Joan McCarter

Collins closes out campaign badly, with a blown debate and shadows over her campaign funding

Sen. Susan Collins, the embattled Maine Republican, is not closing out the final week of her campaign with glory. Pretty much the opposite, in fact. In the final debate with Democrat Sara Gideon Wednesday night, Collins totally blew off the existence of systemic racism in Maine. Granted, Maine is pretty darned white, but it's not that white. There's a sizable population of refugees and immigrants in the state. So when Susan Collins, their senator, says "I do not believe systemic racism is a problem in the state of Maine," and "it's clear that in some parts of our country there is systemic racism or problems in police departments" but "we are very fortunate in the state of Maine because we have terrific members of law enforcement," she might seem just a little bit out of touch to those residents.

Especially compared to Gideon. "It doesn't matter how white our state is—it still exists. When we look at the incidences, for example, of the number of people of color who here in the state of Maine had a positive COVID infection rate and how outsized that was compared to the rest of the population. We see it in terms of access to education for people of color, access to health care, rates of poverty, rates of incarceration, and we do have to do something about it," Gideon said. That's the answer of someone living in the 21st century and not in a Republican bubble. And not someone who is being bankrolled by private equity firms. That's the other bad bit of press Collins has gained for herself this week.

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ProPublica reports that she is the "No. 1 Senate recipient of private equity donations." Which isn't a good look. It's even worse when her work on the 2017 GOP Tax Scam is reviewed. Collins, trying to justify what was going to be her total capitulation in voting for the bill, offered an amendment the day before the vote to expand a child care tax credit, paid for by ending a tax break for the private equity industry. Within hours, though, she backed down and withdrew the amendment. "Her retreat was a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell," ProPublica reports. "Collins put aside her opposition and voted for the bill, which passed 51-49." Her decision to yank the amendment, and how the private equity industry prevailed, has remained a mystery.

But now we have a clue: the more than half a million dollars she's received from the private equity industry in this cycle for her reelection. There's also the $2 million Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone, has given to one of the Collins Super PACs as well as the $20 million he's giving to another Super PAC supporting Collins and other Republican Senate candidates. Tax experts told ProPublica that Collins amendment probably would have cost Schwarzman tens of millions in taxes. So lucky him that Collins changed her mind about that. Another donor to the Collins 1820 PAC is Ken Griffin, who's given $1.5 million. Griffin heads up the hedge fund giant Citadel. So his potential tax liability would have been significantly rosier without Collins' amendment to close the carried interest loophole.

Remember way back in 2017 when Collins was insisting that she was holding out her vote on the tax scam and getting ironclad promises from Mitch McConnell that he'd allow votes on protecting people's health care? And then he broke that promise when he got her vote? And how she insisted that it was still going to happen, that the Senate would have those healthcare votes in 2018? Somehow in retrospect, the millions she got from these hedge fund guys seem to be the promise that really secured her vote.

It's awfully rich for the person who said this in 2018 about a grassroots funding effort against her: "I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh." Please, Senator Collins, tell us all about bribes and quid pro quo. We'd really like to hear it.

Mass exodus at health department will make COVID-19 winter even worse

The Department of Health and Human Services has nearly turned into a ghost town, Politico's Dan Diamond reports, quoting a number of HHS staff who are discouraged, disheartened, and looking for the exits. It's not just the incessant infighting between heavyweights Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Seema Verma. It's not just month eight of a pandemic they've completely botched. It's the losing battles on all fronts, including the great likelihood that Trump is not going to be back in office next year.

At least 27 high-level political appointees are gone already, and if Trump loses, dozens will bail, a senior official told Diamond. That would leave the nation to face what could be the worst three months of the pandemic, November until the end of January, without a functioning health department. "There will be a mass exodus should the election go" against Trump, the official said. They warned that some of the dozens of political appointees still there are busy trying to line up their next job. "I've personally seen people working on their resumes inside the office," the official added. "It's no secret."

"Those jobs are always hard. Those jobs in a no-win situation are extremely hard. Those jobs in a no-win situation, when there's sniping and 'Lord of the Flies' situations, are impossible," said a different former senior official who left in the last year. The departures already include "the Centers for Disease Control's chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and a senior counselor to CDC Director Robert Redfield; the Food and Drug Administration's top policy official, its top legislative official, top communications official and a senior adviser to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn; and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' chief of staff and top communications officer." Even the liaison office at the White House which coordinates the hiring of political appointees has been rocked with turnovers—twice since February.

Trump's efforts to erode the federal workforce by imposing political and loyalty litmus tests has been harmful across the government. But HHS has been in the spotlight all year because of the pandemic and Trump's many, many missteps, conflicting orders, and vast incompetence. "It's pretty shitty to come to work and be accused of meddling every single time something, somewhere goes wrong, even when no political [appointee] knows about it," one official told Diamond.

These political officials—appointed by Trump—are officially off the Trump ship. "Three Trump appointees who left HHS this year told POLITICO that they're planning to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, with two saying that Trump's haphazard approach to the coronavirus was a factor in their decision." One of them told Diamond, "I've never voted for a Democrat for president, but Biden hit the sweet spot. I know he's not too far left and he understands how to make government work. […] And I know he'll never make fun of [Anthony] Fauci in public."

Many are looking for work now, before it all falls apart, because they think they'll be tainted by having worked for Trump in this disaster—a Democratic White House and Senate will put them entirely on the outs when it comes to policy, because they've been pushing such a hardcore, anti-Obamacare line for so long. "'Trump health official' already gives people a certain impression, and that's with the president in office," a former official who left for an outside job this year said, adding that trying to find a job with any of the national healthcare associations would be a "likely non-starter" after the election.

On top of all of this, two key officials who have been prominent in Trump's criticisms—FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and CDC Director Redfield—could be leaving any day now, quitting before Trump fires them. "When you speak to folks 1-on-1, it's pretty clear that everyone has their mindset to 'we're on the way out,'" said one official who's already working on their exit strategy.

Mitch McConnell gloats over what he's about to lose

The Senate is on a crash course to confirm another illegitimate Supreme Court nominee Monday evening, having stayed in over the weekend for procedural votes. That's a sense of urgency from Mitch McConnell totally lacking on responding to COVID-19, even while we're seeing record-breaking new infections and a bleak winter outlook. They voted on cloture Sunday night, 51-48, to advance the nomination to a final vote Monday evening.

Vice President Mike Pence is planning on taking a victory lap and presiding over the Senate Monday night, despite the fact that he is at the center of yet another COVID-19 outbreak in the White House. Senate Democrats have written to him asking him to keep his damn coronavirus-exposed self the hell away. "Your presence along could be very dangerous to many people," they wrote, to them and to "all the truly essential staff—both Democratic and Republican" who have to be there to make the U.S. Capitol function. Like he cares. In fact, the White House is planning another superspreader event for the ceremonial swearing in of Barrett either Monday night following the vote or Tuesday.

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McConnell couldn't control his glee over the prospect of this vote. Over the fact that he has engineered this takeover. "We've made an important contribution to the future of this country," he said after the cloture vote. "A lot of what we've done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come." That's a lot of bravado for a man who is about to lose his Senate majority. He's banking on Democrats being unwilling to reform the courts. He's wrong.

Democrats demonstrated their unity against this nomination by holding the floor all night. It couldn't change the outcome of the event, but it demonstrates a united front against McConnell's unprecedented and unprincipled power grab. Even Independent Sen. Angus King is on board with expanding the court, albeit reluctantly. "I don't want to have to do that," he said on the floor Sunday, "but if all of this rule-breaking is taking place, what does the majority expect? What do they expect?"

They need to expect to lose the majority, the White House, and the court. With Barrett, Republican presidents have claimed 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court justices, while they have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. That's called minoritarian rule, which McConnell and the Republican Party have now embraced, along with what is essentially apartheid to maintain it. They can't and won't win the popular vote, so they have to take over every institution they can by cheating, by subverting the rule of law, and by packing the courts with ideologues who will allow them to do it. That ends with this nomination.

Democrats are ready. "McConnell is clearly betting against the Democrats mustering the resolve to ever alter the structure of the court," Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, told NBC News. "Given how far the movement to add seats has already come in just two years, and how likely it is for this 6-3 court to produce rulings threatening progressive priorities, I think it's an unwise bet," he said. Fallon is a former aide to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, so he's not just talking out his hat. "It's a travesty for the Senate, a travesty for the country, and it will be an inerasable stain on this Republican majority forevermore," Schumer said on the floor. It will fuel a backlash.

Understanding that, embattled Republican Sen. Susan Collins both voted with Democrats against cloture, and will vote against Barrett. Not on the merits of the nominee, she stressed, but because the vote is coming so close to the election. That's Collins trying to split the baby—assure Republicans that she's totally on board with this ideologically, but tell Democrats she's all about fairness. A little too little and way too late for Collins to pull this one out. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is no better. She voted against cloture as well, in muted opposition to the timing of the confirmation. But she's going to be a yes on confirmation. Murkowski is running for reelection in 2022, so you can bet that's a maneuver to stave off another challenge from the right in Alaska. That's her setting herself up to be the Collins of 2022—the backlash from the left will be swift and massive.

Trump gives Biden a gigantic gift by admitting what he wants to do to Obamacare

Trying to figure out what is going on in Donald Trump's head is truly an exercise in futility, and today it's just downright bonkers. Apparently Trump believes that sharing snippets of Leslie Stahl's attempt to interview him for 60 Minutes is going to show that ... she's mean and he's brilliant? Is there really no one in the White House who is willing to tell him when he has a really, really bad idea?

It's a tremendous gift to Joe Biden, though, that Trump decided to release these videos in plenty of time for them to be a factor in Thursday's debate. Especially when it comes to the Supreme Court and Obamacare. "I hope that they end it," he said. "It will be so good if they end it." Serving it up on a silver platter there. But there's more. "It'll be so good if they end it," he said, "because we will come up with a plan." Stahl: "Will?"

That's after Trump insisted that his plan "is fully developed; it's going to be announced very, very soon." It's not. Because the only thing that has ever mattered is that President Barack Obama's signature achievement be erased. There is no plan. There never will be a plan. He never meant for there to be a plan.

Republicans are in disarray as Pelosi and Mnuchin inch closer to a deal

It's been 159 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 21 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which Mitch McConnell has refused to take up. It is 12 days until the election and Senate Republicans "fume" about the fact that negotiations are still happening between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The problem apparently is that Mnuchin's efforts makes them look even worse than they already do on the crisis, since they are perfectly content to follow Mitch McConnell and block real relief in favor of symbolic, futile gestures. Here's at least one person in the administration actually taking the crisis seriously and acting when his boss says "go big." They are reportedly "growing increasingly frustrated" with Mnuchin because "he makes what they see as unacceptable compromises in his quest for a stimulus deal." For example, "reducing payments that Republicans wanted to go to farmers so that some of the money would go for food boxes instead, according to two people involved in the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the developments." How dare he try to keep people from going hungry in this pandemic!?!?! What kind of a Republican is he?!?!?!

A Republican aide willing to be quoted but not by name said "Fair to say the feeling is he's giving away the store. No one is surprised, but yes frustrated. The idea that our conference is going to go along with whatever bad deal he cuts with Pelosi is completely unrealistic." Meanwhile, four in ten families with children are having a hard time meeting household expenses. That makes for somewhere between 7 and 11 million children not getting enough food to eat. And they're worried about giving Pelosi a "win."

So here's Donald Trump, as Pelosi says, wanting this to happen. "The president wants a bill. The president wants a bill. And so that's part of the opportunity that we have," she said Thursday. Republicans are trying to stop a deal that Trump wants. They don't want to have to vote on it before the election and if a deal is reached, they won't have much choice because they'll look even worse if they don't.

They've already decided Trump is toast, and they want to make sure they're positioned to make life as hellish as possible for Joe Biden starting January 20, with an absolutely wrecked economy and their own deficit peacock credentials burnished. Senate Republicans are taking it all out on Mnuchin, but they are actively thwarting Trump's will, which is a pretty remarkable thing to be happening 12 days before an election when the White House and their majority is under serious threat. That's not her problem, says Pelosi. "I can't answer for the disarray on the other side," she said. "It's up to him [Trump] to deliver what can happen on the Senate side."

Ted Cruz still thinks he can be president

With an eye toward his 2024 presidential ambitions, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is staking out his extreme right territory and once again trying to make waves. He's got half a dozen senators signed onto a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent a change in the size of the Supreme Court. Yes, he only has five other senators, and yes a constitutional amendment requires support of two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and three-quarters of the individual states. He has a second proposal that would be less stringent, requiring a supermajority in the Senate to consider making changes in the size of the courts.

"Make no mistake, if Democrats win the election, they will end the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court, expanding the number of justices to advance their radical political agenda, entrenching their power for generations, and destroying the foundations of our democratic system," he said as his party is about to ram a radically conservative, unqualified ideologue onto the Supreme Court where she'd potentially be positioned to help Donald Trump cling to office by subverting the will of the people. Cruz added that "We must take action before Election Day to safeguard the Supreme Court and the constitutional liberties that hang in the balance." That's not likely to happen, since McConnell wants to do one thing above all—get Barrett on the court—and then leave town for the remainder of the campaign.

Cruz doesn't really care about this happening, before or after the election. This isn't about the sanctity of the courts. It's about Ted Cruz wanting to be president and taking whatever hard line he thinks will get the Republican base behind him. How do we know? Here's Ted Cruz in 2016, when he wasn't just justifying the Republican blockade against President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, but about blocking a potential President Hillary Clinton's nominees: "There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That's a debate that we are going to have."

It wasn't a problem to change the size of the court four years ago, not if it meant fulfilling the number one goal of the extremist Republicans, a goal that's now within their reach—a wack-job Supreme Court majority. We've seen the lengths they'll go to to gain that, and presuming a miracle doesn't happen and Barrett advances, to preserve that. This effort from Cruz is part and parcel of that.

But it's mostly Cruz claiming his spot as Trump's inheritor for 2024, knowing that the courts will remain the key objective of those setting the Republican agenda: corporate interests and far-right evangelicals. That's where the money and the base voters, respectively, all come from. Which is one more reason for Democrats to blow it all up in 2021—get rid of the filibuster and expand the courts and cut Cruz off at the knees, figuratively.

Mitch McConnell just took ownership of any failure to get more COVID relief

It's been 157 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 19 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which Sen. Mitch McConnell has refused to take up. It is 14 days until the election, and McConnell just told the White House to stop negotiating for a deal.

There's been a concerted effort by the Washington, D.C. press, with an assist from some Democratic bros, to pin the lack of a deal on Pelosi. If she'd just taken the poisoned $1.8 trillion the White House had on offer, they say, this would have been done. That's totally ignoring the malevolent force that is McConnell, who has been refusing any substantive aid since March. For eight months. Now he's owning that fact.

The Washington Post reports McConnell told his Republican conference in Tuesday's weekly luncheon that he had "warned the White House not to make a big stimulus deal before the election," and that Pelosi was not negotiating in good faith with Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin, but was instead trying to find a way to derail the quick confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Which is ridiculous. There are plenty of simpler ways she could do that. Like bringing up and passing more resolutions of disagreement with White House regulations under the Congressional Review Act and sending them to the Senate, where they would be privileged. Or impeaching any number of Trump's cabinet or appointees (like Postmaster General Louis DeJoy) who have given ample reason for it. Those would also be privileged.

Instead, Pelosi has been wrangling her own members, spending hours on the phone with Mnuchin, and talking to the press on a daily basis about the status of negotiations. McConnell has sat on the sidelines throwing spitballs when he's not chortling over his success in stonewalling critical assistance to a nation in a pandemic. He's still putting it on the back burner, telling reporters after the lunch that if Pelosi and the White House come to an agreement, he'd bring it to the Senate floor "at some point," refusing to say he'd act on it before the election. Because he doesn't give a damn about anything other than Barrett on the court and the slim possibility that what's shaping up to be a sound Trump defeat could be challenged there.

Pelosi and Mnuchin are still talking—they had about an hour-long conversation on Tuesday and agreed to talk again on Wednesday, after Pelosi backed away somewhat from the deadline she set for a deal by Tuesday. Before their latest call, Pelosi told reporters that specific language has to decided by the end of this week for a preelection vote, and that she was "optimistic" despite key differences still remaining. Those differences are the liability protections for businesses that McConnell has insisted on and which House Democrats flatly refuse, and aid to state and local governments.

That means that the White House and Pelosi are agreed on actual assistance to actual people in the form of stimulus checks and expanded unemployment insurance. The things McConnell has been refusing for months. They have made enough progress that Pelosi has delegated some of the specifics of spending to her appropriations leadership, asking them to work out language with their ranking members, though those Republicans are less amenable to negotiation than Mnuchin and, presumably, Trump, who keeps clamoring in the background for a big, big stimulus that he can claim before Nov. 3. Pelosi's spokesman reported that after Tuesday's conversation, Pelosi and Mnuchin found "more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement," and that they both "see that decisions could be reached and language could be exchanged, demonstrating that both sides are serious about finding a compromise." They're going to talk again on Wednesday.

With Trump supposedly "very bullish" on getting a deal, according to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows—the least likely guy to want to help the negotiations—there's every reason for the two to keep pushing and to keep the pressure on Senate Republicans. McConnell has now taken total ownership of an eventual failure by rejecting a deal even before it's done, so Pelosi has nothing to lose.

Watch: Pete Buttigieg nails another Fox News interview — right when it matters most

Editor's note: This story, syndicated from Daily Kos, incorrectly stated that Pete Buttigieg was the "first openly gay candidate for a major party." In fact, Fred Karger ran as an openly gay man for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and appeared on the ballot in six states.

Former Democratic presidential hopeful and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg has made a pretty regular and exciting appearance on Fox News Sunday lately. As a surrogate for the Biden-Harris ticket, Buttigieg is doing some important work in reaching Fox News viewers. Though as a presidential candidate he had substantially different views from both Harris and Biden (as is normal and expected among candidates), this Sunday he talked to Fox News host Chris Wallace about unity—and how the wide spectrum of progressives and moderates backing Biden just confirms how important this election is.

"Look how unified we are now," Buttigieg told Wallace. "You've got Democrats from across the spectrum from the left to the center joining with independents and Republicans because we can all see what's at stake here. I can't think of an election in modern history where the choice has been this stark and I know what side I'm on." Buttigieg also talked about one of the most personal reasons he fears Judge Amy Coney Barrett joining the U.S. Supreme Court. Let's look at the clips below.

First, here is that clip about unity.

"Of course there's an enormous amount of frustration that this Senate can't even bring itself, with Mitch McConnell, to vote through a COVID relief package," Buttigieg stressed. "People are suffering, people are hurting, there's no clear end in sight. There's been a bill we brought to them months ago coming out of the House, they won't touch it, they won't do anything but suddenly they have time to rush through a nomination that the American people don't want."

Here's that clip.

"My marriage might depend on what is about to happen in the Senate with regard to this justice. So many issues are on the line," Buttigieg added, in reference to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision which legalized gay marriage. Of course, this is far from the first time Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate for a major party, has talked about his marriage to his husband, Chasten Buttigieg. For example, he once called out Vice President Mike Pence and said his marriage "moved [him] close to God." On the campaign trail, Buttigieg faced homophobic hecklers as well as sweet children who turned to him for advice on coming out.

Some people like to argue that the personal isn't political, but that clearly won't be the case until human rights, equality, and people's dignity aren't on the line. What can we do about that today? Vote.

Senate Democrats try to save federal workforce from Trump's harebrained payroll tax scheme

Senate Democrats are trying to save federal workers from having big docks in their pay next spring by allowing them to opt out of the mandatory Trump scheme to give them a payroll tax holiday. Trump spent the whole of the year obsessing about "terminating" payroll taxes as stimulus in the coronavirus pandemic, somehow not grasping the basic issue that people who lost their jobs because of the virus aren't paying payroll taxes anyway. He was so intent on making this thing that no one thought would be helpful that his administration finally just gave in and imposed it on the only people they could—federal workers. The difficulty is that they'll have to pay the money back in the first quarter of next year, while we're still going to be in this pandemic.

Democrats want them to be able to opt out and continue to have the withholdings. "During this time of heightened uncertainty, our public servants deserve the ability to choose what makes most sense for them and for their pocketbooks. That's why the President's payroll tax deferral must be made optional," lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, said in a statement. These are the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Trump has vowed to "terminate" payroll taxes entirely, a plan that could "terminate" Social Security by 2023, the chief actuary for the program says. That's if there wasn't a substitute funding plan in place. Given that they haven't managed a substitute plan for the Affordable Care Act in a decade, it's hard to imagine Republicans coming up with a Social Security plan.

Members of Congress have been urging the administration to allow federal employees to opt out—they've done so in both the House and Senate, and private sector employees and employers have been given that choice. Other than the House and Senate, only the semi-governmental, semi-private Postal Service has been given the option. Even Louis DeJoy, Trump's corrupt toady postmaster general, opted out of suspending withholding. Federal employee unions have also been asking the administration to allow them to give the withholding a pass. Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said in a hearing last month that that was a "reasonable" request, but he hasn't acted on it, and he and the Office of Management and Budget have kept the policy in place.

So all federal employees who earn less than $4,000 per biweekly paycheck with get the 6.2% bump in pay, but will have to repay that starting in January, with larger withholdings from their paychecks—the regular withholding plus the clawback. So they won't be able to spend this "extra" pay now because they'll need it starting in January when their paychecks will be smaller. Which is stupid. But it's Trump's big idea so of course it's stupid. "The President's payroll tax deferral scheme is nothing more than a scam on hardworking federal employees—making their paychecks look bigger until the end the of the year when they'll be hit with a surprise increase in their payroll taxes right after the holidays," American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

The Democrats' legislation might be enough of a nudge for Mnuchin to reverse the policy for the remainder of the year, but again, Trump wanted this. He seems to believe that all the federal employees will be so grateful to him for giving them a temporary bonus they'll vote for him or something. Which shows just how untethered from reality the man is.

Trump's plan to send out $200 election bribes to seniors is already falling apart

Remember Donald Trump's big "healthcare plan" from three weeks ago? The one that did nothing except promise a bribe to seniors in the form of $200 cash cards to be used to by their prescriptions? We subsequently found out that he had sprung that brilliant plan on his administration officials, who were tasked with figuring out and implementing what is now estimated to be an $8 billion plan by November 3.

That won't happen, not for the majority of the 33 million cards that will need to be sent, the Wall Street Journal reports. In addition to the $8 billion that they're taking out of Medicare to pay the $200 per beneficiary, this is going to cost taxpayers $20 million just in administrative costs to print and send 33 million letters telling seniors to look for the cards eventually. They can't get the cards out in time to bribe seniors for the votes, so they'll try it with these letters.

It seems they haven't entirely determined exactly who is going to be getting these cards. The WSJ source says that it would be lower-income Medicare beneficiaries who don't already get financial assistance for prescriptions. The money will probably come out of "two Medicare trust funds, according to the administration official. It would run out of a CMS office that tests new models for providing or paying for health care." That program was created to run demonstration projects to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care without effecting quality. Sending $200 to a huge bunch of people without a real plan beyond "give them Trump money" isn't really what the program was designed for. At all. But the administration official is doing his or her best to sell it, telling the WSJ that it "could be designed to test if people are more adherent to medications if they are given a discount."

Of course they're not going into this to try to figure out what's the best way to help people adhere to a medication schedule. They're not going to identify a control group to test against, or conduct interviews with recipients. They're going to spend $8.2 billion of Medicare funding that could have gone to a real program to find ways to improve Medicare and senior health. Instead it's on this folly of Trump's, an attempt to shore up the base of older voters who are abandoning him because he's so fucked up the coronavirus response.

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