Public Unions Force Taxpayers to Fund Dems
Everyone has priorities. During the past week, Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people.
But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state's public employee unions. Walker was staging "an assault on unions," he said, and added that "public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens."
Enormous contributions, yes -- to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle.
Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.
ObamaCare Is Already Damaging Health Care
Many of its changes don't kick in until 2014. But the law is forcing dramatic consolidation and reducing choice in the industry.
The Republicans who now control the House of Representatives hope to repeal or defund ObamaCare, but the law has already yielded profound, destructive changes that will not be undone by repeal or defunding alone. Active steps and new laws will be needed to repair the damage.
The most significant change is a wave of frantic consolidation in the health industry. Because the law mandates that insurers accept all patients regardless of pre-existing conditions, insurers will not make money with their current premium and provider-payment structures. As a result, they have already started to raise premiums and cut payments to doctors and hospitals. Smaller and weaker insurers are being forced to sell themselves to larger entities.
Doctors and hospitals, meanwhile, have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast. Six years ago, doctors owned more than two-thirds of U.S. medical practices, according to the Medical Group Management Association. By next year, nearly two-thirds will be salaried employees of larger institutions.
Consolidation is not necessarily bad, as larger medical practices and hospital systems can create some efficiencies. But in the context of ObamaCare's spiderweb of rules and regulations, consolidation is more akin to collectivization. It means that government bureaucrats will be able to impose controls with much greater ease.
With far fewer and much larger entities to browbeat, all changes in Medicare and Medicaid policies will go through the entire system like a shock wave. There will be far fewer individual insurers, doctors, hospitals, device makers, drug manufacturers, nursing homes and other health-care players to resist.
Many doctors and hospitals have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast.
There is little mystery how the government will exercise its power. Choices will be limited. Pathways to expensive specialist care such as advanced radiology and surgery will decline. Cutting-edge devices and medicines will come into the system much more slowly and be used much less frequently.
This is why simply defunding enforcement of the individual mandate and other upcoming directives will not be enough: Given all this consolidation, limits on treatment choices are already becoming hardwired into the system. Lawmakers must take concrete steps to stop and reverse this.
On the provider end, this means enacting tax and other economic shields for insurers and providers that choose not to succumb to the financial pressure encouraging consolidation. It means unwinding all of the rules—about data compilation, reporting and compliance requirements, and information technology—designed to increase overhead to the point that only massive and easily regulated provider organizations can survive.
Legislators will have to scrub the 2,700-page ObamaCare law line by line to remove all of the disincentives for medical practices, hospitals and others to remain smaller and independent.
On the consumer end, reform means re-establishing choice at all levels of the system. Lawmakers at a minimum should change the individual mandate so that people can choose what type of coverage they buy. To do this, legislation has to ensure that all consumers have access to a menu of options for varying types of coverage, and that they are free to purchase policies across state lines. There should also be tax breaks for people who purchase medical care not covered by their insurance, so there is reasonable chance of escaping government-imposed limits on treatment choices.
System-wide, collectivization will be dismantled only by limiting the power of government agencies to determine what care gets funded. That means new legislation to supersede Section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires herding everyone into "qualified plans" and forcing doctors (via fines, penalties and nonpayment) to follow care guidelines determined by the secretary of Health and Human Services.
ObamaCare is already doing great damage, even years before its individual mandate and other controls kick in. Its systematic undoing is an urgent necessity.
Voices of Moderation
Moderation-- at least verbal moderation-- is suddenly in vogue.
President Obama's rhetoric has moderated, even if his policies and practices have not. Among Republicans, voices of moderation are warning that the party cannot win elections without having a "big tent" and reaching out to Hispanics, for example. Recently, talk show host Michael Medved has suggested that Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin should moderate their attacks on Obama.
Moderation is fine-- if it is not carried to extremes. But some moderates seem to think that it is always a good thing to tone down your words. Yet history shows that muffling your message can mean forfeiting many a battle to extremists.
No one has had more of a mixed and muffled message than Senator John McCain, which is why Barack Obama is President of the United States.
Republican moderates warn their fellow Republicans that they need to move away from the Ronald Reagan approach, in order to attract a wider range of voters. But Ronald Reagan won two consecutive landslide elections-- and he couldn't have done that if the only people who voted for him were dedicated conservatives.
What Reagan had was a clear, coherent and believable message. Even voters who did not agree with him 100 percent could respect that and prefer it to the alternative.
He didn't have to offer earmarked goodies to each special group, in order to get their votes. Pandering can gain you some votes but lose you many others.
After the tragic murders and attempted murders in Tucson, some Democrats and the media have promoted the notion that sharp political criticism somehow provoked the shootings. There is not a speck of evidence to support that notion.
Such evidence as there is points in the opposite direction, because the individual charged with the crime did not follow talk radio or Sarah Palin.
This same political game was played after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was blamed on the "hostile" conservative atmosphere in Dallas. But the atmosphere in Dallas did not kill JFK. A bullet from a far-left kook killed him.
The criticism-causes-violence notion plays right into the hands of those Democrats who have done outrageous things in Washington, and who now insulate themselves from the outrage they provoked by equating strong criticism with fomenting violence.
Apparently some moderate Republicans don't realize that you can't buy your opponents' assumptions and then try to oppose the conclusions that follow.
Conservative talk-show host Michael Medved recently criticized Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Dinesh D'Souza for depicting Barack Obama as someone who does not love this country, and who is deliberately doing things to undermine it, at home and abroad. Medved declared, "it's particularly unhelpful to focus on alleged bad intentions and rotten character when every survey shows more favorable views of his personality and policies."
Are public opinion polls the way to determine the truth? If so, we can all outsource our thinking to Gallup and Zogby.
Michael Medved also cites other presidents of the past, whose errors or even sins did not mean that they were unpatriotic. But does anyone seriously believe that this tells us anything about Barack Obama, one way or the other?
Like some others, Michael Medved seems to think that Obama's pragmatic desire to be re-elected means that he is not an ideological extremist. But Hitler and Stalin were pragmatic and that did not stop them from being extremists.
Finally, there is the argument that Republicans will have a harder time winning the next election if they are "perceived as running against the presidency." But Rush Limbaugh and Dinesh D'Souza are not running for office, and it is not certain that Sarah Palin will be either.
And nobody is running against "the presidency." They will be running against Barack Obama.
Are we not to consider a possibility with deep and painful implications for the future of this nation, for such feeble reasons as these? Or just because moderation is a Good Thing?
California teachers' pension system is insolvent
Propped up only by increasing taxpayer contributions
As California school districts anticipate possibly the worst budget crisis in a generation, many will try to lighten their burden by enticing older teachers into retirement. But as more and more teachers retire -- with a pension averaging 55 percent to 60 percent of salary -- they will be straining a system that already can't meet its obligations.
The California State Teachers' Retirement System is sliding down a steep slope toward insolvency. The threat isn't to teachers who have retired or plan to, but to the people of California. Taxpayers, who already pick up 23 percent of CalSTRS expenses, will be increasingly burdened as the giant pension system fails to meet its obligations.
"We're on a path of destruction," said Marcia Fritz, president of pension-reform group California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. And merely rejiggering formulas for new employees won't rescue the system, she said. Simply put: "We overpromised."
Among those promises, "Californians have typically given their public employees richer retirement benefits" than have other states, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
Despite the looming disaster, CalSTRS is like an ocean liner that's slow and complicated to change course. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't mentioned overhauling the system that benefits one of his major supporters, the teachers union. Nor has the Legislature taken up the issue.
CalSTRS, a $146.4 billion system, provides the retirement of public-school teachers and administrators. Like its sibling pension system, CalPERS, which provides for non-teaching state employees, CalSTRS' collections don't meet its obligations to current and future retirees.
Although CalPERS has imposed higher contributions, reformers say CalSTRS' formulas can be revised only by legislation, a statewide initiative or possibly a constitutional amendment and litigation -- not to mention immense political will. Courts have ruled that retirees are guaranteed the pensions promised them when hired.
Twin reports issued earlier this month amplify the alarm. The Legislative Analyst's Office suggested that the state gradually decrease its share and move toward either cost-sharing with teachers or creating a hybrid retirement system, with reduced pensions and a 403(b) savings program -- the public- and nonprofit sector's equivalent to 401(k) retirement accounts.
And actuaries for the state Teachers Retirement Board calculated that contributions would have to increase 77 percent to make the system sound.
After 9/11, US gave more visas to Saudi students: "Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, the Saudi student arrested Thursday on charges that he planned to build bombs for terror attacks inside the United States, was granted a U.S. student visa after qualifying for a generous scholarship sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, according to the indictment against him. Aldawsari was one of more than 10,000 Saudi students granted student visas in 2008, an NBC News analysis of the visa program shows."
This is what a broke democracy looks like: "The specifics of the Wisconsin fight aren’t why it’s so important. Collective bargaining rights for public unions may or may not be the right battlefield on which to settle a state’s fiscal future. But Republican Gov. Scott Walker is showing a long-term sophistication, beyond the specifics of this fiscal year’s bottom line, in trying to limit the growth of government spending by preventing collective bargaining by public sector unions. Such 'bargaining' is often a charade where both sides support each other financially at a third party’s expense (the taxpayer, that is), as is often the case between public sector employees and politicians."
Stay unreasonable: "The administration just announced that it expects this year's budget deficit to be $1.65 trillion. Thus, the House's budget cuts amounted to 3.6 percent of the deficit. Think about that: Republicans just cut less than 4 percent of the spending that we don't have the money to pay for. Heck, our budget deficit for last month was $48 billion, so apparently we've covered January. Whew! What part of 'broke' do the Democrats not understand?"
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)