Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Tom Price for Healthcare and Human Services

For those of you who may have missed it, Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) is Pres. Trump’s pick to be the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price is an Orthopedic Surgeon (former?) and has been in the House for 12 years now and a member of the Congressional Healthcare Caucus. It appears he has all of the required qualifications to be the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The minority representative American Medical Association for doctors has endorsed Tom Price as an excellent choice.

AMA “strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS. Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs,” said AMA Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Patrice A. Harris.”

The choice of Tom Price is a no brainer for Pres. Trump as he is also in line with Republicans wanting to repeal the PPACA and put in its place vouchers for healthcare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s jobs suddenly became easier. Mr. Price’s 2009 bill “would allow refundable, age-adjusted tax credits with amounts tied to average insurance for people who buy insurance on the individual market and don’t have access to a government or employer plan.” One can see the widow-peaked Paul Ryan smiling all the way to the House floor.

The AMA in 2012 represented ~17% of all practicing doctors and students. Overall numbers have been in a downward slide over the years. Does the AMA represent the majority view of doctors and how they view the PPACA? “Only 26 percent of all primary care physicians viewed the law ‘very unfavorably’. So it might be said that just one out of four primary care physicians “hate” Obamacare.” Indeed, all the scare tactics of decreased care put forth by the opposition about the PPACA have failed to materialize (Kaiser). It does not matter to Republicans what the finding are and to some on our side of the table can only speak of “crapification” due to the PPACA as it is a bill signed by Pres. Obama

A growing number of doctors have come out in opposition to the AMA as led by Doctor Manik Chhabra, Navin Vij and Jane Zhu on their new blog Clinician Action. At the time (December 1, 2016) of Neil Versel’s article “Pushback begins against controversial HHS pick Tom Price”, 2500 doctors had signed their petition. As of December 4, 2016; >4600 doctors have signed the petition in opposition.

“We are practicing physicians who deliver healthcare in hospitals and clinics, in cities and rural towns; we are specialists and generalists, and we care for the poor and the rich, the young and the elderly. We see firsthand the difficulties that Americans face daily in accessing affordable, quality healthcare. We believe that in issuing this statement of support for Dr. Price, the AMA has reneged on a fundamental pledge that we as physicians have taken ?—? to protect and advance care for our patients.

We support patient choice. But Dr. Price’s proposed policies threaten to harm our most vulnerable patients and limit their access to healthcare. We cannot support the dismantling of Medicaid, which has helped 15 million Americans gain health coverage since 2014. We oppose Dr. Price’s proposals to reduce funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a critical mechanism by which poor children access preventative care. We wish to protect essential health benefits like treatment for opioid use disorder, prenatal care, and access to contraception.”

The rest of their stetment can be found on their blog; Clinician Action.

Whether Tom Price carries some of his views beyond an agenda to reform healthcare and repeal the PPACA, we will not know until he is appointed and has spent some time in the position. It is worthwhile to point out;

“Tom Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group that publishes a journal that has promoted discredited views — including the supposed link between ‘vaccines and autism.’”

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons also came out with a statement on Living Wills:

“Living wills are not needed to prevent overtreatment in days when hospital procedures have ‘produced the imperative to ‘move things along.’” Death is usually “orchestrated by professionals in hospitals, … a transition that has markedly shortened the ‘waiting time’ for dying.”

The “Tucson, Arizona-based AAPS is also listed on Quackwatch (“Your Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud and Intelligent Decisions”).”

There is more to be said here and I hope you take a moment to read Neil Versel’s article, some of the other references, and visit Clinician Action.

“Pushback begins against controversial HHS pick Tom Price” MedCity News, Neil Versel, December 1, 2016

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Crony Capitalism

Teabagger and maybe Trump nominee for something (hopefully other than the Sec. of the VA), Sarah Palin slams Trump and Pence in a Randian manner on bailing out Carrier and Carrier workers calling it as an intrusion on free enterprise. Afterwards she gushes; “I am ecstatic for Carrier employees! Their bosses just decided to keep shop onshore. What a relief for hundreds of workers. Merry Christmas Indiana!”

Foundational to our exceptional nation’s sacred private property rights, a business must have freedom to locate where it wishes. In a free market, if a business makes a mistake (including a marketing mistake that perhaps Carrier executives made), threatening to move elsewhere claiming efficiency’s sake, then the market’s invisible hand punishes. Thankfully, that same hand rewards, based on good business decisions.

But this time-tested truth assumes we’re operating on a level playing field.

When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets. Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.

Sarah is correct, incentives to business interests to not leave the country and layoff Labor only leaves the country hostage to corporate interests in the future. Trump’s actions and promises leave the door open for other companies to come through asking for a similar deal to save Labor. If he does not keep the company in the US, Labor will also see his promises to change the country as political rhetoric (if they haven’t already) to get elected and not worth much in the end. It will be interesting to follow his actions.

Come to Michigan which has a tough time fixing roads and infrastructure and yet can spend $billions in subsidies to business. Indiana had RTW laws, had multiple subsidies to business including Carrier, and had tax abatement of which none of it stopped companies from leaving Indiana. Under Pence, Indiana gave $Millions to companies that offshored jobs Companies come and go to states or other countries for other reasons which states can not prevent. Poorly spent money bribing companies to stay can also be hard to get back from the companies who had a change of heart. Indiana has had difficulty in getting the incentives back when companies still leave and the incentives are so poorly written they also do little or nothing to stop the company from closing an unspecified nearby plant.

Sarah Palin: But… Wait… The Good Guys Won’t Win With More Crony Capitalism YC Young Conservatives, December 2, 2016

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Full Employment and the Myth of the General Strike

Georges Sorel thought he had made a ‘happy choice’ with his use of the term ‘myth.’ But he soon was disabused of that illusion by critics who dismissed the anachronism of myths and others who accused him of falsifying “the real opinions of revolutionaries.”

In his essay, “Myths of the Twentieth Century” published three decades after Sorel’s Réflexions sur la violence,,” Robert Binkley credited Sorel — along with Henri Bergson, William James, Vilfredo Pareto and Sir James Frazier — with having “prepared the way” for the 20th century’s metaphysical ‘Tower of Babel’ and, consequently, with having betrayed ‘truth’. “For truth became a variable, determined by a personal equation, a problem, or a culture. As the prestige of truth fell, the prestige of myth rose… Men began to talk of the myth of science, the Christian myth, the myth of the nation, the myth of socialism, the myth of the general strike.”

Binkley must have realized that he was blaming the messenger for the message. Whatever science and progress might have meant to its 19th century eulogists. their status as “truth” was contingent and ephemeral. Critics did not concoct out of nothing the defects they criticized.

Binkley summarized “four great myths in the contemporary western world” in the following passage:

These four are: the original Christian myth, from which the others are descended ; its secularized version of the world order or great society; the materialistic version with its eschatology of the proletarian paradise; and the antithetic or reactionary myth of the nation, with its mystery of blood and soil.

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Clinton’s lead now more than a million votes UPDATED

As I explained last week, Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency despite having fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. She has already set a record for the biggest popular vote victory despite losing the Electoral College; according to CNN, she now (11/17/16 5:00am EST) leads by about 1,045,000 votes, roughly twice the margin of Al Gore’s victory over George W. Bush in 2000. This equates to 0.8% of the popular vote.

Moreover, Clinton’s lead will only increase in the coming days. The CNN infographic cited above shows that only 78% of California’s votes (where Clinton leads by roughly 3 million votes) have so far been counted. Her raw vote margin will continue to climb there until the votes are all counted.

People have raised two primary arguments against my position that having the Electoral Vote trump the popular vote is undemocratic. The first takes the view that Trump won under the rules as they are: If the popular vote were determinative, he would have campaigned more in California, New York, Texas, and other population centers, and, in his mind at least, he would have recorded an even bigger victory. The problem for this claim, as Josh Marshall has pointed out, is that Clinton would have also campaigned more in those states. Increasing voter turnout usually improves Democratic electoral fortunes, so electing the President by popular vote means that Democratic margins would increase, not decrease.

The second argument claims that focusing on the Electoral College as the reason for Clinton’s loss lets her off the hook for her weaknesses as a candidate and a campaigner. And there is no doubt that she had her weaknesses. The problem with this view is that the existence of the Electoral College is a necessary condition for her to have lost. None of her campaign’s other problems would have led her to lose the election if the Electoral College did not overweight the Wyomings of this country relative to the Californias. This structural disadvantage that populous states face is one of the biggest threats to democracy in America. And we’ve got to do something about it, soon.

Update: It’s now over 1.5 million, according to CNN.  California still only has 83% tallied. Some sources have Clinton’s lead over 2 million now. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Cross-posted from Middle Class Political Economist.

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On Second Thought …

After reading this article in today’s NYT detailing how things unfolded in the theater before, during and after the Hamilton performance on Friday evening, I’ve concluded the obvious: that the cast and crew members and the overwhelming number of audience members are paid, professional protesters.

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Trump Now Has His Joseph Goebbels. As Nominee for Attorney General.

I do not believe that this man will be confirmed.  Even despite this.

Things of this sort can change, bigly, once confirmation hearings begin.  And not just because of his brazen, lifelong white supremacism.  Also because, well, among other things, Florida voters just adopted an amendment to the state constitution legalizing medical marijuana.  Buy a yuge margin.

Read through the NYT editorial I’ve linked to.  No one—and I do mean no onewants this kind of thing.  Outside of Alabama and Mississippi, of course.

This choice is beyond-belief vile.  And by the end of his confirmation hearing, everyone will know the specifics. And that Donald Trump thought it would be fine to reward this man in this precise way for being the first member of Congress to endorse him.

So Jeff Flake, Joe Manchin and Susan Collins think he’s fine.   Then again, presumably they don’t plan to run for president.  Marco Rubio likely does, though.  And his own state, the largest swing state, just voted to legalize medical marijuana. And there’s also that large-Hispanic-population thing in his state.  Just one example.

Here’s betting that McCain won’t vote for him either.  He doesn’t plan to run for president, having already been there and done that, but there’s that little thing about Sessions’ support for torture of various kinds, including waterboarding.

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UPDATED: Be sure to read this article published Friday at Yahoo News.  I didn’t see it until just now.

Updated 11/20 at 3:25 p.m.

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A Particularly Poignant, and Revealing, Juxtaposition of Politico Articles Published a Day Apart

Terry Havener, 62, a retired union carpenter, pictured with Johnstown in the background. He was hoping for Bernie. He voted for Jill Stein. | Scott Goldsmith for Politico Magazine

– Photo caption in THE FRIDAY COVER: What Trump Voters Want Now The blue-collar workers who put Donald Trump in the White House are ready for him to deliver. How much time will they give him?, Politico, article by Michael Kruse, yesterday

Juxtapose that article with a Politico article by Ben White, from a day earlier, titled “Bankers celebrate dawn of Trump era: A populist candidate who railed against shady financial interests on the trail is putting together an administration that looks like an investment banker’s dream.

Yesterday’s article is mostly about lifelong Democrats in Johnstown, Penn., who voted at least once for Obama (who won the town and its county both times) but who voted for Trump, who there decisively.  So Mr. Havener is the exception in that he didn’t vote for Trump.  But neither did he vote for Clinton.

These are not Trump’s “base” voters, and they make clear that Trump will not hold them for long by trying to lie his way through his administration.  The Mad Hatter routine will not work with them.  This will be the most virulently pro-corporate, pro-already-extremely-wealthy administration since Warren Harding’s, and they will know it.

Elizabeth Warren on Thursday gave a fairly detailed speech on the Senate floor listing Trump’s many statements and explicit promises to working-class voters, juxtaposed with the express positions of the people in charge of respective relevant parts of Trump’s transition team: an aggressive proponent of privatizing Social Security in charge of selecting top people at HHS, as just one of many specific examples Warren listed.

I would love to see ads run on Rust Belt media markets showing that part of Warren’s speech.  And then warning that Trump will simply say that he’s doing exactly the opposite of what he’s actually doing.  This is the way to fight this.  It is the only way to fight this.  These are not terribly expensive media markets.

These ads also should run through social media, on Facebook as ads and in news feeds, and in Twitter feeds.  They should become a regular feature of American life.  They would be funded in the same way that the Sanders campaign was.  And they should say that.

Meanwhile, there is the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.  People should get this information to their relatives through Facebook ahead of the holiday, if possible, and at the Thanksgiving dinner if Trump is discussed.

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ADDENDUM: Reader EMichael, who is originally from Pennsylvania, and I just had an exchange of several comments in the Comments thread that readers of this post will be interested in, I think.

Added 11/19 at 10:40 a.m.

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Hey, President-Elect Trump: Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday! [Addendum added.]

Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday, Mr. Trump!*

Now how ’bout gettin’ to work on that Carrier plant in Indianapolis that is in the process of shutting down, its production being moved to a new plant in Mexico.  And other manufacturing plants that, like Carrier, actually ARE slated to move outside the country.

And then, after Carrier announces its change in plan, could you make a few phone calls to a few companies that outsource their manufacturing and assembly?

And then maybe … Walmart.  Get Walmart’s CEO on the phone.  Can you get Walmart to stop doing virtually all its purchasing from wholesale companies whose products are from China, Vietnam and other countries that aren’t, y’know, the USA?

And when you have an extra moment, maybe you can get your daughter Ivanka on the phone and try hard to persuade her to get her company to stop having its products made in China.

Look. Shouldn’t Bill Ford or at least Ford’s public relations office put out a statement correcting Trump’s, um, misimpression that a plant in Kentucky was ever scheduled to move to Mexico?

I get that that is a dangerous move, given Trump’s nature.  But a courageous move at the outset by Ford’s CEO would put everyone on notice that we’re in for some serious fascist tactics in the next four years, and they need to try to undermine the success of those tactics.

*H/T Paul Waldman

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ADDENDUM: Here’s a detailed article about this in the Washington Post.** Do read the article.  Then ask Trump about whom he plans to pick as his, um, Labor Secretary.  And whether his NLRB member pics will be … pro-union.

No, don’t bother with that last question.  It’s not just that we don’t have to ask, cuz we already know.  It’s also that we know that Trump will say they will be pro-union picks.

One absolute certainty is that Trump will continue to say the opposite of what he is doing is what he is doing, and say the opposite of what happened is what happened. On absolutely everything.

We are about to have Joe McCarthy combined with the Matter Hatter as president of the United States.

Added 11/18 at 12:27 p.m.

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*I switched the link from a Politico article to one by Jim Tankersley in the Washington Post, which provides the full information.

Added 11/18 at 5:44 p.m.

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Lock Him Up!!

Folks … this is crazy.

Even apart from the profound national security danger and, at least seemingly, breach of federal criminal law–hey, James Comey, wanna investigate this?–there is that little issue about, y’know, LOBBYISTS CONTROLLING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

And to think we thought the only conflicts of interest would be finance industry and fossil fuel industry cabinet department and regulatory capture.  We were naive.

Will Fox News report this?  Will this make it into all those circular Facebook feeds?  Will there be a Twitter hashtag on it?

Look.  Supposedly there are all these Democratic billionaires and near-billionaires poised to begin trying to start a rebuilding of the party from the ground up, beginning with state legislative races.  Better extremely late than never on that.  But the best way to begin that–and in any event–far and away more immediately important–is to force this gross, concerted bait-and-switch into the public’s consciousness.  Meaning massive information campaigns on this.

Every Republican senator up for reelection, and every Republican House member, needs to be put on notice that this–this–will be the dominant issue in the 2018 election cycle.  But first and foremost, those in the Midwest and the Rust Belt need to know this.  That’s where the information campaign should begin.  Tomorrow.

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