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The Weeds: what's really driving anti-immigration politics?

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On the August 16 episode of The Weeds, Vox’s Matt Yglesias, Sarah Kliff, and Ezra Klein discuss immigration reform, cost sharing reduction subsidies in Obamacare, and emergency room billing.

The Weeds crew unpacks the president’s latest response to the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. Trump said there was blame to be placed “on many sides” for the Unite the Right rally during which neo-Nazis and white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters, causing many injuries and one fatality.

Ezra says Trump’s tweets and clunky public statements after the fact were “floundering and offensive efforts” to address the display of hate and bigotry over the weekend: “We are watching a presidency that is repeatedly expressing a view that this should be a whiter country.”

Matt breaks down the legislation tasked with setting new limits on immigration to the US — the Raise Act, which would both cap legal immigration and change the citizenship process to a more “merit-based” formula.

Sarah and Ezra also grapple with the policy implications of a new Congressional Budget Office report on cost sharing reduction subsidies for low income Obamacare enrollees, and the group muses on why emergency room costs are not standardized from place to place.

You can listen to the episode here, or subscribe to the show on iTunes here.

Here’s Sarah and Ezra talking about the Trump administration’s debate on whether to eliminate CSRs:

SARAH: The CBO report really laid clear for me that there's no policy advantage to [eliminating CSRs]. There's no, like, "Oh, we're going to save the government money by not paying these funds" or, "Oh, we're going to make the market work better." You’re going to increase the deficit, you're going to raise premiums, you're going to cause chaos in the market next year. It's pretty clear that this is about making Obamacare not work very well. It's about Obamacare sabotage.

EZRA: I think this is very consonant with, what has appeared to me to be, the Republican Party's actual preference on health care policy for some time now, which is: "What if we had Obamacare, but it was much, much worse. What if we had a reasonably similar structure, but it just didn't work at all to cover people."

In this case, because they've not been able to pass a bill that did that, they're thinking about sabotaging it. So you have the literal same bill, and that bill just works somewhat worse. But the whole thing is almost comical.

One thing that I think is a useful point in the politics of this, is congressional Republicans do not want Trump to do this. They have been asking him not to do this. To just keep paying the subsidies, let them go through a normal legislative process, back off, don't create a disaster for no reason. And Trump is not just defying Democrats, but also, at this point in continuing with this uncertainty, defying Republicans who, if they can't repeal Obamacare … just make everybody miserable and get blamed for it on the other end. But I don't know, this is not policymaking. This is pure — I don't even know what to call this.

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