Third Party & Independents Archives

​So What if Shulkin's Firing was Really About the Choice Program?

Game, set, and match. David Shulkin’s speedy career collapse as VA Secretary was as swift and brutal as champion Steffi Graf’s straight-sets loss to Lorie McNeil back in the summer of 1994. Which would have been at Wimbledon, of course. And complementary tickets to Wimbledon were part of the list of fairly minor but politically unpardonable sins that the now-fired Secretary of Veteran Affairs was guilty of. So, like Tom Price at HHS, he had to go.

But Shulkin has fired back with a piece in the NYTimes that came out the day after his dismissal was announced. Which means he's had that letter locked and loaded and ready to be released for at least a week or two now. Shulkin does not dwell on some of the petty details surrounding the Inspector General's report. Like the news that the IG is apparently opening a new investigation into whether he asked a member of his security detail to help him carry some furniture from Home Depot into his home. Yes, there are red lines that must not be crossed when it comes to public and private life, but this - if true - is a little ridiculous.

Shulkin has decided to ignore these details, and some of the more serious ones like expenses on the taxpayers' dime incurred during what was really a pleasure trip to Europe with his spouse, and instead he is turning his firing into a policy squabble with ideological overtones.

He insists he was forced out because evil minds in this administration are hell bent on privatizing VA services. As he writes:

[T]he environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. I can assure you that I will continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the V.A. by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.
Insisting that an open debate is needed about any move to privatize Veterans Affairs, he is now firmly on his horse, shining sword in hand, the rackets of Wimbledon left behind as he forges ahead in his noble quest. So. A couple of questions need to be asked.

How serious are people within Trump's administration about privatizing services to veterans? And was a disagreement over this the real reason Shulkin was dismissed? Also, is privatizing some services to veterans a bad idea? And finally, who actually would pay for these "privatized" veterans' services?

In fact, the debate over privatizing some of the services at Veterans Affairs has been going on for years now. In 2014, Congress put in place the Choice Program where veterans living more than 40 miles from a veterans healthcare center or facing a wait of over 30 days, could take their VA benefits out of the government system and use them with a private sector provider. Very much like a school voucher.

In the past year or so, veterans interest groups - like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or the American Legion - have criticized Republican plans to expand the Choice Program. It's basically a replica of the debate over school vouchers. The point isn't that veterans are opting out with their benefits in order to leave the system for at least some defined services, it's the hue and cry that those remaining within the government-provided veterans healthcare network will face diminishing resources and declining services. That's really a fight over how much of an increase in money the VA network v. the Choice Program gets.

So no one is talking about veterans having to fork out for a private plan. It's about those who choose to do so taking the equivalent of a voucher and using it in the private sector. And more importantly, the Choice Program was put in place precisely to deal with the disturbing problems of corruption and mismanagement at VA. Yes, VA itself needs a change in both policies and workplace culture, something which seems to be occurring, if at a frustrating pace. But having an opt-out option might be a good motivator for speeding up that change. And above all, it helps veterans get the care they deserve, when they need it.

So if David Shulkin wants to make his dismissal all about the Choice Program, bring it on. Yes, his replacement Admiral Ronny L. Jackson (MD) will assuredly be spending a lot of his confirmation hearings answering hostile questions about GOP plans to expand the Choice Program. He should be delighted to take those question on, and to remind Congress that they were forced to put the Choice Program in place because of the mess at VA.

Give Shulkin his wish. And let's have that debate.

Posted by AllardK at March 29, 2018 4:33 PM
Comment #425863

Everything that the government does, does not have to be based on what’s best for some guy living out in the middle of nowhere in plantationland.

Posted by: ohrealy at March 29, 2018 7:39 PM
Comment #425970

wow that is amazing thank you :)

Posted by: Dompet Kulit at April 4, 2018 6:38 AM
Comment #425991

This might have been the dumbest single day in the Trump presidency. And that is really saying something.

Trump declared a second round of tariffs against China.
China responded in kind. They made a point of targeting Trump-supporting districts. Farmers and manufacturers in certain regions suddenly faced the prospects of huge financial and job losses if this thing actually went through.

Just as it did after the announcement of the first round, the markets promptly tanked. This morning the DJIA opened down 500, with every sign of going much, much lower.

The Secretary of Commerce ‘expressed suprise’ at how the markets reacted to the prospect of a trade war; after all, Trump had previously announced that trade wars were easy to win. Sweet J*sus, that was the Secretary of Commerce! Dude, you had just one job… The only person stupider than the Secretary of Commerce was the president and all his talk of America First and MAGA and so on. The new economic advisor, who isn’t even a real economist but played one on tv- seriously, that is absolutely true- a free trader named Larry Kudlow, ran out and said ‘kidding!’ The tariffs were more like guidelines, and gosh, guys, we had no intention of you know, doing them. The markets quickly regained all of their losses.

But wait! There’s more. It gets even stupider!

The president announced he would send the military to the southern border to patrol and build a wall. It ignores a whole slew of inconvenient facts. The rate of illegal crossings is the lowest since 1971. The net immigration from Mexico is zero. And governors would have to approve sending the military- namely, their national guard- to the border in the first place. None of the border states are about to do that, especially not CA.

Meanwhile, Trump tossed out a few bald face lies about Amazon and the post office. The post office does NOT lose money on Amazon, and the post office receives ZERO taxpayer dollars. It is self-funding, and Amazon is the best thing to ever happen to it. See all those USPS trucks driving around on Sundays? They’re delivering Amazon Prime, and they just started delivering two-day priority mail. The whole thing was nothing more than Trump abusing the office of the presidency to attack the owner of Amazon, who also owns an unrelated business, the WaPo.

Ugh. The stupid. It burns.

Posted by: phx8 at April 4, 2018 5:14 PM
Comment #425992

Um, you for the ‘Traitor Trump Is Treason’ bit at the end, Phx8.

Posted by: kctim at April 4, 2018 5:21 PM
Comment #425994

I’m glad he’s using the military on the border. I’m not fond of the National Guard doing it. Like phx8 said, cooperation could be lacking from the border states. It’s the federal government’s job to protect our international borders. What’s an army for if not to protect our border, right? It should be federal troops on the border.

The stock market’s doing fine. So what, 500 points. It will get it back shortly. It’s been doing that for a couple of months now. It’s not points, phx8, it’s percent.

I think China’s business can be replaced with business from the rest of the world. There’s no law saying we have to sell to China.

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 4, 2018 6:02 PM
Comment #425995

What a sorry excuse for thoughtful posting. All three major markets ending the day much higher despite phx8 wallowing in gloom, doom and despair.

China will cave on tariffs…take it to the bank. If they loose our business they will have revolution. The Commie leaders are in a real bind.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 4, 2018 6:07 PM
Comment #425996

Today China handed Trump his head in a doggy bag.

When China announced its retaliation the market plunged. You can bet the White House lines were jammed with GOP Senators screaming bloody murder about their districts and states losing thousands of jobs, mostly from farming and manufacturing. Here is the list of industries that would have taken the hit:

It includes whiskies. Anyone think McConnell and Paul and the citizens of KY liked the idea of massive lay-offs in their state?

And no, China will not cave. They have us over a barrel. First, we backed out of TPP, but the other 11 nations signed onto it, including China. We froze ourselves out of beneficial economic terms of trade, so there will be no help on that front. And the pathetic thing is that we economically isolated ourselves simply because Trump and the GOP did not want to see Obama credited for doing anything good. The situation with the EU isn’t much better. And relations with major trading partners Mexico and Canada are in the dumps, too.

Furthermore, if China really wanted to play hardball, all they would have to do is not show up at a Treasury auction. That might be mutually assured economic destruction, but we don’t have much goodwill among what used to be our allies. We don’t stand for human rights. We don’t stand for democracy. We stand for America First. And Putin.

Well, today should finish off that tariff foolishness. And it is beyond ironic that Larry Kudlow, of all people, a FOX news personality who specialized in praising Bush and trashing Obama economic policies, saved the administration’s bacon.

Posted by: phx8 at April 4, 2018 6:41 PM
Comment #425997

It has been a veritable tsunami of stupid.

The administration will repeal CAFE standards. It is mind boggling. That is so dumb. The Bush administration did that. Anyone remember? American car manufacturers responded by going for short term profits, and producing yank tanks, hummers, enormous SUVs, vehicles of mass destruction; meanwhile, foreign manufacturers produced fuel efficient cars. When oil went over $100 and the economy tanked, it almost wiped out American car manufacturers.

Now, here we go again.

Posted by: phx8 at April 4, 2018 6:50 PM
Comment #425998

It is truly humorous to read the pontifications of phx8. He bases all his theories on his “gut” and other’s “fake news”.

China losing the advantage of a half trillion trade surplus with the United States would send the Commies in charge running to North Korea for shelter.

Poor phx8, he can’t imagine anyone but Chinese buying our debt. He wants us dependent upon others just as Obama did. America must be brought low to appease world tyrants.

Sorry Pal, it ain’t going to happen.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 4, 2018 7:13 PM
Comment #425999

There is no reason to be embarrassed if you don’t know anything about T-Bill auctions and financing debt. This is from January:

“If the reports turn out to be true and China no longer sees Treasurys as an attractive option, the repercussions could be significant as the country is one of the biggest holders of U.S. debt. A significant change in policy could put considerable upside pressure on U.S. yields, the result of which would be an effective tightening for the U.S.”

China is the largest holder of US debt, followed by Japan. Together they hold about $2 trillion. T-Bills roll over every 90 days in auctions. They are the safest investment in the world, and that is where the big money goes- much bigger than the stock market. Most people do not realize it, but bonds rule the world, and the demand for T-bills plays an important role in determining interest rates. China is not the only holder of debt, but they would have a large impact on our economy if they cut back their purchases.

Like I said, I don’t think the Chinese will go there. I hope not. The next one will be the first Wednesday May.

There is an enormous international advantage in globalism- in mutual interdependence. Not only does it discourage aggression, it exposes countries to the culture and ideals of others, and that is perhaps the biggest single advantage we possess.

It is not appeasing tyrants to weave a web of interdependence, because that web exposes them, and ultimately fall non-violently, for the simple reason that their people overwhelmingly want the freedoms and liberty and culture and technology we can offer.

Posted by: phx8 at April 4, 2018 7:52 PM
Comment #426000

Sorry phx8, I already know all what you apparently have just learned about markets, stock and bond.

Have you ever thought about our trade deficit being what the Japs and Chicoms use to buy our bonds? Two trillion is chump change when it comes to decades of trade imbalance resulting in tens of trillions. Unfair trade robs both our treasury and jobs. Liberals love it.

I know a little about globalism and it isn’t as pretty a picture as you paint in your dreamy world. Globalism is an attempt to reduce the United States both in power and wealth.

I don’t intend to share either with a bunch of tyrants.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 4, 2018 8:04 PM
Comment #426001
China is the largest holder of US debt, followed by Japan.

Wrong again, phx8. The largest holder of U.S. debt is the Federal Reserve. China holds 8% of U.S. debt, Japan holds 7%.

Think percent, phx8. I know more zeros are impressive, but big numbers don’t really mean much any more.

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 4, 2018 10:30 PM
Comment #426003

pdx8, thanks for providing something to read on this zombie website. Kudlow was on The McLaughlin Group years ago. He was an early choice of Dumpty’s that Jared didn’t like IIRC, so they begged someone else to take the job that didn’t want it and eventually bailed. It’s hard to keep track of so many goings at this point. He’s getting down to the tin foil hat brigade.

The situation with China is of the right wing party’s own making with their spend and borrow policies. They have really succeeded in Making China Great Again. China is making promises to russia, while russia is creating a sphere of influence in the middle east with Turkey, Syria, Iran. The international influence of the USA is ending. Eventually, Dumpty will do something, or some international incident will happen that will get enogh right wingers to abandon him.

Posted by: ohrealy at April 5, 2018 12:05 AM
Comment #426020
Eventually, Dumpty will do something, or some international incident will happen that will get enogh right wingers to abandon him.

ohrealy, do you realize how poorly you present yourself when hoping for a disaster, just to bring Trump down?

Perhaps you can openly wish for another school shooting, or a really serious terror attack! It seems you have nothing constructive to add, might as well wish for a tragedy to not waste, right?

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 5, 2018 11:41 AM
Comment #426021

There could be a situation sometime in the future that would cause Conservatives to abandon President Trump. But, none come to mind.

The good news is that it is a fact that Liberals have abandoned Hillary (Deplorable) Clinton. The next to fall will be Nancy (brain-dead) Pelosi.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 5, 2018 2:33 PM
Comment #426026

China’s trillion dollar plan to dominate global trade:

Bolton and the M E K, Mujahideen-e Khalq :

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