Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his healthcare plan yesterday. (And it’s pretty much “Obamacare with some extra stuff and we’re going to roll back some Trump stuff.”)
Biden is pitching “his” healthcare plan as the Affordable Care Act 2.0.
It takes some of the most popular parts of the ACA, reintroduces some ideas that were cut from early drafts, and adds a tiny sprinkling of new ideas.
Predictably, progressive Democrats are upset because it’s not Medicare for All. (And that’s just a fun thing to say now.)
“I understand the appeal of Medicare for All,” said Biden yesterday. “But folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare. And I’m not for that.” (Because it has “Obama” is in the name and my best shot of being elected is reminding you that I was Obama’s Vice President.)
It’d be a heck of a lot of fun to just call this Obidencare and move on to today’s One Last Thing. But we spend too much time in American politics arguing over the idea of proposals and not enough time discussing what’s actually in the proposal. (Which is how you get to a healthcare system where a bag of salt water costs $546.)
So here’s a quick rundown of what’s actually in the Obamidencare proposal:
- Lock in the Medicaid expansion and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions from the ACA.
- Empower Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices.
- Allow the importation of prescription drugs from overseas.
- Establish an independent review board that will link the price of new drugs to the average price in other countries.
- Extend tax credits to help millions buy lower-priced health insurance.
Of course, while the new wave of Dems are upset that Biden’s proposal doesn’t go far enough, the Republicans say the proposal goes way too far. (Though you can bet your bottom billion they’d have an easier time swallowing this than Medicare for All.)
The folks in the Biden camp estimate the cost of the plan to be $750 billion over 10 years. And they plan to pay for some of that by rolling back Trump’s huge tax cut package.
“We’re starting with the Affordable Care Act as the base and going to insist on the elements that we sought last time,” said a senior Biden campaign official. “And we’ll get them this time.” (And somewhere off in the distance, Mitch McConnell can be heard laughing maniacally.)
Dems. Republicans. Libertarians. I want to hear from you on this one.
Too far? Not far enough? Just what we need or a needless step backward?
Lawmakers Grill Facebook Exec Over Libra
Facebook Promises not to Destabilise the Economy
Facebook is slogging back up to the Hill today. But for once, the company’s not apologising for something it did, it’s asking permission for something it’s about to do.
Facebook’s philosophy is typically that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. But in order to get its next project off the ground (turning the world financial system on its head), it’s going to need the support of lawmakers, banks, and folks who think of cryptocurrency as some form of computer magic.
Today and tomorrow, in two days of hearings, Facebook will make the case for its global cryptocurrency, the Libra. (And try to convince lawmakers that it’s not going weaken the government’s vice-like grip on the economy.)
Facebook will face skepticism from both sides of the aisle during these hearings.
Democrat Maxine Waters has already started fear-drafting legislation to block the global payment system. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary and stock photo of an accountant Steven Mnuchin says Facebook has a lot of work to do to convince them it’s responsible enough to have its own currency.
“Many players have attempted to use cryptocurrencies to fund their malign behavior. This is indeed a national security issue,” Mnuchin told reporters yesterday. “Should Facebook develop its digital coin, called Libra, to “have a payments system correctly with proper [anti-money-laundering safeguards], that’s fine. [But] they’ve got a lot of work to do to convince us to get to that place.”
In an attempt to put its least creepy foot forward (anyone but Mark), Libra’s creator and former president of PayPal David Marcus will take the hot seat and field lawmakers’ questions.
“We know we need to take the time to get this right,” said Marcus in his written Senate testimony. “Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals.”
Marcus goes on to say that Facebook has no intention of competing with any sovereign currencies or entering the monetary policy arena.
The Libra Association, which will manage the Reserve, will work together with the Federal Reserve and other central banks to make sure the free market doesn’t get too free.
Unlike bitcoin, Libra is not being pitched as an investment opportunity. Facebook envisions its crypto as a global currency to be used in everyday trading (like buying socks, eggs, and another example of something people buy which I can’t think of right now).
To help achieve this, Libra will get pegged to a basket of developed-world currencies and backed by a reserve of financial assets that include bank deposits and government bonds.
So you won’t have those wild swings of volatility you get with crypto. (Cause it’s nice to know you won’t accidentally pay $500 for a sandwich because of sudden changes in the value of the currency).
Assange Held Secret Meetings with Russian Operatives
Today in stuff-we-pretty-much-already-knew-but-now-there’s-a-report-about-it news, Julian Assange held secret meetings with Russians in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London during the 2016 election.
According to the report compiled by UC Global, a private Spanish security firm hired by the Ecuadorian government, Assange received in-person deliveries from Russian operatives and “world-class hackers.” (Oh, Barbara. You really are spoiling us with this spread of world-class hackers. Jeremy, you must try the North Korean cyber operative with the brie.)
I don’t have a funny caption for this. I just can’t pass up an opportunity to use this amazing photo every chance I get.
During the meetings, which could last hours, Assange took delivery of hacked materials and hardware upgrades that allowed him to bypass the embassy’s security and transfer massive encrypted files from Russian operatives.
He used the contents of these packages to turn his room in the Ecuadorian embassy into a command center for election meddling. (Which sounds very impressive. But this is the same basement boy who refused to clean up after his cat while taking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.)
In its report, which contains hundreds of pages of surveillance reports and visitor logs, UC Global concludes that there was “no doubt that there is evidence” that Assange has ties to Russian intelligence agencies. (Gasp!)
Currently, Assange is serving a 100-day sentence in a British jail cell for skipping bail. Or as the British call it, “having afternoon tea with I’mnotgoingtoprisonyo-b*****ds.” (My cockney may be a little rusty but I think that’s right.)
When his sentence is served, Assange will be extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of espionage.
In Other News
China Feeling the Pressure from Trade War
The GDP growth of China has slowed to the lowest rate in 27 years amid fears of a global slow down.
Now, as we’ve said in the past, GDP ain’t the be-all and end-all of economic performance. But it’s not a bad place to start.
China’s GDP growth is starting to list, falling to 6.2% in the April-June period — the lowest it’s been since the current president of the United States was acting in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Now, you might be thinking 6.2% sounds like a pretty good number in terms of growth. The U.S. practically throws a ticker-tape parade if we can get that number over 3%.
But the U.S. and China have fundamentally different economies, which means those numbers aren’t exactly a one-one comparison.
The U.S. is a service- and finance-based economy with a strong focus on middle-class consumption. In contrast, China, while moving toward a middle-class society, is still very much a manufacturing hub where growth is driven by large-scale government stimulus.
And don’t forget, China has way more people than we do. So while they may have the fastest growing GDP in the world, in GDP per capita they rank in at just 73rd in the world — America is No. 10.
This slowdown underlines the pressure China is under to smooth over trade relations to the U.S. But it also points to wider concerns over a global economic slowdown.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.