“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Paul Krugman A Bill So Bad It’s Awesome
It has long been obvious to anyone following health policy that Republicans would never devise a workable replacement for Obamacare. But the bill unveiled this week is worse than even the cynics expected; its awfulness is almost surreal. And the process by which it came to be tells you a lot about the state of the G.O.P.
Given the rhetoric Republicans have used over the past seven years to attack health reform, you might have expected them to do away with the whole structure of the Affordable Care Act — deregulate, de-subsidize and let the magic of the free market do its thing. This would have been devastating for the 20 million Americans who gained coverage thanks to the act, but at least it would have been ideologically consistent.
But Republican leaders weren’t willing to bite that bullet. What they came up with instead was a dog’s breakfast that conservatives are, with some justice, calling Obamacare 2.0. But a better designation would be Obamacare 0.5, because it’s a half-baked plan that accepts the logic and broad outline of the Affordable Care Act while catastrophically weakening key provisions. If enacted, the bill would almost surely lead to a death spiral of soaring premiums and collapsing coverage. Which makes you wonder, what’s the point?
Richard (RJ) Eskow: The ‘American Health Care Act’ Is a Wealth Grab, Not A Health Plan
Donald Trump’s Republicans unveiled their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act this week. It’s a disaster for the health of the American people. But that may be nothing more than a byproduct of the bill’s real effect: to increase inequality and make the rich even richer than they’ve become in the last few decades.
It’s not a “health” plan. It’s a wealth grab, on behalf of the already-wealthy. It’s targeted, first and foremost, toward billionaires who make money from investments rather than by earning an income. The 400 highest-earning households in the country would get an average tax break of $7 million per year under the Republican plan.
Who will benefit the least? Teachers, nurses, firefighters … pretty much anybody who works for a living.
If this plan becomes law the rich will get richer, most other people will lose out, and our nation’s already record-high levels of inequality will become even worse.
Zeynep Tufekci: The Truth About the WikiLeaks C.I.A. Cache
On Tuesday morning, WikiLeaks released an enormous cache of documents that it claimed detailed “C.I.A. hacking tools.” Immediately afterward, it posted two startling tweets asserting that “C.I.A. hacker malware” posed a threat to journalists and others who require secure communication by infecting iPhone and Android devices and “bypassing” encrypted message apps such as Signal and WhatsApp.
This appeared to be a bombshell. Signal is considered the gold standard for secure communication. WhatsApp has a billion users. The C.I.A., it seemed, had the capacity to conduct sweeping surveillance on what we had previously assumed were our safest and most private digital conversations.
In their haste to post articles about the release, almost all the leading news organizations took the WikiLeaks tweets at face value. Their initial accounts mentioned Signal, WhatsApp and other encrypted apps by name, and described them as “bypassed” or otherwise compromised by the C.I.A.’s cyberspying tools.
Yet on closer inspection, this turned out to be misleading. Neither Signal nor WhatsApp, for example, appears by name in any of the alleged C.I.A. files in the cache. (Using automated tools to search the whole database, as security researchers subsequently did, turned up no hits.) More important, the hacking methods described in the documents do not, in fact, include the ability to bypass such encrypted apps — at least not in the sense of “bypass” that had seemed so alarming. Indeed, if anything, the C.I.A. documents in the cache confirm the strength of encryption technologies.
Eugene Robinson: The GOP can no longer claim it believes in fiscal responsibility
It’s time to put an end to the myth that Republicans believe in fiscal responsibility. Saving taxpayer dollars takes a back seat to the ideological imperative of blaming and shaming the poor.
Witness the GOP’s long-awaited plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. House committees are moving forward on the legislation before the Congressional Budget Office has even had a chance to estimate how much the measure will cost. Why the rush? Because if the plan doesn’t snatch away health insurance coverage from millions of people — and both President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) swear it won’t — then it’s surely going to cost a ton.
The Republican plan would take away the ACA’s subsidies and replace them with refundable tax credits based on age for incomes up to $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a married couple. This means a windfall for those who are older and well-to-do. In essence, the plan would expand government assistance to encompass many who don’t really need it — in order to avoid targeting help toward those who do.
The GOP plan would also eliminate the ACA’s penalty fee for not having health insurance, which goes into the public till — and replace it with a different penalty fee that goes to the insurance companies. Apparently Republicans have no problem committing what they once called “extortion” if the benefit goes to private companies, not the common good.
Keep in mind that Trump and GOP leaders in Congress promise that after dealing with health care they will seek huge tax cuts, including for the wealthy. As fiscal policy, how does this make sense?
This week’s rollout of Paul Ryan’s “repeal and replace” Obamacare bill is an excellent reminder of what the country would look like if any Republican other than Donald Trump had won the presidency — not that different. We can now say for sure that the problem isn’t just that the party nominated an crude, unprepared conman for the top job. The problem is that the party itself is a big sloppy hot mess. How could we have forgotten?
Like the old Republican cry of “tort reform,” which nobody really understood, “Repeal Obamacare” became a slogan that would evoke lusty cheers from an audience of partisans. If you asked any of them what it meant in practice, not one could tell you. Not that it mattered. The whole issue was political kabuki once the Affordable Care Act was rolled out and tens of millions of people signed on to it, and the Republicans knew it. Their elected legislators just kept voting for repeals they knew would never be enacted and screaming their empty slogan at rallies to keep their base excited.
When Trump unexpectedly won the elections, after having promised that he too would “Repeal Obamacare!” and “replace it with something terrific” which he promised would happen immediately, cover everyone and be much cheaper and much better, Republicans were suddenly stuck with a problem that had no solution. Now that he’s president, Trump has discovered that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Based on what we’re seeing from the GOP Congress, he’s actually right about that.