Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 2nd

This will be a day of reckoning. VOTE!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm back, because this November is VERY important!

From Hot Air:

"Talking late this afternoon with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin blasted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for his “intellectualy lazy” attack on Ryan’s fiscal “Roadmap.” In his Friday column, Krugman called Ryan a “charlatan” and his plan to reform the welfare state and eliminate the debt a “fraud” that is “drenched in flimflam sauce.” Ryan responded to Krugman in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the weekend, and elaborated on his criticisms of Krugman this afternooon. Follow the link up top and read the Standard’s whole account of Ryan’s rebuttal to

“I realize he’s a columnist and not a journalist, yet he could have easily tried to have verified his claims with a phone call or an email,” Ryan said of Krugman. “Instead he went with his confusion and chose to impugn motives,” said Ryan, “which strikes me as a very intellectually lazy exercise or style.”

Krugman attacked Ryan for not having the Congressional Budget Office officially score how much revenue his Roadmap would generate. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning Brookings/Urban Institute project, showed that Ryan’s tax reforms would not generate enough revenue to eliminate the deficit. But Ryan points out that it is not the CBO’s role to score revenue–it’s the job of the Joint Committee on Taxation."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Doctor's Response to Obamacare

My Dear Patient,

As you must know, Congress has just passed extensive legislation governing health care delivery and insurance systems. Whether you agree with what it does or not, we are all now subject to this law and its sweeping changes.

I have always conducted my medical practice with my patient’s best interests as my first priority. Although not legally obliged to do so, I have routinely provided you with a receipt that has all the codes necessary to bill your own health insurance company for any reimbursement to which you are entitled. Until now, that insurance company was a free enterprise despite the fact that it was heavily regulated by state and federal laws. Now the situation is quite different. Through the new law’s mandates, regulatory powers and reform, health insurance is and will be largely a government activity which will have an ever larger jurisdiction over how doctors practice, make clinical judgments and are paid.

The new law provides for about 150 new government agencies, many of which are designed to be ‘oversight’ bureaucracies which will have the right to decide what medical care is legal to provide through insurance. Among other things, they will have the right to review my medical care of you and read your medical record. Now, as soon as you submit our economic transaction to your insurance company for reimbursement, you have involved me in these regulations and put me in the jurisdiction of government for my activities, decisions and behavior as your doctor.

No one can have two masters. Either I can serve you as my patient or I can serve the government. Either I can continue to make your welfare and health my only concern, including the protection of your privacy and medical records, or I can abide by ever-increasing amounts of government regulations and dictates to my decisions. I can’t do both. I choose to continue to follow my conscience and practice medicine to serve you.

For this reason, I am responding to the situation created by this new law by exercising my right not to participate in any health insurance program. I will still provide you with the same medical services that I always have, but the interaction will be exclusively and privately between you and me. This means that I will provide you only with a receipt for the services you have paid for, but without the additional information that is required to submit your receipt for reimbursement to your health insurance company. That is the only way I can make sure there will be no conflict between following the law and serving you. Because the law is now in effect, so must these changes be to my practice.

Sincerely,

Linda Johnston, MD

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Ryan Express

Paul Ryan’s Express
A congressman with a presidential-level agenda.
BY Matthew Continetti
February 15, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 21

Representative Paul Ryan’s 40th birthday coincided with the House GOP retreat in Baltimore on January 29. Ryan’s wife and three children joined him for the event. President Obama was also there, at the invitation of the House Republican leadership, to deliver remarks and answer questions from selected members. And he had a surprise in store for the six-term Wisconsin Republican: a spur-of-the-moment, presidential-level debate over the federal budget.

Hmm, Ryan thought. This is interesting. The two engaged in a back-and-forth over the president’s increase in discretionary spending during fiscal year 2010. Later, Obama said that Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget and Ways & Means Committees, is “a pretty sincere guy” with “a beautiful family.” Later still, the two went at it once more, this time over the politics of Medicare. “I want to make sure that I’m not being unfair to your proposal,” Obama said.

He was talking about Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” an ambitious plan to overhaul the welfare state and pay off the national debt (you can read the 95-page document at www.americanroadmap.org). For Americans under 55, the Roadmap would fundamentally restructure Medicare and Medicaid through means-tested vouchers, while introducing opt-in personal accounts to Social Security. It would replace the corporate income tax with a business consumption tax; repeal the Alternative Minimum, dividend, capital gains, and estate taxes; and reduce the six current tax brackets to two—one at 10 percent, the other at 25 percent. And that’s not all. Other parts of the plan include job training programs, budgetary reforms, and a free-market health care proposal modeled on Ryan’s Patients Choice Act. “This works,” Ryan told me last week. “It solves our fiscal crisis. It turns it around.” The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office agrees with him.

No question, the Roadmap is a big idea. But it isn’t a new one. Ryan initially released the proposal in 2008, when it fell flat. “First they laughed at us, then they ignored us,” says Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Ryan ally.

What’s changed? America has fallen into a vat of red ink. The financial crisis and recession have darkened the country’s long-term fiscal outlook. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent. The president’s fiscal year 2011 budget forecasts record deficits and debt long into the future. Inflation, punishing interest rates, high taxes, and economic stagnation are not far behind. Hence the Democrats, who can’t defend their own budgets, desperately want to change the subject. They’ve found one they like: what’s wrong with Ryan’s Roadmap.

Obama, White House budget chief Peter Orszag, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen have all attacked Ryan’s proposal as hurting the elderly. So has the Democratic National Committee and the White House-friendly media. In his latest column, Time magazine’s Joe Klein writes that the Roadmap is “an all-out assault on the financial security of the nation’s most devout voters.” The Washington Post’s domestic policy blogger wrote last week that “Ryan’s budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent.”

Not so. Ryan preserves the current entitlement system for everyone over the age of 55. Nor do the critics mention that the only way to avoid a fiscal crisis decades from now is by means-testing benefits, raising the retirement age, and otherwise reducing the government’s future obligations. The alternative is insolvency and “austerity plans” imposed by the IMF.

Liberals accuse Ryan of cutting future Medicare benefits. True enough—but they’re missing the point. “Any reform would do that,” he says. “They want to do it by a government monopoly and rationing. We attack the root cause of health care inflation by introducing free-market mechanisms into the system.”

Ryan’s political problem is that he’s a congressman with a presidential-level agenda. The Roadmap is a realistic way to clean up America’s fiscal mess, but there is no chance of it becoming law as long as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid run Congress and Barack Obama is president. Moreover, Bush’s failed Social Security reform and Obama’s doomed health bill show that a president has to have large congressional majorities as well as public approval to pass major changes to entitlement law.

What the Roadmap needs is support from a Republican presidential aspirant. Ryan insists it won’t be him, however. He says he has no plans to run for president in 2012. His disavowal, he goes on, is “Shermanesque.”

That may disappoint conservatives and Republicans who have found Ryan to be an engaging television presence and a successful political entrepreneur. He’s young, charismatic, wonky, and well spoken. He’s already held his own against President Obama. His national profile is on the rise. He recently endorsed conservative favorite Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate Republican primary. He’s scheduled to speak at two fundraisers in New Hampshire later this month.

Devin Nunes jokes that he’s the charter member of the “Draft Ryan” club. As the budget outlook grows darker, expect membership in the club to rise. Because sometimes you don’t pick the moment. Sometimes the moment picks you.

Matthew Continetti is associate editor of The Weekly Standard and author of The Persecution of Sarah Palin.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Michigan gets "Blown Away"......

February 5, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Michigan’s Blueprint for America

Behold the cratering of an economy, courtesy of one governor’s Obamaesque policies,

Detroit — Most Americans are just getting warmed up to the idea of a self-centered chief executive who has divined America’s future as a green economy and is brashly installing the industrial-policy tools to get us there. But we here in Michigan have been living it since Gov. Jennifer Granholm took office in 2003.

On Wednesday night, the flashy second-term governor celebrated the “change” she’s brought to Michigan in her final State of the State address. Read it and weep.

Granholm entered office on the tired heels of a three-term Republican with a wave of good tidings as the state’s first female governor. Beautiful, silver-tongued, and Harvard Law–educated, Granholm was a young pol with little executive seasoning. Supremely self-confident despite her inexperience, Granholm raised income taxes (as the state’s economy literally and figuratively headed south), “invested” billions of stimulus dollars in infrastructure that she predicted would create tens of thousands of jobs, mandated renewable-power standards, and backed them up with millions in government subsidies to transform Michigan from “the Rust Belt to the Green Belt.” In her 2006 State of the State address, she promised that “in five years, you’ll be blown away.”

Four years in and it’s blowing hard, all right. Michigan’s unemployment rate has more than doubled, to over 14 percent. Yes, the state’s per capita income drop from 20th in the nation to 40th has tracked a historic restructuring of the state’s auto industry, but Granholm’s Obamaesque policy prescriptions have been anti-growth while fueling budget deficits to record highs.

In her speech Wednesday, the governor declared herself a visionary. “The contours of the new Michigan economy are . . . taking shape in communities across our state,” she said before a legislature that her partisan tactics have hopelessly divided. The government shut down in 2007 and came to the brink again in 2009.

Granholm dismisses the thought that Michigan might be responsible for its own plight through onerous taxation or stubborn unions. She sees Michigan as a victim — of trade policies and greedy corporations taking jobs to Mexico — and her government as its savior. Government, she emphasized, is the mother of job creation. Not once (as has been her seven-year pattern) did she propose a fundamental fix to Michigan’s antiquated tax laws, union culture, or government programs. Instead, she focused on all the jobs she — me, me, me — had brought to the state:

A new electronics plant (that “my nine overseas jobs missions have brought” because “I was able to close the deal”) in Battle Creek, bought with government incentives.

A solar manufacturing facility in Saginaw, the result of a federal Department of Energy loan.

Homeland Security jobs and defense-contractor pork, funded by Uncle Sugar.

Wind-turbine production by Dowding Machining in Easton Rapids, bought with $7 million in federal stimulus funding.

And so on.

Granholm has presided over the cratering of a state economy. Michigan has led the nation in unemployment for 46 straight months.

She claims that she has “laid the foundation for Michigan’s new economy, steadily building each of six new sectors.” But God help you if you are not on the governor’s select list of favorites; the rest of the job-creating community has had to shoulder a new surcharge on top of the already onerous Michigan Business Tax. Her 2007 tax surcharge, according to the West Michigan Chamber Coalition, hiked taxes for 60 percent of Michigan businesses (most of them small companies), with tax bills doubling for 10 percent of them.


“Our legislators are busy voting on tax credits to a myriad of targeted industries, hoping that one of these ‘new-economy’ firms will save our state from collapse,” protests Bill Jackson of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. “Isn’t it time government puts an end to picking winners and losers and gives every Michigan job provider a ‘tax credit’?”

Her 2007 budget also increased the income-tax burden by 17 percent. Yet she has resisted reforming the public-employee pensions and health benefits that are bankrupting that state government and that are among the most generous in the country.

To massage her party pals, Granholm will punish even her favored sectors. Biotech is on her list, yet her budget seeks to repeal the state’s immunity from civil lawsuits for drug companies whose products are approved by the FDA. The law, passed in 1996, was specifically intended to give Michigan a comparative advantage and attract high-tech pharmaceutical jobs. This is precisely the kind of economic diversification Granholm claims she supports — yet she throws it overboard as a direct sop to Democrat-friendly trial lawyers.

In the new Michigan, perpetual public stimulus in the form of government-directed industrial policy means non-stop headlines for the chief executive as she picks winners and losers for “new jobs.” Redirecting commerce through the capital, the governor’s power profile grows even as the broader business climate chokes.

Welcome to Obama’s vision, America. Welcome to Governor Granholm’s Michigan.

— Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist with the Detroit News.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From the NY Times

February 3, 2010

Paul Ryan’s Moment

Across the first thirteen months of the Obama era, Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, has been one of the few conservative politicians offering detailed alternatives to the Democratic agenda. When Obama released his initial budget, Ryan responded by issuing a sweeping fiscal roadmap that envisioned bringing the U.S. budget back into balance across the next three decades. While many of his fellow Republicans were greeting Obama’s health care push with Medicare demagoguery, Ryan was busy co-sponsoring (with Tom Coburn, among others) the “Patients’ Choice Act,” an imperfect but impressive alternative to the Democrats’ approach. And now, with the release of Obama’s second budget, which projects deficits as far as the eye can see, Ryan has updated his fiscal roadmap as well — and suddenly, people are paying attention to him.

More specifically, liberals are paying attention to him. Last year, Ryan mainly got attention from conservative pundits desperate to prove that their side had ideas as well. Now, though, he’s become the right-wing foil of choice for the Obama administration and liberal bloggers alike. The president went out of his way to mention Ryan’s roadmap during his “question time” with House Republicans last week, calling it “a serious proposal” and advocating a “healthy debate” about its contents. Yesterday, at a hearing before Ryan’s own committee, Peter Orszag likewise deemed the roadmap a “serious proposal,” albeit one whose approach to fiscal stability “many policymakers might find objectionable.” (Orszag had made similar comments during a conference call with reporters on Monday.) And the liberal commentariat has engaged in an extended debate about whether Ryan’s vision is “so honest it’s crazy, or so crazy it’s not serious.” (That line belongs to the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, whose own conclusion is that the Ryan roadmap amounts to a “dystopian parable” of what our entitlement system might become.)

Liberals are giving Ryan his moment in the sun — or, if you prefer, his moment as a lightning rod — because they think that his small government plan makes big government look good. To a point, they’re probably right. The Ryan plan achieves a balanced budget, in large part, by transforming Medicare into a voucher program, with subsidies for the poor and means-testing for the better-off, and then holding the growth of the voucher below the projected growth in health-care costs. This would not be immediately popular with seniors, to put it mildly: It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which such a voucher could be kept low enough to achieve the kind of extraordinary savings Ryan has in mind (he envisions government spending dropping well below 20 percent of G.D.P.) without inspiring a full-scale revolt from the old-age lobby.

But the size of Ryan’s proposed voucher could be increased, to accommodate political realities, without doing violence to his overall vision of what government should be doing, and where it could be cut. And that vision is more appealing, I think, than many liberals are giving it credit for. What Ryan is proposing, ultimately, is a comprehensive blueprint for a conservative welfare state. A simplified tax code, consisting of a two-bracket income tax with a large standard deduction and a business consumption tax, would pay for a means-tested safety net, and a system of tax credits, risk pools and low-income subsidies would underwrite a free (or, well, somewhat freer) market in health care. In other words, Ryan would balance our books by shifting away from programs that shuffle money around within the middle and upper-middle classes — taking tax dollars with one hand and giving health-insurance deductions, college-tuition credits, home-mortgage deductions, Social Security checks and so forth with the other — and toward programs that tax the majority of Americans to fund means-tested support for the old, the sick, and the poor.

“If conservatives could design their ideal welfare state,” Paul Pierson has written, “it would consist of nothing but means-tested programs.” The Ryan blueprint doesn’t go that far, but it takes serious strides in that direction. Depending on how you fiddle with the tax rates and where you set the subsidies, his overall framework could be the basis for a welfare state that’s at once much smaller than the leviathan we’re headed for at our current rate of spending and more progressive in the way that it distributes spending and tax subsidies. It’s a conservative vision, clearly, and not a liberal one: It shifts much more responsibility to individual and families, overall, than anything most Democrats would be comfortable supporting. But in its broadest outlines, Ryan’s roadmap holds out the possibility of at least some common ground between the limited-government right and the redistributionist left — and long-term solvency into the bargain.

That’s Ryan’s own view of the matter. “I would argue that I make a lot of concessions here to the left,” he told me. “I’m not trying to win an award from the Cato Institute.” He was quick to acknowledge that his blueprint would still work with somewhat less austerity, and somewhat larger benefits: “I pay off the debt completely, and over time I wipe all these unfunded liabilities off the books. But if we do half that, that’s fantastic.” And he was emphatic, in our conversation, about the plausibility of bipartisan conversation: “I’m just trying to get this debate going. I put this plan out there is hoping that other people would do the same thing, and then we can start debating it. There are plenty of ways to fix this thing, and … I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers. I’m suggesting that I have an answer, and I’m hoping other people will bring their answers to the table.”

Implicit in this call for conversation, of course, is the reality that nothing as sweeping as Ryan’s blueprint seems to have any chance of becoming law in our current political system. I’ve been writing a lot recently about the virtues of incrementalism, given the failures of nearly every comprehensive reform push, from Reagan to Clinton to Gingrich to Bush to (possibly) Obama, across the last three decades. Ryan’s proposals, which fold together tax reform, health care reform, Social Security reform and Medicare reform (with a few other ideas bundled in as well), are as anti-incremental as you get. They offer the G.O.P. a set of policy ideals, but not a plausible path to implementing them.

When I asked Ryan about this problem, he raised the possibility that our looming fiscal armageddon will concentrate the minds of lawmakers, and make sweeping solutions more imaginable. “I think [comprehensive reform] is going to become possible,” he told me, “because the status quo is just so unsustainable. We will have a debt crisis in this country that will require emergency actions if we don’t fix this fast.” But then he also added that “if I can get an inch in the right direction, versus the mile, then I’d take the inch.” And he suggested that on a tactical level, the Obama administration had the right general idea: Start by tackling health-care reform, “the biggest money mover,” as a means to broader entitlement reform, and then deal with Social Security and the tax code further down the road. “Orszag’s right,” Ryan said, “when he says that health-care reform is entitlement reform. They’re just making it much worse, and adding much more to it.”

The other difficulty, of course, is that even if there were a politically-feasible path toward the kind of overhaul Ryan has in mind, it’s not clear how many Republican politicians would want to take it. Ryan is circumspect about this problem: He talked hopefully about the “maturation” of the G.O.P., as it goes from being “an opposition party to being the alternative party,” and suggested that “we’re going through our growing pains faster than I’d expected, which is a pleasant surprise.” At the same time, he allowed that “the problem in the minority [is that] you sometimes revert into a posture where ‘I don’t have to do anything controversial, I just can be against that and win by default.’ I’m not interesting in winning by default. And I’m worried that if we get the majority back by default, we’ll screw up again.” And when I brought up Republican politicians who have embraced a “Medicare now, Medicare forever” approach to critiquing the Obama health care proposals, Ryan turned grim in a hurry. “I don’t do that,” he said sharply. “I don’t do that.”

For now, this honesty leaves him in a relatively lonely position — both within his party, and in Washington more generally. (The Obama plan for long-term fiscal solvency is … to appoint a commission charged with proposing plans for long-term fiscal solvency.) “I’m trying to encourage people to jump in the pool with me,” Ryan said ruefully. “I’m in there alone right now.”

But there are advantages to being in the pool alone, as well. There are hundreds of Republican politicians in Washington, but Ryan is one of the few worth taking seriously on substance — and one of the few, as a result, who can critique the Obama administration without resorting to gimmickry or sloganeering. And in a party that’s suffering from deficits of both leadership and substance, that’s pretty good position for a young congressman to occupy.