Saturday, March 18, 2017

Besides lying, does Trump also spill classified info?

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" evening news show, went after President Trump's pervasive lying and specifically his creating such national concern with his completely unsubstantiated claim that Obama had "tapped my wires" before the election.

Despite repeated questions from the media, the president has given not one shred of evidence for this extraordinary charge.  The Chairs and Ranking Members of both the House and the Senate Committees on Intelligence, who are investigating, have put out statements saying that there is no evidence of any such surveillance of Trump Tower.  FBI Director James Comey and James Clapper, who was Director of National Intelligence during the time in question, have both said there was no wire tap of Trump Tower.

Here's how Matthews ended his program:

" . . . This whole thing about President Obama wiretapping Trump is nothing but trumped up nonsense. . .  The man in the White House is demonstrably capable of making up claims that have no reality.  He's no better than the weirdo in the basement who calls in the fire alarm just to hear the sirens go past."

But there's an even greater problem.  This man we call president seems either unable, or not to care, about preserving classified information.   In his interview by Tucker Carlson on FoxNews on Thursday night, he referred to the CIA having been hacked.   From the transcript of that interview:

TRUMP:  "And by the way, with the CIA, I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken -- that was during the Obama years.   That was not during us.  That was during the Obama situation.  Mike Pompeo is there now doing a fantastic job."

If this is true, that the CIA was hacked, it is -- or was -- a highly classified secret.  The CIA has never said that it was hacked.  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee, said that:  "POTUS appears to have discussed something that, if true & accurate, would be classified.  Had it been anyone else, he would call it a "leak."

The president has the power to declassify anything, just by saying it in public.   So, if it's true that the CIA was hacked, it is no longer classified.   It's unfortunate that, with Trump, we have this rule.   Usually the decision to declassify something like this is a matter of consultation with intelligence agencies, high level discussion, and informed decision making.  We can't expect that Trump will do that.   We have given this man enormous power, and he is not capable of exercising wise judgment in using that power.   The risk is just as much due to his screwing up as to any evil agenda or dark conspiracy (although those may operate as well, given some of the people in his inner circle.)

So, here's a ridiculous question that comes to mind in this most absurd situation:   Is it better to have a president whose word cannot be assumed to be true, so that, when he spills classified information, our enemies won't know whether it's true or not?

That's what we've come to.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Did Trump leak his own tax return?

Is Trump the leaker?   Well, of course he is.  I have no direct proof, but here are some facts that lead to this being the most likely explanation.

1.  The two page Form 1040 is stamped "Client Copy."    This means that it did not come from the IRS copy,  It had to come from the Trump family or their lawyers and tax preparers.

2.  The leaked copy was for the year 2005 .  Why?   It was a very good year for Trump.   He made a lot of money and paid a lot of taxes, unlike what we suspect from some other years.   So, if he was going to choose one year to leak, this would be it.   If you were a hostile leaker, wouldn't you choose one in which he looked bad, not good?

3.  A reason for him to have "played by the rules" in 2005 is that it was the year he and Melania married.  She was going to apply for citizenship in 2006, which requires a copy of your last 3 years' tax returns.  For Melania in 2006, that would be her individual returns for 2003 and 2004 and their joint return for 2005.  So this was the one of Donald's that was going to be scrutinized.

4.  A frequent Trump tactic in public image management is distracting from a disaster by releasing something else to dominate the news.   On the day this was leaked, there was the fallout from the CBO health plan analysis and the escalating story about Russian connections.   And on tap were the start of the new immigration ban 2 days later and the release of the draconian budget cuts 3 days later.

It's all circumstantial.   But I would bet on the leak coming from Trump's own camp.


Canadian PM picks up the ball that Trump dropped

This was reported by Erin Schumaker on Huffington Post last week:

Even before he was inaugurated, President-Elect DJT stated that he would reinstate the " global gag rule," which prohibits organizations receiving U.S. federal aid from performing abortions or even from giving out information about abortions.   If they violate the rule, they can lose the U.S. aid, which cumulatively amounts to $600 million over a four year period.   The global gag shifts back and forth, depending on which U.S. political party is in power.

The Marie Stopes International abortion-providing organization estimates that, without U.S. aid, there would be 6.5 million unwanted pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, and 21,700 deaths over four years.

This is the context in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that Canada will contribute $650 million over the next three years for women's reproductive health services and for sex education around the world.   This plan will also address gender-based violence, genital mutilation and forced marriage, as well as providing safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care.

Other countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Cape Verde, have also made pledges to support these groups.

This is good for other countries to pick up the support of global health;  but it would have been so much better for them to be joining us in a humanitarian cause rather than making up for our abandoning the cause.   It's one more example of Trump abandoning our role as moral world leader.

The idea that reducing abortion access reduces abortions has proved itself wrong, again and again.   Studies by international women's health groups have shown that, when safe abortions are banned, women have unsafe abortions, often resulting in severe infections and sometimes death.

As an intern in a big city, charity hospital back in the late 1950s when abortion was illegal, before Roe v Wade, I saw these tragic cases coming in to the emergency room following unsafe abortions.   Massive, often-lethal infections, damaged reproductive systems that might never bear children again, and medical help always delayed too long because of the shame and the illegality of these back-room, unsterile abortions -- but sought by women desperate enough to take the risk.

What sane, humanitarian person would choose a policy to send us back to that?   Only two things have the clout to make that happen:   religion and politics.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Just a few of yesterday's headlines in the news

"Trumpcare Circles the Drain!"  "House Republicans Ready to Settle for 'Win' That Never Becomes Law."   "Senators Worry It's Too Stingy.  Hardliners Worry It's Not Extreme Enough."  "Lindsey Graham:  It's 'Mortally Wounded.'"

"Trump Ally:  President Was Likely Wrong on Obama Wiretapping Claim."  "Intel chairman sees no evidence of Trump Tower Wiretap."

"More Than 50 Tech Companies Challenge Trump's New Travel Ban."  "Travel Ban Trumped Again:   Federal Court in Hawaii Blocks New Travel Ban."

"Journalist Who Received President's Tax Return Questions If Trump Leaked It Himself."

"Senator Says Comey Will Confirm or Deny FBI Probe on Trump-Russia Ties."

"Defense Secretary Mattis Breaks With Other Cabinet Members on Climate Change."  "As (EPA Director) Scott Pruitt Denies Climate Science, Atmospheric CO2 Rises At Record Rate"

"Anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim Geert Wilders is surprise loser in Dutch Prime Minister election."   "A set-back for the hard-right, nationalist movement."

*   *   *
 With one possible exception, which depends on Comey's answer on the FBI probe, all of these news stories are bad news for Donald Trump.   And, folks, this is all in one day's news.


The CBO blew a hole in any unity the Republicans had left

Look at the widely differing reactions among leading Republicans to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of Paul Ryan's American Health Care Act (AHCA).    As shorthand, I will focus this just on the estimate of how many will be without health insurance as a result, compared to a continuation of the ACA (Obamacare).

1.   House Speaker Paul Ryan, chief author and sponsor of the AHCA, is jubilant and all smiles that the number is so high -- 24 million -- because, to his Ayn Rand brain, these are 24 million people who exercised their free choice not to have the a dictatorial government force them to be insured.

2.   Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price says the numbers are just wrong, because the CBO did not consider Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the plan.   He still insists that no one will lose anything they want to keep, it won't cost anyone any more, and there will be pie in the sky.

3.   The White House did it's own estimate and came up with 26 million, actually 2 million more than the CBO said would lose coverage.   So this seems to have quieted talk from the president's surrogates that blasted the CBO as "so wrong."   And Breitbart News has taken up this position and is blasting the Ryan plan, which DJT still nominally supports.   This is Trump trying to have it both ways.

4.   Republicans in the House are all over the place, for differing reasons.  Some want to go ahead and force a vote, even knowing it won't pass the Senate.   Then they can claim they did what they promised (repeal Obamacare), which will satisfy some constituents.   And maybe those who wanted to keep their insurance will have forgotten by the elections next year.

5.  The far right conservatives (Tea Party) say it goes too far, still, in that it is a government give-away program.   The moderates say it is too stingy and will leave millions uninsured.

6.  The Senate has a tougher road, in that it will take a No vote from only three Republicans to defeat it .   Latest count shows 10 of them oppose it in its current form.

7.  It's also awkward for Rep. Price to blame the CBO for getting the numbers wrong, since he was instrumental in the appointment of the new head of the CBO.

So we have some Republicans bucking it because it doesn't do enough for people;   some Republicans hating it because it does too much;  and now the most fact-free, fake-news Breitbart News puts out its own facts on this bill -- and reports that "It's even worse than the CBO says it is."

Now, perhaps we understand why this is the only thing that Trump has the slightest smidgen of connection to that he doesn't want his name on.   A few journalists are calling it "Trumpcare," but the president himself has not used that word.  And now, while giving lip service to passing it, he's busy backing away and planning to put the blame for its defeat on Paul Ryan.

So, Fearless Leader, whatcha gonna do now?    Let me guess.    Make up some outrageous distraction that will capture the news cycle.   What about "Obama had my phones tapped?"  Nope, already used that one.   What about leaking some tax returns?  Did that on Tuesday.  Didn't work.  Quick.   Think of something else.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A critical look at Paul Ryan and his health care plan.

It's slowly dawning on those paying attention that Paul Ryan approaches his job of crafting legislation with the cold heart of an Ayn Rand devote -- it's all determined by the market, where winners win and losers lose.   In the past, Ryan openly talked about how much he had studied Rand's work, read her books, and believed in her philosophy.    Until, that is, someone pointed out that Ayn Rand was not only an atheist herself, but actively promoted atheism as a desirable ideology.

So then Ryan backed away, muttering that he didn't agree with all of Rand's ideas and, maybe  he wouldn't even follow her free market society quite so enthusiastically.

Nevertheless, we can see where his true self still is.    Just observe his excitement, his energy, his constant smiling as he talks about this health care bill.   He's practically giddy at the prospect of gutting all the regulatory aspects.    All people "will have access," but no one will be forced to purchase health insurance.

To Ryan, it's all about an abstract ideal;  it's not about helping people.   For him to call the CBO analysis "positive" and a sign of success that millions fewer will have insurance, is bizarre.  I understand, to him, it's a success because it does not force anyone to buy insurance;  and maybe he believes his spin about "equal access" and free choice to buy insurance (that a majority can't afford).

For me, calling this disastrous CBO analysis a success is like saying the operation was a success but the patient died.    "But, hey, don't feel bad about your husband's death, Mrs. Jones.    The operation worked, just like we said it would.   So we're chalking this one up as a success."


The United States' "Grifter-in-Chief"

The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought it important enough to put in a specific clause, the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from receiving cash or gifts from foreign persons or governments.    That's actually written into our founding document, which on most things does not go into such detail.

With DJT in office less than 60 days, that little clause has already been the subject of great consternation.   Because our "Grifter-in-Chief" [grifter = con man] refuses to divest himself from ownership in his businesses, questions naturally arise as to potential conflicts of interest.

Will presidential decisions be made for the good of the American people or for personal profit?   Will foreign governments patronize his businesses in order to gain favor in governmental decisions?    Could financial interests be used as pressure, even blackmail, to gain favor in contracts or in more serious decisions affecting our national security?   What does Trump owe to Russians that could be used as pressure on him to grant favor to Putin? 

The argument against divestment takes note of the nature of DJT's businesses, much of the which, in recent years, is not something concrete that could be sold or put into a blind trust.   Much of the income comes from licensing the brand name to put on hotels and office buildings or products around the world.   If you can't use the Trump name, there's little incentive to pay Trump millions of dollars.

In my view, the avoidance of such conflict of interest is so important that it should not be negotiable.   If a person cannot make that commitment, they should not run for the office.  Like so many things, this is being tested by this presidency.   Here's what's going on.

There is already evidence, commonly played out in the media, of foreign diplomats and business leaders deliberately and ostentatiously booking DJT's hotels and resorts specifically to curry favor with him.   They brag about it -- obviously, they want him to know.  And he, in turn, has touted his hotels and encouraged just such bookings.

The latest case in point is the new hotel, which was created by renovating the old Federal Post Office building, strategically located along Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to the White House.   It was the place to stay for the inauguration, and DJT touted it as such.  That is a conflict of interest.   He is also violating the contract of his lease on this government owned property, which stipulates that a government employee cannot lease government property.   Are we just going to ignore that violation?   The government could actually declare him in violation of his contract and could take it away from him.

Even moreso, DJT's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, where he spends half his weekends, includes a private club where members are likely to run into the president himself.   What better chance access for some corporate mogul who wants a favor?   Is there any wonder that membership fees have suddenly been hiked -- by the Trump Organization -- from $100,000 to $200,000?    It is an ideal place to schedule events, like charity fund-raising galas.   And the owner (DJT) rakes in hundreds of thousands from a single event.

And this grifter-in-chief has the gall to have accused his opponent HRC and her family foundation of engaging in "pay for play."    Is it clear what I'm saying?   Our president's businesses are currently being paid huge sums of money by people who want to gain access to him, to impress their clients by holding events at the president's resorts and golf clubs, and to then be able to name-drop and impress the world that they belong to DJT's club and see him regularly at Mar-a-Lago.

The other aspect to this monetizing of the presidency involves travel expenses for the Secret Service who protect the large and travel-ready family clan.   All the immediate family are scattered (DJT himself divides his time between the White House and Mar-a-Lago); Mrs. DJT (occupies the penthouse in the midst of Manhattan but travels regularly to join DJT in D.C. or Florida);  Don, Jr. and Eric (who live separately in New York but travel frequently to join their father or for business);  and Ivanka and Jared (who bought a house for their growing family in D.C.).

One short business trip by Eric alone cost taxpayers almost $100,000 for travel and hotel expenses for the Secret Service who must travel with Eric, even when it's for his commercial business or pleasure trips.  And he's just one of many in the president's immediate family who are (quite rightly) granted Secret Service protection.

The U.S. now rents a full floor in Trump Tower from the DJT Organization for its military and Secret Service command center for when the president visits his New York home.  That costs taxpayers $1.5 million a year to rent the space -- and the rent goes to -- yes, the Trump Organization.   ThinkProgress reports that each trip to Mar-a-Lago reportedly costs taxpayers $3 million.

But now a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced a bill that, if passed, would bring some relief.   It's called the "No Taxpayer Revenue Used to Monetize the Presidency" Act.  The catchy  acronym?  "No Trump."

This bill would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for events, overnight stays, food or other expenses at hotels owned or operated by a president or his relatives."

Bravo!   It's chances of passing are zilch, with this Republican controlled Congress.   But it focuses the problem with laser sharpness.   Let's see that it gets its due amount of public airing.

Besides its clever jabs at this particular president, it makes sense to deny presidents the ability to use the office for personal gain.   And it would apply to any president.  It just happens to hit this one hard because he has so many hotels and resorts and golf clubs to take advantage of.   And they are all very expensive.   I wonder now whether he has the audacity to charge taxpayers for his own stay at Mar-a-Lago? 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CBO speaks, and it's worse than expected

The Congressional Budget Office says the Republicans' Health Care plan would increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 24 million and reduce the deficit by $337 billion by the year 2026.  In contrast, Obamacare has increased coverage by 20 million and it still projects a reduction in the deficit by as much as $137 to $353 billion by 2025.

So, not only do these figures argue overwhelmingly for Obamaccare, they make a mockery of the president's boast two months ago that "we're going to have insurance for everybody" that will be much less expensive and much better."

Trouble for Republicans:   Two of their committees have already endorsed this bill and recommended the House pass it.    What now?  Maybe the only thing they can do is try to discredit the CBO, which they already began in anticipation of bad news.

Unless you prioritize conservative ideology above human lives, as Paul Ryan obviously does.  It is dishonest to claim, as Ryan does, that Obamacare is crashing in a death spiral.   That simply isn't true.  But here's what baffles me about Ryan's response.   He actually finds this report "encouraging."   To him, the most important thing about the Republicans' plan is that it gets rid of the individual mandate to buy insurance and let's people be free to choose whether to buy insurance.   So the large number of people who don't have insurance proves to Ryan that his plan has worked.

Yeah, I follow that reasoning;   but he's assuming that all those 24 million people won't have insurance because they don't want to have it.   What a twisted, blind-to-reality point of view.   Tell that to someone whose spouse just died for lack of health care, or to the parent whose teenage son is paraplegic from a diving accident -- with no insurance.   I thought Ryan was the sane one among GOP leaders.   Maybe sane, but certainly lacking compassion.


The post below is also new.   Be sure to read to the end for another Rachel Maddow scoop.

Trump fires US Attorney who might prosecute him.

Presidents appoint the U.S. Attorneys who investigate and prosecute federal crimes, and each is assigned to a circumscribed district.   Preet Bharara was one of the best.  He has successfully won cases against leading Republican figures in the New York State Legislature.   He has also investigated ethical and possible criminal charges in Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.   So he has shown that he is politically impartial.

It is not unusual for a new president, especially when there's a change of party, to request the resignation of all U.S. Attorneys so that he can appoint his own people.  These are after all political appointments, like cabinet positions, and they require Senate confirmation.

But President-Elect Trump had met with Preet Bharara last fall during the transition;  he asked Bharara if he would be willing to stay on and continue his important work.  According to Bharara, VP Elect Pence was also in the meeting, which he left with the understanding that he would stay on in his job.

Last Wednesday, Bharara's office received a call from President Trump asking for him to return a call.   Because of protocols that strictly determine communications between presidents and U.S. Attorneys (to prevent improper pressure being brought by presidents in cases of interest), Bharara did not return the call.   Instead he called the Attorney General's office and notified them of the call and explained why he did not return it.

On Friday, Bharara was notified by the Acting Attorney General that his resignation was being requested, along with the other 45 U.S. Attorneys.   Bharara refused to resign, and he was then fired, without any further discussion about it.

What changed?   No reasons have been given publicly.  It's just being passed off as routine change, like all the others.   But he wasn't.   He had been singled out and asked to continue by the president-elect.

And what about the Wednesday call from DJT?    Was he calling to explain why he was asking him to resign?    Or did the notoriously thin-skinned, vindictive DJT get miffed that his called was not returned, and this was retaliation?

Or is it that somebody woke up to the fact that this highly effective, fearless prosecutor -- who is tough on white collar crime -- would be the one to investigate the Trump Organization and all its conflicts of interest, foreign connections, etc?   Does it have anything to do with the letter from several ethics watchdog organizations, asking Bharara to open such an investigation?

There are some clues that this was a hasty decision, because there was no warning;  and all 46 fired attorneys -- including Bharana -- were told to clear out their offices and be gone by the end of the day.   No transition, no briefing of others on cases in progress.   Essentially, it was just a "Get out!  Now!!" kind of firing.   And it came just two days after a conference call between AG Sessions and all these U.S. Attorneys, where future plans were discussed and no mention was made of possible resignations.

On  her show last night, Rachel Maddow added another clue to the puzzle.   Deutche Bank got into serious trouble and paid huge fines for cooperating with a money-laundering scheme by Russian oligarchs.   Preet Bharana is the U.S. Attorney handling that case.  Another little fact:  Donald Trump himself owes hundreds of millions of dollars to Deutche Bank.    Donald Trump just fired Preet Bharana as U.S. Attorney.

Stay tuned.    This all gets "curioser and curioser," said Alice.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sarah Palin assails GOP health plan; Sen. Tom Cotton says it can't pass the Senate and will result in loss of House majority

Former VP candidate Sarah Palin called the GOP''s health care plan "RINO" (Republican in name only), claiming that there are parts of it that are socialism.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said that the bill will never pass the Senate and that, if the House passes it, they will lose their Republican majority in next year's midterm elections.

Here's why I have some hope that it won't pass.   Even among Republicans in Congress, there are some who oppose it because people won't be covered;  and others who oppose it because it tries to do too much.   You can't please both those groups at the same time.


The death of truth in the DJT White House; or . . . . in plainer language: The President Lies.

As is well known, President DJT takes full advantage -- and then some -- of ambiguities and prohibitions in the laws governing presidential conflicts of interest.  He says he has turned over management of all his businesses to his two adult sons.  But he has not divested himself of direct ownership of those same businesses.   And, frankly, it has become quite clear that not one word that comes out of President DJT's mouth can be taken as truth.

He lies so regularly about such insignificant, easily fact-checked things that we cannot assume that he is truthful about anything.   Suppose he now needs to alert us to a looming national security attack and get support for a course of action?    Who would believe him?  This is perhaps the most profound effect that DJT has yet had on the American people's belief in their government.

Here's the cold, hard fact:  For the remainder of DJT's term, it can no longer be assumed that anything he or his surrogates say is true.   He has destroyed the credibility of the United States -- and our allies are beginning to realize this.

This is not simply about campaign promises that he can't fulfill.   It ranges from lying about the size of his crowds to accusing President Obama of having his phone tapped -- and making such a serious charge against his predecessor without offering a shred of evidence.

It does also involve a chameleon quality to his stand on issues.  He is an empty vessel, with no convictions of his own;  and he often flips his stand depending on who last talked with him.   He boasted that his "beautiful" health care plan would cover everyone;  yet now he's all on board with the Ryan plan that the Brookings Institute estimates will cause 15 million people to lose their insurance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming to Washington to meet with President DJT on Tuesday.  What must she be thinking?   Can she, should she, believe anything that he will say to her, the head of state of one of our most important allies, as well as the de facto leader of the European Union?

DJT's lying is pervasive;  it's effect on our country is profound.   In a separate post tomorrow, I'll discuss the related problem of skirting the laws regarding conflict of interest and presidential expenses.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Repeal Obamacare poll in Tennessee

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is an avid opponent of Obamacare and has worked hard to undermine it, did an informal poll of her constituents.   This was not a scientific poll;  she just sent out a question and asked people to respond:

"Do you support the repeal of Obamacare?"   Result: Yes 16%   No 84%.

This is in Tennessee;  but all over, people are waking up to the realities of what repealing Obamacare would actually do.  And they don't want that to happen.   We'll know soon how the politicians responded.   So far, two House committees have voted to advance the bill to a floor vote.  My guess is that, despite this poll, Rep. Blackburn will vote Yes.

Do Republicans believe in the concept of insurance?

It now seems that some Republicans don't even believe in the concept of insurance, whereby resources are pooled and risk is spread among a large group of people who all pay into a pot that helps out those who get sick, or whose house burns down, etc.

As an example, one Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee seemed incredulous that the cost of prenatal care for pregnant women was included in the premiums that men pay for health insurance.

Aside from the fact that pregnancies do not occur without at least some participation by men, there is the basic concept of insurance,  Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young, writing in the Huffington Post, characterize it as:  "the idea that people will pay into the system when they are not using it, so it's there for them when they are."   We all pay for some services that we don't use.   Women's premiums help cover the cost of prostate cancer treatment, for example.   We all share in paying for someone else's cancer treatment, while hoping we never get cancer ourselves.

Compare another type of insurance:  homeowners fire insurance.   Most people's houses never catch on fire.   But you want to have the insurance (and your mortgage contract requires it) so that you're covered for this huge expense if it ever does happen.   If you were to self-insure for house fires, you'd need to permanently set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars you may never need, just so you can replace your house if it ever does burn down.  Only the very wealthy can afford to do that.   For everybody else, we have insurance.

It's called cooperation.  It's not socialism, as some extreme right-wingers want to call it.   There's also the argument that we all benefit from living in a society that takes care of its most needy and most disadvantaged.   I would not want to live where that was not a shared value.  [See Joe Kennedy III's eloquent statement on this in yesterday's ShrinkRap.]

In trying to sell his health care replacement plan, Speaker Paul Ryan used inflammatory rhetoric that emphasized the point of view of those who oppose "entitlements" and the whole concept of social contract.   As reported by Cohn and Young, Ryan said:  "The whole idea of Obamacare is that . . . the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.  It's not working.  And that's why it's in a death spiral."

That is such a distortion.   First, what he derides as the "whole idea" is actually the concept of insurance -- spreading the risk.   Second, Obamacare is not in a "death spiral."   There are two main reasons premiums have gone up:   (1) health care costs have risen, but less rapidly than they did before Obamacare;  and (2) Republicans have created such a sense of uncertainty in what is going to happen that insurance companies are hedging their bets, in some instances pulling out of markets, and in others raising their rates exorbitantly.

Ryan is equally dishonest in what he promises from his plan, explaining how it would stop skyrocketing premiums and collapsing markets, so Americans can "enjoy universal access" to health care.    How do you square "15 million will lose their Medicaid health care" with "universal access to health care."   Make Ryan explain that.

The answer of course is that the most efficient and the least costly method of providing health care insurance for all people is the government-run, single payer,  universal health care.   We are the only developed nation that does not have some version of this.  And most of them work pretty well.    But it is anathema to Republicans, who have made "socialized medicine" a term of horrified opposition for decades.   It is also fought strenuously by the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

As Cohn and Young conclude:  "The ultimate goal for Ryan and his GOP allies isn't to guarantee health care and financial protection from medical bills.   It's to minimize taxes, especially taxes on the rich, and to let the free market operate with as few regulations as possible.  That's a perfectly defensible choice for extreme conservatives . . . But it reflects a very particular set of priorities and values -- and perhaps not one a majority of American share."

I wish this could be just an abstract debate about the role of government, but it's being fought out over real people's actual lives.  With Republicans in power, we seem headed back to a Golden Age for the wealthy, a disappearing middle class, and a growing lower class who barely make it.   The wealthy are increasingly enclaved into gated communities, protected from contact with the masses and their diseases and their sniveling brats.   Push them away, let them suffer . . . and die.   Under Ryan's plan, the government won't care either.