Commentary Magazine


Topic: pharmaceutical

The Left’s Ornery Adolescents

Why are those Americans who are most distrustful of the U.S. government, and so eager to undermine it, the same ones who are most desperate to give it control over their own lives? Michael Moore has made a big P.R. show of his pledge to pay Julian Assange’s bail. “WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions,” he writes, and puts the U.S. government on notice: “You simply can’t be trusted.” Moore offers advice to those of us who see something wrong with Assange. “[A]ll I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey.” Right. Instead, you should be naïve about how government works when it decides to take control of your health care, regulate your business, and spend your earnings. Moore, you may have forgotten, calls for the U.S. government to provide “free, universal health care for life” for “every resident of the United States” and demands that “pharmaceutical companies … be strictly regulated like a public utility.” That’s the old anti–Big Brother spirit.

When men like Michael Moore are not calling for the government to be undermined and defied, they’re petitioning for it to chauffeur them to the movies, cook their meals, and tuck them into bed. One news cycle finds HBO’s Bill Maher telling America not to allow the government to inject “a disease into your arm” in the form of a vaccine and that “I don’t trust the government, especially with my health.” The next, he’s calling for “Medicare for all” and lamenting the absence of a fully government-run health-care system that would operate like the U.S. postal service.

At the Nation, progressive totem Tom Hayden penned an article titled “WikiLeaks vs. The Empire,” defending Assange on the grounds that “the closed doors of power need to be open to public review” and noting that “the American people might revolt if we knew the secrets being kept from us.” Oh, and about that secretive and untrustworthy “Empire”? Hayden wants to put it in charge of the health care of all Americans, naturally.

This paradoxical political posturing resembles nothing so much as middle-class adolescent rebellion. Troubled kids protest their parents’ dangerous values, their authoritarianism, their materialism, and the moral hypocrisy that keeps the whole farcical delusion afloat. But most of all, they protest the piddling allowance on which no self-respecting 13-year-old old can be expected to keep himself in the latest combat-based video games, faddish clothes, and instantly gratifying gadgetry.

The troubled kids of the left distrust the extraordinary powers wielded by their leaders in the name of safety and well-being — but it’s also a real bummer that the government won’t assert more power to keep us safe and well.

Why are those Americans who are most distrustful of the U.S. government, and so eager to undermine it, the same ones who are most desperate to give it control over their own lives? Michael Moore has made a big P.R. show of his pledge to pay Julian Assange’s bail. “WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions,” he writes, and puts the U.S. government on notice: “You simply can’t be trusted.” Moore offers advice to those of us who see something wrong with Assange. “[A]ll I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey.” Right. Instead, you should be naïve about how government works when it decides to take control of your health care, regulate your business, and spend your earnings. Moore, you may have forgotten, calls for the U.S. government to provide “free, universal health care for life” for “every resident of the United States” and demands that “pharmaceutical companies … be strictly regulated like a public utility.” That’s the old anti–Big Brother spirit.

When men like Michael Moore are not calling for the government to be undermined and defied, they’re petitioning for it to chauffeur them to the movies, cook their meals, and tuck them into bed. One news cycle finds HBO’s Bill Maher telling America not to allow the government to inject “a disease into your arm” in the form of a vaccine and that “I don’t trust the government, especially with my health.” The next, he’s calling for “Medicare for all” and lamenting the absence of a fully government-run health-care system that would operate like the U.S. postal service.

At the Nation, progressive totem Tom Hayden penned an article titled “WikiLeaks vs. The Empire,” defending Assange on the grounds that “the closed doors of power need to be open to public review” and noting that “the American people might revolt if we knew the secrets being kept from us.” Oh, and about that secretive and untrustworthy “Empire”? Hayden wants to put it in charge of the health care of all Americans, naturally.

This paradoxical political posturing resembles nothing so much as middle-class adolescent rebellion. Troubled kids protest their parents’ dangerous values, their authoritarianism, their materialism, and the moral hypocrisy that keeps the whole farcical delusion afloat. But most of all, they protest the piddling allowance on which no self-respecting 13-year-old old can be expected to keep himself in the latest combat-based video games, faddish clothes, and instantly gratifying gadgetry.

The troubled kids of the left distrust the extraordinary powers wielded by their leaders in the name of safety and well-being — but it’s also a real bummer that the government won’t assert more power to keep us safe and well.

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Dowd Dumps Obama

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

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“It’s My Fault, but Not Really”

As Politico reports, Obama tip-toed up to an admission of error in the health-care debate and then, realizing what he had done, reverted to form, blaming the scoundrels in Congress. First, the feint:

“We had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right,” Obama told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Monday. “But I had campaigned on process—part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up, transparency. … The health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s going on. And it’s an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.”

Then the passivity (“The process didn’t run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more”) — as he suggested the “process” ran itself or that his own spokesperson was doing someone else’s bidding when he refused to respond to queries about the broken C-SPAN pledge. And finally the finger-pointing:

“Let’s just clarify. I didn’t make a bunch of deals,” Obama told ABC. “There is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked.”

It’s a bit pathetic, the inability to simply say what everyone knows to be the case: The deal was unpopular and unworkable. Bribes were needed to lure wary lawmakers. The White House cheered the process on and defended the result. The White House spokesperson refused to even answer questions on the lack of transparency. The net result was to further undermine support for his signature piece of legislation and give Scott Brown one more reason for Massachusetts to make him the 41st vote against ObamaCare. To make matters worse, as the report notes, some of those deals were made directly by the White House. (“As the process unfolded last year, critics complained not just about closed Congressional negotiations on health care, but about deals the White House worked out behind closed doors with pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, hospitals and unions.”)

All in all, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Obama, who ran as a new-style politician and is proving to be a drearily familiar old-style one.

As Politico reports, Obama tip-toed up to an admission of error in the health-care debate and then, realizing what he had done, reverted to form, blaming the scoundrels in Congress. First, the feint:

“We had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right,” Obama told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Monday. “But I had campaigned on process—part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up, transparency. … The health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s going on. And it’s an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.”

Then the passivity (“The process didn’t run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more”) — as he suggested the “process” ran itself or that his own spokesperson was doing someone else’s bidding when he refused to respond to queries about the broken C-SPAN pledge. And finally the finger-pointing:

“Let’s just clarify. I didn’t make a bunch of deals,” Obama told ABC. “There is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked.”

It’s a bit pathetic, the inability to simply say what everyone knows to be the case: The deal was unpopular and unworkable. Bribes were needed to lure wary lawmakers. The White House cheered the process on and defended the result. The White House spokesperson refused to even answer questions on the lack of transparency. The net result was to further undermine support for his signature piece of legislation and give Scott Brown one more reason for Massachusetts to make him the 41st vote against ObamaCare. To make matters worse, as the report notes, some of those deals were made directly by the White House. (“As the process unfolded last year, critics complained not just about closed Congressional negotiations on health care, but about deals the White House worked out behind closed doors with pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, hospitals and unions.”)

All in all, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Obama, who ran as a new-style politician and is proving to be a drearily familiar old-style one.

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Another “Never Mind”

The number of “never minds” is increasing in the name of health-care “reform.” Candidate Obama promised that no one earning less than $250,000 would have his taxes raised. Oh well, that was then. (The White House cheered as an amendment by Sen. Mike Crapo to strip out taxes on anyone below the $250,000 threshold went down to defeat 45-54, with five Democrat defections.) Candidate Obama was in favor of drug reimportation, allowing U.S. citizens to buy cheaper drugs at rates available outside the U.S. Oh well, that was then. Yesterday the Senate voted down a drug-reimportation measure brought by Byron Dorgan. As Dana Milbank points out, Obama sided with “Big Pharma”:

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to take on the drug industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription medicine. “We’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies ‘thanks, but no, thanks’ for the overpriced drugs — drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada,” he said back then.

On Tuesday, the matter came to the Senate floor — and President Obama forgot the “no, thanks” part. Siding with the pharmaceutical lobby, the administration successfully fought against the very idea Obama had championed. “It’s got to be a little awkward,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Only a little. The Obami really aren’t capable of being shamed by evidence that they have reneged on campaign promises or that positions are taken willy-nilly without regard to any coherent ideology or legislative scheme. They have a higher objective: getting anything passed. Understandably, liberals who don’t like drug companies on principle, and reformists who think the fix is in from moneyed lobbyists, are shocked, shocked, to find that the Obami are without principles.

The result may be a truly awful bill, a lot of disappointed voters, and many, many effective campaign ads for Republicans. At some point a smart Democrat or two looking at this might want to consider whether “never mind” is the best response to a health-care bill that reforms nothing and demonstrates only that Obama snookered a whole bunch of voters.

The number of “never minds” is increasing in the name of health-care “reform.” Candidate Obama promised that no one earning less than $250,000 would have his taxes raised. Oh well, that was then. (The White House cheered as an amendment by Sen. Mike Crapo to strip out taxes on anyone below the $250,000 threshold went down to defeat 45-54, with five Democrat defections.) Candidate Obama was in favor of drug reimportation, allowing U.S. citizens to buy cheaper drugs at rates available outside the U.S. Oh well, that was then. Yesterday the Senate voted down a drug-reimportation measure brought by Byron Dorgan. As Dana Milbank points out, Obama sided with “Big Pharma”:

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to take on the drug industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription medicine. “We’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies ‘thanks, but no, thanks’ for the overpriced drugs — drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada,” he said back then.

On Tuesday, the matter came to the Senate floor — and President Obama forgot the “no, thanks” part. Siding with the pharmaceutical lobby, the administration successfully fought against the very idea Obama had championed. “It’s got to be a little awkward,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Only a little. The Obami really aren’t capable of being shamed by evidence that they have reneged on campaign promises or that positions are taken willy-nilly without regard to any coherent ideology or legislative scheme. They have a higher objective: getting anything passed. Understandably, liberals who don’t like drug companies on principle, and reformists who think the fix is in from moneyed lobbyists, are shocked, shocked, to find that the Obami are without principles.

The result may be a truly awful bill, a lot of disappointed voters, and many, many effective campaign ads for Republicans. At some point a smart Democrat or two looking at this might want to consider whether “never mind” is the best response to a health-care bill that reforms nothing and demonstrates only that Obama snookered a whole bunch of voters.

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Let’s Not Be Stupid

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Andy McCarthy writes: “A panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of my old adversary, Lynne Stewart, for providing material support to terrorism — i.e., helping the Blind Sheikh run his Egyptian terrorist organization from U.S. prison, where he is serving a life-sentence.” You mean terrorists run plots out of U.S. prisons? Oh yes, indeed. Another reason to keep the Guantanamo detainees where they are.

Democrats realize the problem with the phony stimulus numbers. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.): “The inaccuracies on recovery.gov that have come to light are outrageous and the Administration owes itself, the Congress, and every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes. … Credibility counts in government and stupid mistakes like this undermine it.”  Indeed.

Tim Geithner is in trouble again. Fred Barnes explains: “Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is in trouble again, and this time he may not be able to save his job. You’ll recall that his confirmation was threatened by revelations of cheating on his income taxes. Now he’s accused of paying billions too much for the bailout of AIG and allowing the insurance firm’s Wall Street creditors — Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia — to be paid in full for their derivative contracts with $27.1 billion in taxpayers’ money.”

The dean of Harvard Medical School finds that “the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care’s dysfunctional delivery system. … Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by over-regulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.” Maybe the status quo is not so bad after all.

PelosiCare is so awful that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to “shield” his caucus from ever having to vote on it. Hmm. One wonders how all the Democrats forced to walk the plank in the House feel about that. Sort of like cap-and-trade, huh?

This, from Public Opinion Strategies poll, may explain why: “Opposition to President Obama’s health care plan is higher after the House vote than our previous tracks (29% favor/40% oppose). Voters’ net opposition to the plan has increased from -6% in September (31% favor/37% oppose) to -11% today.”

Ben Smith on the teleprompter jibes: “It’s a bad storyline for the president, and thoroughly in the bloodstream.”

James Pinkerton: “Obama is betting his presidency on the proposition that what America needs is another Warren Court, bringing the wondrous benefits of Miranda warnings to Al Qaeda and other civilization-clashers.”

Republicans are finding it easier to recruit top-tier challengers for House races. The same thing happened in 1994 and for Democrats in 2006. When solid candidates think they can win, they are willing to throw their hats into the ring.

Andy McCarthy writes: “A panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of my old adversary, Lynne Stewart, for providing material support to terrorism — i.e., helping the Blind Sheikh run his Egyptian terrorist organization from U.S. prison, where he is serving a life-sentence.” You mean terrorists run plots out of U.S. prisons? Oh yes, indeed. Another reason to keep the Guantanamo detainees where they are.

Democrats realize the problem with the phony stimulus numbers. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.): “The inaccuracies on recovery.gov that have come to light are outrageous and the Administration owes itself, the Congress, and every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes. … Credibility counts in government and stupid mistakes like this undermine it.”  Indeed.

Tim Geithner is in trouble again. Fred Barnes explains: “Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is in trouble again, and this time he may not be able to save his job. You’ll recall that his confirmation was threatened by revelations of cheating on his income taxes. Now he’s accused of paying billions too much for the bailout of AIG and allowing the insurance firm’s Wall Street creditors — Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia — to be paid in full for their derivative contracts with $27.1 billion in taxpayers’ money.”

The dean of Harvard Medical School finds that “the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care’s dysfunctional delivery system. … Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by over-regulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.” Maybe the status quo is not so bad after all.

PelosiCare is so awful that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to “shield” his caucus from ever having to vote on it. Hmm. One wonders how all the Democrats forced to walk the plank in the House feel about that. Sort of like cap-and-trade, huh?

This, from Public Opinion Strategies poll, may explain why: “Opposition to President Obama’s health care plan is higher after the House vote than our previous tracks (29% favor/40% oppose). Voters’ net opposition to the plan has increased from -6% in September (31% favor/37% oppose) to -11% today.”

Ben Smith on the teleprompter jibes: “It’s a bad storyline for the president, and thoroughly in the bloodstream.”

James Pinkerton: “Obama is betting his presidency on the proposition that what America needs is another Warren Court, bringing the wondrous benefits of Miranda warnings to Al Qaeda and other civilization-clashers.”

Republicans are finding it easier to recruit top-tier challengers for House races. The same thing happened in 1994 and for Democrats in 2006. When solid candidates think they can win, they are willing to throw their hats into the ring.

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Business Bashing

One of the policy frustrations conservatives have experienced with John McCain has been his propensity to attack capitalists and hence capitalism. Despite high praise for his refusal to pander to the public with counterproductive government programs to address the mortgage crisis, McCain has, at least in tone and rhetoric, sounded a decidedly “unconservative” note in bashing the heads of mortgage companies for severance packages and profits they garnered from sales of stock. Although these stock sales were generally part of pre-timed plans that were perfectly legal and standard practice in executive compensation, this is an easy whipping boy for Democrats and now McCain too.

There is, of course, nothing logically to suggest the crisis would have been averted had these individuals not sold stock. Nor is there evidence that the executives had some nefarious motive to sink their own companies. But they are an easy, juicy target.
Conservatives contend this sort of populist rhetoric (similar to his attacks on the pharmaceutical companies) blurs the real issues and lends support to Democrats’ anti-business solutions (e.g. price controls or legislation on executive comp).

McCain is apparently walking a political tightrope–adhering to fiscally conservative policies while tossing in some rhetoric to show independence from business interests. Now, there is nothing to suggest McCain is not sincere in his invective toward the mortgage company executives or his belief that somehow drug companies are ripping off the public. Indeed, what troubles conservatives is that he does seem to believe his anti-business rhetoric.

But to the degree that his language does not mesh with his policy proposals (which tend to adhere to a market-based, limited government philosophy that shows skepticism about the wisdom of meddling in the free market), it will create a discordant message. And if he should be so fortunate to win the presidency, that rhetoric will pose a challenge to him as he constructs a governing agenda.

One of the policy frustrations conservatives have experienced with John McCain has been his propensity to attack capitalists and hence capitalism. Despite high praise for his refusal to pander to the public with counterproductive government programs to address the mortgage crisis, McCain has, at least in tone and rhetoric, sounded a decidedly “unconservative” note in bashing the heads of mortgage companies for severance packages and profits they garnered from sales of stock. Although these stock sales were generally part of pre-timed plans that were perfectly legal and standard practice in executive compensation, this is an easy whipping boy for Democrats and now McCain too.

There is, of course, nothing logically to suggest the crisis would have been averted had these individuals not sold stock. Nor is there evidence that the executives had some nefarious motive to sink their own companies. But they are an easy, juicy target.
Conservatives contend this sort of populist rhetoric (similar to his attacks on the pharmaceutical companies) blurs the real issues and lends support to Democrats’ anti-business solutions (e.g. price controls or legislation on executive comp).

McCain is apparently walking a political tightrope–adhering to fiscally conservative policies while tossing in some rhetoric to show independence from business interests. Now, there is nothing to suggest McCain is not sincere in his invective toward the mortgage company executives or his belief that somehow drug companies are ripping off the public. Indeed, what troubles conservatives is that he does seem to believe his anti-business rhetoric.

But to the degree that his language does not mesh with his policy proposals (which tend to adhere to a market-based, limited government philosophy that shows skepticism about the wisdom of meddling in the free market), it will create a discordant message. And if he should be so fortunate to win the presidency, that rhetoric will pose a challenge to him as he constructs a governing agenda.

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Gates vs. Grove

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

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Al Pharma

A New York Times story on John Edwards today includes this quote:

“We have an epic fight in front of us, and anybody who thinks that’s not true is living in a fantasy world,” Mr. Edwards said. “How long are we going to let insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies run this country? Every time this has happened in our country, the American people have risen up and taken action.”

This statement is revealing of Edwards and his party’s mindset these days. We do in fact have an epic fight in front of us—but the fight is with militant Islam, not insurance and pharmaceutical companies. One need not be a defender of these industries to realize that Edwards’s quote captures, in a nutshell, the reason why he and those in his party leadership are not ready for prime time when it comes to waging and winning this war. For one thing, many of them are reluctant to call this conflict a war; more importantly, they are unwilling to treat it as one. Virtually every policy change they advocate would amount to a retreat in this struggle, and the effect would be to help al Qaeda and the worldwide jihadist movement.

There are real enemies we face in the world. They are as remorseless and brutal an enemy as any we have ever faced. It’s a pity that John Edwards seems unaware of all this and has, instead, gone in search of all the wrong ones.

A New York Times story on John Edwards today includes this quote:

“We have an epic fight in front of us, and anybody who thinks that’s not true is living in a fantasy world,” Mr. Edwards said. “How long are we going to let insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies run this country? Every time this has happened in our country, the American people have risen up and taken action.”

This statement is revealing of Edwards and his party’s mindset these days. We do in fact have an epic fight in front of us—but the fight is with militant Islam, not insurance and pharmaceutical companies. One need not be a defender of these industries to realize that Edwards’s quote captures, in a nutshell, the reason why he and those in his party leadership are not ready for prime time when it comes to waging and winning this war. For one thing, many of them are reluctant to call this conflict a war; more importantly, they are unwilling to treat it as one. Virtually every policy change they advocate would amount to a retreat in this struggle, and the effect would be to help al Qaeda and the worldwide jihadist movement.

There are real enemies we face in the world. They are as remorseless and brutal an enemy as any we have ever faced. It’s a pity that John Edwards seems unaware of all this and has, instead, gone in search of all the wrong ones.

Read Less




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