A Vital Healthcare Roadmap for Mitt Romney

Though constitutionally indefensible, Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to save ObamaCare might prove to be a blessing in disguise. By guaranteeing that the intensely unpopular law stays relevant through November, the ruling could ultimately save the Constitution by securing Barack Obama’s electoral defeat.
That is, if Mitt Romney seizes the opportunity.
Therein lies the problem: so far, Team Romney has played it dangerously safe, campaigning on a one-note economic message that has frustrated many of his supporters into asking him, as the Weekly Standard’sBill Kristol did on July 5, “to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running.”
The problem is amplified on healthcare. Throughout the primary, conservative activists excoriated Romney for the mandate-based plan he enacted in Massachusetts, decrying it as statism and fearing it would make Romney a hypocrite in attacking ObamaCare, leaving the campaign terrified of getting specific enough to invite comparisons of the two laws.
But that caution isn’t just excessive—it’s suicidal. As dissatisfied as voters are with the status quo, they know there’s more to it than the economy. And the case against the dangers of Obama’s second term is fatally incomplete without ObamaCare.
Contrary to the wisdom of overpaid GOP strategists, Mitt Romney can forcefully, comprehensively make that case—and contrary to the hysterics of the Anybody-But-Mitt crowd, he can do it without flip-flopping on RomneyCare.
First, stress that ObamaCare is full of outrages that have no parallel in RomneyCare. For instance, the Congressional Research Service says it’s impossible to count how many new agencies and boards the law creates, making their potential harm unknowable and their accountability impossible. Hammer the scandalous irresponsibility of Democrats inflicting on us something noneofthemevenread, much less understand. Note that the Congressional Budget Office now says the whole shebang is now projected to cost anywhere from $1.76 trillion to $2.6 trillion over the next decade—considerably higher than its original $900 billion price tag. Think that’ll help our $15+ trillion debt, America?
Second, sound the alarm on how ObamaCare will worsen healthcare. Trumpet the results of surveys like the one Jackson Healthcare releasedin June, which found that 70% of doctors don’t think it’ll control costs, 61% doubt it’ll improve the quality of care, and 66% expect it to take decisions out of physicians’ hands; or the one the Doctor Patient Medical Association releasedin July finding that ObamaCare has led 83% of American doctors to consider quitting. Point out that it makes completely dropping insurance the most affordable option for many employers. Explain how it makes insurance costlier to micromanage what services plans must cover.
Third, debunk the lie that Romney and Obama’s healthcare records are equivalent. For example, Romney’s proposal would only have required Massachusetts residents to purchase basic catastrophic insurance, to offset the cost of their federally-guaranteed right to emergency care, and would not have included any employer mandate—vastly different from ObamaCare’s much broader (and therefore far pricier) mandate, which imposes on employer and employee alike broader plans covering things like birth control, maternity care, and drug abuse treatment. It was Massachusetts’ 85% Democrat legislature, overriding Romney’s vetoes, which pushed RomneyCare leftward on these points (Romney also unsuccessfully vetoed the final bill’s coverage for non-citizens and a new bureaucracy it created, the Public Health Council).
Finally, point out the biggest difference of all: while Romney was merely out to insure the uninsured, Obama sees ObamaCare as one step on the longer road to a full-blown single-payer system. Demand the president explain what he meant when he said, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process.” Ask how that squares with “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Rather than a liability, the true story of RomneyCare contrasts sharply with ObamaCare and illustrates the formidable expertise Mitt Romney would bring to healthcare reform as president. But only Romney can tell it.

Yes, Let’s Emulate the UK on Healthcare

Another healthcare horror story from across the pond (hat tip to WISN):
Nurses casually stepped over a patient as he lay dying on a  hospital floor.
Peter Thompson, 41, was left in a corridor for ten hours before someone noticed he had passed away.
In a final act of indignity, hospital auxiliaries pulled his lifeless body across the floor in a manner his family described as like ‘dragging a dead animal’.
The scenes which shame the NHS were all captured on CCTV. Staff thought Mr Thompson was merely drunk and left him to ‘sleep it off’.
Yesterday a coroner condemned the death as ‘wholly preventable’.
An inquest heard that the father-of-one, who had consumed a cocktail of drink and drugs, could have been saved had he received emergency treatment.  
The hospital’s accident and emergency department was just 200 yards away.
As WISN’s Justin Earl rightly notes, “these hospitals, doctors, and caregivers are overwhelmed, underfunded, and understaffed.” But those things can’t fully explain a dead body left unattended in a hallway for ten hours. Indifference to, or willfull avoidance of, human suffering ultimately stems from a crisis of moral decency.

New on NewsReal – She Who Governs Best Governs Most?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Feminist identity-politics arguments for increasing the number of women in public office usually rest on the premise that females have unique insight or sensitivity regarding issues like abortion, pay inequality, and education, without which disproportionately-male government cannot be trusted make sound, tolerant policy. But at the Daily Beast, Tony Dokoupil floats a new, more pragmatic argument, that according to a new American Journal of Political Science study, women simply get more stuff done:

The research is the first to compare the performance of male and female politicians nationally, and it finds that female members of the House rout their male counterparts in both pulling pork and shaping policy. Between 1984 and 2004, women won their home districts an average of $49 million more per year than their male counterparts (a finding that held regardless of party, geography, committee position, tenure in office, or margin of victory). The spending jump was found within districts, too, when women moved into seats previously occupied by men, and the cash was for projects across the spectrum, not just “women’s issues.”

A similar performance gap showed up in policy: Women sponsored more bills (an average of three more per Congress), co-sponsored more bills (an average of 26 more per Congress), and attracted a greater number of co-sponsors than their colleagues who use the other restroom. These new laws driven by women were not only enacted—they were popular. In a pair of additional working papers, led by Ohio State political scientists Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman, researchers tracked every bill introduced between 1981 and 2009, and found that those sponsored by women survived deeper into the legislative process, garnered more press attention, and were more likely to be deemed “important” overall. All of which leads the authors of the AJPS paper, University of Chicago Public Policy Professor Christopher Berry and his student and Stanford doctoral candidate Sarah Anzia, to conclude that it’s the women themselves—specifically, their skills at “logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building, and other deal-making activities”— that are responsible for the gender-performance divide.

After a century of American political thought all-but dominated by progressive assumptions about the nature and role of government, this is likely to strike many Americans as intuitively compelling. But conservatives should instantly recognize the problem here: success and effectiveness are measured by sheer number of new laws made and amount of money funneled back home, without regard for the merit or constitutionality of any of it. Dokoupil simply assumes as a given that “more” equals “better.”

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

Around the Web

Justice Antonin Scalia tells it like it is on the “right” to abortion.

Is the DEA worse than WikiLeaks? Crap like this is why I find it so difficult to take libertarians seriously.

The new Speaker of the House isn’t taking any bull from Harry Reid. Let’s hope things stay that way. (Hat tip: Eternity Matters)

Michelle Malkin has 10 simple rules for the GOP.

The PC police are going after Huck Finn. Where’s the anti-censorship crowd when you need it?

R. Lee Ermey disappoints his fans.

Not even good enough for government work: snow cleanup workers in the Big Apple trash a Jewish cemetery.

The feds find yet another crisis that demands their immediate attention: insufficiently-regulated garage sales.

The Democrats Hate Democracy

Exhibit A, courtesy of Charles Krauthammer:

A month ago, Medicare issued a regulation providing for end-of-life counseling during annual “wellness” visits. It was all nicely buried amid the simultaneous release of hundreds of new Medicare rules.


Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.,Ore.), author of Section 1233, was delighted. “Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated ‘a quiet victory,’ but urged supporters not to crow about it,” reports the New York Times. Deathly quiet. In early November, his office sent an e-mail plea to supporters: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists . . . e-mails can too easily be forwarded.” They had been lucky that “thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it. . . . The longer this regulation goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

So much for Democratic transparency — and for their repeated claim that the more people learn what is in the health-care law, the more they will like it. Turns out ignorance is the Democrats’ best hope.
And regulation is their perfect vehicle — so much quieter than legislation. Consider two other regulatory usurpations in just the last few days.
On December 23, the Interior Department issued Secretarial Order 3310, reversing a 2003 decision and giving itself the authority to designate public lands as “Wild Lands.” A clever twofer: (1) a bureaucratic power-grab — for seven years up through December 22, wilderness-designation had been the exclusive province of Congress, and (2) a leftward lurch — more land to be “protected” from such nefarious uses as domestic-oil exploration in a country disastrously dependent on foreign sources.
The very same day, the president’s Environmental Protection Agency declared that in 2011 it would begin drawing up anti-carbon regulations on oil refineries and power plants, another power grab effectively enacting what Congress had firmly rejected when presented as cap-and-trade legislation.

For an Obama bureaucrat, however, the will of Congress is a mere speed bump. Hence this regulatory trifecta, each one moving smartly left — and nicely clarifying what the spirit of bipartisan compromise that President Obama heralded in his post-lame-duck December 22 news conference was really about: a shift to the center for public consumption and political appearance only.

Read the rest. It’s an outrage that this country has gotten to a point where unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats can make de facto laws outside of the legislative process, contrary to the will of the people, and that a political party called Democratic of all names relies upon this sleazy, un-American, anti-democratic process to implement its agenda. Let’s hope the incoming Congress has at least a few Republicans who have the spine to call this out as the disgrace it is.

New on NewsReal – Yet Another Reason ObamaCare Is Even Worse Than You Think

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

I don’t think this is quite what outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted the American people thinking about when she said we needed to pass ObamaCare to “find out what’s in it,” but a new Daily Beast column by Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation is a perfect example of why that statement rightfully scared people half to death. Dalmia takes a look at aspects of the “reform” that haven’t gotten much attention thus far, but threaten to transform American healthcare into “one big entrapment scheme”:

[I]n an effort to offset [the “doc fix’s”] $20 billion price tag, it has included a little twist to squeeze working families called “exchange recapture subsidy.” Under this provision, the government will go after low-wage families to return any excess subsidies they get under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

When the government hands out subsidies, it will use a household’s income in the previous year as the basis for guessing what the household is qualified to get in the current year. But if the household’s income grows midyear, the subsidy recapture provision will require it to repay anywhere from $600 to $3,500, compared to the $450 that the law originally called for.

This will make it very hazardous for poor working families to get ahead. In the original law, the loss of subsidy with rising income already meant absurdly high effective marginal tax rates—the implicit tax on every additional dollar of income earned. How high? The Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon puts them at 229 percent for families of four who increase their earnings by an amount equal to 5 percent of the federal poverty level or $1,100. In other words, a family that added this amount to an income of $44,700 would actually see its total income fall by $1,419 due to the loss of subsidies.

The subsidy recapture provision—essentially a tax collection scheme—means that low-wage, cash-strapped families will have no escape from these perverse tax rates. Many of them will find themselves owing the government thousands of dollars in back taxes. Since it is unlikely that they will have this kind of money sitting around, they will face a massive incentive to either fudge their returns or work for cash to avoid reporting additional income. Either way, Uncle Sam will come after them, just as it does with recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the negative income tax scheme that is the inspiration behind Obamacare’s subsidies. In 2004, EITC recipients were 1.76 times more likely to be audited than others, no doubt because it is easier for the government to recover unpaid taxes from poor people than “lawyered up” rich people.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

How the Teachers’ Unions and Democrats Scam Taxpayers

Charles Lane, in the Washington Post:

By now, you’ve probably heard about the urgent teacher layoff crisis that threatens public education across America. Due to shrinking state and local budgets, up to 300,000 teachers could be laid off, with devastating educational consequences for our children, such as burgeoning class sizes. The only cure is $23 billion in fresh federal deficit spending, rushed through Congress as part of a bill to fund U.S. overseas military operations. “The urgency is high,” President Obama warned congressional leaders in a June 12 letter.

Don’t believe the hype.

Start with that scary number of 300,000 teacher layoffs, which has been bandied about in numerous newspaper articles. The sources for it are interested parties: teachers unions and school administrators, whose national organizations counted layoff warning notices that have already been sent out this spring and extrapolated from there. Notably, however, even these sources usually describe the threatened positions as “education jobs” – not teachers. That’s because the figures actually include not only kindergarten through 12th grade classroom instructors, but also support staff (bus drivers, custodians, et al.) and even community college faculty. And 300,000 is the upper end of a range that could be as low as 100,000. Nationwide, there are about 3.2 million K-12 public school teachers.

Moreover, springtime layoff notices are a notoriously unreliable guide to actual job cuts in the fall, because rules and regulations in many public school systems require administrators to notify every person who might conceivably be laid off — whether they actually expect to fire them or not. As the New York Times recently reported: “Everywhere, school officials tend to overestimate the potential for layoffs at this time of year, to ensure that every employee they might have to dismiss receives the required notifications.”

Given these facts, it’s unclear how the bill’s supporters came up with its $23 billion price tag. It works out to about $77,000 per job saved in the 300,000-layoff scenario, but $230,000 per job if only 100,000 jobs are at risk. Maybe that’s why the bill’s fine print allows states to spend any excess funds left over from education hiring on other state employees. By the way, the bill distributes funds to states according to how many residents they have, not how many threatened layoffs.

Read the rest here.

Christie Rising

Mona Charen’s recent column on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is well worth a read:

At a New Jersey town meeting, Gov. Chris Christie, the newest YouTube star for the limited government set, was reproached by an unhappy teacher. The governor, facing a budget shortfall of $11 billion, has proposed, among other economies, a one-year salary freeze for New Jersey teachers. Her voice raised in anger (that’s a normal speaking voice in my home state), Rita Wilson protested that she should be paid $83,000, the only reasonable compensation in light of her “education and experience.” Christie’s reply got an ovation: “Well, you know what? Then you don’t have to do it.”

Meet the newest conservative hero: The Trenton Truth-Teller!

That exchange with the teacher, along with other greatest hits available on YouTube of the blunt yet friendly governor’s first five months, highlight a political opportunity for Republicans.

First, the problem: How can smaller-government Republicans win elections when more and more Americans are receiving government benefits while fewer and fewer are paying taxes? In 2010, 47 percent of Americans paid no income taxes at all. Among those who do pay taxes, most pay comparatively little. Both parties have agreed to make the tax code more steeply progressive in the past two decades, to the point where the top 20 percent of earners, those with incomes above $100,000, pay 70 percent of all taxes. Accordingly, the tax issue has lost some of its political purchase.

But as Christie is demonstrating, voters are open to a new fairness argument.

Read the rest here.

Why Let Reality Get in the Way of a Good Meme?

When we last left Self-Defeating Left-Wing Zealot Scott, he was making an ethically-challenged fool of himself over abortion.  This evening, while browsing Boots & Sabers (which I really need to get back in the habit of reading more often – sorry Owen!), I came across the following comment from our pal:

Many conservatives eschew expert opinion in the first place, so what’s the big deal?  Everything from CBO reports to scientific opinion—it just doesn’t matter because you can’t trust those eggheads.  Me, I’m a big fan of learning.  I like to acknowledge someone else’s expertise and learn from it.

Again, the only proper response is:

For good measure, background behind his bull about the CBO can be found here & here, and about “scientific opinion” here.