By KARL ROVE
In a speech last Friday defending his health-care law's effect on seniors against GOP attacks, Mr. Obama said, "I can report that Granny is safe." She may not feel that way if she's one of the 700,000 seniors whose private Medicare Advantage insurance policy was not renewed last year because her insurance provider quit the business.
There will be more non-renewals in 2011. This year's funding cuts to Medicare Advantage will be $2 billion; next year's will be $6 billion. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimate that half of those with Medicare Advantage policies-seven million seniors-will lose their coverage eventually. And 60% the doctors surveyed by the nonprofit Physicians Foundation said health-care reform would "compel them to close or significantly restrict" the number of patients in their practices, especially those on Medicare or Medicaid.
Granny's daughter, son and grandchildren are not all that safe, either. Providers such as Guardian Life and the Principal Financial Group are dropping their health-insurance businesses. And companies will be tempted to drop coverage for their employees and dump them onto the government's tab.
No taxpayer is safe, either. Last week Richard Foster, CMS's chief actuary, confirmed to Congress that ObamaCare's Medicare cuts couldn't be used to reduce both Medicare's unfunded liability and to pay for ObamaCare's expense. Since the Obama administration is relying on this double counting to rig the numbers, Mr. Foster's testimony was particularly damaging.
What the country most needs-and what the GOP must now advocate-is a fundamentally new approach to containing health-care costs.
The most promising model for Medicare comes from Clinton Budget Director Alice Rivlin and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). Under their plan, starting in 2021 those turning 65 and going on Medicare would get a fixed contribution to use to purchase insurance, allowing them in many instances to keep their existing coverage. Consumers will be in charge.
Annual support would grow at the same yearly rate as the economy plus 1%. Medicare payments would be adjusted by income, geography and health risk. Poor seniors would get extra help for out-of-pocket expenses.
This bipartisan model builds on the success of the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed in 2003. This market- and competition-oriented experiment gave seniors a fixed sum they could use to purchase drug insurance coverage. In response, drug companies and insurance providers flooded the market with options that drove prices for consumers down.
Though more seniors signed up for the benefit, signed up quicker and used it more than expected, the program costs much less than estimated (the original Congressional Budget Office estimate was $552 billion for the first 10 years, but the estimated cost is now $385 billion). Competition and consumer choice are far more effective in containing costs than is bureaucratic price-setting.
We're at an unprecedented moment. The huge historic advantage Democrats have enjoyed on the health-care issue has evaporated. ObamaCare is increasingly less popular. Its unpopularity is up nine points in the last month, to 50%, in a Kaiser/Harvard survey. The public is now taking a close look at what the Republican Party might have to offer.
The Rivlin-Ryan alternative plan is bold and not without risk. Past efforts at entitlement reform haven't been successful. Having worked in the Bush White House during the 2005 Social Security battle, I know of what I speak. Still, the Rivlin-Ryan plan is right on substance. And unlike 2005, it may also be the right moment.
Thanks in good measure to Mr. Obama's profligacy, the entitlement crisis is no longer a vague, abstract concern. More and more Americans understand the current course leads to a disaster for the nation's finances. And so the public may be willing to go places and do things that in the past it may not have.
This is an unusual and fluid moment. My hunch is voters are more inclined than ever to reward the political party that addresses entitlement reform-and more inclined than ever to punish the one that fiddles while America's fiscal house burns.
Obama Invites Crisis If He Ignores Ruling
The decision by federal judge Roger Vinson striking down President Obama's signature health care law effectively ends ObamaCare unless some higher court overturns it.
In spite of this overwhelming rebuke of the law, some Birkenstock-wearing legal analysts are trying to argue that Vinson's ruling could be ignored by the administration. That's why this week's action by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is so significant. Van Hollen has taken the proper step of following the law, which now says that ObamaCare is unconstitutional in its entirety, relieving Wisconsin of any obligation to follow it.
It is the responsibility of every state attorney general in the nation to follow Van Hollen's lead, and halt any actions to implement this unconstitutional law. To do otherwise will open states up to legal liability.
The earthquake-like impact of Judge Vinson's ruling and Van Hollen's appropriate response is obvious; unless Vinson's ruling is either stayed or overturned, the nation is now free from any compulsion to follow the dictates coming out of Washington on this issue.
Instead of accepting continued implementation of the law from Washington, all states should join with the American people in demanding that Barack Obama cease and desist from ignoring the federal court and continuing any actions that implement this invalidated law.
Failure of the Obama administration to stop all activity related to the law that the federal court held to be unconstitutional would create a potential constitutional showdown between the two branches rarely seen in our nation's history. When coupled with the state's refusal to submit to federal regulations implementing a law that has been stripped from the books, our nation is looking at a potentially historic fight not only between branches of government but between the states and the federal government.
Back in the 1970s, it was openly asked what would happen if President Nixon simply refused to hand over the taped conversations from the Oval Office in spite of the demands of the federal courts. Of course, that speculation proved unnecessary as Nixon did turn over the tapes, and resigned from office.
Today, Obama stands at the same decision point that Nixon did - whether to follow the law or not.
As a former professor of constitutional law, Obama clearly understands the consequences of continuing to implement law that has been invalidated, and in case the implications of the federal court ruling were lost on him, the Wisconsin attorney general's decision to cease and desist all activity in Wisconsin related to the law should serve as a reminder.
Ultimately, the rule of law must prevail in this instance. Unless and until Judge Vinson's decision is overturned by a higher court, the federal government must follow it.
Failure to do so would unnecessarily throw our nation into its worse constitutional crisis since the Nixon impeachment. It is up to Obama whether he wants to subject both himself and our nation to that kind of turmoil. For the sake of our nation, let's hope he takes his oath of office seriously, averts a crisis, and follows the law of the land.
The Obama waivers start to spread
We already have more than 700 waivers to the requirements of ObamaCare in place, with 40% of those affected being in unions. Now we see waivers beginning in another area of the Obama administration's key policy areas - greenhouse gas emissions. In January, the administration began enforcing new EPA rules on new or expanding power plants, and within just a few weeks, announced the first waiver of those rules:
The Obama administration will spare a stalled power plant project in California from the newest federal limits on greenhouse gases and conventional air pollution, U.S. EPA says in a new court filing that marks a policy shift in the face of industry groups and Republicans accusing the agency of holding up construction of large industrial facilities.
According to a declaration by air chief Gina McCarthy, officials reviewed EPA policies and decided it was appropriate to "grandfather" projects such as the Avenal Power Center, a proposed 600-megawatt power plant in the San Joaquin Valley, so they are exempted from rules such as new air quality standards for smog-forming nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Hey, you know what else Barack Obama did in January? He picked GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to lead his new jobs commission. Does that sound like a non-sequitur to you? Let Timothy Carney explain the details of the Avenal Power Center:
The proposed Avenal Energy project will be a combined-cycle generating plant consisting of two natural gas-fired General Electric 7FA Gas Turbines with Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSG) and one General Electric Steam Turbine.
GE: They bring good waivers to life!
The Obama administration seems very eager to impose regulation on everyone except their bestest buddies. If these policies are so bad that Obama's friends and political allies need waivers to get around them, then perhaps they shouldn't be in place at all. And perhaps the Obama administration should learn something about the rule of law, rather than the rule of whim - or as the rest of us call it, The Chicago Way.
Liberal Bouquets for Dead Conservatives
The only good conservative is a dead conservative. That, in a nutshell, describes the age-old tradition of liberals suddenly discovering that once-reviled conservatives were OK after all. It's just we-the-living who are hateful ogres, troglodytes and moperers.
Over the last decade or so, as the giants of the founding generation of modern American conservatism have died, each has been rehabilitated into a gentleman-statesman of a bygone era of conservative decency and open-mindedness.
Barry Goldwater was the first. A few years ago his liberal granddaughter produced a documentary in which nearly all of the testimonials were from prominent liberals like Hillary Clinton and James Carville. Almost overnight, the man whom LBJ cast as a hate-filled demagogue who would condemn the world to nuclear war became an avuncular and sage grandfather type. Down the memory hole went one of the most despicable campaigns of political demonization in American history. Even Sarah Palin hasn't been subjected to an ad in the New York Times signed by more than 1,000 psychiatrists claiming she's too crazy to be president (though I don't want to give anybody any ideas).
Then there was William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, the magazine I call home. For more than four decades, Buckley was subjected to condemnation for his alleged extremism. Jack Paar (the Johnny Carson/Jay Leno of his day for you youngsters) was among the first of many to try to paint Buckley as a Nazi. Now, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times book review section, who is writing a biography of Buckley, insists that Bill's life mission was to make liberalism better.
But it's Ronald Reagan who really stands out. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Gipper is enjoying yet another status upgrade among liberals. Barack Obama took a Reagan biography with him on his vacation. A slew of liberals and mainstream journalists (but I repeat myself) complimented Obama's State of the Union address as "Reaganesque." Time magazine recently featured the cover story "Why Obama (Hearts) Reagan." Meanwhile, the usual suspects are rewriting the same columns about how Reagan was a pragmatist who couldn't run for president today because he was too nice, too reasonable, too (shudder) liberal for today's Republican Party.
Healthcare insurance: Solution or problem?: "Leftists think that if they can just force everyone to buy health insurance their dreams for universal health care would come true. But why insurance? Insurance only exacerbates the problem. Insurance increases the demand for medical services. Insurance for every medical expense is the primary reason why heath care is so outrageously expensive today. If we got groceries the same way we now get health care, the cost of food would explode."
New initiative: Kill the “kill switch” bill: "The 'Internet kill switch' bill was promoted by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins in the last Congress. The bill would have granted President Obama the power to shut down much of the Internet in the event of a 'cybersecurity emergency.' The good news is that Congress adjourned before passing it. The bad news is that, on the very same day Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak imposed an Internet blackout on his country, Collins announced her intention to re-introduce the bill."
US Senate votes to rescind IRS reporting measure: "The Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to rescind a measure in last year's healthcare law that expands business transaction reporting requirements to the Internal Revenue Service. ... Small firms and the self-employed are up in arms about the provision that, starting next year, they will have to submit 1099 tax forms on purchases of goods and services that total more than $600."
Senate would criminalize laser targeting of planes: "Pointing handheld lasers at aircraft -- a growing problem that aviation officials warn could lead to a crash -- would become a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison under an amendment approved by the Senate on Thursday. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the sponsor of the amendment, said he was responding to a surge in incidents in which people have pointed at aircraft powerful lasers capable of temporarily blinding pilots"
Court hears challenge to Voting Rights Act: "Conservative legal activists are set to renew their campaign to overturn the nation's landmark Voting Rights Act, arguing before a federal district judge in Washington on Wednesday that states and local jurisdictions should no longer be forced to justify voting changes to the Justice Department or a federal court. The lawsuit, brought by officials in Shelby County, Ala., revives a constitutional challenge aimed at the heart of the 1965 law, a challenge that many analysts called the most important issue of the year when it reached the Supreme Court in 2009."
HI: Rights Commission to review tip policy: "A restaurant has attracted the attention of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission with a notice that it will add a 15 percent gratuity to the checks of patrons who don't speak English. ... The Waikiki restaurant told KITV that its customer base includes many international travelers who, by custom, do not tip. The restaurant says it's merely trying to help its customers and wait staff. About 17 percent of the nearly 7 million tourists who visited Hawaii last year were from Japan, where people do not leave tips in restaurants."
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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)