Friday, March 24, 2017

Jimmy Breslin, newspaper columnist...

...and best-selling author, died last Sunday at age 88.

I hadn't mentioned Breslin's death before for two reasons. One, I didn't really know that much about him; and, two, I didn't notice anything in his obit that was worth writing a post around. Until now.

Breslin was the author of the 1969 novel, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which I've never read even though I remember it lying around our house when I was growing up. I've always liked that title, though, and have used it many times to describe an incompetent person or group of persons.

Despite my previous post, in which I (wrongly) predicted that Paul Ryan would push the Republican health care bill over the finish line by hook or by crook, I had been telling people lately that the Trump administration (and Paul Ryan and the House GOP by extension) were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Looks like I should have stuck to that.

I've also been telling anyone who will listen that Donald Trump's closest presidential analog is not Andrew Jackson but rather Jimmy Carter -- a true "outsider" who didn't understand or appreciate the ways of Washington and therefore couldn't get anything done.

(My apologies to President Carter: he's a thoroughly decent man -- and easily the greatest former president -- who in no other way resembles the current occupant of the White House.)

But it looks like even I gave Trump and Ryan too much credit yesterday. I just thought this bill, even though deeply, deeply flawed (by anyone's standards, not just mine), was just too important for them not to pass. As I wrote (and still think), these guys desperately need a "W." Now it looks like they really are the gang that couldn't shoot straight. (Whoever thought that a Republican White House and Congress would be the best thing that ever happened to the Affordable Care Act?)

I always thought that infrastructure and the border wall were long-shots at best (who's going to put up the money, this Republican Congress?), but I figured Trump and Ryan would at least cut taxes and regulations. (Isn't that kind of like falling off a log for Republicans?) But now, after this fiasco, I'm not so sure about even that. Barney Frank said on Bill Maher last week that Republicans are mostly leaving Dodd-Frank alone and, apparently, the border adjustment tax (whatever that is) may be a bit of a sticking point in tax reform.

I haven't been writing a whole lot about politics lately; I've just been trying to tune out the buffoon in the White House and the right-wing fanatics in Congress. But after yesterday I'm feeling a little less depressed. Maybe I was right all along: maybe this crowd really is the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

P. S. The really strange thing about this whole episode is how far Ryan's bill was from what Trump campaigned on. Didn't the Donald say he was going to "take care of everybody"? Didn't his voters assume he was going to expand coverage and improve on the ACA, not the opposite? If I didn't know any better, I'd think this guy didn't really care about health care policy at all and was just saying whatever was necessary to get elected.

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