Announcing A.T.I.N.’s Much-Coveted Endorsement: Romney for President

Months ago it became clear that I was not going to fall in love with anybody in the Republican field.  Ronald Reagan wasn’t coming back.

Chris Christie produces echoes of the Great Communicator, but he never had any intention of running.

I tried to generate some enthusiasm for Tim Pawlenty, but I didn’t work hard at it because he showed no signs of getting any traction.

When Rick Perry belatedly got into the race, I took a hard look at him.  Too much of a social conservative for my taste, but that would help him with part of the Republican base, and I liked the fact that he had governed a very large state.  But he started chewing on his toes almost immediately, and ultimately it seemed almost like he didn’t even want the job.

I was sorry to see Herman Cain flame out, but I sure didn’t want him to get the nomination.  He would have complicated the Left’s phony “racism” gambit, but he clearly had given very little thought to foreign affairs — the most important arena for any president.

When Newt Gingrich debuted as the not-Romney flavor of the week, I was surprised — I thought his campaign blew up months ago.  (Or maybe years ago.)  I figured he would fade quickly, but he’s already held on at the head of the polls longer than I expected — and the Iowa caucuses are only three weeks away.

As one prominent Republican after another steps forward to remind us that Gingrich is a hothead, Ross Douthat explains why the former Speaker’s vaunted debating skills hold little promise of overcoming President Obama’s incumbancy advantage:

Gingrich might debate circles around Obama. He might implode spectacularly, making a hot mess of himself while the president keeps his famous cool. But either way, setting up a grand rhetorical showdown seems unlikely to supply a disillusioned country with what it’s looking for from Republicans in 2012.

Conservatives may want catharsis, but the rest of the public seems to mainly want reassurance. They already know Barack Obama isn’t the messiah he was once cracked up to be. What they don’t know is whether they can trust anyone else to do better.

Last year, when the President and his party were foisting Obamacare on an unwilling public, the conventional wisdom was that Romney couldn’t possibly win the Republican nomination because he had implemented something similar in Massachusetts.  That made sense to me, and Romneycare is part of the reason Republicans have been flirting with one not-Romney after another for months.

But if Romney wins the nomination, I think he’ll be able to differentiate himself from Obama on healthcare pretty easily. It’s one thing to launch an experiment in a single state with broad bipartisan support.  It’s quite another to annex one-sixth of the nation’s economy without a single Republican vote in either house of Congress.

The other Republican complaint about Romney is that he isn’t conservative enough. But that also means he has a better chance of defeating Obama in a center-right nation.

Is America ready for a president who adheres to a faith that is only slightly older and slightly more reputable than Scientology?  Only time will tell, but there are 15 Mormons currently in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and I don’t think the Democrats should bank on the religion issue.

The saying is, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” — and any sitting president is a somebody.  Romney’s not exactly charismatic or inspirational, and the risk is that he becomes the Republican analog to John Kerry.  Lots of people voted against George Bush in 2004, but hardly anybody voted for Kerry.

But Romney has a strong record of executive leadership, both in business and government.  It’s his second trip through the crucible of a presidential campaign, so there presumably are no skeletons left in the closet.  He has the best chance of beating Obama, and the country literally can’t afford four more years of this administration.

Ever since I realized that Michele Bachmann had no chance, I’ve told people that I’ll be voting for “whichever flawed candidate the Republicans nominate.”  Today I’m endorsing the flawed candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Obama’s “I Blame George Bush” Act Is Growing Old

To enlarge the graphic, click on it, then click on it again

More than 30 months into the era of Obamanomics, the administration is still desperately seeking to blame all of the nation’s woes on George W. Bush. They’re getting less and less traction with that argument — Obama’s approval rating just hit a new low of 40%, according to Gallup’s tracking poll.

But Bush has been the go-to guy in Obama’s blame game since the beginning, and the administration keeps trying.  Megan McArdle, a consistently insightful economics columnist for the Atlantic, dissects a chart published by the White House this week that purports to show that of the $12.7 trillion added to the national debt over the past decade, $7 trillion is attributable to the Bush administration, with only $1.4 trillion attributable to Obamanomics.

[T]his graph attributes decisions made by Obama and an all-Democratic Congress–like doubling down in Afghanistan–to Bush, while taking responsibility for basically nothing except the stimulus.  When Obama extends the Bush tax cuts for the rich under pressure from Congressional Republicans, that disappears from his side of the ledger, because after all, he didn’t want to do it.  When Bush enacts Medicare Part D under pressure from Congressional Democrats, the full cost is charged against his presidency.  The list of such silliness goes on.  Our president seems set to coin another presidential motto: “The duck starts here.”

McArdle answers with charts of her own, showing that the deficit, which never reached more than about 3% of GDP during the eight years of the Bush administration, has ballooned to 10% of GDP after less than three years of the Obama administration.

Nor is it exactly obvious to look at the $2.4 trillion in additional debt incurred during Bush’s eight-year presidency, and say that he is nonetheless actually responsible for $7 trillion of our current debt load–and then turn to the $3.1 trillion of debt incurred during Barack Obama’s three-year presidency, and declare that his policies are actually responsible for only $1.4 trillion.

Obama needs a new scapegoat, and the administration has been fitting the House Republicans for that suit.  I worried three weeks ago that the Republicans — having forced Obama to concede that entitlement cuts are on the table — would hold out for no debt increase and get blamed for a government shutdown.

The GOP still could get blamed, of course — Newt Gingrich & Co. were blamed in 1994 even though Bill Clinton’s veto actually triggered the shutdown.  But now the House Republicans have voted not once but twice to raise the debt ceiling, overruling the Tea Partiers among them.

K-Lo describes the path forward from here:

So what does the new path look like? This tweaked Budget Control Act will pass the House. The Senate will strip out the BBA language. It will pass the Senate. When it goes back to the House, Boehner loses some of his caucus again, but Pelosi will have to get some of her members on board. If this is such a crisis moment, Democrats are the party in power. Boehner negotiated with his caucus and got an imperfect bill that the Democratic Senate could work with — with a statement of principles in it including the BBA. Then the Democrats, who do run Washington, after all, will have to step up to the plate.

Ball’s in your court, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, in other words.

The Senate already has tabled the Boehner bill, but pressure to accept one of the two House plans may rise over the weekend, leading to the scenario K-Lo describes.  Let’s hope so.  Then the election can go back to being about the phony stimulus and the wildly unpopular Obamacare.  Everybody knows who to blame for that.


So what does the new path look like? This tweaked Budget Control Act will pass the House. The Senate will strip out the BBA language. It will pass the Senate. When it goes back to the House, Boehner loses some of his caucus again, but Pelosi will have to get some of her members on board. If this is such a crisis moment, Democrats are the party in power. Boehner negotiated with his caucus and got an imperfect bill that the Democratic Senate could work with — with a statement of principles in it including the BBA. Then the Democrats, who do run Washington, after all, will have to step up to the plate.

Ball’s in your court, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, in other words.

“Catastrophic Success: The Perils of a ‘Do-Everything’ Democratic Congress”

Because only one-third of the Senators face the voters in any given election, it was mathematically impossible for the Republicans to pick up enough seats in 2010 for a veto-proof majority that would allow them to overturn Obamacare altogether.  In the event, the GOP had to settle for a minority that increased enough to sustain a filibuster.

So now the strategy is to delay and defund the worst components of Obamacare whenever possible, while waiting for the courts and the election cycle to take care of the rest.

In the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery does the best job I’ve seen of explaining how health care “reform” could continue to backfire on Obama and the Democrats.  I couldn’t improve on her headline, so I put it in quotes at the top of this post.  You really should read the whole thing, but of course you won’t, so here are some excerpts:

[S]eldom before has an administration governed so against the grain of public opinion, and when this occurs, there are costs. The costs are the loss of the House by a landslide of epic proportions and the implosion of support for the president’s party. The success is the passage of Obama-care, which liberals believed would change things forever. Congresses come and go, so they said, while a historic reform is forever: It would live on, they averred, while the results of the midterms would blow off quite quickly. But even before the Eastern District Court of Virginia blew a large hole in Obamacare in early December, finding its individual mandate unconstitutional, there were signs that this bargain was taking on water.

Because the historic GOP tsunami occurred in a Census year, Republicans will have significantly more influence over the gerrymandering process than they would have otherwise.

Added to this, Obama now faces hostile state governments in all the swing states he won two years ago, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. He has to win most of these, or else he’s a goner.

The GOP-dominated House undoubtedly will pass an outright repeal of all or most of Obamacare, which will never get to the Senate floor for a vote.  However,

The House will make life hard for the Democrats in the Senate, 23 of whom are up for reelection in 2012 [versus only 10 Republican senators-KP], and 13 of whom come from states in which Obamacare is extremely unpopular and which took a sharp turn to the right in the recent midterm elections. It will force them to vote over and over on health care, choosing between their constituents and their party and president, knowing their “aye” votes will find their way into commercials run by their GOP challengers, and their “nay” votes will enrage their own party’s base. When they voted “aye” for the first time (in December 2009) it was bad enough, but they had no way of knowing that the endgame would become quite so ugly, that the act itself would become quite so unpopular, or that Obama would become quite so unable to save them from voters’ hostility; now they know all of these things.

The sweeping nature of the Democrats’ health care “victory” will work against them.

Along with the lawsuits, and fights in the House and statehouses, there seems to exist a distinct possibility that the act may collapse of its weight. Assembled in haste​​—​one might say desperation​​—​and larded with deals to secure votes and backing, it is a 2,000-plus page assemblage of time bombs with varying fuse lengths that are starting to blow up in succession, causing large numbers of people inconvenience, or money, or both. … “Firms Feel Pain from Health Law” ran a recent article in the Wall Street Journal describing the problems faced by large and middle-sized businesses in trying to understand, much less to comply with, the act.

“There’s [an] administrative burden just to try and understand the 2,400 pages,” said one executive, describing the pain of spending so much time and money on things that aren’t helping their companies grow. Because of this, among other reasons, the bill continues to grow more unpopular, as six in ten people now favor repeal.

Looking ahead to 2012:

If a Republican is elected in 2012, then health care is history. If health care is the issue, Obama will lose. If all things are equal, and it is an issue, a loss is still likely. If the economy rebounds strongly, Obama will probably win. But if it doesn’t, and he loses because of this reason, then health care will have helped do him in. Businesses are sitting on loads of cash these days, reluctant to invest and add jobs until they know what will happen with regulations and taxes under this new health care dispensation, which may take effect, be radically altered in the states or by Congress, or be blown away by the courts.

To paraphrase King Pyrrhus, another such victory and the Democrats are undone.


Along with the lawsuits, and fights in the House and statehouses, there seems to exist a distinct possibility that the act may collapse of its weight. Assembled in haste​​—​one might say desperation​​—​and larded with deals to secure votes and backing, it is a 2,000-plus page assemblage of time bombs with varying fuse lengths that are starting to blow up in succession, causing large numbers of people inconvenience, or money, or both. Almost every provision seems to have some part that conflicts with another or contrives in some way to screw up the market in ways hitherto unforeseen. Increased costs are causing employers to drop people from coverage, to charge more for coverage, or to drop drug coverage for employees’ children. Thus far, 222 waivers have been granted to members of interest groups who favor the Democrats, enabling them to opt out of parts of the plan that might become onerous. Doctors are planning to shutter their practices. The promises made by Obama​—​about being able to keep your own plan or doctor​—​are turning out to be hollow. “Firms Feel Pain from Health Law” ran a recent article in the Wall Street Journal describing the problems faced by large and middle-sized businesses in trying to understand, much less to comply with, the act.

“There’s [an] administrative burden just to try and understand the 2,400 pages,” said one executive, describing the pain of spending so much time and money on things that aren’t helping their companies grow. Because of this, among other reasons, the bill continues to grow more unpopular, as six in ten people now favor repeal. “It’s looking more and more as if [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] as passed is simply not politically (or practically) stable,” Megan McArdle wrote on the website of the Atlantic. “I think Democrats were counting on having more years to tweak it.  .  .  . That was a very dangerous gamble .  .  . considering how badly it did in the polls.” They counted on time to tweak it upward and left (assuming that history moves in just this direction), and now have to realize it will be tweaked downward and right, if it survives in the first place. And let us recall that all of their upbeat predictions​—​that Obama’s numbers would go up by 10 points once he signed it (Bill Clinton); that people would reward Democrats for having “proved they could govern”; that people would ignore or get over the process that was used to pass Obamacare; that it would be accepted and grow popular, like Social Security​—​have proved to be wrong.

Financial Services “Reform” to Complete Obama’s Tragic Trifecta

USA Today, an early pioneer of soundbite journalism in written form, is admirably concise in setting the stage for elections soon to come:

Obama will likely trumpet a new financial regulation bill — the biggest overhaul of the system since the Great Depression — as one of his major first-term accomplishments, along with health care and the stimulus plan.

Republicans will likely argue that all three bills threaten prospects for economic recovery.

Ya think?

ObamaCare is such a train wreck that Americans support repealing it by a 2-1 margin.  Don’t even get me started on the wasteful and dishonest Porkulus fiasco, which will continue to increase deficits for years after the “need” for financial stimulus has passed.

And now comes yet another 2,000-plus page bill, a financial services “reform” measure that does a lot of things — but fails to address the actual causes of the financial meltdown that began nearly two years ago and has us staggering still. Here’s blogger (and Nobel-prize-winning economist) Gary Becker on the bill’s shortcomings (H/T: Freakanomics):

One of the most serious omissions is that the bill essentially says nothing about Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. [KP Note: !?!?!?!?] In 2008 these organizations were placed into conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. During the run up to the crisis, Barney Frank and others in Congress encouraged Freddie and Fannie to absorb most of the subprime mortgages. In 2008 they held over half of all mortgages, and almost all the subprimes. They have absorbed even a larger fraction of the relatively few mortgages written after 2008. Freddie and Fannie deserve a considerable share of the blame for the crisis, but they continue to have strong political support. I would like to see both of them eventually dissolved, but that is unlikely to happen. Instead we are promised that they will be dealt with in future legislation, but I am skeptical that anything will be done to terminate either organization, or even improve their functioning.

Many proposals in the bill will have highly uncertain impacts on the economy. These include, among many other provisions, the requirement that originators of mortgages and other assets retain at least 5% of the assets they originate, that many derivatives go on organized exchanges (may be an improvement but far from certain), that hedge funds become more closely regulated, and that consumer be “protected” from their financial decisions.

Most of these and other changes in the bill are not based on a serious analysis of what contributed to the financial crisis, but rather are the result of political and emotional reactions to the crisis. Usually, such reactions do more harm than good. That is likely to be the fate of the great majority of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank bill.

In simple terms, the primary enabler of the financial meltdown was the fact that financial institutions had incentives to take huge risks, knowing that any catastrophe would be socialized by a government that would have no choice.  WSJ columnist Holman Jenkins today cites new academic research in arguing that the bill doesn’t change that:

What was obvious to common sense, the naked eye and the open ear is now systematically upheld in the research of finance professors. To wit, shareholders of large, publicly traded banks have a higher appetite for risk than is compatible with our regulatory system.

Down this path lies the beginning of wisdom on how we can live with banks, which alone among businesses have the potential to bring down entire economies. Too bad such wisdom is absent from the financial regulation bill now before Congress. …

Let us be realistic about one thing, since most of us aren’t running for office: “Bailout” has become a curse word in populist diction, but “too big to fail” isn’t going away just because regulators pretend next time they would fold their arms and let the system blow up.

The government will and should continue to come to the rescue in a panic. We need better incentives to avoid creating such situations in the first place. But that discipline won’t come from shareholders, who will happily create the next 100-to-1 leveraged financial institution if the potential rewards are great enough. Bank depositors and other leverage suppliers are the ones who must be mobilized to make the system safer.

“… banks, which alone among businesses have the potential to bring down entire economies.” There in a nutshell is why I favored the “bank bailout” (on which the taxpayers are making a profit, btw) while staunchly opposing the auto industry bailout.

Becker and Jenkins both describe an opportunity lost that actually would have led to a better alignment of risk and reward.  Jenkins is the better writer, let him tell it:

Perhaps the best idea, though, is to require financial firms to fund themselves partly with a special kind of debt that would automatically be converted to equity when a bank’s capital or liquidity are imperiled. These debtholders then would have an incentive to monitor not just the amount of leverage, but the quality of the risks a bank is pursuing.

Bingo.  But instead we get another mammoth bill, chock full of unintended consequences, that increases the size of government to no good end, while failing to fulfill its primary purpose.  Add to this the public anger over the gulf oil blowout — although I think on that count, criticism of Obama is unfair — and you can see why Peter Wehner says “it’s getting ugly for the Democrats.”

Zakaria Lays the Right Oily Blame at the Foot of the Wrong Target

Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek International and CNN is a bright man and an insightful commentator.  In this 2:26 video, he does as good a job as I’ve seen of describing the ridiculous spectacle that the gulf oil disaster has become — from President Obama’s demeaning efforts to appear sufficiently angry, to the temporary neglect  of other pressing issues where the president’s personal involvement might actually be helpful.  (Hat tip: Glen Gill)

But Zakaria blames this on the news media, and I think that gets it backwards.  Yes, the media has been milking the drama for everything it’s worth (Day 60!) — but that’s what the media does.  It’s up to Obama to keep the media tail from wagging the presidential dog.  I would much rather see Obama leave the oil crisis in the hands of the experts and stick to his scheduled visit with Asian allies — instead of blowing them off for the second time.

Sometimes a president has to rise above public opinion and do what’s right.  George Bush showed how to do that by insisting on the surge in Iraq in the face of intense public pressure — and it worked so well that his successor, who campaigned on a platform of surrender at all costs, had little choice but to stay the course.

I guess you could argue that Obama showed similar fortitude by sticking with the immensely unpopular health care “reform” legislation.  But I’d call that rising above public opinion to do what’s wrong.

ObamaCare, How Do We Hate Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Note to Congress:  Avoid passing bizarrely complicated, economy-transforming legislation that you have not read, especially in the face of overwhelming public opposition.  In The Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson describes the “steady stream of revelations of previously undiscovered horrors buried in the bowels of ObamaCare”:

Since passage, reports have revealed that ObamaCare would cost over $1 trillion by any standard, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not “merely” $940 billion as previously reported (while its total costs in its real first decade, 2014 to 2023, would continue to be well over $2 trillion); that ObamaCare has prompted major corporations to discuss dropping their employer-provided health-care plans; that businesses would have to file 1099s not only for every person to whom they pay $600 in wages but for every vendor with whom they do $600 in business, thereby imposing a paperwork nightmare and incentivizing companies to avoid doing business with a myriad of small firms rather than a handful of big ones; that ObamaCare would create 159 new federal agencies, offices, or programs; that the Obama administration’s Medicare Chief Actuary says ObamaCare would raise U.S. health costs by $311 billion in relation to current law and would shift about 14 million people off of employer-provided insurance — and some of them onto Medicaid; that ObamaCare’s would discourage employment, as — for example — hiring a 25th worker would cost a business $5,600 in addition to wages and benefits; that ObamaCare would impose a severe marriage penalty, offering additional subsidies as high as $10,425 a year if couples merely avoid marriage; that a lone provision in ObamaCare, which would penalize employers if their employees spend more than 9.5 percent of their household income on insurance premiums, would cut the net income of businesses like White Castle by more than half; that even though ObamaCare was supposed to get people out of emergency rooms and into doctors’ offices, those who build emergency rooms say the effect will be just the opposite and that they are gearing up for increased business; that doctors shortages are looming and would be accentuated by ObamaCare, both because more people would seek care (otherwise, what would the $2 trillion be buying?) and because fewer people would likely enter a demanding profession that would now promise greater restrictions and lower pay; and that President Obama’s nominee to head Medicare and Medicaid under ObamaCare is an open advocate of the British National Health Services’ NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and its methods of rationing care.

Opposition to ObamaCare has grown sharply with all of the revelations: “Americans now favor repeal by a margin of almost 2-to-1, with 63 percent favoring repeal and just 32 percent opposing it,” according to a Rasmussen poll cited in the same article.

But repeal is a tough row to hoe.  There’s little doubt that a Democratic bloodbath in November will dramatically alter the balance of power in Washington — but Obama will still be president, and still have veto power.  Even if the Republicans win every single Senate race throughout the country (not gonna happen), there will be enough Democratic Senators to sustain a veto.  Although I expect Harry Reid’s successor as Democratic leader will have a harder time enforcing party loyalty.

True repeal will probably have to wait until after the 2012 presidential election, unless the Supreme Court steps in to rule Obamacare unconstitutional.  (Hm… I wonder if my former colleague Elena Kagan would have to recuse herself?)  In the meantime, look for the next Congress to find creative ways to deny funding and delay implementation of key provisions.

The Coming Collapse of Employer-Based Health Coverage

140px-CaduceusIn their desperation to pass some kind of health care bill now now now now now, the Democrats have annexed one-sixth of the economy despite the opposition of a majority of Americans.  The debate over the bill may be over, but the unintended consequences are only starting to make themselves known. A new Fortune article provides a glimpse of the future under Obamacare, and it ain’t pretty.  (Hat tip: Neo.)

Remember when Rep. Henry Waxman, whose photo can be found in the dictionary next to the word “grandstanding,” summoned the leaders of AT&T, Caterpillar, Verizon, Deere and other companies to grill them about the write-downs they took  to recognize the costs of the newly-passed legislation? The hearings were abruptly canceled, and the Democratic staff of the committee put out a memo acknowledging what had been clear all along — that the write-downs were not just appropriate, but in fact legally required.  Fortune reviewed the subpoenaed documents and discovered why the hearings were canceled:

Nowhere in the five-page report did the majority staff mention that not one, but all four companies, were weighing the costs and benefits of dropping their coverage.

AT&T produced a PowerPoint slide entitled “Medical Cost Versus No Coverage Penalty.” A document prepared for Verizon by consulting firm Hewitt Resources stated, “Even though the proposed assessments [on companies that do not provide health care] are material, they are modest when compared to the average cost of health care,” and that to avoid costs and regulations, “employers may consider exiting the health care market and send employees to the Exchanges.” (Under the new bill, employees who lose their coverage will purchase health care through state-run exchanges.)

Kenneth Huhn, vice president of labor relations at Deere, said in an internal email that his company should look at the alternatives to providing health benefits, which “would amount to denying coverage and just paying the penalty,” and that he felt he already had the ability to make this change under his company’s labor agreement. Caterpillar felt it would have to give “serious consideration” to the penalty option.

It’s these analyses — which show it’s a lot cheaper to “pay” than to “play” — that threaten to overthrow the traditional architecture of health care.

Of course, none of these companies have dropped employee coverage yet.  But can there be any doubt that they and many others will do so if the economics are compelling enough?

From the beginning, the Democrats have relied on the premise that people who like their current health coverage will be able to keep it. The phony economic calculations that enabled the Democrats to claim that Obamacare would not add to the deficit were based in part on assumptions that big companies would continue to offer health care coverage to their employees.  Oops.

During the Obamacare debate, I took to referring to the public “option” — with scare quotes around the word option — as a shorthand way of reiterating the truism that no corporation can possibly compete with the resources of the United States government.

Here’s a longhand version of the argument, from an August 18 post:

Despite Obama’s disingenuous talk about having the insurance companies “compete” with a “public option” backed by the vast resources and regulatory clout of the government, most people recognize that no such competition is sustainable.

With a public option, the corporations who currently fund health insurance for their employees will have two choices — they can continue to negotiate with insurance companies to try to get the best deal for themselves and their employees, or they can get out of the middle, stop bothering with insurance companies and just dump all their employees into the public “option.” Hmmm… decisions, decisions.

People intuitively understand that the “public option” is a first step toward a single-payer world in which the government directly controls one-sixth of the economy, and has no competitive incentive to reduce costs and improve service.

I celebrated when it became clear the public “option” would not be part of the final health care bill.  But even in the legislation that was passed, the incentives for companies to wash their hands and walk away from health care will be overwhelming.

November can’t come soon enough.


“America’s Teetering Tower of Unkeepable Promises”

George Will, on the enormity of what just occurred:

On Sunday, as will happen every day for two decades, another 10,000 baby boomers became eligible for Social Security and Medicare. And Congress moved closer to piling a huge new middle-class entitlement onto the rickety structure of America’s Ponzi welfare state. Congress has a one-word response to the demographic deluge and the scores of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities: “More.”

There will be subsidized health insurance for families of four earning up to $88,200 a year, a ceiling certain to be raised, repeatedly. The accounting legerdemain spun to make this seem affordable — e.g., cuts (to Medicare) and taxes (on high-value insurance plans) that will never happen — is Enronesque.

As America’s teetering tower of unkeepable promises grows, so does the weight of government, in taxes and mandates that limit investments and discourage job creation. America’s dynamism, and hence upward social mobility, will slow, as the economy becomes what the party of government wants it to be — increasingly dependent on government-created demand.

Promoting dependency is the Democratic Party’s vocation. The party knows that almost all entitlements are forever, and those that are not — e.g., the lifetime eligibility for welfare, repealed in 1996 — are not for the middle class. Democrats believe, plausibly, that middle-class entitlements are instantly addictive and, because there is no known detoxification, that class, when facing future choices between trimming entitlements or increasing taxes, will choose the latter. The taxes will disproportionately burden high earners, thereby tightening the noose of society’s dependency on government for investments and job creation.

Eventually, of course, the government will run out of other people’s money. I shudder to think about the wrenching realignment that will be required then.

Steyn Nails It: Happy Dependence Day

Mark Steyn sums it up in The Corner, shortly before the measure passed:

Whatever is in the bill is an intermediate stage: As the graph posted earlier [reprinted here] shows, the governmentalization of health care will accelerate, private insurers will no longer be free to be “insurers” in any meaningful sense of that term (ie, evaluators of risk), and once that’s clear we’ll be on the fast track to Obama’s desired destination of single payer as a fait accomplis.

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It’s a huge transformative event in Americans’ view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. Their bet is that it can’t be undone, and that over time, as I’ve been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there’s plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada and elsewhere.

Read the whole thing, it’s only another couple of paragraphs.  K-Lo adds a postscript after the vote (reprinted here in full):

Congratulations, Democrats. Beginning now, you own the health-care system in America. Every hiccup. Every complaint. Every long line. All yours.

Health Care: A Uniquely Partisan New Entitlement

If Obamacare passes — and as the endgame plays out today, that feels like the way to bet — it will pass without a single Republican vote in either house of Congress.  Historic legislation indeed:

Regardless of the political fallout, historians say health-care reform will take its place in the same category as the enactment of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965…

But there is a major difference between this health-care battle and the debates that preceded passage of Social Security and Medicare. Although there was opposition to those measures — conservative opponents called Medicare socialized medicine — in the end they passed with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities.

The House approved the Medicare bill on a vote of 313 to 115, including 65 Republicans — nearly half the GOP caucus at the time. The Senate approved the measure by 68 to 21, including 13 of the 27 Republicans.

Social Security passed the House in 1935 by 372 to 77. On that vote, 77 Republicans joined the majority and 18 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the vote was 77 to 6, with five of 19 Republicans in opposition.

In one important way, however, Obamacare will be like Medicare:  Financially unsustainable. Businessweek:

The Democrats’ model of a successful government health-care program, Medicare, is going broke. Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is already insolvent on a cash-flow basis and will be exhausted within the next eight years, according to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees’ 2009 Annual Report.

And that’s before the baby boomers start to retire.

If ObamaCare passes, the outlook isn’t that much different. While the Senate bill has some good features, including the creation of health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses can buy coverage, it fails to tackle the basic problem: the lack of incentives. Consumers are divorced from the cost of care. Is there anything else we buy — from big-ticket items like cars and appliances to necessities like food and clothing to discretionary items like sports tickets and air fares — where we don’t comparison price shop or weigh our infinite wants against our more limited resources?

With their fingers in their ears and their voices chorusing “la-la-la-la-la,” the Democrats are on the verge of passing a health care bill opposed by a majority of Americans.  They’ll pay for it in November, of course, but the damage will be done.  Republicans will bravely talk about repeal, but entitlement programs will end only when the government runs out of other people’s money.