Archive for December, 2009

Health care: cutting the deficit??

December 22, 2009

The health care bill being pushed through Congress by Democrats alone, on straight party votes, is projected to cost close to a trillion dollars over the next decade.

President Obama said yesterday, “For all those who are continually carping about how this is somehow a big spending government bill, this cuts our deficit by $132 billion the first 10 years, and by over a trillion in the second.”

Confused? How can the government reduce the deficit by spending more?

Simple: the added costs are to be offset by Medicare spending cuts.

But there’s a little footnote about that: while the added spending is inviolably locked in, the Medicare “cuts” are mere expressions of intent to legislate the cuts . . . some day. Sort of like Saint Augustine’s saying, “God, make me chaste . . . but not yet.”

Nobody really believes those Medicare cuts will ever happen. Nobody. Any such cuts would encounter a buzz-saw of political opposition from affected senior citizens. Congress has proven over and over that it’s constitutionally incapable of cutting a nickel from the Medicare program. No one will ever even propose legislation to implement the cuts. For the President and his Congressional allies to claim that they’re somehow cutting the deficit, while actually adding mightily to it, is a cruel, sick joke.

Frankly, I expected far better from this president.

And the sad thing is that we had here an opportunity to really do something about rising health care costs. For example, removing barriers to insurance companies competing across state lines. Or tort reform, which involves not merely the amounts doled out in malpractice lawsuits, but vastly more, because of the pervasive ways in which our existing system distorts the practice of medicine.

But the pending bill does nothing about any of this.

Interview video, The Case for Rational Optimism

December 17, 2009

I was interviewed Dec 16 on a local TV show (Ann Parillo’s “Schenectady Today”) about my book, The Case for Rational Optimism. To my wife’s great relief, I didn’t say any naughty words. Click HERE for the video.

Happy holidays to all the many millions of readers of my blog!

Exit Strategy

December 2, 2009

Colin Powell’s long-ago coinage of “exit strategy” has turned into a catch-phrase mantra, mindlessly repeated, and becoming a barrier to clear thinking.

What Powell really meant (or should have) was “success strategy.” It’s success in war that should pave the way to exit. Talk of exit makes no sense if divorced from considering the objectives that prompted our involvement in the first place.

In Vietnam, we never achieved a success strategy, but we did eventually stumble into an exit strategy – giving up. That’s always an available exit strategy in any human endeavor.

In President Obama’s December 1 Afghanistan speech, I did not hear much in the way of a success strategy. He seemed to say that we will make great efforts, and that our cause is right and just – and then, in 19 months, successful or not, we’ll stop. That’s the exit strategy.

But Obama’s speech did lay out a very clear success strategy – for our Taliban enemies. They no longer have to actually fight us. Surely now their sensible strategy is instead to bide their time; indeed, to give us a false impression that we’re actually winning, to festoon our exit road with flowers – fake ones of course. Nineteen months is not too long for them to wait.

For us, the President’s approach seems more like an anti-success strategy.