Trumpcare’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

America currently has a health reform model that has given it the highest rate of health insurance coverage in history, covering more than 20 million of its most difficult to insure citizens.  It has helped those 20 million Americans avoid having their lives ruined by crushing medical bills, or shifting those costs onto other Americans.

Gallup_uninsured_chartAnd despite years of heavily-financed and relentless attacks on the model, most Americans now have a favorable impression of it.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) system isn’t perfect.  Yes liberals, a Medicare for All system would be much more effective and efficient than the current ACA system. Yes conservatives, this ACA needs adjustments, though, to borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of its death spiraliness have been greatly exaggerated.

Fact Check:  Obamacare Is Not In A Death Spiral

“You could, I think, relatively simply address the issues that the exchanges have,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a health consulting firm, noting that other major programs including Medicare have been tweaked repeatedly since their creation.

Now President Trump and the Republicans want to blow up the ACA model — the one that covered the most Americans in history — in favor of a model that will cause an estimated 6 million to10 million Americans to lose their coverage. Their alternative particularly hurts the low-income, rural and elderly.  To add insult to injury, it shoehorns in a grotesquely large tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, at a time when we have the worst inequality in incomes since the 1920s.  The alternative is vehemently opposed by doctors, nurses, hospitals, seniors, conservatives, and liberals. And Republicans promise to pass it within three weeks, without cost estimates if necessary, after complaining about the ACA being “rammed through” over 13 months.

This is the political and policymaking genius that is Trumpcare.

Will Rogers said, “this country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” Never has that been more true than now.

The Home of the Brave Has Gotten Irrationally Fearful

Elevator_crashThese are very scary times. Who among us does not lie awake at night worrying about dying in an elevator? I mean, what if one came crashing down while you were riding in it? Makes me shudder just thinking about it.

So I don’t care how tall the building is, I’m taking the stairs.  So are all of my family members. Better yet, we usually avoid going into structures with elevators.  Frankly, I wish they’d just outlaw them.

Or dogs. Oh sure, dogs look cute and all. I do understand that some of them actually aren’t killers. But still, I don’t let my family near dogs, because some have killed humans. Therefore, my family usually carries concealed firearms to protect themselves from being killed by vicious canines.  For goodness sake people, let’s not let any more dogs into our communities!

Paranoid, you say? I should accept the relatively low risk associated with elevators and dogs?  I shouldn’t let irrational levels of fear steal my peace-of-mind and quality-of-life?

Well, the risk of being killed by a dog (1-in-18,000,000) or dying in an elevator (1-in-10,440,000) is actually a bit higher than the risk of being killed by terrorism (1-in-20,000,000).  As context, consider that 1-in-100 Americans will die in a car crash in our lifetimes, yet Americans routinely ride in cars and don’t get particularly stressed about it.

Fear_of_terrorism_surveyDespite this relatively low level of risk, many Americans are overcome by our fear of terrorism. Even in June 2015, well before the recent Paris and California terrorist attacks, Gallup was finding that about half (49%) of Americans were worried that they or someone in their family would personally become a victim of terrorism.  Given the 1-in-20,000,000 odds, that level of fear is not rational.

Because of Americans’ extreme level of fear, we’re stocking up on guns. We’re betraying our national values by persecuting people who look and worship differently than us. Surveys even show that we’re willing to send young Americans to fight in yet another lethal, mega-expensive, and terrorism-provoking middle east quagmire.

Terrorism is a threat. We absolutely should take reasonable steps to limit and reduce the undeniable risk terrorism poses.   But we also need to keep the risk in proper perspective, so that we can continue to truthfully say that we are the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Note:  This post was also featured in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

BLM Protests Are Starting to Spotlight Disruption More Than Discrimination

I want what the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement wants.

Police body cameras? Yep.   Punishment and removal of police officers who are abusive and/or are engaged in racial profiling? It’s about time. Prosecution of police offers who break the law? Yes.   More diverse police forces? Definitely. Better training in deescalation techniques for police officers? Badly needed. Less draconian drug laws? Amen.  More white awareness of examples of disgraceful racially based abuses in the law enforcement system? Absolutely.

Black Lives Matters is on the right track, and I’m with them.

But when it comes to disruption of community events that have nothing to do with racial discrimination in the law enforcement system, BLM loses me and a lot of other sympathetic citizens.  Legal authorities can determine the extent to which such disruption is permissible, but my question is whether it is persuasive.

Protesting at the scene of an incident of police abuse is persuasive, because it shines a light squarely on an example of abuse.  Just as sit-ins at segregated diners forced white America to open their eyes to the injustice of Jim Crow laws, shining a light directly on undeniable examples of police abuse is having a profound effect on white opinions.

Americans__Satisfaction_With_Way_Blacks_Treated_TumblesFor instance, between 2013 and 2015, Gallup finds a 14-point increase in the number of white Americans who are not satisfied with the way blacks are being treated. Another poll finds that an overwhelming 89% now support the use of police body cameras.

Black Lives Matters is starting to win, and that’s very good for our country.

But disrupting community activities that have nothing to do with police abuse – fairs, commutes, and sporting events — effectively is spotlighting disruption more than discrimination.  Because the disruptions are unpopular, I worry that the tactic will result in fewer allies for police abuse reforms. If the ultimate goal of BLM is to change the law enforcement system so that it better protects black lives, rather than to simply get on the news, disrupting non-discriminatory community gatherings strikes me as self-defeating.

The Saint Paul BLM chapter apparently is planning to disrupt this weekend’s Twin Cities Marathon, an uplifitng community event that is not the least bit connected to the issue of racial bias in the law enforcement system.   This is of particular interest to me, because my son has been training for months to run his first marathon that day, and I’ve been looking forward to a 10-mile run.  The protest could change all of that.

To be clear, I am keeping this in perspective. Seeing my son have his dream of completing a marathon taken from him is obviously nothing compared to black parents seeing their children have their dignity, dreams and lives taken from them due to our discriminatory law enforcement system.  I get that.  But such disruptions of community events do feel unfair, unnecessary and unfocused to a lot of citizens, and I fear public resentment of the tactic will inadvertently set back a very important cause.

Obama Should Denounce The Electoral College, Even If It Saves Him

The New York Times’ poll-aggregating oddsmaker Nate Silver currently puts the chances of President Obama winning the Electoral College at about 86%, but his chances of winning the popular vote at only 51%.

In other words, there is a very real chance — a 6.9% chance according to Silver — that President Obama could win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, as happened to President George W. Bush in his race against Al Gore in 2000.

In case you were sleeping through the film strip in Civics Class the day they covered the Constitutional Convention and the Virginia Plan, the Electoral College is what counts.   Quite incredibly, the United States of America is the only democracy on the planet where candidates can and do become the national leader without having won the highest number of votes. Continue reading

Why Aren’t Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Minnesotans Happier?

The news media loves state rankings and report cards.  A constant array of news stories continually lets states know how well they’re keeping up the with the Jones’s in their national neighborhood.

This coverage often leads to the vigorous debates between political activists and leaders about which ratings matter most?  Many conservatives prefer measures such as “best business climate,” “most free,” “most religious,” and “lowest taxes.”  Many liberals covet measures such as “healthiest,” “best educated,” “best quality of life,” or “best child wellness.”

Who is right?  Nobody and everybody, of course.  It depends on what each individual values most in life.

That’s why the ultimate state ranking is Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index, which measures the proportion of a state’s citizens that self-report that they are “thriving.” I like this measure, because it focuses on happiness bottom lines, not the variables that research designers speculate are the ingredients for happiness. Continue reading