrific health care is the Affordable Care Act, I have some bad news for you.
It is early days in Donald J. Trump’s new swamp-draining reality adventure. Let’s chill just a little bit and give him enough running room–I mean rope–and see what happens. I think the best protesting is likely to happen if and when Trump starts pissing people off. And in fairness to Trump or any president (missing you already, Obama, despite your mandarin tendencies) there are not too many easy win-win decisions that a president gets to make. If Trump increases the swamp gas fumes by hiring the oiliest of the lobbyist crowd, and shafts the “forgotten men and women,” the disgruntled “Carrier voters” of the rust belt who put him over the top, then the opportunity for successful protest will ripen. If Trump follows Paul Ryan’s lead and proposes privatizing Medicare and cutting off Trumpcare health exchange subsidies, solidarity against Republicans will be a much easier lift than if people disrupt highway traffic now and piss off ordinary people. Trump and the Republicans are about to take control of all three branches, and they will own the economy. They will either own the Affordable Care Act, or try to displace and dismember it. The hard choices are theirs, let them stew over it.
Re-reading my January 2 post on “Free Exercise,” I wondered if I should adjust my spectacles more toward the fine details or the bigger picture.
First, into the weeds: on Friday, January 3, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli presented the U.S. government’s response to Justice Sotomayor’s temporary injunction against enforcement of the contraceptive mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act in the case brought by Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver (by their legal team at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty). When you get down to details, as Verrilli pointed out, accepting the nuns’ objection to filling out form EBSA 700 leads to absurd results (hat tip once again to Marty Lederman of Balkinization.) Signing the form in their particular case would ensure that their female employees do not receive contraceptive coverage, in part because their health insurer, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, prefers not to provide it and is not subject to any government regulation under provisions of the ERISA law of 1974 exempting churches. Obamacare regulations also give the Little Sisters a simple way out of any possible taint, again because the Christian Brothers entity is considered a church group, not merely a religious nonprofit. (I can see an objection to the clericalist bias of the federal regulations, but that is a separate issue.) So the Little Sisters and their lawyers are refusing to take yes for an answer. Moreover, as Verrilli notes, they “draw flawed analogies when they say that under the court of appeals’ reasoning [which went against the Little Sisters’ position] ‘Quaker conscientious objectors would suffer no penalties if they would just join the military; Jewish prisoners would suffer no burden if they would just eat the pork…’ To mirror the situation here, the question in all of these cases would be whether the religious objector could be required to sign a certification form in order to secure the religion-based exemption he sought…. [the Little Sisters/Becket Fund position] would seemingly mean that the…Jewish prisoner could not be required to fill out a form saying he had a religious objection to the consumption of pork before he was provided an alternative meal… When extending religious accommodations, the government must be allowed to provide for regularized, orderly means of permitting eligible individuals or entities to declare that they intend to take advantage of them.”
Amen. Anybody who has a problem with that is just itching for a lost cause to fight. The Notre Dame case and other similar cases are different in detail, but not in kind, in my opinion, as I discussed the other day. And when Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund argued on EWTN’s “The World Over” TV show the other day that the Little Sisters were being coerced to sign a “permission slip” for their insurer or administrator to provide birth control coverage, Michael Sean Winters of National Catholic Reporter rightly called him out for bearing false witness against the truth.
And what about the bigger picture? I still do not wish to seem rude to the Little Sisters of the Poor or Notre Dame, but a distinction should be made between the official position of the Roman Catholic Church and the lives of an overwhelming majority of American Catholic women–98% or so of whom have used contraceptives, obviously not continuously, but at some point. That number tracks comparably with the general population of American women. Morality and righteousness may not always lie in numbers, but it is relevant that many if not most American Catholics, including theologians and even clerics, are dubious about the rationale of the papal encyclical from the 1960s against contraception. Government policy on abortion is obviously strongly contested, but the Supreme Court’s Griswold decision legitimizing birth control is pretty unlikely to be overturned. Public health policy is, or ought to be, nonsectarian and detached from particular creeds and confessions. The health law is a neutral law of general applicability, which was the test the Supreme Court used in a 1990 free exercise case involving peyote rituals, the upshot of which was that states may but do not have to accommodate claims of religiously-based exemption from such neutral laws. Nobody is force-feeding birth control pills to anybody, least of all the Little Sisters of the Poor. The cases against the contraceptive mandate, as revised by the Obama administration, are essentially aimed, seems to me, at reasserting control over (especially poorer) women’s access to birth control, with the usually unstated aim (depending on the audience) of restricting female autonomy more generally. Does the free exercise of religious belief really depend on that? Any lawyer, or woman religious for that matter, who has thought it through and still says “yes” should have their knuckles rapped.
How much chance is there that the federal government will shut down in October? The threat of intraparty challenges to Republicans who do not show bona fides of intransigence tilts the odds toward shutdown, though it’ll become a right-wing dead end real quick unless they can frame interruption of Social Security checks as the fault of the illegitimate usurper Obama. Which they will try to do. This may even be absurd enough to challenge the convention of equivalence in blaming Democrats and Republicans–or not, given how entrenched false equivalence is and how well Republican politicians and special interest lobbyists have exploited the unwillingness of mainstream news to take note of obvious asymmetries in extremism.
Shutdown is likely because no shutdown would mean climbdown and capitulation to an illegitimate President, an unconstitutional health care law, and an unacceptable status quo, according to Tea Party thinking. It is up to the Democrats, starting at the top, not to sigh, not to become visibly agitated or annoyed, but to explain again why standing firm on implementation of the Affordable Care Act is in the best interests of the country. There is no reason to give Republicans an easy target by pretending extending health coverage is in all ways a free lunch, but there is good reason to explain the great benefit in moving toward a universal risk pool. And there is every reason to remind the public in a cheerful, upbeat way of the gains in security and quality of life that the Affordable Care Act will promote. It would be great if Democrats and perhaps even some Republicans would point out, again, the benefit of things like health care portability and ensuring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Countering right-wing scare tactics will work best, though, only after the law’s provisions start to spread by word of mouth.
That is what really scares right-wing elites: that the tens of millions of people who have suffered becoming more and more insecure and economically marginal in the last few decades will discover that the Affordable Care Act makes a positive difference to them. Heaven forbid we should allow, or worse encourage, rising expectations among the 21st-century proletariat and lumpenproletariat.
How far will the Republican majority in the House continue their oppugnant ways in the face of polls that show a majority of Americans likely to vote getting fed up with them? Yes, gerrymandering and redistricting have done quite a bit to insulate them, and fear of facing a righter-than-thou primary opponent makes deal-cutting complicated. But Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) are neither fools nor anything other than conservatives. Burr said today that it is nuts to threaten to shut down the government unless the health care law is defunded, and Cole called the shutdown threat a “temper tantrum.” Their frank critiques of Republican extremism are significant signals, I think, of the beginnings of a climbdown. Norman Ornstein and Bruce Bartlett, among others, are sensible, nonliberal, and fair-minded critics of GOP oppugnancy (hat tip re this rare word to Charles H. Long, history of religions scholar) and of the rampant and whorish conventional wisdom of false equivalence–but the real action is when deeply right-wing elected Republicans point to an exit strategy from lunacy.
- GOP Senator: Shutting Down The Government Over Obamacare Is ‘The Dumbest Idea I’ve Ever Heard’ (thinkprogress.org.feedsportal.com)