- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

THAT MANDATE

“ObamaCare has nothing going for it anymore,” Shikha Dalmia writes at www.forbes.com.

“With unemployment touching double digits, its economic timing is bad; with polls showing tanking support in every group outside of the narrow sliver of die-hard liberal reformers, its political timing is bad; and with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week saying that it’ll add billions to the already out-of-control deficit, its fiscal timing has gone from bad to awful,” said the writer, a senior analyst at the Reason Foundation.

“So how are Comrades Pelosi, Reid and Obama able to march ahead with their grand designs undeterred? One reason is that Republicans have done precious little to seize the moral high ground from them. By insisting on the removal of the public option - instead of the individual mandate - as the price of doing business, Republicans have missed a major opportunity to put Democrats on the defensive and change the terms of the debate.

“Republicans threw down the gauntlet on the public option - a government-funded, Medicare-style insurance plan that will compete with private insurance - in a June letter to Obama. ‘Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition through their ability to impose price controls and shift costs to other purchasers,’ they said. ‘The end result would be a federal government takeover of our health care system, taking decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and placing them in the hands of a Washington bureaucracy.’

“True. But the problem is that Democrats don’t need the public option to engineer a ‘federal takeover of our health care system.’ All they need is the power to force Americans to purchase insurance.

“A mandate will fundamentally alter the relationship between Americans and their government. Instead of the government being accountable to them, they will become accountable to their government.”

CRAZY NUMBERS

“The stimulus package, that early presidential victory that’s cost so much, has provided President Obama with its own set of headaches at every step along the way,” ABC’s Rick Klein writes in a blog at abcnews.com.

“There was the way it was enacted. Then the speed with which it’s been implemented. Later came the projects that were never going to really fit comfortably under the stimulus umbrella,” Mr. Klein said.

“The problem again this week is salesmanship - and how the administration can get the public to trust its numbers when some of them are so laughably, horribly wrong.

“It’s not just an exercise in spin: This debate rages while talk starts on Capitol Hill of another stimulus measure - except it can’t be called a ‘stimulus’ this time. (If you have to ask why, you aren’t paying attention.)

“The administration asked for this - dare we say, literally asked for this - with promises of actual job totals and new accountability and oversight mechanisms, all with Sheriff Joe Biden at the helm.”

IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Sean Mahoney, a Republican National Committeeman and publisher, said [Wednesday] that he won’t enter the primary for retiring Sen. Judd Gregg’s open seat” in New Hampshire, the Atlantic magazine’s Marc Ambinder writes in a blog at theatlantic.com.

“Mahoney’s departure statement left open the possibility that he might endorse one of the two remaining Republicans - Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne or Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. ‘As I considered this race, my number one priority was to make sure that there was a candidate in the race who supported my conservative principles,’ Mahoney said, according to the Union Leader. ‘After listening to the announced candidates at various forums and meetings, I am confident that we’ll have a true conservative leading the charge to keep the seat in Republican hands.’ The Union Leader reports, however, that Mahoney will NOT endorse,” Mr. Ambinder said.

“Democrats hope that conservative Republicans unite to force Ayotte, seen as the likely GOP nominee and the favorite of the state party establishment, further to the right. Democrat Paul Hodes is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

“Ayotte is pro-life, pro-gun rights, against same-sex marriage; she endorsed Doug Hoffman in New York’s 23rd Congressional district; she opposes cap-and-trade, the public option and the Democratic health care reform in general.

“When asked if she’s a Jim DeMint Republican or a Susan Collins Republican (and clearly there’s a right answer if you’re looking to get elected in New Hampshire), Ayotte won’t even answer, which is one suggestion that conservative Republicans are dominating the primary process in New Hampshire. Plastics magnate Bill Binnie is also considering a run for the GOP nomination.”

COSTLY PLAN

“As the dean of Harvard Medical School I am frequently asked to comment on the health reform debate. I’d give it a failing grade,” Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Instead of forthrightly dealing with the fundamental problems, discussion is dominated by rival factions struggling to enact or defeat President Barack Obama’s agenda. The rhetoric on both sides is exaggerated and often deceptive. Those of us for whom the central issue is health - not politics - have been left in the lurch. And as controversy heads toward a conclusion in Washington, it appears that the people who favor the legislation are engaged in collective denial,” Dr. Flier said.

“Our health care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.

“Speeches and news reports can lead you to believe that proposed congressional legislation would tackle the problems of cost, access and quality. But that’s not true. The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost - and thus address an important social goal. However, there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care. So the overall effort will fail to qualify as reform.

“In discussions with dozens of health care leaders and economists, I find near-unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health care spending rather than restrain it.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3286 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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