Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’


The Plight of Implementation

   Posted by: Robert    in Politics

You would think by now that the speed with which Congress switches back and forth on whether or not to include a “public option” would have the media thoroughly tired of finding ways to spin either outcome as a win for Democrats.  Despite having made more switchbacks than a car on an highway through the mountains, the Washington Post has not slowed down in their ability to churn out nonsense aimed at making anything the Democrats do look intelligent.  A new article discusses what the senate health care deal would mean to consumers which paints a, predictably, much more rosy image of the story than is likely.

Included in the article was an interesting statement from a man named Paul Starr from Princeton:

“It’s good to have the federal government in there negotiating with plans because of the possibility that states will do a very bad job of regulating insurers and managing insurers,” said Paul Starr, a Princeton professor of public affairs. “This is a very important protection against poor implementation by states.”

Though this is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment, it is the first time I’ve heard it so plainly applied to health care.  It is an interesting concept that seems to flow from the general notion that the federal government can do no wrong.  It is a quaint, if irrational, argument that seems to flow mostly from the 1960s civil rights era when the federal government, under orders from the Supreme Court and over the objections of Democrats, federalized the race industry and eliminated the Jim Crow policies of the states.  This gave the federal government instnat credibility as a nearly independent body of government which could craft policies without needing to worry too deeply about what the electorate might have to say.

Their policies, most of which are abject failures in terms of meeting their stated goals, sustainability, or both, are now the gold standard which folks like Mr. Starr want health care reform to compare.  The one thing that these programs — which include Medicare, civil rights reforms, and the radical expansion of the regulatory state — have actually succeeded in doing is removing power from the people and placing it in the hands of government.

A noteworthy example of the hollowness of federal “protection” is the FDA.  For drug manufacturers, the patent period is commonly viewed as the time during which they are able to recover the costs of the drugs they invent.  In order to recover their costs, they set their prices artificially high once the drugs are allowed to be sold.  A longer period of sales would allow drug prices to be lowered, because there would be a greater period of time over which they could spread out recovery of their up front costs.  But into this process comes the FDA, with its lengthy and expensive approval process which can take away as much as half of the patented life of a drug.  In, too, is the FDA, which has the power to pull from the market any drug, even ones the FDA has approved, for not being safe.  Thanks to the FDA, drugs cost more than they need to and have no particular guarantee of safety.  This is the sort of “protection against poor implementation” that we can expect from our federal government.

For liberals, though, the trouble reflected in the FDA doesn’t matter.  It only means that those programs need more money, need to be more invasive, and need to accumulate even more power.  But, that power comes with a price.  I found it notable that during the Bush years, the general cry that the federal government can do no wrong tended to fade into the background, if it was even made at all.  It was California, not Washington DC that was the champion of environmental policy.  It was state courts, not the FDA, that championed patients’ rights.  It seemed that the federal government under Bush could suddenly do nothing right.

We have, right now, a chance to have health care run by President Obama.  But he will not be President forever.  I can already hear the commotion now, come 2012 or 2016, when the White House again changes hands.  Just imagine what life will be like under our next President…

Doctor in Chief Sarah Palin.

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The Political Waiting Game

   Posted by: Robert    in Politics

Toward the end of an article on Obama talking about health care, the New York Times shares a quote from the President which is his apparent attempt to calm fears of bad consequences with examples from history.  he probably should have picked different examples:

When President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security, opponents warned it would open the door to ‘federal snooping’ and force Americans to wear dog tags.

While I suppose that technically they aren’t dog tags, the national ID cards established by the Real ID Act seem rather close enough.  As far as “federal snooping” goes, it’s probably impossible to figure out which of Roosevelt’s policies should be blamed for opening the door to that, but as the Social Security Administration is now involved in everything from retirement savings to disability assistance to reviewing corporate hiring decisions, it strains credulity to suppose that Social Security didn’t lead to more federal involvement in our daily lives.

When President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare, opponents warned of ‘socialized medicine.’ Sound familiar?

On the road to socialized medicine, you can either go all the way all at once, or you can go slowly, one step at a time.  The VA system, Medicare, and SCHIP are all steps along the way.  As we become used to (or worse, dependent on) these systems, we stop asking tough questions and we tend to neglect the overall pattern.  But there can be no doubt that medicine today is more socialized than it was before Kennedy and Johnson, even if both left the endgame for another day.

It took 70 years for the government to tell us to go get dog tags; a relatively small offense compared to the only-50-years-old socialized health care campaign.  These things take time, but the federal government has shown itself to be patient.  It is far less important what the government has done as of today than what it will do starting tomorrow.

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Change: Doing lots more of the same thing

   Posted by: Robert    in News

I came across a video today of part of a press conference given a couple of days ago by Obama regarding the stimulus bill currently working its way through Congress.  While I am certainly no fan of nearly anything he had to say and I continue to believe that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act needs to be euthanized as quickly as possible, what caught me as most interesting were some of the specific arguments Obama made to justify the scope and character of the bill.  I was stunned that people would applaud arguments which effectively amount to saying that past excesses which Obama could not control justify the present excesses which Obama quite possibly can, particularly with those arguments coming from the man who has not been shy about telling us that he was elected on the winds of change.


When they say, “Well why are we spending $800 billion, we have this huge deficit,” first of all, I found this deficit when I showed up, number one.  I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big ball waiting for me when I walked into the Oval Office.

In this, Obama points out that the country does hold a rather large debt burden for which he became responsible on Election Day.  The tenor of his line and the response that he gets from the crowd show clearly that what he just said was meant to be a negative statement and a dig at Bush.  The negativity of this line is confirmed on Obama’s website which cites “Increasing Debt” as being a “Problem” which he campaigned to address.  I am uncertain how complaining about a doubling of the national debt under eight years of Bush can support an additional 9% increase in Obama’s first month.

Then there’s the argument, “Well, this is full of pet projects.” When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude without earmarks in it? Not one.

So too here does Obama cite prior bad practices to justify another round of more of the same.  It is difficult at this point to recall any recent bill which hasn’t had earmarks of some sort attached to it.  This has, of course, been cited as a problem by pretty much everyone; Bush, Pelosi, McCain, and Obama have all said at various points that all of the earmark spending is ridiculous.  Yet, here the charge that this bill has gathered too many earmarks is basically dismissed as being the product of people who do not know how things work in Washington.  It’s what always happens, so why should it be a problem now?

Although I suppose that it technically qualifies, I don’t normally consider doubling down to be much of a sign of change.  I grow tired of hearing people defend the same exact things they previously denounced simply because it is a Democrat rather than a Republican who happens to be in charge.  But to hear past misbehavior used to justify current misdeeds is folly of the highest order.

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