Ugh: Trump says welfare reform probably isn't happening this year

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday January 08th, 2018

Giving up so soon?

This is strictly a matter of recognizing political reality. Most in the Republican caucus probably think it should happen, but the GOP margin in the House is modest, and it's now razor-thin in the Senate. Most won't cut it. You need everyone. Now that we find ourselves in an election year, you can pass popular items like infrastructure work, but no one who has to run for re-election outside safe Republican House districts wants to touch something as controversial as entitlement reform.

It's disappointing to see it taken off the table just six days into the new year, but I suspect Trump recognized pretty quickly during this gathering with Republican congressional leaders that there isn't the appetite for it. If Trump learned anything in his years in business, it's not to spend your time and resources fighting battles you can't win.

And this one doesn't look like a winner in 2018:

U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders said after talks on Saturday that they would make an election-year push this year for an immigration overhaul and infrastructure spending but that welfare reform may have to wait for later.

Trump was joined for two days of talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Republicans to sketch out a legislative agenda during a year in which they will battle to keep the U.S. Congress in Republican control in November elections.

. . .

Welfare reform, a priority for Ryan and other House Republicans, appeared to be waning as a Trump goal for this year.

He said “we are looking at it” but that the goal was to get a bipartisan deal on welfare reform. If that is not possible, the effort might be left to do later, he said.

Ryan takes a long-term view of the federal budget. He has for some time. And he knows the present budget framework is not sustainable over the next several decades if entitlements are not reformed. That doesn't mean they have to be ripped out and rebuilt from scratch, although I'd say there's some merit to that idea. But to make the budget numbers work, they really just have to be reconsidered in terms of who is eligible, and to what degree, and at what stage in life - and of course, how they're paid for and how benefits are defined.

Medicare and Medicaid would work much better as premium support than with the government directly payng the bills. Even better would be if Washington simply block-granted a given amount in Medicaid funds to the states and let the respective states manage Medicaid as they saw fit. Social Security could be shored up significantly by raising the retirement age, means-testing benefits and doing some modest adjustments to the benefit formulas.

None of this is really all that radical. And if it isn't done this year with a Republican House and Senate and a Republican president, God only knows when the next opportunity will be.

The desire for a bipartisan solution is understandable, and it partly has to do with overcoming the Senate filibuster (in fact, I'd say it's mostly about that), but what are the serious prospects of Democrats coming to the table and supporting anything Trump would be willing to sign? They should be involved. They would have helped themselves tremendously if they had been serious players in the tax cut discussions. But the Democratic Party circa 2018 regards anything connected to Donald Trump as tantamount to enabling Hitler. That's the position they've staked out and they'll stick to it unto death.

Too bad. The country needs entitlement reform to happen. We're in for a fiscal crisis if it doesn't. But you govern with the politicians you have, I guess.

Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!