Wall Street Journal
I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin. She lost me about the time she claimed she was an expert on foreign policy because she could see Russia from Alaska. Like comedian D.L. Hughley said, “I can see the moon from my house, it doesn’t make me an astronaut.” I agreed. However, despite her flirtatious attitude towards possibly running for President, she’s earned a little of my respect. She earned a little more with her speech Sunday night.
From the Wall Street Journal:
When former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addressed a tea party crowd in New Hampshire Sunday night, he again doubled-down on his assertion that “corporations are people,” a line he first used at the Iowa State Fair last month in explaining why he wouldn’t raise taxes on big businesses.
“I said ‘corporations are people,’ and the Democrats said, ‘Oh, he’s in big trouble now saying something like that,’” Mr. Romney said. “Well don’t they understand that we work for corporations?” Mr. Romney made his fortune as co-founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital.
It was a marked contrast from the approach Ms. Palin took during her speech in Indianola, Iowa, Saturday. After repeatedly accusing President Barack Obama of steering government to benefit corporate campaign donors, she turned to her party’s presidential candidates: “To be fair, some GOP candidates, they also raise mammoth amounts of cash,” Ms. Palin said. “What, if anything, do their donors expect for their investments?”
As we head into tonight’s debate at the Reagan Library in California, the first since Rick Perry joined the field, we have three polls to go through since so much has come out in the last few days. This is probably too much for one post, but it’s probably best to lay it out all at once instead of three separate posts.
With this also, the only commentary I’ll offer is just to say that the race is now a two-man race between Perry and Romney. That’s not to say that other candidates aren’t deserving of attention or respect, especially since a couple of them will continue to help drive the narrative over the course of the primary. But the numbers don’t lie.
We’ll start with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which is good news for Perry and bad for Romney; who trials by 15 points:
- Rick Perry: 38%
- Mitt Romney: 23%
- Ron Paul: 9%
- Michele Bachmann: 8%
- Newt Gingrich: 5%
- Herman Cain: 5%
- Rick Santorum: 3%
- Jon Huntsman: 2%
- None/Not sure: 7%
And while President Barack Obama is taking heat for the economy, he still leads in pospective head-to-head matchups against both Romney and Rick Perry. Here are those numbers:
- Obama: 47%
- Perry: 42%
- Neither/other: 4%
- Unsure: 5%
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann continues to gain on, and in at least one instance surpass, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in national polling, which is largely useless given that we’re dealing with state caucuses and primaries to determine delegates for presidential candidates. However, these polls do offer us, as I’ve noted before, a sense of where Republican voters are right now.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Romney still leading, but Bachmann picking up more support since their last poll:
- Mitt Romney: 30%
- Michele Bachmann: 16%
- Rick Perry: 11%
- Ron Paul: 9%
- Newt Gingrich: 8%
- Herman Cain: 5%
- Rick Santorum: 3%
- Jon Huntsman: 2%
- Tim Pawlenty: 2%
Cain has dropped off substantially from the last NBC/WSJ poll; he was at 12% and is now at 5%. They also left Sarah Palin out of this poll, it’s like her support gets divided between Bachmann and Perry.
Here is how the race shapes up with Palin:
- Mitt Romney: 20%
- Michele Bachmann: 16%
- Sarah Palin: 12%
- Rick Perry: 11%
- Herman Cain: 10%
- Ron Paul: 9%
- Newt Gingrich: 6%
- Tim Pawlenty: 5%
- Jon Huntsman: 2%
- Other/Undecided: 10%
And without Palin:
It has been conventional wisdom that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan hurts Republicans and gives Democrats an advantage in the 2012 election. However, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll suggests otherwise:
A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asks Americans whether they would be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who “supports changing Medicare for those under 55 to a system where people choose their insurance from a list of private health plans and the government pays a fixed amount, sometimes called a voucher, towards that cost.”
The results: 38% are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Ryan’s Medicare reform, 37% are less likely to vote for that candidate, while 18% say it makes “no difference” in determining their vote, and 7% are not sure.
If that number stands, that’s pretty great news for Republicans.
And one could even quibble with the question wording. It uses the much feared “voucher” word, which Ryan’s reform technically isn’t. And it simply says future beneficiaries could put their voucher toward “private health plans,” potentially leaving the wrong impression that some seniors could be denied coverage in the open marketplace. The private plans would be regulated by the government and required to offer coverage to all beneficiaries.
The United States government is bound and determined to control who says what and how when it comes to political campaigns. After the controversial Citizens United ruling, despite the fact that there are still plenty of headaches involved in groups trying to influence elections, the Internal Revenue Service has decided to flex its muscle in putting a stop to what some feel is undue influence by some parties.
The IRS has decided to start charging tax to people who donate money to 503(c)(4) organizations. The gift tax, which has been around for a while, actually charges a tax to the person who donates the money. This is rather unusual because non-profit donations have often been seen as tax deductible in most cases, or at least tax neutral. From the Wall Street Journal:
The letters are especially odd since the purpose of the gift tax has traditionally been used in coordination with the estate tax, to prevent people from avoiding the tax by divesting their wealth before they die. Contributions to 501(c)(4)s aren’t a routine death tax avoidance mechanism, and the contributions now under scrutiny are a pittance compared to overall gift tax revenues. So, hmmm, what could be the reason to start asserting the provision now, and only against a handful of high-profile political donors?
RS spokesman Michelle Eldridge said in a statement last week that the letters are the idea of career IRS employees, not the White House, and that they are part of a larger investigation of gift tax compliance. Count us skeptical that a new targeted enforcement plan, likely coordinated between at least two of the highly compartmentalized divisions of the IRS, was just cooked up by some career guys.
Senate Republicans staged the first successful filibuster of a judicial nominee since 2005 on Thursday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration on the long-stalled nomination of Goodwin Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The final vote was 52-43, eight votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster. Only one Republican joined Democrats in supporting Liu, and only one Democrat voted no to opening debate on the 40-year-old University of California, Berkeley professor’s nomination.
Republicans have maintained that Liu’s liberal views on issues like same-sex marriage and affirmative action put him outside the mainstream, pointing to his writings that additional individual rights can be found in the Constitution.
Liu also drew Republican ire over his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in testimony when the conservative judge was nominated to the court.
“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said before Thursday’s vote. “His statement showed he has nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him. Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”
The Wall Street Journal noted in an editoral against his confirmation that Liu would have been the “most left-wing judge ever”:
A year ago today, President Barack Obama signed his signature legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law - known as ObamaCare in conservative and libertarian circles, which was passed under the budget rule known as reconciliation. In the past 12 months, the individual mandate - the centerpiece of ObamaCare - has been challenged successfully in federal courts in Virginia and Florida and repealed by the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, ObamaCare was also found to be constitutional in two other federal courts, although under dubious claims, and repeal failed in the Senate.
The fight still isn’t over, but the numbers aren’t there to repeal the bill outright and defunding it would almost certainly run the risk of a government shutdown. Regardless of those two points, the cost of ObamaCare is rising, notes the Wall Street Journal, and given the fiscal situation the nation is in, something has to be done:
To wit, CBO says the entitlement’s health insurance subsidies will cost $1.13 trillion between 2012 and 2021, not $1.04 trillion, the prior estimate. This 8.6% jump is the result of revised assumptions, the so-called technical factors in CBO’s budget model. The bill’s total cost now stands at $1.445 trillion, according to another recent CBO estimate.
Over at the Wall Street Journal, Peter Suderman explains how ObamaCare is hitting states hard by expanding access to Medicaid:
At roughly 21% of total state spending, Medicaid is already the single largest item in state budgets, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Between 2008 and 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available), annual spending growth on the program nearly doubled, growing to 9% from 4.9%.
Medicaid currently covers 53 million people at an overall cost of $373.9 billion (states are responsible for about half). But starting in 2014, ObamaCare rules will add about 20 million more, according to Richard Foster, the program’s chief actuary.
Yet state budgets are already being squeezed. Washington state, facing a $5.7 billion budget hole, has ordered the Medicaid program to cut its budget by 6.3%. The state cannot reduce eligibility to enroll without jeopardizing federal funding altogether. Its only option is to eliminate “optional benefits” (not federally required) such as dental services and speech therapy—one of the options suggested in Ms. Sebelius’s letter. That sounds good, but it’s not enough. “Even if we eliminate every single optional benefit, we still don’t get there,” Doug Porter, the state’s Medicaid director, told Governing magazine.
To consider what the expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare might do to the states, take a look at Massachusetts and Tennessee. In 2006, Massachusetts overhauled its entire health-care system, including a significant expansion of Medicaid. This expansion is costing the state far more than expected. Gov. Deval Patrick approved a record-setting $9.6 billion to cover its share of Medicaid costs last July. It wasn’t enough. He’s already gone back to the legislature twice, adding almost $600 million in additional funds.
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Barack Obama explained that despite a recent Wall Street Journal article slamming his economic policies, he had not raised taxes in his two years in office.
Here is the revelant part of the transcript:
O’REILLY: Here’s what the Wall Street Journal said, I want you to react to this. Mr. Obama is a determined man of the left whose goal is to redistribute much larger levels of income across society. He may give tactical ground when he has to, as he did on taxes to avoid a middle class tax increase, but he will resist to his last day any major changes to Obamacare and the other load-bearing walls of the entitlement state.
This is The Wall Street Journal you know painting you as pretty left-wing guy. Are you going to go along?
OBAMA: Well, the Wall Street Journal probably would paint you as a left-wing guy. I mean, if you’re talking about the Wall Street Journal editorial page…
O’REILLY: I’ve got to tell you, that’s what this is.
OBAMA: You know, that’s like quoting the New York Times editorial…
O’REILLY: Do you deny the assessment? Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth.
O’REILLY: You deny that?
OBAMA: Absolutely. I didn’t raise taxes once, I lowered taxes over the last two years.
Last week, House Republicans presented $32 billion in spending cuts - far short of the $100 billion they promised in the “Pledge to America.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was dismissive of the cuts, noting that they are “not going to touch the problem.”
Today, Sen. Paul is talking up his own proposed cuts - totaling $500 billion - in an editorial at the Wall Street Journal:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, this will be the third consecutive year in which the federal government is running a deficit near or greater than $1 trillion. The solution to the government’s fiscal crisis must begin by cutting spending in all areas, particularly in those that can be better run at the state or local level. Last month I introduced legislation to do just that. And though it seems extreme to some—containing over $500 billion in spending cuts enacted over one year—it is a necessary first step toward ending our fiscal crisis.
My proposal would first roll back almost all federal spending to 2008 levels, then initiate reductions at various levels nearly across the board. Cuts to the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation would create over $42 billion in savings each, while cuts to the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development would save about $50 billion each. Removing education from the federal government’s jurisdiction would create almost $80 billion in savings alone. Add to that my proposed reductions in international aid, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and other federal agencies, and we arrive at over $500 billion.