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[VIDEO] NAFTA Works. Just Look at Texas

Former Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explains why international deals like NAFTA have been good for the economy.

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Why Luxury TVs Are Affordable when Basic Health Care Is Not

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Monopoly products and services go up in price, while competitive ones go down.

Imagine this. You are feeling under the weather. You pull out your smartphone and click the Rx app. A nurse arrives in 20 minutes at your home. He gives you a blood test and recommends to the doctor that she prescribe a treatment. It is sent to the CVS down the street, which delivers it to your door in 20 minutes. The entire event costs $20.

“Medical care prices are up 105% in the last 20 years. This contrasts with the television industry, which is selling products that have fallen 96% in the same period.”

Sounds nuts? Not so much. Not if health care were a competitive industry. As it is, medical care prices are up 105% in the last 20 years. This contrasts with the television industry, which is selling products that have fallen 96% in the same period.

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Take a look at this chart assembled by AEI. It reveals two important points. First, there is no such thing as an aggregate price level, or, rather what we call the price level is a statistical fiction.

[Read the full text here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

Second, it shows that competitive industries offer goods and services that are falling in price due to market pressure. In contrast monopolized industries can extract ever higher rents from people based on restriction. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigning as Party Leader 

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CNN: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping down as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee at the end of the party’s convention, which is set to begin here Monday.

The Florida congresswoman’s resignation — under pressure from top Democrats — comes amid hackers’ release of emails that show DNC staffers favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the party’s 2016 nominating contest.

Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation in a statement Sunday afternoon, saying she remains committed to seeing Clinton elected president. She talked with both President Barack Obama and Clinton before making her announcement.

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“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement.

“As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans,” she said. “We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has said Democrats will run on the Affordable Care Act.

Wasserman Schultz had faced intense pressure Sunday to resign her post, several Democratic leaders told CNN, urging her to quell a growing controversy threatening to disrupt Clinton’s nominating convention.

DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will serve as interim chair through the election, it was announced Sunday.

Separately, a Democratic operative said Hispanic leaders close to Clinton and her high command were discussing Housing Secretary Julian Castro as a possible successor to Wasserman Schultz at the DNC helm.

Party officials decided Saturday that Wasserman Schultz would not have a major speaking role or preside over daily convention proceedings this week.

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The DNC Rules Committee has named Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, as permanent chair of the convention, according to a DNC source. She will gavel each session to order and will gavel each session closed.

“She’s been quarantined,” another top Democrat said of Wasserman Schultz, following a meeting Saturday night.

David Axelrod, a former top adviser to Obama’s presidential campaigns and a CNN senior political commentator, said Wasserman Schultz should resign.

“I would ask her to step aside. I would ask her to step aside because she’s a distraction in a week that is Hillary Clinton’s week,” Axelrod told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

One close Clinton ally said the hope is that Wasserman Schultz would get the message and leave her position before the convention kicks off Monday. “But she is stubborn,” the Clinton ally said.

[DNC hack: What CNN thinks you need to know]

Wasserman Schultz reluctantly agreed to relinquish her speaking role at the convention here, a sign of her politically fragile standing. But party leaders are now urging the Florida congresswoman to vacate her position as head of the party entirely in the wake of leaked emails suggesting the DNC favored Clinton during the primary and tried to take down Sanders by questioning his religion.

Democratic leaders are scrambling to keep the party united, but two officials familiar with the discussions said Wasserman Schultz had been digging in and not eager to vacate her post until after the November elections. Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday Morning Cartoon: Foghorn Leghorn

This weekend’s unofficial sponsor of Ace of Spades HQ Saturday thread


Escalating Panic Over Increasingly Unpopular Trade Deal Consumes White House

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Edward-Isaac Dovere writes: President Barack Obama and his aides launched a full-court press to save his trade package on Thursday, as House Democrats’ internal struggles pushed Obama’s top legislative priority perilously close to defeat.

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As Obama made phone calls to reluctant Democrats from the White House, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Labor Secretary Tom Perez went face-to-face with trade opponents including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a testy closed meeting on Capitol Hill…(read more)

POLITICO


WikiLeaks Releases More of ObamaTrade Draft Altering Healthcare, Halting Medicare Reform

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Congress wouldn’t be able to reform Medicare

Alex Swoyer reports: The Healthcare Annex, according to WikiLeaks, “seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.”

“The inclusion of the Healthcare Transparency Annex in the TPP serves no useful public interest purpose. It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems and could circumscribe the options available to developing countries seeking to introduce pharmaceutical coverage programs in the future.”

Dr. Deborah Gleeson, who gave professional review and analysis to WikiLeaks said, “The purported aim of the Annex is to facilitate ‘high-quality healthcare’ but the Annex does nothing to achieve this. It is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.” Gleeson added, “Nor does this do anything to promote ‘free trade.’”

[Read the full text here, at Breitbart]

“The inclusion of the Healthcare Transparency Annex in the TPP serves no useful public interest purpose. It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems and could circumscribe the options available to developing countries seeking to introduce pharmaceutical coverage programs in the future,” noted Gleeson. Read the rest of this entry »


Leaked TISA Documents Reveal Privacy Threat

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Emma Woollacott reports: Under the draft provisions of the latest trade deal to be leaked by Wikileaks, countries could be barred from trying to control where their citizens’ personal data is held or whether it’s accessible from outside the country.

“Under the draft agreement, the EU would be barred from requiring the personal data of its citizens to be held within European borders, an idea currently under discussion in Germany.”

Wikileaks has released 17 documents relating to the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), currently under negotiation between the US, the European Union and 23 other nations. These negotiating texts are supposed to remain secret for five years after TISA is finalized and brought into force.

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The deal, which has been under discussion behind closed doors since early 2013, is intended to remove barriers to trade in services. It’s a sort of companion piece to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which cover trade in goods – but potentially far bigger, with Wikileaks claiming that ‘services’ now account for nearly 80 per cent of the US and EU economies.

“No Party may require a service supplier, as a condition for supplying a service or investing in its territory, to: (a) use computing facilities located in the Party’s territory.”

— From the leaked draft

Like TTIP and TPP, TISA could be sped through Congress using Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track authority, which has been passed by the US Senate and may be taken up in the House this month. Under TPA, Congress is barred from making amendments to the trade deals, and most simply give yes-or-no approval.

A demonstrator protests against the legislation to give US President Barack Obama fast-track authority to advance trade deals (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

A demonstrator protests against the legislation to give US President Barack Obama fast-track authority to advance trade deals (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

And the contents of TISA make interesting reading, particularly for anybody concerned about privacy. Under the draft agreement, the EU would be barred from requiring the personal data of its citizens to be held within European borders, an idea currently under discussion in Germany.

“Under the draft provisions of the latest trade deal to be leaked by Wikileaks, countries could be barred from trying to control where their citizens’ personal data is held or whether it’s accessible from outside the country.”

“No Party may require a service supplier, as a condition for supplying a service or investing in its territory, to: (a) use computing facilities located in the Party’s territory,” the leaked draft stipulates.

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“No Party may require a service supplier, as a condition for supplying a service or investing in its territory, to: (a) use computing facilities located in the Party’s territory.”

Under the draft provisions of the latest trade deal to be leaked by Wikileaks, countries could be barred from trying to control where their citizens’ personal data is held or whether it’s accessible from outside the country. Read the rest of this entry »


THE PANTSUIT REPORT: Ted Cruz Super PACs CRUSHES Hillary’s PAC In Fundraising

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Rachel Stoltzfoos reports:  Super PACs backing Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz have raised more than double the PAC backing presumptive Democratic nomineePANTSUIT-REPORT Hillary Clinton.

“Cruz’s haul is eye-popping, one that instantly raises the stakes in the Republican fundraising contest.”

Priorities USA Action has managed to secure just $5 million in “hard commitments,” and expects to raise just $15 million through the end of June, reported The Wall Street Journal.

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The PAC is led by prominent Democrats including President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina. Read the rest of this entry »


THE PANTSUIT REPORT: QUID PRO UH OH

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Almost a decade ago, as Hillary Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate on her way to seeking the presidency for the first time, the New York Times reported on her unusually close relationship with Corning, Inc., an upstate glass titan. Clinton advanced the company’s interests, racking up a big assist by getting China to ease a trade barrier. And the firm’s mostly Republican executives opened up their wallets for her campaign.

During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The PANTSUIT-REPORTcompany has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family’s foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.

In the laundry-whirl of stories about Clinton buck-raking, it might be easy for that last part to get lost in the wash. But it’s the part that matters most. The $225,500 speaking fee didn’t go to help disease-stricken kids in an impoverished village on some long-forgotten patch of the planet. Nor did it go to a campaign account. It went to Hillary Clinton. Personally.

The latest episode in the Clinton money saga is different than the others because it involves the clear, direct personal enrichment of Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, by people who have a lot of money at stake in the outcome of government decisions. Her federally required financial disclosure was released to media late Friday, a time government officials and political candidates have long reserved for dumping news they hope will have a short shelf life. Read the rest of this entry »


The New York Times Endorsed a Secretive Trade Agreement that the Public Can’t Read

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For The Washington PostAndrea Peterson reports: The Obama administration is secretly negotiating a treaty that could have significant effects on domestic law. Officially, it’s a “free trade” treaty among Pacific rim countries, but a section of the draft agreement leaked in 2011 suggested that it will require signers, including the United States, to make significant changes to copyright law and enforcement measures.

 “…it seems strange for the Times to be opining on a treaty the public hasn’t gotten to see yet. If the Times has gotten a leaked copy of the report, it should publish it so the public can make up its own mind.”

Strangely, the administration seems to be encouraging the public to have a debate on the treaty before they know what’s in it. The Office of the United States Trade Representative has solicited comments about the treaty on its Web site, but there is no particularly detailed information about the content of the agreement, or a draft of the current version of the proposal. Read the rest of this entry »