Frank Bruni on last night’s debate

July 31, 2019 • 8:45 am

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the debate last night, including the claim that the CNN moderators acted like Republicans, throwing hard questions at the candidates. I reject that: for it seems to me that’s exactly what the moderators should be doing—not coddling the candidates or asking them to expand on their ideas, but challenging them the way Republicans or centrists would challenge them. If the candidates can’t defend their stands against liberal moderators, how could they defend them against Republics? As for the candidates going after Warren and Sanders, who apparently decided not to go after each other (is there a ticket in the offing?), it’s because they realize that most Americans, including Democrats, don’t subscribe to many ideas of “progressive” Democrats.

Nor do I, at least not whole hog.  I consider myself a tad more liberal than most Democrats, for there’s no way I could ever be persuaded to vote for a Republican president, nor would I ever stay home from the polls. But do I want my healthcare removed in favor of “Medicare for all”? Nope. I have a great healthcare plan for which I pay basically nothing, and I’d be loath to swap that for a form of healthcare in which you have to wait months to see a specialist.  On the other hand, I do want the option of Medicare for all, and I’d be willing to pay higher taxes to get that as an option for all Americans. Do I want open borders? No. Nor do I want illegal immigrants to be treated as if they were legal (including free healthcare), nor do I accept the view that we should believe every immigrant who says they’re refugees. That’s palpably ridiculous—many, who are migrating for economic reasons (and thus don’t qualify as refugees) have learned how to game the system.

Do I want college debt forgiven? I’m not sure. Those people took on the debt willingly, but now want it forgiven. Where will the money come from? Do I want the Green New Deal? In principle, yes, but in practice it’s unachievable and financially insupportable, though I do think that we need “action this day” about global warming.

That said, I would vote for any of the Democrats over Trump, but right now I’d vote for Buttigieg over either Sanders or Warren in the primary.”Mayor Pete” is young and inexperienced, but he’s smart and, I think, would grow into the Presidency. Sanders is a non-starter, and Warren, while also smart and progressive in many ways I’d like, is less likely to defeat Trump. She will be typed, as were John Kerry and Mike Dukakis, as a “Massachusetts liberal.”

In general, then, I agree with Frank Bruni’s take in today’s New York Times (quotes from Bruni are indented below the link):

On Elizabeth Warren:

Sanders and Warren, in turn, cast their critics as merchants of nothing more than “small ideas and spinelessness,” as Warren put it. She didn’t match Sanders’s volume — who can and who would want to? — but her lines were as good or better.

Like this one: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

Or this: “Democrats win when we figure out what is right and we get out there and fight for it. I am not afraid. And for Democrats to win, you can’t be afraid either.” Fight, fight, fight, fight. There is no syllable more central to Warren’s campaign.

She’s sharp. She’s stirring. I also think she’s wrong — wrong that enough general-election voters will choose a candidate who aims to take away options when it comes to medical insurance, wrong that enough of them want a government at bitter war with all of corporate America, wrong that enough of them would be comfortable with the scope of federal spending that she proposes.

Also wrong that voters will choose a candidate who basically favors open borders and the decriminalization of illegal immigration, although Warren is loath to admit it.

. . . [The moderate candidates raised questions about] the dizzier dimensions of the Green New Deal and any Medicare for all plan that starts by wiping out private insurance. They raised the right questions about it and poked the right holes in it, prompting Warren to complain repeatedly that they were playing into Republicans’ hands by appropriating Republican talking points.

That was deft of her politically and cheap of her substantively, which made two things abundantly clear.

One, she’s a better candidate than Sanders, at least in the abstract.

Two, if she winds up with the nomination, it will be after planting herself as firmly as possible on an island of purity.

There’s probably no credible toggle toward the center for her, no ready bridge to a messier but potentially bigger mainland. What bold real estate. What risky terrain, too.

On Mayor Pete (and Beto):

And I was impressed by Pete Buttigieg. I’m always impressed by him. How does a person become this articulate, this informed and this poised by the age of 37? It’s like his parents read him the Encyclopaedia Britannica instead of “Goodnight, Moon” and regularly injected him with some analogue of human growth hormone that supersizes developing brains.

. . .There were smaller contests within the larger one on Tuesday night — for example, Buttigieg versus Beto O’Rourke, 46, for the affections of voters who yearn for generational change. Buttigieg definitely came out on top, in part because he hewed more tightly to the argument that it was time for new approaches and unsullied optimism, capably noting how much of the conversation around him had remained unchanged in Democratic politics for decades. O’Rourke rambled, and the only strong impression of him that I came away with was that he’s tall. His performance won’t arrest his fade from the promise and prominence of his 2018 Senate campaign. He must miss Ted Cruz dearly, and no one ever does that.

Buttigieg’s backers told him before this debate that he needed to show more fire than he did the last time around, after which he stalled in the polls. He didn’t achieve quite the animation that they sought, but he made strides in that direction. At no point during the night did I come so close to standing up and cheering as when he took on Trump’s Republican enablers on Capitol Hill.

“If you are watching at home and you are a Republican member of Congress,” he said, “consider the fact that when the sun sets on your career, and they are writing your story, of all the good and bad things you did in your life, the thing you will be remembered for is whether in this moment, with this president, you found the courage to stand up to him or continued to put party over country.” It was a canned soliloquy, sure, but that made it no less necessary.

And then there’s Marianne Williamson. She’s already out of the running, and won’t be in the next round of debates, but Bruni has a grudging admiration for her:

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Marianne Williamson. How can you not? She says big things and loopy things and impassioned things and sometimes they’re even the same thing. And she’s constantly chiding Democrats for what clichéd, banal, uneducable windbags they can be. More than a few of them need to hear that.

But she’s an anti-vaxer, or at least against vaccination requirements. Enough said.

Of course it’s early days: we have 16 more months of campaigning, and things may (and will) change dramatically over that time. Perhaps someone like Obama will rise from the pack to trounce Trump. But it’s fun to speculate, and fun—but sometimes depressing—to hear the Democratic candidates go after each other, and Trump, with hammer and tongs. What’s most depressing is that no one candidate stands out right now. Biden is leading by a large margin, but I wonder what kind of President he’d make.

170 thoughts on “Frank Bruni on last night’s debate

  1. Thanks, Professor Coyne. I always appreciate your keen ability to temper idealism with realism and common sense.

  2. No one gets healthcare for free. If you have really good employer paid health insurance then it ultimately comes out of your pay check. Your employer could be paying you that money instead of spending it on your health insurance.

    We could also pass laws that require all physicians to take Medicare, protect Medicare patients from discrimination so that they get their care in a timely manner, and adjust prices so that cost will support the current economy of healthcare while also setting us on a glide path towards more affordable care. Government intervention is the only way we are going to get costs down so that we are no longer paying twice what other first world nations are spending on the same care.

    1. I think that the unaddressed issue with insurance is that people like me, who have great insurance, have the benefit as a result of a union contract. It is simple to say that my employer could pay me more, but if we switch to a medicare for all system I still have a health benefit in my contract and no pay to replace it. Would the law include a provision that turns health benefits into pay increases of equal value (modified by the change in pension contribution). Would the union have to negotiate the pay increase, in which case we’d have poor leverage without demanding that our employer provide that private insurance until the time at which we negotiate a new contract, though they may get a reduced rate if it serves as secondary insurance, reducing their need to negotiate the full value of the former insurance into a pay increase. Would we negotiate a medicare supplement along with a smaller pay raise?
      Mind you, I’m not opposed to making this change, but I do understand why some might fear it. There are unanswered questions, at least in my mind.

      1. The concerns you raise indicate why a debate over the details of a universal healthcare plan is fruitless and counterproductive. First, the likelihood of ANY plan being passed in the relatively near future is uncertain at best, even with a Democratic Senate and House. Second, if a plan should be passed, it will be by Congress. The best a president can do is cheer it on. Such a plan will entail compromise and probably would address your concerns to assure that it is passed. The Democrats mad a big mistake by wasting so much time defending and attacking mythical plans that most likely will not see the light of day. They should have simply said that they support a plan that is universal and comprehensive and will have the support of the American people. In addition, they should have spent more time attacking Trump and the Republicans for trying to take away insurance from people who already have it. The debate was painful to watch.

        1. Just a practical question: You have lost your job, and you have lost your health insurance. And you have a history of heart complaints. If you now get a heart attack, and need a triple bypass, will you get this treatment? This question mystifies Europeans about attitudes to health care in the US.

    2. You are absolutely right that no one gets healthcare for free. I was a contractor (no benefits) for Microsoft talking with a Microsoft employee. He was happy with his insurance until I mentioned he could get a $25,000 raise if he paid for insurance himself.

      I differ on your solution. I prefer letting the consumer do the shopping for bargains. Since I was a paying for my insurance, I made sure I found a cheap one (around $4000 per year for a family of 4) with a huge deductible. I always looked for low prices – e.g. asking doctors for cheaper prescription alternatives and shopping around. I was often able to reduce the cost by over 90% for a slightly different medicine or 50% for the same by going to ifferent pharmacy for different drugs.

      1. I guess it depends on what you mean by cheap insurance. If you have a huge deductible then the insurance is cheap, but getting sick is not.

        People shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to shop around for deals. They should go to a doctor and get a fair price, everywhere. At the moment, Americans are paying more than twice what other first world countries are paying, and this is due to our unregulated for-profit healthcare system. In our current system there is absolutely no incentive to make healthcare affordable on the part of hospitals and insurance companies because the product is something people can literally not live without. Free markets simply don’t work when we are talking about a necessity for living. This is why the prices of utilities like water and electricity are regulated which may provide a good model for how we can approach costs in healthcare.

        As long as the hospitals and insurance companies get to set prices the cost of healthcare will continue to be too high. There has to be an entity who is looking out for the patient which we currently don’t have, other than Medicare and Medicaid.

    3. I have Medicare, and so far having lived in a couple different states since I went on Medicare, have not had any problem with doctors not accepting Medicare. Also, when I make appointments, no one asks if I have Medicare before the appointment is set up. So, I doubt I wait longer than non-Medicare patients.
      In the past, I’ve been responsible for arranging my employer’s group health coverage. During that time, I learned that many people don’t have great coverage. We know union jobs are fewer than there were in the past, and other jobs that are not with universities or the federal government (not state governments)in general tend to have higher deductibles and co-pays, and are not often 100% employer-paid. I don’t know the percentages here, but I don’t think it would be a problem for an option to take Medicare coverage because adverse selection, where the only people to sign up are sick or have some expensive care needs, is already happening because of Medicaid and VA programs. I think we would see more and more people opting into Medicare, and the covered pool would get younger and therefore healthier as time went by.

    4. I agree with you, but would like to specifically address the myth that medicare requires months of waiting. It does not.

      A week or less is the wait I have experienced. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, time between diagnosis with mammogram and surgery to remove the tumor was 3 weeks. Given the number of tests done prior to the surgery, 3 weeks did not seem unreasonable. When I tripped and fell a few months ago, the referral to a plastic surgeon was in my email by the time I returned from urgent care and I had an appointment within the week. It would have been sooner had there not been a weekend between the urgent care visit and the appointment with the surgeon. I have no reason to think I am getting special consideration or that I live in an area with a high patient to doctor ratio. There is no difference between the level of care I receive on Medicare and that
      which I received with employer-paid insurance Medicare costs a lot less (lower premiums and a low deductible — for me $383.00/year).

      I don’t think we should be repeating Republican talking points meant to scare people away from Medicare and help the greed mongers demolish a program that is literally live and death for most retirees.

      That some individuals have good insurance coverage is beside the point. Or perhaps it is the point. We have a system that benefits the few at the expense of the rest of us. I think it is way past time for Democrats to insist on health care for all.

      1. No kidding!

        I’ve had Medicare for three years now. It is no more of a wait than any other insurance arrangement I’ve had in my life. Nor has it been a problem finding a doctor. (I just changed doctors from one I really liked, but was moving away, to a guy he recommended. No hassle at all, beyond the phone call I made to schedule an appointment for the annual physical.)

        1. Exactly right. It’s irritating when people trash Medicare. I’ve had Medicare in two different states, changed doctors in several specialties, had procedures, and I can say one thing. Medicare is a godsend. The one thing that all rightwing, Trumpistas agree on is, ‘don’t touch my Medicare.’

        2. Wait, do you guys have it in another country, or the US? If it’s the US, I think this argument is beside the point, as we are not currently on a single payer plan. The argument is not that Medicare requires waits in general, it’s that countries with single payer plans do (which, based on anecdotes I’ve heard from a friend when she was living in Canada, is true and not a myth.)

          1. From my understanding it is a myth. People with urgent need in Canada get prompt service. Delays can occur with low priority procedures and elective surgery. Most of the people rushing across the boarder have adopted the myth or are getting elective treatments in a big hurry and don’t mind extra expense. In addition, there’s no paper work, while here you can fill binders with bills from insurance companies informing you of such things as that you owe $80 for a catheter.
            Our Canadian friends should chime in here and offer some personal testimony.

            1. It’s hard to know what is a good source on these topics, but for what it’s worth:

              Wait Times For Health Care In Canada, 2018 Report

              Britain’s Version of ‘Medicare for All’ Struggling With Long Waits For Care

              I don’t want to sound like a complete Debbie Downer on the topic. I am open to the idea of various healthcare proposals and I think that, this being the real world and not utopia, they will all have serious drawbacks and cons as well as pros. But, I do think it’s important for people to understand what they’re signing on for. Medicare for all sounds as if it would indeed involve weight times and some rationing of care – the upside being that basic care would be more universally available to all (sort of reminds me of when I had HMO insurance – basic care cost almost nothing, anything more involved was a bureaucratic nightmare).

              1. Health care in the USA is rationed already. The difference is it’s rationed by ability to pay.
                For many in the US the wait time is essentially infinite, with very little chance of even getting diagnosed, and those numbers don’t show up in the US health care wait times.

            2. I’ve lived in Canada for 42 years now end it seems that the wait times have gotten a bit longer Than used to be. I have generally been quite pleased with the care I received hereBut when I broke my upper right arm a week ago falling 3 feet down into my bed of begonias-I had
              Ivy covering A gap in the side of one of my porch steps-I first went to a walk-in clinic as my doctor was not in that day. The walk-in doc Looked at my arm and said it was probably broken so gave me paperwork to take to emergency. Said Paperwork was supposed to expedite my wait at emergency, probably did. I spent about three hours in emerge, in excruciating pain, got x-rayed add released with a prescription For naproxen. Got three Tylenol at the end and a Gravol/dramamine as the pain was making me nauseated – I am very rarely nauseous damn Siri I said nauseated. They said I would see in orthopedist In about a week. I was sent home in a sling with very few instructions. The x-ray did show a definite fracture in my humerus just below my shoulder. A week seemed like a long time with no cast or orthopod looking at the arm. Two days later it occurred to me to call the hospital to see how I would find out who and when I would see someone. It turned out they have neglected to make a referral to an orthopod but did finally make an appointment after being transferred to three different people. The appointment is for this Friday, 10 days after the break. I’ve basically doing fine with just Tylenol And the sling but can’t put my arm through my right sleeve. The hospital charged me $50 for the nylon sling and I bought a second identical one at the pharmacy for $19 so that I could shower in the sling and I have a dry one when I got out. Can even wash my hair left hand. Very long story to show that the system is not perfect here but could be a lot worse and a lot more expensive. Very bad typing attributable to Siri…

              1. Thanks for the report. The nightmare reports, perhaps, are untrue. It seems like you had a hairline fracture which did not require being set and cast so they triaged you off on a side track. That can’t be enjoyable. Have you heard any serious problems from others? Is anyone waiting 6 months for bypass surgery? Are the Canadian pundits, journalists, and politicians, complaining a lot about a failed system? Are people reported to be generally happy with the system as they seem to be in the UK?

              2. No one waits for serious issues. My dad’s friend, for example, was having heart issues. He drive himself to the hospital (which my dad chastised him for). They saw him in emerg and said “get someone to come get your truck you’re having bypass surgery now” and he had emergency surgery.

                My mom’s friend had a colonoscopy. They found cancer. They woke her and said “you’re having emergency surgery now” and she had a colonoscopy.

              3. Rick I don’t know if mines hairline or not. I will find out when I see the orthopod tomorrow. I think they ascertained that no bones were weirdly sticking out or anything like that. I’m not in that much pain anymore, just annoyed because we had plans to go hike the Appalachian Trail next week. Can’t even do my normal hikes or go to fitness classes.I will survive. No I don’t think anyone has to wait six months for bypass surgery. Most people seem quite satisfied with the system but like people everywhere people like to grouse. Where do you live again rick?

              4. I’m currently living in Idaho and I’m retired. I play a pretty good chunk for medical insurance, but I can afford it. Many cannot and depend on, who knows what?

            3. Canada’s wait times are often pointed to as evidence of failure but wait times should be put in perspective. For a great number of Americans the effective wait time is infinite since they can’t afford even basic health care.
              Many Americans develop chronic problems because they can’t afford treatment or medication.
              One quarter of cancer patients in the US can’t afford treatment.

              Remote Area Medical charity used to work exclusively in remote areas of developing countries, providing healthcare to people who can’t get health care. They have been working in the US for over a decade and where ever they go the lineups are extremely long.

              In other words charities for third world countries now operate in the USA.

              In Canada you don’t see parents selling everything they have and holding fund raisers to get a life saving treatment for their child.

              There are problems in the Canadian system and it can do better but these problems are trying to be addressed by all political parties. I don’t think this can be said of America. There are a large number of Americans who are quietly suffering and dying and for one party they are essentially non-existent.

              1. I would have to see stats on this. I am open to the idea but have also read statistics that the cancer survival rate, for example, is much higher in the US than in other countries. That does not jive with the idea of people dying as they wait for treatment (I think the reality is that they go ahead and get treatment, and then go bankrupt, if they don’t have insurance, or are in debt for years.) On the other hand, I think the mortality rates for things like heart disease are higher in the US, but so are rates of heart disease in general, so it’s hard to separate out lifestyle effects there. I’d just need a lot more data to come to a conclusion there.

                merilee, your story is kind of a foreign language to me. They sent you home from the emergency room with a broken arm and still haven’t treated it!? I could be wrong but I think that would be unheard of in the US. This is why I have my doubts about how single payer would go over in the US. I think it’s great that Canadians and those in the UK are very happy with their system, but I also think we can’t assume people in US, with a somewhat different culture and expectations, would be happy with the same system. It’s possible that people would adapt to such a system over time, but somehow I doubt it. I feel like Americans are very rarely happy about any status quo – there is always talk of how horrible things are, how we need to change the system, do it better, etc. (Seriously, I am trying to think of an example of a single system in the US that people are ubiquitously happy with, and none come to mind.) Celebrating how good the status quo is seems a bit antithetical to US culture, so again, I am open to the idea that people would adapt but have serious doubts.

              2. I don’t think the US culture is very different from Canada. We’ve only had single payer since the late 60s. As I said above, we offered both. People realized the public system was better and that is the one that endures. Merilee has a fracture not a broken arm. They would not leave you with a broken arm. However, I find hospitals are assholes about pain. I don’t think this is only Canada but they don’t care if you are in pain at all.

              3. I just googled, Diana, and apparently fractures and breaks are interchangeable terms. I have no idea if mine is hairline or all the way through or what because they didn’t tell me much of anything. They offered me no pain relief until I asked And then they suggested just a Tylenol and naproxen. As it turns out I’m only using plain Tylenol since day one. I rarxely use any kind of pain killers and unless I’m really really stiff after a long hike Or Zumba class. I suspect hospitals are being very very careful since The opiod crisis,My experience in Canadian hospitals has for the most part been asshole-free.

              4. Yes, but Roo thought you came in with an arm with a bone sticking through it and they gave you some pills and sent you home.

                And I know all about pain not being taken seriously. I think it’s beyond not wanting to prescribe anything….they just don’t think you are in a lot of pain and they aren’t trained on it. Yet, my friend got Percocet for a root canal. Pffft they didn’t give me anything. “here bitch, take some tylenol over the counter and don’t bother us”.

              5. Diana – I think the pain thing is an unfortunate result of the opioid crisis. I feel like a decade or so ago it was just the opposite, they were pushing pain killers at the drop of a hat and whipping out pain charts constantly. Now, in the past year or so, I’ve had a doctor tell me he didn’t want to prescribe me cough syrup after I was diagnosed with pneumonia (verified by X-ray) and was up all night coughing. For them, any prescription is a liability so they really don’t want to write them, even if it gets a little ridiculous.

                Regarding culture – I agree that Canadian and American culture are similar in many ways, but I don’t see any public program ever being beloved in the US the way healthcare is supposed to be beloved in Canada in UK. I can’t think of a single public service – education, law enforcement, road services, etc. – that people are not constantly in some state of uproar over. It’s perhaps ironic in that the US has some of the highest living standards in the world, but I think discontent is just a cultural thing. On the other hand, I suppose one could argue that the general level of grousing would be no better or worse with single payer, and remain as it is.

              6. “I can’t think of a single public service – education, law enforcement, road services, etc. – that people are not constantly in some state of uproar over.”

                Perhaps you’re not familiar with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the most popular government programs ever. Their popularity cuts across party lines, demographics, and just about everyone.

              7. Oh beloved wouldn’t be how Canadians relate to their healthcare system. They won’t give up single payer but they also hate it and they hate the government. I think it’s just human nature. I think you have to try it to realize it. I think people got a taste of the affordable health care when it came in in the US and liked it because they seemed pretty upset when it was going to go away. The people who don’t, they already have health care but if they lose their jobs they won’t. It is cheaper for companies to operate in Canada that way because they don’t have to pay for as much insurance. We still have insurance for some stuff as well. The only way Canadians accepted it was they tried it and liked it.

                Prior to that people like my dad’s cousin (a child under 10 at the time) would die regularly. My dad’s cousin had a heart defect. They were saving up the money to go to Ontario and have the surgery but he died before they had enough money. That just doesn’t happen anymore. And our hospitals and the training and research out of them are world class. I work at a university with one of the top ones….there is a reason we have deals with Gulf States and Saudi for their citizens to be trained here.

              8. tomh – They rank at about 45% favorability overall though. That’s still a minority of people – and if those are indeed the absolute most popular government programs out there (not sure if that’s the case or not,) – if the highest approval we can get in the US is about 45%, for the absolute most popular program, then that supports the view, to my mind, that Americans are simply not “happy with the status quo” types. (66% also think social security has ‘major’ or ‘crisis’ level problems.)

                An aside – maybe my perception is biased by the news, where it’s always problems and not ‘things going well’ that are highlighted, I don’t know. But it seems to me that there is an irony in American society – we constantly improve things because we are so often dissatisfied with them, so that while our standard of living continues to rise, we rarely just enjoy accomplishments and instead start to stress about the next thing. I think the problem is probably exacerbated by a bit of geographical sectarianism as well – my guess is that more people (not all, by any means, but more) would rank their local services favorably, but have a vague fear that things are going terribly wrong when it comes to national staples – education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. – elsewhere in the country.

              9. Oh beloved wouldn’t be how Canadians relate to their healthcare system. They won’t give up single payer but they also hate it and they hate the government. I think it’s just human nature.

                Nooo! Don’t ruin my stereotype of Canadians as a cheerful people who spend most of their time joining hands and singing, lol!

              10. I always remind people that Jordan Peterson is Canadian. And me. So, that right there should tell you that Canadians are that nice….at least not in Ontario which the rest of Canada hates anyway.

              11. As an American who has lived in Canada for more than half of her life I don’t think Canadians are any nicer or less nice than Americans. I think Americans are somewhat more outgoing in general.

              12. I think you’re right. The Republicans are trying to save an ancient system where the elderly and poor made do with charity or family support. They like it because it blends with their notion of individualism as opposed to collectivism. To hold these views it helps to be upper or upper middle class and economically secure (see Ayn Rand).

              13. I think you’re right. The Republicans are trying to save an ancient system where the elderly and poor made do with charity or family support. They like it because it blends with their notion of individualism as opposed to collectivism.

                I respectfully disagree with this analysis – remember that these days, many Republicans are struggling financially. Trump leads in some of the poorest areas in the country. Having been raised in a majority Republican family, I think the Republican view is that:

                – Socialized medicine will turn all hospitals into the worst horror stories of the VA system – outdated, crawling with mold, bureaucratic nightmares of poor care where nothing gets accomplished and doctors are driven out of the system into other jobs, due to poor pay. This particular fear runs deep.

                – Socialized medicine will ruin the medical research and innovation that the US is known for, as these are seen as the fruits of capitalism and the free market.

                – True collectivism means making sacrifices for the group, including not being a financial drain (I am the most averse to this one as I think my basic psychology skews liberal, but I think this is true of collectivist cultures sometimes. I recall reading about a case in China where a man had to amputate his own leg due to lack of healthcare and he actually got some criticism for being ‘selfish’ and a drain on society, as he couldn’t work. Hardcore collectivism is not always a warm and fuzzy picture of mutual empathy – it can be rather tribal and harsh, I think. In some ways I view the left as far more individualistic and the right as more classically collectivist in this country.)

                I hear a lot of comments about how “moderates and Republicans just don’t care” these days, and I think these represent a fundamental misunderstanding about how people view the world, and the sincerity of those beliefs.

    5. When provinces in Canada switched to universal healthcare people has people a choice to use the private or public system. All hell broke loose of course and some doctors went on strike but in the end people chose the public system over the private one. We still have a combination as not all things are provided by universal healthcare and that varies by province. It may be what is necessary for adoption in the US.

      1. As a Canadian, can you say something about the availability of service in Canada. The rumor going around is you have to wait too long for important care. I’ve heard otherwise. What do you see?

        1. Well I’ve been directly tested many times some for serious things some for not serious but debilitating and so have my parents.

          The biggest one, as many on this site know, was 4 ½ years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found a lump, saw my GP a couple days later (I delayed it because I was meeting a friend for lunch and I had lumps before that turned out to be nothing). That same week I had an appointment at a clinic for an ultrasound. I made that appointment myself as there are lots of clinics to choose from but they recommended that one in particular because it was nearby and they get the results faster. They results were in a few business days later and the GP sent me to an appointment at the Breast Sceeening Clinic within a few days. I had a mammogram that the radiologist viewed right after. She was concerned enough that I had an immediate ultrasound guided biopsy. The biopsy was sent to the pathologist and my results were back within days and sent to my GP. I met my surgeon a week later and a week later did preop. Then I had surgery. This all happens from diagnosis to surgery within a few weeks. Then I received my oath report to grade and stage the cancer. This was the worst as it was over Xmas so I waited longer than usual. But I met my oncologist in February and began radiation in March once I was healed enough from the surgery.

          All this took place after I was reorganized out of my job so I was unemployed. I paid $0 for any of the treatment other than the shitty hormone therapy which was super cheap and I had a drug plan as part of my money when I was reorged.

          My dad had esophageal cancer and he had major surgery after a couple weeks post diagnosis. He was in hospital for 3 weeks. He has no insurance other than his old age pension and he too paid nothing for treatment.

          I’ve also received extensive migraine treatment with MRIs etc and I’ve waited maybe a week for that. It wasn’t life or death and I thought that wasn’t too bad a wait.

          I have cataracts and I see an ophthalmologist once a year (it’s from severe myopia so I’m young to have this) that is covered as well. She tells me that once I say to go ahead with the surgery the wait is around 6 months. The basic implants are covered but I’m willing to pay extra (around 2k I think) for more precise measurement.

          So that’s my experience. It varies by province and Ontario has a crap government right now headed by Trump junior and he is itching to mess up the health care. Where I see greater need is dealing with the onslaught of seniors as the Baby Boomers age. I’ve had first hand experience with this with my mom being I’ll during flu season.

          We also are not limited to what hospital we can go to. Any hospital will do and you can choose. There are some I hate and won’t go to and some I love and recommend.

        2. I should mention that a couple years ago I had bad stomach issues. I thought for sure I had colon cancer. I went to my GP and I had an ultrasound first. I had a gallstone but I also had IBS so I asked my GP if I could see my surgeon who did my breast cancer surgery. I see him for follow ups every year anyway. So I went to him. He did a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. Everything was clear. But I got to pick my guy and I think it only took a week or two to get in to see him then have the procedure. I didn’t remember waiting at all.

          1. Your experience( and others) makes Canadian healthcare seem very reasonable. What’s a bill totaling $0.00 not to like? In the US it would be 10s of thousands. I’d take it over the US system. The myths, however, persist, in part because, at the behest of the insurance industry lobbyists, Congress people persist in telling lies. “The US has the best medical care in the world!”, they always say. Now DT is talking about allowing some import of cheaper meds from Canada. I think he’s anticipating a tough campaign while having accomplished nothing for the American people.

            1. A Canadian friend who lived in South Carolina for a while tells me that all the people down there kept asking her if she just randomly got assigned a doctor up here and had to wait in long lines. We can choose any GP we want. In South Carolina, My friend could only choose among doctors who are part of her insurance plan. My mother spent her last years in Pennsylvania and Virginia and though she had excellent insurance through my foreign service father, she always seem to have to wait much longer to see her primary care doctor then I did up here.

              1. South Carolina is a solidly red state. Politicians there are probably all on the payroll of Kaiser Permanente. The population is not exposed to a wide spectrum of Canadian opinion.

              2. I think my friend lived down there before Sarah Palin and her death panels so at least that was not brought up.😖

              3. Yes, as a born-in-Canada USian, I found the whole piece a delightful escape from Trumpism and the weird parochialism of life in the US of A.

            2. Canadians are freaking out about that importing of Canadian drugs because we’d quickly run out here if all the US imported our drugs. It’s also a stupid way of dealing with the higher prices – do what our government does and keep the prices low by buying bulk etc.

              1. The government (*gulp*) buying bulk? Where’s the corporate profit in that? You’ll sink the Dow for Christ’s sake!

  3. @PCC[e]…

    As “a person of a certain age” (>65), aren’t you on Medicare as I am? Isn’t your health insurance just a supplemental plan paid for by your former employer? Is it really any different from supplemental plans available to the rest of us older persons?

    1. If he is technically still an employee, the requirement to join Medicare is delayed (as I understand it).

      1. No. You have to join Medicare (Part A) at 66, regardless. An employee who gets insurance from an employer will have the Medicare as secondary insurance. I did this for a year, mostly out of error and misunderstanding of how it worked. My company-supplied insurance had a higher deductible than did the Medicare w/supplemental and it resulted in unnecessary cost to me and confusion for medical providers. I’m a great fan of Medicare. It is much better than the private insurance I got from the company (and from the exchange).

        1. Thanks for the clarification. I signed up at 66 when I retired but was told I had to signup at 65 which was incorrect.

          1. Oops… I realize that I just confused things. It is 65 for Medicare. 66 is the age for Social Security… when you are considered 100%.

            Sheesh… apologies for the screwup. I’d go edit the above, but….

            1. I guess I kind of standby my original post. Size matters. Idid verify this with SSA before I retired at 66.

              Medicare Special Enrollment Period for the working aged
              If you (or your spouse) are still working when you turn 65 and have group coverage through an employer or union, you can generally delay Part A and/or Part B. When that employment – or your health coverage – ends, you can typically enroll in Part A and Part B with a Medicare Special Enrollment Period. You have eight months to enroll, beginning the month that employment or employment-based coverage ends – whichever happens first. You may not have to pay a late enrollment penalty for not enrolling when you were first eligible.

              1. I did not signup for Medicare until 2 months before 66 andI qualified for the special enrollment period for BOTh A and B.

  4. I believe you cover the privileged class in the democratic party very well. You have the good coverage that is available thru medicare and a supplemental private coverage that is likely provide free. You have a good pension as well. I am guessing on these things but also believe the conservative democrat is a declining item just as the republican is for future elections.

    The majority of the middle class no longer have these things so what do those running for office offer to them. The hope of higher wages and maybe health insurance if they can afford it. I would say, in fact, the moderate republican comes closer to the privileged class of the democratic party and neither cares much about the interest of others.

  5. They could all come out and start speaking in tongues and they’d still be the only rational choices for president in 2020.

    I admit that my preference has been for Buttigieg, ever since I first saw him.

    I don’t think he’ll win the nomination, but he is the one who comes closest to being Trump’s Kryptonite: young, intelligent, informed, calm, collected, witty, military man, genuine Christian…
    And he is the only one who is intelligent enough to know how to talk to the persuadable Trump voters, and the waverers in the centre.

    He talks past Trump completely, doesn’t get pulled into his absurd orbit of bullshit, and doesn’t pull faces when Trump’s supporters are mentioned. He doesn’t moralise about them.
    And crucially _he doesn’t directly criticise Trump in emotional terms_. He’s clever enough to know that Trump has turned himself into an avatar, and if you attack him a big chunk of the ‘anti-elite’ part of the country will see it as an attack on them. So he avoids doing so.
    His responses to Trump’s insults have been exquisite: I liked it when Trump tried to invent a new nickname, the Mad Magazine thing, and Buttigieg just smiled and said he didn’t get the reference – “maybe it’s a generational thing”. It was beautifully played.

    I don’t think Trump would be able to deal particularly well with Buttigieg – he nullifies Trump’s strengths.

    …And one last thing; for liberals like PCC complaining about the array of talent on display in these primaries, spare a thought for British liberals. We have a Conservative party that is essentially running unopposed, its only nominal adversary an intransigent man-child who hasn’t changed his mind about anything since he was a teenager.

    You could be doing A LOT worse than the candidates in this healthy, competitive primary.

    1. I mostly share your view here, although the “genuine Christian” bit does rankle me. Until we agree who exactly gets to determine which the “genuine” Christians are, I can only point at two millennia of warfare in the attempt to determine the issue.

      1. I did put the “…genuine…” bit in inverted commas originally, but removed them as I looked back at that para. I agree with you.

        But my focus has shifted away from fighting religion over the last couple of years. I’m much more willing to find common ground with religious allies when our opponents are as dangerous as Trump. If getting Trump out means being a touch soft on religion, as Buttigieg undoubtedly is, I honestly think that’s a price that’s more than worth paying.

        It’s a question of priorities. My views on religion haven’t changed, but my views on its relative threat(compared with the far-right/populist-right) have changed quite substantially.

        1. Pete belongs to the religious left. I am not concerned that he would attempt to impose his views on society as would the religious right, which is very intertwined with the populist right, i.e., the Trump base.

          Unfortunately, Pete has little chance of winning the nomination for no other reason that he has no support in the African-American community, which makes up about 25% of those voting in the Democratic primaries. Biden is the favorite of that group and something dramatic will have to happen for that to change.

        2. I refuse to let my “religious left” friends off the hook for their faith, even though we usually agree on everything else. Professions of faith by “my side” legitimizes the motivations of the religious right.

          1. But your religious friends aren’t running for office against the most dangerous leader in the postwar history of the west are they? When I stack Buttigieg’s incredibly tame religious beliefs against the threat of four more years of Donald Trump I prioritise the latter.

            Of course you don’t necessarily have to choose to oppose only one of those things – you can oppose both.

            But when it comes down to it I couldn’t give much of a shit about Buttigieg’s cucumber-water-drinking, healing-spa, emotional-support-animal version of Jesus. It’s about as harmless as American Christianity gets and it doesn’t seem to affect his policy decisions much.

            1. Buttigieg’s religious views aren’t always harmless, for instance, he came out strongly in favor of religious exemptions for vaccines until his handlers, realizing that wouldn’t fly in Dem primaries, “corrected” him a few days later, and all of a sudden he was against all but medical exwmptions.
              Anyone who favors religious exemptions, “except in a public health emergency,” obviously doesn’t realize that vaccines are in place to prevent a public health emergency. That was enough for me to look elsewhere.

              1. I never said they were always harmless. But they’re about as harmless as American Christianity gets.

                And if liberal-leftists start vetoing a candidate as talented and electorally appealing as Pete on the basis of those beliefs I think that’s unwise.

            2. “Of course you don’t necessarily have to choose to oppose only one of those things – you can oppose both.”

              That’s the point, of course.

              And, as tomh just pointed out, religious views inevitably lead to poisonous positions. We’re just arguing about how far to crazy town we’re willing to live.

      1. I hope he can make himself heard a bit more. He could really do with some kind of ‘moment’ as awful media types say.

    2. I doubt Donald Trump ever actually read Mad Magazine (which, sad to say, went out of business a few weeks ago). Doesn’t strike me as being to his taste.

      For that matter, I doubt Donald Trump has ever read anything, certainly not a book cover-to-cover (including the ones that bear his name as author on their title page). I’ve never once heard the man while speaking extemporaneously make a historical or literary allusion. Demosthenes on the Athenian agora, he’s not.

      From the speeches he’s given off a teleprompter, it’s plain he reads at about a remedial sixth-grade level. Just to get him to review the President’s Daily Brief (the crucial document by which the leader of the free world is kept abreast of national security developments), his briefers have to ensure his name appears in capital letters in every paragraph.

      1. You haven’t been paying attention. How about Trump’s lament on the unnecessary Civil War and that somebody should look into that?

        1. There’s also Frederick Douglass, “somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”

          1. Good grief. I googled that and he really did say it. There really is no bottom to the man’s stupidity.

            1. There was that great moment, during his Fourth of July speech, after his teleprompter conked out in the rain, that Trump told us about how George Washington’s continental army seized the airports to protect them from falling into British hands during the Revolutionary War.

              He didn’t get that outta Mad Magazine.

              1. Yikes – that’s a new one to me. Either that or it got lost in thousands (literally) of outrages, lies, and general jackasserie issuing Trump’s mouth and twitter feed.

      2. I suspect most of the time his briefers have to read the briefs to him…for as long as he stays awake. I’m sure they front-load the most critical items based on his short attention span.

      3. I agree. He’s lavishly ignorant and his reading and writing skills are disturbingly bad.

        I’ve always wondered what his Wharton entrance exam looked like. I think the examiners drew a red dot on his forehead and then sat him in front of a mirror for ninety minutes, like they do with chimps if they want to test for signs of self-awareness. If he passed this basic test then he got accepted.

        I have lovely, joyous daydreams that someone at the time filmed it all, and that the footage will get leaked to the media.

          1. No doubt. A sack of money with ‘BRIBE FOR MY SON DONALD’ written on it in big letters.

  6. I think you are not seeing immigrants in the proper dimension. The way you say it sounds like most of them are just a bunch of conartists (they game the system) that want to get better wages (economic reasons=. Most of these people have to endure not only poverty (in part caused by US intervention in Central America in past decades), but also violence, both from their failed states and organized crime. Most people would not move out from their countries knowing well that they have to cross Mexico, which is a very hazardous thing to do, only to get better earnings. There’s more to that, believe me.

    I agree that completely open borders is unrealistic, but whatever we do, people will still try to get through. The US, Mexico and other countries have to cooperate to make things better in Central America to have at least a chance of reducing immigration.

    1. For me, proper treatment of immigration has to include but go beyond humane treatment of asylum seekers fleeing violence and seek to address the root causes in central America. Only Castro and Biden have addressed this, and Biden is correct to point out that Obama had a fairly meaty, if insufficient, effort in this direction that, of course, Trump killed. Sonia Nozario has had a couple of informative and encouraging articles on this sort of effort in the NYT, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/26/opinion/caravan-migrants-asylum-trump.html

    2. Most of these people have to endure not only poverty (in part caused by US intervention in Central America in past decades), but also violence, both from their failed states and organized crime.

      As unfortunate as those conditions are, they are not valid grounds for asylum under international law.

        1. We don’t. Nor should we. We should follow US laws and those are not lawful reasons to seek asylum here. As it happens US law aligns with International Law on this issue (intentionally so) and, as Matt said, it isn’t a valid reason for asylum there either.

      1. I think a proper asylum court would be best placed to judge on that, I think neither of us is well placed to judge.

      2. The only point I’m making is that portraying illegal immigrants as people that game the system for economic reasons (i.e. con-artists without good reasons) is simplistic. They are not only fleeing poverty.

        Besides it gives the same that it is lawful or not (and international law is pushed mostly by the same nations that are recipients of immigration anyways, they will not shoot themselves on the foot). People will try by any means to escape a dire life of violence, opresion and no future prospect. Nothing short of commiting cruel human rights violations will stop them.

        There must be a shift of focus on how to solve the issue (detaining and deporting vs. international cooperation), and creat temporary escape valves (temporary work permit program?).

        1. The vast majority of illegal immigrants in the US came for economic reasons.

          The solution to endemic regional societal problems is not to transplant the entire population of that region to the US.

          What “cruel human rights violations” do you speak of?

          1. You are not reading me right. I never said that was the solution, and I even said completely open borders is an unrealistic solution. We could argue if it would be the ethical solution or not, about the meaning of political borders and national identity, etc, but it is unrealistic to expect such a proposal will ever prosper among US voters (less so with the poisoned well that is public opinion on migrants).

            That is not what I pretend here. I just said that it is unaccurate, and harmful, to have that simplistic view of migrants and their motivations. Specially in Central America, most people flee a combination of poverty and violence. People are willing to travel on the roof of a train (a few weeks ago a girl died under its wheels), risking death or worse at the hands of human trafickers, sexual exploitation, violence by mexican authorities, and many other horrors. They do it because they are desperate, not just because they are looking for better wages.

            What I was saying about “cruel human rights violations” is that any effort that complies with human rights law will not stop migration significantly. Nothing short of systematic violations worse than the already bad stuff that happens in the way anyways (what I described above) would dissuade those people.

            1. Thanks for clarifying, Jorge. While the recent Central American ‘caravan’ migrants may be driven by endemic violence, the vast majority of illegal immigrant in the US came for purely economic reasons.

              international law allows for the detention of asylum claimants while their cases are reviewed. Heightened deterrence of illegal crossings, combined with increased allocation of resources to process asylum claims while properly housing detained claimants, plus aggressive intervention in the afflicted regions to ameliorate the endemic privations, would be an effective and humane solution.

              1. By the way, today I woke up to the news that a group of migrants was attacked by police in Mexico, supposedly they were chasing some criminals and there was confusion. One man died, and the group dispersed. The man’s daughter was left alone, and now mexican authorities are taking care of her. That sort of thing happens at an alarming rate.

              2. I thought that was obvious: these people are fleeing more than poverty, when they are willing to risk their lives this way.

              3. Almost a million people a year are apprehended crossing the border illegally, untold numbers cross undetected. Anecdotes cannot reveal what proportion are or aren’t primarily driven by economic reasons. We do know that prior to the crisis in Central America, nearly all of them have been economic migrants.

                I feel we’re going in circles here, so let me ask one question. Given that the conditions you note are not grounds for asylum, do you favor changing our asylum laws, &/or opening our borders to any who wish to enter?

  7. Alright, before announcing my candidacy, I will give everyone here my two cents.

    On health care, Dems should promise coverage to those who don’t have insurance and steps to bring down health care costs, which are insanely high in this country. These are doable and acceptable to most voters. A plank that threatens to take away people’s existing coverage will guarantee Trump’s re-election.

    They should promise a rational immigration policy and a firm but humane policy on illegal border crossing. An open border policy plank will ensure Trump’s re-election.

    On the environment they should focus on undoing Trump’s shameful destruction of the EPA and restore pre-Trump policies. On climate change they should propose a MODEST national carbon tax with proceeds used to subsidize renewables. A plank promising extreme climate change policies is unwise.

    More important than these, they should focus on promising a fair tax system that rescinds Trump’s giveaways to the rich. And they should emphasize a return to sensible foreign policies in step with our tried and proven allies instead of Trump’s kissing up to thugs.

    1. “A plank promising extreme climate change policies is unwise.”

      I agree with your sentiments.

      However I just hate the nebulous terms like “global warming” and “climate change”.

      The emphasis should have been on pollution, biodiversity decrease and overpopulation

      1. I agree. But I can’t see how we can stop humans from reproducing. For good or bad, possibly the latter, homo sapiens is the most successful mammal, possibly animal, the earth has ever known.

        1. “But I can’t see how we can stop humans from reproducing.”

          Feminism, Feminism and more Feminism!

      2. Too late for population control. We are scheduled to max out in a few decades at 9 billion or so. That can’t be changed. The loss of biodiversity is a symptom not a cause. Pollution is to general an issue to focus much interest. Global warming is the number one issue facing humanity. Why shy away from it. Politicians owe it to humanity to educate the public before it’s too late.

  8. Bruni is correct that Warren and Sanders are marooned on Fantasy Island, all the more astonishing because they are senators and know how government works. If there ever is a comprehensive, universal healthcare plan passed by Congress that branch will determine its provisions, not the president. Such a plan would necessarily entail compromises. No one will be totally happy. That’s the way it is. Candidates should be inspirational and aspirational. Perhaps the plan will be medicare-for-all or it may allow for private insurance. There are many ways it can be funded; again, this will be thrashed out during the legislative process. It was totally pointless for almost half the debate to be wasted on the candidates attacking the details of their opponents’ plans. They should have been attacking Trump and his Republican toadies for trying to take away health care from millions.

    As to who won the debate, don’t look to the pundits. You would find a diversity of opinions, making them mostly worthless. My attempt at punditry is to conclude that except for Mayor Pete and Marianne Williamson, the other candidates did not help themselves. They squandered their opportunities. More importantly, they didn’t help the ultimate candidate defeat Trump.

    1. ” If there ever is a comprehensive, universal healthcare plan passed by Congress that branch will determine its provisions, not the president.”

      Is there not a case to be made that since Medicare already exists with all its provisions in place for decades, and is an agency under the Executive branch, a sitting President can issue an Executive Order to change policy of an Executive branch agency?

      All he would need to do is drop the minimum age to zero.

      1. I don’t think the president has such a power, although Trump might think he does. If the age requirements are built into the law, I don’t believe a president can unilaterally change it.

    2. But if you go to Congress with a plan that already has compromises baked in, you’re going to end up with something even worse. That’s not pragmatic, it’s inept and stupid.

  9. Warren is 90% of the way there for me. True, like many I balk at the exclusively-single-payer path to healthcare. But I think most, or essentially all, of her other positions and plans are well thought out and paid for, and crucially, could be well received by voters, including swing voters. She has an excellent way of arguing for how, e.g., a wealth tax balances the system, pays for much needed spending, and can benefit middle income Americans. She is vocal about being a “capitalist,” and has good rhetorical battling skills. No doubt the Repubs will tar her as a purveyor of big government, but I am not ready to give up on the possibility that she could sway swing voters to her side.

    1. To foot the massive bill of her sweeping social engineering schemes, Warren relies on her wealth tax. Now, her great brain has determined that’s not unconstitutional, but many constitutional scholars disagree. More importantly, the SC would likely disagree. If so, her grand plan collapses.

      I personally find Warren’s rhetorical style preachy and hectoring. While it certainly entrances some, it’s yet to propel her to the forefront, even among Democrats. We shall see.

      In a post-debate interview, Warren was challenged by Dem pols how she expected to sell her many unpopular ideas to a skeptical public all in a single election cycle. Her response was not far off from ‘triumph of the will.’

      We need a nominee whose platform already appeals to swing voters, not reliance on miracles.

  10. Williamson is a loon. I am surprised that her group isn’t from the Burned Over District of NY. Here are three quotes from a New York Times article:

    Weight loss? “The cause of your excess weight is fear, which is a place in your mind where love is blocked.”

    Poverty? “Many people fail to manifest money because on some deep level they don’t think they should.”

    “Disease,” she wrote, “is loveless thinking materialized.”

    What the hell does “manifest money” mean? Her platform is woo.

  11. I didn’t watch the debates, but I do find it funny that for what is essentially a job interview, for a very important job, that it essentially boils down to a popularity contest. It would be nice if the system could be changed to be based on competence, rather than popularity.

    1. This surprises you? It would be nice if there were a way to measure a candidate’s performance in the office of President of the United States before an election in terms of competence, but I don’t see how you could do that. The trouble is that the office is so many things, and the political situations so often change, that you can’t judge beforehand how someone will do. (Obvious exceptions apply.) We might often think a technocrat would be a good executive, but often they don’t have the political and intrapersonal skills.

  12. With her sophistry about “Republican talking points”, Warren certainly drew her line in the sand, declaring that the only true Democrats are one who support her and Bernie’s far left pipe dreams of societal upheaval. My hunch is she will continue to suck’ (her favorite word of the night) support from Sanders. Combined, their polling has rarely exceed 25%; that seems to be the peak for their extreme agenda.

    The pundits of the left-leaning media crowed that no ‘knock-out blows’ were dealt to Warren, but she may still succumb to ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ The question of whether her agenda makes her unelectable in the general election has now been broached, and will continue to dog her.

    The many moderate alternatives to Warren will continue to be starved of coverage by the biased media, who prefer the vulnerable Biden their moderate nemesis. Amy Klobuchar is disregarded for her lack of headline-grabbing charisma on stage. But her down-to-earth demeanor, easy smile, and straight talk would contrast favorably with Trump’s bluster, boasting, and incoherent rambling. In short, she plays well to Middle America, as evidenced by her ability to captivate town hall audiences. Unlike Warren, Klobuchar’s platform is pragmatic and non-divisive. She’s proven she can win over independents and moderate Republican voters, while her track record of getting things done in Congress is unmatched by any other candidate.

    Biden’s polling numbers remain strong simply because he’s viewed as the only viable alternative to the leftist candidates. When Biden inevitably stumbles and falls (it could be as soon as this evening), another moderate will need to step into the breach. I strongly support Amy Klobuchar, and hope she is still in the race to seize the moderate banner when the time comes.

  13. … Warren and Sanders, who apparently decided not to go after each other (is there a ticket in the offing?)

    Can’t imagine either one of ’em settling for the bottom half of the ticket.

    Plus, Bernie’s got no real shot in this thing. He had no shot last time, either, of course, though that didn’t keep me from getting behind him on day one. But that was more about my frostiness for Hillary and my natural inclination to root for the underdog. I mean, a septuagenarian socialist Jew from a state with three electoral votes, an outer-borough accent, and virtually no name recognition — what wasn’t to like? 🙂

      1. Bernie moved the window and put topics on the table that needed to be put out there for discussion, ones that nobody else would’ve — sure as shit not by Hillary, unchallenged.

        I don’t want Bernie to be president, either — unless the alternative is Donald Trump. Then, I’m foursquare behind him again. As Sam Harris said, I’d take a random name out of the phone book over Donald Trump.

        Carthargo Trumpism Delenda Est!

          1. We live in a mixed capitalist/socialist economy. Know what’s socialistic? Free public K through 12 education.

            Every piece of progressive legislation ever to come down the pike — from child labor laws, to the 40-hour work week, to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, to Social Security, to Medicare, to the ACA — has been fought tooth-and-nail by reactionary forces and tarred as “creeping socialism.”

            I’m all in for free enterprise (though not so much the concentration of capital), but it’s high time this nation got past its McCarthy-era panic over the scarlet letter “S.”

            1. Yes, and now that we’ve become accustomed to this much socialism it’s hard to not see it as normal. For me as well. These things are mostly here to stay, and it isn’t productive to argue what we might have done in their place.

              I’ll be happy if we can avoid the worst excesses of socialism going forward. “Central planning” is a better characterization of what I find most dangerous. Have you ever read Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit? He contends that smart people are particularly susceptible to planning precisely because they are smart and able to figure a lot of things out. The problem is they lack the information required, for example, to set prices and wages, while the market is exactly the right instrument for gathering billions of individual preferences.

              I’m with Hayek when he says if redistribution and central planning would provide what it’s promoters promise, that it would be immoral to do otherwise. The book explains why this is impossible, not on the grounds of human nature, but logical ones.

      2. ““What wasn’t to like?” The socialism.”

        What you label as “socialism” is what the rest of the civilized world calls “normal government services one expects back from their tax dollars”.

        1. In the USA, socialism is the new communism. It is a way for those on the right to tar those on the left with somehow being “Un-American.” Socialism means different things to different people with most having no idea what it really means except that it is “bad.” Even people who call them socialists, such as Bernie Sanders, are not socialists in the European sense. They do not call for government ownership of the means of production; they just want a bigger social safety net and greater government oversight of business. Back in the 1930s, the right wing called FDR a socialist. He laughed it off and was elected four times. But, the right wing is persistent and relentless, if nothing else.

          1. Historian, your analysis seems pretty accurate to me. Sanders may not want government owning the means of production, but he certainly wants government to distribute much of the product.

            That’s what I object to and to thing he wants his largess to be settled on. Branding it as socialism isn’t the most accurate description, but serves as shorthand for spelling out a more nuanced position.

            1. he certainly wants government to distribute much of the product.

              That’s arguably what federal government is for. The whole purpose of it is to take in individual resources and distribute them on things that provide a more spread out, national benefit. Things that require large-scale collective action. To deal with Prisoners’ dilemma and tragedy of the commons-type situations in which our best, most rational individual decisions do not add up to a good result. I don’t need government to take in my milk money and buy me a milk carton; I need it to take in everyone’s money and buy us all a tank and the soldier to drive it. Likewise, I have no problem with it taking in everyone’s money and buying us all a hospital and the staff to run it, as that’s not really something I can do rationally and efficiently on my own.

              1. Arguably? I will argue. The purpose of government is freedom.

                I’ll agree that your list comprises some secondary goods. A military, yes. Health care for those who wouldn’t otherwise get it, yes.

                On health care I think government involvement has retarded actual, good solutions. I am one who has experienced first hand a good answer to the problem. I have not seen this mentioned in the discussion so far and it is a private sector solution: Health cooperatives.

                The co-op I belong to was once offered to me as an employer insurance option after Obama care killed my Cadillac plan. I now buy it out of pocket, at a reasonable price, since I am no longer employed. The doctors and care are excellent. I get a yearly brain MRI that would be unthinkable in the Canadian system (A total of four MRI machines Canada-wide). And there are no incentives for unneeded tests and procedures. The co-op practices evidence based medicine, not legalistically defensive medicine. Members can even run for board positions and influence administrative policy if they like.

                A government takeover of the entire health industry would eliminate this excellent option, along with private insurance prized by so many others, and cut off future great ideas yet to be discovered. Consider the VA or DMV to imagine the future nightmare.

                Let the government do necessary things where there is no other option, and stay out of the rest.

              2. I just looked up the statistics on Wikipedia – Canada has 4.6 MRI scanners per million population while the U.S. had 19.5 per million. With Canada’s population of 32 million, that turns out to be 147 MRI machines in Canada, not 4.

              3. I just looked up the statistics on Wikipedia – Canada has 4.6 MRI scanners per million population while the U.S. had 19.5 per million. With Canada’s population of 32 million, that turns out to be 147 MRI machines in Canada, not 4.

                I stand corrected. If Wikipedia is accurate I grossly understated the number of MRI machines in Canada. I should have tried looking it up instead of quoting from memory.

              4. My reply to Gabrielle seems to have gotten lost, so I’ll try again.

                I accept my statement that Canada has only 4 MRI machines was wrong as she says.

                I apologize for the misinformation.

            2. Carl, I’m very sorry to hear that you have a brain tumour necessitating an annual MRI. I hope it stays in remission. Some are not very malignant, many survive for decades and sufferers often die of unrelated causes (I hope that gives you some consolation).
              Note that even in poor South Africa, if you have a braintumour-like condition the govt Healt Care system will see to it (well depending on the province) you would get your annual or bi-annual MRI when indicated.

  14. That’s palpably ridiculous.

    Indeed, it is — which is why no Democratic candidate actually supports all those things (and, if elected, would never be able to see them enacted even if they DID support them.) Don’t fall for cartoonish right-wing characterizations.

  15. John Delaney has the best health care proposal that I have seen. If I understand it correctly, it:
    1) Provides catastrophic insurance for everyone under 65.
    2) Allow people and companies to have their own insurance plans and get a tax break for not using the universal one.
    3) Allow people and companies to have supplemental insurance on top of the universal.
    This allows people to do what they want and encourage them to shop around to lower their own bills.
    https://www.johndelaney.com/issues/health-care/

    1. Except for the “under 65” part of your first item and the “tax break” part of #2, that is exactly how how Medicare currently works.

      And that’s what I, at least, mean when speaking about “Medicare For All”.

      1. You missed the “catastrophic” part. IMO, high deductibles lead people to shop for cheaper medical alternatives which would provide a sensible and flexible way to lower costs.

        1. That’s true, but it can also put pressure on people to find policies that are very low quality. People will tend to be under insured (from a pragmatic point of view).

          1. I like Delaney’s plan because it causes everyone to be insured and let’s them choose whether to add more. I trust people to choose for themselves more than a one-size fits all government decision.

            Yes, some people will make bad decisions but that’s unavoidable.

            1. I believe in any European country, the government care can be added to for extra dosh. So, I suspect that will be the same here some day. I think people making bad decisions can be all but eliminated by a government option. Saying they will always fail to make good choices is simply looking at how the system now works. Single payer would eliminate the need for people to guess what they should need or go without coverage because they can’t afford it. People in Canada don’t make bad decisions because the insurance companies, who profit from bad decisions, are cut out of the picture.

        2. I saw the word perfectly well. You’re wrong, I think, about the consequences of this sort of insurance.

          There are two reasons, at least, that it doesn’t reduce costs. One is that people delay getting treatment when they should because seeking to avoid personal costs but in the long term costs are higher as a result.

          Even if that were not the case, people can not meaningfully shop for cheaper medical costs because the industry is so opaque that hospitals are incapable of telling anyone what treatment will cost in advance.

          Both of those problems are addressed by a Medicare For All approach.

          1. I had catastrophic insurance and lowered my bills. One example was a prescription that cost $200 at my pharmacy. I called around and lowered it to $80. I asked my doctor if there were things I could to lower my bills and she said there was a $20 alternative which was basically the same for most people. I tried it and lowered my bill by 90% because I had incentive.

            The real reason I think it would change would be the effect on doctors. Once a few people ask to reduce prices, the doctors would start to think about price and prescribe intelligently. My ex-doctor liked to prescribe the best regardless of cost – e.g. $400 medicine for poison oak instead of the one I had been using.

            Medicare For All treats everyone the same. People choosing their own medical decisions lets people choose what fits them. I think people can make more intelligent decisions for themselves.

            BTW, I want to be clear that the deductible should vary by income. I had $10,000 deductible but for someone with half my income, the deductible would be lower – perhaps $2500.

            1. OK, you’re talking about prescription drugs and not medical services in general. And I would agree, this is an area that is ripe for reform. The problem exists because when Bush 43 pushed through his prescription drug program Medicare was prohibited from negotiating prices. This is not the case for treatment in general.

              It is a flaw. It needs to be fixed. But it is not an argument that invalidates Medicare For All.

              1. That was one example but the price savings are general. For example, I took a test that was a less effective but much cheaper alternative to a colonoscopy.

                Have you ever had to buy your own insurance or pay for your own medical care? Although it is scary at first, you make it work best for you. You may have to switch your doctor or pharmacy or whatever. But it chosen for you by you.

                And to be clear, I had the high deductible when my daughter was born.

              2. “less effective”

                Two important words.

                And, yes. I’ve had the pleasure of personally buying insurance. I recommend it to no one.

              3. “More effective and expensive” vs. “Less effective and cheaper.” Life has trade offs.

                My current job pays for my insurance and it costs over $20,000. I would much prefer cheap and a $15,000 raise. You prefer expensive and a lower salary. Neither of us are right or wrong, we just have different preferences.

                I think we should both be able to get the option we want. You think I should be stuck with what you like. (If the government paid for my insurance, obviously my taxes would go up).

  16. She [Elizabeth Warren] will be typed, as were John Kerry and Mike Dukakis, as a “Massachusetts liberal.”

    Warren isn’t my top pick, but she can talk an Okie economic populism that Kerry and the Duke couldn’t dream of, so the comparison doesn’t hold.

    Plus, she’s smart, fast on her feet, and knows policy cold. She’d beat Trump like a redheaded step-child on a debate stage. What’s he got beyond “Pocahontas”?

    1. Ooof, I don’t know about that “Okie economic populism.” She understands the broad strokes, but when she has to explain how her populism involves completely demolishing many of the already depleted industries in the Midwest, and taking the insurance they get through their employers, it might not go as well.

    2. The fact that she seemed to have claimed American Indian heritage for personal gain is an issue for many people.

  17. “Biden is leading by a large margin, but I wonder what kind of President he’d make.”

    I think he’d make a decent president. Not exciting or too progressive. He has the advantage of having worked for years in Washington and should have the ability to get some of his agenda done. Not bad considering…

  18. I pine for the day that I can move to a country that only allows eight weeks or less of campaigning before and election. Doing this absurd charade for sixteen months is literally mind-boggling at this point. Every day since Trump became the nominee for the 2016 race has felt like campaigning. I fear it may never end.

  19. I am surprized that Professor Jerry lends support to Pete Buttigieg without ever mentioning the fact that he’s a self-professed religious fanatic. “Genuine Christian” as Saul Sorrell-Till (comment #7) has it.

    That may not amount to much, overall, in the game of slightly-less-evilism, where every choice is a bad one. But, whether the delusion is real, or just more political posturing, it must needs be noted as we sink ever lower. There’s a whole book by our local guru explaining that “moderate” religion is still deadly.

    Further surprize comes from seeing that the Professor has left for dead that whole gang of the at-least semi-living that he killed off prematurely yesterday; the likes of Pat Schroeder, Anita Hill, Paul Anka, Arnold Schwarzenegger, et. al.

    And whilst the jaw is already dropped, not a word here from anybody about Ranked Choice Voting, a possibly imperfect but useful addressing of the dilemma posed by the binary choice, winner-take-all racket. Has any candidate, anywhere above state level, ever promoted RCV? The primaries would be an excellent place for a national demonstration of the rationality of the procedure.

    1. Most of your comment makes no sense (p.s., check the spelling of “surprised”), but in fact if Buttigieg is religious, I don’t much care so long as he promises to be the best leader among the Democrats. As far as “killing off prematurely”, have a look at yesterday’s Hili dialogue; they were BIRTHS.

      Are you drunk?

      More who were born on July 30:

      1898 – Henry Moore, English sculptor and illustrator (d. 1986)
      1936 – Buddy Guy, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
      1939 – Peter Bogdanovich, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
      1940 – Patricia Schroeder, American lawyer and politician
      1941 – Paul Anka, Canadian singer-songwriter and actor
      1947 – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian-American bodybuilder, actor, and politician, 38th Governor of California
      1956 – Anita Hill, American lawyer and academic
      1963 – Lisa Kudrow, American actress and producer
      1974 – Hilary Swank, American actress and producer

    2. I don’t think I saw the “profession” but fanatic? If one labels Buttigieg a religious fanatic, then fanatic looses all meaning. His religion seems unoffensive to me and may help him turn some Trump voters. I find some of his policy ideas more disturbing than his religion.

      Maybe I’m getting soft, but these past few years I feel like atheists have turned the tide, and am less inclined to be the anti-religion warrior I may have once been.

      1. Oh no, tr jackson is right, its only a matter of time before Buttigieg and Jimmy Carter start a chapter of terrorist bombers for Jesus.

  20. “What’s most depressing is that no one candidate stands out right now.”

    With 20 candidates and only 1.5 debates, I wouldn’t expect any one to stand out. In 2016 when the Republicans had 17 candidates, no one stood out after the first few debates…Trump certainly didn’t. Eventually, one of these fine democratic candidates will stand out. I don’t understand why you find it “most depressing” at this very early stage. I agree with everything else you said.

    I also hope that after tonight’s debate, a handful of candidates will drop out…I’m talking to you Beto- run for a Texas Senate seat again; this stage is doing you no favors.

  21. I don’t know why you are so harsh on Williamson.

    I think American’s should all have the right to make other people’s children die from preventable illnesses. It’s up there with the right to drive drunk and wife beating.

  22. Good thing no one dared say this:

    “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

    “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

    That was Donald Trump.

  23. Trump hopes Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren wins the nomination because they would be easy to defeat. For example, most people would never vote for an anti-business candidate like Warren who wants to break up Amazon.

    1. Amazon needs to be broken up. We’re living in an internet gilded age and we need anti-trust laws to be enforced.

    2. “For example, most people would never vote for an anti-business candidate like Warren who wants to break up Amazon.”

      Breaking up amazon sounds to me like a pro-business action.

  24. Warren was my preferred candidate until she blundered by one upping Julian Castro with her immigration policy. Now I don’t know who to support.

  25. Americans;
    What do you think of Reparations for Slavery?

    I personally hate it when people like Williamson use emotional manipulation to further their careers.

    1. Buttigieg, who I’ve been promoting right and left has a reparations proposal. Nevertheless, this is one of several of his bad policy ideas in my view.

      Slavery and Jim Crow, along with the “treatment” of Indians, are the indelible black marks on America. They won’t be erased with cash payments. However, the sins of the fathers should not be inherited by the sons. Let’s celebrate and continue the progress that’s been made.

      Reparations would be extremely divisive, and trying to pay off past injustice could become a never ending process because history contains more instances than most people can even imagine.

      1. I suspect most democrats will agree with you?

        Why do the presidential candidates flirt with such a divisive and poorly thought-out idea?

      2. Here’s one reparations calculation. It’s lunacy, but today’s lunacy….

        The total due (using conservative assumptions) is $60 trillion. $1.5 million for each of the 40 million Black slave descendants. Note, the author regards this as a modest initial payment.

        “The latter one-time payment ($59.2 trillion) would be easy for the USA to make, since its annual GDP is $15 trillion. (Think of a wealthy person’s annual salary relative to buying a house in a safe neighbourhood.) The USA would not even need to sell any assets to achieve this modest payment.

        For the 40 million Black slave descendants in the US today, the calculated reparation means that US white society owes each and every Black slave descendant a MINIMUM payment of $ 1.5 million, which is long overdue.

        After the minimum payment is made, it would be appropriate to calculate and pay the addition reparations that are due.”

  26. As far as health care goes, I think one of the main reasons US health care is so expensive without better outcomes, is the astronomical amounts awarded in litigations.
    Not only do Drs have to charge more in order to pay their insurance premiums, but it forces them to carry out all kinds of unnecessary expensive tests and even more expensive imaging, just to cover their butts.
    My first action in Health Care as POTUS would be to ban the practice of litigation lawyers getting a percentage of the award, often over 30%! (I’ve forgotten the precise term, but you all know what I mean).

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