Clinton versus Putin.

While a majority of Republicans once believed that fair-play meant that the Republican convention should nominate the candidate who had won the most votes in the primaries, a majority (54 percent) of Republicans now wish that the party had not chosen Donald Trump as the candidate.  About a third (35 percent) believes that Trump was the best choice available.  Obviously, the latter figure doesn’t mean Trump alone.  It may be more of a statement about the Republican candidates who ran against Trump.  The Democrats aren’t in much better shape about Hillary Clinton.  Almost half (47 percent) of those who plan to vote for her will do so chiefly to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.  Scarcely a third (32 percent) are actually pro-Clinton.  More broadly, two thirds (66 percent) of all voters believe that HRC is dishonest, while less than a third (29 percent) believe that she is not dishonest.  Again obviously, the “Hillary is dishonest” camp includes every single Republican and a bunch of Independents.  Amidst the Viking funeral of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, people should attend to the recent poll reporting that 74 percent of Trump’s supporters think that Hillary Clinton should be in prison.[1]  How deeply that view has penetrated the minds of ordinary Democrats is unknown.[2]

This could have consequences for the 2016 presidential election.  A lot of people will vote for Hillary Clinton in order to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

Unless, perhaps, they think that she is crooked.  “Crooked Hillary” has become a standard phrase in the speeches of Donald Trump.  This charge arises from Trump’s abrasive discourse and datcourse.  However, it gains traction from the perception that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation engaged in unseemly practices during her time as Secretary of State.  The release of several documents from the investigation of Clinton by the EffaBeeEye has poured gasoline on this particular fire.

Earlier reports indicated that HRC’s e-mail had probably been compromised.  Trump invited the Russians to reveal what they had learned from the 30,000-plus “personal” e-mails that Clinton had ordered deleted from her private server.  Some people misconstrued this as an invitation to “hack” her private server.  The server seems to have been shut-down long ago, so it cannot now be hacked.  Trump’s hope seems to be that the Russians will reveal damaging information about Clinton’s private dealings with donors to the Clinton Foundation while she served as Secretary of State.

It seems reasonable to expect such “revelations.”  There is a lot of bad blood between Clinton and the Russian soon-to-be-tsar Vladimir Putin.  While serving as Secretary of State, Clinton challenged Putin’s authority in a country where being on the wrong side of the government can get you killed.  In early 2011, she, among others, deceived the Russians about American intentions in Libya.[3]  In December 2011, she described Russian elections as plagued by “electoral fraud.”[4]    If the Russkies have incriminating evidence, they may dump it.

Now the New York Times seems to be lighting “back-fires” in preparation for an “October surprise.”[5]

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 12 August 2016, p. 18.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 9 September 2016, p.17.

[3] See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2014/09/28/obama-versus-putin/

[4] See: http://dailycaller.com/2016/07/25/dec-2011-hillary-clinton-angers-putin-demands-investigation-into-russian-electoral-fraud/

[5] Neil MacFarquhar, “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories,” NYT, 28 August 2016; Jo Becker, Steven Erlanger, and Eric Schmitt, “How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West’s Secrets,” NYT, 31 August 2016.

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The ACA in September 2016.

There seem to be several major challenges facing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[1]

First of all, the ACA sought to provide health insurance to low-income people.  On the one hand, the problem the Obama administration did not want to address directly is that American doctors make about 50 percent more than European or Japanese doctors with comparable skills.  The same goes for hospitals.  Cutting the incomes of doctors and of hospitals to reduce health care costs to manageable levels would set off a storm of opposition from the American Medical Association and whoever fronts for the hospitals.  On the other hand, there are a bunch of insurance companies—notably Blue Cross plans–that are used to dealing with low-income populations.  However, these insurers keep prices down by offering a narrow range of service providers who agree to accept low payments in return for a steady stream of customers.  Most doctors would refuse to participate in such arrangements.  Assuming that poor consumers were like richer consumers, the authors of the ACA sought to provide a greater range of choice.  The government mandate on the health services provided cuts across the desires of some consumers.  Then, the government lured a bunch of major insurers into the market in the belief that that competition would hold down costs for a broader range of services.  However, the major insurers lost a lot of money and they have begun to bail.  Basically, markets are often more rational than any government “ukase.”  Perhaps 17 percent of people who use the insurance “marketplace” will find that there is only one seller.

Second, the ACA rests on the belief that healthy, young, poor people can be compelled to buy insurance to subsidize sick, old, richer people.  In fact, less than half the 24 million people who were expected to buy insurance through the marketplace have signed up.  A lot of younger people just don’t want to join.  A lot of sick people do want to join only for  long enough to get their illnesses treated,  As a result, the insurance premiums are already so much higher than the government subsides that many people are opting out.  One solution would be to follow the path of the low cost insurers by narrowing networks and forcing down remuneration to doctors and hospitals.  Democrats favor either raising taxes on Republicans to pay for more generous subsidies to health care providers or coercing the un-insured to get insurance.

Third, apparently believing that much of the high cost of American health care came from profiteering by the insurance companies, the ACA included limits on profits and inadequate guarantees against losses.  Faced with large and mounting losses, the major insurance companies have begun to abandon the market place.

So, what are the policy options?  First, President Obama and President-in-Waiting Clinton have floated the idea of going back to the “public option” that Obama once cavalierly abandoned.  The public option would—undoubtedly with the aid of subsidies from the tax payers—“compete” with the private companies in order to drive down prices.  (See: TVA.)  Second, Blue Cross plans—low cost insurers with a lot of experience—argue for further reforms like blocking customers from signing up for short-term coverage in order to deal with accumulated health problems, the drooping coverage; higher premiums for older patients who cost more; and enhancing government subsidies for th care of very sick patients.  “Experts” and “advocates” are in some disagreement about what course to pursue.  Apparently, the Obama Administration is reluctant to consult or listen to business people.

[1] Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz, “ObamaCare Obstacles, and Some Possible Solutions,” NYT, 30 August 2016.