'Singularity' Author Warns That Future AI Could Pose These Threats

William Hertling, author of the “Singularity Series,” joined Glenn on today’s show to talk about the future of technology and artificial intelligence. They tackled these questions and more:

  • What will it look like when humans and smart machines are “coexisting”?
  • Will we keep losing jobs to automation?
  • When will robots be able to diagnose our illnesses and replace doctors?
  • How will the human experience change as technology advances?
  • Will we be able to “opt out” of AI?

With every upside there looks to be a downside with the advancements in AI, tell us in the comment section below whether you are excited or ready to pull the plug.

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: I have been immersing myself in -- in future tech, to try to understand what is coming our way and what the -- the moral issues are of the near future.

What it means to each of us in our lives. What it means to be asked the question, am I alive?

Is this life? We have so many questions that we have to answer. And we're having trouble with just some of the basic things. And no one is really thinking about the future.

When you think about the future, and you think about robots or you think about AI, Americans generally think of the terminator. Well, that's not necessarily what's going to happen.

How do we educate our kids?

So I've been reading a lot of high-tech stuff. And in my spare time, I've been trying to read some novels. And I'm looking for the storytellers, the people who can actually tell a great story that is really based in what is coming. The -- the futurist or the -- the near future sci-fi authors, that can show us what's on the horizon.

And I found a series of books. It's called the -- the Singularity series. And I found them over the Christmas vacation. And I just last night finished the fourth one.

And they are really, really well-done. They are -- they get a little dark. But it also shows the positive side of what could be. And it was a balanced look, and a way to really understand the future that is coming and is on the horizon.

William Hertling is the author, and he joins us now. William, how are you, sir?

WILLIAM: I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me on.

GLENN: Congratulations on a really good series.

This is self-published?

WILLIAM: Yep. It is self-published. I could not find a publisher who saw the vision of the series. But I self-published it, and people love it. So it gets the word out there.

GLENN: Yeah. You've won several awards for it, and I hope -- you know, I don't know what your sales have been like, but I hope your sales are really good. Because I -- I think it -- well, let me ask you this: What was the intent of the series for you?

WILLIAM: You know, what happened was, about ten years ago, I read two books back-to-back. One was Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near, which I know you've read as well.

GLENN: Yep.

WILLIAM: And the other one was Charles Straufman's (phonetic) Accelerometer, which is a fictional book about the singularity.

And what I really realized at that point in time was that we had the biggest set of changes that were ever going to face humanity. And they were coming. And they were in the very near future. Right? They're certainly coming in my lifetime. They're probably coming within the next ten years. And there's very little out there about that.

And as you said, most of the stories that are in media today are about these terminator-style stories. AI rises up. They take control of the machines. And we fight them in the battle. Which, of course, makes for a great movie. I would love to see the Terminator many times over, but what happens when it's not like that? What happens when it's sort of the quiet kind of AI story. And that's really what I wanted to explore. What happens when there's this new emergence of the first AI that's out there, and people realize they're being manipulated by some entity? And what do they do about it? How do they react?

GLENN: So I find this -- first of all, you lay it out so well. And the first book starts with the emergence of AI. And then moves -- I think the next book is, what? Ten years later, five years later --

WILLIAM: They're all ten years apart. Yeah. Basically explore different points of technology in the future.

GLENN: Right. So the last one is in the 2040s or in the 2050s. And it's a very different thing then than it starts out as.

WILLIAM: Yeah.

GLENN: And the thing I wanted to talk to you about is, first of all, can you just define -- because most people don't know the difference between AI, AGI, and ASI, which is really important to understand.

WILLIAM: Sure. So AI is out there today. It's any time programmers write a piece of software. Yet, instead of having a set of rules, you know, if you see this, then do that. Instead, the AI software is trained to make the decisions on its own. So AI is out there today. It's how you have self-driving cars. It's what selects the stories that you read on Facebook. It's how Google search results come about.

And AGI is the solution that artificial intelligence will become more general, right? All of the things that I mentioned, are very specific problems to be solved. How to drive a car is a very specific problem.

GLENN: So a good -- a good explanation of AI would be big blue, the chess-playing IBM robot.

It has no general intelligence. It does that.

WILLIAM: Exactly, right. And we have IBM's Watson, which is really good at making diagnoses about cancer. But you can't have a conversation about how you're feeling.

GLENN: Right.

WILLIAM: But AGI would. AGI would appear to be like a human being, conceivably. In that, it could talk and reason about a wide variety of topics, make decisions. Generally, use its intelligence to solve problems that it hasn't even seen before.

GLENN: Now, AGI can pass the Turing test?

WILLIAM: Yeah, so the Turing test is this idea that you've got a person in one room, chatting with someone in another room, and they have to decide, is that a human being, or is it a computer? And if they can't figure it out, then that is the Turing test.

And you pass the Turing test, if you can't distinguish between a computer and a person.

GLENN: How close are we to that?

WILLIAM: Well, I think we probably all have been fooled at least a couple of times when we've either gotten a phone call or made a phone call and we think that we're talking to a human being on the other end. Right? But it actually turns out that we're talking to a machine that routes our phonecall somewhere.

So, you know, we're there for a couple of sentences. But we're still pretty far away if you're going to have any meaningful conversation.

GLENN: And AGI is when the computer has the computing power of a human brain?

WILLIAM: Yeah.

GLENN: Okay. Now, that's not necessarily a scary thing. But it's what happens when you go from AGI to ASI, artificial super intelligence. And that can happen within a matter of hours. Correct?

WILLIAM: It can. There's a couple of different philosophies on that. But if you can imagine that -- think about the computer that you have today, versus the computer that you had ten years ago. Right?

It's vastly more powerful. Vastly more powerful than the one you had 20 years ago. So even if there's not these super rapid accelerations in -- in intelligence. Even if you just today had a computer that was the intelligence of a human being, you would imagine that ten years from now, it's going to be able to think about vastly more stuff. Much faster. Right?

So we could see even just taking advantage of increasing in computing power, we would get a much smarter machine. But the really dangerous, or not necessarily dangerous, but the part -- the really rapid change comes from when the AI can start making changes to itself.

So if you have today, programmers create AI. But in the future, AI can create AI. And the smarter AI gets, then in theory, the smarter the AI it can build. And that's where you can get this thing that kind of spirals out of control.

GLENN: So you get a handle on how fast this can all change, if you have an Apple i Pad 2, that was one of the top five supercomputers in 1998. Okay?

That was a top five supercomputer.

WILLIAM: Yeah.

GLENN: That's how fast technology is growing on itself.

All right. So, William, I want you to kind of outline what -- we're going to take a break, and I want you to come back and kind of outline why all of this stuff matters. What -- what is in the near future, that we're going to be wrestling with? And why people should care. When we come back.

GLENN: As you know, if you're a long-time listener of the program, I'm very fascinated with the future and what is coming. The future of tech and artificial intelligence.

William Hertling is an author and a futurist. He is the author of what's called The Singularity Series. It's a series of four novels, that kind of break it down and tell you what's coming. And break it down in an entertaining fashion. I highly recommend The Singularity Series. If you are interested in any of this, you need to start reading that, you will really enjoy that.

STU: William, I know Glenn is a big fan of your work and has been reading a lot about technology. I think a lot of people who are living their daily lives aren't as involved in this. I think a third or a half of the audience when you hear AI, don't even connect that to artificial intelligence, until you say it.

I know as a long-term NBA fan, I think Allen Iverson, honestly when I hear AI. Can you make the case, with everything going on in the world, why should people put this at the top of their priority list?

WILLIAM: Well, it's the scale of the change that's coming.

And probably the nearest thing that we're really going to see is over the next five years, we're going to see a lot more self-driving cars and a lot more automation in the workplace. So I think transportation jobs account for something like 5 percent of all jobs in the United States.

And whether you're talking about driving a car, a taxi, driving a delivery truck, all of those things are potentially going to be automated. Right? This is one of the first really big problems that AI is tackling. And AI is good at it. So AI can drive a car. And it can do a better job. It doesn't get tired. It doesn't just go out and drink before it drives, and it doesn't make mistakes.

Well, that's not quite true. They're going to make less mistakes, but they're going to make less mistakes than your typical human operator. So you know business likes to save money. And it likes to do things efficiently. And self-driving cars are going to be more cost-effective. They're going to be more efficient. So what happens to those 5 percent of the people today who have transportation jobs? Right?

This is probably going to be the biggest thing that affects us.

GLENN: I think, William, you know, that Silicon Valley had better start telling the story in a better fashion. Because as these things hit, we all know politicians on both sides, they'll just -- they'll blame somebody. They're telling everybody that I'm going to bring the jobs back.

The jobs aren't coming back. In fact, many, many more are going to be lost. Not to China, but by robotics and AI. And when that happens, you know, I can see, you know, politicians turning and saying, "It's these robot makers. It's these AI people."

WILLIAM: Yeah. Naturally. And yet, unfortunately, the AI genie is out of the bottle, right? Because we're investing in it. China is investing in it. Tech companies around the world are investing in it.

If we stop investing in it, even if we said, hey, we don't want AI, we don't like it, all that's going to do is put us at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world. So it's not like we can simply opt out. It's not really -- we don't have that option. It's moving forward. So we need to participate in it. And we need to shape where it's going. And I think this is the reason why it's so important to me that more people understand what is AI and why it matters. Because we need to be involved in a public conversation about what we want society to look like in the future.

As we go out, if even more jobs are eliminated by AI, what does that mean? What if we don't have meaningful work for people?

GLENN: I think the thing I like about your book series is it starts out really hopeful. And it shows that, you know, this technology is not going to be something that we really are likely to refuse. Because it's going to make our life incredibly stable and easy in some ways.

And I kind of would like you to talk about a little about, you know, the stock market and the economy and war and everything else. Something that you talk about in your first novel. And show you when we come back, the good side, and then what it could turn into.

STU: So Allen Iverson is taking our transportation jobs?

GLENN: Yes, yes.

STU: Okay. That's what I got from that.

GLENN: We're talking to William Hertling. He is the author and futurist. The author of many books. His latest is The Kill Process. I'm talking to him about The Singularity Series. And the first one in there is the Avagadro Corp. And it starts out around this time. And it starts out with a tech center in Portland. And a guy is working on a program that will help everybody with their email. And all of a sudden he makes a couple of changes. And unbeknownst to him, it grows into something that is thinking and acting and changing on its own.

And, William, I would like you to take us through this. Because the first book starts out really kind of positive. Where you're looking at this -- and there's some spooky consequences -- but you're looking at it going, you know, I could see us -- I'd kind of like that. And by the end, in the fourth book, we've all been digitized. And we're in a missile, leaving the solar system because earth is lost.

A, do you think this is -- is this your prediction, or you just think this is a really kind of good story?

WILLIAM: Well, you know, I think a lot of it has the potential to be real. And I think one of the things you probably know from my reading is that I'm fairly balanced. What I see are the risks and the benefits. I think there's both.

GLENN: Yeah.

WILLIAM: I get very upset. There are so many people that are very dogmatic about artificial intelligence and the future. And they either say, hey, it's all benefits and there are no risks. Or they only talk about the risks without the benefits.

And, you know, there's a mix of both. And it's like any other technology. Right?

GLENN: We don't know.

WILLIAM: All of our smartphones -- we all find our smartphones to be indispensable. And at the same point in time, they affect us. Right? And they have negative affects. And society is different today than it was years ago, at the cost of our smartphones.

GLENN: But this is different though than anything else that we've seen like a smartphone. Because this is -- this is like, you know, an alien intelligence.

We don't have any way to predict what it's going to be like, or what it's going to do. Because it will be thinking. And it most likely will not be thinking like a human.

But can we start at the beginning, where, just give me some of the benefits that will be coming in the next, let's say, ten years that people will have a hard time saying no to.

WILLIAM: Sure. I mean, first of all, we already talked about self-driving cars, right? I think we all like to get into our car and be able to do whatever we want to do and not have to think about driving. That's going to free us up from a mundane task.

We're going to see a lot more automation in the workplace. Which means that the cost of goods and services will go down. So we'll be able to get more from less. So that will seem like an economic boom, to those of us that will afford it. Right? We will be able to enjoy more things. We'll have better experiences when we interact with AI. So today, if you have to go to the doctor, you'll wait to get a doctor's appointment. You'll go in. You'll have this rushed experience, more than likely, if you're here in the US. You'll get five minutes of their time, and you're hoping they will make the right diagnosis in the five minutes they're with you. That's going to be I think one of the really big changes over the five, ten years from now is we'll see a lot more AI-driven diagnosis.

So when you're having medical issues, you can go in, and you can talk to an AI that will be more or less indistinguishable than talking to the nurse when you walk into the doctor's office.

And by the time the doctor's sees you, there will already be a diagnosis made by the AI. And it likely will be more accurate than what the doctor would have done. And all they'll do is sign off on it.

GLENN: Yeah, I had a hard time -- until I started reading about Watson, I had a hard time believing that people would accept something from a machine. But they are so far ahead of doctors, if they're fed enough information.

They're so far ahead on, you know, predicting cancer and diagnosing cancer than people are. I think it's going to be a quick change. You're going to want to have the AI diagnose you.

WILLIAM: Right. Because that's going to be the best. Right? When we go to the doctor, we want the best. We don't want the second best.

GLENN: Right.

WILLIAM: So we're going to see a lot of that. And then, you know, ten to 15 years out -- you know, it's funny, I had a conversation with my daughter one day, and she asked, hey, Dad, when am I going to get to drive a car?

And I thought about her age, and I thought about that. And I was like, well, I'm not sure you're ever going to get to drive a car. Because where you are and when self-driving cars are coming, you may never drive a car.

And so you'll just get one, and it will take you where you want to go.

So there's going to be very -- they're both subtle and yet dramatic changes in society when you think about, hey, we're going to have a generation of people, and they will never have learned how to drive a car. Right? So their time will be free to do other things. They'll be different than we are.

GLENN: Do you see the -- you know, in your first book, you talk about, you know, AI changing, you know, the emails that are being sent and doing things on its own. And really manipulating people.

We are already at the point to where we accept the manipulation of what we see in our Facebook feed. But that's not -- there's -- there's -- that's not a machine trying to do anything, but give us what we want.

WILLIAM: Right.

GLENN: Do you see us very far away from, you know, hedge fund computers that can -- that can really manipulate the markets in a positive way or computers that can begin to manipulate for peace, as you put in your book, your first one?

WILLIAM: It's a good question. We're definitely going to see that. At a minimum, right? We can imagine that if you have an authoritarian government, they're going to distribute information to pacify people.

And that's not a good thing often. In some ways, it is. You know, if you have armed unrest, people will die. So there's a balance there. I think what we'll see is we'll just see lots of different people use technology in lots of different ways.

So maybe we don't have, you know, a hedge fund manipulating the markets in a positive way. Maybe it starts with a bunch of hackers in another country, manipulating the markets to make money. Right?

So I think we are going to see that distribution, that manipulation of information. And it's hard.

It out there now, right? There is content -- a lot of the content that you read on the web, whether it's a review of a restaurant or a business, a lot of it is generated by AI. And it's hard to tell what's AI versus a person writing a genuine review.

GLENN: Talking to William Hertling. He's an author and futurist. Author of a great series of novels called The Singularity Series. William, the -- the idea that intelligent -- not AI. Not narrow AI. But, you know, super intelligence or artificial general intelligence just kind of comes out of nowhere, as it does in your first novel, where it wasn't the intent of the programmer, is interesting to me.

I sat with a -- one of -- a bigger name from Silicon Valley, just last week. And we were talking about this. And he said, whoever controls AI, whoever gets this first is going to control the world.

He was talking to me privately about a need for almost a Manhattan Project for this. Do you see this as something that is just going to be sprung on us, or will it be taken, you know, in a lab? Intentionally?

WILLIAM: I think the odds are probably strongly biased towards in a lab. Both because they have the kind of deeper knowledge and expertise. You know, because they have the kind of raw computing power, right? So the folks at Google will have millions of times of computing power, than somebody who is outside a company like Google. So that alone -- it's like they have the computers that will have it in 15 to 20 years, right? That kind of computing power. And that makes AI a lot easier of a problem to solve.

So I think it's most likely to come out of a lab.

GLENN: If you're looking at, for instance, the lawsuit that was just filed against Google about the way they treat people with different opinions, et cetera, et cetera. My first thought is, good God, what are those people putting into the programming?

I mean, that -- that doesn't -- that doesn't work out well for people. Is there enough -- are there enough people that are concerned about what this can do and what this can be, that we have the safeguards with people?

WILLIAM: You know, I -- I really think we don't. I mean, think about the transportation system we have today and the robust set of safety mechanisms we have around it. Right?

So we want to drive from one place to another. We have a system of streets. We have laws that govern how you drive on those streets. We have traffic lights. Cars have antilock brakes. They have traction control. All these things are designed to prevent an accident.

If you get into an accident, we have all these harm reduction things. Right? We have seatbelts and airbags. After the fact, we have all this -- we have a whole system of litigation, right? We have ambulances and paramedics in the hospitals to take care of those damage results. In the future, we'll need that same sort of very robust system for AI. And we don't have anything like that today.

GLENN: And nobody is really thinking about it. Which is --

WILLIAM: Yeah, nobody is thinking about it comprehensively. And one thing you can imagine is, well, we'll wait until we have a problem, and then we'll put those safety mechanisms in place.

Well, the problem, of course, is that AI works at the speed of computers, not at the speed of people. And there's this scene in one of my books -- I'm sure you remember reading it -- where there's a character who witnesses a battle between two different AI factions.

GLENN: Yes.

WILLIAM: And the whole battle takes place, a lot of things happen between the two different AI factions, all in the time it takes the human character's adrenaline to get pumping.

And by the time he is primed and ready to fight, the battle is over. And they're into negotiations and how to resolve it, right?

GLENN: It's remarkable in reading that. That's a great understanding of -- of how fast this will -- things will move.

It's like one of the best action novels of war scenes I've ever seen. Really, really good. You know, page after page after page of stuff happening. And you get to the end, and you realize, "Oh, my gosh, this -- the human hasn't even hardly moved. He hasn't even had a chance to think about the first step that happened." And it's already over.

WILLIAM: Exactly. So this is why we need to be thinking about, how are we going to control AI? How are we going to safeguard ahead of time? We have to have these things in place, long before we actually have AI.

STU: Isn't it true though, William, that eventually some bad actor is going to be able to develop this and not put those safeguards in? And we're not going to have a choice. Eventually, the downside of this is going to affect everybody.

WILLIAM: You know, it's very true. And part of the reason why, I say, right? We can't opt out of AI. We can't not develop it. Because then we're just at a disadvantage of someone who does. And it gets even scarier as you move out. So one of the things I talk about in my third book, which is set around 2035. And I talk about neural implants. I think neural implants -- so basically a computer implanted in your brain, the purpose of which is mostly to get information in and out. Right? Both having a smartphone in our hands where we're trying to read information on the screen. We can get it directly in our head. It makes interaction much smoother, easier. And -- but it can also help tailor your brain chemistry. Right? So if you can imagine if you're someone who has depression or anxiety or a severe mental disability, that a neural implant could correct those things. You basically would be able to flip a switch and turn off depression or turn off anxiety.

STU: Wow.

GLENN: So, William, I'm unfortunately out of time. Could I ask you to come back tomorrow and talk and start there? Because that's really the third book. Start with the neuroimplants and where it kind of ends up with technology. Because it is remarkable. And in reading the real science behind it, it's real. It's real.

WILLIAM: It sure is. It's coming.

GLENN: Yeah. Could you come back maybe tomorrow?

WILLIAM: Sure. I would be happy too.

GLENN: Okay. Thank you so much, William. William, author and futurist. He is the author of The Singularity Series.

STU: You should get one of those things, Glenn. That thing logical alter your brain. William Hertling is the author of all these books. There's four of them in this series, The Singularity Series. Plus, Kill Process just came out. That's WilliamHertling.com.

Let me ask you this, Glenn, is this the write way to think about it? This comes in from Twitter, @worldofStu. To understand the difference between AI, artificial intelligence, and AGI, Artificial General Intelligence.

So if there's a self-driving car, and it's AI, you say, take me to the bar, and it says calculating route. Beginning travel.

Okay? If you say it to AGI, take me to the bar, it responds, your wife says you drink too much and my sensors say you put on a few pounds, routing to the gym.

GLENN: I have a feeling, you're exactly right.

STU: That's terrible.

As we move along this endless primary season, we implement our first major adjustments to our power rankings model. Because of all the changes on the model itself, we'll keep the write ups short this week so that we can get an update posted before we hit the second round of debates.

There are now 40 separate measures of candidate performance which are summarized by the 0-100 score that helps us makes sense out of this chaos.We also have a new style of graphs, where the section highlighted in blue will show the progress (or lack thereof) made by each candidate over the life of their campaign.

In this update, we have our first campaign obituary, a couple of brand new candidates (when will it ever stop) and plenty of movement up top.

Let's get to it.

In case you're new here, read our explainer about how all of this works:

The 2020 Democratic primary power rankings are an attempt to make sense out of the chaos of the largest field of candidates in global history. Each candidate gets a unique score in at least thirty categories, measuring data like polling, prediction markets, fundraising, fundamentals, media coverage, and more. The result is a candidate score between 0-100. These numbers will change from week to week as the race changes. The power rankings are less a prediction on who will win the nomination, and more a snapshot of the state of the race at any given time. However, early on, the model gives more weight to fundamentals and potentials, and later will begin to prioritize polling and realities on the ground. If you're like me, when you read power rankings about sports, you've already skipped ahead to the list. So, here we go.

See previous editions here.

Campaign Obituary #1

The Eric Swalwell Campaign

California State Congressman

April 8, 2019 - July 8, 2019

Lifetime high: 20.2

Lifetime low: 19.5

I ended my initial profile on Eric Swalwell with this:

"There's a certain brand of presidential candidate that isn't really running for president. That's Eric Swalwell."

amp only placement

It's now more true than ever that Swalwell isn't running for president, because he has officially dropped out of the race.

To any sane observer, Swalwell never had a chance to win the nomination. This was always about raising his profile with little downside to deter him from taking money and building a list of future donors.

In one of many depressing moments in his FiveThirtyEight exit interview, he noted that one of his supporters told him he definitely thought he'd eventually be president, but it wasn't going to happen this time. (This supporter was not identified, but we can logically assume they also have the last name Swalwell.)

Swalwell did outline a series of reasons he thought his ridiculous campaign might have a chance.

  1. He was born in Iowa. After all, people from Iowa will surely vote for someone born in Iowa, even if they escaped as soon as possible.
  2. He had what he believed was a signature issue: pretending there was no such amendment as the second amendment.)
  3. He's not old.

It was on point number three where Swalwell made his last stand. In an uncomfortably obvious attempt to capture a viral moment that would launch his fundraising and polling status, Swalwell went after Joe Biden directly.

"I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden." This pre-meditated and under-medicated attack, along with Swalwell's entire campaign future, was disassembled by a facial gesture.

Biden's response wasn't an intimidation, anger, or a laugh. It was a giant smile that somehow successfully communicated a grandfathery dismissal of "isn't that just adorable."

Of course, headlines like this didn't help either:

Eric Swalwell is going to keep comparing the Democratic field to 'The Avengers' until someone claps

The campaign of Eric Swalwell was pronounced dead at the age of 91 days.

Other headlines:

Eric Swalwell ends White House bid, citing low polling, fundraising

Republicans troll Swalwell for ending presidential campaign

Eric Swalwell Latest 'Cringe' Video Brags About Omar Holding his 'White' Baby

Eric Swalwell's message to actor Danny Glover is 'the cringiest thing I've ever seen in a hearing'

Eric Swalwell's 'I Will Be Bold Without The Bull' Bombs

25. Joe Sestak 11.0 (Debut) Former Pennsylvania State Congressman

Joe Sestak is a former three-star admiral who served in Congress for a couple of years in the late 2000s. Besides his military service, his most notable achievement is figuring out a way to get Pat Toomey elected in a purple state.

With Arlen Specter finally formalizing his flip from Republican to Democrat in 2009, he was expected to cruise to reelection. However, Sestak went after him in the primary, and was able to knock him off in the by eight points. Sestak then advanced to face Republican Pat Toomey in the general election. He lost by two points during the Tea Party wave election of 2010.

Needless to say, losing to the former president of the fiscally conservative Club For Growth isn't exactly an accomplishment that is going to help Sestak in the Democratic presidential primary.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the party— his distinguished service in the Navy probably isn't helpful either.

Other headlines:

Joe Sestak on the issues, in under 500 words

Joe Sestak, latest 2020 candidate, says it's not too late for him to gain traction

Sestak aims to 'heal the soul of America' with presidential bid

Joe Sestak Would Move the US Embassy 'Back Out of Jerusalem'

24. Mike Gravel: 12.5 (Previous: 24th / 15.3) Former US Senator from Alaska

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Gravel was able to get celebrities and other candidates to send out pleas to raise funds in effort to get above 65,000 donations and qualify for the second debate.

We may never know if it was grift or incompetence, but Gravel probably should have known that crossing this line made no difference. He'll still be yelling at the TV when the debate starts.

Other headlines:

Gravel meets donor threshold to qualify for Democratic primary debate

Gravel spends a bit of cash to run an ad against Joe Biden in Iowa

Mike Gravel: Why the American People Need Their Own Legislature

Mike Gravel Is the Anti–Joe Biden

23. Wayne Messam: 12.7 (Previous: 23rd / 15.8) Mayor of Miramar, FL

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Messam has made no impact in this race so far, and has fundraising numbers that don't even get into the six digits, let alone seven. He's not really running a campaign at this point, so there's no real downside in staying in for now.

Other headlines:

Wayne Messam: Money Kept Me Out of the First Democratic Debate. Will It Keep Me Out of the Second?

22. Seth Moulton 17.2 (Previous 20th / 21.5) US Rep. from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Seth Moulton is the invisible man on the campaign trail. Most people don't even know who he is when they're talking to him. His appeal to the Democratic party is heavily flavored with his military service and appeal to patriotism.

Good luck with that Seth.

Other headlines:

Moulton: Buttigieg Was a Nerd at Harvard

Moulton: Democrats shouldn't go on 'moral crusade' against Trump

Moulton talks reclaiming patriotism from Trump, Republicans

Moulton: 'Trump is going to be harder to beat than many Democrats like to believe'

Presidential candidates hear challengers' footsteps at home

21. Tim Ryan 18.4 (Previous: 18th / 24.3) US Rep. from Ohio

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tim Ryan's first debate performance was so bad he lost about a quarter of his score with this update. He's not without a plan to get that support back though. He wants to bring hot yoga to the people.

Other headlines:

Tim Ryan on CNN: Trump 'clearly has it out for immigrants'

Ryan Falls Way Behind in Q2 Fundraising Race, New Poll

20. Marianne Williamson 20.7 (Previous: 21st / 20.6) Author, Lecturer, Activist

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Williamson is not going to be the nominee for the Democrats, but if you throw a debate watch party, she might supply the most entertainment. So much so, Republicans have started to donate to her campaign to keep her in future debates.

Other headlines:

"I call her a modern-day prophet": Marianne Williamson's followers want you to give her a chance

Williamson Uses Anime to Explain 2020 Candidate's Holistic Politics

What Marianne Williamson and Donald Trump have in common

Marianne Williamson's Iowa director joins John Delaney's 2020 campaign

19. John Hickenlooper 22.5  (Previous: 11th / 32.0) Former Gov. of Colorado 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Hickenlooper has been shedding campaign advisors at a relatively furious pace as he admits "there's just a bunch of skills that don't come naturally to me" when it comes to campaigning.

Probably best to pick another line of work.

Other headlines:

Hickenlooper defends campaign fundraising to The Onion: 'The race is wide open'

WP: 'You are who?' The lonely presidential campaign of John Hickenlooper

Gary Hart Warns John Hickenlooper Against Campaigning On Bipartisanship Message

Hickenlooper refuses to condemn protesters who hoisted Mexican flag at ICE facility


18. Michael Bennet 27.4 (Previous: 14th / 28.8) US Senator from Colorado

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Michael Bennet is a bit of a boring no name, but give him credit for actually trying to differentiate himself from the field. He's one of the only candidates willing to criticize his socialist opponents from the center, calling out the open borders crowd and student debt. Obviously this has no chance of success in the democratic party, but at least he's trying.

Other headlines:

George Will touts Bennet to beat Trump in 2020

Bennet: America doesn't know what the Democratic Party stands for

17. Steve Bullock 28.3 (Previous: 16th / 27.7) Gov. of  Montana 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Bullock's biggest moment of his campaign, and quite possibly his only important moment , will come in this round of debates. He missed the first round, but squeaks in for round two after Eric Swalwell decided to take his zero percent and go home.

Bullock has a theoretical argument that doesn't look half bad on paper, but it seems impossible for another "moderate*" to make noise with Biden still hanging around.

(*-None of these moderates are actually moderate.)

Other headlines:

For Democratic presidential hopeful Steve Bullock, it's all about the 'dark money'

Steve Bullock hates 'dark money.' But a lobbyist for 'dark money' donors is helping his campaign.

Steve Bullock looking to introduce himself as someone who won in Trump country

Bullock said he's not one to eliminate all student-loan debt

Steve Bullock raises $2 million for 2020 bid in second quarter, campaign says

Lowering of state flag at capitol draws criticism

15. John Delaney 29.5 (Previous 19th / 20.3) Former US Rep. from Maryland 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The power ranking model likes Delaney more than voters seem to like him. He continues to pour his own money into the race and at some point you have to believe someone in his life stops him from setting his cash on fire.

He did steal a key advisor from Marianne Williamson's campaign, which doesn't seem like a path to success.

Other headlines:

Delaney: "Non-Citizens Are Not Covered By My 'Better Care' Plan, But…"

Delaney says he opposes decriminalizing border crossings

Undaunted by low polling, John Delaney keeps his show on the road

Delaney presidential campaign theme: fix what's broken, keep what works

14. Andrew Yang 30.0 (Previous: 15th / 28.3) Attorney and Entrepreneur 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Before the campaign started, if you would have said Yang would be in the middle of the pack at this point, he probably would be happy with that result. His embrace of quirky issues like banning robocalls, giving everyone free cash, and spending $6 billion to fix the nations malls is enough to keep him in the news.

His fundraising was decent, and he remains an interesting and thoughtful candidate. But, Yang has a better chance of dropping out and running on a third party ticket than winning in this Democratic Party.

You do have to wonder how long it will be before the word "Math" moves from his campaign slogan to the reason he needs to drop out.

Other headlines:

Andrew Yang Is Targeting The 'Politically Disengaged' To 'Win The Whole Election'

You can't turn truck drivers into coders, Andrew Yang says of job retraining

Yang's plan to give $1000 a month to everyone is popular with young, poor Democrats

13. Jay Inslee 31.4 (Previous: 12th / 30.4) Gov. of Washington state

CANDIDATE PROFILEf

Expect Inslee to capture the king-czar-chancellor role of the new climate police or whatever draconian nightmare the actual Democratic nominee creates if they win.

In the meantime, he should try to avoid cringe inducing nonsense like this.

Other headlines:

Presidential hopeful Jay Inslee says Trump's immigration policies will 'end his presidency'

Crowd roars for Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee follows to tepid applause

Inslee on listening to Carole King, wanting an anchor tattoo

Inslee Says He Tried to Arrest Fleeing Republicans


12. Tulsi Gabbard 33.4 (Previous: 13th / 28.8) US Rep. for Hawaii 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tulsi Gabbard really wants to be Joe Biden's vice president. Or, at least, she wants to hold an important role in his cabinet, like Secretary of Defense.

Gabbard has been running interference for Biden, aggressively going after Kamala Harris for her very successful but substance free bussing attack, while hammering Harris as not qualified to be President. These have been among the harshest criticisms levied by any candidate in the race so far, and there is definitely a purpose to all of it. Her presence in the same debate as Biden and Harris should be something Harris prepares herself for. Expect incoming fire.

Along with Yang, Gabbard remains among the most interesting Democratic candidates to Republicans and Libertarians, which is not helpful to her chances of actually winning the Democratic party nod.

Other headlines:

Gabbard says Harris used "political ploy" to "smear" Biden on raced

Which U.S. Wars Were Justifiable? Tulsi Gabbard Names Only World War II

Tulsi Gabbard Says It's A 'Good Thing' Trump Met With Kim Jong Un

Gabbard Sympathizes With Amash, Says the Two-Party System Sucks

Tulsi Gabbard Files Bill To Study Hemp's Uses For Just About Everything

Gabbard: '14-year-old girl hacked into a replica of Florida's election system'

11. Tom Steyer 33.5 (Debut) Billionaire hedge fund manager

Tom Steyer is a Democratic billionaire that has spent millions plastering his face all over MSNBC for the past two years begging people to consider impeaching Donald Trump.

The campaign power ranking model loves Steyer's potential because of his unlimited money and theoretical ability to put together a serious campaign team.

All of this is theory at this point though, as the millions spent so far has lead to a giant pile of zilch. If he's serious enough, he should be able to buy his way into the low single digits, and squeak his way into a debate or two.

Steyer's billionaire status isn't an obvious fit as the party of inequality attempts to take down Donald Trump. But, he does have legitimate movement credibility, tons of cash to buy support, and a long developed immunity to embarrassment—so the sky is the limit.

Other headlines:

Tom Steyer on the issues, in under 500 words

Tom Steyer announces 2020 bid, reversing course

Why We're Not Treating Tom Steyer As A 'Major' Candidate (Yet)

Steyer banks on South Carolina in 1st presidential bid stop

10. Kirsten Gillibrand 37.1 (Previous: 9th / 36.7) US Senator from New York

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There is probably no candidate that enters the second round of debates more clearly in do-or-die mode than Gillibrand. With headlines like "The Ignoring of Kirsten Gillibrand" lighting up her feed, she needs something big to happen, and fast. Her performance in the first debate wasn't actually horrible, but still went unnoticed.

She has zero percent in lots of polls, and that includes all of the benefits she says she's received from white privilege. Imagine if she didn't have that going for her.

Other headlines:

Gillibrand: I'd Tell Concerned Coal Miner the Green New Deal Is 'Just Some Bipartisan Ideas'

Struggling in White House bid, Democrat Gillibrand seeks bump in Trump country

Gillibrand Annoyed by Question About Immigration 'Reversal'

9. Robert Francis O’Rourke 40.7 (Previous: 6th / 52.8) Former state Rep. from Texas

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The free fall continues for Betomania.

When campaigns show signs of death, reporters start to write long profiles that aim to tell the story of the demise, or launch the amazing comeback.

Politico's headline (What Beto O'Rourke's Dad Taught Him About Losing) probably wasn't all that helpful.

Beto did secure Willie Nelson's vote though, meaning he can now count on 2 votes, assuming his "Republican" mother votes for him.

Other headlines:

Welcome to America—It's a Hell Hole!

A desperate Beto O'Rourke goes for broke, claims America was founded on white supremacy

Beto O'Rourke finds 'personal connection' to slavery, argues for reparations to unite 'two Americas'

Beto boldly vows not to prosecute people for 'being a human being'Rebooto O'Rourke

Fact Checker: Has Beto O'Rourke visited the most Iowa counties? No.


Beto O'Rourke: Let's Forgive All Student Loan Debt For Teachers

8. Amy Klobuchar 42.9 (Previous: 8th / 41.9) US Senator from Minnesota 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Klobuchar has been a massive underachiever so far, but is still sticking around in that third tier of candidates. Along with Beto, Booker, and maybe Castro— they aren't exactly eliminated, but can't seem to catch fire. Or even get warm.

Klobuchar would serve herself well to focus on the fundamentals and avoiding desperate pleas for attention if she wants to remain in the Biden VP sweepstakes. Or she could totally shake things up by throwing binders at her opponents in the debate.

Other headlines:

Klobuchar: I Don't Support Open Borders Like Warren, Castro

Deportation raids are about distracting from issues: Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar hoping 'nice' finishes first

Sports bookmakers put Klobuchar as "heavy underdog" in presidential race

7. Julian Castro 43.2 (Previous: 10th / 34.5) Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Castro is a good example of how overblown debates can be. His first debate performance was quite solid, but did more to sink Robert Francis O'Rourke than actually help his own candidacy.

One more good debate performance should be enough to get him into the next round of debates, as he has already passed the donor threshold. Polling, however, has been elusive. Perhaps there is a swath of America that is uncomfortable voting for a Castro for president, like say, all of south Florida?

Still, in a field of a zillion candidates that have shown no potential, he stands out as a long shot with a punchers chance to make some noise. This is reflected with a nice bump in his score for this update.

Other headlines:

Julián Castro Doubles Down On Decriminalizing Migration: Repeal Felony For Reentry, Too

Julian Castro: 'Instead of breaking up families, we should break up ICE'

Bill Maher rips Julián Castro for remark about abortion for trans women

Julián Castro declines to hold baby

Julián Castro can't speak Spanish

Julian Castro wants to solve homelessness by 2028

A consulting firm made specifically to prevent sexual harassment is providing Castro and other 2020 campaigns advice and training

5. Pete Buttigieg 65.8 (Previous: 2nd / 68.8) Mayor of South Bend, IN

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There probably isn't a campaign that has been more bizarre than Mayor Pete. He was a complete nobody to the public, though as we initially noted, he had support from a bunch of Obama era celebrinerds.

This helped him rise to a top tier candidate with all the money and momentum to make a run at the nomination. Since then we've seen a complete fizzle. He is using the cash to build the infrastructure to make himself a serious candidate, and he should last a while, but he probably must win Iowa to have a chance at the nomination.

Also, finding one African American who will vote for him would be nice.

Other headlines:

Pete Buttigieg goes on hiring spree after top fundraising quarter.

Buttigieg, Struggling With Black Voters, Releases Plan to Address Racial Inequities

South Bend police call out Buttigieg for sending pizza rather than apology after race comments

CNN's Axelrod Rips Buttigieg: Blacks Doing Worse Under His Leadership

Only Pete Buttigieg gets standing ovation from Corn Feed audience

New Republic Drops Out Of Climate Forum Over Backlash To Pete Buttigieg Op-Ed

Pete Buttigieg says it's "almost certain" we've had gay presidents

Pete Buttigieg Sets Hollywood Fundraisers With Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler and More

4. Elizabeth Warren 70.4 (Previous: 5th / 53.4) US Senator from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Looking back at my initial analysis of this field, I'd say it's played out pretty closely to what I expected. Warren has surprised me though.

In an election where beating Trump is the most important characteristic for democratic voters, she seems to be grown in a lab to lose to him. She comes across as a stern elementary school principal who would make kids terrified to be called into her office, because she'd bore them to death by reading them the handbook.

Her DNA kit roll out was so catastrophic, I assumed democrats would see that her political instincts are awful. When put under the intense pressure Trump is sure to bring, she's going to collapse, and I figured democrats would recognize that.

Instead, she's in the top tier. This rise has been legitimately impressive for Warren.

It's also a dream come true for Donald Trump.

Other headlines:

The Activist Left Already Knows Who It Wants for President

Netroots Nation was the day Elizabeth Warren became president of the American left

Elizabeth Warren pledges to decriminalize border crossings

Warren plans to increase annual refugee admissions nearly 800 percent from FY2018

Warren, Biden Campaigns Appear to Find Loophole Around Paid Internships

Warren says she'll push to end Israel's 'occupation'

Warren staffer: 'I would totally be friends with Hamas'

Elizabeth Warren reintroduces legislation requiring corporations to disclose climate risk exposure

Elizabeth Warren Wants Reparations For Same-Sex Couples

Elizabeth Warren proposes executive orders to address race and gender pay gap

This is how Elizabeth Warren plans to close the pay gap for women of color

How much would a wealth tax really raise? Dueling economists reflect new split in Democratic Party

Elizabeth Warren Brings Ad Buying In-House

Elizabeth Warren says she raised $19 million in the second quarter of the year

3. Bernie Sanders 71.1 (Previous: 3rd / 67.2) US Senator from Vermont

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Sanders has fallen slowly but steadily in the polls the past couple of months, and while not every metric yet reflects it, the socialist wing seems more likely represented by Warren.

That being said, Bernie holds her off for third place. Warren and Bernie have reportedly struck a truce to not attack each other, an arrangement which benefits Warren far more than Sanders.

Bernie's machine and name recognition continues to keep him near the top of the heap, but one wonders how long that lasts as name recognition for other candidates get higher, and Iowa gets closer.

No matter if he wins or loses, he's moved the Overton window of the party in a dramatic way. And don't underestimate the appeal of his Medicare-for-all-humankind dream. Bernie may be too old and cranky to see socialized health care into the end zone, but he has advanced that ball much further than he had any right to.

Other headlines:

Bernie Sanders has 'deep sense of satisfaction' his positions are now 'centrist' among Dems

Bernie Sanders: I Will Cancel All $1.6 Trillion Of Your Student Loan Debt

Sanders hits back at Biden over criticism of 'Medicare for All'

Bernie Sanders: Nancy Pelosi shouldn't 'alienate' freshmen House Democrats

Why Sanders Wanted His Meeting With a Rabbi Kept Secret

Bernie Sanders Says Being the First Jewish President Would Be 'Another Barrier Broken Down'

Liberal billionaire calls Bernie Sanders a 'Communist' and 'a disaster zone'

Blackstone's Byron Wien: Markets are terrified of far-left Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Antiwar candidate Bernie Sanders faces backlash over the $1.2 trillion war machine he brought to Vermont

The time Bernie Sanders ranted about baseball in a low-budget film

Bernie Sanders shows off sword Ross Perot gave him

Bernie Sanders Raises $18 Million in 3 Months, Trailing Buttigieg

2. Kamala Harris 79.2 (Previous: 4th / 65.9) US Senator from California 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Harris has given back a good chunk of her post debate bounce, which is to be expected. While she rockets to number two in the power rankings, there are a few things to worry about.

The difference between Warren and Harris is notable. The candidates are nearly tied in most polls, but much of the strength of Harris is based on one spectacular moment. Warren alternatively seems to have a lower ceiling, but a stronger foundation.

The good news for Harris is she does incredibly well among voters that are actually paying attention, while her weakness lies with those who haven't really tuned in yet.

At some point, Harris has to clean up her mess of a policy package, which includes supporting a Bernie style Medicare for All without the Bernie style middle class tax hikes-- a combination that even the left admits makes no sense.

Quotes like this still feel way too accurate, "She's the easy-to-listen-to, poorly defined identity candidate." This needs to be sorted out eventually if she's actually going to win.

Other headlines:

It's Hard To Have A Conversation With Kamala Harris When She Doesn't Even Know What She's Talking About

Kamala Harris: Immigration Raids Are 'A Crime Against Humanity', there are 'babies in cages'

Harris doubles down on criticism of Biden's busing comments on The View

Mother Jones: Kamala Harris Wants to Bring Back Busing? Really?

Kamala Harris's Call for a Return to Busing Is Bold and Politically Risky

Race is 'America's Achilles' heel,' Harris tells African-American group

Kamala Harris claims her campaign is being targeted by Russian bots, also says she's not a plan factory

Harris proposes $100 billion plan to increase minority homeownership

What's Kamala Harris's record on Israel?

Kamala Harris Called Young People "Stupid" in 2015

Kamala Harris lags behind top-tier candidates in Q2 fundraising

Utah man arrested after alleged scheme to plan fake Kamala Harris fundraiser

1. Joe Biden 80.8 (Previous: 1st / 82.3) Former US Senator from Delaware and Former Vice President

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Biden's polling has mostly rebounded to his pre-debate status and he remains the favorite to be the nominee.

He can't survive too many more performances like his first debate however, and he needs to show voters that he can stand up to the heat President Trump is going to bring. In other words, don't get smoked again, fall over on your walker, or look like your dentures are going to fall out in the middle of a debate.

This is a real test for Biden's candidacy. He's had time to prepare, and he's had time to stretch the old muscles. No more excuses.

If Joe can get spry, he probably wins the nomination. But, that is far from a sure thing.

Other headlines:

NBC/WSJ poll: Biden tops 2020 Democratic field...

Joe Biden Decides He Doesn't Need to Stay Above the Fray After All

Biden campaigns as Obamacare's top defender

Biden says Democrats haven't been straightforward about 'Medicare for All'

Biden under fire for mass deportations under Obama

Biden refuses to apologize for high deportation numbers during Obama years

Joe Biden's campaign office opens in Philly with a protest, not a party

AOC: Segregationist controversy and debate performance raised question Biden could be too old for office

Are Biden's Apologies Killing His Electability Argument?

Liberal activists at Netroots Nation bet Joe Biden drops out of race

Joe and Jill Biden have made $15M since leaving White House

How Joe Biden, who called himself 'the poorest man in Congress,' became a multimillionaire

Penn Paid Joe Biden $775,000 to Expand Its "Global Outreach" … and Give Some Speeches

Biden: 'Occupation is a real problem'Joe Biden raised $21.5 million in second quarter, campaign announces

Joe Biden: I Promise To 'End The Forever Wars In Afghanistan And Middle East'

Joe Biden promises to 'cure cancer' if elected president

No, stealth Obamacare won’t fix the failed status-quo

Online Marketing/Unsplash

Another day, another proposed fix to a pressing national problem by a Democratic presidential hopeful. Former Vice President Joe Biden has positioned himself as the "moderate" leader of the Democratic Party, putting pressure on him to come up with a "sensible" alternative to Sen. Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan. But Biden's healthcare proposal, released July 15, doubles down on flawed, top-down solutions without offering any new ideas. Presidential hopefuls should instead pledge to unleash market innovation and lower healthcare prices for all.

Of course, a former vice president will inevitably find it difficult to make a clean policy break from the administration he has repeatedly hailed and defended. Biden's tenure as vice president made him into a second-tier political rockstar, and it makes sense that he's reluctant to separate himself from former President Obama's Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). It's also no surprise that "Bidencare" preserves Obamacare's disastrous expansion of Medicaid, the federal government's insurance program for low-income Americans. His plan even provides a public option for residents of states that have not expanded Medicaid. Perhaps more surprising, or just disappointing, is how thoroughly the Democratic orthodoxy has embraced government medical insurance even at gargantuan cost, despite little evidence that it'll work.

RELATED: Medicare for all: Obamacare was only the first step

Back when he was a heartbeat away from the presidency, Biden vigorously defended Obamacare, criticizing Republican governors for failing to expand Medicaid and predicting that all states would eventually see the light. That never quite happened (as of now, 17 states wisely refuse to expand health insurance targeted at low-income Americans). But the Obama administration tried to cajole red and purple states into expanding the Medicaid eligibility threshold "up to 138 percent of the poverty level." Nevertheless, states such as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina wisely considered the evidence that Medicaid was breaking the bank — without helping the poor get access to the care they needed.

This evidence isn't just based on one or two stray studies produced by the "right" think-tank. In June 2018, Health Affairs published a blockbuster analysis of 77 studies on Medicaid's effectiveness, and the results may be disappointing for fans of government-provided insurance. Around 60 percent of the studies included in the meta-analysis found that health status and quality of care failed to improve for low-income patients after Medicaid expansion. The analysis also finds that a majority (56 percent of studies) found no improvement in the financial performance of hospitals post-Medicaid expansion. This finding contradicts claims by Obama, Biden and co. that Medicaid expansion would shift patients from the emergency room to doctor's offices, lowering system-wide costs.

These findings are scandalous for an expansion program that costs federal taxpayers at least $70 billion per year. How could all of this money be failing to improve outcomes? Plausibly, the types of institutions that accept Medicaid are larger facilities that aren't as great at delivering quality health-care as smaller offices? The copious paperwork and documentation required by the program don't really allow smaller facilities the bandwidth to deal with Medicaid in an efficient manner. Yet this documentation is necessary to curb rampant fraud in the program that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment. Instead of pushing for ever-higher government spending, a President Biden could push for a streamlined Food and Drug Administration approval process for drugs and medical devices, which would keep medical costs down and give a green light to innovators everywhere. The cost to develop a single medication is now more than $2 billion, and an onerous FDA approval process costs lives by being too risk-averse.

Presidential hopefuls such as Biden should also pledge to work with states to roll-back "certificate of need" laws, which force medical institutions to jump through countless barriers to expand their facilities and invest in new services. It's not just hospitals and their patients that suffer from these needless laws; Harvard medical scholar David Grabowski sums up the evidence that these laws make nursing homes far worse and costlier than they need to be. Getting rid of these laws nationwide would give patients and consumers far more options when shopping around for the care and facilities they need.

The price problem gripping the American healthcare system simply won't go away while regulatory barriers and onerous approval processes continue to stifle the sector. Presidential hopefuls such as Biden can make a dent in this problem by supporting market reforms, instead of doubling-down on failed government healthcare.

Ross Marchand is a Young Voices contributor and the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both fulfilled their goal of living to see the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Then, both died later that day — July 4, 1826. Adams was 90. Jefferson was 83.

Because of their failing health, Jefferson and Adams each declined many invitations to attend July 4th celebrations. Adams sent a letter to be read aloud at the 50th Independence Day celebration in his local town of Quincy, Massachusetts. He wrote that the Declaration is:

... a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.

It's remarkable how well the Founders understood human nature and what could happen to the United States. It's the postmodern mindset that increasingly rules the U.S. now. It has infected our institutions and untethered us from the bedrock principles of the Declaration. In its place? Hypocritical and vitriolic partisan righteous indignation.

Less than a century after Adams' and Jefferson's deaths, the most serious attempt to undermine the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came from America's 28th president — Woodrow Wilson. He wrote:

Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence.

As if that's a bad thing.

During Wilson's career as a college professor, he thought deeply and wrote extensively of his contempt for our founding documents. His issue with them formed the core beliefs of Progressivism that are still alive today.

In 1911, before he was elected President, Wilson said in a speech:

I do not find the problems of 1911 solved in the Declaration of Independence ... It is the object of Government to make those adjustments of life which will put every man in a position to claim his normal rights as a living human being.

See what he does there? He completely inverts the Declaration — he's saying, you don't have inherent rights until government puts you in a position to claim them. That's the heart of Progressivism.

In a later speech, Wilson said:

If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.

Wilson did not think the equality, natural rights, and consent-of-the-governed parts of the Declaration defined the proper role of government. He preferred the Declaration's list of grievances because they addressed specific problems. That's what he thought government existed to do — solve problems for people. And since people's problems change over time, so should the Constitution and government to keep up with the times.

Wilson said:

No doubt we are meant to have liberty; but each generation must form its own conception of what liberty is.

We hear this sentiment echoed all the time today: follow your heart, find your truth, etc.

Another key to Wilson's Progressive theory of government was human evolution. He thought that because humans were now more enlightened, they could be trusted not to abuse government power. The Declaration's committee of five (Adams, Sherman, Franklin, Livingston and Jefferson) would've laughed Wilson out of the room.

It's hard to believe that less than 150 years after the signing of the Declaration, the U.S. president — Wilson — was saying this:

We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we are as free as they were to make and unmake governments. We are not here to worship men or a document. Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness. That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us.

Wilson was so effective at imposing his philosophy on government that he forever diverted the U.S. presidency away from the Constitution. Progressives have kept Wilson's torch alive ever since.

Progressives are still hostile to the Declaration of Independence because of this idea of “historical contingency" which holds that truths change over time. Progressives think the “self-evident" truths of the Declaration are outdated and may no longer apply. And that means the Constitution based on those truths may no longer apply either. Wilson and Progressives especially don't like the whole separation of powers thing, because it hinders the fast action they want out of government. They want a justice warrior president who will bring swift change by fiat.

The current trend in attacking the Declaration and Constitution is to tear down the men who wrote them. In late 2015, students at the University of Missouri and the College of William & Mary, placed notes all over the statues of Thomas Jefferson on their respective campuses. The handwritten notes labeled Jefferson things like, “racist," “rapist," “pedophile" (not sure what that one's supposed to mean), “How dare you glorify him," “I wouldn't be here if it was up to him," and “Black Lives Matter."

That is the handiwork of students who are blinded by self-righteous victimhood and can't see the value and merit that the Declaration still holds for us today. After these incidents, Annette Gordon-Reed offered a reasoned defense of Jefferson. Reed is a respected history professor at Harvard Law School, who also happens to be a black woman. She wrote:

I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal. I think Jefferson's contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story to pretend that he was not there ... The best of his ideals continue to influence and move people. The statues should be a stimulus for considering all these matters at William & Mary and the University of Missouri.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Woodrow Wilson's disdain for the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln loved it. If there is one overarching theme in Lincoln's speeches, it is the Declaration. Lincoln pointed the nation back to the Declaration as a mission statement, which ended slavery and preserved the Union.

Unlike Wilson, who recommended leaving out the Preamble, Lincoln considered it the most vital part. To Lincoln, the self-evident truths were universal, timeless, and more important than the list of grievances. Lincoln wrote that these truths were:

... applicable to all men and all times ... that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

In a speech Lincoln gave in 1861, shortly after he was first elected president, he said:

I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence… I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the mother-land, but that sentiment in the Declaration which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time.

Lincoln went on to say that he would rather be assassinated than see the nation forfeit the principles of the Declaration. His Gettysburg Address is a brilliant, concise renewal of the Declaration:

... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

We cannot assume that this radical idea of freedom will always be embraced by Americans. It has found hostility on our shores every step of the way. The Declaration's principles must be continually defended. Because while humans do have certain unalienable rights that are endowed by our Creator, there is darkness in the world, and for some strange reason humans, while valuing freedom, also seem to have a natural bent toward tyranny. That's why we must understand and discuss the Declaration. It's not alarmist. It's not a quaint history lesson. It's a reality, right now, that the fundamental principles of the Declaration are under attack. The Founders would have undoubtedly shuddered at most of the rhetoric from last week's Democratic presidential debates. Left to its own mob devices, even America would turn its back on freedom.

Shortly before his death in 1826, 90-year-old John Adams was asked to recommend a toast that could be given in his honor on July 4th. Adams didn't hesitate. He suggested, “Independence Forever." The small group of visitors silently glanced at each other for a moment, before someone asked Adams if he'd like to add anything else. Adams shifted forward in his chair, leaned on his cane, stared intently at the men, and replied, “Not a word."

China is having its Boston Tea Party moment

Unknown Wong / Unsplash

Freedom. It usually begins as a whisper. A secret passed on between patrons at a secluded bar or private meeting. And no matter how hard the tyrants may try and stop it, no matter how many dams they throw up to try and contain it, the whispers eventually become a flood. Sometimes it takes longer to break through, but it's the same EVERY TIME. Liberty and freedom always wins. It's an unstoppable force that knows no immovable object.

For us it was exactly 243 years ago to this month that those whispers became a flood. A group of ragtag colonists took on the world's only superpower —and won. Our forefathers proved it — freedom refuses to recognize tyranny as an immovable object. The world was forever changed.

And I can't help but see the poetic justice as more whispers became a flood, defying their own immovable object, just three days before all of us were buying fireworks to celebrate our Independence Day. But this time it was just off the coast of mainland China.

Last week over a MILLION protesters filled the streets in Hong Kong. Literally a FLOOD of humans looking for one thing — freedom. They stormed the government building that is the equivalent of their Congress. They smashed windows, broke down doors, and a photo was taken that I think just might be the picture of the year.

A British colonial flag, a symbol thrown out when Hong Kong was given back to China, was draped — BY THE PROTESTORS — over the chair of their head of government. I can't restate how historic this actually is. The people of Hong Kong, with a population that is over 90 percent ethnic Han Chinese, are saying to the mainland that they prefer colonial rule over the tyranny of the Chinese government. Leftists would tell you that communism is the remedy for colonialism, but for those living in the dark shadow of communism, they actually prefer colonial rule over what they now face.

The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

When Hong Kong was given back to the mainland, China agreed to allow them a few freedoms that the rest of the Chinese don't enjoy. They're free to engage in protest against the government and they maintain a legislative body — both of which are outlawed on the mainland. But, as every tyrannical oppressor always does, China has been looking to reel that in. Most recently, China attempted to make it possible to extradite dissenters back to Beijing. The result? The quiet whispers of freedom, the secrets told in private at clandestine meetings, became a flood of millions in the streets.

On July 3rd, police began a crackdown. More than 13 people have been arrested so far. If China eventually gets their way, those 13 people will no doubt be the first of many to be extradited over to the mainland. Their crime? The dream of freedom. As of right now, the extradition law has been temporarily delayed. The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

History has shown who will win in the end. Yesterday, over 200,000 protestors gathered at the high speed train station that links mainland China to Hong Kong. The message was just as clear as the British colonial flag hung inside their legislative building. For our forefathers it was symbolized with the Gadsden Flag and the phrase “Death To Tyranny." The message is simple: “we will not be ruled. Freedom knows no immovable object."

News of the protest movement has been censored in mainland China, but how long will they be able to contain THEIR OWN whispers with over two hundred thousand freedom lovers camped out at the bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China? How long before those whispers spread to secret meeting locations in Beijing or Shanghai? How long before that cascades to the Christian and Muslim minorities that are tired of being rounded up and thrown into camps?

We might have just witnessed the Chinese version of the Boston Tea Party. July 4th is still a long way away for them, but — as it does time and time again — freedom and liberty always win in the end.