Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 2, 2009

Australians: Climate Change vs. Economics

Today the Australian Parliament blocked a cap-and-trade bill, which has been one of the pet legislative projects of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is a good example of the choice lawmakers across the world are facing — whether to favor strong economic policy or strong climate-change policy. And at least in Australia, the majority of policymakers have sided with business. Leaders across the world would do well to take note of Australia’s domestic climate-change debate as they pack their bags for Copenhagen.

“The right time for an emissions trading scheme is when the rest of the world is signed up for one and that way all the economies will labor under the same emissions constraints,” said Tony Abbott, whose skepticism on climate change helped him displace opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. He also said, “I am very happy to see the Australian Prime Minister cut a big figure on the world stage, but we aren’t going to damage the Australian economy to serve Kevin Rudd’s ego.”

Abbott is right, and the climate-change-policy advocates face one key impediment: while economic realities are undeniable, climate-change concerns remain nebulous (especially given this week’s Climategate). Nations can hardly be expected to charitably submit to a big economic disadvantage. So countries and politicians can’t be blamed for addressing their more certain interests first. Read More

Today the Australian Parliament blocked a cap-and-trade bill, which has been one of the pet legislative projects of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is a good example of the choice lawmakers across the world are facing — whether to favor strong economic policy or strong climate-change policy. And at least in Australia, the majority of policymakers have sided with business. Leaders across the world would do well to take note of Australia’s domestic climate-change debate as they pack their bags for Copenhagen.

“The right time for an emissions trading scheme is when the rest of the world is signed up for one and that way all the economies will labor under the same emissions constraints,” said Tony Abbott, whose skepticism on climate change helped him displace opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. He also said, “I am very happy to see the Australian Prime Minister cut a big figure on the world stage, but we aren’t going to damage the Australian economy to serve Kevin Rudd’s ego.”

Abbott is right, and the climate-change-policy advocates face one key impediment: while economic realities are undeniable, climate-change concerns remain nebulous (especially given this week’s Climategate). Nations can hardly be expected to charitably submit to a big economic disadvantage. So countries and politicians can’t be blamed for addressing their more certain interests first.

Since last year, Australian business has called the cap-and-trade bill “a company killer.” The Business Council of Australia examined 14 companies and determined that at least three would close altogether if the cap-and-trade bill passed, and two more might soon follow. It also cited research claiming that companies’ pre-tax earnings would suffer by 22 percent on average. The Australian populace seems to be listening; according to a recent Lowy Institute poll, climate change has fallen to their seventh foreign-policy priority.

But the climate-change lobbyists have done an especially laughable job of addressing economic concerns, especially after the defeat of the cap-and-trade bill in Australia.

Tim Hanlin, chief executive of Australian Climate Exchange, frets that businesses are “now back in the dark” and will struggle to make investment decisions “with no certainty about the carbon price.” But Mr. Hanlin misses the point that the very policy he endorses is the problem, not the solution. Australian businesses aren’t timid about investment itself; they’re justifiably hesitant to invest when they face crippling taxes and restrictive government policy.

Likewise, John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said: “The defeat of [the Australian cap-and-trade bill] is a not only a stumble for Australia doing its bit on climate change, it is an economic stumble, and a competitiveness stumble for Australia. The low-carbon train is leaving the station around the world and Australia is haemorrhaging investments in clean energy industries and technology to competitors in developed and developing countries.” Connor should consider: if low-carbon industry is really as significant an economic boon as he believes, if it really is so surprisingly efficient, if it will really save money and create jobs — shouldn’t it be able to compete even if government doesn’t cripple its rivals?

The climate-change lobby will have to do a better job of defending their position than they’ve done today. At least in Australia, those most ardent about climate change are not enough of a majority to ram bills through the Parliament. They need the support of the moderates and the conservatives — the very groups Rudd and his followers have alienated with their polarizing language. So these same climate-change-policy advocates must now turn to persuasion and honest debate. That promises to be difficult. The urgency of the climate-change message has, thus far, been more easily paired with emotion than rationality.

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Under the Bus, Again

Ben Smith smartly observed:

Previous presidential addresses on Afghanistan — including President Obama’s in March — have added the human rights cause to the case for war, and have stressed in particular the Taliban’s oppression of Afghan women and girls. . . Tonight’s speech includes a passing, abstract reference to “human rights” — but not a single reference to Afghanistan’s women and girls. That, presumably, falls into the category of “nation building.”

Well, it’s even more jarring, considering the president’s rather hypocritical paean to human rights. It seems as though even in his own speech he could not find room on behalf of Afghan women “to speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” It is a pity since, as the president explained, our willingness to articulate these principles “is the moral source of America’s authority.”

Ben Smith smartly observed:

Previous presidential addresses on Afghanistan — including President Obama’s in March — have added the human rights cause to the case for war, and have stressed in particular the Taliban’s oppression of Afghan women and girls. . . Tonight’s speech includes a passing, abstract reference to “human rights” — but not a single reference to Afghanistan’s women and girls. That, presumably, falls into the category of “nation building.”

Well, it’s even more jarring, considering the president’s rather hypocritical paean to human rights. It seems as though even in his own speech he could not find room on behalf of Afghan women “to speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” It is a pity since, as the president explained, our willingness to articulate these principles “is the moral source of America’s authority.”

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Explaining the Speech

Michael Crowley has a useful roundup of comments from top Obama advisers who are now trying to explain the 2011 date that Obama described as follows:

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.

Hillary Clinton testified today, “I do not believe we have locked ourselves in to leaving.” General David Petraeus conceded in an MSNBC interview that there is “tension” between our commitment and the transfer date but focused on the “conditions” aspect of the equation. And prepared testimony by Robert Gates explained:

The essence of our civil-military plan is to clear, hold, build, and transfer. Beginning to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in summer 2011 is critical — and, in my, view achievable. This transfer will occur district by district, province by province, depending on conditions on the ground. The process will be similar to what we did in Iraq, where international security forces provided “overwatch” — first at the tactical level, then at the strategic level. Even after we transfer security responsibility to the Afghans and draw down our combat forces, the United States will continue to support their development as an important partner for the long haul. We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war, and then into Taliban hands.

That is a lot of explaining, or some would call it damage control, to try to remove the impression from last night that the president was hedging our bets and limiting our commitment. Unfortunately, no one has a microphone or an audience as big as the president does, and he will have to re-enforce the message that his advisers carried today if he means it. There is no substitute for hearing the message from the lips of the commander in chief. That is why, after all, he wanted to give a big speech. He may need to deliver many more in the weeks and months ahead.

Michael Crowley has a useful roundup of comments from top Obama advisers who are now trying to explain the 2011 date that Obama described as follows:

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.

Hillary Clinton testified today, “I do not believe we have locked ourselves in to leaving.” General David Petraeus conceded in an MSNBC interview that there is “tension” between our commitment and the transfer date but focused on the “conditions” aspect of the equation. And prepared testimony by Robert Gates explained:

The essence of our civil-military plan is to clear, hold, build, and transfer. Beginning to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in summer 2011 is critical — and, in my, view achievable. This transfer will occur district by district, province by province, depending on conditions on the ground. The process will be similar to what we did in Iraq, where international security forces provided “overwatch” — first at the tactical level, then at the strategic level. Even after we transfer security responsibility to the Afghans and draw down our combat forces, the United States will continue to support their development as an important partner for the long haul. We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war, and then into Taliban hands.

That is a lot of explaining, or some would call it damage control, to try to remove the impression from last night that the president was hedging our bets and limiting our commitment. Unfortunately, no one has a microphone or an audience as big as the president does, and he will have to re-enforce the message that his advisers carried today if he means it. There is no substitute for hearing the message from the lips of the commander in chief. That is why, after all, he wanted to give a big speech. He may need to deliver many more in the weeks and months ahead.

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The Speech and the Policy

Last week, I wrote that the December 1 speech and the decision it would announce were going to give us “some sense of whether Obama is finally surrendering to the logic of the presidency, in which you have to deal with the world as it is and make policy out of the materials at hand rather than wishing bad stuff away. If he does so, he will announce his acceptance of the McChrystal plan, and he will take a giant step toward filling the Oval Office in the way it needs to be filled.”

Whatever the flaws in the speech itself — and they were considerable — Obama’s announcement and the details of the plan together represent a landmark moment. After spending a few months desperately looking for another choice, a third choice, a cute choice, Obama did in fact surrender to the logic of the presidency. Having called the conflict in Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” he has committed the nation to it, and himself to it. Even his words about troop withdrawal in 2011 suggest the seriousness of that commitment, since he only mentioned beginning the withdrawals and conditioned even that on the facts on the ground at the time. As Andrew Ferguson writes,

Obama is the first Democratic president in forty years to call for a significant deployment of American troops in the national security interest of his country. This is very big news. His predecessor, President Clinton, could give a stirring address dispatching bombers over Bosnia and be confident of the support of his fellow Democrats, because the show of power was purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with keeping us safe from our enemies. With great courage, Obama is trying something that hasn’t been tried within the living memory of most of the members of his party.

I think Andy Ferguson is right about Obama’s courage. He is clearly acting against his own gut instincts and those within the ideological tendency that is his natural and longtime home, and that does take courage. Indeed, that is what accounts for the unsatisfying quality of the speech he delivered. He was trying to find language with which he could make his decision explicable to people like him — indeed, perhaps even to an alternate-universe Barack Obama who hadn’t won the presidency and would almost certainly have viewed the notion of committing more troops to Afghanistan in a Bush-like “surge” an awful proposition. That mollification isn’t really possible, and so the speech didn’t work as a matter of rhetoric or suasion.

But that is a missed opportunity for him. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the policy that matters.

Last week, I wrote that the December 1 speech and the decision it would announce were going to give us “some sense of whether Obama is finally surrendering to the logic of the presidency, in which you have to deal with the world as it is and make policy out of the materials at hand rather than wishing bad stuff away. If he does so, he will announce his acceptance of the McChrystal plan, and he will take a giant step toward filling the Oval Office in the way it needs to be filled.”

Whatever the flaws in the speech itself — and they were considerable — Obama’s announcement and the details of the plan together represent a landmark moment. After spending a few months desperately looking for another choice, a third choice, a cute choice, Obama did in fact surrender to the logic of the presidency. Having called the conflict in Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” he has committed the nation to it, and himself to it. Even his words about troop withdrawal in 2011 suggest the seriousness of that commitment, since he only mentioned beginning the withdrawals and conditioned even that on the facts on the ground at the time. As Andrew Ferguson writes,

Obama is the first Democratic president in forty years to call for a significant deployment of American troops in the national security interest of his country. This is very big news. His predecessor, President Clinton, could give a stirring address dispatching bombers over Bosnia and be confident of the support of his fellow Democrats, because the show of power was purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with keeping us safe from our enemies. With great courage, Obama is trying something that hasn’t been tried within the living memory of most of the members of his party.

I think Andy Ferguson is right about Obama’s courage. He is clearly acting against his own gut instincts and those within the ideological tendency that is his natural and longtime home, and that does take courage. Indeed, that is what accounts for the unsatisfying quality of the speech he delivered. He was trying to find language with which he could make his decision explicable to people like him — indeed, perhaps even to an alternate-universe Barack Obama who hadn’t won the presidency and would almost certainly have viewed the notion of committing more troops to Afghanistan in a Bush-like “surge” an awful proposition. That mollification isn’t really possible, and so the speech didn’t work as a matter of rhetoric or suasion.

But that is a missed opportunity for him. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the policy that matters.

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He Told Us Why

A number of observers have remarked on the tone of the speech, which was typical of Obama — cold, removed, stern, and unfeeling. Peter Beinart thinks the surge is good policy but complains that the speech “left me cold”:

Militarily, we are plunging deeper into Afghanistan, but emotionally, we are getting out. There was virtually nothing in the speech about our moral obligation to the Afghan people, a people to whom America promised much and has delivered scandalously little.

It was, as Beinart puts it, “the opposite of rousing.”

On one hand, this is the temperament issue in full flower. What was attractive during the campaign, a steely and cool reserve, is, in a president, off-putting and sometimes downright weird. We keep waiting for the president to warm up, and it’s not going to happen, I think.

But part of the explanation was provided by Obama himself. He’s just not that into anything other than his Left-leaning domestic agenda. He told us:

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.  It pays for our military.  It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own [emphasis added].

He couldn’t have been clearer — he can’t devote whatever it takes for as long as it takes because he has other things to do. We can hope he doesn’t mean it. We can hope the military works very fast to get the job done before the president tires. But we are kidding ourselves if we ignore the limitations and preferences of this president. He is president during a war. But he resists being a wartime president. We can only hope and pray that changes.

A number of observers have remarked on the tone of the speech, which was typical of Obama — cold, removed, stern, and unfeeling. Peter Beinart thinks the surge is good policy but complains that the speech “left me cold”:

Militarily, we are plunging deeper into Afghanistan, but emotionally, we are getting out. There was virtually nothing in the speech about our moral obligation to the Afghan people, a people to whom America promised much and has delivered scandalously little.

It was, as Beinart puts it, “the opposite of rousing.”

On one hand, this is the temperament issue in full flower. What was attractive during the campaign, a steely and cool reserve, is, in a president, off-putting and sometimes downright weird. We keep waiting for the president to warm up, and it’s not going to happen, I think.

But part of the explanation was provided by Obama himself. He’s just not that into anything other than his Left-leaning domestic agenda. He told us:

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.  It pays for our military.  It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own [emphasis added].

He couldn’t have been clearer — he can’t devote whatever it takes for as long as it takes because he has other things to do. We can hope he doesn’t mean it. We can hope the military works very fast to get the job done before the president tires. But we are kidding ourselves if we ignore the limitations and preferences of this president. He is president during a war. But he resists being a wartime president. We can only hope and pray that changes.

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Why We Will Not Make the Soviets’ Mistakes in Afghanistan

The Financial Times has interviewed veterans of the Red Army’s war in Afghanistan who argue that the American war effort will be a replay of their woes. Actually, their comments suggest the opposite. Here is how the FT describes Soviet tactics:

The Soviet 40th Army comprised 120,000 troops at the height of the war, and operations focused on manoeuvring helicopter-borne paratroopers on to mountains, to control high ground, and then moving tanks through the valleys. …

“The war, all 10 years of it, went in circles. We would come and they [the insurgents] would leave. Then we leave, and they would return,” Gen [Igor] Rodionov [commander of the 40th Army] said. …

“The 40th army was a highly armed and trained force. It answered every shot directed at them with 10 shots. They created many casualties among civilians.

“We would bomb a village because there were one or two Mujahideen there. Women and children would die and this created the insurgent movement. It was a classic partisan war.”

If these Red Army veterans think that NATO forces are repeating their mistakes, they haven’t been paying attention. The methods they describe are completely different from those being employed by General McChrystal. The reason he has requested more troops is so his forces don’t get into a pattern of entering areas and then leaving them. He wants to stay and provide population security. He has also imposed tight clamps on the use of firepower so our troops don’t cause the kind of collateral damage that can turn the population against them.

The whole mindset of the Red Army veterans is highly conventional — employing helicopter assault forces and tanks. That works against a conventional army; it doesn’t work against guerrillas. McChrystal realizes that, which is why he’s trying a different strategy — the same one that has been vindicated in counterinsurgencies from Malaya to, more recently, Colombia and Iraq. Anyone who offers a mindless Soviet analogy to suggest that we are doomed to failure in the supposed “graveyard of empires” — and I have heard many such arguments in the past few days — should ponder the profound differences between the Soviets’ tactics and those of NATO. There is no comparison.

The Financial Times has interviewed veterans of the Red Army’s war in Afghanistan who argue that the American war effort will be a replay of their woes. Actually, their comments suggest the opposite. Here is how the FT describes Soviet tactics:

The Soviet 40th Army comprised 120,000 troops at the height of the war, and operations focused on manoeuvring helicopter-borne paratroopers on to mountains, to control high ground, and then moving tanks through the valleys. …

“The war, all 10 years of it, went in circles. We would come and they [the insurgents] would leave. Then we leave, and they would return,” Gen [Igor] Rodionov [commander of the 40th Army] said. …

“The 40th army was a highly armed and trained force. It answered every shot directed at them with 10 shots. They created many casualties among civilians.

“We would bomb a village because there were one or two Mujahideen there. Women and children would die and this created the insurgent movement. It was a classic partisan war.”

If these Red Army veterans think that NATO forces are repeating their mistakes, they haven’t been paying attention. The methods they describe are completely different from those being employed by General McChrystal. The reason he has requested more troops is so his forces don’t get into a pattern of entering areas and then leaving them. He wants to stay and provide population security. He has also imposed tight clamps on the use of firepower so our troops don’t cause the kind of collateral damage that can turn the population against them.

The whole mindset of the Red Army veterans is highly conventional — employing helicopter assault forces and tanks. That works against a conventional army; it doesn’t work against guerrillas. McChrystal realizes that, which is why he’s trying a different strategy — the same one that has been vindicated in counterinsurgencies from Malaya to, more recently, Colombia and Iraq. Anyone who offers a mindless Soviet analogy to suggest that we are doomed to failure in the supposed “graveyard of empires” — and I have heard many such arguments in the past few days — should ponder the profound differences between the Soviets’ tactics and those of NATO. There is no comparison.

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The Unpersuaded

In a helpful compilation from the Washington Post of statements from members of Congress, we see the range of opinion — from cautious praise among Republicans concerned about the exit ramps, to Democrats who like those exit ramps, to those opposed to any surge. The prize for the most unintelligible goes to Sen. Barbara Boxer, who contributes this gem:

I support the President’s mission and exit strategy for Afghanistan, but I do not support adding more troops because there are now 200,000 American, NATO and Afghan forces fighting roughly 20,000 Taliban and less than 100 al Qaeda.

Even for Boxer, that’s a doozy. Whatever you think of Obama’s speech, it’s clear his mission is to increase troops, and it’s equally clear that the numbers of troops we currently have is insufficient. No one other than Joe Biden’s political flunkies could make a case to the president otherwise.

But Boxer provides a useful reminder that it’s a fool’s errand to try to please or persuade foolish people. The president isn’t ever going to win over Boxer, but what does it matter? He’s probably not going to convince Rep. Louise Slaughter (“I see no good reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan when we have so many pressing issues — like our economy — to deal with in this country. The U.S. government is already spending $3.6 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan”). And Sen. Russ Feingold isn’t impressed with anything short of a deadline for retreat (“I do not support the president’s decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. … While I appreciate that the president made clear we won’t be in Afghanistan forever, I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there”).

It may be that the president doesn’t really think he’ll win these people over, yet he can’t give up the the lure of a finite war, neatly defined, which allows him to return to the “real” crises — global warming and health care. Don’t laugh — this is what he believes. And that’s what he wants to spend his time and our money on. Obama may sound less dopey than Boxer and less defiant than Feingold, but these are his ideological soul mates, and he’s not about to make a complete break with them or his own guiding philosophy.

In a helpful compilation from the Washington Post of statements from members of Congress, we see the range of opinion — from cautious praise among Republicans concerned about the exit ramps, to Democrats who like those exit ramps, to those opposed to any surge. The prize for the most unintelligible goes to Sen. Barbara Boxer, who contributes this gem:

I support the President’s mission and exit strategy for Afghanistan, but I do not support adding more troops because there are now 200,000 American, NATO and Afghan forces fighting roughly 20,000 Taliban and less than 100 al Qaeda.

Even for Boxer, that’s a doozy. Whatever you think of Obama’s speech, it’s clear his mission is to increase troops, and it’s equally clear that the numbers of troops we currently have is insufficient. No one other than Joe Biden’s political flunkies could make a case to the president otherwise.

But Boxer provides a useful reminder that it’s a fool’s errand to try to please or persuade foolish people. The president isn’t ever going to win over Boxer, but what does it matter? He’s probably not going to convince Rep. Louise Slaughter (“I see no good reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan when we have so many pressing issues — like our economy — to deal with in this country. The U.S. government is already spending $3.6 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan”). And Sen. Russ Feingold isn’t impressed with anything short of a deadline for retreat (“I do not support the president’s decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. … While I appreciate that the president made clear we won’t be in Afghanistan forever, I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there”).

It may be that the president doesn’t really think he’ll win these people over, yet he can’t give up the the lure of a finite war, neatly defined, which allows him to return to the “real” crises — global warming and health care. Don’t laugh — this is what he believes. And that’s what he wants to spend his time and our money on. Obama may sound less dopey than Boxer and less defiant than Feingold, but these are his ideological soul mates, and he’s not about to make a complete break with them or his own guiding philosophy.

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Yeshiva Students in Khaki

Here’s some good news from the domestic Israeli front: the first group of 70 Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva students recently began serving in the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence unit, and both army and students pronounce the experiment a success. They join the approximately 250 who have served as air-force mechanics and technicians since 2007 — of whom a whopping 60 percent applied for officer training — and some 2,500 who have served in the Haredi combat unit Nahal Haredi, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last week.

Clearly, they are a drop in the bucket compared with the 5,000 yeshiva students who obtain draft deferments every year (though since this includes religious Zionist men who spend a year in yeshiva before enlisting, the number of actual draft dodgers is smaller). Moreover, their service entails a huge investment by the army: the MI recruits, for instance, receive stipends to support their families (all are married men who enlisted after years in yeshiva), special food that meets Haredi kashrut standards, their own work space (so they don’t have to share offices with female soldiers), etc.

Nevertheless, like the Haredi colleges that have opened in recent years and now enroll thousands of Haredi men and women, they are a sign that the Haredi world’s monolithic isolation has begun to crack. And that is vital for Israeli society’s long-term health.

This is due, in part, to sheer numbers: the Haredi birthrate is the highest in Israel, and recent demographic forecasts say that if current trends continue, Haredim will constitute more than one-fifth of Israel’s Jewish population by 2028 and 37 percent by 2050, up from about 4 percent in the 1980s and 10 percent today. That is far too large a percentage for any country to support if most Haredi men continue to be full-time yeshiva students dependent on government handouts. And in a country whose very existence still depends on a strong army, it is also an insupportable percentage of draft dodgers.

But Israel also needs the positive contribution Haredim can make. A society struggling with a worrying disconnect from its Jewish cultural roots, a deteriorating school system, and growing economic inequality would benefit from a dose of Haredi devotion to Jewish tradition, education, and charity. Yet only by interacting with other Israelis and sharing their burdens — army service and earning a living — can Haredim exert a positive influence. If they remain behind their walls and refuse to participate in mainstream Israeli life, their impact will be nil.

Clearly, some Haredim should remain in yeshiva: a Jewish state ought to support top-quality Torah-learning, just as it supports science and humanities scholarship. But not everyone can be a top-flight Torah scholar, and Israel needs Haredi skills in other areas, too.

It’s still an open question whether the change in Haredi society will occur quickly enough to outrun the demographic time bomb. But it now looks more likely than it did a few years ago, thanks to IDF officers whose vision and investment of resources is opening the army to the Haredi world.

Here’s some good news from the domestic Israeli front: the first group of 70 Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva students recently began serving in the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence unit, and both army and students pronounce the experiment a success. They join the approximately 250 who have served as air-force mechanics and technicians since 2007 — of whom a whopping 60 percent applied for officer training — and some 2,500 who have served in the Haredi combat unit Nahal Haredi, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last week.

Clearly, they are a drop in the bucket compared with the 5,000 yeshiva students who obtain draft deferments every year (though since this includes religious Zionist men who spend a year in yeshiva before enlisting, the number of actual draft dodgers is smaller). Moreover, their service entails a huge investment by the army: the MI recruits, for instance, receive stipends to support their families (all are married men who enlisted after years in yeshiva), special food that meets Haredi kashrut standards, their own work space (so they don’t have to share offices with female soldiers), etc.

Nevertheless, like the Haredi colleges that have opened in recent years and now enroll thousands of Haredi men and women, they are a sign that the Haredi world’s monolithic isolation has begun to crack. And that is vital for Israeli society’s long-term health.

This is due, in part, to sheer numbers: the Haredi birthrate is the highest in Israel, and recent demographic forecasts say that if current trends continue, Haredim will constitute more than one-fifth of Israel’s Jewish population by 2028 and 37 percent by 2050, up from about 4 percent in the 1980s and 10 percent today. That is far too large a percentage for any country to support if most Haredi men continue to be full-time yeshiva students dependent on government handouts. And in a country whose very existence still depends on a strong army, it is also an insupportable percentage of draft dodgers.

But Israel also needs the positive contribution Haredim can make. A society struggling with a worrying disconnect from its Jewish cultural roots, a deteriorating school system, and growing economic inequality would benefit from a dose of Haredi devotion to Jewish tradition, education, and charity. Yet only by interacting with other Israelis and sharing their burdens — army service and earning a living — can Haredim exert a positive influence. If they remain behind their walls and refuse to participate in mainstream Israeli life, their impact will be nil.

Clearly, some Haredim should remain in yeshiva: a Jewish state ought to support top-quality Torah-learning, just as it supports science and humanities scholarship. But not everyone can be a top-flight Torah scholar, and Israel needs Haredi skills in other areas, too.

It’s still an open question whether the change in Haredi society will occur quickly enough to outrun the demographic time bomb. But it now looks more likely than it did a few years ago, thanks to IDF officers whose vision and investment of resources is opening the army to the Haredi world.

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A Fighting Chance

The decision President Obama made was better than the speech he gave. What will matter, long after his address is forgotten, is that Barack Obama gave Generals McChrystal and Petraeus, two of our greatest military minds, the troops (30,000, plus additional allied troops) and strategy (counterinsurgency) they need to prevail in Afghanistan.

To the president’s credit, this is the second wave of troops he has sent to Afghanistan (in February, he approved sending 17,000). Mr. Obama, in siding with McChrystal and Petraeus, wisely ignored the counsel of his vice president, Joe Biden, whose 35-year track record on national-security matters is an almost unbroken string of unwise decisions. And the president made a decision that puts him at odds with his liberal/left-wing base, which seems as eager to lose in Afghanistan as it was eager to lose in Iraq.

As for the understandable concern some people have about Obama’s 18-month time line: it is, at least for now, less worrisome than it might appear. In his speech, Obama said we will “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” That is a key caveat; if conditions on the ground change, Obama has left himself plenty of room to revisit his decision. Nothing is etched in stone. Read More

The decision President Obama made was better than the speech he gave. What will matter, long after his address is forgotten, is that Barack Obama gave Generals McChrystal and Petraeus, two of our greatest military minds, the troops (30,000, plus additional allied troops) and strategy (counterinsurgency) they need to prevail in Afghanistan.

To the president’s credit, this is the second wave of troops he has sent to Afghanistan (in February, he approved sending 17,000). Mr. Obama, in siding with McChrystal and Petraeus, wisely ignored the counsel of his vice president, Joe Biden, whose 35-year track record on national-security matters is an almost unbroken string of unwise decisions. And the president made a decision that puts him at odds with his liberal/left-wing base, which seems as eager to lose in Afghanistan as it was eager to lose in Iraq.

As for the understandable concern some people have about Obama’s 18-month time line: it is, at least for now, less worrisome than it might appear. In his speech, Obama said we will “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” That is a key caveat; if conditions on the ground change, Obama has left himself plenty of room to revisit his decision. Nothing is etched in stone.

The president wisely backed away from bashing President Karzai, which at this point would only have been counterproductive. The focus on Pakistan was appropriate and intelligently stated. There was a degree of realism and candor about the situation that was impressive. Obama skillfully dispatched some of the concerns about his policy. And the president did something that was, for him, rare: he spoke about human rights and American achievements in a manner that was less than grudging.

At the same time, the speech did almost nothing to advance the public’s understanding of what is at the core of a counterinsurgency (as opposed to a counterterrorism) strategy. Obama’s remarks were also another instance of his being ungracious and unfair to his predecessor. You would think that given Obama’s haplessness on a whole range of foreign-policy issues, he would begin to show a smidgen of humility. Not a chance. In addition, the West Point address was far too self-referential and self-justifying, invoking imaginary achievements (such as forging a “new beginning between America and the Muslim World”; Fouad Ajami explodes that myth here). We were reminded by Obama, several times, that “I do not make this decision [to deploy additional troops] lightly.” Nor, he could have added, did he make it expeditiously. And the address included paragraphs that President Bush used to call “cram-ins” — in this instance, a poll-tested section on the economy that was undoubtedly put in by political advisers and that did a fine job of breaking the flow of the speech.

The most worrisome thing about last night, though, is that Obama’s statement that “our resolve [is] unwavering” came across as words on parchment rather than a deep, unwavering commitment. Will he hold shape if the summer of 2010 turns out to be a difficult and bloody one, as it may very well be? I hope so, and I choose to believe so. Will he continue to make the case for this war publicly and repeatedly, to explain to the citizenry why this conflict is worth waging and winning? We shall see. These are open questions. But one cannot help but get the sense that Obama is dealing with Afghanistan only with great reluctance, that he views it as an unwelcome distraction from his domestic agenda. He does not seem to view this war in the context of any great cause, whether it is the liberation of captive peoples or prevailing against men of almost unimaginable cruelty and malevolence. The president came across last night as clinical and detached, somewhat distant and weary. He seemed to be reporting to the nation rather than trying to rally it. You do not sense that this is a man whose heart has been touched by fire.

In the end, though, Obama’s decision will, I think, turn out to be far more important than his words. Having been given the tools, the exceptionally skilled McChrystal and Petraeus, backed up by the greatest fighting force on earth, can finish the job. They at least have a fighting chance, thanks to their commander in chief. At this juncture, that’s about as much as they, and we, could ask for.

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An Opportunity Lost

Michael Gerson, unlike the Obami, concedes that our Iran-engagement policy is in a shambles: the regime has consolidated power, its nuclear program is going full steam ahead, and we have been shown to be very foolish: “Obama’s policy of setting deadlines for cooperation that are violated with impunity, and continually extending the hand of engagement after it is slapped again and again, is both weak and irrelevant.” Gerson suggests that some regime change is in order and that it would be wise to now aid the democracy advocates — after having defunded them. He calls it an “untried option.” Actually, it was a rejected option, at the moment at which it might have done some good. When many were calling on the president to lend a hand to the protesters, Obama went mute and turned up the groveling. Gerson holds out hope that:

Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule. Not out of idealism, but realism. It would be a source of leverage on the Iranian regime, at a time when American leverage is limited. And it might hasten the return of civilian control in Iran, so that America would actually have a negotiating partner.

Well, he could, but he shows no interest in doing so, and frankly it’s a little late now. Obama has already bestowed legitimacy on a regime that, as Gerson points out, the Revolutionary Guard now dominates. (“But in reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard’s control has expanded comprehensively. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reorganized Iran’s intelligence services to give the Guard the lead role — clearly fearful that the regular intelligence agencies were unreliable. The Guard has assumed greater power over Iranian media.”) Gerson is right that regime change is smart policy. Unfortunately, our president didn’t realize that when it might have had the greatest impact.

Michael Gerson, unlike the Obami, concedes that our Iran-engagement policy is in a shambles: the regime has consolidated power, its nuclear program is going full steam ahead, and we have been shown to be very foolish: “Obama’s policy of setting deadlines for cooperation that are violated with impunity, and continually extending the hand of engagement after it is slapped again and again, is both weak and irrelevant.” Gerson suggests that some regime change is in order and that it would be wise to now aid the democracy advocates — after having defunded them. He calls it an “untried option.” Actually, it was a rejected option, at the moment at which it might have done some good. When many were calling on the president to lend a hand to the protesters, Obama went mute and turned up the groveling. Gerson holds out hope that:

Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule. Not out of idealism, but realism. It would be a source of leverage on the Iranian regime, at a time when American leverage is limited. And it might hasten the return of civilian control in Iran, so that America would actually have a negotiating partner.

Well, he could, but he shows no interest in doing so, and frankly it’s a little late now. Obama has already bestowed legitimacy on a regime that, as Gerson points out, the Revolutionary Guard now dominates. (“But in reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard’s control has expanded comprehensively. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reorganized Iran’s intelligence services to give the Guard the lead role — clearly fearful that the regular intelligence agencies were unreliable. The Guard has assumed greater power over Iranian media.”) Gerson is right that regime change is smart policy. Unfortunately, our president didn’t realize that when it might have had the greatest impact.

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Muddled Future, Fractured History

There is, it seems, some agreement that the speech last night was a bit of a mess. Bob Schieffer, noting that exit ramps have been constructed before the deployment, observed:  “I just don’t understand the logic of how that works.” John Dickerson at Slate, not exactly the heart of neo-conservatism, writes that he did order a troop increase:

The rest, though, is a bit blurry. According to his speech, Obama is escalating while retreating, adding more troops while also setting a date for their departure. Obama said he was putting pressure on the Afghan government, but he didn’t suggest how. Some of the blurring was by design. He smudged the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining that while he was sending troops to Afghanistan, the struggle was now more regional than it was when the war started eight years ago.

And David Ignatius was similarly skeptical of the obsession with an exit plan, wondering why the president doesn’t really get the problem with telling the enemy that we have limited patience to fight. He relates his conversation with the president:

He has defined success downward, by focusing on the ability to transfer control to the Afghans. He shows little interest in the big ideas of counterinsurgency and insists he will avoid “a nation-building commitment in Afghanistan.” That will make it easier to declare a “good enough” outcome in July 2011, if not victory.

When I asked Obama if the Taliban wouldn’t simply wait us out, he was dismissive: “This is an argument that I don’t give a lot of credence to, because if you follow the logic of this argument, then you would never leave. Right? Essentially you’d be signing on to have Afghanistan as a protectorate of the United States indefinitely.”

Well, no, actually. You convince the enemy you’ll stay until you win. You win, and then you leave. It really isn’t that hard. As Ignatius notes of the president’s apparent cluelessness: “Obama thinks that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their act together at last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on a certain date, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or else.”

But if Obama’s war vision was confused, the account of his own presidency was positively unrecognizable. It seemed that he was speaking of some other presidency, or one he hoped to have had, when he, for example, declared: “We have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” What is he talking about? The Middle East “peace process” is in a shambles, and he has left a trail of disappointed and aggrieved Muslims — from the Palestinian Authority, which thought it was getting the impossible, to the democracy advocates, who thought they had a friend in the White House. What’s new, exactly? Read More

There is, it seems, some agreement that the speech last night was a bit of a mess. Bob Schieffer, noting that exit ramps have been constructed before the deployment, observed:  “I just don’t understand the logic of how that works.” John Dickerson at Slate, not exactly the heart of neo-conservatism, writes that he did order a troop increase:

The rest, though, is a bit blurry. According to his speech, Obama is escalating while retreating, adding more troops while also setting a date for their departure. Obama said he was putting pressure on the Afghan government, but he didn’t suggest how. Some of the blurring was by design. He smudged the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining that while he was sending troops to Afghanistan, the struggle was now more regional than it was when the war started eight years ago.

And David Ignatius was similarly skeptical of the obsession with an exit plan, wondering why the president doesn’t really get the problem with telling the enemy that we have limited patience to fight. He relates his conversation with the president:

He has defined success downward, by focusing on the ability to transfer control to the Afghans. He shows little interest in the big ideas of counterinsurgency and insists he will avoid “a nation-building commitment in Afghanistan.” That will make it easier to declare a “good enough” outcome in July 2011, if not victory.

When I asked Obama if the Taliban wouldn’t simply wait us out, he was dismissive: “This is an argument that I don’t give a lot of credence to, because if you follow the logic of this argument, then you would never leave. Right? Essentially you’d be signing on to have Afghanistan as a protectorate of the United States indefinitely.”

Well, no, actually. You convince the enemy you’ll stay until you win. You win, and then you leave. It really isn’t that hard. As Ignatius notes of the president’s apparent cluelessness: “Obama thinks that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their act together at last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on a certain date, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or else.”

But if Obama’s war vision was confused, the account of his own presidency was positively unrecognizable. It seemed that he was speaking of some other presidency, or one he hoped to have had, when he, for example, declared: “We have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” What is he talking about? The Middle East “peace process” is in a shambles, and he has left a trail of disappointed and aggrieved Muslims — from the Palestinian Authority, which thought it was getting the impossible, to the democracy advocates, who thought they had a friend in the White House. What’s new, exactly?

But the next line was the jaw dropper: “We must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” Well we “must,” but he’s done nothing of the sort, repeatedly downgrading, diminishing, and discarding human rights and democracy promotion. He hasn’t spoken out to or on behalf of the Chinese democracy advocates. When he had the chance, he did nothing to “tend the light of freedom and justice” in Iran. When he could have showed the Dalai Lama that he valued “respect for the dignity of all peoples,” he decided it was more important to show the Chinese Communists his inner toadiness. Really, embellishment in a speech is to be expected, but this was one big lie.

Obama never did say “victory,” and that is telling. It’s not his thing. As a colleague points out, what Obama believes in is leaving. You see, “America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict.” I’m sure the Taliban are delighted to hear that, as are our foes around the world, who will be only too happy to have Obama “show strength” by bugging out of hard conflicts. It’s an inanity, the sort of thing a college grad student would say. We show strength in victory. We show strength by standing up to thugs. We show strength by building our military and not penny-pinching on Defense Department budgets. But don’t expect to hear that from this president.

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Was It Something They Said?

Rasmussen reports:

The number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats fell by nearly two percentage points in November. Added to declines earlier in the year, the number of Democrats in the nation has fallen by five percentage points during 2009. In November, 36.0% of American adults said they were Democrats. That’s down from 37.8% a month ago and the lowest number of Democrats since December 2005. … The number of Republicans inched up by just over a point in November to 33.1%. That’s within the narrow range that Republicans have experienced throughout 2009 — from a low of 31.9% to a high of 33.6%.

It seems that one-party rule hasn’t been kind to Democrats. For all of the media’s carping about the Republicans’ supposed incompetence, negativity, divisiveness, and lack of ideas, those hapless Republicans are more than holding their own against the party with the swellest president ever, that’s in charge of all the levers of power, and that’s responsible for a boffo stimulus plan that’s created or saved an unspecified number of jobs. Hmm. Perhaps the prognosticators who decided the GOP was headed for extinction or regional marginalization were a bit premature.

It seems as though it matters to voters a great deal what the party in power actually does. If the Democrats insist on running up the debt, spending with abandon, pushing a government takeover of health care and a cap-and-trade job killer, raising taxes, and doing everything to make job creation harder, then fewer voters are going to want to be on their side. That’s rather basic, yet the pundit class sometimes forgets that what matters to the vast number of voters, who are less obsessed with politics than they are, is what politicians do and what results they achieve. If Democrats can’t figure out how to allay voters’ concerns about jobs, debt, and the growth of government, they simply aren’t going to hold their market share.

Rasmussen reports:

The number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats fell by nearly two percentage points in November. Added to declines earlier in the year, the number of Democrats in the nation has fallen by five percentage points during 2009. In November, 36.0% of American adults said they were Democrats. That’s down from 37.8% a month ago and the lowest number of Democrats since December 2005. … The number of Republicans inched up by just over a point in November to 33.1%. That’s within the narrow range that Republicans have experienced throughout 2009 — from a low of 31.9% to a high of 33.6%.

It seems that one-party rule hasn’t been kind to Democrats. For all of the media’s carping about the Republicans’ supposed incompetence, negativity, divisiveness, and lack of ideas, those hapless Republicans are more than holding their own against the party with the swellest president ever, that’s in charge of all the levers of power, and that’s responsible for a boffo stimulus plan that’s created or saved an unspecified number of jobs. Hmm. Perhaps the prognosticators who decided the GOP was headed for extinction or regional marginalization were a bit premature.

It seems as though it matters to voters a great deal what the party in power actually does. If the Democrats insist on running up the debt, spending with abandon, pushing a government takeover of health care and a cap-and-trade job killer, raising taxes, and doing everything to make job creation harder, then fewer voters are going to want to be on their side. That’s rather basic, yet the pundit class sometimes forgets that what matters to the vast number of voters, who are less obsessed with politics than they are, is what politicians do and what results they achieve. If Democrats can’t figure out how to allay voters’ concerns about jobs, debt, and the growth of government, they simply aren’t going to hold their market share.

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Re: Heads Begin to Roll

John, the put-their-fingers-in-their-ears-and-hum reaction of the White House is, if nothing else, ironic. Remember, this was the crowd that excoriated the Bush administration for buying into the groupthink of every Western power that Iraq was in possession of WMDs. No excuse! The fix must have been in! The excuse that there was unanimity among Western intelligence agencies and our own intelligence professionals carried no weight. And this was also the crowd that was going to take “politics out of science” — the inference being that only Neanderthal conservatives could question certain scientific truths or stand in the way of “progress.”

Now that we have overwhelming evidence of the danger of groupthink and of the triumph of ideological preconceptions over data collection, the Obami want to hear none of it. It is, if nothing else, an example of how dearly the liberal political class clings to the security blanket of “science” to push its big-government agenda. It’s not enough to want to lessen our dependence on foreign oil or create jobs by developing domestic energy resources. There had to be a crisis to create a sense of urgency and justify huge taxes and regulatory controls. So it’s not surprising that when the “science” justifying the “crisis” is called into doubt, those pushing the extreme green agenda want to run the other way.

Unfortunately, as you point out, the cat is out of the bag, and there is a full-fledged scandal. And the Obami couldn’t even release the news on a Friday. It seems the social engineers will have their hands full trying to convince us that there is nothing to see after all. Just move along.

John, the put-their-fingers-in-their-ears-and-hum reaction of the White House is, if nothing else, ironic. Remember, this was the crowd that excoriated the Bush administration for buying into the groupthink of every Western power that Iraq was in possession of WMDs. No excuse! The fix must have been in! The excuse that there was unanimity among Western intelligence agencies and our own intelligence professionals carried no weight. And this was also the crowd that was going to take “politics out of science” — the inference being that only Neanderthal conservatives could question certain scientific truths or stand in the way of “progress.”

Now that we have overwhelming evidence of the danger of groupthink and of the triumph of ideological preconceptions over data collection, the Obami want to hear none of it. It is, if nothing else, an example of how dearly the liberal political class clings to the security blanket of “science” to push its big-government agenda. It’s not enough to want to lessen our dependence on foreign oil or create jobs by developing domestic energy resources. There had to be a crisis to create a sense of urgency and justify huge taxes and regulatory controls. So it’s not surprising that when the “science” justifying the “crisis” is called into doubt, those pushing the extreme green agenda want to run the other way.

Unfortunately, as you point out, the cat is out of the bag, and there is a full-fledged scandal. And the Obami couldn’t even release the news on a Friday. It seems the social engineers will have their hands full trying to convince us that there is nothing to see after all. Just move along.

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Cost Curve?

The Democrats, with some help from the liberal media, are trying to spin the CBO report on premium costs as “good news.” Depends on on the meaning of  “good.” The Wall Street Journal‘s editors help deconstruct the spin:

CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly in line with the status quo, yet even this is a failure by Mr. Baucus’s and the White House’s own standards. Meanwhile, fixing the individual market—which is expensive and unstable largely because it does not enjoy the favorable tax treatment given to job-based coverage—was supposed to be the whole purpose of “reform.”

Instead, CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don’t count because they will be offset by new government subsidies. About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium.

So the bill will increase costs but it will then disguise those costs by transferring them to taxpayers from individuals.

To be clear: the cost of insurance premiums will be going up, in large part because government will insist that insurers cover many items they otherwise wouldn’t. But many won’t pay the true cost, because other taxpayers will. This health-care plan is many things, but we should all agree at this point that it is doing nothing to lower costs and much to transfer the wealth.

The Democrats, with some help from the liberal media, are trying to spin the CBO report on premium costs as “good news.” Depends on on the meaning of  “good.” The Wall Street Journal‘s editors help deconstruct the spin:

CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly in line with the status quo, yet even this is a failure by Mr. Baucus’s and the White House’s own standards. Meanwhile, fixing the individual market—which is expensive and unstable largely because it does not enjoy the favorable tax treatment given to job-based coverage—was supposed to be the whole purpose of “reform.”

Instead, CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don’t count because they will be offset by new government subsidies. About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium.

So the bill will increase costs but it will then disguise those costs by transferring them to taxpayers from individuals.

To be clear: the cost of insurance premiums will be going up, in large part because government will insist that insurers cover many items they otherwise wouldn’t. But many won’t pay the true cost, because other taxpayers will. This health-care plan is many things, but we should all agree at this point that it is doing nothing to lower costs and much to transfer the wealth.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

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