Trumpcare’s Lonely, and Seedy, Supporter

Some of the only outside praise has come from the chief executive of Anthem, the country’s second largest insurer.

.. one of the bill’s few high-profile fans may not even support it on the merits. Instead, Anthem appears to be providing political cover to the administration at the same time that company officials are lobbying the administration for a favorable decision on another matter.

.. Anthem’s best remaining hope for the deal is probably to persuade the Trump administration to take a different view of the merger and unblock it.

.. Rather, Swedish lauded a few provisions (which would clearly help Anthem’s bottom line) and offered enough kind words that the White House could claim Anthem supported the bill.

.. More significantly, President Trump and Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary, granted Swedish a private meeting this week. At it, Swedish lobbied for changes to the bill that would benefit Anthem

.. Aetna responded with a bold attempt at quid pro quo. It threatened administration officials that it would withdraw from Obamacare insurance markets unless the merger was approved

.. Aetna executives tried to keep their conversations about the threats to phone calls rather than email “to avoid leaving a paper trail,” as a federal judge later found.

Scandal Fatigue and the Trump Ethical Swamp

a major Chinese financial services firm may invest $4 billion in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And that Kushner’s family stands to take home about $500 million for itself from the transaction.

.. The Kushners would become equity partners with the Chinese firm, Anbang Insurance Group.

.. Best of all for the Kushners, the deal would rescue the family company from the consequences of overpaying for the building, 666 Fifth Avenue, which it purchased in 2007 for $1.8 billion. It would also buy out another prominent Trump political backer who invested in the building, Steve Roth of Vornado Realty, for 10 times his original investment.

.. The New York Times reported in January that Kushner spearheaded the talks with Anbang about an investment in his family’s business

.. “A classic way you influence people is by financially helping their family,” one public interest advocate told the Bloomberg reporters about the Anbang deal.

.. If we’ve learned anything about Trump in the chaotic seven weeks since he assumed the presidency, it’s that his entire clan will test our capacity for surprise, distaste and even outrage when it comes to financial conflicts of interest.

.. the sheer volume of flagrant conflicts that have already emerged may induce “scandal fatigue” in anyone who values – in the most nonpartisan and most non-ideological of ways — ethics and good government.

 

Steve Bannon and the Making of an Economic Nationalist

The controversial White House counselor says his father’s 2008 financial trauma helped crystallize his antiglobalist views and led to a political hardening; ‘I’m going to be totally wiped out’

“The only net worth my father had beside his tiny little house was that AT&T stock. And nobody is held accountable?” Steve Bannon, 63, said in a recent interview. “All these firms get bailed out. There’s no equity taken from anybody. There’s no one in jail. These companies are all overleveraged, and everyone looked the other way.”

.. Steve Bannon idealizes the bygone corporate era that gave his father the kind of stability that he himself never pursued. Marty Bannon, who voted for Mr. Trump, sought a life of security, while the thrice-divorced Steve Bannon craves chaos and drama. He has served in the Navy, dabbled in penny stocks

.. “He’s the backbone of the country, the everyman who plays by the rules, the hardworking dad that delays his own gratification for the family,” Steve Bannon says. “The world is probably 95% Marty Bannons, and 5% Steve Bannons. And that’s probably the right metric for a stable society.”

.. Under his leadership, the site ran increasingly controversial headlines such as “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off,” “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews,” and “Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage.”

.. ideology is less about Republicans and Democrats than about middle class versus elites—nationalists versus globalists. He says that explains his opposition to open borders, political corruption and what he views as political correctness.

.. He expected to become a priest as an adult, he says, but met his future wife and soon started his family. He declined an offer to play for the Washington Senators

.. I had great faith in AT&T,” Marty Bannon says. “At their peak they were the best company for service. That was inbred. Fire, flood, storm or whatever, they called you and you went. Whatever time of night. And you stayed out there until the job was finished.”

.. His children nicknamed him “Safety Sam.”

.. Marty Bannon says he lost more than $100,000 because he sold the shares for less than he paid for them. It was a decision he made without consulting a broker or his family, including his two sons with investment backgrounds, who only learned about the sale days after it was finished. The shares subsequently regained much of their value.

.. Jim Cramer told “Today” show viewers to pull money from the stock market if they needed any cash for the next five years. Steve Bannon says the warning spooked his father.

.. “He was older, in his 80s. But all these guys from the Depression, it’s a risk-averse generation because of the horrible things they saw in their youth. He was rattled.”

.. The way Steve Bannon sees it, the institutions his father put his faith in failed him.

.. Steve Bannon thinks U.S. companies should once again feel more responsible to their communities. “Why can’t you revert back to a golden age?” he asks. “You can.”

.. “The government created this problem,” Marty Bannon says. “The elites, they got bailed out. Everybody else in the country, whatever happened, happened, and they just had to move on.”

My country had its own Trump. Here’s how we beat him.

Having first secured control of public broadcasting and other media outlets, Meciar was extremely effective in keeping his core group of supporters energized, but not much else. For other voters his frequent outbursts became increasingly off-putting. Even apathetic segments of the electorate were alarmed when, under Meciar’s watch, the secret service cameunder suspicion for kidnapping and nonfatally electrocuting the son of the Slovak president, Michal Kovac, who was Meciar’s political nemesis. The key witness in the case was later killed in a car bombing. These crimes were later amnestied by Meciar during his brief stint as acting president in 1998.

.. Second, Meciar’s demise was precipitated by the emergence of an effective opposition that coalesced around the questions that mattered the most: rule of law and Slovakia’s place among European democracies. Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided.

.. if Trumpism is to be defeated, it will require politicians on the center-right and the center-left to get organized around questions that matter — most importantly, the defense of the liberal democratic character of the U.S. government.

.. In defending himself, he tried to sell his voters a grotesque idea of an international conspiracy directed against Slovakia. His domestic critics, too, were smeared as paid agents of anti-Slovak forces abroad. That message resonated with Meciar’s core supporters, but more and more Slovaks saw that their country’s growing isolation was purely of their own government’s making.

.. Corruption, which reached gigantic proportions under Meciar, has never gone away. Meciar took pride in his crony privatization, which created what he called a “Slovak capital-owning class,” loyal to him. Today, politically connected businesses are enriched through overpriced procurement tenders or tax fraud.

.. Meciar’s infamous amnesties for what were widely believed to be acts of political violence have left a traumatic legacy too, creating an ominous sense of impunity for those in power. His years also entrenched a generation of communist-era judges, many of them in cahoots with the political class. According to a recent survey, only a third of Slovaks trust the court system.

.. nurturing the institutions of liberal democracy requires much more work than simply keeping aspiring authoritarians at bay. It requires ensuring that liberal democratic governments are seen as legitimate and effective at delivering key public goods, including justice and security.