FactCheck.org notes that "Obama misrepresented the House Republicans' budget plan at times and exaggerated its impact on U.S. residents during an April 13 speech on deficit reduction." Highlights include:
"Our approach lowers the government's health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself. - President Obama on Wednesday.
This gets to what will be one of the most important arguments that we are going to have about health care and entitlement policy. As Yuval Levin explains, President Obama believes that American health care can become more affordable, and fairer by having a group of bureaucrats decide what procedures are paid for and what the cost of those procedures should be.
Conservatives need to hit this very hard and constantly. This isn't about whether we spend less on Medicare. President Obama wants to cut Medicare. President Obama has already cut Medicare by hundreds of billions and is now proposing another cut of over a trillion and he is not done yet (wait until the cuts he proposes if he gets reelected.) This is about how we structure an affordable Medicare system. Obama wants to empower bureaucrats to tell you what services you will get. They will sometimes deny you services by just telling you no. They will sometimes deny services by setting arbitrary waiting lists. They will sometimes deny care by under reimbursing healthcare providers so that seniors will not be able to get appointments. Obama will try to argue that you will then have the option of paying for whatever care the government refuses, but that isn't really true. In a health care system where providers are oriented to the government as the main client, individual elderly consumers will be marginal and the costs of procedures in a such a bloated and inefficient system will be prohibitive. You will have nowhere to go after the government bureaucrat tells you no. That is what we have to look forward to under Obama-style entitlement reform (along with higher taxes, lower growth, fewer jobs, blighted futures for the young...)
In a consumer-driven system, companies would compete for your business by developing lower cost business models that can offer the same level of care at a lower price (my personal caveat to this is that such an approach would work best if there was an even more consumer-oriented health care system for those under 65 years old.) If you don't want to pay extra to cover a high cost, low success rate procedure, you have more money in your pocket. In a bureaucrat-centered system, they just tell you no and you are not even financially better off for being forced to forgo coverage.
There are several political problems with consumer-oriented and patient-centered health care reform (low levels of public comprehension, the lack of interest in such policies on the part of much of the right-leaning populist media), but one of the biggest problems is that it is counterintuitive (if you spend more out of pocket, you can end up with more take home pay etc.) The best argument in favor of consumer-centered and patient-centered health care is real life experience. That is why it would be very helpful if the Republican presidential nominee who stands up for patient-centered health care reform has a record of instituting patient-centered policies that save the government money while maintaining access to health care.
Run Mitch Run.
If entitlements are off the table, as Obama demands, then Republicans might as well make a counter-demand of equal leverage. How about a 25% reduction in discretionary spending? I can think of a half dozen government agencies which would best serve the nation by being eliminated (the Department of Education springs immediately to mind).
Let's all be audacious in our hopes.
Obama's decision to ignore entitlements is radical and reckless. The GOP should respond with an equally radical plan which, far from reckless, would certainly constitute a benefit for the common good. And when the debt continues to soar and there's (honestly) nothing else to cut, we'll be in a far better position to talk about entitlement reform.
Have non-Tea-Party Republicans hoodwinked the nation by agreeing to a "federal budget compromise that was hailed as historic for proposing to cut about $38 billion" but actually "would reduce federal spending by only $352 million this fiscal year, less than 1 percent of the bill's advertised amount?"
That's what the CBO is reporting.
Politically, Democrats are against the ropes. Obama has abandoned his first budget strategy and adopted the language of his foes. Leading Democrats are hailing as "historic" the same spending cuts they recently opposed as "extreme." But has the Democrats' faux conversion successfully achieved a grand strategy of luring a witless - or compromised - GOP into a bipartisan agreement entirely on the Democrats' terms? Has the will of the nation been completely nullified by clever accounting by the Democrats and daunting imbecility among the Republicans? Can the GOP possibly be so amateurish at politics?
If the GOP hope to redeem themselves, they'll need to deliver shocking results on the debt ceiling, 2012 budget and other fiscal issues on the horizon.
In the Czech Republic, the Social Democrat Party (the liberal wing of the government) perpetually finds itself in public disapproval on major issues, but always seems to get out the vote on election day by simply promising everything to everyone and counting on the political prediction that "you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time." If elected, they spend without regard for future consequences and consistently warn the ever-increasing ranks of citizens on the government dole that the oppossition wants to take away their entitlements.
The question for conservative Czech parties is always whether the inability of the left-wing to "fool all of the people all of the time" is sufficient to overcome their initial gains among the fooled. The Federalist Papers refer to this tactic as demagoguery, and it has rightly been attached ever-more frequently to Obama's performance as president.
Obama's election slogan of "hope and change" was largely a promise of everything to everyone. It wasn't so vulgar as the Czech Social Democrat's promises: prior to the last election, they offered post-election rewards (bribes) to poor people for their votes. Obama's promises were more ethereal and transcendent. But now that he is in office, the promises must become more concrete and credible as public patience and approval quickly dwindle. Obama may appreciate the need for such a transition, but he has failed to act in accordance - hence his unwillingness to confront any of the substantive issues involved in the national debt.
Obama isn't the first U.S. politician to ignore fiscal responsibilities and he won't be the last. But fiscal reform is the issue of the present - wars and natural tragedies have flared and dimmed, but the economic crisis and the fiscally-minded Tea Party remain. Obama thus has an opportunity to lead and confront a national security threat.
He has failed to lead. Either he truly believes there is no danger or accepts the consequences in light of short-term political gains. His first budget ignored the problems, and his revised budget acknowledges the problem only insofar as to sabotage any true attempt at reform through offers of meaningless, partisan compromises. One may disagree with Obama on any number of issues, but his decision to ignore America's debt in favor of demagogy for partisan gain is lamentable. Far from the statesman promised in the campaign, Obama is a typical Chicago-style politician without vision, courage or a sense of duty.
I saw Paul Ryan's first response to yesterday's speech by Obama. Ryan was angrier than I'd ever seen him, and his response (which seemed to have been composed in haste) wasn't that effective. It doesn't do Ryan much good to call out Obama for partisanship. I doubt any persuadable population would be won over by one politician saying that some other politician is acting like a stereotypical politician. Ryan would be better off taking Obama on over what the President said he plans and the likely consequences of Obama's to take on the drivers of increasing debt.
1. He proposed one trillion dollars in tax increases, and that doesn't even begin to deal with the long-term problems caused by Social Security and Medicare.
2. He proposed large cuts to defense.
3. He called for bureaucrat-directed cuts to Medicare. Not only will less money be spent on Medicare, but the Obama administration will tell you what services you get less of rather than putting you in a position of choosing the package of services you would prefer (and either paying for other services yourself or having more disposable income.)
4. He has specific calls to raise taxes but only vague suggestions about how to cut discretionary spending and those cuts are only planned to happen after he is reelected. This from a guy who just fought tooth and nail to prevent a 38 billion dollar cut to discretionary spending in the face of a threat of a government shutdown. If Obama is reelected you can bet he will discover that the money he had promised to cut was now needed to win the future.
5. Even with the tax increases, defense cuts, and the bureaucrat-directed Medicare cuts - and even taking his discretionary spending cut promises at face value - Obama's budget still reduces the deficit by 400 billion fewer dollars than Paul Ryan's Path To Prosperity over the next ten years and still doesn't head off the ruinous increase in entitlement spending in the out years. Obama's plan isn't only inadequate for the medium term, it puts us back in the position of having to make far sharper tax increases and/or spending cuts, but from a position of being a higher tax, more government-run country with a weaker defense establishment.
I haven't even gotten to the worst part yet. Obama's tax increases and bureaucrat-directed Medicare cuts are a down payment on the middle-class tax increases and far larger government-directed Medicare service cuts that are to come if Obama is reelected. This is the key to the argument that will take place over the next year. Obama's budget promises are a cover for a long-term agenda that means higher taxes for everybody and greater government control over the disbursement of medical services. There is room for disagreement over the details, but we face two broad choices. Our first choice is a sustainable entitlement system that focuses on protecting the poorest and sickest of the elderly and a market-oriented health care reform that allows us to buy more and better health care services for our money. Our second choice involves huge and broad tax increases, and the government denying health care services whenever and however government bureaucrats. decide .
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Quote of the Day
In Edward Corwin's famous, "'Higher Law' Background of American Constitutional Law," Corwin notes:
The opinion of a Massachusetts magistrate in 1657 holding void a tax by the town of Ipswitch for the purpose of presenting the local minister with a dwelling house. Such a tax, said the magistrate, "to take from Peter to give it to Paul," is against fundamental law.
"This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular or previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion." (Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1825)
Of course, if you determine that a function of government, like traffic enforcement or tax collecting, should be beyond the reach of partisan political argument, then you have essentially ruled the other party out of order when it objects. Pelosi and confreres believe that once any welfare state measure is in place, it cannot be questioned. The tacit premise of Pelosi's remark is that today's Republican Party is an illegitimate party, akin to Nazis or Communists or other subversives who reject the principles of the Constitution. At best, elections to the Progressive mind would increasingly become ceremonial exercises, like Fourth of July picnics. At worst, it is an argument for tyranny.But do read his whole post. It's very thoughtful and thought provoking.
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The United Nations may soon declare that "Mother Earth" (and her bugs, trees and such) has human humans. The Earth would become an official "victim" which humans have sought to "dominate and exploit." A UN "Ministry of Mother Earth" will provided the planet with an ombudsman to hear nature's complaints - as voiced by eco-activist.
So what's the motivation? Bolivia is sponsoring the treaty, which mirrors a recently passed Bolivian law. The first of the country's 10 commandments accompanying the policy is "to end capitalism." The law is touted as seeking "harmony" with nature, but mining companies and other industries are preparing for heavier regulations. As a result, a nation rich in natural resources remains among the poorest in Latin America.
Unfortunately, environmentalists see this as a success. Poverty disease and misery are a small price to pay for a happy Mother Earth. Obviously, the rights of 10 quintillion bugs outweighs those of a mere 6 billion humans. Such insanity would be humorous if it were not a major force in global economic policy.
David Frum is taking on Yuval Levin and Paul Ryan in a multipart series of blog posts. Several scattered thoughts on what Frum has written:
1. Frum summary of Yuval Levin's ambitious article on reforming the welfare state, "compassionate conservatism is kaput." This is a problem only if you assume that a marketing device is preferable to constructing a sustainable welfare state under current demographic conditions. Taking care of the most vulnerable while not crushing the economy under taxation seems pretty compassionate to me.
2. Frum writes that there would be huge resistance to sharp cuts in spending joined to "tax cut[s] for high-bracket taxpayers." Well that depends. You could somewhat cut the marginal tax rate for high earners and still produce more federal revenue depending on what you did with tax expenditures (that was in the Simpson-Bowles Plan but there are multiple ways to structure the tax code changes.) This approach improves work and growth incentives while producing more revenue for the government. Some high earners who are happy with their current balance of disposable income and leisure might object to such a change, but I don't think that is what Frum has in mind. I should add that I'm talking about general principles and I don't entirely trust Ryan's instincts in this area.
3. Frum writes, "I come to feel that the libertarian ideal championed these days by so many conservatives has become at least as drained as the social democratic idea." If Frum were writing about Andrew Napolitano, then this comment would make sense. Ryan's Path to Prosperity would maintain a multitrillion dollar federal government with enormous transfers to various segments of the population and a large defense establishment. The federal government would still be spending 19% of GDP under Ryan's Plan. This might be a smaller government than Frum would like (it is somewhat smaller than I find prudent) but it isn't libertarianism any more than Obamacare is communism. Frum is being the Joe the Plumber of ex-conservatives.
4. Frum is grateful that "now-substantial government/education/health/military sectors of the economy continued to provide some source of stable demand" Well he needn't worry as the federal government will continue to have substantial military/health/etc. sectors under any conceivable legislative outcome of our current debates. He would be wiser to worry whether the cost of those sectors will grow in such a way that the costs will lead to crushing taxation or a debt crisis.
5. Frum writes of Yuval Levin's idea to means-test old age entitlement benefits "What is contemplated is the end of social insurance, at least as it applies to healthcare for retirees: a state to which all contribute on more or less equal terms and from which all draw benefits on more or less equal terms." What is amazing is that Levin really is suggesting social insurance in which government aids the poorest and most vulnerable of the elderly while not taxing current workers to death in order to give money to old people will not need it. Given current demographic conditions, we have certain choices. First, we could reorient our entitlements for future retirees so that those whose health holds up work a little longer and lifetime high earner retirees get somewhat less, or second, we could have some kind of huge tax increase and bureaucrat-directed health care cuts. Now those tax increases could take the form of enormous marginal tax rate increases on high earners (though that probably won't be enough) and/or tax increases on the middle and working-class in order to supplement the retirements of healthy lifetime high earners who are in their middle 60s + some kind of centralized health care rationing for all. Then we can really talk about austerity.
Michele Bachmann is not ready to endorse Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think of Ryan's Path to Prosperity as a framework for thinking and talking about the reforms we need. Criticism and political prudence will almost certainly require modifying parts of Ryan's Plan. I've already made some (second hand) suggestions. Bachmann is entitled to her own thoughts about the best way to develop a sustainable and pro-growth long-term budget - and so is every other Republican presidential candidate. Even if we agree on Ryan's basic principles of curbing entitlement spending, reforming health care in a market-oriented direction and producing a simpler, more growth-friendly tax code, there are still huge issues about how to go about doing it. It isn't clear how much of the revenues from cutting tax expenditures should go to lower marginal rates, to deficit reduction or to an expanded child tax credit. It isn't clear that Ryan's Medicare reforms include enough revenue or that the Medicare reforms are structured ideally. Having thoughtful, responsible, and sharp competition among the Republican presidential candidates on these issues would be more useful than unanimity.
What we don't need are candidates who either don't have a realistic budget plan or who just put one up on their websites and then focus on gimmicks, cheap partisan opportunism, and rocks thrown from glass houses. We don't need a replay of the 2008 Republican primary campaign in which candidates bashed each other upside the head over who had been most pro-amnesty the longest, or whether having been pro-choice or having raised taxes was the greater sin against conservatism. We don't need a Republican presidential nominee whose domestic politics strategy was, at various times, drill baby drill, making Mario Cuomo's son chairman of the SEC, and complaining that Obama almost sorta kinda called Palin a pig.
Gregg Easterbrook, author of one of the better books on the environment over the last 20 years (1995's A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism) coined what he called "Easterbrook's law of doomsaying"--"Predict dreadful events whose arrival impends no sooner than 5 years hence, no later than 10. That time window is near enough to cause worry, far enough off that when it actually rolls around everyone will have forgotten what you predicted."
But in the age of Google, it is easier to go back and check on these serial blunders. So as Britain was paralyzed with huge snowstorm a few months ago a number of folks went back and dredged up the climate campaign's predictions that winter snowfalls in Britain would soon (as in, by now) be a thing of historical memory.
Yesterday, Gavin Atkins of Asian Correspondent.com notes that just a few years ago the UN Environment Programme predicted there would be 50 million climate refugees by the year 2010. And so Atkins sensibly asks, um. . . where are they? He noted we have census figures for the areas identified as most vulnerable, such as the Tuvalu Islands, and finds in every case that population is still growing.
(Hat tip: Benny Peiser.)
The Civil War & Lincoln
We have a new exhibit at TeachingAmericanHistory called The Civil War Sesquicentennial. We put it up today because the war began today, one hundred and fifty years ago. On the evening of April 13, 1861, The New York Times started its report with the following words: "Major Anderson has surrendered, after hard fighting, commencing at 41/2 o'clock yesterday morning, and continuing until five minutes to 1 to-day. The American flag has given place to the Palmetto of South Carolina...."
In a speech delivered in Germany to a group of Americans in the late 1870s, U.S. Grant distilled into a few sentences, according to the historian Gary Gallagher, what most loyal citizens would have said gave most meaning to their great internecine conflict:
"What saved the Union, was the coming forward of the young men of the nation. They came from their homes and fields, as they did in the time of the Revolution, giving everything to the country. To their devotion we owe the salvation of the Union. The humblest soldier who carried a musket is entitled to as much credit for the results of the war as those who were in command. So long as our young men are animated by this spirit there will be no fear for the Union."
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"The fundamental problem of the whole process is Democrats have zero ability to describe what our view of government really is. So basically all we do is defend the status quo against attacks from the right-wing fringe of the GOP."Steve suggests the problem for the Dems is that they've got nothing new: no new ideas, no new rhetoric--little more, really, than a stale defense of the status quo. He rightly notes that, politically, this is a terrible place to be. In electoral politics, this makes your side boring, dry and tired. It doesn't motivate people to run out to the polls and it doesn't keep the troops in the mood to fight.
Following up on my earlier note that the CIA under Obama has largely suspended detainee and interrogation operations in favor of simply killing targets from afar with drone attacks, it's noteworthy that the WSJ reports today that Pakistan is demanding the CIA "suspend drone strikes against militants on its territory."
The WSJ does a good job of explaining the politicking and posturing involved, but a critical point is that Pakistan-U.S. public relations have crumbled since the end of 2008. It's as though they know they can bargain a better deal with the new sheriff in town, and are happy to challenge his authority to strengthen their play. Obama has shown his hand and limited his options by ending detentions - others can only be expected to shift their strategies accordingly.
The President will speak on Wednesday to "lay out a broad plan to reduce the nation's soaring deficit and debt." David Plouffe clarifies that Obama "believes we need significant deficit reduction in the coming years."
Powerline rightly interprets Obama's shift as proof that the GOP have seized the high ground on the budget debate. Obama presented his FY 2012 budget on February 14, and the substance did not represent a plan to reduce the deficit. Yet having seen the congressional Democrats fold, the President isn't even offering a defense of his recent proposals. He's hoping no one will notice the road kill that was his budget as he drives forward with a new tone borrowed directly from the Tea Party express.
As Andrew Stiles observes at The Corner:
Harry Reid, Feb. 3, 2011, on Paul Ryan's initial offer of $32 billion in spending cuts:
The chairman of the Budget Committee today, today sent us something even more draconian than we originally anticipated...So this isn't some game that people have been playing. The House of Representatives [is] actually sending us some of these unworkable plans.
Harry Reid, April 9, 2011, on a deal to cut $38.5 billion:
This is historic, what we've done.
John Hinderacker: When the Democrats are trying to take credit for spending cuts (much as President Clinton tried to claim credit for welfare reform, after vetoing it twice), you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
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The good news in a Pew Poll is that a majority of Americans think the Civil War is still relevant to politics today. Unfortunately, by a margin of 48-38% Americans think that states rights, not slavery, was the principal cause of the Civil War, whose Sesquicentennial we celebrate over the next four years. But limited government can't possibly be consistent with slavery. It's best to argue from the principle of equality of natural rights and then proceed to the institutions that defend liberty--otherwise deviations rule.
Lincoln made the case for a constitutionalism of natural rights yet again, 146 years ago, in his last public address, April 11, 1865, when he defended his Reconstruction policies. There are states rights of course; but never at the ultimate cost of natural rights.
The Obama administration seems to have misplaced the "I" in CIA. An L.A. Times story "highlights a sharp difference between President Obama's counter-terrorism policy and that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured ... [and] stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad...."
The rationale for eliminating terrorist interrogation is beyond farce. Liberal criticism of Gitmo, as well as liberal exposure of secret detention facilities abroad, has left nowhere for Obama to hold captives. And Obama's prosecutorial witch-hunts for Bush loyalists in the CIA have had a chilling effect on agents, who no longer feel compelled to interrogate terrorists in light of Obama's politization of the office.
So, Obama's policies of knee-capping the intel community have had the catastrophic effect of literally terminating "a gold mine" of U.S. intelligence and resulted in a new policy of simply killing all of our enemies without regard for their potential intelligence value. I doubt this is what voters had in mind when they heard Obama promise to reverse Bush's policies. On the other hand, if Bush's policy was an attempt to win over hearts and minds - Obama's promise has been fulfilled.
Constitutions do not impress the co-author of the McCain-Feingold assault on the First Amendment (his law restricts political speech). But the institute's job -- actually, it is every Arizonan's job -- is to protect the public interest. A virtuoso of indignation, McCain is scandalized that the institute, "a non-elected organization," is going to cause the loss of "a thousand jobs." McCain's jobs number is preposterous, as is his intimation -- he has been in elective office for 28 years -- that non-elected people should not intervene in civic life.
A Hyattsville, MD K-8 Catholic school was going under, when determined parents saved it--by imposing a classical education at all levels. It has now become, within two years, a model school. Be practical, be excellent. Hyattsville is not in ritzy Montgomery County, btw. Read the WaPo account here.