Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I really like Rep. Paul Ryan

There Is No New Frontier

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

By PEGGY NOONAN


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ovaina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

georgewill@washpost.com

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicago has endured enough losers - stop this madness!

From Jennifer Rubin - Commentary Magazine.com

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

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

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Annie cracks me up!

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

Ann Coulter

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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