Commentary Magazine


Topic: James Capretta

More Non-Nihilistic Conservative Policy Prescriptions

In my response to Alan Wolfe’s silly essay, I mentioned that he should consider visiting the National Affairs website to become acquainted with serious — to say nothing of non-nihilistic — conservative policy ideas. As it happens, National Affairs has just posted an article by my Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, “Priorities for a New Congress,” that deals with health-care, budgetary, and entitlement reforms.

Unlike Wolfe’s, Capretta’s is an excellent essay: sober, informed, non-dogmatic, and intellectually serious. It can be found here.

In my response to Alan Wolfe’s silly essay, I mentioned that he should consider visiting the National Affairs website to become acquainted with serious — to say nothing of non-nihilistic — conservative policy ideas. As it happens, National Affairs has just posted an article by my Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, “Priorities for a New Congress,” that deals with health-care, budgetary, and entitlement reforms.

Unlike Wolfe’s, Capretta’s is an excellent essay: sober, informed, non-dogmatic, and intellectually serious. It can be found here.

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Another Good Entitlement-Reform Plan

James Capretta explains why the entitlement-reform proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan and former Fed vice-chairman Alice Rivlin is so important:

In Medicare, the Ryan-Rivlin proposal would be transformative. It picks up on a key feature of Rep. Ryan’s “Roadmap” budget plan, which is that new enrollees in Medicare after 2020 would receive their entitlement in the form of a fixed contribution from the federal government rather than today’s defined benefit program structure. …

For Medicaid, Ryan and Rivlin propose moving toward a fixed block grant payment from the federal government to the states. The block grant payments would be indexed to grow with the size of the Medicaid population as well as per capita GDP growth plus one percentage point. …

Beyond Medicare and Medicaid, the plan would also impose limits on noneconomic and punitive damages in medical liability cases as well as repeal the ill-advised long-term care program (called the “CLASS Act”) that was created in the recently passed health care law.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already issued a preliminary assessment of the budgetary implications of Ryan-Rivlin, and the results are impressive. Over the next decade, Ryan-Rivlin would cut federal deficit spending by $280 billion, and by 2030, federal spending on the major health entitlement programs would be about 1.75 percent of GDP below a reasonable baseline projection.

But Capretta is right that the importance of the plan is more political — the emergence of a responsible Democratic voice willing to work with the GOP’s guru on entitlements (Ryan) in a productive way. This will diffuse to a degree the alarmist rhetoric coming from the Dem side of the aisle. Moreover, it recognizes that we need to pursue “an across-the-board move toward more fixed federal financial support for coverage.”

In conversations I have had over the past week, Republicans on the Hill seem to recognize that there are important elements in both the debt commission plan and the Ryan-Rivlin plan. Neither is perfect, but parts of both represent some key concessions by the Democrats involved in formulating each. A flatter tax code, a lower corporate tax rate, and market-based entitlement reforms? Some would sign on the dotted line, warts and all. The Democrats? Well, by launching an assault on the debt commission, they risk appearing unserious about deficit control and real fiscal reform.

At the very least, the Ryan-Rivlin and debt commission plans will jump-start a key debate. If Republicans want to prove they are sober and mature lawmakers, they will start crafting proposals that extract the best from both plans.

James Capretta explains why the entitlement-reform proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan and former Fed vice-chairman Alice Rivlin is so important:

In Medicare, the Ryan-Rivlin proposal would be transformative. It picks up on a key feature of Rep. Ryan’s “Roadmap” budget plan, which is that new enrollees in Medicare after 2020 would receive their entitlement in the form of a fixed contribution from the federal government rather than today’s defined benefit program structure. …

For Medicaid, Ryan and Rivlin propose moving toward a fixed block grant payment from the federal government to the states. The block grant payments would be indexed to grow with the size of the Medicaid population as well as per capita GDP growth plus one percentage point. …

Beyond Medicare and Medicaid, the plan would also impose limits on noneconomic and punitive damages in medical liability cases as well as repeal the ill-advised long-term care program (called the “CLASS Act”) that was created in the recently passed health care law.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already issued a preliminary assessment of the budgetary implications of Ryan-Rivlin, and the results are impressive. Over the next decade, Ryan-Rivlin would cut federal deficit spending by $280 billion, and by 2030, federal spending on the major health entitlement programs would be about 1.75 percent of GDP below a reasonable baseline projection.

But Capretta is right that the importance of the plan is more political — the emergence of a responsible Democratic voice willing to work with the GOP’s guru on entitlements (Ryan) in a productive way. This will diffuse to a degree the alarmist rhetoric coming from the Dem side of the aisle. Moreover, it recognizes that we need to pursue “an across-the-board move toward more fixed federal financial support for coverage.”

In conversations I have had over the past week, Republicans on the Hill seem to recognize that there are important elements in both the debt commission plan and the Ryan-Rivlin plan. Neither is perfect, but parts of both represent some key concessions by the Democrats involved in formulating each. A flatter tax code, a lower corporate tax rate, and market-based entitlement reforms? Some would sign on the dotted line, warts and all. The Democrats? Well, by launching an assault on the debt commission, they risk appearing unserious about deficit control and real fiscal reform.

At the very least, the Ryan-Rivlin and debt commission plans will jump-start a key debate. If Republicans want to prove they are sober and mature lawmakers, they will start crafting proposals that extract the best from both plans.

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Finding Out What Is in ObamaCare

Obama said he is only interested in tweaking ObamaCare. But what if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if employers start dumping people from their existing health care, premiums go up, and the cost projections — shockingly! — are proved to have been entirely fraudulent? Well, no never mind as far as the president is concerned. He’s not an evidence man. He didn’t want the generals coming back to tell him more troops were needed in Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to alter his failed approach to the Middle East. And he’s not about to mess with his “historic” achievement.

Obama supporters, and those concerned that there own reputations may be at risk, are rushing forth to defend ObamaCare. However, the facts aren’t on their side. Veronique de Rugy takes issue with former OMB chief Peter Orszag, who declares that it is imperative to keep ObamaCare in order to control health-care costs. But de Rugy says that this is nonsense. Using CBO’s own data, she explains that ObamaCare will leave “the cost curve of federal healthcare spending virtually unchanged over the next 25 years.” In fact, ObamaCare makes things a whole lot worse:

The CBO finds that the effect of the healthcare legislation has been to increase government spending by $3.8 trillion between 2010 and 2020. From 2020 to 2035, federal spending under the two projections [ObamaCare and no ObamaCare] are equal percentages of GDP. If Orszag is arguing that the real cost-containment provisions kick in around 2036, such futuristic projections are simply not worth taking seriously. …

What we can be certain of is that this legislation increases the amount of money taxpayers will be forced by law to pay for health insurance to the tune of $420 billion over the next 10 years. Claims about ObamaCare’s deficit-reduction effects depend on new taxes growing even faster than new spending. Read More

Obama said he is only interested in tweaking ObamaCare. But what if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if employers start dumping people from their existing health care, premiums go up, and the cost projections — shockingly! — are proved to have been entirely fraudulent? Well, no never mind as far as the president is concerned. He’s not an evidence man. He didn’t want the generals coming back to tell him more troops were needed in Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to alter his failed approach to the Middle East. And he’s not about to mess with his “historic” achievement.

Obama supporters, and those concerned that there own reputations may be at risk, are rushing forth to defend ObamaCare. However, the facts aren’t on their side. Veronique de Rugy takes issue with former OMB chief Peter Orszag, who declares that it is imperative to keep ObamaCare in order to control health-care costs. But de Rugy says that this is nonsense. Using CBO’s own data, she explains that ObamaCare will leave “the cost curve of federal healthcare spending virtually unchanged over the next 25 years.” In fact, ObamaCare makes things a whole lot worse:

The CBO finds that the effect of the healthcare legislation has been to increase government spending by $3.8 trillion between 2010 and 2020. From 2020 to 2035, federal spending under the two projections [ObamaCare and no ObamaCare] are equal percentages of GDP. If Orszag is arguing that the real cost-containment provisions kick in around 2036, such futuristic projections are simply not worth taking seriously. …

What we can be certain of is that this legislation increases the amount of money taxpayers will be forced by law to pay for health insurance to the tune of $420 billion over the next 10 years. Claims about ObamaCare’s deficit-reduction effects depend on new taxes growing even faster than new spending.

One benefit of the GOP House majority is that there can now be hearings on exactly the impact of ObamaCare. Nancy Pelosi said we’d have to pass it to find out what’s in it. Now we can. James Capretta gives us a peek at what we will find. No “death panels,” the Democrats insist?

But Obamacare does create the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. … [T]he fifteen-member IPAB has the authority to implement cost-cutting mechanisms in Medicare without further congressional approval. Indeed, IPAB’s proponents have been quite explicit in their hope that the panel will use government-funded “comparative effectiveness research” as the basis to terminate Medicare reimbursement for items and services deemed not “cost effective” by budget cutters. So, here we have an unelected board of so-called experts with the authority to unilaterally decide that certain treatments should not be funded by Medicare.

Medicare will be just fine, they say? Capretta explains:

But Medicare’s chief actuary — who works for the president of the United States — has stated repeatedly that these cuts are so deep and arbitrary that they will force many hospitals and other institutions to stop seeing Medicare patients. In fact, the cuts in Obamacare would drive Medicare’s payment rates for services below those of Medicaid by 2019, and Medicaid’s network of willing suppliers of care and services is already very constrained. It’s quite clear that pushing Medicare’s rates to such low levels would drastically reduce access to care for many beneficiaries.

But don’t take de Rugy’s and Caparetta’s word for it. Beginning in January, the GOP Congress should explain exactly what is in the bill, how much it’s going to cost, how high the tax hike will be ($700B, most agree), and the short- and long-term impact on Americans’ health care. Will Democrats rush forth to defend their handiwork? Or will the evidence be compelling, and embarrassing? Pelosi’s rump liberal caucus in the House will never abandon ObamaCare, but will the Red State senators? Don’t bet on them going down with the ObamaCare ship. Especially after we find out what is in it.

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James Capretta on the Modern Role and Purpose of Government

My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, James Capretta, has added his important voice to the ongoing debate about the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. As Jim puts it in this post over at e21:

What we are actually witnessing is the end of an economic era. The democratic capitalist countries of the West have all built welfare states of varying sizes and shapes. Europe’s is certainly much larger and more expensive than what has been built in the United States, but all are under severe strain. There is no escaping demographic reality. The aging of populations in the world’s most advanced economies will make it impossible to sustain government programs and protections at the level that exist today.

What’s needed now is an effort to harness the new national energy for reform and retrenchment to solve the nation’s entitlement problem. That will require a frank discussion with the American people about how to apply the enduring principle of limited government to the modern circumstances of a market-driven economy operating within a competitive global environment. That is the most pressing challenge in these early years of the 21st century.

The party that voters consider up to this task will win their votes. Once it does, though, it will need to perform. Promises are fine; but they are not nearly enough, as President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are discovering to their chagrin. If Republicans retake control of one or both branches of Congress — which certainly seems likely as this point — they will face the challenge of translating their pledges into reality.

It won’t be as easy once you’re in power as it is appears when you’re out of power.

My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, James Capretta, has added his important voice to the ongoing debate about the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. As Jim puts it in this post over at e21:

What we are actually witnessing is the end of an economic era. The democratic capitalist countries of the West have all built welfare states of varying sizes and shapes. Europe’s is certainly much larger and more expensive than what has been built in the United States, but all are under severe strain. There is no escaping demographic reality. The aging of populations in the world’s most advanced economies will make it impossible to sustain government programs and protections at the level that exist today.

What’s needed now is an effort to harness the new national energy for reform and retrenchment to solve the nation’s entitlement problem. That will require a frank discussion with the American people about how to apply the enduring principle of limited government to the modern circumstances of a market-driven economy operating within a competitive global environment. That is the most pressing challenge in these early years of the 21st century.

The party that voters consider up to this task will win their votes. Once it does, though, it will need to perform. Promises are fine; but they are not nearly enough, as President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are discovering to their chagrin. If Republicans retake control of one or both branches of Congress — which certainly seems likely as this point — they will face the challenge of translating their pledges into reality.

It won’t be as easy once you’re in power as it is appears when you’re out of power.

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ObamaCare Watch

My Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, one of the nation’s foremost health-care experts, is overseeing an important and timely new website: ObamaCareWatch.org. This is the place to go if you want facts and serious analysis about the effects of ObamaCare on our country. Jim performed heroically during the health-care debate; now that the legislation has become law, his work is at least as important as it was then.

If there is one person and one website that can effectively push back against the Obama administration’s $125 million propaganda campaign in behalf of ObamaCare, they are Capretta and ObamCareWatch.org. Take a look for yourself.

My Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, one of the nation’s foremost health-care experts, is overseeing an important and timely new website: ObamaCareWatch.org. This is the place to go if you want facts and serious analysis about the effects of ObamaCare on our country. Jim performed heroically during the health-care debate; now that the legislation has become law, his work is at least as important as it was then.

If there is one person and one website that can effectively push back against the Obama administration’s $125 million propaganda campaign in behalf of ObamaCare, they are Capretta and ObamCareWatch.org. Take a look for yourself.

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There Is No Santa Claus for Health Care

A sharp reader points me to this:

The official projections for health-care reform, which show it greatly reducing the number of uninsured and also reducing the budget deficit, are simply not credible. There are three basic issues. The cost and revenue projections rely on unrealistic assumptions and accounting tricks. If you make some adjustments for these, the cost of the plan is much higher. The so-called “individual mandate” isn’t really a mandate at all. Under the new system, many young and healthy people will still have a strong incentive to go uninsured. Once the reforms are up and running, some employers will have a big incentive to end their group coverage plans and dump their employees onto the taxpayer-subsidized individual plans, greatly adding to their cost.

James Capretta? Yuval Levin? Rep. Paul Ryan? No — John Cassidy of the New Yorker. It does of course raise the question as to why these warning flares didn’t go up from liberal publications before ObamaCare passed, but it’s nice to know there is broad opposition to it now across the ideological spectrum.

Cassidy’s  entire piece is well worth a read, but his takedown of the cost numbers is especially helpful and echoes what conservative critics have been saying for months:

Does Santa Claus live after all? According to the C.B.O., between now and 2019 the net cost of insuring new enrollees in Medicaid and private insurance plans will be $788 billion, but other provisions in the legislation will generate revenues and cost savings of $933 billion. Subtract the first figure from the second and—voila!—you get $143 billion in deficit reduction. …

The first objection to these figures is that the great bulk of the cost savings—more than $450 billion—comes from cuts in Medicare payments to doctors and other health-care providers. If you are vaguely familiar with Washington politics and the letters A.A.R.P. you might suspect that at least some of these cuts will fail to materialize. … The second problem is accounting gimmickry.

Cassidy, who favors “Romney-ObamaCare” instead, may not have the right solution. (Massachusetts is not exactly a smashing success.) But his analysis is dead-on and may show up in more than a few political ads this season.

A sharp reader points me to this:

The official projections for health-care reform, which show it greatly reducing the number of uninsured and also reducing the budget deficit, are simply not credible. There are three basic issues. The cost and revenue projections rely on unrealistic assumptions and accounting tricks. If you make some adjustments for these, the cost of the plan is much higher. The so-called “individual mandate” isn’t really a mandate at all. Under the new system, many young and healthy people will still have a strong incentive to go uninsured. Once the reforms are up and running, some employers will have a big incentive to end their group coverage plans and dump their employees onto the taxpayer-subsidized individual plans, greatly adding to their cost.

James Capretta? Yuval Levin? Rep. Paul Ryan? No — John Cassidy of the New Yorker. It does of course raise the question as to why these warning flares didn’t go up from liberal publications before ObamaCare passed, but it’s nice to know there is broad opposition to it now across the ideological spectrum.

Cassidy’s  entire piece is well worth a read, but his takedown of the cost numbers is especially helpful and echoes what conservative critics have been saying for months:

Does Santa Claus live after all? According to the C.B.O., between now and 2019 the net cost of insuring new enrollees in Medicaid and private insurance plans will be $788 billion, but other provisions in the legislation will generate revenues and cost savings of $933 billion. Subtract the first figure from the second and—voila!—you get $143 billion in deficit reduction. …

The first objection to these figures is that the great bulk of the cost savings—more than $450 billion—comes from cuts in Medicare payments to doctors and other health-care providers. If you are vaguely familiar with Washington politics and the letters A.A.R.P. you might suspect that at least some of these cuts will fail to materialize. … The second problem is accounting gimmickry.

Cassidy, who favors “Romney-ObamaCare” instead, may not have the right solution. (Massachusetts is not exactly a smashing success.) But his analysis is dead-on and may show up in more than a few political ads this season.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Massa will resign Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Massa will resign Monday.

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

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LIVE BLOG: Obama — Not That Impressive a Spokesman

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

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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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Bad Policy, Worse Politics

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

Read Less

The Corrective Election of 2010

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino provided a useful summary of what health-care “reform” now looks like. In short, it’s not reform at all:

Well, I think that at the end of the day this is a massive entitlement expansion that’s going to subsidize a lot of people without the reform that was needed. So you look at the CBO report — if you actually tease it out, they’re basically saying, “We don’t know really what’s going to happen.” It says that 23 million people are going to remain uninsured, so I don’t know how to break out those numbers. In addition to that, it does say that in 2010 they assume that doctors will be reduced in their reimbursements by 21 percent. This called “doc fix” up on Capitol Hill. It never happens.

The non-reform health-care bill does, to the disgust of liberals, make insurance companies very happy. The government is coercing customers to buy the companies’ products under penalty of prosecution and fine. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the horror of seniors, slash $500B out of Medicare with no conceivable alternative other than rationing to meet its new budget. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the delight of trial lawyers, do nothing to reform the tort system or the problem of defensive medicine. And the non-reform health-care bill does, to the chagrin of deficit hawks, do nothing to bend the cost-curve or cut the deficit. (James Capretta explains: “For starters, as CBO notes, the bill presumes that Medicare fees for physician services will get cut by more than 20 percent in 2011, and then stay at the reduced level indefinitely. There is strong bipartisan opposition to such cuts. Fixing that problem alone will cost more than $200 billion over a decade, pushing the Reid plan from the black and into a deep red.”) Finally, the non-reform health-care bill will, to the embarrassment of good-government types, in all likelihood get passed through a combination of bribery and secrecy, with virtually no time for thoughtful consideration.

On every level it’s a policy train wreck. As Robert J. Samuelson summed up:

It will not control costs. It will worsen the budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will rebut Obama’s claim that he has “solved” the health-care problem. His reputation will suffer.

Its noxious impact and the manner by which it was passed will annoy voters and motivate already enraged conservatives and skeptical independents in 2010. The Democrats have no cover on this one, just as they lacked one on the stimulus plan, which was passed on a near party-line vote. (The final vote on the non-reform health-care bill will be even more partisan.) If, as with the stimulus, voters cannot be lulled into believing that atrocious legislation is really a marvelous thing, the consequences will be significant and the 2010 election will make 1994 look like a mere ripple on the political landscape.

Elections have consequences, certainly. That’s how we wound up with huge congressional majorities in both houses and an ultra-liberal president. But there’s always another election coming up to correct the missteps and excesses of those who won last time. If ObamaCare manages to be passed into law, as is almost certain, and the voters slowly learn what the non-reform bill does, then be prepared for one of the great corrective elections in American history.

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino provided a useful summary of what health-care “reform” now looks like. In short, it’s not reform at all:

Well, I think that at the end of the day this is a massive entitlement expansion that’s going to subsidize a lot of people without the reform that was needed. So you look at the CBO report — if you actually tease it out, they’re basically saying, “We don’t know really what’s going to happen.” It says that 23 million people are going to remain uninsured, so I don’t know how to break out those numbers. In addition to that, it does say that in 2010 they assume that doctors will be reduced in their reimbursements by 21 percent. This called “doc fix” up on Capitol Hill. It never happens.

The non-reform health-care bill does, to the disgust of liberals, make insurance companies very happy. The government is coercing customers to buy the companies’ products under penalty of prosecution and fine. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the horror of seniors, slash $500B out of Medicare with no conceivable alternative other than rationing to meet its new budget. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the delight of trial lawyers, do nothing to reform the tort system or the problem of defensive medicine. And the non-reform health-care bill does, to the chagrin of deficit hawks, do nothing to bend the cost-curve or cut the deficit. (James Capretta explains: “For starters, as CBO notes, the bill presumes that Medicare fees for physician services will get cut by more than 20 percent in 2011, and then stay at the reduced level indefinitely. There is strong bipartisan opposition to such cuts. Fixing that problem alone will cost more than $200 billion over a decade, pushing the Reid plan from the black and into a deep red.”) Finally, the non-reform health-care bill will, to the embarrassment of good-government types, in all likelihood get passed through a combination of bribery and secrecy, with virtually no time for thoughtful consideration.

On every level it’s a policy train wreck. As Robert J. Samuelson summed up:

It will not control costs. It will worsen the budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will rebut Obama’s claim that he has “solved” the health-care problem. His reputation will suffer.

Its noxious impact and the manner by which it was passed will annoy voters and motivate already enraged conservatives and skeptical independents in 2010. The Democrats have no cover on this one, just as they lacked one on the stimulus plan, which was passed on a near party-line vote. (The final vote on the non-reform health-care bill will be even more partisan.) If, as with the stimulus, voters cannot be lulled into believing that atrocious legislation is really a marvelous thing, the consequences will be significant and the 2010 election will make 1994 look like a mere ripple on the political landscape.

Elections have consequences, certainly. That’s how we wound up with huge congressional majorities in both houses and an ultra-liberal president. But there’s always another election coming up to correct the missteps and excesses of those who won last time. If ObamaCare manages to be passed into law, as is almost certain, and the voters slowly learn what the non-reform bill does, then be prepared for one of the great corrective elections in American history.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

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This Is “Reform”?

Sen. Dick Durbin says Democrats will have 60 votes for health-care legislation by next week. This is revealing in two respects. First, they don’t have the votes now. And second, they don’t have the exact bill on which they are voting. Sen. Evan Bayh said plaintively, “We’re all being urged to vote for something and we don’t know the details of what’s in it.” He seems to have a problem with that.

We are, in general terms (we think — since there is no bill yet and no CBO scoring), going to raise huge amounts of taxes from some Americans (including those promised by candidate Obama that they’d see no tax hike), give it to others, force individuals and businesses to buy really expensive insurance plans, and then take a chunk of money out of Medicare, which will squeeze doctors and hospitals, not to mention patients. This legislation has little to recommend it.

Liberals are angry, fearing that the bill will be shoveling massive subsidies to private insurers. As Politico put it, “More than anything else in Barack Obama’s presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party’s progressives.” So Howard Dean wants to kill it. Conservative James Capretta sees their point: “The Democratic party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

Conservatives point to the hundreds of billions in new taxes, the mandates, the fines, and the heavy hand of government — in short, a huge, fiscally reckless entitlement:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader, said the legislation includes “a half a trillion dollars in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in higher taxes and higher premiums for everyone else.”

We’re about to spend a trillion dollars we don’t have to force many people to buy insurance they don’t want. So there are 60 votes for this monstrosity? Not yet. But next week, we’re told, there will be. Because, as the president says, we’re on the “precipice” of something really big. Well, we can all agree on that.

Sen. Dick Durbin says Democrats will have 60 votes for health-care legislation by next week. This is revealing in two respects. First, they don’t have the votes now. And second, they don’t have the exact bill on which they are voting. Sen. Evan Bayh said plaintively, “We’re all being urged to vote for something and we don’t know the details of what’s in it.” He seems to have a problem with that.

We are, in general terms (we think — since there is no bill yet and no CBO scoring), going to raise huge amounts of taxes from some Americans (including those promised by candidate Obama that they’d see no tax hike), give it to others, force individuals and businesses to buy really expensive insurance plans, and then take a chunk of money out of Medicare, which will squeeze doctors and hospitals, not to mention patients. This legislation has little to recommend it.

Liberals are angry, fearing that the bill will be shoveling massive subsidies to private insurers. As Politico put it, “More than anything else in Barack Obama’s presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party’s progressives.” So Howard Dean wants to kill it. Conservative James Capretta sees their point: “The Democratic party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

Conservatives point to the hundreds of billions in new taxes, the mandates, the fines, and the heavy hand of government — in short, a huge, fiscally reckless entitlement:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader, said the legislation includes “a half a trillion dollars in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in higher taxes and higher premiums for everyone else.”

We’re about to spend a trillion dollars we don’t have to force many people to buy insurance they don’t want. So there are 60 votes for this monstrosity? Not yet. But next week, we’re told, there will be. Because, as the president says, we’re on the “precipice” of something really big. Well, we can all agree on that.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary’s] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.'” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary’s] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.'” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Read Less




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