ABC Pulls Stossel Health Care Special for More Michael Jackson Coverage

Last week, ABC made news by providing President Obama with 90-minutes worth of air time to push his health care agenda. Yet ABC reporter John Stossel had intended to present another perspective on the network with a report  on the perils of government-run health care, looking at Canada. However, his report was pulled so that ABC could make room for yet more Michael Jackson coverage. Here’s an overview of the pulled story. 

Coleman Concedes

Norm Coleman, in an ongoing press conference, just conceeded the Minnesota U.S. Senate race to Al Franken. Coleman said he would abide by the court decision and called on everybody to come to come together. “I congratulate Al Franken in his victory,” he said.

Big Government Wal-Mart

The nation’s largest retailer has joined with the Service Employees International Union and the liberal Center for American Progress to support an employer mandate. In a letter to President Obama, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, along with Andy Stern of the SEIU and John Podesta of CAP, write “We are entering a critical time during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation.  This choice will require employers to consider the trade off of agreeing to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced health care cost increases.” The letter later said, “We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage, but any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry level employees. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to develop a requirement that is both sensible and equitable.”

This news isn’t all that surprising. Wal-Mart has in the past supported initiatives such as raising the minimum wage, which hurt their competitors and allowed them to curry favor with their union critics. But this letter also reinforces why Obama’s declaration that people can keep their insurance coverage if they like it is just hot air. Under a mandate, many employers would just pay a tax and dump their workers on to a government exchange, thus meaning a lot of people –likely in the tens of millions — will lose their current coverage.

That said, the letter will help give President Obama and Democrats cover to push the employer mandate idea, and respond to criticism from the Chamber of Commerce, which has argued that a mandate would cost jobs and reduce salaries.

In Better News for the GOP…

Chris Christie is maintaining a 10-point lead over Jon Corzine in the New Jersey governor’s race. According to the poll: “Christie is being buoyed by a 60-26 advantage with independent voters and a remarkable degree of party unity, as he leads 93-3 with Republicans. By comparison, Corzine has just a 75-16 edge with Democrats.”

Vanity Fair on Palin

I just got through reading Todd Purdum’s nearly 10,000-word Vanity Fair piece on Sarah Palin, and the most frustrating thing about it is that it doesn’t break any new ground on a woman who has been scrutinized more heavily over the last ten months than any politician other than President Obama. Sure, there are a few gossipy nuggets, such as the fact that candidate Obama “believed Palin would never have time to get up to speed. He told his aides that it had taken him four months to learn how to be a national candidate, and added, ‘I don’t care how talented she is, this is really a leap.'” There are also a lot of anonymous complaints from former McCain campaign staffers, the gist of which we’ve already heard at one time or another.

The rest of the piece is mainly a rehash of everything we’ve been reading for months:

Whatever her political future, the emergence of Sarah Palin raises questions that will not soon go away. What does it say about the nature of modern American politics that a public official who often seems proud of what she does not know is not only accepted but applauded? What does her prominence say about the importance of having (or lacking) a record of achievement in public life? Why did so many skilled veterans of the Republican Party–long regarded as the more adroit team in presidential politics–keep loyally working for her election even after they privately realized she was casual about the truth and totally unfit for the vice-presidency? Perhaps most painful, how could John McCain, one of the cagiest survivors in contemporary politics–with a fine appreciation of life’s injustices and absurdities, a love for the sweep of history, and an overdeveloped sense of his own integrity and honor–ever have picked a person whose utter shortage of qualification for her proposed job all but disqualified him for his?

I happen to believe Palin deserves neither to be vilified nor made into a heroine. I always thought the instant comparisons to Reagan by conservatives after her convention speech went overboard, as did the demonization of her by the left. Every treatment of her ever since has followed the same sort of pattern — uncritical adoration by her supporters, followed by vilification, followed by over the top defenses.

Purdum had the time and magazine space to break this cycle and deliver a more nuanced portrait of Palin. At one point of the article, recounting her surprising victory in the Alaska governor’s race, Purdum wrote, “Palin’s victory that November was one of the flukiest successes in modern American politics. Rebecca Braun, the publisher of the Alaska Budget Report, a respected nonpartisan newsletter, describes the result as something ‘far beyond anything you could explain in terms of intellect or training.'”

Well, it might have made for an interesting article if Purdum explored the mystery of how “the flukiest successes in modern American politics” came to be, or more broadly, described the political talents Palin actually displayed over the course of her apparently inexplicable rise. Instead, we just get a recycled hit piece that is sure to reignite the worst aspects of the Palin wars.

UPDATE: Alex Massie offers some worthwhile thoughts, noting, “The shame of Paln’s emergence last year isn’t that she blundered so badly, it’s that there was something there but that, after her convention speech, that something was lost in the tumult that engulfed her and, in the end, helped destroy the McCain campaign.”

Blackjacked: Why a Government Plan Would Have an Edge Over Private Insurance

“Why would it drive private insurers out of business?” President Obama asked last week, defending the idea of creating a new government plan. “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.”

It’s a point that’s gained popularity on the left, but one that is a complete red herring. The current debate isn’t over whether private insurers could compete all else being equal, but whether government can actually run a fair game. Obama’s argument is sort of like asking, “Why should a blackjack player fear losing to a casino?” In theory, unlike with a slot machine, there’s no inherent reason why one blackjack player has to have an advantage over another. If a group of friends play blackjack at home against each other, chances are that the most skilled player will win. But things change when that skilled player enters a casino, because the casino sets the rules of the game to give it an edge, and it can outlast any player given the size of its bank account. A player can reduce the casino edge through card counting, but the casino can make it harder to count cards by using more decks and still eject any player it suspects of counting. Casinos, in other words, don’t make a profit on blackjack because they hire dealers who are the most skilled blackjack players around, but because they rig the rules of the game in their favor.

This is why Obama’s argument for a government plan is disingenuous. Private insurers would be going up against government on an exchange run by government and facing rules and regulations set by government. While the government plan would have effectively unlimited access to federal government tax revenues, the private plans would not. Obama suggested that there were ways to design the plan so that it wouldn’t be eating off “the taxpayer trough.” But the key question is: would the government plan be allowed to fail? Let’s say the government plan gets created, and five years from now it has tens of millions of members, or even more than 100 million, according to some estimates. If it were running at a loss, would it be allowed to close down? Or would Democrats argue that we need to pump money into rescuing it to avoid all of those people losing their health insurance? Anybody being intellectually honest knows that the answer is that it would not be allowed to fail, and thus would ultimately have access to taxpayer cash. This cannot be deemed a fair competition anymore than playing blackjack against a casino can be seen as a level playing field.

The Bride of Stimulus

John Judis argues that we need a second economic stimulus package, echoing a suggestion that Warren Buffett had. If President Obama were to push for another stimulus bill, it would be a tacit admission on the part of his administration that the first stimulus was a failure. It would would also interfere with his push for health care legislation. So it isn’t surprising to see that thus far, the White House has adopted the line that most of the stimulus money hasn’t been deployed yet, while remaining open to revisiting the stimulus down the road.   

The Left and Health Care Reform

Last Friday, I wrote an article for the main site questioning whether liberals would ultimately kill health care legislation  by demanding a more comprehensive bill that includes the creation of a new government-run plan, even if moderate Democrats insist on scaled back legislation. It’s a question I expect to keep returning to as the health care debate procedes.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post explored the same theme on the front page, and liberal health care journalist Jonathan Cohn, a strong proponent of a government-run plan, ruminated about whether that single aspect of health care legislation had become too important.

On Sunday, David Axelrod went on “Meet the Press” and said over and over again that he expected “a health care plan to pass” (empasis mine). While Obama supports a government plan, Axelrod still didn’t draw a line in the sand and say that Obama would only sign a bill that included a government plan. My sense of Obama is that if it came down to it, he would be willing to settle for pared down legislation so he could at least point to some sort of legislative accomplishment, as opposed to the political fallout of watching the whole effort go down in flames. That’s why he isn’t drawing any lines in the sand, because he doesn’t want to end up in a box like Bill Clinton did when he declared in his 1994 State of the Union speech that he would veto any health care bill that fell short of guaranteed coverage for every American. Yet even if Obama is willing to settle for less, he’ll have his work cut out for him explaining that approach to liberal activists.

Meanwhile, liberal columnists including Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne have written columns urging Obama to get tougher on the health care front.

Re: Sotomayor Overruled

The Ricci decision Jeffrey Lord noted earlier came in 5-4, with the breakdown along the predictable lines. Kennedy wrote the opinion of the court, and was joined by Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Scalia and Alito also each filed concurring opinions. 

Here’s the reasoning in Kennedy’s opinion:

The record in this litigation documents a process that, at  the outset, had the potential to produce a testing procedure that was true to the promise of Title VII:  No individual should face workplace discrimination based on race. Respondents thought about promotion qualifications and relevant experience in neutral ways.  They were careful to ensure broad racial participation in the design of the test  itself and its administration. As we have discussed at length, the process was open and fair.

The problem, of course, is that after the tests were completed, the raw racial results became the predominant  rationale for the City’s refusal to certify the results.  The  injury arises in part from the high, and justified, expectations of the candidates who had participated in the testing process on the terms the City had established for the promotional process. Many of the candidates had studied for months, at considerable personal and financial ex- pense, and thus the injury caused by the City’s reliance on raw racial statistics at the end of the process was all the more severe. Confronted with arguments both for and against certifying the test results–and threats of a law-suit either way–the City was required to make a difficult inquiry. But its hearings produced no strong evidence of a
disparate-impact violation, and the City was not entitled to disregard the tests based solely on the racial disparity
in the results.

Our holding today clarifies how Title VII applies to resolve competing expectations under the disparate-treatment and disparate-impact provisions. If, after it certifies the test results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of our holding today it should be clear that the City would avoid disparate-impact liability based on the strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate-treatment liability.

Petitioners are entitled to summary judgment on their Title VII claim, and we therefore need not decide the underlying constitutional question.  The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Ginsburg wrote the dissent, and was joined by Souter, Stevens and Breyer.

She wrote:

It is indeed regrettable that the City’s noncertification decision would have required all candidates to go through another selection process.  But it would have been more regrettable to rely on flawed exams to shut out candidates who may well have the command presence and other qualities needed to excel as fire officers.  Yet that is the choice the Court makes today.  It is a choice that breaks the promise of Griggs that groups long denied equal opportunity would not be held back by tests “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.”

This case presents an unfortunate situation, one New Haven might well have avoided had it utilized a bette selection process in the first place.  But what this case does not present is race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII.  I dissent from the Court’s judgment, which rests on the false premise that respondents showed “a significant statistical disparity,” but “nothing more.”