Monday, September 23, 2013

Cruising the Web

Peter Wehner has some wise words about those who think that, somehow, voting on defunding Obamacare is a test of ideological purity.
The choice is not, and never has been, between those willing to defund ObamaCare and those willing to fund it. That supposed choice is in fact an illusion. To defund the ACA would require the House and Senate to pass new legislation, which Barack Obama would have to sign. And no one, not even Senators Cruz, Paul, Lee and Rubio, believes the president would do that.

All the posturing that’s being done to present this as a battle between Intrepid Republicans versus the Surrender Caucus is nothing more than political theater.
I dislike political posturing, even when it's done by politicians with whom I basically agree.

This is how well-considered Obama's support for health care reform was.
Soon-to-be-candidate Obama, then an Illinois senator, was thinking about turning down an invitation to speak at a big health care conference sponsored by the progressive group Families USA, when two aides, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau, hit on an idea that would make him appear more prepared and committed than he actually was at the moment.

Why not just announce his intention to pass universal health care by the end of his first term?
Thus was born Obamacare, a check-the-box, news-cycle expedient that would ultimately define a president.
“We needed something to say,” recalled one of the advisers involved in the discussion. “I can’t tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good. So they just kind of hatched it on their own. It just happened. It wasn’t like a deep strategic conversation.”
Thus was born the transformation of entire health care system in what was to become the disastrous and ironically-named Affordable Care Act. As Lucianne comments, "A clueless candidate, a flip remark and "poof" five years later your doctor disappears."

This is what the Hobby Lobby case is about:
It does not concern, as the Los Angeles Times suggests, whether a corporation can have religious beliefs. The case isn’t even about contraception — Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance plans cover birth control. Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius is about religious liberty.

The First Amendment of the Constitution begins thus: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The Hobby Lobby case has arrived on the steps of the Supreme Court because the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the company’s owners that the HHS contraception mandate restricts the free exercise of their religion. Rejecting the administration’s arguments to the contrary, the majority wrote, “[W]e cannot see why an individual operating for-profit retains Free Exercise protections but an individual who incorporates… does not.”

....The question that matters is not whether a corporation is a person, but whether people must relinquish their First Amendment rights if they own a for-profit enterprise like Hobby Lobby. David Green and his family clearly don’t believe so. Indeed, five of the ten counts found in Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the government invoke the First Amendment. Moreover, the first request listed in the lawsuit’s Prayer for Relief asked the court to “Declare that the [HHS contraception] Mandate and the [government’s] enforcement of the Mandate violate the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
Given that this Court has decided that corporations have the First Amendment right of freedom of speech when it comes to political advertising, I would think that they would also agree that a corporation could have free exercise rights. This will be a case to watch this year.

Peter Berkowitz discusses the myth of liberal willingness to compromise by explaining progressive intransigence.
Meanwhile, our predominantly progressive press corps fuels progressive intransigence. For example, Obama and congressional Republicans reached an agreement last December in which each side could claim an important victory: Republicans impelled the president to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of earners and the president forced Republicans to agree to tax increases on the highest-earning 2 percent.

Left-leaning pundits nevertheless disparaged GOP concessions as caving while praising the president for holding firm. That asymmetric message was bound to encourage intransigence in both camps but not in symmetrical fashion. Conservatives recognized that they will be damned if they do compromise and progressives saw that they will not be damned if they don’t.

Legions of university professors provide the theoretical perspective that legitimates and camouflages progressive intransigence. Sometimes it goes by the name of “public reason.” Sometimes it flies under the flag of “deliberative democracy.” Sometimes it is couched as an expression of empathy. It is promulgated in the social sciences and humanities, in law schools and at popular interdisciplinary university centers on ethics and the professions. Its main idea is that moral public policy can be derived from dialogue constrained by reason.

In reality, however, the theory favored by progressive professors redefines dialogue as that which people would agree to if they were emancipated from their actual desires and opinions and instead guided by morality and reason progressively understood. By this ruse, the scholarly community -- under the cover of dialogue, morality, and reason -- banishes from the conversation those who contest progressive premises and policies.

And by this ruse, progressivism fortifies its character as a crusading and self-certifying faith whose adherents believe themselves the embodiments of morality and reason and the only legitimate spokesmen for the people’s will. Progressives do not call those who dissent from progressivism apostates because that would be unreasonable and do not burn them at the stake because that would be immoral. But they do denounce dissenters as fanatics, zealots, and know-nothings who put self-interest before the public interest and party before country.

The provocations of progressive intransigence help explain the rise of the anti-compromise faction among conservatives. But the provocations do not justify it. What is needed is a renewal of the conservatism that takes its bearings from the Constitution and the political theory that undergirds it. A constitutional conservatism teaches that the defense of liberty requires balancing the competing claims of democracy, the rule of law, free markets, family, faith, national security, and more. Political moderation, such a conservatism teaches, represents not a deviation from principle but the virtue by which the principles of liberty are harmonized.
Does the President even understand what raising the debt ceiling does?
The president actually said, “Raising the debt ceiling …does not increase our debt.” I’m not sure what he meant, and if White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to tidy up that statement maybe I missed it, but with thinking this muddled, it’s probably not the best time for the president to be negotiating with Republicans anyway. Trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt, in this case, he’s technically right. Raising the debt ceiling means that we will increase our debt eventually; we don’t increase it by the full amount the very next day.

Does the president believe the debt doesn’t matter? Will he even acknowledge that we should have less debt rather than more debt?
The president’s comments, combined with his refusal to engage with Congress, just adds to the confusion and the uncertainty. I’m not oblivious to the fact that some Republicans are undertaking a strategy that leads to nowhere and is destined to fail by trying to link the budget and debt ceiling to the defunding of Obamacare, but the president needs to step up and show leadership, not just lob partisan blasts and confusing blunders from the sidelines.
Clarice Feldman has a recommendation for the House Republicans as the continuing resolution returns to the House after the Senate has stripped out the defunding Obamacare provisions.
When the bill returns to the House it will go to a conference committee of Senate and House members to work out the difference. At that point my suggestion (which I titled "one weird trick" because advertisers claim it gets readers' attention and I want yours) is to insist that (a) all exemptions from the coverage of the act, including House and Senate members and staff, favored donors, and other cronies be scrapped. We are all covered or none are; and (b) given the huge amounts of fraud already rampant within the Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamp entitlement programs, no subsidies will be given out absent proof of identity and income verification. (The government will be relying on the "honor system" for income representations and about 2 weeks from launch cannot still put in place a computer system to correctly calculate subsidies.)
If the Democrats refuse to agree to these provisos, it seems to me the public debate -- if the Republicans can muster any sort of decent response -- is not evil Republicans shutting down the government but rather, the Democrats are so committed to increase fraud and favoritism to their supporters and donors that THEY'D shut down the government to keep that graft and privilege alive.

At least they aren't afraid to acknowledge what they aspire to be: is calling itself "what progressives have been waiting for."