"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Paul Ryan’s Moral Barbarism

Karl Rove’s column the other day joined the many conservatives expressing their hurt and anger that President Obama would depict Paul Ryan’s budget as harming sick and vulnerable citizens:

Mr. Obama likes campaigning more than governing. And for this president, campaigning means knocking down straw men and delivering a steady stream of misleading attacks. It means depicting opponents as indecent, heartless people who take special delight in targeting seniors and autistic children.

In fact, Obama has never accused Ryan, or anybody, of having a “special delight” in targetting seniors and autistic children. But he has accused them of pursuing policies that would harm, among others, seniors and autistic children. That’s because it’s incontrovertably true. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities delves into the details of Ryan’s plan to slash Medicaid by more than a third over the next decade, and in half over the next two decades:

  • Seniors:   An overwhelming majority of Medicare beneficiaries who live in nursing homes rely on Medicaid for their nursing home coverage.  Because the Ryan plan would require such deep cuts in federal Medicaid funding, it would inevitably result in less coverage for nursing home residents and shift more of the cost of nursing home care to elderly beneficiaries and their families.  A sharp reduction in the quality of nursing home care would be virtually inevitable, due to the large reduction that would occur in the resources made available to pay for such care.
  • People with disabilities:   These individuals constitute 15 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries but account for 42 percent of all Medicaid expenditures, mostly because of their extensive health and long-term care needs.  Capping federal Medicaid funding would place significant financial pressure on states to scale back eligibility and coverage for this high-cost population, many of whom would be unable to obtain coverage elsewhere because of their medical conditions.
  • Children:   Currently, state Medicaid programs must provide children with health care services and treatments they need for their healthy development through the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) aspect of Medicaid, which provides regular preventive care for children and all follow-up diagnostic and treatment services that children are found to need.  A block grant would likely permit states to drop EPSDT coverage, meaning that children, particularly those with special health care needs, would not be able to access some care that medical professionals find they need (because Medicaid would no longer cover certain health services and treatments for children, and their parents wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for that care on their own).
  • Working parents and pregnant women:   Many state Medicaid programs already have extremely restrictive eligibility criteria for parents.  In the typical state, working parents are ineligible for Medicaid if their income exceeds 64 percent of the poverty line (or $14,304 a year for a family of four), and unemployed parents are ineligible if their income exceeds 37 percent of the poverty line ($8,270 a year for a family of four).  Under a block grant, states could cut these already low eligibility levels even further, cap enrollment, and/or require low-income parents to pay more for health services.  States could do the same for low-income pregnant women who rely on Medicaid for their prenatal care, resulting in them forgoing services that are critical to ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

Now, Rove appears to be a pathological liar, or at least so deeply enmeshed in partisan spin it’s not clear that a distinction exists in his mind between objective truth and claims that are useful to his side. But many other conservatives have likewise expressed what has the ring of genuine outrage that Obama would accuse Ryan of snatching medical care away from people in nursing homes, very poor families, special needs children, and so on. I think it reflects, in part, an inability or lack of desire to think with any specificty about the concrete ramifications of imposing extremely deep cuts to Medicaid. Who do they think is on Medicaid? Prosperous, healthy people?

No, Medicaid is a bare-bones program throwing a lifeline to people who are in bad shape. Cutting Medicaid may be the politically easiest way for Ryan to clear budget room to preserve Bush-era revenue levels, as Medicaid patients have little political clout. But it is, well, deeply immoral. I’m actually surprised that conservatives not only can’t seem to imagine (or care about) the consequences of such policies, but they can’t even imagine that people like Obama would actually feel moral outrage at their plan. They can’t imagine a liberal objection as representing anything other than an attempt to score political points. It’s bizarre. I mean, of course Obama finds it morally objectionable to take away medical care to people in nursing homes and children with special needs. That’s why he’s a Democrat.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, May 3, 2011

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democrats, GOP, Governors, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Medicaid, Politics, President Obama, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Seniors, States | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just What Kind Of Student Was Donald Trump?

Donald Trump has been aggressively questioning Barack Obama’s academic record, suggesting that the president was a “terrible student” who did not deserve to get in to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. While Trump has no evidence to back up these claims, there are strong indications that Trump has repeatedly inflated his own academic record — and that he used family connections to gain admission to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I heard [Obama] was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump asked in an interview last month. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”

But an examination of Trump’s own academic record yields a distinctly unflattering picture of the celebrity businessman. Among other things, Trump has allowed the media to report for years that he graduated first in his class at Wharton, despite strong evidence that this is not true and indications that he was, in fact, an undistinguished student.

Trump did not go to Wharton’s prestigious MBA program. Rather, he received an undergraduate degree offered by Wharton to University of Pennsylvania students. And Trump didn’t attend Wharton for a full four years. Instead, he transferred there after spending his first two undergraduate years at Fordham, the Jesuit university in the Bronx.

“I decided that as long as I had to be in college, I might as well test myself against the best,” he explains in his 1989 autobiography, “The Art of the Deal.”

So how did Trump get into Wharton?

Gwenda Blair’s book on the Trump family reports that he gained admission as a transfer student only because of “an interview with a friendly Wharton admissions officer who was one of Freddy’s old high school classmates.” (Freddy is Donald’s older brother.) Trump was also the son of one of the wealthiest New York businessmen of the era, the developer Fred Trump. That certainly couldn’t have hurt his admission chances.

Blair also reports in her Trump biography that his grades at Fordham were merely “respectable.”

Trump has consistently portrayed himself as an exceptional student at Wharton. In March, for example, he explained his doubts about the president’s birthplace by saying, “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country.”

In 2004, Trump told CNN, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance, I got very good marks, I was a good student, it’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

Over the years, myriad profiles of Trump have claimed that he was “first in his class” at Wharton in 1968.

Here’s what the New York Times reported in a January 1973 piece:

Donald, who was graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, joined his father about five years ago. He has what his father calls “drive.” He also possesses, in his father’s judgment, business acumen. “Donald is the smartest person I know”, he remarked admiringly. “Everything he touches turns to gold.”

The Times repeated the “fact” again in a 1976 profile, “Donald Trump, Real Estate Promoter, Builds Image As He Buys Buildings”:

Donald, who grew up in the Trump-built home in Jamaica Estates, Queens, began learning the business when he was only 12. He continued helping his father make deals while a student at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated first in his class in 1968.

The clear narrative being presented is of Trump as an intellectual heavyweight — starting a business at age 12, first in his class at Wharton, “the smartest person I know.” Who told the Times reporters that Trump graduated first in his class? It’s not clear, though Trump himself is an obvious possibility. We also know that Trump, a voracious consumer of media coverage of himself, would almost certainly have seen these references to his graduating “first in his class.”

The “fact” that Trump graduated first in his class made its way into various books, magazines,  and websites.

So what’s the truth about Trump’s record at Wharton?

Writing in the New York Times magazine in 1984, William Geist reported that “the commencement program from 1968 does not list him as graduating with honors of any kind,” even though “just about every profile ever written about Mr. Trump states that he graduated first in his class at Wharton in 1968.”

The writer Jerome Tuccille reported in his 1985 biography of Trump that while “it has been reported that he graduated first in the class … Donald denied that he ever made such a claim. Actually he was not among the honor students that year.” Emphasis added.

Tuccille continues:

“Donald agreed to attend Wharton for his father’s sake. He showed up for classes and did what was required of him but he was clearly bored and spent a lot of time on outside business activities.”

In 1988, New York magazine reported that the idea that Trump had graduated first in his class was a “myth.” The writer snarked that, in fact, Trump had gotten merely the “highest grades possible.”

I wanted to get Trump’s response to all this, but his spokesman has not replied to a request for comment. A Wharton spokeswoman tells me that the school does not release information about alumni beyond year of graduation and degree granted.

I will update this post if Trump gets back to me. The easy solution to clear this all up, of course, would be for Trump to release his academic records — something he has repeatedly demanded that Obama do with his own academic records.

Trump’s academic performance at Wharton, good or bad, didn’t affect his career much. When he graduated, he promptly went to work for his father’s real estate firm, where he was made president a few years later.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Donald Trump, Journalists, Politics, President Obama, Press, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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