• Sunday Mailbag
It is no longer plausible to deny the undeniable. The U.S. now has 2,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 56 deaths, and—judging by the progression of the disease in Europe and Asia—many more of each will be coming. And so, Donald Trump and his administration are now doing and saying things consistent with taking the emergency seriously, and not dismissing it.
To start, Trump and VP Mike Pence finally got tested for COVID-19, and the White House has announced the tests were negative. It is certainly possible this is a falsehood, since it is hard to imagine Trump admitting to having the disease. However, our guess is that it's the truth, because people who are going to interact with Trump are now having their temperatures taken as a precautionary measure, with folks who may be ill being denied access. Unless this is some high-level theater, it suggests the President is not yet sick, since these particular precautions would not be necessary if he were.
Meanwhile, nations across the world are getting more and more aggressive in their efforts to contain the disease, with Spain, France, Germany, Israel and others joining the list of countries that are temporarily forbidding most or all public gatherings. The Trump administration, for its part, has hinted that "some" domestic travel restrictions could be imposed in the United States in the near future. The international travel ban has also been widened, and now includes Ireland and the UK. In general, the U.S. seems to be about a week behind Europe when it comes to COVID-19 countermeasures, which suggests that rather more draconian restrictions are coming for Americans.
Just because the Trump administration appears to be pulling itself together and taking steps in the right direction doesn't mean it's all of a sudden become a model of competence, though. Donald Trump is no Barack Obama or Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush. It turns out that the COVID-19 website being developed by Google (under their brand Verily) is not close to being ready, and that staffers there were stunned by the President's intimation that a launch was imminent. Verily and the White House traded barbs on Saturday, and the general impression is that this site is not likely to be functional anytime soon.
And finally, if there is any state where we might expect the governor to use COVID-19 to gain political advantage, it's Georgia, where one can make a strong case that Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) stole the 2018 gubernatorial election from Stacey Abrams. Kemp has, thus far, taken a heavy hand in response to the pandemic. Earlier this week, he canceled a planned election for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, and said he would just make a selection himself. It's not at all clear he has the authority to do either of these two things, particularly substituting his judgment for that of the electorate, and there are already lawsuits. On Saturday, Kemp also postponed next week's Democratic primary, moving it from March 24 to May 19. That's certainly legal, though it's a tad concerning that Kemp also announced the activation of 2,000 National Guard troops at the same time. Anyhow, the Peach State is worth keeping an eye on, since it will be the case study of how far a Republican governor is willing and able to push the limits of his election authority. (Z)
Tonight is the 11th Democratic candidates' debate. Given all the unknowns involved with COVID-19, along with the possibility of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) withdrawing from the race, it might also be the last Democratic candidates' debate (though officially a 12th debate, date and location TBD, is still planned). The meet-up this evening was supposed to be in Phoenix, AZ, but when would-be moderator Jorge Ramos was exposed to COVID-19, the Democrats decided the whole state was off the table, and relocated across the country to Washington, D.C.
Everyone knows exactly what the three prongs of Joe Biden's debate strategy will be: (1) Don't screw up, (2) Pivot toward the general election and hit Donald Trump hard, and (3) Don't screw up. Given that he's now the overwhelming frontrunner, with a good chance to strike a mortal blow to Sanders' campaign on Tuesday, Biden just needs to avoid a massive, game-changing blunder. That said, given the real possibility that this is the last debate, it could also be Biden's last opportunity for a while to poke Donald Trump in the eye before a national audience. So, expect a few choice remarks about the President, and in particular his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The real question is: What will Bernie do? There would appear to be three basic possibilities:
- Go for the Kill: It is very possible that Sanders has already become effectively
non-viable, given Biden's lead in delegates, as well as the Democrats' proportional allocation system. And he's
definitely going to get there in two days, barring a change in the race. This is, in other words, his last real
chance to throw a Hail Mary pass. So, he could come out with guns blazing, trying to take Biden down
with...whatever he thinks will work. Dementia? Burisma? Anita Hill?
- Keep on Keepin' on: Alternatively, Sanders could show up and give his usual debate
performance, and then let the cards fall where they may.
- Surrender: Just as this could be Biden's last time to speak to a national audience for a while, it could also be Sanders' last time. After last Tuesday's setbacks, it certainly looked like the Vermont Senator might be considering the possibility of throwing in the towel. It's at least possible that he uses tonight to communicate his intent to yield, and to do what he can to rally his supporters to the Biden banner.
Surely, option #2 is far and away the most likely choice. Option #1 would be very difficult to pull off, would have enormous potential to help Donald Trump, and—even if it somehow worked—would poison the well for the general election. Option #3, meanwhile, is not Sanders' style. He's a guy who fights to the end, not a guy who throws in the towel prematurely. In any event, we will learn for certain tonight at 8:00 ET on CNN and Univision. (Z)
If you didn't guess that COVID-19 would be the topic of the week in the mailbag, you clearly haven't been watching TV, or looking at the Internet, or going to the grocery store.
COVID-19 Goes Viral
E.K. from Brignoles, France writes: Today (Sunday) in France, we hold municipal elections for the totality of the territory (47 million electors can vote) despite the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths here is more than double than that of the entire U.S. No early voting here, all the voters must show up (if they want to) between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (8 p.m. in largest cities), with all the contacts with other people that this process implies. Still, in the name of democratic continuity, Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister have decided to maintain the vote. And I approve this decision.
Regarding this, I don't understand the calls made by Louisiana and Georgia. I just hope that FL, OH, AZ and IL won't postpone their primaries scheduled in less than 72 hours, because I find Bernie Sanders' decision to stay in the race really pathetic. He should have dropped out last week but, as always, he is a sore loser. He'll stay in the race probably until June, despite what he says. I just hope he doesn't bet on a postponement which could allow him to regain momentum and put Biden in jeopardy. I'm not totally naive, and I do think that's his plan: gain some time to slow the Joementum, at any cost.
G.W. from Oxnard, CA writes: I have heard many times that COVID-19 is the first real crisis the Trump administration has faced. That's not true; Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico September 16, 2017. There were 3,059 total deaths (U.S. citizens) attributed to the hurricane and the after effects. There is much to criticize in the administration's response, but there seem to have been few political consequences and it has faded from most Americans' memory.
V & Z respond: This point was raised in the Max Boot op-ed we linked, though a disaster so far away, involving relatively few people who cast ballots (unless they move to the U.S.), is much less likely to shape an election than something that hits the continental U.S. In reality, Trump knows that Puerto Rico has no electoral votes, so he doesn't give a hoot what happens to the people there, even though they are Americans.
C.F. from Merrimack, NH, writes: Of all the discussions of COVID-19 and pandemics, this is the best I've seen so far. It might be of interest to all of your readers since it is so detailed.
V & Z respond: Thanks! We've been looking for something like that to share.
M.D. from Stroudsburg, PA, writes: Apparently Google (actually Verily) knew nothing about Trump's statement that Google would have a website in place for everyone to get help with COVID-19. Verily was working on a website for health professionals to track outbreaks and information.
Is it dementia that causes him to lie like this, or is it an evil psychopathology that causes him to tell lies that will make life harder for people who need help and for people who want to help but are sabotaged by him? Or is he just too stupid to comprehend reality?
The CDC under President Hillary (OR President Bush, or President Obama, or President Bill) would have had test kits and supplies ready and in storage months ago when it first became aware of the potential epidemic. Declaring random things isn't a coherent plan. Why wasn't the CDC prepared to handle this? They handled Ebola and H1N1.
S.H. from Santa Barbara, CA writes: The "gig" economy is being replaced by the TP economy. 21st century American wampum!.
V & Z respond: The very fact of the hoarding is remarkable, and a little dispiriting. And the exact things being hoarded are, in many cases, mystifying. For example, there is no bottled water to be had anywhere in Los Angeles right now. How, exactly, could COVID-19 create a need for a reserve supply of water?
T.B. from Tallahassee, FL writes: Let's hear it for 100% mail-in ballots for November!
A.C. from London, UK writes: The U.S. going to an on-demand postal vote system, which we have in the U.K., would address potential issues regarding voting machines, but it does run the risk of other shenanigans involving postal ballots being intercepted or candidates getting access to ballots before Election Day, and using that data to their advantage. Even if that didn't happen, you can bet your bottom dollar that the alt-right would claim fraud was being perpetuated by Democrats through African-American churches at some point...and people would believe it.
R.E. from Atlanta, GA writes: An idea. The coronavirus crisis, and perhaps other conditions, will drastically change the current campaign and election season. Some states—California, New York, Massachusetts, etc.—will vote for Joe Biden regardless of what happens. Likewise, other states—Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, etc.—will inalterably vote for Donald Trump. Holding presidential campaigns and elections in these states will thus be ludicrous, and possibly dangerous.
So, here's the plan. For all states that one candidate leads the other in reliable polls by say 12 points, we automatically award the electoral votes to that candidate. We then hold actual elections only in the other states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, possibly Texas and North Carolina, etc. We would thus greatly reduce both the cost of elections and the risk of spreading the virus. Such a provision could also be a one-shot deal for 2020. Or maybe more permanent.
K.L. from Hong Kong writes: You suggested a few times that the White House tried to rebrand COVID-19 as the foreign virus/Wuhan Virus. Actually, the name COVID-19 in itself is a result of Chinese government rebranding. When things first got weird in January, everyone in East Asia called it Wuhan Virus, and the Chinese Government lobbied WHO to call it something more "neutral." Unfortunately, what happened since then has been a flurry of conspiracy theories trying to shift the blame from the Chinese state. A representative of the ministry of foreign affairs even claimed on Twitter that the virus came from the U.S. military. So, when the U.S. government uses the term Wuhan Virus, dissidents in China and Hong Kong actually feel quite pleased. Even some residents of Wuhan are saying the original name should be kept so what they suffered through could be better remembered.
V & Z respond: Ironically, the "Spanish Flu" of 1918-19 probably began with...the U.S. military, likely at a base in Kansas.
G.M. from San Francisco, CA writes: After Donald Trump's address to the nation, you pointed out that he was obviously squinting a lot. During many parts of the speech, it is also obvious that his pupils are wildly dilated. People have previously pointed out that dilated pupils are commonly observed in Trump, and it is not natural. This could be a side effect of Ambien, but other people have speculated that this may be from any number of drugs like cocaine or meth.
L.F. from Edina, MN writes: Regarding your review of Trump's COVID-19 speech, having just watched it, I'd guess he had a different virus on his mind. Starting about minute 3, he began to audibly sniff at each pause, and by minute 7, was clearly dealing with postnasal drip in between snuffles. His somnolent delivery may well have been due to antihistamines, rather than Ambien. The symptoms seemed more in keeping with a cold or flu than COVID-19, but nevertheless lent a certain gravity to his message. (The odd hand grip may have been to forestall nose rubbing.) He should probably take social distancing seriously.
M.L.F. from Fort Collins, CO writes: This article was just published in a reputable scientific journal, and projects the spread of COVID-19. Maybe consult an epidemiologist for more information, but it ain't good.
And this is a short snippet from "The Big Lebowski":
I think the allegory is pretty obvious. Who represents Trump, the American people, and where our country currently stands?
T.B. from Nowata, OK writes: Days ago (as you often state, years in political terms) Trump announced VP Mike Pence as the point person on COVID-19. I immediately thought of the quote: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent (meddlesome) priest?" If it is true that Dingleberry Don wants to rid himself of Pence before the election, what better way than to put him in charge of an impossible task? If the President truly wanted to get the job done, he would have put First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner in charge. With Pence, Trump can eventually say the VP failed miserably by letting the virus spread and rid himself of this goon while also attempting to be blameless.
Bernie and Biden
J.L. from Paterson, NJ, writes: Contrary to your March 14 answer to B.J. in Washington, the DNC's favoritism toward Hillary Clinton in 2016 went far beyond "pretty minor" incidents. You omitted two major ones.
The one we knew at the time was the debate schedule. It's a truism that debates generally help a candidate who's trailing in the polls or isn't as well known. Clinton benefited from a DNC schedule that, compared with 2008, had debates that were many fewer, beginning later in the cycle, and at low-viewership times, changes that were enforced with an unprecedented gag rule that effectively prevented other organizations from hosting debates.
We later found out about a secret agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Clinton and Sanders were both offered joint fundraising agreements, but Donna Brazile revealed that there was a separate agreement with the Clinton campaign alone, kept secret when signed in 2015 and certainly not offered to Sanders, by which the "Hillary Victory Fund" was given extensive control over DNC staffing and operations.
We don't know whether Clinton would have won without these violations of the party's neutrality rule. We do know that the violations were serious and substantive.
V & Z respond: We're running your letter, but we will also point out there was a sentence in that item about the debate schedule.
M.C. from Santa Clara, CA, writes: You guys put up a link to sleepy Joe's ramble, but you didn't put up a link to Bernie Sanders' address on COVID-19. Seems to be putting the thumb on the scale for a hollow husk of a man who confuses his wife with his sister. And this on a day when California announced our results, and Sanders simply *crushed* Biden to a pulp!
I would appreciate seeing more "fair and balanced" coverage. It ain't over till the fat lady sings. She's still in the dressing room...
N.G. from San Jose, CA, writes: I am the self-described "Bernie aunt" who wrote you a few weeks back.
Your answer to the reader in Santa Cruz was reasonable; however, the Republicans are still going to bring up cognitive decline. It may be unreasonable, but it will become a real issue. There was some sort of Twitter hashtag about cognitive decline in the past week, with pro-Trumpers, disgruntled young Bernie fans and anti-Biden voters all tweeting about it.
Michael Moore has talked about the issue on his podcast, "Rumble." Branko Marcetic has written "Yesterday's Man" a critique of Biden's record, and this has earned him lots of interviews on podcasts, also on San Francisco's KALW "Your Call" morning radio show.
And the people I talk to admit that Joe Biden does not seem to be on top of his game. Many Bernie fans I know are concerned that Biden's verbal problems are so bad that he is not up to the inevitable verbal bashing that Trump and his surrogates will lob against him. They point out that Sanders is better equipped to take on Trump. So, with a whisper campaign about cognitive decline in the background, will voters feel qualms about voting for this candidate? It is crucial that Biden pick the best female running mate, to assuage these fears, and to become President if it came to that.
M.S. from Raleigh, NC, writes: Lay off the Biden praise. I completely understand he's your choice for president. But heaping on all these compliments with almost no criticism, he's getting the treatment you guys once reserved for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). I've been reading this site many years for thoughtful insight on current events with a side of historical perspective. Please do not turn it into a Biden campaign ad.
J.C. from Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: What you wrote about the Sanders math, with the postponement of the Louisiana primary, makes me think Sanders has a path to the nomination, though not the kind he would like: COVID-19. His supporters are more committed, and skew younger.
L.S. from Greensboro, NC writes: I think an additional point of interest which you did not mention is that for the first time Biden needs less than half the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. Using the same math as you used for Sanders, he now needs (1991-854)/2,294 = 49.6% of the remaining delegates in a race where he has "won" 15 of the last 20 primaries. It does seem that the race has arrived at a significant point.
L.V.A. from Idaho Falls, ID, writes: It has long been my experience in politics at the national level that if you disagree with the right then "you are evil and you need to suffer " and if you disagree with the left "you're stupid and if we just dumb it down, you'll understand." The latter is what I saw Bernie Sanders doing in his explanation this week of why he lost in Michigan and other states. Sanders, as in 2016, will never admit he lost because voters did not favor his policies. Militant condescension is perhaps not the best way to win voters.
T.D. from Redondo Beach, CA, writes: Prediction: By the end of the debate tonight, Bernie will effectively be supporting Joe.
S.S. from Raleigh, NC, writes: When will Bernie Sanders and his supporters actually take responsibility for the failure of his campaigns instead of falling back on conspiracy theories? After the Super Tuesday losses, all I hear from Sanders and his attack dogs are how the democratic "establishment" rallied together and coalesced to "interfere" with the election. Another narrative is the democratic establishment caused the long voting lines to stop Bernie voters (even though evidence shows that the long lines were in primarily African-American neighborhoods, a bloc that went overwhelmingly for Biden).
Why can't they just accept the simple fact that they couldn't bring out young voters to the polls and that the majority of the democratic electorate did not vote for him and does not support his campaign? It is absolutely unbelievable. The level of ego and narcissism is at Trumpian levels. 2016 will repeat itself. Sanders will carry it on to the bitter end even if his chances are slim to zero. If he hurts our chances of beating Trump, I think he's OK with that. With Bernie Sanders, it's all about Bernie Sanders.
K.H. from Corning, NY, writes: There's an interesting choice of words among many of the letters you publish that mirrors what I see in live conversation and among social media friends. I am in favor of Bernie Sanders' policies, but groan every time I hear him or his supporters driving away the allies we need to achieve it. To wit, they blame the DNC or "the establishment" for choosing Clinton, or Biden or anyone other than Sanders.
Instead, the reality is that the voters voted in 2016, and they are voting now in 2020. We are deciding, not the DNC. If there were a majority of voters who wanted Sanders, they'd be coming to the polls. If they aren't showing up, or aren't convinced by him, it is those voters with whom Sanders supporters should take issue. Not the establishment that he hopes to have for himself despite the voice of the voters, but appears willing to destroy if he can't.
K.C. from Levittown, NY, writes: Reading through the comments, I couldn't help but notice differing opinions on who was better positioned to defeat President Trump in November. Additionally, there was a question about what would transpire in the event of the death of a candidate before or after the election. Giving all of this some thought has really reinforced, for me, a thought I had just before Super Tuesday (as both Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-MN, were dropping out of the race). That is, is there a grander plan by the DNC to stabilize the situation in Washington now while setting up the future? Suppose that Joe Biden were to select, as his running mate, Stacey Abrams, and then have a silent agreement with her that he will only serve one term. After all, it's hard enough to win an election in your late 70s, let alone your early 80s. In the interim, Buttigieg can serve as Secretary of State and Klobuchar can serve as Attorney General. The silent, silent agreement would be that when Abrams leads the charge in 2024, she'll select Buttigieg as her running mate and hopefully allow him eight years to build up some credibility and trust from the African-American voters before making another, more successful, run for the White House. It's probably my brain just working overtime for no reason, but this sounds like a great way to hold onto the executive branch for twenty years or so, which is exactly what the doctor would order at a time when our nation and our standing in the global community is so painfully scarred.
California (and Massachusetts) Blues
N.E. from San Mateo, CA writes: In your answer about California's blueward turn, I'm surprised you didn't mention Proposition 187. While Bill Clinton probably would have won California in 1992 even without Ross Perot being in the race, it would have been much closer, and was far from the inevitability it seems like from just looking at consecutive victories.
While 187 was passed in 1994 (and then died in appeals), it seems clear in retrospect that it was the beginning of the end for Republicans in California for all the reasons you outlined...just a little bit later than we started voting for President.
J.R. from San Francisco, CA, writes: I see two additional factors in California going blue:
- Bill Clinton won California in 1992 in the wake of the downturn in the defense industry following the end of the Cold War. Additionally, the outrage at the treatment of Anita Hill wrought revenge on President George H. W. Bush, spearheaded by the election of two female Democratic senators.
- 1994 sealed the deal when Republican Pete Wilson went after "illegal aliens" in his scorched-earth campaign against the uninspiring Democrat Kathleen Brown. I predicted in 1994 this would lose the state for the GOP, and sure enough, I was right.
T.L. from San Francisco, CA,, writes: Regarding the California going blue question, note that California was not solidly blue until significantly later than 1992. For example, in the 1994 election, Republicans took 5 statewide offices versus 2 for Democrats.
However, the 1990s were when the Republicans bet the state party on fear of minorities (with support for things like Proposition 187) who would become the majority in the state population (though not the voting population) around 2000. While that produced some short-term victories in the 1990s, it meant that as the state population of conservative white people declined, the Republican brand was badly damaged among all others. It was in 2010 that the Democrats won all statewide offices in California.
J.M. from Somerville, MA, writes: I actually went to a museum presentation where they explained why Massachusetts went blue in 1928. It was during the height of prohibition enforcement and Italian-American communities were heavily targeted for crackdowns and at times even were under martial law in Somerville. The Italian-American community started to politically organize as Democrats in opposition to the establishment Republicans who were in charge. Somerville has never voted Republican since.
Healthcare the American Way, and the Norway
D.E. from Lititz, PA, writes: In response to P.S. from Franklin, TN, who complained that with Norway's tax rate, he would lose his house to pay for someone else's insurance: Norway's home ownership rate is 83.49%, one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. By comparison, the U.S. is much further behind at 64.3%. Clearly Norway, even with their high tax rate, is doing something right between that home ownership rate and their 11th-place ranking on Bloomberg's Health Efficiency Index (while again, the U.S. is way behind at 56th).
I can't say from P.S.'s small blurb—although his comment about paying someone else's healthcare is revealing, and not in a good way—but it sounds like he, along with so many Americans, adds another country's tax rate to his debts without realizing how much our system of private health insurance is nickeling and diming us to death with premiums, co-pays, deductibles and rationed health care because they are such "small expenditures" spread out over time. This is obviously a severe enough problem that Flexible Spending Accounts were created to alleviate some of that pain. Additionally, because we as humans find it hard to imagine ourselves in a better system, we discount the health efficiencies of making sure our fellow humans have health care. We live, even in the rural areas, in a society where we are in close contact with others, so their lack of access to affordable health care can greatly affect our health and well-being, including financial health.
Look at the Coronavirus outbreak. In Italy, which is #4 on Bloomberg's Health Efficiency Index, they had a large initial outbreak of the virus but they have since been extremely efficient in isolating the pandemic to the Northern part of Italy. This kind of efficiency is also seen in South Korea (#5), Japan (#7) and Singapore (#1). Compare this to the U.S., where already the news stories are saying that this virus is slipping out of control. In just the space of two weeks, the U.S. went from a few cases in California and Washington to, as of this moment, 30 states and the District of Columbia! Yes, a lot can be blamed on Donald Trump's tepid response, but not all of it. The facts are the U.S. health system is poor and gives poor returns to its citizens, and any kind of abnormal activity is surely going to make it worse.
P.S. might not want to pay for someone else's—and we can guess whose—healthcare but he might, God forbid, end up paying more than he can imagine in ways more terrible than increased debts. Like it or not, but we live in a global society and our event horizon needs to be more than "I, Me, Mine!" (I had to get a song reference in there).
V & Z respond: An underrated song from an underrated album (to the extent that's possible for The Beatles).
R.G. from Portland, OR, writes: In response to one of the previous comments from Norway about why America doesn't have a universal health care system, the following came to mind:
In most cases of government provided health insurance, they tended to happen after major wars as a way of rewarding the population and supporting veterans. This took off in various European nations, most commonly after the Crimean War or WWI. Medicine was advanced enough to justify it, and the countries in question were wealthy and industrialized enough to afford it.
The U.S. had the "misfortune" of bad timing. The Civil War was deadly, but too early in the country's course to really develop a governmental health care. There were some limited veterans' homes established, but medicine as a whole wasn't advanced enough to justify a more widespread program. WWI had minimal impact on the U.S. and didn't result in massive casualties or societal disruption. There was also the Russian/Red scare where health insurance was felt to be a foreign and unhealthy idea. WWII did feature more casualties, but missed the historical sweet spot due to another Red Scare (though it did result in VA health care).
By the time Lyndon Johnson really got around to tackling the issue, he was only able to extend coverage to the elderly through Medicare, due to overwhelming industry opposition.
Fast forward to recent decades. While there is more awareness of what other countries have done, and there is greater urgency due to rising private health care costs, Americans remain skeptical about specific programs in polls. I believe this is due to two fundamental inequalities. One is the generational gap. The wealth in the country is dramatically concentrated in the elderly (mostly baby boomers). They are already taken care of with Medicare as it exists today. Broadening Medicare coverage overnight without a corresponding increase in hospital or clinic capacity will stress the system, resulting in widespread access problems, shortages of hospital beds, and delay in care. What incentive is there for the elderly who dominate the electorate to worsen their own care?
The other is the racial gap. African Americans and Latinos tend to be poorer than whites. With heightened racial awareness and identity politics driven bloc voting, why would you vote to steal from your own (successful white) group and subsidize the "other" group? See Ezra Klein's wonderful recent book Why We're Polarized.
If this seems selfish, it may be because Norway is a smaller and more homogeneous country. It has no choice but to collectively take care of all its people for the success of the country as a whole. There are too few to leave behind in any way. Each life is precious and worth investing in, and there's not as much ethnic subgroup competition. The U.S. is built on an extractive model. Once you've outlived your usefulness as labor/consumer, it's far more cost efficient for you to die quickly so as to avoid incurring expensive costs for everyone else. Then the country can import more immigrant labor to replace you.
V.R. from Grenoble, France, writes: P.S. complains "[middle class Americans] cannot afford to pay Norway's tax rate" and that they'll have to "sell [their houses] to pay for someone else's insurance."
In my view, a more redistributive system benefits all because while relieving the poorest, it cools down social tensions and offers more possibilities for all individuals. It's true, redistributing means taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor. But in this way, I believe that more money will actually end up circulating. Generally, the rich put most of their income in financial products and this money runs in circles between banks all over the world, but hardly ever turns into an actual 1$ bill. I am convinced that the money of the rich only scarcely trickles down. By contrast, the poor do spend their salary in the real economy.
I would also observe that it was when the tax rates were much higher (before Reagan's era) that the United States' economic growth was at its top and that the total prosperity of the rich has grown wildly since then, while that of the poor has diminished. I think that the American middle class's houses have one or two rooms to spare, and that the money for these extra rooms is indeed the wage increase the poorest haven't gotten in the last 40 years. Does it sound all right that the purchasing power of the minimum wage in the richest nation in the world has consistently diminished over 40 years, in peace time? I don't think so.
I find social and political tensions too high a price to pay for an extra room or two. So, I am happy to pay for someone else's medical insurance, because that is my social insurance.
Could Tuberville Get Jonesed?
C.R. from Kansas City, KS, writes: Why are you so quick to hand Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) a pink slip?
If Tommy Tuberville is the Republican nominee, he will be carrying significant baggage into November. First, there is the residency issue, and if there's one thing Alabamians don't care for, it's being told what they should and shouldn't do ("Secession is a terrible idea!" "Oh yeah? Hold my beer!"). Second, he was the head coach at Auburn. If there's one thing card-carrying Crimson Tide fans hate more than a know-it-all liberal, it's a War Eagle (see Updyke, Harvey). Doug Jones, by the way, is an Alabama grad. Third, there is no guarantee Donald Trump will still be as popular in eight months as he is right now. Currently, there are no college sports being played in Alabama. That is the equivalent, for most other humans, of having no oxygen in the air. You can still breathe it, but there's no point. And Alabama reportedly has a number of coronavirus cases, but the state's testing has been SO incompetent (or corrupt) that they either can't or won't report it. The commander at Maxwell AFB announced this week that active-duty students have been traveling from South Korea and Italy all month for training, and were put directly into class with no quarantine period.
No college sports, a dead Me-Maw, a cratering economy, and endless chants of "War Damn Eagle" might even lead the most conservative Alabama voter to say, "Oh yeah? Watch THIS!".
S.R. from Wyomissing, PA, writes: I really enjoyed last week's letter from F.L. in Denton, TX, regarding different names for primary days. It reminded me of watching MSNBC during the 2008 primaries, when Chris Matthews started referring to the February 12th grouping of Maryland, D.C., and Virginia as the "crabcake primaries." Bringing back regional primaries with fun names always seemed like a good way to conduct them, similar to F.L.'s "Amtrak Tuesday" on April 28th this year.
D.C. from Delray Beach, FL, writes: Your note at the end of your March 8 mailbag about Jeff Greenfield's novel was just below some comments about dumping a vice president in favor of a better candidate.
Early in 1968 the late Russell Baker published a short predictive novel about what might happen in the presidential election that very year entitled Our Next President. The issue of changing a vice president is part of the plot, as are some scenarios about the 12th and 20th amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
More than 50 years later, it is still an entertaining and informative read, spiced up with some of the usual dry humor that was Baker's trademark.
M.M. from San Diego, CA, writes: Hey, I'd watch ferret-legging, but only if elephant bell-bottoms were banned.
V & Z respond: Are sweat pants ok?
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar14 Saturday Q&A
Mar13 COVID-19 Havoc Continues
Mar13 Candidate Biden Gives an Audition for Role of President Biden
Mar13 Wyden Wants National Vote-by-Mail
Mar13 U.S. Strikes Iranian-backed Militias
Mar13 Doing the Sanders Math
Mar13 Trump Tries to Cut Sessions Off at the Knees
Mar12 Trump Speech Falls Flat
Mar12 Bears 1, Bulls 0
Mar12 Takeaways from This Week's Primaries
Mar12 Sanders Is Staying in the Race
Mar12 A Closer Look at Michigan Shows Biden Could Rebuild the Blue Wall
Mar12 Biden Leads in Three New National Polls
Mar12 Why Democrats Aren't Like Republicans
Mar12 What Do Prisoners Think about Politics
Mar12 Kelly Leads McSally in Arizona Senate Race
Mar11 Biden Rides High
Mar11 What Is Sanders' Next Move?
Mar11 Next Democratic Debate Will Be Sans Audience
Mar11 Yang Endorses Biden
Mar11 Trump Administration's Handling of COVID-19 Has Been Nothing Short of Shameful
Mar11 Judge Says Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence
Mar10 COVID-19 Is Wreaking All Sorts of Economic Havoc
Mar10 Sanders Needs to Hope State Pollsters Are Wrong...
Mar10 ...And National Pollsters, Too
Mar10 Biden Picks Up Another Former Rival's Endorsement
Mar10 Democrats' Senate Hopes Are Looking Up
Mar10 Democrats Get Serious about Florida
Mar10 Six Former Wrestlers Point the Finger at Jim Jordan
Mar09 A Critical Week for Sanders Is at Hand
Mar09 New Rules Announced for the March 15 Debate
Mar09 Harris Endorses Biden
Mar09 The Race for Veep Has Begun
Mar09 Biden Scales Up
Mar09 Close Trump Associate Is Recruiting Former Spies to Infiltrate Liberal Groups
Mar09 U.S. Officials Warn of Virus-Related Disruptions Ahead
Mar09 Romanoff Beats Hickenlooper in Colorado Caucuses
Mar09 Romney Is His Old Self Again
Mar08 Sunday Mailbag
Mar07 "Mick the Knife" Gets Cut
Mar07 Saturday Q&A
Mar06 A Million Selfies, All for Nothing
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part I: Biden vs. Clinton in Words
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part II: Biden vs. Clinton in Numbers
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part III: The Polls
Mar06 Where Do We Go From Here?, Part IV: Sanders Game Changers
Mar06 Trump Gives Democrats a Late Christmas Gift
Mar05 Biden Has More Delegates Now
Mar05 Bloomberg Calls It Quits