Cooking the books on health care reform

Democrats are saying that the Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare would add to the deficit.  Saying that our only hope of controlling the deficit is to have health care reform, they cite numbers from the non-partisan Congressional Budget.   Charles Krauthammer exposes the way the Democrats are cooking the books:

Suppose someone – say, the president of United States – proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I’ve got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.

He’d be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare. During the debate over Republican attempts to repeal it, one of the Democrats’ major talking points has been that Obamacare reduces the deficit – and therefore repeal raises it – by $230 billion. Why, the Congressional Budget Office says exactly that.

Very true. And very convincing. Until you realize where that number comes from. Explains CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in his “preliminary analysis of H.R. 2″ (the Republican health-care repeal): “CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion.”

As National Affairs editor Yuval Levin pointed out when mining this remarkable nugget, this is a hell of a way to do deficit reduction: a radical increase in spending, topped by an even more radical increase in taxes.

Of course, the very numbers that yield this $230 billion “deficit reduction” are phony to begin with. The CBO is required to accept every assumption, promise (of future spending cuts, for example) and chronological gimmick that Congress gives it. All the CBO then does is perform the calculation and spit out the result.

In fact, the whole Obamacare bill was gamed to produce a favorable CBO number. Most glaringly, the entitlement it creates – government-subsidized health insurance for 32 million Americans – doesn’t kick in until 2014. That was deliberately designed so any projection for this decade would cover only six years of expenditures – while that same 10-year projection would capture 10 years of revenue. With 10 years of money inflow vs. six years of outflow, the result is a positive – i.e., deficit-reducing – number. Surprise.

If you think that’s audacious, consider this: Obamacare does not create just one new entitlement (health insurance for everyone); it actually creates a second – long-term care insurance. With an aging population, and with long-term care becoming extraordinarily expensive, this promises to be the biggest budget buster in the history of the welfare state.

And yet, in the CBO calculation, this new entitlement to long-term care reduces the deficit over the next 10 years. By $70 billion, no less. How is this possible? By collecting premiums now, and paying out no benefits for the first 10 years. Presto: a (temporary) surplus.

via Charles Krauthammer – Everything starts with repeal.

Tiger Moms

Chinese kids are so successful, says Amy Chua (who also wrote a book on the subject), because their mothers are willing to browbeat, shame, and control their children in the pursuit of perfection.  And, she argues, this is a good thing.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

via Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior – WSJ.com.

The “Tiger Mom” allows no playdates or sleepovers, demands hours of piano or violin practice (and no other instruments), and insists on perfection in all endeavors.  Western mothers, by contrast, are more like kitty kat moms, sheltering their children from all consequences and nurturing their self-esteem.

Read the whole article, which gives more of the Chinese rationale and approach to child-raising.

What do you think of this?  Can we find a Golden Mean here?

Default blocking of all internet porn

We blogged about this a while back ago, but Great Britain is going through with it, requiring internet providers to block pornography on the internet unless adults specifically ask for it. Our discussion, though, missed the point, focusing on whether or not this was technologically feasible and how easy it would be to get around it. But there would be no need for an adult to get around it, since he would merely need to ask for access to this material and he would have it.

Let me reiterate what England is planning to do and pose some specific questions.

The UK Government is to combat the early sexualization of children by blocking internet pornography unless parents request it, it was revealed today.

The move is intended to ensure that children are not exposed to sex as a routine by-product of the internet. It follows warnings about the hidden damage being done to children by sex sites.

The biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, are being called to a meeting next month by Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, and will be asked to change how pornography gets into homes.

Instead of using parental controls to stop access to pornography – so-called “opting out” – the tap will be turned off at source. Adults will then have to “opt in.”

via All internet porn will be blocked to protect children, under UK government plan | News.com.au.

Would this work, in theory, in the U.S.A.?  It wouldn’t violate anyone’s freedom of speech or freedom of the press or freedom of porn.  If an adult wants it, he could have it.

Wouldn’t this not only protect children, but also be beneficial for adults, many of whom I suspect take advantage of the easy access now but would be ashamed to sign up for it?

Are there any down sides of doing the same thing here? Should people concerned about the moral harm of pornography launch a crusade to do what England is doing?

HT: Joe Carter

Law & Gospel at the movies

Anthony Sacramone discusses the movie Black Swan, which is about a ballerina’s tormented pursuit of perfection.  He then draws out the Law/Gospel connections:

The film is not subtle and Nina’s inner life, her delusions and paranoid fantasies, trace the borderline of camp. But what is really missing is a way out of this false dilemma between “perfection” and “failure.” Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and so in order to achieve it one must always subordinate the self to some other authority, which, in this realm, is always, always fallible. It is a self-defeating exercise, because even if you think you’ve achieved it, give it a minute, and the criteria by which that perfection is judged will shift, and you’ll find yourself having to place catch-up. To be perfect is, by definition, to fail. And the ultimate failure is death.

Which is why we Lutherans have placed such emphasis on law/Gospel dichotomies. Every time gospel implies “You must” or “You must not,” it becomes a word of condemnation, of failure, because, with all do apologies to Yoda, “you can’t,” try as you might. The good news is that someone already did, and you can rest in his success as if it were your own. You can put yourself under his authority without fear of collapsing under its weight, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The price of admission to perfection is faith alone, because the cost of that admission was paid 2,000 years ago. And faith is never a work. Only believe.

But Nina never hears that word, drowned out as it is by the disparate and competing demands of “You must.”

via Black Swan: Law vs. Gospel » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Why not Christianity?

A British journalist asks why many of her countrymen are overlooking Christianity and converting to Islam instead:

So why is it that the young folk revolted by contemporary excess don’t simply make for the local CofE, or Catholic church, and rediscover the religion of their grandmothers, rather than getting their spirituality via Islam? It is, I think, something to do with the real malaise of contemporary Britain which I wrote about in a little essay in The Spectator concerning the film Eat, Pray, Love. It is the notion that what exists abroad, or what is foreign to your own background, is somehow superior to what you’ve grown up with, what’s under your nose. In the case of EPL, the heroine finds her spiritual identity in Buddhism. It would have been a good deal more interesting if she could have discovered it in her local Episcopalian church.

It may be that the British young don’t embrace Christianity because they simply don’t encounter it, at least not through the kind of religious education-as-anthropology they get in state school, which is about as opposite as it is possible to be from the Sunday School teaching which their grandmothers would have got. Actually, the death of the Sunday School pretty well marked the end of any practical instruction in Christianity for most children. No wonder they’re susceptible to the certainties of Islam, when they encounter it.

via Why don’t all these disaffected Brits convert to Christianity instead? | The Spectator.

There may be something to that, but I suspect part of the problem is that the good old C of E [Church of England] has become so liberal that it doesn’t offer the hard stuff that people who have known only materialistic nihilism crave.  There is also the mysterious fact that people, in their natural fallen state, prefer religions of Law to the free salvation of the Gospel.  Any other ideas?

House votes to repeal Obamacare

The House of Representatives has repealed Obamacare.  But don’t get too excited either way.  The bill will have to be also passed by the Democratic-held Senate and survive a veto by the President.  But still. . .

Swiftly honoring a campaign pledge, newly empowered Republicans pushed legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care overhaul through the House Wednesday night, brushing aside implacable opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

The 245-189 vote was largely along party lines, and cleared the way for the second phase of the “repeal and replace” promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall. GOP officials said that in the coming months, congressional committees will propose changes to the existing legislation, calling for elimination of a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage, for example, and recommending curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits.

Republicans also intend to try to reverse many of the changes Democrats made to Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to the traditional government-run health care program for seniors.

Like the repeal bill itself, these other measures will require Senate approval and a presidential signature to take effect, and the prospect is for months of maneuvering on the issue.

via The Associated Press: House Votes to repeal Obama’s health care law.

Assuming the rejection of the overall bill won’t stand up, Republicans are reportedly next planning a “death by a thousand cuts” approach, targeting provisions and funding needs one at a time. The first is said to be the provisions that allow for abortion.

Do you think this represents  a good strategy for Republicans? Some say that Republicans should let the bill get enacted, and then when it turns into a horrible, expensive, complicated mess, as Republicans expect, they can target it and present a Republican approach as an alternative. Otherwise, if Republicans only cripple the program, Democrats can can blame Republicans for it not working. What do you think?


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