This week, Mike and Jay start by taking a look at the first big legislative push of President Trump and House Republicans: The failed repeal and replace vote on Obamacare. They talk about what happened, why it happened, what it means for Obamacare, and the possible paths forward for Republicans.
Then it’s on to Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both the Guys agree that after 20 hours of testimony, we’re exactly where everyone expected we’d be: Republicans united in support, Democrats united in opposition, and a Democratic filibuster – followed by a Republican rule change preventing Supreme Court nominee filibusters – to come.
After that, the Guys review the latest developments in the Trump / Russia story, focusing on FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, as well as a questionable move by Devin Nunes, the Committee’s chairperson.
The focus then turns to immigration, with discussion of the new ‘Muslim laptop ban’ (as Jay calls it), the criminality of illegal vs legal residents, and the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to shame local jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with immigrant detainment requests.
This week, Mike and Jay tackle a bunch of great listener questions, such as whether or not progress is always a good thing, if being transgendered is a choice, what our philosophical beliefs concerning abortion are, the best case for liberalism (made by Jay) and for conservatism (made by Mike), and lots more.
Mike and Jay lead off with a discussion of President Trump’s first budget. The so-called ‘skinny budget’ (referring to any incoming president’s first budget, which tends to be shorter on details than their later budget proposals) calls for big defense and security increases and correspondingly big cuts. Jay is hoping that it’s simply another instance of Trump’s negotiating style (start out extreme and then make a deal for what you actually wanted) but he’s pleased that many programs will be required to justify their existence. Mike is less enthusiastic, and thinks that maybe it’s defense spending that needs to be justified. They both agree that the United States has huge looming problems with mandatory spending (which accounts for over 70 percent of the federal budget) that aren’t being addressed.
After that, the Guys talk about the American Health Care Act that House Republicans are trying to get through Congress. This week’s disastrous CBO score makes an already difficult legislative job for the GOP even harder, and neither Mike nor Jay expect the current version of the bill to be what ends up being enacted into law.
Next is discussion of the federal court rulings against President Trump’s revised travel ban. Mike thinks it’s entirely likely that it runs afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion, while Jay disagrees, feeling that the courts should consider only what the order says, and not other remarks about Muslim bans previously made by Donald Trump and some of his top advisors.
Following that, it’s a look at the underwhelming revelations from two leaked pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return, the continuing story of the president’s ‘wiretapping’ claims, and Mike and Jay’s thoughts on the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates.
This week, Jay is joined by guest co-host Ken Katkin, a professor of law at Northern Kentucky University, who takes the place of Mike on the left. (But while Mike was off this week, he still couldn’t resist inserting a few remarks at the very beginning of the show.)
Jay and Ken start off with an in-depth policy discussion of the American Health Care Act, the Republican legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. They drill down into the fundamentals of how health insurance works – or doesn’t work – with Jay expressing far more confidence in a ‘free market’ solution than Ken.
Next, they look at the Trump administration’s ‘new and improved’ travel ban. While both Jay and Ken agree that courts should grant the executive a good amount of deference in this area, Ken feels that there’s no rational basis for the ban, which he believes is a clear attempt to ‘reverse engineer’ an unconstitutional Muslim ban. Jay, though not entirely unsympathetic to these concerns, isn’t exactly convinced.
Finally, they consider the latest release from Wikileaks – a trove of documents concerning CIA hacking techniques. Both Jay and Ken conclude that Wikileaks is more hero than villain. The discussion turns to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, with Ken arguing that the amount of evidence of involvement is overwhelming. He concludes that President Trump is, in effect, a Russian agent.
Mike talks with Steve Hilton, the founder of Crowdpac, which he created in 2014 in order to help reconnect regular people to politics by making it easier for everyone to learn about politicians, find and support candidates that match their beliefs, and even run for office. Prior to starting Crowdpac, Steve was a director of strategy for former UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. In addition to running Crowdpac, Steve teaches at Stanford University’s Institute of Design, is a commentator for Fox News, and is the author of More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First.
This week, Mike and Jay start by discussing President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. They both agree that it was the most presidential / least Trump-like speech he’s yet given. Then things get a bit more disputatious than usual, when Mike strongly objects to President Trump’s tweets about alleged illegal wiretapping of his organization by the Obama administration. Jay is deeply troubled that a president would tap the phones of a rival party’s presidential nominee, while Mike argues the Obama administration would have been derelict in its duty had it not investigated a major party presidential nominee with potential ties to a rival and unfriendly power.
Things cool down after that (Mike really did get pretty wound up for a while on the Russia thing) as they move on to discuss the first outlines of President Trump’s budget and the wave of threats against Jewish Community Centers.
Mike talks to Lane Kenworthy, a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on social policy, including poverty, inequality, mobility, and economic growth in the United States and other rich countries.
Professor Kenworthy is the author of many academic articles and six books, including Social Democratic America and, most recently How Big Should Our Government Be?, co-authored with John Bakija, Peter Lindert, and Jeff Madrick.
Professor Kenworthy’s Website
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Luxembourg Income Study
This week’s episode starts with a look at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, headlined by President Trump himself. Mike and Jay take a look at the president’s stridently anti-media rhetoric as well as discuss someone who wasn’t there: conservative provocateur and former Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was disinvited after video surfaced suggesting that Yiannopoulos wasn’t entirely against pedophilia in some circumstances.
After that, the Guys discuss the recent Justice Department rollback of the Obama rule concerning the right of transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. Mike sees it as a setback for LGBTQ civil rights, while Jay questions the extent to which this is a right in the first place, and argues that states should have greater say in their education policies – including bathroom access for students.
Mike surprises himself by actually complimenting President Trump – for his choice of H. R. McMaster as his appointee to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor. Both Mike and Jay agree that this was a great pick, though it remains to be seen how much President Trump will rely on McMaster’s advice, as opposed to that of Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
Then it’s a look at the state of our immigration policy in light of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration enforcement. Mike and Jay consider this in the broader context of our current relationship with Mexico, with Mike pointing out that while Mexico relies on the United States, the relationship works both ways, and that should President Trump decide to come down hard on Mexico, the Mexican government could take significant action of its own in response.
Finally, the Guys turn to the Town Hall meeting protests that many Republican members of Congress met with during their ‘week off’. Neither Mike nor Jay thinks that protests alone can make a huge difference, though Mike believes (hopes?) that his Democratic Party has learned the organizational lessons of the GOP, and will combine public protests with plenty of behind-the-scenes organizing.
Mike talks to Jason Brennan, an Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He’s the author of a number of books, including The Ethics of Voting, Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know, *Why Not Capitalism?, and, most recently Against Democracy.
Professor Brennan’s Recommended Reading
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics: An Anthology. Jonathan Anomaly, Geoffrey Brennan, Michael C. Munger, and Geoffrey Sayre-McCord
Political Philosophy: An Introduction by Jason Brennan
Introduction to Political Philosophy YouTube video lecture series.
Madison’s Metronome: The Constitution, Majority Rule, and the Tempo of American Politics. Greg Weiner