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TGIF – Sept. 22, 2017.

September 22, 2017

Guns and butter diplomacy.

Reuters and other news agencies are reporting that South Korea’s government has committed to purchasing eight million dollars worth of food and medical supplies, including vaccines, to be distributed at some time in the future by international aid groups, to the people of North Korea.

At the same time, the United States has vowed to step up unilateral sanctions against North Korea, specifically by restricting its access to funds.

As usual, everyone has an opinion on the optics that seemingly pits South Korea against the Trump administration.

Actually the two things are not mutually exclusive.

President Trump has tried to make it clear that the only people he would prefer to hurt are in the ruling class. Still, if Kim Jong Un continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies, there is no doubt that any military action will result in civilian casualties and sanctions have humanitarian consequences. It is well known that to achieve his nuclear dream, Kim doesn’t care how many people would starve, as long as it isn’t him.

Assuming the Kim dynasty comes to an abrupt and violent end, all those North Koreans have to go somewhere in the aftermath. The two logical landing zones are China and South Korea, and China for sure doesn’t want the headache of dealing with the North’s refugees.

South Korea does want to reunify the peninsula, but recognizes that a great many, maybe even a majority of North Koreans harbor no love for their southern neighbor, seeing it as a pawn of the hated United States. Offering food and medicine might at least provide some chance to leave a good impression.

Like everything else about the two Koreas, it’s complicated.

Weaponizing the EPA – again.

California’s Attorney General has reportedly gone to the well-worn tactic of using the EPA to obstruct and block the border wall on environmental grounds, despite a 1996 law authorizing physical structural defenses of the border. He even managed to disparage “people in Iowa” for thinking the wall might be a good idea in the LA Times article linked above.

Along the way, AG Becerra also cites reduced income from tourism as another strike against the wall. Apparently he thinks that ports of entry don’t allow in enough “tourists.”

Given that some people are crossing California off their list of places to visit out of fear of winding up dead,  perhaps the state needs all the “tourists” it can get.

Graham-Cassidy predictions

Everyone sure has a lot of predictions based on a proposed piece of legislation that few have actually seen. Some, like CNN, have reduced or combined it into charts and infographics, while others restrict themselves to partisan predictions of doom, death and destruction.

Of course the biggest question is whether it will pass at all. Most don’t give it much chance, what with John McCain still hung up on protesting because it doesn’t follow “regular order” and Rand Paul being a reliable no on anything that offends his Libertarian sensibilities. So far, the most optimistic only give it a 50-50 chance.

If it were to pass, the question of funding it after 2027 leaves out one very probable prediction…states will have to make up any lost revenue by imposing additional taxes at the state level.

Also not deeply reported, is whether the Feds will continue to assess the payroll tax that now funds Medicaid, retaining the revenue to prop up Medicare and Social Security, or lower the tax.

Interestingly, some of the most strident opposition comes from the insurance industry, using the specious argument that having to present proposals and deal with each state individually will be too burdensome and confusing for the insurers.

Doesn’t that argument just tug at your heartstrings?



From → op-ed

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