Hmmm. Congressional Republicans might have a problem on their hands. Here's one of the findings of the latest Kaiser Family poll on health care:

That little orange pie slice at the bottom—the one that says 20 percent—represents the number of people who support the idea of repeal and delay. About half the respondents don't want to repeal Obamacare at all, and another 28 percent, showing the common sense that heartland Americans are famous for, don't want to buy a pig in a poke. They may not be thrilled with Obamacare, but they sure want to see what's going to replace it before it's ripped apart.

This is the mantra Democrats should be hawking every second of every day. We don't want a white paper, we want to see the real replacement. Does it really protect people with pre-existing conditions? Does it really keep premium costs down? Does it really reduce deductibles? Is it really a better deal for most working-class folks than Obamacare? Does it really keep the Medicaid expansion in place? Does it really guarantee that no one will be worse off than they are under Obamacare? And will it really cost less than Obamacare?

Every single person in America deserves an opportunity to look at the Republican plan, compare it to Obamacare, and figure out which one is a better deal for them personally. No one should support any kind of repeal plan until they're allowed to see this.

The Trump transition team has demanded that all politically-appointed ambassadors vacate the premises by noon on Inauguration Day:

The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office....The directive has...upended the personal lives of many ambassadors, who are scrambling to secure living arrangements and acquire visas allowing them to remain in their countries so their children can remain in school, the diplomats said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

I have to admit that I'm impressed with the creativity Trump has demonstrated to show he's a dick. It's all part of the plan, I suppose. Take every opportunity to demonstrate what a dick you are, and people will think twice before crossing you.

Donald Trump spent the morning tweeting about the passion of his supporters; Arnold Schwarzenegger's lousy ratings on Celebrity Apprentice compared to "ratings machine DJT"; his meeting with Anna Wintour and an upcoming meeting with the Condé Nast editors; and the fact that Mexico won't be paying for the wall after all.

Wait. What's this about the wall? Well, Trump may have said "Mexico will pay for it" about a million times, but it turns out that if you look carefully at the back side of his "Contract With the American Voter," he promises to introduce the End Illegal Immigration Act during his first hundred days. Here it is:

Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall.

So you see, he was perfectly clear about this all along. You just had to read the fine print. Congress will pay for the wall and then we'll send Mexico a bill, payable on net 30 terms. This fits well with the Republican plan to "repeal and delay" on Obamacare. Apparently we're going to delay everything except those tax cuts for the rich. Those will be passed post-haste. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they're made retroactive to redress the rich for the suffering they've endured during Obama's term in office.

The American economy added 156,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a ho-hum 66,000 jobs—nearly all of it in the private sector. The headline unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.7 percent. Overall, it was sort of a blah showing, with 60,000 people finding new jobs and 120,000 people added to the unemployment rolls. The labor force participation rate stayed steady.

But there was also some good news: hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of slightly more than 4 percent. That's excellent, and suggests that the labor market is starting to firm up. If the Fed doesn't get too antsy about this, it could mean that 2017 will see some pretty decent wage growth.

The Washington Post passes along the juiciest bit of the CIA's classified report on Russian hacking:

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Then NBC News got into the act:

The official agreed to talk to NBC News after the Post published leaked details of the review because the official felt that the details the paper chose focused too much on the Russian celebration and not enough on the thrust of the report.

Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations.

....The report, on which Obama was also orally briefed, explains what intelligence agencies believe are Moscow's motives, including, in part, a desire to disrupt the American democratic process. But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration's questioning of Vladimir Putin's legitimacy as president.

Tomorrow Donald Trump will get his own briefing on the CIA report. That oughta be good. And in other Trump-related news, we got yet another outraged tweet about cars today:

It's true that Toyota is moving production of the Corolla to Mexico. But here's the thing: they're moving it from Canada. This is not exactly breaking news, either: the Canadian media reported all this nearly two years ago.

Right now, about half of the Corollas sold in the US are made in Mississippi and the other half in Canada. When the new plant is finished, about half will be made in Mississippi and the other half in Mexico. Nothing changes. We're still importing the same number of Corollas. And the Canadian plant will be reconfigured to build more profitable SUVs and mid-sized cars.

Unless it infuriates you that we're importing some Corollas from Mexico instead of Canada, this is a nothingburger. On the other hand, if you just want to demagogue Mexico, I guess it's tailor made.

Jeff Stein reports on Democratic plans to fight any attempt to repeal Obamacare:

“We are united in our opposition to these Republican attempts to Make America Sick Again,” Schumer said, cracking a slight smile at the inversion of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. The line suggests that Schumer wants to reframe the fight over Obamacare into one about the broader GOP health care agenda, which includes proposals to change Medicaid andMedicare.

Since the health care law passed in 2009, Schumer and other Democrats in Congress have learned that defending it can be a political loser. Republicans stayed unified in their opposition, and public opinion stayed on their side. But in their final push to save it, Democrats are moving the battle to new turf, fighting over Americans’ shared frustration with the inadequacies of the country’s health care system, not the law itself.

This is sadly true. Democrats have never been willing to defend Obamacare, and they still aren't. It's crazy. Obamacare isn't perfect. Nothing this side of the pearly gates is. But if politicians limited themselves to defending programs with no problems, we'd never hear from them again.1

But considering where we started—with a Rube Goldberg medical system dominated by well-heeled special interests and all but indifferent to the near-poor—Obamacare is almost miraculously close to perfect. I know that Republicans have convinced everyone otherwise, but take a look at the results of this Kaiser tracking poll from November. Virtually every single aspect of Obamacare is not just popular, but very popular:

Even Republicans like practically everything about Obamacare, including the taxes to pay for it. People like the subsidies; they like the exchanges; they like the out-of-pocket caps; they like the Medicaid expansion; they like the pre-existing conditions ban; and they like taxing the rich to fund it all. The only unpopular part of the whole law is the individual mandate.

What's more, Obamacare has been a huge success. It's provided health coverage to 20 million people. It's massively reduced the cost of health coverage for low-income families. It's slashed the number of uninsured by half among blacks and whites and by a quarter among Hispanics. It's allowed people with expensive chronic illnesses to get treatment. It will help keep overall health costs down in the future. It's had no negative impact on the employer health care system. And it's done all this without raising the deficit. In fact, it's cut the deficit.

And yet, Democrats are still afraid to defend it loudly and proudly. This just boggles me. Sure, Obamacare has some problems. Certain regions don't have enough competition. Deductibles are high if you buy a bronze plan. And a small part of the population has been hit with large premium increases.

But this is something like 10 percent of Obamacare. The other 90 percent is purely positive. Why are so many liberals unwilling to say so? Why aren't they willing to defend Obamacare with the same fervor they defend other imperfect programs, like Medicare or the ADA or the Clean Air Act or Social Security? Obamacare is at least as good as any of them. But no one will ever believe it if Republicans are attacking it relentlessly while Democrats mutter resentfully that there's no public option and politicians hide in their offices in the hope that nobody will blame them if their premiums have gone up.

If Democrats aren't willing to defend Obamacare, it's hardly a surprise that Republicans feel free to go after it without consequence. Maybe they should start.

1Yes, I know, that might not be a bad thing.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said today that the intelligence community believed "more resolutely" than it did three months ago that Russia was behind a campaign of cyberattacks during the presidential election. The LA Times reports on his testimony before Congress:

Three U.S. spy chiefs testified publicly for the first time Thursday that the Kremlin’s most senior leaders approved a Russian intelligence operation aimed at interfering in the U.S. presidential race, a conclusion that President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly challenged.

....“We assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the recent election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets,” they wrote in joint remarks submitted for the hearing.

....U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that the Russian cyber operation sought to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and to help Trump’s bid for the White House. Clapper did not confirm that judgment Thursday, although he indicated it would be included in the classified report. “Yes, we will ascribe a motivation,” he said. “I’d rather not preempt the report.”

The full House and the full Senate will be briefed on a classified version of the review next week, Clapper said. After those briefings, a declassified version will be made public, he said....“I intend to push the envelope as much as we can in the unclassified version because I think the public should know as much about this as possible,” Clapper said. “There are some fragile sources and methods.”

I don't have anything to say about this since, obviously, I don't know any more than what Clapper told us. We'll just have to wait for the unclassified report and see what it says.

But I will comment on one thing: aren't liberals supposed to be the ones who are skeptical of the intelligence community? Are we suddenly defending them just because it's politically convenient?

There's some of that going on, I'm sure. But the real reason is a lot simpler: the intelligence community doesn't really have any motivation to make this stuff up aside from a generalized dislike of Russia. They are interested in keeping everyone on edge about cyberattacks, but that doesn't require Russia to be involved in what happened. In fact, doubling down on the Russia story even after Trump won is nothing but bad for the CIA. All they're doing is pissing off the incoming president, something they could easily avoid by keeping the cyberattack story but downplaying the Russia angle.

So this is sort of an admission against interest. The CIA's interest is in getting more money for cyber security and cultivating a strong relationship with a new president. The fact that they're doing just the opposite suggests pretty strongly that they believe in no uncertain terms that Russia really is behind this.

Bear with me here for a moment. I have a theory to share with you that might answer a long-debated question: how much is Donald Trump worth?

Here's the theory: Trump likes rich people, but he doesn't like people who are richer than him. This suggests that his cabinet picks might tell us just what it takes to be richer than Donald Trump. Here's a revised version of my usual Swamp Watch chart:

The list tops out at $2.5 billion. This suggests that Trump is worth $3-4 billion, right in line with the Forbes estimate of $3.7 billion. Donald Trump has apparently been very careful to make sure that he's the richest guy in his administration.

It is now Day 2 of the new Congress:

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to a $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service....A majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment, but opponents and supporters agree that it puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

This is aimed at—what? NASA scientists who insist that climate change is real? DOJ attorneys who pursue voter suppression cases? IRS auditors who audit the wrong person?

Apparently I've been wrong about the filibuster all along. It really is a bulwark against mob rule.

James Fallows listens to talk radio so you don't have to:

This is scary. Not because these folks are defending Putin and Assange—plenty of people do that—but because these are precisely the people who were the most outraged by Putin and Assange as recently as last year. Now they've turned on a dime, and for one reason: because Donald Trump told them to.

Twenty years ago, a Washington Post reporter wrote that followers of television evangelists were "largely poor, uneducated and easy to command." The blowback was huge and immediate and the Post apologized the next day. To this day, conservatives quote these words as evidence that the mainstream press has it in for conservatives.

But what else explains what's happening now? Donald Trump has essentially commanded his followers to defend Putin and Assange, and with barely a whimper they've complied. And when the press starts to point out what's going on, we get this:

"It is for the people." Everything is "for the people."