Trump’s vision of white, Christian America

Terrific job from Peter Beinart deconstructing Trump’s clearly-Bannon-influenced speech in Poland:

In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world’s largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country’s “Westernness,” it’s because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they’re not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim…

The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” On its face, that’s absurd. Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.

Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.

Bannon’s influence over Trump clearly waxes and wanes depending upon the time and issue, but this is clearly full-on President Bannon stuff. And it’s ugly as hell.

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The Single Payer reality

Loved this post from Greg Sargent about the stupidity of so many attacks against single payer, “but taxes will go up a bunch!”  I face this with my students every year.  Would you rather have $5000 in additional health expenses and no additional taxes or $4000 in additional taxes and $0 in additional health expenses (and, let’s be clear, the evidence is overwhelming that single payer saves money on total health expenditure).  That $4000 in additional taxes looks pretty good then, huh.  But, of course, the opponents of more sane health care (I’m not particularly wedded to single-payer, but it is far better than our current status quo), just ignore this fact and just say, “but look at all the new taxes!”  Anyway, Sargent:

Democratic politicians are rapidly embracing single payer health care, and as they do, they’re being met with an utterly bogus criticism. Unfortunately, it’s coming not only from Republicans but also from misinformed members of the media.

So before this goes any farther, we need to get a few things straight.

To see how this is happening, take a look at a recent exchange between some CNN personalities and Randy Bryce, the mustachioed ironworker challenging Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, as reported by the Post’s David

Weigel. Bryce favors single payer, and has said he supports a plan that Rep. John Conyers has been offering in Congress for years:

This week, Bryce beamed into CNN to keep up the momentum — and ran straight into a question about whether he, like a growing number of Democrats, supports European-style universal health care.

“You want to raise $32 trillion in taxes?” asked CNN’s John Berman.

“There’s a lot of people not paying their fair share in taxes,” Bryce said. “There’s corporations getting away with a lot.”

“That would be quite a tax hike,” said CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “That’s an astonishing number, $32 trillion over a decade.”

Ugh. We saw a similar discussion in 2016 around Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan, and while I had numerous criticisms of that plan, this is the single dumbest response to single payer that you could possibly come up with. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear it from Republicans — if there’s an enormous number they can toss around while screaming “Democrats are gonna raise your taxes by a zillion percent!” they’ll do it. But no self-respecting journalist should fall into the trap of repeating something so inane.

There is simply no critique you can make of single payer health care that is more wrong than “It’ll be too expensive.” That is 180 degrees backwards. Single payer is many things, but above all it is cheap. And what we have now is the most expensive system in the world, by a mile.

If we were to institute some kind of single payer system, what we’d be doing when it comes to money is changing how we pay for health care. But when you say, “Hoo boy, it would mean trillions in new taxes!”, you’re acting as though we’d be paying all those taxes on top of what we’re already paying. But of course we wouldn’t… [bold is mine, italics is Sargent]

It wouldn’t work out that way precisely, of course. But the point is, if we were to shift to a single payer system we’d be changing how we pay for health care, not just paying more. Right now if you’re like most working-age Americans, you pay thousands of dollars every year to insurance companies. If we switch to a primarily government-funded plan, you’d pay for it with taxes, but you’d be relieved of what you now pay to insurers.

But Republicans would like you to believe that any cost of single payer would be on top of what you already pay, which is completely false. Now here’s the truth: Republicans don’t object to single payer because it’s expensive, because compared to what we have now, it isn’t. Their objection is philosophical: they don’t think it’s government’s role or obligation to provide health insurance.

Great points.  It’s bad enough that we can count on Republicans to lie about this reality, we don’t need the media credulously believing their misleading talking points.

Photo of the day

Another of my own from a recent trip to Colonial Beach, VA.  I think I might have set the camera to HDR for this one, but the reality was pretty amazing:

The one secret to a successful diet

Recognizing that’s not not just one thing and stop being foolishly reductionist– whether it’s fat, sugar, refined grains, or anything else.  I don’t know how I missed this Jerome Groopman piece from 2015 looking at the history of the war on fat evolving into the war on sugar, but it’s really good stuff.  Here’s a nice bit from the end:

The problem with most diet books, and with popular-science books about diet, is that their impact relies on giving us simple answers, shorn of attendant complexities: it’s all about fat, or carbs, or how many meals you eat (the Warrior diet), or combinations of food groups, or intervalic fasting (the 5:2 diet), or nutritional genomics (sticking to the foods your distant ancestors may have eaten, assuming you even know where your folks were during the Paleolithic era). They hold out the hope that, if you just fix one thing, your whole life will be better. [emphases mine]

In laboratories, it’s a different story, and it sometimes seems that the more sophisticated nutritional science becomes the less any single factor predominates, and the less sure we are of anything. Today’s findings regularly overturn yesterday’s promising hypotheses. A trial in 2003, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, compared an Atkins diet, high in fat and low in carbohydrates, with a low-fat, high-carbohydrate, low-calorie one. After a year, there were no significant differences in how much weight the people in each group had lost, or in their levels of blood lipids—including their LDL cholesterol, the primary concern for heart attack and stroke. In a follow-up study in 2010, participants who followed either a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet ended up losing about the same amount of weight (seven kilograms) after two years. It was impossible to predict which diet would lead to significant weight loss in any given individual, and, as most dieters well know, sustaining weight loss often fails after initial success…

Science is an accretion of provisional certainties. Current research includes much that is genuinely promising—several groups have identified genes that predispose some people to obesity, and are studying how targeted diets and exercise can attenuate these effects—but the more one pays attention to the latest news from the labs the harder it becomes to separate signal from noise. Amid the constant back-and-forth of various hypotheses, orthodoxies, and fads, it’s more important to pay attention to the gradual advances, such as our understanding of calories and vitamins or the consensus among studies showing that trans fats exacerbate cardiovascular disease. What this means for most of us is that common sense should prevail. Eat and exercise in moderation; maintain a diet consisting of balanced amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates; make sure you get plenty of fruit and vegetables. And enjoy an occasional slice of chocolate cake.

Yes, yes, yes.  I’ll be off soon to have my daily giant slice of pizza (jalapeno instead of pepperoni while I’m still trying to lose a few pounds), which works just fine in the broad context of an overall healthy diet.

It’s not rocket science (it’s tweaks to Obamacare)

Nice post from Kevin Drum on what is necessary to actually improve the ACA.  It’s really not that hard.  If Republicans were not hell-bent on “repeal and replace!” but on actually fixing what ails Obamacare and creating more sustainable health care (that follows basic conservative tenets) they would just do these things.  Drum:

Mine is a nice, simple, 3-step plan:

  1. Enforce the individual mandate and increase the penalty to 3.5 percent of income.
  2. Increase subsidies by 20 percent and extend them to 6x the poverty level.
  3. In areas where there are fewer than two insurers participating in the exchanges, make Medicaid available for the price of an average Bronze plan.

This is not a wish list of everything that would make Obamacare better. It’s a minimum set of proposals that would keep Obamacare stable, reduce premiums, and fix its worst problems. That’s it…

Of course, my plan would cost more. My horseback guess is that it would cost an additional $25 billion per year or so. Obamacare is currently under its initial budget projections, and this would put it a little over. That means no tax cut for the rich, which presumably makes it a nonstarter for Republicans. On the bright side, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t include a few Republican ideas in this package too. More generous tax treatment of HSAs, more Medicaid flexibility for states, etc.

This is all pie in the sky. But I’m pretty sure that it would work once the details were filled in. This isn’t rocket science.

Within the parts I cut out, Drum explains how this would work.  I know enough health care policy myself to say, yes, it very likely would.  Of course, in a sane political system we would have done these things years ago.  In our system, alas, Republicans are opposed because 1) it spends more money to help poor and working people, and 2) Democrats like it.

And, while I’m at it, Krugman on the lying Republicans are using to defend their plan:

Consider, in particular, Republican leaders’ strategy on health care. At this point, everything they say involves either demonstrably dishonest claims about Obamacare or wild misrepresentations of their proposed replacement, which would — surprise — cut taxes for the rich while inflicting harsh punishment on the poor and working class, including millions of Trump supporters. In fact, there’s so much deception that I can’t cover it all. But here are a few low points…

Second, he points to the 28 million U.S. residents who remain uninsured as if this were some huge, unanticipated failure. But nobody expected Obamacare to cover everyone; indeed, the Congressional Budget Office always projectedthat more than 20 million people would, for various reasons, be left out. And you have to wonder how Price can look himself in the mirror after condemning the A.C.A. for missing some people when his own party’s plans would vastly increase the number of uninsured.

Which brings us to Republicans’ efforts to obscure the nature of their own plans.

The main story here is very simple: In order to free up money for tax cuts, G.O.P. plans would drastically cut Medicaid spending relative to current law, and they would also cut insurance subsidies, making private insurance unaffordable for many people not eligible for Medicaid.

Republicans could try to make a case for this policy shift; they could try to explain why tax cuts for a wealthy few are more important than health care for tens of millions. Instead, however, they’re engaging in shameless denial…

O.K., so the selling of Trumpcare is deeply dishonest. But isn’t that what politics is always like? No. Political spin used to have its limits: Politicians who wanted to be taken seriously wouldn’t go around claiming that up is down and black is white.

Yet today’s Republicans hardly ever do anything else. It’s not just Donald Trump: The whole G.O.P. has become a post-truth party. [emphasis mine]

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