Bob Meade - The price of 'single-payer' health care? Your freedom!

How many times must we find that when a government/bureaucratic imposed solution fails, the government/bureaucratic answer to that failure is to grow and expand it . . . and always at the expense to, and/or the detriment of, we, the people.

The Obama administration pushed through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka "Obamacare," by using parliamentary chicanery, making un-deliverable promises to legislators and citizens, keeping the actual words in the bill hidden from both, and passing the bill without a single vote from the opposition party Republicans.

The president and other politicians promised citizens utopian benefits that have not been, nor will they ever be, delivered. Thousands of pages of "regulations,, having the force of law, were added. Those regulations included items that would have prevented the original bill from being passed, even by Democrat-only legislators. Among those items that surfaced was the requirement that even religious individuals and organizations had to provide abortion services in violation of the tenets of their faith. When challenged, the government dug its heals in, forcing individuals and religious organizations to spend enormous sums of money bringing their pleas through the court system, right on up to the Supreme Court.

To a great extent, the PPACA/Obamacare threw out actuarial rules and imposed requirements on insurers that, quite frankly, defied common sense. For example, health insurance for a single, post-menopausal woman was required to include coverage for pregnancy, pre-natal care and abortion (e.g. the "morning after" pill). Even if a woman specifically asked not to have such coverage in her insurance policy, the insurance company could not exclude it. The policies were also forced to include "free" contraception for all women, even if such a requirement also violated the tenets of one's faith.
Requirements imposed on the insurance companies and the citizens resulted not in lower costs, as had been promised, but substantially higher costs. Added to that increase were sizeable "deductibles" that often made it impossible for average policy holders to afford visits to their doctors, as they had before. There are even more promises that haven't been fulfilled, but you get the point. And, reputable insurance companies lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The term, "single payer" is an oblique way of saying that the government is going to "tax" each and every one of us for health care, will determine what medical services we may be eligible for and may be provided to us, and the government will determine what physicians, surgeons, and hospitals will be paid. A frightening thought!

Basically, single payer would expand Medicare to all citizens, the entire population. According to the Kaiser Foundation, in 2015, there were almost 56 million people on Medicare, about 18 percent of our population. According to a study by the state of Connecticut, the unfunded liabilities for Medicare, as it exists today, exceed $13 trillion, growing to a whopping $36 trillion over the longer term. This raises the question as to what the impact on our debt will be if instead of 56 million people being on Medicare, the number becomes almost six times larger, totaling 317 million people, and growing?

Aside from the financial nightmare that will severely bankrupt our country, what is even more frightening is the prospect of turning our excellent health care system over to bumbling bureaucrats who will oversee and dictate what medical services physicians and surgeons may perform. One of the authors of the PPACA was Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the Chicago mayor. Dr. Emanuel is on the record as saying that when a person reaches the age of 75, he or she would have had a chance to see their children mature, and their grandchildren be born. And, in his opinion, once that age is reached, we should be willing to simply die and not be a burden on society.

In addition to the failures of the PPACA/Obamacare, we have been given a glimpse of government-run health care in the Veteran's Administration. While this is not to indict the dedicated health care workers within the VA, we have seen reports of management staffers cooking the books by repeatedly falsifying patient wait times. In a number of cases, in spite of all the negative publicity resulting from this genuine scandal, little has been done to correct the situation. In fact, the new head of the VA received four Pinocchio's from the Washington Post for his claim that 60 people were fired for their part in the wait time scandal, and Politifact called his claim, false.

Like it or not, if the government cannot effectively manage veteran's health care in spite of enormous increases in funding over the last the three presidencies, has unfunded Medicare liabilities that are twice the size of our national debt, has other failing bureaucratic departments such as energy and education, was unable to fire a single employee for the IRS scandal, how in the world can we even give a thought to allowing the government to take control over what is the finest health care system in the world?

Don't let it happen.

(Bob Meade is a resident of Laconia.)

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Pat Buchanan - A lot of smoke here, Hillary

Prediction: If Hillary Clinton wins, within a year of her inauguration, she will be under investigation by a special prosecutor on charges of political corruption, thereby continuing a family tradition. For consider what the Associated Press reported this week:

The surest way for a person with private interests to get a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, or a phone call returned by her, it seems, was to dump a bundle of cash into the Clinton Foundation. Of 154 outsiders whom Clinton phoned or met with in her first two years at State, 85 had made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and their contributions, taken together, totaled $156 million.

Conclusion: Access to Secretary of State Clinton could be bought, but it was not cheap. Forty of the 85 donors gave $100,000 or more. Twenty of those whom Clinton met with or phoned dumped in $1 million or more. To get to the seventh floor of the Clinton State Department for a hearing for one's plea, the cover charge was high.

Among those who got face time with Hillary Clinton were a Ukrainian oligarch and steel magnate who shipped oil pipe to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions and a Bangladeshi economist who was under investigation by his government and was eventually pressured to leave his own bank.

The stench is familiar, and all too Clintonian in character.

Recall. On his last day in office, Jan. 20, 2001, Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon to financier-crook and fugitive from justice Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, had contributed $450,000 to the Clinton Library.

The Clintons appear belatedly to have recognized their political peril. Bill has promised that, if Hillary is elected, he will end his big dog days at the foundation and stop taking checks from foreign regimes and entities, and corporate donors. Cash contributions from wealthy Americans will still be gratefully accepted.

One wonders: Will Bill be writing thank-you notes for the millions that will roll in to the family foundation — on White House stationery?

By his actions, Bill is all but conceding that there is a serious conflict of interest between his foundation raking in millions that enhance the family's prestige and sustain its travel and lifestyle, while providing its big donors with privileged access to the secretary of state.

Yet if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the scheme is unsustainable. Even the Obama-Clinton media might not be able to stomach this.

And even Clinton seems to be conceding the game is up. "I know there's a lot of smoke, and there's no fire," she said in self-defense this week.

She is certainly right about the smoke. And if, as Democratic apparatchik Steve McMahon assures us that there is "no smoking gun," no quid-pro-quo, no open-and-shut case of Secretary Clinton taking official action in gratitude to a donor of the family foundation, how can we predict a special prosecutor?

Answer: We are not at the end of this scandal. We are at what Churchill called the "end of the beginning."

Missing emails are being unearthed at State, through Freedom of Information Act requests, that are filling out the picture Clinton thought had been blotted out when her 33,000 "private" emails were erased by her lawyers.

Someone out there, Julian Assange, Russia, or the rogue websites doing all this hacking, are believed to have many more explosive emails they are preparing to drop before Election Day.

And why is Clinton is keeping her State Department calendar secret from the AP, if it does not contain meetings or calls she does not want to defend? She has defied requests and the AP had to sue to get the schedule of her first two years at State. Moreover, the AP story on the State Department-Clinton Foundation links was so stunning it is sure to trigger follow-up by investigative journalists who can smell a Pulitzer.

Then there are the contacts between Huma Abedin, her closest aide at State, and Doug Band at the Clinton Foundation, the go-betweens for the donor-Clinton meetings, which has opened a new avenue for investigators.

These were unearthed by Judicial Watch, which is not going away.

The number of persons of interest involved in this suppurating scandal, which has gone from an illicit server, to a panoply of Clinton lies to the public that disgusted the FBI director, to erased emails, to "pay for play," and now deep into the Clinton Foundation continues to grow.

All that is needed now, to bring us to an independent counsel, is calls for the FBI to reopen and broaden its investigation in light of all that has been revealed since Director Comey said there was not evidence enough to recommend an indictment.

If Clinton controls the Justice Department, calls for a special prosecutor will be resisted, but only until public demand becomes too great. For there were independent counsels called in Watergate, Iran-Contra and the scandals that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton says there is no fire. But something is causing all that smoke.

(Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.")

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Froma Harrop - French ban of burkinis is none of our business

A few years ago, I took a French friend to a crowded beach in Rhode Island. No sooner had we hit the soft sands than she ripped off the top of her two-piece, baring her breasts to the sun and to curious boys playing nearby.

"You can't do that," I said. "This is New England. People don't go topless here."

Not entirely true. There are secluded beaches where New Englanders strip to nothing, but I kept it simple.

She gave me her you-Americans-are-so-backward smirk. I chose not to respond, regarding the region's penchant for modesty as rather nice.

Which leads to the burkini ban in France. The burkini is a bathing suit favored by many Muslim women. It covers the entire body except for the hands, feet and face. Devout Muslims believe that women's bodies must be largely hidden from public view.

The issue in France is political, not fashion aesthetics. Many worry that their large Muslim population is not assimilating into the predominant culture. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the burkini an emblem of "a counter-society" based on "the enslavement of women."

Others in the West may see the body-covering bathing suit as merely eccentric. In the resort town of Blackpool, England, burkinis are sold and rented.

I could turn the tables on my friend and ask, "Why are you French so darned scared of a bathing suit?" But I won't. Just as American beaches may stop women from going topless — and Iran can demand that women cover their hair — France can say non to the burkini as an offensive demonstration of apartness.

Note France's long-held aversion to displays of religious affiliation. In 2004, it banished Muslim headscarfs from public schools and also visible crosses, turbans and Jewish kippas.

Arguing, as one Muslim woman did to BBC News, that banning burkinis "just hands ammunition" to Islamic radicals is not going to work. This is an implied threat — that if French officials don't submit to their demands, violence could follow.

The French don't take such threats lightly. They remain traumatized by a string of terrorist attacks. Only last month, a Muslim extremist drove a 19-ton cargo truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the seaside city of Nice, killing 86.

If it were up to me, the French would allow more latitude in distinctive dress. But I do shudder at the sight of a burqa in Western settings. A burqa covers a woman's entire identity in a sheet, with only a cutout or mesh for the eyes.

In Manhattan, I recently saw a young man in jeans, summer shirt hanging out, walking with a woman entirely encased in a burqa. Scarves and other religion-based headgear are one thing, but the burqa, with its proclamation of female inferiority, is simply jarring.

In the opposite direction — but on a less intense level — it irks me to walk into a surf shop and see racks of roomy long shorts for the boys and tiny bikinis for the girls. At swimming areas, you see the male teens romping comfy and covered while their female companions go highly exposed and often self-conscious in their narrow strips of cloth.

In the end, it should not matter whether I or other non-French people approve of the burkini. If the French want to ban it, that's their business. And regulating acceptable body exposure on their family beaches is Americans' business.

Local authorities may set their own rules on dress in accordance with local sensibilities. One doesn't have to like them — and minds can be changed — but that's their right.

(Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop is based qt the Providence Journal.)

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Susan Estrich - Trump flunks August

It took a long time, but every record must eventually get broken, and no one is happier about this one than me: Finally, a presidential campaign has had a worse August than we did in 1988. That year, Michael Dukakis came out of the convention with a lead a mile wide and an inch deep, only to turn his campaign plane around and head back to Massachusetts, where he spent August being governor while his lead disappeared.

When I heard the chairman of the Republican National Committee say that Donald Trump would have been better off going on vacation after the convention, I realized the mark had been passed.

Donald Trump has had the worst August of any modern nominee, God bless him.

And that was before he fired well-respected Republican political consultant Paul Manafort, who has run all manner of campaigns, and replaced him with the executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing scream sheet.

Who needs a guy who knows how to run campaigns when you have a guy who really knows how to write headlines?

Instead of stopping me in the market to ask me if Trump could win (thankfully, that line of questioning has ended), people ask me how it was that someone so clearly and completely unsuited to the office could have gotten so close — obit time in August.

And you won't convince me it's too early, that it's just spring training, not when you are talking about a candidate who may be a household name but no one actually knows all that much about. What voters are learning in August will shape how they view Trump on the ballot.

This is a man who picks a fight with the family of a Muslim soldier, and then just can't bring himself to apologize. I'm willing to bet money that was not Manafort's idea.

This is a man who refuses to endorse the Republican House speaker — definitely not Manafort's strategy.

How about inviting Vladimir Putin to hack into State Department files? Manafort? No.

There have been many smart people trying to guide Trump the nominee in the hopes of at least salvaging some victories down-ticket. There is no shortage of people who would tell him that it is a bad idea to pick a fight with the family of a dead Muslim soldier. This part of politics is not rocket science.

That Trump did so proves the most troubling thing of all about a man who got so close: He listens to no one. He thinks he knows better than anyone. He thinks in headlines, so he's hired a headline writer to write his campaign. Leadership as Twitter. The heck with those Washington insiders, of all stripes, who mostly keep the country going, even if it is too often to the highest bidder. At least they understand that governing is not a reality show, and that what a nominee for president says does matter.

Fortunately, what had to happen to Trump is finally happening — too late to save the Republican Party, but with time to spare for the general election. Has Trump sunk too soon? I don't think so. The kind of harm he has inflicted on himself this month is not going to be cured by a smart line at a debate.

What Trump needed to do this summer was convince people he really could be president, that he belonged in that small group of people who Americans can imagine in the White House. What he did was just the opposite. Even white men are turning on him. Imagine: Hillary Clinton closing the voting gender gap. Only the Donald could make that happen.

(Massachusetts native Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California. She managed the Michael Dukakis campaign for president in 1988.)

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Michael Barone - Identifying the real victim

Victims aren't always virtuous. That's a sad lesson that people learn from life. Human beings have a benign instinct to help those who are hurt through no cause of their own. But those they help don't always turn out to be very grateful.

And sometimes it's hard to be sure just who the victim is. The most heavily publicized and violence-prompting police killings of young black men — in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and Milwaukee this month — appeared to be, as the facts became known, justifiable responses to felons' assaults.

Such incidents are, unhappily, frequent, because young black men, again unhappily, commit a wildly disproportionate number of violent crimes. The real victims of this are, again unhappily and disproportionately, law-abiding black people.

That was pointed out last week in one of three well-crafted and teleprompter-delivered speeches by, of all people, Donald Trump. (Hillary Clinton's campaign made snarky remarks about Trump's using a teleprompter, as Republicans have often made snarky remarks about Barack Obama's.) Trump's delivery of three carefully prepared and thoughtful speeches the same week he named the crass provocateur Steve Bannon head honcho to his campaign looks like one of the prime ironies of campaign 2016.

"Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, the violent disruptor," Trump said Tuesday in Wisconsin. "Our job is to make life more comfortable for the African-American parent who wants their kids to be able to safely walk the streets. Or the senior citizen waiting for a bus. Or the young child walking home from school.

"For every one violent protester, there are a hundred moms and dads and kids on that same city block who just want to be able to sleep safely at night. My opponent would rather protect the offender than the victim."

This identification of the victim is spot on. Trump and Clinton and I are old enough to remember the urban riots of the 1960s and what followed. As an intern in the mayor's office in Detroit, I witnessed the 1967 riot from city hall and police headquarters and on the streets.

I know much of Detroit block by block, and I know what happened there afterward. I know that the most victimized group was black Detroiters who worked hard and paid off their mortgages for 30 years and who, because of the riot and high crime, ended up with $10,000 of equity in a house worth 10 times that in a low-crime working-class suburb.

It's even harder to accurately identify victims who are farther away. In September 2015, when much of the world was moved by the picture of the body of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee drowned on a Turkish beach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to welcome 800,000 refugees. That's 1 percent of Germany's population; the equivalent here would be 3.2 million.

It's not hard to understand what moved Merkel. She grew up in East Germany, behind the infamous wall, and like other German leaders and the German people feels an obligation to atone for the horrors of the Nazis.

Now, a year later, more than 1 million "refugees" have entered Germany, about three-quarters of them young men, most not from Syria but Muslims from places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Libya and Eritrea.

Thousands have assaulted young women in organized attacks hushed up by the government and the press. Several have launched terrorist attacks, shooting people in shopping centers, setting off bombs or swinging an ax at railroad passengers. Few appear eager to take education classes in Western mores or to accept jobs being offered by Germans who were hoping the newcomers would supply the skilled labor that population-losing Germany needs.

In our presidential campaign Donald Trump has been criticizing Obama for promising to accept just 10,000 Syrian refugees and has charged that Clinton would welcome 620,000 more, without noting that that's far less, proportionately, than Merkel's Germany has taken in.

Whatever the number, Trump's stronger point is that in any large influx many terrorists will come in, as in Germany. He has called for "extreme vetting" of any such refugees, without specifying exactly how that could be done.

The problem is that many people we see as victims aren't, and many who are victims aren't virtuous, in the sense of being willing to assimilate to American toleration and diversity. Our natural sympathy should prompt us to find ways to help. But that need not mean inviting them here.

(Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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