Opinion

The Great Debate

Michael Bloomberg and America’s guns

Bernd Debusmann— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions are his own —

New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping in where President Barack Obama fears to tread — confronting America’s powerful gun lobby. In the country that holds a commanding global lead in civilian gun ownership, it promises to be a hard fight.

No matter how it goes, America’s position at the top of the list of gun-owning nations looks secure. Up to 280 million guns are estimated to be in private hands and the arsenal is growing year by year. On a guns-per-capita basis, the United States (90 guns per 100 residents) is way ahead of second-ranked Yemen (61 per 100), according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey issued by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

Obama has been a sore disappointment for advocates of tighter gun controls, and a boon to gun manufacturers and dealers. Predictions that his administration would swiftly work towards greater restrictions helped spark a huge run on firearms after his election. The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s biggest gun lobby, said its members reported widespread shortages of ammunition.

Supply and demand are back in balance and those who rushed to stock up need not have feared an Obama assault on gun ownership. The president has shown no eagerness for stepping into the political minefield of gun legislation. On the contrary. Obama rowed back in haste after his attorney general, Eric Holder, prompted alarm among gun lovers by saying he wanted to reinstate a ban on assault weapons that was allowed to lapse under the Bush administration.

There are no signs either that Obama intends to fulfil campaign pledges on other hot-button gun legislation issues such as closing the so-called gun show loophole that allows private citizen-to-citizen sales without background checks, or the Tiahrt amendment, which limits disclosing information on the sale of guns used in crimes.

Europe loves Obama. Does it matter?

Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Barack Obama’s star may be fading slightly at home but it is still so bright in Europe that  he outshines the leaders of Germany and France in their own  countries, according to a poll that shows a remarkable global  shift in attitudes towards the U.S. since he took office.

The question is: does it matter?

First, the statistics. The latest Pew Global Attitudes  Project, a widely-respected survey that has tracked  anti-Americanism around the world since 2002, polled 26,397  people in 25 nations in May and June and found that the image of  the United States had improved in all but one (Israel),  reflecting, it said, “global confidence in Barack Obama.”

Where the healthcare debate seems bizarre

healthcare-globalpost

global_post_logoMichael Goldfarb serves as a GlobalPost correspondent in the United Kingdom, where this article first appeared.

In America, the health care debate is about to come to a boil. President Barack Obama has put pressure on both houses of Congress to pass versions of his flagship domestic legislative program prior to their August recess.

Good luck.

Opponents are filling the airwaves with the usual litany of lies, damned lies and statistics about socialized medicine and the twin nightmare of bureaucratically rationed health care and high taxes amongst allies like Britain, France and Germany. So here is a brief overview of health care in some of Europe’s biggest economies: Britain’s National Health Service is paid for out of a social security tax. Services are free at the point of provision. No co-pay, no reimbursement. The budget last year was 90 billion pounds (about $148 billion). That makes the average cost per person about 1,500 pounds ($2,463).

The three urban myths of healthcare reform

Peter Pitts– Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. The views expressed are his own. –

When it comes to healthcare reform, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Three of the most common “urban myths” of American healthcare are that:
1. The lower life expectancy in the U.S. “proves” the total inadequacy of our system;
2. There are 47 million uninsured Americans — proving the inequity of our system; and
3. We spend “too much” on health care — proving the wastefulness of our system.

Is America ready for single payer healthcare?

diana-furchtgottroth–- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –-

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”

But America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, the bill under discussion in the House of Representatives, would result in the demise of private health insurance in America.

How will the U.S. pay for healthcare reform?

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

You have to admire the confidence. “Don’t bet against us,” said President Barack Obama on Monday about the chances for healthcare reform. “We are going to get it done.” Not only that, Obama repeated his pledge that his plan “will not add to the deficit over the next decade.”

Sunny optimism may reign at the White House, but things are a bit gloomier over on Capitol Hill. An August deadline to get a bill passed looks likely to be broken. More delays mean lost momentum and rising odds that debate over the bill could linger into the tumult of the 2010 congressional election year.

Obama healthcare playbook getting thin

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

The playbook is getting pretty thin for the Obama White House and congressional Democrats. One big idea they had to pay for healthcare reform was by capping itemized tax deductions for upper-income taxpayers. But the charities and nonprofits who benefit from these deductions screamed to Capitol Hill, so that approach was shelved. Time for Plan B.

Then congressional Democrats considered removing or capping the tax-advantaged status of job-based healthcare benefits. These untaxed benefits mean workers pay very little of their healthcare expenses out of their own pockets, which, in turn, means they aren’t motivated to act like true, cost-conscious consumers.

The healthcare disconnect

Darrell West– Darrell West is vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the author of Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era. The views expressed are his own. —

It is not the first time Washington has been disconnected from the general public, but recent discussions over healthcare reform reveal a D.C. establishment fixated on arguments not central to the general public.

The air waves are filled with clashing claims over the so-called public option whereby Medicare would be expanded to include more Americans. Proponents claim this is the best way to cover most Americans currently without coverage and drive down costs by creating competition for private insurance companies.

from The Great Debate UK:

Squandered oil wealth, an African tragedy

arvind ganesan-Arvind Ganesan is the Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the investment in the country’s multi-billion dollar oil industry comes from the United States. ExxonMobil, Hess and Marathon are all there. Right now, the U.S. imports up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Equatorial Guinea, or about a quarter of the country’s oil production.

Gender equality: From sports to math and science

diana-furchtgottroth–- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –-

The Obama administration is considering a proposal to use federal regulations to expand women’s participation beyond college athletics to the selection of courses, especially in mathematics, science and engineering.

The proposal to apply so-called Title IX gender-equality to selection of courses and majors was discussed at a White House conference on June 23, and endorsed by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser and assistant to the president, and Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary of education for civil rights.

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