Category Archive: Politics

Feb 25

Sonoma County Town Hall Pulls in the People

Sonoma County Town Hall

This morning, we had a town hall on healthcare with Congressional Representative Mike Thompson and State Senator Mike McGuire. It was at the local high school, which is roughly a half mile away from me, so I walked down to it.

The first thing that struck me was that there were other people out walking and it was pretty clear they were on their way to the Town Hall as well. I had noticed when I left that two unfamiliar cars were parked in front of my house (I live is pretty rural area). It was only on getting to the high school that I realized they must have been people who went to the town hall. The very large Pine High School parking lot was packed.

As you can see in the photo above, it was standing room only. There are about 400 people in that photo, and that is about one-third of the gymnasium. So there were roughly a thousand people there. And note that it wasn’t constant: people came and people went. It wouldn’t surprise me if two thousand people took part in the whole thing.

It’s About Engagement

I wasn’t that interested in what the politicians had to say. And while I was there, they didn’t say much. Mostly, people spoke — generally with some eloquence. But there was anger and fear in the air.

There was also a sense of the ridiculousness of the whole thing: we have a system, it works, and now we stand to lose it just because the Republicans made political hay out of it over the last eight years? We know that despite everything, less than 20 percent of Americans want Obamacare repealed outright — at least not without Trump’s facile promise of some better and “great.”

I didn’t stick around long. I just wanted to get some pictures and see what the turn-out would look like. Crowds are not my thing (unless I am on a stage and they are watching me). And this is northern California. My Representative (Thompson) is a good deal more conservative than I would like. But there’s no question that he’s a solid, mainstream Democrat who votes as I want him to the vast majority of the time (given our limited options).

My take-away from the whole thing was that this is the kind of political engagement that is necessary if we are to survive. As Benjamin Franklin probably didn’t say, but should have, when (probably not) asked what form of government the USA would have, “A republic, if you can keep it.” If citizens don’t participate in a democracy (Okay Glenn Beck fans, Democratic Republic!), if they don’t vote, if they don’t communicate with their representatives, if they don’t pay attention to what’s going on — they lose everything.

Systemic Problems

Of course, as many of you know, over the last five years, I’ve come to believe that the problem is systemic: capitalism itself. It naturally leads to plutocracy. And that is what we effectively have. But we do still technically have a vaguely democratic system. (Consider that Wyoming with a population of 600,000 people — roughly the population of my county — has two Senators, as does California with a population 65 times greater.)

My point is that seeing people engaged in the political process is not just heartening; it is essential if we are to survive.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/25/town-hall/

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Feb 24

Obamacare Repeal Is in Grave Danger

Jonathan ChaitEleven days before Donald Trump took office, I wrote a column with the slightly hedged but still hyperbolic headline “Obamacare Repeal Might Have Just Died Tonight.” While the “might” was doing a lot of work, my argument was that the GOP’s clearest and easiest path for repealing Obamacare had fallen short, which would force Republicans to attempt to forge a vastly more difficult path. That is what has happened since, and that is why the cause of repeal has been dying a slow and painful death. John Boehner — Who repeatedly led his party to election victories on the promise that they would repeal Obamacare! — has now admitted repeal is “not going to happen” and “most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act” would remain in place.

Let’s back up and go through how this has happened. As soon as the immediate aftermath of the election, it could be seen that “repeal and delay” gave Republicans the easiest method for destroying Obamacare. The attraction of repeal and delay is that it did not require Republicans to cobble together majorities in both chambers to support any particular alternative plan, which — despite repeated promises and assurances of imminent success — they had failed to do since the legislative debate on health care began in 2009. Repeal and delay merely required finding 218 House Republicans and 50 senators to defund Obamacare on the premise that something, to be determined later, would be better.

But several Republicans expressed reservations about repealing the law without having any clarity about its replacement, if any. By January 9, repeal-and-delay had enough opponents — Republicans could only afford to lose two votes in the Senate — that the party’s leaders would have to scrap the plan, which they did.

The Republicans’ new strategy is to stage a single vote that would repeal Obamacare and simultaneously put replacement measures in place. A group linked to Mitch McConnell is trying to whip up support for this by circulating polling showing that just 17 percent of the public supports repealing Obamacare without an immediate replacement plan. What’s important about this is not the polling result itself — independent pollsters found the same thing since well before the inauguration — but the fact that Republican leaders are now emphasizing it, rather than pretending it’s not true.

Their professed hope is that the replacement plan will give Republican members of Congress something positive to offer in the wake of killing Obamacare. The trouble for them is that attaching a replacement bill to a repeal bill makes the vote much, much harder. Now that their best chance to repeal the law is gone, the remaining options are all fairly desperate.

–Jonathan Chait
Trump’s Health-Care Nightmare Is Only Just Beginning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/24/obamacare-repeal-danger/

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Feb 23

FBI Nab Another Fake Terrorist

Robert Lorenzo HesterThe Justice Department proudly announced the first FBI terror arrest of the the Trump administration on Tuesday: an elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb — and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family.

Robert Lorenzo Hester of Columbia, Missouri, didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money. The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim.

One of the social media posts that initially caught the FBI’s attention referred to a group called “The Lion Guard.” Hester told one of the undercover agents the name came from “a cartoon my children watch.”

But according to the DOJ press release, Hester had plans to conduct an “ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack” on President’s Day that would have resulted in mass casualties had it succeeded.

News reports breathlessly echoed the government’s depiction of Hester as a foiled would-be terrorist. But the only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents who suggested to him that they had connections with the group.

–Murtaza Hussain
Trump’s First Terror Arrest: a Broke Stoner the FBI Threatened at Knifepoint

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/23/robert-lorenzo-hester/

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Feb 22

An Aborted Apologia for Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo YiannopoulosThere is nothing I like so much as a victim. I love defending them. And I will turn on a dime. I will denounce a man one day and defend him the next if I feel he’s become a victim. And for a short period of time, I felt that way about Milo Yiannopoulos. I’ll sketch out the argument that I was going to make and then I’ll discuss why I changed my mind.

The Case for Milo Yiannopoulos

There are various things that are wrong in the downfall of Milo Yiannopoulos. Let’s start with the fact that the man has been extremely vile for years regarding pretty much anything you can think of. But mostly he was sexist, racist, and transphobic. And he did it all in a manner to make it seem “cool.” Watching a 2 minute video of him is equivalent to receiving a doctorate in Hating With Style. Yet despite this, Simon & Schuster gave him a quarter million dollar advance on a book. CPAC made him its keynote speaker. (Good move, actually: Trump won white millennial voters.)

But then a known tape from 8 months ago shows up where Milo Yiannopoulos talks about the complexities of sexuality in young people and defines pedophilia as being attracted only to pre-pubescent children. Now, I have some sympathy for that view. When I see the outrage when some female teacher sleeps with her 16-year-old male student, I think it’s a bit much. I certainly think it’s wrong and I think the woman has obvious problems. But to pretend that this is in the same category of anally raping a seven-year-old is ridiculous. These matters are complicated, and Americans really don’t like complicated.

What probably got Milo Yiannopoulos in trouble, however, was this line, “I’m grateful to Father Michael; I wouldn’t give nearly as good head if it wasn’t[1] for him.” And that’s so clearly his shtick that it’s hard for me to take any more offense than hundreds of other things he said that were not over the line for the Good People™ at Simon & Schuster and CPAN and eventually even Breitbart.

The Better Case Against Milo Yiannopoulos

So I was willing to defend a man who has been very effective in making the world a worse place. But then I saw this headline at BuzzFeed, Milo Yiannopoulos Said He Was Sexually Abused as a Child and Resigned From Breitbart News. It was about his press conference yesterday. He said, “I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim. Between the ages of 13 and 16, two men touched me in ways they should not have.” He followed that up with, “My experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say almost anything on the subject, no matter how outrageous.”

Uh, no. You don’t get to do that.

As I said, the pedophilia remarks were his shtick. Now it would have been fine if he wanted to embrace his victimhood and say, “I was raped as a child and that no doubt is what has turned me into the vile person you have all come to know.” But he can’t say, “On this one issue (the only one you all seem to care about), I was wrong but the rest of what I said was right on!” Indeed, this was literally his apology at the press conference, “I don’t believe that sex with 13-years-olds is OK. I’m certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret… For those statements I made where I misspoke, I apologize.”

As Larry Wilmore said, “Go fuck yourself.”

He’s Not a Victim — Not for Long, Anyway

And note: I don’t think this is anything but a low point for Milo Yiannopoulos. For one thing, he’ll get to keep some if not all of the $250,000 advance. But for another, he’s done the fake apology. We won’t hear much for him for a while. But in two years at the absolute maximum, he’ll be back as a major player in the alt-right. Maybe he’ll go back to Breitbart. Regardless, time will heal his wounds. Because there is always a big audience for someone who can Hate With Style.


[1] Look, I’m not even going to explain it. Let’s just say that when you go around shaming people for being illiterate, you really better have your subjunctive mood down.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/22/apologia-milo-yiannopoulos/

Feb 22

Can Democrats Take Back the House in 2018?

Greg Sargent - Dems Take House in 2018?President Trump’s new plans for vastly expanded deportations, and the forthcoming new version of his immigration ban, are a reminder: Trump is governing in full accordance with the xenophobic nationalism that drove his campaign. That posture may have driven up huge numbers among blue-collar whites, which offset his relative losses among college-educated white voters and helped him win key Rust Belt states.

But now that he is president, can the brutal real-world realization of these policies boost Democratic chances of taking back the House? If this is possible, what does that tell us about the political staying power of Trumpism in a broader sense? …

While Trump still remains very popular among blue-collar whites, those voters may not be all that decisive in the battle to wrest House seats from Republican incumbents. That’s because many of the districts where Republicans are weak have higher concentrations of college-educated whites and Latinos…

To be clear, Democrats still face a huge uphill climb — they have to net 24 seats, and Republicans still enjoy a huge amount of safe districts. Latinos turn out at low levels in midterms. Other factors, such as recruitment and retirements, will also matter. Trump may end up more popular than seems likely right now. And it should be stressed that Democrats still do have to address their weakness with blue-collar whites for all kinds of moral and political reasons.

But this is a dynamic to watch, and not just because of what it says about Democrats’ chances of taking back the House.

–Greg Sargent
Can Trump Help Democrats Take Back the House? Here’s a Big Thing to Watch.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/22/democrats-house-2018/

Feb 21

People Are Truly Bored of Fighting About Milo

Heather Dockray - Milo YiannopoulosAfter a week like this — in which the country’s National Security Advisor resigned because of ties to the Kremlin, someone nicknamed “the foreclosure king” was put in charge of the economy and the president did something so shameful to a black reporter it’s actually too depressing to type it out — it’s borderline quaint to argue about someone like Milo Yiannopoulos…

For many in the queer community, fighting Milo has been a grating and exhausting long-term battle. The former Breitbart columnist who commandeered the troll troops to attack Leslie Jones and claimed that “Islam is the real rape culture” has still managed to find his way to the public eye — first, by appearing in a glowing Out Magazine puff piece, then by touring college campuses nationwide.

Now, it’s by showing up on Bill Maher.

Every time he makes a public appearance that’s not on his Facebook page, he triggers the same outrage cycle:

  1. People on Twitter rise up in protest, threaten to boycott “XYZ” and destroy it forever.
  2. Someone writes a viral hot take arguing that, “Blablabla, you may not agree with him . . . but free speech!”
  3. The internet then goes after the hot-taker, who proceeds to compose a middling tweet along the lines of, “Why can’t we just agree to disagree?”
  4. Someone from the show issues a watered down statement that is literally impossible to decipher, 10 news organizations repost that exact same statement and call it a story.
  5. Milo appears anyway. He builds his fan base. The cycle begins again.

–Heather Dockray
Bill Maher Doesn’t Understand How Milo Yiannopoulos Works

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/21/milo-yiannopoulos/

Feb 20

Melania Trump in NYC or Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Dean Baker on 2016 July Jobs ReportWe all know about the need to make trade-offs in budgeting, most of us have to do it on a regular basis in our daily lives. But what about the trade-offs for the federal government? Arguably there is no need for trade-offs right now. Both interest rates and inflation are at low levels, so it is not obvious that there is any problem with larger deficits, but folks in both parties are fixated on the need to run low budget deficits or even to have balanced budgets, so these politics dictate the need for trade-offs.

In this context, it is worth making some comparisons as the Republicans seem prepared to slash a number of relatively low cost programs that have received considerable visibility. At the top of this list would be federal funding for Legal Services, a program that has provided legal assistance to low income people for decades. This program provides lawyers for people facing foreclosures or evictions, for people who need help with a divorce or will, or for many other situations that would typically require the assistance of a lawyer. The appropriation last year came to $375 million, or 0.011 percent of the federal budget.

Another item on the chopping block is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB helps fund National Public Radio as well as public television stations around the country. It got $445 million from the federal government last year or 0.013 percent of total spending.

Then there is the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). The NEA supports a variety of education and cultural events around the country. It got just under $150 million last year or 0.004 percent of the total budget. There are a number of other small programs also on the chopping block, including AmeriCorps and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

It is interesting to compare the spending of these programs that face cuts or may be eliminated altogether with spending of security for President Trump and his family. In the past, presidents have generally tried to limit their own travel and that of their families so as not to create large security bills for the country. Apparently, this is not a concern of President Trump.

Unlike past presidents, he has requested Secret Service protection for his adult children. Given their travel habits running President Trump’s business, this is likely to be a considerable expense for the government. For example, the Washington Post reported that one trip to Uruguay by Eric Trump to open a hotel there cost the government almost $100,000 in security expenses. In addition, Trump’s decision to take his weekends at his golf club in Florida, rather the White House or Camp David, costs us more than $3 million a shot. And the decision by Melania Trump to stay in New York with her son is apparently costing taxpayers close to $2 million a day. [Over $700 million per year. -FM]

–Dean Baker
Paying for Legal Services or Keeping Melania Trump in NYC: Choices for Taxpayers

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/20/comparisons-melania-trump/

Feb 19

Human evolution and the Myth of Control

Bone House Wasp - Very Good MotherMother Nature Network published an interesting little article some time ago, Kooky Cartwheeling Spider Among Bizarre New Species. It seems that 18,000 recently discovered species were given official names this last year. And so the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at State University of New York (SUNY) decided to highlight ten of these creatures. Think about that for a moment. Humans have spent thousands of years cataloging different animal species, yet we can still be discovering tens of thousands of them each year. According to the article, there are still 10 million yet to be discovered. This number is also the estimate of the total number of species on the earth. Thus far, humans have only been able to catalog about 1.5 million species.

The group of creatures include some things that demand a rewrite of Hamlet, “There are more things on earth than are dreamt of in your worst nightmares.” Take the bone house wasp. Although disturbing, we must admit that she is a hell of a good mother. She creates a nest in a hollow stem of a plant. At the bottom, she lays her eggs. On top of it, she puts a dead spider for the hungry baby wasps, once they are born. That’s actually rather nice of the mother in regard to the spider — paralyzing, and having them eaten alive seems a much more common approach in the wild. The creepy part comes when the mother wasp piles dead ants on the very top. This is done to ward off predators because of the smell of the ants. So think about a nursery with rotting corpses piled by the door to keep others away. Effective, loving, and very creepy!

For the creationists out there, there is the Limnonectes larvaepartus. It is a frog from Indonesia that gives birth to live tadpoles. That’s interesting because most frogs lay eggs and a few frogs give birth to baby frogs. This new frog is what we might call “the missing link.” But as we know from creationist apologetics, there will always be “holes” in the diversity of life. Nothing will convince them because they cannot be convinced. They “know” the truth and are only looking for things that justify what they already “know.”

Another of the new species is Torquigener albomaculosu, a kind of pufferfish. The male of this species attract females by creating beautiful designs in the sand. That reminds me of the following “Effective Catcalls” cartoon. Females really do appreciate a man who can provide a nice home.

Effective Catcalls

The sad thing about all the species we are discovering is that plants and animals are going extinct at an even faster rate. Of course, life forms are always going extinct — it is the nature of life. But it is hard not to figure that we are largely responsible for the fast rate. Thus far, we have done this by destroying habitat, but as time goes on, the climate forcing is going to be a much bigger — even catastrophic thing.

Still, the amazing diversity of life on the earth is staggering. At the same time, mama wasps are just like human mothers in all they do to protect their young. And I know that a lot of people will dismiss what the wasp does as just instinct. But our great brains don’t seem to change the overall nature of things. We humans are pre-programmed to think that human babies are cute and worth protecting. We may obscure that with ideas like “feeling” and “choice.” But I think that’s all rubbish. We are all on autopilot, we just have these big brains that trick us into thinking we are in control.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/19/human-evolution-and-the-myth-of-control/

Feb 19

Trump Cares About the Working Man CEO

Matt Taibbi - Wall Street CEOsDonald Trump, the man who positioned himself as the common man’s shield against Wall Street, signed a series of orders today calling for reviews or rollbacks of financial regulations. He did so after meeting with some friendly helpers.

Here’s how CNBC described the crowd of Wall Street CEOs Trump received, before he ordered a review of both the Dodd-Frank Act and the fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests:

“Trump also will meet at the White House with leading CEOs, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.”

Leading the way for this assortment of populist heroes will be former Goldman honcho Gary Cohn, now Trump’s chief economic advisor.

Dimon, Schwarzman, Fink and Cohn collectively represent a rogues gallery of the creeps most responsible for the 2008 crash. It would be hard to put together a group of people less sympathetic to the non-wealthy.

Trump’s approach to Wall Street is in sharp contrast to his tough-talking stances on terrorism. He talks a big game when slamming the door on penniless refugees, but curls up like a beach weakling around guys who have more money than he does.

—Matt Taibbi
Extreme Vetting, But Not for Banks

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/19/trump-wall-street-ceo/

Feb 18

Why Trump Won’t Invigorate the Economy

Paul Krugman - CarrierThe Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration’s budget planning assumes very high economic growth over the next decade — between 3 and 3.5 percent annually. How was this number arrived at? Basically, they worked backwards, assuming the growth they needed to make their budget numbers add up. Credibility! …

The claimed returns to Trumpnomics are close to the highest growth rates we’ve seen under any modern administration. Real GDP grew 3.4 percent annually under Reagan; it grew 3.7 percent annually under Clinton (shhh — don’t tell conservatives). But there are fundamental reasons to believe that such growth is unlikely to happen now.

First, demography: Reagan took office with baby boomers — and women — still entering the work force; these days baby boomers are leaving. …

Just on demography alone, then, you’d expect growth to be around a percentage point lower than it was under Reagan.

Furthermore, while Trump did not, in fact, inherit a mess, both Reagan and Clinton did — in the narrow sense that both came into office amid depressed economies, with unemployment above 7 percent…

This meant a substantial amount of slack to be taken up when the economy returned to full employment. Rough calculation: 2 points of excess unemployment means 4 percent output gap under Okun’s Law, which means 0.5 percentage points of extra growth over an 8-year period.

So even if you (wrongly) give Reagan policies credit for the business cycle recovery after 1982, and believe (wrongly) that Trumponomics is going to do wonderful things for incentives a la Reagan, you should still be expecting growth of 2 percent or under.

–Paul Krugman
Trump’s Rosy Scenario

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/18/trump-economic-growth/

Feb 18

Mary Jo White Ever Corporate Clients’ Friend

Mary Jo WhiteMary Jo White, whose tenure as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Obama bitterly disappointed those who hoped she would aggressively enforce banking laws, is rejoining the corporate defense team at Debevoise & Plimpton, marking her sixth trip through the revolving door between various government jobs and the white-collar defense law firm she calls home.

Debevoise represents numerous major financial institutions under federal investigation, and White will now help those corporate clients manage their legal exposure.

White got the call to return to Debevoise on Inauguration Day, her last day at the SEC. As Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair told the Wall Street Journal, “We had been waiting to make that phone call for several years.”

This latest trip through the revolving door is particularly disturbing because White declared in ethics disclosure forms before becoming SEC chair that she was retiring from her partnership at Debevoise, receiving a lump sum retirement payment of over $2 million. Instead of staying retired, she immediately went back to Debevoise after her government service ended, pocketing the money.

It is not, however, surprising…

Under White, the SEC failed to monitor stock buybacks to prevent market manipulation. It failed to stop the epidemic of granting waivers to companies automatically banned from securities activities after settling cases of civil and criminal wrongdoing. White stood with Republican commissioners even as Democratic colleagues tried to stop those waivers from being granted. In a troubling continuance of regulatory capture at the agency, White hired a senior Goldman Sachs attorney as the SEC chief of staff.

Though White made a big show of fighting to force companies to admit guilt in any settlement, a break from past practice, in reality this tool was rarely used. According to a letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren, of 520 settlements from June 2013 to September 2014, only 19 required admissions of guilt. And in the majority of those cases, the SEC only asked for a broad admission of the facts of the case, rather than admissions of specific securities violations. In one example, the SEC got JPMorgan Chase to admit to breaking a law in 2013, but it wouldn’t say which one.

–David Dayen
A Corporate Defender at Heart, Former Sec Chair Mary Jo White Returns to Her Happy Place

See Also:

01 January 2013: Mary Jo White: Business As Usual
24 June 2013: Good Change at SEC — Maybe
05 June 2015: Mary Jo White Is Doing Obama’s Will: Nothing

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/18/mary-jo-white/

Feb 17

The Obama Legacy in the Time of Trump

Obama HopeA major theme of my book, perhaps the central one, is that a fixation on all sides with fleeting short-term events obscured the breadth and depth of the transformative change wrought by the Obama administration. Large and even revolutionary policy changes received little attention because they were not attached to whatever political drama had captured the attention of the political media, and those “game-changing” dramas, in turn, frequently had little or no ultimate importance.

That same fixation with immediacy has continued to color our perception of Obama since he departed. Donald Trump’s election is the most compelling and immediate story in American politics, and correctly so, but its drama has caused Obama’s presidency to be refracted through the lens of Trump. What does Trump tell us about Obama? What does Obama tell us about Trump? The easy assumption since November has been that Trump would rapidly erase Obama’s legacy. “Obama’s legacy is toast,” gloated conservative commentators. That conclusion, reached immediately in the wake of the election, has continued to form the entirety of right-wing thought about Obama. Trump won, ergo, everything Obama did is gone, close the books…

Obama’s measures to prevent a second Great Depression after the 2008 financial crisis — the stimulus, the stress tests of the banks, and auto bailout — are safe from Trump by definition. The Dodd-Frank financial reforms will be temporarily weakened through lax enforcement, just as labor, environmental, campaign, and other regulations conservatives disapprove of are typically weakened during Republican administrations. But Republicans do not have anywhere close to the 60 votes they need to wipe Dodd-Frank off the books. Obama’s education reforms are likely safe as well.

But, as I argued in the book, both the green-energy revolution that Obama helped set out, and the international diplomatic consensus in favor of limiting climate change he helped assemble have a life of their own. Rather than use Trump’s election as an excuse to renege on their own commitments, world leaders insisted after the election their agreement was irreversible. Trump will slow down the pace of the green-energy transformation, but he has neither the inclination nor the ability to destroy the changes of the last eight years. Over the last few weeks, two of the largest coal-fired power plants have announced plans to shut down…

The old conservative mental image of green energy as an unaffordable hippie daydream is hopelessly quaint, in a world where the cost of solar has plunged 85 percent, and wind 66 percent, since the stimulus, and these technologies now produce energy for less than coal. Since 2008, wind power has more than quadrupled, and solar-power capacity has increased 4,000 percent.

Battery-storage technology is a crucial factor to the greening of both the electric power sector and the transportation sector. Affordable batteries are the key component to making electric cars cost-competitive with the gasoline-powered kind. And battery storage is an enormous factor in allowing renewable energy to completely displace fossil fuels. Solar and wind power can already generate electricity more cheaply than coal, but battery storage is necessary for those sources to replace the need for fossil-fuel power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The price of advanced batteries has fallen by more than half in the last three years alone…

And the Republican notion that subsidizing an infant industry violates the principles of a free economy, and amounts to “crony capitalism,” has been utterly abandoned in the face of an administration where the president uses his office for self-enrichment and White House employees literally use their office to gin up customers for his family business.

And then there is Obamacare repeal, the Holy Grail of the quest to erase Obama’s legacy. My book argues that Obamacare will be difficult to repeal — by bringing 20 million previously uninsured Americans into the system, Republicans can no longer ignore them. Events since its publication have borne out that analysis. Republicans have promised to replace the law with a plan that has lower deductibles and premiums and better choices. A plan like that would require spending more money than Obamacare, and Republicans are coming face-to-face with the reality that there’s no mechanism to finance such a plan that their party could support… Financing the alternative plan is the largest obstacle facing Republicans, but hardly the only one. There are innumerable problems that must be resolved — whether to keep the Medicaid expansion, whether to defund Planned Parenthood, whether to repeal Obamacare’s taxes, and on and on. Republicans have to find near unanimity on every single one of them in order to pass a bill out of both chambers of Congress. They have resolved none of them so far.

Republicans in Congress have made no more progress in developing a partywide alternative in the three and a half months since the election than they made in the seven years before that. Their only options are to keep the current system, or some version thereof, or inflict cruelty upon millions and massive disruption to an industry that accounts for a fifth of the economy. “I would say it’s not that easy to repeal it,” concedes Representative Peter King. “The entire repeal is in mortal danger,” admits Representative Trent Franks.

Republican messaging heavily emphasized the notion that Obama governed largely through the issuing of executive orders, which supposedly left his agenda vulnerable to a quick reversal. Trump has illustrated how fallacious that notion was. The new president has issued a flurry of executive orders, but — with the exception of the immigration order, which was a fiasco — these orders have mostly been symbolic vehicles for communicating goals, rather than actual policy changes.

The notion that Obama’s presidency could and would be erased with a few strokes of the pen was a form of Republican propaganda that Republicans themselves came to believe. Conservatives took Trump’s grandiose rhetoric about repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something terrific, or bringing back coal jobs, at face value because they wanted to believe it. (Many despondent liberals yielded to the same conclusion out of characteristic fatalism.) But one of the lessons gained from a close study of Obama’s presidency, or any presidency, is that governing is hard. The reforms his domestic policies have wrought do not come easy. Even a highly competent Republican presidency would have difficulty unwinding them. And Trump has shown no signs so far of being even a minimally competent president. The expectation of a rapid erasure of Obama’s presidency looks like — to pick a cliché I read somewhere — hubris dashed against the sharp rocks of reality.

–Jonathan Chait
Remember How Trump Was Going to Erase Obama’s Legacy Overnight? Yeah, Not So Much.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/02/17/obama-legacy-trump/

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