Saturday, December 31, 2016

Team Optimist

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I'm once again on the holiday relief squad for Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog, and seeing as how Steve is a world-class pessimist, one of the things I try to bring there is a touch of sunny idiocy, as contrast, especially appropriate for the season of fresh starts and resolutions. And pretty challenging this time around, if we're talking politics, as we lurch into what seems certain to be the worst US presidential administration at least since Buchanan's, probably ever, led by a walking personality disorder in an impasto of pumpkin-colored pancake makeup.

And that's just for starters.

Is it possible that anything good can happen in 2017, or anything bad be forestalled? Not, surely, by the conscious intention of our president-elect or his Cabinet of Deplorables or the dreadful Republican leadership of the Congress. Maybe in states like California, where Governor Jerry Brown has already announced his determination to fight any Trumpian assault on environmental research and regulation:
"If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite," roared Brown to the crowd.
And referring to Rick Perry, the former Texas governor Trump has selected to lead the Dept. of Energy, Brown reminded everyone of California's advantages over Texas when it comes to renewable energy.
"We've got more sun than you've got oil," he quipped.
State governments can certainly play a role in combating efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which threaten them whether they're Democratic or Republican:
governors and state legislatures are voicing concerns that repealing the ACA may leave millions of people uninsured, as well as take away some of the mechanisms that helped their states drastically slash their uninsured rates.
At the top of their list of concerns is the fact that the most likely blueprint in Congress for repeal, a 2015 bill that President Barack Obama vetoed, would also repeal federal funding for Medicaid expansion, which was estimated to have helped cover 11 million adults across the country in 2015. Ten Republican governors have taken advantage of the expansion, which was so successful in some places like Kentucky that, even though Gov. Matt Bevin (R) campaigned on scrapping the ACA, he simply made some tweaks to the program once he took office.
The Congressional repeal plan from 2015 would also repeal tax increases that were part of the ACA, likely shifting the burden for paying for health care from the federal government to individual states.
I'm more and more convinced, now that it's not just me saying it, that the ACA is likely to survive: the repeal is going to be postdated, to 2019 or 2020, and the drawing up of a plan to replace it is going to be postponed for later. Actually never, because the Republicans will never succeed in devising a replacement that works to achieve what the public wants (an Affordable Care Act that isn't Obamacare)  other than by repassing the original ACA under a different name.

And on environmental issues I can't help feeling somewhat optimistic, not only because of Governor Brown (and other governors including my own, that weasel Cuomo, who is going to be OK on this, I think), but particularly because of the work Obama is doing in these last weeks to broaden and protect his accomplishments of the last eight years so that it would take years for Trump and accomplices to undo it, hopefully more years than they'll have; and because of the economics of energy, in which cleaner forms are becoming cheaper as dirtier forms (coal, oil, and fracked gas) are becoming less profitable. Even if Trump manages to repudiate the Paris agreement, American industry is going to find it better, at least in the near term, to follow it.

Beyond that it looks pretty dark, though, doesn't it. The one really good thing would be for the Democrats to take over Congress in 2018, and we're as likely to get that, I guess, as I am to get my pet unicorn.

I can imagine Congressional Republicans encountering some Tea Party–type rage at town meetings when they propose to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits, that's not a liberal-conservative issue for voters, whatever people like Ryan may think, and the political media may, for a change, be prepared to notice it before it's too late (Trump has advisers who might tell him not to sign such a thing, too). I can imagine the first round of Trump-Ryan tax cuts turning pretty sour pretty quickly, since the House will never in fact make spending cuts adequate to covering them (they'd have to be in the military budget and Medicare, nothing else is expensive enough) and deficits will balloon. It will be hard to restore taxes without enough Democrats in the legislature, but the need for taxes will be clearer by 2020, which is obviously going to be a better year for Democrats in any event. Not that we shouldn't be working on 2018, as hard as we can, if only for the practice.

The odds of Trump himself not surviving for the full four years are clearly pretty good, given his lack of social self-control, his activities already under investigation (the self-dealing Foundation) and soon to be so (receipt of foreign emoluments, egregious nepotism, suspicion of bribery, his morbid obesity, and personal finances, which are a kind of one-man Ponzi scheme that has to grow continually if it's to avoid collapse. Mike Pence, in the event, is going to be as lousy a president as he has been Indiana governor (with approval ratings to match)—he'll never convince the public that Ryan's vile program is any sort of Morning in America—and that looks good for 2020 as well. If Trump's breakdown or explosion were to occur soon enough, it could even be good for 2018.

Then there's the possibility of a coup. I'm almost serious. It's the extraordinary disrespect Trump's shown to the armed services and the intelligence community, so far, in claiming to "know more about ISIS than the generals", in rejecting so dismissively the intelligence views on the Russian hacking of our political organizations, and in staffing his cabinet with all those renegade generals. And the extraordinary collection of Russia connections! He must be making the Joint Chiefs and the heads of the 16 agencies pretty nervous, and perhaps angry too.

In this picture, the military and intelligence establishment essentially take over, not necessarily in an overt coup d'état, but in blackmail mode, and they tell Trump what to do, in security and foreign policy. The members of the security cabinet so far seem weak and ignorant enough that they couldn't do much about it. It's not something you want, really, to have a military government, but it's a hope for some kind of interim stability, and something we might be able as a nation to react against in a positive way.

Let 2017 be different, and let it be in a way we can sort of stand! Happy New Year, everybody!

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog. Update: And a similar take from Infidel751.

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