Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Electoral College Reform?

Immediately after the last election when it became apparent that Donald Trump had lost the popular vote there were demands that the Electoral College be abolished and the United States switch to direct popular election of the president and vice president. These demands continued through to some extent until the inauguration.

So now that Congress is theoretically getting to work, where is the push for Electoral College reform? Two constitutional amendments have been proposed, each mandating a direct presidential election. Neither amendment gives the franchise to Puerto Rico or US posessions.

They have subtle differences. One (H. J. Res. 19) includes a clause which ends "entitlement to inclusion on the ballot shall be determined by Congress." This clause is rather dangerous -- it might mean Congress determines the qualifications for getting on the ballot (today it's done by the States). In its broadest interpretation Congress alone nominates the presidential candidate(s). Looking at the proposed amendments, they subtly modify the Presidential race in ways other than changing to a system of popular vote.

However, it appears that once again Electoral College reform isn't going to go anywhere. It's been clear all along that an amendment won't make it out of Congress this term given the Republican majority, but it's more telling that I no longer see a popular demand for reform. From my reading of left wing blogs like The Daily Kos and email subscriptions to MoveOn.org and The Nation, I see few Electoral College mentions, and these aren't demands to write to Congress demanding the reform.

Instead, all I see is "popular vote loser" added to any reference to President Trump. It appears that the real value of the Electoral College to the left this term is another way to be insulting to the president rather than any real push for reform.

Next time a popular vote loser wins the Electoral College vote remember that it's happened before, but so far the outrage has only been used for temporary partisan arguments. There's no real push to change the Constitution, and those who complain in the future have only themselves to blame for not pushing harder today.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Health Coverage Under Obamacare -- how to not be able to buy insurance

My son recently turned 26 and is sorting out health insurance (made worse because the anticipated health benefit through his job doesn't count as "creditable coverage" under the Affordable Care Act). In researching insurance options I learned something interesting about individual health insurance coverage.

There was a time when you could go out and buy health insurance on the open market. Since this wasn't part of a group plan, you could sign up whenever you wanted. You might have been part of the "uninsured" for a while, for whatever reason, but you could always become part of the "insured."

Now we have the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The whole point of the law was to reduce the number of uninsured. All well and good, but what happens if you're really uninsured? Instead of being able to buy insurance when you want, you can only buy during the "open enrollment" period in November (give or take). Outside the open enrollment period, you can only buy insurance if some specific event occurs, basically the same events which let you change employer provided insurance during the year.

I can understand part of the reason for open enrollment. Since Obamacare doesn't allow you to be penalized for pre-existing conditions, something needs to be done to prevent people from not signing up for insurance until they get sick. Still, the limited signup periods also have the effect of messing up people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without coverage during the wrong part of the year without one of the acceptable excuses life events.

In my son's case, if his job had started a few weeks later (90 days until benefits kick in) or his birthday was a bit earlier he could have found himself out of luck because he was anticipating a benefit the job didn't provide.

President Trump vs The Press -- an intentional conflict?

I watched the first few minutes of President Trump's latest press conference. Starting out and emphasizing his disagreements with news media, at least the mainstream news media, struck me as significant. President Trump has spent 45 years in business. In that time he has been largely successful and must obviously know how to work with people. Constantly antagonizing the news media is not the way to get more favorable coverage. Rather, his constant complaints about the media will, if anything, convince the media to find more ways to attack him. So the question arises -- is the Trump vs mainstream media conflict something President Trump is creating and encouraging? Could he want the media against him?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Education under Betsy DeVos, speculation abounds

In an ironic turn, it appears homeschooling may be expanding. With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, combined with extreme rhetoric of Democrats, it appears a number of liberals are talking about homeschooling their kids. Of course, this will probably end up similar to celebrities who promised to leave the United States if Donald Trump was elected president, so few will follow through.

However, it might be interesting if we start seeing the left creating private or charter schools to promote liberal causes which may be downplayed in schools over the next 4 years. Given Secretary DeVos's support for school choice, there might be opportunities for more direct comparisons between different education philosophies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The fear of Tom Price at HHS

Tom Price as Secretary of HHS has garnered more Democratic opposition than most of President Trump's cabinet picks. While there are certainly policy issues where Democrats will oppose Dr. Price, I think there's a more fundamental reason for the strong opposition to Tom Price.

The big issue revolving around HHS is Obamacare. So it makes sense that Obamacare will be the reason for opposition to Dr. Price. To find this look no further than partisan politics.

Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, while Democrats want to keep it. Politically, the Democrats want to portray Republicans as destroying the health care system and leaving millions uninsured. As a member of the House of Representatives, Tom Price has introduced alternatives to Obamacare ever since the bill was passed (and probably before).

So here is the reason Democrats oppose Tom Price so strongly. He might propose a working alternative to Obamacare and leave them having to defend a system which isn't overly popular to begin with. Democrats either need Obamacare to stay in place or to have it replaced by obviously worse.