Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 28, 2009

Are the 44 Democrats “Fear Mongering” too?

The president got himself tied up in knots discussing the cap-and-trade bill. The New York Times reports that he sympathized with the large number of Democratic defectors who can’t look their constituents in the eye and tell them home state industries are going to take a big hit:

“I think those 44 Democrats are sensitive to the immediate political climate of uncertainty around this issue,” Mr. Obama said. “They’ve got to run every two years, and I completely understand that.” Many of them represent districts that rely heavily on coal for power generation or that are home to industries vulnerable to international competition. Mr. Obama said the House bill contained transitional assistance for these regions.

In other words, who can blame them because a whole host of industries are going to get whacked, right? Still, the very same concerns don’t in his mind justify Republican objections:

But he expressed scorn for the Republicans who fought the bill. He noted that some of them were predicting political doom for those who voted for it, recalling the 1993 battle over an energy tax that failed and helped Republicans gain control of the House a year later.

Those Republicans, he said, “are 16 years behind the times,” comparing their position to that of their party’s leaders in the energy and health care debates of the early Clinton years.

“They’re not fighting the last war,” he said. “They’re fighting three wars ago.”

He accused Republicans of “fear mongering” and said they might win some short-term political gains by “scaring the bejesus out of people” by warning of huge energy cost increases. Ultimately they will fail, he asserted, because the American people look to the future, not the past.

So which is it — lawmakers legitimately represent the interests of their voters or they are incredibly dense? It seems when 44 members of his own party tell him they can’t face the voters because the bill is directly contrary to their economic interests, the president might take their concerns seriously. Instead, it seems he reverts to name calling — but just against those from the opposing party, mind you.

The president got himself tied up in knots discussing the cap-and-trade bill. The New York Times reports that he sympathized with the large number of Democratic defectors who can’t look their constituents in the eye and tell them home state industries are going to take a big hit:

“I think those 44 Democrats are sensitive to the immediate political climate of uncertainty around this issue,” Mr. Obama said. “They’ve got to run every two years, and I completely understand that.” Many of them represent districts that rely heavily on coal for power generation or that are home to industries vulnerable to international competition. Mr. Obama said the House bill contained transitional assistance for these regions.

In other words, who can blame them because a whole host of industries are going to get whacked, right? Still, the very same concerns don’t in his mind justify Republican objections:

But he expressed scorn for the Republicans who fought the bill. He noted that some of them were predicting political doom for those who voted for it, recalling the 1993 battle over an energy tax that failed and helped Republicans gain control of the House a year later.

Those Republicans, he said, “are 16 years behind the times,” comparing their position to that of their party’s leaders in the energy and health care debates of the early Clinton years.

“They’re not fighting the last war,” he said. “They’re fighting three wars ago.”

He accused Republicans of “fear mongering” and said they might win some short-term political gains by “scaring the bejesus out of people” by warning of huge energy cost increases. Ultimately they will fail, he asserted, because the American people look to the future, not the past.

So which is it — lawmakers legitimately represent the interests of their voters or they are incredibly dense? It seems when 44 members of his own party tell him they can’t face the voters because the bill is directly contrary to their economic interests, the president might take their concerns seriously. Instead, it seems he reverts to name calling — but just against those from the opposing party, mind you.

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Read Between the Lines, Not His Lips

John McCain regularly accused then-candidate Barack Obama of being a tax-and-spend liberal, seeking to “spread the wealth” as Obama disclosed in a much regretted off-hand comment. Well, the spending promises were discarded instantaneously. He did not go “line-by-line” through the budget nor have we seen a net reduction in spending.

Now the cat is out of the bag on taxes as well. Really, you knew this was coming:

The White House seems to be retreating from President Barack Obama’s campaign promise that he would not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000. Under persistent questioning from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod declined to restate the vow and left open the possibility that the president might sign health care reform legislation that taxes high-cost, employer-provided insurance plans which some middle-class families currently receive tax free.

Actually they already broke the promise with tax hikes on cigarettes and the cap-and-trade energy tax. Even if we take the CBO’s modest number at face value (e.g. $175 per person) that does have a way of adding up. Bill Kristol did the math and noted the timing on Fox News Sunday: “$175 a person is, what, five, 600, seven, $800 a family, depending on how many — how big your family is. That’s kind of a lot of money to heap on families in the middle of a recession.”

Obama ran as a fiscal moderate — swearing affection for markets and promising only to tax the “rich.” The reality, just as McCain predicted, is quite different. The question remains whether the voters will notice and object to having been so blatantly deceived.

John McCain regularly accused then-candidate Barack Obama of being a tax-and-spend liberal, seeking to “spread the wealth” as Obama disclosed in a much regretted off-hand comment. Well, the spending promises were discarded instantaneously. He did not go “line-by-line” through the budget nor have we seen a net reduction in spending.

Now the cat is out of the bag on taxes as well. Really, you knew this was coming:

The White House seems to be retreating from President Barack Obama’s campaign promise that he would not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000. Under persistent questioning from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod declined to restate the vow and left open the possibility that the president might sign health care reform legislation that taxes high-cost, employer-provided insurance plans which some middle-class families currently receive tax free.

Actually they already broke the promise with tax hikes on cigarettes and the cap-and-trade energy tax. Even if we take the CBO’s modest number at face value (e.g. $175 per person) that does have a way of adding up. Bill Kristol did the math and noted the timing on Fox News Sunday: “$175 a person is, what, five, 600, seven, $800 a family, depending on how many — how big your family is. That’s kind of a lot of money to heap on families in the middle of a recession.”

Obama ran as a fiscal moderate — swearing affection for markets and promising only to tax the “rich.” The reality, just as McCain predicted, is quite different. The question remains whether the voters will notice and object to having been so blatantly deceived.

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Conservatives Attack Cap-and-Trade

Conservatives in the media and in office were on offense and all over the Sunday talk shows, attacking the cap-and-trade measure which squeaked by in the House on Friday.

Several suggested it isn’t going anywhere. Lindsay Graham  on Meet the Press opined that “this bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate. But climate change is real and we need to do something. . .[T]he news is that red state Democrats are bailing out on the president’s agenda faster than Republicans.”

Brit Hume agreed:

No one is saying now that the votes are there to pass this in the Senate. And the time — time is not on the side of the proponents of this measure. Alarm over climate change is diminishing. It has gone from fairly high on people’s list of priorities of things they’re concerned about well down the list, and I think it is continuing to sink.The arguments of skeptics seem to be gaining momentum. So my sense about this bill is that it is in very deep trouble in the Senate and may not come to a vote.

But it was Haley Barbour who provided the most comprehensive and full-throated attack:

Friday the House of Representatives, by a very small handful of votes, passed the president’s energy policy, which is a gigantic hidden energy tax, plus a whole lot of open energy taxes. . . People are concerned about when they get trillions of dollars of taxes added onto them. And energy policy affects every family, every business, the total economy. They barely won in the House. Almost every Republican voted against it. And Republicans have offered a very clear alternative. Our alternative is more American energy. That instead of the Obama policy, which is to make energy more expensive  . . .  [H]e told The San Francisco Chronicle as a candidate last year, he said, under my cap and trade plan, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket. That’s Barack Obama ’s language, not mine.

Maybe they have it wrong. Perhaps the public doesn’t mind an energy tax or thinks that even if China and India do nothing we should be leading “by example.” But in the middle of a recession, with unemployment skyrocketing, these critics may have a point. We’ll see how quickly the Senate takes this up — and if Harry Reid has the nerve to repeat Nancy Pelosi’s mantra (“jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs”) as unemployment heads into double digits.

Conservatives in the media and in office were on offense and all over the Sunday talk shows, attacking the cap-and-trade measure which squeaked by in the House on Friday.

Several suggested it isn’t going anywhere. Lindsay Graham  on Meet the Press opined that “this bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate. But climate change is real and we need to do something. . .[T]he news is that red state Democrats are bailing out on the president’s agenda faster than Republicans.”

Brit Hume agreed:

No one is saying now that the votes are there to pass this in the Senate. And the time — time is not on the side of the proponents of this measure. Alarm over climate change is diminishing. It has gone from fairly high on people’s list of priorities of things they’re concerned about well down the list, and I think it is continuing to sink.The arguments of skeptics seem to be gaining momentum. So my sense about this bill is that it is in very deep trouble in the Senate and may not come to a vote.

But it was Haley Barbour who provided the most comprehensive and full-throated attack:

Friday the House of Representatives, by a very small handful of votes, passed the president’s energy policy, which is a gigantic hidden energy tax, plus a whole lot of open energy taxes. . . People are concerned about when they get trillions of dollars of taxes added onto them. And energy policy affects every family, every business, the total economy. They barely won in the House. Almost every Republican voted against it. And Republicans have offered a very clear alternative. Our alternative is more American energy. That instead of the Obama policy, which is to make energy more expensive  . . .  [H]e told The San Francisco Chronicle as a candidate last year, he said, under my cap and trade plan, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket. That’s Barack Obama ’s language, not mine.

Maybe they have it wrong. Perhaps the public doesn’t mind an energy tax or thinks that even if China and India do nothing we should be leading “by example.” But in the middle of a recession, with unemployment skyrocketing, these critics may have a point. We’ll see how quickly the Senate takes this up — and if Harry Reid has the nerve to repeat Nancy Pelosi’s mantra (“jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs”) as unemployment heads into double digits.

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“You Can Trust Us!”

Is there a bigger oxymoron in American politics today than “the Democratic party?” Judging by some of last week’s events, probably not.

First, in the rush to get the president’s “Cap And Trade” bill through the House, Representative Henry Waxman raised an objection to a completely unreasonable and specious demand from House Republicans — that they be permitted to read through a 300-page amendment he had tacked on to the 1,000-page under consideration.

Next, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — apparently eager to show that anything House Democrats can do, he can do too — stated that he would not commit to giving Senators enough time to study — let alone read — the health care financing reform bill put together by House Democrats (with Republicans excluded entirely from the crafting).

Finally, the White House  quietly acknowledged that another Obama campaign promise had reached its unpublished expiration date — his pledge to post any and all bills passed by Congress on the White House’s web site for five days before he’d sign them. That one had been tossed aside practically from the outset, but now it’s official.

The message is clear, from both Houses of Congress and the White House: “we’re the federal government, and you can trust us. ”

Not that we have a choice…

Is there a bigger oxymoron in American politics today than “the Democratic party?” Judging by some of last week’s events, probably not.

First, in the rush to get the president’s “Cap And Trade” bill through the House, Representative Henry Waxman raised an objection to a completely unreasonable and specious demand from House Republicans — that they be permitted to read through a 300-page amendment he had tacked on to the 1,000-page under consideration.

Next, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — apparently eager to show that anything House Democrats can do, he can do too — stated that he would not commit to giving Senators enough time to study — let alone read — the health care financing reform bill put together by House Democrats (with Republicans excluded entirely from the crafting).

Finally, the White House  quietly acknowledged that another Obama campaign promise had reached its unpublished expiration date — his pledge to post any and all bills passed by Congress on the White House’s web site for five days before he’d sign them. That one had been tossed aside practically from the outset, but now it’s official.

The message is clear, from both Houses of Congress and the White House: “we’re the federal government, and you can trust us. ”

Not that we have a choice…

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The New York Times’ “Putsch”

In today’s New York Times Book Review, Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Richard N. Haass’s “War of Necessity, War of Choice.” As usual when a book about George W. Bush is involved, the review is actually more of an op-ed.

Wheatcroft’s effort is marred by his shaky grasp of the American Constitution. Here is his description of some “valuable insider’s insights” he found in the book:

[Haass] details the sheer contempt the Bushies showed toward the State Department (and Colin Powell), the great expansion of vice presidential power, and the way Donald Rumsfeld effectively silenced the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Leaving aside Iraq itself, this series of events really added up to an extraordinary episode in American history, a kind of internal Washington putsch against the Constitution.

Under the Constitution, civilian authority controls the military, which is why the Secretary of Defense can decide (as Rumsfeld did) to deal directly with his field commanders rather than give the Joint Chiefs an independent voice. Assigning the Vice President important duties (such as inventing the Internet) was once considered admirable, not grounds for constitutional concern. And presidents as diverse as Harry Truman and Richard Nixon found that reverence for the views of the State Department was not always wise, much less constitutionally required.

Haass himself does not allege a kind of coup in his book.  He writes instead that, because of Powell’s inadequate advocacy skills, his failure to develop a better relationship with Bush, and the relative weakness of many of the senior State Department officials, the result was that “at the end of the day it was more often than not still the positions of those at the Defense Department, the Vice President’s office, and the NSC that mostly shaped U.S. policy” during Bush’s first term.  Some putsch.

Even a high school journalism teacher might have questioned Wheatcroft’s concept of a “putsch,” but not the editors of the New York Times Book Review, not for this kind of “review.”

In today’s New York Times Book Review, Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Richard N. Haass’s “War of Necessity, War of Choice.” As usual when a book about George W. Bush is involved, the review is actually more of an op-ed.

Wheatcroft’s effort is marred by his shaky grasp of the American Constitution. Here is his description of some “valuable insider’s insights” he found in the book:

[Haass] details the sheer contempt the Bushies showed toward the State Department (and Colin Powell), the great expansion of vice presidential power, and the way Donald Rumsfeld effectively silenced the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Leaving aside Iraq itself, this series of events really added up to an extraordinary episode in American history, a kind of internal Washington putsch against the Constitution.

Under the Constitution, civilian authority controls the military, which is why the Secretary of Defense can decide (as Rumsfeld did) to deal directly with his field commanders rather than give the Joint Chiefs an independent voice. Assigning the Vice President important duties (such as inventing the Internet) was once considered admirable, not grounds for constitutional concern. And presidents as diverse as Harry Truman and Richard Nixon found that reverence for the views of the State Department was not always wise, much less constitutionally required.

Haass himself does not allege a kind of coup in his book.  He writes instead that, because of Powell’s inadequate advocacy skills, his failure to develop a better relationship with Bush, and the relative weakness of many of the senior State Department officials, the result was that “at the end of the day it was more often than not still the positions of those at the Defense Department, the Vice President’s office, and the NSC that mostly shaped U.S. policy” during Bush’s first term.  Some putsch.

Even a high school journalism teacher might have questioned Wheatcroft’s concept of a “putsch,” but not the editors of the New York Times Book Review, not for this kind of “review.”

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What is Left of Tzipi?

Call it a hunch. Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister and leader of the Kadima party, is on the ropes. Her days heading Israel’s opposition may be numbered.

First, there was the election, where she managed to pull off the remarkable feat of gaining the largest number of seats in the Knesset, while at the same time failing not only to put together a governing coalition, but even to join the government at all. She blew it because her narrative of “we got the most seats, so we won,” didn’t hold a candle to Netanyahu’s narrative of “the right wing got way more seats than the left wing, so we won.”

But then Netanyahu’s narrative shifted, and Livni lost again. Ehud Barak’s Labor party, which should have been devastated by its historic electoral implosion, instead retook command of the Left, joining a “National Unity” government with Likud et al. Bibi became the great Unifier, and Livni was left without anything of substance to distance her party from the government.

The new government’s political pincer-move, led by two former members of the IDF’s most elite special forces unit, was bad enough. Then there came Bibi’s big speech, where he historically allowed for the possibility of a Palestinian State — removing Livni’s only remaining substantive policy disagreement with the Prime Minister — in exchange for the whole world’s agreeing to hear his eloquent discourse about the prophets and Jewish history. (A veteran TV commentator called his speech “a tiny ‘Yes’ and a huge ‘But.'”) Suddenly, Israelis love Bibi again, despise Obama, and Livni is simply left with nothing to say. The one issue that the Americans disagree with Israel on — the idea of zero-growth settlement policy — is something that neither Livni nor her party could agree to. So what is left for her to oppose?

Last week, Livni escaped the physical dismantling of her party, as she led a raucous boycott of the Knesset (including the spontaneous singing of Israeli folk songs in the plenum) in protest over attempts to pass a law that would allow 7 MKs of her party, led by Shaul Mofaz, to split off and join the coalition. Maybe Bibi played his hand too forcefully. A tactical error perhaps. But it only slowed the process.

Today Mofaz has launched a blistering assault on Livni. “She’s a nice person, you can sit and have a drink with her,” Mofaz said, “but we’re not in a club; she just doesn’t have the ability to make tough decisions.” This is an explicit echo of the Likud’s campaign against Livni: That she is too indecisive to lead.

At the same time, Netanyahu is playing it cool, calling on Livni to join the coalition. If she does, her supporters will clearly see it as a capitulation. Her inability to stick to her guns will be confirmed. Mofaz will have all the momentum in her party. And she will be giving her nemesis, Netanyahu, premiership over an unprecedentedly unified country. But if she doesn’t, she will find herself increasingly irrelevant in opposing a government with which she has no discernible disagreements, left with little to say to Israelis on the Left or Right.

Call it a hunch. Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister and leader of the Kadima party, is on the ropes. Her days heading Israel’s opposition may be numbered.

First, there was the election, where she managed to pull off the remarkable feat of gaining the largest number of seats in the Knesset, while at the same time failing not only to put together a governing coalition, but even to join the government at all. She blew it because her narrative of “we got the most seats, so we won,” didn’t hold a candle to Netanyahu’s narrative of “the right wing got way more seats than the left wing, so we won.”

But then Netanyahu’s narrative shifted, and Livni lost again. Ehud Barak’s Labor party, which should have been devastated by its historic electoral implosion, instead retook command of the Left, joining a “National Unity” government with Likud et al. Bibi became the great Unifier, and Livni was left without anything of substance to distance her party from the government.

The new government’s political pincer-move, led by two former members of the IDF’s most elite special forces unit, was bad enough. Then there came Bibi’s big speech, where he historically allowed for the possibility of a Palestinian State — removing Livni’s only remaining substantive policy disagreement with the Prime Minister — in exchange for the whole world’s agreeing to hear his eloquent discourse about the prophets and Jewish history. (A veteran TV commentator called his speech “a tiny ‘Yes’ and a huge ‘But.'”) Suddenly, Israelis love Bibi again, despise Obama, and Livni is simply left with nothing to say. The one issue that the Americans disagree with Israel on — the idea of zero-growth settlement policy — is something that neither Livni nor her party could agree to. So what is left for her to oppose?

Last week, Livni escaped the physical dismantling of her party, as she led a raucous boycott of the Knesset (including the spontaneous singing of Israeli folk songs in the plenum) in protest over attempts to pass a law that would allow 7 MKs of her party, led by Shaul Mofaz, to split off and join the coalition. Maybe Bibi played his hand too forcefully. A tactical error perhaps. But it only slowed the process.

Today Mofaz has launched a blistering assault on Livni. “She’s a nice person, you can sit and have a drink with her,” Mofaz said, “but we’re not in a club; she just doesn’t have the ability to make tough decisions.” This is an explicit echo of the Likud’s campaign against Livni: That she is too indecisive to lead.

At the same time, Netanyahu is playing it cool, calling on Livni to join the coalition. If she does, her supporters will clearly see it as a capitulation. Her inability to stick to her guns will be confirmed. Mofaz will have all the momentum in her party. And she will be giving her nemesis, Netanyahu, premiership over an unprecedentedly unified country. But if she doesn’t, she will find herself increasingly irrelevant in opposing a government with which she has no discernible disagreements, left with little to say to Israelis on the Left or Right.

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Re: Declaring War on the American Economy

John, I share your horror at the handiwork of our House of Representatives. This piece from the Wall Street Journal is a helpful explanation of just how convoluted and unworkable is the “offset” scheme, which was included in cap-and-trade in order to round up the needed votes. It turns out there are a couple of huge issues:

One is political: Democrats are promoting the climate bill as a way to drive a “clean energy transformation” that creates lots of new “green jobs” in the U.S. Another problem is practical. As the Government Accountability Office said in a study last December, it is nearly impossible to ensure that international offset projects reduce greenhouse gases more than would have happened without subsidies. The agency said its own review of Europe’s use of offsets found that such projects had an uncertain effect on carbon emissions.

So it may not work and we’ll have damaged our own economy on the false promise of getting new jobs here in the U.S. Plus, as John pointed out, it has anti-free trade provisions. This sounds suspiciously like the stimulus plan — a giant government boondoggle that promises jobs but has nothing to offer the private sector.

Many suspect that the bill will die in the Senate where only a few defections on the Democratic side (from Evan Bayh perhaps who is up for re-election in 2010?) can stop it in its tracks. Even if it fails it may long be remembered as a mind-numbingly misguided effort to wreak havoc on an already faltering economy. (Think Smoot-Hawley.) Never before have we seen such a hugely complicated piece of legislation that portends to do so much but whose benefits are so ephemeral. The fact that it was cobbled together at 3 am with only stage directions for assembly only adds to its luster as possibly the worst piece of legislation in American history.

John, I share your horror at the handiwork of our House of Representatives. This piece from the Wall Street Journal is a helpful explanation of just how convoluted and unworkable is the “offset” scheme, which was included in cap-and-trade in order to round up the needed votes. It turns out there are a couple of huge issues:

One is political: Democrats are promoting the climate bill as a way to drive a “clean energy transformation” that creates lots of new “green jobs” in the U.S. Another problem is practical. As the Government Accountability Office said in a study last December, it is nearly impossible to ensure that international offset projects reduce greenhouse gases more than would have happened without subsidies. The agency said its own review of Europe’s use of offsets found that such projects had an uncertain effect on carbon emissions.

So it may not work and we’ll have damaged our own economy on the false promise of getting new jobs here in the U.S. Plus, as John pointed out, it has anti-free trade provisions. This sounds suspiciously like the stimulus plan — a giant government boondoggle that promises jobs but has nothing to offer the private sector.

Many suspect that the bill will die in the Senate where only a few defections on the Democratic side (from Evan Bayh perhaps who is up for re-election in 2010?) can stop it in its tracks. Even if it fails it may long be remembered as a mind-numbingly misguided effort to wreak havoc on an already faltering economy. (Think Smoot-Hawley.) Never before have we seen such a hugely complicated piece of legislation that portends to do so much but whose benefits are so ephemeral. The fact that it was cobbled together at 3 am with only stage directions for assembly only adds to its luster as possibly the worst piece of legislation in American history.

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But What About The Debt?

Congress and the White House are moving through the liberal wish list — stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care, and maybe a few other spending gambits. But all the while there is an underlying reality to which they seem bizarrely oblivious. The Washington Post editors remind us (and them):

Both President Obama and leading congressional Democrats were less than thrilled when the CBO estimated that the costs of universal health coverage would be much higher than advertised. To be sure, projecting the cost of legislation involves making assumptions and constructing models that may or may not prove accurate 10 years down the road. Nonetheless, the CBO, with its tradition of scholarly independence, is the best available arbiter, and Congress must heed its numbers — like them or not.

Now comes the CBO with yet more news of the sort that neither Capitol Hill nor the White House is likely to welcome: its freshly released report on the federal government’s long-term financial situation. To put it bluntly, the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable. Debt is growing faster than gross domestic product. Under the CBO’s most realistic scenario, the publicly held debt of the U.S. government will reach 82 percent of GDP by 2019 — roughly double what it was in 2008. By 2026, spiraling interest payments would push the debt above its all-time peak (set just after World War II) of 113 percent of GDP. It would reach 200 percent of GDP in 2038.

Is there some plan to address this? No. Instead, the gameplan is to do more — spend more, regulate more, and hire more federal workers to micromanage more and more of the economy from Washington. The dichotomy between what they are doing (working on plans to spend more) and what should be done (find ways to spend less) is startling. At times the president himself declares the fiscal situation to be “unsustainable” — and then he goes back to hawking a public option, universal health care plan that will multiply our fiscal woes.

The situation is made more acute by the realization that all the spending hasn’t gotten us anything. The stimulus plan didn’t bring jobs and isn’t rebuilding our infrastructure. CBO’s study was so devastating not only because of the price-tag it placed on ObamaCare but because it rightly pointed out that the reduction in the number of uninsured was disappointingly modest in relation to the cost. In short, we are building a mountain of debt for no appreciable reason. We spend for the sake of spending and derive nothing of lasting (or even transitory) value.

No wonder the voters are alarmed. The question remains: when will Congress and the president be?

Congress and the White House are moving through the liberal wish list — stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care, and maybe a few other spending gambits. But all the while there is an underlying reality to which they seem bizarrely oblivious. The Washington Post editors remind us (and them):

Both President Obama and leading congressional Democrats were less than thrilled when the CBO estimated that the costs of universal health coverage would be much higher than advertised. To be sure, projecting the cost of legislation involves making assumptions and constructing models that may or may not prove accurate 10 years down the road. Nonetheless, the CBO, with its tradition of scholarly independence, is the best available arbiter, and Congress must heed its numbers — like them or not.

Now comes the CBO with yet more news of the sort that neither Capitol Hill nor the White House is likely to welcome: its freshly released report on the federal government’s long-term financial situation. To put it bluntly, the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable. Debt is growing faster than gross domestic product. Under the CBO’s most realistic scenario, the publicly held debt of the U.S. government will reach 82 percent of GDP by 2019 — roughly double what it was in 2008. By 2026, spiraling interest payments would push the debt above its all-time peak (set just after World War II) of 113 percent of GDP. It would reach 200 percent of GDP in 2038.

Is there some plan to address this? No. Instead, the gameplan is to do more — spend more, regulate more, and hire more federal workers to micromanage more and more of the economy from Washington. The dichotomy between what they are doing (working on plans to spend more) and what should be done (find ways to spend less) is startling. At times the president himself declares the fiscal situation to be “unsustainable” — and then he goes back to hawking a public option, universal health care plan that will multiply our fiscal woes.

The situation is made more acute by the realization that all the spending hasn’t gotten us anything. The stimulus plan didn’t bring jobs and isn’t rebuilding our infrastructure. CBO’s study was so devastating not only because of the price-tag it placed on ObamaCare but because it rightly pointed out that the reduction in the number of uninsured was disappointingly modest in relation to the cost. In short, we are building a mountain of debt for no appreciable reason. We spend for the sake of spending and derive nothing of lasting (or even transitory) value.

No wonder the voters are alarmed. The question remains: when will Congress and the president be?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sure it’s “meddling,” but it is hard to think of anyone (well, other than Ron Paul) who is going to oppose this: “A bipartisan pair of senators is pushing for international restrictions on electronic equipment sold to Iran, citing reports that the government has monitored citizens’ communications after the country’s disputed elections. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to request that the European Union curb all telecommunications equipment German and Finnish companies, Siemens and Nokia, sell to Iran.”

Why Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson changed his mind to vote for cap-and-trade: “In exchange for his vote, Grayson got assurances from Democratic leaders that they would support his efforts to build a new $50 million hurricane-research center in Central Florida. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a 219-212 victory on the bill.”

Bob Herbert figures out what’s really important: “How do you put together a consumer economy that works when the consumers are out of work?” Maybe the Obama team should have worked on saving or creating some jobs. He, of course, is right to be flabbergasted: “Why this rampant joblessness is not viewed as a crisis and approached with the sense of urgency and commitment that a crisis warrants, is beyond me. The Obama administration has committed a great deal of money to keep the economy from collapsing entirely, but that is not enough to cope with the scope of the jobless crisis.”

Republican Cesar Conda, sounding a similar theme, writes: “When the $787 billion government spending stimulus package was approved earlier this year, the Obama Adminstration predicted it would “save or create” 150,000 jobs and the unemployment rate would rise no higher than 8 percent. However, Obama’s own Labor Department reported that unemployment topped a two-decade high of 9.4 percent in May and nearly 3 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year. . .Republicans are asking ‘where are all the jobs?’ I suppose the Team Obama will continue to blame President Bush for today’s rising unemployment, but at some point this will not be a credible answer.”

An “abomination” is what Charles Krauthammer calls cap-and-trade. Nina Easton says it isn’t going anywhere in the Senate, and the critics have the “wind at their backs” given that this is a jumbo tax imposed during a recession. Juan Williams says this is all about the administration getting “a win” somewhere.

Funny that the day after Pelosi’s great “achievement” cap-and-trade is no where to be found on the front page of the New York Times. Hmmm. Perhaps it is not going anywhere — or perhaps losing 44 members is, well, embarrassing for the House leadership which we were told wanted to get 230 votes.

But that’s not as bad as Politico which the day after cap-and-trade and with major developments in Iran tops its banner with “Inside Sanford’s Love Letters.”

And in real news, Ahmadinejad is in a snit about Obama’s tougher language. This is a sure-fire sign the president is on the right track.

The “Republican 8” have incurred the wrath of the conservative base.

Taxes have become an issue in the Virginia gubernatorial race: “McDonnell has already been pointing to Deeds’s Senate voting record on transportation as proof that the Democrat would raise taxes. For instance, since 2004, Deeds has supported five proposals that included some form of increase in the gas tax. Each was intended to raise money for transportation improvements, and each was blocked before final passage.”

AEI’s John Calfee explains what a public option plan would do to medical innovation: “Competitive markets have generated the prices and the profits necessary to induce a steady flow of medical innovation in this country. A public plan option would tend to dismantle that system. The people in charge will not know how to set reimbursement levels to motivate reasonable R&D efforts, and there is no reason to expect them to try. In public plans, the tried-and-true method is to push the prices of suppliers down until something gives — too few doctors willing to take on Medicare patients, for example — and then to ease up. That is a destructive approach to medical technology R&D.”

Sure it’s “meddling,” but it is hard to think of anyone (well, other than Ron Paul) who is going to oppose this: “A bipartisan pair of senators is pushing for international restrictions on electronic equipment sold to Iran, citing reports that the government has monitored citizens’ communications after the country’s disputed elections. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to request that the European Union curb all telecommunications equipment German and Finnish companies, Siemens and Nokia, sell to Iran.”

Why Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson changed his mind to vote for cap-and-trade: “In exchange for his vote, Grayson got assurances from Democratic leaders that they would support his efforts to build a new $50 million hurricane-research center in Central Florida. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a 219-212 victory on the bill.”

Bob Herbert figures out what’s really important: “How do you put together a consumer economy that works when the consumers are out of work?” Maybe the Obama team should have worked on saving or creating some jobs. He, of course, is right to be flabbergasted: “Why this rampant joblessness is not viewed as a crisis and approached with the sense of urgency and commitment that a crisis warrants, is beyond me. The Obama administration has committed a great deal of money to keep the economy from collapsing entirely, but that is not enough to cope with the scope of the jobless crisis.”

Republican Cesar Conda, sounding a similar theme, writes: “When the $787 billion government spending stimulus package was approved earlier this year, the Obama Adminstration predicted it would “save or create” 150,000 jobs and the unemployment rate would rise no higher than 8 percent. However, Obama’s own Labor Department reported that unemployment topped a two-decade high of 9.4 percent in May and nearly 3 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year. . .Republicans are asking ‘where are all the jobs?’ I suppose the Team Obama will continue to blame President Bush for today’s rising unemployment, but at some point this will not be a credible answer.”

An “abomination” is what Charles Krauthammer calls cap-and-trade. Nina Easton says it isn’t going anywhere in the Senate, and the critics have the “wind at their backs” given that this is a jumbo tax imposed during a recession. Juan Williams says this is all about the administration getting “a win” somewhere.

Funny that the day after Pelosi’s great “achievement” cap-and-trade is no where to be found on the front page of the New York Times. Hmmm. Perhaps it is not going anywhere — or perhaps losing 44 members is, well, embarrassing for the House leadership which we were told wanted to get 230 votes.

But that’s not as bad as Politico which the day after cap-and-trade and with major developments in Iran tops its banner with “Inside Sanford’s Love Letters.”

And in real news, Ahmadinejad is in a snit about Obama’s tougher language. This is a sure-fire sign the president is on the right track.

The “Republican 8” have incurred the wrath of the conservative base.

Taxes have become an issue in the Virginia gubernatorial race: “McDonnell has already been pointing to Deeds’s Senate voting record on transportation as proof that the Democrat would raise taxes. For instance, since 2004, Deeds has supported five proposals that included some form of increase in the gas tax. Each was intended to raise money for transportation improvements, and each was blocked before final passage.”

AEI’s John Calfee explains what a public option plan would do to medical innovation: “Competitive markets have generated the prices and the profits necessary to induce a steady flow of medical innovation in this country. A public plan option would tend to dismantle that system. The people in charge will not know how to set reimbursement levels to motivate reasonable R&D efforts, and there is no reason to expect them to try. In public plans, the tried-and-true method is to push the prices of suppliers down until something gives — too few doctors willing to take on Medicare patients, for example — and then to ease up. That is a destructive approach to medical technology R&D.”

Read Less




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