Gary Cohn Can’t Quit Trump. Literally. He’s Tried More Than Once.

Vanity Fair

Gary Cohn Can’t Quit Trump. Literally. He’s Tried More Than Once.

Now he’s one of the tiny quorum of adults around Trump—doing his “national duty,” as Trump said. “They get along again,” said a source.

by William D. Cohan          October 13, 2017

https://media.vanityfair.com/photos/59e109dd5ff33a0576fc201a/master/w_1920,c_limit/gary-cohn-cant-quit.jpgGary Cohn board Air Force One following Steven Mnuchin and Stephen Miller, September 27, 2017.  By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s national economic adviser, made his bones at Goldman Sachs by proving to be an exceptional risk manager. Famously, he was part of the small group of Goldman traders and senior executives who figured out in 2006 that a meltdown was looming in the housing market and who positioned Goldman, through a series of clever trades that became known inside the firm as “the big short,” to benefit mightily nearly two years later when the financial crisis hit with a vengeance. In 2007, while much of the rest of Wall Street was reeling from the crisis’s first shockwaves, Goldman was cleaning up, thanks to its decision to bet against the mortgage market. That year, the firm made nearly $18 billion in pre-tax earnings—a number it has never seen again—and the top five Goldman executives, Cohn included, split a whopping $322 million. Cohn’s personal take from that honeypot? $72.5 million.

These days Cohn has been wrestling on a regular basis with a different form of risk management—and, mostly, losing. Working for Trump has been slowly eroding the reputation he spent 27 years crafting so meticulously at Goldman. His angst came to a head in August, during the 10 days after a group of white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump repeatedly fumbled his response to an incident that left one protester dead. As Kate Kelly and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported on August 25, Cohn drafted a letter of resignation, and was prepared to deliver it to Trump. What has not been previously reported is that, according to a source with detailed knowledge of this thinking during that period, Cohn sought to resign twice while speaking directly to Trump during that 10-day period. He also spoke with John Kelly, the new chief of staff, about his desire to resign. But apparently, resigning from Trumpworld is far more difficult than one would expect. Cohn’s continued presence in the West Wing is a testament to a reality that is rapidly becoming crystalline: that Cohn, along with Kelly, Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, are all that is standing between Trump and utter chaos and incompetence.

Cohn’s recent troubles began on August 15 in the lobby of Trump Tower when what was supposed to be a briefing with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, about the administration’s infrastructure plans turned into a chance for Trump to walk back the more conciliatory comments about Charlottesville he had made previously. While Trump doubled down on his divisive comments—there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist groups, Trump said—Cohn, who is Jewish, stood at Trump’s side, a pained expression on his face. After Trump left the lobby, Cohn was forced to field questions about what Trump had said. He declined to do so.

That began a 10-day period of introspection for Cohn. Should he resign? Should he publicly rebuke Trump? Should he stay silent and carry on? According to someone familiar with what happened, Cohn decided to resign, and drafted up his letter of resignation. It turned out not to be as easy to quit Trump as Cohn had hoped. On Friday, August 18, after a day of meetings at Camp David to discuss his South Asia policy, Trump flew on Air Force One to Morristown Airport, in New Jersey, to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster. Trump landed at 5:23 P.M. and his motorcade took him to the Trump National Golf Club. By then Cohn was already in Bedminster, waiting for Trump to arrive so that he could go in and resign.

He eventually got an audience with the president. They talked about Trump’s upsetting response to Charlottesville. Trump told him, “Is it really so bad?” according to the same person familiar with what transpired. Cohn conveyed to Trump how upset he was and that he wanted to resign. He unburdened himself to Trump. Trump told him to “think about it” and not to act rashly. Cohn emerged from the encounter with second thoughts. “I’ve been asked to think about it,” he said, according to the source. That night, Cohn headed to his house in the Hamptons and to a 30-person dinner party, where he arrived two hours late, at the home of Lloyd Blankfein, the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs and his former boss. Over the weekend, he spoke to his wife and family, and others, about his concerns. His angst continued unabated.

Cohn returned to Washington determined still to resign. He went to see Kelly on Monday morning in order to get time on Trump’s calendar. Gone were the breezy days of just walking into the Oval Office on a whim, before Kelly imposed military discipline on the comings and goings in the West Wing. By then, Kelly knew of Cohn’s intention to resign and Kelly, too, tried to talk him out of it, despite his own considerable frustrations with Trump. Cohn had several conversations with Kelly. “It was complicated,” said the source. “The impression I got was that Kelly wants him to stay around, but he says, ‘I can’t tell a person what to do.’ He encourages him to stay around, but he doesn’t sort of do, like, a, ‘You have to stay.’ It’s some version of, ‘Do what you think is right in your conscience,’ but I do think he encourages him to stay.”

Cohn thought about Kelly’s advice. But he was still determined to resign. He asked Kelly for an appointment with Trump on August 21. But that was a tough day for Trump. The president was hunkered down, focused on the speech he was to give that night, in Arlington, Virginia, about the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Kelly told Cohn that his meeting with Trump would have to wait. Kelly offered Cohn the chance to see Trump, in the Oval Office, a day later, before Trump flew to Yuma, Arizona. Cohn accepted.

This was Cohn’s showdown meeting with Trump. It was a “long conversation,” the source said, where Trump did everything from yelling at Cohn that his staying with him in the White House was a matter of his “national duty” to trying to cajole him into sticking it out, using more of a light touch. Interestingly, Trump was clear to make a distinction with Cohn. His “duty” was to “the country” not to Trump personally. He refused to read or to take Cohn’s letter of resignation. A White House official disputed that Trump specifically asked Cohn to stay on as national economic adviser. “The president encouraged Gary to make his own decision,” the official said. (For his part, Cohn declined to be interviewed about what happened.)

Although one would think that it’s easy enough to resign by just resigning, Trump’s pleas seemed to work with Cohn. Instead of quitting, he decided to go public with his frustration with the way Trump handled Charlottesville. In an interview with the Financial Times, on August 25—days after his Oval Office meeting with Trump—Cohn throttled Trump. “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he told the paper. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post . . . because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. . . . Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the K.K.K. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job. I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.” That Cohn would be speaking to the Financial Times about his views on Charlottesville was pre-cleared with the White House. “He’s been very open and honest,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, told the Financial Times. “And so I don’t think that anyone was surprised by the comments.”

As we know, Trump does not like to be criticized, let alone by a senior member of his White House staff. According to published reports, he did not react well to Cohn’s FT interview. Cohn was “iced” for a while, my source said. Stories started appearing that Trump would not look Cohn in the eye, that Cohn was being excluded from key meetings, and that the likelihood that Trump would choose him to replace Janet Yellen, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board—once viewed by Cohn as his elegant escape path from the White House lunacy—had been greatly diminished. It’s a testament to how badly Trump needs the rational, centrist members of his team—Cohn, Mattis, Kelly, and Tillerson, among them—that the hard feelings between Trump and Cohn over Charlottesville have been put in the past. Their relationship is “back to normal,” I am told by this source. “They get along again.”

Cohn supposedly stayed for the good of the country, to be part of the tiny quorum of adults around Trump. But if the events of August taught him anything, it was to keep a lower profile, and not be a lightning rod for the Trump administration. He told me months ago that he relished the opportunity to be part of the team that overhauls the tax code for the first time in more than 30 years. And indeed, Cohn is said to have had a large hand in drafting Trump’s still-amorphous tax-reform “framework,” which provides hefty tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations providing a minimal benefit, if any, for the middle class. It’s a strange plan for a liberal Democrat, which Cohn was (and may still be) before he joined the Trump administration, to have helped to create. The proposals, a throwback to the “trickle-down” economics of the Reagan era, will massively increase deficits and the more than $20 trillion in national debt, unless the economy can somehow start growing much faster than the 2 percent G.D.P. rut it has been stuck in for a decade.

But Cohn’s selling of the plan has been half-hearted, at best. It has been his former Goldman partner, Mnuchin, who has taken the lead on it, at least publicly, and therefore should it fail, which seems increasingly possible, it will be Mnuchin more than Cohn who will end up with the bulk of the flak. At Goldman, risk management was how Cohn distinguished himself and rose to the top. But sadly for him, in the Trump White House, it’s a skill he’s had to try to learn all over again.

Colin Kaepernick’s grievance all but ends any shot of QB playing in NFL

Yahoo Sports

Colin Kaepernick’s grievance all but ends any shot of QB playing in NFL

Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports         October 16, 2017 

For months, some close to Colin Kaepernick debated whether he should cross the ultimate line. The one you don’t come back from in the NFL. The one that casts a person into football exile permanently. No matter how much it felt like Kaepernick was being blackballed or that team owners might have been conspiring against him, there was a well-defined line between thinking it and saying it. A line between faint hope and career-ending finality. To breach it, and effectively speak out against the shield, was to concede that the league’s door had closed forever.

Today, Kaepernick is there.

By all accounts, his NFL career is over. But his opportunity to challenge the league, and to step far over the line that few have gone near, has just arrived. That’s what the grievance he has filed against the NFL represents: an end, a beginning and a stronger position than before.

Colin Kaepernick is accusing NFL owners of blackballing him from the league. (AP)

It will cost him any faint chance he might have had of getting back on an NFL field. His grievance is loaded with monster allegations and seeks to dig deep under the nails of franchises. That all but assures that no team will ever take a look at him again. Not a call. Not a workout. And most definitely not a paycheck. While some (or many) owners see taking a knee during the national anthem as disrespectful, all of them feel that way about a litigious kick in the ass.

That’s what Kaepernick delivered, accusing NFL owners of scheming to end his career because of his outspoken social activism, and then bowing down to the political pressure of President Donald Trump, who has railed against NFL player protests. And he’s dropped the accusations on the doorstep of the league’s fall meetings in New York, making it a virtual certainty that both the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell will once again be confronted about why he isn’t in the NFL.

If the finance of sports has shown us anything, billionaires don’t react well when being called on the carpet for their decisions. Even less so when they feel they’re being told how to conduct their businesses. And when it’s a player challenging them in the legal realm, it’s basically the career kiss of death. Particularly if that player is someone like Kaepernick, whose fan popularity skews to either heroic or hated. If he was indeed facing an orchestrated freeze-out before this moment, it’s a safe bet his accusations of collusion and conspiracy will deliver his career only into the deepest of nuclear winters.

Of course, that’s not an earth-shattering outcome to some around Kaepernick, who have long-believed he has been on the league’s blacklist. They’ve suspected as much since the summer, after months of the NFL efficiently sending the message that he wasn’t wanted. As reporters asked why he wasn’t getting a chance, Kaepernick’s supporters saw only what they believed to be a litany of anonymous and wholly fabricated lies: that Kaepernick wanted too much money; that he wouldn’t sign to be a backup; that he was too poor of a player; that he cared more about social activism than being an NFL player. And then there was the reasoning that left Kaepernick’s camp absolutely flabbergasted – that he was too good to sign for a backup position when interested teams already had a defined starter.

In the end, every one of those justifications pushed Kaepernick closer to his belief that the past seven months were all a choreographed show. That behind the scenes, NFL owners had come to a collective decision that he was no good for their game. And that each time someone debunked the reasons why he wasn’t on a team, the NFL came up with something new to feed the masses and denounce him.

Deep down, what Kaepernick and some around him have long believed is what is now laid out in his grievance: That the NFL wanted to be rid of him because of his outspoken voice and the wave of social activism that he triggered. That he was too dangerous to a brand that craves power, control and muted obedient labor. By putting those accusations out there, Kaepernick will strike his career down. And in doing so, he may become a more powerful voice in how the NFL handles outspoken players.

That’s where the beginning lies in all of this. For months, Kaepernick has shunned interviews. Primarily for two reasons: He didn’t want to be seen as begging some NFL team for a job; and keeping quiet limited the ability of others to twist his voice into controversy, and destroy any chance he had of playing in the league.

There was a consequence of that duality. The vast majority of NFL teams simply never called and he never got close to signing anywhere. Also, others were left to speculate about Kaepernick’s thoughts and feelings while the league’s social activism moved forward without him.

New Orleans Saints players kneel before the anthem is played at a game in London. (Getty Images)

Now? All of that is poised to change. With the grievance filed and Kaepernick well-aware that he has crossed a boundary of no return, there is no incentive to remaining silent. He no longer has anything to lose. If he chooses, his life’s work can now become two things: proving the NFL has been operating with a hidden agenda against him; and vocally re-entering the social activism realm that largely hasn’t heard his voice for more than a year.

If none of that suits Kaepernick, the very least he can do now is defend himself. Against the NFL. Against the hatred of some fans. And against a president who has invoked his name and turned his efforts into a viable political platform.

The line has been crossed and the league’s door has closed. But other portals are ready to be opened. Now Kaepernick finds himself with a voice again – with nothing to lose and no need to hold back. He’s standing at a new line, between the end of his career and the beginning of something else. All he needs to do now is choose where he goes next.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

Bloomberg Business

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

By Nico Grant      October 16, 2017

LLOG reports as much as 9,350 barrels spilled last week

Release dwarfed by multimillion-barrel Deepwater Horizon spill

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/ieArXAZRXbyI/v0/360x-1.jpg

Photographer: Kari Goodnough/Bloomberg

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.

The LLOG spill was triggered by a fracture in a flowline jumper, Rick Fowler, the company’s vice president for deepwater projects, said in an email. That’s a short pipeline used to connect nearby subsea structures. Multiple barriers placed on either side of the fracture stopped the release, but the the flowline jumper hasn’t yet been repaired, Fowler said.

Oil production from Delta House dropped to around 57,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day from more than 90,000 before the spill, he said. The subsea system affected by the fracture was shut in, though nearby connected systems weren’t. The fracture wasn’t caused by Hurricane Nate and there were no associated injuries, he said.

BSEE, the federal agency which regulates offshore energy and mineral extraction, started a five-member panel investigation into the cause of the spill, according to an online statement. The members, including inspectors, engineers and accident investigators, will issue their findings and make recommendations.

“This panel investigation is a critical step in ensuring BSEE determines the cause, or causes, of the incident and develops recommendations to prevent similar events from occurring in the future,” Lars Herbst, BSEE’s Gulf of Mexico region director, said in the statement.

The Delta House platform, floating in 4,500 feet of water, came online in April 2015 with peak capacity of 100,000 barrels a day of oil and 240 million cubic feet a day of national gas. Its oil output enters the Heavy Lousiana Sweet crude pool.

The 2010 blowout and explosion at the Deepwater Horizon ultradeep-sea drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana left 11 workers dead and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BSEE, an agency of the Interior Department, was established in the wake of the incident as part of reforms designed to separate federal regulatory responsibilities from lease sales and revenue generation.

Values Voter Summit is the type of right-leaning entity that cannot continue to be called Christian.

AM Joy on MSNBC

October 15, 2017.  Rev. Dr. William Barber just told AM JOY that in his view the Values Voter Summit is the type of right-leaning entity that cannot continue to be called Christian.

Rev. Dr. William Barber just told AM JOY that in his view the Values Voter Summit is the type of right-leaning entity that cannot continue to be called Christian. Leave your thoughts on his explosive commentary below.

Posted by AM Joy on MSNBC on Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trump ramps up the culture war

The Hill

Trump ramps up the culture war

By Jonathan Easley       October 15, 2017

http://thehill.com/sites/default/files/styles/thumb_small_article/public/trump-donald-getty_17_11.jpg?itok=fZuCf426President Trump is expanding the culture wars, launching new attacks against institutions that he views as liberal, elitist or both.

With his agenda stalled in Congress and his poll numbers sagging, Trump has kept his base engaged and the left inflamed by escalating feuds with key figures in sports, entertainment, tech and media, effectively dragging politics into every corner of public life.

Trump’s aim is straightforward: To convince voters that there is a privileged class that scoffs at their patriotism and cares more about political correctness and diversity than ordinary Americans, their traditions and their economic plight.

The president’s allies say he’s guided in this fight by the same instincts that got him elected. Trump’s relentless attacks, they say, cut to the heart of Trump’s appeal.

“The reality is that, to the average American voter, esoteric policy is not very digestible,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide. “But culture is policy and the president understands that.”

Democrats argue that the president is doing lasting damage to the country by needlessly stoking divisions at a time of extreme political polarization. They believe time is on their side as older, white voters give way to a more diverse and socially liberal electorate as millennials come of age.

“If he is scoring political points off these culture war issues in the short run, it’s only with a base that is now starting to crack,” said David Brock, a top Democratic operative. “Exploiting these divisions is both wrong and, in the longer run, a losing proposition politically given that the broader electorate is more tolerant and diverse.”

Past presidents have similarly stoked cultural divisions. Former President Obama waded into high-profile police brutality cases and once complained about people who “cling to guns or religion.” Former President George W. Bush leveraged anti-gay marriage sentiment among evangelical voters to boost turnout on his way to reelection in 2004.

But Trump’s culture wars differ from his predecessors in both their ferocity and frequency.

The president stirs the pot on a near-daily basis at rallies, from the Oval Office and over Twitter, attracting accusations from his critics that he’s obsessed with winning empty fights with celebrities because he’s been unable to achieve meaningful legislative reforms.

And the unabashed ferocity with which Trump has gone after his targets is evidence to his critics that he doesn’t care if he alienates or annoys large numbers of Americans, as long as his base sticks by him.

Over the past week alone, Trump and his allies have kept the fires burning with fights against the NFL, ESPN, Facebook, late-night comedians and the news media, provoking retaliatory remarks from athletes, anchors, rappers and comics.

Following Trump’s lead on the issue, Vice President Pence staged a walkout at an Indianapolis Colts football game because players kneeled in protest during the national anthem.

Some in the media credited Trump with a culture wars victory when, days later, NFL chief Roger Goodell said in a memo to players that he believes they should stand.

Trump took a victory lap on Twitter, but the NFL quickly pushed back on the president’s claim that the commissioner had demanded players stand for the anthem.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, a top Trump donor and supporter during the 2016 election, accused Trump of muddying the issue and called him a “divider.”

NFL players initially began kneeling for the national anthem out of protest of racial injustices and police brutality, but Trump has effectively turned the debate into one about patriotism and respect for the country and the troops.

While polls show the public does not approve of Trump’s handling of the issue, most agree that players should stand during the national anthem.

The NFL has seen its ratings decline as the controversy has grown. But the sports league is only one of several weakened or unpopular cultural institutions that Trump has recently targeted for attack.

Trump has reignited his feud with ESPN, which had already seen a ratings decline as consumers cut the cord, after the network suspended anchor Jemele Hill, an African-American woman who had called Trump a white supremacist.

Trump called Hill out by name to his 40 million Twitter followers, saying that she’s the reason ESPN’s ratings have “tanked.”

That came during a week of escalating and increasingly specific threats against the news media, an industry that polls dismally. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that it’s “disgusting” that the press gets to write whatever it wants. The president also threatened to pull NBC News’s broadcasting license for publishing a story he claimed was false.

On Friday, Trump again dived headlong into the culture wars at the Values Voter Summit, a yearly gathering of Christian conservatives in Washington, D.C. There, he accused “politically correct” liberals of waging a war against American traditions, like the celebration of Christmas.

“We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” Trump said.

Now, Trump has Facebook in his crosshairs, accusing the social media giant of being biased against him. Facebook is in the midst of a massive public relations crisis and has attracted the ire of lawmakers and liberals alike over allegations that Russians used it as a tool during the election to spread fake news and negative ads about Hillary Clinton.

Tired of being mocked on late-night comedy shows, Trump has demanded equal airtime from “unfunny” comics. And Trump’s sons have accused hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert of burying the exploding sexual assault scandal around Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic donor.

To many on the left, Trump’s culture war instincts stem from his vanity and the effort to ensure that his core supporters stay energized.

“Somewhere along the line the president recognized that he only wants to be popular with his base,” said Sam Fulwood III, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a columnist for ThinkProgress. “He’s notoriously thin-skinned and egotistical and knows his supporters will stomp and go crazy when they hear things like this. I don’t know that it’s a win for him in the real world, but in Trump World I guess it’s a win.”

But some Democrats are wary of a president who has successfully capitalized before on liberal and media blind spots.

They say they’re not underestimating Trump’s ability to turn hot-button social issues into political gains, even as the president struggles with a historically low approval rating and Washington Republicans express frustration over the never-ending controversies and distractions.

“I’m not one to attribute some grand strategic design to Trump or [former White House chief strategist Stephen] Bannon and I don’t assume they know more than we do, but a little bit of humility is warranted on the left and by the political establishment,” said Gara LaMarche, the president of the Democracy Alliance, a leading network of liberal donors.

“At every point we thought Trump couldn’t win this election and he did. You would’ve lost a lot of money betting against Trump’s instincts in that respect. I think in general his views are held by only a minority in American society but he’s good at controlling the conversation. By design or by instinct, it’s possible he’s resonating more than we think.”

Trump’s Obamacare Sabotage Is Doing Real Damage To American Health Care

HuffPost

Trump’s Obamacare Sabotage Is Doing Real Damage To American Health Care

Jonathan Cohn, HuffPost        October 14, 2017 

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/A70XCNnj8csRPN4tFZaG8A--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3E9NzU7dz02NDA7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/the_huffington_post_584/6cfa3a781f87111a3201a970ffb9b5caThe damage is not catastrophic. But it is real and it will linger.

That was the conclusion many health care industry officials and analysts had reached by week’s end, following a pair of blows that President Donald Trump delivered to the Affordable Care Act ― and, indirectly, to the millions of people who buy private health insurance on their own.

The first blow came on Thursday, in the form of an executive order designed to undermine the new rules that “Obamacare” has placed on insurers. The 2010 health care law famously prohibits carriers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. It also requires that all plans cover a set of “essential” health benefits including mental health and maternity care.

With the executive order, Trump instructed three federal agencies to carve out some exceptions to those rules. The result could be a parallel market full of plans that don’t have all of the essential benefits and, in some cases, that are available to people only in relatively good health.

At an Oval Office ceremony to sign the order, Trump boasted that the new plans would offer cheap alternatives to the millions of consumers struggling with high premiums today. And that is true. But, as experts have warned, anybody buying one of these plans would be rolling the dice, because the plans wouldn’t necessarily cover the costs of a serious injury or medical problem. At the same time, these skimpy plans would draw the youngest and healthy customers away from the comprehensive policies, making it ever more difficult for insurers to sustain those plans financially.

But Thursday’s order turned out to be a prelude to something bigger. Literally hours after the president signed it, the administration announced that it was carrying out a threat Trump had made for months. The federal government would be cutting off a set of monthly payments to health insurers operating through HealthCare.gov or one of the state-run marketplaces. The change was effective immediately, the administration later confirmed, meaning the payments that these insurers got in September could turn out to be their last.

This is not how the architects of the Affordable Care had intended the program to work. The law promises these payments to insurers, so that insurers can, in turn, reduce deductibles and copayments for some of their lowest income customers. (The payments are thus not a “bailout,” though Trump describes them that way.) But Congress never formally appropriated the money, creating a legal dispute that is still winding its way through the courts ― and leaving payment, in the interim, to the discretion of the president.

Former President Barack Obama had kept the payments going, which, perhaps, makes it surprising that Trump waited nine whole months to stop them. Advisers warned him against taking this steps, according to a Washington Post report, but in the end they couldn’t stop him ― perhaps because Trump has become so frustrated with his party’s failure to get repeal legislation through Congress.

“This is confirmation that the Trump administration has no interest in making anything on the individual market work,” David Anderson, research associate at Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, said on Friday.

How Insurers Are Reacting To Trump’s Latest Moves

Once Trump pulled the trigger, a frenzy of crisscrossing emails and phone calls ensued, as industry officials, analysts, and public officials (and, yes, journalists too) tried to figure out exactly what would happen next. Even now nobody seems quite certain of the answers, although at the moment it looks like most insurers had already prepared for the possibility Trump would cut off those payments.

Either on their own or at the behest of their regulators, those insurers filed rates for 2018 assuming the insurer payments might stop. And in the states where insurers expected the payments to continue ― Sean Mullin, senior director at Leavitt Partners, told HuffPost he thinks it’s about a dozen total ― insurers and regulators are now hastily making plans for last-minute revisions.

Whether insurers made the plans previously or whether they are making them now, the gist of the response is the same: The carriers are raising premiums to make up for the money they’re no longer getting from Washington ― and to account for any other steps the Trump administration might take to depress enrollment or otherwise weaken the program. Charles Gaba, the Michigan-based data nerd who runs the well-respected website ACAsignsups.net, has estimated that insurer anxiety over Trump’s management account for about two-thirds of next year’s premium increases.

It raises doubts about whether you want to partner with the federal government going forward Chet Burrell, CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield

Gaba’s conclusion is consistent with what insurers have reported individually. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, for example, is requesting an average increase of 23.1 percent for its individual health plans next year, company spokesman John Doran told HuffPost on Friday. About three-quarters of that, he said, represented uncertainty over the Trump cutoff.

As usual, the majority of people who buy coverage through HealthCare.gov or one of the state exchanges won’t feel the impact of these increases, at least not right away. That’s because the Affordable Care Act uses tax credits to put a ceiling on premiums for consumers with incomes below 400 percent of the poverty line, or $98,400 for a family of four. No matter how high premiums go, they won’t pay more. Some insurers have gone a step farther, and structured their premium increase for next year in ways that shield even wealthier people from the impact of the cuts.

Because of the formula the federal government uses to calculate financial assistance, some people will be able to get better plans for less money. Of course, the federal government will be picking up the extra costs, which is one of the many ironies of Trump’s action Thursday: The likely result will be more government spending, not less.

But some upper-income consumers are going to pay more ― in some cases, a lot more. It so happens that these are also the people who frequently struggle the most with premiums today, because their incomes are just a little too high to qualify for the tax credits, but they don’t have money to spare and are basically paying one-fifth of their income on health insurance premiums.

Presumably some of them will simply stop getting insurance altogether, and presumably it will be people who feel like they can take that risk because of their relatively good health ― thereby making the system’s risk pool problems, already pretty severe in some parts of the country, even worse.

Why The Real Story May Be What Happens After Next Year

By itself, that won’t cause health insurance markets to implode. Implementation of Thursday’s executive order won’t have that effect either. But this week’s actions are merely the latest steps in a campaign to undermine the Affordable Care Act that began on literally the first day of the Trump presidency, when he made a big show of signing a symbolic executive order instructing agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of the law’s rules and regulations.

Since that time Trump has slashed the program’s advertising budget, cut funding for so-called navigators who help people enroll, used government funding to finance anti-Obamacare propaganda, announced unexpected downtime for HealthCare.gov, and delayed a planned step-up in enforcement of the individual mandate.

On a conference call Friday, Chet Burrell, president and CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, noted the cumulative impact of these steps ― not just on enrollment, which the Affordable Care Act needs to survive, but also on the psyche of insurer companies like his, which is among the dominant carriers in Maryland and Virginia.

The Affordable Care Act has been a fragile program from the beginning, Burrell noted, and it has serious flaws that still need fixing. But the program has also insured millions, he explained, and it has the opportunity to strengthen with support from Washington ― only now that support is gone. “We’re worried,” he said. “It raises doubts about whether you want to partner with the federal government going forward.”

Maryland is among the states where carriers are hurriedly preparing new rate requests, because they had assumed insurer payments would keep flowing. Burrell said he was working closely with state and federal officials and was optimistic they would find a way to get it done, although he said there’s already talk of pushing back Maryland’s open enrollment, now scheduled to start on Nov. 1, by at least a few days to give it a bit more time.

Around the country, insurers were expressing similar sentiments ― to stick with the program, at least through this year and most likely next as well, even though the cutoff of those funds means some serious financial losses for some of them. That commitment to stay with the program is no small thing, because their contracts would appear to allow them to withdraw if the federal government pulls back on planned payments.

But the issue is really more about what happens after next year. Insurers will have to begin planning for 2019 this coming spring and, after what is likely to be a rocky open enrollment period, the decision whether to participate could be a difficult one.

The insurers who stuck it out this long, despite all of the Affordable Care Act’s problems, did so in part because they knew they were dealing with president committed to making the program work. Today they are dealing with a president bent on making it fail ― in many cases, by seeking out the weakest parts of its edifice and attaching a stick of dynamite.

Of course, Trump continues to promise that once Obamacare is gone the American people will be better off ― that they will have “great, great” health care, as he put it once again this week. Burrell, in his conference call, was among the many leaders working in health care who have come to the opposite conclusion. “If you wanted to have a great health plan for the American people,” he said, “you wouldn’t be doing this.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that insurers will have to begin planning for 2018 in the spring. They will be planning for 2019.

Former Wharton Professor: “Donald Trump Was the Dumbest Goddam Student I Ever Had.”

Daily Kos

Former Wharton Professor: “Donald Trump Was the Dumbest Goddam Student I Ever Had.”

By Frank Di Prima            October 12, 2017

https://images.dailykos.com/images/423925/story_image/trump-dunce-cap.jpg?1499966982Donald J. Trump as Many Imagine Him in Class at Wharton on the Rare Occasions that He Attended Class

Late Professor William T. Kelley taught Marketing at Wharton School of Business and Finance, University of Pennsylvania, for 31 years, ending with his retirement in 1982.  Dr. Kelley, who also had vast experience as a business consultant, was the author of a then-widely used textbook called Marketing Intelligence — The Management of Marketing Information (originally published by P. Staples, London, 1968).  Dr. Kelley taught marketing management to both undergraduate and graduate students at Wharton. www.upenn.edu/…  Dr. Bill was one of my closest friends for 47 years when we lost him at 94 about six years ago.  Bill would have been 100 this year.

Donald J. Trump was an undergraduate student at Wharton for the latter two of his college years, having been graduated in 1968. www.thedp.com/

Professor Kelley told me 100 times over three decades that “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.”  I remember his emphasis and inflection — it went like this — “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.”  Dr. Kelley told me this after Trump had become a celebrity but long before he was considered a political figure.  Dr. Kelley often referred to Trump’s arrogance when he told of this — that Trump came to Wharton thinking he already knew everything.

This has relevance now because as recently as this week, President Trump has challenged the Secretary of State of the United States to an I.Q. contest.  www.washingtonpost.com/…  This came within two days after NBC reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the President a “moron” www.nbcnews.com/… or a “fucking moron” www.slate.com/…  The President has frequently bragged that he was a great student at a great school (Wharton). time.com/…  Thus, the public is entitled to a contrary view from somebody who was there (Dr. Kelley), and I faithfully report it here.

Bill Kelley was one smart cookie.  His text book cited above — published in the late 1960s — was standard in his time in the then-new field of “marketing intelligence” and the necessity of using computers and data bases to manage it.  See onlinelibrary.wiley.com/… which credits Bill for coining the quoted phrase.

Dr. Kelley’s view seems to be shared by other University of Pennsylvanians.  Please see www.thedp.com/…, from the Daily Pennsylvanian, stating:

Another biographer, Gwenda Blair, wrote in 2001 that Trump was admitted to Wharton on a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer. The officer had known Trump’s older brother, Freddy.

Trump’s classmates doubt that the real estate mogul was an academic powerhouse.

“He was not in any kind of leadership. I certainly doubt he was the smartest guy in the class,” said Steve Perelman, a 1968 Wharton classmate and a former Daily Pennsylvanian news editor.

Some classmates speculated that Trump skipped class, others that he commuted to New York on weekends. . . .

1968 Wharton graduate Louis Calomaris recalled that “Don … was loath to really study much.”

Calomaris said Trump would come to study groups unprepared and did not “seem to care about being prepared.”

Thanks and R.I.P., Bill Kelley!  The words ring in my ears: “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.”

Is Donald Trump ‘Obsessed’ With Barack Obama?

Newsweek

Is Donald Trump ‘Obsessed’ With Barack Obama?

Harriet Sinclair, Newsweek         October 14, 2017

President Donald Trump is obsessed with his predecessor, according to a number of pundits who believe many of the Republican’s policies are all about “blowing the former president’s legacy.”

Speaking on his CNN show on Saturday, following Trump’s attempt to roll back the Iran deal, Don Lemon asked the question: “Does President Trump have an Obama obsession?” and suggesting the Republican was “making it his mission to undo every last bit of the Obama legacy.”

Political analyst David Gergen told Lemon he believed the recent announcement on the Iran deal, as well as Trump killing Obamacare subsidies, was “more about blowing up the former president’s legacy than anybody wants to admit.”

https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/FdN5HBnrU6b.kIK1J_.uYQ--~B/Zmk9c3RyaW07aD00MDI7dz02NDA7c209MTthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/homerun/newsweek_europe_news_328/1a456015f9c40124e3c3e7076f2a1d75Then-President Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump, who was then president elect, to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office, November 10. President Trump got a small bit of good news in the polls, but he’s more than a dozen percentage points behind where Obama was in 2009. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“Anything which has the name Obama on it automatically becomes a target for Donald Trump and he’s trying to reverse as much of that as possible,” he added, warning that the tendency of presidents to reverse domestic policy set by their predecessors was now rolling into foreign policy.

Indeed, back in August, a European diplomat reportedly told BuzzFeed anonymously that in his dealings with President Trump, he had noticed the Republican was driven more by a desire to scrap Obama’s policies than to enact his own.

“It’s his only real position,” the diplomat told BuzzFeed. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.”

Also over the summer, Trump previously shared a poll that showed he was “a better president of the United States than Barack Obama,” with the unverified results of the poll showing 61% of responders believed Trump was a better president and just 31% backing Obama.

In addition, his actual policy aims, which include his campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, but also the Iran deal, Trump’s attempt to scrap the Obama-era DACA program, and repeal of federal legislation allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, suggest the president may have an eye on targeting Obama’s policies specifically.

Indeed, Obama was the reason Trump was initially propelled into the political sphere; as one of the strong voices of the racially charged birther movement that falsely suggested Obama was not born in the U.S., Trump suddenly found himself speaking about national politics, announcing a run for office several years later.

Trump Sabotages Obamacare by Ending Subsidies That Help Lower Costs

Mother Jones

We want to make it harder for the powerful to lie.

Trump Sabotages Obamacare by Ending Subsidies That Help Lower Costs

Payments may stop almost immediately.

http://www.motherjones.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/20171012-trumpsubsidies.jpg?w=990Win Mcnamee/Pool/CNP/Zuma

Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn             October 12, 2017

The Trump administration announced late Thursday night that it would no longer provide key health insurance subsidies that are intended to keep costs down for lower-income Americans. The move, widely viewed as an effort to sabotage Obamacare, has the potential to disrupt insurance markets. The subsidies, which are paid to insurance companies, help cover the cost of providing affordable coverage.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House Press Office said in an emailed statement. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi Explains How to Combat Fake News

Occupy Democrats

The brilliant Ali Velshi of MSNBC just hosted a TedTalk in which he detailed the dangers of fake news and what we can ALL do to stop its spread…

MSNBC's Ali Velshi Explains How to Combat Fake News

The brilliant Ali Velshi of MSNBC just hosted a TedTalk in which he detailed the dangers of fake news and what we can ALL do to stop its spread…Shared by Occupy Democrats; like our page for more!

Posted by Occupy Democrats on Friday, October 13, 2017