Early Returns

Trump, Health Care and a Violation of Ethics

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Yuval Levin at National Review cautions all those who are just tired of the health-care debate that it's probably not going away anytime soon, in part because the Donald Trump administration will take steps to harm Obamacare. And Trump himself said he's planning at least one executive order.

There are basically two points to make here.

One is that deliberate actions by the administration to dissuade people from getting the health insurance available by law, or to make it more difficult, are monstrous, and essentially without precedent. Barack Obama, upon inheriting a war he didn't support, did not choose to deliberately lose it. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush inherited plenty of liberal programs they didn't support, but they didn't try to undermine them at the expense of the American people. 

It is of course true that many government programs in the past were designed to exclude blacks and other groups of citizens. And of course there are examples of administrations neglecting programs, or situations where opponents of an existing law sincerely believed citizens would prefer not to have this or that government program. But those are not quite the same as this kind of sabotage. 

The other point is that this remains a kind of politics that is, on a practical level, unlikely to have the effect the administration wants. Of course, the strongest Republicans will be eager to blame Democrats for anything that goes wrong (just as the strongest Democrats will blame Republicans). But for weak partisans -- for swing voters, that is -- bad news will almost always lead to reduced support for the incumbent party. 

Indeed, this is probably why previous presidents did not undermine programs they liked, at least not if the public would have been directly affected. It's not that a Richard Nixon or a Lyndon Johnson followed strong ethical codes; it's that there's just way too high a risk that undermining government programs would only harm the incumbents who do it. 

1. Sarah Binder at the Monkey Cage has four reasons Republicans may find the tax bill hard to pass

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Or Rabinowitz on how miscalculation over North Korea might happen. 

3. Philip Klein on what's missing from the new Republican tax plan.

4. Josh Barro on the Republican tax plan and small business

5. And James Fallows looks back at the New York Times in the 2016 campaign

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