Don’t panic! You’re at QandO. The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve been a busy little beaver, and have–finally!–changed to a new template designed specifically for QandO, instead of the quick and dirty one I slapped together when we switched to WordPress.
I think you’ll find this one easier to read, and easier on the eyes.
1. The left doesn’t want it. They just pretend they do. If they wanted it, they would not have tried to jam a thousand page bill through with virtually no debate, and they wouldn’t be using high-pressure sales tactics.
2. It won’t work – I. Beltway insiders are not going to have their mind changed by calmly and rationally pointing out the flaws in their bill. If their minds worked that way, they wouldn’t pass half the junk that goes through Congress.
3. It won’t work – II. If people are coming to these town halls in large numbers and mostly sitting there quietly, the spin from the media will be how everyone is quietly supportive of the “Health Insurance Reform” (or whatever the current focus-group-tested moniker is) except for a few cranks. Only if it’s abundantly obvious that the majority of the crowd is against the bill can that spin be forestalled.
4. It’s counter-productive. Incumbents really, really love it when they can appear to be listening and open even though their minds are already made up. Sitting down and calmly going over the points in the various bills gives them that facade that a deliberative process is going on when it’s not. It also takes away from the fear of losing an election they must feel if their mind is to be changed.
5. If we play Calvinball, we lose. We can’t afford to get bogged down in the details of the bill through endless talk-talk. What the protestors intuitively understand is that Congressional Democrats (and a few very foolish Republicans) are playing Calvinball. In fact, they’re world champions at it, and the rest of don’t even know how to play the game.
Case in point: I’ve seen signs at the protests that talk about how “If the plan is so great, why doesn’t it apply to Congress?” I understand and agree with the sentiment, but the last thing we want is to make that a bargaining point. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet occurred to some Democrat to float a “compromise” that supposedly “addresses the concerns of critics” with a laundry list of junk like that. This would be an obvious strategem to dampen down the protests. But it doesn’t really change anything. Since this is Calvinball, they can change the rules next year, or even during conference committee before the bill is officially passed, and get back everything they supposedly gave up.
6. We don’t want to turn discontent to cynicism. There has been latent discontent for the federal government and its incessant growth for a long, long time. We saw it with Perot and the 1994 Republican takeover. But the ones who feel that mostly have no way to express it, given the Tweedledum/Tweedledee relationship of the major parties. We’re seeing many of these people get engaged for the first time in a long time, and their long-felt anger is the motive force behind these protests. Anything that faintly smells of a sell-out would turn many of them back to their weary cynicism. We who support limited government need these people as engaged allies.
The Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and her “un-American” comments are floating the idea that vociferous opposition to healthcare reform is causing a backlash. Pundits have picked that up, and some critics of reform are buying it. I was particularly surprised to see the usually-astute Charles Krauthammer doing so.
I disagree completely and current polls back that up.. This is not the time to lessen the pressure. Determination and time are the only weapons we have. Time is on our side if we can keep up the pressure.
The media is mostly against us. The Beltway collective is against us. The whole Left is against us. To counter all that, we need to have all the visibility we can muster. No violence, of course, but being rude and obnoxious to arrogant and disconnected elected representatives is not violence, no matter how the Left would like to spin it.
Maybe in the future. we can reach a point where there can be a productive debate on healthcare. I concede that the odds are against it, because the two sides are so far apart. But we don’t even want to try until the current “reform” effort is dead, the corpse has been burned, and the ashes have been scattered.
There is a reason that economists are so rarely featured in jokes. They tend to be rather dry people, who can and will estimate anything under magical “assumptions” designed to prove their point. In fact, the only jokes with economists I know involve them making assumptions. Which is really a shame because they make hilarious statements like the following all the time:
Economists are nearly unanimous that Ben Bernanke should be reappointed to another term as Federal Reserve chairman, and they said there is a 71% chance that President Barack Obama will ask him to stay on, according to a survey.
Wow. Seventy-one percent, eh? That’s an awfully exact number for a prediction isn’t it? It suggests there was some real numbers computed and weighted in order to arrive at a probability slightly less than 5 out of 7 that Bernanke would be reappointed.
But where did those numbers come from? And what exactly would they be? Moreover, who were the “economists” that are so “nearly unanimous” who arrived at this prediction? Inquiring minds want to know.
Of course, per the article, these same economists are all enthusiastic about the economy having bottomed out, and that Bernanke is largely responsible for that, er … “success”. Perhaps they only interviewed family members of the Fed Chairman who also happen to be economists? “Five out of 7 Bernankes agree!”
By the way, there is a 26.3% chance that only economists and statisticians will comment on this post, but I’m keeping my top-secret formula for arriving at that conclusion all to my self. I’ll give you a hint, though: assume I know what you’re thinking.
Something that must be kept in mind – while the Democrats are attempting to change the focus of their pending legislation from health care reform to health insurance reform, they’ve not changed the legislation to reflect that.
Of all people, Chuck Norris brings that point home with a vengeance. Unlike our lawmakers, he’s apparently actually read the House bill and found another nugget that is not only costly and none of the government’s business, but has nothing to do with health insurance reform.
It’s outlined in sections 440 and 1904 of the House bill (Page 838), under the heading “home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children.” The programs (provided via grants to states) would educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.
The bill says that the government agents, “well-trained and competent staff,” would “provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains … modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices,” and “skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development.”
You can read Norris’ fisking of the provision for yourself. He, of course, wants to know why a government agency is being legislated into existence to provide parents with “knowledge of age-appropriate child development” tools and wants to know whose principles and values would drive such teaching – the government’s or the parents. Uh, well, I don’t think you really have to ask, because there’s no reason to send out agents if they’re just going to teach the parent’s values.
The more imporant points are A) this is none of the government’s business and B) it has nothing to do with reforming health care insurance.
Or said another way, you’re being fed a line when the Democrats claim that all they want to do is reform insurance when, as you read the bill, it becomes absolutely obvious that the bill isn’t at all just about insurance reform, but instead about taking more and more control of your life and the lives of your children.
This is the sort of crap that has middle America angry and out protesting. And pretending that this bill is something other than what it is – an attempt to impose more government control over our lives – is only going to feed that anger. This is part of what those protesters are talking about when they say they’re tired of being lied too and tired of being lied about.
As I mention below, Americans know the difference between a real townhall and a staged event. Yesterday’s “townhall” with Obama was an obviously staged event, and evidence to that effect, plus the “Yes We Can” chorus, make that point rather obvious.
That said, there was a lot of nonsense thrown out here by Obama which he claimed was “the truth”. Of course the purpose of his political rally wasn’t discussion or debate – it was to lecture those there and deride the oppostion who wasn’t. Was it effective? My gut says no.
Interestingly enough, USA Today did a bit of a fact check on what Obama offered yesterday:
• “Under the reform we’re proposing, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Not necessarily. In an analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 10 million workers could lose employer-provided benefits and would have to find other insurance.
This continues to be a promise and it continues to be wrong regardless of how many times he says it. A) the bill, as Kathy Kiely of USA Today points out, doesn’t support it. B) he can promise whatever he wants but unless the legislation agrees the promise is moot. And right now, as noted, the legislation does not support Obama’s promise.
• “Insurance companies basically get $177 billion of taxpayer money to provide services that Medicare already provides.”
About 10.2 million Medicare recipients are in Medicare Advantage. Under that program, the government pays insurers a set amount per Medicare beneficiary. Obama ridiculed it as costly and redundant, but the plan provides additional benefits, such as vision, dental and hearing, to seniors and helps coordinate health care for those with chronic conditions, says Robert Zirkelbach at the trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans.
People under medicare almost all have a “medigap” supplemental policy that covers what Medicare doesn’t cover. Who is spreading disinformation in this particular case? In his desire to demonize the insurance industry, he ridicules coverage that is actually helpful to seniors as “costly and redundant”. That won’t sell among the senior population that knows better and will thus make the rest of his message suspect to them.
• “The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for ‘death panels’ that will basically pull the plug on Grandma. … (T)he intention. .. was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready, on their own terms. … (O)ne of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican … (Sen.) Johnny Isakson from Georgia.”
Isakson issued a press release saying Obama misused his name. A provision he attached to a Senate health care bill would allow seniors to obtain help in formulating a living will something Isakson said is different from House language. The House bill would require Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling sessions, but it would not mandate that anyone use the benefit.
There’s an even simpler point here – there is no Senate bill at this point, and Senator Isakson doesn’t write or offer amendments to House bills. The section in question is strictly a House bill section written by Democrats and offered by Democrats.
• “AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, OK?”
The AARP issued a press release to make it clear that it has not endorsed any particular health care proposal. “Indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate,” AARP said.
The president and his staff would love to wave this off as a slip of the tongue, but in reality it was said purposefully to bolster the credibility of the legislation to seniors, who Democrats have identified as the voting bloc most unsure of it. This was calculated to do just that. Any good media doctor knows that more will hear the claim than will hear the denial. And that’s precisely what the administration is hoping for. Pure disinformation given for a specific political reason. Most people would call that propaganda.
So this is what the administration offers in answer to the real, visceral and organic protests that have sprung up all over the country – as staged show with softball questions by likely plants which allows the administration to attempt to reshape the message even while it uses half-truths, distortions and outright disinformation to do so.
You can always spot an “inside the beltway” mentality – he or she judges the mood of the rest of the country by what he or she sees and hears in DC and by what those there deem to be imporant.
Marc Ambinder is no exception (and I’m not picking on him specifically – he’s just typical of the type). He has an article out in which he claims that ‘conservatives’ are blowing their chance at stopping the pending health care legislation. Why?
Well, because of the “calmness” emanating from the White House as they gear up for a counter-offensive against the health care protesters found at just about every townhall meeting lawmakers have. And, states Ambinder, Democrats are noticing that opponents have begun “to discredit themselves”.
Really? Is that why the health care numbers continue to tank in every poll taken by every polling organization out there? Is that the reason lawmakers like Sen. Arlen Specter have stated, “there is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember”?
What is clear to those who are outside the beltway and dealing with reality is that those inside the beltway have no clue about the general feeling in this country that has been turning common everyday people with only a passing interest in politics into attendees at townhall meetings with a message. It seems one can sit in DC and write glib op/eds about why “conservatives” are blowing it and apparently be oblivious to that.
The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.
He misses the point of the protests completely. Republicans aren’t in charge of this effort. And it is hard to exploit, control or “message” what isn’t yours.
This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.
And this is what those like Ambinder miss. They’ve quaffed the kool-aid that says it is all astroturf and misjudged the result. To people like him this is all about red and blue, who has the better organization, the best media campaign and timing. As usual, they focus on the wrong things:
As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes. Both Fox and MSNBC televised Sen. Arlen Specter’s raucous town hall meeting live. It was full of confrontation and protest. There were boos when Specter reaffirmed his president’s Americanness.
Of course, the latter point is both minor and a sideshow and misses completely what is going on. What Americans who are confronting legislators over in these townhall meetings is the pattern of deception and misrepresentation they see as rampant now. My favorite line from one of the townhall meetings was “I’m tired of being lied too. I’m tired of being lied about. And this administration has done both of those”.
Ambinder thinks this is all political theater. He’s missed completely the visceral aspect of these protests. He sure that now that the Obama machine is finally paying attention they’ll overwhelm the relatively disorganized rabble.
Well he needs to get a clue. The people of this country can recognize real astroturf when they see it. The know what real political theater looks like. They understand that a big crowd showing up somewhere with the same signs and dressed alike most likely means they aren’t from around there.
There is a difference between organic anger and manufactured joy and unlike the Ambinders of the world, most Americans know the difference and are not fooled by it. It is one thing to organize political rallies during a campaign that have that manufactured appearance. It’s another thing entirely to bring that sort of nonsense to what a lot of people consider a life and death debate about their health care.
Another thing analysts like Ambinder miss is the cumulative effect of the reaction of Democratic lawmakers have given to these protesters. When you show up at a townhall meeting to confront a lawmaker who is ignoring you and you’re characterized as a “mob”, “political terrorists”, “racists”, “thugs”, “un-American” and finally likened to the KKK, you’re not going to forget it.
Many who have, for the first time in their lives, actually take the steps to attend such meetings and end up being labeled in those terms are not going to forget what was said and who said it. And as has been obvious, many of those attending aren’t Republicans or conservatives.
One of the reasons these eruptions are happening is because lawmakers have rejected the call by the country to slow down and have a real and substantive debate about this pending legislation. But you have to actually listen to the protesters and understand what they’re saying. Instead we get a handwave that dismisses them as rabble and a complete misreading of what is going on in favor of the DC show.
This is the sort of denial that happens constantly in the happy little bubble within the beltway. The seemingly total disconnect from the reality of the situation in the country is incredible. This is real. This isn’t going to stop. And it isn’t about “influencing the blue dogs” or “Republicans” or “conservatives”. My advice to people like Ambinder is to do himself a favor and actually listen to what is being said for a change or, heaven forbid, attend one of these townhalls and see for himself.
This isn’t about political shows and who shows up with the best organized protesters. This is about a growing fight for the heart and soul of America, and the inside the beltway types are missing it completely.
Robert Reich writes what I can only characterize as a whining rant which is so, oh I don’t know, odd, that I have to comment. It has to do with a supposed deal the White House has struck with “big Pharma” which Reich claims keeps the government from negotiating lower drug prices in return for 80 billion in cost savings (if the government has wrung 80 bil in cost savings, isn’t that a negotiation for lower cost that has already been accomplished?):
I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you firsthand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma’s support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House’s effort.
But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It’s bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry’s support to a key piece of legislation, we’re in big trouble. That’s called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it’s doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the president.
Notice first that the word “market” never appears in his diatribe. In fact, “market” doesn’t appear in his piece at all. That’s because Reich doesn’t care about markets. And, of course, any market that exists in health care has been so distorted by government that it hardly qualifies for the term.
Reich cares about control. And he wants full control by government. Notice that when politicians use threats to prevent legislation’s passage if what they want isn’t included in (or taken out of) a bill, that’s called “compromise”, but when an interested constituent (and pharma as a business that is government regulated certainly qualifies as that) promises to work against pending legislation that wouldn’t be in their best interest unless they get concessions, that’s “extortion”.
Reich only wants the government to have the power to extort what it wants and it makes him mad when constituents use their power to push their interests. He claims that thwarts “democracy”. Really?
As I see it, it is exactly the brand of democracy the Democrats have practiced for eons – special interest democracy. The only reason Reich is a little irritated in this case is because the special interest in question isn’t one which the left favors. Democracy, in Reich’s world, is when favored special interests
“extort” petition the government, make deals and get legislation passed which serves their interests.
All that said, I agree with one point – what in the world is the White House doing striking such deals? Since it can’t write the legislation, how does it guarantee whatever concessions it’s agreed to will show up in the final legislation? And what happens if it doesn’t make it into the final legislation after big Pharma spends more money than John McCain did during the presidential election for TV adds supporting Obamacare?
That’s one of the trends now. If you can’t argue the merits of the legislation, make gross and unsubstantiated assumptions and claims and take off from there. For instance, this from Keith Boykin at “The Daily Voice”, which claims to be “black America’s daily news source”:
In the past few months, we’ve witnessed the unleashing of the radical elements of the Republican Party base. The anti-tax economic conservatives, racist Obama-haters, gun-toting Second Amendment fanatics and birth certificate conspiracy theorists have two things in common: they’re mostly white and they despise President Obama.
With the groundwork laid (one has to wonder – if blacks despised George Bush, was that because they were racists or because they were ideologically and substantially opposed to his agenda?), however loosely with everyone lumped into the same category and characterized by race, Boykin finally gets to his point:
And it doesn’t matter that the president’s domestic policies of providing universal health care, middle class tax cuts, and economic stability will benefit the very people who cry the loudest. This is not about policy. It’s about politics. The politics of rage and race.
Of course Boykin again assumes things not in evidence to make his claim that it is all about race. First, he dismisses the legitimate arguments which have been brought forward about health care, secondly he seems to believe that the spending spree the administration has been on won’t have to paid off and third, he’s apparently blind to the fact that the “economic stability” he touts has been purchased with a future debt which will cripple us economically. Notice I made those points easily and without once even hinting about the race of the president.
They all are legitimate reasons to speak out, all legitimate reasons to be a bit enraged about the direction of the country. But, with his grand generalities and false assumptions in place, Boykin continues to build his case for this all being about race:
The town hall meetings have been branded “town brawls” by the media, but they are really “town mauls” where angry mobsters silence dissent and discourse. And despite the denials from the right, race is a deciding factor here.
So now, Americans acting like Americans are not only un-American for doing so, they’re racist.
And Boykin isn’t the only one pushing this line. David Boaz at CATO has a couple more examples. Paul Krugman, whose arguments for the health care legislation have been weak at best, also pulls the race card to lump “town hall mobs” in with “birthers”:
But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.
That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship.
Philip Kennicott throws race around in a Washington Post piece entitled “Obama as the Joker: Racial Fear’s Ugly Face”::
[T]he poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the “urban” makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can’t openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and ’70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates…
Superimpose that idea, through the Joker’s makeup, onto Obama’s face, and you have subtly coded, highly effective racial and political argument. Forget socialism, this poster is another attempt to accomplish an association between Obama and the unpredictable, seeming danger of urban life.
This is a building theme which is a classic diversion by the left. Using it allows them to play the powerful “politically correct” card they’ve so lovingly cultivated for decades. And it is something which needs to be nipped in the bud right now.
The assumption that this is all about race attempts to plaster that claim over the obviously horrendous problems evident with government taking control of health care and the history of Americans of all races protesting such attempts at government expansion. It is, in reality, a classic move by the left to use political correctness as it was intended to be used – to stifle debate. And what we see coming out of the likes of Boykin, Krugman and Kennicott are the racialists laying the ground work to make the charge.
Their arguments are weak, but their intent is clear – broad-brush tarring of those who oppose this administration as nothing more than racist whites opposing the administration’s plans for no other reason than the president is a black man. That, of course, makes dismissing their arguments much easier to do and that is precisely the intent of playing the race card.
Katherine Jean Lopez had this to say the other day at The Corner:
Yesterday, at a rally for R. Creigh Deeds in Virginia, President Obama said: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”
For Barack Obama, democracy appears to be a distraction. He really does seem to view himself as a Caesar.
Shortly after taking office, Obama held a meeting with governors. At the time, one person in the room relayed Obama’s request that critics and skeptics of the stimulus plan keep their concerns to themselves. Just let me do it, was his attitude. He got pushback and he wasn’t happy. He wanted democratically elected state governors to shut up so he could do as he pleased. He knows better and we should respect that, seems to be the attitude.
There seems to be quite a bit more of an authoritarian streak in Barack Obama than one might think. I was willing to dismiss the first statement at the Deeds event as a little red meat for the locals. But I wasn’t aware of the second incident, which makes dismissing the first a little less likely.
Then this story coincidentally showed up which adds fuel to the fire:
President Obama has issued signing statements claiming the authority to bypass dozens of provisions of bills enacted into law since he took office, provoking mounting criticism by lawmakers from both parties.
Apparently Obama feels much the same as his predecessor did about the laws passed by Congress – he doesn’t have to obey provisions he doesn’t care for:
They were reacting to a statement Mr. Obama issued after signing a bill that expanded assistance to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank while requiring the administration to pressure the organizations to adopt certain policies. Mr. Obama said he could disregard the negotiation instructions under his power to conduct foreign relations.
Other laws Mr. Obama has said he need not obey as written include format requirements for budget requests, limits on whom he may appoint to a commission, and a restriction on putting troops under United Nations command.
While there is some argument to be made about Congress getting into the foreign relations area, there’s certainly none which should arise from budget questions or other domestic legal considerations. However, there is a very easy way for Obama to confront Congress over areas he thinks they overstep their bounds – veto the bill. Instead, displaying that authoritarian streak, he chooses to disregard the law and do what he wants to do through a signing statement.
All of this after calling Bush’s use of signing statements “abuse” and promising much greater restraint than practiced in the previous administration. Thus far, at least according to a Democratic Congress, no such restraint has been practiced and it appears Congress deems his use to date just as “abusive” as they did George Bush’s use of signing statements.
Two things are obvious, at least to me – one, he has an agenda and he doesn’t like anyone standing in his way as he tries to accomplish it, to include the law. And two, he’s a glib pretender when it comes to bi-partisan ship or opposition in general. He wants none. The two statements highlighted by Lopez above are simply extended examples of his “I won” quote (and the not so subtle but implied “so shut up”) Obama gave not long after taking office.
Lopez entitled her NRO posting, “American Caesar”. The more I watch this guy operate, the more I’m coming to believe she may have a point.
It comes from Paul Krugman –
So it seems that we aren’t going to have a second Great Depression after all. What saved us? The answer, basically, is Big Government.
Is it? Or is it a false premise?
Who said we were headed for a “second Great Depression”? And how does a non-falsifiable claim prove the point that “Big Government” saved us from anything?