Trump discovers politics isn’t like business

Donald Trump listens to a speaker in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump is used to running private companies with him as President, and enjoying the Presidential power private companies provide. Now he finds being President of the United States isn’t the same as being President of Trump Organization.

Republicans, who voted more than 60 times to repeal or alter Obamacare over the past few years only to be vetoed by Obama, had got their big chance and blown it. The party’s deep ideological and factional divisions, temporarily papered over amid the euphoria of last November’s surprise win, were back with a vengeance as it struggled to go from opposition to governance.

In Trump’s rambunctious election campaign, the 70-year-old novice promised to repeal and replace the ACA “immediately”. It was a bad choice for an opening offensive. Healthcare reform is to American presidents what the Russian winter was to Napoleon.

Trump has said tax reform is next, and years of Republican planning might allow for that legislation to pass more easily. But his ability to work with Congress is in grave question. His unique selling point, as a dealmaker, has taken a huge hit.

Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer, said of Trump’s supporters: “They voted for a guy who could fix it, the CEO, on The Apprentice for 10 years, who could make a deal with anybody.”

But the tactics that served Trump so well in business – playing the alpha male, holding one-on-one meetings – did not translate to politics, she said.

“Now he’s up against 535 other people [in the House and Senate], other people who have their own independent power base and are not really interested in rolling over. The model of taking one person in a room and beating up on them doesn’t work with 535.”

But as the health care bill negotiations gathered steam, it was clearly not going to be plain sailing. Last month, Trump admitted: “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.” The bill was, in the eyes of many, rushed and deeply flawed, falling well short of Trump’s campaign pledge to provide insurance for everyone.

Grassroots protests erupted across the country, citizen activists hitting the phones and constituents berating congressmen at town hall events. Groups representing hospitals and medical professionals derided the legislation. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the AHCA would lead to 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance over the next 10 years. The bill achieved the rare feat of uniting the far left and far right in opposition.

Friday’s failure was a fillip for the anti-Trump “resistance” but it was hardly grounds for complacency. The president looks set to press ahead with his agenda on everything from rolling back Obama-era protections on the environment to building a wall on the Mexican border to firing off tweets that alienate allies and embolden enemies.

He may also ensure that his prediction of Obamacare’s explosion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Move fast and break things” will continue, even it if means breaking his own party.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

If you are middle class, or poor, or sick don’t read this. You may get sick or sicker.

affordablecareact

House Republican leaders on Thursday presented their rank-and-file members with the outlines of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, leaning heavily on tax credits to finance individual insurance purchases and sharply reducing federal payments to the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility.

What does ‘expanded Medicaid’ mean?

ACA Medicaid Expansion – What is it?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) called for a nationwide expansion of Medicaid eligibility, set to begin in 2014. Under health care reform law, nearly all U.S. citizens under 65 with family incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($15,415 for an individual or $26,344 for a family of three in 2012) will now qualify for Medicaid.

Some states opted in to expanded Medicaid, some states did not. An interactive map by state of Medicaid and expanded Medicaid recipients is available here.

As of January 2016, 72.9 million people were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. Over two-thirds of enrollees resided in states that have implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion.

Between Summer 2013 and January 2016, there was a net increase of nearly 15.5 million or 27% enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP among the 49 states reporting data for both periods. Most of this growth occurred in year one. Most of this growth was in large states in the West that implemented the Medicaid expansion.

Expansion states experienced significantly greater enrollment growth over the two year period, although there was variation across states. States that implemented the Medicaid expansion experienced over three times greater enrollment growth compared to states where the Medicaid expansion is not in effect (36% vs. 12%). Over the period, growth ranged from a high of 95% in Kentucky to slight decline in Wyoming and Nebraska.

Children account for a greater share of total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in nearly all states that have not expanded Medicaid compared to states that have expanded. Reflecting higher eligibility levels for children, children accounted for a greater share of total Medicaid and CHIP enrollees in non-expansion states compared to states that have implemented the expansion to adults (68% vs. 44%). Read complete report from Kaiser Family Foundation here.

The federal government now pays more than 90 percent of the costs for newly eligible beneficiaries in states that expanded Medicaid. Under the House Republican plan, the federal share would decline to 50 percent in states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, resulting in a significant loss of federal revenue.

In a number of states that have expanded Medicaid, Republican governors and Republican members of Congress have made clear that they do not like the idea of a block grant or a per-beneficiary allotment.

The Congressional Budget Office says that 12 million people have insurance because they became eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and it estimates that federal spending for this group will be $70 billion this year. This 12 million figure differs from the 15 million reported by Kaiser Family Foundation. The KFF figure is net amount, the CBO doesn’t state how they arrive at their smaller figure.

The House Republican plan would immediately eliminate tax penalties for people who do not have insurance and employers that do not offer it.

It would also eliminate taxes and fees that help pay for the expansion of coverage under the 2010 health care law. These include fees collected from health insurance companies and manufacturers of brand-name prescription drugs and an excise tax on makers of medical devices.

The Republicans are removing any fees or taxes charged medical related companies which went towards providing funding for at least 12 million Americans.  They are also shifting the cost of providing health care away from the federal government and pushing costs onto the states. This means you the lucky taxpayer will have to pony up more cash in the way of taxes or fees or other costs to cover the lost revenue from the federal government.

So if you are middle class, poor, sick or may become ill during the time the Republicans are in office my word of advice to you or your family or your childen is ‘you can’t afford to get sick‘.

Read more about the Republicans health care plans on the New York Times web site. State Mandated Benefits map and legislation information by state.

U.S. Department of Education office needs grammar and spelling lessons

The US Department of Education suffered an embarrassment on Sunday, when a tweet published to its official account misspelled the surname of the African American author and civil rights activist WEB Du Bois.

“Education must not simply teach work,” the tweet said, “it must teach life. W.E.B. DeBois.”

The error, coming during Black History Month, did not go unnoticed. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of beaten presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, asked: “Is it funny sad or sad funny that our Dept of Education misspelled the name of the great W. E. B. Du Bois?”

The department later issued an apology: “Post updated,” read a tweet followed by a corrected version of the “DeBois” tweet. “Our deepest apologizes [sic] for the earlier typo.”

The apology was subsequently corrected, and the first apology tweet deleted. The first tweet about Du Bois was not immediately deleted.

The invented quote and misspelled name were the latest Black History Month embarrassments for the Trump administration. At a White House “listening session” with African American community leaders on 1 February, Donald Trump appeared not to be aware that Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century champion of emancipation, was dead.

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” he said.

Even the Vice-President tweeted some embarrassing errors.”

Lincoln was being tweeted about by Republicans again on Sunday, the 208th anniversary of his birth. The Twitter account of the Republican party posted a quote that it falsely attributed to the 16th president.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count,” wrote @GOP. “It’s the life in your years.”

There is no evidence that Lincoln said this. The quote has been traced only as far back as 1952 speeches by former Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and to advertisements from the 1940s, rather than to Lincoln’s lifetime in the mid-19th century.

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

Specter of election day violence looms as Trump spurs vigilante poll watcher

 Militia groups have called on members to be less overt in their poll monitoring on election day, by not carrying guns and attempting to blend in. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Militia groups have called on members to be less overt in their poll monitoring on election day, by not carrying guns and attempting to blend in. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Donald Trump’s claims of “large-scale” voter fraud have prompted officials across the political spectrum to warn about the dangers of vigilante poll monitors amid fears of confrontations or even violence on US election day.

As opinion polls tightened this week between Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s presidential vote, there are concerns of chaos following his claims, without serious evidence, that the election could be “rigged” and his refusal to say if he will accept the outcome.

Republican leaders in some battleground states are reporting a surge of volunteers signing up to serve as official poll watchers, and in an unprecedented move, the Trump campaign itself has since August been requesting that volunteers sign up as “election observers” to “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”. Stone, meanwhile, has said he has helped recruit people to do “exit polls” to tackle voter fraud and denies .

The nation’s most prominent anti-government militia and a neo-Nazi group have also announced plans to send their members to monitor for voter fraud outside the polls.

The Democratic party has launched a series of legal challenges around the country alleging voter intimidation, and on Friday in the battleground state of Ohio a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s campaign and his unofficial adviser Roger Stone. The ruling said anyone who engaged in intimidation or harassment inside or near Ohio polling places would face contempt of court charges. (Read my post about this here.)

The Guardian revealed last month that a Republican operative, Mike Roman, notorious for stirring allegations of voter intimidation in the 2008 election, would coordinate the Trump monitor program, but the campaign has declined to provide details on the size and scale of the program and it remains unclear how many people will show up.

Voting rights advocates have focused on the potential threat posed by Trump supporters like the Ohio man who told a reporter he wanted to keep a close eye on “people who can’t speak American” at the polls.

While having trained partisan observers inside polling places is a normal part of the voting process, “Trump has encouraged people to go on their own and check out what’s going on in polling places”, said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine law school and one of the country’s leading election law experts. “These are going to be untrained people hyped up on what Trump has said.

“I’m worried that there are going to be confrontations and potential violence at the polls,” he said.

An attempt to blend in

The fringe groups that have announced plans to monitor for voter fraud said their members should be dressed in plainclothes and quietly watching for illegal behavior – not engaging in confrontations.

Democrats and voting rights advocates argue that poll-watching efforts are only one part of a larger Republican effort to discourage or block racial minorities from voting – and that Republican concerns over “voter fraud” are simply a mask for a broad campaign of racial disenfranchisement. The spread of laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls, restrictions on early voting times, and poll location closures are all designed to disadvantage racial minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, advocates say.

The NAACP filed a new lawsuit against North Carolina this week alleging that black voters were being disproportionately purged from the state’s voter rolls. “This sounds like something that was put together in 1901,” a federal judge said at an emergency hearing, calling the purging process “insane”.

The judge issued an order Friday finding that the purge likely violated the National Voter Registration Act, and ordered that state elections officials “take all steps necessary to restore the voter registrations that were canceled.”

Trump’s repeated, unprecedented claims that the election has already been “rigged” against him have given new fuel to conservative claims that non-citizens are voting and that votes are being stolen on a massive scale. In a “new effort”, the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist, neo-Nazi organization, is planning to send out hundreds of members to watch for voter fraud outside polling places in 48 states, with a focus on California, Illinois, Florida and Michigan, Butch Urban, the group’s chief of staff, said.

Members would not be wearing their uniforms or National Socialist Movement gear. “They’re going to look like everybody else that’s going in there to vote,” Urban said.

He called voter fraud “so rampant”, and said the group would have lawyers on call.

The president of one of America’s largest anti-government armed militia groups, the Oath Keepers, called on members last week to take part in undercover poll-watching under the moniker of “Operation Sabot 2016”.

In a bizarre set of instructions to the group’s reported 30,000 members – an organization of “current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders” – Stewart Rhodes, a former US army paratrooper, also encouraged members to “blend in” among voters and attempt to record evidence of widespread voter fraud.

“That may mean wearing a Bob Marley, pot leaf, tie-die [sic] peace symbol, or ‘Che’ Guevara T-Shirt, etc,” Rhodes, who declined to be interviewed, wrote in an online callout to members.

Rhodes wrote that members should not openly carry their guns – “We do NOT want open-carry (remember, again, that this is a covert operation)” – and that they should be aware of laws barring even concealed gun carrying in polling places.

*****

A rigged election? Nyah. Intimidation, blockades, delays, etc can’t possibly be considered rigging an election if you are a Republican doing it.

Read the complete article in the Guardian newspaper online here.

trumpbushgoodluck

At least comedians will have something to laugh about for the next four years if Trump gets elected.

Statue of Liberty about to be changed?

The Statue of Liberty is famous for the quote upon it, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The quote may have to be revised after Republican members raised concerns about some refugees entering the United States following the Paris attacks.

statue of liberty conditions

Barack Obama’s economic record: End-of-term report

Excerpts from The Economist magazine.

NOT since 1933 had an American president taken the oath of office in an economic climate as grim as it was when Barack Obama put his left hand on the Bible in January 2009. The banking system was near collapse, two big car manufacturers were sliding towards bankruptcy; and employment, the housing market and output were spiralling down.

Hemmed in by political constraints, presidents typically have only the slightest influence over the American economy. Mr Obama, like Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and Ronald Reagan in 1981, would be an exception. Not only would his decisions be crucial to the recovery, but he also had a chance to shape the economy that emerged. As one adviser said, the crisis should not be allowed to go to waste.

Did Mr Obama blow it? Nearly four years later, voters seem to think so: approval of his economic management is near rock-bottom, the single-biggest obstacle to his re-election. This, however, is not a fair judgment on Mr Obama’s record, which must consider not just the results but the decisions he took, the alternatives on offer and the obstacles in his way. Seen in that light, the report card is better. His handling of the crisis and recession were impressive. Unfortunately, his efforts to reshape the economy have often misfired. And America’s public finances are in a dire state.

Seven weeks before Mr Obama defeated John McCain in November 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed. AIG was bailed out shortly afterwards. The rescues of Bank of America and Citigroup lay ahead. In the final quarter of 2008, GDP shrank at an annualised rate of 9%, the worst in nearly 50 years.

The elephant in the second term

… Mr Obama is likely to move closer to the centre if he wins a second term. His principal legislative goals—health care and financial reform—are achieved. The Republicans are almost certain to control at least one chamber of Congress, precluding big new spending plans, regardless of the state of the recovery.

That leaves the public finances. There is little to commend in Mr Obama on that front. True, he inherited the largest budget deficit in peacetime history, at 10% of GDP. But in 2009 he thought it would fall to 3% by the coming fiscal year. Instead, it will be 6%, if he gets his way. Back in 2009, he thought debt would peak at 70% of GDP in 2011. Now it is projected to reach 79% in 2014 assuming his optimistic growth forecast is correct.

This is not quite the indictment it seems: normal standards of fiscal rectitude have not applied in the past four years. When households, firms and state and local governments are cutting their debts, the federal government would have made the recession worse by doing the same.

Read the complete article on The Economist here.