Archive

December 7th

Obamacare is probably toast - and a lot of poor, white Trump voters will get hurt by it

    Donald Trump has chosen GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, as his secretary for Health and Human Services. This likely means that, at best, the health law will be repealed and replaced by something that covers far fewer people, or that, at worst, it will get repealed outright, leaving even more people without coverage.

    So what does this mean for poor and working-class white Trump voters who are currently benefiting from the law, some no doubt enjoying health coverage for the first time in their lives?

    Jonathan Cohn has a good piece in The Huffington Post explaining what the choice of Rep. Price means in policy terms. Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price's own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

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No, you couldn't strip flag-burners of citizenship, even if flag-burning could be made a crime

    Donald Trump tweet Tuesday:

    "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"

    Contrary to President-elect Donald Trump's tweet, even if flag-burning weren't protected by the First Amendment (and it is), you couldn't strip people of their citizenship for it.

    Let's begin with the constitutional text, here from section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

    Once you have American citizenship, you have a constitutional entitlement to it. If you like your American citizenship, you can keep your American citizenship -- and that's with the Supreme Court's guarantee, see Afroyim v. Rusk (1967):

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McCain could take role of bulwark against Trump

    There may be one senator, not Chuck Schumer or any other Democrat, who could be a check on some of President Donald Trump's likely excesses: John McCain.

    The president-elect and the five-term Republican from Arizona are almost polar opposites on issues ranging from service and public responsibilities to national security. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has made clear he will oppose Trump policies that would amount to appeasement of Russia's Vladimir Putin on Syria or elsewhere, or any effort to circumvent the law and revive "enhanced interrogation" methods against terrorists that he has described as torture.

    McCain could be big thorn in Trump's side on ethics. He has been a fierce fighter against corruption since he was ensnared in a savings and loan scandal more than a quarter-century ago. And he will set a much higher ethical bar than Trump, who seems oblivious to the potential conflicts of interests presented by his far-flung business empire.

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Journalists in the age of Trump: Lose the smugness, keep the mission

    Journalists may thrive on news - by definition, the unexpected or novel - but they're terrible at getting out of their own comfortable ruts.

    Consider, for example, the decade or so of abject denial about their threatened business model that followed the apocalyptic arrival of Craigslist, which removed the crucial revenue that came from classified advertising.

    In short, we (yes, I include myself) don't handle change all that well.

    And now we - the traditional, the legacy, the mainstream media - have to change.

    Donald Trump has been a candidate and will be a president who requires vastly different coverage. If the '70s brought, via Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer, what was called "the New Journalism," I suggest we now need a New New Journalism.

    Here are some ways journalism must be reinvented:

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It's time to ban Donald Trump from Twitter

    Hot on the heels of Donald Trump's latest outrageously outrageous tweet - in which he suggested that we either imprison people who burn the flag or strip them of their citizenship - it's time for Twitter to take action and ban Donald Trump from the service.

    Once the self-described free-speech wing of the free-speech party, Twitter has for the past several years vocally defended its prerogative to ban anyone (on the right) from its service for essentially any reason it sees fit. Often these bans are justified under rather nebulous notions of abuse or "targeted harassment," the idea being that anyone with sufficiently high numbers of followers who singles out someone else for criticism bears a measure of responsibility when that person's followers viciously attack the criticized individual.

    Since it caters to celebrities and uses their fame to promote its own brand, Twitter has been hesitant to ban anyone famous in real life from the service regardless of his or her bad, abusive behavior. One imagines Twitter might make an exception for Trump. Undoubtedly, the service could find some justification for applying the targeted-harassment rubric to the president-elect.

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How to fill the void once Trump kills the TPP

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have created trade links between the U.S., Japan and a number of other Asian countries, is dead. Donald Trump has vowed to kill the pact on his first day in office. That won't be a hard promise to keep, as the trade deal was already effectively dead -- Trump's move is just a flourish.

    The TPP had garnered opposition from both sides of the political spectrum -- Bernie Sanders supporters were dead set against it as well. Progressive activists walking past my house had "Stop TPP" buttons on their backpacks. If there was any policy that was doomed this election cycle, it had to be this one. I don't really know, but I suspect that the TPP mostly acted as a scapegoat for more general fears about globalization -- a symbolic show of strength by skeptics of trade deals.

    Killing the TPP will have only a small impact on the nation's economy, just as passing it would have generated only small benefits. The real risks are to the U.S.'s international prestige, and to the economic health of key American allies.

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Donald Trump v. the First Amendment, part five

    The president-elect woke up Tuesday morning with a clear agenda before him. Poised to announce his pick of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and with a day of meetings slated - including one with onetime foe Mitt Romney - Donald Trump hopped on Twitter to talk about where his attention was focused.

    Disparaging CNN and - more unexpectedly - reigniting the once-virulent debate over flag-burning.

    "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!" he tweeted.

    Where this came from is anybody's guess. There's an operating theory among some that Trump throws out tweets like this to distract attention from something else, as though 140-character messages demand our total (100 percent) brain capacity. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough speculated that maybe Trump was tossing a bit of red meat to the angry social media lions before announcing that he would pick Romney as secretary of state.

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Democrats are in a hole - but it's not why you think

    Pardon me if I don't get wildly excited by Democrats looking to place blame for their party's defeat and proposing a road map for the future.

    I've seen it before - after every election, actually.

    I still remember representatives of the AFL-CIO and the more moderate Democratic Leadership Council blaming each other for Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988 and arguing about the party's future strategy and message. It was only after pragmatist Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992 that the sniping stopped.

    This year, most of the criticism has been aimed at the Hillary Clinton campaign's lack of a compelling economic message, particularly one aimed at white working-class voters. It's one of a number of reasonable explanations - as is the candidate's personal liabilities and the campaign's error of not treating Wisconsin and Michigan as electoral problems.

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December 6th

Democrats are deceiving themselves about the meaning of the election

    Democrats, of late, have taken to citing Hillary Clinton's historically large popular vote victory in the presidential race over Donald Trump as evidence that the country is still fundamentally on their side.

    Judging by recent election results -- even before Clinton's stunning loss three weeks ago -- that's simply not true. Republicans not only control both the U.S. Senate and House but find themselves at or near historic highs in terms of governorships and state legislative control.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got it exactly right then when he told The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe that the current state of the Democratic party is like a tree that "looks healthy on the outside but is in the throes of slow and long-term demise."

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Another piece of Obamacare that Trump should keep

    To get a sense of the future of American health care, amidst the post-election uncertainty, watch what happens to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. This agency, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, has attracted substantial opposition. A recent proposal to change reimbursement to doctors for administering certain drugs, in particular, has led to calls that it be abolished. But let's hope the center survives, because it could prove crucial to any new effort to raise the value of health care in the U.S.

    Republicans and Democrats agree that our health-care system needs to move away from fee-for-service payments, which give doctors an incentive to provide more care rather than better care. This payment shift can be accomplished either by encouraging private insurance companies to change how they reimburse hospitals and doctors, or by directly changing how Medicare -- the largest single purchaser of health-care services -- pays those providers. Republicans have tended to favor the former approach and Democrats the latter, but both sides recognize that a combination is needed.

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