HEJE Overview 6-4-17

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Unless we wish to spend the next years hurtling to its endless bottom, we’d be well served by more carefully distinguishing between what is said and what is done, and paying more attention [to] the latter than the former.” —the Guardian, 6-4-17

HEALTH & HEALTH CARE

  • More modest-to-gloomy predictions about the future of the Senate’s version of the AHCA, or perhaps just efforts to “temper” unrealistic conservative hopes for the elimination of nearly all benefits of the ACA. One short-term goal is to stabilize the existing ACA market until other legislation is passed.
  • Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) claims that tax reform will be easier to pass than ACA repeal and replace. In a Saturday radio interview, Johnson stated: “Healthcare is a problem because ObamaCare is such a mess. I mean, it is collapsing insurance markets. We may have to break this into two pieces. Do kind of a real triage, a short-term measure to stabilize the markets, then take our time and actually have a healthcare bill that will restrain the cost in healthcare.”
  • A number of states, counties, and even localities are suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic, but the cases are proving difficult to prosecute. There is plenty of blame to go around, so pinning it on any one contributor with an eye to compelling them to pay for the consequences is difficult. The list of potential contributors: “Doctors were too loose with their prescribing practices. The scientific community published and depended on letters and papers that downplayed the risk of addiction from opioids. … Pharmacies and distributors allegedly failed to report suspicious orders for controlled substances from patients or doctors. … The FDA approved new, more powerful opioids but did not demand further restrictions on how they were distributed. The DEA did not impose quotas on how many opioids were manufactured.”

When everybody’s to blame, it usually ends up being nobody’s fault.

  • Drug importation from Canada (and the rest of the world, including the third world) is fine for pharmaceutical manufacturers—they benefit mightily from it, given that 40% of the drugs sold in the U.S. are already imported, as are 80% of the ingredients—but continues to be banned for pharmacists and consumers. “The means of keeping prices high vary, but include lengthy patents to push production of generics into the future, the barring of foreign competition (usually on ‘safety’ grounds), and the prohibition of negotiations to lower prices for bulk purchases by both the federal and state governments.”

ENVIRONMENT

  • Category of “Okay, we knew this”: Who are the actual beneficiaries of POTUS’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement? Senator Elizabeth Warren spells it out, as if she needed to.
  • David Victor, a professor of global policy and strategy at UCSD, offers a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis-explanation-fact check of POTUS’s speech withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

Our question: Who wrote this speech? Or was it a group effort?

JUSTICE

  • Deputy AG Rosenstein asserts that the Justice Department’s harsher policy on drug offenders is intended to address gangs and violent drug-related violent crimes, and will not affect policies on sentencing of low-level offenders, not normally prosecuted by federal prosecutors.

That may be the intent, but it won’t be the result.

EDUCATION

  • The parent of a 5-year-old applying to Challenge Charter School in Arizona gets schooled by its principal and board member—who just happen to be the daughter and wife of the former Chairman of the Arizona Board of Education, who owns the charter.
  • Some good news for the Chicago Public School system, if such a thing is possible: the Illinois legislature has approved Chicago’s return to an elected school board. Both houses voted for the measure by veto-proof majorities, although the two versions will have to be reconciled. The return to an elected board was opposed both by the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and by the Democratic mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel.

A perfect illustration in miniature of what’s wrong with Illinois politics.

  • Re-posting: Four Mississippi public school students’ parents sue the state for its violation of a binding obligation to provide a “uniform system of free public schools” which dates back to 1869, and was a condition for the state’s rejoining the union after the Civil War. The lawsuit was filed on May 23 by the Southern Poverty Law Center; plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by the firms of O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Skellenger Bender (Seattle).
  • Related to the above: Housing segregation and school segregation go hand-in-hand—and a new book shows how the federal government’s housing policies contributed to the former—and indirectly caused a heightening of the latter. An interview by Jake Blumgart with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, which examines the history of federal housing projects after World War II in particular. Rothstein on whether it can be solved: “To make a dent we need very, very radical programs that we are not even in a position to be thinking about now. We are laboring under this myth of de facto segregation and that it all happened by accident. Unless we understand that this is a government-created landscape, a policy created on purpose to segregate the races, then we aren’t even in a position to begin discussing how to change it.”
  • And speaking of housing—which is so intimately related to public schools’ quality and degree of integration—carsonwatch.org this week offered a brief guide to the major beneficiaries of drastic cuts to the HUD budget: private real estate developers.
  • A concrete example of how the use of vouchers allows upper-middle class parents to subsidize their children’s attendance at exclusive private schools poor children (of all races and ethnicities) could never afford. “Vermont’s voucher program is a microcosm of what could happen across the country if school-choice advocates … achieve their vision. By subsidizing part of the cost of private schools in or out of state, it broadens options for some Vermonters while diverting students from public education and disproportionately benefiting wealthier families ….”
  • The Secretary of Education (and the department) has honed the following techniques to avoid answering questions by members of Congress and education writers—and everyone else: (1) answer a question other than the one being asked; (2) answer the question by appealing to “choice”; (3) don’t respond at all.

ILLINOIS UPDATE

  • Caterpillar whistleblower may be awarded as much as $600 million in tax fraud case involving the part replacement branch of the company, which registered and declared offshore profits in Switzerland without changing actual U.S. operations. It has been determined that the company owes up to $2.4 billion in unpaid taxes over the course of 13 years.
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