Blow and Krugman

In “Putin Meets His Progeny” Mr. Blow says Trump is full of lies and Putin is full of tricks. Who to believe?  The reasonable answer to that question is “None of them, Katie.”  Prof. Krugman says “Three Legs Good, No Legs Bad” and considers Obamacare versus the party of no ideas.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Team Trump wants us all to get over this annoying Russia thing and just move on. Sorry sir, not going to happen.

At the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man whose thumb was all over the scale that delivered Trump’s victory. It was like a father meeting his offspring. But was it their first meeting? Maybe, maybe not.

For years Trump claimed not only that he had met Putin, but also that the two men had a great relationship.

Then in July 2016 came the about-face. At a news conference, Trump said, “I never met Putin,” and “I don’t know who Putin is.” This, coincidentally, was the same news conference at which he encouraged Russia’s cyberattack of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Thereafter, Trump would repeatedly deny meeting Putin or knowing him.

Clearly, Trump having a great relationship with Putin, and Trump not knowing Putin at all, cannot both be true.

I say this to remind you of something that you can never allow to become normal and never allow to become acceptable: Our “president” is a pathological liar. He lies about everything, all the time. Lying is his resting condition.

Therefore, absolutely nothing he or his team says is to be believed, ever.

With that in mind, we are told by Rex Tillerson, our secretary of state and the man upon whom Putin bestowed Russia’s Order of Friendship, that Trump “opened his meeting with President Putin by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election,” and that Trump repeatedly “pressed” Putin on the issue, and of course Putin denied, again, Russian involvement.

The Russians say Trump accepted Putin’s denial, although the White House denied that account. Trump is full of lies and Putin is full of tricks. Who to believe?

Tillerson’s telling gives pause.

When asked if Trump spelled out consequences Russia would face for their attack on our election, Tillerson said Trump and Putin focused on “how do we move forward” because “it’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed-upon resolution of that question between the two nations.” At another point, Tillerson said Trump and Putin agreed to establish a working-level group “around the cyber issue and this issue of non-interference.”

This is also outrageous. I didn’t get the sense that Trump strongly asserted as fact that Russia attacked our elections or that Trump would seek to punish Russia. The readout tells the opposite story, one of Russia being let off the hook. And this whole business of setting up a cybersecurity working group with the Russians is like inviting the burglar to help you design your alarm system.

In a Twitter tirade Sunday morning, Trump wrote: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion. …”

But Trump’s opinion, as expressed the day before his meeting with Putin, was that the source of the attack was something of an open question. At a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, Trump said: “I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries.”

This is a slap in the face to our intelligence community that has unanimously rendered their verdict: It was Russia!

Trump continued on Twitter: “…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

No, sir, this is not the time to “move forward” with Russia, but rather time to “move forward” against it.

Last week, CNN reported that “Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the U.S., according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials who say they have noticed an increase since the election.”

CNN continued: “The officials say they believe one of the biggest U.S. adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations.”

And on Saturday, The New York Times reported on another undisclosed meeting between members of Trump’s campaign and people connected to the Kremlin, writing:

“Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.”

The Times continued: “The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.” The Times pointed out that the meeting “is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign.”

America is under sustained, possibly even accelerated, attack by a foreign power, the same one that attacked our election, and Trump not only wavers on the source of the attack, but also refuses to condemn the culprit and in fact has a penchant for praising him. This whole thing stinks to high heaven, and we must press on until we uncover the source of the rot.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Will 50 Republican senators be willing to inflict grievous harm on their constituents in the name of party loyalty? I have no idea.

But this seems like a good moment to review why Republicans can’t come up with a non-disastrous alternative to Obamacare. It’s not because they’re stupid (although they have become stunningly anti-intellectual). It’s because you can’t change any major element of the Affordable Care Act without destroying the whole thing.

Suppose you want to make health coverage available to everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions. Most of the health economists I know would love to see single-payer — Medicare for all. Realistically, however, that’s too heavy a lift for the time being.

For one thing, the insurance industry would not take kindly to being eliminated, and has a lot of clout. Also, a switch to single-payer would require a large tax increase. Most people would gain more from the elimination of insurance premiums than they would lose from the tax hike, but that would be a hard case to make in an election campaign.

Beyond that, most Americans under 65 are covered by their employers, and are reasonably happy with that coverage. They would understandably be nervous about any proposal to replace that coverage with something else, no matter how truthfully you assured them that the replacement would be better.

So the Affordable Care Act went for incrementalism — the so-called three-legged stool.

It starts by requiring that insurers offer the same plans, at the same prices, to everyone, regardless of medical history. This deals with the problem of pre-existing conditions. On its own, however, this would lead to a “death spiral”: healthy people would wait until they got sick to sign up, so those who did sign up would be relatively unhealthy, driving up premiums, which would in turn drive out more healthy people, and so on.

So insurance regulation has to be accompanied by the individual mandate, a requirement that people sign up for insurance, even if they’re currently healthy. And the insurance must meet minimum standards: Buying a cheap policy that barely covers anything is functionally the same as not buying insurance at all.

But what if people can’t afford insurance? The third leg of the stool is subsidies that limit the cost for those with lower incomes. For those with the lowest incomes, the subsidy is 100 percent, and takes the form of an expansion of Medicaid.

The key point is that all three legs of this stool are necessary. Take away any one of them, and the program can’t work.

But does it work even with all three legs? Yes.

To understand what’s happened with the A.C.A. so far, you need to realize that as written (and interpreted by the Supreme Court), the law’s functioning depends on lot on cooperation from state governments. And where states have in fact cooperated, expanding Medicaid, operating their own insurance exchanges, and promoting both enrollment and competition among insurers, it has worked pretty darn well.

Compare, for example, the experience of Kentucky and its neighbor Tennessee. In 2013, before full implementation of the A.C.A., Tennessee had slightly fewer uninsured, 13 percent versus 14 percent. But by 2015Kentucky, which implemented the law in full, had cut its uninsured rate to just 6 percent, while Tennessee was at 11.

Or consider the problem of counties with only one (or no) insurer, meaning no competition. As one recent study points out, this is almost entirely a red-state problem. In states with G.O.P. governors, 21 percent of the population lives in such counties; in Democratic-governor states, less than 2 percent.

So Obamacare is, though nobody will believe it, a well-thought-out law that works where states want it to work. It could and should be made to work better, but Republicans show no interest in making that happen. Instead, all their ideas involve sawing off one or more legs of that three-legged stool.

First, they’re dead set on repealing the individual mandate, which is unpopular with healthy people but essential to making the system work for those who need it.

Second, they’re determined to slash subsidies — including making savage cuts to Medicaid — in order to free up money that they can use to cut taxes on the wealthy. The result would be a drastic rise in net premiums for most families.

Finally, we’re now hearing a lot about the Cruz amendment, which would let insurers offer bare-bones plans with minimal coverage and high deductibles. These would be useless to people with pre-existing conditions, who would find themselves segregated into a high-cost market — effectively sawing off the third leg of the stool.

So which parts of their plan would Republicans have to abandon to avoid a huge rise in the number of uninsured? The answer is, all of them.

After all these years of denouncing Obamacare, then, Republicans have no idea how to do better. Or, actually, they have no ideas at all.

Advertisements

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: