Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Last Call For Terminal Trumpcare

Yesterday, America found out that the CBO score for Trumpcare was so awful that it set Republicans scrambling for explanations.  Today, with brutal headlines across the country in print and on TV, suddenly it looks like Trumpcare may not even make it past the House, and the cracks in the unified GOP front are now showing.

A Republican congressman in Illinois has joined the growing ranks of those skeptical of the proposal to replace Obamacare favored by congressional leadership and the Trump administration.

"I want to learn more about the Medicaid piece, particularly in Illinois," Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) told Crain's Chicago Business on Tuesday. The publication reported Roskam said twice that "yes," that meant he was open to changes in how the bill treats Medicaid.

Roskam, according to the publication, called the American Health Care Act "very much a work in progress" that was subject to change.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report published Monday that the ACHA would cut federal spending on Medicaid by $880 billion over 10 years.

Roskam's district is Illinois' 6th, the tony Chicagoland suburbs west of the Loop.  It's a solid Republican district to say the least, he's been in the House for 10 years and knows how to play the game. The 6th used to be run by Henry Hyde (of the infamous Hyde Amendment) and Roskam used to work in Tom DeLay's office before he took over the 6th (and yes, he used to serve as a State Senator along with a fellow by the name of Barack Obama).  Currently he's on the House Ways and Means Committee, which means he has no small amount of clout and even more safety, politically speaking.

Which means if Roskam is already in panic mode over Trumpcare changes, in under 24 hours since the CBO score, in a blood-red district, this bill is in a lot more trouble than people realize.

Pull up a chair.  Roskam won't be the first to crack in the House.

Meanwhile In Bannon Land...

Chuck Pierce reminds us that while America was focused on the horrific details of just how bad Trumpcare is going to be, that Trump himself was busy Monday signing an executive order entitled the"Comprehensive Plan For Reorganizing The Executive Branch."  You can imagine what's coming next.

In theory, the job has been handed to Mick Mulvaney, the new head of the Office and Management and Budget, most recently seen throwing shade at the CBO, and one of the original Tea Party fanatics elected in response to the Obama Presidency. (Mulvaney was one of the chief architects of the 2013 government shutdown.) But the fine print of the measure shows that it is likely more a creature of Bannon's professed love for vandalism for its own sake. From the order itself:

The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization. 
This "reorganization" of the executive departments sounds very much like how a polar bear "reorganizes" your innards prior to making a meal of you. That the job has been handed officially to a guy who doesn't believe in what many of those agencies do—and, unofficially, to a guy who wants to blow them up simply to see how pretty the shrapnel is—gives something of a lie to the public face of the initiative as a good-government effort to root out the unholy trinity of waste, fraud, and abuse. 
This isn't a cost-cutting measure. It's a function-cutting measure. It's not about what the agencies are. It's about what they do. This is like handing a group of drunk teenagers a flamethrower and pointing them toward a lumber yard.

In other words, if Senate Democrats manage to somehow stop Mitch from gutting executive branch agencies to death, this order will simply allow Bannon to do it anyway.  All those programs that help poor people and especially people of color, administered by all those cabinet agencies Trump is now in charge of?

It's all going to go up in flames, guys.  And these assholes have invested heavily in marshmallows and gasoline.  Even if they don't lay a glove on Obamacare, the HHS is still a cabinet agency, and Trump and company can make all the cuts they want to in order to make implementation utterly impossible.

Which is the point.  It's not just "government small enough to drown in a bathtub", it's government lit on fire and covered in thermite.

The Environmental Protection Agency isn't fighting the White House's initial budget that proposes to cut the agency's budget by about $2 billion — or roughly 25% — and reduce the agency's workforce by roughly 3,000 employees. 
Climate change programs would be gutted under the proposal and the workforce attached to these programs would be cleared out of the agency — in line with the aggressive vision of EPA transition head Myron Ebell. 
The Trump Administration, in fact, is now discussing making even deeper cuts to the EPA, according to a source privy to the White House's internal deliberations. Senior Trump officials consider the EPA the leading edge of the administration's plans to deconstruct the administrative state.

If they fire everyone that they can, then there's nobody to spend the money.

The Disunited Nations Building

The Trump regime is apparently looking to eliminate at least half of America's funding to the United Nations as a major component of planned State Department cuts, according to Foreign Policy magazine, and it would mean billions in cuts to aid programs for refugees, vaccine and medical help, and UN peacekeeping forces.

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources. 
The push for such draconian measures comes as the White House is scheduled on Thursday to release its 2018 budget proposal, which is expected to include cuts of up to 37 percent for spending on the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign assistance programs, including the U.N., in next year’s budget. The United States spends about $10 billion a year on the United Nations. 
It remains unclear whether the full extent of the steeper U.N. cuts will be reflected in the 2018 budget, which will be prepared by the White House Office of Management and Budget, or whether, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed, the cuts would be phased in over the coming three years. One official close to the Trump administration said Tillerson has been given flexibility to decide how the cuts would be distributed.
On March 9 in New York, U.S. diplomats in a closed-door meeting warned key U.N. members, including wealthy donors from Europe, Japan, and South Korea, to “expect a big financial constraint” on U.S. spending at the United Nations, said one European diplomat. “There are rumors of big cuts to the State Department budget, but again, on our side, no figures,” the diplomat said. 
The cuts would fall heaviest on U.N. programs, like peacekeeping, UNICEF, and the U.N. Development Programme, that are funded out of the budget of the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. It remains to be seen whether other U.N. agencies popular with Congress, like the World Food Programme and U.N. refugee operations — which are funded out of separate accounts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Department, respectively — will get hit as hard. But one source tracking the budget proposal said the Trump administration is considering cuts of up to 36 percent on humanitarian aid programs. 
Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said cuts of this magnitude would create “chaos.”

So yeah, America under the Trump regime can apparently afford tens of billions in new Pentagon weapons, but $10 billion for UN is going to be cut in half as a kind estimate.  But those are our priorities now, and this is who we are to the rest of the world: the most powerful military on earth simply doesn't care about anyone on the planet who isn't an American.

Oh well. F35's don't just fall out of the sky, folks.  (Well, maybe they do, but it still costs billions to make one apparently.)

It's also worth keeping in mind that chaos is exactly the kind of thing that's good for Trump business interests, especially those in Russia.

Just sayin'.


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