Progressive Breakfast for December 5

Morning Message

How Trump’s Grift Gave Government to the 0.01 Percent

It’s not just their wealth that distinguishes Trump’s team from the vast majority of Americans. It’s their class exclusivity. Trump has largely drawn from people who, like him, were born into wealth and privilege. This insularity, combined with the heartlessness of the policies they espouse, makes it even less likely that they will empathize with — or even understand — the problems of ordinary people.

New Social Security Spotlight Website Explains Program’s Value

Despite Trump’s promises, we now have to defend Social Security (again). The new Social Security Spotlight website (http://socialsecurityspotlight.org/) from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation is a useful tool, providing compelling information that shows the ways Social Security benefits us all, including the positive economic impact for each state.

GOP Has Big Plans … And Obstacles

Congressional Republicans aim to work quickly come January. The Hill: “Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) says he’s ready to move a budget … as soon as the Senate comes back into session on Jan. 3 … The GOP plan is to pass the budget, which can come directly to the floor, and then a short time later the reconciliation vehicle repealing major parts of the healthcare law … it will likely include a three-year phase in to give them time to work on replacement legislation … Republican sources say the timeline for moving a major infrastructure package … will depend on the new administration … The other major focus of Republicans in the first few months of next year will be to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations promulgated by the Obama administration since the end of May … Senate Republicans plan to pass a second budget resolution by mid April with special instructions under the reconciliation rule paving the way for a comprehensive tax reform package to pass sometime later in the new Congress.”

But debt limit may prompt entitlement fight. Politico: “In the past, fiscal conservatives have insisted on cutting spending to match any increase of the debt ceiling . If they hold fast on that this time around, they’ll have to go after entitlements — which Trump has been cool to … There has been some discussion about lifting the debt ceiling — which has to be done by late summer — as part of a larger deal, but there are mixed feelings about going down that path.”

Dems will try to slow cabinet confirmations. Politico: “Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments … But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog … Democrats could conceivably force up to 30 hours of debate for each Cabinet nominee, which would be highly disruptive for a GOP Senate that usually works limited hours but has big ambitions for next year. The minority could also stymie lower-level nominees and potentially keep the Senate focused on executive confirmations for weeks…Democrats will force retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to get 60 votes for a legislative waiver to become secretary of defense … Democrats are likely to require roll call votes and possibly delay the nominations of Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education and Tom Price to to be Health and Human Services secretary, in addition to Mattis, Mnuchin and Sessions.”

Trump Pledges Penalty For Offshoring

Trump pledges tax penalty on offshorers. HuffPost: “President-elect Donald Trump wrote a series of tweets early Sunday morning in which he threatened ‘retribution’ in the form of a 35 percent tariff on U.S. companies that move abroad.”

Economist on left and right criticize approach. NYT: “‘Blackmail is implicit in this approach, and it’s dangerous,’ said Tyler Cowen, a conservative free market-oriented economist … ‘Trump is negotiating with individual businesses outside of the rule of law and bureaucratic procedure.’ … Mike Konczal, an economist at the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute, said he also thought Mr. Trump’s approach was doomed to failure … ‘Cutting taxes for shareholders will destroy more factories than whatever he saves by jawboning companies from the bully pulpit,’…”

Price Ready To Upend HHS

Tom Price plans deregulation at HHS. NYT: “Throughout his career, Mr. Price … has argued that the government should get out of the way of doctors and give patients more control over their health care … The health secretary has immense discretion to impose, revoke and modify rules. A review of Mr. Price’s record in Congress, including his speeches and legislative proposals, suggests that he would try to reduce the burden of federal regulations on health care providers, especially doctors.”

“Obamacare was profitable for some insurers despite public comments” scoops USA Today: “When Aetna announced in August that it was leaving the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it sells in for 2017, it said it had a pretax loss of $200 million on its individual insurance plans in the second quarter of this year and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 … But Aetna made nearly $12 million on individual ACA plans in Texas and more than $8 million in Pennsylvania … and is exiting the Healthcare.gov exchange in both states anyway.”

Ben Carson officially tapped for HUD. NYT: “With no experience in government or running a large bureaucracy, Mr. Carson, 65, publicly waffled over whether to join the administration … In an opinion article in 2015 for The Washington Times, Mr. Carson compared an Obama administration housing regulation to ‘the failure of school busing’ because it would place affordable housing ‘primarily in wealthier neighborhoods with few current minority residents.’ The rule, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, was years in the making and designed to end decades-old segregation…”

Pipeline Blocked

Army Corps of Engineers block Dakota Access Pipeline. NYT: “the Department of the Army announced that it would not allow the pipeline to be drilled under a dammed section of the Missouri River. The Army said it would look for alternative routes … Though the Army’s decision calls for an environmental study of alternative routes, the Trump administration could ultimately decide to allow the original, contested route … Mr. Trump owns stock in the company building the pipeline … several campers said they were not going anywhere. They said that there were too many uncertainties surrounding the Army’s decision …”

Speaker Paul Ryan slams decision. The Hill: “In a Sunday evening tweet, Ryan called the announcement ‘big-government decision-making at its worst .. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us.”