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LETTERS for July 9 issue

By Staff | Jul 9, 2015

Supreme Court preserves health insurance marketplaces

The Supreme Court recently announced its decision upholding tax subsidies to help people purchase individual health insurance plans through a federal health insurance marketplace.

The Supreme Court made the right decision, preserving provisions of the Affordable Care Act that have been so crucial in providing access to more affordable health care coverage to millions of Americans.

The court focused on interpreting the intent of Congress to create a health insurance marketplace for every eligible American, either through state exchanges or a federal exchange. Incentives for low- and moderate-income families to help make their insurance coverage more affordable was part of that intent.

The decision protects the progress we have made as a nation in providing affordable health insurance coverage for the millions of Americans who were uninsured prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act. Some 6.5 million Americans received tax credits to make their health coverage more affordable as of this year.

Clearly the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces are working, making health insurance more affordable for families that use the marketplace. Those individuals would have seen their premiums increase by nearly 500 percent in the federal exchange states if the Supreme Court decision had gone the other way.

Now it’s time to get on with providing affordable healthcare coverage for everyone and finishing the job of expanding Medicaid for the nearly 4 million low-income uninsured adults who fall into the “coverage gap” resulting from state decisions not to expand Medicaid.

JOHN CRABTREE, Center for Rural Affairs


And justice for all

In a ruling that is the Supreme Court’s most important expansion of marriage rights in the United States since its landmark 1967 ruling in the interracial marriage case Loving v. Virginia, the court struck down state laws barring same-sex marriages.

The Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry is a historic victory not only for gay and lesbian Americans, but for all Americans who cherish equality, liberty and justice for all.

Reassuringly, this ruling bears witness that “equal justice under law” – words that are etched into stone on the front of the Supreme Court – has at long last triumphed over discrimination and inequity.

With the landmark ruling, same-sex marriage now becomes legal in all 50 states. My guess is we’ll get used to it in no time.



Take a stand for equality

This is truly a wonderful day for our country.

On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court affirmed that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states across America. Marriage equality is the law of the land.

Today’s ruling is a moment for celebration, an opportunity to thank everyone who fought tirelessly to make today a reality, and a chance to reflect on the great strides that have been made. Today is also a time to recommit to fighting for full equality.

Currently, federal law does not extend protections against employment discrimination to LGBT Americans, and though some states have rectified the omission at the state level, many have not. We need to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) at the federal level.

ENDA has bipartisan support in Congress, but some Republicans have blocked its passage, leaving LGBT people unprotected. Will you urge Congress to pass this measure today?

Fighting for equality and tolerance has been central to my work as a public servant.

In 1998, I was the only statewide elected official in Hawaii to stand up and oppose an anti-same sex marriage amendment that would deny rights to gay and lesbian couples.

I stood firm, even though I stood alone, because it was the right thing to do.

It is an honor and privilege to represent the State of Hawaii, where we welcome all. In 2013, we were one of the first states to sign marriage equality into law.

But our work is far from done. I will continue to fight for equality. That’s why we need to focus our attention on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in order to give the LGBT community the protections they need and deserve.

Will you join me and urge Congress to pass ENDA?

Thank you for standing up for equality, and for celebrating this historic day with me.



Taylor Swift vs. Apple reveals flaws in the system

On June 22, pop mega-star Taylor Swift released an open letter to Apple Music, refusing to grant the company’s new music streaming service access to her newest album. Her letter was a response to Apple’s policy of not paying musicians whose work is listened to by customers during their three-month free trial of Apple’s platform. Whether it was caused by the threat of a popular artist withholding her work or merely fear of bad publicity, Apple has since reversed its policy and committed to paying artists even during free trial period.

Such victories for the music industry are likely to be short-lived, as technology continues to make its primary business model unworkable. The growth of streaming music has already contributed to a significant decline in music purchases in all forms. Meanwhile, streaming services are notorious for paying less than other formats.

To illustrate this, Grammy-nominated composer Armen Chakmakian shared a royalty statement in which he received a total of $4.20 for 14,227 streamed performances of his compositions. Depending on the service, it can take hundreds (if not thousands) of streams to equal the revenue generated by a single iTunes purchase of the same piece.

This is not to mention people sharing and copying music among themselves, which has only been made easier with websites. People usually avoid paying for what they can get for free, and music essentially exists in a post-scarcity world. Competitive markets drive prices downward, while an ability to duplicate indefinitely drives prices to zero. Such is the state of creative content. The consumers have spoken, and the going price of digital content is free.

Ultimately, the copyrights that once enriched record companies are illegitimate to begin with, as they are simply monopolies granted by governments and rooted in violent suppression of the freedom to imitate and duplicate what we observe. They are now unenforceable, and the business models the state established with them are doomed to failure.

What will replace them has yet to be decided. We know, however, that consumers will benefit from getting limitless content for free and being able to discover artists who would have remained obscure in the previous environment. Furthermore, we know that numerous creative people have been able to monetize projects (musical and otherwise) using tools like Patreon, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While these may not replace the current model, something like them could.

The future of music may not continue to be dominated by big budget stars like Taylor Swift, but creative people will continue to find ways to express themselves. The increased ability to share and discover information will only help those seeking to finance music and other creative projects to do so. Furthermore, the duplication of digital content is just the beginning, as advances in three-dimensional printing and other technologies are now allowing us to duplicate tangible goods as well. Patents and copyrights are only going to become more unenforceable to our benefit.

We are on the edge of a world of plenty, and government-created, artificial scarcity regimes are one of the few obstacles in our way. While I appreciate Taylor Swift’s fight for artists getting a bigger piece of the revenue, it is time to rethink the system entirely and embrace its post-scarcity potential.