Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I agree with the President on the basics:

"Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative."

"When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. So reform is not a luxury. It's a necessity...."

So far so good.

Where we part company. Why I cannot support his current plan.

The President often engages in sloppy thinking and lazy rhetoric in pursuit of his political goals. Perhaps he does this because he holds his audience in low esteem. Perhaps he does this because he can. Perhaps there are other more compelling explanations.

No matter, the President loves the straw man, and he loves the false choice.

Quoting the President:

"We also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what - who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that's worked in the past. They'll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors."

I hate it when those guys show up. They are always up to no good. Their goal is always the same: work against the public weal for the special interests. Seriously, and forgive me for the repetition, this president engages in this brand of straw man sophistry way too much. This is a continuing disappointment for me. He should abandon this low road of public discourse.

Does he have a point?

True, conservatives worry that this massive government intervention into health care is the first step to socialized medicine (better known under the euphemistic umbrella of a "single-payer system").

Is this just another example of the paranoid strain of American politics? Are conservatives merely blurring the real issue with scare tactics concerning an unlikely eventuality?

Here is one very personal reason I think not: EVERY thoughtful liberal I have ever met has eventually admitted to me that European-style or Canadian-style national health care is exactly what they wanted--if not now, eventually.

Why? In general, my liberal friends tend to see government-guaranteed universal health care as the "smart" and humane solution. In fact, I hear plenty of discontent that the President is not asking for the "whole enchilada" right now. The grousing is often tempered by the consolation that this half-measure is merely what is politically possible at this moment. But, rest assured, they tell one another, we're gonna get there eventually. This is no secret. National Health Care has been a staple for Democratic Party platforms and public policy since FDR.

The President, who fancies himself an honest man steeped in nuance, ought to deal with this question more frankly. But don't blame conservatives for viewing this latest installment of a long running national drama in the context of a much larger philosophical-political discussion.

President False Choice.

"So the notion that somehow we can just keep on doing what we're doing, and that's OK, that's just not true. We have a long-standing critical problem in our health care system that is pulling down our economy. It's burdening families. It's burdening businesses. And it is the primary driver of our federal deficits. All right?

"So -- so if we start from the premise that the status quo is unacceptable, then that means we're going to have to bring about some serious changes."

Translation: either you are FOR my plan or you are against reforming health care. My way or the highway.

Sound familiar?

Either you are for my $787 billion stimulus bill or you are for doing nothing to combat this recession.

These are false choices. There are other options.

True enough, we are in a health care crisis--and it is a crisis of sustainability. True enough, the health care debate has shifted beneath our feet.

Why? The Party is Over.

One day, we will look back wistfully on this moment and recall our privileged status regarding health care in America. Although we have NOT spent a lot of time appreciating the wonder of the current system, the vast majority of us have been privy to the best-trained physicians, the most advanced medical technologies, and the most comprehensive network of doctors and facilities ever assembled in the annals of medical history.

Those days are necessarily coming to a close. WHY?

Not because of the humanitarian impulse. For decades, we have been very close to totally deaf to the sad refrain of "forty-something million uninsured" fellow citizens. Why so unresponsive?

Two Reasons: the claim is mostly a distorted and transparent political manipulation; and, more importantly, the vast majority of us were thriving under the status quo. We are not a blindly utilitarian society, but when the great bulk of the citizenry are prospering under a given regime, they are loath to sacrifice their advantage for a disadvantaged minority. In that regard, nothing has changed. Collective compassion will not be the impetus for the massive change in the offing.

What is different this time?

The UNSUSTAINABLE rising costs.

Ironically, we are victims of our own success. The wonders of medical research and development and production have outdistanced our financial resources. Most of us assume we are inherently deserving of the very best and most-advanced medical care. Ironically, conservatives even more than liberals seem to have swallowed this sense of entitlement when it comes to health care. Unlike products in our consumer culture where we make choices commensurate with our ability to pay, most of us assume that we are due the very best health care available regardless the cost.

In this way, the one-payer system is completely disingenuous. As a society, we CANNOT afford to pay for health care through government agency anymore than we can afford our current system of health care as an employee benefit. It is just not credible to believe that we are going to provide coverage to fifty million extra people and pay less money through the magic of bureaucratic streamlining. Something has to give. The obvious solution is cost control, which means rationing care, which means the Golden Age of carte blanche health care is concluding--no matter which road we take.

How we get there remains undetermined, but the ultimate destination is certain.

We can no longer enjoy unlimited health care regardless of our ability to pay. Socialized medicine is one way to combat this economic problem. In fact, socialized medicine is probably a less painful way to inaugurate the era of limits than doing nothing. Socialized medicine means a lot of changes that we will not view as positive--but this may be unavoidable. However, it would be nice if Democrats would be straight with us about the real problems and their actual proposed solution.

Having said that, I still cannot support this framework at this time. The planned Obama-Pelosi cram-down is an impending disaster; it is bad politics for them and for us. It is a drastic and irrevocable step. We would be better off defeating this attempt at social revolution and waiting for a moment when there is more political equity and, therefore, more honesty and more bipartisan buy-in. Also, the crisis may not be at a point in which the sense of urgency is such that partisans are actually willing to come together for the common good. This is one of those cases in which both parties need to come to terms and go forward with a compromise solution. There are better ideas out there. We need to wait for an atmosphere more conducive to positive change.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
David Brooks, the rational voice of the NYT, articulates his version of "the party is over."

It is a near flawless concise history and analysis of where we are, how we got here, and our dilemma:

"Over the next many years, Americans will have to save more and borrow less. The American economy will have to transition from an economy based on consumption and imports to an economy with a greater balance of business investment and production. A country that has become accustomed to reasonably fast growth and frothy affluence will probably have to adjust to slower growth and less retail fizz."

"The economic challenges will be hard...But itís the political challenges that will be most hellacious. Basically, everything that a politician might do to make voters happier in the near term will have horrible long-term consequences."

Amen. Read it all here.

However, there is one massive head-scratcher in the otherwise brilliant piece.

Brooks writes:

"The members of the Obama administration fully understand this and are brimming with good ideas about how to move from a bubble economy to an investment economy. Finding a political strategy to accomplish this, however, is proving to be very difficult. And getting Congress to move in this direction might be impossible."

Huh? Of course, true enough, getting Congress to face our perilous circumstances with integrity and courage is the impossible dream. But the sentence about the Obama administration's willingness to grapple with reality just drops down from outer space. It is so January 20th. I would love to know what gives Brooks hope, at this late date, that anyone affiliated with President Obama has any inclination toward making the politically inexpedient choices and speaking the cold hard truth to the American people (and, more importantly, the Democratic Party interest groups). From what I have seen so far, I expect the President to keep telling those constituencies exactly what they want to hear.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
...it's sustainability.

Unemployment is high. The Recession has not abated. The Stimulus is a failure.

This is good news for Republicans, right? We all know that a bad economy (although inconvenient for some) is the proverbial silver lining for an opposition party.

Not so fast. It is election season on the other side of the Atlantic--but not in the good old USA.

By the fall of 2012, NOBODY is going to remember the unemployment numbers for June 2009. We are quite possibly at the nadir of this recession. Digging in and making our case against this president on a momentary economic indicator is tantamount to building our house on sand. It is much MORE LIKELY THAN NOT that the landscape will have shifted completely beneath our feet in three years.

An Aside: political tides can turn in a lot less time than that. Does anybody remember last summer when "drill here, drill now" emerged as the surefire recipe for our electoral success in the fall? We had good reason to be optimistic. The longtime hostility of the Democratic Party toward oil exploration, drilling, and refining suddenly looked like a lethal liability. But all that vanished in the blink of an eye when the bottom fell out of the oil market, and prices at the pump nosedived seemingly overnight.

We are foolish to predict that a trillion-dollar stimulus (no matter how wasteful and lacking in focus) is NOT going to contribute to, or at least coincide with, a revived economy.

We stand up NOW and say the stimulus hasn't worked--and we know this because the economy is flat. However, when the economy finally turns around--as economies almost always do--the President will look out across the land and laugh his hearty laugh and point in our direction and say, "oh ye of little faith...why hast thou doubted the wisdom of the New Day?" And the mainstream media will dutifully report the most amazing and most ingeniously engineered recovery in the whole of American history.

DOH!!!!!

EVEN WORSE. MUCH MUCH WORSE

Much more detrimental, we are enabling the President's dangerous mischaracterization of the REAL PROBLEM. The President too often intimates that overcoming the current recession provides the key to continued prosperity. This is a perilous and disingenuous conflation of the actual threats to our general welfare and, perhaps, over time, even our very survival as a nation.

The FACTS: the President inherited three distinct (although not unrelated) economic challenges. One is discomfiting but manageable. Two is super scary but seemingly under control presently. Three is Armageddon.

1. Recession. While recessions can be hazardous to the political health of presidents, in the big scheme of things, they are not so unusual or daunting--and not an existential threat to life as we know it. Recessions come and go. At the end of every downturn is an upturn.

Nevertheless, in ordinary times, a deep recession would be the top priority for any chief executive. In the face of a downturn, modern presidents must act (and act quickly). Graded on the recession alone, I give the President "passing marks" (with reservations) on his response. He acted quickly, yes, but his trillion-dollar stimulus was unprecedented overkill as well as embarrassingly revealing in its sloppiness. He also used the "crisis" to accomplish some political goals--but abuses of that sort are so commonplace as to be almost forgivable.

2. Banking Crisis. Much more serious. The potential meltdown of the financial sector portended catastrophe. We have all weathered multiple recessions (I have lived through nine of them)--but most of us have never experienced a bank panic. The collapse of the financial sector would have precipitated Great Depression 2.0.

Happily, we may well have averted this instrument of RUINATION. We are not out of the woods yet, but, if we make it, thanks be to Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, George Bush, and Barack Obama. I include the President in this list for having enough sense NOT to get in the way of an unfolding plan already in place that offered our best chance for reprieve in the face of looming disaster.

3. Structural Unsustainability. On this count, however, the president is courting a massive calamity. On this count, the President insists on doubling down on a gamble in Keynesian theory that may very well cost us our hard-earned American inheritance.

The President seeks to borrow more money than we can ever hope to pay back--and he wants to provide more government services to more citizens than we can ever afford. This president, as well-intentioned as he may be, intends to be everything to everyone with no concrete plan to pay the bills.

He possesses a fundamental misunderstanding of economic reality. If he is somehow right, frankly, conservatives are obsolete (and good riddance). If President Obama can actually do what he promises, we will all walk hand-in-hand to that golden shore of Progressive Kingdom Come happily singing songs of praise for an American Messiah.

If he is wrong, however, we need to be firmly rooted in reality and there to pick up the pieces. We need to be thinking ahead--and not just to the next election. Most importantly, we ought not to fall into the trap of arguing over this transitory recession. Whether we arise from this particular downturn in our economy (and chances are we will--just in time for the Election of 2012), we need to be fighting the good fight everyday in terms of fiscal sustainability.

Conservative Solutions must include a plan to financial solvency and independence. Leave discussion of the unemployment rate to the screaming heads.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Looking for the first trenchant political satire of the Age of Obama at the expense of Obama?

Look no more: read this PARODY OF NEWSWEEK from NRO.

It is brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. It is what Jon Stewart and SNL should have been doing for months. Hats off to NRO.

Please report back on whether you laughed out loud.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Pat Buchanan today: "the Anti-Reagan."

"Obama is the anti-Reagan. Where Reagan ever spoke of the greatness and glory of America, her history and heroes, her capacity to make the world all over again, Obama is like a dismal parson, forever reminding us ó and everyone within earshot ó of our own and our fathersí sins.

"Obama is not only demoralizing Middle America, he is driving away the God-and-country patriots who are sick of hearing this rot from professors and journalists, and prefer not to hear it from their president. He is ceding moral high ground to regimes and nations that do not deserve it."

If you are a mind, read the whole essay here. I am unconvinced by Pat's macro-psycho-historical explanation behind this difference in RR and BHO (it strikes me as a bit too facile)--but the two graphs above get at something that is worth investigating and defining. We all sense a different set of moral coordinates for this president. What does that mean for us?

Buchanan makes some serious assertions here that deserve consideration.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
VDH pens the latest conservative prediction that the American electorate is finally on the verge of seeing through the Barack Obama facade.

Is he right? Not likely.

His thoughtful analysis is worth reading (and mostly correct in terms of substantive objections to the ill-conceived Obama policy agenda). However, his mistake--and it is the same fatal mistake that most conservative analysts make in these pieces--lies in his assumption that the public will see the folly of the President's plan in advance of its implementation.

This is mostly wishful thinking.

Dramatic and overwhelming buyer's remorse is not the fashion in which political tides turn in America. The People are invested in this president and are determined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Public is unlikely to wake up one day soon and "come to their senses."

Why? A critical mass of Americans do not follow national politics and policy regularly. Voters have made their big decision. They are now otherwise occupied, perhaps glancing at Washington intermittently while waiting optimistically for good things to happen. Obama enjoys a friendly media and a relatively unengaged (and hopeful) citizenry. How would a significant majority gather enough information to experience a collective epiphany in the near term?

Yes. This radical change in direction most likely will be disastrous--but not enough voters are going to believe it until the disasters are actually upon us.

Therefore, the fall of Obama is not mere months away. The slow reappraisal of this President is actually years and years in the future. For that reason, I continue to counsel patience and long-term planning. America will find itself in desperate need of principled conservatism at the conclusion of this sanguine interlude. We need to be ready and credible.

Just for kicks (and fodder for a future post):

When are we actually viable again?

My best guess is 2014.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For several days I have struggled to find the time to write a defense of Dick Cheney as a principled American statesman exercising his right to publicly disagree with the government without being nearly as disagreeable as so many of his opponents over the years. You think Cheney is dead wrong? God Bless America! Let the debate begin.

Today Carl Cannon offers this MUST READ explanation of Cheney's character, his motivations, and his sacred right to speak freely.

From Cannon:

[W]e...do damage to ourselves when we substitute political debate with name-calling and ad-hominem attacks. I think Dick Cheney is wrong on important matters. I also think he is a patriot. And I hate to think that we have lost the ability to hold two such opinions in our heads at one time.

Excellent. Read the whole thing. The essay offers some much-needed perspective to the mob-driven anti-Cheney orgy.

One more essential thought: if not for Dick Cheney, this necessary conversation regarding the tensions between liberty and power (as well as national security and national morality) would be mostly one-sided and/or completely outside the public consciousness.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In this previous post, I offered 4 suggestions for the future of of the Tea Party "Movement." My first suggestion was

1. Any movement needs goals to rally around. As a first objective, TARGET BIG SPENDING MEMBERS of Congress for defeat. Use the list prepared by the Taxpayers Union.

I wish to elaborate.

Why is it important to have a clear goal? Because to form a movement out of a more general unrest, a clear goal is necessary to give cohesiveness.

Why is working toward a goal my first suggestion? Logically, would goal-setting not come after my last suggestion: 4. Use the means of communication to EVOLVE A COHERENT IDEOLOGY WITH CLEAR GOALS.?
Logically, yes. Realistically, no. Most people do not get excited about the intellectual process of developing a coherent ideology. Stopping to do so would cause the momentum to be lost. Also, there really is something called "the paralysis of analysis;" we can spend too much time talking about the problem to the detriment of solving the problem.

Why go after big-spending members of Congress? High taxation and excessive Federal spending were common complaints at the Tea Parties. Let's start there. Responsibility for tax policy and for Federal spending ultimately rests with Congress. So let's put some fear into the members of Congress.

What are the chances of success for this goal? Can incumbants be turned out of office? In 1830 the chances of ending slavery in the United States would have seemed slim. In 1928 the chances of achieving equal rights for all races in the U.S. would have seemed slim to none. Giving up before getting started is the one sure path to failure.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I offer a few thoughts to my fellow Americans who attended the Tea Parties last week regarding the future of the movement.

1. Any movement needs goals to rally around. As a first objective, TARGET BIG SPENDING MEMBERS of Congress for defeat. Use the list prepared by the Taxpayers Union.

2. Any movement, especially in its early stages, is in danger of being coopted by established groups. Avoid being swallowed by existing groups. DO NOT BECOME AN ARM OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

3. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Movements are formed through communication that brings like-minded people together. God bless the internet.

4. Use the means of communication to EVOLVE A COHERENT IDEOLOGY WITH CLEAR GOALS.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Today from about 11am to 1pm there was a TEA Party Rally in Lawton, Oklahoma. One of many nationwide, the purpose was to protest soaring deficit spending, Big Government, and excessive taxation.

There had been little publicity; I did not learn of the rally until last night by way of a flier in a local restaurant. The location was along a major east-west boulevard near city hall. I arrived about 11:45am and climbed up on a bench to count heads: about 130 people, with some coming and going. I think 180 protesters total would be a conservative estimate. [pun intended] The local newspaper and television showed up for perhaps 20-30 minutes around noon.

The crowd skewed older and white, though all ages were represented and a few minority members. Dress ranged from lawyer-level suits to jeans and sweatshirts. Lots of U.S. flags and a couple of "Don't Tread on Me" snakes. About 1 in 5 carried a placard, most homemade, though a few had been printed. A PA had been set up, with patriotic music playing when no one was speaking. Open mike, with no dignitaries in evidence. Speaker topics ranged from taxation and deficit-spending to pro-life and respect for veterans. Interestingly, all the speakers were brief, stating their names, having their say for 3 or 4 minutes, then moving back into the crowd.

Will the TEA Party Movement accomplish anything? Will it have legs? I don't know. A woman standing next to me expressed the wish that the Republican Party had put up a table to register people. Nothing of the sort was in evidence by any party. One man, though, was passing out brochures from Grassfire.org, about which I know nothing. We'll see as 2010 draws nearer if there is TEA impact.

btw, yes, I could not resist the opportunity of an open mike.