George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare

THE MAN ON THE WEDDING CAKE

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The President seems increasingly clueless as to what his job responsibilities are. It is as though all the ceremonial aspects of the presidency have superseded the substantive requirements of the position, so that being president consists of photo-ops, giving speeches, and other ribbon-cutting type affairs. He remains detached from everything else, whether it be meeting with members of congress, solving problems, or otherwise dealing with the substance of things. Whenever things go wrong he says he is “angry” about them, but does little to rectify the situation, deflecting blame elsewhere, even though many of these problems originated in his own administration. He thereby absolves himself of any responsibility for Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the NSA spying revelations, fumbling over Syria, presiding over five of the six largest deficits in history, a sputtering economy, and, of course, Obamacare. It is deeply troubling that none of these things have been adequately resolved. The President may be genuinely angry about these things, but many of them, at the very least, are a consequence of who he appointed to office, including zealots who were obsessed with radical reform, based not upon empirical evidence but ideological presumptions as to the way things ought to be. As Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here,” (in the office of the President).

But disengagement cannot be an excuse for ineptitude that is broad and consistent. One would be hard pressed to identify anything within the purview of the president that is going right these days. This is a result of some degree of competence at the superficial aspects of the presidency, i.e. ceremonial pomp, but complete incompetence at everything else. It is also unsurprising to anyone who could see through the glow of media cheerleading, given that he never ran anything in his life before. Yet he was elevated twice to what was, until he assumed office,  the most powerful position in the world, but now, at least according to Forbes, that distinction belongs to Vladimir Putin. During this presidency the US has been seriously weakened in the world, as well as at home, and it will take a lot of time and effort to undo what has transpired.

He did belatedly, and superficially assume responsibility for Obamacare, which he and his party obviously own, but he remains a true believer in his own narrative, and is the most partisan occupant the White House has ever seen. Seldom have we witnessed more confidence with less actual justification for it. He is like the man on top of the wedding cake, peering down on all below, oblivious to the meltdown that is happening. As we witness the government unraveling before our eyes he does not shoulder all the blame, but he has done nothing to fix the damage, and too often has made things considerably worse than they had to be. What is remarkable is not that his approval ratings are at an all time low, but that 41% still view his administration positively. The real tragedy is that we have to endure years more of this presidency while the situation in the US and the rest of the world remains dangerously rudderless, at least until the next election. In the interim congress may gain more power as the president becomes more of a lame duck, a prospect that is not all that reassuring. We can only pray that no serious crises explode abroad in the meantime. What we need to identify in the time ahead, is someone who is capable of competently running things, solving problems, and working congenially with the congress in order to undo all the damage that has been done. Until that happens we can’t even think about moving forward again.

Written by georgesarant

October 31, 2013 at 11:57 PM

HELPING THE FEW BY PUNISHING THE MANY

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The Obama administration forced through a radical overhaul of the health care system despite public opposition, and the results have been disastrous. Not only does the system not work, but it is actually causing real harm to people, particularly individuals who purchased their own health insurance. Under this dysfunctional system they are being dropped from their existing policies since their existing coverage does not conform to Obamacare, thus losing their coverage while facing steeply increased premiums. But it gets worse. Since the website does not work they cannot even get a new policy at the Obamacare “exchanges,” leaving them with no coverage at all. All of this is happening while the president promised that people could keep their existing plans under Obamacare, but he knew, it now develops, as far back as 2010, that this was not true.

This is a sad example of the consequences of the warped thinking of the left, which demanded that the entire system of coverage for 80-85% of the population be upended because a minority did not have health insurance. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of people were satisfied with what they had, and the number of people lacking coverage was fluid; it didn’t matter, because the left-wingers cannot abide any distinctions. In other words, they insist on disrupting society if a minority (pick any one you want) is somehow allegedly not included in what prevails among the majority of the population. So we must endure continued social, cultural, and political disturbance for some misconceived sense of justice. The state must ameliorate any discrepancies, no matter what the cost. In addition, the true cost has been buried, for in order to pay for the minority in this instance, the costs for the majority must inevitably go up, bearing what effectively amounts to an additional tax.

It is also part of the liberal delusion that they know what is good for you better than you do yourself. For the left, government is an instrument through which they can impose their policies, values, and beliefs on other people. If the government manages more of our lives and the world around us, they think it is good. For them any flaw in society can only be changed for the better by the state, usually with some costly, vast new program. This faith in government planning and supervision remains unshaken by the facts.

To achieve such ends it is apparently okay to misinform, mislead, and even to lie to reach a desired goal. In the case of health care, the administration was, at the very least disingenuous in its claims. Given the foreknowledge of what was going to happen to individual coverage, suspicion can only be aroused that the intention all along was to force everyone into government health care program. I cannot subscribe to the notion that Obamacare was somehow designed to fail to achieve this end, because I think the people responsible thought they were doing good. It is rather a glaring case of ineptitude, overreach, and an example of what happens when ambitions far exceed the abilities that are applied to them. No, what is insufferable here is the conceit that they still know best and the continued smugness of the administration in the face of cascading failures.

They continue in damage control mode, while the rational answer would be to pull the plug on this monstrosity and cut their losses, or at least postpone implementation until they are presumably able to do so competently. The latter is unlikely to ever occur given the ill-conceived nature of this whole fiasco. The Democratic party will likely pay heavily for this, having forced it through when they controlled the congress, at least in the next election. The media also have a lot to answer for as well. They have been carrying water for the administration since its inception. Only now are they beginning to report on the magnitude of the problems, although they still have not come to grips with the fundamental flaws of the whole endeavor. What we need now is some public humility, if not contrition, across the board.

Written by georgesarant

October 29, 2013 at 8:48 PM

GOVERNMENT FAILURE (AND PAST SUCCESSES)

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Now that the dust has cleared from the partial government “shutdown” the administration’s failures are glaringly clear. This would have been apparent sooner had the standoff not occurred, which also seriously damaged the Republicans as a viable alternative to incompetent government. The best thing that party could do would be to shut up and stand back until next November, and let the magnitude of failure become clear. For the administration has lost credibility on several fronts.

The disastrous roll-out of Obamacare is getting worse and worse by the day, creating havoc in the health care industry while failing to provide the promised coverage to individuals. What was unpopular to begin with is even more so today. The Health and Human Services administration appears to be clueless with regard to implementation, and few of the President’s promises are being realized. 

The President has lost the confidence of much of the rest of the world that once provided such an enthusiastic greeting when he first appeared on the scene. The Germans, French, and other Europeans, as well as the  Brazilians are outraged over NSA snooping in their countries, particularly on government officials. The Saudis are breaking away, feeling they have been misled on policy toward Syria, i.e. drawing red lines, threatening intervention, etc. and then reversing course, while also cozying up with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Iranians. The last has rattled the Israelis, who, with their very existence on the line, have no confidence in this administration. On and on it goes as much of the world’s leadership has been alienated, and the standing of the United States has been weakened.

Under this administration government agencies have been blatantly political in their actions. The IRS has been caught targeting opposition individuals and groups, yet this agency is being charged with enforcing Obamacare mandatory coverage and fines on everyone. The SEC, under a long-time Democratic party hack is levying unprecedented record fines, while the Justice Department has been shaking down banks for billions largely for lending money to people the government forced them to lend to in the first place.

Economic growth is being severely hampered by ill-considered regulations, and stalling big projects like the Keystone pipeline. Unemployment remains high and job opportunities few. Then there was a trillion dollar stimulus that appears to have gone down a black hole. Can anyone find a single new bridge or major infrastructure project out of this?

Worst of all is the leadership failure. The President, instead of being above the fray, has been insidiously partisan in his words and deeds. Rather than the promised unity he has sown deep divisions, reducing himself to being a posturing ideologue that his affability can no longer mask.  But in all of this there are lessons to be learned. You cannot ram through radical change with no input or cooperation from the other side. Government works best when there is consensus and compromise by all parties. For it is not as though differences are unresolvable.

This president does not seem to understand that he owns everything that happens on his watch. He has said he wants to be a transformational president, like Reagan. He has been transformational in some sense, but not like Reagan, as successes are pretty hard to identify. In any case, though people often wish it, it is a different world today and we don’t need another Reagan now. What we need is an Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a great president who has been grossly underestimated by historians and the press, based upon the false notion that he was stupid, largely because in response to questions he would sometimes mumble or say something irrelevant. But he was actually crafty, insofar as this  was his method of not dealing with things it was not necessary for him to deal with. Greatness does not always come from bold actions, but also from prudent inaction. For he always strove for consensus and letting things work themselves out. He never acted rashly, indeed he never acted unless he absolutely had to. This was also a man who held together the alliance of very different countries to achieve victory in World War II, and thus was very skilled in managing often sharp differences. As a result he was immensely popular and presided over some of the happiest days this country has ever known. The world would be a much better place today if we simply had someone like that in office.

 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

October 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

STOP THE SHUTDOWN AND DON’T DEFAULT

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It is time to end the federal government impasse. One of the cardinal rules of strategy is to avoid getting involved in a war you can’t win. That is where the Republicans find themselves now. There are principled people who insist that they hold the line, but they are missing a far brighter, bigger picture. I am not suggesting that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats, as well as the administration are not more at fault, but rather that occasionally a tactical retreat in battle leads to victory in the greater war. Since the Republicans currently do not have the votes to carry the Senate, their focus should be on winning the necessary votes in 2014. Given that the prevailing narrative is stacked against them, contributing to public disapproval, there is no dishonor in a temporary retreat, when a larger gift is waiting in the wings. 

That gift is Obamacare. The rollout has been disastrous, the Affordable Care Act is more unpopular than ever, and public ire is still growing. If it were not for the partial “government shutdown” and threatened default, the leading story in the news would now be the colossal ineptitude of the Obamacare administration. A ridiculously expensive website that doesn’t work, unexpected rising health care costs for individuals, enrollment failure, administrative incompetence, etc. would be dominating the headlines. The only thing preventing that from happening is the continuing drama of the failure of the congress and administration to reach an agreement. Yes the President himself is culpable for refusing to negotiate or discuss anything, where a more skilled politician might at least pretend to consider compromise. Yes the Senate Democrats have moved the goal posts by throwing the sequester into the mix. But being in the right means nothing if the perception of it is not there. Life isn’t fair.

Unfortunately some people are too stupid to recognize when they have a winning hand. The implementation of Obamacare is the gift that will keep on giving through 2014, and perhaps beyond. As one problem after another manifests itself, it may collapse to the point where most people realize it is unworkable. The blame for this will rest squarely on the Democrats, since they forced it through when they had a majority in both houses without any input or a single vote from the other side. That would portend huge losses in the elections next year, because they effectively own Obamacare. Consequently it makes no sense to maintain a scenario where public anger is directed towards congress and the Republicans as long as this stalemate lasts. It is time to put an end to this and get out of the line of fire, and thereby reap the rewards. 

More serious is the prospect of default, which is undermining the dollar and causing deep anxiety in the rest of the world. If the US cannot maintain full faith and credit, if it is no longer perceived as being a rock solid oasis of stability, the damage will be immense, and the international reserve currency role of the dollar will be diminished. Serious damage has already occurred, and it will take some effort to repair and re-establish confidence. On this question the President has to give something, if only to avoid going down in history as the official who presided over a disastrous default that could have been avoided. Any reasonable person can see that averting this ought to have top priority over any other considerations. 

Those trying to make the government more accountable are completely right, but brinksmanship tactics are wrong and will only backfire. Far better to let the administration sink under the weight of its own pretensions and take a sober, longer-term view that is far more likely to produce the desired objectives. 

Written by georgesarant

October 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

THE WRONG FIGHT AT THE WRONG TIME

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There is an excellent chance that the 2014 elections could result in a Republican landslide, given the present unpopularity of the administration and programs like Obamacare in particular, as its phase-in disrupts the entire health care system and the coverage of millions. This is a classic case of unintended consequences, as businesses reduce full-time jobs and replace them with part-time work to avoid various mandates, along with many other negative effects. The question is what is to be done about this? 

There are many who think it is time to defund Obamacare. While this may pass the House, it is dead in the Senate, as well as in the White House, given the presidential veto. Thus there is no possibility that such legislation can succeed, at least in the present congress. The focus should instead be on winning the upcoming elections. The problem is that this action could backfire and and seize defeat from the jaws of victory. First, as stated, it is a waste of time and energy given the current political configuration, second, if there is a government shutdown resulting from an impasse it is congressional Republicans who will be blamed, not the administration. The media has already seen to this by framing the story in terms of a “threatened shutdown” of the government. Third, as more of this health plan goes into effect, more and more people are being alienated, and left to itself, an increasingly angry public will justifiably blame the administration and vote accordingly. 

It is unsurprising that that the “Affordable Care Act” is a disaster for the existing health care of millions as well as for the economy. It is a result of the typical liberal impulse to upend and entire system because a minority is not being accommodated. Over 80% of the population were satisfied with their existing health care, but because a minority was uncovered for various reasons, rather than address that question directly, they decided to redesign the entire system, to benefit this minority. In addition there is no way around the fact that the cost of care for the minority is going to be born by the 80% in higher fees, taxes, benefits, etc. 

The media are laying all of this on Republicans, and it makes no sense to fulfill their narrative. The line is that the Republicans are “divided” between “moderates” and “conservatives” on whether or not to defund the government. This is a losing proposition, even though it is a lie. Both those labeled as “moderate” in this instance as well as “conservative” oppose Obamacare. The differences are purely tactical. Is this really the right time and the right legislative process to deal with this issue?  I think not, for the reasons I cited above.  There is simply no way that the realities of the current congress can be changed, and therefore the focus should be on winning the next congress. The best strategy is to sit on the status quo for the next year, and then reap the windfall when an alienated public takes it out on the governing party. 

 

Written by georgesarant

September 20, 2013 at 4:01 PM