“In the last 50 years, when the budget process has been in place, Congress has managed only four times to pass a budget on time and through the regular process. Seventeen times, members of Congress haven’t bothered to pass a budget at all. That hasn’t stopped them from spending money they didn’t have, or from making promises to voters they wouldn’t be able to fulfill. I doubt I need to remind you that it’s gotten worse. In the last half-decade, Congress added $5 trillion to the already elevated and growing federal debt with no plan for repayment.
Nor should I need to remind this column’s readers that government interest payments are growing quickly, propelled by higher interest rates applied to an expanding debt level. That’s the result of years of excuses that interest rates would remain historically low.
While you might see how legislators chose to believe that inflation and high interest rates were things of the past, there’s no excuse for ignoring the upcoming insolvency of programs like Medicare and Social Security. This looming calamity has been warned of for decades in government reports and scholarly publications.”
“At the heart of the commission’s charge must be a commitment not just to reduce some deficits but to put the government back on a sustainable track. As my colleague and former CBO Director Keith Hall convinced me, the commission will fail if it doesn’t have a clear target from the start.”
“Research has shown that people will skip necessary care if they have even a small cost to pay, and recent surveys find one in three Americans say they have postponed medical treatment in the last year due to the cost.”
“The Perry Undem survey, which polled nearly 2,700 Americans on behalf of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and RIP Medical Debt, also detected widespread struggles to afford health care. About 7 in 10 people say they have received a medical bill that they could not afford, it found, and more than 60 percent of Americans said they had made some kind of sacrifice — delaying care, skipping appointments, changing the food they buy at the grocery store, etc. — in order to afford health care in the past two years.”
“About 40 percent of people said they were always or frequently unsure how much their medical services would cost after they received care, according to the Perry Undem survey; another 30 percent said they were uncertain about the costs at least some of the time. Nearly two-thirds of US patients said they were at least sometimes unsure how much their insurance plan would cover after being treated.”
“About 6 in 10 Americans said they had experienced a problem using their health insurance in the past year, according to KFF.”
“One area where the Biden administration has set itself apart is in sending weapons to partner countries, and now we’re getting a more complete picture of what the US is sending Israel in the weeks since October 7.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the US has ramped up its previously minimal military aid to the country to an unparalleled $46.7 billion. Ukraine towers over the other major recipients in bar charts of US security assistance for 2022 and ’23. The US is sending so many munitions there that it has apparently strained American factories and led to a whole-of-government effort to revive military supply chains.
The US is also accelerating arms transfers to Israel in response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people and resulted in the kidnapping of more than 200. Last month, President Joe Biden announced from the Oval Office that he would seek “an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense” of $14.3 billion. “We’re surging additional military assistance,” he added.
But while Ukraine has never been a traditional recipient of heavy military aid, the US’s most recent support of the Israeli military builds on a long bipartisan American practice. Israel has received about $3 billion annually, adjusted for inflation, for the last 50 years, and is the largest historical recipient of US security aid. The Obama administration in 2016 announced the biggest security assistance package to the country ever, pledging $38 billion for Israel over the next decade. US support has ensured that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over neighboring Arab countries by having more advanced weapons systems, something Congress wrote into law in 2008.
Israel would not be able to conduct this war without the US, which over time has provided Israel with about 80 percent of the country’s weapons imports.”
“The US Defense Department believes the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is developing a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. That is, a heavy, multi-stage missile that leaves the Earth’s atmosphere and travels around the world at huge velocities before re-entering and descending toward its target at 20 times the speed of sound. Such missiles normally have a nuclear warhead: but this one, uniquely, would be armed with conventional explosives.
It’s an incredibly dangerous idea. A bad idea the Pentagon is intimately familiar with. After all, it tried to develop the same kind of “conventional” ICBM years ago – and ultimately gave up as it began to appreciate everything that could go wrong.
Namely, there seemed to be a good chance that, if US forces ever fired a conventional ICBM in anger, nuclear-armed countries would detect the launch, recognize the energy and trajectory of an ICBM – and be faced with an impossible dilemma.
Were the Americans launching a nuclear first strike? Would they lie, if asked? And how long could America’s nuclear rivals wait for clarification before launching their own nukes?
A non-nuclear ICBM was, and still is, a nuclear nightmare. That was the cold truth when the missile was an American idea. And it’s still the truth now that it’s a Chinese idea. “Conventionally-armed ICBMs would present significant risks to strategic stability,” the Pentagon warned in its latest annual report on Chinese military capabilities.”
“No other high-income country has suffered such a high death toll from gun violence. Every day, 120 Americans die at the end of a gun, including suicides and homicides, an average of 43,375 per year. According to the latest available analysis of data from 2015 to 2019, the US gun homicide rate was 26 times that of other high-income countries; its gun suicide rate was nearly 12 times higher. Mass shootings, defined as attacks in which at least four people are injured or killed excluding the shooter, have been on the rise since 2015, peaking at 686 incidents in 2021. There have been 565 mass shootings in the US in 2023 as of late October, including the Lewiston shooting, and at the current pace, the US is set to eclipse the 2021 record this year.”
“According to a database maintained by Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, there were 520 active attacks — defined as when one or more people are “actively killing or attempting to kill multiple unrelated people in a public space,” including but not limited to shootings — between 2000 and 2022. In many of those cases, police were unable to stop the attacker, either because the attack had already ended by the time they arrived or because the attacker surrendered or committed suicide. Only in 160 cases were police able to successfully intervene by shooting or otherwise subduing the attacker.
nother 2021 study from Hamline University and Metropolitan State University found that the rate of deaths in 133 mass school shootings between 1980 and 2019 was 2.83 times greater in cases where there was an armed guard present. The researchers argue the results suggest the presence of an armed guard increased shooters’ aggression and that because many school shooters have been found to be suicidal, “an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent.””
“In 2008, the Supreme Court effectively wrote NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s “good guy with a gun” theory into the Constitution. The Court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) was the first Supreme Court decision in American history to hold that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm. But it also went much further than that.
Heller held that one of the primary purposes of the Second Amendment is to protect the right of individuals — good guys with a gun, in LaPierre’s framework — to use firearms to stop bad guys with guns. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Heller, an “inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right.”
As a matter of textual interpretation, this holding makes no sense. The Second Amendment provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
We don’t need to guess why the Second Amendment protects a right to firearms because it is right there in the Constitution. The Second Amendment’s purpose is to preserve “a well-regulated Militia,” not to allow individuals to use their weapons for personal self-defense.
For many years, the Supreme Court took the first 13 words of the Second Amendment seriously. As the Court said in United States v. Miller (1939), the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was to “render possible the effectiveness” of militias. And thus the amendment must be “interpreted and applied with that end in view.” Heller abandoned that approach.
Heller also reached another important policy conclusion. Handguns, according to Scalia, are “overwhelmingly chosen” by gun owners who wish to carry a firearm for self-defense. For this reason, he wrote, handguns enjoy a kind of super-legal status. Lawmakers are not allowed to ban what Scalia described as “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.”
This declaration regarding handguns matters because this easily concealed weapon is responsible for far more deaths than any other weapon in the United States — and it isn’t close. In 2021, for example, a total of 14,616 people were murdered in the US, according to the FBI. Of these murder victims, at least 5,992 — just over 40 percent — were killed by handguns.”
“in 2022, the death rate for American infants increased for the first time in 20 years.”
“rates of congenital syphilis — that is, syphilis infections acquired in the womb — have risen tenfold over the past decade.
Although a lot of different risk factors drive each of these trends, there’s an important one they have in common: bad — and worsening — health care access for mothers and babies.
In the US, the obstacles mothers face in accessing health care are too often insurmountable — and as this latest data shows, the consequences to American children are dire. Things might only get worse, some experts fear, as financial, political, and social pressures drive providers further from many of the places where they’re needed most.
“We only are hearing about more [obstetricians] leaving and more maternity wards closing,” said Tracey Wilkinson, a pediatrician who specializes in reproductive health issues at Indiana University’s medical school. “I am terrified about what the data is going to look like next year.””
“Biden administration officials are increasingly at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over how it is conducting its military assault on Hamas and how the two countries envision the political future of Gaza, current and former U.S. officials say.
Amid dire scenes from hospitals in Gaza and a rising civilian death toll, frustration is building among administration officials who have repeatedly appealed to Netanyahu and his government to take more action to protect Palestinian civilians and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“We are concerned that they aren’t doing everything possible to reduce civilian casualties,” said one administration official. The comments came as Israeli forces moved in on Gaza City’s main hospital, where they said Hamas militants have been operating from an underground command center.
The friction between the two governments is over crucial long-term questions about who will govern the Palestinian enclave after Israel completes its military offensive. That includes the role of the Palestinian Authority — which currently governs the West Bank — and reviving diplomatic efforts for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, current and former officials said.
“There’s a looming gap between the U.S. and Israel on where we’re going to be in a month or two,” one former U.S. official said.
Although the U.S. and Israel have tried to present a united front publicly, the divide was exposed after Netanyahu last week said that Israel would have a security role in Gaza for an indefinite period.
Less than 24 hours later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back, making it clear the U.S. would not accept any suggestion of a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip or a blockade of the enclave.
The U.S. believes there can be “no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict, hence, no attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza,” and “no reduction in the territory of Gaza,” Blinken said during a visit to Tokyo.
Blinken also laid out his most detailed vision yet for the future of Gaza, saying it “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
The Palestinian Authority, which was pushed out of Gaza by its rivals in Hamas, administers semiautonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The U.S. and other world powers view the Palestinian Authority, which is internationally recognized but lacks strong popular support, as the only realistic alternative to Hamas, which the U.S. and other Western nations considers a terrorist organization.
Netanyahu, in turn, brushed off Blinken’s proposal, telling NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that Gaza needed to be demilitarized and deradicalized and any Palestinian force including the Palestinian Authority was not up to the job.”