If you are wondering what is in each week’s email, here is the inaugural issue sent out on 05/29/2016. Each week I’ll highlight different topics and provide different links. I’m providing this free. The main goal is to help build a readership outside social media outlets that are making harder for ideas to make it on their networks. I hope you enjoy it, and if you like it, remember to sign up!
Thank you for reading the inaugural issue of The Outsider Perspective, a weekly email from The Beltway Outsiders.
On the site, I laid out the updates on the site and the goals for these emails. Starting this month, I will send out the newsletter each Friday or Saturday, giving updates on me, the site, and news I’ve been reading throughout the week. I hope this information will help equip you to understand some of the headlines in the news for the week. I’ll also provide you with some quick hit links that are worth your time to read and think through.
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Today, I’ll be covering Trump, Clinton, and some news in the Health Insurance industry that will have a large impact on Obamacare that you may not know. After the analysis are some quick links and must reads that I’ve enjoyed this week.
1. Let’s talk Trump.
I’ve avoided writing a column on Trump. It felt like, for a while, I was writing about the man every other week. It gets old after a while to see the only content on your site be related to one person. But he can’t be avoided. Donald Trump is the 800 lb gorilla in the political conversation right now and there is no getting away from him. Here are a few thoughts on some of the stories I’ve been following.
The Trump University lawsuit scandal continues to be in the news. This is the case where the plaintiff’s are alleging Trump defrauded people, sometimes up to $35,000 a person, for real estate advice given at the defunct “school.” Trump spent 12 minutes of a hour long speech blasting the judge in that case. He continues to insinuate he is being treated badly because the judge is a “Mexican.” The judge was born in Indiana. To me, this is an example of Trump pandering to racists.
The next major problem: Trump’s finances. If you’ll recall, Trump refuses to release his tax returns. He claims this is due to an audit being taken place on his finances. This is false. Nothing is preventing him from releasing returns. It is entirely his decision. Audits do not prevent disclosure. One of the reason people suspect Trump refuses to release his finances: He’s not as rich and successful as he claims. Trump continually claims he’s worth over $10 billion. However, this week, one of his top aides told Senate Republicans that Trump’s campaign was low on cash and would not have money to fend off attacks from Hilary Clinton in the summer months. Trump’s aide said the candidate would be dependent on the Republican National Committee (the fundraising arm of the GOP) to provide money for the Trump campaign. The Washington Examiner’s sources said that GOP insiders believe Trump is setting the groundwork to blame the GOP in the event he loses the campaign. Trump’s aim is to protect his reputation first.
Trump’s admission he’s cash poor has brought out news from a variety of sources point out Trump’s business failures. This piece on HotAir by AllahPundit provides some good insights on the details and problems of Trump’s funding problems.
The reason funding is a BIG deal in campaigns: Presidential candidates are expected to help raise A TON of money for the general election campaign. That money is spread out to help House and Senate campaigns across the country. Trump has based his entire campaign on free media exposure. The New York Times estimated this exposure to be the equivalent to $2 billion in free advertisement for Trump. Trump’s ground game in states has come entirely from RNC help (the establishment). If Trump is a drag on party resources for a Presidential campaign (especially if the News Media stops giving him free media), it will strain the GOP’s ability to help House and Senate races that are closely contested.
Also, as a parting shot, not only is Trump potentially deadweight on GOP finances, he’s also spending his time attacking Republicans after wrapping up the nomination. This makes any talk of “unity” cheap and meaningless. That same Washington Post piece says half of GOP voters say Trump does not represent the core tenets of the party. Which makes sense since Trump is a liberal. Trump is attacking anyone different than him, not uniting. Republicans are united because they hate Clinton, not because they like Trump.
2. Hilary Clinton should be indicted on violating federal laws on classified information. This is not hyperbole.
That headline is not hyperbole. The newest revelation on Clinton was the Office of Inspector General’s report saying that Clinton violated State Department rules on classified information. Judicial Watch has posted the entire report.
The report reveals what was already suspected: Hilary Clinton violated federal law in holding classified information. There is a 99% chance her server was hacked and open to foreign eyes. The IRS is hit with 1 million malicious attacks a day. Hilary Clinton’s unsecured server is almost guaranteed to have been hacked. Mark Cuban and other Silicon Valley tech founders say the same thing: There are two types of people: Those who have been hacked, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked. Pretending Clinton’s server was secure is a fantasy.
Staff were advised to never talk about the server. The reason the server was set up in the first place was to avoid FOIA requests (a government transparency law that allows private citizens to request information be made public). And to top it off, the Obama administration is fighting to ensure that Clinton does not have to testify in a deposition.
For comparison, Politico reported on a Navy Sailor who pled guilty to charges stemming from the Espionage Act, charges drawing comparison to Clinton’s email:
“Prosecutors allege that Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier used a cellphone camera to take photos in the classified engine room of the nuclear submarine where he worked as a mechanic, the USS Alexandria, then destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card after learning he was under investigation.
Last July, Saucier was indicted on one felony count of unlawful retention of national defense information and another felony count of obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty Friday to the classified information charge, which is part of the Espionage Act, a prosecution spokesman confirmed. No charge of espionage was filed and no public suggestion has been made that he ever planned to disclose the photos to anyone outside the Navy.
The sailor now faces a maximum possible sentence of up to ten years in prison, but faced up to 30 years if found guilty on both charges. Federal guidelines discussed in court Friday appear to call for a sentence of about five to six-and-a-half years, although the defense has signaled it will seek a lighter sentence.”
The best defense Clinton backers are giving is: “Previous Secretaries of State did the same thing. What she did was in line with those people.” This attack is easily dismissed: 1) Clinton is the only federal government official to set up a private server to host her email in order to avoid FOIA. No other official has ever done this. Other SOS’s used private email accounts like Yahoo or Gmail. 2) A violation by one SOS does not mean Clinton did not violate the law. Two wrongs don’t make a right. 3) There is standing evidence Clinton’s use of the server allowed top secret classified data to fall into foreign hands.
Clinton should be indicted. It’s not even a close question.
3. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is Crumbling, But Not How You Think
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that health insurance providers Cigna and Anthem had started fighting with each other over the details in a proposed merger. The bickering comes as the Cigna / Anthem merger and the Aetna / Humana merger are in early approval stages with the Department of Justice. The 4 companies represent 4 of the top 5 health insurance carriers in the country. If allowed to merge, instead of 5 large companies, the market would have 3 super size companies. The Department of Justice is charged with determining whether or not these deals violate anti-trust laws and create a monopoly in the industry.
The WSJ Moneybeat podcast on this story brought up a few good points: 1. The mergers in the health insurance industry started in 2014. Going back to that year, you’ll see that all the insurance companies were talking to each other over merging. 2. Once one set of companies announced they were merging, everyone else jumped into the pool too. No one wanted to be the last company out. 3) The bickering between the companies shows that companies are merging out of survival, not because they want to merge.
So why are companies doing this now? And how does it affect you?
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed for a multitude of reasons, but one of them was to increase competition in the marketplace and force insurance carriers to take on more expensive clients. In order to off-set the cost of providing services for sicker patients, the individual mandate was put in place to for everyone to buy health insurance. By forcing everything to purchase health insurance, or pay a fine, the idea was that the health people who didn’t need insurance would off-set the costs of paying for the sick.
The young and healthy are not signing up for health insurance in high enough numbers. And those are who signing up for health insurance are sicker than previously estimated, which is driving up costs.
This led UnitedHealthcare Insurance company to leave the Obamacare Insurance exchanges. The costs are too high and they are losing money. Staying in the exchanges would force either much higher rate hikes than people want to pay or increasing losses in expenses. This leaves other companies to hold a larger burden of the exchange marketplaces.
Which brings us back to the merger frenzy in the health insurance industry. The WSJ reported that all the companies started having informal merger talks back in 2014. Back in 2014, insurance companies had a few years of steady data from the exchanges and could extrapolate out from that data to see how Obamacare would impact their budgets. The picture was bleak: merge or struggle to survive.
The reason companies want to merge is so they can have better leverage over the government when setting rates. The anticipation these companies have is this: If all the companies leave the exchanges, there would be a public outcry and Democrats would likely try to force them to participate in the exchanges via a law change. Merging and creating few competitors allows the companies to exert more force and leverage against the government in setting rates.
My prediction in this area: You’ll see more merger talk. Democrats will eventually use the mergers to say competition is not happening, and we should just move from 3 super size companies to a single payer system. From multiple providers to one: the US Government.
Which is why, even as Anthem and Cigna’s board room fight spills out into the national newspapers, they’re still likely to merge in the end because this is about survival. Survive Obamacare or die.
Quick slants and must reads:
What I’m reading:
Written to a tech startup crowd, but conveys more philosophy than startup basics. Thiel’s business philosophy, as it were. The insights in it can be applied to a variety of areas. The book has received rave reviews and I’ve enjoyed it.
Quote from the book:
“We still need new technology, and we may even need some 1999-style hubris and exuberance to get it. To build the next generation of companies, we must abandon the dogmas created after the crash [the 1999 dot-com bubble crash]. That doesn’t mean the opposite ideas are automatically true: you can’t escape the madness of crowds by dogmatically rejecting them. Instead ask yourself: how much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes? The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” (page 22).
What I’m listening to:
Podcast: The Federalist Radio Hour: 05/13/2016 Episode: “How Social Justice Warriors are Ruining Comic Books for Everyone.”
This episode features Matt Battaglia, a comic book designer, illustrator, and enthusiast. He talks about Captain America: Civil War and the intersection of politics and comics in American culture. Some great points are discussed about how modern comic book movies are more than just summer blockbuster movies. These movies, particularly Marvel, are commenting on the political discussions in America. Matt also gives some great recommendations for graphic novels.
If you enjoy podcasts, I highly recommend the Federalist Radio Hour.
What I’m watching:
Bloomberg’s “Hello World” show did a short video on living under Israel’s Iron Dome. It’s a great summary on what Iron Dome is and how Israel is deploying it against missile strikes.
Social Media Post of the Week:
HILLARY: His tax plan is vague
TRUMP: She murdered Vince Foster and made it look like a suicide
CNN: Trump and Clinton trade attacks
— Mark Agee (@MarkAgee) May 24, 2016
Thanks for reading!