Free Markets, Free People

Michael Wade

Jon Henke Challenges Rachel Maddow (Updated)

Here’s a very interesting clip with QandO’s founder, Jon Henke.

If you haven’t been following this, Jon, now at The Next Right which he helped co-found, has been at war with World Net Daily, claiming that the web site feeds the baser instincts of the right and distracts them from the more important issues. His call is for a boycott, not against WND, but those “respectable” institutions on the right, such as the Republican National Committee, who continue to associate and support WND.

Whether or not you agree, Jon’s point is that if credibility is an issue, and association with the fringe loony conspiracy theorists is a detriment to one’s credibility, then it is best, if you value your credibility, to distance yourself from that fringe.

Or said another way, if Van Jones can be found to be unacceptable for government service because he associated with and supported truthers, the very same credibility issue seems valid for those who associate with and support some fringe loony group on the right such as those who believe the Obama administration is planning to set up concentration camps for political dissidents.

It would be hard for anyone on the right to take anything Van Jones says seriously because his credibility is shot by such an association. How hard, then, is it to understand that when Michael Steel or the RNC say anything, their credibility is suspect because they associate and do business with an organization which claims that there are concentration camps being set up for political dissidents?

Anyway, what is most interesting about the clip is his challenge to Maddow at the end. She dodges it, suggesting that she’s really not that interested in doing what she claims to be interested in, but kudos to Jon for making it.

[HT: Liberty Papers]



Since very few of you (or anybody really) watch the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, you probably missed last night’s segment featuring QandO founder Jon Henke. Jon recently started a bit of a dust-up on the right by taking on WorldNetDaily and those who sponsor the publication’s efforts:

This is just hideously embarrassing for the Right.

[T]he Web site says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of “The Obama Nation,” an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress “appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”

In the 1960’s, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being “so far removed from common sense” and later said “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”


I think it’s time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.

Unsurprisingly, Jon has taken some grief (intermixed with some positive results) for his choice of target. On Maddow’s show, Jon summarizes the response as about one-third support for what he’s doing, one-third ambivalence, and one-third “no enemies on the right” reactions.

I guess I fall somewhat in the ambivalent crowd: I don’t disagree with Jon’s take on WND, but I also don’t think it’s worth challenging lest its profile be raised in importance. Frankly, everything negative that can be said about WND — e.g. promotes conspiracy theories, plays to the “fevered swamps”, detracts from the intellectual discourse regarding politics, etc. — can also be said about the New York Times, Washington Post and the Legacy Media. The difference, of course, is that far more people get their news from these traditional outlets than from WND. Indeed, if the MSM had not failed so miserably in holding government officials accountable (regardless of party), then I expect many in those fevered swamps would be less inclined to turn to oulets like WND for their “news”. As it stands, however, too many on the right see patently biased opinion pushed as incontrovertible fact and their reasonable critiques of lefty policy either ignored or ridiculed. It doesn’t take too long before they begin looking for a champion on the right, one that at least some of them have found in WND (which, I agree, is to their detriment).

I’m also somewhat disturbed by the notion that “elites” on the right “deserve” to be at the center of the discussion regarding the direction of the conservative/libertarian political movement. From where I sit, “deserve” has nothing to do with it, but instead those who advance the best ideas in line with conservative/libertarian principles, both through coherent thought and digestible delivery, will naturally get that coveted attention. What makes someone “elite” in this sense is his or her ability to connect with voters based on those conservative/libertarian ideas, not being really smart and/or educated at the correct places. That’s something that seems to have been lost recently amongst the self-designated elites on the right. And just as embattled righty voters feel abandoned by the media, in many ways I think they feel just as abandoned by their political leaders. They will fill that void with something if no one of substance steps up.

In any case, Jon does make a good point that when establishments such as the RNC throw their support behind conspiracy-traffickers like WND it hurts the right. Marginalization, therefore, is a good strategy and one that can be fairly easily obtained. Whether it helps the conservative/libertarian movement, however, really depends on what the “elites” offer up to replace the red meat readily devoured by the fever swamps. I’m all for logical, reasoned and effective discourse in the political battle, but on some level that discourse has to connect with how the average voter.

In short, while WND may be a problem for the right it is really a symptom and not a cause. Many voters think that they have no voice in political matters any more, since the MSM all but ignores them except to ridicule them, and their leaders are either absent at worst or ineffectual at best. Personally, I think that is one of the primary reasons underlying the enormous groundswell of support for Tea Parties and townhall dissenters — if nobody is going to say it for them, they’ll do it themselves. If we truly want to marginalize outlets like WND then, the right will need for real leaders to find their way to the forefront. Seeing how leaders such as Sarah Palin (who is the only one talking like Reagan these days) have been treated by the self-appointed leaders on the right, while fools such as Megan McCain and David Brooks have been feted, I honestly don’t know who that will be.

~ MichaelW

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Breaking: Van Jones A Remarkably Bad Liar

Perhaps indicating why he has never been a politician, Van Jones lays a whopper on the American public (my emphasis):

A top environmental official of the Obama administration issued a statement Thursday apologizing for past incendiary statement and denying that he ever agreed with a 2004 petition on which his name appears, a petition calling for congressional hearings and an investigation by the New York Attorney General into “evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur.”

Van Jones, the Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is Number 46 of the petitioners from the so-called “Truther” movement which suggests that people in the administration of President George W. Bush “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”

In a statement issued Thursday evening Jones said of “the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.”

He did not explain how his name came to be on the petition. A source said Jones did not carefully review the language in the petition before agreeing to add his name.

Jones’ statements are so laughable that one could be forgiven for thinking that this is a parody from The Onion (it’s not; I checked the URL … twice).

He and the Obama administration are really expecting us to believe that Jones didn’t know what he was signing? That just begs the question, what did he think it was? Why did Truther group come to him for a signature in the first place? What made them think he would sign it? Did they know of Jones’ apparent disdain for reading what he puts his name on and figure he would offer up his John Hancock without any issue? Or did they, being composed of several other statist weirdos (Cynthia McKinney, Howard Zinn), activists (Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans of Code Pink), and radicals (Ed Asner, Ralph Nader), know full well that Jones would happily sign the petition because it fits in with his own radical views?

Don’t expect any answers to these questions to be forthcoming.

At this point, the White House isn’t answering any of these questions, but they will have a difficult time sticking with the “I didn’t read it” defense for very long. To be sure, lots of excuses will be offered up by the media in an attempt to provide cover for Obama’s administration, but this isn’t a story that can just go quietly away. They tried to do that with Rev. Wright, but the buzz from non-MSM sources kept it alive until Obama was forced to throw Wright under the bus (with his own grandma!). Expect the same here.

Why Obama’s Kiddie Speech Is “Creepy”

In all honesty, I don’t have a big problem with Obama’s impending speech, primarily for tactical reasons. If he gives the speech that the right is worrying about (i.e. indoctrination towards his policy preferences such as universal health care, cap and trade, etc.) then his political world will crumble. Obama is smart enough to realize this. And I, as I expect are most American parents, am vigilant enough not to let such a message get too far with my kids. However, it’s the fact that any of us have to be on guard to such a speech that makes it creepy. Well, that and the President’s track record of seeking to use children to advance his own goals.

However, there is a current of thought that thinks it’s hypocritical to challenge Obama’s address to the nation’s children while ignoring others:

All this over a video address to kids telling them to stay in school.

I’ve got to wonder how these people felt twenty years ago when a Republican did it:

President Bush pleaded with young people around the nation today to stop using drugs and ”not to look the other way” when others do.

In a 15-minute nationally televised plea from the White House library, the President presented the latest round of an anti-drug campaign that began a week ago with another nationally broadcast message announcing a $7.9 billion package.


In the speech, Mr. Bush said that saying no to drugs ”won’t make you a nerd.”

”Presidents don’t often get the chance to talk directly to students,” Mr. Bush said. ”So today, for each of you sitting in a classroom or assembly hall, this message goes straight to you.

”Most of you are doing the right thing. But for those of you who let drugs make their decisions for them, you can almost hear the doors slamming shut.”

Equating drugs with death and displaying the badge of a slain 22-year-old rookie policeman, Mr. Bush said, ”I keep this badge in a drawer in my desk to remind me of that.”

Yea, I’m guessing they were pretty quiet back then when Bush 41 was advancing his ideological agenda and fighting the War On (Some) Drugs.

While I understand Doug’s disaffection with the Republican Party and its die-hard adherents (with good reason), I really don’t understand this line of attack. Is it really the same thing for a president to encourage kids to stay off of drugs as it is for a president to encourage school children to contemplate the many ways that they can fulfill the government’s wishes?

When Bush 41 was delivering his speech to the nation’s youth, he was at least spreading a message that had individual importance. There’s no question that avoiding recreational drugs is healthy way to live one’s life. It doesn’t justify the War on (Some) Drugs, but it’s not necessarily a message advocating fealty to government authority. In fact, the quotes above speak more to individual responsibility rather than respecting the president’s wishes: i.e eschewing drugs won’t make you a nerd, don’t let drugs make your decision for you, etc.

Again, I’m not trying to condone the destructive policy pursued by the federal government with respect to certain drugs. But when a president encourages our children to stay off them, I’m hard pressed to see that as some sort of intrusion into the realm of the parent or individual, much less a blatant call for nation’s kids to ponder what it is they can do to further the president’s goals.

Therein lies the rub.

President Obama has already shown that he’s not above using children to advance his political agenda, so it’s not surprising that those opposed to his aims would be a bit skeptical of his speech. Adding to the wariness is the fact that he only seems to make these speeches when he needs help with bolstering his political capital (e.g. the “race speech” after Jeremiah Wright blew up in his face). After the battering his health care insurance reform plans took in August, it almost seems too convenient that he would suddenly want to address all the school kids in the nation, right about when he’s planning to try and save the one program he truly wants to enact.

On top of all these legitimate worries is the fact that Obama’s administration has prepared lesson plans for the kiddies to absorb in the afterglow. Surely it’s not the first time that a president has done so, but have any other post-speech plans been so blatantly pro-subservience? I mean, look at these suggested lessons:

What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?

What, no questions such as “do you agree with the President’s position? Why/Why not?” Or how about, “Why should you do anything the President says?”, or “What are the pros and cons of the President’s proposals?”

Some of these wouldn’t make any sense if all Obama is going to do is encourage kids to stay in school and try theor best. But, then again, neither do the administration’s lesson plans. Nor the fact that Obama intends to do a live address rather than a taped PSA of some sort. All of which, again, provides plenty of reason to be skeptical of Obama’s speech.

In light of all the above, and regardless of whether anyone is being hypocritical or not, shouldn’t we all be a bit skeptical when the President of the United States decides to address our children when, at the same time, he is politically vulnerable and seeking some means of righting his listing ship? Maybe Republicans who are complaining now should have had more to say 20 years ago (if they were even politically aware back then), but that doesn’t mean they are wrong now. Charging hypocrisy does not negate the potential ill that may result from being less vigilant to government indoctrination. It only make that ill more possible

Podcast for 30 Aug 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the top stories of the past week.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.  The link goes to BTR since my old computer is inexplicably dropping out of recording mode.


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.

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This is … disturbing:

“… I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

Now admittedly, I’m a skeptic of BIG government. In my view, power tends to overreach whenever given the opportunity. It’s a law of human nature that has very few exceptions. That said, it felt to me that by providing issues as a cynosure for inspiration to a handpicked arts group – a group that played a key role in the President’s election as mentioned throughout the conference call – the National Endowment for the Arts was steering the art community toward creating art on the very issues that are currently under contentious national debate; those being health care reform and cap-and-trade legislation. Could the National Endowment for the Arts be looking to the art community to create an environment amenable to the administration’s positions?”

Hmmm. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with “abso-freak’n-lutely” as my answer.

Oh, wait. Was that a rhetorical question?

I learned after the conference call that there were approximately 75 people participating, including many well respected street-artists, filmmakers, art galleries, music venues, musicians and music producers, writers, poets, actors, independent media outlets, marketers, and various other professionals from the creative community … Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.


We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Erm, yes, I guess that was a rhetorical question.

The NEA is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts. That is right, the largest funder of the arts in the nation – a fact that I’m sure was not lost on those that were on the call, including myself. One of the NEA’s major functions is providing grants to artists and arts organizations. The NEA has also historically shown the ability to attract “matching funds” for the art projects and foundations that they select. So we have the nation’s largest arts funder, which is a federal agency staffed by the administration, with those that they potentially fund together on a conference call discussing taking action on issues under vigorous national debate. Does there appear to be any potential for conflict here?

Assuming that I can answer that one, I’d say the potential for conflict is rather high. If an entire industry is almost entirely supported by the government then, when that benefactor starts making “suggestions” about how that industry should behave, you can bet that the industry will respond. In this case, propaganda posters, statues, billboards and movies would be the expected outcome. In the American car business, increased hybrid car production is the most likely result of government intervention (that is why Fiat was brought in after all).

So what do you think will happen when the federal government is in charge of paying for health care? If the government were to “suggest” that certain medical procedures should be favored, or that certain patients should receive care before others, do you suppose that the medical industry will have much leverage to resist? And suppose that new reforms are proposed after passage of whatever bill is frankensteined together this Fall. If the government is going to be paying most of the bills, who do you think the insurance companies, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, et al. will be paying more attention to when the Obama administration and its minions come calling? Patients or the government?

That is a rhetorical question, because I already know the answer.

[HT: Greyhawk]

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Latest Health Care Myth: 80% of Americans Want Public Option! (Updated)

Coming soon from a lefty near you:

A new survey commissioned by the AARP asks respondents to what degree they support or oppose “[s]tarting a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” — a public option, in other words. The results are interesting, though not necessarily surprising to those who have been closely following the debate.

All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose

Let that sink in for a moment — 61% of Republicans and 80% of Independents support some sort of “federal health insurance plan” according to MyDD’s Jonathan Singer, who adds:

Indeed, a supermajority of even Republicans supports a federal program to provide individuals with a choice for their health insurance coverage, with just a third of the party membership opposing such a plan.

So why, again, are supporters of a public option finding such difficulty in Congress?

Regardless of the veracity of these numbers, you will hear them spouted over and over again by every leftwing outlet available (yes, that includes the MSM). It will become gospel amongst ObamaCare supporters that 80% of Americans support a public option, just as it’s become gospel that there are 47 Million uninsured individuals in this country, or that Tea Party advocates are in the paid employ of the health insurance lobby. Yet, problems abound with this survey.

Where to begin. Firstly, when I say “according to Jonathan Singer” above, I mean that the poll question he quotes is nowhere to be found publicly, so there is no way to verify its accuracy. The AARP has no link to it (and in fact does not even mention the poll), nor does the company, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (“PSB”), that conducted the survey.

If in fact the question was worded as described by Singer, then the inclusion of the phrase “if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” alters the results dramatically. Although some have suggested that this is the reason we need health care insurance reform so desperately, it completely ignores the fact that those who can’t afford health insurance are generally covered by Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal and state programs. So when respondents are asked whether such people should be covered, how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence and not the public option as proposed by Obama and Congress? In short, we don’t. To be fair, the question allegedly refers to “starting a new” program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people understood the question to be asking about ObamaCare’s public option.

Indeed, according to PSB, “only 37 percent define ‘public option’ correctly” and “about one-fourth of those polled believe the ‘public option’ is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain.” Of course, how to “correctly” define the public option is not revealed, but suffice it to say that the survey’s respondents did not reveal they had a concise grasp upon what a public option actually means.

Then there is the transparency problem. Although PSB claims (pdf) its survey has a margin of error of “+/- 3.10% at the 95% confidence level and larger for subgroups” it also states that it was done over the internet “on August 12-13, 2009 among 1,000 Americans”. Because the data are not released (at least, not to the public, although Singer apparently has access to a copy), it’s impossible to tell, and difficult to understand, how an internet survey could determine that only Americans responded, that the respondents were actually associated with any political party (e.g. registered voters), or that respondents were even separate people. In addition, how is that an “internet survey” completed over two days received only (and exactly!) 1,000 responses? Again, we don’t know because the actual poll data are hidden from public view. But it looks awfully suspect when such a survey has 61% of Republicans, and 79% overall, responding favorably to a public option, when numerous other polls out there show much lower support.

Finally, there is a potential bias problem. PSB, the company who conducted the survey, is not exactly a bystander in this debate. The “P” in “PSB” is Penn. As in Mark Penn. Remember him?

Mark Penn, the strategist who dashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes, is the Wall Street Journal’s “Microtrend”-spotting columnist. He’s also CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller. Only a scumbag would abuse the former to drum up business for the latter.

Scumbag spotted!

Mark Penn’s latest (old, and none too insightful) ‘Microtrend’ column is about “glamping”—glamorous camping. It ran last weekend. By Monday, according to an internal email obtained by Gawker, Burson was already trying to recruit companies from the industry featured in the column as clients. Burson Executive Vice President (and former Bill Clinton speechwriter) Josh Gottheimer urged Burson’s senior staff—including Founding Chairman Harold Burson, US President & CEO Patrick Ford, and others, to use Penn’s column as a tool to approach clients in the camping industry about business. Not only that—he recommends that Mark Penn “send a note” to the CEO of these potential clients requesting a meeting.

The WSJ is currently investigating whether the allegation that Penn used his column to generate business created any conflict of interest problems [Ed. – gee, you think?]. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by another one of his companies (PSB) is claiming that support is monstrously high for a public option. And what does PSB do?

Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB), a member of the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate and entertainment clients.

Any guesses as to which clients PSB might be after, and why they only released their survey results to friendly (i.e. partisan lefty) outlets?

It’s my guess that the 80% number is going to tossed around quite a bit in the next coming weeks as Congress gets back to work screwing us passing legislation in September. Just remember that, as of right now, there are many, many reasons to be quite skeptical about that number.

UPDATE: As bains points out in the comments, Jonathan Singer has amended his post, without explanation and (still) without any link to the data, so that “commissioned by the AARP” has been struck out. There’s really nothing wrong with that (it’s not as if the words disappeared altogether), but the omissions are more than a bit strange.

Also, with respect to polling data, Rasmussen released this today:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey show that 43% of voters nationwide favor the plan working its way through Congress while 53% are opposed. Those figures are virtually identical to results from two weeks ago.

As has been true since the debate began, those opposed to the congressional overhaul feel more strongly about the legislation than supporters. Forty-three percent (43%) now Strongly Oppose the legislation while 23% Strongly Favor it. Those figures, too, are similar to results from earlier in August.

While supporters of the reform effort say it is needed to help reduce the cost of health care, 52% of voters believe it will have the opposite effect and lead to higher costs. Just 17% believe the plans now in Congress will reduce costs.

There’s lots more, so go RTWT.

And one last thing. Some of you may notice a certain comment that I let through the filters. It’s not technically spam, but it is one of those pernicious attempts to make some favorite meme go viral that it might as well be spam. You may also notice that I will have gone into the comment and ripped it to shreds. I reserve the right to do so at my leisure, because I have the power and spammenters (as I shall now call these vermin) do not. Neither do they have the common courtesy to even read the post, but instead they simply post their drivel whenever the come across the right keywords. In return, I shall treat these spamments (see what I did there!) as my own personal canvas upon which to express my personal disdain for such ignorant, disrespectful malcontents.

That is all.

MORE: OK, someone went ahead and deleted the comment after I approved it, thus depriving me of my fun. So … carry on.

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Health Care Reform Now A Moral Obligation

Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.

Yet, despite a full-court press on the issue, including unapologetic assistance from the media, the government’s plan(s) to change health care have grown steadily less popular.

So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.

President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.

“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.

Well, the President would know about bearing false witness, now wouldn’t he.

In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.

Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):

The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.

But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.


The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.

The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.

Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.

In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.

And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.

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Public Option Questions

The reasoning behind the much ballyhooed, on-again, off-again “Public Option” has never made much sense to me, but lately I’ve noticed a few things that make it even less understandable.

For example, as Bruce highlighted below, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said the following about it on Sunday:

“The only way we can be sure that very low-income people and persons who work for companies that don’t offer insurance have access to it, is through an option that would give the private insurance companies a little competition,” she said.

Johnson added that House liberals have already told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that she should insist on White House support for a public option.

How does a public plan offer competition to insurance companies by covering people who don’t have access to insurance? Apparently, these are people who insurance companies aren’t interested in catering to, so there is no competition to gain them as clients. Giving them “free” health insurance from the government isn’t going to change that. Instead, it’s just going to cost more taxpayer money.

Here’s another head-scratcher from Susie Madrak:

Oh, the Republicans have been having a field day with this mantra – that employers would shunt their employees into the public plan. But they’re really upset for the same reason Sebelius mentioned as a positive: Job lock. Above all else, the Republican party stands for cheap, disposable labor with no rights or protections. God forbid you should have a public option – you could up and leave your job anytime you wanted!

While I agree that we would all be better off if health insurance was decoupled from our jobs, I’m not sure that the public option prevents “job lock”. Presumably, what keeps most of us from “up and leaving” our employment on a whim is the paycheck we receive and not the health care insurance. And even if we do, COBRA is already in place to help maintain coverage, and HIPAA prevents insurance companies from refusing to cover any pre-existing conditions. Moreover, if having a public option encourages people to cease being productive members of society (i.e. working at a job), that would be a net negative for society, and would surely cause a loss of tax revenues (which we would need a lot more of in order to pay for all that “free” health care). I just don’t see how a public option can prevent “job lock” any more than we already have now, and even if it did, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

And then there is this little ditty from Publius that requires the suspension of an enormous amount of disbelief to even begin pondering:

In terms of broader perspective, Jacob Hacker has one of the best defenses of the public option that I’ve seen. One important point he raises is that it’s actually a way to prevent overreliance on excessive regulations and bureaucracy.

The argument is fairly simple. Any type of reform is going to require a lot of regulatory oversight. That means detailed regulations, lots of regulators, etc. If, however, the country had a public option, the insurers would suddenly have a market incentive to comply with these requirements without so much regulatory coercion and administrative costs.

In this respect, the public option actually reduces the need for government — and reduces the threat of agency capture and other public choice-ish problems (especially at the state level).

First of all, has there ever been any government program that didn’t have a slew of regulators accompanying it, much less one so massive as to cover the entire nation?

Secondly, if you go and read Jacob Hacker’s post, you will see that the whole point of the public plan (in his view) is to make all the private plans that may be left (i.e. those accepted to be offered within the insurance exchange run by the government) act just like the public plan. Yet the private plans will never be able to function the same way that the Public Option does, and so the chances are that such plans will go bankrupt trying.

In essence, there would be three types of plans: Public Option, Inside the Exchange, and Outside the Exchange. The Outside plans would be prohibited from signing up new insureds, so they will eventually die off. The Inside plans will be forced to compete against the Public Option for new customers as well as for keeping the ones it already has. Because the Public Option will be unchallengeable — that is, immune from lawsuit by competitors — and financed by the deepest pockets in the world, the Inside plans will be at a grave disadvantage. Not only will the Public Option be able to offer lower cost plans at the expense of taxpayers, it will also have the ability to hide administrative costs thus making itself appear much more efficient than the Inside plans. The Inside plans, therefore, will have to compete against a much better capitalized, immune from lawsuit, more efficient on paper Public Option without any of the Public Option’s benefits or access. There is simply no way for them to act like a better government plan than the real thing, and they will eventually collapse.

How does that make anything better, much less cheaper, if the Public Option drives all the competition out of the market, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for everyone’s health care?

It is this competition that Hacker thinks will force the Inside plans to behave pursuant to the laws and regulation granting them access to the exchange, and which Publius thinks will save money on regulatory costs, etc. Yet those laws are going to have to be policed, and the regulations will still have to be promulgated to carry out the Act. While the Inside plans may have a little extra incentive to behave in the way that the government wants (Hacker’s example is using across-the-board community rating so that everyone pays the same premium for insurance) by having to compete against the Public Option, they would still have to comply with Act if there were no Public Option. Moreover, what would make the regulators jobs even easier is that each of Inside plans would be more than happy to rat out a plan that doesn’t behave, thus possibly reducing competition and grabbing a larger slice of the exchange market for itself.

In short, there is simply no way that having a Public Option is going shrink the government or save any money in regulatory costs. To believe so, one has to ignore all history of government and disregard how market competition under a regulatory regime actually works.

Those are just of few of the questions I’ve had about why a Public Option is so gosh darn important. The fact of the matter is that, other than the hardcore progressives, no one will say the real reason that they want the Public Option: so that all profit incentive is wrung out of the delivery of health care. It’s a stupid reason to want government run health care, but I think it’s pretty clear that’s the real reason. All these other excuses are lame attempts to hide the ball. Which is probably why they don’t make any sense.

Podcast For 16 Aug 09

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In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, Lance, and Dale discuss the furor over the Health Care bill, and the sate of the economy.

There is no direct link to this week’s podcast, since my computer went TU right in the middle of it.  You’ll have to listen at BlogTalk radio.


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.

Racism: It’s All The Rage

We warned people back during the election that anyone who disagreed with Pres. Obama would be labeled a racist. To say that prediction that has come to fruition is like calling Katrina a summer shower.

Since the August recess began, and vociferous protesters crowded local townhall meetings, the chorus of “racism!” has steadily grown amongst the left. Those opposed to ObamaCare and “health insurance reform” are derisively dismissed as having no other issue than “a black man in the White House.” These accusations are somehow borne out by the fact that swastikas and comparisons of Obama to Hitler have allegedly been spotted at the townhall protests. Nevermind that similar healthcare insurance reform was vigorously opposed when presented by a popular white president in the 90’s, or that comparisons of our last president to Hitler were (and still are) quite common, yet no racism was ever alleged there. Further ignore that accusing someone of being a Nazi would seem to indicate that one is opposed to racism, and that the people actually carrying such signs were Democrat-supporting, LaRouche adherents who oppose ObamaCare because it doesn’t go far enough. Indeed you must ignore these facts because otherwise the charges of racism make absolutely no sense.

Now, we can prattle on all day about how the left’s eagerness to drive the racist route simply exposes the vapidity of their arguments, but while that is true it does not even begin to address the real problem — i.e. just how vacuously stupid the left has become.

When I say “stupid” I don’t mean “incapable of intellectual rigor” but instead “uneducated, ill-informed and either unwilling or unable to change that state of being.”

Just by way of example, Rep. David Scott, whose arrogance and indifference towards his constituents was highlighted by Bruce, declared that racism is at the source of the anti-ObamaCare demonstrations and questioning:

“There is bubbling up under this debate, unfortunately, the overtones that this presents of hate, of racism, of all of these things,” Scott added.

Scott laid blame for the harsh tone of the August debate at the feet of talk radio show Rush Limbaugh and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who he accused of mobilizing the angry base now manifesting itself at town hall meetings.

Scott was responding to questions after a swastika was painted on his office door, which in the confused leftist mind means that the vandal was a racist. Again, cognitive dissonance must be ignored since the protesters were also accused of being racist for comparing Obama to Hitler. To the lefty supporters of ObamaCare, any and all dissent is racist. Period.

One can go to almost any comment section of any article discussing the townhalls and find assured accusations of racism emanating from lefty posters as if we were all maddeningly blind not to be aware of this fact. For example:

Either Sen. McCaskill is naive or pandering to the CRAZIES in her state. She might as well join the crazies or be an independent. 1st she defends people who are bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls and now she’s blatantly dismissing what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE. These people will oppose everything Obama brings up or stands for even if he was saving their children from a burning house; this didn’t start because of the healthcare debate, it started during the campaign and now it has really picked up pace because the president is doing what he promised he would do. Sen. McCaskill can keep her mouth shut if she doesn’t have the guts to tell it like it is.

That comment was in response to article about Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) taking Scott to task for crying racism. Notice how incredibly assured the commenter is that people “bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls” is undeniable evidence of “what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE.” This, in a word, is stupid.

However, explaining why this is so stupid to ObamaCare’s supporters is rather like trying to explain the physics of a hairball to a cat. You will just get annoyed and the cat will still ignore you while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”. And this is the problem.

How do you have a civilized debate with someone who is entirely incapable of hearing and/or understanding anything you have to say? For whatever reason (I’ve honestly ceased to care), the leftist side of any debate consists of equal parts righteous moralizing, demonization of their opponents, progressive conventional wisdom dressed up as facts, and cries of racism. Of course, this is all held together by a healthy dose “magical thinking” (R: “Centrally planned economies have never worked anywhere, anytime.” L:”But it will this time!”), which makes for quite a noxious brew good for little more than poisoning rational thought.

It is in this context that legitimate anger at legislators trying to rush through a massive health care bill, that few if any have read, while spending money faster than it can be printed, can be laid at the feet of racism without suffering a massive aneurysm. Not that the opponents of Obamacare should back down or stop strongly and pointedly questioning their representatives. Despite these exhibitions of sheer stupidity from the left, politicians do understand threats to their retention of power.

Instead, I suggest that the next time someone accuses you of being a racist for not supporting whatever agenda Obama and his acolytes want to achieve, you stop what you’re doing, look them square in the eyes, and say “Your mind-numbing stupidity is the source of all the racism here” and then move on.

Perhaps the fog of inane and muddled thinking will be lifted from your denigrator’s progressive mind by your mental slap (Lord knows reasonable arguments have not done so), and she will see that racism is not a charge to be thrown around lightly or haphazardly. If so, then a real discussion might be had about why spending gobs and gobs of money we don’t have to save money makes no sense. Or that piling more government control onto a system that’s already broken because of government control is an exercise in insanity. Just maybe, in some small way, you will have steered an otherwise viable intellect back towards the land of reason.

In all likelihood, however, she will just ignore you and walk away in a huff while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”.