Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: August 12, 2009

Style Evolves

Don’t panic!  You’re at QandO.  The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve been a busy little beaver, and have–finally!–changed to a new template designed specifically for QandO, instead of the quick and dirty one I slapped together when we switched to WordPress.

I think you’ll find this one easier to read, and easier on the eyes.

6 reasons why “reasoned debate” over healthcare isn’t called for right now

1. The left doesn’t want it. They just pretend they do. If they wanted it, they would not have tried to jam a thousand page bill through with virtually no debate, and they wouldn’t be using high-pressure sales tactics.

2. It won’t work – I. Beltway insiders are not going to have their mind changed by calmly and rationally pointing out the flaws in their bill. If their minds worked that way, they wouldn’t pass half the junk that goes through Congress.

3. It won’t work – II. If people are coming to these town halls in large numbers and mostly sitting there quietly, the spin from the media will be how everyone is quietly supportive of the “Health Insurance Reform” (or whatever the current focus-group-tested moniker is) except for a few cranks. Only if it’s abundantly obvious that the majority of the crowd is against the bill can that spin be forestalled.

4. It’s counter-productive. Incumbents really, really love it when they can appear to be listening and open even though their minds are already made up. Sitting down and calmly going over the points in the various bills gives them that facade that a deliberative process is going on when it’s not. It also takes away from the fear of losing an election they must feel if their mind is to be changed.

5. If we play Calvinball, we lose. We can’t afford to get bogged down in the details of the bill through endless talk-talk. What the protestors intuitively understand is that Congressional Democrats (and a few very foolish Republicans) are playing Calvinball. In fact, they’re world champions at it, and the rest of don’t even know how to play the game.

Case in point: I’ve seen signs at the protests that talk about how “If the plan is so great, why doesn’t it apply to Congress?” I understand and agree with the sentiment, but the last thing we want is to make that a bargaining point. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet occurred to some Democrat to float a “compromise” that supposedly “addresses the concerns of critics” with a laundry list of junk like that. This would be an obvious strategem to dampen down the protests. But it doesn’t really change anything. Since this is Calvinball, they can change the rules next year, or even during conference committee before the bill is officially passed, and get back everything they supposedly gave up.

6. We don’t want to turn discontent to cynicism. There has been latent discontent for the federal government and its incessant growth for a long, long time. We saw it with Perot and the 1994 Republican takeover. But the ones who feel that mostly have no way to express it, given the Tweedledum/Tweedledee relationship of the major parties. We’re seeing many of these people get engaged for the first time in a long time, and their long-felt anger is the motive force behind these protests. Anything that faintly smells of a sell-out would turn many of them back to their weary cynicism. We who support limited government need these people as engaged allies.

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The Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and her “un-American” comments are floating the idea that vociferous opposition to healthcare reform is causing a backlash. Pundits have picked that up, and some critics of reform are buying it. I was particularly surprised to see the usually-astute Charles Krauthammer doing so.

I disagree completely and current polls back that up.. This is not the time to lessen the pressure. Determination and time are the only weapons we have. Time is on our side if we can keep up the pressure.

The media is mostly against us. The Beltway collective is against us. The whole Left is against us. To counter all that, we need to have all the visibility we can muster. No violence, of course, but being rude and obnoxious to arrogant and disconnected elected representatives is not violence, no matter how the Left would like to spin it.

Maybe in the future. we can reach a point where there can be a productive debate on healthcare. I concede that the odds are against it, because the two sides are so far apart. But we don’t even want to try until the current “reform” effort is dead, the corpse has been burned, and the ashes have been scattered.

Assuming Predictability

There is a reason that economists are so rarely featured in jokes. They tend to be rather dry people, who can and will estimate anything under magical “assumptions” designed to prove their point. In fact, the only jokes with economists I know involve them making assumptions. Which is really a shame because they make hilarious statements like the following all the time:

Economists are nearly unanimous that Ben Bernanke should be reappointed to another term as Federal Reserve chairman, and they said there is a 71% chance that President Barack Obama will ask him to stay on, according to a survey.

Wow. Seventy-one percent, eh? That’s an awfully exact number for a prediction isn’t it? It suggests there was some real numbers computed and weighted in order to arrive at a probability slightly less than 5 out of 7 that Bernanke would be reappointed.

But where did those numbers come from? And what exactly would they be? Moreover, who were the “economists” that are so “nearly unanimous” who arrived at this prediction? Inquiring minds want to know.

Of course, per the article, these same economists are all enthusiastic about the economy having bottomed out, and that Bernanke is largely responsible for that, er … “success”. Perhaps they only interviewed family members of the Fed Chairman who also happen to be economists? “Five out of 7 Bernankes agree!

By the way, there is a 26.3% chance that only economists and statisticians will comment on this post, but I’m keeping my top-secret formula for arriving at that conclusion all to my self. I’ll give you a hint, though: assume I know what you’re thinking.

What Does Parental “Education” Have To Do With Health “Insurance” Reform?

Something that must be kept in mind – while the Democrats are attempting to change the focus of their pending legislation from health care reform to health insurance reform, they’ve not changed the legislation to reflect that.

Of all people, Chuck Norris brings that point home with a vengeance. Unlike our lawmakers, he’s apparently actually read the House bill and found another nugget that is not only costly and none of the government’s business, but has nothing to do with health insurance reform.

It’s outlined in sections 440 and 1904 of the House bill (Page 838), under the heading “home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children.” The programs (provided via grants to states) would educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.

The bill says that the government agents, “well-trained and competent staff,” would “provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains … modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices,” and “skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development.”

You can read Norris’ fisking of the provision for yourself. He, of course, wants to know why a government agency is being legislated into existence to provide parents with “knowledge of age-appropriate child development” tools and wants to know whose principles and values would drive such teaching – the government’s or the parents. Uh, well, I don’t think you really have to ask, because there’s no reason to send out agents if they’re just going to teach the parent’s values.

The more imporant points are A) this is none of the government’s business and B) it has nothing to do with reforming health care insurance.

Or said another way, you’re being fed a line when the Democrats claim that all they want to do is reform insurance when, as you read the bill, it becomes absolutely obvious that the bill isn’t at all just about insurance reform, but instead about taking more and more control of your life and the lives of your children.

This is the sort of crap that has middle America angry and out protesting. And pretending that this bill is something other than what it is – an attempt to impose more government control over our lives – is only going to feed that anger. This is part of what those protesters are talking about when they say they’re tired of being lied too and tired of being lied about.

~McQ

Obama Tries To Spin Health Care Debate His Way

As I mention below, Americans know the difference between a real townhall and a staged event. Yesterday’s “townhall” with Obama was an obviously staged event, and evidence to that effect, plus the “Yes We Can” chorus, make that point rather obvious.

That said, there was a lot of nonsense thrown out here by Obama which he claimed was “the truth”. Of course the purpose of his political rally wasn’t discussion or debate – it was to lecture those there and deride the oppostion who wasn’t. Was it effective? My gut says no.

Interestingly enough, USA Today did a bit of a fact check on what Obama offered yesterday:

• “Under the reform we’re proposing, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

Not necessarily. In an analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 10 million workers could lose employer-provided benefits and would have to find other insurance.

This continues to be a promise and it continues to be wrong regardless of how many times he says it. A) the bill, as Kathy Kiely of USA Today points out, doesn’t support it. B) he can promise whatever he wants but unless the legislation agrees the promise is moot. And right now, as noted, the legislation does not support Obama’s promise.

• “Insurance companies basically get $177 billion of taxpayer money to provide services that Medicare already provides.”

About 10.2 million Medicare recipients are in Medicare Advantage. Under that program, the government pays insurers a set amount per Medicare beneficiary. Obama ridiculed it as costly and redundant, but the plan provides additional benefits, such as vision, dental and hearing, to seniors and helps coordinate health care for those with chronic conditions, says Robert Zirkelbach at the trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

People under medicare almost all have a “medigap” supplemental policy that covers what Medicare doesn’t cover. Who is spreading disinformation in this particular case? In his desire to demonize the insurance industry, he ridicules coverage that is actually helpful to seniors as “costly and redundant”. That won’t sell among the senior population that knows better and will thus make the rest of his message suspect to them.

• “The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for ‘death panels’ that will basically pull the plug on Grandma. … (T)he intention. .. was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready, on their own terms. … (O)ne of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican … (Sen.) Johnny Isakson from Georgia.”

Isakson issued a press release saying Obama misused his name. A provision he attached to a Senate health care bill would allow seniors to obtain help in formulating a living will something Isakson said is different from House language. The House bill would require Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling sessions, but it would not mandate that anyone use the benefit.

There’s an even simpler point here – there is no Senate bill at this point, and Senator Isakson doesn’t write or offer amendments to House bills. The section in question is strictly a House bill section written by Democrats and offered by Democrats.

• “AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, OK?”

The AARP issued a press release to make it clear that it has not endorsed any particular health care proposal. “Indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate,” AARP said.

The president and his staff would love to wave this off as a slip of the tongue, but in reality it was said purposefully to bolster the credibility of the legislation to seniors, who Democrats have identified as the voting bloc most unsure of it. This was calculated to do just that. Any good media doctor knows that more will hear the claim than will hear the denial. And that’s precisely what the administration is hoping for. Pure disinformation given for a specific political reason. Most people would call that propaganda.

So this is what the administration offers in answer to the real, visceral and organic protests that have sprung up all over the country – as staged show with softball questions by likely plants which allows the administration to attempt to reshape the message even while it uses half-truths, distortions and outright disinformation to do so.

Nice.

~McQ

Protests Are About More Than Health Care

You can always spot an “inside the beltway” mentality – he or she judges the mood of the rest of the country by what he or she sees and hears in DC and by what those there deem to be imporant.

Marc Ambinder is no exception (and I’m not picking on him specifically – he’s just typical of the type). He has an article out in which he claims that ‘conservatives’ are blowing their chance at stopping the pending health care legislation. Why?

Well, because of the “calmness” emanating from the White House as they gear up for a counter-offensive against the health care protesters found at just about every townhall meeting lawmakers have. And, states Ambinder, Democrats are noticing that opponents have begun “to discredit themselves”.

Really? Is that why the health care numbers continue to tank in every poll taken by every polling organization out there? Is that the reason lawmakers like Sen. Arlen Specter have stated, “there is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember”?

What is clear to those who are outside the beltway and dealing with reality is that those inside the beltway have no clue about the general feeling in this country that has been turning common everyday people with only a passing interest in politics into attendees at townhall meetings with a message. It seems one can sit in DC and write glib op/eds about why “conservatives” are blowing it and apparently be oblivious to that.

Here’s Ambinder’s take:

The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.

He misses the point of the protests completely. Republicans aren’t in charge of this effort. And it is hard to exploit, control or “message” what isn’t yours.

This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.

And this is what those like Ambinder miss. They’ve quaffed the kool-aid that says it is all astroturf and misjudged the result. To people like him this is all about red and blue, who has the better organization, the best media campaign and timing. As usual, they focus on the wrong things:

As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes. Both Fox and MSNBC televised Sen. Arlen Specter’s raucous town hall meeting live. It was full of confrontation and protest. There were boos when Specter reaffirmed his president’s Americanness.

Of course, the latter point is both minor and a sideshow and misses completely what is going on. What Americans who are confronting legislators over in these townhall meetings is the pattern of deception and misrepresentation they see as rampant now. My favorite line from one of the townhall meetings was “I’m tired of being lied too. I’m tired of being lied about. And this administration has done both of those”.

Ambinder thinks this is all political theater. He’s missed completely the visceral aspect of these protests. He sure that now that the Obama machine is finally paying attention they’ll overwhelm the relatively disorganized rabble.

Well he needs to get a clue. The people of this country can recognize real astroturf when they see it. The know what real political theater looks like. They understand that a big crowd showing up somewhere with the same signs and dressed alike most likely means they aren’t from around there.

There is a difference between organic anger and manufactured joy and unlike the Ambinders of the world, most Americans know the difference and are not fooled by it. It is one thing to organize political rallies during a campaign that have that manufactured appearance. It’s another thing entirely to bring that sort of nonsense to what a lot of people consider a life and death debate about their health care.

Another thing analysts like Ambinder miss is the cumulative effect of the reaction of Democratic lawmakers have given to these protesters. When you show up at a townhall meeting to confront a lawmaker who is ignoring you and you’re characterized as a “mob”, “political terrorists”, “racists”, “thugs”, “un-American” and finally likened to the KKK, you’re not going to forget it.

Many who have, for the first time in their lives, actually take the steps to attend such meetings and end up being labeled in those terms are not going to forget what was said and who said it. And as has been obvious, many of those attending aren’t Republicans or conservatives.

One of the reasons these eruptions are happening is because lawmakers have rejected the call by the country to slow down and have a real and substantive debate about this pending legislation. But you have to actually listen to the protesters and understand what they’re saying. Instead we get a handwave that dismisses them as rabble and a complete misreading of what is going on in favor of the DC show.

This is the sort of denial that happens constantly in the happy little bubble within the beltway. The seemingly total disconnect from the reality of the situation in the country is incredible. This is real. This isn’t going to stop. And it isn’t about “influencing the blue dogs” or “Republicans” or “conservatives”. My advice to people like Ambinder is to do himself a favor and actually listen to what is being said for a change or, heaven forbid, attend one of these townhalls and see for himself.

This isn’t about political shows and who shows up with the best organized protesters. This is about a growing fight for the heart and soul of America, and the inside the beltway types are missing it completely.

~McQ