Date ►►► August 30, 2009
Fun With Dick and Arthur
My fave at my fave still doesn't quite seem to get a critical point. John Hinderaker, discussing Dick Cheney's support for military action against Iran's nuclear capability, concludes thus:
At the time, it seemed to me that we had our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan and military conflict with Iran was not a serious possibility. It will be interesting to see how Cheney rebuts that premise.
While he's a bit ambiguous, it sure seems to me as if John mistakenly imagines a military invasion of Iran, à la Iraq, or at least Afghanistan: That is, he's thinking of tens of thousands of troops, airlifted tanks, and a prolongued campaign, with armored cavalry regiments battling their way from Baghdad and Kabul across mountain and desert to Teheran.
But that sort of military action was never in the cards. Rather, the most likely strike, and the only one likely to succeed (given the political reality John himself enunciates), is what I call the Herman Option, after military historian Arthur Herman, who enunciated it in an article in Commentary magazine:
I reprint below the guts of the Herman Option...
Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:
- Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
- Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
- Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
- Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
- Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
- Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.
Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)
Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:
- American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).
Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."
I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:
- Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.
Whether this would have worked or not -- and I was (and am!) an optimist about its chances -- it would not have involved the sort of military committment that the Iraq or even the Afghanistan war did. It would be a surgical strike, with only a small number of Special Forces at risk, along with a general blockade of the Strait of Hormuz using the Navy.
My second greatest disappointment of the Bush era is that he did not "go out with a bang," by decapitating the third head of the jihadist ogre, Iran.
Some Strange New Use of the Word "Conservative" of Which I Was Previously Unaware
Exit polling indicates that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan suffered a catastrophic defeat and have been ousted from power, to be replaced by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
With this victory, the DPJ will control both the upper house (House of Councillors) and lower house (House of Representatives) of the Diet, the Japanese parliament; the very first time in the history of post-dictatorship Japan that the LDP has lost control of the entire government. And the Democrats will have a whopping great majority in the House of Reps.
The LDP has controlled the more powerful House of Representatives by and large since the end of the American military occupation of Japan following World War II. While in power, they enacted national health care, confiscatory taxation, enormous tariffs on foreign goods to prop up prices of domestic products, wage and price controls, a nationalist welfare state, a great liberalization of abortion laws, and the rampant secularization of Japan.
The police monitor every citizen of Japan. "Mr. Walkabout" -- the local beat cop -- knows everybody in his area and goes door to door checking on them throughout the year. There is no right to privacy, no freedom of speech (only government privilege of speech, which can be revoked), and many criminal cases are resolved by coerced confessions. Japan strictly bans all private ownership of handguns and most long guns; shooting clubs must store their weapons in lockers. Citizens who use deadly force against criminals, even to save their own lives, are often prosecuted.
The LDP facilitated and accomodated a form of socialism called "corporatism," which is sort of the opposite of fascism: Under fascism, the national government controls the corporations; but under corporatism, the large conglomerates in Japan (keiretsu) control the national government. Corporatism, like other forms of socialism, is designed to eliminate "wasteful" competition, suppress Capitalism, and inhibit the formation of a free market. To further this end, the LDP consolodated all power in the national government.
(Keiretsu are vast collections of vertically and horizontally integrated corporations that each own parts of each other, are controlled from the top down, and attempt to restrict corporate supply-chain transactions to other businesses within the same keiretsu.)
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI -- formerly MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry) is the interface between the keiretsu and the corporatist government.
Labor-union action is so institutionalized that unions actually schedule their "strikes" months in advance; some labor actions are simply annual: They hold a symbolic "take-over" strike on a particular day of the year.
The national government controls the schools, including most of the top universities. Socialist education -- including anti-nationalist, anti-Japan propaganda that dwarfs the anti-Americanism found in many American schools -- is ubiquitous throughout the entire education system, despite being controlled by the LDP since the year zed.
Immigration is strictly controlled by the government, in order to keep wages high by creating an artificial labor shortage.
The Liberal Democratic Party has enaged in a minor level of partial privatization of some formerly government owned industries, such as the vital train system; but the LDP has for the most part been dragged, kicking and screaming, along that path, forced by terrible economic inefficiencies in the nationalist system.
...And here is the first sentence of the My Way news article about the election:
Japan's ruling conservative party suffered a crushing defeat in elections Sunday as voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in favor of a left-of-center opposition camp that has promised to rebuild the economy and breathe new life into the country after 54 years of virtual one-party rule, media projections said.
The term "conservative" in English generally means a patriotic, pro-Capitalist, pro-free market, individualist, traditionally religious, liberty-based (as opposed to egalitarian or fraternal) party or group that fosters the seven classical virtues -- prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. Evidently, My Way is employing a homonym of "conservative" that carries the diametrically opposite meaning of the more familiar form.
So what is the new DPJ majority going to do to be more "left-of-center" than the erstwhile ruling LDP itself? Nationalize the multinational keiretsu, establish collective farms run by slave labor, mandate Che Guevera t-shirts as the new school uniform, and institute a "five-year plan" to plant wheat in Siberia, in keeping with the teachings of Trofim Lysenko? How much more leftist could Japan become without drifting into actual Marxism?
Oh, here we are; the Democratic Party's grand plan to "rebuild the economy":
The Democrats are proposing toll-free highways, free high schools, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job seekers in training, a higher minimum wage and tax cuts. The estimated bill comes to 16.8 trillion yen ($179 billion) if fully implemented starting in fiscal year 2013.
What could go wrong?
Date ►►► August 29, 2009
President Barack H. Obama and his Windy-City White House have admitted that their projected deficits were far too low, so they've upped the 10-year total to $9 trillion, more or less matching the CBO. But aren't they still playing fast and loose with their figures?
Obama swears that ObamaCare won't add even a dime to the deficit; thus he has not included any costs from that program in his projection. But wait -- nearly every non-White House source believes it will be very expensive, costing anywhere from $750 billion to $3 trillion.
Which means, I fear, that even the expanded Obamic deficit projection is significantly low -- and we're actually looking at adding nearly $11 trillion (taking the mean average of the projection boundaries), not a "mere" $9 trillion, to the national debt by 2020.
In addition to the problems with ObamaCare, the administration also estimates that they will save an additional $200 billion (per year?) on Medicare. According to AP:
Democrats also are calling for cuts in Medicare spending, using some of the savings to help uninsured workers. A House bill would result in a net reduction in Medicare of about $200 billion, though Obama has insisted the reductions would not cut benefits in the health program for the elderly.
Five'll get you eight that the administration is including this as "deficit reductions" in their budget estimates, since no "new government programs" have yet been enacted specifically to eat up that supposed reduction (the reductions are counted immediately; the spending won't be counted until it's actually spent).
In the event that this amazing Medicare savings (without cutting any benefits!) fails to eventuate, the deficit increases by another $200 billion -- if that alleged savings is allegedly a one-shot -- or by another $2 trillion, if it's supposedly a structural change. So the national debt rises by a total of more than $11 trillion (best case) to as much as $13 trillion (worst case).
The joy of tax
Economist John Mauldin, in his weekly e-letter, notes the following point about some of President Obama's assumptions underlying the recent budget estimate:
Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.
I mean, seriously, does anyone think Pelosi or Reid are going to lead us to fiscal constraint? Obama talks a good game, but he has not offered a serious deficit-reduction proposal, other than further tax increases. And by serious, I mean we need cuts on the order of several hundred billion dollars.
Liberal squawking notwithstanding, most of the Bush tax cuts went to middle-income taxpayers. Obama has sworn that he won't raise the taxes of anyone making less than $250,000 a year... which means he wouldn't be able to cut the Bush tax cut much at all. And even if the president proposed breaking his word on this issue ("read my lips..."), it's very unlikely that wavering members of the House and especially Senate would go along with it, since the congressional debate would have to be flooding the airwaves in 2010, swamping almost every other issue in the November elections.
So that's one assumption that appears to be busted from the git-go; who's going to vote for massive tax increases right before an election? Let's assume no significant tax increase on the middle income, including allowing the Bush cuts to die "quietly" (yeah, right -- quietly!)
So how much is the net hit on the deficit projection due to the unlikelihood of repealing the Bush tax cuts?
Mind, we're not talking about an actual deficit (if any) was created by the tax cuts; that's a whole different argument. I'm asking how much the Obama administration estimated the Bush tax cuts were costing per year, and how much of that amount they expected to recover from killing them. In other words, how much deficit reduction did they include in their calculations that they're not actually getting?
The leftist Economic Policy Institute is just the sort of econ think tank that Barack Obama would find trustworthy; it was founded by various liberal economists (including Bill Clinton's future Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich) in 1986, and it consistently presents the view from the Left. Their 2005/2006 position paper on tax cuts estimates the deficit impact thus:
In the recently completed fiscal year 2005, the combined effect of the tax cuts passed since 2001 was $225 billion without interest. When the interest costs from greater debt is included, the tax cuts raised the deficit by $260 billion, a sum that would wipe out most of last year’s unsustainable $317 billion deficit.
I wonder if they consider Obama's trillion-dollar deficits, marching into eternity, "sustainable"...
I think it reasonable to assume that the current administration accepts the estimate that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit by at least $260 billion per year; how much do they expect to "recover" by killing the tax cuts? It would be hard for me to believe, given the urgency of the budget-deficit problem, that Obama would have low-balled the savings. I think it's not unreasonable that he would have "estimated" savings of about $200 billion per year, or 78% of what he (and liberal economists) imagine the cuts are costing the economy.
So bursting that soap-and-change bubble, adds another $2 trillion over ten years to the national debt, bringing the adjusted total increase up to $13 to $15 trillion.
Finally, Mauldin quotes from economist Richard Russell:
“The US national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars. The interest on our national debt is now $340 billion. This is about at 3.04% rate of interest. In ten years the Obama administration admits that they will add $9 trillion to the national debt. That would take it to $20 trillion. Let's say that by some miracle the interest on the national debt in 10 years will still be 3.09%. That would mean that the interest on the national debt would be $618 billion a year or over one billion a day [sic; more like $1.7 billion per day -- DaH]. No nation can hold up in the face of those kinds of expenses. Either the dollar would collapse or interest rates would go through the roof.”
But Russell is assuming only nine trillion dollars added to the debt; splitting the difference, what if it's really $14 trillion, going from $11 trillion today to $25 trillion by 2020?
Under Russell's formula, an increase from $11 trillion to $20 trillion (182%) yields an increase in budgetary "debt maintenance" from $340 billion up to $618 billion, or 182%; so the equation is roughly linear.
That makes it easy to calculate with the new figures: An increase of the debt from $11 trillion today to $25 trillion -- 227% -- should result in a corresponding increase in debt maintenance from $340 billion per year to $773 billion. But wait, there's worse! A perception of increased financial risk for the United States could force us to raise the interest rates for U.S. Treasury securities, which would of course dramatically raise the interest payments on the national debt. That $773 billion could easily rise to a trillion dollars or more... just to pay the interest on the debt.
It could easily become the largest component of the entire budget, en route to gobbling up the whole thing, lock, stock, and kaboodle.
Like a spiderweb, the pieces all fall into place
Such a huge chunk of the budget going to pay mere interest on the debt will have a devastating effect on our economy (Mauldin sarcastically suggests we borrow money to pay the interest on the money we borrow). But the frustrating thing is that economists cannot agree whether such a collapse would produce massive inflation, as in a typical recession -- or massive deflation, as we had in the Great Depression. Alas, the strategies individuals should follow are completely different for each of these options: You don't want to be holding gold during deflation, for example; you want to be holding cash.
The only thing that might lessen the march towards economic collapse would be to drastically reduce spending; that means not only not enacting the rest of Obama's grandiose and delusional agenda, but actually rolling back the budget by an additional $300 to $400 billion from where it was in 2008. Such fiscal discipline would also have the serendipitous effect of keeping Treasury securities at lower interest rates, as default would be less likely in a scenario of economic responsibility.
Some kind of stimulus would almost certainly still be needed to stave off a double-dip recession; but we could do an awful lot to mitigate the damage caused by such spending by spending it more wisely. That is, Barack Obama's syllogism is simply false: It really does matter to the economy what you stimulate.
Instead of shoveling money to pet projects of liberals, if our "stimulus" included things that actually create wealth directly or indirectly, rather than just spreading the existing wealth around -- we would encourage our economy to grow. Instead of focusing on dividing the pie, focus on baking a bigger one.
What kind of stimulus am I talking about?
- Repair and upgrade of infrastructure, including water distrubution, road building, the electricity grid, and hardening our electronics against the electromagnetic pluse (EMP) effect;
- Building a bunch of new nuclear power plants;
- Dramatically upgrading and improving our border security;
- Offering low-cost loans to recent or even start-up small businesses;
- Fully privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (paying the transition costs), and so forth.
And that is the only long-term solution to such fiscal problems: growth, growth, growth. Knowledge is being created all the time; wealth is the application of knowledge and human industry to natural resources; thus an increase in knowledge should normally trigger an increase of real wealth. As knowledge always increases, in this day of survivable recording media (the Dark Ages could not happen again), the normal state should be a continuing rise in real weath over time.
The theory is sound; it's only its application that has been wanting in recent years.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► August 27, 2009
Lessons from Kennedy's Life
What are the lessons to be learned from the life of Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy?
How about: Keep a set of life jackets in your car? Don’t go fishing off the side of bridge late at night from a moving car when you’re drunk?
Honestly, the rapturous tributes to this guy sicken me almost as much as the over-the-top hagiographies that appeared a few weeks ago on the death of Michael Jackson.
The guy was an especially effective politician. But he was a serial abuser of women who mades Bill Clinton’s escapades look almost amateurish by comparison, although both pale in comparison to the legendary exploits of Teddy’s older brother, John. But, of course, when it comes to great liberal liberators of the masses, we are not supposed to inquire too loudly about their private lives, which frequently take place in swampy currents of vice and corruption.
Maybe they ought to award a posthumous Medal of Honor to Mary Jo Kopechne, who, if she had survived that night just over 40 years ago in Chappaquiddick, would be 62 years old.
Because it was her death, more than anything, that kept Camelot from being rebooted in 1972. If young Teddy, who was always a complete slave to his vices, hadn’t driven off the bridge, drowning the girl and then tried to hide it for several hours, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have creamed Richard Nixon. The Kennedy name was absolute gold. Nixon was justly paranoid about running against Teddy (or anybody, for that matter, as is demonstrated by the stupid Watergate burglary).
Just imagine how different the nation would be if a second President Kennedy had been able to push forward a liberal agenda in the 1970s. We might be looking at a Health Care Crisis of a different sort, one brought about by too much government meddling and which might be on the verge of collapse for the reason that Canada’s seems to be. [I rise to note that we're already looking at a health care crisis brought about by "too much government meddling!" --DaH]
Well, no television for me for the next week. I will undoubtedly find myself living a much richer life because of it.
Meanwhile, Back in the Murmuring Pines and the Hemlocks...
Occulted by the momentous national slugfest about TeddyCare, the explosion of Medicare spending (or draconian rationing), the imminent collapse of Social Security, the mind-numbing deficits, the looming tax attax, the energy-production cripple-and-tax bill, the slow American retreat in Afghanistan, and the rapid Obama-decreed rout in Iraq... tucked in away among all this political misdirection, the gnomes of Foggy Bottom still pick-and-shovel away at the foundations of Honduras, trying to engineer the forced reinstallation of fled President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (a.k.a. "Mel" Zelaya) -- little buddy of Oogo Chavez, tireless crusader for Marxist revolution in Latin America, and putative President-for-Life of that democratic country of Honduras:
U.S. State Department staff have recommended that the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya be declared a "military coup," a U.S. official said on Thursday, a step that could cut off as much as $150 million in U.S. funding to the impoverished Central American nation.
The official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said State Department staff had made such a recommendation to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has yet to make a decision on the matter although one was likely soon.
Washington has already suspended about $18 million aid to Honduras following the June 28 coup and this would be formally cut if the determination is made because of a U.S. law barring aid "to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree."
Note that the gnomes want to oust the current Honduran government for doing to Zelaya pretty much just what the Democrats did to Richard Nixon in 1974: Push him to resign by threatening to prosecute him for his many criminal activities.
Our previous excursions into the dead zone of the Obamacle's (and Hillary's) Honduran policy are legion:
- Old Shoes and Barackends
- Piddling Away Greatness
- The Curious Case of Tegucigalpa's Traveling Traitor
- Reuters Still Stuck on "Coup"-pid
- Coup on You!
- Did Zelaya Pull a Bank Heist Before Skedaddling?
- HeistWatch - Day 1
The radical Left's bottom line is clear: Zelaya must be returned to full dictatorial control; no matter how he was trying to subvert the Honduran constitution (which constitutes treason in that country), no matter how in bed he was with Venezuelan fascist dictator Oogo Chavez, and no matter that Zelaya personally led a violent mob to attack the customs building to retrieve the illegal ballots that he got his pal Chavez to print in Venezuela; the ballots -- intended by Zelaya to give him cover for rejecting the clause in the Honduran constitution limiting presidents to a single term -- were confiscated by Customs officials when Zelaya tried to smuggle them into Honduras. As D.C. Circuit nominee Miguel Estrada (denied a confirmation vote by Democrats) recounts the precipitating incident in the Los Angeles Times:
Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela, but these were impounded by customs when they were brought back to Honduras. On June 25 -- three days before he was ousted -- Zelaya personally gathered a group of "supporters" and led it to seize the ballots, restating his intent to conduct the "survey" on June 28. That was the breaking point for the attorney general, who immediately sought a warrant from the Supreme Court for Zelaya's arrest on charges of treason, abuse of authority and other crimes. In response, the court ordered Zelaya's arrest by the country's army, which under Article 272 must enforce compliance with the Constitution, particularly with respect to presidential succession. The military executed the court's order on the morning of the proposed survey.
Yet despite the clear and undeniable fact that Zelaya was removed according to the rule of law in Honduras, and the equally clear fact that it is Zelaya, not his acting successor of the same party (Roberto Micheletti), who is the coup plotter, the Obama/Hillary Statism Department has redoubled its efforts to overthrow the legitimate, democratic, pro-American government of Honduras -- to install in its place an il-legitimate, un-democratic, il-legal, Marxist, anti-American government, instead. The stupidity of this policy can only be explained, though not excused, by leftist ideology run amok, as ably documented by Victor Davis Hansen in the August (and august) webpages of National Review Online.
Attacking the economy of the impoverished nation appears to be a fait accompli:
Diplomats said that the United States had held off making the formal determination to give diplomacy a chance to yield a negotiated compromise that might allow for Zelaya's return to power....
"The recommendation of the building is for her to sign it," said the first U.S. official said of the 'military coup" determination, saying this was a response to the de facto government's refusal to accept a compromise that would allow Zelaya to return to power ahead of November elections.
Attacking, but not necessarily defeating; let us hope that the Hondurans are made of stern enough will and self-determination that they will reject the diktats of Hillary Clinton's politburo and the machinations of the "progressive" nomenklatura that infests virtually every federal and state bureaucracy in the United States. Perhaps the democrats down south will dig in their heels and accept that they must scratch for their own seed if they want to remain sovereign... I hope they do, "pour encourager les autres."
There is hardly anything in foreign policy that would please me more than a bunch of American "client states" telling us to take that foreign aid and shove it, they ain't kow-towing to us no more.
Everybody Get His Camera Ready
In today's Gallup daily tracking poll (three-day rolling average) -- Gallup! -- President Barack H. Obama now sits on a job-approval of a bare 50%, having plummeted from 69% approval on January 22-24 (released on January 25th), a few days after he was inaugurated. He has dropped 19 points in 214 days of tracking-poll releases, or one point every eleven days or so. If this goes on, Obama should drop below 50% in the first week of September.
Worse, Obama's disapproval has risen forty points in that same period, from 13% to 43%. (Again, this is Gallup, not Rasmussen; sampling adults, not likely voters, or even registered voters.) That's a rise of one point of disapproval every 5.35 days.
The two graphs meet in 25.36 days at 47.74%; so by day 26, Obama would be in negative territory on the Gallup daily tracking poll: 47.7% approval, 47.9% disapproval. (Again, this is a rough guess; the trend may accelerate or slow, but I'm using the rates of the past seven months.) In any event, it won't show up on the Gallup chart -- which doesn't even show a tenths digit -- until three days later.
That is, unless the president turns everything around, on or about September 25th, 2009, Gallup should have him with an approval of 47% and a disapproval of 48%... what Rasmussen has dubbed an "approval index" of -1.
So everybody get your cameras cranked up and loaded with film (yeah, yeah, charge 'em up and clean off that 32 gigabyte SB memory chip); because when even the left-leaning Gallup poll of American adults shows Obama having collapsed into actual negative territory, the roof will cave in on
ObamaCare TeddyCare -- though perhaps the better term would be KopechneKare, where senators and congressmen skate, while the rest of us get thrown off the Dike Road Bridge -- along with many other authoritarian, nanny-state policies.
There's just something politically crippling about a net negative job approval; just ask the last resident of la Casa Blanca.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
It's a Dead Man's Party
Well that didn't take long.
All right, I made a crass prediction yesterday. I writ:
Please pardon my irreverance (blasphemy?), but I wonder how many days will pass before Chris Dodd says, "If the Republicans had allowed us to pass a public option in the Senate, Ted Kennedy would be alive today!"
Then a few moments ago, I looked on Drudge to see that the Democrats have decided to rebrand ObamaCare as -- KennedyCare!
To infuse Kennedy into the health-care debate, Democrats are planning to affix the former senator's name to the health-care legislation that emerges from Congress.
The idea of naming the legislation for Kennedy has been quietly circulating for months but was given a new push today by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the only person who served with Kennedy for all his 47 years in the Senate.
I say that's as near as makes no difference to my quasi-unofficial prediction: It took but a few hours for the Left to decide, almost unanimously, to work a grisly version of Weekend at Teddy's, dragging the old man's corpse to political rallies like Dracula in his coffin. (I could get truly Clive Barker-esque on you all by making sly references to Green Helmet Guy instead, but I have too much class.)
It is hard to avoid the eerie coincidence, however: Tedro's brother got elected president on dead men's votes in Texas and Illinois; and now the Democrats want to ride the coat-tails of Dead Ted into a government takeover of health care. "Complete the sequence, Mr. President!"
Do I seem boorishly insensitive, insufficiently respectful, a little too little de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est? No apologies; I think the Democrats are being a thousand times more disrespectful of the DKs by drafting Teddy into the cause posthumously... even though he himself would love it.
It's the most vile of emotional appeals; but worse than a crime against seemliness, it's a terrific blunder by liberals: They have, once again, mistaken their looking-glass fantasy for the real world, as they honestly believe that the rest of the country is heartbroken by the not exactly untimely death (he was a very old 77) of Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy.
They seem to think that the outpouring of grief and wailing noises will so overwhelm America, that the townhall shouters will fall to their knees, beg forgiveness of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), and go and sin no more against Obamunism.
Who could ask for more?
Leave your body at the door
Leave your body and soul at the door!
I rather suspect that this will be seen instead as the most disgusting political hijacking since the "memorial" for Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, which was turned into a foam-at-the-mouth, three-ring political circus of anti-Republican hatemongering -- led by Wellstone's sons and by former Vice President Walter Mondale, as if the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, had personally shot down Wellstone's plane with a Stinger.
And the voters indeed responded to that emotional emesis: They responded by shifting decisively in Coleman's favor... simultaneously electing Coleman to the U.S. Senate and also turning Mondale into the only man to have lost a national election in all fifty states.
(Alas, Coleman was on the chopping block himself in 2008, ultimately being replaced by -- Al "Big Boy" Franken.)
Democrats have two great mottos: Never let a good crisis go to waste, and never miss an opportunity to egregiously underestimate the intelligence of the American voter. Sometimes, as with the election of Barack H. Obama, the electorate lives down to expectations; but most of the time, they know all along what the Democrats really think of them, and they resent the hell out it.
Date ►►► August 26, 2009
Ted Kennedy - Ripped 2.0
I'll say one other amusing thing I just heard on the radio; Politico and others have also reported on this (it's why Sen. Kennedy was trying so desperately to get a state law passed in his final week of life).
Back in 2004, JFK was running for the presidency against George W. Bush; Sen. John Forbes Kerry (D-MA, 95%) is of course from Massachusetts, the junior, now senior senator... but the governor in 2004 was Republican Mitt Romney.
The Democrats in MA were terrified that, should Kerry win the election and become president, he would be replaced in the Senate by the governor; they were convinced that Romney would appoint a fellow GOPper.
So they changed Massachusetts law to take that power away from the governor; instead, the state must now hold a special election to replace a senator who dies or resigns; the election must be held between 145 and 160 days following the vacancy. (The Democratic supermajority in the Massachusetts legislature forced the law through over Romney's veto, I believe.)
Flash forward to 2009: Ted Kennedy dies, but today the governor of Massachusetts is a Democrat, Deval Patrick. By the very law that Democrats rammed through, Patrick cannot simply appoint a party-line Democrat to succeed Kennedy! Instead, the seat must remain open, and the Democratic majority in the Senate reduced by one, until the state holds that special election.
There is little chance that anyone but a hard-core liberal Democrat will win the seat... but that cannot happen for a minimum of 145 days. August 25th (the date the seat became vacant) plus 145 days means that at a minimum, the Democrats will have only 59 seats in the Senate until January 18th, 2010 -- the day after the earliest date for the election (since the winner would have to be declared and then sworn in the next day). And that's assuming no failed candidate brings a challenge to the electoral results -- quite possible, given a crowded field -- which could add days, weeks, even months to the process.
I don't know the mechanics of the election, but if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, I wonder if the law might require a runoff between the two top vote-getters? Unknown (to me) at this time.
But in any event, Democrats might not have a "filibuster-proof majority" for the rest of the year and halfway through January... the very time they hoped to do a jam-down of ObamaCare, tax increases, a bill to cripple energy production, and many other elements of Obamunism. (Depending on what the state legislature does -- see below.)
The invisible hand of Fate appears to have put its invisible thumb on the scales yesterday...
(Mind, the Massachusetts legislature returns to session after Laborious Day; it's possible they can rush a bill through undoing the previous bill they rushed through. But even that will take some time and will raise the partisan-hypocrisy quotient enough to make even Massachusetters -- Massachusettians -- Masschurians squirm.)
Ted Kennedy - Ripped
Please pardon my irreverance (blasphemy?), but I wonder how many days will pass before Chris Dodd says, "If the Republicans had allowed us to pass a public option in the Senate, Ted Kennedy would be alive today!"
Other than this stray thought, I must confess to feeling a great and terrible sense of ennui at the man's passing.
Date ►►► August 25, 2009
Day 217... and It's STILL All Bush's Fault!
Viddie this, oh my droogies, with glazzies of your very own...
The federal government faces exploding deficits and mounting debt over the next decade, White House officials predicted Tuesday in a fiscal assessment far bleaker than what the Obama administration had estimated just a few months ago.
Figures released by the White House budget office foresee a cumulative $9 trillion deficit from 2010-2019, $2 trillion more than the administration estimated in May. Moreover, the figures show the public debt doubling by 2019 and reaching three-quarters the size of the entire national economy.
Obama economic adviser Christina Romer predicted unemployment could reach 10 percent this year and begin a slow decline next year. Still, she said, the average unemployment will be 9.3 in 2009 and 9.8 percent in 2010.
And now, the punchline:
"This recession was simply worse than the information that we and other forecasters had back in last fall and early this winter," Romer said.
I think we all get it now. Hunker down for 41 more months of "Look what you made me do!"
But wait -- there's light at the end of the tunnel. President Barack H. Obama has a cunning plan to get us out of this economic death spiral:
[Budget director Peter] Orszag, anticipating backlash over the deficit numbers [you think?], conceded that the long-term deficits are "higher than desirable." [You think?] The annual negative balances amount to about 4 percent of the gross domestic product, a number that many economists say is unsustainable [you think?].
But Orszag also argued that overhauling the health system would reduce health care costs and address the biggest contributor to higher deficits.
Thanks goodness for ObamaCare; we can balance the budget with huge cuts in health care.
Isn't it wonderful finally to have an actual genius in the White House, instead of that slope-browed illiterate from Texas, whose only experience with financial matters was running several businesses?
Say -- is that an onrushing train I hear?
Date ►►► August 24, 2009
Healthcare is NOT a right
Forty-eight million people don’t have health care. I have health care and I don’t want to risk losing it or any part of it to pay for someone else getting health care.
That may sound heartless to liberals who are used to thinking about every political issue with their hearts instead of their brains, but that is at the core of why so many of the grassroots are against ObamaCare, not that we really know what that is exactly.
Millions of people don’t have a car. I have a car. I wouldn’t be willing to pay more for my own car just so someone else could have a car. I also would not be willing to pay any more for my house in order to buy a house for someone else.
That’s because I don’t think that things like health care, cars and houses are somehow “rights” that the government can use its taxing powers to ensure that other people have.
Right now I can’t afford a new computer and I very badly need a new TV because mine in on the brink of ceasing to work altogether. Too bad for me! My desire or need for these electronic devices doesn’t mean that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide them to me.
But, Ross, you say, “Health care is a basic human right!”
Who says so?
Just because you put your hand on a rock and declaim that something is a “right” doesn’t make it so. I refuse to debate on an issue where it has already been determined that health care is a right. Liberals far too often get to set the debate on their own terms by making claims that “people have a right to work,” or “working mothers have a right to take family leave with pay” or “children have a right to preschool;” and many of us will look blankly and concede the point, when what we ought to do is hold out our hand, palm forward, and say loudly, “Hey, wait a minute!”
There was an article earlier this week by economist Bill Frezza that begins, “What is the moral foundation of your economic beliefs?”
He points out quite correctly that whatever “moral” beliefs we apply to economics will help shape our political beliefs. If we think that capitalism is basically an evil, heartless, dog-eat-dog system that unfairly victimizes the innocent and uplifts the undeserving -- or, at best, rewards the “winners of life’s lottery” to a disproportionate degree -- then we will take the position that people who can get health care (substitute anything else you think is a “right”) owe it to make sure that everyone can get it.
We live in a capitalist system. In such a system, not everyone can afford everything they want or need. That does not automatically create an obligation among the rest of us.
The War Against the War Against Terrorism
I stand (well, sit) in awe: I never believed that even this administration would have the huevos to immolate itself upon the altar of terrorists' rights. But it appears that the liberal imperative to damn America and support every anti-American movement in the world -- even al-Qaeda! -- is stronger than any sense of political or national survival, no matter how feeble:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.
Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.
I think they've stepped into it; Eric Holder is going to pull the trigger. He's actually going to -- let's be brutally frank here -- prosecute CIA agents for violating the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaidah, and Abd Nashiri... presumably their right to keep silent about current pending terrorist attacks against the United States.
There are only three possible outcomes to such an investigation:
- It might, like a previous investigation during the Bush administration, result in a finding that clears CIA agents and their civilian superiors of all charges.
The earlier team of prosecutors, including Robert Spencer, who had successfully prosecuted Zacharias Moussaoui, examined 20 cases of possible illegal interrogation; it found no evidence that could justify prosecution in 19 cases. Only one accusation led to a grand jury indictment -- of a CIA contractor; David A. Passaro was convicted of assault, but not murder, even though the suspect later died (the death could not positively be tied to the assault). Passaro was convicted of using a metal flashlight as a weapon against a detainee in Afghanistan.
Oddly enough, this would probably be the best outcome for Team Obamunism: Holder might have to fall on his sword, but he's only the attorney general... he's not critical to what Obama wants to do to the country. He could simply start appointing unconfirmed "Justice czars" to give him the legal rulings he demands, as he has already appointed numerous "foreign-policy czars" to debase and undercut Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Holder's investigation might find a number of minor incidents that are prosecutable but nothing major, allowing both sides to claim victory.
Note that such incidents must be so clearly wrong that a majority of American voters are disgusted by them; beating a suspect to death with a flashlight is a good example. Case-2 won't help the administration at all if, when voters hear the actual charges, they react by saying, "So what? Who the hell cares if the CIA frightened Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a man who wanted to kill thousands of Americans?"
While such a string of legitimate but petty convictions may partially save Eric Holder's face, it's also likely to further damage the Obama administration's moral credibility -- and Democrats in general -- by feeding the mounting impression that Democrats quite simply oppose every program to defend the nation; that they're more concerned about our international "image" than protecting Americans from harm.
I believe folks still generally remember leftists complaining about lopsided battle victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, whining that it's just not fair for us to use overwhelming force against our military enemies. Groups such as International ANSWER, egged on by mainstream Democrats, argued that morally, American forces ought to suffer far more casualties, so we wouldn't look like bullies against al-Qaeda.
The spectacle of the Justice Department prosecuting interrogators for slapping, shaking, or threatening terrorists, in an effort to thwart plots of mass butchery, cannot help but fuel the belief that Democrats' concern for terrorists' rights is absurdly inflated, compared to the looming threat posed by militant Islamism.
- Or the investigation can turn into a Soviet-style show trial, where the threshold of "torture" drops lower and lower, to the point where CIA agents and contractors are being indicted and prosecuted for virtually every effective technique that has kept America safe from further terrorist attack since 2001; and the conflagration begins burning up the chain of command to drag in political appointees and even elected officials... criminalizing mere policy differences on the issue of national defense.
The third is the most likely outcome, in my opinion; when an administration appoints a special prosecutor to investigate some alleged crime, pressure becomes almost insurmountable on the appointee to find something "substantial" to justify the millions upon millions of dollars he is spending.
He tends to follow leads wherever they go, and especially when they lead up the chain, rather than down; the investigation ranges farther and farther afield, sometimes even spinning out of control into an overtly political attack -- as when the investigation of the Iran-Contra "scandal" by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh culminated in an "October surprise," when Walsh indicted former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger less than a week before the 1992 election... likely playing a large role in President George H.W. Bush's defeat by Bill Clinton.
In the present case, the dynamics of special prosecutors means that the investigation may begin with a "relatively narrow" mandate "to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees." But it will quickly skitter off course into an attempt to indict, to "get," some really big fish -- enumerated here in decreasing probability but increasing desire on the part of the Left to "nail" and "frogmarch into jail":
- The pair likeliest to be enmeshed in the spiderweb of political investigation would be former head of the Office of Legal Counsel (and now federal appellate-court judge) Jay Bybee and his top subordinate, John Yoo; they were largely responsible for producing, at White House request, a memo examining the legality of enhanced interrogation techniques; their conclusion that American law allowed many enhanced techniques is now decried by various professionally outraged left-liberal groups, and is now being investigated by Spain as a "crime against humanity."
- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who accepted some of the enhanced techniques discussed in the Bybee memo and rejected others; or his Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith (author of the seminal Bush-era memoir, War and Decision).
- Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (then Director of the CIA, as the title reverted to its original form) Porter Goss, and former Director of the CIA (and former Director of the NSA) Gen. Michael Hayden -- just because they headed up the CIA, and it's politically impossible to charge CIA interrogators following instructions with "war crimes" without likewise indicting the agency heads.
- Former Directors of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Mike McConnell (the latter is also a former Director of the NSA). "Just because."
- And of course, the big cheeses: former Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George W. Bush, and former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- just because "everybody knows" they routinely bombed orphanages and nunneries, engaged in cannibalism, and locked completely innocent terrorists in a room with a caterpillar.
Holder's decision to throw red meat into the maw of the special prosecutor exposes Obama and congressional Democrats to the threat of political catastrophe: If moderate American voters conclude that the investigation has turned into a "witch hunt," where good and decent men and women are put on trial for daring to aggressively defend the United States from terrorist attack (voters already have the latent belief that the Left wants to criminalize national defense) -- then the collapse of support for the administration and Democrats in Congress will be swift, thorough, and enduring.
Given the drawn-out nature of such investigations and prosecutions ("the law's delay"), they're likely to come to a head shortly before the 2010 elections; and a case-3 inquisition could well lead to a debacle greater than that of 1994, perhaps closer to the 1930 and 1932 elections, where Democrats gained a two-cycle total of 149 House seats and 20 Senate seats.
The current angst among voters -- which has led to a stunning drop in Barack Obama's job approval in every major poll conducted, from Gallup to Rasmussen -- has so far been driven almost entirely by domestic gaffes, miscalculations, and proposed policies that are antithetical to exceptional American virtues and threaten the lifestyles, perhaps even the lives, of the American people. National-security and foreign-policy idiocies have not even entered the equation yet.
If successful CIA terrorist interrogators are indicted and put on trial for keeping us safe (against all immediate post-9/11 predictions), and if these investigations morph into a series of show trials, then fear of economic collapse will be joined by fear of dreadful terrorist attack... all due to liberal anti-business, anti-defense ideology. With that "perfect wave" of Democratic delegitimazation, all normal limits on political upheavals, carefully written into our Constitution, would be suspended. Republicans would win races they have no business winning, and the gains would last longer than they have a right to last.
Democrats would find themselves back in the wilderness, as they were from the 54th through 60th Congresses; Republican domination lasted from the 1894 to the 1908 elections in the House, and to the 1912 election in the Senate. To climb back out again, Democrats would likely have to evolve into a much more mainstream party.
Thus Eric Holder's mad, political payback against America's first line of defense against attack could actually achieve what Republicans themselves could only dream of: finally make plain to voters just how radical and anti-American the Democratic Party has become.
I have never supported the scheme of anti-liberals voting for liberal, even radical Democrats like the Obamacle; the theory is that the Left will inevitably overreach, horrify the electorate, and precipitate a backlash that will sweep Republicans (some of whom are conservative) back into power. But my objection was never that there wouldn't be a backlash; it's that the damage caused in the interim, while liberals control all the levers of power, may well be irreversible. Even if the rosy scenario of movement conservatives comes true, the country may already be so ravaged by the insanity of the taxaholic, technophobic, and terrorist appeasing New Left that we can never recover even to the point we were before the debacles of 2006 and 2008.
That said, now that we're already in the terrible position we are, I would obviously rather see the reign of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), quickly truncated than see them abide on and on. I also believe that no prosecutions will succeed, except perhaps for obvious cases of abuse by peripheral characters; the political show trials will serve only to damage the administration, not the freedom or reputation of CIA agents -- and certainly not of Bush-administration lawyers, cabinet members, or the president and vice president themselves, who demanded that the CIA protect the United States as aggressively as legally allowed.
The electoral damage is already done, and the best strategy going forward is to end the nightmare as quickly as possible.
Therefore, I rejoice that the attorney general has chosen to sacrifice the remaining shreds of the administration's credibility in a futile, thuggish attempt to punish its predecessor for successful national defense. Go ahead, try to pin that tar baby with a flying tackle; dig that political hole so deep, you'll see darkness at noon.
In other words, bring it on.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
How Dare You Violate My Privacy Right to Defame You Anonymously on My Public Blog!
I don't know for sure that Rosemary Port, if that is her real name, is a liberal; but I figure, she's just got to be -- !
Sorry seems to be the hardest word for the blogger who anonymously scorned a model as a "ho" and a "skank," igniting a legal and media maelstrom.
Speaking out for the first time since a court order forced Google to reveal her identity, blogger Rosemary Port tells the Daily News that model Liskula Cohen should blame herself for the uproar.
"This has become a public spectacle and a circus that is not my doing," said Port, whose "Skanks in NYC" site branded the 37-year-old Cohen an "old hag."
Old hag (l), Ho' monger (r)
But Rosemary Port isn't taking lying down the violation of her sacred right to defame and flame a model who is eight years older, yet nevertheless prettier than she; her crack legal team is on the move:
The pretty 29-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology student added that she's furious at Google for revealing her identity, so much so that she plans to file a $15 million federal lawsuit against the Web giant.
"When I was being defended by attorneys for Google, I thought my right to privacy was being protected," Port said....
In her suit, she'll charge Google "breached its fiduciary duty to protect her expectation of anonymity," said her high-powered attorney Salvatore Strazzullo.
How dare you embarass me by obeying that court order!
It's not that she wants the money; far from it. Rosemary Port is a pure altruist. She just wants Google to be severely punished, lest other companies follow that terrible example.
She compares her patriotic struggle to that of the authors of the Federalist Papers, and I think she gets the better of it. Certainly that was the very first analogy that popped into my mind, too. James Madison -- Alexander Hamilton -- Rosemary Port... separated at birth!
[Steven] Wagner [attorney for the Old Hag] also denied that Cohen posted suggestive pictures of herself -- and said Cohen proved as much in court. The raciest shots, taken at a private party, showed a fully clothed Cohen apparently simulating sex with a fully clothed man. (Cohen did post a slightly saucy shot of herself on all fours inside Cipriani's.)
"Does posting that give someone the right to call her 'a psychotic, lying whore'?" asked Wagner.
See? The skanky ho' brought it on her saucy self!
$50 says they're both liberals. Who else could display such compassion, such empathy, such a finely-tuned sense of priorities? Who but a liberal would have such a refined understanding of the simple fact that everything a liberal wants to do is a constitutional right, and everything she opposes is an unconstitutional violation of her sacred right to privacy?
When this all dies down, perhaps President Barack H. Obama will find the pair to be kindred spirits... he might tap them to fill some of the 285 "senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation" that the president hasn't yet bothered to fill.
Date ►►► August 23, 2009
Surge Against the Resurgence of the Insurgency
Since Barack H. Obama took office, anti-war protesters, major media figures, and even conservatives seem to have forgotten that there are wars going on still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to General David Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) in Iraq, the situation dramatically improved there during the tail end of the Bush adiministration. But in Afghanistan, the situation is not improving; it anything, it's deteriorating.
Our Marines are still there and fighting; we can always rely on them. But they cannot win this war alone; ultimately, Afghanistan must be won by the Afghans themselves. But in a place where terrorist and vengence killings and kidnappings by the Taliban continue to be "situation normal," getting Afghans to join the fight against so-called "jihad" is easier promised than delivered, as the Obamacle is finding out.
The New York Times notes that the Marines are not getting the help they need, either from local tribes or the Afghan national government:
Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for “vacation.”
It all raises serious questions about what the American mission is in southern Afghanistan -- to secure the area, or to administer it -- and about how long Afghans will tolerate foreign troops if they do not begin to see real benefits from their own government soon. American commanders say there is a narrow window to win over local people from the guerrillas.
Didn't we hear the same story in 2006, in Iraq? Americans are strong; the Marines can win every pitched battle. We have killed tens of thousands of Talibani, conquered most of the territory of Afghanistan, and occupied them with American and local security forces. But have we secured Afghanistan? Hardly. Instead, it threatens to again become what it used to be called: the graveyard of empires.
Why is it that we cannot win the hearts and minds of the Afghans? All right, when George W. Bush was in the White House, distrust was understandable, liberals might argue; Bush was that evil dictator, that big meaniee, who refused to negotiate or even talk with the "freedom fighters" who only had the best interests of their fellow Pashtuns at heart. Naturally Afghans didn't trust Bush -- everybody in the entire world hated him! But Barack Obama -- the One We Have Been Waiting For, the Obamessiah -- surely ought to be able to resolve this situation diplomatically with a few well-chosen words from his trusty teleprompter.
Yet the sad truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter who the president is; all that matters is our long term, consistant, relentless presence in the country... for a long time to come; probably as long as our military presence in the Philippines, fighting the Moro insurgency -- around 15 years -- as an earlier post discussed.
Afghans are afraid: Even if the Marines secure a region, the populace knows we'll eventually leave; we don't plan to live here permanently as colonial masters. And then what?
Counterinsurgency is much like building a road in the desert. We can shovel and smooth, lay tarmac, and build a superhighway; but if we do not constantly maintain it, if we even take a breather, the desert will reclaim its own and turn the fancy road back into sand dunes, as if we were never even there. Look what is happening in Iraq, since Barack H. Obama arrived and began his months-long victory lap. [Sergeant Garcia: How did we capture Zorro? Capitan Monastario: "We?" You had nothing to do with it, baboso! -- DaH]
Afghans will have to live in Afghanistan long after the Americans leave. They need to be convinced that siding with American troops to build a free Afghanistan is a courageous, honorable, and rational idea -- that cooperating with us does not mean signing their own death warrants. Unless we can guarantee the safety of the Afghan civilians, as we did in Iraq (while President Bush was still in charge), we cannot expect the Afghan tribes to cooperate anytime soon.
What Afghanistan needs is a COIN operation, like the one Gen. Petraeus executed to brilliant victory in Iraq; it would have to adapt to local and regional differences between Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the main goal would be the same: protecting the civilian population long enough for effective and honest civil institutions to arise naturally. But with Barack Obama in the White House, I am not as confident we'll succeed as I once was.
Health Care: When "the Worst" Is Enemy of "Bad Enough"
Let's see if we can follow the logic here. According to AP
One of the most widely accepted arguments against a government medical plan for the middle class is that it would quash competition -- just what private insurers seem to be doing themselves in many parts of the U.S.
Several studies show that in lots of places, one or two companies dominate the market. Critics say monopolistic conditions drive up premiums paid by employers and individuals.
For Democrats, the answer is a public plan that would compete with private insurers.
Translation for those unschooled in libspeak:
- Competition is good for health care.
- Some insurance companies are so big, they're almost like governments.
- They can dominate small insurance markets.
- Ergo, we should introduce an actual government "competitor" to undercut those big insurers.
- That way, we can drive them out of business... which will create much more competition in the insurance market!
Okay. I'm not sure how that scenario is supposed to unfold, but it must be something like this: When the government "option" drives Blue Cross, Aetna, and Wellpoint out of business, then smaller insurers can gobble up that suddenly available market share -- because naturally, the underpricing tactics of Obama Insurance Inc. that drove the big insurers into insolvency and bankruptcy would never, ever do the same to smaller, poorly funded insurers.
Do I have the argument straight?
Proponents of a government plan say it could restore a competitive balance and lead to lower costs. For one thing, it wouldn't have to turn a profit.
All right, let's think this one through. You own a grocery store, and you have one major competitor: You sell 20% fat hamburger for $2 a pound, and your competitor sells it for about the same. It costs you $1.85 a pound, taking everything into account (the wholesale beef price, labor, your facilities lease, your maintenance and utilities cost, and of course that big, hefty tax burden). Thus, you make a profit of 15¢ per $2 of gross hamburger revenue, or 7.5%.
Suddenly, Bill Gates decides to open a grocery store right across the street from you. Because he's Bill Freaking Gates and is worth $56 billion, and because he decides prices are too high, he starts selling his 20% fat hamburger for $1.00 a pound.
Bill Gates has the same costs as you; but he can afford to operate at a huge loss for year after year -- because he has all the money in the world.
Your choices are:
- Take the loss (85¢ per dollar of gross hamburger revenue, or a loss of 85%) -- multiplied by all the other products that Gatesmart is likewise selling at a staggering loss... and go broke in a few months;
- Refuse to be sucked into that game... and see all your customers flow very quickly to Gatesmart, forcing you to go broke in a few months;
- Fire most of your staff, stop paying your lease, and turn off all the power to the refrigerated bins, letting all or your meat rot... forcing the local Health Department to shut you down;
- Offer to sell your store to Gatesmart and just get out of the grocery business altogether.
Yes, I can certainly see why that would foster competition... among all the different divisions of Gatesmart. That is, shifting back from our analogy to the real proposal, intense competition among all the different branches of government, to see which can drive more private insurers out of business entirely, leaving only that dad-blamed government plan.
It's a scenario that gives pause even to traditional adversaries of the insurance companies.
"The fear and concern is that the public plan could become the market-dominant plan," said Dr. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association. "When you've got the federal government involved, it can infuse money into a plan to keep it solvent even if the premiums are lower than its actual costs."
Gee... you think?
Here is the real problem with libthink:
[Sen. Olympia] Snowe [RINO-ME, 12% -- !!], among the few Republican senators still trying to come up with a bipartisan compromise, wants to hold back on creating a public plan for now and give insurers one last chance to show if they can keep costs in check.
That's doesn't go far enough for liberals, who are loath to give the insurance industry tens of millions of new customers supported by taxpayer subsidies.
"It would give the industry a windfall without any countervailing force to require them to lower their costs," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for the advocacy group Health Care for America Now. "The insurance companies could continue to jack up premiums while getting a whole new market."
(Note the tacit admission that insuring the uninsured requires "taxpayer subsidies;" in other words, it's not economically viable.)
Liberals utterly reject the fundamental theorem of Capitalism: If all insurance companies are charging premiums out of line with costs, some insurers will lower their premiums to steal away market share, since they can do so and still make a profit. The other insurers will have to lower their own premiums to avoid losing market share -- and the cycle repeats until premiums are as low as they can go while still yielding a barely adequate profit to the insurers (just enough to allow the insurance companies to stay solvent).
Rather, liberals believe the insurance companies will form a cartel, exercise superhuman discipline, and maintain an artificially inflated schedul of premiums. After all, you see how well that has worked out for OPEC; nobody ever cheats!
How about this for a plan to increase competition?
- Competition is good for health care.
- Some insurance companies are so big, they're almost like governments.
- They can dominate small insurance markets.
- Ergo, we should find all the barriers to true competition in the market -- and eliminate them, one by one, until there are no impediments left to a true, free market in health insurance.
- This will allow smaller competitors to compete more effectively with Big Health, offering smaller, cheaper plans for middle-income folks -- or alternatively, gilt-edged super-expensive plans for rich people... just like the automobile industry, the boat industry, and the housing market.
I realize this isn't as sexy as creating a whole new government entitlement program and spending three or four trillion dollars of somebody else's money... but at least my plan as the virtue of simplicity!
I don't know how this argument could be made any simpler to persuade the simpletons in Congress. Anybody else have an even more elementary formulation?
Date ►►► August 22, 2009
Withdraw for Peace!
I've been pondering the new Obamic strategy for Iraq: Withdraw from joint patrols to a Fortress of Solitude, withdraw from the successful counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) of Gen. David Petraeus, and announce to the entire world exactly when we are going to withdraw from Iraq altogether. How has that worked out so far?
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday alleged there had been collaboration between Iraqi security forces and the insurgents whose massive truck bombings killed 95 people three days ago.
Zebari, whose ministry lost 32 workers in the blast at its headquarters, admitted the attacks were a serious security setback and that the government had failed to protect its citizens.
Wednesday's bombings at the ministeries of foreign affairs and finance culminated in the worst day of violence seen in the conflict-hit country in 18 months, with around 600 people also wounded.
It's not that the entire war is falling apart, mind; it's just a small setback -- set back to about 2006, that is, the nadir of the failed "containment" strategy, in which we cached American forces in moated castles, whence they would sally forth to engage any passing enemy army.
The hallmark of COIN was the remarkable cooperation we got from Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, once we made it clear that we were willing to patrol, fight, and if necessary, die alongside Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people. It was that commitment to civilian security that finally turned the tide, snatching victory in 2007-8 from the jaws of a 2006 defeat.
But our new Commander in Chief has other ideas; we no longer patrol with Iraqi forces, fight alongside them, or concern ourselves much with protecting the civilian population. Evidently, Barack H. Obama believes that the two years we've been building up the Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure should be plenty. "Enough!" as he is fond of saying in many contexts. It's been such an incredibly long time that surely our Iraqi partners can stand on their own hands by now.
Let's see... we spent fourteen years (1899-1913) in the Philippine jungles, building up indiginous forces (Philippine Scouts) and inculcating Filipinos with radical ideas such as the rule of law and the evil of involuntary slavery, before we could finally put down the Moro (Moslem) Rebellion and set up a functioning civilian republic. That country is still functioning today, with a vibrant economy (after a recession in the 1980s caused by their brief flirtation with socialism under Ferdinand Marcos), and still strongly allied with the United States. This is the model of a successful counterinsurgency followed by successful nation-building.
By contrast, France under Charles De Gaulle -- whipsawed by the socialists abroad and the French Communist Party at home -- pulled their troops out of Algeria prematurely, only three years after the French COIN strategy finally suppressed the Front de Libération Nationale; thus they never gave the 60% majority of Algerians who opposed complete "independence" from France their opportunity to erect civic institutions and security forces to protect and defend the liberties of a free people. And today, the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a socialist totalitarian regime with much closer ties to the Middle East than the West.
President Barack H. Obama carefully pondered these historical examples, analyzed them with his unequaled military acumen... then decided to follow the French example. (Of course!) Ergo, today in Iraq...
Zebari said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had ordered the arrest of 11 senior security officers on Thursday so they could be questioned on how a four-tonne truck had entered an area where even two-tonne vehicles were barred.
He also made the first official admission that the blasts signalled that security gains made in the past year were under serious strain following a series of deadly attacks in recent months.
"They have been moving their attacks... now they have focused on their main concern, their main attention, on Baghdad and this is a dangerous and a serious development and a security setback," said Zebari.
"This has been going on for the last two months. Every week, every two weeks we see a wave of these bombings and killings of innocent people."
I picture Petraeus tearing his hair out in frustration, watching all the gains of COIN poured out onto the Iraqi sands. Our allies are starting to sound desperate, even plaintive:
But Zebari went further and called for a re-appraisal of the country's entire security apparatus as it was not, he said, obtaining sufficient intelligence to counter the enemy threat....
"Sometimes you can't fight these people with checkpoints. You should be mobile. You should go after them you, disrupt and penetrate their network to get human information. This is the key," he added.
Sadly, however, the real "key" would be a change of leadership here in the United States. That is beyond the grasp of Nouri al-Maliki, Hoshyar Zebari, or any other Iraqi; and the Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq know they have at least three more years to slaughter and butcher before they must worry about that possibility.
Date ►►► August 21, 2009
Ridge Line: Much Ado About Hardly Anything
When I read this headline...
Bush Official, in Book, Tells of Pressure on ’04 Vote
I somehow expected something a bit more scandalous (or even salacious!) than this:
Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security, asserts in a new book that he was pressured by top advisers to President George W. Bush to raise the national threat level just before the 2004 election in what he suspected was an effort to influence the vote.
After Osama bin Laden released a threatening videotape four days before the election, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pushed Mr. Ridge to elevate the public threat posture but he refused, according to the book. Mr. Ridge calls it a “dramatic and inconceivable” event that “proved most troublesome” and reinforced his decision to resign....
Keith M. Urbahn, a spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, said the defense secretary supported letting the public know if intelligence agencies believed there was a greater threat, and pointed to a variety of chilling Qaeda warnings in those days, including one tape vowing that “the streets of America will run red with blood.”
“Given those facts,” Mr. Urbahn said, “it would seem reasonable for senior administration officials to discuss the threat level. Indeed, it would have been irresponsible had that discussion not taken place.”
(What next -- will Ridge hint that one of the Bush daughters has become a notorious thespian, and the former president himself sometimes even masticates in public?)
In October 2001, George W. Bush named Tom Ridge the first head of the newly created Office of Homeland Security within the White House; when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating the Department of Homeland Security, Ridge slid seamlessly into that position. His qualification for both positions appears to have been that he was a popular, Roman Catholic, pro-choice governor, and that he served with distinction as a sergeant in Vietnam.
I have nothing against sergeants. I'm just at a loss how this translates to becoming Secretary of Homeland Security.
Even Ridge himself won't quite commit to accusing Bush of manipulating the national-security color code for political gain... Ridge just tosses the suggestion into the D.C. maelstrom and lets nature -- the politically obsessed nature of Democrats -- do his dirty work for him. But this is weak tea even for those purposes:
The most sensational assertion was the pre-election debate in 2004 about the threat level, first reported by U.S. News & World Report. Mr. Ridge writes that the bin Laden tape alone did not justify a change in the nation’s security posture but describes “a vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion” on Oct. 30 to do so.
“There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None,” he writes. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.”
Mr. Ridge provides no evidence that politics motivated the discussion. Until now, he has denied politics played a role in threat levels. Asked by Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times if politics ever influenced decisions on threat warnings, he volunteered to take a lie-detector test. “Wire me up,” Mr. Ridge said, according to Mr. Lichtblau’s book, “Bush’s Law.” “Not a chance. Politics played no part.”
As it stands, this appears to be an even more transparent -- and even less successful -- "am-Bushing" (for purposes of selling a bunch of books) than Scott McClellan's smell-all What Happened. (Or was that What Happened to My Career?)
The publication of McClellan's "memoir" was timed to coincide with the 2008 election, kicking off an anti-Bush campaign by McClellan that culminated in his highly publicized endorsement of Barack H. Obama on (I rib you not) D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. (Or was that D.L. Hughley Breaks the Wind?)
Here is the McClellan finale -- alas, taken from his Wikipedia entry; nevertheless, it's accurate, to the best of my recollection:
As a result of his assertions in his book, McClellan was invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. When asked about his testimony McClellan said: "I don't have anything incriminating to say here if that's what you're looking for." During the actual testimony McClellan said: "I do not think the president had any knowledge" [of the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity]; "In terms of the vice president, I do not know." While being questioned by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., McClellan conceded that the president had never asked him to shade the truth, use innuendo or employ propaganda, nor ordered anyone else to do so in his presence.
Since then, McClellan appears to have accomplished... well, nothing. But since he hadn't accomplished anything before resigning and writing his pusillanimous potboiler, his post-career non-career wasn't much of a come-down. (At least Tom Ridge gets to sit on a bunch of boards of directors as a phony-baloney expert on economics.)
I suspect that Tom Ridge's "memoir" will have even less impact than McClellan's epic poem, What's Happening! -- or whatever it's called; and Ridge, too, will eventually be relegated to the Date with Ignomy Memorial Marching Society, where he can sit between Alger Hiss and David Brock while he swills his thin gruel.
Date ►►► August 20, 2009
Lockerbie Bomber Released... Is It Just I?
According to Scottish authorities, the poor chap has suffered enough:
Despite strenuous American opposition, the Scottish government on Thursday ordered the release on compassionate grounds [!] of the only person convicted in the Lockerbie bombing, permitting Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence agent, to return home after serving 8 years of a 27-year minimum sentence on charges of murdering 270 people [!!] in Britain’s worst terrorist episode.
Still protesting his innocence, and offering “sincere sympathy” to the families of those who died in the bombing, Mr. Megrahi was granted his freedom under the terms of Scottish laws permitting the early release of prisoners with less than three months to live.
...Is it just I? Or does anyone else think that Abdel Basset Ali al-Merahi having only three months to live makes him more likely, not less, to commit a suicide bombing -- sorry, act of "martyrdom?"
But at least the amnesty side has a strong, perhaps unarguable counterargument in favor of release:
[Kenny MacAskill, Minister of Justice in Scotland] continued: “In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people. The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.”
Mr. Megrahi “did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.”
“But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days,” the official said.
“Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. [Actually, it appears to demand that "compassion" trump justice. -- the Mgt.] Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people - no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated,” he said.
This is the evil wrought by a compassion-based "justice" system: At the end of the day, according to Minister MacAskill, the horrific and premeditated murders of the 270 victims of the bombing were worth 11.5 days incarceration each; after that, "compassion" lurches forward to assert that, being sick, the convicted mass-murderer should be allowed to go home and be surrounded by his loved ones and comforted as he dies -- exiting, perhaps, not with a whimper but with a bang.
The self-emasculation of Europe in the name of "compassion" is a disturbing yet fascinating case study demonstrating why Professor Charles R. Kesler is right that "compassion is not a virtue":
At bottom, the whole notion that compassion was the virtue conservatives lacked or needed to cultivate to be respectable was highly dubious. The best that could be said was that the slogan may have conferred some marginal electoral advantages in 2000. At a deeper level, however, the prominence of compassion was in tension with Bush's avowal of the responsibility era and his pledge to bring dignity back to the presidency. Compassion is not a virtue, after all. As the name suggests, it's a form of passion, of "feeling with" others -- feeling their pain, usually; a specialty of the previous administration. Like every passion, it is neither good nor bad in itself; everything depends on what its object is and its fitness to that object. In practice, our compassion often goes out to whoever is moaning the loudest. That's why the classical political virtue is justice, not compassion, for compassion is often indiscriminate and misdirected.
(Hat tip to Scott Johnson at Power Line.)
The Kesler essay is astonishing, and we urgently need every Republican at least to read it; and every conservative -- and even non-conservative anti-liberals (such as myself) who nevertheless want to see a conservative resurgence -- should read it closely and absorb Kesler's most important take-away: That what the American conservative movement has lacked since the days of Ronald Reagan is a coherent, consistent ideology of conservatism that drives their policy decisions... and which they are willing to defend, even when those policy decisions are unpopular with some segments of the American polity.
As GW at Wolf Howling likes to say, "read the whole thing." It's a bit long, but it's time well spent.
Any consistent ideology of conservatism must be based upon personal responsibilty; each individual must accept personal responsibility and accountability for his decisions in life -- and every legitimate government must allow such personal responsibility. Individual justice (the rule of law) is just as integral a part of conservatism and republicanism as is Capitalism, for each demands that individuals take personal charge of their own lives and be judged accordingly. Thus, while a totalitarian tyranny is clearly illegitimate, so too is a "nanny state" that outlaws the consequences of failure (and therefore the fruits of success as well). The difference in illegitimacy is merely a matter of degree; the principle is the same.
I may seem to be taking a left turn here, but just bear with me. Rule twelve of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals dictates the following tactic:
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy.
But the corollay of this rule -- for friendly forces -- is likewise true; here is my own formulation of the other side of the corrosive Alinsky coin:
And that is precisely what the New Left in Europe, America, and the rest of the West has done to Megrahi: They have insulated him from personal responsiblity for his horrific terrorist act because he is an ally, a fellow anti-American.
They do the same with Stalinist butcher Che Guevera, convicted cop-killer Mumia abu Jamal, and even with those "three members of the New Black Panther Party" who viciously intimidated voters trying to vote in Philadelphia in the 2008 election: Compassion trumps justice -- but ideology trumps compassion.
After all, the Obama administration showed no compassion for voters driven away from the polls by club-wielding "poll watchers," just as Justice [!] Minister MacAskill shows no compassion for the 270 victims of Megrahi's mass slaughter, or even their living families.
In that sense, Professor Kesler was slightly off target: Compassion, rather than being "indiscriminate," is often very discriminatory indeed, being offered only to members of one's own tribe (no matter how culpable) and denied every other victim, no matter how innocent and deserving. (He did write, "indiscriminate and misdirected;" but he could have been stronger and more explicit.)
Early releases of a vicious killer on grounds of "compassion" directly contradicts the principle of equal justice under law, a fundamental axiom of legitimate government; our protest to Scotland should begin and end with that point: Denying equal justice to a popular killer and to citizens of an unpopular country (the United States), Scotland, even the United Kingdom itself, are sinking to the same level as Libya, no morally better and no more legitimate; and the Scottish and British people should be deeply ashamed of their tainted government.
Some clearly are:
Conservative Party leader David Cameron said: "I think this is wrong and it's the product of some completely nonsensical thinking, in my view.
"This man was convicted of murdering 270 people, he showed no compassion to them, they weren't allowed to go home and die with their relatives in their own bed and I think this is a very bad decision."
...Even some left-liberals:
Scottish Labour criticised the decision to release Megrahi. Labour leader and MSP Iain Gray said: "If I was First Minister, Megrahi would not be going back to Libya. The decision to release him is wrong. He was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in our history, the mass murder of 270 people.
"While one can have sympathy for the family of a gravely ill prisoner, on balance our duty is to honour and respect the victims of Lockerbie and have compassion for them. The SNP's handling of this case has let down Scotland."
Let us hope that British subjects who care not only about their government's moral legitimacy but about the very survival of Western civilization exercise their personal responsibility to remove the current Labour government from power at the earliest opportunity and replace it with a strong Tory majority, as polls suggest will happen when Labour is finally forced to hold an election.
David Cameron has many faults -- he is certainly not what we in America would call "conservative" -- but at least he understands the fundamental distinction between of the virtue of justice and the chimera of compassion.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Prophet in Chief
From the New York Post:
Repeatedly invoking the Bible, President Obama yesterday told religious leaders that health-care critics are "bearing false witness" against his plan.
The fire-and-brimstone president declared holy war in a telephone call with thousands of religious leaders around the country as he sought to breathe life into his plan for a system overhaul....
He said the reforms aim to carry out one of God's commandments.
"I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper," Obama said....
Pastors, rabbis and preachers from every part of the country joined the call and prayed for health reform and told woeful stories about parishioners without adequate health care.
Say, whatever happened to the good old days, when atheists and assorted secularists would rail against any invocation of God or religion by the president as violating the "wall of separation between church and state?" Oh, wait, I forgot: The 44th president is the One We Have Been Waiting For; he is the Obamacle. Barack H. Obama is America's twelfth (hidden) imam.
While the brand new faith in an earthly messiah is intriguing, I still say -- "Give me that old time religion!"
(I wonder if Jesus is personally advising his prophet to use the nuclear option to pass ObamaCare?)
Date ►►► August 19, 2009
The Private Option: Consistency Is Sauce for the Gander
Several pundits (I can no longer write "pundants," with Mr. Bush being gone from the scene) have quipped that if the Democrats are so anxious for a public (government) option in health-insurance reform, arguing that allowing the government to "compete" with private industry reduces cost without damaging quality, then why do they reject a "private option" for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and schooling?
It's a grand idea; let's play with it a bit.
The putative government "option" works by allowing employers and perhaps private individuals who buy their own insurance to elect instead to buy the government insurance plan. All right... at the moment, while there are a few private insurance plans contained within Medicare, ordinary people have no option of paying for a private health-insurance plan for their sunset years instead of Medicare; if somebody wants such a plan, it must be supplemental coverage in addition to Medicare, which they also must fund via involuntary taxation -- part of the FICA taxes, which you can examine by looking at your W-2. (The self-employed must pay the entire amount directly, as SE tax.)
The same is certainly true for Social Security, paid for by the other part of FICA: You are not allowed, in general, to cease paying your FICA taxes. (There may be some exceptions for people already on government health care or retirement plans.)
Half the FICA tax is automatically deducted from your paycheck; the other half is "paid" by your employer -- but in reality, it passes that cost along to you, in the form of reduced salary. Employers certainly count that half of FICA as part of total compensation, just as they count the health insurance they offer; if they didn't need to make those payments, they would be free to offer that much more to lure the best candidates away from competing businesses.
So if Democrats really like public-private competition, how about this?
- Allow citizens to opt out of public Medicare, instead directing their employers to deduct the amount of their Medicare taxes, 2.9% total of all income -- and pay it as a defined contribution to a health-insurance plan, selected by the employee, that will pay for medical care in old age. Those who pay SE tax could also opt out, paying that same amount instead into the same kind of plan.
- Allow workers to opt out of public Social Security entirely -- all 12.4% of taxable wages, not just 4%, as President Bush proposed -- by instead having their employers direct the amount of the total FICA tax into a qualified IRA investment plan (same deal for SE tax). The plans would be offered by any broker willing to set them up... which of course would mean all of them, because every major broker already offers such plans.
And of course, allow parents to opt out of paying the portion of their federal taxes that go to government schooling, instead having a tax credit for that amount, which they can put into a special, qualified investment fund -- chosen by the taxpayer -- that could only be used to pay for non-government schools or for home-schooling. (Because the government would not directly be paying schools, the problem of whether to "fund" religious schools does not even arise, as it does with a voucher system.)
This liberty is trickier, because people must continue to pay these taxes even after their kids are all grown and out of government schooling. Should the opt-outers continue to receive a tax credit for life, based upon what portion of their children's schooling was supplied by government schools (that is, when they chose to opt out)? Or should the tax credit diminish over time? These questions would be negotiating points to try to gain votes in Congress.
First, each of these is obviously an interim step between the current system of government monopoly and a system of actual liberty and personal responsibility; but we still must take into account that pesky First Rule:
[G]overnments conclude that it's very bad public policy -- political suicide, in fact -- to allow people to die of easily treatable injuries, illnesses, and conditions....
Let's call this the First Rule of Health-Policy Political Reality: If voters have to step over dead bodies to get to the polling place, it affects their vote.
In addition to health care, this rule also applies to standing by and allowing seniors to live in grinding, third-world level poverty, or allowing some parents to refuse to educate their children at all.
In economics, it's called the "free rider" problem; the classic example is a streetcar with a single driver who is also the ticket-taker, so he really has no ability to extract fares from riders not honest enough to pay voluntarily. These moochers start hopping on the streetcar without buying a ticket; eventually, as more and more people see others riding for free, even ordinarily honest riders start feeling like suckers. When they, too, begin doing the same, the streetcar line goes bankrupt. Then nobody gets the service.
In this case, if we have an unenforced system of health insurance, what happens when somebody without any insurance gets terribly sick or injured -- or worse, his child does. Given that Americans will not stand by and watch someone die from an easily treated disease or injury, the reality is that those free riders will, in fact, be treated. Maybe they'll be billed afterwards, but they can declare bankruptcy and weasel out of even that small bit of personal responsibility.
Similarly, Americans will never countenance senior citizens living on the streets or children growing up illiterate or otherwise uneducated: We have no stomach for willfully forcing people to pay a draconian, perhaps even fatal, price for stupidity... even less for making children pay the price of their parents' stupidity.
Without some solution to the free-rider problem, we cannot move to a system of full liberty. (I'm not saying it's insoluble, only that I personally don't know any solution.) But we can at least significantly pare back government intrusion to the least extent required to still leave nearly everyone covered for old-age health care, retirement, and some standard minimum level of education.
Second, these "private options" would naturally have to take into account that there are three groups of people:
- Those who have already retired (Medicare and Social Security) or whose children have finished secondary schooling, thus cannot choose not to partake of the private option.
- Those who have not yet begun to pay into the system -- primarily children -- who have the cleanest choice possible.
- And a vast remainder, including those who have already paid taxes for some number of years but haven't yet used any Social Security or Medicare, or who have children who are part-way through school, or various other combinations.
Group 3 is the toughest, of course; but all that is needed is a reasonable compromise, how much of taxes already collected would be returned to the taxpayer as a "start-up" balance in his account... because it would not be mandatory to switch to the private option. Every individual (or family) in Group 3 would have to decide which choice is best for him (them).
And of course, Congress will see a battle royal about how to fund the transition. But heck, the Democrats seem to be happy with only the least bit of hand-waving about how to pay for the government option -- ultimately, the full government control -- of health care; so why should they kick at any temporary transition cost of allowing people to opt out of Medicare, Social Security, and the government-run school system?
In any event, the cost saving of a private option is much more easily calculated than the cost of ObamaCare: Fewer people in Medicare and Social Security mean less money spent; fewer kids attending government schools mean states can consolodate and close some of them. And in both cases, a bunch of bureaucrats at all levels of government can be told to find honest work instead. Not that any of this would happen -- but that's a separate issue, the tragedy of immortal bureaucracy.
However, there is one killer argument that would persuade every Democrat in Congress, even the Blue Dogs, to vote against the private option: Demand for such a private option would eventually overwhelm the public programs, which would eventually dissipate into desuetude: Eventually, nobody in his right mind would stick with the lousy government plan, when he has the option of a much better private plan for the same money.
But of course, accepting that argument means accepting the corollary: The only way that a government option in health care could "complete" with private health-insurance (group or individual) would be for the government "option" to cheat... to take unfair advantage of the fact that the federal plan gets to write the rules for its competitors -- and it gets to operate at a loss so catastrophic, it would bankrupt any private company.
So Democrats have shot themselves in their own petard. Let's call their bluff by proposing an increase of liberty in areas of government monopoly to balance out the Democrats' demand for more totalitarianism in areas dominated by the private sector. Fair enough?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Sauce for the Ox
Evidently, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) is incensed by constituents who dare accuse President Barack H. Obama of pushing Nazi-like policies -- or who portray Obama himself with a little Hitler mustache:
Rep. Barney Frank lashed out at protester who held a poster depicting President Barack Obama with a Hitler-style mustache during a heated town hall meeting on federal health care reform.
"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank asked the woman, who had stepped up to the podium at a southeastern Massachusetts senior center to ask why Frank supports what she called a Nazi policy.
"Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it," Frank replied.
He continued by saying her ability to deface an image of the president and express her views "is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated."
I agree with Frank that the Obamacle is not a Nazi; he is a liberal fascist, to use Jonah Goldberg's term.
But I wish somebody would remind me of all those times when Rep. Frank -- no hypocrite he -- must surely have lashed out at the tens of thousands of protesters, many from Frank's own district, who incessantly referred to former President George W. Bush as "Bushitler," called the Bush administration Nazi-like... and portrayed Bush with (yes) a little Hitler mustache, during the final five years of Bush's administration. Because I must confess, my memory fails to disgorge even a single such instance.
It's... almost as if Barney Frank has, to invent a brand-new phrase, some sort of "double standard" for protest behavior, depending on which goose is being gored. You think?
Date ►►► August 17, 2009
DOMA Derangements: Obama Wants MA to Dictate SSM to USA
Now that the presidency of Barack H. Obama is in a quiet period, with no roiling controversies or raging political disputes at the moment, he has reannounced his intention to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- presumably whether or not Congress agrees -- so that Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and (possibly) Maine can force the other 44 states to accept same-sex marriage (SSM), regardless of the homophobic votes of the knuckledragging, redneck, slope-browed, inbred, hillbilly, religion-clinging citizens of the vast majority of the American population. After all, we can't turn over the whole political process to mere voters and trust them to do the right thing:
President Barack Obama insisted Monday he still wants to scrap what he calls a discriminatory federal marriage law, even as his administration angered gay rights activists by defending it in court.
The president said his administration's stance in a California court case is not about defending traditional marriage, but is instead about defending traditional legal practice....
Obama said he plans to work with Congress to repeal the law, and said his administration "will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits" to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples under existing law.
The government says in its court filing that it will defend the statute in this case because a reasonable argument can be made that the law is constitutional -- a standard practice of government lawyers.
As everybody in the known universe understands, the purpose of DOMA is to prevent some states from forcing every other state to accept same-sex marriage (SSM); its operative language is very simple:
The first part is found at U.S. Code Title 1, Chapter 1, §7:
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
That is, same-sex unions are not marriages under federal law. The other element is at U.S. Code Title 28, Part V, Chapter 115, §1738C:
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
This is the provision that says states do not have to recognize an SSM, even if it is legal in the state where it was performed.
The president, by announcing that he still intends to repeal DOMA, signals that he wants to take away the people's right to determine the marriage law of their own state: Any same-sex couple living in a state that doesn't recognize SSM could very simply take a trip to a state that does, get married, then return and demand to be treated the same as an opposite-sex married couple... and to hell with what the citizens of that state have said at the voting booth.
So the national government, in addition to taking over dozens of banks, General Motors, and the entire health-care industry, wants to take over the state marriage laws as well! ("None dare call it...")
Incidentally, if Brietbart is to be believed (and why not?), it's not strictly true, as they reported above, that the Justice Department is "defending [DOMA] in court." In fact, towards the end of the story, we discover that they're doing so in such a half-hearted manner one might almost conclude they're intentionally sabotaging their own case, hoping to lose:
The administration also disavowed past arguments made by conservatives that DOMA protects children by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The United States does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing and is therefore not relying upon any such interests to defend DOMA's constitutionality," lawyers argued in the filing.
They begin by throwing into the dustbin of politics a very powerful argument for DOMA that could easily sway the federal courts, and the absence of which could destroy the case.
Of course, if they do lose, they can always say they tried! That way they get the policy they want but duck the consequences.... Just another day in Obamaland.
Date ►►► August 16, 2009
Co-Opting the Government "Option"
It's a signal victory, though more symbolic than substantive: President Barack H. Obama has reportedly backed down from his government "option" plan for ObamaCare. But what is already being flogged in its place, health-insurance "cooperatives," may end up nearly as bad.
The key question is whether they will be subsidized by the government (federal, state, or local) -- either directly by continual funding or by the Amtrak mechanism of repeated bailouts every time they fall short of break-even. If they end up government funded, they'll still have the government-option effect of forcibly shifting employees from private to co-op:
Bowing to Republican pressure and an uneasy public, President Barack Obama's administration signaled Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.
Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan....
Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.
With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.
The problem is structurally similar to the government option: If co-ops are allowed by law to operate at a loss or subsidized whenever they lose money, they can always undercut any private health-care plan; thus, employers will feel irresistable pressure to force all employees into the co-op plan... and in effect, you have a mandatory government "option" by proxy.
As a thought experiment, take the very example AP cites above: Imagine if food co-ops were allowed to operate at a loss and were continually replentished by tax money; this would give them cover to sell food at such artificially low prices that the free market could never compete. Eventually, private grocers would be driven out of business, and the government -- operating through its stalking-horse co-ops -- would be the sole provider of provender... a situation fraught with peril: Whenever government gains a monopoly, it introduces political considerations into the decision of who is allowed access to that product or service, whether food or health care.
However, if the health-insurance co-ops are not subsidized, and especially if mismanagers are allowed to go bankrupt and disappear, that would be a huge improvement in the bill. That change would likely prevent the wholesale destruction of private insurance that the government "option" would otherwise work.
That said, it bodes ill that these co-ops are already set to receive subsidies right at the very beginning, with "$3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government." Alas, I suspect this is non-negotiable by the Left; but if it's limited to just that one time -- if! -- the market distortion would not be insurmountable.
Under the government option, continual subsidy is guaranteed, because the federal government cannot "go out of business." It remains to be seen if the Democrats are serious about allowing a private, market-based insurance industry to flourish, or whether they see co-ops as just a ruse to trick the notoriously gullible (and frequently craven) Republicans into supporting a stinkweed by any other name. Therefore, this too bodes ill:
"I think there will be a competitor to private insurers," [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius said. "That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing."
Sebelius, a Democrat and the former governor of Kansas, is not even one of the more rabid members of the Obama administration; yet her attitude clearly seems to be that government control of health care is the default position, whence she reluctantly allows some private participation -- if we really have to. After all, we certainly can't turn the free market over to private companies! How can we trust them to "do the right thing" -- that is, to kow-tow to the same political considerations that drive the federal government? (For example, how could we trust private insurance companies to mandate coverage for late-term abortions, "gender reassignment surgery," drug-addiction treatment, Octomom fertility treatment, and of course, copious donations to Democratic candidates?)
This is 180-degrees (or π radians) off what we need; the default should always be a pure free market, with only occasional and slight deviations when absolutely necessary... for example, to avoid violating the First Rule of Health-Policy Political Reality: "If voters have to step over dead bodies to get to the polling place, it affects their vote."
What we desperately need now is for GOP senators to show enough spine to insist, as a deal-breaker, that the co-ops be real not-for-profit corporations; that they receive no subsidies, directly or indirectly, from the government (after startup); and most important, no government protection from bankrupcy: If a health-insurance co-op cannot stay afloat -- we let it sink. Outstanding claims can be handled as they would in the case of a for-profit insurance company that goes out of business.
Co-ops already enjoy the heavy advantage of not having to show a profit; the way that private companies compete is by offering a wider range of plans, so that the co-op becomes the insurer of last resort... not the insurer of first resort. If they are turned into de facto conduits for full federal funding, they will be every bit as bad as the government option.
In fact, they may even be worse; the co-ops will have the forged "nihil obstat" of the free market. When things deteriorate rather than improve, Capitalism will be blamed -- leading to anti-market hysteria and even more repressive statism.
We already have a model for that vicious circle: Massive government intervention into the airline, telephone, and energy production industries, sailing under the false flag of "deregulation," usually fails spectacularly; when it does, that failure is invariably used as ammunition for a massive government clampdown to "fix" the problem that government itself created.
We dare not let such a spasm of statism drive us into the loving tentacles of government-controlled health care.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogue's gallery...
Date ►►► August 14, 2009
When the Joker Hits the Fan
Say, maybe this can be the marching song of the New Sons and Daughters of Health-Care Liberty...!
When the Joker Hits the Fan
by Dafydd ab Hugh
(Can be sung to the tune of "Bad Moon Rising")
I see Obama Jokers risin’
I see those posters all around
Sure seems politically surprisin’
Must mean approval’s hitting ground
Don’t think I’m the man
For your socialistic plan
When the Joker hits the fan
Health care is something quite important
Health care is something we all need
Town halls, if they’re a potent portent,
Folks hate ObamaCare indeed!
Don’t think I’m the man
For your socialistic plan
When the Joker hits the fan
Looks like quite a change in weather
Must be the winds of liberty
Liberals are blowin’ round like feathers
Town halls have speech that’s finally free
Don’t think I’m the man
For your socialistic plan
When the Joker hits the fan
Take back your governmental mandates
Taxes that sink us like a stone
Don’t think we’re all a bunch of ingrates
We just prefer to choose our own
Don’t think I’m the man
For your socialistic plan
When the Joker hits the fan
We don’t need government to guide us
We’re not just “public option” cogs
We don’t need senators to chide us
We won’t throw Granny to the dogs
Don’t think I’m the man
For your socialistic plan
When the Joker hits the fan...
When the Joker hits the fan
© 2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh
Sarah Palin: Whipping Girl of Left AND Right
Proving yet again that literacy may be overrated, now it's the Washington Times -- not the Post, the Times! -- which absurdly misinterprets what Sarah Palin said about ObamaCare "death Panels"... even after she explained, very clearly, exactly what she meant (incidentally vindicating the last two posts in this series by Big Lizards):
Like Mr. Dick's obsession with "poor king Charles' head" in Dickens' David Copperfield, the Times cannot break free from the patently erroneous conclusion that Palin could only have been talking about the "end of life care" counseling... as if that were the only possible way that health-care rationing could enter the equation.
Worse, the writer, Jon Ward, uses deliberately misleading rhetoric to falsely imply that Palin accused Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Rahm's older brother) of espousing literal "euthanasia" -- a charge so easily dismissed that its only function is to discredit the target... like accusing Palin of believing there's a Boogieman under her bed:
Mrs. Palin has been widely panned by independent fact-checking groups for her talk of "death panels." Her attacks on Dr. Emanuel have led to charges that he is advocating euthanasia.
Claiming that Palin said the House ObamaCare bill includes provisions for "euthanasia" is more or less like claiming -- well, like claiming she said that she can see Russia from her house: It's not a serious charge; it too is just a punchline.
Note the sly phrasing -- Palin's attacks "led to charges;" charges by whom? I've seen nobody accuse Emanuel of euthanasia; I have only seen people accuse Palin of accusing Emanuel of euthanasia. And now TWT joins that disreputable, accusatory brigade.
Mrs. Palin derives the idea of "death panels" from a provision in a bill under consideration in the House that would give doctors financial incentives to give counseling sessions on end-of-life care to older patients. Mrs. Palin's charge is that while the sessions are technically voluntary, physicians can and will initiate the conversation and senior citizens will be pressured to accept "minimal end-of-life care" because the sessions are "part of a bill whose stated purpose is 'to reduce the growth in health care spending.' "
Oh, the damage caused by that dolt, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA, 76%), who listened to his inner "anonymous phone caller," rather than simply reading what Palin actually wrote.
That said, Ward's error is partially mitigated by bringing a new admission from Emanuel to the story: Ezekiel Emanuel now admits that he did indeed advocate a deliberate policy of rationing in the past, though he says he no longer believes that today:
Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, the White House official targeted by Sarah Palin and other conservatives as an advocate for health care rationing and "death panels," said Thursday his "thinking has evolved" on the need to decide who gets treated and who does not.
"When I began working in the health policy area about 20 years ago ... I thought we would definitely have to ration care, that there was a need to make a decision and deny people care," said Dr. Emanuel, a health care adviser to President Obama in the Office of Management and Budget, during a phone interview.
"I think that over the last five to seven years ... I've come to the conclusion that in our system we are spending way more money than we need to, a lot of it on unnecessary care," he said. "If we got rid of that care we would have absolutely no reason to even consider rationing except in a few cases."
This is important to highlight, as is the fact that Newt Gingrich -- and even more important and thoughtful philosophers, such as Big Lizards -- agrees with Palin that the House bill inevitably leads to health-care rationing. But let's return to those thrilling days of yesteryear (rather, yester-day) and see what, exactly, Mrs. Palin really said...
In her first Facebook posting, she made it quite clear what she was actually saying -- Sen. Isakson notwithstanding:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
One might argue that by personalizing the "death panel" claim to include the phrase "stand in front of Obama's 'death panel'," Palin contributed to the misunderstanding; obviously, Medicare patients do not literally stand in front of a MedPAC (Medicare Payment Advisory Commission) panel today, nor would ObamaCare patients literally stand in front of an "ObamaPAC" panel. This might have been a (feeble) excuse before yesterday; but after Palin's widely reported and circulated (and heavily footnoted!) second Facebook post explaining her earlier post, there is no excuse for misunderstanding. Its substance begins and ends thus:
Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these “unproductive” members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care....
Of course, it’s not just this one provision that presents a problem. My original comments concerned statements made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy advisor to President Obama and the brother of the President’s chief of staff. Dr. Emanuel has written that some medical services should not be guaranteed to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens....An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” Dr. Emanuel has also advocated basing medical decisions on a system which “produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”
In addition to making sure folks understood her original point -- that ObamaCare leads inexorably to medical rationing (triage!) -- she also responded to President Barack H. Obama's dismissal of the "end-of-life" counseling provisions of the House bill. She had to... because in the process of misunderstanding her original point (intentionally or un-), Obama also told some whoppers about the very provision that he falsely connected to Palin's point.
This part of Palin's argument occupies the middle section of her second Facebook post; I excerpt a bit here:
The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” With all due respect, it’s misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context.
Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often “if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual ... or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility... or a hospice program." During those consultations, practitioners must explain “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice,” and the government benefits available to pay for such services.
Now put this in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.” Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care? As Charles Lane notes in the Washington Post, Section 1233 “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones.... If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to “bend the curve” on health-care costs?”
These are all excellent points, and almost unanswerable; but they are ancillary to her original post, and Palin makes that very clear in her follow-up post. Clear, that is, to everybody except those who insist upon opining about posts they have never even read -- Isakson -- and those who give undue deference to subliterate slanders slung by Palin critics who never met an accusation they didn't repeat... even when its provenance is some unnamed telephone caller at some undisclosed venue.
Even when the original is still there, on Palin's Facebook page, where anyone who is willing can read it.
Is Obama '12 the new Clinton '96?
According to John Hinderaker at Power Line, some Democrats are already comparing the reelection attempt by Barack H. Obama in 2012 to the successful reelection of Bill Clinton in 1996. I say the analogy is not just flawed but ludicrously so.
Those Democrats who see Clinton '96 as the prophetic analogy for Obama '12 miss a huge distinction: Clinton did not win reelection; rather, the Republicans threw away their chance to defeat him by nominating the Most Boring Candidate Since the Mesozoic -- Senate Majority Leader Blob Dole.
I believe Clinton was eminently defeatable that year, had Republicans simply nominated someone more dynamic, even exciting; the only excitement in the entire Dole campaign was when he inadvertently dove into the mosh pit at some campaign event.
A more fiscally conservative and dynamic GOP nominee might have kept H. Ross Perot out of the '96 race, or at least held his numbers down to the traditional 1% - 1.5% of a normal third-party candidate (Perot took 8.7% in the actual election). Then the Republican would have only had to take a tiny bit more of the vote in some key states to dethrone the unprincipled one.
(Note that Clinton beat Dole by 8.5%, more than Obama beat McCain by; yet Clinton managed only 49.9% of the vote against a weak spread. That is the mark of an electorate dissatisfied with the field.)
But the race in 2012 will likely include several very exciting GOP candidates, including possibly Mitt Romney (in what will assuredly be an "it's the economy, stupid!" election), Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal, and possibly Sarah Palin (though I consider that unlikely), any one of whom is far better a candidate than was Dole (yes, even Palin). Depending on how much voters blame the man sitting in la Casa Blanca for the idiocy of the Democratic Congress, Obama might well be sitting on a lower job approval in 2012 than Clinton had in 1996; Clinton was above 50% in the polls for many months prior to the November election.
I think it's a bad analogy all around; a better analogy might be Jimmy Carter, except that the 1980 race had its own distorting factor involving the Republican nominee, this time in the opposite direction: It's impossible to say whether Carter would have been reelected if George H.W. Bush had eked out a primary victory to become the nominee instead of Ronald Reagan.
The presidential election of 2008 was absolutely unique, and it may turn out that the presidential reelection attempt of 2012 is similarly sui generis. But certainly it's not plausibly modeled by the reelection campaign of Clinton in 1996; that's just Democratic wishful thinking.
Date ►►► August 13, 2009
State Health Care Plan: Traveling Eternity Road - on a One-Way Ticket
This is so stunning, I'm still not sure what to make of it.
Several states already have the equivalent of ObamaCare's "government option;" one of those is Oregon.
Oregon is a blue state... in the last two decades, a very blue state:
- The last time it went for the Republican in a presidential race was a quarter century ago, for Ronald Reagan in 1984; Oregon even voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988.
- The last time it elected a Republican governor was even longer: 31 years ago (Victor G. Atiyeh). Every major elected official in the executive branch is currently a Democrat.
- Oregon has two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden, 100%, and Jeff Merkley, not yet rated; Merkley replaced about the most liberal of all "Republican" senators, Gordon Smith, 33%. (Smith's last rating from the liberal ADA was 60%, nearly twice his rating from the American Conservative Union.) [This bullet point corrected; Smith was defeated for reelection in 2008. Hat tip to commenter Fritz.]
- Oregon has five representatives in Congress; four of them (80%) are Democrats. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR, 75%) is the lone Republican, and he's hardly a conservative.
- Democrats currently hold a 60% majority in both the Oregon State Senate and the Oregon House of Representatives.
So it's hardly surprising that Oregon enacted an assisted suicide law in 1994, and again in 1997, both times by a referendum of the citizens. And it's equally unsurprising -- but instructive -- that it also passed the Oregon Health Plan, created by doctor and Democratic state Sen. John Kitzhaber; it went into effect in 1994. Kitzhaber rode the health plan into the governor's officer, elected in 1994 and serving two terms.
The plan is called Oregon's Medicare/Medicaid program, but adults not qualified for either program can nevertheless be enrolled into OHP Standard.
The program has not exactly worked as intended; after costs nearly doubled in its first six years, new enrollments were frozen for four years, from 2004 through 2008; Oregon then held a lottery, in which tens of thousands of applicants applied -- for 3,000 slots.
The Oregon Health Plan, more or less a real-world model of ObamaCare, is under tremendous pressure to cut costs. They have found a unique way of doing so: They no longer pay for life-saving chemotherapy for cancer patients with less than a 5% chance of survival for five years... but they will pay to help kill them:
Barbara Wagner has one wish - for more time."I'm not ready, I'm not ready to die," the Springfield woman said. "I've got things I'd still like to do."
Her doctor offered hope in the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva, but the Oregon Health Plan sent her a letter telling her the cancer treatment was not approved.
Instead, the letter said, the plan would pay for comfort care, including "physician aid in dying," better known as assisted suicide.
"I told them, I said, 'Who do you guys think you are?' You know, to say that you'll pay for my dying, but you won't pay to help me possibly live longer?' " Wagner said. [Hat tip to Sachi]
Dear readers, this is your future under ObamaCare.
But why in the world would the Oregon Health Plan brazenly suggest that she kill herself? That's easily explained:
[Dr. William Toffler] said the state has a financial incentive to offer death instead of life: Chemotherapy drugs such as Tarceva cost $4,000 a month while drugs for assisted suicide cost less than $100.
[Dr. Som Saha, chairman of the commission that sets policy for the Oregon Health Plan] said state health officials do not consider whether it is cheaper for someone in the health plan to die than live. But he admitted they must consider the state's limited dollars when dealing with a case such as Wagner's.
"If we invest thousands and thousands of dollars in one person's days to weeks, we are taking away those dollars from someone," Saha said.
It's government medicine; poor Barbara Wagner has no place else to go.
Adding insult to accessory to manslaughter, it appears that the Oregon government health bureaucracy hasn't even kept up with the advance of modern medicine:
The Oregon Health Plan simply hasn't kept up with dramatic changes in chemotherapy, said Dr. David Fryefield of the Willamette Valley Cancer Center.
Even for those with advanced cancer, new chemotherapy drugs can extend life.
Yet the Oregon Health Plan only offers coverage for chemo that cures cancer -- not if it can prolong a patient's life.
"We are looking at today's ... 2008 treatment, but we're using 1993 standards," Fryefield said. "When the Oregon Health Plan was created, it was 15 years ago, and there were not all the chemotherapy drugs that there are today."
Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. So... under government medicine, Barack H. Obama's grandmother shouldn't get a hip replacement, because she's going to die soon anyway; Sarah Palin's son Trig, who has Down Syndrome, wouldn't get long-term treatment because Down is incurable; and Barbara Wagner begs for cancer treatment -- and instead gets a not-so-subtle hint that she should contact a physician about how to "reduce the surplus population" by committing suicide.
There is really no nice way to spin this.
Fortunately, the company that manufactures Tarceva, Genentech, has decided to let Wagner have it for free... for now. But what about all the other Barbara Wagners in Oregon?
ObamaCare: Change you could die for.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► August 12, 2009
Pithing on Marriage
Anent same-sex marriage: Marriage is fundamentally a union of opposites. If gays don't want that, fine; it's a free country -- but don't demand that the rest of us call it "marriage."
That's like having a big slice of tiramisu and a Mai Tai, and calling that "dinner." It's not a liberty issue... it's a punchline.
Attn: Johnny Isakson... Please Call Your President!
Yesterday, we wrote about Sen. Johnny Isakson's (R-GA, 76%) lunkheaded misunderstanding of Sarah Palin's "death panel" remark: In his anti-Palin hysteria, he imagined she was talking about "living wills" and the "end of life directive." Isakson thought that Palin was saying those amounted to euthanasia -- when in fact, she was talking about the health-care rationing that inevitably results from a single-payer, government-run system... which itself is the inevitable and intentional end result of the putative government "option."
It was an incredibly humiliating mistake for Isakson, exacerbated by its provenance: Isakson never even troubled to read what Palin herself actually wrote on her Facebook page, relying instead on the caricature by an anonymous telephone caller. (Perhaps Isakson should be made to sit in a corner of the Rotunda with a conical dunce-cap on his head, and write a hundred times on the chalkboard, "I will not rely upon unknown third parties when a primary source is available.")
I read a fantabulous Power Line post yesterday that accurately explained what Palin was talking about; alas, I cannot give credit either to John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger on my favorite blog, because the best part of the post was written by an unnamed "knowledgeable reader" corresponding with Hinderaker:
[S]o the only choice is limiting choice and quality....and that in turn requires a de facto single payer accomplished through the subterfuge of dictating the terms of "private" insurance, turning them into all but public utilities, engineering the transfer to the "public option" over a relatively short period of time, and then dictating payment terms to providers through rate setting, service bundling and, most important in this context, the MedPAC council which will determine "quality-adjusted effective" treatment protocols. The net effect is that an elderly person won't get a hip replacement or a coronary bypass....and will have nowhere --- in the US --- to turn.
The disingenuousness of the left on this point is breathtaking. Perhaps some are just too stupid to get the point....but the issue is NOT euthanasia, living wills etc....that's a pure straw man however insidious the proposal is and however dishonest they have been in covering it up or describing it. The real issue is the MedPAC council....there won't be any actual "death panel" adjudicating case-by-case....there won't need to be!....the MedPac council will set up criteria and rules, more or less in secrecy....rules determined by "experts" and by design removed from Congress to prevent pressure to approve expensive protocols at the end of life....or for "life unworthy of life"....a faceless bureaucracy with a maze of rules will simply be built into the system....diffused responsibility, nobody accountable, just the way it will be, no one can do anything about it.
Well, yeah. What Mr. Anonymous said.
MedPAC -- the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission -- already exists; it was created in 1997 by the Balanced Budget Act of that same year. Its purpose, in its own words, is "to advise the U.S. Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program."
The Commission's statutory mandate is quite broad: In addition to advising the Congress on payments to private health plans participating in Medicare and providers in Medicare's traditional fee-for-service program, MedPAC is also tasked with analyzing access to care, quality of care, and other issues affecting Medicare.
MedPAC sets a government-enforced price-control system for doctors and hospitals. It's important to understand that medical providers lose money on Medicare reimbursements, which they're forced by law to accept; they make it up by jacking up charges to all other patients. If they didn't have the lifesaver of non-Medicare, non-Medicaid patients on private insurance plans, many doctors, medical groups, and even hospitals would have to shut down, because they simply couldn't afford to practice medicine: We would have fewer health-care providers.
Under the House bill, patients shunted into the "goverment option" will be treated the same as current patients in Medicare; this requires exactly the same sort of price-control commission -- whether called MedPAC or by any other name, say ObamaPAC -- to make the same sort of decisions:
Get it? When ObamaCare engorges itself, like the Blob, to engulf and devour all health care, then the new ObamamPAC will make all decisions on what treatments will be covered. An unelected handful of wise men will pick and choose what medical treatment and procedures you and I and everyone else is allowed to receive.
(Everyone but presidents, senators, and congressmen, of course; they will always have their own system -- with unlimited treatment, no premiums, and no deductable -- at least, none paid by top federal officials; it will be our generous, if involuntary gift to the One and his minions.)
As demand for medical care skyrockets ("it's freeeee!"), and as the number of doctors and hospitals plummet, we will no longer have enough doctors to provide all that demand. Since prices will be controlled by ObamaPAC, the only remaining solution will be rationing, literal rationing. As in, no hip replacements for Granny, no expensive long-term care for Down Syndrome babies, and suchlike.
When Sarah Palin warned of "death panels," she was talking about the miserly ObamaPAC commission, staring at a staggering mismatch between demand and supply, deciding what care will be allowed to which class of patient -- not that stupid end-of-life counseling directive.
Well, today we have two followups: First, another charter member of the Duncecap Delegation, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press; and second, a perfect illustration of exactly what Sarah Palin meant -- and why she was right all along.
In AP's inaptly labeled "FACT CHECK," Alonso-Zaldivar smirks that there is no "death panel" in the House ObamaCare bill -- as if he expected to find a title or section with the name DEATH PANEL, and that its absence is ipso facto proof that Palin is an idiot. But he ruins his own flame by making (you guessed it) the exact, same mistake that Isakson made:
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a "death panel." Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.
Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:
Q: Does the health care legislation bill promote "mercy killing," or euthanasia?
Q: Then what's all the fuss about?
A: A provision in the House bill written by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would allow Medicare to pay doctors for voluntary counseling sessions that address end-of-life issues. The conversations between doctor and patient would include living wills, making a close relative or a trusted friend your health care proxy, learning about hospice as an option for the terminally ill, and information about pain medications for people suffering chronic discomfort.
The Q&A drones on and one, smugly lecturing the (presumably moronic) Sarah Palin -- and everyone else worried about ObamaCare -- that there is absolutely no cannibalism in the British Royal Navy (kudos and a self-administered backpat to anyone who gets the reference).
I hate to tell Mr. Alonso-Zaldivar... oh, who am I kidding? I love telling him! I rejoice in giddy glee to inform Mr. Alonso-Zaldivar that it is he, not Sarah Palin, who is the dumbass here... because she was not talking about euthanasia, the end-of-life counseling directive, or living wills. She probably has a living will. She was talking about -- exactly this, from Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama said his grandmother’s hip-replacement surgery during the final weeks of her life made him wonder whether expensive procedures for the terminally ill reflect a “sustainable model” for health care.
The president’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had a hip replaced after she was diagnosed with cancer, Obama said in an interview with the New York Times magazine that was published today. Dunham, who lived in Honolulu, died at the age of 86 on Nov. 2, 2008, two days before her grandson’s election victory....
Obama said “you just get into some very difficult moral issues” when considering whether “to give my grandmother, or everybody else’s aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they’re terminally ill.
“That’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues,” he said in the April 14 interview. “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health-care bill out here.”
Speaking later in the same interview about a different subject, banking regulations, Obama said the following:
Obama also said his economic advisers aren’t constrained by ideology or connections to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. “What I’ve been constantly searching for is a ruthless pragmatism when it comes to economic policy,” he said in the interview.
That is precisely what Americans of all ages, political persuasions, and economic conditions are frightened of, what drives the anger and anguish at town-hall meetings, and what has ground polling support for ObamaCare into the dirt: We fear that when health-care policy becomes "economic policy," due to vastly increased government meddling, leading at last to a complete federal takeover of health care, "ruthless pragmatism" will push ObamaPAC to deny Granny her hip replacement, because she's going to die soon anyway.
It may start by throwing only the terminally ill under the bus (as if that itself were morally acceptable); but when ObamaPAC is mugged by economic reality, it will end by throwing us all under those same wheels... just as similar councils have done in every other country that implemented government-run, government-controlled health care, from Great Britain, to Canada, to Japan, to most of Europe, to Cuba, to China, to the old USSR -- and the "new" Russia.
Is this starting to sink into the brains of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press? It's certainly already percolating through the brains of most Americans (excuse me, mobs of fascist thugs toting Nazi paraphernalia and intimidating the poor victims in the Service Employees International Union)... which is why they're showing up in droves to town-hall meetings, demanding that their representatives listen to them and not vote on either the House or Senate bill... that Congress tear it up and start over. (And I have a suggestion of how, exactly, to "start over.")
Sadly, our congressional "leaders" are neither leading nor even following their constituents; the Democrats who control Congress and la Casa Blanca have chosen instead to get in the way of real health-care reform.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Hollywood's Shifting Attitude on Guns
I've been enjoying the summer run of the SyFy (Fromerly Sci-Fi) Channel show Warehouse 13, about Secret Service agents investigating mystical artifacts. It's fun and entertaining fluff that's enjoyable to watch. But I noticed something really interesting in last night's episode.
The agents are searching for an artifact when they hear a gunshot. Rushing to where they heard it, they find a woman holding a gun and screaming for help. She says that her abusive ex-husband attacked her, and kept attacking her even after she shot him in the chest. The agents realize the ex-husband is under the influence of the artifact, and protect this woman from him. The ex-husband eventually dies from his chest wound, and then the agents protect the woman from the artifact.
What I found really interesting about that scene was the attitude toward guns. The show very clearly treated the gun-owner as the victim, rather than a violent criminal. There was never the slightest question as to whether she should have owned a gun or used it to kill someone in self-defense. The agents don't see her as a threat, and instead recognize a duty to protect her. They don't disarm her, and when they realize that it's dangerous to be around this artifact, they tell her to flee the area.
Of course this is all as it should be. Those who use guns to defend themselves from violent attackers are victims, not criminals. A gun doesn't magically make someone evil. (Although in the show, it's quite common for mystical artifacts to magically make people evil.) Someone who uses a gun to protect herself from an attacker isn't going to turn that gun on law enforcement agents, and there's no reason for the agents to think she would.
But it's surprising to see things portrayed this way in a mainstream Hollywood TV show. Even more surprising, these facts are treated as so self-evident that nobody mentions them, and there's never even any question about the legitimacy of her using a gun to kill her ex-husband.
Ten years ago, with events like Columbine fresh in everyone's minds, quite a few people were pushing for guns to be banned. It seemed like a reasonable possibility that Congress would do so. Now that attitude has been so soundly defeated that even Hollywood treats guns like tools for defense.
(Although that doesn't make up for the ridiculous name SyFy, or the even more ridiculous slogan of "Imagine Greater.")
Date ►►► August 11, 2009
Rules for Conservatives
Early on in the classic biographical film Patton, the title character, played by George C. Scott, watches through binoculars as his forces rout the Afrika Korps, commanded by “the Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. As the Germans retreat, Patton exults, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!”
It is obvious from the intensity of the reaction by ordinary constituents to the health care plan Congress is debating (and Democrats are pushing), that the “right” has been reading the book on which the left has based its tactics for decades. They are skillfully using the tactics recommended by the book, and the left is crying “foul!”
Alinsky and Machiavelli have a lot in common. Here are a few of Alinsky’s precepts: “In war the end justifies almost any means;” “Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa;” and “You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.”
Now that I think of it, Alinsky made Machievelli look like an innocent, cherub-faced boy by comparison.
But! The most telling comment Alinksy made that relates to our current situation -- in which Speaker Pelosi calls ordinary citizens who flood town hall meetings, hoisting AARP representatives by their own petards and rocking the likes of Steny Hoyer back on their haunches, “Un-American” and “mobs” -- is this: “Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.”
No one is supposed to use their tactics, you see. They are patented. Only the Left is allowed to characterize those who disagree with them as Nazis, as it did consistently during the eight years of the Bush White House, and before that during Bush I and Reagan and Nixon and… Only the Left is allowed to attend meetings and shout down speakers without allowing them to speak; that’s called freedom of speech when practiced by them -- but Brownshirt tactics if practiced by others.
Speaking of Brownshirts, they were the uniformed thugs of the 1920s and 1930s in Germany who used to beat up people they disdained... which is just what happened to Kenneth Gladney, a black man handing out “Don’t tread on me” flags at a Missouri town meeting last week. Gladney was beaten by public-union thugs. Is he a “mob” member, or is the real mob the SEIU enforcers who put him in a wheel chair?
The White House put out three, count them, three appeals last week for supporters to start attending with enough numbers to overawe the opposition at “town hall” meetings held all over America during the August congressional recess. This from the master “community organizer” himself.
As I wrote this post I got an email from a left-wing community organizer responding to Obama’s call: “Republicans, insurance industry, and Tea Party agitators are disrupting proceedings in Democratic Town Hall meetings across the nation. The police even had to be called to one meeting over the weekend. GOP stooges are stooping to new lows in an effort to drown out debate on universal health care coverage.”
No, it’s not an attempt to drown out the debate. It’s a successful effort to put as many, if not more, boots on the ground (as our military friends say) as the lefties. The conservatives have learned how to use the internet, email and Twitter to organize, as Obama’s supporters did last year.
By the way, please don’t assume that I approve of tactics such as shouting down people at meetings; I think it’s reprehensible. I applaud opponents who can debate in a collegial atmosphere. However, I see the frustration of ordinary citizens whose congressmen treat them with condescension and disdain.
Discouraging tactics such as shouting down people you disagree with is like using poison gas in wartime. It only works if both sides refuse to use it. As long as the Left feels that it’s fair for it to disrupt meetings and shout down speakers, conservatives are going to do the same.
The one thing I won't do is shed tears about the breakdown of civil debate: That died years ago. The truth is that the Right is finally learning how to play hardball.
Isakson Aims at Palin, Hits Own Foot
Recently, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA, 76%) offered a succinct "debunking" of a recent Facebook comment by Sarah Palin anent ObamaCare: He said Palin's take was "nuts."
This was immediately picked up by numerous lefty sites, including ThinkProgress and the Hufflepuffington Post, of course; but recently, even some very anti-liberal friends of mine (who already dislike Palin) have quoted Isakson's brilliant counterargument as if it were definitive... and that this proves Palin really is nuts.
But has any of them personally looked into her claims, compared them to Isakson's counterargument, and decided which is correct? I doubt it; because if anyone had, he would never bring up the humiliating, self-immolating Isakson attack again, and might think a second time before ever using Isakson as an authority on anything.
Not everybody has seen Palin's actual words; you can read the cause of all this hysteria on her Facebook page. The specific paragraph Isakson, et al, refers to is this:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
Palin only notes what has happened in every other country on Earth that has implemented a single-payer system -- which Barack H. Obama repeatedly stated in the past was his ultimate goal, and which many of his most prominent supporters on ObamaCare say is the inevitable end result of a "government option," as George Will noted last June. Government control never leads to cost savings; Palin quotes Thomas Sowell on this point. Thus, when government finds it cannot pay for what it has promised, it is inevitably driven to health-care rationing.
This has already happened in Great Britain, in Canada, in Japan, and in every other country with socialized medicine: Sooner or later, a government panel must decide who receives health care, and who is told, "sorry, none for you."
- An 87 year old woman falls and breaks her hip. She needs a hip replacement. The panel decides that it's a waste of scarce resources, because she isn't going to live long anyway.
- The government-run health-care plan cannot afford to give every baby that needs it expensive incubator medical treatment; so the panel decides that a severely handicapped baby, one not expected to live to see age eight anyway, should not get that treatment, because it's a waste of resources.
This is not speculative; this is what already happens in countries such as Canada, our closest neighbor (not just geographically but culturally). Hence the "joke" (uncomfortable fact put into a humorous context to avoid despair) that the health-care plan of many Canadians is "head south."
So joking aside, what is Sen. Isakson's actual counterargument to Palin's point? This is it, from the ThinkProgress piece linked up top:
[Washington Post’s Ezra] KLEIN: How did this become a question of euthanasia?
ISAKSON: I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up. [...]
It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.
In the first place, only two people here are "so mixed up," Ezra Klein and Johnny Isakson. Sarah Palin never said "euthanized," and she was not referring to a "living will" or an "end of life directive;" she was referring to health-care rationing, and to the government panel that must eventually decide who receives scarce health-care resources, and who does not.
Why does Isakson so completely misunderstand a very clear and understandable point? The major clue is in his first statement: He gets his entire take on what Palin is saying from "a phone call where someone said..."
He hasn't even read her Facebook post! He's calling Palin "nuts," and accusing her of getting things "so mixed up," and he hasn't even read the Facebook entry he's criticizing.
Is this the authority anyone really wants to rely upon -- a senator who calls the former governor of Alaska insane... based upon what "somebody" told him in a telephone call? Isakson is not really arguing against Palin's position; he is arguing against a caricature of her position that "someone" passed along to him over the phone -- he doesn't even appear to know who.
But what possible counterargument could anyone make to the Palin point... that the "government option" won't eventually push everyone in to government health care? That we, uniquely -- unlike every other country with government health care -- won't end up with government rationing? That rationing won't fall disproportionately on the elderly and the disabled? Who then would be at the short end of the stick -- the hale and hearty young?
Or is Isakson just saying that, while Palin may be perfectly correct, it's unseemly of her to bring up such inconvenient truths? After all, he does support a government option in health-care reform; and there aren't too many logical arguments in favor of that position beyond, "'Shut up,' he explained."
In this case, Palin is simply right, and Isakson is simply wrong; but more than wrong, he is humiliating himself by attacking her sanity and her comprehension -- based upon a ludicrous "mixup" caused by Isakson relying upon a hearsay caricature by "someone" who is obviously hostile to Sarah Palin.
We already know that Democrats have no sense of shame, but does Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson?
Date ►►► August 10, 2009
A Commonsense Health Reform Plan
First, let's simply list what we need; then we can propose the smallest possible reform that delivers those needs. As a general rule, we should always try the easy, inexpensive, less intrusive reforms before trying any authoritarian, patronizing, socialistic, and irreversible scheme. (Would that the Democrats in Congress believed this... or even the Republicans!)
There are about 46 million uninsured at any one moment; but only 20 million are chronically uninsured because they cannot afford insurance (the "deserving poor," perhaps). The rest are well-to-do people who simply don't buy insurance (often young adults who think they're invulnerable), illegals, people who already qualify for medical assistance but don't bother signing up -- and a huge chunk of people who are simply transiting from one job to another, and will only be uninsured for a couple of months.
The only two problems that attract most people to health-care reform are insuring the chronically uninsured and lowering cost. Fix those, and everybody will be satisfied... except for irredeemable and unrepentant lefties who want equality above all -- even if that means making everybody equally sick and equally miserable.
What should a really good health-insurance reform include? At the highest level, it must lower costs -- not just shuffle around who pays for those costs; it must increase choice for the patient and doctor; and it must allow enough capital to flow in order to pay for quality health care (to avoid rationing, either public or private).
More specific goals
We can further break this down into a few points that we know work to promote all three goals:
Portability: You should not forfeit your plan if you switch jobs, or if you switch from being employed by a boss to working for yourself. Employer-based insurance forces many people to stay in jobs they hate, as Charles Krauthammer noted, just to keep their health insurance.
Competition: We already know the only force that can hold costs down to a reasonable level in any endeavor... competition. It's the basis of Capitalism; it defines the market. We must increase, not decrease, the competition between different health-insurance plans.
Individual responsibility: Patients and doctors should decide treatment, not insurance companies, and especially not the government. Similarly, patients must ultimately be responsible for their own health-care decisions -- which includes paying more for better care.
Universal access: (Note -- not the same as "universal coverage.") Nobody should ever be told, "Sorry, your pre-existing conditions prevent you from qualifying for any health insurance from anybody." Insurance must be available for those willing to pay for it. Those who cannot afford it should receive aid -- again, we cannot have people priced out of insurance, because that leads to using emergency and trauma-care centers as doctor's offices.
Fix Medicare and Medicaid: Medical care for seniors and the disabled (Medicare) and for the destitute (Medicaid) should get out of the business of being monopoly health-care providers; they're really bad at it.
No externalities: Health care should not be affected by external considerations unrelated to health care or health insurance.
Now, let's get even more specific, and I think we'll actually have a positive plan, not just anti-ObamaCare talking points.
Action items to achieve specific goals
The first point to understand is this: Nobody has a "right" to health care, just as nobody has a "right" to food or shelter. There is nothing in the Constitution protecting or creating such a right. If you have the right to health care, then you can compel someone else to provide it for you; but we already have a term for the idea that you have the right to force someone else to labor for your benefit: socialism.
We also already know that socialism does not work in the real world... so please divorce the false idea from your mind that health care is a right.
Various government entities have enacted legislation creating such a "right;" but that's a different use of the word. A better way to look at such legislation is that governments conclude that it's very bad public policy -- political suicide, in fact -- to allow people to die of easily treatable injuries, illnesses, and conditions; but it sounds cooler to enact a "right" than just policy... so they improperly use that word.
(I'm sure lawyers would argue that it's just a different use of that word; but it amounts to the same thing.)
Let's call this the First Rule of Health-Policy Political Reality: If voters have to step over dead bodies to get to the polling place, it affects their vote.
Thus the overriding concern in any health-care reform should be that we "do no harm;" that is, let's not make things worse: Let's not end up with more people dying in the streets or more people going bankrupt just because they get sick.
So let's get to the main points...
Portability means just that: The abililty to carry your insurance with you wherever you go. This divorces insurance from the employer and attaches it to the individual... meaning you don't have to worry about getting new insurance if you change jobs, become unemployed, or become self-employed. (Which we should encourage as many people to do as can swing it; that's the future of the wealth creation in civilized countries... more market Capitalism, less corporate feudalism!)
But how do we do this? The easiest way I can think of is to use tax incentives to prod employers to offer defined-contribution (DC) health-insurance plans; that's where, in addition to offering ordinary group insurance, they also offer a plan where they subsidize your private insurance payments up to a defined amount, or a percent of your salary -- paid directly to you.
That insurance would be your personal insurance; if we also make it easier for companies to create group plans that are not bound to employment (see "Competition" below), the DC plans can be group plans as well. And of course, since it's your decision, you can pick anything from a gold-plated plan that covers everything (abortion, sex-mutilation surgery, psychiatric care, weight loss, massages) to a minimalist health-savings account (HSA) plus catastrophic care -- or anything in between. Or you can choose to have no insurance at all, if you post a big enough HSA-style bond to satisfy the minimal requirements of the First Rule.
The benefit to you is that, since you own the insurance, if you move from one job to another, that company will also likely have a DC option -- so you can keep the same policy if you like it. Then it's simply a matter of money: The new job will pay more or less, counting both salary and the specific health-insurance contribution; but that makes it easy to compare one job offer to another.
If you become self-employed, you pick up the premiums yourself, if you want to keep the plan; you don't have to go insurance-shopping unless you want to. And if you become unemployed, but you have savings, you can pay the premium yourself until you get a new job -- which gives you a good incentive to get off your keyster and pound the bricks. (If you're destitute, there will be local, state, and federal assistance programs -- First Rule, and all that.)
A defined-contribution (DC) option is also cheaper for the company, since they no longer must pay to administer the plan for that employee... a staggeringly huge savings. This frees up more capital for the company to offer higher defined contributions in order to lure better employees. Some companies might offer nothing but DC plans.
(Note: employers would have fewer employees in their traditional plans, since some would be in the DC plan; this might increase the rates for those plans. But the relaxed group rules would allow employers to join with other employers to still get good group rates for their traditional plans.)
In theory, the rule of competition should be this: Aside from force or fraud, any insurance company can offer anyone any plan it wants. The First Rule of Health-Policy Political Reality requires us to add one more "aside" -- no Mike Tyson plans that look pretty but fold at the first punch. In political language, that means three requirements:
- No insurance company should be able to force people onto its plan, including by "slamming" -- switching people without their knowledge, as long-distance phone companies used to do;
- No insurance company shall be allowed to use fradulent inducement to trick people onto its plan, and all insurance-company promises shall be enforceable in a court of law -- with damages if they fail to live up to them;
- Nobody shall be "blacklisted" (banned from the insurance pool because of pre-existing medical conditions) or "redlisted" (offered a plan at so exhorbitant a rate that it's de facto blacklisting). Everyone must have access to at least some reasonably affordable medical insurance plan.
Note that you cannot satisfy requirement 3 merely with a "government option," because that violates the basic law of competition: The existence of choice.
In practical terms, that means:
- Lift the ban on interstate sale of insurance policies. Let anyone buy insurance from anywhere in the United States... or perhaps in the world, provided the company meets the national requirements for solvency and honesty. (The feds should maintain a database of companies that are acceptable options.)
- Do everything possible to encourage insurers to allow easy creation of group plans along lines other than employees of the same company... say, club membership, trade or technical organization membership, alumni of some university, church-synogogue-mosque membership, subscribers to a magazine or newspaper, and so forth. Any large group should be able to get group rates better than individuals buying insurance entirely on their own.
- Remove the perverse tax disparity between employer-paid health insurance and self-paid health insurance. Krauthammer suggests taxing employer-paid benefits and rebating that money to the employees for their own insurance; but I dislike getting the government involved. I'd rather just allow every filer to separately deduct the amount he pays for health insurance, even if he doesn't itemize.
- Guarantee everyone a range of plans from gold-plated to minimalist. This would mostly be covered by lifting the ban on sales; but states might want to ensure that employers offer a DC-option, to ensure that employees aren't locked into a single group plan.
- Create an "assigned risk" system, similar to automobile insurance, so that every company that offers insurance must accept a certain number of customers who they know in advance are going to cost them money. The insurers will raise their rates accordingly; but competition will keep such raises to a minimum.
The individual-responsibility mandate below will increase demand for insurance, causing upward pressure on rates; but the increased competition causes downward pressure to compensate. There is no way to guess which will "win"... but even if rates go up, it won't be anywhere near the $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion for government-controlled health care.
- Every person legally residing in the country must be able to demonstrate that he or she has the financial resources not to be an undue burden on society.
In practical terms, this means every person must be covered by some sort of plan -- whether it's a typical insurance plan, an MSA plus catastrophic care, or a big, honking MSA of at least as much as a normal plan would pay in a person's lifetime. (Health care for illegal immigrants is a matter for a different post, and would surely have to be part of comprehensive immigration reform.)
Per the Constitution's grant of powers, the mandate should be enforced by the states, who in turn would be goaded by the threat of loss of federal medical revenues -- Medicaid, Medicare, and so forth.
- Patients, no matter how poor, must bear some portion of the cost for every treatment they get.
This gives every patient a financial incentive to ask, "Is this test or treatment really necessary?" That question will be answered in dialog between the patient and his doctor, with the patient taking into account what his insurance plan covers.
- Government should neither mandate nor forbid treatment or tests.
If your insurance doesn't pay for it, then it doesn't pay for it. Don't like it? Get a better policy.
- Doctors should be at risk of losing their licenses to practice medicine if they engage in medical malpractice. But tort reform would prevent minor errors from turning into a Lotto ticket for the patient... or more likely, for his John-Edwards-clone attorney.
This should eliminate "defensive medicine," where doctors order medically unnecessary tests for no purpose other than to stave off a lawsuit if a known and disclosed potential risk causes injury or death. It will also dramatically reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance, which can cost individual doctors hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and hospitals and suchlike tens of millions.
Old Doc Krauthammer suggests eliminating medical-malpractice suits altogether, offering instead a pool of money for patients who are injured by faulty medical care, the amount to be decided by a panel of medical experts.
But again, I disagree; I would rather allow such suits, but make the test such that a patient can only recover damages if the doctor used an unapproved treatment without disclosing that fact and the risks inherent in it; or if the doctor delivered substandard care in a treatment, whether approved or not, regardless of any disclosures.
Further, I would ban expert testimony from witnesses hired by either side; the court should hire the expert witnesses from a pool of such, and they should be paid the same no matter which side they end up taking. Maybe give each side a couple of peremptory expert-witness challenges, like they have for jurors, so they don't get stuck with a doctor obviously biased one way or the other.
As above, we need an "assigned risk" category for patients with serious pre-existing conditions, similar to what is already done in group plans. In addition, we must maintain some system for helping veterans, the elderly, the disabled, and the destitute obtain insurance, if they cannot afford it.
All of these reforms combined will signficantly reduce the number of deserving poor who are chronically uninsured and underinsured.
Fix Medicare and Medicaid
Those dependent upon state or federal help for medical care should receive the same choice and opportunity as those on any other insurance plan; yet Medicare and Medicaid have proven that federal government is fundamentally incapable of administering an insurance plan. Costs have skyrocketed as treatment nosedives; recipients are treated like dirt and given no options; and care is rationed, either overtly or covertly.
So let's change the whole Medicare model. Instead of thinking of the programs as insurance policies, directly contracting with doctors and hospitals for treatment, let's start thinking of program recipients as if they were in the same insurance-category as federal or state employees. (We include here other government insurance entitlement programs, such as SCHIP.)
That means the programs should function not as insurers, but as employers offering a range of private plans... with one caveat: No federal, state, or local government should be allowed to offer anything other than a defined-contribution (DC) option to Medicare or Medicaid recipients.
Why that constraint? Because if government could pick a private insurer and offer that plan, the opportunities for corruption and mischief would be irresistable. (The VA could continue to offer its own primary care, but long-term care should be put on the same basis as Medicare and Medicaid.)
As George Will wrote back in June -- referring to the "government option" in ObamaCare, but applicable to Medicare and Medicaid today:
Assurances that the government plan would play by the rules that private insurers play by are implausible. Government is incapable of behaving like market-disciplined private insurers. Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers. Besides, unless the point of a government plan is to be cheaper, it is pointless: If the public option conforms to the imperatives that regulations and competition impose on private insurers, there is no reason for it.
So we do not allow the government to be in the business of directly contracting with care providers. Rather, the plans would pay directly to a private or group insurance plan chosen by the recipient; the amount paid would be calculated to cover most (say 80%) of a typical, low-end insurance policy.
Thus a recipient could simply accept that low-end plan and pay only a very small amount in premiums, plus whatever co-pay is required; or he could pick a more robust plan, pay somewhat more for the premiums, but have better coverage. And in every category of plan, the recipient would have a large number of carriers from which to choose.
This should minimize both corruption and government intrusion and coercion, while capping government spending on several so-called "entitlement" programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, the VA, and so forth. This reform alone would save hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
"Externalities" are consequence of economic activities that are experienced by unrelated third parties; but I'm using a slight redefinition of that term: economic activities not directly related to health care that affect its cost. I mean to include such economic activities as filing warrantless lawsuits, the cost of malpractice insurance, politicized government mandates for insurance coverage, bizarre tax disincentives for insurance, and so forth.
As a general rule, such externalities should be removed whenever they are discovered; let the insurance market be affected only by its natural components -- doctors, patients, the amount of coverage sought, medical research and technology, and so forth.
Imagine if people could sue restaurants for selling food that doesn't taste as good as it looks -- and were winning millions. Fantasize that it begins mandating that every restaurant must offer at least twelve vegan dishes on its menu, even if nobody ever ordered them. Suppose that the sales tax rate at restraurants was doubled for parties larger than two people. Do you think that might artificially inflate the cost of eating out and deform the market?
In addition, any reform bill should eschew unrelated amendments -- such as porkbarrel spending (say, money for Lockheed Martin to build 200 more F-35 Lightning IIs), more stimulus funds to ACORN, a vehicle for globaloney nonsense like
Cripple and Tax Cap and Trade, banning trans-fats from restaurant menus, and so forth. If these programs are worthy, then put them in their own, separate bills; don't try to piggy-back them onto health-care reform!
And that's it!
I believe these changes would give us tremendous savings; would ensure that everybody, or as near as makes no difference, is insured; and it would do so without squashing the greatest health-care delivery system in the world beneath the invisible foot of the State, without taking choice away from the American people, and without running deficits so big it's almost impossible to visualize them and what they mean. (A $1.8 trillion deficit means that every family of four "involuntarily borrowed" an additional $24,000 this year... but Barack H. Obama spent it all.)
Much of this is in the GOP plan, available -- with a great deal of hair-tearing, tooth pulling, and a lot of time on your hands -- from their website; but it's not as succinct and easily understood as here. (I think it's left over from John S. McCain's presidential run last year.) And I've also added a lot more specifics, such as encouraging "defined contribution" health-insurance plans.
Really, once you break the problem down, it's not that tough to come up with solutions that are both more plausible than ObamaCare and less dangerous. Where are the elected Republicans? Why aren't they out there pushing a unified alternative health-care reform very like this one?
Your guess is probably better, and less charitable, than mine.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► August 9, 2009
What's In a Name? Well, Everything!
Shakespeare notwithstanding, a rose by any other name would not, in fact, smell as sweet; "seeing is believing" is a much less accurate saying than "believing is seeing" -- especially in politics, the art of the image. "What a fool believes, he sees."
The winner of the race to define one's opponent typically wins the election as well. And in this race, the Democrats and the Left in general left the starting blocks a century ago, while we're still standing around, waiting for the starting gun.
The other day, I was very rudely awakened by my clock radio, which is set to a local classical music station. The station was in between pieces, and Mr. Announcer was saying something very like the following: "When this next charming dance music debuted, it was denounced by conservatives -- as they generally denounced any fun music of the era." Annoyed, I turned it off before even hearing the charming dance... and I'm not even a conservative!
I am, however, a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of contemporary liberalism and leftism of any era, making me "one of us," in that sense. I never voted for a Republican from my first vote in 1978 through 1986, five elections; since 1988, I have never voted for anybody but a Republican.
To me, that was the year (Michael Dukakis) that the mainstream of the Democratic Party crossed the Rubicon, transmogrifying from being a sincerely loyal opposition, though frequently misguided -- to being actual enemies of America who had to be stopped, crushed, and forced to rebuild themselves in the mold of Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey.
The latter was a New Deal Democrat, but always an anti-Communist -- unlike FDR himself -- and one who truly loved our country. He was foolish in some areas, such as massive government spending to "solve" social problems; but he was also willing to reconsider when confronted with real evidence. Gosh, what a breath of fresh air that would be, after decades of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Algore, JFK -- and now a nation under the iron thumb of B.O.
Later that day, Sachi and I went to see the wonderful chick-flick Julie & Julia. In the course of the otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie, we were gobsmacked by three or four gratuitous slams against conservatives and Republicans. All but one took place in the "Julia Child" sections and were at least defensible, if still unnecessary: The worst was a scene depicting Paul Child, Julia Child's husband, being investigated (interrogated) by "the committee" -- though the movie never says which one, the House Committee on Un-American Activities or the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations. We are told that he was investigated because he was stationed in China during World War II.
I have no idea whether this really happened -- I cannot find any documentary evidence of such an investigation outside the movie. It's not even mentioned in his New York Times obituary; and if anybody would tout such an incident, you'd think it would be the Times.
But even if he really was investigated, I'm quite skeptical that the only reason was his official posting in China, ordered by the Office of Strategic Services. To my mind, it's much more plausible that the pair of them, liberal intellectuals both, could easily have flirted with Marxism -- as did so many of their contemporaries.
But two points were glossed over that were just as important as the investigation itself... shifting the movie scenes from merely recounting "the truth" to broadcasting leftist propaganda:
- According to the movie, Paul Child was investigated and cleared. (But wait! I thought that never happened... weren't these investigations "witch hunts" that only smeared innocent people, never exonerated them?) Yet the movie only mentions that en passant, without any acknowledgement that perhaps the investigators were both sincere and honest.
- Despite the movie's reference on several occasions to "the Republicans," in reality, the House and Senate committees included both Republicans and Democrats; in fact, during the period under discussion (say 1945 through 1955), Democrats controlled both Senate and House -- therefore the corresponding committees -- for six years, while Republicans controlled the chambers for only four.
One other slam against Republicans is in the "Julie Powell" section, and this one is entirely uncalled for: After she plays hooky from work for a day, her boss says that if he were a Republican, he would have fired her. As she is a sympathetic character, that smear of course just makes Republicans look bad. (Left unsaid is that, sympathetic or not, she is depicted as a pretty bad employee who probably deserved firing. But the movie never connects these two points.)
It would be impossible, of course, to enumerate every movie and television episode that makes unnecessary and absurdist attacks on the Right; a well-researched list would probably include more than 50% of them. But each and every one is an example of the Left "defining" the Republicans and conservatives in popular art, so that the default position of American culture is that the Right is a bad joke.
Then let us include "serious" news and political analysis shows, which typically refer to every oppressor around the world as a "conservative" -- even when he's a jihadi, a revolutionary, or a Marxist. Even the mullahs in Iran are routinely referred to as "conservatives."
What does conservative mean in this context? They certainly are not traditionalists; Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution was radical, breaking not only with established political tradition -- Iran had been ruled by shahs since the 1500s -- but established religious tradition: Twelver Shia clerics had by and large shunned direct political rule since before Iran arose as a distinct Persian Islamic country.
Nor do the mullahs believe in judicial modesty, rule by law, a firm constitution above control of the ruling party, Capitalism and the free market, or even the ethical monotheism that underpins American conservativism. They are not conservative by any rational definition.
Much the same can be said for the fascists and Marxists in Latin America, Africa, and Asia -- often dubbed "hard-right strongmen." And even Adolf Hitler -- a raging socialist and utopian internationalist, who railed against Capitalism as often as at Communism, and thought he could "perfect" the human race by culling the "defectives" and breeding "supermen" -- is invariably referred to as a "right winger," rather than head of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
In a brilliant exercise of "argument by tendentious redefinition," the Left has successfully transformed the word "conservative" into a synonym for tyranny, oppression, and dictatorship... even for radical movements that not only did not "conserve" the institutions and values of their native cultures but overturned them in the most violent way. And lefties (including Lucky Lefty himself) still beaver away at that same tree today, albeit in a rather ham-fisted manner.
It's an astonishing feat of political legerdemain that can transform Marxists, Stalinists, and a radical Islamic and quasi-socialist theocracy into an indistinguishable batch of conservative hardliners. But the more infuriating point is, the Right let them get away with it.
Liberals and Democrats are supposed to try to make monkeys out of conservatives and Republicans; that's their job. But the latter are supposed to fight back, establishing their own identities and reinventing the Left... rather than quietly rolling over and accepting what fate deals out in true fatalist style. The most embarassing part is that our putative "leaders" in Congress and in the previous administration have hopped aboard the caboose... leaving it up to ordinary folks to drive the train.
William F. Buckley, jr. made conservatism respectable; Ronald Reagan made it popular. But we haven't had a Reagan since 1989, and there isn't one on the horizon that I can see; no, not Sarah Palin, not Mitt Romney, not Eric Cantor (R-VA, 92%)... at least not yet.
Ronald Reagan was already considered a great conservative Republican leader when he first ran for the governorship of California in 1966; he was famous, among other things, for breaking the back of the Communist cadre in the Screen Actors Guild (then an actual union) and for fighting Soviet propaganda in Hollywood. By the time he finally won the nomination for president in 1980, he was also a very successful two-term governor of the largest state in the United States, giving him experience and gravitas.
In that year, Reagan was universally recognized, by friend and foe alike, as the leader of the conservative movement in America. The primary was barely even a contest, with Reagan taking 44 primary or caucus delegations, and his only real rival, George H.W. Bush, taking only seven (Iowa, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Michigan)... and six fairly well-known wannabes getting bupkis.
It was a complete blowout; Reagan was the undisputed heavyweight champeen of the conservative movement. "Now the king is gone but he'll not be forgotten, nor his like will we ever see."
Newt Gingrich was a spectacularly successful "revolutionary;" he was perhaps the only person who could have snatched the House right out from under Tom Foley's nose (with the help of the House banking scandal); but Gingrich proved a fairly inept Speaker of the House. He is a wonderful idea-man, spitting out original and popular policy proposals like an M61 Vulcan spits incendiary shells... but as the chief executive of the nation, he would be a disaster: He hasn't the patience, the attention span, nor the charisma.
There is no Republican in view today who has even as much charisma as Gingrich, and charisma is vital for generating hegemony (per Marxian theorist and revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, perceived fitness to rule). Any such authority would come only from the office -- not from the person, as it did with previous leaders: the good (Lincoln, Reagan), the bad (Wilson, TR), and the ugly (FDR).
Fortunately, the only charismatic Democrat on the scene today is the terribly compromised Barack H. Obama, whose power curve is dropping faster than the glidepath of a dead-stick Shuttle. We don't need a Ronald Reagan to regain power (which is good, because we don't -- and won't -- have one). But once there, we are going to need moral discipline such as Republicans have not held since the first heady days of the Gingrich revolution.
An excellent start would be to take the propaganda war within this country seriously for once... and actually fight back against the liberal-left, anti-Republican disinformation campaign. I see a nascent effort; but not until I start seeing a real and serious pushback by our guys -- unified, forceful, unapologetic, and not just by the grass roots (who by definition aren't running for office), will I say we actually have a legitimate shot at the "conservative realignment" that Fred Barnes talked about before 2006 and 2008.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► August 6, 2009
Nearly Everybody Tarred by "Gates" Episode
Just about everybody associated with the Professor Henry Gates episode got tarred by it, except for the poor lady who called in that someone was breaking into the Harvard professor’s home.
She did everything that a good citizen is asked to do when he or she sees something that might be a crime. But she had to put up with being labeled a racist, even though the 911 call shows that she merely said that two people were breaking into the house -- and only after being prodded by the dispatcher did she then describe the ethnicity of the people that she saw.
Professor Gates behaved like an utter fool. One can imagine situations where being stopped by a cop is an occasion for playing the “race card” and being asked for your I.D. is an example of racial profiling. No one doubts that blacks and Hispanics have often been the victims of “driving while black” over the years, however Gates appeared entirely too quick to jump to that conclusion. He obviously operates with a chip on his shoulder.
Which brings me to the cop, Sgt. James Crowley, who committed, in my mind, an abuse of power that far too few people have remarked upon -- at least to my satisfaction.
It’s a given: Gates behaved like a bozo. However, in a free society, being rude to a cop should not be a cause for being arrested -- especially if you are in your own home. Free people have a God-given right to tell a police officer off and not be hauled off to jail in handcuffs.
That’s not to say that you have a right to resist arrest or to refuse to show your I.D. when an officer asks to see it, but once the officer established that Gates was who he said he was -- he should have shrugged his shoulders, let Gates rant, and left. It’s not illegal to be disrespectful to authority.
The officer knew that Gates had a perfect right to say what he was saying from inside his home, so he invited him to come out the door -- whereupon he arrested him. This is an abuse of power, pure and simple.
Oh yes, and President Obama behaved badly, too, by assuming a lot of things about the Cambridge police that were not in evidence. Presidents should inform themselves about situations before popping off. Obama didn’t.
Heath Ledger: America's First Black Joker
The Washington Post has published a column discussing the new (and still anonymous) poster of President Barack H. Obama:
I was going to fisk this fishy column by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post; but I discovered that someone had already beaten me to it: a fellow named -- Philip Kennicott. The column is self-fisking; one need only quote a few brief passages. I shall toss in but a bon mot or deux -- less destructo-beam, more laser pointer. So without further vamping, allons!
Between Jack Nicholson's 1989 portrayal of the Joker in "Batman" and Heath Ledger's 2008 characterization in "The Dark Knight," something sinister happened to the villain's iconic makeup. What had been a mask, with the clearly delineated lines of a carnival character, became simply war paint, and not very well applied.
The visual change signaled a change in the Joker's inner mechanism. Nicholson's dandified virtuoso of violence was replaced by a darker, more unpredictable and psychotic figure. What had been a caricature became more real and threatening. An urbane mocker of civilized values became simply a deformed product of urban violence.
Er, this would be the same Joker who once, in the DC comic book, murdered members of a television audience using floating bombs -- in the shape of newborn babies... right? Isn't the Heath Ledger Joker from The Dark Knight in fact much closer to the original than the precious performance by Uncle Jack?
The new Obama poster has two basic thrusts. Obama is a socialist, or a crypto-socialist. And Obama is somehow like the Joker, unpredictable and dangerous. But joining these two messages together yields more questions and contradictions than good poster art can sustain. The Joker is violent and dangerous, but a socialist?
Violent and dangerous -- and yet a socialist. What oxymorons we must all be!
So why the anonymity? Perhaps because the poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the "urban" makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can't openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and '70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates.
Help me to understand: The whiteface makeup worn by a white actor depicting a white psychopath is ultimately a racist, anti-black image? Why, because it's put on the face of the President of the United States -- who happens to be black?
Is Kennicott saying what I think he's saying -- that no one would be posting this poster on his blog -- in fact, the anonymous artist would never have created this image in the first place -- had Barack Obama been white?
Is Philip Kennicott related to Doctor Professor Henry Louis Gates, jr.?
The Joker's makeup in "Dark Knight" -- the latest film in a long franchise that dramatizes fear of the urban world -- emphasized the wounded nature of the villain, the sense that he was both a product and source of violence. Although Ledger was white, and the Joker is white, this equation of the wounded and the wounding mirrors basic racial typology in America.
Okay -- Ledger is white, but he's really black.
Urban blacks -- the thinking goes -- don't just live in dangerous neighborhoods, they carry that danger with them like a virus. Scientific studies, which demonstrate the social consequences of living in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, get processed and misinterpreted in the popular unconscious, underscoring the idea. Violence breeds violence.
Okay -- ethnic culture has no real relation to crime; it's pure coincidence based upon geography.
Obama, like the Joker and like the racial stereotype of the black man, carries within him an unknowable, volatile and dangerous marker of urban violence, which could erupt at any time. The charge of socialism is secondary to the basic message that Obama can't be trusted, not because he is a politician, but because he's black.
Okay -- "I can hear the cuckoo singing in the cuckooberry tree..."
So in addition to clinging to our guns and our religion and attending town-hall meetings while wearing Brooks Brothers suits with swastika accessories, we're also racists for equating socialism with urban violence. Ooh-la-la, quel dommage!
Any possibility that perhaps the Post was punked?
Pernicious "Public Option" Polling Peculiarities
I noted in a post yesterday that in an otherwise coherent poll on ObamaCare, Quinnipiac inexplicably slipped in a Mickey, a bizarrely formulated question on the so-called "public option" or "government option;" as the question was phrased, it strongly implied that the individual insured, not his employer, gets to choose whether to stick with the private insurance his employer currently provides or jump ship for the loving embrace of Uncle Sugar:
23. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
Of course, no version of the Democratic health-care plan ever left that choice to the worker; they always put that decision in the hands of the employer -- and then stacked the deck, virtually shoving companies in the direction of government. (Hence the well-founded fear by us gun-totin', swastika-sportin', well-bribed, fishy mobsters, us capitalist-imperialist, running-dog, reactionary disruptors of official government information dispensing at town-hall meetings, that the real goal of ObamaCare is a full, Canadian-style, single-payer health "care" scheme.)
Why stiff the individual in favor of the capo? Because individual choice is messy: People often make "the wrong decision." That's why Democrats have always resisted privatizing Social Security with a ferocitry bordering on hysteria. Paradoxically, it's much easier to push around a company, even a giant corporation, that has so much more to lose by annoying the man in the big chair.
It turns out that Quinnipiac is not alone in the casual creativity with which they describe the government option. Reading through Polling Report's roundup of recent polls on ObamaCare, I came across this question asked by the CBS/New York Times poll of July 24-28, 2009:
Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?
Note the similarity of the responses to both these polling questions, each of which makes it seem as if you, personally, get to decide; could such wording have anything to do with the seemingly overwhelming support for the provision? In yesterday's post, I made the following prediction:
This would be a fairer and more accurate question that I wish they would ask:Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?
I suspect the answer to that question, making it clear that the choice belongs to the boss, not the worker-bees, would elicit a very different response from voters.
Polling Report reports many polls (hence the name); some ask a less loaded version of the government-option question than those by Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Contrast this question by the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll of July 24-27, 2009:
And, thinking about one aspect of the debate on health care legislation: Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?
That's quite a discrepency -- from 62-32 (30-point gap) and 67-27 (40-point gap) to 46-44 -- a 2-point gap.
And then there is this recent poll by Time Magazine, July 27-28, 2009:
Would you favor or oppose a health care bill that provides for the following?... Creates a government-sponsored public health insurance option to compete with private health insurance plans.
This shows a wider gap (20 points) than the NBC/WSJ poll; but the Time poll is very skewed to the left on virtually every question; clearly they had a much more liberal respondent pool. (For example, in the Time poll, a plurality of 49% favored "a national single-payer plan similar to Medicare for all, in which the government would provide health care insurance to all Americans" -- !)
But even with such a left-leaning sample, support for this question is significantly lower than support for the similar-but-different question on the Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT polls.
Anecdotally, support for the government "option" has waned in recent months, as more and more American voters understand that it's not a personal option for them but an "option" decided by their employers -- on a playing field that is anything but level. Thus it's hardly surprising that the further back in time we go, the more support we see for this component of ObamaCare. But even back in the Kaiser Family Foundation Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of July 7-14, 2009, in an ambigious wording of the question, we still do not see the high numbers of the two misleadingly worded questions on Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Kaiser asks:
Do you favor or oppose this? Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans:
July 7-14: Support 59% Oppose 36 (23-point lead)
April 2-8: Support 67% Oppose 29 (38-point lead)
(Note the trendline; in three months, the lead dropped by 40%.)
The punchline is that, as usual, the exact wording of questions often determines the poll result. I am more than ever convinced that with my even more honestly worded version of The Question -- "Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?" -- opposition would be even stronger, almost certainly a plurality.
Speculation aside, the cold fact is that voters have quite a disparate reaction to the government "option," depending on the wording of the question... that is, depending on how close it is to, or far from, the grotesque reality wending its way through Squeaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) House and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) Senate: The more voters know about the actual provision, the more they recoil.
The lesson Republicans should draw from this fact is to keep pounding on this provision until every last voter knows what the liberals are really proposing; don't let Nan and Pinky intimidate us into silence.
And while we're at it, let's shine a light on some of the other widely disliked provisions as well:
- Taxing the health benefits of working Americans;
- Taxpayer funding of abortions;
- Mammoth deficits marching into the future, caused by health-care "reform;"
- Subsidizing the government plan while hogtying private plans in red tape;
- And banning all private insurance that is not "qualified" -- where qualified means the plan must duplicate the gold-plated coverage the government will offer (at taxpayer expense)... thus cutting off the ability of the market to compete with the nanny state.
Find out when and where your congressman and your U.S. senators are holding a town-hall meeting; you may have to do a little digging, because after confronting angry voters time and time again, Democrats are probably going to start sending invitations only to registered Democrats (or perhaps only to their own campaign donors). Show up and politely but persistently demand answers to these vital questions.
They're your representatives; you have every right to insist they tell you where they stand... no matter how fishy such unObamic activities may sound to Linda Douglass.
Date ►►► August 5, 2009
My Loyalty Test - Do I Pass?
Sent: 2009-08-05 20:54 PDT
Subj: Anti-government health care nonsense on this website
I read the post on the White House blog, "Facts Are Stubborn Things," which said what we could do about misinformation and leis being told on the web about the healthcare plan.
I recently read two posts on the web that are just nonsense, and I hope you can do something about them. The first is here, http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2009/08/the_joys_of_gre.html and this is the second one: http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2009/08/light_dawns_on.html
(The same person also posted a very insulting set of lies about you on your birthday, here http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2009/08/obama_birthday.html but I don't suppose you can do anything about that; anybody can say what they want, even about the president of the United States.)
Please let me know what I should do about the health care lies and propaganda.
Thank you very much,
Dafydd ab Hugh
Light Dawns on Marblehead
If it seems to you that voters are rudely beginning to awaken to the looming health-care catastrophe that is ObamaCare -- then you're right! At least, so sayeth that well-known bastion of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Quinnipiac University. (Note to liberals who might read this: That last sentence was a sarcastic jibe, not a fair characterization of that fine institution of higher yearning.)
In a Quinnipiac poll of "2,409 registered voters nationwide," with an MOE of ±2%, here are some of the findings:
- By 57% to 37%, registered voters say Barack H. Obama should drop health-care reform if it would add significantly to the deficit.
- By 72% to 21%, voters think the Obamacle is lying to us about the looming deficits caused by ObamaCare.
(Quinnipiac phrases this more politely, of course: "By a 72 - 21 percent margin, voters do not believe that President Barack Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the health care system without adding to the deficit." In other words, he lies in his teeth.)
- 39% say the plan will "improve the quality of health care in the nation," but 41% say it will hurt the quality.
- More specifically, only 21% of voters think it will improve the quality of health care they, personally receive, while 36% think it will hurt the quality of care they receive.
Alas, this is yet another instance of the Democrats' best friend... the argument, "It might hurt me personally, but I'm sure it must be helping somebody somewhere!"
I believe this fantasy of an invisible army of losers who must be helped -- even at the expense of the very visible but silent majority of non-losers -- is a direct result of the victim mentality so carefully inculcated into our citizenry from childhood, via relentless propaganda in the public schools. The result is a nation of people who think they, personally, can handle their own affairs better than the government can... but who nevertheless support a government takeover because of all those other people who are helpless.
At least in this case, the nays still outnumber the yeas anent ObamaCare; yet the discrepancy abides.
- By a 44% to 34% margin, voters think ObamaCare will hurt, rather than help the economy.
- By 42% plurality to a scant 18%, voters think ObamaCare will make their own, personal health-care more expensive; 33% believe it will make no difference in the cost.
- Even more astonishing -- voters, by a whopping 66% to 6%, think ObamaCare will increase the taxes they pay. (23% think it won't make a difference.)
The poll contains one ray of sunshine for ultra left-wing Democrats, such as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and of course the One himself. But even on this question, I believe the favorable response is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding:
23. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
Sounds like voters really like that terrible government "option" component... but wait, what exactly did respondents think they were being asked about?
Read the question again: "Do you support or oppose giving people the option...?" I submit the most likely way for respondents to interpret that question is each individual deciding for himself between the government plan or a private plan he has now -- which is not how it will work, of course (as even President Obama has admitted).
Rather, the decision between the current private plan, a new private plan, or the government plan would be made, not by individual employees, but by the boss... and the deck will be stacked in favor of the government plan, giving employers monetary and regulatory incentives to drop their own company's coverage and just pay the feds to do it.
Employees will be forced, willy nilly, to go along with the switch, regardless of their own choices. If a respondent hadn't already heard this, he couldn't possibly figure it out from the Quinnipiac polling question.
This would be a fairer and more accurate question that I wish they would ask:
I suspect the answer to that question, making it clear that the choice belongs to the boss, not the worker-bees, would elicit a very different response from voters.
Still and all, excellent polling numbers from Quinnipiac. And more important, the trend is in the right direction; most of these questions were asked on a July 1st poll; and in every case, support for ObamaCare dropped significantly in one month, while opposition skyrocketed.
It appears that the more Democrats and the president explain their "reform" of medical-care coverage, the more they terrify voters. This actually bodes quite well for those of us who believe that in this case, the prescription is more deadly than the disease.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Obama Birthday Officially Declared National Holiday of Thanksgiving
Children recruited across nation to praise the Dear Leader, sing birthday songs, and create the world's largest beaded photo mosaic of President Barack H. Obama.
Dulcet tones will echo in every city, town, and hamlet in the United States as 48,000 children -- 1,000 for every year of the Obamacle's life -- simultaneously sing the special birthday song at exactly 6:42 and 18 seconds A.M. Hawaii time... the exact moment of Barack Obama's birth, as reportedly recorded on the long-form birth certificate of our 44th President, according to unidentified officials who have actually seen it somewhere.
The song -- "the Battle Hymn of Hope" -- was composed by Sir Elton John and Danny Elfman... with kibbitzing from Liza Minelli via teleconference from the Sagging Mountains Prandial Control Sanitarium.
The first verse, which was released to the press yesterday at a conference held in the Western White House on the grounds formerly occupied by Neverland, expresses the child singers' joy that Mr. Obama has come to save their schools from financial collapse and negative attitudes:
Oh yes we do
To our Dear Leader
We shall be true
At last our country
Obama, we serve you!
According to knowledgeable insiders who refused to give their real names -- mysteriously insisting they be identified only as Shadrach, Meshach, and I.B. Nekkid, or the Three Young Dudes -- the other thirteen verses commemorate the great labors B.O. has already performed since January 20th.
The main festivities will commence immediately the song sputters to a close. Fluorescent candles will be activated to simulate the 77 days of turmoil between the election and the inauguration, when even the wisest were unsure who exactly was President anyway. After the invocation by the Berrigan Brothers, a brief and fleeting moment of silence will be observed to commemorate the seven lean years to come. The previous administration will be lightly dusted with flour and baked in effigy.
A three-day bank/school holiday has been declared. The One We Have Been Salivating For will end the solemn interval by singing an executive order declaring liberty, equality, and fraternity for all; the emancipation of all the slaves; and a long sought end to divisive and uncharitable criticism of the Dear Leader and his Dear Administration.
Poi and Spam sushi will be served in every school cafeteria during the ceremonies until Freaky Friday, when the penance shall be lifted for all those who avoided it earlier.
American voters of every race, creed, ideology, and nationality are invited to participate in this historic, audacious event by sending in their pledge cards and union votes. Beverages and health care will be available at subsidized prices.
Date ►►► August 4, 2009
Quid Pro... What? UPDATED
Look up the phrase "quid pro quo," and you discover that it literally means "something for something." To distinquish, let's rewrite that as "this for that."
We know the "this" -- Kim Jong-Il released a couple of journalists that North Korea had kidnapped in June then threatened to hold captive for twelve years (claiming they committed a "grave crime," never specified). Since they were released, and this is North Korea we're talking about, there must likewise be a "that" -- the Dear Leader must have got something in return.
Some argue that what Kim got was merely publicity, a propaganda coup -- having a former American president crawl to Pyongyang, hat in hand as the Beggar President, pleading with Kim to release the hostages (at least, that's how the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will portray it) -- and a chance to pretend to magnanimity. John Bolton, among others, pointed this much out; and yes, Kim got all that.
UPDATE: Evidently, if CNN can be believed, Bill Clinton also confessed on behalf of the captives to the ludicrous charges leveled against them by their captors; in fact, he apologized for them:
"Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it," the news agency reported. "Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong Il an earnest request of the U.S. government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view.
I can only add... well, nothing. Clinton's loathsome obsequiousness speaks for itself.
That would be bad enough; but judging from Kim's prior behavior, I am convinced that he must have got something else, a more concrete and explicit "that" than the fuzzy-bunny, feel good gestures enumerated above. So what is it? What quo did President Barack H. Obama, via Bill Clinton, give him to balance the quid of releasing the two hostages? After all, Kim already knew he could have kept them indefinitely without any fear of retribution or punishment from the One.
I suspect what we offered Kim is itself a grave crime: I believe the only thing that would tempt Kim Jong-Il into releasing his bargaining chips is if he got the very bargan he wants... to be treated as leniently as Obama treats Iran on the same issue, the development of nuclear weaponry. I believe that what the One promised Kim is that he would turn a blind eye to North Korea's future nuclear program, the same way he has turned the other blind eye to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (If you're keeping count, that's two blind eyes.)
I'm sure that "talks" will ensue; but they will be show talks, like a show trial -- a farce to allow the United States to save its face, with the result predetermined. The talks will not be unconditional; they will commence with a major concession by the American side: That in the end, we will allow North Korea to have nuclear missiles capable of striking Japan, India, and even Australia (let alone South Korea).
My only question is whether that's the entirety of the second "something." Did the Obamacle, speaking ex cathedra through the Mouth of Sauron, promise something more... say, sweatboxing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo into adopting the "reunification" policy of insane former President and recent suicide Roh Moo-hyun? Roh's "sunshine policy" amounted to complete appeasement... leading many to believe Roh was even willing to reunify the two Koreas under Kim Jong-Il's rule.
Did Obama and the Clintons negotiate with a terrorist state to sell South Korea down the river, as part of their effort to restore the primacy of "diplomacy" and gain a propaganda coup of their own -- the release of the captives? Or did they merely bargain away any small hope we had of forcibly stopping the Communist thugocracy from gaining a full nuclear arsenal, with which to threaten the entire Asian region, from India to Mongolia?
I fear we won't know the full extent of Barack Obama's capitulation to the Dear Leader until it's much too late to do anything to mitigate it.
Stuporman vs. Mighty Mouth
Just a head's up -- and this should be good:
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is demanding that the Justice Department explain why it recently dismissed a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place during last year's election, saying the department has offered only "weak justifications...."
Mr. Reynolds also charged that other groups might not have been treated so leniently.
"If you swap out the New Black Panther Party in this case for neo-Nazi groups or the Ku Klux Klan, you likely would have had a different outcome," he told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Monday.
"A single law, a single rule should be applied across the board. We are communicating with the department in hopes of gaining a better understanding of just what happened."
Yes, this is just one of those "keep watching the skies" type posts... but oooh, what a light show!
The Justice Department was also in the final stages of seeking sanctions when a delay in the proceedings was ordered by Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general.
The ruling was issued after she met with Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the department's No. 3 political appointee, who approved the decision, according to interviews with department officials who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
But of course, that meeting was entirely coincidental... as was President Barack H. Obama wading into the Crowleygates scandal on the side of the pompous university blacktivist; as was nominating a Supreme Court justice who decided at least one case on what appears to be a flagrantly racialist basis.
The HRC (Human Rights Commission -- not the Secretary of State) explained its position in an earlier letter:
In a June 16 letter, the commission told the Justice Department that its decision to drop the case had caused it "great confusion" since the New Black Panther Party's members were "caught on video blocking access to the polls, and physically threatening and verbally harassing voters."
The letter said that even after the case had been won, the department "took the unusual move of voluntarily dismissing the charges," which, it wrote, sent "the wrong message entirely -- that attempts at voter suppression will be tolerated and will not be vigorously prosecuted so long as the groups or individuals who engage in them fail to respond to the charges leveled against them."
Or unless the defendants have a last name like "Shabazz."
Who Are We to Face Down Peasants With Pitchforks and Deny Them Their Meat and Circuses?
Hey, kids, everyone's doing it... let's join the launch mob!
The jamoke's on us
Date ►►► August 3, 2009
Lizardian Credo of Sanity - UPDATED already!
I'm extracting this from the comments of a Dave Ross post and posting it here. Just because.
Lizardian Credo of Sanity (a required taste)
We hold these truths to be self evident...
- That Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not fake the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor;
- That Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy (and was the lone gunman);
- That a dozen American astronauts walked on the Moon between July 21st, 1969 (Neil Armstrong) and December 14th, 1972 (Eugene Cernan);
- That President George W. Bush was properly elected President on November 7th, 2000 (no matter how long it took to determine that fact);
- That nineteen Islamic militants working for al-Qaeda hijacked airplanes and used them to knock down the two World Trade Centers towers, damage the Pentagon, and drive a plane into a Pennsylvania field;
- That President George W. Bush did not cause Hurricane Katrina;
- That Barack H. Obama is a natural-born American citizen, properly (if foolishly) elected President on November 4th, 2008, duly sworn, and is the legitimate (radical, misguided, and destructive of America's national character) POTUS.
UPDATE: Hat tip to Radley Balko/twit, via a hat tip from Balko's best friend, Patterico:
The first truly persuasive evidence that Obama is not a native-born American citizen...
Wherein We Find That Britain's Government "Option" Is a Pain in the Back
A crystal ball for America. Here is our future under ObamaCare:
Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.
The Government's drug rationing watchdog says "therapeutic" injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.
Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.
Acupuncture? Say, if that doesn't work, there's always cupping and bleeding. At least they're cutting pain treatment in a NICE way.
But wait a minute. What percent cut are we talking about? Surely this is just a small statistical adjustment, right?
The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million.
See? It's not a wholesale slashing of patient care; it's only a minor pruning... of 95% of all cortisone pain treatment. In any event, there is an obvious up-side to this: The National Health Service of the UK will save £33 million -- $56 million, a whopping $980 per patient cut from the program.
Here is the problem: When a government gets into financial trouble, there are only three things it can do:
- Run an increasingly large deficit;
- Raise taxes;
- Cut spending.
Number 1 is problematical, because large deficits produce inflation, which produces successful electoral challenges from the other party.
Number 2 doesn't work because of the Laffer curve, which demonstrates that a point exists beyond which increasing tax rates doesn't increase revenue, it reduces revenue. Few countries can resist increasing taxation right up to that point... and bitter experience teaches them that they cannot then increase government revenue by jacking up the tax rates again.
That leaves only number 3, cutting spending. But that itself carries several dangers to the sitting administration. There are only three ways to cut spending:
- The administration can cut porkbarrel spending;
- It can cut highly visible programs that have powerful champions in Congress;
- It can cut the costs of ongoing programs, over which it already has complete control of day to day spending, by a series of nearly invisible changes, none of which individually has strong support in Congress.
Number 1 is problematical, because pork is the primary way that members of Congress buy votes back home, so they jealously guard such spending from Executive monkeying.
Number 2 doesn't work, because powerful members of Congress can hold up all legislation until their own pet programs are restored and even increased.
That leaves only number 3, cutting that spending which is fixed by formula, by quietly manipulating some critical variable in that formula, which results in automatic "savings" -- for which no individual can later be blamed at the polls.
After all, it's not like Uncle Scrooge is simply slashing treatment in order to minimize costs; perish any such thought. The administration is not simply making up policy; the change comes direct from a panel of medical experts -- remote, anonymous, and unaccountable:
The NICE guidelines admit that evidence was limited for many back pain treatments, including those it recommended. Where scientific proof was lacking, advice was instead taken from its expert group. But specialists are furious that while the group included practitioners of alternative therapies, there was no one with expertise in conventional pain relief medicine to argue against a decision to significantly restrict its use.
Put everything together, and what do we get? That one of the easiest, least visible, and cheapest (in units of electoral retribution) way to appear to restore fiscal responsibility is for the president to order changes in a few small variables in spending formulas:
- Reduce the percent of health-care charges for which the government plan will reimburse doctors and hospitals;
- Reduce the allowable charges by doctors and hospitals for each procedure;
- Ban or dramatically reduce certain more expensive procedures -- by declaring them "ineffective," for example;
- Filter the patient pool by restricting treatment for those less likely to live much longer anyway, thus denying care to older or sicker patients;
- Lowering the lifetime cap on medical benefits;
- Funneling patients into particular favored health-care providers, who charge less and make it up in volume;
- Reduce the amount of time doctors are allowed to spend with each patient (volume, volume, volume!);
- Reduce the number of days patients are allowed to stay in hospital;
- Require patients' families to provide some of the care, such as hygiene (bathing, bedpans) and physical therapy;
- Reduce costs by skimping on ancillary expenses, such as nutrition, heating, and lighting;
- Shunt more patients into relatively inexpensive hospice care by changing the standards for which conditions get hospital or doctor care and which do not.
Of course, many private or group insurance plans attempt these same cost-cutting measures; but they must deal with actual competition from other plans, so they don't have carte blanche. The more miserly they make their benefits, the less they can charge for coverage, lest they lose their customers.
But such market responses don't affect a government health-care plan, because it doesn't have to worry about competition; it can reduce benefits yet continue to charge the same amount. Consumers cannot jump ship for private competitors for a number of reasons:
- A national plan can force everyone to pay for it by law; every major country that begins with a government "option" ends with the option being mandatory... so any private plan people obtain must be in addition to, not instead of, the government plan.
- Even before that happens, the national plan can use its sheer size to force health-care providers, drug companies, and so forth to sell to them at any price the government health-care plan offers, undercutting smaller private plans;
- It can set administrative standards in a way designed to drive out private companies -- for example, by requiring that every private plan duplicate the federal plan, or by preventing private plans from charging less than the national plan;
- The national plan can operate at a loss and subsidize itself with taxes (see Amtrack);
- And It can use its auditing authority to threaten and abuse potential competitors and intimidate them out of the business.
We see this same dynamic in every, single country that has either full-blown national health care, as in many Canadian provinces that actually prohibit private care or private insurance -- or even a "government option" that operates alongside a private health-insurance system, as in Japan and even (to a lesser extent) Great Britain.
A government "option" quickly gobbles up nearly all patients, becoming a de facto or even literal national health service. Typically, fewer than 10% of patients can afford to pay for private health insurance on top of the mandatory premiums and taxes they must pay for the national health service; only the rich can do so.
This sets up a two-tier system: Those with a lot of money get much better health care, the very "scandal" that is used to sell nationalized health care in the first place.
But there is some hope: Even in Canada, some provinces (such as Quebec) are struggling to reform their national health services by introducing a radical, new idea: Competition by private insurance!
So even if the Democrats manage to foist ObamaCare on the entire country, after a couple, three generations, we might possibly regain our senses and try to push it back -- a bit.
The new NICE policy of pain "management" in the United Kingdom illustrates the old saying about national health care: The government health-care policy is... don't get sick! And whatever you do in Merrie Olde England -- or soon to be Merrie Olde Obamastan -- don't let anyone or anything become a pain in the back, unless you don't mind being needled by the pinheads in D.C.
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