Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 28, 2009

Re: Are Millionaires All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

Max, not only are wealth redistributionists rhetorically inflating the perception in today’s terms of a million dollars’ worth of purchasing power (a million bucks certainly ain’t what it used to be), but perhaps most important, they fail to consider such a sum in the context of an entrepreneurial economic system.

Innovative drive, America’s engine of economic growth, is largely fueled by bottom-up risk-taking. Every day, thousands of young entrepreneurs toil away in either their parents’ basements or comparable living arrangements, investing their talents, skills, and career-advancement years in the bootstrapping of risky, ambitious start-ups, which usually pay very little, if at all, over the first years of operation.

A small percentage of such ventures, owing to a synergy of luck and merit, eventually establish a customer base and steady cash flow. The most successful ones are often bought out, partially or completely, by industry giants. But the vast and silent majority dwindle down into oblivion — we never hear and rarely think of the ventures befallen by this fate — when resources run out and the entrepreneur eventually settles for a steady, if less ambitious, stream of income at an established business.

America desperately needs these energetic entrepreneurs to expand our technological frontier, but our tax system penalizes their risk-taking behavior. A million dollars or a sum in that range to them may be the culmination of many years of fervent effort toward materializing a business or product no one else has conceived of — years in which they have forgone the income obtainable from salary positions. When and if their efforts finally do pay off, not only does the time value of money erode the real worth of their lump-sum payment, but being treated under a high marginal tax rate further evaporates their earnings unduly. Unlike corporations, individuals cannot spread their losses over time in the eyes of the IRS. Therefore, the government is incentivizing a lifestyle dedicated to steady moderate earnings over one in pursuit of an open-ended, risky large payoff after years of financial sacrifices.

Because most taxpayers, at whom this “millionaires’ surtax” political pitch is aimed, are wage earners themselves, they can scarcely relate to the immense risks and sacrifices often involved in earning anything close to a million dollars. But entrepreneurial activity and the financial benefits accruing thereto are higher in America than anywhere else in the world. Ergo, a significant proportion of the millionaires burdened by the proposed surtax will be young entrepreneurs of unsteady income whose fruits of hard work are already embittered by our progressive tax code.

Does this administration really want to break the backbone of the American economy?

Max, not only are wealth redistributionists rhetorically inflating the perception in today’s terms of a million dollars’ worth of purchasing power (a million bucks certainly ain’t what it used to be), but perhaps most important, they fail to consider such a sum in the context of an entrepreneurial economic system.

Innovative drive, America’s engine of economic growth, is largely fueled by bottom-up risk-taking. Every day, thousands of young entrepreneurs toil away in either their parents’ basements or comparable living arrangements, investing their talents, skills, and career-advancement years in the bootstrapping of risky, ambitious start-ups, which usually pay very little, if at all, over the first years of operation.

A small percentage of such ventures, owing to a synergy of luck and merit, eventually establish a customer base and steady cash flow. The most successful ones are often bought out, partially or completely, by industry giants. But the vast and silent majority dwindle down into oblivion — we never hear and rarely think of the ventures befallen by this fate — when resources run out and the entrepreneur eventually settles for a steady, if less ambitious, stream of income at an established business.

America desperately needs these energetic entrepreneurs to expand our technological frontier, but our tax system penalizes their risk-taking behavior. A million dollars or a sum in that range to them may be the culmination of many years of fervent effort toward materializing a business or product no one else has conceived of — years in which they have forgone the income obtainable from salary positions. When and if their efforts finally do pay off, not only does the time value of money erode the real worth of their lump-sum payment, but being treated under a high marginal tax rate further evaporates their earnings unduly. Unlike corporations, individuals cannot spread their losses over time in the eyes of the IRS. Therefore, the government is incentivizing a lifestyle dedicated to steady moderate earnings over one in pursuit of an open-ended, risky large payoff after years of financial sacrifices.

Because most taxpayers, at whom this “millionaires’ surtax” political pitch is aimed, are wage earners themselves, they can scarcely relate to the immense risks and sacrifices often involved in earning anything close to a million dollars. But entrepreneurial activity and the financial benefits accruing thereto are higher in America than anywhere else in the world. Ergo, a significant proportion of the millionaires burdened by the proposed surtax will be young entrepreneurs of unsteady income whose fruits of hard work are already embittered by our progressive tax code.

Does this administration really want to break the backbone of the American economy?

Read Less

Benjamin Netanyahu: A Realtor with No Buyers

Beyond his well-known love of mildly fancy hotels in Israel and abroad, I do not know much about the personal tastes of the prime minister of Israel. I thus could not tell you whether Benjamin Netanyahu is a fan of rock music. But if he is, he could find some solace in the 1972 hit song of the Scottish outfit Stealer’s Wheel, whose chorus runs “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” The title of the song: “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

For Mr. Netanyahu finds himself politically isolated and maligned by both Left and Right precisely when he needs the most company. Some weeks ago, Mr. Netanyahu’s government proposed what is surely the most significant bill of the fledgling administration but also perhaps the most significant reform effort seen in Israel in a long time. The so-called Law of the Lands bill aims to loosen the strict regulation of land ownership in Israel. It proposes to transfer land currently possessed by the Israel Land Administration (up to 93 percent of the total landmass of Israel) to the people who actually inhabit it — in essence, a mass fire sale of government lands. If passed, the bill would be the largest land-privatization act in the history of the country.

It has been a little remarked fact, certainly outside Israel, that Israeli land is as state-controlled as it is. This is partly because the current system does allow a form of almost de facto ownership. Israelis typically get long-term leases (for as long as 99 years in some cases), which pretty much give them the freedom to dispose of their private castles just as they wish. Still, the ultimate deed of ownership, whether it be for a residence, office tower, or orange grove, usually belongs to the state.

The effects of state control have been far from benign. The cost of land is always unbelievably inflated because of the “scarcity” of land. There’s still plenty of unoccupied land in Israel, but only the Israel Land Administration gets to decide what can and cannot be built, and they are stingy with their permission slips. Along with this situation has grown up, quite naturally, a system of spoils and patronage, in which “friends” of the Israel Land Administration (no, not North American charity contributors) get exclusive rights to development projects, perpetuating Israel’s ruinous commercial oligarchy. The Netanyahu bill could remedy Israel’s chronic real-estate shortage, drive down prices, and encourage the growth of the “ownership society” in a country where most people barely hang on with huge proportions of salary going straight into rent.

Despite its populist intent, a staggering coalition is emerging against the Law of the Lands. In a front-page hit piece in the Israeli business daily Globes, Lilach Veisman reports that one skeptical Netanyahu aide leaked that Netanyahu had met with business people from Arab countries interested in the development of the Palestinian territories. Veisman quotes the source as saying, “Who could guarantee that they [the Arab businessmen] would not build here?” The right-wingers claim not to like the bill, because they fear the ownership of foreign Arabs. “Netanyahu should strengthen the ‘Israeli law,’ ” the aide said — “Israeli” here seemingly does not include “Israeli Arab.”

Netanyahu has faced this line of assault before. The story goes that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had refused then Finance Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to privatize lands for fear that Saudi speculators would buy up the country. To this, one of Netanyahu’s close aides apparently retorted: “Saudi Arabians have no shortage of sand in Arabia, and even if they want to take some of Israel’s sand back with them, they can try.” A warrior and not an economist, Mr. Sharon did not seem to get the point. Be this as it may, the fear of an Arab takeover is totally overblown. Arab ownership could not undo Israeli possession; every Talmud student, as well as every reader of John Locke, should know that possession is 9/10th of ownership.

While his opponents on the Right are blinded by xenophobia, the opponents on the Left are simply blind. In the same article, Veisman also quotes another associate of Netanyahu to the effect that the bill was “born in a meeting over whiskey and cigars with businessmen.” So the charge from the Left is that this is simply an aristocratic coup. The bill would favor only the “powerful captains” and hurt the “average man,” said the source. So let us see.

A bill that would flood the market with new land, lower prices, and enable ownership would benefit only the existing captains of industry? Ehud Barak, the lately very sensible chief of the Labor party, had originally rejected these cries and sided with Netanyahu. But he has received an angry letter from party members asking him to reconsider.

Full disclosure: There would be losers if the law of the lands passed. Any land speculator or plutocrat hoping to cash in on illicitly received contracts from the Jewish National Fund will see the value of their land possession nose-dive. Existing home owners will in fact see important declines in home values. But the gains would be vast. As the supply of housing increases, prices will fall, and Israelis long forced to be permanent renters might at last become owners. Most significantly, it would give the restless Israeli character some new and attractive objects, encouraging innovation, development, and growth. At the same time, increased and wider ownership of land by all residents of Israel just might improve prospects for peace.

Despite these benefits, the forces right now seem aligned against Mr. Netanyahu as the bill gets set for a vote next week. It is not clear if Ehud Barak can ignore the shrieking from his own party, nor whether Mr. Netanyahu can control his right flank. Reading the hit piece in Globes (and surely he reads the papers), Mr. Netanyahu might be justly perplexed. Thinking he had benefited the wide populace of Israel, he instead finds that he aims to “only benefit” Israeli captains of industry as well as Saudi speculators, perhaps at the same time. Stealer’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You” expresses great exasperation: “Trying to make some sense of it all, I can see it makes no sense at all.” The song seems to be about a hallucinogenic trip, but the prime minister might find it uncannily close to describing current Israeli political reality. Go figure.

Beyond his well-known love of mildly fancy hotels in Israel and abroad, I do not know much about the personal tastes of the prime minister of Israel. I thus could not tell you whether Benjamin Netanyahu is a fan of rock music. But if he is, he could find some solace in the 1972 hit song of the Scottish outfit Stealer’s Wheel, whose chorus runs “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” The title of the song: “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

For Mr. Netanyahu finds himself politically isolated and maligned by both Left and Right precisely when he needs the most company. Some weeks ago, Mr. Netanyahu’s government proposed what is surely the most significant bill of the fledgling administration but also perhaps the most significant reform effort seen in Israel in a long time. The so-called Law of the Lands bill aims to loosen the strict regulation of land ownership in Israel. It proposes to transfer land currently possessed by the Israel Land Administration (up to 93 percent of the total landmass of Israel) to the people who actually inhabit it — in essence, a mass fire sale of government lands. If passed, the bill would be the largest land-privatization act in the history of the country.

It has been a little remarked fact, certainly outside Israel, that Israeli land is as state-controlled as it is. This is partly because the current system does allow a form of almost de facto ownership. Israelis typically get long-term leases (for as long as 99 years in some cases), which pretty much give them the freedom to dispose of their private castles just as they wish. Still, the ultimate deed of ownership, whether it be for a residence, office tower, or orange grove, usually belongs to the state.

The effects of state control have been far from benign. The cost of land is always unbelievably inflated because of the “scarcity” of land. There’s still plenty of unoccupied land in Israel, but only the Israel Land Administration gets to decide what can and cannot be built, and they are stingy with their permission slips. Along with this situation has grown up, quite naturally, a system of spoils and patronage, in which “friends” of the Israel Land Administration (no, not North American charity contributors) get exclusive rights to development projects, perpetuating Israel’s ruinous commercial oligarchy. The Netanyahu bill could remedy Israel’s chronic real-estate shortage, drive down prices, and encourage the growth of the “ownership society” in a country where most people barely hang on with huge proportions of salary going straight into rent.

Despite its populist intent, a staggering coalition is emerging against the Law of the Lands. In a front-page hit piece in the Israeli business daily Globes, Lilach Veisman reports that one skeptical Netanyahu aide leaked that Netanyahu had met with business people from Arab countries interested in the development of the Palestinian territories. Veisman quotes the source as saying, “Who could guarantee that they [the Arab businessmen] would not build here?” The right-wingers claim not to like the bill, because they fear the ownership of foreign Arabs. “Netanyahu should strengthen the ‘Israeli law,’ ” the aide said — “Israeli” here seemingly does not include “Israeli Arab.”

Netanyahu has faced this line of assault before. The story goes that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had refused then Finance Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to privatize lands for fear that Saudi speculators would buy up the country. To this, one of Netanyahu’s close aides apparently retorted: “Saudi Arabians have no shortage of sand in Arabia, and even if they want to take some of Israel’s sand back with them, they can try.” A warrior and not an economist, Mr. Sharon did not seem to get the point. Be this as it may, the fear of an Arab takeover is totally overblown. Arab ownership could not undo Israeli possession; every Talmud student, as well as every reader of John Locke, should know that possession is 9/10th of ownership.

While his opponents on the Right are blinded by xenophobia, the opponents on the Left are simply blind. In the same article, Veisman also quotes another associate of Netanyahu to the effect that the bill was “born in a meeting over whiskey and cigars with businessmen.” So the charge from the Left is that this is simply an aristocratic coup. The bill would favor only the “powerful captains” and hurt the “average man,” said the source. So let us see.

A bill that would flood the market with new land, lower prices, and enable ownership would benefit only the existing captains of industry? Ehud Barak, the lately very sensible chief of the Labor party, had originally rejected these cries and sided with Netanyahu. But he has received an angry letter from party members asking him to reconsider.

Full disclosure: There would be losers if the law of the lands passed. Any land speculator or plutocrat hoping to cash in on illicitly received contracts from the Jewish National Fund will see the value of their land possession nose-dive. Existing home owners will in fact see important declines in home values. But the gains would be vast. As the supply of housing increases, prices will fall, and Israelis long forced to be permanent renters might at last become owners. Most significantly, it would give the restless Israeli character some new and attractive objects, encouraging innovation, development, and growth. At the same time, increased and wider ownership of land by all residents of Israel just might improve prospects for peace.

Despite these benefits, the forces right now seem aligned against Mr. Netanyahu as the bill gets set for a vote next week. It is not clear if Ehud Barak can ignore the shrieking from his own party, nor whether Mr. Netanyahu can control his right flank. Reading the hit piece in Globes (and surely he reads the papers), Mr. Netanyahu might be justly perplexed. Thinking he had benefited the wide populace of Israel, he instead finds that he aims to “only benefit” Israeli captains of industry as well as Saudi speculators, perhaps at the same time. Stealer’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You” expresses great exasperation: “Trying to make some sense of it all, I can see it makes no sense at all.” The song seems to be about a hallucinogenic trip, but the prime minister might find it uncannily close to describing current Israeli political reality. Go figure.

Read Less

Re: Obama’s “Communication” Problem

You are right, Pete, that health-care proponents are loath to admit that the problem lies not in their star communicator but in their bill. (Congressional Republicans now point to an astounding 68 House Democrats who have come out in opposition to the bill.) But there is a measure of truth here about Obama’s communication difficulties. He actually has several.

First, he has frittered the valuable commodity of the presidency by being everywhere and talking about anything. He is now suffering the inevitable consequence of all overbuzzed celebrities: overexposure. The public isn’t tuning in to his press conferences, and he has ceased to command the attention of the electorate.

Second, when he does speak it is in mind-numbing generalities populated by straw men. Even the New York Times has taken to complaining about the latter. Blue pills and red pills? Imagine if George W. Bush had talked that sort of nonsense. Obama has eschewed details and failed to confront the very real problems with his top legislative agenda item.

Third, he has damaged his own credibility on two very prominent occasions — by continuing to hawk his stimulus (and deny it was intended to produce millions of jobs) long after it has been proved to be a bust and, most recently, by wading into the Crowley-Gates affair. When the public thinks they are being spun, they tune out — even on topics unrelated to the spinning. Presidential credibility is a precious thing, and here it has been frittered away.

That is not to say Obama does not possess many talents and a certain eloquence. But he has not made the most of it. Instead, he’s tried to coast on generalities, false choices, straw men, and his own popularity. The latter is sliding downward, and so will his ability to communicate effectively with the American people, unless he puts aside campaign-type rhetoric and talks in frank, specific terms with the public. They still might not like what he’s selling, but at least he’d have his chance to sell the public on ObamaCare.

You are right, Pete, that health-care proponents are loath to admit that the problem lies not in their star communicator but in their bill. (Congressional Republicans now point to an astounding 68 House Democrats who have come out in opposition to the bill.) But there is a measure of truth here about Obama’s communication difficulties. He actually has several.

First, he has frittered the valuable commodity of the presidency by being everywhere and talking about anything. He is now suffering the inevitable consequence of all overbuzzed celebrities: overexposure. The public isn’t tuning in to his press conferences, and he has ceased to command the attention of the electorate.

Second, when he does speak it is in mind-numbing generalities populated by straw men. Even the New York Times has taken to complaining about the latter. Blue pills and red pills? Imagine if George W. Bush had talked that sort of nonsense. Obama has eschewed details and failed to confront the very real problems with his top legislative agenda item.

Third, he has damaged his own credibility on two very prominent occasions — by continuing to hawk his stimulus (and deny it was intended to produce millions of jobs) long after it has been proved to be a bust and, most recently, by wading into the Crowley-Gates affair. When the public thinks they are being spun, they tune out — even on topics unrelated to the spinning. Presidential credibility is a precious thing, and here it has been frittered away.

That is not to say Obama does not possess many talents and a certain eloquence. But he has not made the most of it. Instead, he’s tried to coast on generalities, false choices, straw men, and his own popularity. The latter is sliding downward, and so will his ability to communicate effectively with the American people, unless he puts aside campaign-type rhetoric and talks in frank, specific terms with the public. They still might not like what he’s selling, but at least he’d have his chance to sell the public on ObamaCare.

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Why They Couldn’t Bring Themselves to Vote “Yes”

Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court on a 13-6 vote was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Lindsay Graham was the sole “yes” vote on the Republican side. It marks the first time a number of Republicans (e.g., Orin Hatch, Chuck Grassley) have not “deferred” to the president of the opposite party on a Supreme Court nominee. Perhaps had she not departed so dramatically and unbelievably from the philosophy expounded again and again in her many speeches, had she been honest about her involvement in PRLDEF, and perhaps had she not misrepresented the facts and law on everything from the en banc proceedings in Ricci to the relevance of state law in abortion jurisprudence, she might have gained some more Republican votes.

Maybe had she said a single novel or intellectually interesting thing, she might have convinced everyone that she had the stuff of a Supreme Court justice. But after a lifetime of advocating racial politics, a shabby performance in the Ricci case, and an entirely disingenuous performance before the Senate, the only surprise is Graham’s vote. As a prosecutor, he must at some level have recognized the lack of candor being shown to him and his colleagues and the offense to the Senate by her untruthful and incomplete answers.

Unfortunately, the lesson learned here is that lack of candor and jurisprudential mediocrity are no longer grounds for denying confirmation. This Senate Judiciary Committee — at least 13 of its members — has disappointingly lowered the bar for confirmation hearings and for the expected performance of nominees.

Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court on a 13-6 vote was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Lindsay Graham was the sole “yes” vote on the Republican side. It marks the first time a number of Republicans (e.g., Orin Hatch, Chuck Grassley) have not “deferred” to the president of the opposite party on a Supreme Court nominee. Perhaps had she not departed so dramatically and unbelievably from the philosophy expounded again and again in her many speeches, had she been honest about her involvement in PRLDEF, and perhaps had she not misrepresented the facts and law on everything from the en banc proceedings in Ricci to the relevance of state law in abortion jurisprudence, she might have gained some more Republican votes.

Maybe had she said a single novel or intellectually interesting thing, she might have convinced everyone that she had the stuff of a Supreme Court justice. But after a lifetime of advocating racial politics, a shabby performance in the Ricci case, and an entirely disingenuous performance before the Senate, the only surprise is Graham’s vote. As a prosecutor, he must at some level have recognized the lack of candor being shown to him and his colleagues and the offense to the Senate by her untruthful and incomplete answers.

Unfortunately, the lesson learned here is that lack of candor and jurisprudential mediocrity are no longer grounds for denying confirmation. This Senate Judiciary Committee — at least 13 of its members — has disappointingly lowered the bar for confirmation hearings and for the expected performance of nominees.

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No Right to Victimhood

Given that the facts didn’t quite support Obama’s teachable narrative, many liberals are now arguing in true deconstructionist style that the facts don’t matter. Eugene Robinson is left defending Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s right to be obnoxious:

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Crowley’s version of the incident is true — that Gates, from the outset, was accusatory, aggressive and even obnoxious, addressing the officer with an air of highhanded superiority. Let’s assume he really recited the Big Cheese mantra: “You have no idea who you’re messing with.”

Well sure, everyone can be a jerk, and the Harvard faculty likely has worse members than Gates in that respect. But Robinson misses the point. Gates can be as much of a jerk as he wants, but then he isn’t entitled to scream “Racism!” when others react — in this case (as Juan Williams pointed out) telling him to pipe down, warning him, and cuffing him for harassing a police officer. Let’s be clear: had a white professor begun the trash-talking, I feel certain that exactly the same thing would have occurred. That’s why most of us don’t behave that way when we interact with police.

You see, now Robinson and Gates are defending the right, not to be free of racial-profiling (there wasn’t any) or police brutality (there wasn’t any), but the right to be obnoxious and throw the “racism” card when events don’t go down well. It is what James Taranto calls “the reverse Rosa Parks.” Parks used her immense dignity to make a moral point and challenge an unjust law. Gates used his standing as a Harvard professor to first condescend to a cop (“Do you know how I am?”) and then to fan the flames of racism (“There haven’t been fundamental structural changes in America. . . . The only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”).

As James Taranto notes:

When Rosa Parks was arrested, Henry Louis Gates Jr. was 5. Skip ahead 53½ years, and we find Gates under arrest for disorderly conduct at his home in Cambridge, Mass. A passerby who did not know him had called 911 when she saw him trying to force open the door to his house. It was not the only case of mistaken identity that afternoon. When the cops arrived to investigate what they thought was a burglary, Gates mistook Sgt. James Crowley for Jim Crow. Gates antagonized Crowley, in what one might term an act of uncivil disobedience.

So if you want to find the Rosa Parks in this, you need look no further than this video, a moving interview with Crowley’s fellow cops. In eloquent terms, two African-American officers explain that this was not an instance of racial-profiling or police misconduct but of a rush to judgment by Gates, the president, and the governor. The female officer is blunt — although an Obama supporter, she won’t be voting for him again after this performance. No, the eloquent and admirable ones in this case are the police officers, not the Harvard professor who tried to claim the mantle of victimhood.

Gates, Obama, and Crowley will all be at the White House on Thursday for their beer in an event that will be covered endlessly by the media. (Note that at least two more days of the news cycle will be devoted to this rather than to health-care reform.) Crowley, we are told, has taught some classes on racial-profiling. Maybe he can share his wisdom (and that of his impressive colleagues with his beer-drinking mates) about jumping to conclusions, treating their fellow citizens with respect, and avoiding hackneyed stereotypes (“White Boston cops are racists”). Let’s hope the president has the class to apologize to Crowley to his face — and then admit to the country that he acted very stupidly.

Given that the facts didn’t quite support Obama’s teachable narrative, many liberals are now arguing in true deconstructionist style that the facts don’t matter. Eugene Robinson is left defending Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s right to be obnoxious:

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Crowley’s version of the incident is true — that Gates, from the outset, was accusatory, aggressive and even obnoxious, addressing the officer with an air of highhanded superiority. Let’s assume he really recited the Big Cheese mantra: “You have no idea who you’re messing with.”

Well sure, everyone can be a jerk, and the Harvard faculty likely has worse members than Gates in that respect. But Robinson misses the point. Gates can be as much of a jerk as he wants, but then he isn’t entitled to scream “Racism!” when others react — in this case (as Juan Williams pointed out) telling him to pipe down, warning him, and cuffing him for harassing a police officer. Let’s be clear: had a white professor begun the trash-talking, I feel certain that exactly the same thing would have occurred. That’s why most of us don’t behave that way when we interact with police.

You see, now Robinson and Gates are defending the right, not to be free of racial-profiling (there wasn’t any) or police brutality (there wasn’t any), but the right to be obnoxious and throw the “racism” card when events don’t go down well. It is what James Taranto calls “the reverse Rosa Parks.” Parks used her immense dignity to make a moral point and challenge an unjust law. Gates used his standing as a Harvard professor to first condescend to a cop (“Do you know how I am?”) and then to fan the flames of racism (“There haven’t been fundamental structural changes in America. . . . The only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”).

As James Taranto notes:

When Rosa Parks was arrested, Henry Louis Gates Jr. was 5. Skip ahead 53½ years, and we find Gates under arrest for disorderly conduct at his home in Cambridge, Mass. A passerby who did not know him had called 911 when she saw him trying to force open the door to his house. It was not the only case of mistaken identity that afternoon. When the cops arrived to investigate what they thought was a burglary, Gates mistook Sgt. James Crowley for Jim Crow. Gates antagonized Crowley, in what one might term an act of uncivil disobedience.

So if you want to find the Rosa Parks in this, you need look no further than this video, a moving interview with Crowley’s fellow cops. In eloquent terms, two African-American officers explain that this was not an instance of racial-profiling or police misconduct but of a rush to judgment by Gates, the president, and the governor. The female officer is blunt — although an Obama supporter, she won’t be voting for him again after this performance. No, the eloquent and admirable ones in this case are the police officers, not the Harvard professor who tried to claim the mantle of victimhood.

Gates, Obama, and Crowley will all be at the White House on Thursday for their beer in an event that will be covered endlessly by the media. (Note that at least two more days of the news cycle will be devoted to this rather than to health-care reform.) Crowley, we are told, has taught some classes on racial-profiling. Maybe he can share his wisdom (and that of his impressive colleagues with his beer-drinking mates) about jumping to conclusions, treating their fellow citizens with respect, and avoiding hackneyed stereotypes (“White Boston cops are racists”). Let’s hope the president has the class to apologize to Crowley to his face — and then admit to the country that he acted very stupidly.

Read Less

Obama’s “Communication Problem”

This day was certain to come; what’s a bit surprising is how quickly it came. The Obama administration now has a “communication problem.” According to the Hill newspaper:

The other misstep that has bogged down the administration on health care specifically is Obama’s inability to communicate effectively to the American people, [Professor Paul] Light said. While it is shocking to consider that Obama is anything less than one of the best communicators in modern political history, when it comes to health care, he simply has not been able to make the sell to people who do have health insurance. And Wednesday night’s primetime press conference was a “disaster,” Light said. Light said that for the president to regain political momentum, he needs to reclaim his agenda from Congress and start connecting with the public. “He needs to take this over and own it,” Light said.

Light’s comments highlight something I have noticed over the years: analysts are invariably quick to conclude that the reason a particular policy is unpopular is the president’s failure at “selling” his plan — whatever his plan is — to the people. If only the president gave this speech or framed the argument that way, everything would be different. Then he would once again “start reconnecting” with the public.

From the perspective of a speechwriter for both a president and a Cabinet member, and as someone with an abiding love of words and their ability to inspire people, I need to say this: many of the problems facing political leaders are not “communication” problems that can be fixed by this or that speech; they are facts-on-the-ground problems, which are largely (though not entirely) immune to the influence of words.

Barack Obama is experiencing resistance on health care. The problem isn’t that Obama has suddenly lost his communication or speechifying skills; it is that he and his party are advocating legislation that with every passing day and every new Congressional Budget Office assessment looks worse and worse. Time and analysis, debate and scrutiny, facts and reality: these are the real enemies of Obama’s agenda.

On the campaign trail, words can gloss over a multitude of weaknesses. Governing is different, and harder. Even someone of Obama’s talent cannot make rainy days appear like sunny days. He cannot make the sun rise from the west. He cannot turn a slander against a police officer into a “teachable moment” for America. And he cannot turn higher health-care costs into lower health-care costs, no matter how often he insists he can. Watching the White House trot Obama out for interview after interview, for town-hall meeting after town-hall meeting, in order to “sell” his health-care plan, and to watch it become increasingly unpopular all the while, is to be reminded of the limitations of words in American politics, especially false and misleading words.

This day was certain to come; what’s a bit surprising is how quickly it came. The Obama administration now has a “communication problem.” According to the Hill newspaper:

The other misstep that has bogged down the administration on health care specifically is Obama’s inability to communicate effectively to the American people, [Professor Paul] Light said. While it is shocking to consider that Obama is anything less than one of the best communicators in modern political history, when it comes to health care, he simply has not been able to make the sell to people who do have health insurance. And Wednesday night’s primetime press conference was a “disaster,” Light said. Light said that for the president to regain political momentum, he needs to reclaim his agenda from Congress and start connecting with the public. “He needs to take this over and own it,” Light said.

Light’s comments highlight something I have noticed over the years: analysts are invariably quick to conclude that the reason a particular policy is unpopular is the president’s failure at “selling” his plan — whatever his plan is — to the people. If only the president gave this speech or framed the argument that way, everything would be different. Then he would once again “start reconnecting” with the public.

From the perspective of a speechwriter for both a president and a Cabinet member, and as someone with an abiding love of words and their ability to inspire people, I need to say this: many of the problems facing political leaders are not “communication” problems that can be fixed by this or that speech; they are facts-on-the-ground problems, which are largely (though not entirely) immune to the influence of words.

Barack Obama is experiencing resistance on health care. The problem isn’t that Obama has suddenly lost his communication or speechifying skills; it is that he and his party are advocating legislation that with every passing day and every new Congressional Budget Office assessment looks worse and worse. Time and analysis, debate and scrutiny, facts and reality: these are the real enemies of Obama’s agenda.

On the campaign trail, words can gloss over a multitude of weaknesses. Governing is different, and harder. Even someone of Obama’s talent cannot make rainy days appear like sunny days. He cannot make the sun rise from the west. He cannot turn a slander against a police officer into a “teachable moment” for America. And he cannot turn higher health-care costs into lower health-care costs, no matter how often he insists he can. Watching the White House trot Obama out for interview after interview, for town-hall meeting after town-hall meeting, in order to “sell” his health-care plan, and to watch it become increasingly unpopular all the while, is to be reminded of the limitations of words in American politics, especially false and misleading words.

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Time to Rush Another Atrocious Bill Through!

Because trying to jam through a government takeover of health care worked out so well, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is trying to do the same on card check. Roll Call reports:

As Senate Democrats struggle to hammer out a compromise bill on union organizing, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is sketching a process for railroading the bill through the floor as quickly as possible to prevent Republicans from rallying a major campaign against it, senior Democratic aides said.

[. . .]

Cutting off debate on the bill would likely ignite a major partisan firestorm, and top Democrats will look to make their move as fast as possible, according to the Democratic aides.

“This is not the kind of thing where we could have a long, drawn-out rollout. We’d have to say, ‘Here’s the deal,’ and then get to the floor and get it passed before anyone can mobilize against it,” one leadership aide said.

The leadership aide argued that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would also have to agree to the deal before Reid would be willing to bring it to the floor, since any major changes to the bill in the House or in conference would likely make final passage impossible in the Senate.

Big Labor seems “cool” to any compromise measures and wants to jam the real deal — eradication of the secret ballot — before anyone figures out what is up. There’s “New Politics” for you — a special-interest group calling the shots, no public discussion, and a rush to vote on a piece of legislation that cannot garner public support. But what about those Red state senators? Won’t they be in a pickle? Perhaps Senate leaders think that endangering a few of their own is a small price to pay to make good on the debt owed to Big Labor, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect them in 2008.

The hitch here, of course, is that however slow or fast they proceed, there is likely not filibuster-proof support for a measure that will abolish the secret ballot and provide for government mediators to impose contracts on private parties. And Reid feeling the need to resort to the hurry-up strategy once again tells you everything you need to know about the merits and politics of this bill.

Because trying to jam through a government takeover of health care worked out so well, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is trying to do the same on card check. Roll Call reports:

As Senate Democrats struggle to hammer out a compromise bill on union organizing, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is sketching a process for railroading the bill through the floor as quickly as possible to prevent Republicans from rallying a major campaign against it, senior Democratic aides said.

[. . .]

Cutting off debate on the bill would likely ignite a major partisan firestorm, and top Democrats will look to make their move as fast as possible, according to the Democratic aides.

“This is not the kind of thing where we could have a long, drawn-out rollout. We’d have to say, ‘Here’s the deal,’ and then get to the floor and get it passed before anyone can mobilize against it,” one leadership aide said.

The leadership aide argued that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would also have to agree to the deal before Reid would be willing to bring it to the floor, since any major changes to the bill in the House or in conference would likely make final passage impossible in the Senate.

Big Labor seems “cool” to any compromise measures and wants to jam the real deal — eradication of the secret ballot — before anyone figures out what is up. There’s “New Politics” for you — a special-interest group calling the shots, no public discussion, and a rush to vote on a piece of legislation that cannot garner public support. But what about those Red state senators? Won’t they be in a pickle? Perhaps Senate leaders think that endangering a few of their own is a small price to pay to make good on the debt owed to Big Labor, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect them in 2008.

The hitch here, of course, is that however slow or fast they proceed, there is likely not filibuster-proof support for a measure that will abolish the secret ballot and provide for government mediators to impose contracts on private parties. And Reid feeling the need to resort to the hurry-up strategy once again tells you everything you need to know about the merits and politics of this bill.

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Out of People to Blame

Politico gives us a dose of refreshing honesty:

With their health care plans in a holding pattern — and no George W. Bush to kick around anymore — Democrats are casting about for somebody to blame.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says that Republicans have “perfected ‘just say no.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said insurance companies are chalking up “immoral profits.”

But even if they won’t acknowledge it publicly, most Democrats in Congress know the truth: It’s their own colleagues who are slowing down progress in both the House and the Senate.

Well yes, and the president has been at this for some time. He and now the congressional Democrats love to rail at “special interests” (with whom they cut deals they eventually reneged on) or the Republicans who control nothing. But the nub of the problem is that a radical health-care-reform bill that knocks a hole in the budget a trillion or two dollars wide, imposes a government rationing board, sets up a public plan to chase private insurers from the market, imposes price controls on drugs, and does nothing on tort reform is not acceptable to anyone but the far Left of the Democratic party and the White House (but I repeat myself). Granted, the House got away with this sort of legislative extremism on cap-and-trade, but this is health care and it matters a lot. Moreover, unlike cap-and-trade, which may never see the light of day in the Senate, some sort of health-care bill is likely to get through in the end. And lo and behold, moderate and conservative Democrats want to get a bill they can stand behind — and not lose their seats over.

The way forward is not clear. But it seems that if the White House and House Democrats want to pass something, they’d do best to get off their left-leaning ledge and come up with legislation that is not anathema to a good chunk of their own party.

Politico gives us a dose of refreshing honesty:

With their health care plans in a holding pattern — and no George W. Bush to kick around anymore — Democrats are casting about for somebody to blame.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says that Republicans have “perfected ‘just say no.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said insurance companies are chalking up “immoral profits.”

But even if they won’t acknowledge it publicly, most Democrats in Congress know the truth: It’s their own colleagues who are slowing down progress in both the House and the Senate.

Well yes, and the president has been at this for some time. He and now the congressional Democrats love to rail at “special interests” (with whom they cut deals they eventually reneged on) or the Republicans who control nothing. But the nub of the problem is that a radical health-care-reform bill that knocks a hole in the budget a trillion or two dollars wide, imposes a government rationing board, sets up a public plan to chase private insurers from the market, imposes price controls on drugs, and does nothing on tort reform is not acceptable to anyone but the far Left of the Democratic party and the White House (but I repeat myself). Granted, the House got away with this sort of legislative extremism on cap-and-trade, but this is health care and it matters a lot. Moreover, unlike cap-and-trade, which may never see the light of day in the Senate, some sort of health-care bill is likely to get through in the end. And lo and behold, moderate and conservative Democrats want to get a bill they can stand behind — and not lose their seats over.

The way forward is not clear. But it seems that if the White House and House Democrats want to pass something, they’d do best to get off their left-leaning ledge and come up with legislation that is not anathema to a good chunk of their own party.

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Culture War Replaces Missile War

In early 2006, shortly before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, an Israeli intelligence officer predicted the future. “Missile war will replace terrorist war,” he told me when I spoke with him at the Ministry of Defense.

He was right. Just a few months later, Hezbollah launched thousands of Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee south toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. South Lebanon was punished much more thoroughly than Northern Israel, but the Palestinians in Gaza nevertheless took Hezbollah’s Baghdad Bob–style boasts of “divine victory” seriously. Hamas ramped up its own rocket war until fed-up Israelis gave Gaza the South Lebanon treatment this past December and January.

Hamas is a bit slower to learn than was Hezbollah, but seven long months after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the rockets out of Gaza have finally stopped. Israelis will no longer put up with indiscriminate attacks on their houses and schools. Many Palestinians in Gaza have likewise had their fill of Hamas’s self-destructive campaign of “resistance.”

The New York Times reports that Hamas has decided to wage a “culture war” instead of a rocket war because, as one leader put it, “the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.”

Movies, plays, art exhibitions, and poems are Hamas’s new weapons. Hamas supporters, though, aren’t the only Palestinians in Gaza using art as a weapon. Said al-Bettar skewers Hamas every night at Gaza City’s Shawa cultural center in his popular play The Women of Gaza and the Patience of Job. “We were the victims of a big lie,” he says about the doctrine of armed “resistance.”

The Israeli intelligence official I spoke to deserves some credit for predicting the replacement of terrorist war with missile war. Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already fired rockets at Israel, but they hadn’t fired many, and neither the recent Gaza war nor the Second Lebanon War had yet started.

Since then a pattern has emerged that should be obvious to anybody with eyes to see, whether they’re an intelligence official or not. After Israeli soldiers withdraw from occupied territory, Israeli civilians are shot at with rockets from inside that territory. Another pattern has just been made clear. After Israelis shoot back, the rockets stop flying.

It has been years since Hezbollah has dared to fire rockets at Israel or start anything else on the border. Hamas no longer dares to fire rockets at Israel either.

Israelis remain under pressure to withdraw from the West Bank. They almost certainly will withdraw from most of the West Bank eventually. Few, though, are in the mood to do so right now since they were shot at from Gaza and Lebanon after they withdrew from those places. They see the pattern even if others don’t.

It’s possible, of course, that West Bank Palestinians will never fire a significant number of rockets, if any, at Israel. They seem more sensible in general than Gazans. Hamas leaders in Gaza also talk to Hamas leaders in Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron. I think it’s safe to say that the West Bank isn’t hearing any “divine victory” nonsense from Gaza right now.

Then again, Gazans proved themselves incapable of learning from Hezbollah’s mistakes. And the New York Times says Hamas wants to acquire longer-range missiles. So who knows?

This much, though, is all but certain: if a rocket war erupts between Israel and the West Bank, Israelis will respond as they did in Gaza and Lebanon. The jury is still out on whether the Arab world has learned the recent relevant lessons, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that Israelis have. Rocket war doesn’t work, but the military solution to rocket war does.

In early 2006, shortly before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, an Israeli intelligence officer predicted the future. “Missile war will replace terrorist war,” he told me when I spoke with him at the Ministry of Defense.

He was right. Just a few months later, Hezbollah launched thousands of Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee south toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. South Lebanon was punished much more thoroughly than Northern Israel, but the Palestinians in Gaza nevertheless took Hezbollah’s Baghdad Bob–style boasts of “divine victory” seriously. Hamas ramped up its own rocket war until fed-up Israelis gave Gaza the South Lebanon treatment this past December and January.

Hamas is a bit slower to learn than was Hezbollah, but seven long months after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the rockets out of Gaza have finally stopped. Israelis will no longer put up with indiscriminate attacks on their houses and schools. Many Palestinians in Gaza have likewise had their fill of Hamas’s self-destructive campaign of “resistance.”

The New York Times reports that Hamas has decided to wage a “culture war” instead of a rocket war because, as one leader put it, “the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.”

Movies, plays, art exhibitions, and poems are Hamas’s new weapons. Hamas supporters, though, aren’t the only Palestinians in Gaza using art as a weapon. Said al-Bettar skewers Hamas every night at Gaza City’s Shawa cultural center in his popular play The Women of Gaza and the Patience of Job. “We were the victims of a big lie,” he says about the doctrine of armed “resistance.”

The Israeli intelligence official I spoke to deserves some credit for predicting the replacement of terrorist war with missile war. Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already fired rockets at Israel, but they hadn’t fired many, and neither the recent Gaza war nor the Second Lebanon War had yet started.

Since then a pattern has emerged that should be obvious to anybody with eyes to see, whether they’re an intelligence official or not. After Israeli soldiers withdraw from occupied territory, Israeli civilians are shot at with rockets from inside that territory. Another pattern has just been made clear. After Israelis shoot back, the rockets stop flying.

It has been years since Hezbollah has dared to fire rockets at Israel or start anything else on the border. Hamas no longer dares to fire rockets at Israel either.

Israelis remain under pressure to withdraw from the West Bank. They almost certainly will withdraw from most of the West Bank eventually. Few, though, are in the mood to do so right now since they were shot at from Gaza and Lebanon after they withdrew from those places. They see the pattern even if others don’t.

It’s possible, of course, that West Bank Palestinians will never fire a significant number of rockets, if any, at Israel. They seem more sensible in general than Gazans. Hamas leaders in Gaza also talk to Hamas leaders in Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron. I think it’s safe to say that the West Bank isn’t hearing any “divine victory” nonsense from Gaza right now.

Then again, Gazans proved themselves incapable of learning from Hezbollah’s mistakes. And the New York Times says Hamas wants to acquire longer-range missiles. So who knows?

This much, though, is all but certain: if a rocket war erupts between Israel and the West Bank, Israelis will respond as they did in Gaza and Lebanon. The jury is still out on whether the Arab world has learned the recent relevant lessons, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that Israelis have. Rocket war doesn’t work, but the military solution to rocket war does.

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If Only He Would Give a Speech

In a New York Times op-ed, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn analyzes the reasons President Obama has lost the confidence of virtually all Israeli Jews (a recent poll indicated only 6 percent consider the administration pro-Israel):

Mr. Obama’s quest for diplomacy has appeared to Israelis as dangerous American naïveté. The president offered a hand to the Iranians, and got nothing, merely giving them more time to advance their nuclear program. In Israeli eyes, he was humiliated by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. And he failed to move Arab governments to take steps to normalize relations with Israel. . . .

Mr. Obama’s [Cairo] speech, which linked Israel’s existence to the Jewish tragedy [in the Holocaust], infuriated many Israelis who sensed its closeness to the narrative of enemies like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. . . .

[R]epeated peace negotiations and diplomatic statements have indicated that larger, closer-to-home settlements (the “settlement blocs”) will remain in Israeli hands under any two-state solution. Why, then, insist on a total freeze everywhere? And why deny with such force — as the administration did — the existence of previous understandings between the United States and Israel over limited settlement construction?

Benn ends by pleading with Obama to come to Israel to “speak to us directly.” But what we have here is not a failure to communicate:

1. In his 2007 AIPAC speech, Obama focused on “the stones that will build the road that takes us . . . to lasting peace and security” and noted that some of them “will be heavy and tough for Israel to carry.” He did not mention any stones for the Palestinians to carry.

2. In his 2008 AIPAC speech, he promised to support an undivided Jerusalem but retracted the promise a day later and repeatedly “clarified” his remarks to make it clear he had not meant what he had said.

3. His first interview in office was with an Arab TV station, featuring his praise for the “great courage” it took for the Saudis to make their proposal (centering on an Israeli return to indefensible borders, the redivision of Jerusalem, and the recognition of a Palestinian right of return).

4. Obama’s spokesmen have repeatedly declined to recognize any U.S. obligation to observe the explicit assurances set forth in the 2004 Bush letter — assurances that are in black and white, not in “unenforceable” oral or informal understandings.

5. He told 14 Jewish organizations at the White House that distance between the U.S. and Israel is precisely what he is trying to create and urged Israeli “self-reflection.”

Obama has now sent the same message to Israel multiple times, and the poll cited by Benn shows that most Israelis have heard it. But even now some are willing to believe again, if only he will say the right words in a speech.

In a New York Times op-ed, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn analyzes the reasons President Obama has lost the confidence of virtually all Israeli Jews (a recent poll indicated only 6 percent consider the administration pro-Israel):

Mr. Obama’s quest for diplomacy has appeared to Israelis as dangerous American naïveté. The president offered a hand to the Iranians, and got nothing, merely giving them more time to advance their nuclear program. In Israeli eyes, he was humiliated by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. And he failed to move Arab governments to take steps to normalize relations with Israel. . . .

Mr. Obama’s [Cairo] speech, which linked Israel’s existence to the Jewish tragedy [in the Holocaust], infuriated many Israelis who sensed its closeness to the narrative of enemies like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. . . .

[R]epeated peace negotiations and diplomatic statements have indicated that larger, closer-to-home settlements (the “settlement blocs”) will remain in Israeli hands under any two-state solution. Why, then, insist on a total freeze everywhere? And why deny with such force — as the administration did — the existence of previous understandings between the United States and Israel over limited settlement construction?

Benn ends by pleading with Obama to come to Israel to “speak to us directly.” But what we have here is not a failure to communicate:

1. In his 2007 AIPAC speech, Obama focused on “the stones that will build the road that takes us . . . to lasting peace and security” and noted that some of them “will be heavy and tough for Israel to carry.” He did not mention any stones for the Palestinians to carry.

2. In his 2008 AIPAC speech, he promised to support an undivided Jerusalem but retracted the promise a day later and repeatedly “clarified” his remarks to make it clear he had not meant what he had said.

3. His first interview in office was with an Arab TV station, featuring his praise for the “great courage” it took for the Saudis to make their proposal (centering on an Israeli return to indefensible borders, the redivision of Jerusalem, and the recognition of a Palestinian right of return).

4. Obama’s spokesmen have repeatedly declined to recognize any U.S. obligation to observe the explicit assurances set forth in the 2004 Bush letter — assurances that are in black and white, not in “unenforceable” oral or informal understandings.

5. He told 14 Jewish organizations at the White House that distance between the U.S. and Israel is precisely what he is trying to create and urged Israeli “self-reflection.”

Obama has now sent the same message to Israel multiple times, and the poll cited by Benn shows that most Israelis have heard it. But even now some are willing to believe again, if only he will say the right words in a speech.

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Obama Loses His Supporters

The Washington Post gets around to telling us the big secret about health-care “reform”:

Although polls have consistently shown that just over half of Americans think the health-care system is in need of reform, a substantial majority say they are satisfied with their own insurance and care. Any hope of change will require their support, according to experts and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

[. . .]

“It’s a huge barrier,” said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health-care policy and political analysis at Harvard University. He cited a Washington Post–ABC News poll of 1,001 adults in June that found that 83 percent were either “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with the care they receive and 81 percent felt the same way about their insurance. “These people have something to lose. If they think reform is going to actually make it worse for them, they get really scared.”

What is more, all the talk of revamping the system has essentially spooked these people. They might want health care to be more portable or more affordable but they might not be up for ObamaCare. And that goes for Obama supporters. The Post quotes an Obama supporter, Sharon Williams:

Williams, who participated in the Post–ABC poll, said she would not support plans that increased her insurance premiums substantially or limited her health-care choices.

“Obama says we will not be affected, but I’m not entirely sure I believe him,” she said during a telephone interview last week after a presidential news conference that was dominated by health-care reform. “What the average person gets out of this plan needs to be clarified a lot more.”

Williams is concerned that her employer could replace her current insurance with a public plan, offering less choice. The price tag for the plan also concerns her.

“The entire cost — trillions of dollars — is eventually going to fall on all of us, it has to,” she said. “And although the president says it won’t, I’m worried we’re not hearing the whole story.”

And that, again, is an Obama supporter. Imagine how the 47 percent of the electorate who didn’t vote for him feels. What is remarkable is the degree to which the Republican opposition, rather than Obama, is in sync with Williams and others who have insurance but who are freaked out by the prospect of ObamaCare. Higher cost, loss of the doctor-patient relationship, government-mandated rationing. That, after months of an Obama PR, is what has sunk in.

The Washington Post gets around to telling us the big secret about health-care “reform”:

Although polls have consistently shown that just over half of Americans think the health-care system is in need of reform, a substantial majority say they are satisfied with their own insurance and care. Any hope of change will require their support, according to experts and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

[. . .]

“It’s a huge barrier,” said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health-care policy and political analysis at Harvard University. He cited a Washington Post–ABC News poll of 1,001 adults in June that found that 83 percent were either “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with the care they receive and 81 percent felt the same way about their insurance. “These people have something to lose. If they think reform is going to actually make it worse for them, they get really scared.”

What is more, all the talk of revamping the system has essentially spooked these people. They might want health care to be more portable or more affordable but they might not be up for ObamaCare. And that goes for Obama supporters. The Post quotes an Obama supporter, Sharon Williams:

Williams, who participated in the Post–ABC poll, said she would not support plans that increased her insurance premiums substantially or limited her health-care choices.

“Obama says we will not be affected, but I’m not entirely sure I believe him,” she said during a telephone interview last week after a presidential news conference that was dominated by health-care reform. “What the average person gets out of this plan needs to be clarified a lot more.”

Williams is concerned that her employer could replace her current insurance with a public plan, offering less choice. The price tag for the plan also concerns her.

“The entire cost — trillions of dollars — is eventually going to fall on all of us, it has to,” she said. “And although the president says it won’t, I’m worried we’re not hearing the whole story.”

And that, again, is an Obama supporter. Imagine how the 47 percent of the electorate who didn’t vote for him feels. What is remarkable is the degree to which the Republican opposition, rather than Obama, is in sync with Williams and others who have insurance but who are freaked out by the prospect of ObamaCare. Higher cost, loss of the doctor-patient relationship, government-mandated rationing. That, after months of an Obama PR, is what has sunk in.

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A Public Option by Any Other Name

Sen. Kent Conrad is aware that there is no appetite among Republicans and many Democrats for a public-option plan. So he is pushing a “co-op.” What is it? Well it is a federally chartered entity that will offer insurance plans to compete with the private insurance market. Hmmm. Doesn’t this sound just like . . . Well, yes. Keith Hennessy explains:

A two-tiered structure, in which nonprofit health plans have a market advantage over for-profit plans, would be hugely disruptive. Individuals and employers would have a tremendous incentive to dump their current health plan in favor of a new one chartered by this new entity. To the extent that employers made this choice on behalf of their employees, it would conflict further with the President’s commitment that you can keep the plan you have now.

I fear that, like the public option, the Conrad option would crowd out private health insurance. Government would provide low-cost capital. Government would impose rules to suit the Congressional or Executive Branch whims of the moment. The ability to bypass state insurance commissioners would mean these new nonprofit plans, regulated by the new entity, would crowd out the existing market of private plans.

And liberal fans of government-run health care have figured it out, too: “If Congress passed a bill that was national, injected significant startup funds, and guaranteed the lowest possible rates, the result would come pretty darn close to a public option.”

Conrad may be working in good faith for a magic fix. But Republicans and many moderate and conservative Democrats are unlikely to go for his plan so long as it bears an uncanny resemblance to the public option. Crowding out private insurance plans and putting the government in the driver’s seat to regulate insurance (and ultimately, treatment) is not acceptable to a great number of Congress members — no matter what you call it.

Sen. Kent Conrad is aware that there is no appetite among Republicans and many Democrats for a public-option plan. So he is pushing a “co-op.” What is it? Well it is a federally chartered entity that will offer insurance plans to compete with the private insurance market. Hmmm. Doesn’t this sound just like . . . Well, yes. Keith Hennessy explains:

A two-tiered structure, in which nonprofit health plans have a market advantage over for-profit plans, would be hugely disruptive. Individuals and employers would have a tremendous incentive to dump their current health plan in favor of a new one chartered by this new entity. To the extent that employers made this choice on behalf of their employees, it would conflict further with the President’s commitment that you can keep the plan you have now.

I fear that, like the public option, the Conrad option would crowd out private health insurance. Government would provide low-cost capital. Government would impose rules to suit the Congressional or Executive Branch whims of the moment. The ability to bypass state insurance commissioners would mean these new nonprofit plans, regulated by the new entity, would crowd out the existing market of private plans.

And liberal fans of government-run health care have figured it out, too: “If Congress passed a bill that was national, injected significant startup funds, and guaranteed the lowest possible rates, the result would come pretty darn close to a public option.”

Conrad may be working in good faith for a magic fix. But Republicans and many moderate and conservative Democrats are unlikely to go for his plan so long as it bears an uncanny resemblance to the public option. Crowding out private insurance plans and putting the government in the driver’s seat to regulate insurance (and ultimately, treatment) is not acceptable to a great number of Congress members — no matter what you call it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nancy Pelosi: “I certainly want to be trusted. I’m not particularly concerned if I’m liked.” But she is neither.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer says no floor vote before they leave town.

At times like this, you have to miss Bill Clinton: “Brain Food: Bill Clinton Chows on Double Burger, Onion Rings, French Fries, Milkshake on Eve of Obesity Conference.” For his many faults, Clinton never really wanted a radical transformation of America. He basically liked the country that elected him. One can get nostalgic.

Ben Smith feels compelled to defend his view that Huffington Post is left-leaning. It’s okay, Ben. And Obama isn’t “sort of a God” either.

It’s almost like supply and demand, right? “New U.S. Home Sales Rise Sharply as Prices Fall.”

From the “Ya think?” file: “Biden a Distraction?”

Biden and Eric Holder move a meeting with governors and mayors from New Jersey to Pennsylvania after news of the massive corruption sting. Hmm. Don’t suppose they could move Jon Corzine’s November election there too. This might be a signal that the president won’t be spending much time arm in arm with Corzine either.

Sen. Jim Bunning pleases Republicans and enhances their 2010 prospects by deciding not to run. Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson is a good bet to hold the seat for Republicans.

Rep. John Conyers on the health-care bill: “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” Thunk. And the Democrats wonder why the public overwhelmingly thinks they are doing a bad job.

The “honeymoon” with Hugo Chavez is over. No, Obama hasn’t recognized what Chavez is up to. It’s Chavez who is disillusioned. That’s rich. Maybe a “teachable moment” about the nature of dictators.

What’s wrong with this picture? “Almost a month after the June 28 coup, the demonstrations have failed to become more than a minor inconvenience for interim President Roberto Micheletti and the formidable forces that support him: the military, business executives, Supreme Court and almost the entire Congress. Zelaya, however, has received overwhelming support from nearly all foreign governments, which have condemned the coup and isolated the Micheletti government diplomatically.” Might it be that Honduras doesn’t want Zelaya back? Seems like meddling to force a leader on a democratic country.

I know you are shocked that senators got a sweetheart deal and lied about it: “Despite their denials, influential Democratic  Sens. Kent Conrad and  Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation’s largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony.”

Israel’s patience with Obama’s fond hopes for “engagement” with Iran is running out.

One of the Republican Eight who crossed party lines to vote with Democrats, Rep. Mark Kirk, is flip-flopping on cap-and-trade.

Nancy Pelosi: “I certainly want to be trusted. I’m not particularly concerned if I’m liked.” But she is neither.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer says no floor vote before they leave town.

At times like this, you have to miss Bill Clinton: “Brain Food: Bill Clinton Chows on Double Burger, Onion Rings, French Fries, Milkshake on Eve of Obesity Conference.” For his many faults, Clinton never really wanted a radical transformation of America. He basically liked the country that elected him. One can get nostalgic.

Ben Smith feels compelled to defend his view that Huffington Post is left-leaning. It’s okay, Ben. And Obama isn’t “sort of a God” either.

It’s almost like supply and demand, right? “New U.S. Home Sales Rise Sharply as Prices Fall.”

From the “Ya think?” file: “Biden a Distraction?”

Biden and Eric Holder move a meeting with governors and mayors from New Jersey to Pennsylvania after news of the massive corruption sting. Hmm. Don’t suppose they could move Jon Corzine’s November election there too. This might be a signal that the president won’t be spending much time arm in arm with Corzine either.

Sen. Jim Bunning pleases Republicans and enhances their 2010 prospects by deciding not to run. Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson is a good bet to hold the seat for Republicans.

Rep. John Conyers on the health-care bill: “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” Thunk. And the Democrats wonder why the public overwhelmingly thinks they are doing a bad job.

The “honeymoon” with Hugo Chavez is over. No, Obama hasn’t recognized what Chavez is up to. It’s Chavez who is disillusioned. That’s rich. Maybe a “teachable moment” about the nature of dictators.

What’s wrong with this picture? “Almost a month after the June 28 coup, the demonstrations have failed to become more than a minor inconvenience for interim President Roberto Micheletti and the formidable forces that support him: the military, business executives, Supreme Court and almost the entire Congress. Zelaya, however, has received overwhelming support from nearly all foreign governments, which have condemned the coup and isolated the Micheletti government diplomatically.” Might it be that Honduras doesn’t want Zelaya back? Seems like meddling to force a leader on a democratic country.

I know you are shocked that senators got a sweetheart deal and lied about it: “Despite their denials, influential Democratic  Sens. Kent Conrad and  Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation’s largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony.”

Israel’s patience with Obama’s fond hopes for “engagement” with Iran is running out.

One of the Republican Eight who crossed party lines to vote with Democrats, Rep. Mark Kirk, is flip-flopping on cap-and-trade.

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