Archive for December, 2009
December 22nd, 2009 at 8:51 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print

FreedomWorksWhat Next on Health Care?
San Diego Union-TribuneNot a Shining Moment for the Senate
George WillObama’s Unsightly Triumphs
The HillSenate Set for Christmas Eve Health Care Vote

PoliticoPork Greased Health Care Passage
National Review OnlineCan Stupak Save the Democrats?
Washington TimesJudicial Hellholes
Washington ExaminerIn Defense of Senate Obstructionism

Federal Debt: $12.152 trillion

December 21st, 2009 at 10:44 pm
How the GOP Lost Health Care … Years Ago
Posted by Print

Ross Douthat, who took over as the New York Times’ house conservative after Bill Kristol‘s brief stint during the 2008 election, has become increasingly insightful as he has settled into his new perch. In an entry on a NYT blog today, Douthat dissects the criticisms of the GOP approach to health care by The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait (a liberal) and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (a self-loathing Republican). Douthat doles out judicious criticism to each, but his own diagnosis is much more provocative:

In the end, when the history of the health care debate is written, I don’t think any of the choices that G.O.P. lawmakers made this year will loom particularly large. The choices that they made, or didn’t make, across the last fifteen years are what made all the difference. Between the defeat of Clintoncare and the election of Barack Obama, the Republicans had plenty of chances to take ownership of the health care issue and pass a significant reform along more free-market, cost-effective lines. They didn’t. The system deteriorated on their watch instead. And now they’re suffering the consequences.

Absolutely true. As good as many of the free-market healthcare reform ideas swimming around are, the reality is that, with the exception of marginal advances on Health Savings Accounts — a necessary, but not sufficient aspect of reform — the GOP has done nothing to advance an alternative vision for health care. And the party’s one major accomplishment was a massive and unfunded expansion of the welfare state in the form of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

One other interesting note from Douthat:

As far as the Republicans’ rhetorical emphases go, meanwhile, I’d really prefer to live in a world where the G.O.P. hadn’t decided to remake itself as the party of Medicare now, Medicare forever. But judged purely as a short-term political strategy designed to derail the legislation, it’s hard to argue with the results. Public opinion has turned dramatically against the bill, and every swing-state Democrat who votes for it is courting political suicide.

Me: I’d gladly trade away potential GOP wins next year for defeating the health care bill now. After all, the point of  political victory is to influence policy outcomes.  And once the government embeds itself in the healthcare industry there will be no turning back — like our British counterparts, most of the domestic policy agenda will become focused on who can better manage a bloated welfare state.  The next few weeks may thus see the biggest epochal shift in American politics since the constituent parts of Reaganomics made their way through the Congress.

December 21st, 2009 at 3:32 pm
“The Price is Right”
Posted by Print

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) on Harry Reid’s (D-NV) health care compromise with Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson:

You’ve got to compliment Ben Nelson for playing, ‘The Price Is Right.’  He negotiated a Medicaid agreement for Nebraska that puts the federal government on the hook forever.  This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase, it’s the Nebraska windfall … this isn’t how this process is supposed to work.

Sadly, the “Louisiana Purchase” already took place during Senate negotiations.  Now, taxpayers are “on the hook” for Louisiana and Nebraska.  This is not because Nebraska and Louisiana are especially important for health care reform, but because two politicians from those states were able to game the system better than their colleagues.

This is why our national debt is over $12 trillion.

December 21st, 2009 at 12:09 pm
A Vote that Would Make Rod Blagojevich Blush
Posted by Print

This morning, the Senate invoked cloture on its scheme for government-run health care.  Under Senate rules, there will now be 30 hours of debate divided equally between the two parties, and then there is a strong possibility that the Senate will pass the legislation.

For Majority Leader Harry Reid, getting to this point was no easy task.  The typical horse trading that takes place on Capitol Hill was on overdrive lately as Leader Reid had to beg, borrow and deal to buy off each cynical Senator.

As much as the media and politicians on the Hill excoriated Governor Rod Blagojevich for selling President Obama’s old Senate seat, buying votes is a common occurrence in the nation’s capital.

As this piece from Politico demonstrates, what happens in Senate chambers typically borders on bribery.

For example:

  • Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), who was once emphatic in his opposition to ObamaCare, got $45 million in federal funds for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska.   Other states were not fortunate enough to have an undecided Senator provide their state with the perks of federal largesse.
  • Independent/Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), who was previously opposed to the legislation, was awarded $10 billion in new funding for community health centers.
  • Senator Nelson (D-NE) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) garnered an excise tax carve-out for their states; all other states will be forced to pay the tax.
  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) received perhaps the most persuasive legislative nugget, a $300 million federal gift to Louisiana for Medicaid expansion.

In an attempt to rationalize this border-line legislative bribery, Senator Reid opined, “You’ll find a number of states that are treated differently than other states.  That’s what legislating is all about.  It’s compromise.”

Buying off votes = compromise?  Selling a Senate seat = felony?

December 21st, 2009 at 9:16 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print

Associated PressHealth Bill Clears Senate Test
Rep. Bob BarrHealth Care Bizarro World
PoliticoHealth Plans on Collision Course
The HillSen. Nelson’s $100 Million Payoff

Las Vegas Review-JournalClimate Folly
Michael BaroneLiberals Collide with Public Option
American SpectatorDemocrats Break Ground
WSJ EditorialChange Nobody Believes In

Federal Debt: $12.147 trillion

December 20th, 2009 at 12:47 am
The Fire Insurance Fallacy
Posted by Print

On yesterday’s “Hardball”, Democratic strategist (and promiscuous presidential campaign kamikaze) Bob Shrum got into an almost unwatchable scrimmage over global warming and the Copenhagen Conference with Pat Buchanan.  In a tag-team effort with host Chris Matthews, Shrum tried to side-step the epistemological questions surrounding climate change by invoking the analogy of carrying fire insurance.

This meme, which has started showing up in Democratic talking points lately, tries to get around climate uncertainty by invoking the “precautionary principle”: that it’s prudent to take decisive action proportional to a catastrophic threat even if the potential of that threat being realized is miniscule. This irrational doctrine has been part of the environmental left’s catechism for decades, but its appearance in the political sphere shows that liberals are becoming sensitive to the fallout over Climategate and trying to reframe their position as a common sense hedge against catastrophe.  Wrong.

The Precautionary Principle sounds good in a vacuum (who caucuses for increased risk, after all?), but is (ironically) non-empirical in its application. All of life is a matter of weighing probable rewards versus probable risks. Jettisoning this cost-benefit principle on a serious policy issue is dangerous — and the insurance analogy shows why.

Think about how fire insurance actually works. You pay a miniscule fee to hedge against the minute possibility of a catastrophic outcome. But that’s not how carbon abatement schemes work. First of all, there’s no pool to socialize risk within. As an inherently global “crisis”, everyone is supposedly effected — so it’s impossible to cross-subsidize in the way that insurance plans do. But more importantly, you wouldn’t buy fire insurance that costs exponentially more than the likely damage from a fire — and that’s what the economic disaster represented by cap and trade and other such schemes would mean.

Liberals can’t get their head around the fact that there’s only so much value swimming around in an economy (regardless of the money supply).  If you use some of it in one place, you can’t use it in another. And when government mandates its use, it’s almost always less efficient than the private sector. This is called an opportunity cost. It’s usually covered in the first few days of an elementary economics course. This is what happens when we elect people who cut that class for a Sierra Club meeting.

December 19th, 2009 at 1:01 pm
Sen. Nelson to Support Health Care Bill

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) just announced that he will support the Senate health care bill, seemingly handing Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation by Christmas.

According to The Washington Post:

Asked if he had secured the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) told reporters, ‘It seems that way.’

The Senate is expected to work its way through a series of procedural motions over the next few days, with a vote on the legislation scheduled the evening of Dec. 24th. A conference with the House to produce a final bill would likely extend into January, Senate aides said.

December 19th, 2009 at 9:13 am
Reid’s Manager’s Amendment on ObamaCare

Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning released his manager’s amendment to the Senate health care bill.  Read it here.

The Majority Leader is still planning to hold the first cloture vote on the bill as early as 1:00 a.m. Monday morning.

December 18th, 2009 at 6:18 pm
Would Passing Health Care Reform Hurt Mitt Romney in 2012?

In the rush to secure enough votes to pass the comprehensive health care “reform” bill before Christmas, Democrats in the Senate seem to agree that while a “public option” is out, an “individual mandate” is most certainly in.  Simply put, if passed, every American would be required by federal law to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.  Although there are some subtle distinctions between then Governor Romney’s proposal and a “pure” individual mandate, after only three years in effect, the Massachusetts legislature opted for purity over subtlety.  Thus, the result of Romney’s carefully crafted compromise turned into the blueprint for the first iteration of ObamaCare.

How odd it would be for Romney if his presidential prospects depended on the success or failure of the Democrats’ version of universal health care.  Already, libertarian and conservative commentators are starting to make the connection between the federal bill and Massachusetts.  Come the primaries, it will take a nanosecond for opposition researchers and spin doctors to lash ObamaCare to RomneyCare.  If they do, and the current distaste for nuance still prevails, Romney’s likely explanations of this-but-no-further policy making could be his undoing.

December 18th, 2009 at 5:13 pm
Liberal Voters Revolt Against ObamaCare

A new Research 2000 national survey is out today showing a liberal revolt against the Senate health care “reform” bill.  The survey of 800 likely voters, commissioned by the ultra-liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, found that only 33%of those polled favor health care reform that includes an individual mandate but no public government-run insurance option – essentially the Senate bill.  56% of all likely voters surveyed opposed such “reform.”

Hey, Mr. President.  How’s that strategy of “pass something, anything, regardless of what the people want” working out for you?  The Senate may end up passing a health care bill that an overwhelming majority of your liberal base opposes.

December 18th, 2009 at 4:37 pm
When is $10 Billion in Deficit Reduction Not Enough?

When it could be $87 billion.  The $77 billion swing is the difference between making a real payment towards bringing down the exploding federal deficit and a token gesture.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, Education Secretary Arne Duncan confirms a plan put in motion when the department got “emergency powers” during the credit crisis last year to continue access to student loans.  After explaining why the federal government is prohibiting private banks to participate in federal student loan programs, Secretary Duncan concludes with a cursory listing of what will be done with the projected savings.

As for the $87 billion we’ll save from ending the troubled FFEL program, the administration seeks to use that money for important programs that will improve our economic future. We propose to substantially increase scholarships in the Pell Grant program and other financial aid for low-income students. We would start new programs to raise college graduation rates and strengthen our community colleges. We will expand our investment in early childhood education. Plus, $10 billion would be set aside to reduce the deficit.

But if a little deficit reduction is good, isn’t a lot better?  Realistically, if Duncan was serious about deficit reduction he’d apply the entire savings to that end.  As it is, $77 billion of the money saved will go towards new spending in the form of higher loan amounts, “strengthening” community colleges, and “investing” in early childhood education.  None of these programs will pay for themselves in a way that off-sets their direct cost to the federal taxpayer, which, according to Duncan, is the main reason federal control in this area is needed.

December 18th, 2009 at 4:10 pm
Senator Ben Nelson’s Health Care Stance
Posted by Print


December 18th, 2009 at 12:56 pm
Krugman Grasping at Straws
Posted by Print

What’s Paul Krugman’s advice to liberals like MoveOn and Howard Dean upset over current health care negotiations in the Senate?  Pass the Bill.

It seems that liberals like Krugman want a bill just for the sake of passing a bill.   Politics and not principle appear to be his main motivation, which is strange coming from an economist and college professor.

Ideological purists like Howard Dean and MoveOn object to Harry Reid’s version of reform.  But why?  The current Senate bill supposedly lacks the government-run public option that liberals have been salivating over for the past year.  What remains from Senate negotiations is a hodgepodge of mandates, new regulations and higher taxes.

The one issue both sides of the aisle should agree on during the holidays is that the current health care bill is awful; it’s really really bad.

Conservatives and libertarians should hate the bill because it contains hundreds of billions in new taxes, an unconstitutional mandate for individual health insurance, an expensive employer mandate, costs over $2 trillion and it does nothing to bend the health care cost curve downward, among many other reasons.

Liberals should hate the bill because it (supposedly) contains no government-run public option, politically connected health care companies practically drafted the legislation, PhARMA supports it, socialist Senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t, it fails to cover 100% of the uninsured and it doesn’t bend the health care cost curve downward.

Dr. Krugman may attempt to use his perch at the New York Times to rally progressives toward a final health care push, but the ugly truth is that health care reform has become the product of Washington, D.C. politics.  That’s never a good thing.  President Obama rallied against Washington-style politics during his campaign but it appears that his bill and his political strategy have embraced the zero sum ultra-partisan approach that he derided so frequently in the past.

Dr. Krugman’s headline should have been “Kill this Bill.”

December 18th, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Are Polls Previewing the Obama Legacy?
Posted by Print

Less than one year into the Obama Administration, unequivocal public opinion polls are saying a lot about his leadership ability, and may be providing an early clue into what might come to be his legacy.

Namely, unlike leaders such as Ronald Reagan or Franklin Roosevelt, he is turning the public away from his worldview, rather than persuading it to join him.

By now we’re well-familiar with Obama’s steady decline in public opinion polls.  In fact, he stands lower than any President at this point in his tenure.  But the latest Rasmussen poll shows something broader, which is good news for those of us who advocate individual freedom, but bad news for Obama.

By an enormous 66% to 22% margin, Americans state that they prefer less government and lower taxes to stronger government with higher taxes.  Amazingly, the tone-deaf White House and the Pelosi/Reid Congress continue to advance bigger government (ObamaCare, carbon cap-and-tax, new regulations over the struggling economy,etc.) and higher taxes (increase of the death tax, higher income taxes, healthcare penalties, etc.) despite these unequivocal results.

By a 62% to 21% margin, respondents also say that lowering taxes is a better way to create jobs than more federal “stimulus” is.  This is remarkable, considering the degree to which Obama, Pelosi, Reid and liberal pundits scapegoat lower taxes and less regulation as the alleged cause of our economic difficulties.  They’re obviously not making the case, and are losing the battle of ideas.

Furthermore, 62% believe that it would be better for the rest of the world and our allies to follow America’s lead, an all-time high.  In contrast, a tiny 8% report that America should increasingly follow our allies’ lead.  This again contrasts with Obama’s apologetic international demeanor and submission to new global constraints upon the U.S., especially on the heels of his Nobel Prize and Copenhagen boondoggle.

But more broadly, these striking results show that Obama is failing miserably at the task of persuading and leading Americans toward his point of view and policy agenda.  He presumably has several years to reverse this reality, but we may already be witnessing the early elements of the eventual Obama legacy.

December 18th, 2009 at 12:32 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  For those readers who don’t receive it in their e-mail inboxes or if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, below is a summary of its contents:

CFIF Staff:  ‘Twas the Week Before Christmas
Batkins:  Congress to Raise Debt Ceiling. Why You Should Care
Release:  CFIF Calls on EPA to Reconsider Costly and Arbitrary Global Warming Regulation
Lee:  Chavez the Clown Completes Copenhagen Climate Circus
Senik:  Two Faces of Obama in Oslo
Ellis:  Working for The Man – Federal Employment Spike Exacerbates Dependency on the State

Freedom Minute Video:  Congress’ Gift to America – A Soaring National Debt
Podcast:  Bigger Government = Lower Approval Ratings – Interview the Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Matthew Spalding
Jester’s Courtroom:  The Devil Didn’t Make Him Do It

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update, sign up here.

December 18th, 2009 at 11:05 am
CFIF Video: Congress’ Gift to America – A Soaring National Debt

Every year around this time, we witness extraordinary acts of goodwill and generosity.  But this year, the “gift” Congress is giving to the American people is more debt.  In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses Congress’ decision to raise the debt ceiling and what that means for hard-working American families. 

Watch the video below:


December 18th, 2009 at 8:56 am
Morning Links
Posted by Print
December 17th, 2009 at 5:08 pm
Senators Meet Santa
Posted by Print

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) is one of the few good guys on Capitol Hill.  He and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) have taken the lead to stop government-run health care in the Senate.  In fact, they’re using every procedural tool under the sun to defeat the Senate’s disasterous version of “reform.”

According to The Hill newspaper, DeMint is even prepared to go so far as to slow debate and force Christmas Eve votes.  As DeMint noted, “I think it’s our responsibility to stretch this out because every day we do we have time to tell Americans what’s in it.”

For those of you looking for something interesting to watch over the holidays, the Senate will likely be in session on Christmas Eve.

This is the final push against government-run health care.  If you haven’t done so already, call your Senators at 202-224-3121 and tell them to oppose the Senate health care bill.

December 17th, 2009 at 12:35 pm
San Franciscans Getting the Government They Deserve

It’s hard to imagine rational people living in San Francisco.  As detailed in the newest edition of San Francisco Weekly, voters by the bay have repeatedly approved billion dollar bond measures even though in many cases the old bonds would have been sufficient but for the incompetence and malfeasance of city hall.  In another instance, the city tried to save money by mixing elderly patients with younger mentally disturbed ones.  After one elderly patient was attacked four times the staff’s response was to put up a sign saying, “Don’t Hit.”  Apparently, it was not effective.  By the second of a six page article, the author seems exasperated by the parade of horribles.

These are dramatic examples of how the city wasted time and money and made people’s lives miserable — with no apparent repercussions for those responsible. But these are far from isolated incidents (see the “Annals of Incompetence” sidebar on page 12). And in each case, it comes back to the same basic problem of accountability: Plenty of public figures make promises, but no one is responsible for keeping them.

But there is a mechanism for holding them accountable.  However repugnant these occurrences are, though, the population most at fault isn’t the one occupying the seats of power.  It’s the people who continue to elect and empower them.  As long as a polity can vote out its leaders the system of representative democracy works.  In a certain sense, it’s hard to blame the wardens of an insane asylum for mismanagement when their superiors keep cutting checks.  In the carnival of incoherence that is San Francisco, the first step towards rational government is as close as the next election cycle.

December 17th, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Understanding the Public Option in 41 Seconds
Posted by Print