Thursday, February 17, 2011

The GOP's Paul problem

There's a fantastical "this can't be really happening" feeling to the continued extent and power of Ron Paul's popularity among the most dedicated young activists within the Republican Party, not only to those like me who've been largely cheering him from the margins of the margins of American political power for decades, but also for those who have been actively trying to drive him off even those margins.

Herewith, a survey of some recent flailings at Ron Paul's repeat CPAC poll victory, and the ever-larger impact of Pauls--both Ron in the House (and the prospective GOP presidential field) and now Rand in the Senate.

* Young Americans for Freedom follows in the kicking-out-of-the-Right spirit of their founding father William Buckley and boots Paul from their advisory board; as Dave Weigel notes at Slate, internal division results, including YAF's own "coordination intern" quitting, and a public dustup with rival right-youth group Young Americans for Liberty, more reliably Paulite.

* Right-wing radio dude Kevin McCullough sputters at Fox News's site about the "bizarre nature and overall oddity" of a right-wing political gathering that gave so much play to Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, accusing the libertarian leaning of disrespectfully "hijacking" CPAC's "mission," moaning about an "unabated" libertarian streak.

Look, if the excited politically motivated younger folk who actually show up at conventions about politics and activism dig Paul and Johnson, it just might behoove the GOP powers to mind them rather than distance themselves from something as apparently unconservative as limited government--but something there is about a libertarian that makes even simple political horse sense go out the window; as McCullough declares: "libertarians are the worst form of political affiliation in the nation."

* Bernie Quigley at The Hill thinks that the more palatable Johnson rather than Ron Paul will be the ultimate successful standardbearer for the libertarian tinge of the GOP on the national stage, but notes that hysterical reactions against them (though he is focusing on prog-liberal angst, the same is true of trad-right angst) are "prelude to a nervous breakdown." And he sums up the surprising rise of Paul Power:
"What the Pauls have achieved was unimaginable just five years ago, when Ron Paul’s diatribes before Congress were dutifully transcribed only in small, esoteric libertarian journals. Today, if this week’s CPAC convention in D.C. is any indication, libertarianism is the creative rising karma in the Republican Party."

* Right-wing thought leader Donald Trump accuses Paul of un-electability; Paul asks, how many elections has Donald Trump won? (That the anti-Ron Paul forces are actually using an argument that depends on admitting there is any scintilla of a possibility of a hope he could win the presidential nomination is kind of staggering.)

* Ron Paul makes it clear that he's more radical than the right-wing's Tea Party populist troops on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," complaining that:
some Tea Partiers aren’t measuring up when it comes to the tough defense and entitlement program cuts he believes are needed to save the United States from economic cataclysm. “They don’t want you to touch Social Security. They don’t want you to touch anything but Obamacare,” Paul says. “Some of them are real Republicans and they wouldn’t dare touch Bush’s increase in medical care costs, you know, prescription health programs.” “They treat the symptoms and they don’t look at it philosophically,” he adds.

* Jim Antle reported in the Guardian on the tensions between the Paulite CPACers and the others, including Paul fans booing Bush-era GOP heroes Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld:
The event attendees were mostly social conservatives. The audience was more willing to contemplate Pentagon budget scrutiny – but still more hawkish than not and very concerned about radical Islam. The boycotts did not hurt attendance: the conference attracted more than 11,000 conservative activists and its DC venue was packed with people.

But the hostility between Ron Paul's supporters and everyone else was palpable. When Paul won the straw poll, about half the crowd shouted "Ron Paul!" – but the other half booed. When Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is being targeted for a possible Tea Party challenge in 2012, attempted to defend his vote for the Wall Street bailout, Paulites cried out, "Liar!" This prompted a Hatch supporter to sternly remind the audience, "As conservatives, we can disagree without being disagreeable."

Like I noted after his last CPAC poll victory, there's a strong likelihood that if you didn't vote for Paul, you hate him--he was likely few people's second choice (except maybe Johnson voters).

Why can't the powers that be of the Right handle Paul? I explained this last year after his unexpected first CPAC poll victory, and nothing has changed except his continued and expanding popularity, and that of his senator son, make it all the more ominous:
There’s a very good reason anyone with any skin in the game of the status quo—politician, commentator, or citizen—has to find it very difficult to take Paul seriously. That so many citizens and activists in the Tea Party movement are taking him seriously is scaring the establishment for good reason.

Paul doesn’t just represent an opposition politician, he represents an absolute denial that “the system” makes any sense, has any justice, or is sustainable. It is this radical oppositionism that makes it so easy for standard issue pundits to just write his fans off as nuts and a bit scary.

Newsweek started to get at this important aspect of the Paul phenomenon, noting that “tea-partiers, Paulites, etc. seem less interested in finding practical solutions to Washington's endemic problems than in tearing down Washington itself. As the 2010 elections approach, this nihilistic feeling will only grow stronger.”

That’s because the radical solutions that the Paul worldview demands—an end to overseas military adventurism, ending government’s ability to manipulate paper currency, severe cuts in spending on all the myriad income-shifting promises Washington has made the past 80 years—don’t register as “practical solutions” to (for lack of a better word) the establishment. They seem like nihilism, though they are actually a belief in the American Constitution.

Any standard Republican or movement conservative really can’t take Paul seriously without massive cognitive dissonance. You mean, we really really have to obey the Constitution, we really can’t keep borrowing and inflating forever?

Signs like the CPAC vote of a significant number of politically active youngsters believing in Ron Paul are indeed a sign of an apocalypse of sorts for the world that most politicians and pundits know. If Ron Paul is right, then everything they know is wrong.

Matt Welch will be on MSNBC tonight about all this Ron Paul business. Nick Gillespie on libertarian power at CPAC. More from Gillespie on Paul's CPAC speech.



ObamaCare and the Medicaid Mess

States need relief from the program's inflexible rules and escalating costs

Facing growing resistance to Medicaid costs, the Obama administration's Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, sent a letter to states last week noting the "urgency of your State budget concerns" and suggesting some minor program changes to save money. They aren't enough.

At roughly 21% of total state spending, Medicaid is already the single largest item in state budgets, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Between 2008 and 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available), annual spending growth on the program nearly doubled, growing to 9% from 4.9%.

Medicaid currently covers 53 million people at an overall cost of $373.9 billion (states are responsible for about half). But starting in 2014, ObamaCare rules will add about 20 million more, according to Richard Foster, the program's chief actuary.

Yet state budgets are already being squeezed. Washington state, facing a $5.7 billion budget hole, has ordered the Medicaid program to cut its budget by 6.3%. The state cannot reduce eligibility to enroll without jeopardizing federal funding altogether. Its only option is to eliminate "optional benefits" (not federally required) such as dental services and speech therapy—one of the options suggested in Ms. Sebelius's letter. That sounds good, but it's not enough. "Even if we eliminate every single optional benefit, we still don't get there," Doug Porter, the state's Medicaid director, told Governing magazine.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, center, and Massachusetts Health and Human Secretary Judy Ann Bigby in Boston in 2009. The overhaul of the Massachusetts health-care system included significant expansion of Medicaid, and the overhaul is costing the state far more than expected.

In response to Arizona's projected $1.1 billion deficit, Gov. Jan Brewer has announced she will seek a special waiver from Health and Human Services allowing her state to remove 250,000 childless adults and about 30,000 parents (with incomes between 50% and 100% of the poverty line) from the 1.3 million individuals currently on its Medicaid rolls. The state estimates the savings at $545 million—assuming the feds grant the waiver.

To consider what the expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare might do to the states, take a look at Massachusetts and Tennessee. In 2006, Massachusetts overhauled its entire health-care system, including a significant expansion of Medicaid. This expansion is costing the state far more than expected. Gov. Deval Patrick approved a record-setting $9.6 billion to cover its share of Medicaid costs last July. It wasn't enough. He's already gone back to the legislature twice, adding almost $600 million in additional funds.

Tennessee's experience is also illuminating. Between 1994 and 2004, it expanded its Medicaid program, called TennCare, to cover roughly one in four residents. The price tag reached a quarter of the state budget by 2004, and the consulting firm McKinsey projected that the program would consume 91% of state revenues by 2008. Ultimately, Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, declared the program a failure and kicked approximately 200,000 people off the rolls.

A number of Medicaid reforms are being discussed, especially replacing federal matching revenues with block grants. The grants would cover only mandatory services such as hospital and physician costs—and would come without any other federal strings attached.

Medicaid also could be transformed from a permanent entitlement into a temporary assistance program, much like the welfare reform of 1996. States could provide premium support for health insurance but put a time limit on benefits, and they could expect enrollees to prove that they are either working or on the hunt for employment.

Critically, Medicaid reform should allow states to experiment with the eligibility for and design of their health-care services. In 2007, for example, Gov. Mitch Daniels created the Healthy Indiana Plan, which funded 95% of the cost of consumer-directed health savings accounts for low-income residents. Healthy Indiana now covers about 43,000 low-income people not otherwise eligible for Medicaid under federal rules. The program is also popular among state employees. It's funded by cigarette taxes and Medicaid dollars thanks to a federal waiver. Mr. Daniels has asked the Obama administration for permission to use Healthy Indiana as a way to expand the state's Medicaid program.

Medicaid has been a joint federal-state mess for so long that we don't know exactly what states would do if allowed to innovate. But we certainly know what the consequences and the costs will be if they aren't.



Dead by the Hand of Labor

The long term impact of the labor movement on the U.S. economy is now becoming clearer with each passing day and it can best be described as an ugly blot on our republic. What should be evident to all is that widespread unionization of the workforce has not been a positive influence on our economy or on our political institutions. A quick inventory tells us that labor unions have all but destroyed the steel industry, the auto industry, the movie industry, the teaching profession, the construction trades, and the legal profession and have seriously damaged many others.

It’s time everyone understood that, to interfere with the smooth and efficient operation of an employer’s business is, in the strictest sense of the word, theft; that there are no constitutional protections that allow one man to acquire the property of another through coercion; that there is no right to interfere with or dictate the rules or methods by which an employer conducts his/her business; and that there is no right to cause the property of another to decrease in value through work stoppages or boycotts. If workers are unhappy with their pay or with the conditions of their employment, they do have another right to rely on… they have a right to find work elsewhere.

In his book, And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry, John Hoerr, of BusinessWeek, describes what happened to the U.S. Steel industry at the hands of I.W. Abel and the United Steelworkers of America. Hoerr tells us, “By the early 1980s, American steelworkers were the best-paid industrial workers in the world. From 1967 to 1979, total hourly employment costs in the steel industry rose 180 percent, or an annual rise of 12.1 percent, while the industry's productivity grew barely 2 percent a year. When this cozy, anticompetitive world was punctured by lower-cost foreign steel, the union had only one answer: import barriers."

Now that once-great industry, the symbol of American economic superiority, is gone, and so are hundreds of thousands of its jobs. It was strangled to death by the steelworkers union.

What steelworkers have done to the steel industry, autoworkers have done to the auto industry. As Robert J. Dewar, a former Ford Motor Company general foreman tells us in his book, A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry’s Self-Destruction, “the UAW arsenal easily outgunned management. Production was sabotaged. Critical employees were absent when high production was most needed. Tools mysteriously disappeared. Bad quality was run purposely. The weakest, least desirable employees were protected with the full power of the labor contract. When management and the UAW stood eyeball to eyeball, management always backed down – they had to – productivity and profitability hung in the balance.”

The only unionized sectors of our economy that have continued to grow and prosper, through good times and bad, are defense-related industries and government bureaucracy… sectors of our economy that are unaffected by the same economic realities that govern decision-making in other sectors of our economy. But there is little mystery to it.

So long as the world remains a dangerous place for freedom-loving people and the United States must maintain a prohibitive military machine, the amount of money spent to support the defense industry will remain sacrosanct and defense contractors will pay whatever their unions demand.

So long as unions continue to soak their members for hundreds of millions of dollars in dues, they will continue to purchase the loyalty of liberals and Democrats who will support every uneconomic advantage that unions demand.

So long as Democrats continue to expand the size and scope of government, expanding the bloated bureaucracy and creating jobs for hordes of unionized government workers, we have little hope of controlling spending or reducing our national indebtedness.

So long as the unholy alliance between labor unions and the Democrat Party exists, and so long as liberals and Democrats continue to put the interests of union bosses ahead of the national interest, our economy will continue to suffer and our nation will continue on the decline.

So long as the docile American taxpayer remains willing to pick up the tab for this incestuous relationship, and so long as unions are allowed to function as if they have no responsibility for the national interests, we have little chance of leaving anything of value for future generations. Unless we bring labor unions under control, as Governor Haley is attempting to do in South Carolina, the epitaph on our national tombstone will read, “Dead by the hand of labor.”



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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)


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