The Trump Chronicles, Volume 23: We Are Afraid This Will Become Repeal and Abandon

In the nearly seven years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act the Republican Party has made it clear that, given the opportunity, they would repeal it regardless of the cost.

At the time I assumed that by the end of President Obama’s 2nd term it would be so entrenched that even the Republicans wouldn’t try to repeal it.

There is a precedent here. On August 14, 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act. I’m guessing everyone knows this, but during our working years we contribute part of our earnings into a fund that will provide us a retirement when we are too old to work.

Predictably, Republicans at the time opposed it and when President Roosevelt ran for re-election 1936 his opponent, Kansas Governor Alf Landon promised to repeal it. Governor Landon lost, and no serious presidential candidate has opposed it since (I’m aware that several current Republicans refer to Social Security as a ponzi scheme but nobody takes them seriously).

Simply put, the Republican Party provides us a history of not caring about poor people and those they don’t like. Under conditions of the ACA, the states had the opportunity to “buy in” to an expansion of Medicaid (also called MediCal in California) and have the federal government pay to nearly all of it. Many of us honestly believed that Republican states were more greedy than hateful and would accept the money the federal government offered them to implement it.

We were wrong. Their visceral hate of President Obama mattered more to them than the health of their poorest constituents. As of now 32 states (and the District of Columbia) accept the Medical option and 19 don’t. You can see the map here.

And now we have a President Elect who promises to “repeal and replace.” But it’s more complicated. On the day after his election Trump met with President Obama and came out of the meeting promising to keep two provisions. He promised to keep the provision that allowed children to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26 and he promised to keep the provision that prevented insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

But here’s the problem: those who don’t like the ACA especially don’t like the individual mandate but insurance companies depend on it. They reasonably argue that if customers could purchase insurance after a serious diagnosis that nobody would buy health insurance before they needed it. It’s the equivalent of waiting until your house is on fire before buying fire insurance.

Insurance companies depend on a large pool of people who pay premiums for coverage they don’t need and the only way they can’t exclude sick people is by collecting the premiums of well people.

The Republican Congress (and in a few days the White House) pledge to repeal and replace but have no plan. They oppose the ACA but propose nothing. I’ve spoken about this here but many of us fear they will repeal and abandon the 20 million people who have health care because of President Obama.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 22: Accountability 101: You Work For Us

Yesterday President Elect Donald Trump finally held the press conference he cancelled last year.

Since his election many of us have expressed concern over his conflicts of interest. He continues to refuse to release his tax returns and we have no idea whether or not his business interests might conflict with his role as President. Simply put, many of us want to know if he owes money to foreign governments. Is he in the pockets of foreign powers? His response: “Trust me.”

Speaking only for myself, I don’t. And I’m not alone. A week from today he will swear an oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution. I’m frightened that he will take the oath and not obey it.

He was born into wealth and spent his career spending (and losing) other peoples’ money. If you don’t believe me I challenge you to read Trump Revealed.

Mr. Trump spends much of his time falsely claiming his wealth has resulted from his brilliance. It hasn’t.

His career as a landlord and developer has depended on this truth: His wealth shielded him from needing to make his investments public. And it has shielded him from accountability.

Since none of his companies were publicly traded he’s never been accountable to anyone except himself and his father. Secrecy has served him well.

And now, for the first time in his life, he works for someone else: The American People. Suddenly we are not partners or employees but constituents. As a matter of fact, we are his boss and he is accountable to us.

But his press conference on Wednesday shows us much of what we need to know. When asked again to release his tax returns he said this: “Only reporters care about my tax returns. The American people don’t care. I won the election.”

The reality is that we do care. In a recent poll 74% of likely voters and 62% of Republicans reported that we do want to see his returns. He claims that if we really wanted to see them we wouldn’t have voted for him.

Here’s my answer: most of us didn’t vote for him and a significant number of those who did still feel uneasy that we don’t know as much as we should about his business interests.

In 2020 I look forward to saying this: You’re Fired.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 21: His Latest Target? Vaccines

President Elect Trump famously avoids inconvenient truths by ignoring them. Previous targets have been climate change and conflicts of interest.

Most of the time he simply brushes them aside. But we read today that his anti-science, anti-truth campaign has taken a new turn: the crackpot belief that vaccines cause autism.

A little background: In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist in England, published an article in The Lancet that alarmed thousands of parents (The Lancet is a well respected, peer review medical journal in England). Mr. Wakefield (Dr. Wakefield at the time) claimed that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine caused autism. His claim soon unraveled, the Lancet retracted the article, and Dr. Wakefield reverted back to Mr. Wakefield as he lost his license to practice medicine.

Unfortunately he unleashed, and continues to stoke, a firestorm of lies and victimization. People who should know better, people who should care more about truth than fear, have joined him, among them Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Yesterday we learned that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kennedy met. Mr. Kennedy came out of the meeting and stated that he had been asked to head a commission on vaccine safety and “scientific integrity.” Mr. Trump’s camp denied this claiming they were exploring the possibility of a commission.

I’ve said this before but Mr. Trump still doesn’t get that his words and actions matter. Parents of young children are bombarded by conflicting messages and I can’t imagine a false message that that resonates better than “this will harm your child.” The fact that Wakefield and his minions make money by lying to young parents places them beneath contempt.

Oh, and a shout out to one of the true heroes here, read everything you can from Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He’s written several books and he’s excellent. If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal you can read an excellent article here.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 20: Meryl Streep Is Overrated? Seriously?

Last night at the Golden Globes Awards, the award winning actress Meryl Streep earned the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award.

I can’t imagine anyone not supporting this. I first saw her genius in the movie The Deer Hunter and have never been disappointed in anything since. I’m not alone.

She has won 3 Academy Awards (nominated 19 times) and 8 Golden Globes (nominated 30 times). Additionally she has been nominated for a Tony and 5 Grammy’s. I loathe linking to Wikipedia, but you can find these awards here.

Cut to last night. As part of her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award she said this:

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Clearly Ms. Streep referenced New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who lives with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. On November 24, 2015 Mr. Trump mocked his disability over a dispute whether American Muslims celebrated the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Mr. Trump continues to deny his mockery and nobody can see the videotape and believe him.

And so last night when Ms. Streep called him out, he responded according to his thin skinned playbook. Hard to imagine but Mr. Trump called Ms. Streep “overrated.” You can read about it here.

It’s going to be a long four years.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 19: You Owe an Apology to the Intelligence Community

Yesterday President Elect Trump was briefed by the Office of the Director of National Security. A few months ago we learned that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a computer hack in the hopes of swaying the Presidential election toward Mr. Trump and this was the subject of the briefing.

After yesterday’s meeting Mr. Trump termed the meeting “constructive” and claimed respect for the intelligence community. But he tweeted very different, and disturbing messages. Last Tuesday he claimed the briefing was delayed to Friday and darkly hinted that the extra day gave them more time to “build a case.” It wasn’t true: the meeting was always scheduled for Friday.

And in the hours before the briefing he called it a witch hunt.

As proof he offers the “fact” that the intelligence community “got it wrong” in 2002 when they told the George W. Bush administration that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The previous link bears a look as it explains that we went to war against Iraq in 2003 because the Bush administration “cherry picked” intelligence information and depended on a source the intelligence community nicknamed “Curveball”. Curveball later confessed to lying about his “intelligence.”

But more to the point, when Mr. Trump tweets these uninformed and ignorant rants, he discounts the hard work of thousands of talented and hard working civil servants. I’ve known dozens of people who have devoted their careers to the work that Mr. Trump dismisses.

And even if you believe him when he claims the intelligence community got it wrong in Iraq, you have to admit the intelligence community got it right in 1963 when nuclear missles were discovered in Cuba. They got it right when we found and killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. And they’ve gotten it right in thousands of instances we’ll never hear about.

Their patriotism dwarfs your thin skin and they are owed an apology.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 18: Many of Us Depend on the Health Insurance You Want to Kill

Full disclosure: I’m fortunate enough to enjoy adequate health care through my employer.

That said, 20 million Americans get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. It’s commonly called “Obamacare”and Republicans have promised to repeal it since its passage in 2010.

President Elect Trump jumped on the bandwagon from day one in his campaign. Several times he’s called the ACA a disaster and has promised to replace it with a better plan.

I hope he’s right but I have grave reservations. Congress can effectively dismantle the ACA without any Democratic support by defunding it. It’s kind of like telling your child you’re not prohibiting him from buying a new car while emptying his checking account.

By the way, if you’re going to comment that I’m using only links from “liberal” sources, Fox News hasn’t written about defunding the ACA since June 7, 2016 when Senate Republicans promised not to do it. [Update: I’m writing this on the evening of January 7th. The Fox News Website has posted what appears to be a rough cut transcript of “The Kelly File” from January 4th. I can’t tell when it was posted but it appears to have been posted after my post. You can read it here]

And now back to our story. Legislation passes the House of Representatives by a simple majority while the minority party in the Senate can filibuster which requires 60 of the 100 Senators to override.

So here’s the problem: Republicans are claiming they will repeal and replace the ACA. But any replacement will require 60 Senators which will require the support of at least 7 Democrats. This gives the Republicans the ability to “replace” the ACA with clearly unacceptable legislation and then blame the Democrats for being obstructionist.

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway insists that nobody who has health insurance will lose it. I hope she’s right.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 17: We're Waiting, Mr. Trump

On New Year’s Eve President Elect Trump was asked about a report that Russia was behind a hack of John Podesta’s emails to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump. John Podesta was campaign manager for Hilary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has reason to want this to go away, and even though evidence is overwhelming, he disputes this. On New Year’s Eve he proclaimed that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking, and that the information would be revealed today or tomorrow. We don’t know what that will be, but we got a clue from his press secretary Sean Spicer. You can (no kidding) read this on the web page Red State but Sean said this on CNN:

It’s not a question of necessarily revealing. He’s going to talk about his conclusions and where he thinks things stand. He’s not going to reveal anything that was privileged or was shared with him classified. I think he can share with people his conclusions of the report and his understanding of the situation and make sure people understand there’s a lot of questions out there.

Got that? Trump’s press secretary has already told us that he won’t keep his promise but, once again, will give us his opinion.

Sadly there is a pattern here. Trump promises to reveal plans in the future and then hopes we’ll forget. Last September he promised he had a plan to destroy ISIS but refused to disclose it. Strangely, we haven’t heard anything about it since.

After his election many of us grew uneasy over possible conflicts of interest. Later in the month he promised to hold a press conference on December 15th to announce his plans to avoid any conflict. On December 12th his campaign announced that the press conference was postponed until sometime this month. Nothing since.

Simply put, he’s hoping we’re not keeping track. He hopes we won’t hold him accountable to his own words. He hopes we don’t care if he tells the truth. But we do.

Trump won the election based on people who “wanted a change” so badly that they don’t care what he does. They just want a different path.

But we are different. We’re going to spend the next four years holding him accountable to what he says. We read the newspapers, we watch the news, and we remember.

Join me.