Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Will Obamacare be repealed?

Some say those saying Obamacare will be repealed are dreaming. There's no chance of that happening given Democrat majorities in Congress and Obama in the White House.

Certainly it would be difficult to repeal given the make up the Congress. And once people start getting some of the benefits, there's no way they'll give it. People will gradually accept it and go onto other things. Maybe. But maybe not.

I don't think the issue will go away. It may not be front page news but I think the issue also stands for something much more to many of its opponents. It stands for a major leap forward in government control and regulation of the economy and thus people's lives. And of course, health care control means control over life and death issues.

Many people now see a major threat being posed by the government. It's socialism. Loss of freedoms and liberties. It will only incite greater anxiety and involvement by opponents.

This is coupled with Obamacare sowing the own seeds of its destruction. The tax hikes occur immediately while many of the benefits like subsidies don't come on line until 2014. There are really no effective cost control mechanisms and the one's that are there will only mean government rationing of health care. This means premiums will continue to rise an Obamacare will get blamed for them. Apparently, there's no enforcement for the individual mandate. Thus there's no assurance that everybody will be covered with health care insurance; another reason costs will rise. And there's mounting government debt which may well mean a long term drag on the economy or at the very least mean trouble is coming to "River City" in the not too distant future.

Here's one interesting analysis of the new law.

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

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 This bill is more similar to government programs that Congresses have repealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

From the land of political correctness - Canada. Is the US heading in the same direction?

Ann Coulter, the conservative antagonist of the left, was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Ottawa - until it was shut down for fear of violence.

In an irreverent column, Coulter points out the hypocrisy of the left and it highlights to me where the US is headed if it continues on its current, cultural trajectory.

Speech codes have already been implemented on various US university campuses. While they are often struck down for violating the free speech clause of our Constitution, the liberal drift in our culture and legal community is no doubt moving us in the direction of making "hate speech" unprotected speech. It may not be today or tomorrow but I could certainly see it coming in the future.

Coulter, in her typical sarcastic manner, points out the hypocrisy of the university provost who threatened her with possible criminal charges if she made remarks true to form. His statement was in fact a form of hate speech, leading to the incitement of a riot and threats of violence.

This is the mode of operation of many on the left -- intimidate and harass their opponents into silence. We're seeing this as increasingly the mode operendi of many gay activists in the US. See the response to Prop 8 in California which banned homosexual marriage. Supporters of the referendum, both persons and institutions, were subject to various forms of harassment.

That's not to say harassment of opposing views doesn't occur on the right, but the overwhelming number of incidents come from the left. Why is this? I thinks because their ideas ultimately can't stand up to public scrutiny and debate. To gain power, they attend to cow and intimidate their opponents into silence.

Here's Coulters column in response to the situation. True to form, she filed a hate speech complaint against the Canadian university provost who originally threatened her.
Oh, Canada!

By Ann Coulter

Friday, March 26, 2010

Since arriving in Canada I've been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches I hadn't yet given and denounced on the floor of the Parliament.

Posters advertising my speech have been officially banned, while posters denouncing me are plastered all over the University of Ottawa campus. Elected officials have been prohibited from attending my speeches.

Welcome to Canada!

The provost of the University of Ottawa wrote to me -- widely disseminating his letter to at least a half-dozen intermediaries before it reached me -- in advance of my visit in order to recommend that I familiarize myself with Canada's criminal laws regarding hate speech.

This marks the first time I've ever gotten hate mail for something I might do in the future.

Apparently Canadian law forbids "promoting hatred against any identifiable group," which the provost, Francois A. Houle, advised me "would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

I was given no specific examples of what words and phrases I couldn't use, but I take it I'm not supposed to say, "(Expletive) you, Francois."

Upon reading Francois' letter, I suddenly realized that I had just been the victim of a hate crime! And it was committed by Francois A. Houle (French for "Frank A. Hole").

What other speakers get a warning not to promote hatred? Did Houle send a similarly worded letter to Israel-hater Omar Barghouti before he spoke last year at U of Ottawa? How about Angela Davis, Communist Party member and former Black Panther who spoke at the university just last month?

I'm sure Canada's Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of Francois' strange warning to me, inasmuch as I will be filing a complaint with that august body, so I expect it will be reviewing every letter the university has sent to other speakers prior to their speeches to see if any of them were threatened with criminal prosecution.

You'd have to be a real A-Houle not to anticipate that accusing a conservative of "promoting hatred" prior to her arrival on a college campus would in actuality incite real-world violence toward the conservative.

The university itself acknowledged that Francois' letter was likely to provoke violence against me by demanding that my sponsors pony up more than $1,200 for extra security.

After Tuesday night, the hatred incited by Francois' letter is no longer theoretical. The police called off my speech when the auditorium was surrounded by thousands of rioting liberals -- screaming, blocking the entrance, throwing tables, demanding that my books be burned, and finally setting off the fire alarm.

I've given more than 100 college speeches, and not once has one of my speeches been shut down.

Only one college speech was ever met with so much mob violence that the police were forced to cancel it -- the one that was preceded by a letter from the university provost accusing me of hate speech.

If a university official's letter accusing a speaker of having a proclivity to commit speech crimes before she's given the speech -- which then leads to Facebook postings demanding that Ann Coulter be hurt, a massive riot and a police-ordered cancellation of the speech -- is not hate speech, then there is no such thing as hate speech.

Either Francois goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Christian-Muslim conflict in Nigeria. Result of grow of Christianity?

Here's an interesting discussion of the Muslim massacre of 500 Christians in Nigeria. It suggests the genesis is Muslim fear of the growth of Christianity.

I think it's very interesting that Christianity is exploding in Africa. Much, much faster than Islam. Normally one thinks of Islam growing and spreading rapidly. In terms of converts, it's overwhelmingly tilted towards Christianity.

What might have surprised Lawrence, apart from the phenomenon that Islam in its doubt, was turning to suicide, was that by the early 21st century Christianity would have moved on from Europe and America to compete head to head with Islam in “Africa and parts of Asia”. Globally, as Jenkins sees it, the existential threat to Islam comes not from the declining number of Europeans indoctrinated in the quasi-Marxist “Imagine” creed, but from the burgeoning millions of the Third World. Whether Muslims are impressed by the secular belief system captured so succinctly in John Lennon’s song is open to debate. But the attractions of Christianity to the populations of the Third World apparently is not. Whatever the appeal of Islam in London might be, it is less so in Africa. “One factor driving Islamic militancy in many nations is the sense that Christianity is growing. Outside of the West, evangelism and conversion are two of the most sensitive issues in the modern world.”

Christianity, which a century ago was overwhelmingly the religion of Europe and the Americas, has undertaken a historic advance into Africa and Asia. In 1900, Africa had just 10 million Christians, representing around 10 percent of the continental population. By 2000, that figure had swollen to over 360 million, or 46 percent of the population. Over the course of the 20th century, millions of Africans transferred their allegiance from traditional primal faiths to one of the two great world religions, Christianity or Islam—but they demonstrated an overwhelming preference for the former. Around 40 percent of Africa’s population became Christian, compared to just 10 percent who chose Islam.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What to do when it's clear both smoking and homosexual behavior is harmful?

I've found gay activists become upset when one points out the harmful, unhealthy aspects of homosexual behavior. One's accused of being mean spirited, homophobic, hateful, unloving, etc., etc.

In fact, the loving thing to do is to point out when a person is doing something harmful to him or herself or to others. That's true when a parent sees his or her child doing something harmful.

It's also true when addressing issues on a societal level. One example is the issue of smoking. Another is homosexuality and homosexual behavior. Rather than promoting acceptance of homosexual behavior in schools or grant it social status and privilege via homosexual marriage, civil union or domestic partnerships, we should be discouraging the activity.

This point was made here in the context of the debate over recognizing homosexual unions in the Lutheran Church body, ELCA.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Unhealthy Health Care Bill.

While proponents are touting all the things the new health care bill will do, provide additional coverage for millions of Americans, the negative consequences will be far reaching.

Again, the bill is based on the flawed belief that government can effectively solve our health care problems. The reality is the our significant problems with rising costs is due to government intervention and distortion of the market by providing health care to millions of people and shielding them from some of the costs.

With government debt mounting and this bill only adding to it, we are only marching more quickly to greater problems down the road.

This article
by Michael Tanner highlights some of the pain we will be facing in the future. The real problems in our health care system will only be exacerbated not solved by this bill.

In the end, this vote is not about the corruption of the legislative process — although this has been tawdry and sleazy almost every step of the way.

The Democrats have bought votes with pork and special deals. They’ve twisted and ignored congressional rules. They’ve threatened and intimidated critics. And they’ve ended up with a new procedure that will allow them to pass the bill without actually having to vote on it.

Nor is this vote about the massive new spending and debt.

True, even by the president’s circumscribed accounting, this bill will increase government spending by roughly $1 trillion over the next 10 years. But that estimate obscures the real cost behind a smokescreen of accounting gimmicks.

Some costs, like the so-called “doc fix” (avoiding a scheduled 23% reduction in Medicare reimbursements) are pushed into other legislation. And since the bill doesn’t really take effect until 2014, much of the cost is pushed outside the 10-year budget window. Estimates of the bill’s real cost over 10 years of actual operation run as high as $3.5 trillion.

Moreover, because this massive cost is paid for in part through budgetary tricks and promised future Medicare cuts that are unlikely to happen, health-care reform will actually add to our already crushing national debt.

It’s not about the higher taxes and higher premiums that will sock millions of American workers and businesses, either.

Yes, the bill contains more than $600 billion in new taxes. And contrary to President Obama’s promise, many of those taxes will fall on the middle-class. Other taxes, such as a new tax on investment income, will be job killers — this at a time when nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed.

On top of that, insurance premiums would continue to rise, nearly doubling in the next few years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill would do nothing to diminish that increase. In fact, for millions of Americans who get their insurance through the individual market, rather than from an employer, this bill will raise premiums by 10% to 13% more than if we do nothing. Young and healthy people can expect their premiums to go up even higher.

And this vote is not even about how this bill will diminish the quality of health care in this country.

Of course, it will result in greater government interference with how doctors practice medicine. It will undercut our research and development efforts. And it threatens to squeeze reimbursements in a way that could put hospitals out of business and cause physicians to leave the profession. In the long run, we could see the type of rationing or long waits that are prevalent in other government-run health care systems.

All these things are bad. But they are not the worst things about this bill.

At its core, this vote is about freedom and the type of country we want to live in.

Health care is one-sixth of the US economy. It involves some of the most important, personal and private decisions in our lives. This bill would give the government unprecedented control over both the economy and those decisions.

Insurance coverage would be mandated for both employers and individuals. Government would determine what benefits insurance would have to include and force Americans to purchase health insurance that satisfies government mandates. This might require Americans who are satisfied with their insurance to switch to a plan that includes the benefits the government requires, even if that is more expensive or includes benefits they don’t want or are morally opposed to.

Insurance companies themselves would become little more than public utilities, protected from real competition, but with every aspect of their operation regulated and controlled by the government.

And once in the doctor’s office, government would micromanage medical decisions, deciding what treatments are most effective, or, frighteningly, most cost-effective.

All this, while accomplishing one of the most massive redistributions of wealth in US history. Millions more Americans will be added to the “dole,” making them more dependent on government. America will have taken a huge step down the road to becoming a European-style social-welfare state.

That is what is at stake here. If this bill passes, America may be less healthy, and it will likely be less prosperous. And, almost certainly, it will be less free.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Race for Minnesota govenor is wide open.

Rasmussen did a poll of various candidate scenarios in the Minnesota governor's race. Emmer or Seifert versus Horner, the independent, versus Dayton, Anderson Kelliher, Rybak, etc.

All the races are within the margin of error. It should be an exciting race for governor.
The only thing it’s safe to say about this year’s governor’s race in Minnesota is that both parties will pick their candidates in primaries on August 10. Other than that, the race is a free-for-all.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows the top Republican candidates, former Minnesota House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and State Representative Tom Emmer, running essentially even with the top three Democratic contenders in match-ups that also include Independence Party contender Tom Horner.

But at least 10 candidates are seeking the nomination of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Some of the lesser-known candidates don’t fare quite as well against the GOP hopefuls.

There’s uncertainty on the Republican side, too. Ex-Senator Norm Colman far outdistanced Seifert and Emmer in a survey of the governor’s race in January but has since announced that he is not running.

Complicating the picture even more is the fact that the number of undecided voters in these match-ups ranges from 16% to 27%.

The numbers suggest that voters for now are making their decisions more on the basis of party labels than the positions and personalities of the individual candidates.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

51 or 60 votes and hypocrisy.

There's an interesting debate over the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and use of reconciliation to pass the health care bill or significant parts of it.

Eric Black of the liberal MinnPost newsblog accused both Republicans and Democrats of hypocrisy on the topic. Both have used it and then when convenient said it shouldn't be used. He took heat from fellow liberals.

What's most interesting are the comments made by Democrats including President Obama in 2005 when he was a US Senator. Now he's encouraging Democrats in Congress to use it.

Here's another group of videos and tapes where Obama said they would need 60 votes to pass it.

No wonder people get frustrated with politicians and especially, in this case, President Obama who held himself as someone who would bring change to Washington, DC; he would get things done.

I suspect if Democrats do use reconciliation now they'll give Republicans license to do it with more regularity in the future. And as Black mentions, could it be used to repeal Obamacare, if it passes, with only 51 votes in the future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another consequence of homosexual marriage -- bigger government.

Another example of what happens when homosexual marriage is legalized is the expansion of government. In Washington, DC which recently began legalizing same sex marriage, it's meant Christian charities which subscribe to Christian principles are marginalized and shut out of government efforts to help the needy.

Jay Richards points out:

The debate over marriage is about far, far more than what consenting adults do behind closed doors. In fact, it’s not about that at all. Witness the debate over Washington D.C.’s same-sex marriage law. The Left frames it as a simple matter of individual rights, but it’s really an opportunity to increase the jurisdiction of government and squeeze out private, religious charities.

In this case, Catholic Charities’ foster care program is getting the squeeze. The District has refused to provide a religious exemption to religious charities not willing to fudge their non-negotiable teachings on marriage. So the charity is going to lose $2 million in public funding, which means it has to close its operation in D.C. Dozens of other Catholic Charities programs now hang in the balance.

The District government seems to have contempt for the work of the charity:

Councilman David Catania, author of D.C.’s same-sex “marriage” bill, shrugged off the Church’s impact. “[Catholic Charities doesn't] represent, in my mind, an indispensable component of our social services infrastructure.”

Perhaps Catania doesn’t know that in the “last year alone, more than 124,000 people were fed, housed, treated, legally defended, or adopted as a result of Catholic Charities programs,” or maybe he thinks his cause should trump the well-being of such recipients. Or, maybe he thinks that the D.C. government can do a better job. We’ll see about that.

This incident causes me to question (once again) the wisdom of private religious charities receiving public funding, even for programs with secular purposes. I don’t think it unconstitutional to receive such funding. It’s just dangerous for religious charities that don’t want to become secular.

But more importantly, the incident shows that the debate over the definition of marriage is not about privacy, but about the relative role of the state, civil society, and nature of American public life from top to bottom. To put it bluntly, to impose a new definition of marriage on society, traditional religion must by necessity be purged from public life.

That means a further secularization of charity.

And as Richards' notes, it points out the problematic consequences of religious groups receiving government monies to help the poor. Liberals aren't concerned with helping the poor as much as they are with pressing their ideological agenda.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

State Budget deficit -- some slightly good news and then some more very bad news.

The state released the latest projections for the state's budget deficit. The good news is the forecast deficit through June 2011 is it's down from $1.2 billion to $994 million. That still means cutting nearly a $1 billion over the next year.

The bad news is the financial forecast for the next two years just got worse. According to news reports:

Minnesota's deficit projection shrank to $994 million for the rest of this budget cycle, down from the $1.2 billion projected late last year.

But there are dark times ahead -- state economists predict Minnesota's budget deficit will be $5.8 billion in the next two-year cycle.

The forecast deficit for the next two years went from $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion.

The reality of that coming deficit tsunami hasn't sunk in yet with lawmakers. It should be addressed now rather than put off until next year. How is that to be done? By cutting back on built in structural spending.

Even if lawmakers split the difference in 2011 that would mean, if distributed equally, a family of four paying $2,000 more a year in increased taxes. Without spending cuts that's $4,000 per a family of four.

The problem? We've been living well beyond our means and are still in denial. Our economic difficulties aren't over by a long shot.