Monday, July 20, 2020

Literary Corner: A Very Exciting Two Weeks

Last five questions of a sample Montreal Cognitive Assessment test.

Fresh off yet another stunning performance on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment suggesting that he's probably not suffering from mild dementia, unlike Chris Wallace, he suggested in an interview with Chris Wallace

TRUMP:  It's all misrepresentation. Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I'll bet you couldn't, they get very hard, the last five questions.

WALLACE:  Well, one of them was count back from 100 by seven.

TRUMP:  Let me tell you...

WALLACE:  Ninety-three.

TRUMP: ... you couldn't answer -- you couldn't answer many of the questions.

WALLACE:  Ok, what's the question?

TRUMP:  I'll get you the test, I'd like to give it. I'll guarantee you that Joe Biden could not answer those questions.

Like, how many words beginning with F can you name in 60 seconds? Can you name a similarity between a banana and an orange? Can you recall all five words "face, velvet, church, daisy, red", with or without clues? And the last, my favorite, can you tell me the date, month, year, what building and what city you're in?

—Fresh, as I say, off another triumphant demonstration that if Chris Wallace or Joe Biden is suffering from mild dementia (there's no evidence that either one is), then he may be suffering from it less, though odds are that Trump himself hasn't been told it's a diagnostic for cognitive dysfunction and believes it's a test of how big his genetically superior big brain is, he showed up for some virtuoso freestyling in his Chris Wallace interview that will take your breath away, for example in this dazzlingly surreal answer to Wallace's question on why his administration has failed to come up with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in its three and a half years:

Within Two Weeks
by Donald J. Trump

We’re signing a health care plan within two weeks, 
a full and complete health care plan 
that the Supreme Court decision on DACA 
gave me the right to do. 

So we’re going to solve — we’re going to sign 
an immigration plan, a health care plan, 
and various other plans. And nobody will 
have done what I’m doing in the next four weeks. 

The Supreme Court gave the President of the 
United States powers that nobody thought 
the President had, by approving, by doing what they did — 
their decision on DACA. And DACA’s going to be taken 
care of also. But we’re getting rid of it because
we’re going to replace it with something much better. 

What we got rid of already, which was most 
of Obamacare, the individual mandate. 
And that I’ve already won on. And we won also 
on the Supreme Court. 

But the decision by the Supreme Court on DACA 
allows me to do things on immigration, on health care, 
on other things that we’ve never done before. 
And you’re going to find it to be a very exciting two weeks.

Exciting indeed! Full of incredible surprises! You can't even be sure how many weeks they'll be, two or four! For instance, that full and complete health care plan that he's expecting to sign? There's been no hint that it even existed! I'm 100% sure Congress hasn't passed one.

On the other hand he seems to have decided Congress isn't needed any more, because of Chief Justice Roberts's opinion, released a month ago, that the Trump administration's decision to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and start deporting the young people in question was so "arbitrary and capricious" as to violate the Administrative Procedure Act; and remanding it to the lower court to give the administration another chance to explain why they wanted to do it, which, given that they weren't able to come up with an explanation the first time, seems unlikely.

Trump's original interpretation of the Roberts opinion, which he shared with the audience at the Tulsa infection festival the next day, not so much incorrect as overoptimistic, was that it was a victory, because it gave him a kind of mulligan—a golf cheater's victory, which is perhaps all he really wants:

“People don't understand, but we actually won on DACA yesterday,” he told rallygoers. “We actually won, because [the court] basically said, ‘You won, but you have to come back and redo it.’”

So we're refiling it,” Trump continued. “Most people would say that we lost. We didn't lose. We're gonna refile it.”

I don't see how it enables him to institute a DACA replacement without any legislation, though, let alone an Obamacare replacement. I don't even know what a DACA replacement would be. Replaced how? (DACA is itself an executive solution to Congress's 20-year failure to pass a DREAM Act, and when people talk about "replacing" DACA they generally mean passing DREAM.) All Roberts says is that Trump isn't allowed to violate the Administrative Procedure Act, and starting up an entirely new system of distributing healthcare without Congressional help would certainly do that.

You know, I'm starting to suspect that Trump may not know what DACA is, or Obamacare either. 

The "individual mandate" is not "most of" the latter, which includes a massive rewriting of legislation on health insurance, an entirely new and hugely subsidized system for providing health insurance on the individual market, and a vast expansion of the Medicaid program. And Congress's act effectively eliminating the mandate by reducing the tax penalty for not failing to buy health insurance to $0 has hardly affected the industry at all:

For example, the researchers found claims data suggests the penalty's elimination did not drive healthy enrollees to drop their insurance. Further, the researchers found that claims costs, like in previous years, grew modestly during the first nine months of 2019, which they said indicates health plan enrollees on average did not become less healthy after the penalty's elimination.

Data on the average number of days individual health plan enrollees spent in the hospital also suggests healthy enrollees did not exit the market, the researchers found. According to the analysis, the average number of days individual market enrollees spent slightly decreased from 25 days per 1,000 enrollees during the first nine months of 2018 to 23.2 days per 1,000 enrollees during the first nine months of 2019.

In addition, the researchers found insurers remained profitable after the penalty's elimination.

Except, of course, inspiring that idiot Texas judge to declare the whole thing unconstitutional—which is certain to fail, if Roberts's DACA opinion means anything, because if the Trump administration's failure with DACA was a failure to weigh the consequences
Roberts’s cool, detached and technical opinion said the Trump administration’s haste to undo the program implemented eight years ago by the Obama administration got the better of the Department of Homeland Security’s obligation to weigh its impact: on the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who had identified themselves, on their families, on their 200,000 U.S. citizen children and on their contributions to the country’s economy and tax base.
—how much more arbitrary and capricious would it be to throw out the entire Affordable Care Act, taking away $135 billion in state Medicaid funds, taking insurance from at least 20 million people (45,600 per congressional district!), and bringing back restrictions on coverage of pre-existing conditions, annual or lifetime coverage limits, and the no-copay services of contraception, cancer screenings, well-child visits, etc.? The Roberts court has shown in the last round of decisions that it doesn't care about voting rights, but it does care about business, however careless Republican politicians may have decided to be.

Oh, and Trump isn't demented—it's true! But he's really, really dumb.

Update: via Axios via Mr. Pierce, Trump's theory of the DACA ruling comes from torture-meister John Yoo, and it's that it "makes it easier for the president to violate the law" (Yoo's article has enough self-control to say that would be a bad thing, but apparently Trump loves it):

Yoo detailed the theory in a National Review article, spotted atop Trump’s desk in the Oval Office, which argues that the Supreme Court's 5-4 DACA ruling last month "makes it easy for presidents to violate the law."

  • The president has brought up the article with key advisers, two Trump administration officials tell Axios.

Yoo writes that the ruling, and actions by President Obama, pave the way for Trump to implement policies that Congress won't.

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