I had a pleasant dinner the other night with an old friend who's in private business now. He used to work at the Treasury Department and he was on Hillary's Treasury transition team this year. He's a young guy who I met when, practically straight out of Harvard, he ran a great congressional campaign in a very red district. He didn't win but he's been using what he learned from the experience to help other candidates since then. I was meeting with him to see if he would consider running again in 2018, his district now distinctly purple and turning blue rapidly. For a variety of reasons– including the fact that his hometown has been drawn out of the district– he demurred. Wednesday I'm having dinner with a super-progressive, young state legislator who I;m hoping to persuade to run for what's likely to be an open deep blue seat in his state, a seat currently occupied by a conservaDem.
I find myself devoting more and more of my time not to blogging but to working on 2018 congressional recruitment. That's something that can't be left to a DCCC that has already proven itself ill-suited to do it well. And the good news last cycle was that when strong progressives got in early and introduced themselves to voters, the conservative, big-money hacks the DCCC recruited often lost the primaries. In PA-07, Mary Ellen Balchunis beat the DCCC recruit 74-26%. In TX-21 Tom Wakely beat his conservaDem opponent 59-41% and in WI-07, Mary Hoeft beat her less conservaDem opponent 81-19%. The bad news, of course, was that the DCCC then sabotaged each one of these primary winners and abandoned the districts to Republican incumbents. That's part of the reason Pelosi finds herself in so much trouble with her own caucus right now. If the DCCC changes its Rahmish ways, it'll stand a reasonable chance to win back the House in 2018. If it keeps trying to do the same old song and dance– recruiting and nominating Republican-lite hacks and then running corrupt campaigns that benefit no one but revolving door consultants– it will continue losing and losing and losing.
History shows that usually– but not always– voters favor the opposition party in the first midterm after a president is elected. These are how the opposition party fared in the last 10 first midterms:
• 1982- Republicans lost 26 seats (after Reagan's election)
• 1986- Republicans lost 5 seats (after Reagan's reelection)
• 1990- Republicans lost 8 seats (after HW Bush's election)
• 1994- Democrats lost 54 seats (after Clintin's election)
• 1998- Republicans lost 4 seats (exception to the rule after Clinton's reelection)
• 2002- Democrats lost 7 seats (exception to the rule after Bush's election)
• 2006- Republicans lost 30 seats (after Bush's reelection)
• 2010- Dems lost 63 seats (after Obama's election)
• 2014- Dems lost 13 seats (after Obama's reelection)
But this cycle there likely to be more at work than just historical trends. With the GOP in charge of the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, there's every reason in the world to expect some major overreach– and into areas where the voters will push back in a big way. Trump's execrable appointments so far– particularly monstrosities like Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions and Wilbur Ross. Each of those monsters have to be worth at least 2 Democratic pickups each. And God knows what else he has coming down the pike. But the Democrats have to win back exactly 24 seats to have a 218-217 majority. Considering all the treacherous and corrupt Blue Dogs and New Dems who will sell out to the Republicans consistently, I'd say the Democrats need at least 30 seats to be sure of control. Is it possible? You bet it is. And Paul Ryan is the key.
Ryan see's his life's ambition– scrapping Medicare and Social Security– dangling in from of his nose. And he has no intention of letting a confused and disoriented Trump or a bunch of de-clawed congressional Democrats stand in his way. Robert Pear laid out out plainly in yesterday's NY Times– and made it clear that Ryan isn't the only Republican with that objective. “[W]ith Election Day behind them, emboldened House Republicans say they will move forward on a years-old effort to shift Medicare away from its open-ended commitment to pay for medical services and toward a fixed government contribution for each beneficiary.”
For nearly six years, Speaker Paul D. Ryan has championed the new approach, denounced by Democrats as “voucherizing” Medicare. Representative Tom Price of Georgia, the House Budget Committee chairman and a leading candidate to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of health and human services, has also embraced the idea, known as premium support.
And Democrats are relishing the fight and preparing to defend the program, which was created in 1965 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. They believe that if Mr. Trump chooses to do battle over Medicare, he would squander political capital, as President George W. Bush did with an effort to add private investment accounts to Social Security after his re-election in 2004.
Democrats will “stand firmly and unified” against Mr. Ryan if he tries to “shatter the sacred guarantee that has protected generations of seniors,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader.
Republicans have pressed for premium support since Mr. Ryan first included it in a budget blueprint in 2011. As he envisions it, Medicare beneficiaries would buy health insurance from one of a number of competing plans. The traditional fee-for-service Medicare program would compete directly with plans offered by private insurers like Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The federal government would contribute the same basic amount toward coverage of each beneficiary in a region. Those who choose more costly options would generally have to pay higher premiums; those who choose plans that cost less than the federal contribution could receive rebates or extra benefits.
Supporters say this approach could save money by stimulating greater price competition among insurers, who would offer plans with lower premiums to attract customers.
Democrats say that premium support would privatize Medicare, replacing the current government guarantee with skimpy vouchers– “coupon care for seniors.” The fear is that the healthiest seniors would choose private insurance, lured by offers of free health club memberships and other wellness programs, leaving traditional Medicare with sicker, more expensive patients and higher premiums.
“Beneficiaries would have to pay much more to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare,” said John K. Gorman, a former Medicare official who is now a consultant to many insurers. “Regular Medicare would become the province of affluent beneficiaries who can buy their way out of” private plans.
Republicans say their proposal would apply to future beneficiaries, not to those in or near retirement. But the mere possibility of big changes is causing trepidation among some older Americans.
“I am terrified of vouchers,” said Kim Ebb, 92, who lives in a retirement community in Bethesda, Md., and has diabetes, atrial fibrillation and irritable bowel syndrome. “You get a fixed amount of money to draw on for your expenses. Then you are on your own.”
Charles R. Drapeau, 64, of East Waterboro, Me., said he was rattled by the Republican plans.
“I’m scared to death,” said Mr. Drapeau, who has multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and takes a drug that costs more than $10,000 a month. “We don’t know exactly how it will work, but just the fact that they are talking about messing with Medicare, it’s frightening to me.”
Indeed– and it should be frightening to all Americans, regardless of age. I spent the last 2 years fighting cancer, a battle that culminated in an experimental stem cell replacement operation. I stopped counting the costs as they zoomed over a million dollars but they surely at least doubled since then and I have to get a “tune up” every 3 months. No one can afford that except the richest one percent of Americans, the very people Ryan and congressional conservatives are trying to please with their proposals. I don't know what would have happened without Medicare, but I have a feeling I wouldn't be sitting here writing posts.
The other day we looked at how Ryan's plans to roll back overtime pay and minimum wage guarantees are going to be a wake up call for Trump voters. And that's nothing compared to what Ryan will do to Medicare and Social Security– and what voters will do to Republicans in 2018 in return. (If you want to back Blue America's efforts to elect a more progressive Congress in 2018, please consider contributing here.) There is no chance to win back the Senate before 2020– none whatsoever, if fact, the Democrats are likely to lose more Senate seats in 2018– so please consider just concentrating on House races (and state legislative races) this coming cycle.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis