Free Markets, Free People

Politics

Alaskan Observations

I‘ve put my full Alaska travelogue up at the other place, if you’re interested in the rather lengthy description and pictures of my trip.

But there is a bit of a political interest, in that one of our stops was in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan, Alaska is where the famous bridge to nowhere was supposed to be built. We saw the place where it was supposed to be constructed, crossing over the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, where the airport–and about 50 inhabitants–is located. The bridge was supposed to cost $315 million, before the project was killed. Because that part of the inside passage is part of the Alaska Marine Highway, the plans were for it to be tall enough to allow cargo and cruise ships to pass under it safely.

The thing is, though, is that Ketchikan cannot be reached by land. It can only be reached by boat or airplane. So the whole point of the project was to build a bridge to connect one remote island that can only be reached by air or sea, to another remote island that can only be reached by air or sea. And spend a third of a billion dollars to do it.

They’ve already got a ferry service that runs every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of year. Practically everybody has a boat. So, now that I’ve been there and seen the place, I guess that cancelling the bridge was a good thing. Call me a selfish jerk, but you don’t get to choose to live on a remote island and then demand my tax money to build you a bridge, because living on a remote island is inconvenient.

Previously, I opposed the Bridge to Nowhere out of simple principle.  But now that I’ve gone there and personally seen the place, I realize how dumb an idea it actually was.

Anyway, here’s some more video that I shot.

Liked But Ineffective?

I saw this on CNN’s Political Ticker this morning about NY’s Gov. David Paterson:

A new poll suggests that nearly three out of four New York State voters like Gov. David Paterson — but don’t think he’s getting the job done.

The Siena College Research Institute survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that more than six out of 10 say Paterson doesn’t have the leadership skills to be governor and feel he’s not effectively dealing with the problems facing New York.

The irony is the guy who has told him he shouldn’t run for the governorship seems to be thought of in much the same vein, not that you’d ever read that here. But the Brits, even in left-wing papers like the Guardian, aren’t at all shy about making the charge:

Many leaders and supporters are beginning to wonder what is causing this growing gap between the Barack Obama that many people saw on the campaign trail, and the Obama they see in the White House? Beyond Obama’s oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising among many that President Obama may not be up to the task, that he may not possess the artful skills needed to accomplish even his own goals.

Suddenly the left discovers his lack of experience and realizes he has absolutely no leadership experience and has demonstrated no leadership skills since assuming office.  Wow, where have they been?

But the sparkling speeches have continued, haven’t they?

Of course, being a left-wing rag, the Guardian tries to make excuses for Obama by citing the Senate as a reason Obama has been able to move his agenda. Apparently the author is unaware that the Senate has been around since the creation of the government and other presidents have managed to get their agendas passed.

Yes, we’re back to the leadership question (or lack thereof).

But, back to the point, you have to appreciate the delicious irony of one liked but ineffective politician telling another liked but ineffective pol not to run for office. You can’t help but wonder, assuming things continue on the path they’re now on, if such a message will be conveyed by someone to Obama in 2012? Perhaps it will be delivered by Hillary Clinton when she throws her hat in the ring?

~McQ

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Two Reasons Americans Don’t Want Obamacare

While the rest of the nation ponders whether Kanye West is a “jackass” and President Obama was correct in calling him that, I’ve been thinking about why the Democrats and Obama are having such a tough time selling their health care proposals.

Obviously part of the push back by the people has been because of the recession. Common sense says you don’t exacerbate a bad financial situation by adding debt. Nothing anyone has claimed about the “health care savings” reform would bring has resonated with the public. That’s because people don’t believe or trust the rosy estimates that Democrats have used. And of course it hasn’t helped that the CBO has shot down just about every one of their claims as well.

In fact it looks a lot like 1993 all over again according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released today:

Sixteen percent of the respondents to the most recent poll say their health care would improve if the proposed changes are enacted, and 32 percent say their health care will be worse if that happens.

By comparison, the same poll in late September of 1993 found 19 percent saying their health care would improve and 31 percent saying it would get worse.

Even deploying Obama to use his vaunted oratorical skills to turn the tide hasn’t worked according to another poll:

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken after the president’s dramatic address to a joint session of Congress last week shows Americans almost evenly divided over passing a health care bill and inclined to think it would make some of the system’s vexing problems worse, not better.

Six in 10 say Obama’s proposal, if enacted, would not achieve his goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans without raising taxes on the middle class or lowering the quality of health care. For the first time, a majority disapprove of the way he’s handling health care policy.

So what’s the problem? Why does public opinion seem so dead set against what Democrats feel is beneficial legislation for all?

Well, what Obama and the Democrats are running up against is the same problem Bill Clinton et. al experienced. People, for the most part, are quite satisfied with the insurance they have and don’t want to chance government messing that up. And they understand that the chance of government messing it up, given how government does most things, is very high.

Although polls have consistently shown that just over half of Americans think the health-care system is in need of reform, a substantial majority say they are satisfied with their own insurance and care. Any hope of change will require their support, according to experts and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

“They are critical,” said Drew E. Altman, president and chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization. “This debate will turn on people like this trying to answer the question ‘Will this benefit my family?’ “

Most are concluding it won’t benefit their family and, in fact, may end up being detrimental to them.

Democrats seem to be missing the point that while health care reform is popular, their version of health care reform isn’t. I guess health care reform somewhat resembles porn – the people will know it when they see it. But they’re not seeing it in the proposals the Democrats are offering right now – and that is why there’s this massive push back.

The majority of those opposed do not believe the claims that nothing will change pertaining to their health care. It simply doesn’t makes sense to them that the scope and goals of the change being discussed won’t effect their coverage.

Then there are the seniors:

One of President Obama’s biggest challenges this fall will be persuading seniors to accept his healthcare proposals. Many elderly voters are deeply worried about “Obama-care” because they fear that his plans will reduce their coverage and increase their costs. Seniors, in fact, are more opposed to Obama’s healthcare ideas than any other age group.

Of course the irony, as pointed out any number of times, is that most seniors are on a government program. Rarely pointed out is the fact that they have no choice in the matter. Consequently those who love to point this out and crow about how seniors “like” their government insurance never follow that up with the fact that seniors are forced into a system which may or may not have been their first choice.

But that aside, seniors don’t like change. And, they’re smart people who understand that they are the demographic that spends the most on health care. Given that understanding, when the goal of “cutting costs” is put forward as a primary goal of the reform being discussed, they know where those cuts are most likely to be made.

But they have developed a deep skepticism toward Obama’s agenda of expanding the reach and power of Washington. They basically agree with the conservative attack that he is a liberal zealot who wants to inject the government into every nook and cranny of American life—including everyday decisions about the choice of doctors and medical plans, pollsters say. Some seniors specifically fear that the healthcare overhaul will take money away from their cherished Medicare program, and they don’t want to take that risk.

Only 35 percent of people 65 and older approve of Obama’s handling of healthcare, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll in August …

Their defense of a government medical insurance program for themselves and their skepticism of further government intrusion into our lives isn’t quite as contradictory (or ironic) once you understand the whys and wherefores of the mandatory nature of Medicare. Seniors aren’t interested in more government or the chance that the only insurance available to them will be cut to meet a savings goal.

Those are how the planets are lining up in the health care reform universe. Obama and the Dems aren’t succeeding in convincing the skeptics with their arguments. In fact, as it drags on, more skeptics are being born than believers.

The answer, devoid of politics, seems clear. Stop the process right now, reset the debate and actually have one. Find out what “reform” means to the public and act on that consensus. It may end up merely insuring those without insurance. It may be that and tort reform plus opening up the intra-state private insurance markets and eliminating mandates. Or more. Or less. But what should be clear to both the Democrats and Obama at this point is it is not what they’re offering.

The danger to them (electorally) and to us (reduction of liberty) is they’ll disregard that in the name of politics and ram through something we’ll all regret but find difficult get rid of once passed.

That’s what I fear and it appears that’s what some on the left are prepared to do. They have waited too long and have too much invested politically to back off now.

~McQ

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Whistling Past The Graveyard

Ezra Klein does what a lot on the left are doing since the Tea Party in DC – trying to pretend it doesn’t mean much. He does it by deciding the crowd was 30,000 to 50,000 (note to Klein, that’s acceptable only if you declare you’ve never looked at a single crowd picture from Saturday). At that size, it is fairly equal to the largest of the anti-war demonstrations. With that as his premise Klein trots this out:

Remember when the Iraq War protests stopped the Iraq War?

Yeah. Me neither. Nor, for that matter, does Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, which leaves me a bit confused by their joyous reaction to the Tea Party that took place in Washington on Sunday. Estimates peg it somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 people, which makes it an admirable bit of organizing, but not a contender for the protest hall of fame. What it seems, rather, is the progression of a broader societal trend: The advent of online organizing is making it easier to connect large numbers of like-minded people and ask them to attend a rally. It’s done that for politicians like Barack Obama, protesters of all sorts and stripes, and even flash mobs.

If this was a flash mob, it was the granddaddy of flash mobs. Obviously it wasn’t. In fact it appears that the correct crowd size is “several hundred thousands”. Speaking of estimates, I’m seeing more and more nonpartisan estimates at 400,000 to 500,000.

That’s one heck of a lot of people with no real leadership gathering to protest the size and scope of government. And that’s what elected officials should find disquieting about this gathering. Klein tries to imply this was a product of “online organizing”. But it doesn’t really seem to be the case. Certainly the date was thrown out there and there’s little doubt that emails flew among certain groups, but there was nothing, organizationally, which would even approach organizational attempts like ANSWER or others on the anti-war side used to get protesters together.

It was more like “if you’re in the area and you have a problem with what’s being done in DC, stop by”. And about a half million did (not to mention the thousands upon thousands that went to local event like those held in Ft. Worth, TX and Quincy, IL).

This should give politicians pause. If that many people can be convinced to leave their couches and head toward the nation’s capital, how many who couldn’t make the trip but agreed are out there?

But the politicos and many pundits seem bound and determined to ignore what happened. What happened Saturday happened specifically because the half million who did show up are tired of being ignored. If you listen to David Axlerod, though, they’re going to continue to be ignored. In fact, worse than being ignored, they’re being dismissed:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod told Schieffer about the taxpayer protests this weekend: “I don’t think it’s indicative of the nation’s mood. In fact, I don’t believe some of the angriest, … most strident voices we saw during the summer were representative of the thousands of town-hall meetings that went on around the country — that came off peacefully, that were constructive, people voicing their points of view. …

“But this is … one of the great things about our country, is that people can express themselves, even if they’re not representative of the majority. … I don’t think we ought to be distracted by that. My message to them is: They’re wrong.

The message to Axelrod and Klein and all others who plan to continue to ignore this movement as insignificant, unrepresentative and “wrong” is pretty clear. Their arrogance borders on that of Louis XVI of France. And if they continue pushing the agenda of bigger and more expensive government, their end will be similar – a complete loss of power.

They still don’t get it – this isn’t just about health care.

~McQ

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Obama’s Earth Day Windpower Claim

Back on Earth Day of this year, while visiting a wind farm in Iowa, President Obama said:

“Now, in comparison,” Obama said, “Denmark produces almost 20 percent of their electricity through wind power. We pioneered solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it, even though we’ve got more sun than either country.”

“I don’t accept this is the way it has to be. When it comes to renewable energy, I don’t think we should be followers, I think it’s time for us to lead.”

Well as with most of the things he’s been talking about lately, it is factually wrong and the only place it may lead is bankruptcy. You see, apparently, despite all but blanketing Denmark with wind turbines wind isn’t producing anything close to 20%.

The Institute for Energy Research cites a study which finds the statement made by the president to not be accurate (that doesn’t mean he told a lie – Obama was only repeating what was supposed to be true at the time):

The report finds that in 2006 scarcely five percent of the nation’s electricity demand was met by wind. And over the past five years, the average is less than 10 percent — despite Denmark having ‘carpeted’ its land with the machines.

In fact, Denmark, as small as it is, has 6,000 wind turbines and it still hasn’t enough to shut down a single coal fired power plant.  In fact:

It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

And, of course, the other part of the promise is lower rates and more jobs.

But those too have proven to be false claims:

Danish ratepayers are forced to pay the highest utility rates in Europe. And the American people are led to believe that, though wind may only provide a little more than one percent of our electricity now, reaching a 20 percent platform – as the Danes have allegedly done – will come at no cost, with no jobs lost and no externalities to consider.

Speaking of jobs, the report also pulls back the curtain on the wind power industry’s near-complete dependence on taxpayer subsidies to support the fairly modest workforce it presently maintains. Just as in Spain, where per-job taxpayer subsidies for so-called “green jobs” exceeds $1,000,000 per worker in some cases, wind-related jobs in Denmark on average are subsidized at a rate of 175 to 250 percent above the average pay per worker. All told, each new wind job created by the government costs Danish taxpayers between 600,000-900,000 krone a year, roughly equivalent to $90,000-$140,000 USD.

The obvious lesson – beware of all claims coming out of any politician’s mouth. They’ll pick and choose any “fact” that supports their agenda and not do a lick of research to ensure it is true. Spin is is king and they have absolutely no shame about spinning you until you puke.

But here’s the other thing to watch for now – since we now know that Denmark hasn’t even approached 20% electricity produced by wind, and this info is available to both the president and his advisers, if we hear it again, then it most likely is a lie.

~McQ

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Political Dialogue Is Just Now “Coarsening”?

In his 60 Minutes interview yesterday, President Obama remarked on the state of political dialogue:

President Barack Obama said in an interview to be aired Sunday night on “60 Minutes” that he sees “a coarsening of our political dialogue.”

“The truth of the matter is that there has been, I think, a coarsening of our political dialogue,” Obama told Steve Kroft in an interview taped at the White House on Friday evening.

“I will also say that in the era of 24-hour cable news cycles, that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention. And so one of the things that I’m trying to figure out is: How can we make sure that civility is interesting?”

So what’s his point? Well there are two. One is he doesn’t believe he and his ideas/agenda aren’t getting the news coverage they deserve because the “loudest and shrillest voices get the most attention”.

Of course, that was something the left counted on when they were in opposition to the Bush administration. But now that they are the establishment, they suffer the same problem the right did for 8 years. They’re not news. You’d think the “reality based” community would understand that dynamic.

That brings us to the “coarsening political dialogue”. The premise, of course, is it wasn’t coarse before, or at least, not as coarse.

Two points: one – it was just as coarse if not coarser prior to January 20th of this year. Anyone remember Harry Reid calling the president a liar and a loser? Nancy Pelosi claiming Bush was “incompetent?” Those are two of a myriad of examples that any reasonable person would agree are examples of “coarse political dialogue”. So I’m not buying the “coarsening of political speech” that Obama believes is happening. The difference between now and then is the “coarse speech” is aimed at him and what he’s doing.

Two – the coarsened speech occurred after January 20th of this year and well before Joe Wilson – the target of this particular riff by Obama – uttered a word. Citizens were denounced as “un-American” by Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. They were called “evil mongers” by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. Various Democratic Congress persons called them “brownshirts”, political terrorists and a mob.

Certainly political dialogue is coarse right now, but it is nothing new, certainly not worse than before and when you consider the examples I’ve given, definitely not the exclusive provenance of the right.

Obama’s remark about all of this seems to have a slight hint of whining about it.

~McQ

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Health Care Speech – The Morning After

As I think about last night’s speech by President Obama, two words kept coming to mind: partisan and combative. The speech was highly partisan, even though he gave lip-service to bi-partisanship. And I thought he was needlessly combative – calling people liars and describing those who disagree in less than flattering terms.

It was not his finest hour. Nor was it a particularly good speech. It seemed to go on forever and that is usually a sign that it isn’t holding the attention of the audience.

As I figured, since I was at a loss as to what else he could do, he attempted to repackage the same old proposals that the country has been rejecting and called it “new and improved”. He promised details, but there were scant few. And that was particularly true in his attempt to describe how he’d pay for the mess.

Let’s look at some quotes:

There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage.

I’m wondering what happened to the 17 million “Americans” that Democrats and Obama have consistently claimed were uninsured. Where did the 47 million uninsured go? Is this an acknowledgment that they’ve been purposely pumping the numbers up for quite some time?

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action.

This is what I mean about needlessly combative. Those who attended townhalls and other gatherings to voice their opinions and protest what the Democrats were trying to pass do not consider what they did to be “bickering” nor do they feel they were engaged in “games”. Those gaming this were the Democrats who tried their hardest to pass this monstrosity without the benefit of debate, without anyone being able to read and digest it and without Republican participation.

That is gaming the system. There’s no rush to do this and pretending there is also falls under “gaming”.

My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a “government takeover” of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.

So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition.

But it has never been Obama’s guiding principle – not when he insists that “choice” and “competition” can only be achieved by introducing a government run entity into the mix while declining to consider other options.

Remove the regulation that prohibits health care insurance providers from selling across state lines, remove the mandates that require the insured to buy coverage they don’t want or need and facilitate the removal of health care insurance from under employers into the open market. All of those moves – which would require little in the way of tax dollars and government intrusion – would actually deliver choice and competition while driving insurance costs down.

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

And most experts say that 5% would not be enough to keep such a system fiscally sound and it would eventually have to turn to the government for subsidy. Want a real insurance exchange? See my comments above.

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

Mandatory health insurance – something he said he didn’t believe in during his campaign. So a young person who would prefer to pay for his health care as needed now no longer has a choice.

Key word – choice. Remember Obama’s “guiding principle”. Well he violates it right there. You no longer have a choice. And remember, in the bill now on the House floor, this will involve the IRS fining you if you fail to comply.

Companies are left with no choice as well.

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

Certainly there are aren’t any literal panels called “death panels” in the pending legislation, but within the structure of the bill (HR 3200) there are certainly plenty of panels which will be determining what constitutes “best care”. The obvious logical argument then says, if they are there to determine what constitutes “best care” and are using the reimbursement mechanism to encourage their recommendations be followed and the refusal to reimburse if they aren’t, then it isn’t at all incorrect to logically conclude that “best care” when it comes to the elderly may conflict with the desired care the family and doctor want to render the patient.

That argument gets to Obama’s claim that he would prevent any bureaucrat, government or insurance, from getting in between you and your doctor.

So is what those are saying about “death-panels” “a lie, plain and simple”? Or is the lie to be found in the entrails of HR 3200 and in the glib assurances of Obama?

As an aside – is a president calling for “civility” really being civil when he calls those who disagree with him liars in a speech before a joint session of Congress?

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

See my post on Joe Wilson. He yelled “you lie” for a reason.

To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

Once again the combative and dismissive of the right. This was not a speech that really welcomed Republicans into the process. And, I found it amusing when he tried to imply the Republicans weren’t a part of the process because they’d refused to participate, Republican members of Congress waved the three bills they’ve submitted in the House for all to see.

First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment – it’s the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

The stated cost is $900 billion. That’s before the CBO looks at it. But of course the CBO can’t look at it until it is written legislation. But the CBO has already dismissed claims that saving of the amount Obama is claiming can be achieved by “finding savings” in “waste and abuse”.

And isn’t it telling that Obama admits that the system he now runs – Medicare – is “currently full of waste and abuse”. If eliminating fraud and abuse is so easy, one would assume a) there’d be none now or b) he could direct waste and abuse be ended now and those savings accrued immediately.

This is a hand-wave at fiscal responsibility. It is a glib nothing which he can stretch into a claim the cost of his proposal is “covered”.

Also remember that the front end of all these plans are loaded with collections, but no health care reform. Reform doesn’t kick in until 2013 – after Obama hopes to be safely reelected. But in the intervening years, we’ll begin to pay for it. Consequently we’ll have 10 years of money and only 7 or 8 years of reformed health care to pay for in that time frame. That means costs will explode after the 10th year and add to the deficit. Point? His proposal will add heavily to the deficit but not until he’s well out of office.

Knowing seniors were very wary of his plans, and he was losing their support, he attempted to win them back:

In fact, I want to speak directly to America’s seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that’s been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.

And in his next breath he says:

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies – subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.

These steps will ensure that you – America’s seniors – get the benefits you’ve been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That’s what this plan will do for you.

Well, first, Medicare part D is the Medicare prescription drug plan, so I have no idea who all these seniors are paying “thousands of dollars a year” for drugs.

As I recall, what Obama is primarily targeting, though he is very careful not to actually mention it, is doing away with Medicare Advantage.

If you’re wondering what Medicare Advantage plans are, you can read about them here. One of the things Advantage plans pay for is prescription drugs.

And, as the website points out, “In addition, you might have to pay a monthly premium to your Medicare Advantage Plan for the extra benefits that they offer.

I guess the Advantage plans must be considered one of those “gold-plated” plans.

Also note the promise of yet another bureaucratic panel – so, could continuing care on grandma at some point in time be considered “waste” and a different form of “care” be encouraged? Is it possible that could conflict with what you and your doctor prefer?

Again, nebulous language that can be interpreted and logically extended to mean precisely what Obama denies is in his proposal.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.

This is the oldest claim in politics and the most bald-faced of its lies.

Obama mentioned demonstration projects for tort reform (and I am glad to see tort reform at least on the edge of the table). I’ve got an idea for a real demonstration project – if it is so easy to reduce the “waste and inefficiency” in Medicare and Medicaid, you have 3 years in which to do it. And once you’ve been successful and that success is unequivocally documented, then come back to us and we’ll talk about further reform.

Overall, as mentioned, not his finest speech. In fact, probably one of his poorer speechs. There was a measure of arrogance that was unattractive. There was a feeling that he wasn’t trying to convince but instead dictate. Nothing I heard last night was new. Nothing I heard last night was particularly compelling in terms of making a convincing argument for doing what he contends we must do.

Instead I heard frustration voiced in surly combativeness. That’s not the way to convince your opposition to see things your way. Leadership was again missing in a speech and moment that practically begged for it.

~McQ

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Is This What “Public Funding Of The Arts” Means? (UPDATE)

For years the right has said that government has no business subsidizing art and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive. Of course some are of us are of the opinion that if “art” is sufficiently good, the private sector will gladly support it.

But what I assume both sides would agree on is that government support of the arts shouldn’t be abused and turned into government propaganda. Yet:

“…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.”

The quote comes from Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood and his post there documents his experience on the call.

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.

Given the tone of the invitation, and the apparent concerns it raised, Courrielche called in. His concerns were validated:

The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.

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 will.i.am’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.

Hard to argue, given this report, that the NEA isn’t now involved in a political role. Courrielche wasn’t the only one who was concerned by what he heard. Lee Rosenbaum was “creeped out” by the call she participated in as well. She validates Courrielche’s report and conclusions. Courrielche writes a followup post here.

The point, of course, is it isn’t beyond any politician, administration or government to use and abuse any program for its benefit. When you have a community organizer in the Oval Office, it appears they get abused is record time – nd it is clear, at least to me, that in this case the plan is to use the NEA for propaganda and political gain. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.

UPDATE – This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject either. MichaelW covered it back on August 27th when the first conference call was held. Since then there’s been a second (that’s the call Lee Rosenbaum talks about) in which the NEA and White House try a few tricks to give them “plausible deniability” against charges of collusion in a program to get NEA artists to create propaganda for the administration.

~McQ

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Revisiting Political History

A little reminder for those on the left who sniff at those uncomfortable about a politician addressing school children. It’s also handy for those who like to like to recall George H.W. Bush’s address to school kids and pretend like the left wasn’t bothered by that:

But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.

Of course that won’t happen in this case. Nor will this:

The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”

And you certainly won’t hear Democratic politicans saying anything like this either:

“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.'”

But you know, this is all a new bit of right-wing paranoia, isn’t it?

~McQ

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Bob Herbert – Now and Then

One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:

Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.

The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.

Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.

The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.

Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?

~McQ

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