Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruising the Web

Thomas Sowell summarizes what I think about the whole effort to defund Obamacare. President Obama has been undergoing a steady pounding for the inadequacies of his administration and has been facing problem after problem for his policy choices from Syria to Obamacare.
What could possibly rescue Barack Obama from all these political problems and create a distraction that takes all his scandals off the front page? Only one thing: the Republicans.

By making a futile and foredoomed attempt to defund Obamacare, Congressional Republicans have created the distraction that Obama so much needs. Already media attention has shifted to the possibility of a government shutdown.

Politically, it doesn’t matter that the Republicans are not really trying to shut down the government. What matters is that this distraction solves Barack Obama’s political problems that he could not possibly have solved by himself.

Should Obamacare be defunded? Absolutely. It is an economic disaster and will be a medical disaster, as well as destroying the Constitution’s protections of American citizens from the unbridled power of the federal government.
But any effort to defund it will fail. While an effort to delay its implementation could have more of a chance of succeeding without forcing a wedge among congressional Republicans.
There is a United States of America today only because George Washington understood that his army was not able to fight the British troops everywhere, but had to choose carefully when and where to fight. Futile symbolic confrontations were a luxury that could not be afforded then and cannot be afforded now.
Focus on all the arguments about why Obamacare's implementation should be delayed. And force Democrats to vote for items like treating Congressional aides and members of Congress differently from the rest of the country.

William Bennett and Christopher's column in the WSJ today is a good reminder of what a winning tactic it would be for the GOP to come out firmly against special exemptions from Obamacare's provisions for Congressmen and their aides.
magine the horror when these elected officials, who make $174,000 a year, realized that not only must they and their staffers be subject to inferior-quality health exchanges like the millions of ordinary Americans, but they might also have to shell out thousands of dollars for increased premiums if they exceed the subsidy income cutoff.

The White House, under heat from Congress, directed the Office of Personnel Management to carve out special rules so that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can continue to contribute to the health plans used by Congress and congressional staff.

Congress complains that without its special subsidies the Hill will suffer a "brain drain" as staffers leave their jobs because of increasing out-of-pocket insurance costs. Heaven forbid Congress suffer the same fate as private companies like UPS, which recently had to cut health-care benefits entirely for employees' spouses; or labor unions, like the 40,000 International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers who recently left the AFL-CIO citing as one factor ObamaCare's tax on their "Cadillac" health-care plans.

You'd think that the authors of ObamaCare would have been prepared to cope with its effects. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, has already put money aside in his budget to help supplement his staff's health-care costs in anticipation of the new law. Other congressmen should have done the same.
This is such a winning issue though there are some Republican congressmen who are willing to go along with this despicable carveout. Rather they should be forcing Democratic congressmen to vote in favor of special privileges that the ordinary Americans can't have. This is a winner of an issue. Use it.

And now it turns out that Cruz and his allies won't even be able to stage a filibuster. It sure helps to understand Senate rules before launching a strategy based on symbolism and a desire to inform the public about the dangers of Obamacare.

The WSJ has some better ideas of what the congressional Republicans should be do when the funding bill comes back to them from the Senate with defunding stripped out.
If Republicans are looking for a more plausible strategy, one idea would be to seek a year delay in the individual mandate to buy health insurance. Mr. Obama has already delayed for a year the business mandate to provide insurance for workers, and it is hard to defend helping business but not people.

Another idea would be to join Senator David Vitter's effort to make Members of Congress and staff live under the same rules as ObamaCare. Democrats would hate defending their special carve-out. Both of these might seem more politically reasonable to independent voters than defunding a program that is already the law.

These columns opposed ObamaCare before it was known by that name, and we may have even been the first to call it by that name. We also don't need any lectures about principle from the Heritage Foundation that promoted RomneyCare and the individual mandate that is part of ObamaCare. Or from cable TV pundits who sold Republicans on Mitt Romney despite RomneyCare.

The question is how to oppose ObamaCare when Republicans control only one house of Congress. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn points out that the defund and shutdown strategy is giving Mr. Reid an excuse to bust the spending caps and shift public attention away from ObamaCare's flaws. The only real way to repeal the law is to win elections. Our strategy would be to conduct an island-hopping campaign that attacks the law's vulnerable parts to help win those elections rather than invade Japanese mainland.

But we've lost this debate, and Generals Cruz and Lee are in charge. If they do succeed and defund ObamaCare, we'll gladly give them due credit. But if things don't go well, let's not hear any excuses about "the surrender caucus" or claims that it would all have worked out if only everyone were as brave and principled as the generals up at HQ.

Bret Stephens reminds us what happens when our nation's leaders think that we can make a deal with a dictator by revisiting Yalta.
But contrary to the suggestion that Yalta was an example of American cynicism or cowardice, it typified a style of American diplomacy that combined boundless idealism with fatal naiveté, an exaggerated confidence in the power of persuasion to bridge differences—and a fatal indifference to the importance of ideology in creating them.

Sound like any American president you know?

....So it is with so many negotiations between democrats and tyrants: When there is a deal, it usually winds up being a trade between the theoretical and the tangible, the immediate concession and the long-term promise, the paper agreement and the territorial prize.

Which brings us back to the present. President Obama has spent five years giving abundant evidence of his desire to reconcile with autocrats, as he did with his Russian reset; to overcome mistrust by demonstrating the purity of his intent, as he tried in his Cairo speech; to seize on any enabling fiction that will relieve him of his commitments, as he has done with Syria. A deal with Iran, arranged via a first-of-its kind meeting with Mr. Rouhani, is a personal and ideological temptation Mr. Obama is incapable of resisting.

Should it happen (I'm betting it will), Mr. Obama will be hailed as a master diplomat and a triumphant peacemaker. As with Yalta, it won't take long to learn who is betrayed, and what is lost, in the service of an illusion.

Venezuela is having to takeover a toilet paper factory because of shortages in toilet paper, disposable diapers, and sanitary napkins. Amazing how price controls and other government policies interfering with a free market might interfere with supply and demand. It reminds me of the summer I spent in the Soviet Union and the chronic shortage of what we in the United States would consider toilet paper. We encountered cut up newspapers and, in one disgustingly memorable moment, wax paper because the economy couldn't supply such a basic product. I remember those days sometimes when I contemplate the wall of toilet paper available in any local grocery store.

Finally, someone writes what I've been thinking. Netflix's drama House of Cards doesn't fit the American political system.

Are we really going to reinvite Clintonworld to run our country again? And even her supporters are unable to point to anything specific she has ever accomplished so all they have is her gender as a symbol. Didn't we get enough of that in voting for Obama as a symbol?
But from within the confines of Clintonworld emerge the aforementioned disembodied voices, three witches gathered around a cauldron to offer forecasts about Hillary. “She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,” says “one such person.” Her run for president is a “force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational,”—a sharp contrast with Hagan’s earlier image of weightless Hillary, applying the force of gravity to her and dragging her from the heavens.
As highlights of her work and her qualifications, the vassals of Clintonworld cite some very dubious accomplishments. We are told that “[a]t State, she was the head of a smoothly running 70,000-person institution,” which sounds absurd when one considers the whirlwind of criticism that the State Department suffered after the Benghazi debacle on September 11, 2012—an organization that ignored the embassy’s requests for additional security and kept the families of victims in the dark, but could afford to spend $630,000 to generate “likes” for the State Department Facebook page.

The work of the Clinton Foundation is described as sterling, in spite of a scathing story in the New York Times which described the Foundation as being partially a crony publicity organization which consistently runs financial deficits. And we are reminded of the involvement of Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, who heads Hillary’s “transition office.”
Robert Samuelson contemplates whether the United States is truly exceptional. He cites polls to show that, increasingly, younger Americans don't regard the country as exceptional. I know that, when I introduce the concept as we study the Puritans and read excerpts from John Winthrop's "City upon a hill" sermon, my students are surprised and rather amused at the whole idea. Then, as the year goes on, they're surprised to see references to the idea in writings from George Washington's Farewell Address to speeches by Abraham Lincoln, FDR or JFK. Then they're fascinated to hear about how Reagan used the metaphor in his speeches and asked for parts of Winthrop's sermon to be read at his funeral service.

Benb Domenech revisits just what I'm talking about in my U.S. history class, Thomas Jefferson's self-destructive Embargo Act of 1807 that was supposed to protest against British policies of impressment and connects the Embargo Act to misguided isolationism in America's history.