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Week in Review: March 27, 2011

Noteworthy news and opinion items from the week ending March 27, 2011

1. Crappy Birthday, ObamaCare

On the anniversary of the passage of ObamaCare, Pete Du Pont provides a summary of the political and economic havoc the law has wreaked and will wreak, and he calls for its repeal. Unfortunately, Du Pont doesn’t mention the fundamental issue involved—that the law is a wholesale violation of rights—but he does say that “the bill takes an individual’s health care coverage and decision-making away, and replaces them with the federal government’s decisions and regulation,” which is true and morally relevant. The piece begins:

A year ago today President Obama signed into law the broadest, most expensive, most intrusive health-care bill in our history.

So we the people are subject to a 2,700-page law that will cost us nearly $1 trillion over 10 years and will put the federal government, in charge of everyone’s medical care. The bill appropriates in advance some $100 billion from now until 2020, making it more difficult for future Congresses or Presidents to defund it. The bill creates some 159 new government agencies to administer health care. As of Jan. 1, 2014, unless it is repealed, health care will be run, controlled, and totally supervised by Washington.

The federal government will soon mandate what it deems to be “essential” inclusions in health-care insurance. The increases in spending are already well under way. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 48 states have already accepted around $1 million each from Washington to start planning their exchanges. Wisconsin and Kansas, which have Republican governors and are among the majority of states suing to stop ObamaCare, have accepted, respectively, $38 million and $32 million from Washington to get their health-care information systems going. Never mind that the federal judge in a case they joined held ObamaCare unconstitutional. . . .

Read the whole piece here.

2. Sen. Ron Johnson: Freedom in Medicine Saved My Daughter

Whereas Du Pont focuses primarily on the political and economic problems entailed in ObamaCare, Sen. Ron Johnson contemplates something more concrete: the heart defect with which his daughter, Carey, was born decades ago, and how the relative freedom at the time enabled him and his wife to procure the best treatment available. What might have happened if Carey had been born under something like ObamaCare? Johnson shudders at the thought. Excerpt:

Some years ago, a little girl was born with a serious heart defect: Her aorta and pulmonary artery were reversed. Without immediate intervention, she would not have survived.

The infant was rushed to another hospital where a surgeon performed a procedure at 1 a.m. that saved her life. Eight months later, when her heart was the size of a small plum, an incredibly dedicated and skilled team of medical professionals surgically reconstructed it. Twenty-seven years later, the young woman is now a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit where she is studying to become a nurse practitioner.

She wasn’t saved by a bureaucrat, and no government mandate forced her parents to purchase the coverage that saved her. Instead, her care was provided under a run-of-the-mill plan available to every employee of an Oshkosh, Wis., plastics plant.

If you haven’t guessed, this story touches my heart because the girl is my daughter, Carey. And my wife and I are incredibly thankful that we had the freedom to seek out the most advanced surgical technique. The procedure that saved her, and has given her a chance at a full life, was available because America has a free-market system that has advanced medicine at a phenomenal pace.

I don’t even want to think what might have happened if she had been born at a time and place where government defined the limits for most insurance policies and set precedents on what would be covered. Would the life-saving procedures that saved her have been deemed cost-effective by policy makers deciding where to spend increasingly scarce tax dollars? . . .

Read the full article here.

3. Weiner Wants a Waiver

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner—a highly outspoken advocate of ObamaCare—is seeking a waiver to exempt his state from . . . drum roll . . . ObamaCare. (This guy needs a nickname.) Excerpt:

Rep. Anthony Weiner said Wednesday he was looking into how a health law waiver might work for New York City.

Weiner, who is likely to run for mayor of New York, said that because of the city’s special health care infrastructure, his office was looking into alternatives that might make more sense. Weiner is one of the health care law’s biggest supporters; during the debate leading up to reform, he was one of the last holdouts in Congress for the public option. . . .

The New York Democrat said that he does not have the power to get the city to apply for a waiver but that he is “personally looking at whether he can make the numbers work.” . . .

Weiner is slated to hold at least five events on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and has been one of the most outspoken Democratic supporters of the law.

Read the full article here.

4. Why Not Cut Educational Spending?

Although few people grasp the fundamental reason why we should cut government spending on education—namely, that such spending violates the rights of those who are forced to pay for it—some pundits, such as Phyllis Schlafly, are at least acknowledging and openly identifying the fiscal absurdity of heaping ever more money on government-run schools.

As the new Republican House majority wrestles with ways to cut our unsustainable budget deficit, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet. On March 14, he said, “We cannot cut education.” But why not? If we are going to cut programs that are proven to have failed to achieve their goals, federal spending on education should be at the top of the list. . . .

Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw a cannonball into the education debate this month by admitting that 82% of public schools could be labeled “failing” under No Child Left Behind specifications. His solution is to stop calling them “failing,” extend the target date for student proficiency to 2020 and, of course, to appropriate more money to failed programs. . . .

For half a century, Congress has year after year increased appropriations for local public schools. . . .

The fact that there is no education improvement even while spending has skyrocketed is a disaster unparalleled in any other field. In addition to the waste, this gigantic spending slowed our economic growth by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and squandering it on worthless programs.

Read the whole thing here. And, for a deeper analysis of what is wrong with government-run schools and why they should be abolished, see Andrew Bernstein’s “The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools.”

5. “The United States of Amnesia”

As the United States goes to war with Libya—yet another conflict in which America and other Western nations will likely end up arming and training anti-American and anti-Western rebels—we would all do well to consider what this strategy has begotten in the past. Max Fisher provides a concise and harrowing reminder. The piece begins:

On December 6, 1984, as the U.S. increased its funding to anti-Soviet Afghan rebels to tens of millions of dollars in weapons and supplies, CIA Director William Casey wrote in a classified memo, “Unless U.S. policy is redesigned to achieve a broader attack on Soviet vulnerabilities it cannot restore independence to Afghanistan.” The next year, he got a quarter of a billion dollars, all quietly siphoned out of leftover Pentagon budgets by secret Congressional authorization. In the search to spend that money, a CIA officer wrote in another classified memo, “analytically, the best fighters—the best organized fighters—were the fundamentalists.” The memo concluded that the best such fundamentalist fighter and target for U.S. funding was one Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a brutal mujahideen commander who would later join the Taliban, with which he is still battling the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Today, the U.S. is facing a civil war in Libya between the forces of Muammar Qaddafi and of a rebellion, led informally by defected generals and gun-toting civilians, based in the country’s east. Several days of air strikes have slowed Qaddafi’s assault but have not been enough to stop him outright, or to enable the rebels to overtake Tripoli. For now, the war faces a deadlock, one that could potentially drag on for months or years, plunging this already fragile country into costly and horrific violence.

The U.S. and the European powers leaders helping lead the intervention are looking for ways to get more involved and help bring the war to an end. Western officials are increasingly turning to the same option that the U.S. employed in Afghanistan in the 1980s: arm the rebels. . . .

Read the whole article here.

6. With No Debate and No Objective, Obama Enters a War

Although he fails to name the fundamental reason why Obama’s war with Libya is wrong—namely, that the war is not in America’s self-interest and is thus self-sacrificial—Tim Carney eloquently identifies some of the derivative reasons why it is troubling. The article begins:

At once presumptuous and flippant, President Obama used a Saturday audio recording from Brazil to inform Americans he had authorized a third war—a war in which America’s role is unclear and the stated objectives are muddled.

Setting aside the wisdom of the intervention, Obama’s entry into Libya’s civil war is troubling on at least five counts. First is the legal and constitutional question. Second is the manner of Obama’s announcement. Third is the complete disregard for public opinion and lack of debate. Fourth is the unclear role the United States will play in this coalition. Fifth is the lack of a clear endgame. Compounding all these problems is the lack of trust created by Obama’s record of deception.

“Today, I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya,” the president said. For him it was self-evident he had such authority. He gave no hint he would seek even ex post facto congressional approval. In fact, he never once mentioned Congress. . . .

Read the full piece here.

7. Libya Exposes Obama As Our Latest Neocon President

Finally someone integrates the unconstitutional and self-sacrificial nature of Obama’s new war. Richard Salsman goes to the essence of the America’s involvement in Libya, aptly labeling it a “neoconservative” effort. Excerpt:

Obama and the neoconservative warmongers who inspire his unjust actions don’t even pretend to put America first. They presume foreign policy is morally “noble” if it sacrifices America’s self-interest, her wealth, her soldiers and even her national security. And the more such values are sacrificed, the more “success” they presume. . . .

The political left likes to portray neoconservatives as “war hawks” intent on promoting American interests abroad, but nothing could be further from the truth; neoconservatives are warmongers, but of a kind where America sacrifices her interests and security for the benefit of others in abject need – whether in need of food, shelter, safety, or a voting booth. This is quite similar to the altruistic ethic held by the left – and so many Democrats. Both “sides” are effectively on the same side – with both in support of Obama’s Libyan invasion. . . .

In foreign policy, the choice between being imperialistic or pacifistic is a false choice; the relevant alternative is not either to pursue perpetual war (a la John McCain) or to never fight a war (a la Dennis Kucinich), but rather to righteously and totally fight wars only in self-defense and for self-interest (or pre-emption of a real and imminent threat), not out of self-sacrifice. Today so-called “just war” theory insists that there can be no justice if a nation is self-interested in its pursuit of military objectives. The theory animates both neoconservatives and Obama’s advisors. . . .

Read the whole thing here. Also, for an analysis of—and a corrective to—the neoconservative approach to war, see Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein’s “‘Just War Theory’ vs. American Self-Defense.”

8. Tea Party Groups Push Atlas Shrugged Movie

USA Today reports that Tea Party groups across America are promoting the Atlas Shrugged movie. Unfortunately, the report, like many Tea Partiers, misses the deeper meaning of the novel. Atlas Shrugged is not fundamentally about “a dystopian United States that collapses as government asserts control”; rather, it is about the role of reason in man’s life, the morality of self-interest, and man’s need of freedom to act rationally and live selfishly. Hopefully the novel’s surging popularity, fueled in part by the movie, will lead more people to grasp the essence of the story and to begin advocating freedom on fundamental, philosophic grounds—the only grounds on which freedom can be achieved and secured.

Tea Party groups are talking up a new movie version of Atlas Shrugged, based on the Ayn Rand novel about a dystopian United States that collapses as government asserts control.

The movie will debut in theaters on April 15. Tax Day has been a focal point for the burgeoning Tea Party movement, whose political mantra calls for small government and low taxes.

National Journal reports that FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-allied group headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, has been trying to get the movie opened in more theaters. The group hopes to get the movie opened nationwide on 300 screens, according to the National Journal story. . . .

“In a lot of ways, this project reflects the ethos of the Tea Party,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe told National Journal. “You had both Republicans and Democrats who felt rejected by the establishment, and the same process is going to happen with Atlas Shrugged: We’re going to build a constituency of people who believe in limited government and individual liberty.” . . .

Read the full article here. Also, for a brief discussion of the fundamental ideas presented in Atlas, see “Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the World Today: An Interview with Yaron Brook.”

9. Tea Party to GOP: No Compromise over the Budget

Perhaps some Tea Partiers are beginning to get some of Rand’s deeper messages. Fox News reports that some are standing firm in their demand that Republicans cut government spending. Excerpt:

As U.S. lawmakers seek a compromise on how much federal spending to cut in order to avoid a government shutdown, Tea Party activists who helped propel Republicans back into power are growing impatient with the debate. . . .

Now Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, arguably the most vocal critic of GOP leaders, is pushing for a primary opponent against House Speaker John Boehner in 2012 for breaking his campaign pledge to cut $100 billion and for what he sees as hints that he’s willing to cut less than $61 billion in a compromise with Senate Democrats. . . .

“This is the one message the Tea Party needs to be out there pushing,” he said. “If you don’t live up to your promise, we’re going to throw you out.” . . .

Phillips said Republicans should reject any kind of compromise over the budget, even if it leads to a government shutdown or a default.

“What is worse: a government shutdown or an economic collapse,” he said. “Is it worse to deal with a $14.3 trillion national debt or a national debt of $20 or $25 trillion and the whole thing collapses?”

Kudos to Mr. Phillips for refusing to compromise. This is the stuff of which genuine political progress is made. Read the whole report here.

10. Chile’s Progress, Obama’s Evasion

Investor’s Business Daily reveals the patently evasive nature of Obama praising Chile for its economic success while rejecting for America the kinds of policies that everyone knows led to Chile’s success. (Unfortunately, IBD editorial mistakenly maintains that “democracy,” which properly means “unlimited majority rule,” was a contributing factor in Chile’s success.) The editorial begins:

President Obama had nothing but praise for Chile’s democracy and economic miracle, declaring it a model “for the region and world.” So why is he obstructing the same reforms in the U.S. that gave Chile its success?

Arriving Monday in Santiago on the second leg of his Latin American tour, the president told El Mercurio he picked Chile as one of his three stops because: “The Chilean experience, and more particularly its successful democratic transition and sustained economic growth, is a model for the region and the world. … It is also a powerful example of how the opportunities of today can and must be seized.”

He’s right on that. But if he isn’t just uttering vague platitudes, why doesn’t he make it a model for U.S. economic growth, too?

Chile’s reforms not only enabled it to emerge from military regime in 1990, but to become the success story much of the world seeks to imitate.

In 30 years, Chile has gone from being a Third World country to a developed one, raising per capita income to $17,000, achieving 6% to 7% GDP growth most years, and attracting billions in foreign investment.

It didn’t happen in a vacuum. . . .

Read the whole piece here.

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