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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Irrelevant President, Mud on your Jeans, Replacing Obamacare and the French Election

A Political Pond Skater

The final paragraph of a column written by David Brooks last week (New York Times and syndicated elsewhere) was headlined “Trump has become more conventional, less of a threat” and concluded with the following paragraph:

“Don’t get me wrong.  I wish we had a president who had actual convictions and knowledge, and who was interested in delivering real good to real Americans.  But it’s hard to maintain outrage at a man who is a political pond skater – one of those that flit across the surface, sort of fascinating to watch, but have little effect as they go.”

This goes along with some thoughts I have been having lately about the President.  They led me to seek out (via “google”) a definition of a word which I reprint directly below:

not connected with or relevant to something.
beside the point, immaterial, not pertinent, not germane, off the subject, unconnected, unrelated, peripheral, extraneous, inapposite, inapplicable.

I suspect that the forty-fifth President of these United States will go down in history as being irrelevant. Primarily, he lacks the knowledge and attention span to become involved more than peripherally with domestic and foreign policy issues.  He depends on his advisers and once authority is delegated to them, he disconnects from the details of any issues involved. 

Note his vacillations on trade policy.  NAFTA and China’s currency manipulation were once ogres to be defeated in his mind.  No longer.  So was NATO.  And dictators like those in Russia, the Phillipines and most recently, Turkey, were alternately good guys and then bad guys.  Clearly, Kim Jung Un is a bad guy, but the President has actually indicated he’d be willing to sit down and have a conversation with him.  And his stand on health care, the environment, taxation and government regulation is no better than skin deep. Recently he praised Australia’s “Medicare for All” healthcare system within a few minutes of praising the House’s healthcare plan, about which he knows even less than those who voted for it without knowing its details, other than it didn’t have the forty-fourth President’s name attached to it.  You can’t have it both ways. 

Real estate moguls go to lunch with those with whom they want to do business, or fleece, and all is cheerful bonhomie, with the details of possible “deals” kept indefinite and mushy.  Business can operate this way but government cannot.  It demands knowledge and specifics!  Note how often our major corporations flip their CEOs.

Brooks places Trump in a “post-print” and “pre-internet” mental framework, where everything, TV-style, is in segments and episodes. Thus, his mind can’t handle things that require deep thinking and much mulling over.  What comes out of his mouth is thereby “beside the point, immaterial, not pertinent, not germane, off the subject, unconnected, unrelated, peripheral, etc. etc.” as synonyms, per above, for “irrelevant.”  What he got away with in the business world and on TV won’t make it in government.  Hence we have an irrelevant PresidentUnless Congress finds a reason to impeach him, or he resigns, we are stuck with him until 2020.  That’s why the 2018 elections may be important.

But he purports to be a Republican and Republican politicians, unlike many of those people who vote for them, are neither gullible nor stupid!   They know on which side their bread is buttered.

Irrelevant Donald Trump’s TV-style thinking has appeal to many voters who don’t look beyond his words.  And that’s why Republicans in both Houses of Congress, fully aware of the President’s irrelevancy, support him.  They need the votes of those who believe in him.  Once they have them, they will do whatever they want, which of course is promoting the traditional Republican virtues of reduced taxes on the wealthy, reduced regulation of business and finance and the gradual removal of the social and economic “safety net” for which a supposedly growing economy, at least in their minds and according to some at the Heritage Foundation, will eliminate the need.  Of course, that is a lot of malarkey.  But with an appealing but irrelevant President, a political pond skater,as David Brooks put it, they are getting away with it. 

The President of the United States should not be irrelevant. Making sure that never happens again is the job of voters, like you and me.
Jack Lippman

Replacing Obamacare

Here's a copy, folks, of a letter I sent to Senator Marco Rubio on May 5.  Those with like opinions should write to their Senators, particularly if they are Republicans.

Subject:  Healthcare Legislation


The dereliction of duty is breathtaking. In pushing the American Health Care Act through the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan and his Republican conference have voted to remake almost one-fifth of the U.S. economy. They did so without public hearings, without input from outside experts, without analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and without, finally, much compunction or consideration of the tens of millions of Americans it will harm.

                                                                       Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!

“I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read and don’t know what they cost,” Ryan said in the summer of 2009, referring (unfairly) to Obamacare. This kind of hypocrisy might be overlooked if the new bill had any merit. It doesn’t.

If anything, it’s more damaging than the original bill Republicans tabled in March. The CBO said that legislation would have taken away health insurance from some 24 million Americans. The new bill could push the number higher. 

It would allow states to get waivers from some of the protections that the Affordable Care Act provides -- most important, the rule that says insurers cannot charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems. In such states, people who let their insurance lapse for a couple of months could be charged unaffordable premiums.

An amendment added on the eve of the vote is meant to soften this blow by giving states a little more money to set up “high-risk pools” for the victims. But high-risk pools -- which separate sick people from the general population and charge them higher premiums -- can’t work without adequate funding. And this legislation offers hundreds of billions of dollars less than what would be needed.

Details aside, the bill would undermine health-insurance markets by increasing uncertainty for insurers who are trying to determine what plans to sell -- if any at all -- in the months ahead.

Bottom of Form
Why did Ryan, who rose to prominence on the wings of wonkery, force this bill through the House with only passing review? Not because it would improve anyone’s welfare. One of the main attractions of the bill for Republicans is that it would cut taxes for the well-to-do.  Another is that it would help Republicans escape a political dilemma of their own design: Having dissembled about Obamacare for years, the party was forced to propose its alternative. Because Republicans didn’t actually have one, they had to fake it.

Ryan has achieved his goal -- passing this tainted buck to the Senate. The Senate should treat the legislation with the respect it deserves.  


Mud on Your Jeans

In addition to some folks being gullible politically, another area where enormous success has been achieved by some due to people’s gullibility is the world of fashion!  I’ve read that the latest kick being foisted on the gullible are jeans which have mud on them, or fabric which permanently gives the appearance of its being muddy.  Add to this the long-standing custom of brand new jeans being torn, faded, ripped and otherwise looking old from their inception.  The only reason these things click is that they are supposed to give the illusion that the wearer is hard-working, poor, or both … and cannot afford clean new jeans without tears, rips or mud on them.  Usually, these jeans are worn by upscale, hip, well-paid individuals who wear them to affect a common touch to their appearance.  Such jeans usually cost in the hundreds of dollars while a new pair of clean, un-pre-damaged Levis or Wranglers can be purchased for far less than $50.  
$425 at Nordstrom's

People who buy the pre-ripped and pre-muddied jeans have to be counted among the gullible because they have swallowed the line that looking poor and appearing to be involved in hard work, even if that is not the case, is the cool way to dress.  I understand that sweatshirts are now coming on the market with fabrics showing sweat around the armpits and necklines before they are ever worn.  The gullible can now look like they went through a tough workout without even lifting a finger.  Glory to the “phonies” among us.

I know a “stylist” in Manhattan who specializes in recommending stylish apparel, hair treatments, etc. for entertainers and substantial people in the public eye.  (I will put you in contact with her if you have need of such a person and have a lot, a real lot, of money.  She is very good at what she does and doesn't come cheap.) 

She makes a lot of money from these folks who are extremely gullible when it comes to wearing things that are in style.  She tells them how to dress and helps them achieve their desired look.   Well, one day in her apartment, I noticed a four-sided hand grater in her kitchen, the kind my mother used to use to grate onions and potatoes.  I seem to recall such devices were called “rebozins” or something like that.  “Making potato pancakes?” I asked.  “Nope,” she replied. “I use this to grate the fabric on jeans.”  With that she grabbed a $400 pair of designer jeans and started grating the knees.  “This way, my client’s jeans will have personalized tears on them, not the same as anyone else’s ripped jeans.”  Turning the jeans over, she added, “I think I’ll do a little grating on this pair’s butt too.  She’ll love them.”

An Option We Didn't Have

Emmanuel Macron won the run-off for the French Presidency.  It is a hollow victory because he has no real representation in the French Parliament where the country's two major parties dominate, each of which failed to place a candidate in the run-off. Macron has been referred to as "a Michael Bloomberg without any money."  Let's see what he can accomplish.   

More significant is the news that many voters did not choose to select either candidate, submitting what amounted to blank ballots.  More did this than voted for Marine Le Pen, the losing candidate in the run-off.  What they were, in effect saying, was "neither of the above."  Wow!  That choice came in second to Macron, polling more than Le Pen!  

Many French voters would have preferred to be voting for candidates from the left-leaning coalition dominated by the Socialist Party or the more centrist coalition dominated by the Republican Party and were dissatisfied with Macron as an alternative to the far-right choice of Le Pen in the run-off.  So they turned in blank ballots, which translates as "neither of the above."  I wonder how many Americans would have voted for that way when confronted by the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald tRump back in November if they had such a choice.

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