Conservative Political Commentary

...anti-socialist, anti-globalist, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Waxman Inquisition

March 30, 2010

Several large companies have announced that they are taking charges to reflect expected losses resulting from the Obamacare legislation, specifically the deductibility of subsidies for providing retired employee drug coverage. [1] The White House says these companies get the dual benefit of a subsidy and a deduction, so the removal of the deduction simply closes an over-generous loophole. Be that as it may, the change represents a substantial reduction of income for some large employers.

The companies and their announcements, as reported by Business Week, are as follows:
AT&T: $1 billion
Deere & Co.: $150 million for the current fiscal year
Caterpillar Inc.: $100 million for the first quarter of 2010
Verizon: Said the law change “may have significant implications for both retirees and employers.” [2]

Since these announcements tend to put the health care law in a bad light, Rep. Henry Waxman must of course hold hearings to grill the CEO’s and try to intimidate them for daring to suggest that the law might need to be changed, and that it will deliver a serious blow to their bottom line.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has “requested” internal documents justifying the write-downs, and asserts that “independent analyses” show that the law is supposed to reduce their costs. So Waxman is preparing a hearing apparently to disparage these companies for the sin of giving unfavorable publicity to the Congress and Administration. Of course, this plan could backfire by bringing even more negative attention to the health care law.

Waxman appears to think that these companies just wanted to embarrass the Democrats. These announcements should be justly embarrassing, but why would the companies make such announcements? It seems an expensive ploy, if that were the purpose. But they have valid reasons and requirements to fulfill. Accounting rules require that these known future losses be taken on their books at current value. Failure to do this would be misleading to investors. The companies do this in spite of the probability that their stock prices could go down as a result, something they do not wish to have happen.

Waxman wants to defend the law and put pressure on some of its critics. The Democrats’ strategy is generally to try to silence critics, demonize them, and, if possible, criminalize them. Waxman must know this is an unjustified and costly inconvenience. The “independent analyses” by the Congressional Budget Office have been based on information provided by the Democrats, who view the health care “reform” through rose-colored glasses. The things that are supposed to provide lower costs are not likely to happen (huge Medicare cuts, etc.) and the tax picture (in addition to the changes whose effect is being recorded by these companies) is unfavorable and probably largely unknown as to how bad it will really be.

Democrats hope to lay a trap to embarrass and intimidate the executives they are summoning. It remains to be seen whether the execs will be assertive or submissive. Generally, they want to be on the government’s good side, but at what cost?

The heretics must be called to account for the sin of doubting the cost-effectiveness of Obamacare. Even if they expected some financial benefit down the road, they can’t record that until it actually happens. Those pesky accounting rules again.

Meanwhile, they are expected to dig up every email, worksheet, confidential document, and published document to explain their decisions, and be prepared to defend them and to explain their accounting methods. They are asked to testify at a hearing on April 21, and to provide the requested information by April 9. And for what? For Waxman’s bullying PR stunt. None of Waxman’s efforts on this serve the public interest in any way.

In Waxman’s letters, he claims to be concerned about “unintended consequences.” This is just the tip of the iceberg of unintended consequences. That is largely the main characteristic of the results of liberal legislation. Of course, this particular legislation was passed as quickly as possible, with as little concern for (or knowledge of) the actual content as possible. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out, when this law results in the collapse of insurance companies, it will be explained as a private-sector failure that has to be corrected with a single-payer plan. That is what Obama and the liberals have wanted all along. Meanwhile, how dare any private sector employers question its effects?

[1] Byron York, “Democrats threaten companies hit hard by health care bill,” 03/28/2010, Washington Examiner.com.

[2] Viola Gienger, “AT&T, Deere CEOs Called by Waxman to Back Up Health-Bill Costs,” 03/27/2010, Bloomberg Business Week.


See copies of letters from Waxman to the executives here.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Monday, March 22, 2010

Republicans Are Different from Democrats

March 22, 2010

The outworn comment, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats,” is, I think, one of the dumbest sayings around. The health care vote is a good example. Even the RINO’s wouldn’t soil their hands with this piece of legislative garbage. To their credit, the Republicans were 100 percent against it, and with plenty of good reason.

Of course, the vote is over now, so score one for the fascists. Our Republic is not the same. Our liberty is diminished. Our treasury, already dangerously depleted, is on the way to deep distress.

A Yahoo! News Blog article tries to tell us that the Tea Party protesters made big trouble for Republicans by shouting racial slurs and so on at the Capitol. There haven’t been any videos on TV containing that, as far as I can tell. No evidence, only accusations. Also, it is mentioned that Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) shouted “Baby killer!” as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) was at the microphone. Neugebauer said he actually shouted “It’s a baby killer!” referring to the health care bill. He apologized to Stupak for anything appearing to suggest that he was referring to Stupak personally. [1]

This is supposed to be a big faux pas that makes Republicans vulnerable? The way this Congress provokes people by ignoring common courtesy and demonstrating thorough corruption in the way they do business, it’s remarkable that decorum holds up as well as it does. The Democrats’ arrogant disdain for the people who oppose this bill is remarkable.

But, of course, there’s hardly a limit to the tear-jerking stories they can bring to the microphone. I was waiting for them to bring in some sick children who supposedly were going to die soon if this bill wasn’t passed – as though there was no solution but a massive government takeover of the health care and insurance industries. Most suffering, I suppose, is caused by a lack of government spending and control.

The article notes that former Bush speechwriter David Frum finds fault with the Republicans’ strategy of going

for “all the marbles” by unanimously opposing the bill and refusing to compromise in any way—fueling activist fury at the same time…. In losing the vote this time out via a strategy of strict opposition, Frum argues that the GOP has left itself little in the way of legislative achievement to run on in future campaigns…. [2]

Attempting to stop this monstrosity of a bill, and demonstrating solid opposition to it, is a worthy legislative achievement. The “political class” thinks that members of Congress and political parties must demonstrate “legislative achievement” in the form of new bills and laws in order to succeed with voters. Almost every new law is a further erosion of freedom and a further burden on the people. A lot of people are becoming very aware of this. Personally, I look forward to a Republican majority in one or both houses of Congress in 2011 and 2012, and a strong effort to stop President Obama’s agenda. I’m all for the “Party of No” when the opposition is a determined, ethically-challenged gang of fascists. They have offered practically nothing to say “yes” to.

There is still some unfinished business in the Senate, but now, much of the fight will take place at the state level, and in the federal courts. States are already preparing lawsuits, and probably nullification laws. The bill has been passed, but implementing it is another matter. There are several constitutional points on which this bill can be challenged: Tenth amendment issues, insurance mandates, unfunded mandates on states, etc.

This law will probably create a new industry for the legal profession. It will be no easy task to gain success against it in court, but perhaps it can be done. Getting it declared unconstitutional (at least in part) is probably more likely than repealing it, at least in the near term. In the longer term, all government entitlements are in danger, simply because of the deficit and debt situation, and the continual adding to the monumental levels of spending. At some point, it becomes impossible to continue, and that point is being brought closer than it would be otherwise, by the Obama Administration’s spending frenzy.

[1] Brett Michael Dykes, “‘Baby killer’ shouter steps forward, highlights internal GOP dilemma,” 04/22/2010, The Newsroom, Yahoo! News Blog.

[2] Ibid.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Constitutional Question

From Article I – Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution:
“All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

The health care bill the Democratic Party leadership is trying to pass (by vote or otherwise) is the Senate bill. This bill is apparently not a product of the reconciliation process since nothing was done to try to reconcile it with the House bill. It is, I think, a revenue bill originating in the Senate. If this is the case, it is unconstitutional.

This would be in addition to its generally unconstitutional content.

Any comments?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is Steny Hoyer Right? People Don’t Care about Process?

Is the process used in Congress to pass a law something people care about? Steny Hoyer doesn’t think so.

As has been publicized, supposedly against the wishes of Washington Democratic leaders, the House is considering using a convoluted and rather obviously unconstitutional plan referred to as the “Slaughter Rule.” It is named after Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who proposed using it to approve the Senate health care bill (“deem it passed”) without voting on it. Only the desired changes would be voted on, then sent to the Senate.

As if “reconciliation” weren’t bad enough, this “Slaughter Rule” is infuriating to opponents of the bill, which would be a sizable majority of American likely voters, and the Republicans in Congress. There has been and will be a loud outpouring of righteous indignation over the cynical and possibly illegal methods being used. To the extent that citizens are paying attention, they largely oppose the reprehensible methods used and to be used in this sorry perversion of the normal process.

An Associated Press article reports that, defending the possible use of the “Slaughter Rule,” [t]he Maryland Democrat [House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer] also said the public didn't care about process but about results, and that the approach Democrats are weighing would result in enactment of President Barack Obama's landmark legislation to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured and create new insurance market protections for nearly everybody else.” [1]
(Emphasis added).

Well, someone had better be caring about process. This administration and Congress are willing to throw out the Constitution and, apparently a lot of political careers, to give Obama this legislation. If they’re willing to seriously suggest, let alone use, such methods to get their fascist-socialist plans enacted, what comes next? Maybe President Obama could just issue an Executive Order? But I don’t want to give him any ideas.

Unprecedented
Democrats argue that the plan has been used before, mostly by Republicans. Brian Darling at RedState writes, “The fact of the matter is that there is no precedent for the House to pass a bill without a direct vote by using a budget reconciliation measure as a trigger and a means to pass ObamaCare. Nancy Pelosi’s potentially unconstitutional strategy to pass unconstitutional ObamaCare is without precedent nor justification.” [2]

“Slaughter Rule” Is Unconstitutional
If Democrats can do these things without effective opposition, our constitutional republic is in serious danger. I don’t think Americans are going to accept such lawlessness. If this bill is passed, or “deemed passed,” the Supreme Court is going to have a case (one or more) to feast upon, and probably shoot the whole thing down.

As The Wall Street Journal points out,
“This two-votes-in-one gambit is a brazen affront to the plain language of the Constitution, which is intended to require democratic accountability. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says that in order for a ‘Bill’ to ‘become a Law,’ it ‘shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate.’” [3]

Accountability
Everyone who votes for the bill itself now, or for the “Slaughter Rule,” will be held accountable in November. These votes will not simply be forgotten. Voting for the “Slaughter Rule” will be as bad as, and probably worse than, voting for the bill. House Members who aren’t in a safe liberal district like San Francisco (Pelosi) will find the going tough in November if they vote Obama’s way.

I have to hope these desperate measures of the Democrats fail. This is one attempt at legislation that needs to buried and forgotten.



[1] Associated Press, “Dems defend plan to push health care through House without vote,” 03/16/2010, at New York Post online.

[2] Brian Darling, “ ‘Slaughter Rule’ Strategy Unprecedented,” 03/16/2010, RedState.com.


[3] The Wall Street Journal online, Opinion Journal, “The Slaughter House Rules,” 03/16/2010.


Photo: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, official portrait.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Running Out of Time To Deal with Budget Deficits


March 14, 2010

In the economic dream world of President Barack Obama and his advisors and congressional allies, increasing spending in the trillions of dollars and debt into the stratosphere seem to be simply amusing sidelights to a (they hope) unstoppable program to establish a fascist-socialist political and social structure in the United States. Obama and his spokesmen make it sound like everything is perfectly reasonable and under control. The economy, they assure us, has been pulled back successfully from the brink of the abyss.

Many trillions of dollars in present and future spending (over the next decade), they tell us, will alleviate a lot of suffering and make health insurance and health care readily available at lower cost and without such annoying restrictions as lifetime dollar limits and refusal to cover pre-existing conditions.

I’ve written quite often on the “health care reform” proposals, and also some on cap and trade. These are major parts of Obama’s grand program.

But how can even his fellow Democrats not wonder how this agenda is going to avoid a serious day of reckoning fairly soon, with very high inflation and possible default on the national debt, leading to a historic currency crisis and massive loss of wealth for the American people? Obama, who often mentions his desire to benefit the middle class, is actually on his way to destroying the middle class. I have to wonder why he can’t see this.

There are too many unanswered questions in our economy for businesses, banks, or consumers to have a good level of confidence. Will we have Obamacare? Cap and trade? It is uncertain whether Obama will ever do anything serious regarding the deficit. He mentions it sometimes, but he has huge spending plans waiting in line for consideration. There apparently won’t be any spending cuts during his presidency, but there will be many increases. New entitlements will be added to the already unaffordable and doomed programs we already have.

I saw one website with a “clock” display showing the Social Security Trust Fund as rapidly increasing in value, and suggesting that this shows that the program is not in trouble. What it fails to mention is that the Social Security Trust Fund is worthless, having effectively no tangible assets. What it has are IOU’s in the form of non-negotiable government bonds which will never be paid. The “trust fund” aspect of Social Security has been a fraud since the beginning. This isn’t Obama’s fault, but it must be considered in the context of our unending deficits, even though these liabilities (tens of trillions of dollars) are not included in the published deficit figures.

As politically difficult as it would be, there must be a bipartisan effort to fix this before many more years go by. I have suggested phasing out Social Security and Medicare over a 25-to-30-year period, and encouraging younger people to provide for their own health care and retirement. In fact, I don’t think there will be any choice.

Missed It by That Much!
AFP reports: “Obama has underestimated the government budget deficit for the 2011-2020 period by 1.2 trillions US dollars and the public debt by 1.8 trillion US dollars, the Congressional Budget Office said.” [1]

How can our expert economists miscalculate by such an astronomical amount? Also, how reliable are the CBO estimates? To paraphrase the old joke, a trillion here and a trillion there, and first thing you know, you’re talking about real money!

National Review Online: “The president likes to say he inherited a mess. He did in fact enter office during a deep recession that sent deficits soaring on a temporary basis. But his policies have unquestionably made an already difficult medium- and long-term budget outlook much, much worse.” [2]

There seems to be the idea in Washington that federal spending can be done in an almost unlimited fashion, with deficits to be dealt with later. But at these rates, dealing with the deficits and the national debt may become impossible before the spending spree stops. Debt has to be dealt with every day, and with interest rates certain to rise fairly soon, the cost of servicing the debt will balloon to new heights from its already very expensive level. When will America’s creditors lose confidence in our ability to pay? How much loss of wealth and purchasing power will Americans have to endure?

There remains a closing window of opportunity to get this monster under control. It’s a question of changing direction on spending, and taking some politically nearly-impossible steps. But the politicians would be better off dealing with this crisis (and it is a crisis) now, rather than explaining later why they let the collapse happen, when all the warning signs were before them. If you want a case study, look at Greece, now and over the next few months. See if you notice any similarities to our own situation.

[1] P. Parameswaran, “US deficit, debt to exceed Obama forecasts: CBO,” 03/06/2010, AFP article at The Sydney Morning Herald, smh.com.au.


[2] James C. Capretta, “The Obama Budget: Spend, Entitle, Borrow” 03/10/2010, The Corner, National Review Online.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

These Benefits Will Hurt

What would “Health Care Reform” do for employment?
1. New federal payroll taxes. These taxes are paid partly by employers and partly by employees – at least in theory. They are all paid out of money earned by employees. They all increase the cost of employing people, thus are a disincentive to hiring. Taxes on “higher income earners” potentially hurt all workers, through job losses or lower pay.

2. New state taxes. States will have to deal with unfunded mandates to handle greatly increased Medicaid enrollment. The federal government will pay a lot of this, but by no means all (except maybe in Nebraska?)

3. Employer penalties for not providing insurance coverage. Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains:

Employers who don't offer health insurance and whose workers use tax credits to purchase insurance on the private market would be fined $2,000 per worker. For some firms this would create a substantial disincentive for hiring low-wage, unskilled workers such as teens, whose unemployment rate is now 26%, or adults without high school diplomas, who have a 15% unemployment rate. Other firms would be tempted to pay the penalty and get rid of the company health plan. [1]

Americans for Prosperity reports, “CBO estimates employers would opt to drop as many as 5 million workers from private insurance, and pay the fine instead of maintaining current coverage.” Employers with 50 or more employees would be required to provide insurance or pay the fee. [2] This is about the only way employers would see any reduction in costs.

Employers with more than 200 employees would automatically be required to enroll all employees in an insurance plan. [3] Thus some additional people might be covered, but this would likely result in layoffs or hiring freezes for many employers who aren’t already doing this.

4. Taxes “Cadillac” health plans. On this, unions would get a break. Also, this tax wouldn’t start until 2018. If Obama doesn’t want to introduce this tax now, it’s doubtful is successors would, either. [4]

5. New taxes on health insurance companies and drug manufacturers will discourage employment in those fields and raise costs and premiums.

6. Taxes on investment income.

The Heritage Foundation states the following:

The new White House proposal to impose a Medicare tax on investment income would reduce demand for investment, which is the last thing that the economy needs right now. It would slow recovery, reduce employment opportunities, and hinder wage growth. [5]

The Heritage Foundation estimates that the White House plan would result in an average of 115,000 lost jobs per year, and reduce household disposable income by $17.3 billion per year (between 2011 and 2020). [6]

All these new taxes, about $493 billion [7], come at a very inopportune time, during an economic downturn. Even in better times, this plan could be expected to cause a downturn.

Heritage, again:
[T]he President's plan relies on deep cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals and other institutional providers. But the chief actuary of the Medicare program has said repeatedly that these cuts are not realistic because they would push many institutions into serious financial distress. Still, the Administration claims that hundreds of billions of dollars from these cuts will materialize from 2020 to 2030, thus justifying its claim of large deficit reduction during that time. But it is far more likely that the Medicare cuts and tax increases will never be sustained, even as the entitlement costs from the Obama plan soar.[8]

What would “Health Care reform” do for (to) consumers/workers?
All additional taxes to suppliers and providers must be passed on to consumers (or insurers), as must all upstream costs, including direct taxes, fines, fees, compliance expenses, etc. Also, consumers must purchase insurance or pay a $750 fine (tax). Failure to do so could result in jail time. Such a mandate is blatantly unconstitutional and against all U.S. tradition. And, this runs counter to Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on people making under $250,000 per year. Further, there is no serious attempt to deal with tort reform. And, there seems to be no real assurance concerning federal spending for abortions.

Where are these lower costs supposed to come from? Lower costs will be just for those who will get subsidies. The real cost of health care will increase and quality will be diminished.

Spending estimated at more than $2.5 trillion over a decade still won’t be covered by the large tax increases, so only in the Twilight Zone would this plan reduce the deficit. Even if the plan itself tended toward deficit reduction (which it doesn’t), federal spending on many other items would more than offset any expected deficit reduction. Counting on Obama’s “reform” to create jobs and reduce the deficit is like counting on the “stimulus” to end unemployment, only less certain.

Greatly increased bureaucracies associated with “exchanges,” oversight panels, etc. will lead to ever-increasing cost and loss of freedom.

The current entitlements of Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable, and young people today should not expect to benefit from these programs when they reach retirement age. To add new entitlements through “health care reform” demonstrates either woeful ignorance or a serious lack of concern about the future of our economy. This so-called “reform” would be destructive to employment and the economy as a whole.

These entitlements, added to already ever-increasing record deficits, threaten the stability of our economy. Perhaps members of Congress will think again before repeating their mistakes.


[1] Diana Furchtgott-Roth, “Obamacare 2.0 Is a Job Killer,” 02/23/2010, Real Clear Markets.


[2] and [3] AFP Blog, “The Ten Worst Provisions in Senate Health Care Bill,” 03/05/2010, Americans for Prosperity.

[4] James C. Capretta, “The President’s Health Reform Proposal: More Like $2.5 Trillion,” 02/24/2010, The Heritage Foundation.


[5] Karen Campbell, Ph D. and Guinevere Nell, “The President's Health Proposal: Taxing Investments Undermines Economic Recovery,” 02/25/2010, The Heritage Foundation.


[6] Ibid.

[7] Furchtgott-Roth, see [1].

[8] Capretta, see [4].

Photo: Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy. Found at whitehouse.gov.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

America Doesn’t Want This. Obama Does.

“Americans do not want a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care stuffed with tax hikes, Medicare cuts and giveaways to Washington special interests. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” – House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) [1]

As days roll on and election time draws nearer, some Democrats are increasingly concerned about supporting President Barack Obama’s health care plan, and still hoping to be reelected. Several, like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) are raising objections about federal spending for abortion. Leftist House members don’t like the Senate bill because it contains no public option.

Democratic House members from conservative districts are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall that signifies forced retirement for those who support Obamacare. Not only do most Americans reject the proposed legislation itself, they also reject the unethical manner in which it has reached its current stage, and the heavy-handed method proposed for enacting it, reconciliation. This is strictly a partisan bill affecting virtually all Americans and a very large chunk of our economy. There is no public consensus for this type of legislation.

Obama said, “At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.” [2] (Emphasis added by me). To me this is a very telling remark. First, this bill creates, rather than solves, problems. Second, Obama is preparing us, it seems, for future failures if he can’t get this item passed. Obama’s leadership ability is not strong enough to get a lot of his agenda enacted, largely because he’s trying to lead in a direction people rightly don’t want to go.

He is trying to pass laws that the people of America don’t want. This message has been sent unmistakably. Obama doesn’t care.


Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote the following:

Today you heard the President – who promised transparency – embrace the product of backroom deals and political payoffs. This from the same President who said previously – on numerous occasions – that health care reform shouldn’t be passed with just 51 votes.

The American people have made it abundantly clear they do not want a job-killing, one-size-fits-all, $2.3 trillion dollar, Washington takeover of our health care system. No matter how he tries to spin it, he can’t fool the American people.
– Sen. John Cornyn following the President’s health care speech [3]

Also, his priorities are much out of line with those of the American public. We want to see jobs created and the economy improved, rather than endless spending down this rathole and others. If he thinks that Obamacare will be good for the economy, he needs to hire better economists. Just about anyone with a nodding acquaintance with Economics 101 knows that massive new taxes won’t help, either with unemployment or the deficit. It’s hard for me to believe that Obama is interested in improving the economy. Socialism is the opposite of prosperity and freedom.

Further, the arrogance of this man is breathtaking. When he should have been corrected somewhat by the recent elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, he has only stiffened his determination to not entertain any opposing views, except on minor points, or major points in a minor way (tort reform, for instance), none of which ameliorates the socialist oppressive nature of the “reform.”

The fate of the “health care reform” bill is still in doubt. The president surrounds himself with medical people in lab coats (their own this time?), but he’s probably not changing more than a very few minds. He appears to have learned little from his “bipartisan summit,” which should have taught him what the true shortcomings of this proposal are.

Whether any government officials will admit it or not, the whole area of retail health care is outside the government’s constitutional authority, except for narrow interstate commerce concerns. All other aspects belong to the states and to the people.

If the Administration succeeds in getting this bill passed, they will find resistance by the states. The states do not welcome the unfunded mandates (or even simply mandates) that go with it. If the “reform” does pass, I predict that in a few years, it will go the way of Prohibition. But it truly should never see the light of day.


[1] “Dem Dozen Threatens to Bail on Health Care Over Abortion Language,” Fox News.com, 03/04/2010. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/03/04/dems-wary-obamas-final-health-push/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Senator Cornyn’s newsletter email of 03/03/2010

Photo:  Official White House photo by Pete Souza, 03/03/2010. Found at WhiteHouse.gov.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Governing the “Ungovernable”


Some liberal observers, noticing President Barack Obama’s lack of success in advancing his signature agenda items, “health care reform” and cap and trade, are theorizing (or concluding) that America has become ungovernable.

Newsweek takes up this matter, blaming “obstructionist Republicans, spineless Democrats and an increasingly incoherent electorate” for America’s supposed ungovernability. [1]

The fact that “health care reform” is not yet a done deal is supposed to illustrate the problem. All liberals agree that Obamacare is sorely needed and would greatly relieve a lot of suffering. Yet the Republicans won’t get on board with it, and a majority of Americans, having been informed about it (since the Democrats’ initial dead-of-night, unread-bill effort to pass it didn’t quite work) selfishly don’t want to lose their current coverage, with which they are moderately satisfied, and pay substantially more in taxes.

It’s true that people don’t want to lose their coverage and pay high taxes for the proposed plan. It’s not selfishness, but rational self interest. And, people are becoming more aware of the Constitution and the federal government’s numerous efforts at violating it, thus curtailing freedom. Republicans simply don’t want their name attached to such an offensive piece of legislation, and some may even recognize that this whole area is outside the federal government’s legitimate constitutional authority.

Another consideration is that the Obama Administration has focused on getting their socialist agenda items enacted when the public’s concern was jobs and the economy, about which nothing successful was being done. There was no consensus on cap and trade or the health care effort, both of which could be seen as hurting the economy.

It’s not that America is ungovernable. It simply lacks executive and legislative leadership.

Charles Krauthammer remarks on the similarity of these most recent complaints of ungovernability to the Carter years: “In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say the office had become unmanageable and was too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president's own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.” Then he shows how, in contrast to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter was not able to provide the needed leadership. [2]

Thence the “malaise.” Are we going to be hearing that term again soon?

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics faults Obama for two errors: First putting Nancy Pelosi (too far left) in charge of writing the health care legislation, and second, insisting on comprehensive reforms. “If the truly great Henry Clay could not pass the Compromise of 1850 through the Congress in a single package, what made Barack Obama think he could sign comprehensive energy and health care reforms?” [3]

As Krauthammer points out, economist Paul Krugman even blames the filibuster, although in the G.W. Bush days, he warned against “extremists” trying to get rid of the procedure, when liberals were using it to block Bush’s judicial nominees. [4]

It seems clear that liberals, very reluctant to acknowledge the demonstrated lack of leadership ability in their top government officials, must cast blame elsewhere: the public, the Republicans, and the basic structure of government (i.e., the Constitution), for their failures.

When Republicans return to power, perhaps they will remember how to lead. They have some good examples to look to. Of course, so do the Democrats.


[1] Michael Cohen, “America the Ungovernable,” 01/25/2010, Newsweek.

[2] Charles Krauthammer, “It’s vogue again to declare America ungovernable,” 02/20/10, Houston Chronicle,

[3] Jay Cost, “America Is Not Ungovernable” 02/08/2010, Real Clear Politics.

[4] Krauthammer, see [2].

Photo: Dreamstime.com