“On October 19, 2015, Canadians voted to end nearly a decade of Conservative Party government and elect a new government led by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. Just over two weeks later, on November 4, Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister.
Five years earlier, a very similar series of events played out in Great Britain. On May 6, 2010, Britain held its most recent election where control of its government changed partisan hands — voters tossed out the incumbent Labour Party government and replaced it with a coalition led by the Conservative Party’s David Cameron. Just five days after the election, Cameron became prime minister.
Modern democracies, in other words, can and do transfer power very rapidly — and much faster than the two and a half months that separate President-elect Joe Biden’s election on November 3, 2020, and his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the official transition date established by the 20th Amendment. French President Emmanuel Macron won election on May 7, 2017, and was sworn in just one week later. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won his election on May 16, 2014. He became prime minister just 10 days later. Japan’s Abe Shinzo, the last Japanese politician to preside over a transition of partisan rule, also took office 10 days after his party won an election.
The dangers of a long lame-duck period have come into stark relief in the wake of last week’s storming of the US Capitol. America’s lame-duck period gave insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump two full months to plan the putsch that briefly occupied the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee in terror — and they were egged on this entire time by a president who encouraged them to stage a “wild” protest while lawmakers formally certified Biden’s victory on January 6.
Meanwhile, as the sitting president, Trump retained command and control over both federal law enforcement and US military forces that eventually helped secure the Capitol. For unclear reasons, the Pentagon was reportedly slow to approve emergency requests to send troops to regain control of the building. And, for as long as Trump is president, the nation’s capital will need to rely on the Trump administration to protect against future violence.
Even before Trump seemed to cheer on a violent attempt to overthrow Biden’s incoming government, the lame-duck president spent the post-election period doling out pardons to his cronies and handing out medals to his most sycophantic loyalists in Congress. While Trump’s abuse of the pardon power has been particularly egregious, it’s hardly unprecedented. President George H.W. Bush pardoned several former officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal more than a month after he lost his bid for reelection. President Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, as well as wealthy fugitive Marc Rich, during his final days in office.
American history is replete with examples of outgoing presidents who actively sabotaged their successor during the lame-duck period — sometimes in the middle of a historic crisis.
The United States, in other words, pays an enormous price for its long lame-duck period. There’s no good reason the US cannot join Canada, Britain, France, India, Japan, and other nations in transitioning swiftly to a new administration after a presidential election.”
“Despite Covid-19 surges in Europe, the United States of America’s extraordinary death toll remains among the worst in the developed world.
As of January 9, 2021, nearly 373,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US, with a death rate of more than 1.1 per 1,000 people, according to Our World in Data.
While there are nations with higher death rates, this still puts the US in the top 20 percent for deaths among the world’s developed countries, with more than twice the death rate of the median developed country.”
“As a result of Covid-19 surges in Europe, the US does look relatively better, compared to other developed nations, than in September. Back then, the US had seven times the death toll as the median developed country. That gap has shrunk massively — to two times.
That’s not because the US has done better but because Europe has done much worse. After managing to largely suppress the coronavirus over the spring and summer of 2020, Europe eased up over the late summer and fall, and saw huge surges as a result.”
“there are some countries that have managed the pandemic well. That includes some European nations like Denmark, Estonia, Cyprus, Finland, Norway, and Iceland. But the biggest success stories are Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan — which have broadly adopted more aggressive government measures against the coronavirus than America.”
“So why did the US fail so badly? A lot of this comes down to President Donald Trump. He pushed the country to reopen far too early and quickly, calling on states to “LIBERATE” their economies. He abdicated federal leadership and instead forced states, cities, and private entities to pick up the slack on a host of issues, particularly testing and, recently, vaccines. He downplayed the need for masks, outright mocking people, such as President-elect Joe Biden, for wearing them. The list goes on and on.
In comparison, other leaders around the world have taken Covid-19 more seriously — embracing social distancing, testing and tracing, masking, and, when necessary, more extreme measures like lockdowns. Even with the recent surge of the coronavirus, many countries across Europe have reacted quickly and aggressively by imposing lockdowns, slowing the spread of the virus. The US, by comparison, has by and large remained open, with some states still not requiring masks.
Clearly, not everything has gone perfectly in Europe and other parts of the world. A lot of people and places have screwed up their response to the coronavirus, showing that it’s no easy challenge.
But when the numbers are added up, the US remains an extraordinary failure in its handling of Covid-19.”
“for medical services, other wealthy countries are often paying half the price — or less — as private insurers in the United States.
The Netherlands, consistently ranked as one of the best health care systems in the world by advanced metrics, spends a quarter of what American insurers do on hip and knee replacements. A CT scan costs $1,100 in the United States and $140 in Holland. There are only a handful of isolated instances — childbirth in the United Kingdom, an angiogram or cataract surgery in New Zealand — where the cost of a particular service even approaches the US price.”
“The US is still the wealthiest country in the world. It’s home to the world’s leading biopharmaceutical industry. It tends to have the most cutting-edge treatments. All this contributes to higher prices here than elsewhere. But one big and unavoidable culprit is the lack of price regulation.
Private insurers, which cover more than half of Americans, negotiate with private providers and drug companies to set their prices. They do have some leverage (by denying a provider or drugmaker access to their patients) but it is more limited than in other countries. There is certainly significant price variation within the United States (with CT scans, for example, can cost anywhere from $250 to $1,500 depending on the location), but on average, prices for US private insurance are significantly higher than those seen under other kinds of health systems.
In some of the countries studied by the Health Care Cost Institute, like the UK, the government actually employs doctors and owns hospitals. Others, like Australia, have a universal public insurance program.
Even the Netherlands, which has a fully privatized insurance scheme, has placed more government controls on prices than the United States. Insurers there use global budgets, also common in single-payer systems, to pay providers, capping the amount they’re willing to pay per year to cover all of the services their customers need. It’s a hard limit on health care spending for the coming year, and then providers and payers negotiate prices for individual services based on that budget cap. It’s very different from private insurance in the United States, which is generally open-ended depending on how much medical care is used in a given year — and the price for those services.
Because of America’s high prices, there is a $3.5 trillion industry invested in the status quo.”