Master Dealmaker?

Donald Trump holds himself forth as a genius when it comes to making deals. (“I alone can do this.”) One of his claims to fame is co-authoring the book The Art of the Deal which, of course, he is the star of. In reality he is a lousy dealmaker. Let’s explore.

Trump’s lack of deal making ability can be summed up in one word: healthcare. His first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare with Trumpcare met with disaster. Now he is actually talking about a second attempt.

Republicans have been running on a platform of repealing and replacing Obamacare almost from the moment the ink dried on President Obama’s signature on the legislation. They have cast some sixty odd repeal votes in the House. With Trump’s election they controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. They were willing to do the necessary parliamentary juggling to bypass the filibuster in the Senate which negated the last barrier to repeal. They still failed miserably! Despite controlling the House by a large margin they could not put together a bill that the necessary number of Republicans would support.

Largely in response to constituents, the majority of Republicans wanted to retain most of the features of Obamacare in the replacement plan. The Freedom Caucus (Tea Party) wanted to gut the plan thereby leaving millions more uninsured; a classic throwing the baby out with the bathwater move. In the end Paul Ryan had to pull the bill from the floor rather than suffer a humiliating defeat and have his caucus on record with a vote that could be used against them in a future primary or general election. Here is a scary thought: Son-in-law Jared Kushner was away on a skiing vacation when this came to a head. Could it be that this inexperienced thirty-six year old member of the Lucky Sperm Cell Club is really Trump’s brain?

Now Trump has a new strategy. He is threatening to starve Obamacare into failure by withholding certain federal funds. This action would jeopardize the marketplace, in Trump’s projection causing insurers to exit thereby collapsing the non-Medicaid expansion portion of the program. Of course that would mean millions of Americans would lose their health insurance no doubt causing many to die. Trump doesn’t care, is betting the Democrats do and will surrender to him in the process. He simply didn’t think his gambit through.

Under Trump’s scheme all the people who are aided in purchasing health insurance via financial assistance lose their health insurance. If the Democrats signed on to Trumpcare 2.0 they would still lose their insurance as would all those who gained it via Medicaid expansion which 2.0 would certainly scuttle. In other words don’t join Trump and get a bad result or join him and get an even worse result. Yes, you read that correctly. There is absolutely no incentive for Democrats to join Trump and in fact an incentive not to. This is the work of a master dealmaker?

A smart and honest dealmaker would have done infrastructure or tax reform first. Done properly those are areas where a consensus could have been reached via a reasonable compromise and a coalition built that would have paved the way to passing more challenging legislation. You could hold a meeting of all the Americans who love our current tax code in a telephone booth! (For my younger readers I suggest you Google the term.) Everyone agrees that much of our current infrastructure is aging and in need of repair or replacement. There is also a desperate (although largely unrecognized) need to bring much of our (especially rural) infrastructure into the 21st century.

If Trump were an honest broker instead of the head of an organized criminal enterprise most concerned with enriching itself and a select inner circle he could have structured deals on taxes and infrastructure that would have helped Americans in many ways. In the process he might have been able to build a coalition – very much including Democrats – to make much needed improvements to Obamacare; throwing it out, especially with no replacement, is not an improvement. Maybe Trump was successful in bullying small sub-contractors; Democratic members of Congress are another story.

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