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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Thursday, August 20, 2009

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck.....

The Stiletto
- FOXNews.com
- August 19, 2009
Why Obama Is a Lame Duck

Obama has made himself already irrelevant on many of the issues he ran on in 2008.


Just seven months into his term -- and 14 months before the 2010 midterm election -- and could it be, is President Obama already a lame duck?

With his passive management style -- which inevitably led to overreaching and heavy-handedness by Congressional Democrats Obama has made himself largely irrelevant on many of the issues he ran on, from health care "reform" to "resetting" our foreign relations. Here are seven signs that Obama's political suasion is waning:


1. On the heels of Obama's tacit DNR on the end-of-life death panels in the Senate Finance Committee's health care "reform" proposal, the administration signaled that it is also willing to bury what has always been a key element of the president's plans for healthcare "reform"(watch this video) -- a government financed "public option" to compete with (and eventually drive out of business) private health insurers. Bowing to opposition from Republicans in both houses of Congress, and fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the administration's fall-back position would be to support creation of consumer-owned nonprofit health insurance cooperatives. But the compromise is anathema to House Dems and Obama's liberal base, who vowed to fight to the bitter end for the public option. Either way, it's a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation for Obama (and we saw Sebelieus backtrack on Tuesday) and demonstrates how completely he has lost control of the health care debate.


2. After repeatedly insisting on getting a bill on his desk before Congress recessed for the summer, President Obama thought he had a deal with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that if the "Gang of Six" -- three Democrats and three Republican senators on the Finance Committee -- can't reach a consensus on a bipartisan bill by September 15 then the effort will be scrapped and Dems will push forward with their partisan proposals. But then Gang of Six member Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told "FOX News Sunday's" Chris Wallace that he and the others will not be "held hostage" by the mid-September deadline, and that he and his five colleagues "rejected" a specific timetable, because "it's more important to get this right."In a warning to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he added, "What we have agreed to is that we are going to be ready when we're ready."


3. A recipient of $45 billion in taxpayer assistance -- with the government holding a 34 percent ownership interest -- Citibank is required to submit the pay packages for its 25 senior executives and highest-paid employees to Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration's special compensation master (AKA "pay czar") for review. The New York Times reports that Citi plans to pay two of its traders a combined $128 million under contracts that had been signed before Congress passed a law tasking the Treasury Secretary with examining compensation packages of top executives at companies that received funds from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) -- even after being warned by Treasury officials that the contracts would be rejected:

Now the bank's decision presents the administration with an awkward political choice between doing little or doing nothing about the contract.

Treasury officials could issue a nonbinding advisory opinion critical of the pay package that that would carry no legal weight but could ameliorate some of the expected political fallout. Or it could do nothing and face the wrath of the public and Congress, which will consider legislation to limit executive pay after its August recess.

Feinberg himself is unsure of whether he has the legal authority to make Citi toe the line. Speaking in generalities, he told Reuters that his authority over executive compensation is "binding" and can "claw back" money already paid out, but regarding the specific case of the two Citi traders -- one of which stands to earn $98 million this year -- he admitted that he is unsure at this juncture "[w]hether I have jurisdiction to decide his compensation or not"and that he has "limited power" over contracts signed before February 11, 2009."


So if Citi thumbs its nose at Tiny Tim Geithner and Feinberg, there may be little or nothing the Obama administration can do about it.


4. If enacted, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warns that the House's "cap-and-trade"climate change bill would cost $8 billion over a 10-year period to implement, and would require thousands of new bureaucrats to formulate nearly 1,500 regulations and mandates for at 21 federal agencies, reports The Washington Times.


Now, four Democratic Senators -- Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan (both representing North Dakota) want to scale down the upper chamber's climate-change bill, reports Bloomberg.com:


The resistance by Lincoln and her Senate colleagues undercuts President Barack Obama's effort to win passage of legislation that would cap carbon dioxide emissions and establish a market for trading pollution allowances, said Peter Molinaro, the head of government affairs for Midland, Michigan- based Dow Chemical Co., which supports the measure.



Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate say they are sticking with their plan to combine a version of that bill with a separate measure mandating energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources such as solar and wind power. The legislation also provides for an extension of offshore oil and gas drilling in certain areas, broadening its support.



Reid needs 60 votes to pass a bill that includes a cap-and-trade measure in the Senate, and 15 Dems have already joined their Repub colleagues in opposition because of concerns on the effects of the legislation on the economy.



5. Leaving aside Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's continual disrespect towards Obama "calling him an "ignoramus"and saying he is "lost in the Andromeda Nebula" -- The Christian Science Monitor notes that "President Obama may be willing to talk to America's adversaries abroad, but six months into his tenure hardly anyone is returning his call"and that "[w]hether the issue is key security threats, as with Iran and North Korea, or lower-profile matters, as with Cuba or Burma (Myanmar), Obama's critics and even some backers of the "talk to the enemy' approach are starting to speak of the policy's limits:



As Americans went to the polls last year, they were apparently ready to give Obama's approach a try, after the perceived failures of the Bush administration's practice of freezing out enemy states. As president, Obama wasted no time converting a campaign pledge to official policy, declaring in his inaugural address, "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."



More than six months later, Obama can claim no breakthroughs or cite any obvious unclenched fists. Of the cases where the policy faces its biggest test -- Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba -- responses to Obama's outstretched hand range from a bite back on the nuclear front (North Korea) to silence (Iran) to modest movement (Syria and Cuba).



[C]ritics say the months since the extended hand of the inauguration have allowed adversaries time to further their own goals.



6. Here at home, Obama's grass-roots network -- the 13 million member-strong Organizing for America -- is not exactly champing at the bit to have a go at opponents of his health care objectives, reports The New York Times:



More than a dozen campaign volunteers, precinct captains and team leaders from all corners of Iowa, who dedicated a large share of their time in 2007 and 2008 to Mr. Obama, said ..."they supported the president completely but were taking a break from politics and were not active members of Organizing for America.



Some said they were reluctant to talk to their neighbors about something personal and complicated like health care. ...



But even among those who turned out for the meetings, many of whom had Obama buttons affixed to their shirts and spoke glowingly of the president, there was a sense of fatigue at the prospect of returning to the political calisthenics the Obama army once required.



To Jim Pinkerton, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a FOX News contributor, the lack of enthusiasm is quite illuminating -- "a tale of not only political enervation, but also an epic tale of policy defeat." In a post published on the Serious Medicine Strategy blog, Pinkerton writes:



"Taking a break from politics"? Excuse me, but that's not how political activists operate. They get into politics because they like a campaign, or, if one prefers, a crusade. And they get out when they don't have such an energizing effort to throw themselves into -- or when their eager hearts are broken. And yet that's what Obama has given Democratic activists -- a heartbreaking, de-energizing argument. ...



But of course, we are out of money for health care because Obama chose to spend that money on other priorities -- Tim Geithner's friends. ... Given a choice between investment bankers and non-masters-of-the-universe, Obama and his investment-banker-ish advisers chose ... investment bankers. Maybe Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan can make those grassrootsy phone calls in Iowa.



What Americans get all fired up about, Pinkerton rightly observes, is fighting for their own health, not for "health insurance reform."



7. A new Gallup Poll, "Political Ideology By State, January 2 -- June 30, 2009," finds that "a significantly higher percentage of Americans in most states -- even some solidly Democratic ones -- call themselves conservative rather than liberal. Here's the breakdown: In all 50 states, more people call themselves "conservative" than "liberal;"in 22 states, more people call themselves "conservative" than "moderate; and in 10 states, the number of people who call themselves "conservative"and "moderate" are tied or virtually tied. And remember, this poll was taken before the healthcare "reform"issue ignited and moderates and independents started attending town hall meetings demanding to know how the government will pay for a massive, costly new entitlement.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said people have lost confidence in government:



You know, this debate isn't about health care. Health care's the symptom. The debate is an uncontrolled federal government. ... [T]he tone is based on fear of loss of control of their own government. ... [W]e have raised the question of whether or not we're legitimately thinking about the American people and their long-term best interests.



The Democrats control both houses of Congress and, as president, Obama is the head of the party so a loss in confidence in the government is, at least in part, a loss in confidence in his leadership of the government.



Columnist Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, marvels, "[w]e are witnessing one of the more rapid turnabouts in recent American political history:



President Obama's popularity has plummeted to 50 percent and lower in some polls, while the public expresses even less confidence in the Democratic-led Congress and the direction of the country at large. Yet, just eight months ago, liberals were talking in Rovian style about a new generation to come of progressive politics - and the end of both the Republican party and the legacy of Reaganism itself. Barack Obama was to be the new FDR and his radical agenda an even better New Deal.



Hanson attributes Obama's puffed-up popularity falling like a souffle to 10 factors -- including voters being wary that the cures for global warming, illegal immigration, health care and other large, seemingly intractable problems are worse than the problems themselves --especially new direct and indirect taxes taking an even bigger bite out of the family budget; becoming outraged over the quadrupling of the national debt; finding Obama to be extremely partisan, polarizing and "hyper-racially conscious" and apprehension that Obamania is verging on something sinister and Orwellian.



All of which may be setting Dems up for a comeuppance in November 2010. Byron York, chief political correspondent of The Washington Examiner, writes: "It's a possibility many Republicans speak of only in whispers and Democrats are just now beginning to face. After passionate and contentious fights over health care, the environment, and taxes, could Democrats lose big -- really big -- in next year's elections? ... Not long ago, some Republicans were worried about becoming a permanent minority party. Although they may not win in 2010, they feel like they're back in the game.



In either case, the 2010 election could put checks and balances on Pelosi and Obama -- which will make it even harder than it has proven thus far for the president to keep his campaign promises. And when he runs for re-election in 2012, disappointed, disillustioned and dispirited libs and young voters may not report for duty at Organizing for America, or flock to the polls as they did in 2008.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Incompetence at the White House

August 19, 2009

Why 'Obama-Care' is Failing

By Jonah Goldberg

To listen to the White House and its supporters, in and out of the media, you would think that opposition to "Obama-care" is the hobgoblin of a few small minds on the right. Racists, fascists, Neanderthals, the whole "Star Wars" cantina of boogeymen and cranks stand opposed to much-needed reform.

Left out of this fairly naked effort to demonize a great many with the actions of a tiny few is the simple fact that Obama-care -- however defined -- has been tanking in the polls for weeks. President Obama's handling of healthcare is unpopular with a majority of Americans and a majority of self-proclaimed independents.

Focusing on the town halls certainly has its merits, but if you actually wanted Obama-care to pass, casting a majority of Americans as being stooges of racist goons may not be the best way to go.

Imagine if President George W. Bush, in his effort to partially privatize Social Security, had insisted that the "time for talking is over." Picture, if you will, the Bush White House asking Americans to turn in their e-mails, in the pursuit of "fishy" dissent. Conjure a scenario under which then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) derided critics as "evil-mongers" the way Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently described town hall protesters. Or if then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had called vocal critics "un-American" the way Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) did last week, or if White House strategist Karl Rove had been Sir Spam-a-lot instead of David Axelrod.

Now I'm not asking you, dear reader, to do this so that you might be able to see through the glare of Obama's halo or the outlines of the media's staggering double standard when it comes to covering this White House. Rather it is to grasp that the Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent.

Lashing out at the town hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism's weakness -- a failure of the imagination.

The left, broadly speaking, has been attacking conservative talk radio and all it allegedly represents for the better part of 20 years now. When Bill Clinton needed a convenient villain, he attacked Rush Limbaugh. When Bush emerged victorious from the Florida recount, liberals concluded that what they really needed was their own version of Limbaugh. Last March, at the first sign of resistance from congressional Republicans, Obama immediately complained that the GOP was Limbaugh's lap dog, and both the White House and much of the press corps went into anti-Limbaugh campaign mode.

It's funny how these supposed champions of the Enlightenment can't grasp that people can disagree with them for honest reasons. Instead, we simply must be Limbaugh's automatons, which is to say racist, fascist thugs.

In addition to the slander, such complaints are monumentally, incandescently lame coming from a party that controls Washington. Indeed, according to liberals themselves, these evil-mongers are a tiny minority, a bunch of "Astro Turf" frauds. So why not ignore them and get on with the work you were elected to do?

Well, because they can't -- or won't.

One of the reasons the term "Obama-care" has become a journalistic convention is that there is no bill. You can't talk about Obama's actual healthcare plan because there isn't one. There are a bunch of competing bills, proposals, ideas swirling around the halls of Congress like flotsam in a sewer. As even Robert Reich, Clinton's Labor secretary, recently conceded, the failure to put forward a concrete proposal allows opponents to pick from a menu of scary ideas and possibilities, all of which can be labeled Obama-care.

Suspicion of bad motives are only reinforced by Obama's determination to steamroll to victory. Indeed, Democratic dudgeon that the town hall protesters don't want the civil debate we desperately need is hysterical, given that Obama wanted this over before the August recess. No wonder the president who thought the time for talk was over long ago now doesn't like the talk he's getting.

Some might say the real story is to be found in the eroding support from independent voters and Blue Dog Democratic congressmen. Or in the panic among seniors that Obama will raid Medicare. Or in his inability to get progressive Democrats to agree to a bipartisan approach. Or maybe the real story is Obama's manifest inability to sell a program he's invested his presidency in.

But no. Obama wants the debate to be about angry white men. And, as lame as that is, that's what's happening. It won't make Obama-care a reality, but it will shift the blame from where it rightly belongs.

Copyright 2009, Tribune Media Services Inc.

From M. Goodwin, NY Daily News

Health care debate confirms this is not the Barack Obama we elected

Wednesday, August 19th 2009, 4:00 AM

Taking the stage for a town hall meeting on health care the other day, President Obama emerged from behind a curtain in a fake jog. He pumped his arms in an exaggerated fashion, but his smile looked forced as he waved and shook hands with a few audience members.

It all seemed a campaign ritual, dulled by time and beleaguered by circumstance, prompting a flashback in my head to the Paul Simon song about Joe DiMaggio.

Where have you gone, Barack Obama? Where is the sunny-side-up young man who promised to inspire and unite an unhappy nation?

Gone into the partisan sinkhole of Washington, that's where. Like some novice swimmer too confident of his own ability, Obama is suddenly finding himself in water over his head.

His flailing, including a foul habit of demonizing dissent, is not pretty. And that brief foray into e-mail tracking of critics showed a win-at-any-cost side.

Where is the appealing man we elected? Where is that Barack Obama?

Let's find him quick because the whole nation is paying the price for this impostor's irrational exuberance. Or hubris.


Americans, more of them every day, are growing disenchanted with the expansion of government and the massive pile of debt. Yet the President, certain he can change their minds if only he talks to them again, keeps trying to sell bigger as better.

The public's not buying it. And as a measure of the nation's mood, a recent poll was practically cruel: Nearly half think the President is on television too much. Ouch.

Obama fatigue occasionally surfaced during the campaign, but this is different. He's the President, and if the country tunes him out, there is no Plan B. He's the rock star-turned-salesman, and everything in his administration depends on his stage act.

That the novelty is wearing thin is obvious. The danger is that the health care fiasco turns him into an unpopular and ineffective President.

Those who say it can't happen should study a recent New York Times/CBS poll. Among the lowlights:

* Sixty-nine percent believe Obamacare will hurt the quality of their own health care.

* Seventy-three percent believe they will have less access to tests and treatment.

* Sixty-two percent believe Democrats' proposals would force them to change doctors.

* Seventy-six percent believe Obama's changes will mean higher taxes for them.

* Seventy-seven percent expect their health care costs to rise.

All those findings run counter to the claims Obama makes. Even as he talks in vague ways about what exactly he favors, he promises the bill that emerges from Congress' sausage factory will be a magic elixir.

Writing in The New York Times, he guaranteed everything for everyone: "If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need.

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

Those claims would be credible if they were a multiple-choice question, where only one is true. To say they can all happen at once is a crock, and the country knows it.

Heck, throw in a free puppy for everybody, too.

With stubborn wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an economy still bleeding, you'd think a new President would have challenges enough. Yet Obama has plunged into the health care mess as though it is a battle of absolute necessity.

It isn't. It is his choice. And it is a mistake.

If he's the man we thought he was, he'll now choose to make peace, before the country concludes he's the mistake.

mgoodwin@nydailynews.com

Monday, August 17, 2009

How true...So true....

Obama fighting for his presidency, not reform
By: Chris Stirewalt
Political Editor
August 17, 2009

(AP)
The big question for President Barack Obama right now isn't about health care, but his own political survival.

If he fails to deliver health legislation, Obama will prove right those who said he was in over his head. That would make him something of a lame duck after only seven months in office.

But if he does manage to squeeze a bill out of Congress, it would be a Pyrrhic victory. By delivering unwanted changes to unwilling voters on a life-or-death issue, the president would squander the goodwill he earned during the campaign.

Voters now say passing nothing would be better than any of the plans stewing in Congress, so it's hard to imagine that lawmakers will return from their recess ready to take political risks.

Contrary to Obama's stump speeches, poll after poll shows more than three-quarters of Americans, including Republicans, want to see health care reformed.

But a new Rasmussen Reports survey says 54 percent of voters think Congress should just drop the subject this year. Only 35 percent said that any of the three plans would be better than nothing. That should be even more alarming to the White House than the growing majority that opposes the president's plan.

The president is plenty smart, and has shown preternatural political instincts. But he made a rookie mistake on health care, and it could be the undoing of his once-promising presidency.

Obama refused to develop and sell a plan to the American people in a straightforward way. Even with the glow of his halo starting to fade, the president might have succeeded this summer with an honest pitch. In doing so, he would have also established the adult phase of his presidency and ended the awkward adolescence of his administration.

Instead, he outsmarted himself by trying a bait and switch.

Obama said he was letting Congress work. Instead, he tried to sneak his plan through.

The New York Times reported last week on the shadow negotiations between the White House and the bipartisan working group on the Senate Finance Committee.

The president was cutting sweetheart deals with the biggest drug makers, labor unions and other interest groups all contingent on the bill being crafted in Sen. Max Baucus' committee. Team Obama was in constant contact with the Senate group.

But in the House, the administration was nowhere to be found. As one House Democrat said, "They have been -- what is a good way to put it? -- available for consultation."

Rather than letting the process work, the White House was using the process as cover. By letting the House cook up some medical monstrosity, as it inevitably would, Obama was going to make the Senate bill look like a sensible choice.

Instead of a $1 trillion-plus takeover with scary provisions about end-of-life counseling and abortion coverage, Obama would accept a Senate plan that would provide some tweaks to the bad old insurance industry, common-sense cuts to wasteful spending, and a new health insurance cooperative no more menacing than a farmers market.

And when House liberals complained that he had let them down by not delivering a new government-run health program, Obama could just give them a wink. Just vote for the plan, Rahm Emanuel would whisper, and when the co-op is an inevitable bust, the national health plan will kick in. As a former director of Freddie Mac, Emanuel knows something about collapsing into the arms of taxpayers.

What a perfect solution for a president who grabbed General Motors and Bank of America not because he wanted to, but because he had no choice. Accidental socialism is the Obama way -- all of the government, none of the guilt.

But instead, the White House finds that voters understand health care to be a long-term problem in need of a long-term solution. The bad bills brewed up in Congress won't make a compromise plan look better. They've just made voters wary of the process.

But worse for Obama, his end run damaged what was once his greatest asset -- the belief among voters that he was something different.

Endless evasions and then a crackdown on opponents has made Obama look like just another president -- and a cynical one at that.

Emotionally invoking his grandmother's November death over the weekend to shame his critics was just the latest in a series of shoddy ploys.

Can President Obama escape the wreckage of his health care effort? Yes, but only if he stops being so slippery and starts leveling with voters.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@dcexaminer.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is she for REAL? How about flying less, Deb?

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Energy Leader (National Review, 08.10.09)
Detroit, Mich. - Michigan just experienced its coldest July on record; global temperatures haven't risen in more than a decade; Great Lakes water levels have resumed their 30-year cyclical rise (contrary to a decade of media scare stories that they were drying up due to global warming), and polls show that climate change doesn't even make a list of Michigan voters' top-ten concerns.

Yet in an interview with the Detroit News Monday, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) - recently appointed to the Senate Energy Committee - made clear that fighting the climate crisis is her top priority.

"Climate change is very real," she confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry - at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."

The Hammer weighs in again...

August 14, 2009
More Health Care Nonsense
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- In the 48 hours of June 15-16, President Obama lost the health care debate. First, a letter from the Congressional Budget Office to Sen. Edward Kennedy reported that his health committee's reform bill would add $1 trillion in debt over the next decade. Then the CBO reported that the other Senate bill, being written by the Finance Committee, would add $1.6 trillion. The central contradiction of Obamacare was fatally exposed: From his first address to Congress, Obama insisted on the dire need for restructuring the health care system because out-of-control costs were bankrupting the Treasury and wrecking the U.S. economy -- yet the Democrats' plans would make the problem worse.

Accordingly, Democrats have trotted out various tax proposals to close the gap. Obama's idea of limits on charitable and mortgage-interest deductions went nowhere. As did the House's income tax surcharge on millionaires. And Obama dare not tax employer-provided health insurance because of his campaign pledge of no middle-class tax hikes.

Desperation time. What do you do? Sprinkle fairy dust on every health care plan, and present your deus ex machina: prevention.

Free mammograms and diabetes tests and checkups for all, promise Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, writing in USA Today. Prevention, they assure us, will not just make us healthier, it also "will save money."

Obama followed suit in his Tuesday New Hampshire town hall, touting prevention as amazingly dual-purpose: "It saves lives. It also saves money."

Reform proponents repeat this like a mantra. Because it seems so intuitive, it has become conventional wisdom. But like most conventional wisdom, it is wrong. Overall, preventive care increases medical costs.

This inconvenient truth comes, once again, from the CBO. In an Aug. 7 letter to Rep. Nathan Deal, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf writes: "Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

How can that be? If you prevent somebody from getting a heart attack, aren't you necessarily saving money? The fallacy here is confusing the individual with society. For the individual, catching something early generally reduces later spending for that condition. But, explains Elmendorf, we don't know in advance which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case, "it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway." And this costs society money that would not have been spent otherwise.

Think of it this way. Assume that a screening test for disease X costs $500 and finding it early averts $10,000 of costly treatment at a later stage. Are you saving money? Well, if one in 10 of those who are screened tests positive, society is saving $5,000. But if only one in 100 would get that disease, society is shelling out $40,000 more than it would without the preventive care.

That's a hypothetical case. What's the real-life actuality in the United States today? A study in the journal Circulation found that for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, "if all the recommended prevention activities were applied with 100 percent success," the prevention would cost almost 10 times as much as the savings, increasing the country's total medical bill by 162 percent. Elmendorf additionally cites a definitive assessment in the New England Journal of Medicine that reviewed hundreds of studies on preventive care and found that more than 80 percent of preventive measures added to medical costs.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't be preventing illness. Of course we should. But in medicine, as in life, there is no free lunch. The idea that prevention is somehow intrinsically economically different from treatment -- that treatment increases costs and prevention lowers them -- is simply nonsense.

Prevention is a wondrous good, but in the aggregate it costs society money. Nothing wrong with that. That's the whole premise of medicine: Treating a heart attack or setting a broken leg also costs society. But we do it because it alleviates human suffering. Preventing a heart attack with statins or breast cancer with mammograms is costly. But we do it because it reduces human suffering.

However, prevention is not, as so widely advertised, healing on the cheap. It is not the magic bullet for health care costs.

You will hear some variation of that claim a hundred times in the coming health care debate. Whenever you do, remember: It's nonsense -- empirically demonstrable and CBO-certified.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com
Copyright 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reform alternative to blowing up the system

A blogger listed these changes to reform healthcare, instead of letting the government take it over:

Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees' Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.
Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

•Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

•Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

•Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

•Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

•Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor's visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

•Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

•Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A liveral view of the current situation - From Salon

Obama's healthcare horror
Heads should roll -- beginning with Nancy Pelosi's!
By Camille Paglia

Aug. 12, 2009 |

Buyer's remorse? Not me. At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at -- representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad. This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him. The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair. Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do.



Having said that, I must confess my dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy. When will heads start to roll? I was glad to see the White House counsel booted, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and hope it's a harbinger of things to come. Except for that wily fox, David Axelrod, who could charm gold threads out of moonbeams, Obama seems to be surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys.



Case in point: the administration's grotesque mishandling of healthcare reform, one of the most vital issues facing the nation. Ever since Hillary Clinton's megalomaniacal annihilation of our last best chance at reform in 1993 (all of which was suppressed by the mainstream media when she was running for president), Democrats have been longing for that happy day when this issue would once again be front and center.



But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.



There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.



You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you're happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.



I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.



As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.



With the Republican party leaderless and in backbiting disarray following its destruction by the ideologically incoherent George W. Bush, Democrats are apparently eager to join the hara-kiri brigade. What looked like smooth coasting to the 2010 election has now become a nail-biter. Both major parties have become a rats' nest of hypocrisy and incompetence. That, combined with our stratospheric, near-criminal indebtedness to China (which could destroy the dollar overnight), should raise signal flags. Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?



What does either party stand for these days? Republican politicians, with their endless scandals, are hardly exemplars of traditional moral values. Nor have they generated new ideas for healthcare, except for medical savings accounts, which would be pathetically inadequate in a major crisis for anyone earning at or below a median income.



And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.



But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.



As a libertarian and refugee from the authoritarian Roman Catholic church of my youth, I simply do not understand the drift of my party toward a soulless collectivism. This is in fact what Sarah Palin hit on in her shocking image of a "death panel" under Obamacare that would make irrevocable decisions about the disabled and elderly. When I first saw that phrase, headlined on the Drudge Report, I burst out laughing. It seemed so over the top! But on reflection, I realized that Palin's shrewdly timed metaphor spoke directly to the electorate's unease with the prospect of shadowy, unelected government figures controlling our lives. A death panel not only has the power of life and death but is itself a symptom of a Kafkaesque brave new world where authority has become remote, arbitrary and spectral. And as in the Spanish Inquisition, dissidence is heresy, persecuted and punished.



Surely, the basic rule in comprehensive legislation should be: First, do no harm. The present proposals are full of noble aims, but the biggest danger always comes from unforeseen and unintended consequences. Example: the American incursion into Iraq, which destabilized the region by neutralizing Iran's rival and thus enormously enhancing Iran's power and nuclear ambitions.



What was needed for reform was an in-depth analysis, buttressed by documentary evidence, of waste, fraud and profiteering in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Instead what we've gotten is a series of facile, vulgar innuendos about how doctors conduct their practice, as if their primary motive is money. Quite frankly, the president gives little sense of direct knowledge of medical protocols; it's as if his views are a tissue of hearsay and scattershot worst-case scenarios.



Of course, it didn't help matters that, just when he needed maximum momentum on healthcare, Obama made the terrible gaffe of declaring that, even without his knowing the full facts, Cambridge, Mass., police had acted "stupidly" in arresting a friend of his, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama's automatic identification with the pampered Harvard elite (wildly unpopular with most sensible people), as well as his insulting condescension toward an officer doing his often dangerous duty, did serious and perhaps irreparable damage to the president's standing. The strained, prissy beer summit in the White House garden afterward didn't help. Is that the Obama notion of hospitality? Another staff breakdown.



Both Gates and Obama mistakenly assumed that the original incident at Gates' house was about race, when it was about class. It was the wealthy, lordly Gates who committed the first offense by instantly and evidently hysterically defaming the character of the officer who arrived at his door to investigate the report of a break-in. There was no excuse for Gates' loud and cheap charges of racism, which he should have immediately apologized for the next day, instead of threatening lawsuits and self-aggrandizing television exposés. On the other hand, given that Cambridge is virtually a company town, perhaps police headquarters should have dispatched a moderator to the tumultuous scene before a small, disabled Harvard professor was clapped in handcuffs and marched off to jail. But why should an Ivy League panjandrum be treated any differently from the rest of us hoi polloi?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like a Stone....

Obamacare dropping like a stone in polls
By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
08/11/09 10:46 AM EDT
Support for the congressional health care plans is dropping like a stone. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports this morning that 42% of voters support congressional health care plans while 53% oppose them. That’s compared to 50% support and 45% opposition back in late June, when House Democrats wrapped up their cap-and-trade bill and before the Obama White House and congressional leaders began their push for health care legislation.

Currently 26% strongly favor the legislation and 44% are strongly opposed. This reflects the fact that young voters who favor Democrats’ bills tend not to have strong feelings and older voters who oppose them tend to have strong feelings.

An interesting point from a regular email correspondent, which I couldn’t have said better myself: “The Republicans are the ones with the distributed energy to generate flash mobs around the country and fire up entrepreneurial opposition to this bill, while the supposed high tech Obama machine is reliant on using old-line institutions and conduits (lobbyists, old media, labor unions, advocacy groups) to promote its agenda. Using old media tools like TV ad blitzes to sway public opinion.”

It’s as if the Democrats were channeling the late Walter Cronkite. Come to think of it, White House health care spokesman Linda Douglass spent most of her career as a reporter (and quite a good one) for the CBS owned-and-operated Channel 2 in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Be very afraid...

Posted by: Matt Lewis at 11:37 AM
Here's a truism of life: The person who pays the bills is boss.

When you live at home with mom and dad, they get to tell you how to live. When a company pays you for work, they generally get to tell you what to do when you're there -- and in some cases -- what to do when you are not there.

Despite all the talk about health decisions being made by doctors and patients -- when government runs health care -- let's be honest -- government will get to make the decisions.

And so, with the economy slumping and more programs to be funded than money, government would presumably make strategic choices regarding where to find savings. Some have suggested this may mean that the old or feeble would be less likely to receive expensive operations and procedures. After all, the logic goes: why put new wine in old wineskins?

President Obama recently alluded to this when -- regarding a question about a 100 year old lady getting a pacemaker -- he said: "Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the pain killer."

Sarah Palin's controversial comments about a "death panel" were unfortunate, inasmuch as they probably did more harm than good to the cause she was advocating. I cannot find any "death panel" mentioned in any of the proposed health care bills, and so her rhetoric sounds extreme. Instead, what I can find is that we are in grave danger of creating a system in which the logical conclusion would be government rationing of care.

It's also fair -- and honest -- to say that there are, in fact, top scientists advocating that the government pick an choose health care winners and losers.

As I noted a while ago, in his appropriately titled column, 'Why We Must Ration Health Care,' noted bioethecist Peter Singer recently wrote,


"The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities."

While Singer is fortunately not advising the White House, Doctor Ezekiel Emanuel, is. Ezekiel, of course, is the brother of powerful White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He is also Health Policy Advisor for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

As The New York Post recently wrote of Dr. Emanuel,



Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).

Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.




So while Sarah Palin's comments probably struck the average person as having come out of nowhere, those who mock the notion that government could -- and would -- eventually ration health care are either being intellectually dishonest -- or are simply not paying attention.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More on tort reform, from the Washington Post

Health-Care Reform: A Better Plan

By Charles Krauthammer

Friday, August 7, 2009

In 1986, Ronald Reagan and Bill Bradley created a legislative miracle. They fashioned a tax reform that stripped loopholes, political favors, payoffs, patronage and other corruptions out of the tax system. With the resulting savings, they lowered tax rates across the board. Those reductions, combined with the elimination of the enormous inefficiencies and perverse incentives that go into tax sheltering, helped propel a 20-year economic boom.

In overhauling any segment of our economy, the 1986 tax reform should be the model. Yet today's ruling Democrats propose to fix our extremely high-quality (but inefficient and therefore expensive) health-care system with 1,000 pages of additional curlicued complexity -- employer mandates, individual mandates, insurance company mandates, allocation formulas, political payoffs and myriad other conjured regulations and interventions -- with the promise that this massive concoction will lower costs.

This is all quite mad. It creates a Rube Goldberg system that simply multiplies the current inefficiencies and arbitrariness, thus producing staggering deficits with less choice and lower-quality care. That's why the administration can't sell Obamacare.

The administration's defense is to accuse critics of being for the status quo. Nonsense. Candidate John McCain and a host of other Republicans since have offered alternatives. Let me offer mine: Strip away current inefficiencies before remaking one-sixth of the U.S. economy. The plan is so simple it doesn't even have the requisite three parts. Just two: radical tort reform and radically severing the link between health insurance and employment.


(1) Tort reform: As I wrote recently, our crazy system of casino malpractice suits results in massive and random settlements that raise everyone's insurance premiums and creates an epidemic of defensive medicine that does no medical good, yet costs a fortune.

An authoritative Massachusetts Medical Society study found that five out of six doctors admitted they order tests, procedures and referrals -- amounting to about 25 percent of the total -- solely as protection from lawsuits. Defensive medicine, estimates the libertarian/conservative Pacific Research Institute, wastes more than $200 billion a year. Just half that sum could provide a $5,000 health insurance grant -- $20,000 for a family of four -- to the uninsured poor (U.S. citizens ineligible for other government health assistance).

What to do? Abolish the entire medical-malpractice system. Create a new social pool from which people injured in medical errors or accidents can draw. The adjudication would be done by medical experts, not lay juries giving away lottery prizes at the behest of the liquid-tongued John Edwardses who pocket a third of the proceeds.

The pool would be funded by a relatively small tax on all health-insurance premiums. Socialize the risk; cut out the trial lawyers. Would that immunize doctors from carelessness or negligence? No. The penalty would be losing your medical license. There is no more serious deterrent than forfeiting a decade of intensive medical training and the livelihood that comes with it.

(2) Real health-insurance reform: Tax employer-provided health-care benefits and return the money to the employee with a government check to buy his own medical insurance, just as he buys his own car or home insurance.

There is no logical reason to get health insurance through your employer. This entire system is an accident of World War II wage and price controls. It's economically senseless. It makes people stay in jobs they hate, decreasing labor mobility and therefore overall productivity. And it needlessly increases the anxiety of losing your job by raising the additional specter of going bankrupt through illness.

The health-care benefit exemption is the largest tax break in the entire U.S. budget, costing the government a quarter-trillion dollars annually. It hinders health-insurance security and portability as well as personal independence. If we additionally eliminated the prohibition on buying personal health insurance across state lines, that would inject new and powerful competition that would lower costs for everyone.

Repealing the exemption has one fatal flaw, however. It was advocated by candidate John McCain. Obama so demagogued it last year that he cannot bring it up now without being accused of the most extreme hypocrisy and without being mercilessly attacked with his own 2008 ads.

But that's a political problem of Obama's making. As is the Democratic Party's indebtedness to the trial lawyers, which has taken malpractice reform totally off the table. But that doesn't change the logic of my proposal. Go the Reagan-Bradley route. Offer sensible, simple, yet radical reform that strips away inefficiencies from the existing system before adding Obamacare's new ones -- arbitrary, politically driven, structural inventions whose consequence is certain financial ruin.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com
The left can't understand why people don't like Obamacare
Ron Smith


7:01 AM EDT, August 7, 2009

America's liberals have gone from swooning over Barack Obama's ascension to the White House and gloating over their Bush-induced domination of Congress to near-hysteria because ordinary middle-class Americans are rising in anger against the Democrats' planned hijacking of the nation's health care system. MSNBC's Chris Matthews worked himself into his characteristic spittle-laced frenzy while sputtering about the legions of protestors showing up to make meetings designed to sell Obamacare into "Town Hell" occasions.

He had Sen. Barbara Boxer of California on his "Hardball" program to pass along a condemnation of these town hall protestors as being "well-dressed middle-class people in pinks and limes … [a] Brooks Brothers Brigade." How dare these people adopt the tactics of the left, like the ACORN or SEIU organizers, and plan demonstrations of political dissatisfaction. The left would have us believe that such actions are illegitimate if performed by any other than their own supporters.

This is amusing, as are the awkward attempts by Mr. Matthews and his like to suggest that those folks giving the health care reform backers from Congress a frosty reception as they try to sell their nationalized health care plans are shills for the health insurance industry.

Truth is, the health insurance industry is as silent as the shorter half of Penn and Teller. As the Wall Street Journal points out, "If anything, the health-care business lobbies are helping Democrats by keeping quiet and hoping their silence buys them survival as heavily-regulated utilities."

What's actually happening represents a rare political development -- the arousal of what Richard Nixon dubbed "The Silent Majority," in this case by what they correctly believe to be a threat to their cherished right to choose their own doctors and exercise autonomy in matters relating to their medical well-being.

Everybody knows the current system is exceedingly expensive and that tens of millions of their fellow citizens are without health insurance, but a majority of Americans, in poll after poll, express satisfaction with their own coverage and share an understandable disbelief that government run health care is going to make things better.

It's trite to ask why one should think government could efficiently provide health care when it demonstrably can't do anything efficiently. As we know, trite can be true, and the evidence of governmental incompetence is overwhelming, even if it is ignored by people such as those who write newspaper editorials or host certain cable talk shows.

I want to recommend a paper by a man named Clifford Asness, a money-manager who blogs at StumblinOnTruth.com. It's titled "Health Care Mythology," and in it he makes several key points, some of which are counterintuitive, such as the fact that though what we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, this does not mean costs are soaring.

He suggests one cannot judge the "cost" of something simply by what one spends, but also by what one gets. And when it comes to health care, what we get in 2009 dwarfs what we got in, say, 1950.

The system could be better, but what's being proposed in the various measures making their rounds in Congress isn't going to make it better. And lacking any kind of tort reform proposals, the whole exercise is bound to fail as any means of controlling runaway costs.

Defenders of the tort system argue that the cost of making people like John Edwards rich by seducing jurors into believing that obstetrical mistakes are the cause of cerebral palsy is exaggerated. They point out that actual payoffs to plaintiffs are a tiny percentage of health costs.

True, but they ignore the massive costs of "defensive medicine," the kind that must be practiced to ward off legal attacks by the tort toads. Those costs are hard to determine, but the consensus is that they are somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 billion dollars annually.

Why no prospect of caps on this windfall? The tort bar is a key money provider for the Democratic office-holders. Maybe Chris Matthews will mention that fact one fine day. Ha.

Ron Smith's e-mail is rsmith@wbal.com

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A note from the blogger...

I rarely offer my own opinion on this blog, prefering to let you read items that I think are pertinent to "what I am thinking right now".

Rupert Murdoch has proclaimed that he will charge for the news content on his many websites in the future to "set the example" for others. What he is really saying is that the Main Stream Media News outlets are dying, and there needs to be other revenue sources. A correct prognostication from the King of All Media.

The Main Stream Media is dead. It died during the last election. Do you really want to watch any of the national news shows to find your information? I think not. A little Katie Couric with milquetoast at 7 pm?

I have come to the conclusion that I will sign up for Mr Murdoch's news content on the internet, because he has proven through his FoxNews network that he can provide balanced reporting, unlike CBS, NBC and ABC.

Those electronic rags will have to depend on professional sports.

The MSM can keep fumbling the ball, only to lose the game

Six Months In, Media Still Do PR For Obama

By REP. LAMAR SMITH Posted Tuesday, August 04, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed." The latter might be true for those who rely on the national media for the facts.

After six months in office, the national media are still telling us how popular President Obama is. That's the national media's spin. The facts tell a different story.

A USA Today-Gallup poll found that nine of the last 11 presidents were more popular than President Obama after six months in office. A Rasmussen poll found the president's approval rating below 50%, with more people strongly disapproving than strongly approving of the president.

While the national media eagerly touted the president's approval rating when it was higher, most news outlets have ignored the president's recent slide.

The reason the president's approval numbers are sagging is that more and more Americans disagree with him on the issues.

According to the USA Today-Gallup poll, more people disapprove than approve of the way the president is handling the economy, taxes, health care and the federal budget deficit. And Americans have come to this conclusion despite the fact that the national media mostly have given the president a free pass on the issues. For example:

• The national media seldom mention that the president's budget would double the national debt in five years and triple it in 10.

• The media neglect to tell the American people that the president's cap-and-trade energy plan will cost families hundreds of dollars every year.

• The media rarely hold the Obama administration accountable for job losses, even as unemployment hit 9.5% — the highest rate in 26 years.

• Most recently, the national media have failed to fairly present both sides of the health care debate.

During a prime-time press conference last week, President Obama claimed his health care plan was "deficit neutral." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office strongly disagrees, finding that the legislation would increase the deficit by $239 billion over 10 years. But not one reporter questioned the president about the CBO's findings.

Also, the national media frequently report that there are 46 million people in America who don't have health insurance. The administration uses this figure to justify the president's health care plan.

But the media rarely report that there are really only 10 million to 12 million uninsured, after you deduct those who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, who can afford health insurance and who are without health insurance for only a few months.

Some news outlets are blatantly one-sided in their coverage of health care. ABC News recently devoted an entire day of news programming to President Obama's health care agenda and refused to air ads critical of the administration's health care plan.

ABC invited the president's longtime physician, David Scheiner, to participate in their prime-time town hall meeting at the White House. As it turns out, Dr. Scheiner disagrees with the president's health care plan. He said, "I'm not sure (President Obama) really understands what we face in primary care."

When ABC found that out, they suddenly disinvited Dr. Scheiner. It appears ABC stacked the audience to shield the president from criticism.

This type of one-sided coverage is contrary to the journalistic code of ethics, which states that a journalist's duty is to seek truth and provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.

Fortunately, many Americans have seen through the media's one-sided coverage of the health care debate.

Even as President Obama and Democrats in Congress try to rush an expensive government takeover of health care through Congress, Americans say they don't agree with the president's plan.

According to an ABC News-Washington Post poll, only 44% of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling health care. At least four other national polls have found that fewer than half of Americans approve of the president on health care.

To their credit, some media outlets have covered the president's fading poll numbers and held the administration accountable.

When the ABC News-Washington Post poll found that for the first time fewer than half of all Americans supported Obama's health care plan, the Washington Post put the poll results on its front page. After the president's press conference on health care, the Associated Press ran a fact-check article exposing some of his incorrect claims.

But these examples are far too scarce. In general, the national media have failed to report all the facts on the major issues facing Americans. Americans' approval of President Obama and his policies is waning, and the national media should take notice and report the news accurately.

Smith, a Republican representing Texas' 21st District, is chairman of the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus.

It's now Obama's Economy

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Seventy-one percent (71%) of U.S. voters say President Obama’s policies have increased the size of the federal deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Only five percent (5%) say the president’s policies have cut the deficit, and 10% say they have had no impact. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

Eighty percent (80%) of investors say Obama’s policies have driven up the deficit, a view shared by just 57% of non-investors.

Not surprisingly, 88% of Republicans blame the president’s policies, compared to 52% of Democrats. But 79% of voters not affiliated with either party agree.

Obama has initiated a number of big spending programs intended to jump-start the U.S. economy, and the Treasury Department estimates that the federal debt has grown by more than a trillion dollars since he took office. In his defense, the president notes that he inherited both an economic crisis and an already sizable deficit from President Bush.

On the economic crunch, most Americans agree with the president. Fifty-four percent (54%) blame the recession that began under the Bush administration for the nation’s economic woes, while 39% say Obama’s policies are at fault.

A plurality of voters (37%) say cutting the federal deficit in half in the next four years is number one among the four priorities the president listed in a speech to Congress in February, but 66% view it as the goal he is least likely to achieve.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of voters now say the bigger problem for the United States today is not voters’ unwillingness to pay enough in taxes but is instead the unwillingness of politicians to control government spending. This is little changed since May.

Twelve percent (12%) say the problem is that voters are unwilling to pay more in taxes.
Ninety-two percent (92%) of Republicans and 86% of unaffiliated voters see the unwillingness of politicians to control government spending as the bigger problem, as do 67% of Democrats.

Only 16% of voters say tax increases help the economy. Most voters (54%) say tax hikes hurt the economy, a number that has been fairly consistent for more than 10 years.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters expect government spending to increase under the Obama administration. But 46% think cuts in government spending help the economy.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of U.S. voters say tax cuts for the middle class are more important than new spending for health care reform, even as President Obama’s top economic advisers signal that tax hikes may be necessary.

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