Diary

Trump's Bluster is Not Enough on Illegal Obamacare Subsidies

As the media pursues the important issues of our time, such as whether saying “Paddy-wagon” is racially insensitive, it’s easy to forget just how unlawful the previous administration. The sheer lack of accountability brought forth by our press is astonishing in hindsight. Former President Obama may of flaunted the Constitution in grossly illegal ways, but he did so with style, right? This is the danger of assigning prominence only to surface level projections of Presidential behavior while ignoring the very real repercussions of the policy decisions being made.

Both are important and worthy of discussion, but I’m confident the country itself will survive Trump’s self-destructive tweeting. Executive power-grabs and casting aside of the rule of law tend to have much greater long term consequences, despite not being good click-bait.

Enter the Orwellian named “Affordable Care Act,” signed into law by Mr. Obama in 2010. Part of the law, in sections 1401 and 1402, provide for subsidies for consumers and insurance companies.  While the funding for section 1401 is appropriated within the law itself, no such appropriation of funds exists for section 1402. The reason why is obvious enough.

The CBO worked hand in hand with the Obama administration to massage and mislead the public on it’s costs. The most famous part of this con was using ten years of taxes and funding to then score only six years of implementation. Despite this being logically unsustainable after the first ten years (you can’t just take another four years off from Obamacare to rebuild the coffers), the CBO was happy to publish such garbage in, garbage out analysis. Another trick to lower the supposed costs of the ACA (which was laughably originally claimed to lower the deficit) was to simply leave out the appropriations for billions of dollars that would need to be paid to insurers in order to keep the market from collapsing.

In typical Obama fashion, he ignored the fact that no legal appropriation had been made and sent billions in funding to insurers anyway. Keep in mind that this isn’t just an administrative issue, it’s a criminal issue. U.S. law states (31 U.S. Code 1350) that any willful violation of appropriations carries a maximum of two years in prison. That’s something you’ve likely never heard reported at any mainstream outlet, but it remains no less true. For all the discussions of impeachment of President Trump, the previous President absolutely committed an impeachable, criminal offense by illegally appropriating funds exceeding what had been approved by Congress.

The Republican led House sued to stop these payments and won a ruling last year that deemed them unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed by the Obama administration and now the case is in limbo as President Trump has inexplicably not made the decision to drop executive opposition to the House’s lawsuit.

Instead we get tweets like this.

While this is all well and good in theory, it ignores the very basic issue at stake. These payments are illegal. Period. They are not a political football for the President to kick around in negotiations. He should immediately direct the DOJ to drop opposition to the House’s lawsuit, cancel all unlawful appropriations, and allow Obamacare to stand on it’s own two feet. Yes, it will promptly collapse underneath it’s own weight. That’s no excuse to ignore the rule of law anymore than emotional anecdotes about illegal immigrants should influence enforcement of immigration statutes.

This has become a trend for President Trump. Lot’s of bluster and threats with very little action. It’s easy to use caps lock on twitter and get thousands of adoring retweets. It’s much more difficult to actually pull the trigger on a hotly debated issue. For not ending these subsidies, Trump has become complicit with Congress in their failures to pass healthcare reform. He’s providing the life-raft by which the ACA remains afloat and in doing so he undercuts any sense of urgency to repeal and replace it. As long as GOP Congressional members don’t have to actually face the cliff, they will do nothing to stop going over it.

Kellyanne Conway pronounced on Fox News Sunday that the decision on this matter will be made this week. That’s a step in the right direction but the decision should be clear already. Now is the time for the President to act and force Congress to face the hand they’ve dealt themselves. Whether it will be politically disastrous shouldn’t be considered. His administration is already a political disaster. Doing what is right and legal have to be the priority. It’s gut check time.