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

“Marco Rubio; Let Me Be Your Front Man, Republicans”: To Continue To Advocate The Fiscal And Regulatory Policies The GOP Craves

Today, Marco Rubio delivers a speech in Detroit, where he will again make the case to Republicans that the solution to their economic vulnerabilities lies in nominating Marco Rubio. “If I’m our nominee … We will be the party of the bartenders and the maids, of the people that clean our rooms and fix our cars,” Rubio promises. The choice of working-class occupations is hardly an accident — Rubio is describing the occupations held by his parents when they came to the United States. Rubio’s idea of a “party of” is quite literal — he means the party would be identified with the classes of the parents of its candidate rather than, say, its policies.

Many Republicans blame Mitt Romney’s defeat on his personal wealth, and there has been a renewed vogue for the always-popular appeal to personal working-class authenticity. Scott Walker has a story about buying a really cheap sweater. John Kasich is the son of a mailman. (National Review’s Kasich profile begins, “Have you heard that John Kasich’s dad was a mailman? If not, then you’ve probably never been around Ohio’s Republican governor.”) Hillary Clinton, too, reaches back to her mother to cast herself as the child of working-class toil. But Clinton grounds her appeal to hard-pressed Americans primarily in terms of her policy platform, which she has emphasized in a series of detailed speeches.

Rubio is unusually clear about his strategy to respond to Clinton’s arguments about policy with appeals to his background. “If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck?” he said at the first Republican debate. “I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she — how is she gonna lecture me — how is she gonna lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago.” This is Rubio’s plan. Clinton will attack the Republican economic program, and Rubio will talk about his life story.

Rubio’s platform is not entirely devoid of appeals to the working class. He emphasizes an expanded child-tax credit, which would provide benefits to families of modest means. George W. Bush, likewise, portrayed his tax cut as a plan aimed primarily at people like a low-income waitress mom, even though the overall impact was to make the tax code much more regressive. Rubio’s program would have the same effect, but more so. Even Rubio’s tax-cut plan, the most allegedly moderate aspect of his platform, would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Other elements would compound the impact. Rubio would raise the Social Security retirement age, a change with little impact on white-collar workers, but a punishing blow to people who work on their feet or in some other physically demanding way. He would repeal Obamacare, whose benefits are heavily tilted toward low-income workers:

Rubio has sketched out a vague concept that would replace Obamacare, which — to the extent its effects can be defined — would shift much higher costs onto low-income workers, like bartenders and maids.

Rubio has voted for the Ryan budget, which would effect the largest upward redistribution of resources in American history. Indeed, he has set himself to Ryan’s right, criticizing the chairman’s compromise to slightly ease the impact of budget sequestration. He was also an early supporter of the 2013 government shutdown.

Rubio promises to repeal Dodd-Frank, a position that finds immense favor on Wall Street. Rubio may be the most forthrightly pro–Wall Street candidate in the race. His undiluted attack on Dodd-Frank prompted a grateful Richard Bove to write a column headlined “Thank You, Marco Rubio.” Bove is the author of Guardians of Prosperity: Why America Needs Big Banks. Some critics of Dodd-Frank favor (or like to position themselves as favoring) even more stringent regulation. Bove makes no such pretense. His book’s own summary begins, “Since the financial crisis, amid outrage at the likes of Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase and Washington’s rejiggering of the financial system, the banking industry has had one major defender: Richard X. Bove.”

It is positions like this — along with his past, retracted but perhaps still secretly held support for immigration reform — that have endeared Rubio to his party’s donor class. “At the American Enterprise Institute’s annual donor retreat in Sea Island, Ga., one attendee says Rubio got rave reviews from a crowd that included several billionaires,” reported National Review’s Eliana Johnson. “And in late January, the senator impressed the libertarian-leaning crowd at the Koch brothers’ donor conference in Palm Springs, Calif., and came out on top of an informal straw poll conducted there.”

In 2004, Democrats did not think they could frontally attack the Bush administration’s hawkish policies, so they wanted to use their candidate’s biography instead. That was the all-but-explicit message of John Kerry, who promised Democrats his military background would insulate him from attacks. Republicans who favor tax cuts for the rich, cuts in social benefits for working-class Americans, and deregulation of Wall Street face a similar dilemma. What these donors want is a candidate who will continue to advocate the fiscal and regulatory policies they crave, but can sell it to the public. Rubio is all but explicitly making the case for himself as the front man to make that sale.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 20, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Risk Of Looking Like A Loser”: Why Trump Will Never Make The Ballot

Making political predictions rarely turns out well, but here’s one: Donald Trump will not be a candidate for president in 2016.

What? Yes, I know, he’s already announced. In my view, though, he won’t take this all the way to the ballot in Iowa, New Hampshire, or any of the Republican caucus or primary elections.

Why? Because he’s Donald Trump and everything we know about him tells us he won’t do it.

Let’s step back from the Trump frenzy and consider the realities of a possible Trump run. First is the essential question: Will Donald Trump be the next president of the United States? No. Be it in the throes of a dot-com boom or tulip mania, there are always those who argue, “This time it’s different.” But it never is. All that we know about politics has not evaporated because Donald Trump says he’d like to be president.

What Donald Trump has done so far in 2015 is totally in character with the Trump who’s been in the public eye for decades. He’s a loud voice with strong opinions and loves to be in the middle of the action. But actually putting his name on a ballot would be a strange and quixotic move.

In the Trump lexicon, the greatest insult is to call someone a “loser.” Why would 69-year-old Donald Trump voluntarily transition from business success to political loser? In The Apprentice, Trump decides who is hired and who is, famously, “fired.” He loves that role and it defines his public image. But if he actually takes this quest to a ballot, it will be the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada—all those primary states—who will be interviewing Donald Trump and deciding if he should be hired or fired.

If he doesn’t win, he was fired. He didn’t get the job. Why would he put himself in that position? Short of shaving his head and showing up for a debate dressed in Lululemon yoga pants, it’s difficult to imagine anything more out of character.

When Trump argues that his net worth is far greater than the $3 billion calculated by Forbes and others, he is placing billons of dollars of value on the Trump “brand.” He is obsessed with his image and his brand and that obsession has helped him grow businesses and make a ton of money. Now imagine the likelihood he will risk coming in behind Jeb Bush, a guy who, in Trump’s eyes, might as well be wearing a fake Rolex. Really? How about getting fewer votes than Mike Huckabee? Both of which are likely.

Adults rarely change, and no one changes over 65. Look at Hillary Clinton. She’s the same Hillary Clinton, only more so. And so is Donald Trump. He enjoys doing what he enjoys and God love him for it.

But what do we know about running for president? It’s the most unpleasant, demeaning, debilitating process in public life, a process that almost always ends in failure. Donald Trump is going to put himself through a year of this meat grinder?

Please. That’s absurd.

Some might argue that he can rewrite the rules and force the process to change. No. No one has and no one can. The process of electing a president is the same for all candidates. It’s like the NFL. You can come in a high draft pick or a free agent walk-on, but once the selection begins, no favors are granted.

To date, Donald Trump has benefited from not being taken seriously. The reality is that the majority of negative political stories originate in some form of research conducted by opposition forces: the famous “oppo dumps.” No one has bothered to do serious oppo research on Donald Trump, and for good reason. The Democrats hope he will win—God, do they ever—and no Republican candidates have had the interest or bandwidth to do the work.

But if Trump actually goes on the ballot, that will change. Then we will start to find out basic information that to date has not been part of the discussion.

Voters will learn how often Donald Trump votes, and whether he votes in Republican or Democratic primaries. Does he harbor wealth off shore? What possible legal issues and lawsuits has he been involved in over the course of his career? And that’s just the beginning. Will Trump be able to dismiss questions about his past as relevant to his performance as president? Hard to imagine from a man who questioned the validity of the president’s birth certificate.

Some Republicans seem to fear Trump’s threat to run as an independent. Don’t. He won’t do it. He’s a very smart businessman who knows the threat gives him more leverage. He has built his entire business career on maximizing leverage. Why in the world should he walk away from a powerful bit of leverage without getting anything in return? That’s not the Trump way. But he’s not self-destructive and would have zero desire to go down in political history as a spoiler.

We’ve seen this before. In April of 2011, he was leading the Republican field with 26 percent, about the same as he is getting now. He didn’t run but the polls proved he had a following and he wanted to play a prominent role in the process. Remember when, in 2011, he was named the moderator at a Newsmax-sponsored debate to be held two days after Christmas? It was sort of a nutty idea—more debates? Christmas?—but he was confident he could force candidates to the stage. It didn’t happen. Mitt Romney politely but firmly turned down the invite and eventually Trump withdrew as moderator. It fizzled.

A few days before the Nevada primary, he endorsed Romney and, as a prominent businessman in a local community, it probably helped, just as dozens of other like endorsements were positive. Some speculated that he had demanded a speaking slot at the convention in exchange for the endorsement. Nope, never happened, and he didn’t speak at the convention. Like many others, he helped raise money and did what he could to help the campaign. He didn’t get what he wanted but he handled it well.

Donald Trump is having a great time. He’s raising the profile of issues he cares about and contributing to a national discussion. I call that a good thing in a world in which far too many are apathetic and can’t be bothered to contribute.

It’s not entirely dissimilar to the role a very different sort of candidate named Bernie Sanders is making in the Democratic race. But Bernie has fought many losing public battles and believes there is honor in defeat. Donald Trump believes losing makes you a loser. And he will do anything to avoid that label.

For most candidates, it might make sense to ask, “How could he not move forward without losing face?” but the whole point is that Trump isn’t a normal candidate. He went through none of the usual steps of considering a candidacy—talking to donors, conferring with party leaders, etc.—he just got in because, well, he wanted to. And so it will be when he leaves. He’ll exit when polls still show he can win and forever he will be able to argue he could have won. And in doing so, he will have won by Trump rules.

I don’t think Donald Trump speaks for the Republican Party any more than Al Sharpton spoke for the Democratic Party when he ran for president in 2004. Nor do I agree with many of his opinions, and his tone—often, well, it offends me.

But this is a man who has done many good things. He contributes a ton to charity, pays a fortune in taxes, helps create thousands of jobs. When many were ready to give up on New York City in the bad old days, he stayed, invested, and was rewarded. All of that is admirable and important.

So my advice to the Republican Party would be not to worry about Donald Trump. This will work out and a year from now, the party will be defined much more by the nominee than these pre-season skirmishes. My bet is that Trump will be trying to help a nominee win and will play a positive role.

Of course I also thought Seattle would run. But we will see.


By: Stuart Stevens, The Daily Beast, August 20, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Playing A Deeply Inside Game”: Why Ted Cruz Has The Best Chance Of Becoming The GOP Nominee

It’s good to be Ted Cruz.

He may not have the buzziest campaign of the 2016 cycle thus far, ceding the stage to standouts — like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina — who have hit a populist nerve. But Trump, Carson, and Fiorina — even more so than Sanders — are outsiders, and despite Cruz’s penchant for making enemies and alienating people, he’s playing a deeply inside game.

It’s working like a charm. And his fellow insiders should be at least mildly terrified.

Here’s the Cruz playbook. First, count on the other insider insurgents to flame out or fade. That’s already happening to poor Rand Paul. (Things are so dire in the Paul camp that he’s had to fall back on his father as a fundraising surrogate.) It’s happening, in slow motion, to Scott Walker, whose lunkheaded approval of $80 million in public subsidies for a new NBA arena is just the latest indicator that he’s not as conservative or compelling a candidate as his supporters had hoped.

The next puzzle piece to fall into place is Rick Perry. Even for Cruz, who has happily made himself a hate figure in the oh-so-collegial Senate, dumping on Perry would be bad form. It’s essential to the Cruz campaign that Perry take himself out — and that’s nearly a done deal, now, too.

With Cruz holding steady in the polls, the stage is just about set for him to emerge as the only “true conservative” in the race with the brains and the chops to match the purity. Although those qualities definitely prevent Cruz from beating Trump or Fiorina in the invisible populist primary, establishment types know full well that Cruz is the only viable candidate who the right’s populists and elites can both stomach.

Of course, if Marco Rubio woke up tomorrow and decided to run to the right, that calculus would be upset in a hurry. But Rubio can’t do that. He has to win the invisible elitist primary first. Rubio’s playbook required that he keep pace with Jeb Bush, then let the party come to terms with the fact that Rubio had all the advantages of a Bush without the liability of the Bush name. But then Ohio Gov. John Kasich entered the race and showed surprising strength in the elitist primary, which makes Rubio’s task more difficult and complicated — great news for Ted Cruz, because it means Rubio has to tack more to the center to protect his slice of the anti-populist vote from going either to Bush or Kasich.

Not long ago, people were convinced that more moderate candidates were destined to win GOP primaries. John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s victories indicated that conservatives had to make do with vice presidential nominees. But neither McCain nor Romney had to contend with someone as savvy and put-together as Cruz. You don’t have to be an Oscar-winning screenwriter to visualize how Cruz would have brought the boom down on those two.

Bush and Rubio are harder nuts for him to crack. But his ace in the hole is the populist vote, which at this point seems decidedly unwilling to settle for a Palin-esque consolation prize.

Then there are the billionaires. When Walker, Perry, and company falter and fail, the donors who backed them won’t just take their marbles and go home. In fact, they’re much more likely to bail beforehand, throwing their support to the most conservative candidate they think can stave off a full-blown populist revolt, sucking the disillusioned and disaffected back into the fold. And again, unless Rubio cuts right in a hurry, there’s only one place for them to turn: Cruz.

That’s why people jumped at the chance to believe recent (bogus) rumors that the billionaires, led by casino magnate Steve Wynn, had already decided to back Cruz. The logic behind that kind of backroom deal isn’t some farfetched conspiracy theory. It’s an open secret.

If you’re a Republican who thinks Cruz can win in the general election, this is all great news. But if you don’t, it’s fairly scary. Because it means a sure loser has the surest path to the nomination — and the confidence to pursue it with no reservations.

Yes, that’s right. Barring some unfathomable twist, Cruz will lose. For all his brilliant campaign strategy, that’s one contingency Cruz still can’t crack.


By: John Poulos, The Week, August, 18, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Equivalent Of Thinking The Iraq War Would Be A Cakewalk”: Why The GOP Presidential Candidates Can’t Reform Health Care

In the last few days, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio released health care plans, and other Republican candidates are sure to follow soon. Most will probably be pretty similar, even if some are more fully fleshed out than others.

But they’ll all share one feature, the thing that tells you that they aren’t even remotely serious about this issue: they will take as their starting point that the entire Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

I say that that shows they aren’t serious not because I think the ACA has done a great deal of good, though I do think that. I say it because it shows that they’re completely unwilling to grapple with both the health care system as it exists today, and how incredibly disruptive the wholesale changes they’re proposing would be. Walker’s plan even says, “unlike the disruption caused by ObamaCare, my plan would allow for a smooth, easy transition into a better health care system.” This is the health care equivalent of thinking the Iraq War would be a cakewalk.

The reality is that repealing the ACA now that it has been implemented would mean a complete and utter transformation of American health care. Republicans have often lamented that the law was so terribly long and included many different rules and regulations — yet now they act as though the law amounts to just a couple of rules here and there that can therefore be tossed out without too much trouble. But they were right the first time: the law is indeed complex, and has brought hundreds of changes big and small to American health care, not just in how people get insurance but in how Medicare and Medicaid work, how doctors and hospitals are paid, and in all sorts of other areas.

The ACA established health care exchanges. It brought millions of people into Medicaid, it closed the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole.” It gave subsidies to small businesses. It funded pilot projects to explore new means of providing and paying for care, it imposed new regulations on insurance companies. It created new wellness and preventive care programs, it provided new funding for community health centers. It did all that, and much more. You can argue that each one of these was a good or a bad idea, but you can’t pretend that unwinding them all would be anything resembling a “smooth, easy transition.”

We know why every Republican health care plan has to start with repealing the ACA: politics. Republicans have spent the last five years telling their constituents that they’re going to repeal it any day now, and they’ve held over 50 repeal votes in Congress. They’ve refused to admit that a word of it has any merit, even as they try to incorporate some of its more popular reforms (like protections for people with pre-existing conditions) into their own plans. So they’ve backed themselves into a corner where whatever any Republican offers has to start with repeal.

Which is why all their plans, the ones that have been released and the ones yet to come, are absurdly unrealistic. They pretend that it will be no problem to completely transform the American health care system — and there will be no losers in such a transformation, only winners — which shows that they have no intention of actually doing so. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if a Republican gets elected next November, he’ll be relieved when his health care plan dies in Congress.

Let’s contrast that with how Democrats acted in 2008, when there was a vigorous debate in the presidential primary over health care. The three leading candidates, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, all had very similar plans, similar because they reflected the Democratic consensus on health care reform that had evolved in the decade and a half since Bill Clinton’s reform effort failed. One major disagreement was over whether there had to be an individual mandate — Clinton’s plan had one, and Obama’s didn’t — but when he took office, Obama accepted that the mandate was necessary to make the entire plan work. It wasn’t a fantasy plan that just pandered to liberal hopes, it was something that could actually pass and be implemented.

Whenever liberals told Obama that a single-payer health plan would be far superior to what he was proposing, he would respond that if we were starting from scratch, that would probably be true. But, he’d say, we aren’t starting from scratch, so the ACA has to accommodate itself to the health care system that already exists. The result was a gigantic kludge, new complexity layered on top of an already complex system in an attempt to solve its varied shortcomings. Like all kludges, it seemed like the realistic option given the situation we confronted, but it left us with something that was far from perfect.

A Republican who actually wanted to pass real health care reform would have to approach the problem the same way: by saying that for better or worse, the Affordable Care Act has already affected the system in profound ways, so any realistic plan has to understand what those changes are, and find the most efficient way to keep the ones that are working and change the ones that aren’t. That doesn’t mean that repeal is impossible, just that it would be a spectacular upheaval, one that I promise you Republicans have no genuine appetite for. Remember all the screaming and shouting they did over the people on the individual market whose previous plans didn’t qualify under the new regulations, and who had to shop for new plans? Multiply that by ten or twenty times, because that’s how many people would likely lose their existing coverage if you repealed the ACA in one fell swoop.

And that would be only the beginning. So when any Republican candidate says he or she has a plan to reform health care, take a close look. If it starts with repealing the ACA — and it will — then you’ll know it isn’t serious and it’s never going to happen.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The PlumLine, The Washington Post, August 20, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Health Reform, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“They Show That They Still Have No Answer”: Scott Walker, Marco Rubio Propose ‘Plans’ To Replace Obamacare

Today, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have published plans — really, not so much plans as skeletal descriptions of planlike concepts — to replace Obamacare. Their fundamental dilemma is that Obamacare provides a popular benefit to millions of voters. Appealing to the conservative base demands they eliminate the program that provides this benefit. Appealing to the general election requires them to promise something to compensate the victims of repeal. How will they fund that something? This is the basic problem that for decades has prevented Republicans from offering a health-care plan. Rubio and Walker show that they still have no answer.

The usual pattern in politics is for politicians to turn complex problems into simple ones. But covering the uninsured is a simple problem they want to make complex. The main reason people lacked insurance before Obamacare is that they did not have enough money to afford it. Some of those uninsured people had unusually high health costs. Some of them had unusually low incomes. Boiled down, Obamacare transferred resources from people who are rich and healthy to people who are poor and sick, so the poor and sick people can afford insurance.

It cuts funds, but not benefits, from Medicare. And it transfers resources to sick people through regulations. The individual insurance market is reorganized so that insurers can’t deny essential health services or jack up prices to people with preexisting conditions. This means people with expensive medical needs pay less, and people with cheap medical needs have to pay more. Repealing Obamacare means eliminating all these forms of redistribution from the rich and healthy to the poor and sick. And replacing them with … what?

Walker and Rubio are fairly clear about their plans for regulating the insurance market. They want to go back to the pre-Obamacare, deregulated system. They’d eliminate the requirements that insurance plans cover essential benefits, and let them charge higher prices to sicker customers. That’s good for people who have very limited medical needs (as long as they never obtain a serious medical condition, or have a family with somebody with a serious medical condition). It’s bad for people who have, or ever will have, higher medical needs.

Both Walker and Rubio promise to take care of people with preexisting conditions by creating separate “high-risk pools.” That is a special kind of insurance market for people with expensive medical conditions. As you may have guessed, insurance for people with expensive medical needs is, well, expensive. Making that insurance affordable therefore requires lots of subsidies from the government. Where would Walker and Rubio get the money for that? They don’t say.

Both the Rubio and Walker planlike concepts share a basic structure and an extreme lack of detail. Walker’s document is a few pages padded out with ample white space. Rubio’s op-ed, which repeats the talking points of another op-ed from a few months ago, contains even less information. And the lack of detail is not a matter of filling in the fine print. Both Walker and Rubio have signed the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise a single penny of tax revenue ever, under any circumstances.

Both Walker and Rubio propose to cut funding for Medicaid, but this doesn’t create much room to subsidize coverage, since Medicaid is already much cheaper than Medicare or private insurance. Indeed, the main conservative complaint about Medicaid is that it is so cheap that many doctors refuse to see its patients. Republicans are willing to cut Medicaid because they’re generally willing to cut programs that focus on the very poor, but there’s not much blood to be drawn from this stone.

It is tempting to treat the lack of specifics in the Republican health-care plans as a problem of details to be filled in. But it is not a side problem. It is the entire problem. They will not finance real insurance for the people who have gotten it under Obamacare, nor will they face up to the actual costs they’re willing to impose on people. The party is doctrinally opposed to every available method to make insurance available to people who can’t afford it. They have spent six years promising to come up with an alternative plan, and they haven’t done it, because they can’t.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 18, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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