Donald Trump is no Boy Scout

Donald Trump recently used his speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree as a political platform to attack his opponents. This disgusts me. I was a Boy Scout. The Boy Scouts teach American children and young adults important values that have helped shape many of our political leaders, including five Presidents of the United States. Donald Trump shares none of these values.

The Scout Law says that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Every Scout and former Scout can recite that from memory. Let’s see how Donald Trump follows the Scout Law.

Trustworthy: Trump has repeatedly made false statements, better known as lies, as both a candidate and as our President. Trustworthy? NO

Loyal: Trump has shown incredible disloyalty to his country by siding with Russia against his own country’s intelligence agencies. Loyal? NO

Helpful: Trump has actively hindered the business of governance as President by forcing White House staff to defend false claims, by firing James Comey, and by undermining the legitimacy of our elections. Helpful? NO

Friendly: Trump is notoriously aggressive and disagreeable. Friendly? NO

Courteous: Trump is rude. He eats his steak with ketchup, he refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand, and he used his handshake with Emmanuel Macron to try to intimidate Macron with a death grip. Courteous? NO

Kind: Come on, do I even have to answer this one? Kind? NO

Obedient: Trump does do whatever Vladimir Putin tells him to. He does follow this part of the Scout Law. Obedient? YES (but to the wrong people)

Cheerful: Trump’s convention speech was one of the darkest speeches in American political history. He screamed about how “only [he] can fix” the current “American carnage” for nearly an hour. Cheerful? NO

Thrifty: Trump ran numerous businesses into the ground and has wasted money faster than any administration in history. Thrifty? NO

Brave: Trump dodged the draft in Vietnam. He attacks people on Twitter and then acts nice in person. Brave? NO

Clean: I don’t know about Trump’s hygiene habits, but in his thoughts he is most definitely not clean. Aside from his well-know affinity for grabbing body parts, Trump has publicly expressed sexual attraction towards his own daughter. Clean? NO

Reverent: Trump has shown no respect towards any faith, and has disrespected the American military by attacking a gold star family and by questioning the characterization of John McCain as a war hero because he was captured. Reverent? NO



It’s the Economy, Stupid! Why Democrats need to be defined by economics, not social issues

The Democratic Party, if it wants to regain power, must be defined by economic issues and allow for internal disagreement on some social issues.
The recent controversy surrounding Heath Mello, the personally pro-life Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha has exposed a broader tension within the Democratic Party and American politics at large: the tension between the coasts and the middle and between statist and libertarian wings of both major parties.
The Nolan chart looks like this.

It describes people’s political orientations based on their views on personal and economic freedoms. The two major parties in the U.S have typically fallen in the “Left” or “Right” squares. People in those squares are solid party people, your Howard Dean on the Left or your Ted Cruz on the RIght. The fabled “swing voters” often fall in either the Libertarian or Statist (social conservative, fiscal liberal) camps. The “Trump voter” or the “Reagan Democrat” the blue-collar white person who is socially conservative or moderate and fiscally expansionist (as it serves his self-interest), would fall into the Statist category.
Almost anyone who falls into the Left square already votes Democrat, and almost anyone in the Right square already votes Republican. The other two squares, Libertarian and Statist, can be pulled, in various degrees depending on year and message, into the Republican or Democratic camps. The reason that Trump won is that he got all the votes of the right square and a sizable portion of both the Libertarian and Statist voters, because his ideological malleability meant that the both camps felt at home. The key mistake of the Clinton campaign was the almost complete exclusion of the Statist voters from their strategy. Because the Clinton campaign made social issues the defining aspect of their campaign, they excluded those portions of the Democratic base that disagreed even minutely on social issues, even if those voters agreed with the Democrats on economic issues. This meant that the Democrats were trying to win with about 1.5 quadrants on the Nolan chart, the entire Left quadrant and about half of the Libertarian quadrant, while Trump could draw votes from the entire Right quadrant, about half of the Libertarian quadrant, and almost all of the Statist quadrant. This was because Trump did not exclude voters on the basis of social or economic issues; Trump courted pro-choice Libertarian voters because they agreed with him on deregulation and pro-Big Government Statists because they agreed with him on immigration, while Hillary actively rejected pro-life voters even if they agreed with everything else on the Democratic Party platform-in other words, she rejected the statists.
This election season, the Clinton campaign tried their hardest to get the votes of suburban college graduates on the coasts, former Republicans, the fiscally conservative, socially liberal upper-class, people who would fall in the middle of the Libertarian square, while simultaneously distancing themselves from the progressive wing of the party, the wing more concerned with economic justice than with the latest social justice cause celebre, the wing that contains pro-life and pro-gun Democrats, the wing that is prominent in Montana and Nebraska and South Dakota and New Hampshire and Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa other red states, the wing that would roughly fall on the line between Left and Statist, the wing that had the most defections to Trump.
Why? Why would the Democratic Party welcome a rich New Yorker who disagrees with us on every economic issue, who believes in trickle-down economics and deregulation and who opposes the public investment needed to stop climate change, just because he agrees with us on God, guns (because he’s never even held one), and gays while at the same time rejecting a Midwesterner who knows we need to fight climate change, who believes in massive public investment to provide basic services for every American, who agrees with us on every important policy issue, simply because that Midwesterner likes his hunting rifle or is a little uncomfortable with transgender people or has a personal qualm with abortion ?
Why? Because the leaders of the Democratic Party, like the leaders of almost every economically conservative institution today, are themselves coastal elites. They, as wealthy urban dwellers, benefit from neoliberal economic policies like a low minimum wage, less progressive taxation, deregulation of the financial industry, and unrestricted capital movement. Their support for negative rights, rights that entail being left alone by the government like the right to marry or the right to legal birth control, is rooted in an apathy about the actions of others, not some deep sense of justice. As soon as the struggle for justice crosses over into positive rights, rights that require government action like the right to affordable housing or the right to a living wage, they often don’t care, or at least they don’t prioritize those rights. For these leaders and many coastal liberals, politics is more about promoting a permissive society than it is about building a greater one.
For the coasts, politics has become a battle of social issues and identities as coastal factions of both parties have embraced the neoliberal economic consensus. You are a Democrat on the coasts because of what you ARE-a minority, a woman, a gay person, an immigrant, a college graduate- rather that what you BELIEVE.
This transition from an economically-based message to an identity-based one is what cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election. She tried to essentially stack up identity-based groups of voters (blacks, Latinos, gays, college grads, women) to reach a majority, arguing that they should vote for her because Donald Trump threatened what they ARE, regardless of what their political beliefs happen to be. She also strongly aligned herself with Hollywood and Wall Street, two massive symbols of coastal disconnect. In the process, she alienated many economically liberal voters, particularly in the Midwest, who aren’t quite in lockstep with the Democratic Party’s vanguard social beliefs.
I remember discussing the election with a union autoworker at the Chrysler plant in St. Louis, a friend’s dad who had been interested in Bernie Sanders because of his economic positions. He had a Trump sign in his yard, and I asked him why, given that Trump is a billionaire and his economic policies would probably hurt this guy. He responded “Yeah, maybe, but at least he cares about me. Hillary cares more about Beyonce and Jay-Z and the trannies in North Carolina than she does about my job.”
I had no response, because he’s not wrong. To a lot of coastal liberals, and clearly to the Clinton campaign, whether or not a transgender student can use the bathroom he/she wants to use IS more important than jobs being lost to automation, and is a more rigid litmus test of one’s political affiliation than any economic policy position. However, this is not a viable political strategy, if only for the simple fact that there are a lot more auto workers than there are libertines, more statist than there are libertarians.
Going forward, the Democratic Party should emphasize justice and the expansion of rights, both positive and negative, economic and civil rights, as its primary goal. Chief among these must be:
The right to an adequate standard of living.

This will be accomplished by implementing paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and more generous social programs, paid for by more progressive taxation

The right to safety.

This will be accomplished by implementing sensible gun control to reduce the number of homicides and by improving police practices to reduce any threat of violence by the State.

The right to equal treatment.

This will be accomplished by implementing non-discrimination laws for employers, by eliminating the male-female wage gap, and by ensuring equal access to healthcare for men and women, particularly reproductive healthcare

The right to share in our common birthright

This will be accomplished by improving access to public land (which will really get us some votes out West, particularly from hunters who feel unrepresented by the NRA-backed Republicans) by making utility monopolies into publicly-owned corporations, and by banning the further sale of federal lands to private companies

The right to progress

This will be accomplished through massive public investments in infrastructure, specifically road improvements and high speed rail, and a government-led transition of our energy base from a fossil-fuel based system to a renewable energy based system.
These rights are things that are broadly supported by all Americans, Democrats just need to tailor their presentation of these ideas to their audience.
If we’re trying to convince a Detroit factory worker that clean energy is important, our argument should be that America has nearly endless acres of wind and sun, and that we can create a lot of manufacturing jobs while becoming a perpetual energy superpower, exporting huge amounts of electricity that costs us nothing to produce. The factory worker, the farmer, the Trump voter, will respond to that message. They will NOT respond to the argument put forward by Clinton and most other coastal liberals, which typically boils down to “Trees are important, man.”
If Democrats want to win elections in the future, they must reorient, from a coastal coalition of Liberals and some Libertarians and Centrists united around a social agenda that is quickly sliding into decadence, into a national coalition of Liberals, Statists, and Centrists united around a vision of economic and social justice for all Americans. This is how the Democratic Party will find its way out of the wilderness, recover the Trump Democrats, and regain power.

An Easy Obamacare Fix

As the Republican plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare falls apart in the Senate, it is becoming increasingly likely that Republicans and Democrats will be forced to work together to essentially fix Obamacare. Now, I believe, and the evidence shows, that Obamacare was a good law. A whole lot of people’s lives got a whole lot easier because of Obamacare. However, it was not a perfect law., and it made some peoples’ lives – mostly people whose bare bones insurance plans were outlawed by Obamacare – harder. There are improvements that can be made to the current law, and today I’ll detail a simple one that Republicans actually got right in the BCRA: Extending premium tax credits and subsidies below 100% of the poverty line.

Under current law, premium tax credits and payment subsidies only cover people whose income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, or FPL. People whose income is below 100% of FPL were supposed to  be covered by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which expanded Medicaid from a program that only covered vulnerable low-income populations-pregnant women, children, mothers, the disabled- into a program that covers all low income individuals, including childless adults. However, 19 states still have not expanded their Medicaid program to cover childless adults who live below the poverty line. This situation leaves those individuals- childless adults with incomes below the poverty line in non-expansion states- in an odd situation: they are not covered by Medicaid, so they have to buy their own insurance,  but they do not qualify for federal premium subsidies because they do not make over 100% FPL. These individuals are far too poor to afford private insurance without subsidies, so they stay uninsured.

In a perfect world, the 19 non-expansion states would stop intentionally harming their own citizens and accept the Medicaid expansion, allowing this population to be covered by Medicaid. However, we do not live in a perfect world, so the next-best solution is to remove the lower income limit on premium subsidies, extending them to individuals below 100% of FPL. This is the right thing to do, not only because it will allow millions of people to receive health insurance, but because it will bring in a much-needed population to insurance pools: young people.

This population- poor, childless adults- skews very young, mostly because older people in poverty typically have children and therefore qualify for Medicaid. Many of them were on Medicaid as a child, but lost coverage when they turned 18. They are often college or community college students who are young and healthy and cannot afford a $200+ monthly insurance premium on their near-minimum-wage incomes. By extending premium subsidies to this population they could be brought into the private insurance market. This would help to stabilize the marketplace by increasing the amount of young, healthy people in insurance pools.

This extension of subsidies appeals to both parties; Democrats like it because it expands insurance coverage, and we already know that Republicans like it because it was their idea. Most importantly, an extension of premium subsidies to individuals with incomes below the poverty line will make a lot of peoples lives easier by allowing them to afford insurance coverage and, as an added bonus, by stabilizing insurance markets through an influx of younger, childless people. An extension of premium subsidies to people in poverty should be a part of any Obamacare fix.