Thursday, January 05, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: What happens on January 21?

Earlier this week, Republicans botched the opening of the new legislative session by first gutting an ethics office, then reversing course. That seems to be in the rear-view mirror now. Here are three key issues that will be featured at the end of this month as the Trump administration gets underway:

1. The fate of Obamacare

Republicans, from Trump on down to the newest members of Congress, have long castigated the Affordable Care Act and pledged to "Repeal and Replace" it.  The first part of that will be easy; Congress can simply reverse course on the legislation that made up Obamacare. Replacing it, though, will be hard. That's because they want to keep some parts that protect sick people (such as coverage for pre-existing conditions) and get rid of the parts that spread costs over a large group of people (such as the mandate for coverage).  That ignores the basic idea of insurance, which only works if people who don't make claims are part of the pool to pay for those who do. Some are now talking about "repeal and delay," meaning that they would repeal the ACA but delay the effects of that-- essentially preserving Obamacare for at least the near future, an outcome that undermines their protestations. How should they accomplish this, or should they?

2. Trade with Mexico and China

Trump has said that he will challenge existing trade agreements with these two major trading partners. His appointments back up the idea that he will take this seriously. However, he does have a problem with pro-business contingents-- especially in his own party-- who vigorously support free trade. The push-back on this one may come primarily from his own side, but he may be able to build a coalition mostly of Democrats in Congress to make significant changes.

3.  Supreme Court Nomination

Poor Merrick Garland-- he would have been a great justice. That door has closed, though, and now Trump gets the pick. This will matter for decades, though the fact that he is replacing Justice Scalia means that it is unlikely to significantly change the balance on the Court on many (though not all-- Scalia could have surprising independence) issues.

Trade agreements are only as good as those who write the agreement and their purpose.

China has already began to successfully create trade agreements in the Pacific rim.
The TPP was an attempt to preempt China from dominating trade in the region. Protections for workers were included. We will lose a lot of jobs and also protections for the environment. Oh well.

I remember when Nafta was written primarily by GM to benefit the auto industry.
Workers in both countries have suffered ever since while the authors have benefited.

We can expect more Naftas that are good for the bottom line and no TPPs in our future.

Without a public option similar to medicare for all, healthcare costs will continue to rise for those who are middle class. Private insurance will be available for those who can afford it going forward. The cost of the actions taken by the Republions will be disastrous for business and they have all the political power in our country. They will crush the Republicons on this issue.

Supreme Court
Likely we will have an even more politicized court. I think we will likely have youth and ideology be the primary criteria for the nominees. Scary

The Republicons have proposed a budget that will huuugely increase the debt. I live in Michigan where we are finding that postponing paying for things doesn't work. sending wealth only upwards doesn't work, not funding and neglecting maintenance, our environment, research, education, diplomacy, security and the future of our planet has consequences eventually and doesn't work.

Maybe the party who have opposed governance will revert to their past when governing was included in their toolbox. Hopefully we will once again have a Republican party.
We can only hope the conning of America ends sooner than later.

1. Republicans have a lot of egg on their face here. All the derision is justified. As Minority Leader Schumer said, the GOP Congress now resembles the dog that caught the car. Ruh-Roh. What next?

2. Trade is complicated. There are definitely smart adjustments to be made to our trade relationship with Mexico, China, and the world. I have heard smart people say you can achieve most of the good of TPP in a series bilateral agreements. Trump definitely does not have a sophisticated understanding of trade (mostly he has a circa 1990s-2000s Democratic Party, pro-labor view of trade).

What the free-traders got wrong (and why Trump won) is that free trade and open borders are not actually win-win propositions for everybody. It is a win for the wealthiest among us who are able to increase their profit margins, it is a win for poor people who are paying a little bit less at Wal-Mart, it is a win for foreign workers who increase their standard of living (NAFTA has been awesome for Mexico and lots of other places), it is a win for elites and upper middle class Americans who can more easily obtain maid, lawn, and nanny services, but it is a big NON-WIN for people who last their job at the plant and people whose wages are going down below livable levels. For decades we have said win-win and no one gets hurt and we could prove that by the fact that WE were winning and not getting hurt. In 2016 we heard from the folks who weren't winning finally--and they were concentrated in a way (mostly regionally in the Great Lakes region) that made a dramatic political impact, swinging MI, WI, IA, and PA and breaking the "blue wall." Trump's trade policy is going to hurt most of us. The question is whether is will actually help those who have been hurting for so long. I don't know.

3. The Supreme Court. I defer to all of the people who should know who say Merrick Garland is the nicest guy ever and exhibits exemplary judicial temperament. Poor Merrick Garland. But he is the other reason Trump won. Why did evangelicals vote for Trump in historic numbers? They understood they were about to lose the Court ("for a generation" in the cliche--maybe it was much more serious than that; maybe forever). This a lay up for Trump. Most of the stuff he has promised will be VERY difficult to deliver. Not this. Appoint two or three rock solid conservatives to the Court (and do the same consistently in the inferior courts), and Trump will gain enormous equity with conservatives on every other issue.
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