Open Thread

The Open Thread for January 12, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump, “insisting he will not divest himself of his vast business empire as he prepares to assume the presidency, plans instead to turn over all of his business operations to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a longtime associate,” the New York Times reports.

“He will donate to the United States government all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels, the officials said, describing the arrangements as voluntary measures taken to answer concerns about potential conflicts of interest that would allow Mr. Trump to focus on running the country.”

Washington Post: “But Trump’s commitment will not resolve what federal officials and ethics advisors say is his most key conflict: His continuing ownership of his business, the Trump Organization. That will ensure Trump will still have a vested financial interest in a global private company when he takes office next week.”

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Playbook: “Congressional Republicans are now dealing with a new political reality: since Trump told the New York Times he wants an immediate repeal and replace of Obamacare, they will need to vote on replacing Obamacare nearly immediately after scrapping the old law. So here is the plan, per several sources: The House and Senate get the ball rolling with procedural measures this week. The House will move first — and under Republicans’ best-case scenario, their goal is to repeal the law by late February after reconciliation goes through the committee process. Then, the House GOP will replace the law by mid- to late-March — under the GOP’s best-case, most aggressive scenario. The Senate’s plan is to take up what the House does, and amend it on the floor. In reality, Republicans never really planned to wait a long period of time to replace the law, but the dynamics have changed enough that the Hill feels increased urgency.”

“There are likely to be several legislative packages in the replacement process. Some will come as part of reconciliation, some will come in a Medicaid package and some will be tax-based provisions — plus other pieces that have yet to be determined.”

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“Donald Trump plans to keep his Manhattan-based campaign headquarters open as he assumes the presidency – a move that represents a sharp break from his predecessors, and one that positions him to begin running for reelection in 2020,” Politico reports.

“Trump intends to retain a skeletal campaign staff of around ten people with a senior aide at the helm. They will work in Trump Tower… The office will be overseen by Michael Glassner, a veteran Republican strategist and top campaign adviser who has frequently been spotted at Trump Tower in recent weeks. Two other Trump aides, Sean Dollman and John Pence, who is the nephew of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, are also on the team. They will focus largely on data building and fundraising, critical components of a prospective reelection bid that is still far off.”

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Justin Wolfers was at the annual conference of economists last weekend in Chicago and notes the major theme was a sense of anxiety about the incoming Trump administration.

“Over three days of intense discussions, I didn’t encounter a single economist who expressed optimism that Mr. Trump’s administration would be good for the economy. The optimists were those who thought Mr. Trump would not have the energy to actually implement his agenda; the pessimists’ thoughts veered toward disaster.”

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David Corn on why Tom Perez is a strong competitor against Keith Ellison in the DNC Chair race:

This isn’t an establishment vs. progressive clash.

Progressive Democrats gazing upon the fight for the leadership of their party ought to be delighted. The two leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee—Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Labor Secretary Tom Perez—are each battle-hardened and experienced progressives with much to offer their partisan comrades. Yet the contest for the DNC’s top post has widely been cast as a clash between wings of the party, with Ellison as the champion of the insurgent left and Perez as the candidate of the establishment. That depiction misrepresents the face-off and fixates on the wrong question: who has better progressive street cred? With the Democrats deep in the hole—a minority in both houses of Congress, out of the White House, holding only 16 governor slots and merely 31 of 99 state legislative chambers, and lacking a deep bench or a flock of rising stars—the tussle for DNC chief ought to focus on who can best do the nuts-and-bolts job of rebuilding the party from the ground level.

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“President Obama has put Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material, on his short list for a possible commutation,” a Justice Department source told NBC News.

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Rick Klein: “’WITCH HUNT!’ President-elect Donald Trump declared on Twitter. The phrase was repeated – though the capitalization doesn’t translate – by a spokesman for the Kremlin. But what if something real emerges from the hocus-pocus? The dossier on supposed Russian dirt on Trump raises questions for Trump, though few should expect he will answer them to any satisfaction. The answers he gives Wednesday will be instructive (does praise for Putin disappear? does he question the motives of intelligence agencies?) though hardly conclusive.”

“That will leave the digging and the answering to Congress, where pressure will grow for a special, bipartisan, joint House-Senate committee. If the allegations were serious enough for Sen. John McCain to hand off to FBI Director James Comey, surely they demand special congressional attention. It’s a defining moment for Trump. Ditto for the legislative branch, as the nation sees either a massive smear or an unparalleled international scandal play off just days before a new president takes office.”

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Ezra Klein on President Obama’s Five Warnings to Americans:

1. The economy and inequality. “Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity,” the president said, calling inequality “corrosive to our democratic principles.” Without a “new social compact” improving education, the social safety net, and the tax code, he said, “the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.”

2. Racial tensions. While arguing that race relations have indeed been improving, Obama expressed some concern for how they could develop in the coming years. “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves,” he said. He argued that white Americans, black Americans, and other minorities should all try to change their “hearts” and have greater empathy for their neighbors. “We have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do.”

3. Polarization and closed-mindedness. Obama then argued that he feared Americans were growing too eager to retreat into their respective “bubbles” and talk only to those they agreed with. “Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there,” he said. “Without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.”

4. Foreign threats — and whether the US can keep its values in responding to them. Moving on to foreign affairs, Obama said that both terrorists and autocrats were challenging the US-led international order, saying they represented “the fear of change,” “the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law,” or “a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.” But he added that he was even more concerned that America could abandon its values in response to those threats. “ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight,” he said.

5. Decaying democratic institutions. Obama’s “final point,” he said, was that “our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” He argued, then, that all Americans must take on “the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions” — which he defined as working to improve voting accessibility, limiting money in politics, ensuring that ethics standards for public officials are upheld, and undoing gerrymandering of districts.  […] Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power — with our participation and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

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Matt Yglesias says Democrats should write their own Obamacare Replacement to call Trump’s bluff.

By stitching together bits and pieces of Trump’s rhetoric with various improvement proposals offered over the years by the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Democrats can and should devise an affordable replacement scheme that moves the country closer to the single-payer system they mostly agree would be theoretically superior. […]

The core reason to do this is that while Republicans have utterly failed to come up with a plan that actually improved on the problems they’ve identified with the Affordable Care Act, the problems themselves are real enough.  […]

[Some improvement/replacement ideas include the following:]

  • The version of the public option included in the House Progressive Caucus budget would reduce federal health spending by $218 billion over 10 years, by taking advantage of Medicare’s greater bargaining power.
  • Clinton’s campaign outlined three proposals to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs that the RAND Corporation assessed would reduce the ranks of the uninsured by a further 10 million while “decreasing average spending by up to 33 percent for those with moderately low incomes.”
  • Clinton’s benefit enhancements would cost $90 million, a small fraction of the $218 billion the public option would save.
  • The additional $120 billion or so could simply be allocated to the Medicare Trust Fund, contributing to further extending its life.
  • Last, while there is considerable debate as to the practical impact of Trump’s proposal to eliminate the “lines between the states” and establish a unified federal market in health insurance plans, it seems like an idea worth trying. In the context of a Republican repeal-and-replace plan, eliminating the “lines” would be a de facto total deregulation of the insurance industry. But relying on the Affordable Care Act regulatory minimums while allowing insurers to operate in as many (or few) states as they like seems desirable.

You could, of course, also throw some other favorite progressive ideas into the mix, like a Medicare buy-in for people over the age of 55 (though a good public option should make this unnecessary), steps to speed the approval of generic drugs, or the use of more aggressive pharmaceutical price negotiating techniques by Medicare.

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Nathaniel Rakich: “From 1977 to 2013, the last six incoming presidents — Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama — made 109 appointments to Cabinet-level positions. Just six failed: Five nominees withdrew, and one was voted down by the Senate. The Senate confirmed 103 during the same span, 93 of whom were unanimously approved or not seriously contested. Ten were confirmed in contested votes. (I’m defining “contested” as more than six nay votes — admittedly a somewhat arbitrary cutoff.) Including the one rejection, that means that, whenever there was genuine dissent over a floor vote, the nominee was confirmed anyway 10 times out of 11.”

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Out next week: Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail by Jonathan Chait.

“Over the course of eight years, Barack Obama amassed an array of historic achievements. His administration saved the American economy from collapse, expanded health insurance to tens of millions who previously could not afford it, negotiated an unprecedented nuclear deal with Iran, helped craft a groundbreaking international climate accord, reined in Wall Street, launched a fundamental overhaul of our education system, and formulated a new vision of racial progress. He has done all of this despite a left that frequently disdained him as a sellout, and a hysterical right that did everything possible to destroy his agenda, even in instances when they actually agreed with what he was doing before Obama was the one doing it.”

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“The ex-wife of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, appeared in disguise on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ as a victim of domestic violence, after having accused him multiple times of physically assaulting her in the 1980s,” Politico reports.

“Additionally, a 1988 petition… from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County provides previously unreported details of the alleged abuse: Puzder’s ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, accused him of having ‘assaulted and battered [her] by striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders, and neck, without provocation or cause,’ and that as a consequence she ‘suffered severe and permanent injuries.’”

 

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

2 comments on “The Open Thread for January 12, 2017

  1. Matt Yglesias’ idea for Dems to write their own Obamacare replacement is interesting. At the very least it will draw a stark contrast with whatever the GOP cobbles together.

  2. Waiting for the Republicans to repeal Obamacare and throw the insurance companies into turmoil, it’s will hurt me pigly bigly but that’s the way it is. It will also enrage millions of Americans who want medical insurance but cannot afford it, not that the Republicans care. They have no replacement that will not closely resemble Obamacare, although they will labor mightily to deny it. As for Trumps rogues gallery of a cabinet they will compete, scandal for scandal, with Trump himself. Difficult though it will be.

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