Ten People Know Scott Pruitt

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9569074a)
A sign criticizing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is seen posted on the base of a utility pole on the corner of H Street NW and 13 Street NW in Washington
Trump EPA, Washington, USA – 06 Apr 2018

Little Rock     The key architect of the Republicans efforts to maintain control of the House of Representatives is 37-year old Corry Bliss.  Times’ columnist, Frank Bruni, description puts him in the thick of the midterm campaign.  “Bliss serves as the executive director of the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a potent super PAC that raises money for, and directs it to, high-priority House races nationwide.”

His interview is interesting as a reminder to anyone who has forgotten how sure they were that Hillary Clinton would be seated as President in the election against Donald Trump, that the Republicans are alive and competing fiercely to hold onto Congress in the midterms, even if they are not completely well and carrying huge White House baggage around their necks.  Bliss scoffs at the notion of a “blue wave” sweeping Democrats into office.  He accurately notes the fact that Republicans in the critical, recent Ohio primaries outperformed the Democrats by 150,000 votes in turnout, challenging the notion that Democratic activism is red hot and can overwhelm predictions.

One of his comments that I found most interesting though was a throwaway line when he was asked about the constant scandals involving Trump secretaries and appointees like the eleven investigations at various levels involving Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He scoffed that there aren’t “ten people in the country” who even know who Scott Pruitt is.

Scott Pruitt of the luxury flights and free housing, the special $30,000 phone booth, and the wildly expensive, multi-million-dollar security team probably winched at reading that line from a Republican super-organizer, but the more you think about it, there’s some frightening truth to the point.  So, sure, more than ten people do know who he is.  Maybe it’s a thousand or tens of thousands or even a million.  He was a rightwing footnote as Attorney General in Oklahoma who sued the EPA a lot representing the oil and gas industry and found himself nominated by another political unknown to gut the EPA.  But, no matter his mischief, the point Bliss makes powerfully, despite the exaggeration, is that people are not going to vote on whether to retain or unseat their local Congressperson based on whoever the heck Scott Pruitt might be.

When we think about it, we know why.  Every poll is clear that people are not paying attention in class.  They might vote for or against based on Trump and his antics but be warned that this is also a dangerous assumption.  The Republican base has moved across the spectrum on issues like free trade, taxes, and debt largely based on the seismic shifts directed by Trump.  His positions and personal characteristics may be appalling to many, but there is no denying that he is the leader of his band and holding them steady.  Even his general popularity is improving.

People vote for their local folks on local issues as well as holding their ears to the ground to hear which way the herd is running, but progressives can’t win by just running against Trump any more than they have a chance of winning with the hope that more people know Scott Pruitt and are appalled by him and his attempts to destroy the world we live in forever.

To win, they have to stand for something more.  And, everyone has to know where they stand. Standing against something doesn’t equal winning.

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Please enjoy Ana Egge’s Girls, Girls, Girls.

Thanks to KABF.

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When National Healthcare is Not Mean, but Vindictive, Not Policy, but Politics

New Orleans  Healthcare is a huge part of the overall US economy and, arguably, of critical importance to every American. Regardless of the cliché, it is in fact a question of life and death. Yet we are watching a horror show spectacle of a White House that is clueless about anything but whether or not it can claim a “win,” and a Congress that is cunning and calculating without any field of vision that can see past 2018 and the midterm elections.

Meanwhile the public is treated to media coverage that, rather than focusing on the complexity of the bill and its evisceration of any semblance of public policy, treats the whole affair as if this were an extra innings baseball game and the only real issue was whether or not Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can get enough votes to pass the Senate version before the totally arbitrary deadline of July 4th. Well, perhaps not totally arbitrary, since McConnell is worried that when his caucus goes home for the recess their constituents will kick their asses so badly his whole secret legislative architecture will collapse.

Remember Kellyanne Conway, so discredited as a Trump aide that we’ve been spared her doublespeak recently. Well, she was back on this bill with the outrageous claim that no one can support, that, oh, no, there are no cuts to Medicaid in the Senate bill, which everyone knows is wrong. Good try, Kellyanne, now go hide out again, because this time there weren’t even any headlines following such an outrageous claim.

How about we look at how the Senate went from mean to downright vindictive? Their bill restored funding for what is known as “disproportionate share” money to hospitals. Pay attention in class now, friends, this is important. In places like Louisiana where I live we know a bit about “disproportionate share” payments because in their heyday they figured so prominently in statewide political scandals. Ever popular, former multi-term Governor Edwin Edwards did court and prison time on the issue of having unduly helped some friends get such money to build hospitals in poorly served and lower income areas of the state. Indeed, disproportionate share payments were designed to subsidize health care costs in lower income and ill-served areas originally in order to assure communities that these institutions could survive, because a “disproportionate share” of their patient base was poor. Obama’s Affordable Care Act flipped the script here. By assuring that everyone would have to get insurance and providing subsidies for lower income families and Medicaid expansion, disproportionate share payments would be phased out to pay for Obamacare. In fact now is the time when $43 billion would be reduced between 2018 and 2025.

What did the Senate do in their bill? They buckled to the lobbyists and restored these disproportionate share payments, but, now get this, only to states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage. This allows them to punish those states and their people by cutting the subsidies to Medicaid in their bill and rewarding the scofflaws by restoring the disproportionate share payments.

Now it’s politics that inflicts real pain and terrible consequences. Need a vote in Alaska or Maine, then sweeten the pot on opioid money even though states throughout the country are reeling under such a crisis. Take away support for mental health coverage, but throw some dollars out here and there to get a vote. Cutback money for the elderly poor on Medicaid, but kick the can down the road past 2018 so that you can keep the votes with a wink and a nod until the oldsters figure out the con.

None of this is good policy, and, frankly, I’ll be darned if I even understand how it is good politics, when all of these repeal bills are wildly unpopular in every poll of the American people. The public wants to live, not die, at the hands of government. Why isn’t that news everyone understands?

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