WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential front-runner candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled proposals for reforming U.S. healthcare that included repealing Obamacare, allowing prescription drugs to be imported, and turning the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants to states.
The plan also calls for the sale of health insurance plans across state lines, full deduction of health insurance premiums from income tax and adds: “We must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance.”
Trump, who is the front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee in November’s presidential election, is also proposing allowing individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HAS) to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Contributions to HSAs would be tax-free and could be passed on to heirs without any tax penalty.
The proposals include requiring “…price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.”
On drug prices, Trump departs from standard Republican policy by calling for lowering barriers to cheaper imported pharmaceuticals.
“Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers,”
the statement says, adding that “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.”
The proposals also call for reforming mental health programs and institutions, but provides few details about how to do this.
Trump also called for tighter enforcement of immigration laws, a key plank in his campaign platform, as a way to bring down healthcare costs.
“Providing healthcare to illegal immigrants costs us some $11 billion annually. If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve healthcare cost pressures on state and local governments,” the proposal statement says.
Democrats were quick to criticize the plan.
“As Democrats have said all along, Donald Trump is not an outsider engaging in a hostile takeover of the GOP – in fact, he embodies the Republican Party.
“The fact that his healthcare ‘plan’ is clearly cribbed from worn-out and false GOP talking points proves that Trump is just another Republican politician who wants to take healthcare away from millions of Americans without offering any substantive alternative,” Democratic National Committee Communications Director Luis Miranda said in a statement.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syria's government and its backers in Moscow and Tehran on Tuesday that they face an August deadline for starting a political transition to move President Bashar Assad out, or they risk the consequences of a new U.S. approach toward ending the 5-year-old civil war.
But given the various, unfulfilled U.S. threats throughout the Arab country's conflict — from declaring Assad's days "numbered" five years ago to promising military action if chemical weapons were used — it was unclear what effect Kerry's ultimatum might have.
And it's unlikely that the Obama administration, so long opposed to an active American combat role in Syria, would significantly boost its presence beyond the 300 special forces it has authorized thus far in the heart of a U.S. presidential election season. More feasible might be U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia giving the rebels new weapons to fight Assad, such as portable surface-to-air missiles.
"The target date for the transition is 1st of August," Kerry told reporters at the State Department. "So we're now coming up to May. So either something happens in these next few months, or they are asking for a very different track."
The top American diplomat spoke following a meeting between the U.N. envoy for Syria and Russia's foreign minister in Moscow on Tuesday, a day after discussions with Kerry in Geneva. The goal was to restore a partial truce that has all but unraveled amid 12 straight days of bitter fighting in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.
Kerry condemned a hospital attack in the city that killed at least 20 people on Tuesday and said the missile appeared to have been fired from rebel-controlled territory. He said the U.S. rejects violence against civilians, whether it's by Assad's government or Western-backed opposition groups.
But Kerry saved his sharpest comments for Assad and his government's two key military, economic and diplomatic lifelines: Russia and Iran.
"If Assad does not adhere to this, there will clearly be repercussions," Kerry warned. "One of them may be the total destruction of the cease-fire and then go back to war. I don't think Russia wants that. I don't think Assad is going to benefit from that. There may be even other repercussions being discussed. That is for the future."
Kerry said the U.S. and Russia were working on the details of a more durable cease-fire that would include Aleppo and prevent the metropolis from falling. He said leaders on all sides must refrain from fighting for the cause of peace.
On its face, the threat of continued fighting doesn't seem to carry much weight. Assad has aggressively sought to crush any and all opposition groups in a war that emerged from the government's violent repression of largely peaceful, Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011. Despite a death toll that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, Russian planes and Iranian troops continue to fight alongside the Syrian military.
Kerry also appeared to undermine his own selling of a truce by stressing that the opposition would never accommodate Assad's leadership. The current U.N.-endorsed transition plan for Syria says nothing about Assad relinquishing power or being prevented from running for an eventual re-election as president. His family has ruled Syria for four decades.
"If Assad's strategy is to somehow think he's going to just carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country, I got news for you and for him: This war doesn't end," Kerry said.
"As long as Assad is there, the opposition is not going to stop fighting," he said.
Kerry said he has told his counterparts in Moscow and Tehran that calm won't prevail in Syria if they're not prepared to move quickly toward a new Syrian government.
"Assad cannot reunite the country — it's that simple," Kerry said.
"Having gassed his people, barrel bombed his people, dropped bombs on hospitals, driven 12 million people out of their homes, tortured people, starved people, what kind of legitimacy should somebody who's committed these kinds of atrocities suddenly claim to run the country? It's pretty hard for anybody to understand how you make peace out of that record of chaos and depravity."
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari rides in a motorcade while inspecting the guard of honor at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, in May. (Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was inaugurated May 29, is the antithesis of the stereotypical Nigerian politician: incorruptible, soft-spoken, self-effacing and deliberate. He embraces the nickname “Baba Go-Slow and Steady.” Buhari’s unhurried style has its downsides, however: It took him an unprecedented four months to name a solid but unextraordinary cabinet. His reform agenda appears to be sauntering out of the gates, according to the civil society-run Buharimeter.
In the meantime, the challenges facing Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy continue to grow: Oil revenues are down, currency value has slipped and Boko Haram has killed more than 1,700 since June. Nigerians nevertheless expect their new president’s reform agenda to show tangible results, and soon. Given these imperatives, here are five things Buhari can do to get the ball rolling:
1. Carefully clean house. Buhari’s reform agenda probably faces its greatest threat from corrupt, old-school politicians within his own All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari should neutralize some of the APC’s shadiest figures, who could emerge as “veto players,” as described in Carl LeVan’s recent book.
Examples of these kleptocrats are not hard to find. The U.S. Department of Justice has accused one sitting APC governor of helping former dictator Sani Abacha steal at least $458 million from state coffers. Likewise, both APC candidates in the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa State governorship elections have been indicted by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency.
Admittedly, housecleaning carries political risks for Buhari. After all, his victorious electoral coalition included powerful defectors from former president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP). If he unduly antagonizes these establishment figures, they could derail his party’s newfound dominance by joining their former comrades in the opposition PDP.
2. Pare down the parastatals. Buhari has an opportunity to realize immediate savings by eliminating or merging some of Nigeria’s more than 500 federal parastatals and boards. Parastatals are government-operated companies or commercial agencies. Pundits allege that past presidents used parastatal appointments to cultivate national political allies and provincial cronies. These institutions, which range from the lucrative to the modest to the moribund, have long been a cornerstone of corruption in Nigeria — a complicated topic expertly explained by Daniel Jordan Smith.
Buhari may also want to disband some nice-to-have but non-essential parastatals in light of competing priorities and current fiscal constraints. Does Nigeria need to spend more than $4 million annually on a Center for Space Transport and Propulsion? Is there an effort underway to rescue the supposedly stranded Nigerian astronaut featured in this legendary scam letter?
3. Tame the white elephants. Buhari’s apparent determination to revive two “white elephant” economic sectors — domestic oil refineries and steel mills — worry industry experts. Nigeria is replete with these kinds of investment projects where state-owned enterprises are funded for long periods even if they incur huge losses. For decades, Nigerian leaders have thrown good money after bad at these projects because, as Robinson and Torvik argue, white elephant projects yield short-term political gains.
Buhari, like any of the rest of us, could stumble into a sunk cost dilemma where his efforts to maximize future returns of Nigeria’s white elephants only increase their cumulative losses. Instead, he should address the graft, inconsistent policies and opaque privatization deals that experts say turned these industries into white elephants in the first place.
4. Rein in subnational debt. As Buhari tries to put Nigeria’s public finances back in order, the balance sheets of the country’s 36 states are sinking deeper into the red. In a decentralized federal system like Nigeria’s, state budgets typically affect the lives of ordinary citizens more than federal spending does. Since taking office, Buhari has already bailed out 27 cash-strapped states to the tune of $2.1 billion. States’ borrowing trends are risky and need to be addressed, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank.
All but a few states generate minimal revenue outside of their monthly allocation of Nigeria’s anemic oil income. While Nigeria’s national debt is still relatively low by global standards, fiscal federalism means that if states default on their debts, the federal government foots the bill. Buhari’s reasons for watching state borrowing should also be personal: One of the stated reasons for the 1983 military coup that first brought him to power was runaway borrowing by state governors.
5. Legislate for the long run. Nigeria will need to feel the “Buhari Effect” (the sense, evident in a recent New York Times article, that there is a new sheriff in town) long after the president’s tenure is over. The best way for him to protect his legacy is to partner with the National Assembly to enact legislation enshrining key reforms. With few other politicians like him on the horizon, Buhari should put his legacy in writing.
A good place to start would be an act prohibiting the use of “security votes.” Both a definitive article by Uche et al. and a 2007 Human Rights Watch report illustrate how these secretive budgetary line items are used by officials at all levels of government as slush funds. Even Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption agency had a $1,000,000 security vote included in its 2014 budget. Buhari has his work cut out for him.
Matthew Page is an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
On Tuesday, Ohio could become the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana.
But the story line there is less about how a culturally conservative state feels about pot and more about how a group of savvy political and business operatives are forging a new path forward for the growing movement that could fundamentally change who gets in the game -- and why.
Depending on what happens in Ohio, the next iteration of pro-legalization activists could be motivated by an entirely different kind of green: Cash.
Here's what you need to know about Ohio's unusual ballot initiative to legalize pot and how it could change the marijuana legalization movement.
There are a lot of firsts in Ohio, actually. If it legalizes recreation marijuana, Ohio would be the first Midwestern state and the first privately organized legalization campaign, notes Denver-based journalist Josiah M. Hesse in a politico magazine piece.
It's also the first state to try to legalize recreational and medical marijuana at once. (States like Colorado and Washington already had a medical marijuana infrastructure in place when they expanded to recreational pot.)
But it's what happens after legalization that really sets Ohio's initiative apart. Cultivating and selling pot would be limited to 10 pre-determined farms. Any pot distributor in Ohio would have no choice but to buy marijuana grown from one of these farms. In essence, it's a marijuana monopoly.
Also unusual is the legalization campaign's blunt end game (see what we did there?). It's a constitutional amendment backed and financed almost exclusively by those who stand to benefit from its passage.
The owners of the 10 farms include a grab-bag group of 24 investors that include former 98 Degrees boy-band crooner Nick Lachey, as well as descendants of former president William Howard Taft and NBA star Oscar Robertson. If the amendment is approved, they'll be ground-floor investors in a business that advocates estimate will bring in $1 billion a year.
Each ownership group was asked to invest roughly $2 to $4 million in the ResponsibleOhio campaign advocating for legalization.
And that's precisely the problem, say a diverse group of opponents that includes marijuana legalization advocates, who are joining forces with the usual cast of opponents like law enforcement officers. Ohio's constitution could soon basically enshrine these people's rights to make money explains, explains The Washington Post's Jessica Contrera.
The idea is so controversial that, in July, state lawmakers threw their own ballot initiative out there to counter this one. Known as the "anti-monopoly amendment," it would ban anyone from creating a constitutional amendment exclusively for financial gain.
If both pass -- a possibility -- this whole drama could go to the courts.
Supporters say the private-sector-driven initiative is the only way they could get a conservative-leaning state to even consider legalizing pot.
The brainchild of the initiative is veteran Ohio political operative Ian James, who has 30 years of experience in Ohio politics but little track record in the way of drug legalization. James has zeroed in on the traditional arguments for legalizing pot -- civil liberties, social justice, tax benefits -- and stayed away from the controversial layout of Ohio's potential pot industry.
"Let's stop pretending either that Ohioans don't consume marijuana or that only bad people do," he wrote in one of several op-eds during the spring.
Opponents, unsurprisingly, are calling to attention to the unique set-up.
"They are creating a constitutionally mandated oligopoly,” argues Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Despite Nadelmann's statement, the New York Times reports that the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance are officially neutral on the initiative, while the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws "gave it an uneasy endorsement."
Ohioans appear as undecided as the pros.
A recent Bowling Green University poll shows 44 percent were for it and 43 percent were against it -- well within the three-and-a-half-point margin of error -- and a relatively high 13 percent undecided.
Other polls also show just about anything could happen on Tuesday.
Ohioans aren't just voting on a new model for financing and regulating legal pot. They're potentially reforming marijuana from a libertarian/hippie activity relegated to states out West into a socially acceptable investment that can flourish in unlikely places.
That's a big change for a country where marijuana is still classified as one of the mist dangerous of drugs and where banks are technically prohibited from financing the industry. (The Justice Department has agreed to look the other way in states that legalize it.)
As Denver-based journalist Hesse notes, the game is already shifting just by Ohioans considering this measure. No matter what happens Tuesday, the state has begun to reframe the legalization debate from marijuana's social impact to its financial one.
"[W]ith recreational marijuana having already proved itself as an endeavor worthy of Big Business attention," he wrote, "it’s certain that we’re going to see large influxes of cash into future campaigns by investors looking for a stake in the coming green rush."
PARIS, NOVEMBER 3, 2016: (DGW) Democratic presidential hopeful has been thrown into utter confusion as Bill Clinton's niece. Macy Smith, reportedly pitches tent with the Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump in the forthcoming US presidential election.
Smit, the only daughter of Bill Clinton‘s brother, Roger, is not happy about her aunt's presidential ambition and has therefore resolved to vote for Donald Trump on November 8.
She made this shocking disclosure in an interview with Radar Online, Smit said:
"Something tells me the Clinton side of the family looks at me and my mother as not good enough, but we’re hard-working! I support Donald Trump --100 percent! I have been a Democrat my entire life, but Trump is what we need right now, somebody who is going to stand up for us. I think at this point Hillary just wants it for the history books — to be the first woman president for selfish reasons.
Smit added that last year, she had a miscarriage while her Air Force husband was serving in Kuwait and felt abandoned by the Clintons.
“They’re not as good as everyone thinks they are. I went through some very personal things without their support.
”Smit's mother, Martha Spivey added:
"The Clintons are all talk! Hillary says she’s all about family, but she’s got a niece she’s never met and never acknowledged. The Clintons have never helped us out.”