Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: March 2010

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On the verge

What we’re on the verge of, at the moment, isn’t yet clear, but after today, this health care reform bill will either be law or be dead.

Unfortunately my sneaking suspicion is it will be law and we’ll all be the less free because of that.  The rumor of a Stupak deal (via Executive Order no less – can’t wait to hear how that will actually work) has me to the point of figuring the deal is done.

Debate is now underway on the floor – not that it is really debate (it is more like an announcement of positions) nor will it change any minds.

There have been a number of pronouncements made concerning this bill.  One of my favorites is “it will fundamentally change the relationship between the people and the government”.

No it won’t. There’s nothing fundamental about the change this bill will bring. It simply expands on the fundamental change that was introduced in the progressive era, was further expanded under the New Deal and has yet to be successfully rolled back.

Given the nonsense about helping reduce the deficit when it is clear that it will add to it dramatically, the one thing it may do is hasten the demise of the welfare state that’s been cobbled together here, but even that’s still a way off.

What it is doing and has done is awaken at least a portion of the population to what has been happening much more slowly and incrementally over the past decades. And because of what is being taken over, something which is a very personal and important part of people’s lives, it will most likely keep the attention of a good portion of them. That’s especially true as the law of unintended consequences begin to take hold and those doctors people like aren’t available anymore (or retire) and that plan they love isn’t available because their employer cut back to avoid the tax or dumped them into another health care plan altogether.

I keep seeing the claim that Democrats are looking at the long game on this one and are willing to sacrifice short term to bring the largest entitlement in most of our lifetimes to fruition. I don’t believe that for a second. There’s a much easier and majority preserving way of passing health care reform. So you have to believe that this isn’t all about health care or reform. The bill in front of Congress is a pretty radical bill which is not at all liked by many of the rank and file Democrats. No, this is a process and a bill being driven by the Democratic leadership – a leadership as radical and as leftist as any we’ve had in 80 years. This is phase III of an agenda begun in the progressive Wilson administration, expanded in the Roosevelt and Johnson eras and now again gaining legs, even limited ones, in the Obama administration.

Incremental collectivism designed to concentrate more and more power in central government.

The change isn’t fundamental at all, but the effect is cumulative and the only question is whether or not we’ll reach the stage where it collapses under its own weight before they successfully take over everything.


Democrats drop “deem and pass” – amendment package may be key vote

The Democrats have decided not to use the “Slaughter solution” also known as “deem and pass” during tomorrow’s vote on health care reform.  Apparently there will be an up or down vote on the two bills, i.e. the Senate version of HCR and to pass a package of amendments to the law.

Problem – or not – does it matter what sequence they’re done in?

The Republicans are claiming you can’t amend a law that isn’t a law yet.  In other words, they’re claiming that unless the Senate HCR bill is signed into law, it can’t be amended.  And Democratic House members just don’t trust the Senate enough to pass that first.  Thus the proposed “deem and pass” attempt.

However, per Byron York, sequencing really isn’t as big a problem as you may think it should be (i.e. if you’re a logical person who thinks the GOP argument makes logical sense, you’re obviously not used to living the the same world as Congress):

I just talked with a Republican rules expert, and it appears that there is nothing in the rules of the House that will prevent Democrats from scheduling the vote for the amendments package before the vote on the Senate bill itself — that is, voting to amend the law before it becomes law.

“As a technical matter of the rules of the House, you can pass individual bills in any order you want,” says the expert. The expert said Republican Rep. Joe Barton, who argued that the House could not amend the Senate bill before it became law, was making an “integrity-based” argument based on what should be done. “But as a strict construction matter of the House rules, there’s no bar” to doing what the Democrats intend to do, the expert said.

“To quote Mr. Hastings,” he concluded, “they can make it up as they go along.”

And they are. Given this I expect the first vote to be on the package of amendments tomorrow. If that doesn’t make it (and it may not – stay with me here), the next vote on the HCR bill will be moot. If it makes it, then I would expect the HCR bill to make it although it will probably be very close.

Why do I think the package of amendments might not make it? Well if they vote that down, then they don’t have to be on record with the HCR vote – they (Democrats) can vote “no” on HCR in good conscience. Excuse? Without the package of amendments it was unacceptable.

That’s if it goes in the sequence I think it might tomorrow.


Don’t know if means anything, but HCR is dropping on Intrade

Over at Intrade the contract for passage of the healthcare reform bill has dropped from 84.7 to 77 in the last two hours.

Of course it took a steep dive a couple of days ago and recovered, so it might not mean anything. I guess we’ll know in 36 hours.

*** Update 2:45 PM CST ***

Three hours later and it’s back around where it started. I guess Pelosi got over whatever snag came up. Even though the counts don’t show her with the votes yet, the people putting down money clearly think she’s going to come up with them from somewhere.

Fess Parker 1924-2010

I’m not a big follower of celebrities and frankly don’t really care about most of them.  But Fess Parker is an exception.  Mostly because he was my first hero as a kid.  He was Davey Crockett.  And Davy Crockett was someone to emulate and admire.  And, like Andrew Malcolm who writes a great tribute to Parker, I was a coonskin cap kid and even sang the Ballad of Davey Crockett (“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee ….”) at a school function in the first grade – coonskin cap and all.

As a self-confessed coonskin-cap-wearer (tail snapped on), we momentarily set aside our health-threatening talk about healthcare to fulfill a sentimental obligation to a childhood icon, Davy Crockett.

Crockett, who also used the non-cinematic name of Fess Parker, died of natural causes Thursday at the age of 85.

The problem for many of us is that we cannot separate Davy and Fess or vice versa. Nor, frankly, do we want to. Sure, Fess went on to a successful business career and grew grapes and hotels. But he’ll always also be Davy. The link to politics here is that Davy actually served time in Congress, 1826-1835, back before the U.S. House of Representatives consisted of two partisan herds.

Yes, yes, the 6-foot-6 Parker later played Daniel Boone with the trademark hat. But for the first American generation to grow up with television, the fact was Parker looked and acted more like Davy Crockett than Davy Crockett himself.

Malcolm is exactly right – to an impressionable kid, Parker was Crockett and always will be. And he taught some pretty good lessons to us:

In the days before Bart Simpson became a reverse role model, Davy held that you always said what you meant, meant what you said and went down swinging for what you believed in. Twenty-first century corner-cutting deal-making was not actually an option.

Rest in peace, Davey Crockett, er, Fess Parker – this coonskin cap kid will miss you.


GOP ginning up new Contract With America?

That’s the word in “Washington Whispers”:

With public and internal polls showing the likelihood of a huge Republican voter swing in the fall, party officials are now testing the need for and the issues that would be included in an election agenda like the 1994 Contract With America.

One of the key findings by party officials quizzing the public so far: Voters would like a list of changes the Republicans would bring if installed as the majority in the House or Senate or both. “There would be a market” for a new contract, says a top official.

The issues and themes will include cutting the deficit, the size of the government, limiting spending, and boosting liberty and the military.  They’re apparently looking outside DC for some ideas (wow … there’s a novel idea). 

Here’s your chance … any suggestions?


Harry Reid promises to bring Public Option to a vote in the next few months


No, not really – but I’m sure that’s the reaction on much of the “progressive” left.  Most of them figure without a public option the chance of actually swinging a government single payer system is a whole lot harder.   With it, they have a pretty good chance.  Harry Reid promises to oblige:

Hoping to assuage progressive Democrats who remain disappointed with the content of the health care reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) committed on Friday to holding a separate vote on a public option in the coming months.

In a letter to two of his more progressive colleagues in the Senate — Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — the Nevada Democrat implicitly apologized for his inability to get a government-run insurance plan into the final piece of health care legislation and promised to keep working to get the policy into law.

And don’t expect Mr. Reid to follow the rules of the Senate when he does – oh, no, that day is over apparently (well, except when his party is in the minority again – the caterwauling will be epic).

The search now is for a vehicle outside health care reform to get a public plan into law. The same institutional hurdles that killed the provision in the previous go-rounds — mainly that there aren’t 60 supportive senators to break a filibuster — remain. But aides on the Hill are already looking to future reconciliation vehicles to which they can attach the public plan, which would, in turn, allow for it to pass via an up-or-down vote

Welcome to the world’s largest Banana Republic.


CBO says with “doc fix”, HCR adds to deficit

It has always been a smoke and mirrors show, but now we’re beginning to see through it to the truth of the matter. At the GOP’s request, the CBO confirms what I and many others have been saying for quite some time:

Contrary to recent claims, the Democratic health care overhaul will increase Federal deficits by at least $59 billion, and more likely $260 billion, over the next 10 years.

New analysis from the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] provided at the request of House Budget Ranking Republican Paul Ryan, indicates that including the “doc fix” in the Majority’s health care overhaul adds $208 billion to the cost of the bill, increasing the deficit by $59 billion over the next 10 years.

In response to a question regarding passage of the doc fix, Speaker Pelosi said “it’s not in this bill  but we’ll have it soon. We’ve made a commitment to do this.”

The fact that they intended to repeal the law cutting fees to doctors isn’t a secret and hasn’t been a secret. As I said, the Senator from Louisiana talked about a permanent fix last night on Fox News. But she tried to dodge the question about why it wasn’t included in the health care bill when it certainly is a large chunk of the future cost.

The reason of course is obvious. Not that it is going to change what will probably happen on Sunday. But it is clear, regardless of the spin, regardless of the hype and despite the promises and hoopla – this monstrosity is going to add to the debt.

Of course, how could it not – more insured, no payment caps, no pre-existing conditions? How could any rational person actually conclude it would cost less?

And after 2019? Well, dealing in reality and removing some of the historically unrealistic assumptions which Democrats built into the bill to reach their number yields an entirely different outcome, as you might expect:

Removing these assumptions reveals a stark reality. If these assumed savings are never realized – as is the likely scenario – CBO projects that rather than reducing the deficit in the years beyond 2019, the deficit would increase over the decade following 2019 “in a broad range around one-quarter percent of GDP.” Using the Majority’s own methodology, this amounts to a second decade deficit of $600 billion.

Bendin’ that cost curve down, boss. Bendin’ it down …



Different country, different reaction

You have to wonder why this announcement as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her visit, wasn’t treated the same was as a recent announcement in Israel was treated:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Iran’s Russian-built nuclear power plant will be launched this summer, even as the United States called for Russia to delay the start-up. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Moscow on an official trip, urged Russia not to launch the plant until Tehran proves that it’s not developing atomic weapons.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at a joint press conference with Clinton, immediately responded that Russia would put the reactor online.

 All smiles in Russia.

No courage in the face of an enemy, but willing to kick an ally at the first perceived “insult”.

Amateur hour in the US and the Kremlin knows it.  I mean, look at the “respect” the American position was given.


Voting for Obamacare? Fair warning …

Rasmussen has the numbers that should have Democrats who are voting yes worried:

Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. voters say they are less likely to vote for their representative in Congress this November if he or she votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken Wednesday night finds that 34% are more likely to vote for their Congress member’s reelection if he or she supports the president’s health care plan. Eight percent (8%) say the health care vote will have no impact on how they vote this November, and another seven percent (7%) are not sure.

Rasmussen also reports that 33% favor a single payer system and that heavily influences their plan to vote for their rep if their rep votes for the plan. However, as even Maxine Waters knows, 33 or 34% won’t get you elected. What will get you elected is the independent vote. And that’s pretty bad news for those contemplating a “yes” vote:

But perhaps more significantly, 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party are less likely to support someone who votes for the legislation. Just 32% of unaffiliateds are more likely to vote for someone who supports the bill.

I still don’t get this. If Democrats back off, say “we heard you” and team up with and include Republicans they could actually pass something called health care reform (not that I’d support that either – just discussing the politics here). And by doing that, they could lay it all in the GOP’s lap with a “put up or shut up” move, preserve their majorities in Congress and most likely win over a majorities of Americans to their side (unfortunate, but true).

So why the continued push to get this monstrosity through? Why play dumb power politics when you can accomplish much the same thing with smart politics and preserve your base of power?

Look, we watch politics here at QandO, and this is just dumb politics. It is going all-in for something which is very unpopular, will most likely destroy the Democratic majorities in Congress and doesn’t even begin the benefit cycle (the downside of gaming the CBO) until 2014 when it is entirely likely they may not even hold the White House any more.

I don’t get it – this was supposed to be such a cool and smart man who was well attuned politically – these are not the politics of someone fitting that description. It just says to me again that while he may be the face man, he’s not really in charge of the agenda.


Who is the reactionary now? (update)

Ezra Klein has this to say about “the process” now under fire by Republicans:

So far in the health-care debate, Republicans have attacked the legitimacy of private negotiations, parochial deal making, the budget reconciliation process, self-executing rules, the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis, and even the constitutionality of the legislation. It’s a good theory: Make people hate Washington and mistrust the legislative process and you’ll make people hate and mistrust what emerges from that process.

But it’s also dangerous. As Republicans well know, private negotiations between lawmakers, deals that advantage a state or a district, and a base level of respect for the CBO’s scores have long been central to the lawmaking progress. As the parties have polarized, reconciliation and self-executing rules (like deem and pass) have become more common — and the GOP’s own record, which includes dozens of reconciliation bills and self-executing rules, proves it.

As anyone can tell who has read this far, Klein is championing the status quo. Private negotiations, not transparency. Deals that advantage a state or district, not equal treatment under the law, parliamentary tricks vs. up or down votes as well as gaming the CBO and blowing off constitutional questions.

And his defense? Well the GOP’s done it too.

His defense is all about the process and how the process has worked in the past and should be left alone.  What did he say?  Attacking tha misbegotten process is a good “theory” but practically it’s “dangerous”.

Is it?

Do you find it at all ironic that the group – “progressives” – who were just recently championing transparency are now defending a completely opaque process with private closed-door negotiations and special deals isn’t it?

Klein goes on:

The GOP’s answer to this is that health-care reform is important. Stopping the bill is worth pulling out all the stops. And I’m actually quite sympathetic to this view. Outcomes are, in fact, more important than process. But once you’ve taken the stops out, it’s hard to put them back in. Democrats will launch the very same attacks when they’re consigned to the minority, and maybe think up a few new ones of their own.

Pulling out all the stops, as any fair observer would note, is certainly not at all confined to the GOP side (I swear, given my time observing and writing about them, “progressives” or liberals, whatever label they prefer today, are truly irony impaired). On the Democrat side we’ve seen gaming the CBO, leaving out critical health care legislation (doc fix) to make the numbers look better, stupid accounting tricks like double counting, locking the opposing party out of the process and then claiming they’re the “party of no” and parliamentary tricks that would make a banana republic blush.

And then there’s deception like this:

Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party’s message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.

Undercuts it?  It destroys it (139 billion deficit reduction over 10 years v. 200 to 250 billion pay out to doctors over 10 years : net -61 to -111 billion even with their numbers over 10 years).

If “pulling out all the stops” means cleaning up a process like that, I say pull em out even further. And if it comes back to bite the GOP, so be it. It would most likely end up being a good thing.  Because it would probably mean they’re trying the same sort of crap the Democrats are trying to pull of now.

UPDATE: Ed Morrisey is reporting the memo cited by Politico could be a hoax.  He’s apparently verified that it exists and has been seen by sources of his on the hill, but Democrats are denying it’s theirs.  That said, I listened to Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tell Greta Van Susteren essentially the same thing the purported memo says, last night on Fox, i.e. there would most likely be a permanent legislative solution offered for the “doc fix” soon (i.e. the cut will be repealed).


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