Today POLITICO Arena asks:
Is Jeb Bush right that his father and President Reagan would find themselves out of step with today's Republican Party because of its strict adherence to ideology and the intensity of modern partisan warfare?
Jeb Bush's remarks about the Republican Party represent the views of some members of a party that, like the Democratic Party, has become more sharply defined than it was under his father's or brother's presidencies. Looking at the longer and deeper view, however, that's not surprising, because the Bush presidencies were more anomalous than indicative of the party.
For much of the post-War period the Republican Party, especially under the eastern establishment, was little but "Democrat-lite." That began to change with Barry Goldwater in 1964, suffered a setback under Nixon and Ford, but nonetheless continued under Governor and then President Reagan, who brought a fair measure of ideological discipline to the Party—affecting the Democratic Party in the process. (Compare the ideological opposition to Reagan to that of Ford, for example.) Despite the two Bushes thereafter, the intellectual and activist institutions that had underpinned the Reagan revolution continued to grow, especially as the Democratic Party itself became more polarized, and those forces increasingly influenced the Republican Party, encouraging it to stand for something, unlike the earlier "always-in-the-minority" party—the party Democrats remembered fondly as the "reasonable" Republicans.
There were plenty of counterexamples to those developments, of course—the collapse of the Gingrich bubble late in 1995, the rise of the Tom DeLay opportunists, and the spending of Bush II. And there were issues that continued, and continue even now, to deeply divide members, like immigration and the drug war. But increasingly the two parties have become more sharply defined—"polarized," if you prefer—as the 2010 mid-term elections made especially clear. And contrary to the Washington establishment, that's not a bad thing, because voters now have a real choice, not just a choice between two parties, both of which stand for essentially the same things, their respective candidates seeking simply to stay in power. Today, in the main, Republicans stand for the private sector and limited government, Democrats for the public sector and government services. We'll soon see which course the American people want to take.
The Washington Post reports:
For 14 months, a bipartisan group of 17 states has been quietly collaborating with the Obama administration to help build a foundation for the health-care reform law’s success.
The group includes some of the law’s staunchest supporters working alongside a handful of its bigger detractors. They are backed by $3 million in funding from eight nonprofit organizations that hope to see the Affordable Care Act succeed.
Together, they have come up with a tool to help consumers navigate the health insurance exchanges---the marketplaces that each state is required to have by 2014.
In other words, at the same time Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas are suing to overturn Obamacare as unconstitutional, officials in those states are helping to implement the same unconstitutional law.
The Post reports, without rebuttal, several myths about the states' role under Obamacare. It refers three times to the "tight deadlines" states face under the law. (There are no deadlines. HHS has said that if states decline to create exchanges, they can change their minds later.) It claims, "If a state does not have a framework in place by 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services will come in and do the job itself." (That's highly questionable. Obamacare appropriates zero funds for federal exchanges and HHS has admitted it doesn't have the money.) It quotes Kansas insurance regulator Linda Shepphard as saying, “There is no work being done to build an exchange in Kansas at this point." (Well, which is it? Is Kansas doing "no work," or is it "collaborating with the Obama administration"?) I'd say certain state officials got some 'splaining to do.
In the video below the jump, I explain to state officials why flatly refusing to create an Obamacare exchange is the best thing they can do for their states.
Mitt Romney has appointed ObamaCare profiteer and former Utah governor Mike Leavitt to head his presidential transition team. Politico reports that Leavitt has "headlined health care policy discussions at $10,000 per-person Beltway fundraisers for Romney" and may become White House chief of staff if Romney wins. ObamaCare opponents should be outraged.
Leavitt has spent the last couple of years spreading dangerous (but self-enriching!) nonsense about how states would benefit by establishing ObamaCare's health insurance "exchanges." He seldom mentions that his "consulting" business Leavitt Partners rakes in tons of ObamaCare cash by bidding on those contracts. Perhaps this is because reporters seldom ask.
Here's a video Cato produced about why states should flatly refuse to create ObamaCare Exchanges:
Ben Domenech blogs about Leavitt's ObamaCare-related iniquities here and here. Domenech writes, "Thankfully, this has been a push that Leavitt has been losing."
But don't count Leavitt out. Politico writes:
Leavitt has said some relatively positive things about certain elements of Obama’s health reform law...
[Leavitt’s longtime chief aide, Rich] McKeown, who still works with Leavitt at his Utah-based health care consultancy [Leavitt Partners], acknowledged that the former governor does not want to undo one key part of the controversial legislation.
“We believe that the exchanges are the solution to small business insurance market and that’s gotten us sideways with some conservatives,” he said.
The exchanges are not only a matter of principle for Leavitt — they’re also a cash cow.
The size of his firm, Leavitt Partners, doubled in the year after the bill was signed as they won contracts to help states set up the exchanges funded by the legislation.
And yet someone somehow managed to say this:
“He’s 100 percent in it for Mitt, no secret agenda for himself,” said one Romneyite.
The Romney camp still says Mitt will "repeal Obamacare, starting Day One." If he were serious, he would announce that he will rescind this IRS rule on day one. But the fact that Romney picked Leavitt suggests he really doesn't mind ObamaCare that much, and that he is just saying whatever he needs to say to get what he wants. I know. Mitt Romney. Go figure. In this case, that means assuaging all the Republicans and independents who hate ObamaCare.
Romney's appointment of Leavitt is a first step toward flip-flopping--or Etch-a-Sketching, or Romneying(TM), or whatever--on ObamaCare repeal. But it's hard to blame Romney for thinking Republicans won't care. These are, after all, people who picked Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee.
Consider these charts from the latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, released today.
Even when pollsters tell the public that ObamaCare is "reform," the public still doesn't like it.
ObamaCare's slip in this month's poll is the result of a simultaneous drop in support among both Democrats and Independents.
The people who hate ObamaCare are really, really angry. And they are not going away.
The following shares of voters believe ObamaCare will either be of no use or will be harmful to the following groups: children (47 percent), young adults (51 percent), women (50 percent), the country as a whole (55 percent), themselves and their families (68 percent).
Bear in mind, ObamaCare has always fared better in the Kaiser tracking poll than other polls.
In a post last week, I explained that Obama has been a big spender, but noted his profligacy is disguised because TARP outlays caused a spike in spending during Bush's last fiscal year (FY2009, which began October 1, 2008). Meanwhile, repayments from banks in subsequent years count as "negative spending," further hiding the underlying trend in outlays.
When you strip away those one-time factors, it turns out that Obama has allowed domestic spending to increase at the fastest rate since Richard Nixon.
I then did another post yesterday in which I looked at total spending (other than interest payments and bailout costs) and showed that Obama has presided over the biggest spending increases since Lyndon Johnson.
Looking at the charts, it's rather obvious that party labels don't mean much. Bill Clinton presided during a period of spending restraint, while every Republican other than Reagan has a dismal track record.
President George W. Bush, for instance, scores below both Clinton and Jimmy Carter, regardless of whether defense outlays are included in the calculations. That's not a fiscally conservative record, even if you're grading on a generous curve.
This leads Jonah Goldberg to offer some sage advice to the GOP:
Here's a simple suggestion for Mitt Romney: Admit that the Democrats have a point. Right before the Memorial Day weekend, Washington was consumed by a debate over how much Barack Obama has spent as president, and it looks like it's picking up again.
...[A]ll of these numbers are a sideshow: Republicans in Washington helped create the problem, and Romney should concede the point. Focused on fighting a war, Bush---never a tightwad to begin with---handed the keys to the Treasury to Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, and they spent enough money to burn a wet mule. On Bush's watch, education spending more than doubled, the government enacted the biggest expansion in entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), and we created a vast new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security).
...Nearly every problem with spending and debt associated with the Bush years was made far worse under Obama. The man campaigned as an outsider who was going to change course before we went over a fiscal cliff. Instead, when he got behind the wheel, as it were, he hit the gas instead of the brakes---and yet has the temerity to claim that all of the forward momentum is Bush's fault.
...Romney is under no obligation to defend the Republican performance during the Bush years. Indeed, if he's serious about fixing what's wrong with Washington, he has an obligation not to defend it. This is an argument that the Tea Party---which famously dealt Obama's party a shellacking in 2010---and independents alike are entirely open to. Voters don't want a president to rein in runaway Democratic spending; they want one to rein in runaway Washington spending.
Jonah's point about "fixing what's wrong with Washington" is not a throwaway line. Romney has pledged to voters that he won't raise taxes. He also has promised to bring the burden of federal spending down to 20 percent of GDP by the end of a first term.
But even those modest commitments will be difficult to achieve if he isn't willing to gain credibility with the American people by admitting that Republicans helped create the fiscal mess in Washington. Especially since today's GOP leaders in the House and Senate were all in office last decade and voted for Bush's wasteful spending.
It doesn't take much to move fiscal policy in the right direction. All that's required is to restrain spending so that it grows more slowly than the private sector. (With the kind of humility you only find in Washington, I call this "Mitchell's Golden Rule.") The entitlement reforms in the Ryan budget would be a good start, along with some much-needed pruning of discretionary spending.
And if you address the underlying problem by limiting spending growth to about 2 percent annually, you can balance the budget in about 10 years. No need for higher taxes, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the fiscal frauds in Washington who salivate at the thought of another failed 1990s-style tax hike deal.
USA Today reports that groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Cato Institute have had much success in discouraging states from creating Obamacare's health insurance "exchanges." Even the Heritage Foundation, which once counseled states to establish "defensive" Obamacare exchanges, now counsels states to refuse to create them and to send all exchange-related grants back to Washington.
In response, Obamacare contractor and self-described conservative Republican Cheryl Smith sniffs:
When you work at a think-tank, it's really easy to come up with these really high-risk plans.
Except, there is no risk to states. The only risks to this strategy are that health insurance companies won't get half a trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and that certain Obamacare contractors won't get any more of those lucrative exchange contracts.
According to WSFA-12 News, Alabama legislators are working on legislation to create an ObamaCare Exchange. But:
Governor Robert Bentley [R] will likely veto the bill.
"This legislation is premature. The federal government has yet to establish clear guidelines for a health insurance exchange," said Deputy Communications Director Jeremy King, in a statement to WSFA 12 News. "Also, the federal government has extended some deadlines for putting an exchange together. Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of the federal health care law. If Supreme Court justices strike down the law as the Governor hopes they will, there will be no need for such an exchange. Either way, there is no need to establish an exchange at this point," the statement went on to say.
"Doing so without clear guidance from Washington would simply be a guessing game. Also, there would still be time in the 2013 session to set up an exchange if the law is upheld. If this legislation is approved in the current session, a veto can be expected."
Full story and video here.