American Elephants

The President Who Gave Us a Failed Stimulus, Doubled Unemployment, Now Wants to Guide the Economy. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama spoke yesterday to the Business Roundtable.  Businesses could use a pep talk.  Janet Yellen, President of the San Francisco Fed, speaks of a jobless recovery with no economic recovery until 2013.

The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger notes that:

…instead of giving a speech about reviving business confidence in the economy, Mr. Obama gave a speech about reviving business confidence in him.

The previous evening, Mr. Obama held a small dinner for some CEOs from really big business, such as AT&T, Xerox, State Farm, Verizon, PepsiCo, and GE.  The White House has concluded that it is wrongly seen as antibusinessHenninger says:

I agree.  This White House is pro-business.  In fact , it’s so pro-business it’s proposing a virtual merger with the private sector.  Ladies and gentlemen of the business community, meet your new partner — Uncle Sam.

Answers, Mr. Henninger says, hark back to Obama’s first budget statement— “A New Era of Responsibility.”

“A New Era of Responsibility” describes the years before Mr. Obama as “an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions.” From this emerged the two core themes of the Obama presidency.

The first is that “government,” which Mr. Obama identifies as “we,” must “transform our economy for the 21st Century.” Thus, the now-familiar initiatives on carbon auctions, a green-jobs economy, and health care. “At this particular moment,” Mr. Obama said a year ago, “government must lead the way.” This isn’t just an antirecession patch, but something new and permanent. …

He is proposing that the U.S. government both guide the economy (“the right balance between the private and public sectors,” he said yesterday) and do so with a new, aggressively redistributive tax policy, which was made explicit in his just-released budget. Guide and redistribute.

Charles Krauthammer explained today that Obama “believes ideologically in this deeply.  Obama sees himself as a world-historical figure, not just as the first African-American president, but, like Reagan, a man who changed history.  He wants to be the father of national health care.”

Obama said today: “I am an ardent believer in the free market.”  Uh huh.

An Elaborate Scheme to Counter the Tea Party Movement. by The Elephant's Child

Tea Parties, as I understand it, grew out of unsatisfying Town Hall meetings, and representatives who wouldn’t listen.  People who had never demonstrated before, nor carried a sign joined with others who were similarly disturbed at excessive spending, and irresponsible congressmen.

Demonstrations began popping up all over the country, interest spread all over the internet. The Obama administration claimed to be unaware of the hundreds of thousands of people marching on the mall, and cleaning up after themselves like the nice responsible people they were.

Leftists have sneered and criticized, and recently anti-tea party groups have popped up in opposition. Joseph Abrams of Fox News has conducted a detailed investigation of the independent grassroots groups which have turned out to be part of “a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country’s biggest labor unions and trickling slowly into political slush funds for Democrat activists.”

The biggest benefactor is AFSCME the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which donated $10 million to two front groups. Other unions are SEIU, Change to Win, Communications Workers of America, NEA, Teamsters, United Food & Commercial Workers and others.

Here’s how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men — Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).

Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money — tens of millions of dollars — gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean — for the most part.

“One of the groups created a web site,” says Daniel Foster, “TheTeaParty Is, dedicated to stopping tea partiers; attempts to, in its words “undermine…the legitimacy of the federal government in favor of a radical rightwing form of state’s rights,” and “Prevent their dangerous ideas from gaining a legislative foothold.”

Goodness, can’t have people out there with such radical ideas as cutting back on spending, or balancing the  budget, or banning earmarks. That’s downright dangerous!  What will those crazy radicals think of next?

If the Evidence Doesn’t Support Your Policies, Just Make Up a Bureacracy that Will. by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps the Obama administration is vaguely aware of ClimateGate after all. This week they unveiled its National Climate Service (NCS).  Yes, another useless government bureaucracy. The Federal Government is hard at work creating government jobs, by spending more taxpayer money overpaying more  bureaucrats.  Here is their bureau-speak announcement:

Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards.  They increasingly are asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for information about climate change in order to make the best choices for their families, communities and businesses.

The best meteorologists can forecast the weather a few days ahead, but the National Climate Service is going to help us plan for changes in future decades in global temperature, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), incoming sunlight, sea level, and Arctic ice.  That’s just what you needed to know, is it not?  The NCS says:

People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decisionmaking about virtually all aspects of their lives.

Well, no they’re not.  Junk Science’s Steven Milloy responds:

The real purpose of the NCS, of course, has nothing to do with education.  It has everything to do with the politicization of the natural process of climate change for the unnatural ends of egomaniacal profiteers like Al Gore, and international socialists who want to use greenhouse gas regulation as a means of imposing their political agendas.

Cap-and-Trade is dead in the Senate,  Climategate, glaciergate, rainforest gate, the failed Copenhagen conference, and the exposure of IPCC Chief Rajendra Pachauri’s financial conflicts of interest and calls for his resignation have derailed the alarmist climate gravy train.  This Ministry of Propaganda is intended to reawaken Al Gore’s climate panic agenda so they can get the things they want done, done.

Reminder: To all you nice folks in the eastern part of the country. That white stuff in your yards and blocking your streets is not Climate, it’s not global warming, it’s simply weather. Climate is a statistic, and at present, it’s not a very reliable one.

Graft, Federal Funds, Vote Fraud, and Getting Away With Stuff. by The Elephant's Child

You will be delighted to know that ACORN and other left-wing advocacy groups may be eligible for up to $3.99 billion in federal funding included in the $3.83 trillion fiscal 2011 budget that President Obama unveiled yesterday.

All this money comes from a congressional slush-fund called the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) $48.5 billion fiscal 2011 budget.  CDBG grants, which are awarded to states and localities, pass indirectly to ACORN.

BUT — Didn’t Congress pass a ban on funding the group and its affiliates just this last year?

Congress hinted that it might restore funding.  On December 8, the House Appropriations Committee rejected, on a party-line vote of 9-5, an amendment that would have blocked federal funding of ACORN.

Then in December, Federal Judge Nina Gershon restored federal funding by issuing a temporary injunction against the congressional funding ban, ruling that depriving ACORN of taxpayer funds was an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” that singled out ACORN for punishment without trial. That injunction expired, but Acorn asked that the order be modified to cover 2010.

This is all up in the air, as both sides are filing motions and documents with the court, and the issue may not proceed to trial.

Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute calls CDBG “America’s worst urban program” pointing out that the money that the program has given to poor neighborhoods has had little impact, because nothing in the funding requires those who receive grants to show that they are actually improving anything. ACORN has been receiving funding under the Great Society-era program since at least 1996.

Misunderestimating the American People. by The Elephant's Child
January 21, 2010, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Freedom, Health Care, National Security | Tags: , ,

Democrats say that they have been waiting for 60 years to pass Universal Health Care, and they are not going to be deterred.

Americans have been rejecting Democrat health care plans for 60 years.  They don’t want the government to run their health care. Americans are, of course, worried about the increasing cost of health care.

But Americans know of no time in the past 60 years that government has ever taken over anything and made it cost less, or be more efficient, or more responsive to individual needs. There are very few things the Government does well.

Democrats always think that ordinary Americans are stupid. Ordinary Americans aren’t too sure about the intelligence or perception of the folks that they sent to Congress.

Ronald Reagan once described America as:

“Hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair.”

Americans aren’t inclined to like or approve of secret deals in back rooms ginned up behind closed doors.  They don’t like votes bought by bribes of public money. They don’t like votes bought by threats and double-dealing. They want their representatives to respect their constitutional relationship with the people.  As Scott Brown said, “It’s not the Kennedy seat. It’s not the Democrats’ seat.  It’s the people’s seat.

The people of Massachusetts, who are already experiencing government-run healthcare, said Right On! and elected him to the people’s seat.

Chris Matthews Comes Out! by American Elephant
January 19, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Media Bias, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , , , ,

“I Admit I’m Marxist When it Comes to my Analysis”…

And Rachael Maddow enthusiastically chimes in that this is one of the circumstances when it’s apparently okay for them to be “absolute purists”. As opposed to their usual moderate Marxism???

Can we please stop pretending these radicals are anything even approaching “mainstream”?

(via Weazel Zippers)

Update: Mika Brzezinski, MSDNC co-host and daughter of the disastrous Carter National Security Adviser concedes that its time for journalists to stop pretending they aren’t Democrats. To which I add, can’t we also stop pretedning that today’s Democrats aren’t largely Marxists.

Yoo-Hoo! Nancy, Harry, Barack! by The Elephant's Child

The people of the United States are trying to tell you something.  And you are not listening!  America has the world’s best health care system.  It has flaws.  There is no perfection in this world.  The flaws can be improved, if not fixed completely, but there is nothing that you are doing that actually fixes anything.

You claim to cover the uninsured, but at least 22 million remain uninsured under your plan.  You claim to be saving Medicare by letting younger people “buy-in,” and then slashing Medicare payments by 20 percent.  Are you nuts? There are many doctors that will not accept 20 percent less than what already does not cover their costs.  They just won’t accept Medicare patients.

Many doctors have said that if this goes through, they will simply quit the practice of medicine. Did you think that a hollow threat?  I wouldn’t bet on it.

One of your most precious ideas is the notion that a bevy of bureaucrats in Washington can look at a bunch of statistics that are only dimly understood, and decide from that who will get what treatment.

Medicine is not a one-size-fits-all deal.  Patients are individuals and have different reactions to medicines, to treatments, to tests.  Doctors learn skills in medical school and residencies, but the practice of medicine remains an art — trying to figure out just what is the right treatment for the individual patient. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal when you have your own Cadillac plan with a complete clinic on call right downstairs. You forget that you are dealing in real people’s lives.

Medicare and Medicaid are already in the red. You’re going to cover everyone who is uninsured by forcing them to buy insurance, cover everyone who has a pre-existing condition, cover  illegal immigrants, promise to cover all ills — just before you explain that we can’t afford it.  Then you try to tell us that it will “bend the cost curve down?” This is simply the grossest kind of Liberal nonsense.

And where did you get the idea that in the United States of America you can plot Liberal fantasies in back rooms, behind closed doors, in secret?  This is not the Soviet Politburo. You are way out-of-line: arrogant, historically ignorant, impervious to evidence and economically illiterate. You are making a mess.

This is a wake-up call!  You really need to pay attention.

The splendid cartoon is by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez. See his political commentary every day here.

CNN’s Jack Cafferty Takes on The Speaker of the House! by The Elephant's Child

Jack Cafferty of CNN (CNN!) takes on the arrogant, grasping, crooked Speaker of the House of Representatives — Nancy Pelosi. And good for him!

When the people of the United States are suffering from 10 percent unemployment and many have had their wages or hours cut back — Congressmen give themselves a raise, excuse their own health care plan from any reform, reward their districts with hundreds of earmarks, pay back those who donate to the Democrat party with millions of dollars of wasted stimulus funds, and find that tending to the people’s business just gets too boring — an all-expenses-paid junket for congressmen and their families to the Copenhagen climate conference makes a nice winter break.

Many in the Congress begin to think of themselves as a ruling class.  They forget that in America, they are our servants and expected to carry out our wishes.  The Speaker sets an example.  A very poor example.  As Jack Cafferty says: “What a horrible woman!”

Driving Full-Speed, Right Off the Cliff. by The Elephant's Child

The closed-door, backroom effort to pass a health care bill — by any means necessary — continues.  Democrats have gone through all kinds of gyrations to make the health care bill cost less than it actually does.  Taxes and fees go up immediately, but benefits don’t begin until 2014.  Since the cost-effectiveness is measured over a decade, collecting income  for 4 years before they have to start spending money,  makes the decade look better.

Another way they can raise taxes, they decided, is to tax “Cadillac” plans — that is the highest priced, most elaborate plans.  [Can’t have anyone having a much better plan] But that’s just what unions have — Cadillac plans.  Obama owes an enormous debt to the unions who financed his campaign. So the unions won’t get taxed on  their plans. In other words “collectively-bargained plans” won’t be affected.  So two Americans who are receiving the same benefits could be taxed differently if one of them was a member of a union and the other was not.

Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reports that under his analysis national health spending will rise under the Senate or House Bills by $222 billion over the next ten years.  ObamaCare “bends the cost curve” up — not down.  ObamaCare is “paid for” only in the sense that Medicare payments to doctors are assumed in the bill to be cut by 20% this spring, and even deeper after that.

Many providers will stop accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients.  Medicaid patients already have trouble finding doctors who will treat them, and it is beginning to be more difficult for Medicare patients.  Providers cannot run their practices at a loss.

The Medicare Drug Benefit is the only entitlement program that has come in under estimates. Seniors choose from among a variety of plans as to deductible, co-pays and so on.  Generics cost significantly less than brand-name drugs, and the out-of-pocket costs are less.

When costs reach $2,830, there is a coverage gap.  When the patient has spent $4,550 ($1720 more out-of-pocket) then catastrophic coverage begins with only a small co-pay.  Trying to avoid the “coverage gap” has been an incentive for seniors to use generic drugs if they are satisfactory, and to keep costs down.  If seniors need help, Extra Help is available.  And seniors have responded to the incentive.  So of course, the Democrats intend to eliminate the coverage gap.

There are two possibilities here: either Democrats want seniors to be fully dependent on government for their ability to live, or Democrats just don’t understand incentives and saving money.  Or perhaps both?

There is a new entitlement program for long-term care, which is only included because it will start collecting premiums five years before it starts paying benefits. Mr. Foster estimates the program will be bankrupt by 2025.

I keep remembering the certainty that the Massachusetts health care plan was going to be the model plan for the rest of the country.  It’s been in business for 3 years, and Massachusetts health care costs are the highest in the country, it is close to going bankrupt, all sorts of doctors have departed the state for greener pastures. Essentially, it’s a flop.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll (Jan 8-10) shows that just 37 percent of those surveyed approve of the president’s job on health-care policy while 56 percent disapprove.  A new Quinnipiac poll on Obama’s first year in office shows only 35 percent of those surveyed approve of the president’s handling of health-care in his first year, while 58 percent  disapprove.

Democrats in Congress have to decide what is more important.  Leaving future generations of Americans a legacy that is even remotely fiscally sound, or giving President Obama  an “achievement” to talk about during his State of the Union speech.

Nancy Pelosi Tells C-Span: “There Has Never Been A More Open Process” by The Elephant's Child

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA),  responding to C-Span’s letter to congressional leaders asking to film the debate on the health care bills in which the President’s promise of “transparency” was quoted, said firmly — when she emerged from the secret meetings behind closed doors:

“There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Do write that on a 4 x 5 card and tack it up where you can see it every day until the next election.

She also “hinted” that holding informal negotiations — likely without TV cameras — might be the “most practical” way to push the legislation through.

“We will do what is necessary to pass the bill.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md), assistant to the Speaker said the healthcare bill had been “subjected to unprecedented level of public scrutiny.”

“We don’t even know if there’s going to be a conference committee,” he said, alluding to the likelihood that Democrats will reconcile the two bills behind closed doors.

Another Obama Promise Bites the Dust! by The Elephant's Child

Democrats in the House and in the Senate have passed health care reform bills.  The bills are quite different, and it is customary to work out the differences in an official conference committee process to get a bill passed.  They plan, however, as they have done to pass the bills in the first place, to operate behind closed doors so that Republicans have no opportunity to gum up the works.

There are highly controversial lingering issues, and if they risked a traditional conference committee, the motions to select and instruct conferees “would need 60 votes all over again.” Can’t have that!

Brian Lamb, CEO of C-Span, wrote to the leaders of Congress asking them to allow cameras in the room for the final negotiations on the health care bill.  He wrote:

President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system.  Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

Direct and right to the point.

Neither the President nor the Congressional Democrat leaders have the slightest intention of allowing anything to be filmed, and they expect the doors to be closed.  After all, the bills were passed with all sorts of bribes and  threats.

They are quite aware that a majority of the public is opposed to the bill, but they figure that if they can just get it passed in a hurry that people will accept it.  That there is something wrong with their thinking is demonstrated by their rush to pass a bill (so urgent — no debate, just hurry) that will not take effect until 2014.  And above all, they don’t want to let you know what is in the bill.  The more people learn, the more they oppose the legislation.

I cannot improve on what Investors Business Daily had to say:

Both Congress and the president set high standards in the flush of campaigning, and they should be held to them in what is supposed to be the deliberation of policymaking.  They should not be free to hide what they’re doing and hustle through legislation before the public has fully caught on to the deception.

This is, after all, the United States Congress, not the Soviet Politburo.  Our lawmakers are elected public servants, not unaccountable masters who make laws in secret.

Reckless, Arrogant, Partisan Politics Inflicted on an American Public that Wants No Part of It. by The Elephant's Child
December 22, 2009, 2:00 am
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Law, Taxes | Tags: , , ,

This is depressing.  The Senate voted at 1:00 a.m. to end debate on the most partisan piece of legislation ever proposed.  Nobody really knows what is in it, for it has been changing ever since it was revealed 38 hours previously. Language and details have been shifting as sweetheart deals and bribes were put in place to secure the necessary 60 Democrat votes. Not one Republican voted for cloture.

It has been a deeply dishonest and legally corrupt bill from the start. Even the liberals admit that it is awful, but say that once they get it passed, they can start fixing it.  Here are the enticements that got them to the magic number:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.)
—$1.2 billion over ten years for a permanent exemption from Nebraska’s share of the Medicaid expansion. The only state so exempted under the bill.
Exemption for Nebraska from an excise tax on non-profit insurers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)
—Exemption from the non-profit excise tax for Michigan insurers.
Michigan and Nebraska were the only two states so exempted.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.)
—$10 billion for “community health centers”.
—Protections from cuts to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Vermont.
—$250 million over six years in expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.)
—$300 million increase in Medicaid funding in Louisiana.

Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), Sen. Paul Kirk (D., Mass).
—Three years of expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)
—Special treatment for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D., Hawaii)
—billions in new funding for something called “Disproportionate Share Hospital” (DSH) payments (financed, in large part, by $18.5 billion in cuts to DSH payments in other states).

Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.)
—Higher federal Medicare reimbursement rates for low-population “frontier” states (also qualifying under the bill’s definition of frontier states are Utah and Wyoming, represented in the Senate by Republicans).

There is an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, except when those plans belong to favored Democrat groups like the longshoreman’s union and other union interests such as miners, construction workers, electrical linemen or  EMTs and others who are absolved from this tax.

The excise tax also does not apply to the 17 states with the highest health costs, if that makes any sense.

If Congress passes the legislation — probable — it will not control costs.  It will make the budget outlook far worse.  It will lead to higher taxes.  And it will still leave at least 24 million without health insurance, probably far more.

The media is trumpeting an endorsement by the American Medical Association which represents only a minority of doctors, not all of whom agree with the AMA endorsement.

Health benefits are widely overstated.  Long-term economic costs are widely understated. The country will be far worse off for its passage.  It reeks of partisan politics and influence peddlers, and the American people want no part of it.

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