Tuesday Reads: Blizzard Watch, Trumpcare and Trump’s Empty Government

Times Square on Tuesday morning. Credit Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Good Morning!!

I’m still skeptical about this snowstorm. First we were supposed to get 2 feet of snow here in Greater Boston. Then we heard 12-18 inches. Now they are saying 8-12 and snow turning to rain after 5PM. I’d be interested to know what folks further south are getting. High winds are still expected. Here’s the latest from CNN:

Northeast snowstorm puts 18 million under blizzard warning.

A Nor’easter is dumping snow and pushing winds up the US East Coast — a monster storm that has placed about 18 million people under a blizzard warning.

More than 7,800 US flights Monday through Wednesday were canceled and thousands of schools have closed. Winter storm warnings and watches have been hoisted over a region stretching from Ohio and West Virginia into Maine.

Local and state authorities warned residents to be prepared and to avoid unnecessary travel as winds in some coastal areas could hit 50 mph to 60 mph, reducing visibility to zero.

A blizzard warning — cautioning that high winds will combine with snow for poor visibility — was in effect Tuesday morning for parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, upstate New York and the six New England states.

Weather models Tuesday morning showed that the heaviest snow, perhaps more than 2 feet, could hit northeastern Pennsylvania, New York’s Hudson Valley and parts of Vermont and New Hampshire.

I guess the heaviest snow is going to be further west than originally predicted. I hope that doesn’t mean you, Pat J.

Yesterday’s CBO report was devastating for the GOP’s proposed Trumpcare plan.

The Atlantic: The CBO Deals Paul Ryan’s Health-Care Plan a Major Blow.

The Congressional Budget Office on Monday projected that the House leadership’s American Health Care Act would result in 24 million Americans losing their health insurance while raising premiums for those covered on the individual market. Their bill would lower federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years, largely as a result of cuts to Medicaid that would reduce its enrollment by 14 million, according to the estimate. Average premiums would rise by as much as 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 before falling in later years….

Of particular concern for GOP backers of the American Health Care Act is the CBO’s projection for its immediate impact. If enacted soon, an estimated 14 million people would drop their insurance next year because the proposal repeals the tax penalties associated with the individual mandate, the CBO forecasts. If people are not required to buy insurance, in other words, many will stop doing so. Millions more would join the ranks of the uninsured after 2020, when the bill would roll back the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives have called for repealing the expansion sooner, which would likely result in more people dropping coverage in the first years after enactment.

Of course that would not be good for Republicans running for reelection in 2018.

Politico: White House analysis of Obamacare repeal sees even deeper insurance losses than CBO.

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

White House officials late Monday night disputed that the document is an analysis of the bill’s coverage effects. Instead, they say it was an attempt by the OMB to predict what CBO’s scorekeepers would conclude about the GOP repeal plan.

LOL! I wonder who leaked that to Politico?

Granny starver Paul Ryan says he finds the CBO report encouraging because it accomplishes his goals–killing off older and poorer people and further enriching the already rich whom he considers deserving. This man is no Catholic. He should be excommunicated. Fox News reports:

Paul Ryan: Paul Ryan: CBO report on ObamaCare repeal ‘exceeded my expectations.’

Ryan told host Bret Baier that the CBO’s prediction that 14 million more Americans would be uninsured in 2018 was due to the bill’s overturning of ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

“Of course they’re going to say if we stop forcing people to buy something they don’t want to buy they’re not going to buy it,” Ryan said. “That’s why you have these uninsured numbers, which we all expected.”

According to Ryan, the key numbers in the analysis would come once the bill’s reforms took effect in 2020.

“It will lower premiums 10 percent. It stabilizes the market. It’s a $1.2 trillion spending cut, and $883 billion tax cut and $337 billion in deficit reduction,” Ryan said. “So, this compared to the status quo is far better.”

In response to a question from a Twitter user, Ryan said that ObamaCare’s repeal and replacement was a prerequisite for the House to take up tax reform, another key part of President Trump’s agenda.

Ryan is still the ultimate Ayn Rand fan. The fact that he says this stuff out loud shows what a terrible political strategist he is. Wisconsin needs to dump him next year.

And why will premiums go down? Margaret Singer Katz explains at The New York Times’ The Upshot: No Magic in How G.O.P. Plan Lowers Premiums: It Pushes Out Older People.

There are a lot of unpleasant numbers for Republicans in the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of their health care bill. But congressional leadership found one to cheer:

Everyone hates to pay for a repair. That’s why you have a home warranty company in the first place, right? So why not eliminate the Service Fee charged by other home warranty companies when they come to your home.

The report says that the bill will eventually cut the average insurance premiums for people who buy their own insurance by 10 percent.

House Speaker Paul Ryan pressed that point in a series of appearances Monday night, suggesting that the budget office had found that the House bill would increase choice and competition and lead to lower prices. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, issued a statement saying, “The Congressional Budget Office agrees that the American Health Care Act will ultimately lower premiums and increase access to care.”

But the way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured.

The remaining pool of people would be comparatively younger and healthier and, thus, less expensive to cover. Other changes would help make health insurance skimpier — cheaper, but with deductibles that are higher than those criticized by Republicans under Obamacare.

Read the details at the NYT.

An issue that has been troubling me a lot lately (in addition to the Russia investigation) is that tRump apparently has no desire to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs that remain vacant.

The New York Times: Trump Lets Key Offices Gather Dust Amid ‘Slowest Transition in Decades.’

At the State Department, the normally pulsating hub of executive offices is hushed and virtually empty. At the Pentagon, military missions in some of the world’s most troubled places are being run by a defense secretary who has none of his top team in place. And at departments like Treasury, Commerce and Health and Human Services, many senior posts remain vacant even as the agencies have been handed enormous tasks like remaking the nation’s health insurance system.

From the moment he was sworn in, President Trump faced a personnel crisis, starting virtually from scratch in lining up senior leaders for his administration. Seven weeks into the job, he is still hobbled by the slow start, months behind where experts in both parties, even some inside his administration, say he should be.

The lag has left critical power centers in his government devoid of leadership as he struggles to advance policy priorities on issues like health care, taxes, trade and environmental regulation. Many federal agencies and offices are in states of suspended animation, their career civil servants answering to temporary bosses whose influence and staying power are unclear, and who are sometimes awaiting policy direction from appointees whose arrival may be weeks or months away.

“There’s no question this is the slowest transition in decades,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official who served under presidents of both parties and has been involved in transitions since 1988. “It is a very, very big mistake. The world continues — it doesn’t respect transitions.”

Mr. Trump has insisted that the barren ranks of his government are not a shortcoming but the vanguard of a plan to cut the size of the federal bureaucracy. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Mr. Trump told Fox News last month. “I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

Here’s some further analysis at Vox: President Trump is running an empty government. He thinks refusing to hire people streamlines the government. But it’s backfiring.

There are many reasons for the personnel crisis. Trump didn’t use the weeks-long transition to make second- and third-tier personnel picks. He has personally vetoed high-level picks at the Treasury and State Department who criticized him — even mildly — during the campaign. His West Wing staff lack experience in Washington and don’t know or seem to care much about how individual departments work.

Trump himself, meanwhile, simply thinks having fewer people working is better. “A lot of those jobs I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said on Fox News last month. “I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.” Trump thinks the best route to the conservative ideal of small government is to practice what you preach — literally make the government much smaller by refusing to fill many posts.

The problem is that it makes government far less effective, even in areas like trade that are supposed to be a top priority for the administration. To take one example, a high-level summit in Chile this week will feature trade ministers from around the globe. But because the Trump administration hasn’t confirmed a trade official, the US will be represented by American’s ambassador to Chile, Carol Perez, a career diplomat who lacks the power and the technical knowledge of the other attendees, according to the Times.

Doug Irwin, an economics professor at Dartmouth College who specializes in the history of trade, said Perez may have a hard time keeping up with the hugely complicated and technical talks. Without large amounts of prior experience, he said, someone like Perez may not be able to “figure out what’s feasible and what’s not feasible.”

“It’s too complicated,” he said.

That captures one of the key issues with Trump’s refusal to fill high-level positions. There’s a difference between campaign rhetoric about trimming back the federal government and simply disregarding the management needs of mammoth government agencies that help run the most powerful country in the world and handle its relationships with other global powers. Trump appears to be heading down the latter path. And it’s going to make it harder for him to pursue his own goals.

Read more at the link.

Of course we all remember that Steve Bannon’s plan is for “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Will it work? Stephen Collinson at CNN writes: Trump’s plan to dismember governmentHis first budget — expected to be unveiled later this week — will mark Trump’s most significant attempt yet to remold national life and the relationship between federal and state power.

It would codify an assault on regulatory regimes over the environment, business and education bequeathed by former President Barack Obama, and attempt to halt decades of steadily growing government reach.

Trump’s first budget will make more of a statement than most debut spending blueprints by other new presidents. The White House has made clear it intends to use the document to usher in the radical political changes that powered Trump’s upstart, anti-establishment campaign last year.

It comes on the heels of other big changes such as the abrupt dismissal of 46 US attorneys last week and the effort to dismantle Obama’s signature health care law.

Read the rest at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following–and how’s your weather?

70 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Blizzard Watch, Trumpcare and Trump’s Empty Government”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Suddenly I can’t see anything out my windows but white. Maybe I was wrong about this storm.

  2. bostonboomer says:


  3. bostonboomer says:

    Ezra Klein on Trumpcare:

    The perverse reality of the Republican health care bill. The more help you need, the less you get.


  4. Mary Luke says:

    I don’t trust any of the TV news. They always hype it to a hysterical level for ratings. I Google National Weather Service and type in my zip code. They are accurate.

  5. Mary Luke says:

    Re Ryan: Wow! You said what I have been thinking. I would like to see him formally excommunicated. Non-practicing though I am, he is a disgrace to the Church. Read his Wiki bio. He was warned years ago by a Jesuit that he coukd not be a Catholic and publicly espouse Ayn Rand. So he withdrew from all his Rand associations. That’s not enough now that he is in a position of power and can implement Rand economics.

  6. NW Luna says:

    So good the Dems are doing this, even though the Repugs will shoot it down.

  7. dakinikat says:

    There’s a really good reason they’re leaving it empty. Did you read the Executive Order he signed late last afternoon?


    President Bannon Is Laying the Groundwork for Destroying the Executive Branch

    A new executive order empowers the White House to dismantle federal agencies it doesn’t like.

    Are you one of the 13 remaining people on this planet who believes that President Trump is actually calling the shots in his administration, instead of merely serving as a tweet-happy puppet of White House chief strategist and Joseph McCarthy fanboy Steve Bannon? If so, the executive order signed on Monday, the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” might just be the straw that breaks the eternally optimistic, hopelessly naïve camel’s back. (At least this executive order doesn’t attempt to ban a religious group from the United States. Silver linings, I guess.)

    A new executive order empowers the White House to dismantle federal agencies it doesn’t like.

    Are you one of the 13 remaining people on this planet who believes that President Trump is actually calling the shots in his administration, instead of merely serving as a tweet-happy puppet of White House chief strategist and Joseph McCarthy fanboy Steve Bannon? If so, the executive order signed on Monday, the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” might just be the straw that breaks the eternally optimistic, hopelessly naïve camel’s back. (At least this executive order doesn’t attempt to ban a religious group from the United States. Silver linings, I guess.)
    View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
    ABC News Politics ✔ @ABCPolitics
    NEW: White House releases text of executive order to “propose plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies.”
    4:35 PM – 13 Mar 2017
    701 701 Retweets 333 333 likes
    The directive’s stated goal is to improve the “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” of federal agencies, which sounds innocuous enough. However, it proposes some rather, um, extreme measures for attaining those ends, including axing agency components, merging them with one another, or even—if a forthcoming review reveals redundancies or inefficiencies—eliminating agencies altogether. In an inadvertently hilarious photo opp, Trump signed the order surrounded by members of his cabinet—in other words, a few of the people whose jobs his directive places in jeopardy. I’m so happy to have you here as my Secretary of Education, Ms. DeVos. I look forward to hearing whether your colleagues believe that your department should even exist.

    • dakinikat says:

      From Melissa: http://www.shakesville.com/2017/03/heres-how-obliteration-of-federal.html

      There are three sections in particular I want to highlight.

      1. “This order is intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs.”

      The primary objective is elimination.

      2. “In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consider, in addition to any other relevant factors: (i) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the Federal Government or would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise.”

      The secondary objective is privatization of that which cannot be eliminated.

      3. Recommendations for assessing whether an agency and/or its services should be eliminated or privatized include consideration of “(iv) whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides.”

      There is no metric detailed for how that value is assessed. This is both a broad and subjective metric. So broad and subjective, in fact, that it was clearly designed to be abused. Elimination justified by the calculation that the public benefits provided by an agency could not justify its costs.

      Though the designated responsibility for these assessments lies with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the director is tasked with relying on assessments provided by the agency directors (and the public). Which brings us back to a point I have made over and over and over: Trump chose Cabinet secretaries based on their contempt for the agencies they are tasked to lead.

      Betsy DeVos wants to destroy public education; Scott Pruitt believes the EPA is a problem for business; Rick Perry once proposed eliminating the Department of Energy altogether; etc.

      Now these people are being tasked with evaluating the efficacy of their departments and making recommendations with the objectives of elimination and privatization.

      And let us be clear: The vast reduction in services will not mean lower taxes. Those funds will be redirected to Trump’s pet projects like building a border wall or pouring more money into our “very depleted” military so it can be “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”

      It will be incredibly difficult to rebuild the federal government after it is obliterated, especially when taxpayers aren’t paying any less for fewer services. Rebuilding will necessitate tax increases, which are never a popular election strategy, even when they are desperately needed. It will be tough to find candidates who want to rebuild and can get elected on a strategy of rebuilding.

      This will be devastating, and its effects will reverberate for a very long time.

      I remember driving in to the LA basin before the EPA was formed. It was like jumping into a toxic, red, sand cloud of all kinds of crap. I also remember watching paunch manure being dumped directly into the Missouri river by the Omaha slaughter houses. Worst thing I’ve ever smelled and seen. I already live close to Cancer Alley down here in Louisiana.

      We are so fucked.

      • dakinikat says:

        and via a friend: “So this Executive Order concerning the organization of the executive branch got signed today, and let me tell you what it does in non-legalese:
        it invites the head of every agency of the government to submit a plan within the next six months to eliminate part OR ALL of any executive branch agency.
        Read that again.
        And then consider what the executive branch includes:
        Dept. of Energy, currently headed by Rick Perry, who said he wanted to shut it down during his campaign for president
        EPA, which Scott Pruitt has been battling for years
        State, currently headed by friend-of-Putin, Rex Tillerson
        Dep. of Education, currently headed by Betsy DeVos, who does not believe in public education
        Treasury, currently headed by Goldman Sachs exec. Steve Mnuchin, who has every reason to gut every aspect of financial regulation
        Justice, currently headed by Sessions, who basically doesn’t believe in justice for anyone but white men
        And on and on and on and on it goes.
        RESIST LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Because it just might.”

      • ANonOMouse says:

        trump is going to do to our government what Ryan has done to the ACA, try to suffocate it.

        I wonder how much Russia is compensating him for this mission?

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s my point. It’s what the CNN article is about.

  8. dakinikat says:

    The Des Moines Register is still a good paper:

    “If Steve King was your average, garden-variety bigot and was standing on a street corner while spouting his nonsense to passersby, he’d be easy to ignore. Everyone could dismiss his rants as undeserving of their attention and get on with their day.

    Unfortunately, King has a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s a federal lawmaker. He’s on the public payroll. When he speaks, he represents — literally and figuratively — the people of Iowa.

    So when he says things that are untrue, offensive or wildly irresponsible, attention must be paid. Responsible people have to step up and attempt to set the record straight or demonstrate that not everyone in Iowa, or in Congress, shares King’s distorted view of the world.”

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    The snow has finally stopped here. We got about a foot in Western MA. My white Focus is buried out there once again. Like a big, white hump!

    Spring can’t get here soon enough!

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s 2005 only. Ex wife? who I wonder gave it to David Cay Johnston?

      • dakinikat says:

      • Fannie says:

        Hope to see more of this kind of leaking.

      • dakinikat says:

        I’m actually being into the idea that T-Rump may have leaked it. It’s only two pages. Nothing really worthwhile and shows him paying taxes including the AMT which he hates. It has client copy stamped on it. Seriously, it was very disappointing. Really nothing there.

        • bostonboomer says:

          I don’t see the reasoning for why he would do that, but I’m glad Rachel publicized it and explained that there’s nothing illegal about the press publishing it. There are other people who could have access to a “client copy.” It’s “worthwhile” to know that Trump would have paid almost nothing without alternative minimum, which Trump wants to eliminate.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Why would an ex-wife have this? He was married to Melania.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          I agree with everyone who believes that tRump released this himself to take the focus off of what is happening with his accusations against Obama and his relationships with Russia and Russian criminals. The tax return is not interesting in my view and I think Rachel overplayed this hand because it tells us absolutely nothing. If we had all of the schedules we’d know more. The more recent tax returns with all the schedules would likely be newsworthy.

  10. dakinikat says:

    This Level of Corruption Is Unprecedented in the Modern History of the Presidency
    And it’s threatening our democracy.


    It’s almost as though the entire bureaucratic immune system of the government is reacting to an invading virus. The worst thing any of us can do is assume that the ascent of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago was not the sui generis event that it clearly was, and that he, himself, is not the sui generis occupant of the White House that he clearly is, and that he has not surrounded himself with dubious quacks and hacks that are sui generis in their approach to government as they clearly are.

    There is a level of intellectual—and, perhaps, literal—corruption that is unprecedented in the modern history of the presidency and that is a genuine and unique threat to democratic institutions that are the objects of destructive contempt. The man ran on chaos. He won on chaos. And now he’s governing on chaos. The checks and balances and safety valves of the Constitution—the things that, well, constitute—the immune system of this self-governing republic are facing a threat that is as different as it is lethal.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Friendly reminder: Bernie Sanders never released his taxes either.

    • Fannie says:

      Oh, hell yeah, I think about that all the time too.

    • NW Luna says:

      Bernie’s one of the reasons Trump won.

      • Earlynerd says:


        And with all those eerie parallels to tRump’s campaign, too. Like millions in mystery money, a campaign organizer (“not even a” Tad Devine) with ties to a certain Ukranian strongman and all those armies of smear-planting bots that even Huffpo had to finally admitted existed (though framing it more like the Sanders bros, not Hillary, were the principle victims). Since, like tRump, he’s refused to publish any relevant tax returns, maybe we can look forward to a leak there too?

        I read an online quote in response to a search query that Sanders has now refused to file the final reconciliation report nominally demanded by the FEC for those 900+ pages of campaign finance violations. Can’t find a reliable source for it, though, and the FEC only told me, when I called to ask about it, that candidates really don’t have to file one until their campaign cash balance is zero, and that could take years.

        With decisions like this one, though, he just doesn’t have to do a blessed thing:


        He has, after all, gotten away with flatly refusing to file a personal financial report by putting it off till after the July convention, then declaring it moot. Even tRump filed one of those, FFS.

        Unless a public spirited citizen – or better yet, a lawyer – files a complaint against him, he’ll get away with this too. I believe this still matters very much, because until the Democratic party is scoured clean of this grifter, he’ll continue to destroy it and leave the country with no effective alternative to Republicans.

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. NW Luna says:


    • NW Luna says:

      My guess: he’s been skating on top of a collapsing pyramid scheme.

      • NW Luna says:

        Of course.

        • Catscatscats says:

          That’s because he is smarter than her….right?

          • NW Luna says:

            I’m sure the deplorables think that. I think it’s funny that Trump probably isn’t anywhere as rich as he claims. Never could understand why there is supposed to be a connection between intelligence and being filthy rich. Most of the occupations which could make you rich don’t require huge intellectual skills, and if you have a sense of creativity you’d be bored silly in them. Or be uncomfortable, if you have a sense of fairness. Besides, it seems like most people are paid in inverse proportion to how hard they work.

          • dakinikat says:

            Doesn’t really take intelligence to squander your father’s fortune.

          • NW Luna says:

            Dumbness would help in the squandering.

            Oh, I was not at all implying that Trump is smart (just read over my comment at 11:07). He’s a slimy manipulator and somehow many people fell for that.

            He’d have made more money if he’d stuck that gift from Papa in an index fund and left it alone.

  14. Re: Rachel Maddow’s story and obtaining Trump’s 2005 1040. The idea here is that if Trump’s 2005 income was from the sale of two properties, that means he didn’t really have income and was financially in trouble prior to the later years when he became financially beholden to Russian money.

    Armando Retweeted Patrick LaForge
    Whoa. That’s actually news. He wasn’t making $$. He just sold holdings. He was in trouble in 2005!Armando added,
    Patrick LaForgeVerified account @palafo
    Most of $150m income was from sale of 2 properties, in Manhattan and San Francisco, to Hong Kong investors http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2017/03/14/report-trump-s-2005-taxes-revealed.html?via=mobile&source=copyurl

    • NW Luna says:

      Leveraged over his eyeballs, and makes a desperate grab for that huge prize which enables him to sell off America and pay his debts to Russian and Chinese mafia tycoons.

      • Earlynerd says:

        I swear, P.G. Wodehouse couldn’t have constructed a more typical plot for one of his Drones Club members.

        “Bingo, er, Donnie. This here’s ‘Ern. ‘Ern’s terribly worried you’re going to have an accident. Funny thing, everyone that’s told ‘Ern he can’t pay what’s owed just happened to have a terrible accident. Shall we say January, 2017, then, without fail?”

        Remember, Putin’s that guy that can get people killed thousands of miles away, in another country, in the most painful, lingering, horrific ways.