It’s warming up and getting closer to Earth Day. Like every spring there’s a winter’s worth of trash in our yards, streets, and highway ditches, much of it comes from drive-thru restaurants and beverage barns.
No need to do the research or to manufacturer some story, because I personally witnessed it. Several years ago my wife and I volunteered to pick up litter on Foraker Street between SR 138 and the 7th Street Bridge. From just one side of that very short street, we filled our pick up truck with trash that was, as stated, carry out wrappers from fast food, and tossed beverage containers, especially beer cans. Not a single resident offered to help and within a couple of months, it was as littered as ever.
Yesterday evening a woman told me she just couldn’t understand why Democrats believed in abortion. She thought it was just, “wrong.” It was late and I was too tired to think about it but today is a new day and my brain is rested. So, here’s what I think.
First of all, I’m a Democrat and I basically do not believe abortion is a good thing. To some degree or another, I’ve been bothered by anyone being sexually irresponsible and then using abortion as a means of birth control. After all, forms of condoms and birth control have existed since Roman times and earlier. That said, I don’t think it is my place to tell a woman what is correct for them.
The mass shooting at Florida’s Parkland High School took place just a year ago today. In the following year, much has taken place but even more, has not taken place.
A huge anti-gun violence movement, led by students, has evolved and prompted several major successes at the state level. At the federal level its been pretty much status quo with the gun lobby still owning the majority of the GOP and some Democratic votes.
People talk about the evils of big business, big tobacco, big pharma, big hospitals and all the other “big” that seem to be monopolizing our lives. After watching my son I have to now add “big latex” to the list.
When I was a kid the only rubber gloves I remember people having in their homes were a pair of thicker yellow gloves with fuzzy liners that some women used to ward off “dishpan hands.” I don’t recall my mother using those or anything other than her bare hands to wash dishes, kill a chicken, mop the bathroom floor, or scrub the tub and toilet.
Recently my wife and I were watching a TV segment about a child with extreme emotional problems and was a genuine threat to his siblings. It was part of a piece about the shortage of psychiatric hospital beds for children in America. When the piece was over we put the TV on pause and began talking about our youth in the 1950s.
Neither of us could recall any examples of such children in our small hometown. Our local hospital was nothing more than a large two-story house and our doctors carried most of what they needed in leather bags and regularly made house calls. Few people knew what a pediatrician or psychiatrist was.
Late last summer the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was struck by two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Along with the US Virgin Islands these American territories were devastated. The physical infrastructure and economies of these islands remain far from recovery. NPR recently reported:
“Puerto Rico still has areas contending with terrible living conditions following Hurricane Maria and the lackluster response to the storm from the mainland United States. Even the deadly effects of the storm are far from over: With many still living without power or their lives otherwise disrupted, particularly elderly populations, the overall suicide rate in Puerto Rico increased 27 percent in 2017 compared to 2016 levels.”
These people are American citizens yet, in many ways our government has turned its back on them. Somehow America’s president appears to think that flying into the scene and tossing a few rolls of paper towels is all that’s needed. It gave him his photo opportunity.
By whatever name they’re called there are 3,142 counties in the United States. Every single county in the U.S. registered an increase in drug-related mortality between 1980 and 2014. And that rise was statistically significant in 99.8 percent of counties.
The tragedy of these facts and figures is that the obvious failure of what has become known as the War on Drugs can be traced at least back to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. The war got heated in 1971 under Nixon and again in the 1980s with Reagan.
RISING DRUG COSTS: Californians have been notified that the cost of generic glaucoma drugs will rise by 64% and one asthma med will increase 50% on May 1. How can such increases be justified and explained?
I love it when ignorance comes home to bite people on the butt cheek. Such is becoming a frequent reality as the truth of the Trump campaign promises unfold. One example is that 35% of Americans don’t know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are the exact same things. Same thing, different names. Ironically lots of those who supported the conservative right favored the ACA but were dead set opposed to Obamacare.
FACTOID: As the new Congress feverishly works to undo Obamacare a recent study strongly suggest that the majority of Americans know little about the law. That is even more true of those who oppose it. The post-information era at its best.
OPIOIDS: A truly ridiculous amount of prescription opiates have been sent to West Virginia from 2007 to 2012: 555,808,292 doses of hydrocodone and 224,260,980 doses of oxycodone. That’s 433 pills for every person in the state over that time span.
Lots of us are receiving healthcare from Medicare and while Trump promised to protect it there appears to be continued pressure in the GOP congress to attack it. Here’s a piece that appeared in today’s New York Times Opinion section. Well worth a read.
The debate that the country may soon be having over Medicare is shaping up as one of the stranger political debates in a long time.
Medicare is an extremely popular program, and it mostly functions well. Its main problem — a large and long-term funding shortfall — has even become less serious lately, thanks to a slowdown in the rise of health care costs.
In the campaign, Donald Trump said he would protect Medicare. Yet many Congressional Republicans have long wanted to change the program and privatize all or part of it. One of those Congressional Republicans is Tom Price of Georgia, whom Trump has chosen to run the Department of Health and Human Services, where he will have sway over Medicare.
I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing some changes to Medicare — especially moving it toward paying for the quality of medical care and away from paying for the quantity of care, as the Obama administration has instigated. But the notion that a radical overhaul of Medicare should be one of the country’s top priorities seems bizarre. Democrats, wounded as they are right now, would no doubt be happy to have this political debate.
Our colleagues at Room for Debate preview that discussion with an overview of the substantive questions likely to come up.
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Janet Napolitano on young immigrants and Jeff Biggers on reason for climate hope.
TOBACCO: 870 billion is the number of cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris annually. The company has invested $3 billion into tobacco vaporizers, already available in some overseas markets, and plans to have the product in 20 markets this year. BTW, PM has announced it may be planning on exiting the cigarette business.
Given the announced increases in Obamacare premiums it’s important that people have accurate information about what it means and how you may be affected. I found this article in the New York Times and it’s certainly worth your time. Pay special attention to the roll a “functioning” Congress needs to play in the fix.
Figuring out how Obamacare is faring has always been hard.
It’s been hard because many Republicans are rooting for the law to fail and try to make any flaw sound existential. And it’s been hard because we in the media haven’t always done a good job covering the law. We tend to sensationalize its problems, rather than distinguishing between routine ones and truly worrisome ones.
The recent spike in premiums — raising the cost of many insurance plans — is a real problem. But it’s also contained to the smaller part of Obamacare’s coverage expansion, and it’s a problem that could be easily solved by a functioning Congress.
First, some context: The 260 million or so Americans who receive health insurance through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid (including through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion) are unaffected by the prices increases. The increases instead apply to the 10 million people who buy coverage on one of the private-insurance exchanges established by the law. Even among those 10 million, the vast majority receives government subsidies that will largely or partly cancel out the price increase.
So why do I say the price increases are a real problem? Because those insurance exchanges are vital to the idea of universal coverage in this country. Without them, many people who don’t qualify for government insurance or aren’t covered through their job will be stuck without good medical care.
The spike in premiums is a sign that not enough healthy people are signing up for the exchanges. Without healthy people to balance out the sick, insurance stops being insurance and becomes terribly expensive.
The basic solution is straightforward. It involves increasing the subsidies for lower-income families — while also increasing the penalties for people who refuse to sign up for health insurance. The overall cost of this fix would be modest, and a better functioning Republican Party would have no problem agreeing to a compromise. It would preserve a robust role for the private market, after all.
The more boldly liberal solution is to create a so-called public option on the exchanges — a government insurance plan anyone could buy. In a Times Op-Edtoday, Jacob Hacker — one of the architects of the public option — makes the case for it.
I’ll confess to being torn about whether the public option is a more complex solution than the current problem requires. I encourage you to read Hacker’s piece – and also this recent Times piece raising questions about the public option. If you have thoughts after doing so, send me an email, at Leonhardt@nytimes.com.