How Big Medicine Can Ruin Medicare for All

This is the best summary I've seen of all of the problems with our healthcare system, most of which are due to the fact that NO medical-related market in this country is competitive: not wages for medical professionals, not drugs, not hospitals. Singlepayer could be used to massively reform costs of products and services (which here in the U.S.  are several times their "free market" price), but it would run into these monopolies' power in Washington.

Adopting a single-payer system might have done a lot of good—twenty years ago. But since then, a massive wave of corporate consolidations has transformed the American health care delivery system in ways that make the single-payer approach highly problematic. Most Americans now live in places where there is little or no competition among medical providers. In market after market, hospitals, clinics, physician practices, labs, and other key health care infrastructure have been merged into monopolies controlling nearly all aspects of health care in the areas in which they operate.
Switching to single-payer wouldn’t, on its own, address the fact that the lack of competition leaves these Goliaths with almost no pressure to keep costs down. Since medical monopolies are becoming too big for either party to challenge, a single-payer, Medicare-for-all-type plan would likely degenerate into super-high-cost corporate welfare, rather than achieving lower prices or improved quality. The only sure way to avoid that outcome would be to simultaneously enact aggressive antitrust and pro-competition policies to bust up the monopolies and oligopolies that now dominate health care delivery in nearly every community in America.

"Prison gerrymandering," another problem with our electoral system

Don’t blame the election on fake news. Blame it on the media.

We agree that fake news and misinformation are real problems that deserve serious attention. We also agree that social media and other online technologies have contributed to deep-seated problems in democratic discourse such as increasing polarization and erosion of support for traditional sources of authority. Nonetheless, we believe that the volume of reporting around fake news, and the role of tech companies in disseminating those falsehoods, is both disproportionate to its likely influence in the outcome of the election and diverts attention from the culpability of the mainstream media itself.
What did all these stories talk about? The research team investigated this question, counting sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classifying each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues. In particular, they classified each sentence as describing either a scandal (e.g., Clinton’s emails, Trump’s taxes) or a policy issue (Clinton and jobs, Trump and immigration). They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.
To reiterate, these 65,000 sentences were written not by Russian hackers, but overwhelmingly by professional journalists employed at mainstream news organizations, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. To the extent that voters mistrusted Hillary Clinton, or considered her conduct as secretary of state to have been negligent or even potentially criminal, or were generally unaware of what her policies contained or how they may have differed from Donald Trump’s, these numbers suggest their views were influenced more by mainstream news sources than by fake news.

How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth

Obama inherited a mess, decades in the making, because of bad, elitist policies passed by both parties. And he had only a narrow window to push for policies, especially as Republican intransigence was ramping up.

Nevertheless, before he even took office, the likelihood that his administration would adequately deal with the crisis in a fair manner seemed low; his economics team was almost entirely either: people from previous administrations who'd had a hand in causing the crisis by deregulating finance, or former Wall St. execs. So, White House policy favored the big banks over individual homeowners (even when a mountain of proof that they were committing widescale fraud was handed to his Department of Justice).

The Obama presidency was a disaster for middle-class wealth in the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99 percent dropped by $4,500. Over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1 percent rose by $4.9 million.
This drop hit the housing wealth of African Americans particularly hard. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 lower.
Much of this decline, we will argue, can be laid at the feet of President Obama. His housing policies led directly to millions of families losing their homes. What’s more, Obama had the power — money, legislative tools, and legal leverage — to sharply ameliorate the foreclosure crisis.
He chose not to use it.

This Moment Isn’t (Just) About Sex. It’s Really About Work.

Masha Gessen has written for The New Yorker with perspicacity in past weeks about how this moment risks becoming a sex panic, that one of the perils at hand — as we try to parse how butt-groping or unsolicited kissing can exist on the same scale as violent rape — is a reversion to attitudes about women as sexually infantilized victims. Her concerns are valid, pressing. Yet I fear that the category collapse that makes Gessen anxious is being misunderstood in part because we are making a crucial category error. Because the thing that unites these varied revelations isn’t necessarily sexual harm, but professional harm and power abuse. These infractions and abuses are related, sometimes they are combined. But their impact, the reasons that they are sharing conversational and journalistic space during this reckoning, need to be clarified. We must regularly remind everyone paying attention that sexual harassment is a crime not simply on the grounds that it is a sexual violation, but because it is a form of discrimination.
In other words, sexual harassment may entail behaviors that on their own would be criminal — assault or rape — but the legal definition of its harm is about the systemic disadvantaging of a gender in the public and professional sphere. ...gender inequity is what explains why women are vulnerable to harassment before they are even harassed; it explains why it’s difficult for them to come forward with stories after they have been harassed, why they are often ignored when they do; it clarifies why so many women work with or maintain relationships with harassers and why their reactions to those harassers become key to how they themselves will be evaluated, professionally. Gender inequity is cyclical, all-encompassing.
We got to where we are because men, specifically white men, have been afforded a disproportionate share of power. That leaves women dependent on those men — for economic security, for work, for approval, for any share of power they might aspire to. Many of the women who have told their stories have explained that they did not do so before because they feared for their jobs. When women did complain, many were told that putting up with these behaviors was just part of working for the powerful men in question...

Alabama Demands Voter ID–Then Closes Driver’s License Offices In Black Counties

Numerous legal cases and investigations have proven that voter fraud (almost) never happens; it's hard enough to get people to vote once. So voter ID laws are seeking a problem that doesn't exist (thereby increasing the bureaucracy--and our taxes--unnecessarily), and they disproportionately burden the poorest among us, even when there are sufficient means of procuring a state ID.

What happens when a state with a tough voter ID law suddenly makes it much harder for minorities to get driver’s licenses? We are about to find out in Alabama.
Facing a budget crisis, Alabama has shuttered 31 driver’s license offices, many of them in counties with a high proportion of black residents. Coming after the state recently put into effect a tougher voter ID law, the closures will cut off access — particularly for minorities — to one of the few types of IDs accepted.
According to a tally by columnist John Archibald, eight of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters saw their driver’s license offices closed.
“Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one,” Archibald wrote.
Archibald also noted that many of the counties where offices were closed also leaned Democrat.
“But maybe it’s not racial at all, right? Maybe it’s just political. And let’s face it, it may not be either.” he wrote. “But no matter the intent, the consequence is the same.”

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

Something to save for a lazy-day longread:

In the earliest formulations, which largely came out of the Marxist tradition, a lot of this technological background was acknowledged. Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” proposed the term “postmodernism” to refer to the cultural logic appropriate to a new, technological phase of capitalism, one that had been heralded by Marxist economist Ernest Mandel as early as 1972. Mandel had argued that humanity stood at the verge of a “third technological revolution,” as profound as the Agricultural or Industrial Revolution, in which computers, robots, new energy sources, and new information technologies would replace industrial labor—the “end of work” as it soon came to be called—reducing us all to designers and computer technicians coming up with crazy visions that cybernetic factories would produce.
What happened, instead, is that the spread of information technologies and new ways of organizing transport—the containerization of shipping, for example—allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to East Asia, Latin America, and other countries where the availability of cheap labor allowed manufacturers to employ much less technologically sophisticated production-line techniques than they would have been obliged to employ at home.
From the perspective of those living in Europe, North America, and Japan, the results did seem to be much as predicted. Smokestack industries did disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and an upper stratum sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing with computers. But below it all lay an uneasy awareness that the postwork civilization was a giant fraud. Our carefully engineered high-tech sneakers were not being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self-replicating molecular nanotechnology; they were being made on the equivalent of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines, by the daughters of Mexican and Indonesian farmers who, as the result of WTO or NAFTA–sponsored trade deals, had been ousted from their ancestral lands. It was a guilty awareness that lay beneath the postmodern sensibility and its celebration of the endless play of images and surfaces.
Why did the projected explosion of technological growth everyone was expecting—the moon bases, the robot factories—fail to happen? There are two possibilities. Either our expectations about the pace of technological change were unrealistic (in which case, we need to know why so many intelligent people believed they were not) or our expectations were not unrealistic (in which case, we need to know what happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects).

Why we need Net Neutrality

Nick Heer, in Ben Thompson Is Wrong About the Deregulation of ISPs:

Recently, Verizon began throttling video streaming on their cellular network, too, with the exception of its NFL app which, by the way, is also exempt from data caps. The FCC under Tom Wheeler said that AT&T was violating net neutrality rules when they exempted their own DirecTV service from users’ data caps, too, giving it an unfair advantage over other streaming video services. Comcast hilariously argued that their broadband-powered service for streaming video to laptops was exempt from the anticompetitive agreement they signed when they acquired NBCUniversal.
There is clearly plenty of evidence that ISPs will not treat data the same if offered the opportunity to do otherwise. And, I stress again, we aren’t simply talking about internet providers here — these are vertically-integrated media conglomerates which absolutely have incentive to treat traffic from friendly entities differently through, for example, zero-rating, as AT&T did with DirecTV, Verizon does with their NFL app, and T-Mobile does for certain services.
Even if you believe that the American broadband market is sufficiently competitive — it isn’t — that ISPs can be trusted to not discriminate against some forms of traffic once given the freedom to — doubtful — and that existing regulatory structures will allow any problems to be fixed on a case-by-case basis, it still seems far more efficient to prevent it in the first place. There’s an opportunity to treat internet service as a fundamental utility; let’s keep it that way, whether that’s through Title II classification or an equivalent replacement.