Monday, October 16, 2017

Bed sheet flapping from the Oval Office

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn the furniture.

You've shoved the sofa up against the door. You've cut the phone lines. You've hung a bed sheet out the window. You've stripped off that dress shirt, donning that red tie as a head band.

"Attica. Attica."

Donald Trump can't tell Congress what to do, doesn't trust anybody or anything. Doesn't trust the process. Doesn't trust Kelly or Tillerson.

But he has Twitter. He has the White House intercom. Now hear this: The inmate-in-chief has taken over the asylum.

Trump's announcement that he will cease subsidies built into the Affordable Care Act, and his decertifying the Iran nuclear agreement, show an individual who 10 months on has tired of deliberative governing. He will hold us all hostage as long as he can hold out.

Robert Mueller, you are now on the clock.

What Trump did last week in cutting the subsidies for the ACA will hurt millions of Americans? It will drive up insurance costs for many. It will cause more insurers to exit the health exchanges.

Trump said that we'd have a "great health care system" that "covers everyone" under his leadership.

This doesn't sound like that.

It sounds a little like someone prone to pick a fight with a streetlight.

If he wants a fight, a whole bunch of state attorneys general are game. Those states are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent Trump from doing this, and so are insurers, and so are medical professionals.

When Congress was considering this option, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that enough insurers would leave the market that about 5 percent of the nation would have no insurer from which to choose in the individual market.

This is outrageous, and seemingly illegal, since the ACA requires individuals to have coverage or pay a fine.

However, this is not just about the people who will be harmed.

This is about federal stewardship. The CBO says Trump's edict will drive up the deficit by $194 billion by the end of the decade, as the government will spend more on tax credits without the subsidies.

Speaking of stewardship, Trump's action on the Iran deal leaves in limbo something that many nations labored to bring about.

Trump and Republican opponents of the agreement say that it allows Iran to continue its nuclear program. That depends on what "nuclear program" means. Nuclear energy? There's a big difference between power plants and bombs.

As for nuclear weapons, the agreement forbids Iran from ever acquiring them, and subjects Iran to indefinite monitoring.

Did Iran benefit from the agreement? Of course it did, in the unfreezing of stranded assets and the lifting of crushing sanctions. Having international eyes fixed on its nuclear designs was absolutely worth it to Iran. The deal was a carefully negotiated give and take, so everyone got something in in the bargain.

Imagine if we had been able to get ahead of the curve relative to North Korea's nuclear program by lifting its pariah status a generation to avert the arms race that again threatens the planet. This is what President Obama and international allies accomplished with the Iran agreement.

Speaking of intercom hijinks: Just as Trump's second-grade taunts of Kim Jong-Un do not make this a safer planet (Right, Secretary Tillerson?), neither can his ditching of a painstakingly crafted agreement to halt Iran's nuclear program.

But a safer world, or a better health-care system, don't appear to be Trump's objectives. His main objective is to show that he's in charge and Obama.

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn every other presidential portrait, particularly of you-know-who.

"Unable or unwilling to completely erase his predecessor's signature initiatives," writes the Associated Press, Trump has "turned to another approach, wreaking havoc."

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 71 percent of Americans want Trump to improve the ACA, not disable it. But of course, Trump has cut the phone lines. How should he know?

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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