Saturday, April 28, 2012

Misery Index

Political Cartoons by Gary McCoy

"AMEN"

Political Cartoons by Chip Bok

Took A "P"

Political Cartoons by Glenn Foden

Greatest Tool

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

Silver Spoon

Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

Immigration

Political Cartoons by Chip Bok

Arrest That Man

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

Campaign Events

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

Settle Down

Political Cartoons by Eric Allie

More People

Political Cartoons by Chuck Asay

Bill Daley on Obama and the business community: "They think he's like Marx"


Chicago Sun Times ^ | April 25, 2012 | Lynn Sweet



Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley acknowledged Wednesday that President Barack Obama has a "very difficult time" with the business community.

"They think he's like Marx or something," Daley said.

Daley made his comments in his first big speech since stepping down as President Barack Obama's chief of staff, giving a home town crowd insights into the White House and beyond.
How does Obama get on with business people?

"They think he's like Marx or something," Daley said. "It's like he's destroyed the world and the financial services industry as we know it. Most of the public today believes the president has been too light on the financial service sector. Nobody's gone to jail. He didn't nationalize the banks. The president has a very difficult time with the business community. Most people in business and most people who are successful are Republican that's just a fact of life."

"....The evidence that Osama bin Laden was really in that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was so thin, Daley said, that: "Trust me, if you went to 26th and California [the Cook County Criminal Courthouse] with the evidence that Osama bin Laden was in the building, no judge would have given you a search warrant. No way. They would have looked at you and said, 'bring me something real here.' "

(Excerpt) Read more at blogs.suntimes.com ...

Obama’s Ideal Government: California!


Washington Post ^ | April 22, 2012 | Jennifer Rubin



In a must-read Wall Street Journal interview with Joel Kotkin, the demographer explains the disastrous economic policies that have caused almost more 4 million people to leave the state than have arrived from other states. He explains:

“The new regime” — his name for progressive apparatchiks who run California’s government — ”wants to destroy the essential reason why people move to California in order to protect their own lifestyles.”

Housing is merely one front of what he calls the “progressive war on the middle class.” Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state’s energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California’s electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average.
Oh, and don’t forget the $100 billion bullet train. Mr. Kotkin calls the runaway-cost train “classic California.” “Where [Brown] with the state going bankrupt is even thinking about an expenditure like this is beyond comprehension. When the schools are falling apart, when the roads are falling apart, the bridges are unsafe, the state economy is in free fall. We’re still doing much worse than the rest of the country, we’ve got this growing permanent welfare class, and high-speed rail is going to solve this?”
Sound familiar? This is Obamanomics. Kotkin also points to the hyper-progressive tax code, on top of which the governor wants to add a millionaire’s tax (actually on those making more than $250,000): “It’s really going to hit the small business owners and the young family that’s trying to accumulate enough to raise family, maybe send their kids ... ...
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...

The President Has a (SHIT) List!


Wall Street Journal ^ | Kimberly A Strassel



Barack Obama attempts to intimidate contributors to Mitt Romney's campaign



Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a check.
Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name. His campaign brands you a Romney donor, shames you for "betting against America," and accuses you of having a "less-than-reputable" record. The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.
Are you worried?
Richard Nixon's "enemies list" appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers—to jail, to fine, to bankrupt—are also so vast as to require restraint. Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.
Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans."
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...

Seven Of The Most Disturbing Quotes From Members Of The Obama Administration


By John Hawkins

Birds of a feather flock together and so when we see Barack Obama stacking his cabinet with radicals, it tells us a lot about his mentality. Of course, the fact that his entire term in office has been nothing but a slow motion evisceration of the American dream should tell you a lot about how he thinks, too -- but a little more evidence is always welcome. Take a look at these quotes from members of Barack Obama's administration and then ask yourself what sort of man WANTS people like this to help him govern the American people?

1) "Somewhat more broadly, I will suggest that animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law." -- Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration. Yes, we have someone in charge of regulations in D.C. who thinks pigs should be able to sue farmers and cats should be able to sue their owners. Do you think it's a coincidence that the cost of business keeps skyrocketing under Obama because of all the new regulations?
2) "Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’ The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you." -- Joe Biden, Vice President. When this is how the Vice President of the United States thinks, is it any wonder that this country may only be a decade away from defaulting on our debts and heading into an economic death spiral that we'll never recover from in the lifespan of anyone reading this column?
3) "There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer." -- Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Yes, the butcher of Syria is a real "reformer," isn't he? If you want to know why our foreign policy has been all bowing, "leading from behind," and chaos, look no further than our Secretary of State who knew nothing about foreign policy going in, but made a career out of being married to the right man.
4) "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards." -- Eric Holder, Attorney General. Eric Holder is a throwback to the bad old days in America, when whether you got justice or not depended on the color of your skin. Is it any wonder he doesn't care about Mexicans or a white border patrol agent who lost his life because of Operation Fast and Furious? Is it a surprise that Holder turned a blind eye to the New Black Panthers engaging in voter intimidation and putting a bounty on George Zimmerman's head?
5) "When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — (Obama) charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering." -- Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, he said, "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind." Well, while Obama goes on and on about "investment," "science," and "the future," we've actually taken one giant leap backwards since we no longer have a manned space program. Guess we needed to save that money to funnel into the businesses of people who contribute to Obama's campaign.
6) "One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption—especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone. If a single mother really wished to keep her baby, she might be obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it. Adoption proceedings probably should remain more difficult for single people than for married couples, in recognition of the relative difficulty of raising children alone. It would even be possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society." -- John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. So, we have a man with the morals of Joseph Mengele advising the President on science. It also shouldn't be lost on anyone that while Obama is yammering on about a "war on women," he has someone on his staff who has come out in favor of FORCED ABORTIONS.
7) "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." -- Steven Chu, Energy Secretary. Ever wonder why gas prices are so high under Obama? Could it be because Obama's Energy Secretary wants to dramatically increase the price of gas? Gas is more than $8 a gallon in most of Western Europe. Guess that gives them something to shoot for if Obama gets a second term.

John Hawkins

John Hawkins is a professional blogger who runs Right Wing News, Linkiest, and Viral Footage. He's also the co-owner of the The Looking Spoon. You can read more from John Hawkins on Facebook, Twitter, G+, You Tube, & Pajamas Media

Is Obama Cooking the Medicare Books?


Townhall.com ^ | April 28, 2012 | John C. Goodman



A new Obama administration report claims that health reform (ObamaCare) will save taxpayers $200 billion in the Medicare program through 2016. To what do we owe this good fortune? A good chunk of the savings, we are told, will be produced by lowering "excessive payments" to Medicare Advantage plans. These are plans operated by such private insurers as Aetna, Humana and WellPoint. They typically provide seniors with the kind of comprehensive coverage non-seniors have.
Another source of savings will be lower payments to doctors, hospitals and other providers to reflect their "improved productivity."
Finally, the administration expects efficiencies gained from "demonstration projects." These include experiments in paying more for better performance, paying package prices and encouraging a new type of HMO, called Accountable Care Organizations.
The administration's report was released on the eve of the release of this year's Medicare Trustees report, but whereas the Trustees report is a serious document, reflecting accepted accounting principles, the administration's document was clearly a piece of political propaganda — one that stretched the truth so much that the word "spin" would be a charitable description. For example, the administration's document failed to mention that:

• The Congressional Budget Office has studied the demonstration projects on three separate occasions (here, here and here) and each time has concluded that they are producing no serious savings and are unlikely to do so in the future.
• Medicare's Actuary has determined that reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans will not only result in lower benefits for the one in four seniors who are in these plans, but that about 7 ½ million enrollees will actually lose their coverage and have to seek more expensive Medigap insurance elsewhere.
• Medicare's Office of the Actuary also has concluded that the projected savings are unrealistic and will not materialize — since they will result in hospital closings and seniors' inability to find accessible health care — a judgment reaffirmed in the Chief Actuary's own statement in the latest Trustees report.
• Even if the $200 billion in savings did materialize, it would not be a saving to taxpayers; instead, these savings have already been pledged to create a new health insurance entitlement for young people — leaving taxpayers just as burdened as they were before.
• The administration's report also claimed that health reform has created $60 billion in new benefits for seniors, without mentioning that for every $1 of new spending beneficiaries will lose $10 of spending somewhere else.
On lower payments to providers, Chief Actuary Richard Foster produced a chart for the Trustees report, showing what "$200 billion in savings" actually means. The projection assumes that:

• Beginning in 2013, payments to physicians will drop by 31% to reach Medicaid levels.
• Going forward, Medicare payments will fall further and further below Medicaid fees, with each passing year.
Remember, the biggest problem for Medicaid patients is finding a doctor who will see them. As a result, they frequently must turn to community health centers and the emergency rooms of safety net hospitals, where rationing by waiting is common. What we can look forward to is a world in which seniors (from a financial point of view) will seem less desirable customers than welfare mothers.
What about the administration's preferred organizational form of health care delivery — Ac¬countable Care Organizations? They have been rejected by the nation's leading health plans, including those that the administration points to as examples of high-quality, low-cost service. What about other demand-side reforms: forcing/inducing/coaxing providers to adopt electronic medical records, to coordinate care, to integrate care, to manage care, to emphasize preventive care, to adopt evidence-based medi¬cine, and so on?
In theory, you can make a reasonable argument for each of these ideas. Who can deny that piecemeal medicine, with dozens of doctors making in¬dependent decisions about various aspects of a patient's care, is likely to be wasteful? Wouldn't it be better if the doctors all got together and coordinated their decisions? Doesn't integrated care make more sense than nonintegrated care? Wouldn't integrated care be easier if there were a medical home that kept all the patient records in one place? Wouldn't it all be more efficient if all the doctors could go to a computer screen and see what every other doctor has done to the patient and is planning to do?
I don't have a problem with any of this. In fact, I can point to examples where some of this actually works. My problem is that wherever I find any of these techniques working, they originated on the supply side of the market, not the demand side.
Whenever these ideas are foisted on physicians by a government pilot pro¬gram or by some other third-party payer bureaucracy, they not only don't work, they often backfire. Electronic medical records and other electronic informa¬tion systems seem to work, and work well, when they are adopted by doctors to solve their specific problems. (After all, isn't that how information systems get adopted in the rest of the economy?) They do not work well when they are designed and imposed by the buyers of care.
On the supply side, we have the islands of excellence (Mayo, Intermountain Healthcare, Cleveland Clinic, etc.). On the demand side, we have a whole slew of experiments with pay-for-performance and other pilot programs designed to see whether demand-side reforms can provoke supply-side behavioral improve¬ments. And never the twain shall meet.
We cannot find a single institution providing high-quality, low-cost care that was created by any demand-side buyer of care. Not the Centers for Medi¬care and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicare and Medicaid. Not by any private insurer. Not any employer. Not any payer, anytime, anywhere. As for the pilot programs, their performance has been lackluster and disappointing.
What about grading hospitals based on the quality of care? One recent study finds that Medicare's reporting has had almost no impact on mortality. Another survey finds that quality report cards not only don't work, they may do more harm than good. What about paying for results? The latest study of pay-for-performance finds that doesn't work either. Accountable Care Organizations? The latest results show no reason to be hope¬ful. Electronic medical records? The latest survey of all the academic literature shows they new study in Health Affairs found that when doctors can easily order diagnostic tests online, they tend to order more tests — increasing costs.
The fundamental problem in health care is that people in the system face perverse incentives. If we want to change the perverse outcomes, we must change the incentives that lead to them. Nothing else is going to work.

Switzerland’s “Debt Brake” Is a Role Model for Spending Control and Fiscal Restraint


Townhall.com ^ | April 28, 2012 | Daniel J. Mitchell



I’ve argued, ad nauseam, that the single most important goal of fiscal policy is (or should be) to make sure the private sector grows faster than the government. This “golden rule” is the best way of enabling growth and avoiding fiscal crises, and I’ve cited nations that have made progress by restraining government spending.
But what’s the best way of actually imposing such a rule, particularly since politicians like using taxpayer money as a slush fund?
Well, the Swiss voters took matters into their own hands, as I describe in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Americans looking for a way to tame government profligacy should look to Switzerland. In 2001, 85% of its voters approved an initiative that effectively requires its central government spending to grow no faster than trendline revenue. The reform, called a “debt brake” in Switzerland, has been very successful. Before the law went into effect in 2003, government spending was expanding by an average of 4.3% per year. Since then it’s increased by only 2.6% annually.
So how does this system work?
Switzerland’s debt brake limits spending growth to average revenue increases over a multiyear period (as calculated by the Swiss Federal Department of Finance). This feature appeals to Keynesians, who like deficit spending when the economy stumbles and tax revenues dip. But it appeals to proponents of good fiscal policy, because politicians aren’t able to boost spending when the economy is doing well and the Treasury is flush with cash. Equally important, it is very difficult for politicians to increase the spending cap by raising taxes. Maximum rates for most national taxes in Switzerland are constitutionally set (such as by an 11.5% income tax, an 8% value-added tax and an 8.5% corporate tax). The rates can only be changed by a double-majority referendum, which means a majority of voters in a majority of cantons would have to agree.
In other words, the debt brake isn’t a de jure spending cap, but it is a de facto spending cap. And capping the growth of spending (which is the underlying disease) is the best way of controlling red ink (the symptom of excessive government).
Switzerland’s spending cap has helped the country avoid the fiscal crisis affecting so many other European nations. Annual central government spending today is less than 20% of gross domestic product, and total spending by all levels of government is about 34% of GDP. That’s a decline from 36% when the debt brake took effect. This may not sound impressive, but it’s remarkable considering how the burden of government has jumped in most other developed nations. In the U.S., total government spending has jumped to 41% of GDP from 36% during the same time period.
Switzerland is moving in the right direction and the United States is going in the wrong direction. The obvious lesson (to normal people) is that America should copy the Swiss. Congressman Kevin Brady has a proposal to do something similar to the debt brake.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas), vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, has introduced legislation that is akin to the Swiss debt brake. Called the Maximizing America’s Prosperity Act, his bill would impose direct spending caps, but tied to “potential GDP.” …Since potential GDP is a reasonably stable variable (like average revenue growth in the Swiss system), this approach creates a sustainable glide path for spending restraint.
In some sense, Brady’s MAP Act is akin to Sen. Corker’s CAP Act, but the use of “potential GDP” makes the reform more sustainable because economic fluctuations don’t enable big deviations in the amount of allowable spending.
To conclude, we know the right policy. It is spending restraint. We also know a policy that will achieve spending restraint. A binding spending cap. The problem, as I note in my oped, is that “politicians don’t want any type of constraint on their ability to buy votes with other people’s money.”
Overcoming that obstacle is the real challenge.
P.S. A special thanks to Pierre Bessard, the President of Switzerland’s Liberales Institut. He is a superb public intellectual and his willingness to share his knowledge of the Swiss debt brake was invaluable in helping me write my column.