Archive for July 2019

Medicare For All

July 31, 2019

Democrats are playing with fire.  With Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren playing the “Medicare For All” music with great vigor, the other candidates are worried about how to position themselves.  Are they against healthcare, or just Medicare For All?  And why?

Healthcare is symbolic of a class of social issues which income inequality has aggravated and hurts most Americans.  The US healthcare delivery system is reasonably good for the top 2% earning Americans.  For everyone else, healthcare is problematic.  The notion that health care is an enterprise just like buying an automobile or dishwasher, in other words a service appropriate for free enterprise, is simply ridiculous.

US healthcare costs twice as much as two dozen other modern countries, does not cover all Americans, and delivers (on average) mediocre outcomes.  What’s wrong with this picture?  So why isn’t Sanders and Warren on the right track?

When Democrats (or anyone else) campaigns on “Medicare For All”, these candidates, however, do so at their own risk.  Why should anyone believe that “Medicare For All” would reduce healthcare costs, make healthcare affordable and available to all Americans, and not break the bank in the process WHEN most Americans do not realize their healthcare is not the best in the world?

President Trump’s campaign staff can hardly contain their glee at the prospects of campaigning against “Medicare For All”.  From the opening soft ball, “you mean I have to give up my current health insurance like Blue Cross for something I know nothing about” to the fast ball, “you want me to wait endlessly to see a doctor like they do in Great Britain”, Trump will have a field day taking about his “beautiful healthcare” even without a shred of detail.

The issue should be healthcare which is affordable and available, for all Americans, at world class standards of cost and outcomes.  Candidates should share the facts about Germany, France, Japan, Canada, etc in terms of spending per capita and ask why that could not be possible in the US?

There are dozens of US medical institutions (for example, the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, or most of the university affiliated teaching hospitals) where the best healthcare in the world can be found… if you can afford it.  Why not speak of an aspirational goal of world class healthcare for all?  Why not challenge Americans to elect someone who is committed to improving current healthcare delivery and its exorbitant cost with the goal of matching “the world’s best” in 20 years?

Experts in healthcare delivery systems know this problem is complex. Preventing disease is much cheaper than curing a disease once someone is sick.  Economically challenged Americans are most likely to forgo preventative health check ups or follow post doctor visit follow up plans.  And for sure, research on new cutting edge medicines and medical procedures do not come free.  But what other country in the world has some inherent advantage that the US, with its resources, could not match or surpass?

If there is one issue that could unite the average Democrat and Republican, world class healthcare would be my pick.  Why not talk about healthcare instead of Medicare For All?

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Mueller’s Last Stand

July 27, 2019

Special Council Robert Mueller much anticipated Congressional testimony by has come and gone with hardly a whimper.  Democrats who positioned Mueller’s testimony as the grounds for impeachment were frustrated and disappointed when Mueller failed to play their game.  Republicans who feared Mueller might further incriminate the President used their time to underscore the “witch hunt” nature of Mueller’s investigation.  Reading the Mueller Report was all that was needed to understand Mueller’s testimony and there was no witch hunt.

Hmmm.

The Mueller Report clearly shows the Trump Campaign readily received contacts from Russian sources and in a number of instances sought to initiate contacts.  The Special Council, however, seemed either resigned to live with DOJ handcuffs, or chose on his own to limit his pursuit of further Trump Campaign’s (including the President) involvement with Russian sources.  An aggressive prosecutor would have had grounds to consider conspiracy and collusion but Mueller did not pursue.

Obstruction of justice charges is even more obvious unless one thinks the President, as chief law enforcement officer, is immune for obstruction charges.  Mueller seems to have thought he could use the report’s language to inform Americans that the President had obstructed justice and still not charge him.  Mueller did not pursue.

The elephant in the room is “should President Trump face impeachment”.

Given the broad bi-partisan respect shown for Robert Mueller, impeachment shines as a uniquely partisan political act and not tied to a bi-partisan view that the President needs to be sanctioned.  With 2020 Presidential election just about 1 year away, what would impeachment uncover that is not already known today?  Probably nothing.

The image of former FBI Director Mueller testifying was not the most flattering image of a great man who had a great career.  The prosecutorial instinct was not visible and even though the evidence seemed present, the effort to go the last mile was not.

President Trump has won this fight.  As with most other Presidential actions, President Trump has used gutter style bullying to have it his way.  Never the less, reelecting Trump will simply confirm too many Americans are ok with this low life.

When People Don’t Think

July 22, 2019

A common human condition is susceptibility to swindlers.  Human attractiveness to compliments, attention, and vanity make the swindler’s road seem smooth.  Ponzi, pyramid, and plain old fashion “let me give you some advice” schemes draw in countless people all over the world.  Street corners, alley ways, and carnivals have been classic locations for swindlers and shills.  Today one need go no further than Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Motivation usually comes in making a “fast buck” on some deal that’s too good to be true.  Victims walk into the trap with their eyes wide open, get mad for a moment, and then seem to forget the lesson they were just taught.

Information swindlers are a special breed.  This cut of humanity willfully camouflage truth behind deceptive claims.  Information swindlers seek to put their “marks” in a false sense of security, either alarmed or complacent.  The objective – theft in “broad daylight” of public trust.

Russian sources have been accused of influencing the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election by publishing false information on social media, and then digitally “liking” and “republishing” the same information for wider circulation.  President Trump has shown a masterful touch for doing similar information swindling (sleight of hand).  Like all good swindlers, Trump is quick to deny the words just said.

Many, probably most, but certainly not all Americans are unsatisfied with President Trump.  Amazingly, there is obvious information everyday that the President has said something which is not true.  More subtle are Trump policy decisions which are setting the groundwork for future unwanted results.  Trade (China, NAFTA, and Europe), undisciplined foreign policies (North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China), and worthless Mexican border policies, to name a few “Trumpian activities” which are being swindled today but whose fruits will blossom sometime in the future. 

When that happens, Americans will get mad and then all too soon, forget.  Hmmm.

Racist Or Simply Prejudice?

July 19, 2019

The “Mouth in Chief”, President Trump if it needed be clarified, has opened his most audacious (to date) verbal assault on common decency.  The President has, from the highest position of moral authority questioned another citizens right to be an American.  The President has used the words “go back from where you came”.

Of the four Democrat Congress women he was referencing, three were born in America.  All are citizens and all were freely elected to the House.  Hmmm.

The Presidents overwhelming bad manners prompts the question, “is Donald Trump a racist or just prejudice”?  Can someone be prejudice against people of color, or women of color, and not also be a racists?  This question may be trying to describe a distinction where the difference is without significance.

One must remember President Trump is first and foremost a survivalist.  For Trump, life is all about him, and anyone or anything that gets in the way, must be eliminated.  The President knows he is on path to be a one term President and that is unacceptable to him.

The President’s reelection strategy foresees a “base” of 35-40% who will vote for him no matter what.  Presently the polls indicate there is greater than 50% of voters who will not support the President.  Trump’s goal, peal away 5% and split the opposition along racial lines.  

Attacking from the White House four American minority women and then repeating the attacks during a campaign rally clearly shows the President is worried and will stop at nothing.  

The President is for sure prejudice against women and people of color.  Whether President Trump is a racists makes little or no difference.  People of color and women must understand the importance of their 2020 vote and a not voting is not an option.  

In a country where for almost every one “home” was another country (except native Americans), go back from where you came is not an option.

A Small Defense For AOC (and friends)

July 16, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, famous for her initials “AOC”, has drawn much criticism for her “pushy” attitude and not acting as a freshman Representative is supposed to act.  Even if she comes from New York, the wise keep quiet and are called forward. 

Not AOC (or her three other freshman Representatives, Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (Minn.)  Each of them feels compelled to speak out against social injustice (as they see it).  They are speaking (they say) for those who can’t be heard.

Sustained income inequality is creating more and larger groups of “have nots” living very close to groups of “haves” and “super haves”.  In one sense, there has always been “haves” and “have nots”,so what’s the issue?  How about the riches country in the world standing by while wealth accumulates in the hands of a few and social services become harder to access for those with little.

This statement is not a new revelation.  Elected officials have campaigned on the promise of making things right again and in the end have nothing to show for their time in office.  Democrat politicians claim they are fighting for the needy while republicans claim their fight is for the “middle class”.  In truth both parties are coopted by money from special interests.  The special interests, in turn, work diligently on behalf of the narrow cut of already wealthy Americans.

Consider

  • Think about healthcare.  The US has spent twice as much per capita as any other modern country for healthcare and on average, received mediocre healthcare services.  This is not a new phenomena.  Medicare, by law, can not negotiate with drug suppliers over the cost of prescription medications!  Americans can buy in Canada prescription drugs made in the US at lower prices than buying the same drug in the US.  This is not new.  Why?
  • The Department of Defense, however, spends as much as the next 6 largest defense spending countries with little or no opposition.  Republicans equate defense spending to drinking water availability, a must have item.  Democrats, on the other hand, support defense spending as long as there is social spending too.  Who is insuring the defense spending is wise or efficiently managed?
  • The cycle of poverty lives robustly in most of our larger cities.  What resources (other than thoughts and prayers) has Congress applied?
  • Education, infrastructure (roads and bridges), and social security funding are crying out for attention.  Where is Congress on these subjects?

It is not necessary to point to the national disgraces the Trump Administration has brought America to recognize there are large social issues not getting addressed.   To be sure, Trump has worsened global warming awareness, introduced unstable trade relations, and sponsored the disgraceful humanitarian debacle on the Mexican border.  Each of these justify protests and ballot box punishment for complicit Congress members but there are many other situations crying for attention which Trump did not initiate.  

AOC and her three friends gained their seats by focusing upon these issues.  So why shouldn’t they speak out?

Regrettably, special interests (read money) still control the day to day Congressional activity.  Consequently, AOC and her friends, who may lack perspective and experience, also are fighting an extremely difficult, if not unwindable, battle.  Most Congressional members are too tied to special interest money to turn their backs on the cash.  In other words, without a majority that looks and thinks like AOC and friends, none of their policies will pass Congress. 

President Trump, however, is never too shy too miss an opportunity to further divide voters.  For him, AOC and her friends will become the face of the Democrat Party.  The President who knows no boundary around decency will blow his dog whistle of race and xenophobia with delight.

Why Should Mr/Ms “X” Be President?

July 14, 2019

Hillary Clinton should have been President but she managed to allow defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory.  Instead of an annoying “triangulation” leader, America got instead a narcissistic, rudderless, bully.  Clinton may have been no George Washington, but Donald Trump has set new standards for the worst America has to offer.

With the 2020 election just ahead, Democrat Presidential candidates (all 24 of them) are vying for voter attention and ultimately the Democrat nomination.  So far bold, progressive policies have been the “go to” differentiator judging from what the candidates are saying in debates and on TV.  “Medicare For All”, “Free College Education”, or “Middle Class tax cuts” are examples.  Hmmm.

Each candidate has faced with a similar dilemma, why me and not the other candidate?

Voters must, however, be more circumspect.  None of these promises will be possible with the Senate in one party’s control and the House in the other party’s.  Even if Democrats were to win control of both houses, gaining widespread public support would be tough and without public support, even Democrats will hesitate to move on some of the more progressive proposals out of fear of losing their Congressional seat in the next election.  

And what if the economy is falling apart due to the current trade wars?  Or, the Middle East erupts into conflict based upon our current Iranian policies?  Or floods, natural catastrophes, or terrorist attacks occur?  There just might be no national energy for making large social change in the midst of other pressing problems.

So, picking the Democrat candidate ought to be focused upon

  • Who can govern

  • Who can govern in difficult and uncertain times

  • Who can balance domestic and foreign affairs

  • Who can bring an Administration of skilled and talented people together to work on America’s problems

Hmmm.

In Comparison…

July 6, 2019

The “neo-conservative” foreign policies of the Trump Administration should remind Americans of George W Bush Administration’s hubris days, and where hubris can lead.  The Trump Administration has put forth some amazing policy initiatives and to date, none have yielded anything close to what the President advertised.

As a reminder,

  • “W” didn’t need regulations and deemphasized picking sound Department leaders.  Along comes Hurricane Katrina (not Bush’s fault) and the world got to see third world relief when FEMA couldn’t get out of its own way.  
  • 9/11 was arguably also not Bush’s fault but his administration had been dismissive of al Qaeda before the airplanes crashed. 
  • The invasion of Afghanistan was a positive Bush move but the morphing of the Afghan campaign into “nation building” was a decision made by amateurs. 
  • Not content with one miscalculation, the Bush team (read Vice President Dick Cheney), concocted a story about Iraq, its connection to 9/11 (there was none) and that Iraq was building nuclear weapons (it was not), and the Iraq invasion and Occupation proceeded. 
  • But not done with mega mess ups, Bush and company looked the other way on regulatory controls over the banking system.  Soon bank liquidity dried up and the world stood at the brink of a Depression Era contraction.  Hmmm.

The Trump white House, not to be outdone,

  • opened with a series of unforced errors as Trump seemingly attempted to undo anything and everything President Obama had overseen.  Americans got used to hearing “worst ever”, “ a complete disaster”, and “unfair”. 
  • Latin Americans, especially the “dreamers”, an educated Latin American group who were brought to the US as children were targeted for deportation.  Why? 
  • Muslims were next with visa severe restrictions. Why?
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership, a multi-lateral trade group, which would have given the US leverage in any subsequent trade or foreign policy dispute with China was rejected.  Why? 
  • The Paris Climate Agreement, the only tool the US possessed to help curb global green house increases, was scuttled.  Why?
  • Next came the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action where Iran’s nuclear development programs was halted, was not good enough for the Trump Administration.  Result: US unilateral withdrawal.  Why? 
  • And then came the tariffs.  Steel and Aluminum tariffs were introduced under national defense claims which were clearly unjustified and will in the future provided an bad example to any other country.  Why?
  • And more tariffs.  Canada and Mexico!  South Korea, Japan and India.  Europe and China followed, and then trouble arose. Both Europe and China are capable of tit for tat reciprocity which translates into higher prices for US consumers and reduced exports for American businesses. Why?

What is the common thread between Bush and Trump.  There are several:

  • Bush was never involved enough.
  • Trump is involved too much.
  • Both surrounded themselves with conservative/republican advisors who hosted extreme views about America’s “exceptionalism”.

IMO, President Trump naively assumed his real estate bully tactics would apply to foreign and domestic affairs.  Trump’s goals was primarily reelection while his family businesses prospered in the background.  The President has enlisted extreme advisors (Stephen Miller, Peter Navaro, Robert Litehaiser, John Bolton, and Larry Kudlow) who perform the detail work on unworkable ideas.  So what lies ahead?

Hmmm.

  • Trump’s Mexican (Latin American) policies are inadequate, immoral, and are not working.  The US needs workers and there is no process to ensure a steady flow.
  • Trade based upon punching the other country first, then negotiating back from this position does not work.  Trust disappears and global realities overwhelm unilateralism.
  • Both China and Russia represent global threats for which the strongest and most cost effective deterrent comes from a coalition of allies.  Trump has alienated most of our traditional allies.
  • Climate change represents the most serious global unknown and the US has abdicated any leadership role.  Consequences could lead to wars and civil rebellions.  Global trade could evaporate.

In short, President Trump, in just 2 1/2 years has set the table for potentially an even worse Presidency than George W Bush delivered.  In comparison, Bush was a decent (if dull light bulb) person, while Trump is a narcissistic, highly overrated bully.  But it is the factions within the conservative and republican ranks which have crafted the specifics of each President’s policies which are to be singled out. 

Defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is a must and returning all of Congress to a Democrat majority will be necessary to clean up the mess Trump has created.