Politics and Policy in the Era of Trump: A Conversation on Healthcare, Economy, & National Security

Politics and Policy in the Era of Trump: A Conversation on Healthcare, Economy, & National Security

Good afternoon. Thank you, everyone,
for coming today. My name is Laurie Ebinstein
and this is Ethan Shire. We’re both members
of the Executive Council of the American
Enterprise Institute, AEI, at Brown. AEI at Brown is a group that
started on campus last year and is affiliated with the
national think tank, American Enterprise Institute. Our mission is to
facilitate campus discussion around a variety of
key policy issues and to promote the competition
of ideas on campus. Given the divisive rhetoric
in today’s world, AI at Brown has partnered with
the Watson Institute to bring in two prominent
and influential figures. We would like to thank
everyone at the Watson Institute for their
support, specifically Katherine Dunkleman and
Christy [INAUDIBLE]. We would also like to thank our
co-sponsors, Brown Democrats and Brown Republicans. We are very excited for today’s
discussion, Politics, Policy, and the Era of Trump with Neera
Tanden and Ramesh Ponnuru. Neera Tanden is the
President and CEO of the Center for
American Progress and the Center for American
Progress Action Fund, where she focuses on how the
organizations can expand opportunity for all Americans. Tanden received her
Bachelor of Science from UCLA and her law
degree from Yale Law School. Tandon has served in both
the Obama and Clinton administrations,
and she has worked on presidential and
senatorial campaigns. She has previously
served as senior adviser for health reform at the US
Department of Health and Human Services. In that role, she worked with
Congress and stakeholders on particular provisions
of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to that, Tanden
was the director of domestic policy for the Obama
Biden presidential campaign and the policy director
for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign. She was named to
Elle magazine’s Woman in Washington Power List and
Politico magazine’s Politico 50, an annual list
of the top thinkers, doers, and visionaries
in American politics. Ramesh Ponnuru is
a senior editor for National Review, a columnist
for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American
Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the
National Review Institute. Ponnuru graduated summa
cum laude from Princeton with a degree in history. Ponnuru has published articles
in numerous newspapers, including The New York Times,
The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and
The Financial Times. He has appeared on numerous
television news programs and appears regularly as
a guest on PBS News Hour and Face The Nation. Today’s discussion
is streaming live and we’ll ask about
45 minutes and then we’ll have another 45
minutes for questions. We are very fortunate
to have Brown’s own Ed Steinfeld to facilitate
today’s conversation. Professor Steinfeld is Director
of the Watson Institute for International
and Public Affairs, a professor in the Political
Science Department, and director of the
China Initiative. Steinfeld has served
as a consultant to the World Bank, the
International Finance Corporation, and a variety of
governmental agencies, NGOs, and multinational firms. Steinfeld received his
PhD in political science from Harvard University. I have been fortunate to take
two course of the Professor Steinfeld and I’m excited he
was able to join us today. We are hoping
today’s conversation will be both productive
and informative. Now, please join me in welcoming
Ramesh Ponnuru, Neera Tanden, and Ed Steinfeld. [APPLAUSE] Thanks so much, Laurie and
Ethan and thanks especially, Ramesh and Neera for
joining us today. Let me just say
something quickly about my own views
regarding academic freedom. To me, academic freedom
most fundamentally is about rational discourse,
rational debate in some cases, about a variety of
different ideas, discussion that’s
empirically grounded and discussion that often
stems from a variety of different kinds of worldviews
and political and social priorities. The purpose of the
discussion today is really to be just that,
a discussion, not a debate, and not even necessarily
a competition of ideas. But I think each of the
panelists today, Neera and Ramesh, they certainly
don’t represent a party, but they do come from different
philosophical traditions, a conservative tradition,
a progressive tradition, both of which are solidly
in the American tradition, and both of which offer
interesting insights, the traditions and of
course, the individuals, offer interesting and important
insights into the most pressing policy issues of our day. So what I thought
I would do is, I’ll begin with a few questions,
just to encourage discussion, and we’ll talk for
a little while. And then we’re going to
open it up to you all. So please think of some
questions as we move along. And just the last
thing, for those of you standing in the back
or sitting on the sides, we really do have
seats up front. So don’t be embarrassed. Please come down in
and fill the seats. OK, well, it’s OK
with you both, let’s begin with a little bit
of a policy discussion. And I thought the policy we
would begin with is maybe one that’s receiving the most
attention, has been receiving the most attention in
the last couple of days, the presidential executive
order of a week and a half ago, suspending immigration for 90
days from seven predominantly Muslim nations, and also
suspending the US refugee program for 120 days. I’m not asking you
to say good or bad or to take a particular
position on– I’m happy to do that.
–executive order. I’m sure you both are. There are a couple of features
of the executive order that I’d like you to discuss. So first the use
of executive power, not unique to this
administration for sure, but this represents a dramatic
use of executive power. And how should we
think about that? What are different
ways of thinking about this type
of executive power or the use of executive
power generally. Second, the issuance
of this executive order came in the context of
statements during the campaign by the president
regarding a Muslim ban. And how should we
think about that and how do we make
sense of the statements and the actual executive order? Third, there’s a
separate contextual issue about people surrounding
the president, particular the national security
adviser, who has been quoted as suggesting that Islam is
a political ideology rather than a religion, which suggests
an approach that would remove protection from the
Establishment Clause for Islam or for Muslims. So the question is, how maybe
Ramesh, we’ll start with you. How from a conservative
perspective should we think about the
interaction of those issues, at least as they come together
for the executive order? Well, I think that an unbalanced
executive, an executive that has amassed too much
power is a serious problem in our government. And it’s a problem that is
perhaps more easily appreciated when somebody you dislike
or oppose is in office. And so we had a lot of
conservative complaints about presidential
power under Obama. And the shoe is currently
on the other foot. I think immigration
is an area where presidents do tend to have
a lot of legal latitude. And I think this administration
is pushing that latitude. And I wouldn’t be
surprised, although, so many of my predictions over
the last 18 months have been proven
false, I wouldn’t be surprised if we
end up in a situation where the president’s power
is a little bit curtailed. Because what had
been an open question ends up getting
forced, and the courts end up articulating a
limit to that power. Part of the reason I suspect
that’s going to happen is that this was not a
well thought through order. Trump made his promise
during the campaign to have a on Muslim immigration. Nowadays, I suppose we’re
not supposed to even say ban or sometimes we
are, sometimes we aren’t, depending on how Sean
Spicer feels on any given day. I think the more important
question is whether Trump has tweeted that morning. Right. Yeah, whether Trump is
watching the briefing. And this executive
order, I think, doesn’t bear a rational relation
to improving American security. I think it makes sense only
in the context of trying to save face and make
good on a campaign promise in a relatively legally
and politically defensible way. That’s how I think they
ended up with this order. They did it in a very haphazard
and not terribly competent way. And I suspect they’re going to
get slapped down as a result. On the general
question of whether we should have a Muslim
ban, pretty much the day that Trump announced
this policy, I wrote that I thought that
this was a serious mistake. I do think that there is
a kind of naive rhetoric in which Islam has
nothing at all to do with the problem of political
violence and terrorism. And I think on the other side,
there is a kind of a rhetoric that Trump himself is
more likely to indulge in, in which the world’s Muslims
are all a threat and a danger. And I think we need to have
a more balanced perspective in which, look,
there is a subset, there is a small
fraction of Muslims around the world who do think
that their religion licenses political violence, killing
of apostates, et cetera. And then there is a slightly
larger subset of them who are willing to tolerate
that point of view. We have to recognize that
reality, but at the same time, it would be extraordinarily
counterproductive to push all of the peaceful and
peace-loving Muslims into the camp of being with
them because we have decided that they’re all the enemy. I mean, I guess in many
ways I agree with Ramesh. We probably have some
slight disagreements, but I think fundamentally
the challenge for the Trump Administration is that
it does not actually have a consistent view on
the issue of terrorism. So just in the last 48
hours, the administration put forward acts of terror
that were not covered. All of these acts of terror
were conducted by Muslims. None of the acts of terror that
were done by white supremacists were against Muslims, like the
most recent episode we just had in Quebec, not on the list. Dylann Roof, not on the list. And so I think that adds to
the concern of progressives and many conservatives,
who see this issue is one that will ultimately
make America less safe. I take note of the fact that
it was George W. Bush, who was a strong
proponent of the idea that the United States should
never articulate a case where we’re basically saying
all Muslims are bad or the Muslim
religion is the enemy. Because that, as George Bush
said, and many Democrats have said, would actually play
in the hands of extremists and terrorist groups
like ISIS, who just to be clear, over
the last 10 days or so have been using Donald Trump’s
Muslim ban as a recruitment tool. And so, I think the
challenge for this, and you know I agree with
Ramesh that it was not properly thought through. And you saw
Secretary Kelly today saying he should have
slowed down this process. There were fundamental
questions raised by the process,
in which it seems like Steve Bannon has more to
say than Cabinet Secretaries. And I think you
know I think this is an area in which the
Trump White House, which has very few people who have
ever served in government, and frankly has evinced to kind
of denigration of people who have actually served
before, you know, were trying to rush
something through. And we’re seeing that they
created a big opposition. And what I would say, you know,
I’m particularly heartened by, is the fact that you’ve seen
people throughout the country, not just on the Coasts, but
in Nashville, in Louisville, there are large scale
protests defending the idea that the United States
is a country that welcomes more than one religion and that
we stand against these things. And if there’s
anything hopeful that’s come out of this
whole sorry episode, it is that more and
more people are standing against these policies. These policies
are seemingly less and less gaining public support,
are actually losing support. And you know I just would hope
that more conservatives would speak out against it, not
just conservative thinkers, and you know I take
the fact that Ramesh has been very vocal on this,
but it would be wonderful if we could have some of those
senators who stood shoulder to shoulder with President
Bush, stand up right now and say it’s wrong. One quick follow up about
progressive thought, and maybe some traditional
progressive constituencies, so if we argue
that working class, maybe white working
class citizens are a traditional
progressive constituency, and that set of
constituents, voters, is not terribly keen on
relaxed immigration rules. Apart from the Muslim
issue, the religious issue, what kind of challenge does that
pose for progressive thinkers, to try to both politically
and conceptually to address the
concerns of working class Americans,
regardless of ethnicity, concerns about immigration, and
these kinds of executive orders or any restrictions,
deportations. How do those come together? Well I think we’re
conflating two things. One a Muslim ban, and
then immigration issues. I appreciate that you’re
kind of perhaps moving off one topic to another. But I think if you’re asking
me broadly about immigration, let me say this. I think that the progressives,
the Democratic Party, has to do, should do better,
should try and attract more voters of all stripes. We obviously took significant
losses in this election cycle from particularly white
non-college voters. Hillary did better with
white college voters than any Democrat,
but she took– any Democrat has done recently,
–huge significant losses. Having said that,
my view of this is that I actually think
the work of policymakers should be ones animated by
the challenges that we have. And so, is it the case that– I’ll say this for myself, I
believe Donald Trump campaigned on anti-immigrant xenophobia. Perhaps that was successful. That does not mean that
Democrats or progressives should actually agree to
anti-immigrant xenophobia. In fact, that is how countries
have gone horribly wrong in the past, when the
opposition party becomes cowed by political
success and it does not stand for principle. In my view, we have
to do better to answer the questions that are posed
by people who are suffering. Now let’s say if you actually
look at the election results in November, the
difference between that the actual leverage point
difference from 2012 to 2016 was not income, but
college education. There, Hilary as I
said, did much better. She had suffered
a negative 20% gap amongst white
non-college voters. But I don’t think
it’s an accident. In my view, I don’t find it
to be an accident that you’ve seen this big shift between
college and non-college voters amongst whites, not
amongst people of color, but amongst whites. And that we have an economy in
which for 40 years, not eight not just 16, but for
decades, we have not produced significant
income gains for people who
don’t go to college. Now, we should also
wrestle with the fact that for people of
color, Donald Trump was scary enough that was
not the most important issue to them. So I don’t think it’s all
economic to everybody. But I would say that
my thumbnail sketch of this election was essentially
a kind of wrong answer, in my view, a wrong
answer on immigration made Trump a kind of convoluted,
or too complicated, answer. And progressives have to
have a stronger answer. Now you see Sherrod Brown and
other senators speaking out more forcefully on trade. That’s definitely
an interesting area. But I don’t think the answer,
sorry to be long on this, I don’t think the answer
is to mirror Donald Trump’s xenophobia to
attract those voters. I think people will see
that for what it is, which is giving up
on your principles for political victory. And if there’s
anything I think we’ve seen in the last
election, actually having people think you
have poor principles is more important. And on that note,
Ramesh, to what extent is the American
conservative tradition evolving to encompass or
embrace sentiments, I hesitate to say xenophobic,
but more nativist, tighter on restriction, certainly
less globalist, more inwardly focused. It is that the
evolution or direction of the American
conservative movement? Well, I think you’d have to say
right now that that’s the case. If you think back to
the 1980s and 1990s, support for a relatively
open immigration, policy was something that
was associated with very conservative
figures, Jack Kemp, running on the right end
of the Republican Party in 1988, Steve Forbes
in ’96 and 2000. And then of course, George W.
Bush and John McCain were both, I guess what we now
call relatively liberal on immigration policy. But I do think that
our immigration policy, like our policy in a lot
of areas, taxes being another, it does not look like a system
that was designed deliberately. It’s a system that sort of
grew up, almost accidentally, and that does need
to be rethought. So for example, if you look at
the 2013 bipartisan immigration bill had 68 senators
vote for it, that is a policy that would
have doubled immigration levels over the next decade. Much of that immigration
would have been low skill. I don’t know what
the national problem is to which doubling
immigration, including a lot of low skilled
immigration is the solution. And I think that there is
room to reconsider our policy and move it towards
more of a skills basis, possibly reduce the
overall numbers. Now, this has to be done I think
without scapegoating immigrants who are coming
here for completely reasonable and
legitimate reasons. But I do think that that was
a weakness in our immigration policy that created an opening
for Donald Trump to use them and to exploit. Yeah, I think I
asked the question, you know, is the American
conservative tradition evolving this way, in part because
one answer might be no, that this kind of nativism
and focus on backing off globalism and
tightening the borders is really in neither the
progressive or conservative tradition, that it’s
something different. And therefore conservatives
and progressives are challenged to try to find
some kind of answer to it. I guess conservatives because
of the nature of the present, he’s Republican. Conservatives face an even
bigger challenge in some sense, whether to support
this or to back off. Well, the political valence
of anti-immigration sentiment has changed over time. Like if you look at the
Barbara Jordan Commission that Bill Clinton
appointed in the mid-1990s, a lot of the policies
they came up with, including a restriction in the
number of immigrants or things that would fit more
on the right today, and I think part
of what happened is that the Republican Party
became more dependent, even before Trump, on white voters
without college degrees who tend to be more
anti-immigration. And the parties
have each sort of shifted in response to the
changes in the composition of their political basses. OK, great. If it’s OK, I’d like to
change gears a little bit, shift gears a little bit
to issues of health care, and particularly ACA,
Affordable Care Act. Just by way of
background, I should say that I am a resident
of Massachusetts. And so I experienced something
very similar to the ACA in 2006 with Romney Care. So you know, I think there
are a lot of similarities between what was done in
Massachusetts and later the ACA and subsidies and individual
mandate, and lots of features. And so my question is,
since this, at least the Massachusetts
variant, was done under a Republican
governor who then became the Republican candidate
for the presidency in 2012, maybe Neera, I’ll
begin with you. To what extent is the
ACA really reflective of the progressive
tradition on health care or progressive aspirations
on health care delivery? Well, I mean, I think it’s
an excellent question. I think that the theory
behind the Affordable Care Act was that you had a
progressive bill which was to get more and
more Americans covered, and there were ideas in it
that were more centrist. There were ideas in it
in it’s a version ending that were more progressive,
of a public option. I worked hard on
the public option. Maybe we would have
more competition if it was actually in
the Affordable Care Act. But I think the end goal of it
was a progressive goal, which is to try to get to
near universal coverage. And the fact is that
there are millions of people who have health
care today only because of it, just like there were millions
of people in Massachusetts or hundreds of thousands of
people in Massachusetts, who have it just because of that. What I think is interesting
about the debate that we’re having now on
the Affordable Care Act is how, you know, we as a
proponent of the Affordable Care Act, and someone who has
defended it over the last seven years, it was hard to get people
to support it or focus on it, because the people who liked
it were like, it’s fine and the people who
really didn’t like it were motivated and energized. And now that the fact that we’re
having a debate about actually getting rid of the
Affordable Care Act, you have people who
have benefited from it, coming forward. They’re going to town halls. They’re organizing themselves
in Republican districts. Tom McClintock and
others this last weekend had hundreds of people in there. And the popularity of
the Affordable Care Act is now at the highest
it’s ever been. I mean, it’s usually was around
48 against, 42 for a long time. Now it’s at its
highest of approval, ironically enough, now
that it’s under assault. So it’s hit 50. And I would just note
that it’s at this point dramatically more popular
than Trump himself. And so, I think, I mean,
I think the assault on it or the effort to undo it
has actually now shifted the discourse kind
of dramatically so that people are thinking
of the benefits, like preexisting conditions,
and people under 26 being able to stay on
their parents’ health care, and people, who all throughout
this country who would not be able to afford health care
but for the Affordable Care Act. And hopefully, maybe, out of
this all crazy, insane debate we’re having over it,
will actually try and fix some of the problems. There are definitely
good senators on both sides in
the Senate, who are coming to the place they
would like to fix it rather than destroy it. And I think the fact is
Republicans right now are wrestling with the fact that
it’s actually really hard to do health care policy, very easy to
have slogans, very hard to do. They have no replacement. Ramesh might be
able to provide us an update on what that
replacement would look like, that would actually
pass both houses, but I think the
fundamental debate has shifted dramatically. Ramesh, you’re
welcome to describe what the replacement looks
like, but I won’t let you on the spot to do that. I will ask you sort of an
analogue to the question I asked Neera. From a conservative perspective,
what’s wrong with it? ACA? Aside from the politics of which
president but fundamentally, what’s wrong with the thing? So we, I’ve
co-written a 100 page report on what Obamacare
Replacement ought to look like. And so I’ll now
summarize that in detail. How much time? No. Well, Neera’s identified
some of the obstacles to actually making policy, on
the conservative side on this. The biggest one is that
they’re actually governing now. They’re not just
taking potshots. The other thing
though that I think deserves a little highlighting. It seems to me that the
central political fact of health care for decades has
been public fear of disruption in their health
care arrangements. And that’s what ultimately sank
the Clinton attempt to reform health care in the mid-1990s. It was how President Obama
during the 2008 campaign made a lot of hay,
spent $44 million in ads against John McCain
because his plan was going to disrupt health care. The biggest problem Obamacare
had when Obama was president was those
cancellations of plans. And now this is a problem for
the Republican replacement attempts. How do you do it without
threatening the benefits that people already have? I think there are ways to do
that, but that would run up– actually doing that would run up
against yet another constraint and another problem is that
it would require Republicans to think about health care. And as I’ve been working
on this over the years, there is a real
resistance to that, Republican politicians
are willing to do just about anything to stop Obamacare
except think about health care. Can I just ask about
philosophical resistance, other words, the kind of get
your government fingers out of my life. That’s a reasonable
philosophical position. Is that what really is driving? Yeah, but it’s not like they
want to get rid of Medicare. I mean we can argue about that. They don’t want to
get rid of Medicaid. They don’t want to get
rid of the tax break for employer provided
health insurance. Is that the next issue,
because they are already complaining that there are
people who would like to. So happy to move on to that. There are those of us who would
like to modernize Medicare, that’s true. But this gets back
to the question that you asked, what from a
conservative point of view, is wrong about Obamacare. And it seems to me
that what’s wrong about it is not that it’s
subsidized people so that they could get access to
health insurance. That it seems to me is something
we have been doing for decades, just not in a terribly efficient
or rational way, through things like Medicare, Medicaid and
that tax break for employer provided health insurance. The problem from my
standpoint, at least, is that the model of
a national health care system that Obamacare embodies
is much too regulatory and much too focused on comprehensive
health insurance, doesn’t allow enough room
for catastrophic health insurance that would enable
people to protect themselves against the risk of a major
financial setback that’s related to health care. That, it seems to me is
much of the actual value of health insurance. And it’s something that we’ve
had various government policies that for decades have
made a robust market in renewable catastrophic
policies hard to sustain. And Obamacare has, in some
ways made that problem worse. What I would like to see is a
shift towards a new health care system where we continue to
facilitate people’s ability to get at least
catastrophic coverage, and more if they decide
to make that trade-off between premiums,
deductibles, and co-pays, but the doesn’t put
the federal government in the role of being the chief
regulator of health insurance. Whether they’re
going to get there is a very different question. So I think that within
Ramesh’a answer, you see the kind of central
challenge that Republicans have and that policymakers
have writ large. If you ask people
today and you actually look at what Trump said during
the campaign about the ACA about Obamacare,
his attack on it was that it was too
expensive, premiums were too high, costs were too
high, they’re out of control, they’re crazy, blah,
blah, blah, whatever word he wanted to use that day. And that is actually the
concern a lot of people have, which is that
costs are too high, premiums are too high,
and not affordable enough. Ramesh is absolutely right. There is a strain
of conservatives who have argued health policy
for many, many years, who have argued that the
best way to address the problems in the
health care system is to treat it like
a normal market. What does that mean? It means that individuals
bear the cost of health care, so they internalize the costs
of their better health care consumers. And so the idea of what
Ramesh and Price has a version of this, is
catastrophic coverage in which you have
gigantic deductibles, and you bear the cost unless
you’re in a hospitalization. So essentially like routine
doctor things you pay yourself. Now the vast
majority of Americans don’t think of
that as insurance. They think of that as
not really insurance. And one of the problems in
the ACA, one could argue is that it’s almost like it’s
catastrophic coverage today for too many people. So I think the central challenge
we have amongst Republicans today is that the base,
there’s five million Trump voters, five million
people voted for Trump and who are on the ACA. If you ask them what
their concerns are and what they thought when
they were voting for him, they’ll say, I
believed him that he would give me something better. I would get terrific care. They that their
costs would go down. They say that the
paperwork would go down. They say that the premiums
would go down, not up. And yet Price, in
Ramesh’s view is that we should offer
something– and that is the dominant view we should
offer something in which costs go up for people. Essentially you bear
more of the cost. The government bear
less of the cost. Individuals bear
more of the costs. It is a consistent view
of many conservatives. It is just not what a
lot of people think. And when they actually complain
about the Affordable Care Act, they think it’s too
expensive for people. It’s not that it’s too
little expense for people. Now, there’s Ramesh’s view. There’s a whole group of people
who don’t within in the House Republican caucus, the Freedom
Caucus, who want to get rid of the Medicaid expansion. There are a whole
group of people who think the government should
do nothing on health care and just tear up the
ACA and do nothing. And I want to applaud Ramesh for
being one of the few people– I don’t agree with him,
but he does actually believe that we should do
something in this case. And then there’s a lot of people
who relied on Trump’s promises. And so, I think those three
issues are swirling around and the challenge is that
when you are president and you govern, you
have to make a call. You have to get a
majority or in the Senate, 60 votes behind something. I worked on the
Affordable Care Act. It was a nightmare. I’ll say it, like work
out all these details. Get people together. There’s lots of ugly
things that you have to do. And the problems Republicans
have is that they said, repeal and replace
for seven years. They had seven years to come
up with an agreement about what the replacement was,
but it was always easier to have a slogan than govern. And that is why I think the
change that they will actually accomplish this task in the next
month or two are slim to none. Maybe we can shift gears
just a little bit again, covering up a lot
of ground and I’ll open it up in just a few
minutes to all of you. I want to shift to issues of
gender and reproductive rights. So maybe Ramesh
we’ll start with you. I think it’s fair to argue
that the pro-life position is has now become an
inviolable tenant of American conservatism. And the question
I have is twofold. One, where exactly
does that come from in the conservative
tradition, the sanctity of the pro-life position? And then related to
that, to what extent can other issues surrounding
gender rights, gender equality, access to reproductive
health and health care, are those separable,
and how can they be separable from a
conservative perspective from a pro-life position? Well, I think that the
liberalism, conservatism, the Democratic and
Republican parties have all ideologically sorted
themselves on the abortion issue in a way that– let me put it this way. If you were a very far sighted
political observer in 1965, you might have been
able to predict that abortion would become
this huge flashpoint in American politics. But you might not have
predicted which party would take which position. You might have bought the
party that is traditionally the party of Catholics,
the Democratic Party, would be on the pro-life
side and the party that was traditionally actually
the party of Planned Parenthood, the
Republican Party, would be on the other side
and the parties actually really flipped on that. And to the extent
that now, whereas as recently as the
1980s there was a substantial number
of pro-life Democrats, there was a substantial number
of pro-choice Republicans. And there’s really
nothing on either side. You’ve got voters on both
sides, but the organized groups, the politicians, are all lined
up on one side or the other. I do think that you know,
as many things as Trump was able to violate in terms
of conservative orthodoxy, as many things as he was able
to advertise that he didn’t care about, sort of existing
conservative principles, if he had not staked out
the pro-life position, however conveniently,
he would not have been able to
win the nomination. And you couldn’t win the
Democratic nomination running as you know like Bob
Casey Sr. Or probably even Bob Casey Jr. running on a
relatively pro-life position. And I suppose in a
way, you know, look, I myself am pro-life. And I think it is a natural,
though not inevitable fit, with conservative views about
the sanctity of individuals and individual rights. But of course,
that’s what makes it such a neuralgic
issue is that you can view it from the
perspective of individual rights on either side. And party coalitions that
tend to form and then come up with arguments that
make everything fit together rather than
the other way around. And Neera, I would ask
a little bit an analog. So from a progressive tradition,
where pro-choice is central, to what extent is the
pro-choice position also separable or inseparable
from other positions on gender rights,
gender equality. I mean it comes to mind
because of the experience at the women’s march where you
had groups who were pro-life but perhaps were
excluded or at least claimed they were excluded. So from a perspective from
a progressive perspective over the long run will
the pro-choice position and other gender
issues be negotiated? I agree with Ramesh that
these issues have become kind of central on both sides. If you looked at the
presidential debates, both candidates staked out
the clearest articulation of their views on this issue. What I think is interesting
or kind of a fascinating trend that I’m seeing. what I’m seeing in
relationship to Trump is that unlike other candidates
or other political leaders, he has made gender issues both
consciously and unconsciously front and center in the debate. I’ll just say I am a leader
of progressive organizations. We talked about a lot of rallies
in November and December. There is a giant
immigration rally planned, a lot of ACA
rallies on January 15th and then the women’s march. And actually the
January 15th health care rallies where you had 12,000
people in Warren, Michigan. When we were actually
passing the AC we couldn’t get 1,000
people in Warren, Michigan, but now you know so it’s like
no joke of this size of that. But the women’s
march, I mean CAP was a sponsor of the women’s march. We had an optimistic sense,
like our optimistic sense was that we were going to get
200,000 people on the mall. We got, I believe at
least 600,000 people. I mean, it was amazing. And you could tell
it was overwhelmed, because the speakers
were like in this corner and like most of the people
couldn’t even see the speakers. And there was marches, obviously
all around the country, the largest marches people
have seen in Alaska and Montana and other states. So people would like to call
it a coastal phenomenon. But it’s not just that. And I think actually,
issues around gender are cascading
throughout, not only what Trump is doing, but the
opposition to Trump. There was a great
Washington Post article about how women are becoming
more engaged politically than they ever have. Women are leading
the opposition. More women are taking
political action than they’ve ever taken before. Men are doing more
too but more women are leading in the or more
women are taking more action. And I think that that is the
kind of psychological response to the election itself. I think a lot of women
woke up on November 9, and saw that a person who went
through the entire campaign and obviously bragged
about sexual assault, let’s just be honest about it,
became president United States and saw that as a
psychological wound. I know a lot of women who did. And I think that is part and
parcel of the opposition that’s being created in the country. I will say I’ve been
in politics and I’ve been a definitely democratic
and progressive politics for 20 years now. I have never seen this level
of political mobilization. And just as an example,
I mean, we obviously went through an incredibly
divisive debate about the Iraq war. We never got 600,000
people on the mall. President Bush had
a very unpopular war and then he had
obviously Katrina, a whole host of events. People organized
about those things. But you never saw this level of
mobilization, obviously never this level of
mobilization this early. And it’s weekend after
weekend after weekend. I think we will
see more of this. I think the February
20 town halls– the next recess
is February 20, is a week of recess for Congress. People are now sharing town
hall dates and information around the country. And I think you’ll see more
political mobilization. To come back to your question,
I think that in many ways, I mean obviously like
Trump has like three women in the Cabinet. No Republican has
had fewer women. His policies
definitely do seem sort of targeted towards women
in a way that George Bush, other Republicans,
have been much more focused on attracting both
men and women in policies that talked about equal
pay, other issues, tired to elide the
gender differences, instead of make them starker. And I think that’s
actually affected politics and political discourse. And I think it will do
it for years to come. I have not coincidentally,
a final question that has to do with
exactly the point you just made and mobilization. So it seems to me that
in 2009 or whatever, the Tea Party really got going. And the Tea Party
represented a kind of political mobilization effort
that was insurgent in a way. There’s not a value
laden statement, but just an insurgency against the
Republican Party establishment, and then a movement that
proved quite successful in presidential politics
and congressional politics. And now in
progressive circles it seems with the spread of
indivisible, that document, that there’s an effort to mirror
that strategy of mobilization. So just the last question
I have for you both is, have we entered a new
era of insurgency? Is that what politics is
really going to look like? Is it going to be Tea
Party politics pretty much in both parties and playing out
in the next congressional round of elections and ultimately
the next presidential election? Ramesh. Well, you know, as
far back as the 1830s, Tocqueville writes
Democracy in America. And he talks about
how the United States goes mad during
presidential elections. There’s this kind
of this feverishness around an election. That sort of matches
my experience having covered elections
from ’96 onward. And there’s a real
difference this time and that the fever didn’t break,
that people are still revved up in a way that they weren’t
in say February of 2001, even though you had a Republican
president who had been elected, having lost the popular vote. It just feels
completely different, the degree of mobilization
that we have right now. A couple things
strike me about this. One is that there’s a lot
of negative polarization, that you’ve got two
large coalitions that are united by their hostility
to each other more than they are to anything positive about
their own political leadership. And the second thing
is that in both sides, there’s this kind of conceit
of representing the people. And you really see
this with Trump. Trump’s version of populism
is to present himself as reflecting any in
some way even embodying the popular will. And that’s why the fact that
he lost the popular vote seems to drive him nuts. The fact that his
inaugural crowds were not as big as the
marches against him also seemed to drive him nuts. And it’s very dangerous,
I think in a president to have that mindset. Because if you think you
speak for the people, then your opponents are
the enemies of the people. That’s not a good
mindset for the leader of a pluralistic democracy. Do you read his tweets? He definitely thinks that. Yeah. He does think that. But I do think that
it’s one thing to draw these huge crowds in
opposition to him, but it would be a
mistake to think that the opposition therefore
represents or speaks for the people. We Both sides are really
actually unpopular. There are overlapping
majorities against each side, and you were talking
about mobilization, and mobilization is an
important part of politics. But it strikes me
that both sides now are much, much more
focused on mobilization than they are on persuasion. And that is a recipe for
continued dysfunctional politics, I think. In some ways, I
fundamentally agree. I guess what I would say is
that it’s not clear to me where the energy is coming from. I think one could argue that
this opposition is just, no one puts their pitchforks
down after an election. Or you could say that it was
a very polarized election and we had chants
of lock her up. People said that
Trump was deranged. And there was shock
on the losing side. Yes, definitely shock
on the losing side. And it was an unusual
loss, because you have the popular vote,
the largest differential between the popular vote
and the electoral college in our history. Having said that, I do think
that if Trump had sort of done the things George
Bush did post-election throughout that period, he might
have the kind of popularity. If you look back to George
Bush’s popularity at this point it was like close to 60%. And he’d lost the
popular vote by 500,000 and had a much shakier grasp
of the electoral college. And I think that’s
putting it politely. But he put a Democrat
in his administration, consistently called Democrats,
had them over, didn’t we Schumer clowns, or
Schumer’s a loser and consistently I
think really tried to make a different
kind of effort. Now it may well have
been that Democrats are so polarized
about his policies, and you know, things
like the Muslim ban kind of approves them right. I think the theory of
the first two weeks of the Trump
Administration and they’re backgrounding this
with reporters, is to do so many things so
quickly that they overwhelm the opposition. Or at least that was a theory
until the Muslim ban ran into so many problems. But I think what
ended up happening is that they have
galvanized an opposition. You are absolutely
right that there is not a lot of love for like leaders. But what I think is
actually energizing– you know we have a set
of really divisive debate in our primary over the last
year in the Democratic primary. But I think what’s really
energizing people now is not like where you were, were you
a Bernie supporter or a Hillary supporter, but like, are you
willing to stand up to Trump on the Democratic side? Because people see like
such a fundamental affront to their values, from the
Muslim ban, from just the way he treats the press, by
attacking the judiciary. I have to say
amongst progressives, people are like, this is
an assault on democracy, not just a argument
about how much we should spend on education or
what our tax policy should be. But the attacks on the press,
the attacks and the judiciary are seen as the
attacks on the checks and, some of the
checks that would occur to presidential
powers run amok. And I think you see
voices of the right who have been the
traditional proponents of limited government also
recognize some of that concern. And so I think amongst
progressives today, it’s not an ideological
debate about whether we should have $12 minimum
wage or $15 minimum wage. I hope one day we get
to that, but we’re having sort of
existential questions now about who is an American,
whether people who we previously
thought were American are welcome as
Americans, and really fundamental questions about
what kind of government we have, and whether we have a judiciary
we respect that’s a check or not. And so I think that’s
actually uniting a broad cascade of progressives,
whether how they’ll figure out involvement in the next election
or whether it will come up with a consistent platform. But right now, it’s
very much harnessed as against what
Trump stands for. And I think you’re
seeing people– I mean, I go to protests
too and I now see people– I mean, I’m struck by
the number of people who are like, I’ve never
been to a march in my life. I came to this because I
disagree with what’s going on. Let’s open up to you
all in the audience. There. Are microphones on both
sides of both aisles. So if you’d like to ask a
question, please come on down. Yes. Yes. And say who you are, please. Rod Rockman from the Center
for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, here at Brown and also
at the School of Public Health. My question is for Mr. Ponnuru. You mentioned that
you want to see in the context of
health care reform, more catastrophic coverage and
things that I would classify as middle class concerns. We have two major problems
in the United States that we actually also have
some significant bipartisan agreement on traditionally,
the opioid overdose epidemic and the addiction epidemic,
which is tied indirectly also to the epidemic of incarceration
in the country, which is also a specific function of our
traditional historical failure to provide health care for
low income individuals. We have traditionally
provided health care for women, mothers,
children and the disabled, but not for the poor qua poor. The question then is, how
do we solve a problem that is fundamentally a
function of the failure to provide low income
coverage for the poor, for low income individuals,
who are being pushed into– where the only option they
have potentially for care is in their local
prisons and jails, that is until Obamacare
came along on the one hand. On the other hand,
well, just to throw in– this is tied directly into
Trump’s support in low income communities with declining
life expectancies, tied to their overdose rats. Let’s let the panel answer. Thank you. Sure. I think there’s been
some studies that suggest that the places
the communities where the opioid epidemic has really
ravaged those places were more likely to vote for Trump. Of course there’s a lot
of other things going on. And there’s you know, how
much is deindustrialization contributing to the opioid
epidemic and so forth. So there’s a kind of a
knotty set of issues. On health care, and particularly
health care for poor people, I think that what we ought to
do is allow the non-elderly, non-disabled portion of the
Medicaid population to receive their Medicaid money in the
form of an additional tax credit that they could add on to
the regular tax credit that everybody should be– But this would be money, right? And then you could use
it to buy insurance on the private market that
is superior in quality to Medicaid, which has– look at the difference in
physical health outcomes between people on
Medicaid and people who have no health
insurance at all have been extremely hard for
researchers to actually find. And I think we can do
better by these populations by moving to a
different model, where it’s a less segregated market. Just to answer that, I mean
the challenge with Medicaid is that it’s hard for me to buy
the criticism of conservatives that Medicaid is not generous
enough, when conservatives have basically, at state
level in many states, have made the program so
puny that that’s why it’s not better than private insurance. The answer to that
is not to throw people in private insurance in
the individual market, which is far more expensive
than Medicaid itself. It is to actually
do a reimbursement level at Medicaid, which would
make it more like Medicare, which would make it a
good enough health care plan for people. And I think the
essential fact here is that, just going back to the
original debate on health care is that the good thing about the
debate that Congress is having right now is that it can’t argue
out of both sides of its mouth. It can’t attack the ACA for
being not generous enough or too expensive, but
then come out with a plan that’s actually puts
more costs on people. They are going to have to
own the decisions they make. You’re absolutely right about
the opioid crisis and the fact that a lot of that has been– there are a lot of reasons
that people are using. There is an opioid
crisis, but one of the things that has
been helpful to address it is the Medicaid expansion. And the tragedy
of American policy over the last year, the
last couple of years, one of the most tragic elements
is that if you’re middle class, you can get the ACA subsidies,
but if you’re poor it just matters what state you’re in. Because some states won’t
do it and some states will. And we have study after study
that the Medicaid expansions are actually helping
address the opioid crisis. And that is why some
conservative leaning Democrats, like Joe Manchin, have been
strong proponents of the ACA because it’s actually doing
something in that state. And that’s why we should
actually not rip it apart. And I would just say
once again, There are lots of people who voted
for Trump who are on the ACA. But conservatives have to
remember that those voters believed him when he said– now I don’t know why they
did, but they did believe him when he said they would
get something better, not something worse, not something
nothing, not nothing, something better. And they are relying
on that promise. We’ve done focus
groups with them. They’re like, if he doesn’t do
it, we’ll vote, everyone out. And so we thought it was
all ridiculous when he said, oh, it’s going to
be terrific care. But they believed him. And so I think conservatives
take it at their peril that they think,
oh, these people voted for him so they’re all
fine with whatever we do. They are not. They want something
cheaper, not more expensive. Yes. I am Dave Andrews. I’m a high school social studies
teacher up in Woonsocket. Oh, great, great. I believe our problems go far
beyond Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative. I’m concerned about the effects
of neoliberalism on the US and on the world. What do you both
think the impact of neoliberalist ideology
will be under the Trump administration with sweeping
proposals for deregulation and decreased government, who
will hold entities like Wall Street, the banks, and
the petrochemical industry accountable and will the
wealth gap accelerate and widen under the Trump Administration? Yes. Let me say, I’ll just
be very quick on this. I will say, if you actually
look at the ads that were run. And like Trump ran very few ads. And he did his largest
ad buying in the last 10 days of the election. And it was, you know, a kind
of freaked out ad, but like, obviously very effective. His ad had two villains,
lobbyists and Wall Street. I mean it was also
kind of anti-Semitic. But it was like he
definitely, like he pictured Lloyd Blankfein, Janet Yellen. Who was the third? Paul Krugman? I feel like I’m
missing somebody. But he like a vicious. George Soros. It must have been Soros. George Soros. It was George Soros. It’s always George Soros. A vicious assault. His
rhetoric was a vicious assault on the powers of Wall Street. Right? I do not think that people– I mean, if you
look at those ads, you’d be surprised to know
within a few short weeks of this ads, you would
have six Goldman Sachs folks in the administration. They viciously attacked
Hillary during the debate as a tool of Wall
Street, and then has Gary Cohn in his White House. I agree with Bernie
Sanders about this. This is like the
giant bait and switch. There are a lot of
populist economic voters who thought that they were
getting a person who attacked Wall Street, saw its failures. I mean, he would say this in
the Republican and Democratic debates. And yet, I think we’re
going to get the most kind of traditionally
conservative, undo Dodd Frank, undo regulations writ
large, a tax plan that will do more than any tax
plan in history to favor the wealthy, if it’s
actually his plan. I mean this is a situation in
which Paul Ryan is operating as a block on the inequality
that he would provide, which is hard to fathom. So I think that people
bought that rhetoric. And there were 8% of
Bernie Sanders supporters who voted for Donald Trump. That’s like small. That’s not a lot,
but there were some. Many voted third party, thinking
like they’re all corrupt and now we have Donald Trump. I think it’s unfair
to describe this as a cabinet of Goldman
Sachs executives, there’s also generals. It’s not only Goldman Sachs. I totally agree. It isn’t only Goldman Sachs. Look, I think some of
the regulatory action from this administration
might end up being good. I think that some– like having a congressional
vote on major regulation, for example, is good,
that we shouldn’t continue to have a situation where
Congress can continually pass the buck and all the
negative effects of regulations are things that
they say, oh that’s some agency with an alphabet. There’s no vote
on the Muslim ban. I’m sorry, what? There’s no vote
on the Muslim ban. Right. That’s right. But that sort of gets
back to the same point, which is you need
to have Congress rather than the president doing
all these things unilaterally. And in fact, the places where
Trump is most problematic are places where a president
can act unilaterally. There are a lot of
things that Congress won’t stop, that Congress
wouldn’t have actually done on its own if their
input had been required. I do think that what you’re
calling the bait and switch is probably the biggest
political vulnerability that the Trump administration
is going to have going forward. His opponents, the thing they
should really concentrate on is. You promised this,
you gave us this. And if tax policy takes the
form that you’re talking about, and if they just pass
a repeal of Obamacare and don’t do anything to
take care of the people who benefited from
Medicaid expansion or benefited from
the exchanges, then I think that there’s going
to be a very solid case, and it’s going to hurt
Republicans up and down the ticket. If Republicans are
hurt, is it conceivable that the strategy
from the president is international conflict? So push conflict,
push an external enemy in order to deal with the
potential problem of bait and switch domestically. Well, he is an unpredictable
man in some respects. And that is possible. It’s also possible
that he just washes his hands of these congressional
Republicans and decides, you know, you guys,
that’s your problem. You go win your races. I’ve still got my
solid 37% of the public and I still get to be
in the Oval Office. Yeah, I mean if
Republicans lose, I think he’s just going
to call them losers. I don’t know that he’s actually
going to be like, it’s on me. And every Republican on
Capitol Hill is aware– They know that. –that he can turn
on them on a dime. I mean one of the
things that actually I think is one of the
challenges for governing and for coming up with
a solution on the ACA is that Republicans have no
trust that when things go bad, he’ll defend them. He’ll just attack them. They didn’t actually
support when he was running. But a lot of the people– I mean, a lot of–
so when you look at– And it’s been a problem in
his administration as well. When you have 5%,
so 5% of voters went Obama, Obama, Trump. 3% of voters went
Romney, Clinton. The 5% of voters
went Obama, Trump, you know a lot of
these people were like, he’s not really Republican
because he attacks Republicans. I mean, I think he
thinks that he– and I think House Republicans,
Senate Republicans, you know, he has a very strong hold
on a majority of the party. So that’s a challenge for them. But also he’s stronger in
the party than they are. So like, I mean,
everyone’s a little– you can speak to this
more than I can obviously, but I think a lot of Republicans
are worried about just like one tweet about
crossing him, and then– It’s like the Eye of Sauron. They don’t want it focused
on them through the Twitter. Yeah, so that’s why
people will say, Betsy DeVos is
like not actually– should actually– I mean
[INAUDIBLE] will say, you know, didn’t really show that she
should be nominee, whatever. You know, they’ll
still vote for her because they’re
worried about the ire. But you know, I mean, that
is a problem for governing. Because you sometimes need
to make tough political calls where you have to have cover
from your president and it makes it hard to come
up with solutions. If you’re a
congressional Republican, the challenge is that
this president is both– thinks of himself
as a strong man, but is actually a very
weak presidency, and both of those things create
problems for them. The one thing I
would say about– I definitely worry about some
kind of international crisis or something. I think what happened
in the Yemen attack though is actually
very instructive, which is that there are forces within
the government, obviously forces in the military, who
were like going to dime out what really happened. And that never happened. I mean there were definitely
people in the military who kind of disagreed fundamentally
with Barack Obama on policy, but they never actually leaked
out that he was at a dinner or doing something with
his political associates when he was supposed to
be in the situation room. I mean I thought it was very
instructive that that leaked out, and that the
military clearly was like, if you’re
going to blame us for whatever you’re going to do,
we’re going to tell the truth. You know, one more
thing on that, I am less worried that Trump
will some kind of Wag the Dog scenario, where he deliberately
starts a foreign conflict to distract from
something going on. He may not deliberately do it. I am more worried
about blundering into something because of
erratic and uncoordinated decision-making. Yes. Just to have people really
not sleep well tonight, in the South China Sea,
we’re actually in a situation where there’s our military
and the Chinese military come into close quarters of each
other relatively often. We’re basically policing
international waters, that there is a fundamental
dispute over who [INAUDIBLE]. Now, I think China is
totally wrong about this. But there is a dispute
about those waters. And our military,
our jets, our ships, kind of come in contact
with each other. The challenge is that there are
very few forces within China itself that allow it to
decelerate a conflict. And now, if there
is a conflict, we have to decide whether–
we have to have a sense of whether Donald
Trump can decelerate a conflict, which I
find hard to believe. Yes, thank you. Hi. I’m Eric. I’m a senior concentrating
in math and computer science. My question is for both of
you, but mainly for Ramesh. So as more and more jobs are
being lost to automation, do you believe that
white working class voters and conservative voters
and people without college degrees will support
social programs such as basic income and the
ACA or variants of the ACA? Well, you know, automation– it’s very important to note that
a lot of the campaign rhetoric has been about job
losses to trade. But automation has
actually done more to reduce manufacturing
employment in our country. In fact, our
manufacturing output is as strong as it’s ever been. The reason manufacturing
employment has gone down is because we can produce
more with fewer people. And this is an example of
Trump, and not only Trump, making promises about jobs
coming back that just can’t conceivably be made good on. As to what happens
then, when you’ve got a group of disillusioned and
alienated voters become further disillusioned, I don’t know. It seems to me that the
universal basic income is probably not what
results from that. But I’m not sure where
they go from there. Yeah I mean, I would
like to just say one thing about
universalistic income, which is that I would just
say my view of this is that if you look at what’s
happening in the elections, not just in the United
States, but also in Europe, I think policymakers tend to
undervalue the value people place in actually
the dignity of work. And I think a lot
of voters were angry that essentially
the job they have hasn’t kept up with
inflation or hasn’t produced what it produced in the past. And I don’t think, you
know, this is just me, but I don’t think if you ask
that kind of 50-year-old man, would you like a check
for $40,000 or a job that pays $50,000? I think like 99% of people,
even though the economists will, say you know a job that
pays $35,000 is the same– I mean– Because you get leisure too. A job that pays
$35,000 is the same as a job that pays
$50,000 because you have all this free time,
and blah, blah, blah, blah. But I think like most humans
would like the dignity of work. And you know, I think
that it is not an accident that, in my view, that
this election again, was so fought out with college
versus non-college voters, at least amongst whites. And this economy has done
well for decades for people. Today if you have a
college education, your unemployment rate
is about 2% to 3%. If you don’t go college,
it’s multitudes of that. And your income and
your ability to keep up with standard of living
is just much harder if you don’t go to college. If you look at the
chart of America, like where you’ve seen
growth, particularly over the last years, is cities,
all throughout the country, cities in Michigan, cities in
Ohio, there has been growth. And the places that are
seeing negative growth are rural, exurbans, and
that’s like the big difference in the election. And I think the truth
is progressives– I mean Trump is now in power. I do not think he’s going
to have a gigantic answer to this problem in America. People will continue
to get angry. And I think it’s
up to progressives too to come up with a better
answer for those folks so that we have– I don’t know if it’s
universal base of income or it’s some giant WPA
program or something else. I think the president will work
with you on the WPA program. You know it’s interesting,
it’s so interesting. I mean, we were on
another panel where we had a similar discussion,
the idea that he started with health care
instead infrastructure, is like fascinating to me. He should have started
with infrastructure. But I guess they
wouldn’t let him. But he doesn’t set the agenda. He sees something on Morning
Joe and then he intervenes. That is the model of
presidential leadership that he’s adopted. Let’s take a question
from this side. Hi. I’m Jay. I’m a sophomore concentrating
in computational biology and computer science. So I have two questions,
actually somewhat related to the previous one, the
first one for Mr. Ponnuru and the second one
for Ms. Tanden. Mr. Ponnuru, Donald
Trump has advocated during and after the
election cycle more and more isolationist trade policies. To me, these policies
seem like a ploy to promise a segment of voters
of the manufacturing sector that they’ll get their jobs
back, which in reality, as you mentioned are being
lost all more to technology to being shipped overseas. So how do these
isolation as Paul sees fit into the broader
conservative ideology? And also, Ms. Tanden,
do progressive ideals support higher taxes on
multinational corporations in the United States? And if so, what
incentive does this give for these corporations
to centralize production in the United States in an
increasingly global economy? Thanks. Time’s running short so we’ll– Sure. I’ll try to be succinct. I don’t think that Trump’s
protectionism is a ploy. I think this is one of
the few consistent beliefs about public policy that he
has held over the decades. I think he’s ill informed
and dead wrong on it. And I hope conservatism
rejects his views. But I think he’s deadly
serious about it unfortunately. Yeah, and corporate taxes,
this is the brad challenge about corporate
taxes, which is there is a race to the bottom
amongst countries, just like there’s a race to
the bottom on corporate taxes among states. So I mean, over the long
term, what we really need to do is to have a global
agreement on some minimum taxes or you will always get an
Ireland that will basically cut its taxes to get Apple. Now the European Union is going
after that level of abuse, but if it’s not Ireland, it
will be some other country on the globe. So you’re absolutely right,
that you do face essentially this race to the bottom. And I don’t think the answer
to that is to say, you know, what really needs to happen
is that corporate taxes, we just need to
match Ireland taxes. I think we need to have a
global agreement about that. But I do take the point
that, absent that, companies are just moving around. What’s fascinating
to me about Trump is he has adopted the kind of
progressive argument, which is that companies that do this,
that leave, they pick up and go over, are not acting in the
interest of the United States. That is an argument that
like progressives have made. He’s just going to
attack them on Twitter and elsewhere as a response. Short questions, please. So I’d like to hear from both
of you about your opinions on the responses of
members of Congress to everything that’s happening. Ramesh, I’d like
to hear from you about so far how Republican
members of Congress have responded. The word that’s been
used a lot is spineless. I would tend to agree. And Neera, I’d like to
hear from you about– I thought it was spineless
for Democrats too. Yeah, I’d like to hear from you
about how Democrats in Congress should respond. There’s a big progressive
push to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. And while I tend
to agree with that, because you know
abnormal circumstances call for abnormal actions. I also do worry about the
deterioration of a functioning government and continuing to
solidify dangerous precedents that were actually you know
started by the Tea Party, but that really
hurt relationships across party lines in Congress. I actually think, does laugh,
that the Republican Congress has been a little bit
of a check on Trump, in a kind of passive
and invisible way. Except for Lindsey Graham
and John McCain, what are– I have done all I can
not to laugh out loud. Thank you. Thank you, Neera. Just in the sense
that it seems to me that in general,
and with exceptions, the caliber of the
Senate confirmable people that he has put up is higher
than the caliber of the people he’s put up for non-Senate
confirmed positions. A lot of the people he’s
putting up for the cabinet are people who any Republican
president would have put up. Whereas Mike Flynn
and Steve Bannon and Steven Miller and a bunch of
these other– and Sean Spicer, they wouldn’t have a role
in a different Republican administration. I think that reflects
the fact that they worry about two or three
defections among Senate Republicans. That said, I think that
just as a lot of Democrats were shocked by the
election result, and that’s one reason why
that people have taken to the streets, I think
a lot of Republicans were also shocked by
the election results. And as a result, Trump
looms larger for Republicans than he otherwise would,
given his actually fairly low percentage of the vote. My hope slash thought is that
as the election gets further into our rear view mirror,
that that effect fades. And that in this respect
the normalization of Trump actually works against
him, because congressmen start to reassert
themselves and any Congress, they start disliking
getting bossed around by the White House, even
if it’s the same party. And I suspect that over
time that’s going to happen. So I think on Democrats,
I mean, I hope you’re right about Republicans. I tend to be less optimistic. But with Democrats I
think the challenge is a little bit
of a mirror image, but not exactly the same. So I was at the Senate
Democratic retreat, and people are like,
let’s you know– this was after the march. And it was after Senator Brown,
Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren voted for Ben Carson,
who I might just disagree, that Ben Carson is like a
great nominee who deserves to be heading a cabinet agency. I thought it was crazy that
Elizabeth Warren voted for him. Yeah, so here’s
the thing, I think this is like– you know there
was a lot of anger about that. Because like, why
would you vote for him? And I think the issue here
is, for a lot of progressives and a lot of
Democrats, they do not see Donald Trump as
a normal president. And every day, he answers that. He fortifies that. And like over the weekend,
attacking the so-called judge. And you know, just
his rhetoric writ large against all
kinds of institutions, as I said, he won in
a very divisive way, has not actually functioned
as a normal president. He thinks that’s like
what motivates his base, but the rest, you know,
Democrats look at this and say, like,
danger, Will Robinson. And I think the challenge is for
a lot of Democratic senators, they have a playbook
of what you do with a president,
a normal president. You defer to them. And they are angry that Obama
was treated so shabbily. And so in their mind,
you defer and like, [INAUDIBLE] et cetera. Whereas the base is
like, why are you agreeing to these
crazy nominees? And I think you’re seeing,
with the march and the protests and the town halls. There is an energy out there. Democratic senate leaders
are not leading that energy, they’re observing it. But they’re also recognizing,
and they’re seeing. I spoke with a bunch of senators
yesterday at this DeVos rally, and you know, they were shocked
by his attack on the judge. I don’t know why
they were shocked. But it is making them
think like, this is not a normal debate we’re having. We’re not having a normal
debate about tax policy, a normal debate
over health care. We’re having a debate
about democracy itself and the institutions
of democracy. And it calls for
greater opposition than it otherwise would. And you’re seeing, they’re going
to hold the floor basically for nights on end this
week in order to slow down. Democrats got rid
of the filibuster for Cabinet appointments. So they don’t have the
ability to stop them. But they are going
to hold the line. And you’ll see a bunch of
votes which will be entirely party lines, which you have
people from all the way over here to from Joe Manchin
to Bernie Sanders, agreeing to oppose
both DeVos and Price, which is relatively
unprecedented. We are unfortunately
out of time. So my apologies to
the other questioners. But I truly want to thank
both of you, Ramesh, Neera. [APPLAUSE] I want to thank you for
your insights, of course, your honesty. I mentioned academic freedom
at the beginning of the talk, your willingness to
listen to each other, listen to the questions, really
I thought was a model for all of us about how discourse
should take place. , Thank you thanks everybody. [APPLAUSE]


  1. "If you target an idea through policy, like full employment, a house for everyone, etc., people will game it." Mark Blyth
    Can the same be applied to immigration?
    Also, just call working class Americans stupid, or " a basket of deplorables." At least then we would know you have some balls.

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