The Antidote to Steve Bannon

One irony of Washington these days is that a press corps that claims to loathe right-wing political operative Steve Bannon can’t get enough of him. The media broadcast his every utterance, cheering on his declaration of “civil war” against Republicans in Congress.

.. “It’s a symptom of a greater problem. If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace ObamaCare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell as we know it.”

..  “Mitch McConnell is not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes, and we’ve yet to do it. If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell is fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble, we lose our majority, and I think President Trump will not get re-elected.”

.. Mr. Bannon is recruiting carpetbaggers or multiple-race losers, but they’ll have a chance if Republicans can’t deliver on their campaign promises. Mr. Bannon’s best enablers are the GOP Senators who killed health reform: Susan Collins, John McCain, Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski. If they want to make Mr. Bannon a kingmaker, they’ll do the same on tax reform.

Chasing millions in Medicaid dollars, hospitals buy up nursing homes

The nursing home can afford these multimillion-dollar improvements partly because it has, for the past five years, been collecting significantly higher reimbursement rates from Medicaid, the state-
federal health insurance program for the poor.

.. A wrinkle in Medicaid’s complex funding formula gives Indiana nursing homes owned or leased by city or county governments a funding boost of 30 percent per Medicaid resident. The money is sent to the hospitals, which negotiate with the nursing homes over how to divvy it up.

.. Nearly 90 percent of Indiana’s 554 nursing homes have been leased or sold to county hospitals in the past 14 years

.. Today, more than two-thirds of Indiana’s Medicaid long-term care dollars go to nursing homes. The U.S. average is 47 percent.

.. they say, it has provided incentives to steer patients to nursing homes rather than lower-cost options, such as home health care or community-based day-care centers.

.. a bad deal for the poor because it takes a large portion of Medicaid dollars targeted for services for low-
income nursing home residents and sends it instead to hospitals to use as they please.

.. States pay no more than half the costs, although the federal match varies based on a state’s wealth.

.. All the Medicaid funding for nursing homes should be going to those homes to care for the poor, not shared with hospitals to use as they choose, he said.

JD Vance: the reluctant interpreter of Trumpism

Obamacare was perceived to make winners of the poor, but at the expense of the lower-income working class. (23 min)

 

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy has been adopted as the book that explains Trumpism. It’s the book that both Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rob Portman recommended as their favorite of 2016. It’s a book Keith Ellison, the frontrunner to lead the DNC, brought up in our conversation last week. Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, has turned to Vance to explain What It All Means.

All of which is a bit odd, because Vance’s book is an awkward fit with Trumpism. As Vance describes it, it’s about “what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.” It’s a memoir about growing up amidst a particular slice of the white working class — the Scots-Irish who settled in and around Appalachia — and the ways that both propelled Vance forward and held him back. It’s a book about one man’s story — a story that is universal in some ways, particular in others, but was certainly not written with Donald J. Trump in mind.

Vance, today, works for an investment firm founded by Peter Thiel. He’s an Iraq veteran and Yale-educated lawyer who fits comfortably among the elites he never expected to know. He’s a conservative who doesn’t like Trump, but has nevertheless become a favored interpreter for his movement. He’s a private person who finds himself having shared the most intimate details of his life with total strangers.

We talk about all that, as well as some specific debates that have emerged in the age of Trump, and that speak to issues in Vance’s book:

– The resentment members of the lower-middle class have towards the non-working poor
– The ways in which the discussion over poor white communities has come to mirror the debate over poorer African-American communities
– How Trump constructed an “other” that merged both marginalized communities and powerful elites
– Slights Vance faced as a member of the military attending elite schools, and how that made him think about the broader debate over political correctness
– The difference between “economic anxiety” and “cultural anxiety,” and why it matters
– How members of Vance’s family reconcile their support for Trump with their close friendships with unauthorized immigrants
– What he feels defines the values held by elites, and how they differ from those he grew up with

And, as always, much more. Enjoy.

Books:
-Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids”
-William Julius Wilson’s “The Truly Disadvantaged”
-Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart”
-Robert Tombs’s “The English and Their History”

Nearly Half the Pentagon Budget Goes To Contractors

In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations—nearly half of the department’s $600 billion-plus budget for that year.

the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were

  1. Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion),
  2. Boeing ($24.3 billion),
  3. Raytheon ($12.8 billion),
  4. General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and
  5. Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion).

Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.

Health care companies like

  1. Humana ($3.6 billion),
  2. UnitedHealth Group ($2.9 billion), and
  3. Health Net ($2.6 billion) cash in as well,

and they’re joined by, among others, pharmaceutical companies like

  • McKesson ($2.7 billion) and

universities deeply involved in military-industrial complex research like

  • MIT ($1 billion) and
  • Johns Hopkins ($902 million).

.. The heads of the top five Pentagon contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—made a cumulative $96 million last year.

These are companies that are significantly or, in the cases of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, almost entirely dependent on government dollars.

.. Donald Trump initially spent a fair amount of tweeting energy bragging about how he was going to bring such contractors to heel on their pricing practices for weapons systems. In fact, he’s already turned out to be good news indeed for major contractors, most of whom have seen sharp upturns in revenues and profits

.. Trump has proven eager to lift restrictions on U.S. weapons sales abroad (and enlist State Department and Pentagon officials to spend more of their time shilling such weaponry).

.. The arms industry’s investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year.

.. you’re talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington’s famed “revolving door”; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.

.. Two analysts from U.S. war colleges have estimated that about 300 deliverable nuclear warheads would be enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon.

.. And note that the current trillion-dollar “modernization” program for the nuclear arsenal was initiated under President Barack Obama, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his urge to abolish all such weaponry.

.. In 2011, a study by economists from the University of Massachusetts made this blindingly clear.  What they showed was that military spending is the worst way to create jobs. Putting the same money into any other area—from infrastructure to transportation to alternative energy to healthcare or education—creates up to twice as many jobs as military spending does.

.. Contractors aid and abet the process of investing in the Pentagon by routinely exaggerating the number of jobs their programs create.

.. the best jobs generated by Pentagon spending are the ones for well-heeled lobbyists and overpaid corporate executives.

.. So the next time someone suggests that the Pentagon needs yet more money for the troops, just remember that what they’re actually talking about are troops of overpaid defense contractors, not members of the armed forces.