Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cruising the Web

So which position is the real extreme one? Jay Cost writes,
History certainly argues against the Republicans-as-criminals meme. After all, partial government shutdowns (and this one has only closed about 17 percent of the federal government, measured by expenditures) have not been an uncommon occurrence in modern times. Shutting down the government over Obamacare is not outside the realm of historical precedent, either. Though its expenditures mostly happen off-budget, the budget debate in this country is implicitly universal. Everything is up for grabs. As for the debt ceiling, that has also been a political football over the years. Voting to raise the debt ceiling is a tough vote for a congressman because it is difficult to explain to the constituents back home. Unsurprisingly, politicians have often extracted concessions for debt ceiling increases, or simply rolled them into omnibus budget packages.

So this talk is just hyperbole from Democrats. The Internal Revenue Service might be scrutinizing Republican tax returns a little more closely, but John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan are not going to be busted for RICO violations anytime soon. Rather, the Democrats’ rhetorical goal is, as always, the mobilization of bias: to identify conservatism as outside the mainstream of American society, not worthy of serious consideration by serious people. When Republicans are out of power, merely complaining about liberal policy, “crazy” is sufficient. Now that they are partially in charge, the rhetoric must be ratcheted up accordingly.

How should Republicans respond? One answer is: Turn the tables by arguing that Obamacare is the truly radical innovation in the American body politic.
So, in addition to extending the government shutdown to closing parks and areas near parks that had never been closed before, President Obama is also deliberately trying to rile the markets in order to pressure the Republicans to cave. Joel Pollak notes that NPR has already acknowledged this.
Now--with Republicans "on the run" in polls--National Public Radio (NPR), which has been a cheerleader for the Democrats throughout the debate, has admitted that there are attempts to drive stock prices down in an attempt to force a deal. "It's almost like they're begging the markets to react today to force the Senate into some sort of action, and then see what the House does," said Cokie Roberts on Monday morning.
Roberts was describing a meeting of international bankers in Washington that warned of "dire consequences" if the U.S. did not raise the debt limit. Note that none of these government-aligned barons, warning of nascent panic in the financial markets, advised the U.S. to cut spending and manage its long-term debt--even as Democrats added new demands for spending increases. Presumably, that is a problem for a later crisis.
All your personal info belong to us. That seems to be the mantra of Obamacare, as Jeryl Bier explains.
Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov is this sentence that could prove embarrassing: "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." Though not visible to users and obviously not intended as part of the terms and conditions, the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code for the "Terms & Conditions" page on the site.

After creating an account on Healthcare.gov, users are asked to click an "I accept" button under some routine Terms & Conditions prohibiting unauthorized attempts to upload information or change the website. Once users click the button, they may proceed to shop for insurance and enter detailed personal information. However, when the Terms & Conditions page is visible, the hidden sentence mentioned above along with several others can be seen by using a web browser's "View Source" feature. A screen grab below shows the visible Terms & Conditions page along with a simultaneous view of the code underlying it
Hugh Hewitt tries to raise the spirits of conservatives by arguing that we won't know for months who won the battle of this showdown. Peter Beinart, no conservative, argues that the Republicans are actually winning the ideological battle.
Let’s pause for a moment to underscore the point. In early September, a “clean” CR—including sequester cuts—that funded the government into 2014 was considered a Republican victory by both the Republican House Majority Leader and Washington’s most prominent Democratic think tank. Now, just over a month later, the media is describing the exact same deal as Republican “surrender.”

Partly, that’s because of Ted Cruz. Starting last month, as we all know, the Texas Senator—in conjunction with his fellow Tea Partiers in the House—forced GOP leaders to abandon the very “clean” CR proposal they had once championed. The new Republican position became no funding for the government and no increase in the debt ceiling without the defunding (or at least delaying) of Obamacare.

Now that Republicans are backing off those demands, the press is saying they’ve caved. But that’s like saying that the neighborhood bully has caved because after demanding your shoes and bike, he’s once again willing to accept merely your lunch money.

Most of the press is missing this because most of the press is covering the current standoff more as politics than policy. If your basic question is “which party is winning?” then it’s easy to see the Republicans as losing, since they’re the ones suffering in the polls. But the partisan balance of power and the ideological balance of power are two completely different things. The Nixon years were terrible for the Democratic Party but quite good for progressive domestic policy. The Clinton years were, in important ways, the reverse. The promise of the Obama presidency was not merely that he’d bring Democrats back to power. It was that he’d usher in the first era of truly progressive public policy in decades. But the survival of Obamacare notwithstanding, Obama’s impending “victory” in the current standoff moves us further away from, not closer to, that goal.

It’s not just that Obama looks likely to accept the sequester cuts as the basis for future budget negotiations. It’s that while he’s been trying to reopen the government and prevent a debt default, his chances of passing any significant progressive legislation have receded.
Of course, we still have to see if we get out of this showdown without cuts in the sequester. But note that, as a liberal, Beinart is most concerned by having to continue with some cuts in spending. This demonstrates how liberals will never support bringing any rationality to our nation's spending. As George Will writes, the continued demands of Democrats to end the sequester exposes how they are singularly focused on ending the sequester budget cuts.
As of early Monday evening, Democrats had refused Collins’s bargain, giving several reasons but really having only one important one: They loathe the sequester, which prevents them from opening the spending spigot. Their knees ache from genuflecting before the altar of a “clean” continuing resolution and a “clean” debt-ceiling increase. They insist it is a sin against good government to attach any conditions to either.

Suddenly, however, they decided that conditions are imperative. They favored attaching to a government funding or debt-ceiling measure a change in the Budget Control Act intended to weaken the sequester.

Barack Obama, who says you did not see and hear him draw a “red line” regarding Syrian chemical weapons (“the world” drew it), insists: “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.” This neon fib, made during last year’s campaign, matters because the sequester has become the main bone of contention in the shutdown and debt-ceiling dramas.
Joel Pollack makes explicit how the demands of the Democrats have changed. No longer is passing a "clean" debt ceiling increase the end goal.
Just like Obamacare, the sequester--passed in the Budget Control Act of 2011--is the "law of the land." And yet Democrats want to undo it--or else they will keep nearly 400,000 federal employees out of work and let the country risk not paying its bills. Where is the outrage at this disgusting hypocrisy? Where are all the dire warnings about children with cancer and catastrophic interest rates and the end of civilization as we know it?

Democrats are threatening to destroy the economy unless they can increase government spending.

Ramesh Ponnuru isn't especially worried about how the default and budget showdown overshadowed the rollout of Obamacare. The decisive matter will be in the future as the public decides whether they're happy or not with the health care reforms.

The Miami Herald reports that they just can't find people who have successfully enrolled for a subsidized health care plan and calls reports of enrollees as an "urban legend."

Kevin Williamson explains the links between today's liberals and Thomas Hobbes' arguments for a Leviathan government to protect us against the forces of anarchy. They see no alternative between Leviathan and anarchy.
But our so-called liberals are committed Hobbesians. Argue for a reduction in taxes, or a more restrictive interpretation of delegated powers, or allowing the states to take the lead on health care and education, and they’re sure that the next step is a Hobbesian hootenanny in which all of our rump roasts are crawling with bacteria, somebody snatches Piggy’s glasses, and, worst of all, there’s no NPR to ask what it all means. Like Hobbes, they believe that you hold your property at the sufferance of the state, and that you should pipe down and be grateful for whatever you are allowed to keep. But the American creed is precisely the opposite: The state exists at our sufferance, not the other way around, and while few of us actually hold the beliefs that Senator Reid attributes to us and long to abolish the state as a general principle, more than a few of us are interested in making some deep changes to this state. We may not want to shut it down entirely, but we aren’t sure we want it to load another few trillion dollars in debt onto us. We aren’t throwing bombs, but we aren’t going to give it everything it demands, either. Not 40 percent of the last dollar, not a dime to subsidize abortions, not control over our children’s educations or our own consciences. Hobbes wrote about subjects. We’re citizens.
Historian Joseph Ellis makes Williamson's point by arguing that the Republicans desire to take us back to the dysfunctional era under the Articles of Confederation.