January 30, 2008

‘Universal’ Health Care ‘Terminated’? Yes, in California. But RomneyCare Is Alive in Massachusetts (and WE Are Paying for It)

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:10 pm

Okay, I get that California is our most populous state, the land of uber-liberalism, and deserving of a shot or two when it tries, and fortunately fails, to pass something dumb.

But if the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal is going to exult in the Golden State’s inability to enact a “universal” health-care plan, the least it could do is spend more than about 30 words on the one such plan that exists — especially when it was the brainchild of a GOP presidential candidate now pretending to be a conservative.

I am, of course, referring to Massachusetts, its former governor, Willard Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney, and the already-imploding Commonwealth Care aka RomneyCare.

I fully understand, as does the Journal, that the Cali failure is important. But even more important, the paper makes a direct correlation that Super Tuesday GOP voters simply must note:

The idea was that Mr. Schwarzenegger would set a national precedent, leading to a groundswell for reform in Washington. Not to mention that the Schwarzenegger plan was a near-copy of the one Mitt Romney pioneered in Massachusetts, and the one Hillary Clinton now favors.

….. Like collapses in Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, this one crumpled because of the costs, which are always much higher than anticipated. The truth teller was state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who thought to ask about the price tag of a major new entitlement amid what’s already a $14.5 billion budget shortfall.

An independent analysis confirmed the plan would be far more expensive than proponents admitted. Even under the most favorable assumptions, spending would outpace revenue by $354 million after two years, and likely $3.9 billion or more. “A situation that I thought was bad,” Mr. Perata noted, “in fact was worse.”

This reveals that liberal health-care politics is increasingly the art of the impossible: You can’t make coverage “universal” while at the same time keeping costs in check — at least without prohibitive tax increases.

….. What the California collapse should discredit in particular is the individual mandate as a policy tool for Republican reformers. This was Mr. Romney’s enthusiasm for a time, helped along by the Heritage Foundation. But in order to be enforceable, such a mandate inevitably becomes a government mandate, and a very expensive one at that.

The last item I bolded has me banging my head. It’s as if Mitt Romney (and Heritage, for that matter) can walk away from and repudiate their “enthusiasm for a time,” and that’s okay.

No, it’s not.

Real people are living under the regime of Mitt Romney’s/Heritage’s “enthusiasm,” and it’s a fiscal nightmare (HT Jay Tea at Wizbang) in progress:

Spending on the state’s landmark health insurance initiative would rise by more than $400 million next year, representing one of the largest increases in the $28.2 billion state budget the governor proposed yesterday.

….. the long-term cost of the insurance initiative continues to concern policy makers and analysts, who are worried that it may become unaffordable.

“These increases are more than anticipated, so we absolutely have to find ways to hold down the rate of growth in future years,” said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded budget watchdog that has supported the initiative.

The state’s top budget official, Leslie Kirwan, said yesterday that projecting costs for the health insurance initiative is difficult because the state is in “uncharted territory.”

So Mr. Spreadsheet/Mr. Business Plan left the state he governed in “uncharted” territory. Naturally, he deserves a promotion to president of the whole country (/sarc).

Oh, and guess what? It would be even worse in the Bay State if it weren’t for the fact that taxpayers in the rest of the country are going to be fleeced to prop up Commonwealth Care:

State and federal taxpayers are expected to bear nearly all of the additional cost.

I guess this is businessman/leverage artist Mitt Romney’s idea of using Other People’s Money. And the fun part is that Massachusetts doesn’t have to pay the rest of the country back.

Thanks to the RomneyCare implosion, we’re already seeing single-payer advocates like the radical Robert Kuttner come out for having the government just take over the whole thing (HT again to Jay Tea):

When Lyndon Johnson devised Medicare in 1965, he didn’t order senior citizens to go out and buy private insurance, adequate and affordable or not, or be fined. Medicare covered everyone, bypassing the notoriously inefficient private insurance industry.

….. The Legislature, by building half a bridge, has set up one more perceived government failure.

Geez, “somebody” predicted that all of this would happen back in October (fourth item at link), even before I became aware of why Mitt is Objectively Unfit, and before I learned how many alleged conservative stalwarts had sold their souls to this hollow shell masquerading as a presidential candidate:

Let me be the first to say it: It’s becoming painfully clear (link requires subscription) that Mitt RomneyCare in Massachusetts is blowing up, and will get nothing but worse between now and November 2008. If he’s the nominee, he’ll be playing the same game Michael Dukakis played unsuccessfully in 1988 — covering up the Bay State’s disastrous financial situation. Except this time, the other party controls the Governor’s Office. Deval Patrick will gleefully point to the mess he has inherited, and will then tout HillaryCare II as the “better, more comprehensive” solution.

For this reason alone, I believe that Mitt Romney should NOT be the GOP nominee. Period.

Okay, it could be that BOOHOOcare (the health plan of Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama), and not HillaryCare, is the subject of the general election. The more important point is that I overestimated how long it would take for RomneyCare’s problems to become drop-dead obvious. But in a way that’s a good thing, because it’s just in time for GOP Super Tuesday voters to hopefully conclude that the real liberal with the failed liberal track record in the GOP nomination race is not the one just about everybody but yours truly is concentrating their fire on (not that he’s perfect either — he’s far, far from it).

Just once, I’d like to hear an alleged conservative talker, or even see a conservative publication, put RomneyCare under the microscope and expose it for the out-of-control, bordering-on-a-scam monster that it is.

Just yesterday, El Rushbo himself said (link expires in a week):

“Whenever I find liberalism and it seeks power, I’m going to oppose it.”

With all due respect, El Rushbo, when it comes to liberals like Mitt Romney, where the bleep have you been?

Romney should not be allowed to run away from his liberal record and his comprehensive, worse-than-Bob-Taft, legacy of failure. So why are Rush Limbaugh, the majority of his talk-show compadres, and quite a few conservative megabloggers and pundits who should know better, letting him do it?

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UPDATE: Here’s what McCain has to say about health care and health insurance. While not a model of clarity and coherence, it’s certainly not “universal” coverage.

I’m not linking to Romney’s site on this, because what he did is infinitely more important than what he says now (unless he’s offering an unconditional “I was wrong, I am sorry” — and even that would be yet another spectacular MittFlop that we’re supposed to buy into).

As to what McCain did, Democrats are outraged that “McCain voted against reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years, expanding the program by $35.2 billion.” That is, he was on the fiscally conservative, anti-incremental government takeover side on this issue, unlike, to name a few, Norm Coleman, Orrin Hatch, Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, Dick Lugar, and John Sununu.

UPDATE 2: Gregg Jackson just e-mailed and confirmed something I wasn’t sure of. While Mitt Romney is fond of saying how difficult it was to try to govern in a liberal state, the fact is that RomneyCare was an unforced error. No one was clamoring for it, and there was no citizen or legislative pressure to “do something.” The Mittster apparently felt that “universal” healthcare would be his signature accomplishment, and that referring to it would be a winning strategy in a presidential campaign. Uh, not exactly.

UPDATE 3: Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, because I just heard most of it, but not all of it. Just after 5, Sean Hannity read from the WSJ editorial referenced at the beginning of this post. He managed to mention the various states that have tried to pass something, but “somehow” avoided mentioning Massachusetts and Romney.

Advance 4th Quarter GDP Growth: 0.6%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

Well, that’s unimpressive:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 4.9 percent.

The deceleration in real GDP growth in the fourth quarter primarily reflected a downturn in inventory investment and decelerations in exports, in PCE, and in federal government spending that were partly offset by a deceleration in imports and an acceleration in state and local government spending.

It’s also a lot less than the economic reports issued throughout the quarter presaged.

I bolded inventories because the durable goods report yesterday indicated that inventories in that sector were up quite a bit:

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in December, up five of the last six months, increased $3.5 billion or 1.1 percent to $320.7 billion. This was also at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.8 percent November increase.

That doesn’t mean inventories in other segments of the economy didn’t turn down, but they would have had to turn down a lot to make up for the durables boost.

Resolving those things is why the first report gets adjusted later. Typical adjustments have been upward in the past several years. Brian Wesbury predicted 1.5% as the final number on Monday, and there’s reason to believe there will be upward adjustments in February and March. I think the final number will end up close to Wesbury’s, but we’ll just have to see.

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UPDATE: I just bolded the “decelerations in exports” above, because that doesn’t square with the October and November balance of trade reports from the Census Bureau. Both of the Census Bureau reports show increases, not “decelerations,” in exports, of $1.4 billion and $0.6 billion (1.0% and 0.4% month over month), respectively. That’s another reason to believe that the February and March revisions will be upward.

Positivity: Jogger is alive because strangers knew CPR

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:16 am

From San Jose, California:

Article Launched: 01/28/2008 02:08:48 AM PST

Claire Welgan could have been jogging anywhere that morning nine days ago. But she chose the Los Gatos Creek Trail – and that just might have saved her life.

She was jogging alone there Jan. 18 when her heart stopped. She crashed so hard to the ground that her face bled. That’s when Nicole Eden and Leslie Eichler saw her.

They felt her pulse. She wasn’t breathing. They rolled her over. And for the next seven nerve-racking minutes, they prayed and administered CPR on the 23-year-old Welgan.

“It was really frightening to know that her life could end right in front of me,” said Eichler, 30, a San Jose educator and mother. “I felt so responsible for her that moment, even though she was a complete stranger.”

Paramedics soon arrived and Welgan was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where doctors said she suffered from ventricular fibrillation – a condition in which the heart fails to adequately pump blood.

“My daughter is alive thanks to these women,” said Dennis Welgan, speaking on behalf of his daughter. His daughter remains hospitalized and is suffering from short-term memory loss. She remembers little to nothing from that day, he said.

But for Eden and Eichler it remains a stark memory.

Though trained in CPR, neither Eden nor Eichler had ever applied the technique – at least not to save someone. Eichler said she was certified years ago because it was required of her as an educator. “I realize now it’s more than just a requirement, it can save a person’s life,” Eichler said.

Go here for the rest of the story.

‘Ford’s PC March to the Brink Continues, as Does Media Enabling’ Now Up at BizzyBlog

My Monday morning column originally posted at Pajamas Media is up on BizzyBlog, and back-posted to the same time it originally went live at Pajamas.