Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 2nd

This will be a day of reckoning. VOTE!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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

From Hot Air:

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

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

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Doctor's Response to Obamacare

My Dear Patient,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Linda Johnston, MD

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Ryan Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 5, 2010

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

February 5, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Michigan’s Blueprint for America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so on.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From the NY Times

February 3, 2010

Paul Ryan’s Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What does the Massachusetts Miracle mean?

A Political Inflection Point

Peter Wehner



Here are some thoughts on last night.

1. A year ago Barack Obama took the oath of office with enormous public support and unprecedented goodwill behind him. Today he presides over a party that is panic-stricken, having lost a Senate race in Massachusetts that ranks among the most consequential nonpresidential elections in American history.

The president is now badly wounded, his agenda badly weakened, his signature domestic issue in critical and perhaps fatal condition. Not many presidents have had a worse opening act.

2. The result of the Massachusetts election, which is epic, should not be seen in isolation. It is the most recent occurrence in a long chain of events, including crushing gubernatorial losses in Virginia and New Jersey. Massachusetts makes it an electoral hat trick for the GOP.

A year ago the GOP was in tatters, its "brand" tarnished, its supporters dispirited. Today Republicans are riding a wave of enormous size and force, one that is in the process of wiping out Democrats who occupy seats in states of every political color: red, purple, and blue. After last night's results, almost no Democratic seat that is being contested in 2010 can be considered safe.

3. January 19, 2010, is the date in which Barack Obama lost his secure hold on the Democratic party. That doesn't mean he doesn't retain influence over Democratic lawmakers; he obviously does. It doesn't mean he won't get his way from time to time; he will. It doesn't mean he can't reassert control at some time in the future; he might.

But for now, the fear and awe, the respect and deference, that Mr. Obama once commanded is gone with the wind. Democrats have seen the wreckage that Obama and his agenda are doing to them; they now feel at liberty to challenge him, to ignore his wishes, to go their own way. That won't happen all of the time, of course -- but it will happen often enough to make life exceedingly difficult for the president.

4. I suspect we will see a damaging split emerge between the Democratic leadership -- Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid -- and other Democratic lawmakers. The former will talk tough; they will say its time to redouble their efforts, that now is not the time to turn away from their agenda, that reconsidering it in the wake of the Massachusetts election would be a sign of weakness and a path to defeat in November. "This is not a moment that causes the president or anybody who works for him to express any doubt," a senior administration official told Politico.com. "It more reinforces the conviction to fight hard."

Many Democratic lawmakers will think this counsel to be deeply unwise, bordering on insane. They will argue that the public has sent a message as emphatically as it possibly can: embracing ObamaCare and Obamaism is politically lethal. Give it up. And so the Democratic caucus will politely -- and in some instances not-so-politely -- decline to follow Obama, Reid, and Pelosi over a cliff.

Obama, Reid, and Pelosi will call the spirits from the vasty deep; but Democrats will not come when they do call for them.

5. The commentary on what Democrats should do regarding health care in the wake of the Massachusetts Massacre is split. Some, mostly liberals, argue that it is more imperative than ever to pass ObamaCare. To have traveled this long and far only to fail would lead to devastating losses in November.

The other camp argues that to pass ObamaCare now, in the aftermath of the elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, would be suicidal. Voters have made it as clear as they can that they passionately oppose what the Democrats are peddling; to still insist on jamming through massively unpopular legislation on a strict party-line vote, despite the expressed will of the majority, on the basis of unusually corrupt backroom deals, would have baleful effects on Democrats.

The fact is that there are elements of truth in both scenarios. Democrats will be badly damaged if they fail to pass health-care reform, but they will be damaged much more if they do. There is no good option for them. Democrats can choose a very bad option (don't pass ObamaCare) or they can choose a catastrophic option (pass ObamaCare). The former will happen, I think. Democratic lawmakers now understand the vaporizing effects ObamaCare has on them. Some significant number of Democrats on Capitol Hill will not want anything to do with it.

6. There is a slew of bad data for Democrats to pour through in the aftermath of Scott Brown's victory. But here is the most frightening data point of all: Mr. Brown won unaffiliated voters by a margin of 73 percent to 25 percent, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen. This 3-to-1 margin comes after independents broke for Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie by 2-to-1 margins in Virginia and New Jersey, respectively. This is a stunning, and for Democrats an ominous, development. More than anything else, it explains why they now face the prospect of losing both the House and the Senate in November.

7. In each of the last three elections -- the gubernatorial races in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts -- Democrats who were behind went negative and nasty at the end, in an effort to tear down the Republican candidate. And in each instance, the stratagem badly backfired.

Democrats have been operating on the assumption that they would lose in 2010 if the races turn out to be a referendum on their governance; as a result, they have convinced themselves that harsh, crippling attacks are the only road to victory. But voters are having none of it this time around. Independents in particular are making Democrats pay a fearsome price for employing brass-knuckle tactics. That means Democrats will, despite their fervent wishes, be forced to run on their record and their ideas. Which is why 2010 is shaping up to be a Republican landslide.

8. The radiating effects of the Massachusetts election will be enormous, including its effects on GOP recruitment and Democrats who opt to stay on (or retire to) the sidelines.

If you are a Republican, you now understand that this may be your best opportunity ever to run and to win; outstanding candidates who might otherwise not throw their hat into the ring will now do so. Conversely, many well-qualified Democrats, seeing the Category Five storm that is now hitting shore, will decide to take a pass at a run. We are seeing a virtuous cycle and a vicious cycle play itself out simultaneously.

Last night may turn out to be an inflection point for the Obama presidency.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. President.

A shot heard around the World!!! Congrats, Scott!

Scott Brown's Road to Victory
A man and his pick-up truck rocked the political world.

BY Stephen F. Hayes

January 20, 2010 1:15 AM

Of all of the memorable moments from the Massachusetts special election, the one that stands out most--and the one with real implications for 2010--did not directly involve either of the two candidates in the race.It came Sunday, during Barack Obama's speech.As anyone who paid even casual attention to the Massachusetts race knows, Scott Brown campaigned across Massachusetts in a 2005 GMC Canyon. The pick-up truck appeared in a TV ad Brown ran shortly after the New Year. "I love this old truck and it's brought me closer to the people of this state," Brown said over footage him shaking hands with voters standing next to his truck.
Obama addressed the spot in his speech. He was cynical. "Forget the ads," he said as the audience sat quietly. "Everybody can run slick ads."

Obama paused briefly before offering the punchline. "Forget the truck," he said derisively, as if sharing an inside joke. The audience roared with laughter. "Everybody can buy a truck."

It was a revealing moment. Everybody can buy a truck. Obama seemed to assume that Brown had purchased his pickup truck for the purpose of using it in a political ad, as if that were the only reason that someone might own a pick-up truck--as a prop. In his world, everything is political and everything is about appearances. Beer summit anyone?

The rest of the world doesn't think that way. Scott Brown's truck is five years old. And when polls closed yesterday, it had 201,178 miles on it--most of them miles that Scott Brown had put on it himself. Brown and his advisers used the truck because they believed that it told voters something about the candidate, not because they wanted to fool voters or make Brown something he was not. The truck ad worked because it was as real as it was corny.

Obama's joke--one of several scornful references to the truck--reflected not just his detachment but his arrogance. Obama not only misunderstood the political dynamics of Brown's truck, he assumed that everyone else would see it the same way he did.

So what does all of this mean? Barack Obama is going to have a difficult 2010.He was set to "pivot"--in the overused word of the year--to an agenda that was to have focused on jobs and the economy. White House advisers planned to kick off that effort in the State of the Union--an address that would be given after health care reform could be counted as an accomplishment. It was to have been a big speech by a president who specializes in big speeches and it was to have started Obama's transition from visionary leader to born-again populist.That'll be a tough sell. A real populist would be far more likely to drive a pick-up truck than make fun of one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Paul Ryan for President in 2012

Healthcare and Progressivism
By Rep. Paul Ryan

Remarks presented at the Hillsdale College and Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship Forum on Health Care Reform and the American Character

Someone has said that before there was the New Deal, there was the "Wisconsin Deal." In Wisconsin, where I come from, the politics of Progressivism still runs strong. It was imported through the University of Wisconsin where they read their Hegel, Max Weber, and other powerful German minds. These thinkers taught the American Progressives to make a sharp distinction between "administration" and "politics." These philosophers and their American disciples wanted to remodel society on the basis not of opinions or "values" but according to ‘rational calculation.'

The best known Wisconsin Progressive in American politics was Robert LaFollette. "Fighting Bob" was a Republican, as was that other early Progressive, Theodore Roosevelt. Progressivism has always been a powerful strain in the Republican bloodstream, as we saw in the presidential election last year.

The Progressives, like the American Founders, saw self-government in a large nation-state as a challenge. Can a modern democracy be both free and well governed?

These thinkers, particularly Weber, were not blind to the problem of how untrained average citizens were supposed to preserve freedom in a society administered by bureaucratic ‘specialists without soul.' But popular resistance to their agenda made the Progressives more and more elitist.

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson brought the Progressive movement to Washington, sowing the seeds for the paramount political problem of our time: centralized administration.

Progressivism came in on two great waves: the 1930s New Deal and the Great Society of the 1960s. President Obama often invokes Progressivism and plans to generate its third, and greatest, wave. American businesses large and small must be brought under centralized direction. Contracts, the very core of personal and social freedom, are scrapped or rewritten by the administration as decades old bankruptcy laws are cast aside in the reorganization of the auto makers. The compensation which employers pay to secure the services of executive employees is now reviewed and second-guessed by a presidential "pay czar." Marriage and family life, church and voluntary organizations are all being weakened mostly by nonrepresentative government agencies. First wave Progressives demanded the popular referendum. Third wave Progressives do everything possible to stop local and state referenda which citizens would use to end this assault on the pillars of free society.

Health Care reform is a prime example of Progressivism in action.

The delivery of health care services has grown costly, leaving many without coverage. But survey after survey shows that 75 or 80 percent of Americans or more are personally satisfied with the quality of their own health care.

The Democratic leaderships' brazen attempts to rush through a health care reform with little public debate and deliberation have disgraced the annals of government by consent. They frantically scribble thousand-page laws behind closed doors and demand midnight votes from members who are given no opportunity to read the legislation they are voting about. This farcical process flunks the Constitution's "due process of law" test.

The Framers saw every individual as having a "right of personal security" which includes being protected against acts that may harm personal health. This right is integral to the natural right to life which it is government's purpose to secure. But the personal right to protection of health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than the right to food in order to live requires government to own the farms and raise the crops. Government's obligation is normally met by establishing conditions for free markets to thrive. Societies with economic freedom almost always have a growing abundance of goods and services at affordable cost for the largest number. When free markets seem to be failing to meet this goal - and I'd argue today's health care delivery is an example - government should not supply the need itself but look in the mirror, correct its own interventions, and unleash competition and choice.

Washington DC is no place to run health care services for the nation. Thus the Framers left public health decentralized. But if there were any doubt, the history of Medicare and Medicaid is the proof. Real cost control has become a national nightmare. Fraud has proliferated despite every effort to stop it. Program costs are always underestimated. In 1966 the cost of Medicare to the taxpayers was about $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee estimated that Medicare would cost taxpayers only about $12 billion by 1990 (adjusted for inflation). The actual cost? Nearly nine times as high - $107 billion. By 2006 Medicare reached $401 billion while Medicaid added another $309 billion for a total of $710 billion.

The health care programs Democratic leaders are pushing are outrageously expensive and fiscally irresponsible. The federal Health Care takeover will subsume about one-sixth of our national economy. Combined with current federal, state, and local spending, government will control about 50 percent of total national production. At this point the goal of centralized administration will be in sight, with less than half of our once free economy to be brought under government control.

There are essentially three models for health care delivery available to us. First, today's broken model in which bureaucratized insurance companies monopolize the field in each state - this is the "business-government partnership" model, the "crony capitalism" that corrupts our economy. Second, the Progressives' model where centrally administered government takes over the field and government bureaucrats decide which services you are allowed to have. Third, the only true American model in my view, a free market in which health care services compete, and individuals - the consumer-patients and their doctors - are in control.

Bureaucratized health care is not and cannot be "compassionate" health care. Government agents don't make decisions about how to treat the sick according to personalized need ... they ration health care resources according to a dollar-driven social calculus. This isn't a flaw in their plan. It is their plan.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the Obama Administration's point man on health care issues, advocates what he calls a "whole life system," a comprehensive formula for health care rationing. Under this system, government makes treatment decisions for individual persons using a statistical formula based on average life expectancy and "social usefulness." In other words, socially "useful" patients deserve more care than "useless" persons. Consider the legislation's new Medicare board of unelected specialists whose job is to determine the program's treatment protocols as a method of limiting costs. We already have a new comparative effectiveness research bureaucracy whose sole mission is make government determinations about which health procedures it deems are most cost effective and will be allowed by health care bureaucrats. The whole purpose of this heartless calculus is to eliminate compassionate personal care by loved ones under free markets with a diversity of health resources at proportional costs.

The idea that the government should make decisions about how long people should live and who should be denied medical healing is morally repugnant and deeply offensive. The supply of every service or product that exists is limited, but it is a mistake to conclude that government must ration them. This is what free markets do: finite amounts of goods and services, including health care, are rationed by each purchaser ordering his unique needs and allocating his resources among competing producers. Government rationing denies personal and natural rights. And our sick, special needs patients, and seniors - those most at risk when the government involves itself in these tough decisions - deserve better. Once government-run health care is a fait accompli, government rationing must be the necessary and logical outcome.

Government-monopolized health service conflicts with the American character as a free people. It conflicts with moral truth, with market freedom, with democracy, and with the health care excellence that has always drawn patients from socialist utopias to this country for medical treatment.

An authentic solution to the problem of affordability should be guided by the sure principles of moral and political freedom. It should respect doctor and patient privacy, restrain spending, and channel the energy of our free market system, not dry it up. Contrary to the false claim of Democratic leaders, there is no lack of sensible alternative solutions proposed by Republicans to put patients first. Last year in May, Senators Coburn and Burr, and Congressman Nunes and I offered one, the Patients Choice Act. It would eliminate government-driven market distortions that exclude many from affordable health care delivery. It would cover more uninsured Americans by spending current dollars wisely and efficiently than by throwing trillions more dollars at the problem. Our health care delivery alternative is guided by moral and political principles that respect the dignity of the person. It reflects America's commitment to compassion, family choice, and individual freedom, together with responsibility for the nation's economic well-being.

But the struggle over federal health care reform, the Democratic leaders' signature program, goes beyond the problem of national health. This debate encapsulates the defining issue of our generation: should we reform and strengthen America's free market democracy, or should we abandon it for a European-style social welfare state, the dream of third wave Progressives? Ultimately this is about an ideological crusade.

If we follow the Progressive path down which our current leaders plan to take us, creating entitlement after entitlement, promising benefits which can never be provided, the American Union will become something like the European Union: a welfare state society where the majority of people pay little or no taxes but become dependent on government benefits; where tax reduction is impossible because more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise; where permanent high unemployment is a way of life, and the spirit of risk-taking is smothered by a thick web of regulations from all-providing centralized government.

The US is already perilously close to this "tipping point." While exact and precise measures cannot be made, the Budget Committee minority staff have developed the warning indicators. In 2004, by our measure, 20% of US households were getting about 75% of their income from the federal government and have already become government dependents. Another 20 percent were receiving almost 40 percent of their income from federal programs, and are certainly already reliant on government for their livelihood.

All in all, about 60% of US households were receiving more government benefits and services (in dollar value) than they were paying back in taxes. We estimate that President Obama's first budget alone raises this "net government inflow" from 60% to 70%.

In my view, the Health Care reform plan is the vanguard of the Democratic leaders' crusade against the American idea. That's a harsh charge, but I can see only two possibilities: either they are ignorant of the consequences of their own programs - or they know and intend them.

In a TV interview in mid-December, President Obama said: "If we don't pass it...the federal government will go bankrupt, because Medicare and Medicaid are on a trajectory that are [sic] unsustainable....if we don't do this, nobody argues with the fact that health care costs are going to consume the entire federal budget."

The Democratic leaders' "credibility gap" has reached Grand Canyon proportions! You stop the nation from going broke by enacting a program costing $800 billion or more in the first decade? The President knows this will only accelerate the bankruptcy. If he means what he said, there is only one way to achieve that goal under the design of this plan: the government must ration health care, deeply and comprehensively.

The national health care exchange created by this legislation, together with its massive subsidies for middle income earners, will be the greatest expansion of the welfare state in a generation and possibly in history. Some health care experts estimate as many as 110 million citizens could claim this new entitlement within a few years of its implementation. According to our analysis, the new bill will provide subsidies that average a little less than 20% of the income of persons earning between zero and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. As income rises, of course, the health care subsidies phase out. This in effect imposes a huge marginal tax penalty acting as a massive disincentive on work, entrapping in greater dependency precisely those who need more incentive to escape.

American citizens once took pride in being responsible for their individual well-being and for governing themselves in freedom. They are now to become passive subjects of government leaders, wheedling for hand-outs, more concerned about their security than their liberty. Isn't it wiser to suppose that those who promote this program are smart enough to know what they are doing? When we reach their intended goal, those who still cherish human freedom will be reduced to near-silence. Whatever you call the post-American regime they would impose on this land, it will be no democracy.

The Progressives and the Founders both saw popular government as a problem, but their solutions were nearly opposite. Progressivism argues that there are no timeless ideas of right or wrong. Everything is "relative to history," and history keeps changing. Progressivism says the US needs a "living constitution" that keeps up with the "change." Their practical solution is to centralize government and direct society through all the turns of history. The political, representative bodies, such as Congress, should enact laws that propose goals - for example, "America should have clean air, pure water, better health care..." - and then let trained specialists issue the detailed regulations to achieve these goals. These experts, selected by merit, should be protected from public accountability for their directives. The Progressives say that popular control over bureaucracy can be maintained by legislative oversight and the budget process. But how can the people hold legislators accountable if they have no professional training or responsibility for the regulations? So the centralized administrative state finds itself in a perpetual blame game between bureaucrats and elected officials when things go wrong, as we have seen.

In the current economic crisis there has been no lack of greed, envy, ambition, and plain ignorance in corporate boardrooms, financial markets, and government hallways. The capital sins are always with us. But the foundations for this crisis were laid by Progressivism itself, above all by encouraging "crony capitalism." The Democratic leadership is trying to cure the diseases of "crony capitalism" with more "crony capitalism." What we really need is a new engagement with the principles Progressives repudiate, the principles that founded this land of freedom.

This nation was based on the self-evident truth that unalienable rights were granted to human beings not by government but by "nature and nature's God." The truths of the American founding cannot become "obsolete" because they are not temporal. They are eternal. "The laws of Nature and of Nature's God" are the sure touchstones of right and wrong for individuals and societies, for all time. They are the most inclusive ideas ever embodied in a government. If all human beings have equal natural rights, that is final. "All" means "all."

The Founders taught us that when government goes beyond the high mission of securing these God-given rights of all - even if the intent is benevolent - the results will weaken freedom, reduce prosperity, undermine authority, and make government intrusive and arrogant. They tried to make sure that self-government remained free by writing a constitution that recognized and enforced those timeless principles. The Constitution would embody popular consent by being ratified by the people. In particular, the words spelled out the limits of federal power and left the rest to the people.

A government that expands beyond its high but limited constitutional mission of securing equal rights is not "progressive," it's reactionary. It privileges some at the expense of others. The American Revolution was fought to abolish artificial distinctions that confiscated the wealth of some and gave it to others. The promise of keeping the earnings of your work is central to justice, freedom, and the hope to better your life.

President Obama famously said that he wants to "spread the wealth around." Democratic Party leaders hanker for those Old World notions of rule by the patronage of bureaucrats and judges. The chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank recently said as much: Democrats "are trying on every front to increase the role of government." I appreciate his candor but I can't help hearing an echo of George III excusing "taxation without representation." We swore off rule by the "better classes" a long time ago.

These leaders underestimate the American people. They have broken faith with independents, Republicans, and their own rank-and-file. They have walked away from the foundational truths that made America the wonder and envy of the world. And the price of their infidelity will be high.

The Health Care delivery problem can be solved without social welfare models. As Republicans present the nation with an alternative in 2010, our message on health care cannot be: "we can fix and reform this bill." Our message must be: "we will repeal and replace this government takeover, masked as Health Care reform." My party must insist on a serious public debate over the two different paths before us-calmly, honestly, and openly.

The Congressional elections this year will not be one of those normal local politics affairs. 2010 will be a national watershed, in every state and congressional district. A realignment of political parties is underway. But which way? Will we tolerate the replacement of the American idea with the social welfare state, or will we begin to reclaim and reapply the principles that gave America its greatness? We have had major political realignments before. In 2008 we just finished one: the Reagan revolution. In a strange way, the left is helping by making this moment crystal clear for the American people to see it.

Americans will sacrifice lives and treasure when they are called on to secure our safety and our freedom. But we will not endure the choice for decline - economic decline, global decline, or the decline of family and all we hold dear. We have always risen up against threats to our freedom, however disguised as benevolence by bureaucrats of big government or big business. Americans put country above party and will repudiate partisan leaders who try under cover of night to impose regime change on America. A new day is coming - time for a rebirth of democratic prosperity from the principles that still make America an exceptional nation and a providential gift to freedom's seekers in every land!

Paul Ryan represents Wisconsin's First Congressional District. He serves as ranking member of the House Budget Committee and senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.