Archive for January, 2011

House Republicans begin phase two of health-reform reform

The U.S. House’s vote Wednesday to repeal ObamaCare was derided by Democrats as a base-pleasing act of symbolism lacking in substance. But the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports that it only took a day for GOP congressional leaders to move on to what certainly qualifies as substantive:

By a vote of 253 to 175 [with 14 Democrats voting "yes"], the GOP [Thursday] directed key House committees to report on ways to lower health care premiums, allow patients to keep their current health plans, increase access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and decrease the price of medical liability lawsuits. In other words, the committees are beginning work on replacing the House-repealed Obamacare with Republican health policies.

Repeal got a lot of press coverage. Replacement got far less. If they needed any reminding, GOP lawmakers are learning that controlling the levers of power in the House doesn’t mean controlling the media narrative on health care. “Democrats …

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Set a new federal debt limit? Why not set two?

Fourteen trillion dollars ain’t what it used to be.

Our federal debt blew past that sickening level a couple of weeks ago and, the Obama administration tells us, will eclipse the legal debt limit of $14.3 trillion by spring. The president’s men tell us the limit must go up.

GOP leaders in Congress say any increase must come with a package of spending cuts; some Republicans vow to fight any increase, cuts or no cuts.

Here’s another option I’ve heard no one talk about: Pair any rise with not only spending cuts, but a lower future limit.

Some spending cuts are better than no spending cuts — the latter being one alternative that some Democrats are pushing, even as they talk about dealing with our debt like adults.

But a number of us remain skeptical that a higher limit/spending cuts compromise will only slow, not reverse, our borrowing binge. Putting a debt decrease into the law might help to ease our minds.

The problem with politicians’ (and pundits’) talk about …

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Herman Cain gets some love from the national political press

The announcement last week that Atlanta’s own Herman Cain was launching an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2012 may not have landed him in the pole position on pundits’ lists. But neither has Cain gone unnoticed by the national media.

The Atlantic magazine’s March issue includes a profile of Cain that is available online now. The author, Joshua Green, then dug up and posted a copy of Cain’s 1994 exchange with Bill Clinton, who was then promoting his own ill-fated health-care reform. I’m including it here:

As Green notes about the exchange,

[T]his strikes me as an enormously valuable thing for someone seeking GOP support in 2011, since health care will be a central issue in the Republican primaries. Today, every Republican is critical of the Democratic health care plan. But Cain was fighting the Democratic health care plan 17 years ago! That counts for a lot. Especially when the presumed GOP favorite, Mitt Romney, was, at that very same time, doing his best to …

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Truly remarkable: Revolution in Tunisia

Five years ago, I spent a week in Tunisia covering a United Nations conference on the “information society”; my interest was the U.N.’s attempt to wrest control of the Internet’s “plumbing” away from a U.S.-based non-profit. In some ways, the country was much more modern than the rest of the Muslim world: You were more likely to see a Tunisian woman walking down the streets of Tunis wearing a tank top and tight jeans than wearing a burqa (although, as my wife observed, you saw fewer and fewer local women out in public as evening approached). At the same time, outside the sprawling but remote grounds of the conference, the ubiquitous Tunisian police made it clear that the U.N.’s presence didn’t mean more freedom for the press, even temporarily.

The only thing rivaling the ubiquity of the police — uniformed and plain-clothes — were the photographs of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. His grip on power seemed, to an outsider, unshakable.

Which makes it all the more remarkable …

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On entitlement reform, wait for Obama’s lead?

That’s the advice of Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor for National Review Online. Writing in the New York Times, he recounts failed attempts by Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush to reform entitlements and argues congressional Republicans need two things they don’t currently have before embarking on a new reform push: presidential leadership on the issue, and a clear mandate from the electorate to address Social Security and Medicare.

Here’s the gist:

Reforming these programs is vital to our nation’s long-term fiscal health — which is why Republicans should … leave the issue alone. Reform is impossible this year or next unless President Obama takes the lead on it. What’s more, Republicans have no mandate for reform, and a failed attempt will only set back the cause.

(snip)

If Mr. Obama delivers a good-faith proposal for Social Security, for example in this month’s State of the Union address, then by all means Republicans should offer a serious counterproposal and, …

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Tax reform proposals need a sales-tax rate cut, too

The bad news about the state tax reforms proposed last week is they didn’t do enough to keep tax reforms from becoming tax hikes. The good news is there’s an obvious remedy.

But first, a primer on what the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians recommended.

The headlines are: lowering individual and corporate income taxes by 2 percentage points to 4 percent and eliminating some exemptions; dropping certain exemptions to the state sales tax, most notably the one for household groceries; and adding the sales tax to certain services and online purchases.

The goal was to be “revenue neutral.” But the council’s own estimates show the measures, taken together, would increase tax revenues by at least $1.1 billion, or about 7.5 percent more than their current, recession-deflated levels. Using higher estimates in the council’s report, the rise could be as large as $1.4 billion, or almost 10 percent. (Revenue estimates are not provided for some proposals, …

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The next phase of the Arizona aftermath: New laws

The anti-tea party and -Palin gabfest following the shootings in Tucson, Ariz., seems to be dying down, and we’re moving on to the policy prescription phase. Some ideas are plainly farcical, such as U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s idea to ban the use of some symbols in reference to elected officials, and U.S. Rep. Peter King’s idea to ban the possession of firearms with a 1,000-foot radius of our ever-moving members of Congress (will the Ministry of Truth alert us to all of their comings and goings so that we can stay out of the way?). You can always count on members of Congress to look after themselves first.

Then there are the ideas that are entirely predictable: the call for tighter gun restrictions.

As a matter of principle, I think any law we enact as a response to a particular event ought to have, at the very least, a clear indication that it would have stood a good chance of preventing said event. And when it comes to mass murders such as the one in Tucson, the unique …

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Comparing two newly elected Democratic governors

With so many Republicans winning governorships last November, there will be ample opportunity in the months ahead to compare and contrast the actions of other states’ executives with our own, and to look elsewhere for working solutions to the problems Georgia also faces. For today, I call your attention to a column by The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn about the divergent approaches so far by two newly elected Democratic governors: Andrew Cuomo of New York and Pat Quinn of Illinois (who assumed the office after the fall of Rod Blagojevich and was elected as governor for the first time in November):

At yesterday’s inaugural in Springfield, Gov. Quinn delivered himself of an address that made ample use of someone’s Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. … Apart from promising that “we will stabilize our budget,” there was little hint that the taxpayers of Illinois need any larger reform in the way the politicians handle their money.

By contrast, before the first week of this new …

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Thoughts from Gov. Deal’s inauguration

Nathan Deal is officially our 82nd governor, sworn into office about an hour ago. The substantive speech from Gov. Deal will come Wednesday, in his State of the State address. (I just heard that the Legislature will not be in session Tuesday due to the weather, and I am assuming that this cancellation will not have an impact on the timing of Deal’s speech.) That’s when he will outline his policy objectives for this session. But here are a few lines from today’s speech that I jotted down:

1. First among the core responsibilities of state government, as listed and discussed by Deal, was that of protecting the public. He went on to spend about as much time talking about public safety as he did education, which was somewhat surprising to me. But maybe it shouldn’t have been: Deal is a former prosecutor, and putting some focus on corrections reform may be a way for him to play to his strengths while looking at some ways to cut spending. He mentioned the stat about 1 in 13 Georgia …

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AZ shooting: The blame game is part of the problem

Two responses to the shooting in Arizona over the weekend. First, prayers for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the other people who were wounded, and the doctors working to keep them alive; for the families of those who were killed; and, yes, for the clearly very tortured soul of the accused killer, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.

Which leads me to the second point.

The rush from some precincts to blame the shooting on the tea party or Sarah Palin was disgusting. Everyone who self-righteously did so in the name of civility in politics needs to understand that their blood libels make them part of the problem.

And, yes, it is blood libels — plural — at this point. Before this killing, it was the Times Square bomber last spring; before that, it was the aviator who crashed a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, last winter; before that, the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2009. In each instance, the specter of tea-party radicalism, or at …

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