Republicans

Geoff Coventry: There's no 'free market'' fix for health-care crisis

    --Photo by Frank Schulenberg    Women shopping at a bazaar in Cairo .

 

--Photo by Frank Schulenberg

Women shopping at a bazaar in Cairo.

The Republicans have big plans for health care in this country: to eliminate coverage for millions of Americans while delivering a big tax cut to the rich.

As someone who stands to benefit from that tax cut, let me just say: I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. No tax cut is worth excluding millions of Americans from the health services they need.

Any new health-care legislation should be focused on providing the best available health services for all Americans, not deliberately putting them out of reach. And yet, this is exactly what the twin monstrosities that came out of the House and Senate would have done.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would’ve left 23 million Americans uncovered by 2026. The Senate version was only a shade better, leaving 22 million people out. Those bills were nonstarters with the public — the party was forced to pull them, along with any immediate plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

This Republican-majority Congress has shown their cards: They favor less coverage for workers and the elderly and lower taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans in both chambers claim they’re doing this to support “freedom” and “choice” for the American people. They say the “free market” is the only way to provide Americans with access to affordable health care. They claim deregulation will help drive down health costs.

Well, for starters, so-called “free markets” are unicorns — fanciful creatures with magical powers that don’t exist in the real world. All markets are designed; they don’t emerge spontaneously from nature. We form, structure, regulate and enforce markets through policy and institutions which reflect private and public interests.

When it comes to health care, we’re talking about something closer to a “natural monopoly” like electricity, not an industry like autos or breakfast cereals. Everyone needs basic medical services on a regular basis, and we need to make sure the same quality is available to everyone — even in hard to reach or low-income areas.

This will always require some form of direct government funding of services, especially with respect to primary care. Failing to do so means we’re not serious about the goal of quality care for all Americans.

This doesn’t necessarily mean an entirely government-run system — there’s plenty of room for private medical practices and businesses to provide some of the spectrum of services we need. But it does mean some degree of public funding is essential.

A fully privatized system can never adequately provision the nation. Rural communities don’t have adequate medical facilities and staff. Underdeveloped urban communities suffer from the same lack of basic resources, and their residents often don’t have the ability or time to travel to other locations.

Republican leaders claim they want affordable access to quality health care for all Americans, but all of their proposals have focused on lowering taxes on businesses and the rich, regardless of the very real cost in terms of human life.

It’s a false choice, and the effects will be cruel.

A healthy nation is a prosperous nation. This is primarily a challenge of real resources and the distribution of those resources, not of money. Congress can and should authorize any necessary funding to achieve the stated public goal simply by appropriating the funds.

This includes designing a system that will ensure there are enough facilities, doctors, nurses, specialists, transportation systems, and all the other elements of quality care in close proximity to all who need it — at any level of need and ability to pay.

Members of the House and Senate were put there by the voters and have an obligation to fight for and protect all of their constituents, not just the ones wealthy enough to bankroll their campaigns.

Geoff Coventry is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and a founder and principal of Tradewind Energy Inc. 

 

Llewellyn King: America's, and the world's, 'quaking hour' starts with Trump's threateningTweets

 

"The Scream,'' by Edvard Munch.

"The Scream,'' by Edvard Munch.

One can only imagine what it is like to be a Republican member of Congress in the Age of Trump. What should be a time of harmonious playing, with both houses secure with a GOP majority and a Republican about to assume the presidency, instead is one of jarring orchestration.

The problem is the score written by President-elect Donald Trump. It is discordant and inspires fear among them.

Senate Republicans are not afraid of their leader, Mitch McConnell, and their House counterparts do not quake when their leader, Paul Ryan, speaks. But when it comes to the president-elect, there is unspoken fear.

Republicans are not waking to the bright morning of governance, but rather to the “quaking hour” when they find out what Trump did to them overnight by Twitter or some other unplanned communication.

Did Trump ridicule one of them personally, attack a collective Republican action (like the attempt to close the Office of Congressional Ethics) or take aim against a heretofore Republican orthodoxy (like free trade)?

Has he promoted the interest of Russia over the well-grounded suspicions that Republicans on Capitol Hill have of Russia in everything, from hacking to aggression in Syria and Ukraine?

Has he offended 27 European countries in the European Union by supporting Britain’s plans to exit?

Has he, perchance, committed the United States to military action on the Korean Peninsula without consulting Congress or our reliable allies in South Korea. Does he know that the South Korean capital, Seoul, lies just 35 miles from the heavily fortified border with North Korea?

There is surely more to come that will cause heartburn with breakfast.

Not all Republicans are climate deniers, even though they may not have liked Democratic prescriptions. Most Republicans are free-traders, and the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed with Republican support. Are they going to be asked to throw in their lot with dismantling it? And what might they get in NAFTA Mark II?

The known points of stress between the Republicans and their leader-elect are now joined -- almost nightly -- by random pronouncements with huge policy implications.

Trump is exempt from the normal disciplines of politics. He is comfortable with his paranoia, therefore all criticism is the work of “enemies” or fools. He seems to have no icons, no heroes, and no respect for the institutions of U.S. governance or the history that underlies them -- hence giving the back of his hand to the intelligence agencies over Russian hacking.

If Trump does not like the message, he trashes the messenger.

This must sit badly but privately with congressional Republicans. They have fought hard over long years to protect the CIA, the NSA and the rest of the intelligence apparatus from being hobbled by the Democrats. So Trump’s cavalier dismissal of their findings must rankle, if not darn right alarm. The links between the intelligence community and leading Republicans are strong and enduring.

Trump will get his honeymoon. Republicans on Capitol Hill will support and explain and excuse the new president. But, in time, there will be a breaking point; a time when the music will change, when Republicans will speak up again for conservative orthodoxy and the going will get rough for Trump.

Tweeting is not governing, and the presidency is not reality television -- particularly when you are threatening to upend the world order on midnight caprice.

Beware the quaking hour. It breaks with the first keystroke of the morning, when the GOP finds out what its leader might have done to it and its verities overnight. It breaks for the person who has spoken up and has been ridiculed, singled out as weak.

This is not what was expected from a party winning both houses of Congress and the White House. It is a new dimension in American politics. And the quaking is not just for Republicans.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His e-mail is llewellynking1@gmail.com.

 

Chris Powell: Block immigrants from repugnant, anti-Western cultures

According to police and news reports about Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the atrocity in Orlando:

·      He was a Muslim and the son of refugees from Afghanistan who was born in New York.

·      His father imagines himself president or a military leader of Afghanistan and hosts a television program on which he has supported the Taliban and called for killing homosexuals.

·      He was said to have made remarks sympathetic to terrorism that brought him to the attention of the FBI, which found nothing actionable.

·      In accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult that is trying to hijack Islam he frequently beat his first wife, who came to consider him psychotic and left him.

·      Also in accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult, he was enraged by homosexuality, and, completing his psychosis, had homosexual tendencies himself, having often visited the gay bar where he eventually perpetrated his murderous rampage.

In this context Mateen's mid-rampage call to police to proclaim his loyalty to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS seems more like a vainglorious afterthought than part of a conspiracy.

Predictably enough, Democrats are using the atrocity to argue for their gun-control agenda, including prohibition of "assault weapons," apparently any rifle with a magazine, any rifle capable of firing more than one or two shots at a time without reloading -- a dubious proposition. As for the Democrats' more compelling propositions -- more background checks for gun buyers and such -- they probably would not have disqualified Mateen from purchasing the guns he used. For he was already licensed as a security guard, held a Florida gun permit, and repeatedly had cleared background checks undertaken by his employer, a federal government contractor.

Also predictably enough, Republicans are using the atrocity to argue for restrictions on immigration and foreign visitors, and at last Donald Trump has figured out that while immigration and visitation cannot be restricted by religion -- not constitutionally and not practically, since no one at a border crossing would admit his adherence to a prohibited religion -- immigration and visitation can be restricted by national origin.

After the atrocity Trump and his recent rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, asserted that the United States should not be welcoming people from countries that sponsor or are infected by terrorism or that oppress women, homosexuals, and disfavored religions. Such an exclusion would cover most of Africa and all the Middle East except Israel, the only democratic country there and the refuge of many homosexual Palestinians but nevertheless the bogeyman of the political left.

As Mateen demonstrates, and as has been demonstrated by other recent acts of terrorism,  such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood massacre, a background in an oppressive culture can span the generations and explode unexpectedly.

Thus the atrocity in Orlando can be attributed as much to this country's negligent immigration policy as to its negligent gun policy. For our negligent immigration policy celebrates "multiculturalism" even as the culture being imported is repugnant. Europe, which is being overwhelmed by migrants who have contempt for Western values, lacks the will to defend itself and has become Eurabia, thereby showing where negligent immigration policy will take the United States.

Defending the country requires getting a lot more selective with immigration, admitting only those people who can show a firm commitment to democratic and secular culture, not mere desire to get away from someplace else. The country needs no more Afghan refugees, nor more of the Syrian refugees Connecticut's governor lately has been celebrating, nor any more immigrants from the vast expanse of primitive barbarism that constitutes Religious Crazy Land.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

 

Peter Hart: Big Media's bad advice for Democrats

Before anyone even knew just how badly the Democrats would get trounced in the 2014 midterm elections, some pundits were already sending the party a message: Be more like the Republicans.

Now they don’t put it that way, exactly.

The professional campaign watchers like to say instead that the Democratic Party needs to move to the “middle” or the “center.” What they mean is that the Democrats should get closer to the Republicans on the issues.

Think about this for a second.

The turnout for the mid-term elections was the lowest for a mid-term in 70 years. Can we really expect more people to get excited about voting if the two major political parties become more like one another?

It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s Big Media’s remedy

For example, after Senate Democrats voted to give the populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, a leadership role in their caucus, CBS host Bob Schieffer said that it was “going to leave the impression that the party is moving to the left,” when the advice from “a lot of people” is that nothing will get done in Washington unless “both parties move toward the center.”

USA Today actually recommended that Barack Obama steal an idea from post-Iran/Contra Scandal Ronald Reagan and apologize on TV. What for? The newspaper didn’t say.

The problem, as The New York Times saw it, was that the Democrats had gone too far to the left under Obama: “Democrats largely abandoned the more centrist, line-blurring approach of Bill Clinton to motivate an ascendant bloc of liberal voters,” the paper insisted.

But that’s a dubious description of Obama-era Democrats.

On foreign policy, after all, the White House has escalated the war in Afghanistan, carried out drone attacks on several countries, helped engineer a disastrous Libyan War, and is now going back into Iraq.

The centerpiece of Obama’s domestic policy, meanwhile — the Affordable Care Act — was borrowed from Mitt Romney, who established a similar initiative as the governor of Massachusetts. And the law’s “individual mandate” to buy insurance was first cooked up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

But if that’s what the media considers veering left, what do Beltway insiders think  that the White House should do to make up for it?

For them, the first order of business is, well, big business: Obama should push through the secretive, corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. People who actually turned up to vote must find this peculiar, since almost no one was talking up the deal before Election Day.

What else should Obama do, according to these pundits? Approve the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump dirty tar sands oil from Canada down to the Gulf Coast for refining.

Why would a president who says he cares about the climate crisis do this? To be more bipartisan, apparently.

Does any of this sound like the message voters were sending?

Not at all.

In fact, one of the most intriguing findings to come out of the 2014 exit polls was that the majority of voters think  that the economic system favors the wealthy: 63 percent of respondents said so, up from 56 in 2012.

This would suggest that a more vigorous brand of economic populism would resonate with voters — even if the pundits would hate it.

Peter Hart is the activism director of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting  (www.fair.org). This was distributed via OtherWords (www.OtherWords.org).