THE MORNING PLUM:
The Congressional Budget Office will release its score of the GOP health-care bill today, and whatever the details, it will confirm once again that the Republican plan would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, leaving many millions uncovered. This, plus continued discussion of President Trump’s budget — which would heap a whole array of other cuts on top of that — will demonstrate that Trump is fully committed to a truly transformative downsizing of social programs that help lower-income people, packaged with an enormous tax cut for the rich.
But the evidence is mounting that Trump’s economic blueprint — whatever considerable harm it would do to people who didn’t vote for Trump — is also likely to hurt untold numbers of people who did vote for him.
First, I’ve obtained some new polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows large numbers of Trump voters and their families rely on Medicaid, and large numbers of them oppose cutting the program. Click to enlarge:
This polling, which comes from Kaiser’s February tracking poll and was broken down at my request, shows that 42 percent of Trump voters, and 51 percent of people who approve of Trump, say Medicaid is somewhat or very important to them and their families. More to the point, only 24 percent of Trump voters and 20 percent of people who approve of Trump want to decrease spending on Medicaid, while majorities of both want to keep it the same and many more want to increase it. (A recent Quinnipiac poll also found that 54 percent of Republicans oppose cutting Medicaid.)
Trump’s budget would transform the structure of Medicaid and cut spending on the program by hundreds of billions of dollars on top of the GOP health-care plan’s hundreds of billions in cuts to the Medicaid expansion over 10 years. This would chop down the program by nearly half. It’s hard to know how many Trump voters would be hit by these cuts, but judging by Kaiser’s polling, we’re talking about a lot of them.
Meanwhile, other data suggests many Trump voters in the Rust Belt would be hurt by the Trump budget’s huge cuts to other social programs. Ron Brownstein reports on a new analysis finding that in four key Rust Belt states that flipped from Barack Obama to Trump, large percentages of those who benefit from food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance — both of which would get slashed by Trump — are non-college whites, a core Trump constituency. Those states are Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Other data shows that large percentages of those who stand to lose health coverage under the GOP health plan in those states are also blue-collar whites. Many of them are likely on Medicaid, and this toll would undoubtedly be made worse by the Trump budget.
Trump took great pains to distinguish himself from Paul Ryan and limited-government Republicans by vowing no cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, staking out an ideologically heterodox posture that likely helped boost him among working-class white voters. Obviously, that’s no longer operative.
The White House has an explanation for Trump’s reversal on Medicaid. Asked by John Harwood to explain the flip, budget director Mick Mulvaney claimed the promise was supplanted by Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. This is nonsense: As Brian Beutler explains, Mulvaney “layered a lie of his own on top of Trump’s,” because Trump’s budget cuts to Medicaid “go hundreds of billions of dollars beyond phasing out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”
I’d go further still: There are numerous Trump lies being forced out into the open right now. Trump claimed he would not touch Medicaid and simultaneously that he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better for all. It was a lie for Trump to claim he wouldn’t touch Medicaid; it was a lie to suggest preserving Medicaid and repealing Obamacare were compatible; it was a lie to claim that his repeal-and-replace plan would result in better coverage for everybody. If anything, the White House’s justifications only throw the scale and audacity of these intertwined scams, lies and betrayals into even sharper relief.
The scam may end up running even deeper than this. One might argue that Trump promised his voters something better than safety-net protections: good jobs with benefits. Indeed, as Catherine Rampell reports, the White House is defending its cuts by arguing that the true measure of success is “the number of people we get off of those programs.” This is compatible with Trumpism’s promise to restore an old economic order via a revival of manufacturing and coal — jobs are better than government help, and surely many of his voters made this calculation. But what if those jobs don’t ever materialize? Trump’s renegotiated trade deals and his infrastructure plan are a long way off. If this promise of Trumpism never comes to pass, all that would be left behind is the massive downsizing of the safety net, justified by conventional GOP rhetoric about freeing people from Ryan’s version of the safety net, the dreaded “hammock” of “dependency.” This isn’t what Trumpism was supposed to be about, on many levels.
* GET READY FOR THE BIG CBO SCORE: Margot Sanger-Katz previews what to look for: Will it increase the deficit? How many would be uninsured? And this:
The hardest job for the C.B.O. is estimating the effects of the MacArthur Amendment, which allows states to waive several insurance regulations … the office’s economists must … estimate how many states will decide to pursue the waivers, how many people live in those states, and which rules they will choose to waive … Some experts have said the waivers will be unpopular, and only a few states will pursue them. Others have argued that they are likely to become widespread. Our panel estimated a wide range of effects, saying as few as 10 percent of Americans would be affected or as many as half.
One big question: what the CBO will project on how many states will waive the prohibition on jacking up rates on preexisting conditions. This could make the bill politically more dangerous.
* TRUMP PRAISES PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT: The Post has obtained a transcript of a call that Trump held with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, and this is notable:
In their call he praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” … “Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the transcript.
Duterte has been criticized by human rights observers for killing thousands in his war on drugs, and this praise fits into a broader pattern of Trumpian affection for authoritarian strongmen.
* SCHIFF: WE MAY TRY TO FORCE FLYNN’S COOPERATION: Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the probe of the Russia affair, tells CNN that his committee is considering new steps to force Michael Flynn to turn over relevant documents, as he has refused to do:
“It was our preference initially to get these documents and testimony voluntarily,” Schiff said. “It’s now going to be necessary to subpoena it, and if the General refuses and does so without a good legal basis, then I think we do have to explore the use of contempt.”
* TRUMP LAWYERS UP: The Post reports that Trump has hired attorney Marc Kasowitz, who has known him for decades and represented him numerous other times, to “help him navigate” the various Russia probes:
In recent days, Trump has been looking at pulling together a unit of lawyers outside the White House to guide him as he responds to the ongoing federal probe and to congressional investigations … The outside legal team would be separate from the White House Counsel’s Office, which is led by Donald F. McGahn, who served as the Trump campaign’s attorney.
Bright spot: Because Joe Lieberman is senior counsel at Kasowitz’s firm, picking him as director of the FBI (which is probing the Russia affair) could present a conflict, so it might not happen.
* INFRASTRUCTURE ‘PLAN’ IS IN THE WORKS: The Post reports:
The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is drafting plans to privatize some public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers … two driving themes are clear: Government practices are stalling the nation’s progress; and private companies should fund, build and run more of the basic infrastructure of American life.
The big question here will be whether his plan will actually involve a substantial public expenditure designed to create jobs. This suggests the opposite. And whether this can pass is anyone’s guess.
* TRUMP VOWS TO READ POPE’S TRACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Trump met with Pope Francis this morning, and per Reuters, this happened:
Francis also gave Trump a signed copy of his 2017 peace message whose title is “Nonviolence — A Style of Politics for Peace,” and a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the effects of climate change.
“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Trump said.
Whether he reads them or not, in Trump’s imagination, climate change will forever remain a hoax, or more precisely, not worth spending much time thinking about.
* AND REPUBLICANS FEAR HAVING ZERO ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports on the gloom settling in among Republicans as they realize that “total control” could result in “nine months of failure”:
Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with ZERO significant legislative accomplishments … they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the healthcare Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.
Are you tired of all the winning yet?