Marc, I don't understand the remaining question on "2) What happens now when an insurance company discontinues insurance when someone develops a problem?"
I carry a catastrophic policy. I bought it and have been paying for it since I was young and healthy. If I am tomorrow discovered to have a hugely expensive disease, I assume that I have coverage for as long as I keep the policy up to the limits of my coverage. If not, there is certainly a role for government regulation because anything short of paying according to the agreed terms is IMO theft by swindle. Why would anyone buy health insurance while healthy if coverage is canceled when diagnosed?
On point 1), very few people and no serious, electable politicians oppose some sort of a safety net. We already have that. The point would be that if you decline insurance while healthy you may have to exhaust your own resources before submitting your bill to the other taxpayers. I know there are those who think ordinary people shouldn't be troubled to pay their own living expenses like college or health care. Margaret Thatcher put it best: "Margaret Thatcher quote: "The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
3) Health care exchanges could be a way to energize a free market that is sorely lacking in health care or could be just another way to bring the heavy hand of government down on health care, dependinig on how they are set up. From a jurisdictional point of view, I would like to see a federal plan written to help consumers-patients-providers that allow states to OPT-IN rather create more coercion from Washington. This recent discussion sheds only a little light on the subject:
Transcripts: "Reviving the Economy"-Health Insurance Exchange Friday, June 05, 2009 (PBS Nightly Business Report)
PAUL KANGAS: Next week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to roll out proposals to overhaul the country's health care system. President Obama wants to hold down costs and provide health coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans. To help make that happen, one idea in the works is what's called a health insurance exchange. In tonight's installment of "Reviving the Economy," Dana Bate explains what that exchange might look like and how it would work.
DANA BATE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Whether it's shopping on eBay or searching for a phone plan, Americans love a good deal. But if you decided to shop around for a health care plan today, chances are it wouldn't be easy. Health economist Linda Blumberg says that's because the health insurance market is broken.
LINDA BLUMBERG, HEALTH ECONOMIST, URBAN INSTITUTE: It's kind of the wild, wild west out there, particularly in the non-group insurance market, but also in the small group market and people who are making purchasing decisions don't have the information they need to make good choices.
BATE: That's why she and many others in the health care community want to bring a sheriff to town in the form of a health insurance exchange. The idea is to create one-stop shopping for health insurance. Consumers could go to this insurance marketplace, compare local plans, find out what government aid is available and figure out which plans are best. Former Medicare director Mark McClellan says an exchange would spread risk across plans so that it's easier and cheaper to insure more people.
MARK MCCLELLAN, DIR., HEALTH CARE REFORM, BROOKINGS: So the idea is to try to set up a system in which people could have guaranteed access to coverage that they can afford, that doesn't necessarily charge them more just because they have existing health problems.
BATE: So who would be eligible to use this exchange? That's for Congress to decide. But to start, the exchange would probably focus on small businesses and individuals who can't get insurance through their employer. How much the government will regulate the exchange is also a question.
MCCLELLAN: On the one hand, you want to try to give people clear, comparable choices, so anything that you can do to simplify the range of choices and the number of choices can potentially help with that. On the other hand, the point of competition is to encourage people to be able to sign up for plans that do health care better.
BATE: Blumberg worries too little regulation could lump high risk people together, defeating the system's purpose.
BLUMBERG: The way that insurers behave is in their interest to have the lowest cost, lowest risk enrollees in their plans. The more that they can differentiate the plans that they're offering, the more they can attempt to attract individuals of different risk.
BATE: Lawmakers also need to decide who would run a health care exchange, whether there would be a single national marketplace or whether states would create their own. And, of course, there's the question of whether the government will offer its own health plan to compete with private insurers. Dana Bate, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Washington.
Rachel to GM: "Why are you asking why I dislike Sarah Palin? You already know the answer."
A little cryptic for any newcomer. Unless it was the wardrobe issue I think it means Sarah Palin (outrageously) believes human life begins at conception. That supercedes Palin's support for Israel, disregards a fact Rachel posted that Jewish Law forbids the 98% of American abortions that are done for reasons of convenience, and brushes off Crafty's point that the issue constitutionally belongs with the states.
This could fall under 2nd amendment or religion but to me the issue is the reporter. Like the obnoxious Lawrence O'Donnell interview with Peter Schiff this poor lady just couldn't grasp what she was being told while the midwest businessman was calm and explanatory with her.
I recall after some past GOP victory a famous radio host said the NY Times would need to send foreign correspondents to the heartland in search of understanding of what had happened. This CNN morning host didn't leave her studio to gain these insights:
Thank you Crafty and thank you Charles Murray for important points very clearly and constructively: "Our democracy is corrupted when some voters think that they won't have to pay for the benefits their representatives offer them."
Pres. Reagan unfortunately needed to make the following point to help fend off the charge that across-the-board rate cuts were really just tax cuts for the rich: he showed how 6 million or so of lower income working people would become free of the federal income tax altogether. This was a winning point politically and worth it at the time to rescue our collapsing economy and win the cold war, but also a critical mistake for the future.
Flat tax and the Fair tax proposals make the same mistake. To compare favorably with the current tax system, these proposals typically exclude the first 50k or so of income.
The current spending 'discussion' is a farce. Start all kinds of new entitlements with no mechanisms to ever control costs and then demagogue about someone else needing to pay for it.
If we had a rational tax code and at least a goal of a balanced budget then we could begin a national dialog about spending.
Getting everyone to pay their share of the tax on EVERY dollar earned is an illustration of what they mean by the expression of putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Once these people become total non-contributors, any change is a tax increase on the poor.
On the expense side, remember the story about 10 people going into a restaurant. 1 is going to pay 40% of the bill and maybe 4, 5 or 6 of them will pay nothing at all no matter what is ordered and consumed. Now have a rational discussion about costs and take a majority-rules vote... As Murray points out so well, our system is corrupted.
If we had a true flat-rate tax on all income, no matter who earned it or how, then the proverbial restaurant table could have a rational discussion about ordering hors d'oeuvres and desserts. The rich would still pay far more than their share but everyone would have a stake in the outcome.
Murray's solution is more politically palatable, which I will re-quote. I was going to add to his that we should end withholding too so people see what they pay but as I read deeper into his proposal, but it is already in there! Some politician should take his idea verbatim and run with it.
"Fold payroll taxes into the personal tax code, adjusting the rules so that everyone still pays the same total, but the tax bill shows up on the 1040... End withholding, and require everybody to do what millions of Americans already do: write checks for estimated taxes four times a year."
With due respect for the lack of liberal viewpoint represented on this board, I post the following drivel about right wingers unconcerned about income inequality. If anyone can find a valid point in this piece, please point it out; I will to try to refute it.
Opposing income "inequality" (is income supposed to be equal regardless of training, effort and ability) is the centerpiece of liberal economic thought, as pointed out by this author. In that case, liberals should be THRILLED with the recent collapse of investment values and asset prices as that serves to 'mind the gap' better than any economic expansion in history.
Meanwhile I am headed over to the PGA where income inequality is truly celebrated. A few golfers will split up about $9 million for 4 days work not counting the real money in sponsorships. The worst of the best will make zero, half will get sent home early and all other golfers in the world will be restricted to the gallery or the television audience. Should Tiger Woods and Gerald Ford make the same for playing golf?
Seriously, the idea of equal outcomes should scare you: "So why not take some of that income away", he writes. I say, what incentive would there ever be to do well or do better if there is only one number available on your career pay scale? Should the high school drop out hanging out on the street and the medical resident working 80 hours a week to enter his/her profession make EXACTLY the same, now or later?? Only in a non-existent, Soviet Socialist Utopia. Not in a real world, efficient economy! - Doug
The New Republic Mind the Gap by Jonathan Chait What the right wing really thinks about inequality. Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Should we care about economic inequality? That question is the subtext for most debates in American politics. It just remains below the surface because the party that thinks we shouldn't care about inequality--I'll give you one guess--has an endless string of obfuscations ("death tax," "small business," "tollgate to the middle class") to avoid admitting that it doesn't care about inequality.
There are, however, some real reasons not to care about income inequality, and right-wingers who don't have to run for public office are happy to admit it. A new paper by the Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson, which compiles all the reasons why we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about inequality, has drawn a lot of attention. It's a usefully honest and relatively persuasive iteration of the belief system that undergirds right-wing thought.
Alas, it still isn't very persuasive. Wilkinson begins by pointing out that, while the gap between how much the rich and the non-rich earn has exploded, the gap between how much the rich and the non-rich consume has remained fairly stable. And that's true. But Wilkinson misunderstands the implications of this fact. "Suppose you made a million dollars last year and put all but $50,000 of it in a shoebox," he writes. (He must have enormous feet.) "Now imagine you lose the box. What good did the $950,000 do you?"
Wilkinson's point--money only has value if you eventually spend it--may be true. Yet most rich people don't put their money in shoeboxes. They invest it so they, their children, or young trophy wives can one day spend even more of it. And, indeed, the gap in wealth (how much money you have) has grown even faster than the gap in income. Meanwhile, the middle class has tried to keep pace with the rich by spending beyond its means, sending average household debt skyrocketing. Tell me why this should make us feel better about inequality?
Wilkinson's most interesting argument holds that material inequality between the rich and the non-rich lags behind the wealth and income gaps. For one thing, he argues that the luxury goods rich people own offer only marginal improvement over the cheap stuff that poor people own. For instance, he compares the luxurious Sub-Zero PRO 48 refrigerator to a standard IKEA fridge. Despite the vast difference in cost ($11,000 vs. $350), he writes, "The lived difference ... is rather smaller than that between having fresh meat and milk and having none." He also notes that rich people have used some of their increased income merely bidding up the price of positional goods, like fancy real estate or elite college tuition, forcing them to buy the same stuff at higher prices. Wilkinson thinks this goes to show that there's "an often narrowing range of experience" between being rich and being poor, so inequality isn't that big a deal.
In fact, Wilkinson is inadvertently bolstering the strongest liberal argument against inequality: it's inefficient. In case you're unfamiliar with this argument--as Wilkinson seems to be; he doesn't rebut or even mention it anywhere in his paper--it runs like this: Taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor helps the latter more than it hurts the former (at least until you create serious work-incentive effects, a point which most liberals think we're not close to). Wilkinson is saying the rich are getting little (in the case of luxury goods like refrigerators) or zero (in the case of real estate and higher tuition) actual benefit from their rising incomes. So why not take some of that income away and use it to buy extremely useful but currently unaffordable things for the non-rich, like, oh, basic medical care?
Watch Chait and Wilkinson face off over the inefficiency of inequality (and check out the rest of the debate here)
One liberal complaint about inequality holds that it increases the political influence of the rich, thereby locking in even more inequality. Wilkinson scoffs at this prospect, pointing to rich voters' support for Barack Obama over John McCain. Oddly, Wilkinson confines his analysis to campaigning and pays no attention to governing. While it's true that many rich people used their money to help bring about Democratic control of Washington, every day brings a new example of the rich using their money to ensure that Democrats pose the least possible harm to their interests. Democrats in Congress have abandoned Obama's sensible call to limit deductions for the top bracket, backed away from an upper-income surtax to pay for health care despite favorable polls, shot down bank nationalization, and on and on.
The deeper problem with Wilkinson's argument is that it assumes the natural correctness of all market-based outcomes. This is a premise you either take on faith or don't, and which undergirds most of his argument. Wilkinson assumes that inequalities arising from the market are inherently fair. Therefore, he asserts that just about the only unjust forms of economic inequality are those that spring from non-market circumstances: "t's not enough to identify a mechanism of rising inequality. An additional argument is required to show that there is some kind of injustice involved."
If such injustices persist, he further argues, it's usually because the American people like it that way. Wilkinson recognizes that some liberals blame "wealthy elites," not public opinion, for the persistence of injustice. But he dismisses this complaint as a "'false consciousness'" argument by liberals "frustrated to find that [their] convictions are in the minority." So we should stop whining. Yet, later on in the same paper, Wilkinson blames the state of education on teachers' unions, and hawkish foreign policy on "special interests that stand to benefit from war." Wait, what about that false-consciousness business? Apparently, it's fair to complain about special interests when they subvert the libertarian agenda but not otherwise.
Wilkinson concludes by asserting that people should only care about their absolute well-being, not their relative well-being. But comparisons are among the best measures we have to gauge our material well-being. Ten years ago, I felt perfectly happy with my low-definition television, because high-definition hadn't come out. Today, that same television gives me slightly less enjoyment because I realize that I'm missing out on a better picture.
"How are a poor, inner-city kid's life chances affected," asks Wilkinson, "by the fact that some Web entrepreneur makes billions of dollars as opposed to just millions?" They're not. But if the Web entrepreneur has to pay a slightly higher tax rate so the inner-city kid can afford to attend a decent college, or so the kid's parents can see a dentist, how are the entrepreneur's life chances affected?
Jonathan Chait is a senior editor of The New Republic.
Thank you Guinness for excellent info source on nuclear. It is basically carbon free and totally free of pollution emissions, the 'waste' product is a still usable energy source and the safety record has fewer deaths in this country than Ted Kennedy's car.
The experience at Soviet Chernobyl tells us more about why to avoid Soviet communism than it does about safe nuclear plants. That disaster could not have happened in a US plant built and operated under our standards.
Whether you believe higher CO2 levels have a 1% or a 51% link to climate phenomena, we emit far more CO2 than we would if you used these newer technologies to power our grid. The world's largest industrialized country should not be generating 71% of its electricity by burning fossil fuels in 2009.
When we load part of transportation sector onto the grid with plug-in hybrids and plug-in electrics, the situation would only get worse since it takes most of a decade to get a new nuclear plant online and wind is 5 times and solar is 15 times overpriced and we are not adding any new rivers for hydroelectric.
It is obscene (IMO) that we waste precious domestic natural gas sources on a grid that could be powered far better with nuclear. This waste of natural gas was/is a major reason gas prices have quintupled the cost of heating homes, which is a BIG deal to much of the country. Natural gas (American produced) is also a perfect transportation sector solution if we weren't burning it in bulk needlessly to power the grid, please see http://www.cngnow.com.
If we substitute nuclear for natural gas in electricity and American natural gas in place of foreign oil in transportation, besides solving the CO2 spiral we would also be sending fewer dollars sent to Chavez and the Mullahs. It would be good for the currency, simplify foreign policy and ease the cost of national defense. True?
CCP: "...I am just not sure how many people read Sowell who are not already inclined to agree." - True. Like continuing ed for professional licenses, registered voters should be required to read Thomas Sowell and Victor Hanson... ----
Also going beyond cost is the forgotten privacy issue. Do we want all personal info going to the government and another enforcement mechanism going to the IRS?? I have yet to see a liberal vehicle with a bumper sticker saying 'US Government out of my Bedroom' as it relates to health plan coercion and privacy loss.
Nearly all states require car insurance. I went recently to change just the bank account tied to my insurance and was amazed, offended, and outraged at the voluminous private information I was required to give up just to make a minor change. Is it my choice to business with these people? No, state law requires that I do business with one of these companies.
When the state first passed mandatory insurance, there was an option to post bond or assets up to the minimum financial responsibility instead of insurance, now that provision is gone. Two states still have that and 48 do not. In 48 states you HAVE do do business with and give up privacy to a state licensed insurance company (or not own or drive a vehicle) no matter what means you have available to cover your potential losses.
Back to health insurance, I am currently satisfied carrying a major medical policy with very high deductible instead having the much higher monthly cost of a more inclusive policy. Mine is one of the choices likely to go away as the authors of the new bill such as Waxman, Dodd or Kennedy will not deem my plan to be adequate coverage. They would add a 2300 fine, people won't accept that, so my plan would disappear altogether.
So much for the promise (lie) that we can keep our current plan.
As someone who was once rushed to a hospital in the middle of the night, because of taking a medication that millions of people take every day without the slightest problem, I have a special horror of life and death medical decisions being made by bureaucrats in Washington, about patients they have never laid eyes on.
On another occasion, I was told by a doctor that I would have died if I had not gotten to him in time, after an allergic reaction to eating one of the most healthful foods around. On still another occasion, I was treated with a medication that causes many people big problems and was urged to come back to the hospital immediately if I had a really bad reaction. But I had no reaction at all, went home, felt fine and slept soundly through the night.
My point is that everybody is different. Millions of children eat peanut butter sandwiches every day but some children can die from eating peanut butter. Some vaccines and medications that save many lives can also kill some people.
Are decisions made by doctors who have treated the same patient for years to be over-ruled by bureaucrats sitting in front of computer screens in Washington, following guidelines drawn up with the idea of "bringing down the cost of medical care"?
The idea is even more absurd than the idea that you can add millions of people to a government medical care plan without increasing the costs. It is also more dangerous.
What is both dangerous and mindless is rushing a massive new medical care scheme through Congress so fast that members of Congress do not even have time to read it before voting on it. Legislation that is far less sweeping in its effects can get months of hearings before Congressional committees, followed by debates in the Senate and the House of Representatives, with all sorts of people voicing their views in the media and in letters to Congress, while ads from people on both sides of the issue appear in newspapers and on television.
If this new medical scheme is so wonderful, why can't it stand the light of day or a little time to think about it?
The obvious answer is that the administration doesn't want us to know what it is all about or else we would not go along with it. Far better to say that we can't wait, that things are just too urgent. This tactic worked with whizzing the "stimulus" package through Congress, even though the stimulus package itself has not worked.
Any serious discussion of government-run medical care would have to look at other countries where there is government-run medical care. As someone who has done some research on this for my book "Applied Economics," I can tell you that the actual consequences of government-controlled medical care is not a pretty picture, however inspiring the rhetoric that accompanies it.
Thirty thousand Canadians are passing up free medical care at home to go to some other country where they have to pay for it. People don't do that without a reason.
But Canadians are better off than people in some other countries with government-controlled medical care, because they have the United States right next door, in case their medical problems get too serious to rely on their own system.
But where are Americans to turn if we become like Canada? Where are we to go when we need better medical treatment than Washington bureaucrats will let us have? Mexico? The Caribbean?
Many people do not understand that it is not just a question of whether government bureaucrats will agree to pay for particular medical treatments. The same government-control mindset that decides what should and should not be paid for can also decide that the medical technology or pharmaceutical drugs that they control should not be for sale to those who are willing to pay their own money.
Right now, medications or treatments that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration are medications or treatments that you are not allowed to buy with your own money, no matter how desperate your medical condition, and no matter how many years these medications or treatments may have been used without dire effects in other countries.
Mr. Ghani (previous post) sounds like a great candidate. Some polls have him running 3rd and potential spoiler rather than winner.
A UK General (below) says look for a 30-40 year involvement.
Mindful of Crafty's difficult questions about strategy and mission it occurs to me that maybe this conflict, best case, could be used to give a better name to the phenomema of 'mission creep' and 'nation building'. Bin Laden is supposedly gone and the Taliban hosted camps but didn't attack us.
This is a very poor place. Maybe our job if we have one is to lurk in the background, take out just the largest dangers and allow a better society to form over a couple of generations.
I like that Ghani is more interested in foreign investment than foreign aid. ------------------------
Instead of allowing failures to fail and distortions to correct, we insist on artificially building more on a house of cards. TARP was all about injecting money to override market forces and stop natural corrections. The 'stimulus' money is all about everything other than encouraging private investment decisions. This gang actually put a freeze on foreclosures at the start of this administration. It's very reminiscent of President Nixon's Price Wage Freeze to stop inflation. (Inflation doubled after Nixon's freeze was lifted.)
There is an amazing lack of analysis about what happens next after we inject all that is available plus some trillions and pile on additional burdens and attacks against enterprise and private sector investment. I think the author is hinting that it won't just be inflation we see after we undermine our currency, our balance sheet and abandon our economic foundations.
Ironically, George Bush actually grew government revenues and sustainable government expenditures far faster than these government-loving statists.
"The above is bad advice, unless you have committed a crime. If you lawfully used force to defend yourself/another, a brief statement needs to be given."
Fair enough. I back off my over-generalized, amateur advice. In my example the fellow was guilty (of shooting the intruder without all the elements of self defense) and his statement made the case against him.
Thinking of a different legal situation, some years ago I owned an apartment building that was firebombed by teenage gangmembers. The Mpls arson chief investigator asked me to meet him at the bldg and we set up an appointment. As I was leaving my office someone else told me to keep in mind that I am a suspect. I laughed thinking that was ridiculous. I was in Montana skiing and not even reachable when it happened. I have receipts to prove it. Then I freaked, realizing that was exactly what a guilty party would arrange. On the way over, my mind raced to recall everything I knew about everyone in the building. Instead of my usual smug and flippant self, I was extremely helpful and forthcoming on everything he asked. He told me he wasn't able to get into the burned unit and I told him I would get him in. I used landlord persuasion to get them to the door and introduced him to the tenants after we were in. When I saw the smoke detector disabled I laid into them about how that could have killed people in the other units and besides I had just warned them about doing that some specific time previous. (Like OJ Simpson, my best bet seemed to be for them to find the real perps and the real motive very quickly.) Everything worked out fine for me but I no longer carry insurance on any of my properties. I would rather fix the property out of pocket than fight insurance companies and carry a motive.
What I take from the defense video is that their advice (don't talk to police) applies best in the situation where they are about to arrest you anyway. You will have opportunity to respond to the charges.
Back to Crafty's piece, the people here seem acutely aware of the requirements of self defense. I think that is far less true for the general public.
Hard to say without loading in my own bias but it always seems that liberalism can't be sold straight up. Look at the Sotomayor hearings for example. What everyone says is adherence to founding principles etc. when everyone knows that there are two competing philosophies with the liberal one perfectly described by everything this Judge said and did BEFORE the confirmation process. Watch and listen to the liberals laugh at themselves about lying to themselves. Amazing video, very telling:
"Don't people want someone they can trust leading them?" - In the case of Obama on so many things such as not going for single payer, not raising taxes, not spending out of control and in the case of Sotomayor claiming to not favor liberal, judicial activism, their supporters actually trust them to NOT do what they say!
Good points CCP. By ransom I was only referring to the part we know about - giving him high level attention and positive publicity while the rest of the prisoners continue to slave for him. Who knows about the bag of cash. By making it a private mission there could have been real payoffs and still have Obama insulated with plausible deniability.
Instead of angering me, the dishonest people in my world bore me. They tell me what happened and I still don't know what happened so they waste my time by speaking. I don't know when, if not already, the overexposed Obama will start to have that affect. I suspect that the millions of mostly non-political, fair-weather first time one time voters that saw something different tuned out already. They might tell a pollster they approve or choose him over another in reelection but not with the excitement or numbers we saw the first time.
On the other point, that he doesn't mind cleaning up after them but doesn't want to hear criticism? Cleaning up after whom?? Barney Frank and the Democrats who pushed for lending based on needy neighborhoods instead of based on solid credit and substantial down payments like it used to be to buy a house. He always implies it was conservative policies and free markets running wild that made the mess when it was the opposite even if it was R's partially that supported the wrong headedness.
What part of this means people should lose the right to speak and oppose new, wrongheaded initiatives that will worsen our problems? Opponents shouldn't attend Democrat townhall meetings and if they do they should sit quietly?? The gameplan of going to all the meetings and filibustering with dissent was written at ACORN! Obama is notoriously thin-skinned for a person in his position. I don't know how that will pay off as things turn worse politically for him.
I still think the main things we will remember the Obama administration for haven't even been contemplated yet, like 911 for Bush and Clinton adopting the Gingrich agenda and sparking the economy. Maybe we'll see what this chameleon is capable of if he loses the house next year.
Excellent article! I remember my uncle as District Attorney had to prosecute a homeowner who shot and killed an intruder in his home in a heavily publicized local case. The facts just did not match the requirements of self defense. The homeowner had previously flaunted the fact that he would shoot any intruder, he made no claim of thinking he saw a weapon much less aimed at him or other life threatening danger, so the result was that the otherwise law abiding citizen defending his home was convicted of murder.
Advice to anyone ever found in that situation: call 911, hand the police your weapon and surrender yourself in silence. Say absolutely nothing to anyone for a very, very long time until you have the very best legal defense fully set on a very comprehensive legal strategy. As the article says, self defense is an all or none defense that involves admitting an intentional act and eliminates all other excuses and defenses.
The money requirement is unfortunate but I didn't hear the door slam shut very hard . In some ways it seems that it could be done today without all the outlays but congressional districts are in particularly hard to reach because they don't line up nicely with media markets. Besides campaign cash, supporting your family during the run is of course the issue that doesn't go away.
OTOH: a) When if not now? Obama-Pelosi overstepped so badly that some new voices will be heard and noticed. b) There are ways to get some free traditional media coverage not to mention web-ads and youtube videos clever enough to draw attention. Draw enough attention nationally to get noticed locally. c) You are obviously able to put out amazing effort just observing the breadth of your readings and the times of posts. d) People yearn for non-traditional candidate and may be open to a back-to-the-founding-fathers, limited government / libertarian message - even in sunny southern Cal. d) The more that people or media or opponents question your credentials, the more publicity and interest you generate for your business. e) You can advance your political philosophy by reaching more people even without winning. f) Experience with previous runs, knowledge of the issues and the founding principles, studying law under Ruth Ginsburg and leaving the profession of law all make a compelling story. g) The image of a fighter has proven political appeal. h) You were more available to run or serve when you were single, but will look more mature and responsible when photographed with the beautiful bride and smiling children... i) The job pays $174k per year plus a pretty good health plan!
While knowing it would be nearly impossible financially, maybe still set out at least part way with some exploratory work. Just like with the pilot television programs, publish a few trial runs both video and written and approach a few people. My guess is that that are some people and groups out there with means might get behind the right messenger with the right message. Who knows?
(No reply required - I'll drop the subject until I hear the announcement)
Crafty: :To quote my mocking description of the demagogues philosophy during my most recent run for Congress (in 1992) "We had a vote. You're paying."
Marc, maybe 2010 is your time. There is a political pendulum that swung far too far in the wrong direction for all the wrong reasons and it seems to be swinging back - ready to knock down incumbents in its path. Run as a Republican, not for what they used to be but for what they ought to be. I will give my last dollar to the campaign. (Announce soon because that's about all I have.) Let's take back our country the old fashioned way.
Yes it helped one failed industry hit better numbers at the end of one quarter but it violates all principles I thought we stood for. As a manufacturer, if you are not on their preferred list, you miss out - AND you get to pay for the others' people's subsidy! As a consumer maybe you get lucky (odds are that you don't!), but somebody else equally deserving comes in one day earlier, one day later, buys a slightly different vehicle, trades in a slightly different vehicle or does something else equally large and heroic to stimulate the economy and save the planet and THEY GET NOTHING... AND THEY PAY FOR YOUR SUBSIDY!!
Regarding the author, how do I say nicely... what kind of MORON thinks these are conservative OR AMERICAN principles???
In terms of common sense, it isn't drivers of clunkers who buy new cars. There is a food chain. More typically it is owners of 3-5 year old cars that buy new cars and it is the driver of the clunker who delays the need to expend the energy - roughly 65000 mega-joules or about 1.5 tons of crude oil - to manufacture a typical new vehicle.
The people who were ready to trade in the exact vehicle required in the bill and buy the exact new vehicle specified on the exact day that the taxpayer-taken, borrowed or printed money hit the street were most likely the cronies of the staffers and lobbyists who wrote the bill, it would seem to me.
Also I think the numbers will show that Honda and Toyota were the 'American' companies who benefited most...
A couple of comments on recent posts: I posted Mitt Romney's view on 7/30 with my caveats, but without noticing or mentioning BBG posted 'Romney's Folly' the day before. FWIW both are worthwhile reads. I oppose all extra government involvement in healthcare but free markets have been lost from health care since 1945 and the politics today is very, very complicated. ---------------- Freki posted a great question: "Why cant' a company or a group of people (like a co-op) hire their own doctor? Pay the doc a salary and that would take care of general healthcare. Then as a group negotiate with some other entity, insurance co. or hospital,l for catastrophic care? Why not pay for the education of med students for their agreement to work for the group for a fixed time? This might lower cost. Maybe the group could self insure for procedures the on staff medial personnel could not perform. It seems to me there are ways to get what you want from the free market without the government getting involved."
You are correct. A friend of mine, he might rather call it a multi-decade acquaintance, is a left wing union organizer / official who now manages their health group. They have about 100,000 in the group and they self-insure. Instead of paying an insurance company they contract they products services and rates that they need and use. They make tough decisions like the insurance companies do or like the government will have to. I don't know a lot of details but know he is opinionated about things like most MRI's being wasteful. For example, he says we have more MRI scanners along one corner of the Twin Cities freeway loop than in all of Canada. Because these providers have the expensive equipment they order the unnecessary and expensive images. I imagine there is a smidgen of truth in that, but still you have a form of bureaucrat limiting your choice of diagnosis and treatment. In the case of these workers and their families, at least the decisions are a little closer to home and open to petition or change than if they were entrusted the federal government.
Denny, I think there is good humor in the protest photos with the national guard and I don't want it lost in translation. Do I understand that the troops or pretend trooops are being handed eggs for the balls they lack for closing stations to hide from criticism? Also clever is to peacefully hand over the eggs. If thrown they would invite a reaction or just reflect badly on the themselves.
Thanks for the updates and keep up the good fight.
Thanks for previous post BBG. These Americans advantages disappear when we emulate worse systems.
Tim Penny, was Democratic Congressman for Rochester MN, home of the Mayo clinic, and Rudy Boschwitz became a two term Republican senator of the 'blueist' state when Democrats overreached here: ------
Gov't-Run Care Is A Study In Soaring Costs
By RUDY BOSCHWITZ AND TIM PENNY | Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 4:20 PM PT
This article appeared in Thursday's issue. We repeat it here because of the importance of the information provided and also so it will be seen by our weekend-only readers.
In considering whether to expand the government's role in the delivery of health care or in health care insurance, it is worth looking at Medicare and Medicaid.
These two huge programs already make the government the largest player in the health care industry. The profligate nature of these two programs should raise lots of doubt about the Obama program doing anything but "busting" the budget.
In 1968 total spending by the federal government was $178.1 billion dollars. Forty years later in 2007, total spending had risen to $2,728.9 billion dollars. So the budget of the U.S. increased in dollar terms 15.3 times in that 40-year span.
But all programs did not rise in unison. Some rose more, others less.
Outlays for Social Security rose from $23.3 billion in 1968 to $581.4 billion in 2007, an increase of 25 times. So Social Security drove the budget higher at a substantially faster rate than the budget rose as a whole.
ObamaCare plans to expand the government's role in insuring the American people. The government is already the largest insurer in the health care business through Medicare. We are now told ObamaCare will save money.
What kind of impact did Medicare, the first large government health insurance plan have in budgetary terms? Medicare rose from $5.1 billion in 1968 to $436.0 billion in 2007 an astounding increase of 85.5 times over the 40-year period. Will ObamaCare be better?
Beware of government estimates about the future cost of ObamaCare. When Medicare was being considered in the mid-1960s, the government projected that the outlays for the program 25 years down the road would be $10 billion. Instead, in 1990, 25 years later, the outlays were $107 billion. Government estimates were off by a factor of more than 10!
Medicaid, the other large medical program currently in effect, outdid Medicare. Medicaid outlays in 1968 were $1.8 billion. In 2007 they had risen to $190.6 billion, an increase in dollar terms of 105.9 times.
And that is only the Federal outlay number. There is a roughly equal Medicaid amount spent by the states due to federal mandates.
Without those mandates we would not be reading about the large deficits that most states endure.
The idea of expanding the federal role in the medical arena is truly fiscally irresponsible. The claim that money will be saved through government competition with the private insurance system (with government setting the rules!) is the height of fantasy.
If 45 million Americans are now uninsured, that means 265 million are insured privately, and the government should not disrupt that. If the government becomes the insurer of most Americans, the impact on the budget would be absolutely awesome. Rationing of medical care that is so often mentioned would surely result.
Rich Will Provide
If in the 40-year span from 1968 through 2007 Social Security went up 25 times, Medicare 85.5 and Medicaid 105.9, why did the total federal budget increase overall only 15.3 times? What held the budget back?
It was largely defense. Defense outlays rose from $82.2 billion in 1968 (or 46.1% of the total budget) to $547.9 billion in 2007 (20.1% of the total budget). In dollars, that is an increase of a bit less than 6.7 times.
Yet on a recent talk show Rep. Barney Frank assured us that we can pay for these new medical programs by decreases in defense outlays and additional taxes on the "rich" — those with incomes exceeding $250,000, he explained.
Medicine over our lifetime has made extraordinary progress. New discoveries and advances continue to be announced almost weekly. Most — but not all — have occurred here in the U. S. where medicine has always attracted the best and the brightest.
The government has played a most significant role by funding research through the National Institute of Health to the tune presently of $30 billion annually. It is a proper role for government and among the best and most admired of programs that receives the broadest bipartisan support.
Will the best and brightest young people be attracted to a career run by government rules, regulations and financial dictates that may well frown upon individual initiative? Our fear is that they will not, and the extraordinary progress of medicine will slow.
That alone is reason enough to oppose the government's further immersion into the field of medicine.
Boschwitz, a Republican, served in the Senate from 1978 to 1991 and was a member of the Budget Committee throughout. Penny, a Democrat, served in the House from 1983 to 1995. Both are from Minnesota.
This insight came from Forbes, Biden who doesn't drink beer (really none of them did) was needed by the beer-summit planners for racial balance. This was only a photo opp and it was looking like it would be a white cop surrounded by two black psuedo-intellectuals with a chip on their shoulder about race. With Biden they achieved balance - like a double date. Any other white and it would have just looked like they brought in a token, but Joe Biden is the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES which was helpful when Obama needed to show he has white 'friends' too. So much for post-racialism. These men with fruit in their near-beers should become the Dukasis in a tank photo moment for future campaigns.
This post is about the healthcare debate but my interest is really about keeping an eye on the players for 'the way forward for conservatives - with a big question mark. The author Mitt Romney is the presumed front runner to challenge Obama and he has a history as governor of perhaps the most liberal state and architect of a government health plan. In his defense, his 'plan' could be argued as within 'state's rights' unlike Hillary, Barack and Pelosi who just make up constitutional federal government powers. His plan offered no 'public option', just compulsion and meddling. To a more moderate voter than me it could be argued that Governor Romney's experience with healthcare policy and politics is a strength and an accomplishment.
Mr. President, what's the rush? Obama could learn a thing or two about health care reform from Massachusetts. One, time is not the enemy. Two, neither are the Republicans.
By Mitt Romney
Because of President Obama's frantic approach, health care has run off the rails. For the sake of 47 million uninsured Americans, we need to get it back on track.
(Now insured: Francisco Diaz of Boston consults with nurse practitioner Anna Hackett Peterson./Josh T. Reynolds for USA TODAY; Mitt Romney./AP)
Health care cannot be handled the same way as the stimulus and cap-and-trade bills. With those, the president stuck to the old style of lawmaking: He threw in every special favor imaginable, ground it up and crammed it through a partisan Democratic Congress. Health care is simply too important to the economy, to employment and to America's families to be larded up and rushed through on an artificial deadline. There's a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it.
No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts. The bill that made it happen wasn't a rush job. Shortly after becoming governor, I worked in a bipartisan fashion with Democrats to insure all our citizens. It took almost two years to find a solution. When we did, it passed the 200-member legislature with only two dissenting votes. It had the support of the business community, the hospital sector and insurers. For health care reform to succeed in Washington, the president must finally do what he promised during the campaign: Work with Republicans as well as Democrats.
Massachusetts also proved that you don't need government insurance. Our citizens purchase private, free-market medical insurance. There is no "public option." With more than 1,300 health insurance companies, a federal government insurance company isn't necessary. It would inevitably lead to massive taxpayer subsidies, to lobbyist-inspired coverage mandates and to the liberals' dream: a European-style single-payer system. To find common ground with skeptical Republicans and conservative Democrats, the president will have to jettison left-wing ideology for practicality and dump the public option.
The cost issue
Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn't have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages "free riders" to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn't cost the government a single dollar. Second, we helped pay for our new program by ending an old one — something government should do more often. The federal government sends an estimated $42 billion to hospitals that care for the poor: Use those funds instead to help the poor buy private insurance, as we did.
When our bill passed three years ago, the legislature projected that our program would cost $725 million in 2009. At $723 million, next year's forecast is pretty much on target. When you calculate all the savings, including that from the free hospital care we eliminated, the net cost to the state is approximately $350 million. The watchdog Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concluded that our program's cost is "relatively modest" and "well within initial projections."
And if subsidies and coverages are reined in, as I've suggested, the Massachusetts program could actually break even. One thing is certain: The president must insist on a program that doesn't add to our spending burden. We simply cannot afford another trillion-dollar mistake.
The Massachusetts reform aimed at getting virtually all our citizens insured. In that, it worked: 98% of our citizens are insured, 440,000 previously uninsured are covered and almost half of those purchased insurance on their own, with no subsidy. But overall, health care inflation has continued its relentless rise. Here is where the federal government can do something we could not: Take steps to stop or slow medical inflation.
At the core of our health cost problem is an incentive problem. Patients don't care what treatments cost once they pass the deductible. And providers are paid more when they do more; they are paid for quantity, not quality. We will tame runaway costs only when we change incentives. We might do what some countries have done: Require patients to pay a portion of their bill, except for certain conditions. And providers could be paid an annual fixed fee for the primary care of an individual and a separate fixed fee for the treatment of a specific condition. These approaches have far more promise than the usual bromides of electronic medical records, transparency and pay-for-performance, helpful though they will be.
Try a business-like analysis
I spent most of my career in the private sector. When well-managed businesses considered a major change of some kind, they engaged in extensive analysis, brought in outside experts, exhaustively evaluated every alternative, built consensus among those who would be affected and then moved ahead. Health care is many times bigger than all the companies in the Dow Jones combined. And the president is rushing changes that dwarf what any business I know has faced.
Republicans are not the party of "no" when it comes to health care reform. This Republican is proud to be the first governor to insure all his state's citizens. Other Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan and Sens. Bob Bennett and John McCain, among others, have proposed their own plans. Republicans will join with the Democrats if the president abandons his government insurance plan, if he endeavors to craft a plan that does not burden the nation with greater debt, if he broadens his scope to reduce health costs for all Americans, and if he is willing to devote the rigorous effort, requisite time and bipartisan process that health care reform deserves.
Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. The Massachusetts plan
• Everyone must buy health insurance or face tax penalties.
• Hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on free hospital care were converted into subsidies to help the needy buy insurance.
• A health insurance "exchange" was established to help connect the uninsured with private health plans at more affordable rates.
• Health plans can offer consumers higher deductibles and more restrictive physician and hospital networks in order to lower costs.
• Businesses with 11 or more workers that do not offer insurance must pay a $295 per employee fee.
I must pile on to comments CCP made a couple of days ago in the health care thread: "...Chuck Schumer made a statement that doctors should make no more than 80K a year...If that is his argument lawyers who require far less schooling should make no more than 40K per year..."
Over the years Republicans went along grudgingly in some cases with minimum wage legislation. Then Kieth Ellison's predecessor proposed maximum wage legislation. It was largely ignored but the premise was allowed to fester. Entry level wage legislation is NOT about how much these people should make, it is about WHO should determine it. The maximum wage proposal was that no one at the top should make more than 20-fold what to lowest wage worker gets paid by the same company. Whether that sounds reasonable or should be some other factor is NOT the point. We don't determine private compensation plans at the congressional level. It is NOT part of their defined powers nor is it something they would be good at.
I don't know if Tiger Woods makes too much. Nike and the PGA can figure out their pay and incentive plans and live with the consequences. I'm busy with my own business.
Unfortunately, we keep blurring the lines between public and private. The more that we do that, the more that we have the government to micro-manage everything including the comp plan for Dr. CCP (and all these other workers in all these other industries) instead of leaving that in the hands of the patients he sees and the providers who want to hire him.
Look at the auto makers, banks, insurance companies, airlines, auto companies and on and on and on. I always felt their executive pay is none of my business. If they are inefficient in their business, they will fail. That corrects the problem. Now we have the mindset of don't let them fail. So where is the correcting mechanism, a vote in congress for every paycheck for every profession in every industry? And that is smarter than the market??? They exist only because of our subsidy, so now their intricacies are our responsibility. I can't even think of examples more facetious than reality. Is McDonalds to big to fail? Is a federal french fry commission next??
Only 2 of 10 members of the federal auto task force drive American cars, 2 don't own cars.
I don't know what other people should make or what they should drive nor do they know the value of my labor or vehicle suits me best. Chuck Schumer should re-read Article 1 and the rest of the constitution and focus on his own G*d D*mned business which should include spending the summer with his constituents, not trying to run every business in America.
For the parts of the constitution limiting federal powers that he doesn't like, he should focus in on the amendment process which should come before the enabling legislation.
Getting back to a couple posts on water I offer my observations:
Remember that during the hurricane 'debates' we were told that the destruction level kept increasing over time. In fact, more and more people were locating and building in hurricane zones - which is fine except it comes at a risk and a cost. To some degree the same goes for water.
Where I live (MN) we are up to our neck in water but have other quality of life challenges - this thing called winter. 10,000 lakes is an understatement, more like 12k. There is the 'city of lakes', the headwater for the Mississippi River, aquifirs aplenty and an untapped source of Lake Superior where each inch of surface dept is over a half Trillion gallons. Not to mention consistent rains ans snows throughout all the seasons, no one has hardly even thought of routing their gutter system through their shower or toilet supply. Like everywhere it costs money to treat and purify water, but the resource is available.
Quote from 2 posts back: "Water is going to be very short until you have a new source," said Carlsbad Mayor Claude Lewis. "And the only new source is desalination, I don't care what anybody says."
We have evolved past traditional instincts of locating near basic sustaining resources. The reason I think is that we believe we can solve that need by throwing money at it.
I remember criticizing the late Sen. Paul Wellstone for lobbying the federal government to increase 'cold weather' assistance for the prosperous state of MN. Good grief, who could have seen a cold winter coming??? My point is that my heat and your water are not federal issues. They are just natural consequences and costs associated with the choices we made when we located our families and our communities.
Let's do Question 2 first, much easier: "Is/should an insurance company be allowed to discontinue someone who develops a problem?"
No. That is what I was insuring against when I was healthy and bought the policy.
"Question 1: What is done and what should be done about people with pre-existing conditions looking for health care?"
Very tough question and deeply intertwined with whatever your own view is for a role for government and the role for consequences for personal choices.
I don't think any serious conservatives with political aspirations totally opposes a safety net, so if you exhaust your personal wealth, the state is going to take care of you at about the level of care that all of us would receive under Obamacare. The bigger question then is should someone be able to NOT use their own resources to pay for their own health problem IF they previously chose not to insure against it, then arrange to have someone else pay for it and keep their own wealth or other uses. Sounds troublesome to me.
In the real-politic world of risk pooling, an insurer or group can take in people with known problems as long as they are random proportions with people without known problems.
"Mr Bernanke warned that a continued deterioration in commercial property, where prices have fallen by about 35 per cent since the market’s peak and defaults have been rising sharply, would present a “difficult” challenge for the economy." ----
Make sure I have this right - We announce a new commitment to punish production, employment, investment, commerce and profits and the result is double digit unemployment and collapsed demand for the rental or purchase of business space. That makes sense and I think people here get it, but I wonder if the typical voter/constituent of Barbara Boxer or Amy Klobuchar or Chuck Schumer understands what Bernancke is trying to tell them - You don't have to be an owner of Commercial real estate to be hurt by a collapse in that market. Just like you didn't have to be a buyer of yachts to be hurt by a tax on the purchasing of yachts. You don't have to be an employer to be hurt by another costly and unnecessary mandate on employers. If you are middle or lower class worker, you or your loved ones (not wealthy) will be hurt by another tax on the wealthy. As participants in the economy, we share the economy with the other participants. It is not an us vs. them ("Make the rich pay their fair share") economy. It is all inter-related and intertwined. I didn't see the movie, but when the front end of the Titanic goes under it doesn't mean more desserts will be available for those in the middle and the back. (This should have been a rant.) What we are seeing is an avoidable, man-made disaster of self-inflicted wounds IMHO.
Bloomberg reports that a respected analyst sees oil prices collapsing further with the economy. Just like artificially high prices helped trigger the downturn, collapsing prices will shut down newer and more expensive energy sources, making the next oil spike even worse if/when we ever see economic health return.
July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil will collapse to $20 a barrel this year as the recession takes a deeper toll on fuel demand, according to academic and former U.S. government adviser Philip Verleger.
A crude surplus of 100 million barrels will accumulate by the end of the year, straining global storage capacity and sending prices to a seven-year low, said Verleger, who correctly predicted in 2007 that prices were set to exceed $100. Supply is outpacing demand by about 1 million barrels a day, he said.
“The economic situation is not getting better,” Verleger, 64, a professor at the University of Calgary and head of consultant PKVerleger LLC, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Global refinery runs are going to be much lower in the fall. If the recession continues and it’s a warm winter, it’s going to be devastating.”
Crude oil last traded at $20 a barrel in February 2002. Futures were at $61.18 today in New York, having recovered 89 percent from a four-year low reached last December. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is implementing record supply cuts announced last year in response to plunging consumption.
“OPEC don’t realize the magnitude of the cuts they need to make,” which would total about a further 2 million barrels a day, Verleger added. “Storage is going to become tight. It’s not clear if there’s going to be enough storage available.”
Oil will average $63.91 in the fourth quarter, according to the median of analyst forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Crude for December delivery traded at $65.61 today in New York. Prices have rebounded on expectations of a demand recovery, led by China and other developing economies, and concern expansionary monetary policy would stoke inflation and weaken the dollar.
At the other end of the spectrum from Verleger, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted in a report yesterday oil will rally to $85 a barrel by the end of the year, and recommended that clients buy futures contracts for delivery in December 2011.
“China is in a real desperate situation,” said Verleger, who publishes the Petroleum Economics Monthly. “We’re in a situation where U.S. consumers aren’t consuming and Chinese manufacturers get hurt. Economists are looking for growth in all the wrong places.”
Forward contracts for oil have been higher than prices for immediate delivery this year, a situation known as contango, creating incentives to buy crude now and store it. That may end as growing stockpiles make storage more expensive.
“Prices would be much lower today, but for the very large incentive to build inventories,” Verleger said. “You need forward buyers, which we had when people were fearing inflation, but as concerns turn toward deflation” that will no longer be the case.
Hu Jintao Protege Li Keqiang's Two Secretaries Arrested, Cause of Hu Jintao's Emergency Return From G8 By chinafreepress.org (translation) Jul 9, 2009 - 12:47:29 PM
Hu Jintao Protege Li Keqiang's Two Secretaries Arrested, Cause of Hu Jintao's Emergency Return From G8
Boxun reports that most people assumed Hu Jintao left the G8 meeting in Italy early to return home because of the ongoing violence in Xinjiang. In fact he rushed back because He Guoqiang--head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection--had taken the opportunity of Hu's absence to detain Li Keqiang's two secretaries on corruption charges. In fact Li's assistants have accepted bribes to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. But this is a common phenomenon.
He Guoqiang took advantage of Hu's absence to spring his trap, having Premier Wen Jiabao sign off on the incriminating evidence and arrest warrant. Hu used the excuse of the events in Xinjiang to rush home to attend to this threat to his desired heir to the Party leadership position.
The previous post is right on the mark. Arbitrarily cherry-picking foreign law to support decisions is the opposite of a rigorous constitutional process.
Sotomayor seems to understand that honest liberalism isn't how you go through confirmation even in a Democrat Senate so she pretends to be something other than what her previous words and decisions define her to be. She will be a reliable vote on the liberal side of controversial decisions, but she is not a legal scholar with compelling logic or intellectual discipline likely to sway other justices on anything.
She has problems with competence and honesty. Today's example shows that she won't admit that all nine sitting Justices disagreed with her on Ricci even though that case is undoubtedly the most important in her preparations for the hearings:
Senator Kyl is masterful again. He points out that her earlier claim — that her hands in Ricci were bound by Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent — is simply not true. What is the precedent, he asks, and asks. She doesn’t answer, and doesn’t answer. Finally she cites the Bushey decision — a 1984 Second Circuit decision predating all kinds of intervening Supreme Court decisions and statutory amendments. Then Kyl points out that, even if this were binding precedent, it could have been overturned by en banc review, which she voted against (the deciding vote, as Senator Sessions pointed out yesterday). She has no answer to this, either. Nor does she have a convincing answer to Senator Kyl’s next question, regarding her panel’s back-of-the-hand rejection of a case that ultimately was important enough to command the attention of a majority-minus-one of the Second Circuit, the Supreme Court (which rejected her approach 9-0, as Senator Kyl notes), and the nation. On the question of whether the Supreme Court rejected her approach 9-0, she says it’s hard to say because “there were a lot of opinions in that case.” Ridiculous. There were four opinions, and obviously the majority and the two concurrences (by Scalia and Alito) rejected her approach. And Ginsburg does, too (see footnote 10 and page 23). She is not telling the truth.
Freki, Thanks for the video of Michele Bachmann calling out this government for what it is. I wish it was just overblown rhetoric of a far right conservative but every word of it unfortunately is true. - Doug
Update: Forgot to mention waking on the morning of the 4th to the sound and sight of 2 bald eagles on the dock 'cleaning' a fish they caught as if they were part of the festivities, leaving behind very few parts. Wish I had that image as the 3rd photo.
We celebrate the victory of our liberties so hard fought with sacrifice by our forefathers as a day off of freely giving away most of those freedoms without even a fight. In our neck of the woods we had the Minnesota Orchestra at lakeside performing until dusk followed by beautiful fireworks over the water.
We killed it, now we own it? Some bad nightmare twist off of the Powell Doctrine?
"Will President Barack Obama provide Detroit auto makers with even more subsidies to pay CAFE fines?"
Economist Alan Reynolds in the Wall Street Journal points out some pretty obvious realities about GM and federal regulations that Obama's Treasury Secretary - or is it Secretary of Socialized Industries - didn't notice or advise his boss. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124649332091983175.html
Fuel Standards Are Killing GM
By ALAN REYNOLDS
General Motors can survive bankruptcy far more easily than it can survive President Barack Obama's ambitious fuel economy standards, which mandate that all new vehicles average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
The actual Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) results will depend on the mixture of fuel-thrifty and fuel-thirsty vehicles consumers choose to buy from each manufacturer -- not on what producers hope to sell. That means only those companies most successful in selling the smallest cars with the smallest engines will, in the future, be allowed to sell the more profitable larger pickups and SUVs and more powerful luxury and sports cars.
Sales of Toyota's Prius, Yaris, Corolla and Scion, for example, allow and encourage Toyota to market more Lexus 460s, Sequoia SUVs and Tundra pickups in the U.S. without incurring fines. Hyundai's success selling Accent and Elantra compacts allows it to sell 368-horsepower Genesis sedans.
Similarly, Ford has the Toyota-licensed hybrid Fusion and will soon produce the European Ford Fiesta in Mexico. Chrysler will soon have Fiats. But what does GM have?
No independent reviewer suggests that the Chevy Aveo and Cobalt are credible contenders in the small car field. Even the president's auto task force finds the electric Chevy Volt "unviable," since it will lose money unless priced above a Cadillac CTS. The Opel-engineered 2011 Chevy Cruze will face tough competition from Asian cars whose reliability is better established. Launching such new models will be even tougher in the future, now that GM has lost control of Opel.
GM accounted for about 19% of vehicle sales so far this year, but the company had a much smaller share of the market for small cars and SUVs (which accounted for 20% of total sales through May). To continue offering a Toyota-like array of larger cars and trucks under ever-tighter CAFE rules, GM would have to capture a much larger share of the market for small and/or diesel-powered vehicles. Unfortunately, European and Asian car makers have decades more experience building reliable subcompact cars and diesel engines for their local markets -- where consumers face steep taxes on gasoline and large engines.
General Motors does produce competitive cars and trucks, but not one of them is small. Consumer Reports recommends three GM cars and three GM trucks. The recommended cars are the Chevy Malibu (the unrecommended hybrid has been dropped), the large Buick Lucerne and the Cadillac DTS. Consumer Reports recommends the Chevy Avalanche and Silverado and the GMC Sierra trucks. Car enthusiast magazines insist on adding Camaro, Corvette and the 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V to that list.
Among those nine best GM vehicles, only the four-cylinder Malibu achieved as much as 25 mpg in Consumer Reports testing. The others get 12-17 mpg, yet they are no less fuel-efficient than comparable foreign brands. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the mileage of the Toyota Sienna van and Nissan Titan pickup as worst in their class, and comparable Chevys as best. Unlike GM, however, Japanese car companies sell enough small cars to offset the large and thus hold down the average figures.
General Motors is likely to become profitable only if it is allowed to specialize in what it does best -- namely, midsize and large sedans, sports cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. The company can't possibly afford to scrap billions of dollars of equipment used to produce its best vehicles simply to please politicians who would rather see GM start from scratch, wasting more taxpayer money on "retooling" to produce unwanted and unprofitable subcompacts and electric cars. The average mileage of GM's future cars won't matter if nobody buys them.
Politicians are addicted to CAFE standards because they create an illusion of doing something sometime in the future without voters experiencing the slightest inconvenience in the present. Tighter future CAFE rules will have no effect at all on the type of vehicles we choose to buy. Their only effect will be to compel us to buy larger and more powerful vehicles from foreign manufacturers. Americans will still buy Jaguars, but from an Indian firm, Tata, rather than Ford. They'll buy Hummers, but from a Chinese firm, Tengzhong, rather than GM. The whole game is a charade; symbolism without substance.
As a matter of practical politics, rescuing GM from strangulation by CAFE will require offering economically literate environmentalists a greener alternative, i.e., one that works. Luckily, the government has two policy tools that, with minor modifications, really could discourage people from buying the least fuel-efficient vehicles.
One is the federal excise tax on "gas guzzlers," which could take some fun out of the horsepower race except that it applies only to cars, not to SUVS, vans and trucks. Why not apply this tax to all types of gas guzzling vehicles? Owners of trucks used for business could deduct the tax in proportion to miles used for business, as they do with other vehicular expenses. Phase it in after 2011 to encourage buyers to snap up the unsold inventory of gas guzzling trucks quickly -- a timely "stimulus plan."
Second, the federal fuel tax is highest on the most efficient fuel (diesel) and below zero on the least efficient fuel (ethanol). Cars get about 30% better mileage on diesel than on gasoline, and cars running mainly on gasoline get about 30% better mileage than they would using 85% ethanol.
To stop distorting consumer choices, simply apply the same 24-cent-a-gallon federal tax to gasoline and ethanol as we do to diesel. This would add funds to the depleted federal highway trust. More importantly, it would remove an irrational tax penalty on buying diesel-powered cars -- arguably the most cost-effective way to improve mileage without reducing car size or performance.
These two proposals are a greener alternative to CAFE, because they'll work. But they'll only work if Congress totally and permanently abandons the charade of CAFE. It is arguably worthwhile to accept a modest tax increase in exchange for an end to harmful regulations, but that exchange is effective precisely because it is not painless.
Unifying fuel taxes and broadening the excise tax on gas guzzlers makes sense as an alternative to CAFE. Otherwise it's just more pain with no gain.
If politicians insist on tightening fleet average mileage standards for bankrupt auto companies, how could those rules be enforced? The only penalty for violating CAFE rules is a big fine. If consumers keep refusing to buy enough small cars from GM and Chrysler to allow them to meet the CAFE rules, how are those companies expected to pay the fines?
The government is already planning to spend about $50 billion bailing out General Motors plus $7 billion for Chrysler. Will President Barack Obama provide Detroit auto makers with even more subsidies to pay CAFE fines?
Maybe so. That would be only slightly more bizarre than current plans to bribe folks with $4,500 to sell their "clunkers," or to offer huge tax credits to those rich enough to buy a $73,000 hybrid Cadillac Escalade or an $88,000 Fisker Karma.
The bottom line is that CAFE standards are totally unenforceable and ineffective. Regardless of how much damage the rules do to GM and Chrysler, Americans can and will continue to buy big and fast vehicles from German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indian car companies. CAFE standards might just be another foolhardy regulatory nuisance -- were it not for the fact that they could easily prove fatally dangerous for any auto maker overly dependent on the uniquely overregulated U.S. market.
A competing Democrat operative once said of the Clintons that they lie with such ease. Now it is the Obamas. We are told that there is no harm to let a "public option" compete with "private" options. "No one is going to lose their current health plan if they choose to keep it." Of course the elephant in the room is that the public option is subsidized by the taxpayer to the tune of trillions. That's why private options won't be able to compete.
Here is David Axelrod on Meet the Press last week saying there will be no subsidy:
Someone help me out here. If there is no subsidy and no unfair advantage, what the hell do we need the government for to create it? It will cost the taxpayer nothing(?), it has to paid for, no taxes are going up (except on the wealthiest among us) and it won't have any unfair advantage over private choices. (Please weigh in here if you believe them.)
Of course they are lying. All of the above are true. It will be subsidized. All government programs are. Taxes will be raised even on the brokest among us. Private choices will be squeezed out. Costs will go up, not down. Quality will suffer. Waiting will be the norm. And turning back will be next to impossible.
Crafty from Russian thread: "To harp on a point I have made several times before, in the 2004 election even his weenie opponent was calling for expanding the US military by 50,000 troops-- but Bush-Rumbo, still too proud to admit that what was going on in Iraq was more than a bunch of Saddamite remnants, refused to admit that we needed to expand our military."
Not fully disagreeing but adding my comment from armchair to armchair...
Some lessons of the Iraq war are still unknown IMO. The beginning of the war was impressive. The execution of the surge was truly amazing. The part in between was brutal. The consequences of rushing our exit are unknown at this point.
Obviously we would like to have won faster with less damage. For sure, plenty of mistakes were made, big ones.
My main thought is that I don't believe with any certainty that a surge could or would have had the same success if only it had been ordered earlier. The strategy and success was built on information/intelligence/knowledge on the ground that we didn't necessarily have earlier. Unfortunately we didn't know who was blowing up Mosques and setting explosives for American troops until they blow up Mosques and set off road bombs, repeatedly, and until our troops developed relationships and trust with witnesses and civilians enough to tell us what they know about the insurgents and locations.
The small footprint, 100,000 in a country of 25 million, limited our ability to get the job done, but a larger footprint might also have flailed away in the early insurgency. A larger footprint would have meant more targets early on for the enemy, possibly more loss of American life during the worst parts of the war, and perhaps more collateral Iraqi civilian damage, turning them even more against us. In other words, to have gone stronger - earlier - with the wrong strategy would have had its own consequences.
I blame others more than I blame Bush-Rumsfeld. I blame our so-called allies who for the most part were absent, starting with Turkey who IIRC blocked a key entry/supply route right from the beginning. I blame our domestic opposition who while troops were in harm's way were constantly sending the message that the American commitment was fragile and temporary. Our troops fought through the domestic political bullshit bravely, but the enemy was certainly energized by it, causing more loss of life on both sides than was otherwise necessary. And I blame our media for the same. They overplayed the death toll and terror accomplishments of the enemy (was a ground war in the heart of the middle east supposed to be easy?) and they missing the real story line (Michael Yon was almost the sole exception to this) of what a brave, amazing, wonderful and historic accomplishment we were actually in the process of achieving by deposing this thug and leaving behind a republic if they choose to keep it. JMHO.
U.S. Govt. sets out to design more efficient cars, picking winners and losers. Whatever happened to level playing field and equal treatment under the law? Let's see...we own GM, these contracts are to Ford, Nissan and Tesla. Can you imagine having a financial interest in the auto interest and NOT having a lobbyist well-connected in the Obama administration? Just as the founders envisioned it all...
After months of uncertainty, the Energy Department is beginning to lend money from a $25 billion loan program to develop fuel-efficient cars. Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company and Tesla Motors are slated to get the first round of loans.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is scheduled to make the announcement of the loans on Tuesday, according to several wire service reports that quoted unnamed sources. Absent from the loan program are General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that have asked for billions of dollars in loans, but are prevented from receiving aid under terms of the program because they do not qualify as “financially viable” companies.
Ford will receive $440 million to help convert a Michigan sports-utility factory to build small cars. The company, as recently as late last year, had sought a total of $11 billion from the program as part of a seven-year program to invest $14 billion in advance technologies.
Ford has plans to bring a battery-powered car to market in 2010, and other models by 2012. Ford had previously announced plans to seek federal loans to convert three large plants that make large trucks and S.U.V.’s into making smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
The Energy Department program had been closely watched within the auto industry and Congress. It is one of the one of the few avenues of federal aid to build a new generation of fuel-efficient and battery-powered vehicles.
Uncertainty over the financial condition of General Motors and Chrysler slowed the program. About 75 companies, ranging from start-ups to the Big Three, had applied, asking for a total of $38 billion.
General Motors had said that the $8.3 billion it was seeking would be used for the development of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid car. Chrysler had been asking for $5 billion. Both companies had been lobbying heavily for the money.
While the program was restricted to American automakers, Nissan submitted a plan for one of its American plants. The amount received by Nissan was not disclosed. Nissan is developing an all-electric car with 100 miles of battery range for release in 2010. The car is to be made in Japan initially, but eventually it would be built in Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
With Korea, Japan and China making advances in battery technology, there are concerns that if the United States does not make breakthroughs in this area, it will cede the electric-car market to foreign competitors.
Raising energy costs will boost job growth? Newt has a nice way of pointing out what to me seems obvious. Why don't they tell us that destroying the economy as we know it is worth it to save the planet instead of telling us with a straight face that the largest tax increase in history is a jobs, jobs, jobs bill?
By: Newt Gingrich Examiner Columnist | 6/26/09 6:44 AM
The Obama White House has spent the week furiously working to convince its fellow Democrats in Congress to support the global warming bill that's before the House today. Former Vice President Al Gore has been working the phones, and there was even a luau at the White House last night.
The question that must be asked, however, is why? If the case is closed on man's role in causing climate change, as the left assure us that it is, then why the need to twist Democratic arms to do something about it?
My guess is it has something to do with 2+2=4.
This simple arithmetic - 2+2=4 - was a rallying cry during the Polish Solidarity freedom movement in the 1980s. It meant that, even though the government would try to tell the people that 2+2=5, to be free, the people had to tell the truth, that 2+2=4. Because to deny the truth was to deny reality, and to do that was to surrender freedom to the government.
Something similar is happening with the global warming bill.
The sponsors of the global warming bill, which is known as Waxman-Markey, are telling Americans that not only will the legislation save us from calamitous climate change, it will also produce new jobs and new prosperity by transitioning America to new forms of "green" energy.
In other words, under Waxman-Markey, there's no trade-off necessary to save the planet; no price to be paid. It's a win-win-win.
Right. And 2+2=5.
The reality is that the bill before the House today imposes what could be the largest tax increas
We know the earth will warm 9 degrees this century because of the 1/2 of 1 degree of warming last century. ?
We know there will be continuous acceleration of future warming because of the uninterrupted warming in the past. Oops, it was erratic, inconsistent and unexplainable in the past.
We know all alarmism is true because all scientists say so. Except for these 700+ http://www..epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=10fe77b0-802a-23ad-4df1-fc38ed4f85e3 or these 31,000: http://www.petitionproject.org/
Without further adieu, in the absence of two-sided heated debate here I give Paul Krugman calling for the stoning to death of all moderate skeptics who may happen to think differently than him:
So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.
But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.
The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.
Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.
In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?
Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.
But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.
Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.
Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.
Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?
Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.
Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.
Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.
The Washington Post escapade reminds me of the Mark Sanford tryst. The Post 'journalists' worked so hard for so long to build their own power and contacts in the rising leftist movement and they worked so hard to achieve the mutual adoration of the hate-America crowd that now take offices as high officials in the Obama administration and they feel so unappreciated for all that they have accomplished, with so many people just reading their content on the internet for free, taking their hard work for granted, with classified money lost to craigslist and their beautiful Sunday edition sold out to the grocery coupon high bidder, who would not lust for the money, power and glamour of selling these contacts to the CEOs that could actually cash in the new multi-trillion dollar boondoggle that they worked so hard to create? Caught up in the excitement they forgot it might look bad once exposed.
It is very telling of the bankrupt newspaper business today that within the publisher's staff after just 6 months of the Obama administration NO ONE could either remember that they were supposed to maintain at least a public facade of neutrality or no one had the nerve to point that out to the boss before the invitations went out. Unbelievable.
Guinness, great post regarding wind. I am not against wind energy it's just important to keep in perspective that as we increase our investment in it, hopefully private and voluntary, that it will continue to make up closer to 1-2% of thepower on the future grid. That means 98% of our focus should be elsewhere.
It is a tragedy that natural gas is 'wasted' on electrical generation since it is so extremely valuable for other uses. Also a tragedy is our refusal to recognize the merits of nuclear, carbon-free, powerful and safe. We had more deaths from a one-line 19mph light rail line here in one year than in the nationwide history of nuclear power.
If we eventually invent the holy grail car battery and move most of the transportation sector energy to the electrical grid, where then does the additional carbon-neutral energy come from, not to mention grid capacity?
I can think of only two answers, sequestered coal and clean secure nuclear energy.
Back to wind, aside from the lengthy caveats about wind, that half the country isn't windy enough, that none is produced when the wind goes down and none is produced during shut down when the wind is too strong and that they litter, obstruct and dominate the natural landscape, there is a cost factor as well. Best estimates I have read put the cost of wind at 5-times clean coal and solar at 15-times clean coal. Given that disparity I think it wonderful if people choose of their free will to cover their roof with energy security and invest in their own wind tower on their own land, but not a solid payoff for public expenditure.
Followup to CCP's point that the number one contributor to the Democratic party is the taxpayer: Before we turn all healthcare workers in America into public workers could we please disband all public employee unions. In the case of public employment, there is no evil capitalist, only the will of the people, and therefore there is no underlying justification for employees to organize.
Look at the proportion of teachers union money given to Democrats and imagine the new public unions of doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, radiology technicians, etc. etc. and their demands for more and more money, shorter hours, cushier benefits combined with their political contribution clout. Reagan won't be there to fire them when they go on strike.
Brit/former Brit? Mark Stein said last week that after national health care starts, all elections are about waiting times for service. In other words further diluting and obscuring your ability to reward or punish them for their votes on other issues such as war, foreign policy, taxes, spending, judicial confirmations, gun control, abortion, you name it. It all becomes about health service.
Taxpayers pay about 30k per student for a terrible education. An alternative is proven far better at roughly 1/5 the cost. And we can't win this argument??!!
Figuring an average class size of 25, we are using up taxpayer money at the rate of about $725,000 per classroom. We should be able to get a good union teacher for that. Can't really see any room for waste or abuse (sarc.)...
This point was already mentioned but glossed over in Tom Frieman's NY Times piece recently and made again in the piece copied below.
The unrest, demonstrations, protests and public outcry in Iran comes directly from the fact that immediately across their borders they are acutely aware that the totalitarian regime is gone, the murderous bloody dictator was hanged, and in its place is an old fashioned (new fashioned?) electoral system out of an obscure and ridiculed idea from George Bush and Dick Cheney where politicians must campaign and compete for voter approval and citizens receive a basic human right called 'consent of the governed'. Who knew that such a ridiculed idea could try to spread to other oppressed people in the region?? ---
From Powerline 6/24:
Paul Rahe is the distinguished intellectual historian and professor of history at Hillsdale College. Professor Rahe is the author, most recently, of Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect. If any scholarly study in the history of political thought was ever timely, Soft Despotism is it.
Professor Rahe's new book has inspired much witty and learned commentary. Mark Steyn freely draws on the book in the lead article featured in the current issue of the New Criterion. The reviews by Professor Harvey Mansfield in the Weekly Standard and by William Voegeli in NR are must reading.
Professor Rahe has forwarded us his thoughts on the events in Iran:
I spent the mid-1980s -- when the Iranian Revolution was young, when Hossein Mousavi was the Islamic Republic's Prime Minister, and the Iran-Iraq war underway -- in Istanbul as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, writing about Turkey primarily and also about Greece and Cyprus (which I visited with some frequency). In previous years, I had closely followed events in Iran, and I continued to do so while residing nearby. I was at the time haphazardly working on a book that would bear the title Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution, and I was fascinated by the progress of a revolution that was at the time same theocratic and republican.
I can remember thinking that the combination was likely to be unstable. The nascent regime might be led by a Supreme Leader drawn from the Shiite clergy and respected for his understanding of the Koran, and the Council of Guardians, whom he appointed, might veto legislation and carefully vet candidates for office with an eye to protecting the clerical regime, silencing its critics, and suppressing opposition. But the fact that the voters had a choice, that the candidates had to campaign, and that they had to tailor their campaigns with an eye to popular sentiment allowed in a fashion hard to circumscribe for the more or less free formation of public opinion.
Something of the sort had taken place in ancient Athens under the rule of Peisistratus and his sons -- when the regime had been in form a republic and in reality a tyranny -- and, after the death of its founder, form asserted itself and reshaped political reality. In such a polity, semi-free elections may be necessary for the purpose of rallying popular support, but they also have the effect of confering a measure of authority on the populace and of suggesting to ordinary citizens that they have a role to play in public deliberation and in setting the polity's course. What began as a theocratic republic might easily evolve into something else. So I thought.
In March, 2002, while on a visit to Istanbul, I had an opportunity to question an Iranian journalist as to the validity of my hypothesis. I had not been in Turkey for some years; I wanted to get a sense of what 9/11 meant in the one Muslim country I knew well; and I had been invited by another former fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs to a dinner to which he had also invited a number of Turkish journalists.
Michael Ledeen had been suggesting in articles published hither and yon that Iran might be on the verge of a revolution, and I began by asking my Iranian acquaintance what he thought of the likelihood. He responded that many of the men who ran the Islamic Republic had been graduate students in eastern Europe. "They know how to control a population, but they do not know how to control their own children," he observed. "There will some day be a revolution--but not any time soon. Iran will change in the manner in which China did--when a new generation comes to power."
As I have tracked events over the last few days, I have come back to that conversation again and again. I have no idea whether my Iranian acquaintance was accurate in describing the educational background of many of the Iranian leaders, but I have long suspected that he was correct in his estimation of their ability to keep the population in line and of their inability to control their own progeny. Five things are nonetheless clear.
First, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not win anything like 63 percent of the vote in the recent election. Over the last four years, he has brought Iran to the edge of economic disaster; many Iranians are fully aware of their plight; and the authorities, fearful that he would go down to defeat, rigged the entire process from the start. Second, the ruling order in Iran is bitterly split over what amounts to a coup d'état. Third, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has put his prestige and that of the regime itself on the line. Fourth, the people of Iran are aware that they have been hoodwinked, and the Islamic Republic is now without a shred of legitimacy. And, finally, if the police and the militia should prove unable to control the crowds in Teheran, and if the Revolutionary Guard is called out and the guardsmen refuse to fire on their fellow citizens, things really will come apart.
If the authorities manage to restore order (as, I suspect, they will), the pot will nonetheless continue to boil -- unless they resort to severe repression and purge those within their own ranks who lent support, open or tacit, to the demonstrators. But if they do this, they will at the same time seriously narrow the base of the regime's support, and that will only hasten the day of reckoning. As Reuel Marc Gerecht argues in a trenchant piece in the Weekly Standard, we are witnessing a game-changing moment.
From all of this, the supporters of George W. Bush's policy in Iraq should draw consolation, for the elections that took place in that country under the American aegis contributed mightily to the discontent in Iran. The people of Iran were witness to the emergence within Iraq of a secular republic sponsored by an Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, possessed of an erudition and an authority rivalling and arguably surpassing that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were witness to elections that were really free and to public debate open in ways that debate within the Islamic Republic is not. Morever, in Quom, the stronghold of the Shiite clergy, the clerics who most fully command respect have long rejected, as contrary to Shiite tradition and the interest of Islam, the path of direct clerical rule pursued by Khomeini.
Iran today looks something like England in the wake of Oliver Cromwell's death. There has been a religious revolution; it never commanded full popular support; it is now seen, even by many of its most ardent supporters, to be a failure; and there will be a scramble to attempt to sustain the polity it produced. Ordinarily, American leverage does not amount to much. In this situation, it could nonetheless be considerable. Economically Iran is on the ropes. If we keep the pressure on, following the policy of the Bush administration, the regime may in fact collapse. If, however, in the interests of stability, in the manner of the so-called "realists," the Obama administration opts to take the pressure off and, in effect, bails out Iran's bankrupt regime, it may stumble on for some years to come.