Betsy DeVos Is Not A “Trump Thing”

It’s Very Likely Trump’s Secretary Of Education, Reviled By Liberals, Would’ve Been Mitt Romney’s Or Jeb Bush’s Pick Too

Every once in a while we like to try to figure out what evils perpetrated by Trump are pure “Trump” and what are things any Conservative President would’ve pursued. So when the Washington Post reports Betsy DeVos is doing away with nearly 5 dozen department documents intended to clarify the rights of students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we might want to remind ourselves this could’ve happened during a Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney Presidency too. Evidence? High praise from both Romney and Bush (whom she’s particularly close to) when Trump chose her.

Now, one might argue DeVos might not be so gung-ho about ripping up regulations had Trump not directed her to when he issued an Executive Order calling for the elimination of “unnecessary regulatory burdens”. (And that Bush or Romney might not have done that.) Or maybe DeVos would not have been approved had she appeared as an outlier among a slate of more traditional Cabinet appointees.

Same might be said for EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. The New York Times reports his agency cancelled 3 speeches by its scientists scheduled for today at a conference in Rhode Island, related to climate change. The EPA gave no specific reason, except that the gathering is “not an EPA conference.” Conference organizers like John King, a Professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, call it “scientific censorship.”

The New York Times also reports in-depth on progress chemical manufacturers have made in the past few months getting regulations rolled back intended to keep cancer and birth-defect causing agents out of drinking water.

The Times points the finger at a Pruitt appointee, Nancy Beck, who joined the EPA in May, straight out of a top job with the chemical industry’s top lobbying group. The Times article provides several memos written by concerned officials in the EPA’s Office of Water, who say among other things, Beck’s rewritten a rule “to make it harder to track the health consequences of [a] chemical, and therefore regulate it.”

Still, Beck had some success getting regulations rolled back during the George W. Bush years. So can’t really say that’s necessarily a “Trump Thing” either.

When confronted by the Times with its findings, a newly hired spokesperson for the EPA (until recently a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council) responded:

“The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”

Now that’s a “Trump thing”.


The $666-Billion Deficit

The Treasury just announced the Federal Deficit for Fiscal Year 2017 (which ended in September) is an uncannily appropriate $666-billion dollars. (If the graphic is too small to read on your phone, the original Treasury doc is here.)

Forbes extrapolates into the current fiscal year and finds it won’t be much of a stretch for the budget deficit to exceed $1-trillion (even more if Trump’s projections for economic growth don’t hold).

Forbes also points out that Obama ran trillion dollar deficits during his first few years in office. But that was the result of lost revenues from the 2008 economic crisis, and increased spending to get out of that crisis. Not just to show off.

Remember also that financial crisis was triggered by deregulation in the banking and brokerage industries: trusting that they would act with restraint, and self-police, which they didn’t. Trump wants to deregulate that industry again: doing away with many of the rules put in place after the banks and brokerages acted so badly.


What’s Happening With Health Care

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this weekend said he is willing to bring the Alexander/Murray proposal to stabilize Obamacare to the Senate floor for a vote. But there’s a catch: he’ll only do it if Trump promises he’ll sign if it passes. We did the math for you last week showing it does have the votes: if all Democrats vote in favor, plus the 12 Republican co-sponsors, it’ll have the 60 it needs to pass in the Senate.

So a quick recap of what’s in that proposal:

  1. Resumption of the cost-sharing payments Trump cut off that help poor people pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses
  2. An additional layer of Obamacare coverage: so called “Copper” plans that would cover less and cost less than the Gold, Silver and Bronze plans now available.
  3. Lower hurdles for states that want to offer their own plans

The White House in recent days has been saying it wants to add a 4th item: removal of the government mandate requiring that everybody buy insurance. Of course if that happens, the measure will lose most if not all its support from Democrats.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also turning up the political pressure where they can. Former VP Candidate Tim Kaine and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet revealed what they’re calling “Medicare X“, with the intention of allowing people to buy into Medicare in areas left with no health insurance options, if insurers pull out following Trump’s decision not to pay cost-sharing subsidies. Is their intention to eventually spread it to “Medicare for All”? Of course not!


Two Extremely Interesting Overseas Elections Reward Right-Wing Hard-Liners And Populists. Also Pirates.

In Japan, as a massive typhoon neared the coast, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe increased his majority in Parliament, paving the way for big changes to that country’s constitution for the first time since World War II. Japan currently operates under documents that were drafted by the U.S. following the war, which prohibit it from raising a military. However, Japan does have so-called “Self Defense Forces”, and Abe has long been eager to redefine and perhaps expand their role.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe


In the Czech Republic, the 2nd biggest vote-getter in this weekend’s election, might’ve gotten the most attention, after he vastly outperformed expectations. Tomio Okamura was born in Tokyo: the son of a Japanese father and a Czech mother. His Ultra-Right party is vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. In fact he wants to ban Islam in the Czech Republic and has urged citizens to march around mosques with pigs in tow. Bloomberg has a really good profile that was written before the vote.

The winner, the 2nd richest person in the country, a populist named Andrej Babis.

Also of note, the “Pirates Party” came in 3rd, gaining 22 seats putting it ahead of most of the more established Czech parties. The Pirates are most popular among young people, largely as a protest vote, since they don’t have much of a platform (but at least they have planks. Ooh. Bad.)


McCain Body-Slams Trump Again

We caught this last night when we were cruising C-span. Arizona Senator John McCain, without mentioning Trump by name, comes down hard on rich Americans who stayed out of Vietnam by getting a diagnosis of a “bone spur”. Anyone we know? Watch:

It’s a fascinating interview about McCain’s relationship with his captors during the 5 years he was a POW. If you care to see more, it’s here.

Of course, during the campaign, Trump infamously denigrated McCain’s status as a war hero, saying “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”