Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Numbers Don't Lie

From Howard Fineman (!!) at Newsweek:
A Democratic senator I can't name, who reluctantly voted for the health-care bill out of loyalty to his party and his admiration for Barack Obama, privately complained to me that the measure was political folly, in part because of the way it goes into effect: some taxes first, most benefits later, and rate hikes by insurance companies in between.

Besides that, this Democrat said, people who already have coverage will feel threatened and resentful about helping to cover the uninsured—an emotion they will sanitize for the polltakers into a concern about federal spending and debt.

On the day the president signed into law the "fix-it" addendum to the massive health-care measure, two new polls show just how fearful and skeptical Americans are about the entire enterprise. If the numbers stay where they are—and it's not clear why they will change much between now and November—then the Democrats really are in danger of colossal losses at the polls.
I say this even though I was one of those who always said that Obama would get a bill passed—and that, politically, he personally had no choice but to get it done if he wanted to have a successful presidency. But his reputation as a can-do guy was purchased at a very high political cost.
The first week of salesmanship by the Democrats and the president hasn't done any good. According to the new Rasmussen poll, only 41 percent of Americans think the law is "good for the country," compared with 50 percent who see it as "bad for the country." Last week the ratio was 41–49 percent. Sixty percent think the measure is "likely to increase the deficit"—also a figure unchanged from last week.

Some polling experts suggest Rasmussen's "house effect" tilts slightly conservative. But if you don't want to take Scott Rasmussen's word for it, you're not going to get much solace from Gallup, still the biggest brand in the business.

In Gallup's new poll, Americans by narrow margins agree that the new health-care law will improve coverage (44–40 percent) and the "overall health of Americans" (40–35 percent). In a way, it's astonishing that sizable minorities could disagree with those two statements, since everyone agrees the law will provide medical coverage to 32 million more Americans.

But that's where support, however ambivalent, ends. Americans think the law will harm the U.S. economy (44–34 percent), the overall quality of health care in the U.S. (55–29 percent), and the federal balance sheet (61–23 percent).

It's almost as bad when you ask voters how the law will affect them personally. There is lots of doubt and some considerable belief (or hope) that the new law won't affect them at all. But respondents who said the measure would affect them generally fear what that change would be. They think the measure would adversely affect "the health-care coverage you and your family receive" (34–24 percent); "the quality of health care you and your family receive" (35–21 percent); and the "costs you and your family pay for health care: (50–21 percent).

I know that the president and his advisers want to "pivot" to other topics—economic development, jobs, energy, and foreign policy. They're content, for now, to focus on solidifying their Democratic base. I'm sure that Obama, who plays a deep and patient game, figures that the country—including independents, who won it for him in 2008—will eventually come back, at least by 2012.

But he's dug himself a partisan hole with this big bill, and it'll be interesting to see him try to dig his way out.

I know I will be branded as a "hate speccher" but WE NEED TO BURY  OBAMA IN THIS PARTISAN HOLE!! (FIGURATIVELY, OF COURSE)-SP

Video: Letterman’s shocking interview with a tea-party leader

Now, compare this with the previous post and ask yourself (or better still, ask the Main Stream Media) who are the "radical, racist, hate spewing, wignuts"?  From Hot Air:

No joke; this is a near-jawdropper. Even an apolitical mag like Entertainment Weekly calls it “quietly remarkable.” I don’t know what Letterman had in mind by booking her. Maybe he thought he was going to lure her into some sort of gotcha that would prove tea partiers are freaks, or maybe he was just interested in engaging someone from the other side’s grassroots — although he’s never done that before, to my knowledge. Whatever the reason, this ends up being one of the most efficient (if possibly inadvertent) debunkings of tea-party craziness to ever hit big media. Like Ace says, this woman comes off as a kindly aunt, soft-spoken and, per her own description, pacifistic. Even her one flirtation with fringiness, in what she says about Obama’s birth certificate, doesn’t go very far. She’s virtually the antithesis of the media narrative about tea partiers; imagine the surprise of the casual news watcher who’s been told the tea party is some kind of militia tuning into this. How on earth did she end up on this show?

Video: Remember when the media thought hateful political rhetoric was cool?

At Hot Air:
Hint: It wasn’t that long ago, although given the blackout on this sort of thing at the time, you can’t blame people like Gibbsy for thinking that it never happened. This trip down memory lane comes from Evan Coyne Maloney, not as an apology for recent threats against the Democrats, of course, but as an indictment of the insane double standard practiced by the establishment left in raising alarms about irresponsible rhetoric. How insane? Take two minutes and work your way through this post at Verum Serum. It’s worth it. (There’s even a Palin angle!) The open question is why the double standard exists in the first place. Fear of the threat from militias, which the FBI says is exaggerated? Secret agreement among mainstream lefties that Bush really might have aspired to be a new Hitler? Or is it good ol’ fashioned partisan political advantage at work? As you might have guessed, I’ll take what’s behind door number three.

Frustrating, Stubborn Facts

From Tony Blankley at RealClearPolitics:
The late, splendid Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously asserted, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." The senator was wrong. (Of course, for those of us who still believe that objectivity is objective, a fact is still a fact, though the heavens may fall.)

The key word here is "entitled." In today's entitlement-crazy Washington, not only do folks believe that about half the country is entitled to other people's money and health insurance policies, they feel they are entitled to their own facts to support their claim to their own entitlement to other people's money and health insurance policies.
Not only that, they believe they are entitled to their own facts to describe the character and conduct of their political opponents. The Democratic Party collectively smeared scores of millions of American Tea Party participants as racist, homophobic, violent terrorists in the absence of a single verified fact in support of even one such incident being attributable to a single individual. Nor did their media pals even bother with the word "alleged."
At a more personal level, two prominent liberal magazines led their readers to believe (as evidenced by multiple reader comments) that in one of my columns last week, I plagiarized Winston Churchill's most famous speech as my own -- despite the fact that I expressly stated immediately before and immediately after the paraphrase that I was paraphrasing Churchill's "Finest Hour" speech from June 1940. I even stated that I apologized for paraphrasing his immortal words. New Republic did have the decency to correct that misimpression after I wrote to complain. The other magazine I will leave in its obscurity.

Not only was Moynihan wrong, so was John Adams, who said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. ("Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials," December 1770).

Though he may have been correct technically -- the facts cannot be altered in the eyes of God -- he was wrong to the extent that the facts cannot be altered in the eyes of the public.

The advocates of the new "thing" that was passed a week ago Sunday and signed into law by the chief executive claimed it would reduce the deficit by $140 billion over the first 10 years. No informed person believes that "fact." Also, fairly happily, according to Sunday's Washington Post poll, 65 percent of the public think the new law will increase the budget deficit.

Still, that leaves 35 percent (or close to 100 million Americans, counting the kids) who either believe the incorrect "fact," think the law will be budget-neutral or are otherwise confused.

So, currently, the fact that it will increase the deficit by at least half-a-trillion dollars (probably much more) rather than reduce it by $140 billion is just 65 percent stubborn. It will be interesting to see, seven months from now, how stubborn that fact will be. How effectively the advocates of the non-fact "communicate" to the people -- and how effective the rest of us are -- will determine whether it will be more or less than just 65 percent stubborn. And remember, American elections tend to be won or lost on the margin. If 30 percent of the voters are motivated by incorrect "facts" to vote, that may well be enough for them to be the winners -- who, as many cynics claim -- get to write the history.

Of course, it is not a novelty of our time that there is often a struggle over convincing the public of the truth. As has been said, "A lie is halfway 'round the world before truth has got its boots on." (Attention liberal journalists: I am not claiming that phrase as my own. It is a loose translation from Virgil's "Aeneid": "Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius alium," which itself was paraphrased by Shakespeare in the introduction of "Henry IV," Part 2.)

So, we have a jolly seven-month public match over both economic and political theory -- and the honest facts -- with the advocates of the monstrosity that we dare not call by its name. (Last week I quite upset more than 800 digital "commenters" at the Huffington Post -- and thousands of other friendly, if often obscene and contemptuous, e-mailers -- because I used the word "socialism" to describe a government-designed, -taxed, -deeply regulated and -mandated program that will hire 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure we enjoy the benefits the federals require we pay the government to receive.

We're in for quite a brawl. (Note to Democratic Party talking-points drafts people: I am using the word "brawl" as a metaphor.) I am not calling for violence against your dainty selves, so you can come out from pretending to be trembling under your desks and bask in the physical safety of debating Republicans, conservatives, Tea Party folks and other fine Americans. After all, when was the last time you saw thousands of us filthy-rich, middle-aged, paunchy white guys from gated communities riot? (With the possible exception of the first day of the 30-percent-off sale for Bermuda shorts at the country club golf shop. "Where are the 40s?")

Come out, come out where ever you are, my little pretties. We want to debate the facts, not duck your mud balls. What are you afraid of? Admittedly, the truth may hurt you -- but only metaphorically. And, as the phrase goes, the truth will set us (even you) free.

Debt dangers

When Warren Buffett looks safer than Uncle Sam

From The Chicago Tribune:
For many decades, U.S. government securities have been the epitome of safe, dull investments. If you wanted to be absolutely positive you'd get your money back and then some, Treasury bills were the way to go. Right now, lots of Americans who put their money into big mortgages or stocks a decade ago wish they had gone the more mundane route.

But it's mundane no more. With federal budget deficits running wild, investors are growing uneasy at the idea of lending money to an institution that seems unable to stop spending beyond its means. Last month, something extraordinary happened: Two-year bonds offered by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. commanded lower yields than those offered by the U.S. government. As put it, "The bond market is saying that it's safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama."

That may sound common-sensical — Buffett has experience at meeting payrolls, while Obama does not — but it's actually a surprising perception. Berkshire Hathaway, after all, conceivably could make so many mistakes that it runs out of money and closes down. But the U.S. government is not about to run out of money, even if it keeps overspending.

Why not? First, it can appropriate more of its citizens' earnings through the tax system. Second, and more important, it can print money to pay its bills. Warren Buffett doesn't have those options.

So it's hard to see why investors would be leery. Well, actually, it's not so hard: The federal government is digging itself deeper into debt every month and intends to keep doing so indefinitely.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office offers a prognosis: "Under the president's budget, debt held by the public would grow from $7.5 trillion (53 percent of GDP) at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion (90 percent of GDP) at the end of 2020." Interest payments would quadruple. (my emphasis-SP)

The long-term problem here is not that the government eventually would default on its obligations. The danger is that it would create money to make those debts payable, a course that would lead to much higher inflation. Then, yields on even impeccable corporate bonds would climb with those of T-bills.

The economy would also suffer as businesses and households scrambled to cope with the disruptive effects of soaring prices. It would suffer again if and when the government decided to curb inflation by driving up interest rates — a step that virtually guarantees a sharp downturn.

Frightened investors may be wrong to think they're less likely to get their money back from the government than from Buffett's Berkshire.

But they're not wrong to be frightened.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leftism, the Religion

From Dennis Prager at NRO:
Many Americans find it difficult to understand why Jews on the left, including many who would call themselves “liberal” rather than “left,”continued to enthusiastically support President Obama after the revelations about the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the president’s religious mentor and close friend. This confusion is all the greater now that President Obama has humiliated the Israeli prime minister and created the tensest moment in U.S.-Israel relations in memory.

Likewise, many Americans wonder how Democratic congressmen who claim to be faithful, pro-life Catholics could vote for a health-care bill that allows for federal funding of abortions after opposing it up to the last day.

There is an explanation.

Leftism, though secular, must be understood as a religion (which is why I have begun capitalizing it). The Leftist value system’s hold on its adherents is as strong as the hold Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have on theirs. Nancy Pelosi’s belief in expanding the government’s role in American life, which inspired her passion for the health-care bill, is as strong as a pro-life Christian’s belief in the sanctity of the life of the unborn.

Given the religious nature and the emotional power of Leftist values, Jews and Christians on the Left often derive their values from the Left more than from their religion.

Now, most Leftist Jews and Christians will counter that Leftist values cannot trump their religion’s values because Leftist values are identical to their religion’s. But this argument only reinforces my argument that Leftism has conquered the Christianity and the Judaism of Leftist Christians and Jews. If there is no difference between Leftist moral values and those of Judaism or Christianity, then Christianity is little more than Leftism with “Jesus” rhetoric and Judaism is Leftism with Jewish terms — such as “Tikkun Olam” (“repairing the world”) and “Prophetic values.”

But if Christianity is, morally speaking, really Leftism, why didn’t Catholics and Protestants assert these values before 19th century European Leftism came along? And, if Judaism is essentially a set of Left-wing values, does that mean that the Torah and the Talmud are Leftist documents? Or are the two pillars of Judaism generally wrong?

More questions:
Why are almost no Christians and Jews who believe that God is the author of the Bible (or, in the case of Jews, the Torah) on the Left?
Why are so few pro-life Catholics and Protestants on the Left? Do they not care about the poor?

Of course, that is what people on the Left believe. As the former head of the Democratic party, Howard Dean, said, “In contradistinction to the Republicans, we don’t think kids ought to go to bed hungry at night.”

They believe such things despite the fact that traditional Protestants and Catholics have created more institutions to take care of the sick and needy than probably any other group in the world, and despite the fact that religious Americans give more charity and volunteer more time than secular Americans do.

And why have the great majority of Orthodox Jews rejected the Left? For Jews on the Left, the explanation is simple: Orthodox Jews have primitive beliefs and, therefore, primitive values.

For the Leftist, all opposition to the Left, secular or religious, is primitive and usually worse (Racist, Sexist, Homophobic, Xenophobic, Ignorant, Bigoted, Intolerant, Mean-Spirited, etc.). So this doesn’t tell us much. What might tell us much? This: With a handful of exceptions, Orthodox Jews know Judaism far better than non-Orthodox Jews do. Given how few of them are Leftist, this would suggest that Judaism and Leftism are indeed in conflict.

But that doesn’t matter to most Jews on the Left, because to be a good person (and, to those for whom it matters, to be a good Jew), one need not know Judaism, let alone follow Judaism. One needs only to feel what is right (Leftism is overwhelmingly based on feeling); and, when in doubt, one can determine what is right from the New York Times, not from sacred Jewish texts.

One of the many fundamental differences between Leftism and Judaism concerns evil. Jews and others on the Left (everywhere, not just in America) have a real problem identifying, let alone confronting, evil. Yet, for Judaism, identifying and confronting evil is as basic a Jewish value as exists. That is why, for example, there is no pacifist tradition in Judaism.

Regarding evil, the Psalmist writes — and this is recited in synagogue every Sabbath — “Those who love God — hate evil.” As regards pacifism, one of the Prophets, Joel (3:10), inverts what became the much more famous quotation of Isaiah and Micah: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” And later, the Talmud, almost equivalent in importance to the Bible, teaches (Berakhot 58a): “The Torah has said: If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.”

In contrast, Leftists, including Leftist Jews and Christians:

Were the loudest in condemning Pres. Ronald Reagan when he labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

Devoted much of their lives to opposing the war in Vietnam, which they labeled immoral even though it was a war against Stalinist tyranny.

Opposed deposing the mass murderer Saddam Hussein; many even opposed the Gulf War.

Believe that the moral wasteland known as the United Nations, not the United States, is, or must be, the greatest force for good on earth.

Oppose allowing the American military to recruit on campuses.

And the farther Left one goes, the more one sees demonization of free Israel and support for the dictatorships that wish to destroy Israel.

Indeed, Israel provides the clearest proof of how Leftism is stronger than the Jewishness of most Jews on the Left. Israel is threatened with a Holocaust by Iran and tens of millions of Islamic supporters outside of Iran, and Palestinian society is saturated with the most virulent Jew-hatred since that of the Nazis. Yet while today’s Jew- and Israel-haters call the Left home, Jews on the Left continue to be proud members of the Left. Such is the power of Leftism, the most dynamic religion in the world for the last 150 years.

And that explains Bart Stupak’s vote, too. In his inner conflict between Catholicism and Leftism, the more dynamic religion won.

Why the Health Care Bill Could Be Repealed

Talking points from Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics via Hot Air:
The punditocracy has recently been consumed with a debate over whether or not the Republicans will be able to repeal the recently-passed health care bill. Outside of self-professed conservative pundits, the conventional wisdom seems to be that the odds are prohibitively against repeal (or significant modification).

This Politico article typifies the attitude of those who doubt that repeal can be effectuated. It argues that the current outrage over the health care bill is merely a part of a "familiar pattern since New Deal days: Government programs from Social Security to Medicare that were launched amid incendiary arguments within a short time became sacrosanct - protected by a bipartisan consensus that was nowhere to be found at passage."

This is certainly one possible outcome for the President's health care bill, but it isn't the only one. Here is why repeal is a real possibility.

1. This bill is substantively different than Social Security and Medicare.

My colleague Jay Cost made a critical point a few days ago:

Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson made use of an ingenious social insurance system - promoting the idea that we all pay in today to take out tomorrow. It was consistent with American individualism. It was simple. It was intuitive. It was bipartisan. Obama's new system has none of those virtues.

This feature is what makes repealing or substantially modifying Social Security and/or Medicare so difficult. They are entitlements that are broadly given to the middle class, who also pays for them. To the extent these programs are redistributive, that redistribution is largely hidden. Everyone, from the poorest member of society to Bill Gates, has some stake in Social Security and Medicare.

By the time a member of the middle class retires at age 65, he will have likely paid tens of thousands of dollars into the Social Security system. He expects to get that money back. The same goes for Medicare, which is funded by a smaller tax than Social Security (though unlike Social Security, that tax is not subject to an annual income cap), and is similarly available to all elderly Americans. In other words, cutting Social Security or Medicare requires taking something away from the middle class that they've already paid for. That's obviously hard to do.

While this bill was intended to be a broad middle class entitlement in the mold of Social Security and Medicare, it is fundamentally different. It is funded by a variety of mechanisms that target specific stakeholders. It is paid for primarily by Medicare beneficiaries and the wealthy, neither of whom are likely to receive the benefits. While beneficiaries will have a stake in the program, it will not be as substantial as their stake in their Medicare or Social Security benefits, which they have already essentially "bought" by the time they approach retirement.

Moreover, this bill will have a smaller number of beneficiaries, especially at first. Democrats like to brag that in the weeks after the bill has passed, the ban on pre-existing conditions will be lifted for children, adults with pre-existing conditions will be allowed to participate in high-risk insurance pools, and adults will be able to maintain their children on their insurance until those children turn twenty-six.

These are popular features of the bill, but I'm not certain how broad their appeal is. Most people do not have pre-existing conditions that they know of, nor do they have children with pre-existing conditions (for whatever it is worth, I fall personally in the former category, and via my son into the latter). I've not seen statistics on the number of parents who would like to keep their children on their insurance policies, but I imagine the number is relatively small compared to the vast number of people who are eligible for Medicare or Social Security.

Indeed, the central difficulty that the bill will run up against is the same one it has run up against all along: most people already have health insurance, and most people are basically happy with their insurance. While a number of Americans will enjoy receiving subsidies for purchasing health care on the exchanges (in 2014), many of the 30 million Americans who will be covered by this bill are Americans who could buy health insurance today, but choose not to.

For a comparatively small number of obvious beneficiaries, the bill creates a number of real losers as well: People who participate in Medicare Advantage, healthy people who would rather not purchase insurance, and people whose employers stop providing health insurance as a result of the bill, to name a few examples.

2. This bill is more similar to government programs that Congresses have repealed.

Programs that are perceived as broad middle class entitlements do tend to become untouchable. With programs that are perceived as social insurance or redistribution mechanisms, though, the track record is spottier. The idea that Congress never repeals programs once they have begun is unsupported by history. Congress repealed a large portion of the New Deal in the 1940s, and substantial portions of the Great Society were gutted as well; there is a reason that the WPA, CCC, and OEO are referred to only in history books.

Indeed, even the idea that Medicare is sacrosanct is belied by the substantial cuts to Medicare Advantage to fund the present health bill. Congress also substantially transformed a relatively unpopular redistributive entitlement program in 1996, when it reworked AFDC.

But the biggest elephant in the room is alluded to at the end of the Politico article: The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. It passed 360 to 66 in the House and by a similarly large margin in the Senate. It was signed into law by President Reagan in June of 1988.

The problems with the bill were many. There wasn't much real demand for the bill, nor was there substantial demand for the benefits it offered, such as a ceiling on doctor bills, larger payments for nursing home care, and a prescription drug benefit. Many people on Medicare already had plans offering these benefits. It was paid for by a surtax on elderly people with incomes over $35,000, thus removing the traditional Medicare hook that recipients had already paid for the benefit their entire lives. And it was the subject of an intense disinformation campaign by opponents.

The results are legendary. 6,000 members resigned from the AARP in protest of its support of the bill. Congressmen returned home to hordes of angry elderly voters in town hall meetings. Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was chased down the street outside of his office by a mob of angry voters. Members blamed the disinformation campaign, the complexity of the bill, and their failure to explain it well. Regardless, they ultimately repealed the bill in 1989.

While no analogy is perfect, this health care bill more closely resembles the 1988 bill than it does original Medicare or Social Security. It is amazingly complex, is not understood well by its purported beneficiaries, and many, if not most, of its intended beneficiaries already receive benefits in one form or another. It creates real losers as well, as described above. Unlike the 1988 legislation, there is little bipartisan support for the present bill; there is some bipartisan opposition. Most importantly, there is no overwhelming demand for today's particular legislation. People want health care reform, but it polls fairly low on most people's priority list, and most polling shows that voters are more concerned with controlling costs than with expanding coverage. Today's bill focuses on the former and indeed will increase costs for a substantial number of voters.

3. This bill starts on a different footing than Social Security or Medicare.

Perhaps most importantly, the premise that Social Security and Medicare started out as extremely controversial programs is incorrect. Social Security and Medicare had their detractors, to be certain, but they were nowhere near as controversial as the present bill. Both programs passed with significant support from the minority party. I have yet to read stories of Congressmen being assailed at town hall meetings by angry constituents after voting for Social Security or Medicare. I know of no major push in Congress to repeal either program in subsequent Congresses, notwithstanding major gains by the opposition party shortly after their passage.

The American people didn't grow to love Social Security or Medicare. Those programs had the people at "hello." That is certainly not the case with the recent health care bill.

4. Conservatives may have the votes to repeal the bill.

Finally, there is a substantial chance that Republicans will have the votes in the next few years to make significant changes to the programs, before the real benefits become payable in 2014. While control of the Senate remains a long shot for Republicans in 2010, Republicans should be favored to take that body over in 2012. If the political environment remains toxic for Democrats, the Republicans could even gain a filibuster-proof majority in 2012 or 2014. And while it is far too early to pass judgment on Barack Obama's re-election prospects, Republicans probably have no worse than a 40% chance of defeating him in 2012; if they do they will probably control the House and have a substantial majority in the Senate in 2013.

But even if they don't gain control of the government, a coalition to repeal the bill or (more likely) effectuate major changes to the legislation is not out of the question. There are twenty-three Democrats up for re-election in 2012, and twenty in 2014. Of those forty-three Senators (almost 2/3 of the total seats up), ten are from states John McCain carried, and additional eleven are from states George W. Bush carried at least once, while seven more are from states Bush came four points or less from carrying. That is a huge number of potentially vulnerable Senators up in the next two cycles; it eclipses the two Senators from McCain states up this cycle (three more are from Bush states, and an additional three are from Bush-near-miss states).

These Senators could afford to vote for the bill in 2010 partly because their elections were a long way off. They also did so because the White House could argue that the bill's popularity would turn around, and that the White House could pull vulnerable Senators and Congressmen over the finish line. But if the Republicans have an outstanding 2010, the White House's argument will have been tested and will have failed. There will be substantial pressure on these Senators to modify the bill. Could the Republicans put together a coalition in 2010 or 2011 to effectuate major changes? It would be a long shot, but if Obama's popularity remains below fifty percent going into 2012, I would not think it impossible.

None of this is to say that the Republicans will succeed in repealing the health care bill. It is just to say that their hand is considerably stronger than many make it out to be. It will be up to the voters in 2010 to determine just how strong the Republicans' hand is.

Rove Gets Branded 'War Criminal' At Book Signing

Some of that supposed "civility" that the Progressive Left keeps screaming about from CBS:

About 100 fans came out to hear Karl Rove at the Saban Theatre Monday to discuss his book "Courage and Consequences: My Life As a Conservative In The Fight." Anti-war protesters came out, some rushing the stage, to call Rove a "war criminal" and worse.

About 100 fans came out to hear Karl Rove at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills Monday night to discuss his book "Courage and Consequences: My Life As a Conservative In The Fight," -- but the fight wasn't contained to his book.

Anti-war protesters came out, some rushing the stage, to call Rove a "war criminal" and worse.

The fans came to get their books signed, but they never got that chance.

One woman, the co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, approached him with handcuffs and said she was there to make a citizen's arrest. Jodie Evans charged him with "outing a CIA lied to take us to war..." and "totally ruining the country."

KCAL 9's Dave Bryan was there and said Rove "was shouted down and forced to leave the stage."

Another woman screamed at Rove, "The only comfort I take is're going to rot in hell."

Rove, meanwhile, charged that the people shouting him down were an example of the "totalitarianism of the left...they don't believe in dialog...they don't believe in courtesy. They don't believe in first Amendment rights for anyone but themselves."

There were several heated exchanges between Rove and his critics before he decided he had enough and he left the stage.

He called one detractor a "lunatic." He told several others repeatedly to "get the heck out of here."

Bryan reported that security was apparently lacking and Rove was "left to fend for himself."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Most Say Tea Party Has Better Understanding of Issues than Congress

From Rasmussen Reports:
In official Washington, some consider the Tea Party movement a fringe element in society, but voters across the nation feel closer to the Tea Party movement than they do to Congress.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of U.S. voters believe the average member of the Tea Party movement has a better understanding of the issues facing America today than the average member of Congress. Only 30% believe that those in Congress have a better understanding of the key issues facing the nation.

When it comes to those issues, 47% think that their own political views are closer to those of the average Tea Party member than to the views of the average member of Congress. On this point, 26% feel closer to Congress.

Finally, 46% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is more ethical than the average member of Congress. Twenty-seven percent (27%) say that the average member of Congress is more ethical.

‘Don’t Tread on Me’ : The history of a symbol of rebellion.

From Robert Verbruggen at NRO:
As the House health-care debate entered the homestretch on Sunday, GOP lawmakers interacted with the protesters who had gathered outside the Capitol. “There was a very, very large group of people, and many flags from our heritage were on display,” recalls Rep. Geoff Davis (R., Ky.).

Davis and fellow Republican representative Mary Fallin (Okla.) borrowed one of those flags — a yellow one bearing an image of a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” — brought it upstairs, and hung it from the building’s balcony.

That flag has become a staple of tea-party rallies nationwide. Its appearance at the Capitol last weekend was only the latest of many times it has symbolized American resistance to government encroachments on individual liberty.

The sentiment behind the flag has roots among the borderland people called the Scotch-Irish, says historian David Hackett Fischer, a professor at Brandeis University and the author of Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas. “They lived for a thousand years under two governments that brought nothing but misery,” he says. “They were double-taxed, and abused in every kind of way. They hated government and hated taxation, and looked instead to themselves, their clans, and their families.”

In America, it was immigrants from this region and their children who introduced versions of the rattlesnake/“Don’t Tread on Me” flag in 1775, the year the Revolutionary War began. It appeared simultaneously among militia units from Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Virginia. One famous early appearance of this imagery occurred when the Second Continental Congress sent a group of Marines to help the Navy intercept and capture some British supply ships. The Marines carried drums that were painted yellow, with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and the rattlesnake image.

The same year, Christopher Gadsden — who represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress — chose Esek Hopkins to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy. Gadsden presented Hopkins with a personal standard: a yellow rattlesnake flag, with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” He also presented the flag to his home state’s legislature in Charleston. Today, the rattlesnake flag’s yellow iteration (other colors were also used) is commonly known as the Gadsden flag.

The design soon became a universal symbol of the Revolution; everyone from Minuteman militias to the New Continental Fleet used it. However, Betsy Ross’s Stars and Stripes was adopted as the official American flag in 1777.

Why choose a rattlesnake as a symbol of America? In December of 1775, writing under the pseudonym An American Guesser, Ben Franklin — whose famous “Join or Die” political cartoon had also used a snake to represent America — noted the Marines’ painted drums. He meditated on the features that set the rattlesnake off from other creatures. After noting that the rattlesnake is found only in America; that its lack of eyelids signifies eternal vigilance; that it never attacks, but it defends itself to the death; and that its fangs are concealed but lethal, he wrote:

Was I wrong . . . in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? The poison of her teeth is the necessary means of digesting her food, and at the same time is certain destruction to her enemies. This may be understood to intimate that those things which are destructive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, but absolutely necessary to our existence. I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers.
Even after the adoption of the Stars and Stripes, the Gadsden flag did not cease to play a role in American culture. The U.S. military’s various branches, especially the Navy, have used the flag, words, and rattlesnake for various purposes; the First Navy Jack, for example, is a direct descendant. The rock band Metallica featured the rattlesnake on an album cover. The Free State Project — a kooky effort to encourage libertarian-minded Americans to move to New Hampshire and turn the state into Galt’s Gulch — even created a version of the flag that substituted its mascot, a porcupine, for the rattlesnake.

And now, of course, the tea-party movement has taken it up. “There was never a meeting where we said, ‘This is our symbol,’” says Adam Brandon, press secretary for FreedomWorks, a libertarian group that functions as a service center for tea-party organizers. “But I remember talking to the early activists about imagery when this started rolling. You didn’t want a lot of country music and American flags necessarily, because that gave the idea that it was the Fourth of July and you were celebrating. This flag was patriotic, but it said that we’re kind of upset about something right now.” Brandon adds that the flag’s Revolutionary War roots fit with the tea-party idea.

When Republicans and tea-partiers use the flag, they are true to its meaning, Fischer says — but he is quick to point out that the sentiments behind the flag were not universal among early American revolutionaries. New Englanders saw liberty as a right to belong — a right to vote in town meetings, for instance. Quaker Pennsylvanians thought liberty entailed “the reciprocal rights of everyone,” while Virginians saw the concept in a way that was consistent with hierarchy; there was no contradiction between liberty for them and bondage for their slaves.

Nonetheless, the defiant, autonomy-focused “Don’t Tread on Me” strain of thought was an integral part of America’s Founding. And just as the revolutionaries cast off the oppressions of British rule, the tea-partiers hope to roll back the impositions of our ever-expanding federal government.

Chicago Does Socialism

For those "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" types out there who are afraid to call the present administration Socialist, follow Victor Davis Hanson here at NRO as he connects the dots:
We can have a rational debate on any one item on President Obama’s vast progressive agenda, arguing whether adjectives like “statist” or “socialist” fairly describe his legislative intent. But connect all the dots and lines of the past year, and an unambiguous image starts to materialize.


The problem is not individual legislation, whether passed or proposed, involving the gamut of issues: health care, bailouts, stimuli, education loans, amnesty, cap and trade. Rather, the rub is these acts in the aggregate.

The president promises a state fix for health care; then student loans; and next energy. There are to be subsidies, credits, and always new entitlements for every problem, all requiring hordes of fresh technocrats and Civil Service employees. Like a perpetual teenager, who wants and buys but never produces, the president is focused on the acquisitive and consumptive urges, never on the productive — as in how all his magnanimous largesse is to be paid for by someone else.

That Medicare and Social Security are near insolvency, or soon will be; that the Postal Service and Amtrak are running in the red; that a day at the DMV, county-hospital emergency room, or zoning department doesn’t inspire confidence in the matrix of unionized government workers and large unaccountable bureaucracies — all this is lost on the Obama administration.

Utility means nothing. So long as the next proposed program enlarges a dependent constituency and is financed by the “rich” through higher taxes and more debt, it is, de facto, necessary and good. Equality of result is to be achieved both by giving more to some and by taking even more from others.


The same pattern emerges when it comes to taxes. Most Americans could live with Obama’s plan to return to the Clinton tax rates of about 40 percent on the top brackets. But that promise is never made in a vacuum. Instead, there is an additional, almost breezy pledge to lift caps on income subject to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes — 15.3 percent in some cases — on top of the income-tax increase.

At other times, an idea like a new health-care surcharge is tossed about — on top of the previous proposals for payroll- and income-tax increases. That new bite likewise, in isolation, perhaps is not too scary. But Obama is planning these 1-2-3 increases at a time when most of the states are already upping their own income-tax rates — in some cases to over 10 percent.

Once again, Obama never honestly connects the dots and comes clean with the American people about the net effect: On vast swaths of upper income, new state and federal taxes — aside from any rises in sales, property, capital-gains, or inheritance taxes — could confiscate an aggregate of 65 to 70 percent.

These proposals thus raise the question: Exactly what sort of total tax bite does the president think is fair for those making more than $200,000 or $250,000? Can the citizen be allowed to retain 45, 40, 35, or 30 percent of his income? And if, with combined governments starting to take 60 to 70 percent of income through the various tax increases, we still have record annual budget deficits, how much higher should these high taxes go to prevent national insolvency? Eighty percent? Ninety? One hundred?

Perhaps we could have a rate of 110 percent: Those who make $250,000 might pay a redemptive $275,000 to the government on the theory that in the Bush era they “made out like bandits.”


Then there is Obama’s chronic dissimulation. Most Americans were indifferent rather than outraged when Obama became the first presidential candidate to renounce public campaign financing in the general election — despite both earlier promises that he would not, and later crocodile tears over the Supreme Court’s rollback of some public-financing rules.

Perhaps most Americans also were only mildly irked that Obama demagogued the Bush anti-terror protocols during the campaign, only to continue unchanged precisely those practices that he had most fiercely railed against — tribunals, renditions, Predators, the continuing presence in Iraq.

And perhaps most Americans did not believe Obama when he promised to close Guantanamo within a year and to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York — and they were right. These too were isolated Obama untruths.

Then some of us were troubled that Obama had once decried passage of health-care reform by mere 51 percent majorities — only to do precisely that last weekend. Candidate Obama likewise damned the use of executive orders to countermand legislative action — and then did just that on matters of abortion and Obamacare. Chalk it up to the Chicago style of the ends justifying any means necessary.

So was anyone surprised that the health-care bill did not sit on the president’s desk for five days before the signing, as he once bragged would be the new administration’s policy, for reasons of transparency? And wasn’t that reminiscent of his continued, but reneged on, pledges to air all the health-care debates on C-SPAN?

I could go on and on, but again the pattern is clear. Each time Obama prevaricates, we grant him an exemption because of his lofty rhetoric about bipartisanship and his soothing words about unity. Only later do we notice that in retrospect each untruth is part of a pattern of dissimulation within just a single year of governance. Obama has proven so far that in fact one can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.


In foreign policy, Americans were okay with one bow to the Saudi king — until they saw a deeper bow to the Japanese emperor. One so-so apology was then followed by many more embarrassing meae culpae. His reaching out to Chávez was only one link in a chain that included Cuba, Libya, Syria, and Iran. We thought his serial gratuitous rudeness to Britain in matters of protocol was an aberration — until it proved to be the norm with the Czech Republic, Israel, Honduras, Poland, and the Dalai Lama. Smackdowns by Russia might have seemed singular, until China followed in suit.

One perhaps can forgive erstwhile Obama adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s stupid hypothetical speculation about shooting down Israeli planes over Iraq. And maybe the nominations of Charles Freeman and Samantha Power — not known as friends to Israel — were of no importance. Some raised an eyebrow, too, over Obama’s past close affinities with the anti-Semitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright and anti-Israelis like Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi. But finally, the most recent outreach to the terrorist regimes in Damascus and Tehran, when juxtaposed with the hysterics over a few apartment buildings in Jerusalem, has cemented the notion that Obama really has radical ideas about altering the traditional American support for the Jewish state.

In other words, again, connect these seemingly isolated dots and a picture emerges of a new radical foreign policy of “neutralism.” Traditional allies are ignored, and old enemies are courted — until both are on the same moral and political plane. The one constant is that a socialist anti-Western philosophy abroad (which blames the West for a nation’s own self-inflicted misery) wins sympathy with the Obama administration, while capitalist Western culture is seen as mostly passé.

In any isolated circumstance, we are willing to give the president of the United States a pass on a particular disturbing decision. But after 14 months of them, the Obama particulars add up to a remaking of America that is now clear and consistent: Grow government; redistribute income; establish permanent political constituencies of dependents; increase entitlements; hike taxes; demonize “them” while deifying their supposed victims; seek global neutrality abroad; and always play fast and loose with the truth.

What do we end up with?

You might call it: Chicago does socialism.

A Word to the Weary

From Doc Zero at Hot Air:
I get a lot of email from people who ask if the final degeneration from capitalism to collectivism is now inevitable. Entitlements are never repealed, after all, and we just got saddled with a back-breaking entitlement, piled atop a national debt that was already crushing us. It seems like it would take a miracle just to undo the damage Barack Obama has done in a single year… and that would just get us back to where George Bush left us. Dependency, unemployment, economic contraction, and socialist politics are a perpetual-motion engine of national decline.

I also hear from people who wonder just how bad things really are. If they’re so awful, we should be thinking about unthinkable alternatives. If not, maybe we should follow David Frum’s advice, and work out reasonable terms of surrender with our new socialist overlords. After all, Obama’s not the first guy to wipe his feet with the tattered “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Perhaps none of the wounds from 2009 and 2010 are all that deep, and we’re just a few elections away from Bush-era prosperity again.

Thoughts about the future shape our actions in the present. If you believe the events of the past week have permanently and irrevocably deformed the American economy and culture, your feelings are likely to consist of anger, or despair.

I can understand why some are tired of fighting the good fight. Robin Koerner at The Moderate Voice reacts to the Obama Administration’s plan to offer incentives if mortgage holders will forgive part of the principle on overvalued homes:

A few months ago, the principal on my mortgage was comfortably more than the place was worth, and my low income was in decline. So I did the responsible thing, cut my expenses back to the bone, and raised and moved whatever money I could to cover it, and to try to pay it down. I wanted to deal with the fact that I was upside down on the mortgage and dangerously exposed to future rate increases; most of all, I wanted simply to reduce my monthly payments.

Why did I bother?

If I had not been so responsible, Obama’s plan (I still cannot quite believe it) would have given me (via my bank) YOUR money, humble tax-payer, as a gift to reduce my mortgage, and I would have gained to the tune of many thousands of dollars.
Those who play by the rules find themselves dealing with a lot of these sucker punches lately. It’s the nature of a politicized economy. Health care will work the same way. If you’re not part of a favored constituency, the government will milk you for the money it needs to buy the votes it requires.

When you object that such behavior is wildly inconsistent with the Constitution, you’re quickly assured that, on the contrary, these outrages are legally unassailable. Decades of court precedents, often laid down by activist judges, have become a weird quantum formula that somehow proves the Constitution was actually designed to guarantee a titanic redistributionist State with virtually unlimited powers. The ruling class can even spend weeks openly discussing the idea of passing laws without voting on them, when it’s not sure it has the votes to do what it wants.

My own vision of the future includes peril, but not doom. We’re in a bad place right now, but we can turn things around. We can do better than pacing slowly backward through the wreckage of Obama’s term, until our feet begin crunching on the empty pill bottles of George Bush’s unsustainable prescription-drug entitlement.

When I look to the past, I see a central government that has never been able to keep the promises of its welfare programs, or respect the limits of its budget projections. Even among those who accept the premise that health care is some kind of “human right,” I find it astonishing that anyone could ignore history to the degree necessary to believe politicians can provide it. It’s even more amazing that anyone could watch those politicians blindly stumble across various legislative land mines – less than a week after passing the bill – and convince themselves these people have any idea what they just signed. Only someone with religious faith in the State could look upon the rotting heap of fraudulent budgeting, deception, and last-minute deals that spawned this monstrosity, and believe it will have a happy ending in which its promises are kept.

The future holds the final, systemic crash of the New Deal and Great Society. How far away is it? It’s hard to recalibrate the doomsday clocks fast enough to keep up with our current tidal wave of deficit spending. I think we have about fifteen years, after factoring in the poisonous effects of desperate measures taken to hold off disaster, like the Value Added Tax. I can imagine many world events that would accelerate that timetable considerably.

Social Security is running deficits now. Its collapse is a matter of actuarial fact, not opinion. The Congressional Budget Office just released a report that says the national debt will reach 90% of our gross domestic product by 2020… and the CBO usually under-estimates the effects of economic slowdown on federal tax revenue. Two years ago, the CBO thought Social Security would not be in the red until 2019. Five years ago, Barack Obama’s party confidently assured us the program would remain solvent for decades. These people have always been wrong. They just compounded their errors with trillions of deficit spending from a bill none of them read.

So, yes, the situation is serious. You can’t wait fourteen years to deal with a meltdown that’s fifteen years away. Even if the system was not due to implode into a black hole of unfunded liability, the offenses against freedom required to create and sustain it would still be wrong. Those offenses did not begin with the current President. They began long before I was born. That doesn’t make them any more excusable. We should not accept decades of error as an insurmountable obstacle to doing better.

The task awaiting us at the ballot box is difficult, but not impossible. Laws have no magical, talismanic power – if they did, we wouldn’t need law enforcement. We can change laws. We can dissolve any body that tells us otherwise. No one can hold us down in our national deathbed. We are instructed to worship the political traditions of the 1940s, 60s, and 70s, when vast and eternal departments of limitless appetite and wretched inefficiency were constructed. Our birthright as Americans includes a far older, stronger tradition from 1776, which teaches us that only our liberty is eternal.

There’s no reason a country with vast natural resources, tended by a bold and innovative people, should suffer double-digit unemployment and capital flight. A compassionate nation, whose daily industry has done more for the downtrodden than every utopian scheme combined, has no reason to lower its head in shame, and tolerate the extraction of “charity” at gunpoint. The veterans of bloody wars against lawless tyranny should not accept a system that makes fools of the industrious. A great people, who live in reverence of equality, require no lists of class and racial enemies from opportunistic politicians.

This is the hour for passion and reason, not anger and disgust. The strength to restore our prosperity lies in the muscle and imagination of citizens who have been programmed to think of themselves as sheep, by those who seek power as their shepherds. The time for averting a painful disaster is short… but the most amazing chapters of American history were written in the last seconds before midnight.

It’s time for us to be amazing again. I hope you find that as invigorating as I do.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We Good Europeans

For now, we better start adjusting to our new status as good Europeans.

From Gov. Mitch Daniels in The WSJ:
As if governors these days don't have enough on their plates. Now that ObamaCare has become law, there's a whole new to-do list for my state:

1) Plan for the termination of our Healthy Indiana Plan. This is the program that's currently providing health insurance to 50,000 low-income Hoosiers. With its health savings account-style personal accounts, it has been enormously popular among its participants. I hope those folks will do all right when they are pitched into Medicaid.

2) Start preparing voters for a state tax increase. The axe won't fall until someone else is governor. But when we are forced to expand Medicaid to one in every four citizens, the cost will add several hundred million dollars to the budget.

.3) Check to see if Indiana should drop its health insurance plans and dump its government workers into the exchanges. Paying the new tax penalty might actually be cheaper for the state, as it will be for many private firms. I'm not certain the same rule applies to government as to business, but since no member of Congress read this entire bill before the vote, I don't feel embarrassed about not knowing.

4) Ramp up our job retraining programs to handle those who will be fired by our medical device companies, student loan providers, and small businesses as they wrestle with new taxes, penalties, or in the student loan case, outright nationalization of their business.

5) Call the state's attorney general to see if we can join one of the lawsuits to overturn ObamaCare. Yes, it's a long shot. But why not try?

6) Investigate an offset to all this extra cost. We may no longer need the Department of Insurance since insurers will now be operating as regulated utilities under the thumb of the federal government.

It's discouraging that all of this could have been avoided. Congress could have done what Republicans should suggest now: Shift to a system that allows individuals—not businesses—to buy health insurance tax free. They could also create tax credits for buying health insurance based on income and health status to guarantee everyone coverage and encourage medical care and insurance competition. Republicans should push to lower barriers for buying insurance across state lines, create incentives for states to repeal mandates, and limit frivolous lawsuits that increase the price of insurance.

But for the moment, our federal overlords have ruled. We better start adjusting to our new status as good Europeans.

This Law Will Not Stand

Mike Pence in The WSJ:
In the dead of night on Sunday, Democrats rammed their health-care overhaul through Congress. Some say we made history. I say we broke with history, turning our back on this country's finest traditions of limited government, personal responsibility, and the consent of the governed.

Republicans remain committed to reforming health care in a way that honors these values. For the past year we have suggested ways to fix the system by reducing costs—specifically through instituting tort reform and by allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines.

.As Washington Democrats embark on their attempt to sell government-run health care, they are in for a rude awakening. A few more speeches about the same bad law will not change any minds. The American people don't want a government takeover of health care and House Republicans will work every day to repeal this law and start over.

If we repeal ObamaCare, we can start over with common-sense market solutions to lower the cost of health insurance. We can end the era of defensive medicine with real malpractice reforms, and use the savings to fund state programs that provide insurance for Americans with pre-existing conditions. We can renew our commitment to seniors in Medicare and pursue the kind of reform required to achieve its long-term solvency.

Finally, if we repeal this bill, we can restore the historic prohibition on using public funding for elective abortion. House Democrats were wrong to exchange 30 years of pro-life statutory protections for a piece of paper from the most pro-abortion president in American history.

Liberal Democrats had their say on the third Sunday in March. The American people will have their say on the first Tuesday in November. House Republicans are committed to repealing ObamaCare and starting over with reforms that reflect the desires of the American people.

After health care vote, Stupak 11 request billions in earmarks

Here come the payoffs!

At Instapundit:

A day after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and ten other House members compromised on their pro-life position to deliver the necessary yes-votes to pass health care reform, the "Stupak 11" released their fiscal year 2011 earmark requests, which total more than $4.7 billion--an average of $429 million worth of earmark requests for each lawmaker.

Of the eight lawmakers whose 2010 requests were available for comparison, five requested more money this week than they did a year ago: Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa., Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio.

The eleven members were the focus of high level pressure by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats because they threatened to vote against the health care reform bill, which passed the House on Sunday, March 21, by a seven vote margin. Granting earmark requests are one of the ways leadership can encourage members to vote their way.

Demonizing Everday Americans

Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski at Big Government:
There appears to be a concerted effort among the political Left and many mainstream media people to demonize and marginalize the expanding citizen-based movement known as the tea party movement. This effort flows from both a fear of what these tea parties represent and a contempt for everyday Americans. But those ordinary citizens are poised to be the ones laughing when it’s all over, when democracy takes its course.

There seems to be a consensus now among the liberal elite when it comes to the tea parties. Senior administration officials deride them, as do liberal congressional Democrats. These elitists characterize the tea partiers as extremists, some drawing analogies between these ordinary citizens and right-wing militias, fanatics, and religious zealots. Some members of Congress are even saying that these tea party people are racist, which is pretty much the worst label that can be slapped on you in modern politics.

And many leftist talking heads in the media parrot this message, with their own biting editorial, adding that some in the tea party crowd are dangerous. Some talking heads, including some Hollywood actors and others who don’t seem to have any credentials as policy analysts but are nonetheless given air time, are really playing up the racism angle, and even suggest that some tea party attendees may be domestic terrorists.

Try the decaf, people.

Agents of big government and their boosters in the mainstream media seem determined to throw cold water on this growing grassroots movement that is a reaction to the Obama administration’s power grab of the growth and expansion of this country’s central government.

There’s a great deal of diversity among tea party people. Some just want lower taxes, and some also want less regulation. Still others are pro-life voters or Christian conservatives that also want fiscal responsibility. Many others push for conservative judges, while still others hold up signs calling for a restoration of American sovereignty, or protecting America’s borders, or defeating cap and trade or card check.

But they all have two things in common: They all want smaller government, and oppose the trampling of the Constitution embodied in these efforts to radically expand the size and scope of government. And as part of that desire, they want this utterly-ludicrous spending binge to end before it bankrupts all of us.

There’s nothing extremist about that agenda, because common sense is never extreme.

Are there some people attending tea party rallies who are intemperate in their remarks? Sure. Whenever you get tens of thousands of regular folks together, you’ll always get a few who makes comments that they should reconsider. Even then, nothing we’ve seen is worse than the truly outrageous statements that we’ve heard from the Left in recent years about President Bush or Republicans.

Having been engaged in many gatherings of the tea party crowd, it’s offensive that many in the mainstream media are engaging in a systematic effort to marginalize American citizens who are simply trying to take a stand for individual liberty—a stand in opposition to big-government expansion. Also one of us speaking as an African-American (Blackwell), it’s especially insulting to suggest that these people’s opposition to President Obama is driven by racism.

America’s history of grassroots activism goes back to the founding of our republic. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people includes as a necessary element those same average, ordinary people being able to gather and speak out. This freedom to assemble was considered so essential to a free nation that our Founders put it in the First Amendment, right alongside the freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Ironically, these rights are set side-by-side with the freedom of the press, as well. The leftists in the media would do well to remember that their liberty to be a free press comes from the same constitutional amendment as the tea party crowd’s liberty to gather together.

And our elected leaders would do well to remember that the First Amendment exists to protect average people from the government, not the other way around.

Pelosi sends chill

From Cheri Jacobus at The Hill:
The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule.” — Dr. Von Hayek

“A great wave of oppressive tyranny isn’t going to strike, but rather a slow seepage of oppressive laws and regulations from within will sink the American dream of liberty.” — George Baulmer, libertarian blogger

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a most disturbing promise to PBS’s Jim Lehrer on Wednesday, proudly announcing that the methods employed and nearly employed to force ObamaCare on the American people (formerly the most free people on the planet) would, from this day forward, serve as her “model for future reforms.”

Chilling words, indeed.

Bribes, payoffs, backroom deals, secret Democrat meetings, holding members hostage in Washington to prevent them from speaking with their constituents (Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps?), threats and intimidation, lying about the content and cost of the bill, ignoring the plainly and loudly stated will of the people, demonizing opponents, twisting parliamentary rules into a pretzel to get a “win” — this is Nancy Pelosi’s “model” for future reform legislation?

On Jan. 28 of this year, Pelosi stated, without any guilt, guile or conscience regarding plans to ram healthcare reform through a hesitant House of Representatives and down the throats of an unwilling, resistant American public, “We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get healthcare reform passed.” Her words seemed extreme and hyperbolic at the time. But she was deadly serious — something that a nation accustomed to freedom and democracy could not entirely fathom even just a few short months ago. Comrade Pelosi cared not a whit about the will of the people, nor about the conversations democratically elected officials in both parties were having with their constituents whom they serve.

Damn the torpedoes, damn the consequences, and damn the Constitution.

While heralded by The Economist as “The Most Powerful Woman in American History,” Nancy Pelosi, in truth, is actually The Most Frightening Woman in American History and is testament to the fact that tyranny and dangerous abuse of power are gender-neutral. So much for the fairer sex. While the feminist in me should normally feel pride, as I often do for accomplished women even if I disagree with their politics, Nancy Pelosi, quite simply, scares me.

It is preferable in a democracy, however, for the government to fear the people, and dangerous when the opposite is true. If angry constituents rise up and create something akin to anarchy as a result of the healthcare law, the methods utilized to make the bill become law and the price the nation will pay for this hegemony, Pelosi and many of her Democratic colleagues will no doubt blame it on Republicans. But responsibility for the anger and fear among the electorate lies solely at the feet of congressional Democrats and President Obama.

“Tyranny and anarchy are never far apart.” — Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) British philosopher

Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.

Fix Health Reform, Then Repeal It

Rep. Paul Ryan in the NYT:
ON Thursday night, Congress sent to President Obama the reconciliation package to remove some of the embarrassing provisions in his signature legislative achievement, health care reform. But a serious fix for what ails health care in America will entail far more than merely tweaking the new law of the land; we will need to repeal the entire faulty architecture of the government behemoth and replace it with real reform.

To be clear: it is not sufficient for those of us in the opposition to await a reversal of political fortune months or years from now before we advance action on health care reform. Costs will continue their ascent as the debt burden squeezes life out of our economy. We are unapologetic advocates for the repeal of this costly misstep. But Republicans must also make the case for a reform agenda to take its place, and get to work on that effort now.

So what can we do?

Health care experts across the political spectrum acknowledge that a fundamental driver of health inflation is the regressive tax preference for employer-based health insurance. This discriminatory tax treatment lavishes the greatest benefit on the most expensive plans while providing no support for the unemployed, the self-employed or those who don’t get coverage from their employer.

Reform-minded leaders like Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, pushed legislative proposals that would directly address this issue. I helped write a plan that would replace the bias in the tax code with universal tax credits so that all Americans have the resources to purchase portable, affordable coverage that best suits their needs, with additional support provided for those with lower incomes. All these ideas, though, were dismissed early on, as they didn’t fit with the government-driven plan favored by the majority. But going forward it’s important that we reconsider this regressive tax issue.

Then, when helping Americans with pre-existing conditions obtain coverage, we should focus on innovative state-based solutions, including robust high-risk pools, reinsurance markets and risk-adjustment mechanisms. I intend to continue advancing true patient-centered reforms like attaching tax benefits to the individual rather than the job, breaking down barriers to interstate competition, and promoting transparency and consumer-friendly coverage options.

We should ensure that health care decisions are made by patients and their doctors, not by bureaucrats, whether at an insurance company or a government agency. By inviting market forces into health care, we can encourage a system where doctors, insurers and hospitals compete against one another for the business of informed consumers.

We must also immediately begin dealing with our crushing debt burdens, which this legislation will worsen. The Democrats’ fiscal arguments never did add up: they claim that their program will reduce the deficit even though the federal government will pick up the tab for more than 30 million uninsured Americans and subsidize millions more. Even after accounting for the $569 billion in tax increases and $523 billion in Medicare cuts, the true costs of this legislation — concealed by timing gimmicks, hidden spending and double-counting — will make the deficit explode, plunging us deeper into debt.

Washington already has no idea on how to pay for its current entitlement programs, as we find ourselves $76 trillion in the hole. Our country cannot afford to avoid a serious conversation on entitlement reform. By taking action now, we can make certain that our entitlement programs are kept whole for those in and near retirement, while devising sustainable health and retirement security for future generations.

The case for attempting health care reform was not difficult to make. Skyrocketing health care costs are driving more and more families and businesses to the brink of bankruptcy, leaving affordable coverage out of reach for millions of Americans and accelerating our path to fiscal ruin. The challenge was how to deal with the seemingly inexorable increase in health care costs.

Yet the Congressional majority went at this goal backward: with the force of the federal government, cover all Americans — then figure out which screws to twist to contain costs. Democrats opted for this approach because their concern was never about costs. It was about expanding coverage through an expansion of government.

As the dust settles from this historic and fiscally calamitous week, we have to try to steer this country back in the right direction. The opposition must always speak with vigor and candor on the need for wholesale repeal and for real reform to fix what’s broken in health care.

Dems Stimulus Haul is Double the GOP's

From Veronica de Rugy at BigGovernment:
Yesterday The Hill reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “keeping a Democratic majority in the House is ‘too important to the country,’” which is why “she had no intention of ceding control of the House in this fall’s elections, despite Republican optimism that they can win control of the chamber.” Appearing on PBS, Pelosi addressed potential Democratic losses due to Sunday’s health care vote, “I’ve said if passing this bill means I have to walk out of my office that night, it would be with the greatest pride.” However, she cautioned, “I haven’t any intention of losing the Democratic majority.”

Sure. Here is another reason Mrs. Pelosi might want to keep a democratic majority. That’s because, as it turns out, based on my new analysis of the data, Democratic districts are getting 1.8 times more money on average than Republican districts. Using data, and cleaning it up seriously to be able to use it, we find that Republican districts are getting on average $260.6 million in stimulus awards while democratic districts are getting on average $471.5 million. The average is award per district is $385.9 million.

Interestingly, my data also confirms that the stimulus funds are not allocated based on unemployment rates or even variations in unemployment rates. So basically, if the administration believes that government spending can create jobs, the allocation of the funds doesn’t show it. (my emphasis-SP)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baron: “I Feel Like I Am Walking the Plank”

From The Hoosierpundit:

Poor Baron.

Now he says that they made him do it.

Those mean Washington liberals made him vote against his constituents.

They're making him walk the plank.

Business Week:

Said Representative Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat, “I feel like I am walking the plank.”

“In the short term, it’s going to cost me,” Hill said. “It remains to be seen whether or not people will see the benefits that are in the bill 10 years out.”

That's an interesting contrast with Baron's bold and defiant arrogance just hours before voting for ObamaCare, when the same man who thundered to a crowd of angry constituents that "you're not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office" told a Louisville TV reporter that he was more than willing to walk this very plank of his own accord.

"Then so be it," Baron said when confronted with the possibility of defeat in November for defying the wishes of his constituents.

And now, after the vote, he wants us to believe that it's not his fault?

Not hardly.

Baron Hill fundraiser protest - Monday March 29 in Scottsburg, IN!

TO:          All Indiana 9th District Patriots
FROM:    We The People - Jackson County, IN
RE:           Baron Hill fundraiser protest

Calling all 9th District Patriots!

Baron Hill is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in Scottsburg, IN on Monday, March 29, 2010.

Since Congressman Hill continues to  ignore the calls of his constituents for less government intervention into our lives, we have decide to express our conerns to him publically in the form of a protest rally in Scottsburg on Monday. 

Here are directions to the event:

Take Indiana 56 East off of I65 and go straight east into Scottsburg until you cross the railroad tracks. The next cross street is Main, turn left (north) onto Main and go one block north. There is public parking at Heritage Station and along the sides of Main Street.

When you turn onto Main you will see the courthouse to your right. By 4:00 p.m. there may be some parking around the Courthouse Square.

For as many as can be-----try to be there by 4:00 For others, come when you can. Some may need to leave early and some may get there late----just be there !! Car pool if you can set it up.

DO NOT YELL AT Congressman Hill or his hosts! Do not start any type of verbal interaction with these folks at all. We can be more respectful than some have been to us. So let us take the high road. Our presence and our signs alone will make a better impression. We do not intend to be used by the Saul Alinski radicals for media fodder.

Make sure your signs have no violent nature to them. YES, the radicals will use every dirty trick they can to make us look bad in the public eye. YES, Alinski taught these radical Progressives to ridicule their opposition at every opportunity, trying to destroy our credibility. YES they may even try to provoke bad behavior from us----so be prepared. IF we are confronted by some of these Progressives, just walk away and keep moving.

PLEASE STAY ON PUBLIC PROPERTY----------sidewalks and parking lots.

This is our first chance since the vote last week to let Congressman Hill know how we 9th District voters REALLY feel about his recent votes in Congress.  If you can't make it PLEASE CALL SOMEONE WHO CAN!  PASS THE WORD TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!  WE NEED A BIG LOUD CROWD! - SP

If King George Will Not Listen . . .

From Erick Erickson at RedState:
This is one of those posts that has to be written and has to be said, though I know going in to it I’m going to get beaten up from all sides, though especially from a left particularly out to get me right now.

Nonetheless, this must be said.

The threats, potential acts of violence, and violence against those who voted for the health care legislation must be condemned. They are neither helpful to those seeking repeal nor the acts of a civilized society. I comfortably say I speak for all the front page posters here condemning the violence and threats. The people who think this country has descended into the darkness do in fact send us down a dark path themselves with these actions.
Clear? Good.
Here comes the controversial part that still must be said: I have heard the audio of some of the threats. I get worse stuff routinely. Rush Limbaugh gets worse stuff on a daily basis. Republican members of Congress have gotten similar and worse stuff. Thank God this wasn’t a free trade vote or a variety of left wing groups would have half the country in flames right now. I do believe the 24 hours of threats, many of which were pretty weak, has gotten more national coverage than the leftist anarchists in Texas who molotov cocktailed the Texas Governor’s Mansion — for which arrests have never been made.

I am forced to largely conclude that the Democrats are running to the nearest microphone in an effort to play the victim and generate sympathy as they try to steer poll numbers back in their direction. (See also Ann Althouse)

Some of it is very bad stuff. I don’t want to underplay the bad. Some of it, however, is not. And some of it is overplayed. Like the press reports about protestors yelling racial epithets at Congressman Lewis, which video shows and reporters I’ve talked to confirm, did not happen, a lot of this is going to be overblown, but the media loves a good story.

As one example of the over the top “violence on Democrats” stories went, people put a coffin near Russ Carnahan’s home as a threat. Turns out it was for a prayer vigil.

But there is something else here.

There are a great many Americans who truly believe the Democrats shredded the constitution on Sunday night. Made more galling, the Democrats were pretty upfront that they were pushing it through before congressmen could go home and face their angry constituents every poll showed were opposed to this legislation. And only after the vote did the media really start talking about the taxes, the flexible spending account cuts, the pre-existing conditions loophole for kids, etc. — i.e. the bad stuff in the bill.

I’ve said for weeks I was a bit fearful of what would happen as a result. I sincerely pray we are not on the cusp of some group of angry and now unhinged mob lashing out at congressmen for a vote in the Congress. But something seems to be brewing and I frankly don’t think the Democrats should at all be surprised. They were and they knew they were playing with fire to advance legislation many Americans see as the undoing of the American Experiment. Some of those Americans will now conclude that, like with the founders, if King George will not listen, King George must be fought.

Acts of violence against congressmen for behaving as congressmen are wholly inexcusable. We should be vigilant to police our own side because as we’re already seeing through a series of breathless and inaccurate reports, the press and Democrats are going to be quick to run most any story and the retraction will never be as significant as the initial report.

But let’s not act surprised. The only people surprised by the rage are the ones who refused to venture outside Washington to understand first hand what the voters were actually thinking before congressmen voted.

Frankly, after all the leadership threats and bullying against swing Democrats to vote for leadership, I think it is a bit ironic Democratic leaders are now decrying threats and bullying of swing state Democrats by their constituents who very clearly did not want them to vote as they did

The VAT Cometh

From Charles Krauthammer at RealClearPolitics:
As the night follows the day, the VAT cometh.

With the passage of Obamacare, creating a vast new middle-class entitlement, a national sales tax of the kind near-universal in Europe is inevitable.

We are now $8 trillion in debt. The Congressional Budget Office projects that another $12 trillion will be added over the next decade. Obamacare, when stripped of its budgetary gimmicks -- the unfunded $200 billion-plus doctor fix, the double counting of Medicare cuts, the 10-6 sleight-of-hand (counting 10 years of revenue and only 6 years of outflows) -- is at minimum a $2 trillion new entitlement.

It will vastly increase the debt. But even if it were revenue-neutral, Obamacare pre-empts and appropriates for itself the best and easiest means of reducing the existing deficit. Obamacare's $500 billion of cuts in Medicare and $600 billion in tax hikes are no longer available for deficit reduction. They are siphoned off for the new entitlement of insuring the uninsured.

This is fiscally disastrous because, as President Obama himself explained last year in unveiling his grand transformational policies, our unsustainable fiscal path requires control of entitlement spending, the most ruinous of which is out-of-control health care costs.

Obamacare was sold on the premise that, as Nancy Pelosi put it, "health care reform is entitlement reform. Our budget cannot take this upward spiral of cost." But the bill enacted on Tuesday accelerates the spiral: It radically expands Medicaid (adding 15 million new recipients/dependents) and shamelessly raids Medicare by spending on a new entitlement the $500 billion in cuts and the yield from the Medicare tax hikes.

Obama knows that the debt bomb is looming, that Moody's is warning that the Treasury's AAA rating is in jeopardy, that we are headed for a run on the dollar and/or hyperinflation if nothing is done.

Hence his deficit reduction commission. It will report (surprise!) after the November elections.

What will it recommend? What can it recommend? Sure, Social Security can be trimmed by raising the retirement age, introducing means testing and changing the indexing formula from wage growth to price inflation.

But this won't be nearly enough. As Obama has repeatedly insisted, the real money is in health care costs -- which are now locked in place by the new Obamacare mandates.

That's where the value-added tax comes in. For the politician, it has the virtue of expediency: People are used to sales taxes, and this one produces a river of revenue. Every 1 percent of VAT would yield up to $1 trillion a decade (depending on what you exclude -- if you exempt food, for example, the yield would be more like $900 billion).

It's the ultimate cash cow. Obama will need it. By introducing universal health care, he has pulled off the largest expansion of the welfare state in four decades. And the most expensive. Which is why all of the European Union has the VAT. Huge VATs. Germany: 19 percent. France and Italy: 20 percent. Most of Scandinavia: 25 percent.
American liberals have long complained that ours is the only advanced industrial country without universal health care. Well, now we shall have it. And as we approach European levels of entitlements, we will need European levels of taxation.
Obama set out to be a consequential president, on the order of Ronald Reagan. With the VAT, Obama's triumph will be complete. He will have succeeded in reversing Reaganism. Liberals have long complained that Reagan's strategy was to starve the (governmental) beast in order to shrink it: First, cut taxes -- then ultimately you have to reduce government spending.

Obama's strategy is exactly the opposite: Expand the beast, and then feed it. Spend first -- which then forces taxation. Now that, with the institution of universal health care, we are becoming the full entitlement state, the beast will have to be fed.

And the VAT is the only trough in creation large enough.

As a substitute for the income tax, the VAT would be a splendid idea. Taxing consumption makes infinitely more sense than taxing work. But to feed the liberal social-democratic project, the VAT must be added on top of the income tax.

Ultimately, even that won't be enough. As the population ages and health care becomes increasingly expensive, the only way to avoid fiscal ruin (as Britain, for example, has discovered) is health care rationing.

It will take a while to break the American populace to that idea. In the meantime, get ready for the VAT. Or start fighting it.

Resistance Is Not Futile

"Republicans must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate."

From Phil Gramm at The WSJ:
For every dollar's worth of health care that Americans received last year, they paid a dime and somebody else paid 90 cents. If you bought food the way you buy health care—where 90% of everything you put in your basket was paid for by your grocery insurance policy—you would eat differently and so would your dog. We have the best health-care system in the world, but as rich as America is we can't afford it.

Any real debate about health-care reform has to be centered on solving the problem of cost. Ultimately, there are only two ways of doing it. The first approach is to have government control costs through some form of rationing. The alternative is to empower families to make their own health-care decisions in a system where costs matter. The fundamental question is about who is going to do the controlling: the family or the government.

President Obama and his congressional allies systematically excluded every major proposal to empower consumers to control costs. From beginning to end, they insisted on a government-run system. That's why compromise was never possible.

The plan signed into law by the president on Tuesday is simply a hodgepodge of schemes to expand insurance coverage and government power with no coherent program to control cost. By contrast, the old Clinton health-care bill was a plan to control costs through health-care purchasing cooperatives, standards of medical practice, and penalties for providers who violated those standards. When Americans came to understand the loss of freedom resulting from the Clinton plan, they rejected it. The Democrats learned from that experience. This time around they simply left their cost control component to be added later.

Even though the Obama bill became far more unpopular than the Clinton bill ever was, the daunting size and rigid commitment of the Democratic majority to a government-run system was such that they could override public opinion. Now the Democrats are out to make Americans like their plan—or at least get them to acquiesce to it. But as Gandhi once explained, 40,000 British troops cannot force 300 million Indians to do what they will not do.

Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014.

I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama's health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out. If the voters demand change in November, even the Democrats who remain in Congress will help give it to them.

If Republicans don't want America to follow Britain and Canada down the road to socialized medicine, they must change the system so that families have more power to control their own health-care costs. This will entail real changes like tax deductions for health insurance, not for prepaid medicine; refundable tax credits for families to buy their own insurance; freedom to negotiate with insurance companies; rewarding healthy lifestyles; tort reform; and reforming Medicare and Medicaid so every consumer has deductibles and copayments based on their income. This system will require Americans to make choices in health care—just as they do in every other area of their lives.

There is one more overwhelming reason freedom is so critical in health care. In the end, even the greatest health-care system in the world fails. At 92, my mother decided to stop going to the hospital, stop going to the doctor, stop taking her medicine, and to die in her own bed. It was a free choice, and she made it. For her family, it was a painful choice, but she died as she lived—proud and free. Government bureaucrats did not make that decision; she did. And that made all the difference.

Mr. Gramm, a Republican, was a senator from Texas from 1985 to 2002 and served as chairman of the Health subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Finance.