Archives: March, 2011

ObamaCare: a Federal Takeover, No Matter Who Runs the Exchanges

Merrill Goozner read my article in the March 21 National Review, in which I argue that states should refuse all ObamaCare funds and refuse to erect an ObamaCare Exchange that would execute the law’s many health-insurance regulations. Since ObamaCare provides that the feds will set up and administer an Exchange in states that don’t do so themselves, Goozner concludes that I’m actually advocating a federal takeover of health care. Really?

Goozner either completely missed the point of my article, which I sort of doubt, or he’s trying to be cute.  Let’s assume it’s the former.

As I explain in that article, under ObamaCare the feds will write all the rules governing health insurance, so who administers the Exchanges is well-nigh irrelevant. ObamaCare is a federal takeover of health care, no matter who runs these new government bureaucracies that we call health insurance Exchanges.

Then again, there is reason to suspect that Goozner is just trying to be cute. ObamaCare apologists know that if states stop implementing the law, it will be easier for Congress to repeal it or for the Supreme Court to strike it down.  They know that if states don’t set up their own Exchanges, HHS may not be able to set them up itself, which would jeopardize the federal government’s ability to start doling out ObamaCare’s hundreds of billions of dollars in new debt-financed entitlement spending in 2014.  So it makes sense to attack or ridicule me for suggesting that states should obstruct ObamaCare because he suspects that could bring the whole miserable operation down.  But surely Goozner can come up with something more plausible than  suggesting that I’m advocating a federal takeover of health care.

Tuesday Links

  • Still think the War on Drugs is a good idea, or that it’s working? Decreases in cocaine production in Colombia have been almost fully offset by increases in Peru and Bolivia.
  • Why is nobody talking about the right of Wisconsin taxpayers to not deal with unions?
  • “If you’re the rare bird who favors limited government at home and abroad, you can hardly expect good news from a poll of this generation’s Tracy Flicks.” (Maybe not.)
  • NPR and PBS are using taxpayer dollars to lobby for… more taxpayer dollars. But that’s hardly a new game in Washington.
  • Afghanistan: nation-building on crack.
  • Saying no to a no-fly zone over Libya should be a no-brainer:


Lugar on Libya

Daniel Larison points to this statement by Sen. Richard Lugar which is really a breath of fresh air:

Sen. Richard Lugar

…Given the costs of a no-fly zone, the risks that our involvement would escalate, the uncertain reception in the Arab street of any American intervention in an Arab country, the potential for civilian deaths, the unpredictability of the endgame, the strains on our military, and other factors, it is doubtful that U.S. interests would be served by imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.   If the Obama Administration is contemplating this step, however, it should begin by seeking a declaration of war against Libya that would allow for a full Congressional debate on the issue. In addition, it should ask Arab League governments and other governments advocating for a no-fly zone to pledge resources necessary to pay for such an operation.

[…]

Finally, given continuing upheaval in the Middle East, we should understand that the situation in Libya may not be the last to generate calls for American military operations.   We need a broader public discussion about the goals and limits of the U.S. role in the Middle East, especially as it pertains to potential military intervention.

Emphasis mine. To hear a member of Congress reassert its Constitutional prerogative over the war power is really refreshing. The late Robert C. Byrd would be pleased.

Help Break My Common Curriculum Fever

Over at Flypaper, Chester Finn suggests that people like me are either crazy or on the verge of it for fearing that the Shanker Institute’s “common content” manifesto might very well be another step toward federal control of American education.  

“Over in the more feverish corners of the blogosphere, and sometimes even in saner locales,” he writes, ”the Shanker Institute’s call for ‘common content’ curriculum to accompany the Common Core standards has triggered a panic attack.”

Now, I wouldn’t say “panic attack.” To panic is to “be overcome by a sudden fear,” but I’ve been watching the move toward federal curriculum control for some time. Back in 2008 many of the groups behind the Common Core called for Washington to “incentivize” adoption of national standards. In 2009, the Obama administration made adopting common standards critical to compete in the so-called Race to the Top. In 2010, the administration put common standards front-and-center in the accountability piece of its No Child Left Behind reauthorization blueprint. Finally, that same year the U.S. Department of Education chose two consortia to develop national assessments to go with national standards. So when I read the Shanker Institute’s proposal, with its recommendation that the federal government spend taxpayer money to help implement ”purely voluntary” curriculum ”guidelines,” I didn’t panic. I saw the same obvious movement toward federal curriculum control I’d been observing for years.

But maybe I am a bit “feverish.” Maybe I do need to chillax a bit. Thankfully, I know just the thing to help me do that:  National-standards fans should pronounce publicly and unequivocally – perhaps issue another manifesto! – that they do not want federal money in any way connected to common standards, and state that they will oppose any effort to “incentivize,” “support,” “cajole,” “threaten,” or do anything else to states or districts to push them to adopt common curricula. Were national-standards champions to do that – you know, just demand that all this be as purely voluntary as they say it is – and I and others like me would no doubt be well on the road to recovery.

Somehow, I don’t expect my forehead to cool off anytime soon.

The Dean of Liberal Interventionism on Libya

Prof. Anne-Marie Slaughter

Anne-Marie Slaughter, recently head of the State Department’s policy planning staff and now having retreated to her post as the dean of the liberal interventionists at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, laments that her former boss’s boss is “fiddling while Libya burns.” Slaughter thinks the United States should implement a no-fly zone over Libya, with the UN’s blessing if we can, or with a coalition of the willing if we must. She takes up five arguments made by skeptics and claims they are all wanting. I want to take up a few of them below.

First, in making the case that intervention is in America’s interest, she writes that “we have a chance to support a real new beginning in the Muslim world—a new beginning of accountable governments that can provide services and opportunities for their citizens in ways that could dramatically decrease support for terrorist groups and violent extremism.”

What does Slaughter know about the Libyan opposition that the rest of us don’t? On what basis is she judging that were they to prevail, they would necessarily institute accountable government that provides services and opportunities for their citizens in ways that could dramatically decrease their support for terrorist groups and violent extremism?

Second, she says that a no-fly zone will accomplish America’s objectives in Libya, despite the critics’ skepticism. Interestingly, Slaughter’s former boss Hillary Clinton said the following in testimony to Congress last week:

I want to remind people that, you know, we had a no-fly zone over Iraq.  It did not prevent Saddam Hussein from slaughtering people on the ground, and it did not get him out of office.  We had a no-fly zone, and then we had 78 days of bombing in Serbia.  It did not get Milosevic out of office.  It did not get him out of Kosovo until we put troops on the ground with our allies.

Finally, Slaughter admits that we have no idea what would follow Qaddafi, insisting that this misconstrues the problem: “the choice is between uncertainty and the certainty that if Colonel Qaddafi wins, regimes across the region will conclude that force is the way to answer protests,” which doesn’t really deal with concerns about what may follow Qaddafi.

Curiously, in the very next paragraph, she warns against arming the rebels, calling them “ragged groups of brave volunteers who barely know how to use the weapons they have.” If these are the people who we’re supposed to help overthrow Qaddafi, who is going to run the Libyan state once he goes? Slaughter’s Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight?

I haven’t written much about Libya because there’s so much that I don’t know about the country and I certainly don’t know what is likely to follow Qaddafi. In particular, though, the focus on a no-fly zone is bizarre. If people think that it is in the national interest to be rid of Muammar Qaddafi, then get rid of him, already. Why start with half-measures? Or is it that openly making the case for forcible regime change in Tripoli would weaken public support for the policy? Or would weaken international support? If either of those is true, what does that tell us about the policy?

Given Washington’s track record with this sort of thing, I think we should terribly skeptical about intervening in the Libyan conflict. If the arguments above are the best the interventionists can do, our policy should remain one of no new wars.

NB: People whose judgment I trust far more than Slaughter, like Bob Pape and Mike Desch, are making separate cases for various types of intervention. I am left with lots of unanswered questions after reading their pieces, but it bears noting that it is not just the normal gaggle of neoconservatives and liberal imperialists agitating for American involvement. Still, “it won’t be as bad as Iraq” is a rather soft case for a new policy.

Economic Freedom in India

Today Cato released the Economic Freedom of the States of India 2011 report (co-published with Indicus Analytics and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation) in Washington and New Delhi. India has been growing at high rates since it implemented market reforms in the early 1990s thus notably improving its level of economic freedom.

Yet India is an enormous country with some regions making more progress than others. The new report shows that there is a great diversity among Indian states in terms of economic freedom. Parallel to the findings of the Economic Freedom of the World report, the new study on India finds that states with more economic freedom tend to have better economic performance. As the graph shows, states that have increased their level of economic freedom in the past five years have also tended to grow faster.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth largest state with a population of 84 million people, is the state that most increased its level of economic freedom since 2005, achieving an average annual growth rate of more than 9 percent. My colleague Swami Aiyar, co-author of the report, documents how that government reduced the level of its spending as a share of the economy and has made it easier to do business.

India has a long way to go before establishing a free economy (it ranks 87 out of 141 countries in the economic freedom index), and the current government has been rightly criticized for not pushing forward further necessary reforms of the kind that have led to high growth. We hope this new report will show that Indian leaders at the state level can still do much to improve economic freedom despite the national government’s lacking reform agenda.

Monday Links