Newspaper column: Could a socialist be the Democratic presidential nominee?

To their eternal ignominy Nevada Democratic caucus voters have helped jump start the presidential candidacy of self-identified democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, a man who could not have voted for himself if he lived here because he is not a registered Democrat.

The Vermont independent senator won 47 percent of the state’s equivalent delegates, picking up strong pluralities in 10 counties, a 78 percent majority in Eureka and a 58 percent majority in Esmeralda. Tom Steyer won Mineral, while Pete Buttigieg took Douglas, Lincoln, Nye and Pershing. Steyer and Buttigieg both dropped out after poor showings in South Carolina this past weekend.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who won handily in South Carolina, finished second in Nevada overall.

With Super Tuesday this week there were 1,344 delegates at stake in 14 states — 415 in California alone — on the way to the 1,991 needed to win the Democratic nomination outright. Biden now leads Sanders by 75 delegates.

Sanders on the stump has been making a whole host of mostly socialistic promises — Medicare for All, free college, Green New Deal, open borders, workplace democracy, housing for all, expanded Social Security, free child care and pre-kindergarten, justice and safety for all, teacher raises, forgiving medical debt, fair banking, jobs for all, women’s rights, racial justice, gun safety, rights for the disabled, rights for all forms of gender identity, revitalizing rural areas, getting corporate money out of politics, corporate accountability, legal pot, fair trade.

In a recent op-ed in the Las Vegas newspaper Sanders even promised: “Together, we will make sure that no child in Nevada goes hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Nevada school children are in need of school lunches. Instead of saddling families with debt and stigma, we will fund universal school meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

In Bernie’s brave new world, as in Aldous Huxley’s, “parent” is a dirty word. The state will take care of everything and everyone will be just a cog in the socialist machine.

To pay for it all, he’ll just tax the rich, like in that old rock tune “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After: “Tax the rich, feed the poor/ ‘Til there are no rich no more.” What will he do when he runs out of rich people?

Sanders is reportedly especially embraced by so-called millennials who apparently have no concept of the price of socialism as recorded repeatedly in history — the re-education camps, the gulags, the purges, the lack of free speech or press, the lack of private property — such as the millennials’ beloved cellphones.

According to a recent Heritage Foundation article, a YouGov survey reported that 44 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 29 would prefer to live in a socialist nation rather than a capitalist country.

“Another seven percent would choose communism. However, the same poll revealed that only 33 percent of the respondents could correctly define socialism as based on the common ownership of economic and social systems as well as the state control of the means of production,” the article states. “What most millennials mean by ‘socialism’ seems to be a mix of our welfare state and what they perceive to be Swedish democratic socialism. But Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries including Denmark favor the free market and are content with private rather than government ownership of their major industries. However, Danish domestic spending including comprehensive health care has a high price — a top personal income tax of 57 percent.”

Sanders himself has taken recently to apologizing for the excesses of socialist regimes by trying to point to some positives.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?” Sanders said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a recent interview. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

They might be able to read, but just ask the throngs of Cuban expatriates in Florida what they were allowed to read.

How many Sanders supporters have any inkling of the carnage due to socialism? According to “The Black Book of Communism,” published by Harvard University Press, the total deaths due to socialist dictators from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Castro and others is 100 million. Still want socialism?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

 

Editorial: Steyer ups ante in bidding war for votes

All of the candidates still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have at one time or the other advocated doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Recently billionaire businessman Tom Steyer upped the ante in his vote buying scheme by calling for tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

As The Wall Street Journal editorialists point out, this is not a serious campaign ploy. It is the punchline of a Republican joke. “When liberals call for a nationwide $15 minimum wage, conservatives often offer a half-serious rhetorical response: Why stop there?” the editorial recounts, adding that Steyer doesn’t get the joke.

Tom Steyer illustration

At a campaign stop in South Carolina Steyer told his audience, “The fair number should be $22 an hour. That should be the minimum wage in the United States of America: $22. Think about what this country would be like if we had a $22 minimum wage: completely different.”

Yes, think about the number of people who would be unemployed. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, though a number of states and cities have raised their minimum wages, with often counterproductive results. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour and hours were cut.

This past year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour. What would that number be at $22? How many businesses would be bankrupted by such a wage hike?

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Image what a 200 percent increase would do.

The problem is that study after study has found that raising the minimum wage does not lift more people out of poverty, but rather its net effect is to actually increase the portion of families that are poor and near-poor, according to an analysis of those studies by the Heritage Foundation. This is because a few will see higher income, others will have their work hours reduced and some will drop from minimum wage to zero wage due to layoffs and businesses closing their doors.

But all the Democratic candidates are on board for raising the minimum wage.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for $15 an hour and indexing to the median hourly wage so low-wage workers keep up with middle-income workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” calling $7.25 a starvation wage.

Pete Buttigieg could also phase out the subminimum for tipped workers.

Warren also would index the minimum wage to median hourly wages.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar would start in her first 100 days in office by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.

Mike Bloomberg would hike the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They are all in the same choir. Just one is singing much more loudly than the others.

As Thomas Sowell points out in his book “Basic Economics,” “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount — and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed. Yet minimum wage laws are almost always discussed politically in terms of the benefits they confer on workers receiving those wages. Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is Saturday. It doesn’t look like Democratic voters have much choice on this issue.

Now that Nevada has election day voter registration, we wonder how many Republicans might switch over just to keep this bidding war alive. Not suggesting it, of course.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

 

Newspaper column: Democratic candidates could hurt rural health care

As Democratic presidential candidates sweep across the state in advance of Saturday’s caucus rural voters should pay close attention — as if your life depends on it, because it does — to what they say about their plans for changing how Americans pay for health care.

Two of them — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — are advocating what has been dubbed “Medicare for All,” which would basically outlaw private health insurance, such as that offered by employers and unions, and replace it with a taxpayer-funded single payer plan.

The rest have called for creation of a public option that would compete with private insurers and saddle taxpayers with the cost.

One problem is that Medicare reimbursements are estimated to be on average 40 percent less than private insurance. According to a New York Times article from a year ago, Medicare typically pays a hospital $17,000 for a knee replacement, while the same hospital would get about $37,000 for the same surgery on a patient with private insurance. Also, a hospital could get about $4,200 from Medicare for removing a gallbladder, but $7,400 from a private insurer.

This has been exacerbated by Medicare’s method of reimbursement, which is based on wage indexing.

In November the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote that, for example, prior to some adjustments this fiscal year, a hospital in a low-wage rural community could receive a Medicare payment of about $4,000 for treating pneumonia, while a hospital in a high-wage urban area could receive a Medicare payment of nearly $6,000 for the same case.

Because of such payments schedules and other factors, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, 166 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, including in 2015 the Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah. That closure left residents 100 miles from the nearest hospital and 200 miles from the nearest level one trauma center, though some local clinics now provide some urgent care. Four rural hospitals have closed so far this year.

The Medicare administrator noted that nearly 60 million rural Americans — often living in areas with higher rates of poverty and having difficulty traveling long distances to a hospital or doctor’s office — face higher risks. Recent Centers for Disease Control data found 57 percent of deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease in rural areas were preventable, compared with only 13 percent preventable deaths for people with the same condition in urban areas.

A study this past August for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future conducted by Navigant Consulting looked at what the impact on rural health care might be at different levels of federal takeover of health care reimbursements.

Under the least intrusive option in which everyone covered by an employer-based insurance program kept that plan while others were swept into the public option, the study estimated that 28 percent of rural hospitals would be at high risk of closure, including three in Nevada.

Under the Medicare for All option, the study estimated that 55 percent of rural hospitals or more than 1,000 could be at high risk for closure, including eight in Nevada.

Even Sen. Warren has recognized that the plan she and Sanders have been backing could have an adverse impact on rural hospitals. A posting on her campaign website says, “Medicare for All will mean access to primary care and lower health costs for patients — and less uncompensated care for rural hospitals, helping them stay afloat. Elizabeth will create a new Medicare designation for rural hospitals that reimburses them at a higher rate and offers flexibility of services to meet the needs of their communities. Elizabeth will also strengthen antitrust protections to fight hospital mergers that increase costs, lower quality, and close rural facilities.”

How it will be paid for is not mentioned.

For his part Sanders blithely states online, “Rural people in particular have suffered the negative consequences that result from a lack of access to affordable, quality health care. Access to health care is a top issue for farmers and have some of the highest uninsured rate, in fact 41% of dairy farmers lack health insurance. With Medicare-for-All, small business owners, including farmers, will no longer have to worry about providing health care to their families or employees.”

Who will worry about paying for it?

According to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada already ranks 45th in the nation for active physicians per 100,000 population, 48th for primary care physicians and 50th for general surgeons.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Ramirez cartoon

Welcome to Bernie’s ‘Brave New World,’ where parents and achievement no longer exist

Together, we will make sure that no child in Nevada goes hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Nevada school children are in need of school lunches. Instead of saddling families with debt and stigma, we will fund universal school meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Yes, an op-ed in the morning paper by Bernie Sanders advocates providing children three hots a day, so why not a cot, too? Children can’t learn if they don’t sleep well, and parents are so unreliable about providing such necessities, aren’t they?

He goes on to call for raising teacher starting pay to $60,000 a year and providing grants for out-of-pocket expenses.

As for achievement standards, Sanders dismisses those out of hand:

Instead of forcing teachers to “teach to the test,” we will respect their professional expertise in setting standards of student evaluation. We will not condition school funding on testing outcomes. In Nevada, the “high stakes” aspect of standardized tests means some underperforming schools will be converted into charters, which are less accountable. That is a perversion of what testing and evaluation is all about, and it is undermining public education.

Just give everyone a participation trophy, I mean diploma.

Sanders concludes, “You are a critical part of the political revolution that is needed to transform our country. When we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Accomplish?

From Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World“:

There was a silence; then, clearing his throat, ‘Once upon a time,’ the Director began, ‘while Our Ford was still on earth, there was a little boy called Reuben Rabinovitch. Reuben was the child of Polish-speaking parents.’ The Director interrupted himself. ‘You know what Polish is, I suppose?’

‘A dead language.’

‘Like French and German,’ added another student, officiously showing off his learning.

‘And “parent?”?’ questioned the D.H.C.

There was an uneasy silence. Several of the boys blushed. They had not yet learned to draw the significant but often very fine distinction between smut and pure science. One, at last, had the courage to raise a hand.

‘Human beings used to be…’ he hesitated; the blood rushed to his cheeks. ‘Well, they used to be viviparous.’

‘Quite right.’ The Director nodded approvingly.

‘And when the babies were decanted…’

‘”Born”,’ came the correction.

‘Well, then they were the parents–I mean, not the babies, of course; the other ones.’ The poor boy was overwhelmed with confusion.

‘In brief,’ the Director summed up, ‘the parents were the father and the mother.’ The smut that was really science fell with a crash into the boys’ eye-avoiding silence. ‘Mother,’ he repeated loudly rubbing in the science; and, leaning back in his chair, ‘These,’ he said gravely, ‘are unpleasant facts; I know it. But, then, most historical facts are unpleasant.’

He returned to Little Reuben–to Little Reuben, in whose room, one evening, by an oversight, his father and mother (crash, crash!) happened to leave the radio turned on.

(‘For you must remember that in those days of gross viviparous reproduction, children were always brought up by their parents and not in State Conditioning Centres.’)

Those are the Alphas and Betas, not the the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, who are bred to be workers in Huxley’s world. What will become of Bernie’s Epsilons?

 

A poll of not-so-likely voters

The banner story in today’s newspaper reports that nonpartisan voters prefer the top Democratic presidential contenders over Donald Trump.

“The results of the poll, which surveyed 402 likely nonpartisan voters from Feb. 2-4, found that former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren each have slight leads over Trump in hypothetical, head-to-head November matchups,”  the story says, noting that nonpartisans make up only about 22 percent of active registered voters.

Just how likely are they to vote? Well, not so likely after all.

The third paragraph from the end notes, “A staggering 40 percent of the respondents had not voted in any of the past four elections.”

What’s the margin of error?

Clark County teachers union endorses socialist Bernie Sanders

Today the Clark County Education Association — the district’s teachers union — announced it is endorsing socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the upcoming Feb. 22 Nevada Democratic presidential caucus.

The union said it surveyed its registered Democratic members via a straw poll and Sanders came out on top among 14 candidates listed. It did not release any data on the number of teachers surveyed or the vote margin outcome.

“CCEA is proud to have endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President. Senator Sanders has a stellar record of supporting educators. His position on public education issues is second to none. He has always been a champion for educators and working class people. He has our support. He has spent time with our members and has made a firm commitment to advance public education in our country,” CCEA President Vikki Courtney is quoted as saying in a press release.

Teachers endorsing a socialist — what does that say about the local education establishment?

Here is a video of Sanders thanking the union for its endorsement and promising to spend more money on public education and raise teacher salaries:

USA Today poll shows Bernie could win Nevada’s Democratic caucus:

 

Newspaper column: Trump call for unity met with derision, slurs

Lisa Benson cartoon

The campaign rhetoric is being brandished like a flame thrower, scorching the stump with recriminations, incriminations, insinuations and denunciations.

In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that left 32 dead and dozens more seriously wounded, Democratic presidential candidates unsheathed accusations that President Trump is the prime mover of such lunatic behavior, calling him a racist and a white supremacist.

“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech. “Trump offers no moral leadership, no interest in unifying the nation, no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.”

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator, told The New York Times that Trump is a white supremacist who has “done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”

She added, “Donald Trump has a central message. He says to the American people, if there’s anything wrong in your life, blame them — and ‘them’ means people who aren’t the same color as you, weren’t born where you were born, don’t worship the same way you do.”

Meanwhile, candidate and former El Paso Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke said Trump has made it “very clear” that he is a white supremacist who has “dehumanized or sought to dehumanize those who do not look like or pray like the majority here in this country,” according to Salon.

Candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker noted that both the El Paso shooter and Trump described illegal immigration as an invasion. Booker said, “The character and the culture of who we are hangs in the balance. We can’t let these conversations devolve into the impotent simplicity of who is or isn’t a racist. The real question isn’t who is or isn’t a racist, but who is or isn’t doing something about it.”

Socialist candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was quoted as saying, “We have a president who is an overt racist and xenophobe. He should stay away from El Paso. What he should do right now is end his anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

The target of this vitriol, meanwhile, addressed the nation from the White House in a 10-minute speech calling for unity. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul,” Trump implored.

The president called for a change in the American culture to “stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”

He concluded, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love. Our future is in our control.”

The parsing of words was so overwrought that when The New York Times accurately reported in a headline in its first edition the next day that “Trump urges unity vs. racism,” the self-styled social justice warriors stampeded online.

Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted, “Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by — and often relies upon — the cowardice of mainstream institutions.” Many threatened to cancel subscriptions.

In the next edition of the newspaper, the headline read, “Assailing hate but not guns.” All Trump had said was, “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

As for blaming Trump for the El Paso shooter’s deeds, the shooter himself wrote in his rambling and demented screed posted online by the Drudge Report, “My ideology has not changed for several years. My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president. I putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case. I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news. Their reaction to this attack will likely just confirm that.”

Pay no heed to the fact the Dayton shooter was an avowed socialist supporter of Sanders and Warren.

It is hard to create unity when so many who claim to want to lead this country are so divisive and obdurate. They see calls for unity as divisive. Look in the mirror.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.