Useful Reading on Trump’s Executive Actions on Healthcare

Trump did more to reform healthcare last week than the GOP Congress has done all year. Given the much broader power and authority the Congress has, that’s a bittersweet reminder of wasted opportunity by Congress.  Sigh…Trump’s two healthcare related executive orders don’t invalidate Obamacare, but they do expand some loopholes outside it.

Avik Roy in Forbes gave a pretty good summary of both executive orders in: Sorry Everybody, But Trump Hasn’t Instigated the Obamacare Apocalypse.

“On Thursday, President Trump issued an executive order covering three areas: (1) allowing small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance; (2) restoring the ability of individuals to buy short-term plans exempt from some Obamacare rules; and (3) examining ways to make employer-funded health savings accounts more flexible. On Friday, the President announced that he would no longer be disbursing the cost-sharing subsidies… until Congress appropriates the funds for them.”

There seems to be more actual reform in that first executive order than in any of the GOP healthcare reform plans.  Short term plan lengths have gone from being valid for 3 months to a full year, going back to rules that existed in…2016.  Yes it was an Obama executive decision to shorten the length they could be offered, no doubt to push more people on to the exchanges.

The other executive order, to suspend payments to health insurance companies to cover low income premiums and deductibles, has resulted in much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but Trump was merely going along with a US District Court decision from last year that ruled the payments were improperly funded without appropriations from Congress.  Reason Magazine’s take, By Cutting Off Obamacare’s Insurer Subsidies, Trump Might Help More People Get Health Coverage, has a counter-intuitive view that the cutting off subsidies, contrary to Democratic spin, won’t make much difference to poor people covered under Obamacare since the coverage is mandated anyway, and any increase in premium costs are covered by the Obamacare purchase subsidy.

So I recommend both articles.  You’ll end up knowing more about these healthcare changes than any commentator on MSNBC!

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Should I have an opinion on Catalan Independence?

Well

“Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain, a regional government source said, as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy and has unnerved financial markets.

Pro-independence parties that control the regional parliament have asked for a debate and vote on Monday on declaring independence, the source said. A declaration should follow this vote, although it is unclear when Catalan President Carles Puigdemont earlier told the BBC that his government would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence after tallying votes from last weekend’s referendum, which Madrid says was illegal.”

There is a lot to unpack there, and this all seems like surprisingly major news considering it’s barely been covered in the US media, especially considering the amount of media attention the Scottish Independence Referendum received.  In fact I doubt I would have heard anything about it if I hadn’t been following Julian Assange’s twitter feed.

The Catalonia region of Spain wanted a referendum on independence, the Spanish courts determined it wouldn’t be legal, and Catalonia went ahead and had one anyway.  Independence won and now they’re pushing to go ahead and declare independence by next week.

Wow.

In some ways, the referendum resembles Crimea’s referendum, which was illegal, since the Russians occupied Crimea and ran it, but it won anyway (or maybe because). But there is no big power to help this along in Spain; obviously the EU doesn’t count.  But the EU seems to be part of the problem.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that one of the supreme ironies of the European Union, and its goal of creating a United States of Europe, is that it’s existence is probably encouraging European independence movements.  There are multiple European independence movements that are ongoing and the idea that all of these subsidies and trade issues that are the concern of sovereign nations will be taken care of by the EU probably strengthens them.

As a rule, the EU opposes all of these independence movements among their members.  Catalonia fully expects to waltz right into EU membership, in the same way that Scotland intended to jump from leaning on welfare from London to welfare from Brussels. But the fact that the EU is there, willing to handle all of those pesky governmental problems for its member states makes it an attractive excuse/reason on any national independence movement.

But for right now, the EU is supporting Spain, and if Spain is serious about sticking with the court’s decision that the referendum is illegal, then what?  Are we looking at Spanish Civil War II: This Time it’s Regional?  And even worse, if shooting starts, what if Spain invokes Article 5 of the NATO Charter?  Is the US really going to get involved in a military conflict there? That is a real nightmare scenario.

…although, as far as military occupation duties go, Barcelona beats virtually everywhere else our military has been for the past few decades, if you have to fight a war, at least do it in a temperate climate with beautiful local girls.

As a general rule, I think the world would be a better place if each little language group and ethnicity could have their own nation. If I could wave a magic wand and make every national group its own nation, I would do it.  But not every group is going to make it as an independent nation.  It’s possible Catalonia could, but I never thought that about Scotland, even though every fiber of my being wanted to undue the results of the Battle of Culloden, I reluctantly concluded that Scotland, with the North Sea oil drying up, just couldn’t make it on its own, other than as the Venezuela of Europe.

Apparently the Scots agreed since they voted independence down.  And I feel the same way about Catalonia now.  My heart is with the independence movement, but my head is with a unified Spain.  That’s not unconditional however.  Liberals in the US view any call to “Blood and Soil” as straight out of Nazi-ville, but that’s what’s ultimately pushing Catalan secession, and all of the other independence movements both in Europe and worldwide.  Most people in the world have a sense of both place and identity, and although the West tries to pretend it’s an atavistic impulse, as outdated as the appendix, it’s still there, either just below the surface or bursting to the top.  If separation must come, best to do it peaceably.

 

McCain’s ‘No’ Not the Worst Thing in the World

Shocker!  Like every other Obamacare repeal bill before it, McCain is against it!

Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters.

Who could have seen this coming?       

Right leaning reaction to this has been pretty scathing, just like it was last July when McCain did exactly the same thing.  My view on this is that although McCain’s no vote has zero to do with healthcare and 100% about giving Trump a big FU before he dies, in a backhanded way he’s doing the GOP a favor. The real villains in this story are the GOP leadership, McConnell and Ryan. They know what a real Obamacare repeal should be because the House came up with one in 2013, the Options Act. It was vetted by conservative think tanks and Tea Party groups. If they really wanted to “repeal and replace,” they could have used that as a starting point. Instead, they didn’t care about Obamacare repeal at all; they wanted to cut Medicaid to get funds to finance tax cuts without it effecting long term deficit projections. Reforming Medicaid is not a bad thing, but it has nothing to do with repealing and replacing Obamacare; Medicaid was around long before Obamacare. All of the GOP bills were terrible and none of them repealed and replaced Obamacare.

In terms of fixing healthcare, it seems the GOP is a lost cause.  The only avenue I see is Trump taking it out of Congress’s hands and creating a Presidential commission to come up with a repeal and replacement plan.  Of course I nominate my plan as a template for America’s new healthcare model.

On The 60 Minutes Steve Bannon Interview

I missed the original airing of this on 60 Minutes, but I went back to watch it and folks, It’s actually worth watching.

Try Viemo here or the 60 Minutes site here.

Just a couple of observations:

Charlie Rose barely asked any questions, he mostly let Bannon talk, or at least he did on the original full hour and twenty minute version I saw (sadly now gone from the web). Rose might have looked like an interviewing tiger on the portion that actually aired, but on the full interview, Rose could have been asleep for large stretches and no one would have noticed.

Rose only seems to become animated when discussing the Access Hollywood video and immigration.  It’s as if he still doesn’t understand why the Access Hollywood video didn’t end Trump’s Presidential bid.  As for immigration, he simply repeated the rote “nation of immigrants” line and had no argument to Bannon’s counter arguments.

Because of Rose’s general lethargy, Bannon totally dominated the direction of the entire and really got to show just how brilliant the guy actually is.  His discourse on his history with Donald Trump included dates, meetings, and important news articles and the reporters who wrote them.  All off the top of his head.

Bannon gives every indication of being a backseat driver to an administration he is technically no longer a part of.  If you support Trumpism, that’s good news.

 

When the News No Longer Resembles News

I honestly think I’ve had about enough.  If you happened to catch Chuck Todd’s apoplectic reaction to President Trump’s news conference on Tuesday.

What made me reach my breaking point came at about the 1:34 mark, “…when was the last time you saw a President of the United States defend the cause of White Nationalists?”

It’s an insane smear, but I’ve no doubt that Todd was being totally sincere in his belief that Trump was rooting for the Nazi’s.  As for me, I’ve been a news junkie for decades. Up until the internet made it ridiculous, I had a subscription to the local newspaper and I would make sure I caught a steady stream of news shows on cable and the traditional nightly news. Most mornings I would have the morning news shows on in the background while I worked. So generally, I’ve watched a lot of news.  Not just hours a week but hours a day.

But I’ve never felt so estranged from what newspaper columns and talking heads on cable are babbling about as I have this year. It’s as if they are living not just in a different moral universe, but a different factual one as well. Their editorial decisions seem like they are being made by college student government rather than seasoned, professional editors. How can you spend 8 months on wall to wall Russia when there has yet to be any actual evidence of a Russia collusion story?  It’s simply a daily rehashing of a burned out conspiracy theory.

I’m tuning out the news more and more these days.  I can get all my news online with a lot less wasted time and no smug pomposity; which is particularly galling with their track record of inaccuracy.  After the election, it occurred to me that I would have been better informed if I had spent 18 months leading up to the election just reading Scott Adams’ blog than the hundreds of hours wasted watching Morning Joe.

Hopefully, when this age of mass hysteria and moral panic has passed, and the news media has returned to some sort of semblance of normalcy, I can return to getting my media news junkie fix.  But for now, I’ll be a lot healthier if I’m off the stuff.

12 steps…

Knocking Down History

In the same way that Dylann Roof improbably led to the banning of The Dukes of Hazzard from the airwaves, it seems almost inevitable now that the protest in Charlottesville, VA will lead to the razing of the Jefferson Memorial. The thought occurred to me when I saw the video of a statue of a Confederate soldier being toppled by a “group of more than 100 that included anti-fascists and members of organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, the Workers World Party and the Industrial Workers of the World…”

 

 

The word and thought that crossed my mind when viewing this was, “barbarians.”

As a southerner, my view on confederate war memorials, graveyards, and statues are a bit too nuanced for a tweet or for your typical CNN news reader, so it’s a perspective that gets no airplay, even though it’s shared by millions of people.

The South was on the wrong side of the war fighting for the wrong cause that devastated the region. But the country went through a pretty long period of healing and reconciliation that included honoring the service of soldiers on both sides, a view that was made pretty clear at Appomattox and has mostly carried the day for a century after the war. Confederate soldiers were legally considered US veterans.

Now, a new generation wants to come along and undo that reconciliation. There are people in the south who have ancestors buried in confederate cemeteries who are now viewed by the SJW set as descendants of the equivalent of Nazi’s. They want those grave stones kicked over and pissed on, and every visible sign of history wiped away because it doesn’t confirm to a 2017 version of twitter morality by twenty somethings who are without a knowledge of history.

Part of this is the logical result of the leftist hatred of the south and its culture. They hate hate HATE people like me; southerners from the South. It’s a very popular bigotry but if I complain about it, I’m the bad guy.  Of course, I do appreciate the irony that I’m being judged by the circumstances of my birth, but under current year rules, what I was born as is far more important than who I am.

However I feel deep sadness that we’re going to plow over every historical site in the south and replace it with…nothing. A great loss for the entire country, but much of the country won’t realize it until it’s too late.

So getting back to the Jefferson Memorial; the “problematic” nature of the Memorial first publicly came up after the Charleston shooting.  Per the LA Times:

“CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield this week questioned whether the Jefferson Memorial should be taken down because Jefferson owned slaves. “There is a monument to him in the capital city of the United States. No one ever asks for that to come down,” Banfield said.

Fellow anchor Don Lemon responded by saying Jefferson represented “the entire United States, not just the South.” But he added: “There may come a day when we want to rethink Jefferson. I don’t know if we should do that.””

We are getting much closer to the day that we “rethink” Jefferson.  Al Sharpton discussed the Jefferson Memorial on Charlie Rose last night and frankly, if you follow the logic, why wouldn’t we get rid of any mention of Thomas Jefferson?  He was a slave owner.  He did a lot of other stuff to, like help found the country and established our founding documents, but heh, slavery.  And of course, how could the Washington Monument be anything but an insult to every non binary gendered person of color?  A large pale phallic symbol soaring up to the sky, a patriarchal reminder of white supremacy…

To me, this seems like a more than bizarre self-hating fetish to destroy anything and everything that doesn’t match the narrow lines of acceptability of “the current year.” But since I’m an artifact of an earlier time, it only seems bizarre to me because I’m a relic of an earlier time.  To the millennials who danced around that fallen confederate soldier monument in Durham North Carolina, like a tribe of primitive savages, I’m the savage.  And thanks to time, they win.  They inherit the earth.

 

 

 

 

What Should Trump Do Next About Healthcare?

For those of you who were really expecting John McCain to come through and vote for the “skinny repeal” senate GOP healthcare bill…

Otter’s wise words ring true.  But it’s not like McCain didn’t warn you. He stated he opposed the bill when he voted to allow it to go up for debate.  So I’m not mad at McCain. He did exactly what I expected him to do, preen for the cameras, virtual signal for his media friends, and toss a big FU to the Republican Party.  It’s the same thing he’s been doing for years.  So why the surprise?

In fact, I think McCain did the GOP, and Trump, a favor. The various GOP “repeal and replace” bills were all terrible anyway as I recounted here.  None of them fixed the real problems with the individual insurance market or the exchanges.  So why should Republicans get their hands dirty in a rush to get anything passed when they will own the results?  And since none of their bills fixed the problem, the results will be pretty bad.

And of course, as time goes on, I’m less and less sure that the House and Senate leadership really wanted any bill to pass.  It seems like it would have been fairly easy to buy off most of the dissenting senators by simply allowing the people on the Medicaid Expansion to keep their plans, as I suggested back in June.  Did Mitch McConnell really think Lisa Murkowski was going to vote get rid of Medicaid expansion and reduce the federal contribution to Medicaid, when half of her state is on some version of Medicaid?  How did he think she and the other senators who are from states that have a large dependency on Medicaid would vote?  But if your real goal is to deliver Trump a failure, what better way than provide a sure fire failure of a bill that’s doomed to fail?  Admittedly I don’t have any evidence that they sunk the bill on purpose, but if not, they truly are incompetents.

So what now?  I think at this point, Trump should recognize that of the many enemies he has in DC, the Republican lead Congress is definitely part of them. And to that end, he should remove the healthcare issue from their hands.  And how to do this?  Form a Presidential commission to put together a health care plan, a “terrific” one which meets Trump’s criteria for a healthcare replacement bill.  Nothing of Trump was reflected in the Congressional bills but this is being viewed as Trump’s failure.  Taking the issue from Congress and giving it a Presidential commission removes the issue for this year, and allows both Trump and the Congress to move onto other issues.  What happens when the commission finishes a Trump approved health care plan is another story, but it moves the issue from the failed column to “pending.”