Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beltway Christmas: Cash for Corruptocrats

Beltway Christmas: Cash for Corruptocrats
Michelle Malkin
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Democrats are right. Sleazy bribes and pork payoffs didn't start with their government health care takeover bill. They've been doling out taxpayer-funded goodies for votes all year. Harry Reid's latest Cash for Cloture deals are the culmination of Washington's 2009 shopping spree at our expense.

Go back to January and February. The multitrillion-dollar stimulus bill was the mother of all legislative Christmas trees. The ruling party used the economic downturn to redistribute wealth from struggling Americans to favored congressional districts, phantom districts and special interests from golf-cart makers to fly-by-night beauty salons.

According to a new study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Democratic districts have raked in nearly twice as much porkulus money as GOP districts -- without regard to the actual economic suffering and job loss in those districts. In fact, the researchers found that far more stimulus money went to higher-income areas than to lower-income areas.

That includes Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's backyard -- where a $54 million no-bid contract was awarded to a firm with little experience to relocate a luxury Bay Area wine train due to flood concerns.

And it includes Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, which reaped the single biggest earmark in the porkulus bill -- $1 billion for the dubious FutureGen near-zero emissions "clean coal" plant earmark championed by disgraced Democrat and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.

And it includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's backyard -- where he secured billions in high-speed rail stimulus earmarks from which he plans to fund a pie-in-the-sky public transportation line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

When taxpayers objected to business as usual masquerading as economic recovery, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer sneered: "You lost." He jibed on the Senate floor while wagging a grabby finger, "And let me say this to all of the chattering class that so much focuses on those little, tiny, yes, porky amendments: The American people really don't care." The "American people" Schumer was referring to, of course, were the privileged minority of stimulus beneficiaries -- not the rest of us "chattering" dissenters stuck with the bill for those billions in "little, tiny, yes, porky amendments."

No legislation has been immune to congressional shakedown. After the Congressional Black Caucus balked loudly enough, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank -- chairman of the House Financial Services Committee -- larded up the majority's Wall Street regulatory "reform" bill with $4 billion in payoffs to minority special interests -- including former failed Air America radio partner Inner City Broadcasting Corp.

The cash-strapped firm is run by Percy Sutton, a New York City crony of Charlie Rangel's and Al Sharpton's. The money will come out of the ever-morphing TARP bank bailout fund -- which went from a toxic assets purchase plan to a capital injection plan, back to a toxic assets purchase plan, then to a life insurance company bailout and on to an auto-supplier bailout.

Leading the charge for the Cash for Cronies of Color drive: California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who had already extracted $12 million in TARP funds for OneUnited, a minority-owned bank that is one of her key campaign donors and a company in which both Waters and her husband own massive amounts of stock.

Which brings us to Demcare, the latest wealth redistribution scheme disguised as health care reform. In addition to the infamous $300 million "Louisiana Purchase" for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and the (at least) $45 million "Cornhusker Kickback" for sellout Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Harry Reid threw around other, less-publicized gobs of cash for cloture votes to cut off debate and ram the bill through. He tossed in a Hospital Helper of $100 million to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., whose re-election bid is in hot water.

There are bennies for insurance companies and hospitals in Michigan, and "frontier freebies" for hospitals in Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming. There's a New England's Special Syrup for Vermont and Massachusetts -- who will get similar (though less generous) special treatment by the feds to that of Nebraska in covering Medicaid expansion costs. Combined with Nebraska's tab, the exclusive clique's payoffs will cost taxpayers at least $1.2 billion over 10 years.

There's also an ACORN/community organizer-friendly provision for minority health bureaucracies that was sought by Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., according to John McCormack of the Weekly Standard.

And there's a $10 billion socialized medicine sop to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for "community health clinics" serving in essence as universal health care satellite offices. "We are talking about a revolution," Sanders enthused during the Senate's sneaky Sunday session.

No, revolution will come when taxpayers have a chance to kick these reverse Santa Clauses posing as saviors out of office. It can't happen a minute too soon.

To read another article by Michelle Malkin, click here.
A Bill of Goods, Maybe
David Harsanyi
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For many, the health care reform debate has only reinforced a number of richly deserved stereotypes regarding the workings of Congress and the synergetic crookedness of big government and big business.

There's a little something for everyone, really. (And for the utterly gullible, there is a shimmering new make-believe birthright to go along with the mess.)

This week, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa claimed passage of reform would mean our nation had crossed the "demarcation line" that would transform health care from a "privilege" to a "right."

Which is absolutely true if your definition of a "right" happens to be "do it or else."

Beleaguered citizens would deal with all the same anxieties they wrestled with before reform -- a lack of portability, rising costs and so on -- while enjoying a new, inalienable right to buy insurance in an uncompetitive marketplace with no downward pressure on prices.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Senate would increase overall health care spending by more than $200 billion between 2010 and 2019 -- a striking accomplishment considering the bill wouldn't even kick in until 2013.

At the same time, those scandalous profit-mongering insurance outfits that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called "villains" and President Barack Obama referred to as greedy would have the right to enrich themselves with millions of new customers via mandate on individuals.

Though most of the bill's provisions wouldn't be triggered until 2013, it doesn't mean Americans wouldn't have a right to pay taxes before that time. Paying taxes isn't only a right; it's patriotic.

The Senate bill would create more than a dozen new taxes and fees -- some of them scheduled years before reform's righteousness could fully bloom. And if you've purchased one of those elaborate Cadillac health insurance plans -- and aren't you selfish? -- you would have the right to be charged a 40 percent excise tax for thinking you're special.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 10 million of you would have the right to no longer be covered by your private employers (independent groups put this number higher), despite the president's fictitious promise that no one would surrender his insurance coverage under his watch.

It's true, too, that if you couldn't afford health insurance, you would have the right to get it free. Everyone else would have the right to pay for you -- except Nebraskans, who are blessed with a senator who can extract goodies from a feeble majority leader while wielding no more than an imaginary moral misgiving.

You also would have the right to live under the guidance of a newly consequential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which -- as Kevin Patrick, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, explained to The Washington Post -- "has been one of the crown jewels of evidence-based neutrality. It's like the Switzerland of thought on evidence-based medicine. I worry about it being politicized."

The task force's political recommendations would define what basic health insurance coverage meant for millions. On mammograms. On colonoscopies. On wellness. On vaccines. On preventive care. On everything.

The state-based insurance exchanges in which consumers (those who would be without insurance once their employers dropped them) would have the right to pick from a handful of government-authorized insurance plans would be guided by this task force.

You call it rationing? They call it freedom.

You call it coercion with no cost benefit to speak of? Hey, in Washington, that's called a right.

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