Obamacare is working

Krugman pushes back strongly against those Democrats who seem to think that universal health care is a bad idea but that rather vague commitments to “focus on the middle class” is what’s needed from the Democratic Party.  In so doing, he nicely summarizes the benefits we’ve already seen from Obamacare:

Earlier this week, the independent Urban Institute released new estimates of the number of Americans without health insurance, and the positive results of Obamacare’s first year are striking. Remember all those claims that more people would lose coverage than would gain it? Well, the institute finds a sharp drop in the number of uninsured adults, with more than 10 million people gaining coverage since last year. This is in line with what multiple other estimates show. The primary goal of health reform, to give Americans access to the health care they need, is very much on track…

What about costs? There were many predictions of soaring premiums. But health reform’s efforts to create meaningful competition among insurers are working better than almost anyone (myself included) expected. Premiums for 2014 came in well below expectations, and independent estimates showa very modest increase — 4 percent or less — for average premiums in 2015.

In short, if you think of Obamacare as a policy intended to improve American lives, it’s going really well…

The point is that the pre-Obamacare system put many Americans at the constant risk of going without insurance, many more than the number of uninsured at any given time, and limited freedom of employment for millions more. So health reform helps a much larger share of the population than those currently uninsured — and those beneficiaries have relatives and friends. This is not a policy targeted on a small minority.

Chait also has a post emphasizing the significant successes:

The overall goal of the law was to gradually reverse the two most perverse facts about the U.S. health-care system: Its overall cost has exploded, and it denies access to tens of millions of people. Four major new sources of information have come out this week, all of which have further demonstrated the law’s success…

Conservatives widely denied that the law would even succeed at its basic goal of increasing access to health insurance. Obamacare “created more uninsured people than it gave insurance to. And it promises to create even more,” argued National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. Fox News panelistCharles Krauthammer proclaimed the law would result in “essentially the same number of uninsured.”

Every serious method of measuring has shown the law effecting significant reductions in the uninsured rate…

When the law passed, conservatives insisted it would increase rather than decrease health-insurance costs. (Esteemed conservative intellectual Yuval Levin, in 2010, insisted it “completely fails” to reduce overall health-care spending.) Since the law passed, health-care inflation has fallen to historically low levels. Conservatives have repeatedly insisted this was a blip that would soon be reversed, and seized upon any apparent evidence for this case. When health-care spending spiked in the first quarter of 2014, Megan McArdle announced vindication: “After all the speculation that Obamacare might be bending the cost curve, we now know that so far, it isn’t.” (It turned out the first-quarter spike in health-care spending was a preliminary miscount that has since been corrected.)

Also yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid reported that health inflation in 2013 not only remained in, it fell to the lowest level since the federal government began keeping track…

Obamacare’s bitter opponents on the right have increasingly trained their focus on measures of public opinion. It is true: Polling on the health-care law remains dismal as ever despite its success. Obamacare’s opponents have won a public-relations struggle. They have not won an argument.

Tom Toles nails the big picture:


Map of the day

Nice post from Vox on the constitutionality of racial profiling.  Interesting, according to case law, it is basically allowed within 100 miles of any national border.  Which puts me in one the ACLU dubs the “Constitution free zone” of the US.

ACLU map border

Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of lights and mist seen from Tunnel Overlook, Yosemite Valley, at night

Night Falls

Photograph by Phil Hawkins, National Geographic Your Shot

Though most photographers leave Yosemite National Park’s Tunnel View overlook when the direct light of sunset has disappeared, Your Shot member Phil Hawkins usually stays for another hour to see how the light evolves. “On this occasion I happened to notice a slight glow in the mist hugging the valley floor and wondered how this would look in a timed exposure,” he writes. “So I drilled in on an area of activity and simply left the shutter open for about ten minutes, and this image is the result.”

Torture is back

A Senate investigation on post 9-11 torture is to be released today.  Already plenty of good stuff being written on the matter.  First, Spencer Ackerman:

The report’s fundamental conclusions have been well-trailed. Senate investigators determined that the CIA’s embrace of mock-drowning, sleep deprivation, “stress positions”, sensory and dietary manipulation and other torture techniques were ineffective, and the CIA covered up that ineffectiveness by misrepresenting its results to Bush officials, Congress and the public. [emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, long-time federal interrogator Mark Fallon has a great piece in Politico:

As special agent in charge of the criminal investigation task force with investigators and intelligence personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, I was privy to the information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I was aware of no valuable information that came from waterboarding. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which had access to all CIA documents related to the “enhanced interrogation” program—has concluded that abusive techniques didn’t help the hunt for Bin Laden. Cheney’s claim that the frequent waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “produced phenomenal results for us” is simply false.

The self-defeating stupidity of torture might come as news to Americans who’ve heard again and again from Cheney and other political leaders that torture “worked.” Professional interrogators, however, couldn’t be less surprised. We know that legal, rapport-building interrogation techniques are the best way to obtain intelligence, and that torture tends to solicit unreliable information that sets back investigations.

Yes, torture makes people talk—but what they say is often untrue. Seeking to stop the pain, people subjected to torture tend to say what they believe their interrogators want to hear.

The report is essential because it makes clear the legal, moral, and strategic costs of torture…

Over the coming days, you’ll be hearing numerous torture defenders claim it kept Americans safe. Don’t believe them. Many of us charged with the mission of getting information out of terrorists didn’t resort to using torture. Like many Americans, we didn’t want our government to use torture, and we hope it never does again.

And a compelling argument from the director of the ACLU that Obama should offer pardons on torture to Bush, Cheney, etc.:

But let’s face it: Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions — no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures — because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country’s most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security. If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted…

The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again. Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware. Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.

There’s plenty of good reasons not to do this, but I am quite convinced the torturers in chief will never face any legal punishment and this is a clear way to set down the marker that their actions were, in fact, criminal.

Unaccountable police– a view from the inside

Terrific WaPo Op-Ed from a former St Louis cop because he could not put up with a culture of racism and over-agression and the way police officers were allowed to abuse citizens with complete impunity.  Please read the whole thing.  That said:

But too many times, officers saw young black and brown men as targets. They would respond with force to even minor offenses. And because cops are rarely held accountable for their actions, they didn’t think too hard about the consequences…

Another officer met us and told the boy to stand. He replied that he couldn’t. So the officer slammed him against the house and cuffed him. When the boy again said he couldn’t walk, the officer grabbed him by his ankles and dragged him to the car. It turned out the boy had been on crutches when he answered the door, and couldn’t walk.

Back at the department, I complained to the sergeant. I wanted to report the misconduct. But my manager squashed the whole thing and told me to get back to work…

I, too, have faced mortal danger. I’ve been shot at and attacked. But I know it’s almost always possible to defuse a situation.

Once, a sergeant and I got a call about someone wielding a weapon in an apartment. When we showed up, we found someone sitting on the bed with a very large butcher knife. Rather than storming him and screaming “put the knife down” like my colleagues would have done, we kept our distance. We talked to him, tried to calm him down.

It became clear to us that he was dealing with mental illness. So eventually, we convinced him to come to the hospital with us.

I’m certain many other officers in the department would have escalated the situation fast. They would have screamed at him, gotten close to him, threatened him. And then, any movement from him, even an effort to drop the knife, would have been treated as an excuse to shoot until their clips were empty. [emphasis mine]

Until we hold police accountable for their abusing citizens they will continue to abuse citizens with impunity.  The whole thing just flabbergasts my friend who grew up in the Soviet Union and had thought he had left such things behind.  I can only hope that maybe we are starting to reach a turning point because one is desperately needed.  And I would really love it if not just former police officers, but current ones, too, would begin to speak out against a police culture which is too often inherently racist and overly-violent.

And, I will also share William Ayers’ excellent FB comment from when I shared this piece there:

It’s not just the bad apples. Systems of no accountability breed this: cops either “get with the program” or, like this fellow, they leave. And so the “good apples” are driven out while the “bad apples” are rewarded. Not too hard to see what the equilibrium outcome of that equation is.

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