Emmanuel Clinton Versus Marine LeTrump

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Here’s the body count in the latest geopolitical earthquake afflicting the West: The Socialist Party in France is dead. The traditional Right is comatose. What used to be the Extreme Left is alive, and still kicking.

Yet what’s supposed to be the shock of the new is not exactly a shock. The more things veer towards change (we can believe in), the more they stay the same. Enter the new normal: the recycled “system” – as in Emmanuel Macron — versus “the people” — as in the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, battling for the French presidency on May 7.

Although that was the expected outcome, it’s still significant. Le Pen, re-christened “Marine”, reached the second round of voting despite a mediocre campaign.

She essentially reassembled — but did not expand — her voting base. I have argued on Asia Times that Macron is nothing but an artificial product, a meticulously packaged hologram designed to sell an illusion.

Only the terminally naïve may believe Macron incarnates change when he’s the candidate of the EU, NATO, the financial markets, the Clinton-Obama machine, the French establishment, assorted business oligarchs and the top six French media groups.

As for the stupidity of the Blairite Left, it’s now in a class by itself.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the domesticated hard-left of Insubordinate France, managed to equal the Catholic Right François Fillon in the final stretch. Yet the vapid PS candidate, Benoit Hamon, stole Mélenchon’s shot at hitting the second round.

As for Marine, she lost almost four points in the final tally. With one extra week of campaigning Fillon, despite Penelopegate, could have been equal with Marine.

Marine has only one extremely long shot on May 7. She will be frantically touring “deep France” to turn the second round into a debate on French identity and a clash of nationalists, patriots and sovereignists against pro-EU globalists and urban “liquid modernity” practitioners.

So what do they want?

Frontists are ready to rip Emmanuel Clinton’s neoliberal program to pieces, which will play very well in rural France and may even yield a few disgruntled Mélenchon votes.

Unlike Fillon and Hamon, he has not gone public calling his supporters to vote Macron. Disgruntled Fillon voters may also be inclined to switch to Marine — considering Fillon was viscerally opposed to someone he described as “Emmanuel Hollande.”

A quick look at the promises is in order. In a nutshell; Marine proffers a social model that “favors the French people;” Macron offers vague, “profound reforms.”

Macron’s plan to save 60 billion euros of public funds implies firing 120,000 functionaries; that is a certified recipe to a “see you in the barricades” scenario.

Marine only says she wants to reduce the public deficit — aiming at reducing state medical aid, the French contribution to the EU, and fiscal fraud.

Neither wants to raise the minimum wage and VAT. Both want to reduce the tax burden on companies and both want to fight the “Uberization” of work, favoring French companies (Marine) and European companies (Macron).

Marine’s absolute priority is to reduce social aid to foreigners and restitute “buying power” especially to pensioners and low-income workers. She’s vague about unemployment.

Macron’s “profound reforms” are centered on unemployment insurance and pensions. He’s keen on a universal unemployment protection managed by the state. Everyone would be covered, including in the case of being fired. Marine and Macron coincide on one point; better reimbursement of costly health benefits.

Europe is at the heart of the Marine vs Macron fight; that’s Frexit against a “new European project.”

Everyone in Brussels “voted” Macron  as he proposes a budget for the eurozone, a dedicated Parliament, and a dedicated Minister of Finance. In short; Brussels on steroids.

Marine’s Frexit should be decided via a referendum — a direct consequence of the frontist obsession with immigration. Marine wants to reduce legal admission of immigrants to 10,000 people a year (it’s currently 200,000), tax employment of foreign workers, and suppress social aid. In contrast, pro-immigration Macron aims at what he calls an open France, “faithful to its values.”

On foreign policy, it’s all about Russia. Marine wants a “strategic realignment” with Moscow especially to fight Salafi-jihadi terror.

Macron — reflecting a French establishment as Russophobic as in the US — is against it, although he concedes that Europe must come to terms with Russia even as he defends the current sanctions.

About that Wall of Cash

If the coming, epic clash could be defined by just one issue that would be the unlimited power of the Wall of Cash.

Macron subscribes to the view that public debt and expenses on public service are the only factors responsible for French debt, so one must have “political courage” to promote reforms.

Sociologist Benjamin Lemoine is one of the few who’s publicly debating what’s really behind it — the interest of financiers to preserve the value of the debt they hold and their aversion to any negotiation.

Because they control the narrative, they are able to equate “political risk” —  be it Marine or Mélenchon — with the risk to their own privileged positions.

The real issue at stake in France — and across most of the West — revolves around the conflicting interests of financial masters and citizens attached to public service and social justice.

The coming clash between Emmanuel Clinton and Marine LeTrump won’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Obamacare ‘Explosion’ Could Come On May 22nd, Here’s Why

After a stunning healthcare defeat last week, delivered at the hands of his own party no less, Trump took to twitter to predict the imminent ‘explosion’ of Obamacare.

ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!

The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds – not long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!

 

As it turns out, that ‘explosion’ could come faster than anyone really expects as legislators and health insurers have to make several critical decisions about the 2018 plan year over the next 2 months which could seal Obamacare’s fate.

As the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out today, the Trump administration has until May 22nd to decide whether they will continue to pursue the Obama administration’s appeal to provide subsidies to insurers who participate in the federal exchanges.

Of course, any decision to remove those subsidies would likely result in yet another massive round of premium hikes and further withdrawals from the already crippled exchanges where an astounding number of counties across the country have already been cut to just 1 health insurance provider.  And, as we’ve pointed out before, higher rates = lower participation = deterioration of risk pool = higher rates….and the cycle just repeats until it eventually collapses.

As background, in 2014, House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the constitutionality of the cost-sharing reduction payments (a.k.a. “taxpayer funded healthcare subsidies”), which had not been appropriated by Congress.  Republicans won the initial lawsuit but the Obama administration subsequently appealed and now Trump’s administration can decide whether to pursue the appeal or not.

One key to insurers selling plans in the marketplace are reimbursements they receive called cost-sharing reductions. These aren’t the same as the tax credits that people receive to help pay their premiums; it is financial assistance to help low-income people pay their out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles. The Congressional Budget Office projected those payments would add up to $7 billion this year and $10 billion in 2018.

But for insurers, there’s a question over how long that money will be delivered, due to an ongoing political and legal dispute about whether the cost-sharing money should be distributed at all.

In 2014, House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the constitutionality of the cost-sharing reduction payments, which had not been appropriated by Congress. The lawmakers won the lawsuit, and the Obama administration appealed it. Late last year, with a new administration on the other end of the suit, the House sought to pause the proceedings — with a deadline for a status update in late May.

The Trump administration and House lawmakers have to report to the judge this spring. If the Trump administration drops the appeal, it would mean the subsidies would stop being paid — a huge blow to the marketplaces and millions of people. If lawmakers wanted the payments to continue, they would have to find a way to fund them. One opportunity for that is coming up fast, the continuing resolution that must be passed by April 28. If the Trump administration continues the lawsuit, it will be in the odd position of fighting its own party.

The CBO estimates the payments would total roughly $10 billion in 2018.

As we’ve noted before, several large insurers, including UnitedHealth Group and Aetna, have already made the decision to exit Obamacare due to financial losses.  Now, Molina Healthcare is also pondering whether it would be able to continue to participate in the absence of federal subsidies.

Big insurers like UnitedHealth Group and Aetna have mostly left the individual market over the years, citing financial reasons. Several counties across the country only have one insurer offering ObamaCare plans.

Now Molina Healthcare is signaling it may downsize its presence in the market, or pull out altogether, if Congress or the administration doesn’t act to stabilize it. Molina has 1 million exchange enrollees in nine states this year.

“We need some clarity on what’s going to happen with cost-sharing reductions and understand how they’re going to apply the mandate,” said Molina CEO Dr. Mario Molina.

Asked if Molina would leave ObamaCare if the payments are stopped, the CEO said: “It would certainly play into our decision. We’ll look at this on a market-by-market basis. We could leave some. We could leave all.”

Mario Molina, chief executive of Molina Healthcare, predicted that if the cost-sharing reductions are not funded, it could result in premium increases on the order of 10 to 12 percent.

While all this uncertainty swirls, health insurers must decide — soon — whether to make rate filings to sell insurance in 2018. The deadline varies by state, but for those that have marketplaces run by the federal government, it is June 21. Filing doesn’t mean that insurers will participate; they’ll have months more to negotiate and could still drop out. But it’s the first step toward offering plans in 2018 and should provide a signal about what the marketplaces are likely to look like.

Meanwhile, it seems pretty likely that Obamacare couldn’t survive another collapse in coverage like we saw in 2017 (charts per the New York Times):

2016 healthcare insurance carriers by county:

Obamacare 2016

 

2017 healthcare insurance carriers by county:

Obamacare 2017

 

The first step is admitting you have a problem.