The Week on Planet Trump: His Healthcare Victory is a Loss for Americans

Monday: The Power of Awful

For the past few months, economists who track short-term developments have been noting a peculiar divergence between “soft” and “hard” data. Soft data are things like surveys of consumer and business confidence; hard data are things like actual retail sales. Normally these data tell similar stories (which is why the soft data are useful as a sort of early warning system for the coming hard data). Since the 2016 election, however, the two kinds of data have diverged, with reported confidence surging — and, yes, a bump in stocks — but no real sign of a pickup in economic activity.

The funny thing about that confidence surge, however, was that it was very much along partisan lines — a sharp decline among Democrats, but a huge rise among Republicans. This raises the obvious question: Were those reporting a huge increase in optimism really feeling that much better about their economic prospects, or were they simply using the survey as an opportunity to affirm the rightness of their vote?

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Tuesday: Reactionary Politics Returns

Look around you. Donald Trump is now president of the United States, having won on a campaign that trashed liberal democracy itself, and is now presiding over an administration staffed, in part, with adherents of a political philosophy largely alien to mainstream American politics. In Russia, Vladimir Putin has driven his country from postcommunist capitalism to a new and popular czardom, empowered by nationalism and blessed by a resurgent Orthodox Church. Britain, where the idea of free trade was born, is withdrawing from the largest free market on the planet because of fears that national identity and sovereignty are under threat. In France, a reconstructed neofascist, Marine Le Pen, has just won a place in the final round of the presidential election. In the Netherlands, the anti-immigrant right became the second-most-popular vote-getter — a new high-water mark for illiberalism in that once famously liberal country.Austria narrowly avoided installing a neo-reactionary president in last year’s two elections. Japan is led by a government attempting to rehabilitate its imperial, nationalist past. Poland is now run by an illiberal Catholic government that is dismembering key liberal institutions. Turkey has morphed from a resolutely secular state to one run by an Islamic strongman, whose powers were just ominously increased by a referendum. Israel has shifted from secular socialism to a raw ethno-nationalism.

We are living in an era of populism and demagoguery. And yes, there’s racism and xenophobia mixed into it. But what we are also seeing, it seems to me, is the manifest return of a distinctive political and intellectual tendency with deep roots: reactionism.

Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

Wednesday: His Civil War Ignorance Matters

Trump’s musings are a reminder that his ignorance isn’t an act or a performance. The president of the United States isn’t just inexperienced; he is profoundly unknowledgeable about his country and its history, as uninterested in the challenges of the past as he is the dilemmas of the present. He knows nothing of the world around him, other than the selected information he receives from his advisers, which then gets restated to us, the public, in often-garbled form.

This ignorance isn’t just embarrassing; it’s also a threat to our collective and institutional well-being. A president who knows nothing of the past will likely blunder in office; a president who knows nothing of history will likely repeat the worst mistakes of his predecessors; a president who all but relishes his ignorance will, at some point, lead us all into disaster.

James Bouie, Slate

Thursday: Republicans’ Medical Apartheid Plan

Ryan was shameless enough to get his picture taken on the Speaker’s Balcony with young women survivors of childhood cancer, implying that they wouldn’t have anything to worry about under the new plan unveiled last week. In truth, should Ryan gets his way, these women are likely to be priced out of coverage for the rest of their lives if they happen to live in one of 20 or so states that would likely be granted waivers to let insurers avoid the community ratings that require them to treat all customers equally. That’s policy-speak for letting states and insurers kick these cancer survivors to the curb.

The speaker knows all this, which means that his intellectual dishonesty knows no depths. Any pundit who ever falls again for Ryan’s faux policy-wonk act should find another line of work.

Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast

Friday: GOP’s Shameful Healthcare Victory

Ryan and his sidekick, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pushed through a bill that, if it ever goes into effect, could upend one-sixth of the American economy and result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health coverage. Since the Republicans failed to give the Congressional Budget Office time to “score” the bill before voting on it, we don’t have any official estimates of its likely effects. But the bill that was passed on Thursday was an amended version of a bill that the C.B.O. had previously determined would raise the number of uninsured people by twenty-four million over ten years, and increase premiums for many others, particularly the old and the sick, as well.

In recent days, a lot of the media coverage was focussed on an amendment to the revised bill that allows individual states to seek a waiver from the Affordable Care Act stipulation that insurers have to cover people with preëxisting conditions. This is a truly hideous feature of the legislation, and a last-minute amendment addressing this issue—intended to convince the Republican congressman Fred Upton to support the legislation—was merely a fig leaf to cover it.

John Cassidy, The New Yorker

Saturday: On Healthcare, Its Republican 1, Americans 0

Republicans celebrated on TV with cheers and a Rose Garden ceremony, but many Americans reacted with disbelief and outrage when the House voted to dramatically scale back access to health care for millions. The narrow party line vote, and the public high-fiving by Congress and the White House, comes despite polls showing that by large majorities, Americans want to keep and repair Obamacare — not turn back coverage for millions of families as House Republicans voted to do.

There is little support for repealing the Affordable Care Act and even less for the American Health Care Act passed by the House. Only 17% of the public favored a previous similar version and the new one was uniformly opposed by patient groups and care providers. It raises premiums, guts the vital Medicaid program and, while President Trump attempted to cloud the question in recent interviews, it would break a major promise of his by removing the federal ban on insurance discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

Andy Slavitt, USA Today

Sunday: Be Afraid, Mr President

“He’s losing the middle,” said Peter Hart, who conducts the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, noting almost half the voters are negative about Trump both on policy and personally. “Ultimately,” Hart said, “he needs some of those people.”

A string of successes -- creating lots of new jobs, a foreign policy victory -- would attract some of them. Conversely, the outcome of investigations into Russian interference in the election, or continued Republican efforts to gut popular health-care measures and jettison reasonable coverage for people with disabilities, could lose him more of them.

Unless Trump’s popularity rises, voting against him in Congress won’t imperil many Republican lawmakers from swing districts, or the vast majority of Democrats. Generally, he’s neither respected nor feared.

Albert Hunt, Bloomberg

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