Monthly Archives: September 2009

If The Public Option is Dead, Democrats Killed It by Gregory Hilton

Democrats have a veto proof majority in the U.S. Senate but the health care public option still went down to defeat yesterday in the Finance Committee. The demise was due to the opposition of Democrats Max Baucus (MT), Kent Conrad (ND), Blanche Lambert (AR), Tom Carper (DE) and Ben Nelson (NE). Liberal organizations ran powerful TV ads in Montana against Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, but it was not enough. A major reason for the defeat is the shift in public opinion. Lambert emphasized health care in her two previous Senate campaigns. She is up for reelection in 2010 and does not face a well known GOP foe. Nevertheless, she is losing to all four Republicans. Lambert will not vote for cloture on any bill that has a public option. Conrad and Baucus obviously do not want it, and Nelson is telling Senate Democrats not to pass health through the reconciliation process. The public option can survive in the House, but I am skeptical it will be added back in a House/Senate Conference. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling the Senate Democrats that a bill requiring mandates with no public option will result in a 2010 election setback for her party.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich responded: “An amazing number of Democrats voted no, and I think it puts them in a position where there’s a clear signal to the House Democrats that unless you’re suicidal, you’re going to drop this because why would a marginal House Democratic member vote for a government option in the House knowing that it is absolutely dead in the Senate?”

The Return of Jay Leno by Gregory Hilton

Tonight ends the first week of Jay Leno’s return on NBC-TV. The critics have not been kind but audience clearly loves him. His comments on ACORN and prostitutes have already become a classic. Leno is averaging 18 million viewers to CBS’ David Letterman’s 4 million. Leno should keep wearing that flag lapel pin, and his political balance is admirable. It is a pleasant change from Letterman who can not stop bashing George W. Bush, and obviously has a loony left agenda. I always look forward to Jay’s monologue, Headlines and Jaywalking.
I used to think Letterman was fun and quirky, but stopped watching him a long time ago when he turned so mean-spirited. CBS’ Craig Ferguson comes on after Letterman. He is also a liberal but he does not have Letterman’s mean-spirited outlook. CBS would be wise to move Ferguson into the 11:30 pm time slot where he would be a tough competitor for The Tonight Show’s Conan O’Brien.
This is not related to his ability as a talk show host but I also admire Leno for being married to the same woman for 30 years. They were married when he was not a big shot. Long term marriages are rare in Hollywood.
Too many times money and prestige have led to divorce. Leno has also done considerable charitable activity such as the free shows earlier this year for the unemployed. Car buff’s really enjoy his many videos at:

The U.S. Constitution Was Signed 222 Years Ago Today by Gregory Hilton

It was 222 years ago today in Philadelphia that the U.S. Constitution was signed. The Constitution is our supreme law and it provides the blueprint for the greatest form of government the world has ever known, and guarantees the freedoms we enjoy today. The idea of self-government is in the first three words: “We the people.”
I teach very intelligent students but I cringe to think of their responses to a citizenship test. Our schools have significantly cut back courses on topics such as history, government and civics. A student who has never been introduced to these concepts would find the test difficult.
Some conservatives are also being too strict in their interpretation of the Constitution. They interpret the Constitution literally and appear to throw out all of the opinions and laws which were debated and adopted since the Constitution was ratified. They claim if something is not specifically mentioned in the he Constitution it is not allowed. The Constitution says nothing about an Air Force, unemployment, foreclosures, energy independence, terrorism, Afghanistan or nuclear weapons. There are several interpretations of the Constitution and none is definitive on several key points.

Former President Claims There Is “Racist” Tone Against Obama by Gregory Hilton

In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, former President Jimmy Carter said he has been extremely bothered by the heightened climate of racial and other hate speech since the election of President Barack Obama. Several lawmakers are in agreement with Carter and this was mentioned in yesterday’s debate today regarding the Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) “Resolution of Disapproval.” I know many people who are opposed to the Obama agenda, but it has absolutely nothing to do with race. We would be opposed to the same policies if they were advocated by John Kerry, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis or Hillary Clinton. I do not know any racist, and I certainly would never associate myself with such a person. Do the Democrats really want to argue that if Barack Obama were not African-American we would unreservedly embrace his policies?
The only race based rhetoric I know of is on the left. The New York Times article below is an example. It is about one of the closest Congressional primary races in the nation. Liberal Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Willie Herenton who served five terms as Mayor of Memphis. Cohen is white and Herenton is black, and they agree on all the issues. Cohen’s voting record is awful but there is no evidence he is a racist.
This is how Herenton explains his candidacy: “To know Steve Cohen is to know that he really does not think very much of African-Americans.” He says his campaign is “going to be about race.” The Herenton campaign believes the “seat was set aside” for black people, “It wasn’t set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation.” I could never imagine any conservative candidate making statements similar to this.

Remembering Angelica Singleton Van Buren (1817 – 1859) by Gregory Hilton

A beautiful 21 year old girl from South Carolina arrived at the White House in 1838, and in some respects, she is still there. The White House collection has many priceless paintings but art historians agree that the most valuable portrait is of Angelica Singleton Van Buren, who served as First Lady for her widowed father-in-law, President Martin Van Buren. He was the first President born in the United States. The painting is seen by every tourist because for over a century it has been hung above the mantle in the Red Room. The marble bust of Van Buren seen in the painting is also in the room.
Angelica’s cousin was the grande dame of Washington society, former First Lady Dolley Madison. Dolley lived in a Lafayette Square home across from the White House, which still stands. Mrs. Madison was a well known matchmaker, and finding a suitor for her attractive and intelligent cousin was not difficult. Angelica had attended school in Philadelphia where her favorite subjects were history and “deportment.” Dolley advised her cousin to read newspapers because “men here always talk about politics.”
When Angelica arrived for the 1837 social season, Dolley already had a candidate in mind. Angelica and the President’s youngest son, Smith, were the same age, and the boy was tall, handsome and had a good job. Unfortunately there was no chemistry between them and one reason was Smith’s lack of interest in politics. He gave Angelica good advice in saying his older brother Abram, 31, would be able to talk to her. Angelica and Abram were married 8 months later.
On their honeymoon, Angelica and Abram met Queen Victoria and King Louis Philippe of France. They lived in a room at the White House which is today known as the Queen’s Bedroom. Van Buren is the founder of the modern Democratic Party. His nickname was “Old Kinderhook,” but it was often shortened to “O.K.” a phrase still in common use today.
An episode of Seinfeld was named “The Van Buren Boys.” Kramer tells Jerry about “The Van Buren Boys” street gang. Jerry asks, “There’s a street gang named after President Martin Van Buren.” Kramer replies: “Oh yeah, and they’re just as mean as he was!”
You can read more about the Van Buren’s in, “ A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation.”

Reaction to the Presidential Address on Health Care by Gregory Hilton

Earlier tonight President Obama addressed a Joint Session of Congress on health care policy. My reaction was as follows:
Mr. President: If we spend more than all other countries, and we aren’t any healthier, then why do you want us to spend another $1 trillion?
The President said: “We believe that less than 5 percent of people will sign up” for the public option. The same figure was used in Massachusetts when they initiated a government plan. The $100 million budget three years ago is now over $700 million. If only 5 percent of the people are going to sign up is there really a crisis? How does the U.S. Government legally charter a non-profit company that uses no taxpayer funds under the public option?
The President said: “30 million Americans can’t get coverage.” Two weeks ago he was claiming it was 48 million.
“If Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.”
Why can’t we give the uninsured vouchers and let them shop?
“I will not sign a plan that adds a dime to the deficit, now or in the future. . . We can pay for this plan with savings.”
The plan is already projected to cost $948 billion over ten years. How are you going to find an almost $1 trillion in savings? Will it be done by rationing care? Will it be done by cutting $622 billion from Medicare and Medicaid.
The President continued to ignore tort reform. We definitely need serious reforms and the best alternative is the Patients’ Choice Act. This addresses the issue of affordability without rationing care or adding to the debt. It is estimated to save us $960 billion during the next decade.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) described the need for transparency: “To understand how much government is already interfering with your health care, imagine if when you wanted to buy a new car, but all of the auto company websites had been disabled and you were directed to a third-party site set up by Congress that buried basic information about automobile features and price. Then imagine that if you lived in New Jersey you must buy certain features, however costly, but if you lived in California you had to buy another set of features. Then imagine that Congress set up a system where you did not really shop for your car at all because your employer and the government took care of the details.”
Burr says the Patients Choice Act will: “Shift decision-making authority in health care away from government and health insurance bureaucrats and back to individuals. Specifically, we would shift health care tax benefits to individuals and families in the form of a tax rebate worth $2,200 for individuals and $5,700 for families. Under our plan, if you like the health care you have, you can keep it — but you will have more money in your pocket because you will still receive a tax rebate.”

Addressing Major Arguments in the Health Care Debate by Gregory Hilton

No one is dying in the United States because they do not have health insurance. Poor people who are sick are treated and hospitals have to absorb the losses for this care. Doctors are required to treat everyone who comes to the Emergency Room. With universal health care, doctors will be employed by the government. If that system was so great Canadians would not be coming to America for health care. In the UK there are numerous complaints about getting a simple procedure done. Some people have to wait 6 months before being diagnosed. Without incentive there’s no quality.
No one should die because the government rations health care, and no one should go broke paying taxes to pay for new entitlements. Free health care for everyone sounds wonderful. Unfortunately the government has nothing of its own to give us, it must first tax us to pay for it. Nothing is free. We do need a far better insurance system and tort reform, but government run health care has been a disaster for Medicare/Medicaid, VA and the Indian Health Service.
We do need health care reform and lets begin by deregulating the insurance companies and putting a cap on law suits. That would be an excellent start to make things more affordable. Many tests right now are ordered just because doctors are afraid to get sued. The costs of litigation (successful and otherwise) are passed along to consumers, further driving up costs. The insurance industry is also heavily regulated, so our country is broken up into 50 separate markets, decreasing competition between companies.
The GOP is proposing vouchers for poor people, and a national market for health insurance so that competition across state lines will improve choice for everyone. Tort reform with caps on awards, and health savings accounts for insurance premiums. We want to help the 22.4 million currently uninsured Americans get health care coverage at lower costs.

Where Are The Groups That Were So Outraged by Bush’s State Dept Appointments by Gregory Hilton

Where is this coalition of 10 groups that was so concerned about unqualified people at the State Department? They were outraged over the Ellen Sauerbrey nomination in October of 2005. She had the rank of Ambassador and served at the UN addressing the issues she would later confront at the State Department. She was in the legislature for 16 years, was Minority Leader and twice ran for Governor. They said she was completely unqualified.
According to the Associated Press, “A coalition of 10 women’s health and rights groups has urged Bush to withdraw the Sauerbrey nomination calling it “yet another in a long string of crony nominations of unqualified individuals for critical positions”. The groups’ statement followed editorials denouncing Sauerbrey’s appointment by two of the country’s most important newspapers, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which called her unqualified and too ideological, as well as criticism by prominent emergency relief groups.
“‘This is a job that deals with one of the great moral issues of our time,’ Joel R. Charney, vice president for policy at Refugees International, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. ‘This is not a position where you drop in a political hack.’
Sauerbrey has served in State Department positions since Bush took office in 2001, most recently as U.S. representative to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women.
“‘Amb. Sauerbrey falls short on every count,’ said June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation, one of the groups which urged her withdrawal. ‘She has no experience managing refugee or humanitarian crises and no experience administering the type of large-scale programmes that fall under the direction of PRM.'”
Do these groups know about the Obama appointments to our major embassies? Are they aware that our new U.S. Ambassador to Japan does not speak the language and never visited that nation prior to his appointment? He did “bundle” over $500,000 for the Obama campaign. Of course they will not protest the new nomination because they never cared about the State Department.
They were only motivated by political considerations.
By the way, because of their opposition Bush was forced to make a recess appointment. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey served as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration for over two years, and led the global fight against trafficking. The Bush Administration contributed over $375 million to counter-trafficking projects worldwide, and Sauerbrey’s work was highly praised by the Refugee Council USA and Refugees International. She was an outstanding appointment.

Problems with Health Care’s Public Option by Gregory Hilton

Health care spending in every Western country with a public option has been growing faster since 2000 than it has been in the United States. The public option is really the government option. It will not promote competition, it will eliminate it. It would sooner or later takeover over our health care system. It will deprive people of choice. If it was just another insurance policy, then we would have 1,501 opportunities.
President Obama has frequently reassured us that, if we are happy with our present insurance, there is no cause for alarm—our right to keep it will not be denied. Of course, it will no longer exist in a few years, so the right to keep it is pointless. A new “public option” would provide employers with a strong financial incentive to drop insurance for their employees, to give way to the public plan. Private insurers will be forced out of the game as the public plan draws unlimited credit from a government.
No one knows how much this public option will cost. Some estimates peg the 10-year cost at $1.7 trillion. When the government introduced Medicare in 1965, the estimated cost to taxpayers by 1990 was supposed to be $9 billion. In reality, the cost was $67 billion — a seven-fold miscalculation. So what happens if this public option ends up costing just three times as much as estimated? That’s a 10-year cost of $5.1 trillion to taxpayers. How will we pay for it? Through tax increases. It is interesting that one of the first arguments put forward by supporters of the public option is that it won’t result in a government-run system like single-payer health care. That may be so at first, but it puts the nation on the road toward single-payer.
The UK’s National Health Service is socialized medicine and it produces some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world. Britain is the Western state where you’d least want to have cancer or a stroke or heart disease. Ours is now a country where thousands of people are killed in hospitals for reasons unrelated to their original condition. Britain has become a place where foreigners fear to fall ill.

Liberal Parties are Losing in Europe by Gregory Hilton

The pro-labor Social Democrats are headed for their worst ever showing in the September 27th German elections. A poll released today gives German Chancellor Angela Merkel a 57% to 18% lead over her liberal opponent. Labour has ruled the UK since 1993 but they will be tossed out at the next election. The 1979 victory of Margaret Thatcher in the UK was a precursor of the 1980 arrival of Ronald Reagan.The Tories are now well ahead in Britain.
In France the party has declined rapidly in a few years. In Italy the only reason Prime Minister Silvio Berlesconi has survived a major sex scandal is because the liberals are so weak. The victory of European conservatives does not mean the right wing will win here. The main problem is that people think the liberals have no economic competence. The high tax no growth message of the left is finally collapsing in the EU. This is change we can believe in.