Single Payer, Multiple Problems.

Gillibrand. Booker. Harris. Warren. Sanders. What do those names have in common?

Well, two things actually.  First, they are all of the Democratic senators with presidential aspirations. Second, they are all cosponsors of a recently proposed bill to create Medicare for all single-payer healthcare.

That list alone should tell you about the realistic possibilities of this proposal. If there were a bill on the other side of the aisle on a Republican pet issue sponsored by Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Graham, and Cotton, do you think Democrats would be willing to work with them to pass it?

The Sander’s bill operates under the assumption that healthcare is a right not a privilege, which is the absolute correct opinion – in my opinion.  Because this bill views it as a right, it eliminates the for profit insurance industry in favor of a government system that sets premiums based on health care costs, not health care costs, + overhead + profit + risk + shareholder concerns.  People wouldn’t have to worry about doctors being in network or preexisting conditions or anything. You get sick, you get taken care of.

Sounds wonderful, right?  But the bill has no chance of passing, so why is Sanders forcing the issue right now?

The Democrats just fought a seven year battle over the Affordable Care Act. When it passed in 2010, it was the biggest shake-up of the American healthcare system since the 1960’s and the politics of it cost Democrats the House in the following election.  They then spent the next six years listening to Republicans promise to repeal and replace it if they were to gain power.

Then Republicans caught the car.

With both houses of Congress and the White House under the Republican flag, push came to shove and the Republicans choked.  After promising their ideal version of healthcare to the American people for the better part of a decade, the Republicans couldn’t agree as a caucus on the path forward and had to throw in the towel and let the ACA stand.

While it is too early to judge if this will cost them House seats – remember, nothing matters anymore – it is hugely embarrassing and an enormous hit to their credibility.

So why then, in the minority, are the Democrats setting foot down the same path?  They just narrowly defended the ACA and by proposing a new bill are not only moving the goal posts, but conceding that the ACA isn’t the healthcare system they’d prefer.

I know that some out there – hi @PodSaveAmerica – would argue that even if the bill doesn’t pass that providing healthcare for all should be the Democratic position and this bill should be the conversation starter moving forward.

No, wrong, false, dumb.

By introducing this bill in this political climate, it is automatically polarized to the extreme. Not only is the idea toxic to Republicans, but Sanders is forcing Democratic senators to publicly comment and stake out a position on something that is divisive and  unrealistic.

In an effort to take back the Senate – and maybe the House? – why are you forcing Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp to talk about single payer when their constituencies barely even tolerate their support of the ACA?

I don’t think that the two caucuses need to operate as cohesive blocs at all times or that every vote needs to be a party line decision, but in today’s nationalized political environment elected officials live and die as a team much more than they used to.

If he were a true team player, Sanders would have never introduced this into the conversation under these circumstances.  Then again, he’s only ever paid attention to a constituency of one.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Getty Images
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The American Legion of Liars

Donald Trump got what he wanted. Thanks to a media that covers politics with the same objective analysis as the sports section during a playoff run, everyone across the country heard the narrative that the most important thing that happened in Washington this week was that the Republicans “got a win.”

No, that mass of mental midgets did not get a “win.”  What they did was display horrifying neglect of duty in rushing to pass a bill that would do irreparable harm to millions and millions of people across the country.

What the stampede of simpletons in the lower chamber did this week flies in the face of everything I have ever believed about what elected leaders are supposed to do. Beyond just the merits of the legislation, the callousness and recklessness with which they rushed through legislation would up-end 1/6 of our economy was outrageous, egregious and preposterous.

And the best – I shouldn’t say “best” because there is nothing good here – part is that the people who will be hurt worst by this abomination are the very people who elected this cohort of clowns. The bill allows states to seek waivers to no longer protect those with pre-existing conditions. You know who won’t seek those waivers? Democratic governors who don’t want to see their people suffer. You know who will? Republican governors like Scott Walker who already said he’d probably use it (Hey Paul Ryan, guess what state that is).

Call me a smug liberal if you want, but I’m smart enough not to vote for someone who campaigns on taking away a benefit that I rely on.

As the horde of hee-haws were pushing yay at their desks, staff were carting palates of Bud Light covered in black tarps through the Capitol. But they couldn’t even do that right as the genius they tasked with this mission left one corner uncovered for all the world to spy the signature blue and white box of “Up for Whatever.” Symbolism.

Though let’s be fair. The beer, I’m sure, was to celebrate granting insurance to millions for the first time. Or maybe it was that those born with ailments could finally get coverage. Or maybe it was their provision to ban life-time limits and out of pocket expenses for people that suffer catastrophic injuries. Or maybe it was confirming their belief that the character of this country is defined by the fact that no one should go bankrupt because of an illness or injury.

Oh shit, sorry, those are all the things in the Affordable Care Act they’re trying to end. Silly me.

As Dan Pfeiffer said on “Pod Save America” his week, if Republicans came out and made a case that they want to return the healthcare industry to the free market and that government has no place directing a private marketplace, then at least they would be making an intellectually honest argument about why they’re doing this.

Instead, this legion of liars are blanketing the talk shows spreading some of the most bald faced “alternative facts” I’ve ever witnessed in politics.

Kevin McCarthy talked of expanding coverage despite a CBO score on a similar bill that says 24 million fewer people would have coverage. Paul Ryan’s communications director said this bill had been scored twice, despite the fact that the previous two scores were for entirely different bills.  This is like saying your car is doesn’t need the state inspection because you had the emissions tested 2 years ago.

And finally, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers wrote an op-ed about how her son’s pre-existing condition led her to vote for this bill. But given that this bill weakens protections for people like him, there must be something she knows that we don’t.

Oh, that’s right, Republicans made sure the law didn’t apply to Members of Congress, their families, or staff.

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Picture credit: Twitter

The Showdown at Amateur Alley

There is a book that Donald Trump has not read. Yes, I know that could be literally any book, but the one I have in mind is called The Showdown at Gucci Gulch.  It is the riveting story of how the last major tax reform was passed in 1986.

The 30 second summary is this: House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, Senators Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood, White House Chief of Staff / Treasury Secretary James Baker worked together for years hammering out every detail of every aspect of tax reform. They debated how and if to keep it revenue neutral, how to simplify it, and how to spread the benefits.

By contrast, the Trump Administration talks about overhauling major aspects of the American economy like they are launching a menu item at McDonalds. “Healthcare reform will happen his week.” “Tax reform will be released on Wednesday.”

That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.

I almost forgive Trump for this naiveté.  He is new to governing, has surrounded himself with no one of any expertise, and is generally not very bright. But Paul Ryan on the other hand – who used to hold the same title as Rep. Rostenkowski – should know better.

Well, he should know better, but as we saw with how he handled Health Care Crash and Burn Episode 1, he is a pretty shitty Speaker.

He not only crafted a bill that couldn’t crack 20% approval, but secured no outside support, made no efforts to secure votes, and gave the world’s worst PowerPoint infomercial on national television.  He had 7 years (that is over 2500 days for those of you keeping track) to craft a replacement to that evil, sinister, job killing Obamacare and instead he basically put the letters “H.R.” in front of a turd and gave it to the House clerk.

Then as if he didn’t learn his lesson, he was back at it this week saying that the GOP has spent a whole four weeks writing an even worse version of their original dumpster fire. Once again, every major national health organization is opposed, no senators have been briefed, and the president is unable to articulate any provisions beyond “it’s very good and very well liked.”

While all of this is going on, Ryan somehow thought it was also a good idea to allow the White House to release an outline of a major tax reform proposal that differs in key ways from the plan Ryan has been salivating over for his entire life. Not to mention how it will make Republicans want to hide those debt clocks they were so fond of under Obama.

Despite being billed as the most powerful city on earth, Washington actually has very little bandwidth for more than one major undertaking at any given time.  Major legislation takes up a ton of energy. The research, the hearings, the lobbying efforts, the scoring and analysis. It is a dance that has all the kinetic energy of an anthill and the organized chaos of a kayak race in a hurricane.

When the Republicans secured both houses of Congress and the White House, most Democrats began digging graves for all their priorities. The rich were about to get tax cuts, the ACA was on its way to the gallows, and social progress was shifting out of drive.  Thankfully, Republicans have chose to govern like a puppy in a dog park that doesn’t know which tennis ball to chase.  So for now, it looks like most liberal accomplishments are safer than we thought.

Back in 1986, Republicans were able to secure major victories like lower top rates in the final tax package despite Democratic control of the House.  They did this through painstaking negotiating, intense cooperation between the Treasury and Congressional leaders, and careful consideration of major stakeholders concerns.

What they didn’t do was announce that it would happen “on Wednesday.”

 

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Associated Press

Empty Suit Gives Empty Speech

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric and the reviews. Donald Trump said absolutely nothing in his first speech to Congress last night.  Sure, he spoke 57 minutes worth of words – largely on script – but those words told us basically nothing that we didn’t already know.

Republicans across the board are lauding him for his “presidential” performance. Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post said it was the best speech he has even seen – and he helped write two – but what exactly is he basing that off of? Donald Trump read from a teleprompter for an hour straight without leading a “lock her up” chant and only inserted a few extra superlatives and suddenly he’s the oratorical love child of Reagan and Obama?  

Reading a prepared speech without spontaneously combusting is hardly an indication of presidential perfection. In fact, it was the minimum requirement for getting at least a B in my 5th grade oral presentation project.

Look at what else the Republicans are congratulating him for, like the standing ovation for a Navy SEAL’s widow. That was an incredibly touching and heartbreaking moment. But let’s not pretend that happened in a vacuum. Since Ryan Owen’s death during a raid in Yemen, Trump has blamed Obama, “the generals”, other Navy Seals, bad intelligence, and the Ghost of Christmas Past for his death. Less than 24 hours prior to his speech in an interview he deferred responsibility and said “they lost him” as if the Navy SEALs were responsible.

That is despicable behavior for a Commander in Chief of the military.

The ovation Mrs. Owens received was representative of how everyone in this country should treat families of the fallen, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that Louie Gohmert wasn’t voraciously clapping in part to help drown out Trump’s botching of that entire episode.

Style points aside, was there any substance to praise Trump on? I’m glad you asked. In setting up his agenda, he started by highlighting every Breitbart statistic on the Obama Administration and then proceeded to paint the world’s rosiest pic of his agenda. Are you ready for this?

  • He wants to increase and preserve world peace. He also wants to raise military spending by $54 billion and “start winning wars.”
  • He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  He also wants to keep the ban on preexisting conditions, keep subsidies, improve quality of care, lower costs, improve competition, expand marketplaces, let you keep your doctor, and lower pill costs.
  • He wants to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package. He also wants massive tax breaks for “the middle class.”
  • He wants to welcome all legal immigrants of all kinds.  He also wants a merit based immigration system where we only admit high wage, high skill folks from countries we like.
  • He wants clean air, safe water, and environmental preservation.  He also says for every new regulation, you must repeal two.

He wants a juicy steak, but it must also be well done.  Certain things in life are just not possible.  

Republicans won’t pass a program that assists blind, wheelchair bound grandmothers get groceries without a pay-for, so does Trump really think they’ll drop $1 trillion AND cut the tax base further? How are you going to improve world peace while “winning wars” at the same time?

My brain is in more knots than a rope at Boy Scout camp trying to figure this one out.

And finally, let’s not forget… Trump boldly claimed that he was going to create “millions of new jobs” and bring dying industries “roaring back.” While I wish him every bit of luck in improving the lives of people in the forgotten regions of this country, that is an outrageously bold claim in a world where there are more solar energy jobs than coal mining jobs and robots (not trade) are permanently ending manufacturing jobs.

All during the campaign, half of the media would scream “Trump turned a corner!” each time he gave a speech without offending another country, and the half would mutter “you idiots, just wait a week.” The latter proved to be correct more times than not.

The Donald as president is no different. So what that he read from a teleprompter and said he supported a strong America. Every policy prescription was vague, if not contradictory, and most were dead on arrival even with Republican majorities in Congress.

This is still the same Trump who signed the Muslim ban, made a moral equivalency argument between the US and Russia, and called a major news network “FAKE NEWS” every chance he got. For those who think Trump became a new man yesterday, please come talk to me next time he tweets a conspiracy theory at 7 am.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Cox Media

Sing it, Mr. President.

Every president has their moment.  For John F. Kennedy it came early, on the steps of the Capitol delivering his inaugural address. For George W. Bush it came through tragedy, finding him atop a smoldering pile of twisted steel in New York City with a bullhorn in his hands.

For Barack Obama, that moment found him in an arena in Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by a solemn black clergy draped in purple robes when he paused, and we heard it:

“A-a-a-ma-a-a-zing-g-g grace-e-e….”

A preacher behind the president stood up so quickly you’d think he had sat on a tack. A voice from off camera shouted “Sing it, my president!” And this young man a thousand miles away felt a heat wave hit his cheeks as condensation slowly released itself from his eyes. 

As he’ll tell you himself, Barack Obama gave far too many national addresses following mass shootings to the point that he admitted he had run out of ways to describe tragedy.  So in that respect, another eulogy was nothing new. We had even seen the president become emotional before, when tears raced down his cheeks while he read the names of slain six year-olds after Newtown.

But there was something different about this day. Here was our nation’s first black president standing among a black congregation, addressing an audience of thousands of black mourners coping with a crime perpetrated by a young white man who told police he committed the act with malice and hate in the muscle where his heart should have been for those born of a different skin color.

This was a moment only Barack Obama could have embraced.

He spoke with a steady, deliberate conviction, reaching deep to bare his soul to the country as a man of god and thus delivering to us a brother, not a president. His freight train like momentum propelled him to reach poignant peaks and touch stoic valleys. His poise, posture, and buttery baritone demonstrated to all that never in a million years would hate triumph of the power of love, faith, and family.

As a white male born in the shadow of the nations capital, I won’t ever be able to understand what President Obama was feeling that morning as looked himself in the mirror while perfecting the dimple in his soft blue tie.  But each time I have watched that speech – a number I won’t reveal – I have felt my eyes well-up, my throat tighten, and my head slowly bob in approval.

President Obama knows the power of his words and how to harness the energy of his audience. When he leaves the teleprompter behind and starts hitting each line with the cadence of a drumline and John Williams-esque crescendo it’s impossible to look away. During the campaign I so often found myself glued to the screen as he giddily chided Donald Trump that my coworkers came to saying I’d “gone to church” when they’d notice a prolonged pause in the clicking from my keyboard.

Like a Marvel character who wakes up to find they have super-strength, Barack Obama has used his powers for good.

Symbols and moments matter.  It is why we fly flags at half-staff or why police wear a badge and not jeans. No flag will ever bring back a national hero, and no uniform will ever catch a robber, but they serve as public markers for respect, law, and order.  Much in this way, President Obama’s forty minute confessional that fateful day in Charleston served as an instrument of healing.  

Just imagine for a second the aftermath of Charleston without President Obama.

Imagine another mass shooting gone unanswered, but this time with the spectre of our nation’s dark racial history looming large.  Imagine another terse eulogy, one that didn’t end in the most powerful man in the nation opening himself up to mockery by singing off key on national television. Imagine another cookie-cutter press release mourning the loss of “fill in the blank” souls, instead of the symbol of freedom discussing the history of the oppressed.

If you think history would have arced the same, tell that to the audience members whose cheeks could have ended a drought that day, or to the preacher who, sitting with his eyes closed, repeated “preach it, my president” like a metronome throughout the address.

Living across a vast and diverse land we often don’t have the ability to meet our fellow citizen, to worship with them, to laugh or cry with them, or to share with them our inner most fears and dreams. Instead it is moments like this, where sitting at home or at the office we can each identify with the feelings of the only man in our country who speaks from behind that great seal.

That day, standing among mourning members of a shaken community, the president reminded us of the type of man he is.  He chose forgiveness and fortitude over vengeance and vitriol. He showed us the power of humility and grace.

He showed us why we’re going to miss him.

Thanks, Obama.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: AP

Beware the Red Line

Republican members of Congress love to cite President Obama’s unenforced “red line” over chemical weapons use in Syria as the moment the world went to hell.  They argue that the non-reaction to the discovery of mustard gas led to Bashar Al-Assad committing further atrocities, to Vladimir Putin seizing Crimea and meddling in Eastern European political processes, and to Saudi Arabia and Iran carrying out a proxy war in Yemen.

As with all geo-political messes, its hard to nail down causation, but it certainly isn’t out of the question that the United States’ hesitancy to act after threatening to may have incentivized further international transgressions.  For Republicans, the lesson to be learned is closer to home than they may think.

Just as Vladimir Putin may have viewed US inaction in Syria as an invitation to push further into Ukraine, President-elect Donald Trump has viewed Republican cowardice as a green light continue to bypass norms, rules, and common decency.  He has seen more red line inaction than a Metro rider during rush hour.

Barely a month after declaring his run for president, Trump insulted former POW John McCain and declared that he liked people “who weren’t captured.”  Republican leaders were aghast in incredulity for about 72 hours. Trump continued on.

In December, 2015, Trump called for a blanket ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and others said he was tearing at the moral fabric of the United States and making Betsy Ross roll over in her grave. Trump rolled on.

In July, 2016, Khizr Khan stood before the country on national tv, shared his grief like only a son-less father could with the world, and asked if Donald Trump would have represented his son, a muslim American soldier, as he would any other young man.  Trump responded by insulting Khan’s wife and their faith.  Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell sided with Khan. Trump marched on.

In October, 2016, a video surfaced of a 59 year-old Trump insinuating that he had committed sexual assault. Mike Pence cancelled his upcoming campaign schedule and many Republicans fantasized about a new ticket.  Trump called it locker it room talk and Republicans slinked back. Trump soldiered on.

After each of these events, a small chorus of Republican leaders stuck their necks out and proclaimed Trump’s actions to be wrong. He was called unacceptable, unpresidential, and unfit. But each time, as the news cycle returned to Hillary Clinton’s emails, those Republican leaders crawled back on board the Trump train.

The red line has been drawn and erased, re-drawn and re-erased. It is as durable a sand castle during high tide.

During the campaign the consequences to this cowardice were minimal. The news cycle moved quicker than a strobe light at an Avicii concert and real accountability was on par with a time-out session at an elementary school slumber party.

But now that Trump is about to become president and will have the awesome power of his signature, the consequences could be catastrophic. The daily unintelligent briefing that he shares with us via Twitter shows his willingness to train his ire on the press and political opponents, two groups that are supposed to be protected by our founding documents.

What happens when Trump calls for an investigation of a paper that reports on a scandal of his? Will Republican leaders stand up then?

What happens when Trump asks Attorney General Sessions to investigate Democratic governors or to ignore illegal voting restrictions? Will Republican leaders step forward in defense?

Republicans have made hay out of President Obama’s refusal to enforce an international threat and lamented the chaos that became of it. After nearly 18 months of standing up to Donald Trump, only to sit back down, they would be wise to adopt their own lesson.

Donald’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, the Donald gave to me, a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the second day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, two MAGA hats
And a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the third day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, three swing states,
Two MAGA hats, and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the fourth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me,
Four interviews, three swing states, two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the fifth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, five Chinese ties,
Four interviews, three swing states, two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the sixth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, six Fox News anchors,
Five Chinese ties, four interviews, three swing states, two MAGA hats
And a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the seventh day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, seven golden airplanes,
Six Fox News anchors, five Chinese ties, four interviews, three swing states,
Two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the eighth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, eight Russians hacking,
Seven golden airplanes, six Fox News anchors, five Chinese ties, four interviews,
Three swing states, two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the ninth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, nine Clinton emails,
Eight Russians hacking, seven golden airplanes, six Fox News anchors, five Chinese ties,
Four interviews, three swing states, two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the tenth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, ten Ivanka snapchats,
Nine Clinton emails, eight Russians hacking, seven golden airplanes, six Fox News anchors,
Five Chinese ties, four interviews, three swing states, two MAGA hats
And a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the eleventh day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, eleven golden toupees,
Ten Ivanka snapchats nine Clinton emails, eight Russians hacking, seven golden airplanes,
Six Fox News anchors, five Chinese ties, four interviews, three swing states,
Two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the Donald gave to me, twelve Cabinet posts,
Eleven golden toupees, ten Ivanka snapchats nine Clinton emails, eight Russians hacking,
Seven golden airplanes, six Fox News anchors, five Chinese ties, four interviews,
Three swing states, two MAGA hats and a lie in a three a.m. tweet.