2017-04-28T03:12:54ZThe end is nigh for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. To be sure, ISIS affiliates in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere will remain dangerous. And its fighters and sympathizers will continue to launch terror attacks in Europe and... The end is nigh for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. To be sure, ISIS affiliates in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere will remain dangerous. And its fighters and sympathizers will continue to launch terror attacks in Europe and the United States for years to come. But the writing is on the wall for the supposed caliphate itself. In Iraq, Kurdish fighters, government forces and allied Shiite militias have nearly retaken Mosul and have ejected the Sunni extremist forces from most of the territory they occupied in 2014. Across the border in Syria, Kurdish forces and anti-Assad rebels backed by the United States have the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa nearly surrounded. With its oil revenues plummeting, its finances in tatters, and the influx of new foreign fighters reduced by as much as 90 percent over the past year, nothing can save ISIS now. Well, almost nothing. That's because President Donald Trump could yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His ham-handed Muslim ban has already provided a propaganda windfall for ISIS, while alienating American allies on the ground in the region. Trump's incendiary rhetoric towards Iran, expanded military operations in Yemen and possible further U.S. strikes against the Assad regime in Damascus are occurring even as American troops find themselves on the same side as Tehran-backed militias in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's apparent unwillingness to cross the Erdogan government in Turkey over American support for Kurdish forces for the final push on Raqqa means more U.S. servicemen and women will be fighting and dying instead. That Donald Trump would be the beneficiary of the Obama administration's progress against ISIS was clear within days of his assuming the presidency. As Andrew Exum, who served in the Pentagon's Middle East shop in 2015 and 2016 put it in mid-February, "Donald Trump will defeat ISIS and it will be mostly due to the work of his predecessor." The dysfunction at the highest levels of the American government right now obscures a dramatic reality: Donald Trump is going to defeat the Islamic State, and Americans need to be fine with that. Even the grudging Exum certainly had little problem with giving credit where it isn't due because "defeating the Islamic State is a national good that should be bigger than politics." Reflecting on the dire situation in early 2015, he wrote that "if we could figure out a way to apply pressure to the group from multiple directions and cut off its key supply routes, that would create real dilemmas for them. And so that's what we did." Two years later, Exum concluded: One by one, cities and towns under the control of the Islamic State started falling. Because we were fighting with local partners, it was messier than if we had done it ourselves. The destruction to Ramadi and Fallujah, in particular, was breathtaking. And it took longer than it would have taken if U.S. forces had been in the lead. But it was also a lot less expensive, and only five U.S. servicemen were killed in the process --compared with almost 5,000 over the course of the earlier war in Iraq. And the success of the campaign was going to be more sustainable than that of our earlier efforts, we told ourselves, because Iraqis and Syrians were owning the fight--at tremendous human cost, I must add--and thus owning the victory. This was the war President Trump inherited from President Obama. The fall of the Islamic State is going to happen on this president's watch despite the staggering dysfunction Exum fretted about. Candidate Trump, after all, didn't merely promise to "bomb the shit" out of ISIS and commit war crimes including killing suspected terrorists' families. Throughout the fall of 2016 and even after taking the oath of office, Trump called U.S. and Iraqi leaders "stupid" and "a grou[...]
2017-04-28T02:01:56ZOn Saturday, April 15, thousands of Americans will take part in Tax Day Tax Marches in cities and towns across the country. Their objective? To pressure President Donald Trump to release his hidden tax returns. The concerns are certainly legitimate....
On Saturday, April 15, thousands of Americans will take part in Tax Day Tax Marches in cities and towns across the country. Their objective? To pressure President Donald Trump to release his hidden tax returns. The concerns are certainly legitimate. After all, Trump isn't merely the first occupant of the Oval Office in over 40 years to refuse to do so. The Donald also pledged he would publish his returns, just as he promised his tax cut windfall for the wealthy would "cost me a fortune." Americans deserve to know, as Richard Nixon explained his disclosure of his own returns, "if their President is a crook." And even if President Trump isn't a crook, the nation more than ever needs to do know who he is doing business with and whether he's getting paid in rubles.
The contrast with the Tax Day Tea Parties on April 15, 2009, could not be more stark. On that day, thousands of people took to the streets chanting "Taxed Enough Already" despite having just received the largest two-year tax cut in modern American history, all courtesy of President Obama and Democrats in Congress.
Eight years ago, thousands of the furious faithful rallied at those Tax Day Tea Parties lovingly promoted by Fox News and bankrolled by the right-wing sugar daddies including the Koch brothers and DickArmey's FreedomWorks. In addition to carrying signs like "Sieg Heil Herr Obama" and "No Taxation without Representation," many displayed buttons, hats, and posters announcing "T.E.A." or "Taxed Enough Already." As future House Speaker John Boehner summed up their complaint:
"Across our nation, thousands of Americans are participating in taxpayer tea parties today for one simple reason: overtaxed families and small businesses have had enough."
Now, there was a big problem with this claim at the heart of the Tea Party movement: it simply wasn't true.
2017-04-11T21:28:34ZEconomics, the textbooks say, is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. The economics of health care is certainly no exception. Given the competing and often contradictory demands across its ecosystem of patients, employers, physicians, drug stores, pharmaceutical firms,...
Economics, the textbooks say, is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. The economics of health care is certainly no exception. Given the competing and often contradictory demands across its ecosystem of patients, employers, physicians, drug stores, pharmaceutical firms, device manufacturers, clinics, hospitals, insurers, and government, the economics of health care might more accurately be described as the allocation of pain. In the face of the infinite "wants" for healthy citizens, financially secure families, well-compensated practitioners, and strong profits for private companies of all stripes, societies must choose how and why to distribute discomfort and dissatisfaction to some or all of the constituents.
But that "why" isn't so much a question of the "dismal science" as one of national values. And in the United States, virtually alone among major modern economies since World War II, the paramount, if often unstated, value has been an especially narrow notion of "freedom." Freedom, that is, to choose which if any insurance to offer or purchase. Freedom to charge whatever prices the "market"--and insurers--will bear for doctors' visits, tests, procedures, surgeries, prescription drugs, hospital stays, and even insurance itself. But by 2010--with 50 million uninsured, 25 million underinsured, 60 percent of bankruptcies due to medical costs, one in five people deferring needed care, and thousands without coverage needlessly dying every year--Americans had learned that freedom of choice often only meant the freedom to go without. To put it another way, the U.S. health care system had long allocated most of the pain to its consumers.
With President Obama's signature on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, the United States began to elevate another objective for its health care system: Near-universal coverage. And by and large, the ACA has worked as designed, enabling as many people as possible to obtain health care at a "reasonable" cost to themselves and the government. (Some 12.7 million taxpayers were exempted from Obamacare's individual mandate in 2016, while another 6.5 million paid $3 billion in penalties for not obtaining insurance coverage.) With 25 million newly covered, America's uninsured rate has dropped to a historic low as family finances and income inequality have improved.
Nevertheless, Republicans, who have never accepted universal coverage as the objective for American health care reform, are continuing in their perpetual quest to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Democrats, concerned about rising premiums, high deductibles, and limited choice of insurers in some regions are offering proposals to "improve and extend" the ACA. But if the "why" of reform is to ensure health care for every citizen and legal resident of the United States, there's no great mystery as to how to achieve it. Decades of global experience and recent American history provide three inescapable lessons to show the way.
2017-03-29T19:09:54ZWith the Republican drive to repeal and replace Obamacare halted (at least, for now), President Trump and GOP leaders are moving on to their next quest: tax reform. On this issue, press secretary Sean Spicer declared, Trump will be "driving... With the Republican drive to repeal and replace Obamacare halted (at least, for now), President Trump and GOP leaders are moving on to their next quest: tax reform. On this issue, press secretary Sean Spicer declared, Trump will be "driving the train" because "this is a huge priority for him, something that he feels very passionately about." Trump has never been shy about what that passion means for any tax plan he's going to sign into law. It must be a "phenomenal" bill that calls for "lowering the overall tax burden of American businesses, big league." Any Republican tax code overhaul must "growth that will be tremendous" because "we are looking at a 3% but we think it could be 5 [percent] or even 6 [percent]." Just as important, Trump and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared, "The rich will pay their fair share" because "there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class." And on that last point, he made clear during the campaign, his litmus test will be Donald Trump himself: "It reduces or eliminates most of the deductions and loopholes available to special interests and to the very rich. In other words, it's going to cost me a fortune -- which is actually true -- while preserving charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions, very importantly." [Emphasis mine.] Now, there are only a couple of problems with Donald Trump's pledge. For starters, as we'll see below, it's virtually impossible that Trump's tax plan will increase his payments to the U.S. Treasury. Instead, the President and his family will almost certainly be the beneficiaries of a massive windfall. Regardless, to prove his case, Trump would have to do something else: release his tax returns. After all, Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate that he currently pays Uncle Sam anything at all. While his leaked 2005 return revealed that he paid $38 million to Uncle Sam on $150 million in income, almost all of that assessment was the result of his paying the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a provision he has promised to eliminate. And as the New York Times discovered in October, thanks to tax code advantages for real estate investors like himself Trump may have owed no federal taxes for almost two decades: The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump's 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period. As Matthew Yglesias explained in Vox, "You don't need 'genius' to pull off Trump's tax avoidance -- you just need to be rich." Rich, that is, and in the real estate business. The key, as tax expert David Cay Johnston documented, is the manipulation of "net operating losses" on top of the "already liberal tax breaks Congress gives big real-estate owners." Trump dumped the real costs of all this on investors who saw gold in his brand name, but who lost everything even as he was paid tens of millions of tax-free dollars... NOLs are incredibly valuable. These tax losses can be used to offset salaries, business profits, and income from, say, a television show or making neckties in China. Thanks to his $916 million of NOLs, Trump could earn much over 18 years in salaries, profits, and interest, but pay no income taxes. Without Donald Trump's tax returns, there is still much we do no[...]
2017-03-29T18:56:51Zive days after the presidential election, I wrote a concession message to Trump voters congratulating them for what they had won. To those Trump promised would get "sick of winning," I predicted, "You've won his 'big and beautiful' Obamacare replacement...
ive days after the presidential election, I wrote a concession message to Trump voters congratulating them for what they had won. To those Trump promised would get "sick of winning," I predicted, "You've won his 'big and beautiful' Obamacare replacement plan that will take away health insurance from 22 million Americans." If the president-elect and his GOP allies in Congress got their way, I suggested, "millions of people across America will have the opportunity for financial ruin and even needless death, and maybe both." And thanks to President Trump, "you could be one of them, especially if you live in a red state like Arkansas or Kentucky where Obamacare had the biggest impact in dramatically reducing the ranks of the uninsured."
Now that Congressional Republicans are facing a growing backlash as they struggle to pass their ever-changing American Health Care Act, I won't say I told you so. Instead, I will simply state that events have transpired exactly as I foretold.
As it turned out, Paul Ryan's hand-picked director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) didn't merely reject the GOP myth that Obamacare was in a "death spiral." Much to the chagrin of President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the CBO forecast 24 million Americans would lose health insurance under the GOP plan over the next decade. Premiums would rise for both older and lower-income people. Under the AHCA, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs would invariably jump for all beneficiaries as increasingly inadequate tax credits force the older and sicker out of the market altogether. Adding insult to injury, Trumpcare's massive cuts to Medicaid spending will be used to fund an $880 billion tax cut windfall for the wealthy. The ultimate irony of the GOP's supposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act is that Trump voters will disproportionately lose their health coverage while blue state millionaires cash their checks from the United States Treasury.
Of course, that perverse outcome was known long before Republicans first began chanting "repeal and replace" seven years ago this week. That's because now, as it has been since what became Obamacare was first debated, the defining irony of GOP opposition to it has been this:
Health care is worst where Republicans poll best.
A trip back to 2009 shows why.
2017-03-24T18:40:35ZThere is total chaos in the House of Representatives today as Speaker Paul Ryan rushes to jam through a version--any version--of his so-called American Health Care Act. The timing and the ever-changing content of the bill have little to do... There is total chaos in the House of Representatives today as Speaker Paul Ryan rushes to jam through a version--any version--of his so-called American Health Care Act. The timing and the ever-changing content of the bill have little to do with health care for the American people and everything to do with political spite. Ryan wants to pass a bill by midnight Thursday in order to humiliate President Obama on the 7th anniversary of his signing of the Affordable Care Act. But in their mad scramble to take health insurance away from 24 million people over the next decade (at last count), Speaker Ryan, President Trump and their GOP allies may have made yet another mistake. By gutting Obamacare's list of "essential health benefits" to win over the extremists of the House Freedom Caucus, Ryan's GOP health care "plans" may no longer meet the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office definition of "insurance." As Vox and The Hill among others have reported, Republicans are trying to reduce premiums by eliminating the ACA's list of 10 mandated benefits insurers must provide. These provisions regarding prescription drug coverage, hospitalization, out-patient treatment, mental health care, pregnancy and maternity care and much more not only set a baseline for insurance offerings under Obamacare, but also help spread the risk for insurers across a much larger pool of policyholders. And that, CBO warned Obamacare repealers in December, is a big problem as far as the agency is concerned: CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) anticipate that insurers would respond to such legislation by offering new types of insurance products in the nongroup market, which are likely to differ from existing products in their depth and extent of health insurance benefits. If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, some of those insurance products would probably not provide enough financial protection against high medical costs to meet the broad definition of coverage that CBO and JCT have typically used in the past--that is, a comprehensive major medical policy that, at a minimum, covers high-cost medical events and various services, including those provided by physicians and hospitals... If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, everyone who received the tax credit would have access to some limited set of health care services, at a minimum, but not everyone would have insurance coverage that offered financial protection against a high-cost or catastrophic medical event; CBO and JCT would not count those people with limited health benefits as having coverage. For their part, CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) warned of the challenges they "would face in estimating the number of people who would purchase coverage in the nongroup market, and the scope of that coverage, under such proposals." Larry Leavitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation helped explain why. Under the new GOP rules, insurers would doubtless create new plans under which premiums would come down. But on the flip side, he wrote, insurance plans could become very skimpy, because insurers would be wary of offering generous plans and attracting only sick, costly people who were willing to pay more for them. "With no benefit requirements, insurance policies could get quite skimpy. No insurer wants to be the one most attractive to sick people," he wrote. "With no required benefits, some (like mental health or maternity) would be very expensive because only people who need them would buy them," he added. To predict the results, yo[...]
2017-03-20T23:59:59ZHouse Speaker Paul Ryan has just experienced two weeks from hell. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) led by his hand-picked director mauled Ryan's so-called "replacement" for the Affordable Care Act. CBO forecast that over the next decade... House Speaker Paul Ryan has just experienced two weeks from hell. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) led by his hand-picked director mauled Ryan's so-called "replacement" for the Affordable Care Act. CBO forecast that over the next decade the "American Health Care Act" will cost 24 million Americans their insurance. The bill, which slashes $880 billion in Medicaid funding even as it delivers a massive tax cut windfall of the same size to the richest Americans, only lowers projected deficits because it continues Obamacare's $1.1 trillion in Medicare savings, something Ryan for years decried as a "raid on Medicare." Even the claim that Ryancare eventually "lowers premiums" is only made possible by forcing the older, sicker and less wealthy from the ranks of the insured altogether. Topping it all off, Congress' budget scorekeeper eviscerated Ryan's go-to talking point that Obamacare is "collapsing." But it wasn't just the severe beating administered by the CBO (also known as the "Conservative Bullshit Obliterator") that left Speaker Ryan politically weakened. Ryan's carefully crafted reputation as a "serious thinker" and "policy wonk" was battered, too, by side-splitting statements that ranged from the comically pathetic to the desperately dissembling. After all, the notion that "the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick" isn't "the fatal conceit of Obamacare," but instead the very basis of health insurance. Withdrawing coverage from tens of millions doesn't give those people "access" to health care, give them "choice" or enhance their "freedom," but only guarantees the exact opposite. And ushering millions to the brink of financial ruin and thousands annually to needless deaths isn't "an act of mercy." If he succeeds, at worst Paul Ryan's will be an act of murder. At best, Ryan is engaged in brutal exercise in cold-hearted rationing of health care. As he has been all along. In February 2010, Paul Ryan gave the game away. At a time when over 50 million people lacked coverage, Ryan's fatal conceit then as now was to pretend that private insurers weren't the gatekeepers standing between them and their health care. "Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?" You read that right. A month before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, insurers were discriminating against millions of people with pre-existing conditions, using the vile practice of "rescission" to drop coverage for hundreds of thousands more when they got sick, and bankrupting families with wholly inadequate caps on annual and lifetime benefits. Meanwhile, thanks to the worst U.S. economic calamity since the Great Depression, employers were shedding insurance coverage, raiding deductibles and shifting costs to their workers. Nevertheless, Paul Ryan began pushing the same doomed formula--insufficient and too-slow growing subsidies, underfunded block grants and toothless consumer protections--that led to his beclowning this week. The context for Paul Ryan's first major foray into health care policy was his proposal to privatize Medicare, the government insurance system for 60 million American seniors. But as he soon learned, the politics of his voucher scheme were even worse than the math. In April 2009, twenty-four months before all but four House Republicans voted for Ryan's plan to ration Medicare, the smaller GOP minority said yea on essentially the same plan. As Steve Benen detailed in the Washington Monthly in the fall of 2009: In April, 137 Republicans voted in support of a GOP alternative budget. It [...]
2017-03-20T23:20:19ZHouse Speaker Paul Ryan recently told National Review editor Rich Lowry that the House GOP plan to cap Medicaid and send it back to states represents what "we've been dreaming of this since I've been around -- since you and I were... House Speaker Paul Ryan recently told National Review editor Rich Lowry that the House GOP plan to cap Medicaid and send it back to states represents what "we've been dreaming of this since I've been around -- since you and I were drinking at a keg." So, here's a look back at: Paul Ryan's "I Have a Dream" Speech Paul Ryan University of Miami, Ohio, Class of 1992 Delivered to the National Convention of Kappa Kappa Grandma Washington, DC May 29, 1990 Brother Lowry, Thank you so much for the kind introduction. I would also like to thank you and the brothers of Kappa Kappa Grandma for the keg party last night. Nothing says freedom like shot-gunning PBR from a beer bong made here in the USA. Despite having drained those bad boys, let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." But not all men are endowed by their Creator with equal capabilities and so are not deserving of equal outcomes. I have a dream that one day we the People of the United States will form a more perfect union by understanding that the Constitution's admonition to "promote the General Welfare" is only a suggestion while we need secure the Blessings of Liberty only for ourselves (and no one else). I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that those Makers will enlighten those Takers that they are turning the safety net into a hammock. I have a dream that one day in the crumbling factories of Detroit and the empty streets of Cleveland we will end this nightmare, this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. I have a dream that one day even the state of California, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. An oasis like Mississippi, where the people are not enslaved by high taxation or Medicaid expansion and so are free to choose not to obtain health care. I have a dream that we will de-federalize and entitlement, and that rationing will happen today. Insurers will be free to exercise their God-given right to jack up premiums, hike deductibles, narrow physician and hospital networks only when the question is: Who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family? I have a dream that one day we will acknowledge that health care is a need, not a right, that block granting it back to the states and capping its growth rate will empower millions of Americans with the freedom to choose not to get it. I have a dream that our enemies' lips will not drip with words like "interposition" and "nullification," but instead utter--as we do--that ours is an act of mercy. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Unless they attend a[...]
2017-03-16T18:21:41ZIt's not often that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a trending topic on Twitter. But with Director Keith Hall's budget scorekeeper about to weigh in on the coverage, cost and deficit impacts of the Republicans' so-called "replacement" of...
(image)It's not often that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a trending topic on Twitter. But with Director Keith Hall's budget scorekeeper about to weigh in on the coverage, cost and deficit impacts of the Republicans' so-called "replacement" of the Affordable Care Act, all eyes are on the CBO. And given its consistent record of forecasting that Obamacare will enable health insurance coverage for millions of Americans while reducing the national debt, it's no wonder Hall's team is being accused by the GOP of producing "lies" and "budget gimmickry" which is "meaningless."
But there's another reason the Trump administration and its GOP allies should worry about the CBO boss Congressional Republicans themselves selected. As it turns out, Keith Hall long ago debunked their myth-making about the Obama administration cooking up bogus jobs numbers.
2017-03-14T02:03:50Z"Reality," Stephen Colbert famously told President Bush in 2006, "has a well-known liberal bias." And right now, President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress are learning that when it comes to their Obamacare "replacement" plan, reality bites. Which is...
"Reality," Stephen Colbert famously told President Bush in 2006, "has a well-known liberal bias." And right now, President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress are learning that when it comes to their Obamacare "replacement" plan, reality bites.
Which is why Republicans have launched an all-out assault on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Because their hastily drafted "American Health Care Act" has not yet been officially evaluated by Congress's own budgetary scorekeeper, we have no idea how many people the GOP substitute for the Affordable Care Act will cover, how much it will cost and whether it adds to the national debt. But the early assessments are not good, which is why the AARP, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association as well as many healthcare CEOs have already come out in opposition to the House GOP bill.
So as they have since Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) was first proposed, the Republicans' best and brightest are once again trying to undermine the Congressional Budget Office itself.
Writing in The Federalist a week ago, Christopher Jacobs (certainly no friend of Obamacare) warned that House Republicans were worried about running afoul of the CBO's math:
Based on my conversations with multiple sources close to the effort, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had indicated to congressional staff that the prior House framework could see at least 10 million, and potentially up to 20 million, individuals losing employer-sponsored health insurance. Further, CBO stated that that House framework, even after including a refundable tax credit for health insurance, would not cover many more people than repealing Obamacare outright.
But even after their final draft was released, the picture was still dire. Initial estimates suggested up to 15 million people could lose coverage, while premiums and out-of-pocket costs would jump for older and lower income Americans. So with committee hearings set to start in advance of the CBO's final word next week, the Trump administration and top House Republicans have unleashed a torrent of slanders to discredit the agency before its report comes out.
2017-03-08T21:37:28ZAfter almost seven years, House Republicans have unveiled their Obamacare "replacement" plan, such as it. But because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored the so-called "American Health Care Act," we don't yet know how many people... After almost seven years, House Republicans have unveiled their Obamacare "replacement" plan, such as it. But because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored the so-called "American Health Care Act," we don't yet know how many people it will cover and how much it will cost. Already, analysts from S&P and Brookings are warning between six and 15 million Americans could lose their health insurance. Those who are older and poorer will see substantial increases in premiums and out of pockets costs, even as the younger, healthier and wealthier pocket new savings and tax cuts. And by eliminating almost $600 billion in tax Obamacare tax revenue, it's not clear how Republicans will pay for it. Nevertheless, President Trump has already tweeted his support for "our wonderful new Healthcare Bill." Tom Price, his Secretary of Health and Human Services, wrote a letter to Congressional leaders praising "your proposals represent a necessary and important first step toward fulfilling our promises to the American people." Unfortunately for the White House, Donald Trump made a lot of promises to the American people on replacing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. And among them were these his past pledges to promises of "insurance for everybody" and to "take care of everybody." In a January 14th telephone interview with the Washington Post, President-elect Trump described his imminent Obamacare replacement plan this way: "We're going to have insurance for everybody," Trump said. "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us." People covered under the law "can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better." In a September 2015 interview with Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes, Trump guaranteed that "everybody's got to be covered." PELLEY: Universal health care? TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now. PELLEY: The uninsured person is going to be taken care of how? TRUMP: They're going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably-- PELLEY: Make a deal? Who pays for it? TRUMP: --the government's gonna pay for it. But we're going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most it's going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything. "This is," Trump boasted, "an un-Republican thing for me to say." It was also a false thing for him to say. Of course, by now that should come as no surprise. After all, last August Donald Trump made another commitment to the American people: "One thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth." Always tell you the truth, that is, about 30 percent of the time. [...]
2017-03-08T21:42:59ZPresident Donald Trump had an epiphany last week about the seven-year old Republican crusade to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. After his past promises of "insurance for everybody' and "I am going to take care of everybody," Trump had an admission...
President Donald Trump had an epiphany last week about the seven-year old Republican crusade to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. After his past promises of "insurance for everybody' and "I am going to take care of everybody," Trump had an admission to make to the nation's governors on Monday:
"I have to tell you, it's an incredibly complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."
Of course, almost everyone knew that. After all, U.S. health care spending has reached $3.2 trillion a year. That figure doesn't just represent almost 18 percent of the nation's gross domestic product; it's nearly double the investment that America's economic competitors make for health care systems generally rated better than our own. Complicating matters further, the United States has not one but four health care systems: private insurance for individuals and families provided by employers or purchased in the market, Medicaid for low-income Americans and elderly nursing care, Medicare for senior citizens and the disabled, and the VA system for military veterans.
But the evident frustration of the Trump administration and GOP leaders in Congress in fulfilling their pledge to replace the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has two causes of the Republicans' own making. First, "replacing Obamacare" has a very specific meaning. For starters, any GOP alternative must not only enable insurance for over 20 million Americans as the ACA does, but must also prevent millions more from losing coverage during any transition period. Crucially, a true replacement for Obamacare must likewise require coverage for mammograms, colonoscopies, annual check-ups and pre-natal care. Just as important, no plan touted as an alternative can roll back the ACA's extensive protections against the worst practices of the insurance industry, including refusing to insure those with pre-existing conditions, using "rescission" to drop coverage for the newly sick, imposing annual and lifetime benefits caps and barring coverage for adult children under 26 on parents' policies. And no Republican plan is a "better way" if it increases the national debt, something the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has always concluded Obamacare does not.
That brings us to the Republicans' second self-inflicted wound. President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have set very high expectations for their Obamacare replacement proposal. Yet almost seven years after McConnell declared his party's slogan for the 2010 midterm would be "'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace,'" the GOP hasn't come close to a blueprint that can check off all the boxes described above. There's no mystery as to why. For a generation, the GOP has never offered a serious plan to provide universal health care coverage for the American people. Instead, Republicans have only put up straw men as part of their scorched-earth campaign to prevent Democrats from succeeding in doing so.
2017-03-02T19:28:35ZWhen it comes to defending their party against scandals, no one gets in line like Republicans. That's why it's no surprise that GOP leaders in Congress are doing their best to head off any independent probe into President Trump's rapidly... When it comes to defending their party against scandals, no one gets in line like Republicans. That's why it's no surprise that GOP leaders in Congress are doing their best to head off any independent probe into President Trump's rapidly propagating Putin problems. Last week, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called allegation of Team Trump contacts with Russian officials "complete garbage," a claim he said he was authorized to make "by the top levels of the intelligence community." Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sean Spicer deployed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) to make the case that "there's nothing there." It's wonder that former CIA and Pentagon spokesman George Little warned: "It's doubtful that Congress can conduct an objective and independent investigation into ties between this White House and the Russian government if it is collaborating so closely on media pushback with the White House press secretary." If these developments seem hauntingly familiar, they should. After all, after the U.S. suffered a devastating attack on September 11, 2001 from a much less dangerous adversary than Russia, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the GOP's best and brightest in Congress rejected the call for an independent commission to examine the security disaster that killed 3,000 people on American soil. Fifteen years ago, the Bush administration had its own answer for Sean Spicer's rhetorical question on Monday, "You've got to ask yourself, what are you investigating?" In May 2002, Republicans circled the wagons around President Bush after revelations that the administration had been warned about possible Al Qaeda plans to hijack an aircraft. But when Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle asked "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" and called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate, the GOP's top brass railed to Bush's defense. Daschle's Republican counterpart Trent Lott denounced the demands for an inquiry: "I really think there's nothing more despicable ... for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn't do anything about it. For us to be talking like our enemy, George W. Bush instead of Osama bin Laden, that's not right." Lott's colleague Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) agreed: "I don't think that anyone should start pointing fingers in a personal way or suggest that people are trying to cover their political backsides. I just think that's ridiculous. I think we need to go forward. We need to be positive. There are failures. We need to get to the root of it and try to make our country more secure." Vice President Dick Cheney and the soon-to-be disgraced Tom DeLay took a different tactic, claiming an investigation into the catastrophe of 9/11 would itself hinder the war against Al Qaeda. As DeLay groused: "A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill conceived and, frankly, irresponsible. We need to address America's challenges in intelligence gathering and terrorist prevention. But we don't need to hand the terrorists an after-action report." Cheney, meanwhile, suggested that trying to find out what President Bush knew and when he knew it would provide aid and comfort to the enemy: "An investigation must not interfere with the ongoing efforts to prevent the next attack, because without a doub[...]
2017-03-02T18:55:07ZDonald Trump's first military operation as Commander-in-Chief has been a disaster. But January's special forces operation in Yemen wasn't a fiasco just because of the tragic death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens and the killings of more than 20... Donald Trump's first military operation as Commander-in-Chief has been a disaster. But January's special forces operation in Yemen wasn't a fiasco just because of the tragic death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens and the killings of more than 20 Yemeni civilians. And it wasn't a failure just because the vicious--and unexpected--firefight with well-prepared Al Qaeda gunmen ultimately yielded little useful intelligence. And bad as it was, the raid, apparently greenlighted by President Trump during a dinner with his son-in-law, didn't just alienate America's allies in Yemen even as it signaled a deeper U.S. commitment to the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia there. No, the lasting disgrace isn't the outcome of the January 29 operation, but its aftermath. A month after the raid, President Donald Trump is refusing to take ownership of the mission he ordered. Unlike the example the newly inaugurated John F. Kennedy set after his Bay of Pigs calamity in April 1961, Commander-in-Chief Trump is blaming anyone and everyone--but himself. It was bad enough that Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer insisted the mission was a "success" and declared that "who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens." As the supposed Commander-in-Chief told Fox and Friends this week: "This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do," he said. "They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan." The contrast with JFK after a much larger, far more serious catastrophe in Cuba could not be more stark. In April 1961, Kennedy was devastated and embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the tragically abortive exile invasion of Castro's Cuba architected by the Eisenhower CIA. Over a hundred Cuban exile fighters were killed and a thousand taken prisoner. The global blowback was severe from the botched operation to topple Castro obviously orchestrated by the United States. But unlike his successor 46 years later, JFK moved quickly to address the two lessons of the disaster. First, Kennedy took complete responsibility for the calamity, taking to the airwaves the next day for a nationally televised mea culpa. In his April 21 press conference, JFK made it clear that responsibility for the Bay of Pigs was his alone. Kennedy declared, "I am the responsible officer of the government." As he famously put it: "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan." Just six days later, JFK addressed the American Newspaper Publishers Association. "I have selected as the title of my remarks tonight 'The President and the Press," Kennedy said, "Some may suggest that this would be more naturally worded 'The President Versus the Press.' But those are not my sentiments tonight." As he explained even as the Bay of Pigs fiasco was still fresh: "I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for, as a wise man once said: 'An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.' We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them." Correct it he did. So second, President Kennedy took immediate steps to shake up the national security team and group-think[...]
2017-02-25T03:57:02ZWhile Americans have been focused on the growing crisis surrounding the Trump administration's tangled web of ties to Russia, the good news coming from Iraq has gone largely unnoticed. After successfully liberating eastern Mosul from ISIS fighters, Iraqi forces have... While Americans have been focused on the growing crisis surrounding the Trump administration's tangled web of ties to Russia, the good news coming from Iraq has gone largely unnoticed. After successfully liberating eastern Mosul from ISIS fighters, Iraqi forces have launched their final offensive to retake the western of the city from the Islamic State. With close support from U.S. advisers and bolstered by Shiite militia units, some 40,000 Iraqi troops hope to eliminate the remaining, well-entrenched ISIS gunmen over the next six months. The progress in freeing the city of some 800,000 people captured by the Islamic State in 2014 has brought a new sense of optimism. As Rukmini Callimachi reported two weeks ago for the New York Times, in eastern Mosul "the streets were busy with civilian traffic" and remarking "what stunned me is quickly life has returned." In Baghdad on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis promised, "The coalition forces are in support of this operation and we will continue...with the accelerated effort to destroy ISIS." Meanwhile on state run television, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced "a new dawn" while urging his troops "to move bravely forward to liberate what is left of the city." But the one voice that has been silent about the positive developments from Mosul is the one you'd normally least expect. But it should be no surprise that President Donald Trump has nothing to say now. After all, he predicted the attack on Mosul would be a "total disaster." Take, for example, candidate Trump's volley aimed at U.S. and Iraqi leaders during the third presidential debate on October 19, 2016: "About three months ago, I started reading that they want to get the leaders and they're going to attack Mosul. Whatever happened to the element of surprise, OK? We announce we're going after Mosul. I have been reading about going after Mosul now for about -- how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They've all left. The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country." Mosul, of course, is the second largest city in Iraq. Its recapture is a strategic necessity if ISIS to be beaten back and crushed. That it must and would be liberated was certainly no secret. Signs of the build-up to encircle the city would be unmistakable. Iraqi forces would need to give civilians time to flee and allow those fighters who would to drop their arms. As U.S. military experts like retired colonel and former dean of the Army War College Jeffrey McClausland made clear, "What this shows is that Trump doesn't know a damned thing about military strategy." Nevertheless, Trump's kept up his withering criticism of the Mosul operation. As the New York Times recounted after that debate: In the debate on Wednesday and on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has all but accused the military of aiding and abetting the escape of the Islamic State's top leaders from Mosul. "By the time we attack them, all the guys that we want are going to be gone," Mr. Trump told supporters in Charlotte, N.C. last week. "They're very smart. How stupid are the people that run our country?" On October 23, Donald Trump took to Twitter to answer his own question: The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. VOTE TRUMP and W[...]