The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Trump on Health Insurance, NATO, and the EU

Well, Trump keeps saying stuff, and people keep freaking out. He said a number of interesting things this weekend, let’s run through them.

The U.K. is smart to leave the bloc because the EU “is basically a means to an end for Germany.”

Yeah. Not so clear. BUT, there’s an element of truth here. Among the major European powers, Germany is the one who has benefited most from the EU, or rather the Euro (which England was not a part of). The Euro is not worth nearly as much as a German mark would be, making German exports far more affordable than they would be otherwise. Meanwhile, Germany has pushed hard for austerity policies, on the crazed moral point that countries which don’t run trade surpluses shouldn’t have good things. At this point, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece would clearly all be better off outside the Euro–at the very least. Germany has acted monstrously over the past eight years, no more so than to Greece, but not only to them. About the only thing I agree with Merkel about was when she opened up Germany to immigrants (something Trump slams).

  • Trump said Bayerische Motoren Werke AG would face a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built BMW cars sold in the U.S. BMW should scrap plans to open a new plant in Mexico and build the factory in the U.S. instead, he was quoted as saying. BMW plans to start building 3 Series sedans at San Luis Potosí in 2019.

I have exactly zero problem with this. This is how much of the world economy was run prior to the rise of neoliberalism. If you wanted access to a market, you were expected to locate much of the production in the country, with foreign content rules in place. Often it was expected that, say, 60 percent of work and materials would be produced in the country to which you were selling.

  • NATO, he said, “has problems.” “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump was quoted as saying about the trans-Atlantic military alliance. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.”

I have believed, since the fall of the USSR and the release of the Warsaw Pact countries, that NATO should be dissolved. I have not changed my mind because Trump is now saying it. Let us be clear, the EU’s population is 508 million. When the UK leaves, it will be 447 million.

Russia’s population is 143 million.

The EU minus Britain has a GDP of 18.1 trillion (purchasing power parity), Russia has an economy of 3.5 trillion (ppp). Germany alone has a GDP (ppp) of four trillion.

Yeah, Europe can afford to pay for its own defense. It has a larger economy and a larger population than Russia. It isn’t even close. If Europe refuses to defend itself, I don’t see how that’s America’s problem, the only thing Europe really needs from America is a nuclear shield, and that need could easily be fulfilled another way (and France has nukes).

NATO is the main reason that Russia is a problem. The Russians were promised that NATO wouldn’t expand into the Warsaw Pact countries. That promise was broken, and when it became possible that the Ukraine would join NATO, Russia acted, because Russian generals believe that it is impossible to defend Moscow if troops start from the Ukraine.

  • On Russia, he suggested he might use economic sanctions imposed for Vladimir Putin’s encroachment on Ukraine as leverage in nuclear-arms reduction talks

This isn’t a bad thing. Good relations with the other massively nuclear armed state in the world are good, and America has zero interests of importance in the Ukraine. As for Europe, see above: They can defend themselves, and if they can’t be bothered, so be it.

Now, to be frank, I don’t believe it will be good insurance (I’ll be happy to be wrong), and I note that it is not healthcare for all, but insurance for all–insurance many may not be able to use. I also doubt it will be universal. But then Obamacare was insurance that many people can’t afford to use, so that alone doesn’t make it a worse plan than Obamacare was.

Still, the actual promise has potential to be better than Obamacare, because Obamacare was not actually insurance for everyone: Nine percent of Americas still lack insurance (this is down from about 14 percent before Obamacare).

If it’s better than Obamacare I will laugh like a hyena.

My read on Trump’s future is as follows: He either gets two terms, or he gets impeached in his first term. Most GOP Congress members would rather have Pence than Trump. BUT Trump’s followers are very faithful and as long as he remains popular, Congress would not dare to impeach him. They have to live in districts where he is popular, and not only their seats, but much more would be at risk if they were labelled traitors by Trump. Bear in mind that there’s no way Trump goes peacefully, or doesn’t call them out, he would fight to the end.

So Trump has to deliver to his base, or he’s done. Also, Trump wants to be adored. It is his deepest psychological need, as best I can see.

The risks with Trump remain high (especially in regards to his China policy); his tax cuts are deranged, the supreme court is going to be a disaster, but that doesn’t mean that his administration may not be successful enough for the people it needs to deliver for to get him his second term.

More than that, Trump is saying the things that no one else in power would say. I mean, he called out pharma as protected and said that’s over. He’s mostly right about NATO. He said in this interview that Iraq was the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history (that’s overstating it, but it’s the biggest since Vietnam).

It’s going to be an interesting few years. Strap in.

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I Can’t Imagine Why People Are Willing to Gamble On Change


Trump Says—


  1. markfromireland


    because Russian generals believe that it is impossible to defend Moscow if troops start from the Ukraine

    Where did you see that because I find it in none of the RMDDs it’s certainly nowhere to be found in Pr 2976 which is the main such document.

  2. Tom

    The bitchslaps keep coming. Now John Brennan is getting slapped down. Trump continues to attack the deep state.

  3. The prospect of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with universal insurance [he points out mischievously] would never have had any serious traction without passing Obamacare in the first place. (No, once again, there was no serious prospect eight years ago of any change that involved disestablishing private insurance, despite all the recent peculiar claims here to the contrary — and there probably still isn’t, but, you know, even Trump is basically talking about it…)

  4. You do not own a car…

  5. Ché Pasa

    He says and tweets a lot of things, doesn’t he? Some of it is what you or others want to hear, a lot of it is false, some is deliberate lies. He’ll easily contradict himself in the same sentence.

    The upshot is that you cannot rely on what he says or tweets as an accurate or even approximate reflection of any particular action or policy.

    Even he, his surrogates and supporters caution against believing what you hear from him or read on the Twitter machine. It’s not policy. It’s “talk.”

  6. Why you should not read him… I don’t.

  7. anonone

    “and as long as he remains popular”

    Um, he already has the lowest approval rating of any President-elect in history prior to inauguration. How does he remain popular if he isn’t?

  8. Because he says he is… which is good enough for American News Media.

  9. Ian Welsh

    MFI: Well, apparently I misinterpreted this:

    Trump was popular enough with enough people to win the election, those are the people he needs to remain popular with. And with those people he is very popular.

    1) those people live where Republicans do;
    2) Those people are very willing to get in their face and primary them and perhaps even use violence;
    3) Republicans are scared of their own base.

    They will not impeach Trump if he’s still popular with the sort of people who will primary them or worse.

  10. And you should “and keeps the rest of the populace quiet enough not to revolt.” which will be around six years … again democracy it is not, more’s the pity.

    ( Fon d’parikulur – 06 the next chapter on my Haitian novella)

  11. Gehlen

    About those bitchslaps Tom cites. Let’s hope they keep coming. Brennan is publicly outraged at ‘equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany’ – because that never occurred to anybody before Truman made that crack about the president’s Gestapo. Since their their 1949 Ermächtigungsgesetz got passed CIA pushed aside your first choice, Taft, for Ike, shot your second president and two unauthorized aspirants King and RFK, framed and ousted your fourth president, installed a guy who covered up the murder of your second president as your fifth president, conspired with foreign enemies to disgrace and defeat your sixth president, and shot the seventh. Then they just said fuck it and ran the country with their own guys from 1989 to 2016.

    Best wishes to Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg Trump!

  12. Tom

    Those quoting poll numbers should stop it. They’re worthless.

    The Rust Belt is where the action is. Trump needs the Rust Belt to keep his powerbase intact. So far he is delivering and it is paying dividends for the Rust Belt which is seeing jobs come back now that Trump has bitchslapped the manufacturers in line.

  13. dude

    Considering how quickly the Republicans have fallen in step with P-elect Trump, I seriously doubt there will be any rebellion against Trump at all within that party. On the outside chance the Democrats unify enough to keep up a drip-drip-drip attack highlighting every Trump failure to live up to his campaign promises, I believe the Republicans will defend Trump more. The sunk-cost effect is overwhelmingly in favor of Trump.

    However the Democrats are not known for their unity. While they are (finally) making the entire Republican Party the target of their rhetoric and dissatisfaction, a long overdue change, they are sufficiently weak to also need a lot of them to mount any legislative resistance. I think that is why external forces (Russian dossiers and Chinese threats, etc) are so central to the news cycle now. Americans have not been thoroughly convinced there is a threat from within even if it is of our own making. So, make a bigger deal about the threat from without.

    I am not a young man. I have watched American politics for a long time. I have lived through some tempestuous times already. I think the Republican Party wants to rule, not govern, and they picked the guy who best represents that inherent trait of all post-WW2 Republicans. The Democrats are a failed party. Ronald Reagan once said he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, it left him. For an entirely different set of people and a different set of values, I think that is also true.

    If there is one thing the Trump Administration may do, it may break the party molds we have come to know over the last 50 years and allow some reformation. But it will not come without pain.

  14. Frank Stain

    Che Pasa seems to have this right on healthcare. Many people seem to be getting sucked into the belief that Trump’s pronouncements represent some kind of coherent policy statement. The ambiguity and utter lack of policy detail gives people all over the map politically the license to think that he is going to do exactly what they want him to do. I’ve seen this with the intense confidence of those on the right that he’s going to fix immigration, deport 11 million people, etc. And I’ve seen it with comments about how Trump may just outflank everybody on healthcare by passing medicare for all.
    The key, as always, is details. Whenever we have been given details by Trump or republicans, the intention is to scrap the ACA taxes, and bring back junk health insurance, combined with state-run high-risk pools for pre-ex conditions. It’s sensible to withhold judgment on what Trump is going to do until we see an actual, comprehensive plan.

  15. bruce wilder

    CP: He says and tweets a lot of things, doesn’t he? Some of it is what you or others want to hear, a lot of it is false, some is deliberate lies. He’ll easily contradict himself in the same sentence. The upshot is that you cannot rely on what he says or tweets as an accurate or even approximate reflection of any particular action or policy.

    All accurate enough, but I think it misses an important point: in his randomness, Trump reveals a number of truths, slices of reality recognition that had been squeezed out of the discourse and media by unaccounted conventions and tribalism. Ian is identifying these as they come along.

    The attacks on Trump are often projections of criticisms that should have been leveled at Obama or Clinton. We are hearing about emoluments from people who dismissed concerns about a Secretary of State who went around the world with her husband’s hand out. We are hearing about Goldman Sachs at Treasury from people who supported Obama’s banksters’ coup.

    Democracy has not been disabled by taking away the vote. It was dissolved by taking away deliberate, principled thought. Now we are getting faint echoes of thought in the ravings of a hypomanic.

  16. bruce wilder

    The thing people fail to recognize on healthcare is that Obamacare, in its mandating of bad expensive health insurance for young healthy people without cost controls on insurers or service providers was bad — evil, even. A politics where a progressive or liberal or socialist has to abandon telling the truth to defend the lesser evil of “the best that could be done in the political circumstances” (or whatever weird counterfactual prison you put recognition of Obama’s betrayal in) is a left politics that might as well not exist.

    Ditto for an anti war politics of Obama’s mideast perpetual war and permanent deep state. Or hoping Clinton, serial violator of campaign finance laws, is going to champion reform of anything.

  17. Peter

    I wonder how long these parroted Clintonite themes about violence and suppression on the part of the Deplorables/Trump will continue when the only organized violence so far has come from Clintonite minorities and snowflakes. We will soon see what the Soros organized demonstrators have to offer in DC where Obama may get to hose down the demonstrators one more time before Trump is held responsible.

    Trump supporters haven’t responded in any organized way to the undemocratic provocation coming from the Clintonite deep state or the snowflakes on the streets while the provocateurs are everywhere.

    I have to appreciate the pointed way that Trump is dismissing Brennan from the CIA as he slinks from Langley to rejoin his Queen on their road to obscurity.

  18. Ché Pasa

    As long as enough people are hearing/reading what they want to hear or read from him, little else matters to them, even if his actions or those of congress and his administration diverge from what he says or writes.

    We’ve seen a similar phenomenon for the last eight years with regard to Mr. Obama. Lots of pretty words that obscure what’s really going on. And criticisms that were largely ineffective, in part because they were seen as sour grapes and partisan ranting, regardless of whether they were valid.

    The question is whether Trump is convincing enough people.

    His style is to alienate and isolate rather than align and unify. There are indications his support is shrinking not growing. His vendetta against the intelligence community may have a rational justification — as they have not necessarily served the US public well. But he doesn’t make rational arguments.

  19. Ian Welsh

    Like all politicians he says a lot of things, yes. For example, Obama said he’d renegotiate NAFTA and close Guantanmo, and did neither of those things.

    Over the next few weeks and months we will find out what things Trump has said he follows thru on.

    I note that he said he’d kill TPP, and even before inauguration, he did.

    I fully expect Trump to not do some things he said, and to do other things he said. The question is which ones. People who think he’s going to govern as if he were Romney, I suspect, will be surprised.

  20. Dilip G

    It’s clear there’s no love lost for the elites here and they deserve the brickbats coming their way. Of course, they’re gonna make out like bandits with the Trump-Goldman administration. My question here is – with the influx of billionaires / Wall St. in his administration, will the Steve Bannon faction be able to bend the jefe’s ear toward a nationalist agenda?

  21. Peter


    I think you are confusing Trump with a weak pliable person such as Obama who had his cabinet and advisors picked for him while Trump has been head-hunting. These appointees now have a Boss and their job is to promote his agenda not the opposite. They may not want to do anything to harm their old businesses but they can sell a new vision, to their old businesses, of what success means when it includes the needs of the whole country they now are bound to represent.

  22. bruce wilder

    I just heard Larry Mantle introducing a discussion on NPR of Obama’s Administration: (paraphrasing slightly) “we want to go beyond ideology, what will emerge as a consensus evaluation? . . . ”

    That “consensus thinking” that NPR does so well for tote-bag liberals is one flavor of political discourse that has been put in place of principled deliberative thinking and that substitution is what got us to Trump and his somewhat incoherent stream of consciousness. Most people do not have the time, education or inclination to think thru the implications of policy or the other arcana of politics. We rely on mediating pundits and journalists, politicians elected to representative office, issue-oriented organizations, and so on. The quality of elite thinking has deteriorated markedly over the last generation or two and a lot of rather obvious problems and issues have been put outside the box where critical evaluation is concerned.

    The great majority of Americans do not participate effectively in politics or government anymore on any level. This is particularly true of self-identified Democrats as the Democratic Party has been whittled down into a pathetic Presidential party of virtue-signalling fools concentrated in urban centers.

    People hearing and reading what they want to isn’t the issue; convincing people isn’t the issue either. Most people do not have reliable guides to what is said, either from their own education and preparation or among the available pundits. And, even if they did, it doesn’t matter, because they are not organized and cannot make their will felt. What ordinary people think, if they manage to think at all and not just respond to propaganda like Pavlov’s dogs to the ringing of the dinner bell, will be ignored or transformed into nonsense or amplified and distorted into noise by the Media and politicians in office.

    We are left hoping that Trump does some good, while he does a lot that will be bad, and maybe . . . hope against hope . . . what he does bad will break some of the structures that prevent a better more adaptive politics and somehow that break will redound to the good in the long run. Not likely, but . . . no ordinary people in whatever numbers have any choice in the matter as things stand.

  23. realitychecker

    One has to concede, I would submit, that finally recognizing that one cannot order haute cuisine from a greasy spoon menu does represent progress of a sort.

    Our two-choice Establishment/duopoly menu, which by design offered only shit sandwiches to regular folks, is this cycle’s greatest casualty, IMO. Finally. May it never recover. Good riddance.

    I will dance with delight if we should also start hearing about some suddenly dead media personalities, and even some of the more mendacious political types. That would tell me there are still some in this country whose sense of patriotism does not exclude individual action.

    There has to be a lot of attendant chaos to sort out all mess we have allowed to overtake this country. I’m not advocating, and I am too old and feeble to participate in it, but just as a matter of simple pragmatic analysis, I don’t think the oligarchy can be displaced in any other way. I certainly don’t see or hear anybody suggesting another way that has any chance of producing the desired effect in anybody’s current lifetime.

    Eight people now have the amount of wealth of the lowest 50% on the planet. Last year, Oxfam reported that number as 62, the year before, as 82.

    Eggs, meet omelette.

  24. Frank Stain

    The thing people fail to recognize on healthcare is that Obamacare, in its mandating of bad expensive health insurance for young healthy people without cost controls on insurers or service providers was bad — evil, even.

    ACA was 2,000 pages of technocratic cludge that tried to make an evil system a bit less evil. But I’m not prepared to say that it was nothing. In fact, there are now some interesting signs that ACA has in fact changed the shape of public expectations w/r/t health care. Pew just released a poll a few days ago in which the number of Americans who now think ‘the government has an obligation to ensure health care for all citizens’ is 60%

    No argument from me that the only rational health care system is single payer. But there is a lot of woolly thinking on the question of how we get there. It is going to be a long, painful slog. People need to get over their fever dreams of Trump’s secret medicare for all plan. If that’s where we want to be eventually, then the ACA’s creation of expectations of a robust, govt. role are part of the momentum that might get us there.

  25. wendy davis

    @ Ché Pasa:

    herr trump: “i’ll take ‘words that end in *morgasbord’, for $400, alex.”

    alex: “and your answer, herr trump?”

    herr trump: “smorgasboard! my policies by tweet! make your choice, and slide your tray down to the cashier! ha ha ha!”

  26. Billikin

    dude: ” I think the Republican Party wants to rule, not govern, and they picked the guy who best represents that inherent trait of all post-WW2 Republicans.”

    Well put, sir!

  27. bruce wilder

    Frank Stain

    I have no desire to insult you personally or pick a fight, but your comment seems to be a prime example of the kind of woolly thinking having to defend ACA has engendered on the left.

    If you follow the link you yourself have helpfully provided, you will see from the chart that the percentage of people who think the gov’t has an obligation with regard to healthcare was higher before ACA was enacted. Your momentum argument is . . . whistling in the dark with your eyes shut tight.

  28. Hugh

    There are two important tactics that Obama used throughout his Presidency. The first was to cynically throw a sop to progressives, if he felt he needed to, that he would subsequently walk back and ultimately completely renege on. The second was to keep resubmitting a plan no matter how many times it was rejected.

    His cat food commission and his support for the TPP and TTIP are examples of the second of these. Holding telecoms responsible for aiding illegal spying on citizens by the government, the public option, but also renegotiating NAFTA and closing Guantanamo were examples of the first.

    What is interesting about Obama’s stance on NAFTA was that all this came out nearly a year before his Inauguration long before he had the nomination locked up. Again from my old scandals list:

    On February 24, 2008, campaigning in Lorain, Ohio, Obama said,

    “One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America — and I never have”

    This quote was then used in an anti-Clinton campaign mailer. On February 26, 2008, in his debate with Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama said,

    “In her campaign for Senate, she said that NAFTA, on balance, had been good for New York and good for America. I disagree with that. I think that it did not have the labor standards and environmental standards that were required in order to not just be good for Wall Street but also be good for Main Street. And if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements that were not adequately structured to make sure that U.S. workers had a fair deal.”

    and later

    “I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.”

    and finally

    “And as president, what I want to be is an advocate on behalf of workers.”

    On February 27, 2008, Canadian CTV reports a leak from the conservative government of Stephen Harper that a senior member of Obama’s team met with Canadian officials and told them not to take Obama’s criticisms on NAFTA seriously. On February 29, 2008, CTV identifies the Obama camaign member as Austan Goolsbee, a free trade economist at the University of Chicago and at the time Obama’s senior economics adviser. Both the Canadian government and the Obama campaign issue denials. On March 3, 2008, the AP reports on a memo written by Joseph DeMora of the Canadian consulate in Chicago describing a meeting on February 8, 2008 between Georges Rioux the consul general and Goolsbee. Among the topics discussed was NAFTA. Per DeMora’s notes:

    “[Goolsbee] was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy. On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more ‘core’ principles of the agreement.”

    Fast forward to February 17, 2009. In Obama’s first trip to Canada as President, he continued to dance around the NAFTA issue, decrying protectionism and taking a legalistic approach to his NAFTA position.

    “[Q.] …even though you’ve given assurances international trade agreements will be respected — how concerned should they [Canadians] be?

    THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think they should be too concerned. You know, I think that if you look at history one of the most important things during a worldwide recession of the sort that we’re seeing now is that each country does not resort to “beggar thy neighbor” policies, protectionist policies, they can end up further contracting world trade


    As I’ve said before, NAFTA, the basic framework of the agreement has environmental and labor protections as side agreements — my argument has always been that we might as well incorporate them into the full agreement so that they’re fully enforceable.”

    Obama, however, never made any efforts to do so. This is a far cry from his campaign threat to opt out of NAFTA if there were no new negotiations. This was confirmed on April 20, 2009, when Obama’s Trade Representative Ronald Kirk declared that there were no plans to reopen NAFTA to include labor and environmental standards in the main agreement.

    So just three months into his Administration his promise to renegotiate NAFTA was declared officially dead.

  29. Hugh

    Re Guantanamo, Obama also used the tried and true dilatory tactic of establishing a commission/task force to write a report. This tactic postpones any decision, hopefully, until public interest has died down, shifts responsibility off the President, and allows time for opposition to develop. Again from the scandals list:

    11. During his campaign, Obama promised to close Guantanamo. As President, he almost immediately backtracked and said he would close Guantanamo within a year. Abuse of detainees at the camp continues. One of the chief criticisms of Guantanamo was that the Bush Administration had used it as a “legal blackhole” controlled by the US but outside its courts. Even the hyper conservative Supreme Court balked at this assertion, although mostly on the grounds of turf, i.e. Marbury. Yet rather than according detainees either Geneva or due process and habeas rights, Obama is simply creating another legal blackhole further afield (see item 77) at Bagram in Afghanistan where prisoners will, as they were under Bush, be denied any legal rights.

    On July 7, 2009, in Senate testimony, Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson suggested that Obama might not close Guantanamo within one year after all. On July 20, 2009, the President’s Detention Policy Task Force announced that it would miss its July 21, 2009 deadline for issuing a report. It asked for and received a 6 month extension making it essentially certain that Obama would not keep his pledge to close Guantanamo in 1 year.

    On September 23, 2009, the Justice Department announced that approximately 50 prisoners at Guantanamo would continue to be indefinitely detained without charges. The DOJ said it would do so pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11, essentially reiterating its position laid out in a March 13, 2008 memo filed in federal district court in DC. The Obama Administration would not seek new legislation to this end, perhaps anticipating difficulties in passing it. This leaves the Administration continuing the unConstitutional policy of its predecessor but using the same justification for it.

    In a November 18, 2009 interview in Beijing with Major Garrett of Fox News, Obama announced that his Administration would fail to meet its self-imposed deadline. Obama said, “We are on a path and a process where I would anticipate that Guantánamo will be closed next year . . . I’m not going to set an exact date because a lot of this is also going to depend on cooperation from Congress.” In a later interview with NBC News, Obama dismissed this failure: “Guantánamo, we had a specific deadline that was missed.”


    On November 13, 2009 [five days before the interview above], White House counsel Gregg Craig announced his resignation. Craig was behind Obama’s Executive Orders which banned torture and the pledge to close Guantanamo within one year. For these transgressions, he was effectively sacked. It says a lot about where this Administration is headed that even a well established figure like Craig can run afoul of it, simply by doing the right thing.

  30. ejf

    what is the Donald talking about when it comes to BMW? BMW has one its biggest factories in Spartanburg, SC. That’s South Carolina, the red state, a “right-to-work” state.

  31. Frank Stain

    If you follow the link you yourself have helpfully provided, you will see from the chart that the percentage of people who think the gov’t has an obligation with regard to healthcare was higher before ACA was enacted

    And why do you think that is, Bruce? Why did support for universal health care suddenly plummet from its previous height when a black president tried to engineer a moderately more stable system with somewhat more cost sharing? It was b/c the white supremacist majority had an absolute freakout that some people would be getting something that they didn’t earn. The core of opposition to the ACA is opposition to the idea of taxing the wealthy to smooth the cost of insurance for middle class and the poor. What do you think is going to happen if single payer gets anywhere near being a real political possibility. The white supremacist freakout that accompanied the ACA is going to look like a child’s tantrum.
    I take your point that the recent rise in support for universal health care is perhaps not a strong point for the ACA. But I don’t think that helps your case. If support for universal health care took a major dive when corporate Dems tried to do sth moderately useful, what do you think is going to happen when the push comes for genuine universal care? Are those white supremacist primal fears about undeserving people suddenly going to go away? It is going to require a major political fight. And fantasies from some (not from you) that Emperor Trump might just decree medicare for all with a stroke of his mighty pen are a ridiculous fantasy that simply does not engage with the reality of that struggle.

  32. Peter


    Trump’s warning to BMW is very simple, if they are going to build a new plant in Mexico to produce cars for the US market they will be taxed. If they change that plan and build the plant in the US they will be praised and can expect even lower taxes.

  33. Carla

    @Frank Stain – Actually the ACA is beautiful example of what happens when you take an IDEA for a government program — universal healthcare — and CRAPPIFY it by
    1. Turning the structuring of it over to the industry that created the crisis that necessitated the program in the first place.
    2. Instituting costly punitive measures against those who refuse to participate.
    3. Completing ignoring the need for a smooth enrollment process.
    4. Years 2, 3 and 4: rinse and repeat.

    BINGO! Everybody says: See! Government can’t do anything!

    And some people even insist that the government keep its hands off the 2nd most successful government program in American history: Medicare. (Social Security being the first. Ironic, because both could and should be SO MUCH better, and yes, Obamacare has significantly crappified Medicare, too).

    It is called poisoning the well, Frank Stain. And that’s what Obama and the Democrats did, just like the Republicans taught them to.

  34. Frank Stain

    Carla: Let’s zero in on the nub of the disagreement here. No argt. from me that the ACA is crappy. No argt. that single payer is superior. However, you and others appear to be of the opinion that White Americans’ objections to the ACA are largely or exclusively about its crappiness, and not at all about the fact that it taxes the wealthy to make insurance more accessible to the middle class & poor . And this view, that the opposition to the ACA is largely about its crappiness, is no doubt what underlies the fantasies here that wily Emperor Trump may just declare a pox on both houses and give us our heart’s desire of medicare for all.
    I’m going to call that what it is: delusional. And I rest that case on what I take to be self-evident when you look at the reasoning. White Americans’ main objection to the ACA was NOT that it was crappy, it was that it made insurance more accessible for people who don’t deserve it. There seems to be a lack of willingness to acknowledge that, if these people hated the ACA, they are going to resist single payer with far greater force. And, of course, the result of that is continual delusions that single payer would be wildly popular if only someone would explain it properly to the uneducated.
    I’m afraid I can’t buy that. Resistance to single payer, like resistance to the ACA, will come from deeply held beliefs related to the preservation of the American racial caste system. If you want single payer, you will have to find a way to defuse or dismantle that workings of that caste system. I see no evidence here that people are prepared for that fight.

  35. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    Ha Ha! Good one. “Tote-bag liberals” heh heh.

    “We know you can’t afford a limousine. But you can still afford a tote-bag! Donate to your NPR station!”

  36. Hugh

    Bruce Stain, people whatever their color don’t oppose the ACA because they think somebody is getting something for nothing. They oppose it because they have seen their premiums and deductibles shoot up even as the quality of their policies has cratered.

    Also we react often to how a concept is pitched to us. Single payer does not resonate with a lot of people whereas talking about Medicare for All does. In our kleptocracy, we have all been indoctrinated with the absurd notion that it is unfair to tax the rich, but talk instead of moving resources around within society and they are much more receptive. In both cases, we are talking about the same things, but the difference is throwing words out there instead of actually trying to get one’s point across.

  37. bruce wilder

    Frank Stain

    When other commenters complain “liberals are clueless” I think they mean you. You do not listen. Your arguments consist of elaborate counterfactuals and insults to defend your beliefs from experience and from discussion. Those to your right are irredeemably racist; those to your left are fantasists and delusional. You think your attitude is persuasive politics?

    You ask, “Why did support for universal health care suddenly plummet from its previous height when a black president tried to engineer a moderately more stable system with somewhat more cost sharing?”

    Maybe, because it wasn’t universal health care? because it did almost nothing to contain costs? and only the most minimal things to limit but not eliminate the waste and predation of for-profit insurance? Let’s be clear on what the big tax surcharges on high income people were paying for — it wasn’t health care.

    You say universal health care would necessitate a big fight. That’s a counterfactual, so it cannot be true, but let’s say that’s a reasonable analysis. Do you know what a fight looks like? It doesn’t look like anything Obama did in 8 years in office on any issue. His being black didn’t put any bankster or torturer in jail, did it? And, a fight does not begin with excluding single-payer advocates from the political process or playing bait-and-switch with a public option.

    The reality of Obamacare is that a lot of families with a Bronze Plan still cannot afford a kid’s broken arm, for which they would pretty much have to pay full freight out-of-pocket; even if there’s some considerable money changing hands between service provider and insurance company due to inflated charges as the U.S. continues to have the most expensive health care in the world by a factor of 2, between deductibles and co-pays, what an individual is paying can be pretty close to world-standard cost.

    When our famously black President was shepherding his ripoff for for-profit insurance companies and Big Pharma thru Congress and losing the 2010 midterms by record margins, life-expectancy for middle-class and working-class white Americans was actually declining. Life expectancy in some parts of Appalachia (white) and the Yazoo Delta (black) compares unfavorably with Bangladesh. That’s the success of Obamacare!!!

    The problem with your political philosophy, Frank, is that it is so preoccupied with “lesser evil” arguments. You argue for the “lesser evil” as if any putative difference with a real or imagined alternative, no matter how small, cures it of the “evil”. It doesn’t work that way. You end up arguing for the virtue of evil. Advocates of actual good become more exasperating to you than the advocates of supposedly greater evils. You are so convinced that you know what is “politically practical” without reference to what is worth doing that you resist everyone who notices that the people and ideas you are pushing are reprehensible and destructive.

  38. Frank Stain

    Bruce Wilder

    You feign misunderstanding of my argument with its ‘elaborate counterfactuals and insults’, but this only demonstrates you’re responding to what you think a liberal might say about health care, not to what I actually wrote. I’m not a liberal, btw. Here is my argt. so you don’t miss it this time:
    The reason we don’t have medicare for all/single payer in the U.S. is not primarily because liberals are feckless, it is because the majority of white Americans are opposed to it

    Everything else you say is basically, i) ACA is shitty, to which I have already said I agree, and ii) Obama was useless and not a fighter, to which I also agree.

    The one point of contention, the one point on which I disagree, is I think it is delusional to think that, whereas the ACA generated enormous white bourgeois opposition on account of its redistributive intentions, single payer would be greeted with happy shrieks of joy with people finally free of the ravages of private insurance.
    Sorry Bruce, but I’m calling bs on that. Single payer is inevitably going to generate violent opposition from the white majority who are invested in the current racial caste structure.
    You know, it’s pretty amazing that I’m drawing insulting ‘liberals are clueless'(!) comments for presenting a version of what is a pretty standard trope of left-marxist thinking in the U.S. You can find the idea in Mike Davis’s ‘Prisoners of the American Dream’, for instance. Namely, the idea that ‘the ballast of capital’s hegemony in American history has been the repeated, autonomous mobilizations of the mass middle strata in defense of petty accumulation and entrepreneurial opportunity’.
    I suggest you do some hard reflection on that phrase, and think about how that middle strata to which Davis referred is going to react to the collapse of racial distinctions in health care provision. A better answer is needed to the question of why sensible health care does not exist in the U.S. than ‘liberals did it’.

  39. Frank Stain

    Bruce Stain, people whatever their color don’t oppose the ACA because they think somebody is getting something for nothing. They oppose it because they have seen their premiums and deductibles shoot up even as the quality of their policies has cratered.

    Hugh, what I’m seeing in your comment, and a number of other comments, is a complete failure to appreciate the way that the ordinary claims that citizens may have on the state are twisted and corrupted in the United States by the overwhelming force of racial stratification. White Americans regard programs like social security and medicare as the reward for people who ‘work hard and play by the rules’. This is why there is always an urgent effort to distinguish these ‘social insurance’ programs from welfare, which is always coded black. To put it to you simply, strong ethnocentric beliefs among the white population are likely to be triggered by any policy that threatens to eliminate this racial divide between programs that reward deserving white people and programs that provide welfare for outgroups. Analyses of SES data responses on welfare policy have long demonstrated that when social programs are targeted at black children, ethnocentrism (giving preference to the ingroup) suddenly becomes a powerful force in white opinion.
    This, in my view, is clearly what happened with the ACA. Republicans convinced the white majority that the ACA would threaten white people’s privileged access to social insurance programs. I simply do not find it credible to believe that single payer would simply sail past these deep-rooted white anxieties. It would intensify them by directly threatening the distinction between good health care for deserving people who work hard, and welfare for outgroups.

  40. Insurance is not the best way to deliver health care or any other service. Why? Because the insurance company is the customer not the patient, and their interests can and do diverge. A better way is means-tested grants – see

  41. realitychecker

    @ Frank’s Stain

    ” . . . these deep-rooted white anxieties.”

    I hate to tell you, but most white folks don’t even think about black folks during their busy days.

    MAYBE one of these days you might want to spend some mental energy thinking about some ‘deep-rooted’ black anxieties.

    Just sayin’.

  42. ED209

    “In Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage, Leslie Houts Picca and Joe Feagin adroitly mine data taken from the diaries and journals of white college students that show that while overt racism may have diminished in public and multiracial discourse in recent decades, it survives with disturbing tenacity in private exchanges among small groups of white friends and acquaintances.

    Much of the overt expressions of blatantly racist thought, emotions, interpretations, and inclinations have gone backstage – that is, into private settings where whites find themselves among other whites, especially friends and relatives.” Backstage areas offer refuge from frontstage expectations about interpersonal politeness.

    Picca and Feagin demonstrate how whites bond through racial performances to protect physical and social spaces perceived to be theirs alone while publicly asserting their racial innocence. They interact under a tacit agreement not to police each other.”

    “Feagin and Leslie Picca of the University of Dayton compiled their research in a book called “Two-Faced Racism” published in 2007. They surveyed 626 white students at 28 colleges and universities across the country. They asked the students to keep diaries and record any racial events they came across during the course of a day.

    The students recorded 9,000 accounts, of which 7,500 were “blatantly racist” events ranging from private jokes and conversations to violent incidents.”

    “As a Canadian working and studying in Los Angeles for ten years, I began to wonder why progressive young hipsters of various races were so eager to privately share their disturbing ideas about black people. The fact that these probing admissions came from a large number of my “coolest” friends, rather than the usual suspects, made it seem like a disturbing new cultural phenomenon.

    Seemingly nice young people, once they knew and trusted each other, were trying to take their friendship “to the next level” with these revelations of their racist beliefs. It was like they felt they could finally talk openly and drop the façade they maintained in public. They did this joyfully, as if it were a postmodern bonding ritual to confirm that they were members of the same cool social “tribe,” one that didn’t include blacks.”

  43. BlizzardOfOz

    As long as someone somewhere is privately thinking a forbidden thought, blacks cannot be free.

  44. ” Good relations with the other massively nuclear armed state in the world are good, and America has zero interests of importance in the Ukraine.”

    The Ukraine had nuclear weapons. We asked for them to give them up, if we guaranteed their borders. They agreed, the weapons were shipped to Russia, where they were dismantled, [we paid for and checked the dismantling,] We have not lived up to our agreement to guarantee their borders.

    We have zero interests of importance in the Ukraine? Well, if we want to be able to make agreements….

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