Archive

December 6th

Another piece of Obamacare that Trump should keep

    To get a sense of the future of American health care, amidst the post-election uncertainty, watch what happens to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. This agency, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, has attracted substantial opposition. A recent proposal to change reimbursement to doctors for administering certain drugs, in particular, has led to calls that it be abolished. But let's hope the center survives, because it could prove crucial to any new effort to raise the value of health care in the U.S.

    Republicans and Democrats agree that our health-care system needs to move away from fee-for-service payments, which give doctors an incentive to provide more care rather than better care. This payment shift can be accomplished either by encouraging private insurance companies to change how they reimburse hospitals and doctors, or by directly changing how Medicare -- the largest single purchaser of health-care services -- pays those providers. Republicans have tended to favor the former approach and Democrats the latter, but both sides recognize that a combination is needed.

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Trump: Be ‘Big Marco’ or Set His Own Path?

    Republican economic policy doesn’t have a good recent track record. The last two Republican presidents left office deeply unpopular, thanks to recessions. Ronald Reagan’s record was much better but still not as good as Bill Clinton’s.

    All told, economic growth under Democratic presidents over the last half-century has been 25 percent faster than under Republicans. Private-sector job growth has been more than twice as fast. Republicans even have a worse record running up the deficit. (These comparisons hold no matter when precisely you start the clock on a president’s legacy.)

    Of course, presidents don’t deserve full credit or blame for the economy’s performance. But they do bear some responsibility. The notion that Republican presidents have been better economic stewards than Democrats but fallen victim to a terribly unfair mix of luck and timing is about as sensible as it sounds.

    There are reasons that the modern version of Republican economics hasn’t worked so well. It takes the powerful ideas behind market-based capitalism to an extreme, where they often stop working.

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Trump has already defeated the news media, and it's unclear what we can do about it

    Donald Trump is either a mad genius who has cracked the media code in a way no politician before him was able to do, or he's a kind of political Mr. Magoo, stumbling randomly about yet achieving one success after another. We may never know which it is.

    But if we're going to maintain our democracy, we have to figure out how to deal with the way Trump successfully manipulates the media.

    Perhaps, as some have suggested, Trump tweeted his ridiculous lie about millions of fraudulent votes on Sunday in order to distract people from this lengthy investigation in the New York Times of the overseas partnerships that present unprecedented conflict of interest problems for his foreign policy. But even if that wasn't his intent, it's what happened - and he accomplished some other things as well.

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The most likely explanation for Donald Trump's fraud claims is the simplest one: Ego

    There are two questions underpinning Donald Trump's Sunday afternoon tweets in which he clearly hoped to undercut confidence in the results of this month's presidential election. First, are his claims accurate? And, second, why claim that the results of an election you won were tainted?

    The first question is the easier one to answer, because it involves no mind reading. Trump's tweeted claim that "millions of people ... voted illegally" earned four Pinocchios from The Washington Post's fact checkers. It appears to have stemmed mostly from one tweet issued by one person, which then made its way to the conspiracy site InfoWars.

    Trump followed that up with another tweet:

    "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

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The coming clash on Trump's immigration plan

    Perhaps no battle in Donald Trump's presidency will be as pitched, or public, as the coming fight over undocumented immigrants. If he pursues his stated goal of deporting 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, a network of pro-immigrant cities, institutions and activists is poised to make the process as visibly contentious as possible.

    Trump will have authority to deport millions. While individual cases can be contested and prolonged in immigration court -- the system is already overloaded -- lawsuits against Trump's executive powers or the implementation of his plan appear to have little chance of success.

    Resistance to Trump will be highly variable. The entirety of California, which is home to more undocumented immigrants than any other state, seems to be moving to high alert. In Los Angeles this month, board members for the nation's second-largest school district unanimously reiterated their commitment to "protect the data and identities of any student, family member, or school employee who may be adversely affected by any future policies or executive action that results in the collection of any personally identifiable information."

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Put your faith in Constitution, not 'democracy'

    When Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig argued at Medium that members of the Electoral College should break faith and vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, I chalked it up to the brilliantly contrarian Larry being brilliant and contrarian -- even if wrong. But when, over the holiday weekend, The Washington Post published his op-ed making the same argument, it made me think serious people might take his argument seriously -- which would be dangerous for democracy and bad for the republic. So with great respect for Larry's ideals and values, here's why faithless electors would subvert, not sustain, the democratic values that underlie the U.S. presidential election system.

    Start with a thought experiment: What if Donald Trump had won the popular vote and lost in the Electoral College? How would Democrats respond if prominent scholars and public figures argued that Clinton's electors should break their pledges and elect Trump?

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Push for transparency may have cost Clinton the election

    Hillary Clinton thinks James Comey cost her the presidency.

    Eleven days before the election, the FBI director informed congressional leaders that newly discovered information might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. That inquiry was never formally closed, but months earlier, Comey made it clear that he would not seek prosecution. His new message was vague but provocative, and the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump immediately used it to reinforce its claim that the email story was "worse than Watergate."

    At the time Clinton was surging in the polls, and Trump's campaign seemed to be imploding under the weight of poor debate performances and accusations of sexual assault. Some observers argue that Comey's intervention stopped the decline and reduced Clinton's national lead by up to three points. Although it is impossible to prove causation, the letter may have depressed turnout on her behalf. Late-deciding voters broke for Trump in large numbers.

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If you're even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted

    Recently, New York magazine set the Internet on fire with a piece speculating that hacked voting machines may have tipped November's presidential election.

    This is dangerous, and not just because there's no evidence that Russia "stole the election." Talking about these voting machines distracts us from what such speculation represents: the success of a broader Russian strategy to weaken Americans' trust in democracy.

    This election cycle, that strategy manifested itself in the Russians' strongly alleged involvement in promoting "fake news" and disseminating hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. These emails hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and weakened Americans' trust in the Democratic primary.

    Why would Russian agencies want to undermine U.S. elections in the first place? The answer begins with Russian President Vladimir Putin's survival instinct. A s Yale historian Timothy Snyder writes, Putin has tried to weaken democracy and civil society around the world to make Russian authoritarianism more appealing in comparison.

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How Russian propaganda works in the West

    Until recently, the phenomenon of Russian government propaganda was only interesting to a small group of Russia experts, news junkies and counter-propaganda fundraisers. It was mainly seen as a tool for keeping Russians supportive of Vladimir Putin. No longer. Thanks to post-U.S. election blame games, and the upcoming election season in Europe, how the Russian state pushes its messages to Western audiences is a hot political topic. It's also woefully misunderstood.

    As the Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, who started this own project to debunk Russian government propaganda, puts it: "The fight against fake news has itself turned into fake news. It's a kind of meta-propaganda."

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Here's how I explain my Muslim faith to fearful Americans

    "Do you want to kill us?"

    It's a question I get a lot. I'm a Muslim Somali-American living in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. My family of 10 emigrated here in November 1993, and I became American by the old-school system called assimilation. It's been a sprint with no discernible end. It's even more challenging in places like Saint Cloud, a Catholic town that's earned the nickname "White Cloud" because of its demographic make-up.

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