When you’re a federal worker, of course.
Reps. Jerry Connolly and Jim Moran, two Democrats from the federal employee haven of Northern Virginia, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressing concern that the Senate health care proposal, which includes the tax, “may adversely affect health coverage for federal employees and retirees.”
Connolly and Moran explain in the letter that the Congressional Research Services has provided them with data indicating that the cost of Federal Employees Health Benefits Plans used by federal employees is close to the threshold ($8,000 per individual and $21,000 per family) that would trigger the proposed 40 percent excise tax.
“Throughout this year, we and members of the Administration have assured the public, including 2 million federal employees, that if individuals or families like their current health coverage, they will not have to change,” the letter said. “The current proposal from the Senate Finance Committee could undermine that tenet of health insurance reform.”
Don’t you just love special interest legislation. It’s okay for you, but not for the 2 million federal employees. And they join a growing list of groups for whom exemptions are being sought – firefighters, labor union members, coal miners and other favored groups.
You? Just shut up and pay the tax.
Hope and change.
That used to be one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats favorite descriptions of George Bush. The irony is I’ve seen nothing from Harry Reid that says he has any room to judge anyone else’s competence. The latest:
After a month of praising bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lashed out at the GOP on the Senate floor Wednesday when a Medicare measure he brought up for a vote failed amid concerns about its impact on the deficit.
The bill would have prevented a 20 percent drop in Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors that is scheduled to take effect in January.
Reid angrily blamed the loss on bad intelligence from the American Medical Association, which he said promised him 27 Republican votes (he got none), as well as Republican dirty tricks designed to impede Democrats’ progress on meaningful reform.
Just as a lawyer should never ask a question of someone on the stand for which he doesn’t know the answer, you’d think a Senate Majority leader wouldn’t bring something to the Senate floor for a vote unless he knew he had the votes. And Senate Majority leaders normally don’t rely on lobbyists for their vote counts. Outsourcing such a task to the AMA doesn’t appear to have been a very smart move.
Vote counting is a tried and true art within legislative bodies and any competent leader would pretty much know what to expect before ever putting a bill or amendment up for a vote. In fact, Reid missed by 27 – just on the Republican side.
Apparently he wasn’t aware of the 13 Democrats who were going to vote against it as well. That’s 40 no votes in a body of 100 that he didn’t know about. That’s a pretty big miss. And a reminder – Democrats hold a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority (the two “indies” caucus with the Democrats).
Then he whines about things being run by a minority – a game he was more than happy to play when he was the Minority leader.
Harry Reid – incompetent (not that I’m complaining, mind you – just pointing it out), and the opposition’s best friend.
House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option.
The strategy could benefit Democrats struggling to bridge the gap between liberals in their party, who want the public option, and centrists, who are worried it would drive private insurers out of business.
While much of the public is foggy on what a public option actually is, people understand Medicare. It also would place the new public option within the rubric of a familiar system rather than something new and unknown.
Everyone knows introducing a Medicare type program into the “public option” will indeed increase “choice and competition”. It will also do what?
Oh, yeah – swell the already unimaginable 52 trillion in unfunded liabilities by tens of trillions of dollars. I mean it should be obvious even to the economically unsophisticated that they just do a bang up job with the Medicare they have had. Single-payer, here we come.
But don’t worry – it won’t cost you a dime in extra taxes and it won’t add a dime to the deficit.
Hope and change.
So let’s give them health care too!
Sorry, couldn’t help myself. The quote in the title is from Democratic Representative Daniel Lipinski of IL. It’s a good preface to a Treasury Department Inspector General report issued today which was rather scathing. USA Today provides the “executive summary”:
A Treasury Department watchdog is warning that a key $700 billion bailout program has damaged the government’s credibility, won’t earn taxpayers all their money back and has done little to change a culture of recklessness on Wall Street.
Of course it also claims that the bailout is responsible for keeping the financial system from collapsing (which, of course, is still very debatable).
“The American people’s belief that the funds went into a black hole, or that there was a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to Wall Street, is one of the worst outcomes of this program, and that is the reputational damage to the government,” said Neil Barofsky, special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), in an interview.
President Obama was doing a little fundraising with Wall Streeters last night trying to get a bit of the pelf into the coffers of the Democrats. As most Americans will most likely view it, a little quid pro quo (or a little “keep that pay czar away from me”.)
The report criticized Treasury’s implementation of the program and its lack of transparency, making 41 recommendations, 18 of which were implemented. Barofsky says it’s “extremely unlikely” that taxpayers will recover the $77 billion committed to the ailing auto industry or the $60 billion in TARP assistance to American International Group as part of a pledge of up to $180 billion in aid. An additional $50 billion to modify unaffordable home mortgages “will yield no direct return.”
But, but, but we were promised it would all be repaid – with interest.
Of course those of us who knew better lobbied against it in the first place. Unfortunately, this is one of those times you wish you had been wrong:
Financial experts say it’s no surprise that the government won’t be able to recoup all of its investment in TARP. “Anybody who said this was all secured lending that would surely be repaid was kidding himself,” says Lawrence White, economics professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
To be sure, 47 financial companies have repaid $72.9 billion to the government. And Treasury has received interest and dividend payments or sold warrants for an additional $12.4 billion.
Of course the come back is, “you can’t put a price on financial stability”, to which I say, “Yes. You can. And we paid about $700 billion more than it is worth”.
Kathryn Jean Lopez frets about legalization of marijuana at The Corner:
Do moms on the Right want legalization? And are their children a driving motivator?
Even if you believe there’s a high chance that your teen will try or use pot, don’t you hope he doesn’t? And aren’t there decent reasons for that? That may not be the final determinant on what your position on legalization is, but it is so … right?
I would hope that any freedom-oriented thinker would understand that “what I want my children to do” is a completely separate subject from “what I think should be legal”.
No, I don’t want my teens smoking pot. Or smoking cigarettes. Or drinking.
But I don’t favor prohibition of alcohol. We tried that one. I don’t favor prohibition of cigarettes either; I think it would be even worse. And both of those substances are arguably more addicitive and damaging than pot.
Using protection of our children to justify controlling the behavior of adults is anti-freedom. We all make fun of it when the left does it. It’s no less silly when social conservatives do it.
The Obama administration is not doing well in two wars right now – a shooting war and a shouting war. Afghanistan continues on a downhill course while the president dithers, apparently incapable of making a decision. And on another front, he and the White House are looking both petty and foolish as they attack Fox News (one of the few things they’ve actually done during their time in office).
Tom Bevan makes some interesting points covering the latter war. Quoting Rahm Emanuel who said “The way the president looks at it – we look at it – it’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective”, Bevan says:
And MSNBC doesn’t push a certain “perspective?” What about the New York Times? The idea that FOX News’s perspective disqualifies it as a “legitimate” news operation lays bare the manipulation and hypocrisy at work here. The White House is all for news organizations taking certain “perspectives” – so long as they’re favorable to the administration’s agenda.
The current presidency, as much perhaps as any in history, is built upon the foundation of the President’s personal popularity. President Obama has, out of necessity, become the Salesman-in-Chief for his progressive agenda. But as the White House continues to struggle adjusting to the reality of governing versus campaigning, it is either unwilling or unable to brook criticism of the President or his policies. Thus FOX News is targeted as the enemy.
As Bevan points out, it is a qualification without exception. All news organizations that I’m familiar with push a perspective – that can be found daily on their editorial pages or nightly on their opinion shows. The only difference between MSNBC and Fox is the “perspective” is favorable on the former and not as favorable on the latter.
And for most of America, who aren’t buying into the White House argument, there is no difference between MSNBC and Fox but their “perspective”. They’re quite aware both have them even if the White House enjoys pretending they don’t.
The second part of their ill conceived strategy is to try to delegitimize Fox News among other news organizations:
Axelrod went out of his way to suggest to Stephanopoulos that ABC News adopt the White House strategy and not treat FOX News as legitimate. “The bigger thing is,” Axelrod said, “other news organizations, like yours, ought not to treat them that way. We’re not going to treat them that way. ”
Emanuel suggested the same to John King later in their interview: “And more importantly is not have the CNN’s and others in the world basically be led and following FOX, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization, in the sense of both sides and a sense of valued opinion.”
That approach brought a reproach from the grand old dame of the White House news corps, Helen Thomas, who makes no bones about her liberal “perspective”. And Jake Tapper from ABC was unimpressed as well. Both find the strategy to be offensive, petty and inappropriate. So do most Americans.
The entire effort here is to cut Fox from the herd and isolate them (please review Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“, specifically rules 5, 8 and 12) and destroy their legitimacy. It isn’t working. In fact Fox is enjoying a surge in viewership and the White House is losing face by appearing petty and vindictive.
Such tactics may not be frowned upon by brass-knuckle operatives working for the political machine in a one party town. But it’s different when you’re the President of the United States. Most Americans of all political stripes don’t want to see the President using the majesty and power of his office for heavy handed attacks on any organization simply because it has been critical of the President.
Time for the White House to wave the white flag, call off the dogs and try to resurrect their flagging credibility. Meanwhile, Fox News should send Emanuel and Axelrod a nice little thank you note.
UPDATE: Allahpundit at Hot Air notes that this may all be about “containment”:
This seems so obviously correct that I feel embarrassed for not having figured it out sooner.
The rationale of the White House offensive against Fox News has been a topic of much puzzlement lately. Is this just the White House lashing out? Are they trying to rally the base?
But I think Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein nail the real explanation in their story today: The White House is working to prevent stories born on Fox from crossing over into more widely-viewed media. Most Americans still haven’t heard of Van Jones, for instance; and the strategy is now all about containment…
This makes sense in the wake of the Van Jones story and the fact that some talking heads at Fox are emboldened by the success of forcing Van Jones out of his position (consider the suddenly surfaced video of Anita Dunn praising Mao after she attacked Fox).
That sort of a strategy at least makes more sense than the trying to question the organization’s credibility because of their “perspective”. However it will most likely fail as well, since even to those organizations whose perspective they like, news is news and they are the ones who lose credibility if they don’t cover it (regardless of who uncovers it).
UPDATE II: Heh … “It’s a quagmire!”:
Despite the President’s promise of a swift and decisive victory, Obama’s War on Fox News has developed all signs of an unwinnable quagmire, making the White House even more isolated in its unilateral attempts to crush the growing media insurgency. As the war continues to grind on for a second month, public opinion is shifting towards a quick and complete withdrawal. While many observers still agree that the “War on Limbaugh” is a “just and necessary war,” even the former supporters of the war effort are now labeling the War on Fox an “unnecessary war of choice” and claim that the cable channel had nothing to do with Obama’s falling approval numbers.
They’re shameless when it comes to building personal monuments to themselves or to boosting their re-election chances – they’ll even take funds designated for a military fighting two wars to do it:
Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.
Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.
Senator Tom Coburn expresses my sentiment in a much more moderated tone than I’m feeling right now:
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the transfer of funds from Pentagon operations and maintenance “a disgrace.”
“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines,” he said in a statement.
Come on Senator – there’s an election approaching. Diverting money from training, fuel, maintenance and ammunition accounts to help their chances to retain power is much more important that the lives of our troops in combat.
Honoring a dead Kennedy certainly takes priority over teaching some young warrior how to avoid being killed in combat. Another museum in a key state is much more important than ensuring soldiers are able to maintain the equipment necessary to their survival. And, of course, they don’t need that much ammo – do they?
I’ll stop here, but my disgust for the political pigs engaged in this sort of looting knows no depth or bounds. They’d steal the coins off a dead man’s eyes if they thought it would help them politically. And that disgust extends to those who do the same thing without endangering our troops. It is just a matter of degree, not kind.
Of course this sort of political bribery isn’t necessarily unusual or confined to one party. It is just a particularly blatant example of the practice that is at the heart of the rot infecting our form of government:
The White House and Democratic leaders are offering doctors a deal: They’ll freeze cuts in Medicare payments to doctors in exchange for doctors’ support of healthcare reform.
At a meeting on Capitol Hill last week with nearly a dozen doctors groups, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would take up separate legislation to halt scheduled Medicare cuts in doctor payments over the next 10 years. In return, Reid made it clear that he expected their support for the broader healthcare bill, according to four sources in the meeting.
Quiz: What was one of the major means of “paying for” health care reform? That’s right – cutting payments to Medicare providers. What has Harry Reid et. al. just promised to do with this freeze? Give away those savings.
What does that then automatically do? Increase the cost of the legislation they’re proposing and making the CBO estimate of cost null and void. It also will most likely bend the cost curve up again (not that any serious person actually believed the current version would really bend it down in practice).
What does that mean? Well it means that President Obama, true to his word about not signing a bill which adds to the deficit, will veto this one if the promise is accepted.
When pig’s fly.
We all know that’s a promise he’ll be most pleased to break if he can get something – anything – to sign and call health care.
And, as an aside, making promises like this says to me that despite all the happy spin about how the administration and Democrats are regaining their health care mojo, they’re still short of what they need to pass the legislation.
The Washington Post has a new poll out in which they declare that two of the most controversial aspects of the health care reform legislation working its way through Congress now enjoy majority approval. Those are the public option and the insurance mandate that requires everyone get insurance.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that much of the support for the public option is based more on a fantasy than reality. I think that a majority, if there truly is one, have bought into the talking points of “choice and competition.” Neither will exist once the public option, as envisioned by Congress, is actually in place. What leads me to believe that’s the case is this sentence later in the WaPo story:
Independents and senior citizens, two groups crucial to the debate, have warmed to the idea of a public option, and are particularly supportive if it would be administered by the states and limited to those without access to affordable private coverage.
Essentially what that describes is Medicaid – not a public option. Medicaid is administered by the states. Of course removing restrictions which prohibit insurance companies from selling across state lines and removing state mandates which drive up the overall cost of a policy would most likely provide “affordable private coverage”. But as usual those provisions have been rejected by Democrats writing the legislation even though they’ve been brought up repeatedly by Republicans.
Now I don’t equate Medicaid with the “public option” that I’ve heard politicians talk about.
Interestingly, deeper in the story and after trumpeting a “majority” now backing the public option, the Post says:
Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform. Seven in 10 Democrats back the plan, while almost nine in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents divide 52 percent against, 42 percent in favor of the legislation.
In other words, the headline could have just as easily been “Majority still opposes health care reform” and/or “Majority of Independents Not In Favor Of Health Care Legislation”.
Instead we get “Public Option Gains Support”. That’s really irrelevant if the total bill is seen as unacceptable not to mention the numbers of opposed vs. those in favor haven’t changed since August.
But then, it all depends on how you want to spin something, doesn’t it?
As one of our commenters likes to remind another, “small steps”:
The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.
Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.
The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
This is good news and – although the fed seems to reserve the right to change its mind – a return to a modicum of federalism. Kudos where and where they’re due. And another step toward the decriminalization of pot.