Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who Has Bad Judgment?-- Wall Street Version

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Zach Carter is one of Huff Po's most perceptive reporters and yesterday he warned his readers that while we were all distracted by the clown show Trump had finally delivered one on big campaign promise-- not for his voters, of course, but for his Wall Street donors-- he pretty much gutted Dodd-Frank. "Trump," he reminded us, "campaigned on conflicting promises about big banks. One minute, he was going to stick it to the corrupt financial insiders who had wrecked the middle class. The next, he’d vow to liberate our benevolent princes of capital from crushing regulations Obama had cruelly imposed." Pushed by the traditional GOP swamp creatures all around him-- from Pence, Ryan, Priebus and Hensarling to Mnuchin, Ross and Cohn-- the Trump Regime has been all about deregulation.
Last week, a council of top regulators quietly met to discuss the future of the Volcker rule-- the most important structural change Obama established for the financial system. A few days later, a freshly installed Trump official went further, threatening to defang the rule “unilaterally” by “reinterpreting” its entire purpose.

The rule is basically dead, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a note to clients last Monday: “Examiners can start giving banks the benefit of the doubt regarding compliance with Volcker almost immediately.”

The Volcker rule was conceived as an update to the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which banned traditional banks from engaging in risky, high-stakes securities ventures, which became the domain of investment banks, hedge funds and other firms that didn’t rely on federal support. Until its repeal in the 1990s, Glass-Steagall put an end to many conflicts of interest that had plagued banking during the Roaring Twenties, and prevented government subsidies from flowing into speculative securities schemes, which made it harder for big crazy asset bubbles to accumulate.

Glass-Steagall was as powerful as a sledgehammer, but only slightly more precise. The Volcker rule tried to draw a finer distinction. Instead of banning banks from the securities business outright, it only barred proprietary trading. Banks were no longer allowed to make reckless bets for their own accounts, but other types of trading to help clients meet legitimate market needs would be permitted. Done right, the Volcker rule would have been a technocratic improvement on Glass-Steagall, providing all the benefits of its New Deal predecessor without its costs.

It reflected the broader approach Obama and congressional Democrats took with Wall Street reform, treating the financial crisis as a mechanical malfunction best corrected by expert regulators who could write specific rules for nuanced situations. The economic system, they believed, could not be properly repaired with blunt instruments or lines in the sand.

Twenty-first-century banking is indeed a nasty thicket of money and numbers. But the financial crisis was more than a technocratic breakdown. It was an abuse of power. And the 2010 Dodd-Frank law didn’t really try to reshape the political dynamic between Wall Street and Washington. A handful of financial titans retained control over multitrillion-dollar institutions tasked with socially essential functions. They were not prosecuted for fraud, they continued to lobby both Congress and federal agencies with ferocity, and their firms continued to provide lucrative jobs for political operatives from both parties. Against this mountain, Obama set the willpower of individual regulators.

It didn’t work. Consider the Volcker rule, which ran into trouble almost immediately. “One of the world’s largest banking firms” enlisted the Podesta Group-- a lobbying powerhouse founded by Democratic power brokers John and Tony Podesta-- to water down the rule in Congress. The Podesta Group still boasts about the effort on its website, under “Wins.”

“The client’s desired language on the ‘Volcker Rule’ was passed into law,” reads the page, titled “Challenging Wall Street Reform To Defend Jobs.” The lobbying barrage continued at the regulatory agencies, whose final version of the rule stretched to 300 pages of loopholes, exemptions and special considerations. Bank lobbyists succeeded in delaying the implementation of key elements of Volcker for years. Now the beast is being put out of its misery by Trump appointees with close ties to the financial industry, demonstrating that Wall Street’s political clout remains as strong as ever. Volcker’s destroyers will include former bank lawyer Keith Noreika, along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs alum, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, who served as Goldman’s bailout attorney.

A similar fate will soon follow for the derivatives regulations and other rules written during the Obama years. Even capital requirements, the simplest and last line of defense against bad bank behavior, are under assault following the resignation of Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo. We will never know if Obama’s tweaks and adjustments would have prevented or ameliorated another financial crisis. Today, big banks are bigger than they were before the crash, and are returning to pre-crash levels of oversight. The potential for financial turmoil under an erratic president is just as strong as the potential for foreign policy dislocation.

The one element of Dodd-Frank that will likely survive the Trump presidency is also the only aspect that seriously restructured the power relationship between government and finance. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is important not because it involves a host of complicated new rules-- stealing from customers was illegal before, during and after the crisis-- but because it changes the way these protections are enforced. Prior to Obama, consumer banking products were regulated by five different agencies that competed with each other for “assessment” fees paid by the banks they regulated. This gave banks political power over their regulators-- an agency that was too tough on consumer protection risked losing its banks, and the funding they brought, to another regulator.

Obama scrapped this regime in favor of a single consumer finance overseer, the CFPB, and charged lifelong consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren with setting up the agency and hiring critical personnel. This established a new power center in Washington capable of challenging not only big banks, but also broken bureaucracy. When Obama’s Education Department turned a blind eye to student loan abuses, the CFPB took action. It has returned over $11 billion in ill-gotten bank gains to customers since its inception.

So the next meltdown probably won’t be caused by consumer fraud. Other than that, we’re pretty screwed.
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the corrupt nest of thieves headed by Texas crook Jeb Hensarling-- the House Financial Services Committee-- has almost been entirely bought off by the banksters. Millions and millions of dollars in bribes have gone to corrupt Republicans like Hensarling ($7,372,690), Ed Royce ($6,931,797), Steve Stivers ($4,192,037), Patrick McHenry ($3,949,286), Peter King ($2,761,274), Sean Duffy ($2,376,646) and Blaine Luetkemeyer ($2,371,565) and to corrupt Democrats on the committee as well-- Jim Himes ($5,545,212), Gregory Meeks ($3,120,688), DavidScott ($2,770,894), Charlie Crist ($2,474,349), John Delaney ($2,100,202) and Kyrsten Sinema ($1,662,043).

There's no doubt the House is going to pass the legislation the bank lobbyists have written for Hensarling, destroying as many consumer protections as they can, especially the CFPB. But even McConnell admits that the greed and avarice of the banksters and the bribed House members won't get the legislation through the Senate for Señor Trumpanzee to sign. McConnell told Bloomberg News "I’d love to do something about Dodd-Frank, particularly with regard to community banks but that would require Democratic involvement. I’m not optimistic... So far, my impression is the Democrats on the banking committee believe that Dodd-Frank is something akin to the Ten Commandments."
Despite McConnell’s remarks, helping community lenders hasn’t been the main sticking point in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, the banking panel’s top Democrat, has said he supports relaxing rules for the smallest banks. But Democrats have been vocal in resisting any changes to Dodd-Frank that they say will aid Wall Street, such as scrapping Volcker Rule trading restrictions and weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On Tuesday, Brown pushed back on McConnell’s contention that Democrats are blocking efforts for a bipartisan compromise.

“The Senate Republican leader seems to have forgotten the harm Wall Street’s greed and reckless behavior caused to millions of working families and taxpayers,” Brown said in a statement. “If this were really about community banks, we might have come to an agreement years ago. Republicans are once again using them as leverage to help a rogue’s gallery of special interests.”

[Senate Banking Committee chair Mike] Crapo has previously said efforts to revise Dodd-Frank would be slow as most major bills require 60 votes to pass the Senate, and Republicans hold just 52 seats. The House is moving faster, with that chamber’s Financial Services Committee approving legislation earlier this month that would alter many of the law’s key provisions. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he wants the legislation to move to a floor vote as soon as possible.

Absent action by Congress, McConnell said rolling back Dodd-Frank will fall to the Trump administration. After a slow start, President Donald Trump has made progress in recent weeks in filling the agencies that oversee Wall Street with his own appointees.

Trump, who has called Dodd-Frank a “disaster” that has made it difficult for businesses to get loans, signed an executive order in February requiring regulators to examine financial rules. The Treasury Department is scheduled to issue a report on the findings next month, kicking off what the administration has promised will be a broad rewrite of regulations implemented under Dodd-Frank.

Unless the situation in Congress changes, we will be “stuck with whatever the administration thinks it can do on its own to modify the impact of Dodd-Frank,” McConnell said.

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In Which Country Will Trump Make The Biggest Fool Of Himself?

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Everyone knows how Roger Stone said watching Trump bowing and scraping-- actually curtsying-- to the Saudi dictator made him want to puke. And we all know how clueless doofus (and murderer)Wilbur Ross slept thru Trump's speech after his strenuous sword dance and that he then went on CNBC to say that "There was not a single hint of a protester" in Saudi Arabia during Trump's visit, apparently unaware that protesters are beheaded in Saudi Arabia. By the next morning, Secretary of State T-Rex was calling Tel-Aviv, the most secular city in Israel, the home of Judaism.

Wingnutia back home as been buzzing that Señor Trumpanzee didn't use the sacred phrase of right-wing morons, "radical Islamoc terrorism. The White House has put out the word that it was just an oversight and that Trump was exhausted from his trip. I thought Hillary was the one with no stamina. Kellyanne Con-man told reporters el Señor mixed up the wording of his prepared remarks in Saudi Arabia because he was pooped. "He’s just an exhausted guy," she said on background. PolitiFact, though looked into the whole change of tenor between tough campaign-mode Trump and Arab-ass-kissing Trump.
In his quest for the GOP nomination, Trump distinguished himself for his readiness to embrace policies that went beyond what other Republicans would endorse.

Following the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., he called on Dec. 7, 2015, for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

In a March 9, 2016, interview on CNN, Trump said "Islam hates us." When pressed a day later if he meant all Muslims, Trump said "I mean a lot of them."

In contrast, during his speech in Riyadh, Trump said, "I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens."

Throughout the campaign, when Trump spoke of Islam, it generally followed the word "radical."

"When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM?" Trump tweeted Nov. 15, 2015. "He  can't say it, and unless he will,  the problem will not be solved!"

After the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump leveled the same charge at Hillary Clinton on June 13, 2016. He derided her for a tweet in which she said "Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."

"She is in total denial," Trump said. "And her continuing reluctance to ever name the enemy broadcasts weakness across the world."

At one point, Trump said he was open to creating a database of all Muslims in America, and on a few occasions said he would strongly consider closing some mosques.

In Riyadh, Trump didn’t use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" and seemed to go out of his way to suggest that only a few extremists engaged in terrorism.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it."

...During the campaign, attacks at home drew the strongest responses from Trump.  Overseas at least, Trump has embraced the view that while there are many Muslims who hate America, there are at least as many who don’t.
But the question that everyone has been asking was about the Saudi orb. What was that thing and why did Trump take part in what looked like a satanic ritual with the Egyptian dictator and the Saudi "king?" The NY Times reported that the 3 authoritarian rulers "placed their hands atop a radiant whitish sphere, which illuminated their faces like a campfire, and kept them there for nearly two minutes."

With the media back home reporting that Señor Trumpanzee's 39.7% approval is lower than any of his last 12 predecessors, social media went crazy over the spooky-looking orb ritual.
The orb’s segmented pedestal, which looked as if it might have come from the bridge of a science-fiction starship, added to the mystery. And an illuminated floor, not directly visible in the most widely circulated images, intensified the dramatic underlighting.

Critics of Mr. Trump, some of whom seem eager to see something nefarious in anything he does, appeared especially agitated. Some projected onto the images their dismay about Mr. Trump’s playing down of human rights and about the authoritarian Egyptian and Saudi governments. Bill Kristol, a prominent conservative critic of Mr. Trump, likened the group to the conclave of witches in “Macbeth.”




Many others drew on tropes from science fiction and fantasy, invoking comic-book villains, the Harry Potter novels and films, and even “The Wizard of Oz.”... Brian Klaas, a political scientist who has been critical of Mr. Trump, likened the leaders to the evil wizard Saruman from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”


The real meaning of the sphere had little to do with the occult.

The occasion was the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, based in Riyadh, and the orb was in fact a translucent globe, with the world’s waters represented in light gray and the continents in black. Its purpose appeared to be decorative.

The futuristic look of the darkened room may have helped to fire observers’ imaginations.

It was filled with computer terminals. At one end was a wall of monitors displaying feeds from news networks. Employees of the center were segregated by gender, as is common in Saudi Arabia.

The design felt to a pool reporter who was present like a hybrid of a game-show set and a television thriller’s idea of a counterterrorism operations control room.

Among the many dignitaries at the event were Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef.

The globe did not appear to have any magical powers, but when the king and Mr. Trump touched it, background music of the kind that might accompany a reality show’s elimination sequence or introduce a cable news program soared and pulsed. The screens glowed with statistical displays and videos about fighting terrorism. An unnamed official who narrated the features of the new control center said the displays used artificial intelligence to track, in real time, news reports and online statements.

“This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership,” Mr. Trump said in his prepared remarks.
And with that, the snakes on a plane were off to Israel.


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The Trumpy-The-Clown Budget Cuts Social Security, Despite His Repeated Promises That He Wouldn't

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The short version is that the budget proposal cuts vital programs including Social Security and Medicaid in order to pump money into tax cuts for the very richest Americans and for money cash for the bloated and wasteful Pentagon. Trump was always consistent and insistent on the campaign trail that he would not ever, under any circumstances cut Social Security. He told Republican primary voters again and again that the other Republicans would all cut Social Security-- which was true-- but that he alone never would and that, in fact, no one else could figure out how to save it-- only Trumpanzee. Of course, he didn't mean a word of what he said. Does he ever?

The in-house brain surgeon's department accidentally posted-- and then took down-- the Health and Human Services summary, which makes clear that the $837 billion in cuts to Medicaid in TrumpCare wasn't enough punishment for poor people and that Trump's cabinet of billionaires wants to cut another $610 billion from Medicaid on top of that!

As Dylan Matthews reminded Vox readers yesterday, "He’s even challenged other Republicans on the issue, telling WROK radio in Wisconsin, 'Paul [Ryan] wants to knock out Social Security, knock it down, way down. He wants to knock Medicare way down... I want to keep Social Security intact... I’m not going to cut it, and I’m not going to raise ages, and I’m not going to do all of the things that they want to do. But they want to really cut it, and they want to cut it very substantially, the Republicans, and I’m not going to do that.'"

The $1.7 trillion in cuts decimates SNAP (food stamps), CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), and SSDI (Disability Insurance)-- which is part of Social Security. SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. In yesterday's L.A. Times, Michael Hiltzik went after Trump for his betrayal, making it clear that Budget Director and Freedom Caucus refugee Mick Mulvaney is likely at fault.
It turns out that Mulvaney was setting up a flagrant deception during that “Face the Nation” appearance. He asked moderator John Dickerson, “Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don't think so.”

Dickerson let the remark, which we described then as “a drive-by shooting” aimed at some of the nation’s neediest and most defenseless people, slide without comment.

But Mulvaney was tapping into a knowledge vacuum that appears to extend more deeply into the Washington press corps. Politico, which reports that the budget document will “avoid revamping Social Security and Medicare,” and the Associated Press, which says the budget “won’t touch Social Security or Medicare,” get snowed by the implication that a cut in disability isn’t a cut to Social Security.



A four-page “talking points” memo being circulated by the White House and published by Politico gives the game away, by stating the budget “does not cut core Social Security benefits.” (Emphasis ours.) This shows that on Face the Nation, Mulvaney was merely seeding the landscape with a rank deception.

...Disability insurance is an inextricable part of Social Security. It’s a core part of the program, just like retirement benefits. It was created as an add-on to Social Security in 1956, under President Eisenhower. It’s financed by the payroll tax, and the reserve funds that cover both aspects of the program are more entwined than ever, thanks to a reform measure passed by Congress in 2015. Social Security’s financing structure is based on its role as a combined disability insurance and retirement program, and anyone who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be writing about it, much less managing it.

Mulvaney is merely deploying a classic divide-and-conquer strategy by depicting disability as somehow distinct from Social Security. Disability recipients have been consistently demonized by conservative politicians and inattentive journalists as layabouts and malingerers, just as the program has been described as out of control. Neither assertion is accurate, but that doesn’t stop them from being incessantly trotted out.

Mulvaney in his TV appearance invoked them again, calling disability “the fastest-growing program” and calling it “very wasteful.” In truth, disability rolls have been shrinking. That’s because the economic and demographic trends that sent the rolls higher in recent decades have ebbed, including the addition of more women to the workforce and the aging of the working population.

Nancy Altman of Social Security Works, a leading advocacy group, calls Mulvaney’s attempt to distinguish disability from Social Security “Orwellian,” and properly so. It’s nothing other than a ploy to slither out from a campaign promise that President Trump could not have made more explicitly.

One must ask: Where will the deceit stop? Trump and Mulvaney have no right to redefine the disability program as something other than Social Security. If they’re allowed to get away with it, what’s to stop them from declaring that survivor, dependent, and spousal benefits aren’t “core” Social Security benefits, and take a hacksaw to them too?
Ro Khanna (D-CA) is preparing to question Mulvaney tomorrow when he testifies before the House Budget Committee. This morning, he released a statement that should give some idea about the kinds of questions he'll probably be asking:
The budget the White House released today is one that breaks President Trump's promise to forgotten Americans. This budget would leave millions of individuals and families at a loss to the critical programs they turn to in times of need and help keep them out of poverty. The administration wants to dismantle Medicaid, cut Social Security, eviscerate public education funding, weaken our ability to fight climate change and countless other damaging choices – all for a massive tax cut for the very rich.

The budget proposal also undermines how the government supports job growth and American innovation. The administration wants to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership-- just a few of the many successful programs that have led to the rapid growth of new 21st century industries across the U.S.

A budget should reflect the values of our nation. Clearly, we now know where the White House stands.
Oklahoma doesn't have any Democrats in its congressional delegation. But Oklahoma City voters may change that in 2018, when outspoken progressive Tom Guild faces off against Social Security foe Steve Russell. "I support raising benefits for Social Security recipients struggling to survive," Guild told us this morning after the Trump plan leaked. "I support raising the cap on contributions to Social Security from the current first ~$120,000 of income to $250,000 and within a few years completely abolishing the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes. This will allow us to increase benefits for seniors at age 75 by about $1,000 each year; and raise the stipend for those reaching age 85 by an additional $1,000 a year. Russell supports massive new tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans. He wants to redistribute trillions of dollars in wealth away from hard working Americans to the wealthy with massive individual and corporate tax cuts. He talks about raising the retirement age (again) for Social Security; adjusting the cost of living downward; and allowing workers to invest Social Security funds privately (aka privatization). Privatization would destroy Social Security as we have known it since 1935, and leave many seniors in desperate poverty. He is completely out of touch with real people’s lives, and wants millions of Americans on Social Security to remain in poverty and to live in difficult financial circumstances during their retirement. It is time for someone to represent our district who cares about and understands the reality of the lives of working people, the middle class, and those struggling to survive on fixed incomes. The sole source of income for tens of millions of Social Security recipients is their monthly Social Security stipend. It’s easy for Russell, who each year is paid by taxpayers $285,000 in salary and benefits, to pontificate about balancing the budget on the backs of working people and retirees, while he supports massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations. We can and must do better for the people of the fifth district of Oklahoma and America!" If you'd like to help elect people who will go to the wall to defend and expand Social Security, please consider helping Tom Guild replace Steve Russell on OK-05-- here at the congressional thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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The DCCC Has Another Terrible Idea-- Copying The 2006 Midterms, A Recipe For Catastrophe

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When Politico needed a writer do do a story on the false narrative of how successful Rahm Emanuel was in 2006 and how it's the model for 2018, ultimate DC establishment shill Edward-Issac Dovere, the most superficial reporter in Washington, was the obvious choice. Mr. Superficial: "An unpopular president, the scent of corruption in Washington, a riled-up liberal base-- to House Democrats, 2018 is already looking like 2006 on overdrive. Now Democrats see the same ugly storm forming for Republicans that delivered them the majority 11 years ago, and they’re digging out the blueprint. The party is vastly expanding the number of districts it plans to contest, recruiting veterans and business owners to compete in conservative terrain as it did back then. Three senior House Democrats are soon heading to Chicago to seek advice from Rahm Emanuel, the party’s 2006 master strategist."

Before we look at the statistics of what actually happened, one apocryphal story. First a little from CNN: Rahm knew Foley was molesting underage pages a full year before he finally blew the whistle on the very day it would be too late for the Republicans to be able to replace Foley on the ballot. Blue America was working with a progressive union candidate at the time, Dave Lutrin, in the very red district. Suddenly, long before anyone had any inkling that Foley was about to be exposed, Rahm and Hoyer started pressuring Lutrin to drop out of the race. That was confusing; why would they care about this district? But they had recruited a wealthy Republican, Tim Mahoney, talked him into switching his registration to "D" and promised to clear the field so he wouldn't have a primary. Long story short: Lutrin dropped out, Rahm leaked the Foley story, Mahoney won, Mahoney joined the Blue Dogs and spent his miserable one term in Congress voting with the Republicans and chasing women, Mahoney got caught up in a sex scandal, Mahoney was defeated in 2008. Dovere forgot to mention that one-- or any of the stories that challenge the establishment narrative he is helping his beloved crooked conservaDems to push.

One more thing before the statistics: primary season, 2006. Rahm was on the warpath against progressive and grassroots candidates coast to coast. And when the progressive candidates defeated his pathetic corporate and Wall Street shills, he abandoned their districts to the Republicans with a vengeance. But from Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and John Hall (NY) in the northeast to Jerry McNerney in California's Central Valley, the candidates Rahm worked so hard to sabotage, beat his candidates and then went on to beat Republican incumbents without his help. That's not part of Dovere's narrative either.

There were 30 seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat that year:
Arizona Blue Dog Harry Mitchell replaced GOP arch-villain JD Hayworth. Mitchell was defeated in 2010
Arizona Blue Dog Gabby Gifford won an open Tucson seat and was shot, replaced by Blue Dog Ron Barber, who was defeated in 2014 after one Republican-lite term
Grassroots Dem Jerry McNerney defeated powerful GOP chairman and is still serving his California district in Congress
Colorado New Dem won an open seat in Denver's suburbs and is still serving
Connecticut New Dem Joe Courtney defeated GOP incumbent Rob Simmons and is still serving
Connecticut New Dem Chris Murphy defeated GOP incumbent Nancy Johnson and was later elected to the Senate
Florida New Dem Ron Klein beat GOP incumbent Clay Shaw and lost his seat in 2010
Florida "ex"-Republican won Foley's open seat and was immediately defeated in 2008
Indiana Blue Dog Joe Donnelly defeated GOP incumbent Chris Chocola and would have been defeated in 2012 but tried a hail Mary pass, running for the US Senate against a far right lunatic who lost
Indiana Blue Dog Brad Ellsworth defeated GOP incumbent John Hostettler and was defeated in 2010
Indiana Blue Dog Baron Hill defeated GOP incumbent Mike Sodrel and was defeated in 2010
Iowa populist Bruce Braley won an open seat and was defeated for the US Senate in 2014
Iowa populist Dave Loebsack defeated GOP incumbent Jim Leach and is still serving
Kansas conservaDem (rejected by the Blue Dogs when she tried to join) Nancy Boyda beat far right incumbent Jim Ryun and was defeated in 2008
Kentucky progressive Democrat John Yarmuth-- not a Rahm candidate-- defeated GOP incumbent Anne Northup and is still serving
Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz defeated GOP incumbent Gil Gutknecht and is still serving
Despite DCCC sabotage, New Hampshire grassroots progressive Carol Shea-Porter defeated GOP incumbent Jeb Bradley and was re-elected last year despite Trump winning her district
New Hampshire New Dem Anne Kuster defeated GOP incumbent Charlie Bass and is still serving
New York grassroots progressive John Hall defeated GOP incumbent Sue Kelly and was beaten in 2010
New York Blue Dog Kirsten Gillibrand beat GOP incumbent John Sweeney and was appointed dot the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton in 2009
NY Blue Dog Mike Arcuri won an open seat and was beaten in 2010
Anti-immigrant North Carolina Blue Dog Heath Shuler beat scandal-ridden (like Trump, heavily involved with shady Russian banks) GOP incumbent Charlie Taylor and avoided defeat in 2012 by retiring
Ohio Blue Dog Zack Space defeated scandal-plagued GOP incumbent Bob Ney. Hey went to prison and Space was defeated in 2010
Pennsylvania Blue Dog Jason Altmire defeated GOP incumbent Melissa Hart and was defeated for reelection in 2012
Non-Rahm candidate Joe Sestak defeated GOP incumbent Curt Weldon and left the seat in 2010 to run for the Senate
Pennsylvania New Dem Patrick Murphy defeated GOP incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick and was defeated for reelection in 2010
Pennsylvania Blue Dog Chris Carney defeated GOP incumbent Don Sherwood and was defeated for reelection in 2010
Texas Blue Dog Nick Lampson won the open Tom DeLay seat and was defeated for reelection in 2008
Ciro Rodriguez defeated GOP incumbent Henry Bonilla in a run-off but was defeated in 2010
Wisconsin Democrat Steve Kagan won the Green Bay/Appleton open seat and was defeated in 2010.
In other words, the vast majority of Rahm's much-touted-- to this day, at least by a numbskull like Devore-- recruits were so terrible that when their constituents realized they had been tricked into electing Republican-lite candidates, they didn't show up at the polls for them and they were defeated. And that's exactly what the DCCC is literally planning on doing in 2018-- electing bunch of rich self-funders, "ex"-Republicans, Blue Dogs, New Dems, identity politics garbage candidates... most of whom will lose in the 2022 midterms. They never learn-- not the corrupt, dumb establishment hack politicians and certainly not their imbecile stenographers at the political trade press.

Yesterday the DCCC announced that they had added 20 new "target" districts, most of which they will never actually fight in-- but it looks good for donors. These are the 20 new ones:
AZ-06- David Schweikert
CA-22- Devin Nunes
CA-50- Duncan Hunter
FL-06- Ron DeSantis
FL-16- Vern Buchanan
GA-07- Rob Woodall
IL-12- Mike Bost
IN-02- Jackie Walorski
MI-01- Jack Bergman
MI-06- Fred Upton
MO-02- Ann Wagner
NC-02- George Holding
NM-02- Steve Pearce
NY-21- Elise Stefanik
NY-23- Tom Reed
OH-10- Mike Turner
OH-14- Dave Joyce
VA-05- Tom Garrett
VA-07- Dave Brat
WV-03- open
I just asked a top DC consultant what he thinks of the list and he laughed and predicted they won't win a single one of these seats. "I wonder if they plan to campaign on transgender youth in Snowshoe and Beckley in that West Virginia district," he said unkindly.

This is their whole list of original districts they announced on January 30, which includes many districts they will never contest:
·         AL-02- Martha Roby
·         AR-02- French Hill
·         AZ-02- Martha McSally
·         CA-10- Jeff Denham
·         CA-21- David Valadao
·         CA-25- Steve Knight
·         CA-39- Ed Royce
·         CA-45- Mimi Walters
·         CA-48- Dana Rohrabacher
·         CA-49- Darrell Issa
·         CO-03- Scott Tipton
·         CO-06- Mike Coffman
·         FL-18- Brian Mast
·         FL-25- Mario Diaz-Balart
·         FL-26- Carlos Curbelo
·         FL-27- open
·         GA-06- open
·         IA-01- Rod Blum
·         IA-03- David Young
·         IL-06- Peter Roskam
·         IL-13- Rodney Davis
·         IL-14- Randy Hultgren
·         KS-02- open
·         KS-03- Kevin Yoder
·         KY-06- Andy Barr
·         ME-02- Bruce Poliquin
·         MI-07- Tim Walberg
·         MI-08- Mike Bishop
·         MI-11- Dave Trott
·         MN-02- Jason Lewis
·         MN-03- Erik Paulsen
·         NC-08- Richard Hudson
·         NC-09- Robert Pittenger
·         NC-13- Ted Budd
·         NE-02- Don Bacon
·         NJ-02- Frank LoBiondo
·         NJ-03- Tom MacArthur
·         NJ-07- Leonard Lance
·         NJ-11- Rodney Frelinghuysen
·         NY-01- Lee Zeldin
·         NY-11- Dan Donovan
·         NY-19- John Faso
·         NY-22- Claudia Tenney
·         NY-24- John Katko
·         NY-27- Chris Collins
·         OH-01- Steve Chabot
·         OH-07- Bob Gibbs
·         PA-06- Ryan Costello
·         PA-07- Pat Meehan
·         PA-08- Brian Fitzpatrick
·         PA-16- Lloyd Smucker
·         TX-07- John Culberson
·         TX-23- Will Hurd
·         TX-32- Pete Sessions
·         VA-02- Scott Taylor
·         VA-10- Barbara Comstock
·         WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler
·         WA-08- David Reichert
·         WV-02- Alex Mooney
Goal Thermometer Please notice... no Wisconsin seats; no Paul Ryan, no Glenn Gothman, no Sean Duffy... Blue America will have to take care of some of that for them. Get to know Randy Bryce, the iron worker and union activist putting together a campaign to take down Speaker Ryan, no matter what the DCCC decides to do to protect Ryan's purple swing-district seat again.

And if you want to help real progressives win, please check out the candidates at the ActBlue thermometer on the right, some in districts the DCCC is targeting and some in districts the DCCC is ignoring, none, though, who are the kinds of corporate shills the DCCC prefers to back.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

New Jersey: Defeating A Frelinghuysen

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When I was very young, my family used to rent a summer bungalow in Ft. Freedom, New Jersey, northwest of Morristown in what is now Rodney Frelinghuysen's congressional district (NJ-11). He inherited this political domain from the Frelinghuysen dynasty and his great wealth from his mother's family, Beatice Proctor an heir to the Proctor and Gamble fortune. His father represented the area from 1953 to 1975 and his grandfather, Freddy Frelinghuysen was a New Jersey senator (and a vice presidential nominee under Henry Clay in 1844. Frelinghuysen's great-great-great-great-grandfather, another Freddy Frelinghuysen, was one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution and later a U.S. Senator from New Jersey. The current inbred goof-ball, Rodney Procter Frelinghuysen the 4th or 5th or 6th, was a spoiled, poor student but everything has always been handed to him on a silver platter. And if he didn't have enough from the GOP, the DCCC has never challenged him and has been giving him free passes to reelection since 1994. He normally wins reelection with well over 60% of the vote, sometimes with over 70%, against Democrats with no support and no money. Last year's 194,299 (58.0%) to 130,162 (38.9%) was his narrowest-ever win. Maybe his support for Trump dragged him down. Romney had beaten Obama in the R+6 district 53-47% but underperformed, taking the district narrowly, 48.8% to 47.9%.

That caught the DCCC's attention and they're now saying they're interested in supporting a candidate. Two weak candidates have put themselves forward, Jack Gebbia and Mikie Sherrill but locals-- as well as the DCCC-- are eager to recruit progressive West Orange Assemblyman John McKeon. Aside from an excellent voting record and record of leadership in the Assembly, in New Jersey's corrupt political cesspool, McKeon is a rare incumbent with a good reputation. As far back as March, Politico was speculating that Frelinghuysen’s streak of effortless elections may come to an end in 2018, just as he’s at the height of his power as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. And that was before he flip-flopped on TrumpCare, first claiming he couldn't vote for it and then-- even as the House Freedom Cuacus made it a worse bill-- decided to vote for it anyway.


Anti-Trump activists have incessantly called on Frelinghuysen to hold a town hall somewhere in North Jersey’s 11th District, which includes all or parts of Morris, Essex Passaic and Sussex counties. He’s refused, so they’ve protested at his office asking "Where's Rodney?" and held mock town halls. The recently-started Facebook group “NJ 11th for Change,” through which protests against Frelinghuysen are publicized, has more than 7,000 members.

And now, NJ 11th for Change has a super PAC, founded last month by Google executive Jonathan Bellack and local bank executive Saily Avelenda. Organizers claim it raised $10,000 in its first day and another $10,000 in its first week simply through seeking contributions on Facebook.

“We’re not your traditional super PAC,” said Debra Caplan, who serves on the super PAC’s board and on the steering committee of the larger NJ 11th for Change organization. “We’re a citizens super PAC. We’re a group of ordinary people who decided to start a super PAC because we want to be able to create material and distribute information about what’s happening in the congressional district and things that are coming down the line.

...Critics point to Frelinghuysen's decreasing vote ratings by groups like Planned Parenthood and his increasing ratings with groups like the National Rifle Association.

Redistricting in 2011 didn’t do Frelinghuysen any favors by taking away some conservative territory and adding some Democratic towns, including part of the liberal bastion of Montclair, in Essex County. In 2010, the district had 150,000 Republicans to 100,000 Democrats. Now, it has 165,000 Republicans and 152,000 Democrats.

...Matt Hale, a professor of political science at Seton Hall University, said Frelinghuysen could be vulnerable.

“The anger that people are feeling toward Donald Trump seems to be spilling over all over New Jersey. I do think that could crystalize into an effective opposition,” he said.

Caplan said several people have expressed interest in challenging the 70-year-old Frelinghuysen. Only one Democrat, however, has publicly entertained the notion: Assemblyman John McKeon, who comes from a Democratic part of the district in suburban Essex County.

Even with a super PAC doing some of the lifting, whomever runs against Frelinghuysen will likely be financially outgunned. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen, who in the last election raised $2 million-- half of it from corporate PACs-- despite token opposition, will not have trouble raising money.
Frelinghuysen rakes in immense sums (bribes) from war contactors and Big PhRMA and in the last cycle spent $1,669,366 although his 3 opponents, Democrat Joe Wenzel, Libertarian Jeff Hetrick and independent Tom Depasquale spent a combined total of... zero. None had even raised the $5,000 that would trigger an FEC report. McKeon, on the other hand, is a strong fund-raiser and would certainly be the first opponent to give Frelinghuysen a real run.

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Unless A Supine GOP Stops Him, Trump Will Do To America What Brownback Did To Kansas

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You know how states are supposed to be petri dishes for new ideas? Long before the federal government was looking into protecting consumers from predatory mortgage banksters, Assemblyman (and then state Senator) Ted Lieu was hammering out and passing controversial legislation that did just that in California. Today California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez's revamped paid family leave plan-- revamped so that the benefits go to working class families, not just the upper middle class-- is a model for state legislatures across the country and will eventually become the foundation for a national law. But this same kind of thing happens when Republicans gain control of states-- or at least the mirror imagine happens. Last week Dominic Rushe, writing for The Guardian from Kansas, wrote about how Trump is using that state as a model for his tax cut plans. The problem, of course, is that, after years as a radical right petri dish under Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas is a fiscal basket-case.

Details like that seem to escape Trump and he's bringing the widely despised Brownback into his Regime and bringing Brownback's failed ideological point of view into his tax agenda. "Kansas is broke," wrote Rushe, "but you wouldn’t guess it looking at its shining state capitol in Topeka. The imposing limestone monument, crowned by a shiny copper dome and limned with John Steuart Curry’s luminous murals, has just undergone a $325m facelift. What’s happening inside the state house is a lot less pretty, and may well foreshadow the far uglier battle looming over the future of taxation in the United States."

Kansas is one of the reddest states in America. The entire delegation to Washington is Republican, as are the state wide constitutional officers. The state Senate has 32 Republicans and 8 Democrats and the state House contains 97 Republicans and just 28 Democrats. And Kansas hasn't awarded a Democratic presidential candidate its electoral votes since LBJ in 1964. Trump beat Hillary 671,018 (56.6%) to 427,005 (36.0%), winning 103 of Kansas' 105 counties. Nevertheless, the underfunded Democratic candidate for the special election to replace Mike Pompeo in April, James Thompson, stunned Republicans by closing the gap by over 20 points and winning the biggest county in the district despite having been massively outspent by Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes. In the end Estes won with 63,505 votes (52.5%) to Thompson's 55,310 (45.7%). 5 months earlier Trump had won the district 60.2% to 33.0% and in 2014 Pompeo had been re-elected 60.7% to 29.6%. Two years before that Pompeo had taken 67%. Thompson will be running against Estes again in 2018. Democrats sense a change in the air in their battered state. Trump doesn't. Trump's chief economic advisor Gary Cohn and his Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin-- a couple of swamp-dwelling Goldman Sachs banksters-- have used Kansas' failed model for a national model.
The plan’s similarity to the one that has left Kansas in crisis is “unbelievable,” according to Duane Goossen, the former Kansas secretary of administration.

The economic spirit behind Trump’s plan is Arthur Laffer-- the go-to guru of “supply-side economics” since the Reagan era, and one of the architects of Kansas governor Sam Brownback’s original tax plan.

The former member of Reagan’s economic policy advisory board is best known for the “Laffer curve,” an illustration of the theory (not his own) that economic activity is tied to taxation, and that lower taxes, up to a point, mean more revenues.

That curve was famously scribbled by Laffer on a napkin over cocktails with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in 1974, and helped underpin Reagan’s so-called trickle-down economics-- as well as launching Laffer’s career as one of the most influential economists in Republican circles.

The curve is his calling card, but he also collects and publishes a vast trove of economic data on state revenues and taxes that seems to-- handily-- point to one conclusion: taxes bad, tax cuts good.

Fairly or not, “Laffernomics” is being blamed for a plan that has left the state in crisis and Brownback’s ratings in the Kansas dust. And Kansas, it seems, is about to act as the model for the biggest US tax cuts since the Gipper was in office.

Thanks to Kansas’s budget woes, Brownback regularly polls as the least popular governor in the union. Nor is there much love for Laffer. “How does he sleep at night?” one parent asked.

“Politics is politics, and I have been the object of political attack and praise. I have gotten both,” Laffer told the Guardian. “What can I tell you? If you climb up the pole, your ass sticks out pretty far, and I climb up. I’m not afraid of taking a position on things.”

Sitting in the capitol’s vaulted lobby, Goossen, now a senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, has little time for Laffer’s arguments, and says that the Trump administration’s recent presentation gave him the shivers.

When Brownback outlined his plan in 2012, he, too, said the tax cuts would pay for themselves. “He too said the tax cuts would benefit everybody, [that] they would be be ‘a shot of adrenaline to the heart’ of the Kansan economy,” said Goossen.

Instead, Goossen claims, the money has gone to a small group of wealthy Kansans while the state’s budget has been left with a roughly $1bn shortfall. Its school system, once its crown jewel, has suffered year after year of cuts, and its savings are gone. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center calculates Trump’s tax plan would cost $6.2tn over the first decade.

“We are a cautionary tale. It sounds great, everybody gets a tax cut and it’ll balance-- but it just doesn’t work,” said Goossen.

Campaigning for re-election in 2014, Brownback pledged his tax plans would add 100,000 new jobs over four years. By March this year, the state had added just 12,400 private-sector jobs. Kansas isn’t even keeping up with its neighbors. Hiring in Kansas increased by 0.3% in the last year; Missouri’s growth rate over that same period was 1.4%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The prop of the Brownback plan, as with Trump’s, was a huge cut to taxes paid by limited liability companies (LLCs)-- and so-called “pass-through” businesses-- which meant independent business owners would pay no state tax on the bulk, if not all, of their income. Those businesses would then go out and invest and create new jobs, or so the argument went.

At the time, Kansas had about 190,000 LLCs. Now it has about 300,000, but so far they have not spurred a new hiring drive in the state. “There is no evidence whatsoever that suggests this plan worked,” said Goossen.

Upstairs, the state senate is arguing over the budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Estimated revenues are $5.7bn for the year; expenses are $6.4bn – and that’s before you add in $500m-$750m the schools are owed. As Charles Dickens once wrote: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

Goossen said: “The bigger problem is that now all the energy of the state is focused on how we scrape by and make do when we ought to be focused on the future.”

...Brownback has told the Kansas City Star he’s “heartened” by Trump’s tax plans, saying they would spur business growth. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are seeking to kill off his business tax breaks as the state struggles to balance it books.
Yesterday's NY Times reported that congressional Republicans-- at least some of them-- are cautiously distancing themselves from Trump. But only because he's probably going to be impeached over the ballooning Putin-Gate scandals. "Republicans on Sunday inched away from President Trump amid mounting evidence that he may have sought to interfere in the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In a sign of growing anxiety, several important Republicans expressed discomfort with Mr. Trump’s firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who had been leading the agency’s inquiry into whether Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with Russian officials. But the Republicans stopped short of explicitly criticizing Mr. Trump." But when it comes to his deadly tax agenda... that's something they all love and are all complicit in.

But even with something as fundamental to Republicanism-- tax breaks for the rich coupled with big cuts in services to the middle and working class-- there are problems that shouldn't exist for a party that controls the White House and both Houses of Congress. The combination of Paul Ryan + Mike Pence and Señor Trumpanzee and the Goldman Sachs crew are proving deadly to the GOP's efforts. Over the weekend, Fox Business reported that the Republican tax effort "is still in a precarious state, weighed down by internal policy disagreements and external political turbulence... Business groups and Senate Republicans have been pouring buckets of cold water on the ideas that make the House plan add up." The Regime, Fox reports, "has released only a vague, one-page outline of tax goals, leaving it to Congress to work out the details. Optimistic talk of committee votes this spring have given way to discussion of action this year. And if a tax bill emerges, it will land amid a storm of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, which have swept up the Trump administration and distracted lawmakers."
"Members will lose their nerve to do controversial things as they instead focus on distancing themselves from the president and scrambling for their own political life," Jon Lieber of the Eurasia Group consulting firm wrote to clients this week. "A tax bill could be completely derailed by this, but either way can't come together until early next year."

...Even with Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, a major tax bill was never certain. Republicans agree on cutting tax rates and lightening the tax burden on U.S. companies' foreign earnings, but they split over whether they want a net reduction in tax revenue and they divide along regional and ideological lines on crucial details.

Still, they entered the year optimistic. House members worked from a detailed outline, the "Better Way" blueprint House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled in June 2016. And they still sound positive about reshaping the tax system in 2017.

"President Trump is leading the charge for bold tax reform that will unleash the growth of jobs and paychecks nationwide," Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Thursday. "Our committee is ready to answer that call."

To lower tax rates without adding to budget deficits, Republicans plan to bank on revenue created by economic growth and three big money-raising ideas: introducing a so-called border-adjustment tax proposal, scrapping deductions for business interest and repealing the state and local tax deduction for individuals.

Each of these measures faces sustained attacks from interest groups and fellow Republicans. None is sure to survive in the final bill, and there are no obvious revenue-raising alternatives in reserve.

Adding a border adjustment to the corporate tax-- taxing imports while exempting exports-- drew fierce blowback from retailers and Koch Industries Inc., the conglomerate run by billionaires influential in GOP politics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week the border-adjustment tax plan probably couldn't pass the Senate.

The same could be true for repealing the business interest deduction, an idea opposed by debt-dependent industries such as real estate, private equity and agriculture. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said this week that the proposal would face an uphill fight in a Senate sensitive to rural interests. He is exploring a cap instead.

The House plan to repeal the individual deduction for state and local taxes has buy-in from the White House. But many House Republicans are objecting and there are enough of them to block the plan.

Such forces would have slowed the GOP tax plan under the best possible circumstances.

"Tax reformers may have to lower their ambitions," J.P. Morgan Chase economist Michael Feroli wrote this week. "Absent a backup plan, the slow demise of Ryan's Better Way program is revealing the tough road ahead to getting anything big done on corporate tax reform."

...Republicans plan to pursue tax legislation after passing a health-care overhaul. While the House has passed a health bill, the Senate is just starting on its version.

Lawmakers also can't complete the tax bill until they adopt a budget, a process that will force them to confront deep divisions within the GOP over spending priorities and deficits.

The Russia investigations-- and related probes into Mr. Trump's campaign and his firing of FBI Director James Comey-- could bog down a tax bill as well. The more time and political capital Republicans spend on Russia, the less they have for tax policy.

"Raising an umbrella in a light rain might keep you dry and not impede your travels," said Sage Eastman, a former GOP Ways and Means aide. "But in a full-fledged tropical storm-- well-- you're going to get a little wet."


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Will Their Dogged Opposition To Health Care Catch Up With Republicans In 2018?

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Earlier today we looked at the need for Democratic candidates to talk with voters more about the issues voters are most concerned with and less about what a walking freak show Trump is. Trump and Putin-Gate may be lots of fun to watch and discuss with friends and colleagues but Americans are going to decide whether or not to vote in the 2018 midterms based, at least in part, whether or not Democrats are offering sound, realistic alternatives to the issues they themselves are most concerned about. And there's nothing that trumps healthcare policy and the way Paul Ryan, Tom Price, Mike Pence and the Republican Party have botched that up.

In his column in Sunday's L.A. Times Michael Hilzik got into the reasons why the entire healthcare industry is panicking that Trump is about to blow up Obamacare. It's no coincidence that the photo The Times led with was of Trump and Ryan. "Action being contemplated by Trump," wrote Hilzik, "could lead to millions of Americans suddenly moving 'to the ranks of the uninsured,' a coalition of healthcare groups wrote in a letter to Senate Republican and Democratic leaders. 'This threatens not just their own health and financial stability, but also the economic stability of their communities.'... The industry leaders and states are reacting to signs that Trump is a thin reed to rely on to preserve health coverage for millions. 'The President has increasingly made clear that he views decisions about providing access to health insurance...as little more than political bargaining chips,' the states say in the motion to the appeals court." The healthcare industry and attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia are taking the Regime to court.
The issue before the court is a dangerous one for the Affordable Care Act and some 10 million Americans who depend on its individual exchanges for their health coverage. At the center of the case are the act’s cost-sharing reductions-- subsidies covering deductibles and co-pays for individual buyers with income less than 250% of the federal poverty line.

The subsidies this year come to $7 billion, to be paid to insurers covering 7 million customers. The subsidies are authorized under the healthcare act, but House Republicans filed a lawsuit in 2014 asserting that because the money hadn’t been specifically appropriated, paying the money is illegal. They won the first round in U.S. District Court last year, but the judge stayed her ruling pending an appeals court decision.

Ending the cost-sharing reductions would destroy the individual insurance market in many states, where insurers have the legal right to cancel policies immediately if the CSRs aren’t paid.

That’s where matters stand. Since his inauguration, Trump has dithered over whether to pay out the subsidies and continue fighting for them in court. On occasion, he’s threatened to kill the payments as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to negotiate an Obamacare repeal.

On Tuesday, according to Politico, Trump told aides he wants to end the subsidies. And as my colleague Noam Levey reported Thursday, at a recent meeting, Trump’s new Medicaid and Medicare chief, Seema Verna, offered a bargain to stunned industry officials: The administration would fund the cost-sharing reductions if insurers supported House Republicans’ hugely unpopular bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

These alarming signals prompted the flurry of letters and pleas filed Friday by insurers and state officials. The industry letter was signed by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry lobbying group; the American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Benefits Council; the American Hospital Assn.; the American Medical Assn.; the Blue Cross Blue Shield Assn., the Federation of American Hospitals and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They called uncertainty about cost-sharing reductions “the single most destabilizing factor causing double-digit premium increases for 2018.” Insurers must file preliminary rate requests in many states by June 21, which means they’re pondering right now whether to participate in the market next year.

The consequences of a blowup are dire, they warned. Not only will millions lose their coverage, but doctors, hospitals and employers will face higher healthcare costs. Taxpayers will pay billions in extra costs, they wrote, because higher premiums will mean higher tax subsidies for eligible buyers. And for more than 2 million Americans in the individual market who earn too much to receive subsidies, higher premiums could make coverage unaffordable.

The organizations place the responsibility squarely on the lawmakers: “At this point, only Congressional action can help consumers.” That’s because the CSR issue would be rendered moot by a simple fix of a few lines enacted by Congress, authorizing the payments.

Oncologist Jason Westin, the Democrat mostly likely to face Houston anti-health care Republican John Culberson in 2018, was interviewed by The Atlantic recently. He told them that "This is personal for me. All of my patients have pre-existing conditions and I can’t do anything in my current role to fight back for them. I’ve had a lot of patients who have problems with insurance. They’re doing well in clinical trials of life-saving drugs, but their access is now threatened. This isn’t a political football. This is going to hurt real people."

The Atlantic continues that Westin "is perplexed by the Republican physicians who have voted for the AHCA. 'The Hippocratic oath I took said: First, do no harm,' he says. 'How could someone else who took that same oath look at the same bill and support it? I don't know... [TX-7] is a highly educated area, with a major medical center. It’s ripe for someone with a background in science and medicine to speak on political issues with authority.'"

Anyone who has followed this for any length of time knows that it's the Republican Party-- as a matter of dogma-- that opposes government efforts to define health care as part of what society in general (through government) owes the citizens. Conservatives have fought a dogged battle against Social Security, against Medicare, against Medicaid and, most recently, against the Affordable Care Act. This is horrific and it speaks for itself in terms of what the GOP as a party has been doing in their war against working families:


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