TODAY’S LINKS—MAY 5, 2012

I’ve been exploring this morning and happened upon another blog here on WordPress called The Erstwhile Conservative. Not that there’s anything wrong with all conservatives, but the more erstwhile ones we have the better.

I’ve read one entry so far posted on May 4, and this is it in its entirety.

A Short And Bewildering Study In Conservative Economics

May 4, 2012

The other day the Joplin Globe published a column by Jay Ambrose (apparently the paper can afford him!) that included this perplexing sentence:

The Communist Party is still running things and is still autocratic and cruel even as it has allowed relatively free markets enough wiggle room to make China a major economic power.

Now, I find that statement perplexing because it actually says:

1. The Communist Party is autocratic and cruel.

2. The autocratic and cruel Communist Party is nevertheless making “China a major economic power.”

Get it? I don’t either because the following commentary is what I usually hear from conservatives, a critique objecting to the expansion of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause in our own Constitution:

The movement from rule of law to ridiculous rigmarole gave us a regulatory state stifling our economy and our freedoms…It will thus endanger our economic future while already keeping businesses from hiring because of expensive obligations to come.

The American “regulatory state” will “endanger our economic future“? Who could have written that? Oh, yeah, the same guy who said the “autocratic and cruel” Communists were nevertheless making China “a major economic power.”

Ambrose also wrote this last year:

The Heritage Foundation says we’re now only the ninth-freest world economy and points out that excessive spending and increased federal intrusiveness have sapped business confidence while hurting competitiveness, slowing expansion and diminishing entrepreneurial energy. You don’t get jobs that way.

Increased federal intrusiveness” is a big problem for America, you see, but apparently not much of a problem for “a major economic power” like China, where this year’s Heritage Foundation ranking put China as the 138th freest economy—right above Syria!

You gotta love comparative conservative economics.

 
Short and sweet, eh? This looks like one blog I can have some fun reading.
 
This economic lesson dovetails nicely into this op-ed piece from David Corn of Mother Jones discussing Mitt Romney’s biggest fib, which is really a blatant and ludicrous lie.
 
 
All along the campaign trail, in the debates, and in a speech in New Hampshire after virtually sewing up the nomination, Romney has repeatedly asserted that he can handle the economy better than Obama (a matter of opinion) and that after the Affordable Care Act is wholly operative the federal government will control half the nation’s economy.
 
Various fact checkers have exposed  this assertion for what it is—a factless prevarication. Corn also interviewed several economists who disagree with Romney’s statement to various degrees.
 
For example:
 
Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, explains that there are more fundamental problems with Romney’s analysis. Romney claims that all private health care expenditures—such as those that occur when a Medicare beneficiary pays for a service not covered by the program or when a person with insurance at work obtains medical services—should be counted in the government-controlled category. This is “ludicrous,” Burtless says.
 
Romney is assuming that under Obamacare, these health care transactions will be controlled by government, apparently accepting the premise that Obama’s initiative is a total government takeover of the health care sector (a much-repeated conservative trope that PolitiFact.com declared the “lie of the year” in 2010). But, Burtless points out, private health care expenditures have long been subject to government regulations, and Obama’s health care law does not “materially change the control of the health care sector that is considered private.” He adds, “You can’t move private dollars to ‘government control’ just because of health care reform. You can’t just reclassify these private dollars under government control. The private dollars my mother spends outside Medicare are no more under government control now than when this was done in the Reagan years.

In other words, any true control of the economy actually exercised by the federal government will essentially remain status quo, not mushroom as Romney suggests.

But with the current yet to be determined issue of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and/or some of its specific provisions comes potential economic consequences far exceeding those of the law itself.

T.S. Jost, J.D., writes in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEMJ) on the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1204347

The ACA expands Medicaid to cover all adults under 65 years of age who have an income below 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal government will pay 100% of the cost of this expansion for 2014 through 2016, phasing down to 90% by 2020. But states must cover the newly eligible population in order to receive any federal Medicaid funding.

The 26 Republican governors and attorneys general bringing the ACA lawsuit claim that the expansion is unconstitutional because they are being “coerced” into expanding their Medicaid programs under threat of losing all federal Medicaid funding. Their argument is grounded in statements made in two earlier Supreme Court cases speculating that financial inducements that the federal government offers states to participate in federal–state programs “might be so coercive as to pass the point at which `pressure turns into compulsion.’” No federal court has ever declared a law unconstitutional under this coercion theory, and it was rejected by the lower courts in this case.

Jost astutely notes the potential for havoc if the Medicaid provision is tossed out. There are numerous other federal programs tied to funding granted to the states with conditions attached.

Most cooperative federal programs — addressing not only health care but also transportation, education, welfare, community development, and environmental problems — involve conditional federal grants to the states. All these programs are subject to litigation if the states win this case. The Court’s establishing the coercion theory as an active legal doctrine would threaten the ability of the federal government to work with the states to address national problems. Holding the expansion unconstitutional could eliminate federal–state cooperative programs. The ramifications of such a ruling could far exceed those that might follow from the invalidation of the minimum-coverage requirement.

A clear cut example where federal will has been imposed where it could not otherwise make law is the drinking age in each state. That is uniformly set at 21 due to the threat of the withholding of federal highway funds to non-conforming states.

I have no proper segue into this next item save for the fact it also appears in Mother Jones. By Adam Weinstein it alerts us to a new wave of “swift-boating” this time aimed at Obama for not being shy about authorizing last year’s hit on Osama Bin Laden.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/05/swift-boat-obama-bin-laden-video

Veterans for a Strong America describes itself “a grassroots action organization committed to ensuring that America remains a strong nation by advancing liberty, safeguarding freedom and opposing tyranny.” Founded in 2010, the ostensibly nonpartisan group kept a low profile until earlier this week, when it posted a splashy online ad that uses statements from President Barack Obama to suggest that the commander-in-chief boasted about his role in killing Osama bin Laden, dishonoring America’s military in the process.

Naturally the leaders of this group have ties to the Koch brothers through their Americans For Prosperity as well as other well known conservative operatives or organizations.

Those of us whose memories of the past ten years are intact will, of course, pooh pooh this program as nothing compared to what Bush did or even Rudy ” 9/11″ Giuliani’s campaign speeches.

As you might expect Jon Stewart of The Daily Show was quick to demonstrate the utter hypocrisy of Republicans in these criticisms of Obama.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-may-1-2012/victory-lapse—the-anniversary-of-osama-bin-laden-s-death

If confronted by friend or foe claiming Obama is unseemly in talking about the success of finally tracking down OBL, just show them that video.

Before I end I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Jeffry Young. Jeff and I grew up and went to school together through our feshman year of college, after which I transferred. He went on to become a successful physician (I liked to hang out with smart guys) and now resides in California. He has been reading this blog and referred me to the NEMJ as good source material for other health care topics.

Thanks, Jeff!

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Comments

  • little_minx  On May 8, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    The whackadoodle right-wingers have been aided and abetted by uncritical “objective” journalism run amok. As Katrina vanden Heuvel observes:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/new-models-will-allow-investigative-journalism-to-thrive/2012/05/07/gIQA8ovEAU_story.html

    “Citizens of this digital era have access to more platforms and channels than ever. But the quality journalism that checks our leaders, that holds accountable the powerful and influential — that, indeed, defines democracy [—] is in jeopardy. Under the crushing pressure of commercialism, where speed is prized over thought, reporting deteriorates into a feeding frenzy of the 24-hour news cycle.

    “The void of accountability journalism has too often been filled by liars and charlatans peddling fairy tales: President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim; global warming is a worldwide conspiracy of greedy climate scientists; the financial crisis was the result of government regulation. The result is what John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney call ‘the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law.’

    “It’s not simply that newsrooms lack resources, or that aggregating sites that prioritize dancing kittens get so many hits (though both are true). It’s also that in a high-minded effort to impartially represent all sides of a story, reporters frequently give more credence to an argument than the facts warrant. But as the political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann recently wrote in the Washington Post, “A balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.” The role of journalists is not to give every party equal space, or accede to the red herring of false equivalence, but to pursue and publish the truth…”

  • little_minx  On May 9, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Who’s this Texas convict who garnered 41% of the Democratic primary votes vs. President Obama in yesterday’s WV primary? Was cross-over voting allowed? Regardless, WV should be ashamed of that 41%.

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