What’s Not in the News

There’s not much in the news this time of year, what with all the newsmakers being off on their expensive vacations, so now is as good a time as any to take notice of what’s not there. In the eerie silence of the current news cycle we can’t help noticing that several important stories seem to have prematurely vanished.
That awful deal with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear weapons program has largely gone unmentioned since President Barack Obama announced it was done, even though that’s not the end of the story. So far as we can tell nothing has yet been signed by either side, there’s no still public agreement about what’s been agreed to, even the United Nations admits that Iran’s recent inter-continental ballistic missile test violated any understanding of agreement, despite the administration’s infuriating pleas for leniency on behalf of the totalitarian theocracy, and Congress is wisely proceeding with fresh new sanctions that disagree with the whole awful deal. Given that the deal makes an Iranian bomb inevitable, which in turn would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and thus make Armageddon imminent, one would think this would be getting more attention.
Obamacare is just as bad as ever, too, although that’s no longer news. By now the public knows that it won’t be getting an average $2,500 a year savings and won’t be able to keep its plans or doctors and that all the other promises that were made won’t be kept, but that was already obvious when the public went ahead and re-elected Obama back in ’12 and the media are no longer obligated to mention of that. They are forced to mention that premiums are going up, more plans are set to be cancelled, the poor who were supposed to benefit are paying ever more for less coverage, major insurers are pulling out of the exchanges and leaving the rest of the suckers in the long-predicted “death spiral,” and few seem to expect the law will survive into the next decade. Even the Republican presidential candidates rarely mention Obamacare, however, and even the most conservative news media don’t seem to ask about it.
Most of those Republican candidates also go unmentioned, of course, and judging by all the “Bernie” bumper stickers we’re seeing we think there’s more going in in the Democratic race than you’d know from reading the news. Perhaps when the all the newsmakers and news reporters get back from their vacations we’ll start to find out more about Donald Trump’s latest insulting “tweet” and all the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal isn’t really that a big deal, but we can always hope they’ll starting paying attention to other things. In some cases the silence is becoming deafening.

— Bud Norman

Blaming the Victims

The first phase in dealing with an imminent doom, according to the famous Kübler-Ross “stages of grief” theory, is denial. The second phase, according to the Democratic Party’s playbook, is blaming the Republicans.
So it has gone with the slow, painful death of Obamacare. At first the Democrats were insistent that all was not only fine but also dandy with the health care reform law, but once even the morning newspapers and the late-night comics started kicking at the corpse that pretense has become impossible to maintain. Although the White House is still insisting that all is well, much like Kevin Bacon’s character in the climactic riot scene at the end of “Animal House,” the rest of the party has moved onto that necessary step of finding a suitable scapegoat.
The most reliable play in the party’s playbook is blaming George W. Bush, of course, but certain well-known facts make it difficult to execute in this case. Even the least informed of the low-information voters are aware that Obamacare is a creation of the Obama administration, with the very name being one obvious reminder of this fact, and the president has done too much bragging about it to deny responsibility now. The best minds of the liberal blogosphere are no doubt hard at work trying to contrive some plausible way to blame Bush, or at least Dick Cheney, but thus far the theory has not been unveiled.

There are a few other Republicans left in Washington, so the Democrats know which direction to point their fingers as they shout “j’accuse,” but the accusation requires a more fertile imagination than the average non-Democrat is likely to possess. Not a single Republican voted for Obamacare, not even a single one of those squishy RINO types from the northeast, and almost all of them have repeatedly reiterated their opposition in a series of votes to de-fund, delay, or downright repeal the hated law. To further exonerate the Republican Party, even as it enrages the rank-and-file, all of those votes have done nothing to obstruct the relentless implementation of the law.
This doesn’t prevent the Democrats from blaming Republican obstructionism for the law’s increasingly apparent problems, of course, nor does it diminish the Democrats’ indignation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most indignant politician ever, has accused the Republicans of “sabotage.” Former Vermont governor, Democratic National Committee chairman, and noted screamer Howard Dean has taken a similar line, saying the Republican have “thrown monkey wrenches” into the exquisite gear work of Obamacare. President Obama himself has accused the Republicans of “rooting for failure,” with a sports fan’s faith that rooting somehow affects the outcome of a game, and seems ready to fully shift the blame once he is at last forced to give up his denial.
A couple of explanations for the Republicans’ culpability are currently being auditioned before a friendly Democratic audience, which has been predictably receptive, but it remains to be seen if they will play to a wider audience.
White House spokesman Jay Carney has blamed the brief partial shutdown of the federal government, which he in turn blames on the Republicans, for the widely-reported failure of the Obamacare web site. This will no doubt seem quite convincing to any Democrats still eager for evidence that he partial shutdown of the federal government was a bad thing, but less-partisan observers will note that the web site’s disastrous launch coincided with the shutdown and it’s shoddy design by the Democratic-connected firm of Shemp, Curly, and Moe predated any thought of the shutdown by several years. Anyone gullible enough to believe this argument will need to apprised that there was a partial government shutdown, and brought up to speed on how it was the Republicans’ insane insistence on a one-year-delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate was responsible for the horrible consequences that no one noticed, and what an “individual mandate” is, and never mind that several Democratic Senators are now calling for its one-year delay, so it becomes a difficult argument to make.
The other Republicans to be blamed are the 26 governors who declined to set up Obamacare exchanges in their states, leaving the thankless chore to the federal government that had concocted the crazy idea, but this is also a hard sell. Here in Kansas the Democrats are seething that our very Republican Gov. Sam Brownback declined to create a state exchange, but they’re the same people who tell us that Obama is the most brilliant and virtuous person in the history of mankind and that Brownback is both moronic and venal, so it’s hard to see why they’d prefer to see the latter administering their health care than the former. All those Republican governors are said to be moronic and venal, but they don’t seem to have nearly the problems or done any of the damage that can be attributed to the allegedly brilliant and virtuous Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who did the job they declined.
Much of the public is predisposed to blame Republicans for anything that goes wrong, and the Democrats can always count on the supportive news and entertainment media to encourage that predisposition, but this time it’s going to require more extraordinary efforts. The Republicans didn’t design Obamacare’s slapstick web site, and were wise not to try, and even after the glitches and bugs and abysmal failures have been worked out the higher premiums, bigger deficits, decreased care, and increased bureaucratic nuttiness that was inherent in the law from the time every single Republican voted against it will become too check-writing clear to be denied or blamed on anyone but the Democrats.

— Bud Norman

A Good Week for the Anarchists

The fundamental premise of modern liberalism, so far as we can discern one, is that almost everything in life is best left to the government’s good intentions and uncanny effectiveness. This past week, alas, has not bolstered the argument.
By far the two biggest stories of the week were the partial shutdown of the federal government and its simultaneous opening of the long awaited, long dreaded Obamacare health care “exchanges.” Neither story shines a flattering light on the government, despite the best efforts of the old-time media, and both might therefore be seen as an embarrassment to the party that is most associated with modern liberalism and its belief in the goodness and effectiveness of government. For those who are new to the politics of America and are unsure which party that is, be advised that the Democrats have lately taken to calling the Republicans “anti-government” and even “anarchist,” while the Republicans are becoming increasingly comfortable with the descriptions.
Thus far the partial government shutdown has not had any noticeable effect on most Americans, but that is not for lack of trying on the part of the administration. The executive branch of the federal government has tried to prove its indispensability by inflicting as much pain on the public as possible during the shutdown, and has even gone to the expense that of shutting down scenic roads and public monuments that could be more cost-effectively kept open. This tactic is self-evidently cynical to the relative handful of people who had hoped to enjoy a passing view of Mount Rushmore or a day on the beaches of the Pacific coast, which have been restricted for no apparent reason by the federal government, but the administration seems hopeful that the rest of the country will learn from a compliant press corps that it’s all the fault of those Republicans in the House of Representatives who are stubbornly refusing to release the funding for these cost-free amenities. In a particularly inept bit of political theater, the administration has even erected barricades around Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam War and World War II memorials to deny access to these sites to the made-for-news-media-stardom veterans who had hoped to partake of a quiet moment of reflection on their fallen comrades at these sites, and who have further spoiled by the storyline by defying the pettiness of the government they once fought for, while the Republicans have obliged the media to mention somewhere deep in their stories that the House has passed appropriations for these sites and been rebuffed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
As if the shutdown weren’t a sufficient chore for the old-time media to spin away, the Obamacare scheme that is causing it has also proved too much an embarrassment to be ignored. The computerized insurance store concocted by the government has been so bogged down by traffic and glitches that even the most determinedly pro-Obama media have been forced to acknowledge the failure, and the few would-be insurance consumers who have been able to slog through the program’s incomprehensible protocols have been disappointed to find that what’s on offer is far more expensive and less valuable than they had been led by governmental promises to believe. Attempts are already afoot to blame this on the anti-government factions that have somehow taken control of one-half of one-third of the government, apparently through some nefarious scheme of winning elections in a majority of the country’s congressional districts, but so long as the law is called Obamacare and the Republicans’ unanimous opposition is mentioned in every story there is a good chance that even the least-informed voters will know bears responsibility.
Nothing refutes the notion that government should be better-funded and more extensively-empowered than the lack of consequences from shutting down 17 percent of it, except perhaps the slapstick comedy that ensues when government attempts to micro-manage the one-sixth of the economy devoted to health care, and the confluence of both provides a persuasive example to those crazed conservatives calling for limits on the government’s cost and power. The Republicans making this argument might yet once again miss the opportunity, but it is there for the taking.

— Bud Norman

An Inauspicious Beginning

We give a cordial welcome to any new readers who might have been redirected to these pages by some strange glitch in the Obamacare web sites. No health care insurance plans can be found here, and we are quite unable to provide any subsidies, but we can offer plenty of commiseration to anyone frustrated by the federal government’s inept attempts at running the nation’s health care system.
Tuesday was the much-ballyhooed debut of Obamacare’s “health-care exchanges,” a key feature of the controversial law’s convoluted scheme, and by all accounts it did not go well. The computerized marketplace established by the government to enroll Americans in an approved health care policy was overwhelmed by traffic, marred by a variety of other technical problems, and proved infuriatingly confusing to those lucky enough to make a connection. Even the highly supportive staff at the MSNBC news outfit gave up on trying to demonstrate the program’s success after being put on hold for 35 minutes.
Should the fiasco shake your faith in the almighty power of the federal bureaucracy to micro-manage the one-sixth of America’s economy that is our once-vaunted health care system, which might even cause you to question its ability to run the other five sixths, be assured that some carefully-crafted excuses have already been offered.
One attempt to find a silver lining somewhere in the gathering storm clouds is the official line that the computer system was simply unable to cope with so darned many people trying at once to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that Obamacare so generously affords. Too much “interest” in the exchanges was how they put it, as if the interest was a result of widespread enthusiasm for the law rather the heavy fines it will impose on anyone who doesn’t slog through the obligatory labyrinthine to obtain coverage, so what might look to an uninformed observer like an abject failure is actually proof of too much success. When Venezuela’s socialistic price controls resulted in a toilet paper shortage earlier this year its government officials cited the problem as proof that they had succeeded all too well at feeding the people, but the Obamacare apologists might well have broken this previous world record for audacity.
Another explanation was that too many of the people seeking health coverage on the exchanges simply weren’t sophisticated enough to deal with the process. One might expect that the largely elderly, or low-income, or unemployed population that would be most in need of the exchanges’ offerings were not the most computer savvy among us, but apparently the possibility was never considered by the people now in charge of running health care in America. This is not reassuring.
Obamacare’s eponymous President Barack Obama downplayed the problems by noting that even such exemplars of the private sector as the Apple computer and telephone empire have experienced similar technical problems. No one is compelled by law and the threat of fines to deal with Apple, however, and that provides the company with an incentive to find a quick fix which does not exist for the firmly entrenched bureaucrats running the Obamacare scheme. These words come to you through an Apple-made device which has proved far more reliable and efficient than any branch of the government, and we would prefer that some similar self-interested companies were competing for our health care dollars without governmental interference.

— Bud Norman