Five Must Reads This Morning

Yeah, I know, you make up your own mind about what you must read. And well you should. But please consider these.

Jeff Sessions, Patriot

The Washington Monthly answers, at least to its own satisfaction, the question, Why Did Sessions Pivot 180 Degrees in His Views on Russia? Massive intrigue. $11 billion deals. Intense skullduggery.

Why the Delay in the Revised Muslim Ban?

****Aardvark Confirmation Bias Alert****Because they ain’t got no stinkin’ evidence to support it.

Why “Obamacare Replacement” Won’t Pass

The picture is becoming clearer, as Josh Barro lucidly explains. And see 5 Points On The Tax Credit Debate Roiling The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Effort.

To pass, it would have to strike some sort of balance between destroying health care for everybody, which the traditional conservatives/libertarians want, and keeping subsidies for lots of people, which the “moderates” want, so that it won’t be compared too unfavorably vis-à-vis Obamacare. But there aren’t enough votes for that kind of compromise.

The only way to steamroll all the Republican factious is bullying from Trump. Which he probably won’t do. Which might well not work if he tried it. And which, if it did work, would seriously undermine Trump with his base—when lots of them lose their health care.

Brooks On Trumpism

Many paragraphs. A deep thought in every one. Read it for yourself. Brooks concludes thusly,

Fourth, Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.

Human development research offers a different formula: All of life is a series of daring adventures from a secure base. If government can create a framework in which people grow up amid healthy families, nurturing schools, thick communities and a secure safety net, then they will have the resources and audacity to thrive in a free global economy and a diversifying skills economy.

This is a response that is open to welfare state policies from the left and trade and macroeconomic policies from the free-market right — a single-payer health care system married to the flat tax.

The last thing Trump showed was this: We’re in a state of radical flux. Political parties can turn on a dime. At least that means it’s a time to think anew.

Obamacare Replacement Bill Becomes a McGuffin

maltese-falcon

According to Alfred Hitchcock a McGuffin is “the device, the gimmick, if you will or the papers the spies are after.” Like the plaid suitcases in What’s Up, Doc? Or the Maltese falcon in The Maltese Falcon.

Trump said he would repeal and replace Obamacare with “something wonderful.” How wonderful is it? So wonderful that the House Republicans are scared shitless that its contents will become public, which will generate instant and overwhelming opposition, which will scare off their members.

The solution? Keep it secret!

From Politico:

Senate Republicans aren’t backing the latest House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying they are reserving judgment until House leaders provide key details about the proposal they intend to advance as soon as next week.

Top House Republican committee chairmen Kevin Brady and Greg Walden on Wednesday crossed the Capitol to rally support among their Senate counterparts for their bill but provided lawmakers with few details, such as a cost estimate, legislative language or policy details, even as they walked senators through the broad outlines of the plan. …

“I need to see a plan. You want me to endorse something I haven’t even read? … This is a big thing,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “They are describing a plan. They didn’t hand out a piece of paper. There are still numbers missing.”

There were reports that the text of the bill would only be made available to Republicans to read in a basement room in a House office building.

It then developed that the text of the bill is secret—and unavailable to Republicans like Rand Paul.

The bizarre security measures for the bill, which came to light Wednesday night, underscore how politically risky repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has come to be seen in the past month by GOP leaders.

The leadership has been buffeted on one side by members of the public who are afraid of losing health-care coverage — and who have angrily voiced those fears at recent congressional town halls — and on the other side by conservative members of the GOP caucus who want a wholesale repeal of the ACA or a less liberal replacement plan.

“I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location & not available for me or the public to view,” Paul tweeted Thursday morning.

“This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now,” tweeted Paul, who has pushed for his own replacement proposal.

Paul later tweeted: “I am heading to the secure location where they are keeping the House obamacare bill. I will demand a copy for the American people.”

But those efforts were rebuffed, even after Paul toted along a photocopier to make his own copy of the legislation.

But not to worry, folks. It’s something wonderful. That’s why they’re scared to let you read it.

This is turning into The Keystone Cops Search for the Maltese Falcon.

Michael Grunwald Lays it on with a Trowel

trowel

In an article entitled Salesman-in-Chief, subtitled, Last night, Trump promised America could have all the cake it wants, and lose weight, too. What happens when he needs to deliver?, he writes,

President Donald Trump basically told Americans last night that he’s going to make sure we can have our cake and eat it, too—and by the way it will be a spectacular cake, it won’t cost much, and it’s going to help us lose a lot of weight.

Trump used his first speech to Congress last night to lay out a heroic vision of an America where “every problem can be solved.” He promised to ensure clean air and water while getting rid of environmental regulations. He vowed to ratchet down taxes on corporations and the middle class while jacking up spending on the military, immigration enforcement, infrastructure and veterans—and at the same time somehow rescuing America from its crushing national debt. He suggests that he’ll increase tariffs on foreign goods, and that foreign countries would respond by lowering tariffs on U.S. goods. And he pledged to replace Obamacare with terrific reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs and provide better health care.” He didn’t explain in much detail how those reforms would work, or whether they would also do something about those embarrassingly skimpy gowns patients have to wear in the hospital.

The media takeaway was that Trump’s speech sounded optimistic, which was true compared to his dyspeptic inaugural address, and also true in the sense that infomercials promising baldness cures or eight-minute abs are optimistic. But there’s a fine line between optimism and magical realism. …

In the real world, policy choices have trade-offs. For example, Trump vowed to kill Obamacare’s individual mandate, but he also complained that insurers are abandoning the Obamacare exchanges—a problem that would only intensify if the mandate went away, and young and healthy consumers weren’t required to buy insurance. He suggested he could fix the problem by lowering the overall cost of health care, but in fact Obamacare has already helped bring health care inflation down to its lowest level in half a century. As for the big goal of “repeal and replace”? He handed that ball to Congress, where some Republicans want to eliminate many of the subsidies that have helped Obamacare cover 20 million additional Americans as well as the new taxes on the wealthy that helped pay for it, and other Republicans hope to preserve some of Obamacare’s benefits for the working poor. It’s not clear how they’ll pass anything, much less how they could pass—or even think up—a cost-cutting, tax-cutting, coverage-expanding, care-improving plan that squared Trump’s various circles.

The article continues in this vein, concluding that Trump will excuse the inevitable failure of his promises by “fudging statistics and declaring victory.”

My own view, is that, if and when he achieves a legislative result, Trump will most assuredly fudge and declare. But the question is whether anything will ever get passed on the first place, so that he has an opportunity to lie about its success.

How to Win Arguments

fallaciesposterhigherresGetting a lot of help from my friends. Keep it coming.

Vasari sends this along, claiming it will be the ultimate weapon here at Happy Acres. Well, not for everyone, but for a lot.

Click on the image to open a full size pdf. Then have fun listening to a Trump speech. Every time you correctly identify a fallacy, take a drink.

Indivisible

This is a good time to remind everyone that Aardvark’s recently revised home page includes links to sources of practical advice on the resistance. Among the most important of these is Indivisible, a guide prepared by progressive congressional staffers on “best practices for making Congress listen.”

You can sign up here for regular updates.

Hat tip to Mitzie for the reminder.

Early Warning Signs of Fascism

warning

Thanks to Mitzie, who got it from Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Martin Longman of The Washington Monthly expatiates on the topic.

The original text is by one Lawrence W. Britt, described in various places as a political scientist and student of fascism, and author of a dystopian political thriller entitled June, 2004. Understandably, some Amazon reviewers, writing prior to 2016, found the novel too implausible.