Friday, December 18, 2009

This is what happens when you pass "ANY" bill

By Dick Morris
12.17.2009

Published on TheHill.com on December 15, 2009

Due to pressure from enraged Americans, the most pernicious features of Obama’s healthcare legislation have, for now at least, been stripped from his bill. This is no time for complacency, however, since the liberals are trying to push back and get the provisions back in.

As the bill now stands, it doesn’t have any teeth.

* Without the public option, the government does not have the financial clout to enforce the decisions of the new secretary of Health about the protocols of care to be followed. The left had hoped that the federal public option insurance company would put the private firms out of business and leave a single governmental payer in place. This single payer could slice reimbursements to providers at will and bring them into line offering low costs, long waiting lists and rationed medical care. But with no expansion of Medicare to those over 55 and no federal public option, the secretary of Health won’t have the power to force bad medical care down the throats of the American people.

* Relatively few new people will get health insurance. The costs of coverage are too high, the subsidies too shallow and the punitive fines too low to force people to buy policies they don’t want and think they don’t need. What young, childless couple is going to pay 8 to 12 percent of their income for Insurance rather than just pay the $1,000 fine for not having coverage? Oddly, this bill is really just a tax on the uninsured.

* Without the feared flood of new patients into the system, the rationing that threatened may not be as bad as it once seemed. With only a few newly insured people, the long waiting lists and shortages of medical personnel Massachusetts is experiencing under Romney-Care may not happen nationally.

* The Medicare cuts are to be proposed by a special commission in the executive branch akin to the federal commission that decides which military bases to shutter. But then they will have to be approved each year by Congress. A former secretary of Health and Human Services under a Republican president told me recently he expects the cuts will be vetoed by Congress each year and never really take effect. He says that the savings won’t materialize and the additional costs of Obama’s program will just be financed through even more deficit spending. He cites, for example, Congress’s refusal for each of the past five years to approve the automatic 6 percent cut in physicians’ fees.

What’s left is a bill that expands Medicaid to cover more of the poor and working poor. It requires that all states cover everyone making 150 percent or less of the poverty level. This will end the practice of many states of restricting Medicaid, in effect, to the elderly in nursing homes.

Arkansas, for example, only covers up to 17 percent of the poverty level (about $4,000 of income). Under the new law, anyone in the state whose income is less than about $27,000 will have to be covered. This provision will, of course, mean much higher state taxes throughout the South and in Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Florida, states with low Medicaid thresholds.

The rest of the bill is essentially a consumer-protection statute that bars insurers from denying coverage to anyone and stops them from charging more for those who are sick. Both the expansion of Medicaid and this reform of insurance-company practices could have been achieved in considerably less than the 2,000 pages of dead trees this bill consumed.

There are still bad parts of the legislation:

* Medicare Advantage, an important program for 10 million elderly, will be gutted and replaced by Medigap insurance, which is more limited in coverage, higher in cost and more profitable to the AARP.

* Medical devices — from pacemakers to automated wheelchairs — will still be taxed, and sick people will be forced to pay higher taxes and deduct fewer of their medical costs.

* Reimbursements under Medicare are likely to continue to drop, forcing more and more providers to refuse to treat patients under the program.

Obama is left with the symbol of a victory but not much substance. He will still sign the bill — if it ever passes — with great fanfare, but its substance will be painfully thin.

We haven’t dodged the bullet yet. The left is still to be heard from. But the momentum against the bill and the focus on its worst provisions is paying off. Keep up the pressure!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Socialism has a new name - Environmentalism

December 11, 2009

The Environmental Shakedown
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- In the 1970s and early '80s, having seized control of the U.N. apparatus (by power of numbers), Third World countries decided to cash in. OPEC was pulling off the greatest wealth transfer from rich to poor in history. Why not them? So in grand U.N. declarations and conferences, they began calling for a "New International Economic Order." The NIEO's essential demand was simple: to transfer fantastic chunks of wealth from the industrialized West to the Third World.

On what grounds? In the name of equality -- wealth redistribution via global socialism -- with a dose of post-colonial reparations thrown in.

The idea of essentially taxing hard-working citizens of the democracies in order to fill the treasuries of Third World kleptocracies went nowhere, thanks mainly to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (and the debt crisis of the early '80s). They put a stake through the enterprise.

But such dreams never die. The raid on the Western treasuries is on again, but today with a new rationale to fit current ideological fashion. With socialism dead, the gigantic heist is now proposed as a sacred service of the newest religion: environmentalism.

One of the major goals of the Copenhagen climate summit is another NIEO shakedown: the transfer of hundreds of billions from the industrial West to the Third World to save the planet by, for example, planting green industries in the tristes tropiques.

Politically it's an idea of genius, engaging at once every left-wing erogenous zone: rich man's guilt, post-colonial guilt, environmental guilt. But the idea of shaking down the industrial democracies in the name of the environment thrives not just in the refined internationalist precincts of Copenhagen. It thrives on the national scale too.

On the day Copenhagen opened, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claimed jurisdiction over the regulation of carbon emissions by declaring them an "endangerment" to human health.

Since we operate an overwhelmingly carbon-based economy, the EPA will be regulating practically everything. No institution that emits more than 250 tons of CO2 a year will fall outside EPA control. This means over a million building complexes, hospitals, plants, schools, businesses and similar enterprises. (The EPA proposes regulating emissions only above 25,000 tons, but it has no such authority.) Not since the creation of the Internal Revenue Service has a federal agency been given more intrusive power over every aspect of economic life.

This naked assertion of vast executive power in the name of the environment is the perfect fulfillment of the prediction of Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus that environmentalism is becoming the new socialism, i.e., the totemic ideal in the name of which government seizes the commanding heights of the economy and society.

Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.

Not everyone is pleased with the coming New Carbon-Free International Order. When the Obama administration signaled (in a gesture to Copenhagen) a U.S. commitment to major cuts in carbon emissions, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb wrote the president protesting that he lacks the authority to do so unilaterally. That requires congressional concurrence by legislation or treaty.

With the Senate blocking President Obama's cap-and-trade carbon legislation, the EPA coup d'etat served as the administration's loud response to Webb: The hell we can't. With this EPA "endangerment" finding, we can do as we wish with carbon. Either the Senate passes cap-and-trade, or the EPA will impose even more draconian measures: all cap, no trade.

Forget for a moment the economic effects of severe carbon chastity. There's the matter of constitutional decency. If you want to revolutionize society -- as will drastic carbon regulation and taxation in an energy economy that is 85 percent carbon-based -- you do it through Congress reflecting popular will. Not by administrative fiat of EPA bureaucrats.

Congress should not just resist this executive overreaching, but trump it: Amend existing clean air laws and restore their original intent by excluding CO2 from EPA control and reserving that power for Congress and future legislation.

Do it now. Do it soon. Because Big Brother isn't lurking in CIA cloak. He's knocking on your door, smiling under an EPA cap.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We dont need regulation to reduce emissions

By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann
12.10.2009

The worst nightmare of the left is about to come true: The United States is about to achieve the carbon emissions goals set by the 1997 Kyoto Accords. Once seemingly beyond reach, the United States is already half way toward meeting the stringent Kyoto goals for reduction in carbon emissions without a cap and trade law or a carbon tax or carbon dioxide being declared a pollutant.

Environmental nightmare? Yes. The goals of the climate change crowd are not reduction in global warming but the enactment of a world-wide system of regulation which puts business under government control and transfers wealth from rich nations to poor ones under the guise of fighting climate change. Should the emissions come down on their own, as they are doing, the excuse for draconian legislation goes, well, up in smoke.

The facts are startling. In 1990, the year chosen as the global benchmark for carbon emissions, the United States emitted 5,007 millions of metric tons of carbon (mmts). Kyoto specified that emissions must be reduced to a level 6% lower than in 1990. For the U.S., that means 4,700 million metric tons.

American carbon emissions rose year after year until they peaked in 2007 at 5,967 mmts. But, in 2008, they dropped to 5,801 and, in 2009, the best estimate is for a reduction to 5,476. So, in two years, U.S. carbon emissions will have gone down by more than 500 mmts - a cut of over 8%.

President Obama has pledged to bring the U.S. carbon emissions down by 17%. He’s halfway there.

A combination of the recession and an increased emphasis on cutting emissions is working and may make onerous regulation unnecessary and even redundant.

How can we achieve the other half of the hoped for reduction?

If 60% of American cars were electric, the net savings in carbon would be 450 mmts (even counting the coal burned for the higher levels of electricity required). And if one-third of the truck fleet ran on natural gas, the carbon savings would add another 150-200 mmts.

The point is that public education and increased environmental consciousness - the normal way we Americans respond to challenges - may suffice without the need for government regulation. And what persuasion fails to achieve, higher gasoline prices will do for us - move people to buy electric cars.

Good news huh?

Not if you are a socialist banking on climate change as the banner to regulate all utilities and industries in the world. Their game plan is to use the financial crisis to regulate white collar businesses like banking, insurance, and finance while using fears of climate change to extend government regulation to the blue collar trades.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton calls cap and trade a “massive redistribution of wealth from the north to the south” (i.e. from the developed northern hemisphere to the less developed southern half of the globe). What the globalists and the one-world crowd had hoped to achieve by foreign aid, they now seek to bring about by cap and trade, forcing businesses and utilities to pay rural societies for the right to pollute with carbon.

But market forces are accomplishing what they are hoping only regulation can achieve. And the rationale for the global system of regulation being negotiated at Copenhagen is being made unnecessary even as the agreement is being hammered out.

There is a great deal of justified skepticism about the entire question of whether climate change is going on and, even more, how much human activity is contributing to it. But while the world divides into those who demand global regulation to fight climate change and those who say it isn’t happening, there is now an inconvenient truth — the market is taking care of the problem on its own.

Zooming the Sheeple

We'll cover everyone by covering less?

Posted: Dec. 9, 2009

Now, said the Senate to us sheep, we'll do health care this way: No public option. Just a, um, public option.

Senate Democrats' leaders, looking to pass something, on Tuesday night dropped the notion of a government-run health plan. Too many of their less liberal members recognized a money pit when they saw one. Instead, the plan is to let more middle-aged people join their elders in Medicare.

Uh, guys: Medicare is government-run. It's eight years away from fiscal ruin, its own trustees reported earlier this year. This deal trades a dysfunctional plan for a laughable one.

It also reveals the futility of Obamacare reaching one of its key goals: slowing the rise in health care spending. Congress' plans all do this in part by cutting Medicare by as much as a half-trillion dollars. Now the Senate would put perhaps 3 million more subsidized clients on that Titanic. There will be no cuts, only swifter collapse.

The more worrisome part is that even if Medicare weren't nearing doom, the president and his Congress have odd ideas about bending the cost curve. So far, the cost measures all aim to restrain how much all of us together spend on health care. Independent studies say Congress fails even at this, but that's another column. At any rate, whether Washington spends less overall isn't especially relevant to whether a hospital bill will bankrupt you.

Take those Medicare savings. Congress' bills all cut the rate at which the government pays doctors and hospitals for Medicare patients. Doctors already say, correctly, that they're paid miserably for this. Often, they lose money on the deal. In many places, it's hard for older people to find a doctor who will take Medicare.

Other ominous signs: The Obama administration already has empowered federal panels to study which treatments are cost-effective. The cost-benefit calculations have generally been in terms of expense to society as a whole.

Yes, but mammograms that catch breast cancer early, to pick one recent example, are immensely valuable to the particular women saved, say critics. They're swimming upstream: Advocates of the kind of health reform pushed by the president have warned repeatedly that individuals must be prepared to sacrifice for the common cause.

The president and his allies are not, in other words, seeking less costly health care. They're seeking to spend less. You can get the latter without the former; you just buy less care overall. HMOs did this in the 1990s by making it hard to see doctors. Infamously, socialized systems do it by waiting list, which is why towns in Ontario hold lotteries to see who gets doctor's appointments.

This is logical: It's ideologically simpler to pay doctors less than to deploy changes that make care a better value for individual patients.

This already worsens health care prices. Because they lose money on Medicare, doctors and hospitals make it up on privately insured patients. Meanwhile, since traditional coverage insulates patients from prices - quick, what's a check-up cost at your doctor? - there's no real pressure on prices. Thus, costs are ruinous for the uninsured.

What makes more sense is lowering the actual price of care. There are ways to do this; Congress embraces none of them. There's no lawsuit reform to ease the cost of jackpot justice, no opening of insurance markets to national competition.

Most of all, Obamacare, whatever form, increases the extent to which health care is paid for by someone else. This is the dynamic that makes those payers think about how to cut the budget overall, if necessary by telling patients to take the Tylenol and shut up.

The opposite approach is to put patients in control of the money spent for their own care. This fixes the incentives: You'll want good value, but not to the point of tolerating wretched care. Better, this arrangement - you, making your own cost-benefit trade-offs - has restrained how much the nation as a whole spends on other goods and services, from food to automobiles. It works for you and for society.

This shouldn't be hard. We're a smart country. All we need is for Congress to start thinking of us as functional adults rather than a single $1 trillion lump of budgetary burden.

Patrick McIlheran is a Journal Sentinel editorial columnist who blogs at www.jsonline.com/blogs. E-mail pmcilheran@journalsentinel.com

What the Health Bill really means...

You Will Lose Your Private Health Insurance
By Robert Tracinski

Before Thanksgiving, the Senate voted to opening debate on President Obama's health-care bill, and that debate has begun in earnest this week.

Well, if they want a debate, let's let them have it. But let's not get distracted by the sideshows Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has planned for us.

Forget about abortion. Of course the left will accept restrictions on funding for abortion, because they want to keep moderate Democrats on board for the goal they know is really important: giving the government a dominant role in health care. Everything else is just details, and funding for abortions is an issue to which the left can return at leisure later on-once government is firmly in charge of everything.

And don't bother debating the "public option," either, because it's already dead; enough Democratic senators have come out against it. But Harry Reid is all too happy to have a debate over the public option so he can make a show of "compromising" and giving it up. And while we're having that fake debate, he's hoping that we won't be challenging everything else in the bill.

So let's get straight what the real essentials of the bill are-and how disastrous they are.

Three provisions constitute the vicious heart of the Democrats' health-care overhaul.

The first is "guaranteed issue" and "community rating." This is the requirement that insurance companies have to offer coverage to people who are already sick, and that they be limited in their ability to charge higher rates for customer who pose a higher risk. The extra expense to the insurance companies of covering people with pre-existing conditions will get passed on to existing customers in the form of higher premiums. But why spend years paying these inflated premiums for insurance you're not using, when you can get exactly the same benefits by waiting until you actually fall ill? The obvious result is that million of people, especially healthy young people, will quickly realize that there is no reason to buy health insurance until they get sick.

Rather than increasing the number of insured by making health insurance more affordable, this bill makes health insurance more expensive and increases the incentive to simply drop your insurance until you need someone to pay for your medical bills. It is an attempt to turn health insurance into what the left really wants: another welfare program in which everyone is entitled to free benefits, mandated by the government. But this would wreck private health insurance, making the whole industrial financially unsustainable.

Following the usual pattern of government intervention, the health-care bill offers another intervention as the solution for the problem created by the first. The "individual mandate" requires everyone to buy health insurance and subjects us to a tax if we fail to do so. But this is an especially onerous new tax, the first tax not tied to any kind of income or activity. It's not a tax on stock-market profits, say, or a tax on buying cigarettes. It's just a tax for existing.

So fearing a public backlash, Congress didn't have the guts to make this new tax very large-only $750. Yet actual insurance can cost more than $3,000 per year-and as we shall see, this legislation goes out of its way to drive up those rates by mandating more lavish coverage. So we end up getting the worst of both worlds. This provision won't actually drive anyone to buy health insurance and prop up the risk pools for those who are insured. All it will accomplish is to create a brand new form of tax.

But the biggest power-grab in the bill is the government takeover of the entire market for health insurance. The bill requires all new policies to be sold on a government-controlled exchange run by a commissioner who is empowered to dictate what kinds of insurance policies can be offered, what they must cover, and what they can charge.

Right now, your best option for reducing the cost of your health insurance is to buy a policy with a high deductible, which leaves you to pay for routine checkups and minor injuries (preferably from savings held in a tax-free Health Savings Account) but which covers your needs in catastrophic circumstances-a bad car accident, say, or expensive treatment for cancer. This is the kind of coverage I have.

But the health-insurance exchange is intended to eliminate precisely this kind of low-cost catastrophic coverage. Its purpose is to force health-insurance companies to offer comprehensive coverage that pays for all of your routine bills-which in turn comes at a higher price. So under the guise of making health insurance more affordable, this bill will restrict your menu of choices to include only the most expensive options.

So there we have the real essence of this bill. It restricts our choice of which insurance to buy and pushes us into more expensive plans. At the same time, it destroys the economic incentive to purchase insurance in the first place and replaces insurance with a free-floating tax on one's very existence.

By all means, let's debate some of that in the Senate.

When you understand what this bill does, you can see why the Democrats would be happy to compromise and drop the public option-for now. This bill so comprehensively wrecks private health insurance that pretty soon a "public option" will seem like the only alternative, and they will already have put into place one of the new taxes needed to pay for it. If the left's goal is to impose socialized medicine in America, this bill does it in the most callous and destructive way possible. It smashes private health care-then leaves us stranded in the rubble, at which point we will be expected to come crawling back to the same people who caused the disaster and ask them to save us.

That is the final and perhaps most compelling reason to kill this bill: the sheer arrogance of the whole enterprise. It is the arrogance of stampeding an unwilling public toward a monstrous 2,000-page piece of legislation while admitting that it still has huge problems, but promising that it will all somehow be fixed later on. It's the arrogance of selling us a bill that expands government spending by hundreds of billions of dollars while telling us that it will reduce the deficit. It is the sheer unmitigated gall of appointing a bureaucrat to run a government-controlled insurance market that takes away all of our health choices-and then calling this bureaucrat the Health Choices Commissioner.

That's the kind of government arrogance that has to be smacked down hard, and that alone is reason to demand that your senator reject this vicious bill in its entirety.

Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at TIADaily.com. He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily.com.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From Der Spiegel

Searching in Vain for the Obama Magic

By Gabor Steingart

President Barack Obama's Tuesday speech left a bad taste in many mouths.


Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric -- and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.

One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's speech would be well-received.

Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond "enthusiastically" to the speech. But it didn't help: The soldiers' reception was cool.

One didn't have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama's speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan -- and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war -- and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.

Just in Time for the Campaign

For each troop movement, Obama had a number to match. US strength in Afghanistan will be tripled relative to the Bush years, a fact that is sure to impress hawks in America. But just 18 months later, just in time for Obama's re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.

The speech continued in that vein. It was as though Obama had taken one of his old campaign speeches and merged it with a text from the library of ex-President George W. Bush. Extremists kill in the name of Islam, he said, before adding that it is one of the "world's great religions." He promised that responsibility for the country's security would soon be transferred to the government of President Hamid Karzai -- a government which he said was "corrupt." The Taliban is dangerous and growing stronger. But "America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars," he added.

It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.

Obama's Magic No Longer Works

But in this case, the public was more disturbed than entertained. Indeed, one could see the phenomenon in a number of places in recent weeks: Obama's magic no longer works. The allure of his words has grown weaker.

It is not he himself who has changed, but rather the benchmark used to evaluate him. For a president, the unit of measurement is real life. A leader is seen by citizens through the prism of their lives -- their job, their household budget, where they live and suffer. And, in the case of the war on terror, where they sometimes die.

Political dreams and yearnings for the future belong elsewhere. That was where the political charmer Obama was able to successfully capture the imaginations of millions of voters. It is a place where campaigners -- particularly those with a talent for oration -- are fond of taking refuge. It is also where Obama set up his campaign headquarters, in an enormous tent called "Hope."

In his speech on America's new Afghanistan strategy, Obama tried to speak to both places. It was two speeches in one. That is why it felt so false. Both dreamers and realists were left feeling distraught.

The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself.

Friday, November 6, 2009

While the House is ramming it's bill........

Obama's Frightening Insensitivity Following Shooting

A bad week for Democrats compounded by an awful moment for Barack Obama.

By ROBERT A. GEORGE
Updated 9:18 AM CST, Fri, Nov 6, 2009

President Obama didn't wait long after Tuesday's devastating elections to give critics another reason to question his leadership, but this time the subject matter was more grim than a pair of governorships.

After news broke out of the shooting at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas, the nation watched in horror as the toll of dead and injured climbed. The White House was notified immediately and by late afternoon, word went out that the president would speak about the incident prior to a previously scheduled appearance. At about 5 p.m., cable stations went to the president. The situation called for not only his trademark eloquence, but also grace and perspective.

But instead of a somber chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion, viewers saw a wildly disconnected and inappropriately light president making introductory remarks. At the event, a Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian affairs, the president thanked various staffers and offered a "shout-out" to "Dr. Joe Medicine Crow -- that Congressional Medal of Honor winner." Three minutes in, the president spoke about the shooting, in measured and appropriate terms. Who is advising him?

Anyone at home aware of the major news story of the previous hours had to have been stunned. An incident like this requires a scrapping of the early light banter. The president should apologize for the tone of his remarks, explain what has happened, express sympathy for those slain and appeal for calm and patience until all the facts are in. That's the least that should occur.

Indeed, an argument could be made that Obama should have canceled the Indian event, out of respect for people having been murdered at an Army post a few hours before. That would have prevented any sort of jarring emotional switch at the event.

Did the president's team not realize what sort of image they were presenting to the country at this moment? The disconnect between what Americans at home knew had been going on -- and the initial words coming out of their president's mouth was jolting, if not disturbing.

It must have been disappointing for many politically aware Democrats, still reeling from the election two days before. The New Jersey gubernatorial vote had already demonstrated that the president and his political team couldn't produce a winning outcome in a state very friendly to Democrats (and where the president won by 15 points one year ago). And now this? Congressional Democrats must wonder if a White House that has burdened them with a too-heavy policy agenda over the last year has a strong enough political operation to help push that agenda through.

If the president's communications apparatus can't inform -- and protect -- their boss during tense moments when the country needs to see a focused commander-in-chief and a compassionate head of state, it has disastrous consequences for that president's party and supporters.

All the president's men (and women) fell down on the job Thursday. And Democrats across the country have real reason to panic.

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

Dissolving the Myth

November 6, 2009
The Myth of '08, Demolished
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Sure, Election Day 2009 will scare moderate Democrats and make passage of Obamacare more difficult. Sure, it makes it easier for resurgent Republicans to raise money and recruit candidates for 2010. But the most important effect of Tuesday's elections is historical. It demolishes the great realignment myth of 2008.

In the aftermath of last year's Obama sweep, we heard endlessly about its fundamental, revolutionary, transformational nature. How it was ushering in an FDR-like realignment for the 21st century in which new demographics -- most prominently, rising minorities and the young -- would bury the GOP far into the future. One book proclaimed "The Death of Conservatism," while the more modest merely predicted the terminal decline of the Republican Party into a regional party of the Deep South or a rump party of marginalized angry white men.

This was all ridiculous from the beginning. 2008 was a historical anomaly. A uniquely charismatic candidate was running at a time of deep war weariness, with an intensely unpopular Republican president, against a politically incompetent opponent, amid the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. And still he won by only seven points.

Exactly a year later comes the empirical validation of that skepticism. Virginia -- presumed harbinger of the new realignment, having gone Democratic in '08 for the first time in 44 years -- went red again. With a vengeance. Barack Obama had carried it by six points. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 -- a 23-point swing. New Jersey went from plus 15 Democratic in 2008 to minus 4 in 2009. A 19-point swing.

What happened? The vaunted Obama realignment vanished. In 2009 in Virginia, the black vote was down by 20 percent; the under-30 vote by 50 percent. And as for independents, the ultimate prize of any realignment, they bolted. In both Virginia and New Jersey they'd gone narrowly for Obama in '08. This year they went Republican by a staggering 33 points in Virginia and by an equally shocking 30 points in New Jersey.

White House apologists will say the Virginia Democrat was weak. If the difference between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds was so great, how come when the same two men ran against each other statewide for attorney general four years ago the race was a virtual dead heat? Which made the '09 McDonnell-Deeds rematch the closest you get in politics to a laboratory experiment for measuring the change in external conditions. Run them against each other again when it's Obamaism in action and see what happens. What happened was a Republican landslide.

The Obama coattails of 2008 are gone. The expansion of the electorate, the excitement of the young, came in uniquely propitious Democratic circumstances and amid unparalleled enthusiasm for electing the first African-American president.

November '08 was one-shot, one-time, never to be replicated. Nor was November '09 a realignment. It was a return to the norm -- and definitive confirmation that 2008 was one of the great flukes in American political history.

The irony of 2009 is that the anti-Democratic tide overshot the norm -- deeply blue New Jersey, for example, elected a Republican governor for the first time in 12 years -- because Democrats so thoroughly misread 2008 and the mandate they assumed it bestowed. Obama saw himself as anointed by a watershed victory to remake American life. Not letting the cup pass from his lips, he declared to Congress only five weeks after his swearing-in his "New Foundation" for America -- from remaking the one-sixth of the American economy that is health care to massive government regulation of the economic lifeblood that is energy.

Moreover, the same conventional wisdom that proclaimed the dawning of a new age last November dismissed the inevitable popular reaction to Obama's hubristic expansion of government, taxation, spending and debt -- the tea party demonstrators, the town hall protesters -- as a raging rabble of resentful reactionaries, AstroTurf-phony and Fox News-deranged.

Some rump. Just last month Gallup found that conservatives outnumber liberals by 2 to 1 (40 percent to 20 percent) and even outnumber moderates (at 36 percent). So on Tuesday, the "rump" rebelled. It's the natural reaction of a center-right country to a governing party seeking to rush through a left-wing agenda using temporary majorities created by the one-shot election of 2008. The misreading of that election -- and of the mandate it allegedly bestowed -- is the fundamental cause of the Democratic debacle of 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I really like Rep. Paul Ryan

There Is No New Frontier

We are a nation fully settled by government. The terrain ahead is both crowded and costly.

By PEGGY NOONAN


Here are pertinent observations from two accomplished political veterans at a forum Tuesday night at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The question, from David Gergen, was what advice the panelists, former Reagan advisor Ken Duberstein and former JFK advisor Ted Sorensen, both of whom had been supportive of Mr. Obama in 2008—Mr. Sorensen campaigned with him in the primaries and the general election—would now give the president.

Mr. Duberstein said, "Don't overload the circuits," sequence your actions, don't attempt too much too quickly, or too completely. Then, modify the tone. "In campaigning, you try to annihilate your opponent. Governing, you try to make love to your opponents, as well as your allies."

Mr. Sorensen disagreed with the first point—he thought the circuit board was already overloaded when Mr. Obama was handed it last January—but not the second. On the issue of tone, he had told the Obama transition team, "Stop campaigning. You've been campaigning for years, and of course you've been in perpetual campaign mode, and [Bill] Clinton more than anyone else set that pattern of the permanent campaign. But once you're president you don't need to worry" about what's on the front page of the Washington Post or how some mayor reacts to some appointment. You've got to think bigger than that, more expansively.

Mr. Gergen: "Do you think [the president] is still campaigning too much?"

"Yes," said Mr. Sorensen. "I think that he's a remarkable speaker, but his speeches are still largely in campaign mode. I think he was surprised by the unanimity of the Republicans in Congress against his program, and probably feels he has to be in campaign mode," but "he's got a long time before he has to start his re-election campaign."

I'm not sure the White House can tell the difference between campaign mode and governing mode, but it is the difference between "us versus them" and "us." People sense the president does too much of the former, and this is reflected not only in words but decisions, such as the pursuit of a health-care agenda that was inevitably divisive. It has lost the public's enthusiastic backing, if it ever had it, but is gaining on Capitol Hill. People don't want whatever it is they're about to get, and they're about to get it. In that atmosphere everything grates, but most especially us-versus-them-ism.

The biggest thing supporters of a health care overhaul do not understand about those who oppose their efforts, and who oppose the Baucus bill, which has triumphantly passed the Senate Finance Committee even though no one knows exactly what is or will end up in it, is the issue of context.

The Democratic Party and the White House repeatedly suggest that if you are not for the bill or an overhaul, you don't care about your fellow human beings and you love and support the insurance companies. Actually, no one loves the insurance companies, including the insurance companies. They attack aspects of various bills but seem unable to defend themselves, which is why you haven't seen any 60-second spots explaining that they actually perform a public good, which they do, however imperfectly, frustratingly, mindlessly and passive-aggressively. An industry that always seems to have to be embarrassed into doing the right thing is an industry that is unlovable. But the Obama administration's strategy of making it "the villain" in "the narrative" will probably not have that much punch because . . . well, again, who likes the insurance companies? Who ever did?

People who oppose a health-care overhaul are not in love with insurance companies. They're not even in love with the status quo. Everyone knows the jerry-built system of the past half-century has weak points. They just don't think the current plan will shore them up. They think the plan would create new weak points and widen old ones. They think this because they have brains.

But even that doesn't get to the real subtext of the opposition. Yes, the timing is wrong—we have other, more urgent crises to face, and an exploding deficit. And yes, a big change in a huge economic sector during economic crisis is looking for trouble.

But a big part of opposition to the health-care plan is a sense of historical context. People actually have a sense of the history they're living in and the history their country has recently lived through. They understand the moment we're in.

In the days of the New Deal, in the 1930s, government growth was virgin territory. It was like pushing west through a continent that seemed new and empty. There was plenty of room to move. The federal government was still small and relatively lean, the income tax was still new. America pushed on, creating what it created: federal programs, departments and initiatives, Social Security. In the mid-1960s, with the Great Society, more or less the same thing. Government hadn't claimed new territory in a generation, and it pushed on—creating Medicare, Medicaid, new domestic programs of all kinds, the expansion of welfare and the safety net.

Now the national terrain is thick with federal programs, and with state, county, city and town entities and programs, from coast to coast. It's not virgin territory anymore, it's crowded. We are a nation fully settled by government. We are well into the age of the welfare state, the age of government. We know its weight, heft and demands, know its costs both in terms of money and autonomy, even as we know it has made many of our lives more secure, and helped many to feel encouragement.

But we know the price now. This is the historical context. The White House often seems disappointed that the big center, the voters in the middle of the spectrum, aren't all that excited about following them on their bold new journey. But it's a world America has been to. It isn't new to us. And we don't have too many illusions about it.

This week Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, spoke, in an interview with the Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove, of the real-world consequences of what Washington is on the verge of doing. He said he believes the Baucus plan is "the absolute height of fiscal irresponsibility," adding that "the shame of it all is we could actually fix what's broken in health care without breaking what's working, and without creating a huge new entitlement program that will accelerate the bankruptcy of this country."

He does not believe the Baucus bill would reduce the deficit over the next 10 years. "Congress has a pattern of passing cuts to pay for bills and then restoring the cuts once the bill has been passed. It's crystal-clear to me that the 'pay-fors' in this bill will not survive and we will have created a huge deficit-funded liability." He spoke of what the likely end of Medicare Advantage, the government-subsidized private insurance program on which millions rely to supplement their coverage. He said the Obama White House has even forbidden its officials from discussing that program's fate under various health-care bills. He charged that Democrats "hate it anyway, because it's private, so they are killing a program that they never liked in the first place."

Mr. Ryan is 39 years old, though he's serving his sixth term in Congress. In his comments on the health care plan he sounded like a veteran, like someone who thinks he has seen the terrain ahead, seen that it is both crowded and costly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ovaina

October 6, 2009
The Obamas' Narcissism on Display
By George Will

WASHINGTON -- In the Niagara of words spoken and written about the Obamas' trip to Copenhagen, too few have been devoted to the words they spoke there. Their separate speeches to the International Olympic Committee were so dreadful, and in such a characteristic way, that they might be symptomatic of something that has serious implications for American governance.

Both Obamas gave heartfelt speeches about ... themselves. Although the working of the committee's mind is murky, it could reasonably have rejected Chicago's bid for the 2016 games on aesthetic grounds -- unless narcissism has suddenly become an Olympic sport.

In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns "I" or "me" 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences. Still, 70 times in 89 sentences was sufficient to convey the message that somehow their fascinating selves were what made, or should have made, Chicago's case compelling.

In 2008, Obama carried the three congressional districts that contain Northern California's Silicon Valley with 73.1, 69.6 and 68.4 percent of the vote. Surely the Valley could continue its service to him by designing software for his speechwriters' computers that would delete those personal pronouns, replacing them with the word "sauerkraut" to underscore the antic nature of their excessive appearances.

And -- this will be trickier -- the software should delete the most egregious cliches sprinkled around by the tin-eared employees in the White House speechwriting shop. The president told the Olympic committee that: "At this defining moment," a moment "when the fate of each nation is inextricably linked to the fate of all nations" in "this ever-shrinking world," he aspires to "forge new partnerships with the nations and the peoples of the world."

Good grief. The memory of man runneth not to a moment that escaped being declared "defining" -- declared such by someone seeking to inflate himself by inflating it. Also, enough already with the "shrinking" world, which has been so described at least since Magellan set sail, and probably before that. And by the way, the "fate" of -- to pick a nation at random -- Chile is not really in any meaningful sense "inextricably linked" to that of, say, Chad.

But meaningful sense is often absent from the gaseous rhetoric that makes it past White House editors -- are there any? -- and onto the president's teleprompter. Consider one recent example:

Nine days before speaking in Copenhagen, the president, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, intoned: "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation." What was the speechwriter thinking when he or she assembled that sentence? The "should" was empty moralizing; the "can" was nonsense redundantly refuted by history. Does our Cicero even glance at his speeches before reading them in public?

Becoming solemn in Copenhagen, Obama said: "No one expects the games to solve all our collective problems." That's right, no one does. So why say that? Then, shifting into the foggy sentimentalism of standard Olympics blather, he said "peaceful competition between nations represents what's best about our humanity" and "it brings us together" and "it helps us to understand one another."

Actually, sometimes the Olympic games are a net subtraction from international comity. But Obama quickly returned to speaking about ... himself:

"Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. presidential election. Their interest wasn't about me as an individual. Rather, ... "

It was gallant of the president to say to the Olympic committee that Michelle is "a pretty big selling point for the city." Gallant, but obviously untrue. And -- this is where we pass from the merely silly to the ominous -- suppose the president was being not gallant but sincere. Perhaps the premise of the otherwise inexplicable trip to Denmark was that there is no difficulty, foreign or domestic, that cannot be melted by the sunshine of the Obama persona. But in the contest between the world and any president's charm, bet on the world.

Presidents often come to be characterized by particular adjectives: "honest" Abe Lincoln, "Grover the Good" Cleveland, "energetic" Theodore Roosevelt, "idealistic" Woodrow Wilson, "Silent Cal" Coolidge, "confident" FDR, "likable" Ike Eisenhower. Less happily, there were "Tricky Dick" Nixon and "Slick Willie" Clinton. Unhappy will be a president whose defining adjective is "vain."

georgewill@washpost.com

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicago has endured enough losers - stop this madness!

From Jennifer Rubin - Commentary Magazine.com

Obama received a nasty rebuff and a stern reminder that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily care what he thinks. Chicago is out of the Olympics bidding process–in the first round. Why did Obama invest so much personal capital and time for this? Well, he simply can’t help himself. It’s the same force of ego that drives him on to those TV talk shows again and again and that imagines that a grand speech with no content and no appeal outside his base will be a game changer on health-care reform.

It’s also another reminder that, apparently, there isn’t anyone influential enough in the White House to keep the president from embarrassing himself. No one to say, “Enough with the talk shows.” No one to explain that presidents should not invest their personal credibility and standing to beg the IOC on behalf of his hometown. No one, unfortunately, to direct him back to the job of making timely, forceful decisions to defend America’s real interests. Not an interest in getting the Olympics, but the interests in defanging Iran, in maintaining robust alliances with friendly democracies, in executing a winning strategy in Afghanistan, and in readjusting domestic policy away from job-killing measures and toward job-creating ones.

Obama didn’t get the Olympics. He did get a slap in the face. Maybe he will learn something about multilateral institutions. At the very least, he may want to consider finding some advisers who will tell him to stop doing such silly things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Annie cracks me up!

A Statistical Analysis of Maritime Unemployment Rates, 1946-1948. Just Kidding, More Liberal Lies About National Healthcare!

Ann Coulter

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

(This article is the sixth in a series. Click here for part one and part two, part three, part four and part five.)

(17) America's low ranking on international comparisons of infant mortality proves other countries' socialist health care systems are better than ours.

America has had a comparatively high infant mortality rate since we've been measuring these things, going back to at least the '20s. This was the case long before European countries adopted their cradle-to-grave welfare schemes and all while the U.S. was the wealthiest country on Earth.

One factor contributing to the U.S.'s infant mortality rate is that blacks have intractably high infant mortality rates -- irrespective of age, education, socioeconomic status and so on. No one knows why.

Neither medical care nor discrimination can explain it: Hispanics in the U.S. have lower infant mortality rates than either blacks or whites. Give Switzerland or Japan our ethnically diverse population and see how they stack up on infant mortality rates.

Even with a higher-risk population, the alleged differences in infant mortality are negligible. We're talking about 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the U.S. compared to 5 deaths per 1,000 for Britain and Canada. This is a rounding error -- perhaps literally when you consider that the U.S. tabulates every birth, even in poor, small and remote areas, while other countries are not always so meticulous.

But the international comparisons in "infant mortality" rates aren't comparing the same thing, anyway. We also count every baby who shows any sign of life, irrespective of size or weight at birth.

By contrast, in much of Europe, babies born before 26 weeks' gestation are not considered "live births." Switzerland only counts babies who are at least 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) as being born alive. In Canada, Austria and Germany, only babies weighing at least a pound are considered live births.

And of course, in Milan it's not considered living if the baby isn't born within driving distance of the Côte d'Azur.

By excluding the little guys, these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call "infant deaths" in America as "miscarriages."

Moreover, many industrialized nations, such as France, Hong Kong and Japan -- the infant mortality champion -- don't count infant deaths that occur in the 24 hours after birth. Almost half of infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first day.

Also contributing to the higher mortality rate of U.S. newborns: Peter Singer lives here.

But members of Congress, such as Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Jim Moran and John Olver, have all cited the U.S.'s relatively poor ranking in infant mortality among developed nations as proof that our medical care sucks. This is despite the fact that in many countries a baby born the size of Dennis Kucinich would not be considered a live birth.

Apart from the fact that we count -- and try to save -- all our babies, infant mortality is among the worst measures of a nation's medical care because so much of it is tied to lifestyle choices, such as the choice to have children out of wedlock, as teenagers or while addicted to crack.

The main causes of infant mortality -- aside from major birth defects -- are prematurity and low birth-weight. And the main causes of low birth-weight are: smoking, illegitimacy and teenage births. Americans lead most of the developed world in all three categories. Oh, and thank you for that, Britney Spears.

Although we have a lot more low birth-weight and premature babies for both demographic and lifestyle reasons, at-risk newborns are more likely to survive in America than anywhere else in the world. Japan, Norway and the other countries with better infant mortality rates would see them go through the roof if they had to deal with the same pregnancies that American doctors do.

As Nicholas Eberstadt demonstrates in his book "The Tyranny of Numbers: Mismeasurement and Misrule," American hospitals do so well with low birth-weight babies that if Japan had our medical care with their low birth-weight babies, another third of their babies would survive, making it even harder for an American kid to get into MIT.

But I think it's terrific that liberals are finally willing to start looking at outcomes to judge a system. I say we start right away with the public schools!

In international comparisons, American 12th-graders rank in the 14th percentile in math and the 29th percentile in science. The U.S. outperformed only Cyprus and South Africa in general math and science knowledge. Worse, Asian countries didn't participate in the last 12th-grade assessment tests.

Imagine how much worse our public schools would look -- assuming that were possible -- if we allowed other countries to exclude one-half of their worst performers!

That's exactly what liberals are doing when they tout America's rotten infant mortality rate compared to other countries. They look for any category that makes our medical care look worse than the rest of the world -- and then neglect to tell us that the rest of the world counts our premature and low birth-weight babies as "miscarriages."

As long as American liberals are going to keep announcing that they're embarrassed for their country, how about being embarrassed by our public schools or by our ridiculous trial lawyer culture that other countries find laughable?

Don't be discouraged, liberals -- when it comes to utterly frivolous lawsuits against obstetricians presented to illiterate jurors so that John and Elizabeth Edwards can live in an 80-room house, we're still No. 1!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sacrifice for everyone..except the lawyers

Without Tort Reform, It Isn't Health Care Reform --It's a Plaintiffs' Lawyers Protection Act

Hugh Hewitt

Friday, September 04, 2009

President Obama wants everyone to believe that American health care is in a crisis, and he wants everyone to be willing to sacrifice in order to solve that crisis.

He wants senior citizens to pay more for Medicare but get fewer benefits. He wants them to ignore the rationing embedded in his proposals to cut hundreds of billions from the Medicare budget and to drastically increase the cost of Medicare Advantage.

President Obama wants seniors to sacrifice.

President Obama wants employers to pay more in health care premiums, and if they don't provide health insurance for their employees, he wants them to pay penalty taxes. He doesn't care that tens of thousands of small businesses are struggling to stay open and keep their employees employed. And he doesn't care that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will hit these businesses hard.

President Obama wants employers to sacrifice.

President Obama wants doctors and hospitals to sacrifice. He is demanding cuts in reimbursement rates to hundreds of thousands of doctors and deep cuts for hospitals as well. He doesn't care that doctors' incomes have been pressured by falling reimbursement rates for years, and that many hospitals are struggling with the emergency room costs of treating the uninsured.

President Obama wants doctors and hospitals to sacrifice.

President Obama wants Big Pharma and insurance companies to sacrifice. President Obama wants young healthy people who choose not to buy health insurance to sacrifice.

President Obama wants everyone to sacrifice. Well, not quite everyone.

There is one group that President Obama doesn't mention, one group he doesn't demand sacrifice for the greater good.

President Obama is protecting the plaintiffs' lawyers who sue doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies and reap billions in fees from the tort lottery.

Though the broken, out-of-control tort system drives the cost of medicine through the roof, President Obama hasn't demanded any changes to that system, like a cap on pain and suffering damages, or a cap on lawyers' fees, or an excise tax on plaintiffs' contingency awards.

President Obama hasn't even asked for a provision that would award wrongfully sued doctors and hospitals the cost of their defense.

President Obama hasn't asked anything of the plaintiffs' lawyers because those plaintiff lawyers contribute tens of millions of dollars to Democratic candidates. They have done so for years and they will continue to do so as long as the Democrats protect their business. They put a lot of money into the Obama campaign and the Democratic drive to take over Congress, and their investment is paying off handsomely.

The president and Congressional Democrats have been protecting the plaintiffs' lawyers' business all year long, even though their business is a chief driver of skyrocketing health care costs.

Next week's speech by President Obama to the Congress will be full of the increasingly tiresome rhetoric of crisis and sacrifice.

But it won't be talking about the plaintiffs' lawyers and the costs they impose on us all.

And it certainly won't be demanding serious reform of the tort system as part of the "reform" of health care.

And therein is all you need to know about the merits of Obamacare. The president doesn't believe American health care is in a crisis, because if he did, he'd call for the tort reform that every expert believes is necessary.

But he won't. So we all know it is a giant exercise in hypocritical politics of the worst sort.

Obamacare deserves to die for a lot of reasons, but large among them is the sheer duplicity of demanding deep sacrifices of everyone except the plaintiffs' lawyers who have grown rich beyond most people's imaginations profiting off of the doctors and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that work to keep Americans healthy.

Keep this in mind when you watch the president next week, if you even bother to watch.

The mere man who fell to earth

September 4, 2009
Obama, The Mortal
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- What happened to President Obama? His wax wings having melted, he is the man who fell to earth. What happened to bring his popularity down further than that of any new president in polling history save Gerald Ford (post-Nixon pardon)?

The conventional wisdom is that Obama made a tactical mistake by farming out his agenda to Congress and allowing himself to be pulled left by the doctrinaire liberals of the Democratic congressional leadership. But the idea of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi pulling Obama left is quite ridiculous. Where do you think he came from, this friend of Chavista ex-terrorist William Ayers, of PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, of racialist inciter Jeremiah Wright?

But forget the character witnesses. Just look at Obama's behavior as president, beginning with his first address to Congress. Unbidden, unforced and unpushed by the congressional leadership, Obama gave his most deeply felt vision of America, delivering the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president. In American politics, you can't get more left than that speech and still be on the playing field.

In a center-right country, that was problem enough. Obama then compounded it by vastly misreading his mandate. He assumed it was personal. This, after winning by a mere seven points in a year of true economic catastrophe, of an extraordinarily unpopular Republican incumbent, and of a politically weak and unsteady opponent. Nonetheless, Obama imagined that, as Fouad Ajami so brilliantly observed, he had won the kind of banana-republic plebiscite that grants caudillo-like authority to remake everything in one's own image.

Accordingly, Obama unveiled his plans for a grand makeover of the American system, animating that vision by enacting measure after measure that greatly enlarged state power, government spending and national debt. Not surprisingly, these measures engendered powerful popular skepticism that burst into tea-party town-hall resistance.

Obama's reaction to that resistance made things worse. Obama fancies himself tribune of the people, spokesman for the grass roots, harbinger of a new kind of politics from below that would upset the established lobbyist special-interest order of Washington. Yet faced with protests from a real grass-roots movement, his party and his supporters called it a mob -- misinformed, misled, irrational, angry, unhinged, bordering on racist. All this while the administration was cutting backroom deals with every manner of special interest -- from drug companies to auto unions to doctors -- in which favors worth billions were quietly and opaquely exchanged.

"Get out of the way" and "don't do a lot of talking," the great bipartisan scolded opponents whom he blamed for creating the "mess" from which he is merely trying to save us. If only they could see. So with boundless confidence in his own persuasiveness, Obama undertook a summer campaign to enlighten the masses by addressing substantive objections to his reforms.

Things got worse still. With answers so slippery and implausible and, well, fishy, he began jeopardizing the most fundamental asset of any new president -- trust. You can't say that the system is totally broken and in need of radical reconstruction, but nothing will change for you; that Medicare is bankrupting the country, but $500 billion in cuts will have no effect on care; that you will expand coverage while reducing deficits -- and not inspire incredulity and mistrust. When ordinary citizens understand they are being played for fools, they bristle.

After a disastrous summer -- mistaking his mandate, believing his press, centralizing power, governing left, disdaining citizens for (of all things) organizing -- Obama is in trouble.

Let's be clear: This is a fall, not a collapse. He's not been repudiated or even defeated. He will likely regroup and pass some version of health insurance reform that will restore some of his clout and popularity.

But what has occurred -- irreversibly -- is this: He's become ordinary. The spell is broken. The charismatic conjurer of 2008 has shed his magic. He's regressed to the mean, tellingly expressed in poll numbers hovering at 50 percent.

For a man who only recently bred a cult, ordinariness is a great burden, and for his acolytes, a crushing disappointment. Obama has become a politician like others. And like other flailing presidents, he will try to salvage a cherished reform -- and his own standing -- with yet another prime-time speech.

But for the first time since election night in Grant Park, he will appear in the most unfamiliar of guises -- mere mortal, a treacherous transformation to which a man of Obama's supreme self-regard may never adapt.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baracko - not ready for primetime

September 3, 2009
The Not Ready for Prime Time President
By Bruce Walker

Pundits, including perceptive conservative opponents like Charles Krauthammer, have noted the consummate political skill of Barack Obama. There is not much doubt that Obama was able to wage a very effective campaign for the Democratic nomination and then for the presidency in the general election.

Bill Clinton was a masterful campaigner too (I had the opportunity to watch some of that first hand.) Ronald Reagan, because in part of his long career in Hollywood, could give "The Speech" a thousand times and each time it was electrifying. The word "charisma" entered our popular political language to describe John Kennedy, whose beautiful wife and boyish good looks created the myth of Camelot. Franklin Roosevelt had the same gift for making people feeling comfortable and winning elections.

But there is a huge difference between Obama, on the one hand, those other presidents on the other hand - and the difference transcends ideology. The difference is that JFK, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton had the ability to govern once they had won their elections.

FDR, by the time he became president, he had served as Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New York, and Vice Presidential Candidate of his party in 1928. Forget the rightness or the wrongness of his policies: Franklin Roosevelt understood governance.

John Kennedy had been a war hero, a member of Congress, and the real author of some important books (like Why England Slept, in which JFK describes the dangers of appeasing evil.) The Roosevelt and Kennedy clans also grew up with a sense of aristocratic responsibility and a backdoors familiarity with power which may not have been moral, but certainly was valuable.

Ronald Reagan, in addition to being a movie star, a union president, and an ambassador for General Electric, served eight years as Governor of California and was twice an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination before finally winning the nomination in 1980.

Even Bill Clinton had been a congressional candidate, then attorney general of Arkansas, then for many years governor of Arkansas before he ran for president. Clinton served a term as Chair of the National Governors Association. He was a leading member of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group considered to be moderate but which was influential.

Obama, while possessing many of the campaigning gifts of these presidents, has shown no ability to govern at all. This is a very dangerous situation for our nation. Our leader is a man whose ignorance, in many areas of history and policy, is simply appalling. He is rather like the "President in the Plastic Bubble." Obama's entire life has been insulated from any sense of reality of the nation he governs.

When a black Marxist professor obviously blinded by intense racial rage has to be taken to a police station by a police officer nursed in all the nuances of political correctness, Obama cannot see his friend as the wailing bigot and the white policemen as the reasonable figure. At best, Obama calls it a moral draw.

When millions of Americans spontaneously protest at Tea Parties and Town Meetings proposals for massive federal changes, Obama instructs his satrapies in government, the Democratic Party, and the media that the voters are simply uninformed. When citizens cite specific sections of federal bills, how serious does Obama expect to be taken?

When polls show his support dropping steadily as well as support for his specific policies and his party, Obama seems to think that his cronies and he have simply not repeated the same unbelievable statements often, clearly, or loudly enough. It is as if John Edwards had taken the position, when his infidelity was exposed, that he simply needed to get in front of the television camera as often as possible repeating his lies as persuasively as he could.

His pals from Chicago seem unable to help him. His partisan handlers fancy that they can simply ram whatever they want. Men like Axelrod and Emmanuel seem to think that it should be simple to push radical Leftist programs through a nation in which conservatives outnumber liberals in virtually all of the fifty states. Obama and his clique appear certain that in a modern culture in which celebrity means everything to many, that just remaining on the cover of glamour magazines will assure political support -- when actually the immature voter is the most feckless and unreliable source of muscle around.

President Obama seemingly has no clue about what he is doing, and, increasingly, it shows. What will happen when things start to go sour in Afghanistan? Our Commander-in-Chief simply will not be able to blame President Bush. After Obama has effectively destroyed the CIA, what will he do when terrorists strike? War is a nasty business in which lawyers should have little role. Has Obama noticed that Islamic terrorists are now threatening him? Does he understand that these vicious men are still threatening America?

Looking smooth on television and wowing those fawning socialites and film directors who want to be wowed brings a sort of ephemeral "popularity," but great nations are not governed on such spun sugar. Winning elections and running superpowers are very different tasks. Now, we have a president who is every second still just a candidate. As the world grows more dangerous by the day, we are "led" by the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-President.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Harry Reid is a turd

Aug. 30, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

SHERMAN FREDERICK: Enough is enough, Harry

Stop the childish bullying
This newspaper traces its roots to before Las Vegas was Las Vegas.

We've seen cattle ranches give way to railroads. We chronicled the construction of Hoover Dam. We reported on the first day of legalized gambling. The first hospital. The first school. The first church. We survived the mob, Howard Hughes, the Great Depression, several recessions, two world wars, dozens of news competitors and any number of two-bit politicians who couldn't stand scrutiny, much less criticism.

We're still here doing what we do for the people of Las Vegas and Nevada. So, let me assure you, if we weathered all of that, we can damn sure outlast the bully threats of Sen. Harry Reid.

On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber's board members for a meet-'n'-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal's director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.

Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: "I hope you go out of business."

Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.

Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.

You could call Reid's remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.

But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid's remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was -- a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he's shaking them down.

No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.

If he thinks he can push the state's largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don't have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.

For the sake of all who live and work in Nevada, we can't let this bully behavior pass without calling out Sen. Reid. If he'll try it with the Review-Journal, you can bet that he's tried it with others. So today, we serve notice on Sen. Reid that this creepy tactic will not be tolerated.

We won't allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first.

That's a promise, not a threat.

And it's a promise to our readers, not to you, Sen. Reid.


Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The cat is finally out of the bag on Tort Reform

Caving to Trial Lawyers
It's necessary to tie any health-care reform to tort reform.
by Fred Barnes
09/07/2009, Volume 014, Issue 47



We've always suspected that fear of angering trial lawyers was the only reason President Obama refused to embrace tort reform as a crucial part of achieving his goal of reduced health care costs. Now we know for sure. A moment of candor by Howard Dean, the former chairman of the DNC and an enthusiastic backer of Obama's health reform initiative, confirmed our suspicions. "The reason that tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everyone else they were taking on," Dean said at a town hall meeting in Virginia last week.

So much for Obama's insistence that cutting costs is dear to his heart. He's rejected, for purely political reasons, one of the most effective tools for containing medical costs. It would upset a special interest group--well-heeled plaintiff's lawyers--that is one of the biggest funders of the Democratic party.

Yet tort reform remains a key to paring costs. The president can make a stab at directly cutting back spending on health care, but that's bound to add to the political unpopularity of Obamacare and is unlikely to pass even an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. In particular, shrinking Medicare spending is a nonstarter, given the furious opposition of seniors.

Tort reform, in contrast, has the advantage of being popular. It would put sensible limits on medical malpractice lawsuits that have flooded the courts and forced doctors to practice "defensive" medicine. Studies of the effects of such medicine put its price tag at a minimum of $100 billion a year and probably more than $200 billion.

In a study last year by the Massachusetts Medical Society, 83 percent of doctors reported they practiced defensive medicine. This is hardly a surprise. Simply to avoid being sued, doctors order more tests, procedures, consultations, referrals to specialists, and hospitalizations than they otherwise would. And why not? Their reaction to lawsuit abuse is perfectly rational.

There are other downsides. Because doctors pay more for malpractice insurance, patients pay more too: nearly $2,000 a year in extra health expenses for an average family, according to the rate of defensive medicine found in a study by Daniel Kessler and Mark McClellan. Stuart Weinstein, the former president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, has calculated the extra cost of delivering a baby due to high insurance premiums. If a doctor delivers 100 babies a year and pays $200,000 for insurance (the rate in Florida), "$2,000 of the delivery cost for each baby goes to pay the cost of the medical liability premium," he wrote.

Another problem stemming from the surge in malpractice lawsuits is that the doctors most affected--those in obstetrics, neurosurgery, and emergency medicine--leave states with high insurance costs and courts inclined to hand out multimillion-dollar malpractice awards. They migrate to states with limits on lawsuits and lower premiums on malpractice insurance.

Tort reform works. Texas is a good example. In 2003, the state enacted caps on noneconomic damages (so-called pain and suffering) and added a requirement that lawsuits be approved by a panel of medical experts. Over the next four years, premiums fell 21 percent, the drift of doctors out of the state was halted, and 7,000 new doctors set up practices.

It would be nice if every state followed the Texas model. That hasn't happened. But lawsuit abuse and rising health care costs are a national problem. So tort reform is an appropriate part of national health care reform. And a necessary part if there's any hope for curbing costs.

In his speeches, Obama notes that "health care inflation is go[ing] up about twice as fast as regular inflation." That's not quite true. But in any case, medical malpractice premiums are growing at four times the rate of inflation, a whopping 12 percent annually. So why not address them? Republican senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming has proposed health courts to rule on malpractice lawsuits. You can guess the fate of this idea. Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate blocked it, without any protest by the president or his minions.

Howard Dean has exposed the hypocrisy and political favoritism in Obama's health reform scheme. Republicans could be much more vocal in making this part of their critique of Obamacare. In doing so, they would also be pointing out that they have proposed solutions for this key contributor to health care costs--and Obama has not.

--Fred Barnes

Monday, August 24, 2009

Religion of "The One"

August 24, 2009
A New Push to Play God from Washington
By Thomas Sowell

The serious, and sometimes chilling, provisions of the medical care legislation that President Obama has been trying to rush through Congress are important enough for all of us to stop and think, even though his political strategy from the outset has been to prevent us from having time to stop and think about it.

What we also should stop to think about is the mindset behind this legislation, which is very consistent with the mindset behind other policies of this administration, whether the particular issue is bailing out General Motors, telling banks who to lend to or appointing "czars" to tell all sorts of people in many walks of life what they can and cannot do.

The idea that government officials can play God from Washington is not a new idea, but it is an idea that is being pushed with new audacity.

What they are trying to do is to create an America very unlike the America that has existed for centuries-- the America that people have been attracted to by the millions from every part of the world, the America that many generations of Americans have fought and died for.

This is the America for which Michelle Obama expressed her resentment before it became politically expedient to keep quiet.

It is the America that Reverend Jeremiah Wright denounced in his sermons during the 20 years when Barack Obama was a parishioner, before political expediency required Obama to withdraw and distance himself.

The thing most associated with America-- freedom-- is precisely what must be destroyed if this is to be turned into a fundamentally different country to suit Obama's vision of the country and of himself. But do not expect a savvy politician like Barack Obama to express what he is doing in terms of limiting our freedom.

He may not even think of it in those terms. He may think of it in terms of promoting "social justice" or making better decisions than ordinary people are capable of making for themselves, whether about medical care or housing or many other things. Throughout history, egalitarians have been among the most arrogant people.

Obama has surrounded himself with people who also think it is their job to make other people's decisions for them. Not just Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, his health care advisor who complains of Americans' "over-utilization" of medical care, but also Professor Cass Sunstein, who has written a whole book on how third parties should use government power to "nudge" people into making better decisions in general.

Then there are a whole array of Obama administration officials who take it as their job to pick winners and losers in the economy and tell companies how much they can and cannot pay their executives.

Just as magicians know that the secret of some of their tricks is to distract the audience, so politicians know that the secret of many political tricks is to distract the public with scapegoats.

No one is more of a political magician than Barack Obama. At the beginning of 2008, no one expected a shrewd and experienced politician like Hillary Clinton to be beaten for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States by someone completely new to the national political scene. But Obama worked his political magic, with the help of the media, which he still has.

Barack Obama's escapes from his own past words, deeds and associations have been escapes worthy of Houdini.

Like other magicians, Obama has chosen his distractions well. The insurance industry is currently his favorite distraction as scapegoats, after he has tried to demonize doctors without much success.

Saints are no more common in the insurance industry than in politics or even among paragons of virtue like economists. So there will always be horror stories, even if these are less numerous or less horrible than what is likely to happen if Obamacare gets passed into law.

Obama even gets away with saying things like having a system to "keep insurance companies honest"-- and many people may not see the painful irony in politicians trying to keep other people honest. Certainly most of the media are unlikely to point out this irony.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson IS the Truth.....

The Strange Case of the Obama Meltdown

Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On August 20, 2009 @ 5:59 am In Uncategorized | 189 Comments

The Obama Meltdown—Symptoms/Diagnosis/Prognosis

Strange things are happening to the Obama administration and quickly so. His polls are diving and may not stop at 50/50, the most precipitous drop in approval of a first-year President since Bill Clinton in 1993 (cf. Hillary care).

First, here are some of the problems the President faces:


Symptoms and Diagnosis

1) Health Care. Health-care take overs and socialized medicine have terrified not just the right and conservatives, but the elderly of all persuasions who fear their shaky Medicare funds will be diverted to Obama’s new plans. In short, they believe their care will be rationed and given to all sorts of new recipients. And they fear age will be a basis for meriting treatment; as if the gang banger with a long felony record of mayhem at 22 would be more deserving before a federal health panel than would someone at 90 who scrimped and saved for insurance in case of some future need for a hip replacement (and was still active and productive; cf. great octogenarians from Sophocles to Barzun who did their best work in their late lives).

It was an insane political move to demonize these town-hallers, when streaming video showed the participants scared and angry, but not violent, trying to get answers from smug politicos who either cell phoned away, ridiculed questioners in the manner of Barney Frank, or mocked their interrogators. These were for the most part not Code Pink/Cindy Sheehan type protestors. (And by the way, what happened to Code Pink, given we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan?)

2) The Spell is Broken. Cap-and-trade, the mega-deficits, the apology tours, and the sleaze of some appointments and congressional grandees (cf. Rangel, Dodd, Murtha, etc.) were stimulants, but not in themselves enough to awaken the somnolent American people from their collective trance. Yet health care was like a shot of adrenaline that jolted the patient out of his slumber. Suddenly hope and change no longer worked like the swinging watch and “you’re getting sleepy” lingo. Voters are feeling they’ve been “had” and were mesmerized into being used for an extremist agenda.

Who made the following decisions? 1) to propose a 1,000 page bill that no one had read, much less could explain?; 2) to ram down the greatest change in the US economy in fifty years by the August recess?; 3) to talk loosely of the “uninsured” without knowing why they were not insured, how much it would cost to insure them, or whether they currently in fact find some sort of care?; 4) to reference Rahm Emanuel’s doctor brother as a source of wisdom? 5) to demonize the health-care industry as greedy?

(NB: Does Obama really believe that illegal aliens do not possess 200-300 dollars a month to buy catastrophic health coverage, when they send on average at least that amount back to Mexico on the assumption the emergency room here is free, for everything from injuries to natal care? Does he believe that a 25-year old does not gamble that his robust health means he prefers his I-pod, DVDs, and nights out to squirreling away cash each month for health insurance? There are flaws in our system that must be corrected, but the notion of conspirators in black hats who plot to prevent health care for the “uninsured” is fallacious.

3) The Counter-attack is not working. The Obama shotgun has blasted all sorts of magnum loads—town-hall and tea-party critics were un-American, Nazis, tools of the insurance industry, dupes, and Astro-turfers. Now the religious argument is thrown out at the 11th hour: those who doubt neo-socialist care are somehow un-Christian and uncaring. But that tactic evokes Trinity-Church politics, where religious piety rings false and serves political advantage. Did not the Christian Right get demonized for just that avenue of political mobilization? And because Obama assumed messianic pretensions, such a prophet suffers the wage of hypocrisy, given the growing reality that he is, on the presidential scale, rather mean spirited, highly partisan, too sensitive to criticism, and surprisingly ill-informed given the emphasis on his Ivy-League education and the whiz-kids around him (who wrote the error-plagued Cairo speech).

The Therapy


1) Cool the “this is our moment”, “hope and change” rhetoric. Obama reminds me of what Wellington supposedly said of Napoleon’s Old Guard at Waterloo “They came on in the same old way, and we sent them back in the same old way.” Instead, he should quietly follow the 1995 triangulation model of Bill Clinton/Dick Morris.

Instead of the old sops of welfare reform, school uniforms, balanced budgets, and more police officers on the street (I’m not being entirely cynical here), Obama should concentrate on debt, debt, and more debt. He could freeze federal spending at 2% per annum, and get into the black in two-three years, given his income tax hikes. He could pacify the Left with, “I’d love to pursue our socialist agenda, but we are going broke and cannot right now.”

Instead of cap-and-trade, he could allot a few feminist, green and gay ambassadorships that would not impact the federal treasury. Given the sudden silence on Iraq, the Left has demonstrated that their furor was always about power lost and hatred for George Bush in the White House, never much about principles or convictions. That Obama is in the White House is more important to most former critics of Bush than anything he does or says.

2) Return to the “no more blue/red state” bipartisan tropes. Consider Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barney Frank as the real challenges, since the animosity that they engender can do far more damage to Barack Obama than Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and all of the Fox News cast put together. Voters are more comfortable with Blue Dogs than Barbara Boxer. Soon the tea-party anger is going to spill over and result in Boxer, Reid, etc. having reelection nightmares.

3) Retire Robert Gibbs. He is as disingenuous as Ron Ziegler; as buffoonish as Scott McClellan; as abrasive as Ari Fleischer without the accompanying competence; and as mean-spirited as Bill Moyers. He must be some sort of Republican plant? (David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel seem likewise increasing liabilities. Axelrod is knee-deep in conflict of interest problems (his former firm is paying out his final settlement in part from business generated from Axelrod’s present West Wing influence). Emanuel is the architect of ramming through these borrow-and-spend radical proposals all at once, on the theory that a left-wing government can be institutionalized and permanent constituencies established before the public catches on and the treasury can borrow no more.)

4) Stop the apologies abroad and emphasize the continuance of the war on terror (renditions, tribunals, Predators, etc.). Stay the course in Afghanistan and don’t broadcast our intentions in Iraq. The model is Truman and JFK, not McGovern and Jimmy Carter. Read up on Iwo Jima and Chosun, and cool the victim studies chants.

5) End the class warfare against those who make over $150,000 (or is it $200,000 or is it $250,000?), and begin to thank them for creating national wealth and giving so much of it back to the government (state, federal, and payroll taxes already result in a 50 percent plus bite for many). As it is now, Obama’s agenda is not so much against the wealthy (the rich own the homes he vacations in, organized the salons that enriched him in the campaign, and are among his most generous supporters and recipients of insider favors), as it is directed at those who wish to be wealthy.



And the Republicans?

1) Mea Culpa. At some point the opposition will have to offer counterproposals that are the opposite of the financial recklessness of 2001-06. On health care reform, they could offer tax incentives for private health care accounts, craft subsidies for the poor to purchase private catastrophic plans, and insist on tort reform. It won’t do any good to blast Obama for bankrupting the treasury if conservatives still vote in multi-billion-dollar agriculture subsidies, expand earmarks, and dream up new programs like No Child Left Behind and Prescription Drug expanded benefits. The Republicans gain from the Obama meltdown, but will be embarrassed when voters turn and ask , “And you? What have you got for us that is any better?” and they have no detailed reply.

2) Clean House. If opponents are to emphasize the Democratic sleaze—Rangel, Dodd, Murtha, the Obama Cabinet tax-cheaters, Axelrod, etc—then they must pledge no more Tom Delays, Duke Cunningham’s, Mark Foleys, and Jack Abramoffs. Parts of the success of the old Contract with America were provisions about congressional behavior.

3) Something Different This Time. Conservatives must appreciate that Obamism transcends the usual liberal challenge posed by past Democrats. For a variety of reasons, the liberal agenda this time is much more far-reaching and systematic. Obama proposes not just to grow government and absorb much more of the nation’s GDP into the state, but to create a lasting legacy of statism.

His “gorge the beast” philosophy of mega-deficits ensures the goal of “spreading the wealth” (cf. his campaign interview in which he was unfazed by the point that targeted tax cuts and economic expansion brought in greater federal revenue). Income is deemed arbitrary and compensation not rational; thus government is called upon to even things out given its greater wisdom and superior moral sensibility. The rapid growth in the state leads to permanent loyal constituencies of those who grant and receive entitlements—and could not be undone for generations, if ever. A religiosity surrounds these proposals, and critics (“fishy”) are targeted on email and websites, considered un-American and now un-Christian, in one of the most glaring examples of the utopian ends justifying devious means that we have seen in our lifetimes.

What’s Next?

In exasperation I think Obama’s supporters will revert to the race card more often still, which in turn will only take his popularity even lower. Because of his inexperience and unfamiliarity with political hostility, I think Obama will press ahead on the present course, heightening partisan tensions, dividing the country, and ultimately diminishing his presidency further still. Again, the voters wanted youth, charisma, competence, fiscal sobriety, non-partisanship, and are getting radicalism with an increasing edge to it.

An inflation-, debt-induced mini-recovery, I think, will help Obama by early next year. But the laws of physics will then catch up to him, as a falling dollar, high interest, high inflation, low growth, and high unemployment return to choke off a return to former prosperity. His political fortunes will hinge on what part of this economic cycles the elections fall, and the degree to which he jettisons the Chicago style (I predict many of us critics will be fully audited by next April or see Team Obama increase the swarm on websites and postings). With savvy Democratic role models like Truman, JFK, and Clinton, it is suicidal that he pursues a Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, or Kerry agenda—as if he really thinks voters supported him to resurrect such unpopular policies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is there anyone left to throw under the bus?

Obama Snares Palin, Media in Wide Blame-Game Net: Caroline Baum


Commentary by Caroline Baum

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- When the political winds shift -- when a party is voted out of power or a policy is panned by the public -- Washington turns to its favorite pastime: the blame game.

And so it is with President Barack Obama, who tripped on his sprint to the health-care-reform finish line. Voters, it seems, want to understand a little more about what ObamaCare will mean for them, what it will do to the doctor-patient relationship, and what it will cost future generations in higher taxes and, yes, rationed supply.

Rather than examine the public’s concerns, the plans’ inconsistencies or the sheer irresponsibility of trying to ram something this big and complicated through Congress without a small-scale trial, the Obama administration is pointing fingers. Lots of them. Most of the targets are just plain silly.

1. Conservative groups

When liberal activists, including trade unions, Acorn and MoveOn.org, protested against anything and everything President George W. Bush said or did, it was called grassroots democracy.

When conservative groups encourage supporters to attend town hall meetings and make their sentiments known to their congressmen, it’s un-American, disruptive and the work of right- wing extremists.

Madame Hypocrite

Where was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, when President George W. Bush was being compared to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis? She was a “fan of disrupters” in those days, as she told anti-war protesters at a January 2006 town hall meeting in San Francisco. Pelosi only developed a thin skin (too much plastic surgery?) when the Democrats took control of the executive and legislative branches of government.

The effort to blame right-wing groups is transparent. If my feedback on a recent column is indicative of the political persuasion and demographic distribution of the protesters, these are ordinary Americans energized by the debate, frustrated at not having a voice and motivated to exercise their right of free speech. Attempts to smear opponents and shut down debate are, well, un-American.

2. Insurance Companies

Garnering support for health-insurance reform by demonizing insurance companies is a cheap shot, albeit one that resonates with the public. After all, these are the faceless bureaucrats who deny or pay claims in a seemingly arbitrary manner and refuse or cancel coverage if you cost them too much money.

Stubborn Facts

Facts are stubborn things, this White House is quick to remind us. And in this case, the facts don’t support the vilification.

If insurance companies were gouging the public, the evidence would show up in one of two places, according to Graef Crystal, a compensation expert in Santa Rosa, California, and occasional Bloomberg News columnist: excessive executive pay or excessive returns to shareholders.

His analysis of five major health insurers shows just the opposite: below-market pay and below-market shareholder returns.

“There’s no case here for undue enrichment of shareholders” or over-compensating CEOs, Crystal finds.

Health care needs a major overhaul, but that’s no reason to make scapegoats out of insurance companies.

3. The Media

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard Obama point the finger at the media at his town hall meeting last week in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Fishing Expedition

The president, defending the White House’s fishing expedition for “fishy” e-mails on health-insurance reform (suspended this week by popular demand), blamed the media for “distorting what’s taken place.”

Is this the same media that was in the pocket for candidate Obama and waltzed us through the honeymoon? If Bush had been as reliant on his teleprompter as Obama, or said “Cinco de Cuatro” when he meant “Cuatro de Mayo,” the press would have been all over him for being inept.

Sorry, Mr. President, you have no idea what it means for the media to distort what’s taken place. The long-gone Bush administration is getting more negative press than you are.

4. Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin, the recently retired governor of Alaska, 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and Democrat’s favorite whipping boy (or girl), created a stir with a reference to death panels on Facebook. Palin said she didn’t want her parents or Down-Syndrome baby to “have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide” what kind of medical care should be allocated to these less productive members of society.

Blame the Democrats

This is the same Sarah Palin whose foreign policy experience was summed up during the campaign by her ability “to see Russia from land here in Alaska.” This is the same Sarah Palin credited with changing the terms of the debate? C’mon. That’s too laughable to address.

Besides, there’s a kernel of truth in what she said. Like all goods and services, medical care is a scarce resource that must be rationed. The only question is how: by the market (price) or by government mandate.

If government is doing the rationing, what exactly will bureaucrats use to determine who gets what care and who doesn’t?

Opposition to fast-track health-insurance reform is coming from Obama’s own party. Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and one of six Finance Committee members involved in bipartisan negotiations, said on Fox News Sunday that the goal is to “get this right,” not meet some “specific timetable.”

He said the Senate lacks enough votes to pass a bill with a public option. “To continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort.”

There’s always room for one more -- the Democrats -- on Obama’s blame-game list.

(Caroline Baum, author of “Just What I Said,” is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Caroline Baum in New York at cabaum@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: August 18, 2009 21:00 EDT







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