Monday, November 30, 2009

Health Care Reform Summarized. . .

With the health care debate beginning in the Senate today, Washington is going to smell distinctly like a cattle yard. Let’s summarize everything you need to know about health care (in one simple to swallow article) so that you can confidently call ”El Toro Kaka!” whenever you hear your Senator drop some.

Q. Why does our health care system need reform?

Seven out of ten Americans say our health care system needs “fundamental change” or must be “completely rebuilt.” The problems with the American system fall into three broad categories: (1) out-of-control costs, (2) access to health care, and (3) quality control:
• Americans spend $2.1 trillion each year on health care, 16% of our GNP, about half of which is wasted spending.

Forty-six million Americans have no health insurance coverage, though only 7.3 million Americans lack insurance because they cannot afford it. Another 9.7 illegal aliens lack coverage, and another 5 million people are considered uninsurable because of pre-existing medical conditions.

• The American system suffers from massive over-treatment, exposes patients to an amazingly high risk of under-treatment, and results in an incredible number of preventable medical injuries and deaths.
Q. What causes our system to be so expensive?

There are many reasons our system is so expensive. First, we have an innovative system, and half of the growth in health care spending over the past decade has been the result of medical advances. Secondly, we are compassionate. A 1996 study found that 1% of health care users accounted for 27% of the total spending on health care. These services are related mainly to prolonging life for the elderly (Europe lets them die . .. euthanasia should be renamed eldereuropeanize).

Aside from this, our system experiences the following unnecessary costs:
• Medically Unnecessary Procedures: Americans spend $500-$700 billion on treatments, tests, or hospitalizations that do nothing to improve health. This is directly related to the payment methods established by the government and by poor quality control.

• Overhead Costs: Because of conflicting and overlapping government regulations, 31% of health care spending goes to pay administrative/overhead costs (this is nearly double the 16% percent spent in Canada). A reduction to even Canadian levels would save Americans $339 billion annually.

• Hospitals provided $35 billion worth of uncompensated care (for the uninsured) in 2008. This is largely the result of the government’s failure to control the illegal alien problem.

• Lawyers/Malpractice: According to CBO estimates, tort reform could reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance by $11.3 billion. Another $66 billion could be saved in “defensive medicine.”
Each of these costs is directly or indirectly the result of government interference. (See our solution.)

Q. Will PelosiCare or Baucus reduce these costs?

No. These bills seek to reduce costs by cutting $500 billion from Medicare and by reducing reimbursements to hospitals for covering the uninsured (they are reimbursed because federal law requires them to cover anyone who arrives at the hospital). They do not address the fundamental problems driving costs.

Q. Won’t that hurt Medicare?

Yes. Medicare already needs a $250 billion cash infusion just to maintain the current system, which is falling apart as more and more doctors refuse to take Medicare patients. The Democrats are proposing to take another $250 billion away from that system. They will also eliminate Medicare Advantage, a program used by nine million seniors.

Q. But it will decrease the cost of my insurance, right?

No. The portion of the public that has private insurance, 60%, will find their insurance costs going up almost immediately. Insurers have estimated that the new requirements will increase the cost of a typical policy by $3,000 to $4,000 per year. Moreover, many members of the public will suddenly find their benefits being taxed at a 40% rate. This is the excise tax on so-called “Cadillac benefits” plans. This will apply to approximately 14% of families and 19% of singles in 2013 (despite indexing, this will increase to 31% and 34% by 2019).

Moreover, these bills include tax increases on drug makers and medical equipment providers, and cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors, each of which will be passed on to you.

Q. But at least everyone will have coverage, right?

Not even close. While recent polls show that 60% of ObamaCare supporters expect to get free health care from this bill, these bills will extend coverage only to persons who make less than $14,403. Everyone else will simply be fined if they don’t get coverage. Even the Obamacrats themselves admit that the bill will only reduce the number of people without insurance from 46 million to 25 million. . . and it takes until 2019 to do this!

Q. I can get fined?

Yes. If you don’t obtain appropriate health care, you will be fined each year. If you fail to pay that fine, you can be fined $25,000 and sent to jail for up to five years (the Senate version does not include jail time).

Q. But I’ll get a subsidy. right?

Sure will, most Americans will. Indeed, 67% of Americans will qualify for some subsidy, but the amounts will be insignificant. Using Democratic estimates, the typical subsidies will be less than $200 a year, and even the maximum subsidies cannot exceed 10% of the cost of the policy.

Q. Do I get to keep my current insurance?

Sure, if they keep providing it. Since insurers will not be able to enroll new members, the pools upon which those plans are based will become smaller and smaller as people change jobs. Eventually, insurers will need to shut these plans down. Not to mention that most insurers will go bankrupt.

Q. But the public option will protect me, right?

Nope. You will only be eligible to go into a public plan if your employer doesn’t offer a plan. Moreover, the CBO has already determined that the public plans will cost more than private plans. And you may have a very hard time finding doctors who are willing to take such coverage if, as expected, it is priced like Medicare.

Q. Do these bills do anything to improve quality of care or safety?


Q. Does it really only cost $829 billion like the media keeps saying?

Not even close. The CBO scored the Baucus bill at $829 billion, as reported. But to reach that number, the CBO relied on the assumptions given to it by the Democrats. Obvious problems with this estimate is the assumption that $250 billion in savings can be found in Medicare, that health care costs will magically fall below the current levels paid by the private sector, and that people will not adjust their behavior in response to the tax increases.

Moreover, the bill was scored in such a way to hide the true long-term cost. Rather than looking at the expected yearly cost of the bill, the CBO looked at the first ten year period to arrive at this $829 billion estimate. Importantly, the benefits don’t roll out right away during that period. Indeed, it takes nine years for each of the benefits to kick in. Thus, a comparison of the first ten years with the second ten years would show a massive increase in expense during the second ten year period.

And this doesn’t even address the fact that the House version is estimated to cost $1.65 trillion.

Just looking at the numbers logically, applying the current Medicare rates to only the new 12 million people who will be covered (forget the other 34 million), will cost the taxpayer $173.2 billion per year -- or $1.7 trillion over ten years. You can image what the whole package will cost.

Q. At least the bill is deficit neutral, right?

Not on your life. To be deficit neutral, the Democrats have taken 23% of the cost “off the budget.” What they did was to attach a provision adding $210 billion in payments to doctors to a “pay-go” bill requiring that all amounts spent be accounted for rather than adding them to the deficit. Only, the Democrats specifically exempted the $210 billion from that requirement. It goes straight to the deficit.

Moreover, the House does not even bother accounting for $340 billion of the cost of its version. And the Senate pulls a trick that could be even worse. As we just noted, the CBO scoring understated the cost of the Senate bill because it looked only at the first ten years, during which time many of the benefits don’t yet exist. To declare the bill deficit neutral, it compared those costs against the tax increases which run throughout the entire ten year period. When all of the benefits kick in after ten years, those tax increased will likely cover less than half the cost. This is why many Democrats are talking about eventually needing a value added tax.

Q. Isn’t the European system better? Maybe we should just copy them?

Heck no. The figures most commonly used to claim that the United States lags Europe in health care are our infant mortality rate and our life expectancy. But, the Europeans exclude certain types of deaths from their figures, e.g. babies who are less than 30 centimeters long when they die are not counted in Europe, but are in the United States. That artificially improves their numbers. If we did the same, our numbers would be slightly better than Europe’s. Not to mention that the United States is in the middle of a full blow diabetes epidemic (which Europe is only now beginning), which dramatically skews our health care numbers.

Moreover, when you look at survival rates for the top killer diseases, availability of treatment, and cost of things like generic drugs, the United States exceeds or far exceeds the Europeans in each of those categories. Click here for a full breakdown.

Not to mention that the world is piggybacking on American innovation. The top five US hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in every other developed country combined. Since the 1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to US residents more than the residents of all other countries combined. And the United States spends three times as much as the rest of the world on R&D in biotechnology, which also explains why our costs are higher. That would all end if we changed our system.

Interestingly, the Europeans are no more happy with their systems (less so in fact) than Americans.

Q. Then why do the Europeans believe our system is so much worse?

The European media is no more honest with their people than our media is with ours. Indeed, check out our discussion of this article to see the kinds of propaganda they get about America. If you believed this reporter, vast numbers of Americans are roaming the streets looking for medical care. Nothing this guy says is accurate or makes sense, but it’s typical of what the Europeans get in the way of American news.

Q. Finally, what other effects could these bills have?

Here are some of the unintended consequences that are fairly obvious from these bills:
• Doctor shortages: First, there are not enough doctors to treat the sudden influx of people. Secondly, doctors will stop taking Medicare and will not participate with the public options as they cannot afford it. Third, the number of people going to medical school will fall.

• Failing Insurers: Most of the nation’s 1300 insurers will go out of business, ending most people’s currently existing plans.

• Hospital Bankruptcies: Hospitals, which are already in financial trouble, are slated to have their reimbursements cut by another $155 billion. This will cause many to fail.

• Job Market Changes: As the employer mandates kick in, employers will switch to more temporary workers (in place of permanent workers) and will reduce part time workers’ hours to below 30 hours per week to avoid fines and the need to provide insurance.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Liberals Betrayed By Obama!

In October of this year, I did an article, the third in the series actually, outlining the way liberals think. In that article, I explained that liberals put their faith in their leaders, not their ideas. This is why they can repeat the same old mistakes time and time again without learning a thing -- because they conclude that the failure was the result of poor leadership rather than a flawed theory. Well, things are about to turn ugly for Obama.

Here's why:

As I mentioned in the October article, liberals need to feel worshipful of their leaders, which is why they obsess over them, why they dream about them, why they trying to dress like them and eat the same foods, and why they need to see them as smarter, sexier, and all around superior to everyone else. Basically, liberalism is a cult.

So what happens when things go wrong? Well, like most cultists, they react poorly. They don’t look at the facts and realize that their ideas are wrong -- that they themselves were to blame, no, they don’t do that. Instead, they turn on their leader. They start to see the problems as the result of a failure of leadership, not a failure of theory. And like most cultists, this quickly descends into anger and feelings of betrayal. We’re now entering that stage with Obama.

We declared Obama a failure at the beginning of October of this year. Yet, despite the obvious evidence available, the left continued to hold out. They wrote articles outlining the hopes they still had for him. They talked about his future successes. They awarded him a Nobel Prize. And they tried to believe his failures were temporary and were the result of vile Republicans Judases.

But the left has finally caught up to reality, and boy are they angry.

The leftist Der Spiegel (The Mirror) outlines Obama’s foreign policy failures and worries that he will over-react to avoid appearing “too soft.” They note unflattering comparisons to Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush -- these are not the measured words of analysis, but a virtual rant against a leader who has “lost some of his initial stature” and whose policies “proved to be an illusion.”

Indeed, his foreign policy has come to nothing. The center-left government in Tokyo has pulled out of refueling missions in the Indian Ocean. China gave Obama no concessions whatsoever. It will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, re-evaluate its currency, or anything else. It will not agree to sanctions on Iran and it will not work toward nuclear non-proliferation. Russia likewise will not agree to sanction on Iran, even after we sold out our Eastern European friends. Israel won’t stop building settlements. Hondurans vote today, and whatshisname is still stuck in the Brazilian embassy.

This has become too much failure to ignore. And Der Spiegel is not alone in seeing this as a failure of Obama personally. Former New York Times reporter and former President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb, wrote a little piece titled “Amateur Hour at the White House”, which notes everything Obama could have achieved in his Pacific trip, but concludes: “Mr. Obama should have taken a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii.”

And it’s not just foreign policy either. With Obama’s policies being exposed as the unpalatable by-products of fools, and his poll numbers crashing about as low as poll numbers can (he’s below 50% in the latest Gallup poll, with his approval standing at 39% among whites and 42% among people older than 65 -- Rasmussen has his approval ratings at 46%), the utopian dream is over.

The Washington Post notes that:
“Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration.”
According to the Post, the Congressional Black Caucus is “exasperated” by Obama’s handling of the economy, so much so that they blocked Barney Frank’s attempts to regulate the banks in retaliation. Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio called last week for Tim Geithner to step down because of his handling of the AIG meltdown.

Pro-abortion groups are furious about the health care bill, and they blame Obama for not handling this matter better. Gay groups angrily blame Obama for the failure of the gay marriage proposal in Maine. Environmental groups are using language about Obama that was formerly reserved only for the likes of Bushitler.

Even the comedians are finally taking shots at Obama. . . and they’re getting nastier and nastier.

So what does this mean? Well, if you realize how liberals think, you’ll see where this is headed. They expected Obama to install liberal policies, to fill the world with good intentions, and for everything to work out. He was going to eliminate nuclear weapons, show that talk could solve the issues with Iran and China and North Korea and Russia, generate millions of jobs in green technology, end pollution, give us nationalized health care, tear down the rich, build up the poor, and make a better, nicer, happier, more humble United States. But none of that has happened and none of it will, and they are starting to realize it.

Since liberals do not view government as the implementation of policies, but instead see it as the tool to be used by specific leaders to make the world better, the fault lies with Obama, not liberal policies. Right now they are dazed and confused. Why isn't this working? If Obama is all-powerful and he loves us, why does he let bad things happen? Soon they will see Obama as a false prophet. They will count his broken promises and they will declare themselves misled.

The anger stage is only now beginning. As it continues to rise, watch for articles by leftists that conclude that “Obama isn’t capable of doing what needs to be done.” Shortly thereafter, watch for articles about Obama’s “false promises” and “lies.”

Finally, watch for the magic word: “betrayal.”

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Stimulus? They Got Nothin'

On Thursday, Obama will be hosting a “jobs” summit at the White House. This morning, they gave us a peek of what they are planning. Apparently stupid pills were on the Thanksgiving menu.

The plan consists of four parts and has a price tag of $200 billion.
1. Extending Unemployment Benefits

2. Tax Credits for New Hires

3. Aid for States and Cities

4. Incentives for Environmental Upgrades
Clearly, this won’t work. In fact, it would take an idiot to think it would. Cue Joe Biden.

Extending unemployment benefits? This is a reflex action for Democrats (like raising the minimum wage), and they can’t help themselves. But that's no excuse. This will depress employment, not increase it. The longer the benefits run, the longer people can wait to find work, the longer they can hold out for “better” jobs rather than taking what is available, and the more people will simply use the system as a vacation. So why would this be part of the plan? I’d like to think Team Obama views this as a bribe for lazy people. But I’m afraid they’re not that sophisticated. They actually seem to think this will “spur demand” by ensuring that unemployed people can still afford to buy consumer goods. Morons.

A tax credits for new hires? When has that ever worked? Last week I talked about a payroll tax cut. That spurs employment because it becomes cheaper for companies to add more employees. This is apparently what Team Obama hopes to achieve with this tax credit. But, unlike the payroll tax cut, the employer doesn’t get the benefit of this tax cut until the end of the tax year. That does little to stimulate job growth in the near term. And, since this is a one-time tax cut, there is no incentive to hire anyone in the long term -- or at all. Yes, they are cheaper to hire now, but they become too expensive again the moment the tax ends the following year. This was the same problem Clinton ran into with his 100,000 new cops program. The cops were cheap to hire, but too expensive to keep, so few were hired in the first place. Combine these problems and you have little incentive to hire in the near term or the long term. Perfect.

Aid for states and cities? Filling budget holes just like the last stimulus did which did nothing to create new jobs? No, not this time. This time, Team Obama is thinking of creating make-work jobs like Roosevelt did with the WPA in the 1930s. Talk about throwing good money after bad.

Finally, we come to the only one of the four parts that could possibly result in a stimulus effect! Woo hoo! And most of it will be felt in China or Germany, where environmental hardware is made. Vielen Dank Arschloch! Of course, I could be mistaken because this item really tells us nothing, and appears to be nothing more than the usual “green jobs” hocus pocus. Indeed, the idea of creating “green jobs” through some magic subsidy has become the alchemy of the modern Democratic party. And just as ancient alchemists failed to ever turn lead into gold, the Democrats will find no jobs through their subsidies.

What really amazes me about this plan is that Team Obama is genuinely worried about the economy (because it's killing their agenda and their re-election hopes), yet they don’t seem to be able to come up with any answers. It’s not like the answers are hidden or untried. They are, in fact, quite obvious. So why won’t they do what works? Are they blinded by ideology or stupidity?

I’m actually thinking it’s stupidity.

If it were ideology, they wouldn’t be listening to Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Economy and a former advisor to John McCain, on how to solve this problem (apparently all the experts Obama assembled have let him down, so he's turned to a McCainiac -- talk about the blind leading the retarded!). So they don’t seem to be stuck on ideology. But if this is the best they could come up with. . . wow. . . just, wow.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Idioms (Revised)

Weekends and holidays are the best times for politicians to release bad news. That makes today the perfect day. And boy do we have a doozy scoop for you! It seems that Team Obama is going to use the cover of this great holiday to announce a new program called The Media Cooperation Program.

How do we know this you ask? Well, Commentarama has a post office box at 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington. This means that we get a lot of mail from the White House by mistake -- especially Biden’s credit card bills. We don’t normally open their mail, being good neighbors and all, but the one this morning was hard to resist -- it had “Confidential Official Document Do Not Open Under Penalty Of Law” written all over the envelop. . . that’s practically screaming “open me!” So we did.

And what is The Media Cooperation Program? It turns out that the Obama people and their friends in the media have decided to try a little brainwashing. For weeks now, Team Obama has been paying bloggers to slip “revised” idioms into their blogs in an effort to subconsciously align the public's thinking with Obama’s agenda. How evil!! And now they want to expand this to the mainstream media!

Here are several specific idioms they've already snuck into blogs. Watch for these and others from here on out people! Don’t fall for this!!!
Waste a crisis not, want not.

Patience and Silence are now virtues.

A bird in the hand is worth more now than it was under Bush.

The best things in life are provided by the government.

Don’t judge a book by its ghostwriter.

Honesty is one policy.

If a job’s worth doing, it should be done by union labor.

A borrower be.

Give a man a fish because he may not like fishing.

A snitch in time saves nine union jobs.

Tax on all trades, targeted growth in some.

Terrorism begins at home.

People who live in glass houses should be taxed.

It’s always darkest because of Bush.

We don’t have time to learn to walk.

Biden’s mental prowess runs deep.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, except in Congressional Ethics Committee hearings.

All that glitters could be gold.

You can make a horse drink, but Bush made it impossible to lead it to water.
Creepy huh? Have you run into any of these? Seen any others?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Message From Joe Biden

** Editor's Note: Today we have a very special guest, Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Biden asked if he could give a Thanksgiving Address to our readers. Who are we to refuse.

I’d like to thank the good people of Contentarama for letting me address you good people on this great American holiday.

Thanksgiving day is a day for giving thanks. . .

. . . man, that’s clever speech writing *reads speech to self*

. . . this looks like a good speech. . . but today isn’t a day for reading speeches, we all know there’s been too much of that these days! *laughs* So let’s throw out the teleprompters. I’m going to speak from the heart.

Thanksgiving day is a day to be thankful, unless you're an Indian. *laughs* Not the kind that works in "a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts" but the kind that owns a casino. *laughs* I should probably stop that.

Look, I want to talk to you about why I’m thankful.

Being the party in power, we get a lot of criticism. . . a lot of criticism. Let me tell you, it comes in by the truckload! And much of it is deserved. I read so much of it and I just nod my head. I say, 'Joe, yeah, that’s true.' But some of it isn’t fair. We can’t get everything right, and some of the stuff we do will never work. We know that, we’re not stupid. But sometimes in politics you’ve got to do things that just don’t make any sense because somebody who gives you money wants you to do it.

But we don’t do that much. And the reason we don’t is because of this guy we’ve got as President. I thank God every day that we have him. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” We should all be thankful for him.

Let me tell you, he’s something special. He’s not like some of those “turkeys” you have to work with in this job. But you’ve got to work with each of them -- “even if you don’t like the SOB.”

Just this morning he showed real leadership. Leadership like we haven’t seen before in this country’s history. Listen to this. Now, a lot of people say, pardon that turkey. . . pardon that turkey Barack. .. pardon that turkey Joe. (I hope they don’t have to say that when our term is over! *laughs*) But I looked at Barack and I said, you can’t do that. What kind of message does that send? This turkey must have done something or he wouldn’t be in trouble. You can’t just pardon him.

I looked at Barack and I said, ‘Barack, you’ve got to do the right thing. You can’t just pardon that turkey and you can’t do what Bush would have done. You’ve got to give this turkey his civil rights.’ And I told him, ‘you’ve got to try this turkey in Federal District Court, maybe in New York.’ And he looked at me and. . . and this is the leadership part. . . he said, ‘Joe, I agree.’ And now that turkey is going to have his day is court.

I’m thankful for my wife too. “My wife Jill. . . is drop dead gorgeous. She also has her doctorate degree, which is a problem.” My wife. Man. Let me tell you, “I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep” than giving this speech.

I thank God that I get to travel in private planes and cars. That swine flu is really bad. “I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. . . When one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft.” I don’t know how you people are going to do the Thanksgiving travel thing. Of course, my motorcade isn’t much safer. Three accidents in a week. But I’m ok, and for that I’m thankful.

I thank God too that I’m not a Detroit Lions fan. How bad do things get before you need to like that baseball team.

I can't think of anything else. Maybe I should have read the speech? *laughs*

Let me just finish by saying that we all need to think about why this administration makes us thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving. Felice Navidance.

** Everything within full "quotation marks" is an actual Bidenism, spoken in earnest by your Vice President.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Conservative Litmus Test?

Should the Republican National Committee require Republican candidates to pass a litmus test before it helps those candidates financially in their races? Indiana Republican James Bopp Jr. thinks so. On Monday, he began circulating a proposed resolution that imposes such a litmus test. I like the idea, but I’m not thrilled with Bopp’s execution.
The Bopp Resolution
Bopp, the Vice-Chairman of the RNC, is proposing a resolution that would require Republican candidates to support certain positions as a condition of receiving funds and an endorsement from the RNC. This is his response to candidates like Dede Scozzafava and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Bopp intends to offer this resolution at the RNC winter meeting in Hawaii in January.

If the RNC adopts the resolution, a candidate would need to agree to support at least eight of the following ten statements:
(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing, denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.
** Bopp, an attorney, also begins his resolution with eight representation clauses that I won’t bother reproducing. These type of clauses work in poorly drafted contracts, but are a mess in political documents -- not to mention, these are repetitive, pointless, and needlessly invoke Reagan in ways that makes it appear that Bopp is trying to steal the Reagan mantle. Let’s just do this on the merits Mr. Congressman. **
Whether or not the candidate supports these positions would somehow be determined by “voting record, public statements, and/or signed questionnaire[s].” The exact mechanism is not specified.

Is this a good idea? Yes and no. I believe that a litmus test of sorts is entirely appropriate. But I’m not thrilled with this one, nor do I think this resolution is well done.
There Is Nothing Wrong With Litmus Tests
There is nothing inappropriate with requiring party members or candidates to support the fundamental principles of the party either as a condition of membership or as a condition of receiving funds from the party.

Political parties are collections of individuals who have banded together to promote their common interests. It is an arrangement in which people agree to disagree on various matters, meaning that they will support each other despite those disagreements, so long as each supports the agreed-upon set of common interests. Those common interests form the fundamental principles of the party.

This agreement is what forms the party. And for a party to function, the agreement must be respected. That means that members cannot disclaim fundamental principles nor can they make their support for the party or its candidates contingent on positions beyond those fundamental principles. Indeed, if a party member is free to reject the fundamental principles, then they are in violation of the agreement and they have destroyed the foundation upon which the party was founded. At the same time, an individual who withholds their support unless the party accepts some position beyond the scope of those fundamental principles also is in violation of the agreement (this is basically two sides of the same coin).

Thus, there is nothing wrong with a litmus test, provided that it is limited solely to the fundamental principles of the party.
My Problems With Bopp’s Litmus Test
And that’s where my problems begin with Bopp’s resolution. Some of Bopp’s positions move beyond fundamental principle and involve the acceptance of specific policies that cannot be considered fundamental principles of the party.

First, opposition to Obama’s stimulus; opposing cap and trade; opposing card check; issues affecting Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or North Korea; health care rationing; and the Defense of Marriage Act are all specific policies, not principles. These may be favored conservative positions at the moment, but they are hardly the foundation of what makes the party the party.

Secondly, these remain negative issues -- things we oppose -- not things we favor. This only tells us how the party would not vote, not what it would do instead. Having a positive vision of how the party will solve problems generally is much more important (and telling) than knowing that a particular candidate will oppose one particular bill.

Next, looking at our own poll results, there are some key issues missing, like opposing judicial activism and supporting free trade. And little of the nuance shown by Commentarama conservatives is reflected in Bopp’s resolution. For example, our own poll showed high support for gun ownership rights, but virtually no support for opposing all restrictions on gun ownership. Yet, Bopp’s resolution appears to lie in the latter camp. And if it doesn’t, then it’s a meaningless statement. . . at least the way it’s written.

Likewise, when did the party decide that it would become a required stance to support the military’s recommended troop surges? Are we to swear to blindly follow the military? And is there even a surge being planned in Iraq? And what is “effective action to eliminate” Iran’s nuclear threat? Why should a candidate sign up to a position that isn’t even defined? Not to mention, there is no mention of Russia or China or protecting American interests overseas? Aren’t those more important?

This list reads like a list of things Bopp doesn’t like about what Obama’s done recently with a smattering of pie in the sky solutions thrown in. We can do a lot better, as we’ve outlined before.
I Would Rather See. . .
At this point, I would rather see the party adopt a statement of actual principles, and then develop a series of policies that reflect those principles. This would be much more useful to guaranteeing conservative government than merely getting candidates to swear that they don’t like some of Obama’s bills.

I like the idea of a litmus test based on those principles (8 of 10 support would be acceptable), but would rather first see the party (1) ensure that every candidate is chosen after a primary, rather than a caucus or secret meeting, and (2) ensure that all primaries are closed to anyone who has not been a registered Republican for at least 90 days. I think those steps would go a long, long way to solving the RINO problem.

So, I would call Bopp’s resolution a good start, but it needs a lot of work.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Heath Care: The Victory That Wasn't. . .

Saturday night, Obama won a dramatic victory. . . his health care plan cleared THE hurdle. . . nothing can stop it now. At least, that’s how CNN interpreted the Senate vote on the Baucus bill. So is CNN right? Hardly, and by Sunday morning, the Baucus goggles had worn off and reality was setting in. ObamaCare is no closer to becoming law. All the impasses remain. All Harry Reid (left, fondling his package) got was a little PR from the likes of CNN to make his stupider followers happy. And the price he paid? Three Democrats got to expose themselves to their voters, and Reid may have made passage even more difficult.
What The Vote Really Means Procedurally
Since few in the press are explaining the current process in the Senate correctly, if at all, let me explain what happened Saturday. The Senate did not pass the bill, nor did it set the bill up for a straight up 50% +1 vote. The Senate voted 60-39 to open debate on the Baucus bill. That’s it.

This means that for the next three plus weeks, the Senate will debate this bill. Each Senator can have their say and can attempt to add any amendments to the bill that they want, like taking out the public option or allocating $500 million to study whether or not cows would buy pornography if they had greater access to credit cards.

At the end of those three weeks, the Senate will vote on whether or not to close debate and proceed to a vote. This is the part CNN didn’t seem to get. Unless (and until) the Senate can get 60 votes to close the debate, there will be no vote. No vote, no bill.
But Dingy Harry’s Got The Sixty Votes Right?
Does Harry Reid have the 60 votes needed to close debate? Nope. He had 60 to open debate, because that was an easy vote. It was an easy vote because it didn’t require any of the Democrats to give up their conflicting views on what the final Senate bill should look like. It was just a vote to keep talking. And no one on their side can afford to be seen stopping this debate before the final monster takes shape. Only then can they give reasons why they decided not to unstrap the beast.

Indeed, had Lieberman (or any of the “moderate” Democrats) voted “no” on the basis that it included a public option, he would have faced the charge that it remained uncertain that it would have included a public option and that he prematurely killed the bill. So the vote makes sense. But it’s also a meaningless vote. Because this vote did not require anyone to compromise, it also didn’t solve any of the impasse issues.

Just like Pelosi’s “victory” in the House did nothing to resolve the conflicts that doom PelosiCare in the House, Saturday’s vote did nothing to resolve the conflict that dooms Baucus in the Senate. Within the Senate, THE impasse issue is the public option. And unless that’s solved, there will be no vote to close debate and proceed to a vote. Right now, there is no solution to that impasse.

As we’ve pointed out before, the key Senator to focus on remains Joe Lieberman. Lieberman voted to open debate but remains on record stating that he will filibuster this bill as long as it contains a public option. Lieberman opposes the public option because:
“A public option is a radical departure from the way we’ve responded to the market in America in the past. We rely first on competition in our market economy. When the competition fails then what do we do? We regulate or we litigate.”
To get his vote to close debate, the Democrats must eliminate the public option. Yet, without a public option, other Democrats have stated that they will walk away from the bill. The Democrats have no margin of error at all in this vote, i.e. they need all 60 votes. Hence, Baucus remains at an impasse.

Will they eventually find a solution? That’s not clear. They might eventually find a solution that allows them to close the debate. For example, I remain concerned that Sen. Olympia Snowe might vote for closure if the Democrats add a trigger for the public option, but there doesn’t seem to be much support for that. Says Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist-Ben&Jerry’s):
"I strongly suspect that there are a number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option."
So at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a solution. And Reid’s cheap victory won’t help. Cheap victories tend to come at a high price. By pushing the bill forward so that Reid can claim to have taken action this year, Reid put a time limit on himself for resolving the impasse problem. Rather than having as long as he needed to find an acceptable compromise, he now has only 3-4 weeks to resolve this matter or the bill dies in the Senate. Not very smart Harry.

There was another price to pay too. Reid’s action exposed three of his fellow travelers as faux-moderates. Indeed, to get the sixty votes, Reid needed the agreement of three “moderate” Democrats: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Mutual of Omaha), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Southern Comfort), and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Perdue). Each claimed to be unhappy with the public option -- as are their constituents. But they also showed that they would sell out their constituents.

For example, in what is being called The Louisiana Purchase, Landrieu sold her vote for $300 million in disaster relief for the state of New Orleans. Nelson sold his vote for a promise that the evil insurance companies against whom Obama has railed, many of which coincidentally are located in his state of Nebraska, would not lose their anti-trust protection. And Blanche got to avoid making a decision, something near and dear to her heart -- she's under heavy fire from both sides.

Interestingly, each of these faux-moderate Democrats promptly went on record to state that they are opposed to the current bill blah blah blah. Though, I wouldn’t take that too seriously. This is just “I voted for it, before I voted against it!” all over again. They’ll “reluctantly” support closure and then oppose the bill, knowing that it will pass over their “opposition.”

Yet, this buy off has raised the anger level in the Senate. Liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown (D-SEIU) of Ohio told CNN this weekend:
“In the end, I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it.”
Them’s fighting words. . . or demands for a share of the take. It's also an admission of how he sees the "independents."
This vote did nothing to solve the problem: 41 Senators currently oppose closure. Unless that changes, the Baucus bill can’t pass. And keep in mind, this still remains only the first round. Even if these fools manage to get enough votes to close debate, there is still the problem of mixing this bill with the House bill.

As we noted before, there are serious conflicts between the House version and the Senate version. The House bill is entirely unacceptable in the Senate, and the Senate bill is unacceptable in the House. Not to mention that Pelosi hasn’t solved her own problems. Indeed, Pelosi got the House bill passed only by pushing off decisions on several issues that create their own impasses in the House. Those need to be settled before the House can pass the final bill, and they don’t appear to have solutions. And even if they do, they will only exacerbate the conflicts with the Senate.

Right now, these bills face four impasses: the public option, the abortion issue, the illegal alien issue, and how to pay for the bill. These impasses exist in both chambers and between the chambers, with neither chamber seems likely to bend.

So while the Democrats want to declare this vote a victory, just as they declared Pelosi’s vote a victory, they might want to consider that they’ve achieved nothing yet except vote to agree to fight at a later date.

If I were a Democrat, I wouldn’t be celebrating. . . I’d be wondering why a party with such a massive majority in both chambers, and a President to guide them, can’t get its act together.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Stimulating. . .

Let’s continue our rebuilding the Republican Party series by explaining how stimulus plans should be done. With GDP crashing, unemployment soaring, and a double dip recession knocking on the door, it’s time for the Republicans to suggest a plan to stimulate the economy. Not more spending, as Obama proposes, but a genuine stimulus plan. Here it is. . .

About a week ago, we explained why conventional stimulus plans never work, and why Obama’s was worse that most. We noted that most stimulus plans try to increase demand, either by getting consumers to spend more money or by having government spending replace falling consumer spending. But this is problematic.

Getting consumers to spend more simply shifts economic activity from the future to the present. This can stimulate the economy now, but it depresses the economy in the future. Government “stimulus spending” is even worse, because the money the government spends must first be taken from consumers. Thus, the government depresses the economy at the same time it tries to stimulate it. . . unless the government borrows the money, in which event it depresses the future.

Just thinking about this logically should be enough to give us pause. If stimulus spending really could increase the overall economic activity of a country, wouldn’t it make sense to start spending wildly and to keep spending until we were all rich. Yet, even the most wild-eyed proponents of stimulus spending don’t think that’s a good idea.

Moreover, by directing spending (e.g. cash for congressmen. . . er, clunkers), the government creates distortions in the market, where money is spent on projects that are less beneficial to society than those upon which the money would otherwise have been spent. This causes the economy to be less efficient and can lead to significant problems down the road (like housing bubbles).

The goal of a stimulus plan should be to encourage people to generate more wealth. More wealth means a greater capacity to spend without stealing from the future. Stimulus spending does not do that, it only shifts money around from savers to spenders or from the future to the present. So what would do this? Here are two proposals:
Proposal 1: Cut The Payroll Tax
Our first proposal is to cut the payroll tax. Why? Because that will encourage people to work more and it will encourage employers to hire more.

Human beings value leisure. It’s true. When the value of working exceeds the value of leisure, they will work. When it does not, they goof off. Want proof?

Ok, would you come work in the Commentarama file room on Sunday for one hour for free? Probably not. Why? Because you value your leisure time more than you value what you would get from working for us. . . a big old goose egg. But what if I offered a crisp fiver? Still nothing? Ok, what if I offered $500. Suddenly, you’re starting to think about it. Some of you will accept this, some won’t. If I offer $1,000, more of you will jump at the offer. At some point, each of you will jump. . . like lemmings. The point where you would jump is the value that you place on one hour of leisure.

To get you to work more, our stimulus plan needs to increase the value of working to the point that it exceeds the value you place on your leisure time. Fortunately, people don’t value all of their leisure hours at the same rate. Indeed, it takes a lot less to get someone to agree to work 41 hours instead of 40, than it does to get them to agree to work 70 hours instead of 40. So even minor changes to the value of work can get people wanting to work more.

The easiest way to increase the value of working is to cut the payroll tax. By decreasing the amount the government takes from your paycheck, the government makes each hour of work more profitable. This gives you an incentive to convert some of your leisure time into work time. As millions work more, they generate vast amounts of economic activity. They can then turn the extra money they earn into spending, i.e. stimulus, without the normal negative effects of stimulus spending because they generated that new wealth rather than merely shifting it from the future to the present. Basically, cutting the payroll tax encourages people to convert their leisure time into stuff.

But will the work they seek be available? Yes, especially if you cut the employer contribution as well. Cutting the payroll tax decreases the cost to the employer of employing you. Think about a company that employs 50 people at $20,000 per year each. That company has a payroll of one million dollars per year. A two percent reduction in the employer portion of the payroll tax results in cost savings to the company of $20,000 a year. That means the company can hand out more overtime, increase salaries, or hire one new employee without any increase in overall payroll costs.

This effect will be repeated across the economy as a whole (because all workers are affected by the payroll tax), leading to increased incomes and increased employment opportunities. And, best of all, nothing is stolen from the future to make this happen.

Interestingly, several European governments have experimented with this and found it to be highly effective in reducing unemployment. I have also see estimates that a 1% cut in payroll taxes would generate three million new jobs.
Proposal 2: Decrease The Capital Gains Tax
Wait, don’t hit that mouse button. I can explain this in a way that makes sense and that won’t have you trying to slice your wrists. Here’s why a capital gains tax rate cut will spur economic activity.

First, I’m not talking about stock sales when I say capital gains. What I’m talking about here are the gains that companies experience when they sell capital equipment, like bulldozers or computers. What gains you ask? Well, when you buy something like a bulldozer, each year you write off a portion of its value as depreciation. If you then sell it for more than the value at which it sits on your books, you have a gain. . . a capital gain.

If we reduce the capital gains tax, we will increase the incentive for companies to replace their capital equipment sooner. That means more jobs for the makers of the equipment, as more people are needed to make those computers or bulldozers.

With more companies trading up sooner, this also means that there will be more (better/newer) equipment available in the "used equipment" market. This will help smaller companies who can’t afford to buy new equipment. These companies can then replace their own bulldozers/computers and pass what they have into the used market quickly as well, which helps someone else down the line. This improves the efficiency of each of these companies, which usually means more money to expand.

The same effects will occur in any capital equipment market.

Interestingly, the Democrats hate this idea. This shows their inability to give up on class warfare. A capital gains cut generates jobs and stimulates the economy, there is little serious debate about that. BUT, it also benefits people with money, and that is intolerable to the left. They would rather that no one benefit, than run the risk that a rich person might benefit more than a poor person.

So far, the Republicans have been unable to explain to the public why the Democrats are wrong. Part of it lies in an inability to explain why this tax cut works. For example, it was obvious that McCain didn’t have a clue when the issue arose in the debates. But equally importantly, the Republicans usually focus on a generic capital gains cut, which includes the profits from the sale of stock. This allows the Democrats to paint this as a plan to let a thousand Scrooge McDucks sell their stock and use the gains to buy more gold for their money piles. To counter this, the Republicans should propose limiting the capital gains tax cut solely to the sale of capital equipment (or eliminating the capital gains on the recapture of depreciation). This would allow the Republicans to paint the Democrats as opposed to workers.


Cutting the payroll tax and the capital gains tax would truly stimulate the jobs market, would stimulate people to work more, and would result in overall increased economic activity. The effect from both would be immediate, so there’s no need to wait for the spending to kick in, and neither suffers from the problem of stealing from the future. With the economy in such a poor state today, and Obama out of answers, now is the time for the Republicans to put forward this plan.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Weekly Bidenism

When last we left our moronic number two, he was breaking laws and lying about his past. But Slow Joe doesn’t limit his historical revisions to himself. No, indeed. He’s happy to revise world history too, as you are about to learn. Get ready for. . . The Weekly Bidenism.

On October 2, 2008, Slow Joe was in the middle of the vice presidential debate at Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri, when he suddenly whipped out this little doozy:
“When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, ‘Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know -- if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”
Oh Joe. Alternate universes not withstanding, Hezbollah has never been kicked out of Lebanon. Hezbollah was formed in 1982 (Joe’s tenth year in the Senate representing the good banks of Delaware) and they’ve run Lebanon ever since. It’s possible Joe meant Syria, though he was clearly talking at length about Hezbollah at the time. And, of course, if he did mean Syria, he still would be wrong. Sure, Syria did pull their troops out of Lebanon, but it had nothing to do with the United States or France. . . it was the result of an uprising by the Lebanese people.

And the idea that Joe and Barack suggested sending NATO troops seems to be made up entirely. Not only did the incident not happen, but there’s no record of any comments even remotely similar to what Joe suggests. But then, maybe Joe was talking about the future rather than the past? That’s about the only explanation that make sense. . . that or Joe’s just a liar or a fool.

But I guess it’s unfair to expect anyone to know the history of such a complicated place like the Middle East, even a supposed foreign policy expert like Joe. After all, it’s not like he butchered U.S. history right? Like the time he said:
“When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’”
True Joe, very true. . . though, I’d like to make two corrections. First, Roosevelt wasn’t President in 1929, Hoover was. And secondly, televisions were still experimental in 1929, so it’s unlikely that Hoover would have attempted a television broadcast of any sort.

Interestingly, when Slow whipped this one out during a September 22, 2008 interview, Katie “the Brain” Couric, a television news personality, didn’t seem to know that either fact was wrong.

The lesson here is that if you find yourself sitting next to Joe or Katie while taking a standardized test, don’t cheat off of either. Just guess, you’ll do better.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Commentarama Readers Define Conservatism

Recently, we asked each of you to tell us how you define conservatism. The results are in and they’re rather interesting. Commentarama readers favor freedom and demonstrate strong support for federalism. You proved surprisingly nuanced on the most controversial issues, and you showed little support for the media’s version of conservatism as a theocracy waiting to happen. Let’s discuss. . .

First, a note about the poll. The purpose of this poll was not to get at basic beliefs; we know what those are. The purpose of this poll was to get you to explain what those beliefs meant. Put another way, anyone can say “I’m for smaller government.” The real question is, where do you think it should be smaller?

To that end, I strove to include questions that stood at the crossroad between policy and principle. I couldn’t include all the questions I wanted, none of you would have sat for that, but what emerged still gives us an interesting portrait of how Commentarama readers define conservatism. Here are the specifics:
Economic Issues
The greatest uniformity occurred on economic issues. Indeed, three of the top four vote-getters were economic issues. Yet, there were still many differences, and some surprising results.

For years now, the entire left and some on the right have turned against free trade. Few seem to be defending it. Yet, 91% of you thought that supporting free trade was a conservative principle. And half of you felt that a candidate who did not hold this view, could not be considered a conservative. I’m impressed. This response more than any other tells me that you are independent thinkers, who are not swayed by public opinion.

At the same time, only 21% felt that conservatives should end foreign aid. Apparently, we’re not the isolationists that some would have us believe.

Almost all of you (93%) said that ending government ownership of private business is a conservative value. And only 14% of you thought conservatives should support subsidies to achieve energy independence. So much for the age of big government.

A huge majority of you (89%) favored balanced budgets. But as several of you pointed out, you favor this only with a bias toward shrinking spending. This was no surprise, and I hope to delve deeper into spending priorities in future polls.

It was surprising that a strong majority of you (78%) thought conservatives should seek to eliminate the inheritance tax. Apparently, this tax upsets many of you. Indeed, this result can't be written off as merely being the product of an anti-tax sentiment, as evidenced by the tepid support given the two forms of tax reform that conservative think tanks often promote: repealing the income tax (27%) and replacing the income tax with a consumption tax (21%).

And few of you (25%) felt that conservatives should seek to eliminate the Federal Reserve.

All in all, this paints a picture of a group that supports fiscal restraint, smaller government, and capitalism, but doesn’t seem too interested in upturning the current system.
Social Issues
When it comes to social issues, everyone knows that conservatives are seething cauldrons of hate and intolerance, right? We all share the same social views, and we’re bent on remaking the United States into a theocracy, akin to a Christian version of Iran. Apparently not.

Despite the media contention that conservatives hate gays, only 54% of you thought conservatives should oppose gay marriage (that mirrors the vote tally in liberal Maine, by the way, so it can’t just be conservatives who believe this), and only 21% of you thought it was necessary for a candidate to share your view before you would consider them to be a conservative. That hardly makes us a strident group. Even more interestingly, only 6% of you thought conservatives should oppose civil unions. Moreover, only 38% of you oppose extending anti-discrimination laws to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. So much for gay hate.

Your responses on the abortion issue were definitely surprising. Despite the notion that all conservatives oppose abortion, only 52% of you think it is a conservative position to oppose abortion in most circumstances, and only 35% of you identified this as a make or break issue for you to define a candidate as a conservative. This one may deserve further elaboration in a follow up poll. In any event, one thing is completely clear, you don’t want the federal government deciding this issue. Only 6% of you agreed that conservatives should use federal law to ban abortions. That shows strong support for federalism.

When it comes to school prayer, 68% of you support allowing voluntary prayer in schools. But only 11% of you favored allowing schools to sponsor prayer. Again, this shows a very nuanced set of beliefs. While the vast majority of you support the freedom of religious expression in public, few of you want the government leading that expression. So much for the theocracy.

On immigration too, the nuance was through the roof. Sixty-three percent of you want our borders sealed (you’ll be happy to know that Janet Napolitano has now achieved that ** rolls eyes **) and 63% of you want illegal aliens deported, BUT only 9% of you thought conservatives should strive to lower legal immigration. So much for hating immigrants. . . won’t MSNBC be disappointed? Moreover, while 75% of you want employers punished if they hire illegal aliens, only 11% of you thought conservatives should oppose guest worker programs that bring foreigners to the United States to fill certain jobs. So what’s the message? Apparently, you aren’t anti-immigrant, you’re just opposed to law breakers.

The same is true for unions. Fifty-seven percent of you said that conservatives should support right to work laws. So we’re anti-union right? Actually, no. Apparently, we’re pro-right-to-choose. Indeed, when we asked if conservatives should promote policies that actively discourage unionization, only 14% of you agreed.

One area where there was near unanimity was the 97% of you who claimed that conservatives should protect firearm rights. This issue received the highest percentage of votes. It also had the strongest support in the make or break category, with 78% of you saying that a candidate must share your view on this issue to be considered a conservative. That said, however, support crashed to only 15%, when we asked if you thought conservatives should oppose all gun control laws.

As a group, you were also strongly, strongly (88%) opposed to judicial activism. And this was principled opposition, because when offered the chance to use the courts to impose a conservative agenda, all but 4% of you rejected that. Further, 66% of you felt that opposition to judicial activism was a make or break issue before you would consider a candidate to be a conservative. There is a strong lesson here.

You were also strongly opposed (65%) to hate crimes legislation. And you seem strongly opposed to drug legalization, with only 15% stating that conservatives should support drug legalization.

Finally, click on the chart below to see the generic Commentarama Platform. The blue bars show the positions that received a majority of support as being conservative views. The red bars show the number of people calling that issue a make or break issue. Would you support this platform?

(click to enlarge)

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama, Act I

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if Shakespeare were alive today? Would he write sitcoms? Probably. But let’s assume he felt inspired to write drama. And let us suppose that within the walls of the White House, gather Obama and his courtiers, Bidenio, the Mountebank of Delaware, and Rahm, the good Lord Chicago. They ruminate upon palpable bad news. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tragedy of Obama, Act I.

Enter Obama from the balcony, having orated a gathered crowd. Restless voices murmur below.

Obama (boastful): All the world’s a stage, and all the men merely players, and I, a man, who plays many parts in his time. Give every man thy voice, but few thy ear, my good sirs.

Rahm: My Lord, the people are disquiet. Now is the winter of their discontent.

Obama (angry): How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is, to have thankless children!

Rahm: I fear, in their anger, they may seek the comfort of Republicans.

Obama: Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellow, my Lord Chicago, but fear not, for love is blind and lovers cannot see the petty follies that we may commit.

Bidenio: Sire, we have most horrid news. Friend Stimulus failed his appointed task, and has perished.

Obama: Alas, poor Stimulus! I knew him Bidenio, a fellow of near infinite proportions, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne my ratings on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination he is!

Bidenio: Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Obama: There are more things in Heaven and earth, Bidenio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Rahm: Hark, Lady McNan approaches, and with her McReid, Harold of the Senate. My, but there is a foul air about her. She will be incensed for the recent vote.

Obama (to self): By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

Obama (to Rham): Something is indeed rotten in the State of Denmark.

Bidenio: Denmark? Is that perchance one of the missing seven?

Rahm: Be still they tongue fool.

Enter Lady McNan and McReid the Harold.

Obama: Hail Harold, how goes the health care bill?

McReid: The attempt and not the deed confounds us. I sent you a copy.

Obama: It was Greek to me.

Lady McNan (angry): Sire, you must cry “Havoc” and let slip the dogs of war! Appeal to the people, let them know this is thy will!

Obama (to self): Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? I shall decline this danger.

Obama (to McNan): The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my political life. To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of opinion.

Lady McNan: Cowards die many times before their deaths.

Obama: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Lady McNan (to McReid): The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. He knoweth not.

McReid (to McNan): Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.

Lady McNan: My lord. . .

Obama: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Lady McNan: This will raise the ire of my caucus!

Obama: I must be cruel, only to be kind. This is the short and the long of it.

Rahm: But soft! What light from under door breaks? It is the east wing, Lady Obama approaches.

Enter Lady Obama.

Lady Obama (singing): This throne of kings, this sceptred chair, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for us, how goes it my husband.

Obama: My wife, perchance you recall Lady McNan and Harold.

Lady Obama: Of course, I come to say good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow. And Air Force One. . . I may borrow?

Obama: I see you wear your heart upon your sleeve.

Lady Obama: Would that I wear sleeves.

Obama: What’s mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.

Lady Obama: Good night sweet prince.

Exit Lady Obama.

Obama (turns to address Lady McNan and McReid): To what issue will this come?

Lady McNan: That which we call a vote, by any other name would smell as defeat.

Obama: I shall shower you with my wishes, but I will not speak on thy behalf.

McReid: Fie, my lord, fie! A ruler, and yet a feared? What need we fear who know it, when none can call our power to account? Think of this good peers.

Obama: Be contented with my gifts.

Lady McNan (angry): Rich gifts, wax poor. Betrayal comes easy for some.

Obama (angry): Out, damned spot! Out, I say! A plague on both your houses.

Lady McNan: I implore you. Speak my lord, or thou art slain; no medicine in the world can do thy administration good. In thee, there is not three years life, never to rise again, lest you speak.

Obama (to himself): I sense a treachery, but also opportunity to rid myself of this petulant Lady, for ‘tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with her own petard.

Obama (to McNan): Very well. I shall lend mine voice to yours.

Obama (to Rahm): Lord Chicago, a teleprompter! A teleprompter! My kingdom for a teleprompter.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should We Leave Afghanistan?

Time for more controversy. I have been thinking about Afghanistan for some time now, and I’m seriously starting to doubt the wisdom of staying. Unfortunately, I do not believe that our current strategy (or any strategy that we would employ) can succeed because our policies are promised on fallacies. If we don't reconsider our premises and change our strategy accordingly, we need to stop endanger any more American lives.

Before I delve into this issue, let me be clear -- this is not about Obama. I don’t believe that Obama is doing anything significantly different than Bush did or than McCain would have done. And in all honestly, it is difficult to fault him for doing what the entire establishment advocates.

Secondly, I do not think going into Afghanistan was a mistake. Far from it, it was a necessary act. Al Qaeda, a terrorist group bent on the death or forced conversion of all non-Muslims, was using Afghanistan as a base of operations against the United States. They had direct ties within the government itself and were using Afghan territory to train and equip terrorists who would attack the United States and other Western countries. Destroying that ability was the key reason to go into Afghanistan, and it was a worthwhile goal.

So what's the problem? The problem is that there is no exit strategy. . . there can be no exit strategy under our current thinking. And that is because we are working under the illusion that Afghanistan is a country. Every strategy put forward by the left or right begins with this assumption, and it is faulty.

Afghanistan the country is a fiction, like many countries in that part of the world. When the British arrived during their empire building phase, they found thousands of small fiefdoms, each ruled by a local prince or potentate. The British co-opted or conquered them all. When the British left, they drew arbitrary lines that bound groups of these fiefdoms into single countries. These new countries lumped together different ethnic groups, tribes, clans and religions, each of whom hated the others, and they’ve been fighting ever since.

Afghanistan is a collection of different ethnic tribes (see map above). They do not get along. They will form alliances with other tribes where it is in their interest, but they break those alliances the moment their interests change. They have no common beliefs to hold them together. To the contrary, they hold many ancient grudges that tear them apart. And even apart from the grudges, the influence of Iran and Pakistan tear the country apart.

Yet, all of our strategies assume not only that this collection of waring tribes can be turned into a single country if we only impose a democracy. But there is nothing about Afghanistan that tells me that they are ready for democracy.

And this is the core of the problem. Liberals and neocons naively believe that the rest of the world is “just like us, waiting to happen.” All we need to do is stick a ballot box under their noses, find a George Washington proxy, and they will suddenly become committed democrats. But that’s simply not true. There are people in this world who worship strength, who find lying to be an acceptable form of behavior, and who savor revenge for grievances that began thousands of years before they were born. These societies function on the same level as a fifth grade schoolyard. . . power is privilege.

From ethnic cleansing/revenge in the Balkans, to ethnic slaughters in Rwanda (and a half dozen other African countries), to the anti-Christian genocides in places like Somalia and Sudan, to clan on clan violence throughout the Middle East, the evidence is clear -- the Western model of civility and constitutional democracy is the outlier.

It took us 2000 years to get to the point where we are. Two thousand years to develop a legal system that prizes truth and clear rules. Two thousand years of overthrowing dictators for us to learn how to govern without force and accept rule of law. Two thousand years of church, and state, and educational institutions, and culture working together to instill in us the beliefs that are needed for a democracy to work. And even now, those beliefs are precariously balanced and sometimes fail us.

Afghanistan has no history akin to ours. They have no real educational system, and no culture of freedom or democracy. They have no shining government to look up to, no history of increasing freedoms. They have no independent courts. And, ominously, they have a religion that preaches hate and division, not unity and peace. For all practical purposes, it is a society of feral children grown old, all suffering from stunted intellectual and emotional growth.

There is nothing about Afghanistan (or anywhere else in the world) that tells me that democracy can be imposed by outsiders where it does not have strong roots already. Their culture is destructive and is simply not suited for any form of cooperative government. Yes, we can create a pretend democracy as long as we occupy the country. But the moment we leave, they will revert to their natural instincts. Thus, our plans to create a stable Afghanistan by imposing a democracy on these people are doomed to fail. The moment we leave, everything will evaporate.

Indeed, unless we impose democratic values on the Afghan people, any democracy we create will be a hoax. And therein lies the rub. Not only do I doubt that it is possible to impose such values on a backward people, but our policy makers would never even attempt it. To achieve that, we would need to reform their government, their educational system, their culture, and their religion, much like we did in Japan, and that would need to be imposed upon them. But that would make us “cultural imperialists,” and it would bring immediate cries that this is a war against Islam. This is unacceptable to our policy makers.

That leaves us with only one other viable strategy. Break Afghanistan into parts along ethnic lines (like what solved the Yugoslavia problem), and install favored strongmen in each enclave to ensure stability. But our policy makers won’t do this either because they can’t stomach the idea of abandoning the fiction that Afghanistan is a country. . . not to mention they refuse to be seen supporting dictators or warlords. So we are an impasse.

Thus, rather than correcting our strategy, we keep muddling through with the current strategy, hoping that somehow the house of cards we call the Afghan government suddenly morphs into a creature so wonderful that the Afghan people skip over 2000 years of cultural development, abandon everything they truly believe, and suddenly fall deeply in love with the concepts of democracy, rule of law, and clean government.

I see this as a fool’s errand.

Thus, I also question the desire to send more soldiers to Afghanistan. We are told they are needed to control the country (we’ve given up on the idea of destroying the Taliban) until the Afghan government and military can stand on their own feet. But the government will never stand on its own feet without a Western army to prop it up, and the Afghan army suffers the same lack of cohesion as the country. Indeed, they are beset with ethnic tensions, they are not trusted in most parts of the country, and they suffer a desertion rate in excess of 20%. And this is after we spent billions of dollars training them since 2002 -- a longer period, by the way, than World War II lasted from start to finish (1939-1945).

It strikes me that it’s time to face reality. There is no point to wasting American lives trying to prop up a government that will evaporate the second we leave. We either need to seriously remake their society from top to bottom, or we should admit that Afghanistan is a fiction and set about creating smaller, more stable fiefdoms and pairing them off with larger partners (like Pakistan or Iran) to keep the Taliban from returning. If we won't do that, then I don't think we should risk another American life.

At least, that’s how I’m see it.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Copenhagen Treaty Collapses

It is ironic that the very week NBC has decided to insert environmentalist propaganda into its programming, their lord and savior, the Obamassiah, has decided to terminate the Copenhagen Treaty with extreme tardiness. So much for environmental dreams.

For those who don’t remember, the Copenhagen Treaty is intended to replace the Kyoto Treat, which expires in 2012. Kyoto is the utopian treaty created by the rabid enviro-socialists at the United Nations with the intent of crippling first world economies to stop “anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Translated, that means that they want to shackle Western economies to stop evil man from interfering with the environment. Why only Western economies? You know the reason.

In any event, Kyoto was a nightmarish treaty that no rational American wanted to see signed. Which is not to say it wasn’t popular. The third worlders all signed up with glee, because they had to do nothing under the treaty except open bank accounts and wait for Western guilt money to start flowing. The Western Europeans signed up for it because they are led by retarded baboons who despise their own people. American leftists wanted us to sign up for it because they had visions of recreating the paradise that was East German dancing in their heads. . . see if you want a wall between us and Mexico then!

But our politicians knew better. . . they refused. Evil Bush right? Not so fast. Evil Clinton was the first to refuse to send it to the Senate. And polar bears died. After evil Clinton left office, evil Bush too refused to submit it to the Senate. And while he was much pilloried by the Democrats for making the world hate us by keeping us out of their economic suicide club, evil Obama too refused to submit the Treaty to the Senate when he took over.

But evil Obama did something quite clever. He told his less-than-bright supporters that he wanted to submit it to the Senate, but with Kyoto expiring in 2012 and soon to be replaced by Kyoto, it just made more sense to forget about Kyoto and to instead focus on getting Copenhagen signed. They bought it.

Yet, something was rotten in Copenhagen, as we pointed out in THIS October 20 article that you all should have read. . . it will be on the test. Based on comments made by Obama’s chief negotiator, we warned you that it looked like Copenhagen wasn’t going to happen. Not only did Obama demand more cuts from the third worlders than they were expecting -- (and they were not happy about it, let me tell you! It’s one thing to join a suicide club as an observer, it’s another to be expected to participate!) -- but the Westerners were grumbling that they didn’t like the idea that they had to pay the third worlders in exchange for their participation.

We also noted that Obama has refused to agree to the limits the treaty proponents wanted on emissions. And this made everyone sad.

Well, this weekend, our dire prediction came true. Copenhagen went down in non-fossil-fuel flames when a group of Asian world leaders (and Obama) agreed that the Copenhagen Treaty could wait until 2010. . . or even later.

Said U.S. negotiator Michael Froman:
"I don't think the negotiations have proceeded in such a way that many of the leaders thought it was likely that we were going to achieve a final agreement in Copenhagen. . . There was an assessment by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full, international legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days."
Le French, however, weren’t buying it. They blame Obama. Whined French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo: “The problem is the United States, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the world’s number one power, the biggest emitter, the biggest per capita emitter and it’s saying, ‘I’d like to but I can’t.’ That’s the issue.” Sacre bleu! Sounds like somebody wants to smack Obama with his purse!

Of course, I don’t know what the French are crying about. If they really want to shut down their economy, they can start without us.

In the end, Obama’s historic unemployment rate has convinced him that now is not the time to mess around with leftist thinking. Obama has managed to lose or not save an additional 5.2 million jobs beyond those Bush already managed to not save. And unemployment hasn’t peaked yet. So, apparently, sometimes, saving the world can wait.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Weekly Bidenism

When last we left our Pinocchio of a Vice President, he had lied about his family background and his education, and shown neither an understanding that he did anything wrong, nor remorse. So does that mean Slow Joe doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong? No, he understands quite clearly, as you will see in this week’s. . . The Weekly Bidenism.

On September 3rd, of this year, Slow Joe was busy explaining Team Obama’s efforts to work with state and local governments to distribute stimulus money. Joe and the boys wanted to make various states and local governments cooperate on their spending to get some big regional projects started. Sadly for Joe, a little thing called the Constitution prevents the federal government from forcing cooperation between states or between states and their own municipalities.

And Joe recognized this fact. Indeed, Joe explained to a friendly crowd at the leftist Brookings Institute that he knew he had no authority to dictate how state governments, counties and municipalities work together to spend the money given under the stimulus. But he then admitted that despite this, he went ahead and “encouraged” the governors, mayors, and others with whom he spoke (on a weekly basis) to work together. Was he doing anything wrong? Well, let’s let Joe explain:
“I have not bent the law, but I have let imagination take hold in some places where I think it’s consistent with the spirit of the law. . .

Is that the best way of saying that?

Yes. . .

I should stop.”
You’re right Joe, you should stop, though it’s a little late. Most juries would call what you just did an admission of guilt. Not only that, you’ve just proven what lawyers call scienter, or knowledge of the wrongness of your act.

So not only does Joe have no respect for the law his boss made, or the Constitution, but he brags about it. Nice Joe. . . real nice.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Obama's Stimulus Delusion

With unemployment jumping to 10.2% in October, the highest level since 1983, underemployment reaching 17.5%, and the average weekly work week falling to a record low of 33 hours, the Obamaconomy is sputtering. Thus, it will come as no surprise that Obama is promising “to pursue further measures to create jobs.” Uh huh. Let’s talk about why the stimulus didn’t work and why Obama’s second stimulus will fail as well.

Why Stimulus Spending Never Works

Stimulus bills rarely work. Massive stimulus spending in the 1930s, 1960s, 1970s, and under Bush/Obama all failed to increase economic activity. Yet, liberals continue to love them. Indeed, it is a matter of faith among liberals, that federal spending can ignite the private economy by spurring demand. But you just can’t spend yourself to prosperity.

Liberals subscribe to something called Keynesian Economics. This theory, developed by John Maynard Keynes, holds that every dollar spent will result in a fivefold increase in GDP. For short term thinkers, which liberals are, this theory is manna from Heaven. But, as usual, they’re wrong.

Keynes’ economic theory relies on a little fiction called ceteris paribas, Latin for "all other things remaining unchanged." But in the real world, actions cause reactions, and it’s those reactions that Keynesians fail to consider.
Stimulating Consumer Spending ("Demand") Is A Bad Idea
The first goal of all Keynesian advocates is to stimulate consumer spending, i.e. demand. But this is a bad idea. If you stimulate spending by encouraging people to spend more than they otherwise would, you can get a short term boost -- Keynes is right about that -- but you create longer term problems. Indeed, every dollar a person spends today is a dollar they cannot spend in the future. So you are robbing the future to pay for the present. Moreover, if they borrow the money they spend, their overall ability to spend decreases by the amount of interest they must pay to get the loan.

So what you ask? Well that's what caused the current economic problem. The easy credit of the last decade allowed people to spend their future income at an alarming rate. Consumers were willing to do this because they believed they could tap the equity in their homes to cover their debts. Then housing prices fell. In response, consumers stopped spending because they became desperate to pay off their suddenly over-sized debts. Asking them to start spending again, simply will not work. It's irrational. . . it's like trying to avoid a hangover by staying drunk.

This, by the way, is why consumers used the Bush tax rebates to pay off debts, and why not all tax cuts generate a stimulus effect -- one time rebates (the only tax cuts Democrats like) are a bad idea.

Moreover, stimulus typically causes a misallocation of resources that can be catastrophic. For example, if we encourage people to buy cars today (see cash for clunkers), they will be less likely to buy cars in the future. If carmakers don’t understand this, they will respond to the increased demand today by ramping up production (like GM did). But when the sales fall again in the future, all of that extra production becomes a weight around the company's neck, which drags it down and can lead to a double dip recession following the second round of layoffs.

Further, by getting consumers to buy cars, government causes them to forgo other products that likely represent a better use of their money for them and for society. Indeed, whenever the government gets into choosing winners and losers, the result is always harmful.

Thus, while encouraging consumer spending (demand) can lead to a short term economic boost, the long term effects are quite harmful.
Government Stimulus ("Spending") Is An Even Worse Idea
It's even worse to have the government try to take the place of “missing” demand by going on a spending spree. In the example of a consumer spending a dollar, that dollar is something the consumer earned. But the government does not earn money, it takes it. Indeed, every dollar the government spends is a dollar taken from a consumer. Thus, while the government’s dollar can cause the same Keynesian effect as consumer demand, the act of taking the dollar from the consumer in the first place causes an inverse-Keynesian effect, as the dollar is taken out of the economy. In other words, by taking the dollar from the consumer, the government is cancelling out the stimulus effect it hoped to achieve.

Moreover, studies have shown that the government is simply not as effective in generating a stimulus effect as consumers are: it takes too long to spend the money and it goes to the wrong places. Which brings us to the Obamulus.

Why Obama’s Stimulus Was Worse Than Most

When the government spends money hoping for a stimulus effect, it usually aims for infrastructure projects. This is in part a nod to history, when our economy was based on such activities, a nod to unions, as such work is often unionized, and a nod to the idea that infrastructure is the one thing the government can buy that will benefit the greatest number of Americans.

Consistent with this, Team Obama promised massive amounts of infrastructure spending. In fact, the word “infrastructure” became almost a reflex to them whenever they mentioned the stimulus. Even now, when discussing the new "second stimulus" (actually third), Obama keeps hitting the “infrastructure note”:
“My economic team is looking at ideas such as additional investments in our aging roads and bridges, incentives to encourage families and business to make buildings more energy efficient.”
But the reality is rather different. Of the $787 allocated by the Obamulus, only $195 billion is targeted at what you or I would consider “infrastructure” projects, and most of those are boondoggles. The rest form a mixture of social spending and tax rebates, with the social spending going primarily to plug gaps in state budgets. None of that will generate any stimulus effect.

This point was highlighted when it was revealed that Obama’s “jobs created or saved” numbers were fraudulent. Remember Obama admitting that his jobs claim had been overstated -- that it wasn’t 750,000 as he claimed, it was really 30,383? There's more.

After this admission, Obama supporters conducted a new study, which they used to claim that actually 640,000 jobs had been saved. But the numbers don’t come anywhere near adding up. And many of these jobs were not actually saved. More than half of these jobs (325,000) were education jobs that were in no danger of being cut. For example, it was revealed the other day that 26,156 of the 100,000 jobs California claims were saved by the stimulus were California State University jobs that would not have been terminated even without the stimulus money. Those 26,156 jobs, by the way, are more “saved” jobs that were reported by 44 other states.

The Associated Press found that in one federal agency, pay raises for more than 7,000 jobs were counted as jobs saved. Many other “saved” jobs have been similarly exposed as falsified.

Moreover, as with all things political, the money was poorly distributed, going largely to the states that needed the least help. Indeed, a Wall Street Journal study found that states with the highest bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money than better-off states. The study also found that higher income states received more money.

Thus, the money was not even spent where it would do the most good.

Is there reason to believe that a second stimulus would be any better? No. The problem here is that the Democrats fundamentally misunderstand the nature of economics.

Soon, I’ll outline a better way to do a stimulus plan.

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