Monday, December 21, 2009

Bribing and Blackmailing for Historic Change

Bribing and Blackmailing for Historic Change
Meredith Turney
Monday, December 21, 2009

Under cover of darkness the most despicable of crimes are committed. Secrecy and opacity aid the deceitful in accomplishing the deeds they hope will never come to light—the light that demands accountability and justice. And it was in the middle of the night—one a.m. on Monday to be exact—that the United States Senate perpetrated one of its most duplicitous acts by voting to move forward a watered-down but still extremely dangerous healthcare bill.

The last few months of the healthcare debate have unfolded in a haze of backroom deals, taxpayer-funded bribes and outright arm-twisting. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn provided the best description of the Congressional goings-on: “This process is not legislation. This process is corruption.”

Corruption is the only way to describe the outrageous behavior on display in the United States Capitol. With seemingly no regard for the honor of their office or the responsibility owed to their constituents, Members of Congress have engaged in acts usually characteristic of banana republic governments. The venal elected officials have sold for pork the Constitution they swore to uphold. Is this the hope and change Americans thought they were getting when they placed their faith and the leadership of their country in Barack Obama?

A complete government takeover or even an expansion of the nation’s healthcare system is certainly historic change—it will impact every aspect of society for generations. Such monumental change should be afforded a lengthy, open debate. Instead, the public is told healthcare must pass immediately in order to save the country. President Obama even used fear-mongering rhetoric that the federal government would go bankrupt without healthcare legislation.

If the healthcare legislation is really so important and if it will truly benefit Americans, then why is it necessary to bribe the people’s representatives? The just and honorable vote never requires a pay-off, at least, not for a legislator who truly represents the best interests of his or her constituents.

Instead of the hallmarks of honorable legislation that will genuinely improve America, the healthcare legislation and the process by which it is being passed are characterized by the sorts of behavior consistent with crime.

There is a humorous anecdote attributed to Sir Winston Churchill in which he asks a socialite whether she would sleep with him for five million pounds. Surprised, the socialite seriously considers the offer and appears inclined to accept. But as she prepares to discuss her terms, Churchill asks whether she would sleep with him for five pounds. Deeply offended, the socialite demands, “Mr. Churchill, what kind of a woman do you think I am?!” To which Churchill responds, “Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.” In the course of the healthcare debate, Congressional politicians have certainly established that they are willing to sell their votes, now it is simply a matter of price.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu actually admitted on the Senate floor that she had received special earmarks for her state. She even corrected erroneous reports that her state would receive $100 million in additional Medicare funding—clarifying that Louisiana would receive the much more respectable amount of $300 million: “I am not going to be defensive about asking for help in this situation. And it is not a $100 million fix, it’s a $300 million fix.”

Bribery isn’t even the worst of the shameful behavior in Congress. Last week it was reported that the White House had blackmailed Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson into voting for the healthcare bill by threatening to close his state’s Offutt Air Force Base. The base, which employs 10,000 people, is home of the U.S. Strategic Command, the location where President George W. Bush spent the uncertain hours following the September 11th attacks. Chicago politics have now reached the highest office in the land.

It is beyond disgraceful to use the nation’s security as a bargaining chip to pass a healthcare bill many Americans will never benefit from, but will certainly pay for. In the end, Nelson’s vote was purchased on the promise that his state would be exempt from paying for Medicare expansion in Nebraska—shifting the burden to the other 49 states.

Secretive meetings, million dollar buy-offs, truncated debate. Is this how history is made?

The Vacuity of Double Triumphs
George Will
Monday, December 21, 2009

WASHINGTON -- It was serendipitous to have almost simultaneous climaxes in Copenhagen and Congress. The former's accomplishment was indiscernible, the latter's was unsightly.

It would have been unprecedented had the president not described the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit as "unprecedented," that being the most overworked word in his hardworking vocabulary of self-celebration. Actually, the mountain beneath the summit -- a mountain of manufactured hysteria, predictable cupidity, antic demagoguery and dubious science -- labored mightily and gave birth to a mouselet, a 12-paragraph document committing the signatories to ... make a list.

A list of the goals they have no serious intention of trying to meet. The document even dropped the words "as soon as possible" from its call for a binding agreement on emissions.

The 1992 Rio climate summit begat Kyoto. It, like Copenhagen, which Kyoto begat, was "saved," as Copenhagen was, by a last-minute American intervention (Vice President Al Gore's) that midwifed an agreement that most signatories evaded for 12 years. The Clinton-Gore administration never submitted Kyoto's accomplishment for ratification, the Senate having denounced its terms 95-0.

Copenhagen will beget Mexico City next November. Before then, Congress will give "the international community" other reasons to pout. Congress will refuse to burden the economy with cap-and-trade carbon-reduction requirements, and will spurn calls for sending billions in "climate reparations" to China and other countries. Representatives of those nations, when they did not have their hands out in Copenhagen grasping for America's wealth, clapped their hands in ovations for Hugo Chavez and other kleptocrats who denounced capitalism while clamoring for its fruits.

The New York Times reported from Copenhagen that Barack Obama "burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret." Naughty them. Those three nations will be even less pliable in Mexico City.

At least the president got a health care bill through the Senate. But what problem does it "solve" (Obama's word)? Not that of the uninsured, 23 million of whom will remain in 2019. Not that of rising health care spending. This will rise faster over the next decade.

The legislation does solve the Democrats' "problem" of figuring out how to worsen the dependency culture and the entitlement mentality that grows with it. By 2016, families with annual incomes of $96,000 will get subsidized health insurance premiums.

Nebraska's Ben Nelson voted for the Senate bill after opposing both the Medicare cuts and taxes on high-value insurance plans -- the heart of the bill's financing. Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln, Indiana's Evan Bayh and Virginia's Jim Webb voted against one or the other. Yet they support the bill. They will need mental health care to cure their intellectual whiplash.

Before equating Harry Reid to Henry Clay, understand that buying 60 Senate votes is a process more protracted than difficult. Reid was buying the votes of senators whose understanding of the duties of representation does not rise above looting the nation for local benefits. And Reid had two advantages -- the spending, taxing and borrowing powers of the federal leviathan, and an almost gorgeous absence of scruples or principles. Principles are general rules, such as: Nebraska should not be exempt from burdens imposed on the other 49 states.

Principles have not, however, been entirely absent: Nebraska's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, and Republican senator, Mike Johanns, have honorably denounced Nebraska's exemption from expanded Medicaid costs. The exemption was one payment for Nelson's vote to impose the legislation on Nebraskans, 67 percent of whom oppose it.

Considering all the money and debasement of the rule of law required to purchase 60 votes, the bill the Senate passed might be the only bill that can get 60. The House, however, voted for Rep. Bart Stupak's provision preserving the ban on public funding of abortions. Nelson, an untalented negotiator, unnecessarily settled for much less. The House also supports a surtax on affluent Americans, and opposes the steep tax on some high-value health insurance. So to get the bill to the president's desk, the House, in conference with the Senate, may have to shrug and say: Oh, never mind.

During this long debate, the left has almost always yielded ground. Still, to swallow the Senate bill, the House will have to swallow its pride, if it has any. The conference report reconciling the House and Senate bills will reveal whether the House is reconciled to being second fiddle in a one-fiddle orchestra.

No comments: