Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en How Paul Ryan Sold Out, In One Chart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Why is Paul Ryan having such a hard time selling his Obamacare repeal to the ultra-conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus? One chart tells the story:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ryan_conservative_bona_fides_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to DW-NOMINATE,</a> when Ryan first entered Congress in 1999 he was the 18th most conservative member of the House. Almost no one was more conservative than Ryan. He was a member in good standing of the ultras.</p> <p>But every year he got a little more moderate. By 2014, he ranked only 51st. The tea partiers who have been elected in the past decade look at Ryan as a guy who sold out. He's no longer even in the top 50, let alone the top 30 or 40 that it takes to be a solid ultra.</p> <p>To you and me, 51st out of 435 seems pretty damn conservative. But to the folks who rank from 1st to 40th, Ryan looks like a guy who's steadily compromised with the swamp until he's become just another get-along-go-along guy. They don't trust him, and that's why he can't convince them to vote for his health care bill.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:50:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 328746 at Friday Is D-Day For the Republican Health Care Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From <em>Politico</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Donald Trump is demanding a vote Friday in the House on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. If the bill fails, Trump is prepared to move on and leave Obamacare in place, Mulvaney said.</p> </blockquote> <p>This makes sense on a whole bunch of levels:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>As a threat against conservatives:</strong> Vote for the bill or else Obamacare stays around forever and it's your fault.</p> <p><strong>As a boredom minimizer:</strong> I doubt very much Trump himself cares one way or the other about health care, and he's probably tired of all boring technical talk that surrounds it (EHBs, continuous coverage, age bands, etc. etc.). He also instinctively understands that the whole thing is a shit show that's making him more and more unpopular.</p> <p><strong>As politics:</strong> The current debacle has shown that there's just no sweet spot acceptable to both moderate and conservative Republicans. Why keep beating yourself up over it?</p> <p><strong>As revenge against liberals:</strong> Trump has said that 2017 is the year Obamacare unravels. He will now do everything he can to make that come true, and there's a fair amount he can do.</p> <p><strong>As substance:</strong> It frees up time for taxes and trade, things Trump is more interested in.</p> </blockquote> <p>Besides, I don't think Trump wants to stay in Washington over the weekend. The Mar-a-Lago golf course beckons. So let's just put this baby to bed one way or the other, OK?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:31:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 328741 at The Republican Health Care Bill Is In Deep Trouble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jonathan Chait has a question:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">From the House Democrats' perspective, isn't the best case that the House Rs walk the plank and pass it? (and then bill dies in the Senate?) <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) <a href="">March 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>No, no, no, no, no! Remember when we thought it might be better if Donald Trump won the Republican primary because Hillary Clinton would be sure to beat him? Then James Comey came along.</p> <p>Shit happens, people, and there's no predicting it. I doubt that the Republican bill can pass the Senate, <em>but it might</em>. The only thing we should care about is taking every possible opportunity to stop it, whenever and wherever we have a chance. Period.</p> <p>(Besides, I doubt that voting for this bill will do much harm to Republicans when the midterms roll around. That's still 20 months away, and besides, at least the yes voters can say they did everything they could to repeal Obamacare but leadership screwed it up.)</p> <p>And speaking of the Republican bill, apparently the whip count really is falling short. So now the vote has been postponed to Friday. Maybe. It all depends on whether Paul Ryan and Donald Trump can figure out something else to capitulate on in order to win the votes of the crackpots in the Freedom Caucus.</p> <p>Oh, and one more thing: <a href="" target="_blank">CBO has rescored the bill.</a> The original version reduced the deficit by $337 billion. The new one reduces it by only $150 billion. But that's already out of date. They'll have to score it again after Ryan and Trump finish negotiating with the conservatives. But it's worth noting that Ryan doesn't have a lot of headroom left if he also needs to negotiate with moderates who want a slightly less brutal program. Another $150 billion and the bill won't reduce the deficit anymore. And if it doesn't reduce the deficit, it can't be passed under reconciliation.</p> <p>But wait! One final thing: earlier I noted that the Republican bill is allowed to repeal only the elements of Obamacare that directly affect the budget. So if Republicans try to add provisions that repeal, say, essential benefits or pre-existing conditions, the Senate parliamentarian is likely to rule that they have to be jettisoned. However, as the presiding officer of the Senate, VP Mike Pence has the final word on this. He could just declare the parliamentarian wrong and allow the vote to go forward.</p> <p>But what justification would he offer? As it happens, Republicans already have one handy. Last year, a number of them made the argument that the "direct effect" rule should be applied to the <em>whole bill</em>, not to its individual parts. In other words, Obamacare can be repealed completely because Obamacare as a whole directly affects the budget. If Republicans go down this road, that's what you're likely to hear.</p> <p>However, my guess is that if Pence does this, he'll lose a whole bunch of votes from moderate senators who won't be a party to something that effectively kills the filibuster. So it probably can't pass the Senate either way.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:38:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 328721 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Beware the tree of death. It awaits multitudes if Republicans pass Trumpcare.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tree_sunset_orange.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:05:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 328701 at Conservatives Demand End to Pre-Existing Conditions Ban <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I guess I was wrong last night. The <em>New York Times</em> says President Trump has caved in to demands to repeal the <a href="" target="_blank">minimum set of required benefits for health care insurance:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump agreed to the demands of conservative House Republicans to remove federal requirements that health insurance plans provide a <strong>basic set of benefits like maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits</strong> as he struggles to round up enough votes to pass a broad health care overhaul.</p> </blockquote> <p>But the <em>Washington Post</em> reports that <a href="" target="_blank">this still wasn't enough:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Conservative House Republicans rebuffed an offer by President Trump on Thursday to strip a key set of mandates from the nation&rsquo;s current health-care law, raising doubts about whether House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has the votes to pass the bill.</p> <p>....Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), asked whether the White House had made its final negotiating offer, said that if that&rsquo;s the case, <strong>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re not going to pass the bill.&rdquo;...</strong>As of mid-afternoon Thursday, 37 House Republicans &mdash; mainly Freedom Caucus members &mdash; had announced their opposition to the bill, known as the American Health Care Act.</p> </blockquote> <p>So what do conservatives want? Here's the <em>Post</em> again:</p> <blockquote> <p>Conservative lawmakers have asked to eliminate much of [Obamacare&rsquo;s] Title I, which....bars companies from setting insurance rates based on a person&rsquo;s sex, <strong>medical condition,</strong> genetic condition or other factors.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, insurers could charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. That would effectively kill off the Obamacare provision that requires insurers to cover everyone who applies. They'd simply price policies out of reach for people with expensive pre-existing conditions and that would be that.</p> <p>Would this pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, who has to agree that repealing Title 1 "directly affects" the budget? I doubt it. Would Mike Pence go ahead and overrule her? Maybe. Is this whole thing a debacle beyond imagining? Oh yes.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> It's worth pointing out that if Republicans go down this road, they've essentially killed the filibuster completely. Basically, they would have set a precedent that anything can be added to a reconciliation bill&mdash;which can't be filibustered&mdash;and the vice president will overrule the parliamentarian and declare that it's OK. At that point, the Senate can include reconciliation instructions for just about anything in its annual budget resolution. As long as the president and vice president are from the same party, they can then pass anything they want with 51 votes.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:37:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 328686 at Republican Health Care Bill Has 17% Approval Rating <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Quinnipiac reports today</a> that public approval for the Republican health care bill is a dismal 17 percent. Allow me to put this into perspective with a bar chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_approval_various_healthcare.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Sad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:06:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 328651 at Donald Trump Is Always Right: A List <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As a public service, here are all the things Donald Trump has been right about:</p> <ol><li>Sweden</li> <li>Anthony Weiner</li> <li>NATO not focusing on terrorism</li> <li>Brexit</li> <li>Election being rigged against Bernie Sanders</li> <li>Obama "wiretapping" him</li> <li>Three million illegal votes</li> <li>Thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11</li> <li>Beating Hillary Clinton</li> <li>Donna Brazile</li> <li>Ted Cruz's father<sup>1</sup></li> <li>British spying<sup>1</sup></li> <li>NATO not paying its bills</li> <li>Jobs statistics</li> </ol><p>Not bad, Mr. President! Maybe you could whisper in my ear who the next Super Bowl champ is going to be. I promise not to tell anyone.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Special Trump exemption: It doesn't matter if he was right because he was just quoting other people.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:30:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 328646 at Donald Trump Is Always Right <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Time's</em> Michael Scherer <a href="" target="_blank">interviewed President Donald Trump on Wednesday</a> for an upcoming cover story. Scherer's thesis is that Trump deliberately makes unproven charges because "the fact that they are disputed makes them a more effective message, that you are able to spread the message further, that more people get excited about it, that it gets on TV."</p> <p>Sure. It's as good a theory as any. As usual, I could spend the whole day just pulling out excerpts and&mdash;oh hell, let's pull out some excerpts. There's this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>You say that Ted Cruz's father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.</em></p> <p>Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he's a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn't, <strong>I didn't say that. I was referring to a newspaper.</strong> A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.</p> </blockquote> <p>And this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>You don't feel like Comey's testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?</em></p> <p>No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference. Devin Nunes had a news conference. I mean I don't know, I was unable to see it, because I am at meetings, but they just had a news conference talking about surveillance. Now again, it is in quotes. That means surveillance and various other things. <strong>And the <em>New York Times</em> had a front-page story, which they actually reduced, they took it, they took it the word wiretapping out of the title, but its first story in the front page of the paper was wiretapping.</strong> And a lot of information has just been learned, and a lot of information may be learned over the next coming period of time. We will see what happens. Look. I predicted a lot of things that took a little of bit of time. Here, headline, for the front page of the <em>New York Times</em>, "Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides." <strong>That's a headline. Now they then dropped that headline, I never saw this until this morning. They then dropped that headline, and they used another headline without the word wiretap, but they did mean wiretap. Wiretapped data used in inquiry. Then changed after that, they probably didn't like it. And they changed the title. They took the wiretap word out.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>And finally this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>But you are saying to me now, that you don't believe the intelligence community when they say your tweet was wrong.</em></p> <p>I'm not blaming. First of all, I put Mike Pompeo in. I put Senator Dan Coats in. These are great people. I think they are great people and they are going to, I have a lot of confidence in them. So hopefully things will straighten out. But I inherited a mess, I inherited a mess in so many ways. I inherited a mess in the Middle East, and a mess with North Korea, <strong>I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can't get a job, ok.</strong> And I inherited a mess on trade. I mean we have many, you can go up and down the ladder. But that's the story. Hey look, in the mean time, I guess, <strong>I can't be doing so badly, because I'm president, and you're not.</strong> You know. Say hello to everybody OK?</p> </blockquote> <p>Trump obviously prepared for this interview, and his theme was: I am always right. Seriously. Over and over he went down a list of all the things he's predicted that turned out to be true. <em>Donald Trump is always right.</em> Got it? Okay then.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:56:13 +0000 328636 at Republicans Now Considering How to Make a Bad Health Care Plan Into a Complete Wreck <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Our acronym for the day is EHB, which stands for Essential Health Benefits. These are things which every health care plan is required to cover, and Obamacare spells out ten of them:</p> <ol><li>Doctor visits</li> <li>Emergency room visits</li> <li>Hospital visits</li> <li>Prescription drugs</li> <li>Pediatric care</li> <li>Lab services</li> <li>Preventive care</li> <li>Maternity care</li> <li>Mental health care</li> <li>Rehabilitation services</li> </ol><p>The Republican health care bill is still having trouble getting enough votes to pass, so Paul Ryan is thinking about placating conservatives by repealing all of these EHBs. This means that a health insurer could literally sell you a policy that didn't cover doctor visits, hospital visits, ER visits, your children's health care, or prescription drugs&mdash;and still be perfectly legal. Here's a rough estimate of how much we spend nationally on each of these categories of EHB:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_expenditures_ehbs.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>There are many problems with repealing Obamacare's minimum required benefits, but I'd like to list just three:</p> <ul><li>Oh come on. This is ridiculous.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Even if the current version of AHCA doesn't cause a death spiral, it sure would if EHBs got repealed. Insurers would assume that anyone who asks for a policy that covers one of these (former) EHBs is pretty sure they're going to need it. Naturally they'd price their policies accordingly: Worthless policies would get really cheap, but comprehensive policies would get astronomically expensive. Virtually no one would be able to afford them.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>There's a good chance that repealing the EHBs would not only produce crappier insurance policies, but would also cost the government more money. Think about it. Every year AHCA provides you a tax credit for health insurance. You might as well use it, right? So insurers would all compete to offer policies that cover almost nothing but cost exactly $2,000 or $3,000 or $4,000. Everybody would sign up for one, because it's free so they might as well. So instead of, say, 10 million people using the tax credits, 30 million would. These policies wouldn't do squat, but Uncle Sam has to pay for them anyway&mdash;and now he's got to pay for three times as many of them.</li> </ul><p>This is all pretty straightforward stuff, and it's hard to believe that Ryan would go down this catastrophic road. Enough's enough. If I had to guess&mdash;and we might well know the answer before I wake up on Thursday&mdash;I'd say that Ryan tries to buy off the conservatives by taking maternity benefits off the EHB list and leaving everything else alone. After all, it's maternity care that really seems to be a burr in the ass of the Freedom Caucus folks.</p> <p>Why? Because they're knuckle-draggers. It's hard to put it any other way. They figure that being pregnant is solely a woman's responsibility and there's no reason men should have to help pay for it. Really. I'm not joking. What can you even say to people so terminally dimwitted?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 05:35:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 328616 at CNN: Trump Team Gave Russians "Thumbs Up" to Release Hillary Smears <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">CNN has some breaking news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The FBI has information that indicates <strong>associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign,</strong> US officials told CNN....The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.</p> <p>....One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests <strong>"people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready."</strong> But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently this is all "raising suspicions" among counterintelligence officers about ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.</p> <p>If everything we've heard today is true, members of the Trump team were (a) in frequent contact with the Russians to coordinate the release of smears against Hillary Clinton, and (b) in frequent contact with some <em>other</em> group of people who were under surveillance for...something. What busy beavers!</p> <p>Meanwhile, Devin Nunes is pretending to be shocked that the NSA does stuff that everyone on the planet knows the NSA does. I can only assume he was hoping to distract everyone from what's really going on, the way Trump does with his tweets. But Trump is a master, and Nunes is apparently an idiot. His attempt at misdirection was so barefaced and hamhanded that he probably just made things worse.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Mar 2017 01:22:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 328611 at Devin Nunes Is Playing a Familiar Republican Game Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When a big story breaks while I'm at lunch, it can be a real pain in the ass. Instead of following it in real time, I have to rush around later trying to piece together what's happened. On the other hand, sometimes this is a blessing, because by the time I get to the story it's clearer what the real issue is. I think today is an example of the latter.</p> <p>For starters, here's a nutshell summary of what happened. Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, took the stage a few hours ago to declare himself "alarmed." He believes that some of Donald Trump's transition team might have been "incidentally" recorded during surveillance of foreign nationals. He won't say who. Nor will he say who the foreign nationals were, other than "not Russian." And as soon as he was done with his press conference, he trotted off to the White House to brief President Trump.</p> <p>There are several problems here. First, Nunes didn't share any of this with Democrats on the committee. Second, incidental collection is both routine and inevitable in foreign surveillance. Congress has had ample opportunity to rein it in if they wanted to, and they never have. Third, if this was part of a criminal investigation, Nunes may have jeopardized it by going public. Fourth, the chair of the Intelligence Committee isn't supposed to be briefing the president on the status of an investigation <em>into the president's activities</em>.</p> <p>This is plenty to embarrass the great state of California, from which Nunes hails. But for what it's worth, I don't think any of this is the biggest issue. <a href="" target="_blank">This one is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He claims to have gotten the information personally from an unspecified source, and had not yet met with FBI Director James Comey to review the raw intelligence intercepts he was provided. Why would he go public without first consulting spies to see if what he had was actually worth sharing with the public?</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh. This is one of those deals where the Republican chair of a committee gets some information; releases a tiny snippet that makes Republicans look good; and then eventually is forced to release the entire transcript, which turns out to be nothing at all like the snippet. We've seen this gong show a dozen times in the past few years.</p> <p>My advice: ignore everything Nunes said. He's obviously carrying water for Trump, hoping to drive headlines that vaguely suggest the Obama administration really was listening in on Trump's phone calls. I gather that he's succeeded on that score. For now, though, there's no telling what this raw intel really says. Eventually the intelligence community will provide analysis, and committee Democrats will get to see the transcripts too. Then we'll have a fighting chance of knowing whether it's important or not. In the meantime, everything Nunes said is literally worthless. He's not "probably right" or "probably wrong." He's nothing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:58:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 328591 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's been raining around these parts. Well, not <em>raining,</em> really. More like sprinkling a bit now and again. Lightly sprinkling. Nevertheless, Hilbert's disgust with this intolerable situation practically oozes out of him, doesn't it?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_hilbert_umbrella.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:29:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 328571 at Is Another Nominee For Labor Secretary About to Spontaneously Combust? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I really don't know if this is a justified line of attack, but hoo boy, this is a headline you <a href="" target="_blank">really don't want to see about a cabinet nominee:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wapo_acosta_deal_sex_minors.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 65px;"></p> <p>Labor Secretary is turning out to be a little like being the drummer for Spinal Tap. The previous one not only had to withdraw under a hail of criticism, <a href="" target="_blank">but he even lost his old job in the process.</a> Now we've got a guy accused of going soft on child rapists. Maybe it's time for Donald Trump to take this whole vetting thing a little more seriously.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:37:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 328562 at James Mattis Is Caught Between a Rock, a Hard Place, and a Wrecking Ball <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Politico</em> reports that there's been some grumbling on Capitol Hill about <a href="" target="_blank">Defense Secretary James Mattis:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republican lawmakers and senior congressional aides said in recent interviews they&rsquo;re running out of patience with Mattis' staffing decisions, which have <strong>disappointed Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee hoping to see their ideological allies elevated to senior levels in the Defense Department.</strong></p> <p>....The defense secretary has also rankled Republicans with his <strong>efforts to hire veterans of Democratic administrations,</strong> pushing unsuccessfully to bring on Mich&egrave;le Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration, as his deputy.</p> <p>....<strong>Defense Department veterans say the White House has put Mattis in a nearly impossible position given that a large swath of the Republican foreign-policy establishment was openly critical of Trump during the campaign.</strong> Some say that has left Mattis with little choice but to turn to Democrats and to those without a political background to fill senior posts.</p> </blockquote> <p>Mich&egrave;le Flournoy! Mattis can't possibly have been naive enough to think that would fly, can he? She's practically an icon of the failed, weak-kneed, won't-say-radical-Islamic-terrorism Democratic national security establishment. Plus she has one of those chi-chi French accents in her name!</p> <p>But I guess I feel a little sorry for Mattis. On the one hand you have Democrats. On the other hand, you have Republican foreign policy pros who almost unanimously disparaged Donald Trump during the campaign. On the third hand you have Republican hacks. Congress hates the first, Trump hates the second, and Mattis won't tolerate the third. Who's left for the poor guy?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:17:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 328552 at AHCA Is the Legislative Broccoli That No One Wants to Eat <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hardline conservatives in the House aren't happy with AHCA, the Republican health care bill. It's just Obamacare with a fresh coat of paint. And they have a point:</p> <ul><li>When they say that AHCA tax credits are the same thing as ACA tax subsidies, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's community rating with a 5:1 age band is the same thing as ACA's community rating with a 3:1 age band, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's continuous coverage provision is the same thing as ACA's individual mandate, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's ban on turning down people with pre-existing conditions is the same as ACA's ban on turning down people with pre-existing conditions, they're right.</li> <li>When they say AHCA's reliance on Medicaid for the very poorest is the same as ACA's reliance on Medicaid for the very poorest, they're right.</li> </ul><p>But moderates aren't too happy either. And they also have a point:</p> <ul><li>When they say that AHCA tax credits are far stingier than ACA tax subsidies, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's community rating with a 5:1 age band punishes old people compared to ACA's community rating with a 3:1 age band, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's continuous coverage provision is a pretty clunky way of implementing ACA's individual mandate, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA's ban on turning down people with pre-existing conditions is less rigorous than ACA's ban on turning down people with pre-existing conditions, they're right.</li> <li>When they say that AHCA slashes Medicaid support for the very poorest compared to ACA's Medicaid expansion, they're right.</li> </ul><p>You can see the problem. Hardline conservatives object to Obamacare in principle, but AHCA mostly adopts the same principles. Moderates don't care so much about how it gets done, but they object to voting for a bill that's likely to produce big electoral blowback when people figure out just how crappy it really is compared to Obamacare. There's really nothing here for anyone to like.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Paul Ryan has tried to tap dance around this, but Andrew Prokop is the latest person to mention that <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump isn't even bothering:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Trump talks health care in public statements and in accounts of his private meetings, he keeps making the following four pretty simple points:</p> <blockquote> <ol><li>Obamacare is a disaster that&rsquo;s falling apart.</li> <li>If Republicans don&rsquo;t pass the bill, they&rsquo;ll do badly in the next election.</li> <li>Republicans have to pass the bill so they can move on to tax cuts.</li> <li>He &mdash; President Trump &mdash; and the Republican Party need this &ldquo;win.&rdquo;</li> </ol></blockquote> <p>There is no case for the American Health Care Act itself there. It&rsquo;s all either political or a rote condemnation of Obamacare.</p> </blockquote> <p>I give Trump points for having the right approach here. There's almost nothing about AHCA that would earn it passage based on the merits. There's just too much disagreement. Except about one thing: sticking it to liberals and Obamacare. Appealing to that kind of tribalism is literally the only thing that has a chance of producing enough emotional energy to overcome conservative fear of selling out and moderate fear of voter blowback.</p> <p>It's likely to work, though it's encouraging that AHCA is (probably) going to pass only barely in the House. That was supposed to be the easy part. But if it's a nailbiter in the House, what chance does it have in the Senate? Probably not much, though appeals to tribalism, vindication, and party loyalty are, once again, the only plausible path to victory.</p> <p>Mitch McConnell, savvy old warhorse that he is, knows this perfectly well, and that's why he wants to speed AHCA through the Senate in record time. It's either going to pass or it's not, and either way, time is not on his side. The longer AHCA festers, the more outrage and opposition it will generate. The justification for doing health care before tax reform is already gone, so if it's not going to pass, best to find out quickly and move on to the real business at hand.<sup>2</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>Except for AHCA's big tax cuts for the rich, of course. Both moderates and conservatives agree about that.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Tax <strike>cuts for the rich</strike> reform, of course.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:40:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 328522 at It's Time to Meet Rex Tillerson <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Erin McPike was the only journalist allowed to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his recent trip to Asia. Dan Drezner points out <a href="" target="_blank">this snippet from the profile of Tillerson that she filed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson &ldquo;about the world&rdquo; given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of Exxon Mobil.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, Trump had never met Tillerson before and knew nothing about him. Then, at the end of a single short conversation, he immediately offered him the job. I guess that shows how important Trump considers the Secretary of State. He had already interviewed a bunch of other people, he was tired of the whole thing, and people were on his case for not filling his cabinet. So he chatted with this Tillerson guy who had been sent his way and figured, sure, what the hell. He'll do.</p> <p>McPike also passes along this tidbit:</p> <blockquote> <p>Tillerson is spending his early days in Foggy Bottom &ldquo;whiteboarding,&rdquo; a businessy term for mapping out and remapping out org charts, strategies, and plans. And that&rsquo;s one area where he believes he can make an impact.</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe I'm a little hypersensitive about this, but it sets off my alarms. I've always thought that big reorgs were the last refuge of weak business leaders who couldn't think of anything else to do but wanted to look like they were doing CEO-ish things. But even if I'm being too harsh about this, doing it as your first course of action before you even settle in and learn anything about the organization you're heading is <em>definitely</em> dumb. Nor is this the only evidence we have that Tillerson was not a great business leader:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_exxon_stock_2008_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Nine years is a long time to go without any improvement in your stock price.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:05:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 328492 at A Hundredth of a Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Poor Donald. The other kids are always picking on him:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Hmm.<br> "If it's off by one-hundredth of a percent, I end up getting Pinocchios." --Trump <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@myhlee) <a href="">March 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This is from the guy who repeatedly said the real unemployment rate was 42 percent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:11:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 328487 at Trump Wants to Turn the Skies Black With Coal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is gonna <a href="" target="_blank">bring back the coal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama&rsquo;s climate change legacy....In an announcement that could come as soon as Thursday or as late as next month, according to people familiar with the White House&rsquo;s planning, Mr. Trump will order [EPA chief Scott Pruitt] to withdraw and rewrite a set of Obama-era regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, according to a draft document obtained by <em>The New York Times</em>.</p> <p>....At a campaign-style rally on Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Mr. Trump told a cheering audience that he is preparing an executive action that would &ldquo;save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>This is part of Trump's plan to repeal all of Obama's "stupid" climate change policies. "We&rsquo;re not spending money on that anymore," Trump's budget director told reporters. No more funding for climate change science; no more worrying about carbon emissions; no more auto mileage standards; and lots and lots of beautiful, black coal.</p> <p>Except for one thing:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lazard_cost_energy.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This is from <a href="" target="_blank">Lazard's most recent energy analysis.</a> Coal just isn't competitive anymore. Oh, existing plants will keep going for a while, and maybe Trump's executive orders&mdash;if they ever go into effect&mdash;will keep them in operation longer than otherwise. But there's nothing on the horizon that's likely to reduce the cost of coal, whereas wind and solar continue to drop every year. Gas is also likely to stay cheap for a long time thanks to fracking.</p> <p>None of this is a secret. Everyone knows that Trump isn't going to save any coal jobs, but the coal miners like to hear him say that he will. Based on previous reporting, I gather that even they know it's mostly blather, but they still appreciate it. They give Trump an A for effort.</p> <p>Back in the early part of last year, there was a mini-upwelling of comments from liberals suggesting that Trump might actually be better from a progressive point of view than more conventional conservatives like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. That was never true, and climate change is an example of why. Cruz or Rubio would have both tried to get rid of Obama's Clean Power Plan, but I don't think they would have literally tried to defund every bit of research into climate change or just flatly deny that carbon even mattered. They're too conventional. But with Trump there's always the danger that a combination of his signature ignorance and his rabid vengefulness will motivate him to go nuts. That's what's happening here. On the bright side, maybe his well-known incompetence will also keep him from being effective. But then again, maybe not.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 05:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 328481 at The Composite Trump: Some Notes Toward Understanding Our President's Level of Sanity <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bob Somerby has been oddly disparaging about people who say that Donald Trump is a liar. <a href="" target="_blank">Today he explains why:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Is Donald J. Trump a liar? <strong>Or could an accurate diagnosis perhaps be more troubling than that?...Is it possible that Donald J. Trump truly is some version of unhinged/crazy?</strong>...When Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott told Richard Nixon he had to resign, Nixon succumbed to reality. What would Trump do in a situation like that?</p> <p>A mere "liar" would know it was time to go. Do you feel sure that Donald J. Trump would react like that?</p> <p>We don't feel sure of that at all.</p> </blockquote> <p>Let's roll the tape. Trump is vain. He's peculiarly unwilling to learn anything new. He feels endlessly persecuted. His attention span can be measured in minutes. He's paranoid over the slightest sign of disloyalty. He is vengeful. He demands constant attention. He makes up preposterous fictions to sustain his worldview and shield his ego from the slings and arrows of reality. He desperately wants to be liked by everyone. He's domineering. His personal relationships are almost entirely transactional. He never laughs. He can't stand people poking fun at him. He's often unable to control his emotional outbursts. And he likes his steaks really well done.</p> <p>Does that mean he's unhinged? I dunno. No single one of these things is debilitating, but what happens when you put them all together? Back when I was a kid there was a super-villain called the Composite Superman. He had the powers of, like, 30 different superheroes, and apparently that was enough to drive him mad:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_composite_superman.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Maybe this is Trump. Being, say, vain and domineering would make him a bit of an asshole, but nothing more. But put all of his bizarre personality traits together, stir in the pressure of being president, and that might be enough to qualify him as detached from consensus reality. Who knows?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:39:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 328471 at GOP Health Care Bill Is Worse Than Just Repealing Obamacare Completely <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at <em>The Upshot</em>, Margot Sanger-Katz catches something that any of us might have noticed if we'd had keen enough eyes. The CBO famously projected that the Republican health care bill would result in <a href="" target="_blank">24 million people losing health insurance:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>But one piece of context has gone little noticed: <strong>The Republican bill would actually result in more people being uninsured than if Obamacare were simply repealed.</strong> Getting rid of the major coverage provisions and regulations of Obamacare would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance, according to another recent C.B.O. report. In other words, 1 million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to C.B.O. estimates.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's what the CBO said in its <a href="" target="_blank">January report.</a> If only the individual mandate, the subsidies, and the Medicaid expansion are repealed, 32 million people will lose insurance by 2026. If, in addition, community rating, minimum coverage requirements, and the preexisting conditions ban are repealed&mdash;in other words, if essentially all of Obamacare is repealed and nothing put in its place&mdash;23 million people will lose insurance by 2026.</p> <p>As it happens, the current Republican bill is similar to Option 1, which means the GOP is making progress. Under their old bill 32 million people would be kicked off the insurance rolls, while the new bill only kicks off 24 million. However, they could do even better by just repealing everything, full stop.</p> <p>Their problem, of course, is that they can't do that. Democrats can filibuster all the additional stuff in Option 2. Nevertheless, Sanger-Katz is right: it's pretty remarkable that the Republican bill actually does more damage than repealing Obamacare and simply doing nothing at all. Not just any political party can pull off something like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:58:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 328461 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This little girl looks...worried? Dismayed? Unsure? Maybe all those things. She had just been playing with her little sister and sort of "helped" her into a nearby fountain. Dad was nearby and didn't seem especially concerned about the whole thing, but she doesn't know that yet as she surveys the damage. She is not yet sure what the future holds for her.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_girl_uh_oh.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:38:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 328431 at Well, This Was the World's Easiest Chart to Make <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>CBPP has calculated how much tax money you'll save if Obamacare is repealed. <a href="" target="_blank">Behold:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbpp_tax_savings_obamacare_repeal_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>You know what really gets me? Even among the millionaires, repeal will only net them about $50,000. That's like finding spare change in the sofa cushions for this crowd. Is clawing back a few nickels and dimes really worth immiserating 20 million people?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 328421 at Ruth Bader Ginsburg Really Is the Most Notorious Supreme Court Justice <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Bruce Bartlett</a> points me to a C-SPAN survey that, among other things, asks people if they can name any Supreme Court justices. <a href="" target="_blank">Here are the results:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cspan_survey_supreme_court_justices.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>That thin orange line that's zero across the entire bottom of the chart is the number of people who named Stephen Breyer. Poor guy. However, it's still possible that he was the first choice of at least a few people. The survey size was 1,032 people, so anything less than five would get rounded down to zero. Breyer might very well have been named by three or four people.</p> <p>Anyway, the two big takeaways are (a) the older you are, the more likely you are to know at least one justice, and (b) Ruth Bader Ginsburg kicks ass. Even the chief justice isn't better known than her. Good job, RBG.</p> <p>Of course, they'd all have better Q scores if they followed the advice of 76 percent of the public and allowed arguments to be televised.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:34:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 328416 at I Am Trendier Than the Kardashian Sisters <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I am doing something that really annoys some people: posting occasional videos that always seem to end up on YouTube's trending list. Check out <a href="" target="_blank">yesterday's</a> barroom brawl over a female duck:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_youtube_trending.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I'm ahead of the Kardashians! And with a mere 888 views, compared to their 311,000. And I'm only slightly behind the giant pizza cone, which has over a million views.</p> <p>Just out of curiosity, does anyone know why this happens? I gather that a lot of people work very hard for a spot on this coveted list, whereas I just upload run-of-the-mill cat and duck videos and do nothing to promote them. Do I get extra credit for all the folks who watch the video on the blog? Or does YouTube just have very discerning taste?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:38:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 328396 at Defending Trump Is Killing Conservatism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump's tweets are, at various times, ridiculous, offensive, and obviously untrue. Sometimes all three. <a href="" target="_blank">David French doesn't like what this is doing to conservatives:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The tweets, however, are exposing something else in many of Trump&rsquo;s friends and supporters &mdash; <strong>an extremely high tolerance for dishonesty and an oft-enthusiastic willingness to defend sheer nonsense</strong>....I&rsquo;ve watched Christian friends laugh hysterically at Trump&rsquo;s tweets, positively <em>delighted</em> that they cause fits of rage on the other side. I&rsquo;ve watched them excuse falsehoods from reflexively-defensive White House aides, claiming &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just their job&rdquo; to defend the president. Since when is it any person&rsquo;s job to help their boss spew falsehoods into the public domain?</p> <p>....GOP gratitude for beating Hillary Clinton cannot and must not extend into acceptance (or even endorsement) of presidential dishonesty and impulsiveness. Trump isn&rsquo;t just doing damage to himself. <strong>As he lures a movement into excusing his falsehoods, he does damage to the very culture and morality of his base.</strong> The truth still matters, even when fighting Democrats you despise.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure Trump really had to work very hard to bring out these traits among conservatives. Drudge and Limbaugh and Fox News and now <em>Breitbart</em> have been mining this same vein for decades. But we can leave that argument for another time.</p> <p>None of us has a lock on truth, but we should at least try to value the truth as best we can discern it. I would be very happy to see liberals and conservatives alike make at least some modest movements toward that goal. But I'm not holding my breath.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:04:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 328386 at