Commentary Magazine


Topic: health insurance

Who Will Write the History of the Battle Over ObamaCare?

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

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RE: What the Health-Care Bill Means

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

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AIPAC Panel: Is Health Care the Key to U.S. Power?

Bill Kristol and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer appeared on a panel at Sunday’s AIPAC session. The tone was academic and the conversation far-ranging. But one could see the fundamental divide in how Obama’s critics and supporters assess his foreign policy and America’s place in the world.

Kristol, although a tough critic of much of the Obama policy, took the glass-is-half-full approach, reminding the crowd that the U.S. remains quite powerful and that “if we stick with our allies and are clear and resolute,” we will remain so. He cautioned against too much nostalgia for the “American Century,” in which we lost (and then regained) half of Europe to Communism and fought multiple wars. Now we have many “strong and vibrant democracies,” including India, and are still the world’s main military guarantor. However, whatever successes we have had in avoiding nuclear war, combating terrorism, and containing regional conflicts, “all goes very fast if America is in retreat or perceived retreating.” For our success, Kristol credited ordinary Americans, who “haven’t turned xenophobic, isolationist, or protectionist.” He says that is a “tribute to them . . . and how good natured they are.”

Kurtzer spoke of the challenges we face, claiming that we have “devalued diplomacy” (more on that), don’t do intelligence analysis well, and risk eroding our economic position by mismanaging our finances. (“We don’t want to be a debtor country to China.”) There was considerable agreement on the need to bolster alliances.

There were differences, however, on the role of non-state actors. (Kurtzer thinks they are terribly important; Kristol argues that “states matter most,” pointing out that “unless sponsored or harbored,” these non-state groups are not a significant threat.) As for China, Kurtzer argued that it is heading for an inevitable conflict, as political repression will collide with economic liberalization. Kristol chose to stress the positive, the remarkable ability to lift a billion people out of poverty. He called the rise of India and China as economic powers an “amazing achievement.” He also cautioned that we have in recent years allowed “authoritarians to regroup.” There is now a “plausible model” — Iran, Venezuela, or China — that is not democratic. This, Kristol cautioned, is “very dangerous. We don’t want to tell regimes that bullying works.”

The biggest divergence came in the discussion of “smart power.” Kurtzer said we haven’t done enough. Here, to the audible gasps of some conservatives in the room, he proclaimed that we can’t aspire to promote American values when we have 30 million people without health insurance. (The woman next to me declared in a stage whisper, “And he teaches this at a university.”) And, citing the controversial CENTCOM report, he said that the U.S. military was implicitly arguing that the U.S. has been insufficiently dedicated to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (More crowd murmuring.) He then bemoaned the Iraq war, which had cost so much and in which we had lost so many lives. Kristol joked that he wanted to defend “dumb power” — that is, the indispensible role of American military power. The issue, Kristol said, is what types of policies work — citing the failure of Iran engagement and the Obami’s Middle East approach.

The Q & A was revealing on two counts. Several questioners went after the Obami for beating up on friends and trying to ingratiate themselves with adversaries. Kristol admitted to a certain sympathy with the questioners. On Israel, Kurtzer proclaimed that the relationship was fine and we had only one difference with Israel — West Bank settlements. (Huh? This was about Jerusalem, of course.) In response to a question on Iran, Kurtzer said the real problem was that we had not engaged Iran enough. One meeting three months ago just isn’t enough, he opined. Kristol declared himself “dubious on sanctions and diplomacy,” and argued that if there is to be military action, it must be by the U.S., both for technical and geopolitical reasons. And that brought the loudest round of applause.

In between the lines, you see the debate now raging: Have we fallen in love with diplomacy for diplomacy’s sake? Have we forgotten friends? Well, at least on one subject, the need for the U.S. to utilize military action, if necessary, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran found consensus in the room. But the Obami clearly don’t agree. What do those activists do about that? That’s going to be the subject of some discussion this week, and thereafter, in the American Jewish community.

Bill Kristol and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer appeared on a panel at Sunday’s AIPAC session. The tone was academic and the conversation far-ranging. But one could see the fundamental divide in how Obama’s critics and supporters assess his foreign policy and America’s place in the world.

Kristol, although a tough critic of much of the Obama policy, took the glass-is-half-full approach, reminding the crowd that the U.S. remains quite powerful and that “if we stick with our allies and are clear and resolute,” we will remain so. He cautioned against too much nostalgia for the “American Century,” in which we lost (and then regained) half of Europe to Communism and fought multiple wars. Now we have many “strong and vibrant democracies,” including India, and are still the world’s main military guarantor. However, whatever successes we have had in avoiding nuclear war, combating terrorism, and containing regional conflicts, “all goes very fast if America is in retreat or perceived retreating.” For our success, Kristol credited ordinary Americans, who “haven’t turned xenophobic, isolationist, or protectionist.” He says that is a “tribute to them . . . and how good natured they are.”

Kurtzer spoke of the challenges we face, claiming that we have “devalued diplomacy” (more on that), don’t do intelligence analysis well, and risk eroding our economic position by mismanaging our finances. (“We don’t want to be a debtor country to China.”) There was considerable agreement on the need to bolster alliances.

There were differences, however, on the role of non-state actors. (Kurtzer thinks they are terribly important; Kristol argues that “states matter most,” pointing out that “unless sponsored or harbored,” these non-state groups are not a significant threat.) As for China, Kurtzer argued that it is heading for an inevitable conflict, as political repression will collide with economic liberalization. Kristol chose to stress the positive, the remarkable ability to lift a billion people out of poverty. He called the rise of India and China as economic powers an “amazing achievement.” He also cautioned that we have in recent years allowed “authoritarians to regroup.” There is now a “plausible model” — Iran, Venezuela, or China — that is not democratic. This, Kristol cautioned, is “very dangerous. We don’t want to tell regimes that bullying works.”

The biggest divergence came in the discussion of “smart power.” Kurtzer said we haven’t done enough. Here, to the audible gasps of some conservatives in the room, he proclaimed that we can’t aspire to promote American values when we have 30 million people without health insurance. (The woman next to me declared in a stage whisper, “And he teaches this at a university.”) And, citing the controversial CENTCOM report, he said that the U.S. military was implicitly arguing that the U.S. has been insufficiently dedicated to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (More crowd murmuring.) He then bemoaned the Iraq war, which had cost so much and in which we had lost so many lives. Kristol joked that he wanted to defend “dumb power” — that is, the indispensible role of American military power. The issue, Kristol said, is what types of policies work — citing the failure of Iran engagement and the Obami’s Middle East approach.

The Q & A was revealing on two counts. Several questioners went after the Obami for beating up on friends and trying to ingratiate themselves with adversaries. Kristol admitted to a certain sympathy with the questioners. On Israel, Kurtzer proclaimed that the relationship was fine and we had only one difference with Israel — West Bank settlements. (Huh? This was about Jerusalem, of course.) In response to a question on Iran, Kurtzer said the real problem was that we had not engaged Iran enough. One meeting three months ago just isn’t enough, he opined. Kristol declared himself “dubious on sanctions and diplomacy,” and argued that if there is to be military action, it must be by the U.S., both for technical and geopolitical reasons. And that brought the loudest round of applause.

In between the lines, you see the debate now raging: Have we fallen in love with diplomacy for diplomacy’s sake? Have we forgotten friends? Well, at least on one subject, the need for the U.S. to utilize military action, if necessary, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran found consensus in the room. But the Obami clearly don’t agree. What do those activists do about that? That’s going to be the subject of some discussion this week, and thereafter, in the American Jewish community.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The problem for Senate Democrats: likely voters prefer Republicans this year. “Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey holds six-point lead over Senator Arlen Specter thanks to his strength with Republicans, likely voters and independents, according to a new poll.”

SEIU pollsters tell Democrats that their problems stem from the “perception that they’ve turned into deal-making insiders on their path to achieving it.” The solution, naturally, is to use reconciliation to jam through the Cornhusker Kickback.

Meanwhile: “White House aides say deals such as in Nebraska will be allowed if they benefit more than one state.”

Rasmussen reports: “Democrats in Congress are vowing to pass their national health care plan with a vote in the House possible by the end of this week. But most voters still oppose the plan the same way they have for months. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, while 53% oppose it.”

Phil Klein wants to know: “If Obama refuses to look at public opinion polls, then how can he profess to know what the American people want? And if he doesn’t care about polls, then how come the White House is circulating polls on Capitol Hill asserting that support for health care legislation is rising?”

But really, the problem is mostly in swing districts. “By approximately 2-1 margins, voters in these districts oppose the current legislation, oppose a mandate to buy health insurance, believe the government can’t afford the legislation and believe that health care legislation is distracting attention from more important issues.” Well, yes, these would be the very same congressional districts with the wavering congressmen. The trick for the Democratic leadership is to get these members to disregard all available polling data.

Gary Bauer is a voice of moral clarity on this one: “It is obvious that in recent days the Obama Administration has manufactured a crisis with Israel and is doing everything it can to humiliate our ally and weaken the Israeli government on the eve of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shouldn’t lose sight of what set off the administration’s tirade. It was the on-going process of authorizing homes to be built in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for its people.”

James Carafano tells the Obami to Focus! “Iran is problem #1 in the Middle East, but the Arab countries don’t want to face that problem so they whine, ‘We can’t do anything till you (White House) solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue first.’ The White House trots off Lemming-like to try to solve the problem and earn the president’s Nobel Prize.” Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program progresses.

Hmm … do you think a critical word would have been raised with David Axelrod at this National Jewish Democratic Council event? Word has it that it was postponed. Good idea.

J Street predictably loves the Israel-bashing.

The Orthodox Union joins the ADL and AIPAC in calling on the Obami “to move away from the kind of public statements it has directed at Israel over the past few days.  These statements have escalated tensions between the two governments, which the Obama Administration must now de-escalate.” The AJC issues a similar call.

The problem for Senate Democrats: likely voters prefer Republicans this year. “Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey holds six-point lead over Senator Arlen Specter thanks to his strength with Republicans, likely voters and independents, according to a new poll.”

SEIU pollsters tell Democrats that their problems stem from the “perception that they’ve turned into deal-making insiders on their path to achieving it.” The solution, naturally, is to use reconciliation to jam through the Cornhusker Kickback.

Meanwhile: “White House aides say deals such as in Nebraska will be allowed if they benefit more than one state.”

Rasmussen reports: “Democrats in Congress are vowing to pass their national health care plan with a vote in the House possible by the end of this week. But most voters still oppose the plan the same way they have for months. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, while 53% oppose it.”

Phil Klein wants to know: “If Obama refuses to look at public opinion polls, then how can he profess to know what the American people want? And if he doesn’t care about polls, then how come the White House is circulating polls on Capitol Hill asserting that support for health care legislation is rising?”

But really, the problem is mostly in swing districts. “By approximately 2-1 margins, voters in these districts oppose the current legislation, oppose a mandate to buy health insurance, believe the government can’t afford the legislation and believe that health care legislation is distracting attention from more important issues.” Well, yes, these would be the very same congressional districts with the wavering congressmen. The trick for the Democratic leadership is to get these members to disregard all available polling data.

Gary Bauer is a voice of moral clarity on this one: “It is obvious that in recent days the Obama Administration has manufactured a crisis with Israel and is doing everything it can to humiliate our ally and weaken the Israeli government on the eve of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shouldn’t lose sight of what set off the administration’s tirade. It was the on-going process of authorizing homes to be built in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for its people.”

James Carafano tells the Obami to Focus! “Iran is problem #1 in the Middle East, but the Arab countries don’t want to face that problem so they whine, ‘We can’t do anything till you (White House) solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue first.’ The White House trots off Lemming-like to try to solve the problem and earn the president’s Nobel Prize.” Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program progresses.

Hmm … do you think a critical word would have been raised with David Axelrod at this National Jewish Democratic Council event? Word has it that it was postponed. Good idea.

J Street predictably loves the Israel-bashing.

The Orthodox Union joins the ADL and AIPAC in calling on the Obami “to move away from the kind of public statements it has directed at Israel over the past few days.  These statements have escalated tensions between the two governments, which the Obama Administration must now de-escalate.” The AJC issues a similar call.

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Band-Aids for Band-Aids for Band-Aids

Out on the health-care stump in Pennsylvania today, President Obama talked up the importance of competitive markets:

He continued, “An insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums. But since there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re okay with people being priced out of health insurance because they’ll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have. And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it.”

Or until someone with common sense allows people to cross state lines to purchase insurance.  But that would break the self-replicating chain of big government, so it’s not going to happen.

Here’s what always does happen: Democrats use disasters brought on by regulation to justify further regulation. Restraining insurance companies won’t be the last step in that chain, of course. When government-imposed price caps suck the incentive out for insurance providers, lawmakers will go on TV wielding a report about how underserved the insured have become. This will justify new guidelines for what providers will then have to offer. It never ends.

We saw this with the housing boom and bust. Government-imposed equality of ownership distorted the market. The follow-up disaster demanded — what else? — government-imposed regulation. Wealth redistribution is the gift that keeps on taking.

Out on the health-care stump in Pennsylvania today, President Obama talked up the importance of competitive markets:

He continued, “An insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums. But since there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re okay with people being priced out of health insurance because they’ll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have. And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it.”

Or until someone with common sense allows people to cross state lines to purchase insurance.  But that would break the self-replicating chain of big government, so it’s not going to happen.

Here’s what always does happen: Democrats use disasters brought on by regulation to justify further regulation. Restraining insurance companies won’t be the last step in that chain, of course. When government-imposed price caps suck the incentive out for insurance providers, lawmakers will go on TV wielding a report about how underserved the insured have become. This will justify new guidelines for what providers will then have to offer. It never ends.

We saw this with the housing boom and bust. Government-imposed equality of ownership distorted the market. The follow-up disaster demanded — what else? — government-imposed regulation. Wealth redistribution is the gift that keeps on taking.

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Heading for an Exit on ObamaCare?

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

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RE: The Latest Same ObamaCare Bill

I certainly agree with Jennifer that the latest iteration of a health-care bill out of the White House is same-old same-old.

There is basically just one new idea, and it’s a terrible one — the Health Insurance Rate Authority. This board would have the power to roll back health-insurance-premium hikes that were “unreasonable.” Needless to say, the definition of “unreasonable” would be determined by politicians, who would take political considerations (there are a lot more health-care buyers than sellers), not economic ones, into account. That’s why rent controls have been everywhere and always a disaster. The result will be that every health-insurance company in the country will go broke (which is probably what the Obama administration has in mind anyway, come to think of it).

Worse, health-insurance companies can’t compete in terms of price anyway, thanks to state price-fixing. (Thought experiment: If you watch television, you can’t get through an hour without seeing six automobile-insurance commercials, because auto-insurance companies compete fiercely in terms of price. But how many health-insurance commercials do you see? The only ones are for Medicare supplemental insurance, which is not price controlled, at least as of now.)

The people have spoken just as clearly as they can about what they think of the health-care bills that have already, if barely, passed the House and Senate. Many members of each chamber will have to be willing to commit political suicide to pass this one.  Like Jennifer, I’d be surprised. Very surprised.

I certainly agree with Jennifer that the latest iteration of a health-care bill out of the White House is same-old same-old.

There is basically just one new idea, and it’s a terrible one — the Health Insurance Rate Authority. This board would have the power to roll back health-insurance-premium hikes that were “unreasonable.” Needless to say, the definition of “unreasonable” would be determined by politicians, who would take political considerations (there are a lot more health-care buyers than sellers), not economic ones, into account. That’s why rent controls have been everywhere and always a disaster. The result will be that every health-insurance company in the country will go broke (which is probably what the Obama administration has in mind anyway, come to think of it).

Worse, health-insurance companies can’t compete in terms of price anyway, thanks to state price-fixing. (Thought experiment: If you watch television, you can’t get through an hour without seeing six automobile-insurance commercials, because auto-insurance companies compete fiercely in terms of price. But how many health-insurance commercials do you see? The only ones are for Medicare supplemental insurance, which is not price controlled, at least as of now.)

The people have spoken just as clearly as they can about what they think of the health-care bills that have already, if barely, passed the House and Senate. Many members of each chamber will have to be willing to commit political suicide to pass this one.  Like Jennifer, I’d be surprised. Very surprised.

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The Latest Same ObamaCare Bill

Obama has put forth another version of ObamaCare, but it’s not even sufficient to be scored by the CBO. The CBO website explains:

This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

We do have some idea what’s in it, however. Matt Continetti explains: “Obama’s new, improved plan is more expensive than the Senate bill, does not address the concerns of pro-life House Democrats over the Senate’s abortion language, maintains the tax exemption for the Democrats’ union friends, and will effectively turn insurance companies into heavily regulated public utilities.”

What we do know is that under ObamaCare’s latest incarnation, you really don’t get to keep your existing health-care plan. And we know that it seeks to federalize the regulation of the health-insurance industry. (“The big new idea in the president’s plan is to federalize regulation of health insurance, creating a Health Insurance Rate Authority to conduct ‘reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.’ This reflects the overall strategy to give more and more control over the health sector to Washington.”) And it seems that there are $136B worth of new taxes to be imposed on the people Obama said he’d never tax, namely those families making less than $250,000.

What we don’t know is why anyone who opposed the last version(s) of ObamaCare would accept this one. It is still a mammoth tax-and-spend bill and still seeks to federalize health care. If Nancy Pelosi has 218 votes for this, I’d be surprised. If Senate Democrats want to walk the plank for a retread of the bill that voters in Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate to oppose, I’d be surprised. But I suppose we’ll find out.

Obama has put forth another version of ObamaCare, but it’s not even sufficient to be scored by the CBO. The CBO website explains:

This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

We do have some idea what’s in it, however. Matt Continetti explains: “Obama’s new, improved plan is more expensive than the Senate bill, does not address the concerns of pro-life House Democrats over the Senate’s abortion language, maintains the tax exemption for the Democrats’ union friends, and will effectively turn insurance companies into heavily regulated public utilities.”

What we do know is that under ObamaCare’s latest incarnation, you really don’t get to keep your existing health-care plan. And we know that it seeks to federalize the regulation of the health-insurance industry. (“The big new idea in the president’s plan is to federalize regulation of health insurance, creating a Health Insurance Rate Authority to conduct ‘reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.’ This reflects the overall strategy to give more and more control over the health sector to Washington.”) And it seems that there are $136B worth of new taxes to be imposed on the people Obama said he’d never tax, namely those families making less than $250,000.

What we don’t know is why anyone who opposed the last version(s) of ObamaCare would accept this one. It is still a mammoth tax-and-spend bill and still seeks to federalize health care. If Nancy Pelosi has 218 votes for this, I’d be surprised. If Senate Democrats want to walk the plank for a retread of the bill that voters in Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate to oppose, I’d be surprised. But I suppose we’ll find out.

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Do the Job, Mr. President

Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post joins the pundits who huff and puff about the American people, empathizing with politicians who must figure out what it is those darn voters really want. The public is fickle, you see, because they want contradictory things. It goes like this: “They want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they’re wary of expanding the role of government.” Or, “They want to do something about global warming, but not if it raises energy prices.” Actually, it’s pretty easy to resolve these “contradictions.” Americans would rather do nothing about health care at this point. As for global warming, they seem fine with developing alternative energy like nuclear power (which the Obama team acknowledged by providing a loan guarantee to build the first new domestic nuclear power plant in decades). But it sounds so much more sophisticated to complain that the rubes are really impossible to deal with. (Sort of the punditocracy’s equivalent of high schoolers complaining about their parents.)

That bit of voter-dissing out of the way, Pearlstein then concedes that Obama has been a bust as president. First, he does not think much of the “more campaign tactics!” approach to recovering Obama’s political footing. He warns, “He will not demonstrate that leadership by running around to carefully staged events in which he tells ordinary voters what he thinks they want to hear. Nor will he demonstrate it by redoubling efforts of his PR war room to respond to every attack or piece of Republican disinformation with overwhelming rhetorical force.” And Obama goofed (Pearlstein calls it “Obama’s singular mistake”) by letting Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi run the show. “It should be obvious now that the president cannot leave it to Congress to sort things out.” So what should he do? Why be president — govern. Should Obama not know what that entails, Pearlstein spells it out:

For the next several months, he needs to create a sense of urgency and expectation, consulting widely and privately with Republicans and Democrats and interested parties who care more about getting things done than winning the next election. Based on those conversations and his own sense of what the public will accept, he needs to put forward a set of compromise proposals on jobs, health care, financial reform and the budget. And then he needs to park himself in the President’s Room at the Capitol, along with top aides and Cabinet members, and refuse to leave until he has put together working majorities for each proposal — with the help of legislative leaders if possible, but without them if necessary.

In case you were wondering, yes, that’s what being president requires and what his predecessors all did. It’s a bit pathetic if not scary that pundits have to spell out what the job of president is after Obama’s a full year into the job. But I think Pearlstein has a point: Obama doesn’t understand the necessity (if one is to be a successful president) to formulate detailed policy, build support for it, and help usher it through the legislative process. Obama imagines instead that it’s all just like campaigning — stage events, attack the opponents, bask in the media attention, etc. It is a fundamentally unserious vision of the presidency — and one, it turns out, that is unsustainable.

Obama, of course, would also have to shove overboard the substance of his left-wing agenda. But most of all, he just needs to get down to work.

Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post joins the pundits who huff and puff about the American people, empathizing with politicians who must figure out what it is those darn voters really want. The public is fickle, you see, because they want contradictory things. It goes like this: “They want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they’re wary of expanding the role of government.” Or, “They want to do something about global warming, but not if it raises energy prices.” Actually, it’s pretty easy to resolve these “contradictions.” Americans would rather do nothing about health care at this point. As for global warming, they seem fine with developing alternative energy like nuclear power (which the Obama team acknowledged by providing a loan guarantee to build the first new domestic nuclear power plant in decades). But it sounds so much more sophisticated to complain that the rubes are really impossible to deal with. (Sort of the punditocracy’s equivalent of high schoolers complaining about their parents.)

That bit of voter-dissing out of the way, Pearlstein then concedes that Obama has been a bust as president. First, he does not think much of the “more campaign tactics!” approach to recovering Obama’s political footing. He warns, “He will not demonstrate that leadership by running around to carefully staged events in which he tells ordinary voters what he thinks they want to hear. Nor will he demonstrate it by redoubling efforts of his PR war room to respond to every attack or piece of Republican disinformation with overwhelming rhetorical force.” And Obama goofed (Pearlstein calls it “Obama’s singular mistake”) by letting Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi run the show. “It should be obvious now that the president cannot leave it to Congress to sort things out.” So what should he do? Why be president — govern. Should Obama not know what that entails, Pearlstein spells it out:

For the next several months, he needs to create a sense of urgency and expectation, consulting widely and privately with Republicans and Democrats and interested parties who care more about getting things done than winning the next election. Based on those conversations and his own sense of what the public will accept, he needs to put forward a set of compromise proposals on jobs, health care, financial reform and the budget. And then he needs to park himself in the President’s Room at the Capitol, along with top aides and Cabinet members, and refuse to leave until he has put together working majorities for each proposal — with the help of legislative leaders if possible, but without them if necessary.

In case you were wondering, yes, that’s what being president requires and what his predecessors all did. It’s a bit pathetic if not scary that pundits have to spell out what the job of president is after Obama’s a full year into the job. But I think Pearlstein has a point: Obama doesn’t understand the necessity (if one is to be a successful president) to formulate detailed policy, build support for it, and help usher it through the legislative process. Obama imagines instead that it’s all just like campaigning — stage events, attack the opponents, bask in the media attention, etc. It is a fundamentally unserious vision of the presidency — and one, it turns out, that is unsustainable.

Obama, of course, would also have to shove overboard the substance of his left-wing agenda. But most of all, he just needs to get down to work.

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Obama Demagogues the Court’s Ruling

The president issued a written statement yesterday on the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down most of the McCain-Feingold campaign statute. It read:

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

This is as noxious a statement concerning the Supreme Court that has, in my memory, ever been issued by the White House. Let’s count the ways. First, the president — who tells us he is a serious constitutional scholar – offers not a single word of substantive criticism about the Court’s analysis. He treats the Court — as most liberals do, frankly — as a policymaking body. In this case, he doesn’t like the outcome and blasts away at the result, transparently using the Court to regain his populist footing with the public.

Second, what in the world is a bipartisan response to a First Amendment ruling? He’s going to amend the Constitution? He’s going to pack the Court? The lack of acknowledgment that this is a principle of constitutional law, one at the foundation of our democracy, is jaw-dropping. You’ll notice what is not in the president’s statement — “First Amendment’ or “Constitution.” There isn’t a legislative “fix” to the First Amendment.

And finally, let’s just remember that liberals for years inveighed against any public figure who dared criticize a court ruling. They were doing damage to the political system, lessening respect for the rule of law and even encouraging violence against judges, they finger-wagged. Well, it seems the rules have changed. And from a law professor yet.

The president has many problems — a failing agenda, a public that has tuned him out, and a staff that serves him poorly. But at the root of much of what ails him is arrogance. He seems not to appreciate or frankly care what the public thinks. He deems criticism illegitimate and attributes bad motives to critics. His lawyers have invented new legal privileges and excuses to avoid scrutiny. He has populated his administration with unaccountable czars. And now he seems not to fully appreciate or respect a binding ruling of the Court. His politicization of a Court ruling for his own PR purposes and his utter lack of respect for the Court in its capacity as a check against, among other things, him is startling. And for those who hold dear notions of limited government and the protection of core political rights, this should be disturbing.

The president issued a written statement yesterday on the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down most of the McCain-Feingold campaign statute. It read:

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

This is as noxious a statement concerning the Supreme Court that has, in my memory, ever been issued by the White House. Let’s count the ways. First, the president — who tells us he is a serious constitutional scholar – offers not a single word of substantive criticism about the Court’s analysis. He treats the Court — as most liberals do, frankly — as a policymaking body. In this case, he doesn’t like the outcome and blasts away at the result, transparently using the Court to regain his populist footing with the public.

Second, what in the world is a bipartisan response to a First Amendment ruling? He’s going to amend the Constitution? He’s going to pack the Court? The lack of acknowledgment that this is a principle of constitutional law, one at the foundation of our democracy, is jaw-dropping. You’ll notice what is not in the president’s statement — “First Amendment’ or “Constitution.” There isn’t a legislative “fix” to the First Amendment.

And finally, let’s just remember that liberals for years inveighed against any public figure who dared criticize a court ruling. They were doing damage to the political system, lessening respect for the rule of law and even encouraging violence against judges, they finger-wagged. Well, it seems the rules have changed. And from a law professor yet.

The president has many problems — a failing agenda, a public that has tuned him out, and a staff that serves him poorly. But at the root of much of what ails him is arrogance. He seems not to appreciate or frankly care what the public thinks. He deems criticism illegitimate and attributes bad motives to critics. His lawyers have invented new legal privileges and excuses to avoid scrutiny. He has populated his administration with unaccountable czars. And now he seems not to fully appreciate or respect a binding ruling of the Court. His politicization of a Court ruling for his own PR purposes and his utter lack of respect for the Court in its capacity as a check against, among other things, him is startling. And for those who hold dear notions of limited government and the protection of core political rights, this should be disturbing.

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Free Speech, Not the GOP, Is the Winner in Court Campaign-Finance Ruling

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

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Gray Lady to Obama: Double-Down!

You wonder how it is that Obama can remain so isolated, so cut off from reality. He just lost his filibuster-proof majority by losing the senate race in Massachusetts for goodness’ sake! Can’t he see that he’s led his party into a ditch? Well, no, he can’t. He talks to his staff, who put ObamaCare at the center of his agenda, and he reads the New York Times, which, with no hint of self-awareness, carries an editorial filled with the sort of self-justification that will only convince the president that, yes, of course, he’s right! The Times editors tell us:

To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.

Okay, the “to our minds” is the giveaway here. Obama must imagine that the minds of those who populate the Times editorial offices are representative of some significant segment of the electorate. It seems they don’t even represent the views of Massachusetts voters. I suppose if Obama were running for city council from the Upper West Side, the Times would be a good barometer of public opinion, but reading that sort of hooey only reinforces Obama’s worst instincts — arrogance, detachment, stubborness, and hyper-leftism.

The Times does, however, seem to be channeling the Obama spin. (We have here a re-enforcing loop of leftist groupthink, I suspect.) The real issue is the economy or Obama’s failure to talk to us enough about health care. (If he only did six Sunday talk shows!). The editors opine:

Mr. Obama was right to press for health care reform. But he spent too much time talking to reluctant Democrats and Republicans who never had the slightest intention of supporting him. He sat on the sidelines while the Republicans bombarded Americans with false but effective talk of death panels and a government takeover of their doctors’ offices. And he did not make the case strongly enough that the health care system and the economy are deeply interconnected or explain why Americans should care about this huge issue in the midst of a recession: If they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

Got that: his only failure was in not communicating well enough to us. (What happened to the most eloquent politician of our era?) This is preposterous, of course, because Obama exhausted himself and our patience by hundreds of dog-and-pony shows, speeches, interviews, and press conferences. The problem was the the public didn’t buy what he was selling.

Obama has a choice: listen to the Times editorial board or to the voters. Republicans are keeping their fingers crossed that he chooses the former.

You wonder how it is that Obama can remain so isolated, so cut off from reality. He just lost his filibuster-proof majority by losing the senate race in Massachusetts for goodness’ sake! Can’t he see that he’s led his party into a ditch? Well, no, he can’t. He talks to his staff, who put ObamaCare at the center of his agenda, and he reads the New York Times, which, with no hint of self-awareness, carries an editorial filled with the sort of self-justification that will only convince the president that, yes, of course, he’s right! The Times editors tell us:

To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.

Okay, the “to our minds” is the giveaway here. Obama must imagine that the minds of those who populate the Times editorial offices are representative of some significant segment of the electorate. It seems they don’t even represent the views of Massachusetts voters. I suppose if Obama were running for city council from the Upper West Side, the Times would be a good barometer of public opinion, but reading that sort of hooey only reinforces Obama’s worst instincts — arrogance, detachment, stubborness, and hyper-leftism.

The Times does, however, seem to be channeling the Obama spin. (We have here a re-enforcing loop of leftist groupthink, I suspect.) The real issue is the economy or Obama’s failure to talk to us enough about health care. (If he only did six Sunday talk shows!). The editors opine:

Mr. Obama was right to press for health care reform. But he spent too much time talking to reluctant Democrats and Republicans who never had the slightest intention of supporting him. He sat on the sidelines while the Republicans bombarded Americans with false but effective talk of death panels and a government takeover of their doctors’ offices. And he did not make the case strongly enough that the health care system and the economy are deeply interconnected or explain why Americans should care about this huge issue in the midst of a recession: If they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

Got that: his only failure was in not communicating well enough to us. (What happened to the most eloquent politician of our era?) This is preposterous, of course, because Obama exhausted himself and our patience by hundreds of dog-and-pony shows, speeches, interviews, and press conferences. The problem was the the public didn’t buy what he was selling.

Obama has a choice: listen to the Times editorial board or to the voters. Republicans are keeping their fingers crossed that he chooses the former.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

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The Opposition Coalition

Conservatives will most likely nod in agreement with this critique of the Senate’s health-care plan:

The last thing the American middle class needs right now is a big new tax on health insurance plans. … But the U.S. Senate wants to further impoverish the American middle class. As many as 30 million working people will pay a massive new tax in the first five years of the Senate health care reform plan. …

The tax would apply to one-fifth of all employers in 2013, the first year that health reform takes effect. More and more people would get hit each year after that. The threshold for taxable plans is indexed for inflation, which doesn’t rise as fast as health care costs.

Here’s an example of how it would work for federal workers covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard plan. Single people in the plan will immediately pay an average of about $1,600 more per year for 10 years. Families will get hit in the third year, paying an average of about $2,000 more per year for 10 years.

By 2022, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard family plan will cost $5,500 in taxes per worker. Single people could pay as much as $3,500 per worker.

Middle-class families in private and public sector jobs, union and non-union alike, will be hit hard by this tax on health care benefits.

Yuval Levin? Sen. Jim DeMint? No, it’s Teamster president James Hoffa. Nevertheless, the President Obama is bent on adopting the Senate tax scheme. The result, as Hoffa and conservative critics of the plan have observed, will be a repudiation of the president’s pledge not to tax those making less than $200,ooo. Democrats, who fancy themselves as the protectors of “working” Americans, are understandably nervous about the president’s desire to impose a heavy tax on their constituents:

“We did in our house bill something that protects middle class Americans from having to pay more for health insurance and health insurance reform,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, said Wednesday. “So far we want to stay to that principle.” House members “have been very clear on that issue and working with the president to stick to what he said when he was campaigning for president, we’re trying to make sure this does not affect middle class Americans,” Becerra said.

So far they want to stay to that principle? Well that doesn’t sound like Hoffa’s members are going to be able to count on Becerra and his colleagues. And if the Democrats do follow the president’s lead, a political firestorm may well ensue.

What’s at risk here is an unraveling of the Democratic coalition that elected Obama and the Democratic majority. Union members, elite urbanites (who will get slammed with new taxes), high-tech entrepreneurs (who get a new employer mandate), young voters (who will have to buy insurance plans they don’t want), and older voters (whose Medicare benefits will be slashed) may find common cause with fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and, yes, those angry Tea Party protesters, who all find ObamaCare objectionable. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid seem determined to ignore all these groups. For the sake of passing a “historic” bill and out of fear of appearing inept, they seem bent on passing something their own core political supporters find highly objectionable. Do they really imagine they can do so with no adverse political consequences?

Conservatives will most likely nod in agreement with this critique of the Senate’s health-care plan:

The last thing the American middle class needs right now is a big new tax on health insurance plans. … But the U.S. Senate wants to further impoverish the American middle class. As many as 30 million working people will pay a massive new tax in the first five years of the Senate health care reform plan. …

The tax would apply to one-fifth of all employers in 2013, the first year that health reform takes effect. More and more people would get hit each year after that. The threshold for taxable plans is indexed for inflation, which doesn’t rise as fast as health care costs.

Here’s an example of how it would work for federal workers covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard plan. Single people in the plan will immediately pay an average of about $1,600 more per year for 10 years. Families will get hit in the third year, paying an average of about $2,000 more per year for 10 years.

By 2022, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard family plan will cost $5,500 in taxes per worker. Single people could pay as much as $3,500 per worker.

Middle-class families in private and public sector jobs, union and non-union alike, will be hit hard by this tax on health care benefits.

Yuval Levin? Sen. Jim DeMint? No, it’s Teamster president James Hoffa. Nevertheless, the President Obama is bent on adopting the Senate tax scheme. The result, as Hoffa and conservative critics of the plan have observed, will be a repudiation of the president’s pledge not to tax those making less than $200,ooo. Democrats, who fancy themselves as the protectors of “working” Americans, are understandably nervous about the president’s desire to impose a heavy tax on their constituents:

“We did in our house bill something that protects middle class Americans from having to pay more for health insurance and health insurance reform,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, said Wednesday. “So far we want to stay to that principle.” House members “have been very clear on that issue and working with the president to stick to what he said when he was campaigning for president, we’re trying to make sure this does not affect middle class Americans,” Becerra said.

So far they want to stay to that principle? Well that doesn’t sound like Hoffa’s members are going to be able to count on Becerra and his colleagues. And if the Democrats do follow the president’s lead, a political firestorm may well ensue.

What’s at risk here is an unraveling of the Democratic coalition that elected Obama and the Democratic majority. Union members, elite urbanites (who will get slammed with new taxes), high-tech entrepreneurs (who get a new employer mandate), young voters (who will have to buy insurance plans they don’t want), and older voters (whose Medicare benefits will be slashed) may find common cause with fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and, yes, those angry Tea Party protesters, who all find ObamaCare objectionable. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid seem determined to ignore all these groups. For the sake of passing a “historic” bill and out of fear of appearing inept, they seem bent on passing something their own core political supporters find highly objectionable. Do they really imagine they can do so with no adverse political consequences?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What would 1.5 million pennies look like? “It’s a school project spearheaded by seventh-grade Spotlight students currently studying World War II — with a significant focus on the Holocaust. Each penny would stand for one child lost in the Holocaust. ‘The pennies will be used in an online museum,’ Horn Lake Spotlight teacher Susan Powell said. ‘We will host a (virtual) room, and this is being done through an organization (Christian Friends of Israel) in Memphis. We are going to assist them. The kids are brainstorming on what to do with the pennies.’ ” Read the whole thing.

Arnold terminates his support for ObamaCare: “You’ve heard of the bridge to nowhere. This is health care to nowhere.” And the backroom deals this time are more noxious.

Liz Cheney has good advice for Obama: “If President Obama is serious about keeping the American people safe, he should reverse his irresponsible and ill-advised decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He should reverse his decision to usher terrorists from Guantanamo onto U.S. soil. He should reverse his decision to bring the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to New York. He should reverse his decision to give KSM and other terrorists the rights of Americans and the benefit of a criminal trial in an American civilian court. He should immediately classify Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an illegal enemy combatant, not a criminal defendant.” (She also has some advice for Eric Holder, including halting his investigations of CIA officials and lawyers who saved American lives.) I’d wager that very large majorities of Americans agree with her.

Haaretz reports that Rahm Emanuel said he is fed up with Israelis. (It’s mutual, pal.) And the Palestinians. And the whole Middle East peace process. The White House denies he said it.

Larry J. Sabato’s take: “A multi-seat gain for the GOP in the Senate is now the best bet. … Now we can all see clearly why President Obama is pushing so hard for his agenda in his first two years. He’s unlikely ever again to have anything approaching his current 20-seat margin in the Senate and 40-seat margin in the House.”

Alert David Brooks: Sarah Palin is headlining a Tea Party Convention.

Mickey Kaus thinks Janet Napolitano actually helps Obama. “Loyal cabinet secretaries should take the blame–and the PR hit–for their agency’s mistakes. The President stays as far away from the bad thing as possible, even when the White House is in reality intimately involved.” I dunno. I think having dopey advisers — e.g., Alberto Gonzales — just fuels the “executive incompetence” meme.

When he’s not bending the cost curve: “President Obama’s budget guru has a secret love child — with the woman he jilted before hooking up with his hot new fiance [sic], The Post has learned.”

Big Labor spent millions electing Obama, and this is the thanks it gets: “President Barack Obama signaled to House Democratic leaders Wednesday that they’ll have to drop their opposition to taxing high-end health insurance plans to pay for health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. In a meeting at the White House, Obama expressed his preference for the insurance tax contained in the Senate’s health overhaul bill, but largely opposed by House Democrats and organized labor, Democratic aides said.” Oh yes, that’s a lot of people making less than $200,000 who are going to get taxed, despite Obama’s campaign promise.

What would 1.5 million pennies look like? “It’s a school project spearheaded by seventh-grade Spotlight students currently studying World War II — with a significant focus on the Holocaust. Each penny would stand for one child lost in the Holocaust. ‘The pennies will be used in an online museum,’ Horn Lake Spotlight teacher Susan Powell said. ‘We will host a (virtual) room, and this is being done through an organization (Christian Friends of Israel) in Memphis. We are going to assist them. The kids are brainstorming on what to do with the pennies.’ ” Read the whole thing.

Arnold terminates his support for ObamaCare: “You’ve heard of the bridge to nowhere. This is health care to nowhere.” And the backroom deals this time are more noxious.

Liz Cheney has good advice for Obama: “If President Obama is serious about keeping the American people safe, he should reverse his irresponsible and ill-advised decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He should reverse his decision to usher terrorists from Guantanamo onto U.S. soil. He should reverse his decision to bring the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to New York. He should reverse his decision to give KSM and other terrorists the rights of Americans and the benefit of a criminal trial in an American civilian court. He should immediately classify Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an illegal enemy combatant, not a criminal defendant.” (She also has some advice for Eric Holder, including halting his investigations of CIA officials and lawyers who saved American lives.) I’d wager that very large majorities of Americans agree with her.

Haaretz reports that Rahm Emanuel said he is fed up with Israelis. (It’s mutual, pal.) And the Palestinians. And the whole Middle East peace process. The White House denies he said it.

Larry J. Sabato’s take: “A multi-seat gain for the GOP in the Senate is now the best bet. … Now we can all see clearly why President Obama is pushing so hard for his agenda in his first two years. He’s unlikely ever again to have anything approaching his current 20-seat margin in the Senate and 40-seat margin in the House.”

Alert David Brooks: Sarah Palin is headlining a Tea Party Convention.

Mickey Kaus thinks Janet Napolitano actually helps Obama. “Loyal cabinet secretaries should take the blame–and the PR hit–for their agency’s mistakes. The President stays as far away from the bad thing as possible, even when the White House is in reality intimately involved.” I dunno. I think having dopey advisers — e.g., Alberto Gonzales — just fuels the “executive incompetence” meme.

When he’s not bending the cost curve: “President Obama’s budget guru has a secret love child — with the woman he jilted before hooking up with his hot new fiance [sic], The Post has learned.”

Big Labor spent millions electing Obama, and this is the thanks it gets: “President Barack Obama signaled to House Democratic leaders Wednesday that they’ll have to drop their opposition to taxing high-end health insurance plans to pay for health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. In a meeting at the White House, Obama expressed his preference for the insurance tax contained in the Senate’s health overhaul bill, but largely opposed by House Democrats and organized labor, Democratic aides said.” Oh yes, that’s a lot of people making less than $200,000 who are going to get taxed, despite Obama’s campaign promise.

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Just a Notch on a Belt

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What comes from a commander in chief who sends mixed messages? “Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Matthew Continetti: “There really are two Americas. There’s the America of the ‘expert’ schemers, planners, and centralizers inside the Beltway, who think they know what’s good for the people, whether the people like it or not. And there’s the America of just about everyone else. They are no doubt the ones Irving Kristol had in mind when he wrote, ‘The common people in such a democracy are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible.’” It is a good thing indeed that there are more of the latter.

David Axelrod says we will learn to love ObamaCare: “When people focus on what this bill is and not what it isn’t and recognize what an enormous landmark achievement it is, progressive achievement, you’ll see folks rallying around this and not running away from it.” Notice how they assume the public will be awed by the “landmark” quality of the bill. That’s how politicians think; ordinary people tend to focus on what legislation is actually going to do for or to them.

The Washington Post editors blast the Obami’s human-rights policy, seeking to mix economic progress with fundamental rights as “standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked.” Ouch. The editors rightly condemn this as a sly effort to downplay democracy, especially in the Middle East: “If the Obama administration believes that liberty is urgently needed in the homelands of al-Qaeda, Ms. Clinton still has offered no sign of it.”

Yes, in the end, all Democrats on health-care “reform” turned out to be liberals in favor of a big government power grab: “We trust voters in Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana, Virginia and elsewhere noticed that these votes ultimately ensured the passage of a bill that will increase insurance costs, retard medical innovation and sorely damage the country’s fiscal position.” Judging from the polls, I think they are noticing.

Looks like our fellow citizens are our best defense: “Despite the billions spent since 2001 on intelligence and counterterrorism programs, sophisticated airport scanners and elaborate watch lists, it was something simpler that averted disaster on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit: alert and courageous passengers and crew members.”

New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on the Obami’s Iran engagement policy: “The president is smoking pot or something if he thinks that being nice to these guys is going to get him anywhere.”

Respected legal scholar Randy Barnett makes the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. . . First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.” And if not unconstitutional, it is at the very least, enormously objectionable to a great number of Americans on both the Right and the Left.

What comes from a commander in chief who sends mixed messages? “Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Matthew Continetti: “There really are two Americas. There’s the America of the ‘expert’ schemers, planners, and centralizers inside the Beltway, who think they know what’s good for the people, whether the people like it or not. And there’s the America of just about everyone else. They are no doubt the ones Irving Kristol had in mind when he wrote, ‘The common people in such a democracy are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible.’” It is a good thing indeed that there are more of the latter.

David Axelrod says we will learn to love ObamaCare: “When people focus on what this bill is and not what it isn’t and recognize what an enormous landmark achievement it is, progressive achievement, you’ll see folks rallying around this and not running away from it.” Notice how they assume the public will be awed by the “landmark” quality of the bill. That’s how politicians think; ordinary people tend to focus on what legislation is actually going to do for or to them.

The Washington Post editors blast the Obami’s human-rights policy, seeking to mix economic progress with fundamental rights as “standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked.” Ouch. The editors rightly condemn this as a sly effort to downplay democracy, especially in the Middle East: “If the Obama administration believes that liberty is urgently needed in the homelands of al-Qaeda, Ms. Clinton still has offered no sign of it.”

Yes, in the end, all Democrats on health-care “reform” turned out to be liberals in favor of a big government power grab: “We trust voters in Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana, Virginia and elsewhere noticed that these votes ultimately ensured the passage of a bill that will increase insurance costs, retard medical innovation and sorely damage the country’s fiscal position.” Judging from the polls, I think they are noticing.

Looks like our fellow citizens are our best defense: “Despite the billions spent since 2001 on intelligence and counterterrorism programs, sophisticated airport scanners and elaborate watch lists, it was something simpler that averted disaster on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit: alert and courageous passengers and crew members.”

New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on the Obami’s Iran engagement policy: “The president is smoking pot or something if he thinks that being nice to these guys is going to get him anywhere.”

Respected legal scholar Randy Barnett makes the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. . . First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.” And if not unconstitutional, it is at the very least, enormously objectionable to a great number of Americans on both the Right and the Left.

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Big Labor Sold Out by Democrats

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

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RE: ObamaCare Loses Brooks

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

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Re: Why There Are Primaries

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

Read Less




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