Give Rush Limbaugh credit once again: He predicted with near pinpoint accuracy that the president would take to the airwaves shortly after signing “health” “care” “reform” into law to laugh at chicken little Republicans’ “fearmongering”, specifically by declaring that no great disaster had befallen the country after he signed the bill:
There’s been plenty of fear-mongering, plenty of overheated rhetoric. You turn on the news, you’ll see the same folks are still shouting about there’s going to be an end of the world because this bill passed. (Laughter.) I’m not exaggerating. Leaders of the Republican Party, they called the passage of this bill “Armageddon.” (Laughter.) Armageddon. “End of freedom as we know it.”So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there any — (laughter) — asteroids falling or — (applause) — some cracks opening up in the Earth. (Laughter.) It turned out it was a nice day. (Laughter.) Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall. People still have their doctors.
Endzone dances like this one are the norm with Democrats and progressive pundits after the health care reform “victory”. Every one of them is as disingenuous as the president’s declaration.
The president’s observation on birds chirping and people retaining their doctors was a mild variation on his deep and abiding love with reductio ad absurdum argumentation, otherwise known as the “strawman”. For the record, I defy a liberal–or anyone for that matter–to show me where, exactly, conservatives claimed asteroids would fall from the sky or that people would lose their doctors the day or two after the passage of President Obama’s health-care bill.
But lo!–what we do have now is a remarkable revelation from private industry that ObamaCare’s provisions will cost them billions of dollars to comply with. This, because of a bill that Democrats promised would bend the cost curve downward:
Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses.This wholesale destruction of wealth and capital came with more than ample warning. Turning over every couch cushion to make their new entitlement look affordable under Beltway accounting rules, Democrats decided to raise taxes on companies that do the public service of offering prescription drug benefits to their retirees instead of dumping them into Medicare. We and others warned this would lead to AT&T-like results, but like so many other ObamaCare objections Democrats waved them off as self-serving or “political.”
One would be tempted to think that progressives would take another look at their legislation to determine its potential shortcoming, but one would be dead wrong. Instead, the messenger must be attacked:
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke took to the White House blog to write that while ObamaCare is great for business, “In the last few days, though, we have seen a couple of companies imply that reform will raise costs for them.” In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Mr. Locke said “for them to come out, I think is premature and irresponsible.”Meanwhile, Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment “appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”
The willingness of private industry to conform to sound practices of planning and accounting appears to threaten the administration’s belated efforts to sell their rosy sunshine and rainbows outlook for their boondoggle efforts. See, this is why normally you win a debate and then pass legislation–not the other way around.
If the dark forecasts of private industry weren’t enough to cause concern within the administration, you’d think that the panicked efforts of state governments to deal with ObamaCare would be sufficient to bring about some introspection. Again, you’d be wrong.
The president’s remarks were meant to condition people to think of the legislation as innocuous because progressives need to convince people that a bill that won’t take full effect until 2014 isn’t harming them throughout two upcoming election cycles. The American people are supposed to look around them for the next several months and couple of years and conclude that ObamaCare isn’t so bad. When the legislation gains full force in 2014 and the administration full knows that the health care system will really begin to sag under the weight of a poorly designed bill, people need to be hooked on the supposed benefits of the program. But what we’re already beginning to see are negative consequences of the legislation. Caterpillar, John Deere, and AT&T have apparently decided to absorb the increases in costs for prescription drug benefits and the like; what happens when private industry begins to find it more convenient and more cost effective to dump their employees into these ghastly exchanges?
As is necessary with any entitlement program, progressives rely on a confusing web of events, complex relationships, and most importantly a delay between passage and full implementation, to make it more difficult to definitively tie their programs to the disastrous consequences that inexorably follow. People are meant to get hooked on the bill’s more popular provisions, like coverage for preexisting conditions and a new federal mandate that insurers allow “children” to stay on their parent’s insurance plans until age 26, long before the reform’s onerous taxation and ponzi-scheme payment mechanisms are truly felt. Where Democrats really jumped the shark on ObamaCare is that the bill is (thankfully) so poorly conceived that the negative effects are being felt almost immediately.
The fact of the matter is that ObamaCare can be successfully repealed, partly because of the forgoing failure to consider unintended consequences to private industry:
Its major provisions do not take effect for four years, yet in the interim it is likely to begin wreaking havoc with the health care sector—raising insurance premiums, health care costs, and public anxieties. If those major provisions do take effect, moreover, the true costs of the program will soon become clear, and its unsustainable structure will grow painfully obvious. So, to protect it from an angry public and from Republicans armed with alternatives, the new law must be made to seem thoroughly established and utterly irrevocable—a fact on the ground that must be lived with; tweaked, if necessary, at the edges, but at its core politically untouchable. But it is no such thing. Obamacare starts life strikingly unpopular and looks likely to grow more so as we get to know it in the coming months and years. The entire House of Representatives, two-thirds of the Senate, and the president will be up for election before the law’s most significant provisions become fully active. The American public is concerned about spending, deficits, debt, taxes, and overactive government to an extent seldom seen in American history. The excesses of the plan seem likely to make the case for alternative gradual and incremental reforms only stronger.
And the repeal of Obamacare is essential to any meaningful effort to bring down health care costs, provide greater stability and security of coverage to more Americans, and address our entitlement crisis. Both the program’s original design and its contorted final form make repairs at the edges unworkable. The only solution is to repeal it and pursue genuine health care reform in its stead.
Maybe a string of announcements like AT&T’s will ensure that the president dispenses with his glibness and starts considering the reckoning that surely awaits his party in November–so long as we continue to make our case.
For Once, Paul Krugman Is Right: Conservatives and Progressives ARE in Different Intellectual and Moral Universes
The New York Times’ resident ‘economist’ and erstwhile Enron advisor Paul Krugman has completely gone off his meds of late. In the Friday edition of the Times, Krugman imagines that Senator Jim Bunning and the rest of the GOP inhabit a completely different moral and intellectual universe than the Democrats do. For once, he’s right.
A number of columns in various publications over the last year have addressed the widening chasm between the right and the left, Washington’s gridlock, and the “ungovernability” of America, so Krugman’s observation isn’t perfectly original. But it is the clearest elucidation of the line of thought that Washington politics is fast turning into trenched warfare.
Krugman’s view of the Bunning “blockade”:
Today, Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally.Take the question of helping the unemployed in the middle of a deep slump. What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says: that when the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That’s because the economy’s problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay.
But that’s not how Republicans see it. Here’s what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning’s position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
Sen. Kyle’s point of view, according to Krugman, is “bizarre”–even though he himself advocated such a point of view in a text book he authored conveniently titled, “Macroeconomics”. So maybe we’re dealing an evil Krugman here, while in another universe, a good Krugman had this to say about the job creation potential of unemployment benefits:
Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries
Only progressives insist upon divining the moral intentions of their opponents at every discernible opportunity, often to the utter neglect of reasoned debate. But since we’re defining intellectual and moral universes, let’s do so accurately.
Progressives like Krugman live in an intellectual universe in which it’s okay to obstruct every initiative a conservative (or, more appropriately, moderate Republican) pursues for eight long years, even when those initiatives are often amenable to progressives (as in the case of No Child Left Behind, for instance)–but now, when conservatives are genuinely opposed to a progressive agenda on principled grounds, it’s suddenly the insidious influence of rank partisanship. Progressives inhabit a moral universe where the old adage “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime” suddenly becomes “promise to give a man a fish tomorrow, he’ll stuff the ballot box for you today; suggest teaching him to fish, and you’re a heartless rich bastard”.
Both sides are increasingly aware that their core principles are wholly anathema to one another, and it is that realization that is being reflected by the behavior of our politicians in Washington. One side believes that human beings are accountable, capable, and free, while the other thinks appears to believe that election victories are free license to abandon the Constitution in pursuit of nanny state utopia, where men are infantilized and debased; hence, one side ruthlessly seeks to insert a complex web of intrusive government regulation, laws, and bureaucracies into the most mundane aspects of the citizen’s lives. What chafes so much about Krugman’s ode to the moral superiority of elected Democrats is the complete lack of a moral baseline. I’m perfectly willing, for the record, to state unequivocally that the vast majority of progressives assume their intentions to be benevolent in nature. They are well-intentioned, if horribly misguided and ill-informed. Only conservatives are needlessly and cruelly derided as clubbers of baby seals and eaters of the homeless. The conservative believes in the morality of property rights, without which the civil society would be thrust into both legal and moral chaos, soon to be destroyed; on the other hand, progressives find property rights to be completely malleable, negotiable, and to be frank, somewhat superfluous.
Krugman therefore laments Bunning’s stubborn insistence that Democrats live up to their newly enacted pay-go laws as some sort of great moral travesty, while treating Republicans’ objections to the morally repugnant estate tax as some sort of money laundering scheme. Quoth ‘economist’ Krugman:
How can the parties agree on policy when they have utterly different visions of how the economy works, when one party feels for the unemployed, while the other weeps over affluent victims of the “death tax”?
The real question is, why can’t progressives understand that attacks on the property rights of one is an attack on the rights of all? Why can’t they understand that perhaps the most enduring and sacred thing any man or woman does in this life is accumulate wealth to pass on to their posterity? Why don’t progressives weep and gnash their teeth at the thought of breaking their backs to pass on some security to the ones they love, only to have the government seize a sizable portion of the fruit of their labor? Could it perchance be because of their reckless disregard for property rights, or following the Krugman model of thinking, is it just sheer laziness?
On the other hand, there’s unemployment. Putting aside that the current situation was created in no small part by the government, what great moral crisis is created by a government that doesn’t spend us all in to bankruptcy protecting people from what used to be known as the normal vicissitudes of life? To insist the government not make the problem worse, or at least waste money not solving the problem (as Krugman seemed to think was what happened at the time he wrote his textbook) is a far cry from wanting the unemployed to starve to death. Could there be–gasp!–another solution than just reflexively throwing vast quantities of cash at the problem?
While we wait for Krugman to answer, consider the possibility that conservatives have seen a century of incremental encroachment on the part of statists, and I think we finally got our answer from progressives on the question of drawing some line on the growth of government and entitlement spending when George W. Bush tried to suggest reforming Social Security: they shot us an “(expletive), no”. So obviously, our principles aren’t compatible. We see the same problems, generally speaking, but one side wants to empower individuals, time-honored institutions of voluntary associations, and lowest-level government to seek market based solutions to our problems. The other side wants to hem the people in with an endlessly complex array of laws, regulations, and a culture that worships the power of litigation so that the government can lead us all to Paradise. If property must be seized via onerous taxation, individuals diminished via decreased capacities to earn, spend, drive, produce, and create, and the Constitution must be shredded or simply ignored to create utopia, so what?
There is the chance that we could inhabit the same intellectual and moral universe again, provided that progressives like Krugman could be a little more honest about their intentions. If we could get statists to admit that they think the government is capable of ameliorating every real or imagined crisis man faces–if only we would sacrifice our precious liberty and some of our free will–maybe we could have an honest debate. Maybe then, there wouldn’t be a need for Bunning’s blockade.
Note to Frank Rich: If You Want to Play “Pin the Ideology on Joe Stack”, You Should Read and Think First. UPDATE: John at Power Line Blog Dismantles Rich Point-by-Point
Frank Rich (one of the Four Donkeys of the Apocalypse over at the Treason Times) has a column (if you can call it that) out today that is precisely what you have come to expect: an attempt to tie Joe Stack to Tea Parties in general, and elected Republicans specifically.
Frank takes great pains to state that the Tea Partiers are a dangerous, unaffiliated, armed group that the GOP has tried but failed to coop; at the same time, he wonders why some GOPers won’t denounce behavior that, by Rich’s own admission, comes from a group the GOP has nothing to do with.
Rich apparently longs for the halcyon days when James Carville’s strategy of blaming congressional Republicans for Timothy McVeigh were at least marginally successful in undermining the GOP. Only this time, sans any connection whatsoever to the right-wing.
Since Rich obviously doesn’t read anything to the right of Pravda, I think it would be helpful if we could put the Joe Stack ideology run-up on the cosmic score board:
Hated IRS after decades-long personal battles: Push
Hated George W. Bush. “The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.” Advantage: the Left
Hated drug and insurance companies. “Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple”. Advantage: the Left
Hated capitalism, appreciated communism:
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
So if my math is right, there are far more indicators that the man was a radical leftist than he was a Tea Partier. Frank points to his supposed anti-government proclivities, without bothering to make the distinction that Tea Partiers want less government, period; Stack, like some of the more radical elements of the left, hated our present government for the fact that it was insufficiently redistributionist. Now let me think: which side of the political spectrum favors intrusive government empowered to redistribute person property?
Advantage: the Left.
My point isn’t that Stack was a leftist and therefore, we should expect Nancy Pelosi and company to grovel in front of the cameras apologizing for, and distancing themselves from, Joe Stack; my point is that Stack was a lone wolf wackadoodle who lost his mind and decided that violence was the only answer to his problems. Unless there’s an association of people who have had a decades-long beef with the I.R.S., that meets regularly, shares the same difficulty in personally understanding tax-code, and holds a charter, I’m not sure why anyone on Capitol Hill needs to apologize for Stack’s atrocity. But Rich and like-minded scribblers feel the need every time someone flies off the hinges to go around asking the GOP to grovel and beg forgiveness.
UPDATE: John at Power Line has an almost perfect point-for-point refutation of everything Rich says. As usual, Rich is a disingenuous little weasel. Money quote: “You really shouldn’t read the New York Times. It has lower editorial standards than any other newspaper in America, and if you read it enough, it could make you stupid. Like Frank Rich.”
President Obama and congressional Democrats were so thoroughly pwned at Thursday’s health-care summit that even some of the more reliable Obama apologists have given the victory to congressional Republicans:
CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
So thorough seems the consensus that the summit has almost become a test of true left-wing sycophancy. Joe Klein, for example, called Obama–who insulted Senator McCain, called the legislation in question a “prop”, interrupted Republicans quite frequently, and in general came off as petulant, frustrated, and impatient–“unflappable”:
Reading between the lines, you can conclude that the Republicans had nothing very interesting, or clever, to say (and were never able to get the President’s goat). And that the President was his usual, unflappable, well-informed self. You can also conclude that not much progress was made at the summit, as Karen reports here–but that’s a huge surprise, right?
Actually, anyone watching two minutes of the summit knows the president’s goat was “got” from the moment Lamar Alexander opened his mouth.
Meanwhile, most sentient beings took from the summit two essential truths: 1) There is no problem Democrats think more money and more government won’t solve, and 2) Republicans think that the point of government is to empower individuals. Thus it comes as no surprise that the same public that overwhelming rejects ObamaCare also sees government as a threat to individual liberty:
Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree
So what is the Democrats’ answer to their own manifest failure to mount a persuasive argument for their bloated and oppressive health-care reform? Well, it’s a two part argument. Part One: We won! Part Two: Therefore, we must cram a crap sandwich down the American people’s throats. There is something to perhaps be said for fighting in favor of legislation that carries some sort of great moral imperative, but progressives suck at making that argument, too. Having failed to convince the American public that health care is a “right” merely by virtue of our unprecedented wealth, they now resort to telling sob stories (henceforth to be referred to as “anecdotitis“) that make America sound like an apocalyptic hell-hole where people die en-masse in the gutters for lack of health care access. Even then, their efforts are febrile and ultimately fruitless. Are we supposed to ruin 1/6th of the world’s largest economic because some poor woman has to wear the wrong dentures?
Far from being able to paint Republicans as obstructionist toads unquestionably following the marching orders of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, et al., Democrats came off as rude, mean-spirited, unbending partisans hell bent on throwing a temper-tantrum if they didn’t get their way. Republicans, on the other hand, sounded well-informed, crisp, intelligent, and–despite the bluster of idiot progressives like Alan Grayson–genuinely concerned about the state of the health care industry in America. President Obama’s sonorous tones and mellifluous orations never materialized, making it impossible for objective observers to overlook the relative dearth of reasoned argumentation on the left side of the aisle.
Democrats now indicate that reconciliation may be the way to go, despite their clear warnings during the reign of the terrrrrrible King ChimpyMcBushitler that the republic would be destroyed if the “nuclear” option were used. In that case, reconciliation was used because Democrats don’t think judges have a right to sit on the bench unless they swear a blood oath to uphold Roe v. Wade–not to cram through legislation that seeks to remake 1/6 of the American economy. See the difference? If one wanted an actual, functioning definition of “obstructionists”, they needn’t look any further than the Democrats’ behavior during the judicial confirmation process for Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Miguel Estrada, and practically every other strict-constructionist nominee appointed by a Republican president.
I say: obstruct away! All progressives care about is ensuring the president gets to put a stat in the “Win” column. Besides–the American public, not Republicans, are the ones who most want to obstruct this disaster.
According to a House GOP leadership aide familiar with the top-ranking Republican’s remarks at the weekly closed-door conference meeting, Boehner appealed to skeptical Republican lawmakers, saying, “We shouldn’t let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on ObamaCare. We need to show up. We need to crash the party.”
Republicans must exercise extraordinary caution. The last time they met face-to-face with Obama in front of the cameras, the leftist commentariat practically wet themselves congratulating the president for having the intestinal fortitude and rhetorical prowess to set up and knock down strawman after strawman, make outrageous claims about the current state of the economy and the effects of stimulus, and make the quite laughable claim that economics all seem to agree with him, but none can be found to support the Republican side of the argument. It was quite a sight! The president spoke in hushed tones of Republicans trying to paint ObamaCare as some sort of “Bolshevik plot”. It would be outrageous–if any Republican in the room had ever made such a dastardly assertion. Nor can such verbage (or anything similar) be attributed to the boogeymen of the right, such as Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, or Levin.
The president took great pains to set himself up as an infinitely agreeable pragmatist caught in the crosshairs of a virulently partisan opposition, hell-bent on undermining his every policy initiative for the sake of political points. Quoth the president: “And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I’m not. It doesn’t make sense if somebody could tell me, “You could do this cheaper and get increased results,” that I wouldn’t say, “Great.””
Yet and still, the president has yet to utter the word, “great”. Hmmmm.
This came fast on the heels of an oddball declaration that the president might have supported a Republican plan over porkulus that would have carried less than half the price tag while creating more than twice the jobs, but for the appalling lack of a “credible” economist that would support Republican’s assertions.
Either the president is dishonest, or his staff is wholly unaware of the existence of Google. The president could have visited Heritage, or Cato, or the East Appalapacoochie Community College’s School of Economics and found economists willing to support the time-tested theory that massive government spending doesn’t do much of anything to pull an economy out of recession.
Time and again during the Q&A with President Obama, Republicans offered up well-worded, thought-provoking queries on everything from tax cuts, to health-care reform, to cap and trade, only to be given the most vague and ephemeral answers. Time and again, a talented rhetorician reduces the opposition’s arguments to a profoundly ridiculous caricature of themselves. It’s almost as if the president is worried that if the public heard a real response to real questions, they might figure out that a rank amateur occupies the most powerful office in the world.
Credit Boehner for knowing that the summit is pure theatre. It would be nice if Republicans could get away with the same sort of rhetorical slight-of-hand the president employed last time–“You know Mr. President, you act like our opposition to ObamaCare and massive deficit spending is some sort of plot to overthrow the government and institute free market anarchy in its place”–but they’re Republicans, so they’d never manage to get away with such a thing.
What Republicans need to do, however, is argue principle effectively. While Mr. Obama’s efforts in the arenas of energy, health care, and job creation legislation aren’t a “wild-eyed plot” to insert the government into the most mundane aspects of our lives, it doesn’t matter. Plot or no, under the banner of health care reform, cap-and-trade, and increased federal government involvement in public education, government will grow increasingly burdensome and oppressive. Paraphrasing Tocqueville, government will grow oppressive without torturing men. I have said before time and again that there isn’t any minutiae in a citizen’s life that can not theoretically be touched by the foregoing legislative efforts. There are market based solutions to real problems–and there are actually plenty of economists willing to state so, on the record! Imagine that!
AllahPundit over at Hot Air put it pretty succinctly: George Will undoubtedly gave the best speech at CPAC this year. There are three clips clocking in at about 10 minutes each which can be viewed here, but I think the last clip, where Will quotes Tocqueville at length on the topic of soft despotism, is the best:
Will is an incredible writer. I’ve known for quite a while that he is lucid, coherent, consistent, and passionate in his writing. I’ve seen numerous appearances of his on Fox News, but I was unaware he was such a gifted orator. His presentation is captivating, his comedic timing is golden, and he comes off as extraordinarily calm and charismatic.
The overarching theme of Will’s speech is, of course, the growing Democratic agenda of increased government dependency. The Tocqueville quotes are a perfect fit in this context. Listen at around the 2:30 mark as Will goes into the persistent government intrusion even into the most minute details of our lives. Enjoy.
I’m paraphrasing, of course. What U.N. climate chief Rajendra Pachauri actually said is this:
Climate change skeptics “are people who deny the link between smoking and cancer; they are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder,” he said.
“I hope that they apply it (asbestos) to their faces every day.”
No one seriously doubts the link between asbestos exposure and cancer because there is ample scientific evidence establishing that link. I might add that the level of scientific rigor that went into establishing that link was free from the annoying distractions that hiding data, persecuting opposition, and manipulating raw data tend to cause. How the asbestos/cancer linkage and global warming are analogous is beyond any rational person’s capacity for comprehension.
This isn’t the first or only instance of fascistic zealousness on the part of global warming cult devotees. David Roberts of Grist once infamously called for Nuremberg-style climate trials for AGW skeptics:
When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.
AGW believers might be taken a little more seriously if they weren’t prone to wishing death upon the opposition and drawing absurdly hyperbolic analogies between their raison d’etre and the Holocaust.