New CRS Report Says ObamaCare Allows Federally-Funded Abortions

A new report by the Congressional Research Service reveals that the national health care law allows for federally-funded abortions, despite Democrats’ claims to the contrary.

Under one of the provisions of ObamaCare, before the new health insurance exchanges are set up in 2014, the federal government is funding state-based high risk pools to help cover those with pre-existing conditions.

But according to the CRS, the abortion restrictions contained in the new law “would not appear to apply specifically to the funds made available for high risk pools by section 1101.”

The report says that President Obama’s executive order on abortion “does not specifically address high risk pools and the funds provided under section 1101 of (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).”

The Department of Health and Human Services sets the guidelines for the operation of the high-risk pools, but according to CRS, those guidelines “neither explicitly provide the authority to cover elective abortions with federal funds, nor do they specifically prohibit the use of federal funds.”

In response, 13 Republican Senators have sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging her to issue regulations that would prohibit federal tax dollars from covering abortion through the high risk pools. You can view the PDFs of the CRS report and the letter below.

CBO Warns of Increased Risk of U.S. Fiscal Crisis

The Congressional Budget Office today released a new report on the risk of a fiscal crisis occuring in the United States due to our long-term debt, and its conclusions largely echo points that I’ve been trying to make repeatedly.

The bottom line is that the longer we prolong dealing with our debt problem, the greater the risk of a fiscal crisis, and the more unattractive the options become for digging ourself out of the mess.

Some of the report undermines arguments that conservatives are trying to advance — the CBO says, for instance, that largely extending the Bush tax cuts will significantly add to the deficit. But broadly speaking, the report presents a reality that is quite constistent with arguments conservatives have been trying to advance for years.

It outlines several consequences for growing debt, including crowding out of private investment and the need for higher taxes and/or spending cuts. Of higher taxes, however, it warns that, “To the extent that additional tax revenues were generated by increasing marginal tax rates, those rates would discourage work and saving, further reducing output and incomes.”

The CBO also makes another point — one which I constantly emphasize to conservative friends who say they’re mainly interested in national security — that a failure to address our fiscal situation will undercut military readiness.

“Having a small amount of debt outstanding gives policymakers the ability to borrow to address significant unexpected events such as recessions, financial crises, and wars,” the CBO writes. “A large amount of debt could also harm national security by constraining military spending in times of crisis or limiting the ability to prepare for a crisis.” It also notes that, “increased dependence on foreign investors that would accompany a rising debt could weaken the United States’ international leadership.”

While the CBO notes that it’s hard to predict with any degree of accuracy when or if the U.S. would encounter a fiscal crisis, it says that, “all else being equal, the higher the debt, the greater the risk of such a crisis.”

Once a fiscal crisis actually occurs, the options get even worse. They include restructuring debt or causing inflation, both of which would run the risk of raising interest rates for government to brorrow money. Inflation would not only have negative economic consequences, but it would also increase future deficits. As an example: “if inflation was 1 percentage point higher over the next decade than the rate CBO has projected, budget deficits during those years would be roughly $700 billion larger.”

The response to the fiscal crisis, the CBO anticipates, would likely include an austerity program with a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts. Yet those emergency measures will have to involve much more severe actions than what would be required if we were to address our debt problems now.

Taking Issue With Jeff Lord

A regular part of writing for a political magazine or website is that you sometimes disagree with what is written, or even with decisions to publish certain articles. Such is my sentiment today with Jeff Lord’s piece on Shirley Sherrod. I am rendered speechless by a 4,000-word article that is based around the suggestion that somebody is a liar for saying that a black man was lynched, when he was merely beaten to death by a white sheriff who evidence suggests had previously threatened to “get him.”

Radley Balko has a more detailed critique of the article here, though I’d take slight issue with the headline, if only because it gives the impression that we’re making this argument as an institution, even though there are those of us at the Spectator who strongly disagree with Lord’s piece.

Netroots Speaker Jokes of Making Bachmann Wear “Fishnets” Like Cocktail Waitress

LAS VEGAS — A Netroots Nation speaker introducing Rep. Michelle Bachman’s Democratic opponent joked about making the Minnesota representative wear “fishnets” like a Vegas cocktail waitress.

Laura Fanders, the host of Grittv, was introducing Bachmann’s challenger, Tarryl Clark, when she said: “Another little update from the Right Online folks. Michelle Bachmann was there last night. Sen. Franken is gonna wrestle with her.”

She went on to say that, “We’ll make her wear those fishnets that they’re wearing serving cocktails outside. That’s the kind of Netroots we like.”

Reid to Netroots: “We’re Going To Have a Public Option”

LAS VEGAS — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeking to console liberal activists who were disappointed by the final version of the national health care law, assured them that there would eventually be a public option.

“We’re going to have a public option,” Reid said. “It’s just a question of when.”

Reid’s general comments reflected the same overall message to progressives that President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered earlier today. It essentially boils down to: We’ve done a lot of stuff, but we still have a lot of unfinished business, so campaign for us again.

During a question and answer session, Reid also argued against “fear tactics of those who say Social Security is going broke. It’s not.”

This is part of a strategy I described earlier this week, with Democrats renewing the spectre of Social Security cuts to use as an issue against Republicans.

“Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of the world,” he said.

I explained why its finances are a major problem for the U.S. here.

Grayson Promises Netroots a “New New Deal”

LAS VEGAS — In a lunch speech to Netroots Nation, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida mocked Tea Party protesters, Glenn Beck, and Clarence Thomas, and promised another New Deal.

Grayson opened his speech sarcastically, as if he were addressing a Tea Party.

“Greetings angry protesters,” he said. “Let me see the tea bags dangling from your skulls. Let us genuflect toward Glenn Beck’s TV studio. And now a moment of silence to show our sorrow that Democrats passed health care reform for all America.”

Grayson has become a darling of progressives for making inflammatory comments about conservatives, but this has left him more vulnerable back in his home district, which is much more moderate.

“Let me tell you what every election is about,” he explained. “Every election is about 309 million Americans asking the question: ‘What are you going to do for me?’ And that’s fair. That’s what democracy all about.”

He went on to outline an agenda for “working people” that included making it easier to unionize, and guaranteed paid sick leave and paid vacation.

“We need to have paid vacation,” he declared. “Why? Because we are not slaves.”

More relevant to this election, he said that, “People want to know what the Democrats are going to do for them, and people are afraid of what Republicans are going to do to them.”

During his talk he took a jab at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“We promise people a workplace where they won’t have to face discrimination, unless, of course, the EEOC is being run by people like Clarence Thomas,” he said.

In closing his speech, he announced that, “What we’re promising people is a new New Deal.”

Pelosi Distorts Jobs Data at Netroots Nation

LAS VEGAS — Taking questions from liberal activists at the Netroots Nation conference this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a number of claims about Obama administration jobs data that don’t hold up to close scrutiny.

“In the first 8 months, by the end of August, of 2010, more jobs will be created under Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress than the 8 years of the Bush administration,” Pelosi claimed.

Based on an analysis of official employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I can begin to get an idea of what she might be basing her claim on.

During the entire Bush administration, which I define as February 2001 though January 2009, the economy added a net of 1 million jobs. In the first six months of 2010, the economy added 882,000 jobs, and so she’s assuming it will surpass the Bush mark by the end of August.

However, her claim falters on several levels. First, we don’t have actual jobs data through August. Second, a lot of the job gains during the first half of this year were temporary Census jobs.

Finally, by starting her analysis this year, she ignores the nearly 4 million jobs that were lost from February 2009 through December 2009. Pelosi would probably argue that Obama inherited a mess from Bush, so 2009 numbers shouldn’t count. But Bush inherited a slowing economy, too. There were 1.7 million job losses in 2001. Thus, if we were to give Bush the same pass for job losses during his first year in office, then the economy would have added 2.7 million jobs in his final 7 years — far more than Obama could hope to add in the next few months.

During her talk, Pelosi also made the claim that the economic stimulus bill “saved or created 3.6 million jobs.”

Yet that’s a number that’s completely made up by the administration, and even Christina Romer, chair of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, admitted to me earlier this year that it was hard to accurately make these sorts of economic forecasts:

“I will be the first to admit that none of us have a crystal ball, and you’re absolutely right,” Romer told me. “What I do, what any professional economist does, what any professional forecaster does, is to use everything we have from historical relationships, to knowledge of economic theory, to advanced statistical methods to try to do the best we can to say, ‘what does the data suggest about the path we were on?’ And things like that. So, fundamentally what you’re saying is, ‘This is hard,’ and I would agree completely. That’s why my office spends a lot of time on this. That’s why professional forecasters across both the government and in private industry spend a lot of time trying to do the best that they can. You’re right, we are often wrong. But I think after the fact, we are often correct.”

Obama to Netroots: “Change has not come fast enough”

LAS VEGAS — President Obama on Saturday delivered a surprise video message to Netroots Nation, acknowledging to liberal activists that “change has not come fast enough.”

The fact that Obama felt it necessary to address the crowd — even in a recorded video message — suggests the White House is concerned that self-described progressives who worked to get him elected were growing impatient with his inability to follow through on some of his promises, and disappointment that where he has acted, he’s come up short of their preferred outcome.

And it was telling that the reception he received from the audience was warm but not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, which we came to expect during the campaign.

“I wish I could be with all of you in Vegas, but then I realized that this weekend what happens in Vegas will be webcast, diaried and tweeted by 2,000 of you,” Obama joked.

He conceded that, “Change has not come fast enough for too many Americans, I know that,” and continued: “It hasn’t come fast enough for me either. And I know it hasn’t come fast enough for many of you who fought so hard during the election. The fact is, it took years to get here. It’ll take time to get us out. We’ve known that since the beginning of our campaign. But I hope you take a moment to consider all that we’ve accomplished.”

The video then cut to a clip from the Rachel Maddow Show in which the host recounted all of the legislation Obama had signed over his first year and a half in office.

“So in ways large and small, we’ve begun to deliver on the change we’ve fought so hard for,” he said. “We’re not done. We’re working to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ We’re working to close Guantanamo in a responsible way. Thanks to the heroism of our troops, we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq by the end of August.”

With that, he made his pitch for the liberal base to get fired up for the midterm elections.

“We’re moving America forward,” he said. “When we’ve come this far, we can’t afford to slide back. And that’s the choice America faces this November. Between going back to the failed policies that got us into this mess, and moving forward with policies that are leading us out. I don’t need to tell you that. What I’m asking you is to keep making your voices heard. To keep holding me accountable. To keep up the fight. Change is hard. If we’ve learned anything these past 18 months, it’s that change is possible. It’s possible when folks like you remember the fundamental truth of our democracy: that change doesn’t come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up. It comes from the Netroots, the grassroots, every American who loves their country and believes they can make a difference. We’ve done it before. We can do it again. Let’s finish what we’ve started.”

VIDEO: 9/11 Truther Van Jones Gets Standing Ovation at Netroots Nation (UPDATED)

LAS VEGAS — Van Jones, the former Obama “green jobs czar” who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he signed a petition calling for an investigation into whether the Bush administration deliberately allowed the Sept. 11 attacks to happen, was given a standing ovation by liberal activists here at the Netroots Nation conference.

In a video introduction, former DNC chairman Howard Dean called Jones a “hero.”

During his speech, Jones said that he threw himself a long “pity party” after his exit from the administration, but compared his own struggle to the larger state of the nation. He made the case for investing in new energy technologies, and dismissed concerns about the deficit.

“There’s plenty of money out there, the only question is how to spend it,” Jones said.

In an onstage Q&A following the speech the Nation‘s Ari Melber said that the only reason Jones was targeted was that he was black and progressive.

Melber also told Jones, “You’re popular here because you get stuff done, but also because you’re cool.”

UPDATE: Ari Melber emails to say that:

I gave several reasons for why Van was targeted – he was black, progressive, and he lived a life with work that had the kind of creativity and experimentation that made it easy to smear and lie about him. I stated all these points together in my opening question.

Your post incorrectly suggests that I only gave the reasons of black and progressive.

I checked the video, and indeed he did also mention the third reason for why Jones was targeted. You can watch Jones’s speech and the Q&A here, and the part Melber is referring to kicks in around the 35 minute mark.

Video of the standing ovation below.

Another Stab At the Public Option

On the main site, I have a story from the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas about liberals’ post-ObamaCare strategy to work toward their ultimate goal of a fully government-run, or single-payer health care system. One strategy all along was the creation of a new government-run plan within the new insurance exchanges, which liberals dubbed the “public option” because “public” polls better than “government” and “option” suggests choice.

While I was at the conference, the Congressional Budget Office released a new estimate finding that the idea would reduce the deficit by $68 billion through 2020. And it’s not hard to see where liberals are going with this.

Here‘s single-payer advocate Rep. Jan Schakowsky: “As one of 18 members of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, I am charged with looking for ways to reduce the federal deficits. A public option would trim federal spending by $68 billion from 2014 to 2020, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

As I’ve also been writing, liberals are worried that Obama’s deficit commission will call for Social Security cuts. So one of their rallying cries is likely to be: Don’t cut Social Security, pass a public option.

However, in the near-term, the public option is unlikely to become a reality. CBO’s model anticipates that the proposed public option would be able to offer lower premiums than the privately-administered plans, and thus a third of those who will be purchasing insurance through the exchanges — or 13 million people — would enroll in the cheaper government option. Thus, the federal government won’t have to spend as much on the subsidies for people to purchase insurance.

The problem is, that to achieve lower premiums, government would be using its bargaining power to drive down payments to providers, and hospitals would end up being paid Medicare rates. As it is, Democrats were unable to get any form of a public option through the Senate, and that’s even though the proposal that was on the table did not set rates at Medicare levels. At the time, Democratic Budget Committee chairman Sen. Kent Conrad argued that doing so would destroy hospitals in North Dakota.

So, a public option with Medicare rates couldn’t get 60 votes in the Senate last year, before Scott Brown was elected, and without any Republican gains this November. Next year, it’s even less likely to have a shot.

That said, it’s still something conservatives should worry about in the longer term. Because once premiums continue to rise and ObamaCare doesn’t meet its deficit reduction claims, liberals will be arguing that they have just the right answer in the public option.