Memoirs of the Addams Administration 29.

Unable to leave well enough alone, the Republican Senate leaders made yet another attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.[1]  Without having any commonly-agreed plan, they managed to get a formal debate started.  First, the Senate voted down a broad plan to repeal and replace.  Then it voted down a plan to repeal and give Congress two year to replace it with something else.  Then it voted down a “skinny repeal” that just got rid of the mandate.[2]  Despite its flaws, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps—as well as vexes—many lower income Americans of both parties.  Opinion polls since the election have tended to show broad support for preservation of universal health insurance.  With a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, the Republican leadership cannot force through any legislation that would alienate more than two Republican senators.  Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) come from states that may have a substantial number of people who want to vote Republican, but who also live in marginal economic circumstances.  Their opposition alone isn’t enough to block “repeal and replace”: Vice President Pence can cast the tie breaker.  However, one more Republican dissident—like John McCain—and the measure loses.  In either case, Murkowski and Collins get covered for the next election for having done the right thing.  So, the question becomes: how to fix the problems with the ACA, rather than trying to roll it back?

Donald Trump campaigned against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), calling it “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.”  Once elected, he insisted on a renegotiation of the agreement.  This immediately became engulfed in the hysteria following Trump’s surprise election.  It also drew heat from Trump’s highly public spat with the president of Mexico.  Nevertheless, Mexico and Canada agreed to engage in a re-negotiation of NAFTA.  The negotiations are scheduled to begin on 16 August 2017.  Now the government has released a statement of its objectives for the negotiations.  Contrary to the worst fears of the immediate post-election Trump hysterics, the American objectives are solidly “mainstream ideas for furthering trade liberalization.”[3]  Generally speaking, NAFTA trade benefits the American economy even though it is often seen as the source of job-loss.  Reality proved more compelling than rhetoric.  Perhaps Trump and the Senate leadership should let Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (who oversees the NAFTA negotiations) run health-care reform?

Six months into his first term, President Trump began a major churning of his staff.  Sean Spicer had the reputation for being a decent guy.  Then he took the job as White House Press Secretary.  Six months of humiliating Hell followed.  Then, President Trump concluded that his image problems sprang from poor representation.  He hired Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.[4]  Spicer promptly resigned.[5]  Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Trump’s direct connection to mainstream Republicans, then got the heave.

Donald Trump governing as a non-party mediator still has—theoretical—potential.

[1] “Senate Republicans grapple with Obamacare repeal,” The Week, 4 August 2017, p. 7.

[2] The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that ending the mandate would leave 15 million more people without insurance.  This can be taken as an official measure of the number of people who buy insurance under duress.  It can be added to whatever number just don’t buy it regardless of the mandate to get a total number of people who are opposed to the mandate.  On the other hand, it can be subtracted from the numbers of those estimated by the CBO to be left without insurance issued on other versions of “repeal and replace.”

[3] “Issue of the week: A softer U.S. line on NAFTA,” The Week, 4 August 2017, p. 42.

[4] Scaramucci deleted Twitter posts in favor of gun control, action on climate change,, legal abortions, and ending use of the death penalty.  “Noted,” The Week, 4 August 2017, p. 18.

[5] “White House: Spicer’s out, “The Mooch” is in,” The Week, 4 August 2017, p. 18.

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2 thoughts on “Memoirs of the Addams Administration 29.

  1. Potential for what? Can a vacuum in true leadership result in success? His ‘leadership’ of the trumpcare debate epitomizes his approach h to government leadership — wait and sign (“I have the pen”). But no major change gets thru that way — the executive should (I) understand what he’s advocating clearly 45* doesn’t) and (Ii) be willing to put some skin in the game – advocate, not bully. That how FDR, LBJ & BHO were able to get fundamental social programs thru. Had to take the risk of Lodi g and having the loss reflect upon them (Clinton & healthcare). But that takes thought, understanding & patience. Not in the current ‘leader’s’ toolbox.

    • Agree and disagree, as usual. What follows isn’t coherent, but heart-felt. Trump is a conservative Democrat (which would not be tolerated under the current leadership of the party, but that’s your problem). He is not a liberal Democrat or anything like a mainstream Republican. OTOH, he doesn’t know what he is doing. He took on Priebus as chief of staff and relied upon the Republicans to get a reasonable reform of the ACA. But they weren’t interested in a reasonable reform of the ACA. They answer to people other than the core Trump voters, so they said “fuck ’em,” if you’ll pardon my French. But I think you speak French?) Point is that–as you’ve pointed out–he hasn’t been leading, just tweeting. He has the chance to say “to Hell with it, let’s make some deals.” 1.) Sanders and Clinton were just as strong as Trump against the TPP. (Me? I thought it was a good idea.) 2.) Lots of people in the Southwest, South, and Rust Belt see lots of immigrants and think “How come nobody enforces the laws? Because some fat cats think that they can get money or votes out of ignoring the laws, that’s why.” You want to tell people that democratically-passed laws don’t matter? 3.) His administration’s proposals for renegotiating NAFTA aren’t what people had expected. 4.) If Schumer, Feinstein et al will play and if Trump will recognize that he doesn’t owe the Republican leadership anything–both big IFs–then there is a centrist bloc that could do a lot of constructive work in the next year. Replace the mandate with a “lock out”; work on containing costs for medical care by laying the wood to pharmaceutical companies and doctors; create “death panels” in some veiled form, using the model of the British NHS. Overhaul the tax system to allow companies to repatriate profits from abroad. Launch a big infrastructure bill that targets, first of all, the Chicago and Long Beach/Los Angeles choke-points. You want my personal “social” favorites? End the war on drugs. Reverse the Bush-Obama tax cuts. (Yes, your guy signed off on a massive tax cut because he was so full of shit his eyes were brown. Same goes for George W. Bush, who wasn’t my guy.)
      Anyway, I hope that you are well. Love you, John

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