That postcard tax form that President Trump kissed the other day is so cute. I am so confident that all the haters and fools will be proven wrong when the glorious freedom-loving Republicans pass their Tax Cuts And Jobs Act and I get to send the IRS a teeny tiny check next spring. I know Paul will be happy to take cute emojis on the endorsement line in lieu of more money because he loves my freedom even more than I love it myself. And Speaker Ryan doesn’t care about anybody except regular forgotten hard-working men and women, like the ones driving those autonomous vehicles into the new Foxconn factory in southeast Wisconsin where Speaker Ryan lives. Oh? There aren’t any truck drivers driving those autonomous vehicles? And Foxconn isn’t paying taxes? But who is going to pay for my Medicare and my cousin’s VA bills and my uncle’s disability? Well, I am sure a smart young fellow like Paul Ryan will figure it out, those charts sure looked very convincing and his eyes are very blue.
I do not agree with all of what John Calvin (1509-1564) had to say about God and predestination. But for anyone who accepts pretty much any version of Christian theism, it’s hard to find fault with Calvin’s clear and sensible affirmation (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.17.9) that we ought not to interpret providence in such a way that we despise the “secondary causes” through which God acts in the world. (And it’s not only a Protestant-Puritan thing, Thomas Aquinas would have agreed with Calvin here.)
Should I be surprised that the Republican response to the latest mass slaughter closes the door against anything other than prayer. Prayer may indeed offer consolation in times of trial. Thoughts may send good karma in the direction of those suffering horribly in Texas. But for Speaker Paul Ryan to use “prayer works” as an excuse to do nothing is adding insult to injury. When Ryan turns aside any possibility of using legislation to reduce mass killings he is speaking as a fatalistic pagan, not a Christian. I want at least enough of a line of separation between church and state that neither Paul Ryan nor any other politician tries to excuse their lack of action by saying that prayer works. His job, and the president’s job, is to restrain evildoers, and pave roads. Mitch McConnell insulted our intelligence when he said that there is no “foolproof” legislative remedy. Of course, Senator. I am not expecting infallibility. How about a little honest and well-informed effort. Our murder rate is 50 times higher than the United Kingdom–and our president says it is not “a guns situation.” How about getting real about the secondary causes staring us in the face?
I would love to associate myself with Donald Trump’s totally true remark today that “there are a lot of good reasons” to eliminate the debt ceiling. Convenient? Of course. Hypocritical? Hmm, let’s take a look: 2011 Trump said “the debt limit cannot be raised until Obama spending is contained.” “TIME TO CUT, CAP, AND BALANCE.” “There is no revenue problem.” 2012 Trump: “the Republicans once again hold all the cards with the debt ceiling. They can get everything they want. Focus!”
Donald Trump has zero reason to regret or retract anything, ever. Chuck and Nancy will confirm that if you ask them.
After Hurricane Katrina, Mike Pence, then an Indiana Congressman, said on the House floor that “as we begin to rebuild…let’s figure out how we’re going to pay for it. Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren.” That was then. Today Pence said in Rockport, Texas, that Houston is going to be rebuilt “bigger and better.” Pious hypocrisy at the expense of poor people and non-Republican people comes naturally to the Vice President. But Pence leaped beyond hypocrisy today into heathenism.
If Pence actually cared about not creating a catastrophe of future debt, rebuilding Houston even bigger is wrong and stupid. Paving over what’s left of the prairies that used to soak up rainwater, and loosening lax building codes even further, is not going to reduce future government debt unless the federal government treats Texans as if they had truly seceded and excludes them from disaster relief. President Trump signed an executive order just ten days before Hurricane Harvey hit that revoked prudent regulations set in 2015 but not yet put into force. The Obama-era rules, according to Business Insider, “would have required the federal government to take into account the risk of flooding and sea-level rise as a result of climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after disasters.” That kind of basic stewardship of resources and that kind of cautiousness are apparently foreign to the Trump-Pence administration. In fact, Pence’s “bigger and better” promise today goes beyond hypocrisy and amounts to false piety. How so? What Pence’s embrace of Osteen-style prosperity gospel doesn’t get about Christian faith is something John Calvin grasped quite clearly: the doctrine of God’s providence does not authorize or empower us to stop paying prudential attention to the “secondary causes” we find in the visible world. Believing in God’s providence does not allow, much less require, us to rebuild “bigger” in a subtropical coastal plain that has become a toxic swamp of hazardous and explosive chemicals. Faithful Christian stewardship (and Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or pagan stewardship, for that matter) of our only planet is a far cry from the heathenish YOLO attitude we hear from Trump and Pence whenever it suits their political purposes.
Paul Ryan, by the way, has attacked Obamacare because it crushes “freedom” and forces healthy people to pay for sick people. How does Speaker Ryan feel about forcing dry people to pay for flooded people? That is how risk pools work, Paul. I do feel that if the federal government makes sensible regulatory restrictions on rebuilding after disasters difficult or impossible, we are in for an even faster race to the bottom, and an ugly future in which an universal American risk pool for health care or disaster relief recedes onto an even more distant horizon.
Shall we skip all the fake news and go straight to the Senate healthcare–and-by-the-way-big-tax-cut–bill? Will Trump sign this bill, even though it is probably just as “mean” as Paul Ryan’s House bill? Trump managed to appeal in 2016 to both the pro-oligarchy voters and the pro-ochlocracy (endless demands from the plebes) voters. Now he will have to choose. Master brander that he is, he will try to distract and evade blame no matter what, but the McConnellCare bill guts Medicaid in the name of freedom. The struggling Trump voters, and even relatively well-off Trump voters, who think Medicaid only benefits THOSE people are in for a surprise. Maybe not right away, McConnell is figuring not on his watch, but sooner than many voters think, they are going to find their parents kicked out of nursing homes and into their spare rooms, or worse. Will Trump realize before he signs a bill that presidents do get blamed for the consequences of their actions? (Not to mention stuff that they really shouldn’t get blamed for.)
Republicans have persuaded millions of fairly prosperous but more-insecure-than-they-may-know voters that the real governmental problem is “ochlocracy,” or never-ending-demands from the masses of “other” and undeserving people. In fact, the US stands alone among advanced economies in its stingy-and-inefficient-at-the-same-time healthcare system. A universal risk pool could really cut down on overhead costs, but we just aren’t ready to go there yet. Obamacare took several right-of-center (Heritage Foundation before Jim DeMint) ideas and some technocratic ideas and made giant steps toward access to health care, but did not create a robust public option, let alone move toward a Medicare-for-all system. Now the Republicans are on the verge of a huge cutback of healthcare access, and at the same time a huge tax cut for the wealthy.
If you believe we do not have enough inequality of wealth and opportunity, McConnell and Ryan are your guys. If you thought Trump would usher in a golden age of terrific healthcare for everybody, you may be out of luck. Ciao ciao sayonara ochlocracy, hello even-more-rock-solid oligarchy. And Mr. Trump, will he be blamed? I thought he was toast when he disrespected POW John McCain, so what do I know? Prince Harry may say nobody wants to be king, but he doesn’t know our Trump.
Hat tip to Nancy Pelosi for naming the fate of Republicans who voted to trash, not repair, Obamacare today. Now it is up to friends of actual affordable healthcare for Americans to reject rightwing “framing” and “narratives” and tell the American people plainly what just happened. Republicans voted for this bill without any clear idea of its cost, without any budget estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but when those numbers are released the ugly realities will become clearer. “Framing” or no framing the nasty impact of this bill, if it becomes law, will hit many millions of citizens who have benefited from coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and many more millions of their family and friends.
Regarding the “freedom” Paul Ryan and his fellow zombies say we are about to enjoy, I would ask them to let go of their childish libertarian dreams and acknowledge that they are leaders of a government that got involved in the provision of health insurance because the human toll of destitution and premature death became unacceptable.
Of course there are sometimes tradeoffs between security and liberty. In the case of health, however, most people experience health, security, and freedom as mutually reinforcing. There is a loss of freedom, perhaps, if you are forced to acknowledge that you are part of a giant risk pool when you feel fine, or that you may face a day when, if you opt out of acknowledging your membership in that risk pool otherwise known as “society,” you are going to need healthcare at any price right now, and you might not have $150,000 on hand. Oh, well, that’ll surely never happen.
Healthcare is not a “good” that can be subjected to simple free-market logic without causing massive unnecessary suffering, partly because the market for healthcare does not and cannot operate with the benefit of an essential precondition of efficient Pareto-optimal “perfect competition,” which is “perfect information.” Perfect information is sometimes almost the opposite of how the healthcare market works. Think of the market for used cars. Think of all the very imperfect information, not to say unrepentant lying, that occur during the sale of a used car. Now think of yourself as a used car and of trying to “sell” yourself to an insurance company. You tell them that you have very low mileage, excellent maintenance record, and all kinds of fibs. They squint at you and want you to pay more than you can afford. Depressing scenario, isn’t it? But it gives some idea of what the rightwing framers and narrative-spinners are going to be up against and why the majority of Americans, if polls be believed, are feeling warmer and warmer about Obamacare as they realize their safety net or plan B, or maybe just plan C, could actually be taken away.
Now it is time for Democrats and others sickened by the new regime to make those who voted to mess with the Affordable Care Act pay the price and glow in the dark next year.
Other than cooking up a very pale and thin bone broth, that is (hat tip Jordan Weissmann of Slate)? Mick Mulvaney channelled Lord John Russell’s laissez-faire ideology (hat tip to Charlie Pierce’s Esquire blog) during the Irish potato famine, on the day before St. Patrick’s Day! He did not actually say that the poor should be boiled into bone broth. Paul Ryan did not say that his legislative agenda owes even more to Lord Russell than to latecomer Ayn Rand. Mulvaney, Ryan, and Bannon did not say that they are white and that that makes all the difference as far as immigration goes. God apparently has not yet taught these sons of Ireland enough of a lesson about their history. But until then their Anglo-Teutonic overlord Trump is making good use of them.
Congressional Republicans eager to “walk the plank” and vote for the House repeal-and-rejoice health bill should take note: Trump did never wrong. Trump will never do or be wrong. You will be sacrificed. Many of your constituents will be sacrificed. Trump will always act with just cause. You may or may not be a loser. But Trump will not and cannot ever be blamed. Paul Ryan may say whatever he wants, on tape or not. Trump doth not wrong but with just cause.
Speaker Paul Ryan, in the wake of his announcement that he will give us freedom by abolishing Obamacare and replacing it with freedom, all freedom all the time, has announced his Summer 2017 Freedom and Carnage tour schedule. See his twitter feed for details, but the gist of it is, if he takes away your healthcare coverage, shut your mouth and be grateful for all the freedom you have to “access” the free market of medical services. You are free to enter into a voluntary transactions with any and all providers of care. You and only you have the freedom to negotiate with Humana or Aetna or Kaiser and don’t be a begrudger about it because you are just as free and big and powerful as your corporate negotiating counterparty. You are also free to ignore the carnage by plugging your ears and shutting your eyes and pretending the protesters you see are all zombies paid by George Soros and French socialists. You are free to enjoy the “deconstruction of the administrative state” because you know that they are going after those other elite people, they are not coming for you.
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?
And I am trying to remember just what Senator McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said about President-elect Barack Obama in January 2009. Some words about making sure he would be a “one-term president,” among other words, if I recollect.
So the Senate Democrats should be at least as courteous to President Trump. Concerned that Senate Republicans will abolish the filibuster altogether? If McConnell turns the Senate into the House, and no cooling of the saucer remains, that will be on him. Trump and McConnell and Ryan own the economy along with all three branches of government. Constructive cooperation where it benefits the whole country is one thing; acquiescence, however, is not the answer, especially with the Supreme Court. Trump said women in some states will just have to drive to another state if they want an abortion.
Some have asserted that Trump in his campaign avoided insulting American citizens unless they stepped into the arena and opposed him. That’s very dubious, but be that as it may, now Trump has announced, on 60 Minutes, that he is right and millions of women are wrong–that is, women who decide to seek an abortion, depending on where they live, must go in many cases hundreds of miles out of their way. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of those women were definitely not in the arena and many of them voted for Donald Trump. It could be that some will say “Father Trump knows best” and vote for him again anyway in 2020. But if Democrats won’t filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court pick (or try to, and let McConnell be the one to go nuclear if he wants) what would they resist?
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.
A bunch of Mormon Republicans freed themselves from captivity to Donald Trump yesterday. They may or may not be disgusted with Trump, but they showed no particular political courage, since Mormon voters were already lukewarm at best. So no disrespect intended to Mike Lee or Mitt Romney or Jason Chaffetz, but their disavowals are all in the way of business.
How about self-identified “Christian” politicians? John McCain said of Trump’s predatory video, “he alone will bear the consequences.” Probably wishful thinking, and certainly not a profile in courage from McCain. McConnell and Ryan are still struggling to send nuanced smoke signals, tut-tutting without actually lifting themselves out of their particular circle of purgatory. Come to think of it, the togas on McConnell and Ryan are becoming more visible. They have now made themselves into classic pagans, for whom repentance is a category mistake.
Finally, the heathens. In very late-breaking news, they seem to be wavering, possibly because Trump made the mistake of apologizing–though in Trump’s defense, the “apology” was followed immediately by deflections, projections, and threats. And the actual words “I…apologize” were uttered as Trump appeared to twitch, some say caused by electric shocks.
Update October 8 pm: Tic Tac piles on, denouncing Trump.
Update #2: To McCain’s credit, when he finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump Saturday afternoon (10/8), he did mention Trump’s “outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five”–which few if any other Republican officeholders bothered to mention as they sought to escape Trump’s toxic effect on the votes of (mainly) white married women.
Trump is a big strong man who is also begging Vladimir Putin to help him beat Hillary Clinton. Republicans from Mike Pence to Speaker Paul Ryan have responded to Trump’s remarks today by condemning Putin. We know plenty about Putin already. Could you brave defenders of freedom show some courage and say Trump’s words amount to treason? If Hillary Clinton asked for political help from Russian military intelligence, how long would it take for Republicans to call for her imprisonment–oh, they did that already, eh?