Friday, January 31, 2020
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
To help save the economy, the Government will announce next month that the Immigration Department will start deporting seniors (instead of illegal's) in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. Older people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home.
Be sure to send this notice to your relatives and friends, so they will know what happened to you.
I started to cry when I thought of you. Then it dawned on me; I'll see you on the bus.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
"I 'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count."
Those words were bellowed by John Bolton in a Tallahassee library in December of 2000, when he was part of a team of Republican lawyers trying to stop the Florida recount of votes cast in the Bush-Gore race. Until now, it was the most famous utterance President Trump's former national security advisor had ever made. That's about to change with the looming publication of his book, due out in March, about serving in the Trump administration. It's even vaguely possible he could make an appearance in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump this week.
Still it's worth considering the irony of Bolton's earlier words. The Bush vs. Gore Florida recount wasn't the beginning of our divided times, but it was a major inflection point. It pushed the internal combustion engine of partisanship into a higher gear, and we've never really revved back down. And at this point, Bolton is in the strange position of not fitting comfortably on either side of the partisan divide.
The gist of Bolton's story is that the president's story is not true. According to an account of the book's contents reported in the New York Times, Bolton says he heard Trump say he was withholding aid to the Ukrainians pending an investigation into Biden and other Democrats. (One wonders who these other Democrats were.) The N.Y. Times story says the book also contradicts statements about who knew what and when inside the administration, no doubt causing heartburn for White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Atty. Gen. William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, off-book fixer Rudy Giuliani and, of course, all of the GOP senators determined to avoid hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial.
The response from Trump World is predictable. Bolton is a disgruntled liar, bitter over being fired and desperate to sell books. I have no doubt Bolton — a former colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute — is disgruntled. I'm also sure he very much wants to sell books. But I don't buy the lying part.
Bolton may be many of the things his detractors claim, but he is also an incredibly adept lawyer and bureaucratic infighter. On different occasions when National Security Council staffers Fiona Hill and Tim Morrison were dismayed by what the president was up to with Ukraine, his advice was to "tell the lawyers" (in Morrison's words). When Hill told Bolton that she'd heard Gordon Sondland — Trump's EU ambassador and administration point person on the Ukrainian scheme — tell the Ukrainians that he and Mulvaney would arrange a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into Biden, Bolton replied, "You go and tell [NSC Counsel John Eisenberg] that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go and tell him what you've heard and what I've said."
The notion that Bolton, a legendary note-taker, would volunteer to testify — if subpoenaed — only to perjure himself is absurd. That he would make false allegations in a book without contemporaneous corroboration of some kind seems far-fetched, as well. There's only one way to know, though: Have Bolton tell his version under oath.
As of this writing, the ink on the official "Destroy Bolton" narrative hasn't dried yet, but an early contender is the charge that this is all just a replay of the tactics Democrats used to try to derail Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. A popular claim on the right for weeks, it's in full bloom now. In a tweet promoting his new podcast, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said, "Last week we had Lev Parnas on Maddow & 'secret tapes'; this week, the 'Bolton revelations.' It's the same approach Dems & media followed during the Kavanaugh hearing."
Except it's not at all. The only thing similar about the two controversies is that new allegations kept inconveniencing politicians who wanted to move on. By that standard nearly every unfolding Washington scandal is like the Kavanaugh hearings.
Putting aside the hilarity of John "Stop the Count" Bolton being a willing pawn of the Democrats, there were no recorded telephone calls in the Kavanaugh case confirming elements of the charges against him. None of the accusations against Kavanaugh had anything like the sort of corroboration and material evidence already in the public record in the impeachment case. And Trump's former national security advisor isn't relying on a decades-old unverifiable recollection, but events from a few months ago.
But the biggest difference between how the Senate handled the Kavanaugh smear campaign and how it's handling the impeachment case is this: With Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans bent over backward to hear from witnesses; with Trump, they've gone into a defensive crouch to avoid it. And that may not be enough any longer.
Monday, January 27, 2020
Friday, January 24, 2020
With his penchant for saying the quiet parts out loud and assuming no one is paying attention, President Trump on Wednesday opened the door to cutting Social Security and Medicare later this year.
The word came at the very end of an interview conducted by Joe Kernen of CNBC, in connection with Trump's appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here's how it unfolded, according to the tape and transcript from CNBC:
"KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?
"PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We're going to have tremendous growth. This next year I — it'll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that's actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it's such a —"
Trump then wandered off into a string of false and incoherent claims about the economy. "We've never had growth like this," he said, even though economic growth during Trump's term is nowhere near a record pace.
What's important is that Trump appears to be falling into lockstep with the more general Republican position that closing the federal deficit requires cutting back on Social Security, Medicare and other social safety net programs. Never mind that the deficit was opened into a gaping maw by the tax cut Trump signed in December 2017, which went mostly to corporations and the wealthy, the effect of which goosed economic growth for a short period but has faded.
Other commentators have underscored the conflict between Trump's appearing open to tampering with Social Security and Medicare, and his promise during the last presidential campaign to leave those programs alone.
"Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security," he said in one appearance. "They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."
Just before election day 2016, he claimed: "Hillary Clinton is going to destroy your Social Security and Medicare. … I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare."
Cutting benefits has been part of Republican orthodoxy for decades, but the drumbeat has gotten louder. In September, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) talked about the need to go "behind closed doors" to reform Social Security, because it's clear that the American public won't stand for it being done in the open. A year earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — so-called entitlements — "the real drivers of the debt" and called for them to be adjusted "to the demographics of the future."
It's worth noting that proposals to cut social insurance benefits are certain to be dead on arrival as long as Democrats control at least one chamber of Congress, as they do currently. Indeed, the Democratic Party, through its representatives in Congress and its candidates for president, has shown itself to be strongly in favor of expanding and increasing Social Security benefits, not cutting them back.
Trump still can do a lot of damage to these programs by starving their administrative budgets or tinkering with administrative rules, as he's proposed to do with Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance.
As I've reported before, Trump's cavalier approach to these programs isn't really a secret.
His proposed 2020 budget would have pared as much as $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, partially by repealing the Medicaid expansion enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and partially by converting the program to a block grant to states — a system that destroys the program's ability to match funding with costs and results in a massive shortfall over time.
Trump's budget would gut the nation's disability programs by $84 billion. At least $10 billion of that would come from Social Security disability through changes in eligibility rules. An additional $400 million would come out of the Social Security Administration's administrative budget, which is already strapped for cash, in the next year alone. Beneficiaries could expect more busy signals on the phone lines and longer waits at Social Security offices.
In October, Trump signed an executive order bristling with stealth attacks on Medicare. Buried within the order was a provision that would destroy Medicare by driving its costs to an unsustainable level. He also proposed to turn more of the program over to commercial insurers. As I wrote then, "Put simply, he's proposing to privatize Medicare."
Again, all this has been hiding in plain sight. Trump's latest remarks have gotten a lot of attention, because they appear to be so blunt. But the danger the Trump administration poses to programs that protect America's most vulnerable populations has been evident almost from the first.
Friday, January 17, 2020
'You're a bunch of dopes and babies': Inside Trump's stunning tirade against generals