The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Change the Subject

A friend of mine is a prominent criminal defense attorney. I once asked him how he'd handle a situation in which the evidence is overwhelmingly against his client. His response was quick, "I'd try to strike a bargain with the ADA (Assistant District Attorney)."

"But what if the ADA won't bargain?" I asked. "What if you have to go to trial and defend this guy?"

He smiled. "If I was forced into the courtroom, I'd change the subject."

What he was referring to was an old criminal defense strategy. If your guy is guilty, change the subject. Blame police procedure, assert prosecutor malfeasance, blame society for forcing the defendant into his criminal acts. Change the subject.

It's interesting to note that the proponents of Barack Obama's newly-minted healthcare legislation are using the same strategy. As criticism against Obamacare continues unabated, the President's supporters are trying hard to change the subject. Political and media defenders of the President are lamenting the "anger and violence" that they claim permeates all who object to this monstrously expensive and generally ineffective "reform" measure. Left-leaning commentators suggest in unison that any criticism of the President or his new legislation is a not-so-subtle form of racism.

Stated simply, they're trying hard to change the subject. Rather than debate Obamacare on its merits, they hurl accusations in an effort to obfuscate the details of the bill. Wringing one's hands and suggesting that legislators lives are at risk is a perfect way to avoid discussing the enormous costs associated with Obamacare. The fact that a number of major companies, including AT&T, Caterpillar, Verizon, and others, have already taken write-downs on their projections for 2010 and 2011 (implying that health-care premiums will rise) has gone largely unreported. But a coffin in the front yard of a congressman makes major news. Change the subject.

At the end of the day, a defense attorney who tries to change the subject is doing so out of desperation. In a way, the political class that is trying to change the subject on Obamacare is equally desparate. In their heart of hearts they know that this program will not reduce the deficit, will not cause premiums to go down, and is not cost-oriented reform in any meaningful sense of the word. For that reason, they prefer not to have to defend it on its merits, so instead they change the subject.

In most cases, the jury in a criminal trial sees through the attorney's attempts to obfuscate the facts and after deliberation, reaches a guilty verdict. I suspect that in November the American public will reach its own verdict on the Congress' complete disregard for responsible spending and its blatant attempt to take an already over-sized federal government and turn it into an even more intrusive burden on us all.

Monday, March 29, 2010


When the fiscal irresponsibility of borrowers, lenders, regulators, and politicians came to a head in late 2008, we all experienced one of the worst economic collapses in modern history. As I watched my investments plummet, I told myself to stay calm and hoped that the markets would recover.

In the months that followed I continually asked myself how I had missed all the warning signs. After all, the fact that "mortgage brokers" were popping up on every corner, the fact that relatively low income people were buying expensive new homes that were well beyond their means, the fact that normal rules of borrowing disappeared, the fact that Wall Street had created exotic new instruments that virtually no one really understood, the fact that the markets were driven upward without regard to these impending problems, all provided plenty of clues. And yet, I missed them. Obviously, I wasn't alone.

It is frighteningly ironic that we're seeing another set of fiscal indicators that are the harbinger of a future crisis. The difference is that many of us who have worked and saved throughout our lives see the crisis coming, but the Obama administration and congressional leadership seem to have their eyes covered and their ears muffled. They continue to march forward on a government spending spree that is unprecedented in this country's history. In their attempt to achieve "social justice" they are putting the very people who they care most about in significant jeopardy.

Robert Samuelson comments:
When historians recount the momentous events of recent weeks, they will note a curious coincidence. On March 15, Moody's Investors Service -- the bond rating agency -- published a paper warning that the exploding U.S. government debt could cause a downgrade of Treasury bonds. Just six days later, the House of Representatives passed President Obama's health care legislation costing $900 billion or so over a decade and worsening an already-bleak budget outlook.

Should the United States someday suffer a budget crisis, it will be hard not to conclude that Obama and his allies sowed the seeds, because they ignored conspicuous warnings. A further irony will not escape historians. For two years, Obama and members of Congress have angrily blamed the shortsightedness and selfishness of bankers and rating agencies for causing the recent financial crisis. The president and his supporters, the historians will note, were equally shortsighted and self-centered -- though their quest was for political glory, not financial gain.

Let's be clear. A "budget crisis" is not some minor accounting exercise. It's a wrenching political, social and economic upheaval. Large deficits and rising debt -- the accumulation of past deficits -- spook investors, leading to higher interest rates on government loans. The higher rates expand the budget deficit and further unnerve investors. To reverse this calamitous cycle, the government has to cut spending deeply or raise taxes sharply. Lower spending and higher taxes in turn depress the economy and lead to higher unemployment. Not pretty.

Of course, the millions of citizens in the Center who are trying to sound the alarm are labeled uncaring, selfish, out-of-touch or even "racist." But the simple reality is that the profligate spenders in the Obama administration and in Congress (as well as their supporters on the Left) are the ones who are uncaring, selfish, and out-of-touch. Drunk on their power and blinded by their ideology, they're setting the stage for a series of calamitous events that could result in onerous budget cuts for the groups that they champion and onerous tax increases for everyone, including an inherently regressive value-added tax.

The "political, social and economic upheaval" that Samuelson describes will hurt seniors, poor people, working people, and the growing government worker class most severely. But the smartest guys in the room just don't seem to care. They'd rather feel morally superior in the short-term and risk calamitous economic events in the long term. After all, by then the smartest guys in the room will no longer be in power and instead adults will be in charge. The further irony is that when cuts are forced on the socially dependent and taxes are raised, when economic activity stagnates, it will be the current followers of Obama who scream the loudest, again charging that those who are forced to make the cuts are "uncaring, selfish, out-of-touch, or even "racist." It's win-win for moral preening, and lose-lose for the United States.

Friday, March 26, 2010

90 Percent

You remember the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). You know, the same CBO that blessed the health-care legislation that was recently rammed through Congress by President Obama and the Democratic majority. By law, the CBO is required to "score" a bill using only the information provided within the bill. Taking advantage of this restrictive policy, the President and congressional leaders used a variety of tricks and faints to have the CBO score the bill as a deficit reducer. In reality, an honest accounting of Obamacare indicates it will cost the United States approximately half a trillion dollars in its first 10 years of operation -- and that includes 10 years of taxes collected for six years of services! What happens during the next 10 years is frightening to contemplate.

But let's forget all that. Let's assume that the CBO accounting was absolutely accurate and that President Obama's praise of the CBO's accuracy and integrity was justified. It would seem reasonable, therefore, that the president would embrace a new CBO projection that most of the mainstream media chose to ignore. David Dickson explains:
President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget will generate nearly $10 trillion in cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years, $1.2 trillion more than the administration projected, and raise the federal debt to 90 percent of the nation's economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

In its 2011 budget, which the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released Feb. 1, the administration projected a 10-year deficit total of $8.53 trillion. After looking it over, CBO said in its final analysis, released Thursday, that the president's budget would generate a combined $9.75 trillion in deficits over the next decade.

Gee, the smartest guys in the room underestimated by only $1.2 trillion -- a small 14% error -- nothing to worry about. You have to wonder how much the administration has underestimated the overall cost of Obamacare and how much they will underestimate the staggering costs of other programs that the president in his ideological zeal will try to push through Congress over the next year.

Those of us in the Center understand that elections matter. With the election of Barack Obama, we are witnessing an already profligate government dash toward bankruptcy. And the President and his colleagues in Congress don't seem to care. David Dixon provides some additional and frightening facts:
"An additional $1.2 trillion in debt dumped on [GDP] to our children makes a huge difference," said Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "That represents an additional debt of $10,000 per household above and beyond the federal debt they are already carrying."

The federal public debt, which was $6.3 trillion ($56,000 per household) when Mr. Obama entered office amid an economic crisis, totals $8.2 trillion ($72,000 per household) today, and it's headed toward $20.3 trillion (more than $170,000 per household) in 2020, according to CBO's deficit estimates.

That figure would equal 90 percent of the estimated gross domestic product in 2020, up from 40 percent at the end of fiscal 2008.

No worries, folks. The smartest guys in the room have everything under control.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bad History

On the morning after the US Congress allowed itself to be manipulated into passing a budget-busting new entitlement, Bloomberg reports that Moody’s—a respected credit rating service, is concerned that it will have to drop the AAA credit rating for US Treasuries:
While Treasuries backed by the full faith and credit of the government typically yield less than corporate debt, the relationship has flipped as Moody’s Investors Service predicts the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K. America will use about 7 percent of taxes for debt payments in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, moving “substantially” closer to losing its AAA rating, Moody’s said last week.

Although the media cheerleaders for Obamacare did mention this in passing, they did not provide any context (what else is new?). If our credit rating falls due to the crushing deficits that the Obama administration is creating, this country will have to pay more interest to those who we borrow from. That means each of us who is a taxpayer (remember: a non-trivial percentage of the President’s core constituency pays no income taxes at all, and overall, 40 percent of our citizens pay no income taxes at all) will have to ante up the money—higher taxes in an economic environment that is not amenable to higher taxes.

But no matter, the President and his followers in the Congress are unconcerned, celebrating a 2 trillion dollar entitlement that will undoubtedly balloon over the next 20 years by a factor of 2, 3 or even more. “We’ve made history!” they exclaim. Indeed, they have—bad history.

Update (3-22-2010)

Although a bit off topic, Victor Davis Hansen discusses something that I alluded to in yesterday’s post. He writes:
Do Democrats realize that we really have crossed the Rubicon? In the future when the Republicans gain majorities (and they will), the liberal modus operandi will be the model—bare 51% majorities, reconciliation, the nuclear option, talk of deem and pass, not a single Democrat vote—all ends justifying the means in order to radically restructure vast swaths of American economic and social life. Is someone unhinged at the DNC? They just blew up any shred of bipartisan consensus when their President polls below 50%, the Democratically-controlled Congress below 20%, and health care reform less than 50%. Usually unpopular leaders and their unpopular ideas seek the shelter of minority rights and prerogatives. What will they do when they are in the minority—since they’ve entered the arena, boasted “let the games begin” and shouted “by any means necessary”?

What goes around comes around. Sadly, this is not the kind of governance that the vast majority of our country wants, but it will become the kind of governance that we get. Barack Obama and the Democrats have set a very bad precedent. We can only hope that when the Republicans are in power they will not follow it. Hope? Yeah, there's been a lot of that going around lately.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What Happens?

There will be millions of words written on the vote for Obamacare—some (coming exclusively from the Left) waxing poetic about its wondrous benefits, and some (coming from the Center and the Right) horrified by its monstrous costs, its magnification of government power in the health care realm and beyond, and its total disregard for the express will of the American people.

On the day before the vote, The Wall Street Journal suggested that the President and Democrats in the Congress are making “a profound and tragic mistake.” The editors of the Journal expressed their concern by stating:
So if the health bill passes in the House [it now has done so], it will only do so the way it did in the Senate, with a narrow partisan majority, abetted by political bribery and intimidation, budget gimmicks and procedural deceptions. An entitlement the country can't afford and doesn't want may pass because of sheer ideological willfulness. The ugliness of the bill, and of its passage, means that some or all of it might be repealable, but far better not to make the tragic mistake in the first place.

As I watch pro-Obama forces smile and celebrate an “historic victory,” I can only wonder if they are so delusional that they truly believe their own ridiculous claims.

Obamacare will cost significantly more than projected (all health care and social legislation throughout the past 100 years has been dramatically more costly than projected). It will saddle an already debt-ridden country with additional debt. It will increase the deficit in the near-term and in the decades that follow. It will result in significant tax increases, and those increases will NOT be only on the rich. And worst of all, when tax revenues are exhausted, it will lead to rationed medical care, just as government health programs have done in every country that has adopted them.

Today's vote is a tragic mistake, not only because this specific legislation will harm our country, but because it will set a precedent for back-handed, constitutionally questionable maneuvers by a majority party. For progressives: remember that conservatives will be in power at some time in the future, and now they will not hesitate to use the slimy tactics that the Democrats have employed not for minor procedural fixes by for major legislation affecting every American.

Mike Flynn (writing before the vote) discusses the aftermath of the House’s vote and raises the specter of continuing dissent and chaos for a Congress that has serious economic and regulatory issues to address:
The Democrats and the White House are lost in a legislative “fog of war” right now. They are focused on twisting enough arms, offering jobs and negotiating specific “deals” (bribes) to get them to 216 votes. Their attention and energy is focused exclusively on a final vote in the House tonight. No one is looking even one minute beyond that horizon. They are like a general who pours all his reserves into taking a symbolic bridge, never realizing that his lines have already collapsed and his flanks have been turned. They may take the bridge and get to 216 votes. (I’ve learned to never bet against Congressional leadership and an Administration united for a single legislative victory. ) But, they have already lost the war. They have deluded themselves that if they can…just…get…this…bill…passed, the public’s anger and attention will subside, they can put health care ‘behind them’ and they can focus on other ‘popular’ measures that will shore up their election prospects in November.

What they don’t realize is that today’s vote isn’t the end, but just a new beginning in the debate over health care. Buckle up, because if they manage to cobble together enough votes to pass the Senate Health Bill today, we’re set for weeks and perhaps months of a constitutional and political crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

When ideologues reign with majorities sufficient to pass whatever they want, even a deliberative democracy like ours is in peril. Barack Obama has achieved a pyrrhic victory, and in so doing, has set the stage for economic decline over the coming decades.

And for those readers who still think the President is a hero for coercing members of his own party to back this monstrosity, ask yourself this: What happens to “social justice,” to programs for the poor, and to entitlements for the elderly (to name just a few ideas beloved by Obama supporters) when our children and grandchildren reach the limits of their ability to pay? What happens when we run out of money?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Retreat from Reality

It appears that President Obama purposely wanted to pick a fight with Israel over a relatively minor announcement concerning a bureaucratic approval of a Jerusalem-based housing project. The Obama administration claimed that this announcement was "an insult" to the Vice President while he was visiting Israel. In reality, it was an ill-timed (possibly malicious) announcement by a mid-level bureaucrat. It should take a whole lot more to embarrass our VP. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister of Israel quickly apologized, and Biden accepted. Days later, the Obama administration (via Hillary Clinton) went nuclear.

The question is why? It appears that our president believes that only the Israelis should make concessions when the Israel-Palestinian question is considered. In fact, he believes that concession upon concession need be made by the Israelis while the Palestinians do nothing.

So, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank honors the terrorist who kills 38 Israelis, and the Obama administration is silent. The Palestinian Authority teaches virulent anti-Semitism in its schools, and the Obama administration is silent. The administration suggests direct talks with the Palestinians -- the Palestinians refuse outright, and the Obama administration is silent. All of that silence, except where Israel is concerned.

Martin Peretz provides a bit of background:
Obama had gone out on a limb about Israel-Palestine. It was based on very faulty history or, rather, on a canny distortion of history. The fact is that neither George Mitchell nor Hillary Clinton nor the president himself has wrangled a single concession from the Palestinian Authority, not one. In fact, the whole structure of the talks is built on yet another concession from Israel. The press is so unknowing that it simply didn’t realize or didn’t care about the nature of the concession. But, to anyone who knows and cares about history, the arrangement is nothing less than spooky.

The idea of proximity talks goes back very deep into the past. It was actually transcended in the negotiations between Yasir Arafat and the strained Israeli duo of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Since then, in fact, face-to-face consultations had become more or less routine. Sometimes they were desultory; other times they were not. On occasion, they were very productive, as with the agreement to field a U.S. training mission for Palestinian police with deep cooperation from Israel.

So, proximity talks are a big retreat from reality--not a surprise, but a big retreat nonetheless--when the Palestinians want only to talk with the Americans. And then, the Americans will talk to the Israelis, and back and forth through the American mediator, presumably a tired Mitchell who hasn’t had a fresh idea in years. Now he has allowed the Palestinians to push him back to the idea of indirect negotiations, and, apparently, Obama also does not object--or maybe it was his own fix-it device. This is an old nightmare in the Jewish memory bank. Already, at Versailles, there was no contact between the Zionists and the Arabs and no contact at later conferences at which the question of Palestine was discussed.

Peretz goes on to provide us with a bit of history on "proximity talks." They were first used by Neville Chamberlain (interesting how often his name comes up when Pres. Obama is discussed) in an effort to reach an accommodation between Jews and Arabs in 1939. The Arabs refused to sit at one table with the Jews, and diplomats shuttled between the two. No agreement was reached. This occurred again in 1947 after a war initiated by the Arabs when the UN tried to create both the Jewish state and an Arab state (there was no concept of a "Palestinian" at that time. Again, the Arabs refused to sit at the same table with the Jews and proximity talks occurred. No agreement was reached.

Now, the smartest guys in the room (a.k.a. the Obama administration) seem to feel that proximity talks are an answer and that the Israelis must be the ones to make concession after concession while the Palestinians simply make increasingly more difficult demands. Again, Peretz comments:
That the president and his team should now take up this old Arab formula for disguising reality demonstrates the poverty of their grasp of the problem at hand. In fact, Obama seems to think that he is the superego of the conflict and that his function is to hand out dicta on how to end it. But he has no dicta for the Palestinians and plenty for the Israelis. The Jewish state has many conditions under which it would be prepared to give more rather than less. Alas, the president can’t bring himself to publicly acknowledge this. The fact is that he does not particularly like Israel. Which is why it is so frightful to have his messenger running between Jerusalem and Ramallah making demands on the Jews.

Those of us who were not in favor of candidate Obama suggested that there significant evidence indicating that he was no friend of Israel. Today, as president, he appears to be peeved because the Israelis refuse to commit suicide.

There is an interest parallel here. On the domestic level, Obama seems unconcerned about ramming bad policy (think: his monstrous health care lergislation) down the throats of the American people. On the international level, Obama seems unconcerned about ramming bad foreign-policy down the throats of the Israelis. At least he's consistent—and consistently wrong.

Worse, it’s becoming increasingly evident that our President is so full of himself and so confident in his ideology that he’s experiencing a “retreat from reality.” Worrisome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The Obama administration's most senior voice on foreign policy is Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton. When Ms. Clinton speaks, her words are generally those of the President of the United States. When she criticizes a country, the rules of diplomacy generally require her to do so gently or indirectly. Whether the country is friend or foe, diplomacy-speak is almost always measured and often indirect.

During the past week, Hillary Rodham Clinton directly and harshly criticized Israel for announcing plans for the development of a Jerusalem housing project during the visit of VP Joseph Biden. Unlike the Obama administration's relatively gentle treatment of our enemies, her treatment of Israel was both harsh and direct—all because our Vice President felt embarrassed.

No matter that a housing project kills no one, injures no one, and does not displace a single Palestinian from their house. No matter that housing improves the neighborhood and is an infrastructure asset. No matter than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement by a low-level cabinet minister immediately, the White House pursued their public criticism for days after VP Biden accepted the Israel's apology. According to the White House it’s the symbolism that matters.

Okay, I can accept that. But it does seem odd that the Obama administration remained silent this past week as the "moderate" Palestinian Authority in a highly symbolic action named the central square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi. Tom Gross provides us with background:
Mughrabi was the leader of a Fatah PLO terror squad armed with Kalashnikov rifles, RPG light mortars and high explosives, that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They first killed a renowned American photojournalist (who was incidentally the niece of U.S. Democratic party Senator Abraham Ribicoff) who was taking nature photos, then hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children.

Fatah representatives at the ceremony on Thursday described Mughrabi as “a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history.”

Interesting, the PA honors a terrorist who murdered 38 civilians including 13 children as a "courageous fighter" and we get absolute, unadulterated silence from the Obama administration. Not a harsh word, not a soft criticism, not even a suggestion that this sends the wrong signal to the PA’s "peace partner." Nothing.

In a delusional attempt to be evenhanded, it appears that our President and his supporters on the extreme Left are perfectly willing to criticize Israel for relatively minor ”insult,” but are never willing to criticize the Palestinians even when they lionize a terrorist.

It's no wonder then that President Obama is unlikely accomplish anything in the Middle East. And for those of us who believed, long before he was elected, that he was an ideologically driven opponent of our only true ally in the Middle east, his recent actions are not the least bit surprising.

Update: 3/17/2010

The U.S. state department continues its criticism of the Israeli announcement with no let up. The Jerusalem Post reports:
Just four days after a blistering phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, followed by television appearances in which she said the announcement of plans to build in Ramat Shlomo while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel was an insult not only to Biden but to the US, Clinton reiterated US “dismay and disappointment” at that announcement.

Yeah ... building houses is a true "insult" to the United States.

I have to wonder why Ms. Clinton never mentioned any “dismay and disappointment” over the naming of a Palestinian city square after a child-murdering terrorist. Her silence on the matter (no doubt encouraged by President Obama) speaks volumes.

Car Payments

President Obama has made much of his claim that those who denigrate his health care legislation are either lying or ill-informed. He suggests that Obamacare will reduce the deficit, lower health insurance premiums, and provide higher quality care. He further tells us that 10 years of taxes paying for 6 years of coverage will somehow result in a lower deficit when 10 full years of coverage occur after 2020, and that a $500 billion reduction in Medicare funding will allow him to create a health care bill that is deficit neutral and at the same time "strengthens" Medicare. Hmmm.

Let's just focus on the $500 billion reduction in Medicare funding for a moment. The best way to consider Obama's claim is to think about a simple real-life situation.

Let's assume that I feel I'm entitled to a brand new Ferrari. It's true that I currently have an automobile, and although I'd really like a luxury car, my current vehicle seems to work in most cases. Regardless, I think it's only appropriate that I have Ferrari because many other people possess the car, and I'm entitled to one.

But a Ferrari is expensive. How can I go about funding its purchase without increasing my own personal deficit? I don't have the quarter of million dollars necessary to purchase it outright, so I'm going to have to find the money someplace else.

I have an Uncle who was once wealthy but is now deeply in debt. But he's a high roller and says he'll lend me the money. All we have to do is properly structure the financial interaction and neither of us will increase our indebtedness. He agrees gives the funds to me. I purchase the car using the money he's borrowed.

I tell my friends that the car is paid for, that it does not increase my debt at all. I further tell my friends that I have not increased my uncle's indebtedness.

I think the bank and my uncle's accountant would think otherwise. My uncle will be forced to pay back the money, and he's now an additional $250,000 in the hole.

In essence, that is exactly what Pres. Obama is doing. He's borrowed a half a trillion dollars from a Medicare program that is deeply in debt and then uses that money to pay for the first 10 years of a new entitlement—his health care program. The problem is that the half a trillion dollars has been deducted from Medicare and that program falls further into debt. He pays for a new entitlement but at the same time increases the amount of debt associated with an existing entitlement.

Maybe the reason that so many average citizens are against President Obama's proposal is that it defies common sense. You cannot add 30 million people to a health care program and expect to save money—it simply will not happen. Further you can't raid one insolvent federal entitlement and use the money to pay for still another new federal entitlement and in the process reduce the deficit.

If anything, it appears that it is our President who is the one telling untruths or the one who is ill-informed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness

My favorite sport is college basketball, and my favorite sporting event is the NCAA basketball tournament—a.k.a. “March Madness”. My team, UConn, failed to make it to the big dance, but there’s always next year (and the NIT).

But there’s another type of march madness afoot this year, and Tom Bevan describes it:
If you woke someone from a 15-month slumber and explained to them that despite starting with a very popular leader and a reservoir of political goodwill, the President and the Democrats are now in the position of defending back room deals and inventing arcane parliamentary loop holes to jam through on a party line vote a 2,700-page piece of legislation that's opposed by the American public, they'd have thought you were crazy.

Yet that's exactly where we are. Democrats have apparently convinced themselves that "average voters" 1) have been terribly misled by Republican lies about the bill and 2) won't care about the manner in which this bill is passed. Both of those assumption spring from an exceedingly arrogant mindset, and both are quite possibly wrong. Perhaps more to the point, the "average voter" isn't the kind who turns out for an off year election.

I always chuckle when a senior member of the Democratic leadership suggests that the existing health care legislation would be a slam dunk if it weren’t for Republican lies and obfuscation. In reality, Democratic leaders are struggling to convince members of their own party that a poorly constructed, ineffective, and fiscally irresponsible bill will help this country and its people. With the exception of pointing out flaws in the legislation, the Republicans have relatively little to do with it. Although the Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, they can’t seem to garner the votes required to pass Obamacare.

And yet, the President, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid continue to twist arms and otherwise intimidate members of their own party in an effort to force the health care bill into existence. Most political observers believe that this approach is near-suicidal and that the Democrats will pay a severe price in the midterm elections. But no matter, ideology trumps pragmatic politics and common sense in today’s Washington.

Other voices, such as Congressman Paul Ryan , try to speak truth to power. He states:
Rather than tackle the drivers of health inflation, the legislation chases the ever-increasing premiums with huge new subsidies. Already, Washington has no idea how to pay for the unfunded promises in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- and creating this new entitlement would accelerate our path to fiscal ruin. When you strip away the double-counting, expose the hidden costs that must be funded and look at the price tag when the legislation is fully implemented, the claims of deficit reduction are as hollow as claims of cost containment.

This legislation includes a range of job-killing tax hikes and controls on all Americans -- to fund this new entitlement and to penalize employers and individuals who don't play by Washington's new rules. The CBO said last July that "requiring employers to offer health insurance, or pay a fee if they do not, is likely to reduce employment." The mix of mandates and higher costs will drive Americans into government exchanges, with an ever-enlarging number reliant upon taxpayer subsidies for their care. The architecture is designed to give the government greater control over what kind of insurance is available, how much health care is enough and which treatments are worth paying for.

And so, in their effort to create a big government “solution” to health care—a solution that will wreck the current health care system and lead inexorably to Universal Coverage with all of its failings and all of its monstrous costs—the President and his followers have decided that the most partisan social legislation ever enacted will be rammed through Congress using obscure parliamentary maneuvers. Even Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” legislation—among the most liberal ever enacted—was passed with Republican support. Not so here.

March Madness.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Before President Obama uses what some call the “nuclear option” and others call “reconciliation” to force health care legislation on a country that doesn’t want it, he might be better served to develop a pilot project to ensure that his ideas work.

No matter that the Obamacare proposal will do little if anything to reduce costs—in fact, if we look at his ideas rationally, they’re likely to increase costs and dramatically increase our long-term deficit. But forget all of that. Wouldn’t it be prudent to create a pilot project to demonstrate the worthiness of his ideas? You know, pick one state and try his health care reform ideas out before committing to an unproven plan for the entire country?

Wait a minute! That’s been done—in the bluest of blue states—Massachusetts. Odd that our President doesn't mention it.

Michael Graham talks about the results:
In defending his decision to go nuclear, Obama talked about insurance company “abuses.” He talked about premium hikes in California. He talked about a sick mom in Wisconsin. He even talked (in extremely modest ways) about Republican ideas like tort reform and fighting Medicare fraud.

What Obama didn’t mention was Massachusetts.

In fact, despite having given (based on my calculations) some 57,432 speeches, press conferences, pep talks, pillow talks and interpretive dances on health care in the past 12 months, Obama somehow manages to leave us out of nearly every conversation.

This is telling, because we’re the one state already glowing in the radioactive haze of Romneycare, aka “ObamaCare: The Beta Version.”

Shouldn’t Obama have been bragging yesterday about bringing the benefits of Bay State reform to all of America?

As we prepare to wander into this coming nuclear winter of hyper-partisan politics - one in which we’re almost certain to see widespread political fatalities among congressional Democrats - I have to ask: If bringing Massachusetts-style “universal coverage” to America is worth this terrible price, why doesn’t Obama at least mention us once in awhile?

Maybe he thinks of us as the Manhattan Project of medical insurance reform. Too top secret to discuss. More likely, it has something to do with the nightmare results of this government-run debacle. Here are a few “highlights” of the current status of the Obamacare experiment in Massachusetts:

It’s exploding the budget: Our “universal” health insurance scheme is already $47 million over budget for 2010. Romneycare will cost taxpayers more than $900 million next year alone.

It’s killing us on costs: Average Massachusetts premiums are the highest in the nation and rising. We also spend 27 percent more on health care services, per capita, than the national average. Those costs, contrary to what we were promised, have been going up faster here than nearly everywhere else.

It’s creating bizarre marketplace mutations: In Massachusetts, ObamaCare 1.0 is such a mess our governor is talking about imposing draconian price controls.

He’s even suggested going to “capitation,” a system where doctors get a fixed amount of money per patient - and then that’s it. Which means it would become in your doctor’s financial interest never to see you again.

All this damage to the taxpayers, the insured and the responsible business owners . . . and for what?

The percentage of uninsured Bay State residents has gone from around 6 percent to around 3 percent.

In other words, it’s a dud.

So let’s see, the Obamacare Beta has not been a resounding success. It’s busting the state budget of Massachusetts and spiraling costs out of control. It’s leading to price controls for insurance companies and doctors and that means shortages of both in the long run (government mandated price controls never work).

If a competent and experienced executive at a software company released a Beta version and encountered serious problems, he’d never roll-out the product to the marketplace. He’d spend the time to do it right, or maybe do it over again. But that’s what a competent and experienced executive would do. With each passing week, it becomes increasingly evident that Barack Obama has neither of those characteristics.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


If you examine our evolving world critically, you can’t help but notice that it’s become increasingly connected, but at the same time, increasingly decentralized. Social networks provide a powerful means for global connectivity, while the broad availability of information enables easier decentralization of business and government functions. In a world where you can order a pair of jeans that are customized to your body type or a pair of athletic shoes that are customized to your specific aesthetic taste, it’s reasonable to assume that we should be moving away from a one-size fits all model.

More and more of us matriculate at online universities in which students never have to visit a centralized campus. Small business formation, even in these difficult times, represents a definite trend away from the big corporation as the economic engine of our country. In politics the story of this era is the undeniable reaction of average Americans (yes, the Tea Parties are a manifestation of this) who ask for more local control and fewer centralized mandates.

Yet the Obama administration, supposedly the hippest and smartest to yet inhabit the oval office, appears to be wedded to a 20th century model of centralized government. Joel Klotkin comments:
From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy.

Of course, certain times do call for increased federal activity--legitimate threats to national security or economic emergencies, such as the Great Depression or the recent financial crisis, for example.

Other functions essential to interstate commerce--basic research, science education, the guarantee of civil rights, transportation infrastructure--as well as basic environmental health and safety standards also call for some federal oversight. Virtually every modern president, from Roosevelt and Eisenhower to Reagan and Clinton, has endorsed these uses of centralized government.

But what is happening now goes well beyond the previously defined perimeters of the federal government's powers. Obama seems to possess a desire not so much to fix the basic infrastructure of the country but to re-engineer our entire society into the model championed by liberal academia.

There also seems to be a conscious design to recreate the country as a European-style super-state. Forged by an understandable urge to minimize chaos after a century of conflict, the super-state generally favors risk management through centralization of authority. This has traditionally been accomplished by ceding regulatory powers to national capitals, though lately more and more powers have been ceded to the European Union.

Barack Obama has lost the support of those of us in the Center because he appears to be tone deaf to the connectivity and decentralization trends I mentioned earlier. For example, the President cannot visualize a health care system other than one that cedes control to a centralized bureaucracy—a bureaucracy that has demonstrated its inefficiency, lack of financial control, and plodding inertia repeatedly throughout the last 50 years. He cannot envision a green economy that evolves slowly and is driven not by EPA mandates but by private enterprise, young start-ups, and yes, market forces. He cannot appreciate that most Americans don’t need education mandates from on high, but would rather control their childrens' education at a local level.

The smartest guy in the room simply doesn’t get it, and as a consequence his diminishing army of supporters suggests that “the government is broken.” The government is working as the founders envisioned, putting the brakes on a President who lusts for a powerful, all-controlling central state—a government that most Americans simply do not want.