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The New York Times’ John Burns

Tuesday, September 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The current London bureau chief of the Times and former head of the baghdad bureau for many years is my guest in hour three tonight. The podcast will be here later and the later.

Burns and some of his colleagues are blogging at the war at the new New York Times’ blog “At War.” While many of you are no doubt as dismayed with Times’ domestic political coverage and lapses on national security as I am, Burns and many of his colleagues abroad are the best in the business.

Comment on the conversation at the Hughniverse.

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“Pulling The Plug On Grandma”: Practical Steps To Stopping Obamacare

Tuesday, September 8, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Here’s the president in Cincinnati, yesterday:

“I’ve got a question for all those folks who say we’re going to pull the plug on Grandma. What’s your answer? What’s your solution? And you know what? They don’t have one. Their answer is to do nothing.”

Actually, our answer is not to pull the plug on grandma.

Doing nothing is much much better than destroying American medicine via an ill-conceived attempt to increase political power by leveraging fears about health insurance. Voters don’t trust the president to do any better with health care than he has with his plans for stimulating job creation or with GM. Seniors know that the president is counting on money drained from medicare to pay for the extension of benefits to the uninsured. Their answer is: Don’t cut Medicare.

Will a big speech to Congress alter the basic and deep disagreements between a majority of Americans and the president and his hard-left allies in the Congress?

Only if the president can tempt his Democratic colleagues into forgetting everything they saw and heard during the August recess. If the Democrats pass anything like the president’s plans with its dramatic cuts to Medicare, they will be punished at the polls in 14 months. Seniors won’t forget and employers won’t forget, and doctors and health care workers most certainly won’t forget.

The president doesn’t care what happens to his Congressional allies. Today’s lead Politico story by David Rogers calls House Democrats “Obama’s expendable shock troops.” Expendable as in “Enjoy your retirement and the knowledge that you helped ruin American medicine.”

This is the sort of story that jars a House Democrat. Everyone sees they are being set up to take the political fall for a disastrous, radical attempt to remake American health care when the vast majority of voters are satisfied with their own care and their own insurance. It doesn’t matter how often the president speaks —and via Mike Allen comes Mark Knoller’s count of 121 speeches that includes some appeal on health care, including 28 events dedicated to pushing health care, or more than 3 a month— if the message is the same push to shrink Medicare, limit doctors’ authority and raise taxes to pay for Canada-style rationing.

To set the stage for tomorrow night’s speech, I suggest two things.

First, if you haven’t yet signed the petition against Obamacare that will be presented on the Hill tomorrow, please do so. We are above 1,250,000 signatures with a day left to add your name.

Then send $25 or $50 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the same amount to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. If President Obama’s big push for his takeover of American medicine provokes an early and visible increase in funding and enthusiasm for the GOP’s effort to knock off House Democrats, the Blue Dogs and other vulnerable Members as well as a larger bank account for the NRSC’s effort to re-establish some balance in the upper chamber, the president’s speech might be his most eloquent yet, but not so eloquent as to drown out the sound of political footsteps lining up for a chance to retire the enemies of American medicine in November, 2010.

The Monday Morning Column from Clark Judge

Monday, September 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Monday morning column:

Wednesday’s Speech Won’t Hit Reset Button for Obamacare
by Clark S. Judge, Managing Director, White House Writers Group, former Special Assistant and Speechwriter to President Reagan

Washington is in a state of something approaching suspended animation this Labor Day weekend.

With the president scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, the DC power game is in time out, waiting to hear what Mr. Obama has to say on that brightest stage of American political theater: the joint session of Congress.

You have to give him and his team points for tenacity. In the face of overwhelming public opposition to their planned overhaul of U.S. health care deliver, they have held their ground. Reset buttons seem to be their operating metaphor in more areas than relations with Russia. They will be trying to hit it on Wednesday night, with the president offering, it is said, specifics about a plan he favors rather than the general principals he has served up to date.

Nevertheless, it is almost a sure bet that, having misread the breadth, depth, spontaneity, and informed intelligence of public opposition to their scheme, they are misreading what it will take to truly rest this debate in their favor. They fear the “Waterloo” that Senator Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) predicted would be the fruit of failure to pass any health overhaul legislation. But as things stand today, one thing would be worse for Mr. Obama than losing on heath upheaval vote-and that would be winning.[# More #]

If anything became clear from the storm that swept through this summer’s Congressional town hall meetings, it was that the American public is opposed to the social democratic model of health overhaul that the White House has embraced. They remained opposed after tens of millions of dollars-if not a hundred million and more-were spent on media advertising and other political persuasion. The Administration’s problem is not that the American people understand so little about what is in store in health overhaul but that they understand so completely and so clearly. A reset speech that merely reiterates what they don’t like-albeit with less emphasis on programmatic principal and more on policy detail -is likely to end up a political nothingburger.

For the central failure of the health upheaval proposals the White House and Congressional Democrats have put out to date is not a failure of communications but of imagination.

Social democratic models of policy reform assume we know everything we need to know about how to do things right. Social democrats believe it just takes a rational government t bring that knowledge to bear. In contrast, market models assume that knowledge is limited and that progress comes through experiments-often entrepreneurial experiments — in which the determinant of success is the cumulative impact of choices that millions of people make in their own lives with their own money.

In recent weeks I have talked with people on the cutting edge of health delivery. There is a tremendous amount of experiment going in health care delivery. At least some of these experiments will transform health delivery and, if public policy allows it, solve the problem that is driving health overhaul: inflation of costs.

One such experiment is with what is called direct primary care. Think of Minute Clinics, only bigger and broader. For a modest and fixed monthly fee ($40 to $80/month), these facilities assume responsibility for all of a patient’s routine care. Appointments can be same day. Time allotted per patient is extensive.

How? By taking fees directly from the patent not the insurance company or the government. These firms estimate that 40 percent of the costs of health providers (not insurers, providers) are incurred in the processing the paperwork that government and private payers demand. Much of the productivity boost allows higher care for a lower price is derived from cutting out these costs.

Another set of experiments is with a new approach to pharmaceuticals. I asked a former senior official at the Food and Drug Administration what he thought of Obamacare. It will send us back to the Middle Ages, he replied. His reason? The administration’s embrace of comparative effectiveness standards would cut off the most promising experiments in medical science.

Comparative effectiveness standards are, he explained, based on population averages-greatest good for the greatest number. But born of the mapping of the genome and other biochemical advances, the changes he saw coming would lead to medicine that is specifically tailored to each patient’s unique makeup. Comparative effectiveness panels, he said, would effectively end the ongoing research and development in patient specific care.

The widely understood alternative to the president’s government-centered reforms is patient centered reform-including giving the consumer the same tax preferences when buying insurance for themselves as companies now receive and expanding Health Savings Accounts.

HSAs put those receiving care in charge of all normal health choices, cutting out both government and insurance companies. With HSAs, the usual questions consumers ask-in particular how much value am I receiving for the money-consumers are now asking for the first time in decades in the American health world.

Cumulatively the asking of these questions is creating-as it has in all areas of the economy-an irresistible impulse to do more with less, in other words to improve productivity. If individuals could buy their health plans independently of their employers-something that current tax law makes prohibitively expensive-those pressures would become vastly stronger.

So the White House’s biggest problem is not bad communications policy. It is not the opposition of a truly impotent Republican minority that has, in any event, been offered policy options on a take it or leave it basis. No, it is that the president and his staff remain prisoners to 1930s style economic thinking and to an ideologically driven political base that regards deviation from that antiquated thinking as anathema.

Until the president-as one of his predecessors so famously urged-learns to think anew, learns to disenthrall himself, winning will be losing for him and his party, no matter how well he speaks on Wednesday and how Congress votes on health policy overhaul.

Why Did President Obama Fire Van Jones?

Sunday, September 6, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Which of Van Jones’ statements, if any, did President Obama find so unacceptable that Jones was obliged to leave such an important post?

And what standard concerning present and future Obama appointees are we supposed to deduce from Jones’ dismissal?

There are plenty of interesting questions to ask Robert Gibbs and all other Obama Administration officials including the president about Van Jones, but don’t expect the MSM to pose them.

The Washington Post actually has a link to a Jones interview conducted by Lois Romano less than a month ago which includes these questions:

You–you personally appear to be a good communicator, and you’ve done a lot of public speaking, and I–and you are a community activist. Do you view that as part of your portfolio to sort of educate America?

and

Have you considered that your–your vision might be far ahead of–of reality and what’s really going on in the country?

and

One final question. You have spent most of your career as a community activist. You started a couple of organizations, and you could be autonomous and sort of see, you know, the impact of your visions. How has this transition been working in a bureaucracy?

The irony is that the Post is advertising today either just how uninterested its reporter was in Jones’ background or how unremarkable the reporter found that background to be.

The Administration, like the president who leads it, is the least examined, the least scrutinized of any of modern times. MSM has simply refused to push either the president or his appointees on their backgrounds, their plans, their qualifications and their ideology. Mr. Jones is almost certainly not the only Obama appointee who holds the views he does, but he may well be the only one we ever hear about.

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