Consider just a portion of what lies ahead:
1) Millions are set to lose health insurance. CNN reports this morning that Republicans are coalescing around a strategy that would repeal Obamacare at the outset but delay the full impact of it, on the gamble that Democrats will help them replace it later. Whether or not that will actually happen, the move underscores that Republicans themselves are discovering how hard it will be to replace Obamacare with something that accomplishes roughly the same things — or at least enough of them to keep their proposal from looking too regressive — without all the things they hate about it. Yet they are likely to go through with repeal anyway.
Trump vowed to repeal Obamacare and won the election, so it’s hardly surprising that this is happening. Yet there are zero indications that Trump himself understands the fundamental dilemma here, which is that Republicans are mostly in policy fantasy-land on this issue. There is no obvious way to repeal all the things Republicans hate about Obamacare while replacing it with the “terrific” things Trump has said he wants (protections for people with preexisting conditions, health care for everybody). Everything he has said indicates he thinks this will be easy.
It’s possible Republicans will get cold feet, obviously, particularly since a number of GOP legislators now come from states that have expanded Medicaid, meaning they’ll now have to vote to actually kick untold numbers off health coverage. But it’s also possible that repeal will go forward, and then a replacement will miraculously fail to materialize.
2) Social insurance for the elderly is likely to be transformed. All indications are that Republicans fully intend to go through with their plan to change Medicare into a “premium support” system that very likely means benefits cuts over time and an end to the “Medicare guarantee.”
Republicans will structure this so current and imminent beneficiaries don’t feel the impact. But over time, this very well could amount to a fundamental transformation of a key portion of the social safety net. We don’t know if Trump will go through with it — he has repeatedly vowed not to cut or change Medicare. But he might: he may be perfectly susceptible to persuasion by congressional Republicans who will argue that, don’t worry, we’re actually saving Medicare and making it stronger.
Trump will have to be very focused on the details to grasp that the Medicare guarantee is the core issue here — and there’s no particular indication that he’ll care deeply about the larger implications of the core underlying dispute over whether to end that guarantee even if he does fully grasp them.
3) The current arrangement we have with millions of undocumented immigrants could be upended abruptly. Politico reports that Senator Lindsey Graham will push legislation that would offer a path to some form of legal status for the DREAMers — those brought here illegally as children. He predicts that it would pass easily. Maybe. Or maybe not: Trump has promised to end Obama’s executive actions immediately, including the one protecting DREAMers from deportation and giving them work permits.
If Trump goes through with that promise, that will mean hundreds of thousands of people who were brought here illegally as children through no fault of their own — many of whom are thoroughly Americanized — will not only suddenly be subject to possible removal later; they’ll also lose their work permits in short order. That could drive untold numbers back into the shadows. Graham’s effort shows that even some Republicans see how unjust and disruptive this could be.
Beyond that, though, it’s likely that President Trump’s regime will substantially roll back the enforcement priorities — put in place by Obama — that de-prioritize the removal of millions of low level offenders with longtime ties to communities. Some estimates hold that Trump’s immigration policies could mean more than five million become targets for short-term removal. Regardless of whether that actually happens, it’s very likely that such an underlying shift in deportation priorities will leave many more under a much darker cloud of suspicion and fear, since they’ll be subject to more likely deportation than before.
And this doesn’t even touch on the future of the global climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. Or the likely rollback of Wall Street regulations. Or the possibility of deep tax cuts at the top that could produce soaring deficits or dramatic cuts to government programs that serve lower-income people.
“It is time to start taking Trump’s proposals at face value, and realize that he and his Administration are promising across the board radical changes that will affect the lives of tens of millions with remarkable speed,” Dem strategist Simon Rosenberg emails. “It isn’t really clear that we are ready to adequately challenge the legislative onslaught the Republicans have planned for early next year.”
Now, it’s true that in all these cases we don’t know how far Trump will actually go. It’s also true that Republicans are taking steps to mitigate the short-term impact of some of the changes being mulled, and are struggling internally with the details in ways that suggest their best laid plans could conceivably go bust. But is there any particular reason not to anticipate the worst at this point?
* UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS: Not bad:
The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent from 4.9 percent the previous month, according to new government data released Friday morning.
Thanks, President-elect Trump.
* TRUMP’S DEFENSE SEC WANTS MORE ENGAGEMENT IN MIDEAST: The New York Times notes this about Trump’s pick for Defense Seteray, James Mattis, the retired general who led an invasion of Baghdad in 2003:
After retiring from the military, General Mattis told Congress that the administration’s “policy of disengagement in the Middle East” had contributed to the rise of extremism in the region. The United States, he told lawmakers in 2015, needs to “come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.”…General Mattis believes…that Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed.
Weren’t we told endlessly during the campaign that Trump was an isolationist with an anti-war streak?
* MATTIS DOESN’T SEE WAY OUT OF IRAN DEAL: Still, the Post adds that Mattis sees Iran as the greatest threat to Mideast stability right now, but notes that he said this at a recent talk:
Mattis…argued that the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration last year may slow Iran’s ambitions to get a nuclear weapon but will not stop them. But he added that “absent a clear and present violation,” he did not see a way that Washington could go back on it, because any unilateral sanctions issued by the United States would not be as valuable if allies were not on board.
As I’ve noted before, a great deal will turn on whose counsel Trump truly values. At least here’s one cabinet pick who doesn’t advocate for shredding the Iran deal immediately.
* YOUNG DEMS PROD PELOSI FOR REFORM: CNN has an interesting look at a handful of young House Dems who are successfully prodding Nancy Pelosi to reform the Dem caucus, opening up leadership positions to elections rather than appointments. As one of them puts it: “the whole point that we’ve been pushing is we need more voices in the Democratic party, we need newer voices, we need younger voices, we need more diverse voices.”
One big story will be which young Democrats emerge as the leaders of the future party, now that the Obamas and Clintons are passing from the scene, and here’s one place to watch.
* WORKERS WONDER IF TRUMP WILL HELP THEM, TOO: CNBC reports on workers at two plants in Indiana who are not getting their jobs saved by Trump, unlike those at the Carrier plant:
Near the Indianapolis Carrier facility, workers at a Rexnord plant which is also slated to move to Mexico — taking 300 jobs with it — also wondered if Trump could intervene. “Do for us what you’ve done for Carrier,” John Feltner, one of those to lose his job, said.
Trump will salvage a handful of manufacturing jobs here and there to great PR effect, counting on the fact that there will be little media coverage of the far greater numbers who continue to lose their jobs.
* AND OBAMACARE REPEAL WILL HURT LOTS OF TRUMP VOTERS: Paul Krugman looks at the census data from 2013-2015 to try to estimate the impact of Obamacare repeal on people who voted for Trump:
Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.
As I’ve noted, the uninsured rate among lower-income non-college whites has dropped 10 points. How many Trump voters knew they were voting to kill their health care?