Category Archives: economics

More reasons we can’t have nice things (#SFWApro)

Because whackaloon conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones are taken seriously. Even when claiming that George Soros is making pot stronger to destroy America.

•Because ass-hats like Michael Reagan (son of Ronnie) respond to Bill O’Reilly’s alleged sexual harassment by saying men should have the right to sue women for looking sexy. They dress to get us all hot and bothered, then they get upset when we notice how they’re dressed. The answer: sexual harassment isn’t just men noticing women are attractive. And if men can’t control themselves, it’s not the woman’s fault. No matter how she’s dressed.

•The fight against abortion continues. On a plus side, Maryland is revising its definition of rape so that even if it’s not forcible, cops can charge the rapist.

•Congress is considering a bill that would reduce regulation on crooked payday lenders. Bill’s primary supporter is a Republican, natch. And Trump’s “populism continues to focus on reducing regulation on businesses. And Congress is also looking to cut protections for people using prepaid debit cards.

•Donald Trump has also eased wildlife restrictions in Alaska that make it easier to shoot hibernating bears. Because let’s face it, how else can a man feel like a man?

•Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks Hawaii is not a real state. Which may reflect long-standing right-wing fears that Hawaii isn’t white enough to be a state.

•Because Paul Ryan, that supposed man of principle and seriously wonky disposition, has no qualms tongue-bathing Trump in print. And while he seems cool with having gone to college on his family’s Social Security Disability income, Ryan opposes retired miners getting health benefits.

•Because some right-wingers can’t grasp that choosing to have a baby doesn’t make you anti-abortion.

•Because pundits still want to blame Trump and angry conservatives on liberals. Or explain that if black America suffers, it’s their own fault. While still insisting Trump is Clinton’s fault. And claiming Democrats raise the murder rate.

•Because a Republican Congressman (Jim Sensenbrenner) thinks there’s no need for government to impose privacy rules on Internet providers — nobody has to use the Internet, right? By which logic we shouldn’t worry about keeping up roads, as nobody has to drive.

•Because reporters can paint a spectacular Democratic win as a Republican triumph. Or continue to insist on how awesome it is they’re interviewing Trump voters.

•Because think tanks like CATO can suddenly discover feminism when they can use it to argue in favor of exploiting third-world workers.

•Because part of the right-wing isn’t even denying they like shari’a law as long as it’s white shari’a.

•Because women’s achievements are sometimes hand-waved away and credited to men.

•Because sexual harassers can stick around academia for years. And years.

•Because as IF Stone once put it, the real problem isn’t when governments lie but when they start drinking their own snake-oil. Republicans used to use the right-wing media to manipulate people, but now they’re believers themselves.

•As that’s kind of a downbeat post, I’ll leave on one cheerful note: Florida State Senator Frank Artiles used the n-word on a political opponent. It created such a backlash, he’s resigning.

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Why we can’t have nice things. For starters, Republicans

Because they’re thrilled, absolutely thrilled that we’re bombing Syria.

•Because if they can’t get the state education budget cuts they want, they veto the entire education budget.

•They elected an authoritarian, borderline fascist president. Who despite all the talk in the campaign (and since) about him Not Being a Politician is now a bog-standard Republican only more openly racist.

•Because President Shit-Gibbon’s AG Jeff Sessions has given up on improving forensic science. Apparently sloppy science often works in the prosecution’s favor, so good science might get more people off. Which would be bad. And he’s going to get even tougher on immigrants. I’m sure he’ll make up for it by not spending any DoJ resources on things like right wing terrorism.

•Because education secretary Betsy Devos has dropped an Obama policy of not contracting with student-loan servicers who screw over borrowers.

•Because electing “godly” people (which large numbers of Republicans stopped worrying about when Trump ran) doesn’t lead to moral government. Nor does electing homophobes.

•Because in Texas the Republicans don’t want minors joining unions without parental consent.

•Because some North Carolina Republicans want to make marriage heterosexual-only again. Ditto Tennessee. And one of the NC legislators, Larry Pittman, puts Lincoln fighting the Civil War in the same class as Hitler. And has also supported a bill canceling the “never secede again” clause in the Constitution. Funny, he doesn’t seem to see any connection between Hitler’s belief in racial superiority and the Confederacy’s support of racial superiority.

•Because they’re voting to let a church have its own police force. I know they say its purely for security, but I have a bad feeling about this …

•Because they give us daily examples of white privilege. And more white privilege (and then whine about how minorities shouldn’t be let into college because, merit!). Which we’re supposed to believe represents rugged individualism.

•Because they’re not answerable to the taxpayers: Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin says he’s so rich his taxes pay his salary, so he’s really doing it for free. But I’m sure he’s carefully crunched the numbers and eliminated all the other things he gets like roads, law enforcement and the military.

•Because if they can’t repeal Obamacare, they’re willing to shut off the money.

•Because they cut funding to libraries and legal services for the poor.

•Because their media lackeys will insist on explaining, even now, that Trump is identical to Clinton. Or that he’s the Martin Luther King of healthcare.

•Because they think a woman with a dead fetus should carry it to term instead of aborting (Republicans say the bill doesn’t actually require that, but that doesn’t change that Republican Shannon Lundgren, thinking it did, was cool with it).

•Because they’re still convinced this country belongs to Christians and nobody else.

•Because of the angry white men who think they got ripped off.

•Because we get smug Catholic conservatives like Ross Douthat taking up space in the NYT to tell liberals you should all go to church and (a classic!) even atheists know God exists. Though I will admit “go to liberal churches” is an improvement over his usual paeans to right-wing reactionaries and abstinence.

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Trump, Trump’s people and some people fighting against them

I wrote last week that the the one time we shouldn’t take Trump literally is when he promises something that will help people. Case in point, Trump is not planning to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. But that doesn’t stop some pundits dreaming that Trump is shifting to the center. Or applauding that as he attacked Syria, that makes him more presidential. Or in one particularly ghastly Politico piece, arguing that Trump running the White House as a family business is a good thing.

•The White House demanded Twitter provide the identity of an alleged government employee tweeting against Trump. Twitter refused. The White House backed down.

•The current FCC chair is working to eliminate the FCC’s new net neutrality policy. Oh, and Charter’s no longer required to compete for customers as part of its Time Warner merger. And with the FCC’s privacy restrictions on Internet providers also toast, one state is looking at imposing its own privacy rule.

•The EPA has postponed banning a pesticide that its own science says is dangerous to humans. It’s getting sued over that decision.

•Slacktivist discusses why Trump voters won’t let us have nice things (because that means people of color get them too). Echidne looks at Trump’s win and his staff as a backlash against feminism. Slacktivist (again) reminds us that when Jesus says we must love our neighbor the person who gets technical about who our neighbors are is doing it wrong.

•A court has ruled that civil rights laws prevents firing or refusing to hire gays.

•Some Republicans are proposing a way to let insurers charge through the roof for pre-existing conditions.

•No, the Democrats filibustering Neil Gorsuch is not at all unprecedented.

•If conservatives can live with Bill O’Reilly and the allegations of sexual harassment against him, why would they be bothered by Trump’s sexism?

•A close-up look at what Trump’s 2005 tax return really shows.

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“Take Trump seriously, but not literally”

As President Shit-Gibbon’s predilection for lying became more and more obvious, a defense cropped up on the right, that we’re making a mistake if we take him literally instead of seriously. His supporters do they opposite: they don’t take his words literally because they know he’s serious about making America great again. So journalists should stop focusing on Trump’s words because they’re just not as important to him as they are to writers (of course if that was true, he wouldn’t keep having hissy fits about words saying he lost the popular vote).

The argument is probably correct about a lot of Trump voters. They’re fine with his lies as long as it annoys liberals (who are constantly persecuting them with all this talk of science). They didn’t think he’d defund Planned Parenthood. They didn’t think he’d take away their health-care coverage and probably didn’t anticipate losing Meals on Wheels. Or Trump making it easier for federal contractors to violate labor laws. And some farmers are genuinely shocked that the guy who ran on an anti-immigrant platform is going to restrict immigration, which could kill their labor force (there’s notably little concern for what will happen to the immigrants). They didn’t take him literally and you know what? That was a mistake.

There is no circumstance under which “his voters don’t care Trump spews bullshit” is a good excuse for reporters not pointing out the bullshit. The article I refer to argues that as the public doesn’t care, there’s no point to reporting it — but his rationale is that “the public” equates to “Trump voters” when he was, as we all know, the minority choice for president.

But beyond that, assuming he doesn’t mean what he says is just contradicted by the facts. We should assume he means everything literally except when it’s about providing his voters with better welfare benefits, creating a superior health-care plan that will cover everyone (as opposed to the Trumpcare shitpile) and doing anything to make people’s lives better. Except where he can make them better by dumping on women and minorities. Oh, and when he talked about bringing death and destruction to the Middle East, and it turns out that was literal too.

A number of Republican pundits are perfectly happy not to take Trump literally, such as Peggy Noonan, who saw potential in Trump to be a kind of recyled Reagan: strong but not aggressive on defense, supportive of free enterprise, supportive of churches, “realistic and nonradical” on social issues. At the link she bemoans that it hasn’t happened, but does her best to blame his staff.

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Trump, Trump’s budget and his faithful voters

So as I previously blogged about, Trumpcare actually makes things worse for poor, rural and older voters. And his budget now takes a hacksaw to pretty much everything but military spending, for example Meals on Wheels. Which at the link Trump’s budget director explains needs to guarantee the money is “used in a proper function,” which in this context is pure bullshit. It’s being used to feed people who need it, that’s its function. Mr. Mulvaney doesn’t even go so far as to trot out the usual cliches about waste and fraud, just … oh, I don’t know. Oh, and Trump also wants to gut the CDC and National Institute of Health because … well, he’s got the money for a doctor, why should he care? Echidne offers some thoughts about the budget including cuts to other services to the poor. And about Mulvaney’s tough talk. And that while the CBO predicts insurance premiums will go down after 2020 (after an initial increase), that’s because of things like fewer seniors having insurance. Not to mention that by restricting the use of Planned Parenthood for Medicaid patients, it prevents lots of poor people from getting breast or cervical cancer screenings, let alone abortions or birth control (and will therefore lead to lots more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies (Side note: Paul Ryan, who was able to save for college because his family received Social Security Disability, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to cut Medicaid even while he was back in college).

Given that Trump campaigned on promises of better jobs, better and cheaper health care and a better social safety net, will it matter to Trump voters when he screws them over? Salena Zito, one of the countless oh-so-wise conservatives who tell us what poor whites really think, says that contingent (of course a lot of Trump supporters make quite a bit of money) is solidly behind him: they know industrial jobs, factory jobs, mining jobs are going away, but they don’t mind, “it’s tax and regulation reform that they all believe will truly help their community.” As noted at the link, it’s hard to believe the man on the street conveniently regurgitates Republican talking points. Heck one of the things the election brought out was how little the Republican base cares about that stuff compared to the better deal Trump promised them.

As Zito doesn’t quote anyone actually saying that, I suspect she’s er, interpreting flexibly. Still, it’s quite possible that even if Trump does bring down a world of economic misery, they’ll stay loyal. For some people (based on my experience in the Florida Panhandle) Republican is as much a part of who they are as being Baptist or Catholic (or whatever).  For others it’s the appeal of Trump’s America=White policies; one thing Zito’s interviewees are enthusiastic about is Trump’s hardline on Muslims and Hispanics coming in. But that doesn’t have the same salt-of-the-earth, Republicans-are-decent-people feel she’s trying to convey. And some people see a clear difference between Trump and Congressional Republicans, which might make it easier to keep worshipping him. Some people, like the 25 year old who doesn’t know it’s Obamacare lets him stay on his parents’ insurance, are just clueless. For a lot of conservative Republicans, it’s about abortion — as long as he’s against it, nothing else matters. A Forbes article says a lot of white people don’t notice all the ways government supports them — mortgage interest deduction, employers’ write-off for health insurance, etc. — or see it as something they’ve earned, unlike the black/poor voters who are moochers.

So maybe they’ll cling to Trump fiercely, whether from racism/sexism, cluelessness, rationalization or religion. Or maybe their faith in Trump will shatter once they feel the effects of Trumpcare and the budget. Unfortunately, it’ll be too late for them to get their insurance back (and as Digby notes at the link, too late for lots of people who didn’t vote for President Shit-Gibbon. Stay tuned.

But to end on a cheerful note, former NC governor Pat McCrory is weeping and wailing (and maybe gnashing his teeth) that it’s soooo hard to get a job now because his support of HB2 has set people against him. Why can’t we just get along? Like the Bible says, ex-governor, he shall make of your name a sign and a proverb.

 

 

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Here we go again

One of the first columns I did for And magazine was about conservatives objecting to “subsidizing” a woman’s sex life by having birth control covered in Obamacare insurance. Sean Hannity, for example, declared that as he’s not the one getting laid, there’s no reason he should pay for the birth control. My column pointed out that this is how insurance works: healthy people subsidize worse-off people. It would make just as much sense to argue that “I don’t smoke, why should I pay for the cancer treatment of people who do?” Or that policies shouldn’t cover prostate cancer, as women are never going to need that coverage. But of course that wouldn’t further the right-wing war on birth control and on women who have sex without  consequences.

But now Sen. Paul Ryan has taken the leap: his latest argument against the ACA and the individual mandate is that “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.” As LGM and ThinkProgress point out, that’s how all insurance works. Health insurance. Ryan’s Trumpcare plan. Car insurance. Home insurance. E&O insurance (which protects businesses against the financial consequences of “errors and omissions” they might make). It’s how companies stay solvent. If insurers don’t get enough money from healthy people (or people whose houses don’t burn down or cars don’t crash), they go out of business. The purpose of the individual mandate is to ensure that doesn’t happen. Otherwise healthy people could delay until they need insurance and then take out the policy.

What Ryan is doing, of course, is reworking this simple fact to a)single out Obamacare and its mandate as some uniquely awful program; b)imply Trumpcare will fix it (it won’t — as noted, this is just how insurance works) and c)phrase it language Republican audiences are used to, about how the takers and moochers (someone else) are living high off the money paid in by hardworking Americans (themselves). Charles Pierce points out it’s much the same process by which Ryan’s family stayed afloat after his father’s death thanks to Social Security whereas Pierce (and others) were paying money in (Of course that hasn’t stopped Ryan from condemning supposed moochers who rely on government assistance any more than Rep. Steve Fincher receiving millions in farm subsidies stops him from condemning people who receive food stamps.)

While several takes have been “Paul Ryan doesn’t understand insurance” I’m pretty sure he does — it’s just not in his interest to acknowledge the facts.

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Well this is getting interesting

So the Republicans have released their Obamacare sort-of-repeal plan. “Trumpcare” includes lots of goodies for people with more income to put in HSAs or more taxes to write off, and make sure lottery winners are shut out of Medicaid. (Consumerist has some thoughts) It’s running into lots of opposition, not only from Democrats but Republicans who think modifying Obamacare is not enough — wipe it from reality or nothing! Plus those who know their constituents like having health care and don’t want to face the blowback from taking it away, and the bill does that: Jonathan Chait points out the tax credits to help buy insurance go down for the poor and rise for the rich (more here). And despite all the talk of cutting premiums, AARP says that for older adults they’ll go up under Trumpcare And it’s a bad deal for women too as it drops requirements plans cover maternity and prenatal care, among other things (showing again that right-to-life is more about forcing women to bear children than taking care of fetuses).

As this poses a serious challenge to passing “Trumpcare” people are speculating why Sen. Paul Ryan is backing such a long-shot bill — is this the best he can get? Does he overestimate his chances? Does he figure Republicans will be better off if repeal fails? Is it a case of “be careful what you wish for” as various Republicans realize the risk from taking away people’s healthcare. Rick Perlstein points out that conservatives believe cutting off government-supplied healthcare is a moral act. Sen. Jason Chaffetz seems to express the same view when explaining that the bill will require poor people to be responsible and buy healthcare instead of an iPhone. Because poor people are immoral unless they suffer. Roy Edroso suggests, similarly, that it’s catering to the angry, PO’d Trump voters who want those damn moochers to suffer! Jonathan Chait (at the link above) thinks Republicans backed themselves into a corner by their own tactics and rhetoric .

President Shit-Gibbon has informed America that “this will be a plan where you can choose your doctor,” but nothing I’ve heard from either side indicates this will happen. All health-care plans have in-network and out-of-network doctors — about the only people who gain more choice will be the rich people who can use their HSA to pay for any doctor they want.

In further loonie news, Trump HHS Secretary Tim Price says Medicaid takes away people’s health care … somehow. Ryan explains that it doesn’t matter that millions of people lose care, what matters is that it lowers costs! No explanation how it will do that, but it’s an axiom for free marketeers that allowing people to use “too much” health care is why health care is so high (like Rep. Bill Huizinga, who’s proud that he didn’t take his kid to the E/R until he was absolutely, positively sure the boy’s arm was broken).

So it’s kind of fascinating to watch as a train wreck … except that if the train gets to the station, millions of people lose health care or have to settle for inadequate care.I can’t really relax enough to enjoy it. Even the fact lots of Repubs think this bill is worth backing (and some object because it’s not vicious enough) is chilling.
But on the plus side, there’ll some satisfaction to watching the Shit-Gibbon freak out again when Trumpcare does not automatically become law.

 

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