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losers

i couldn't let today slip by without taking a little shot at the republican party and the collapse of their health care bill. after about four hundred efforts to repeal the affordable care act, the party that opposed it couldn't bring its characteristic unity to getting its own bill passed, thus cementing the idea that their principal skill is in criticising. it's normally the progressive left that tends to eat itself alive, with groups arguing over who is more liberated than whom, and whose pet cause is the most important, so it's sort of a relief to see that happening to the other side.

the problem is that it's hard to take even a little pleasure out of the current situation. there are few winners: the major winners are the twenty million people covered under the affordable care act who will remain covered for now; also, there's barack obama, who seems to have shifted the locus of the health care debate to one where americans feel entitled to a certain level of basic health care coverage; and there are the people whose pushback on their congress members clearly moved them off the party line. beyond that, however, there aren't a lot of folks who have reason to be happy.

on the other hand, there are a lot of people/ groups who have good reason to be unhappy. here are five of them, in ascending order:

5. donald trump :: if there's any surprise about him being on this list, it's probably that he's at the bottom of it. clearly, he's no more capable of reigning in the far-right "freedom caucus" than anyone else, even if he did benefit from the votes of their supporters in the election. so the man who based his campaign on the promise that his deal-making skills would win anyone over isn't off to the best start. his claim that both sides of the republican party were united because they liked him is clearly debunked. not only was he rebuked by the right wing of his party, but a number of moderates as well, and very publicly. less obvious, but still something that should concern him, is that the legislation brought forward by his congressional right hand man was in no way reflective of the plan that trump had proposed during the campaign. it didn't come close to offering universal coverage or to saving money for the majority of americans. and it catered to wealthy elites, which will piss off trump supporters more than anyone. it's a clear sign that ryan isn't listening to or working with the president.

that said, not all is bleak for the cheeto benito. he rather skillfully evaded being linked too closely with the desperately unpopular bill, so he's unlikely to appear damaged in the eyes of those who supported him thus far. the fact that the bill was not allowed to come to a vote allows him to keep up the story that he was "just a few votes" away from victory, as opposed to having to live with the spectacle of about three dozen congressional republicans jumping ship. [both of those things are actually true, because the republicans could afford twenty-two defections and still eek out a victory. however, there were still three dozen people willing to break ranks on a vote they could easily have won.]

and hey, a few days spent focused on health care is a few days less focused on that whole russia thing...

4. steve bannon :: the presidential enforcer was sent in to whip the errant congress members into line and failed miserably. his strongarm tactics didn't convert a single vote, as far as anyone can tell, which means that, no matter how much influence he has over the man in charge, his wishes carry no weight when it comes to motivating the people who actually pass the laws. if they're not interested in what he has to say now, they're never going to be.

3. fox news :: the chief beneficiaries of trump's war of words with the media has undoubtedly been the network that has taken the mountains of shit trump has served them and convinced their viewers that it was champagne. so it had to hurt quite a bit that, when the orange man in the white house wanted to tell someone that he was pulling the healthcare bill, he reached out to robert costa of the washington post. indeed, not only did he reach out, but he stayed on the phone conversing with this erstwhile member of the "fake news media" for fifteen minutes. fifteen minutes on the phone with the president of the united states is like three hours with a regular person. and his frank conversation with costa seems to have paid off: the journalist quickly made the rounds on television, before his story even appeared in print, portraying trump as reflective, even humble. fox can bask in the glory of being trump's favourite the ninety percent of the time, but when the president wants to be serious, well... he knows what to do.

2. a hell of a lot of americans :: of course, trump couldn't resist taking a jab at democrats when addressing the press, saying that the affordable care act was collapsing and that the democrats would be left dealing with the fallout. i suspect that this is because he doesn't feel he can direct his petulant rage at fellow republicans, lest he need their full support for other legislation. which is just further evidence that the man does not know when silence can be as golden as his toilet [and possibly his showers]. the message that comes screaming out of that statement is that he's unwilling to even working on fixing the aca, because he wants it to crash and burn. the president of all americans would rather see the existing health care system destroyed out of sheer pettiness than to work on fixing it.

let's not kid ourselves, the affordable care act is deeply flawed: millions of people still have no coverage, and insurance companies are becoming extremely uneasy about participating in state exchanges, because there aren't enough healthy people signing up, and because there's the very real chance that the current government will actively work to blow up the whole system. those are just a couple of the issues that need to be addressed. it does not help when the guy on top says that he wants to see things go as wrong as they possibly can to score political points.

1. paul ryan :: it's not even close when choosing the biggest loser in this debacle. unlike trump, ryan did identify himself very closely with this bill. he was the face of it, and it was the face that a lot of people wanted to punch. as stupid as trump looked saying that no one knew health care was complicated, he could at least hide behind the defense that he'd just arrived. ryan has been the leader on republican policy for years. to come up with a proposal that was so transparently mean-spirited, complete with tax breaks for the wealthy and cuts to services to things like school lunch programs and meals on wheels [which amount to negligible savings], was bad enough. but what really damages his credibility in congress was that his first opportunity to produce legislation was so politically tone-deaf.

the plan was almost universally reviled and, what's worse, its cost-savings were dismissed as meaningless by the congressional budget office. this is exactly the sort of thing that was supposed to be in ryan's wheelhouse, and he'd had years to think about what he wanted to put in it. it's not merely the fact that he failed his first test: it's the fact that he failed it so completely. he's gone from "this is the guy who's going to put solid, republican policies in place!" to "this is the guy who's going to put solid, republican policies in place?"

it's hard to see where things go health care-wise from here. quite honestly, i don't understand much about american health care, except that a lot of my friends have lousy coverage and i feel guilty talking to them every time i have to go to the doctor or the hospital. my bet is that this doesn't really stick to trump, if only because there are so many flies circling his pile of shit that it's hard to concentrate on any one thing for very long. [two poop metaphors in one post; very classy -ed.] paul ryan is one piece of legislation away from being a dead man walking, because if something else blows up in his face, it'll confirm all of the things that breitbart have been saying about him for years.

one thing that should absolutely be of concern to ryan and trump and bannon and anyone else who wants to get things done, is the "freedom caucus". for years, they were the group that busted john boehner's bronzed balls, forcing him away from any kind of cooperation or compromise with democrats. now, they've shown their post-electoral cards and we know that they're going to be equally intransigent with fellow republicans. they don't always vote as a block, but their membership is large enough to block literally any legislation, unless those numbers can be offset by winning over a number of democrats. as it turns out, that may be easier than placating the freedom caucus republicans. but ryan et al didn't start off on the best foot for that, and now they appear to have shot themselves in it.

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