Friday, March 5, 2010

Barker's Newsbites: Friday, March 5, 2010

It's Friday my friends...



William R. Barker said...

U.S. nonfarm payrolls declined for the 25th time in the past 26 months, falling by 36,000 in February to a seasonally adjusted 129.5 million, the Labor Department estimated Friday. Unemployment rose by 34,000 to stand at 14.9 million - [the] U.S. jobless rate [held] steady at 9.7%...[though] the U6 alternative gauge of the unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and those forced to work part-time, rose to 16.8%.

Some analysts said the labor market remained weak, with or without the storms. "What we see in this report is essentially a job market on pause," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "The pace of decline has slowed dramatically, but jobs are not being created to put this country's nearly 15 million unemployed back to work."

Total hours worked fell by a seasonally adjusted 0.6%...

According to a survey of 400,000 business establishments, private-service producing industries added 42,000 jobs, concentrated in two areas: Temp help and health care. Temporary hiring to conduct the U.S. Census added 15,000 jobs. Job losses in February were concentrated in construction, schools, transportation, insurance and publishing. Construction employment fell by 64,000...

William R. Barker said...

Federal employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers in more than eight out of 10 occupations, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds.

Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available. These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.


"The data flip the conventional wisdom on its head," says Cato Institute budget analyst Chris Edwards, a critic of federal pay policy. "Federal workers make substantially more than private workers, not less, in addition to having a large advantage in benefits."

The federal pay premium cut across all job categories — white-collar, blue-collar, management, professional, technical and low-skill.

William R. Barker said...

Oil prices rose to near $81 a barrel Friday in Asia... Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 48 cents to $80.69 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil rose 0.59 cent to $2.0746 a gallon, and gasoline gained 0.96 cents to $2.2433 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude was up 50 cents at $79.04 on the ICE futures exchange.

William R. Barker said...

President Obama's proposed fee on the country's biggest banks receiving taxpayer bailout money would ultimately result in costs to the firms' customers, employees, and investors, a non-partisan Congressional watchdog said today.

In January the President unveiled a proposal to impose a fee on about 50 of the nation's biggest banks with assets of $50 billion or more in an effort to recoup around $90 billion of taxpayer money dished out as part of the Wall Street bailout.

"We want our money back and we're going to get it," the President said.

But the Congressional Budget Office today warned that "the ultimate cost of a tax or fee is not necessarily borne by the entity that writes the check to the government."

"The cost of the proposed fee would ultimately be borne to varying degrees by an institution's customers, employees, and investors," the CBO said today...

The availability of credit - already a problem for some consumers and businesses - could also be limited by the proposed fee, the CBO said.

"The fee would probably lower the total supply of credit in the financial system to a slight degree. It would also probably slightly decrease the availability of credit for small businesses."

William R. Barker said...

Last week's arrests in Turkey of dozens of high-ranking military officers mark the country's latest step toward authoritarianism.

Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ultra-conservative Fethullah Gulen Movement have gained significant leverage over the police and media. Emulating Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the AKP has made selective use of the legal code to effectively silence the country's two largest independent media groups.

Until recently, the judiciary and the military were able to keep government excesses in check [but for] the past two years, the Turkish military has been the target of illegal wiretaps and accusations that it is plotting against the government.

The question is whether the military will tolerate the assault or strike back, as it has done in the past when it thought the secular nature of the state was threatened.

The Islamist government has also targeted Turkey's other secular bastion - the judiciary.

Last month, a Gulenist prosecutor arrested a secular prosecutor in Erzincan. He was officially charged with belonging to an ultranationalist gang known as Ergenekon, which the Gulenists and AKP claim is trying to overthrow the government. Whether that's true or not, there is no doubt the arrest solved a lot of problems for the government. Before his arrest, the Erzincan prosecutor was investigating alleged connections between Gulenist fund raising and Chechen and Hamas terrorists. He was also looking into the armed activities of Ismailaga, a radical Islamist movement.

The Gulenists and the AKP are further targeting the courts by appointing a disproportionate number of Gulenist jurists, thus eroding the secular nature of the judiciary. And the courts seem to have been wiretapped as well. According to media reports, the police have bugged over 130 top judges and prosecutors, as well as the high court of appeals. This is not that hard to believe, given that the justice minister admitted in 2009 that the police have wiretapped 70,000 people.

What is the way forward for Turkey? A military coup isn't the answer and a court ban against the AKP would likely backfire, boosting the party's popularity. The next general elections are scheduled for 2011, but by that time the cards might be stacked too much in favor of the governing parties. That's why the West should press for elections that are free and democratic. The next elections won't be fair if the Turkish media are not independent and if Turks fear that they live in a police state that wiretaps its judiciary and citizens.

Hoping to win Ankara's support for tougher Iran sanctions and more troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. and Europe have so far been hesitant to criticize the AKP-led government. The "pragmatists" fail to realize that an illiberal and Islamist Turkey will be increasingly opposed to Western policies.

William R. Barker said...

The diplomats at the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday adopted a view on the urgent matter of world events that transpired 95 years ago.

By a 23-22 margin, the committee declared that the mass deportations and serial massacres of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I...


...ought to be called a genocide.

The vote has sparked a full-blown diplomatic spat with Turkey—with Ankara recalling its ambassador to Washington—but that's really no big deal, says Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA).


So much for the new era of U.S. appreciation for the sensitivities and cultural nuances of America's allies. (At least the Bush Administration was prepared to antagonize allies only on issues that really mattered.)

It was left to the losing side in the House vote to point out, as Indiana Republican Mike Pence did, that now is probably not the best time to antagonize Ankara.

Turkey is one of the few NATO allies that has substantially increased its troop presence in Afghanistan, and has responsibility for security in Kabul.

Turkey also has an important influence over events in Iraq, which this weekend holds national elections that will affect the pace and ease of American withdrawal.

The House vote's most baleful effects may be on Turkey's relations with Armenia itself. In October, the two countries signed a historic agreement to normalize relations and open their common border. The treaty, now before the parliaments of both countries, contains provisions to establish "an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives."

How is it that what's good enough for the Armenian government fails to pass muster with the U.S. Congress?

William R. Barker said...

[By Pat Buchanan]

Consider. Congress this year will spend $1.6 trillion more than it collects in revenue, with the largest outlays in that FY 2010 budget for defense at $719 billion and Social Security at $721 billion.

Thus, if the U.S. Government on Oct. 1, 2008, had shut down the Pentagon and furloughed every soldier and civilian here and around the world, and announced that it would not send out a Social Security check for a full year to any of the 50 million retired and elderly, we would still be $160 billion short of balancing the budget. If you zeroed out federal benefits to veterans for a full year, that, added in, would bring us close.

Such is the magnitude of the fiscal crisis facing the country.

To balance the budget this year would require a 43 percent across-the-board cut in every category of federal spending -- defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Homeland Security, highways, etc. - or, if one used taxes alone, a 72% increase in federal tax revenues.

[W]hen Harry Reid and colleagues wave through yet another $10 billion for unemployment checks and making sure farm folks get yard dishes to see reruns of "The Sopranos," the United States must go to Beijing, Tokyo or Riyadh and borrow the money.

That is the hole we are in.

[W]hen one stares at some of those budget numbers, the priorities of the Obama administration seem almost surreal.

In George W. Bush's last full year in office, we spent $29 billion for "international affairs." The lion's share of that was foreign aid.

In FY 2011, the year for which Congress has begun to budget, spending for international affairs and foreign aid is to jump to $54 billion and continue to surge through the Obama years.

What is the rationale for the United States, the world's greatest debtor nation, putting itself deeper in debt to China to send foreign aid to nations that will never repay us and that vote habitually with China and against us in the United Nations?

This city does not seem to grasp that the days of wine and roses are over. We are not in the 1950s or 1960s anymore. Then, we could throw open our markets to imports from the world. Then, we could dish out foreign aid and fight wars in Vietnam with 500,000 men, while maintaining 50,000 troops in Korea and 300,000 in Europe.

America is headed for a time when, like the British Empire, she is going to have to make painful choices - or have them forced upon us.

William R. Barker said...

President Obama faces not simply a shortage of votes for his health-care plan but also a diminishing reservoir of credibility. The longer he talks, the less believable his arguments have become.

After a year, dozens of speeches, hundreds of interviews, and a health-care summit, who believes of ObamaCare that:

1) you will get to keep your health-care plan;
2) it won’t add to the deficit;
3) it will cut costs;
4) it won’t adversely affect Medicare patients; and
5) it won’t affect the status quo on abortion funding?

The endless discussions and Obama’s obvious discomfort in hearing informed arguments from Republicans at his summit (e.g. John Boehner on abortion and Paul Ryan on the rest) have served to undermine the president’s credibility on these points with all but the most devoted spinners.

The abortion issue is particularly revealing. Whether or not one thinks the government should subsidize abortion, Obama’s claim that his favored bill (essentially the Senate bill) doesn’t subsidize abortions simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The president insists that his bill maintains the status quo on abortion funding, but those most concerned and whose votes are at stake, namely pro-life House Democrats, know better. So when Obama and Nancy Pelosi repeat their assertion that the bill contains no federal funding of abortion, they are being less than truthful.

The president’s repeated misstatements have rendered him less and less effective as a salesman for his plan, both with the public and key lawmakers. Just as his claim of the stimulus plan’s job-creating success now engenders eye-rolling and groans, his health-care talking points have also become the objects of derision.

The impact may extend well beyond the health-care debate. After all, in matters large and small, on both foreign and domestic policy, the president must be taken seriously and his word respected by the public and lawmakers if he is to sustain support for his initiatives.

President Obama, among his many errors, has frittered away not only [an entire] year on hugely unpopular legislation but his own credibility as well.

The year is gone for good; his credibility may likewise be impossible to recover. [Our President], if he were prone to self-reflection, may come to regret having been so cavalier with the truth.

William R. Barker said...

Britain has little hesitation in signing up to fight America's wars. In the past decade, more than 500 of our personnel have sacrificed their lives, and thousands more suffered serious injuries, in wars that were primarily of Washington's making.

From the moment Tony Blair declared that we would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Washington in the immediate aftermath of September 11, Britain has committed its troops to places where other European powers fear to tread.

In late 2001, the role played by British special forces was central to the success of the campaign to the Taliban. Two years later, an entire British division was committed to the war against Saddam Hussein. Today, Britain is the only European power prepared to contribute significant numbers of combat troops to what is supposed to be a Nato-led campaign to bring stability to Afghanistan.

The argument advanced by successive British governments to justify this commitment is that in return for supporting the US in its hour of need, we can expect the same in return...yet after this week's unwelcome, and unnecessary, intervention by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, in the latest spat over the Falkland Islands, one begins to wonder just how committed the Americans would be if Britain were to find itself seriously threatened.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the Argentinian president, and her husband (and predecessor) Nestor, are known as the Clintons of South America, because of their love of the high life and their Left-leaning agenda. While Mrs Clinton was no doubt made to feel very much at home in such a convivial environment, that does not excuse her support for Mrs Kirchner's suggestion that the Falklands issue be referred to the UN's decolonisation committee.

This might be a legitimate course of action if the overwhelming majority of Falkland Islanders had decided that they no longer wanted to be British. But this is not the case. The inhabitants are immensely proud of their British heritage, and have no desire to become Argentines.

It has been suggested that the reason the Obama administration is proving reluctant to back Britain's case is anger at our disclosure of sensitive intelligence files relating to the former Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohammed, and the release last year of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, who continues to defy the predictions of Scottish doctors that he had only months to live.

But I believe this explanation is a red herring. A more likely explanation is that President Obama and his advisers find it incomprehensible that, in the 21st century, Britain continues to maintain its sovereignty over a remote group of islands that lie thousands of miles from its shores. And I fear that far from supporting their traditional ally, they will lend their support to any initiative that brings British influence in the South Atlantic to an end.

William R. Barker said...

Rather than a post-partisan olive branch to congressional Republicans and the American public, President Obama's latest health-care speech was a declaration of war. He's more than willing to use a 51-vote reconciliation majority to jam through a roughly $2 trillion health-care plan that amounts to a government takeover of nearly one-fifth of the economy. He's prepared to stick Uncle Sam right in the middle of the age-old relationship between patients and doctors, and doctors and hospitals, all while subjugating the private health-care insurance system to the status of a government-run utility - without bending the cost curve downward.

More spending. More tax hikes on investors, businesses, and individuals. New government boards to control prices, ration care, and redistribute income. The Obama administration is basically taking a giant government leap backwards that the country doesn't want to take.

One of the most galling features of this plan is a taxpayer-subsidized government-insurance entitlement for people earning up to 400 percent above the poverty line, or nearly $100,000 for a family of four. In other words, a middle-class health-care entitlement that will add millions of people to the federal dole. It's all too reminiscent of the political dictum of the old New Dealer Harry Hopkins: tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.

Health-care reform was supposed to be about getting 10 million low-income, chronically uninsured people some health insurance. But that can be solved by playing small ball. Health-care reform also was supposed to slow down cost increases. But that will never happen until the third-party payment system, run by Big Government and Big Business, is replaced by true consumer choice and market competition.

Just give consumers the tax break, and let them shop across state lines to find the right insurance plan. And young people who are already paying taxes into Medicare should not be mandated to pay more taxes into this entitlement plan. The young will pay for health insurance when they're ready to pay for it.

Clearly this new New Deal, or new Great Society, or whatever it is, is the government selling a product that the rest of the country doesn't want. Ironically, polls show that roughly 80 percent of voters believe their health insurance is satisfactory, good, or excellent. Polls even show that the public knows that a simple majority vote on reconciliation is an insufficient check on runaway government.

The Byrd rule says that reconciliation is for budget control and deficit reduction. But the Obama Democrats think they can use reconciliation to install a massive new social policy that would emulate the socialist-labor entitlement state now prevalent in Western Europe. As the Greece crisis amply shows, that entitlement state is on the verge of bankruptcy.

William R. Barker said...

Here's what the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) most recent report on the matter estimates the stimulus' effects were in the fourth quarter of 2009: Thanks to the stimulus, America is somewhere between 1 and 2.1 million jobs richer than it would have been with no government intervention.

[What you need to know is that] CBO's estimates are generated using models that significantly [purposefully!] [artificially!] boost the figures provided by existing measurements (measurements which themselves have been called into serious question).

To some extent, that's understandable—determining how many jobs would exist in the absence of a policy is impossible to do with any certainty; no matter how good your models, building a counterfactual is always a guessing game. But it's also a game that's awfully easy to rig, or at least tilt in your preferred direction. That's especially true when estimating government spending's productive effects, which is accomplished by plugging numbers into a formula that assumes that government spending produces a multiplier - an increased return for every government dollar spent.

In other words, it extrapolates from how much money is put in rather than from what has actually come out.

And it does so using a formula that dictates that if money is put in, even more money will come out.

According to the CBO's estimates, depending on how the money is spent, one dollar of government spending can produce total economic activity of up to $2.50. What a deal! (It's certainly a good bargain for the administration, because this methodology grants them a certain amount of predictability in what the outcome of the CBO's stimulus reports will be.)

The CBO's multipliers are estimated from sources similar to those used by the Council of Economic Advisers when it first projected what the stimulus' effects on job creation would be. So for all practical purposes, the same multipliers that were used to predict how many jobs would be created are being used to estimate how many jobs have been created.

That still leaves us with a question: How many jobs did the stimulus actually create? The best answer to that question is not 1 million or 2.1 million or any of the other figures that have been batted around in recent months by the administration and its defenders. It's not even a figure at all; instead it's another question: Who knows?

[CBO itself in its offical] December report noted that "it is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package."

In other words, don't blame the CBO, which is merely doing its lawful duty to produce compliant estimates (a fact which it dryly makes clear in the introduction). Instead, blame the administration, the government-spending enthusiasts, the liberal pundits, and anyone else who treats these pre-cooked estimates as settled fact.

William R. Barker said...

When a White House statement refers to a "bedrock principle," it means something slushy and soft and not really a principle at all, but a gimmick, still one more fraud to fool the public, a joke of the kind that must keep presidential aides rolling on the floor in laughter at all the fools who cheer them on.

The "principle" referred to was what would bind Congress if it passed a pay-as-you go law: It could then "only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere."

But when the legislation actually became law and Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky tried to have Congress observe its provisions, the Democrats were outraged and Vice President Joe Biden portrayed the Republican in one reported interview as inhumane.

The special sadness in all of this is the hypocrisy of a president who just recently sold paygo as a mighty step toward fiscal responsibility.

Not only was Biden then turned loose on an honest man trying to make paygo work, but the whole paygo law is by and large a con game to begin with. It can be waived with flimsy excuse and seems to exempt virtually every other budgetary sentence that begins with a capital and ends with a period.

Even if it were religiously heeded, the budget could be swamped by the costs of the exceptions.

George W. Bush was a big spender, but hardly the last of them: A think tank analyst points out that President Obama increased the federal budget in his first year by about as much as Bush in eight.

The stimulus bill alone cost as much as the Iraq war.

Obama's latest budget is for $3.8 trillion with a deficit of $1.56 trillion. He has raised the debt ceiling some $2 trillion to $14.3 trillion, and Investor's Business Daily says the projected $45 trillion in spending this coming decade will be a much as all U.S. budgets from the beginning of the Republic in the 18th century to 2006.

We are faced with calamity, and the Obama administration plays games with words while Congress cannot even offset new benefits with a $10 billion savings?

It's time to start worrying, fellow Americans. Really worrying.

William R. Barker said...,0,7737968.column

In these times of economic distress, massive job losses, shrunken businesses, bloated governments and runaway public spending, we've been waiting for some politician (other than Ron Paul) to stand and tell the truth.

Politicians excel at "kicking the can down the road" - that is, postponing the inevitable reckoning for unsustainable spending until they are either safely out of office or dead. But behold! The newly elected governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie, stood in front of 200 of his state's mayors last week and told them basically that there is no more road down which to kick that proverbial can.

In his speech at the New Jersey League of Municipalities, Mr. Christie began by calling the legislature's $29 billion budget something out of "Alice in Wonderland." He told the collected hizzoners that the old game of tax and spend was over. He described unhappy meetings in his treasurer's office, where he was presented with 378 possible freezes and lapses to be used to balance the budget. He accepted 375 of them.

"Our citizens are already the most overtaxed in America," the governor said. "U.S. mayors hear it all the time. You know that the public appetite for increasing taxes has reached an end." Later, he said, "You know, at some point, there has to be parity between what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard-working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now.

"And so we need to get honest with each other," Mr. Christie said. "In this instance, the political class [is] lagging behind the public on this. The public is ready to hear that tough choices have to be made. They're not going to like it. Don't confuse the two. But they are ready to hear the truth." The truth is, for New Jersey and any number of other states and municipalities, it's useless to pretend; we can have no more of telling people that somebody else is going to foot the bill when that's no longer true.

"We have no time left," said the governor, "We have no room left to borrow. We have no room left to tax. So we merely have time left to do this. We are all reaching the edge of a cliff. And it reminds me a bit of that part of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' where he had the seminal decision to make. So what did they do? They held hands and jumped off the cliff. We have to hold hands at every level of government, state, county, municipal, school board. We have to hold hands and jump off the bridge."

Governor Christie has wasted no time in implementing budget freezes through executive action. No doubt there will be a political firestorm in New Jersey as the pinch is felt by politically powerful entities such as the teachers, police and firefighters unions. Whether he can survive tackling the growing fiscal crisis with actual solutions is the question.

Chris Christie will need a lot of public support in his efforts to put the Garden State's house in order; with the public in New Jersey and all across the land depending on government largesse more than ever before, can that actually be expected to happen? A lot rides on the answer to that question.

William R. Barker said...

* TWO-PARTER (Part 1 of 2)

So there was President Obama giving his bazillionth speech on health care, droning yet again that "now is the hour when we must seize the moment," the same moment he's been seizing every day of the week for the past year...

Why is he doing this? Why let "health" "care" "reform" stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest?

Because it's worth it. Big time.

[For many progressives] the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible.

In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally "conservative" parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect. (Let's not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a "conservative.") The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless.

Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic.

The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too.

A year or two back, when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing north of the border by taking me to the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission, a number of outraged American readers wrote to me saying, "You need to start kicking up a fuss about this, Steyn, and then maybe Canadians will get mad and elect a conservative government that will end this nonsense."

Makes perfect sense. Except that Canada already has a Conservative government under a Conservative prime minister, and the very head of the "human rights" commission investigating me was herself the Conservative appointee of a Conservative minister of justice.

Makes no difference.

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists — sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily "compassionate" statists, but always statists.


William R. Barker said...

* CONTINUING... (Part 2 of 2)

The short history of the postwar welfare state is that you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect "conservatives," as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who for tuppence-ha'penny or some such would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.

Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A big-time GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass ObamaCare because it's so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

Okay, then what? You'll roll it back — like you've rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago?

Like you've undone the Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel 'n' dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter?

Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus: "Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?"

Look at it from the Dems' point of view. [They] pass ObamaCare - [worst case] [they] lose the 2010 election - which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years.

I've been bandying comparisons with Britain and France, but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. ObamaCare represents the government annexation of "one-sixth of the U.S. economy" — i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people. Even the control freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary "comprehensive" health care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out.

This "reform" is not about health care, and certainly not about "controlling costs." As with Medicare, it "controls" costs by declining to acknowledge them, or pay them.

William R. Barker said...

In what must be one of its worst ideas ever, the Obama administration is pressuring Congress to exempt China from any sanctions in the U.S. if it continues business as usual with Iran. Is the Obama team so desperate to claim it got a sanctions deal on Iran that it's offering the same carve-outs it did with Congress on health care?

That's what a new plan looks like.

The aim, of course, is to get China's vote in the United Nations Security Council for a package of global sanctions on Iran for its illegal program to build nuclear weapons. Anyone else trading with Iran would lose access to the U.S. market. But China would be exempt through this sweetener. It's pretty much the same approach Senate Democratic leaders took when they exempted unions from taxes on health insurance plans to ensure union support for the health care bill.

But this U.N. move has special consequences.

If China does not sanction Iran the same as other nations, then sanctions are meaningless. China is a leading trading partner of Iran's and depends on Iran for 11% of its oil. Instead of finding an alternative source of oil for China, the administration is taking an easy way out, opting for form over substance.

Security Council members Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil already are balking at sanctions on Iran, taking a lead from China's opposition. Ramming through a vote to require these countries to observe U.N. sanctions while China is exempt will go over badly.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expending energy traveling in Argentina and Brazil, seeking support for U.N. sanctions on Iran.

Exempting China undercuts those efforts, too.

The right way to do sanctions is to make them airtight without loopholes, and to share the burden equally. The plan to exempt China is none of those things.

If sanctions can't get through because of China, then China must pay the price for its decisions. It can't be exempt from U.S. sanctions if it goes its own way.

William R. Barker said...

Two U.S. congressmen take the lead in proclaiming the obvious — that those who attack this country should be punished and not those who risk their lives to defend it.

The Navy SEALs are a special breed of patriot and warrior. This highly trained and select group — the best of the best — is a daily participant in the long twilight struggle against the enemies of freedom that President Kennedy warned us about.

JFK formally created the SEAL (sea, air, land) outfit as an elite force capable of combat operations in any environment. It was a team of Navy SEAL sharpshooters that killed three pirates who commandeered the American-flagged Maersk Alabama and held its captain hostage.

Last Sept. 3, Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, from Perrysburg, Ohio, and Jonathan Keefe of Yorktown, Va., as well as Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Julio Huertas of Blue Island, Ill., were members of Navy SEAL Team 10 who were dropped into harm's way to capture a high-value target known as Objective Amber.

The mission to capture Ahmed Hashim Abed, the mastermind behind the killing, burning and mutilation of four American contractors working for Blackwater USA in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004 was a success.

But so skewed are our priorities these days, the three SEALs are facing court-martial because Abed claims McCabe punched him in the stomach while in custody.

[C]aptured al-Qaida training manuals advise captured enemy combatants to lie about their treatment.

"If you claim that you are tortured or mistreated, that will usually resonate with the hard left in America and around the world and they know it will have an impact," Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said at a Thursday press conference with McCabe. Appearing with Burton and McCabe was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., one of 40 congressman who have signed a letter asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commander of Special Operations Command Central; and Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, to drop all charges against the three. "We join with our fellow citizens today in demanding that this prosecution, this court-martial, be canceled," Rohrabacher said Thursday. "These men should be given medals — not be

If the court-martial proceeds, the only thing impressed upon foreign terrorists will be American weakness. It will invite more terrorism as surely as our shameful withdrawal from Somalia after Americans were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu inspires Osama bin Laden.

The likes of Abed would kill us all if they could. We should honor, not prosecute, those who are trying to stop them.

William R. Barker said...

The white coats showed up again at the White House... Attendance was by invitation only, and 40 of the 150 physicians were said to be members of Doctors for America, a reincarnation of Doctors for Obama, an arm of the Obama campaign that boasts of having more than 15,000 members.

[Meanwhile... in the real world...]

No less than the Mayo Clinic has given the proposed reforms two thumbs down. "The proposed legislation," Mayo says on its policy blog, "misses the opportunity to help create higher-quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite."

William R. Barker said...

Democrats promise their plan will improve care at lower cost while thinning the ranks of the uninsured. How will they do this with fewer doctors?

America's population is 305 million. If the Democrats are correct about the number of uninsured, roughly 260 million are covered by a health care plan. When the insured — and the uninsured who use the traditional method of paying out of pocket — are sick, they are treated by 800,000 physicians.

It would be foolish to believe that today's already stretched doctor-patient ratio will remain stable. In the near future we will have fewer doctors treating a growing population.

Last August, our IBD/TIPP Poll found that 45% of doctors would consider leaving their practices or taking early retirement if the Democrats' version of reform were to become law.

Last month, 26% of physicians responding to a Web poll on, which calls itself "the largest online physician community," said they had been forced to close, or were considering closing, their solo practices. Reasons include "low and delayed reimbursements, problems with management companies, and a lack of business/practice management education," as well as high malpractice insurance costs.

Not every doctor who told these polls that he or she would consider leaving the field will do so. Even if half followed through with their threats [though,], our care will suffer.

If the Democrats' plans become law, fewer than 700,000 physicians would be available to treat a patient population growing in size, aging in years, shunning medical education and receiving "free" health care or insurance coverage from the government in increasing numbers.

The result will be longer wait times to see a doctor and a decline in the high quality of care Americans are accustomed to as overworked physicians try to keep up.

To see how this works in reality, look at the Canadian and British government health systems that encourage unnecessary doctor visits with the illusion of free care. Both have long, and sometimes deadly, wait times.

Neither provides treatment as high in quality as what's found in the U.S, where the system is supposedly broken.