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Charles Krauthammer on Obamacare, Iran’s Mahdi goals, and the end around on cap and trade

Friday, December 11, 2009

HH: Joined now by Washington Post columnist and Fox News All-Star, Charles Krauthammer. Charles, welcome, and a happy holiday season to you.

CK: Thank you very much.

HH: Your column today ends by saying, “Because Big Brother isn’t lurking in a CIA cloak, he’s knocking on your door, smiling under an EPA cap.” Would you expand on that a little bit for our audience, Charles?

CK: Well, there’s something rather dramatic that happened this week. It got lost in a lot of other news. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, announced formally a finding that CO2 is a danger to human health and the environment, so that under the Environmental Protection laws, it can now regulate it as severely as it wants. And basically, it’s supposed to regulate everything over, that puts out over 250 tons of CO2 a year, which means everybody. Any large apartment complex, school, hospital, any institution, enterprise, shopping center, is now going to be, at least in theory, under its thumb. And these are drastic regulations. And people don’t sort of understand that gives the EPA intrusive power. Every time you want to, say, renovate any of these, you’re going to have to get a permit from the EPA, and it’s going to have to, you’re going to have to be carbon neutral, or you’re not going to be able to do it.

HH: As you put it…

CK: This is worse than cap and trade, because you can’t even trade for a permit. And to purchase one…you’re just, you’re not going to be able to expand.

HH: Yeah, as you put it, all cap, no trade.

CK: Yeah.

HH: And in fact, it’s a self-limiting principle, Charles. If they want to go below 250 tons per year, they can do so. It is an open door to the regulation of every aspect of any facility in America that emits carbon, which I think gets right down to the trash that you put out each Friday night.

CK: It gets it down to you and me who exhale it every minute.

HH: Yup. So in terms of why no one reacts to this, why do you believe that Congress is basically quiet? There are a couple of people who rose, they stood up and raised minor objections. But why do you think Congress is willing to abdicate here?

CK: Well, I think first of all, they’re so preoccupied with health care that they can’t look at anything else rather seriously until health care’s out of the way. Secondly, I think this is a ways off. They’re going to have to issue regulations, then there’s…we have a democracy here. When you issue a regulation, you can get a comment period, you get hearings. So it’ll be a while until it’s going to be instituted. I think they also think that maybe this is, it’s just a bluff. The administration is trying to put pressure on Congress in saying look, if you pass cap and trade, we’re not going to have to regulate. And I don’t think it will pass. The Senate will reject it in the end. Now I’m not sure…I think they want either to call the bluff of the administration, or they think that in the end, by changing the statute, they might be able to abolish this expansion of executive control at a future date. I’m not exactly sure why, but it is really big news that’s been very, very overlooked.

HH: It’s extraordinary news, and when you combine it with the power grab at the Department of the Interior over carbon impacts to endangered species, it’s a gigantic plan to take over the national economy. Charles, do you suspect that part of the blowback that is building against the Democrats, and will accelerate, I think, in 2010, will be based in part upon a sense of ordinary Americans that this gang just, there’s no too much power for them? They can’t push themselves away from the federal table when it comes to the accumulation of authority?

CK: I think you’re absolutely right. Look, there was even a smaller instance of that today pointed out to be my economist Irwin Stelzer that the transportation secretary is announcing, this is as a result of an action, and it happened in Washington on the Metro a few months ago, he’s announcing that the feds are going to propose a takeover of safety standards for all of the local and municipal rapid transit systems, which since the early Jurassic era, have always been under local control. I mean, where does it stop? Anything they see, they want to tax and control. And this is, you know, auto companies, this is Fannie-Freddie, this is AIG, this is of course the entire one-sixth of the economy that’s health care, and of course cap and trade, the energy in the country. This is, there’s nothing they don’t want to control, and they have no respect for the notion of either limited government or federalism.

HH: Today, Charles Krauthammer, Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration special master for executive pay, set a half million dollar cash salary limit for employees at four companies that had received “exceptional” U.S. assistance. That would be CitiGroup, AIG, GM, and GMAC. Now I’m sure that some people in the audience are saying oh, who cares, five hundred grand’s a lot. But it’s not the amount. It’s really the assertion of authority to do so without, I believe, explicit Congressional authorization to do so.

CK: Well, I’m less troubled by the principle of this, because I don’t want the federal government regulating the income, the pay of independent enterprises, of free enterprise private companies. But once you go to the feds cap in hand, and their billions of dollars are injected into you, you become, you are now owned by the government. And it’s the same as if you went to a bank and you borrowed the money. They own you. And they can dictate. I have no trouble at all in principle with dictating the compensation of companies who are living off the dole of the federal government, and who would be dead without it. My problem is with how practical it is. If you set the bar that low, who’s going to work for these companies when you can make ten times as much with a competitor, which means it’s going to get very low quality leadership, and these are enterprises in which you and I have invested through the government, through our tax money, and I want to see a return on it. I don’t want to see it go south.

HH: All right, moving onto another topic, Charles. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad said today that he has documented evidence that the United States is doing what it can to prevent the coming of the Mahdi, the Imam the Muslims believe will be the ultimate savior of mankind. “We have documented proof that the U.S. believe that a descendent of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts, and he will dry the roots of all unjustices in the world. They have all devised plans to prevent the coming of the hidden Imam, because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming, and will be supporters of his rule.” Not new, but fairly alarming, Charles, that the guy in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran is off his rocker.

CK: You know, people just…they won’t take the obvious at face value. This is a guy who has been unashamedly, unapologetically, a believer in the imminent apocalypse for a long, long time. And he is on the road now to acquiring nuclear weapons. This is a conjunction of two events that is absolutely catastrophic. It’s never really happened. I mean, Stalin had his negatives, but he wasn’t a believer in the imminent apocalypse. And he wasn’t, he didn’t have a sense that he was anointed to hasten it. That’s what these guys want to do. They want to hasten, because as in a lot of other eschatologies, there’s a sense that the messiah of whatever stripe it is, or whatever religion it is, emerges after a time of strife, tribulations and troubles. And that’s what nukes means to a guy like the president of Iran. I think these guys are dead serious. They believe in this, and that’s why they’re hell bent on acquiring nukes, and we are just standing by and pretending as if they don’t mean it. It’s like those who read Mein Kampf, and thought that you know, it’s too nutty to actually be a real belief. Well, it was, and it was put into motion.

HH: All right, back to domestic policy, speaking of trials, tribulations and troubles. Today, the office of the Actuary at the Department of Health and Human Services issued a massive report that concluded that the Obamacare in the Senate version would drive overall health care costs higher, that it would lead to Medicare benefit cuts, that the long term care insurance plan it includes would be a costly failure, that 33 million people would remain uninsured after it went into effect, and that cuts to doctors and hospitals proposed by the bill would put immediately one in five hospitals into the red. Other dire consequences, including a rise in overall health spending, more than if the Senate did nothing. Do you think this will do anything to stop the momentum behind the bill, Charles Krauthammer?

CK: Well, other than that, what you enumerate, it’s a great bill.

HH: (laughing)

CK: The Democrats are marching off a cliff here. You know, how many reports do you have to have? You get it from the Actuary here, as you say, all of these particulars, and we’ve got it from CBO again and again since the middle of June to prove a truism. There’s no free lunch. You want to increase the range, the scope of health care insurance by including 30 million people previously uninsured? It’s going to cost more. The idea that you’re going to expand it while you cut costs is absurd. The idea that you can cut half a trillion out of Medicare, and as Senator Baucus has said even today, will improve care, is simply nutty. We already know that doctors and hospitals are getting slaughtered by the low reimbursement in Medicare. And many of them are simply drowning as a result of the fact that they aren’t even earning enough to cover costs. You’re now going to reduce it by half a trillion more and you’re going to increase the quality of care? This is sort of common sense. And it seems to take a report after report to actually put it into numbers, and to make others acknowledge the obvious. But they are so invested in this, the Democrats, they have a political need to produce something, no matter how monstrous it is, and that’s where they’re headed, to produce anything, no matter how contradictory or impractical.

HH: 30 seconds, Charles, in all your years in Washington, D.C., have you ever had a sense that it has been ever before this kind of strange or out of control?

CK: No, not really. But I have to admit that as a journalist, that Obama and his powers in the House and the Senate are taking us over a cliff, but it is a hell of a ride.

HH: Charles Krauthammer, always a pleasure. Thank you.

End of interview.

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