As expected, bits and pieces of the contents of the speech President Obama will give tonight before a joint session of Congress are beginning to leak out (naturally they begin to do so right after I posted my thoughts on what he must do tonight). And, it appears, he’s going to go with his base on this one:
President Barack Obama, in a high-stakes speech Wednesday to Congress and the nation, will press for a government-run insurance option in a proposed overhaul of the U.S. health-care system that has divided lawmakers and voters for months.
White House officials say the president will detail what he wants in the health-care overhaul, as well as say he is open to better ideas on a government plan if lawmakers have them.
Democratic plans call for requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. Failure to comply could cost families as much as $3,800 a year, according to a new Senate proposal.
The president is likely to say that a government-run insurance plan, known as the “public option,” will not provide a level of subsidies that give it an unfair advantage over private insurers, according to aides familiar with the speech preparations.
Of course no one is going to believe the claim about the subsidies at all – they’ve seen promises such as that made and broken for decades. Any subsidy is certain to be raised at the whim of Congress at some time in the future. And if you recall, when originally discussed, the claim was there would be no subsidy, but instead an insurance plan paid for strictly by premiums. Any subsidy makes the playing field anything but level and won’t provide “competition” but an unfair advantage to the government plan.
The use of the term “subsidy” in conjunction with a “public plan” will be interpreted by the public as an attempt to do exactly what the public says it doesn’t want – subsidized government run health care.
By early accounts, the President will today deliver a big speech urging an only very slightly slimmed down version of the big health bill before the House of Representatives. Once again it seems that Barack Obama’s idea of “post-partisanship” amounts to: “Let’s everybody do what I say!”
Worse, it’s not even what he says. It’s what the liberal wing of his party in the House says – and what he does not dare to contradict.
Frum notes that the public option is “poison” to the moderate Democrats and Republicans. So tonight’s speech will likely make no attempt at a bi-partisan appeal and instead do what I think will lead to an epic failure – repackage unpopular Democratic ideas and attempt to ram them down the nation’s throat.
That’s not leadership. That just the exercise of power. But Obama has never demonstrated any leadership to this point. So it would come as no surprise if he opted to exercise the power Democrats have accrued while believing he was acting as a “leader”.
Why so stubborn?
Here’s why: What moderate Democrats most want from him is cost control – some assurance that a huge new expansion in government-guaranteed healthcare will not explode costs and burden the country with crippling deficits off to the wild blue yonder. Trouble is that while the Democratic plans contain promises of cost control, they contain scant mechanisms for cost control. Or rather – they contain only one mechanism, a public healthcare provider that can ultimately use the power of government to forbid price increases.
Conservatives warn that controlling prices does not work. They lead only to shortages – rationing – because the government-imposed price does not pay the cost of delivering the service. Instead, sellers and providers substitute a worse and cheaper service for the unaffordable former item.
But while the public option is a bad solution to the cost problem, it is the only solution the president has got. There are no other ideas for intensifying competition to find efficiencies and savings on the table. So… he is clinging bitterly to the religion of state control and betting everything on it.
Heh … I love the final sentence, but there’s certainly a lot of truth in Fthe ability to claim they didn’t participate.
It appears, Obama is going to rely on his rhetorical ability to make the unpalatable palatable again. If so, it’s an unseemly level of hubris which drives someone with an outsized ego to double down on failure instead of seeking a better path. Doing so isn’t leadership. It is, as Frum notes, plain old vanilla stubbornness.
It isn’t clear whether he will endorse mandatory enrollment and fines if people avoid doing so. Obviously if he does endorse it, he would be a direct contradiction of his stand during his campaign. He won’t be allowed to forget that.
If what the WSJ and David Frum are saying is true, Obama is headed for trou
rum’s description. The point, of course, is despite rhetoric in the speech claiming he wants ideas from the opposition (and despite the fact that the opposition has answered), there is no real desire whatsoever to include them. He only wants ble. As many on the left like to point out as they claim they’re going to “win” on this issue of health care reform, polls show the majority of people do indeed want health care reform.
That may be true. But “health care reform” covers as broad a spectrum of approaches to the problem as one could imagine. What polls have shown as well is the public isn’t at all happy with this narrow approach the Democrats are offering and calling reform. To ignore that and plow ahead with what the public has plainly made clear it doesn’t want is indeed stubborn, as David Frum points out.
It is also potentially suicidal, politically speaking.
Here’s a very interesting clip with QandO’s founder, Jon Henke.
If you haven’t been following this, Jon, now at The Next Right which he helped co-found, has been at war with World Net Daily, claiming that the web site feeds the baser instincts of the right and distracts them from the more important issues. His call is for a boycott, not against WND, but those “respectable” institutions on the right, such as the Republican National Committee, who continue to associate and support WND.
Whether or not you agree, Jon’s point is that if credibility is an issue, and association with the fringe loony conspiracy theorists is a detriment to one’s credibility, then it is best, if you value your credibility, to distance yourself from that fringe.
Or said another way, if Van Jones can be found to be unacceptable for government service because he associated with and supported truthers, the very same credibility issue seems valid for those who associate with and support some fringe loony group on the right such as those who believe the Obama administration is planning to set up concentration camps for political dissidents.
It would be hard for anyone on the right to take anything Van Jones says seriously because his credibility is shot by such an association. How hard, then, is it to understand that when Michael Steel or the RNC say anything, their credibility is suspect because they associate and do business with an organization which claims that there are concentration camps being set up for political dissidents?
Anyway, what is most interesting about the clip is his challenge to Maddow at the end. She dodges it, suggesting that she’s really not that interested in doing what she claims to be interested in, but kudos to Jon for making it.
[HT: Liberty Papers]
Since very few of you (or anybody really) watch the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, you probably missed last night’s segment featuring QandO founder Jon Henke. Jon recently started a bit of a dust-up on the right by taking on WorldNetDaily and those who sponsor the publication’s efforts:
This is just hideously embarrassing for the Right.
[T]he Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of “The Obama Nation,” an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress “appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”
In the 1960’s, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being “so far removed from common sense” and later said “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”
I think it’s time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.
Unsurprisingly, Jon has taken some grief (intermixed with some positive results) for his choice of target. On Maddow’s show, Jon summarizes the response as about one-third support for what he’s doing, one-third ambivalence, and one-third “no enemies on the right” reactions.
I guess I fall somewhat in the ambivalent crowd: I don’t disagree with Jon’s take on WND, but I also don’t think it’s worth challenging lest its profile be raised in importance. Frankly, everything negative that can be said about WND — e.g. promotes conspiracy theories, plays to the “fevered swamps”, detracts from the intellectual discourse regarding politics, etc. — can also be said about the New York Times, Washington Post and the Legacy Media. The difference, of course, is that far more people get their news from these traditional outlets than from WND. Indeed, if the MSM had not failed so miserably in holding government officials accountable (regardless of party), then I expect many in those fevered swamps would be less inclined to turn to oulets like WND for their “news”. As it stands, however, too many on the right see patently biased opinion pushed as incontrovertible fact and their reasonable critiques of lefty policy either ignored or ridiculed. It doesn’t take too long before they begin looking for a champion on the right, one that at least some of them have found in WND (which, I agree, is to their detriment).
I’m also somewhat disturbed by the notion that “elites” on the right “deserve” to be at the center of the discussion regarding the direction of the conservative/libertarian political movement. From where I sit, “deserve” has nothing to do with it, but instead those who advance the best ideas in line with conservative/libertarian principles, both through coherent thought and digestible delivery, will naturally get that coveted attention. What makes someone “elite” in this sense is his or her ability to connect with voters based on those conservative/libertarian ideas, not being really smart and/or educated at the correct places. That’s something that seems to have been lost recently amongst the self-designated elites on the right. And just as embattled righty voters feel abandoned by the media, in many ways I think they feel just as abandoned by their political leaders. They will fill that void with something if no one of substance steps up.
In any case, Jon does make a good point that when establishments such as the RNC throw their support behind conspiracy-traffickers like WND it hurts the right. Marginalization, therefore, is a good strategy and one that can be fairly easily obtained. Whether it helps the conservative/libertarian movement, however, really depends on what the “elites” offer up to replace the red meat readily devoured by the fever swamps. I’m all for logical, reasoned and effective discourse in the political battle, but on some level that discourse has to connect with how the average voter.
In short, while WND may be a problem for the right it is really a symptom and not a cause. Many voters think that they have no voice in political matters any more, since the MSM all but ignores them except to ridicule them, and their leaders are either absent at worst or ineffectual at best. Personally, I think that is one of the primary reasons underlying the enormous groundswell of support for Tea Parties and townhall dissenters — if nobody is going to say it for them, they’ll do it themselves. If we truly want to marginalize outlets like WND then, the right will need for real leaders to find their way to the forefront. Seeing how leaders such as Sarah Palin (who is the only one talking like Reagan these days) have been treated by the self-appointed leaders on the right, while fools such as Megan McCain and David Brooks have been feted, I honestly don’t know who that will be.
The presidential speech before a joint session of Congress tonight is probably one of the more highly anticipated speeches in Obama’s young presidency. Some say it is a “make or break” speech, alluding to the fact that if it doesn’t hit the mark, it could doom health care legislation and his presidency.
We’ve heard from Robert Gibbs that Obama will draw some “lines in the sand”. We’ve been led to believe that Obama will get specific and essentially lay out the minimums he’ll accept for health care legislation. There’s debate as to whether the public option will be a demand or optional.
To this point, no one really knows. So I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out here for you to ponder.
One thing I hope to hear is the “purpose” of any reform. It began as a cry to insure the uninsured. It morphed into “health care reform”. And now, it is often called “health insurance reform”. If people seem confused about the purpose of the legislation, it’s because Democrats and the president have been unclear.
If it is about insuring the uninsured, that ought to be about a 50 page bill – the size of the Medicare bill when it was submitted to Congress years ago. Of course that’s not what this reform is about and the extent of what is being considered needs to be made crystal clear.
Another aspect of this is cost. Both the president and Congress have claimed that the reason this reform is necessary is the level of spending is rising such that it will bankrupt us in the future. They believe we must control costs.
Ezra Klein has a piece about the public option which makes a very important point cost control. There are only three ways to do that:
Cost control happens when we use less treatment, need less treatment, or pay less for treatment …
Anyone sharp enough to turn on a light switch should be able to understand what those three things promise. They should also understand that, used in combination, they mean more than “health insurance reform”. They mean a completely different way of treatment in which less costly treatments are encouraged, preventive medicine is encouraged and, regardless of the treatment given, less reimbursement for the care.
So when the president talks about cost controls tonight, that’s what he is talking about. The reality is, someone will have to be making those decisions about cost and treatment, and there’s no question the person doing so will not be you or your doctor. It should also be clear that the third leg of the cost control stool – less reimbursement for the care – does indeed require cuts in Medicare spending. Pretending otherwise is just an odious lie.
On a cultural level, Obama has to be convincing enough to sell the idea that government can handle this sort of change. That is a very tall order.
Paul Krugman, in a post about the public option said this about the politics of reform:
Let me add a sort of larger point: aside from the essentially circular political arguments — centrist Democrats insisting that the public option must be dropped to get the votes of centrist Democrats — the argument against the public option boils down to the fact that it’s bad because it is, horrors, a government program. And sooner or later Democrats have to take a stand against Reaganism — against the presumption that if the government does it, it’s bad.
The problem, of course, is there is nothing the Democrats have done to this point that makes any other case. Krugman needs only to think back to TARP, “stimulus”, GM takeover, financial institution bailout, even “cash for clunkers” have all been mostly ineffective or too intrusive or badly handled. While government certainly has some functions in which it can be effective, for the most part and for most of its history, when it goes outside those basic functions, it fails miserably.
This promises to be one of those failures and the public understands that. As many have pointed out, Medicare – a government health care insurance system run by government as a single-payer – has 58 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. If government can’t control costs in a program that is only part of the whole of the health care system, why should anyone believe it can competently run the whole thing?
Obviously, as polls show, they don’t. And a glib speech is not likely to convince them otherwise.
What Obama has to do tonight is reestablish what he’s been hemorrhaging for months – trust. The majority of people do not trust he or the Democrats on this particular issue. There are a number of reasons why that trust has slipped so badly. The primary reason, however, is neither he nor the Democrats have been able to substantiate the claims they’ve made about health care reform. In fact it has been a debacle for them. Few people who’ve looked into their claims have come away satisfied they can deliver.
So his major problem and his major task tonight is to rebuild that trust that has eroded so quickly. That’s a onerous task because usually, once trust is lost, it is very hard to regain. While what Mr. Obama presents tonight is important, nothing is more important than how he presents it.
If he can produce a clear vision with claims backed by reputable cites, studies and numbers, he might make a difference. But if he has simply repackaged the Democrat ideas to date and is counting on his rhetorical skills to make the case no one else has successfully made, he’s setting himself up for failure.
Additionally, the first time he uses one of the old and tired talking points he loves to throw out at town halls, such as keeping your doctor and your plan, those with whom he is trying to reestablish that critical link of trust will turn him off.
He also needs to avoid partisanship. If he goes after Republicans and claims they have brought nothing to the table, he’ll hurt his cause. Sarah Palin, of all people, laid out what Republicans have been saying for a while in a WSJ editorial today. Most people understand that it isn’t that Republicans haven’t put forward ideas, it is that Democrats have refused to consider them and basically shut them out of this process.
I’m looking forward to this speech for any number of reasons. But, given August, I’m not sure there are that many minds that are going to be swayed by his speech. Speaking of lines in the sand, I think among both the pubic and among legislators, they’re fairly well drawn.
Do I think something called “health care reform” will emerge at some point within the next few months? Yes, I do. Will it be what Obama talks about tonight and the Democrats want? Not necessarily. Not necessarily at all.
So let’s give a listen tonight and see how he does. I expect emotional appeals, moral appeals and financial appeals in the speech. But the question is will the speech have enough appeal to change the direction of the debate? Given the atmosphere in which he must make his appeal, my guess is “no”.
For years the right has said that government has no business subsidizing art and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive. Of course some are of us are of the opinion that if “art” is sufficiently good, the private sector will gladly support it.
But what I assume both sides would agree on is that government support of the arts shouldn’t be abused and turned into government propaganda. Yet:
“…I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”
The quote comes from Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood and his post there documents his experience on the call.
Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.
Given the tone of the invitation, and the apparent concerns it raised, Courrielche called in. His concerns were validated:
The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.
We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.
Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.
Hard to argue, given this report, that the NEA isn’t now involved in a political role. Courrielche wasn’t the only one who was concerned by what he heard. Lee Rosenbaum was “creeped out” by the call she participated in as well. She validates Courrielche’s report and conclusions. Courrielche writes a followup post here.
The point, of course, is it isn’t beyond any politician, administration or government to use and abuse any program for its benefit. When you have a community organizer in the Oval Office, it appears they get abused is record time – nd it is clear, at least to me, that in this case the plan is to use the NEA for propaganda and political gain. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.
UPDATE – This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject either. MichaelW covered it back on August 27th when the first conference call was held. Since then there’s been a second (that’s the call Lee Rosenbaum talks about) in which the NEA and White House try a few tricks to give them “plausible deniability” against charges of collusion in a program to get NEA artists to create propaganda for the administration.
Marc Ambinder takes sophistry and spin to a new level in a post at the Atlantic entitled “How Obama Survived August”.
Of course, for most of us, it isn’t yet clear he has survived August. We’ll see how he does tomorrow night and what, if anything, that brings before deciding if he’s still among the living, politically speaking.
But Sir Marc drives on denying that anything that happened in August mattered very much and, discovering irony, throws this jewel out there:
Another irony: the public option debate helped. It helped by offering itself up as a sacrifice. The new Maginot line, drawn by advocates of a single payer system, turned out to be a bit of a feint because it was never the sine qua non of reform.
At best that’s whistling past the graveyard. But there was no “plan” to offer the public option up for sacrifice and Ambinder knows it. The fact that it is up for debate and perhaps exclusion has nothing – nothing- to do with Ambinder’s spin. It will most likely be dumped because Democrats missed the self-imposed August deadline to pass this in haste so they wouldn’t have to debate or defend the public option.
Their failure to do so gave people the opportunity to dig into the details of the bill passed by the House and spawned the August to remember. To pretend this was all part of a grand strategy, given the debacle that this debate has been for the Democrats, is simply laughable on its face.
Where Ambinder and I agree is where the Netroots crowd is going to end up in all of this:
Sen. Max Baucus’s health care plan has been derided by many liberal activists because it seems to be a compromise upon a compromise.
For these activists, the debate itself has been damaging because it exposed the administration’s willingness to give voice and legitimacy to sides in this debate that many liberal activists do not believe ought to be afforded those prerogatives, including Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, PhRMA, and the insurers. The charge that Obama didn’t stand up for his principals is a hard one to rebut, but the White House would rather have the bill they’re probably going to get now and worry about Netroot anxiety later. From the start, the least convincing argument made to the White House about strategy starts with the premise that compromising with recalcitrant Republicans is inherently bad.
You have to laugh a bit at this too – Ambinder admits that the “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” crowd is adamant about excluding those they disagree with from the “debate”. Read Hamsher’s screed cited in the Van Jones article below if you doubt that.
But what is happening is inevitable in politics, regardless of which party we’re talking about. Where do the Netroots go if displeased with Obama? The same place conservatives went when displeased with McCain’s move toward the squishy center. Nowhere.
The Netroots may sit at home, or lessen their activism, realizing that their more radical dreams have no future, but they’re not going to the other side – of that Obama is certain. Democrats have exploited that little truism for decades with both the black and LGBT communities.
After that bit of reality, Ambinder heads back into sophistry:
After August, conservatives have exhausted their repertoire of arguments and many of their demagogic tricks. Public support for significant health care reform as something worth doing remains high.
As a matter of fact there is a kernel of truth in that bit of nonsense. Public support for health care reform does remain high. However public support for the Democratic version of health care reform couldn’t be lower. And that’s what is on the table for the moment.
And as with most of the left, Ambinder thinks the August outbursts were all orchestrated by “conservatives” and are waning. In fact, what continues to ebb is trust in both the president and Democrats. You’d have to thoroughly ignore the recent polls to believe that this is about “conservatives” and their “demagogic tricks”. You’d have to be willfully blind to insist this is all just about health care.
But Ambinder is convinced that it is indeed all about Democrats:
After August, Democrats have the momentum to pass the bill.
Only if they are able to do what Ambinder has successfully done – stick his head in a bucket and listen to the echo while ignoring the reality to be seen outside. Democrats have the power to pass the bill – there’s no question. But those who actually have positions at risk are very unlikely to be as glib as Ambinder when it comes to his badly flawed analysis. Momentum isn’t the word Democrats are going to be using when talking about a health care bill. “Risk” is the word they’ll be using.
I still think, as I’ve been saying, and as Ambinder contends, that something called “health care reform” will pass the Congress. I think there are enough Democrats who understand that this is indeed Obama’s presidential Waterloo and are determined to put him on the British side of things.
However, it is ludicrous to believe that a) this has all gone according to some sort of plan and b) that at this point Obama has survived it. He may get a bill that is so watered down and irrelevant that he becomes just as irrelevant. And in the world of politics that’s the equivalent of being “dead”.
It’s a little early to be singing about Obama or the Democrats having survived anything at this point.
A little reminder for those on the left who sniff at those uncomfortable about a politician addressing school children. It’s also handy for those who like to like to recall George H.W. Bush’s address to school kids and pretend like the left wasn’t bothered by that:
But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.
Of course that won’t happen in this case. Nor will this:
The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”
And you certainly won’t hear Democratic politicans saying anything like this either:
“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.'”
But you know, this is all a new bit of right-wing paranoia, isn’t it?
One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:
Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.
The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.
Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:
You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.
You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.
The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.
Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?
The rise and fall of Van Jones has been a rather interesting situation to watch for a number of reasons.
One is the effect it has had on what David Sirotta calls “movement progressives”. Any one else would call them radical leftists. For those needing a definition, a “movement progressive” is one who comes from the grassroots of leftdom and has earned his or her way up through activism. That’s not to be confused with the “Team of Corporate Zombies”, per Sirota, with which Obama has surrounded himself. “Zombies” like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.
So what was the value of Van Jones and his position? Per Sirota he was the only movement progressive in a real position to actually influence policy rather than being shuffled off into a “political/tactical job”. Sirota believes progressives have been badly dissed by the administration’s decision to throw Jones under the proverbial bus. And, of course, Sirota can’t imagine anything but racism being the motivator for those who went after Jones.
Jane Hamsher goes into it even further with a real “movement progressive” blast at the entire Obama administration. She’s of the opinion that the only groups under attack (and being compromised) right now by the White House are progressive groups. Likening them to a calf in a veal pen she writes:
And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It’s a chickensh*t sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of “maintaining a seat at the table.”
I think the phrase “not happy” is an understatement. And the Van Jones debacle just further aggravates the situation.
However not every voice from every liberal area is in synch with the “movement progressive” crowd. What I’m sure some of the grassroots liberals would consider to be the voice of the corporate media, papers like the San Francisco Chronicle still dutifully carry water for the administration and a little lecture for the Hamshers and Sirotas of the world:
For all those on the left who are expressing frustrations that the Obama administration did not choose to “fight” the forces who are determined to discredit Jones because of his past, we say: There was a time for that fight. It was before Jones assumed his high-level position in the administration.
Since Jones was never vetted publicly, that moment passed without note. And that, of course is the problem with such appointments. When finally vetted by public scrutiny, problems like Jones are bound to surface. Expect more.
The Chronicle also makes an interesting point about regional politics vs. national politics that seems to be lost on progressives:
Those of us who have observed Van Jones’ work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage.
On the national stage, it requires explanation, context and a touch of contrition – just as the past writings and statements of conservatives from other parts of the country seem so offensive and inexplicable here.
The fact that Jones’ activism, ideology and statements were obviously not acceptable on a national level should tell progressives something about why their ideology isn’t translating into what they expected when they signed on to the “hope and change” express.
The Wall Street Journal provides a little more insight for the progressives:
No President is responsible for all of the views of his appointees, but the rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.
The “reality-based community” is having to face political reality for the first time and they don’t like it one bit.
Finally, any discussion of the Jones story has to include the shameful handling of it by much of the mainstream media. Or should I say the non-handling of it – for the most part, with obvious exceptions, they chose to ignore it. Consequently, when it broke, they were caught flatfooted and trying to catch up. They did their readers and viewers a great disservice and delivered yet another self-inflicted blow to their waning credibility.
Cap-and-trade is only the beginning. France is mulling a CO2 tax on its citizens:
The French government plans next year to begin making heavy users of household and transport fuels bear more of the tax burden. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to say in coming weeks that such a shift is necessary to nudge French citizens toward cleaner alternatives.
The tax would reportedly start at about 14 euros (or $20) for each ton of CO2 emitted, and could rise to levels of around 100 euros ($143) for each ton by 2030. That could mean substantial increases in the price of gasoline and diesel, as well as a sizable jump in the cost of keeping homes warm.
Nudge French citizens? What is government doing nudging its citizens toward anything to do with their energy usage? Quite simply government, at least in France, has decided that citizens must conform to its priorities (proven or unproven) and thus uses its power to tax to “nudge” people into the behavior it prefers?
Is that a proper function of government? Only if you believe government is infallible and should be the arbiter of what constitutes the “proper” way of living. Trust me, such a belief has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, choice or liberty.
But skeptics say the idea may have less to do with clean energy, and more to do with a desire on the part of Mr. Sarkozy’s government to find new ways to keep the national debt in check.
Heh … the skeptics may be on to something. We have the same sort of problem in this country which is why I imply that cap-and-trade is only the beginning. Once implemented government will use the precedent (“we’re controlling industrial CO2 emission, now we need to control “private” CO2 emissions”) to tax citizens on their use. It’s all about revenue and this source is perfect – created, literally, out of thin air.
As usual, the socialists in France (and elsewhere) are without a clue:
In addition, members of the opposition Socialist party have slammed the plan, suggesting it would unfairly burden lower income citizens — particularly those who are obliged to use their cars.
Segolene Royal, a former presidential candidate, has instead called for direct taxes on gasoline and other energy companies.
Because everyone knows that a direct tax on “gasoline and other energy companies” would never be passed on to “lower income citizens” who are “obliged to use their cars” and “unfairly burden” them, would they?
This is the culmination of a “year of work” by Sen. Max Baucus. And the cost? Well much less than the House version if you’re to believe the Senators who put it together. Instead of 1.5 trillion, this one will only cost us 850 to 900 billion over 10 years – another sum we cannot afford.
Why is this version less costly than the House version? Well they’re going to tax insurance companies.
Yes, I hear you. I know you know what it really means. But for the benefit of those on the left who stop by here to troll instead of taking the time to learn basic economics, we’ll again restate what should be obvious.
Corporations don’t pay taxes. Their customers do. The buck doesn’t start or stop with them – they just pass them along.
A recent report by Oppenheimer & Company, the investment bank, said, “It will be very difficult for the Senate Finance Committee to structure the fees in a way that they won’t be immediately passed on to customers in the form of higher premiums.”
Of course it will be difficult for that committee to structure them that way since it has no desire to do so:
Mr. Baucus’s plan, expected to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, would tax insurance companies on their most expensive health care policies. The hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services.
The separate new fee on insurance companies would help raise money to pay for the plan. The fee would raise $6 billion a year starting in 2010, and it would be allocated among insurance companies according to their market shares.
So it is a redistribution of your money (once the insurance company raises its fee to offset the “tax”) back to the very same insurance companies to subsidize the effort to insure everyone.
If this doesn’t catch the eye of union employees and pensioners and turn them completely against this version, then they’re totally impervious to reason. They are prime candidates for newer, cheaper and less generous coverage if this were to be passed into law.
To make the misery equal for all, Baucus and crew hope your employer, union, pension fund will drop the health care you’re now satisfied with for a cheaper, less generous policy and thereby reduce “the overuse of medical services”. And the money taken from you will be given back to the very insurance companies which it previously “taxed” to subsidize the uninsured.
But mind you, it’s all for your own good. And no, this isn’t at all government intrusion in a market to a level sufficient to change behavior – quit saying that. Because we all know that Jay Rockefeller is right, don’t we?
Mr. Rockefeller said the fees were justified because insurance companies were “rapaciously, greedily and unstoppably making money by underpaying the patient, by underpaying the provider and by overpaying themselves.”
Who again sets the standard for medical reimbursement in the US? It darn sure isn’t private insurance companies, is it? To bad that White House email address for fishy health care info isn’t still functioning.
And of course, when Chuck Schumer says something like, “The health insurance industry should pay its fair share of the cost because it stands to gain over 40 million new consumers under health care reform legislation,” you know its a bad idea. Schumer has never once demonstrated he has a grasp on the economics of anything. And this is no exception. But he does understand the political ramifications of such a bill.
In fact, the devil is found in what Schumer doesn’t say – “40 million new customers, no pre-existing conditions, no option to deny coverage, no lifetime cap on payouts”. Yeah, sounds like a heck of a bargain, doesn’t it? 40 million new consumers and guaranteed bankruptcy leaving what?
Well good old Chuck Schumer and the government to fall back on, huh? And, after neatly rigging the game in such a way as to effectively eliminate private coverage, they’ll also offer up a hearty “we told you so” and blame it on a “market failure”.
Who needs a public option or a trigger when you can set things up this way? Yup, as is apparent, there are all sorts of ways to skin that single-payer cat, aren’t there?