mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Who Hates Obamacare?”: Progressives Should Not Be Trash-Talking Progress And Impugning Motives Of People On Their Side

Ted Cruz had a teachable moment in Iowa, although he himself will learn nothing from it. A voter told Mr. Cruz the story of his brother-in-law, a barber who had never been able to afford health insurance. He finally got insurance thanks to Obamacare — and discovered that it was too late. He had terminal cancer, and nothing could be done.

The voter asked how the candidate would replace the law that might have saved his brother-in-law if it had been in effect earlier. Needless to say, all he got was boilerplate about government regulations and the usual false claims that Obamacare has destroyed “millions of jobs” and caused premiums to “skyrocket.”

For the record, job growth since the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect has been the best since the 1990s, and health costs have risen much more slowly than before.

So Mr. Cruz has a truth problem. But what else can we learn from this encounter? That the Affordable Care Act is already doing enormous good. It came too late to save one man’s life, but it will surely save many others. Why, then, do we hear not just conservatives but also many progressives trashing President Obama’s biggest policy achievement?

Part of the answer is that Bernie Sanders has chosen to make re-litigating reform, and trying for single-payer, a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. So some Sanders supporters have taken to attacking Obamacare as a failed system.

We saw something similar back in 2008, when some Obama supporters temporarily became bitter opponents of the individual mandate — the requirement that everyone buy insurance — which Hillary Clinton supported but Mr. Obama opposed. (Once in office, he in effect conceded that she had been right, and included the mandate in his initiative.)

But the truth is, Mr. Sanders is just amplifying left-wing critiques of health reform that were already out there. And some of these critiques have merit. Others don’t.

Let’s start with the good critiques, which involve coverage and cost.

The number of uninsured Americans has dropped sharply, especially in states that have tried to make the law work. But millions are still uncovered, and in some cases high deductibles make coverage less useful than it should be.

This isn’t inherent in a non-single-payer system: Other countries with Obamacare-type systems, like the Netherlands and Switzerland, do have near-universal coverage even though they rely on private insurers. But Obamacare as currently constituted doesn’t seem likely to get there, perhaps because it’s somewhat underfunded.

Meanwhile, although cost control is looking better than even reform advocates expected, America’s health care remains much more expensive than anyone else’s.

So yes, there are real issues with Obamacare. The question is how to address those issues in a politically feasible way.

But a lot of what I hear from the left is not so much a complaint about how the reform falls short as outrage that private insurers get to play any role. The idea seems to be that any role for the profit motive taints the whole effort.

That is, however, a really bad critique. Yes, Obamacare did preserve private insurance — mainly to avoid big, politically risky changes for Americans who already had good insurance, but also to buy support or at least quiescence from the insurance industry. But the fact that some insurers are making money from reform (and their profits are not, by the way, all that large) isn’t a reason to oppose that reform. The point is to help the uninsured, not to punish or demonize insurance companies.

And speaking of demonization: One unpleasant, ugly side of this debate has been the tendency of some Sanders supporters, and sometimes the campaign itself, to suggest that anyone raising questions about the senator’s proposals must be a corrupt tool of vested interests.

Recently Kenneth Thorpe, a respected health policy expert and a longtime supporter of reform, tried to put numbers on the Sanders plan, and concluded that it would cost substantially more than the campaign says. He may or may not be right, although most of the health wonks I know have reached similar conclusions.

But the campaign’s policy director immediately attacked Mr. Thorpe’s integrity: “It’s coming from a gentleman that worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s exactly what you would expect somebody who worked for B.C.B.S. to come up with.” Oh, boy.

And let’s be clear: This kind of thing can do real harm. The truth is that whomever the Democrats nominate, the general election is mainly going to be a referendum on whether we preserve the real if incomplete progress we’ve made on health, financial reform and the environment. The last thing progressives should be doing is trash-talking that progress and impugning the motives of people who are fundamentally on their side.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 5, 2016

February 6, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Bernie Sanders, Obamacare, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Trouble With Bernie Sanders’s Revolution”: Little Chance Of Getting His Agenda Through Congress

We’ll know Monday night whether Bernie Sanders has taken the first step toward the revolution he has promised, but we can already say that his campaign has achieved stunning success, more than almost anyone thought was possible. Now that the voting is beginning and Democratic voters have to make their choice, we should take a good hard look at what Sanders wants to do and how he wants to do it. Whatever the results of the Iowa Caucuses, he’s a serious candidate, and his candidacy should be engaged on serious terms.

If there’s one word that Sanders uses more than any other when describing what he wants to do (other than “billionaires”), it would have to be “revolution.” He uses it in two different ways, both to describe the movement for change he wants to lead in the campaign, and the substantive change that movement will produce. So his revolution will both overthrow the old order and replace it with something new.

Even if Sanders began this race by trying to make a point, he’s now trying to win. So it’s worth taking the goals of his revolution, like single-payer health insurance, free college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and asking what the process will be between him being elected and those goals being achieved.

By now, Sanders has been asked the logical question—This is pretty ambitious stuff, how are you going to pass it through Congress?—many times. The answer he gives is always some version of Because this is going to be a revolution. In other words, his candidacy will so mobilize the American people that Congress will be forced to acquiesce to the public’s desire to see his agenda enacted.

But let’s get more specific than Sanders does. If his revolution is to succeed, it must do so through one of two paths:

  1. It elects so many Democrats that the party regains control of both the House and the Senate, and those Democrats support Sanders’s policy agenda with enough unanimity to overcome any opposition; or
  2. It so demonstrates the public demand for Sanders’s agenda that even congressional Republicans go along with it.

Start with Number 1. Let’s imagine Sanders is the Democratic nominee. What would it take for his coattails to deliver both houses back to Democratic control? Taking the Senate first. At the moment, a Democratic takeover looks difficult, but possible. The Republicans have a 54-46 advantage, and they are defending 24 seats this year, while Democrats are defending only ten (the imbalance is because the senators elected in the Republican sweep of 2010 are up for re-election). That looks great for Democrats, were it not for the fact that most of those seats are not competitive at all. No matter how revolutionary the Democratic candidate is, Republicans are still going to hold on in places like Idaho and Oklahoma. Most of the experts who follow these races obsessively (see here or here) rate only nine or ten of these races as even remotely competitive.

But it’s certainly possible that Democrats could sweep most of them and take back the Senate. What is not possible is for Democrats to win so many that they’d have the 60-seat margin necessary to overcome Republican filibusters. And there would be filibusters on  all of the items on President Sanders’s agenda. So on the Senate side, the revolution would seem to require both a Democratic sweep and a willingness of the Democrats to destroy the filibuster. Might they do that? Sure. Will they? Probably not.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the House, where redistricting and a more efficient geographic allocation of voters (there’s an explanation of that here) have left Republicans with a structural advantage that will make it particularly hard in the near future for Democrats to take back control. The overwhelming majority of seats in the House are not at all competitive, with one party or the other all but guaranteed to win the seat no matter whom the party nominates for president. As election analysts Charlie Cook and David Wasserman recently noted, “Today, the Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port counts just 33 seats out of 435 as com­pet­it­ive, in­clud­ing 27 held by Re­pub­lic­ans and six held by Demo­crats. That means that even if Demo­crats swept every single com­pet­it­ive seat, they would still fall three seats short of a ma­jor­ity.”

That doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible for Bernie Sanders to win such a dramatic victory that he pulls in a Democratic House behind him, just that it’s very, very unlikely. And if it did happen, many of those newly elected Democrats would be from conservative districts. He’d have to not only hold their votes, but hold them on intensely controversial reforms. It might be worth remembering how hard it was for Barack Obama to keep Democrats together on things like the Affordable Care Act, which Sanders argues was a change that didn’t go nearly far enough.

That brings us to the second possibility for Sanders’s revolution, which he hints at without going into detail: that public support for his agenda will be so overwhelming that congressional Republicans, fearing for their political careers and helpless in the face of political reality, will have no choice but to get behind it.

There’s a reason Sanders doesn’t get too specific about the idea that Republicans will vote for things like single-payer health care: It’s absurd. No one who is even vaguely familiar with today’s Republican Party—a party that has grown more conservative with each passing year, and which has come to view any compromise with Democrats as a betrayal, no matter the substance of the issue in question—could think there are any circumstances short of an alien invasion that would make them support a Democratic president (and maybe not even then).

I’m sure some of Sanders’s more enthusiastic fans will say that in looking at his idea of a revolution this way, I’m either shilling for Hillary Clinton or I’m some kind of apologist for the the prevailing corporate-dominated order. I doubt I could convince them otherwise, though I will say that I’ve been extremely critical of Clinton on any number of issues for years, and I’ve been a strong supporter of single-payer health care for just as long. But whatever you think about Clinton or about the substance of Sanders’s ideas, the challenge of passing Sanders’s agenda remains the same.

One can also say, “Well, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have much of a plan for how she’ll get anything passed through Congress either.” And that would be true—she faces the same congressional problem, and Republicans will fight her more modest program with just as much energy and venom as they would Sanders’s. I have little doubt that if Clinton becomes president, much of what she’s now advocating will fall by the wayside, not because she isn’t sincere about it but because she won’t find a way to pass it. That’s a problem that she needs to address for Democratic voters, but it doesn’t change Sanders’s responsibility to address the practical difficulty his program presents.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama was elected on a campaign notable for its lofty rhetoric about hope and change. But his actual policy agenda was, if not modest, then certainly firmly in the mainstream. Among other things, he wanted to end the war in Iraq, use government spending to alleviate the misery of the Great Recession, and pass market-based health-care reform. None of these were radical ideas. But he had to fight like hell to pass them, in the face of a Republican Party that sincerely believed he was trying to destroy America with his socialist schemes.

Unlike Obama, Bernie Sanders is advocating radical change. Which means his revolution would face obstacles even greater than Obama did. It’s a long way from here to there.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 1, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Change Takes Continuity”: Hillary Clinton Is The Change America Needs

Over the coming weeks and months, Democrats in caucuses and primaries around the country will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. Some are now casting the decision as one between “continuity” and “change,” with Clinton representing a continuation of President Obama’s agenda and Sanders representing a shift toward the transformational change that escaped Obama.

This binary is completely false.

Ours is a historical era in which continuity and change are one and the same. Obama ended the wars of the George W. Bush administration, normalized relations with Cuba, and prevented the ascent of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In the last week alone, his administration declined to renew licenses to coal mining operations on federal lands, declared a ban on solitary confinement of minors in federal penitentiaries, and ordered police departments around the country to give back military surplus equipment being misused by law enforcement. And on Tuesday, news came of the White House preparing to issue an executive order that would require any firm doing business with the federal government — virtually all giant corporations — to disclose its campaign contributions.

We need more of the same. We need the unbroken continuation of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies to bring about the laws, rules, and regulations that advance progress. It may not be “transformational,” but real change is rarely that sexy. It may not feel all kumbaya, but politics almost never does.

Let’s remember the Democrats saved the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and reformed Wall Street — with nearly unanimous opposition from Congressional Republicans. Since 2010, we have seen more job growth since no one remembers. More Americans have health insurance. And, while it took a while, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are now being felt.

That’s real change.

Yes, wages are not what they used to be, health care is still run by private insurance companies, and Wall Street still rakes in more money than God. But those are not reasons to break the chain of real progress. Change takes continuity.

Consider Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all.”

In the hours before the final Democratic debate, Sanders released a plan for creating a single-payer health care system of the kind found in rich European countries that have managed to keep costs down while ensuring the right of all citizens to access to quality health care. Ever since Obama proposed health care reform that kept intact the role of private health insurance companies, the Democratic Party’s left wing has demanded nothing short of “Medicare for all.”

That’s fine. Most left-liberals would prefer that. But it doesn’t represent change so much as wishful thinking.

Hillary Clinton was not, during the debate, just wrapping herself in Obama. She was speaking the truth: Democrats can’t go back and restart the fight over universal health care because they have no hope of winning. Now is the time, however, for policy reforms addressing rising costs, insurance exchanges, and private profit. Yes, this is change by a thousand tweaks, but it is still change.

Is there a risk in voting for Clinton? Yes, of course. You don’t really know what kind of president you’re getting until she’s elected. But Hillary Clinton may be the exception. She’s long been in the public eye. We know her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Most important, we know she can be forced to listen to progressive demands. That cannot be said of Republicans.

I like Bernie Sanders and would support him in another context, and I don’t personally like Hillary Clinton. But my dislike isn’t as important as my country transcending the long conservative malaise that began before I was born.

 

By: John Stoehr, The Week, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Four Years Of Peace, Love, And Single-Payer Health Care?”: In That Old Volkswagen Bus With Bernie, Rolling Toward 1972

Unpack your old tie-dyed T-shirts, roll yourself a fat doobie, and warm up the ancient VW bus. We’re going to do Woodstock and the 1972 presidential election all over again. And this time, the hippies are going to win! Four years of peace, love, and single-payer health care.

But do take care to clear the path for Bernie Sanders. Because if he steps in something the dog left behind, he’s going to blame Wall Street and start yelling and waving his arms around.

And you know how much that upsets Republican congressmen who are otherwise so eager to oblige his plans to soak the rich and give everybody free college, free health care, free bubble-up and rainbow stew—as the old Merle Haggard song had it.

OK, so I’m being a smart-aleck. I was moved to satire by a couple of moments from last week’s Democratic and Republican presidential debates. First, Sen. Sanders, boasting about a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that shows him beating Donald Trump by 15 points—54 to 39. Hillary Clinton tops Trump only 51-41.

Both would be huge landslides. In 1972, Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern 61-38. The Democrat won only Massachusetts.

The part Sanders left out and that Hillary was also wise enough to leave unmentioned is that the same poll shows her leading him 59 to 34 percent in the Democratic primary contest nationally. Twenty-five points.

She’d have to be a fool to take that to the bank, although it does demonstrate why a lot of the horse-race commentary has the narrative upside down. See, unless Bernie manages to prevail in the Iowa caucuses, his campaign pretty much goes on life support. A New Englander nearly always wins in New Hampshire, and rarely goes anywhere after that.

Almost needless to say, all polls are individually suspect. Moreover, the national media give far more play to surveys depicting a close contest; they’re better for journalists’ careers.

That would be true even if you didn’t know that bringing Hillary Clinton down has been an obsessive quest in Washington and New York newsrooms for twenty-four years.

During most of which time it’s been “Bernie who?” That Vermont socialist who’s all the time yelling? That guy?

Yeah, him. The guy with the Brooklyn accent and the Wacky Prof look who says “billionaire” the way some people say “Ebola.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The same guy Ohio Gov. John Kasich boldly predicted would lose all 50 states if Democrats were foolish enough to nominate him. Actually, I’m confident Sanders would carry Vermont and probably Massachusetts against any Republican nominee. But New Hampshire and Maine could be out of reach.

Even against Trump? Well theoretical matchups mean next to nothing this far out. And I suspect that Bernie’s big advantage–hard for politically active readers to believe—is that most voters know almost nothing about him except that he’s neither Hillary nor The Donald.

I also suspect that a Trump vs. Sanders matchup would bring a serious third-party challenge. Let the GOP attack machine get to work on Sanders and I’m guessing we’d soon learn that there’s no great yearning among the electorate for socialismdemocratic or not.

Did you know, for example, that Sanders took a honeymoon trip to the Soviet Union in 1988? George Will does.

Does that make him disloyal? Of course not, merely a bit of a crank. As Sanders loyalists are quick to remind you, President Reagan went to Moscow to negotiate nuclear arms reductions with Gorbachev that same year.

As a personal matter, I got my fill of Marxist faculty lounge lizards back in that tie-dyed, VW bus era. Disagree with them, and you’re an immoral sellout. That gets old really fast.

Writing in The Washington Monthly, David Atkins does a brave job of trying to explain away a Gallup poll showing that while 38 percent of Americans say  they’d never vote for a Muslim president, and 40 percent wouldn’t support an atheist, fully 50 percent said no socialists need apply.

Can Bernie persuade them otherwise? I don’t see how. Most Americans don’t actually hate the rich, and his despairing portrait of contemporary American life doesn’t square with most people’s experience.

“Against these liabilities,” observes Jonathan Chait, “Sanders offers the left-wing version of a hoary political fantasy: that a more pure candidate can rally the People into a righteous uprising that would unsettle the conventional laws of politics.”

Meanwhile, not only has Sanders presented no realistic political scenario for enacting his vaunted reforms, serious observers also question their substance.

Writes liberal MVP Paul Krugman:

“To be harsh but accurate: the Sanders health plan looks a little bit like a standard Republican tax-cut plan, which relies on fantasies about huge supply-side effects to make the numbers supposedly add up.”

During the last Democratic debate, Bernie accused Hillary of failing to take his candidacy seriously. Fair enough. But has he?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 20, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Democrat That Can Win Is What We Need”: Translating Values Into Governance And Delivering The Goods

In my estimation, there’s only one presidential candidate in 2016 fully capable of doing the job, and she’s anything but a natural.

As Hillary Clinton has also been the target of maybe the longest-running smear campaign in American history — including roughly a dozen partisan Congressional investigations and a six-year leak-o-matic “independent counsel” probe led by the fastidious Kenneth Starr — it’s no wonder some voters mistrust her.

Overcoming that suspicion is her biggest challenge.

Republicans have predicted her imminent indictment for 20 years. You’d think by now they’d have made something stick, if there was anything to it. But it didn’t happen then, and it’s not going to happen now for an obvious reason: in a democracy, political show trials endanger the prosecution as much as the defense.

Anybody who watched Hillary’s one-woman demolition of Rep. Trey Gowdy’s vaunted Benghazi committee should understand that.

Meanwhile, one of the best things about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is his unwillingness to smear his opponent. Too bad many of his most passionate supporters aren’t so fastidious. With Iowa’s make-or-break moment approaching for Sanders, it’s getting nasty out there.

It’s not so much the tiresome attacks on anybody who disagrees with them as a corrupt sellout. (My corporate overlords, of course, dictated that sentence.) It’s the seeming belief that people can be browbeaten into supporting their guy.

Some are a bit like Trump supporters–although normally without the threats. That too may be changing. Recently a guy visited my Facebook page saying people like me deserve “to be dragged into the street and SHOT for…treason against not only our country and our people, but the ENTIRE [BLEEPING] WORLD.”

My response — “Settle down, Beavis” — sent him into a rage.

But no, Hillary’s not an instinctive performer, although her stage presence strikes me as improved since 2008. A person needn’t be “inauthentic” (pundit-speak for “bitch”) to be uncomfortable in front of an audience.

As for authenticity, few Democrats could work a crowd like North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

President Obama nailed it during a recent Politico interview:

Hillary does better with “small groups” than big ones, he observed, before putting his thumb heavily on the scale. He described Hillary as a fighter, who’s “extraordinarily experienced — and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out — [and] sometimes [that] could make her more cautious, and her campaign more prose than poetry,” he said.

Even so, she came closer to defeating Obama in 2008 than Republicans have. “Had things gone a little bit different in some states or if the sequence of primaries and caucuses been a little different,” the president said, “she could have easily won.”

Indeed. As non-endorsements go, the president’s remarks couldn’t have been more complimentary. “She had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels,” he added.

Obama wisely said nothing critical about Bernie Sanders, but nothing particularly warm either. “Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” he observed. The president said he understood the appeal of Sanders “full-throated…progressivism.”

Well, Mr. Hopey-Changey as Sarah Palin calls him, certainly should.

Seven years of trench warfare with congressional Republicans, however, have brought out the president’s inner pragmatist. Which Democrat is best-positioned to consolidate the Obama legacy and move it forward?

First, one who stands a good chance of being elected.

Look, there’s a reason Karl Rove’s super PAC is running anti-Hillary TV ads in Iowa. Bernie Sanders “radical” past makes him a GOP oppo-research dream. Never mind socialism. Did you know he once wrote a column claiming that sexual frustration causes cervical cancer?

That in the 1970s, he called for nationalizing oil companies, electric utilities, and — get this — TV networks? Asked about it, he deflects by noting that Hillary once supported Barry Goldwater. Yeah, when she was 16. Bernie was in his mid-30s when he called for confiscating the Rockefeller family fortune. How most Americans hear that is: if he can take away their stuff, he can take away mine.

Sure, many people went off the rails during the Seventies. Most aren’t running for president. Bernie strikes me as a fine senator and a decent man. However, the current U.S. Congress has voted 60 times to repeal Obamacare. And he’s going to give us single-payer “Medicare for all?”

No, he’s not. Assuming he could find a sponsor, it’d never get out of committee. I doubt I’ll live to see single-payer health insurance in the USA. And I’m younger than Bernie. A complete retrofitting of American health care simply isn’t in the works. The votes just aren’t there, and they won’t materialize by repeating the magic word “revolution.”

President Obama says Hillary represents the “recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives.”

Hard-won reality, that is, as opposed to fantasy.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 27, 2016

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

%d bloggers like this: