Monday, May 03, 2010

The Left Loses Its Way by Abandoning 'Third Way'

It's not mentioned below but there has been a crash in Labor party support in Australia also -- where a Leftist government has proved to be a lot less conservative than it promised

Left parties are in trouble in the Anglosphere. Here in America, Democrats are doing worse in the polls than at any time in the last 50 years. In Britain, the Labor Party is on the brink of finishing third, behind both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, in the election next Thursday.

All of which raises the question: What happened to the "third way" center-left movement that once seemed to sweep all before it? Only a dozen years ago, in 1998, President Bill Clinton enjoyed 70 percent job approval. Prime Minister Tony Blair was basking in adulation in his first full year in office.

Clinton "third way" New Democrats and Blair's "New Labor" party seemed to have a bright and long future ahead. Clinton's designated successor, Al Gore, despite some ham-handed campaigning, came out ahead in the popular vote in 2000 and lost the presidency by only some hundreds of votes in Florida. With Blair at its head, Labor won unprecedented re-election victories in 2001 and 2005.

Now, less than a generation later, both New Democrats and New Labour seem defunct. Both parties have moved well to the left. Barack Obama and Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, head governments that are running budget deficits of 10 percent of gross domestic product. Both are promoting higher taxes and expansion of government programs.

The financial crisis is one reason for the large deficits. But it is undeniable that to varying extents both Obama and Brown have pursued more statist policies than their predecessors did a dozen years ago. And it is undeniable, too, that both are in trouble with the voters.

In these circumstances, it is surprising that the pundit class is not chiding Obama and Brown for abandoning the politically successful policies of Clinton and Blair. The same pundit class is always ready to chide American Republicans and British Conservatives for not pursuing the courses that Rockefeller Republicans and pre-Thatcher "wet" Conservatives pursued with some political success a much longer time ago.

Rocky and the wets supported a continuing expansion of government and maintaining the power of labor unions. But a British party last won an election on that platform in 1974, 36 years ago, and no American president has been elected on such a platform between 1964 and 2008. And with Democrats plunging in the polls, Obama's election is beginning to look like an exception that proves the rule.

Americans may have voted for "hope and change," but not in the form of the 2009 stimulus package and the 2010 health care bill.

Looking back in history, the Rockefeller Republicans chose their course because they believed their party could not beat New Deal Democrats except by moving some distance toward their philosophy. And in particular, they believed they could not beat Democrats in New York, which in the first half of the 20th century was both the nation's largest state and one of the politically most marginal.

But by the early 1960s, New York was no longer the nation's largest state and was safely Democratic. And by the early 1970s, Americans were no longer voting for big government. The Rockefeller strategy was rendered obsolete.

It's not clear that the Clinton New Democratic strategy is similarly obsolete. Clinton calculated that Democrats could not win except by making inroads in the South and by making big gains in the suburbs. That's how he won twice, and Obama improved on his leads in the suburbs and carried three Southern states with Northern-accented suburbs (Virginia, North Carolina and Florida).

But Obama ran well behind in eight Southern-accented and Mountain states that Clinton carried in 1992. And polling now shows Democrats weaker than Obama was in 2008 virtually everywhere except in university towns and the affluent precincts of metro New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Similarly, in Britain polling has shown Brown's Labor party holding its traditional redoubts in declining industrial towns but getting shellacked in the affluent suburbs where Tony Blair's New Labor thrived.

The left parties have reacted to their unpopularity by playing the race card. Democrats have tried to portray tea partiers as racist, and Brown called a lifelong Labor voter who questioned his policies a "bigoted woman."

Blaming the voters is the last resort of a party in trouble. Old Labor and the Obama Democrats may not yet be finished. But they're not doing as well as their "third way" predecessors.



States Reluctant to Swim in National High-Risk Pools

Obamacare aims to insure the uninsured. To do that, the law bars insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions—but not until 2014. In the meantime, the law calls for a national high-risk pool to offer coverage to the otherwise “uninsurable.”

Under the new law, an important deadline looms. By Friday, states must declare whether they will help implement the new risk-pools for their citizens, or if they’ll just let the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services do it for them.

Many states have taken one look at the financial outlook for these pools and run the other way—with good reason. Obamacare gives HHS $5 billion to administer the pools from now until 2014. However, the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports:
“…the creation of a national high-risk insurance pool will result in roughly 375,000 people gaining coverage in 2010, increasing national health spending by $4 billion. By 2011 and 2012 the initial $5 billion in Federal funding for this program would be exhausted…”

So federal funding for the pools may run out two years early. That could leave states stuck with the entire bill a year or two down the line if they help create the pools today.

Politico reports that HHS promises that won’t happen. But states aren’t buying it. Georgia Insurance Commissioner John W. Oxendine says state legislators won’t implement a high-risk pool because it would “ultimately become the financial responsibility of Georgians in the form an unfunded mandate.” Officials in Kansas, Louisiana and elsewhere have similarly dug in their heels on the issue.

The risk pools are just one way in which the architects of Obamacare passed costs on to states to maintain a tenuous claim that the legislation was “deficit-neutral.” The expansion of Medicaid will cost states billions in the long run, since federal matching rates will decrease in future years.

Similarly, to increase access to care for Medicaid beneficiaries, Obamacare raises federal reimbursement rates for primary care physicians—but only for two years. After that, doctors will either receive the same low payments they do now, or the states will have to pick up the cost.

Of course, advocates of Obamacare can argue these really aren’t unfunded mandates on the states. After all, the states can refuse to pick up the tab when the feds leave the table. In that case, though, the financial shell game ends, and the whole Obamacare scheme falls apart.



Son of bin Laden has different views

It is after midnight when Osama bin Laden's fourth-born son, Omar, leads me into a nightclub called Les Caves de Boys in the center of Damascus. Marked only by a small neon sign on a side street in an upscale quarter of the city, the basement bar is dark and secluded, enveloped by an air of exclusivity.

Omar brushes past the two heavyset Syrian thugs at the door and picks a booth in the back. A dozen or so wealthy Arab men are drinking whiskey and watching Russian strippers put on a show. By Western standards, the performances are tame, a succession of scantily clad women in burlesque costumes — Little Bo Peep, pigtailed schoolgirl, pole-climbing gymnast. But as Omar sips a 7 Up, he follows their every move with boyish wonder. Russian women, he tells me, are the most beautiful in the world. "It is as if their bodies are shaped with plastic, like dolls," he says.

As a teenager in the mountains of Tora Bora, Omar had been his father's chosen successor, the favored son meant to lead Al Qaeda and carry on global jihad. Then, in 2001, a few months before Osama bin Laden was to become the world's most wanted man, Omar abandoned his father's compound in Afghanistan. He left behind almost certain death for this: the world, Les Caves de Boys, life.

Now, as a dancer joins a drunken man in the booth next to us, Omar reflects on his own connection to the strippers onstage. "I have talked to these women before," he says. "I tell them my name. Sometimes they don't believe I am a bin Laden. Sometimes they get mad. They have to dance like this because their country is poor. It was my father who made Russia poor, in the war in Afghanistan. He ruined their economy. He is doing the same thing to America right now."

Omar smiles. It's a knowing and ironic look, the age of terrorism turned into a cosmic joke: Can you believe how f*cked up things are?

Past two in the morning, a statuesque dancer emerges for the grand finale. Dressed in a red rhinestone bra and panties, with a black shimmy belt and an ostrich-feather crown, she gyrates her hips as Omar watches, mesmerized. "Thank God my father doesn't run the world," Omar says, grinning.

To Omar, Osama bin Laden is neither a jihadist nor a mass murderer – he is a lost man, a fanatical father who withheld his love, beat and betrayed his children, and destroyed his family chasing his fantasy of becoming a latter-day prophet.




Stalinist language from a Stalinist Obama official: "boot on the neck": "Administration officials pushed back Sunday against criticism that the White House isn't acting fast enough to battle the massive oil spill creeping toward Gulf shores. "We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario here," Salazar said. "We were stepping on the neck of BP to do everything we can do" since the explosion, Salazar said. "We've been on top of this every minute." Salazar's boots kept walking on CNN, where he said, "Our job is keep our boot on the neck of British Petroleum and make sure they live up to their responsibilities."

What are they afraid of?: "A brand-new chapter dawns in the birther controversy over President Obama's hidden birth certificate. The Hawaii legislature has now officially passed a measure that would allow state officials to legally ignore each month's dozens of repeated requests by persons or organizations seeking to see the infant Obama's actual birth certificate. For personal privacy reasons the certificate resides under government lock and key in Hawaii and, as is his right, Obama has never authorized its release. That's a refusal that has only inflamed conspiracy theorists who theorize that if it's really legit, what's Obama's problem with disclosing it?"

The British PM -- a classic Leftist liar: "Stop lying, prime minister. Those are the words I wanted to hear in the leaders debate on Thursday night, or indeed at any stage during this election campaign. It simply astounds me what Gordon Brown gets away with. Take his suggestion that the Tories would take child tax credits away from the ‘poorest families.’ In fact, the Conservative plan is to get rid of the credit for families earning more than £50,000, which is more than twice the average household income. Whether it’s a good policy or a bad one isn’t the issue — the fact is that Brown was deliberately misrepresenting it. Why does no one call him out?”

The race card and the Tea Party: "The agents of the Racial Industrial Complex are rightly being reminded by the Tea Partiers that their very livelihoods rest upon the fear that whites have had of being charged with ‘racism,’ a fear that, thanks to the courage of the Tea Partiers, could very well be fading away.”

Why they hate: "What is it about the Tea Parties that sends the left into paroxysms of rage? Lewis is hardly alone with such screeching verb-less statements. The entire left, from the scribes at the New Republic to the talking heads on MSNBC, have been driven mad by a handful of relatively peaceful demonstrators. Bill Clinton warned that the waving of Don’t Tread on Me flags could lead like night into day to another Oklahoma City bombing, Harry Reid defied my spellchecker by declaring Tea Partiers to be ‘evilmongers,’ Keith Olbermann dedicated two interminable Special Comments to his indignant rage at the protesters, and Frank Rich dutifully spent week after week drawing parallels between the Tea Parties and racists of days gone by. In fairness, there’s been plenty of derision from conservatives directed at, say, anti-war demonstrators during the Bush years. But never before has an entire ideological establishment whipped itself into such a frenzy over a group of protesters. What’s going on here?”

The audacity of deceit: "Hate speech? Go read the ‘comments’ beneath any moderately conservative or libertarian online blog or newspaper column. You will find any attempt to have a calm discussion of the topics raised by the columnist — including by those ready to marshal some contrary evidence — largely drowned out by a tiny handful of shrieking, post-every-10-minutes collectivist harridans, ridiculing the sanity of anyone who dares question the grow-the-government Obama agenda, let alone calmly cite chapter and verse from Founding Fathers who intended ours to be a government of sharply limited powers.”

Zoning laws destroy communities: "Zoning laws are a violation of property rights. They destroy the sense of community in neighborhoods, increase crime, increase traffic congestion, contribute to urban and suburban air pollution, contribute to poverty, contribute to reliance in government — and, thus, reduce self-reliance — and contribute to the ruin of our schools. Most of our urban and suburban problems arose with zoning and other antiproperty laws, to which welfare programs and public housing projects have contributed.”

ObamaCare vastly expands IRS red tape: "‘Billions of more documents’ will be have to be filled out by small businesses for the IRS so that a ’spendthrift Congress can shake a few extra bucks out of’ them to pay for ObamaCare. They will have to spend countless hours to ‘gather information,’ such as about the person they buy a used car from, and the mom-and-pop landlords who lease space to them, even if the small business has to spend more money gathering the information than the IRS will collect in taxes as a result.”

Guerilla public service: "After the Los Angeles artist Richard Ankrom missed his exit off California Highway 110 one too many times, he decided to indulge in a little ‘guerrilla public service.’ Ankrom crafted three reflective sign components—a number 5, the word ‘North,’ and an arrow — and artificially aged them. He also whipped up an authentic-looking California transit authority uniform. On August 1, 2001, he shimmied out over the freeway in broad daylight and used his unique artwork to tag the tricky left exit to Interstate 5 North. For nine months, no one noticed that the change was the work of a private citizen.”

Watery broth is a perfect metaphor for the state: "The goal of government regulation is uniformity, not quality. Statists tend to equate the two; without government regulation, they maintain, businesses would simply stoop to the lowest-common denominator on product quality. Yet that’s exactly what happens when the state establishes a regulatory patent over industry standards. There’s no incentive for manufacturers to exceed the government’s mandate.”


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