RTCS

Views on the News

July 25, 2009

 

Views on the News*

Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike. Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie have painted a bleak picture for America’s future under Obama. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52% think Obama is trying to "accomplish too much," and 57% think the country is on the "wrong track." The "stimulus" package, justified by Vice President Joe Biden as necessary to "go spend money to keep from going bankrupt," has since been revealed to be an orgy of federal pork bestowed to every liberal special interest group known to exist. From a lousy cap-and-trade bill awaiting death in the Senate to a health-care reform agenda already weak in the knees to the failure of the stimulus to deliver promised jobs and economic activity, what once looked like a “hope-tastic” juggernaut is showing all the horsepower of a Chevy Cobalt. He seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter. What is most important, as with Carter, is his specific policies are genuinely unpopular. The auto bailout springing as it has from a fund specifically earmarked for financial institutions has been reviled from the get-go, with opposition consistently polling north of 60%. Majorities have said no to bank bailouts and to “cap and trade” if it would make electricity significantly more expensive. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, more than 80% are concerned that health-care reform will increase costs or diminish the quality of care. Even as two House committees passed a reform bill last week, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned that the proposal "significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs" and dramatically raises the cost "curve." There's no question that Obama's massively ambitious domestic agenda is at a fork in the road: One route leads to Plains, Ga., and early retirement, the other to Hope, Ark., a second term and the revitalization of the American economy. The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. The longer a bill sits around, the more its contents are dissected and the less likely it is to pass, which explains Obama’s haste to pass his bills before anyone has a chance to read them! Beyond pushing the "emergency" $787 billion stimulus package (even while acknowledging that the vast majority of funds would be released in 2010 and beyond), Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill and a $106 billion supplemental spending bill to cover "emergency" expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, improbably, a "cash for clunkers" program). In the same way that Bush claimed to be cutting government even while increasing real spending by more than 70%, Obama seems to believe that saying one thing, while doing another, somehow makes it so. He vowed no new taxes on 95% of Americans, then jacked up cigarette taxes and indicated a willingness to consider new health-care taxes as part of his reform package. He said he didn't want to take over General Motors on the day that he took over General Motors. Such is the extent of Obama's magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn't even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of “providing the American people more transparency in government.” What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance. Instead, Obama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another. As history has shown, the U.S. economy is resilient enough to overcome the worst-laid plans from the White House. No matter how many fantastical multipliers Obama ascribes to government spending, with each day comes refutation of the administration's promises on jobs and economic growth. Save terms such as "fiscal responsibility" for policies that at least minimally resemble that notion. Don't pretend that a budget that doubles the national debt in five years and triples it in 10 is the work of politicians tackling "the difficult choices." Americans have a pretty good (if slow-to-activate) B.S. detector, and the more you mislead them now, the worse they'll punish you later.

 

It's not surprising that the much-ballyhooed economic “stimulus" hasn't done much stimulating, and President Obama and his aides argue that it's too early to expect startling results, and they have a point. Robert Samuelson agrees that a $14 trillion economy won't revive in a nanosecond, but the defects of the $787 billion package go deeper and won't be cured by time. The program crafted by Obama and the Democratic Congress wasn't engineered to maximize its economic impact. It was mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes. As a result, much of the stimulus's potential benefit has been squandered. When the Congressional Budget Office made job estimates, it presented a range of 1.2 million to 3.6 million by year-end 2010. Whatever the actual figures, they won't soon mean an increase in overall employment. They will merely limit job losses. Whatever the virtues of these programs, the effects are diluted and delayed. The CBO estimated that nearly 30% of the economic effects would occur after 2010. Ignored was any concerted effort to improve consumer and business confidence by resuscitating the most distressed economic sectors. The problem with the first stimulus was more its composition than its size. With budget deficits for 2009 and 2010 estimated by the CBO at $1.8 trillion and $1.4 trillion (respectively, 13% and 9.9% of gross domestic product), it's hard to argue they're too tiny. Obama and Congressional Democrats sacrificed real economic stimulus to promote parochial political interests.

 

The Obama administration's attempts to nationalize most health care and to begin to control Americans' energy consumption through cap-and-trade are enabling more and more Americans to understand the thinking and therefore the danger of the left. Dennis Prager sees what Obama is doing as attempting to remake America. In so doing some principals of the left are becoming clearer to more Americans:

·    The left, as distinct from traditional liberals, is not, and has never been, interested in creating wealth. The left is interested in redistributing wealth, not creating it.

·    The reason the left asks why there is poverty instead of why there is wealth is that the left's preoccupying ideal is equality -- not economic growth. And those who are preoccupied with equality are more troubled by wealth than by poverty.

·    The left everywhere seeks to make as big and powerful a state as possible. It does so because only the state can redistribute society's wealth, and because only a strong and powerful state can impose values on society.

·    The left imposes its values on others whenever possible and to the extent possible. That is why virtually every totalitarian regime in the 20th century was left-wing. Therefore, the morally superior have the right, indeed the duty, to impose their values on the rest of us: what light bulbs we use, what cars we drive, what we may ask a prospective employee, how we may discipline our children, and, of course, how much of our earnings we may keep.

The president of the United States and the much of the Democratic Party embody these left-wing principals. Right now, America's only hope of staying American rather than becoming European lies in making these principals as clear as possible to as many Americans as possible. The left is so giddy with power right now that America may actually have a chance to reverse this malignancy.

 

Obama is clearly a product of his Chicago political upbringing, since his first reaction has been to attack his accusers to discredit their criticism as prescribed in Saul Alinsky “Rules for Radicals.” Obama has promised to be the most "transparent" in history yet his actions demonstrate his immediate tendency to suppress criticism that does not support his political agenda. The first evidence is the disturbing trend to remove those federal Inspectors General that uncover problems in government agencies in a smoldering "IG Gate" scandal. Beginning with the White House's quit-or-be-fired ultimatum to AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin on June 10, two other Inspectors General left their posts in what appears to be a pattern of administration pressure against IGs. When Congressional investigators asked about White House involvement in decision to fire Walpin AmeriCorp counsel refused to answer saying that he was "not authorized" to discuss the subject. International Trade Commission IG Judith Gwynne was told June 17 that her contract would not be renewed, shortly after Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked about a March incident in which "certain procurement files were removed forcibly from the possession of the Inspector General by a Commission employee.” On June 18, Amtrak IG Fred Wiederhold submitted a report showing that the federally subsidized passenger rail service had "systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act," and then was forced to retire. Now there is a Congressional bill authorizing Obama power to dismiss five more Inspectors General, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. More evidence off the “Chicago Way” of intimidating critics lies in threatening political payback if critics continue their dissent. Now the Obama administration is crudely attempting to punish / silence Senator Jon Kyl for saying the stimulus should be cancelled by having four cabinet members write to his governor to ask if she wanted to forfeit stimulus money for her state. This trend of punishing the accusers puts the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in the crosshairs. Unflattering financial assessments may cause Obama to replace the CBO leadership team for better results

 

A series of TARP bailouts, bank rescues and other economic lifelines could end up costing the federal government as much as $23 trillion – a staggering amount that is nearly double the nation’s entire economic output for a year. Originally, TARP was intended to facilitate “the purchase, management, and sale of up to $700 billion of “toxic” assets, primarily troubled mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.” The original plan was soon rejected, and the TARP instead became a grab bag of bailout initiatives, including bailouts for GM, Chrysler and auto parts suppliers as the federal government struggled in real time to contain a spiraling economic disaster. The following government "help-America" programs have all failed to meet their objectives:

·    TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program)

·    PPIP (Public-Private Investment Program)

·    TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility)

·    TLGP (Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program)

·    CAP (Capital Assistance Program)

·    TIP (Targeted Investment Program)

·    HASP (Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan)

·    CPFF (Commercial Paper Funding Facility)

·    AMLF (Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Fund Liquidity Facility)

·    MMIFF (Money Market Investor Funding Facility)

80% of Americans now say Wall Street benefited more from the bailout of the financial industry than the average U.S. taxpayer. 68% of Americans believe most of the taxpayer money given out as bailouts went to the very people who created the country’s current economic crisis. The Obama administration’s $50 billion program to curb foreclosures isn’t working, and the White House knows it.  The Democrats’ political and policy fortunes rest on their ability to persuade voters that they’re fixing the economy. Experts say that rising foreclosures will only exacerbate the nation’s economic woes, pushing down home prices, slashing state and local tax revenues and imperiling consumer confidence. The number of homeowners in foreclosure in the first six months of 2009 was up 15% from the same time period a year ago.  Slow progress on the foreclosure front is just one more example of the Obama administration overpromising and overspending. 

 

In a rational world ObamaCare would have absolutely no chance of being passed since it is not needed, does not fix the healthcare problem, is not affordable, and degrades health care quality. The House legislation, which would enact ObamaCare, lists this as its official purpose: “To provide affordable, quality health Care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending.” However the bill would do exactly the opposite: raising taxes, deficits, and unemployment; reducing wages, American competitiveness, and consumer choice; forcing millions off employer-provided insurance; and leaving the middle class with rationed care. The real problem is that we no longer have a rational Congress that evaluates legislation objectively on behalf of their constituents, but rather a partisan cabal of leftist activists. The World Health Organization ranked the United States No. 1 out of 191 countries for being responsive to patients' needs, including providing timely treatments and a choice of doctors. Among those currently insured, 84% are satisfied with their healthcare. By 52% to 40%, voters are opposed to the healthcare bill introduced on July 14 to the House of Representatives. The question continues to be what problem is being addressed by this massive legislation, or is this just a Cloward-Piven manufactured crisis to justify liberal actions? The 46 million quoted repeatedly simply lack health insurance, since everyone is eligible for health care, and half of these millions can afford insurance but choose not to buy it. The sad truth is that after examining the House proposals the CBO determines that the $1.5 Trillion cost will only cover 65% of the 46 million. A bigger question is whether this legislation is a stealth technique to extend health insurance to the 9 million illegal immigrants included in this bigger number of uninsured? Claims that health care will cost less with this plan are disproven by the abysmal record of every previous federal venture that underestimated costs by at least 50% and more likely by a factor of 10. ObamaCare claims reducing waste as a large source of funding but the CBO estimates the value as only about a 1% savings. Congressman Rangel has already revealed his proposal for a $540 Billion tax increase that will only cover about a third of the health costs, adding another Trillion to our national debt. The CBO says the House bill would increase the federal deficit by $239 Billion. In today’s financial crisis expanding health care entitlements is economically impossible unless total federal government bankruptcy is the ultimate political objective! Nationalizing health care has been tried many times and always has the same result nearly bankrupting the state, reducing the quality, and rationing of treatment options with long waits. Oregon, Tennessee, Maine, and Massachusetts have all tried their own version of this federal approach with the same over-promising and under-delivering of health care service. With legislation of this size the opportunity is not being squandered to sneak in unpopular provisions as minimum benefits such as acupuncture therapy, on-demand abortions, cosmetic surgery, and “end of life” counseling while critical life saving procedures are rationed. The only way to manage costs down is to decrease quality by rationing service causing long wait times, slowing adoption of innovative techniques and denying procedures to “less worthy recipients.” At about the same time Obama was revealing this redistributionist vision for wealth, he was also presenting a redistributionist vision for health and health care, but with far less publicity. Today, Obama's belief that health itself needs redistributing has become a guiding force behind the health-care reform bills in the House and Senate. These bills are saturated with the concept that there is an unjust distribution of health among Americans that can and should be adjusted by government policies. The supposed endgame is an America where all demographic groups get identical health care and enjoy identical levels of health – reducing American health quality to the lowest common denominator of service.

 

Many rules proposed in the Democrats' health care reform plan will ensure that private health insurance won't be around for long. Take increased cost shifting, in which the government pays hospitals and doctors below cost, which will result in private insurance picking up those losses. Private insurance also will find it difficult to compete against the subsidized rate charged for government insurance. Another change proposed by Mr. Obama and the Democrats is forbidding insurance companies from considering pre-existing conditions when granting insurance or determining what to charge. Mr. Obama's proposed plan to force everyone to get insurance will not solve this problem unless the government ensures that all insurance companies provide exactly the same coverage and quality of service. Otherwise, people will get the cheapest coverage available to fulfill the mandated requirement and wait until they get sick to purchase better care. In short order, high-quality insurance will be driven out of the market because it will be too expensive for most people given cheaper short-term options. We already see this phenomenon with Medicaid, where pre-existing conditions do not exclude people from joining the government program. Since anyone can join at any point regardless of pre-existing conditions, 14 million of the currently "uninsured" are in practice covered by Medicaid. These millions are eligible but don't sign up until they are sick because they don't have to. Beyond all the other crippling problems with the Democrats' health care proposal, its cost at a time of massive deficits, the tax increases it requires at a time of recession, its preference for government over the private sector and for central planning over free competition, the deepest vulnerability of ObamaCare is that it (intentionally) puts us on a course towards government rationing of health care. Congressman Tom Price, senior ranking Republican on the Health subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee, estimates that private health insurance will not exist in less than a decade, with the phase-in seeing tens of millions going from private plans to the government-run plan within a year or two, and by five years the drop dead date where everybody else is forced off. Tennessee has implemented a health care “public option” and should be looked at as a forecast of what to expect if this is adopted nationwide. TennCare, the managed care Medicaid program that began in 1994, now serves about 1.2 million people in the state and has a $7 billion budget. Tennessee is in the process of cutting about 150,000 people from the TennCare program after a reevaluation of enrollee eligibility to participate in the state-run insurance program. While supporters of the Tennessee program said it would save money, it wound up eating 38 percent of the state’s budget. As a result of TennCare, insurance rates for those who have private coverage were going through the roof. It's no wonder the White House is delaying release of the latest dismal budget figures. It's not just that they are grossly more dismal than the projections. It's that they will undercut already-waning public support for Obama's socialized medicine scheme. It's easy to see where things are headed: With more and more rules on how health insurance can and cannot be offered, the industry will head toward a government one-size-fits-all system. The apathetic and complacent among us must understand that once this anti-American health care outrage is passed, it will be enormously difficult to reverse legislatively, even with decisive Republican congressional victories in 2010 -- a task made more difficult with ACORN's stimulus-fed election fraud operation firmly in place and an ever-growing dependency class voting itself money from the public trough.

 

Larry Schweikart has uncovered some amazing things when he actually read the 1,018 pages of the Health Care proposal (HR 3200):

·    Pg 22: A mandate for the Government to audit the books of all employers that self insure.

·    Pg 30: A Government committee that will decide what treatments/benefits a person may receive.

·    Pg 32: This government committee must include experts on “racial and ethnic disparities.”

·    Pg 42: The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your health care benefits for you!

·    Pg 50: HC will be provided to ALL non-U.S. citizens, illegal or otherwise.

·    Pg 58: Government will have real-time access to an individual's finances and a National ID Healthcard will be issued!

·    Pg 59: Government will have direct access to your bank accounts.

·    Pg 65: Sec 164 is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in unions and community organizations like ACORN.

·    PG 85: The Government will ration your health care!

·    Pg 95: The Government will use groups — i.e., ACORN & Americorps — to sign up individuals for a Government health care plan.

·    Pg 85: Specifics of Benefit Levels for AARP members — your health care WILL be rationed.

·    Pg 124: No company can sue the Government on price fixing and there can be no "judicial review" against Government monopoly.

·    Pg 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into a public option plan. NO CHOICE.

·    Pg 126: Employers MUST pay for healthcare for part-time employees AND their families.

·    Pg 149: ANY Employer with payroll $400k & above who does not provide a public option pays 8% tax on all payroll.

·    Pg 150: Businesses with payroll between $251k and $400k that don't provide a public option pay 2% - 6% tax on all payroll.

·    Pg 167 ANY individual who doesn't have acceptable health care according to the Government will be taxed 2.5% of income.

·    Pg 170: Any NONRESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay).

·    Pg 195: Officers & employees of the Healthcare Administration (the GOVERNMENT) will have access to ALL Americans' finances and personal records.

·    Pg 203: "The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax."

·    Pg 239: Government will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors, low income, and the poor will be affected.

·    Pg 241: Doctors — doesn't matter what specialty — will all be paid the same.

·    Pg 253: Government sets value of doctor's time, professional judgment, etc. — literally, the value of humans.

·    Pg 272: TREATMENT OF CERTAIN CANCER HOSPITALS — Cancer patients, welcome to rationing!

·    Pg 317-318: Government will mandate that hospitals cannot expand.

·    Pg 354: Government will RESTRICT enrollment of special needs people!

·    Pg 425: Government will mandate Advance Care Planning Consultations for seniors... end-of-life prodding.

·    Pg 425: Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney. Mandatory!

·    Pg 425: Government will provide an approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in how to die.

·    Pg 429: "Advanced care consultation" may include an ORDER for end-of-life plans!

·    Pg 430: The Government will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life.

·    Pg 469: Community-Based Home Medical Services/Non-profit orgs.

·    Pg 494-498: Government will cover Mental Health Services including defining, creating, and rationing those services.

 

The Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution and the National Black Chamber of Commerce all examined the Waxman-Markey “cap-and-trade” bill and found that it would have devastating economic impacts. All three studies project significant losses in employment and gross domestic product (GDP), the chief measure of economic activity. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate significantly lower costs; however, these two only partially analyze microeconomic "cash only" effects, not the full macroeconomic impacts of cap and trade reported in the other studies. Regardless of the cost estimates and regardless of whether global warming is a significant problem, the benefits of the Waxman-Markey “cap-and-trade” bill are almost nonexistent. Three major analyses of the Waxman-Markey climate bill confirm that “cap-and-trade” will produce an economy that will perform well under its potential. Studies by the CBO and EPA predict manageable costs estimates, but both studies have a number of problems and significantly bias the costs downward. Any assumption that the federal "cap and trade" bill might actually make gasoline cheaper and more widely available was proven insanely naive. Even so, the supposed affordable costs of carbon capping regulations still outweigh the negligible benefits Americans would see from “cap and trade.”

 

Sonia Sotomayor is in the mainstream of American liberalism, a stream both intellectually shallow and preoccupied with the past. Sonia Sotomayor will do, and will do very nicely, as a personification of what ails the American left. First-class legal brains are not even nominated lest some senator break into hives at the prospect of encountering a genuinely new idea. The ceiling is further lowered by the need to season the court with diversity, a wonderful idea as long as brilliance is not compromised. The result has been the rout of sexism: The women are now as mediocre as the men. Most recent Rasmussen polls find an erosion of support with only 37% were pro-Sotomayor and 41% against her. It is still inconceivable how any Senator could vote for someone whose words and actions demonstrate an inability to be impartial and to promote her to the highest level when 60% of her decisions have been overruled on appeal!

 

* There is so much published each week that unless you go out of your way to find it, you will miss important breaking events. I package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning for your reading pleasure and to fill in factual vacuums.

 

If you are sick and tired of government and politics as usual, read my web site with its individual issue analysis and recommendations sections at: http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com . Individual issue updates this week include:

 

Week’s Best Articles:

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.returntocommonsensesite.com