One Week and Floundering

Eight days ago, before the inauguration, we already knew a couple of things (roughly quoting Richard Yeselson of Dissent):

  1. Our new President is an authoritarian, mentally-ill ignoramus, uniquely unfit and dangerous.
  2. The Republican Party is morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Given (1) and (2), I can’t think of anything since the inauguration that’s been more than a mild surprise. Given who he is and who his fellow Republicans are, what did we expect?

I’ll mention a few things anyway:

He gave an interview to a TV network other than Fox. Many observers thought he came across like a crazy person. One said it was the scariest thing he’d ever seen. Although many of his supporters probably enjoyed it. There’s a transcript of the interview here.

He’s still using Twitter and his outdated, easy-to-hack phone. He still spends a lot of time watching television and occasionally tweets in response to what he just heard, sometimes repeating exact phrases. One reporter said the tsunami of leaks from the White House make the President sound like a “clueless child”. I think he sounds more like an angry old fool with a severely damaged ego.

He has signed some executive orders, as new Presidents always do. For the most part, these have been aimed at impressing his supporters and may never amount to anything (he can’t get billions of dollars to build a wall by issuing an executive order). An exception is the one that will limit funding for overseas healthcare providers (the abortion “gag-rule”). It’s even worse than similar orders issued by other Republican Presidents. (Vice President Pence, who is an extreme foe of abortion rights, probably had a lot to do with it.)

Of course, that terrific replacement for the Affordable Care Act that he promised to announce in a day or two hasn’t been announced yet. But someone in the administration did take a concrete step regarding the ACA: they canceled an advertisement intended to get people to sign up for health insurance by the January 31st deadline. 

Meanwhile, The Washington Post obtained a secret recording of Congressional Republicans talking about the Affordable Care Act. It demonstrates what we already knew: they don’t know what parts of the ACA to repeal or what to replace those parts with. It’s great to hear them speak honestly for a change, so I’ve attached some choice excerpts at the bottom of this post. 

On the impeachment front, the President isn’t bothering to hide his eagerness to cash in on his new position. He doubled the membership fee at his Florida resort from $100,000 to $200,000; announced plans to build several more hotels in the US; and only plans to stop immigration from Middle Eastern countries where he doesn’t do business or doesn’t plan to (Iran bad; Saudi Arabia – where the 9/11 hijackers came from – good). A lawsuit has already been filed against the President regarding his foreign business dealings. You can read an explanation by one of the lawyers involved here and can see the formal complaint here.

Finally, the President’s spokesman announced that Mexico would reimburse us for the Wall sometime in the future, but in the meantime, companies that import stuff from Mexico (like fruits and vegetables, beer and cars) would pay for the wall through a new 20% import tariff. After it was pointed out that the tariff would be passed along to American consumers in the form of higher prices, the proposal was discounted as merely one of several ways we, not Mexico, could pay for the Wall, which, by the way, Republican politicians in Texas aren’t crazy about anyway.

As a result, and maybe in recognition of the fact that the Executive Branch of our government is now in the hands of knavish fools and foolish knaves, the President of Mexico canceled his visit to Washington.

Oh, and the President wants an investigation of the 3 million people, all of whom he knows voted for his opponent, because that’s how many more people voted for Hillary. Buenas noches, amigos.

As promised, excerpts from the Washington Post article based on that secret recording:

[A Representative] worried that one idea floated by Republicans — a refundable tax credit — would not work for middle-class families that cannot afford to prepay their premiums and wait for a tax refund…

[Another said] “It sounds like we are going to be raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for these new credits.”

 … A freshman congressman … warned strongly against using the repeal of the ACA to also defund Planned Parenthood…

Of particular concern to some Republican lawmakers was the plan to use the budget reconciliation process — which requires only a simple majority vote — to repeal the existing law, while still needing a filibuster-proof vote of 60 in the Senate to enact a replacement….

… They did not have a clear plan on how to keep markets viable while also requiring insurers to cover everyone who seeks insurance.

[A Senator asked:] Will states have the ability to maintain the expanded Medicaid rolls provided for under the ACA, which now provide coverage for more than 10 million Americans, and can other states do similar expansions?

[A Representative] worried that the plans under GOP consideration could eviscerate coverage for the roughly 20 million Americans now covered through state and federal marketplaces and the law’s Medicaid expansion: “We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.”

They are also still wrestling with whether Obamacare’s taxes can be immediately repealed, a priority for many conservatives, or whether that revenue will be needed to fund a transition period.

And there seems to be little consensus on whether to pursue a major overhaul of Medicaid — converting it from an open-ended entitlement that costs federal and state governments $500 billion a year to a fixed block grant…. doing so would mean that some low-income Americans would not be automatically covered by a program that currently covers 70 million Americans.