Editorial July 21, 2017

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

Publisher’s Letter

McElroy, Publisher

McElroy, Publisher

We’ve said it before here to quote Sir Walter Scott ‘What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” There are any number of examples of such behavior most of us have seen throughout life but how many of them lasted six years?

Such is the case with the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare-ACA) that began the moment it was signed into law in 2010. Repealing it became a rallying cry for Republicans and their base and a major campaign promise of Trump during the 2016 race for the White House.

Who knows what the two hundred and some House and Senate Republicans had in mind when they began their mostly unsubstantiated negative claims about that new law but it was certain to become part of the Obama legacy and they clearly would not stand for that.

There have been all sorts of claims that the resistance to all things Obama was due to racism, anti-progressive sentiments, anti-socialism, or simply to vilify the opposing party. As such it appears the ACA became the rallying cry and so the games began. We can go back and review the claims against that bill only to find most were either dog whistles or false but perhaps the most telling about those Republicans who opposed the ACA was the assertion that the law established ‘death panels’ where seniors faced a bureaucracy that would determine when and how they would die when the law actually provided Medicare coverage for seniors to discuss end of life options with their physicians.

Trumps opposition to the ACA came at a time when he clearly had no idea of what the law contained just as he appears to have no idea what the House and Senate replacement bills contain. Trump is on a mission to rob Obama of his legacy. For a man who, according to his wife, strikes back ten times harder when he is attacked, perhaps this is his way of getting even with Obama who, at a White House press dinner made fun of Trump’s assertion that the then president was not born in the US and therefore should not have been in office.

Anyway you cut it many Americans have been and seemed to be willing to accept about anything ACA opponents throw at them. They and the Republicans who have spun this tangled web are now facing some reasonable concern about the Senate and House bills from members of their own party who seem to be more interested in meeting their constituent’s needs than obliterating the Obama legacy.

So what do these web-weavers do now? They want to have a vote on just repealing Obamacare within two years forcing a bipartisan solution to constituent’s healthcare needs. This is the beginning of another tangled web.

First of all the suggestion that there will be a bipartisan solution suggesting that maybe we will end up with better healthcare at a lower cost are nonsense. Not nonsense because it can’t happen but because it won’t. Republicans arrogantly relish that they have enough votes to get about anything done without Democrats.  We are now supposed to believe that if they work with Democrats to craft a ‘truly bipartisan’ bill all will be well. Not so. Under Mitch McConnell’s approach to such deliberations Democrats will offer amendments that are not likely to pass because they don’t have the votes to sustain them. In the end McConnell will tout the final product as a bipartisan solution when it will be far from that.

Secondly it is reasonable to ask why we should believe that the demands for more austerity or more generosity dividing Republicans and sinking those bills in both bodies will somehow change. Why would they?

Third, we have seen how a self-imposed deadline works; Ronald Reagan left a $300 billion deficit to George H.W. Bush. An unprecedented amount in those days prompting claims that our grandchildren will be paying for it. The concern brought forth two significant bills, Graham. Rudman, Hollins I and II, bills that brought forth the ‘gun at their head’ provision called sequester; if Congress did not reduce deficits the president’s Office of Management and Budget would be required to make across-the-board budget cuts. That was a scary outcome to a Congress that makes its living spending money to meet their constituent’s needs or their political needs. But those bills were not accepted.

Congress skirted those bills and ended up with the Budget Enforcement Act that provided the tool, pay-as-you-go, that, simplistically, required raising taxes or cutting spending when other spending increased. Bush signed the bill and did raise taxes causing his base to reject him and he was not reelected, losing to Clinton. A chilling result current-day Republicans will not forget.

Finally, we have to ask if Obamacare is so devastating to some of the insured and that the devastation will increase over time will Congress take a few relatively simple steps to solve those problems if only temporarily?  Well then we are back to being dictated to by the tangled web woven; Politically, Republicans cannot seek kudos for repealing Obamacare and then fix it while trying to replace it.

Hamilton on Congress

Talking to the Other Side 

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

I’ve had a number of conversations recently that convince me our country is divided into two political camps separated by a deep and uncomfortably wide gap. No, I’m not talking about liberals and conservatives, or pro- and anti-Trump voters. I’m talking about people who believe in politics and our political system, and people who don’t.

I’ve found this latter view expressed most frequently among young people. In lecture halls and in informal conversations, I’ve spent some uncomfortable hours serving as a human pincushion for their pointed barbs about the system they’ve grown up in.

Many are uninterested in politics. They do not see politics as a worthy pursuit or even as an honorable vocation. They doubt our political institutions can be made to work, are suspicious of elected officials in general, and don’t believe that our democratic institutions are capable either of solving the problems faced by the country or of helping them as individuals.

They find reason to be discouraged every time they tap into a political story. They’re disheartened by political polarization, by the dominant and excessive role of money in the process, and by the seemingly impregnable influence of special interests on the course of policy. They struggle with their own problems, especially the debt they’ll confront when they get out of school – and believe that they’ll get no help from government.

Indeed, they’re convinced that people in power place their own interests ahead of the country’s – which is why so many of them express real contempt for politicians. They certainly don’t see politics as an uplifting pursuit; I hear the word “messy” a lot, not as an objectively descriptive term, but as an expression of ethical disapproval.

They have a point. There are many reasons for disappointment in our groaning system, and the descriptions they give have much merit.

Yet I still consider politics a worthy profession. It can be pursued in a manner that deserves respect, even admiration. I’ve known a lot of good people in politics, men and women who are in it for all the right reasons, take pride in pursuing a political career, and embrace it as the best route available for solving our common problems.

In fact, I think people who reject the political system often underestimate its accomplishments. We are a strong, prosperous, and free nation because of – not in spite of – our system and the politicians who have come before us.

Sure, politics is “messy,” but not because it’s tainted or morally bankrupt. It’s messy because it often reflects deep-seated disagreements that are hard to resolve, with merit on both sides.

Politics is rarely a struggle between good and evil; it’s how we Americans try to make the country work better. It’s our opportunity to help our neighbors, to give us better schools and hospitals and highways, to make our communities safer and more orderly. It’s a means of resolving our differences through dialogue and compromise, rather than through ideological battle or pitched warfare. If you pay attention, you’ll see a lot of politicians who go about their business intelligently, quietly, and competently – and who get good things done.

So I find myself wondering how those of my persuasion might win these young people over. Discourse matters, obviously. Tolerance of others’ views does, too. And I consider the 240 years of our history, despite all the obvious blemishes, to make a pretty good case for the political system’s accomplishments.

Above all, though, we have to encourage young people’s engagement with the problems we confront. If they want to improve things, they really have no alternative. Getting involved is the only way to see how tough these issues are and how much work goes into even incremental progress. We live in a complicated country and there are a lot of disappointments inherent in trying to make change. But it’s the only way we’ve got.

Those of us who believe in the system must shoulder the burden of persuasion – and I’m worried about what happens if we don’t meet it. If we lose the argument and the next generation turns away, we face dangers and risks – chaos, authoritarianism – that are far worse than what we face now.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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“Irrespective of any political party, I am a supporter of good people who want to do something for the society”

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