As bad as the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have made things for Americans who buy health insurance in the individual market, it could be worse. In fact, the Trump administration may make it worse later this year, just in time for the midterm elections.
Specifically, the administration is considering a way to increase the pain inflicted by its decision last year to stop reimbursing insurers for certain subsidies they are required to provide low-income Americans enrolled in Obamacare plans. These “cost-sharing subsidies” lower deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. The decision shifted the cost of billions of dollars’ worth of subsidies from federal taxpayers onto the people buying health insurance in the individual market.
Insurers and regulators in most states found a way to redirect that bullet so that taxpayers continued to absorb much or all of the cost. Now, however, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are thinking about barring this practice, resulting in higher premiums for more of the roughly 20 million Americans who buy insurance in that market.
In introducing the State Department’s latest report on international religious freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week waxed lyrical about the importance of religious liberty in America’s constitutional system.
“Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream,” Pompeo said. “It’s what brought the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom. That is why they articulated it so clearly in the 1st Amendment.”
For the first time in four years, the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County decreased. It was only by a modest 3% (and 5% in just the city of L.A.) but that is still a significant reversal of a disturbing trend of double-digit increases in recent years.
The dip was welcome news, but the overall picture remains grim — 53,195 homeless people in the county, 31,516 of them in the city. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which administers the count, also says that more than 16,000 homeless people were housed, which is the highest number ever. It’s a sign that city and county agencies are treating the problem as the crisis that it is and directing more money into housing, services and outreach.
The most progress was made with homeless veterans, whose ranks decreased by 18%, to 3,910, and chronically homeless individuals, whose numbers dropped 16%, to 14,389. The latter figure reflects how county and city officials focused much of their efforts on housing the most vulnerable portion of the homeless population.
Pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, as President Trump did Thursday, is one thing. D’Souza, a conservative author and commentator, pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions. Many conservatives believe he was overpunished because of his politics. Probably a bad idea to pardon him, but whatever.
Pardoning Martha Stewart, as Trump then told reporters he was thinking of doing, would be a troublesome decision too. She was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a stock sale that some people believed constituted insider trading. Trump has a long-time personal relationship with her. (See below for her video with Donald and Melania making meatball sandwiches.) She long ago served her time, so pardoning her now would be mostly symbolic.
Those are two highly questionable choices, though they hardly rise to the level of some of Trump’s outrages.
Conservatives are on the warpath for Samantha Bee’s head after the comedian called Ivanka Trump a “feckless …” on her cable TV show "Full Frontal” last night, using a vulgar reference to the female anatomy that my editors won’t let me repeat here. Bee’s slur, for which she apologized Thursday, was prompted by Trump’s ostensive refusal to stand up to her father’s heartless immigration policies.
We all know what the missingword in Bee’s invective means. It’s obviously crass. Coming from the mouth of a man, it would clearly be considered sexist. A woman calling another woman the same term isn’t great. It coarsens the culture and gives men cover to use a term we shouldn’t.
Just so we’re all clear on that first word though, take a look at the dictionary definition above. As you can clearly see, “feckless” does not mean “white devil.” It is not an animal of any kind. It is not a pejorative way to attack someone’s religion. It means a person lacking strength of character.
Any number of critical things can be – and have been – said about President Trump’s outrageous pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator who pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions:
The pardon is another example of Trump’s whimsical approach to the exercise of an important presidential power — also evidenced by his comment Thursday that he’s considering clemency for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
It’s another example of Trump’s obsession with undoing actions undertaken during the Obama administration.
It reflects Trump’s sense of solidarity with right-wing culture warriors. D’Souza, you may recall, once tweeted out a picture of Obama holding a selfie stick with the caption: “YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO... Watch this vulgar man shows his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment.”
It’s another signal to Trump associates charged by or in the sights of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Trump might come to their rescue.
But I was struck when I heard about the pardon by another possibility. I checked to see if D’Souza’s case had been the subject of sympathetic coverage by Fox News, which (to judge by Trump’s tweets) seems to be the president’s primary source of information.
Macroeconomic Advisers, a research firm focused on the U.S. economy, reported Wednesday that the U.S. trade deficit in goods was “much narrower than expected,” implying “substantially more” U.S. exports in the second quarter. So it revised its projection for economic growth sharply upward, to a robust 3.6% increase in GDP.
Achieving and sustaining that kind of growth is a key goal for President Trump. So naturally, on Thursday the Trump administration took a dramatic step to disrupt U.S. exports and pour ice water on the economy.
That would be imposing 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum imports from every major (and minor) metals-producing country around the world except Argentina, Australia and, in the case of steel, South Korea, effective Friday. The move turns a threat and negotiating ploy into an action, which will bring real consequences in the form of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. And it won’t be on U.S. steel and aluminum — it will be on Harley Davidson motorcycles, California almonds, Levi’s and Jack Daniel’s.