Memoirs of the Addams Administration 10.

Jonathan Chait has argued that Donald Trump and a coterie of advisers “cooperated with the undermining of American democracy by a hostile foreign power [Russia].”  James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence and no fan of President Trump, has said that “there is no evidence” of “collusion between members of the Trump administration and the Russians.”[1]  So which is it?  Chait is a partisan Democratic journalist at a time of considerable distress for the party.  Clapper is an experienced professional who had access to all they key intelligence before he left office.  All things considered, Clapper’s seems the more credible voice.

Even so, that leaves the problem of all the false denials of contacts between some Trump followers and various Russians.  Michael Flynn has been the most egregious case of this so far, but Jeff Sessions may still end up in serious trouble over his terminological inexactitude.

The Russians undoubtedly “intervened” in the election by hacking into the computers of various Democratic figures and institutions, then releasing the fruits through Wikileaks.   The results came in the revelation of information that the Clinton campaign would have preferred to keep secret because it likely would alienate many voters in a tight race.  First, how did that “undermine democracy”?  Second, would the revelation of this information by American investigative journalists not have undermined democracy?  As for the lying, part of the explanation may be the firestorm of criticism heaped on Republicans by Democrats after the election.  Another part of the explanation may be sheer stupidity.   As Jonathan Tobin has pointed out, the Benghazi witch-hunt didn’t help Republicans.

There seems to be a lot of that going around.  Recently, Breitbart News claimed that a story in the New York Times had reported that federal officials had “intercepted communications and financial transactions” between Russians and members of the Trump posse.[2]  Almost immediately, President Trump walked—stormed, really—into a door by claiming that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”  This charge elicited a hostile reaction from all across the spectrum.

Under these circumstances, many observers may be having a sigh of relief that actual legislation on important issues has begun to move forward.  Republicans launched their campaign to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the American Health Care Act (AHCA).[3]  In some ways, the AHCA really is “Obamacare lite.”[4]

What gets lost in the criticism of the bill is that Americans pay a lot more for not-as-good health care than do people in Western Europe and Japan.   The ACA did little to address this problem.  Arguably, it is a more important problem than the issue of people without insurance.  (They always had “catastrophic care” through emergency rooms.  I know it’s cold to say that.)  Both Medicaid and a lot of employer-provided health insurance are in effect open-ended when it comes to spending.   The fundamental dispute between Republican and Democrats is the likely effect of limiting spending.  Will insurers hold down their premiums in a less-regulated market in order to gain customers, then find ways to cram-down costs?  This is the Republican wager.  Or will insurers shred insurance for the poor in order to keep targeting the easy money?  This is the Democratic wager.  Whoever “wins,” the stakes are high.

[1] Both are quoted in “Trump and Russia: What do we really know?” The Week, 17 March 2017, p. 6.  On Chait, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Chait

[2] “Trump accuses Obama of illegal wiretap,” The Week, 17 March 2017, p. 4.  The story in the NYT ran on 19 January 2017.  See: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/us/politics/trump-russia-associates-investigation.html?_r=0

[3] “Republicans face a revolt over health bill,” The Week, 17 March 2017, p. 5.

[4] See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2017/03/05/memoirs-of-the-addams-administration-9/

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