Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone - I'm going to have some herring (Swedish tradition) and open a red wine. Have a safe night, all.
Another year-end list - Politico has the top 10 weirdest moments of 2009.
Miami espionage - Yesssss! "Burn Notice" marathon on USA today.
The ghost of health care reform future

Via Heritage, here's what Americans can expect with the new health care legislation. Sounds expensive for everybody.

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010
2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.
2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.
2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)
2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.
2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.
2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.
2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.
Keep in mind that nobody but nobody believes that Congress will reduce reimbursement rates to Medicare doctors by 21%. The political pressure to counteract these cuts will be intense meaning that Washington will depend on even more deficit spending. And suddenly I'm a big fan of "the trigger option." Why not wait until next year to see if Washington holds firm to their own legislation? If Congress can't find the fortitude to cut Medicare payments by one-fifth, let's call the whole thing off.
Let freedom read - Atlas Network: "Top 10 pro-liberty books of the decade."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad ads - Slate: "Readers sound off on the year's worst commercials." The anti-depression drug commercials are always...depressing.
I need a Congressional scholar

After all the speeches, the new Rasmussen poll out today shows a new high for Americans opposing the health care bill moving through Congress. A full 58% oppose the bill with 46% of them strongly opposing; only 39% approve with 19% strongly in favor. The state governors are waking up to the massive new unfunded liabilities in Medicaid expansion. And the green eyeshades at the CBO have discovered that Congress is double-counting Medicare "savings" from cuts that will never occur. And those are just the aspects of the legislation in plain sight: a big chunk of the cost is hidden in adjusted insurance rates and taxes on medical supply companies.

So I need somebody answer this question because I can't quite figure it out from online sources: what is the procedure to merge the two (House and Senate) bills? Do they go to committee and then face a whole new vote in both houses? If so, is there another chance to filibuster in the Senate or has that ship sailed? Does the CBO need to score the merged bill? Finally, is there any possibility that some legal authority (the Rules committee or the Justice department) could declare that parts of the bill are unconstitutional?

Extra - Critical Condition: "It's not inevitable." Good to know!

Update - Two kind commenters (commentators?) have good explanations in the, um, comments. Also, there's this story from Fox News: "Republican attorney generals threaten lawsuit over health care." I thought the correct term was "attorneys general." Eh.
The country gets serious on airline security - The country called Holland.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Money well spent because it's somebody else's

President Obama: "We can't continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences, as if waste doesn't matter, as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like monopoly money."

This just in: "Treasury plans to inject another $3.5 billion into GMAC." Maybe another round of Cash for Clunkers, why not? Send the bill to the kids.

Related - Opinion Journal: "The deficit commission trap"
Cornhusker kickback kicks back - It looks like the voters of Nebraska are not appreciative of Ben Nelson's Medicare deal in the health care reform bill: "Health care bill may be bad news for Nelson in 2012." Only 17% approve of his vote while 53% strongly disapprove; 55% now have an unfavorable view of Nelson. Welcome to Chris Dodd territory, Senator.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Radio, radio

In my travels (so far) this week, I don't think I've heard a single radio station identified by their call letters. Instead, there were "The River," "The Peak," "The Point," "Fresh," and "Wink."

I remember when radio stations were brand names to themselves: WNEW (Where Rock Lives!) WPLJ, WCBS, WNBC. Even Z-100 bothered to tell you the radio frequency. Whatever...they all play the same adult contemporary music now anyway.
Quote of the day - Here's Christopher Hitchens on Slate: "The demand to satisfy that sad illusion [of air travel security] can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste."
But seriously now

I think Ann Althouse makes a good point here about how we're looking at the Christmas Pants bomber:
But no one - other than the bomber - was seriously hurt, so we can discount it or play with it and be flippant or political in ways that we would avoid if there were specific and numerous victims.
I don't have my copy of "The Looming Tower" at hand (I'm traveling for the holidays) but I'm suddenly reminded of an aspect of the 1993 truck bombing at the World Trade Center: at the time, some government and security officials failed to appreciate the building threat of Islamic terrorists because they became fixated on the fact that one of the truck bombers went back to the Ryder truck company to get his deposit. What a dope! Now I'm getting an unsettling deja vu that we'll be seeing "hot pants" gags on Leno. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano doesn't help the situation when she claims "the system worked," sending the blogosphere into a feeding frenzy.

By all accounts, the passengers of Flight 253 were a failed detonator away from the Great Hereafter. If that guy had detonated his device from the lavatory, there would have been nobody diving over seats to stop him. That's how close it was.

Yet today and tomorrow we'll be patting down little old ladies from the Midwest and dumping out baby formula and confiscating my nail clippers (that happened.) Meanwhile, the terrorists will be studying this attempt, probing for weaknesses, and planning their next assault. But we'll be serious then, after it's too late.

Extra - Jeffrey Goldberg: "The TSA's security burlesque"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Healthcare now and forever - Mark Steyn points out that the magnitude and complexity of taking over one-sixth of the U.S. economy will entangle the federal goverment for, well, forever: "Cross the river, burn the bridge."
The world's greatest deliberative body - Opinion Journal on the Senate postmortem: "A law so sweeping and complex that nobody can understand it but that will affect the lives of all Americans was thus rushed to passage without any real debate, and less reflection."

Also, there's that sticky issue of Constitutionality: "Connecticut might sue if Nebraska gets Medicaid money." Oh, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments, are you against it too? Tsk tsk.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Security theater - In light of the recent terrorist attempt, it's worth checking out this November 2008 Atlantic article on "The things he carried." Bottom line: all that shoe-removal and laptop-separation and air-spray are about as useful as a bogus scribble on your boarding pass.

Extra - Mark Steyn has more.

More (12/28) - Megan has the quote of the day: "The TSA's obsession with fighting the last war is so strong that I expect any day to see them building wooden forts at our nation's airports in order to keep the redcoats at bay."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The reason for the season

The staff here at Viking Pundit wishes everybody a happy and healthy Christmas season.
So that's that - Fox News: "Senate passes health insurance overhaul."

Let's recap: In a time of record deficits and exploding debt, Congress is going to pass the mother of all entitlement programs to pile upon the trillions of unfunded liabilities already in place from Social Security and Medicare. The funding for the bill is risible: Medicare cuts that will never happen are counted twice, doctor reimbursement rate cuts that nobody believes will occur, new taxes on "Cadillac" plans that will surely disappear, and an added burden on businesses as the country struggles to climb out of double-digit unemployment.

It is not universal coverage, it does nothing to bend the cost curve, and it imposes a possibly unconstitutional mandate on Americans to purchase something or be fined, which is laughably defined as "not a tax" by our President. It puts new burden on the insurance companies, forcing them to set prices against their very nature, driving up expenses that will surely be passed on to businesses and policy holders. There is no tort reform, no insurance portability, the tapped states will have to pick up the cost for expanded Medicaid.

Finally, Americans oppose this legislation by wide margins, but the Democrats know better. Congratulations on your big "win" guys.

Extra - Karl Rove "The real price of the Senate health bill." It's $2.4 trillion.

More - Right Wing Nuthouse: "The worst piece of legislation in my lifetime."

And this - Doctor Zero: "What democracy is not."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beyond the law - Since we know that Obama will sign anything with the words "health care" on it, we may have to depend on the courts to restore sanity. Here's Richard Epstein with "Why the Reid bill is unconstitutional."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So that's a thumbs down - Good News Film Reviews on "Avatar": "This is the worst movie I have ever seen." Spoilers galore.
EBITDA: Estimates before I tricked the dumb accountants

The mad rush to pass health care reform before anybody has read the legislation is all about getting the foot in the door or the camel's nose under the tent, whichever you choose. From Paul Krugman to the Boston Globe, there's this admission that it's a stinker of a bill but we can fix it later.

Except that, if history is any guide, the political pressure on new programs is always towards expansion and never cost containment. Which is why the Senate had to resort to all kinds of trickery to make a laughably "deficit neutral" reform package. Here's Charles Krauthammer explaining the chicanery:

Number one, the only reason it ends up with a surplus is because it strips out - well, it assumes that there will be cuts in reimbursements for doctors of 21 percent next year with no increase over a decade. They're 100 percent certain that is not going to happen, but it's in the bill because [there will be] will be a separate provision that will strip it out. So once you calculate that in, you're already in the red.

Secondly, and this is the most important, it supposedly costs $850 billion over ten years. But 98 percent of the costs of the bill are in the last six years. So it's a trick. If you actually look at real charges, you start in 2014 when the benefits kick in and you go out ten years, then the cost is not slightly under $1 trillion. It is $1.8 trillion or $2.5 trillion, which means it will blow an enormous hole in the deficit.
In other words, once the four years of tax hikes to fool the CBO have passed and the program needs to stand on its own, the "deficit neutral" health care reform will be anything but. So far, Americans have been more difficult to dupe:

By 73-18 percent, voters don't believe President Obama will be able to keep his promise to overhaul health care without increasing the federal deficit and by 56 - 37 percent they don't want the overhaul if it will increase the deficit.
This debt explosion will be piled on top of this.

Extra - Now they tell us. The CBO says it's going to be really hard to make those Medicare cuts: "It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate can be achieved."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take it away, girls!

I'm really burnt out on the health care reform debate. So let's enjoy the theme song from "Laverne and Shirley"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Health care monstrosity - Pundit & Pundette has a good roundup on Ben Nelson, the CBO, and more.

And this - Big Government "SOLD: Senator Nelson's bribe": "We'll be blunt. The health care reform legislation under consideration in the Senate is the most corrupt piece of legislation in our nation's history." Read about how Nelson secured a Medicaid exemption for Nebraska that is unavailable in 49 other states.

More - Yuval Levin on the Corner: "There is no conceivable policy argument for the way the new bill treats Nebraska, it's simply a case of a senator's vote being purchased with taxpayer dollars."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

All is calm - No snow yet at 11pm. The snowblower is gassed up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maybe Franken should have let him finish - On the cusp of a series of Senate votes, Joe Lieberman has packed up and gone home to Connecticut. This makes Timothy Noah's article in Slate all the more interesting: "Can Democrats count on Lieberman?"
Obama gives Copenhagen agreement a B+ - Fox News: "Obama: U.S. reaches meaningful breakthrough on climate change." Illusory metrics, gaping loopholes, and nothing is legally binding. Otherwise: "meaningful" yes.

"This means something"
Close your eyes and vote

It's hard to believe that the Senate is cramming through legislation that will affect one-sixth of the whole U.S. economy and nobody knows what's in the bill:

With the clock ticking down on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has until Saturday to strike a 60-vote compromise if Democrats hope to meet a Christmas Eve deadline - but the obstacles kept piling up Thursday.

Reid still had no legislative text and no cost analysis to release.
That seems like a rather large obstacle (no CBO score either). Which begs the question: what's the big rush? Why must this legislation get passed in December instead of January or February, especially when most of the provisions of the proposed bill don't go into affect until 2014? As Jennifer Rubin notes, every day that ticks by reveals a new low in popular support:

Time, of course, is the kryptonite of health-care reform, the one phenomenon that disrupts the hype and pressure on lawmakers to vote on something, anything, and do it right now. It forces lawmakers to reflect and to worry (Sixty percent of the voters in my state oppose this?), and it reveals that the only thing ReidCare has going for it is an illusion of urgency.
I strongly suspect that the rank-and-file Democrats don't want to pass this awful legislation on a party-line vote. There's now strong incentive for at least a couple of Democrats to say: "hey, let's slow down, and do this right."

Extra - Everybody hates it.

And now this - Politico: "MoveOn opposes Senate bill." Uh-oh.
Stop, look, listen - Long post over on RCP blog: "The health care bill is political suicide."

Extra - Now the unions are going wobbly: "Unions decline to endorse Senate bill."

More - What's Jim Webb up to? He's been very quiet.

And this - Bill Kristol urges Ben Nelson to announce he won't vote for cloture so that everybody in Washington can 1.) avoid a big snowstorm and 2.) read the bill. Reading the actual legislation? What a concept.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twelve days of Christmas

I heard this on the radio this morning and laughed my butt off:

Monopoly money

Former Senator Phil Gramm used to have what he called the "Dickie Flatt" test: he would ask himself if a certain government expenditure was worth taking a dollar from his friend's wallet. I don't think anybody in the Obama White House has any clue or compunction about where the money comes from: "U.S. ready to join $100 billion climate aid fund."

Sure, why not? Throw it on the pile.

Extra - Deep impact.
And a commenter will lead them

In a display of populist pique, the Boston Globe decided that – gosh darn it – we should take those bonuses away from the bankers: "Go ahead, tax these bonuses."

So a tax on bonuses at US banks would simply give back to taxpayers some of the money they have donated to the banks. That crack of the whip might also caution the banks against another speculative spree, encouraging the pursuit of long-term stability in place of short-term bonanzas. A bonus tax is not a cure-all for the banks’ vices, but it will do no harm and may do some good.
It took exactly one comment for somebody to school the Globe on that thing we call "the Law"

Well, Globe, there is just one problem with your suggestion. It's called the Constitution of the United States which prohibits bills of attainder.
Nice try.
Two out of two doctors agree – They're the original odd couple: Drs. Howard Dean and Tom Coburn both write that the health care reform bill should be scrapped.

Related - MSNBC's First Read: "Public sours on health reform"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whatever, Ezra Klein (a continuing series) - Without a trace of introspection or irony, the WashPost blogger defends the following about health care reform: "An insurer will have to offer insurance at the same price to a diabetic and a triathlete." What a great deal...for the diabetic. The young and the healthy - it's time to pony up.
Fisking is alive and well - Matt Hoy takes apart Thomas Frank.
Five health care reform whoppers

Straight from Cato:

1. Health care reform will reduce your insurance premiums
2. Middle-class taxes won't be raised
3. You can keep your current insurance
4. It will only cost $484 billion
5. It will reduce the budget deficit

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quotes from 2006 - Guess who said this: "Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Al Gore takes Copenhagen - Just makin' stuff up now in a free-form green exploration in front of a festival crowd.

I've heard that song before

Here's Mark Steyn on Obama's speechwriters:

They seem to be the last guys on the planet in love with the sound of his voice and their one interminable tinny tune with its catchpenny hooks. The usual trick is to position their man as the uniquely insightful leader, pitching his tent between two extremes no sane person has ever believed: "There are those who say there is no evil in the world. There are others who argue that pink fluffy bunnies are the spawn of Satan and conspiring to overthrow civilization. Let me be clear: I believe people of goodwill on all sides can find common ground between the absurdly implausible caricatures I attribute to them on a daily basis. We must begin by finding the courage to acknowledge the hard truth that I am living testimony to the power of nuance to triumph over hard truth and come to the end of the sentence on a note of sonorous, polysyllabic if somewhat hollow uplift. Pause for applause."

It didn't come but once at Oslo last week, where Obama got bad press for blowing off the King of Norway's luncheon. In Obama's honor. Can you believe this line made it into the speech?

"I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war."

Well, there's a surprise. When you consider all the White House eyeballs that approve a presidential speech, it's truly remarkable that there's no one to scribble on the first draft: "Scrub this, Fred. It makes POTUS sound like a self-aggrandizing buffoon."
This begs the question: does Obama read his own speeches or did he add that line in himself? (H/T Maggie's Farm)

Whatever, Ezra Klein - Somebody's knee-deep in the big muddy of moral vanity today. The WashPost blatherer all-but-called Senator Joe Lieberman a murderer for standing in the way of health care reform, specifically the expansion of Medicare. Klein's earned some criticism but it looks like he's really not apologetic because, gosh darn it, people are dying.

Well, like all moral imperatives, there's no cost Klein is unwilling to (let others) bear to pay for universal health care. But why stop there? The lack of health insurance is a piker when it comes to the #1 killer of Americans: automobile accidents. Surely, we must lower the speed limit to 30 miles per hour. No, 15. And what's with all the people "murdered" by heart disease? Can we really stand by as - in the words of Klein - hundreds of thousands of Americans die from cheeseburgers and shakes?

And so on.
There is no cost control - Opinion Journal: "The cost control bill of goods"

By the way, last night on "60 Minutes" President Obama insisted that he's holding to his guideline that any health care legislation be "deficit neutral." I really wish Steve Kroft had pressed him on this issue since nobody outside the administration believes it. Obama has summoned Senate Democrats to the White House tomorrow for yet another pep talk about "history" - which is what some Senators are going to be if they vote for this monstrosity.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's all about feeding the ego

Boston Globe: "Don't buy green"

Two articles this week suggest that buying "green" products like fluorescent bulbs and recycled plastic toys can be counterproductive. In Slate, Ideas contributing writer Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow discusses social-science research that has explored the effects of such small actions on our psyches. Studies have found that the warm glow of self-satisfaction they produce leads us to relax our ethical standards in other areas of our lives.

In The Washington Post’s Outlook section, meanwhile, Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, makes the more familiar case that small-scale individual acts are no substitute for large-scale public policy.
The NY Times stripped bare the feel-good eco-movement a couple years ago with "Eco-socialites make cleaning green a priority"

These days Ms. Barnett, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan whom Women's Wear Daily once profiled under the headline "Sloan Ranger," is today a consumer reporter for KNTV, the NBC television affiliate in San Jose, Calif. She recycles and has tossed away her children's plastic sippy cups. Concerned with carbon emissions, she is about to replace the Barnetts' two family cars with hybrids. "I turn the water off when I’m brushing my teeth," she said. "I'm always learning, I'm always trying to improve."

Still, she has no plans to reduce the family’s significant carbon footprint by, say, selling the Manhattan second home. "I'm not a perfect person," she said. "I'm not the greenest woman in America." And there was scant indication that other guests, most of whom, presumably, knew their way up the steps of a private jet, were contemplating major lifestyle cutbacks. Glancing about the room, Ms. Barnett said, "We aren't all going to move to one-bedroom apartments."
Heavens, no! How about some CFL bulbs?

She plans to practice conservation, to a point. Energy-saving light bulbs are fine - for the utility closet, perhaps. In other rooms, "they don’t give a very pretty light," she said.
Classic stuff.

Extra – Don't forget about this oldie: "Gore defends mansion's power consumption."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A different strategy - Economics professor Greg Mankiw notes in the NY Times: "Tax cuts might accomplish what spending hasn't." Do you know who was a big fan of this concept before she joined the Obama White House? Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors Christina Romer. Maybe she could share her research with her boss.
Ungovernable - Instapundit called it.
Does not reduce costs, does not contain costs. Guess what? – WSJ "Senate health bill will raise costs": "The report, compiled by the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated that total health costs in the U.S. would be $234 billion higher than if the bill weren't passed. President Barack Obama has said Democrats' health plan would reduce the growth of health-care costs." Yeah, that's what they said.
Engorge the beast

The United States is fast approaching a debt burden equal to GDP which has not been seen since the days of the Great Depression and World War II.

Not that the press corps cares anymore, but the omnibus also continues the earmark explosion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to end when she was trying to oust Republicans in 2006. The Heritage Foundation counts 5,224 earmarks, bringing the total for the year to about 10,000, or about 23 for every Congressional district. There is money for bike paths, skate board parks, museums, water-taxis to resort towns, and other absolute necessities.
Not exactly Hoover Dam and the USS New Jersey.

Senator Kent Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, is a walking example of the split Democratic spending personality. He frets that U.S. debt will soon be 114% of GDP, a level he says is "absolutely unsustainable" and a "threat to the economic security of America." Yet he keeps voting for every spending bill and will vote for the multitrillion health bill too.
After so much double talk, we've concluded this is all part of a conscious political strategy. Spend so much and run up the deficit to unprecedented levels, then turn around and claim that there's a fiscal crisis that can only be solved with higher taxes. They spend, you pay.
Emphasis on "you" because, no matter how much the Democrats swear the tax burden will only fall on the "rich," there's simply not enough in Bill Gates' bank account to cover all this spending. Washington is playing with the monopoly money of China's easy credit but, just like my post-Christmas credit card bill, we gotta pay in the end.

Kinda releated - Megan Mcardle: "A new breed of deadbeats"

Friday, December 11, 2009

We are the CITs so pity us

"Meatballs" was on Comedy Central this afternoon. Ah, memories.

Did anybody in this movie, besides Bill Murray, go on to any kind of movie career? Maybe that Chris Makepeace kid.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No controlling legal authority - I'll borrow one of Al Gore's favorite phrases to introduce this Heritage Foundation legal review: "Why the personal mandate to buy health insurance is unprecedented and unconstitutional."
Treeless in Seattle - Somebody cut down a rare conifer at a Seattle arboretum yesterday, possibly because he/she was looking for cheap Christmas tree. Police are stumped.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Al Gore sticks his fingers in his ears, yells "Lalala!" - Watts Up With That notes that Al Gore can't tell time. What I think is more telling is that Prince Albert doesn't deign to "read all the emails" which is code for reading any of them. This is part of a pattern for Gore who refuses to debate anybody on global warming, dismisses all skeptics, and has renegade journalists removed and blackballed.
No respect - Gallup: Members of Congress are seen as less ethical than used car salesmen. Engineers (ahem) are rated as highly ethical.
Good ole W – While Obama keeps blaming Bush, a lot of Americans have decided: "Ah, he wasn't so bad."
It's magic!

The Senate Democrats have hammered out a health care compromise without a government-run public option but with an expansion of government-run Medicare:

Senior Senate Democrats reached tentative agreement Tuesday night to abandon the government-run insurance plan in their health-overhaul bill and to expand Medicare coverage to some people ages 55 to 64, clearing the most significant hurdle so far in getting a bill that can pass Congress.
Wait...what? Wasn't the new health care program going to be funded by a half-trillion dollar cut in Medicare?

Shut up, they explained, everybody's going to be totally stoked about the new plan. Well, everybody except the doctors and hospitals:

The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea.
So doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, state governments, and the American people all think this health care reform is a dog. But Congress is going to cram it down our throats and Obama is going to sign any piece of paper with the words "health care" on it. But it's all gonna work out: you have to believe!

Wow, check out those shorts.

Forcing you to buy something - The Heritage Foundation has a forum today titled: "Is the personal mandate to buy health insurance unconstitutional?" I can't believe it is. Washington certainly has the power to tax and spend money (which it does all-too well) but I'm baffled by the argument that the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to compel purchase of anything. Senator Orrin Hatch and Prof. Volokh will attend.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clever, but it had to come down - Maggie's Farm has a picture of one man's Christmas decorations, which the police told him he had to take down because it was distracting passersby. Funny stuff, though.

Monday, December 07, 2009

All you need to know about the Copenhagen nonsense

President Obama had originally planned to combine his trip to Copenhagen and Oslo to minimize the considerable carbon footprint of Air Force One. However, he decided to push back his presence until later in the conference, and so:

The move means the president will make two separate flights to Scandinavia this month, one to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and another to the Copenhagen conference. Originally, he had planned to combine the trips.
Clearly, Gaia can take another hit for "the One."

Extra – Daily Mail: "Copenhagen climate change summit to produce as much CO2 as an African country" Greater good, everybody.
Whatever, Ezra Klein

I'm thinking of starting a new series here on my blog called "Whatever, Ezra Klein." The WashPost journalist commentator tireless cheerleader has never seen a health care reform development that isn't just totally awesome:

Sources who have been briefed on the negotiations say that Medicare buy-in is attracting the most interest. Expanding Medicaid is running into more problems, though there's some appeal because, unlike increasing subsidies, expanding Medicaid actually saves you money. There's also ongoing discussion about tightening regulations on insurers, but I don't know the precise menu of options being considered.
Medicare expansion? Would that be the same Medicare that will be cut by a half-trillion dollars to pay for health care reform? Which includes Medicare expansion. This is truly a Mobius strip of fiscal logic.

Then there's the expansion of Medicaid that "saves you money." How exactly does this magic happen? Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and in part by the states and, in fact, governors have been lining up against expansion of Medicaid because it puts an unfunded burden on the states (according to this Washington Post article – have you seen it Ezra?)

Progress, always progress, declares Ezra. Paradise awaits.
America says "no thank you" to Obamacare - Jay Cost has a great analysis over at Real Clear Politics about the health care bill winding through Congress: "Why does the public oppose Obamacare?" In a nutshell, he details how we don't really understand the 2000+ page legislation but we're all pretty tuned into the idea that it's going to cost a pile of money, much more than can ever be raised by chimerical Medicare cuts and tax hikes. Check it out.

Extra - Megan explains risk aversion as opposed to loss aversion.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Can't get it out of my head - The Boston Globe has an article titled: "Let us now praise jingles." Cos-tan-za!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fear of a Daily Planet

An old trivia buddy sent this one along, from the WashPost:

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.
That would be "911 (is a joke)" from 1990, suckah!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Congressional innumeracy – Weekly Standard "Obamacare's ugly math." At least there's this glimmer of sanity in tonight's news: "Senate's progress over health care bill grinds to a halt"

Fact: working women comprise 86% of cosmetic surgery patients. Get ready for 'Botax'

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Congress stands for Medicare cuts it will never enact

AP: "Senate votes to keep Medicare cuts in health bill" Of course they had to because otherwise there would be no funding for this "anything goes" health care bill. Just like Kirstie Alley during the holidays: she swears she'll go on a diet after the New Year.

The record in Congress on actual Medicare cuts is less than stellar:

It's that time of year again: Washington is talking about cuts to Medicare. President Obama's health-care reforms depend on them - up to $400 billion worth over 10 years. As a psychiatrist, I'll break the bad news gently: Medicare cuts are like Santa Claus and his flying reindeers - often talked about, never actually seen.

The federal government has long fought to control Medicare spending. Today's Medicare program costs taxpayers twice what it did 10 years ago. But whenever lawmakers from either party agree to savings, Congress reverses course, fearing cuts will anger voters on Election Day.

Congress reversed planned cuts in 1999. And 2005. And 2004. And 2006. In fact, since 1997, when members of both parties agreed to automatic cuts if spending rose faster than population and economic growth, the program has been cut just once, in 2002.

At one point, Congress voted to postpone a 10% cut in Medicare doctors' fees fromDecember 2007 until mid-summer 2008. Just weeks later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attacked the rescheduled savings as "exactly the wrong medicine."

So come July 2008, despite massive deficit projections, Congress voted to abandon the planned savings altogether. President George Bush vetoed that decision - only to have Congress, both parties, override him.
These Medicare cuts will never materialize and the health care reform bill will explode the deficit. Simple as that.

Extra - Ace: You can't "keep your insurance" if it's Medicare Advantage.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Massachusetts model, yet again - Boston Globe "Six hospitals to sue state over payment shortfalls": "The suit charges that Massachusetts violated a law requiring adequate reimbursement to hospitals for patients insured by the government. The hospitals contend the state set repayment rates so low they do not cover the cost of such medical care." Fear not, all these issues will be ironed out in the federal plan. Paul Krugman told me so.
An adage about absolute power comes to mind - Noted Constitutional scholar Nancy Pelosi has decided that Congress can do whatever the heck it wants when it comes to health care reform. On the treadmill, tubby, or it's jail for you!
A respectful distance - I'm a big fan of former presidents and vice-presidents keeping their yaps shut once a new administration takes office. Except for the quadrennial political conventions, I would prefer if they just played some golf and worked on their memoirs. So I'm with James Fallows with "In praise of George W. Bush." And, yeah, I'm also looking at you Jimmy Carter.