Patterico's Pontifications

12/20/2019

Republicans Once Again Win the Wrong Battle

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:14 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Earlier today the President tweeted this:

For the life of me, I never understood why the GOP made repealing the “Cadillac Tax” on lavish health plans a high priority. I get how after failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) they have been attempting to systematically dismantling it by, for example, killing the penalty for those who fail to purchase health care. And thanks to collusion between Congressional Democrats and Republicans the tax on expensive high-end health plans was never implemented to begin with, so it’s not as if formally killing it has any budget effect. But we now find ourselves at the point where ObamaCare is still officially on the books yet with fewer and fewer options for paying for it. One interesting aspect of the tax was that it would have hit hardest among union members and other groups who generally negotiate for too-generous health benefits, so even though the Obama Administration needed to include the tax in the ACA legislation in order to balance the books they were more than happy to cynically abandon the concept once the bill had safely passed. And I have always thought it was a strategic mistake for Republicans to have acceded to this chicanery, but I guess the general anti-tax fervor of the party overwhelms any notions of fiscal sanity.

ObamaCare was and is a lousy piece of legislation, but when feckless Republicans were unable to undo it (a big part of your legacy, John McCain) they should not have agreed to a system where millions of people receive government subsidies but nobody is taxed in order to fund them. It’s likely that a supposed anti-single-payer chief executive like a President Biden or President Buttigieg won’t see the point in re-fighting this battle, so the idea of taxing high-end health care plans, many of which are already taxpayer paid, is now dead for the foreseeable future.

And we’re looking at a future of trillion dollar deficits if we don’t change course, so goodbye to fiscal sanity once and for all.

Ramesh Ponnuru Dismantles the Arguments Against Impeachment and Removal

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:51 am



To the extent that facts and logic matter, which is very little, Ramesh Ponnuru breaks down the arguments for and against impeachment. It’s a great piece and you should read the whole thing.

Ponnuru begins with the concept that impeachment is appropriate only when facts show an impeachable “abuse of power or dereliction of duty” by the president, such that removing him is prudent.

Diehard Trump defenders advance the argument that Trump was truly concerned with corruption in Ukraine as a matter of a U.S. national interest. Ponnuru takes this argument head-on, and demonstrates convincingly that Trump’s concerns were purely petty and self-serving:

The argument requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, has testified that Trump “didn’t want to hear about” Ukrainian efforts against corruption and that concerns over corruption had not led to the withholding of aid from any other country within his portfolio. The Department of Defense had certified that Ukraine was taking steps against corruption before the administration withheld aid to it.

Fighting corruption would not have required Trump to encourage Zelensky to work with Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has said that he was working in Ukraine to advance his client’s personal interests; it would have counseled against Trump’s doing that. Nor would the effort have required the secrecy with which it was conducted, or have required dropping around the same time it was starting to attract publicity. Kurt Volker, Trump’s envoy to Ukraine, has testified that Giuliani said that official Ukrainian statements against corruption were insufficient unless they specifically mentioned the investigations touching on the Bidens and on the 2016 campaign.

There is essentially no evidence that either investigation is worth conducting. The theory that Joe Biden acted corruptly holds that he leaned on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who was looking into a company that had his son on the board. That prosecutor’s former deputy has said that there was no active investigation, and the Obama administration was on record urging the prosecutor to assist a British legal action against the company’s owner.

Ponnuru’s piece is also valuable for debunking the notion that we must be presented with evidence of a statutory crime to impeach a president. Not so. Yes, James Madison argued against the notion of “maladministration” being impeachable.

Madison also said, though, that impeachment is the constitutional protection against a president who would abuse his power to pardon criminals, and that it was an appropriate remedy for “wanton removal of meritorious officers” by the president. . . . Congress has impeached many officials for misconduct not involving statutory crimes, and included non-crimes in its efforts to impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Clinton.

Ponnuru acknowledges that Trump can’t be removed over the objections of half the country. But:

There are better questions. Would it be good for the country if a large majority of Americans were to be persuaded that it is unacceptable for a president to use his office to encourage foreign governments to investigate his political opponents? Assuming that the necessary level of support to remove a president from office for that offense will not be reached, should we prefer that more elected officials go on record that it is unacceptable — or that fewer do?

FRUSTRATED POSTSCRIPT: This is a post that uses reason and evidence and logic to make an argument about something that 1) people have already made up their mind about, and 2) often can’t discuss rationally as a general rule. So why bother?

Why bother indeed. Arguing politics carries with it the immense frustration of having otherwise sensible and smart people look you straight in the eye and say laughable things that they would recognize as laughable in any other context. I opened this blog post with the words “[t]o the extent that facts and logic matter” while implicitly recognizing that to many, they matter not at all. I’m already pre-irritated by the fact that there are commenters, whom I won’t name (but we all know who they are, and they will identify themselves shortly by behaving in the way I am about to describe) who will read/half read a post like this and treat the arguments therein a nothing more than a springboard for some flippant remark, generally in the form of a whatabout, that they believe is clever. These people continually show that they could not care less about the facts, arguments, and logic offered. Such things are mere foils to make dopey and tired partisan points.

And yet, we have nothing but facts, reason, logic, and argument to fall back on. The alternatives are violence, or rabble-rousing displays of emotion — which the Smart Crowd will patiently explain to you is the only real persuasive tool, and they will attempt to justify that position with … facts, reason, logic, and argument.

I can’t endorse violence, even when people seem to like it, as in Nazi-punching. I leave persuasion through emotive gestures to others. It’s not my strong suit. I am left with reason. I’ll continue to apply it. I’ll continue to mostly ignore and occasionally snap back at people who demonstrate they won’t listen to reason, and I’ll continue to make the reasoned case for my positions to the tiny handful of you for whom such tools are effective.


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