Good Friday Morning! Another day, another Twitter rant from the President of the United States. In the biggest news this week the CBO released their report on the Senate health care legislation. I’ll go into the proposal and some of the political and policy highlights. Also this week I wanted to go over the cultural clash in NYC over a modern production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – in which Trump is the character killed. The best links, columns, and articles I’ve read or shared the past week follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
Here are my latest articles for the Conservative Institute.
In this column, I go over the events of a police shooting in St. Paul, MN. You probably remember this case as the one where the girlfriend started filming live on Facebook Live just seconds after her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was fatally shot by the police.
I go over the facts of the case and explain why the jury was wrong to acquit the policeman of second-degree manslaughter.
Over an eight-month period, a man posted incredibly hateful and inflammatory posts about Muslims on his personal Facebook page. Police arrested him for those posts, and he’s now serving a 20-month sentence for hate speech. I cover why this is a travesty for free speech advocates and why that’s unlikely to happen in the US.
The public march against free speech in Europe is astonishing to watch – and it gets defended by American liberals.
While the UK uses their laws to crack down on hate speech in general, Canada is targeting their hate speech laws at those with religious beliefs. Case in point, a man, was fined several thousand dollars for printing pamphlets saying homosexuality was a sin.
The Canadian Supreme Court examined the pamphlets line-by-line to determine what was and wasn’t offensive. The Canadian Senate is expanding those powers and effectively taking full government control of the language. Progressives in the government are trying to control all ideas, thoughts, and words.
The Senate Healthcare Bill is a flawed, but practicable piece of legislation
I said last week I was ignoring the Senate health care legislation because the CBO score wasn’t out and we didn’t have the final version of the bill yet. This week, we have the CBO estimates, but I doubt we have the last text of the bill.
I suspect that the final version was held back because of politics. There’s more behind the scenes issues going on than meets the eye. So I’ll divide my attention up into three categories for the healthcare bill: politics, policy, and finally my projections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likely knew from the outset that no matter what he put forward, it would get pushback from highly conservative Senators. Consequently, I wasn’t surprised to see Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservative Senators meeting with McConnell on addressing their differences so quickly.
McConnell likely put forward an incomplete bill to make it appear as if these conservative Senators had more input than they had. The key is getting moderates on board – not conservatives.
The trick is getting amendments to the bill around the “Byrd rule.” You have to remember; Republicans are handcuffed in how much reform/repeal/replace they can do to Obamacare. A full repeal and replace plan would require beating a Democratic filibuster, which won’t occur.
Instead, Republicans are using the reconciliation process to push through Obamacare reform. And while that limits the scope of what they can accomplish, it also means they don’t need a filibuster-proof majority vote to pass Obamacare changes.
The Byrd Rule limits how much repeal/reform Republicans can achieve without Democratic support. It’s likely that popular programs under the Senate plan will be cut (like the cuts to Planned Parenthood, for example. If these provisions were kept in, they would likely violate the Byrd threaten the entire bill).
A lot of hay is being made over the Senators against the bill. I’d ignore this sideshow for the moment. The votes to pass the legislation likely exist, it’s just a matter of getting everyone to a semi-comfortable position.
If you take the CBO projections as gospel, and I don’t for the reasons laid out here, the report was highly influential. Here’s the most talked about the section that you’ve likely heard some version of in the media:
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 15 million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law—primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 22 million in 2026. In later years, other changes in the legislation—lower spending on Medicaid and substantially smaller average subsidies for coverage in the nongroup market—would also lead to increases in the number of people without health insurance. By 2026, among people under age 65, enrollment in Medicaid would fall by about 16 percent and an estimated 49 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.
You’ll notice that the CBO report explicitly states that the bulk of those who are not insured because the individual mandate is gone. Somewhat interestingly, PolitiFact called House Speaker Paul Ryan a liar for pointing out this very fact. As I said, you can read the report yourself above.
In the conservative media, there are two names people go to for health care analysis: Yuval Levin and Avik Roy. Both men have a mountain of experience and are highly respected. Levin wrote his impressions in National Review, and Avik Roy wrote both in Forbes and the New York Times Opinion Pages. I recommend all three pieces for a thorough understanding the proposed legislation. They cover the specifics in far more detail than I could – but with clarity, a layperson can understand.
The last policy note I’d make is over the so-called Medicare cuts. You’ve no doubt read a ton on how Republicans are cutting Medicare and throwing Seniors off a cliff. That assertion is patently untrue:
The bill does not spend fewer dollars. In fact, under this bill, taxpayers will spend more over the next 10 years. The “severe” change being referenced in almost every news story is a reduction in the rate of growth.
For decades in the health policy community most have agreed a good first step would be to slow the rate of growth, but in a partisan environment, that becomes “mean and heartless.”
During the 2012 campaign, while debate was swirling around Obamacare’s payment reductions in Medicare, PolitiFact wrote that “While the health care law reduces the amount of future spending growth in Medicare, the law doesn’t actually cut Medicare.”
Surely ACA supporters aren’t using this logic for partisan or ideological reasons?
Ultimately, Obamacare supporters can’t have it both ways, defending $716 billion in Medicare payment reductions as inconsequential in the ACA while claiming a similar reduction in Medicaid will cause the sky to fall.
In other words, the Republican plan reduces the rate of growth over ten years in a similar manner as Obamacare, yet only one of them is called “Medicare cuts.” Color me skeptical of the top media claim on health care.
Ultimately, I think a bill passes the Senate for the same reasons I believed the House would pass a bill. Trump and Republicans have a vested interest in achieving a healthcare victory. Letting Obamacare “fail” on their watch isn’t a viable option because they know voters would blame Republicans for the failure.
Voters blame the party in power for the problems they encounter, whether fair or not. Pushing through healthcare and a tax bill is the top priority for Republicans. They need this legislation to go through.
I maintain that absent an outside event impacting the economy (recession) or national security (terrorist attack), 2018 will be a healthcare and jobs election. Republicans have to show leadership on both topics to withstand the midterm elections; and because they have show competence, the GOP/Trump needs a health care win in 2017.
The outcry over a modern Julius Caesar production misses the point of the play
Alexi Sargeant had a great piece in the New Criterion this month on the modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The performance created massive waves because in the third act Caesar, or Trump, in this case, is assassinated.
Trump supporters have stormed the stage to protest the depiction of Trump assassinated. The choice of Trump and the idiocy of the protesters shows a remarkable lack of insight into what Shakespeare’s play means, as Sargeant notes:
Shakespeare’s Caesar is no vulgar political neophyte, but a successful general and career politician remaking Rome in his image. Yes, he is something of a boastful demagogue, opposed by the “establishment” of Rome’s Optimates. But he is neither a fool nor a voluptuary. Bedecking him in the trumpery of a golden comb-over and golden bathtub undermines the central conflict of the story. Brutus loves and respects Caesar, yet chooses to kill him for the good of Rome. “We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,” he says, “and in the spirit of men there is no blood./ O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,/ And not dismember Caesar!” Brutus’s faith that other Romans will so cleanly divorce political and personal considerations proves the undoing of the conspirators and of the republic.
Trump’s political opponents have no respect for Trump-the-person, yet they honor the office of the President—and so they are not very much like Brutus at all. The director Oskar Eustis has tried to frame his production as a warning against “fight[ing] for democracy by undemocratic means.” Perhaps a noble cause, but it fits neither the play nor this production. Shakespeare’s conspirators (not to mention Shakespeare) would not conflate Rome’s arcane aristocratic republic with a democracy. Casca jokes that he dared not laugh at the people’s fawning over Caesar “for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air.” The people’s champions these conspirators are not, and the Public can’t fool us by having Cassius don a pink pussy hat from the Women’s March.
Read the rest; it’s a magnificent piece. The broader point I would make about the play is that Shakespeare underlines the serious consequences of Caesar’s death.
The conspirators claimed to be doing what they did for the good of Rome, but in actuality they only doomed Rome. The aftermath of Caesar’s death was one in which mob rule and violence were overwhelming. Rome descended into Civil War as those loyal to Caesar attempted to wrest power away from the conspirators.
Everything Brutus and the conspirators feared Caesar would become ended up happening to Rome as a result of Caesar’s death. Caesar was none of the things the conspirators feared, but Rome became the dictatorship they all feared.
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a cautionary tale of the consequences of a coup or public assassination. A real understanding of Julius Caesar wouldn’t cause an audience to applaud when “Trump” dies in the modern retelling. And if the protestors knew their Shakespeare, they’d also know the death of Caesar/Trump was not the highlight of the play.
Julius Caesar tells the tale of what happens when a Caesar-like power threatens the elites of society. It shows us what happens when those elites attempt an overthrow. The results are sobering – not celebratory or protest-worthy. The assassination of Caesar was a disaster for Rome and the Republic.
I hope we never have to learn Caesar’s lesson the hard way.
Must read articles, links, and columns
Religious Liberty, Trump Win Important Victories at the Supreme Court – Dan McLaughlin, National Review Online
The Supreme Court’s Religious-Freedom Message: There Are No Second-Class Citizens – David French, National Review Online
For the law nerds: Symposium: Trinity Lutheran and Zelman – Saved by footnote 3 or a dream come true for voucher advocates? – Frank S. Ravitch, SCOTUSBlog
Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike May Have Gone Too Far – Ben Casselman, FiveThirtyEight
Black Appalachia: One photographer wants to show that the face of coal country might not be as white as you think – Katelyn Fossett, Politico Magazine
Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy – Mike Gonzalez, The Hill
Shock, Dismay In Academia At Scorpion Acting Like Scorpion – Ken White, Popehat
Justice Gorsuch’s first opinions reveal a confident textualist – Jonathan H. Adler, The Volokh Conspiracy
How Twitter Pornified Politics – Bret Stephens, The New York Times
The Manhoff Archives: Stalin’s Soviet Union comes to life in full color with the discovery of a long-hidden collection of images – Mike Eckel, Wojtek Grojec, and Amos Chapple, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Satire piece of the week
HOMESTEAD, FL—Acting on a tip from a local fisherman who caught the former vice president siphoning gas from his outboard motor, DNC Chairman Tom Perez on Monday reportedly tracked down Joe Biden deep in the Florida Everglades tossing whole raw chickens to alligators.
Sources confirmed that the bearded, shaggy-haired Biden, who withdrew from public life four months ago, was initially startled to see Perez, dropping the bird carcass he was de-feathering and uttering “ah shit” when he recognized the newly elected head of the Democratic Party.
Thanks for reading!