Monthly Archives: December 2018

Obamacare: Wounded but Not Dead

It should be remembered that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, required individuals to carry health insurance under penalty of a tax (the “personal mandate”), and required insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.  Getting more people into the pool was considered necessary to make that requirement possible.  It should also be remembered that the Republicans in Congress abolished the personal mandate.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the entire ACA is unconstitutional because the personal mandate was a necessary prop, and that without the personal mandate, none of the rest of it can hold up.  However, that judge did not issue an injunction stopping the ACA from continuing to operate pending appeal.  So it’s going to be higher courts, probably ultimately the Supreme Court, that will decide on it.

While the personal mandate and the pre-existing conditions provision were the best known parts of the act, there’s a lot more to the ACA than that.  Large parts of it have nothing at all to do with the personal mandate, including the option for states to expand eligibility for Medicaid and the ability of parents to keep their young adult children on their health policies.  The Texas judge’s ruling is therefore extremely questionable.  What is more, the five justices who voted to keep Obamacare in operation back in 2012 are still on the Supreme Court now.  So there’s a fair chance that at least some of the Obamacare provisions will stay in effect.

Politico article, December 14, 2018

Politico analysis, December 17, 2018

NPR interview with a key Obama advisor, December 17, 2018


Kasich, the New Hampshire Republicans, and the 2020 Primary

First, four key points need to be reviewed here.

  1. Although New Hampshire is a tiny state and very unrepresentative of the country as a whole, its first-in-the-nation presidential primary is a quadrennial tradition, giving it grossly disproportionate influence over who ends up getting each party’s nomination.
  2. When the sitting president is running for re-election, there usually aren’t any primary election challenges to that president’s bid for the party’s nomination.  There are, however, occasional exceptions.  The 2020 election, for obvious reasons, could be one.
  3. Ohio governor John Kasich, one of the Republicans who ran against Trump in the 2016 primary, is one of the few prominent Republicans who never came around to play ball with Trump.  Although the 2016 Republican nominating convention was held in his state, he did not appear there to give a welcome address, which was extremely out of the ordinary.
  4. There is no central set of rules or system of coordination for the presidential primaries.  They are run by the parties and the states, and the national government plays little if any role in influencing how they are run.

With all that in mind, here’s what is happening now.  Kasich has not announced plans either for or against trying to challenge Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020, but he is involved in the fight in New Hampshire against pro-Trump Republicans in the state’s party machinery who want to make such a challenge harder in New Hampshire.  The pro-Trump faction won’t be in a position to block Kasich from getting on the ballot, but it looks as if they will be actively helping Trump’s campaign rather than making pretensions to be neutral.

I grew up in New Hampshire, and I’m still in touch with a lot of people there through Facebook.  Here’s the thing:  partly thanks to having a lot of spillover from Boston in the southern, more suburban towns, the state has many Democrats and has been a blue state (Democratic) in the last few presidential general elections.  But the Republicans there are largely the populistic conservative variety.  In 1996, they nominated Pat Buchanan.  In 2016, Trump won the New Hampshire primary.

The coming year, 2019, is going to be very significant for the shaping up of the presidential primaries of both parties.  And for the Republicans, John Kasich is one of the ones to be watching.

Article in Politico, December 14, 2018

Hush Money for Trump and Campaign Finance Law

The USA Today article linked below opens exquisitely:  “Confused about how hush money payments orchestrated by Michael Cohen to protect President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign can be considered violations of campaign finance laws?  Join the club.”  I myself am a bit confused, and this article answers some of my questions while raising others.

The basic points:  Individuals are limited in how much they can contribute to a candidate’s official election campaign, corporations are barred from donating money from their corporate treasuries to official election campaigns at all, and–here’s where the hush money comes in–money spent for the clear purpose of helping a candidate win an election, if that expenditure is in any way coordinated with the campaign or with the actual candidate, meets the definition of a campaign contribution.  And apparently Michael Cohen’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels (n an amount exceeding the personal donation limit), the National Enquirer‘s involvement in the payment of hush money to Karen McDougal (again, corporations can’t donate to official campaigns), and the awareness of Trump and his campaign that this action was going on together add up to a violation of the law.

Now, what I’m confused about:

  1. If Trump himself put up the money (which is ambiguous), can’t a candidate spend anything he wants from his own money on his own campaign efforts, according to the 1977 ruling Buckley v. Valeo?
  2. The article says that Trump can’t be shown to have committed a crime.  It seems to me, if he knew about it, then he’s as guilty as Cohen, and if he didn’t know about it, if Cohen acted on his own, then how is it coordinated with Trump’s campaign?

Anyway, though, it’s a good article, and I think it’s safe to say that if you read this article, you’ll understand the issue as well as any layperson should have to.  So here it is, and I recommend giving it a good read.

USA Today article, December 14, 2018