Political Animal

Hooray for Bill!

HOORAY FOR BILL!….Condoleezza Rice assesses Bill Clinton’s foreign policy:

‘President Clinton did a great service to the world in trying to make this work at Camp David. Everybody in our administration admires what he did and admired it at the time.’

She went on to describe the 1994 Clinton-era agreement aimed at freezing North Korea’s plutonium-producing nuclear energy programme as ‘probably the exactly right thing to do’ at the time.

Hmmm, has anyone informed the VRWC of this new talking point?

The Art of Diplomacy

THE ART OF DIPLOMACY….Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been on trial pretty much forever on various charges of bribery and corruption, but ever since he became prime minister he’s been pushing through bills that would exempt him from prosecution. He succeeded in passing the last of these, thus making himself completely and entirely above the law, a few days ago, just in time for the beginning of Italy’s presidency of the EU.

Happy days, right? Not quite. In his first appearance as president of the EU, a German member of the European parliament criticized Berlusconi’s extensive ownership of Italian media companies and Berlusconi lost his cool:

“Mr. Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of leader. You’d be perfect,” Berlusconi exclaimed to jeers in the chamber.

What a disgusting thing to say. Italians everywhere must be cringing.

UPDATE: Henry Farrell has some additional background on this plus some analysis of whether it matters. Short answer: yes it does.

Business Friendly Healthcare

BUSINESS FRIENDLY HEALTHCARE….Who’s in favor of the prescription drug benefit currently wending its way through Congress? Seniors, obviously, since they will have to spend less on drugs. And drug companies, of course, since they get to sell more drugs.

But it turns out that a big chunk of the business community is in favor too:

The bills to provide drug benefits through Medicare that were passed by the House and the Senate last week offer some of the country’s largest employers a long-sought prize: shifting at least some of their burden of soaring drug costs to the federal government.

….The 28,000 employers who provide drug benefits to retirees are spending $22.5 billion this year for their former employees’ prescriptions, according to a study by Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I’ve wondered for a long time why proponents of single payer healthcare haven’t been more successful in getting the business community on their side. Sure, it’s “socialized medicine,” and God knows we hate anything that reeks of socialism in America, but healthcare is one of the biggest pains in the butt that American businesses have to put up with, and they hate it. Costs keep going up, regulations are fierce, employees gripe about it incessantly, administration costs are high, and the payback for all this is exactly zero.

I don’t know the history of healthcare reform well enough to know the answer to this, but it sure seems as if some nice, moderate, business-friendly Democrat could craft a plan that would have widespread support in the business community and thus hive off some support from moderate Republicans as well. Of course, that’s a perfect description of Bill Clinton, and he couldn’t do it, so maybe there’s more to it.

Whatever it is, though, I can’t think of it. I’m surprised the business lobby hasn’t been pushing on this all along.

UPDATE: Of course, it would need one of those cool names that Newt Gingrich was so good at coming up with. “The Socialized Medicine Act of 2003” wouldn’t do, for example, but maybe “The Business Freedom and Health Bureaucracy Reduction Act of 2003” would play well. How about it?

UPDATE: James Joyner suggests that we might be closer to universal healthcare than we think:

It seems to me that we’re about 2/3 of the way there now. Currently, the elderly, the poor, the active military, some disabled folks, and most government workers get free or heavily-subsidized government health benefits. Once the working middle class realize they’re paying for everyone else, it won’t be hard to persuade them to make the system universal.

As I recall, federal and state governments already account for nearly half of all healthcare spending in the country. We may not be quite 2/3 there, but we’re halfway there anyway.

ZIP Code Anniversary

ZIP CODE ANNIVERSARY….Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the ZIP Code, and the LA Times blurb about this reported the following postal fact:

In 1963, the Post Office Department delivered 68 billion pieces of mail to 188 million customers at fewer than 60 million addresses. Today, the U.S. Postal Service delivers 203 billion pieces to 291 million Americans at more than 141 million addresses.

So the population of the U.S. has increased 55% over this period but the number of addresses has increased 135%. That seems like a pretty big difference, doesn’t it?