Tag Archives: Ryan

Random Thoughts About The Ryan Announcement

I was on the treadmill (ugh!) watching the news, when it was announced that Paul Ryan would not seek re-election.

Virtually all the talking heads, including former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, prefaced their reactions by noting that Ryan was a “policy wonk” who understood the economy.

Bullfeathers.

As Paul Krugman (whose Nobel Prize was in economics) has repeatedly pointed out, Ryan is an ideologue. A genuine policy wonk would adjust his economic prescriptions in the face of evidence they didn’t work; Ryan’s tax “reform” was a bigger version of the policies that have proved so disastrous in Kansas and Oklahoma. Rather than learn from those lessons, he doubled down. (It reminded me of the old communist sympathizers who explained that a communist system really would work–that Stalin just hadn’t done it right.)

It’s possible, of course, that Ryan isn’t a “true believer”–that his his tax “reform” was a return on his donors’ investment, and he’s not sticking around to suffer what he realizes will be the political consequences.

A couple of commentators reported that–despite all indications that his spine had simply been removed–behind the scenes, Ryan was critical of Trump and had been a restraining influence on our dangerous President. Color me skeptical; however, the remainder of Ryan’s term will offer an ideal test of that thesis. Since Ryan won’t be running again, he’s free to add his voice to those of the other GOP Trump critics (none of whom are running again).

If I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t risk my money on the likelihood of a Ryan eruption of moral outrage or defense of the rule of law.

In all fairness, Ryan didn’t want the job as Speaker, and for good reason. Thanks to the very successful national Republican gerrymander in 2011, the party won seats well in excess of its votes, but a significant number of those elected from districts that had been designed to be deep red were extremists determined to hew to a Tea Party/White Nationalist vision of America (and not so incidentally, intent upon forestalling primary challenges by candidates even farther to the right.) Estimates are that there are some 80+ members of the GOP’s “lunatic caucus” –and they feel no need to listen to the party’s leadership, which they scorn as the “establishment.” Herding cats would be simple by comparison.

Those of us who detest Trump and the feckless Republicans in Congress who have utterly failed to constrain him are tempted to cheer Ryan’s announcement. And I am certainly encouraged by its implications; without Ryan (not to mention the other 26+/- Republicans heading for the door) , it will be even more difficult for the GOP to hang on to its majority.

But there are six months between now and November, and Trump is increasingly unhinged. As Mueller’s investigation gets closer, as the legal and ethical lapses of his cabinet and cronies become public, and international events he clearly doesn’t understand pressure him to make decisions he is ill-equipped to make, he increasingly resembles a cornered animal.

A rational man would reach out to knowledgable people for advice, but Trump is not a rational man. He’s threatening to bomb Syria, to nullify the Iran accord, to start a trade war with China, and God knows what he’ll say or do when he meets with Kim Jong Un in North Korea.

As the rats desert his sinking ship, he’ll be perfectly willing to take us all down with him.

 

As The Bullets Find Their Mark..

I will never understand the GOP obsession with repealing Obamacare.

I could certainly understand efforts to improve it, or even replace it with a different mechanism (not the smoke and mirrors sort of replacement that Trump yammered about but was unable to describe, but a different way to deliver actual healthcare).

It is hard for me to accept that there are people who genuinely believe poor folks aren’t entitled to medical care, that being unable to afford a doctor means you don’t deserve one. On the other hand, I recall that telling–and chilling– moment in a GOP debate when Ron Paul was asked what should be done with people who don’t have insurance, and the audience members yelled “let them die.”

So there’s that…

Even though Paul Ryan and his cronies couldn’t manage a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, they did manage to make it less workable. They didn’t kill it–they just made it more incoherent and costly.

According to Michael Hiltzik in the L.A. Times,

Those fiscal geniuses in the White House and Republican-controlled Congress have managed to do the impossible: Their sabotage of the Affordable Care Act will lead to 6.4 million fewer Americans with health insurance, while the federal bill for coverage rises by some $33 billion per year.

Also, by the way, premiums in the individual market will rise by an average of more than 18%.

These figures come from the Urban Institute, which on Monday released the first estimate of the impact of two GOP initiatives. The first is the elimination of the individual mandate, which is an offshoot of the GOP tax-cut measure signed by President Trump in December. The measure reduced the penalty for not carrying insurance to zero as of next Jan. 1.

The second is Trump’s plan to expand short-term insurance plans, which don’t comply with many of the ACA’s essential benefits requirements and allow insurers to reject or surcharge people with preexisting medical conditions or histories.

Both of these provisions siphon younger, healthier people out of the insurance pool–an entirely foreseeable (and indeed, widely foreseen) consequence. When the pool of insured individuals contains older, sicker participants not offset by as many young healthy ones, insurers must raise premiums.

Because government premium subsidies rise in tandem with premium increases, the cost of subsidies borne by the government will rise by $33.3 billion next year, or 9.3% — to $391.4 billion from $358.1 billion under existing law.

It isn’t only taxpayers who will get hosed by the changes Trump is so proud of. The article goes through a variety of ways in which people needing health insurance will get screwed over, and I encourage you to click through and read the whole analysis.

It’s hard to disagree with Hiltzik’s conclusion:

The damage estimate can’t be restricted to the immediate impact on individuals and families, the researchers observed. “As healthier enrollees exit for short-term plans, insurers will by necessity reexamine the profitability of remaining in the compliant markets. This may well lead to more insurer exits from the compliant markets in the next years, reducing choice for the people remaining and ultimately making the markets difficult to maintain.”

In other words, the Republican sabotage will continue to undermine health coverage in the U.S. The only alternative, it becomes clearer with every day, is some form of single-payer, Medicare-for-all coverage. That’s increasingly becoming part of Democratic Party orthodoxy, and it’s about time.

One more reason why we need a wave election in November.

Thoughts on the Comey Hearing

Today’s post will be brief because my husband is having a surgical procedure this morning (outpatient and cringe-worthy, since it requires cutting into his eyeball, but not major or life-threatening). I’ll return, undoubtedly in full verbose mode, tomorrow.

I have very little to add to the mountains of commentary that issued before, during and after Comey’s testimony. I’m not a criminal lawyer, was never a prosecutor (when I did practice law, I drafted contracts and mortgages and articles of incorporation), so my grasp of the fine points of obstruction of justice law is worse than imperfect.

With those caveats, a couple of observations:

  • Love him or hate him, James Comey is a professional with a reputation for integrity. He understands how to navigate Washington and how to speak to a camera, and his calm professionalism was on consistent display. His responses were forthright, but never exaggerated or over-reaching. He was neither defensive nor evasive. His entire performance was impressive.
  • The question whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice will inevitably require interpreting the President’s statement to Comey that he “hoped” the investigation of Flynn could be dropped. Senator Risch questioned whether a Presidential “hope” could really be considered a directive, although Comey responded that–given the context–he took it to be. Both Times reporter Charlie Savage and Senator Angus King responded with the perfect analogy: “I hope” is like the famous line Henry II uttered about Thomas Becket, which his minions understood to be a direction to murder him: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
  • Senator John McCain has passed his “sell by” date.
  • Judging from the reactions of Paul Ryan and other luminaries of what passes for the Republican party these days, patriotism of the sort displayed by Eliot Richardson, William Ruckleshaus, then-Senator Barry Goldwater and others during Watergate is long gone. It evidently eloped with those other bygone  qualities, honor and integrity.

The United States placed a dangerously ignorant, clearly incompetent, unstable man in the Oval Office. We’ve known that. What we didn’t know, and are slowly discovering, is the degree to which the members of his party value power over country.

Yep….

In the wake of November’s election, my biggest concern was the prospect of Donald Trump in charge of a unified government: with a Republican House and Senate, I was sure we would see legislation canceling progress on the environment, reversing rights for women, gay citizens and immigrants, and eviscerating public education, among other nightmares.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, recently explained why we have yet to see that legislation. Her column was titled “Here’s why, even with control of everything, the GOP can’t govern.” She began with a quote from the Wall Street Journal:

Many popular postelection wagers took a hit last month after Republicans failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which highlighted the difficulties they could face advancing new legislation even while holding the White House and both houses of Congress.

She went on to describe the current situation.

If one had any doubt, this week’s events — a half-baked tax proposal that would not pass one let alone two houses, another failed effort at Trumpcare, White House bluffs and retreats on the budget — should have disabused observers of the notion that Trump’s agenda would sail through Congress…

Trump cannot manage to devise attractive legislation or get down in the weeds of negotiation, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seems willing to accommodate whatever group is currently rocking the boat, regardless of the likelihood of success. Neither Ryan nor Trump can lead a successful legislative effort. As a result, members of Congress figure there is little reason to stick their necks out for either one. “Members of Congress have watched with horror as Trump thrashed about in Washington with little predictability, guided by top aides with little experience in the trenches of government,” Time reports. “Staffers with decades of Hill experience find themselves sidelined by political neophytes who think barking orders can get Congress to act. More than once, White House officials have told Paul Ryan that his role as Speaker may be in jeopardy if he does not do more to help Trump.”

Rubin notes that –given his priorities–Trump’s inability to get things done is a gift; gridlock looks pretty good when balanced against this administration’s goals.

This is not to say we don’t have substantial problems or need competent leadership. However, this president and this Congress have not a clue how to proceed. They would potentially do much more harm than good. They are prisoners of extreme ideology, unrealistic expectations and their own incompetence.

Wonkblog recently came to a similar conclusion. In a column tracing the reasons that  financial markets aren’t betting on a big Trump stimulus anymore,  Matt O’Brian wrote

But a funny thing happened on the way to Trump’s making great deals. It turns out that everything is more complicated than anyone named Donald Trump knew. It isn’t easy to get Republicans to agree on a health-care plan when some of them think the problem with Obamacare is everything, and others think it’s just the name. Or to get the whole party to agree on which tax loopholes to close to pay for all their tax cuts. The result, according to Trump, is that health-care reform is always a week away, and tax reform, always two weeks.

In the meantime, though, the economy is still chugging along at the same 2 percent pace it has been the whole recovery. So when you add it all up — a government that’s doing nothing today, that looks as if it will be doing nothing tomorrow, and an economy that’s doing nothing different from what it has been the last decade — there’s no reason to expect the dollar to go up anymore. And it hasn’t. It has given back most of its post-election gains to now only be up 1 percent over that time.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gratified that these clowns seem unable to learn.

When The Emperor Has No Clothes…

Yesterday, the Republicans’ much-hyped replacement of the Affordable Care Act went down in flames.

There are multiple lessons to be drawn from the legislative fiasco we’ve just witnessed, although I am doubtful the people who most need to learn those lessons are capable of doing so.

The first–and most obvious–is that Donald Trump presides (in the words of David Gergen, who has served both Republican and Democratic Presidents) over an incompetent and delusional Administration. “I actually think this may be the worst hundred days we’ve ever seen in a president.”

As one wag commented, William Henry Harrison had a better second month.

Political commentators have repeatedly catalogued the myriad ways in which Trump is unsuited for the Presidency–including but not limited to his emotional and mental instability, lack of intellectual curiosity and ignorance of the structures and operations of government. Those deficits translate into an inability to understand that Presidents–unlike CEOs of closely-held corporations–cannot simply issue orders to Congress, a co-equal branch of government, and expect compliance.

The art of a legislative “deal” is distinctly different than the art of developing a parcel of real estate. A successful Presidency requires skills that Trump neither possesses nor understands.

Then there is Paul Ryan, who has long been lauded as the Republicans’ policy wonk. The lesson here is that in a group of midgets, even a short guy looks tall. Ryan has had seven years to craft a replacement for Obamacare; clearly, he spent none of that time considering what such a replacement should look like. Ryan has been “defrocked”–shown to be all political posturing and no policy chops. The bill he tried to peddle to his fractious caucus was an abysmal piece of legislation–a “steaming pile of excrement” in the words of one Republican lawmaker.

Even if Ryan had possessed the skills credulous pundits have attributed to him, however, it probably would not have been possible to bridge the deep divides within the GOP. The aptly-named “lunatic caucus” wants nothing less than a government retreat from any participation in healthcare, including Medicaid and Medicare. The moderates–mostly elected from more competitive districts– understand that such a retreat is neither possible nor desirable, and wanted legislation that they could have described as improving upon the ACA.

The only thing the two factions agreed upon was that they were being asked by a President with a 37% approval rating to vote for a measure supported by 17% of voters.

Congressional Republicans are hopelessly divided between the radical ideologues produced by 2011’s extreme gerrymandering (who don’t give a rat’s patootie what their party’s leadership wants) and the GOPs (somewhat) more traditional representatives.

The third lesson, then, is that It will only get worse.

The Party of No is no longer capable of getting to yes.