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US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Privatizing VA care on the table for Republicans in 2016

05/13/16 10:40AM

Following up on a story we've been following, it was just four years ago when Mitt Romney chose to float a provocative idea on Veterans' Day. "Sometimes you wonder," the Republican asked, "would there be some way to introduce some private sector competition" into veterans' care?
 
A spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars very quickly made clear the VFW "doesn't support privatization of veterans' health care," and Romney backpedaled soon after, saying he was just kicking around a hypothetical scenario he didn't intend to pursue.
 
A lot has changed since 2012. As Rachel noted on the show last night, privatization of veterans' care is back as a Republican priority, as this Wall Street Journal report yesterday helped prove.
Donald Trump says the Department of Veterans Affairs' health-care system is badly broken, and this week his campaign released some guidelines that would steer changes he would implement if he wins the presidency.
 
While short on details, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee would likely push VA health care toward privatization and might move for it to become more of an insurance provider like Medicare rather than an integrated hospital system, said Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump's chief policy adviser, in an interview.
Clovis told the newspaper, "We want quality care top to bottom. If that means we have some form of privatization or some form of Medicare, we don't see anything wrong with that."
 
Veterans, however, tend to have a very different opinion on the matter.
Two freshly delivered Amazon boxes are seen. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Trump adds Amazon and its CEO to his list of enemies

05/13/16 10:05AM

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has found himself with quite a few critics, and as it turns out, his campaign is keeping track of those who've slighted him.
 
Politico reported overnight that as Trump's team begins to take over the RNC apparatus, "some campaign aides and allies are pushing him to block lucrative party contracts from consultants who worked to keep him from winning the nomination." The article added that the "blacklist" would mostly target "operatives who worked for Never Trump groups, but also some who worked for Trump's GOP presidential rivals or their supportive super PACs."
 
If this were the end of Team Trump's vindictiveness, it would still be pretty striking, but this is really just the start. USA Today reported overnight:
One again Donald Trump has kindled the fires of conspiracy. The soon-to-be Republican nominee for president says Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO who owns The Washington Post, is using the paper to attack him and the other political enemies who would force the massive online retailer to pay more in taxes.
 
Donald Trump told Sean Hannity in an interview Thursday that Bezos is using the Post "like a toy" and "for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed."
As part of a long, rambling, barely coherent tirade, Trump added in reference to Bezos, "[H]e's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they're doing. And what they've done is, he bought this paper for practically nothing and he's using that as a tool for political power against me and against other people. And I'll tell you what: we can't let him get away with it."
 
Trump didn't explicitly say he'd use the power of the federal government to target Bezos if elected, but in light of "we can't let him get away with it," it certainly sounded as if the candidate were effectively saying, "It's a nice business operation you have going; it'd be a shame if something happened to it."
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) departs a news conference with Capitol Hill reporters following a private meeting with Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., May 12, 2016. (Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Paul Ryan's unearned reputation

05/13/16 09:21AM

I'll confess that I don't quite understand why yesterday's meeting between Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan generated quite so much attention. The Republican leader has spent months vowing to support his party's presidential nominee, no matter what, and we learned yesterday that Ryan is likely to eventually do exactly what he's said he would do.
 
Apparently we're supposed to be impressed that Ryan is dragging this out, adding an element of drama to a process with an inevitable end?
 
Regardless, while there probably wasn't much to be learned from yesterday's high-profile, behind-closed-doors chat, Politico's report on the meeting noted, "[Paul Ryan] even brought charts and slides illustrating the nation's budget woes to help Trump understand the problem he has spent 20 years trying to solve."
 
As much as I appreciate someone who brings charts and slides to meetings, the assumption -- stated as fact -- that Ryan has "spent 20 years trying to solve" the nation's budget woes is demonstrably incorrect. As regular readers may recall, the Wisconsin congressman voted for George W. Bush's tax cuts and didn't feel the need to pay for them. Then he voted for Bush's extremely expensive Medicare expansion, and didn't feel the need to pay for that, either. He also voted for Bush's wars, and had no qualms whatsoever about adding the costs the national credit card. To top things off, Ryan also voted to bail out Wall Street, and once more, he decided the costs should just be added to the debt.
 
New York's Jon Chait added yesterday:
During the Bush administration, Ryan distinguished himself from the president by demanding even larger tax cuts -- and, during the fight over privatizing Social Security, advocated a plan that the administration rejected because it would have exploded deficits by too much.
 
Likewise, Ryan has opposed all of the major deficit-reducing legislation during this period -- ending portions of the Bush tax cuts, ending overpayments to private tuition lenders, and enacting the deficit-reducing Affordable Care Act, especially its cost-containment measures. Ryan also voted against the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction framework, and torpedoed bipartisan efforts to negotiate a deficit-reduction compromise between the Obama administration and Congress.
So why are we told -- in a news piece, not an op-ed -- that Paul Ryan has "spent 20 years trying to solve" the nation's budget woes? Because the Speaker of the House benefits from an extraordinary reputation that he never actually earned.
Presidential candidate, Donald Trump at a rally in Carmel, Indiana. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Trump camp doubles down on outlandish tax plan

05/13/16 08:40AM

There was quite a bit of breathless coverage this week about Donald Trump "flip-flopping" on tax policy, but the closer one looks, the more it appears that there was no reversal. The presumptive Republican nominee committed to massive tax breaks for the wealthy, and some clumsy phrasing notwithstanding, his platform hasn't changed.
 
There was a legitimate question, however, about whether Trump's tax plan might get "tweaked" for the general election. Politico reported on Wednesday that the Republican candidate's campaign "enlisted influential conservative economists to revise his tax package and make it more politically palatable by slashing the $10 trillion sticker price." The article added that Trump's team, just last month, reached out to CNBC's Larry Kudlow and the Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore "to spearhead an effort to update the package," and the duo has already done a fair amount of work on a new blueprint.
 
Late yesterday, however, the story took an unexpected turn. The New York Times reported:
After days of confusion over Donald J. Trump's hints that he would change his tax plan to reduce its budget-busting cost and make it less generous to the rich, his spokeswoman on Thursday sought to clear things up: He plans no changes, Hope Hicks said, and advisers who say otherwise do not speak for him.
 
One of those advisers, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, had his own response: "I'm a little bummed out if his spokeswoman says they're not going to make any changes to the plan."
Moore's emotional state notwithstanding, this is not a positive development. Even if we put aside the confusion surrounding the competing news accounts, the more pressing matter is the fact that Trump's tax plan actually needs revising because it's a ridiculous plan.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leaves the podium during a rally in Purchase, March 31, 2016. (Photo by Seth Wenig/AP)

Clinton offers fresh support for key progressive priorities

05/13/16 08:00AM

Over the course of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton hasn't had a whole lot to say about the Federal Reserve or monetary policy in general, which is why it was all the more interesting to see the Democratic frontrunner's campaign yesterday endorse a change long sought by progressive activists. The Washington Post reported:
The Fed is led by a seven-member board of governors based in Washington and a dozen regional bank presidents based across the country, from New York to Kansas City to San Francisco. The governors are nominated by the White House and approved by the Senate, but regional bank presidents are selected by their boards of directors, whose occupants are chosen by the banking industry and by the Fed governors in Washington.
 
In a statement to The Washington Post, Clinton's campaign said she supports removing bankers from the boards of directors and increasing diversity within the Fed.
In a written statement, a campaign spokesperson told the Post, "The Federal Reserve is a vital institution for our economy and the well-being of our middle class, and the American people should have no doubt that the Fed is serving the public interest. That's why Secretary Clinton believes that the Fed needs to be more representative of America as a whole and that commonsense reforms -- like getting bankers off the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks -- are long overdue."
 
This brings Clinton in line with Bernie Sanders, who endorsed this policy late last year, saying he wants a system in which "the foxes would no longer guard the henhouse."
 
The statement also came the same day Clinton wrote an op-ed for the Washington Informer, an African-American newspaper, vowing to be a "vocal champion" for D.C. statehood.
 
"In the case of our nation's capital, we have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy," Clinton wrote, adding, "Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries, and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet, they don't even have a vote in Congress."
 
Earlier this week, Clinton also emphasized her support for a "public option" in health care coverage, including a possible Medicare buy-in policy.
 
The broader pattern matters, and it's not altogether expected.
Trump tempts backlash with attack on VA

Trump tempts backlash with attack on VA

05/12/16 10:16PM

Leo Shane, Capitol Hill bureau chief for Military Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump's apparent immunity to the consequences of saying political unpopular things, including disrespecting veterans and supporting the privatization of the V.A. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.12.16

05/12/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* GOP drama: "Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that a closed-door meeting Thursday was 'a very positive step toward unification' of the GOP despite ideological differences between the wings of the party represented by the two leaders."
 
* Brazil's impeachment crisis: "Brazil's Senate voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff early Thursday amid the country's worst economic crisis since the 1930s and with only 85 days to go until the Rio Olympics."
 
* Speaking of Brazil's troubles: "This week, in the Harvard Public Health Review, immunologist Amir Attaran makes the case for either postponing or moving the 2016 Olympic Games from Rio [because of the Zika virus]."
 
* And speaking of the Zika virus, can U.S. policymakers address the problem on the cheap? "Senate Republicans plan to approve at least $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus in the next week or so, amid intensifying pressure to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne illness." The administration has pleaded with Congress to approve a $1.9 billion emergency package.
 
* The vote was 372 to 51, with 99 abstentions: "After decades of struggle by gay rights groups, and months of contested political negotiations, the Italian Parliament on Wednesday evening gave final approval to a law recognizing civil unions of same-sex couples."
 
* Scandalous: "Poultry workers are routinely denied basic needs such as bathroom breaks to the point of being forced to wear diapers while on the line, a new report claims."
 
* All is not well in New York politics: "Dean G. Skelos, the once powerful Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate who was convicted with his son in December on federal corruption charges, was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday."
Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the Feb. 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fl. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Court sides with House Republicans on latest anti-ACA suit

05/12/16 04:49PM

After the Supreme Court ruled once again in support of the Affordable Care Act last year, some congressional Republicans were prepared to find a new hobby. "Perhaps it's time to move on from this particular topic," Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said soon after the 6-3 ruling in King v. Burwell.
 
But Republicans, en masse, don't want to move on. What they want is some other vehicle to gut the health care system and limit benefits, and as of this afternoon, they may have one: NBC News' Pete Williams reports that a federal judge has sided with House GOP lawmakers in their latest in a series of anti-Obamacare lawsuits.
Judge Rosemary Collyer said a provision of the law provides money to insurance companies that was never appropriated by Congress, violating the Constitution's declaration that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law."
 
The provision at issue compensates insurance companies when they reduce out-of-pocket expenses for low income people covered under Obamacare. The government provides payments directly to Blue Cross, Aetna, and other companies.
The ruling is on hold pending an appeal, so families won't actually suffer in the short term, though if this case is successful, it could have a meaningful impact.

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Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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