Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Trump acts on Obamacare

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

President Trump, frustrated with Congress’ failure to repeal Obamacare, has begun to take unilateral action to reintroduce market forces into the health insurance market and pick at the pillars of Obamacare. His actions are a great first step.

Before getting into the specifics of Trump’s actions, we must note that the continued concentration of power in the presidency is abhorrent and an existential threat to liberty. That concentration has been progressing for decades, but greatly accelerated during the President Obama’s terms. Whereby Obama bragged about governing with a “phone and a pen,” Trump is exercising that same arbitrary authority. And while Trump’s most recent orders are good policy, the same power can and will be used for bad policy and worse. The fact remains that so much arbitrary power — the power over the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans and trillions of dollars — should never be concentrated in the pen of one person.

Obama used that arbitrary authority to implement Obamacare and make changes to our health care insurance market — sometimes in ways not legal. Trump is using that same arbitrary authority to make different changes to our health care insurance market.

Trump’s first executive order was a series of directives to various cabinet agencies and tweaks to find ways to allow more health insurance options and more flexibility in the health insurance market. The first directive was to the Labor Department to find ways to allow small businesses and individuals to collectively buy insurance through association health plans.

Allowing small businesses and individuals to group together — particularly if they are allowed to do so across state lines — would allow them to gain more purchasing power, better rates and in some circumstances, alleviate them of many of Obamacare’s regulations by shifting their plans under federal regulation instead of state regulations.

The second thing Trump’s order did was to allow people to buy more kinds of short-term health insurance plans. Obama limited these plans to 90 days, but allowing people to by plans for up to a year provides much more flexibility to people between jobs or open enrollment periods.

The third thing Trump’s order did was allow employers more ways to give employees tax-free money to pay for health care expenses elsewhere. In the past, some employers that did not provide health insurance could instead give their employees money to buy insurance on the individual market through a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). Obamacare forbade this accommodation and Trump’s order allows it again.

These series of changes are all positive and allow for more flexibility and competition in the health insurance market. It was Trump’s second action, however, that really undercut Obamacare. When the Obamacare law was written, the lawmakers knew that it would dramatically increase the cost of health care insurance. It sought to address that by shifting costs to the taxpayers in two primary ways. The first way was to give subsidies to people buying Obamacare policies if they couldn’t afford it through a tax credit.

The second way was to mandate that the insurance companies providing Obamacare policies cut what they charge health care providers — even if those cuts results in a loss to the insurance company. This was done with the understanding that the taxpayers would pick up the losses of the health insurance companies, but the Obamacare law never appropriated any money for such subsidies. Lawmakers at the time were justifiably fearful of being accused of subsidizing the profits of big health insurance companies, so they did not appropriate the money. President Obama picked up the ball and began illegally giving the health insurance companies subsidies to prop up their profits beginning in 2014.

Trump is ending this illegal practice. Ironically, all Trump is doing is following the law as written. The result is that the insurance companies are still required by law to keep their billings lower — sometimes below costs — but they will not get a check from the taxpayers to cover those losses. They will be forced to either pass those costs on to policy holders through massive premium increases, or exit the Obamacare exchanges. The structural flaws of Obamacare will no longer be covered up with billions of taxpayer dollars illegally funneled to insurance companies.

Obamacare has already failed America. Trump is just trying to mitigate and hopefully reverse some of the damage.

Trump Links Border Wall to DACA

Good.

The White House has tied any new deal on young undocumented immigrants to a clampdown on illegal immigration, including a border wall with Mexico.

US President Donald Trump is asking for funding for the wall, speedier deportations and the hiring of thousands of new immigration officials.

Last month he ended the Obama-era “Dreamer” programme which had protected some 690,000 immigrants.

Leading Democrats in Congress have rejected the latest proposals.

They accused Mr Trump of backtracking on a commitment not to include the border wall in negotiations over the status of young immigrants, who are mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Goodell Slams Trump

Heh.

(CNN)NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday slammed President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem in remarks the President made at a rally in Alabama Friday night.

Goodell called Trump’s comments “divisive” and said they show a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.
I would argue that the people kneeling during the National Anthem are “divisive” and show a “lack of respect” to this nation and all that it stands for. In fact, I would argue that that is the precisely the intent of the protest.

Trump Speaks at the United Nations

You can read the entire transcript at this link. I highly encourage you to do so. It’s a remarkable speech that defines a new era in American foreign policy – the Trump Doctrine. Most of Trump’s positions, if not the manner in which he expressed them, would have been perfectly understood and agreed with when the UN was founded. Trump hearkens back to the age of muscular internationalism that American foreign policy rested upon from FDR to Reagan.

I’m a big fan of the Trump Doctrine and think that the president struck the right message and tone in his speech. Welcome back, America.

Trump’s Green Acres

Because everyone should see this.

Hat tip David Mortosko

Trump Spins on DACA

Okay…. so somebody is lying. Given the track record of this crowd, it could be all of them.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump pushed back Thursday morning against claims by top congressional Democrats that a deal has been reached over legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and that a border-security package would not include a wall along the US-Mexico border.

“No deal was made last night on DACA,” Trump tweeted. “Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
Late Wednesday, Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said they had “agreed to enshrine the protections of (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
But Trump also refuted that specific assertion by the Democratic leaders about a border wall, tweeting, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”

Trump Should End DACA

Indeed.

Recent reports suggest that President Trump is torn about what to do about DACA, the de facto amnesty for so-called DREAMers instituted by Barack Obama. We understand the hesitation, since many of the beneficiaries of this amnesty have sympathetic stories, but as a matter of fidelity to our constitutional system and his campaign promises, Trump must end DACA. If we are going to amnesty an entire class of people, it should obviously be done through the democratic process and, in our view, happen only in exchange for reforms to the immigration system.

DACA contravenes the elementary principle that the legislative branch ought to pass laws and the executive branch ought to enforce them. In 2012, after Congress rejected the DREAM Act, President Obama issued the policy by unilateral decree. Under DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — illegal immigrants under the age of 36 can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for deferred status. And while the Obama administration pretended the policy would be implemented via “prosecutorial discretion,” with each case considered individually, in practice, USCIS officials say, any illegal immigrant who appears eligible is granted deferred status — which comes with benefits such as a work permit, a Social Security number, and a driver’s license. More than 750,000 illegal immigrants currently enjoy this functional amnesty.

Trump Announces Afghanistan Policy

I’d rather get in or get out. I’m glad to be moving away from a static policy.

President Donald Trump has said a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave a vacuum for terrorists to fill.

He said his original instinct was to pull US forces out, but had instead decided to stay and “fight to win” – avoiding the mistakes made in Iraq.

He said he wanted to shift from a time-based approach in Afghanistan to one based on conditions on the ground and said he would not set out deadlines.

However, the US president warned it was not a “blank cheque”.

“America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress,” he said.

Mr Trump also warned Pakistan that the US would no longer tolerate the country offering “safe havens” to extremists, saying the country had “much to lose” if it did not side with the Americans.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars – at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said.

He also said the US would seek a stronger partnership with India.

Trump Says Both Sides to Blame in Charlottesville

Yup.

US President Donald Trump has again blamed both sides for the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one protester dead and others injured.

In a statement on Monday, he had condemned white supremacists.

But in New York on Tuesday he also blamed left-wing supporters for charging at the “alt-right”.

He also defended the time it took to make his statement, saying he had wanted to establish all the facts.

Mr Trump had been accused over the weekend of failing to condemn the far right specifically.

Heather Heyer, 32, died and 19 others were hurt when a car was driven into people protesting against a far-right march in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Mr Trump said that the car driver was a disgrace to himself and his country.

The whole response to Charlottesville has been a prime display of the hyper-polarized cultural environment we are currently in. The same people who say that we must take a nuanced view and response of phenomena like Islamist Terrorism or Black Lives Matter, which we must, are enforcing a rigid binary response to Charlottesville. What we are supposed to do, according to the media and the Left, is categorically condemn the white nationalists as the bad guys here and that’s it. Any suggestion of a more complicated story than “racist white Americans caused a riot that killed people” is to be included among those racists.

Trump is trying to present a more comprehensive response to what happened. It appears that we had at least four broad groups at work here. First, we had white nationalist and Nazi bigots. Second, we had Antifa anarchists and communist provocateurs. Third, we had relatively normal people protesting the removal of Confederate statues and purging of Southern history. Fourth, we had relatively normal people protesting the racists white nationalists and Nazis.

Primarily, we had the first and second groups enter into the day with the intention to provoke violence and they succeeded. There’s a lot of fault to go around and it is possible to condemn the Nazis and white nationalists with all possible vigor and still condemn the actions of the Antifa movement which has repeatedly sparked destruction and violence. One does not detract from the other.

The side issues around this are also worth exploring. Were the police properly deployed to keep the competing protests separated? It appears that the driver of the car was on anti-psychotic drugs. We have seen that be related to violence before. Are we properly helping the mentally ill?

Instead of focusing on whether or not Trump sufficiently condemned the white nationalists (he did), wouldn’t it be a more useful exercise to try to understand the undercurrents of our culture that led to what happened in Charlottesville?

AGs Sue Trump

While the suit is clearly grandstanding and another symptom of Democrats trying to overturn an election that they lost, I’m interested in seeing the case progress. The first question I wonder is whether or not these Attorneys General have standing?

The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia plan to sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated the Constitution by accepting foreign money through his business empire, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The attorneys general of Maryland and D.C., both Democrats, have scheduled a news conference for noon ET in Washington.

The suit, to be filed in federal court in Maryland, will allege that Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress, according to the person.

Sessions Offered to Resign?

Yet another story from unnamed sources. Is it true? Who knows. So much of the media has become little more than gossip rags.

As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

Another Oval Office conversation Leaked

Since practically everything Trump allegedly has said to foreigners from the Oval Office has been leaked, one would think that he would have narrowed down the culprit by now. I don’t care how scandalous you think these comments are (and they aren’t), it is unacceptable that people are leaking the president’s Oval Office conversations.

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

Trump Fires Comey

It is pretty funny to watch the political contortionists at work.

President Trump lashed out on Twitter Tuesday, hours after his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and accused Democrats of hypocritical criticism of the abrupt ouster.

The stunning dismissal led to Democrats and even some Republicans to boost the case for an independent prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s investigation into whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Many critics connected the unprecedented firing to Richard Nixon’s administration.

In particular, Trump attacked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said last November of Comey: “I do not have confidence in him any longer.” Schumer is among the Democrats calling for a new independent prosecutor.

It’s pretty safe to say that Director Comey had lost the confidence of pretty much everyone with his bungling of multiple investigations. The only mistake Trump made here was waiting so long to pull the trigger, but I think he was waiting for Sessions to get his feet under him first.

Trump Signs Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty

Great!

The Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty directs the IRS to provide “regulatory relief” to faith-based organisations that are tax-exempt, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday night.

A current provision in the US federal tax code, known as the Johnson Amendment, says that churches can be investigated and lose their tax-exempt status if they directly support or oppose any political candidate.

Since he cannot repeal the law without congressional legislation, Mr Trump is directing the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment”.

Few religious groups are known to have lost their tax status for violating the law, despite many churches openly advocating for political causes and hosting candidates during their campaigns.

“A crippling financial punishment,” Mr Trump said ahead of his signing, adding “very, very unfair. But no longer”.

The order also directs federal agencies to exempt some religious groups from providing birth control to employees and staff, as required under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

I like both parts of this order. For the first part, I have always thought that it was unconstitutional to make a tax break for religious organizations contingent on them saying (or not saying) what the government wants them to say (or not say). Our nation has generally decided to make religious organizations tax exempt because their existence and activities helping society is a positive that we want to encourage. If we no longer think that and want to tax them, then that is a decision our nation can make. But that decision should be based on the merits and not on whether or not some politician approves of the political activities of the religions organization.

Furthermore, as the story indicates, many churches have openly flaunted the Johnson Amendment for years with no consequences. Bill Clinton practically lived at the pulpit of black churches in the south when he was campaigning. So if we’re not going to enforce it for everyone, why have the law at all?

On the second part, this Obamacare rule violates the rights of these organizations to exercise their faith. Good riddance.

It’s good to see some progress this week on pulling back the coercive force of government.

Un’s Cookies

Something about cookies

“People are saying: ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea…. but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.

“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”

Trump is probably right. Un is not unintelligent and received a good education. But his secret to holding power is probably more rooted in his ruthlessness rather than his intellect.

Protests Erupt Over Trump’s Tax Returns

Uh huh… this doesn’t look like astroturf at all. 

Protesters in cities across the country came out Saturday to call on President Trump to release his tax returns.
Demonstrators came out in large numbers in about 200 other cities, including a few outside the U.S., according to organizers.

Images of tax protesters in cities including Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and New York flooded social media.

Trump has said that Americans “don’t care at all” about his tax returns, but polls show 74% of Americans say he should release them.

I’d like to see his tax returns too, but I’m far more interested in his policies and how he executing his office. I think the American people made it pretty clear that they don’t care too much about this when they elected him. But the lefty power brokers sure love to rile up their base over this.

Trump Indulges in Waffles

Actually, “waffle” isn’t the right word… these are complete flip flops.

US President Donald Trump has said Nato is “no longer obsolete”, reversing a stance that had alarmed allies.

Hosting Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House, Mr Trump said the threat of terrorism had underlined the alliance’s importance.

He called on Nato to do more to help Iraqi and Afghan “partners”.

Mr Trump has repeatedly questioned Nato’s purpose, while complaining that the US pays an unfair share of membership.

The Nato U-turn wasn’t Mr Trump’s only change of heart on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said he would not label China a currency manipulator, despite having repeatedly pledged to do so on his first day in office.

He was right the first time on both counts. China is a currency manipulator. And NATO is obsolete in its current form. It was designed to counter a single threat that no longer exists.

Donald Trump’s Taxes

I just don’t care. If he did anything illegal, I would hope that officials at the IRS and Justice Department would have prosecuted him. If he didn’t, then I just. don’t. care. It has zero bearing on my life. But I do love how Trump trolled the media once again. They jumped on this leak, which I’m willing to bet came from Trump himself, and made themselves look like fools. Now he’s effectively taken the story line away from them.

US President Donald Trump paid $38m (£31m) in tax on more than $150m (£123m) income in 2005, a leaked partial tax return shows.

The two pages of tax return, revealed by US TV network MSNBC, also showed he wrote off $103m in losses. It gave no details on income sources.

The White House said publishing the tax return was against the law.

Mr Trump refused to release his tax returns during the election campaign, breaking with a long-held tradition.

Trump Making Progress

The wins keep coming. I could get used to this.

EPA cuts may be deeper than previously reported

Michelle Obama’s healthy school lunch program in jeopardy?

White House demands deep cuts to State, UN funds

Trump is expected to announce a rollback of auto emission and fuel-economy regulations

Germany Rebuffs NATO Committments

Germany is refusing to meet its commitments to NATO and the U.S. by failing to invest in its own defense. This sets up some interesting decisions for Trump.

The world’s fourth-largest economy spent $37 billion — 1.2% of its economic output — on defense last year, according to government figures. That is far short of the 2% set by NATO and a third of the 3.6% of gross domestic product that the United States spent in 2016, according to NATO figures.

That shortfall by Germany and other NATO countries is why Trump renewed his call in a speech to Congress on Feb. 28 for NATO members to pay their fair share of defense costs. “Our partners must meet their financial obligations,” Trump said. “Now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that. In fact, I can tell you that the money is pouring in.”

That’s not quite the case in the German capital. The federal government plans to increase its military spending by $2.1 billion this year. It would bring total spending to $39 billion, a 5.4% annual boost. The increase pales in comparison with the 10%, or $54 billion, hike in U.S. defense spending Trump proposes for 2018.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, recently announced plans to add 20,000 soldiers to the Bundeswehr to bring the force to nearly 200,000 but not before 2024, and the increase merely offsets recent cuts in troop strength.

Here’s the thing… the United States has invested billions of dollars for the past 80 years to provide a military defense for Europe and Europe has benefited from that by being able to spend their money on rebuilding their economies and infrastructures after WWII. But while there were some altruistic motivations for that, the real reason was that it was in the best interests of the U.S. to do so. The macropolitical reasons were that if Russia were to ever bulge out of its borders in a quest for world domination, it will most likely have to go through Europe before getting to America. American leaders invested in European defense because we would rather fight the Russians on the continent of Europe and let them exhaust their energy on that soil than let them do so on the shores of New Jersey.

While the Russian threat has ebbed in recent decades, we are right of the precipice of a new Angry Bear with the face of Putin. He has already invaded Ukraine, created a virtual satellite state in Syria, and is threatening Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries. One would think that European nations would see the threat and act accordingly, but the memories of WWII and the abject pacifism remains a powerful cultural phenomenon.

So what should the U.S. do? If we withdraw from Europe and leave them to themselves, the threat of war increases. And in the event that another European war breaks out, it is inevitable that the U.S. will become involved. Or, in another scenario, Germany’s inability to defend themselves with conventional forces may lead them to launch a nuclear defense in the face of a Russian assault, thus starting the nuclear war that we have spent 80 years trying to prevent. But if we continue to defend Europe with American forces, we are expending a lot of money to prevent an eventuality that may never come.  How much American money should we spend to defend countries who refuse to adequately defend themselves?

What will the Trump Doctrine be?