Good policy should not be so hard!!

I know, health care anyone, but welcome to America.  You know what policy clear evidence says provides a huge return on investment thereby benefitting all Americans and providing huge direct investment to those who receive it?  Home nurse visits for low-income parents.  Claire Cain Miller in Upshot:

The visits were part of the Nurse-Family Partnership, a program for low-income, first-time mothers that sends nurses on home visits from pregnancy until children are 2, covering things like diet, breast-feeding, safety, parenting skills, age-appropriate toys and mental health. The mothers are typically young and unmarried, with a high school education and a median income of $9,000…

The policy is based on the idea that disadvantage starts in utero and early childhood. Improving parenting skills and maternal and child health, researchers say, has been shown to improve children’s well-being later in life, which could help break the cycle of inequality.

Great!  Let’s do this and do more of it.  Ahhh, not so fast…

Home visiting is an evidence-based policy with bipartisan support that will lose a large portion of its financing unless Congress renews it by the end of September. There has been no action on a House bill to renew the program, and no bill at all in the Senate…

Home visiting programs have received federal funding under administrations of both parties. The Trump budget proposed maintaining funding at $400 million a year. Congress has not yet reauthorized it. Advocates of home visiting programs say they cover only 3 percent of families who need them, and propose increasing the funding.

This shouldn’t be so hard.  Even sensible Republicans recognize this is a good thing.  But, instead of investing even more money (uh-oh, big government!), the program is struggling for re-authorization.  Sad!

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The best people!

So, I’ve seen about 1000 people share one of the best political quotes ever from this truly incredible Ryan Lizza article about his conversation with new Trump Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci.  Just, in case you’ve missed it:

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

Oh my.  Wouldn’t not have predicted a conflict where I take Bannon’s side.  Anyway, that amazing quote aside (which I will probably be sharing with my students in PG-form for literally decades) there’s just so much more.  Scaramucci is breathtakingly unqualified for his job.  Kind of like his boss.  Well worth reading this whole, sad, sorry thing.

Map of the day

Love this map showing the U.S. as similar latitudes in Europe:

 

 

Why the leaks won’t stop

This from Dara Lind is so good:

Donald Trump and his advisers have created an administration in which there is no way to get the president’s attention, or to resolve problems, through normal channels.

The only way to make sure an issue will get any attention whatsoever — much less have a prayer of actually getting fixed — is to leak…

The information flow could, in theory, be fixed — if Trump wanted to. But to want to fix it — to be willing to slog through detailed memos and limit his screen time — he’d have to confront a deeper problem: The most powerful man in the free world is simply unwilling to hear bad news.

This is one of the biggest reasons the information he gets from staff is so limited — reports indicate that to keep him in a good mood, staffers deliberately pad packets of press clips with positive coverage. But even dissent that manages to get through to him might go unheard or rejected — it could even ruin his mood and cloud his decision-making for the rest of the day.

That defeats the whole purpose of telling the president bad news in confidence. It makes leaking the obvious choice…

The Trump administration, to all appearances, has only one way to deal with bad news: shoot the messenger. If the messenger stands up and identifies himself in a private meeting or a memo or a recusal, they know where to shoot. If the messenger leaks to a reporter, they don’t — and besides, they might, just might, realize it was their problem to begin with.

Bad news doesn’t simply go away if you don’t want to hear about it. The Trump administration has created an environment in which leaks are fulfilling the function of basic executive processes, like resolving internal disputes, correcting course, and simply giving the president an accurate sense of what’s going on.

If the Trump administration really wanted to stop the leaks, it would change to make leaking unnecessary. But that would require the president to shut up and listen to people he’s already decided are part of the “deep state” out to get him. It would require him to acknowledge that he can’t drain the swamp without getting drowned in leaks. [emphasis mine]

Honestly, I knew Trump was going to be a bad president, but I am truly surprised at how truly horrible he is.

Transgender miscalculation

Hooray for Senate Republicans.  No, seriously.  Trump clearly just assumed he could successfully scapegoat transgender people and all the Republicans would see it as a culture war win and jump on board.  Not so fast.  The world is changing and even Senate Republicans largely seem to recognize that transgender people are… people.  From the Post:

War hero John McCain, the preeminent Republican voice on national security, took a break from battling brain cancer to send this statement: “The President’s tweet … regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. … There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

From Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a former Army Reserve commander and the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate: “While she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity,” spokeswoman Brook Hougesen told the Des Moines Register.

From Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is up for reelection in one of the reddest and most socially conservative states in America:

From Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who wields a lot of control over the Pentagon’s budget from his perch on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee: “You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve,” he said on CNN. In a follow-up statement to the Huntsville Times, he added: “The current policy is a big tent for people who want to serve. You’ve got to remember, our military force is a voluntary force.”

From Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.): “I would have significant objections to any proposal that calls for a specific group of American patriots currently serving in uniform to be removed from the military.” …

— The Pentagon referred all questions about Trump’s announcement to the White House, but the White House referred questions back to the Pentagon and falsely suggested that the decision had been made at the behest of the military. Because no thought was given to the details before Trump’s trio of tweets, White House incoming press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unable to provide any clarity during her afternoon briefing. She couldn’t answer, for example, what will happen to the thousands of openly transgender troops who are already serving. A lot of lives hang in the balance, and folks whose careers could be destroyed are waiting with bated breath. But Sanders threatened to leave if reporters pressed her about it. “Guys, I really don’t have anything else to add on that topic,” she said. “As I do, I’ll keep you posted. But if those are the only questions we have, I’m going to call it a day.”

So, what happens next?  I don’t know.  But I’d actually be surprised if this policy comes to fruition.  And credit where credit is due to the Republicans willing to stand up to this.

Why the transgender military ban?

Nice explanation in Politico, actually:

After a week sparring with his attorney general and steaming over the Russia investigation consuming his agenda, President Donald Trump was closing in on an important win.

House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico.

But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

Trump’s sudden decision was, in part, a last-ditch attempt to save a House proposal full of his campaign promises that was on the verge of defeat, numerous congressional and White House sources said…

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive. [emphasis mine]

Oh, and also, they think they always win on culture war stuff (they don’t), so why not just trans people under the bus.  And, I’m sure I’ll have more later on the fact that it’s just stupid to kick people out of the military who are doing a good job serving their country.  Ugh.

Where the Republican Party is

Apparently, for many, it just means backing Trump no matter what.  A couple excellent takes on this recently from that too-rare breed of Republicans with integrity.  First in the National Review, David French (and kudos to them for being more than anti-anti Trump):

Yes, the president may very well try to fire the special counsel. He may try to force out the attorney general. He may grant mass pardons to family members and close aides. While I think it’s unlikely, he may even try to pardon himself.

If he does any one of these things — much less several in combination — the GOP will have to decide, once and for all, if it is an American political party or a craven, fearful instrument of Donald Trump’s personal brand. [emphases mine]

There are very few true-believer Trump allies on Capitol Hill. Sure, there are many folks who are genuinely impressed with the man’s electoral victory and admire his intense connection with his base, but even most of them would admit that he was their last choice in the primaries, that they voted for him because they considered the alternative to be worse, and that the main attraction of his presidency is the chance to pass conservative policies and confirm conservative nominees. They don’t trust him and they don’t like him. But — and this is important — at some level many of them fear him, or at least fear what he could do to their careers.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Here we are, six months into his first term, and aside from the Judge Gorsuch nomination, meaningful conservative victories have been few and far between. Scandals and self-inflicted wounds abound. Planned Parenthood is still funded, Obamacare is still alive, and tax reform is still mainly a pipe dream. Trump has proven that he can and will blow up any and all news cycles at will. He’s proven that he sees loyalty as a one-way street: “You’re for me, and I’m for me.” No matter your record of previous support or friendship, you must do what he wants or face his public wrath. Yet still the GOP wall holds…

Call me pessimistic, but we’re moving toward a political reality where GOP silence and loyal GOP defenses may lead Trump to believe he can do virtually anything and escape accountability. The GOP is enabling his worst instincts. After all, Democratic rage is meaningless to him, and he relishes conflict with the “fake news”–peddling mainstream media. Because of its current capitulations, the GOP may find itself facing a president truly out of control, willing to do or say anything to escape meaningful scrutiny or accountability.

Years from now, GOP leaders will look back on their careers and describe their actions in these crucial days. They’d like to be able to tell their friends, their families, and future historians that they stood for truth. They’d like to be able to say that they did their part to preserve the American republic and defend its constitution. As the days wear on, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they can stand for truth or they can stand for the president.

Either way, we know Trump won’t stand for them.

And Rick Wilson:

To remind my Republican friends for the hundredth time, the Trump base isn’t your base. His supporters hate you as much as Trump hates you. Trump devotees don’t care about shrinking the size and scope of government. They don’t care about the Constitution. They’re not Republicans, except as a flag of convenience. If you haven’t noticed the theme from Fox to Rush and across the rest of the Trump-fanatic clickservative media isn’t “My God, this bill was political death for anyone who voted for it.” Instead, it was “Why won’t Republicans follow Donald Trump over the cliff? What good is a majority if it won’t destroy itself in a vote that 70 percent of the population hates?”

So, to my Republican elected friends, there are a lot of reasons that GOP Trumpism won’t work, but the biggest one is this: Donald Trump hates you. You are, at best, props and extras in “The Apprentice: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” No matter how many times you abase yourself before him, no matter how much you grovel, it will never be enough. The moment you do anything to preserve your own political fortunes, he will turn on you. The moment you deviate from constant service to his colossal ego, you’re going to end up on blast. He has no allies. Only fluffers and foes…

This week we’ve seen Trump in his most loathsome and essential form—an abusive, reckless child demanding more more more and offering not a shred of discipline, loyalty, or responsibility in return. Mommy and daddy in this case are a House and Senate willing to overlook Little Donnie’s propensity to kill small animals, set fires, and mutter darkly about how he’s going to teach the other kids at school a lesson they won’t forget.

In the meantime, how’s that wall coming? [emphasis mine]

Damn, some nice truth-to-power from both.  Really, it is incredibly eye-opening and distressing to see just how easily our democracy can come to such a low and dangerous point.

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