Best columns: The U.S.
What happens when disaster strikes?
If a disaster comes—and it will—“the Trump administration is not ready for it,” said Noah Rothman. Eventually, every White House “is tested to the brink by some exogenous, black-swan event.” By this point most administrations are “largely staffed up,” but “the Trump administration is not.” He’s nominated just 117 of the 559 appointments requiring Senate confirmation. As hurricane season arrives, with forecasters predicting more storms than average, vacancies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies have left disaster relief and preparedness in the hands of acting directors and low-profile bureaucrats. If the U.S. is confronted with a geopolitical crisis in, say, Qatar, Iran, or North Korea, our State Department is woefully thin on crucial diplomatic staff. In the wake of the Ebola and Zika epidemics, “the prospect of a catastrophic health event looms larger than ever,” yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no permanent director. Consumed by political disasters “almost entirely of his own making,” Trump seems focused only on potential political damage and protecting his image. But he’s apparently given little thought to the possibility of a reallife cataclysm, and eventually he—and Americans—will pay the price.
Failure may lead to single-payer
“Single-payer health care is all the rage,” said Reihan Salam. Until recently, liberals who pushed for a Canadian-style, government-run universal health care system were widely seen as “hopelessly naïve.” No longer. Single-payer is now emerging “as the consensus position” for House Democrats, with 112 of the 193 members co-sponsoring the “Medicare for All Act.” California is also considering a state-run singlepayer system. Don’t be surprised if the 2020 Democratic nominee runs on a single-payer platform. The reality is that single-payer “would be a costly mistake,” with radical implications for our health-care system, but it’s becoming more popular because both Obamacare and Republican alternatives to it are so flawed. The Obamacare insurance exchanges have failed to be competitive in many states, so many Democrats want to cut insurance companies out as middlemen. Republicans, meanwhile, have proven “utterly incapable of offering an attractive alternative” to Obama care. Their current plan is “an inchoate mess”—nothing but Obama care with much smaller subsidies. If the public thinks it must choose between the Republican plan and Medicare for all, “Republicans shouldn’t be surprised” if a majority chooses single-payer.
America’s hidden class system
The New York Times
America pretends to be a country without a class system, said Richard Reeves, but for the wealthy, “the class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency.” Those in the top 20 percent of income distribution—making more than $200,000 a year—have been getting a larger and larger share of the country’s wealth pie, widening the gap with the struggling middle class. The upper middle class likes to believe the U.S. is “a meritocracy” where wealth and success are earned rather than inherited. But people in this income group do everything possible “to give their own children a leg up”—and do so quite successfully. Research shows that most of those born into the top 20 percent stay there, or at worst drop one quintile. Why? Well-to-do people are able to live in enclaves protected by exclusionary zoning, so their property taxes can lavishly fund elite public schools; if the affluent live in cities, their children attend exclusive private schools. These children also benefit from expensive tutors and private coaching, and from alumni preferences at the nation’s best colleges. The result is that today “the U.S. is more calcified by class than Britain.” So please, let’s stop pretending otherwise.