- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

NEXT PROBLEM

Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican, says the recession could push Social Security into a deficit within two years.

“The situation is much worse than people realize, especially because of the problems brought on by the recession, near depression,” Mr. Bachus told the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News editorial board.

Mr. Bachus, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said most people seem unaware of the impending crisis. He initially said Social Security could face “default” within two years, but his staff responded later saying the congressman intended to say “deficit.”

“What this recession has done to Social Security is pretty alarming,” he said. “We’ve known for 15 years that we were going to have to make adjustments to Social Security, but we still thought that was seven or eight years down the road. But if things don’t improve very quickly, we’re going to be dealing with that problem before we know it.”

RATIONING CARE

“Although administration officials are eager to deny it, rationing health care is central to President Barack Obama’s health plan. The Obama strategy is to reduce health costs by rationing the services that we and future generations of patients will receive,” Martin Feldstein writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“The White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report in June explaining the Obama administration’s goal of reducing projected health spending by 30 percent over the next two decades. That reduction would be achieved by eliminating ‘high-cost, low-value treatments,’ by ‘implementing a set of performance measures that all providers would adopt,’ and by ‘directly targeting individual providers … (and other) high-end outliers.’

“The president has emphasized the importance of limiting services to ‘health care that works.’ To identify such care, he provided more than $1 billion in the fiscal stimulus package to jump-start Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and to finance a federal CER advisory council to implement that idea,” said Mr. Feldstein, a Harvard economist and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration.

“That could morph over time into a cost-control mechanism of the sort proposed by former Sen. Tom Daschle, Mr. Obama’s original choice for White House health czar. Comparative effectiveness could become the vehicle for deciding whether each method of treatment provides enough of an improvement in health care to justify its cost. …

“One reason the Obama administration is prepared to use rationing to limit health care is to rein in the government’s exploding health care budget. Government now pays for nearly half of all health care in the U.S., primarily through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. … The rising cost of medical treatments would not be such a large burden on future budgets if the government reduced its share in the financing of health services.”

WHERE DID HE GO?

“Taking the stage for a town hall meeting on health care the other day, President Obama emerged from behind a curtain in a fake jog. He pumped his arms in an exaggerated fashion, but his smile looked forced as he waved and shook hands with a few audience members,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“It all seemed a campaign ritual, dulled by time and beleaguered by circumstance, prompting a flashback in my head to the Paul Simon song about Joe DiMaggio,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Where have you gone, Barack Obama? Where is the sunny-side-up young man who promised to inspire and unite an unhappy nation?

“Gone into the partisan sinkhole of Washington, that’s where. Like some novice swimmer too confident of his own ability, Obama is suddenly finding himself in water over his head.

“His flailing, including a foul habit of demonizing dissent, is not pretty. And that brief foray into e-mail tracking of critics showed a win-at-any-cost side.

“Where is the appealing man we elected? Where is that Barack Obama?

“Let’s find him quick because the whole nation is paying the price for this impostor’s irrational exuberance. Or hubris.”

RIDGE’S BOOK

Tom Ridge, the first head of the 9/11-inspired Department of Homeland Security, wasn’t keen on writing a tell-all. But in ‘The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege - and How We Can Be Safe Again,’out Sept. 1, Ridge says he wants to shake ‘public complacency’ over security,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“And to do that, well, he needs to tell all. Especially about the infighting he saw that frustrated his attempts to build a smooth-running department.

“Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was ‘blindsided’ by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.”

WEATHER VANE

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in an editorial, notes that Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Democrat, has changed his mind once again on the Employee Free Choice Act.

“The wildly turning political weather vane of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-If You Don’t Like It Just Wait 15 Minutes, has spun again, putting him - at least until further notice - again on the wrong side of the Employee Free Choice Act,” the newspaper said.

“He told liberal bloggers’ Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh over the weekend that he’d support limiting Senate debate on the bill so it can proceed to an up-or-down vote. This, after vowing in April - as he announced his defection from the GOP - that he wouldn’t vote for cloture regarding the same bill.

“And though the bill no longer includes allowing union formation via ‘card check’ rather than secret ballots, it still calls for binding arbitration when a union and employer can’t agree on their first contract. Letting government set wages is an idea only an economic ignoramus could support - or an opportunistic pol.

“Arlen Specter’s primary concern is getting re-elected, not making economic sense. However wildly his political weather vane spins, it always points to what he thinks is best politically for him - and never mind the people of Pennsylvania or the nation.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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