Sep 13 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“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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Bernie Sanders: Why We Need Medicare for All

This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about. [..]

The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex. Layers of bureaucracy associated with the administration of hundreds of individual and complicated insurance plans is stunningly wasteful, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we spend tens of billions more than we should.

The solution to this crisis is not hard to understand. A half-century ago, the United States established Medicare. Guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular. Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.

David Leonhardt: New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: There they go again.

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators plan to release a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It comes from Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and they will market it as a bill that gives states the flexibility to create the system that they want.

But that’s deeply misleading. While it would theoretically give states more flexibility, the bill would mostly rob states of money to pay for health insurance — and millions of Americans would lose coverage as a result. Think of it this way: Every reader of this newsletter has the theoretical flexibility to buy a private jet.

Cassidy-Graham, as the bill is known, ends up looking remarkably similar to previous repeal attempts. It would likely result in 15 million Americans losing their insurance next year and more than 30 million losing it a decade from now (based on analyses of an early version of the bill, which was similar to previous Republican health bills). “The similarities are more striking than the differences,” Aviva Aron-Dine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told me.

Dean Baker: Welfare for Wall Street: Fees on Retirement Accounts

The virtues of the defined pension system can be exaggerated, although recent research indicates it provided more retirement income than we had recognized. Workers who changed jobs frequently or worked part-time rarely qualified for pension coverage. This excluded many women, African American and Latino workers. But for those who were eligible the defined benefit system provided a substantial degree of retirement security.

That is not the case with the system of 401(k)s and IRA(s) that replaced the defined benefit system. Many workers are never able to put enough into their retirement plans to accumulate much towards retirement. In addition, there is no way to completely avoid the risk that the stock market can take a plunge as workers approach retirement. And some people will inevitably make bad investment choices.

However, there is one item that can be controlled. This is the fees that workers pay on the money they have in these accounts. These fees average 1 percent a year on the almost $6 trillion in 401(k) accounts managed by employers. There is a wide range for the fees on the $8 trillion held in IRAs, but many people pay more than 1 percent annually on these accounts as well.

Heather Digby Parton: Register Voters Like Guns? Trump’s Bogus “Voter Fraud” Commission Is Just Trolling the US

It’s pretty much beyond dispute at this point that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in a number of different ways. The extent of the damage, and whether or not the Trump campaign and other Republicans who were clearly the beneficiaries helped them do it, is still unknown. In the past it would have been automatic for the government to establish a blue-ribbon commission to investigate and make recommendations about how to prevent such events in the future. The 9/11 Commission comes to mind. That obviously is not happening now. In fact, the president is doing everything he can to prevent any investigations at all.

Never let it be said that Donald Trump isn’t concerned about the integrity of our elections, however. He is convinced that he was the victim of an unprecedented tidal wave of election fraud amounting to millions of illegal votes, all cast for his opponent in 2016. Determined to prove that he was cheated out of the popular vote, he immediately convened his Election Integrity Commission to look into the matter. It’s led by vote suppression zealot, Kansas Secretary of State and paid Breitbart columnist Kris Kobach, the man who wrote the template for Arizona’s odious “show me your papers” law that was struck down by the courts.

William Rivers Pitt: To Serve Himself, Trump Just Set the GOP on Fire

There has never been one moment, not one, when I believed Donald J. Trump would develop even marginal leadership skills once he became president. I never expected the much-ballyhooed “pivot” that would come just as soon as he realized how serious his job is and that we all might die if he screws up. The thought frankly never occurred to me. Waiting for a 71-year-old plutocrat to “mature” is not a high-yield use of my day. This is the guy who shouted, “Have a good time, everybody!” at a building filled with Harvey refugees.

Which is what made Wednesday so thoroughly fascinating. The man with the political instincts of a lobbed brick somehow closed out the day with a multi-dimensional checkmate maneuver that took down a number of large birds with one throw. The fact that Trump’s motives were entirely self-involved only adds frosting to the cake.