After the Victory

Donald Trump will always be that insecure wannabe loutish guy from Queens who could never impress the Old Money in Manhattan, no matter how many gold-plated toilets he had installed in his gold-plated penthouse high over Fifth Avenue. He was still vulgar. Nixon had the same problem with the Kennedy crowd – those Ivy League bastards who, he thought, always considered him a rube. He’d show them. Overcompensation driven by insecurity drove Richard Nixon and then ruined him – as it could ruin Trump – if that’s the problem. But if that’s the problem, about a third of the country has the same problem, this time with the damned “coastal elites” and Hollywood stars and “experts” telling them what they should think and feel.

To them, Donald Trump is a hero, unless Donald Trump is “a stupid man’s idea of a smart man, a poor man’s idea of a rich man, and a weak man’s idea of a strong man.”

That may not matter. He won the presidency, and now, as the Washington Post’s John Wagner reports, that insecure wannabe loutish guy from Queens finally showed them all:

As he stood outside the White House on Wednesday, President Trump basked in the praise of Republican lawmakers assembled around him. He was lauded for his “exquisite presidential leadership.” He was touted as “one heck of a leader” and as a “man of action.”

This was the validation that had always eluded him. He ate it up, and they laid it on:

“You made the case for the tax bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Trump. But McConnell didn’t stop there.

“This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration,” crowed McConnell, who proceeded to praise the president for tackling the “overregulation of the American economy” and for winning Senate confirmation of a dozen nominees to federal circuit courts.

And then he asked for more;

As Trump played emcee at Wednesday’s event, he gave nearly a dozen lawmakers a turn at the microphone.

“I want to have them come up and get the glamour and the glory,” Trump said.

In fact, it was Trump who got most of the glory – from lawmakers who demonstrated they have learned that the president responds well to stroking his ego.

It was House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) who praised the “exquisite presidential leadership” of Trump.

“We would not be standing here if it were not for you,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said when he got his chance.

Trump strutted and grinned. No one would mock him ever again – or his tiny hands or his orange hair or his far-below-rudimentary grasp of how the government actually works. He did what Nixon could never do. He showed them all. He wasn’t that wannabe lout. He was now a better president than any president ever. These guys all said so, didn’t they?

That they did:

Vice President Pence, as is his habit, was not to be outdone in praising his boss.

“I truly do believe, Mr. President, that this will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the life of our nation, a day when the Congress answered your call and made history,” he said. “But honestly, I would say to the American people, President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.”

But there was more:

Pence participated in a separate celebration of Trump just a couple of hours earlier, joining the president and his Cabinet in a meeting in the White House.

Shortly before the House took the final vote on the tax bill, Pence praised Trump for delivering a “middle-class miracle.” (Independent analyses show the GOP tax plan actually benefits corporations and the wealthy far more than the middle class.)

About 20 minutes of the Cabinet meeting witnessed by reporters included repeated praise of Trump and a prayer from Ben Carson, his housing secretary.

Carson thanked God, for the nation, for Donald Trump. So even God thinks Trump is wonderful. That was far beyond the validation that had always eluded Donald Trump. Donald Trump was in heaven.

The president responds well to stroking his ego. That keeps him from tweeting out angry nonsense before dawn each day. Some of this praise was strategic.

The rest was just embarrassing, and the proximate cause of all this was a bit more prosaic:

Congress on Wednesday passed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering a landmark legislative victory to President Trump and the Republicans that had once seemed impossible for the fractured party.

The sweeping measure imprints a clear conservative vision on the tax code that will affect nearly every household and business. Corporations will see a massive tax cut, while most Americans will see temporary savings of various sizes. And in a move that may prove politically perilous, Republicans delivered the biggest gains to the wealthy.

This wasn’t the work of God, or of any king who is king with “divine rights” because God wanted him to be king. This was a calculated political gamble:

The passage kicks off an intense period of uncertainty for consumers and businesses as both scramble to understand the changes and take advantage of the end of the calendar year to minimize tax bills. Some local governments said they were flooded with calls from homeowners seeking to pay their 2018 property taxes this year to avoid a cap on real estate tax deductions that will begin next year.

The legislation also will play a huge role in the coming campaigns for the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans hope their plan will set off a flurry of economic growth and win over a public that polls suggest is deeply skeptical. Democrats, meanwhile, plan to characterize the bill as a giveaway to the wealthy, in hopes that the message will help them retake Congress in November.

It’s going to be one or the other:

Republicans promised their plan would raise the fortunes of the middle class through rates cuts and an avalanche of economic growth, promising higher wages. Democrats cited nonpartisan analyses that found the bulk of the bill’s benefits go to corporations and the wealthy, accusing the GOP of an act of class welfare that will bust the federal budget while enriching corporations and billionaire donors.

“This bill is not centered on a middle-class tax cut,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “The fleeting sugar high this plan offers some middle-class families is just a distraction from its giveaways to multinational corporations and powerful donors.”

But there was this:

Republicans were handed instant selling points Wednesday when AT&T and Comcast announced new $1,000 bonuses to a combined 300,000 employees. And Fifth Third Bancorp, a large Cincinnati lender, announced it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $15 an hour and give a one-time bonus of $1,000 to 13,500 employees because of the tax changes.

“This bill means more take-home pay,” Trump told reporters earlier. “It will be an incredible Christmas gift for hard-working Americans.”

That was the message here. Corporate tax cuts work. That was the point of all this, really, but this was chump change:

Other companies say they plan to use the new tax breaks to bump stock dividends or buy back shares, moves that would enrich executives but do little for the workers they employ.

Hard-working Americans aren’t really an issue here. Other companies might throw in a few crumbs for low-level employees, if that makes Donald Trump and the Republicans happy. Keep those guys happy. That’s important, but other things are more important. AT&T wants to merge with Time Warner, the owner of CNN, and Donald Trump hates CNN – and Don Lemon in particular, for some reason – and the Justice Department and executives at the two companies are feuding about that merger. The new combined company will have to sell off CNN – or shut it down – or Donald Trump’s justice department won’t approve anything. Executives at the two companies say they’ll do no such thing – so AT&T’s sudden announcement of bonuses and whatnot may be an attempt to keep that merger alive, by stroking Trump’s ego. Everything is strategic.

This is strategic too:

Senior White House officials said Trump will probably wait until January to sign the tax bill into law to avoid immediately triggering a 2010 law known as “PAYGO,” or “pay-as-you-go.” The budget law requires spending cuts to Medicare and other programs if legislation is approved that’s projected to add to the deficit.

If Trump were to sign the tax bill into law before Congress adjourns in December, lawmakers could be forced to vote on the PAYGO waiver measure as soon as next month to prevent immediate spending cuts. That could amount to as much as $25 billion to Medicare throughout next year.

Cut twenty-five billion from Medicare and Medicare reimbursements to hospitals will dry up. Rural hospitals, always on the edge of insolvency, will go belly-up and close. That would make the midterm elections a nightmare for Republicans, so something must be worked out, but that won’t be easy:

Signing the tax bill into law in January would probably defer such a spending cut until 2019, giving Congress almost a year to come up with a solution. The PAYGO rules can be waived if 60 senators vote in favor, but Republicans will control only 51 Senate seats next year, meaning they will need to cut a deal with Democrats to prevent the cuts to Medicare from going into effect.

That clouds this Republican victory, as does this:

The bill also extends beyond taxes and into health care by scrapping a central part of the Obama-era law known as the Affordable Care Act. The repeal of the financial penalty for not purchasing health insurance does not go into effect until 2019. Projections vary on how the mandate’s absence will affect the health-care system, but the Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance after a decade.

This is a problem too, not aided by delusion:

Trump heralded this aspect of the bill Wednesday.

“When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed,” he said.

Many Democrats and Republicans have said this is not true, although the change would mark the most substantial GOP step so far in dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature law. All other aspects of the health-care law would remain intact, and some Republicans have said they want to pursue new legislation that would lessen the impact of repealing the individual mandate.

Some other Republicans have said they’ll do no such thing. Let it all die. The fewer people having health insurance the better – that’s freedom. And that’s not the governments’ business. It never was the government’s business.

None of this is easy, and Aaron Blake adds this:

Apparently eager to argue that this constituted his having cut taxes and slain Obamacare in one fell swoop (after Congress came up short on Obamacare this year), Donald Trump argued that repealing the individual mandate was basically the same as repealing Obamacare.

But, he said, he told Republicans not to talk about that. Trump said he told allies to “be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it.”

“Now that it’s approved, I can say that,” he said.

Oops:

Now Democrats have clips of the president talking about how this was really more about the corporate tax cuts all along and saying he just undid Obamacare – both of which weren’t part of the argument for the bill. They also happen to be pretty good talking points, with the latter being something Democrats can credibly use to force Republicans into ownership of whatever happens with the American healthcare system from now on… Trump’s desire to claim dual victories and strategic dominance appear to have gotten the better of him here.

Dana Milbank puts that this way:

Republicans, in rushing the tax bill to passage, kept fairly quiet about the fact that they were killing the “individual mandate” and thereby removing the engine that made the Affordable Care Act work. In doing so, they threw the healthcare system into chaos without offering any remedy. And Trump just claimed paternity of the destruction.

In short, he ruined what was and has nothing to offer to replace what was now, if there may never be anything to replace what was, and there’s more:

The new system also belongs to Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who, in exchange for her vote for the tax bill, was hornswoggled into believing Congress will take action before year end on subsidies to stabilize the former Obamacare exchanges. That has now been put off until next year, and it will meet stiff resistance from Collins’s fellow Republicans.

This will be ugly. Lives are at stake. The nationally televised praise of God’s president, better than any president ever, may have been premature, and these guys may not be doing God’s work:

With more and more states running out of money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, parents took their case to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, pleading with Congress to provide money before their sons and daughters lose health care and coverage.

But the program, known as CHIP, which insures nearly nine million children, took a back seat as lawmakers raced to pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut. CHIP’s fate, it appears, is now caught up in a messy fight over an end-of-the-year deal on spending that must be struck by Friday to avert a government shutdown.

“CHIP is being used as a pawn in larger debates and negotiations,” Linda Nablo, the chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, said Tuesday in an interview. “It has fallen victim to the dysfunction and partisanship in Congress. And we are getting very close to the point where some children will also be victims.”

Virginia sent letters last week to parents of 68,000 children warning them that CHIP coverage would end on Jan. 31 unless Congress took action.

Again, lives are at stake, but expect no action:

Congress has known since April 2015 that funds for the popular children’s insurance program – created and sustained for two decades with bipartisan support – would expire this year at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee approved a five-year extension of funding for the program in early October, but did not specify how to pay for it – and Republicans insist that it must be paid for.

Some of those Republicans suggested that CHIP should be funded by big cuts to Medicare – choose one or the other – so there was this:

The House passed a bill to provide five years of funds in early November, but those funds would come from public health programs set up under the Affordable Care Act and an increase in premiums for affluent Medicare beneficiaries, provisions that are unacceptable to most Democrats. House Republicans plan to send those same provisions to the Senate again this week as part of a stopgap spending bill, knowing they will be killed.

That’s just cruel:

To parents of sick children, the gamesmanship in Washington was incomprehensible, especially as Congress was working to pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut with little worry over its cost to the Treasury.

“I am here to call on the Senate to do the right thing and invest in our nation’s true future, invest in the children, to save CHIP and to save children’s lives,” said Sonja Reynolds, who came to the Capitol from Pleasant Grove, Utah.

She has five children on CHIP, including two with Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition. Every eight weeks, she takes the two with Crohn’s to a hospital for infusions of Remicade, an expensive biologic drug. Without CHIP, she said, she could not afford the treatments.

There are more of these stories in this item, but everything is strategy:

No spending bill can clear the Senate without Democratic votes, so the minority party does have leverage, but Democrats also have other priorities in negotiations over the spending bill. They seek protections for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. They want to be sure that any increase in military spending is matched by an increase in domestic spending.

Senators from both parties, including the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, may try to attach a bipartisan bill to stabilize health insurance markets and hold down insurance premiums. That proposal faces fierce resistance from conservative House Republicans who see it as propping up Obamacare.

And some Democrats, especially the ten up for re-election next year in states won by President Trump, fear that a government shutdown would harm their political futures.

No one, then, is going to shut down the government to save the children, or to save the DACA dreamers either. Political futures are at stake after all, but there is real life:

While Congress squabbles, state officials are sounding the alarm. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 16 states expect to exhaust their federal CHIP funds by the end of January, with 21 additional states saying they would run out by the end of March.

The Trump administration has reshuffled money to help states with the most urgent needs. But in so doing, it exacerbates the financial problems that other states will soon face because Congress has not provided any new funds.

Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have joined Democrats in urgent appeals to Congress, without much success.

Success is hard to come by in Washington these days. Trump had his victory. He showed them all. He’s no longer that insecure wannabe loutish guy from Queens, but Politico reports this:

Just hours before the Tuesday vote, some House Republicans fretted privately about the prospect of getting railroaded into propping up Obamacare by the end of the week. And conservatives have been stewing quietly over a looming legislative package coming in early January that most believe will increase spending and codify an Obama-era immigration program they believe is illegal.

“It’s kinda like leaving a hospital finding out you’re cancer free and getting run over by a Mack truck,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker. On the one hand, the North Carolina Republican cheered passage of the tax plan. But he was also aghast that a unified Republican government was even discussing the possibility of enacting Obamacare subsidy payments they campaigned against for years.

There is no victory here for them:

By Friday Republicans will have to figure out how to fund the government, and there are no good options. House Republicans hoped to increase defense spending without giving Democrats any funding boost for their own priorities – an idea GOP leaders retracted after realizing it would go nowhere in the Senate. McConnell, for his part, recently backed the idea of adding Obamacare stabilization payments to the short-term spending bill – something House Republicans have flat-out rejected.

That’s to say nothing of January, when Congress is expected to raise strict spending caps without equivalent cuts and potentially offer deportation relief to Dreamers. Both could repel the conservative base even more.

Republicans throughout Washington have begun calling the January legislative agenda the “shit sandwich.”

The nationally televised praise of God’s president, better than any president ever, was premature. Trump had his victory. It wasn’t a victory.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to After the Victory

  1. Rick says:

    You’d think it might have occurred to Democrats in the last month or so that repealing the individual mandate was tantamount to a “repeal-without-replace” of Obamacare.

    And you’d think that they then might have sounded the alarm — not just to other Democrats, but also to moderate Republicans who might then notice the danger zone their party was walking into, and even Maine Senator Susan Collins, who could have helped spread the alarm further, since the danger of Americans losing health coverage seemed to be what had motivated her no-vote on Trumpcare.

    I suspect the Democrats decided not to talk this up in the lead-up to the tax vote for much the same reason that Trump didn’t. Maybe Trump didn’t want to remind the Democrats to get up in arms, while maybe the Democrats didn’t want to remind conservative Republicans, in case they hadn’t noticed, that their chance to repeal Obamacare was just another good reason to vote for the tax bill.

    I hate to admit this, but Trump is right. The Democrats blew it.

    Yes, next year, we can use the fact that the Republicans repealed-without-replacing as talking points against them, but I see no guarantee that will get us much traction. I think the Democrats lost their chance to do some good, and got snookered by the kind of small-time pompous shithead mob godfather who demands his capos heap praise upon him in public.

    I really don’t like criticizing my own party for not getting out in front of an issue, but that’s exactly what they didn’t do this time. We do need to work on that. Oh, well, spilt milk.

    But meanwhile, there are two things I want to mention about what to expect from this tax bill, and then I’ll shut up for the rest of the day.

    First:

    You could see this whole thing as a bait-and-switch, with the “bait” happening with just enough time before the 2018 elections to possibly effect them, and the “switch” happening so long afterward that everyone will be on to something else by then. It will be left to be handled by future generations of Republicans, who will probably explain it all away by blaming it on Democrats.

    And they’ll probably get away with it, too, since remembering the truth doesn’t count for much in a world ruled by bullies, so I don’t advise assuming Republicans have filled out their own death certificate with passage of this tax bill.

    Second:

    When you think about whatever good effects Republicans are trying to get us all to expect from this bill, you have…

    (1) “The tax cuts will improve the economy”, and
    (2) “The improvement of the economy will be enough for the tax cuts to, essentially, ‘pay for themselves’”.

    On the first, yes, we should expect some improvement in the GDP, since experience and models seem to show there usually is, but maybe not as much as conservatives think, because of this from CNN.com a few days ago:

    CEOs may like the idea of a big tax cut for businesses, but that doesn’t mean they’ll use the savings to create American jobs.

    Just 14% of CEOs surveyed by Yale University said their companies plan to make large, immediate capital investments in the United States if the tax overhaul passes. Capital investments, like building plants and upgrading equipment, can lead to hiring.

    Only a slim majority of the CEOs, 55%, said the Republican tax package should be signed into law. The Yale CEO Summit surveyed 110 prominent business leaders of Fortune 500 and Fortune 50 companies last week.

    The findings, along with other surveys, suggest that the tax plan may not have the dramatic impact on jobs that President Trump and Republicans in Congress have promised.

    In other words, there is already evidence of this. The so-called “smart money” is already pretty sure of what’s going to happen:

    Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who leads the Yale CEO Summit, said in an interview that it’s “astounding” how few companies plan to reinvest their tax savings.

    He called the idea of a jobs boom from the tax plan “a lot of smoke and mirrors,” especially because the unemployment rate is just 4.1% and companies already have plenty of cash to make investments.

    Sonnenfeld declined to name the CEOs who participated in the poll. He said it included “Trump supporters” and former members of the president’s now-defunct advisory councils of business leaders.

    Yes, Wall Street wants this bill, but maybe it’s not so much for the reasons that Trump says they do:

    Wall Street expects companies will use a big chunk of the tax savings to reward shareholders with fatter dividends and stock buybacks, which makes stocks more attractive. That’s one reason stocks have surged all year, putting the Dow in sight of 25,000.

    “Markets just love it,” Michael Block, chief market strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, wrote in a note on Tuesday. He said it’s “malarkey” to think that cutting corporate taxes will boost spending and wages.

    “As we’ve seen in history, this doesn’t raise wages,” he wrote. “What it does lead to is richer shareholders.”

    In 2004, when Congress offered tax breaks for companies to bring foreign profits back home, businesses used much of their cash on share buybacks.
    The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities later concluded that the 2004 tax holiday “did not produce the promised economic benefits” because companies mostly bought back stock instead of investing to grow their businesses.

    But onto number (2):

    As we all know, maybe including most Republicans, while tax cuts may or may not boost growth, they never pay for themselves.

    Still, the question is, do Republicans really care about whether tax revenues increase? In fact, have conservatives ever really cared about how much money government gets to do what it’s supposed to do?

    Not noticeably.

    If they did, they wouldn’t be constantly (and almost recklessly) looking for ways to cut taxes, even if doing so means cutting popular deductions. In fact, as far as Republicans are concerned, the less money government has, the better, since government seems to be always spending most of its money on doing things that only the Democrats want done anyway, such as “buying” the votes of “special interests” (such as poor people) with “giveaways”.

    Democrats, conservatives might argue — and they do! — are not really interested in helping the poor and the minorities who’s votes they court, they’re only interested in the power that comes from doing it. (Of course, Democrats don’t come across as “power hungry”, or not nearly much as the Republicans do, but that just goes to show how duplicitous those greedy bastards are.)

    But, you may be asking, if Republicans don’t really care about government having revenue, shouldn’t they be worried about how to pay off the $1.5 trillion dollars they’re adding to the debt?

    Okay, but hold the phone! We must not make the common mistake of conflating “budget deficit” with “national debt”, since “deficit” only becomes “debt” when and if you spend it!

    In other words, expect some time in the future for Republicans to notice that we, for some reason nobody can explain, have this huge deficit that needs reducing! And what’s the best way to reduce a deficit — without, of course, raising taxes, which we’ve all decided should never be done?

    You guessed it! We’ll need to cut spending!

    And assuming you’re well off enough to have your own nest-egg and own health insurance — like any good American does, and should — then you probably won’t mind if we reduce the benefits of Social Security and Medicare (and not to forget, Medicaid, which only losers use anyway!), which is the largest chunk of change that the U.S. Government “wastes” every year.

    We have to get used to the fact that, while for a very long time — probably dating back to the late 19th century as the United States became a global power — liberal assumptions about what this country represented prevailed in the country and throughout the world. America did believe in what Emma Lazarus wrote, that immigrants should be welcomed here because they helped make America great, just as former slaves deserved the same rights as the rest of us, and women deserved the right to vote. We saw to it that everyone had the same opportunity to strive and survive, no matter how poor, and we reached a landmark when we finally passed a national health program, to make sure that nobody, nor their children, suffered for not being able to see a doctor or go to a hospital.

    That was then. All that liberal claptrap is now collapsing. Historians may someday look back and take note that Barrack Obama presided over the peak of America’s potential — it’s “spring of hope”, in the words of Dickens, followed abruptly by its “winter of despair”.

    You see where all this seems to be leading us?

    If our answer to that was, “Yeah, somewhere out there in the Third World!”, then I think we may finally be coming to our senses.

    Rick

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