One Christian’s perspective on the day’s news:
1. Senator Kennedy is being mourned today at his home in Hyannis Port and then in Boston. Later he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery beside his slain brothers. The newspapers are full today with tributes and assessments (the Boston Globe’s obit is especially good). Some conservatives complain about hagiography (a local media personality around here, Howie Carr, is always entertaining.) Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping to use public sentiment surrounding the death to press forward on health care reform. Some view this as exploitation of a death. Yet it’s hard to imagine that Kennedy would not be delighted if his death served this purpose. Call him what you will, but Kennedy was a true believer.
Nonetheless, I tend to agree that a multi-trillion dollar reform should not–and will not–be passed out of sentiment or nostalgia. One blogger speculates that Kennedy’s absence from the Senate could be used as an excuse to pass the reform through the reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes.
Under the U.N.’s voluntary sex-ed regime, kids just 5-8 years old will be told that “touching and rubbing one’s genitals is called masturbation” and that private parts “can feel pleasurable when touched by oneself.”
By the time they’re 9 years old, they’ll learn about “positive and negative effects of ‘aphrodisiacs,” and wrestle with the ideas of “homophobia, transphobia and abuse of power.”
At 12, they’ll learn the “reasons for” abortions — but they’ll already have known about their safety for three years. When they’re 15, they’ll be exposed to direct “advocacy to promote the right to and access to safe abortion.”
Holy smokes. (H/T Michelle Malkin.)
3. As Mark Tapscott reports, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service appears to contradict Obama’s claim that health care reform will not cover illegal aliens. Again, as discussed in yesterday’s morning report, the distinction may be between what the bill mandates explicitly and what it permits implicitly. While there is no specific mandate to cover illegal aliens, there is no attempt to limit participation in the health-care exchanges the bill creates to those who can prove citizenship. Anybody could participate in the health care exchanges, citizen or not.
So, quite apart from the question of whether illegal immigrants should be covered, again it seems that the “lies and distortions” are, on second analysis, more reasonable than they first appeared. Again, the President is right that an honest and balanced conversation about health care reform is not taking place. It’s not taking place in part because of those on the Right who are willing to play fast and loose with their language in order to rally opposition against the bill. But it’s also taking part because of those on the Left who are fudging the complex facts in order to rally support. To claim that only one side is letting rhetoric outstrip reality is to admit to blindness by ideology.
4. In the same spirit, it’s interesting to read about this letter that GE sent its employees, inviting them to donate to GEPAC. GE is the biggest corporate lobbyist in the country. Last year, slightly over half of its donations were to Democrats–which makes sense, since the company wants to hedge its bets, and yet Democrats were also the odds-on favorites to do well. This year, 2 out of 3 of its donation dollars goes to Democrats. It just goes to show that the party in power will receive the greater portion of the lobbyist money. There’s nothing essentially wrong with a company representing its interests in Washington. It is a protected form of free speech. Yet the more that one expands the power of the government, reaching further and further into what used to be the private sector, the more lobbying will take place, because the more companies will find their fates in the hands of the government.
5. The Right is often justly criticized for making a bigger deal of deficits now than it did during the Bush administration. Many did express concern about deficits during Bush, of course, but said the deficits were acceptable in the short term to respond to the global war on terror and the post-9/11 economic crisis. Prior to last year’s economic crisis, deficits had fallen to a few hundred billion dollars–still too high, for my blood, but nothing like the deficits we see now. Bush is partly responsible for the deficits of 2009, of course, but only through efforts that Democrats (including Senator Obama) supported, and continued, such as TARP; after Bush, moreover, the rate of proposed spending has gone through the roof.
The Wall Street Journal speaks today about the special problem with the “Obama-Pelosi Deficits.” It’s one thing to accept deficits in order to cut taxes that spur economic growth and ultimately increase tax receipts. In the years after the Bush tax cuts, the expansion of the economy led to yearly records in tax receipts. It’s also one thing to accept deficits in order to win wars, especially when those wars are necessary and temporary. Yet deficits that extend into an indefinite future, and that will not do anything to spur economic growth (and may even harm growth) are another matter altogether. “The real fiscal crisis in Washington is that neither Congress nor the White House are offering any escape from these trillion-dollar deficits.”
A deficit is a deficit, in my mind. And Republicans were wrong to pass new entitlements like Medicare Part D without providing some means of funding. The question is whether there is any good reason to believe that that the current deficit will be temporary and counteracted by a later surplus. I have confidence in neither party along these lines, but it is possible that the Republican party will recover enough of its small-government principles, in the current environment, to ride those principles to victory and reestablish some fiscal sanity. Or it’s possible that a thorough drubbing in 2010 will lead Obama and the Democrats to create a path to fiscal sustainability before the 2012 elections. One way or the other, this country is headed toward fiscal ruin if it cannot change a political culture that thrives on increasing spending and expanding entitlements all the while constraining the growth of the private sector with one tax and one regulation after another.
6. To stay on this same theme, the WSJ article mentioned above explains why even the CBO mis-summer estimate of $9T in deficits for 2010-2019 is a rosy estimate: it’s riddled with unrealistic assumptions. So, that’s right: the picture is even worse than $9 trillion in added deficits in the next 10 years. Why? Read on:
Here’s why. Many of the current budget assumptions are laughably implausible. Both the White House and CBO predict that Congress will hold federal spending at the rate of inflation over the next decade. This is the same Democratic Congress that awarded a 47% increase in domestic discretionary spending in 2009 when counting stimulus funds. And the appropriations bills now speeding through Congress for 2010 serve up an 8% increase in domestic spending after inflation.
Another doozy is that Nancy Pelosi and friends are going to allow a one-third or more reduction in liberal priorities like Head Start, food stamps and child nutrition after 2011 when the stimulus expires. CBO actually has overall spending falling between 2009 and 2012, which is less likely than an asteroid hitting the Earth.Federal revenues, which will hit a 40-year low of 14.9% of GDP this year, are expected to rise to 19.6% of GDP by 2014 and then 20.2% by 2019—which the CBO concedes is “high by historical standards.” This implies some enormous tax increases.
CBO assumes that some 28 million middle-class tax filers will get hit by the alternative minimum tax, something Democrats say they won’t let happen. CBO also assumes that all the Bush tax cuts disappear—not merely those for the rich, but those for lower and middle income families as well. So either the deficit is going to be about $1.3 trillion higher than Washington thinks, or out goes Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of not taxing those who make less than $250,000.
Peter Orszag, who should have lost his job by now, promises that the budget for 2010 will provide a path to fiscal sanity. Then why does this budget project massive deficits for as far as the eye can see? There is no magical formula. Either the government will have to slash its expenditures or it will have to raise its revenues, which means more of a strain on the private sector and less growth. We are practically handing economic leadership of the world on a platter to China.
7. Disgraced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, whose tearful confession was followed the next day by Michael Jackson’s death, lucked out again, as his Lieutenant Governor called a press conference to call for his resignation on the same day that Ted Kennedy passed away. He’s almost as lucky as Bill Richardson. The year-long federal investigation into Bill Richardson, which seriously hampered Richardson’s political aspirations within the Obama administration, has been “killed in Washington.” I’m sure the media will get right to the bottom of this potential “politicization of the Justice Department,” just like they were all over the confounding dismissal of charges against the Black Panthers who sought to prevent whites from voting in Philadelphia.
8. Republicans have been taking a beating, at least in the liberal portions of major media, for refusing to dance with the Obama administration and its allies in Congress. Some of this began when conservative intellectual William Kristol said that Republicans should not compromise with Democrats’ proposed health care reform, but should instead “go for the kill.” Ezra Klein, blogging wunderkind for the Washington Post, wrote as though this were merely about destroying Obama and winning back a Republican majority in 2010 or 2012. Yet Kristol had advocating going for the kill not with Obama, and not even with health-care reform, but with this particular health-care reform. The title of Kristol’s post, after all, was “Kill It, and Start Over.” Since he regarded the proposed reform as “terrible,” he advocated that Republican representatives should “throw the kitchen sink at the legislation” and start over. “We’re not giving up on health reform. Far from it. But the only way to pass health reform is first to get rid of the misbegotten efforts now before Congress…The Obama plan wouldn’t go into effect until 2012 anyway (except the tax increases, which would kick in in 2011). We have plenty of time to work next year on sensible and targeted health reform in a bipartisan way. But first we need to get rid of Obamacare. Now is the time to do so.”
Having read so much about what a vicious, un-American piece Kristol had penned, I was surprised to find what seemed pretty unobjectionable and consistent from Kristol’s point of view. I suspect liberals were upset largely because conservatives were refusing to help Democrats out of the mess they’d gotten themselves into.
Nonetheless, conservatives are still being hammered for not being more conciliatory. Consider this letter to the President from Anne Lamott, who has written some marvelous fiction. She writes, “We did not vote for you to see if you could get Chuck Grassley or Michael Enzi to date you. The spectacle of you wooing them fills us with horror and even disgust…And Mr. President, that is what the Republicans are saying to you: They are just not that into you, sir.”
Yet the problem is not that President Obama is trying so hard to woo Republicans; it’s that the Democrats, with super-majorities in both chambers of Congress, are racing to pass far-Left legislation that they would never be able to pass in a more divided government. Of course they are. The Democratic leadership, as shown by their voting records, are not centrists. And this is their moment. They want to pass liberal legislation, but they also want the impression of bipartisanship, or at least the impression of seeking bipartisanship, because they know that the “fat middle” of the American electorate prefers it when the two parties work together. It’s also much more effective PR. The law can be touted as bipartisan, and if some Republicans can be brought on board, then the rest can be painted as extremists; “see, even the adults in your own party agree with us.”
So of course conservatives are finding it hard to compromise. Chuck Grassley was ridiculed for saying that he would not vote for a bill if he were the only Republican to come on board. Yet that’s not what Grassley said. He said that if the bill were such that other Republicans would support it, then it would not be the sort of bill that he would support either. When MSNBC asked him, “If you have–if it’s something you believe…if you think this is a good deal, and overall because of the politics of the situation you can’t get more Republicans on board, you’re going to go ahead and vote against it[?]” Grassley rejected the premise. “It isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans.” It’s also rather silly for Democrats to expect Grassley to give up so much negotiating ground before negotiations have even begun. Grassley is saying that, as the representative of Republicans in this legislation, he is seeking, and with a change this massive he believes we should have, something that passes in a broadly bipartisan manner. “I’m negotiating for Republicans and if I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a very good representative of my party.”
Jennifer Rubin from Commentary summarizes the issue thus: “The pressure to find some middle ground on cap and trade, ObamaCare, financial regulation, and an uber-consumer protection agency will become intense. But the Republicans would be foolish to provide cover for and assist Democrats in pursuit of a goal — more government — which is at odds with the wishes of a majority of Americans, including those critical independent voters. And oh yes, it’s never a good idea to vote in ways contrary to your party’s stated core message.” Collegiality does not require that one cast a vote against the wishes of a majority of Americans, against the wishes of the people one represents, and against one’s core values.
Let me put it this way: if Republicans controlled both chambers and the White House and sought to fully privatize health care, would liberals want Democratic Senators to vote for it? Not parallel, you might say, since the Democrats are not seeking to fully governmentalize health care. Yet I could also ask: How many Democrats voted for privatized social security accounts? That too was a partial change, yet liberals feared that it would lead toward a more thoroughgoing change.