Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Paul Krugman: Doing the Health Care Two-Step
Medium-size reform creates the conditions for bigger things.
Recent state elections — the Democratic landslide in Virginia, followed by Democratic gubernatorial victories in Kentucky and Louisiana — have been bad news for Donald Trump.
Among other things, the election results vindicate polls indicating that Trump is historically unpopular. All of these races were in part referendums on Trump, who put a lot of effort into backing his preferred candidates. And in each case voters gave him a clear thumbs down.
Beyond offering a verdict on Trump, however, I’d argue that the state elections offered some guidance on an issue that has divided Democrats, namely health care. What the results suggested to me was the virtue of medium-size reform: incremental enough to have a good chance of being enacted, big enough to provide tangible benefits that voters don’t want taken away.
Remember, there was a third governor’s race, in Mississippi, in which the G.O.P. held on. True, Mississippi is a very red state, which Trump won by 18 points in 2016. But Louisiana and Kentucky are or were, if anything, even redder, with Trump margins of 20 and 30 points respectively. So what made the difference?
Michelle Goldberg: Stephen Miller Is a White Nationalist. Does It Matter?
Leaked emails from a top Trump aide test our capacity for outrage.
We’re about to find out how far the already impossibly low standards to which we hold the Trump administration have fallen since then. Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published evidence of the white nationalism of Stephen Miller, President Trump’s senior immigration adviser. The S.P.L.C. obtained more than 900 emails from 2015 and 2016 that Miller, who was then an aide to Senator Jeff Sessions, sent to editors at the far-right website Breitbart to shape its coverage of race and immigration. The group got the emails from Katie McHugh, a former Breitbart editor who, after being fired for anti-Muslim tweets, moved even further right before renouncing racism. The emails show that Miller was steeped in white nationalism before he joined the White House, where he’s had the opportunity to put his racist views into practice. [..]
Though the revelations about Miller aren’t surprising, it’s important that they not be swept away by the torrent of other news, lest we admit that even the degraded standards of 2018 no longer apply. “This is a smoking gun,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been leading the call for Miller’s resignation in Congress, adding, “We didn’t know this, because if we did, we would have demanded his resignation much earlier, and in a much more forceful way.”
Trump is, of course, unlikely to jettison his xenophobic homunculus. “Stephen is not going anywhere,” a senior White House official told The Daily Beast last week. “The president has his back.” But the pressure on Trump, and, perhaps more important, on his supporters in Congress, is only going to build.
Jamelle Bouie: Republicans Are Following Trump to Nowhere
There’s an impeachment lesson hiding in the president’s failure to produce the political results he wants.
Americans have gone to the polls four times this month to vote in major, statewide races. In Virginia, they voted for control of the state Legislature; in Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana, they voted for control of the governor’s mansion. In each case, President Trump tied himself to the outcome. [..]
Trump thought voters would repudiate impeachment and vindicate him. Instead, they did the opposite. Virginia Democrats won a legislative majority for the first time since 1993, flipping historically Republican districts. Kentucky Democrats beat incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in a state Trump won by 30 points in 2016. And Louisiana Democrats re-elected Governor John Bel Edwards in a state Trump won by the more modest but still substantial margin of 20 points. Democrats in Mississippi made significant gains even as they fell short of victory — their nominee for governor, Jim Hood, lost by five-and-a-half points, a dramatic turnaround from four years ago, when Republican Phil Bryant won in a landslide. [..]
But just because no one ran on impeachment doesn’t mean it wasn’t in the air. Voters could have shown they were tired of Democratic investigations. They could have elevated the president’s allies. Instead, voters handed Trump an unambiguous defeat. And that is much more than just a blow to the president’s immediate political fortunes.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: The furor over Medicare-for-all ignores a key question
In the Democratic presidential debate, Medicare-for-all has been probed and dissected as if it were an extraterrestrial alien rather than a logical extension of Medicare, the most popular U.S. medical program. Debate moderators have drilled down on the cost of Medicare-for-all, ignoring the fact that it would cost less and cover more than our existing system. Pete Buttigieg, the largest recipient of health-care industry donations outside of President Trump, bashes its champions, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), for wanting to increase taxes on the middle class while booting “150 million Americans off their insurance in four short years.” Former vice president Joe Biden labels Warren as “angry,” “condescending” and “elitist.”
Ignored in the furor is what might be the most incredible assertion in the health-care debate: the claim by the centrists that they can provide health care to everyone for less money than Medicare-for-all by cobbling a public option onto our current system. Americans, they claim, can have their choice between private insurance or a public system like Medicare.
It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that this is a real stretch. Adding a public option on top of our current system would continue the staggering administrative waste of the private insurance system. About 30 percent of every health-care dollar is squandered on administrative overhead — largely the paperwork, the pre-approvals, denials and appeals that are inherent in a system of for-profit private insurance companies. That’s about $1 trillion a year. Medicare-for-all can cut that trillion dollars in half by eliminating that bureaucratic waste. To continue to pay for that waste, a public option system will either end up as Medicare for All Who Can Afford It — rationed by cost, with tens of millions deprived of adequate health care — or it will cost far more than Medicare-for-all.
The president’s disdain for democracy, adulation for autocrats and contempt for the global rules-based order poses a unique peril. Ditching Trump in 2020 would be a gift to the world
Europeans, if they can bear to watch, are observing US politics with a mixture of fascination and horror – and it’s all down to Donald Trump. Each week seems to bring another democracy-shattering rumpus, scandalous revelation or shocking tweet. The depth and evident bitterness of America’s public divisions are unsettling for friends and allies who count on dependable US leadership.
It is hard to overstate how badly Trump has hurt America’s worldwide reputation. US presidents have been internationally unpopular before – George W Bush over Iraq, for example, or LBJ over Vietnam. But Trump has sunk to an all-time low. [..]
Trump’s admiration for authoritarian regimes and “strongman” leaders such as Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, when set alongside his electoral shenanigans at home, has strengthened the view that he is no friend to democracy – at a time when democracies everywhere are under sustained attack.
The US under Trump’s baleful tutelage is not only losing influence and respect. It is also, increasingly, a source of and contributor to global woes and instabilities. His unilateral, nationalistic, self-defeating approach threatens deepening trouble across the board next year.