Congress

American Politics in Two Quotes: Or, why Congress is Broken

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Two quotes. That’s all it takes to effectively summarize the state of American politics. Two quotes. No more is needed to convey the partisan nature of Congress. Two quotes to express how partisanship places politics first and governing second.

Two quotes.

First,

It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent.

Second,

Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week. How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.

In the first instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is justifying his refusal to allow a straight up or down vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

In the second instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is addressing a potential Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Two quotes. Two sentiments. One politician.

The difference? A newly-elected Republican president versus a lame duck Democratic president.

American politics in two quotes.

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Theodor Seuss Geisel’s Dump on Trump: Or, How Dr. Seuss Forecasted TrumpCare

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From a great political satirist, Dr. Seuss. In 1942. Best thing all day.

drseusswartime13

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Voting for the American Health Care Act: Politics vs. Policy

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As the American Health Care Act moves towards a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday it remains a hugely unpopular bill. Despite tweaks to the initial draft of the bill to appease Republican opponents of the legislation and the appeals of President Trump the fate of this Obamacare replacement remains in doubt.

In fact, as the vote draws closer the bill actually be losing appeal.

The vast majority of analysis on this legislation concludes that the bill is deeply flawed. With the changes imposed some have noted this effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act amounts to little more than a tax cut and Medicaid reform. It neither repeals nor replaces.

The vote on Thursday has essentially become a vote of politics versus policy.

Thereby, the question becomes, exactly what is the benefit of change for the sake of change? What is the cost of not immediately upholding a promise to repeal Obamacare when keeping that promise tangibly harms your voters? What happens when party unity is forced in the name of legislation which most agree is not worth the effort?

Absent immediate and satisfactory answers to such questions, I will instead leave with you a breviloquent, yet informative, synopsis of the decision at hand courtesy of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Obamacare:

versus the American Health Care Act:

Healthcare or party loyalty? Partisanship or voters? Politics or policy?

Of course, the answers to all of these questions as well as any potential support for the American Health Care Act currently and moving forward, among Congress and the American people, may depend at least partially on something else:

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Spy vs. Lie: Wiretaps, Espionage, and Skullduggery…or not

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Was Trump Tower wiretapped by President Obama in order to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?

In order to effectively answer this question, really any question, the best policy is to consume as much information as possible from myriad sources. This allows the consumer to educate themselves as best possible. To gain knowledge from a variety of sources on the query at hand. The White House encourages this course of action.

When sourcing from multiple places there is bound to be information which contradicts. Usually these contradictions originate from context, point of view, or level of detail.

In this case, however, the contradictions are integral to the question. Depending on the source, potential answers to the question change. In fact, the question itself is fundamentally altered depending on the source of information.

First of all, when President Trump said President Obama ordered a wiretap installed in Trump Tower during his presidential campaign in order to sabotage his candidacy did President Trump mean a physical wiretap was literally put on the phones in Trump Tower for the purposes of spying on Donald Trump?

No. When the President said “wiretap” he actually meant “surveillance”. Unless he did mean a literal wiretap. When he said President Obama ordered the wiretap he didn’t actually blame President Obama for the wiretap/surveillance. Until he did.

Is there evidence of a wiretap on Donald Trump, specifically, or more generally, Trump Tower?

There is not. Or maybe there is.

When White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested during a briefing that there is no record of the wiretap because it was done by British intelligence, was this a serious indictment?

No, it was not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Is there actual evidence, or at least credible sources, to support this claim of British spying?

No. Actually, it depends on who you ask.

Following Spicer’s initial statement at the White House briefing, were he and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster forced to apologize to the British government for making such a public accusation?

Neither McMaster nor Spicer apologized to the British. Unless they did.

Even if there is no evidence of a wiretap, American or British, is there any indication surveillance took place at Trump Tower?

There is no sign of surveillance taking place at Trump Tower. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t surveillance, though.

What about surveillance on individuals other than Donald Trump?

No. Or, yes.

In summary, President Obama is a criminal who used government resources against his political opponents.

Or not.

President Trump, despite bipartisan arguments from essentially every politician/political agency in two countries, knows the truth about the conspiracy which has dogged him from the early days of his candidacy and is determined to reveal the truth to the American people.

Or not.

This is an important political issue on which many government resources should be expended.

Or not.

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The Republican Party unveils a Healthcare Plan: Or, Politics is not Governing

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Did you know the Affordable Care Act and “Obamacare” are one and the same? If answering in the affirmative, you can count yourself in the 67 percent of the country who gave a similar response. One-third of Americans do not understand “Obamacare” is the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican Party did a really good job. Republicans spent years lambasting the Affordable Care Act. They made up parts of the plan to make it seem less viable. Told supporters it was too expensive and provided poor healthcare.

Republicans invented “Obamacare”. They attempted for years to destroy the plan via repeal, blocking funding, court challenges, even shutting down the government.

Finally, the Republican Party got their chance. On the campaign trail Donald Trump said he would repeal Obamacare his first day in office. Following his victory he declared he would convene a special session of Congress in order to “repeal and replace” the healthcare bill.

That did not come to pass, but the political will of President Trump and the Republican Party to destroy the Affordable Care Act did not diminish. Even as it became more popular than ever. Even as the party struggled to come up with an alternative.

The Republican Party had years to develop their own healthcare system, yet seemingly spent that time coming up with new ways to combat Obamacare rather than legislating. The GOP had a very strong political response to the Affordable Care Act, but where was the alternative?

It is here. And it’s not good. As in, nobody likes it. Sparring details of the plan, just let these headlines guide you through the discontent:

  • Reuters: “Conservatives rebel against Trump-backed Republican healthcare plan”
  • New York Times: “G.O.P. Health Bill Faces Revolt from Conservative Forces”
  • Slate: “The Republican Health Care Plan Isn’t Good for Much, Except Cutting Rich Folks’ Taxes”
  • Mother Jones: “Republicans Unveil Their Health Care Plan. It’s a Bloodbath”
  • BBC: “A bumpy 24 hours for Trump-backed health bill”
  • Politico: “Trump moves to assure conservatives on Obamacare replacement plan”
  • Washington Post: “House GOP proposal to replace Obamacare sparks broad backlash”
  • Vox: “The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve”
  • The Atlantic: “The GOP’s Plan Is Basically a $600 Billion Tax Cut for Rich Americans”
  • National Review: “Obamacare Replacement: Republican Plan is Disappointing”
  • The Hill: “Hospitals come out against GOP healthcare bill”
  • Fox News: “Conservatives balk at ObamaCare replacement bill”
  • Breitbart: “Conservatives: Paul Ryan’s Healthcare Plan Replaces Obamacare with Obamacare-lite”

As many news outlets have described, the Republican bill isn’t all that different from the plan which they have railed against. It is too similar and potentially too expensive for many conservatives. The changes the new bill does make would cut coverage for lower-income families and rolls back many health coverage gains made under the Affordable Care Act.

In other words, this new healthcare bill fails to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act which angers many conservative Republicans, yet makes just enough changes to anger Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

The question which comes to mind is, exactly for whom is this healthcare bill? Another question might be, what did the Republican Party do the past seven years?

Politics is not governing. And as the headlines highlight, this isn’t either.

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Donald Trump’s first budget: Buoying The Fiscal Ship

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The prevailing sentiment which has emerged regarding President Donald Trump’s first budget seems to be befuddlement. Numerous experts and political pundits have argued that it simply doesn’t add up.

The budget calls for a lot of new spending. President Trump’s first budget proposal calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending. He has called on Congress to approve $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements. And the “wall” will cost at least $12 billion.

Who is paying for these plans?

The President has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in order to save money on healthcare, but according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget this will cost the federal government up to $350 billion. He has also said he will cut taxes in order to stimulate the economy. But his tax plan will result in further deficits. And finally, President Trump has promised not to cut entitlement programs.

Donald Trump has promised to cut spending in order to decrease the national debt. Yet most analysis of the President’s rough budget concludes it will do neither.

But perhaps criticism of a budget which has yet to be fully completed or announced should be tempered. Budgeting is hard. Especially when it becomes political, which is kind of the nature of the thing.

What is the best way forward to meet all your goals and promises while also attempting to maintain a budget which is in the best long-term interests of the United States? This process regularly stymies politicians, but now you too can try your hand.

The interactive game The Fiscal Ship

challenges you to put the federal budget on a sustainable course…Your mission is to pick from a menu of tax and spending options to reduce the debt from projected levels over the next 25 years…To win the game, you need to find a combination of policies that match your values and priorities AND set the budget on a sustainable course.

Budgeting is difficult and time-consuming, but it really sucks you in. Check it out and try your hand.

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Trump’s Address Post-Mortem: A Quick Question for the News Media

Donald Trump

Many in the political news media giving President Trump credit for striking a “softer tone” in his congressional address on Tuesday. So what? Essentially every article which leads that click-bait tag begins with the change of tone only to transition to the fact that nothing has really changed.

President Trump’s speech was very much a return to his campaign pledges. Pledges which angered Democrats and divided Republicans. This was following a day in which the President blamed generals for a special forces raid in Yemen which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, suggested recent threats and attacks on Jewish synagogues and community centers were false flags, and blamed President Obama for promoting leaks and protests.

Furthermore, that touching tribute to the fallen Navy SEAL, William “Ryan” Owens, which many have described as the best moment of the President’s address was also manipulativedishonest, and angered a lot of veterans.

It is also worth noting that despite a “softer tone” the address failed to win the support of Democrats and did little to unite the Republican Party. In other words, President Trump is simply getting credit for acting “presidential”.

That doesn’t require praise, that’s the job.

How low has the bar been set? The President has continually attacked the credibility of news outlets while simultaneously barring those outlets from the White House briefing room. Yet he gets credit for being presidential?

The same message delivered with a different tone which accomplishes nothing is simply re-gifting. A shiny new bow doesn’t change what’s inside.

Donald Trump’s “softer tone”? That’s fake news.

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