This week on Squawking Heads, the Trump Administration wants you to know that any numbers that eventually come out about the new health care bill are complete lies, unless the numbers are good, in which case they are the truest numbers ever no doubt; everyone makes wood-based analogies; and I still don’t understand one single thing about health care! My brain hurts and I’m scared but still not 100% sure why! Let’s get it onnnnn…
The numbers may have been phony in the past, but they’re very real now
The administration’s undying fixation on numbers, whose numbers are the biggest, whose numbers are the bestest, whose numbers were false before but are accurate now, continues apace. Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, spent the morning questioning basic mathematics and preemptively undermining the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the new health care bill.
“You could have a long conversation, when you have got a numerator and a denominator, how to arrive at a percentage,” Mulvaney said about the new jobs numbers. “But, again, I don’t want to bore people.”
Mulvaney threw a desire to “not bore” the audience out twice in his brief time on CNN’s State of the Union. For the large subsection of the American population that does not need Donald Trump to tell us how complicated health care is, or how confounding the U.S. budget is, I’m begging you, please, bore us! I spent five straight hours watching these shows. Five. You know how much I understood after five hours of this? NOTHING. So then I had to spend another four reading New York Times articles about health care and you know what I understood after reading all of that? SLIGHTLY LESS THAN NOTHING.
“In order for this bill to be reconcilable in the House, as you know—and we’re getting deep down into the rules of the Senate now, I apologize for doing that,” Mulvaney said on This Week. “But in order for this bill to pass on budget reconciliation, it has to reduce the debt and thus save money.”
Stop apologizing and just explain this to us! Please hold my hand and walk me through all of this! Tell me about the forms and numerators and denominators. Don’t tell me to trust that you’ve got this under control and to not worry my pretty little head about it—MY PRETTY LITTLE HEAD IS WORRIED.
On This Week, Mulvaney told audiences to focus on the individual aspects of the bill, not the overall numbers or estimates. This strategy to make the bill more palatable—just look at the flowers, Lenny, look at the the money in individual state control, how about those provider options?—was then promptly undermined by Paul Ryan.
Paul Ryan, the man currently holding Donald Trump’s foot down on the gas pedal of this car careening over a cliff, spent his time on Face the Nation imploring everyone not to look at the individual aspects of the bill.
“People are losing the forest through the trees,” Ryan said, several times. Don’t worry about what the numbers say now, Paul Ryan whispers to us as he puts a pillow over our faces, it’ll all turn out OK eventually.
“This is the most historic entitlement reform we have ever had. This is bigger entitlement reform than welfare reform in 1996,” Ryan continued. “So if the transition takes three years or two years, that’s missing the forest through the trees.”
Seem like pretty big trees to me though.
So basically, sometimes numbers are lies and sometimes they’re accurate it’s hard to say, also don’t look too closely at the bill but also look very closely at it because otherwise it’s terrible.
Great. Glad that was all cleared up.
— Literally everyone except Paul Ryan, members of the Trump administration and Rick Santorum—and honestly guys? Honestly? Let’s stop inviting him to things, ok?—hate this bill. They absolutely loathe it.
— ”These guys want to take a bill so significant to so many people and just shove it through because they don’t have the guts to hold hearings. They don’t want the American people to know what is going on.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
— Paul Ryan said “ramming and jamming things” and it made me uncomfortable.
Understatement of the Week
“I keep trying to remind myself that we are still in the first 50 or 60 days of this presidency, and we don’t want to prejudge.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) whispers every night before he drifts into a restless slumber.
Lots of wood-based metaphors and aphorisms.
“The bill probably can be fixed, but it’s going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework.” – Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK)
“You’re essentially accepting the architecture but just trying to remodel the building.” – Chuck Todd, host Meet the Press
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) managed to say both “losing the forest through the trees” and “missing the forest through the trees” within 45 seconds on Face the Nation.
What’s the Next Thing We Should Be Afraid Of?
Other than the continued, looming threat of a catastrophic health care overhaul, this exchange between White House Chief Economic Advisor and former President of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn and Chris Wallace was unsettling.
WALLACE: What do you think of Preet Bharara?
COHN: I don’t — I don’t really have an opinion.
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute. I mean, you were the president of Goldman Sachs. You’re one of the leaders of Wall Street. This guy was going after Wall Street, going after public corruption for seven years. You don’t have an opinion?
COHN: No, I don’t. You know, I was involved in Wall Street, running a bank. I’m involved in Washington right now. You know, in big corporations, you have division of labor and you have certain people that take care of certain obligations in certain parts of your business, and I was involved in that part of our business. So, you know, you can’t do everything.
WALLACE: No, I understand that. As a tough prosecutor, though, who was involved in public corruption cases and going after Wall Street crime, wasn’t he draining the swamp?
COHN: Chris, as I said, I don’t really—I don’t really have an opinion. That was not an area where I spent a lot of time.
I’m with Wallace—you don’t have an opinion? At all? Cohn spent his entire interview up to this point shifting uncomfortably in his chair, looking off to the side of the camera. When Wallace asked about Preet Bharara though, Cohn tightened up, staring straight into the camera and not giving an inch. It’s absolutely possible this former titan of Wall Street doesn’t give a shit about the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. But as we learned during last week’s Cliché Watch, where there’s smoke….
Next week on Squawking Heads…
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