NPR Article, Audio of IQ2 Universal-Coverage Debate

Today, National Public Radio’s Julie Rovner writes about the recent Intelligence Squared debate where John Stossel, Sally Pipes, and I squared off against Paul Krugman, Michael Rachlis, and Art Kellerman on whether the federal government should pursue a policy of universal health-insurance coverage.  The article includes links to the full audio recording of the debate, an edited audio recording, and audio excerpts.  (You can also absorb the debate via YouTube and the transcript.)

Rovner quotes me:

You can have a health-care sector that guarantees universal coverage, or you can have a health-care sector that continuously makes medical care better, cheaper, and safer, making it easier to deliver on that moral obligation that we have to help the less-fortunate among us. You cannot have both.

If you agree, you may be a candidate for the Anti-Universal Coverage Club.

Don’t Read the Whole Thing - Just the “Repeal” Part

You know how blogs link to something and tell you to “read the whole thing?” That’s more reading than I ever care to do. Well, here’s one where you don’t need to read the whole thing.

This week, the Center for Democracy and Technology submitted comments to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators regarding the structure of data systems that would implement the REAL ID Act, our national ID law.

Here’s some material from the first paragraph: “… CDT has consistently questioned the wisdom of the REAL ID Act and supports its repeal or significant amendment.” ‘Nuff said. No need to read any further.

Here’s where to find letters that CDT signed on to earlier this year, saying, “The REAL ID Act was a poorly-conceived law that can never be made to work in any fair or reasonable manner.”

Survey Shows Two-Thirds of Federal Managers in Denial reports that one-third of recently surveyed federal managers believe “government misuses taxpayer dollars.”  While I applaud this bunch for their honesty, I’m stupefied that any federal manager would say otherwise.  One need only peruse the morning news to see that Uncle Sam’s spawn fritter away taxpayer dollars incessantly.  (I wonder how a manager at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would vote.)  Even more disturbing, a survey of the general public conducted by the same outfit found that only 42% of respondents believe government wastes money.  (I’m holding out hope this survey was conducted in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.)

The two major candidates apparently think the federal government wastes money.  Sen. Obama says he will fire poor managers and create a “SWAT team” to “eliminate wasteful redundancy” in government.  Sen. McCain says he would freeze discretionary spending and perform a “top-to-bottom reviews of all federal programs to weed out failing ones.”  Both men can save time and taxpayer dollars by simply reading and implementing the recommendations contained in this book.

Fear Is a Terrorism Multiplier - Quelling Fear Is Good Counterterrorism

UPI Homeland and National Security Editor Shaun Waterman has a very interesting analysis that reveals the communications dimension of terrorism counterstrategy.

Fear of Terror Worsens Attacks” examines a Department of Homeland Security document pointing out how the “number of people suffering psychologically induced symptoms could far outweigh the number of actual victims in a chemical, biological or nuclear incident.”

Allowing fear to metastasize across the population will do actual damage and could multiply the direct costs of any attack many times over.

The piece quotes yours truly (perhaps biasing me in its favor), but also brings in true communications experts:

“You have to give people a sense of control,” said Paul Slovic of Decision Research, a risk-perception specialist. “Either the sense that their government is in control, is handling it … and/or explicit information (about the possible effects of any attack) which will enable them to take control themselves.”

Though I have been looking for it, I don’t see any evidence that the administration or the Department of Homeland Security have done any real thinking about the strategic communications they should be using now to inoculate against fear. They should have a communications plan prepared, rehearsed, and ready for use in the event of any future attack.

Two years ago, I noted a particularly bad example of official communications, and in the current election I have pointed out the related problem of politicians inadvertently exalting terrorists.

Kudos to Waterman for some excellent reporting on this important dimension of terrorism counterstrategy.

In Creating Medicare Part D, Republicans Slit Their Own Throats

As a political expedient designed to give George W. Bush a second term in the White House, Karl Rove convinced, cajoled, and browbeat congressional Republicans into creating Medicare Part D, the program’s new prescription drug benefit and the largest expansion of the entitlement state since the creation of Medicare itself. One of the Bush administration’s selling points was that creating a prescription drug benefit in Medicare would allow the GOP to steal the health-care issue from Democrats. Instead, Republicans may have done little more than slit their own throats.

An article in (“Big pharma veers to the left”) discusses how Part D has delivered the pharmaceutical industry – long a supporter of Republican congressional candidates – into the hands of Democrats:

The growth of state and federal health care programs — including President Bush’s prescription drug plan for seniors — means that today about half of the pharmaceutical market is controlled by government.

That got the industry rethinking about how to position itself politically. And the future seems to be in ensuring that the government programs remain robust and generous.

Whereas big-pharma political giving used to run 3-1 in favor of Republicans, it is now running even between the two political parties.

Isn’t the whole point of selling out your principles that you’re supposed to get something in return?

Slow Learner

Newt Gingrich tells the Washington Post, “We have now launched big-government Republicanism.” Referring to the Bush administration’s bailout-and-takeover plan for the financial sector, he said, “If we saw France do this, Italy do this, we would have thought it was crazy.”

He has a point. But some of us identified “big-government conservatism” as the operating system of the current Republican party a long time ago. I wrote about it in the Australian in early 2003 and in the Washington Post in late 2003. Or check out Bill Niskanen’s comments in this 2004 Los Angeles Times article. Of course, Ed Crane saw it coming in 1999. And Mike Tanner wrote a whole book about it – Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution – in 2007.

Or you could read Mike Tanner’s critique of “Gingrich’s Big Government Manifesto” back in 2006.