Libertarian Hawk


Who’s More Unhinged: Obamacare Opponents or Obamacare Supporters?

August 14, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

imagesAccording to liberals, conservatives’ desire to repeal Obamacare constitutes, not a legitimate, principled policy disagreement, but a mental disorder.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent claims that Congressional Republicans’ threat to oppose a continuing budget resolution that includes Obamacare funding is “driven by pathological anti-Obamacare animus.”

Ezra Klein argues that Republicans are on a “kamikaze” mission and “have taken themselves hostage.  They’re threatening to hurt themselves and their states and their voters and their most committed activists if Democrats don’t give them their way on Obamacare.”

The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta takes President Obama’s phrase “ideological fixation” from his news conference last Friday and runs with it.   Wrestling the GOP onto her psychoanalyst’s couch, she writes, “In 19th-century psychology, the idée fixe was understood as a close relative of monomania and obsessive-compulsion, often accompanied by symptoms of hysteria such as amnesia or anesthesia, the inability to feel.  Idées fixes developed secondary to some sort of trauma or dislocation…  The idée fixe, as such, was a neurotic symptom.”

If opposition to Obamacare is an actual mental disorder, does that mean Obamacare will pay to treat it?

Other left-leaning commentators have argued that Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare is literally insane:

  • Washington Post reporters David Fahrenthold and Ed O’Keefe stated, of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal or defund aspects of Obamacare, “Doing the same thing over and over again — and expecting a different result — is supposed to be the definition of insanity.”
  • Forward Progressives huffed, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  That about sums up House Republicans.”
  • In his piece “Why Trying to Defund Obamacare Is the Definition of Insanity,” Rick Moran labeled the pro-defunding crowd “nutty” and “crazy” and their quest to repeal Obamacare “madness” and “throw[ing] sanity to the winds”
  • Pollways’ Amy Fried called legislators who oppose Obamacare “the paranoid caucus” and said their supporters are filled with “paranoid fears”
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse labeled Obamacare opponents “paranoid,” before comparing them to sadist French revolutionaries laughing before executing their victims
  • Gerald Seib claimed that those who oppose Obamacare betray their “schizophrenia”

At least liberals have moved on from claiming Obamacare opposition is driven by racism!  That constitutes some sort of psychological progress, I guess.

Since we’re playing armchair psychiatrist, how about diagnosing left-wingers who offered notable commentary on Obamacare?

  • Compulsive lyingBarack Obama: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.  Period.  If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan.  Period.  No one will take it away.  No matter what.”
  • Avoidant personality disorder – Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked where the Constitution authorizes Obamacare’s individual mandate: “Are you serious?  Are you serious?”
  • Delusional jealousy – Senator Max Baucus: “[T]he wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind…  This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”
  • Paranoid personality disorderBarack Obama: “There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there…  These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation…  If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to”
  • Borderline personality disorder – Former Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick on Great Britain’s National Health Service: “I am romantic about the NHS; I love it.  All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country…  Those are my observations from far away – from an American fan, distant and starry-eyed.”
  • Narcissistic personality disorderHarry Reid: “Now that the legislation passed, it is amazing how much different people[’s] attitude is.  I mean, traveling on an airplane people are so nice to me…  We have people coming, sending me notes in church.  ‘I have a disabled daughter.  Thank you very much for taking care of her.’”
  • Passive-aggressive personality disorderBarack Obama: “Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
  • ADHD; brief reactive psychosis; learning disability – Representative Sheila Jackson Lee on the evils of repealing Obamacare: “Can you tell me what’s more unconstitutional than taking away from the people of America their Fifth Amendment rights, their Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the right to equal protection under the law?”

Behold the party of Occupy Wall Street drum circles, the Weather Underground, Obama cell phone lady, Anthony Weiner, and the above assortment of loony birds lecturing us on which party suffers from greater mental unbalance.  Is that really a direction liberals want the national conversation to go in?

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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What Obama Could Have Done

August 24, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama


Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Liberal hack and annoying twerp Ezra Klein recently posted a lament for the president’s waning popularity titled “What could Obama have done?”

Klein’s query is just an updated iteration of an eternal, intractable, metaphysical question for the left: How can Democrats govern like liberals for any extended period of time and generate good results so they can maintain their favorable ratings?

To conservatives (and Bill Clinton), the answer is obvious: You can’t.  Liberal policies don’t work.  Any goodwill remaining toward you from your base for remaining a stubborn ideologue in the face of contrary evidence is overshadowed by widespread revulsion toward the disastrous consequences of your policies.

In other words: Conservatives are never going to like you, a few crazy liberals always will, but a large number of independents, moderates, and center-left voters will abandon you if you don’t give up on your leftist policies after the public realizes you are not a magician.

Since Klein asked, here’s what Obama could have done to enjoy a successful presidency and retain the sky-high favorability ratings he held in those blissful few minutes after he was sworn in before the trouble began.

Let’s start with the good news—things Obama did and should have done (hurry back from the fridge, right-wingers; this won’t take long!):

He didn’t get in the way of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden.  He voiced support for the protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square calling for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.  He joined a coalition of nations in materially aiding the Libyan rebels who took down Gaddafi.  He signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  He extended the Bush tax cuts and argued for their utility during a recession.

Also, a few things Obama shouldn’t have done and didn’t:

He gave up on closing the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  He reversed his pledge to hold a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  He supported renewing the Patriot Act, thus abandoning his campaign promise to end warrantless wiretaps of those with terrorist connections.  He never pushed through global warming legislation imposing caps on carbon dioxide emissions.

Much longer is the list of things Obama did and shouldn’t have done:

He shouldn’t have signed the $1 trillion stimulus bill, which had a trivial impact on job growth, did nothing to stop the rise of unemployment, and exploded the national deficit.

He shouldn’t have signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which infringes on individual liberties, raises the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, and implements none of the free-market reforms House Republicans proposed.

He shouldn’t have signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which gave two of the architects of the subprime lending-induced financial crisis the power to impose massive, vague, disruptive regulations on the banking industry, without even revoking the much-hated principle “too big to fail.”

He shouldn’t have signed Congress’s August 2011 bill raising the debt ceiling, which was both unnecessary and insufficient to prevent an S&P downgrade, and whose spending cuts are miniscule in the short-term, dependent on the caprice of a bipartisan “supercommittee” in the medium-term, and likely to be overturned by future Congresses in the long-term.

He shouldn’t have authorized rounds one and two of quantitative easing, which have led to rising inflation.

He shouldn’t have created a botched fund to prevent home foreclosures, one of many examples of his administration’s propensity to reward failure.

He shouldn’t have supported the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to prevent Boeing from relocating part of its operations from a unionized state (Washington) to a right-to-work state (South Carolina).

He shouldn’t have taken over the nation’s largest car companies and signed into law the wasteful Cash for Clunkers program.

He shouldn’t have showily banned waterboarding as an enhanced interrogation technique, insisted that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, demanded premature troop withdrawal in Afghanistan independent of the advice of generals running the war, or bowed to the British Queen, the Saudi king, and every other world leader he could.

Finally, he shouldn’t have blamed George W. Bush, the Republican minority in Congress, the Tea Party, the BP oil spill, the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, ATMs, corporate jet owners, Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, a butterfly flapping its wings in Tobago—anything but his own policies—for the country’s economic woes.

And here are the things Obama didn’t do but should have:

He should have demanded that Congress pass budgets for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

He should have made the Bush tax cuts permanent.

He should have supported free-market health care reforms, such as allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, and enacting malpractice tort reform.

He should have voiced greater support for Iran’s and Syria’s pro-reform protestors.

Happy you asked, Ezra?

And one more thing Obama didn’t do but should have.

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A Tale of Two Pauls

August 11, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

Paul Ryan, official portrait, 111th Congress
Image via Wikipedia

Liberals have generously treated us to a motley assortment of apologia for President Obama’s economy-wrecking fiscal policies over the past 19 months:

(1) The economy is doing fine (Ezra Klein)!  We should have expected the recovery to be agonizingly slow, and it is—hence, Obama’s policies worked.

(2) The economy isn’t doing well, but it would have been doing even worse without the stimulus bill (e.g., Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s and bona fide boob).  Without a Keynesian spending orgy—or as Obama puts it, “moving the economy forward”—unemployment wouldn’t have stopped at 10% and might have risen to 12 or 13 or 15%.

(3) The economy is doing poorly, and it’s because the Democrats didn’t do enough (the ever-certifiable Paul Krugman).  The stimulus should have been much bigger, and financial regulations should have been much harsher.  To compensate we need “a second big stimulus, plus much more aggressive Fed policy.”

In contrast, conservatives have suggested the following interpretations of events:

(1) The economy is going to improve soon (Larry Kudlow).  We won’t experience a double-dip recession and growth is resuming, so we should be more optimistic.  Obama’s policies aren’t helping, but American ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit are strong enough that we can recover anyway.

(2) The economy isn’t doing well, and Obama’s policies have made it worse (every other conservative on the planet).  Wasteful spending caused our debt to skyrocket and increased the chances of inflation; government takeover of private industries and burdensome financial regulations created an uncertain climate for investing and hiring that has prolonged the recession.

(3) The economy is doing poorly, and now is the time to discuss not only repealing Obama’s policies and ensuring that the likes of them never pass again, but undoing the policies liberals have inflicted on the nation since FDR under the pretense that once they were in place future generations would be too sheepish to touch them (Paul Ryan).  The impetus from the Tea Party movement should be used to revive talks about privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

So liberals and conservatives are at a bit of a standoff over the fundamental economic principles behind their political strategies.  Who’s right?

Let’s see: economists have demonstrated, time and again, using common-sense reasoning, econometric modeling, and historical data, that increasing government spending yields less economic output than if government had left that money in the private sector to be spent, invested, or saved as those who generated it saw fit.

Economists have shown that increasing marginal tax rates counterintuitively decreases the gross domestic product, especially in the years immediately following tax increases.  Obama’s chief economic advisor, Christina Romer—who just retired over a conflict between her views and the administration’s—documented the effect of this negative tax “multiplier” using empirical data in a recently published economics article.

It doesn’t matter whether we accept Klein’s view that the economy is peachy, Zandi’s view that it’s doing badly but could be worse, or Krugman’s view that it’s doing badly and needs more Obamanomics.  All are based on the false premise that more government spending, taxation, and regulation are better for the economy than less.  (Hey—don’t Keynesians believe that spending lots of money on wars is a good way to revive the economy?  I guess Krugman will be admitting he was wrong about the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts after all!)

People like Klein bemoan the fact that corporate profits are back up to 2006 levels while hiring remains slow.  Liberals present the question of our tepid recovery as an intractable metaphysical mystery incapable of being penetrated by mere humans; as Klein puts it: “That is the catch-22 of the recovery: Businesses will start hiring when the economy recovers. And the economy will start to recover when businesses start hiring.”  Answer: And both will improve when the government gets out of the way!

As for the varying conservative perspectives, which are the only ones remotely connected to reality and thus worth considering, Kudlow is right that the American economy is resilient.  Perhaps he’s slyly making the point that more optimism on the public’s part not only better reflects the state of our economy but may improve it via increased investment and hiring.  Kudlow’s perspective is largely predictive, rather than focusing on how lawmakers should bring about a faster and more permanent recovery (though he often discusses those issues as well).

Every other conservative in the world who believes that we shouldn’t stand for the “new normal” of high unemployment and unexceptional growth is correct that Democrats’ policies are making the recession worse.  Repealing ObamaCare, preventing cap-and-trade legislation, and stopping or reversing the scores of other nasty things Obama and Pelosi have planned for our economy are mandatory undertakings over the next six years.

But Paul Ryan hits the bullseye when he notes that it is desirable, necessary, and possible to go further.  Train wreck legislation like ObamaCare is worth repealing, but if Medicare and Medicaid are quickly running out of money, and Social Security is already in the red, why shouldn’t we go after every entitlement shibboleth?

What principle, applied consistently, would nudge us to nullify ObamaCare but leave Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid shiny and intact?  Did our country survive and prosper before these programs were enacted?  Would we survive and prosper if we phased them out?  Might we prosper even more in their absence?

Ryan’s proposal is far from perfect—his main argument for the Roadmap to recovery is that it will keep our entitlement system solvent, and he doesn’t discuss eradicating entitlements once and for all.  Perhaps Ryan believes that talking about eliminating entitlements is too politically risky now, when even his Roadmap is audacious by today’s standards.  But Ryan deserves credit for having gone further than anyone else in Congress in working out the details of a plan that will help the country avoid a fatal insolvency.

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