Let’s all remember how we got here.

Before Obamacare, before the Tea Party, before the election of Barack Obama, we had a healthcare crisis. Premiums were skyrocketing. Insurance companies were cutting off access to expensive procedures. The bottom line was: health insurance as we’d enjoyed it for decades was going away with nothing left in it’s wake. Nobody disagreed with this assessment.

Ross Perot once famously quipped of Social Security, “Social Security made sense when the age to collect ws 65 and the average person lived to be 60.” Whatever you think of his or anyone else’s policy prescriptions for SS, the truth of this statement was pretty undeniable. As our lifespans lengthen, it gets more and more expensive to take care of each other.

And as people lost insurance, they didn’t lose their diseases. Which meant people ended up in the most expensive part of the hospital – the Emergency Room – instead of taking care of issues early with a primary care physician. Because hospitals have an ethical responsibility to fix broken people, the cost of those emergency visits was necessarily passed on to the rest of us.

Neither are cost and advanced age the only issues. In the last few decades, we’ve seen a shocking rise in the rate of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease and heart disease. It isn’t just that we’re getting older: we’re getting sicker when we’re young. All of this adds up to a pretty incredible burden on a health insurance system. Especially one that is market- and profit-driven.

Obamacare

Obamacare sought to address the fundamental issues of the health insurance industry by bringing more people into the system. Similar to Social Security, the more participants are paying into the system, the more money there is to pay for the more expensive needs of other members. Better still, by bringing people into the health insurance system and giving them access to preventative care, Obamacare sought to lower the overall cost of taking care of sick people.

In exchange for new business and more profit, Obamacare required insurers to adhere to a list of demands like insuring people regardless of their “pre-existing conditions,” which is just a way of saying you know they have potentially expensive issues, but you’re going to cover them anyway. In fact, Obamacare eliminated “insurance underwriting,” which means insurance companies are not allowed to demand a complete medical history to cover you.

Much of what Obamacare was meant to address did work. We got 24m more Americans covered by health care. Insurance companies honored the commitment to cover all comers. But the largest concern of most Middle Americans, the cost, didn’t stop rising. It rose at a much slower pace, but that’s cold comfort to someone already feeling the pinch of rising costs.

I would argue that, given that a big component of Obamacare was wrestling with pre-existing conditions and lack of preventative care, there probably was never a chance that the cost curve could be reversed overnight. Or even in seven years. Sick people don’t stop being sick. A lifetime lack of care doesn’t get that much better right away. Nevertheless, Obamacare promised lower healthcare costs and didn’t deliver fast enough for America’s patience, it seems.

Because if President Obama ran on the promise of Obamacare, to the extent that President Trump’s campaign was “about” anything, it was once again the promise of way better healthcare.

The AHCA

So Republicans are tasked with reversing Obamacare. And they’re tasked with creating a new system that allows health insurance to be a profitable business at a lower cost, because the one thing Obamacare didn’t deliver on was lowered premiums.

Go back and reread the first few paras of this article. Our healthcare crisis is a logical conclusion of living longer and getting sicker as a species. It wasn’t an institutional crisis – it wasn’t that insurance companies were changing policy without reason. We have a genuine crisis of a demand for coverage that drives costs through the roof. Lowering costs, then, can only mean one thing: lowering demand by cutting off access.

If we’re not going to stick it out with Obamacare, then as harsh and cruel as the AHCA is, it is exactly what is necessary. If we’re not going to do our best to increase participation, our only other alternative is to make what insurance companies previously tried to do quietly a matter of national health care policy. We need to decrease demand.

Cruelty isn’t a bug: it’s a feature.

The cruelty of the AHCA is hard to take in. The expansive ways in which Republicans chose – completely on their own – to take a sledgehammer to the very idea of health insurance is breathtaking. As the ACLU points out, the AHCA basically makes being a woman a pre-existing condition. VoteVets points out that it bumps millions of veterans out of the health insurance markets by denying them the tax credits “granted” to the rest of us and shunts them into an already overwhelmed VA system.

Cruel though these things may be, supply and demand economics requires that either there is way more supply or way less demand. No other thing will reduce costs. Democrats essentially tried to buoy supply by increasing participation and in so doing, raise the capital required to expand the supply side. Republicans have now fully bought into the idea that slashing demand will work.

And the worst part of all this is, again, that sick people don’t stop being sick because they don’t have health care. They’re going right back to the emergency rooms. And they’re going to jack up the price of health care. And – brace yourselves – there will be no cost savings. There will be no lowered premiums. And we know this, because we already lived through this once.

But Republicans have spent eight years decrying Obamacare. They can’t just walk away now. And there is absolutely no way of “improving” this bill. The Senate will not be our saviors. Because to alter this bill is self-defeating. The only thing to do is let it die. Do we believe Republicans have the strength to do that alone? Or should we help them come to the logical conclusion?

The rolling window of “Trump could have done this better” excuses for the Trump White House’s dick-tripping incompetence is getting tiresome. Three weeks in, and I think everybody could use a vacation, but let’s please not entertain these “simple answers” as the logical choice when describing what we’ve seen so far. Most recently, we now have this Politico puff piece on the putative “gold standard” of White House Chiefs of Staff, James Baker, in which Baker firmly chides Trump on how to be more Republican.

It is a fact that Trump’s Muslim Ban could easily have been implemented with more care and consequently less resistance. The president has pretty wide latitude in deciding who comes in or out of this country. This has been the case since the 70’s. Yes, he can cut off immigration from one, a group or all nations for whatever time he chooses, at least in theory.

Doing so would cause quite a bit of panic no matter the timing, leading to inevitable law suits. Liberals like myself would absolutely argue the constitutionality of ban like Trump’s. It wouldn’t be smooth sailing however they did it. But it could have been done.

It’s also true that, as a rule, Republicans aren’t that into Russia. That certainly describes the attitude of the Reagan White House in which Baker served. American foreign policy has, since early in the Cold War, been built largely on the lead Republicans set. And that lead was very anti-Russia. Even after Glasnost, very few Republicans I’ve ever known have thought highly of or trusted Russia.

A different relationship with Russia, even in present context, doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. A more trusting relationship with Russia is not objectively worse than a less trusting one.

But for chrissakes, come on! Let’s please stop listening to people patiently tell us that what we’re seeing isn’t real.

Trump’s Muslim ban was not badly-planned. It was meant to cause chaos and panic. It was meant to trap the foreign-born at airports. It was meant to put the “enemies” of Trump’s agenda “on notice.” And those enemies were the foreign-born. That was the point. That’s why Trump said the ban was “going very well. You can see it at the airports.” The “news junkie” president did not fail to notice the chaos roiling the airports.

Trump’s ties to Russia aren’t accidental and neither are those shared by an incredible number of his lieutenants. Calls between his National Security Advisor Flynn and the Russian Ambassador before, during and after the election were not innocent even if they contained no relevant information. Throwing him under the bus will change nothing fundamental about the situation in the White House. It is a persistent fact of this administration that they have openly and not-so-openly had ties to the very same nation that our intelligence agencies confirm were responsible for the hacking of our nation’s democratic institutions.

Baker presumably expects these ties to be disappeared by a simple, grandfatherly “tut-tut.” He gravely intones about the need for sanctions against Russia in a way that clearly says “that’s the Republican Way.”

“Come along now, son,” he seems to say, “Let’s get you a flag pin and some photo time at West Point.”

Don’t let Republicans weave this narrative. Everybody in the party wants their Conservative Christmas, and they’ll wait till the tanks roll on Bowling Green to get it. They’ll say anything to stall, to cover, to explain away. Some of them might even believe it. But you can see what is happening. There is nothing subtle about Trump, there is nothing accidental about the chaos he’s created and there is absolutely nothing sincere in Republican pleas for patience.

This, after all, might be the very last election Republicans ever win. Jim Baker’s just trying to get the most out of it.

As liberals and independents, it can be a little unsettling to see the unphased certainty with which Donald J. Drumpf and his followers view the election. Like many such moments, this is one in which it takes all your effort and concentration to remember that the election hasn’t even happened yet. You can begin to question whether your view of the world is really fundamentally flawed in some way.

In such moments, it’s important to remember that these are people for whom “uncertainty” is an unfamiliar concept. They’ve heard of it. But uncertainty has never really happened to them. Instead, they quietly walk among us, certain that the vast overwhelming majority (once, the Moral Majority) is on their side. If only they could speak.

But of course, those putative “normal Americans” cannot speak their minds: they are under the dreaded pall of “Political Correctness,” a phrase that brings two terms Trump fans are uncomfortable with together with the insane concept that you’re not allowed to call black people the N-Word. Like all “normal Americans,” they know that they would lose their jobs if they spoke the truth. And so would everyone around them.

No matter how many times reality refuses to show “normal Americans” a face that confirms their world view – even after every seated member of the Thanksgiving table says, “shut the fuck up, Uncle Frank!” – they cannot be disabused of their certainty. Because the rest of us need to stop buying into the Liberal Media.

Now that Donald Trump is leading the Republican Primary, these people are free to speak their minds as much as they please. Freedom! Sweet freedom! They revel in the freedom to say how they really feel, because President Trump is going to Make America Great Again. Just like he did with real estate education!

So whatever you do, don’t bother trying to get your asshole friends on Facebook to see the light. They’ve seen it. And they prefer their own little world where President Trump Saves America. And don’t bother fretting about his chances in November. No one knows the future. Not even a Trump supporter.

I did a little digging into Donald Trump’s gobsmacking statement on Meet the Press this morning. For those that have not already seen, given the opportunity to disavow the endorsements of White Supremacists as notorious as David Duke, Trump said simply, “I don’t know David Duke.”

As has been commented frequently on social media, anyone under 30 could be forgiven for not seeing any particular relevance to the name David Duke. But a man as politically and socially active as Trump at Trump’s age cannot with any shred of credibility state that they do not know the name David Duke. Not at least enough to know that his is an endorsement no serious candidate to the Presidency could accept. Yet, giving the opportunity, Trump dodged the question.

But there is at least this little nugget of Donald Trump’s colorful political past, wherein he seems to directly refute the candidacy of Pat Buchanan (another name the under-30 set is not obligated to know). Refute, that is, because he believed Patrick Buchanan was a “Hitler-lover.”

Slate (USA)October 26, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
Record Number: 10-26/services/public/syndication/syndication.asmx/Get_PageId_1003886/index.html
Section: ballot box
Buchanan Cuts Hitler Another Break
Author: Jacob Weisberg

Pat Buchanan’s Holocaust revisionism has never taken the form of his denying that Nazis murdered some Jews. Rather, he has consistently hinted, indicated, and implied that that he thinks the Nazis were somewhat less guilty of the Holocaust than people make them out to be. Today on ABC’s Good Morning America, Buchanan tried shifting the blame for the Holocaust away from the Nazis once again. Asked by Diane Sawyer about Donald Trump‘s comment that he was a “Hitler-lover,” the newest candidate for the Reform Party nomination had this to say:

Well let me explain. In the book I wrote, I referred to Hitler as a monster. I say that he–he behaved like Al Capone in his first days in office and he and Stalin let loose their SS and NKVD killers and set up Auschwitz and perpetuated the massacre.

The Russian NKVD was the 1930s ancestor of the KGB. It helped Stalin to kill many millions in its day. The Jews of Auschwitz, however, were not among them. To be more specific: Russian NKVD killers did not help to “set up Auschwitz.” Nor did they “perpetuate the massacre” there. Auschwitz didn’t even begin operating as a death camp until 1942, long after Hitler ended his non-aggression pact with Stalin by invading the Soviet Union.

Claiming that Hitler and the Nazis weren’t solely responsible for Auschwitz may be the single most extraordinary and outrageous thing Buchanan has ever said about the Holocaust. It isn’t anyone’s eccentric or revisionist view of history. It’s the fantasy of a disturbed person who thinks he can get elected president with the support of the Teamsters, David Duke, and Lenora Fulani.

Yesterday the Republican Party … today his faculties.

So if you’re keeping score at home, shifting blame away from Hitler is beyond the pale for Donald Trump. But getting the endorsement of one of Buchanan’s own favourites is not worth disavowing.

As if their prospects weren’t already looking, well,.. a little mealy in the first place,.. it really begins to seem like Republicans are planning to campaign on the SCOTUS vacancy. Like it or not, without confirmation hearings, SCOTUS will be a big part of the campaign. For a really long time.

Almost a year. Through all the debates. Every single time you hear a Republican speak or be interviewed, the question will come up. One will accuse the other of wanting to appease Obama. The other will complain about a negative attack advert featuring Scalia’s face. Over and over and over again.

How long before the public is just straight-up bored and filled with resentment of the topic by Election Day? How soon before late night comedians are making snarky, “just get it over with” jokes on a nightly basis?

If anyone on the Democratic side chooses to use the topic to highlight the profound lack of appointments in the Republican-led Senate, people might start asking questions. Why is this almost OCD obsession with obstruction necessary?

It just seems like a long-term loser, to me.

Technically, because the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 was signed by John Adams, President Adam’s act of cowardly capitulation is probably what lead to 9/11. But don’t tell Marco. He’s on a roll.

“No, he made a decision not to take out its leader, which I think ended up being there, the situation that happened with 9/11. And as this was a response to an attack, that the reason why 9/11 happened was because of George W. Bush,” Rubio said. “And my argument is, if you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”

Source: Rubio Clarifies Whether He Thinks Bill Clinton Is Responsible For 9/11

I hope that if you read my blog tonight, you enjoyed the Marshallesque debate blog. I’ve avoided these things all season because frankly, there’s just so much a healthy person can take of politics for whom politics are not a second nature. No offense to those who enjoy it. It’s just not my bag. Anymore.

But Antonin Scalia’s passing just made the debate too important not to take a first-person temperature test of the fever swamp. Just how bad is bad, these days?

I think that South Carolina’s decisiveness as a primary state meant that everybody was at their wonkiest best tonight. No matter how fired up the debate got, it was based on facts. Whether those facts were relevant – as in the case of Rubio’s attack on Cruz’s amendments, where it was not – probably doesn’t much matter. They’re arguing over issues of substance.

Trump is definitely tracking to the center, as well as towards the sane. His criticisms of the Bush Administration were considered and accurate. Much of the reporting tonight will be about his attack on the Bush Administration. But in reality, he gave cover for everyone to make harsh criticisms of the Bush Admin. Even Jeb.

What made the whole debate worth watching was how hard the second tier of the race bent towards the sane donor class. It’s part of what makes Trump’s simultaneous scornful joking about the donor class and obvious bowing towards the donor class so interesting. Whether he’s trying to assuage their fears or elicit their money remains to be seen, but any business man would be a fool not to accept willful support and financial donation.

Trump’s political career, such as it is, relies on being independent from the establishment and by extension, the donors. But if he’s going to appeal to the great swath of Middle America, he may need more money than is reasonable for one man to lay out.

 

Talking Points Memo is currently reporting that the latest “compromise” plan out of the House – this meaning: Conservatives compromising with Very Conservatives – proposes a too-small debt ceiling addition in exchange for a balanced budget Constitutional amendment:

Practically Delusional | Talking Points Memo.

The debt ceiling would be raised immediately but not by enough to get the government through next year. To get the second debt ceiling increase, House Republicans want a balanced budget constitutionalamendment to pass both chambers first and be referred to the states.

Basically, the Republicans in the House want two thirds of a process only known to have happened 27 times in 200+ years to be completed before they’ll raise the debt ceiling again. This is the sound of the wheels coming right off the Speaker Boehner soapbox cart.

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of debt. I’m just wondering, on a Friday: if defaulting on debt isn’t so bad, then what exactly is the problem with debt? What is the worst-case scenario if it isn’t default? All these years, I thought I understood at least this much of the Republican platform, but color me shocked: I don’t.

How Republicans Are Convincing Themselves That A Debt Default Wouldnt Be So Bad — And Why Theyre Wrong | TPMDC.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the idea of setting up permanent habitations in space is, in the words of Kenny Powers, “Cool as fuck.” But seriously, the Republican Congressman who penned this new bill running through Congress called it “the Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act,” and calls it REAL.

New Bill Directs NASA Back to the Moon By 2022, With Permanent Habitation In Mind | Popular Science.

Casting aside the fact that there’s no E in the above “anagram,” which should fairly be called RALS, how is going to the moon any way to “reassert” our leadership in space? A better bet would be to actually live up to our commitments to the International Space Station and concentrate on the long-term viability of a habitation on Mars or its moon, Deimos.

I would say that, based on the list of Congress-critters who’ve signed on to the bill, what this bill should probably be called is “The Reasserting the South’s Dependence on the Wasteful Space Program They So Revile Till They Lose Their Shit Act” (RSDWSPTSRTTLTS).

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, now does it?

With respect to Senator Reid, he is not correct when he says, “The only thing holding up the agreement is ideology.” Ideology would have had the Republicans insisting on more budget cuts or would have had them demanding anti-abortion riders. But not both. And certainly not one after the next, just as agreements appear to be on the table. The pattern is clearly one of drawing lines in the sand arbitrarily, just to prevent a deal.

The Republicans – or perhaps certain Republicans who hold sway right now – must clearly believe that they can make a government shut down work for them politically. Otherwise, we’d have had a deal by now. Either they’re fools or they’re gamblers. Or their geniuses, I suppose that’s still possible. They are not negotiators.

Reid: Looks Like We’re Headed For A Government Shutdown | TPMDC.

At the risk of making it seem like there is no debate amongst Liberals on the issue of whether action in Libya is justified, the Pew Research polling data could not be more clear on one point: support for Libya action would be nearly unanimous if it weren’t for a purely partisan divide that is wholly unsupportable with logic:

Goal of Libyan Operation Less Clear to Public | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

That those in the middle of the political spectrum are split on the issue is I think entirely predictable: shit, I’m waaay over there on the left and I’m a bit split on the issue, myself. That Democrats are split on the issue is also not surprising for the same reason. But look at the fucking Republicans! Same people who supported Iraq and Afghanistan with rabid intensity – the same people who forever deride Democrats as cowards because we might not bomb someone as a first option – suddenly find themselves to be “Conscientious Objectors™” in the face of Obama’s first military incursion.

That’s just rich as hell.