Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

Trying Too Hard To Make It About “Aggrieved White Guys”

Michael Crowley has a post at The New Republic’s blog (“The Plank”) in which he works is hardest to push a new meme. Yes friends, we’re now in the “post-Bush” era of “the aggrieved white guy”.

Apparently the Gates/Crowley (no relation I’m sure) dustup provided him the final and definitive proof. Apparently it wasn’t a cop and an increasingly hysterical man pushing each other’s buttons and, as usual, the guy with the badge and gun winning. Oh no, it is a “teachable moment” that was ripe for our teacher-in-chief, sans all the facts, to conclude it was the cop’s fault. And, of course, the cop being white and the homeowner who was misidentified as a burglar being black and a FOO, well what more needs to said, hmmm?

And, as proof, Michael Crowley offers one of the left’s favorite punching bags – Joe the Plumber. Yup, Joe was the guy who began to clue Crowley into this phenomenon – “the aggrieved white guy”. Uh, sorta:

This is the third time in the past year that Obama has squared off, directly or indirectly, with working-class white men. First, there was Joe the Plumber. Last fall, John McCain’s campaign became, to an astonishing degree, connected to the grievances of an (unlicensed) Ohio plumber. JTP’s message wasn’t explicitly racialized–he complained primarily that Obama was leading America down the path toward socialism. But it was impossible to ignore the way he embodied a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America. Although McCain lost badly, JTP did allow him to abandon his ineffective emphasis on foreign policy issues like Iraq and Russia and focus his message late in the campaign around Obama’s social spending–a preview of the GOP’s most potent line of attack today.

Well Joe, you know, he wasn’t “explicitly racialized” (I mean when you’re trying to make a point about race and you can’t even figure out a way to brand one of the main figures you’re using to make your point as racist or “racialized”, maybe you ought to hit the “delete” button and try something else). Nope, Joe complained mostly about “spreading the wealth around”.

But, concludes Crowley, even though Joe wasn’t racialized and mostly complained about socialism, he “embodied” – emfreakinbodied – “a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America.

Really? Where did you make that point, Mr. Crowley? Where did you even get close to it? Talk about trying too hard.

Second “aggrieved white guy” moment? Sotomayor:

Then, there was the Sotomayor nomination. His Supreme Court nominee was controversial for a recent court ruling which denied promotions deprived a group of white firefighters, coupled with her ill-advised advised assertion that “a wise Latina” might reach a better decision that a white male judge. Senate Republicans and conservative pundits clobbered Sotomayor for the implication that she was biased against white guys. Their point was illustrated with potent stagecraft, in the form of uniformed white firefighters–the losers in the New Haven case–who attended Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearings in their dress uniforms. They were icons of the heroic working-class white guy. Sotomayor’s hearings went about as smoothly as possible, but the GOP did use them to lay the groundwork for a narrative that the Obama administration gives special preference to minority groups.

Smoothly missing from Crowley’s analysis is the fact that the racist phrase in question here came from the Supreme Court nominee, not some “aggrieved white guys”. You have to wonder if her example of a wise Latina woman making a better choice had instead used a black male judge. I’m sure we all know how that would have worked out.

Instead, it is apparently assumed, in the post-racial Obama era, we’re just supposed to let what appeared to actually be a racist statement slide. Or, when exception is taken too it, hand wave that away as “the aggrieved white guy” thing. Had Sotomayor never uttered those words, they’d have aggrieved no one, regardless of race. That is the salient “post-racial” point.

And now we come to the point of this “analysis” which will try to hand us “the aggrieved white guy” label to play with over the next few years:

Now comes Sergeant Crowley. Conservatives could hardly ask for a more effective vehicle for this burgeoning narrative. While Joe the Plumber was an obvious moron, and Sotomayor too sympathetic and skillful to demonize, Crowley (no relation, sorry) is political gold.

Clever, huh? He must have stayed up late trying to figure out how to stitch Joe the Plumber, Sotomayor and Sergeant Crowley together to make this rather lame attempt at launching his AWG meme. Get ready for it, here comes the “thud” as it hits the floor. Speaking of Crowley, the other Crowley says:

He is the hard-working white man who wears a uniform and risks his life for his country. Note that such a uniformed civilian hero is especially valuable for a Republican party which, through the fiasco in Iraq, has largely lost its monopolistic claim on representing the uniformed American soldier. And while it’s hard to defend Crowley’s arrest of Gates, he does seem to be winning the spin war over character and temperament (particularly after African-American members of the Cambridge police force came to his defense last week). Crowley also plays into the only theme conservatives like more than race, which is class. For Obama to be in the defense of a Harvard professor who summers on the Vineyard against a police officer who attends neighborhood softball games at night–particularly after Obama admitted during his first comments about the case that he did not know all the facts–is almost too good to be true, from the GOP’s perspective.

Have you picked up on it yet? Are you aware of how Crowley is using the words “Republican party” in this? As a pretty obvious code phrase for – heh, yup, you’ve got it – “aggrieved white guys”. See they’re obviously not taking offense at the President of the United States using a nationally televised news conference to call the cop stupid even while admitting he didn’t have all the facts. Nope they’re trying to develop something which the President had every opportunity to avoid and didn’t. Who was trying to develop what? And if Obama considered it a teachable moment as Crowley contends, why isn’t it a teachable moment for Obama as well?

Frankly that’s how it came out as I’ve observed it. Obama stuck his foot fully in his mouth and paid for it. He hasn’t yet learned what is or isn’t appropriate in his new office.  Crowley of course, seems to have forgotten the glee of Democrats each time Bush did something like that – but I don’t remember him trying to push some  “aggrieved” meme then although I believe for some at the time, “aggrieved loon” might have fit nicely.

Crowley concludes:

Obama and his advisors surely realized this. They understood that Crowley represented something far more dangerous to their post-racial narrative than either Joe the Plumber or those uniformed firefighters. For once, conservatives stood to gain real traction on both issues of race and class in one simple episode. It wasn’t going to ruin his presidency, but it was too volatile to be ignored. Obama had to take control of the story before it took control of him.

Nonsense. Utter balderdash. All Obama had to do was look at the questioner and politely say, “I don’t have all the facts and prefer not to say anything until I do,” and then call on the next questioner.

In fact he caused the ruckus and managed to overshadow the message he was trying to push that night – health care. As it turns out,  I’m glad he did.

However let’s not pretend that Obama exercised any “control over the story”. He reacted to his own stupid statement and tried to cover it up like a cat trying to cover, well, you know.

And, by the way, Mr. Crowley – it didn’t work.

“Aggrieved white guy”, my rear end.

~McQ

Carefully Reporting That For Some “Global Warming” Wasn’t So Bad

This story in the UK’s Times is as interesting for what it doesn’t say as what it does say.

Apparently the world went through some global warming (most know it as the Medieval Warm Period) roughly between AD1100 and 1500 that allowed the Inca Empire to rise and spread. And note, there was no “A” in that “GW” at that time. In fact the temperature rose several degrees during that period. The Times chooses to characterize the 400 years as a “spell of good weather”. But the last 20 years of more current time with a net zero degrees of warming? Gloom and doom.

And let there be no question about it, that 400 year “spell of good weather” was the most significant factor in the rise of the Inca empire:

“Yes, they were highly organised, and they had a sophisticated hierarchical system, but it wouldn’t have counted a jot without being underpinned by the warming of the climate,” says Dr Alex Chepstow-Lusty, a palaeo-ecologist from the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima, Peru.

The study’s authors say that the findings have important implications for Peru and other countries facing the prospect of the most extreme shifts in climate because of global warming. For many countries, the prospect of warming is unwelcome. However, with the correct landmanagement techniques some of these countries might be able to turn a warmer climate to their advantage.

Well assuming that the rest of the world went through the same sort of warming over that 400 years (and yes, it did) and we somehow survived and apparently thrived, it would seem that “other countries” facing the “unwelcome” prospect of warming may want to reassess the whole concept, doesn’t it?

I mean if scientific findings have any weight with the AGW crowd and all.

~McQ

A Word To The “Birthers”

Do you remember how we all laughed at the “truthers” and wondered how they could be so gullible as to believe all the nonsense being spread about (fire doesn’t melt steel, etc.)?

Well now you’re the one’s being laughed at. You’re just like the truthers and the leftist dead-enders who wouldn’t let the 2000 election go.

Birthers.  Truthers.  One in the same.

Barack Obama is from Hawaii, he’s the president, there is no “smoking gun” here and you need to get off of this before you further ruin your credibility. I mean think about it – you’re taking your lead from a ditzy lawyer who has become addicted to the media coverage she can generate and dimbulb’s like this Army Reserve Major who played the reserve system to allow him to make a political statement.  The vast majority of Republicans know a stinker when they smell one.

Get over this stuff.  This is the “Bush/AWOL” story for the right.

~McQ

Health Care Reform – Peeling The Onion

There are a number of things going on in the health care reform debate that are the reason Democrats are at odds with each other. One, obviously is cost. What should be apparent, even to rocket scientists like Nancy Pelosi, is that the American people are not buying into the premise that “government can expand coverage, improve care and do it for less”. It’s not happening.

And, of course, those on the blue side that are leading the “no way, no how” charge are the so called Blue Dogs. Bolstering the Blue Dog position is the CBO, or Congressional Budget Office – a non-partisan organization which “scores” proposed bills for cost and savings. In the last few weeks it has consistently found Democratic Congressional legislative proposals wanting – pointing out none delivered the promised savings over the long haul.

Predictably, the CBO has come under fire from the left, and yesterday the White House joined the fray. Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, Peter Orszag said – carefully – that the CBO’s recent analysis might be feeding a perception that its tendency is toward “exaggerating costs and underestimating savings.”

Given how the costs of most government programs skyrocket after implementation, I’m having difficulty buying into this supposed perception. And it may say more about Orszag, former CBO director, than it does about the CBO now.

However, what Orszag is talking about specifically is a proposal that is another part of the infighting going on among Democrats.

“The point of the proposal … was never to generate savings over the next decade,” Orszag said in a letter posted on Saturday.

“Instead the goal is to provide a mechanism for improving quality of care for beneficiaries and reducing costs over the long term.”

In fact, the proposal is about shifting power from Congress to the Executive Branch:

The new council, if approved, would replace the current Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which is made up of doctors and health care experts. Once a year, it gives recommendations about coverage and reimbursement rates for Medicare but has no authority to enforce its ideas. Its report in March recommended that payments for primary care physicians be increased and home health services rates be decreased.

The proposed council would be comprised of doctors and health care experts making their recommendations based on extensive data and analysis of best health care practices, according to administration officials.

It would be an independent executive branch agency — which would give its recommendations more weight. The president would have to approve or disapprove the its recommendations as a package. If it is approved, the package would be enacted if Congress did not vote against it within 30 days.

This isn’t necessarily about “best health care practices” – this is about centralizing the decision making and making it harder and harder for Congress as a whole and individual Congressmen specifically, from excepting their district or certain constituent health care providers from some of the provisions. The White House wants to take that little perk away from them. And that’s another one of many stuggles going on within this fight to pass something.

A Democratic president trying to take power away from a Democratic congress is probably not the best way to try to pass something that the President can call “health care reform”. That’s not to say I support this council in either form – its more to point out how clumsily this administration is proceeding in all of this. If you want legislation passed so your signature issue doesn’t fail, it may be best not to try to take power away from a friendly Congress and take it yourself. Executive power grabs don’t just happen in the national security area as the Democrats constantly criticized Bush for attempting. They can occur in many other areas. We’ll see if the Dems will be as critical of this power grab as they were of the ones alleged of the previous administration.

~McQ

Podcast for 26 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the controversy over the Obama presser on Monday, and the state of health care reform’s passage in the Congress.

The direct link to the podcast is unavailable this week due to technical problems, so you’ll need to listen to it at BTR.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

1st Amendment – Void Under Capital Dome?

Apparently lawmakers are now required to submit any language they plan sending out to constituents through the Democrats who sit on the Franking Commission.

It seems the term “government run healthcare” rankles the Dems.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the secretary of the House Republican Conference and a former District Court Judge, is having his messages to constituents censored by Democrats on the Franking Commission. Republicans are no longer allowed to use the words “government run health care” in the communications to their constituents.

Carter received an email from the Franking Commission informing him of the censorship.

“It came to me from the Franking Commission and I have the email from the Franking Commission here if you’d like to see it,” Carter said. “We held a telephone town-hall… When you hold telephone town-halls you have a recorded message that introduces the town-hall and the subject matter you’re going to be talking about. You have to now submit that language to the Franking Commission.

Now wait – “franking” is postage. I.e. each Congressional member is given franking privileges (which essentially means his or her signature is all that’s needed to send mail) and able to send constituent mail without postage (although the USPS does get reimbursed for delivering it). Here’s how it is described in a quick search I did:

A six-member bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, colloquially known as the “Franking Commission,” is responsible for oversight and regulation of the franking privilege in the Congress. Among the Commission’s responsibilities is to establish the “Official Mail Allowance” for each Member based proportionally on the number of constituents they serve.

How that evolved into something which has a say on telephone town-halls is a bit mystifying to me but a good example of the mission creep for which bureaucracies are famous (take heed all of you wanting government run healthcare).  Now I’m not here to defend franking privileges, but unlike John McCain, I am an  ardent supporter of the 1st Amendment.

Continuing with the story, Rep. Carter says:

“What we proposed as language was as follows, ‘House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan,’” Carter said. “Our response from Franking was, ‘You cannot use that language. You must use, ‘The House majority unveiled a public option health care plan,’ which is Pelosi-speak or ‘just last week the House majority unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers…’”

“I would submit to you this is a free speech issue, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States,” Carter said.

Yeah, something about free political speech as I recall.

It is also a great example of why the Constitution doesn’t stand a chance in the face of partisan politics any more.

Let freedom ring!

~McQ

IBD Stands By Story About Private Health Insurance

Last week Investors Business Daily ran an editorial claiming that the new 1018 page House health care reform bill had a provision (on page 16) that outlawed private insurance.

Well they caught some flak for that, with detractors claiming that they didn’t read far enough and had they done so they’d have found that wasn’t the case. IBD did the right thing and did indeed go back an revisit their claim.

Conclusion – they stand by their story. Here’s why:

Our impression was further confirmed Monday when Rep. Dave Camp, the ranking member on Ways and Means, told us that “any existing plan will not be able to enroll members.” There will be “a prohibition,” the Michigan Republican said, “on enrolling individuals in private health plans” after the bill becomes law in 2013.

It was also confirmed by Ways and Means staff director Cybele Bjorklund, who, in response to questions from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin during a committee markup session, admitted last week that insurance providers “cannot create new policies outside of that window outside of the exchange.”

Many of those who have said we are wrong pointed to this health care exchange mentioned by Bjorklund as evidence.

But the exchange will not be a private market. It will be a program in which Americans can buy individual plans from private companies in competition with the “public option” provision of the bill that will provide taxpayer-subsidized coverage.

So in essence you’ll be limited to an insurer on the exchange, with all the regulation and mandates applied which is turn competing with a “public option” plan. You can’t just call up a private insurer and gin up your own brand and level of coverage.

Instead, you’re limited to the slim pickin’s the “exchage” will offer:

The exchange will be a highly regulated clearinghouse of providers that meet the government’s standards. Only those providers that follow Washington’s stringent guidelines will be allowed to join this exclusive club.

The government, through an unelected health choices commissioner, will set premiums, dictate benefits, determine deductibles and establish coverage. Exchange participants will be required to insure anyone who asks to be covered and to accept all renewals. Ryan believes the weight of the mandates will mean only five or six providers will be able to survive and sell coverage in the exchange.

Yes friends, as we’ve seen so often from this administration already, this is government picking winners and losers. From 1300 competing insurance providers today to “five or six”. That’s the government’s idea of “competition?”

And again, to reinforce the point, that is the only place you’ll be able to get your insurance should, for instance, you change a job. Or, as anticipated, your employer opts to quit providing it and essentially points you toward the exchange.

Even Henry Waxman admits this even while trying to convince reporters that IBD had it wrong in their first editorial:

In trying to prove the exchange will be a private market, the bill’s own supporters actually prove our point. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., complains in a letter that last week’s editorial is “factually incorrect and highly misleading” yet admits three paragraphs later that outside the exchange, providers “can’t continue to market” existing “policies to new customers.”

Restraint of trade by regulation. Insurers are limited to the “exchange” and if not on the exchange, they’re essentially not in the health insurance business other than servicing existing policies. Obviously as their pool shrinks, their prices will go up, causing their pool to shrink further. That’s competition? That’s a “market”?

As John Stossel said the other day:

Like the politicians, most people are oblivious to F.A. Hayek’s insight that the critical information needed to run an economy — or even 15 percent of one — doesn’t exist in any one place where it is accessible to central planners. Instead, it is scattered piecemeal among millions of people. All those people put together are far wiser and better informed than Congress could ever be. Only markets — private property, free exchange and the price system — can put this knowledge at the disposal of entrepreneurs and consumers, ensuring the system will serve the people and not just the political class.

Yet here again we have the central planners deciding what will be a “market” and of what it will consist. I hate to break it to them, but that’s not at all a market. It’s an artifice created by legislators to give the veneer of competition to a “market” that is decidedly not one.

Instead:

Anything that is primarily steered by the hand of the government rather than the price signals that free markets so efficiently process on a daily basis would be an agency of the state.

The artificially legislated bars to entry will make this a captive process of the state.

And lastly:

Perhaps most damning to the argument of those who say we are wrong about the House bill outlawing new individual private coverage is the creation of the exchange itself.

If getting coverage from the exchange is the same as buying insurance in the private market, then why do we need it? The authors of the bill could have kept the private option by doing nothing.

In fact, if they really wanted a “market” and “competition” they should remove mandates and allow consumers to buy health insurance products across state lines. Allow the consumer to decide the type of coverage he wants and the amount he’s willing to pay. Review that with Stossel’s point about markets and you’ll begin to understand the power such a market would have in lowering insurance costs without the government having to do much of anything.

What Adam Smith said about the economic planner applies here, too: The politician who tries to design the medical marketplace would “assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

They don’t want competition, folks – they want control. And history tells us where that leads.

~McQ

Al Gore, Call Your Agent

There goes that “scientific consensus” about AGW again. And in a peer-reviewed study too.

Three Australasian scientists have published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research claiming that virtually none of the observed temperature increases in the Earth’s atmosphere in recent years can be attributed to man-made factors.

Ummm … sure am wantin’ me some of that cap-and-trade now.  As anyone should be able to figure out by now, the science is anything but settled concerning AGW.

Their research says that it is the El Nino-Southern Oscillation that pretty much has its way with temperature. And, the claim, volcanoes have a pretty significant impact on cooling.

“The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Niño conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Niña conditions less likely” de Freitas said.

“We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis,” he added.

Their conclusion?

“Overall the results suggest that the Southern Oscillation exercises a consistently dominant influence on mean global temperature, with a maximum effect in the tropics, except for periods when equatorial volcanism causes ad hoc cooling.”

And man?

Not so much.

I’m sure our resident AGW believers will troop in to tell us how this is obviously not anything that “real science” would advance – except this is real science, with real scientists and a peer-reviewed study.

~McQ

Hell Freezes Over – NYT Fact Checks Obama

I‘ll leave it to you to read the health care fact check. But this was of particular interest to me:

The president continued to take credit for deficit reduction by making a claim that has been challenged by many experts.

“If we had done nothing, if you had the same old budget as opposed to the changes we made,” the deficit over the next 10 years would be $2.2 trillion greater, the president said.

In fact, $1.5 trillion of those “savings” are mainly based on an assumption that the United States would have had as many troops in Iraq in 10 years as it did when Mr. Obama took office. But before leaving office, President George W. Bush signed an agreement with Baghdad mandating the withdrawal of all American forces within three years.

So Mr. Obama is claiming credit for not spending money that, under the policy he inherited from Mr. Bush, would never have been spent in the first place.

For those of you who missed it, even Bush didn’t plan on keeping as many troops as we had then for 10 years. The SOFA agreement and the general withdrawal timetable had been announced before Obama ever took office.

A perfect example of why every “fact” Obama utters needs to be examined carefully (that’s true for every politician, but this one especially), especially now when he’s promising the moon and stars in health care for less cost. Again, read the fact check for some of the points addressing that.

~McQ