Tag Archives: Trump Administration

Trump Coup Threats are a Diversion

New Orleans      I’ll admit when I find myself agreeing, almost point by point, with Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist for the New York Times, I have to put my head in my hands for a temperature check to make sure I’m still of sound mind and body.  Nonetheless, I’ll also admit that I read this guy regularly as part of my regular opposition research project or what most people would call daily life.  Partly, I’m rewarded for the effort not because he is a conservative, but mainly because he is a contrarian willing to pick the scab, say what’s on his mind, and seemingly is unconcerned about how close or far he might be out of step with his own tribe.

On my side of the line, I’m surprised these days how many conversations I have with comrades, family, and friends who ask me seriously about the various nightmarish scenarios of Trump trying to remain in office after losing the election on November 3rd.  I’ve spoken and written of this before.  I think conspiracy theories on both sides of the debate suck time and energy out of the fight, while also potentially depressing the votes we need, as some misinterpret the threat as devaluing the importance of their individual participation.

Douthat in a recent column from the other side of the moon pops this balloon repeatedly as he reminds that fundamentally Trump is a blowhard “weakling,” surrounded by sycophants largely too incompetent to spell coup much less execute one.  Douthat argues that despite Trump’s authoritarian impulses and rants, he’s all bluff and little brass without the support he would need to make good on his threats, saying…

… it’s also important to recognize all the elements of authoritarianism he lacks. He lacks popularity and political skill, unlike most of the global strongmen who are supposed to be his peers. He lacks power over the media: Outside of Fox’s prime time, he faces an unremittingly hostile press whose major outlets have thrived throughout his presidency. He is plainly despised by his own military leadership, and notwithstanding his courtship of Mark Zuckerberg, Silicon Valley is more likely to censor him than to support him in a constitutional crisis.

In another direct hit, Douthat reminds readers that, “Our weak, ranting, infected-by-Covid chief executive is not plotting a coup, because a term like “plotting” implies capabilities that he conspicuously lacks.”  It’s hard to argue with that point.  Half the time it seems the next day, Trump can’t remember or doesn’t care what he said the day before, and that was prior to his coronavirus condition with whatever chaos that condition may have left him with as well.

Douthat’s real mission in the column is to prod liberals to avoid “hubris” and prepare to govern with “vision and restraint,” which is less an insight than a plea for mercy and a warning that overreach courts a backlash.  For all of the points, good and bad, that Douthat makes in aligning his case with my own, the heart of my counsel to not waste time on conspiracy theories, but hunker down to the task at hand and focus on winning, not worrying, is the one clear reminder from him that is the touchstone of my belief that we’ve got this, if it comes to mischief after the voting, because “…there is no mass movement behind him: The threat of far-right violence is certainly real, but America’s streets belong to the anti-Trump left.”

As long as we hold the streets, the peoples’ voice will be heard and heeded.

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Hospitals and Drug Companies Gone Wild

Pearl River       If you run a hospital, what do you do whether it’s a pandemic or wholesale panic? Jack up the prices seems to be the answer.

A report hit the news from the Rand Corporation the other day about hospital prices.  On average they pile on the charges two-and-a-half times the level that the federal government’s Medicare program establishes as its baseline.  In nine states the Times reported they don’t double up but triple down on the prices for care.  West Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida were in that unhappy number.  Amazingly, according to the report, in Arkansas they only inflate the prices 185%, rather than double, making the state almost an outlier, meaning they were ripped off, just not as badly.

Who is getting soaked by this kind of price-gouging?  Employers and their workers are the answer to that question.  For those still lucky enough to have health insurance on the job, and in fact a job at all, this means a constant downward pressure on wages to pay for skyrocketing insurance premiums and usually deteriorating coverage and increasing co-pays and deductibles, as hospitals lard on the cost increases.  As the Times’ reporter wrote,

Employers provide health insurance coverage for more than 153 million Americans. The companies and insurers in the study paid nearly $20 billion more than Medicare would have for the same care from 2016 through 2018, according to the RAND researchers.

Trust me, employers are not simply sucking down these whooping increases.  They are passing them on down to the workforce, contributing to the inequity gap everywhere.

Employers aren’t happy about this either.  One spokesperson for an employer group described the hospitals’ price jumps as “a runaway train.”  Politically, this also argues loudly for the public option, advocated by Biden in the current campaign.  The failure of private insurance companies, backed by businesses, to negotiate fair prices compared to the federal government speaks loudly in favor of that path for the future.

President Trump in his campaign desperation went back to the bench and pulled out an executive order on drug pricing, speaking of another area where healthcare pricing is out of control.  The order said that drugs in the United States couldn’t be priced any higher than drugs in Europe.  Hey, if we can’t lead, maybe we can learn to follow.  There will be lawsuits from the industry, undoubtedly, so don’t run out and do a happy dance in the street yet.

Of course, this is Trump and his White House, so there is a backstory.  There was almost a deal struck between the pharmaceutical industry and the government.  They were going to come up with $150 billion to pay for most Medicare copays and patient out-of-pocket costs.  It fell apart when the White House insisted on them sending out $100 drug cards to seniors before the election to help boost the Trump campaign.  On the industry side, they called them “Trump cards,” given the president’s tendency to brand everything sooner or later with his name.  The industry backed off of this plan realizing it was too much of a political campaign stunt for them to get the public relations benefit during the pandemic they hoped to achieve.

Maybe that’s good news?  Maybe we’re finally coming to the point where hospital and drug companies realize there are limits to what they can get away with?  Unfortunately, hope is not a plan.  We have to find a better way and hospitals and drug companies are not going to lead us there.

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