Don’t sugarcoat this. Trump just called for 32 million people to lose health coverage.

By Greg Sargent

(Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

 

THE MORNING PLUM:

President Trump’s profound ignorance about policy and the inner workings of our system, and his total disinterest in informing himself about these topics, have produced an unfortunate result: Many of his tweets about matters of substance tend to get ignored as Trump just being Trump. Meanwhile, the viscerally disgusting insults (such as the one claiming Mika Brzezinski bled from her face-lift) make international news.

But Trump’s tweet this morning about health care actually does matter, a lot:

This is getting a lot of attention today, but mainly as a call for Republicans to adopt a particular legislative strategy. As such, it makes little sense: Republicans are struggling to find 50 votes for their current repeal-and-replace bill, with many moderates balking, so it’s hard to see how outright repeal could get a bare majority.

Beyond this, though, it’s worth taking Trump’s tweet as an actual policy statement. Trump has now called for total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with no guarantee of any specific replacement later, or even a guarantee that any replacement would ever materialize at all.

It’s hard to estimate what would happen if Republicans did act on this and Trump signed it. Republicans probably wouldn’t be able to repeal some key portions of the Affordable Care Act — particularly its insurance-market regulations — via a simple majority “reconciliation” vote. But they could theoretically repeal things with a budgetary orientation, such as the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies to lower-income people why buy insurance on the exchanges.

We can estimate the impact of repealing those things. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has already done so, when it analyzed a previous version of a GOP repeal bill over a year ago. And that analysis found that repealing those things would result in 32 million people losing coverage by 2026, 19 million of them people who would lose Medicaid coverage.

This is unequivocally what Trump has now called for. And it is substantially worse than what is currently being debated in the Senate, which would result in 22 million people losing coverage over 10 years, 15 million of them from Medicaid, per the CBO.

“When Republicans floated their repeal bill back in 2016, CBO concluded that 32 million people would lose coverage, relative to the current baseline, by 2026,” Nicholas Bagley, a health policy expert at the University of Michigan, emailed me today. “Fully 19 million people would be kicked off of Medicaid. Those coverage losses are even grimmer than the losses from the House and Senate bills that are currently under discussion.”

Whether Trump meant this or not, or even knew what he was calling for, are irrelevant. That’s because it could theoretically happen. In fact, conservative senators such as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ben Sasse of Nebraska are actively calling on fellow Republicans to go forward with repeal alone right now. Sasse doubled down by tweeting an endorsement of Trump’s demand.

Trump, it pains me to inform you, is the president. When he calls on Congress to do something, he is basically saying that he would sign it if they did do it. There is no reason to treat this as trivial or frivolous simply because Trump is an ignoramus and a buffoon. Indeed, Republicans have in fact voted for repeal multiple times in the past. The only reason they aren’t doing so right now is because repeal cannot pass, now that there is a Republican in the White House who would actually sign such a bill. (Yes, Trump would sign such a bill in two seconds. He called for one today, remember?)

In this sense, Trump’s tweet is actually kind of useful. It reveals once again that Republicans have been running a massive scam on Obamacare for years. They constantly fulminated for repeal, and voted repeatedly for it, in the full knowledge that President Barack Obama would veto it and that they would not face the consequences of their rhetoric and vote. The promise of unspecified replacements allowed Republicans to claim they would act to make sure millions didn’t lose coverage, without saying how. But now that repeal could become a reality, they are no longer willing to vote for it, because they would be held accountable for those consequences. By calling for straight-up repeal right now, Trump has inadvertently called their bluff.

Indeed, it’s not even clear that Senate Republicans can pass repeal and replace, because it has become obvious that even this would result in many millions losing health coverage, extracting an immense human toll that is now a genuine possibility. Moderate Republican senators have conceded this to be the case, and their seemingly genuine qualms about this constitute a pleasant surprise. But Republicans who have no serious misgivings about such an awful outcome have resorted, for political reasons, to all manner of lies and obfuscation to obscure this reality.

This includes Trump and the White House, who have dissembled relentlessly about how their plan would leave everybody covered and wouldn’t cut Medicaid at all. But now Trump has confirmed that he is indeed for full repeal, full stop — which would result in 32 million fewer covered — without any guaranteed “replacement” providing any cover to advance the lie that millions wouldn’t lose coverage. Trump has unmasked his own scam.

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Donald Trump Is Proving Too Stupid to Be President

“You know, I’m like a smart person.” Uh huh.

 (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

BY MAX BOOT   [foreignpolicy.com]

I’m starting to suspect that Donald Trump may not have been right when he said, “You know, I’m like a smart person.” The evidence continues to mount that he is far from smart — so far, in fact, that he may not be capable of carrying out his duties as president.

There is, for example, the story of how Trump met with the pastors of two major Presbyterian churches in New York. “I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” he bragged. When the pastors told Trump they weren’t evangelicals, he demanded to know, “What are you then?” They told him they were mainline Presbyterians. “But you’re all Christians?” he asked. Yes, they had to assure him, Presbyterians are Christians. The kicker: Trump himself is Presbyterian.

Or the story of how Trump asked the editors of the Economist whether they had ever heard of the phrase “priming the pump.” Yes, they assured him, they had. “I haven’t heard it,” Trump continued. “I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago, and I thought it was good.” The phrase has been in widespread use since at least the 1930s.

Or the story of how, after arriving in Israel from Saudi Arabia, Trump told his hosts, “We just got back from the Middle East.”

These aren’t examples of stupidity, you may object, but of ignorance. This has become a favorite talking point of Trump’s enablers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, excused Trump’s attempts to pressure FBI Director James Comey into dropping a criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on the grounds that “the president’s new at this” and supposedly didn’t realize that he was doing anything wrong. But Trump has been president for nearly five months now, and he has shown no capacity to learn on the job.

More broadly, Trump has had a lifetime — 71 years — and access to America’s finest educational institutions (he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he never tires of reminding us) to learn things. And yet he doesn’t seem to have acquired even the most basic information that a high school student should possess. Recall that Trump said that Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.” He also claimed that Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.”

Why does he know so little? Because he doesn’t read books or even long articles. “I never have,” he proudly told a reporter last year. “I’m always busy doing a lot.” As president, Trump’s intelligence briefings have been dumbed down, denuded of nuance, and larded with maps and pictures because he can’t be bothered to read a lot of words. He’d rather play golf.

The surest indication of how not smart Trump is that he thinks his inability or lack of interest in acquiring knowledge doesn’t matter. He said last year that he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

How’s that working out? There’s a reason why surveys show more support for Trump’s impeachment than for his presidency. From his catastrophically ill-conceived executive order on immigration to his catastrophically ill-conceived firing of Comey, his administration has been one disaster after another. And those fiascos can be ascribed directly to the president’s lack of intellectual horsepower.

How could Trump fire Comey knowing that the FBI director could then testify about the improper requests Trump had made to exonerate himself and drop the investigation of Flynn? And in case there was any doubt about Trump’s intent, he dispelled it by acknowledging on TV that he had the “Russia thing” in mind when firing the FBI director. That’s tantamount to admitting obstruction of justice. Is this how a smart person behaves? If Trump decides to fire the widely respected special counsel Robert Mueller, he will only be compounding this stupidity.

Or what about Trump’s response to the June 3 terrorist attack in London? He reacted by tweeting his support for the “original Travel Ban,” rather than the “watered down, politically correct version” under review by the Supreme Court. Legal observers — including Kellyanne Conway’s husband — instantly saw that Trump was undermining his own case, because the travel ban had been revised precisely in order to pass judicial scrutiny. Indeed, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in refusing to reinstate the travel ban on June 12, cited Trump’s tweets against him. Is this how a smart person behaves?

You could argue that Trump’s lack of acumen is actually his saving grace, because he would be much more dangerous if he were cleverer in implementing his radical agenda. But you can also make the case that his vacuity is imperiling American security.

Trump shared “code-word information” with Russia’s foreign minister, apparently without realizing what he was doing. In the process, he may have blown America’s best source of intelligence on Islamic State plots — a top-secret Israeli penetration of the militant group’s computers.

Trump picked a fight on Twitter with Qatar, apparently not knowing that this small, oil-rich emirate is host to a major U.S. air base that is of vital importance in the air war against the Islamic State.

Trump criticized London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, based on a blatant misreading of what Khan said in the aftermath of the June 3 attack: The mayor had said there was “no reason to be alarmed” about a heightened police presence on the streets — not, as Trump claimed, about the threat of terrorism. In the process, Trump has alienated British public opinion and may have helped the anti-American Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, win votes in Britain’s general election.

Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord apparently because he thinks that global warming — a scientifically proven fact — is a hoax. His speech announcing the pullout demonstrated that he has no understanding of what the Paris accord actually is — a nonbinding compact that does not impose any costs on the United States.

Trump failed to affirm Article V, a bedrock of NATO, during his visit to Brussels, apparently because he labors under the misapprehension that European allies owe the United States and NATO “vast sums of money.” In fact, NATO members are now increasing their defense spending, but the money will not go to the United States or to the alliance; it will go to their own armed forces. Trump has since said he supports Article V, but his initial hesitation undermines American credibility and may embolden Russia.

Trump supporters used to claim that sage advisors could make up for his shortcomings. But he is proving too willful and erratic to be steered by those around him who know better. As Maggie Haberman of the New York Times notes: “Trump doesn’t want to be controlled. In [the] campaign, [he] would often do [the] opposite of what he was advised to do, simply because it was opposite.”

The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet certify that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” he can be removed with the concurrence of two-thirds of both houses. That won’t happen, because Republicans are too craven to stand up to Trump. But on the merits perhaps it should. After nearly five months in office, Trump has given no indication that he possesses the mental capacity to be president.

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Donald Trump doesn’t get the special counsel investigation. And he’s never going to.

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump has, throughout his life, had one setting when it comes to stories he doesn’t like: Attack, pivot, declare victory.

From his rise in Manhattan social circles to his career as a real estate developer to his time as a reality TV star, he’s always employed these same basic tactics. If someone writes or says something Trump doesn’t like, he either threatens to or actually sues while simultaneously pushing out a counter-narrative aimed at discrediting the initial report and turning the story toward more favorable ground for him.
Everything is to be treated as a tabloid story that can be shaped, changed, rebutted, knocked down and torn apart though force of will — and words.
It’s worked remarkably well for Trump. And so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that he’s brought that blueprint to Washington with him.
Except that the White House — and the political and legal worlds it touches — isn’t the same thing that Trump is used to facing. Not at all. The rules governing this world aren’t the rules of the tabloids of New York City media. Bob Mueller isn’t some “Page Six” reporter.
Trump doesn’t seem to have even the slightest understanding of that distinction. His twin tweets Thursday morning make that point better than I ever could.
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump tweeted at 6:55 a.m. ET. He quickly followed that tweet with this one: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA”
This isn’t the first time that Trump has employed such over-the-top rhetoric to describe the special counsel investigation being led by Mueller, a former FBI director. On May 18, Trump tweeted something very similar to what he said this morning: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump wrote.
This is standard-issue stuff in the Trump playbook. When attacked, attack back — harder. Go after the story in big, broad ways — “total hoax” is one way Trump has described the federal investigation — and assume that the average person won’t consume enough details or follow it closely enough to see whether you’re right or wrong.
But this investigation isn’t anything like what Trump has faced before. He can’t simply say this is all a “witch hunt” or a “hoax” and have it disappear. Short of firing Mueller, which seems to me incredibly unlikely — particularly after the leak of the obstruction investigation — Trump can’t stop it. The investigation will proceed no matter what Trump says about it or who involved in it he calls names. It will also, eventually, reach some conclusions about the nature of Russia’s hacking of the election and whether or not there was any collusion in that effort by any member of the Trump campaign.
That train has already left the station. And Trump’s ability to derail it is decidedly limited.
That doesn’t mean Trump’s use of his tried and true “attack, pivot, declare victory” strategy against Mueller and the special counsel investigation won’t have any impact.
The more Trump casts the investigation as biased and unfairly targeted at him, the more his supporters will believe that it is. Which means that if Trump either fires Mueller — again, that is so hard to imagine — or works to discredit the final conclusions of the special counsel, there will be a ready bloc of his supporters eager to adopt and spread that message.
“I told you this whole special counsel was a witch hunt,” you can imagine Trump saying to nods from his supporters. “Of course they concluded I was in the wrong. They had decided that before they even started investigating. We need to drain the swamp and make America great again.”
That line will work with his supporters. But it won’t change the underlying facts Mueller unearths — and the reverberations they could cause among everyone outside of Trump’s most loyal backers.
Trump is a blunt instrument. He knows one way of doing things. And that way has always worked for him. But this investigation is both more serious than anything Trump has faced before.
Almost everyone grasps that. Everyone except Donald John Trump, that is.

The White House Just Put Out A Pro-Trump Press Release Reminiscent Of North Korea

BY  [washingtonjournal.com]

FEARLESS LEADERS

By all accounts, working for President Donald Trump is an absolute nightmare. On top of the obvious embarrassment one must feel being directly associated with the disastrous administration, Trump is reportedly vindictive and vicious towards his subordinates. The Washington Post recently detailed the manner in which Trump regularly insults and demeans those who work for him.

In response to the Post’s article, Hope Hicks – the White House Director of Strategic Communications – released a ridiculous statement that quickly became the subject of widespread ridicule:

“President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.”

Ignoring the flagrant mendacity of the statement, it’s impossible not to find the wording strange, if not patently absurd. It reads like a speech from an autocratic regime’s cult of personality praising their Supreme Leader or a work of satire.

In terms of content, Trump actively exudes a negative energy, not a positive one. His campaign rhetoric was focused on how bad and weak America has become, and how he was the only one could fix it. He regularly uses his social media to attack his opponents and the free press. He’s also habitually disrespectful towards women, so it’s more than a stretch for Hicks to say that he “treats everyone with respect.”

A senior writer for Shareblue made a hilarious comparison on Twitter:

Another Twitter user compared the statement to a quote from The Manchurian Candidate, a film about an American politician who has been brainwashed by a foreign country:

Trump has a disturbing history of cozying up to dictators and foreign strongmen, so it’s unsurprising that his team’s rhetoric would mimic the grossly exaggerated praise that such leaders heap upon themselves. Subtlety – like governance – clearly isn’t Trump’s strong suit.

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Opinion: It’s time to plan an escape route, for you and your money, from Trumpland

The rule of law under President Trump, as witnessed by the assault on a free press in Montana, is slowly being eroded

Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, urged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors.

By   [marketwatch.com]

There are two great dangers when managing your own money and, indeed, the rest of your affairs. The first is reacting too much to recent events. The other is reacting too little.

And when it comes to what’s now happening in this country, the second danger is every bit as risky as the first.

To cut to the chase, it is becoming increasingly clear that Americans should be taking reasonable steps to diversify their investments outside the U.S., including holding assets in currencies other than dollars, and where possible to acquire a second passport.

Yes, I’m serious. Jewish-, Irish- and Italian-Americans, for example, should be checking out whether they qualify automatically for dual citizenship. Others should be looking into their options too. It is always a good thing to be diversified globally and to have the option of leaving the country and living and working elsewhere. But right now it is more important than usual.

Sixty-two million people voted for Trump. The Republican Party and the people of Montana have now legitimized violence. The next step in the sequence is obvious.

It is no longer a certainty that America will remain a stable country governed by an impartial rule of law. You could argue it no longer is.

I am not saying that a further breakdown is guaranteed or even likely, but I am saying it is possible. Maybe things will end happily, but maybe not. What we are witnessing today is exactly how it has happened historically. It goes in steps. Countries do not leap from civilization to barbarism in a single bound. You do not wake up one morning to discover mobs burning books in the streets. The decline happens by degrees. Each step enables the next.

And what is being normalized here now is not normal.

The voters of Montana have just rewarded Greg Gianforte for beating up a reporter by electing him to Congress as their representative. Many on the right are crowing. Gianforte was reportedly swamped with extra donations following the attack. Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California said the attack was merely “inappropriate” — unless, he added, the reporter “deserved it.” The president has celebrated the result. Popular right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham actually mocked the reporter and suggested he should have fought back against Gianforte and his aides. (One can only imagine what she would have said if he actually had done so.) She was not alone.

None of these people are being subject to moral sanction by the market or their supporters so far as anyone can tell. Gianforte has only been cited legally for a misdemeanor by the local sheriff, who was a campaign contributor. The smart money says he will get away with it, and take up his lucrative sinecure in Washington.

And as every conservative knows, human beings respond to incentives. If this sort of action is rewarded and not punished, it will happen more often.

The reporter in question, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, was doing exactly — not roughly, but exactly — what people like Thomas Jefferson were thinking about when they included the First Amendment in the Constitution. He was trying to ask the Republican congressional candidate for his view on the new health-care bill, which according to the Congressional Budget Office will cost 23 million people their health insurance. There is, literally, no more legitimate function of a reporter in our democracy than asking a congressional candidate for his position on a new law just before an election.

Yet there is no longer even a consensus in defense of this.

What I personally find most depressing is the tribalism. People on the right are defending Gianforte because he’s on their “team” and Jacobs is on the “other” team. Their reaction would have been exactly the opposite if it had been the other way around. If you want to see how commonplace this is, check out social media — or, indeed, the likely comments below this article.

But such thinking is the logic of soccer hooligans. It should have no place, zero, in public debate. To witness people in public life incorporating this into their reasoning and behavior is more than ominous.

How do you get here? First you lay the groundwork with a long-term, cynical marketing campaign against the “mainstream” press. Then a presidential candidate urges his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors.

Then he gets his supporters so mad at the press that a reporter needs to be escorted from a rally by the Secret Service for her own protection.

Then the candidate jokes about whether he would ever kill reporters. Then he calls them the “enemy of the people.” Then one of his colleagues physically attacks one of them.

And at each stage along the process, some people cheer him, others defend him, and others shrug it off. Each unsanctioned outrage enables the next. Sixty-two million people voted for Trump. The Republican Party and the people of Montana have now legitimized violence. The next step in the sequence is obvious.

When you travel abroad these days, it’s like a cloud lifts. Stepping outside Trumpland, even for a few days, reminds you of what life is like in the normal world. You and your family should have that option as a matter of right.

The point about a stable country is that it has the rule of law, and the point about the rule of law is that, above all, it is impartial. This is why the traditional figure of justice is blindfolded. Assault is assault. There aren’t “teams” or sides.

Partisan justice is not a feature of a civil society. It is a feature of a civil war.

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The conservative mind has become diseased

Seth Rich, who was shot and killed July 10, 2016, near his home in Washington. ( /Democratic National Committee)

By Michael Gerson [washingtonpost.com]

To many observers on the left, the initial embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul. But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing. If once you knew better, the indictment is deeper.

The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything — no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic — to defend President Trump and harm his opponents. Even if it means becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.

The basic, human questions are simple. How could conservative media figures not have felt — felt in their hearts and bones — the God-awful ickiness of it? How did the genes of generosity and simple humanity get turned off? Is this insensibility the risk of prolonged exposure to our radioactive political culture? If so, all of us should stand back a moment and tend to the health of our revulsion.

But this failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who is the politician who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a coverup? “How amazing,” Trump tweeted in 2013, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that the vaccination schedule is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president charged with representing all Americans who has falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.


In this mental environment, alleging a Rich-related conspiracy was predictable. This is a concrete example of the mainstreaming of destructive craziness.

Those conservatives who believe that the confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch is sufficient justification for the Trump presidency are ignoring Trump’s psychic and moral destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Clinton, with a small number of changed votes, would have defeated Republicans. But Trump is doing a kind of harm beyond anything Clinton could have done. He is changing the party’s most basic moral and political orientations. He is shaping conservatism in his image and ensuring an eventual defeat more complete, and an eventual exile more prolonged, than Democrats could have dreamed.

The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently. Institutions and individuals that once served an important ideological role, providing a balance to media bias, are discrediting themselves in crucial ways. With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.

Conspiracy theories often involve a kind of dehumanization. Human tragedy is made secondary — something to be exploited rather than mourned. The narrative of conspiracy takes precedence over the meaning of a life and the suffering of a family. A human being is made into an ideological prop and used on someone else’s stage. As the Rich family has attested, the pain inflicted is quite real.

A conspiratorial approach to politics is fully consistent with other forms of dehumanization — of migrants, refugees and “the other” more generally. Men and women are reduced to types and presented as threats. They also become props in an ideological drama. They are presented as representatives of a plot involving invasion and infiltration, rather than being viewed as individuals seeking opportunity or fleeing oppression and violence. This also involves callousness, cruelty and conspiracy thinking.

In Trump’s political world, this project of dehumanization is far along. The future of conservatism now depends on its capacity for revulsion. And it is not at all clear whether this capacity still exists.

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