Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Central Difficulty

Here is a strong argument by Sean Trende why the health care boondoggle has a good chance of being repealed:

… This bill is substantively different than Social Security and Medicare.

My colleague Jay Cost made a critical point a few days ago:

“Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson made use of an ingenious social insurance system – promoting the idea that we all pay in today to take out tomorrow. It was consistent with American individualism. It was simple. It was intuitive. It was bipartisan. Obama’s new system has none of those virtues.”

This feature is what makes repealing or substantially modifying Social Security and/or Medicare so difficult. They are entitlements that are broadly given to the middle class, who also pays for them. …Everyone, from the poorest member of society to Bill Gates, has some stake in Social Security and Medicare.

By the time a member of the middle class retires at age 65, he will have likely paid tens of thousands of dollars into the Social Security system. He expects to get that money back. The same goes for Medicare… In other words, cutting Social Security or Medicare requires taking something away from the middle class that they’ve already paid for. That’s obviously hard to do.

While this bill was intended to be a broad middle class entitlement in the mold of Social Security and Medicare, it is fundamentally different. It is funded by a variety of mechanisms that target specific stakeholders. It is paid for primarily by Medicare beneficiaries and the wealthy, neither of whom are likely to receive the benefits. While beneficiaries will have a stake in the program, it will not be as substantial as their stake in their Medicare or Social Security benefits, which they have already essentially “bought” by the time they approach retirement.

Moreover, this bill will have a smaller number of beneficiaries, especially at first. Democrats like to brag that in the weeks after the bill has passed, the ban on pre-existing conditions will be lifted for children, adults with pre-existing conditions will be allowed to participate in high-risk insurance pools, and adults will be able to maintain their children on their insurance until those children turn twenty-six.

These are popular features of the bill, but I’m not certain how broad their appeal is. Most people do not have pre-existing conditions that they know of, nor do they have children with pre-existing conditions… I’ve not seen statistics on the number of parents who would like to keep their children on their insurance policies, but I imagine the number is relatively small compared to the vast number of people who are eligible for Medicare or Social Security.

Indeed, the central difficulty that the bill will run up against is the same one it has run up against all along: most people already have health insurance, and most people are basically happy with their insurance…the bill creates a number of real losers as well: People who participate in Medicare Advantage, healthy people who would rather not purchase insurance, and people whose employers stop providing health insurance as a result of the bill…

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The Empty Gift Box

Here’s something scary to think about from Bill Frezza:

…According to the most recent Social Security and Medicare trustees report, the unfunded liabilities of these New Deal and Great Society programs exceed $100 trillion dollars. Add the unfunded Medicaid mandates imposed on the states along with the pension liabilities of millions of federal, state, and local government employees and the total becomes almost impossible to comprehend.

Try this on for size. If you confiscated the entire Gross Domestic Product of the US for ten years you couldn’t cover all these liabilities.

Confiscate the GDP? That’s Communism! OK, how about confiscating half the GDP? Too late, that money is already spoken for.

Combined Federal, State, and Local government spending is now at 37.5% of GDP and heading north. The European Union, our Progressive model, has already passed the 50% mark.

Note that these confiscatory levels of taxation can’t even cover this year’s spending. None of the money already being diverted from the economy is being used to shore up the aforementioned liabilities. These not only remain but are swelled by annual deficits.

Get the picture? Obama just handed the American people an empty gift box. Good luck collecting…

Pushy Jews

Wesley Pruden on Israel’s “friends”:

This is the moment a certain number of a certain breed of Democrats have been waiting for. The latest outburst of bad feeling between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu can be the cover they seek for finally putting the Jews in their place.

First the president went to the Middle East to apologize to the Muslims for America being America, and couldn’t find the time for a stopover in Israel, America’s only true friend in the region. Then he dispatched Joe Biden, the vice president who says he is an “ardent Zionist,” to Jerusalem to try to mollify the Israelis with a cheap and sentimental love song with lyrics that nobody believes. The mission quickly blew up when the veep used the occasion to lecture the Israelis for building 1,600 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian bomb-throwers and their American apologists insist on calling “settlements.” Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, followed up with some nasty remarks.

Then came Mr. Netanyahu’s long-scheduled visit to Washington, and things went from troubling to bad, and then to really bad. The Israeli prime minister, speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential organization of American Jews, reminded everyone that “Jerusalem is not a settlement; it is our capital.” Israel’s enemies are real. “The ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel has not deterred these fanatics. In fact, it has only whetted their appetite. Iran’s rulers say, ‘Israel is a one-bomb country.’ The head of Hezbollah says, ‘If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide. …’ The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the good will of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”

For this statement of fact, Mr. Netanyahu is rebuked as “defiant,” and accused of trying to drive a wedge between Mr. Obama, who wishes the Israelis wouldn’t be so beastly to the Palestinians, and Congress, which can, when propped up by angry constituents, sometimes do the right thing.

Democrats were once regarded as the best friends Israel had – Harry S. Truman, a Democratic president and a Southern Baptist, was the first head of state to recognize Israel – but now it’s the Republicans who are steadfast in support of the Jewish state. Says Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Conference: “I never thought I’d live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the Jewish state of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem.”

Some Democrats comfort themselves with the notion, understandable in the light of history, that American Jews will continue to vote Democratic no matter what Mr. Obama and his party do to undermine the Jewish state. The Israelis, under constant siege and occasional bombardment, are not so easily taken in…

Unheard Of, Until This Week

From a Times of London news story:

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”…

Try to imagine the reaction if George W. Bush had treated the President of Equatorial Guinea as Barry treated the Prime Minister of Israel. The Democratic Party Spin Machine, the New York Times and the wacky crew at MSNBC would have dropped a 12 kiloton thermonuclear R-Bomb.

Gimme Shelter

Max Boot, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

…To consider the implications [of the health insurance bill] for defense, look at Europe. Last year government spending in the 27 European Union nations hit 52% of GDP. But most of them struggle to devote even 2% of GDP to defense, compared to more than 4% in the U.S.

When Europeans after World War II chose to skimp on defense and spend lavishly on social welfare, they abdicated their claims to great power status. That worked out well for them because their security was subsidized by the U.S.

But what happens if the U.S. switches spending from defense to social welfare? Who will protect what used to be known as the “Free World”? Who will police the sea lanes, stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combat terrorism, respond to genocide and other unconscionable human rights violations, and deter rogue states from aggression? Those are all responsibilities currently performed by America. But it will be increasingly hard to be globocop and nanny state at the same time. Something will have to give.

Now I know a lot of liberals think America should retire from the job of globocop, but I don’t see any other nation or organization stepping up to the plate to assume the burden. Of course there are lots of demented folks who think the world doesn’t need a policeman.

But even the citizens of the People’s Republic of the Upper West Side of New York would flee for their lives if the NYPD were eliminated.

History shows that defense can be cut, but middle class entitlements are forever. You can run for your lives, but where will you run now that Barry and the Democrats have set us on the path to European-style cradle-to-grave welfare statism?

Our Comprehensive Brave New World

Jonathan Tobin writes:

…the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed…

And Victor Davis Hanson on our brave new world of “comprehensive reform” of America:

… Obama has thrown down the gauntlet, and is trying to reify the sloganeering of the 1960s. He apparently reasons along the following lines: that centrist talk was campaign fluff; the voters fell for it, and now it’s his turn to remake America with 51% of the House and 44% of the people. Think Sweden, or, better, Greece as our model at home, and something like America as Brazil in matters of foreign policy. Apparently, Obama figures that people now may not like the present partisanship, but they didn’t like FDR at the time either. Yet whom do they associate their Social Security checks with? Hoover? Coolidge? Harding?

I don’t see why the ram-it-through, health care formula won’t be followed by similar strategies for blanket amnesty, cap and trade, and expansions of the state takeover of cars, banks, student loans, and energy.

Remember, all these will be packaged as “comprehensive” reform — comprehensive health care, comprehensive immigration, comprehensive energy, comprehensive monitoring of even the banal decisions we make. So what does comprehensive really mean, other than all of us are going to get even more official looking letters in the mail, advising us to fill out a form, pay a fine, and be warned that a new regulation or tax is on the way — followed by the usual state/federal representative’s newsletter bragging about some new entitlement that he “won” for us with our borrowed money?…

The Bureau of Motion Picture Condom Regulation

Another Mark Steyn gem:

On Thursday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to set up a committee to examine whether condoms should be required on all pornographic film shoots within the Golden State.

For a government regulatory hearing, the testimony was livelier than usual. The porn star Madelyne Hernandez recalled an especially grueling scene in which she had been obliged to have sex with 75 men. The bureaucrats nodded thoughtfully, no doubt contemplating another languorous 18-month committee assignment looking into capping the number of group-sex participants at 60 per scene. In future, if a porn actress finds 75 men waiting for her on the set, they’ll be bureaucrats from Sacramento’s Condom Enforcement Squad…

Meanwhile, Obamacare will result in the creation of at least 16,500 new jobs. Doctors? Nurses? Ha! Dream on, suckers. That’s 16,500 new IRS agents, who’ll be needed to check whether you – yes, you, Mr. and Mrs. Hopendope of 27 Hopeychangey Gardens – are in compliance with the 15 tax increases and dozens of new federal mandates the Deemocrats are about to “deem” into existence. This will be the biggest expansion of the IRS since World War II – and that’s change you can believe in. This is what “health” “care” “reform” boils down to: Fewer doctors, longer wait times, but more bureaucrats. And, when you walk into the Health Care Enforcement Division of the IRS, the staffing levels will make Madelyne Hernandez’s group-sex scene look like an Equity-minimum one-man play off-off-off-Broadway…

Investor’s Business Daily argues that the “health” debate is really a proxy fight on the size and role of government. According to their poll, 64 percent of people think the federal government has “too much power.”

Correct. But a big chunk of that 64 percent voted less than 18 months ago for a man and a party explicitly committed to more government with more power, and they’re now living with the consequences. Obama is government, and government is Obama. That’s all he knows and all he’s ever known. You elected to the highest office in the land a man who’s never run a business or created wealth or made a payroll, and for his entire adult life has hung out with guys who’ve demonized (demonized?) such grubby activities. Many of which associates he appointed to high office: Obama’s Cabinet has less experience of private business than any in the past century. What it knows is government, and government’s default mode is to grow, and grow.

California is bankrupt: The dependent class and the government class that issues the checks to the dependent class have squeezed out the poor boobs in the middle who have to pay for it all. Everybody knows this. But a state that already has a Bureau of Home Furnishings cannot restrain itself from setting up a Bureau of Motion Picture Condom Regulation – or, anyway, an impact study to study whether the Bureau of Impact Studies should study the impact of a Bureau of Motion Picture Condom Regulation.

Look around you, and take it all in. From now on, it gets worse…

Enemy of Our Friends and Friend to Our Enemies

The London Telegraph’s Nile Gardiner on Barry, the appeaser of our enemies and enemy of our friends:

Perhaps only one thing is certain about the course of the Obama administration’s ham-fisted foreign policy – there is no depth to which it will not stoop to kick America’s allies in the teeth while cuddling up to her enemies. In the past month we’ve seen ample evidence of this with the State Department’s appalling decision to openly side with Argentina against Great Britain over the Falklands, and the White House’s bullying of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Obama team swiftly issued a groveling apology to terrorist sponsor Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for earlier casting aspersions over the Butcher of Tripoli’s call for a jihad against Switzerland. A barbaric Islamist tyrant with American blood on his hands is, incredibly, treated better than the leaders of both Britain and Israel…

Contrast President Obama’s softly, softly treatment of the Iranian theocracy led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map – with that of his distinctly aggressive stance towards Israel. Every effort has been made to engage Tehran, and appease its leaders, from remaining silent over its brutal beating and murder of protestors to turning a blind eye to Tehran’s military and financial support for both the Taliban in Afghanistan and terrorist groups in Iraq. At the same time, the Iranians continue to bankroll and arm Hamas and Hizbollah, whose sole aim is the destruction of Israel.

In the space of just over a year, Barack Obama has managed to significantly damage relations with America’s two closest friends, while currying favour with practically every monstrous dictatorship on the face of the earth. The doctrine of “smart power” has evolved into the shameless appeasement of America’s enemies at the expense of existing alliances. There is nothing clever about this approach – it will ultimately weaken US global power and strengthen the hand of America’s enemies, who have become significantly emboldened and empowered by Barack Obama’s naïve approach since he took office…

Just Ask Toyota

Amazing as it may seem, the right-wing bimbo Ann Coulter has a great health plan:

…We can’t have a free market in health insurance until Congress eliminates the antitrust exemption protecting health insurance companies from competition. If Democrats really wanted to punish insurance companies, which they manifestly do not, they’d make insurers compete.

The very next sentence of my bill provides that the exclusive regulator of insurance companies will be the state where the company’s home office is. Every insurance company in the country would incorporate in the state with the fewest government mandates, just as most corporations are based in Delaware today.

That’s the only way to bypass idiotic state mandates, requiring all insurance plans offered in the state to cover, for example, the Zone Diet, sex-change operations…

President Obama says we need national health care because Natoma Canfield of Ohio had to drop her insurance when she couldn’t afford the $6,700 premiums, and now she’s got cancer.

Much as I admire Obama’s use of terminally ill human beings as political props, let me point out here that perhaps Natoma could have afforded insurance had she not been required by Ohio’s state insurance mandates to purchase a plan that covers infertility treatments and unlimited ob/gyn visits, among other things.

It sounds like Natoma could have used a plan that covered only the basics — you know, things like cancer…

Instead of Harry Reid deciding whether your insurance plan covers Viagra, this decision would be made by you, the consumer. (I apologize for using the terms “Harry Reid” and “Viagra” in the same sentence. I promise that won’t happen again.) …

Hypochondriac liberals could still buy the aromatherapy plan and normal people would be able to buy plans that only cover things like major illness, accidents and disease. (Again — things like Natoma Canfield’s cancer.)…

For example, in a free market, the government wouldn’t need to prohibit insurance companies from excluding “pre-existing conditions.”

Of course, an insurance company has to be able to refuse new customers with “pre-existing conditions.” Otherwise, everyone would just wait to get sick to buy insurance. It’s the same reason you can’t buy fire insurance on a house that’s already on fire.

That isn’t an “insurance company”; it’s what’s known as a “Christian charity.”

What Democrats are insinuating when they denounce exclusions of “pre-existing conditions” is an insurance company using the “pre-existing condition” ruse to deny coverage to a current policy holder — someone who’s been paying into the plan, year after year.

Any insurance company operating in the free market that pulled that trick wouldn’t stay in business long…

The market is a more powerful enforcement mechanism than indolent government bureaucrats. If you don’t believe me, ask Toyota about six months from now…

Chicago, D.C.

The invaluable Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass:

Not even three or four pipes full of Hopium could have convinced me that the Congress of the United States would ever start looking like the Chicago City Council.

But now, with the Chicago Way White House twisting arms for its federal health care legislation, Democrats in Congress and Chicago aldermen are beginning to share a remarkable resemblance.

They’re starting to look like fall guys.

“The Congress? They’re acting like aldermen. Like fall guys. And we know all about fall guys in the city of Chicago,” said Jim Laski, a former Chicago alderman and former federal inmate who is now a WGN radio talk show host…

“These congressmen are starting to understand what it’s like in Chicago, with the Chicago guys running the White House. They (the Democrats) have to know they’re the fall guys,” Laski said. “Otherwise, why would they so desperate to keep their fingerprints off the health care thing?”

Things are looking more Chicago in Washington all the time.

In Chicago, the mayor gets what he wants, and the mayor’s friends get what they want. And the aldermen? They get the ridicule and the blame.

If the president gets what he desires — a health care victory — then Congress will pay for it in the midterm elections in November, and they know it.

The proof is in that latest congressional trick announced on Tuesday, a ploy so weaselly that it could have been hatched by Chicago politicians…

“This whole health care thing is Chicago,” Laski said.

Except, that in Chicago, the mayor’s guy doesn’t meet you naked in the shower to twist your arm. It’s just not done.

“But in Chicago, you’re an alderman and the mayor’s guy comes in your office, drops a legislative package on your desk, and then says, ‘You vote ‘yes’ on this tomorrow, OK?’

“You haven’t read it, you really don’t know who’s going to make a score, there are no real details, but you’re expected to vote for it.

“The same thing with health care in Washington. Who knows what’s really in it? Nobody. But the president’s guys tell the congressmen, ‘You vote on this or else.’ It’s called arm-twisting but it’s really arm-breaking. That’s the Chicago Way.”…