Thursday, August 3, 2017

All Bark, No Bite?

One of the major concerns about Donald Trump as President of the United States is that he would run roughshod over the rule of law.  He would be a bull in the proverbial china shop ordering this and that at his whim to get "his way."

The mainstream media is entirely invested in playing up this view of Trump.

However, six months into his term I can only come to two conclusions about Trump's use of power and neither is comforting to me as someone who voted for Trump.

Trump is either very reluctant to use his real power as President, or

The DC bureaucratic swamp is so deep and dangerous that no man (even Trump, who promised to drain the swamp) can take it on and survive.

Look no further than the campaign for President when Trump would appear at an event and spontaneously a chant from the crowd would begin with the cry "Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up."

Who is being investigated right now?  It is not Clinton, the Clinton Foundation or her mysterious disappearing government emails on a private server. It is the Trump campaign for colluding with the Russians. If I would have predicted this a year ago no one would have believed me. It is still unbelievable today if you really stop and think about it.

In the meantime, as organizations such as Judicial Watch attempt to find the truth behind Hillary Clinton's deleted emails, the Trump Administration Department of Justice and State Department appear no more willing to investigate Clinton than they did under Obama as reported by The Washington Examiner 

While Judicial Watch has aggressively pursued emails from Hillary Clinton through Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits for years now, the organization still believes it hasn't had much help from the new Justice Department now that it is under President Trump's command.
In March, Trump's State Department refused to change legal tactics that would have allowed the department to look for additional Clinton emails.
"What's surprising is the Trump administration is continuing the Obama administration's legal strategy to obstruct and defend Hillary Clinton's email practices," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said at the time.

Further evidence of the lack of any Trump power is the case of journalist Sharyl Attkinson who in 2013 discovered that her computer was compromised with unauthorized cyber-attack intrusions. A forensic analysis indicated that the IP addresses used in the attack were similar to what has been known to be used by U.S. government intelligence sources.

Attkinson filed a suit against the Department of Justice seeking explanations of why these IP addresses were found on her computer. The DOJ has been stalling and fighting Attkinson's efforts to get to the bottom of who (and why) someone hacked her computer for several years.

Her efforts have not produced any more success with the Trump DOJ than it did with Obama.

Is the swamp really that deep and is Trump limited in his powers to merely complaining about his Administration's shortcomings on Twitter?

Has the bully pulpit become nothing more than a Twitter handle?

Speaking of Trump's tweets, here is another from this past weekend.

What is Trump saying here?

There are two issues in which Trump has a significant of amount power and leverage with Congress on Obamacare.

The Obama administration agreed to pay insurance companies subsidies ( without the authorization of Congess) to help cover Obamacare deductibles and co-pays for lower income subscribers. At least one federal court agreed with a House Republican lawsuit that the Obama administration had no authority to authorize funds for that purpose under the law or U.S. Constitution. The Trump administration has thus far not cut off the funding.  However, since it was done by executive authority, it can be undone by executive authority. Such an action would be another major blow to the entire failing Obamacare individual exchange structure. Costs would further rise on the exchanges without these subsidies.

The second issue is one that I written about previously in BeeLine (here and here) involving Congress ignoring the Obamacare law that the members specifically wrote for their own healthcare coverage.

As the Obamacare statute was being drafted, Congress did not want to open itself to criticism that it was not also subject to Obamacare, so a provision was inserted into the law that reads as follows:

The only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).

That is pretty clear and simple. Congress members and their staff should receive their healthcare through the Obamacare exchanges. The problem arises because the exchanges by law
do not have any procedures for handling premium contributions from large employers.Therefore, the implication is that those in the exchanges must pay the full cost of their health care cost coverage individually. Oops! 

When all of this dawned on our elected legislators they were in full panic mode as they realized that they would have to use the Obamacare healthcare exchanges to access their healthcare coverage as well as pay the full cost of the coverage (rather than the 75% subsidy they previously received as a government employee).  There was talk behind the scenes of a bipartisan effort to repeal this part of Obamacare until howls on both the right and left caused both John Boehner and Harry Reid to distance themselves from the idea.

In order to get around this, Congressional leaders went to the Federal Office of Personnel Management and got a ruling that Congress was a "small business" that allowed more than 12,000 congressional employees, their spouses and dependents to purchase health insurance from the District of Columbia's small business exchange.

An accommodative D.C. government allowed Congress to come into their small business exchange.

There was only one big problem with this. Under the Obamacare law a small business is defined as a business with less than 50 employees. 12,000 seems to be a little more than 50, don't you think?

Why was it so important for Congress to be defined as a small business and use the D.C. small business exchange?  That allowed it to provide the tax-free subsidy and to also continue to use a community rating for the employee rates rather than age specific rates. It was the only way to keep members of Congress and their staffs out of the individual Obamacare exchanges.

Therefore, the reality is that the Congress is really not following the law that they passed.

President Trump can change that with one strike of the pen. He can also stop the insurance company subsidies.

Once you have the undivided attention of Congress and the insurance companies you might have half a chance to get something done to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Right now it could be said that Trump's bark is much stronger than his bite.

President Trump has the power.

Is he prepared to use it?

Or is he really stuck in the swamp?

Tweeting does not get it done.

It is time to stop barking and time to start biting.

No comments:

Post a Comment