Wall Street Journal
Randy Barnett, author of Restoring the Lost Constitution, recently talked with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal about the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the centerpiece of ObamaCare, and the legal challenges working through federal court:
So would “any constitutional law professor” be right to scoff at the case against ObamaCare? Not according to this law professor. “The challenges to ObamaCare are serious legal challenges within the existing doctrinal framework,” Mr. Barnett says. “They are not an attempt to restore the lost Constitution.”
That’s why the “individual mandate”—the requirement that all Americans purchase medical insurance or pay a fine—has been the focus of the lawsuits by state attorneys general seeking to overturn ObamaCare. (Mr. Barnett wrote a friend-of-the-court brief with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, in support of the Virginia attorney general’s lawsuit.)
Yesterday, the Senate passed yet another extention of umployment benefits, breaking through a Republican filibuster. President Barack Obama could sign the extention into law as soon as today.
With this, the Wall Street Journal wonders if we’re encouraging this behavior by not prolonging these payouts:
In the immediate policy case, Democrats are going so far as to subsidize more unemployment. If you subsidize something, you get more of it. So if you pay people not to work, they often decide … not to work. Or at least to delay looking or decline a less than perfect job offer, holding out for something else that may or may not materialize.
The economic consensus—which includes Obama Administration economists in their previous lives—couldn’t be clearer on this. In a 1990 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, labor economist Lawrence Katz found that “The results indicate that a one week increase in potential benefit duration increases the average duration of the unemployment spells of UI recipients by 0.16 to 0.20 weeks.”
A March 2010 economic report by Michael Feroli of J.P. Morgan Chase examined several studies and concluded that “lengthened availability of jobless benefits has raised the unemployment rate by 1.5% points.”
Common sense economics doesn’t make for popular policy, but ignoring your own PAYGO rules, pushing the deficit higher does.
Small business are in a pickle when it comes to health insurance for employees, according to the Wall Street Journal:
Companies whose health plans are up for renewal are seeing sharp increases for the coming year. In years past, they could simply seek other bids. But this year, the new health-care law complicates the decision to switch plans.
Under the health-care overhaul, companies that keep their existing health plans will be exempt from some of the new law’s requirements, such as providing yearly physical exams and other benefits that could add up to substantially higher costs starting in 2014.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 20 or so new rules could raise companies’ health bills by 1% to 3% each. Companies forfeit “grandfathered” status if they change their health plans.
Many small businesses would like to keep their grandfathered status but can’t afford the premium increases. Benefits consulting firm Mercer LLC says increases are averaging about 10% in 2010, and a Deloitte LLP estimate puts the range between 11% and 15%.
In California, Blue Shield California’s small-business quotes rose an average of 18%. In New York,t Inc.’s Empire BlueCross BlueShield unit says it has raised prices for some small companies 17%. Mark Wagar, chief executive at Empire BlueCross BlueShield, attributed the higher premiums to increasing hospital prices and taxes.
The insurers argue that they have to increase prices because of mushrooming costs for hospital care, drugs and doctors. They say that the health overhaul did little to address the rising costs and that the health overhaul law’s new coverage requirements could push prices up further.
This is not good news. The Wall Street Journal is reporting, via the Washington Examiner, that oil companies are taking jobs overseas due to the drilling moratorium:
Executives from oil and gas companies on Monday concluded an hour-long meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar without securing promises from the government to lift a deepwater-drilling moratorium imposed after a disastrous BP PLC (BP) oil spill…
“Numerous operators told Secretary Salazar that they were in the final stages of moving rigs, deepwater rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico and to West Africa and the Middle East,” according to a person familiar with the matter. “We were frankly disappointed at the lack of serious attention that was paid by the Department of the Interior on the horrible economic impact that the Department of Interior’s policies are having on the industry and on communities along the Gulf Coast.”
While the oil spill is going to have a negative impact on the Gulf Coast region, the loss of jobs that states like Louisiana depend on adds insult to injury.
Barack Obama has accepted responsibility for the government’s response to the BP oil spill, independent voters are paying him back in-kind by turning away. A president that has touted the myth of “saved or created jobs” is looking at a loss of probably hundreds, if not thousands of jobs, as a direct result of a government action.
In an editorial at the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Klein explains that liberals/progressives have no real grasp of basic economics:
Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents’ (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.
Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.
Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: “Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.” People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.
Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.
Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree.” This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer “not sure,” which we do not count as incorrect.
Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters—all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections, in which Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.
“This data is what it looks like when Republicans assemble what for them is a winning coalition,” said GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.
He said the Republican alliance appeared to be “firmer and more substantial” than earlier in the year.
Mr. Hart noted that, to his own party’s detriment, a series of major news events and legislative achievements—including passage of a sweeping health-care law, negotiating a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia and making a quick arrest in the Times Square terrorism attempt—has not measurably increased support for Democrats. “A lot has happened,” he said, “but the basic dynamic of the 2010 elections seems almost set in concrete.”
A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%.
Suburban women favored Democratic control four years ago by a 24-point margin. In the latest survey, they narrowly favored Republicans winning the House. A similar turnaround was seen among voters 65 and older.
Speaking at the Cato Institute in 2008, Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, dispeled many of the myths and half-truths promoted by populists and nativists over immigration and also takes issue with many self-professed believers in free markets that make it rail against immigration.
It may be a couple years old, but it’s relevant today given the passage of the immigration bill in Arizona.
ObamaCare update: Vote counts, the Slaughter Solution and toxic poll numbers for Dems in toss-up districts
It’s hard to say where ObamaCare is going to wind up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that Democrats will have the votes by the time they bring the bill to the floor. Rep. John Larson (D-CT), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, says they already have the votes.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who has been counting votes for the majority, told The Hill that the vote could be put off past Easter (April 4th). House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) shot down both Larson and Clyburn, saying that a vote will come “later in the week.”
To top all of this, President Barack Obama is warning House Democrats that he will not support or campaign for them if they cast a vote against this major part of his domestic agenda. Some Democrats may actually welcome this, as they view their re-election to Congress as more important than Obama’s presidency.
It’s also unclear whether Democrats will use the Slaughter Solution (named after House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter). This rule would deem the Senate version of the health care bill passed up passage of the fixes via reconciliation by the Senate. Such a move could provide political cover during campaigns this fall by giving members in tough re-election bids an excuse to say they didn’t cast a vote for ObamaCare.
As you may know, Democrats may try to use the so-called “Slaughter Solution,” a rule that could be inserted in the ObamaCare legislation that would allow the Senate version of the bill to be passed once the fixes are approved by Congress. Essentially, this allows members to vote for the rule and not the bill itself.
Former federal judge Michael W. McConnell writes that this gimmick would be unconstitutional:
To become law—hence eligible for amendment via reconciliation—the Senate health-care bill must actually be signed into law. The Constitution speaks directly to how that is done. According to Article I, Section 7, in order for a “Bill” to “become a Law,” it “shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate” and be “presented to the President of the United States” for signature or veto. Unless a bill actually has “passed” both Houses, it cannot be presented to the president and cannot become a law.To be sure, each House of Congress has power to “determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” Each house can thus determine how much debate to permit, whether to allow amendments from the floor, and even to require supermajority votes for some types of proceeding. But House and Senate rules cannot dispense with the bare-bones requirements of the Constitution. Under Article I, Section 7, passage of one bill cannot be deemed to be enactment of another.
As has been noted here a few times recently, President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress plan to use reconciliation to move forward on health care reform, at least what they like to call “reform.” The Wall Street Journal explains that this use of the controversial legislative procedure is abusive to the system:
The vehicle is “reconciliation,” a parliamentary process that fast-tracks budget measures and was created in 1974 as a deficit-reduction tool. Limited to 20 hours of debate, reconciliation bills need a mere 50 votes in the Senate, with the Vice President as tie-breaker, thus circumventing the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have frequently used reconciliation on budget bills, so Democrats are now claiming that using it to pass ObamaCare is no big deal.