Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Bad news on Obamacare (in that there is good news). Trump suffered major setbacks this week in one of his main policy objectives: sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. Year-on-year enrollment numbers were up sharply in the first sign-up period on Trump's watch. Nobody predicted this--certainly not Trump, who has transitioned from declaring the law "dead" to chastising people for even bringing it up in his presence. Trump made an honest effort to bring about the ACA's "death spiral" all by himself--he'd cut the enrollment period in half and slashed public service ads by 90%--but to no avail, so far.

Adding insult to injury (for Trump, at least), the citizens of Maine voted by a 59-to-41 margin to participate in the Medicaid expansion program, a central part of the ACA. The success appears to have prompted other states to put Obamacare expansion on the ballot. Trump may take some consolation in the fact that Gov. Paul LePage (R), one of his staunchest supporters in the nations governor's mansions, has vowed to obstruct implementation of the referendum.

Golf course advertising. Trump has spent about a third of the days of his term in office so far visiting a Trump-branded property, most recently at a hotel in Hawaii en route to his Asia trip. He owns no hotels in South Korea (though his name is on some condominiums) and so couldn't cross-promote his business ventures there.

Instead, he did the next best thing--using his address before the South Korea National Assembly to plug his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course.

Praise for Xi. Trump's flip-flops on China are so frequent and cover so much territory that it's almost impossible to keep track of them. This week, the man who once accused China of economic "rape" of the United States was magnanimous about their trade policy, saying he didn't blame the country for doing its best for its citizens. (China has, for the most part, simply ignored Trump's ever-changing feelings about it, focusing instead on exploiting the chaos caused by the United States' sudden shift in trade policy under Trump.)

But his personal admiration for authoritarians has led to a chummy relationship with Chinese president Xi Jinping--or, in any event, Trump seems to have warm feelings for Xi. In advance of his visit to China, Trump congratulated Xi on his "great political victory."

That's a reference to Xi's recent re-election as General Secretary of the Communist Party, a more accurate description of his political power than the term "president" (a ceremonial post that Xi also holds). China has one-party rule and no direct elections of any senior government officials. Trump's praise for Xi's "great political victory" was really praise for Xi's skill in controlling a fundamentally undemocratic form of government.

What's the problem with these things?

  • Presidents shouldn't openly try to sabotage the laws they're sworn to uphold.
  • A president who uses an address to a major ally's legislature to plug his side businesses has the wrong priorities.
  • It's bad if the President of the United States is constantly praising authoritarians and antidemocratic forms of government.