Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

James Capretta on the CBO’s scoring of the Baucus bill: “The cost over ten years will be advertised as only $829 billion. But after all that spending, there would still be 25 million uninsured Americans in 2019. Even so, CBO’s estimate of the Baucus plan substantially understates its true cost because it is based on key assumptions that will never hold up over time.” Over time, Capretta argues, the squawking will grow louder to lower the tax on those who don’t get insurance and to restore the draconian Medicare and Medicaid cuts so the price will soar.

Sen. Mitch McConnell points out that the “real” bill will get drafted in secret and “slashes a half-trillion dollars from seniors’ Medicare, raises taxes on American families by $400 billion, increases health care premiums, and vastly expands the role of the federal government in the personal health care decisions of every American.”

Karl Rove argues: “Passing health-care reform could be harmful to the health of congressional Democrats. Just look at how President Barack Obama’s standing has fallen as he has pushed for reform. According to Fox News surveys, the number of independents who oppose health-care reform hit 57% at the end of September, up from 33% in July. Independents are generally a quarter of the vote in off-year congressional elections.” And once voters figure out all the taxes, mandates, fines, and Medicare cuts, those numbers may look even worse for those who voted for ObamaCare.

Tevi Troy sums up: “To translate, the bill imposes a mandate for the purchase of health insurance, and gets people covered by creating subsidies and expanding Medicaid eligibility. It pays for this by cutting Medicare payments and imposing a tax on high-value insurance plans.”

Democrats are fussing about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s candid assessment of the options (only one of which is viable) in Afghanistan. Is he really a “usurper,” as they claim? Nonsense, says Marty Peretz: “But to state an opinion is not to usurp. Or to purport. It is simply to state an opinion and, in doing so, enter into the conversation. No constitutional rule precludes generals from saying what they think.” The real problem for Democrats is that they have no credible response and no credible responder.

Democrats are tied up in knots over closing Guantanamo. Give Obama discretion to come up with a plan to check back with them, but not much more. But there is “no chance” of meeting the January deadline, according to this report. Here’s an idea: forget the whole thing.

David Ignatius is sure there’s an Obama Doctrine in the “zigs and zags” of nine months’ worth of head-spinning foreign policy. It’s lawyerly and there are rights and responsibilities and . . . wait . . . really, there is something to explain all this. Well, even if you don’t buy it, bugging out of Afghanistan won’t measure up. He concludes: “The notion that the United States can break with that mission — and opt for a more selfish counterterrorism strategy that drops the rebuilding part and seeks to assassinate America’s enemies with Predator drones from 10,000 feet — would not fit well with any reading of the Obama doctrine. That approach, to be blunt, would be lawless.” Lawless? How about “dangerous” or “foolhardy”?

Justice Scalia would like smart people to do something other than practice law: “I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?”