The Republican War on Children

Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

.. The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.

..  The number of taxable estates is also, by the way, well under one one-thousandth of the number of children covered by CHIP.

..  but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget.

As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.

.. And when you hear about family farms broken up to pay estate tax, remember: Nobody has ever come up with a modern example.

.. Then there’s the argument of Senator Chuck Grassley that we need to eliminate estate taxes to reward those who don’t spend their money on “booze or women or movies.” Yes, indeed, letting the likes of Donald Trump Jr. inherit wealth tax-free is a reward for their fathers’ austere lifestyles.

.. there’s considerable evidence that aiding lower-income children actually saves money in the long run.

.. Children who get adequate care are more likely to be healthier and more productive when they become adults, which means that they’ll earn more and pay more in taxes. They’re also less likely to become disabled and need government support. One recent study estimated that the government in fact earns a return of between 2 and 7 percent on the money it spends insuring children.
.. broadly similar results have been found for the food stamp program: Ensuring adequate nutrition for the young means healthier, more productive adults, so that in the long run this aid costs taxpayers little or nothing... That is, however, exactly what’s happening. And it’s as bad, in its own way, as that same party’s embrace of a child molester because they expect him to vote for tax cuts.

 

After Push on Taxes, Republicans Line Up Welfare Revamp Next

Trump and GOP lawmakers ready to kick off fight to overhaul social programs

 

“He gets it,” Mr. Jordan said. “I think there are lots of folks across the country who get it, but particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, folks understand that they’re working hard, doing what’s right for their family, and there are folks who can work, and won’t work, and they’re getting their money.”

.. “It’s something that excites” Mr. Trump, who often changes the topic to discuss it in meetings, said Mr. Winfree, who worked for the foundation before he went to the White House. “We will end up pivoting to welfare very quickly.”

.. Some of the programs with the smallest political constituencies, such as state grants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, present few official savings in government spending because they are already capped. By contrast, large programs, such as unemployment compensation or food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, could trigger bigger political fights.

.. “The Republican desire to take up ‘welfare reform’ is based on grossly inaccurate stereotypes about the workers, children, parents, and seniors who are helped by key programs such as SNAP and Medicaid and a complete misunderstanding of the realities of today’s labor market,”

President Mike Pence?

Where Donald Trump is undisciplined and entertaining, Mike Pence is very disciplined and boring. But that discipline will not benefit the Americans at large.

Pence: Worse than Trump

It could be argued, superficially, that where Trump is undisciplined and highly entertaining, Pence is somewhat more disciplined and very low-profile, perhaps even boring. The actual news is far worse.

Vice President Pence is a complete nutcase, to put it bluntly. Where Trump adopts extreme positions to stay in the news, Pence’s views are actually built on conviction.

Pence is, admittedly, smoother than Trump. But his folksy Midwestern demeanor masks extreme views. As early as June 2006, when he was a U.S. Representative for Indiana, Pence introduced legislation for “self deportation” as part of immigration reform.

It was one of 90 bills and resolutions he introduced while in Congress, none of which ever passed in 12 years, most of which he served in the majority (thus giving him a powerful perch to craft legislation that passes).

As outwardly smooth a Republican all-star operator as Pence comes across, that is a devastating statistic. It underscores that he is a conservative radical, not a bridge-builder and consensus seeker.

The stereotype of a wolf in a sheep’s clothing captures Pence quite well.

.. Pence also presided over a large outbreak of HIV in his home state of Indiana that stemmed from the ongoing U.S. opioid crisis. Rather than moving speedily to resolve the crisis, he hemmed and hawed publicly over whether an emergency needle-exchange program would conflict with his decades of strident anti-drug policy.

.. Cheney but worse

If Pence were to become U.S. President, it could truly spell the end to many liberties. He is more dangerous than Cheney (as far as U.S. domestic politics are concerned).

On foreign policy, purely by contrast to Trump, he appears to be more predictable and therefore more acceptable to other nations. In reality, he is Cheney-esque, with a fondness for “enhanced interrogation” (= torture) and a fondness for military interventions.

.. Aside from his likely unpredictability abroad, where he would have the least restraint as president, domestically, a Pence Presidency would mean the true arrival of Speaker Paul Ryan’s public disinvestment agenda.

.. The Pence-Ryan agenda, outlined in the 2012 “Ryan Plan” and already hinted at by White House Budget Director (and former House member) Mick Mulvaney, calls for slashing U.S. social welfare programs to ribbons purportedly to balance the budget, even if they have little to no budgetary impact.

.. It is important to realize that Mike Pence and Paul Ryan are not targeting generous, European-style social welfare programs. They do not exist in the United States.

The Midwestern duo consider basic programs as excessive that serve as many people’s last line of defense between scraping by and sheer destitution.

Mike Pence and Paul Ryan would voucherize Medicare that keeps elderly Americans healthy. They would obliterate the food benefits that keep families from starving to death.

They would roll back the Medicaid program that gives poor and disabled Americans healthcare access and pays for elderly Americans’ nursing homes. Social Security privatization would likely follow.

Even the United States’ already severely underfunded budgets for infrastructure repair would be cut to the bone. Pence and Ryan would be a disaster for the long-term future health of the United States, its allies and its economic partners.

What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like?

My family had battled medical debt and unemployment when I was a kid, and I started working at 14. When I got a partial college scholarship and left my rural Michigan hometown, I made tuition and rent by juggling up to five jobs at once. I prided myself on never asking for help.

.. It’s tempting to say I thought anyone who worked couldn’t be poor. That’s naïve. Real wages for the two-thirds of Americans without a four-year degree have dropped since 1979, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile the cost of a degree has roughly doubled over the past three decades. Today, half of American jobs pay about $37,000 or less each year

.. I didn’t really think I was supposed to get food stamps because I was white.

.. Having an implicit belief that poverty didn’t really happen to white people did me more harm than good, and nearly prevented me from seeking help I needed. It also ignored reality. While it’s true that blacks and latinos disproportionately live in poverty, if you analyze who gets food stamps, they are most likely to be white.

.. National journalism outlets often have staff that are significantly whiter than the United States population as a whole. Ninety-two percent of journalists hold a college degree, compared with one-third of the population. And today, media jobs are more likely to be in cities, where poverty skews black and brown, than in rural areas, where it skews white.

These policies will make the next recession both more likely and worse

But at least we’ve got the automatic stuff that kicks in when people start falling through the cracks, right? Not if anything like the proposed cuts to the safety net go through. Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), employment programs, infrastructure spending — they’re all on the chopping block in both Republican budgets and health-care bills. One of the worst things they’re trying to do in this space is turn safety net programs, like SNAP and Medicaid, into block grants, which would end those programs’ critical countercyclical function

.. Another Republican initiative in this space that would compound the damage to vulnerable people in recessions is the intention to add work requirements to safety net programs. Even in strong recoveries, that’s a terrible idea — do you really think less than $5 a day in food stamps is what’s keeping someone from working? But in recessions, when unemployment is rising quickly, work requirements make even less sense.

.. There’s a cost to dysfunctional, unrepresentative government. It may take a while to show up, but trust me, it will.

Trump: The Presidency in Peril

If Donald Trump leaves office before four years are up, history will likely show the middle weeks of May 2017 as the turning point.

.. If Trump has nothing to hide, he is certainly jumpy whenever the subject comes up and his evident worry about it has caused him to make some big mistakes.

.. Though younger and more composed, Kushner is a lot more like Trump than is generally understood.

  • Both of them moved their father’s businesses from the New York periphery to Manhattan.
  • Like his father-in-law, Kushner came to Washington knowing a lot about real estate deals but almost nothing about government.
  • Both entered the campaign and the White House unfamiliar with the rules and laws and evidently disinclined to check them before acting.

.. Thus, Kushner has reinforced some of Trump’s critical weaknesses.

.. Kushner, who has a high self-regard, has taken on a preposterous list of assignments.

.. He was able somehow (likely through his own leaks) to gain a reputation—along with his wife, Ivanka Trump—as someone who could keep the president calm and prevent him from acting impulsively or unwisely.

.. Richard Nixon, who was a lot smarter than Trump is, similarly misread the way the public would react when he arranged for the firing of his special prosecutor, Archibald Cox

.. Mueller’s investigation is limited to considering criminal acts.

.. His purview doesn’t include determining whether Trump should be held to account for serious noncriminal misdeeds he or his associates may have committed with regard to his election

.. of the three articles of impeachment adopted by the Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon in 1974, the most important was for “abuse of power.”

.. Unless a single act is itself sufficiently grave to warrant impeachment—for example, treason—a pattern of behavior needs to be found. That could involve, for example, emoluments or obstruction of justice.

 .. Many of what seemed disparate acts—well beyond the famous break-in in the Watergate complex and the cover-up—were carried out in order to assure Nixon’s reelection in 1972, and they amounted to the party in power interfering with the nominating process of the opposition party. That way lay fascism.
.. By definition, impeachable offenses would appear to concern conduct only during a presidency. But a number of constitutional law scholars, including the Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, who was dubious at first, believe that if a president or his associates working on his behalf acted corruptly and secretly to rig the election, then the preinaugural period should be included.
.. Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation only on February 13, after stories about Yates’s warning appeared in the press—and then, two days after he fired him, the president called Flynn “a wonderful man.”
.. weirdly, recently told aides that he’d like to have Flynn back in the White House.
.. Flynn, in conversations with outgoing national security adviser Susan Rice during the transition, asked that the Obama administration hold off on its plan to arm Kurdish forces to help the effort to retake Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria. Since Flynn was a paid lobbyist for the Turkish government, which strongly opposed the plan, this action could possibly lead to a charge of treason.
.. Flynn was leading the Russians to believe that they’d receive much better treatment under a President Trump and the Russians went along.
.. A big question is whether Flynn discussed such important policy matters with the Russians without the knowledge of the president-elect.
.. Trump tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin)—I always knew he was very smart!”
.. Brennan testified he was worried that the Russians may even have recruited some Americans to cooperate with their effort to tilt the election.
.. Intelligence analysts picked up conversations by Russians in which they bragged that they’d cultivated Flynn and Manafort and believed they would be useful for influencing Trump. (This doesn’t prove guilt on the part of either man.)
.. Laurence Tribe is gathering what he believes are impeachable offenses committed by Trump.2
.. Tribe sees Trump flouting the constitutional ban on accepting “emoluments”—
.. Trump’s firing of Comey for, as he ultimately admitted, “this Russia thing.”
.. Trump’s saying to Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and to Ambassador Kislyak, of firing Comey: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
.. There were also Trump’s efforts very early in the administration to get Comey to pledge “loyalty” to him
.. In another form of pressure, Trump asked Comey when the FBI would announce that he wasn’t under investigation. Comey didn’t respond.
.. Before it was revealed that Comey had taken notes of their conversations, Trump made a not-very-veiled threat that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.”
.. Where are all the leaks coming from? Many Republicans want to make this the issue rather than what the leaks reveal, but the fact that they keep coming is a sign of the state of near collapse of the White House staff.
.. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Trump has the most unhappy staff ever, with some feeling a higher duty to warn the public about what they see as a danger to the country.
.. Trump is a nearly impossible person to work for:
  • he screams at his staff when they tell him something he doesn’t want to hear;
  • he screams at them as he watches television news for hours on end and sees stories about himself that he doesn’t like, which is most of them.

.. Leaks are also being made by the intelligence community, many of whom see Trump as a national menace.

.. McMaster has yet to recover his reputation from having emphatically refuted things the Post story didn’t say.

.. Trump’s reckless act is believed to have endangered the life of an Israeli intelligence asset who had been planted among ISIS forces, something extremely hard to pull off.

.. Rosenstein found himself in a meeting with Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who had supposedly recused himself from any dealings on the campaign and the Russia matter) and under pressure to write a memo expressing his own strong negative views of how Comey had handled Hillary Clinton’s e-mail case. The choices before Rosenstein were to write the report, knowing that Comey was going to be fired anyway, or refuse to and resign or be fired. Then what use could he be?

.. he spoke melodramatically of his anguish in having to decide between two choices: to “speak” or to “conceal.” But many observers believed that he had a third choice: quietly to get a warrant and check out some of the e-mails that had traveled from Clinton’s laptop to her close aide Huma Abedin’s to that of Abedin’s then-husband Anthony Weiner before reopening an investigation, much less announcing one and perhaps affect the outcome of the election.

.. Comey’s testimony also angered Democrats by wildly exaggerating the number of Clinton’s e-mails that had landed on Weiner’s laptop—“hundreds and thousands,” he said, when actually there had been just a handful.

.. Comey’s comment that the thought that his actions may have affected the election made him “mildly nauseous” enraged Trump.

.. Everyone who hewed to the White House line that the firing had been based on Rosenstein’s memo, including Pence, was now embarrassed and lost credibility with the press and the public.

.. the respected Cook Report anticipates substantial Republican losses in the House. Republicans are starting to panic.

..Their challenge is how to overcome the twin blights of

  1. Trump’s chaotic governing and
  2. his lack of achievements on Capitol Hill

.. unlike Nixon, he can also make use of social media, Fox News, and friendly talk shows to keep them loyal.

.. Trump is, for all his deep flaws, in some ways a cannier politician than Nixon; he knows how to lie to his people to keep them behind him.

.. The critical question is: When, or will, Trump’s voters realize that he isn’t delivering on his promises,

  • that his health care and tax proposals will help the wealthy at their expense,
  • that he isn’t producing the jobs he claims?
  • His proposed budget would slash numerous domestic programs, such as food stamps, that his supporters have relied on heavily. (One wonders if he’s aware of this part of his constituency.)

 

It’s All About Trump’s Contempt

There is, however, a unifying theme — Donald Trump’s contempt for the voters who put him in office.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Well, he hasn’t done that, at least so far. He is, however, betting that he can break every promise he made to the working-class voters who put him over the top, and still keep their support. Can he win that bet?

.. remember his claims that he would pay off the national debt?

.. 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, almost 19 percent on food stamps.

.. West Virginians .. more than 4 percent of the population, the highest share in the nation, receives Social Security disability payments, partly because of the legacy of unhealthy working conditions, partly because a high fraction of the population consists of people who suffer from chronic diseases, like diabetics

.. they supported Trump because he promised — falsely, of course — that he could bring back the well-paying coal-mining jobs of yore.

.. Maybe he would take benefits away from Those People, but he would protect the programs white working-class voters

.. it would be apocalyptic: Hundreds of thousands would lose health insurance; medical debt and untreated conditions would surge; and there would be an explosion in extreme poverty, including a lot of outright hunger.

.. Coal isn’t coming back; these days, West Virginia’s biggest source of employment is health care and social assistance. How many of those jobs would survive savage cuts in Medicaid and disability benefits?

.. people who voted for Donald Trump were the victims of an epic scam by a man who has built his life around scamming.