American Elephants

“A New Era of Responsibility.” by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is annoyed by criticism that he is trying to take on too many issues at once.  Suggestions that a $3.6 trillion budget that seeks to rescue the economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression, while also trying to overhaul health care, change our energy infrastructure, change our energy use, end our dependence on foreign oil, overhaul education, finish up the War in Iraq while fighting the War in Afghanistan, and reset our relationships with the rest of the world are a little much, are annoying.

Obama told the leaders of the congressional budget committees:

To kick these problems down the road for another four years or another eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point.  That’s not why I ran for this office.  I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next generation.

It’s Bush’s fault.  He was too laissez-faire and irresponsible.

President Obama was responding sharply to the idea that he should be focusing on fixing the banking crisis first.  Real economic recovery he said, requires many actions at once.

Obama was asked whether his domestic policies suggested that he was a socialist.  “It wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks”, Mr. Obama said, “And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding.”

Oh.  It’s Bush’s fault.  He’s the socialist, not me.  Got it.

Mr. Obama pushed back against the characterization:

By the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system.  The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

There’s a point at which “Bush made me do it” isn’t going to work any more.

Are you properly outraged? Obama wants to know. by The Elephant's Child

Populist balderdash!  The whole AIG bonus flap is a complete farce.  The federal government knew about the AIG bonuses way last fall.  Chris Dodd wrote an amendment to the stimulus bill that allowed contractual bonuses to be paid.

President Obama knows that the outcry against bailouts and takeovers is going against him and is only going to get worse.  His poll numbers are dropping.  Time to create a massive outcry against corporate villains.  Useful idiots are supposed to be angry with “Big Business”, not with the administration and not with congress.

AIG is currently owned by the taxpayers.  The CEO is a government appointed head who is working for a dollar a year. Congress is supposed to be keeping an eye on things.   A mysterious amendment called “the Dodd amendment” by the administration provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11,2009.” Senator Dodd says — nothing to do with him.  Senator Grassley suggested that bonus recipients should apologize and commit hari-kari. There’s a little excess going on here.

Every congressman who could get in front of a microphone was “outraged”,  Geithner is outraged, Obama is outraged.  Of course President Obama signed the bill that clearly made these bonuses legal.

The contractual bonuses paid to hundreds of employees amounted to $165 million.  AIG has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue, and they reported this month that they lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.  In those terms $165 million is almost petty cash.  Economist Larry Kudlow weighs in here, and Hot Air comments here.

And of course the compliant media is telling you constantly how completely outraged you should be.

The “Massachusetts Miracle” has gone Poof! by The Elephant's Child
March 17, 2009, 1:38 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Politics, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Almost everyone knew that it was only a matter of time.  The story appeared yesterday in the New York Times and was summarized by James C. Capretta in the Corner today:

Having promised lavish subsidies for expansive health insurance, it seems state officials in Massachusetts have finally begun to admit that their health-care reform program, passed in 2006, is unaffordable for the state’s taxpayers.

It was really clear from the beginning that the plan would overwhelm the state’s budget.  It was only a matter of time. The state forced hundreds of thousands of residents into heavily regulated insurance plans by shuffling around some existing money and raising taxes.  They didn’t construct a marketplace with cost-conscious consumers, nor did they pursue the heavy-handed kind of government-imposed cost controls that Democrats love.  There was no reason to expect health-care costs to suddenly stop increasing rapidly after the “reforms” than there was before the plan was adopted.

Now it is really hard to turn back and start over, since hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households are now enrolled in subsidized insurance. Surprise, surprise.  The state now wants to impose cost-controls.  Bureaucrats will now develop wonderful new systems for paying doctors and hospitals, which will reward “more efficient” ways of delivering care.  Inevitably, when the government tries to micro-manage payments, prices and protocols, the result is a mish-mash of cuts in quality, service and satisfaction, and disincentives throughout the system.  Doctors are moving out of state, fewer physicians are willing to practice in the state.  All predictable.   Democratic Governor Deval Patrick has already spoken of state-imposed caps on private health insurance premiums.

Mr. Capretta adds:

The Obama team is essentially pursuing the Massachusetts political strategy — cover everybody first with a massive new entitlement program and worry about imposing cost-controls later.  In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s top lieutenant assigned to pulling together a health-care bill was a principal architect of the Massachusetts approach.  And on costs, the Obama administration keeps touting the same benign-sounding initiatives— like expanded use of health information technology — that Massachusetts officials used to cite, even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already said these kinds of steps won’t come close to solving the cost problem.  It is obvious that the administration is hoping it can get a bill passed without endorsing the kinds of measures which would rightly be attacked as rationing care.

Oh, they won’t mention rationing right off the bat, but in a year or two, when it is too complicated to go back, the financial future of the country will depend on government-imposed cost constraints.

Even the Times story hints at what is really at stake here.  If we don’t rely on market principles to allocate health-care resources, the country will inevitably turn to the government to keep premiums in line with income.

The thing you really need to remember is that members of Congress have no intention of giving up their highly satisfactory health care plan, and joining whatever government controlled program they can gin up.  That little fact alone should tell you everything you need to know.

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