Category Archives: The Right

The GOP’s ‘D’oh!’ Moment

Why Republicans can’t seem to think politically straight is not only frustrating, but incomprehensible.

WSJ 7/31/2020  by Kimberley A. Strassel

Senate Republicans experienced their “D’oh!” moment this week, and better late than never. If even Homer Simpson can experience moments of clarity, maybe the GOP can yet do a virus economy—and itself—some good.

As Congress spent another tortuous week nonnegotiating a fifth virus-relief bill, it finally dawned on Republicans that they are being played for fools. Democrats don’t want a bill; they want to win an election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who may go down as one of Washington’s greatest cynics—knew exactly what she was doing in May, when she cooked up the $3 trillion monstrosity known as the Heroes Act. If the GOP said no to her outlandish demands, Democrats would brand them as uncaring, unable to lead, unworthy of controlling Washington. If instead she bludgeoned them into swallowing her spendathon, Democrats would wave the win as proof they should control Washington. Heads Democrats win; tails Republicans lose.

 

The GOP did its mightiest to aid this strategy, by having no alternative of its own. By May, Congress had spent nearly $3 trillion on the virus, and Republicans had plenty to pack into a message: The bills provided generous aid to the unemployed, small businesses, families, vital industry, schools, states, renters and health providers. The goals were to stave off economic collapse, provide a lifeline during a national shutdown, lay the groundwork for reopening. All that was accomplished—not that you hear Republicans noting it. The bills, moreover, provided a cushion to deal with lingering needs; as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson recently noted, more than $1 trillion of those original packages has yet to be spent or obligated.

 

Instead of making these points, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled the GOP was open to tacking Democratic demands on to the Republican priority of liability protection for businesses and organizations. The White House rolled out Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who invited Mrs. Pelosi to dictate the GOP bill. Instead of putting together a plan focused on pro-growth economic policies, the Senate GOP cobbled together a hodgepodge of its own spending demands—money for schools, aid for farmers and, yes, $1.75 billion for a new FBI building. Cue a revolt by fiscal conservatives and party infighting—and two weeks of headlines about Republican “chaos.”

 

All the while, Democrats have broadcast—in plain English—that they have no intention of letting legislation succeed. Mrs. Pelosi this week described the two bills as a “giraffe” and a “flamingo” and said they were “not mateable.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer won’t even try, refusing to engage in regular order—to bring a bill to the floor, to hold amendments and votes, and to send a rival product to a House-Senate conference. Democrats have a plan—blame Republicans for the bill’s failure and, by laughable extension, the nation’s economic woes.

And so it was encouraging to see Mr. McConnell acknowledge reality and move to put the GOP back on offense. Stepping back from talks on a big bill, the Senate GOP tackled the most pressing deadline—the Friday expiration of federal enhanced unemployment benefits. Sen. Johnson proposed renewing these benefits at about two-thirds of lost wages, or roughly $200 a week. This would allow the federal government to continue providing some aid, though not the current, crazy $600 a week that is discouraging so many from returning to work. Senate Republicans asked for unanimous consent on that plan, and Democrats blocked it. That means Democrats own the expiration.

Not that the press will put it that way, which is why it is also encouraging that Mr. McConnell now intends to put a legislative version of that unemployment extension on the floor next week and put Democrats on record voting it down. The only way to expose Democratic cynicism and intransigence is to beat the public over the head with proof—something the GOP failed to do with policing reform. A GOP vote would force Democrats to explain why two-thirds of regular pay is not enough—especially given prior Democratic proposals that set virus sick leave and family medical leave at two-thirds regular pay. When Democrats vote it down, Mr. McConnell needs to bring it up again. And again.

The GOP meantime also has an opportunity to rethink and put together proposals sharply tailored to economic growth. Then bring them up again, and again. Hammer home that Democrats are blocking economic revival. (You can bet that is what Mr. Schumer would be doing to Republicans right now, were the situation reversed.)

 

If Republicans allow this election to become a contest over which party can spend more taxpayer dollars, they will lose. Better to treat it as an opportunity to present true competing visions—between a GOP that has a plan for a bigger and better economy, and a Democratic Party that wants a vastly larger entitlement state. Yet making that contrast first requires Republicans to get there themselves. Get a plan, make the case.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-gops-doh-moment-11596149323?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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What Trump Might be doing Right – Letters

Some very good responses to Peggy Noonan’s editorial of 12/29/2018, where she tried to encourage “Trump insiders” to “speak up – on the record”.

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Peggy Noonan asks “Trump insiders” to speak candidly about how the administration conducts the people’s business (“Trump Insiders, Come Out of the Shadows,” Declarations, Dec. 29). Two years are indeed enough time to evaluate the conduct of our government—including the duplicity in Congress and the vigilante style of the Justice Department and the IRS. Yet Ms. Noonan focuses her ire on President Trump while overlooking these and other malefactors.

When the press stretches facts about events on Capitol Hill and in the bureaucracy, when the Justice Department decides to obfuscate facts and ignore subpoenas, when we learn that Congress has a secret slush fund to silence sexual-harassment accusers, these scandals often are made public by Trump insiders willing to speak honestly about what Americans have long suspected.

When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned his post, we heard his message. The former general is in the fight to win, as is expected of a fine career officer. Yet others in the administration argue candidly that it is futile to fight a war for 18 years without rules of engagement sufficient to defeat our enemy. Experience tells us that peace does not come through empty promises and plane loads of cash.

There are indeed many books about the chaos in the Trump administration. But there also are many others authored by supporters of the president, willing to put their reputations on the line in defense of the president’s accomplishments and his right to govern.

Ms. Noonan suggests that honest Trump insiders are cowed by the president’s operatives, becoming “figures of “obloquy.” I am not a Trump insider but I am not afraid to speak up on the president’s behalf. I voted for him to expose the inner sanctum we call our government and shed light on the corruption we all know exists. He has persevered to the point of friction and beyond, and that is where true leaders go.

CONNIE LOVELL
Pinehurst, N.C.

Ms. Noonan wants to learn more about the inner dealings of the Trump presidency. Specifically, she wants to see those working with President Trump to share their experiences, and to “put their name on it.”

Might I ask Ms. Noonan what she expects this to accomplish? All positive accounts from individuals “in the know” at the White House will be ridiculed and dismissed by the mainstream media—that’s a certainty. Any unflattering portraits of the president will be embraced by the same media outlets and featured in lead news stories, followed by endless panel discussion about a possible Trump impeachment.

Rather than waste time on such an exercise, why not challenge the mainstream media to do something radical: Report on the president’s policy failures and accomplishments. That is what matters most.

PHIL RULAND
Newport Beach, Calif.

Ms. Noonan worries about the rumors swirling around President Trump’s behavior and how he spends his time. She ponders, among other things, whether the president actually spends hours watching television each day. Her concern reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s response when advised that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was a drunkard and should be fired. Reportedly, Lincoln wistfully replied, “I wish I knew what brand of whiskey he drank so I could send a barrel to my other generals.”

To paraphrase President Lincoln regarding the concerns about President Trump’s TV viewing habits, I wish I had a list of the TV shows he watches so I could send it to Republican members of Congress. Ms. Noonan mistakenly considers it a problem that President Trump is keeping his campaign promises, albeit in a heavy-handed, erratic and graceless manner. The real problem is a refined and oh-so-polite Republican establishment too timid and clueless to convey its message effectively or keep its political promises.

LARRY JENKINS
Madison, Wis.

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Trump has no Ideas??

Oh how I wish Republicans would learn how to sell what they have accomplished? They are absolute _ _ _ _ _ _ _ s.
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WSJ 11/5/2018
Americans say health care is a leading concern in Tuesday’s election, and voters say they trust Democrats over Republicans by double-digit margins. Yet the Trump Administration has put together an impressive suite of reforms that allow consumers more freedom and personal choice, not that you’ll read about it anywhere else.

Last month the Trump Administration rolled out a rule on health-reimbursement arrangements that would allow employers to offer workers tax-exempt dollars to buy insurance in the individual market. The Obama Administration banned this via regulation as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The Administration’s thinking is that these arrangements will be most attractive to small firms that lack the economies of scale that make offering insurance affordable. About 30% of workers at firms with three to 24 employees are covered by employer health benefits, down from 44% in 2010, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data. Eight in 10 companies with fewer than 200 employees offer only one plan.

Health reimbursements would be a cheap and easy option for, say, startups. This is also a way to offer more individuals the tax break on health care that employer insurance receives. Ending this economic distortion for everyone would be preferable, but equal treatment is a step forward.

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The reflexive response from Democrats is that this is another effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act, but they need a new script. The rule will draw more young and healthy workers into the individual market, which currently skews toward the sick or those poor enough to be eligible for tax-credit subsidies. Reimbursements should make the ObamaCare exchanges more stable, which is what Democrats claim to want.

The rule includes guardrails to prevent employers from dumping sick employees onto the exchanges, and to prevent a person from getting both employer contributions and public subsidies. The Administration expects that some 800,000 employers will provide reimbursement arrangements to more than 10 million employees. Some three million will have been buying coverage on the individual market, meaning the rule should save the fisc money on increasingly expensive tax credits.

By failing to repeal ObamaCare, Republicans can’t address all of its dysfunctions. But at the margin by expanding choices they are making the individual market better, not worse, even as Democrats accuse them of sabotaging ObamaCare. Other new Trump options include short-term plans and association health plans. And unlike ObamaCare, the government isn’t coercing you to buy these products.

Speaking of association plans, the returns are coming in on the Democratic claim that allowing The Administration is improving the individual market by expanding insurance choices.

Employers to band together to offer coverage is “junk insurance.” The plans are still nascent, but look at what the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce is offering: nine plan choices; dental, vision and life coverage available; pre-existing conditions covered; and more, with premium rates locked in for two years.

This is no surprise. The selling point of association plans is that businesses can pool risk and cut overhead costs. Businesses want to offer generous coverage that helps to attract workers in a tight labor market.

There may also be more relief ahead with the recent announcement that Health and Human Services rescinded a 2015 guidance for Section 1332 waivers. This is the Affordable Care Act’s waiver process for states to opt out of parts of the law. But Democrats designed the waivers to ensure that only progressive fantasies like single payer in Vermont could win approval. The Obama crowd then restricted the statute further in regulation.

The Trump Administration will interpret this in more rational ways, versus Obama guidance that applied the standards down to how plans would affect subpopulations in the state. The guidance was so prescriptive that most states didn’t bother coming up with ideas. The question now is how many enterprising Governors will decide they can do better than the status quo even within the restrictions.

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You haven’t heard about all this because Democrats want to define the election as a choice between them and Republicans who supposedly want to deny insurance to people with lung cancer. [And because the Republicans are so STUPID that they don’t know how to capitalize on what they have accomplished.] But political control of health insurance is not the only way to care for the sick. The GOP tends to favor block grants for high-risk pools that subsidize those who need help paying for expensive treatments.

ObamaCare set up an interim high-risk pool to cover anyone with pre-existing conditions who had been denied coverage, at least until the exchanges went live. Peak enrollment: 115,000, even as Democrats claim now that 130 million people have pre-existing conditions and are at risk from Republican policy.

The GOP’s incremental progress on healthcare freedom would have been hard to imagine a year ago when it failed to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Repeal is still desirable given the law’s fundamental flaws. But the Administration is working within the law’s limits to allow as much freedom as possible. If these products prove to be popular, Democrats may find it harder to eliminate the choices to stand up single payer.

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The GOP Entitlement Caucus

My respect for the Freedom Caucus has slipped in a major way. It will take a long time for Republicans to recover from the damage they have done.
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WSJ 3/28/2017

The full dimensions of the GOP’s self-defeat on health care will emerge over time, but one immediate consequence is giving up block grants for Medicaid. This transformation would have put the program on a budget for the first time since it was created in 1965, and the bill’s opponents ought to be held accountable for the rising spending that they could have prevented. The members of the House Freedom Caucus who killed Obama-Care’s repeal and replacement claim to be fiscal hawks. Most of them support a balanced budget amendment. Yet they gave zero credit to a reform that would have restored Medicaid—a safety net originally intended for poor women, children and the disabled—to its original, more limited purposes. Over the years liberal and some otherwise conservative states opened Medicaid benefits to new populations. And in 2010 ObamaCare added working-age, able-bodied adults above the poverty level. The result is that Medicaid now insures more than 72 million people, or one of every five Americans. In six states it’s one of every four or higher. Medicaid is now the third-largest program in the federal budget and the fastest growing. Federal outlays are nearly three times higher today than in 2000, as the nearby chart shows.

Republicans had a rare opening to change the projected trajectory, by limiting the federal government’s open-ended commitment. The federal government “matches” between 50% and 74% of costs for the pre-ObamaCare population, while new Medicaid earns 90%-95%. This formula rewards states that spend more and means they are less accountable for controlling spending or allocating resources toward high-quality care for the most vulnerable.

These disincentives, combined with price controls and low provider reimbursement rates, produce the worst health outcomes of any insurance in the U.S. A pioneering New England Journal of Medicine study in 2013 found that Medicaid “generated no significant improvement” across measures like mortality, high blood pressure or diabetes compared to the uninsured.

The House bill would have transitioned to a per-capita block grant that would grow with an index of medical inflation. The change would have broken the direct link between state spending and federal subsidies and started to make more of a defined contribution. In exchange, Governors would have gained reform flexibility. Federal Medicaid rules strictly limit state freedom to try new ideas, and the poor would be better off if decisions about their welfare are made locally instead of in Washington. States would have been better off as Medicaid crowds out other state priorities like education and public safety.

The bill wasn’t perfect. Per capita block grants that rise with medical inflation is insufficient fiscal discipline, and the bill would have added to the political pressure to join new Medicaid in the 19 states that haven’t. Block grants also would have been delayed until 2020, and the danger of waiting is that they get overturned by a future Congress or become a new version of the old “sustainable growth rate” recipe in Medicare—an orphan that Congress defers year after year.

But the Freedom Caucus decided to wait not until 2020 but forever. A fragile compromise that could attract majority support was rejected in favor of sustaining Medicaid’s march into insolvency. Republicans may not get a better chance for decades to modernize Medicaid in a way that helps the poor and taxpayers, and voters would be right to doubt the Freedom Caucus’s evanescent fiscal bona fides.

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