Free Markets, Free People

ObamaCare

In praise of lazy Harry Reid

Okay, yes, it’s a bit of a sarcastic title, but in a sense I mean it:

For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.

In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.

For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.

On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.

Frankly, I think Congress should be a part-time job.  That was the way it was designed at the founding.  Come in, do the work necessary – you know, such as pass a budget? – and then go back to your real job.

So, in reality, I’m not against a Senate that doesn’t do much.  Unfortunately, we have an activist president who is more than happy to use the Senate’s laziness as a pretext for issuing executive orders and accomplishing his agenda via executive agencies with no accountability to the people.

And, it appears, Harry Reid is fine with that – not that anyone should be particularly surprised by that.

It is the only way Reid can apparently assist the President in doing what he wants to do.  You know, provide an excuse.  “We can’t wait on Congress”, something that is only a problem since the GOP took the House one assumes.  Of course somehow even lazy Harry Reid managed to at least rouse himself long enough to pass that abomination we know as ObamaCare. 

Once that was done, he went back into tax-payer subsidized hibernation.

But with Reid, how do you tell?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Young physicians pessimistic about US health care system under ObamaCare

We already have a physician shortage in this country.  And with the passage of ObamaCare, it is likely to get worse.  

According to a survey, young physicians (below the age of 40) are pessimistic about the future due to the increased “involvement of government” that ObamaCare promises.

An overview of young physicians in the survey revealed:

- The typical younger physician in this survey is 37 years of age and is an employee of a medical group; with the largest single segment being employees of small groups (6 or fewer physicians):  58% are employees of medical groups, and almost half of those (48%) are with the smaller groups.  In contrast, 26% are with mid-sized groups (with 7 to 12 physicians), and 26%
are with larger groups (13-plus physicians).

- These physicians are markedly pessimistic regarding the future of the U.S. healthcare system, with the “new healthcare legislation” ranking as a strong #1 reason for the pessimism.  Many voice considerable cynicism with (what several call) “government’ involvement.”

- Financial-related considerations play a key role in the choice of practice/ arrangement.  Most cite “income/cash flow” and “employment security” as factors influencing their current arrangement.  And among the 27% who changed (or considered changing) their practice/arrangement in the past year, the leading reason given related to “financial issues.”

- The vast majority express satisfaction with their current practice /arrangement (with 35% saying they are “highly satisfied,” and another 45% saying they are “somewhat satisfied”); and most expect to stay with the current practice/ arrangement for 8 years or more.  Many (39%) aspire to some form of ownership position in the future (as either sole owner or partner).

There’s a reason for the marked pessimism.  They’ve already had to deal with government involvement at the level it now exists and their experience with doing so gives them no confidence that further involvement will lead to any sort of improvement.  Quite the contrary they apparently feel it will lead to a degradation in the quality of medicine practiced and an increase in the bureaucratic meddling they’ll have to endure.

Note the satisfaction index with the current system (80% highly or somewhat satisfied).  And note also the fact that many aspire to some form of ownership position in the future.  I’d put forth a guess that the 39% so aspiring see such a dream as threatened by further government involvement.

As to their pessimism about ObamaCare, the survey says:

These young physicians exhibit considerable pessimism regarding the future of the U.S. healthcare system:

-  When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, 49% believe the impact on their practice will be negative, vs. only 23% who believe it will be positive.  Among the three practice-types, the Primary Care physicians exhibited somewhat less pessimism vs. the other two segments:  They were a bit more likely to be “positive” or “neutral,” a bit less likely to be negative. 

-  And well over half (57%) are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. healthcare system (with over 30% saying they’re “highly pessimistic”).  In contrast, only 4% are “highly optimistic,” and 18% who are “somewhat optimistic”.  When asked (open-ended) reasons for their pessimism, responses covered a wide spectrum of negatives – with the “new healthcare legislation” leading the way.  Indeed, as one peruses the responses to the question, the cynicism voiced by so many – with most of it directed at “government” – stands out.

Of course it does.  And some of their specific comments tell you why:

“Government controlled healthcare will be the downfall.  Anyone who has worked in government environment such as VA would know this – ask any vet who receives their care through VA how good the system is!”

“The current administration is only concerned with money and maintaining their power and socialism.”

“Government regulation has too many strings attached.  (It) has not been well thought out.  (It) will bankrupt the country.  (We are) pushing toward socialist medicine.”

“I do not feel optimistic because of all the increased regulatory burdens on physicians.  There will be an increased shortage of physicians to provide primary care and decreased access to care.”

“The very reasons why people come to the U.S. to obtain care (research, quality, availability, cutting edge, good physicians, etc) is being taken away one at a time.  The changes that are being made are not made with the patient in mind, but with the ‘bottom line’ economically in mind.  Not once is the patient mentioned in all these changes.”

“I think the government is destroying healthcare.”

If you read the survey, you’ll find that even the more “optimistic” comments certainly are only relatively optimistic in comparison to the above.

The comment about the reasons people come to the US is the most telling of the group.  It pretty well describes what critics of the law have been saying since its passage.  You can’t have the best medical care available if the focus is cutting cost.  It’s a lie.  And pretending that you can do both is the biggest lie of all.  That’s precisely the snake oil sales job that has been used to justify the law.  But poll after poll has said the American people have rejected the sales job. 

It should also be clear that most young physicians have as well.  They are not optimistic about the future of US health care.

And if they’re not optimistic, why in the world should patients who will suffer through it hold any optimism either?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Apr 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

The liberal shock at the collapse of ObamaCare’s “Constitutional” arguments

I think it is felt, whether true or not at this point since we really don’t know, that ObamaCare is in real trouble.  You can see it everywhere with the NY Time opining that overturning it would be judicial activism and the various and sundry liberal blogs bleating out the same refrain.  They’re shocked.  They’re stunned.  They’ve decided they have to somehow characterize this as they tried to do Bush v. Gore, as a form of judicial malfeasance.

But as Don Surber points out, the arguments against the law aren’t new even if the left tried to wave them off and pretend they were weak.

And so, as John Podhoretz argues:

I diagnose the shock at the powerful Constitutional arguments advanced against Obama’s health-care plan as another example of the self-defeating parochialism of American liberals, who are continually surprised that conservative ideas and conservative arguments are formidable and can only be bested if they are taken seriously: “the strength of the conservative arguments only came as a surprise to [Jeffrey] Toobin, [Linda] Greenhouse and others because they evidently spent two years putting their fingers in their ears and singing, ‘La la la, I’m not listening’ whenever the conservative argument was being advanced.”

Its really not “conservative” ideas we’re talking about here (honestly, they’ve gone along with plenty of laws which shred the Constitution), but instead fundamental ideals on which the country was founded.  They were certainly advanced by conservatives in this case.  They are powerful ideas and I agree with Podhoretz, that liberals just waved them off.  They could not conceive of a law filled to the brim with good intentions (no matter how abysmal its execution or horrendous its cost) could be found as anything but Constitutional.

I can only suggest that their earlier takeover of the public education system left them in a civics class knowledge deficit about what the Constitutions says.  Must have happened about the time they decided schools had the job of indoctrinating youth about sex education and the like.

So as the law’s date with SCOTUS approached the left was supremely confident:

Twenty-six states and the National Federation of Independent Business challenged the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The sophistries on which the Obamaphiles relied to defend their health care power grab were perhaps best summarized by Slate legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick: “That the law is constitutional is best illustrated by the fact that — until recently — the Obama administration expended almost no energy defending it.”

That lack of energy came back to haunt them Tuesday when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli turned in a stammering, barely coherent performance worthy of the public defender in My Cousin Vinny as he struggled to articulate a constitutional defense of Obamacare. The arguments went only slight better for Verrilli yesterday. The administration seemed ill prepared to answer even basic, predictable questions about the law’s constitutional basis.

Absolutely correct.  Verrilli was awful and that is acknowledged by both sides (it was like he was arguing for something he just really didn’t believe in at times). 

Jennifer Rubin’s take:

It’s not surprising that liberals, most of whom have not read or shown interest in the arguments of the challengers, were stunned to learn that there really is a constitutional difference between taxing and regulating and between inducing one into commerce and regulating commerce that already exists. It is this failure to understand, let alone imagine that constitutional text has meaning and there are actual limitations on federal power, that explains the stunned reaction of the liberal elite. Like puppies smacked on the nose by a rolled-up copy of the Constitution, they are flabbergasted.

Greg Sargent seems to understand the point:

But there’s another explanation for the botched prediction: Simply put, legal observers of all stripes, and Obamacare’s proponents, including those in the administration, badly misjudged, and were too overconfident about, the tone, attitude and approach that the court’s conservative bloc, particularly Justice Scalia, would take towards the administration’s arguments.

But as usual, tries to make it personal and political instead of acknowledging the power of the arguments against the law:

All of which is to say that the law’s proponents were badly caught off guard by the depth of the conservative bloc’s apparent hostility towards the law and its willingness to embrace the hard right’s arguments against its constitutionality. They didn’t anticipate that this could shape up as an ideological death struggle over the heart and soul of the Obama presidency, which, as E.J. Dionne notes today, is exactly what it has become.

Or in other words, sticking up for the foundational principles underlying the US Constitution is now a “hard right” thing.  Any possibility they’ll continue to be “shocked” in the future?

They will if they repeat the “arrogant, dismissive and ill-prepared” tactic in the future.

Again, we don’t know how this will actually end and have to be careful about reading too much into the oral arguments, but that said it is hard not to note how poorly those arguments went for the administration and at least realize that after arrogantly ramming the bill through the Democratic controlled Congress and waving it around triumphantly in the face of those who opposed it, its at least an enjoyable bit of schadenfreude going on right now, isn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Ruminations about SCOTUS/ObamaCare

A lot has been said and written about the oral arguments before the Supreme Court concerning ObamaCare.  Many have claimed you can’t base much on such arguments.

Perhaps.  But it seems to me that you can get an indication of the mood of the court if you consider them carefully and keep them in context.

What I’ve surmised over the past few days is the law is in deep trouble.  I think, if nothing else, the oral arguments pointed out how dismally weak and poor the arguments “for” this law are.

Of course, depending on how they would like to see the court rule, each side has found ways to spin these arguments to support their hoped for result.  No huge surprise there.

But I think the one thing that is clear is the court is pretty well split down the middle and along ideological lines.  And, as we’ve said for some time, in reality the result will hinge on the vote of Justice Kennedy.

However, I think you have to keep in mind that it won’t be a single ruling but one which entails several votes.  One on the individual mandate, one on severability and possibly, depending on how the severability vote goes, if portions or the whole bill ought to be struck down.  If the whole law is struck down, of course the expanded Medicare portion discussed yesterday will go with it.

That leaves you wondering where Kennedy is in his deliberation of the case.  Again, if looking at indications to be gleaned from the oral arguments, one could assume he finds it true that the individual mandate would “fundamentally change” the citizen’s relationship with government – and not to the citizen’s favor.  I think it is also true that he is not satisfied that the government has successfully articulated a “limiting principle” – a critical and key point in the discussion.

Finally, I get the impression, from yesterday’s arguments, that Kennedy is leaning toward “paving over” the whole law.  In other words, giving Congress a “do over” since taking the mandate out would create a law and a consequence that it is hard to argue was Congress’s original intent.  What is also interesting is the developing opinion that striking down the entire law would actually be an exercise in judicial restraint, not judicial activism.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Mr. Clement is asking the Court to conduct "a wrecking operation," before stating that "the more conservative approach would be salvage rather than throwing out everything." The Obama Administration didn’t say exactly that, but it did argue that the mandate is indispensable to its supposedly well-oiled regulatory scheme and if it is thrown out the insurance rules should be too.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy doubted Justice Ginsburg’s logic, since by taking out only the individual mandate the Court would in effect be creating a new law that Congress "did not provide for, did not consider." To wit, costs would soar without any mechanism to offset them.

"When you say judicial restraint," Justice Kennedy said, "you are echoing the earlier premise that it increases the judicial power if the judiciary strikes down other provisions of the act. I suggest to you it might be quite the opposite." Overturning the mandate alone, he continued, "can be argued at least to be a more extreme exercise of judicial power than to strike the whole."

This is a critical point.

I think it is clear the 4 justices traditionally identified with the liberal side of the court are fore-square for the law and will find some way to justify it’s egregious and unconstitutional over-reach.  And yes, no secret, I’ve always considered the law to be that and nothing I’ve heard in oral arguments has changed that.  I think Justices Thomas, Alito and Scalia are for finding the mandate unconstitutional and for killing the entire law.  I think Chief Justice Roberts is against the mandate although I’m not sure it’s a foregone conclusion that he wants to kill the entire law at this point.   However I think he’ll be persuaded eventually.

That would make Kennedy the guy … again.   No surprise for most who’ve watched the court for the past few sessions.  He often ends up as the swing guy.  You may disagree with my assessment of where he is in his decision making process, but his questions and comments, at least to me, seemed to indicate he was forming a particular opinion and that opinion favored both striking down the mandate and then striking down the whole law.

Should that be the case, and given the Democrats are unlikely to have an unassailable majority in Congress anytime soon as they did when they passed this monstrosity, this is indeed “the most important case in 50 years”.   That’s a “good thing” because the likelihood that a “replacement” will be passed in Congress becomes much less likely.   Kennedy’s vote could save America as we know it and protect us from a law that would “fundamentally” change our relationship with government and place us in a position of involuntary servitude to a government given license to run our lives in pretty much any way it see’s fit to pursue.

Here’s hoping.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 25 Mar 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Trayvon Martin case, and the Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Poll: Voters not particularly high on Obama’s performance in 3 key areas

As I’ve noted any number of times, there are polls which mean nothing (such as polls this far out comparing an incumbent president and GOP nominees) and there are those what present indicators or trends that give one insight into the prevailing mood of voters or the like.

The Hill produced one of the latter this past week.  Obviously a snapshot of the prevailing mood right now, it is not a poll with which the Obama campaign should be happy.

On Obamacare:

The poll indicated that 49 percent of likely voters said they expect a court ruling that is unfavorable to the Affordable Care Act, while just 29 percent think it will be upheld and 22 percent aren’t sure.

Economy:

On economic issues, 62 percent of voters say Obama’s policies will increase the debt, while 25 percent think they will cut it, and by a 48-percent-to-38-percent margin, voters believe those policies will increase joblessness rather than put people back to work.

Energy:

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil.

Now as far as I’m concerned, those are the three issues that are likely to (or should) dominate the election once a GOP nominee is decided on.  If they’re not, and the GOP allows the Democrats to frame the campaign on issues other than those, they stand a good chance of losing. 

Regardless of the outcome in the Supreme Court, ObamaCare remains very unpopular with a majority of the population.  The economy is one of those issues that is personal.  Despite media hype, voters judge the state of the economy on a personal level.  The “official unemployment number” can be made to look rosy, but in fact real people who are still unemployed or underemployed know who they are.  They are the real number and they’re not going to be happy with the state of the economy.

Finally, the energy tap-dance that the administration is doing is obviously failing.   Obama is failing miserably passing off the blame about gas prices if 58% are saying his “policies” are the problem.  True or not, perception is the rule.  Oh, and, frankly, it’s true.  See for yourself.

When you have consistent polls that say a vast majority of voters are unhappy with a president’s signature piece of legislation, that’s a place you focus your campaign.  When you have two important issues – the economy and energy – where significant majorities are down on the incumbent for his policies, you hammer that unmercifully.

This poll is an indicator of the issues the GOP should build its campaign around.  These points should be pushed relentlessly. 

Porn, contraception and other wedge issues should be avoided.   Sorry, but they’re net losers and true distractions.  They let the left frame the discussion and trust me, that’s where they’re going to take it every time.

Oh, as an aside, if you’re interested in what a useless poll looks like, check this one out.  Justices appointed to lifetime positions are hardly worried about “popularity”.  In fact, that’s the primary reason for such appointments.   While the poll may indicate public dissatisfaction with some rulings, it may also simply indicate a partisan divide.  But for the most part, it is irrelevant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

ObamaCare bait and switch: CBO raises 10 year cost to $1.76 trillion

Remember when Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Democratic Congress and Barack Obama all told us that the cost of ObamaCare would only be $900 billion?  And because of that, Obama said it “saved” us money.  He also said that if it had been more than that, he wouldn’t have signed it.

Well, as the critics rightly pointed out, it was always more than that.  It was just hidden from view, because of the way Democrats structured the law to hide most expenditures for a few years.  That way, the CBO, who was charged with scoring it, would score it below a trillion dollars because the CBO, by law, can only score a law within a 10 year window. 

Democrats employed many accounting tricks when they were pushing through the national health care legislation, the most egregious of which was to delay full implementation of the law until 2014, so it would appear cheaper under the CBO’s standard ten-year budget window and, at least on paper, meet Obama’s pledge that the legislation would cost "around $900 billion over 10 years." When the final CBO score came out before passage, critics noted that the true 10 year cost would be far higher than advertised once projections accounted for full implementation.

Today, the CBO released new projections from 2013 extending through 2022, and the results are as critics expected: the ten-year cost of the law’s core provisions to expand health insurance coverage has now ballooned to $1.76 trillion. That’s because we now have estimates for Obamacare’s first nine years of full implementation, rather than the mere six when it was signed into law. Only next year will we get a true ten-year cost estimate, if the law isn’t overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by then. Given that in 2022, the last year available, the gross cost of the coverage expansions are $265 billion, we’re likely looking at about $2 trillion over the first decade, or more than double what Obama advertised.

“More than double”.  We were flat lied too.  We’re now stuck with another outrageously expensive entitlement program we can’t afford barring repeal or judicial overturn.

And yet, after the most deceitful, least transparent and most abusive legislative process I’ve ever seen used, you’re going to be asked to trust this guy with another 4 years at the helm.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Issues that unite: the repeal of ObamaCare

In another “temperature of the electorate” poll, USA Today/Gallup have a swing state poll out that points to an issue that remains an advantage for Republicans: the repeal of ObamaCare.

The poll sampled the opinions of 1,137 likely voters in 12 swing states, states critical to a win in the upcoming election.  The subject was ObamaCare:

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a clear majority of registered voters call the bill’s passage "a bad thing" and support its repeal if a Republican wins the White House in November. Two years after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act— and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments about its constitutionality next month — the president has failed to convince most Americans that it was the right thing to do.

You sort of have to root through the story to get an idea of the depth of the swing state voter’s resistance to the law, but it is significant:

Voters in swing states stand overwhelmingly on one side of the debate: Three of four voters, including a majority of Democrats and of liberals, say the law is unconstitutional.

So about 75% in those states find it to be a major issue in which they side with the GOP.  undo_obamacare

Many try to paint this result as one of poor messaging on the part of the Obama Administration and Democrats.  Of course that’s a favorite fallback position – its not the message, it’s how it has been delivered.

In fact, it is the message.  The message is “we can mandate whatever we wish and your only choice is to do what you’re told to do.”

Americans, in general, naturally resist such a power grab.  And that’s what you see in this poll. 

Opposition to the law is eroding Obama’s support among the middle-of-the-road voters both nominees will court this fall. Among independents, 35% say the law makes them less likely to support Obama, more than double the 16% who say it makes them more likely.

The intensity of feeling among potential swing voters also favors opponents. Among independents who lean to the GOP, 54% say they are much less likely to support Obama as a result. Among independents who lean to the Democrats, 18% say they are much more likely to support him.

As we’ve noted any number of times, such as last night’s podcast,  it is the “middle of the road” or “independents” are the key to victory.  And they find the law very objectionable.  It is also an issue likely to motivate these voters (see note about the “intensity of feeling”).

As we noted in last nights podcast, while the GOP is seen to be thrashing about right now, once a nominee is settled upon and the focus turns on Obama and his record, it is issues like this that the GOP must use to defeat him.  It resonates (here’s a recent national poll on the subject).  If they let the Democrats or the media set the agenda and deflect or redirect the debate to issues of no real importance in this election, but issues which are likely to hurt them among moderate voters, then they stand a chance to lose.  If they allow that to happen, shame on them.

Obama finally has a record, and it is not a good one.  ObamaCare and its repeal should be front and center of any issue oriented GOP campaign.  It is a winner for them.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO