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Other View: Trump's budget betrays 2 critical campaign promises

On Sept. 7, 2016, Donald Trump made a specific promise to an audience at the Philadelphia shipyards: “to build a Navy of 350 surface ships and submarines.” On March 2, Trump, now president, added to the specificity of that pledge by promising to increase the number of aircraft carriers to 12.

The White House budget unveiled Monday breaks both of these promises. It’s a big deal to walk on this pledge, which is why, if the president does not correct his error, Congress should reject the budget and substitute its own plan.

A 350-ship fleet is key for both national security and international stability. China is rapidly growing its navy to fill the gaps left by Obama-era cutbacks to the current level of 274 ships. Reversing those cuts is crucial to preserving American supremacy at sea and supporting allies around the world. And Navy shipbuilding also can be a great jobs program: real jobs in real shipyards producing real ships to meet real threats.

The president’s budget has forgotten these benefits. Breaking Defense’s Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. summed up the details: “Despite his campaign pledge of a 350-ship fleet, President Trump’s first budget cuts Navy shipbuilding and aircraft procurement below what was enacted in 2017, documents released (Monday) reveal. Despite Trump’s criticism of President Obama’s defense plans, this budget sticks with Obama’s shipbuilding plan for 2018: eight ships. And it actually buys eight fewer aircraft than Obama planned.”

The budget includes a few excuses for Trump breaking his pledge: The Pentagon has to do a strategic assessment first, and readiness funds were more critical. It’s true that the readiness funding was needed, as were the missile defense funding and personnel expenditures, but these explanations still barely reach fig-leaf status.

But Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was always a skeptic on defense spending, and now he’s undercut the president’s crucial promises. With this budget there is no way to get the 350 ships the president promised by 2024, and it is very unlikely that a 12th carrier—if it remains authorized and is fully funded—will be in the fleet by 2027, long after the president leaves office even if he wins a second term.

There are plenty of superb plans on how to reach 350 ships by 2024, including one laid out in April by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, and Robert C. O’Brien, a foreign policy adviser to multiple GOP candidates and a once and perhaps future candidate for Navy secretary. Both are friends and O’Brien a law partner of mine, but what matters most are the details proving that getting to 350 can be done—and done quickly.

Of course, neither the president nor the Navy needs to buy into the Hendrix-O’Brien plan, but a presidential promise needs a presidential plan, one Trump has reviewed and initialed, with the mix of ships specified, shipyards identified and construction schedules detailed. The president is above all a developer; developers understand critical paths and why every successful project depends on one. There is currently no plan for reaching 350 ships, eight months after Trump made that promise.

There isn’t a new secretary of the Navy either, which is perhaps one of the reasons the Navy got rolled in both the omnibus spending bill that kept the government going and the 2018 budget sent to Congress. The Navy needs a cheerleader. It needs another John Lehman, who helped makePresident Ronald Reagan’s goal of a 600-ship Navy a reality. And if Trump needed any incentive beside national security and his commitment to keeping campaign promises, he should realize that Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan are both known for the navies they built.

This budget betrays both the promise and the reality of a rebuilt fleet. And for what? And against what background? No political or policy goals are advanced by this skulduggery, and much is damaged thereby. Trump made six core promises in the campaign: A Supreme Court nominee in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia (check), a border wall (on hold), repeal and replacement of Obamacare and tax reform (in progress), an infrastructure program and a 350-ship Navy (both abandoned by this budget). Many if not most of the “reluctant Trump” voters came home to him because of these promises. To break any one of them is taking a grave risk.

Further, to “provide for the common defense” is one of the very few specific purposes laid out in the Constitution’s preamble. This budget breaks the president’s commitment to do that in full, a breach from which recovery of credibility of defense spending promises will be difficult to recover.

When the president returns from his very successful trip abroad, he needs to nominate a Navy secretary and send Congress an addendum to his budget, one with a plan to keep his promises, and the funding to make that plan a reality. If he doesn’t, then the House and the Senate will have to save the president from his own OMB director and fund the 350-ship fleet the country needs.

Other View: The destabilizing 'solution' from the GOP

This appeared in Thursday’s Washington Post.

Republicans sold the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan that the House passed last month, with a number of untruths, chief among them that Obamacare is collapsing and the GOP effort is nothing short of a rescue plan. The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s official scorekeeper, found Wednesday that the Republicans’ bill is no such thing. Not only would it result in 23 million more people lacking health insurance in a decade, but it would destabilize some states’ individual health-care insurance markets for all but relatively healthy people.

According to the CBO, the current Obamacare system would result in “sufficient demand for insurance by enough people, including people with low health care expenditures, for the market to be stable in most areas.” In contrast, under the House’s alternative, the CBO predicts that about one-sixth of the population would reside “in areas in which the nongroup market would start to become unstable beginning in 2020.”

That is because some states would seek waivers from health-care market rules that would allow healthy people to segregate themselves in their own inexpensive risk pool, leaving sicker people with skyrocketing costs. “People who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all,” the CBO found.

This is just one of the effects that would lead, overall, to 51 million non-elderly Americans lacking health-care coverage in 2026, rather than the 28 million who would go without under current law. The bill would hit the vulnerable especially hard: “The increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income—particularly people between 50 and 64 years old,” said the CBO.

Some of the biggest losses would come from the AHCA’s $834 billion cut to Medicaid, the state-federal health-care program for the poor and near-poor. The 14 million people leaving Medicaid rolls would have to look for insurance on the individual insurance market. But that market would look very different. Some states, as noted above, would seek waivers that could destabilize their markets. In other states, the picture is only a bit brighter: Smaller subsidies to help people buy insurance and pay out-of-pocket costs, combined with lower-quality plans being sold, would result in fewer people buying individual market coverage. Anyone who fell through the cracks would be at the mercy of whatever safety net their states put in place to catch them.

Instead of contending seriously with this analysis, some Republicans have embraced the argument of last resort, claiming that you can’t trust the experts. It’s true that, because the bill’s effects would depend heavily on how states react, they are particularly hard to assess. But that does not mean the CBO is therefore safely ignored. The experts could, in fact, be underestimating the pain the AHCA would cause. No one, and certainly not the bill’s backers, can produce more credible projections.

Reader Comment: Postmaster asks for help keeping carriers safe

Dog owners often tell our carriers their dog won’t bite. However, what they may not realize is their dog is trying to protect them; they see a uniformed carrier as someone who is invading their territory and their protective instincts kick in.

The truth is any dog can bite and all attacks are preventable through responsible pet ownership.

Two Twin Falls postal carriers were bitten by dogs while delivering the mail last year. We’re very concerned about dog bites to our carriers, and the many close calls with dogs our carriers face on a daily basis.

Summer is almost here and with temperatures rising and children out of school, postal carriers tend to see more dogs running loose. We’re asking pet owners to restrain their dogs and allow their carriers to deliver the mail safely.

We take the safety of our employees very seriously. We will not wait until a carrier is bitten before taking preventative action. A dog that runs loose not only affects the delivery of the dog owner’s mail, but often the delivery of their neighbors’ mail as well.

Nationwide last year, 6,755 postal employees were attacked by dogs — 30 in southern Idaho, which is more than double the previous year’s 14 attacks.

Here are some critical points to remember:

If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors.

Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the carrier handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.

Thank you for your help with this very important issue.

Letter: Filer Legion Hall wasn't set for demo

Filer Legion Hall wasn’t set for demo

On Tuesday, KMVT ran a story on the Filer American Legion Hall stating the Legion Hall was set to be demolished two years ago. While the Legion Hall had some issues mainly a leaking roof and water damage to one corner of the building, there were no plans for the building to be demolished.

The Filer American Legion Post 47 appreciates all the renovations that the Filer Troop 7 Boy Scouts and their families did to the Legion Hall. The public is invited to an open house on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to showcase the Legion Hall during Filer Fun Days.

Rondal Lang

Filer American Legion Post 47 Commander