Monday, March 27, 2017

This health care stuff was gonna be sooooo easy

Act 1 of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" features a put-down of a hollow braggart who "speaks an infinite deal of nothing."

Sort of reminds of the merchant of Mar-a-Lago and his first act as a legislative mastermind.

"On my very first day in office," said Donald Trump in October, in full bray about the Affordable Care Act, "I'm going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk to replace this disastrous law. And it's gonna be so easy."

Last week? "I never said repealing and replacing Obamacare would be easy."

Talk about the art of the deal -- an infinite deal of nothing.

How big a disaster was the attempted launch of the airship Trumpcare? Truly Hindenburg-style, just without, "Oh, the humanity."

Twenty-four million Americans now won't lose their health coverage, and in too many cases, their lives. I know, that's a bad, sad deal for all those people who have everything they need. If you don't have a gated, beachfront haven, get one.

Paul Ryan walks away, sullen, shaken, "so close" to the tantalizing prospect of tossing all those sorry sorts to the winds of the magical free market – winds from which the ACA rescued them.

The "so close" that President Trump depicted as enough to count on two small hands? It was closer to three dozen votes shy of passage -- this in a chamber firmly dominated by people who voted more than 50 times to abolish the ACA.

With utter consistency, all those times Ryan and Co. said they had a viable alternative for when President Obama could not spike their designs.

It turns out that the alternative they had for said occasion was a football-field-length rubberized bag of nitrogen.

Oh, the humility.

Ah, but none of that from Captain Trump. Climbing into the driver's seat, this "big law" stuff was basically confined to tooting a horn – his horn.

Reports had Republican congressmen tearing their hair out over his lack of involvement in the crafting of the legislation.

On CNN, Poppy Harlow and Chris Cuomo had David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida, offer his thoughts on Trump's command of the details of the leaden flying craft that carried his name.

He told Harlow, "I think [Trump is] learning about his own health care bill listening to you and Chris in the morning."

Trump -- "I'm a very smart man" -- had an amazingly dumb observation when all went down in flames. Not a single Democrat, he complained, had voted to board his craft. Imagine that. The naiveté is, if we are permitted to use Trump's favorite Twitter lament, "sad."

Now he offers to the nation leadership in these statesmanlike terms: "The best thing is for Obamacare to explode."

How so? How about sabotage emanating from new Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price when he sees to what extent he can cripple the ACA?

And the Congress can make the ACA misfire by doing such things as it did in 2015 when Republicans snuck a measure into a spending bill to gut so-called risk corridor payments to insurers which kept them in the game of insuring high-risk Americans. This may be as much to blame for insurers' pulling out of the ACA as any functional flaw the GOP has assailed in asserting that it isn't sustainable.

They say the ACA can't work. Face it: It's done an amazing job, considering that for seven years Republicans in Congress have labored to keep it from working.

Disastrous debut aside, the hollow braggart and his kin are not done taking away Americans' health care, not by a long shot.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blind fury: F-rating for wreckage from Trumpcare

The Fujita scale is the "F" by which weather people rate tornadoes.

F-1: a carport down. F-5: whole city blocks reduced to grout.

We now lean on such comparisons in assessing the shades of disaster that would emanate from Trumpcare, especially compared with what Donald Trump claimed would happen.

Trump the campaigner said his plan would provide "insurance for everyone."

The Congressional Budget Office says that with this plan he would be off by only 24 million or so.

"I'm going to take care of everybody," said Trump regarding health coverage. "I don't care if it costs me votes or not."

No biggie here – only the difference between sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, and, oh, an F5 hellhound ripping whole houses off their foundations.

At this point we are way past assuming this president will say only what he knows to be true. But you would think the people he hires -- you know, his experts -- would.

And yet there was Gary Cohn, Trump's chief economist, telling Fox News, "If you're on Medicaid, you're going to stay on Medicaid."

That is only true if this monster of a policy shift can be blunted in the Senate. This seems increasingly likely.

A key reason is that some Republicans in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act won't consent to telling hundreds of thousands of their constituents to take a flying leap.

The same goes for senators in states that have considerable success with their health exchanges and where the ACA is working as designed.

Over the weekend, Trump was negotiating with the hardest of the hard in his party in making it more difficult for Medicaid recipients to receive the care they need.

Twenty-four million? Forty-eight million? Is matters not to the merciless. What the tea party wing wants is to wind the clock back to before a Congress and a president did something that actually helped working Americans of meager means.

Paul Ryan has spoken to the hearts of the heartless (always massaging that base) in explaining that the "fatal conceit" of the ACA is that it requires the healthy (and wealthy) to help insure the less healthy.

Yes, and that's what health insurance does in every case. The only difference is that, before ACA, insurers could refuse to cover the least healthy.

Another "fatal conceit" is that ACA requires all to participate – not like, say, insurance to get a home loan, insurance to own and operate a car, flood insurance in a flood plain, liability insurance to start a business. Yes, mandatory insurance.

Oh, by the way, some of that very same "conceit" is built into Ryan's plan, as insurers would be empowered to stick people with higher rates if they let coverage lapse.

Effectively there's no difference between that and the tax penalties for those opting out of ACA, except that the money goes to insurers and not to helping pay to cover people who need it. 

Here's something else that this ruthless storm force would extract: Damage to Medicare.

Take it away, AARP:

"Trumpcare raids Medicare to the tune of $275 billion and gives drug companies a $25 billion tax break – part of a $465 billion tax handout to the wealthy and health-care companies."

Medicare is one of those things Trump said he'd not touch, along with Social Security.

Of course, as with all those health-insured Americans he would blow off, we can expect the hardest of the hard in Congress to press for the diminishing of Social Security and Medicare benefits before their reign is through.

Forces of moderation must win in the Senate on Trumpcare. Then alarmed voters must work on ending the GOP reign in Congress in 2018.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, March 13, 2017

From the mind of Steve Bannon? No, Mel Brooks

"My, how presidential."

For all those, including the reputedly lucid, who said Donald Trump "turned a new page" with a "presidential" State of the Union, the next page he turned was a bucket of brine right in the kisser.

You know now that as he left the House chamber his face turned south from what he'd just said, like a months-old infant getting that first taste of grapefruit.

Yecchh. Statesmanship tastes like death.

To cleanse his pallet: Almost as soon as the new, presidential-like Trump reached his porcelain throne for a Twitter break, he accused his predecessor of the crime of wiretapping him.

Later he would accuse President Obama of springing dozens of terrorists on the planet from Gitmo releases, though almost all of the releases in question came under George W. Bush's watch.

The "new, more presidential" Trump did these thing based on the kind of information children used to glean from the back of a box of Wheat Chex -- which is pretty much how he's been briefing himself throughout.

All of this brings into question the role of Steve Bannon. He's supposedly a smart guy. But nothing Trump has done as president emits anything that could be called smart.

Bannon's out as Trump's brain. Mel Brooks is in.

Trump clearly is doing what the movie-maker envisioned in "The Producers," in which two corrupt individuals try to make a quick buck by staging a play certain to fail.

Increasingly, we can be confident that this is exactly what Trump intends. The idea: be president just long enough to ramp up the price of his properties, ensure the economic future of his bumbling sons, sell Ivanka products, and bail out of Air Force One somewhere over the Arizona desert with a briefcase full of cash.

Yes, Trump is in a hurry to make things fail. Every appointee he's chosen is sworn to destroy the department from within. It's like the army enlisted in Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" to rough up the town of Rock Ridge.

Trump's taste and haste for wreckage is evident in what the House has proposed, and he's blessed, in dynamiting the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans strapped again to Big Insurance's railroad tracks.

Paul Ryan is in a bigly hurry offering something, anything, to set this plot in motion.

Hence, we see such commissary leftovers as health-care savings accounts, which are basically great for anyone with lots of money to save. This entree calls to the GOP buffet line like a filmy slab of lime-green Jell-0.

            This is bad policy that only exists because Republicans, who don't believe they should do anything whatsoever to help the poor, want to say they, in fact, are doing something. And this way they won't.

So, too, with Trump. He couldn't care less about the result. He couldn't care less about the losers at the raw end of a very raw deal.

Like the politically ambitious Hedley Lamarr in "Blazing Saddles," Trump is on the great ego trip. He wants to be famous, to be all-powerful, and the only way to do that is through destruction.

Blow it all up, man. Then you can retire on your riches and bask in acclaim from your kin.

We can see Trump inspiring his heinous appointees, and Congressman Ryan, and Sen. McConnell, with these immortal words from Mr. Lamarr:

"Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the West. Now, you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado.

Monday, March 6, 2017

'Flash! Russki device saps Team Trump of memories'

It looks like a simple fountain pen, but then: A flash of hyper-light in the eyes renders a person blissfully ignorant of what he did moments before -- remembering nothing. In the movie "Men in Black," it was called a neuralyzer.

Is that the kind of technology the Russians deployed to drain members of Team Trump of their memories? I'm thinking so.

Something sapped Michael Flynn of his memory. The ex-national security adviser foggily acknowledged meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, but couldn't recall if they talked about lifting sanctions President Obama slapped on Russia for meddling in our elections.

Amnesia was the case, too, with Jeff Sessions. Under oath he said that, no, not once did he meet with that Russian before the election. Except, yeah, he did, at least twice.

At this point, reports are that at least five Team Trump members communicated with the Russian government before they had any authority (our authority) to represent the United States.

Even more eerie: In July Donald Trump said he'd never spoken with Vladimir Putin. Except he did that very thing in 2014, unless we can't believe the Donald Trump who bragged about meeting with Putin then.

Flash: Memories gone.

Many have theorized as to why Trump has a highly unnatural facial skin tone. The explanation could be repeated radial blasts from a diabolical memory-sapping Russian device: the nyet-ralyzer.

A lot is being made this week of what Sessions knew and when he knew it. That remains relevant, as the FBI is under him and all. However, the bigger story isn't over at the Justice Department.

The bigger story is in the memory of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law who's in Trump's innermost circle. According to reports the president has not disputed, Kushner was at Trump Tower when Flynn met with Ambassador Kislyak. (In December, yes, before Team Trump was employed by you and me.) The Logan Act prohibits diplomacy by civilians on our behalf.

What did they discuss? I'm imagining that Kushner can't recall.

Did the president know about this meeting in the very tower in which he was preparing to transition to president? Might the president have moseyed down the elevator or into the next-door suite to exchange a congratulatory bear hug?

In the language of Twitter: This Kushner thing. Very big.

In the nomenclature of Watergate, this is Haldeman and Ehrlichman big.

As close as Kushner is to the president, for him to engage with the Russians illegally is like Pat Nixon sending the Watergate burglars on their rounds with cookies and finger sandwiches.

Now, if you are, say, Sen. Ted Cruz -- who uses his own food analogy for all this, calling this all a "nothingburger" -- you may be saying, "Hey, this Logan Act stuff is trivial. It's not a high crime. It's not even a misdemeanor."


Watergate started out with what then White House spokesman Ron Ziegler -- the Sean Spicer of the era -- called a "third-rate burglary." How, then, did it bring down a president? Mostly of a whole bunch of lies.

Here's what Trump said Feb. 16: "I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does."

As reports of actual involvement gurgled forth like a mountain spring, he intimated that anything to the contrary was "fake news."

Then when actual revelations and actual back-tracking by people like Flynn and Sessions came to light, he said the problem was leaks, and – this just in from Brietbart News Service -- wiretaps ordered by President Obama.

Be smart, Mr. President. Blame it on the Russians and their memory-sapping technology.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: