Welcome Developments on Trade

Yesterday, President Obama broke his long silence about the Buy American provisions in the congressional spending bills. In an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Obama expressed support in principle for removing the provocative language to expand Buy American provisions:

CHARLES GIBSON: A couple of quick questions. There are “Buy America” provisions in this bill. A lot of people think that could set up a trade war, cost American jobs. You want them out?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I want provisions that are going to be a violation of World Trade Organization agreements or in other ways signal protectionism. *** I think that would be a mistake right now. That is a potential source of trade wars that we can’t afford at a time when trade is sinking all across the globe. (***Per the White House, President Obama misspoke and meant to say, “I want provisions that are not going to be a violation of World Trade Organization agreements or in other ways signal protectionism.” )

CHARLES GIBSON: What’s in there now? Do you think that does that? Do you want it out?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think we need to make sure that any provisions that are in there are not going to trigger a trade war.

And in an interview with Fox, the President said:

I agree that we can’t send a protectionist message…I want to see what kind of language we can work on this issue. I think it would be a mistake, though, at a time when worldwide trade is declining, for us to start sending a message that somehow we’re just looking after ourselves and not concerned with world trade. (my emphasis)

It looks like President Obama gets it, although I would be more convinced of that if his last statement didn’t seem to regard “world trade” and “just looking after ourselves” as mutually exclusive. More engagement in world trade is one of the best ways to look after ourselves.

Finally, just a word of caution to our friends in Europe and Canada, where this morning’s newspapers are gleeful about the development: even though the U.S. president opposes the Buy American restrictions, the Congress still needs to strip out those provisions. If Congress keeps those provisions in a final spending bill, which passes both chambers of Congress, it’s going to be very tough for the President to veto the legislation.

Does SCHIP Work?

That’s the title of my latest oped over at National Review Online.  Here’s how it begins and ends:

Pres. Barack Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.” If he was serious, he should veto the $115 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that is soon to reach his desk—and insist that Congress eliminate the program entirely…

If President Obama wants to cover more uninsured children, he should set ideology aside and repeal SCHIP. After all, you can’t argue with what works.

Might be time to drag out the Church of Universal Coverage’s pro-SCHIP campaign:

There I go, killing kittens again.

Destination Universal Coverage?

I’ll be appearing on the Destination Casa Blanca program to share my thoughts on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the question, “Is this legislation the first step to universal health care?” 

I’m told that other guests will include someone from the Republican National Committee and the Obama administration.  The host will be Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for The NewsHour on PBS. 

The program will air this Thursday night (2/5) at 9pm EST, with encore presentations on Friday (12am) and Sunday (10:30am and 10pm).  Destination Casa Blanca is easiest to find on DirecTV (438) and the Dish Network (843 & 9401).  Otherwise, check here.

“Economists across the Spectrum” Continue to Flee Stimulus Bill

People like Robert Reich, who try to back up the claims of President Obama and Vice President Biden that “economic advisers across the political spectrum support Obama’s plan,” have managed to come up with two names of economists who support the stimulus plan and would not be regarded as left of center: Martin Feldstein of Harvard, a former top economic adviser to President Reagan, and Mark Zandi of Moody’s, who was an adviser to John McCain last fall. And now the Washington Post has blown both of those names out of the water. Leaving – by my count – exactly zero libertarian or conservative economists on that much-touted spectrum. As the Post notes this morning:

Democrats lost Feldstein on Thursday when the Harvard professor published a Washington Post op-ed declaring the House bill “an $800 billion mistake” laden with ineffective provisions.

As for Zandi,

The 49-year-old economist is a Democratic dream, a former adviser to GOP presidential candidate John McCain who advocates spending over tax cuts as the best way to deliver a quick jolt.

And Democrats have touted him a lot:

In floor speeches and news conferences, Democratic lawmakers confer on Zandi an authority once bestowed on Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman.

“I’m just saying what Mark Zandi from Moody’s, an adviser to John McCain, is saying: You have to have a package of this robustness if you’re going to make a difference,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a recent news conference. …

“I think [he] is a Republican. I am pretty sure he is,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said of Zandi after a recent meeting. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Zandi on Fox News as a “conservative Republican.” Defending the bill’s sizable spending during a recent CNBC interview, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) responded: “I think if you listen to economists like Mark Zandi, who was the economic adviser to John McCain in the presidential election, he has said this is the right mix.”

But wait! Post reporter Shailagh Murray actually asked Zandi about his politics.

“I’m a registered Democrat,” he acknowledged.

He signed up with McCain when Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the candidate’s chief economic aide and a longtime friend, asked him to join the campaign’s diverse economic advisory team. “My policy is I will help any policymaker who asks, whether they be a Republican or a Democrat,” Zandi said.

So … the count of Republican or conservative or libertarian economists who support Obama’s biggest-spending-bill-in-world-history stands at … zero. And hundreds of economists have declared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other papers that they don’t support the plan. It’s time for politicians, pundits, and journalists to stop making this claim.

Tom Daschle Drops Out

President Obama needs to find someone new to further socialize America’s health care system. Tom Daschle has withdrawn his name. Apparently, being Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is not all that enticing, especially if you have to start (gasp!) complying with the internal revenue code. Unfortunately, rather than learn a good lesson about the need to junk America’s complicated tax system, the politicians are probably going to use this fiasco as an excuse to give the IRS even more power. But there is a lighter side to Daschle-Gate. This 1986 campaign commercial is rather ironic considering that Daschle got caught because he neglected to report his use of a luxury car and chauffer: