Libertarian Hawk


Liberal Myths: Holiday Edition

December 12, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

three donkeys copyHow many liberal myths can a mainstream news announcer cram into one innocent, 90-second, top-of-the-hour news briefing?  On WABC’s New York affiliate one recent December evening, I counted eight.

First the news reader (as they more appropriately call them in Japan) cheerfully announced that seasonal hiring—inventory control agents, sales clerks, deliverymen—was way up this year compared to last year; that increased holiday spending was a sign the economy was improving; and that goods being purchased in the U.S. are unfortunately being made more often overseas.

There’s three myths right there: (1) elevated part-time hiring reflects economic health; (2) consumer spending drives growth; and (3) trade imbalances are harmful.

(1) That retailers are hiring more temporary help isn’t a sign the economy is thriving; it’s a sign there are more underemployed workers taking part-time work below their skill level.  If permanent, full-time employment were stable, we wouldn’t see such a leap in short-term hiring during peak economic season.  Increased part-time hiring also reflects employers’ reluctance to take on “full-time,” 30-hour-a-week employees whom they must soon provide health insurance per Obamacare.

(2) Consumer spending does not drive economic growth; investment and production do.  There’s nothing to consume if manufacturers don’t have the capital and the optimism that investing in productive enterprise will be worth it.  And manufacturers don’t think production will be worth it if they’re saddled with confiscatory tax rates, burdensome regulations, and long-term uncertainty.  Consumer spending is the last step in the economic chain of production, not the first.

(3) Trade imbalances reflect the fact that some countries have more stable economies and reliable currencies than others, the latter of whom must depend more on tangible production efforts to demonstrate they have something of value to trade.  Trade imbalances also signal advanced nations’ capacity to provide high-tech, intangible services and sophisticated knowledge transfer that aren’t as concrete or visible as shiploads of dry goods.

After this trio of falsehoods, the announcer chirped that gas prices were lower than they’d been in months—a boon for the economy—but higher than this time last year, which could reflect rising wages.

There’s two more myths: (4) seasonal fluctuations in gas prices reflect economic growth; and (5) high gas prices reflect improving wages.

(4) Gas prices are always higher in the summer; this is a reliable, cyclical variation, and gas prices declining from June to December say nothing about comparative economic performance at the end of the year.

(5) Our current high gas prices are less likely a reflection of increasing income—which we know is at historically low levels—and more likely the result of instability in the Middle East (due to our President’s weak foreign policy), forecast scarcity of oil (due to drilling restrictions), and looming inflation (due to the Federal Reserve’s currency devaluation).

After a commercial break, the reporter referenced the recent renewal of the Kyoto Protocol and uncritically repeated the news that (6) scientists are alarmed because 2012 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record.

(6) The Met Office in Great Britain recently released a report showing global temperature the same in 2012 as it was in 1996.  The period over which no global warming has been taking place (1996-2012) is thus the same length as the period over which it was supposedly taking place (1980-1996).  But never mind: news outlets such as The New York Times inveigle us to “Bundle Up: It’s Global Warming.”

The announcer then mentioned Obama’s recent trip to Michigan to grandstand on the end-of-the-year fiscal showdown, and parroted his claim that (7) spending cuts must be balanced with tax increases to balance our budget.  The announcer concluded that (8) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up slightly due to optimism over progress in the fiscal cliff talks.

(7) Liberals refuse to understand that revenue increases are not the same as tax increases.  One means more money going to the government; the other means a higher percentage of people’s income being taken from them.  Paradoxically, lowering marginal tax rates on high-income earners increases revenue, because then they don’t scale back their investment and hiring to avoid being gouged.  Cutting taxes increased revenue under JFK, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.  Yet liberals forever believe Republicans want the government to run with no revenue.

(8) No one can say on any given day why the Dow is up or down, and analysts frequently project their prejudices onto such causal pronouncements.  It’s equally possible that the DJI is up because investors believe little progress is being made as the end of the year approaches, automatic budget cuts are going to kick in, and we’re finally going to start reining in spending.

At this rate, the mainstream media will soon be reporting flying reindeer sightings.

(For more liberal howlers, see Liberal Myths: Tax Day Edition!)

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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“Hope and Change”: Rhetorically Proximate to Higher Taxes

May 30, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

In the waning days of the Obama Dynasty, liberals have been rolling out graph after graph purporting to offer voters ironclad proof of one crackpot Keynesian notion after another.

Last year Nancy Pelosi’s office posted a risible graph showing that President Obama had increased the debt far less than George W. Bush and all other Republican presidents over the last thirty years.  It was later revealed that Pelosi’s office had mistakenly counted spending in Obama’s first year as Bush’s, and that based on debt as a percentage of GDP—the more relevant measure—Obama was the most profligate spender of the lot.  Fact-checking website PolitiFact awarded the graph a “Pants on Fire” rating, and for a while we didn’t hear any more crowing about Republicans outspending Democrats.

Last week the meme was resurrected via a surprising graph showing that in his three-and-a-half years in office, Obama halted and even reversed the growth in federal deficits, whereas recent presidents—especially Bush—increased it.  Within days, John Lott, Ann Coulter, and other commentators tore apart this graph by pointing out that it insanely counted all of Obama’s first-year spending as Bush’s, this time intentionally.

In addition, Bush, Obama, and Congress blew up federal spending in FY 2009 due to the banking crisis.  Yet Obama continued spending at that level long after the financial panic ended, thus turning exorbitant, unprecedented spending levels into the new baseline.  Rex Nutting, author of the MarketWatch piece that caused a ruckus last week, offered the typical excuse for Obama: he had to engage in wild spending to stave off a looming depression.  So why didn’t Obama slash spending after the crisis was over?  If Obama is such a warrior for fiscal restraint, why don’t his projected budgets to 2020 rein in federal spending to pre-2008 levels?

Since liberals can’t win arguments by presenting actual data, their newest gambit appears to be presenting “hypothetical” graphs that explain why the economy thrives under liberals and weakens under conservatives.

The latest graph floating around the Web shows how progressive taxes stimulate growth, whereas regressive or flat taxes slow it.  According to the authors’ explanation, no one wants to be taxed at an exorbitant rate, so business owners will reinvest money into their companies in excess of what they need to live on, thus creating jobs.  In contrast, under a lower rate, business owners sit around on their money, because they have no fear of being outrageously taxed.

There’s so much wrong with this absurd graph that it’s hard to know where to start.  First of all, it completely ignores corporate taxes, which eat up reinvestment funds and keep them from being returned to the company.  Instead they get diverted to pay for things like fortune tellers at federal conferences in Las Vegas.

For another thing, the graph implies that companies are taxed based on net profit, when in fact they are taxed based on total revenue.  Such a policy creates a disincentive to reinvest and grow, since growth means that more of a company’s revenue will eventually be confiscated by the government no matter what the company does with it.

In addition, most companies do reinvest most of their profit, in order to stay afloat, so raising taxes merely hinders their ability to carry out that action.

Moreover, progressive tax rates reduce the incentive to go into business at all, given the likelihood that a successful businessman can soon expect to become the target of ravenous politicians.

Also, people who are ambitious enough to start businesses generally don’t sit around on their money and brag about how rich they are; they usually start more companies and get richer.  At any given point in time, most rich people’s money is tied up in investments, not wound around cardboard rolls to be used as toilet paper.

Also, to the extent that companies are sitting on their money, it’s because of the regulatory uncertainty the Obama administration is sowing regarding tax rates and the health care industry.

Also, even if all of the above weren’t true, it’s still not the government’s business to tell companies how much of their income to keep and how much to reinvest.

Other than that, the graph is spot-on!

In a speech last week defending his attacks on Bain Capital, Obama implied that in his private sector career Mitt Romney was trying only to make a profit and didn’t care about creating jobs.

Newsflash for liberals: The purpose of starting a business is not to create jobs.  No one invests inordinate amounts of time and risks enormous sums of capital for the privilege of someday being able to pay strangers’ salaries.

The purpose of starting a business is to make money.  To make money, you need employees, but you don’t try to maximize the number of employees in your hire or their remuneration rates; in fact, you try to minimize both, while still getting the same amount of work done.  (The opposite is true if you work for the federal government, in which case you try to maximize the number of employees and the size of their salaries, and minimize the amount of work they do.)

Jobs are an after-effect, a by-product of wealth creation—an important one, but not something that precedes revenue generation.  I promise you, “job creation” doesn’t even make the top 100 goals an entrepreneur sets for himself when starting a new company.  (It did, however, make the top 5 list for Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill, right after paying off his campaign donors, subsidizing unions, funding ACORN, and enriching incompetent solar panel companies.)

To paraphrase MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, President of the Involuntary Veterans’ Modesty Association: Democrats’ airy-fairy economic theories make me uncomfortable, because they are rhetorically proximate to skyrocketing taxes and a federal takeover of the economy.

In their desperation to get Obama reelected, Democrats have proven that they will try anything to fool Americans into accepting higher taxes, including pushing pseudo-economic rationalizations for why sky-high tax rates are Miracle-Gro for the economy.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Rush Deconstructed for the Media Matters Crowd

December 22, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Rush Limbaugh
Cover of Rush Limbaugh

The congenitally leftist site Media Matters regularly collects “controversial” quotes by conservative personalities and displays them on its website for liberals to gawk at.  It’s supposed to be self-evident to visitors how insane these statements are.

Evidently this soft-sell strategy works, as evidenced by the reams of snarky remarks dumped in the comments section by loyal readers.

Rush Limbaugh is of course a favorite target of Media Matters.  Please join me while I deconstruct a sampling of contentiously worded but eminently sensible recent Rush quotes (thanks to David Swindle for post idea):

“Continued unemployment benefits increases unemployment”

Rush bemoans the fact that recent Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits has been based, not on the philosophy behind endless benefit extensions, but on the technicality of paying for them.  Rush points out the fact that it’s easier for people to accept a $325 a week check than to look for a job.  Subsidizing something (unemployment) gives you more of it; taxing something (working) gives you less of it.  Contrary to Nancy Pelosi’s claims, unemployment benefits do not increase employment.

Everything Obama has done has been “an attack on the greatness of this country”

Rush cites the following disasters in Obama’s first term: ObamaCare, intrusive financial regulations, a moratorium on drilling, bank and auto company bailouts, and the stimulus bill.  So where does Rush get it wrong?  Is it part of America’s manifest destiny to impose socialized medicine, constrict financial institutions, ban exploration of natural resources, keep bad businesses from failing by punishing good ones, and spend trillions of dollars we don’t have on projects we don’t need?

Requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions “isn’t insurance, it’s welfare”

Eric Cantor recently announced that Republicans would not seek to completely get rid of the health care reform bill; some elements will be kept, such as coverage of preexisting conditions.  Rush argues that forcing insurance companies to accept people with preexisting conditions is welfare.  Insurance companies stay in business by getting many people to pay premiums; if they had to provide coverage to anyone who wanted it, people would simply wait until they suffered catastrophes and then purchase insurance.  Thus, coverage of preexisting conditions = free money = welfare.

“The Constitution is an obstacle to [liberals], it’s a Bible to me”

A caller wants to know how to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives.  Rush tells him that the things the two sides want done are incompatible, and that the left is no longer on the same page as the right.  Rush is willing to compromise on policy details but not on the Constitution.  When you have Democrats being caught admitting they don’t worry about the Constitution, or trying to redefine it as involving more than protecting “negative liberties,” then there’s no room for negotiation.

Obama didn’t lobby for 2022 World Cup because he is a “guaranteed loser … talk to Chicago about that”

Obama failed to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, guarantee carbon emission reduction concessions at Copenhagen, help candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and get G-20 members to agree to currency inflation.  He is, in every sense of the term, a loser.  Yes, he won the 2008 presidential election—and an electoral victory gives one power, but does not produce actual results.

Past terrorists have been “young male Muslim Arabs,” and now “everybody has to be groped”

Rush addresses dissatisfaction over the Transportation Safety Administration’s decision to use invasive full-body scanners and “enhanced pat downs.”  We know who the enemy is in the war on terror, what they look like, their national origins, their ages.  But for some reason we’re supposed to suspend logic and pretend anyone could be a terrorist.  Police officers profile suspects all the time, and residents of high-crime neighborhoods are grateful they do.  If a suspect is a young, African American male, should police waste time stopping middle-aged white men and Hispanic grandmothers to prove they’re not racist?

Some Republicans are “gun-shy about defending the rich,” but “I, of course, do not have that problem”

Rush discusses a column in which Thomas Sowell expresses concern about the GOP losing the tax extension debate.  Sowell notes that tax cuts for the rich raise revenue and create jobs.  Republicans have that fact on their side, but they have to explain it to the public.  Decades of pounding from the mainstream media have left the GOP queasy about speaking up.  Sowell notes that we just won a landslide and asks, Why are we afraid to speak up?  Rush’s answer: The GOP does need to speak up, but in the meantime, I’m going to do it for them.

“Secondhand smoke is harmless”

A recent study by a Swedish health board claims that secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people each year.  Rush notes that the World Health Organization conducted a worldwide study in 2001 that found that secondhand smoke has no impact on health, but suppressed the study, because its findings were politically incorrect.  Rush observes that liberals lie about global warming, DDT, and other supposed health risks in order to control people’s lives, so until there is better evidence about secondhand smoking, we shouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt on this.

To African-Americans: “The Democrat party is the party of keeping you poor and downtrodden”

A caller asks why the media don’t focus on the fact that if the Bush tax cuts are not extended, the lowest tax rate would increase from 10% to 15%, a 50% increase, which would disproportionately affect African Americans.  Rush points out that Democrats are not the party that is best for African Americans but rather the party of segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK.  Until FDR used electoral strategies to turn African Americans his way, this voting bloc had consistently voted Republican.  LBJ expanded this strategy with his Great Society in the 1960s, and Democratic presidents from Carter to Clinton to Obama continued it, with the result that illegitimacy and dropout rates are now higher in African American communities than in the 1950s.  So remind me: how are Democrats the party that’s best for African Americans?

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Parsing Obama

April 06, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

Image by Floyd Brown via Flickr

Over the weekend a poor lithium battery plant worker from South Carolina named Doris stumbled into a bear trap we’ll call “Obama in a contemplative yet incoherent, feisty yet expansive mood.”

Dear Doris asked Obama a question and was hit with a 2,600-word, 17-minute onslaught that makes any rambling reply Sarah Palin supposedly ever gave seem like the soul of brevity.

To be fair, Doris had placed a tall order: she had asked Obama to sell her on the recently passed health care overhaul legislation via a diatribe that rehashed the history of Medicare, trotted out charges against Bush, and stopped along the way for an analogy involving leaky roofs.

Oh wait—she didn’t; that was what she got.  She asked Obama whether raising taxes in a recession was a good idea.

A prickly Obama jumped in and implied that Doris and millions of other Americans who had been reading about the health care legislation over the past twelve months were badly misinformed, easily misled by huckster politicians, and quite possibly morons.

He launched into one of several internally and externally redundant lists cataloging the reasons for health care reform (which was not Doris’s question).  In a vastly condensed nutshell:

List 1, Point 1: Some people don’t have health insurance.

L1, P2: Some people with health insurance might not have it in the future.

L1, P3: Sometimes insurance companies operate according to the profit motive and fail to chase down policyholders to shower them with free money they don’t have coming to them.

L1, P4: Health care is expensive.

Obama then lamented how all government-instituted health insurance programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP, are running out of money, which means that we need: more government intervention!

Obama embarked on another list explaining what provisions the health care overhaul bill contains (again, not Doris’s question):

L2, P1: Everybody will get coverage.

L2, P2: We will drive insurance companies out of business—which will really improve the chances that they will pay consumers’ claims!

L2, P3: We will get rid of excess, waste, and overload in Medicare (at which point the thinking half of the audience wondered how Obama would accomplish this when he couldn’t even get rid of excess, waste, and overload in his response).

Obama repeated Republicans’ objection that adding 30 million Americans to the insurance rolls might require some sacrifice and would not reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars as claimed—an argument he promptly shot down as the addle-headed straw man it obviously is.

To do this, he told a story about some people living in a house with a leaky roof that dripped water into some of the rooms, and explained why the people in the rooms without leaks would be better off if the government forced them to pay for the leaks in the other rooms.

Missing from his analogy were the caveats that random strangers don’t involuntarily live under the same roof, fixing one person’s leaky roof does not increase the quality of life for someone without a leaky roof, and the government is not a mortgage holder empowered to make these decisions for residents.  But give him points for creativity, I guess.

List time again—this one involving how the administration was going to pay for the health care overhaul:

L3, P1: We will get rid of excess, waste, and overload (see L2, P3).

L3, P2: We will increase taxes.

Finally!  Obama arrived in the same ballpark as Doris’s question.

Obama then noted that Doris pays Medicare taxes but Warren Buffet doesn’t—ignoring the fact that Warren Buffet doesn’t want or need Medicare.  (Doris might not either, but let’s assume for the moment that she does.)

The President proposed that we tax, for the sake of fairness, individuals making over $200,000 or couples making over $250,000 a year—you know, Warren Buffet, basically—an exorbitant amount for services they probably don’t want or need.

He did not address the tax—sorry, “fine”—to be levied on citizens who do not comply with the individual mandate to purchase government-approved health insurance, which is presumably what Doris was alluding to in her question.

Obama closed with a litany of campaign-style talking points: he mentioned for the 1.3 trillionth time that he had inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit; condemned the cost of the prescription drug plan and Medicare Part D; bashed the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts; bemoaned mounting credit card and home loan debt; cited the stimulus bill and something called FMAP; referenced PAYGO and earmarks and… ugh, I can’t take it anymore.

One wonders what Doris did to deserve the karmic retribution of such a longwinded, tortuous answer, or why Obama decided to inflict it upon her.  Perhaps he was using an innocent victim to try to compensate for twelve months of failing to take a leadership role in pushing his bill through Congress or allay constituents’ concerns about its costs.

If Obama is still going around giving a 17-minute apologia for a fundamental point of the bill he claims Americans are clamoring for but just don’t realize yet, he’s going to have an awfully hard time changing anyone’s mind on his whirlwind national health care snake oil tour.

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Incinerating a Hot Potato

February 03, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

If deficit spending is the way out of an economic downturn, as leftist economists like Paul Krugman keep telling us, then one way to characterize President Obama’s approach to reviving the ailing economy is “killing it with kindness.”

Another is “tough love”—not the kind where you force hard choices and self-discipline, but the kind where you shoot the poor beast to put it out of its misery.

James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, recently crystallized the Democrats’ position on fiscal responsibility when he announced, “We’re not going to save our way out of this recession.  We’ve got to spend our way out of this recession, and I think most economists know that.”

Here are some fun facts about Obama’s proposed federal budgets over the next decade:

•    The projected deficit for Obama’s 2010 budget is $1.6 trillion, which is 10% larger than the 2009 deficit, which in turn was three times as big as the record 2008 deficit under President Bush.

•    The projected 2010 deficit is 10 times as large as the deficit for Bush’s 2007 budget, the latter of which included funding for the troop surge that won the war in Iraq.  Hoping to match our accomplishment in Iraq, the White House Travel Office has approved a trip for Obama to go to Cambridge, Massachusetts in November to get a Democratic dogcatcher elected in Harvard Square.

•    The projected 2010 deficit will render our national debt 13% bigger on the last day of this year than it is today.  Projected 2010-11 deficits will cause the debt to swell 23% bigger than it is now.  By 2020, the debt will be twice as big as it is today.

•    By 2013 the deficit will recede to $700 billion, a “mere” half of the 2009 deficit, then ratchet up again to $1 trillion by 2020.  Even this will happen only if Congress agrees to drastic spending cuts before 2013, which it has already expressed strong resistance to doing.

•    All of these numbers are conditional on what many private sector economists call overly optimistic expectations held by the current administration regarding growth of the economy.

These sobering statistics raise a number of tough questions about the measures Obama has proposed to bring down the deficit—which, naturally, he will never satisfactorily answer.

For example: in his budget address on Monday, Obama stated, “Because small businesses are critical creators of new jobs and economic growth, the budget eliminates capital gains taxes for investments in small firms and includes measures to increase these firms’ access to the loans they need to meet payroll, expand their operations, and hire new workers.”

Why only small businesses?  Why not medium and large businesses?  Who adds more jobs to the economy—Sal’s Pizzeria, a local franchise of Linens ‘n Things, or Microsoft Corporation?

Obama proposes letting the Bush tax cuts expire for families making over $250,000 a year.  He wants to impose a new tax—sorry, “financial crisis responsibility fee”—on banks and corporations who received TARP money, some of whom were forced by the administration to take it.  Obama wants to strip away tax breaks from oil and gas corporations.

Why would Obama want to choke the engines of growth and job creation by saddling them with tax increases?  If the absence of a $5,000 tax credit would hinder a small business from new hiring, what does he think the addition of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to a corporation would do to their hiring?  Do big corporations hire workers out of the goodness of their hearts, with no concern for the bottom line?

Also, given that many of those families who make over $250,000 are headed by small business owners, how does Obama justify giving them tax credits while simultaneously increasing their taxes?  Is his administration even feigning consistency here?

History shows that cutting individual and corporate tax rates increases long-term tax revenue.  Obama was specifically asked about this proven fact by George Stephanopoulos during a primary debate with Hillary Clinton.  Obama stated outright that even if this pattern were true, he would still favor higher taxes on the wealthy to promote “fair” taxation.

Obama is free to endorse Marxist policies if he desires, but how can he turn around and claim that his proposal to increase taxes for the wealthy is an effective way to reduce long-term deficits?

When you’re handed a hot potato such as the sickly economy—a fate Obama has reminded us of precisely eight million times since he was elected office—the responsible solution is to let it cool down.

Instead, Obama proposes to cremate it.

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The Democrats’ Tower of Babel

January 06, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Each of the two ratified versions of the health care bill currently waiting in Congress was barely passed, by virtually the slimmest margin possible, in a hectic last-minute stampede.  Dozens of harsh compromises had to be hammered out to cobble together the fragile framework now standing in each chamber.

The two bills are like delicate Jenga towers, swaying nerve-wrackingly in the breeze, that must now be reassembled by a team of 535 clumsy attention-seekers into a tower twice as tall.  But legislators across the two chambers—and even within them—are not even speaking the same language.

Here are a few of the myriad discrepancies legislators must reconcile to ensure that their monument to Obama’s greatness doesn’t fall:

In the House version of the bill, a government-run insurance exchange is created on a national level and includes a public option.  In the Senate version, exchanges are created on the state level and do not include a public option.  Virtually identical!

The House completely bans the practice 0f charging those with preexisting conditions higher premiums.  The Senate allows insurers to offer unlimited discounts for customers who engage in subjectively defined wellness activities: say, exercising, eating healthy, “not having contracted lung cancer”…

Insurance exchanges are implemented in 2013 in the House bill and 2014 in the Senate bill.

In the House version, employers are forced to provide insurance for their employees and pay a fine if they do not.  In the Senate version, employers are not required to provide insurance, but pay a fine for employees who opt for government-run insurance and receive federal subsidies.  The House has higher penalties than the Senate.

The House version funds the bill by imposing a surtax on families making over $1 million a year.  The Senate version establishes a tax on those with “Cadillac” plans, which includes not only many union members, but millions of families who will unexpectedly find themselves unlucky Cadillac owners over the next 10 years due to the non-inflation-adjusted nature of the provision.

The House version does not tax insurance offered by employers; the Senate version taxes employer insurance above a threshold.

The House version charges older people a maximum of twice the premiums as younger people; the Senate version sets a maximum ratio of three-to-one.  The House offers fewer insurance subsidies for the middle class than does the Senate.  The Senate offers weaker measures to limit out-of-pocket costs than does the House.

The House bill covers 5 million more people than the Senate bill by expanding Medicaid to those earning up to about $2,000 more than in the Senate bill.

The Senate version gives $100 million to Nebraska for indefinite coverage of all new Medicaid enrollees in the state (to buy Ben Nelson’s vote).  The Senate bill gives $300 million to Louisiana for Medicare increases (for Mary Landrieu’s vote); $10 billion to Vermont for new public health centers (for Bernie Sanders’ vote); billions to Nebraska and Michigan to waive nonprofit insurers’ excise taxes (for Ben Nelson and Carl Levin’s votes); millions to Massachusetts and Vermont for Medicaid; and millions to Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania for Medicare Advantage.  None of these provisions is in the House bill.

The Senate version includes, per the insistence of construction unions, an important exception to the employer mandate.  As an article in the New York Times titled “In Health Bill for Everyone, Provisions for a Few” reports, “Under the Senate bill, businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be exempt from the penalties in every industry but construction.”  In the construction industry, the mandate holds for employers with as few as 5 employees.  The House includes no such provision.

Restrictions on abortion funding are tight in the House, with no federal funding allowed; and loose in the Senate, with mere separation of federal and private money, and states allowed to make up whatever rules they want regarding abortion funding.

Coverage for illegal immigrants is not disallowed in the House; it is explicitly banned in the Senate.

It should be sobering for Democrats to realize that if just one Senator or two Representatives decide they can’t tolerate the alternative version of even one of these provisions, that will be enough to topple the whole health care reform edifice.

It’s no wonder, then, that Congressional Democrats now plan to merge the bills behind closed doors, shutting out all Republicans from discussion of the reconciliation process and preventing them from using parliamentary procedures to slow consideration of the bill and allow the public to digest the proposed changes.  Talking Points Memo cites one Democratic House aide who proudly admits, “This process cuts out the Republicans.”  The House will simply take the Senate’s bill, amend it, vote on it, and send it to the Senate; who will then amend the bill, vote on it, and send it to the House; and back and forth until some hideous, lopsided, structurally unsound blueprint garners enough votes in both chambers.

If Democrats had to merge these two bills in a public conference committee—never mind on C-SPAN, as previously promised and recently offered by the network’s CEO—it would take about five minutes for the cacophonous clatter surrounding their health care Tower of Babel to bring it crashing down.

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The Democrats’ Confidence Game

June 10, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

In a survey conducted in early June, Rasmussen found that Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats on six out of eleven top issues.

It’s no surprise that Republicans lead on national security: after 9/11, when Bush implemented policies to fight terrorism, Republicans’ trust ratings skyrocketed, because Americans saw the problem at hand and liked the way Republicans were dealing with it.  Years later, Obama and other Democratic presidential candidates boasted how much more effective they would be on national security—a fraud they were able to perpetrate because Bush had kept us safe since 9/11 and the threat of attack seemed remote.  Even if Americans actually came to believe that the way to defeat terrorists is to love them, Obama soon co-opted Bush’s entire war policy, thus validating Republicans’ arguments for the past eight years.

So we know national security isn’t Democrats’ strong suit.  Perhaps to distract from their unpopular war agenda, Obama and the newly engorged Democratic Congressional majorities started talking about “a new era of transparency.”  After 384 Obama appointees turned out to be tax cheats, liars, campaign underwriters, and lobbyists, Republicans now lead on government ethics, the second-most important issue to voters.

When ethics didn’t prove to be Democrats’ trump card, Obama started traveling around the country handing out stimulus goodies and talking about projects and jobs funded by the Recovery Act.  Then ABC’s Jake Tapper started uncovering all of Obama’s lies about the nonexistent effects of stimulus spending, and economists deconstructed the lunacy of his “saved or created” jobs argument.  Now a plurality of Americans wants the unspent portion of the stimulus recalled.

In a desperate gambit, Obama took over GM and strong-armed Chrysler’s secured creditors into lousy bankruptcy terms.  The Fed spent $1.2 trillion to lower mortgage rates, which increased, and pledged so much spending that long-term interest rates are spiking.

So now—surprise!—the public trusts Republicans more on the economy, the top-rated issue.  As Rasmussen reports, “Voters not affiliated with either party now trust the GOP more to handle economic issues by a two-to-one margin.”  So the economy doesn’t seem to be Democrats’ ace in the hole, either.

In a sleight of hand, Obama then renewed his push for climate change legislation and health care reform—gargantuan spending boondoggles that would somehow miraculously save our economy, too!  Then Democrats rolled out their plans, and businesses that would actually be affected by the legislation ran screaming.

In Rasmussen’s report, Democrats get their “highest” rating for health care (47%)—but this was measured before we heard actual health care proposals from Democrats, before the AMA and the Chamber of Commerce condemned Democrats’ government-sponsored plan.  Democrats’ lead on the issue has shrunk 8 points just since last month.

The other issues where Democrats do “well” are Social Security (43%), education (44%), and abortion (41%)—all issues no one is making major legislative proposals about right now.

Democrats’ confidence ratings are like a shell game: whichever issues the nation is dealing with are correctly seen by Americans as more capably handled by Republicans, but Democrats are assumed to be wonderful—just wonderful!—on all the other concerns we don’t happen to be tackling at the moment.  As soon as Democrats get their hands on something and we see what they actually want to do to us, trust in their ability plummets, and they move on to another, more pressing priority.

The further the nation is from the reality of an issue, the more likely Democrats are to be trusted; the closer it gets to that reality, the more likely Republicans are to be trusted.

“Ending the war in Iraq” sounds reasonable—until you read the fine print and realize Democrats don’t care whether we win first.  “Renewing relations with the Muslim world” sounds kindhearted—until the president makes nominal demands to Muslim leaders and they start blowing things up again.

“Introducing ethical standards” sounds noble—until Obama nominates actual human beings to fill posts and we get a whiff of their backgrounds.  “Being the first post-racial president” sounds refreshing—until Obama nominates for the Supreme Court a former Puerto Rican separatist who thinks “inherent physiological differences” force judges to decide the way they do.

“Stimulating the economy” sounds invigorating—until it is translated into a 1,588-page doorstop that no one has time to read.  “Moving quickly to prevent an economic crisis” sounds prescient—until you find out that four months later only 5% of stimulus money has been spent and the administration is lying about funded projects.

“Cutting taxes on 95% of Americans” sounds generous—until you realize the things Obama wants can’t be paid for without raising taxes on current or future generations.  “Saved or created 150,000 jobs” sounds impressive—until the administration admits this figure is based on theory and not facts.

“Saving the planet” sounds conscientious—until you find out that it involves so many devious machinations and new ways to burden Americans that the Senate had to hire a speed-reader to recite the bill.  “Health care reform” sounds bighearted—until you hear that it will cost $1 trillion and that Democrats want a 25% national sales tax to pay for it.

You can usually tell when public figures accused of crimes are guilty—their supporters invariably take several steps back and make broad, abstract statements: “She’s an excellent teacher whom no one has ever spoken ill of!”  (But did she commit statutory rape with a student or not?)  “He has always worked to promote racial justice in his borough!”  (But did he accept kickbacks for minority contracts or not?)  “He has a lovely wife starring in ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’”  (But—oh, never mind.)

Similarly, for strategic reasons Democrats like to keep things intangible, “big-picture,” “forward-looking,” “high-minded”—not concrete, detailed, present-looking, practical.

Every time one of their shells is revealed to contain nothing underneath, Democrats lose the public’s trust on that issue, but the trust always seems to pop up again elsewhere.  Instead of playing Whac-a-Mole with Democrats’ confidence ratings, Republicans should reveal their entire game as the swindle it is.

As Featured On EzineArticles