Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, August 18th, 2016.

What’s Happening Now

Obama Administration

The Justice Department is going to phase out the use of private prisons. This news prompted a sudden drop in stock prices for private prison companies. Heh.

Aetna is dropping out of the health insurance market in about two-thirds of the counties it now serves. The ditched counties are mostly rural, low-population ones. Now it turns out that Aetna had threatened to drop out of Obamacare if the feds blocked its proposed merger with Humana. The Feds have sued to block the merger, and Aetna started shedding counties.

Bernie Sanders has revived the fight for a public option on the insurance exchanges.

“In my view, the provision of health care cannot continue to be dependent upon the whims and market projections of large private insurance companies whose only goal is to make as much profit as possible,” Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday.

“That is why we need to join every other major country on earth and guarantee health care to all as a right, not a privilege,” he said.

Aetna announced late Monday that it would pull out of ObamaCare exchanges in 11 states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas. The company’s CEO, Mark Bertolini, cited $200 million in losses over the past few months as a major reason for the move.

According to Wikipedia, Bertolini received $30.7 million in compensation in 2013, so if the company needs to cut some corners, I can think of a place to start.

In other news, will cease operations next week.

The NRA wants women to keep guns in their homes for protection. But if a woman actually uses a gun to protect herself, the NRA doesn’t come to her defense when she’s thrown in jail. Why is that?

Finally, you probably heard that The Great Awfulness/Bad Hair has hired Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, to be his new campaign manager.

Since June, Manafort has tried fruitlessly to mold Trump into someone palatable to establishment Republicans and the swing voters he’ll need to win over if he’s to have any chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Bannon, who becomes chief executive of the Trump campaign, represents a sharp turn in the opposite direction—a fireball hurtling toward the 2016 presidential election. (In announcing the hiring, the Trump campaign quoted Bloomberg Businessweek’s description of Bannon from a profile last fall as “the most dangerous political operative in America.”) Along with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Bannon will encourage Trump to cast aside political niceties and aggressively go with his gut. “I’ve known Steve for a long time—he is an extraordinary guy, an extraordinary talent, and he, like me, truly loves our country,” Trump said in a statement to Businessweek.

Trump’s own diagnosis of his campaign’s shortcomings led to this unusual prescription—which is the diametric opposite of what most Republicans have been counseling for their embattled nominee. “The campaign has been too lethargic, too reactive,” says a senior Trump official. “They wanted to bring in someone who understood new media, understood digital. It’s not going to be a traditional campaign.” Trump was frustrated by Manafort’s efforts to contain him and angry about his plummeting poll numbers. With Bannon in the fold, the source adds, Trump will feel free to unleash his inner Trump: “It’s very simple. This is a change election. He needs to position himself as anti-establishment, the candidate of change, and the candidate who’s anti-Washington.”

The shake-up is an ominous development for Republican elected officials alarmed at Trump’s collapse and the effect he could have on down-ballot races across the country. In recent years, Breitbart News has bedeviled Republican leaders, helping to drive out former House Speaker John Boehner and, more recently, making life difficult for his successor, Paul Ryan. Last fall, at Bannon’s insistence, Breitbart reporters visited Ryan’s Wisconsin home (which is surrounded by a wall) and published a story shaming him for not endorsing Trump’s proposal to erect a wall along the Mexico border.

See also Nate Silver, “Trump Is Doubling Down on a Losing Strategy.” Also, Sam Wang says the Dems are currently favored to take back the Senate.

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