Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Political Digest for August 16, 2011

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

Coburn’s cuts: Taking on Medicare and Medicaid
Excerpt: Coburn, a doctor, has some strong ideas about Medicare and Medicaid, which, he said, provide “health-care coverage for approximately one in five Americans and, along with Social Security, make up the backbone of the federal safety net.” Among his proposals: raising the entry age for Medicare; means-testing beneficiary payments; raising some premiums for all seniors; increasing funding for investigating fraud and abuse of both systems; and freezing for 10 years the Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. Why such dramatic steps? Coburn agrees with the Congressional Budget Office that the dramatic growth of federal spending on health care is “the single greatest threat to budget stability.” “Medicare and Medicaid consume one in five federal tax dollars,” according to Coburn, who adds, “Taxpayers lose an estimated $100 billion a year to waste, fraud and abuse in the two programs, which is the combined annual budget of three entire federal departments — Transportation, Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development.”

Obama approval rating hits new low in latest Gallup tracking poll
Excerpt: President Obama's approval rating hit an all-time low on Sunday in the Gallup Poll's rolling average of public opinion of the president. Thirty-nine percent of Americans said they approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, eclipsing a previous low point of 40 percent from the Aug. 6-8 edition of the poll. Fifty-four percent of Americans said they disapprove of the president's job performance, also an ignominious distinction for being a high point in Gallup's tracking poll.

2011 Cost of Government Day: August 12
Excerpt: Every year, Americans for Tax Reform Foundation publishes its Cost of Government Day report, which calculates the day on the calendar year until which the average American must work to pay for the full costs of government spending and regulation. The study is available online at www.CostOfGovernmentDay.com “Highlights” of the report are as follows: Overall government burden: This year, Cost of Government Day falls on August 12, meaning Americans labor a full 224 days into the year to pay for local, state and federal government spending and regulations. Impact of Obama overspending: Americans have lost 29 days of the calendar year thanks to Obama’s overspending and regulatory zeal. (Slavery, by definition, is when a person is forced to work, with the fruits of his labor going to the benefit of someone else. ~Bob.)Retirement
*                               Environment
United States Must Broaden Tax Base
Excerpt: Over the past three decades, the distribution of U.S. tax liability has become more skewed. A rising percentage of citizens pay few or no federal taxes so that a smaller share of the citizenry increasingly bears the tax burden. According to researchers, the skewed distribution of the U.S. tax liability is correlated with higher debt and greater entitlement spending, says the Mercatus Center. Tax policies in the United States have skewed the distribution of the tax liability so that a substantial portion of the population pays little or no federal taxes, while a smaller and smaller share of the population is liable for more and more of the taxes. These trends do not appear to raise total spending, but do affect government debt and the programs on which the government spends. As the distribution of tax liability has become more intensified on those with high incomes and less intensified on those with low incomes, the U.S. debt-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio has risen, as have the ratios of entitlement spending to GDP and the total budget. These results support the contention that if the United States is to get its fiscal house in order, the tax laws will have to be changed to broaden the base, just as President Obama's deficit reduction commission has argued. Since currently there are no constitutional constraints on deficit spending, research calls for policymakers to broaden the tax base so that more citizens will feel the cost of deficit spending and to take action to reduce the associated tax burdens. When the tax-price of government services is zero, more will always be demanded.

Counting Up ObamaCare's Health Cost Inflation
It’s time to add yet another study to the growing list of research showing that ObamaCare isn’t delivering on its grand promises. In the July issue of the journal Health Affairs, Medicare’s actuaries released new estimates of the rate of growth of national health costs. Surprise, surprise — they’re projected to increase over the next decade. The bad news for ObamaCare’s proponents? ObamaCare won’t help contain health costs, as the president so often claimed while lobbying for passage of his reform package. Instead, it will exacerbate them. Remember his oft-repeated statement that his plan would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” As the CBO rightly explained, premiums will rise by $2,100. Researchers estimate that health care spending will grow an average of 5.8% per year through 2020. The actuaries found that total health care costs in this country will hit $4.6 trillion by the end of the decade — equivalent to about one-fifth of the entire U.S. economy. That’s about $14,000 in annual spending for every man, woman, and child.

Health Alert: Why Profit Is Our Best Friend
Excerpt: One reason why entrepreneurs do what they do is that they want to become rich. I don't think that getting rich is the main motivation. The possibility of innovating in order to change the world may be an even stronger desire for most of them. But you can almost guarantee there will be no entrepreneurship if you do two things: (a) eliminate all possibility of getting rich, and (b) make it impossible to change anything without the approval of an intractable bureaucracy. That in a nutshell is my explanation for why our two most visibly dysfunctional social systems -- health care and public education -- remain so dysfunctional. I meet entrepreneurs in health care almost every day. Their novel ideas are invariably focused on helping some entity -- a hospital, insurer, employer, etc. -- solve a problem. They are rarely focused on how to solve an overall social problem, however. Yet because our health care system is so dysfunctional, in solving the problem for a client, they may be making our social problems worse than they would have been. Solving social problems in health care with innovative policy proposals is what I do. It is a lonely field. But it would be a lot less lonely if we allowed people to get rich doing it.

Perry's Problematic Pals
Excerpt: Perry promises to fix all that: "We'll create jobs. We'll get America working again. We'll create jobs and we'll build wealth, we'll truly educate and innovate in science, and in technology, engineering and math. We'll create the jobs and the progress needed to get America working again." Sounds good. But Perry has been sucked into the propaganda vortex, and is now wielding his enormous power to influence changes in the schoolrooms and in the curricula to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam. He is a friend of the Aga Khan, the multimillionaire head of the Ismailis, a Shi'ite sect of Islam that today proclaims its nonviolence but in ages past was the sect that gave rise to the Assassins. Perry has concluded at least two cooperation agreements between the state of Texas and the Ismailis, including a comprehensive program to feed children in Texas public schools and taqiyya nonsense about how Islam is a religion of peace. Another agreement stipulates that Texas officials will work with the Ismailis in the "fields of education, health sciences, natural disaster preparedness and recovery, culture and the environment." Perry let on that this was all about whitewashing Islam's bloody historical and modern-day record: "traditional Western education speaks little of the influence of Muslim scientists, scholars, throughout history, and for that matter the cultural treasures that stand today in testament to their wisdom." It gets worse. Last March, Perry gave a speech in Dallas in the company of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist was close to George W. Bush, and Perry's anti-tax, anti-Big Government rhetoric sounds like it's right out of Norquist's playbook. But there is a dark side to Norquist as well: Norquist's ties to Islamic supremacists and jihadists have been known for years. He and his Palestinian wife, Samah Alrayyes -- who was director of communications for his Islamic Free Market Institute until they married in 2005 -- are very active in "Muslim outreach." Six weeks after 9/11, The New Republic ran an exposé explaining how Norquist arranged for George W. Bush to meet with fifteen Islamic supremacists at the White House on September 26, 2001 -- to show how Muslims rejected terrorism.

A Devastating Blow to Obamacare
Excerpt: Obamacare has suffered a devastating blow. On Friday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate in President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation is unconstitutional. With its ruling, the court affirmed the principle that the Constitution means what it says—Congress does not have unfettered power to force the American people to comply with any and all dictates it creates. The federal government's argument in favor of Obamacare's individual mandate, in contrast, is without limit—and it's a position that the court strongly rejected: The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power….

Politicians try to restore prosecutorial powers that the Supreme Court killed
Excerpt: Ronald Reagan once joked that one way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it. If only the latest ideas moving through Congress in the name of fighting public corruption were jokes. Since the Supreme Court limited the definition of "honest services" fraud in last year's landmark Skilling v. U.S., the Obama Administration has been looking for a way to restore essentially unlimited prosecutorial discretion to bring white-collar cases. Last fall Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told a Senate committee that Congress should act to "remedy" the Court's decision. Three bills moving through the House and Senate would try to do so, expanding the reach of prosecutors to go after unpopular politicians or businesses whom they can't pin with a real crime. In Skilling, the Supreme Court ruled that the honest services statute was "unconstitutionally vague" and restricted its application to clear cases of bribery or kickbacks. The new legal template of Senate bills sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, the liberal Democrat, and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk would end run that change, transforming many state or local ethics violations into federal felonies any time there is an allegation of undisclosed "self-dealing." A related House bill would expand the reach of mail- and wire-fraud statutes and loosen the requirements for proving federal bribery. (Look at the authors of the Bill- There is trouble right there. What I see is a corrupt government like the Obama Administration using this as a weapon against political opponents, all the while committing the same violation themselves. "Prosecutorial Discretion" Isn't that what Holder called letting the Black Panthers go? More like "Malfeasance in Office"! –Dave H.)

A Cold War Missile Treaty That's Doing Us Harm
Excerpt: 'Treaties, you see, are like girls and roses: They last while they last." So said Charles de Gaulle a half-century ago, but he could have been describing the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement signed by the United States and the Soviet Union. The INF Treaty has far outlived its usefulness in its current form—so it should either be changed or thrown out. The Cold War strategic reality that existed in 1988 has passed into history. And yet the U.S. (and Russia) remain constrained by the INF Treaty's terms, even while today's strategic threats—China, Iran and North Korea—come from states outside the treaty. Despite the Kremlin's growing propensity for international troublemaking, both Moscow and Washington have a common interest in not having their hands tied by a treaty that binds them alone. The INF Treaty (which Russia accepted as binding upon the Soviet Union's collapse) prohibits the possession of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. It created an extensive verification regime, and while there were several serious problems with Soviet compliance, they were addressed and ultimately resolved satisfactorily. All Soviet and U.S. INF-range missiles—over 2,500—were verifiably eliminated by the 1991 deadline.

Scientists Expose Inside Job Behind Endangered Species Scam
Excerpt: But that was before the listing proposal for the dunes sagebrush lizard threatened a large segment of U.S. domestic oil production and the economies of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Rallies in opposition to the listing have drawn hundreds of irate citizens, hearings on the matter have had overflow crowds, and the public register has pages and pages of public comment. Both ABC and Fox News have done stories on the lizard Acting on the outrage of his constituents and using his law enforcement background, New Mexico State Representative Dennis Kintigh gathered a group of independent scientists—several from area universities—who have spent the last several months reviewing the science underlying the listing. Their report will be released in a public meeting on Monday, August 15, in Artesia, New Mexico, in a roundtable format with the scientists available for questions.

Pakistan let China see crashed U.S. "stealth" copter
Excerpt: Pakistan gave China access to the previously unknown U.S. "stealth" helicopter that crashed during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May despite explicit requests from the CIA not to, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The disclosure, if confirmed, is likely to further shake the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which has been improving slightly after hitting its lowest point in decades following the killing of bin Laden. During the raid, one of two modified Blackhawk helicopters, believed to employ unknown stealth capability, malfunctioned and crashed, forcing the commandos to abandon it. (How many billions do we send them? ~Bob.)

Rev. Jackson would condone flash mob attacks
Excerpt: Soft targets. That's what the rampaging, villainous mob of black youths who attacked white victims at the Wisconsin State Fair were looking for. The back-story: in early August the Wisconsin State Fair opened in the town of West Allis, which is pretty darned near Milwaukee. The first night, a fight broke out. According to some news reports, the initial fisticuffs involved black youths fighting black youths. Somewhere along the line, some of the young combatants took the notion to make the fracas an interracial thing. Some young blacks started attacking whites. It seemed like a repeat of some incidents in Chicago a couple of months ago and, though not as publicized, in Baltimore a few years back when bands of black youths attacked white tourists near the city's famous Inner Harbor. Many have asked what inspired this spate of black-on-white mob attacks. The most obvious answer is the one we don't want to mention. Plain, simple racism. I don't know what else to call it when mobs of blacks single out whites to attack. But there still exists this notion that blacks can't be racists. Racism requires power, the thinking goes. Since blacks have no power, they can't be racists. Such nonsense is bad enough when left-wing loonies and Black Nationalist types parrot it. But the Rev. Jesse Jackson is a prominent black leader. He, at least, should know better. (If the folks being beaten have “the power,” how come they are being beaten? Probably need to say this is by a black writer. ~Bob.)

71% Think Private Sector Better Than Government At Measuring Technology Potential
Excerpt: Voters show very little confidence in the federal government when it comes to picking winners in the technology industry. Seventy-one percent (71%) of Likely U.S. Voters say private sector companies and investors are better than government officials when it comes to determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that a mere 11% have more faith in government officials when it comes to picking new technologies, while 17% are not sure which would do better.

Why Rick Perry Won't Win
Excerpt: Perry is unquestionably a very good, very shrewd politician. He has access to lots of money. And he can deliver a pretty good speech. My beloved wife just finished listening to his announcement speech and told me, "He's my favorite Republican right now." When I grimaced, she just gave me a scary look. Scary because it's the look that means she sees something that's invisible to a committed partisan like me. But enough of that. I've covered my ass enough. Here are the top ten reasons why, despite all this, I think Perry is a weaker candidate than he's being made out to be:

Perry: The GOP Front-Runner
Excerpt: Last weekend’s Ames straw poll made for great political theater, but the important action was taking place in South Carolina and New Hampshire, where Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his presidential campaign. Perry, the straight-talking three-term governor, is bringing to the race a message and biography that couldn’t contrast any more starkly with President Obama’s. He grew up in rural Paint Creek, Texas, farming cotton in his early years, and attending the state’s land-grant university, Texas A&M. Obama went to Harvard Law School, earned his political chops in Chicago, spending much of his early career in academia. Perry has governed a low-tax, low-regulation state at a time when the president has sought to expand government’s role in the economy. The Texas governor's blunt advocacy of conservatism and faith-tinged rhetoric couldn’t be any different from Obama’s nuanced rhetoric and cautious governing style. And he’s going to be bragging about his record of job creation in Texas, compared to the economic stagnation that’s been prevalent nationwide. The money line from his kickoff speech: "I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can." Those 18 words will define Perry's candidacy, and is a pitch-perfect appeal to a Republican primary and caucus electorate angry at Obama’s policies and a November electorate disenchanted about the lack of jobs and economic growth. If he becomes the nominee, it would also set up an epic general election with two divergent visions of the appropriate role for government in American life. The contest for the GOP nomination, meanwhile, is shaping up to be a compelling affair between Perry and Mitt Romney, the two heavyweights in the GOP field.

Want to know more about Rick Perry?
In the spirit of full disclosure: I am a Texan and live in a suburb of Dallas. I voted for Perry in each of the three gubernatorial elections since 2002 and I am a registered Republican and a conservative. So, you may consider those facts as you read through my summary of Perry’s “positives.” He’s not perfect, but I think that when his strengths and weaknesses are compared to his rivals, none has his combination of qualifications, experience, and record of successes. I’ve done quite a lot of research on Governor Perry and I’ve found lots of good and some not-so-good, and the good outweighs the not-so, so I’m not blindly following a messiah, I’m a realist supporting a man that (in my judgment) can beat Obama.

The Barbarians Inside Britain's Gates: All the young rioters will have had long experience with the justice system's efforts to confer impunity upon law breakers.
Excerpt: The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker's Transylvania. Indeed, well before the riots last week, respectable persons would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters. In Britain nowadays, the difference between ordinary social life and riot is only a matter of degree, not of type. A short time ago, I gave a talk in a school in an exquisite market town, deep in the countryside. Came Friday night, however, and the inhabitants locked themselves into their houses against the invasion of the barbarians. In my own little market town of Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, where not long ago a man was nearly beaten to death 20 yards from my house, drunken young people often rampage down one of its lovely little streets, causing much damage and preventing sleep. No one, of course, dares ask them to stop. The Shropshire council has dealt with the problem by granting a license for a pub in the town to open until 4 a.m., as if what the town needed was the opportunity for yet more and later drunkenness. If the authorities show neither the will nor the capacity to deal with such an easily solved problem—and willfully do all they can to worsen it—is it any wonder that they exhibit, in the face of more difficult problems, all the courage and determination of frightened rabbits?

Gun Rights Win in Florida: State Law Will Soon End Local Firearms Restrictions
Excerpt: Florida has decided to finally protect the 2nd Amendment at the state level and eliminate onerous restrictions that many municipalities and communities have enacted against gun Starting October 1st, any public official who passes or enforces gun regulations below the state level faces a $5,000 personal fine and could even be removed from office by the governor for enacting or enforcing local gun laws. While Florida has had a law on its books since 1987 that makes it illegal to pass gun regulations beyond state statutes, there was no enforcement mechanism in place. As a result, towns and cities have created ordinances at will. In the process, many of them have criminalized otherwise completely law-abiding citizens who unintentionally ran afoul of arbitrary, localized gun rules.

See a Robot Blow Up Suspicious Packages at John Boehner’s Office
Excerpt: Briefcases with handwritten signs attached were left at the front door of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio office, bringing out a bomb squad. Investigators in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester tell multiple media outlets that the bomb squad blew the cases apart on Sunday and found they contained only papers. No one was hurt. (In Tallahassee in the 1980s, we had a nice couple from Thomasville, GA in our Scottish dance group. He was a retired judge, but still sitting as needed. She was a never-to-be-retired southern lady. One day an unexpected package arrived. She couldn’t make out the return address, and, aware of recent bombings, called the police. They carted the box to an empty field and blew it up, destroying the antique picture frames she had forgotten she ordered from an antique shop. Thus starting a dispute with the shop over responsibility and some hilarity in the Scottish group. ~Bob.)

Obama takes shots at GOP field
Excerpt: President Obama kicked off his Midwestern bus tour on Monday blasting his would-be opponents in a campaign-style event in Minnesota. While White House officials have repeatedly insisted that Obama's trip is official business — a claim disputed by Republicans — the president clearly had politics on his mind, taking a thinly veiled shot at Mitt Romney and bringing up last week's Republican debate in Iowa.

The Ulsterman Report: Anybody Seen Obama’s Friend Tony Rezko?
Interesting. Makes some assumptions I haven’t seen sourced. ~Bob. Excerpt: Yet another hearing date has been delayed for the infamous Obama campaign fundraising-federal prison felon-Assyrian-American Tony Rezko. How very…convenient for Barack Obama. First, a bit of history to assist those unfamiliar with the details: Tony Rezko was once a high-rise political fundraising Chicago power broker who took a shine to a then youngish political up-and-comer named Barack Hussein Obama. The two men shared a common interest when Barack took a position at the Chicago firm of firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland – an entity well known for community activist shake-downs against corporate entities – though they would rather you describe it as “civil rights” litigation. Davis, Miner, Barhill & Galland represented Rezmar Corp. an entity managed by Allison S. Davis who was by then already deep in bed with Mr. Rezko. Both Davis and Rezko helped initiate the fundraising foundation that would eventually propel Barack Obama all the way to the White House. (Rezko was also equally involved with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who of course most recently was found guilty of his own laundry list of wrongdoing, and like Rezko, awaits sentencing. And yet, somehow Barack Obama, himself deeply involved politically and personally with both of these men, has managed to dance away from these federal investigations…) In the interim, as Obama rose to local, state, and eventual national political prominence, Tony Rezko found himself facing serious allegations of political corruption, money laundering, bribery…not a good guy – even by Chicago standards. Corrupt to the core. Yes, he donated to various Obama campaigns. Yes, he fundraised for Barack Obama. Yes, he gave an interesting assist in helping Obama purchase a very nice Chicago residential property at a then-under market discount, including assisting with a rather oddly structured Jumbo loan that benefited from the assistance of the now failed organized crime-linked Broadway Bank - quickly followed up by paying far above market price for a strip of land that separated Barack Obama’s just-purchased property from the adjoining property owned by soon-to-be convicted felon Tony Rezko’s wife. When details of this rather odd and suspect transaction became public (and quickly buried by the mainstream media), Obama simply indicated the transaction was “a mistake.

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