Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss the fairly easy road to confirmation for the Trump cabinet thanks to Harry Reid’s nuclear option. They also groan as the New York Times reports Pres. Obama plans to break from tradition and be a very vocal ex-president to keep the heat on Trump. And they discuss the Hamilton kerfuffle and how only Pence ends up looking good.
Archives for November 2016
Donald Trump promised significant tax reform and has a Republican Congress to work with, but the leader of the nation’s largest grassroots taxpayer organization says the window of opportunity is small and the GOP better be ready to tackle spending if want to keep deficits from exploding.
National Taxpayers Union President Pete Sepp says Republicans are largely united in what they want in a reform package but he says they all need to be on the same page before Trump takes office.
“There is a window of opportunity,” said Sepp. “I think the president and Congress need to get on the same page as quickly as possible. That means holding staff-level meetings right now, even before the next Congress, to determine what differences they have and how they’re going to move forward.”
“All of these elements have to figure out how they’re going to move forward on a common plane. Otherwise, they’re going to get bogged down in details and they’re not going to be able to secure the votes and move the process along the way they need to,” said Sepp.
There multiple plans with similar, but not identical, provisions. In addition to Trump’s plan, House and Senate Republicans have also outlined their respective wish lists. Sepp says some differences are small, such as Trump wanting to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent while House Republicans prefer 20 percent.
But there are other differences as well.
“Trump would sort of equalize investment tax rates with the new personal tax rates. The House would do something different there. There are also differences in repealing itemized deductions, or limiting those deductions, and how business expenses might be treated over the long term,” said Sepp.
Simplification is another major goal of many reformers pushing for an end to an endless list of exemptions and loopholes. And while there are lobbyists committed to protecting virtually every one of those tax breaks, Sepp thinks simplification can happen this time.
“I think a lot of progress can be made, especially on the corporate side. Even business tax lobbyists are coming to realize that the current system as become so complex, that all of the loopholes that they have to figure out and comply with every year just aren’t worth the effort,” said Sepp.
But he says getting Republicans on the same page as soon as possible is critical since getting the reforms through a closely divided Senate will not be easy.
“Republicans will have, at best, 52 seats in the Senate. First, their caucus needs to be united. That assumes that there is no filibuster on the part of Democrats, or that Republicans use the so-called reconciliation process to get around the filibuster and get a tax reform plan through their chamber. All of those things need to be thought of right now,” said Sepp.
All of the GOP tax plans are likely to trigger higher deficits, at least in the short term, unless the other side of the balance sheet is addressed as well. In addition to tackling the tax code, Sepp wants to see an equally aggressive push to rein in spending.
“Republicans are going to have to mindful of the long-term impact and figure out ways to reform the spending side of the ledger so those shortfalls are kept under control,” said Sepp.
He says the most obvious target are entitlements, an area Trump has refused to consider cutting or changing in any meaningful way.
“What they need to do is figure out some common ground on entitlement reform especially. That was something that Donald Trump essentially took off the table. That is an incredibly unwise move if we want to be honest with the American people and have fiscal reform on both sides of the ledger,” said Sepp.
He says the only other areas to cut are defense or discretionary spending and Trump has given no indication of wanting to do that either.
“Donald Trump has said he wants to increase defense spending and boost infrastructure spending by upwards of a trillion dollars. Those plans are going to have to be modified and there’s going to have to be consideration of entitlements. This is not going to be some era of prosperity for growing the federal government. It’s going to have to be kept under control,” said Sepp.
Sepp predicts there is a seven in ten chance of tax reform with Trump in office as opposed to about a three in ten chance with Democrats in charge.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review discuss President-Elect Trump’s first cabinet nominees. They also react to Harry Reid fearing the world will blow up with Trump as president and Keith Olbermann virtually guaranteeing concentration camps. And they discuss the poor results of a feminist snow plowing strategy in Sweden.
Donald Trump’s election triggered an avalanche of grief and defiance on many college campuses, and administrators are accommodating the grieving students through a variety of efforts, but a top official at one of America’s best known traditional schools says the actions of both students and administrators are way off course.
Since Trump became president-elect on the morning of Nov. 9, schools around the country are taking great pains to comfort students traumatized by the GOP victory. Some are setting aside “election processing spaces.” Others options include counseling for students, vigils, and even sharing the suicide hotline numbers. The University of Michigan Law School even planned a therapy event featuring Play-Doh before eventually canceling it.
Not all campuses are seeing so much volatility. One is Hillsdale College in Michigan. The school is well known for is 172-year refusal to accept any federal money. Even federal student loan money is no good there.
Hillsdale Provost Dr. David Whalen says the emotional fragility seen on so many campuses comes as no surprise. .
“These are really the predictable consequences of an entirely politicized environment in higher education,” said Whalen.
“For a long, long time now, higher education has been entirely political. It’s forsaken it’s original purpose to foster a keen-sighted intellectual awareness on the part of students and instead indoctrinate them politically. This is what you get. You get what can only be described as an infantilized student body,” said Whalen.
In addition to creating an environment where such emotional demonstrations are becoming common place, whether about election results or perceived discrimination, Whalen says the way administrators are responding to the outcries is also very harmful.
“If the student is in your face, shouting and bellowing demands, you have failed that student in some fundamental way. The most important thing at this moment is not publicity but what you can do to restore the student to a receptive educational context,” said Whalen.
“You’re a teacher. That’s a student. The student needs you. The student needs to be informed by you in some significant respect. Don’t forget that’s your primary role,” said Whalen.
So why do administrators regularly cater to the student demands. Whalen sees multiple reasons.
“Administrators are often quite sympathetic with the students making the demands. They wish they could move as quickly as the students are urging them to move,” said Whalen. “The second reason is they, in too many cases I should say, lack the moral and intellectual resources to respond to the students or at least respond coherently.”
“The administrators, as a rule, are very concerned with appearances; too concerned about appearances and not sufficiently concerned…about the moral and intellectual formation of the students, of the intemperate person making the demands,” said Whalen.
The result, he says, are college graduates not ready to face the real world.
“It’s the same thing that happens when you give in to a two-year-old’s demands repeatedly and then they hit adolescence. You get somebody who is completely incapable of governing himself,” he said.
Why does this not happen at Hillsdale? Whalen says students at Hillsdale know exactly what is expected of them.
“The students here understand they are partners. They are colleagues in an enterprise. They are not consumers unhappy with a product they are buying. They are undergoing a formation that they have to contribute to willingly. They’re plugged in. They’ve bought in. They’re engaged,” said Whalen.
Due to it’s independent nature, Hillsdale attracts a more conservative student body than most colleges and universities but debate and disagreement are everywhere on campus. Whalen says the difference is how students are taught to approach their disagreements.
“We educate them in the western intellectual tradition, which is a tradition of massive argument, disagreement and debate. We’re not indoctrinating people with conservative stuff. We’re just presenting this tradition that has arguments about everything from economics and the relation of the state to the individual to the existence of God and the nature of evil, everything imaginable,” said Whalen.
“When you wrap your mind at difficulty, under pressure and in strain around the most serious arguments about the most serious things, you turn into a pretty intellectually adept, responsible, mature person,” said Whalen.
The 2016 election brought fierce debate to campus, particularly during the primary season. Whalen was proud of how the students approached those debates without resorting to what’s being seen on other campuses.
“The debates were vigorous but civil,” he said. “There weren’t breaking up of friendships and shouting down dormitory hallways. There was a lot of very vigorous, very serious disagreement, but it was done with civility and respect. People didn’t assume that someone with a different point of view was morally deficient,” said Whalen.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review applaud House Speaker Paul Ryan for quashing an attempt by some Republicans to bring back earmarks. They also slam the defiant Democratic mayors who insist illegal immigrants will be fully protected from deportation in their cities. And they discuss the social media crackdown on fake news and what passes for journalism on the left these days.
An effective overhaul of the nation’s health care laws will require scrapping the most damaging parts of Obamacare, keeping some of the provisions, and giving much more freedom to states and insurance companies to create vibrant competition that will increase consumer choice and bring down soaring costs.
That’s the assessment of Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner, a prominent voice against both Obamacare and the Clinton administration’s attempted overhaul of health care in the 1990s.
The Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature domestic legislation, survived a Supreme Court challenge in 2012. While the court states that mandating Americans buy health insurance is unconstitutional, the provisions were allowed to stand since people were given the choice to buy insurance or pay a fine.
Turner says the individual and employer mandates need to be the first things on the cutting room floor.
“They do have to go. The individual mandate, in particular, is the single-most unpopular part of this law,” said Turner, who says there are ways for the Trump administration to kill the mandates without a vote in Congress.
“There are ways through the regulatory process, not even through legislation, that Mr. Trump could basically eviscerate the individual mandate. But I also expect that to be very much on the chopping block when they do their repeal bill,” said Turner.
She says the employer mandate deserves the same fate.
“The employer mandate is the same. Even many of the president’s advisers have said that the employer mandate is really relatively useless, except for forcing people to buy – this is me saying this – that is extraordinarily expensive and is driving up everybody’s premiums and deductibles,” said Turner.
But while there has been much talk of full repeal, Trump recently said he would be open to keeping a limited number of provisions that have proven to be popular. Turner says keeping policies to forbid insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions or allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ policies should be retained.
“The president-elect should have have come out early on, saying, ‘Of course there are some goals in Obamacare that we share. We want to make sure that as many people as possible have coverage. We want to make sure that people are protected so that their insurance is real insurance. The fact that they’re in Obamacare does not mean that they’re bad,'” said Turner.
“They just have to go about a way of achieving those goals in a much different, more consumer-friendly, more market-friendly way,” said Turner.
She also expects Congress to provide a transition period from the current law to those new, market-oriented solutions.
Turner also says federal subsidies should still be available to those buying coverage on the individual exchanges, suggesting many people will still need a hand up even if efforts are successful to drive costs down through competition and choice.
She says subsidies are actually very fair.
“People with employer-based health insurance get huge subsidies worth $250-300 billion a year and forgiving that part of their income from taxes that goes to pay their health insurance premiums. So people who don’t have that option are being shut out. They’re paying their premiums with after-tax dollars. So yes, subsidies are going to have to be part of the equation,” said Turner.
Where Turner really hopes to see big change is the stripping away of the federal tentacles that currently dictate most details of the health care system. She says that will bring down costs and bring more people into the system.
“It would, as long as they don’t have so many rules that are forcing young people to pay so much more than their likely use of health insurance, which is one of the problems with Obamacare, and so long as you don’t have rules that allow people to simply purchase health insurance when they’re sick and drop it after they get treatment,” said Turner.
Turner says another vital step is to rip away the mandates of what has to be included in a given health care plan and allow the marketplace to decide what’s best.
“I can’t even think of the options that are out there that insurance companies might come up with – and smart actuaries – to give people the opportunity to make the decision for themselves what kind of coverage they need. Maybe it’s a health savings account. Maybe it’s a high-deductible plan, maybe it’s an HMO that has more restrictions on it,” said Turner.
“If people can make those decisions for themselves, then the market will be able to respond to them, rather than all these Washington bureaucrats and regulators,” she added.
Decenralizing power from Washington would also put more control in the hands of the states.
“The problem now is we’re all forced into this same strait-jacket of Obamacare. We all have to buy these hugely expensive products, which fewer and fewer people can afford. Give the market really an opportunity to provide products that people want to purchase within parameters and some guidelines that make sure it’s real insurance and that people are protected,” said Turner.
Turner says Obamacare is driving people away from a product they want because of the crushing mandates and high costs.
“People want health insurance. It’s not that you’re forcing them to buy something they don’t want. They want health insurance, but they don’t want to pay more for their health insurance than they’re paying for their mortgage, which is happening to many people right now,” said Turner.
Turner says new companies would spring to life when they see an explosion in demand from patients interested cheaper plans that better meet the needs of their families.
She says House Speaker Paul Ryan already has the relevant committee chairmen working on plans to overhaul Obamacare. However, she says it’s very unlikely that Republicans will try to achieve reform through one massive bill. Instead, Turner believes lawmakers will pursue a piecemeal approach targeting specific aspects of the current law that need to be changed.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review discuss millennials choosing Hillary Clinton by a much smaller margin than Barack Obama enjoyed in previous elections. They also unload on the liberal politicians and columnists screaming for the Electoral College to be abolished. And they slam the media for throwing a fit over Donald Trump going out to dinner without telling the media.
The Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the case of the Christian florist being sued by the state for refusing to provide arrangements for a same-sex marriage ceremony more than three years ago.
Barronnelle Stutzman faces the possibility of losing her business, her home and her life savings unless the state supreme court overturns lower court rulings that Stutzman violated state discrimination laws.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a friend of the court brief leading up to Tuesday’s hearing. Legal Counsel Adele Keim says Stutzman is being targeted by the government for holding beliefs in conflict with a customer.
“We know that we live in a pluralistic society. If there’s anything that’s true about people in the United States, of America, it’s that we disagree about important issues, things like sex, things like religion. You name it and you can find two Americans with different views on it,” said Keim.
“The issue in Barronnelle’s case is that the power of the state is being used to punish her because she expressed her disagreement,” added Keim.
Keim says Stutzman’s career shows she does not discriminate against gays and lesbians or anyone else.
“Barronnelle Stutzman has employed LGBT people and served LGBT people, including the couple that has turned around and sued her, for two decades,” said Keim. “She served this couple for nine years. She made their Valentine’s Day arrangements for years.”
In 2013, Rob Ingersoll asked Stutzman to provide floral arrangement for his same-sex ceremony with Curt Freed. Keim says Stutzman was as loving as possible in denying the request.
“She took his hand and with tears in her eyes she said, ‘My faith doesn’t allow me to do that.’ She’s a Southern Baptist and participating in a same-sex wedding was just something she felt she couldn’t do,” said Keim.
She says Ingersoll is the one who turned this into an ordeal that eventually involved the state government targeting Stutzman.
“Instead of saying, “I understand. We’re going to go our separate ways,’ he started talking about it to the media. The state attorney general (Bob Ferguson) heard about it and made an issue out of it, even suing Barronnelle. The ACLU soon joined the lawsuit and Barronnelle now stands to lose not just her business but also her home and her life savings,” said Keim.
Prior court rulings have ordered Stutzman to pay Ingersoll’s legal fees. Keim estimates that total could run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars after several rounds of the case in court, even though a previous court found that Ingersoll and Freed suffered eight dollars in damages.
Keim says Stutzman had the opportunity to settle the case for a smaller fine but refused.
“For Barronnelle, the issue has never been about money. The state offered to settle the case for a couple thousand dollars a couple of years ago. She said, ‘I can’t, because if I settle for that money, you’re going to require me to participate in same-sex weddings in the future and my faith just doesn’t allow that,'” said Keim.
Stutzman and her supporters are encouraged by the number of legal experts weighing in on her side.
“The National Latino Christian Leadership Caucus has joined her. African-American pastors have joined her and stood with her and said, ‘There are many, many thousands of Barronnelle’s out there,’ and have asked the court to protect her from the misuse of this law,” said Keim.
“So we’re hopeful that with this chorus of support for Barronnelle Stutzman, the Washington State Supreme Court will take another look and reconsider,” said Keim.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review have only crazy stories today. They discuss Pres. Obama urging Donald Trump to reach out to those who didn’t support him, after Obama spent eight years dismissing and demonizing the opposition. They also cringe at reports that Donald Trump is trying to get cabinet-level security clearances for three of his children. And they sigh as faculty and students at the University of Virginia condemn the school’s president for quoting Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University of Virginia.
Donald Trump made headlines Sunday, telling “60 Minutes” that he considered same-sex marriage settled law and had no plans to revisit it during his time in office, a statement that doesn’t seem dampen the spirits of the overwhelming majority of evangelicals who backed the GOP nominee last week.
“These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled, and I’m fine with that,” Trump told correspondent Lesley Stahl.
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver says he would not expect Trump to aggressively address the issue since he has spent so little time on it. Ultimately, Staver says the definition of marriage and other hot-button issues like abortion, will mainly be influenced by the types of judges Trump nominates.
“If you have a person who is a pro-life justice, that’s a person who’s not going to be an activist justice or judge. If they’re not going to be activist on the pro-life, they’re not going to be activist on the issue same-sex marriage because that’s an even further deviation from the Constitution beyond belief,” said Staver.
He also points out that Trump will need to fill additional vacancies for there to be any hope of overruling the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
“Just give the opportunity to fill those seats to someone who respects the Constitution and this razor-thin 5-4 decision on same-sex marriage, I think, will be in the same trash bin of history that Dred Scott found itself to be in when people began to wake up and have common sense,” said Staver.
And he likes what Trump has said about judges thus far.
“I’ve been pleased with his position on appointing pro-life judges and justices and vetting them through the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. That’s a big deal. That’s a huge deal, not just on the issue of life, but across the board. You get the justice or judge that has a judicial philosophy to interpret the Constitution, rather than to create a brand new Constitution,” said Staver.
Trump actively courted the LGBT vote in the 2016 campaign. He initially supported allowing people to use restrooms and other intimate facilities based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex. He later stated that he believes the decision should be left to the states. In the final days of the campaign, Trump held up the LGBT rainbow flag at a rally in Colorado.
Still, Staver expects far less federal mandates designed to implement the LGBT agenda from a Trump administration.
“I don’t expect President-Elect Donald Trump and his administration to be sending out letters like the transgender directive to the public schools or the federal agencies or the EEOC. I think that’s going to come to an end. I think there’s going to be an end to a lot of these things that President Obama has been pushing that’s going to come to a screeching halt,” said Staver.
He says that will be evident on the international stage as well.
“This administration, and Secretary (Hillary) Clinton was a part of it, has been pushing foreign nations to liberalize their abortion and same-sex marriage and marriage laws and LGBT laws. If they don’t, they’re threatening to withdraw the [foreign aid] for them. That I think is all going to stop. That’s not something [Trump] is going to push as an agenda,” said Staver.
Staver is also very confident that Trump’s policies and personnel will be markedly better than what we would have seen in a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“You would have had Obama on steroids. I think Hillary is of the same worldview and radical mindset as President Obama, but she’s more devious than president Obama,” said Staver.
Staver was very encouraged by Trump’s “60 Minutes” comments in which he again vowed to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, stating he believed abortion should be decided state by state and not imposed on the nation by the Supreme Court.
And he says the appointments to lower courts are also vital for conservatives.
“I’m looking forward to who the next Supreme Court justice will be, and not just that. We’ve got, potentially, other justices, and lots of appellate courts and district courts that will come available that this president-elect will appoint. I think that is good news for the American people. It’s certainly good news for life and the courts,” said Staver.
Other appointments will matter greatly to social conservatives, including attorney general and secretary of Health and Human Services. Staver says he is encouraged by the selection of Reince Priebus as chief of staff and believes the influence of former Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway is also a good influence on Trump.
He also believes cabinet nominations will be better than anything we would have seen if Hillary Clinton had won the election.
“The worst possible choice of a Donald Trump presidency would be better than the choices of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. There’s nothing to do but to improve the situation,” said Staver.
In fact, he expects a more conservative cabinet than many previous Republican presidents.
“I’m sure there are some things that he’s going to do, people that he will appoint that we won’t all agree with. On the other hand, at this stage, I can tell you that in past presidential elections, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, many of these individuals that got to be in a position like him, they began to put people around them that are just the old guard. That’s not what’s happening with this administration,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is bathing the transition period in prayer. Staver says there is ’round the clock and ’round the world intercession happening for Trump and his administration.
“It’s called Liberty Prayer Network. We are participating in and helping to spearhead a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 70 days of continual prayer,” said Staver. “It’s in process now. Someone is committed every hour and people are participating across the country in this international and national prayer for America,” said Staver.