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“Donald Trump And Chuck Grassley Look Doomed In Iowa”: No Republican Can Be A Legislator In This Day And Age

Looking at the internals of the Loras College Statewide Iowa Survey, it seems like it’s a pretty well put together poll. Comparing their sample to the latest Iowa registration numbers, it appears that Loras may have undersampled the NO Party/Independents, but they have about the right mix of Democrats and Republicans. And, in any case, an undersampling of independents probably skews the results towards Donald Trump and Chuck Grassley.

For example, Grassley has a net favorable/unfavorable rating of 48%/42% with independents, and is losing with them to Patty Judge by a 41.9%-48.0% margin. So, if you add more independents to the sample, he probably loses his overall 46% to 45% lead.

Likewise, Donald Trump is getting crushed 48%-34% (-14) in the poll, but among independents he’s losing by a mammoth 44.7%-23.5% (-21) margin.

The survey is made up of 35.0% Republicans, 33.0% Democrats, and 29.8% Independents, but according to the Secretary of State, there are now more independents (670,068) than Republicans (639,476) or Democrats (610,608) who are registered to vote in the Hawkeye State. Maybe the independents don’t turn out at the same rate as party members, so it’s possible that the sample is dead-on. What’s doubtful is that it is skewed toward the Democrats.

Either way, it shows that Donald Trump is not competitive and Chuck Grassley is in a dead-heat. It’d be tempting to blame Grassley’s woes on Trump’s unpopularity (54.7% of Iowans have a very unfavorable view of Trump, and 68.9% have an overall unfavorable view of him), but we know that Grassley has been in the news as the lead architect of the Senate’s refusal to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, the president’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. It’s costing him because he’s historically been very popular but he now has a 41.4% unfavorable rating. That’s not terrible, but it’s far below where he’s been in the past. If he’s going to hold on, he’s going to need a lot of crossover votes, but less than a quarter of Democrats (24.8%) have a favorable view of him right now.

Now, Grassley has been in Congress since 1975 and a senator since 1981. He’ll be 83 years old on Election Day. I don’t know if this is really how he wants to go out. I am not even sure why he wants to continue in the job. He’s got to be frustrated. Just this week he had to announce that he almost definitely won’t be able to get his criminal justice reform bill through the Senate this year.

“I don’t see how it gets done before” July 15, Grassley said, referencing the day the senators depart from Washington and won’t return until after Labor Day. “It’s a real big disappointment to me because we’ve worked so hard to do what the leadership wanted to get out more Republican sponsors.”

The criminal justice reform bill was probably the best chance this Congress had to pass a meaningful bill and they can’t get it done. Unless Grassley just likes the prestige and lifestyle of being a senator, I see no reason for him to want to continue. He used to be a legislator, but no Republican can be a legislator in this day and age, and certainly not under a prospective President Hillary Clinton.

If I were him, I’d drop out before Patty Judge cleans his clock in November.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2016

July 3, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump, Patty Judge | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“37 Pages Of Talking Points”: The Republican Healthcare Plan Isn’t Actually A Healthcare Plan

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) boasted on Twitter yesterday, “You’ve asked for it and tomorrow, House Republicans will release our plan to replace Obamacare.” Whether or not this actually constitutes a “plan,” however, is open to some debate.

After six years of vague talk about a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans on Tuesday finally laid out the replacement for a repealed health law – a package of proposals that they said would slow the growth of health spending and relax federal rules for health insurance. […]

In finally presenting one, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and his Republican team did not provide a cost estimate or legislative language. But they did issue a 20,000-word plan that provides the most extensive description of their health care alternative to date.

Perhaps, but let’s not grade on a curve. It was seven years ago this month that House Republican leaders began promising to unveil a GOP health-care-reform plan, and for seven years, the party has done nothing except offer vague soundbites and vote several dozen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with nothing.

Or put another way, we’ve seen seven years of posturing on health care policy, but no actual governing.

The New York Times is correct that we now have an “extensive description” of the House Republican vision on the issue, but an “extensive description” does not a plan make. There’s still no legislation; there are still no numbers; there’s still no substance to score and scrutinize.

The Huffington Post summarized the problem nicely: “Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people’s health insurance with 37 pages of talking points.”

The plan, which isn’t legislation and is more like a mission statement, lacks the level of detail that would enable a full analysis, but one thing is clear: If put in place, it would almost surely mean fewer people with health insurance, fewer people getting financial assistance for their premiums or out-of-pocket costs, and fewer consumer protections than the ACA provides.

It’s difficult to be certain, because the proposal, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will talk up at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Wednesday, lacks crucial information, like estimates of its costs and effects on how many people will have health coverage.

The document weighs in at 37 pages, which includes the cover, three full pages about how terrible Obamacare is, and two blank sheets.

As for the outline itself, the “plan” includes exactly what we’d expect it to include: tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pools that Republicans don’t want to finance, transitioning Medicare into a voucher/coupon system, and the ability to buy insurance across state lines without necessary consumer safeguards and protections.

After seven years of study, GOP lawmakers are stuck with the same collection of ineffective ideas they’ve been pushing to no avail all along.

When House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced plans to unveil a six-part “Better Way” governing agenda, he vowed, “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance.” That may have been the goal, but as of this morning, we’re still left with “a starting point” and “a broad outline” on health care that will ostensibly help Republicans to work out the details later.

There’s no great mystery here. Republicans haven’t been able to come up with a credible reform package for some pretty obvious reasons: (1) they’re a post-policy party with no real interest in governing; (2) health care reform has never really been a priority for the party, which would prefer to leave this in the hands of the private sector and free-market forces; and (3) trying to improve the system requires a lot of government spending and regulations, which contemporary GOP policymakers find ideologically abhorrent.

On this last point, New York’s Jon Chait explained a while back, “The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.”

A Republican Hill staffer famously put it this way in 2014: “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act…. To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA.”

Which, of course, Republicans can’t bring themselves to do. The result is a shell of a plan, like the one Paul Ryan is rolling out today.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 22, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Economic Food Poisoning”: The Bankrupt Delusions Of Donald Trump, The ‘King Of Debt’

According to Donald Trump, at $19 trillion the federal government has too much debt. Or so little debt that we could pay it off in eight years.

He says we could buy back federal debt at a discount by raising interest rates. But if interest rates rise by a couple of percentage points, he said last week that the United States of America would cease to exist.

As for taxes, we need to raise them on the rich. No, we need to lower them. Or raise them.

And American workers? Their wages are too high. No, too many earn nothing because foreign workers make so much less. Then again, maybe the minimum wage is too low.

If all his contradictory comments seem confusing, the fact is that they are. They are also difficult to square with Trump touting his economics degree from an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, where he claims he was a top student.

What reality-show hosts say is of no consequence. But every public word presidents speak gets scrutinized worldwide. Candidate Trump’s wildly inaccurate and ahistorical statements are of no official consequence, but were he president they would have serious and damaging effects on the United States.

Consider what Trump said on May 5 to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the cost of servicing federal debt: “If interest rates go up 1%, that’s devastating. What happens if that interest rate goes up 2, 3, 4 points? We don’t have a country.”

By Trump’s reckoning America should have ceased to be a country long ago. Back in 1982 the 10-year bond paid 14.6%. Uncle Sam’s average interest cost on all federal debt was 6.6% when George W. Bush took office. Last month it was just 2.3% even though the debt is 17 times the level of 34 years ago.

Trump talked about buying back debt at a discount and cited his own success in taking out loans, but not paying them back in full. “I’m the king of debt,” he said, in one of his frequent tangential comments focusing not on how a Trump administration would govern, but reminding us of his self-proclaimed greatness.

When journalists try to parse Trump’s words—no easy task because transcripts show jumbled thoughts galore—his response is to accuse them of misquoting him. So, whom to believe: Trump or that lying videotape?

On CNBC, Trump implied that when he took out some loans, he never intended to repay them in full.

“I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” he said on CNBC. “And I’ve done very well with debt. Now, of course, I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me, and it was good for me, and all that. And you know debt was sort of always interesting to me. Now, we are in a different situation with a country, but I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal.”

That last sentence might send shivers down the spines of those who buy federal debt, as it could be read to say he would crash the economy as president just to make the market price of Treasury debt fall. I read his remarks as another example of his lack of articulation, but others could reasonably read into those remarks a plan to submarine the economy.

When challenged about his words, Trump revised his comments saying he was thinking only in terms of renegotiating the federal debt—88% of which matures in 10 years or less—to longer terms. What Trump didn’t mention is that Treasury bonds with maturities of up to 30 years pay on average 4.5% interest, more than double the average federal interest rate. The contradiction here is obvious: By Trump’s own words switching to longer-term Treasury bonds would result in interest expenses so high that America would cease to exist.

The Politics of Winging It

How and why “we wouldn’t have a country” were interest rates to rise is just one of the many observations that Trump has never been asked to explain.

When Trump’s comments drew widespread criticism as reckless, he turned the tables on those who reported what he said. He claimed that others put words in his mouth and distorted his intent.

So how do we make sense of the following: “If we can buy bonds back at a discount,” he said, “we should do that.” He also said that there would be no reason for holders of federal debt to ask the government to buy their bonds back at a discount. If that is so—and it is—then why say any of this?

The explanation is that Trump is winging it, making it up as he goes along just as he has through his career, which I have covered on and off for 27 years.

To those who understand economics, public finance and taxes, listening to Donald Trump talk about these issues is like listening to Sarah Palin talk about anything. The contradictions, the baseless assumptions, the meandering sentences that veer off into nowhere belong more in the fictional world of “Alice in Wonderland” where, as the Cheshire cat advised, “it really doesn’t matter which way you go” in search of the White Rabbit, but you could ask the Mad Hatter or the equally mad March Hare.

You might think that after decades of planning a run for the White House—after all, he did run in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate—Trump would have developed a clear set of views on economics. You might think he would have devoured policy papers, retained top experts and tested out ideas in speeches heard by few. You might think he would have polished and logical lines by now.

But that would require treating these issues as matters deserving of serious study. Absent such study, it is no surprise that much of what Trump says confounds those who have spent their lives studying economics, public finance, taxes and history.

Whatever Trump may have learned in college, his flip-flopping and wavering suggest that Trump saw no need to prepare to be president. It’s as if a chef decided he didn’t need to learn how to cook before pulling off a White House State Dinner.

Trump just tosses concepts into a pot. He starts with made-up numbers (our China trade deficit is $338 billion, not Trump’s $500 billion); adds some brazen conspiracy theories (Obama was not born an American citizen); mixes them with irreconcilable vagaries (taxes should go down, but so should budget deficits); tosses in some populist myths (thousands in North Jersey celebrated as the Twin Towers burned) and rotten ideas (the President telling Carrier, Ford and Nabisco where to build factories)—and finishes it all off with a bucket of rhetorical nonsense.

Trump is superb at one aspect of this. His economic stew would induce economic food poisoning, but he sells it with an appealing name: Make America Great Again.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The Daily Beast, May 10, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Federal Debt | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Irony Of Celebrity Populism”: The Demolition Of The Line Between Celebrity And Political Achievement

“When you become famous,” the famous political consultant James Carville once said, “being famous becomes your profession.”

It’s a sign of the stunning success of Donald Trump’s crossover act that we no longer even think about this campaign’s most revolutionary effect on our politics: the demolition of the line between celebrity and political achievement.

Of course, success in politics can itself breed celebrity. Carville earned his by combining his eccentric sense of humor with actual skill in helping Bill Clinton become president in 1992. The weird interaction between glitz and government reflected at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner suggests how much the borderland between the two has shrunk.

But celebrity has never before been a sufficient qualification for the nation’s highest office. Consider John McCain’s signature attack on Barack Obama in 2008 in a commercial that began with the words: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world.” The ad’s next line captured the old war hero’s disdain for his opponent and his fame: “But is he ready to lead?”

In light of this year’s campaign, there is something touching about McCain’s protest. He reasoned that sober voters would reject the idea of electing someone merely because of his celebrity.

If the ad misunderstood the sources of Obama’s political strength, it did speak to a nation that still respected experience in government. Trump has now far surpassed Obama in converting fame directly into electoral currency, moving from celebrity to front-runner status without going through the messy, time-consuming work of being a state legislator and U.S. senator. Ronald Reagan, given his Hollywood standing, may be the closest historical analogue to Trump. But Trump did not spend eight years as governor of a large state. There is a perverse purity to Trump’s great leap.

Trump also uses celebrity allies he accumulated in the course of his career as a fame-monger to validate his quest. Facing a decisive challenge in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, Trump hauled out an endorsement from Bobby Knight, a state icon from his successful if controversial run as Indiana University’s basketball coach. Trump may dominate CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, but Knight has ESPN, generally a much bigger draw — except, of course, when Trump has been on a debate stage.

Trump represents the triumph in politics of what the scholars of postmodernism call “transgressive” art, which violates boundaries, including moral strictures, and commands attention through its shock value. Trump is now the transgressor in chief.

We need to think hard about the multiple weaknesses Trump is exposing in our politics. How has he been able to convert fame and outrage into votes without even a moment of apprenticeship in public service?

One reason is the anger in a large segment of the Republican Party that has been stoked by its leaders. You might say they have now lost control of the beast they were feeding. There is also the utter contempt toward government that their ideology encouraged. Trump has played on the fragility of our media system, which, in its search for ratings, can’t get enough of him, and on a pervasive pain among the many who have been cast aside by our economy. They had been ignored by elites of all kinds.

Trump is what passes for “populism” now, but celebrity populism is a strange creature. Consider the case of Tom Brady, the masterly quarterback of my beloved New England Patriots and another sports celebrity who has spoken kindly of Trump.

In a court ruling against him in the “Deflategate” case, Brady learned that neither wealth nor celebrity nor talent protects him in a National Football League system that, in the view of two of three Court of Appeals judges, confers almost unlimited power to management over labor.

Yes, at that moment, Brady learned he was labor. “Welcome to the working class, Tom,” wrote Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges.

I don’t know if this controversy will alter Brady’s politics. But it was a reminder of how structural realities that rarely get much television time — collective bargaining agreements, judicial decisions, ownership rights and the raw distribution of power — will not be swept away simply because a man who has mastered old and new media alike has succeeded so brilliantly in casting himself as the avenger for the dispossessed.

Still, a phony celebrity populism plays well on television at a time when politics and governing are regularly trashed by those who claim both as their calling. Politicians who don’t want to play their assigned roles make it easy for a role-player to look like the real thing and for a billionaire who flies around on his own plane to look like a populist.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 1, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Celebrity, Donald Trump, Politics, Populism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Actually Matters”: Joe Biden Was A Good Vice President. The Democratic Candidates Should Learn From This

It won’t be long now before the political world begins the quadrennial festival of pointless yet momentarily diverting speculation on whom the presidential nominees will choose to be their running mates. So let me suggest a radical idea before that process gets underway: The candidates should choose someone who would actually — are you ready? — do a good job as vice president.

Sounds crazy, I know. But it’s something almost no one talks about when debating this decision. And the guy who has the job now is a good example, believe it or not.

Before we discuss Joe Biden, there’s something important to understand about the “veepstakes”: Almost everything you’ll hear about how the nominees should make their decision is wrong. (I should mention that more detail on what I’m discussing here can be found in an article I wrote for the latest print edition of the American Prospect; the article isn’t online yet, so you should immediately head down to your local newsstand to procure a copy.)

It’s wrong because the choice of a running mate makes little or no difference to the outcome of the election. Should the candidate pick someone who comes from a swing state? No, because it won’t matter — while the nominee might get a boost of a couple of points in their own home state (above what a generic nominee from their party would get), vice presidential nominees don’t bring in any home-state votes.

Should the candidate pick someone who’ll help them unify the party after a contentious primary season? No, because in most cases the party is going to unify no matter what. We live in an era of negative partisanship in which voters’ dislike for the other side is a more powerful motivating factor than their affection for their own party. Republicans are unusually fractured this year, but if they come back together it will be over their shared hatred of Hillary Clinton, not because of a vice presidential nominee. Democrats, on the other hand, will be unified by Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Don’t believe the Bernie Sanders supporters who are saying they’ll never vote for Clinton — almost all of them will, just as the Clinton supporters who said they’d never vote for Barack Obama in 2008 did in the end.

Should the candidate pick someone with an interesting demographic profile? No, because as with all the other considerations we’re discussing, in the end the difference that could make will be minuscule next to how voters feel about the person at the top of the ticket. That isn’t to say it would have zero effect if, say, Clinton picked a Latino as her running mate, but the effect in persuading more Latinos that they should vote for the Democratic ticket will be so small as to be barely worth considering.

All of this is why political scientists who have studied this question have been almost completely unable to locate a significant effect of vice presidential choices on the final outcome of the race. The outlying case is Sarah Palin, who likely cost John McCain a point or two. The other running mate who might have made a small difference is Dan Quayle in 1988. But both of those were picks that went horribly wrong; what you won’t find is a running mate who actually helped the candidate at the top of the ticket in any meaningful way.

So if you’re Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz (I won’t pretend to know what bizarre calculations might be whirring through Donald Trump’s mind), that means you should just pick someone who would actually be good at being vice president, and as long as the person isn’t a political disaster during the campaign, you’ll have done yourself a favor. Which brings us to Joe Biden.

John Harwood (who has really been killing it with these) has an interview with Biden out today, and from Biden’s answers, it’s obvious that he still hasn’t quite made peace with the idea that he’s never going to be president. When asked about his “Goofy Uncle Joe” persona, he said: “if you notice, I beat every Republican in every poll when they thought I was running. You notice that my favorability was higher than anybody that’s running for office in either party.” He also vigorously defended not only his record as a senator but the administration’s accomplishments. Which you’d expect, but what most people don’t realize is that Biden has been an extremely effective vice president.

Thanks to his decades in the Senate, Biden came to the job with a deep understanding of the way the federal government operates, which enabled him to oversee projects that spanned different agencies and different branches. Most importantly, he was in charge of implementing the Recovery Act, which was one of the administration’s great unsung successes. It involved a huge amount of work and coordination, and by every account Biden performed exceptionally well at it. Just the fact that they managed to distribute over three-quarters of a trillion dollars without any major scandals of graft or theft was an extraordinary accomplishment.

And perhaps most critically for a vice president, Biden has kept a strong relationship with the president throughout the last seven years, which many VPs can’t say (most notably, Dick Cheney was hugely powerful in George W. Bush’s first term, but lost favor in the second term). That isn’t to say he hasn’t had some Bidenesque screwups along the way, but he seems to have done about as good a job as President Obama could have hoped.

To what degree Obama knew that would happen when he picked Biden isn’t clear — though as someone from Delaware who had run a couple of weak runs for the White House, Biden didn’t look like electoral gold at the time, so Obama couldn’t have been worrying too much about getting a boost to the ticket. And it can be hard to predict how someone will do in a job they haven’t done before. But if the 2016 candidates take a good look at history, they’ll realize that there’s little to be gained by worrying too much about how their running mate will affect the election’s outcome. Pollsters will tell you that after a running mate gets picked, the candidate will get a bump in the polls for a few days based on all the positive news about the choice, and then the race settles right back down to where it was before.

I realize that means the millions of words that will be spilled on the veepstakes will all be for nought. I’m not telling anyone to stop speculating and musing. Go right ahead; I might do some of it myself. But we shouldn’t forget what actually matters about the choice.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 19, 2016

April 22, 2016 Posted by | General Election 2016, Joe Biden, Vice-President Candidates | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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