Good Friday Morning! It’s crunch time for healthcare. At the beginning of the year, I wrote an analysis of dates to look mark on the calendar as significant milestones. We’re two weeks away from what I’d argue is the most critical time for Donald Trump, the GOP, and the 2018 midterms: November 1, 2017: the day open enrollment begins in the Obamacare exchanges.
In reality, there’s little to nothing Congress or Trump can do to stop the train that’s coming: Insurance premiums are expected to go up 30-40%. That was true before Trump, and it’s valid now. The only way to change that is a full repeal and replace of the entire Obamacare law (variations of which received rejection by Trump or the Freedom Caucus). Nothing being argued about right now in the media or news will change this reality.
I’ve written about this topic in the past, and I’ll cover the stories out now, but know this: Americans are about to experience the worst sticker shock yet. I’ll also include a week’s worth of abysmal legal opinions. I’ll wrap up with a look at two stories that have drifted from the front pages but still matter: the Las Vegas shooting and North Korea. Links follow.
A link I recommend this week: Former President George W. Bush’s speech at the George W. Bush Institute entitled: “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World.” Bush’s moral clarity is refreshing when viewing the world. Bush never criticizes Trump or any other President. If you see it as an indictment of Trump, that speaks more to deeper moral issues about Trump than it does Bush.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
In this piece, I examine the moral code that allows someone like Harvey Weinstein to thrive. It’s based off a basic understanding of extrinsic and intrinsic value, something I’ve written here before as well. If you have the foundational belief that people have intrinsic value, you don’t dehumanize and abuse them as Weinstein and Hollywood have unquestionably done to so many women. I’ve included several links below to new revelations from woman harmed by this culture.
Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown: Or the GOP tries healthcare reform with Trump again
You have to wonder how many times the GOP will attempt overhaul or reform on healthcare with Donald Trump. For a President who acts as if he’ll sign any legislation that hits his desk, he consistently undermines any law that starts working through Congress. Each time, he leaves the GOP flat on their back after the President pulls the football away from them.
The problem: Trump and GOP now face the unavoidable precipice: open enrollment is less than two weeks away and higher premiums, anticipated around 30-40%, are inescapable. Trump and Republicans will be the ones holding the football when hikes hit. No amount of Democrat blame will change that reality.
It’s no surprise, then, to see a flurry of last-minute Obamacare legislation trying to avoid that cliff. Democrats are preemptively arguing that all the price hikes are Trump’s fault. That’s false narrative building. We’ve anticipated these increases since last year, just before the election. Everything you’re seeing was baked into the system before any executive orders by Trump.
But while the GOP and Trump aren’t to blame for the increases, they are the ones holding all power in government and responsible for governing. As I wrote in January:
The fight over Obamacare should be the biggest fight of the year. Democrats are already testing their messaging campaign: “Make America Sick Again.” It’s an odd hill for Democrats to choose to die on. Obamacare is massively unpopular and the GOP plans on replacing Obamacare mostly include the popular provisions of Obamacare. Expect a lot of lies on this front. Democrats sold this legislation on a mountain of lies. They’ll defend it on one too.
For Republicans, they’ll have to do something prior to the Summer recess in Congress. Here’s the reason: if open enrollment begins again in November, Republicans will be the one holding the ball when higher premiums hit again. In 2016, premiums rose an average of 7.5%. In 2017, premiums are set to rise 22%. People will be clamoring for help when November hits. The GOP will have no choice but to act. And if health care companies see Obamacare as a lame-duck law, they’ll pull out entirely, leaving people without coverage. The final implosion of Obamacare threatens to be a disaster if the GOP does not govern well. Action will be required more quickly than more Republicans want to admit.
The fight over health care has consumed Congress, on and off, for the entirety of the year. And since we’ve had no action from Trump or Congress we’re about to hit a breaking point because the healthcare debate is about to get far worse as higher premiums hit pocketbooks.
The new football Trump is yanking from Republicans
All of which brings us to the current fight in Congress. The President encouraged a bipartisan piece of legislation by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) which gets the support of 24 other Senators. In a nutshell:
The deal would include funding through 2019 for Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which President Donald Trump cut last week. It would allow states to use existing Obamacare waivers to approve insurance plans with “comparable affordability” to Obamacare plans, Alexander said. But it would notably not allow states to duck the law’s minimum requirements for what a health insurance plan must cover.
With Trump’s help, that deal seemed headed for approval in the Senate, with a shaky future in the House. Then, at the last second, Trump started attacking the plan over Twitter. Predictably, this has thrown Congress and DC into another tailspin on healthcare reform. If the President is threatening a veto, that effectively kills any chances the bill will pass, and gives politicians free reign to attack the law to save face (which is what Paul Ryan seemed to signal to his caucus after Trump’s attacks).
So after all the wheeling and dealing in developing a bipartisan plan, Trump scuttled the entire process in a few tweets and sent everyone back to square one — two weeks away from massive hikes. Every time the GOP gets close to passing some reform, Trump does something to pull the rug out from under them.
This level of inaction doesn’t just signal incompetent leadership on the part of Trump, we’d be in the same scenario regardless of who was in Senate and House leadership, but it also launches high levels of uncertainty in the open enrollment process. Neither insurance companies nor customers know what to expect for Obamacare plans this next year. That wreaks havoc on the market.
One day, Trump may get serious about healthcare reform and help Republicans push legislation through, but that hasn’t happened yet. Eventually, Trump could become the boy who cried wolf too many times on wanting healthcare or tax reform. Neither party will take him seriously and ignore him, not wanting to get burned again. You can’t keep backing out of a process and expect people to run every time you say something. Eventually, you become a lame duck through your actions.
A week of really bad, no good, horrific legal punditry
Something must have been in the water this week because the number of viral legal opinion pieces I saw this week was high. It spanned both sides of the political aisle. I’d understand if these were contentious areas of legal thought, but they aren’t. It’s well-settled law.
Senate Candidate Roy Moore (R-AL) makes up flag law
First up, Senate Candidate Roy Moore in Alabama. He claimed at a rally that NFL players were kneeling and not obeying flag etiquette. He claimed this was against the law and implied the players should get prosecuted.
Not only is he wrong, but there’s also no statute that forces private citizens to put their hands over their heart, stand, kneel, or do anything during the anthem or towards the flag. How wrong is he? Nearly 75 years of accepted Supreme Court precedence say that in no way can the state enforce compulsory speech regarding the anthem or flag.
Moore used to be a judge, and he knows this law because it’s taught in every law school in the country. He’s brazenly lying to appease what he believes is his base. It’s an absolute mockery of the Constitution to say what he said at a rally.
Compulsory speech shouldn’t be acceptable to any American.
Vox claims President Trump violates the Constitution via the “Take Care Clause.”
Next up, Vox breathlessly claims that Trump’s decisions on Obamacare run afoul of the Take Care Clause and that he should be forced to uphold Obamacare and support it.
As a person who believes the Executive branch should be forced to maintain the law, I’m sympathetic to the argument. But their author, a law professor, offers little to no evidence Trump has violated anything.
She claims that Trump’s tinkering with how the website runs, the amount of time for open enrollment, and money spent on advertising runs afoul of the Take Care Clause. That’s ludicrous. Administrative law has long held that individual agencies have complete power to organize these matters. In no way does it amount to an effort to sabotage the bill because he’s still keeping the open enrollment period AND advertising.
For such a long essay, the spending and enrollment time is the only evidence proffered. It’s so weak; I’d expect it to get thrown out by any court that wasn’t openly biased. What especially noteworthy about her argument is that she honestly defends the DACA memo, which invented legislation without Congressional input, or the Obamacare CSR payments, which was ruled an unconstitutional executive overreach.
Josh Blackman articulated a better argument on this, and I’d agree with him on this issue.
Shaun King claims that Trump violated the Constitution by saying the NFL should fire players
Next up, Shaun King argues that “U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 11, Section 227” prohibits Trump from suggesting NFL owners should fire players for protesting during the anthem. King raises the point in his piece but quickly moves on because he’s not a lawyer, has no legal training, and can’t prove his point. It’s a poor rhetorical device King often uses where he’s “just asking questions,” even though he knows what he’s saying is facetious.
The statutes he’s quoting here deal with bribery and anti-fraud laws. They attempt to stop public officials from using their positions of power to blackmail or defraud private citizens. In no way is Trump doing that here, there’s no motive, crime, or evidence to suggest Trump is doing anything other than his usual culture war gaslighting.
Now, I would agree and have written extensively that no one should get fired for their political speech. We’re asking for a very dangerous society if political discourse starts getting targeted. A community that self-censors is asking for civilization-ending trouble (see any dictatorship or communist regime that censors, it never ends well).
But despite my warnings, it is entirely legal and Constitutional for your employer to fire you for political speech. The NFL owners would violate the law if they punished players for these acts (though, I’d argue society would suffer in the long run).
Two stories lurking just outside the news narrative
I was making a mental note this week of some of the more significant stories that matter, have an impact, but aren’t at the top of the news cycle anymore. The two stories that jumped out were North Korea and the Las Vegas shooting.
The Las Vegas Shooting: A strange story continues without answers
First, we still don’t have a motive or any evidence linking the shooter to ISIS or any other group. Police investigators continue to change the timeline of events, and even the hotel cast doubt on parts of the official story.
Adding to the confusion, one of the critical eyewitnesses, a security guard, vanished from the public eye, as the LATimes noted. Then suddenly, he reappeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show and spoke about what happened, and implied he wouldn’t talk to the media anymore.
All of the above has led to an explosion of conspiracy theories on social media, as people try to connect the dots and fill in the gaps. Which is the real problem: the gaps in what we know. The shifting police narratives, conflicted hotel information, and ISIS throwing their two cents in has muddied the waters.
I’m disinclined to believe any conspiracy theory on this story. But I also think those police investigators should stop dispensing the changing evidence until they have something concrete, just to starve conspiracy theorists.
North Korea: The ever-present nuclear threat
The North Korean state is making the news again, this time as the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said in an interview:
“They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving” their objective of being able to strike the United States, Pompeo told a national security forum in Washington.
Speaking later at the same event, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “We are in a race to resolve this short of military action.” “We are not out of time,” he told the forum, organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. “But we are running out of time.”
The phrase that I’ve cribbed from George Friedman on this is that we’ve entered the “witching hour” on North Korea. We have to decide on whether or not a nuclear North Korea is a threat we can live with in the future. And not only the US but Japan and South Korea.
Based on this interview, and others, it appears as if the US Government is working on the presumption that the North Koreans will gain the ability to strike the US mainland sooner, rather than later.
Adding to the complications, China’s Communist leader Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on the government, silencing dissent, and making his political philosophy part of China’s governing Constitution. Jinping is building himself into the next Mao Zedong, elevating himself and his growing Putinesque control of China, crushing dissidents under the guise of anti-corruption laws.
China matters with North Korea because of trade connections. China gets North Korea to rattle the West’s chains to force concessions elsewhere. If China is hardening its internal stances and reverting to an old-school Stalin/Mao school of Communist thought, then stopping the North Koreans will become more difficult.
Links of the week
Sorry Everybody, But Trump Hasn’t Instigated The Obamacare Apocalypse – Avik Roy, Forbes
Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World – Mayim Bialik, The New York Times
Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein – Lupita Nyong’o, The New York Times
What I Want Everyone, Especially My Daughters, To Know About My #MeToo Experiences: In talking to women friends in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and Fox News scandals, I realized we’re more scathed than we thought we were. – Mary Katherine Ham, The Federalist
Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down: The account was one of hundreds created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency and drew 136,000 followers by tweeting divisive messages in the name of the Tennessee Republican Party. – Kevin Collier, The Daily Beast
The Incredible Legacy Of Philando Castile – Andrea Ruth, RedState
The ‘Never Trump’ Misunderstanding – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
Woman rips off oppressive garments as Raqqa liberated from IS: Overjoyed woman tears off black abaya imposed by terror group, prays and hugs rescuers who take control of Syrian city – The Times of Israel
Bombshell: FBI Found Russia Bribery, Extortion Plot In US Nuclear Industry — In 2009 – Ed Morrissey, HotAir
Satire story of the week
HOLLYWOOD, CA—In the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal sending shockwaves through Hollywood, the nation’s elite members of the entertainment industry have expressed their puzzlement at the fact that the country has fallen so far in morality and ethics, when the very same people have created and promoted entertainment that celebrates moral bankruptcy, sources confirmed.
Directors, actors, writers, and producers who have profited off disgusting, repulsive works that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago all voiced their shock at the fact that Weinstein’s behavior could go unchecked for so long, in addition to expressing incredulity at the nation’s indifference to President Trump’s total lack of moral character. Particularly outspoken on the nation’s morality was Steve Pink, director of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, who blasted the country for its lack of ethics, respect, and dignity.
Thanks for reading!