The Morning Jolt


Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All Fantasy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with supporters at a town hall in Tempe, Ariz., August 1, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Elizabeth Warren unveils how she’ll pay for Medicare for All, and makes some wildly unrealistic assumptions; a particularly implausible narrative of Katie Hill’s victimhood is constructed before our eyes; a kind word for the also-ran Democrats of this cycle who at least had something new and interesting to say; and an offer you won’t want to miss.

Warren: Just Assume I Can Get All the Medication for 30 Cents on the Dollar

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that . . . and her plan runs on rainbows and unicorns. Warren unveiled how she would pay for Medicare for All without raising middle-class taxes this morning, and it basically relies on everyone involved in health care and medicine agreeing to do the same or more work for a lot less money than they do now.

Her plan is to save money by reducing payments to physicians to Medicare rates, which tend to be significantly lower than private insurance, and to 110 percent of Medicare rates for hospitals and instituting a variety of payment reforms to encourage health providers to generate more savings.

The plan sets an ambitious goal of cutting Medicare drug prices by 70 percent for brand-name drugs and 30 percent for generics through a series of reforms. It would also require the new Medicare system to run with much less administrative overhead than the Urban Institute predicted would be necessary — 2.3 percent of total costs instead of 6 percent.

She wants to get the same medicine that we do now, paying only 30 percent that we do now. When you assume you can do that, sure, making the numbers add up gets a heck of a lot easier! Imagine working out your household budget by assuming you could keep your home for only 30 percent of your current rent or mortgage payments. You’re lucky if you can find a “70 percent off” deal in stores that are going out of business; Warren’s convinced she can get it for every band name medication required for every American in the country. Yes, she’s exactly the person we need to replace that guy in the Oval Office who’s in denial about reality and who keeps telling us he’s the greatest dealmaker of all time.

A key test of the seriousness of Warren’s rivals, and future interviewers and debate moderators will be how seriously they press her on these wildly unrealistic assumptions.

Narratives Get Crafted by Ideologues Who Aren’t as Clever as They Think They Are

You probably remember when Ben Rhodes famously told the New York Times in 2016 that most people who cover the White House “know nothing” and are easily spun.

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

As you get older, you start to see the strings, and you begin to realize that the people who are trying to spin you are not that bright, or at least nowhere near as bright as they think they are. They make arguments that are contradictory and implausible.

We witnessed another vivid example this week in the sudden formation of a narrative that Rep. Katie Hill is a victim of sexist forces. The Los Angeles Times “reports” today, “GOP enemies wanted to beat Katie Hill. Then they got her nude photos.”

Before the revelations over on Red State, the odds that you had heard of Hill are pretty low. The only thing I knew about her was that she was the vice chair of the House Oversight Committee and was, on paper, the person who was slated to take over after Elijah Cummings passed away (although Speaker Pelosi could put someone else more experienced in charge if she wished). As a California Democrat from the Los Angeles area, we could probably guess her positions on most issues, but she had just been sworn into office for her first term in January. Did she have “enemies” or merely opponents in the other party who wanted to see her defeated in the next election?

Many people in the media — likely those young and underinformed correspondents that Rhodes described — seem to have decided that because Hill was A) a Democrat B) a woman and C) bisexual, that she had to be the hero or victim in this story.

The argument from Hill is that she did have an affair with a campaign staffer, but did not have a separate affair with a congressional staffer, despite screenshots of text messages and other evidence assembled and posted by Jennifer Van Laar at RedState. While it is theoretically possible that all of that could be an elaborate hoax, Hill is asking everyone to believe that while she slept with a subordinate, dependent upon Hill for a paycheck in one situation, she would never do it in that other situation, which is against House rules.

There is an established procedure to handle allegations like this, and it involves the House Ethics Committee. That panel began an inquiry and Hill announced her intention to resign the next day. If, indeed, Hill had never violated House rules about sexual relationships with employees, why did she suddenly resign? She had good reason to think the House Ethics Committee would clear her.

Democrats like Kamala Harris want the discussion to be entirely about the release of nude photos of Hill; the California senator and presidential candidate says that the lesson of the Hill story is one of “cyber exploitation” and that “there’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.”

Releasing nude photos of other people without their consent is wrong, malevolent, and oftentimes criminal. If someone did indeed violate California law on “revenge porn,” we should prosecute that person to the fullest extent the law allows. But the wrongdoing of another person does not magically make Hill’s alleged relationship with the staffer disappear. And about a year ago, the #MeToo movement had convincingly argued that almost every sexual relationship between a boss and a subordinate involves a morally-troubling imbalance of power. Sure, it’s consensual, but how honest can a person be with their partner when that person can fire them at will? And doesn’t that circumstance almost always create an unfair situation for the rest of the employees?

Now a significant number of left-leaning media voices are asserting, “no, wait, in this case, a member of Congress having sex with a staffer is okay.” We know many of them would be screaming bloody murder if a male or Republican member of Congress did the same thing. We know this because we’ve seen similar cases far too often: Vance McAllister of Louisiana, Chris Lee of New York, Mark Souder of Indiana, Chip Pickering of Mississippi, John Ensign of Nevada, Vito Fossella of New York. Yes, some stick around and manage to get reelected, having convinced their constituents that it doesn’t matter — Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee is a notorious example.

One last point on Harris’ statement that “there’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.” If you write or Tweet about Kamala Harris, someone will almost always quickly bring up her extramarital affair with Willie Brown in the early 1990s (he was married, she wasn’t; see number 16 here). It is easy to understand why Harris would resent so many people defining her by those actions so long ago. Harris may well believe her past relationships are no one else’s business, and that she did nothing wrong. But during their relationship, Brown appointed Harris to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a job that paid $97,088 a year, and six months later, he named her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a post which paid $72,000 a year. No doubt other people wanted to get appointed to those positions, and no doubt they resented the fact that Harris’ special relationship with Brown gave her such a significant advantage in his selection process.

There are plenty of reasons to vote against Harris based upon her record in office — see the other 19 reasons above. Maybe some people bring up the Brown affair simply because they want to embarrass Harris. But there’s a genuine issue of her getting preferential treatment from Brown and career assistance from the relationship — and many of the same people who don’t want to acknowledge that Hill did anything wrong in this case won’t want to acknowledge that Harris did anything wrong in that case.

Hail to the Victors over Low Expectations

A flip side of yesterday’s Corner post about the overhyped Democrats who are sputtering in this year’s presidential campaign — Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, and Harris — face it, at the beginning of this cycle, almost none of us had heard of Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Amy Klobuchar and maybe we had heard of Tulsi Gabbard as the surfing congresswoman who had met with Bashir Assad. In a cycle where most of the candidates have chased after the same Twitter Woke crowd and sounded indistinguishable from one another, each one of those four has at least brought something surprising and interesting to the table.

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