Good Friday Morning! I continue to ignore the Stormy Daniels story. Until that story matters in a legal sense, it’s the most useless gossip story in DC. The one that probably does matter, John Bolton’s ascension, is full of hysterics. If you want reality, read his essays yourself in Commentary Magazine, where he wrote influential pieces on both Israel and the topic of sovereignty.
But everything, in my mind, was eclipsed by two stories: The March for their lives, and the recent announcement that Walmart is exploring buying Humana. The gun control march is getting proffered as evidence there is a growing consensus against gun rights, but aside from some meaningless movement on vague polls, I do not see it. And the Walmart news could shift how everyone uses health insurance very soon. I cover both topics below. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
Only one article this week, but this was a featured article on the Conservative Institute. I wrote about why I see the March for their Lives as a fraud.
The fraudulent march for their lives
I’m keeping with the theme from my initial column at the Conservative Institute. Primarily because a few days after that article got published, the Washington Post ran some polls of those marchers that confirmed my central point: the entire thing was a sham.
One of the central points I made in that column was that Democrats were using the kids to hide behind their protests:
Democrats enjoy trotting out kids because it’s an attempt to end the discussion. Any attempt to debate the ideas these kids bring gets met with derision. You simply can’t say that these are incoherent, illogical ideas, which are disproven by fact and reality without being labeled a bully.
Liberals and their media enablers treat these kids as unimpeachable. Whatever they say is the golden truth and irrefutable — because they’re kids. It’s a convenient cover for the adults to hide behind, especially Democratic politicians who don’t dare speak negatively about guns, lest they feel the wrath of their constituents.
That’s the dirty secret in this entire national moment: Democrats are intellectual and moral cowards. They’re using children as cover to prevent dealing with the fact that their anti-gun voters are out of touch with reality. Take newly elected Democratic Representative Conor Lamb, who just won Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district. He’s pro-gun and says he agrees with President Trump on pro-gun issues.
Lamb faced no primary; he was chosen in the proverbial smoke-filled room full of politicians and strategists. You’ll notice that no one on the anti-gun left is attacking Lamb, only Republicans. Lamb doesn’t come up during the march because he’s a pro-gun Democrat, and you can’t attack your party.
The Washington Post’s (paywall) story polled participants at the march and found a radically different story than what is got reported in the media:
Like other resistance protests, and like previous gun-control marches, the March for Our Lives was mostly women. Whereas the 2017 Women’s March was 85 percent women, the March for Our Lives was 70 percent women. Further, participants were highly educated; 72 percent had a BA or higher.
Contrary to what’s been reported in many media accounts, the D.C. March for Our Lives crowd was not primarily made up of teenagers. Only about 10 percent of the participants were under 18. The average age of the adults in the crowd was just under 49 years old, which is older than participants at the other marches I’ve surveyed but similar to the age of the average participant at the Million Moms March in 2000, which was also about gun control.
Participants were also more likely than those at recent marches to be first-time protesters. About 27 percent of participants at the March for Our Lives had never protested before. This group was less politically engaged in general: Only about a third of them had contacted an elected official in the past year, while about three-quarters of the more seasoned protesters had.
Even more interesting, the new protesters were less motivated by the issue of gun control. In fact, only 12 percent of the people who were new to protesting reported that they were motivated to join the march because of the gun-control issue, compared with 60 percent of the participants with experience protesting.
Instead, new protesters reported being motivated by the issues of peace (56 percent) and Trump (42 percent), who has been a galvanizing force for many protests.
In other words, the majority of these people were adults who attend multiple protests, and tend to protest because they don’t like Trump or for “peace.” 88% of the people there didn’t attend because they wanted more gun control. And remember, the author of the above piece isn’t some right-wing polling group, she’s a professor at a university writing a book called “The Resistance.”
This wasn’t a gun control march; it was adults using kids to hide behind their anti-Trump movement. They’re trying to use the presence of kids to end the debate on guns, Trump, and any political debate. The kids went through traumatic events, and now they’re used as pawns by Democratic political strategists.
So yeah… I’m sticking with the fraud angle.
Seismic Shifts in the Health Insurance Industry
When I’m asked how I follow political news, I always say to follow business news first. Whatever is happening in the business realm will eventually impact the political world. A famous saying is that politics is downstream from culture. I’d agree with that, and I’d also add that politics is downstream from business and economics.
The big news from the Wall Street Journal, breaking as I write this, is: Walmart is in Early-Stage Acquisition Talks with Humana:
Walmart Inc. WMT 1.37% is in preliminary talks to buy insurer Humana Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would mark a dramatic shift for the retail behemoth and the latest in a recent flurry of big deals in health-care services.
It isn’t clear what terms the companies may be discussing, and there is no guarantee they will strike a deal. If they do, the deal would be big: Humana currently has a market value of about $37 billion.
Should there be a deal—and should regulators and shareholders bless it—it would transform Walmart overnight into one of the nation’s largest health insurers. It would immerse the company in a complicated industry, one that continues to evolve eight years after the Affordable Care Act was enacted and as Washington remains deeply divided over health-care policy.
The talks come as health-service providers are rapidly pairing off and retailers—particularly pharmacy chains—are looking to diversify and bulk up in the face of the competitive threat from e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc.
In December, CVS Health Corp. agreed to buy Humana rival Aetna Inc. in a $69 billion deal aimed at allowing the drugstore-chain to capture more of what consumers spend on health care. In March, health insurer Cigna Corp. agreed to buy Express Scripts Holding Co. , the biggest administrator of prescription-drug benefits in the U.S., for $54 billion.
Walmart has a vast pharmacy business, with locations in most of its roughly 4,700 U.S. stores and in many of it Sam’s Club warehouse locations. Humana is a Medicare-focused insurer that could deepen Walmart’s relationship with a key demographic—seniors—at a time when the retailer is being threatened by Amazon on several fronts.
We’re witnessing a seismic shift in health insurance. No health insurance company is acting as if it can survive, in the long term, without a merger or by becoming an acquisition target. Obamacare repeal has stalled, and insurers face the looming cliff of Baby Boomer retirees entering Medicare and needing aid en masse.
If you recall, around a year ago, all the major health insurers were trying to merge with one another. Eventually, between DOJ review and internal fighting between the parties, all the merger deals collapsed. But the logic at the time was direct: no company wanted to be the last one without a merger or acquisition partner. No company seems to believe they can survive in the long term.
Nothing has changed for any of these companies. Merging with other insurance companies was blocked. Many of them started combining with pharmacy services to drive down those costs. But Walmart is an entirely different ballgame.
Walmart signals a shift in thinking for insurance companies: combine with major retail players to survive. The retail players have to have a pharmacy presence and the ability to reach a large number of consumers. That list is short.
CVS and Aetna are working on merging. Walmart could potentially buy out Humana. That leaves UnitedHealth and Anthem as the two players left behind, with no significant deals announced. Cigna and ExpressScripts could present a potential target, but they’re trying to merge right now too.
Amazon is an easy answer for a potential buyer, they’re loaded with cash and are working with JP Morgan and Warren Buffet to create a solution for health insurance and corporate America. Buying an insurance company goes a long way towards solving that problem.
Other potential buyers, Kroger, Walgreens, Target, and major tech companies like Apple or Google. Kroger, in particular, could benefit from owning one of these companies. They have a significant pharmacy footprint, compete with Walmart and Amazon, and could use that flexibility to expand.
No one wants to be the last person without a partner. I have no reason to doubt the Wall Street Journal’s reports. And neither will any of the companies I’ve listed. Watch for the next few weeks, because just like the last merger frenzy, when one company leaked it was moving, the rest followed suit very quickly.
The political firestorm around what is happening to the health insurance industry will follow quickly after that.
Links of the week
The Police Shooting of Stephon Clark Is Deeply Problematic – David French, National Review
Roseanne revival is a wake-up call for Hollywood – John Podhoretz, The New York Post
‘Roseanne’ BLOWS UP In The Ratings. Trump Supporters Cheer. But There’s One Really Big Problem For Conservatives. – Ben Shapiro, The Daily Wire
I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends. – Isabelle Robinson, The New York Times
No One Is Saying That – Noah C. Rothman, Commentary Magazine
The Great Equalizer – Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review
CNN host apparently unaware that people have indeed called for the repeal of the Second Amendment – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
The White House physician is now simply ‘Trump’s doctor’ – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
Team Obama’s smear machine-in-exile mobilizes to destroy Iran-deal critics – Seth Mandel, The New York Post
Satire piece of the week
BOSTON, MA—A team of mathematicians at Harvard has been tracking the rapid rate of resignations and firings of White House personnel, and the group has calculated that President Trump will be the sole remaining member of the White House by approximately 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Unsustainable rates of White House staffers resigning and getting fired confirm the projections, according to the study.
“Based on current levels of depletion,” Dr. Mark Parsons said, “White House staff will be entirely gone just a little after lunch tomorrow. Our entire nation will be run by President Trump alone, who will have to handle everything from the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs to mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets.”
Thanks for reading!