Bill & Melinda Gates: Why we give our money away

(CNN)“Is it fair that you have so much influence?”

However, we do this work, and use whatever influence we have, to help as many people as possible and to advance equity around the world.
And we are committed to being open about what we fund and what the results have been. (It’s not always clear what’s been successful and what hasn’t, but our foundation team works hard to assess our impact, course correct and share lessons.) Although we’ve had some success in getting the world to pay more attention to health and extreme poverty, it would be hard to argue at this point that we made the world focus too much on them.
    Having influence does make it harder to get honest feedback, though. In business, your customers will tell you in an instant when you’ve made a mistake. It’s not the same in philanthropy. Some of our critics don’t speak up because they don’t want to risk losing their funding from us. That’s why hearing and answering tough questions is important. And it means we need to hire well, consult experts, learn constantly and seek out different viewpoints.
    Even though our foundation is the biggest in the world, businesses and governments spend much more than we do. California, for example, spends more than our entire endowment just to run its public school system for one year.
    And we use our resources in a very specific way: to test out promising innovations, collect and analyze the data and let businesses and governments scale up and sustain what works. We want to incubate lots of different ideas, and then help the best ones get out there as quickly as possible.

      Bill & Melinda Gates: World is getting better

    There’s a natural follow-up to the question about influence: “If it’s unfair that you have so much wealth, why don’t you give it all to the government?” The answer is that we think there’s always going to be a unique role for foundations. They’re able to take a global view to find the greatest needs, take a long-term approach to solving tough problems and manage high-risk projects that governments can’t take on and corporations won’t.
    If a government tries an idea that fails, someone wasn’t doing their job — and might lose his or her job in the next election cycle. Whereas if we don’t try some ideas that fail, we’re not doing our jobs.
    Here’s another question we get a lot: “Why are you really giving your money away — what’s in it for you?”
    It’s not because we think about how we’ll be remembered. We would be delighted if someday diseases like polio and malaria have been forgotten, and the fact that we worked on them has been, too.

      Looking forward with Bill Gates

    We do this work because it’s important, it’s rewarding and it’s in line with how we were raised. We both come from families that believe in leaving the world better than you found it. Melinda’s parents made sure their children took the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church to heart. When Melinda was in high school — at Ursuline Academy of Dallas — she volunteered in the public schools, tutoring students who were falling behind in math. Bill’s parents advocated for a dizzying number of important causes and local organizations in Seattle, everything from United Way and the University of Washington to school levy campaigns.
    Of course, these values are not unique to the two of us. Millions of people give back by volunteering their time and donating money to help others. We are, however, in the more unusual position of having a lot of money to donate. Our goal is to do what our parents taught us and do our part to improve the state of the world.
    The two of us have been doing this work, more or less full time, for close to two decades. That’s the majority of our marriage. It’s almost the entirety of our children’s lives. By now the foundation’s work has become inseparable from who we are. We do the work because it’s our life.

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    We’ve tried to pass on values to our children by talking with them about the foundation’s work, and, as they’ve gotten older, taking them with us on trips so they can see it for themselves. We’ve spent thousands of hours learning together, meeting with scientists, educators and world leaders. Where we go, who we spend our time with, what we read and watch and listen to — these decisions are made through the prism of our work at the foundation (when we’re not watching “The Crown” or “The Man in the High Castle.”).
    Maybe 20 years ago we could have made a different choice about what to do with our wealth. But now it’s impossible to imagine.

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    How America has silently accepted the rage of white men

    (CNN)In the wake of one of the worst massacres in modern American history, our government’s highest leaders will be silent about why things like this keep happening. “Warmest condolences” will be tweeted to families of those who lost their lives, minutes of mourning will pass and murmurs of mental health issues and lone-wolf actors will taper into silence. Taming homegrown terror and tightening gun control will be dismissed as inappropriate or unnecessary politicizing of a tragedy and quickly become secondary to more pressing issues on the administration’s agenda. America has been here before.

    In fact, America has been here 273 times in 2017 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which compiles deaths and injuries from shooting incidents and defines a mass shooting as any incident where four or more people are wounded or killed. According to their tally, there have also been 11,698 deaths as a result of gun violence so far this year. Between 2001 and 2014, 440,095 deaths by firearms occurred on US soil, while deaths by terrorism during those years numbered 3,412. Today, America faces approximately one mass shooting per day on average.
    Mass shootings are a violent epidemic that have been met with fatal passivity for far too long. If mass shootings were perpetrated mostly by brown bodies, this would quickly be reframed and reformed as an immigration issue. If thousands died at the hands of black men, it would be used to excuse police brutality, minimize the Black Lives Matter movement and exacerbate the “raging black man” stereotype. If mass shooters identified as Muslim, it would quickly become terrorism and catalyze defense and security expenditures.
      But this is a white man’s problem. According to an analysis by Mother Jones, out of 62 cases between 1982 and 2012 (a time period that would not include the actions of Dylann Roof or Stephen Paddock, among others), 44 of the killers were white men and only one was a woman. Since 1982, mass shootings in the United States have been committed by white men who are often labeled “lone wolves” or “psychologically impaired.” As a result, the government that would otherwise be mobilizing its institutions to bring about reform remains a stalwart of the Second Amendment and mass shootings’ greatest ally. An over-affinity for guns among white men, dangerous against any other backdrop, gets defended as patriotism by many conservatives or even as white pride by those on the alt-right.
      In fact, according to a 2014 poll conducted by Fox News, nearly seven in 10 Republicans believed that gun ownership is patriotic. If espoused by other groups, this sentiment and this number might be considered threatening. Instead, it is welcomed in a way that many believe gives tacit encouragement to potential mass shooters.

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      Make no mistake: this is war culture that has dressed up as Uncle Sam and embedded itself into the American psyche. Any other path — let’s say, for example, abortion or foreign-born terror — that led to the destruction of life on this level would be attacked as violently opposed to American values. But because this culture is embraced by the race and party that controls the government, it continues to be celebrated and defended in the spirit of love of country.

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      Congressmen: Our bipartisan plan for health care

      (CNN)People are sick of politics and politicians. They have had it with the finger-pointing and blame games while the world is engulfed in chaos.

      We are, too.
      We’re freshman members of Congress from different political parties, but we know there is more that unites us than divides us. That’s why we’re part of the Problem Solvers Caucus: a group of more than 40 lawmakers, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, committed to — you guessed it — solving problems.
        This month, after working together for weeks, the Problem Solvers Caucus announced a five-point proposal to begin the process of fixing our broken health care system. After years of attacks and counterattacks by both parties, we are resetting the conversation by outlining a set of principles aimed at stabilizing the health insurance markets and providing relief to individuals, families and small businesses.
        As it stands, the Affordable Care Act is unsustainable. For too many Americans, health care is still too expensive. Premiums are rising and people are scared. This is a life-and-death issue for many Americans. They deserve to know that when they get sick, or their child falls ill, that a system will be in place to ensure they have access to high-quality, affordable health coverage. That should be the goal for any lawmaker, regardless of party.
        We know that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but we need to keep what works and fix what doesn’t. The bottom line is: we need to stabilize the individual market right now — and that is what our proposal does.
        First, it would bring cost-sharing reduction payments under Congressional authority, but ensure they have mandatory funding. The President has threatened to withhold these funds, which would result in devastating premium increases and out-of-pocket costs for families.
        Second, we must stabilize the individual marketplace by creating a dedicated fund for states to use to bring down premiums and limit losses for providing coverage, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.
        Third, our plan calls for an adjustment to the employer mandate from businesses that have 50 employees to those with 500 employees. The current mandate puts too many burdens on small businesses, making it almost impossible to grow beyond 50 employees.
        Fourth, we must repeal the 2.3% Medical Device Tax, which we know is passed onto consumers and creates a bigger hole in their pocket.
        Finally, our proposal will provide technical changes and guidelines for states seeking to improve their exchanges and offer better coverage for consumers.
        This isn’t the silver bullet solution to our healthcare troubles, but it’s a start — and it’s the exact kind of common sense leadership that Americans are looking for. Instead of focusing on scoring political points, the Problem Solvers Caucus’ goal is simple: get things done.
        We both happen to have been trained as CPAs and lawyers. We’re both freshmen members from suburban districts. One is from Long Island and Queens in New York and the other from outside Philadelphia, but we are joined by other members from all over our nation with varying backgrounds and years of service.
        When we came to Congress earlier this year, each of us signed a freshman pledge to civility. That’s what being an elected official is about. We chose to set aside our petty differences, look at the big picture, and realize that we have a sacred duty to improve the lives of the people who have entrusted us with the responsibility of representing them — and our country — in Congress.
        We know that this is serious business. Ramming through legislation with support from only one party is not how the legislative branch of government was meant to operate, and as we’ve seen before and we’re seeing again now, it just doesn’t work.

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        We need leaders sobered by their responsibilities and individuals committed to stopping the nonsense that dominates our current national discourse and elevating the debate to the serious, responsible level our times demand.
        Instead of focusing on areas of disagreement, let’s focus on goodwill and compromise where we can find common ground. We believe our health care proposal is the start of many good bipartisan conversations. It is not only our duty, but our only hope.

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        Spare us the shock over Scaramucci

        (CNN)It was in the final years of the 1990s that British columnist David Aaronovitch experienced that inevitable moment that befalls all parents of small children. Watching a news program on the unprecedented spectacle of an American president facing impeachment over his lies about liaisons with a White House intern, he heard the presenter utter the phrase, “oral sex in the vestibule.” Turning nervously to his adolescent daughter by his side, Aaronovitch felt an unexpected mixture of surprise and relief when he was met with the question, “Daddy, what’s a vestibule?”

        Some years later, Dick Cheney faced critical comments from Sen. Patrick Leahy about his former company Halliburton’s involvement in Iraq’s reconstruction. “Go f— yourself,” the vice president told the Vermont Democrat, during a class photo session on the Senate floor. The imperative was printed unbowdlerized in several national outlets and Cheney later recalled it as “sort of the best thing I ever did” a judgment historians might actually find persuasive.
        Last Thursday, incoming, and now outgoing, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci suggested that, unlike one of his colleagues, he was not trying to fellate himself, an observation delivered in a colorful diatribe to the New Yorker in reaction to the steady trickle of rumors and innuendo emanating from the Trump aide. Scaramucci used a downtown phrase to describe an underground feat of dexterous self-pleasure, which has creatively taxed the translation teams of several foreign newspapers, cost him a 10 day-old job and made him even more of a punch line on social media platforms and late-night talk shows than he had been.
          But it has also led to vaporous commentary about the supposed debasement of our political “discourse,” which wasn’t entirely lofty when Adams and Jefferson stalked the nation’s capital with their surrogates accusing each other of having ambiguous anatomy and pedigree much less so when LBJ and Nixon did.
          When he was just a junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama described the man who would be his future White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, thus: “I think, as many of you were aware, he was working at a deli, [had an] accident with a meat slicing machine, he lost part of his middle finger, and as a result of this, this rendered him practically mute.”
          Another way of stating the obvious would be to say that American politics has never enjoyed much civility, as much as we nostalgically like to pretend otherwise in these periodic moments of righteous pique.
          Scaramucci fit in perfectly with the Trump ethos and might still be in a job if he hadn’t been declared FUBAR by John Kelly, a retired no-nonsense four-star Marine and now Trump’s chief of staff. The presumptuous Beltway outsider figured he could buck the rules of the Washington game, by stabbing his enemies in the front rather than in the back. And what’s wrong with that?
          “I think a lot of people are clutching their pearls,” Christina Greer, a professor of political science at Fordham University, told the New York Daily News last Saturday. “One, because it is so vulgar. Two, because this is a person that is a representative of the President of the United States.”
          Few American voters have got pearls to clutch or can profess themselves shocked to discover that a stubby Long Islander with big hair and ring jewelry really does sound like Joe Pesci in “Casino.” And raise your hand, please, if you thought that a President who boasts of his own familiarity with other people’s genitals and begs journalists to relate how intelligent and well-liked and financially savvy he is was likely to find such phone chatter anything other than absolutely disarming.
          In fact, as The New York Times reported, Trump was initially delighted with Scaramucci’s put-downs of Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. He only soured on the denunciations, the Times noted, when he realized his newest hire’s outsize ego and press were beginning to eclipse his own.

          New York’s outer borough poetry

          One of the core ironies of the 2016 election is that the professional political observers who were an Uber ride away from JFK Airport were precisely the ones to miss the appeal of this type of New Yorker to middle America.
          There is a kind of mournful, Freudian poetry to the patois of the outer boroughs, of which Scaramucci is now, for better or worse, the global embodiment. Even as on-paper specimens of the so-called “establishment,” they can never feel as if they’ve truly made it and so they behave as outcasts of the American dream rather than as realizations of it.
          “Anyone who thinks money is ever just money, Dick, couldn’t have much of it,” Charles Van Doren tells Richard Goodwin, the special counsel to the House Legislative Oversight Committee who eventually unravels the racket that was “Twenty One” in the movie “Quiz Show.” And anyone who makes money after coming from nothing knows what it can never quite buy: the acceptance of the Sutton Place and Hyannis Port sets.
          Scaramucci grew up the son of an Italian-American plumber but in Port Washington, the model upon which Fitzgerald based East Egg in “The Great Gatsby,” which is certainly one way to inculcate permanent class anxiety.
          I spent the formative years of my life surrounded by people who talk exactly as the Mooch does, and overcompensate for modest beginnings in the same spirit of desperation and defiance. It’s difficult some days to tell where my aunt’s Thanksgiving dinners in Far Rockaway end and the leadership of the free world begins.

            Bye bye, Mooch

          Notice how Scaramucci name-checks Harvard Law School, an alma mater that evidently thought he was dead until recently, at the least relevant moments in news conferences and TV appearances. (If he were really to the manner born, he’d only ever say that he went to “school in Boston.”) By doing this, he isn’t reminding you of his legal erudition, which would be obnoxious enough, but of his worthiness to be talking to you in the first place. In literature, this is the stuff of pathos, not comedy.

          Trump’s a different story

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          Trump, too, weirdly suffers from the same pathology of self-perception, even though he has absolutely no reason to. He was born a millionaire scion of a real estate magnate granted, in Queens, not Manhattan. His boorishness is true-blue, but his autobiography of a self-made man is, unlike Scaramucci’s, completely invented.
          Even still, it is remarkable how long Trump has carried this image of himself as a beggar at the feast, a working-class stiff gatecrashing the country club. In 1990, he was interviewed by Vanity Fair of all magazines and came away sounding more like a social conservative from the deep South distinguishing “real America” from the coastal Gomorrahs rather than the mogul whose extramarital affair made tabloid headlines. “There are two publics as far as I’m concerned,” Trump said. “The real public and then there’s the New York society horses—. The real public has always liked Donald Trump. The real public feels that Donald Trump is going through Trump-bashing. When I go out now, forget about it. I’m mobbed. It’s bedlam.”
          Several bankruptcies, comebacks and an Electoral College vote later, and his tune hasn’t changed a note.
          The Mooch, unlike his former boss, is the more genuine Everyman raging in his gilt tower.

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          Trump’s transgender tweets are an affront to the all-volunteer military

          (CNN)There is a lot to dislike about President Donald Trump’s decision this morning to reinstate the ban on transgender service.

          First of all, it’s an affront to the very ideals of the all-volunteer force, the force we both joined and served in for a combined 68 years. The central tenet of that force is that young men and women from across the spectrum of American society can choose to wear the cloth of the country in service to the nation.
          As long as they swear the oath to defend our ideas, meet the professional standards, complete the training and thereafter serve with honor, they have the privilege of defending our country. It’s led to a highly professional, well-led and motivated force that continues to be the world’s example of professionalism in military service. Right now, only about 1% of the nation make that choice, and transgender troops are a part of all that.
            To be sure, there have been times when ‘all-volunteer’ didn’t mean every volunteer. Policies throughout the years have altered the physical and mental aptitude requirements, have restricted — and still restrict, to a lesser degree now — the service of women, have banned the service of gays and lesbians, and have even made racial equality and equal opportunity a challenge. There is still much work to be done on these fronts.
            Wednesday’s decision doesn’t make that work easier. Indeed, it sets us back.
            It also violates the covenant, as well the very contract, between recruits and the Defense Department. If we are to believe the President’s statement this morning — which barred transgender troops from serving in “any capacity” — then it follows that every transgender soldier currently in uniform is in a state of limbo right now, uncertain whether or not they can continue their military careers.
            Sen. John McCain, along with many other lawmakers, objected to Trump’s tweet. “The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today,” McCain wrote in an official statement.
            As Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King told CNN today, “The great thing about being in the military is when we take our oath we take it to our country. I felt like I had just gotten fired via tweet.”
            They deserve better than this.
            There’s another problem: this new policy could actually hurt readiness. A study by the RAND Corporation — commissioned by the Defense Department — found that somewhere between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender troops currently serve on active duty. If you consider the upper end of that estimate, you’re talking about the same number of people who fill out an Army Brigade Combat Team, a little more than two Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) or an aircraft carrier with its embarked air wing. And this RAND estimate doesn’t include many thousands more transgenders who likely serve in the Guard and Reserve.
            That’s a lot of talent … a lot of people with unique and necessary skills. These are not individuals attempting to make a statement, these are citizens wishing to serve their nation. They serve in the infantry. They repair and maintain tanks, planes and ships. They fly, navigate, sail and drive all manner of machinery, vehicles and aircraft. They send missiles downrange. They keep supplies coming. They are interpreters and military analysts. They hunt down and kill terrorists.
            We — the American people — have trained them. We’ve invested time and dollars in their education, in their development as leaders, and in their contribution to teams. We put them out there on the front lines, and now — apparently — our Commander-in-Chief wants to call them back in.
            At a time when the Secretary of Defense and all the Service Chiefs are rightly concerned about readiness levels, when each of the military forces needs the continued funding and support of Congress to reset a force that has operated — and continues to operate — at a high tempo, it makes little practical sense to deprive the ranks of these professionals.
            We should be better than this.
            Many proponents of this new ban will say that it actually saves money … that the costs of providing specialized medical care to transgender troops deprives the services of funds that could be applied to weapons systems, training and operations.
            “Should we be spending any tax dollars to do gender reassignment surgeries when we have soldiers who don’t have body armor or bullets?” asked Republican Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler, a supporter of Trump’s decision. “We need to be investing every dollar that we have to meet the threats that we’re facing as a nation,” she added.
            Citing an internal study conducted by her office, Hartzler claimed that gender reassignment surgeries alone would cost the Defense Department $1.35 billion over the next 10 years.
            But the RAND report (to remind, commissioned by DoD) disputes that, calling the costs of transition-related treatments “relatively low” with an increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, roughly a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in “active-component health care expenditures.” The study also concluded that only a small percentage, estimated in the study to be between 29 and 129 service members, would even seek “transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.”
            So, yes, while there would be a financial cost to keeping the policy in place — and the concomitant time away for post-operative rest and recuperation — it’s beyond a stretch to assert that it would debilitate the military.
            Finally, there is the actual process … how this whole thing came about today. In a tweet. Without, apparently, much coordination with the Pentagon. Without any heads-up to Congressional leadership. Without a statement to our troops as to what this means for them and how it was going to be implemented.
            Politico posted an excellent piece this afternoon, citing sources that claim the President made this decision to ensure passage of a spending bill that would fund, among other things, his cherished border wall. If true, that represents the worst kind of political gerrymandering on an issue that should have been thoughtfully considered and weighed — just like Trump’s defense secretary had wanted to do in the first place.
            Only three weeks ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis informed the Hill that he needed another six months to review transgender recruiting, saying he would use the “additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality,” and would have those results in December of 2017.
            That reflection, additional analysis and further evaluation is now moot. There will be no thoughtful deliberation about consequences or impact, no careful planning about how to move forward one way or the other. Just a knee-jerk political decision with no input from those who must execute it. No consideration over the lives and careers it affects.
            We went from studying the impact of transgender recruiting to banning their service altogether at light speed, or should we say tweet-speed. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, that’s just not the way to set personnel policies in the greatest military on earth.

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            This was an ill-considered, unplanned, and poorly executed decision. It is as unfair to Pentagon leaders as it is cruel to the thousands of serving troops it directly affects. It violates the very ideals behind our all-volunteer force, deprives us of much-needed talent, and flies in the face of the President’s own promise to take care of our troops.
            We must be better than this.

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            ‘A Better Deal’ is more of the same from Dems

            (CNN)Democrats would like voters to believe the party’s slogan for its new economic agenda rolled out Monday, “A Better Deal,” describes a program aimed at fighting for regular people — even though it mostly rings like a sales pitch for a discounted item at a shopping mall. Worse, the specifics of the strategy are a path to more electoral failure, because “A Better Deal” embraces falsehoods about economic power while leaving a bankrupt system unchallenged.

            Right after the presidential election, I argued that the crisis facing Democrats, which was at least a decade of electoral losses in the making, boiled down to a failure to show voters any clear differences between the parties when it comes to propping up a failed economic system. As it now stands, it’s a system in which lobbyists shower both parties with money, tax cuts for business and keeping taxes too low on the wealthy are a bipartisan goal, health care is still something to leave in the hands of insurance companies and, above all, the glory of the “free market” is extolled by Democrats and Republicans.
            Until Democrats display the strength to reject the system, they’ll continue to lose, and “A Better Deal” is just more of the same.
              The stupefying foolishness of the plan is evident in three main points from Monday’s s outline offered in op-eds by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and three Democratic House members in which they purport to give the broad strokes of the party’s economic strategy.
              Schumer specifically says the party will fight to increase “workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15.” He and the House Democrats also talk a lot about retraining workers to give them skills to get higher-paying jobs. Most of the rest of the mumbo-jumbo is the typical warmed-over “innovation” and “don’t we all love small business” standard fare that excites elite policy wonks but is largely irrelevant to voters.
              Perhaps the most glaring omission here is that none of these party leaders use the word “union” even once. That isn’t entirely surprising: The typical party ethos going back to Bill Clinton has been to minimize the embrace of labor unions, beyond the occasional rhetorical gesture, except when it’s election season (read: when the party needs donations and campaign troops).
              But the “Fight for 15” has been primarily funded by unions, some of whom frankly were dragged into the battle by other affiliated organizations who were less than inspired by the Obama administration’s and congressional Democrats’ support for a paltry minimum wage hike to $10.10. To the consternation of the Wall Street wing of the party, the Bernie Sanders movement made $15-an-hour a central part of its economic message, and forced $15-an-hour as a goal, into the party’s 2016 platform.
              And if raising wages and preserving pensions is what Democrats want, they’re not going to get it without growing the power of unions. Unions built the middle class. Wages are low because, over the past several decades, employers have effectively stolen the productivity gains made by workers and only by revitalizing unions, publicly, aggressively and explicitly, will that change.
              Schumer and the House Democrats compounded this problem Monday by perpetuating the myth that workers need more skills to get “high-paying” jobs and that politicians can ensure they get those skills by, you guessed it, that sure-fire election winner: giving a tax credit to companies. This has been an untenable proposition going back to the 1990s, when then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich flogged his elitist “symbolic analysts” solution, in which workers can all find a place in the creative and knowledge economies, which supposedly fix everything.
              Reality is more difficult. Skills have nothing to do with the class warfare underway in the country. Workers are not dumb. It’s simple: There is no reason a retail worker, janitor or any worker who isn’t “highly skilled” can’t be paid a high wage, other than the lack of power to demand it through collective bargaining.
              Even so, today’s Democrats, with the “A Better Deal” slogan, have the temerity to channel Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” by explicitly stating, as Schumer does in his op-ed, “Our better deal is not about expanding the government.” Shame on them. That position betrays a continued acceptance by Democrats of a decadeslong Republican talking point that demonizes government, adopts the idea that taxes are too high and puts blind faith in the “free market.”
              Our problem has not been a growing government or a spending problem. It’s the priorities political leaders have set and how we raise money. And it’s a continued belief in “free market” neo-liberalism: a system that relies on market mechanisms, argues against expanding the role of the state and social services, and empowers corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of citizens.
              To take the current policy debate around health care as the perfect example, a large majority of people support universal, single-payer health care, which would entail expanding government’s role. Yet, Schumer is trying to short-circuit universal health care as a party priority, even though it would end up saving businesses and average people hundreds of billions of dollars.

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              The ideological straitjacket “A Better Deal” creates goes deeper than a neglect of history or a refusal to empower citizens. It’s a failure of political philosophy and imagination. Its advocates say they want to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare. But embracing a growing government would expand Social Security and Medicare, and, then, also fund free college education, and guaranteed annual incomes and a livable pension. We could fund some of that if, for example, we just cast off (a quarter-century after the Cold War ended) the government’s bipartisan priority to underwrite a bloated military and maintain the country’s prominence as the largest weapons merchant in the world, arming repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.
              Of course, to do any of these things requires a political spine, and leaders who finally admit that the “free market” system cannot be fixed. Until the Democrats get this message, they might as well have a slogan closer to “Better Hygiene, Better Grammar, Better Front Lawns.” At least it won’t mislead.

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              I read about Bannon and Clinton so you don’t have to

              (CNN)“Devil’s Bargain” — Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green’s in-depth exploration of the mind and machinations of former Breitbart News boss and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon — and “Shattered” — a painstaking account of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign by Jonathan Allen, also of Bloomberg, and Amie Parnes of The Hill — have both climbed the bestseller lists and monopolized the attention of the chattering classes since their releases. (“Shattered” was published in April; “Devil’s Bargain” hit shelves this past week.)

              They’re both absorbing reading for anyone interested in better understanding the unlikely and unprecedented set of circumstances that put reality show multimillionaire Donald Trump into the White House. Both offer fascinating (and juicy) revelations; neither should be read on its own, since their access journalism roots make each a half-book at best, covering just one of the two campaigns, and always from the perspective of sources whose personal agendas make them eager to talk.
              Here’s my scorecard of how they stack up.

                “Devil’s Bargain:” Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency

                Most compelling character:
                Given that the book reads like an odd hagiography of Steve Bannon, it’s impossible for him not to be its most compelling character: Brilliant, slovenly, gleefully opportunistic and given to profane eruptions and weird turns of phrase, proudly referring to Trump supporters as fellow “hobbits” and “grundoons,” and dismissing dumb and useless people as “schmendricks” and “mooks” (ironic, since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager was, of course, Robby Mook). A close second: Robert Mercer, the eccentric right-wing billionaire who backed the Trump insurgency. Prior to backing Donald Trump, Mercer’s primary electoral investment had been in the unsuccessful congressional campaign of a quack scientist with an obsessive fixation on human urine.

                  What you need to know about Steve Bannon

                Biggest revelation:
                Bannon conceived of activating the internet’s legions of disaffected, meme-addicted young males after investing (and losing his shirt) in IGE, a Hong Kong-based business that “farmed” gold and virtual items for resale to online gamers. Bannon realized that these underemployed and overeducated denizens of message boards like 4chan and Reddit were susceptible to misogynist and racist symbolism (when disguised with snark) and highly adept in launching viral campaigns. They became the digital shock troops for the booming growth of Breitbart News and, later, the Trump campaign.
                Most memorable quote:
                From Steve Bannon: “(House Speaker Paul Ryan is) a limp-d*** m***rf***er who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”
                Best anecdote:
                All the anecdotes that paint Bannon as larger-than-life even in his own mind, like the one about an oil painting of Bannon reimagined as Napoleon Bonaparte that hangs in his personal office — a gift from British ultranationalist and Brexit proponent Nigel Farage. Or the one about how Bannon recruited a strikeforce of “beautiful young women” to Breitbart News, whom he proudly referred to as his “Valkyries.”
                Best anecdote about Chris Christie:
                According to Green’s sources (or conjecture), Chris Christie’s exile from the Trump inner circle began when he dared to tell The Donald that when Clinton was ready to concede, President Obama would call the governor and Christie would hand his phone to Trump. Trump, a fanatical germophobe, was reportedly repulsed at the thought of having Christie’s mobile against his face and barked back, “Hey, Chris, you know my f***ing number. Just give it to the President. I don’t want your f***ing phone.”
                Key takeaway:
                Steve Bannon is a fascinating and monstrous character, who undoubtedly bears great responsibility for Donald Trump’s shocking victory. But the interesting revelations about Bannon are primarily constrained to the first half of the book, and focused mostly on his rise to power; by the book’s midpoint — when it begins to cover the campaign in earnest — Bannon feels oddly sidelined, and the narrative becomes much more of a by-the-numbers diary of Donald Trump’s slouch toward the Oval Office.

                “shattered:” Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

                  Authors: Hillary Clinton didn’t grasp populism

                Most compelling character:
                Not Hillary Clinton — but that’s by design, as Allen and Parnes’ thesis about the campaign’s failure depends on Clinton’s being framed as simultaneously world-weary and naive, controlling and remote, distracted and obsessive, but most of all, incredibly boring. Bernie Sanders comes off as far more interesting, though he’s also firmly presented as unelectable. Though a minor character, the most memorably described figure in the book comes early: Clinton true-believer Adam Parkhomenko, whose desire to see her elected president was so passionate that it led him to found the scrappy grassroots movement Ready for Hillary and spend a full decade tirelessly fighting to make her POTUS.
                Biggest revelation:
                Hillary Clinton was far closer to picking Elizabeth Warren as her running mate than anyone suspected — in part because they connected so deeply on the girl-wonk level. Would making the surprise pick of the popular — and populist — Warren have turned things around for Clinton? Quite possibly. The roadblock to Warren’s selection? She’d run afoul of President Obama, calling him out for nominating a banker to a key Treasury Department role. “It’s safe to say she’s not a favorite person in this building,” one White House official observed.
                Most memorable quote:
                “When you’re done with a condom, you throw it out.” — unnamed Democratic insider, whom Green describes as “familiar with Mook’s thinking,” discussing Robby Mook’s attitude toward the grass-roots zealots of Ready for Hillary.
                Best anecdote:
                In May 2016, when Hillary Clinton was being pressured to give a high-profile public interview in the face of the rise of Bernie Sanders and the relentless drip-drip-drip story of her private email server, she was asked by her communications chief what journalist she’d most prefer for a one-on-one TV conversation. Her team thought she said “Brianna,” and reached out to CNN’s Brianna Keilar as a result; Clinton had actually said “Bianna,” referring to Bianna Golodryga of Yahoo! News, the wife of former Clinton administration economic aide Peter Orszag. The interview — brutally intense, rather than softball — turned out to be “a disaster” for Clinton.
                Best anecdote about Bernie Sanders:
                Sanders was asked to film a TV ad to seal the deal of his endorsement of Clinton. He was fine with everything that the Clinton campaign asked him to say — putting a stamp of approval on her positions regarding education, health care and the minimum wage — but refused to say the script’s final words, “I’m with her.” “It’s so phony!” he griped. “I don’t want to say that.” He didn’t. The ad ultimately never ran.

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                Key takeaway:
                “Shattered” appears to have been written with a key assumption in mind: that Hillary Clinton was almost entirely responsible for her own defeat, and that this defeat was predestined because of her personal history and prior political choices she’d made. That makes it a strangely off-key read in an era where new revelations about Russian interference in the campaign and potential collusion (perhaps the true “devil’s bargain”) are erupting on a daily basis. But it also seems to put a capstone on Clinton’s political career, having her declare to her “Hillaryland” team after her loss that 2016 is the “last campaign” of her life. Fact, or wishful thinking on the part of the authors? We’ll undoubtedly see as the gears of 2020’s campaign begin to grind.

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                What we need to learn from Linkin Park frontman’s death

                (CNN)It’s a tragic day for the music industry. The lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his Los Angeles home at 41. Sadly authorities were treating the case as a possible suicide. Eerily, Bennington died on what would’ve been his dear friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday — the Soundgarden frontman hung himself on May 18, 2017. Both men are now part of a long, disturbing history of rock and roll and untimely death.

                Linkin Park was a groundbreaking rock band that shattered the music industry with 2000’s “Hybrid Theory.” In an era of overly sweet pop music with boy bands and copycat starlets, the group was a refreshing mix of angst, grit and raw emotion.
                Chester Bennington’s melodic but rugged voice helped spawn rock classics like “In the End,” “Numb” and “What I’ve Done.” Arguably, one of Linkin Park’s most brilliant (and unexpected) moments was pairing with Jay-Z for 2004’s “Collision Course.” The album was a mashup of Jay and Linkin Park, and launched the single “Numb/Encore.” Not since Aerosmith and Run-DMC did “Walk this Way” had people heard this perfect fusion of rock and hip hop. The six-track album was critically acclaimed and a smash hit, going to number one on the Billboard album chart and selling over two million copies.
                  One thing no one can deny is the significant pain in Bennington’s voice. He clearly purged his anguish through his music. Bennington was open with his history of abuse and struggles with drugs and alcohol, which he claimed helped him create some of the band’s biggest songs. When describing the song “My Suffering,” he told the music website in 2009 it’s “literally about (how) being an alcoholic and a drug addict has paid off for me in many ways. I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.”
                  He said that another song, “Crawling,” is “probably the most literal song lyrically I’d ever written for Linkin Park and that’s about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol. That feeling, being able to write about it, sing about it, that song, those words sold millions of records, I won a Grammy, I made a lot of money. I don’t think I could’ve been inspired to create something like that by watching someone else go through that. So in a lot of ways that’s been very constructive for me.” This sentiment is sadly familiar for many artists who are obviously struggling with pain or addiction and see the battle as a space of creativity.

                    Linkin Park singer on his past, drug use (2009)

                  Tragically, when I think about artists like Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell and so many more, I can’t help but wonder what is the price for singing the lifelong blues? Do you have to suffer for your art to create? Even back to the days of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, all of whom died too young, these artists were living every note, lyric and chord of their music.
                  Sure, pain and angst create great music. But considering the phenomenal artists we have lost in the past few years to suicide and inner demons, it is long past time to prioritize real mental health over the sporadic catharsis of bars and chords. According to, musicians are fifth in the top ten professions with high rates of depressive illness.
                  If you make a choice to not suffer for your art, can you still be a great artist? The answer is, yes. When Adele released her “25” album, she admitted she would no longer thrive off of depression to create. When Mary J. Blige was criticized for “getting happy,” she specifically told me in an interview for, “Some of them (fans) are mad at me for making the switch, but I would’ve died over there. Literally, I’d be six feet under.” Thankfully, Mary and Adele made the switch.

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                  I hope there is a lesson that can be learned in the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. We need to support our artists to be healthy and loved even when they evolve out of the sadness that inspired our favorite songs. Depending on pain to create is a dangerous road to travel. I can’t help but wonder about the sonic and vocal brilliance we will, now, never get from Chester Bennington.
                  Long live a god of rock.

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                  To fix health care, look to state governors

                  (CNN)The recent collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare can be blamed on disagreements about policy more than anything else.

                  For seven years, Republicans at all levels of government were able to articulate the simple message that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law had to go, and a set of better, market-based policies needed to replace it.
                  But once the GOP captured control of the White House and both houses of Congress, it became clear that the devil really was in the details. Within their own ranks, Republicans remain divided on fundamental questions of policy — whether to change how Medicaid is financed, whether there should to be tax credits to help low-income Americans afford private insurance, and how far to go in deregulating the marketplace.
                    So, what’s next? Republicans may soon vote on a bill that will mirror the 2015 legislation they passed (and Obama vetoed) repealing large parts of Obamacare, without an accompanying package of replacement reforms. This approach, dubbed “repeal and delay” because it offsets the repeal of Obamacare by two years, raises significant concerns. It would introduce dramatic uncertainty into the health care system, place the most vulnerable among us at risk of losing the coverage they need, and punt on the important work of replacing Obamacare with reforms that could actually lower costs and expand choices for consumers.
                    The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the impact of “repeal-and-delay” and found that, while it would decrease budget deficits significantly, it would also leave 32 million more Americans uninsured in 10 years, as compared to Obamacare. Moreover, a recent survey from the Associated Press and the University of Chicago showed that, by a 2-to-1 margin, those polled believed that Obamacare should not be repealed until a replacement was available.
                    This suggests that Republicans would be the ones who would “own” the political consequences for rising premiums, diminishing choices, and lost coverage during the two years before Obamacare is actually repealed — a period of time that includes a crucial midterm election.
                    Plus, the notion that a two-year delay would be an action-forcing mechanism is sheer folly. It is an approach that has never been particularly effective at encouraging policymaking amongst members of Congress on even the most urgent of priorities (see the much-maligned budget sequester for evidence of this).
                    But there is another route.
                    Despite the many policy differences between Republicans that torpedoed the recent repeal-and-replace effort, there was common ground between Senators (and many governors, as well as members of the House) on the value of federalism and state-led reforms in our health care system. This concord should form the basis of any future GOP discussions about the fate of Obamacare, or what should go in its place. It might even jumpstart bipartisan discussions about the future of health reform, as some Democrats have suggested that state-focused solutions are a reasonable step forward.
                    A number of existing legislative proposals speak to this emerging consensus.
                    The stalled GOP Senate bill included a notable provision that dramatically expanded upon a state innovation provision contained in Section 1332 of Obamacare. This section of current law allows states to waive many of the law’s mandates and requirements so long as they establish health solutions that don’t increase the federal deficit, and furnish coverage that is at least as affordable, comprehensive and widespread as that provided for by Obamacare.
                    The Senate bill basically eliminated these guardrails and deemed state reform plans presumptively valid, so long as they did not increase the federal deficit. Many conservatives cheered this change and believed it would create an “escape hatch” from Obamacare for many states, particularly those governed by conservative leaders.
                    Earlier this year, Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine — two skeptics of the Senate Republican legislation — introduced their own bill that, at core, would allow states the option of implementing Obamacare (with its mandates and requirements) or designing their own health systems, with some or none of Obamacare’s regulatory structure.
                    Their legislation would keep many of Obamacare’s tax hikes in place, but send this money to states that, at a minimum, elected to maintain protections for those with preexisting health conditions. While most conservatives balked at the notion of retaining so many of Obamacare’s tax increases, the federalist core of the Cassidy-Collins proposal should be appealing to Republicans looking for a way forward.
                    Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham has a proposal that mirrors many elements of the Cassidy-Collins proposal (in fact, media reports indicate that he worked with Cassidy on his plan) that would retain almost all of Obamacare’s tax hikes, as well as its protections for patients with preexisting conditions, in return for block grants to states. These grants would give states significant flexibility in each pursuing the solutions that suit their citizens best.
                    Republicans have long advocated for solutions that empower governors and state elected officials to address major public policy challenges. Reforms such as the landmark 1996 welfare reform legislation, which granted states significant latitude to design safety net programs that suited their populations best, illustrate the value that such an approach can have.

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                    Health care is an area where federalism not only has the potential to lead to more innovative solutions, but to forge consensus between conservatives — and maybe even across the partisan divide.

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                    Collectors Rejoice! Topps Just Released A Limited-Edition Hall Of Famers Pack That Includes Each Legends Stance On Abortion

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