Scott Spiegel

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Runaway Domestic Spending Makes Democrats’ Hearts Quicken

January 16, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

love-money-valentines-day-spending-68652560036_xlargeDemocrats beat Republicans in the fiscal cliff standoff by pressuring them to agree to raise taxes on high-income earners with no accompanying spending cuts.  They argued, persuasively to the American people, that the revenue shortfall the federal government faced required such a move to make up the difference.

Raising taxes on the upper 2% of income earners isn’t nearly enough to plug our budget deficit, to say nothing of our long-term debt.  The only way to do so is to immediately enact drastic, painful, across-the-board entitlement spending cuts that slap us with the reality of our historically dire situation.

Naturally Democrats prefer to keep spending levels right where they are and raise more taxes.

Naïve political observers assumed that, once House Republicans had caved on the fiscal cliff, they would have some leverage in getting Democrats to agree to spending cuts in the upcoming battle over raising the federal debt limit.  Republicans, the thinking went, could insist that, since they had agreed to raise $620 billion in revenue from taxes, Democrats would have to give in and accept cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.  House Speaker John Boehner in particular seeks a dollar-for-dollar spending cut-to-borrowing limit ratio.

But no—Democrats continue to display their congenital intransigence to cutting a single dollar from a single program anywhere, anyhow, anytime, except for the military.

We’ve come to the point in the evolution of the Democratic Party where there’s truly, fundamentally, literally nothing they’re willing to consider cutting.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zip.  Niente.

Don’t believe me?  I’ll prove it to you.

Former House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi, when recently asked whether her party would consider enacting spending cuts on Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, responded that we had already done so… by passing Obamacare.

As CBS News reports: “Asked if Democrats are ready to significantly reform entitlement programs to address the deficit, Pelosi said, ‘We already have,’ pointing to the Affordable Care Act’s $716 billion in Medicare provider cuts.’”

Everyone, including Pelosi, knows these cuts are fake, in that they: (1) limit Medicare’s growth rather than shrinking Medicare, (2) target insurance companies and hospitals, who will simply pass the costs on to consumers, and (3) won’t ever take place, because they’re slated to unfold over the next 10 years, and will be demolished by subsequent Congresses, as such future-situated cuts always are.

If Democrats are unwilling to shrink entitlement programs, how about altering the age at which people are eligible for them?  Off the table.  Pelosi “replied with a quick ‘no’ when asked whether she supports raising the Medicare eligibility age…  She also seemed disinclined to consider any cost of living adjustment that could reduce Social Security benefit payments, saying, ‘I do not think we should do anything to Social Security that reduces benefits to the beneficiaries…’”

So no cuts, no alterations, no adjustments.  Nothing that “reduces benefits to the beneficiaries,” which means nothing.

How about other non-military domestic spending programs?  Nope.  As the L.A. Times reports, “The president said he was open to seeking spending cuts generally as part of an effort to reduce the country’s deficit, but he stressed that such reductions can be made ‘without shortchanging things like education, job training, research and technology, all of which are critical to our prosperity in a 21st century economy.’”

So no cuts to “education, job training, research and technology,” or anything that is “critical to our prosperity in a 21st century economy,” which Democrats will argue is everything.

And on and on: Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray wants to preserve every penny of Head Start.  Mother Jones wants to maintain federal funding for food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, extended unemployment benefits, education grants and college loans, housing assistance, community health centers, heating bill payments, and milk for babies.  Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and White House spokesman Jay Carney cheerfully agree that Social Security does not contribute to our federal deficit, because apparently it’s free.

It’s finally starting to dawn on Republicans that Democrats have no intention of ever cutting spending.  As the Wall Street Journal notes in an interview with the Speaker on the fiscal cliff talks, “What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: ‘At one point several weeks ago,’ Mr. Boehner says, ‘the president said to me, “We don’t have a spending problem…”’  Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment… he replied… ‘Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.’ He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: ‘I’m getting tired of hearing you say that…’”

(Meanwhile, the shaggy, autistic homeless man named Paul Krugman argues that we could end the recession, if only we just wildly increased federal spending over the next two years to levels that would make Obama blush.)

Want to know how dire Democrats’ spending addiction has become?  It has even overpowered their abiding compulsion for raising taxes.

When Democrats agreed to the sequestration deal in 2011, they calculated that Republicans’ aversion to the deep military cuts that were to accompany the deal’s domestic cuts would give them a strong leverage point later on.  But inside sources suggest that Democrats now actually fear sequestration more than the GOP.  Democrats appear willing to forego tax increases for the sake of not having a single dollar cut from their beloved domestic programs.

Democrats love weakening the military and adore raising taxes, but both flirtations are now trumped by their giddy, rosy-cheeked infatuation with runaway domestic spending.

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The 2012 GOP Platform: Play by Play

August 29, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

I’m not sure if I agree with Phyllis Schlafly that the 2012 Republican Platform is the best GOP platform ever, but it’s not too shabby.  This year’s document addresses the economy, constitutional government, energy, entitlement reform, social issues, and foreign policy, in that order.  Some highlights:

Economy

“The best jobs program is economic growth.”

This may be the one sentence in the platform that best demonstrates that Republicans “get it.”  Whatever your thoughts on big-government entitlements, workless welfare, or unfunded liabilities, all of these programs are made possible only via the engine of roaring economic growth.  (How’s Venezuela’s SCHIP program faring these days?)

It’s not the federal seat-warmer, bleeding-heart liberal, or self-satisfied wealth redistributor who creates the riches that all these characters appropriate and spread around after the government takes its gluttonous share.  None of these programs—or these bureaucrats’ jobs—would be possible without the risk-taking, foresight, and hard work of the private sector.

One of the few disadvantages of living in an economically prosperous society is that our affluence hides the extent to which the government leeches our productive citizens dry.

The authors also “get it” when they lament a federal budget process that “gave us the insidious term ‘tax expenditure,’ which means that any earnings the government allows a taxpayer to keep through a deduction, exemption, or credit are equivalent to spending the same amount on some program.”  (Democrats, in contrast, often claim that we can’t “afford” a proposed tax cut, as if it were a new pair of shoes.)

Constitutional Government

“We salute Republican Members of the House of Representatives for enshrining in the Rules of the House the requirement that every bill must cite the provision of the Constitution which permits its introduction.”

Ironically, this policy would help Democrats if enacted, in that it would prevent embarrassing gaffes like Nancy Pelosi’s “Are you serious?” response to a query about Obamacare’s constitutionality.

The platform condemns Obama’s proliferation of “czars,” numerous recess appointments, and executive orders that bypass Congress’s authority.  It disparages the President’s failure to consult Congress before going to war, allowance of heavy-handed actions by regulatory agencies, and abridgment of states’ rights via interference with voter ID laws, health care policy experimentation, and land use determination.

Everyone expects a party’s platform to include language condemning the other party’s policies.  But it’s astounding the extent to which the current administration and Democratic Congress have circumvented the processes by which such policies are supposed to be approved.  That the GOP felt the need for an entire section on restoring constitutional government speaks volumes about the current administration’s lawlessness.

Energy

“Unlike the current Administration, we will not pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace.  Instead, we will let the free market and the public’s preferences determine the industry outcomes.”

This stance would prevent billions of dollars in subsidies from going to politically connected companies promoting economically unfeasible technologies, e.g., former solar power manufacturer Solyndra.  It would also demonstrate the continued need for more traditional methods of energy production such as coal burning, and obviate committing prematurely to trendy “green” alternatives that engineers have yet to make cost-effective.

Entitlement Reform

“We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have, in the face of abuse and threats of violence, reformed their State pension systems for the benefit of both taxpayers and retirees alike.”

That one sentence, especially the part about “threats of violence,” says it all about Democrats’ intransigent opposition to enacting any hint of entitlement reform.

The rest of the section mostly addresses Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security reform.  While I wish the platform’s language had been tougher regarding phasing out these Ponzi schemes, I understand the need to placate seniors scared by Democratic threats that Republicans want to ruin their retirement and throw them in the street.

Social Issues

I’m glad the authors placed their inevitable “social issues” section near the end, which shows their sense of priority in this era of anemic growth and trillion-dollar deficits.  (Don’t count on the same sense of perspective from Democrats, whose platform I expect to rail frequently and loudly about the phony Republican “War on Women,” and about Romney and Ryan’s supposed ideological proximity to Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.)  In fact, outside of a plug for “traditional marriage,” this section spends most of its verbiage endorsing economic positions such as keeping the work requirement in welfare reform, repealing Obamacare, and instituting free-market health insurance reforms.

Foreign Policy

The final section revisits the threat of Islamic terrorism and the need for the U.S. to vigorously defend itself without apologizing for its ideals.  The platform decries Obama’s defense budget cuts and affirms that “the best way to promote peace and prevent costly wars is to ensure that we constantly renew America’s economic strength.  A healthy American economy is what underwrites and sustains American power.”

The platform laments Obama’s foreign policy strategy, which “subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.  The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.”  Ouch.

Though economic issues trump national security this election year, I do wish the authors hadn’t waited until the last page to mention the threat of Iran obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  Our prosperity is what makes our strong defense possible, but we’re not going to have much of an economy if Iran is allowed to wreak havoc on the U.S. and its allies via nuclear, biological, or cyber attacks.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Cutting Waste and Fraud Is Not a Medicare Reform Proposal

August 22, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

A candidate who promises to preserve, protect, and defend Medicare, save it from going bankrupt, implement his plan for only those under 55, and let you keep your benefits exactly as they are now if you don’t like his changes: this is the candidate Democrats are portraying as a faceless monster diabolically wheeling Grandma off a cliff.

We’ve reached the apotheosis of the Democratic Party’s political strategy: take the Republican who’s most likely to do it the favor of justifying, rescuing, and strengthening its bloated, big-government welfare programs, and then smear him as their callous, murderous destroyer.

Ten days after Mitt Romney’s Vice-Presidential nomination announcement, liberals are still spreading the meme that Paul Ryan was a suicidal choice, because he dared come up with a serious Medicare reform proposal—gradually turn the program into a voucher-supported private system—and include it in two House-passed federal budgets.  The left waited about five minutes after the VP pick, then cried, “See—Romney didn’t get a Ryan bounce.  He screwed up!”

Wait till Americans hear Paul Ryan debate Joe Biden and field questions from a smarmy, economically illiterate press.  Then they won’t be crowing that Romney committed political hari-kari.

Back in 2010, the left claimed that Tea Party candidates would hurt the GOP in the midterm elections, because Americans wouldn’t tolerate their extremist, far-right views.  Then Republicans won a historic landslide, picking up 63 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, 6 governorships, and 680 state legislature seats.

The left claimed that Marco Rubio would terrify seniors in Florida with his support for privatizing Social Security and his signing a pledge that labeled the program “generational theft.”  Then Rubio returned from 20 points behind to crush his opponents in a three-way senatorial election.

The left claimed that wishy-washy compromiser John McCain was the contender most likely to deliver a knockout blow to Obama in the 2008 presidential election.  Then McCain embarrassed Republicans by offering a tepid, watered-down alternative to Obama’s platform and lost the election.

Pundits imply that Romney should have picked a VP candidate with no strong positions on Medicare—or any other issue of substance—lest he alienate independents.  In fact, if any voters truly are undecided, they’re going to be blown away by what Ryan has to say on Medicare and every other budgetary topic he addresses in his upcoming campaign appearances, because it’s so much bolder and more honest than what almost any other politician has said to date.

Ryan is one of the rare political candidates who’s even more impressive in enemy territory than he is on friendly turf.

Since they don’t like the Big Bad Wolf’s proposal, what are Democrats’ plans for shoring up Medicare?

They have none.  They don’t even think there is a problem.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, for example, argues that Medicare is doing just fine, that the only reason costs are out of control is the large number of retiring Baby Boomers.

It doesn’t matter what the cause of Medicare’s looming insolvency is.  The increase in retirees just lays bare the Ponzi-scheme structure of Medicare and other federal unfunded liabilities.

Contrary to some Democrats’ claims, the Medicare problem is not going to solve itself.  Medicare is not, as they argue, more cost-effective than private health insurance.  The federal government prohibits the sale of private health insurance across state lines, which cripples the private insurance industry’s ability to compete and innovate.  No such hindrance exists for Medicare.

Medicare is not more cost-effective than health maintenance organizations.  The IRS hamstrings HMOs by virtually forcing private health insurance plans to be tied to employers rather than employees, which reduces flexibility and competitiveness.  No such obstacle exists for Medicare.

Medicare could never survive on its own, not without sponging off of the much larger private insurance industry.  If Medicare has such a bright future, more doctors wouldn’t be refusing to accept Medicare patients with each passing year.

The irony is that Democrats warn Republicans that Ryan’s nomination will make the Medicare issue unavoidable for them.  In fact, it’s taken Ryan’s nomination to force Democrats to finally stop avoiding the Medicare issue.

What is Obama’s proposal to address Medicare’s imminent bankruptcy?  He reassures us that we don’t need to cut benefits, that we can keep the program solvent simply by reducing fraud and waste.  In his words, “My plan saves money in Medicare by cracking down on fraud, and waste and insurance company subsidies…  My plan’s already extended the life of Medicare by nearly a decade.”

Please.  Every politician who wants to preserve the status quo claims that gobs of money can be saved from a federal program just by reducing fraud and waste.  Everyone wants to reduce fraud and waste.  John Gambino wants to reduce fraud and waste.

Obama also claims he can save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing subsidies to insurance companies and hospitals—as if they’re going to just altruistically pony up the difference, rather than cutting services or finding some other way to pass the cost on to customers.

Democrats show no interest in acknowledging the fact that Medicare is going broke, that benefits are going to have to be cut—and soon.  They live in a fantasy land where—at best—they pretend they can save hundreds of billions of dollars via rosy projections of improved Medicare cost-efficiency that will take place just a few years down the road, after the next couple of election cycles, by which time voters will have forgotten about their unfulfillable promises.

At worst, they ignore the problem and demonize Republicans for proposing actual solutions.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Romney Sabotages Campaign by Selecting Articulate Budget Wunderkind

August 15, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Democrats are hiding their terror at Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate by claiming he was a terrible pick, his ideas horrify people, and now Romney will never be able to run from voters’ fears about his callous persona.

Lost in Democrats’ self-deluding hosannas is the possibility that Romney chose Ryan because he agrees with him and that Ryan will help the ticket.

In “5 Things Mitt Doesn’t Want You to Know About Paul Ryan,” ABC News announced that Ryan’s “budget plans include big cuts” that will enable the Obama campaign to continue its “Romneyhood narrative.”

Outside the Norfolk, Virginia rally where Romney announced his pick, Andrea Mitchell cried that Ryan is “not a pick for suburban moms, not a pick for women.”

Candy Crowley declared the Ryan pick “some sort of ticket death wish.”

Walter Shapiro warned that Ryan’s budgets put Social Security and Medicare “in the cross-hairs.”

The New York Times complained that Ryan supposedly was “helping the poor by eliminating their dependence on the government…  yet he has failed to explain how he would make them self-sufficient.”

Beyond these scare tactics, the media have identified other supposed Ryan weaknesses that doom the Republican ticket.  ABC noted that Congressional approval ratings are dismally low, and… you know, Ryan is in Congress, so, like, draw your own conclusions.  (They failed to point out that Ryan is the one factor keeping those ratings from being in negative digits.)

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza called Ryan’s fourteen years’ of Washington experience “light.”  The Times wailed that Ryan “has no foreign policy experience and has not spent significant time in the private sector,” which once again proves that Democrats hold our #2 to a higher standard than their #1.  (See Palin, Sarah, “Youth and Inexperience, Controversial Associations, Lack of Foreign Policy Credentials.”)

Undergirding the giddy consensus that Ryan was an awful pick is Democrats’ fumbling, grasping explanation for the choice: Romney is desperately worried about his electoral chances and had to risk something wild and crazy.

Election handicapper Nate Silver claims the pick shows Romney is “bearish” on his prospects.

Walter Shapiro implies that Romney’s pick was calculated to shore up his weaknesses and that Romney changed his mind at the last-minute “to placate the GOP base.”

Lizza claims that Romney chose Ryan because he “seems to have realized that his spring and summer strategies have been a failure.”  The selection “demonstrate[s] that Romney is not able or willing to distance himself from the base of his party”—as though it were the core duty of any presidential nominee to tick off his constituents.

Ezra Klein calls the nomination “an admission of fear from the Romney campaign…  Ryan upends Romney’s whole strategy.  Until now, Romney’s play has been very simple: Don’t get specific.”

That last bit inadvertently gets at the reason behind and consequences of Romney’s choice:

Democrats argue that Ryan is a terrible pick because he’ll force Romney to run on entitlement reform proposals that are popular with the public in the abstract but horrific in the details.  The Times posits that “Romney has settled on a strategy of maximizing his support among conservatives rather than trying to win over independent and centrist voters.”

Wrong.  Entitlement reform proposals appeal to independent and centrist voters—if we have a Paul Ryan to articulate and justify the details.

Consider just one example of how the Obama campaign’s strategy of demonizing Ryan is already failing: their claim that Ryan is “bad news for seniors” because of his Medicare stance.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that seniors are the age group most favorable toward Ryan’s Medicare proposal.  Why?  Because Ryan has made it clear that his plan doesn’t affect anyone 55 or older, and only gradually phases in reforms.  Seniors have had a lifetime’s worth of experience of budgeting and planning, and are most likely to appreciate Ryan’s characterization of the absurdity of our unlimited entitlement spending and its role in our debt crisis.  Senator Marco Rubio similarly won his seat in 2010 in a landslide in Florida—Senior Citizen Central—by articulating the necessity for entitlement reform.

Young people poll least favorably toward Medicare reform, probably because they’re too immature to realize how dire the government is rendering their long-term financial situation.  A young’un like Ryan may be able to drum into their heads why it’s in their interest to enact entitlement reform.

Obama sees people as helpless, vulnerable saps sucking at the government teat from cradle to grave; Romney views them as confident, self-reliant actors capable of planning for their future and taking pride in their self-made success.

The Ryan pick connects this optimistic vision of America’s potential with responsible government reform in a more detailed and thoughtful manner than any other modern presidential campaign.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Ryan: Romney’s Only Choice

August 08, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

The best objection I’ve heard to Mitt Romney’s nominating seven-term Wisconsin Representative/financial wunderkind Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate is that Ryan could do more good for the country’s financial health as Chair of the House Budget Committee.

The 42-year-old Ryan has certainly done some amazing things in his dozen years in Congress—most notably rolling out his 2010/2012 “Path to Prosperity” proposals, which would cut trillions from the deficit, turn the Medicare program into a voucher system, and simplify the tax code.

But Romney can do even more to fix our budget woes as President than Ryan can in Congress.  And Romney is most likely to end up President with Ryan on the ticket.

Ergo, Ryan must join Romney.

How formidable a Romney-Ryan ticket would be.  Ryan has demonstrated a masterful ability to articulate budget and spending issues in such a way that everyday voters can understand just how thoroughly Democrats are screwing us over.  He’s managed to put serious entitlement reform proposals on the table for the first time in a decade.  He’s resisted caving in to faux-conservative RINO-bait like temporary payroll tax cut extensions.  He’s earned the deep respect of conservatives while getting under Obama’s thin skin and driving fear into the hearts of liberals, all while wearing a smile.

True, Ryan has a long career ahead of him, and there would be plenty of time for him to serve as Vice-President or President if he chose.  He can absolutely do more in concrete terms for the nation’s fiscal stability where he is now than as Vice President.

But consider last spring’s protracted Republican primary nomination fight.  Everyone knew Romney was the candidate Democrats most dreaded Republicans would select—because they knew he had the best chance of winning.  A party can generally deduce its most effective electoral strategy by doing what the opposite side most fears.  I’d bet good money that in an election year in which the economy is not just one of the biggest issues but the only effective issue, liberals would be most terrified at Ryan being selected as Romney’s running mate.  (Such a ticket would include not one, but two candidates with more knowledge of economics in their pinkies than Obama.)

Romney-Ryan 2012 would bring the perfect balance of capitalist vs. populist worldviews, seasoned vs. fresh governing approaches, outside vs. inside-the-Beltway experience, and private vs. public sector service.  To pot-stirring liberals who cry that Romney’s private sector experience proves he cares nothing about the public sector, he can simply respond: Look who I saw fit to choose for my running mate.

No pairing—not Romney-Christie, not Romney-Rubio, not Romney-Daniels, all and many more of which would be fantastic—would cost liberals more sleep over the next three months than Romney-Ryan.  I’m guessing David Axelrod’s nightmares right now is a hovering image of a smiling Romney and Ryan standing side-by-side.  (And just think of the entertainment value of a Biden-Ryan Vice-Presidential debate!)

Some will object that Ryan’s Path to Prosperity proposals are too draconian and extreme for voters.  And by “some,” I mean confused Republicans who still haven’t learned that conservative principles win elections.  (See Gingrich, Newt, “right-wing social engineering.”)

As Jonathan Karl notes, “[The] attacks will come anyway (Democrats already speak of the ‘Romney-Ryan Budget’).  Picking Ryan for VP would put on the ticket the person best able to respond to those attacks.”  While I believe Romney’s ability to articulate conservative economic principles is underappreciated, Ryan can do it even better.

As for whether Ryan’s proposals will scare off timid voters: remember last summer when Democrat Kathy Hochul beat Republican Jane Corwin in a special election in NY-26, a result supposedly due to the landscape-changing fallout from Ryan’s apocalyptic Medicare proposal?  The Huffington Post was gloating about it for weeks.  No?  Don’t worry—no one else remembers, either.

In choosing between a candidate who excites millions of Americans or soothes John Boehner, I’ll take the former.

Romney and Ryan’s economic plans are utterly in sync; pairing up on the same ticket would be a natural fit for them.  Ryan’s plan is more detailed and even more conservative than Romney’s—a boon for jaded conservatives who’ve learned that we have to have our facts perfectly straight down to the last punctuation mark in order to counter Democrats’ lies, and that we have to aim especially high to get even a fraction of what we want.

If it were a step down for this Badger State policy wonk and budget guru to hold the Vice-Presidency, I would suggest we urge Ryan to take one for the team.  But Romney-Ryan 2012 would have the advantage to Ryan of setting him up to run for president in 2020.

Finally, the primary duty of the Vice-President is to step in if the President becomes incapacitated.  Given that more primary voters arguably wanted Ryan than Romney to run for President, I think Ryan’s pretty much got that criterion sewed up, too.

Does Romney want to cut to the chase, win this, and kick Obama out of office?  If so, there’s no sane choice of running mate other than Paul Ryan.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Chaos from Unraveling Obamacare Is Entirely Dems’ Fault

June 13, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Liberals conspired for two years to plant a web of technologically sophisticated, hard-to-defuse bombs across the country’s urban and suburban centers, explosives that sparked up here and there frightening people and were programmed to detonate four years later.

Conservative SWAT teams screamed and pleaded and begged the public not to let them do it, and tried to stop the impending carnage via arguments, campaigns, and ultimately elections.  Liberals just laughed at the chaos like the Joker.

Twenty-six states sought intervention from the Supreme Court, which may be on the verge of defusing the bombs, and if the Court doesn’t do it the next Republican Congress will.  The right inevitably will spread collateral damage as they storm into downtown areas cordoning off districts, deactivating trigger devices, resetting timers, and safely dismantling and clearing out every last bomb.

Naturally, the media are blaming conservatives for the mess they’re going to make clearing out the explosives liberals planted.

The bombs in question are, of course, the various provisions of Obamacare.  The disorder left by conservatives’ clearing them out constitutes “messy ripple effects” the mainstream media are warning about if conservatives get their way.

In one recent report expressing hope that some Obamacare terms will be retained, Associated Press reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar explained, “It sounds like a silver lining.  Even if the Supreme Court overturns President Barack Obama’s health care law, employers can keep offering popular coverage for the young adult children of their workers…  But here’s the catch: The parents’ taxes would go up.”

Translation: None of us in the MSM wants Obamacare repealed, but perhaps we’ll be able to keep parts of it intact, and through workaround solutions trick Americans into reinstating the rest in Obama’s second term.  What a shame, though, that parents with freeloading 26-year-olds will have to pay marginally higher rates for their children’s healthcare instead of soaking taxpayers for the difference—about $20 a month per child, according to an economist cited in the article.

Alonso-Zaldivar helpfully assures us that “The coverage for young adults up to age 26 on a parent’s health insurance is a popular provision that no one’s arguing about.”  No one in your administration-supporting, socialized medicine-loving AP reporters’ pool, that is.

He warns, “Better Medicare prescription benefits, currently saving hundreds of dollars for older people with high drug costs, would be suspended.”  Note how Alonso-Zaldivar writes as if seniors had been receiving such benefits for decades, and the extra cost would result in their being thrown in the street.  He acts as though government doesn’t constantly make changes to federal programs, adding or removing funding depending on changes in officeholders, and as though state agencies and private charities aren’t constantly stepping in to make up the difference so constituents barely notice changes in their benefits.  He seems to think Americans have never heard of budgets.

Alonso-Zaldivar adds, “Lacking legal authority, Medicare would have to take away the [“donut hole” coverage gap] discounts.  Drugmakers, now bearing the cost, could decide they want to keep offering discounts voluntarily.  But then they’d risk running afoul of other federal rules that bar medical providers from offering financial inducements to Medicare recipients.”

Lovely.  So we can’t repeal Obamacare, because the federal government prevents drugmakers from generously offering seniors discounts to help pay for their medications.  It’s got to be the government giving us treats or no one.

Last year I pointed out the absurdity of liberal legislators protesting conservative efforts to repeal Obamacare as unconstitutional, given that the legislation itself exists in a different universe from our Constitution.  Idiots like Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee characterized conservative repeal actions as the equivalent of trying to roll back a half-century of civil rights.  In fact, the bill had only been eked into law months before, and conservatives were hoping to stop it before any of its provisions kicked in.

Liberals are taking the same tack now, arguing that undoing Obamacare would be hopelessly messy and complicated (never mind what it would do to our health care system if allowed to stand), would take away popular and longstanding benefits, and should be accepted as a fait accompli.

That is, unfortunately, what happened with big-government welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Those programs became so entrenched in federal and state policy that today they’re nearly impossible to eliminate.  Not so Obamacare, which—unlike those programs—was not passed with bipartisan support, or even a healthy majority of one party, and is still raw enough in voters’ minds that they’re full of piss and vinegar about abolishing it.  The fate of Obamacare will be sealed by November 6, and possibly by the end of this month, and Democrats know the odds aren’t in their favor.

Alonso-Zaldivar gets one thing right: “A mixed verdict from the high court would be the most confusing outcome.  Some parts of the law would be struck down while others lurch ahead.”  Though Obamacare authors’ failure to include a severability clause suggests that if one part of the bill fails the entire thing would have to be struck down, I agree: It absolutely should be abolished in its entirety, down to its last period.

No matter how untidy reversal of Obamacare is, the effects can’t be more destructive to the country’s healthcare system than letting it stand.  And the deleterious effects of either course of action are entirely the fault of overzealous, power-grabbing, liberal Democrats.

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MediScare: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Campaign Theme

June 01, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

mediscare

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at Congressional Democrats’ withering scorn for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, a plan to which their party has yet to offer an alternative.

This is the party that vituperatively opposed all GOP spending cuts for the past two years, yet unlawfully failed to pass a budget during that period.

The party that insists on calling Republicans the Party of No should be labeled the Party of No Ideas of Their Own.

Charles Blow, for example, filled a recent column with purple prose elucidating why voters find Ryan’s plan repugnant: “[T]he electorate is hurting—a pulsing mass of tender nerves, hypersensitive to things that portend pain, reflexively reacting to the thump of even the softest mallet.”  (And most of them don’t even read the New York Times!)  He continued: “This is not to say that Medicare isn’t in crisis.  It is.  But, we don’t have to gut it to save it.”  He then spent precisely zero space suggesting any alternative solutions.

Blow and other liberals have been crowing about the obscure special election Democrat Kathy Hochul won in NY-26 last week.  They claim that Republican Jane Corwin lost because of Ryan’s recently proposed Medicare plan, since seniors in the district were terrified that electing her would increase the chances of their Medicare payments being cut.

Never mind that Democrats inserted into the race a fake Tea Party candidate who siphoned off up to 9% of the Corwin vote; that the previous officeholder was a Republican embroiled in a sex scandal; or that Corwin was a lousy candidate who failed to utter a word in defense of Ryan’s proposal until days before the election.

(Hey, how is it that thundering losses in the 2010 midterm elections weren’t a referendum on ObamaCare, but loss of one seat in a murky district in upstate New York constitutes a wholehearted rejection of conservatism?)

The irony of Democrats’ MediScare campaign is that Ryan’s relatively mild-mannered proposal is the only plan that would save Medicare.  Continuing to fund Medicare at current levels, the Democrats’ strategy, will bankrupt it.

For those who love Medicare and want to see it continue (which I don’t—but hey, to each his own), the scariest choice is doing nothing to reform it.  In contrast, the most reassuring strategy would be a course of action similar to Ryan’s.

I suspect that if pollsters asking voters whether they want Medicare cut presented the real alternative to that possibility—namely, the fund going bankrupt and an unelected board of bureaucrats rationing care for everyone—the public would be a little more receptive to Ryan’s plan.

Democratic naysayers are rife with general notions of how to deal with entitlement reform, but all of these consist of reflexive opposition to any steps Republicans want to take.

For example, Ryan has quite reasonably proposed reducing Medicare benefits for wealthy retirees—who need them less, if at all—to save money.

But leftists like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders oppose even cutting benefits for the wealthy: “The strength of Social Security and Medicare is that everybody is in.  Once you start breaking that universality and you say that if you’re above a certain income [you’re out], two years later that income goes down and 10 years later it becomes a welfare program.”

Would that Social Security and Medicare were only welfare programs!  They’d sure cost a lot less.  They’d also restore a lot more freedom to the middle class in deciding how to invest their money and plan for retirement.

But for liberals, it’s all about control.  Their message to the wealthy is: We’ll tax the bejesus out of you, but then we’ll deign to give you benefits you don’t need, and then exercise complete control over when and how you receive them.  Aren’t you grateful?

For conservatives, it’s all about liberty.  Their message to the wealthy is: We won’t bother you with government-run insurance you don’t need, and we also won’t harass you with exorbitant taxes for the sin of being productive.  Go do your thing!

Sanders, an avowed socialist whose views are nonetheless inches away from the Democratic mainstream, proves once again that liberals are instinctively upside-down on every public policy issue of importance.  Even when it makes sound fiscal sense to steer benefits toward the poor and take them away from the rich, liberals somehow find a way to oppose that progressive notion.

Democrats claim that 20 years from now, seniors will be getting less from the government to cover their health care costs.  Yes, and if Democrats get their way, not only will seniors will be getting less, the government will be deciding how they spend it, via an unelected Medicare rationing board, rather than letting them shop the market for the care they like best.  Now which party’s plan does the public prefer?

Another political axiom the MediScare campaign proves is that liberals will always take the route that proves most politically feasible, regardless of whether it fails to address the public policy conundrum under consideration, unfairly smears their opponents, or makes no logical sense.

Thus, even the Times’ Gail Collins had to admit, “There is no escaping our fate. We are going to spend the next 17 months hearing about how the Republicans want to kill off Medicare…  By the fall, there will be ads showing the Republicans hacking their way through rows of bedridden seniors with scimitars.”

What’s most frightening: Democrats’ brazenness in hiding behind MediScare so as not to have to address the Medicare crisis, the public’s likelihood of falling for MediScare, or Republicans’ failure to explain MediScare’s utter absurdity?

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Newt Gingrich: The New John McCain

May 18, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

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Now that Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee have been neutralized as 2012 Republican presidential primary candidates, it’s time to get to work discrediting the thoroughly inadequate and inappropriate front-runner wannabe, Newt Gingrich.

The former Speaker of the House, who initiated the groundbreaking Contract With America in 1994, then pissed away the Republican Congress’s momentum out of timidity after President Bill Clinton was reelected, had his chance to influence the course of national events.  With the notable exception of the successful Welfare Reform Act of 1996, he failed in his mission.

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” candidate Gingrich revealed that he had fallen for the trap of thinking that not raising the federal debt ceiling means that the U.S. will default on its debt, or that default is necessarily a bad thing.  He told host David Gregory that if Obama and the Democratic Senate don’t compromise with House Republicans, he would favor an endless, niggling series of tiny budget cuts and “a debt ceiling [increase] every three weeks” until a long-term solution was reached.

Gingrich thinks the individual mandate component of ObamaCare—the most contentious, despised, and constitutionally dubious element of the bill—is a dandy idea.  He’s quick to clarify that he thinks such an undue violation of our individual freedoms should be carried out on the state level, not the federal level—though that’s not what he said a few years ago.

Gingrich cut a cutesy commercial with Nancy Pelosi in which the odd couple argued for Congress to act more precipitously to adopt anti-global warming legislation, though now he claims to oppose a cap-and-trade system.  He continues to support wasteful ethanol subsidies.

Gingrich famously partnered with race huckster Al Sharpton to promote greater federal involvement in the country’s educational system, based on the fantastic job Washington has done so far.

He opposed the Wall Street bank bailout proposed in the fall of 2008, until moderates in his party pressured him to change his mind, such that by the end of September he suddenly supported it.

Tea Party activists were aghast at Gingrich’s inexplicable endorsement of RINO Dede Scozzafava—who subsequently endorsed the Democrat in the general election after she lost the primary—over true conservative Doug Hoffman in the 2009 special election in NY-23.

On foreign policy, Gingrich opposes waterboarding as an interrogation technique, even though it was demonstrably successful in helping gain intelligence that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

But Gingrich’s biggest blunder so far was his mindless, shallow condemnation of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, which would cut $5 trillion from the budget over the next 10 years and take the painful and necessary step of instituting Medicare entitlement reform.  According to Gingrich on “Meet the Press,” such a plan is “right-wing social engineering.”  Reminder to Newt: Implementing a shortsighted, wealth-redistributing, unsustainable “social insurance” program in 1965 was “left-wing social engineering.”

According to Gingrich, undoing Medicare is too radical, even though instituting Medicare was too radical.  As Orwell might say: Redemption = sin.  Theft = generosity.

At this rate, Gingrich is on track to become the left-wing’s GOP darling, the John McCain of 2012.  He’ll be praised to high heaven by the New York Times editorial board for his forthrightness, bipartisanship, and flexibility—and then he’ll lose in a landslide to Obama, whom The Times and every other liberal media outlet will endorse in the general election before you can say “My friends…”

Proving that his only consistency is inconsistency, Gingrich disavowed his comments on Ryan and the individual mandate the next day.  His opposition to Ryan’s plan lingered in his stated reversal, however: “I think we should be very careful about imposing things on the American people.”  The implication being that privatizing Medicare is just as much an imposition on people as instituting Medicare.  Relief = imposition.  Slavery = freedom.

Gingrich added, “I don’t think you want to come in and to say to every single American, we’re going to come in and change uniformly for all of you in the most fundamental way what happens to you when you are 65.”  Rather than clarifying his position, Gingrich’s comments demonstrated only that he doesn’t understand the first detail of Ryan’s plan, or that he’s shamelessly misrepresenting and oversimplifying it to cover up for his blunder.

Gingrich thinks the will of the people should be respected in implementing major social legislation, but evidently the constitutionality of the legislation is of no great concern, nor does he harbor any presumption that more intrusive legislation should inherently be held to a higher standard of scrutiny than less intrusive legislation.

In a charitable characterization, Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey said, “It’s typical of Newt to be whimsical.  We always say: Newt always has so many great ideas.  Well yeah, but then he shifts between them at such a rate it’s pretty hard to track it let alone keep up with it.”

Gingrich used to be considered a man of principle, but desperation for political relevance has made it clear that he, like McCain—and Huckabee, Trump, and too many other contenders in the GOP field—has no principles.

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First Rule of Good Governance: Never Negotiate with Democrats

April 06, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

Tug Of War - Colour Edit

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On Saturday President Obama magnanimously announced that he was willing to support cutting $33 billion from 2010 federal spending levels for 2011—which, for the mathematically challenged, is about 1% of infinity.

Congressional Democrats screamed that these cuts were way too large.  Republicans countered that the cuts didn’t go far enough and should be extended to $61 billion, which amounts to about 2% of infinity.

With current spending set to run out this week, the federal government faces a shutdown on Friday night unless Congress can agree on which of these piddly sums to cut from the budget.

Tea party supporters have been rightly insulted by these farcical negotiating positions, arguing that hundreds of billions could be saved just by, for example, eliminating redundant programs.

As Rasmussen reports, a majority of Americans haven’t been snookered into thinking these microscopic doses of fiscal austerity will do a thing to address our long-term budget crisis.

Meanwhile, the only Congressman clear-eyed enough to appreciate the extent of the crisis, knowledgeable enough to propose a plan to resolve it, and brave enough to stand up for his proposal in the face of Republican wishy-washiness—namely, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan—and also not crazily isolationist on foreign policy (Ron and Rand Paul) has offered a blueprint called “A Path to Prosperity,” modeled after his 2008 “Roadmap for America’s Future.”

Ryan’s plan proposes phasing out Medicare by replacing it with vouchers and turning it over to the states, making major changes to Medicaid, and taking similar action with Social Security after these two behemoths have been wrestled to the ground.

The central irony of Ryan’s stance is that, as he claims, his is the only proposal that will help “save” these programs, whereas current entitlement obligations will, if continued at their present levels, lead to eventual insolvency.

While Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security are unsustainable, unconstitutional Ponzi schemes, and while our country somehow managed to survive 189 and 159 years respectively without them, I suppose we need to start somewhere.  I guess a Budget Chairman who wants to drastically reform these albatrosses in order to save them is as good a start as we’re going to get nowadays from a political standpoint.

Ryan’s plan proposes cutting $5 trillion from the national debt over the next decade, and eventually eliminating the national debt, all without raising taxes.

On Tuesday, Obama rejected a third stopgap offer from House Majority Leader John Boehner to keep the government open another week while budget negotiations continue.

Obama’s right—we shouldn’t settle for on-the-fly, seat-of-our-pants, week-by-week spending plans.  Republicans should hold their ground and not be afraid to shut the government down on Friday.

Some who claim to favor entitlement reform have counseled House Republicans to compromise with Democrats on this week’s negotiations, so that Democrats will work with them later on more substantial cuts like Ryan’s.  The Chicago Tribune counsels, “Better to declare victory at $33 billion, or whatever more Republicans can wrest from Democrats, and move on to the bigger picture.  Because sanity in federal spending isn’t going to be restored by dealing in billions.  It’s going to be restored by dealing in trillions…  A deal today on discretionary spending could lay the foundation for bipartisan agreement on the far more impactful issue of entitlements.”

So giving in to Democrats will create goodwill and set the stage for larger-scale cuts, whereas shutting down the government will cause Democrats to dig in further and resist compromise later on.

One question: Since when did Democrats respond to Republican compromise with magnanimous, reciprocal behavior?

Sensing that they’re about to win on the shutdown, dyed-in-the-wool leftists like E. J. Dionne are already crying, “The Ryan budget’s central purpose will not be deficit reduction but the gradual dismantling of key parts of government…  Americans are about to learn… how radical the new conservatives in Washington are, and the extent to which some politicians would transfer even more resources from the have-nots and have-a-littles to the have-a-lots.”  Ezra Klein whines that Ryan’s plan will mean “leaving the old and the poor without health care.”  These are the people who are going to be placated by giving in on minute cuts now into accepting huge cuts several months from now?

Republicans’ negotiation strategy, from Bush I to Bush II to Boehner, has always been: The other side asks for an inch; Republicans give a mile.  Democrats’ strategy is: The other side asks for an inch; Democrats take a mile.  See how fair and evenhanded things are!

To take just one recent example, Congressional Republicans begged Democrats to consider including medical malpractice tort reform, legalizing health insurance sales across state lines, and offering greater tax deductions for health care costs in their ObamaCare bill.  Democrats responded by ignoring all these ideas and muscling through their bill inappropriately using the budget reconciliation procedure after the enraged residents of Massachusetts denied them their 60th Senate vote.

Battling Democrats legislatively is like fighting terrorists militarily—you don’t show them how weak and spineless you are; you show them how ruthless and merciless you can be.  They don’t respond to anything else.

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Health Care Rationing: A Love Story

July 13, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

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What kind of benevolent dictator would declare his love for Britain’s stingy, depressing, complicated, cold and arbitrary National Health Service by describing it as “generous, hopeful, confident, joyous and just”?

That would be Harvard-based pediatrician Donald Berwick, who recently received a recess appointment as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by the benevolent dictator who describes his pessimistic and stale vision for America as “hope and change.”

Recess appointments are an executive procedure used, for better or for worse, when the Senate gives a presidential appointee a difficult time during confirmation hearings—for example, when they filibuster a nominee.  Obama’s appointment of Berwick bears the distinction of having been given without a confirmation hearing having even been scheduled.

It’s as though Obama decided that the very requirement that his nominee appear before a Democratic-controlled Senate constituted an unreasonably difficult hurdle.  This isn’t a recess appointment—it’s a vacation to Bermuda appointment.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, “Circumventing Senate confirmation to appoint the new Medicare chief is part of the same political willfulness that inflicted ObamaCare on the country despite the objections of most voters.”  CBS News observed, “The debate over Berwick’s recess appointment makes clear what the White House knew all too well—Berwick may not have survived the Senate confirmation process, which would have turned into a proxy debate over health care reform.”

Berwick, who will be put in charge of the health care of 100 million Americans without so much as a public query about his plans in office, has been quoted saying, “I am romantic about the N.H.S.; I love it.”  He has called himself “an American fan” of the system, “distant and starry-eyed.”

In his London speech commemorating the N.H.S.’s 60th birthday, Berwick delivered such pro-American pronouncements to his audience as “Do not trust market forces to give you the system you need…  I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care.  That is for leaders to do.”

When it comes to Berwick’s affection for health care systems centered around use of death panels, apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder.  After returning home and mooning over the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the operational arm of the N.H.S., Berwick realized that “All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.”

That country would be the United States, which has the greatest health care system in the world, and would be a profound source of inspiration for anyone who truly loved medicine.  Berwick’s own place of employment is Harvard Medical School, where you would think there would have been a few medical advances in recent years to set his heart aflutter.

But no—Berwick’s passion is for euthanasia counseling and quality-adjusted life years.

Berwick of course has never had to live under the jurisdiction of the N.H.S.  You might call his affair with the British health care system a long-distance relationship.

Describing the supposed British backlash against American conservatives’ depiction of the N.H.S. during the health care reform debate last summer, the New York Times gushed, “A Twitter campaign, We Love The N.H.S., is still going strong, with supporters sending messages about their own good experiences.”

In fact, said campaign didn’t even last 30 days from its first Tweet to its last, and has attracted a piddly 520 followers internationally.  This is despite such helpful but unheeded administrative prompts as “What do you love about the nhs?” and “Please Retweet: 10,000 supporters visualised.”

Admittedly, the riotously popular N.H.S. does have a Facebook fan page with 3,500 members.  Then again, an ill-worded N.H.S. sign implying that contraception would be facilitated by anal rather than vaginal intercourse has a Facebook fan page with 124,475 members.  So perhaps fan counts are not such a flattering measure of the N.H.S.’s popularity.

Even the New York Times admitted that Brits “complain endlessly about the National Health Service…  They deplore the system’s waiting lists, its regional disparities in treatment, its infection-breeding hospitals and its top-heavy bureaucracy.”  I guess the grass is greener on the other side of the pond!

If Donald Berwick wants to swoon over endless waiting lists, fatally protracted wait times, diminished access to specialized care, craven efforts to shield patients from learning about or acquiring costly life-saving drugs, dismal heart attack and cancer survival rates, depersonalized patient treatment, and centralized bureaucratic decision-making about individual health care options, that’s his prerogative.  But forgive the rest of the U.S. if we aren’t quite as smitten as he is.

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