the Senate Race in Arkansas

I’m beginning coverage of the 2010 elections with the US Senate race in Arkansas, as it provides an early glimpse into the legacy of the contentious healthcare debate that dominated nearly a year’s worth of news cycles. Senator Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent, failed to win the Democratic primary outright, necessitating a June 8 runoff against Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. As of May 26, Governor Halter enjoyed a lead of 2.889% over Senator Lincoln[1]. If you look at favorables, Ms Lincioln has a 59% approval rating among likely Democratic primary voters [with 36% disapproving and 5% undecided] and Mr Halter a 63% approval [with 21% disapproving and 16% undecided][2].

The race is proving an uphill struggle for Senator Lincoln in a state where the national healthcare bill continues to rankle voters who register much higher and stronger opposition than voters nationwide. Her initial support for the bill in the Senate is credited for much of her political trouble. Although Governor Halter chose to challenge her, he is strongly supported by labor unions and national liberal groups, reflecting their views on Ms Lincoln’s changes this fall. Nationally, 56% of voters favor repeal of the healthcare law, while 72% of Arkansas voters feel that way, including 60% who strongly favor repeal. Only 24% oppose repeal, including 18% who strongly oppose it. Just 4% are undecided on repeal[3]. Those are astonishing numbers that bode ill for the incumbent party in Arkansas, and is almost certainly career-ending for Ms Lincoln, whether in June or November.

In the general, Republican Congressman John Boozman (AR-3) presently enjoys sizable leads over both his potential rivals in the state’s US Senate race, 66%-28% over Senator Lincoln and 60%-33% over Governor Halter. There will be no national coattails in Arkansas this year, President Obama showing just a 37% approval rating among likely voters [with 61% disapproval and only 2% undecided][4]. Of those strongly supportive of healthcare repeal, 80% support Representative Boozman, while Governor Halter gains 74% of the smaller group of those strongly opposed to repeal, and Senator Lincoln get 60% of those strongly opposed.

More than any other state, healthcare seems to be a watershed event in Arkansas, although the administration’s overall agenda is demonstrably unpopular – only 19% of Arkansas voters are even somewhat confident that Congress knows what it is doing with regards to the economy; 76% are also not very or not at all confident that their representatives in Congress are representing voters’ best interests; and voters in the state oppose the confirmation of President Obama’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. 44%-23%.

Arkansas was probably going to be one of the seats lost to the loyal opposition during this off-year election anyway [Obama lost Arkansas to McCain by 20 points in 2008], and that seems all but certain now.

[1] A weighted average of an R2000/Daily Kos May 24-26 poll of 400 likely voters and a May 18 R2000/DFA poll of 500 likely voters. Both organizations are considered Democratic pollsters, and both polls are reported by Real Clear Politics.

[2], reported on May 27 2010 by Emily Swanson.

[3] See Rasmussen Reports, May 21 2010.

[4] Swanson,

Here We Go

After months of pooh-poohing those mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers saying that ObamaCare couldn’t possibly deliver what it promised, when it promised, for what it promised, we are starting to get the first real-world look at that with which Pelosi, Reid and Obama shackled us. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that just implementing ObamaCare will cost ~$130 to $150 billion more than Congress promised. What changed? Nothing. It’s just that the Democrats omitted [read: hid] implementation from CBO scoring data. In other words, we were solemnly sworn to that ObamaCare would cost “just” $940 billion over ten years, but they neglected to tell us about the $10 to $20 billion cost of administrating it; and the ~$105 billion cost of discretionary programs; and the $5 to $10 billion cost to implement changes in Medicare, Medicaid, the SCHIP and insurance industry reforms; and the $10 to $15 billion cost for the IRS to implement the rules regarding premiums and cost-sharing credits[1]. That’s just what they’ve found so far.

In yet another case of “pass the bill to find out what’s in it”, when the administration touted the small business tax credit, officials pointed to its “broad eligibility” for companies with fewer than 25 workers and average annual wages less than $50K that provide health coverage. In the actual bill, however, the credit drops off sharply once a company gets above 10 workers and $25K average annual wages. Thus Zach Hoffman, who runs a 24-person company with an average salary of $35K [both under the administration’s promised “broad eligibility”], can’t get any relief for the $79,200 annual healthcare premiums he pays for his employees. “It leaves you with this feeling of a bait-and-switch,” he said[2]. Not unlike Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the administration apparently “misspoke” while selling ObamaCare.

In a survey done by the Houston Chronicle, Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable, and fearful of what’s coming under ObamaCare. Following years of declining Medicare reimbursement culminating in a looming 21% cut in 2010, Congress is now in a bind as to what to do. They have voted three times to postpone the cut [the infamous “Doctor Fix”], which was originally to take effect January 1. It is now set to take effect June 1. ObamaCare has also promised to pay for half the healthcare bill with $500 billion in additional cuts to Medicare [the dreaded “waste, fraud and abuse”]. Texas doctors are afraid that the Doctor Fix has run its course – at some point, Congress is going to have to live up to its own legislation – and the promised half a trillion in “savings” means even less to doctors[3]. Can you say “rationing”?

How ‘bout we wait to see if anything they said about healthcare “reform” is true before we give them comprehensive immigration “reform”?

Just sayin’ …

[1] See Jennifer Haberkorn, CBO Ups Healthcare Cost Projections, in Politico, May 11 2010.

[2] See Mark Hemingway, Many Small Businesses Not Eligible for Tax Cuts Promised by Obamacare, in Washington Examiner, May 22 2010.

[3] See Todd Ackerman, Texas Doctors Fleeing Medicare in Droves, in Houston Chronicle, May 17 2010.

“Equality” ≠ Fairness

I use small-L “liberal” to denote neoliberals [today’s political liberals], and capital-L “Liberal” to denote paleoliberals [the children of the Enlightenment that included our Founders]. The rise of modern political Liberalism was an emergent behavior of movable type – our first Information Age. Bibles had always been laboriously [if magnificently] hand-written and illuminated by teams of monks, under the tutelage and supervision of abbots, and were, even contemporarily, museum pieces to be cherished by their custodians and interpreted by the priestly class.

Johannes Gutenberg changed all that.

Increased commonality of the Bible – in terms of both content and availability – placed it in exponentially more non-ecclesiastical hands. As were the classics of the Greeks and Romans, the histories of the early- and meso-Europeans – and newspapers. Literacy exploded. The Enlightenment, though theologically based, was a reaction to the loss of the aristocracy’s mandate to rule based on its pre-emptive access to knowledge.

Plato’s Doctrine – that the ability to reason [to choose among options] implies free will, which, in turn, implies some form of self-rule [as the highest order of social organization] – had become Jefferson’s Imperative – that as a polity gains parity [with the aristocracy] in the affairs of state, it will insist on self-rule. The individual’s capacity for self-determination implies a moral hazard in its denial – the imposition of arbitrarily stratified societal organization. Vox populi (the voice of the people) became the bumper sticker of the Enlightenment that swept up political thinkers from John Locke, Thomas Paine and Jean Jacques Rousseau to Jefferson, Adams, Franklin et al. Liberals [Whigs] sought the liberation of the people from the diktat of the ruling aristocracy [Tories]. The realization of the Platonic Doctrine.

The dumbing-down of non-government society to government’s idea of “equality” IS the diktat of a ruling aristocracy, and as such, is explosively illiberal.

The political concept of equality suffers from homonymism – neoliberals and conservatives are using the same word to mean radically different things. When liberals say “equality”, they mean “equality of results”; when conservatives say “equality”, they mean “equality of opportunity”. The difference separates autocracy from liberty. On this, and many other issues, liberals have become the “top-down-control-of-the-people” Tories against whom the Whigs fought the Revolutionary War .

Liberty is a snap-shot of society where results are a performance-driven phenomena; equality of results is a snap-shot of society where performance is irrelevant. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is a philosophy of subsistence – devoid of aspirations or hope – and assumes an altruism that just isn’t there [hence, the Code of Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, and all that has followed]. No one will produce to their ability if that effort is rewarded as to someone else’s idea of their need. A popular joke on the streets of Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union was that “we will pretend to work as long they pretend to pay us.” Performance mirrors reward, settling to the weakest link in the workplace; reward becomes the averaged output of a dwindling economy. Enforced equality of results begins at the apex of societal vitality and prosperity and spirals downward.

At base, it’s human nature. There is nothing fair [read: equitable] about confiscating assets from those who earned them and giving them to those who didn’t.

Kagan It Is

President Obama has nominated Solicitor General of the United States Elena Kagan (b. April 28 1960) as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to fill the seat being vacated by the retirement of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. General Kagan was formerly dean of Harvard Law School and Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law at Harvard University, was a tenured professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and served as Associate White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton.

General Kagan earned a BA from Princeton University[1], summa cum laude [1981], received Princeton’s Daniel M Sachs Memorial Scholarship which enabled her to earn an MP degree from Oxford University [Worcester College, 1983], and received her JD, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law [1986], where she was Supervisory Editor of the Harvard Law Review. General Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva [US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit] and later for Justice Thurgood Marshall [SCOTUS]. General Kagan was confirmed by the Senate in 2009 as DoJ’s top litigator 61 to 31, with conservatives Tom Coburn (NE), Orrin Hatch (UT) and Jon Kyl (NV) voting aye. All 31 no votes came from Republicans, including the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions (AL).

Except for a brief stint in private practice [associate at the DC law firm of Williams & Connolly], General Kagan’s legal experience is purely academic, never having served on any bench. If confirmed, she would be the fourth woman to serve on the high court, and the third woman on the current court. Her nomination will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate for consideration, a process that will likely last throughout the summer, and if successful, General Kagan could be seated as a part of the Court’s first day of session in October.

With no judicial record to follow, her confirmation hearings should take a tack which she has favored in her writings – one that focuses on a nominee’s judicial philosophy rather than naval gazing at qualifications. “The Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court have become a vapid and hollow charade,” she wrote in 1995, because the nominees “are not forced to say what they think about disputed issues such as abortion, affirmative action and privacy.” She may well get her wish, although she will likely take the same rabbit hole as previous nominees, claiming that any such revelations would compromise her judicial objectivity.

General Kagan’s interests focus has been on administrative law, including the role of POTUS in formulating and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law. Her 2001 Harvard Law Review article, Presidential Administration, was honored as the year’s top scholarly article by the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and the abstract to that article reads, in part:

“This article examines a recent and dramatic transformation in the relationship between the President (and his staff) and the administrative state. Professor Kagan argues that President Clinton, building on a foundation President Reagan laid, increasingly made the regulatory activity of the executive branch agencies into an extension of his own policy and political agenda. He did so, primarily, by exercising directive authority over these agencies and asserting personal ownership of their regulatory activity – demonstrating in the process, against conventional wisdom, that enhanced presidential control over administration can serve pro-regulatory objectives. Professor Kagan offers a broad though not unlimited defense of the resulting system of “presidential administration” against legal and policy objections. This form of controlling agency action, she argues, comports with law because, contrary to the prevailing view, Congress generally should be understood to have left authority in the President to direct executive branch officials in the exercise of their delegated discretion.”

During her hearings to be confirmed as Solicitor General, The New York Times notes that she “has supported assertions of executive power[2].” The Times paraphrased Ms Kagan as saying “that someone suspected of helping finance al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law – indefinite detention without a trial – even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than a physical battle zone[3].” This view of vast executive power has caused some commentators to fear that she would reverse the delicate majority in favor of protecting civil liberties on the Supreme Court were she to replace Stevens[4].

This brings me to a couple of conclusions. One, President Obama’s almost complete capitulation to Congress on most issues must disappoint her; and two, her sway as Solicitor General has been minimal in Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department as to the status of terrorists. One thing is for sure – she will get pushback on her castigation of “vapid” Senatorial confirmation hearings, and whether or not she “man’s up” to questions about her own judicial philosophy will tell us much about the seriousness about her written record, including her very non-liberal views of the exercise of the office of the presidency and the treatment of those determined to destroy our way of life.

[1] Ms Kagan was editorial chairman of the Daily Princetonian.

[2] Possible Candidates, in New York Times, April 9 2010.

[3] Charlie Savage, Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas, in New York Times, February 17 2009.

[4] Glenn Greenwald, Justice Stevens’ retirement and Elena Kagan, in Salon April 9 2010.

Liberal Desperation

Toward the end of the Cold War, there was much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands over what the Soviets would do upon realizing that they couldn’t win it … would they launch their arsenal out of desperation? Would they order the destruction of their assets and people? None of this happened, but there is historical precedent. Among other instances, Hitler ordered the burning of Paris upon realizing that the Allies would liberate France (his generals didn’t carry out the order).

Democrats are apparently similarly disposed.

Clandestinely inserted into the healthcare language was the unheralded, unannounced and undebated nationalization of the student loan program, which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with healthcare, and which has already cost an estimated 2,500 jobs (and counting) at private student loan offices around the country. And now comes a similar FTC takeover of the internet contained within the House financial “reform” bill now pending before the Senate. Once again, the internet had nothing to do with the shenanigans on Wall Street, but that seems to matter little to Pelosi and her army of takeover-happy curmudgeons on the Hill. “If it exists, we must control it.”

After being called out on three pitches by the public (bailouts, “stimulus” and healthcare), and facing the eminent demise of their unchallenged power to govern, Democrats have decided to stop using the messy legislative process, just empowering regulatory agencies to pummel us with Hopeychange. This flag was test-flown earlier when EPA threatened to take up the yardarm of the Church of Global Warming by declaring CO2 – that which we expel in the natural order of things – to be hazardous and worthy of regulation by proclamation. Could obesity be curtailed by regulating the amount of “toxic” gasses emitted by certain people? The possibilities are endless in the hands of truly utopian thinkers.

In scorched-Earth panic to “burn Paris” as their day wanes, Democrats are stuffing shopworn social engineering into everything that moves. We need to pay attention to what they are actually doing (legislative language), not what they say they are doing (bill titles and public purposes of legislation).