Who Cares About Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan?

Sanders' Healthcare PlanThere are substantive policy issues regarding the Bernie Sanders policy proposals. The main one that concerns me is Sanders’ healthcare plan.

Now, in a way, it doesn’t matter. We all know that nothing big is going to happen on the left anytime soon. If anything big happens, it will be on the right. If the economy tanks and Republicans take control of Washington, it will be very bad. I fully expect them to repeal Obamacare. And maybe I will have to go down to Mexico, where I could now certainly support myself and get low cost health and dental care.

But this is what’s so frustrating about dealing with this election on the Democratic side. The same people who claim that the Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals are unrealistic are also busy saying that we can’t afford them or that the numbers don’t add up. Still, it does matter to me that politicians that I support have policy proposals that make sense.

I think that Jonathan Chait lays out some valid concerns in his recent article, Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan Does Not Add Up. But just the same, he is playing the “big numbers” game on everyone and I don’t appreciate that.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don’t think that Jonathan Chait does.

Chait referenced a study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and he claimed Sanders’ healthcare plan “would still fall several trillion dollars short of covering its expenses.” Well, that makes it sound worse than it is. They claim $3 trillion over ten years. Given the total cost of the plan (roughly $15 trillion), that would be a shortfall of roughly 20%. That’s substantial, but that’s nothing compared to, say, Mitt Romney’s tax plan that was nothing but fairy dust.

So the truth is that Sanders’ healthcare plan could be fixed, assuming that this study is correct. I would like to see the Sanders campaign respond to these questions with more than denial. But you can see why it doesn’t. Chait’s article is a great example of this. Half of the article is taken up with Kenneth Thorpe’s analysis that the Sander campaign rightly calls a “complete hatchet job.” It claims that the proposal would cost $14 trillion more than Sanders claims. Thorpe’s claims have been called into question. Jonathan Cohn noted that, “Thorpe’s analysis is as subject to scrutiny and second-guessing as anybody’s.” And David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler provided a thorough refutation of it, On Kenneth Thorpe’s Analysis of Senator Sanders’ Single-Payer Reform Plan.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don’t think that Jonathan Chait does. I think Chait just wants to snipe in a partisan way — that it’s all politics and no policy. Similarly, in The New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz wrote, Should Millennials Get Over Bernie Sanders? That one was answered by Dean Baker, New Yorker Joins Open Season on Bernie Sanders.

The truth is that no one really wants to talk about Sanders’ healthcare plan or any of this stuff. The media certainly doesn’t. And by that, I’m not even talking about people like Chait who do care about policy when it suits them. But we have a media infrastructure that will not allow candidates to act in reasonable ways and alter their plans. Would it be seen as acceptable for him to alter it? I don’t think so. And I’m not exactly sure what the point would be, given that even if the Democrats were swept into office, the plan would be the starting point of a negotiation.

Closed Minds at the New Hampshire Debate

Angry Mob at New Hampshire DebateI watched the vast majority of the New Hampshire debate last night on MSNBC. I was on twitter and had a nice time chatting with Elizabeth, but overall, I wasn’t too pleased. It wasn’t the candidates. Like all the Democratic debates, this one put the Republicans to shame. Bernie and Hillary talk about actual stuff — policy. I wasn’t too thrilled about a lot of the rancor at the beginning, but I guess that’s to be expected. Given what it was (a political debate), the candidates were very well behaved and even went out of their way to say how much they admired each other.

What bothered me were the people on Twitter who were following the New Hampshire debate. They do not share the candidates mutual admiration. I was amazed at the display of closed mindedness. Bernie Sanders’ supporters thought that everything Hillary Clinton said was proof that she was just a fraud. Hillary Clinton supporters thought that everything Bernie Sanders said proved that he was an unserious interloper. There was real hatred for these two candidates by the other side. And I understand having strong feelings. Can we all agree that both these candidates are actually pretty similar? That even John Kasich (by far the most reasonable Republican candidate) would be a catastrophe compared to either Clinton or Sanders?

I like to think in terms of psychology. But most people tend to imagine people they don’t know as being psychopaths. That guy who cut you off in traffic isn’t just in a big rush or having a bad day; no, he’s just driving around everywhere trying to mess with people because he’s evil. It’s a thing we never do to ourselves. When we cut someone off, we know it was usually a mistake, or if we were being rude, it was wrong and not something we go out of our way to do. People have reasons for doing things.

The main thing is that I thought both Hillary and Bernie made good points throughout the New Hampshire debate. It reminded me of 2008 when the Democratic Party had three really good candidates.

As you should all know, I continue to be a strong Sanders supporter. And I’ll admit: it isn’t just the policies. He reminds me of the old bumper sticker, “If you aren’t outraged; you aren’t paying attention!” But this narrative among a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters that Hillary Clinton is just this corporate tool is all wrong and was on full display during the New Hampshire debate. There was one particularly good example on the other side. One Clinton supporter asked if Sanders respected Obama so much, why did he called for president to be primaried in 2012. I responded that it was to make him a better candidate. She scoffed at this notion. But I know it’s true. I was around. I called for the same thing. A lot of people did, and it was all for that reason. But no, to some Clinton supporters, that can’t be true because Sanders just wants to destroy the Democratic Party or something.

Throughout the debate, I thought that both candidates had strong moments. As I wrote yesterday, I have been disappointed in Sanders for his attacks on Clinton’s purity. I think that got itself worked out last night, and Clinton definitely had him on the ropes regarding that. On the other hand, I thought Clinton went low when she quoted the obviously wrong Kenneth Thorpe financial analysis of Sanders’ healthcare plan. (I have an article about it this afternoon; I wrote it days ago, but it kept getting pushed off.)

The main thing is that I thought both Hillary and Bernie made good points throughout the New Hampshire debate. It reminded me of 2008 when the Democratic Party had three really good candidates. (Obviously, Edwards would have been a disaster because of his affair, which I believe would have come out before the election; but I’m talking policy here.) And there was one moment when I got a flow of tweets from Clinton supporters saying, “I’m with Bernie on this one.” It was the death penalty. We Democrats really don’t like it!

It’s funny to me, because I think Clinton is flat out lying on the issue. I don’t believe for a moment that she actually supports the death penalty. But the truth is that it is very popular in this country. And I don’t begrudge her or any other candidate their little compromises. Certainly Sanders has them too. Despite what some would claim, he is not pure as the driven snow either.

But as Democrats, we really ought to feel good about having these two excellent candidates. We can have heated discussions about which one is better. I don’t buy into the idealist vs pragmatist narrative, but that’s an argument that can be had. I’m going to try to stay out of those arguments, because I feel like I’ve been neck deep in them recently. But if Sanders wins, the Democratic Party needs to get on board with him. And if Clinton wins, Sanders voters need to already understand that Clinton is a real liberal and absolutely deserving of our full-throttled support.

Afterword: New Hampshire Debate

Full disclosure: during the course of the debate, I did drink an entire 12 oz bottle of Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. Even though I try to have a drink every night, I’m still a lightweight. And that particular beer has a 9.8% alcohol content. So after the debate I passed out for an hour and a half. But I felt like I was following everything…

Anniversary Post: Early Day Miners’ East Berlin at Night

Placer Found - Early Day MinersEarly Day Miners are not a sadcore band. They aren’t even close. So why am I featuring them? Well, their first album, Placer Found, is a wonderful example of sadcore. It isn’t that the music itself is sad. But if you are at home with little to do, and it is drizzling outside, this album is the soundtrack of your day. That’s especially true of today’s song, “East Berlin at Night.”

Early Day Miners are also known as a Shoegazing band. That’s another ill defined term. But you get the idea. And that’s well on display in this song. “East Berlin at Night” never mentions Berlin or Germany. I can take the song in one of two ways. I can see it in a political light. There’s that Life Magazine cover with the sailor kissing the nurse the day that Japan surrendered. Somehow, to me, the defeat of Germany (two weeks later) always brings to mind Time Square at night. And the resolution of things in Europe was a mess. So New York and East Germany are very much linked.

But I tend to think that the song is more personal. Watching the snow pile up outside in New York makes the singer feel cut off, just as East Berlin was as a result of World War II. Not that it matters. It is, like most sadcore, more evocative than concrete. And what it evokes in me is not depression but a mild melancholy — the feeling that something is not quite right in the universe, or at least my little corner of it. It isn’t a bad feeling. But it does seem somewhat silly when the sun comes out. It’s definitely music for rain days and late nights.

Who Is Bob Douglas and Why Is He in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Bob DouglasOn this day in 1972, Bob Douglas became the first African American inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Not Bill Russell?! Who the hell is Bob Douglas anyway?

The Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1959. But despite the fact that it took them 13 years to induct an African American into it, basketball’s history has not been nearly as racist as baseball. In the early days of basketball, it was highly segregated — but only because the society itself was. There were, for example, white players on the Harlem Globetrotters. What’s more, black teams played white teams.

Bob Douglas was one of the pioneers of barnstorming basketball. He founded and coached the New York Renaissance — generally known as the Rens. Apparently, in the 1920s and early 1930s, the biggest basketball attractions in the nation were the games between the Rens and the Original Celtics (which has nothing to do with the Boston Celtics, but was a very white team). They won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1939. And in 1948, they came in second, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers who were led by the legendary George Mikan. (Note: the Minneapolis Lakers are today’s Los Angeles Lakers — they moved in 1960.)

The Rens disbanded in 1949. By that point, the NBA was on the rise. The only team to survive from that period were the Harlem Globetrotters. Although it’s interesting to note that what the Globetrotters are today is more like what basketball used to be. It’s the NBA that has changed the game.

Bob Douglas played a part in getting the first African American player, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, signed to the newly established NBA. That’s incredibly important, of course — as is Douglas’ status as the “Father of Black Professional Basketball.” But what I find so fascinating about people like Bob Douglas is that they have idiosyncratic ideas and they just go with them. The fact that Douglas was hugely successful at his doesn’t matter to me as much as his commitment.

Bob Douglas died in 1979 at the age of 96.