Monday, June 19, 2017

Health policy: Team 'Mean' hands off to 'Coward Caucus'

Donald Trump didn't just say the House-passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was mean. He called it "mean, mean, mean."

That's "mean" times three.

Interesting. When he invited the House White Caucus, er, Republican Caucus, over for a celebratory photo op after its passage, he said the bill was "incredibly well-crafted."

But let's give Trump credit here for saying something true – maybe a first. The House bill is well-crafted -- for something so incredibly mean.

What this means is that Senate Republicans have a low bar to scale -- or a high bar to limbo -- as they take their own stab at wrecking health coverage in America.

They can take the cue that "mean" multiplied by just two will do.

That certainly appears to be the case from what we know.

Of course, what we know is minimal, for Senate leadership has been stirring this concoction behind closed doors, with the anticipation of putting it on the floor without a hearing, and with as quick a vote as possible.

One thing we know is that Republican senators are honing their propaganda skills for what emanates.

We know this from a statement from West Virginia Sen. Shelley Capito, who attempted to say that cutting off millions from Medicaid in seven years wouldn't mean cutting them off. It would, said she, mean "transitioning" them from the health coverage on which they were relying.

Yes, one of the tools of the propaganda trade is the art of euphemism: hiding meanings with words, like "collateral damage" for a whole bunch of dead civilians and "enhanced interrogation" for torture.

Capito is considered a GOP moderate, and she is putting a nice spin on the fact that, apparently under this bill, states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA would have seven years to, um, transition all those millions of insured people over to, um, being uninsured.

Once again, we are only guessing at the Senate's designs, because all discussions are being held behind closed doors, with the reported intent to have little to no discussion once the bill hits the Senate floor.

Hence, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman has called the architects of this maneuver the "Coward Caucus."

As Waldman observed, an aide to a GOP senator involved in the secretive process said, "We aren't stupid." The senators are hiding their cards until they can make their play. They know that the moment Americans find out what's actually at play, they'll burn up the phone lines.

 In fact, they should be doing that right now (Capitol switchboard – 202-224-3121) and demanding that the Senate slow down and allow the public to see what's going into the sausage.

It's been said countless times that the Affordable Care Act was "rammed down Americans' throats." But it took over a year to write and approve, and the process involved hundreds of hearings and meetings, even a speech from President Obama about the legislation.

Additionally, Senate Democrats accepted 160 Republican amendments to the bill. What's the chance that Republicans will accept Democratic amendments to this bill? Zero. Three times zero.

So, yes, this is cowardice, and the American people should not sit by idly as it happens.

We've seen a similar yellow streak from Republicans who have dodged town hall meetings with constituents, knowing they'll get grilled foremost about health care.

You see, governing is not just think-tank slogans and what sounds good coming from Sean Hannity or Grover Norquist. Governing involves people. Governing affects people.

These wall-hugging chameleons offered their services to us, the governed, and part of the deal was to involve us in their decisions, to hear us out.

Call your senator and be heard. However, try not to sound too mean.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

One Trump shrug said more than all his lies

Sen. Richard Burr: "Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?"

Former FBI director James Comey: "None."

It was the kind of question you'd expect someone concerned about national security and the state of our elections to ask the man who ran the FBI until recently.

It was the kind of question you'd expect most Americans to ask. It was the first question asked last week as Comey faced inquisitors in the Senate.

What did Donald Trump ask Jim Comey when he had the opportunity?

Whatever was discussed – and Comey kept meticulous notes – we can rest assured that Russia's assault on our democracy wasn't it.

Yeah, what's with that?

Whatever the Russians have done, it has never seemed to bother the man. In one of the debates, he shrugged it all off -- said such cyber activities might be the work of "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

Curious -- that Trump would show so little curiosity, make that none whatsoever, about activities by a foreign power that seemingly would alarm anyone who pledges allegiance to our flag.

Unlike Trump and his hear-no-evil, see-no-evil supporters, Burr, a Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, are actually inquisitive.

Reacting to a report by the news organization The Intercept about Russian attempts to hack into state elections systems, Warner, Burr's co-chair on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "The extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far."

This includes the reported attempted hacking of elections infrastructure by the Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear in several states, the threat so serious that the Arizona secretary of state shut down the state's voter registration system for a week.

Not curious about that, President Trump?

It is a very grave matter that Trump would attempt to call off the dogs on Mike Flynn. It's very serious that a private citizen named Jared Kushner would meet with Russians in Trump Tower and attempt to set up a secret back channel to Vladimir Putin. (All, of course, without the direction of his father-in-law.)

That's damn serious, possibly criminal. However, I can't think of anything more incriminating than a man who assumes the presidency and shrugs off facts about the mounting evidence that outside forces tried everything possible to undermine the system of self-governance for which countless Americans fought and died dating back to this nation's inception.

Yes, shrug at that. Dismiss that.

Speaking of lack of curiosity, it's telling that Trump and his supporters respond to this claim by saying: Even if the Russians tried to mess up the elections, there's no evidence that they changed vote totals.

That's beside the point.

What Russia attempted, if the FBI is right, was an assault on the American system that really has no equal this side of bombs and torpedoes.

And Trump has simply shrugged it off.

The severity of the matter is why former national intelligence director James Clapper says that Watergate – the culmination of many underhanded political acts -- "pales compared to what we're confronting now."

Don't shrug, Mr. President. Despite those who last week turned to Fox News for your brand of self-medication, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 61 percent of Americans say you fired Comey for the protection of your hind end "rather than for the good of the country."

Donald Trump is a lie machine. He lies almost every time he speaks. But his biggest act of presidential immorality thus far may have been an act of silence – a conspicuous lack of outrage about what hostile foreigners tried to do to damage the system that elevated him to his present position, a system he is sworn to protect.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Donald Trump vs. (most of) the planet

It's easy to distill Donald Trump's decision on the Paris Climate Agreement down to the fact that, like a coddled toddler, he ascertained that as president no one could make him do it.

Easy to deduce that, like a smart 3-year-old, he rejected peas and carrots because, yuck.

The thing is, if that was Trump's mindset, he'd have explained it in terms any 3-year-old could understand.

Instead, Trump laid out his decision with a whole bunch of words that amounted to (1) a Gatling gun of lies or (2) a sophomoric attempt to explain something way over his head.

First, the lies (for a full review, Google "Trump" "Paris" and "fact check," but reserve some time):

Even for one who has established himself as the least credible person ever to rise to his position – with only 36 percent of Americans telling Gallup they find him trustworthy – his statement about the Paris agreement was a tour de farce.

Washington Post reporters shredded his factual claims, the biggest being that the agreement tied U.S. hands while giving the Chinese free rein to "do whatever they want."

Not true. "From the start," reports the Post, "the agreement was designed to have the kind of plasticity Trump seemed to be seeking by allowing nations to choose the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions they were willing to cut."

That's "tremendous flexibility with no penalties," explained Columbia University environmental law professor Michael Gerard.

Gerard added, "Trump obviously didn't read the Paris agreement, and his statement was written by people who willfully misrepresented its content – his staff or his lobbyist friends."

Then there's the whole issue at hand: climate change -- an issue on which Trump has had several positions, depending on what his audience wanted to hear, we can presume.

In the mode of one who isn't ready to think big thoughts, Trump appears disinclined to think this whole thing through before embarrassing his country in the eyes of the world.

Yes, truly, this is Donald Trump against the planet on multiple planes. What good company we have found with Nicaragua and Syria. However, let us not forget that the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to ratify the Paris accords.

But, wait. Someone phone Sen. James Inhofe and the "hoax" chorus.

Climate deniers surely rubbed their ears to hear Trump imply in his statement that reducing emissions might actually do something, temperature-wise:

"Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance, it is estimated that it would only produce a one degree – think of that, this much – Celsius reduction in global temperatures by the year 2100." (MIT analysis says the agreement, if fully enforced, would reduce the planet's warming by a full degree.)

Ah, so are you saying climate change can be mitigated by emissions cuts, Mr. President? Or are you plying the made-in-China hoax you were telling us about on the campaign trail?

More likely, as Vice President Pence says, it is just part of the "climate change agenda" pushed by liberals because, hey, that's what liberals do. They conspire to get masses of climate experts to agree with them, and they march on Washington to make everyone uncomfortable.

The problem, America, is that we are trying to parse the words of a man who is at a loss for them, and whose command of facts makes words immaterial.

 As David Brooks writes in The New York Times, "At base Trump is an infantalist. . . Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency."

In other words, we're out of the Paris Accords because, yuck.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.