Unhappy liberals need medication.
Robert Tracinski explains why repealing Obamacare is such an uphill battle. When you replace Conservatism with Populist Nationalism, you’re lacking the necessary conviction to oppose the Welfare State.
If you want to know why Republicans have bogged down, notice one peculiar thing about the Obamacare debate so far. It’s not really a debate over Obamacare, it’s a debate over Medicaid. That’s because Obamacare mostly turned out to be a big expansion of Medicaid. The health insurance exchanges that were supposed to provide affordable private health insurance (under a government aegis) never really delivered. They were launched in a state of chaos and incompetence, and ended up mostly offering plans that are expensive yet still have high deductibles. Rather than massively expanding the number of people with private insurance, a lot of the effect of Obamacare was to wreck people’s existing health care plans and push them into new exchange plans.
Ah, but what about all those people the Democrats are claiming were newly covered under Obamacare? A lot of them—up to two-thirds, by some estimates—are people who were made newly eligible for a government health-care entitlement, Medicaid. But shoving people onto Medicaid is not exactly a great achievement, since it is widely acknowledged to be a lousy program.
Conservative health care wonk Avik Roy explains why: “[T]he program’s dysfunctional 1965 design makes it impossible for states to manage their Medicaid budgets without ratcheting down what they pay doctors to care for Medicaid enrollees. That, in turn, has led many doctors to stop accepting Medicaid patients, such that Medicaid enrollees don’t get the care they need.” Partly as a result, a test in Oregon found no difference in health outcomes between those with access to Medicaid and those without.
Then again, a massive expansion of Medicaid fits perfectly with the preferences of the welfare statist’s boosters: lousy free stuff from the government is better than good stuff you pay for yourself.
Yet notice this hits a big Republican weak spot, one I suspect Obamacare’s promoters knew about all along. Obamacare just boils down to an expansion of an old, existing, traditional government entitlement—and Republicans are lousy at rolling back traditional entitlements. …
Democrats create new entitlements, then Republicans reform them. Democrats get all the credit for showering us with benefits, and Republicans accept the role of the mean-spirited accountants who tell us we just can’t afford it. …
[As to the existing bill:] Pradheep Shanker sums it up nicely when he describes the Obamacare replacement bill as a piece of legislation with no ideological point of view.
My biggest complaint about this bill is that there really is no governing philosophy in its writing. It neither pleases conservatives nor moderates. It makes half measures to increasing patient choice, but retains taxes such as the Cadillac tax, while at the same time maintaining the employer based health insurance system. It doesn’t maximize federal support for the poor, nor does it fully adopt the free market…. The muddle created by the GOP here makes it very difficult to make a sound, concise argument regarding specifically what their goal is.
That makes sense, in a way. It’s a bill with no governing philosophy for a party and a president who have no governing philosophy.
Read the whole thing.
Kurt Schlichter has a message for President Obama and the Congressional GOP leadership.
When Paul Ryan and his congressional clown car of alleged conservatives surprised us by just sort of dropping Obamacare Jr. on us, I wasn’t surprised to see them trip all over their Guccis during the utterly inept roll out. These nimrods couldn’t effectively communicate to Elizabeth Warren with smoke signals. But even I was shocked at how transcendently crappy their proposed Obamacare replacement is. Let me put it this way: the only thing that steaming pile of failure would be good for is as the key prop in a very specialized, niche German porno film.
Seriously, how many times do we have to tell you? Obamacare must die. Kill it dead – with fire!
When are you going to get it through your wonk spheres that we don’t want a government-led health care system that leaves the people who infest D.C. in charge? We don’t need a “plan” because 85 percent of us already have a plan – it’s called “Taking responsibility for supporting ourselves and our families like damn adults.”
Yeah, we really mean it when we say we want Obamacare gone. DOA. Kaput. Call it over to the mob boss’s house under the pretense that it’s going to be made, then shoot it through the face so its mother can’t give it an open coffin at the funeral.
Are you feelin’ us now?
Ross Douthat, speaking evidently from the irredentist #NeverTrump Right, points out that merely winning one election is no guarantee of the creation of a durable political movement. Policy success matters, and the American Health Care Act, intended to repeal and replace Obamacare, so far, does not seem to represent any such thing.
After the 1976 election, the Democratic Party seemed to enjoy a commanding position in American politics, with Jimmy Carter ensconced in the White House, a Senate supermajority and an advantage of nearly 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Yet over the next four years the Democrats achieved little of consequence, Carter passed into history as a failure, and Ronald Reagan ushered in a lasting rightward realignment.
I have compared Donald Trump to Carter before, but with the release of the House Republican “replacement” (I use that term loosely) for Obamacare, it’s worth returning to the analogy. It rests, in part, on the work of the political scientist Stephen Skowronek, who argues that certain presidencies are “disjunctive” — straddling a political order passing into history and another one struggling to be born. And “disjunctive” generally means ineffective, because the parties such presidents are leading are likewise trapped between past and future and unable to unify and act.
Carter is Skowronek’s prime disjunctive example, and a variety of writers, including Corey Robin and Dylan Matthews on the left and Reihan Salam on the right, have recently argued that Trump fits the role as well.
Just as Carter sensed that the New Deal-Great Society coalition was no longer viable and campaigned against certain liberal orthodoxies in ’76, so in 2016 Trump offered a vision of the G.O.P. as a nationalist “workers party” in which certain Reaganite pieties would no longer set the terms of conservative debate.
But just as Carter’s mix of proto-New Democrat centrism and old-school liberalism never translated into a workable congressional agenda, Trump’s bridge to a new conservatism will crumble if his party can’t agree on policies that fit his vision.
The health care debate makes this danger particularly clear.
Read the whole thing.
Andrew McCarthy explains why Obama’s spokeman’s lawyerly denials are far from conclusive proof of innocence.
[R]eporting indicates that, prior to June 2016, the Obama Justice Department and FBI considered a criminal investigation of Trump associates, and perhaps Trump himself, based on concerns about connections to Russian financial institutions. Preliminary poking around indicated that there was nothing criminal involved. Rather than shut the case down, though, the Obama Justice Department converted it into a national-security investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA allows the government, if it gets court permission, to conduct electronic surveillance (which could include wiretapping, monitoring of e-mail, and the like) against those it alleges are “agents of a foreign power.” FISA applications and the evidence garnered from them are classified – i.e., we would not know about any of this unless someone had leaked classified information to the media, a felony.
In June, the Obama Justice Department submitted an application that apparently “named” Trump in addition to some of his associates. As I have stressed, it is unclear whether “named” in this context indicates that Trump himself was cited as a person the Justice Department was alleging was a Russian agent whom it wanted to surveil. It could instead mean that Trump’s name was merely mentioned in an application that sought to conduct surveillance on other alleged Russian agents. President Trump’s tweets on Saturday claimed that “President Obama . . . tapp[ed] my phones[,]” which makes it more likely that Trump was targeted for surveillance, rather than merely mentioned in the application.
In any event, the FISA court reportedly turned down the Obama Justice Department’s request, which is notable: The FISA court is notoriously solicitous of government requests to conduct national-security surveillance (although, as I’ve noted over the years, the claim by many that it is a rubber-stamp is overblown).
Not taking no for an answer, the Obama Justice Department evidently returned to the FISA court in October 2016, the critical final weeks of the presidential campaign. This time, the Justice Department submitted a narrowly tailored application that did not mention Trump. The court apparently granted it, authorizing surveillance of some Trump associates. It is unknown whether that surveillance is still underway, but the New York Times has identified – again, based on illegal leaks of classified information – at least three of its targets: Paul Manafort (the former Trump campaign chairman who was ousted in August), and two others whose connection to the Trump campaign was loose at best, Manafort’s former political-consulting business partner Roger Stone, and investor Carter Page. The Times report (from mid-January) includes a lot of heavy breathing about potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia; but it ultimately concedes that the government’s FISA investigation may have nothing to do with Trump, the campaign, or alleged Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election by hacking e-mail accounts.
Trump’s tweets on Saturday prompted some interesting “denials” from the Obama camp. These can be summarized in the statement put out by Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis:
A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
This seems disingenuous on several levels.
First, as Obama officials well know, under the FISA process, it is technically the FISA court that “orders” surveillance. And by statute, it is the Justice Department, not the White House, that represents the government in proceedings before the FISA court. So, the issue is not whether Obama or some member of his White House staff “ordered” surveillance of Trump and his associates. The issues are (a) whether the Obama Justice Department sought such surveillance authorization from the FISA court, and (b) whether, if the Justice Department did that, the White House was aware of or complicit in the decision to do so.
Read the whole thing.
Victor Davis Hanson explains the 2016 Populist Revolt to his professional associates in elite Coastal California.
What America watches on television and on the silver screen is created either in Los Angeles or New York. The nation’s world-ranked Ivy League and West Coast universities are almost all in blue America. Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the preeminent financial institutions are likewise centered in urban corridors. The federal government operates in the progressive culture of Washington, D.C. The reasons for this lopsided concentration are part historical and part geographical, but not necessarily a referendum on either contemporary competency or character.
The result nonetheless is an abyss, in which power brokers who shape the way America is entertained, educated, financed and governed are often unaware of how half the country lives — or the effects of their own tastes and policies upon them. Yet the hinterland is no cul-de-sac, but rather the proud generator of most of the nation’s fuel, food and manufactured goods — the traditional stuff of civilization.
The Trump revolt was also a push back against winner-take-all globalization that enriched the populated coasts far more than the open spaces in between — that made London spiritually closer to Manhattan than to upstate New York, and Tokyo or Bangalore more attuned to the Bay Area than to the Central Valley a hundred miles away.
People outside of New York and San Francisco seemed to have the strange idea that the wheat they grew or the oil they fracked were just as important to Facebook and Goldman Sachs employees as the latter’s social media pages and stock portfolios were to farmers and oil drillers.
In part, the rural backlash was fueled by a sense that half the country — the quieter and more hidden half — did not like the cultural and economic trajectories on which the cities were taking the country. It was not just that they saw a $20 trillion debt, the slowest economic growth since the Hoover administration, a federal takeover of the health care system, offshoring, outsourcing and open borders as part of their plight.
Rather, they cited these as symptoms of a blinkered elite that had lost its bearings and was insulated from the reality that governs life elsewhere: debt really does have to be paid back rather than doubled in eight years. Something like the Affordable Care Act that is sold as offering more and costing less simply cannot be true. The cyberworld still does not bring food to the table, put fuel in the gas tank or produce wood floors and stainless steel appliances.
Urban elites seldom experience the full and often negative consequences of their own ideologies. And identifying people first by race, tribe or gender — by their allegiance to their appearance rather than to the content of their characters — has rarely led anywhere but to tribalism and eventual sectarian violence.
The result was that when Trump, the outsider without political experience, appeared as a hammer, rural America apparently was more than happy to throw him into the glass of the bicoastal establishment, without worrying too much about the shards that scattered.
Read the whole thing.
Controlling “exactly what people think” is the job of the media, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski boldly declared Wednesday morning.
While discussing President Trump’s entreaties to the American people to remain skeptical of the press, Bzezinski worried that if the economy turns south, Americans may end up trusting him over the media.
“And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think,” Brzezinski said. “And that, that is our job.”
SCARBOROUGH: “Exactly. That is exactly what I hear. What Yamiche said is what I hear from all the Trump supporters that I talk to who were Trump voters and are still Trump supporters. They go, ‘Yeah you guys are going crazy. He’s doing — what are you so surprised about? He is doing exactly what he said he is going to do.'”
BRZEZINSKI: “Well, I think that the dangerous, you know, edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”
Cartoon Hat tip to Margot Darby.
Donald Trump, Fake News, Islamic Immigration, Mainstream Media, Media Bias, Mendacious Reportage, Sweden
So at Donald Trump’s rally yesterday in Florida, Trump said anent Muslim immigration:
“You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
Trump is obviously alluding to extraordinary and absolutely appalling outbreaks of violent crimes and sexual assaults perpetrated by Third World immigrants and refugees accepted into European countries. But those clever journalists on the left play pretend that Trump has to be referring, not to robberies, rapes, and criminal assaults, but (mistakenly, out of his stupidity, confusion, and general inferiority) to some non-existent, entirely fabricated by Trump case of a mass terrorist attack. And they gleefully get to point out that such a mass terrorist attack has not (so far) occurred in Sweden, and therefore: Gotcha! Ho! ho! ho!
How stupid do they think Americans are?
Trump was obviously referring, not to a single terrorist attack, but to the unfortunate state of Swedish public safety with respect to crimes by Muslims against Swedes.
For example: Muslim Statistics — 5 Nov 2016:
Sweden’s Muslim problem: Half a million women sex attacked in a year
This now puts Sweden in the top position for sex crimes in the world.
Put this into perspective to see how horrific these figures truly are: The total Swedish population is only 9.6 million people. In 2009 a US report stated that there are 450,000 to 500,000 Muslims in Sweden, around 5% of the total population. Out of the 500,000 Muslim migrants in Sweden, half or less are men. In other words, there is roughly an equivalent to two sex attacks to every Muslim male in Sweden. These sex attacks are not committed by the natives.
or this example (Daily Wire 16 Jan 2017):
Scores of Swedes took the streets of Malmo, a southern city in Sweden, on Monday to protest an epidemic of violence that has taken the lives of far too many young people. The last victim was 16-year-old Ahmed Obaid. He was killed last Thursday after an unidentified gunman unleashed a salvo of bullets.
“Our kids should sleep well, play at play parks, feel safe,” Housam Abbas, the victim’s cousin, said, according to the Local.
Malmo, this once quiet city, is now overrun with violence. The culture of fear is so palpable that parents are no longer comfortable sending their children out to play.
“You have to look over your shoulder when you go out at night now. I don’t let my little brother go out at night any more,” said one high school student at Monday’s protest in front of city hall. “I hope that the politicians actually view this as a serious problem and start to solve this in Malmö.”
Trump is obviously right, and the MSM is full of weaselly liars cooking up fake news.
Mathew Continetti discusses the struggle between an elected American administration and the entrenched federal bureaucracy.
By any historical and constitutional standard, “the people” elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.
There is, of course, the case of Michael Flynn. He made a lot of enemies inside the government during his career, suffice it to say. And when he exposed himself as vulnerable those enemies pounced. But consider the means: anonymous and possibly illegal leaks of private conversations. Yes, the conversation in question was with a foreign national. And no one doubts we spy on ambassadors. But we aren’t supposed to spy on Americans without probable cause. And we most certainly are not supposed to disclose the results of our spying in the pages of the Washington Post because it suits a partisan or personal agenda.
Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.
But why should we believe that? And who elected these officials to make this judgment for us?
Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year’s election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president.
How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured. …
The last few weeks have confirmed that there are two systems of government in the United States. The first is the system of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution—its checks, its balances, its dispersion of power, its protection of individual rights. Donald Trump was elected to serve four years as the chief executive of this system. Whether you like it or not.
The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the “least dangerous branch,” now presume to think they know more about America’s national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.
For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And the contest is all the more vicious and frightening because more than offices are at stake. This fight is not about policy. It is about wealth, status, the privileges of an exclusive class.
Read the whole thing.
Eli Lake chalks up a big one on the scoreboard for the Deep Government Left embedded inside the Intelligence Community working hand-in-hand with the Establishment Media. They got Flynn, he wonders aloud, does this prove that they will eventually also get Trump?
T]here are many unanswered questions about Trump’s and his administration’s ties to Russia.
But that’s all these allegations are at this point: unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government.
Flynn was a fat target for the national security state. He has cultivated a reputation as a reformer and a fierce critic of the intelligence community leaders he once served with when he was the director the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Flynn was working to reform the intelligence-industrial complex, something that threatened the bureaucratic prerogatives of his rivals.
He was also a fat target for Democrats. Remember Flynn’s breakout national moment last summer was when he joined the crowd at the Republican National Convention from the dais calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed.
In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.
In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. Nunes told me Monday night that this will not end well. “First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,” he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.
Detailed analysis by Dan McLaughlin:
[T]he most important dog that didn’t bark here is presidential power. The court’s opinion did not conclude, or even suggest, that Trump lacked the power as president to issue the order. It didn’t resolve that issue in Trump’s favor; it was just assumed it, since it ruled against him on other ground. …
[T]he court found that the government was not likely to win its case – the standard on a preliminary injunction, before all the evidence has been heard – on whether the executive order gave adequate due process protections to “lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders” who were barred from the country, again ignoring the fact that the Administration has stopped enforcing the order against lawful permanent residents and the fact that the states were also looking to enforce the injunction on behalf of refugees and others who had yet to be granted visas. The Supreme Court, in its 2015 decision in Kerry v. Din, left open the question of whether there is any due process right for foreign nationals to challenge the denial of a visa; Justices Scalia, Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts thought not, and in that case, Justices Kennedy and Alito didn’t take a position on the issue because they found that adequate due process had been provided in that case. But the Ninth Circuit never addressed why people without an existing visa might have due process rights. …
[T]he court rejected the government’s argument that a refugee ban was urgent, given the lack of any evidence submitted thus far in the case to support urgency. That’s a bit of a Catch-22, since any evidence of imminent national security threats is likely classified and not properly offered to judges and litigants without security clearance, but the Administration should reconsider whether it has evidence of a more broad-based nature to support the breadth of its travel bans. Much of the opinion’s coda deals with how early it is in the case, and how little opportunity any judge has had to give real review to any evidence. If the Trump Administration should learn one lesson from this debacle, it’s that courts won’t accept bluster in place of evidence from an administration with which the judges are disinclined to sympathize. The court reached some bad rulings, but as the saying goes, hard cases make bad law. The Administration should try to avoid letting its cases be so hard when they don’t need to be. But it should also be prepared for the fact that the courts are not likely to give it a fair shake.
Read the whole thing.
A good remedy would be to break up the 9th Circuit. Fox News reports.
As judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals weigh the legality of President Trump’s immigration executive order, a Republican push to split up the controversial court — and shrink its clout — is gaining steam on Capitol Hill.
Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona introduced legislation last month to carve six states out of the San Francisco-based court circuit and create a brand new 12th Circuit.
They argue that the 9th is too big, too liberal and too slow resolving cases. If they succeed, only California, Oregon, Hawaii and two island districts would remain in the 9th’s judicial fiefdom.
Right now, Flake said, the circuit is far too sprawling.
“It represents 20 percent of the population — and 40 percent of the land mass is in that jurisdiction. It’s just too big,” Flake told Fox News on Wednesday. “We have a bedrock principle of swift justice and if you live in Arizona or anywhere in the 9th Circuit, you just don’t have it.”
Flake says it typically takes the court 15 months to hand down a decision.
“It’s far too long,” he added.
Conservatives have mocked the 9th Circuit for years, often calling it the “Nutty 9th” or the “9th Circus,” in part because so many of its rulings have been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court has a reputation as one of the most liberal in the country, in large part because of its makeup. Eighteen of the court’s 25 active judges have been appointed by Democrats.
“Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome, anything made by man can be overcome.” –George Patton.