Obama: Twelve months on, the star falls back to earth

Obama: Twelve months on, the star falls back to earth

October 31st, 2009

UK Independent

Obama has plummeted back to earth

If there was a degree of déjà vu for fans of Barack Obama crammed inside a university athletic arena in Hackensack, New Jersey, the other evening, it was entirely deliberate. They only had to close their eyes and listen to the deafening chants of “Yes We Can” to imagine they had been transported back to the heady days of a year ago when their candidate was on the verge of seizing the White House and making history.

Even with open eyes they could have felt some of that old frisson. Event organisers wandered the hall wearing shirts proclaiming “Yes We Can 2.0″, as if they were selling the latest Windows update, and a giant banner stage-right gave top billing to Obama. The name beneath his, Corzine, might almost have been an afterthought.

This was not a re-election rally for Mr Obama – not yet, please – but for Jon Corzine, the former boss of Goldman Sachs and now governor of New Jersey. He had invited the president to speak because, when Jersey voters go to the polls next Tuesday – New Jersey and Virginia are the only states where governorships are in play this year – it is not at all clear that they won’t ditch him in favour of his Republican opponent, Chris Christie. The latest polls say it’s too close to call.

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ObamaCare’s Scary October Surprise

ObamaCare’s Scary October Surprise

By Robert Knight

Stung by a rising tide of resistance and a closing window of opportunity, House Democrats have unleashed a new version of ObamaCare, weighing in at 1,990 pages and with a $1 trillion price tag. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises to ram it through quickly, exhibiting a disdain for her countrymen that makes Marie Antoinette look like a populist.
The Democrats are going for broke, which means we’ll all be broke if this is not stopped. The “Affordable Health Care for America Act” (HR 3962) is so comprehensive that it even micromanages restaurant menus and vending machines. That’s a clear signal that this is not about health care. It’s about whether the people of the United States will allow power-mad Washington politicians to plunge us into the kind of top-down socialism that is strangling Western Europe and has devastated economies and destroyed freedom wherever it is imposed.
President Obama promised “transparency” and that any bill would be written in public. That was a lie. This monstrosity was hatched behind closed doors. Obama further promised that his health care initiative would not “add a dime to the federal deficit,” which he has already tripled since taking office. It was another lie. No one can honestly believe that a gargantuan takeover of the nation’s $2.5 trillion health care industry will save taxpayers money. No government program results in savings. Each one grows exponentially; creates dependent constituencies that lobby for yet more tax dollars; and empowers bureaucrats for whom mission failure ensures more staff, more money, and more power. There is simply no governing restraint such as a profit motive or anxious stockholders. The voters? Surely you jest. They are far, far away and kept in check by a compliant leftist media. At least, so far.
Does anyone really believe that a government plan consisting of nearly two thousand pages will simplify things and leave us a freer people?  
Instead, it will saddle us, our children, and our grandchildren with trillions in debt and will make every family in America beholden to the whims of government health bureaucrats. The bill is a true Halloween horror, with scary stuff throughout. Taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions. Committees in both houses of Congress defeated thirty different amendments barring such funding. Illegal aliens will be covered, since there is no language that would enforce any prohibition against them. Among the thirteen new taxes found in the bill by Americans for Tax Reform is the “medicine cabinet tax,” which bars people from paying for non-prescription medicine with tax-deferred health savings accounts. Senior citizens will bear the brunt of “savings” that are supposed to partially pay for the bill, with $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Liberal pundits continue to ridicule Sarah Palin’s colorful but accurate term “death panels,” but government control, cost-cutting and Medicare penalties against docs who provide “too much” care will lead to bureaucrats literally deciding who lives and who dies. The bill also includes punitive taxes on people earning higher incomes, which epitomizes the Marxist dream of confiscation and redistribution.
Obviously, the Washington elites did not fully get the message when Americans revolted by the millions this summer and early fall. Instead, Pelosi, Reid, and Obama threatened the health insurance industry Chicago-gangster-style, warning them to shut up or else. They’re about to do the same to the rest of us, threatening us with penalties if we don’t buy insurance. If we don’t pay the penalties, we go to jail. They don’t even pretend that this is constitutionally legal. When Pelosi was asked by a reporter exactly what in the Constitution permits the federal government to force people to purchase a service, her answer was, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” before moving on to another question.
ObamaCare supporters were stung when the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation reported that the first House version would add more than $1.5 trillion in new federal spending over the next 10 years. So in the Senate, they went back to the drawing board, wrote the Baucus version, and tried to pretend that splitting off a proposed 10-year, $247 billion Medicare doctors’ fee “fix” would not count in health care reform. This was their way of feigning observation of Obama’s pledge not to “add a dime.”  But even the liberal Washington Post editorialized against this sleight-of-hand in a piece entitled “2.47 trillion dimes,” and the proposal went down in flames, with all forty Republicans, twelve Democrats and one Independent voting against it on October 21.
In the House, they continued to scribble. The Congressional Budget Office came out with its report on October 29 and concluded that the new bill would cost a bit over $1 trillion over 10 years but that collecting “penalties paid by individuals and employers” would bring the cost down to a mere $894 billion and reduce the federal deficit by $104 billion. The House also came up with a separate “doc fix” bill that would suspend cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Like the “doc fix” defeated in the Senate, it wouldn’t add to the actual costs in the health care bill, thus preserving the illusion that the big bill will cost less than $1 trillion.
The ongoing takeover attempt of our health care system is proof that Congressman have regrown their tin ears now that they’re back in the Beltway bubble, insulated from constituents. But they are not immune to pressure in the form of phone calls, faxes and e-mails, at least not if they arrive by the boatload.
Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican in the Senate Finance Committee to vote for the Baucus bill, has said she will oppose any plan that emerges with a “public option.” That’s because although Obama, Pelosi, and Reid say it would merely create a competitor for private insurance and bring down costs, a public option would actually cause the collapse of the private insurance market. Employers would jump ship, opting to pay a fine rather than provide insurance. A study by the Lewin Group estimates that 88 million Americans would lose their private insurance if a government competitor is created.
Over the next few days, don’t be surprised if the “public option” is dropped or amended to buy off Blue Dog Democrats and perhaps even some Republicans. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi put it back in with a nod and a wink as if to appease the far-left liberals who were making lots of noise. But quietly dropping it would be a small price to pay to get something — anything — into the law that can then be expanded until it crushes private care and morphs into truly socialized medicine.
Watch what they do, not what they say.
Robert Knight is Senior Writer/Correspondent for Coral Ridge Ministries and a Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/10/obamacares_scary_october_surpr.html at October 31, 2009 – 11:06:21 PM EDT

Jobs Created or Saved’ Is White House Fantasy: Caroline Baum

‘Jobs Created or Saved’ Is White House Fantasy: Caroline Baum

Commentary by Caroline Baum

 

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) — Heresy, thy name is Christina Romer.

Last week, the chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers — a position that carried the title “chief economist” until Larry Summers took up residence in the White House — testified to the Joint Economic Committee on the economic crisis and the efficacy of the policy response.

Here’s the executive summary in case you missed it:

The crisis: “Inherited.”

The economy: “In terrible shape” (the inherited one).

The shocks to the system: “Larger than those that precipitated the Great Depression.”

The policy response: “Strong and timely.”

The efficacy of the policy response: a 2 to 3 percentage point addition to second-quarter growth; 3 to 4 percentage points in the third; and 160,000 to 1.5 million “jobs saved or created,” a made-up metric if there ever was one. (More on that later.)

What was most puzzling about Romer’s Oct. 22 testimony was her comment on the waning effect of fiscal stimulus.

“Most analysts predict that the fiscal stimulus will have its greatest impact on growth in the second and third quarters of 2009,” Romer said. “By mid-2010, fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to growth.”

At first it was just fringe elements, such as conservative blogs and the not-really-a-news-organization Fox News, that pounced on Romer’s statement. Then other news outlets started to question her statement, which seemed to fly in the face of White House assertions that only a small portion of the stimulus — $120 billion, or 15 percent — has actually been spent. Most of the criticism of the stimulus coming from the president’s own party has been, “too little, too late,” and here’s Romer saying it’s kaput.

Thanks for That

Instead of being banished to the woodshed, Romer was consigned to the White House blog, where she slipped into professorial mode to explain the arcane distinction between the effect of the stimulus on the change in gross domestic product and its effect on the level of GDP.

Stimulus has its biggest impact on the growth rate of GDP when it’s implemented, Romer said, using a car-and-driver analogy: Step on the accelerator, the car goes from zero to 60.

Stimulus will keep the level of GDP and employment higher than they would have been even after the growth-rate effect fades, she said.

Her logic is impeccable. It’s her premise that’s flawed.

Dispensing Lucre

When the government distributes lucre or loot, people spend it. If your interest is national income accounting, spending other people’s money is great. Spending is a back-door way for government statisticians to measure what matters, which is the real output of goods and services.

But the government has no money of its own to spend; only what it borrows or confiscates from us via taxation. Oops.

“Government job creation is an oxymoron,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business. It is only by depriving the private sector of funds that government can hire or subsidize hiring.

That’s why “jobs created or saved” is such pure fiction. It ignores what’s unseen, as our old friend Frederic Bastiat explained so eloquently 160 years ago in an essay.

Econometric models synthesize all sorts of variables and spit out a GDP forecast. From there they derive the change in employment using something called Okun’s Law, named after the late economist Arthur Okun, which describes the relationship between the two.

Fiction Lags Reality

Actual hiring seems to be lagging behind the model’s land of make-believe. For small businesses, which are the source of most job creation in the U.S., the government’s increased and changing role in the economy isn’t a confidence builder. Businessmen have no idea what health-care reform will mean for their cost structure or what whimsical tax policies the government might impose when it realizes those short-term deficits are running into long-term unfunded liabilities.

No wonder capital spending plans were at an all-time low in the third quarter, according to the NFIB monthly survey.

Only 30,383 jobs were created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to Recovery.gov, the government’s once-transparent Web site that has become a complex blur of numbers, graphs and pie charts. These are only the jobs reported by federal contract recipients. The Obama administration will report the larger universe of ARRA-related jobs on Oct. 30.

An extrapolation of what would have happened without the fiscal stimulus isn’t much consolation to the 9.8 percent of the workforce that is unemployed. Nor is Romer’s prescription for the economy and labor market very comforting in light of the trillions of future tax dollars that have been spent, lent or promised by the federal government.

“If you take your foot off the gas, the car goes from 60 back down to a slow crawl,” Romer said in clarifying blog post.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

(Caroline Baum, author of “Just What I Said,” is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Click on “Send Comment” in sidebar display to send a letter to the editor.

To contact the writer of this column: Caroline Baum in New York at cabaum@bloomberg.net.

House health-bill event closed to public

House health-bill event closed to public

October 30th, 2009

By Kara Rowland, Washington Times

Boehner: says this is 1,990 pages of bureaucracy, the bill will cost $2.2 Million per word

House Democrats blocked the public from attending the unveiling ceremony of their health-care bill Thursday morning, allowing only pre-approved visitors whose names appeared on lists to enter the event at the West side of the Capitol.

The audience at the crowded press conference included Hill staffers, union workers, health care providers and students, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who thanked them for attending.

Mrs. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders announced the chamber’s long-awaited version of a health care overhaul, which would expand insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans, costing less than $900 billion over 10 years.

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Doctors To Face Massive New Taxes And Fees Under Congressional Health Bill

Doctors To Face Massive New Taxes And Fees Under Congressional Health Bill

October 30th, 2009 Posted By Pat Dollard.

USREPORT-US-USA-HEALTHCARE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The health care overhaul bill produced by House Democrats would impose an array of new taxes, fees and government mandates on major players in the health industry, including insurers, doctors and drugs and medical devices makers.

In most cases, the pain has been meted out with an eye toward raising the money needed to finance President Barack Obama’s plan for reshaping the health system but also with careful regard for gaining the votes that will be needed to pass a final bill.

Democrats hope to vote next week on the measure, which would extend health coverage to tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it, impose sweeping new restrictions on private insurers and create a government-run insurance plan to compete with them.

Among the industries targeted in the bill are medical device makers — one of the few that failed to cut an early behind-the-scenes deal with Obama and Democrats to help pay for an overhaul. The House added $20 billion in taxes on sales of medical devices like artificial hips and heart stents to the legislation Democratic leaders unveiled Thursday.

That’s more than the industry wants to pay, but it’s a substantial reprieve from an earlier plan in the Senate to slap a $40 billion fee on medical device makers. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has agreed to slash the fee, in part to win cooperation from fence-sitting Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Bayh, whose state is home to prominent medical device makers, including Zimmer Holdings Inc., Biomet and DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., is one of a handful of wavering Democrats whose support will be vital to getting to the 60 Senate votes necessary to advance the health overhaul. That means he and other holdouts have disproportionate power to cut deals on behalf of favored industries that are bracing for major costs under the new system.

Stephen J. Ubl, the president of AdvaMed, the trade group representing large medical device makers, said the group appreciates House leaders’ decision to include the smaller version of the tax and is “grateful for the efforts” of Bayh and others to do the same in the Senate. In a statement, Ubl seemed to indicate that his group was willing to go along if Congress helped cushion the blow.

“We look forward to working with Congress and the administration on critically important implementation issues,” Ubl said, including seeking AdvaMed priorities such as delaying the tax until 2013 — which the House measure does — tying it to specific products, exempting small companies with less than $100 million in annual revenue and making it deductible.

The measure is less kind to drug makers, an industry that did strike a deal with Obama and key senators to hold down its costs. Pharmaceutical companies agreed to cough up $80 billion in the health overhaul. While precise figures were not immediately available, it appeared the House legislation would target the industry for much more. And it would give the government power to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

Ken Johnson of the trade group the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said lawmakers were being “unrealistic in their expectations of what our industry can contribute to health care reform without triggering catastrophic job losses and driving innovation and business overseas.”

The $80 billion figure “is a huge amount of money — it’s not loose change we found sitting around in the sofa,” said Johnson, who added that the drug makers would be busy in the coming days contacting House and Senate leaders “trying to educate them” on how damaging further cuts would be.

On the other hand, the industry managed to come away with a provision worth billions: 12 years of market protection for high-tech drugs to combat cancer, Parkinson’s and other deadly diseases.

Health insurers, who would gain tens of millions of new customers under the health plan, nonetheless would be ensnared by some potentially costly new measures, including eliminating their long-standing antitrust exemption.

They voiced particular concern about Democrats’ inclusion of the government-run insurance plan. Karen Ignani, the chief of the insurers’ main trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the so-called public option would “bankrupt hospitals, dismantle employer coverage, exacerbate cost-shifting from Medicare and Medicaid, and ultimately increase the federal deficit.” She said the result would be that many people, including seniors, would lose coverage or face higher costs.

The measure also drops a reprieve for doctors from scheduled pay cuts for treating Medicare patients, which House leaders now plan to pursue separately from the broader health bill. The Senate last week turned back an attempt to pass the pay-raise on its own at a cost of $247 billion over the next decade — sidetracking what the American Medical Association has made a key priority in the health overhaul negotiations.

But doctors, hospitals and other providers won a key concession that would let them negotiate rates with the Health and Human Services Department for services provided in the government insurance plan. Key Democratic moderates whose votes were needed to pass the plan insisted on that approach, at the urging of hospitals in their districts. Liberals wanted rates to be dictated by the government, which would have been less costly.

Chip Kahn, the president of the Federation of American Hospitals, cheered the bill, saying it moves toward “a market-based health system.”

Clunkers: Taxpayers paid $24,000 per car

Clunkers: Taxpayers paid $24,000 per car

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney

Cash for clunkers was a colossal waste of money

A total of 690,000 new vehicles were sold under the Cash for Clunkers program last summer, but only 125,000 of those were vehicles that would not have been sold anyway, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the automotive Web site Edmunds.com.

Still, auto sales contributed heavily to the economy’s expansion in the third quarter, adding 1.7 percentage points to the nation’s gross domestic product growth.

The Cash for Clunkers program gave car buyers rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new vehicles that met certain fuel economy requirements. A total of $3 billion was allotted for those rebates.

The average rebate was $4,000. But the overwhelming majority of sales would have taken place anyway at some time in the last half of 2009, according to Edmunds.com. That means the government ended up spending about $24,000 each for those 125,000 additional vehicle sales.

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Culture of Corruption: Obama U.S. Attorney nominee clams up

Michelle Malkin 

Lead Story

Culture of Corruption: Obama U.S. Attorney nominee clams up

By Michelle Malkin  •  October 28, 2009 10:23 AM

What is this woman hiding?

Two weeks ago, I pointed you to the festering corruption scandal involving President Obama’s US Attorney nominee in Colorado, Stephanie Villafuerte.

Villafuerte is entangled in the railroading of Denver ICE agent Cory Voorhis — whom federal prosecutors tried to punish after he blew the whistle on sweetheart deals for criminal illegal aliens during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. A jury acquitted Voorhis of all federal charges. He’s trying to get his job back. At least one of his supervisors has admitted lying.

Villafuerte served on Democrat gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter’s campaign team while on leave from the Denver D.A.’s office and from all local news accounts was deeply involved in the witchhunt against agent Voorhis.

But she refuses to answer any questions about her role in the case.

And now she is poised to take over as US Attorney.

Transparency? Ethics? Accountability? Anyone?

From the Denver Post, unresolved contradictions and double standards:

President Barack Obama’s nominee as Colorado’s next U.S. attorney told the FBI two years ago that she never spoke to anyone in the Denver District Attorney’s Office about an illegal immigrant who became a controversial figure in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

FBI interview summaries describe Stephanie Villafuerte as saying she had “no conversations” with anyone at the DA’s office about the illegal immigrant, Carlos Estrada-Medina.

But the FBI apparently never asked Villafuerte, the former chief deputy DA who was then working for Bill Ritter’s campaign, why she left a phone message for DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough that Kimbrough noted was about Estrada-Medina. The FBI also apparently never asked her about the nature of a series of phone calls she exchanged over the next two days with Kimbrough and First Assistant DA Chuck Lepley. Those calls came both before and after an order by Lepley to a subordinate to run a criminal history check of Estrada-Medina in a restricted federal database.

It can be a crime to access the National Crime Information Center computer for a non-law-enforcement purpose.

In 2006 and 2007, the FBI was investigating who ran a check on Estrada-Medina’s name through the database after Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial campaign ran a television ad confirming that Estrada-Medina, a suspected heroin dealer and illegal immigrant, had once received a plea deal under the name Walter Ramo while Ritter was Denver’s district attorney.

Eventually, a federal immigration agent named Cory Voorhis was charged with running an NCIC check on Estrada-Medina and providing the result to the Beauprez campaign. He was later acquitted at trial.

But the 10-year veteran, who maintained he accessed the NCIC with his supervisor’s permission because Voorhis was upset over plea deals made by Ritter’s office with deportable immigrants, lost his job and is now fighting through an administrative proceeding to get it back.

Law enforcement authorities were aware that the Denver DA’s office and a Texas investigator had also run Estrada-Medina’s name through the NCIC. No one in those offices was charged with a crime.

Team Obama’s rotten Justice Department is going with the full evasion strategy.

The Colorado GOP wants answers — and so should you:

Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams on Monday asked the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington to demand answers from Colorado U.S. attorney nominee Stephanie Villafuerte about whether she may have acted inappropriately during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

“Colorado deserves better than a U.S. attorney who apparently might have used her former employer, the Denver district attorney’s office, for blatant partisan political purposes to help Gov. Ritter in violation of the law,” Wadhams wrote in a letter to committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Villafuerte, currently Bill Ritter’s deputy chief of staff, has declined to answer questions from The Denver Post about what types of conversations she had with representatives from the Denver DA’s office in the days before and after a restricted federal database was accessed and whether that information was obtained to help Ritter’s campaign. FBI interview records do not indicate that she ever was asked about the access by the investigating agent.

Villafuerte, then a chief deputy Denver district attorney, had taken a leave of absence to work on Ritter’s campaign. Ritter is the former Denver DA.

The Post reported Friday that statements by Villafuerte and other DA representatives — as described by an agent in recently obtained FBI interview summaries — do not always comport with available records, and the summaries portray the witnesses offering conflicting explanations on some key points.

Villafuerte has declined to speak about the issue over the past two years, and last week, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the U.S. Department of Justice has asked her not to talk to the media until after the nomination process is over.

And whaddya know? Voorhis has now been conveniently gagged by an administrative order.

The Denver Post editorial board wants answers from the Senate Judiciary Committee — and so should you:

Over the past two years, Villafuerte has declined requests from The Post to describe her contact with former colleagues at the Denver District Attorney’s office around the time the database was accessed.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to ask her about it. The public deserves to know more details about the incident before Villafuerte gets any closer to becoming the state’s top federal prosecutor.

Post reporter Karen E. Crummy obtained FBI records about the incident, which took place when Villafuerte was working for Bill Ritter’s gubernatorial campaign. The controversy began when Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez ran an ad that said Ritter, the former Denver district attorney and the Democratic candidate for governor, had given an illegal immigrant a lenient plea bargain. That immigrant went on, the ad said, to commit a sex crime in California.

The Ritter camp contended that in order to link the criminal, Carlos Estrada-Medina, to crimes in both Colorado and California, a restricted federal criminal database would have to have been accessed. Ritter’s campaign was incensed, and called for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to investigate.

Eventually, Cory Voorhis, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was charged with improperly accessing the database. He was found not guilty at trial, but lost his job anyway.

Meanwhile, we had other questions that quickly arose. How did Ritter’s campaign know the dots could only be connected by accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database? And what to make of a series of phone calls that Villafuerte, then working for Ritter’s campaign, made to the Denver district attorney’s office around the time the DA’s office accessed Estrada-Medina’s records?

What precisely was the nature of Villafuerte’s interaction with the DA’s office when the NCIC was accessed? Did Villafuerte ask her former co-workers in the DA’s office to access it to confirm the Estrada- Medina information?

Villafuerte, according to FBI interview summaries, said she had “no conversations” with anyone about Estrada-Medina. But Lynn Kimbrough, a DA spokeswoman who got a phone message from Villafuerte at the time in question, noted the message pertained to Estrada-Medina.

Why was Villafuerte calling Kimbrough about Estrada-Medina? And what was the content of the phone conversations or messages that Villafuerte had with or left for Kimbrough and First Assistant DA Chuck Lepley during the following days?

Call the Senate Judiciary Committee:

United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Majority Office
Phone:202-224-7703
Fax:202-224-9516 Minority Office
Phone:202-224-5225
Fax:202-224-9102

Minority Office
Phone:202-224-5225
Fax:202-224-9102

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