Trump Can’t Win the Blame Game

Like any president, he’ll be judged by his results. So far, he’s failed to deliver much.

.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8).

.. Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.
.. So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.

Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.

Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as an actual infrastructure bill. Although the White House website touts a trillion-dollar price tag for Mr. Trump’s program, it devotes just 314 words to outlining its provisions. As a reference point, that is fewer than half the words in this column—not enough for a major piece of legislation.

Trump attacks on McConnell bring rebukes from fellow Republicans

In demeaning tweets and public statements, Trump blamed McConnell (Ky.), who remains popular among GOP senators, for the party’s inability to muscle through an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. The president also urged McConnell to “get back to work” on that and other campaign promises, including cutting taxes and spurring new infrastructure spending.

.. Trump associates said the attacks, which began Wednesday night and resumed Thursday, were intended to shore up Trump’s outside-the-Beltway populist credentials and would resonate with core supporters frustrated by a lack of progress in Washington.

.. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), a Trump adviser, said on Fox News Channel that the president bears some responsibility for the Republican failure on the health-care legislation.

.. Even some Republicans close to the president suggested that the attacks on McConnell would hurt him on Capitol Hill, where relations with GOP leaders have seriously frayed as Trump’s agenda has stalled.

.. “Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director and a former Capitol Hill staff member. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”

.. McConnell has been one of the most steadfast supporters of Trump’s agenda in Congress, and, at least publicly, Trump has had a smoother relationship with McConnell than he has with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional leaders.

.. In April, McConnell orchestrated the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, changing the Senate rules so that Democrats could not block the nomination. The Gorsuch confirmation is Trump’s largest victory on Capitol Hill.

.. Politico first reported that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire heavily involved in Trump’s political ascendancy, is making a donation to a group supporting former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.

.. However, inside the White House, Trump has a collection of advisers who have had antagonistic relationships with McConnell and Senate GOP leaders.

  • Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, came from Breitbart, a news organization that regularly antagonized McConnell’s leadership team.
  • Stephen Miller, chief policy adviser to Trump, was not considered an ally to the Senate leader’s staff when Miller was a top adviser to Jeff Sessions (Ala.) in the Senate.
  • .. Moreover, one of Trump’s top legislative affairs advisers is Paul Teller, who served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s top aide during a period when the Texas Republican accused McConnell of lying about trade legislation.
  • And Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Trump’s budget director, was a constant critic of the Senate during his three terms in the House, regularly opposing fiscal compromise deals that McConnell brokered with the Obama White House.

Obamacare Rage in Retrospect

So once again: What was Obamacare rage about?

Much of it was orchestrated by pressure groups like Freedom Works, and it’s a good guess that some of the “ordinary citizens” who appeared at town halls were actually right-wing activists. Still, there was plenty of genuine popular rage, stoked by misinformation and outright lies from the usual suspects: Fox News, talk radio and so on. For example, around 40 percent of the public believed that Obamacare would create “death panels” depriving senior citizens of care.

The question then becomes why so many people believed these lies. The answer, I believe, comes down to a combination of identity politics and affinity fraud.

.. Whenever I see someone castigating liberals for engaging in identity politics, I wonder what such people imagine the right has been doing all these years. For generations, conservatives have conditioned many Americans to believe that safety-net programs are all about taking things away from white people and giving stuff to minorities.

And those who stoked Obamacare rage were believed because they seemed to some Americans like their kind of people — that is, white people defending them against you-know-who.

How the GOP Can Win on Healthcare

Universal catastrophic coverage would offer protection from those expenses that are truly unaffordable.

Universal catastrophic coverage (UCC) would make an excellent centerpiece for the next round of healthcare reform. In fact, UCC is not even particularly new to the conservative playbook. Respected thinkers like Martin Feldstein, who would go on to serve as Ronald Reagan’s chief economic adviser, promoted the idea already in the 1970s. In 2004, Milton Friedman, then a fellow at the Hoover Institution, also endorsed the concept. UCC would make healthcare affordable, both for the federal budget and for American families. And because it would throw no one off the healthcare roles—not 22 million people, not 2 million, not anyone—it offers a realistic chance of the bipartisanship that polls show both the Republican and Democratic rank and file want.

.. the deductible might be set equal to 10 percent of the amount by which a household’s income exceeds the Medicaid eligibility level, now about $40,000 for a family of four. Under that formula, a middle-class family earning $85,000 a year would face a deductible of $4,500 per family member, perhaps capped at twice that amount for households of more than two people. Following the same formula, the deductible for a household with $1 million of income would be $96,000.

.. Very likely, many middle-class families would forego supplemental insurance and cover all of their routine health care costs from their regular household budgets, the way they now pay for repairs to their homes or cars. Doing so would be easier still if they took advantage of tax-deductible health savings accounts—a mechanism that is already on the books, and could be expanded as part of reform legislation.

.. UCC would mesh seamlessly with Medicaid, since anyone not on Medicaid or Medicare would automatically be covered. There would no longer be acoverage gap, as there is in many states under the ACA. If workers on Medicaid got new jobs or promotions that raised their income above the Medicaid limit, the transition would be painless, since the UCC deductible for households just above the Medicaid cutoff would be low. The tremendous work disincentive that now exists for workers approaching the Medicaid “cliff” would disappear.