Commentary Magazine


Topic: Congressional Budget Office

Democrats Face the Voters with Lousy Economic Results

This report explains:

Real personal income for Americans — excluding government payouts such as Social Security — has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush’s eight years in office.

“This is hardly surprising,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. “Under President Obama, only federal spending is going up; jobs, business startups, and incomes are all down. It is proof that the government can’t spend its way to prosperity.”

It’s also more bad news for Democrats this election year. It was Obama, after all, who went after his predecessor for falling incomes. (“American families, since George Bush has been in office, have seen average family incomes go down $2,000,’ Mr. Obama said in a September 2008 speech on the economy in Green Bay, Wis.”) The “Bush did it” excuse is sure to follow, but plainly Obama’s stimulus plans haven’t made a dent in incomes or unemployment as he promised they would. The report also reminds us that the AP survey of leading economists has more gloomy news: “The unemployment rate will stay high for the next two years and still be at 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after dropping an average 32 percent nationwide since peaking in 2006. The economy will grow about 3 percent this year, less than usual during the early phase of a recovery, but few jobs will be added.”

It’s not a record of success by any measure, and having spent over a year producing a health-care bill the country dislikes, Democrats are going to be hard-pressed to defend their economic record. The only question remains is how badly the electorate will punish those who controlled every lever of government and failed to deliver on their economic promises.

This report explains:

Real personal income for Americans — excluding government payouts such as Social Security — has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush’s eight years in office.

“This is hardly surprising,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. “Under President Obama, only federal spending is going up; jobs, business startups, and incomes are all down. It is proof that the government can’t spend its way to prosperity.”

It’s also more bad news for Democrats this election year. It was Obama, after all, who went after his predecessor for falling incomes. (“American families, since George Bush has been in office, have seen average family incomes go down $2,000,’ Mr. Obama said in a September 2008 speech on the economy in Green Bay, Wis.”) The “Bush did it” excuse is sure to follow, but plainly Obama’s stimulus plans haven’t made a dent in incomes or unemployment as he promised they would. The report also reminds us that the AP survey of leading economists has more gloomy news: “The unemployment rate will stay high for the next two years and still be at 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after dropping an average 32 percent nationwide since peaking in 2006. The economy will grow about 3 percent this year, less than usual during the early phase of a recovery, but few jobs will be added.”

It’s not a record of success by any measure, and having spent over a year producing a health-care bill the country dislikes, Democrats are going to be hard-pressed to defend their economic record. The only question remains is how badly the electorate will punish those who controlled every lever of government and failed to deliver on their economic promises.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day – not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day – not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.’”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.’”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

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Colorado Freshman at Risk Over ObamaCare

The Washington Post examines the plight of Colorado freshman Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey, who switched from no to yes on ObamaCare and is now, to say the least, at risk of losing her seat. (“Her vote left the endangered incumbent in an even more precarious position.”) Markey insists that all is well and that she’ll be rewarded for her vote. The Post dutifully digs up some constituents willing to praise her. But the signs are clear that this is just the sort of lawmaker likely to be sent packing by voters for following Nancy Pelosi and Obama over that precipice.

For starters, her rationale for vote-switching suggests she’s not all that bright — or thinks the voters aren’t. “She especially liked the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how much the bill would reduce the deficit. ‘The clincher was the CBO score,’ she said.” Oh, good grief. Did she really believe a score that excluded the Doc Fix and ignored the phony double-counting was a clincher? Or was it the White House political spin — do it and the base will rally! — that pushed her to flip her vote?

A telltale sign of her predicament is that she seems not all that anxious to be associated with the president:

This year, Markey has the power of incumbency, but other factors work against her. She knows she will have to win reelection on her own. Would she like to have Obama back this fall?

“You know, if the president wanted to come, I would welcome him,” she said. Then she added: “I have not invited him. For me, this is going to be about what I’m doing in Congress.”

There’s good reason for that. In recent polling, Colorado voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 50 to 47 percent margin. Markey, after voting for Obama’s health-care monstrosity, will have her work cut out for her now as she must try to separate herself from the increasingly unpopular president. So it’s no wonder that Markey’s seat is now rated a toss-up by Charlie Cook’s Political Report (subscription required), which even before her health-care switcheroo explained:

Republicans will try to turn the tables on Markey by painting her as too liberal for the district and a foot soldier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Unlike some other freshman Democratic colleagues from districts carried by McCain, Markey has not broken from the Democratic line on many legislative items thus far. After unveiling her sponsorship of the Employee Free Choice Act, or “card check,” Markey voted for Democrats’ “cap and trade” energy bill.

Markey may learn the perils of  hewing too closely to the Obama far-Left agenda and of ignoring her Republican-leaning district. And if her voting record proves politically fatal, her replacement will no doubt be among those unpersuaded by the phony CBO scoring and fully committed to repealing ObamaCare. As Obama said, that’s what elections are for.

The Washington Post examines the plight of Colorado freshman Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey, who switched from no to yes on ObamaCare and is now, to say the least, at risk of losing her seat. (“Her vote left the endangered incumbent in an even more precarious position.”) Markey insists that all is well and that she’ll be rewarded for her vote. The Post dutifully digs up some constituents willing to praise her. But the signs are clear that this is just the sort of lawmaker likely to be sent packing by voters for following Nancy Pelosi and Obama over that precipice.

For starters, her rationale for vote-switching suggests she’s not all that bright — or thinks the voters aren’t. “She especially liked the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how much the bill would reduce the deficit. ‘The clincher was the CBO score,’ she said.” Oh, good grief. Did she really believe a score that excluded the Doc Fix and ignored the phony double-counting was a clincher? Or was it the White House political spin — do it and the base will rally! — that pushed her to flip her vote?

A telltale sign of her predicament is that she seems not all that anxious to be associated with the president:

This year, Markey has the power of incumbency, but other factors work against her. She knows she will have to win reelection on her own. Would she like to have Obama back this fall?

“You know, if the president wanted to come, I would welcome him,” she said. Then she added: “I have not invited him. For me, this is going to be about what I’m doing in Congress.”

There’s good reason for that. In recent polling, Colorado voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 50 to 47 percent margin. Markey, after voting for Obama’s health-care monstrosity, will have her work cut out for her now as she must try to separate herself from the increasingly unpopular president. So it’s no wonder that Markey’s seat is now rated a toss-up by Charlie Cook’s Political Report (subscription required), which even before her health-care switcheroo explained:

Republicans will try to turn the tables on Markey by painting her as too liberal for the district and a foot soldier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Unlike some other freshman Democratic colleagues from districts carried by McCain, Markey has not broken from the Democratic line on many legislative items thus far. After unveiling her sponsorship of the Employee Free Choice Act, or “card check,” Markey voted for Democrats’ “cap and trade” energy bill.

Markey may learn the perils of  hewing too closely to the Obama far-Left agenda and of ignoring her Republican-leaning district. And if her voting record proves politically fatal, her replacement will no doubt be among those unpersuaded by the phony CBO scoring and fully committed to repealing ObamaCare. As Obama said, that’s what elections are for.

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Eloquent No More

The mainstream media is slowly waking up to the fact that Obama is a bore. No, really. He’s long since stopped saying anything new or interesting, and he talks constantly, at great length. So when he went into a mind-numbing filibuster to a perfectly reasonable question from a woman at a Q&A session in Charlotte as to whether it was smart to throw a load of new taxes into health-care “reform,” not even the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut could conceal her — and the audience’s — disdain for the Condescender in Chief:

He then spent the next 17 minutes and 12 seconds lulling the crowd into a daze. His discursive answer — more than 2,500 words long — wandered from topic to topic, including commentary on the deficit, pay-as-you-go rules passed by Congress, Congressional Budget Office reports on Medicare waste, COBRA coverage, the Recovery Act and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (he referred to this last item by its inside-the-Beltway name, “F-Map”). He talked about the notion of eliminating foreign aid (not worth it, he said). He invoked Warren Buffett, earmarks, and the payroll tax that funds Medicare (referring to it, in fluent Washington lingo, as “FICA”). . .

Halfway through, an audience member on the riser yawned.

But Obama wasn’t finished. He had a “final point,” before starting again with another list — of three points.

“What we said is, number one, we’ll have the basic principle that everybody gets coverage,” he said, before launching into the next two points, for a grand total of seven.

His wandering approach might not matter if Obama weren’t being billed as the chief salesman of the health-care overhaul. Public opinion on the bill remains divided, and Democratic officials are planning to send Obama into the country to persuade wary citizens that it will work for them in the long run.

It was not evident that he changed any minds at Friday’s event. The audience sat politely, but people in the back of the room began to wander off.

And, of course, he never answered the lady’s question. Why is it we are raising taxes for those making less than $200,000? Why are we raising $52.3 billion in new taxes over 10 years? Obama has no response, or no effective one, to these queries; so he vamps and bloviates, as he did in the health-care summit when confronted with troublesome facts to which he had no adequate response (e.g., Rep.Paul Ryan’s list of fiscal tricks). Just as he failed to keep the attention of the Charlotte crowd, he’s long since lost the American people who now tune him out. Eloquent? Hardly. Persuasive? Not in the least, as evidenced by multiple polls showing that a large majority of Americans aren’t buying his health-care arguments. (And he’s eroding his party’s credibility on issues over which they previously held a commanding advantage. Rasmussen reports, for example: “Following the passage of the health care bill, 53% now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care. Thirty-seven percent (37%) place their trust in Democrats.”)

His rhetoric (which to the amazement of many conservatives – who noticed he was largely talking New Age gibberish during the campaign – transfixed a great number of people for a very long time) is now seen for what it is — a smokescreen for bad ideas and an exercise in misdirection. Unfortunately for Obama, he may discover that once the president has lost the interest and trust of the voters, it’s hard to get these precious commodities back.

The mainstream media is slowly waking up to the fact that Obama is a bore. No, really. He’s long since stopped saying anything new or interesting, and he talks constantly, at great length. So when he went into a mind-numbing filibuster to a perfectly reasonable question from a woman at a Q&A session in Charlotte as to whether it was smart to throw a load of new taxes into health-care “reform,” not even the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut could conceal her — and the audience’s — disdain for the Condescender in Chief:

He then spent the next 17 minutes and 12 seconds lulling the crowd into a daze. His discursive answer — more than 2,500 words long — wandered from topic to topic, including commentary on the deficit, pay-as-you-go rules passed by Congress, Congressional Budget Office reports on Medicare waste, COBRA coverage, the Recovery Act and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (he referred to this last item by its inside-the-Beltway name, “F-Map”). He talked about the notion of eliminating foreign aid (not worth it, he said). He invoked Warren Buffett, earmarks, and the payroll tax that funds Medicare (referring to it, in fluent Washington lingo, as “FICA”). . .

Halfway through, an audience member on the riser yawned.

But Obama wasn’t finished. He had a “final point,” before starting again with another list — of three points.

“What we said is, number one, we’ll have the basic principle that everybody gets coverage,” he said, before launching into the next two points, for a grand total of seven.

His wandering approach might not matter if Obama weren’t being billed as the chief salesman of the health-care overhaul. Public opinion on the bill remains divided, and Democratic officials are planning to send Obama into the country to persuade wary citizens that it will work for them in the long run.

It was not evident that he changed any minds at Friday’s event. The audience sat politely, but people in the back of the room began to wander off.

And, of course, he never answered the lady’s question. Why is it we are raising taxes for those making less than $200,000? Why are we raising $52.3 billion in new taxes over 10 years? Obama has no response, or no effective one, to these queries; so he vamps and bloviates, as he did in the health-care summit when confronted with troublesome facts to which he had no adequate response (e.g., Rep.Paul Ryan’s list of fiscal tricks). Just as he failed to keep the attention of the Charlotte crowd, he’s long since lost the American people who now tune him out. Eloquent? Hardly. Persuasive? Not in the least, as evidenced by multiple polls showing that a large majority of Americans aren’t buying his health-care arguments. (And he’s eroding his party’s credibility on issues over which they previously held a commanding advantage. Rasmussen reports, for example: “Following the passage of the health care bill, 53% now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care. Thirty-seven percent (37%) place their trust in Democrats.”)

His rhetoric (which to the amazement of many conservatives – who noticed he was largely talking New Age gibberish during the campaign – transfixed a great number of people for a very long time) is now seen for what it is — a smokescreen for bad ideas and an exercise in misdirection. Unfortunately for Obama, he may discover that once the president has lost the interest and trust of the voters, it’s hard to get these precious commodities back.

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Is ObamaCare Enough?

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

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We Still Don’t Know What’s in It

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

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A Wave of Deception

It is only fitting that, as the final votes are garnered for ObamaCare, one last insult to the intelligence of  voters and lawmakers is unveiled. Republicans pressed CBO on how much the bill would cost with the Medicare Doc Fix included. You recall that this measure to increase reimbursement rates to Medicare providers was artificially severed from the bill when it became too difficult (even for the numbers fudgers) to make the books balance with that item in ObamaCare. So it was sent to a separate piece of legislation to be voted on later this year.  This report explains:

Congressional budget scorekeepers say a Medicare fix that Democrats included in earlier versions of their health care bill would push it into the red. The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that rolling back a programmed cut in Medicare fees to doctors would cost $208 billion over 10 years. If added back to the health care overhaul bill, it would wipe out all the deficit reduction, leaving the legislation $59 billion in the red.

When pressed by Bret Baier on the fiscal gamesmanship in separating out the Doc Fix, Obama offered no stellar answer. To be fair, there is none. This is cook-the-books legislating at its worst. The exchange was revealing:

BAIER: And you call this deficit neutral, but you also set aside the doctor fix, more than $200 billion. People look at this and say, how can it be deficit neutral?

OBAMA: But the – as you well know, the doctors problem, as you mentioned, the “doctors fix,” is one that has been there four years now. That wasn’t of our making, and that has nothing to do with my health care bill. If I was not proposing a health care bill, right – let’s assume that I had never proposed health care.

BAIER: But you wanted to change Washington, Mr. President. And now you’re doing it the same way.

OBAMA: Bret, let me finish my – my answers here. Now, if suddenly, you’ve got, over the last decade, a problem that’s been built up. And the suggestion is somehow that, because that’s not fixed within this bill, that that’s a reason to vote against the bill, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s a problem that I inherited. That was a problem that should have been solved a long time ago. It’s a problem that needs to be solved, but it’s not created by my bill. And I don’t think you would dispute that.

Translation: it’s not his fault. Got that?

Well, the issue boiled over on Friday when a purported Democratic strategy memo was leaked that essentially told members and staff to hush up about the Doc Fix. The memo’s authenticity was questioned, but the strategy is plainly right out of the Democratic playbook. As Yuval Levin explains, the hodgepodge of accounting tricks and “keeping the ‘doc fix’ separate from the health-care bills they are getting ready to vote on was key to allowing the Democrats to get a CBO score that seemed to keep the bill from raising the deficit.” It’s a Ponzi scheme of the first order. And they only need a few more votes to pass it.

Throughout this process, we’ve seen in what low regard the president and Congressional leaders hold the public and their own members. The Doc Fix is only the latest and perhaps final insult. But on a brighter note, Minority Leader John Boehner is forcing all members to announce their votes from the floor. How dramatic and transparent! Moreover, it will make for dandy ads against all the Democrats who decided to walk the plank for Obama and Pelosi. You can see them now — all the grainy photos interspersed with big red numbers tallying the addition to the deficit as a voiceover announcer explains it was all an exercise in smoke and mirrors accounting. This is how wave elections are made.

It is only fitting that, as the final votes are garnered for ObamaCare, one last insult to the intelligence of  voters and lawmakers is unveiled. Republicans pressed CBO on how much the bill would cost with the Medicare Doc Fix included. You recall that this measure to increase reimbursement rates to Medicare providers was artificially severed from the bill when it became too difficult (even for the numbers fudgers) to make the books balance with that item in ObamaCare. So it was sent to a separate piece of legislation to be voted on later this year.  This report explains:

Congressional budget scorekeepers say a Medicare fix that Democrats included in earlier versions of their health care bill would push it into the red. The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that rolling back a programmed cut in Medicare fees to doctors would cost $208 billion over 10 years. If added back to the health care overhaul bill, it would wipe out all the deficit reduction, leaving the legislation $59 billion in the red.

When pressed by Bret Baier on the fiscal gamesmanship in separating out the Doc Fix, Obama offered no stellar answer. To be fair, there is none. This is cook-the-books legislating at its worst. The exchange was revealing:

BAIER: And you call this deficit neutral, but you also set aside the doctor fix, more than $200 billion. People look at this and say, how can it be deficit neutral?

OBAMA: But the – as you well know, the doctors problem, as you mentioned, the “doctors fix,” is one that has been there four years now. That wasn’t of our making, and that has nothing to do with my health care bill. If I was not proposing a health care bill, right – let’s assume that I had never proposed health care.

BAIER: But you wanted to change Washington, Mr. President. And now you’re doing it the same way.

OBAMA: Bret, let me finish my – my answers here. Now, if suddenly, you’ve got, over the last decade, a problem that’s been built up. And the suggestion is somehow that, because that’s not fixed within this bill, that that’s a reason to vote against the bill, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s a problem that I inherited. That was a problem that should have been solved a long time ago. It’s a problem that needs to be solved, but it’s not created by my bill. And I don’t think you would dispute that.

Translation: it’s not his fault. Got that?

Well, the issue boiled over on Friday when a purported Democratic strategy memo was leaked that essentially told members and staff to hush up about the Doc Fix. The memo’s authenticity was questioned, but the strategy is plainly right out of the Democratic playbook. As Yuval Levin explains, the hodgepodge of accounting tricks and “keeping the ‘doc fix’ separate from the health-care bills they are getting ready to vote on was key to allowing the Democrats to get a CBO score that seemed to keep the bill from raising the deficit.” It’s a Ponzi scheme of the first order. And they only need a few more votes to pass it.

Throughout this process, we’ve seen in what low regard the president and Congressional leaders hold the public and their own members. The Doc Fix is only the latest and perhaps final insult. But on a brighter note, Minority Leader John Boehner is forcing all members to announce their votes from the floor. How dramatic and transparent! Moreover, it will make for dandy ads against all the Democrats who decided to walk the plank for Obama and Pelosi. You can see them now — all the grainy photos interspersed with big red numbers tallying the addition to the deficit as a voiceover announcer explains it was all an exercise in smoke and mirrors accounting. This is how wave elections are made.

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Health-Care Larceny

In a perfectly crafted paragraph, Michael Gerson sums up where we are on health-care “reform” (more about that later):

The most visible Democratic domestic priority of the past 40 years must be smuggled into law, lest too many Americans notice. Politicians claiming the idealism of saints have adopted the tactics of burglars. Victory, if it comes, will seem less like a parade than a heist.

Why the need for the lawlessness? Because the president has failed to persuade the country of its merits, and he and Nancy Pelosi have their hands full trying to wrestle the final House Democrats to the mat.

The bill is in no meaningful sense “reform,” which was the premise of the entire undertaking. For example, it was going to slow the increase in premiums. But even the AP acknowledges, “Premiums are likely to keep going up even if the health care bill passes, experts say. If cost controls work as advertised, annual increases would level off with time. But don’t look for a rollback. Instead, the main reason premiums would be more affordable is that new government tax credits would help cover the cost for millions of people.” Hmm. This was precisely the point Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Paul Ryan made at the health-care summit.

And what about budget neutrality or entitlement “reform”? Gerson says that’s not happening:

The problem here is not only accounting tricks and the assumption of unprecedented courage on the part of future Congresses when it comes to Medicare cuts — though these are bad enough. The main source of irresponsibility is that the revenue-gaining measures in the health bill — particularly Medicare cuts and taxing “Cadillac” health plans — would be used to create a new entitlement instead of repairing an existing one. …

The unfunded liability of America’s current entitlements is more than $100 trillion. Medicare will eventually require a massive infusion of cash under a congressional entitlement fix. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare actuary have pressed the point that Medicare savings can be used to pay future Medicare benefits or to finance new spending outside Medicare — not both. When the entitlement crisis arrives, Obama will have already spent much of the resources required to meet it, leaving growth-killing new taxes as the main remaining option.

So you can see why we’re down to parliamentary larceny. It’s probably what we should have expected from a bunch of Chicago pols. But it’s certainly not very hope-n-changey. It’s probably not even constitutional.

In a perfectly crafted paragraph, Michael Gerson sums up where we are on health-care “reform” (more about that later):

The most visible Democratic domestic priority of the past 40 years must be smuggled into law, lest too many Americans notice. Politicians claiming the idealism of saints have adopted the tactics of burglars. Victory, if it comes, will seem less like a parade than a heist.

Why the need for the lawlessness? Because the president has failed to persuade the country of its merits, and he and Nancy Pelosi have their hands full trying to wrestle the final House Democrats to the mat.

The bill is in no meaningful sense “reform,” which was the premise of the entire undertaking. For example, it was going to slow the increase in premiums. But even the AP acknowledges, “Premiums are likely to keep going up even if the health care bill passes, experts say. If cost controls work as advertised, annual increases would level off with time. But don’t look for a rollback. Instead, the main reason premiums would be more affordable is that new government tax credits would help cover the cost for millions of people.” Hmm. This was precisely the point Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Paul Ryan made at the health-care summit.

And what about budget neutrality or entitlement “reform”? Gerson says that’s not happening:

The problem here is not only accounting tricks and the assumption of unprecedented courage on the part of future Congresses when it comes to Medicare cuts — though these are bad enough. The main source of irresponsibility is that the revenue-gaining measures in the health bill — particularly Medicare cuts and taxing “Cadillac” health plans — would be used to create a new entitlement instead of repairing an existing one. …

The unfunded liability of America’s current entitlements is more than $100 trillion. Medicare will eventually require a massive infusion of cash under a congressional entitlement fix. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare actuary have pressed the point that Medicare savings can be used to pay future Medicare benefits or to finance new spending outside Medicare — not both. When the entitlement crisis arrives, Obama will have already spent much of the resources required to meet it, leaving growth-killing new taxes as the main remaining option.

So you can see why we’re down to parliamentary larceny. It’s probably what we should have expected from a bunch of Chicago pols. But it’s certainly not very hope-n-changey. It’s probably not even constitutional.

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The Substance Matters, or It Should

Politico reels off five impediments to passage of ObamaCare (e.g., reconciliation, abortion, Senate-House mistrust) but doesn’t get around to the two biggest problems: it’s a bad, irresponsible bill and the voters hate it. Oh yes, that. This bit of misdirection pleases Democratic leaders, who would like the discussion to be about anything but the substance of what members are being asked to vote on.

Rep. Paul Ryan, however, isn’t playing along. He takes to the Washington Post to explain precisely what’s wrong with the bill:

Through any analytical lens, the legislation will not address the central problem of skyrocketing health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that families’ premiums could rise 10 to 13 percent; private-sector actuarial estimates top these already high numbers. The higher costs are driven by federalizing the regulation of insurance, narrowing consumers’ options and reducing competition among providers. The health-care market would be dominated by government programs and the largest insurance companies, operating as de facto government utilities.

Rather than tackle the drivers of health inflation, the legislation chases the ever-increasing premiums with huge new subsidies. Already, Washington has no idea how to pay for the unfunded promises in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — and creating this new entitlement would accelerate our path to fiscal ruin. When you strip away the double-counting, expose the hidden costs that must be funded and look at the price tag when the legislation is fully implemented, the claims of deficit reduction are as hollow as claims of cost containment.

In short, the cost-containment problem (otherwise we’ll bankrupt ourselves, the president once threatened) is made worse, dramatically so, by the bill. And when we add on “a range of job-killing tax hikes and controls on all Americans,” you have a truly destructive, ill-conceived piece of legislation. If members think hard about that, rather than the arm-twisting and bravado from the White House, what the leadership is up to will become apparent. They are not, it seems, in the business of passing anything remotely resembling “reform.” They are rather attempting to avoid humiliation and prevent a tidal wave of rage from their liberal base.

That’s small consolation to moderate Democrats, who, in their quieter moments of self-reflection, understand not only that their constituents intensely dislike the bill but also that such aversion is fully justified. It would be one thing to challenge public opinion for a noble and necessary bill; it’s quite another to walk the plank for what Ryan dubs “the Democrats’ health-care train wreck.” All the tricks — reconciliation, voting but not really voting on the Senate bill — are designed to encourage lawmakers to do something many know isn’t wise substantively or politically. If Republicans are smart, they’ll spend the week forcing Democrats to look at their handiwork and reminding them that voters will hold them fully accountable for their mischief.

Politico reels off five impediments to passage of ObamaCare (e.g., reconciliation, abortion, Senate-House mistrust) but doesn’t get around to the two biggest problems: it’s a bad, irresponsible bill and the voters hate it. Oh yes, that. This bit of misdirection pleases Democratic leaders, who would like the discussion to be about anything but the substance of what members are being asked to vote on.

Rep. Paul Ryan, however, isn’t playing along. He takes to the Washington Post to explain precisely what’s wrong with the bill:

Through any analytical lens, the legislation will not address the central problem of skyrocketing health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that families’ premiums could rise 10 to 13 percent; private-sector actuarial estimates top these already high numbers. The higher costs are driven by federalizing the regulation of insurance, narrowing consumers’ options and reducing competition among providers. The health-care market would be dominated by government programs and the largest insurance companies, operating as de facto government utilities.

Rather than tackle the drivers of health inflation, the legislation chases the ever-increasing premiums with huge new subsidies. Already, Washington has no idea how to pay for the unfunded promises in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — and creating this new entitlement would accelerate our path to fiscal ruin. When you strip away the double-counting, expose the hidden costs that must be funded and look at the price tag when the legislation is fully implemented, the claims of deficit reduction are as hollow as claims of cost containment.

In short, the cost-containment problem (otherwise we’ll bankrupt ourselves, the president once threatened) is made worse, dramatically so, by the bill. And when we add on “a range of job-killing tax hikes and controls on all Americans,” you have a truly destructive, ill-conceived piece of legislation. If members think hard about that, rather than the arm-twisting and bravado from the White House, what the leadership is up to will become apparent. They are not, it seems, in the business of passing anything remotely resembling “reform.” They are rather attempting to avoid humiliation and prevent a tidal wave of rage from their liberal base.

That’s small consolation to moderate Democrats, who, in their quieter moments of self-reflection, understand not only that their constituents intensely dislike the bill but also that such aversion is fully justified. It would be one thing to challenge public opinion for a noble and necessary bill; it’s quite another to walk the plank for what Ryan dubs “the Democrats’ health-care train wreck.” All the tricks — reconciliation, voting but not really voting on the Senate bill — are designed to encourage lawmakers to do something many know isn’t wise substantively or politically. If Republicans are smart, they’ll spend the week forcing Democrats to look at their handiwork and reminding them that voters will hold them fully accountable for their mischief.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

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Tuning Obama Out

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

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To Bury Them

In a column either wickedly or inadvertently clever (for who can tell?), David Brooks gives Obama and the Democrats “credit” for their “emotion” on health care (even though the voters want other things, and those who already have coverage and who don’t care about expanded coverage are the ones most likely to vote). Yes, like Mark Antony at the funeral, Brooks has come to bury them.

But the invocation of all that Democratic emotion is only the warm-up. Then he lists the things Democrats aren’t so interested in (like helping small-business job creation, which gets hammered by the coverage requirement/fine). He dryly notes, “Small business owners have been screaming about the health care bill that forces them to offer coverage or pay a $2,000-per-employee fine but doesn’t substantially control rising costs.” And then he reels off the list of “dodges” — the very accounting gimmicks that Rep. Paul Ryan enumerated and that render the whole effort fiscally irresponsible in the extreme. A sample:

They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.

There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.

There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.

There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.

You get the idea.

In short, Democrats are so obsessed with coverage expansion, they are willing to wreak havoc on the economy generally and on the budget specifically to get it. It’s a fundamentally dishonest exercise given Obama’s promises to control costs and keep the whole shebang deficit neutral. More remarkable than the president’s chicanery is that the rubes, the ordinary folk, the Tea Party buffoons — well that’s how the Obami regard them — have more or less figured this out. They smelled a rat from the get-go. You can’t give tens of millions of people something free or very cheap and not bust a hole in the budget — so this must be a flimflam. Paul Ryan and now Brooks merely showed how the tricksterism “works.” For that they deserve credit. But the real kudos go to the voters, who had this pegged months ago.

In a column either wickedly or inadvertently clever (for who can tell?), David Brooks gives Obama and the Democrats “credit” for their “emotion” on health care (even though the voters want other things, and those who already have coverage and who don’t care about expanded coverage are the ones most likely to vote). Yes, like Mark Antony at the funeral, Brooks has come to bury them.

But the invocation of all that Democratic emotion is only the warm-up. Then he lists the things Democrats aren’t so interested in (like helping small-business job creation, which gets hammered by the coverage requirement/fine). He dryly notes, “Small business owners have been screaming about the health care bill that forces them to offer coverage or pay a $2,000-per-employee fine but doesn’t substantially control rising costs.” And then he reels off the list of “dodges” — the very accounting gimmicks that Rep. Paul Ryan enumerated and that render the whole effort fiscally irresponsible in the extreme. A sample:

They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.

There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.

There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.

There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.

You get the idea.

In short, Democrats are so obsessed with coverage expansion, they are willing to wreak havoc on the economy generally and on the budget specifically to get it. It’s a fundamentally dishonest exercise given Obama’s promises to control costs and keep the whole shebang deficit neutral. More remarkable than the president’s chicanery is that the rubes, the ordinary folk, the Tea Party buffoons — well that’s how the Obami regard them — have more or less figured this out. They smelled a rat from the get-go. You can’t give tens of millions of people something free or very cheap and not bust a hole in the budget — so this must be a flimflam. Paul Ryan and now Brooks merely showed how the tricksterism “works.” For that they deserve credit. But the real kudos go to the voters, who had this pegged months ago.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

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Jonathan Chait’s Hokum

Jonathan Chait continues his tireless attempt to defend the indefensible: ObamaCare. In his latest iteration, titled “Paul Ryan’s Hokum,” he criticizes Ryan and those who have praised him, including Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard, Investor’s Business Daily, and me.

According to Chait, “Ryan’s argument holds a lot of superficial appeal to people who are looking for reasons to oppose the health care plan but lack a firm grasp of the details. On close examination it falls apart.”

Actually, the arguments that are superficial and misleading, and which fall of their own weight, are Chait’s.

Mr. Chait argues two things. First,

Ryan claims that the [Obama] plan is phony because it ignores the fact that Congress is going to have to increase reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients. The problem is, that reimbursement fix is going to happen anyway, regardless of whether reform occurs. So to count that cost as a hidden cost of health care reform is simply incorrect.

Second, Chait insists that “Ryan misleadingly portrayed the health care plan as hiding its costs, by phasing in benefits more slowly than costs.” Chait proceeds to quote himself from an earlier posting:

Ryan objected that the Senate health care bill does not really reduce the deficit, because it raises taxes and reduces spending over ten years, but pays out benefits over just six. If that was true, it would be a sharp rebuttal to Obama’s claim of reducing the deficit. And you could certainly design a bill like that. By spreading out the savings over a long time and delaying the benefits, you’d have a bill that technically saves money over a ten year window, but starts to lose money by year ten, and to bleed more red ink after that.

But it’s not true. The benefits do phase in slowly, but so do the savings. The CBO finds that the Senate bill reduces the deficit in year ten. It would reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars in the next ten years.

Let’s deal with these arguments in order. The so-called “doc fix” — which would restore reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients — is most certainly a hidden cost. It was originally in the House bill but was stripped out in the summer and treated as a separate bill precisely because keeping it in the original health-care legislation would (rightly) balloon the total cost. By stripping the “doc fix” provision out, it allowed ObamaCare to be scored at a much lower figure. The more honest way to proceed would have been to add the cost of “doc fix” to ObamaCare, since the costs will be paid by the federal government. So Ryan is correct; what we’re dealing with is, in fact, a hidden cost. That was the whole purpose behind the Democrats’ strategy.

Second, no one with any knowledge of this situation — not even Jonathan Chait — believes that future Congresses will effect over half a trillion dollars of in cuts to Medicare. Yet the Democrats’ health-care bill relies for its claim of cutting the deficit beyond 2020 on — you guessed it — those huge Medicare cuts. Think of it as a giant “magic asterisk.” Baking fictional cuts into the cake is why the Congressional Budget Office says the bill will save more money in the long term. They are forced to score plans based on the premises they are given, including fictional ones. Ryan’s point is that the cuts won’t happen, so the savings won’t, either.

A final point: “doc fix” is itself a good example of why Medicare cuts on the scale we are talking about will never happen. “Doc fix” refers to a provision of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. It called on cuts in reimbursements to physicians treating Medicare patients. The reality, though, is that those cuts have been rescinded year after year after year. The supposed cost savings haven’t materialized — and neither will massive cuts in Medicare. But defenders of ObamaCare need to pretend they will, in order to argue that their plan will reduce the deficit.

In sum: Ryan is right and Chait wrong. This may be because Chait lacks a firm grasp of the details. But there are other possibilities, too.

If this is the best Chait and his allies can do in defending Obama and criticizing Ryan, the GOP is in better shape than even I imagined.

Jonathan Chait continues his tireless attempt to defend the indefensible: ObamaCare. In his latest iteration, titled “Paul Ryan’s Hokum,” he criticizes Ryan and those who have praised him, including Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard, Investor’s Business Daily, and me.

According to Chait, “Ryan’s argument holds a lot of superficial appeal to people who are looking for reasons to oppose the health care plan but lack a firm grasp of the details. On close examination it falls apart.”

Actually, the arguments that are superficial and misleading, and which fall of their own weight, are Chait’s.

Mr. Chait argues two things. First,

Ryan claims that the [Obama] plan is phony because it ignores the fact that Congress is going to have to increase reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients. The problem is, that reimbursement fix is going to happen anyway, regardless of whether reform occurs. So to count that cost as a hidden cost of health care reform is simply incorrect.

Second, Chait insists that “Ryan misleadingly portrayed the health care plan as hiding its costs, by phasing in benefits more slowly than costs.” Chait proceeds to quote himself from an earlier posting:

Ryan objected that the Senate health care bill does not really reduce the deficit, because it raises taxes and reduces spending over ten years, but pays out benefits over just six. If that was true, it would be a sharp rebuttal to Obama’s claim of reducing the deficit. And you could certainly design a bill like that. By spreading out the savings over a long time and delaying the benefits, you’d have a bill that technically saves money over a ten year window, but starts to lose money by year ten, and to bleed more red ink after that.

But it’s not true. The benefits do phase in slowly, but so do the savings. The CBO finds that the Senate bill reduces the deficit in year ten. It would reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars in the next ten years.

Let’s deal with these arguments in order. The so-called “doc fix” — which would restore reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients — is most certainly a hidden cost. It was originally in the House bill but was stripped out in the summer and treated as a separate bill precisely because keeping it in the original health-care legislation would (rightly) balloon the total cost. By stripping the “doc fix” provision out, it allowed ObamaCare to be scored at a much lower figure. The more honest way to proceed would have been to add the cost of “doc fix” to ObamaCare, since the costs will be paid by the federal government. So Ryan is correct; what we’re dealing with is, in fact, a hidden cost. That was the whole purpose behind the Democrats’ strategy.

Second, no one with any knowledge of this situation — not even Jonathan Chait — believes that future Congresses will effect over half a trillion dollars of in cuts to Medicare. Yet the Democrats’ health-care bill relies for its claim of cutting the deficit beyond 2020 on — you guessed it — those huge Medicare cuts. Think of it as a giant “magic asterisk.” Baking fictional cuts into the cake is why the Congressional Budget Office says the bill will save more money in the long term. They are forced to score plans based on the premises they are given, including fictional ones. Ryan’s point is that the cuts won’t happen, so the savings won’t, either.

A final point: “doc fix” is itself a good example of why Medicare cuts on the scale we are talking about will never happen. “Doc fix” refers to a provision of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. It called on cuts in reimbursements to physicians treating Medicare patients. The reality, though, is that those cuts have been rescinded year after year after year. The supposed cost savings haven’t materialized — and neither will massive cuts in Medicare. But defenders of ObamaCare need to pretend they will, in order to argue that their plan will reduce the deficit.

In sum: Ryan is right and Chait wrong. This may be because Chait lacks a firm grasp of the details. But there are other possibilities, too.

If this is the best Chait and his allies can do in defending Obama and criticizing Ryan, the GOP is in better shape than even I imagined.

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LIVE BLOG: Great Moments in Wonkery

Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to Republican Rep. Paul Ryan: “You called into question the Congressional Budget Office! … We have to decide, do we agree with the Congressional Budget Office or not?”

Ryan: “I did not call into question the Congressional Budget Office!”

They actually have an interesting dispute about the way the CBO “scores” the effect of a health-care bill on the budget deficit long term. But it’s still funny.

UPDATE: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley: “I see the CBO as God.”

Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to Republican Rep. Paul Ryan: “You called into question the Congressional Budget Office! … We have to decide, do we agree with the Congressional Budget Office or not?”

Ryan: “I did not call into question the Congressional Budget Office!”

They actually have an interesting dispute about the way the CBO “scores” the effect of a health-care bill on the budget deficit long term. But it’s still funny.

UPDATE: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley: “I see the CBO as God.”

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Obama’s Political Prospects and the Claim of 1.5 Million Jobs Saved or Created

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Rubin: “[Iran] Foreign Minister Mottaki: ‘Mr. [Yukiya] Amanu’s [IAEA] report shows that he is relatively new in his job. It takes some time until he reaches the maturity of Mr. El Baradei.’ That’s a bit like Hitler complaining that Churchill doesn’t have the maturity of Chamberlain. Congratulations to the IAEA for putting mission first, and leaving politics to the politicians.”

James Capretta on ObamaCare II: “The latest Obama plan would still pile a massive new health-entitlement program on top of the unaffordable ones already on the books. The Congressional Budget Office says the cost of the coverage expansions in the Senate bill (upon which the president’s plan is based) will reach $200 billion annually by 2019 and increase 8 percent every year thereafter. The Obama plan would increase those costs with even more expensive promises. Over the next decade, the plan would cost at least $1.2 trillion. Over a full ten years of implementation, its cost would approach $2.5 trillion.”

Even the Washington Post‘s editors don’t have nice things to say about Obama: “Overall, though, the president has proposed a plan whose uncertain savings are made even less certain, and whose known costs are increased. Already a trillion-dollar plan was ‘paid for’ with hundreds of billions of dollars in promised ‘savings’ from Medicare; already it ignored a known cost of well over $200 billion in Medicare payments to physicians; already it relegated too many reforms to pilot programs with long horizons. Now it postpones the key savings mechanism [the Cadillac excise tax]. Administration officials argue that Mr. Obama deserves credit for not dropping the tax altogether. But when did he stand up and fight for the better approach?”

Might it be all that talk of ObamaCare II? “For the second straight week, Republican candidates lead Democrats by nine points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Not buying Eric Holder’s latest: “Republicans are hitting back against Democratic claims that a guilty plea from an al Qaeda operative in federal court is proof the criminal justice system is up to the task of prosecuting terrorism suspects. … Republicans, however, remain steadfastly opposed to trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts and argued that the [Najibullah] Zazi case has no bearing on other prospective terrorism prosecutions, because Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States, while most accused terrorists are citizens of other countries who are not entitled to the constitutional rights civilian trials afford.” Rep. Lamar Smith chides Holder: “But comparing the prosecution of Zazi — a legal permanent resident of the U.S. — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who engaged in an act of war against the U.S. by plotting the mass murder of Americans on 9/11 — is misleading at best.” Holder’s response? Still waiting.

Leslie Gelb points out that Rahm Emanuel is defending himself by dumping on Obama. “In other words, Mr. Obama could have thrived and saved himself on key issues had he only listened to Rahm. It sure looks like Rahm (or someone near and dear to him) trying to save himself at the president’s expense.” Or maybe anti-Rahm forces are trying to make Rahm look like a disloyal snitch.

Not a headline Gov. Charlie Crist wants to see: “Wounded Crist Campaign Losing Staff.”

Sen. Harry Reid gets criticized for saying that unemployment contributes to domestic abuse. (“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don’t have jobs.”) He actually has a point and certainly has said dumber, less defensible things. But he now has the ability to make even a plausible observation seem like a gaffe.

Michael Rubin: “[Iran] Foreign Minister Mottaki: ‘Mr. [Yukiya] Amanu’s [IAEA] report shows that he is relatively new in his job. It takes some time until he reaches the maturity of Mr. El Baradei.’ That’s a bit like Hitler complaining that Churchill doesn’t have the maturity of Chamberlain. Congratulations to the IAEA for putting mission first, and leaving politics to the politicians.”

James Capretta on ObamaCare II: “The latest Obama plan would still pile a massive new health-entitlement program on top of the unaffordable ones already on the books. The Congressional Budget Office says the cost of the coverage expansions in the Senate bill (upon which the president’s plan is based) will reach $200 billion annually by 2019 and increase 8 percent every year thereafter. The Obama plan would increase those costs with even more expensive promises. Over the next decade, the plan would cost at least $1.2 trillion. Over a full ten years of implementation, its cost would approach $2.5 trillion.”

Even the Washington Post‘s editors don’t have nice things to say about Obama: “Overall, though, the president has proposed a plan whose uncertain savings are made even less certain, and whose known costs are increased. Already a trillion-dollar plan was ‘paid for’ with hundreds of billions of dollars in promised ‘savings’ from Medicare; already it ignored a known cost of well over $200 billion in Medicare payments to physicians; already it relegated too many reforms to pilot programs with long horizons. Now it postpones the key savings mechanism [the Cadillac excise tax]. Administration officials argue that Mr. Obama deserves credit for not dropping the tax altogether. But when did he stand up and fight for the better approach?”

Might it be all that talk of ObamaCare II? “For the second straight week, Republican candidates lead Democrats by nine points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Not buying Eric Holder’s latest: “Republicans are hitting back against Democratic claims that a guilty plea from an al Qaeda operative in federal court is proof the criminal justice system is up to the task of prosecuting terrorism suspects. … Republicans, however, remain steadfastly opposed to trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts and argued that the [Najibullah] Zazi case has no bearing on other prospective terrorism prosecutions, because Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States, while most accused terrorists are citizens of other countries who are not entitled to the constitutional rights civilian trials afford.” Rep. Lamar Smith chides Holder: “But comparing the prosecution of Zazi — a legal permanent resident of the U.S. — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who engaged in an act of war against the U.S. by plotting the mass murder of Americans on 9/11 — is misleading at best.” Holder’s response? Still waiting.

Leslie Gelb points out that Rahm Emanuel is defending himself by dumping on Obama. “In other words, Mr. Obama could have thrived and saved himself on key issues had he only listened to Rahm. It sure looks like Rahm (or someone near and dear to him) trying to save himself at the president’s expense.” Or maybe anti-Rahm forces are trying to make Rahm look like a disloyal snitch.

Not a headline Gov. Charlie Crist wants to see: “Wounded Crist Campaign Losing Staff.”

Sen. Harry Reid gets criticized for saying that unemployment contributes to domestic abuse. (“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don’t have jobs.”) He actually has a point and certainly has said dumber, less defensible things. But he now has the ability to make even a plausible observation seem like a gaffe.

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The Reality Deficit

Michael Gerson certainly nails the central issue for Obama. As he says, “Obama’s problem is not a vice president behind his right shoulder who can’t stop his distracting, sycophantic nodding — though it was certainly annoying.” (A slight disagreement: the inanity of his VP is a constant reminder that Obama is a terrible chief executive, one of whose key responsibilities is to select credible people to surround him.) What’s at stake, Gerson points out, is the economic future of the country:

The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that unemployment will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year, before declining at a slower pace than in past recoveries. On this economic path, Obama’s presidency will fail. Many Democrats in the House chamber tonight will lose their jobs. And the nation will enter a Carter-like period of stagnation and self-doubt.

All the measures he proposed either are unconnected to the economic recovery or may impede it (e.g., cap-and-trade). Gerson explains:

His proposal to cut the capital gains tax for small business investment seems positive. His other ideas — taking money from some bankers and giving it to other bankers and a temporary hiring tax credit — are a caricature of job-creation policy. For the most part, Obama defended a continuation and expansion of the stimulus package, which promises to bring prosperity on high-speed trains. Compare Obama’s speech to John Kennedy’s State of the Union in 1963, which called for permanent tax cuts that would allow America to move toward full employment. Some Democratic presidents have actually understood how the economy works.

There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech, no serious policy initiative or vision to restore private-sector growth. Maybe he imagines the economy will limp along and recover just enough by 2012 to give him a shot at that second term, provided he wants one. But that’s small consolation to Americans now and to his own party, which must run congressional, Senate, and state elections in a year in which the administration offers not a single serious measure commensurate with the nature of the economic problems we face. There is no one, apparently, in his administration with enough creativity and gumption to bring forth even the most obvious measures (a payroll tax cut, a corporate tax moratorium) that might induce businesses to relocate and hire here. And that “no one” includes the president, who seems to know even less about market economics than he does about the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.

Michael Gerson certainly nails the central issue for Obama. As he says, “Obama’s problem is not a vice president behind his right shoulder who can’t stop his distracting, sycophantic nodding — though it was certainly annoying.” (A slight disagreement: the inanity of his VP is a constant reminder that Obama is a terrible chief executive, one of whose key responsibilities is to select credible people to surround him.) What’s at stake, Gerson points out, is the economic future of the country:

The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that unemployment will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year, before declining at a slower pace than in past recoveries. On this economic path, Obama’s presidency will fail. Many Democrats in the House chamber tonight will lose their jobs. And the nation will enter a Carter-like period of stagnation and self-doubt.

All the measures he proposed either are unconnected to the economic recovery or may impede it (e.g., cap-and-trade). Gerson explains:

His proposal to cut the capital gains tax for small business investment seems positive. His other ideas — taking money from some bankers and giving it to other bankers and a temporary hiring tax credit — are a caricature of job-creation policy. For the most part, Obama defended a continuation and expansion of the stimulus package, which promises to bring prosperity on high-speed trains. Compare Obama’s speech to John Kennedy’s State of the Union in 1963, which called for permanent tax cuts that would allow America to move toward full employment. Some Democratic presidents have actually understood how the economy works.

There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech, no serious policy initiative or vision to restore private-sector growth. Maybe he imagines the economy will limp along and recover just enough by 2012 to give him a shot at that second term, provided he wants one. But that’s small consolation to Americans now and to his own party, which must run congressional, Senate, and state elections in a year in which the administration offers not a single serious measure commensurate with the nature of the economic problems we face. There is no one, apparently, in his administration with enough creativity and gumption to bring forth even the most obvious measures (a payroll tax cut, a corporate tax moratorium) that might induce businesses to relocate and hire here. And that “no one” includes the president, who seems to know even less about market economics than he does about the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

Read Less




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