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November 22, 2017

Tales From the Book of Moron


Perhaps I should say Fucking Moron, as a certain Secretary of State is alleged to have called President Shit-for-Brains. You say tomato, I say tomahto. Either way, it’s the same thing.

The shenanigans of this would-be dictator during his first nine months in office have been, by far, the most embarrassing period in our nation’s history. And that’s saying something considering that over the last two centuries we confiscated millions of acres of land from the indigenous population, fought a Civil War to free millions of African Americans from slavery only to subject them to decades of segregation under Jim Crow, interred Japanese Americans in camps during World War II, got involved in a land war in Southeast Asia in which we killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, endured the assassinations of a sitting president, a potential future president and the most transformative spiritual figure since Gandhi in the span of five years, saw a corrupt president forced to resign from office to avoid impeachment, and witnessed an unholy alliance between conservative Christians and a major political party.

To beat out those “illustrious” moments would be quite a fait ac·com·pli for anyone. And yet, in just the last 48 hours, Donald Trump has outdone even himself.  He signed two executive orders aimed at decapitating the Affordable Care Act, and then he announced he would not be certifying the Iran deal. Let’s look at the executive orders first.

Executive order one allows for younger, healthier people to purchase health insurance with far less benefits at considerably cheaper rates. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. As Jake Novak writes, one of Obamacare’s biggest flaws was the belief by the Administration that if these cheaper plans were eliminated, young people would naturally sign up for the more comprehensive (e.g., expensive) plans. As it turns out, that didn’t happen, at least not to the extent that the law’s supporters were hoping for.

Trump’s order would ostensibly reinstate those plans, thus allowing for potentially millions of people to gain access to affordable insurance. However, fixing one problem will create another, far worse one. Like it or not, it was those very same young, healthy people that helped defer the costs of the older, sicker ones. As Novak adroitly points out, “the sickest 5 percent of Americans are responsible for 50 percent of our annual healthcare spending.” Giving this segment of the population an escape plan will eventually “destroy what’s left of the private insurance market.” When that happens, millions will be unable to afford to buy insurance.

As if that executive order wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s next one removed all doubt about what his intentions were. He decided to end all subsidies to healthcare providers as compensation for covering people with pre-existing conditions and no lifetime caps. His rationale – if you could use a word like that with Trump – was that these payments weren’t necessary; they were just increasing the industry’s bottom line. That simply isn’t true. These subsidies were a vital cog in the law; without them, not only would people with pre-existing conditions have to pay more for insurance, but even those without such issues would see higher costs.

The irony here is that eliminating the subsidies will not affect those who qualify for discounts under the exchanges. They continue to get those reduced rates. The people who will be affected are those who are more than 400 percent above the poverty line and who buy their insurance through the private market providers. They will be required to make up for the loss of those government  subsidies, to the tune of, in some cases, a 20 percent hike in their rates. There’s also the very real possibility that if these providers cannot make up the difference through the individual plans, they may be forced to raise their rates on employer-insurance plans. In other words, tens of millions of people would see their rates go up as a result of this executive order. How’s that for spite?

As we speak, dozens of states are planning on filing a lawsuit to overturn Trump’s second executive order. However, the prognosis looks bleak. You’ll recall it was a federal court that initially ruled that the subsides were unconstitutional in the first place. The payments continued to be made pending an appeal by the Obama Administration. With Trump’s order, the appeal is rendered academic, thus the lower court ruling will stand. A plaintiff would first have to sue to reverse the lower court decision; then, assuming it won, sue to compel the new administration to resume paying the subsidies. I’m not a lawyer, and even I know that would be a herculean task.

But as cruel as Trump’s executive orders on Obamacare were, his decision to not certify the Iran deal could be the dumbest move of his presidency, which is quite a statement given that only a few months ago he decided to pull out of the Paris-Climate Accord, another Obama legacy initiative. Sensing a pattern here, are we?

I didn’t think it possible that Iran could ever hold the moral high ground in any dispute with the United States, but Doctor Fuckenstein allowed them to claim it by threatening not to honor the terms of the deal. And make no mistake about it, if we pull out of this deal – in other words, if we violate the terms of the pact – we will do so on our own. There is zero chance that Iran will agree to go back to the bargaining table, and even less than zero chance that the other nations which signed the deal would want to negotiate a new one. Even Congressional opponents of the deal from both parties have conceded that we are stuck with it.

Try telling that to Trump. He has given Congress just two months to come up with a deal he can live with – which I suppose means a deal where he gets everything he wants and everyone else gets bupkis – or else he will scrap it altogether. Given that any bill to amend the deal would require 60 votes in the Senate, that means Donnie boy will be disappointed. My God, this is the sort of behavior one expects out of toddlers; not a sitting president. Unfortunately for us, this is standard operating procedure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days.

We have in Donald Trump, a man who is uninformed and unwilling to learn. Indeed, he shows contempt for anyone or anything that challenges his preconceived notions. Only a few days ago, in a continuing feud with Rex Tillerson over how to handle North Korea, he said “I have a little bit different attitude than other people might have, but, ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn’t it?”

Sadly, in this instance, Trump is right, insofar as the Constitution is concerned. No matter what the adults in the room may want, in the end this man child of a president still has authority to start World War III if he feels like it. And that makes him the single greatest threat to humanity since the bubonic plague.

Come to think of it, calling Trump a fucking moron is a compliment when you consider all the alternatives.

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Peter Fegan

Peter Fegan

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