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100 Days of Trump: GOP centrists do the dirty work of the establishment on Obamacare repeal

It’s safe to say most of us probably can’t recall very much of what our eighth grade U.S. History teachers told us -- myself included -- but there’s one thing she uttered all those years ago that stands out in my mind even now.

Wars are over money.”

It’s funny I’d remember this teacher’s particular statement because I don’t recall her name now. Whatever her Donald Trumpidentity, the notion struck me as odd back then and I still sometimes think about it whenever politicians propose to send in troops to quell some sort of global conflagration in a far off land.

Is the fight against radical Islam about money? Was Bush truly only after Iraq’s oil? Could cutting a check satiate ISIS? No, no and no. So much for her theory. Therefore, some wars are about larger issues too.

While I diverge somewhat from the premise of my 8th grade teacher’s wars=money principle, there is one related concept I highly agree with: political battles are over money. It’s true that not all political arguments involve the Congressional Budget Office and dollar figures – such as those over social issues – but most of the disagreements between the parties boil down to how much or how little (or nothing) to allocate to a particular cause or constituency.

It even occurs within the parties themselves. If you don’t believe it, take a look at what’s happened to the House GOP caucus over the Obamacare repeal issue. Everyone knows Paul Ryan’s establishment-backed “American Health Care Act” went down to defeat last month because moderate Republicans couldn’t reconcile with the thought of losing Obamacare.

President Trump signaled he’d like to try again on the issue, though it doesn’t look like much progress was made in bridging the impasse over the Easter break.

Robert King of the Washington Examiner reports, “The key sticking point for Republicans is which Obamacare regulations states would be able to ignore under the final bill. The conservative House Freedom Caucus wants to let states opt out of a health insurance price control called ‘community rating’ and a rule mandating essential health benefits, because they say those provisions lead to higher costs.

“But centrists are balking, particularly about the community rating, which forces insurers to charge people of the same age the same rate so that sicker people do not have to pay more.”

The “centrists” are scared if the “community rating” regulation is repealed by a new Republican health care bill that people with pre-existing conditions will have to pay a lot more. But by mandating that everyone pay the same amount for insurance, healthy people are basically already subsidizing sick people.

It’s not rocket science. Whenever you have two people with vastly different risk factors paying the same total for insurance, someone’s a winner and someone’s a loser.

The Freedom Caucus wants to aid the “losers” in this scenario by allowing states to opt-out of the “community rating” part of Obamacare, therefore virtually guaranteeing most people’s insurance premiums will go down. “Centrists” want to make sure sick people can afford coverage, so they’re in favor of maintaining the current law where everyone is grouped together.

One size fits all doesn’t work well with health insurance because no two individuals are the same unless they’re perfectly healthy. This is basically what the tug-of-war is all about over Obamacare and has been ever since Crooked Hillary Clinton tried to “fix” a system that wasn’t broken in the early 90’s.

Republicans shot it down then but apparently some “centrists” are now more than willing to ditch the whole concept of private market-based insurance in favor of making sure some people keep receiving their federal goodie basket.

Which brings me back to the fact that political “wars” are over money – it’s true.

For what it’s worth, just because conservatives want reform doesn’t mean they’re proposing to throw sick people out in the cold. They just argue there’s a better way to cover them (such as in high risk pools which have funding of their own) rather than preserving the current failing law as is.

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck, a member of the Freedom Caucus, says we need to radically change the whole system and move towards a value-based model. Buck wrote in the Washington Examiner, “Consumers care about medical bills when they're responsible for writing part of the check, the first dollar cost of their care. Unfortunately, the ACA's surging deductible thresholds passed not only the first dollar on to consumers, but the second, third, and ten-thousandth dollar as well.

“We want care to be more affordable for consumers so that they're spending less on health expenses, but at the same time they need to know how much their procedures cost so they can find the best value. This requires pricing transparency, competition in the insurance market, and some healthy disruption in the medical industry.”

In his excellent piece, Buck provides a number of suggestions on how to accomplish restructuring in the industry including allowing people to use health savings accounts so they’re in greater control of where their dollars are allocated.

Buck makes good common sense. But this is where politics comes into play and the GOP “centrists” are the sticking point once again.

Buck and the Freedom Caucus are proposing more market-based solutions that will help drive the costs down. The “centrists” want to keep more government control as imposed by Obamacare – and they’re willing to pay a higher price for it, too, using our tax dollars.

Aside from the fact that the government’s presence in health care only increases the costs, the “centrists” want to ensure Washington dictates down to the local level.

These are the people Trump needs to lean on, not the members of the Freedom Caucus. I’ve argued a number of times the Democrat party has moved so far left that many “moderates” who used to be Democrats now call themselves Republicans. These “centrist” Republicans are really in essence just moderate Democrats.

All Republicans campaigned on a platform of getting rid of Obamacare but these “moderates” didn’t really mean it. As many conservative commentators have pointed out, if Paul Ryan, the establishment and the “centrists” were truly interested in keeping their word to repeal Obamacare outright they would have done it already.

Instead we’re stuck with a serious GOP internal “war” arguing over federal control, regulations, and yes, money.

In the scheme of things, explaining war is simple. It ain’t always about the bottom line. Sometimes it means saving your country from people who would harm it – and kill you.

But political fights are all about money…and I think the GOP Congress needs to hear from us about it.

Soap opera-like media coverage of the Trump White House team created their celebrity status

Political combat may be all about money but the media seems to be fascinated by another kind of battle, the ones that are allegedly taking place within the walls of Trump’s West Wing.

The palace intrigue supposedly taking place behind the scenes in Trump’s government has everyone talking. Even perusing the magazine headlines in supermarket checkout lines you can almost always find something about someone involved with Trump.

The media has turned them into “celebrities.”

Annie Karni and Tara Palmeri of Politico report, “[Kellyanne Conway's] not the only White House official who has transformed into a bona fide national celebrity, completing a melding of politics and entertainment that Washington observers say has been years in the making.

“Photographers stake out Trump staffers’ homes or venues where they are known to be speaking. Hollywood actors have volunteered to play Trump's aides on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ And their national name recognition is abnormally high for typically inside-the-Beltway famous jobs.”

This is something new, for sure, but the circus-like atmosphere surrounding Trump the politician isn’t. In the beginning of the campaign it was Roger Stone and Corey Lewandowski who were receiving all the media scrutiny. They’re old news now. The current cast of “characters” is much more interesting to the snoopy political reporting class.

I’ve said all along the media is treating the Trump team as though they’re players in some sort of sick reality TV show, but this Politico article is the first I can recall that actually acknowledges the “celebrity” quality of the cast.

I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising the talkers treat them that way because when you look at it objectively, these people are fascinating, especially when compared to the boring and mundane figures of the Obama team. Who would you rather read about in a story, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer or Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett and Josh Earnest (Obama’s last press secretary)?

Would former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson make for a good person to base an action figure off of? Johnson would no doubt be the first super hero in history who helped the villains blow up the good guys in every episode. Maybe his character could be a bumbling protagonist like Ralph Hinkley (or Hanley) of “Greatest American Hero” fame.

While the Obama White House was filled with dark and humorless liberal ideologues, Trump’s staff is chock full of bright shining faces who cheerfully battle the media and reflect the upbeat and positive attitude of their boss. What the media mistakes for evasiveness from them is really just confidence and a dogged determination to set their own narrative for the administration.

The Politico writers added, “The easiest explanation for the overnight celebrification of the president’s staffers is that it reflects the man at the top. The ‘Apprentice’ star-turned-president has created a reality show in the White House, with Americans eating up storylines of who is rising, who is fading and who is screwing up. It’s the opposite of how ‘no drama Obama’ dictated the tone and tenor of the West Wing.”

Of course what the Politico story doesn’t confess is the media itself is responsible for nearly all of the “celebrity” status of perhaps everyone in the White House except for Trump and maybe Conway. Aside from the fact every president is universally-known Trump might still be the most “famous” in history. And his family is part of the Trump brand every bit as much as he is.

Conway, meanwhile, has been a familiar face in conservative media for a quarter century. Her “celebrity” was established long before becoming part of the Trump team, but there’s no doubt being grouped in with the media-created “soap opera” atmosphere has skyrocketed Conway into the upper stratosphere of famous political people now.

A good portion of the coverage of the Trump team isn’t flattering – in fact, most of it isn’t. The media “sells” the Trump White House soap opera storyline because it gets people to click or buy newspapers, something that wouldn’t be possible if journalists concentrated solely on the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.

Who wants to read about them?

Jeff Sessions wants action on the border wall, Democrats say it will cost too much

One Trump administration official that makes frequent media appearances yet thankfully has not attained the “celebrity” status of the president’s personal staff is Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The former Alabama senator toiled for years in relative obscurity championing a number of the same conservative/populist causes that vaulted Trump into the Oval Office. Now that he’s the leading federal law enforcement officer in America, Sessions hasn’t slowed down one bit in advocating for those very same things.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said it is important for President Trump's proposed wall along the southern border to move quickly to ensure border security.

“’[The] border wall needs to move rapidly. It will be the final affirmation that the illegality is over,’ Sessions said during an interview on Fox News.

“’It will multiply many times the effectiveness of our border. When you have fewer people enter, then you have fewer people to detain, fewer people to lock up, fewer people bringing in human beings, fewer people bringing in drugs.’”

I’m guessing the people watching Sessions at home were nodding in agreement with everything he said. It’s all good common sense, something conservative leaders have been suggesting for years. The more difficult you make it to come here illegally – and to stay here without sanction – the more likely potential border crossers will think twice before trying it.

Where there appears to be some disagreement in conservative circles is over the meaning of “wall.” While the concept itself isn’t difficult – some sort of barrier – there are a lot of different ways to build a “wall” that would have the effect of sealing the border.

For their part, Democrats came out with a study indicating a physical border wall would cost three times as much as initial estimates to construct and would also be very expensive to maintain. Clearly they’re making their best argument against trying such a thing, probably to protect their illegal alien constituencies.

This is yet another example of a political war over money.

But a “wall” can be achieved just as effectively by other means in addition to a physical barrier. If there are areas that would prove too costly to erect a brick and mortar fence, electronic methods may suffice. Or additional border patrol personnel. Whatever it takes.

And Jeff Sessions is the perfect one to work on the project along with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies charged with the task.

There’s little doubt that securing the border will bring a host of positive benefits, including those mentioned by Attorney General Sessions above. The Republican leadership will no doubt require a lot of prodding to get it done. I think conservatives are up to the job.

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The "War = Money" Equation

Mr. Rendell: Was your 8th grade teacher a Marxist, by any chance? Her theory that wars are fought over money sounds a lot like historical materialism to me. Unfortunately watching the various factions in Washington, DC arguing over how the government should wield its control over healthcare strikes most of us in flyover country who know our history as little more than watching people argue over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. If we persist in adopting the Soviet model of government control over this (or any other) sector of the economy, we will end up like Russia in 1994, with the complete collapse of any sort of "safety net," and those who most need it being left on the streets to fend for themselves.