Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The Obama Administration – A Minor Rant

As I recall, one of the things the left most enjoyed calling George Bush was “liar”. Of course all politicians fall into that category from time to time (some stay in it most of the time), but few are as blatant as this:

In the interview, Obama vigorously defended the legislation, saying he is “not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved.”

“Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill,” Obama said. “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.”

Really? “Every single criteria?” Like the public option? And though he’ll deny it, it was one of his criteria. So was “no mandates”. You may remember the debate with Hillary Clinton where he rejected her call for them.  Then there was universal coverage.  This bill leaves 18 million uninsured. Wasn’t that, after all, the entire reason for the reform? I’m sure fining or jailing those who don’t get insurance was high on his criteria list as well.

All that to say that this monstrosity isn’t anything like what he touted nor does it meet most of his previous criteria. It’s a 2000 page abomination, and regardless of the shine he or anyone else tries to put on it, it is legislation that is ill formed, poorly thought out (if it is thought out at all), filled with bribes and something we simply can’t afford. The CBO has already halved its estimate of the savings it will bring.

Speaking of the CBO, two things from the Director’s blog:

The estimate includes a projected net cost of $614 billion over 10 years for the proposed expansions in insurance coverage. That net cost itself reflects a gross total of $871 billion in subsidies provided through the exchanges, increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers; those costs are partly offset by $149 billion in revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans and $108 billion in net savings from other sources.

By now anyone but the most blinkered partisan hack should be able to interpret the CBO report properly. It’s a simple formula – 10 years worth of revenue against 6 years worth of spending. In fact, divide 817/6 and take that times 10. What do you get? 1.361 Trillion. That’s the true net cost of this over 10 years. That is what it will cost – plus – from 2020 to 2029. It won’t bend any cost curve down.

And don’t forget, most of the savings are to come from Medicare – 500 billion over 10 years, remember? So, the CBO wonders:

Based on the longer-term extrapolation, CBO expects that inflation-adjusted Medicare spending per beneficiary would increase at an average annual rate of less than 2 percent during the next two decades under the legislation—about half of the roughly 4 percent annual growth rate of the past two decades. It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care.

The CBO avoids the biggest problem in this “plan” – the political will to do it. And while it gives us a choice of options – “greater efficiencies” or rationing and “diminish[ing] the quality of care”, there are few who’ve objectively observed government operate anything over their lifetime who’d pick “greater efficiencies”. So if those savings are realized – certainly not a given as demonstrated by the lack of political will to make hard decisions on much less controversial items in the past – they’ll most likely be realized by rationing and/or a diminished quality of care.

Or to quote myself and any number of others – I told you so.

So while the country founders economically and real unemployment approaches 18%, Obama and the Democrats are screwing around with something that doesn’t even kick in for 4 years? Is it any wonder that his approval rating has approached all time lows for a new president?

One of the criticisms of the Bush administration is it was “isolated” from the main stream of America.  In the case of the Obama administration, it seems disconnected from that main stream.  “Tone deaf” doesn’t even begin to describe this crew who seem both unaware and unaffected by the real problems facing Americans – polls be damned. For someone who seemed to have his finger on the popular pulse during the campaign, Obama appears to have completely lost it since. He touts the “financial rescue” as his most significant accomplishment during his first year, claiming the 787 billion stimulus as the vehicle of that accomplishment. But as most know, the majority of that money has yet to be spent and that which as been spent has had little or no effect. As mentioned, unemployment remains at record highs. And credit is still difficult to get, businesses have no incentives and plenty of disincentives (health care reform, cap-and-trade/EPA regulations, etc) to not hire or expand, and economy’s only positive quarter (now revised down twice to 2.2% from 3.5%) came from government spending. That is not a “financial rescue”. That’s a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. Meanwhile his administration is in Copenhagen waving more money we can’t afford around in an effort to buy off third world dictatorships who were in search of the payoff from the pseudo-science of “global warming”.

Then, in the Senate, 100 to 300 million bribes were the order of the day to get Senators who claimed to be “standing on principle” off their lofty perches and back to the money-grubbing reality that is politics in the US today.

This is “hope and change”?

As one friend – who was anything but a George Bush fan – said recently it absolutely makes him “pine” for Bush. And trust me, that means he is less than impressed with the man he voted for presently in the White House.

~McQ

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Congress: Making A Bad Idea Permanent

You have to hand to Harry Reid. His lack of respect for the Constitution is rather pedestrian by Democrat standards these days, but he is positively the Thomas Alva Edison of inventive ways to flout it:

If ever the people of the United States rise up and fight over passage of Obamacare, Harry Reid must be remembered as the man who sacrificed the dignity of his office for a few pieces of silver. The rules of fair play that have kept the basic integrity of the Republic alive have died with Harry Reid. Reid has slipped in a provision into the health care legislation prohibiting future Congresses from changing any regulations imposed on Americans by the Independent Medicare [note: originally referred to as “medical”] Advisory Boards, which are commonly called the “Death Panels.”

It was Reid leading the Democrats who ignored 200 years of Senate precedents to rule that Senator Sanders could withdraw his amendment while it was being read.

[…]

Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment requires that “it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.” The good news is that this only applies to one section of the Obamacare legislation. The bad news is that it applies to regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.

Section 3403 of Senator Reid’s legislation also states, “Notwithstanding rule XV of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a committee amendment described in subparagraph (A) may include matter not within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance if that matter is relevant to a proposal contained in the bill submitted under subsection (c)(3).” In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule.

These provisions were pointed by Sen. Jim DeMint on the Senate floor last night:

Meh. It’s an old Constitution anyways, and it’s not like we’ve really been using it. Heck, I’ll bet most people don’t even know what’s in that old rag, and those are just ones in Congress.

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Open Thread

Have we ever done this before? Don’t know, but we’re going go ahead and have one tonight.

So, suggested topics:

(1) ObamaCare: If it passes, can it be repealed once the Republicans take over the legislative duties again? I think not, but maybe there’s a rosier prognostication.

(2) Cap’n-Trade: The EPA is poised to rule by fiat. Would a statutory empowerment be the better choice?

(3) Climategate: Will the leaked emails and failed Copenhagen conference make any difference in the seemingly endless march toward global governance via the canard of AGW?

(4) Afghanistan: Obama has at least done something, but is it enough to accomplish the goal of ending, or at least seriously retarding, global terrorism? Will the current semi-surge result in the same success as Iraq or is it just a political gimmick that costs nothing electorally while wasting American lives?

Let’s see how it goes.

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What Happened To The Mandates?

One of the more pernicious provisions of the ObamaCare bills working their way through Congress is the mandate to purchase health care insurance. It’s probably unconstitutional (arrogating to the federal government an unprecedented power to force Americans to purchase a service or product), but that isn’t going to stop it from being shoved down our collective throats anyway. According to a DKos blogger, however, the Senate bill removes the provision’s bite, which may render it constitutionally valid:

To briefly recap- the HCR requires everyone (except native americans, low income people, undocumented immigrants, followers of my cult, the grandfathered**, etc) to purchase health insurance. Violators will have to pay a $750 per head penalty on their tax returns starting in 2016. If you want to pull a Keith Olbermann and become a Mandate dodger, predictably, the HCR has this to say about it:

SEC. 5000A(g)(1)

(1) IN GENERAL.—The penalty provided by this section shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and except as provided in paragraph (2), shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of 23 chapter 68.

The IRS will have your ass, etc, etc. All very predictable. UNTIL you read on to section (2):

(2) SPECIAL RULES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law—
‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.— In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
‘‘(B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES.—The Secretary shall not—
‘‘(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or
‘‘(ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.

Woah!!!! The mother of all loopholes! It turns out the mandate is not mandatory because the penalty is purely voluntary! What happens if you failed to pay that penalty? Nothing! No criminal charges will be filed, no penalties will be assessed, and the IRS has no right to file any lien on you. Imagine a judge saying to a convict: “This court hereby sentences you to death. Pssss- don’t worry, son- our electric chairs are not plugged in.”

Of course, just because the teeth were removed in the Senate bill doesn’t mean that they won’t be added back in when it gets reconciled with the House version.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Senate would make the penalty seemingly voluntary. I say “seemingly” because the provision’s language leaves open the door to other means of exacting a penalty from non-compliers. While Section 2 negates criminal penalties and prohibits liens or levies from attaching to a taxpayer’s property, just what constitutes someone’s property isn’t spelled out. It may surprise you to learn, for example, that tax dollars are not deemed your property by the federal government, such that once they are paid (or deemed owing) you don’t have any say in how they are spent outside the ballot box. By the same token, if you were to be due a tax refund of some sort, this provision appears to allow the federal government to withhold the $750 penalty. Similarly, it could also declare certain dollar-for-dollar income deductions to be invalid (up to $750) if you refuse to abide by the mandate. My reading of the provision would allow all sorts of federal government gimmicks to be used while still remaining within the letter of the law.

Another interesting aspect of Congress placing this muzzle on the mandate, is that we know it will raise costs. Indeed, the CBO has stated about other bills that an ineffective individual mandate would make the costs skyrocket as the uninsured wait until they are sick before getting any coverage. Without paying into the system from the start, this sick population will basically just receive heavily subsidized health care, paid for by the dopes who paid while they were healthy.

In short, Congress is faced with two poison pills and must choose one: either (i) unconstitutionally force Amercians to purchase insurance, or (ii) create mandates without teeth, and ensure that the bill costs far more than promised. It will be interesting to see which of the two survives.

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Media: Your Friendly Moral Interpreters

Just to make sure you knew how horribly indecent Republicans were, Dana Milbank leads the charge against Sen. Coburn in the Washington Post today:

Going into Monday morning’s crucial Senate vote on health-care legislation, Republican chances for defeating the bill had come down to a last, macabre hope. They needed one Democratic senator to die — or at least become incapacitated.

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon — nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads — but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 they needed.

While Dana and his media brethren certainly have difficulty escaping that conclusion, a more fair-minded and disinterested party might take note that the historic snowfall over the weekend, which caused local and federal government offices to close, is a more likely catalyst to Coburn’s prayer request. But fairness was not on Dana’s mind. Quite to the opposite, he attempted to draw a false equivalence to the tirade unleashed by Sen. Whitehouse at ObamaCare dissenters:

But Democrats weren’t in the best position to take the high road Sunday evening. One of their own members, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.

“Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear,” he said. “History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.” Assuming the role of Old Testament prophet, Whitehouse promised a “day of judgment” and a “day of reckoning” for Republicans.

For some strange reason, while referring to Whitehouse’s comments as “ugly”, Milbank forgot to include the following tasty selections of hate:

“Voting ‘no’ and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it. It was clear the three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.

They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one.”

Seemingly the conclusions of that statement escaped Dana.

Never fear, however, as our intrepid journalist manages to balance the ugliness and comes to this inescapable conclusion:

The day’s ugly words [from Sen. Whitehouse] were a fitting finale for the whole sorry health-care debate of 2009. Democrats have finally — and after jettisoning any trace of government-run health care while swallowing new abortion restrictions — found their way to success; the overnight vote proves they have the numbers to prevail in the remaining votes this week. But it certainly wasn’t pretty.

Senate Democratic leaders made the bill fit their fiscal requirements with a series of budgetary gimmicks, and even then the final cost estimate didn’t instill confidence. The Congressional Budget Office sent lawmakers a letter on Sunday saying it goofed and overstated the cost savings from the bill by half a trillion dollars. Then there were the goodies given out to buy the votes of Democratic holdouts, most notably Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), who got a “Cornhusker kickback” in the form of an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for his state. On the Senate floor Saturday, Republicans forced Democrats into the embarrassing position of objecting to similar payouts to the other 49 states.

But all of that put together wasn’t quite as noxious as the two sentences that escaped Coburn’s lips on the Senate floor.

Don’t you feel all informed now? Good thing for us insufficiently nuanced Americans that we have the likes of Dana Milbank to help us keep score as to who is ugliest amongst our Senate representatives. Otherwise, we might have all these wonderful conclusions escaping us as easily as those “noxious” words escaped Sen. Coburn’s lips. Instead, we might be tempted to pay more attention to blatantly ugly slurs that drip like venom from the mouths of our ObamaCare heroes. And we can’t have that now, can we?

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McQ Out For A Bit

In case you’re wondering why the content around here has been a bit thinner than usual, it’s because the primary progenitor of said content is on an unscheduled leave of absence. His brother fell ill over the weekend, and so McQ went to help him recuperate.

So, please keep McQ and his family in your prayers and the rest of us will do what we can to get some posts up.

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Copenhagen FAIL

Although the professional “spinners” are at work trying to shape what happened – or more precisely, didn’t happen – in Copenhagen as a success, I think the chief negotiator for the 130 countries that comprise the G77 characterized it best (and brutally honestly):

Lumumba Di-Aping, chief negotiator for the G77 group of 130 developing countries, said the deal had “the lowest level of ambition you can imagine. It’s nothing short of climate change scepticism in action. It locks countries into a cycle of poverty for ever. Obama has eliminated any difference between him and Bush.”

The last line is classic. It comes on the heels of Hugo Chavez noting that Obama had just recently accepted the Nobel Peace prize at the same time he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to, in his words, “kill more innocents”.

Neither remark characterizes well the supposed renewed reputation (and love) of the US that Obama has claimed to have reestablished, does it?

And of course the radical left was not without its alarmists bell ringers in full fettle after conference ended:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. Ed Miliband [UK climate change secretary] is among the very few that come out of this summit with any credit.” It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen.”

Lydia Baker of Save the Children said world leaders had “effectively signed a death warrant for many of the world’s poorest children. Up to 250,000 children from poor communities could die before the next major meeting in Mexico at the end of next year.”

You’ve got to love it – up to 250,000 children could die from slightly warmer weather, even if the facts say it has been slightly cooler if anything. And you have to wonder what Sauven means by “a radically different model of politics”?

Regardless, in terms that the left had defined success in Copenhagen, it was a epic “fail”. Mr. Obama is 0 for 2 in Copenhagen. And for those of us who recognize it for what it was – a grand redistribution attempt based in dubious if not spurious “science”, it is a welcome failure. That hearkens back to the beginning of the Obama administration when there was a controversy about some claiming they wanted Obama (and his agenda) to “fail”. This is an example of the type failure which was being talked about then. If this makes me and others who welcome this failure “unAmerican” to some on the left, then that’s fine. But my first priority is what was promised by this country and the Constitution – freedom and liberty. And in my opinion, anyone who tries to violate, infringe upon or take away those rights and freedoms are the “unAmerican” among us.

Copenhagen was just such an attempt, and the failure to accomplish their freedom limiting goals is welcome news. Now I hope for the same epic fail in this horrific attempt to take over health care, and for the very same reasons.

~McQ

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Lindsey Graham And “Climate Change”

Or, what Lindsey Graham may end up costing you.  He was interviewed by the AP concerning his advocacy of AGW (which he says was something he learned about from John McCain and Hillary Clinton).  Here’s his answer to one of the questions:

Q: How did you get involved in this issue?

A: It was a slow evolution. I started traveling with Sen. (John) McCain, who has been a climate change advocate for a long time, and I went to the Arctic region with him and Sen. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton. I came to the conclusion from listening to the scientists … from people who lived in the regions, that the canary in the coal mine is in the Arctic regions, and that the planet is heating up. How much is caused by greenhouse gases, I don’t know. But I believe to some extent it’s a contributing factor. …

Now, why did I choose to do something this time around? … The one thing that I could say without any doubt, that the best chance to create jobs for the future here in this country is energy independence. And you will never become energy independent until you price carbon.

Where are the friction points to getting to 60 votes (to advance a bill)? If the emissions standard is not meaningful, if it’s not economy-wide, I don’t think you get there. This whole issue of China and India and a global regime looms large in getting 60 votes in the Senate. Without some assurances that this is not a unilateral surrendering of market share to China and India — because our companies will have a burden imposed upon them not shared by China and India — is a huge political problem. … Those are some of the trip wires that exist to getting to 60 votes.

First the false premise – you can easily get to “energy independence” without pricing carbon. The whole purpose of pricing carbon is to cut emissions, not create “energy independence”. Fully exploit existing energy resources, build new clean (nuclear) energy production facilities and aggressively pursue clean and renewable energy solutions. That’s how you become “energy” independent. Government’s role, if any? Enabling that process.

Secondly, Graham outright admits that without the participation of India and China, we would be ceding market share to them because they wouldn’t have to face the costs we would face. So there’s no question he understands that any pricing of carbon is going to cost the US economy. He’s not averse to that, he simply wants it to be a shared burden which puts them at the same disadvantage as us. That’s nuts. We’re in a deep recession and he’s talking about steps to deepen it. And even if we weren’t in a recession, he has to be aware the science is dubious and the effect most likely marginal at best if they imposed the most stringent controls possible.

Graham isn’t up for election this cycle or the next, but in 4 years his day comes. If he becomes a party to this sort of economy killing device in cahoots with John Kerry, Republicans had better find a suitable primary opponent to run against him, because if they don’t my guess is he’ll be looking for work after the 2014 election and SC will have a new Senator – even if he’s a conservative Democrat.

Oh, and Climate-gate?

Q: What are your thoughts on the scandal over the hacked e-mails from some prominent climate scientists, which many Republicans have claimed discredits the science showing that pollution is causing climate change?

A: Well, I never embraced this from that point of view. You will never convince me all these cars, and all these trucks, and all these power plants spewing out carbon, fossil fuels, day in and day out for 60 or 70 years is a good thing. It makes perfect sense to me that this amount of carbon pollution over a long period of time has had a detrimental effect on the environment. I don’t get wrapped up into how much is caused by man, or how much is caused by nature. I do believe pursuing clean air and clean water is a good thing for my generation to do.

Science – we don’t need no stinkin’ science. We’ll just “price carbon”, put the economy in the crapper and lo and behold, clean air will abound. The true statist’s answer to everything – more government, more cost, less freedom.

~McQ

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