Sep 21 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Wendel Potter: Even Business Leaders Are Realizing Health Insurance Companies Serve No Purpose

Polls show a growing number of Americans are warming up to the idea of single-payer health care. Whether that’s a reaction to the repeal-and-replace bills proposed by congressional Republicans or to the failure of the Affordable Care Act to get us to universal coverage (or even reduce medical costs in a meaningful way) is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is that most of us have lost faith in private health insurers and want the government to do more in health care.

In fact, according to a June 2017 poll by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of those surveyed said the federal government has the responsibility to provide coverage to all Americans.

We’ve seen similar poll results in years past. As the former head of corporate communications for the global health insurance company Cigna, I saw surveys on a regular basis that consistently showed a sizable percentage of Americans held private health insurance companies in very low regard and would be happy not to have to deal with them. Those surveys also showed growing support for single-payer health care. In 2007, when I was still an industry executive, a proprietary poll conducted for the industry showed that only 19 percent of Americans viewed insurers favorably. That same poll showed that 77 percent believed Congress “should do something about the unreasonable cost of health insurance and other health care services.” More people favored a Canadian-style health care system than any other potential solution.

What is different and significant this time, though, is that US business leaders are among those questioning our multi-payer system and embracing a system with just one payer, the government. That shift could prove to be the game changer that moves single-payer health care from what many pundits and politicians have considered a pipe dream to a very real possibility.

E. J. Dionne Jr.: Trump shows ‘America First’ is utterly incoherent

The worst aspect of President Trump’s speech at the United Nations on Tuesday was not his immature taunting of a dangerous foreign leader when the stakes far outweigh those of a schoolyard fight.

Calling North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” may make Trump happy by reminding him of the glory days of “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary.” But it does nothing to win over the allies we need.

And his threat “to totally destroy North Korea” is what you’d expect to hear in a bar conversation from a well-lubricated armchair general, not from the leader of the world’s most powerful military.

But the most alarming part of an address that was supposed to be a serious formulation of the president’s grand strategy in the world was the utter incoherence of Trump’s “America first” doctrine.

Bryce Covert: Get Rid of Equifax

Because of lax security at Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting companies, the private financial and personal details of as many as 143 million Americans have been exposed to hackers. We still don’t know what the full ramifications will be; the people who took this information — which includes birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses — could hold on to it for as long as they want and deploy it in years to come.

Many consumers have scrambled to try to protect themselves. To anyone who tried to get through to Equifax customer service, though, it became clear: The company does not care about us. Months before the hack itself, Equifax could easily have patched the hole in its system that hackers exploited, but it simply didn’t.

That’s because we are not the customers of credit reporting companies, but the product. These private institutions hoover up our data, often without our knowledge and consent, and then sell it off to banks, landlords and even prospective employers. The companies rake in some $10 billion in revenue every year. They wield enormous power to ruin our lives — if not through a data breach, then through errors on our credit reports. One in four consumers has an error on his credit report that could affect his scores, yet it can be very difficult to correct the record.

Dean Baker: Janet Yellen and the Fed: Progressives Should Pay Attention

Many people think of the Federal Reserve Board as an obscure and esoteric institution that only those concerned about finance need concern themselves with. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Fed’s ability to set interest rate policy directly affects the rate of growth in the economy and therefore the rate of job creation. This in turn affects the tightness of the labor market, which determines the extent to which workers have the bargaining power to achieve wage gains.

The basic story is that when the Fed raises its short-term interest rate it puts upward pressure on interest rates throughout the economy. It means higher interest rates on mortgages and car loans, on student loan and credit card debt. It also means that companies have to pay more money to borrow as do state and local governments. The result of higher interest rates in these and other areas is less borrowing and therefore less demand in the economy. This translates into less growth and fewer jobs.

Markos Kounalakis: This is the murderous version of Trump’s Muslim ban

Kill the Muslims. That’s how the latest version of the Muslim ban is shaping up. Started shortly after Donald Trump made it clear to the world that Muslims were not welcome in the United States, other countries started their own, more brutal and deadly effective ban.

The Myanmar military maims and massacres Muslims as they run them out of their country. In Myanmar, it’s not enough to ban Muslims; they are being permanently banished. Army regulars are chasing Muslim Rohingya toward and over a recently beefed-up border wall that is a low-tech, high-risk strip of land made of land mines and barbed wire. There is no big, beautiful door in this border wall.

Without mincing words, the United Nations has now declared what is happening in Myanmar “ethnic cleansing.” Yale researchers and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari agree that it looks like genocide.

Enter an expressly “America First” administration as ethnic cleansing returns to the world stage and hits the headlines. Not our problem, apparently. In this new world, Rohingya are as likely to see the American cavalry coming as Midwesterners are to experience Martians landing in Chippewa Falls.