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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Hillary vs Bernie: An Important Difference On Guns

Category: 2016
Posted: 10/05/15 13:38

by Dave Mindeman

The Democratic choice between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is a tough one. (I'll leave Joe Biden out of the discussion...for now). On a purely liberal and progressive viewpoint, Bernie has a lot more to offer. He is clear on his opposition to the TPP. He has a no excuses critique of the big banks. He has a clear message on income inequality. And his message has never wavered over the years.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has been a bit late to the table on several issues. Gay rights, the Keystone XL pipeline, and she is still a bit ambiguous about the TPP. But although, she may have been late, her voice has clarity now and she makes a strong case for electability.

Given all that, there is one issue emerging that has a clear distinction between the two. And that is guns.

Hillary Clinton has never shied away from this issue. In the wake of the Oregon tragedy, she has come out boldly with an agenda that speaks to the victims of gun violence and takes on the NRA directly.

Clinton has made strengthening gun laws a centerpiece of her presidential campaign, vowing she would use her executive power as president to expand background checks for sellers at gun shows and online and back legislation banning domestic abusers from purchasing guns.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has a mixed record on this issue. He explains this by pointing out that Vermont is an outdoor hunting state and he has to reflect his constituents.

While Sanders has wooed the Democratic base with his liberal positions on issues like income inequality and college debt, he's struggled to defend a more mixed record on gun legislation -- a reflection, he says, of his rural, gun-friendly home-state.

Except Bernie is no longer running to represent Vermont. He wants to be President of the United States and the gun lobby must be confronted directly and firmly. In this area, Bernie needs to change.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013, Sanders backed all the Democratic gun bills brought up in Congress. But in 1993, he voted against the landmark Brady handgun bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period for gun purchasers, and he backed the 2005 legislation granting legal immunity to many in the gun industry.

That last point about "legal immunity" for the gun manufacturers is the key one. Hillary Clinton has made a direct call for a repeal of that bill which prohibits lawsuits against the gun "cartel". The only way we can make true significant progress on guns in this country is to make the gun manufacturers more accountable. We did it with big tobacco....we can do it with the gun lobby.

Bernie Sanders needs to reassess his position on this important issue. This isn't about hunting and fishing, this is about citizen safety....and doing the right thing.

This will be an important topic in the Democratic debate. Hillary and Bernie will be defending their positions. We need to listen carefully.
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It's About Guns - Again

Category: Guns
Posted: 10/02/15 12:49

by Dave Mindeman

This scene is getting way too familiar. A town devastated by a gunman shooting victims indiscriminately. At a school. Killing young people. With everybody looking for some kind of answer.

What makes America so unique in this carnage? Because we are you know. We are the only developed country that has to deal with this mass shooting phenomenon. We are alone. And we keep pretending that we don't know what we can do about it.

The right to own guns is not disputed. Hunters, sportsman, recreational shooting.....nobody is saying to restrict or end those endeavors. But guns are not toys. They are deadly....lethal...life ending. And there needs to be rules and regulations to minimize unintended consequences.

And frankly, it isn't just about preventing these mass shootings. Although that is certainly a main focus. Guns are also the primary means of suicide. They cause countless accidental deaths from children getting access. And other accidents which occur from individuals who have minimal training in how to handle a firearm.

Guns in society can't even be properly studied because the gun lobby pushed Congress to prevent any of those studies, which the CDC had proposed, from going forward.

We have a lot of rights in this country, many guaranteed rights. But we also recognize that a lot of those rights have limits. We are in the midst of a protracted debate on religious freedom vs. individual rights. That debate will go on, but nobody believes that either of those rights are without limits. And for reasons that still escape, we have put restrictions on voting. (That is a whole different discussion)

And the right to bear arms has some limits already. But every legal means of regulating guns gets weakened or eliminated by the powerful gun lobby. We have background checks but with absurd loopholes. We have restrictions on allowing some people to own guns, but the enforcement is weakened by data collection restrictions. And we allow for "gun free" zones but it gets negated by conceal/carry laws and by conflicts in the interpretation of the right to bear arms.

Owning a weapon is a basic right. But does it really mean that you can buy any kind of weapon? Having a weapon to protect your home makes sense. But shouldn't you be required to keep it safely tucked away so that children and visitors to your home are not subject to gun accidents?

The logic of the NRA also escapes me. The answer to bad guys with guns is more good guys with guns? Really? We have an example of the flaw in this logic in this Oregon tragedy. Although the campus was a "gun free" zone, the conceal and carry law seems to supersede that. And there was a student who had his weapon with him. But he told a newsperson that he did not engage because he was afraid of being shot by a swat team or law enforcement officer. And he was absolutely right. First responders do not have time to sort out "good guys" and "bad guys" - you can easily figure out that anyone with a weapon is a legitimate target.

Maybe we need more security personnel at these potential targets. But, seriously, do we really want to turn our schools, theaters, and malls into armed camps? Is that what we are about?

So what do we need? We need absolute universal background checks on every gun sale any time, to any one, and anywhere. No loopholes. None. And we need a complete and secure database that has reliable and complete data on felons, domestic abusers, and mental illness with a potential for violence. Even if we have some errors in these databases, and I hope we are careful enough to keep them to a minimum, how much of an imposition is it for a person not to have a gun? How much of your daily life is disrupted if you do not own a gun?

We need waiting periods so that people who want to act on a moment of passion cannot. We need to limit ammunition clips to smaller numbers of rounds. How much of an inconvenience can this be? And if you keep a gun in your home then you need to also own a lock box to keep it in.

Stand your ground laws need to just go away. It gives people an open ended thought process about how they can use their firearm. Self defense is already a legal defense, don't tie the courts hands with ambiguous legal reasoning on weapons use.

And, in addition, conceal and carry laws cannot give total discretion to the gun owner. People in business, schools, churches, and government buildings need to be able to exercise their judgment without NRA or other gun lobby entities interfering with determining a safe environment.

No one can guarantee that new gun laws will prevent what happened in Oregon from ever happening again. No one can do that. We are still an open society that carries a certain amount of risk. But we can and must reduce that risk by whatever means is reasonable.

And reasonable has not been a description of the NRA.
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Blaming MNSure For Premium Increases Is Simply Wrong

Category: Health Care
Posted: 10/01/15 17:40

by Dave Mindeman

It is worth noting that the GOP has locked in their health care talking points to a critique of MNSure.....not matter what the issue really is.

Today's release of the proposed increases by the insurance carriers gives the MN GOP the perfect opportunity to call for the end of MNSure...again.

But, you know what? It's never that simple.

As we seem to have to explain to the GOP from time to time, MNSure is a market exchange not a price maker. Premiums are determined by the insurers and frankly, they have done a pretty lousy job of establishing the market.

Let's review. The ACA did some very positive things that have greatly reduced the number of uninsured in this country. Greatly reduced! The new law got rid of pre-existing conditions. It allows children to stay on their parents insurance up to age 26. It has mandatory preventive coverages. It eliminated caps on lifetime coverage. It provides subsidies for people who find coverages that take up too much of their income. And it provides an exchange for the consumer to compare prices.

Now several of those benefits cost insurers a significant amount of additional money. Especially in the private market which makes up about 6% of Minnesotans. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could "pick" their market. They could eliminate sicker clients with pre-existing conditions. They could cap lifetime coverage and disguise what is and isn't covered. And they could make the patient pay for "optional" preventive maintenance.

Those were the basics for insurance premiums before the ACA went into effect. It was a different marketplace going forward and frankly, the insurers misread it badly.

I think their expectation, about how many and what type of people would be added because of the mandate, was pretty much wrong. And the number of people with chronic disease states that were unable to get insurance previously was underestimated.

The pool was different and it will take time for that situation to stabilize. I believe that, as an example, Preferred One entered the marketplace with an expectation that volume would outweigh additional risk. They were wrong. And I suspect very strongly, that these increases that the industry as a whole are now proposing are an overcompensation for previous bad analysis.

This is not MNSure's fault. Putting Minnesota on the Federal exchange doesn't change Minnesota's marketplace. It just takes away local state control.

MNSure still has a lot of work to do to get its operations smoothed out, but what the insurers are charging is not the fault of the exchange.

A lot of the issues with MNSure and the ACA are a direct result of continuing to keep the insurance companies in control of providing health care. They are bad at it....and getting worse.

There is still a simple solution to fix all of it. Single payer.

The MN Health Plan is ready to go...available with a simple waiver. If the Republicans are truly serious about getting rid of MNSure for a better system, the answer is a straightforward single payer plan.

Problem solved.
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