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Obamacare signups way less than anticipated. Insurers quit

obamacare

In 2013, the CBO predicted 24 million would sign up for federal or state operated health exchanges. Only 11.1 million have done so. This catastrophic shortfall means insurance companies are often losing money or are in danger of doing so. Saying they are bad or evil misses the point. In our screwy system of capitalism, the primary legal responsibility of a company is to return money to stockholders. If the insurance companies got all warm and fuzzy and decided to run Obamacare at a break-even point (assuming they could), they’d get sued by institutional owners of their stocks. Therein lies the problem. If healthcare for all is socialist, then it can’t run in a capitalist context. Instead, there needs to be one system that applies to all, managed by the government. Yes, the government could screw that up. But the mess we have is clearly not working well either.

There are already too many areas in the country where only one provider remains. That means no competition and the insurer can charge whatever they want. Another horrendous problem with Obamacare is those getting subsidies have to pay back the subsidy if they earn more than they expected. This really screws the self-employed who often don’t know what they will make in the coming year.

For Obamacare to work as predicted, healthy people need to sign up, and they have no real inducement to do so, especially when the plans are expensive with high deductibles.

Enrollment in the insurance exchanges for President Obama’s signature health-care law is at less than half the initial forecast, pushing several major insurance companies to stop offering health plans in certain markets because of significant financial losses.

As a result, the administration’s promise of a menu of health-plan choices has been replaced by a grim, though preliminary, forecast: Next year, more than 1 in 4 counties are at risk of having a single insurer on its exchange.

Debate over how perilous the predicament is for the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, is nearly as partisan as the divide over the law itself. But at the root of the problem is this: The success of the law depends fundamentally on the exchanges being profitable for insurers — and that requires more people to sign up.

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Hillary attacks Trump’s racism and the alt-right

Tweets on Clinton's alt-right speech

Every few decades the racist right crawls out of its sewer, gains some political power, then gets stomped back into the dirt by the rest of the country. This time will be no different. This is a war. And Trump will lose.

Hillary’s speech today explain in detail just how racist Trump and his inner circle are. He cannot be allowed to become president and must be destroyed politically. And spare me any whiny bullshit about how not all his supporters are racist. No, they aren’t. But he is. And so is Alex Jones, Breitbart, Trump’s advisers, and the rest of the slime in the sewers, like white nationalists and KKK leaders who have endorsed him, who Trump refuses to renounce.

Excerpts from Clinton’s speech today:

“Maya Angelou, a great American whom I admire very much, she once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him.

Throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him. When Trump was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants. Their applications would be marked with a “C” – “C” for “colored” – and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed.

And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turn-over rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let’s not forget Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called “Birthers.”

In 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for president with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.

This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name “white-genocide-TM.” Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers and spread his message to 11 million people.

His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on a white supremacist websites.

It’s what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs. He even said — and this really, is just so disgusting — he even said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there. I don’t know what happens in somebody’s mind or how dark their heard must be to say things like that.

But Trump didn’t challenge those lies. He actually went on Jones’ show and said: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

This from the man wants to be president of the United States.

The latest shake-up was designed to – quote – “Let Trump be Trump.” To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO.

To give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published:

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”
“Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield”
“Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”
That one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides. Breitbart tried to enflame them further.

Just imagine – Donald Trump reading that and thinking: “this is what I need more of in my campaign.”

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California’s broken water system. San Luis Reservoir

Exposed upper intake structure at San Luis Reservoir. Aug. 9, 2016.

Exposed upper intake at San Luis Reservoir. Aug. 9, 2016.

Despite reasonable amounts of rain in California this year, too little water was pumped to reservoirs where it is needed and too much used to protect Sacramento Delta smelt. Yes, I know, if the smelt die off, that would be a sign the Delta is in precarious condition. Yet, because of this, the San Luis reservoir is so low it is delivering practically no water to Silicon Valley.

Water was also pumped to save salmon, another laudable goal, to be sure. Also, if not enough fresh water flows into the Delta, salinity will increase, and that can not be allowed. So, at least some of the water Central Valley farmers and cities in southern California want must be pumped into the Delta to keep it alive and not saline.

But still, maybe fish are over protected and humans and agriculture needing water, not so much? That’s what some think.

If you need a sign that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is broken, look no further than San Luis Reservoir. Despite near-average precipitation this year and healthy storage in other north state reservoirs, San Luis is so precipitously low that deliveries were nearly shutoff in early August.

Meanwhile Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, sits at 109% of its historic average for the date.

What’s wrong with this picture? In a nutshell, we have a water system that is broken from a physical and policy standpoint.

The water community strongly supports the California policy of coequal goals. Sadly, actions by regulatory agencies continue to undermine that policy. Any one driving past San Luis Reservoir this summer can see the result.

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26 heroin overdoses in 4 hours in city of 50,000

Needle and damage done WV

Heroin cut with an even stronger substance like fentanyl was responsible for an appalling 26 overdoses in Huntington WV in just four hours. At one point, emergency calls came in and there were no available ambulances.

Addicts are responsible for their behavior. However, once addiction takes hold, in terms of recovery, it matters not why the addict started using drugs. It takes on a life of its own and blots out the sun and everything else.

However, when a city of 50,000 has so many addicts and so many overdoses, then this is more than personal error. What are the societal factors there that make blotting out reality with pain killers so attractive? Unemployment there is not particularly high. Yet West Virginia has the highest rate of youth drug overdoses in the country.

Part of the problem is the federal government which, after years of inaction, finally cracked down on Oxy being so easily available. Drug cartels moved in with cheap heroin and addicts simply switched drugs.

The epidemic is a reflection of the long-term stagnation of the economy, the lack of job and education prospects for the most vulnerable sections of the poor, the lack of health care and especially drug rehabilitation programs, and the impact of criminalization of addiction to painkillers such as OxyContin, which ravaged swaths of Appalachia a decade ago.

“As a public health problem, this is an epidemic of monumental proportions,” Dr. Michael Kilkenny, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, said. “We really must stop the demand side of the equation. We must attack the issue of addiction.”

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Suburban poverty and the Day of Reckoning

urban-suburban poverty

Poverty isn’t just in inner cities, and is not just black or brown. There’s increasing poverty in decaying suburban areas too, which are often predominantly white. Suburban poor live there because they can’t afford to live where they work. (Yes, many people living in poverty do indeed have jobs.)

The problem is affordable housing. Municipalities and the local gentry generally don’t want it, especially not if the area is upscale or has pretensions of being so. No icky poor people for us, they say. They drive down property values and probably have fleas. Except for when they drive in from someplace else to do menial labor, of course.

Granola Shotgun explains how this continuing process, combined with automation, outsourcing, and AI will inevitably lead to social disorder.

Decades of exclusionary zoning, minimum lot sizes, minimum home sizes, prohibitively complex building codes, and the proliferation of HOAs and NIMBYs have made small affordable entry level homes and modest rentals illegal almost everywhere. Our de facto national housing policy of drive-till-you-qualify suburban development works well enough for people with an education and a professional salary. It fails the working class entirely and that’s by design. The poor are intentionally filtered out. If you can’t afford a nice house and at least one car you’re just not wanted unless you commute in for the day to cut the grass and mop the floors.

Unfortunately, there is more than a little truth in saying mandated higher hourly wages may mean fewer jobs.

Having a job or two does no good if the money you’re paid is insufficient to cover basic expenses. Raising the minimum wage to $15 or $20 an hour only encourages employers to automate and outsource even more aggressively.

A large number of not-so-great poorly aging suburbs are already in the process of becoming slums. The definition of a slum is a collection of properties that has less value than the cost of minimum maintenance. I see this all over the country from coast to coast.

Unfortunately, municipalities and the monied class either doesn’t see what is coming or doesn’t care.

We’re not going to resolve these complex structural problems voluntarily. Our current trajectory will bring an ever greater bifurcation of society into haves and have-nots, particularly as Artificial Intelligence rapidly innovates its way into white collar occupations. The middle class will be squeezed even harder and we need to be prepared for the social disorder that will result. The existing political establishment isn’t capable of addressing these issues.

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