Weiner Joins Schumer in Criticizing Obama’s Israel Policy

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer made waves yesterday, when he blasted the Obama administration for its “counter-productive” Israel policy that he said “has to stop.”

Today, fellow New York Democrat Anthony Weiner echoed this criticism, saying:

“Israel is our closest ally in the region, yet they continue to receive more criticism than deserved and less support than is required.”

“Instead of continuing to lash out publicly at our closest ally, the Obama Administration should be listening to what Senator Schumer says. Schumer is right, and the White House is wrong on Israel.”

CMS Actuary Finds ObamaCare Bends Cost Curve Up

The chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has released a report showing that the new national health care law will increase health care spending in the United States beyond already unsustainable levels.

During the health care debate, President Obama argued that we couldn’t afford not to pass his brand of health care reform.

“Make no mistake: The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy,” Obama told the American Medical Association last June. “It’s an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It’s a ticking time bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America.”

But for all the talk over the past year about “bending the cost curve down,” CMS, the agency that is tasked with tracking national health  care expenditures, has now projected that the new law will actually bend the cost curve in the opposite direction. That is, up.

Not surprisingly, CMS notes that, “Numerous studies have demonstrated that individuals and families with health insurance use more health services than otherwise-similar persons without insurance.” Thus, expanding coverage will mean greater usage of health care services.

In that same AMA speech, Obama said more specifically, “If we fail to act, one out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care within a decade.”

But according to CMS, after the passage of ObamaCare, health care spending will eat more than one out of five dollars in the economy. Specifically, by 2019, health care spending is now projected to represent 21 percent of GDP, as opposed to an estimated 20.8 percent had the new law not passed. In dollar terms, that translates into $311 billion more in spending over the next decade. I’ve created the graph below to demonstrate this.

Liberals could respond to this report by arguing that covering 34 million additional people — as CMS projects — justifies an increase in spending that is modest relative to the more than $35 trillion we’re projected to spend on health care over the next decade. But as demonstrated by Obama’s statements above, of which I could have found numerous others, the law was sold to the American people on the basis of the fact that it would substantially reduce costs that were crippling our economy.

In the rest of the 38-page report, actuary Richard Foster confirms many of the arguments conservatives have been making throughout the health care process. For instance:

By delaying the major spending provisions until 2014, Democrats hid the true 10-year cost of their legislation: “Because of these transition effects and the fact that most of the coverage provisions would be in effect for only 6 of the 10 years of the budget period, the cost estimates shown in this memorandum do not represent a full 10-year cost for the new legislation,” CMS says.

Medicare cuts are unlikely to materialize: The CMS report cautions that “it is important to note that the estimated savings shown in this memorandum for one category of Medicare provisions may be unrealistic.” The reason is that if the proposed cuts to payments to hospitals, nursing facilities, and home health agencies go into effect, “roughly 15 percent of Part A providers would become unprofitable within the 10-year projection period…” The only way to resolve this problem would be to prevent the cuts, which in turn would eat up some of the projected savings from the legislation.

You can’t double count the Medicare savings: While in theory Medicare Part A cuts would extend solvency of the program by 12 years, the actuary writes, “In practice the improved (Medicare hospital insurance) financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions) and to extend the trust fund, despite the appearance of this result from the respective accounting conventions.”

The CLASS Act is a ponzi scheme: One of the most under-reported aspects of the new health care legislation was that it creates a smaller new entitlement within the massive entitlement — a program pushed by Ted Kennedy that would allow individuals to purchase long-term care insurance through the government. But the program begins collecting premiums before paying out benefits, making it produce surpluses in the early years that Democrats claimed as deficit savings. However, CMS notes that, “After 2015, as benefits are paid, the net savings from this program will decline; in 2025 and later, projected benefits exceed premium revenues, resulting in a net Federal costs in the longer term.”

The report goes on to say that the CLASS program is likely to be used by those with more health problems, meaning it faces “a significant risk of failure as a result of adverse selection of participants.”

CBO: Millions of Middle-Class Americans Will Pay ObamaCare Tax Penalty

Throughout the health care debate, I wrote about why the individual mandate is really a middle-class tax hike. Now, the Congressional Budget Office has released data estimating that by 2016, 3 million Americans earning less than $59,000 a year will face a penalty for not having health insurance. An additional 900,000 earning more than that will also pay the penalty.

To be clear, these numbers underestimate the full cost of the mandate. To start with, the estimates don’t include those Americans who will decide to purchase insurance in response to the mandate. If somebody otherwise wouldn’t choose to purchase insurance but because of the mandate ends up paying thousands of dollars in of premiums, that represents a cost, too. On the flip side, if CBO is overestimating those who will decide to purchase insurance, then it means that more will end up paying the penalty.

In addition, the CBO numbers only factor in people who it predicts will actually admit in their tax returns that they’re uninsured. The CBO notes that, “other individuals will try to avoid making payments. Therefore, the estimates presented here account for likely compliance rates, as well as the ability of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to administer and collect the penalty.” In other words, the numbers are only CBO estimates of how many people will pay the tax, not estimates of how many people are subject to the tax. Boost enforcement could boost the number of people paying taxes.

As for the actual cost involved, the penalty will be the higher of either $695 or 2.5% of income. Effectively, those earning below $27,800 would pay the flat rate, and after that point would begin paying the percentage. Once a person earns more than $40,000, the penalty will exceed $1,000. At $59,000, it would reach $1,475.

There’s an important lesson here about the nature of government power. Liberals start off by pushing the very popular idea of requiring insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions (an idea that Republicans have trouble criticizing). Yet to do that, they have to impose a mandate. Thus, as a result of their goal to help one segment of the population, millions of middle-class Americans will face hefty tax hikes and higher insurance premiums. Once again, an example of liberals defining compassion as a willingness to spend other peoples’ money.

Rand Paul and Israel

I’ve obtained a document that the Rand Paul campaign is circulating to those interested in his views on Israel, and it’s interesting to see how the positions he’s taking as a Republican Senate candidate in Kentucky differ from those adopted by his father, Rep. Ron Paul, a harsh critic of U.S.-Israel ties.

“Israel and the United States have a special relationship,” Rand’s position paper begins. “With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unites us across the many thousands of miles between our countries and calls us to work together towards peace and prosperity for our countries.”

Rand goes on to support free trade with Israel, call for divestment from Iran, and “strongly object to the arrogant approach of (the) Obama administration” toward the peace process. “Only Israel can decide what is in her security interest, not America and certainly not the United Nations,” he asserts.

In one clear departure from his father, Rand states that:

As a United States Senator, I would never vote to condemn Israel for defending herself.

Whether it is fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, combating Hamas-linked terrorists in Gaza or dealing with potential nuclear threats in the Persian Gulf, Israeli military actions are completely up to the leaders and military of Israel, and Israel alone.  

By contrast, when Israel retaliated against Hamas in Gaza to stop rockets from being fired toward Israeli civilians, his father rushed to condemn Israel. In a YouTube video, Ron Paul called it a “pretty sad day for the whole world” that he said reflected the spread of the idea of preemtive war. He went further, by saying the fact that the United States provides aid to Israel and did nothing to try and stop the military action made the U.S. complicit. He said the action would “antagonize” the Arab-Muslim world and warned that “we’ll suffer the consequences.”

Continued U.S. support for Israel is part of Ron Paul’s broader view of foreign policy and the concept of “blowback.” Rand Paul focuses his statement on condemning foreign aid to enemies of Israel, saying that, “In the Senate, I would strive to eliminate all aid to countries that threaten Israel.” But he doesn’t address the issue of aid to Israel itself.

You can read the full statement after the jump.

The United States Special Relationship with Israel

By Dr. Rand Paul
Candidate, United States Senate

Israel and the United States have a special relationship.  With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unites us across the many thousands of miles between our countries and calls us to work together towards peace and prosperity for our countries.

The free trade agreement that has existed, and been subsequently strengthened, between our countries since 1985 is a tremendous mutual benefit. As a United States Senator, I would work against the growing protectionist sentiment in our country and defend free trade with Israel.

I would never vote to place trade restrictions on Israel, and I would filibuster any attempts to place sanctions on Israel or tariffs on any Israeli goods.

The issue of Palestine is incredibly difficult and complex.  The entire world wishes for peace in the region, but any arrangement or treaty must come from Israel, when she is ready and when her conditions have been met.

I strongly object to the arrogant approach of Obama administration, itself a continuation of the failures of past U.S. administrations, as they push Israel to make security concessions behind thinly veiled threats. 

Only Israel can decide what is in her security interest, not America and certainly not the United Nations.  Friends do not coerce friends to trade land for peace, or to give up the vital security interests of their people.

As a United States Senator, I would never vote to condemn Israel for defending herself.

Whether it is fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, combating Hamas-linked terrorists in Gaza or dealing with potential nuclear threats in the Persian Gulf, Israeli military actions are completely up to the leaders and military of Israel, and Israel alone.

It is not the place of outsiders to meddle or pass judgment or to use our power or relationship to force Israel to go against her own interest for the sake of “peace.”
Peace is a laudable goal.  But it is just that — a goal.   It is not an end at any cost.

It makes no sense to me that the United States provides Arab countries hostile to Israel with $12 billion in annual financial and military aid. Many of the weapons that Israel would face in a Middle Eastern conflict would have come directly from our government. I find this appalling. In the Senate, I would strive to eliminate all aid to countries that threaten Israel.

Finally, Iran has become increasingly bellicose towards Israel. Thankfully, Israel has one of the bravest, most elite military forces in the world. I would never vote to prevent Israel from taking any military action her leaders felt necessary to end any Iranian threat.
Just as the United States would not follow the will of another country in the face of our national security, we shall not limit the options of Israel in this area.

Finally, I believe the United States should increase the pressure on Iran.  I would mandate that all publicly managed investment funds divest from Iran immediately. 

We should not be subsidizing any company that does business with Iran, and we should not allow U.S. companies or those with funds from U.S. taxpayers to enrich Iran through its national energy program.  I would fight to end all subsides to American corporations that do business with Iran, including so-called renewable energy companies that work through Brazil to provide support to Iran and empower its dictators dangerous nuclear saber rattling.

Crist’s Only Option

Jim is right about why a Charlie Crist independent run would be a lot different from Joe Lieberman’s run in 2006, but it’s also worth emphasizing that at this point, Crist has put himself in such a bind, that running as an independent is the best of his bad options.

It’s too late for him to run for reelection as governor. And whatever remaining chance he had of winning the Republican primary has almost certainly evaporated now that he’s publicly entertained the idea that he might run as an independent.

Yet, while a Quinnipiac poll taken last week found that he trailed Marco Rubio by 23 points in the primary, it also found that in a general election, Crist leads Rubio by a narrow 32 percent to 30 percent margin, with Democrat Kendrick Meek at 24 percent.

So, yes, it is true that Crist’s independent run would encounter obstacles. But it’s at least plausible that he can win, whereas if he stays in the Republican primary or drops out of the race altogether, he’s virtually assured to be out of public office come January.

Passing ObamaCare Was Just The End of the Beginning

After Congress passed its landmark health care legislation, I noted that it was only the beginning. The worse the health care system gets because of the law, the more Democrats will be clamoring for further intervention. And wouldn’t you know it, Senate Democrats are already trying to push separate legislation to regulate insurance premiums that will be driven up as a result of provisions of ObamaCare.

The new health care law imposes federal mandates on what type of benefits insurers have to offer –on top of the requirement that they cover people with preexisting conditions — all of which will have the affect of driving up premiums. Under the deal struck with the industry, insurers agreed to accept more regulations in exchange for a mandate forcing individuals to obtain insurance as well as hundreds of billions in subsidies for the purchase of their product.

Yet now Democrats are worried that before all of the new changes go into affect in 2014, that insurers will jack up rates in the meantime. Their answer is a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to reject rate increases deemed unacceptable. It’s similar to the idea President Obama presented in his final proposal, but that one had to be dropped because it couldn’t be passed through reconciliation.

The New York Times reports:

Mrs. Feinstein said her bill would close what she described as “an enormous loophole” in the new law. And she said health insurance should be regulated like a public utility.

“Water and power are essential for life,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “So they are heavily regulated, and rate increases must be approved. Health insurance is also vital for life. It too should be strictly regulated so that people can afford this basic need.”

Sen. Tom Harkin also said that, “Protections must be in place to ensure that companies do not take advantage of current market conditions before health reform fundamentally changes the way they do business in 2014.”

Of course, the reason why the changes to the market won’t take place until 2014 are entirely the result of a choice made by Democrats to game the Congressional Budget Office. By delaying the bill’s major spending provisions, it made the legislation appear cheaper under the CBO’s 2010 to 2019 budget window.

And as the Galen Institute’s Grace Marie Turner says, simply having the Secretary of HHS put price controls on insurance won’t work: “Capping premiums without recognizing the forces that are driving up costs would be like tightening the lid on a pressure cooker while the heat is being turned up.”

Of course, this is just one example of many we’ll be seeing in which Democrats will push for additional government intervention in an attempt to correct problems caused by government. Elsewhere, for instance, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman is talking about reviving the public option if the insurance exchanges don’t produce enough competition. Of course, it’s kind of hard to produce real competition when all insurance policies on any exchange have to meet the design specifications of the federal government.

So, to sum up, with one hand, Democrats want to regulate insurers like public utilities, which don’t have actual competition. And then, with the other hand, they want to use that lack of competition as a justification to create an entirely government-run insurer.

The Politics of Immigration

President Obama made news yesterday when, according to the Wall Street Journal, he told Sen. Scott Brown that Democrats would try to move on immigration reform next month. Brown, for his part, said he would read any proposal, but won’t commit to anything.

The question is, with the public already inflamed after the Democrats rammed through their health care legislation and a heated Supreme Court battle on tap for the summer, why would the White House, during an election year, want to take up an issue that is among the most contentious in politics?

I can think of several reasons. The most obvious one is that there’s a risk that Hispanic voters, who helped fuel Obama’s victory in 2008, will grow disillusioned if he doesn’t deliver for them and thus won’t turn out in large enough numbers this November. As the Los Angeles Times reports today, “Immigration advocates fear the White House is doing the bare minimum needed to appease Latino voters before the midterm elections in November, while concentrating its efforts on issues it considers more urgent.”

James Carville argued recently that Democrats should push immigration, because right now voter intensity is on the side of Republicans, and the immigration issue divides the GOP more than it divides Democrats.

It’s true that for a lot of Democrats running in swing districts, an immigration bill would force them to take a tough vote. But the thinking among leadership may be, essentially, that the conservative base is already as fired up as it can be, and moderate Democrats in swing districts have already been forced to vote on health care and “cap and trade” anyway. So, Democrats may be thinking that bringing up immigration could energize their voters while merely making an incremental difference to the already energized GOP base by just adding to a mix of issues they’re angry about. And perhaps Carville is right and we could see some fissures among the libertarian and conservative wings which have been united on issues such as energy, health care, the stimulus bill, but have different perspectives on immigration.

Should Democrats pursue immgration, my guess would be that their political operation — as well as their allies in the media — will be working overtime to portray anybody opposed to their legislation as racist. Any controversial comment by any Republican or opponent of the legislation will be blown up to drive this point home, not only to fire up Hispanic voters, but to discourage white suburban voters from wanting to vote for the “racist” GOP.

Whether they’ll actually go through with the immigration push remains to be seen, but these are likely some of the reasons that they’re considering it.

WSJ: Obama Tells Scott Brown Dems Pushing Immigration Overhaul in a Month

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Barack Obama called Massachusetts’ new Republican senator, Scott Brown, from Air Force One today to deliver some news: Democrats are moving forward with an immigration overhaul in a month.

Brown, in an interview with the Journal’s Neil King Jr., said the president, who also discussed financial regulation, was giving him a heads-up that immigration was coming down the pike and he should give it some serious thought. The senator promised to look closely at the bipartisan bill that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) are trying to produce.

Why the “Bailout” Debate Is Political Theater

It’s an election year, and Republicans and Democrats are trying to run away from Wall Street and portray themselves as anti-bailout — even though the 2008 bank bailout was the product of both parties. Democrats are trying to claim that their financial regulation bill outlaws bailouts, while Republicans are countering that it actually represents a permanent bailout. In a Senate floor speech, Mitch McConnell urged fellow lawmakers to do  “everything we can to make sure the final product doesn’t allow for future Wall Street bailouts.”

But the reality is that there’s nothing the current Congress could do to prevent future lawmakers from initiating another bailout if some sort of financial crisis occurs at some point down the road, and no legislation is likely to prevent such a crisis. Should a crisis occur, the same “emergency” mindset that prevailed among the elites is likely to win over again.

I rember going to a Q&A President Bush did a month before leaving office, and he had this to say about his decision on the bailout:

This is a difficult time for a free market person. Under ordinary circumstances, failed entities — failing entities should be allowed to fail.

I have concluded these are not ordinary circumstances, for a lot of reasons. Our financial system is interwoven domestically, internationally. And we got to the point where if a major institution were to fail, there is great likelihood that there would be a ripple effect throughout the world, and the average person would be really hurt.

And what makes this issue difficult to explain is — to the average guy is, why should I be using my money because of excesses on Wall Street? And I understand that frustration. I completely understand why people are nervous about it. I was in the Roosevelt Room and Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson, after a month of every weekend where they’re calling, saying, we got to do this for AIG, or this for Fannie and Freddie, came in and said, the financial markets are completely frozen and if we don’t do something about it, it is conceivable we will see a depression greater than the Great Depression.

So I analyzed that and decided I didn’t want to be the President during a depression greater than the Great Depression, or the beginning of a depression greater than the Great Depression. So we moved, and moved hard.

Ultimately, Congress got in line too, and they came up with their own rationalizations. Rep. Paul Ryan, for instance, told me that he was worried if there weren’t a bailout and we plunged into a deep economic depression, that it would have made it a lot easier for Democrats to ram through their agenda as Franklin D. Roosevelt did.

So, no matter what Congress passes into law right now, we already know that when push comes to shove, politicians will vote for a bailout because nobody wants to be seen as responsibile for an economic collapse. And then the crisis will be used as another argument for why we need more government intervention.

McCain Says No Immigration Reform Until Borders Secure

Having evidently internalized the lessons from his presidential run, the Hill reports that Sen. John McCain says that he’ll work with fellow Arizona Sen. John Kyl to make sure that Republicans oppose immigration reform without border security first:

“I believe that we can convince our Republican colleagues that we have to secure the border first,” McCain said during an appearance on KFYI radio in Arizona. “There’s no point of having immigration reform unless you can have the borders secure first.”

Back in the summer of 2007, during the height of the immigration debate, McCain’s presidential campaign was largely written off as dead because of his push for comprehensive reform. But by that fall, he began to gain ground again as the debate shifted toward the Iraq war and other candidates fizzled. At that point, he altered  his rhetoric on immigration by saying that the people had spoken, and he realized that comprehensive immigration reform would only be possible if the federal government can secure the borders first. At the time, it was good enough to prevent the immigration issue from torpedoing his candidacy in the primaries. So it seems he’s adopting the same strategy against current Republican Senate challenger J.D. Hayworth.