Pressure on the White House to justify its use of “czars” in administering policy has ramped up recently, most obviously after the dismissal/resignation of Van Jones. It’s become intense enough that the Obama administration decided to deliver some push back via its whitehouse.gov blog:
Last week, when the President addressed the Joint Session of Congress in a speech on health reform, he referred to some of the untruths – okay, lies – that have been spread about the plan and sent a clear message to those who seek to undermine his agenda and his presidency with these tactics: “We will call you out.” So consider this one of those calls.
Given the lessons from Joey Wilson’s War, that qualifies as hate speech.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen with increasing frequency and volume issues raised around the use of “czars” by this Administration. Although some Members have asked serious questions around the makeup of the White House staff, the bulk of the noise you hear began first with partisan commentators, suggesting that this is somehow a new and sinister development that threatens our democracy. This is, of course, ridiculous. Just to be clear, the job title “czar” doesn’t exist in the Obama Administration. Many of the officials cited by conservative commentators have been confirmed by the Senate. Many hold policy jobs that have existed in previous Administrations. And some hold jobs that involved coordinating the work of agencies on President Obama’s key policy priorities: health insurance reform, energy and green jobs, and building a new foundation for long-lasting economic growth
But of course, it’s really the hypocrisy here that is noteworthy. Just earlier today, Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and one of the leaders in calling for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s use of “czars”, had to admit to Fox News that he had never raised any objections to the Bush Administration’s use of “czars”. Many of these members who now decry the practice have called on Presidents in the past to appoint “czars” to coordinate activities within the government to address immediate challenges. What is clear is that all of this energy going into these attacks could be used to have a constructive conversation about bringing this country together to address our challenges moving forward – and it doesn’t take a “czar” to bring that about! Just some folks willing to act in good faith.
So, if you didn’t complain about czars before, then you can’t do so now? This is the change a lot of (foolish) people voted for? And is the White House really suggesting that there has not been a notable expansion of “czars” under this administration?
Also, keep this statement in mind, because we’ll come back to it: “Just to be clear, the job title “czar” doesn’t exist in the Obama Administration.” If in fact the Obama administration does refer to these people as “czars” wouldn’t that make this statement a blatant, unmitigated — dare I say it — lie?
Moving on, the White House does its best attempt at a “fact check”:
Rhetoric: Critics have claimed the Obama Administration is filled with new and unchecked czars.
Glenn Beck Claimed There Were 32 “Czars” In The Obama Administration. “The Brainroom counts 32 czars in the Obama administration, based on media reports from reputable sources that have identified the official in question as a czar.” [Glenn Beck Website, 8/21/09]
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Sen. Hutchison Claimed There Were An “Unprecedented 32 Czar Posts.” “A few of them have formal titles, but most are simply known as “czars.’ They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy. Under the Obama administration, we have an unprecedented 32 czar posts (a few of which it has yet to fill), including a ‘car czar,’ a ‘pay czar’ and an ‘information czar.’” [Washington Post, 9/13/09]
Reality: Many of the arbitrarily labeled “czars” on Beck’s list are Senate-confirmed appointees or advisory roles carried over from previous administrations. Others are advisors to the President’s Cabinet Secretaries. Beck himself says on his own website, “Since czar isn’t an official job title, the number is somewhat in the eye of the beholder.”
Missing from this “reality” is any claim that there are fewer than 32 czars, nor any explanation of how many the White House thinks there are. Virtually all of the push back from Obama is simply a tu quoque argument that exasperatingly waves its hands at Fox News and Republicans for not opposing, and some cases encouraging, Bush’s use of czars. Again, is this the change promised during the election? And how is this any justification for expanding the use of czars now?
The best defense offered is a listing of the czars who went through Senate confirmation:
Of the 32 “czars” on Beck’s list, nine were confirmed by the Senate:
Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes (“California Water Czar”)
Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske (“Drug Czar”)
OMB Deputy Director Jeff Zients (“Government Performance Czar”)
Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair (“Intelligence Czar”)
OMB Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein (“Regulatory Czar”)
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and OSTP Director John Holdren (“Science Czar”)
Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Herb Allison (“TARP Czar”)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter (“Weapons Czar”)
OSTP Associate Director Aneesh Chopra (“Technology Czar”)
Strangely, each one of the names listed above is hotlinked by the White House blog, and all but one them are self-referential links to the post above (i.e. the links link to themselves).
In any case, it’s not made explicit, but it seems that the White House is claiming that these individuals are being classified as czars when in fact they hold legitimately created policy posts. Dave Weigel made the same argument last week:
Here’s the problem: Some of the people whom conservatives and mainstream media voices alike have labeled “czars” have been confirmed by the Senate. Some of them, and others, hold jobs that were created by previous presidents.
Take a look at Politico’s list of 31 “czars,” which shrinks to 30 without Van Jones. Republican strategists like Ed Rollins have used that “31″ number to allege that there’s a problem here. But perhaps the most controversial people labeled “czars” by Beck and by reporters have gone through Senate confirmations. Cass Sunstein, whom Politico labels the “regulatory czar,” is waiting for the end of a Republican filibuster so he can lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office created in 1980. John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was confirmed by the Senate, unanimously, six months ago. But none of that seems to matter to their critics. Michelle Malkin, whom, again, Politico credited for making this an issue, relentlessly refers to Holdren as the “Science Czar” as if it was his actual title.
Weigel goes on to point out several czar positions that were created by previous administrations (the tu quoque argument again), five of which have been confirmed (according to the White House post). He alos lists several new positions created by Obama:
New jobs held by eminent people or people previously confirmed by the Senate:
“Afghanistan Czar” – Actually the United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the man holding that job, Richard Holbrooke went through a Senate confirmation hearing in 1999 when he became Bill Clinton’s U.N. ambassador.
“Economic Czar” – Actually the President’s Economic Recovery Board, chaired by Paul Volcker, the deeply uncontroversial former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
“Energy and Environment Czar” – This is Carol Browner, the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1993 to run the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton.
“Guantanamo Closure Czar” – Actually the Special Envoy to Guantanamo, Daniel Fried, who was the final Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Bush administration.
Apparently Weigel thinks it’s just fine for unconfirmed appointees to hold these positions if they were confirmed for another post during some prior administration, or they are just very important people. He chalks all the controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s use of czars up to whining by Republicans and the conservative critics who, once again, are being terribly hypocritical.
Left unanswered, by either the White House or Weigel, is how many of those confirmed appointees are filling positions created by Congress. I haven’t checked, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say somewhere close to all of them were. It would be unusual (and probably unconstitutional) for Congress to give away the power to confirm officials placed in the offices it created. Accordingly, those congressmen lambasted for opposing the use of czars now, while encouraging the creation of them earlier, should be able to take refuge in the fact that the positions they advocated earlier would have likely required confirmation. Again, I haven’t checked, but since the argument is over the large number of unconfirmed appointees to czar positions, then accusations of hypocrisy don’t make much sense if those being called out only supported czars who would be subject to the confirmation process.
Also left unanswered are the following questions and concerns from a prominent Senator made in a letter to Pres. Obama:
As you know, there has been much discussion about your decisions to create and assign apparently significant policy-making responsibilities to White House and other executive positions; many of the persons filling these positions have come to be referred to in the media and even within your administration as policy “czars.” I heard firsthand about this issue on several occasions from my constituents in recent town hall meetings in Wisconsin.
So is this Senator actually calling the administration a bunch of liars for stating: “Just to be clear, the job title “czar” doesn’t exist in the Obama Administration”?
The Constitution gives the Senate the duty to oversee the appointment of Executive officers through the Appointments Clause in Article II, section 2. The Appointments Clause states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise proved for, and which shall be established by law.” This clause is an important part of the constitutional scheme of separation of powers, empowering the Senate to weigh in on the appropriateness of significant appointments and assisting in its oversight of the Executive Branch.
As a member of the Senate with the duty to oversee executive appointments and as the Chairman of the Senate Constitution Subcommittee, I respectfully urge you to disclose as much information as you can about these policy advisors and “czars.” Specifically, I ask that you identify these individuals’ roles and responsibilities, and provide the judgment(s) of your legal advisors as to whether and how these positions are consistent with the Appointments Clause. I hope that this information will help address some of the concerns that have been raised about new positions in the White House and elsewhere in the Executive Branch, and will inform any hearing that the Subcommittee holds on this topic.
After all the hyperventilating from the White House and its defenders about a partisan witch hunt regarding the czars, you’re probably wondering which Republican hypocrite wrote this letter?
Russell D. Feingold
United States Senator
So, the concerns aren’t just partisan in nature then?
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the president requesting the White House release information regarding the “roles and responsibilities” of the “czars.” The Senate Judiciary Committee member also requested that the president’s legal advisers prepare a “judgment” on the “czars'” constitutionality.
Feingold’s letter represents one of the first examples of Democratic scrutiny of the president’s “czars,” who are not required to be confirmed by the Senate.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has been absent from the Senate since experiencing health issues, also expressed skepticism of Obama’s use of policy “czars” in February.
Well, now that we know this is a bi-partisan concern, surely the White House will take it more seriously:
At today’s White House briefing, Robert Gibbs was asked about a letter raising constitutional concerns about the czar system not from a Republican, but from Obama’s former caucus-mate, Sen. Russ Feingold. The press secretary said he hadn’t seen the letter, but proceeded to echo many of the DNC’s points in a heated response.
“I’m struck by a little of the politics in this,” Gibbs said. He noted that “somebody referred to in the Bush administration as the abstinence czar was on the D.C. madam’s list,” and asked hypothetically: “Did that violate the Constitution or simply offend our sensibilities?”
Nope. Not even a little bit.
The fact remains that the Obama administration is avoiding the confirmation process and installing people into positions of power without any regard to the Constitution or the citizens of the United States. Van Jones was no accident. He is symptomatic of this administration’s determination to remake America in it’s own, nanny-state, progressive, social-justice image. Whether we want to or not.
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There are a number of people dancing in the street because there’s finally a bill in existence that the CBO says will reduce the deficit. Not by much, but that’s really irrelevant – it does the job that meets one of President Obama’s primary goals.
Of course the plan, authored by Sen. Max Baucus, has also come under fire from both the right and left for various aspects each doesn’t like. But that CBO endorsement, well, they’re pretty happy about that.
However, a close examination of that endorsement should warn everyone with an understanding of politicians and Congressional history off of the plan.
Let me explain. While the CBO does indeed say this plan will reduce the deficit, it makes it very clear that such a reduction is contingent upon some very unlikely happenstance.
[T]he Chairman’s proposal would reduce the federal deficit by $16 billion in 2019, CBO and JCT estimate. After that, the added revenues and cost savings are projected to grow more rapidly than the cost of the coverage expansion. Consequently, CBO expects that the proposal, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law, with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP….
Now that which is very, very unlikely:
These projections assume that the proposals are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation. For example, the sustainable growth rate (SGR) mechanism governing Medicare’s payments to physicians has frequently been modified (either through legislation or administrative action) to avoid reductions in those payments. The projected savings for the Chairman’s proposal reflect the cumulative impact of a number of specifications that would constrain payment rates for providers of Medicare services. The long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if those provisions were ultimately changed or not fully implemented.
The Baucus plan, just like the House plan, derives the majority of its “savings” in cuts in Medicare spending. However, as Peter Suderman at Reason’s Hit & Run explains, the likelyhood of those cuts ever being made, at least to the point necessary to reduce the deficit, is poor at best. Why?
Because of the mechanism the bill uses to make them:
It’s true that the Baucus plan, which creates a commission to figure out how to cut Medicare costs, sets up a slightly more robust framework for cost-cutting than currently exists. But that commission still only gets to make recommendations, and Congress still has the power to block them.
To review – in order to meet the CBO numbers, the bill must be enacted and remain unmodified for two decades. And, Congress must enact the Medicare cuts to the level required of the bill to achieve those reductions.
I ask you – what would you bet on either of those things actually ever coming to pass?
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There are many, myself included, who believe the ’70s era Community Reinvestment Act was one of the key reasons for the financial meltdown we experienced since it required lending institutions to lend to unqualified borrowers.
Byron York reports that some Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge that and are now pushing to expand both the scope and power of the CRA:
This morning House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank held a hearing on H.R. 1479, the “Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2009.” The bill’s purpose is “to close the wealth gap in the United States” by increasing “home ownership and small business ownership for low- and moderate-income borrowers and persons of color.” It would extend CRA’s strict lending requirements to non-bank institutions like credit unions, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders. It would also make CRA more explicitly race-based by requiring CRA standards to be applied to minorities, regardless of income, going beyond earlier requirements that applied solely to low- and moderate-income areas.
Barney Frank has never acknowledged the role of government in the collapse of the housing market. He’s refused to acknowledge the role of the CRA or Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae. And, apparently determined to act on his ignorance is now in the middle of trying to revive the program that was at least partly responsible for our financial woes. This makes absolutely no sense.
Republicans on the committee strongly oppose the plan. “Instead of looking to expand the number of institutions that must abide by Community Investment Act regulations,” California Rep. Ed Royce said in prepared opening remarks at today’s hearing, “I think we should reassess the role this and other government mandates played in the financial collapse and consider scaling it back.”
In private conversation, other Republicans were more emphatic. “There is clearly arguable evidence that the CRA is at the root of this financial meltdown,” says one GOP committee member. “So what do they do? They try to expand CRA.”
Republicans also made sure that the CRA’s connection to ACORN was made clear:
Republican critics point out that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has used the CRA to pressure banks to pour money into ACORN and its affiliates, allowing ACORN to facilitate loans to clearly unqualified borrowers. Now, with ACORN under fire after a series of undercover videos showing ACORN workers in Baltimore, Washington DC, New York, and California openly encouraging prostitution, tax evasion, and other crimes, Republicans on the committee are citing the CRA-ACORN connection as yet another reason the Act should not be expanded.
ACORN is presently preparing to investigate itself. A clean bill of health is expected within a few weeks. In the meantime, the bill has 51 cosponsors among the most liberal members of Congress. As York points out, if Democrats in the House want to pass this they can. One wonders if the liberal caucus would be willing to trade the “public option” for passage of this expansion of the CRA and a promise treat ACORN kindly when the time comes. Of course, it would have to be approved by the Senate as well, and that’s a much more dicey prospect.
The point, of course, is this is sheer madness on the part of the Democrats in the House. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It appears that’s precisely what the liberal members of Congress are bound and determined to do.
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Regardless of the reason, he’s left both Poland and the Czech Republic very unhappy with the announcement today that the US is “scrapping” the promised missile defense shield in Eastern Europe:
The former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, said: “This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence. It puts us in a position wherein we are not firmly anchored in terms of partnership, security and alliance, and that’s a certain threat.”
The Polish deputy foreign minister, Andrzej Kremer, saidthat Warsaw had heard from different sources there were “serious chances” the anti-missile system would not be deployed.
Russia, of course, is sure to be quite happy with the plan, although it hasn’t yet reacted to the news.
Mr Obama, who is due to meet the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev next week in New York, says he wants better ties with Russia so that the two former Cold War foes can co-operate on Afghanistan and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.
He may also have been reassured by Moscow’s growing willingness to discuss further sanctions against Iran.
Not exactly a sign that the US is a solid and dependable ally to the former eastern satellites of Russia. It has been interesting to watch the foreign policy of this administration develop. Thus far, it has certainly made all sorts of overtures to those we haven’t exactly had great relationships with – but for the most part, as in this case, those overtures have come at the expense of existing relationships with supposed “allies”.
For the 600th time – Russia is not our friend and never will be. Cooperation in various areas is fine but it shouldn’t be bought at the expense of our allies’ security or pursued from a position of weakness. While the missile defense shield may have only been a token defense, to those it was promised, it meant a solid commitment from the US to their defense. Withdrawing it without notice makes the US much less of a reliable ally in their eyes and may see them trying to seek some sort of accommodation with Russia now. If the intent of US foreign policy to this point was to keep them out of Russia’s orbit, this sort of move is sure to force them more into it.
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That number doesn’t come from some opposition think tank or the CBO. According to CBS, that number is one calculated by the administration as the cost of Waxman-Markey:
The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.
A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration’s estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.
Interestingly, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, put the cost at $1,500 a few months ago and were slammed for using scare tactics to try to defeat the bill. Other estimates range as high as $3,100. Democrats have used $800 a year as their estimate based on a study by MIT’s John Reilly.
The FOIA’d document written by Judson Jaffe, who joined the Treasury Department’s Office of Environment and Energy in January 2009, says: “Given the administration’s proposal to auction all emission allowances, a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 to $200 billion annually.” (Obviously, any final cap-and-trade system may be different from what Obama had proposed, and could yield higher or lower taxes.)
Because personal income tax revenues bring in around $1.37 trillion a year, a $200 billion additional tax would be the equivalent of a 15 percent increase a year. A $100 billion additional tax would represent a 7 or 8 percent increase a year.
Of course, whatever the cost, it will hit those who can least afford it the hardest. What will that mean? Well, if history is any indication, it means a certain percentage of the population will be subsidized by another percentage of the population. Whether in the form of tax credits (unlikely, since the segment of the population likely to need help probably doesn’t pay taxes anyway) or direct subsidization, it will end up as a giant, bureaucratic redistribution scheme riddled with fraud, waste and abuse. For some families the cost will be close to zero. For others it will be well above $1,726 per family when they pay for those subsidies in other taxes.
And Jimmy Carter doesn’t yet understand why people are angry? Buy a clue, Mr. Carter.
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Racialist Jimmy Carter plays the race card:
“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said. “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans.”
Carter continued, “And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”
Notice the key words – “I think..”. Not really. If he did his first inclination wouldn’t be to consider the opposition to the government takeover of health care as “animosity toward President Barack Obama”. If he really thought about it, he’d have to factor in the trillions of dollars that have been poured into banks, financial institutions and car companies – something a majority of the nation was strongly against. If he actually did think about it he’d have to consider the 9 trillion dollars in budget deficits conservatively promised and a trillion dollar “stimulus” bill that isn’t working. And cap-and-trade that will increase the cost of energy for everyone, not to mention a pork laden 700 billion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president.
If Carter actually did think about things instead of taking the easy way out and playing the race card, he’d have to confront the real reasons for much of the anger and animosity and recognize they have nothing to do with the race or color of the president, but instead with the direction of the country. If Carter’s thesis is true then he will be able to easily explain why the independents, the primary group which elected Barack Obama, have been deserting the Democrats in droves.
Did they suddenly develop racist “inclinations”? Or is it possible they feel that hope-and-change was really just bait-and-switch?
UPDATE: How well is the race card playing? About as well as you might expect:
Twelve percent (12%) of voters nationwide believe that most opponents of President Obama’s health care reform plan are racist. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters disagree, and 21% are not sure.
When every set back or bit of opposition is blamed on race, pretty soon it becomes another in a long line of excuses for failure instead of a real reason to be concerned.
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The Democrats have made the claim that the AMA, doctors and nurses all support the Obama plan for health care reform. But if a new IBD/TIPP poll is to believed, it is possible a large number of doctors would leave their practice if the present version of health care reform was passed:
Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted, a new IBD/TIPP Poll has found.
And, like most Americans, a majority of doctors polled found the administration claims to be unbelievable:
72% of the doctors polled disagree with the administration’s claim that the government can cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.
Two-thirds, or 65%, of doctors say they oppose the proposed government expansion plan. This contradicts the administration’s claims that doctors are part of an “unprecedented coalition” supporting a medical overhaul.
Another fact that should be taken into consideration when the administration claims that the AMA supports their plan, presently the AMA only represents 18% of American physicians.
Four of nine doctors, or 45%, said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the plan the Democratic majority and White House have in mind.
In 2006, there were 800,000 doctors practicing in the US. A 45% reduction would leave 440,000 doctors to treat the present insured population plus the 40 million more the administration plans to add.
I’ll leave it to you to do the math, but if you can figure out how fewer physicians and more patients equals less cost, better care and no changes in the health care you enjoy today, I’d be interested to hear it.
If the answer is “rationing care”, I believe we’ve been saying that for quite some time, haven’t we?
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You would think the Democrats would learn, but that seems to be something to which they’re immune. I’ve come to believe that overreaching is in their DNA.
As you know, they’ve tried everything they know to do to capitalize on the fact that Joe Wilson yelled “you lie” at Barack Obama during his speech before Congress last week. It was inappropriate. Everyone agrees. Wilson said so in his apology to President Obama. President Obama graciously accepted his apology.
End of story?
Of course not. The 5th graders who inhabit our Congress (and that’s true of both sides, but in this case it is decidedly about the Democrats) have decided that isn’t enough. So they’re now embroiled in a fight to pass a “resolution of disapproval” in the House because Wilson is of the opinion the apology he issued immediately after the event to the president was sufficient and he’s not about to repeat it on the floor of the House.
Not good enough, the Dems say. And to add fuel to the fire, we get this dopey statement from Georgia’s own Hank Johnson, who I once thought was a fairly sane replacement for Cynthia McKinney:
Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke Wilson is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.
In an obvious reference to the KKK, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will put on “white hoods and ride through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.
Ride through the countryside with white hoods? Good lord. The race card is again played – and badly.
Maybe it’s the water in the district, but he’s sounds as batty as McKinney right now. “White hoods” indeed.
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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.
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.
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