That's it. TrumpCare has officially passed the House. The Republican dream of taking health coverage away from millions of the poorest and sickest Americans is inching closer to reality. They must be very proud.

And here's what's happening next:

I think I might be sick.

From Vox's Dylan Matthews:

Donald Trump has changed Washington. There was a time when Republicans would have strained to make excuses for a piece of legislation like this. Heritage would have churned out white papers, data would have been cherry picked, words would have been twisted, and the spin would have been dizzying. That's politics. As recently as a couple of months ago, this was still the case for the original health care bill. Remember Paul Ryan's PowerPoint presentation?

Not anymore. Like Trump, Republican politicians now just say whatever they want. There's no longer any pretense of retaining even a nodding acquaintance with the facts. TrumpCare is going to benefit the rich. No it won't. TrumpCare will do away with protections for pre-existing conditions. No it won't. TrumpCare will rob 24 million people of health coverage. No it won't. TrumpCare will take Medicaid away from the poor. No it won't.

That's it. Just make the assertions and then sign off. TrumpCare is going to cover everyone, it bans any discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, it will make health care more affordable, it will reduce deductibles, and it will be great for older people. Gotta go now. Thanks for having me on your show.

I'm not sure anymore what you do about this. Is it even lying per se? The sky is green. Scientists say it's blue. It's green. It's always been blue. It's green. I just looked out the window. It's blue. It's green. It's right here on my monitor. It's green. Thanks for the interview, congressman.

But some people are still telling the truth. Nancy Pelosi is currently on the floor of the House: "It's a tax bill, not a health care bill." Yep. And the House will be voting on it in five or ten minutes.

While we're waiting to see if moderate Republicans have the courage to oppose an act of evil here in our own country, Robert Zaretsky describes the stakes in the upcoming French election:

Macron is our French Frodo. Just as the future of Middle Earth was thrust into the hands of an untested and provincial youth with a weakness for older blonds, this now is also the case for France.

Just step away from the word processor, professor. No one has to get hurt here. It's May Fourth. This whole piece should have been a Star Wars analogy, amirite?

From Ann Coulter, on the recently passed budget bill:

When your main complaint is that the other side is gloating too much, maybe you're not that great a negotiator.

Credit where it's due. Coulter is wrong most of the time, but when she's right, she's right.

Republicans will be voting to take health care away from 24 million people in an hour or so, but while we wait for this vicious act of wanton cruelty to become official, let's talk about President Trump's tax plan. Will it pay for itself via supercharged economic growth? The IGM Forum asked a panel of economists:

Well, that's pretty unani—wait. What's that 5 percent of economists who strongly agree? Who the hell are these people?

The answer is Bengt Holmström of MIT and Kenneth Judd of Stanford. Seriously? Ha ha. No, just kidding. We think. The moderator adds this in comments: "Panelist meant to Strongly Disagree (question misread)....This is my best guess."

So it was really 100 percent of economists who think the "plan" has zero chance of paying for itself. But maybe some enterprising reporter should ring up Holmström and Judd just to make sure.

It looks like Republicans are planning to vote on their health care bill on Thursday. Will it pass? Leadership is saying so, but they might just be lying. Who knows? One way or another, it's going to be close.

With that in mind, let's do a quick wrap-up of the bill:

  • There have been no public hearings.
  • There's no final text.
  • There's no updated CBO score.
  • It is opposed by virtually every patient advocacy group and everyone in the health care industry.
  • Congress is still exempted from the new rules that allow states to waive essential benefits.
  • It raises premiums dramatically for older people.
  • It removes Obamacare's protection against being turned down for a pre-existing condition.
  • It would steadily gut Medicaid spending for the very poorest.
  • It removes coverage from at least 24 million people, probably more.
  • It slashes taxes on the rich by about a trillion dollars over ten years.

This is a depraved piece of legislation. It's a windfall for the rich and promises nothing but misery for the poor. How is it possible that 90 percent of House Republicans are happily voting in favor of this moral abomination?

It's been literally hours since I last updated you on the Republican health care bill, so let's catch up. Twitter is our friend:

What's the rush?

Roger that. TrumpCare 1.0 arguably failed because of that hideous CBO score saying that 24 million people would lose coverage—a truly remarkable achievement since Obamacare only covers 20 million people in the first place. TrumpCare 3.0 is even worse, so God only knows what the CBO would say about it. Anyway, how bad can it be? I mean really?

Urk. Pretty bad. Even the AMA gets it:

Good for them. What's remarkable, though, is how lonely their position is:

I don't really get this either. Maybe they've given up? Maybe they figure that as part of the hated establishment, their opposition is just more likely to make Republicans vote yes? Beats me.

Apparently a lot of Democratic politicos are sort of hoping the bill passes and then gets killed in the Senate. That way they have an unpopular vote to wrap around the necks of vulnerable Republicans in the 2018 midterms. But is that worth the risk that, somehow, it might actually pass if it gets through the House? It seems like better strategy to make it crystal clear that there's simply no needle Republicans can thread on this subject.

Then we get to wait and see if President Trump kills Obamacare anyway in a fit of pique by cutting off the CSR subsidies. This is really shaping up to be a great year.

Lunchtime Photo

A couple of weeks ago I trekked out to Silverado Canyon to look for one of Orange County's famous watering holes. Maybe I'll tell you more about that someday. In any case, the place where I parked my car turned out to have a lovely little ravine with some pink flowers that made a wonderful backdrop for all the butterflies and other critters flying around. So I stopped to take some pictures.

As I was doing this, I heard a hummingbird zip by. I reset my shutter speed and then followed it with my camera and—it wasn't a hummingbird at all. It was a white-lined sphinx moth, also known as a "hummingbird moth" because it beats its wings at a ferocious speed and sounds just like a hummingbird.

I got several nice shots of this creature. Check out the proboscis action!

Here is Gary Cohn—supposedly one of the "smart ones" in the Trump administration—explaining the president's tax plan:

The median income in the United States today is … about $56,000. You take the $24,000 away from the $56,000, you’ve got taxable income of $32,000. At a 10% rate that’s $3,000 of tax. If you have one or two or three children and we give you $1,000 tax credit, you could end up with a—you know, very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever. That, to me, is a middle-income tax cut because you’re going to owe no taxes potentially.

"Potentially" is doing a lot of work here, as David Kamin explains:

Cohn forgot to mention the fact that our tax system, as it is currently written, provides what are called “personal exemptions” to families....The plan Trump presented on the campaign trail would eliminate these personal exemptions....So when you take into account the elimination of personal exemptions, families aren’t actually getting much tax relief after all. In fact, if that family has two or more kids, they’d actually face a tax increase under the Trump plan described by Cohn.

Here this is in chart form:

This should come as no surprise. The problem is that the average family pays most of its taxes at the state and local level, and via payroll taxes. Their federal income tax rate is already "very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever," so it's all but impossible to cut it. This is from the Tax Policy Center:

The bottom 40 percent pays no federal income tax at all and the average middle-class person pays 6.4 percent of their earnings in federal income taxes. If you focus solely on the federal income tax—as Republicans always do—you can't help the middle class much. Even in theory, the only people who really benefit are high earners.

Of course, you can still do a little to help middle-class workers—but only if you're careful. Cohn wasn't careful, so he ended up increasing middle class taxes. It's an easy mistake to make.

ESPN has been losing viewers for a while now, and there are various theories to account for it. Maybe millennials just aren't into sports that much. Or maybe cord cutting of all types is the culprit. Or maybe ESPN has gotten too liberal.

That last one is a favorite among conservatives, and I don't really get it. I'm not a heavy ESPN viewer, but I watch enough to have some sense of its political leanings. And I haven't really discerned much. Mostly they seem to call games and then argue about whether Tom Brady can play football into his fifties. You know, sports stuff.

But today, Paul Hiebert at the polling firm YouGov presents this chart:

First off, I'm impressed that YouGov has been polling this question since 2013. I wonder why?

In any case, this chart suggests that the problem isn't liberalism in general, but the fact that ESPN fired Curt Schilling. The Caitlyn Jenner thing hurt for a few months, but by April of 2016 all was forgiven and Republican support of ESPN was back to normal. It was the Curt Schilling affair that killed them. Just to refresh your memory, here's the Facebook meme he shared that was the final straw:

This was after Schilling "shared a meme that compared extremism in today’s Muslim world to Nazi Germany in 1940 [and] told a radio station that Hillary Clinton 'should be buried under a jail somewhere,' in apparent violation of an ESPN policy on commentary relating to the presidential election."

So politics is part of the answer after all. But not a slide into liberal politics. Conservatives were mad because Schilling engaged in venomous conservative politics, and eventually ESPN fired him before he did something that could get them sued. Conservatives are always the victims, aren't they?