29 Mar

Deal with the Devil

By  |  March 28, 2017, 03:00pm

All Americans should want President Trump to succeed because America badly needs to do better.  We are slouching into a stasis induced by increasing government control of our economy and our lives. 

But our naive President and his inexperienced staff are making mistakes which are either greenhorn blunders or revelations as to a missing philosophical core.  Given that the President lost the popular vote, and that a whopping 81 percent of Democrat voters dislikes him, 61 percent virtually hating him, as per a recent Suffolk County poll, the ice on which he is skating is precariously thin.  Hillary Clinton would have been in a similar situation, polls make clear.  Republicans detest her.  So pronouncements about Trump’s historically low approval numbers are usually made out of this context.  Still, the President’s strongly approve numbers among Republican voters are not correspondingly high to the Democrat strongly disdain.  In other words, as can be seen through many other windows of measurement, a lot of Republicans are closing their eyes, crossing their fingers and praying we all get through this.  With conservative reform.

That the President embraced the Republican establishment version of health care reform, appropriately called Obama Care Lite, is not a good sign.  “It’s sort of the powers that be in Washington that won,” as Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. But what other outcome was possible when the Trump Administration went into battle waving the banner of the Republican Establishment?  The American Health Care bill was never a repeal of ObamaCare.  Better, yes.  Made better still in last minute negotiations? Yes.  But still not a repeal when only a repeal will do.  That the President on Twitter and the Republican Leadership on background are blaming their failure on conservatives should be clarifying to the Republican base:  they refer to conservatives as others.

There’s a thing that happens when Republicans, even some conservatives, get elected to Congress.  They become fascinated with and then good at manipulating the arcane and complex rules of the House and the Senate.  So good that they become confused —  about how important they and their skills are, and about why they were elected.  If your representative talks about the priority of “governing”, you know he or she has lost his way.

Yes, health care in America is incredibly complex. That this was news to our President leads one to a “greenhorn” analysis.  But that’s why competitive market forces, not the government, will produce the best outcomes.  There must be books about this in the White house library.  To make it simple:  more demand + more regulation = higher prices.  No amount of government tinkering can change that equation.  Do we want to lower the cost of health care or not?  More regulation = lower profits.  Lower profits = fewer providers.  More demand + less supply = higher prices.  Thats why members of the House Freedom Caucus kept saying over and over that Speaker Paul Ryan’s health care bill would not bring down premiums.  The ObamaCare regulations were still in place.  That the President still does not seem to understand this — his latest idea is to work with liberal Democrats to forge a new bill — reveals a missing philosophical core.

During Speaker Ryan’s Hamlet-like agonies over whether to endorse Donald Trump during the campaign, he talked much about implementing the House Leadership’s policy agenda.  He endorsed when he felt Trump would do that.  Some conservatives thought Ryan made a deal with the devil.  But perhaps Trump was the one who made the darkest deal, for the devil may be in the allure of playing by the rules of the governing class.

Insisting that the Republican health care bill was a repeal of ObamaCare was, as the President loves to say, fake news.  Worse is the House Leadership’s insistence that true reforms, such as repealing the fiat of “basic” coverage requirements in health plans (eg that 65 year old couples have to pay for pre-natal and maternity coverage or that young, healthy people have to buy a wealth of coverage when all they need is catastrophic) are not possible given Senate rules.  Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz don’t believe that is true.  But even if it were, Republicans are in the majority.  Senate rules can be set by a simple majority. So change the rules. The Republican Establishment likes the rules because they are clever at using them.  Getting rid of some might make things, like, so just anybody could “govern”.

Ronald Reagan used to joke that America would run just as well if Members of Congress were chosen randomly from the phone book.  He was right to say it would be hard to do much worse.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to mean an end to business as usual.  We’ll soon see if the President has made a deal with the devil, instead.

Mari Will is a Board Member for Citizens for the Republic

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