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“Neither Beautiful Nor Great”: Ironically, GOP Is ‘Bewildered’ By Trump’s Vague Healthcare Plan

It would be an exaggeration to say Donald Trump has an actual health care plan. He’s taken steps to get past his original vow to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with “something terrific,” but it’s fair to say those steps have been quite modest.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, the Trump blueprint is a weak patchwork of predictable policies – tax breaks, buying across state lines, Medicaid block grants, and health-savings accounts – that (a) seem to be the staple of every underwhelming GOP plan; and (b) would leave millions of American families behind.

The New York Times reports today that Trump’s health care ideas have “bewildered” not just reform advocates, but also Republican experts in the field.

This whipsaw of ideas [in Trump’s plan] is exasperating Republican experts on health care, who call his proposals an incoherent mishmash that could jeopardize coverage for millions of newly insured people. […]

“If you repeal the Affordable Care Act, you’ve got to have a serious way to expand coverage to replace what you have taken away,” said Gail R. Wilensky, who was the administrator of Medicare and Medicaid under President George Bush from 1990 to 1992. “There’s nothing I see in Trump’s plan that would do anything more than cover a couple million people.”

Robert Laszewski, a former insurance executive and frequent critic of the health law, called Mr. Trump’s health care proposals “a jumbled hodgepodge of old Republican ideas, randomly selected, that don’t fit together.”

The Times’ article features a variety of related observations. An AEI economist said, for example, that Trump’s plan “resembles the efforts of a foreign student trying to learn health policy as a second language.”

Left unsaid was a nagging detail: as woeful as Trump’s blueprint is, it’s par for the course in Republican politics, and his “plan,” while ridiculous, isn’t any worse than what any other GOP official has put forward in recent years.

This isn’t a defense of what Team Trump unveiled. On the contrary, Trump’s ideas on reform would be devastating for millions and would fail spectacularly in its stated goals.

But having Republicans express “bewilderment” about this is deeply ironic. I half expect Trump to replay the scene from those iconic anti-drug commercials from the 1980s:

Republicans to Trump: Answer me! Where’d you get all of these awful and ineffectual health care ideas?

Trump to Republicans: From you, OK? I learned it from watching you!

Consider this excerpt from the Times piece:

James C. Capretta, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit group, said Mr. Trump underestimated how difficult it would be to uproot a law that was now embedded in the nation’s health care system.

“It took a herculean political effort to put in place the Affordable Care Act,” said Mr. Capretta, who worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004. “To move in a different direction, even incrementally, would take an equally herculean effort, with clear direction and a clear vision of what would come next. I just don’t see that in Trump’s vague plans to repeal the law and replace it with something beautiful and great.”

Right. And that’s different from every other Republican candidate and congressional leader, how?

Capretta’s correct insofar as it would take a herculean effort to create a new health care system and “Trump’s vague plans to repeal the law” fall far short. But go ahead and replace Trump’s name in that sentence with Ted Cruz’s, John Kasich’s, Paul Ryan’s, Mitt Romney’s, etc., and it’s every bit as accurate.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Health policy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Uber Drivers And E-Cigarette Users”: Grover Norquist’s Plan To Stop Hillary…Seriously

Over the last few years there has been a lot of discussion about the Rising American Electorate (unmarried women, millennials and people of color) that Barack Obama tapped into in order to win two presidential elections. Back in November, Stan Greenberg cautioned that these voters weren’t being engaged in the 2016 election. But in a more recent poll, he found that things had changed.

The disengagement pall has been lifted. Our focus groups with white unmarried women, millennials and African Americans showed a new consciousness about the stakes in November. In this poll, the percentage of Democrats giving the highest level of engagement has increased 10 points.

The result is that the country might be heading for an earthquake election in November.

Rather than embrace the recommendations of the RNC autopsy report following the 2012 presidential election, the response of Republicans has typically been to drill down on the idea that there are millions of white voters they can tap into who didn’t show up to vote for Mitt Romney. But even Sean Trende, whose original article spurred that discussion, says that there aren’t enough missing white voters available to swing an election.

Into this breach comes Grover Norquist with…what can I say…a “creative” solution. He has identified six new voting blocs that have developed over the last 30 years that won’t want Hillary Clinton in the White House. Between the lines, his contention is that she is just so out of touch with what is happening in the world that she’s missed them.

Either this revelation is so ground-breaking that no one in the political world is as in-touch as Norquist, or it’s a load of huey put out by someone who is desperately grasping at straws rather than face the fact that his predictions about a “permanent Republican majority” are drowning in a bathtub.

Here are Norquist’s six voting blocks that will challenge the Rising American Electorate:

1. Home schoolers
2. Charter school supporters
3. Concealed-carry permit holders
4. Fracking workers
5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
6. Uber drivers

I kid you not! Those are the voting blocs Grover Norquist said the Republicans can tap into in order to stop Clinton in November. We could spend some time deconstructing each one. But that would give this nonsense from Norquist more attention than it deserves. I merely point this out in order to show how vacuous Republican attempts are these days to deal with the fact that they are in the midst of alienating large swaths of the American electorate. If the best they’ve got to combat that reality is mobilizing people like e-cigarrette users, you know they’re in big trouble.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 11, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Electorate, Grover Norquist, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sanders And The Snapchat Liberals”: Why Progressive America Routinely Punches Below Its Weight On The National Stage

If the polls hold, scoring tickets to “Hamilton” will be as good as it’s going to get for Bernie Sanders in New York. But let us first linger in Wisconsin, where Democrats and independents gave Sanders what looked like a decisive win.

It seems that 15 percent of Sanders’ Wisconsin supporters voted only for Bernie, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. By contrast, only 4 percent of Hillary Clinton voters skipped the down-ballot races.

It happens that one of the down-ballot races was for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The progressive, JoAnne Kloppenburg, had a good chance of toppling Rebecca Bradley, a right-wing appointee of Gov. Scott Walker’s. But Kloppenburg lost, in part because of the laziness of Snapchat liberals.

Snapchat is a messaging app that makes photos and videos disappear after they are viewed. Its logo is a ghost. Snapshot liberals are similarly ephemeral. They regard their job as exulting in the hero of the moment. Once the job is done, they vanish.

(An interesting wrinkle is that 10 percent of Sanders’ voters checked the box for Bradley. This suggests that a good chunk of his win came not from fans but from conservatives seeking to frustrate the Clinton candidacy.)

Anyhow, three days later, a Wisconsin circuit court judge struck down an anti-union law backed by Walker. The law ended unions’ right to require that private-sector workers benefiting from their negotiations pay dues or an equivalent sum.

The ruling was hailed as a “victory for unions,” but that victory will almost certainly be short-lived because the matter now heads to a divided state Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Kloppenburg could have helped save it.

Sanders can’t directly take the rap for this. He, in fact, had endorsed Kloppenburg.

But the Sanders campaign rests on contempt for a Democratic establishment that backs people like Kloppenburg. It sees even the normal give-and-take of governing as thinly veiled corruption. Liberals involved in the necessary horse trading are dismissed as sullied beyond repair.

TV comedy news reinforces this cartoonish view of what governing entails. The entertainers deliver earnest but simple-minded sermons on how all but a chosen few folks in Washington are corrupt hypocrites. (I find their bleeped-out F-words so funny. Don’t you?)

Snapchat liberals tend to buy into the “great man” theory of history. So if change comes from electing a white knight on a white horse, why bother with the down-ballot races?

Hence the irritating pro-Sanders poster: “Finally a reason to vote.”

Oh? Weren’t there reasons to vote all these years as tea party activists stocked Congress with crazy people? Wasn’t giving President Obama a Congress he could work with a reason to vote? (The liberal savior in 2008, Obama saw his own Snapchat fan base evaporate come the midterms.)

When asked whether he’d raise money for other Democrats if he were to win the nomination, Sanders replied, “We’ll see.”

Bernie doesn’t do windows and toilets. That’s for establishment Democrats.

The difference between the pitchfork right and the Snapchat left is this: The right marches to the polls to vote the other side out. The left waits for saintly inspiration. If the rallies are euphoric and the Packers aren’t playing the Bears, they will deign to participate. Then they’re gone in a poof of righteous smoke.

It is a crashing irony that many liberals who condemn voter suppression by the right practice voter suppression on themselves. The liberal version doesn’t involve onerous ID requirements at the polls. It comes in the deadening message that few candidates are good enough to merit a vote.

And that’s why progressive America routinely punches below its weight on the national stage.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 12, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Art Of The Hustle”: Donald Trump’s ‘Charity’ Is A Money-Making Scam

No wonder Donald Trump calls himself an ardent philanthropist.

He has likely made millions off it.

He is not just some cheap miser who avoids digging into his pocket for charity, as The Smoking Gun and The Washington Post have described him.

He does not simply avoid giving.

He gets.

Maybe his book should have been called The Art of the Hustle.

His biggest score appears to have come in 2006, and if he ever releases his tax return for that year, we will learn if he is a felon or just a liar.

Either way, the self-proclaimed “ardent philanthropist” seems to give precious little money to charity while receiving millions in deductions by donating land he valued at somewhere between 13 and 50 times what he paid for it.

Back in the 1990s, Trump paid $2 million for two parcels of land totaling 436 acres north of New York City with the hope of building a pair of golf courses.

He initially sought to overcome various environmental obstacles and permitting hurdles by applying his self-described mastery of deal making. He placed a phone call to the then supervisor of the Westchester County village of Yorktown, Linda Cooper.

“Linda, just let me build the golf course—I’m rich, you’ll like it,’” Trump said, by her recollection.

Cooper would tell the press that Trump “just didn’t want to go through the rules.”

She offered the same description of Trump that others would later offer during his present presidential campaign.

“He’s like the bully on the playground,” Cooper told the Journal News. “Whether you are a big person or a little person, you have to follow the same rules. If he chooses to stop the process, so be it.”

The rules remained the rules, and Trump did indeed choose to stop the process in 2002.

“You have done a terrible disservice to your constituents who have sadly lost out on a tremendous opportunity,” Trump said in a letter to Cooper.

Trump suggested to reporters that he had been making a sacrifice to begin with.

“My problem is that I can make much more money with housing than I can with a golf course,” he said.

He announced, “I have put a ‘For Sale’ sign out,” and said it was sure to attract “every developer in Westchester.”

He had yet to sell the land four years later, when he donated it to New York State for a park.

“You know me,” he said. “I never throw up my hands. I fight back. I could have sold the property to a developer, because it’s zoned for houses. Instead, I’m giving it to the state, which is the best thing to do.”

The park would of course be named after himself. The gift came with a further condition.

“The name will be prominently displayed at least at each entrance to the park,” read a letter from his attorney to the state.

A press conference was held at the new Donald J. Trump State Park. Trump was joined by his wife, Melania, and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka.

“This is so beautiful, am I allowed to change my mind?” he joked to his wife.

He said his children had suggested donation as a way “to do something spectacular.”

“I have always loved the city and state of New York and this is my way of trying to give something back,” Trump said, as then-Gov. George Pataki stood beside him, beaming approvingly. “I hope that these 436 acres of property will turn into one of the most beautiful parks anywhere in the world.”

A reporter asked the value of the land in question.

“People have told me about $100 million,” Trump said.

The press took that to mean the donation was worth $100 million, an impression Trump made no effort to dispel.

A town planning official would later suggest that the land was more likely worth in the vicinity of $15 million.

The question now is whether Trump claimed the $100 million valuation as a charitable deduction in his income tax return for 2006. That would seem to constitute tax fraud, a felony.

But a list of Trump’s supposed charitable donations compiled by his campaign and given to the Associated Press is topped by this entry:

“LAND DONATED TO NYS OFFICE OF PARKS—YORKTOWN, NY—436 ACRES…$26,100,000”

That appraisal would be more in keeping with reality and on the honest side of outright fraud if he used it in his tax return. He would not be a felon after all, just a liar who exaggerated the value of the land by some $73,900,000.

He has said, “I fight like hell not to pay a lot of tax,” so he almost certainly sought a big-time tax break from the donation.

Even the much smaller deduction resulting from the $26.1 million valuation would likely still be worth millions more than the $2 million he paid for the land.

Talk about ardent philanthropy!

Trump also remains that rare soul who made money off the 9/11 attacks. He gave little if any of his own money in the aftermath when the whole world was offering to help, but he accepted $150,000 to offset supposed business losses at his building several blocks from Ground Zero.

By contrast, Rosie O’Donnell gave $1 million the day after the attacks. Trump has called her a fat pig.

On Saturday, Trump seemed to reduce his 9/11 net profit by presenting the September 11 Memorial with a check for $100,000 while making his first visit there.

But The Washington Post reported that the check was actually drawn on the Trump Foundation. And Trump does not seem to have given anything to the foundation that bears his name since 2008. The funds handed out in his name have actually come from such various sources as a World Wrestling Federation, a Queens carpet wholesaler, and a prominent ticket scalper known as The Ticket Man.

On Monday, a spokesman for the September 11 Memorial was unable to confirm that Trump’s check had indeed come from the foundation rather than The Donald himself. Should the money prove to have come out of his pocket, he will remain $50,000 ahead from 9/11.

Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump State Park was closed in 2010 as a result of budget cuts. Signs prominently bearing his name are still posted not only at the entrances, as required by the agreement, but on nearby parkway exits.

Only his 2006 tax return will show if Trump is a felon or a liar.

Only that return will document if he was not a big-time giver but a big-time getter.

Only all his tax returns—which the IRS says he has no reason not to release despite his talk about audits —will tell the full story of The Art of the Hustle.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, April 11, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Charitable Donations, Donald Trump, Tax Returns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Walk Tall, Or Baby, Don’t Walk At All”: North Carolina May Never See A Celebrity Again

When it comes to fighting anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, the entertainment industry has been running laps around sports leagues and putting corporate America to shame.

Yes, PayPal withdrew 400 planned jobs from the Tar Heel State in response to HB 2, which banned local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and required transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their birth certificates, but most major companies have simply signed a strongly worded letter to Gov. Pat McCrory asking for the law to be repealed.

After Mississippi’s HB 1523 was passed, many of these same companies sent a similar letter to Gov. Phil Bryant, urging him to repeal the law without detailing any specific consequences for leaving it in place.

But an emerging crew of entertainers isn’t content with this wait-and-see approach. By taking swift and decisive steps, they’re proving how little pro-LGBT press releases mean without concrete actions to back them up.

As soon as HB 2 was passed, for instance, actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner promised that he would “not film another production in North Carolina” until the law is repealed. CEOs take note: Reiner took action immediately and listed a punishment along with a specific condition.

Then, last week, Bruce Springsteen canceled a North Carolina show, highlighting the law’s horrifying anti-transgender provision in his statement. By contrast, the multi-company letter coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality North Carolina does not specifically address this first-in-the-nation attack on transgender rights.

The Boss called his announcement “the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Canadian singer Bryan Adams followed in Springsteen’s footsteps shortly thereafter, nixing a scheduled Mississippi concert to protest the state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law. On Facebook, he explained that he “cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

And this past weekend, comedian and Community star Joel McHale went ahead with a North Carolina performance but wore an “LGBTQ” shirt and donated all of his proceeds to a local LGBT center. In video taken from the show, McHale asks, “What the fuck is wrong with your government here, you guys?”

It’s not just individual celebrities who are taking decisive steps, either. Lionsgate canceled Charlotte shooting plans and A+E Studios has promised “not [to] consider North Carolina for any new productions” once shooting ends on a new show they are filming around Wilmington. Even porn giant xHamster is now banning all North Carolina IP addresses in order to put pressure on the state to change course.

Outside of the entertainment world, however, condemnation of the anti-LGBT laws may have been sudden and widespread but punitive actions have been fewer and further between.

The NBA could have summarily pulled the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte. It didn’t. Instead, the league sent out a statement calling HB 2 discriminatory but also cautiously noting that they “do not yet know what impact it will have” on the All-Star plans.

The NCAA is set to host Division I basketball tournament games in North Carolina over the next two years but, instead of relocating the games, the association pledged to “continue to monitor current events.”

The NFL is moving ahead with a May team owners meeting in Charlotte, justifying their decision based on the city council’s support of LGBT rights.

In sum, the major leagues are talking a big game but that’s about it. Their equivocating statements prompted Outsports’ Jim Buzinski to write that “sports leagues shouldn’t say another word about their ‘support’ unless it’s accompanied by action.” Or, as any good coach will tell you, talk is cheap.

Major corporations haven’t been much bolder, largely threatening to “reconsider” or “reevaluate” business in the offending states. Over one hundred businesses have signed on to the HRC letters but the more time passes, the emptier their words become. So far, only a select few businesses have gone beyond mere criticism of HB 2 and HB 1523.

The High Point Market Authority, which has been estimated to have an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion in North Carolina, warned last month that they could lose “hundreds and perhaps thousands of customers” at their annual spring furniture market. And Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris indicated in early April that he would not greenlight investments in any North Carolina startups “until the voters there fix this.”

Springsteen set a high bar for courage that few in the business world have been able to match.

This isn’t the first time that the entertainment industry has taken point in anti-LGBT legislative tussles. In March, Disney—and by extension Marvel—promised to end film production in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal did not veto a so-called “religious freedom” law that passed the state legislature.

“[W]e will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” the company wrote in a definitive statement.

The NFL, on the other hand, vaguely hinted that they might not host the Super Bowl in Georgia but their official statement was embarrassingly circumlocutory.

“Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with [NFL non-discrimination] policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites,” said league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

In March of 2015, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a few companies like the business review website Angie’s List, which axed a $40 million expansion, made powerful moves.

But in what should by now be a familiar pattern, many corporate leaders chastised the governor without deploying any economic sanctions. The discrepancy prompted Fast Company to make a list of the “companies that are actually boycotting Indiana, not just tweeting about it.”

Among the only key players who actually acted before the Indiana legislature revised the discriminatory law were musicians and actors. The indie rock group Wilco pulled the plug on a show in Indianapolis. Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman announced he would donate his proceeds from an Indiana University show to the HRC and canceled a subsequent performance in the state.

Repeated entanglements over LGBT rights in the South have proved that governors may not sympathize with LGBT rights but they do respond to economic pressure. So long as corporate leaders remain hesitant to pull out of North Carolina, they will be locked in a game of economic chicken with a state government that does not seem eager to reverse HB 2.

Gov. McCrory’s re-election campaign has claimed that many businesses support the anti-transgender law and one state representative, Ken Goodman, seems more than willing to see if anyone will make good on their threats.

“April Market is not a vacation,” he tweeted in response to the High Point story. “It is critical for buyers. They’ll come.”

It has been illegal for many transgender people to use the right public restrooms in North Carolina for nearly three weeks. Anti-LGBT discrimination has been not just legal, but endorsed by the state of Mississippi, for almost two. At this point, signing a letter is no longer a proportional response to bigotry.

As Bruce himself once sang, “Walk tall, or baby, don’t walk at all.”

 

By: Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, North Carolina, Pat McCrory | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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