Paul Krugman — The Defining Moment
Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally dropped her 2,000-page, $1.06 trillion health bill. Huge tax increases, withering requirements on employers and individuals, a bureaucratic expansion on par with the Department of Homeland Security, and plenty of shady side deals with special interests.
It’s a perfectly detestable piece of legislation: neither conscientiously liberal nor fiscally responsible. But what Dr. Krugman wants you to do is stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.
He rightly says that the far Left will back Pelosi’s bloated plan because even those who feel that it is too soft on insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals realize that it would establish the new framework under which enemies of the people’s health could be punished at a later date.
It’s the center Left that Krugman suggests needs to quit thinking so much and remember that if they don’t pass legislation now, they probably won’t get the chance again for a long time. He’s right; a defeat of health care now might spell the end of a strong Democratic majority in Congress. Of course, passing a plan might mean the end of the Democratic majority altogether. But there I go thinking again.
Dr. Krugman holds up two center-Left enemies of the people’s health — Sen. Joe Lieberman and Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt — and suggests that their concerns about destroying private insurance and the creation of a new entitlement program are unfounded (really?) and tells them to take the public option plunge.
Dr. Krugman attacks Lieberman and Hiatt, who seem to be conscientious and fair-minded men, in the same way that the Obama White House attacks its foes these days. The administration is currently hammering the Associated Press and a car valuation service in addition to the usual bogeyman of the Right. A question for the center Left to consider — do these attacks suggest a strong argument or a weak one?
“I won’t try to psychoanalyze the ‘naysayers,’ as Mr. Orszag describes them. I’d just urge them to take a good hard look in the mirror. If they really want to align themselves with the hard-line conservatives, if they just want to kill health reform, so be it. But they shouldn’t hide behind claims that they really, truly would support health care reform if only it were better designed.
For this is the moment of truth. The political environment is as favorable for reform as it’s likely to get. The legislation on the table isn’t perfect, but it’s as good as anyone could reasonably have expected. History is about to be made — and everyone has to decide which side they’re on.”
Washington Post — 7 on defense panel scrutinized
A sloppy staffer for the House Ethics committee accidentally left a July report on a public server and now the committee’s primary job — providing cover for members of the House under fire for bad actions — is in jeopardy on a number of cases.
We got to see a bit about perennial problems for Reps Charlie Rangel and Alan Mollohan, but no news there (except that the FBI was sniffing around Mollohan again). But we got an eyeful on the relationship between the PMA defense contractor lobbying group and Rep. John Murtha and his merry band of earmarkers on the defense appropriations subcommittee.
If you’ve already had your breakfast or just have a strong stomach, it’s certainly must reading.
Take it away, Carol Leonnig
“The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny also include Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).
The document also indicates that the House ethics committee’s staff recently interviewed the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about his allegation that a PMA lobbyist threatened him in 2007 when he resisted steering federal funds to a PMA client. The lobbyist told a Nunes staffer that if the lawmaker didn’t help, the defense contractor would move out of Nunes’s district and take dozens of jobs with him.”
Wall Street Journal — Stimulus Fueled Much of Expansion
The good news is that thanks to stimulus spending, after four straight quarters of recession, the economy grew in July, August, and September. The bad news is that the stimulus has mostly done what it’s going to do and the economy is still torpid.
The White House is claiming today that 650,000 jobs were “created or saved” by the Obama stimulus, but as recent reports have shown, there’s little reason to believe such specific claims because of bogus data and broad definitions. But the stimulus in general did provide a sugar high, but the fundamentals of our economy remain weak.
Writers James Hagerty and Jon Hilsenrath break down the growth of the period based on stimulative cause. The only conclusion that one can reach is that many politicians, reading the same reports and facing 2010 elections, will conclude that more stimulation is necessary, even if it means giving up on controlling the deficit.
“More than one percentage point of GDP growth in the third quarter came from car sales, driven in a large part by the temporary “cash for clunkers” program. After surging in July and August, retail car sales dropped 10.4% in September, suggesting the auto sector won’t provide such a big boost again any time soon.
Spending in the third quarter was also propped up by home building, which rose for the first time since 2005, by a whopping 23.4%, and contributed a half-percentage point to GDP growth.
But much of the housing revival reflects government efforts to push down mortgage rates, prevent or at least slow foreclosures, and reward home buyers with tax credits. Goldman Sachs estimates that those efforts have pulled the national average home price 5% higher than it otherwise would be.”
Wall Street Journal — No Deal: Chamber Chief Battles Obama
The problem with enemies is that they have to be defeated or at least pacified. Part of the president’s plan to disrupt the Republican Party was to disrupt a key funding source – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. By enticing members out of the group with cartel opportunities and seeking to discredit the organization, the White House has, perhaps even more than with Fox News, made an effort to neuter the Chamber.
Chamber president Tom Donahue is fighting back and the tough old Irishman seems unswayed after a meeting this week at the White House in which the administration laid out its demands on issues like global warming and “card check.” He’s risking the gain’s he’s made at the organization, mostly trough being a deal maker rather than defying those in power, but if the White House succeeds in knocking off the counterweight to organized labor, Donahue knows what the consequences would be.
Many thanks to writer Stephen Power for the profile.
“A former Postal Service executive and trucking lobbyist, Mr. Donohue has tripled the Chamber’s revenue over 12 years, helped beat back tougher air-quality rules and helped pass legislation that makes it harder to bring class-action lawsuits. The Chamber’s board has rewarded him with a chauffeured car, $3.1 million in annual pay and the use of corporate aircraft often stocked with oatmeal-raisin cookies, his favorite snack.
Shortly after taking over in 1997, he pledged to dispel what he said was the Chamber’s image as ‘a sleeping giant, missing in action from many important battles.’ He publicly expressed hope someone would punch the then-president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney, ‘in the mouth.’”
Wall Street Journal — Support Grows for Pursuit of Peace Deals With the Taliban
To get Afghanistan under control, the U.S. needs the less hard-line members of the Taliban to buy into the NATO-backed government in Kabul. But after spending 8 months trying unsuccessfully to wipe out the group, our bargaining position is not strong. Casual Talibanis see the group on the rise and the U.S. in retreat.
Writer Yaroslav Trofimov looks at the effort to pull back from “a war of necessity” while still convincing the lesser Taliban and sympathizers that the West is a good bet. There were early successes, but those have faded as the group became more effective at killing our troops.
“But this reconciliation effort appears to have peaked before the insurgency picked up steam in the past two years. Since then, many more allegiances switched in the opposite direction, as tens of thousands of fresh recruits joined the Taliban.
‘Nobody among the Taliban is going to defect to our side today,’ says Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution who headed the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy review in the spring. ‘We couldn’t protect them until tomorrow morning.’”