Free Markets, Free People

Ezra Klein


Painting over the rot

I’ve been watching the media circus surrounding the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.   If a more inept bureaucrat ever lived, the best they could do is hope to tie with her for last place.  Yet we have so-called “jounalists”, or at least those who would like to be thought of as journalists, so engaged in spin it is almost unseemly.  Well it is unseemly.  In fact, it’s nauseating.

And who would I designate as “head clown?”  None other than Ezra Klein.  As James Taranto points out, Klein is shameless in his attempt to paint over the rot that is ObamaCare:

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein hails the success of the Five Year Plan: “Obamacare has won. And that’s why Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius can resign.” If Sebelius had quit during what Klein calls the “catastrophic launch”–see what we mean?–it would have been a sign of White House “panic” and “made it harder to save the law,” Klein argues.

It’s surely true that the immediate political risk of Sebelius’s resignation is considerably less now than it would have been then. In October it might have emboldened vulnerable Senate Democrats to abandon ObamaCare or at least press for serious legislative fixes. It’s late for that now. By maintaining party unity this long, Obama probably bought enough time to assure that Congress won’t threaten what is invariably called his “signature legislative achievement” this year.

“In other words,” Klein writes, “the law has won its survival.”

Has it?  Has it really?  There’s nothing to this point that assures the “law has won its survival”, and, as we’ve been warned constantly, the worst is yet to come – that is when the President quits arbitrarily delaying the “worst”.

I mean, Klein’s nonsense is reminiscent of Baghdad Bob’s assurances that the Iraqis were winning, for heaven sake.

We discussed it on the podcast this week and we’ve mentioned it over and over again … we are terribly ill served by our “journalists” and the “news” media in general.  Where once upon a time they actually inspected what government did and helped ensure that it didn’t get outside the lines, it now aids and abets it straying beyond those boundries. We now, literally it seems, have a class of “journalists” who think it is their job to hide the truth in order to advance their political agenda.

Ezra Klein is one of those.  Anyone who ever takes anything the man says seriously again, is a fool.

~McQ


Ezra Klein: A larger welfare state might mean a smaller deficit

Honestly, that’s his premise.  You can read it here.  He bases his argument mostly in health care costs.  Obviously where he tries to go with it is toward a single payer system.  But he uses Germany as the model.  Anyone, does Germany have a single payer system?  No, it has a public health insurance program that covers 88% of the population.

Take Germany. They have a pretty big welfare state: pensions, health care, paid vacations, unemployment benefits equal to two-thirds of one’s income.

So that’s great and per Klein, who, like I said, wants you to believe by his vague general description, that Germany has a system like … Canada.

Don’t believe it?  Well it takes that sort of implication to make a statement like this:

To bring this across the Atlantic, you could argue that the United States’s debt burden is the product of an insufficiently large welfare state — at least with regard to health care. To see a stark illustration of that thesis, head to the Web site of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and download their health-care statistics for Canada and the United States [emphasis mine].

Notice how apparently we transitioned seamlessly from a country with health insurance to a country with a single payer system without that being obvious?  In reality we’ve looked at the apple, now he plans on comparing it to the orange:

As recently as 1965, the cost of those two systems competed neck-and-neck. That year, Canada spent 5.9 percent of its GDP on health care. The United States spent 5.7 percent. But around that time, Canada was transitioning to its current single-payer system. Over the next four decades, the growth of health-care costs slowed in Canada while it accelerated in the United States. By 2009, Canada was spending 11 percent of its GDP on health care — and covering everyone. The United States was spending 17.4 percent of its GDP and leaving 45 million uninsured. In dollar terms, we’re spending $3,600 more per person, per year, than Canada.

Emphasis mine.  It’s a pretty ballsy attempt, I’ve got to say.  Here’s another question for those paying attention.  Can anyone tell me what began in 1965?  Anyone?  That’s right … Medicare.  Per Klein, we were actually spending less than Canada until the same year that Medicare and government intrusion into the health care market was made law.

Based on that extraordinarily flawed bit of reasoning which managed to factor out or ignore a major reason for the increase in US health care costs, Klein concludes:

If the United States had Canada’s health-care system, and Canada’s per capita health-care costs, we would have a much “larger” welfare state, but we wouldn’t have a deficit problem.

Really?  Seriously?  You really want to run with that one, Mr. Klein?

Perhaps a less rosy look at Canada might help temper that nonsense a bit. Here’s a Canadian economic analyst speaking about the Canadian healthcare system:

"There’s got to be some change to the status quo whether it happens in three years or 10 years," said Derek Burleton, senior economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank.

"We can’t continually see health spending growing above and beyond the growth rate in the economy because, at some point, it means crowding out of all the other government services.

"At some stage we’re going to hit a breaking point."

It means crowding out other government services or what? 

That’s right, deficits.

Well, except in Ezra Klein’s magic welfare state where one can happily spend whatever they want and there are no apparent consequences or … deficits.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Madison equals Cairo? Not even close

It’s a cold day in hell here as I favorably quote someone who I usually savage.   And I have to revise my thoughts on the left not getting irony – apparently some do.  Who am I taking about?  Joe Klein.  Yup that Joe Klein, TIME’s Joe Klein.  He actually gets it:

Revolutions everywhere–in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they’re protesting against it. I mean, Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in  the Wisconsin Senate?

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that.

I know … you’re wondering, “what did they do with the real Joe Klein”, but hey give the devil his due (keeping with the cold day in hell metaphor) – he’s exactly right.

The other Klein, the Ezra type, not so much.

Let’s be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is — or is not — facing at the moment, they’re not caused by labor unions.

That, sir, is irrelevant.  Whatever “fiscal problems” are present need to be solved by having across the board spending cuts and that’s the point of requiring public service labor union members to pitch in a little more on their benefits.  Essentially what Wisconsin is trying to do is put state employees on an even par with private employees in terms of benefits.P1-AZ544_UNIONS_NS_20110217194803

Here’s the bottom line of what is triggering these protests:

Besides limiting collective-bargaining rights for most workers—excepting police, firefighters and others involved in public safety—it would require government workers, who currently contribute little or nothing to their pensions, to contribute 5.8% of their pay to pensions, and pay at least 12.6% of health-care premiums, up from an average of 6%.

Wow.  No more free lunch.  Can’t imagine that, can you?  You know, actually having to pitch in for your pension and health-care?  Privately employed citizens have been doing that forever.  So why are the public sector folks exempt?  Well that’s the dirty little secret isn’t it?

Let’s go to Matt Welch for the answer:

We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people’s money to pay for those contracts and promises (most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect), then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street’s fault. Anyone who doesn’t agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.

There is Wisconsin in a nutshell – distilled as well as you’ll find it anywhere.  These deals were mostly pay for play and the state’s taxpayers were sold down the river.  I noted some months ago that the Democrats have become the party of public service unions instead of the party of the blue collar worker.  They are dependent on the money and machine those powerful unions provide to stay in power.

And when that machine falters?  Well, you get tantrums like this.  Remember the union protesters in Illinois a few months ago clamoring for the governor there to raise taxes instead of cutting their benefits?  Just like Ezra Klein they want to lay off the fiscal mess on others instead of recognizing its reality and understanding that the free ride has come to an end.  It doesn’t matter if the unions had anything to do with the mess – the mess says everything is on the table.  That’s the only way out of the mess.

But, this is Armageddon for the Democrats and their stakeholders.  If states succeed in breaking the hold public service unions have on government, Democrats stand to lose substantial power.   That explains why President Obama has entered the fray.  While he wouldn’t back the protesters in Iran because it might be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of the state, he has no qualms whatsoever of meddling in the internal affairs of the state of Wisconsin.   Apparently elections only have consequences when he wins.

What has the unions so terrified of the Walker plan?  Well here’s the plan:

His plan allows workers to quit their union without losing their job. He requires unions to demonstrate their support through an annual secret-ballot vote. He also ends the unfair taxpayer subsidy to union fundraising: The state and local government would stop collecting union dues with their payroll systems.

Under that plan, union membership would be an actual choice instead of a mandated requirement to hold a job.  Horror of horrors.   How dare a governor advance something which actually enhances freedom (choice = freedom) – why that makes him a dictator, of course and akin to Hitler.

Make no mistake, these protests in Madison aren’t about democracy, freedom or liberty.  They’re about the left’s power and something they love to project on the right and Wall Street – selfishness.  The protests are a collective tantrum from adolescents who refuse to acknowledge that their special-interest Candyland no longer exists and while it did, it existed on the back of the tax payers who were made to unwillingly subsidizing their way of life.

This is the wrong fight, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Democrats are on the wrong side.  Public sector unions are not popular and despite Ezra Klein’s denial, are held responsible for some of the fiscal problems the states face (like pensions):

A new poll from the Washington-based Clarus Group asked:

Do you think government employees should be represented by labor unions that bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions … or do you think government employees should not be represented by labor unions?

A full 64% of the respondents said "no."

That includes 42% of Democrats, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans. Only 49% of Democrats think public workers should be in unions at all.

So, as you watch these “protests” keep them in context.  They’re an astroturfed attempt, orchestrated from the highest office in the land,  to keep the power current structure in place that underpins the political power of the Democrats.  This isn’t about rights or liberty or freedom, this is about power and money.  And it has finally unmasked the left in this country and revealed what it is really all about.

~McQ


Ezra Klein wonders what good a Constitutional cite will do on future legislation

Ezra Klein got himself in a bit of hot water by saying some things about the Constitution that appear to have been misinterpreted.  He originally commented on the subject while talking about the new GOP rule that requires a Constitutional reference be put on every bit of legislation offered to, one assumes, prove it’s Constitutional viability.  Unfortunately, it isn’t Congress which gets to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional.

The old saying, “the Constitution says what the Supreme Court says it says” is never more true than it is today.  In fact, “interpreting” the Constitution is the SCOTUS’s primary job.

Klein actually uses an example in ObamacCare to make his point about the GOP’s new requirement:

"The individual responsibility requirement provided for in this section (in this subsection referred to as the requirement) is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce," reads the opening paragraph. Shortly thereafter, the legislation makes itself more explicit: "In United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association (322 U.S. 533 (1944)), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that insurance is interstate commerce subject to Federal regulation."

Now you may disagree with the argument, but you can’t disagree with the point.  And you should note that while it cites the constitutional provision generally (commerce clause), it specifically cites a Supreme Court case as another cite.

Klein goes on to say that both sides have a tendency to interpret the Constitution to their benefit – which I would say is, for the most part true.  However, I’d also suggest that the difference between the two sides is the right has a tendency to interpret the Constitution as a limit on government – something the founders wrote it to be.  In my opinion then, the right therefore tends to be more in line with the original intent of the Constitution with its interpretations than is the left.  The left, in many cases, sees the Constitution as an impediment to broadening the powers of government far outside the seemingly clear powers granted the government by the Constitution.  I’d say they’ve been very successful in achieving their aim to this point.

Anyway, to make his point about both sides and their interpretations, Klein uses the 2nd Amendment as an example of the right’s interpretation of the Constitution to their benefit (i.e. unrestricted possession of firearms).  His claim that this is probably an incorrect interpretation since it relegates membership in a “well regulated militia” to meaninglessness.  Of course, a simple bit of research would have pointed out that the militia was defined quite specifically by any number of founders.  For instance, George Mason: “"Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers."  Mason’s definition was widely agreed to by the vast majority of the founders as anyone who has read them knows.  And, of course, Article 1, Section 8, speaks to the training of the militia (‘well regulated’) and leaves that to the states, not the federal government.

So it was obviously the intent of the drafters of the Constitution that all be given the right to bear arms and that all who did formed the “militia”.  And that conforms well with how militias have been viewed throughout our history.  That takes a bit of steam out of Klein’s argument that the right is just as bad as the left (I challenge him to come up with quotes by the founders that would support the broad interpretation of the commerce clause the left prefers).

However, given the SCOTUS’s role, his main point remains pretty much in tact – putting a Constitutional reference on a bill isn’t going to mean anything much, since the Congress doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional. 

That said, I certainly don’t see any harm in such a cite because lawmakers will at least have to address the Constitution and their interpretation of its meaning by providing a cite and defending it.  If nothing else it will spark needed debate as each member introducing legislation must defend that legislation Constitutionally.  Certainly, as the government is structured, they won’t have the last word if the law is challenged later in court, but it may at least be a mechanism that keeps what most members, left and right, would consider overtly unConstitional bills off the floor and provide a basis for bi-partisan rejection of those that do reach the floor.

So all in all, I see some advantage to the measure.  That advantage is limited to be sure, but it is a step in the right direction to return the focus of the national legislature toward the founding legal document of the land.  And while the SCOTUS will continue to be the final word on Constitutional legitimacy, perhaps fewer “ObamaCare” type bills will be a result of such internal discussion and debate.  I don’t know about you, but I would see that as a very welcome change.

~McQ


Ezra Klein’s rather silly defense of the 17th Amendment (updates)

Ezra Klein seems to be bragging somewhat about something that frankly makes him look foolish.  Apparently he appeared on C-SPAN with Heritage’s Brian Darling.  Darling made the point that the Senate, by design, was supposed to be a voice of the states.  Klein disputes that, I assume, because he apparently doesn’t know his history. 

Responding to a questioner, [Brian Darling] went so far as to say he’d consider repeal of the 17th amendment, which would mean that senators would again be elected by state legislatures rather than voters.

I’ve never understood this sort of thing, and said so in the panel. The Founders didn’t wisely orient the Senate around states. They pragmatically oriented the Senate around states. But now that we’ve been the United States of America for a while and none of the states seem likely to secede, the fact that California has 69 times more people than Wyoming but the same representation in the Senate is an offensive anachronism, at least to Californians.

Secession?  Where did that come from?

It is certainly true, given that remark, that he doesn’t understand  Darling’s argument. Here’s Klein’s argument at the link in the cite:

In Philadelphia in 1787, the smaller states favored the New Jersey Plan — one chamber with equal representation per state — while James Madison argued for two chambers, both apportioned by population, which would benefit his Virginia.

The delegates finally settled on the Connecticut Compromise, or the Great Compromise. Seats in the lower chamber would be apportioned by population (with some residents counting more than others, of course) while seats in the upper chamber would be awarded two per state.

The idea was to safeguard states’ rights at a time when the former colonies were still trying to get used to this new country of theirs. But the big/small divide was nothing like what we have today. Virginia, the biggest of the original 13 states, had 538,000 people in 1780, or 12 times as many people as the smallest state, Delaware.

That version, I assume, is one he’s cobbled together to support his view that it was all a  pragmatic compromise.  But, of course, it wasn’t.  It was instead, a very carefully designed system of government.  And he misrepresents Madison’s view on the subject completely. 

How do I know? Because I’ve read Madison’s writing on the subject in the Federalist papers.

The debate at the time, the concern I should say, was transitioning from the Articles of Confederation to government under the Constitution.  All knew it meant a more powerful government at a national level and all were quite wary of that. Remember, those writing the Constitution were state delegations.  THAT was the great concern of theirs given the oppressive yoke of imperial England they had just removed from their necks.  All, while they may have differed on the structure – and that’s where the arguments took place – wanted a a more FEDERAL government than a NATIONAL government.

After outlining what a republican form of government is, Madison notes the concerns of those who think the Constitution will make it a NATIONAL government vs a FEDERAL government by outlining the differences between the national and federal types.  Here’s Madison in Federalist 39:

"But it was not sufficient," say the adversaries of the proposed Constitution, "for the convention to adhere to the republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the FEDERAL form, which regards the Union as a CONFEDERACY of sovereign states; instead of which, they have framed a NATIONAL government, which regards the Union as a CONSOLIDATION of the States."

So there, in the hand of the man who drafted the Constitution, are the working definitions of the two terms as they understood them.  Note how the FEDERAL form is defined.  As you read through the rest of Federalist 39, you’ll find Madison discussing both the NATIONAL model and the FEDERAL model and pointing out some of both are necessary.  They had a purely FEDERAL form under the Articles of Confederation.  It didn’t work well.  They knew that had to put some national powers into the hands of the new government, but they feared such a type of government, so they wanted to limit the scope of that power.  He specifically addresses the Congress and how it was purposely designed to limit the power of a national government while importantly preserving some federalism:

The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL.

That one paragraph, in its simplicity, points out for those who will take the time to read and understand it – something Klein may wish to do – that the Constitution wasn’t some “pragmatic” compromise.  Klein seems unable to understand that the purpose of the Senate is to provide coequal political representation to the states.  That representation was to act as a brake on both the national government and the people (another “national” entity) who were represented in the House.  The equal representation of the states in the Senate was also meant to prevent the larger states from running roughshod over the smaller states, something which happens quite frequently in the House.  What Klein seems to want is another House in the Senate.  He seems totally unfamiliar with why the Senate was designed as it was.  Just read his thoughts on how he’d structure it and you’ll see what I mean.

Madison considered the final product to be a necessary mix, not a pragmatic compromise, of federal and national power conferred on the government in order to make it work properly but keep the national power in check.  The mix of both was designed to give the government the necessary powers it lacked under the Articles of Confederation while also, and this is critical to the success of that design, preserving the rights and power of the states.  

The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.

The 17th Amendment destroyed that design and balance. Look at the mess that has wrought.  Repealing the 17th Amendment would begin to walk the national government back to this mix of government designed by the founders.  Since the amendment’s passage, the government has shifted to a wholly national government and states have essentially lost their sovereignty and their rights.  We have paid the price and suffer the consequences.

There are certainly other contributors to that situation, but the 17th Amendment is one of the biggest contributors.  Klein needs to acquaint himself with the actual design of the Constitutional government built by the founders like James Madison.  There’s an entire book that will do that for him – “The Federalist Papers”.  If he’d read them, he might not look quite so foolish the next time he attempts to pontificate on what the founders thought.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike, I suppose – Brian Darling’s rebuttal (replete with Federalist 39 reference).

UPDATE II: James Joyner and Steven Taylor join the fray. I’d only say to Dr. Taylor’s assertion that Madison’s writings in Fed.39 were a "post-hoc rationalization", that they could just as easily represent a "post-hoc realization" that they had in fact designed a very good model for government and thus the "eloquent" argument. Personally I’ve never been able to argue eloquently for anything in which I didn’t believe in passionately.

~McQ


Deficits: Are Spending Increases The Same As Tax Cuts?

This weekend on on Fox News Sunday, Jon Kyl (rather inartfully) set up a classic struggle between political views of how government economics work:

Ezra Klein (and others) pounced on Kyl’s poorly expressed assertion (my emphasis):

What’s remarkable about Kyl’s position here is that it appears to be philosophical. “You should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans,” he said. Never! This is much crazier than anything you hear from Democrats. Imagine if some Democrat — and a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, no less — said that as a matter of principle, spending should never be offset. He’d be laughed out of the room.

Back in the real world, tax cuts and spending increases have the exact same affect on the budget deficit. This sort of comment is how you tell people who care about the deficit apart from people who are interested in exploiting fears of the deficit to shrink the size of government.

While Kyl’s phrasing lends to this sort of demagogic mockery, it’s hard to blame Klein, et al., after the spending binge that followed the Bush tax cuts of 2001. Kyl’s immediate point — that paying for some tax cuts by raising other taxes — is spot on. Shuffling around the types of taxes that one pays makes no sense if the idea is to let Americans hold onto more of their money. Indeed, he made exactly that point after his Fox News Sunday appearance (via Daniel Foster):

“Who does the money belong to?” Kyl asked rhetorically. “The money belongs to the taxpayer, to the people. The money does not belong to the government, and yet that’s what this kind of a rigid paygo rule would assume: that the money belongs to the government, and therefore if you’re going to deny the government some of that revenue through a tax cut, you have to make the government whole, because the government can never lose any money. That would mean that you could never reduce the size of government. Each year, when it gets bigger, it stays at that level or it gets bigger yet, but you can never reduce it.”

As Foster notes, “Kyl is openly advocating some ‘starve the beast’ unfunded tax cuts.” Klein counters this with a reasonable budgetary point: deficits are deficits, whether from reduced income or increased spending. Yet, this misses the real issue:

He who has the money expands; he who does not shrinks.

According to the “starve the beast” strategy, if government takes in less revenue than it spends, eventually it will have to cut spending in order to match revenues, and thus the government will shrink. At the same time, if the private sector has more money in its pocket, the economy will expand. While the efficacy of this strategy leaves much to be desired in practice, at least one part of the equation can’t be denied, i.e. the more money that the government takes in, the more it expands.

The same holds true for the private sector. The fewer taxes it is forced to pay (that is, the more money it is allowed to keep), the greater it expands.

So, the real question is, which do we want to expand: the private sector or the government?

Kyl is dead-on in his describing the pervasive attitude of statists of all stripes. They really think the money belongs to the government and should be dispersed as it sees fit (provided, of course, that government is run by officials suitably attuned to the “common good”). That is where the struggle lies. Statists believe that government is the best source of economic expansion while history individualists commend the opposite.

If the statists are correct, then we should want the government to expand, and deficits should be run up without commensurate spending cuts or, alternatively, with tax increases. If, instead, the private sector holds the key to economic expansion, then deficits (if any) should be met by spending cuts. Period.

To be sure, in order to live under a rule of law, some minimal level of government spending is required. Ideally, taxes, user fees, etc. pay for that minimal level, but there will always come a time when unfortunate events necessitate dipping into the red. It is in those times when raising taxes may be the best solution on a temporary basis (which hasn’t always worked out very well). Once those events subside, however, continuing to expand government spending can only be done to the detriment of the private sector, which will then shrink.

In the end, whether the electorate chooses an expansion of the state or the private sector will be the real deciding factor in whether the economy expands or not. All deficit spending may be equal in budgetary terms, but only one course will actually serve to expand the economy. On that score, Kyl has the better of the argument.

~MJW


Ezra Klein discovers Democratic cynicism

You may recall my post yesterday when I pointed to the probability of some sort of action on immigration after the Easter break because the Hispanic vote isn’t very enthusiastic about Democrats right now and November is approaching?

Well, Ezra Klein has picked up on the vibe too:

I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that comprehensive immigration reform happens this year. But then, who cares what I think? Harry Reid is in charge of the Senate, and he says he’s got 56 votes, and it’s gonna happen. “We need a handful of Republicans,” he told an immigration rally in Las Vegas.

The cynical take, of course, is that Reid is running for reelection in a state that’s about 20 percent Hispanic. But that suggests an important change in the political reality: The cynical thing for Democrats to do in an election year might be to pursue immigration reform. And that would make immigration reform a much likelier addition to the agenda.

Now granted it doesn’t take the equivalent of a political rocket scientist to figure this out.  Congressional Democrats are wildly unpopular, November midterms threaten to wash them out of the Congress like you might wash all the pollen on your driveway down the sewer and they’re casting about anywhere for a way to re-energize their base.  And, if you look at the last election, Hispanics went for Obama with 67% of their vote.

Reid claims he has 56 votes.  He also says he needs “a handful of Republicans”.  Obviously Democratic Senators up for re-election in ’10 are going like the idea.  But needing that handful of Republicans means at the moment he probably hasn’t got any – well, maybe Lindsey Graham.

And note who Reid is talking too – certainly not Tea Parties, but instead “immigration rallies”.  The guy who draws 100 people to a campaign event in his hometown is out addressing immigration rallies – yeah, back to that “political rocket scientist” crack.

So it appears the argument I was making yesterday and Klein is making today, seems to have some legs.  I gave you part of the game plan yesterday as to why Democrats want to introduce it now and Klein repeats it.  But, speaking of cynical, he lays out some other reasons as well:

If Democrats actually pursue immigration reform, their [Hispanics -ed.] participation becomes likelier. And if Republicans — or tea partyers, or conservative talk radio — overreact to the prospect of immigration reform, their participation becomes virtually assured. That last bit also suggests another reason Democrats might want to see immigration on the agenda: It’s got the possibility to tear the Republican coalition apart. Beltway Republicans are very, very concerned about losing Latino voters, and so they try to be careful on the issue.

Or – the GOP base will be pushing one way and the assumed spineless Beltway Republicans will be tiptoeing another while the very outcry drives Hispanics to the polls.

I can’t refute or dispute Klein’s prediction at this point – we’ve seen similar things happen in the past.  But I do agree completely that it is a cynical plan – but then that’s politics isn’t it.  As many are fond of saying, “it ain’t bean bag” and, as is often the case – getting re-elected, by whatever means necessary (to include “let’s pretend we’re doing something on immigration and the GOP are the bad guys”) usually takes priority over any real concerns about what is good for the people of the country.

~McQ


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).

~McQ


Ezra Klein – Medicare was unpopular too but look at it now!

Ezra Klein says he’s been looking for polling data concerning Medicare prior to its passage to determine how popular it was at the time.  If it wasn’t particularly popular, his obvious intent is to use that to make the argument that Democrats have a good chance of surviving a vote on this monstrosity by saying “but people love Medicare now”.

He finds that Greg Sargent has beaten him too the punch:

In a last-minute effort to stiffen Dem spines, senior Dem leadership aides are circulating among House Dems some polling numbers from the 1960s that underscore how controversial Medicare was in the months leading up to its historic passage.

Dem leadership staff is highlighting a series of numbers from 1962 on President John F. Kennedy’s proposal. In July of that year, a Gallup poll found 28% in favor, 24% viewing it unfavorably, and a sizable 33% with no opinion on it — showing an evenly divided public.

A month later, after JFK’s proposal went down, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said it should have been passed, while 37% supported its defeat — also showing an evenly divided public.

Also in that poll, a majority, 54%, said it was a serious problem that “government medical insurance for the aged would be a big step toward socialized medicine.”

After Lyndon Johnson was elected, a Harris poll found only a minority, 46%, supported a Federal plan to extend health care to the aged. Today, of course, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular.

That brings me to the most important question: is Medicare “overwhelmingly popular” or is Medicare “popular” because it is what seniors are stuck with? There’s a big difference there. Is Medicare what seniors would have if they had a choice? Of course there’s no way to determine that, but the popularity (and, as many claim, the necessity) of “Medigap” insurance to cover the obvious holes in coverage speak to a clientel which may be less enamored with the mandatory system than we think.

Much has been made of seniors concerned about losing their coverage – government coverage, for heaven sake!  Supporters of the travesty now in Congress claim that senior’s fear of losing their coverage is driven by their satisfaction with it. Logically that’s a leap. When you have no choice in the matter and what you have is being threatened, you’re likely to want to at least keep that. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love it or you’re satisfied with it or you’d wish it on anyone else.  At most, it just means it beats the unknown.

~McQ


Laughing With Liberals

Because, like kids, they say the damnedest things. Take Alec Baldwin who would like to be our Energy Czar (or something):

Energy policy is the lynch pin of nearly all of our other economic problems. And our dependence on oil is the tragic path that we are are still on, two wars in the Middle East in twenty years later, in order to deliver oil. Oil that costs so much more than what you read at the pump. You factor in both of those wars, the deaths of our brave soldiers, and the looming bill that our society will have to pay for our lack of maturity, foresight and courage on this front, the costs are incalculable.

Putting a major oil company out of business. That’s a war worth fighting.

The formulaic nod to the military, while holding on to the liberal canard of wars for oil (and thereby implicitly dissing the military). The shot at the lack of “maturity, foresight and courage” the rest of the “society” displays by using a readily available, cheap and efficient means of producing energy that isn’t to his liking. And finally, his rather incredible and short-sighted wish that a major oil company would somehow fail and go out of business. Of course he’s talking about private oil companies. Obviously he has no clue as to how little private companies control in terms of reserves in this world, and just as obviously doesn’t care to learn. You can bet he doesn’t care one whit about the jobs that would be lost or the ripple effect in other areas of employment it would have. It is a politically incorrect industry.  His job is to demonize it.

The good news is Baldwin may get his wish – a major oil “company” may go out of business soon. The bad news for him and his Hollywood cronies is it is most likely to be the nationalized Venezuelan oil company, PVDSA taken over by his buddy Hugo Chavez. And that would mean Citgo would go right down the toilet.  That would be a fitting irony, wouldn’t it?

Then there’s our old buddy Ezra Klein. Reporting on the House and Senate negotiators considering new Medicare tax, he cites a report by Martin Vaughan and Laura Merckler that lay it out. He then adds his own commentary:

Currently, the Medicare tax applies only to wages, without any limits. The 2.9% tax is divided in half, with workers and employers each paying 1.45%. The health bill passed by the Senate would raise the worker contribution to 2.35% for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year.

Under the proposal now being considered, people making more than those amounts would also pay the Medicare tax on dividends and other income from investments, the people familiar with the talks said. Income from pensions and retirement accounts, including 401(k) accounts, would be exempt.

A version of this that was previously introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow raised more than $100 billion over the first 10 years, so there’s significant money to be found here. Why Democrats prefer a new Medicare tax to, say, capping the itemized deductions rate at 28% for taxpayers making more than $250,000 is, however, beyond me. And if you did that, you’d have more than $300 billion in new money to play with.

Being a member of the juice-box mafia and having little or no experience outside of college and writing opinions based on, well, opinion, waving away the hard earned money of others as “$300 billion in new money to play with” isn’t difficult at all. And it points to a mindset that essentially says the it’s the government’s money to begin with so taking as much back as necessary to do what the “smart kids”, aka the elite, want to do is just hunky dory with the Klein’s of the world.  It’s also why he thinks the VA system is great without ever having experienced it, and that just about anything that can be put under the umbrella of government sounds good to him as well.  But he’d also tell you he’s all for “freedom and liberty” I’d bet.

Life with liberals – just full of yuks, isn’t it?

~McQ

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