America • California • Democrats • Healthcare • Immigration • Post

A Legal Immigrant’s Lament

In the late 1940s, my father, Kenneth Billingsley, a veteran of World War II, was working in a mine in the northern reaches of Manitoba. So through no fault of my own, I was born a long way north of the border. Despite childhood stints in Alliance, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, when I sought to reside in the United States, the government imposed certain requirements.

I had to certify that I was not a member of the Communist Party, that I could understand and speak English, and that I would not become a public charge, a burden on American taxpayers. I didn’t. Since gaining legal residency I have been gainfully employed and paying taxes as the law requires. Given that record, an April 17 article from the USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative, headlined “Will Undocumented Immigrants Avoid New State Health Benefits?” came as something of a surprise.

The authors are Yesenia Amaro, who writes for the Fresno Bee, and Virginia Gaglianone of La Opinion in Los Angeles. Before that, Gaglianone “collaborated with KPFK 90.7 Pacifica Radio,” an outfit whose website touts recently deceased Sandinista and FMLN supporter Blase Bonpane and leftist icon Noam Chomsky.

Gaglianone and Amaro write of a Mexican national named Claudia Navarro, whose daughter suffered from spina bifida. Mexican doctors couldn’t help her, so 27 years ago, the story goes, Claudia “brought her two young children to the U.S. to seek medical help. She obtained limited Medi-Cal benefits for her child, despite her immigration status, and arranged treatments that kept her daughter alive.”

Medi-Cal is California’s government health system for qualifying low-income people earning at 138 percent of the poverty level, which was $33,534 for a family of four as of 2018. The authors do not spell out how Navarro “obtained” the Medi-Cal benefits, or how she “arranged” the life-saving treatments for her unnamed daughter.

The language implies there might have been something improper about the process. The cost of spina bifida surgery can range as high as $30,000, but the authors don’t quantify the U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on the child. And no word about where the father of the children is living now.

Gaglianone and Amaro do not indicate how Claudia’s unnamed child is doing at the age of at least 27, and the full adult is not quoted in the story. The authors do not explain whether Claudia, now 51 and living in Los Angeles, arranged any Medi-Cal benefits for her other unnamed and unquoted child. Likewise, the story does not say Navarro arranged any government benefits for herself, but she does seem to have some regrets.

“Now, 27 years later,” Gaglianone and Amaro explain, “Navarro worries that her decision to seek benefits could threaten her chances at becoming a legal U.S. resident.” She is “focused on proposed federal restrictions that would place new limits on who can qualify for a green card” and the broader definition of  a “public charge”—essentially a “taxpayer burden” and an expanded list of federal taxpayer-funded public benefits that would count against immigrants, including food stamps and Medi-Cal.

Since Claudia entered the United States illegally, she never certified that she would not become “essentially a taxpayer burden.” According to the story, her reason for violating U.S. immigration law was to gain medical services for her daughter, all funded by U.S. taxpayers. Claudia also told the reporters that her adult children “are on Medi-Cal.”

Gaglianone and Amaro claim 1.5 million “uninsured and undocumented immigrants in California are forced to weigh the benefits and potential risks of using public services.” They cite “Ana” who “asked to keep her real name confidential,” and has been waiting 30 years to become a U.S. resident.

Ana also worries about being denied “for having asked care for my children.” Her “older son,” who allegedly received taxpayer-funded care is not named or quoted, and readers get no clue what the mysterious “Ana” does for a living and whether U.S. taxpayers contribute to her livelihood.

According to an official government Medi-Cal website: “You may qualify for health insurance through Medi-Cal even if you are not a U.S. citizen or a U.S. national,” and “You do not have to be a citizen or have satisfactory immigration status to qualify for Medi-Cal.” Those who meet eligibility requirements but lack legal immigration status are “entitled to emergency and pregnancy-related services and, when needed, state-funded long-term care.”

Medi-Cal wields a budget of $20.7 billion but does not quantify how much taxpayer money it spends on false-documented illegals. A ballpark figure for reimbursements from Mexico is zero, and by all indications, state and federal politicians are OK with that arrangement, a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers.

Meanwhile, over at Medi-Cal, information about immigration is “only used to verify status for Medi-Cal eligibility purposes.” And as the government health site also explains, “if you are not registered to vote where you live now and would like to apply to register to vote today please visit this website or call 1-800-345-VOTE (8683).”

Gaglianone and Amaro don’t say whether Claudia and Ana ever voted in the United States but according to a State Department investigation, false-documented illegals have been voting in local, state and federal elections for decades. For all but the willfully blind, that’s a bad deal for legitimate citizens, legal immigrants, and the rule of law.

Photo Credit: Vic Hinterlang/Getty Images

Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Healthcare • Post • The Leviathian State

When Bureaucracy Replaces Humanity

I got a letter last week informing me that my catastrophic health care insurance was terminated.

The plan was terminated because of a technical glitch. Instead of billing the credit card I had designated as my primary payment option, my healthcare provider billed an old and deactivated card.

A declined payment of $10.42 (to supplement an early payment due to rising premiums) and another for $127.49 later, I lost my coverage, long before I realized there was anything wrong.

If this happened in a different industry, I likely would not have had any problems. I would have called the company and, after a short conversation and the successful payment of my outstanding premiums, I would have had my insurance back.

But the American healthcare industry is not just any industry. It is an industry that is controlled, to varying degrees, by federal, state, and local governments.

When I called my provider, the representative was unable to fix my problem because local government regulations do not allow individuals to sign up for health insurance outside of an enrollment window.

My provider patched me through to DC Health Link, a District of Columbia government agency—set up in accordance with the Affordable Care Act—assigned with establishing a local health care exchange program. My provider told me I would have to plead my case there.

A bored yet relatively helpful receptionist at DC Health Link collected my information and listened to my story. She told me to send any supporting evidence to a nameless generic email address and to wait four weeks to hear whether or not my appeal had been approved.

If the agency does not approve my appeal, I will be without my catastrophic health care insurance until 2020. If, God forbid, I were to be hit by a truck, I likely would have to declare bankruptcy.

I began to hear the theme music from Terry Gilliam’s film “Brazil” in my head.

The 1985 classic, set in a dystopian future where massive bureaucracies force competent HVAC professionals to become vigilantes just to avoid the headache of paperwork, has turned from a far-fetched nightmare into a dramatized satire of our current society.

Thankfully, unlike the film’s poor Mr. Buttle who ends up dying due to a typographical error caused by an errant swatted fly, my health care provider’s error—if not rectified by DC Health Link—will only leave me uninsured. But it should serve as a helpful reminder of the consequences an overwrought bureaucracy may yield.

Being a resourceful young lobbyist, I immediately called the constituent services representative of my local councilmember. I am happy to report that she was one of the most helpful people I’ve spoken to in D.C. government.

She took the time to compile a detailed diagram of my problem and to forward it to the relevant personnel at the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, with a promise that we would resolve the issue. With luck, I will be reinsured promptly. I hope.

But most people don’t have the time or the wherewithal to deal with their massive bureaucracies. And if it’s hard enough to navigate a behemoth with 35,000 employees, imagine the challenge of dealing with the U.S. federal government with millions of employees.

Most conservatives don’t think that government employees are evil. They worry that the government, in its sheer size, becomes impersonal and inhuman. Given the frequency of errors and miscommunications, and given the propensity for humans to err, be complacent, and become mechanical institutional sheep, there are many reasons to decentralize institutions as much as possible so that problems may be solved by autonomous individuals rather than mindless automatons.

The more functions we relegate to government, the more our fortunes are at the whims of a capricious and overly complicated machine that seems often to have a mind of its own. Humanity comes when individuals know when not to follow the script. When they take that extra step to help each other—a step that becomes increasingly risky and difficult when the system, rather than the person, takes control.

The scary scene in a sci-fi artificial intelligence thriller isn’t the scene in which the AI starts acting like it has a mind of its own. It’s the scene when humanity, in a moment of insecurity, decides that it will hand over control of key functions of society to the system that we created.

Our system of government is a form of artificial intelligence. Unchecked, it acts in ways that no reasonable human would ever act. The vast processes, protocols, and the bureaucrats who staff the various cogs in the machine end up operating as an emergent phenomenon with a mind of its own—a form of artificial intelligence that is far more interested in its own self-preservation than the job the people have given it.

This emergent phenomenon actively bribes its staffers with promises of comfort and a lack of culpability. Responsibility is painful and often requires thought. Our artificial intelligence is more than happy to alleviate this pain.

This is why we fight for federalism, accountability, and limited government—so that our creation doesn’t end up taking us over and imposing its unfathomable will.

(Editor’s note: At press time, thanks to the author’s lobbying efforts, his insurance was reinstated.)

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Administrative State • Democrats • Healthcare • Post • Progressivism • The Leviathian State

Killing the Old Folks

He [Harold Ross] was reminded of a pleasant afternoon that the two of them [Ross and Mrs. Roosevelt] had spent a few years earlier, talking for hours as they rode along in Mrs. Roosevelt’s sedan. At one point the former First Lady suddenly allowed as how “old people ought to be bumped off when their usefulness is done.” . . . [H]er remark took Ross by surprise. “I mildly raised the question of who would make the decision as to when the moment had come,” he recalled,” and she didn’t have a ready answer for that. —Thomas Kunkel, Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker (1995)

This brief scene from Kunkel’s biography of Harold Ross captures in miniature the whole story of progressivism in America.

Let’s have Eleanor Roosevelt represent the progressives, those in government imposing progressivism by the power of government and the ones outside of government cheering on the progressive project. She is perfect for that role. Ross, then, makes an interesting choice to represent the rest of us. Like many Americans who overcame impossible odds to achieve much in life—one thinks of Lincoln, Grant, Edison, many others—he does not look the part (he’s a “genius in disguise”). And as with many ordinary Americans, he was not greatly interested in politics; he always resented how the horrors of the 20th century kept interfering with his vision of a magazine dedicated to great writing and sophisticated humor.

Now that we have our characters in place, what is the action in our little drama? One person in that sedan understood where progressives were taking America; the one who was along for the ride did not. The progressives always knew where they were taking us; the rest of us keep being “surprised.”

That Roosevelt did not have “a ready answer” to Ross’s common sense question did not mean she did not know who would “make the decision.” She knew. The time was not yet ripe for answering that question. As a beloved teacher and friend of mine liked to say, “You have to work up to a thing like that.”

Much would have to be accomplished and much would have to be undone before progressives could begin openly insisting on the need for death panels. Gaining complete control of health care, they knew, would give them the key. They understood that to get in position to bump off the old folks “when their usefulness is done” they would have to realize their dream of socialized medicine. Once there is no alternative to government health care, the problem of exploding costs will give the progressives the opportunity to get grimly serious about the “regrettable but necessary” steps required to reduce spending on old people, if you know what I mean.

Fortunately for Ross, he died before his companion on that drive and her friends could get the death panels up and running, though you have to admit they have been making fantastic progress in their project of killing inconvenient babies. If many Americans were surprised when Democrats recently came out in favor of infanticide, it only means that—like Ross and too many of us—they have been enjoying the ride without paying much attention to where it is going.

Photo Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images

Democrats • Economy • Government Reform • Healthcare • Post

Trump Administration Smacks Down ‘Medicare for All’

The Trump Administration recently released a report that tackles the Left’s sure-to-fail (because socialism always fails) dream of Medicare for All.

The report, titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” begins by shredding the political and economic system currently favored by progressive Democrats. It defines the sordid system in this way:

Whether a country or industry is socialist is a question of the degree to which (a) the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned or regulated by the state; and (b) the state uses its control to distribute the economic output without regard for final consumers’ willingness to pay or exchange (i.e., giving resources away “for free”). As explained below, this definition conforms with both statements and policy proposals from leading socialists, ranging from Karl Marx to Vladimir Lenin to Mao Zedong to Current American socialists.

The report covers socialism’s catastrophic history and acknowledges that modern socialists even have to admit to the epic tragedies that occurred in the Soviet Union and Maoist China. Further, the report reveals the ugly truth behind the Nordic version of “democratic socialism,” particularly as it applies to healthcare.

Leftists have done a magnificent job of convincing young Americans that the Nordic system of socialized healthcare is a model the United States should implement. Not a day goes by on social media without a young, politically interested, idealistic would-be voter extoling the virtues of socialism in Denmark, Finland, Norway, or Sweden.

As the report states, “The Nordic and European versions of socialized medicine have been viewed as so desirable by modern U.S. socialists that they have proposed nationalizing payments for healthcare —which makes up more than a sixth of the U.S. economy—through the recent ‘Medicare for All’ proposal.”

Fortunately, the report is adamant in its assertion that Medicare for All would create a government monopoly in the healthcare sector that would be the single-price setter and the single provider of health insurance. (Think of Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all scheme that became prohibitively expensive and was originally required via the individual mandate. Like that, but worse.)

Moreover, the report states that without huge tax increases and a mountain of new debt, the cost of Medicare For All would require a slashing of more than half of the federal budget.

If it were financed through higher taxes, GDP would fall by 9 percent, or about $7,000 per person in 2022. Evidence on the productivity and effectiveness of single-payer systems suggests that “Medicare for All” would reduce longevity and health, particularly among the elderly, even though it would only slightly increase the fraction of the population with health insurance.

Just in case Americans are unaware of what the Democrats’ Medicare for All proposal would actually do, it’s very simple: it would make the private sale of health insurance—either from a business or other private employer—illegal.

George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen summed the Medicare for All plan up in a recent op-ed:

The [Medicare For All] legislation would eliminate cost sharing, prevent private insurance plans from competing, and prevent private markets from supplementing government coverage (outside of, say, cosmetic surgery). The House version would even prohibit health-care providers from earning profits. These provisions are far more extreme than what is found in most Western European health-care systems. The analogies with traditional socialism are indeed apt—the bill is much worse than anything the Trump administration has proposed to date.

Cowen criticizes some aspects of the Trump Administration report, such as the fact that it fails to acknowledge socialized medicine already exists in the United States in the form of Medicare. However, Denmark officials were more unimpressed with the report, calling it “fake news” after bristling over being lumped in with the upheaval in Venezuela and adamantly asserting that although the country pays a great deal in taxes, they get “so much again,” according to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Despite these criticisms, the report is well worth a read, if for no other reason than because it lays out precisely why the Trump administration will not be embracing socialized medicine any time soon.

Photo Credit: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Healthcare • Immigration • Obamacare • Post • Republicans • the Presidency

Looking Forward to an Exciting Lame-Duck Session

Despite Democratic gains in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Election Day outcomes were far from the big blue wave that liberals promised

Though Democrats managed to flip the House, the loss of at least 30 Republican seats is in line with historical averages. Generally speaking, the president’s party loses around 30 seats in a midterm year. In fact, since the start of the 19th century, only two presidents have ever avoided losing seats in the first midterm election of their presidency.

Though the media are loath to admit it, Democrats underperformed on Tuesday, and Republicans did better (far better, in some cases) than expected, limiting their House losses while gaining up to four seats in the Senate. And all this occurred in spite of these midterms being the most expensive on record, the rise of progressive superstars like Robert Francis (Beto) O’Rourke in Texas and Andrew Gillum in Florida, and a record get-out-the-vote effort by an energized liberal base.

The overall takeaway here is clear: wishing (and rioting, protesting, marching, running people out of restaurants, threatening violence, generally being indecent) doesn’t make it so. Progressive values still aren’t cutting it, particularly in red states and middle America.

But what else did we learn from these elections? Here are five key takeaways.

The House GOP is going to get more Trumpian, whether they want to or not.
House Republicans may have lost their majority, but on election night, Trump backers and conservatives did well. All eleven candidates sponsored by the House Freedom Fund—a PAC focused on electing House conservatives—ran the table, winning all their races. All these members are expected to join the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is primed to make this already powerful negotiating faction in the House significantly more influential.

This is especially true given that the loss of many House moderates has reduced the size of the GOP conference as a whole. In a smaller GOP conference—and one without as many moderates—an expanded freedom caucus would have increased leverage, and an enhanced ability to influence policies in a conservative direction.

Moreover, freedom caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is campaigning for minority leader. Even if he doesn’t win against the heir-apparent, current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the freedom caucus will likely gain significant concessions about how the House is run in exchange for votes.

But should Jordan manage to overtake McCarthy, expect a more strategic, articulate, and positively pro-Trump agenda than we’ve seen from House Republicans in years.

Democrats are still talking about impeachment. Good luck with that.
Likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent the months leading up to the election trying to tamp down talk of impeachment, calling it “not a priority” and “not a policy agenda.”

But senior members of her own party apparently have a different idea. On Wednesday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was overheard on an Acela train extensively outlining Democrat considerations for investigations and impeachment of both President Trump and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Pelosi may wish she could change the subject, but her progressive base wants to do anything but. A September CNN poll revealed that 79 percent of self-described liberals want President Trump impeached (according to exit polls from Tuesday’s election, just five percent of Republicans do). And if we learned anything from the total meltdown surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, these self-identified liberals are, for the Democratic Party, the tail that wags the dog.

It goes without saying that impeachment would be unsuccessful and likely end in disaster for Democrats. A successful impeachment requires the House to charge the president, and the Senate to convict him with 67 votes. While the Democratic-majority House may decide to charge the president with “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it’s highly likely the Senate will never take action.

As House Republicans learned in 1998, overreaching on impeachment in lieu of actually legislating can put you out of favor with the voters very quickly. Just ask Newt Gingrich—though the theatrics of impeachment and investigations are tempting, a robust legislative agenda is what gets you reelected.

That said, if Democrats want to pour gasoline all over themselves and light an impeachment match, far be it from me to stop them.

Congressional Republicans may want to forget about immigration, but the voters didn’t.
Though Republican leaders keep trying to tell themselves otherwise, their base does not support amnesty. And the Republicans who made a very public show of doing so earlier this year were punished for it.

Recall the amnesty discharge petition effort in June, where a group of House Republicans, led by Reps. Curtis Curbelo and Jeff Denham, attempted to force the House to vote on a bill to provide amnesty to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The procedural move forced a showdown with GOP leadership, and ultimately resulted in a series of votes that went nowhere.

But Curbelo and his allies made themselves very prominent supporters of amnesty—a policy that the Republican base still does not support. And on Tuesday, seven of the 23 Republicans who aligned themselves with that effort lost their races (six of the 23 signers were retiring). The electoral losses included Curbelo, despite Paul Ryan making a special campaign trip for him. Jeff Denham, who also led the amnesty effort, squeaked by in a 50-49 race.

Though their support for amnesty was likely not the only factor that led to the defeat of those seven Republicans, it almost certainly played a role. More than half of Republican voters surveyed in June said they’d be less likely to re-elect a Republican who voted for amnesty. On Tuesday, voters told us those polls were right.

The GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare is an ongoing issue, and helped Democrats win.
In what should be a surprise to no one, Obamacare is still a massive failure. More than 2 million people lost their coverage this year due to rising costs, and a shrinking marketplace. In states across the country, co-ops are failing and individuals buying coverage on the exchange have only one or two choices. There’s a reason health care continues to rank as a top worry for American voters.

Republicans knew that government-run health care was going to be a failure, which is why they spent eight years promising to repeal it. Except after two years with unified control of the government, they still haven’t. Rather, they’ve repealed the individual mandate. A good step, but not nearly enough to address Obamacare’s failing mechanisms or remove the stain of their culpability in permitting a health care situation that will only get worse.

It is exactly this inaction—and the failing health care system that is resulting from it—that gave Democrats their biggest talking point of the midterm cycle. “Republicans are coming for your healthcare,” they said. “If you think it’s bad now, it’s only going to get worse.”

This entire Democratic message easily could have been prevented if Republicans had just done what they spent eight years saying they would do. Repeal the law. Then reform the system.

Which leads me to my last point.

The lame duck session matters.
When the current Congress returns next week, they need to do one thing: run through the tape. November and December represent the last gasp of a unified Republican government, and what Republicans do with it matters. Whether it’s healthcare, building a wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, or passing more tax cuts, the GOP needs to unite behind specific priorities and go to the mat.

They should take a lesson from Democrats, who, on the cusp of losing their majority in 2010, shot for the moon. They went hard in on repealing don’t-ask-don’t-tell, passing the DREAM Act, and locking in higher spending. While they failed on the latter two, they succeeded in the first.

The fight matters. And lame ducks can be home to significant action if a party is determined enough to see the fight through.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

California • Congress • Democrats • Healthcare • Obamacare • Post • Progressivism • The Left

Bread and Circus Politics

The masquerade is finally over: Democrats are finally coming out as the socialists they’ve always pretended not to be. Apparently they find it freeing—I find it refreshing. Americans might finally get a clear choice moving forward between undisguised socialism and free market capitalism.

Now there are nearly a dozen Democratic gubernatorial candidates openly calling for a universal healthcare, single payer system, pounding the lectern and insisting that, by God, insurance is a human right.

But I’ll tell you what it really is: bread and circus politics.

Promise the voters anything and everything in the hope of gaining power, the consequences be damned. How one actually pays for the universal healthcare is a minor inconvenience to these socialists in the great bending arc of history. Onward to glory, comrades. Until of course the bill comes due. Loosely quoting the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, socialism is great fun until you run out of other people’s money.

The sad fact here is just how fast they would spend other people’s money. The costs are staggering with universal healthcare: for a national, Medicare for all approach, it could cost up to $32.6 trillion in the first 10 years, overshadowing our already massive $20 trillion national debt.

At the state level, the costs are also sobering: California’s universal healthcare plan would cost $400 billion annually, or twice what California’s annual budget for everything is, including the newly formed Plastic Straw Stasi Division. In New York, people are being assured that yes, taxes would have to go up 156 percent, but have no fears, this will actually save money in the future. Question: have you ever in your life seen a government program that cost less or saved money? Me neither.

At the very heart of this universal healthcare plan is a falsehood that insurance somehow equals better care. That’s empirically untrue. In fact, we can see that in many places across the world, the quality of care actually goes down with universal healthcare.

Take Canada, for example. Between 1993 and 2017, the average wait to see a specialist more than doubled to from nine weeks to just over 21 weeks while the corresponding costs went up 40 percent. In England, the annual budget for the National Health Service (NHS) in 1998 was 60 billion pounds or $77,345100. In 2017 it was 124 billion pounds or $159,836,000. While costs have doubled over the last 20 years, there’s no corresponding increase in quality of life; life expectancy hasn’t gone up. Typically in universal healthcare systems you see health services more interested in efficiency, you see death panels, you see overworked nurses and doctors, and you see a lack of innovation. Do you see many people flying into England or Canada for surgeries? Didn’t think so.

Beyond the costs and the decrease in quality of care, universal healthcare would be a smash and grab policy hurting our younger generations. We would have to steal from the idealistic and sometimes, sadly, very stupid young but healthy (there are some blessings still to being a young American) to fund Americans who are their opposites in all of these respects.  When the young finally figure this out they’ll be facing a hopelessly mortgaged future exactly when many businesses will abandon their states. As in they got played for suckers. But onward, comrades, and all that.

Adding to the absurdity of it all is this concept of using the vehicles of Medicare and Medicaid for all. The socialists’ idea is to ride those two broken, corrupt, and nearly insolvent (at least with respect to Medicare) systems to socialist glory.

While it shouldn’t be a surprise that failing ideologies attach themselves to failing systems, it might surprise most people that in 2017 alone, Medicare and Medicaid combined made $141 billion in improper payments. But by all means, do tell me how glorious it would be to run $32.6 trillion into those broken systems. It’s almost as though the socialists and modern Democratic Party want to collapse our entire system of government and then offer Big Brother Government as the solution.

At some point, if Congress can’t or won’t tackle the root of the problem instead of simply throwing taxpayer dollars at broken corrupt systems like Medicare and Medicaid, it should at least do something to ease the pain of access to care—like allowing people to form associations and shop for insurance plans across state-lines anywhere in the country, potentially driving down premiums by 50 percent. There should be block grants for pharmaceuticals instead of forcing people to go through Medicare or Medicaid. People should have options to put money into savings accounts, spending their money as they see fit. Nonprofit hospitals should be compelled to have pricing and cost transparency. Let market forces go to work and I bet we’ll all be amazed at what will happen.

Photo Credit: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Congress • Donald Trump • Drugs • Government Reform • Healthcare • Post • taxes • Trump White House

The Federalist Capers: The Twilight of Obamacare

The absurd debacle known as Obamacare is not something about which I normally write. However, like a secret vice, I maintain a fascination with federalism and with the nature of the relationship between the feds and the states. Having done professional research into the subject for quite some time, including geeky 10th Amendment matters and all that. OK, it’s kind of dry. But if we don’t pay attention, some of us may have less money for vital necessities like cigars and bourbon. And those I know about. So, listen up.

Also, national economic well-being is a factor in national security. No cash—because it is being spent on awkwardly implemented health care “reform”—no guns.

That’s why it’s interesting that the Trump Administration is proposing a plan that would allow states to expand the use of short-term, limited duration health insurance. Currently, the plans last for up to three months before you can sign up for a longer-term plan through existing Obamacare exchanges. The new rule would permit the short-term plans to last for up to 12 months, and could potentially allow people to renew these plans. Sounds good, eh? Well, as always, the devil is in the details.

The plan has the advantage of introducing market-based reforms and greater federalism into the healthcare system. Proper stuff.

Nevertheless, states shouldn’t exercise their new authority by expanding the use of short-term plans. Because Congress failed to repeal Obamacare last year (thanks again, John McCain!) extending short-term insurance plans would actually increase costs on many in the states. The cost will also increase for the feds given that subsidies from the treasury would increase in kind to account for the rise in premiums on the insurance market. In reality, this means the elves at Fort Knox would have a lot more heavy lifting to do.

Here’s Why Costs Will Go Up
Why shouldn’t the government do what seems to make eminent sense by principle?

For starters, the middle class will see premium increases because they will not be eligible for subsidies if they have to buy Obamacare plans. Particularly in light of Congress’s vote to repeal individual penalties for not having coverage, the enrollment of healthy individuals in short-term policies will mean that coverage costs will increase for those with health conditions.

Okay, you’ve lasted this long with this piece. Now go to the fridge and get a beer, you deserve it.

Waiting . . . 

Now, dear comrades, back unto the breach.

Compared to just 27 percent on the standard Obamacare exchange, 60 percent of individuals purchasing short-term plans in 2017 were between the ages of 18 and 34. These numbers may become even more out of whack next year with the loss of the individual mandate penalty. Many will just opt out of coverage completely. If younger people who need healthcare as they get married (or in my case, divorced) opt out when soon they should be buying houses, having babies, and building their lives, then the burden potentially of paying out of pocket, or landing in a government program, during a health crisis will show in decreased disposable income, purchasing, and a possible economic slowdown.

Economists also predict an 18 percent increase in premiums next year if short-term plans are expanded. For 60-year-olds purchasing silver coverage, the AARP Public Policy Institute projects as much as a $4,000 increase in premiums. That’s a lot of early bird dinners.

And will it affect federal spending? Is the pope Argentinian?

Subsidies from the federal Treasury will increase for rising premiums in the insurance market. A study by Medicare’s chief actuary, that thrill-seeking wildman, found the plan would cost the government $1.2 billion next year and a total of $38.7 billion over 10 years due to subsidies for rising premiums. You can imagine the lovely effect on the federal deficit.

How Much Worse Could It Get? Well . . .
Given that they already lack coverage for essential health benefits such as maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health, expanding short-term plans could push more people, especially Millennials (as if they don’t whine enough already) into other government-run programs.

Not to mention, as the Kaiser Family Foundation notes, ”Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.”

Case in point, from the unexpectantly lucid New York Times:

One case pending in federal court involves Kevin Conroy, who had a heart attack in 2014 and underwent triple bypass surgery, just two months after his wife, Linda, obtained a short-term policy over the telephone. Their insurer, HHC Life, refused to pay the bills.

“We freaked out,” Ms. Conroy said. “What were we going to do? It was $900,000.”

The insurer informed the Conroys the policy was “rescinded,” to use the industry jargon. After poring through his medical records, HCC claimed Mr. Conroy failed to disclose he suffered from alcoholism and degenerative disc disease, conditions he said were never diagnosed. “When one thing didn’t work, they went to another,” Mr. Conroy said.

Oh, joy. The happiness continues. According to the Commonwealth Fund:

The out-of-pocket maximum for each best-selling plan is higher than that allowed in individual or employer plans under the ACA, when adjusting for the shorter plan duration. When considering the deductible, the best-selling plans have out-of-pocket maximums ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 for just three months of coverage. In comparison, the ACA limits out of pocket maximums to $7,150 for the entire year.

So, yeah, a superficially interesting plan now, but it might trap you into a deal down the road when the cost could skyrocket even more than before. Sadly, as with many other things, early gratification can lead to long-term problems. No fun, but there it is.

This administration does a lot of things right. This bit of federalism is one of them. Just the other day, the president made the EU President crawl to Canossa. Good economic news continues to abound, much to the consternation of those who would prefer a return to a pre-industrial state if it would drop Trump’s poll numbers down 5 percent.

But this question requires some fine-tuning at the state level so it doesn’t continue to saddle us with the twilight of Obamacare.

Photo credit: Margaret Johnson/EyeEm via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Foreign Policy • Healthcare • Middle East • Obama • Obamacare • Post • The Media

Obama’s Failed Legacy: Unaffordable Care and Iran’s Nukes

Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the trouble with liberals “is not that they’re ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” Reagan’s words aptly describe former President Barack Obama. Obama was an intelligent, well-educated, articulate man. He could woo crowds with soaring rhetoric and pacify True Conservative™ “intellectuals,” like David Brooks (who voted for Obama partly on the basis of the perfect crease in his trousers).

Obama was not only a scion of the American political class, he was also a new kind of leader: the first black president in history and one of the youngest.

With Obama, though, we were getting an incredibly manipulative individual who bought into the most dangerous and destructive left-wing academic theories. Obama was the ultimate “intellectual-yet-idiot.” Examples of his folly are plentiful, but there are perhaps no better illustrations of the disconnect between Obama’s intellectual prowess and his practical political judgment than the disastrous Affordable Care Act and the terrible nuclear agreement with Iran. Both were highly controversial, very unpopular, deeply secretive, and painfully naïve. They were also, it turns out, extremely harmful to the American people who voted for Obama.

Obamacare Fail
Obama believes in socialized medicine, more or less. Most Americans, even many Democrats, never would have supported a scheme that was honest about aiming toward that end. So just as Obama’s healthcare policy adviser (and former architect of the failed “Romneycare” plan in Massachusetts), Jonathan Gruber argued, Obama had to lie to the American voters about what his plan actually entailed.

During the tense debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obama repeatedly told voters, “If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” That was a lie. Obama further claimed that insurance premiums wouldn’t increase. That, too, proved false. Obama and his staff then insisted that his healthcare “reform” wasn’t a tax hike. Yet when the ACA faced a challenge before the Supreme Court, administration lawyers effectively argued that the ACA was legal precisely because it qualified as a tax. Lastly, the former president claimed the healthcare exchanges established under Obamacare would be safe, efficient, and effective. Not so.

Recall how President Obama argued that he was going to stick it to the insurance companies? Instead, it’s become clear that Affordable Care Act was little more than a giveaway to them. It encouraged private insurance companies to kick the sickliest and most vulnerable off their insurance plans and then further allowed costs to escalate to such an extent that only the wealthiest Americans could afford to maintain their private insurance.

Iran Fail
In foreign policy, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran over their nuclear weapons program was also a windfall for the Iranians. Obama’s modus operandi in selling the Iran deal was the same as that deployed on behalf of Obamacare: deception.  Obama insisted that the agreement with Iran should be hashed out in secret and refused to allow Congress to fully debate the matter. Obama claimed he was working this way in the name of peace and that he knew best about how to achieve it. In reality, Obama just wanted a piece of paper he could affix to his legacy, consequences be damned. As in the ACA deliberations, Obama’s ego combined with his wrongheaded worldview—and we’re paying the price today.

Lee Smith correctly argued that Obama entered office with an almost-obsessive urge to make a deal with the Iranians. As Smith shows, Obama’s hesitance to hit the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was likely due to his early commitment to making a deal-at-all-costs with Tehran. It can further explain why Obama was enthusiastic about letting the Russians handle eradicating Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, something no one seriously believed the Russians would—or could—do. Of course, we know that this has been proven correct in recent years, with tragic results.

Going back to 2009, it’s evident that the urge for a deal motivated Obama to ignore the mullahs’ crackdown on pro-democracy protesters marching in Tehran. I fear that it’s the reason for Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 after we had finally stabilized the situation there.

And Obama’s determination not only to push away our traditional Sunni Arab allies but also to support the Islamists in the Arab Spring (a movement that received massive support from Iran) is best explained in the context of his obsession with getting a deal.

Thanks to Israeli intelligence, we now know for certain that Obama’s Iran deal was a total failure. As he did regarding healthcare, Obama believed in an entirely unrealistic theory. He believed that the federal government knew best how to allocate limited medical resources to the American people. In the case of Iran, Obama believed in a bizarre theory that, if the United States distanced itself from its allies in Israel as well as those in the Sunni Arab world, and allowed for Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons, then a three-sided balance-of-power paradigm would emerge. Obama was willing to deceive and manipulate the process to get what he wanted at unprecedented levels.

Obama’s behavior pushing the Affordable Care Act and the Iran deal explain why 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016. They were tired of lies, manipulation, and failure.

Allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would induce a major war, not deter one—in much the same way that handing over the health care of 306 million Americans to the federal government would exacerbate the healthcare crisis in the United States rather than remedy it.

But Obama thought he knew better.

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Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Drugs • Economy • Government Reform • Healthcare • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • Trump White House

Mr. President, End the Collusion . . . in the Healthcare Industry

Between December 31, 2008 and April 2018, the S&P 500 saw 177 percent growth. By any measure, a strong performance for that nearly 10 year stretch.

But the S&P 500’s performance pales in comparison to that of Aetna Insurance. The health insurance giant saw its stock value go up by 445 percent in that same time frame. However, Aetna was outshone by Humana, which saw its stock go up 608 percent. Not to be outdone, United Health saw its stock grow by 655 percent. But the real winner in that time frame was Cigna, whose stock value grew by a whopping 866 percent.

To put a fine point on it, insurance companies outperformed the S&P 500 by anywhere from 2.5 times up to five times over nearly a decade.

What a coincidence. Or not, actually.

Insurance companies have been making record profits, as have health providers in the United States, specifically non-profit hospitals (which a majority of our hospitals are) over the last 10 years; the largest 84 hospital systems in the United States generated $535 billion in revenue in 2017 alone. One might actually be forgiven for thinking that ObamaCare has caused massive windfalls for insurance companies and healthcare providers.

Because, in fact, it did.

Americans need to understand that healthcare providers and health insurance companies really have the same goal: to increase prices. Which is perfectly fine if we were discussing a true free market approach to healthcare, which we’re not.

While we’ve heard the term “collusion” bandied about incorrectly for over a year regarding the fairytale of Trump/Russia collusion in the 2016 election, the term actually applies to businesses. The term is defined as “a secret arrangement between two parties whose interest seemingly conflict to commit fraud upon another party.”

We need to realize that health care providers and insurance companies have created a mutually beneficial racket. While on the surface it would appear they’re competing, by the numbers, they’re actually not and have created a very beneficial system for themselves while sticking it to the American people.

They are, in the truest sense of the word, colluding against the American people.

All of this has created a real problem for Republicans. They’ve done nothing while the insurance companies and providers have colluded against the American people to increase costs. They failed miserably to repeal ObamaCare last year, and as the clock keeps ticking on this time bomb of the American people’s anger at rising costs, Democrats are going to offer up their solution: socialized medicine. Single payer has always been a Progressive dream, and thanks to the dithering GOP leadership in Congress, the stage is being set for that very thing to happen.

Yet not all is lost. In fact, in one swift move, President Trump could completely flip the tables on Democrats, insurance companies, and nonprofit hospital systems while also rescuing Republican leadership from their idiocy. How? By going around Congress and using the power of the executive branch.  

Trump should inform Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin that the tax regulation regarding nonprofits offering services, should it be hospitals or even higher education, should be compelled to post prices once $20 million in revenue for services is reached.

It should be clear that this reform would only deal with nonprofits that offer services. Entities like the United Way or the Salvation Army would be excluded. And even the nonprofits that offer services would be allowed to keep their non-profit status if they post prices after a certain amount of revenue.

Trump can do this do this because it’s not tax code; it’s a regulation. Congress is not needed. All that needs to be done is to change the wording in regulation 1.501(c)(3)-1(A)(2)(I), (II) & (III) under IRC 501(c)(3) to say this:

An exempt purpose shall not include revenue from services exceeding $20,000,000, unless pricing for those services are readily available to the general public in the same manner as which they appear on an invoice for those services. Pricing shall include the list price, the average discount or grant, median price paid and average price paid. Readily available is defined as availability on public facing websites or on demand phone access.

That simple paragraph would revolutionize healthcare as we know it. It would turn the industry upside down.

By forcing pricing transparency, it would open up the industry to true free market forces: imagine hospitals forced into competitive pricing for procedures. Imagine insurance companies, because the costs are being driven down by competitive forces, not being able to gouge the American people with higher premiums and deductibles.

It’s not that hard to imagine. All Donald Trump has to do is decide he’s done seeing the American people abused by the health industry, he’s done watching GOP leadership dither away their majorities and then strike a bold and decisive move on behalf of everyday Americans.

Photo credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Europe • Healthcare • Obamacare • Post • Pro-Life • Religion and Society • self-government • The Courts • The Culture • the family • The Leviathian State

Alfie Evans: From the Cradle to the Grave

Offspring was not reared at the will of the father, but was taken and carried by him to a place called Lesche, where the elders of the tribes officially examined the infant, and if it was well-built and sturdy, they ordered the father to rear it…but if it was ill-born and deformed, they sent it to the so-called Apothetae, a chasm-like place at the foot of Mount Taÿgetus, in the conviction that the life of that which nature had not well equipped at the very beginning for health and strength, was of no advantage either to itself or the state.
—Plutarch (Lycurgus: 16)

Any parent can imagine another parent’s pain. And that imagining, though merely a sliver of the real suffering, is excruciating. I can think of no worse situation than having to choose whether or not to continue treating my child.

Actually, that’s not true. There is a worse situation.

When the state takes that choice away from me and decides, contrary to my own judgment, that it’s time for my child to die. When the state won’t allow me to do everything I can to keep my child alive. When the modern state, the benevolent state, the state ostensibly built on the foundations of altruism and good intentions has decided, in all its wisdom, to kill my child.

That is exactly what happened this week when the British government decided that 2-year-old Alfie Evans had to die. That any attempt to save him would be forbidden.

Like the cruel villain who would restrain parents—forcibly keeping their eyes open while their child dies—the British justice system has decided to impose death onto Alfie Evans and ordered that no attempt be made to keep him alive. Despite not having been able to actually diagnose his illness, they pulled out his breathing tubes. But Alfie didn’t die. So death by starvation it will have to be.

Attempts to save Alfie’s life are now criminal acts.

Justice indeed.

That same “justice” is now, through the threat of violence, staying the love of Alfie’s young parents, Tom 21, and Katie 20 and yet forcing them to watch their son starve to death. It is reminding them (and anyone else who may get ideas), at every turn, of their impotence in the face of its power. The Italian government and the Vatican have offered to provide medical care, but that too has been denied—on the grounds that the trip . . . might kill him. People are trying to smuggle life-saving equipment to the boy. They, too, are being forcibly removed from the hospital. It was reported that Alfie’s father tried to administer mouth to mouth to his dying boy. Frankly, I’m surprised that he wasn’t arrested on charges of practicing medicine without a license. Tom Evans has said “This is not justice. This is a cruel bureaucracy.” He was right.

We’ve moved well beyond slippery slopes at this point. We’ve reached the Chthonic valley that lies at their inevitable destination, the foot of our own Taÿgetus—at the intersection of good intentions and ultimate power. This is where bureaucracy has replaced the moral compass; where we’re told by our self-described betters that we are morally deficient if we try to keep our children alive; that there is innocent human life not only unworthy of saving, but that warrants extermination. We’re starting to see, quite vividly, the moral and civic destination of the road we have been on since the turn of the 20th century when, drunk with the hubris of progress and the perfectibility of society, we began to willingly cede our freedoms and identities to the ever-broadening notion of the benevolent and matronly state. To let her care for us from cradle to grave. Mother, after all, knows best. In this case, she thinks its time that you let your child die—the cradle has become the grave.

How truly magnificent must it be to get your broken arm set for free when the only price you have to pay is the possibility of the state determining that your child die.

And what of those who would complain, who would criticize this perversion of good intentions into this ghastly spectacle? They will, of course, be investigated by the police. Chief Inspector Chris Gibson made clear:

Merseyside Police has been made aware of a number of social media posts which have been made with reference to Alder Hey Hospital and the ongoing situation involving Alfie Evans. I would like to make people aware that these posts are being monitored and remind social media users that any offences including malicious communications and threatening behaviour will be investigated and where necessary will be acted upon.

Of course, “malicious” is just broad enough to mean anything the prosecutorial authorities so determine.

What’s worse, is that large swaths of people watch this and determine that the parents, not the state, are the villains. Alfie’s young parents are dismissed as low class (“chavs” being the most common term bandied about by their social media detractors), with some of the more incendiary commentators suggesting that sterilization is best for the likes of them, anyway. I wonder how the conversation would turn if the baby were not born to those in the lower socio-economic strata that Tom and Katie occupy.

Just this week Kate Middleton and Prince William had a baby.  It does make one wonder if, should this advantaged child be so unfortunate as to become as sick as young Alfie, whether he too would be forced to die at the time of the state’s choosing? Would the new Royal Baby be allowed to travel to Italy for medical care? Would this child of privilege be denied access to life-saving care all because the state thought it knew better? Somehow, I think the royals would find a way around that. They always do.  

It’s a good thing then, that we in America—or at least those of us called “deplorable”—continue to cling to our guns and religion. We cling to them because they exist as constant reminders of who we are, the ideals we value, and the things we would stand against. Our guns offering both, symbolic reminders of, and real protections against, this kind of state encroachment on our rights. And our religion that—even to the non-religious among us—affirms the metaphysical basis for our natural rights and inherent dignity, guarding us against the kind of moral and spiritual rot that would allow seemingly good and intelligent people ever to consider that starving a child is ethically superior to allowing his loving parents to do everything in their power to extend his life.

Photo credit: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Congress • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Drugs • Foreign Policy • GOPe • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Law and Order • Post • The Media • Trump White House

Primary Trump is Making a Comeback

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy during the infamous escalator ride of June 16, 2015, his speech was unconventional, to say the least. In fact, as the primary went on, “unconventional” practically became Trump’s calling card when it came to campaigning. The ways that Trump managed this at the level of communication have been endlessly analyzed, and there is no need to rehearse them here.

What people seem to forget in the flood of analysis and agonizing over Trump’s unrehearsed Twitter-fied style is that candidate Trump was also unconventional when it came to ideas. Despite his much-advertised skills as a builder, it would be more accurate to say that Trump took a wrecking ball to the epistemic closure that had permeated the Republican Party since the election of Barack Obama.

Pre-Trump candidates stood unilaterally in favor of a dogmatic sort of free trade, for example. Trump openly and loudly proclaimed his support for tariffs. Pre-Trump candidates refused to say anything in favor of legalizing drugs. Trump favored medical marijuana. Pre-Trump candidates favored slashing entitlements. Trump quite fiercely did not. Pre-Trump candidates attacked any attempt to use government power to check abuses by major actors in the healthcare sector as pleas for socialized medicine. Trump charged those companies with “getting away with murder” and suggested he might negotiate with them using Medicare as a cudgel. Pre-Trump candidates were uniformly in favor of foreign policy adventurism to “spread democracy” and court war even with major superpowers like Russia. Trump was just the opposite.

For much of his first year after taking office, to the disappointment of his supporters, Trump abandoned most of these differing views. His penchant for trade protectionism was the one arguable exception, but even there, Trump was more frustrated by his staff than talked out of his opinion. Those of us who hoped for a new Republican party resigned ourselves to being happy that at least Trump was changing the GOP’s tone-deaf style of communication, but this was cold comfort.

Until this year.

Although the media remains largely fixated on the most superficial drama in the Trump White House, the past few weeks have seen President Trump take serious steps to shift away from his GOP establishment handlers, and back toward the things on which he campaigned. The press’s only response has been to hyperventilate about Trump being “unleashed,” but really, the better term for what looks to be happening in the White House is “realignment,” with Trump’s political instincts leading the way.

As a starter, Trump has apparently decided to stop outsourcing his drug policy to the extremely anti-drug Jeff Sessions, and seems to be returning to his original position. As Reason reported last week, Trump has overruled Sessions’ decision to prosecute those who distribute drugs in states that have chosen to legalize drug use and resale, and now favors a “states’ rights” bill that would codify this as the law of the land.

True, Trump is still promising to execute drug dealers, but the people he seems to have in mind for that are more the sorts who sell illegal opioids, rather than potheads who run medical marijuana shops. And, to be fair, the former are far more dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous groups who sell drugs to vulnerable people in unscrupulous ways, that’s another area where the Trump Administration has shifted gears. A recent story in the New York Times reveals that President Trump’s Food and Drug Administration head, Scott Gottlieb, has begun aggressively pushing back on pharmaceutical companies’ attempts to strangle competition by shutting out generic drug manufacturers from creating competing products under increasingly dodgy pretexts.

Further, the Trump White House now appears fully to support the CREATES Act, a bill that would permit generic drug companies more effectively to hold their brand name competitors’ feet to the fire over anticompetitive behavior and guarantee their right to acquire drug samples for clinical trials, once the FDA approves those trials. It’s a common-sense bill that has managed the incredible task of uniting the likes of Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). Naturally, the anticompetitive giants in Pharma hate it.

Where this kind of about-facing can lead, we can only guess. Perhaps Trump will force his Health and Human Services Department to stop seeking to cripple the 340B drug pricing program, which uses a voluntary version of his negotiation-through-Medicare strategy to obtain lower prices for the very people who mostly live in Trump country? Perhaps his apparent one-off missile strike against Syria will turn out to be a pretext to withdraw from the country now that Assad has been reminded of the United States’  resolve to combat the use of chemical weapons? Perhaps Trump will even make good on his promise to go in imposing tariffs until America’s most crooked competitors reform themselves, as Xi Jinping’s China seems inclined to do as of late?

Who knows? But whatever else happens, these pivots are good news. Count me on the side of letting Trump be Trump—or, in this case, let primary Trump be President Trump.

Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Congress • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Elections • GOPe • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Immigration • Political Parties • Post • Republicans

Good Riddance, Mr. Speaker

In 2016, Wisconsin turned red for Donald Trump but Paul Ryan’s Janesville remained stubbornly blue—so perhaps it is no surprise that the speaker of the House won’t seek re-election. For Republicans, this is an unalloyed good. For his entire career, Mr. Ryan has been the wunderkind who couldn’t deliver.

As the No. 2 on the Romney ticket in 2012, he was supposed to add youth, depth and a key that would unlock coveted Midwestern electoral votes. He didn’t do that, either. It required the New Yorker Donald Trump to pick that lock.

This didn’t worry Mr. Ryan’s many supporters among the Republican ruling class. Congress, they assured us, was his natural habitat. In 2015, his reputation for policy-oriented nerdiness got him the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, where he was supposed to reform the nation’s entire fiscal regime with a superhuman knowledge of both the details and the substance of the nation’s finances. He didn’t.

Undaunted, Mr. Ryan took the speaker’s chair later that year after playing Hamlet and claiming implausibly that he didn’t want the job and would accept it only if Republicans thrust it upon him. He promised fidelity to the conservative catechism and a return to budget sanity, but he didn’t follow through. His fecklessness led the Tea Party base that had swept him and his colleagues to power to grow even more disenchanted with the Republican congressional leadership.

For seven years, the leadership raised countless millions of dollars and won first the House, then the Senate, and finally the presidency, in part by promising to repeal Obamacare. Nothing was more central to Republican identity between 2010 and the rise of President Trump. But when given the chance, Mr. Ryan couldn’t get the House to pass repeal. The bill the House finally sent to the Senate wasn’t a repeal but a dilution. It never became law, either.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

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America • California • Cities • Education • Healthcare • Post • The Culture • The Media

America Has a Loneliness Epidemic

Americans are lonely. Our loneliness is killing us.

It’s true. Loneliness is deadlier than obesity. Deadlier than smoking. And, yes, a great deal deadlier than the “assault weapons” some people are so obsessed with banning lately. A gun might kill more quickly, but loneliness will hasten death as surely as a bullet. One in five Americans, for example, say loneliness is “a major source of unhappiness in their lives.” At the same time, around 30 million Americans take antidepressants of one kind or another. Are we depressed because we’re lonely or we lonely because we’re depressed?

You may have seen news stories about “the loneliness epidemic.” It’s a real thing, not a public-relations gimmick. The man who coined the term about a decade ago passed away earlier this month . . . 

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee

Democrats • Donald Trump • feminists • Healthcare • Law and Order • Obama • Post • Pro-Life • Progressivism • The Constitution • The Courts • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Contraceptive Ruling Shows Breathtaking Judicial Arrogance

In a mostly unnoticed manner, lower federal courts are actively blocking President Trump’s agenda. National injunctions, a once-rare legal practice, are now almost de rigeur among lower court judges; a way to gain national attention by using regional cases to bind the hands of the executive.

It is a national injunction that is currently blocking President Trump’s efforts to overturn the requirement in Obamacare which mandates employers to cover FDA-approved contraception at no cost to the woman.

The Obama administration went to absurd lengths to enforce this mandate, taking the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, to court and threatening them with approximately $75 million in fines each year for their failure to comply with the contraceptive mandate, which they opposed on religious grounds. (The Catholic Church does not support birth control.)

In October of 2017, President Trump issued new regulations allowing business owners with “sincerely held” religious or moral objections to opt out of the mandate. “The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions,” the administration wrote in the new rules.

But a judge in Pennsylvania was having none of it. After Trump’s new regulations were challenged in court, Judge Wendy Beetlestone, an Obama appointee to the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the Trump Administration must continue enforcing the contraceptive mandate, regardless of religious or conscience grounds.

In her ruling, Judge Beetlestone determined that lack of access to free birth control would cause “serious and irreparable harm” to the women of Pennsylvania, who would have to “forgo contraception entirely or choose cheaper but less effective methods.” The result of this, according to Beetlestone, would be an increase in unintended pregnancies which would then “inflict economic harm on the Commonwealth” in the form of additional costs for state-funded health programs.

Beetlestone then applied the injunction nationally, subjecting the rest of the country to what can only be described as her torturous application of the irreparable harm standard.

What makes the ruling even more stunning, however, is the fact that in it, Beetlestone conceded that the state “has not identified any individual who has lost coverage already.” Regardless, she determined “there is no need to wait for the axe to fall” before applying her injunction.

In other words, the whole basis of the case—whether or not the women of Pennsylvania would suffer irreparable harm if a handful of business owners stop providing free access to birth control for religious reasons—remained unproven. Quite literally, the “irreparable harm” that was the stated reason for binding the entire country under this district court’s ruling, hadn’t even happened.

Yet, in a breathtaking degree of judicial arrogance, Beetlestone still took the extraordinary step of halting, nationally, the implementation of executive authority on the grounds that future women will suffer terribly if they have to go buy a pack of $20 birth control.

She was joined six days later by Judge Haywood Gilliam from the Northern District of California, who cited the “dire public health and fiscal consequences” of allowing religious and conscience-based exemptions.

The efforts of Judges Beetlestone and Gilliam are blatant examples of the lower courts actively seeking to thwart key components of President Trump’s agenda—and doing so successfully.

As a result of these national injunctions, the Trump Administration is blocked from pursuing its regulatory agenda—over which it has clear authority. Unless and until the administration appeals the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, two regional judges from Pennsylvania and California will have blocked the president from doing what he was elected to do.

This bleed of power from the executive into the judiciary is a dangerous trend. On a practical level, it is allowing district courts—the lowest level of the U.S. legal system—to determine what laws can be enforced. And this is a problem. Judges are intended to interpret the law, not render subjective determinations on what it “should” be.

But from a broader, historical perspective, the balance of powers in America is shifting. With national injunctions on the rise, it is no longer an expectation that an elected president will be able to govern as the Constitution intended. Rather, his constitutional and electoral mandate will be subject to the whims of the courts; to the personalities of lower court judges in far-flung regions of the country.

This is exactly what is happening as lower courts are blocking the president’s efforts on everything from the contraceptive mandate to environmental regulations. It’s an insidious shift in the balance of powers that was warned against by the Framers. Their counsel in these matters remains relevant.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to his wife in 1804, “Nothing in the Constitution has given them [the federal judges] a right to decide for the Executive . . . the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves . . . but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.” Jefferson was right. Judges Beetlestone and Gilliam are indeed despots in black robes.

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America • American Conservatism • Congress • Conservatives • Democrats • Government Reform • Healthcare • History • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • Republicans • Second Amendment • self-government • The Culture • the family • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Forget Gun Control: Bring Back Mental Hospitals

After another inexplicable act of violence in Parkland Florida claimed 17 lives, the usual chorus (and some of the not so usual chorus) is screaming for gun control. We don’t need gun control; we need nut control.

With the first one constructed in 1773, our country has a history of building and maintaining mental hospitals. In 1955, the United States had more than 100 mental hospitals with a population of over 560,000 people.

The U.S. population in 1955 was around 165 million. Today, with a population around 323 million, we can safely assume more than 1 million people would be institutionalized by 1955 standards.

Where are these millions of people who should be in mental hospitals? Living in our communities, wandering the streets while arguing with imaginary figures, or in prison having been declared to be insane, but competent after having committed a crime.

Many purportedly smart people run around decrying inanimate objects for causing death and mayhem. Our streets, schools, workplaces have become killing grounds because any lunatic can get his hands on a gun (or guns) and carry out a massacre. But a closer inspection of the headlines reveals a myriad of machete attacks, people pushed into oncoming subway cars, a man holed up in a bunker, and ex-cop on a bloody rampage—and who can forget the bath salts man who cannibalized a man on the streets of Miami? And so it goes with each bizarre and horrible story replaced by the next stupefying act of insanity.

Why is this happening? Guns? We’ve had guns for centuries.

The real and ignored reason is a policy called “deinstitutionalization,” which is a fancy way of saying “let’s close the mental hospitals to save money.”

Like most bad ideas sprouted in the 1960s, poor judgment coupled with the fever of the civil rights movement thought it would be a good idea to give crazy people “rights” and let them live in the community. Now, 60 years later and “off their meds,” they terrorize their families and hold entire communities hostage. In an earlier, “less enlightened” time they would have been committed and cared for in a mental hospital at the taxpayers expense. People like the Parkland shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Arizona Congresswoman shooter, the Denver theater shooter (dressed like the Joker no less) would have all been put away a long time ago. The homeless, who self-medicate with booze and illegal drugs, the machete killers, the subway pushers all would have been brooding from within the confines of their local mental institution.

Closing the mental hospitals was a particularly cruel idea. The notion that people with raging mental illnesses could be medicated and set loose upon the streets and in our communities is insane in its own right. This is an arrangement from which no one benefits. How does such a thing happen?

It is simple. The fiscal “conservatives” of that day saw a way to cut the expenses of operating large mental institutions. They made common cause with the Left of that time because they believed in that nonsensical notion of people having a “right” to wander the streets and sleep in their own feces. It’s a political partnership made in hell.

And when it fails, we tend to blame the guns, the drugs, or the bath salts. These simple minded schemes are much easier to sell to an already dumbed down public and much easier than actually rounding up the nuts and putting them back in mental hospitals. The current arrangement offers nothing to those suffering from serious mental illness or to their families who seek help before it’s too late. Nor does it improve the quality of life in our society. It is unspeakably cruel to tell someone that they are merely enjoying their freedom to sleep on the streets.

And as it happens, we aren’t really even saving any money. Today, the costs are spread to the prisons, the courts, the emergency rooms, the streets of our cities, our schools and universities, and our concert venues, and all paid for in triplicate with the blood of innocents. So once again let’s ban guns, box cutters, cargo vans, machetes and samurai swords—but by all means let’s not have a serious discussion about 60 years of poor mental health policy.

We need to reopen the mental hospitals and start filling them once again.

Image copyright: arquiplay77 / 123RF Stock Photo

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Mental Health or Nihilism?

On January 29, the Senate defeated a bill that would have outlawed abortion beyond 20 weeks (five months) gestation. Reaction was swift on the part of pro-life citizens.

“We cannot tolerate a society and live in a country with any level of pride when our babies are being slaughtered … the effect of this extreme violence on a human body—especially the body of a child,” is one statement of recent vintage.

This statement was not uttered in defense of innocent pre-born human life, however. It was not a reaction to the violence of abortion. It was the reaction to the Ash Wednesday slaughter of 17 teens and their teachers by one of the staunchest supporters of unlimited and unrestricted abortion, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).  Ironic? Hypocritical? Tone deaf? Immoral?  

Let’s see what she did say about the bill she voted against last month: “The GOP has scheduled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban on Monday. Add your name to demand Congress votes down this immoral bill.” 

She claims to have moral standards, but what are they?

Her use of the word indicates that she understands there to be such a thing as a definite and defined morality but, confusingly, she defines it as both the unfettered need for any woman to rid herself of the child in her body (in ways that  are documented to be as violent as anything that happened in Parkland) and the killing of those teens.  

Our reaction to the shooting in Florida last week and debate about how to prevent another has brought produced many proposals, one being the desperate need to address the seeming explosion of “mental health” issues especially among the mostly young men who are perpetrating these mass shootings.

It may well be the case that we do have a crisis of mental illness as well as inadequate means of addressing that problem in America. But it is also fairly obvious that America is now suffering from a nihilism crisis. Kamala Harris’ remarks above offer a perfect illustration of it.

Kamala Harris has risen in the ranks of her party to become a very powerful legislator and is rumored to be considering a run for her party’s nomination for president in 2020. And yet, she doesn’t seem to have a grasp on life’s most important question. What is life? And why does it or why does it not have value? She’s not mentally ill, obviously, so what is her diagnosis? Hypocrisy? Opportunism? And how does she get away with the obvious contradictions in her moral thinking?

It’s not mental illness that allows two completely contradictory moral standards to hold sway in our culture—it’s nihilism. The lack of moral standards has taken over our entertainment, our politics,  and sadly, the education of our children. Clearly defined morality has no place in the public square. From “do your own thing” in the 1960s to John Lennon’s ubiquitous anthem “Imagine,” the nihilism steeped in our culture encourages us to accept that moral and religious standards are in the past and not necessary. It’s led to obvious contradictions in our public life.

The media fell in love with the North Korean dictator’s sister during her propaganda visit to the Olympics and seemed very pleased that she was “winning the diplomacy games” over Vice President Mike Pence. They scorned him for not shaking her hand and didn’t seem to understand why the vice president would shun her. She participates in the starving and torturing of her own people and imprisons foreigners for the slightest of offenses. She knows that her own brother and great uncle were murdered at the hand of her brother. Otto Warmbier’s parents know why Mike Pence didn’t shake that woman’ hand. But the media have their own calculus and up against the sister of a murderous dictator, Mike Pence, the Christian conservative, comes up short. It’s no contest for the nihilists.

The “Me Too” movement lives side by side with the enormous financial success (mainly fueled by the ticket purchases of young women) of a book and film series about bondage and sadism towards women, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The latest film has made more than $150 million.

Is Kamala Harris’ worldview our future? Will her confusion about the value of human life become our lodestar? Or is there something we can do to confront the inherent dangers in that way of thinking?

What was the point of all those visits to the shooter by law enforcement? Was there any solution offered? Was there any concept of what was the right thing to do in a case such as his? Does our new culture restrict law enforcement and community leaders from holding someone like the shooter to account for his anti-social and immoral behavior or were our laws and restrictions ineffective because we prize allowing everyone “do his own thing” without interference or moral judgment? Were opportunities missed to correct his violent tendencies because people in authority were reluctant to insist his behavior was unacceptable even though it may not have been legally actionable.

He was expelled from school, but was there ever any intervention in his life by teachers or law enforcement to teach him about his moral obligations to his fellow students or neighbors? Even if there was some pro forma attempt, we know that people like him when corrected receive almost no reinforcement from our culture—a culture that allows a senator to believe that denying a mother the right to abort her child in the sixth, seventh, eighth or even ninth month of her pregnancy is an immoral law.

If we don’t address the nihilism in our culture—the absence of agreed upon moral standards—the contradictions inherent in our confused civilization will continue to manifest themselves in ugly ways. Vague attempts at solving mental health issues or restricting access to particular types of weapons will merely paper over the real and very dangerous problems of a culture that does not value human life and is confused about what is right and what is wrong.

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Be Grateful Trump Broke the Overton Window

On the eve of the first anniversary President Trump’s Inauguration, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said something remarkable. It points to why many of us are Trump enthusiasts even if the president does sometimes make us cringe. Defending religious freedom and diversity, McCarthy nonetheless took on the cultural Left’s ubiquitous cliché that “diversity is our strength”: “We did not survive, grow, and become the most powerful civilization in human history because we were focused on our diversity,” he cautioned. “It is not our differences that make us stronger. It is our unity despite our diversity–unity of past, of principles, and of purpose that brought us out of many into one.” Watch it here.

The statement by itself is really not remarkable. Indeed, up until just yesterday in our political life, it was something of a cliché itself—accepted across the political spectrum. And though Leftists surely would have it otherwise, its Latin shorthand, “e pluribus unum” (“out of many, one”), hasn’t yet been replaced by that mindless refrain of “diversity is our strength” on our coins.  

What makes McCarthy’s statement remarkable is that he said it even though he knew it would outrage the Left as, naturally, it did. In our politically correct and stupid politics today, any common-sense proposition reflecting the philosophy that has been crucial to our nation’s rich immigrant history has become unspeakable in either party. At least it had been for awhile until Trump came on the scene.

To put it bluntly, Kevin McCarthy would not have been capable of saying this if Donald Trump were not President. No one in the GOP leadership, or even on the back benches outside of a minuscule and disregarded fringe, would have dreamed of saying anything like it. And if they had said it, not only would they have been viciously attacked as “racist” and “xenophobic” (because that will happen today, regardless), there would have been almost no one— even in their own party, never mind the media or the entire Fortune 1000 corporate elite—who would stand to defend them.

This illustrates the strongest argument I saw for Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 campaign. It was made, ironically, by National Review’s David French in an insightful December, 2015 column before he turned NeverTrump. The column discussed “the Overton Window,” a concept developed by the late Joseph Overton of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy which refers to the range of acceptable political debate.

The key to shifting policy lies … in changing the terms of the debate,” French explained. And, on issue after issue, he observed, Trump, even in the first few months of his campaign, had more than changed it: “he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller.” In doing this, he had “begun the process of freeing the American people from the artificial and destructive constraints of Left-defined discourse. Serious and substantive politicians like Ted Cruz will get a more respectful hearing, and PC shibboleths about allegedly boundless virtues of Islam and immigration will be treated with the skepticism they deserve.

Or, as I summarized French’s argument at the time, “by saying outrageous things Trump is shifting the boundaries of the political debate that have been set by the P.C. Left and is making it possible for others to say reasonable things.”

McCarthy’s resurrection of the old assimilationist consensus on immigration is a particularly happy example of this rollback of politically correct orthodoxy. The idea at the heart of this consensus—that we are all Americans first, bound together by a shared culture and common political understanding that unites us—was a big part of what allowed the country to integrate tens of millions of immigrants in the first place. We have been the most successful example of cultural melding in history. By contrast, the divisive ideology of multiculturalism makes the task of living together in harmony with people of different origins more difficult and conflict-prone, ironically increasing anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet “assimilation” and the idea of America as a “melting pot,” once movingly extolled by liberals, became dirty words as Leftists replaced liberals and we entered the age of multiculturalism. In the age of Trump it is becoming possible to speak this forbidden language again.

Would I much prefer Kevin McCarthy breaching this and all the other PC taboos in the way he did on “diversity” the other day to Donald Trump breaching them in the way he too often does? Of course. But Trump made it possible. And for that, all who value diversity of thought should be grateful.

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Planned Parenthood Leader Getting Out While the Getting’s Good

Cecile Richards who became president of Planned Parenthood in 2006 will soon step down. Her future plans have not been disclosed, but Richard’s press release stated those plans will be discussed at a Planned Parenthood Board meeting next week.

However, with her memoir—Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage—to be published in April, Richards will undoubtedly spend months on the road touting her book. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, describes the author as someone who

“shines a light on the people and lessons that have gotten her through good times and bad, and encourages readers to take risks, make mistakes, and make trouble along the way.”

The right and wrong of abortion aside, Richards has passed through quite a gauntlet during her eleven years at the helm of the largest abortion provider in the country. In spite of criticism from the pro-life lobby, she managed during the Obama years to raise the level of federal funding to half a billion dollars or about 40 percent of its overall budget.

In return for that investment, Planned Parenthood performed an average of 300,000 abortions each year during Richard’s tenure, amounting to an approximate total of 3.5 million. However, it has also been reported that during the same period other services declined: Chuck Donovan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute read through all the annual reports of Planned Parenthood between 2004 and 2016, finding “total cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, including Pap smears, breast exams, and colposcopies (the organization does not perform mammograms), declined from more than 2 million per year to just under 634,000, a reduction of more than 70 percent.”

Thus, under Cecile Richard’s tenure, it became more and more difficult to describe her organization as one merely interested in “women’s health.” As Donovan concludes, by 2015, the organization operated with a “nearly exclusive focus on abortion.”

Richard’s more serious challenge arose in July 2015 when the first of the undercover videos was released by David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress. Thousands of hours of video shot inside of Planned Parenthood clinics show officials openly discussing the selling of fetal body parts to outside vendors. The videos were dismissed by Richards and her supporters, as well as most of the media, for being “highly edited” as well as illegally obtained.

However, the claim that the footage was “highly edited” is not credible since two of Planned Parenthood’s business partners have pleaded guilty to selling baby parts from Planned Parenthood. Da Vinci Biosciences and DV Biologics settled for $7.8 million in a lawsuit brought by the Orange County District Attorney. According to the Los Angeles Times, The two companies illegally sold fetal brain tissue “for up to $1,100 per vial” to pharmaceutical companies and universities around the world.

Whether litigation of this nature will ever impact Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood remains to be seen. At least 16 states have defunded Planned Parenthood as a result of that investigation, with many others considering similar action. In addition, many of its clinics have shut down by protesters—leaving just 597 clinics at the end of 2017 compared with 700 in 1973.

Given the threat of legal action, the decline of state funding, the threat of federal defunding, and the loss of local clinics, Cecile Richards is leaving Planned Parenthood at a good time. She can ride into her book tour with a credible reputation among those who are disposed towards supporting Planned Parenthood and her leadership.

Her possible entry into politics has been raised, but not by Richards herself. The deadline for filing with the Texas secretary of state to run for governor has already passed. I think it would be very difficult for Richards to be elected to any state or national office with the growing validation of the undercover videos shot by the Center for Medical Progress. Regardless of how voters feel about abortion, it’s safe to say many abortion supporters draw the line at dismembering and selling a child’s body parts.

It is probable that Richards will end up as a media pundit, a think-tanker, a paid official with the Democratic Party, or, most likely, a highly paid speaker on the lecture circuit among friendly corporations and nearly all colleges and universities.

From the perspective of Planned Parenthood supporters, they have lost an effective and attractive leader, one who will be hard to replace. From the opposite perspective, the loss of effective leadership is welcome, but the question remains, who will replace Cecile Richards?

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Trump is Not to Blame for the Downfall of the California GOP

As a lifelong Californian, there are few political lies more infuriating to me than the suggestion, repeated recently in the New York Times, that President Trump is somehow at fault for the decline of the California Republican Party.

The story goes something like this: Because Trump is tough on immigration, he has made Republicans even more unpopular in the Golden State, because the large Latino population allegedly cannot abide restrictions on illegal immigration. The recently announced retirements of long-time Republican congressmen Ed Royce and Darrell Issa underscores the Times’s claim.

If only it were so simple. Republicans in California have been on the decline for the better part of 25 years. In 1994, Republican Governor Pete Wilson championed Proposition 187, a ballot measure that sought to bar illegal aliens from receiving public services such as education and healthcare. Although the initiative passed with almost 59 percent of the vote, it was undone by legal challenges. A left-wing federal judge eventually struck down the law, ruling that enforcing immigration laws was the federal government’s responsibility.

Majorities of every ethnic group in California supported Prop. 187—except Latinos. California’s Democrats saw the messaging potential in the aftermath of that divisive campaign. As the effects of President Reagan’s amnesty in 1986 combined with the strength of the state’s agricultural labor market (which drew thousands of new immigrant laborers), Democrats knew that turning Latinos against Republicans would pay off in the long run.

And it did. A study by the Field Institute shows a clear drop in Latino support for California Republicans after 1994. Republican Governor George Deukmejian received 46 percent of the Latino vote in his 1986 reelection campaign. Wilson got 47 percent of the Latino vote in 1990. That number plunged to less than 25 percent in 1994—about the same number that supported Prop. 187. Since then, the Republican share of the Latino vote in California has never risen above 30 percent, with the sole exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election in 2006, when he drew roughly 39 percent.

Schwarzenegger’s disappointing tenure as governor was born out of the post-Prop. 187 mindset that the rightward drift of the party (especially, but not limited to immigration) was to blame for Republicans’ waning fortunes statewide. State party leaders and their donors concluded that a hardline position on anything was a loser, and so a great rush to the center began.

Schwarzenegger blurred the lines between Democrats and Republicans as he raised taxes, supported same-sex marriage, and gave the state government nearly unlimited power to regulate the energy market to reduce carbon emissions. Despite initial Republican opposition to some of his more left-wing policies, Schwarzenegger’s landslide reelection in 2006 seemed to vindicate his moderate approach, and was directly responsible for the moderation of the party as a whole.

The result speaks for itself. The most recent GOP gubernatorial nominee was Neel Kashkari, an Illinois native and now president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He ran in 2014 as “a different kind of Republican,” which is to say, not much of a Republican at all. He was pro-same sex marriage, pro-amnesty, pro-abortion, pro-gun control, supported government regulations on carbon emissions, and, incidentally, voted for Barack Obama in 2008 over John McCain. Jerry Brown crushed him by 19 points. Brown had a bit more of a challenge in 2010 with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who ran as a Schwarzenegger clone. She lost by just 11 points. Whitman has gone on to establish herself as an outspoken anti-Trump Republican. She endorsed and donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign while comparing Donald Trump to Hitler and Mussolini.

Other moderates in the state party have hurt its standing in the legislature as well. Former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang lost a state senate election in 2016, in a reliably red district, because she had voted for several anti-gun bills. This led to the Democrats regaining a two-thirds “supermajority” in that chamber.

Former Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes led eight Republican legislators in 2017 to vote with the Democrats for a bill to extend the state’s “cap-and-trade” program, which sets limits on greenhouse gas emissions and allows “polluters” to buy special licenses from the state. Mayes was forced to resign after over 20 county central committees and the state party’s board all called on him to step down.

Now, Schwarzenegger and Mayes have formed a new organization called “New Way California” with the idea of making the party even more moderate. Chang is considered a potential candidate for Royce’s seat, while one of the eight Republicans who voted for cap-and-trade—Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside—is running for Issa’s seat, with Schwarzenegger’s endorsement. Chavez told the New York Times he would not have voted for last year’s historic tax reform bill.

And yet Schwarzenegger, Mayes, and the Times would have you believe that Trump is to blame for the state party’s implosion. Bill Whalen, a former aide to Pete Wilson who has remained staunchly loyal to his former boss, told the Times that the California GOP’s real problem is having to defend Trump’s positions.

But Trump’s polarizing presidency doesn’t explain the fact that the party’s registration numbers in the Golden State have plummeted from 37.2 percent in 1994 to 25.9 percent. Democrats, meanwhile, have 44.8 percent of registered voters. Trump’s presidency cannot explain why not one Republican has won a statewide contest since 2006. Trump’s existence does not explain why Republicans were completely shut out of the 2016 California U.S. Senate race. Under the state’s insipid top-two primary law—a moderate Republican-backed initiative, by the way—two Democrats faced off in the general election. Trump won’t be at fault, either, if and when the Republicans are excluded from this year’s gubernatorial race.

And never mind the fact that not a single House Republican in California lost their seat in 2016—the one year that was most ripe for a Republican reckoning over Trump’s candidacy. Even Republicans in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton—such as David Valadao in Kern County, Steve Knight in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, Darrell Issa in north San Diego County, and Jeff Denham in Modesto—all survived their reelection bids with relative ease. Where was this “Trump effect” then?

No, pay no mind to such bothersome facts. Moderate Republicans and their fair-weather fans in the mainstream press would rather peddle the tale that Trump, who launched his presidential campaign in mid-2015, is to blame for 24 years of Republican folly. Right. As the future president said in his cameo appearance on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: “Everybody’s always blaming me for everything.”

Only state Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte gets it right. Brulte rejects the narrative that Trump’s presidency is pushing “a party already struggling closer to the brink.” “Republicans lost every statewide race in California in 2002, 2010 and 2014, before Donald Trump even announced he was running for president,” he told the Times. Anyone arguing otherwise, Brulte added, is “a revisionist historian.”

California Republicans, with very few exceptions, never seem to learn from their mistakes. The rhetoric surrounding Proposition 187 may have been a blunder, but it needn’t have been fatal. Republicans instead decided to moderate themselves into irrelevance. The result now is that statewide elections are no longer referendums on Democrats versus Republicans, but moderate-Left Democrats versus hard-Left Democrats. Why bother with ersatz Democrat Republicans when Californians can choose the real thing?

Trump’s presidency is an opportunity for the Republicans to reinvigorate themselves. California’s pale-pastel Republicans seem intent repeating the same old mistakes.  

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Abortion Remains the Left’s Lodestar

After Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Democrats fashioned themselves into a permanent, readily identifiable, and divisive faction—“#TheResistance”—in an unprecedented attempt to delegitimize a duly elected president and rollback the outcome of a free and fair election. It’s nearly impossible to overstate how radical this was. And yet, the Left offered more proof of how uninterested it is in even sharing power, let alone wielding it responsibly.

Not to be outdone, the party’s abortion arm has geared up to fight in the “War on Women, Part 87,567,” which was sparked by an eminently humane policy meant to offer some reprieve in a real war zone: abortion politics. Ohio Governor John Kasich last month signed a bill that prohibits doctors from performing abortions in cases where tests reveal the fetus has or likely has Down Syndrome. The legislation goes into effect in March.

Abortion zealots immediately sprang into action. Los Angeles Times columnist Jamil Smith scoffed at the notion that Kasich is a “moderate” for barring discrimination in the womb based upon fetal chromosome count because true moderates like Smith know the “decent” and “compassionate” course of action is for the strong to ruthlessly and violently purge their society of the weak—of innocents who look a bit different from them. Take notes, you misogynistic bigots: To be truly enlightened and “woke,” you must allow nothing to stop the march of History—not even piles upon piles of bodies.

NARAL had the audacity to tweet that the law “shames women” and “exploits them”; the mangled corpses of countless, blameless children were unavailable to comment on how “shamed” and “exploited” being aborted made them feel. Even out-of-staters felt the need to chime in. Renato Mariotti tweeted that, when he becomes the Illinois Attorney General, he’ll “build a wall around reproductive rights and fight any attempt to criminalize abortion.” “Walls are evil!” the progressive shouts—except when those walls protect the “right” to fetal mass murder.

And lest one think these are fringe one-offs, recall that in April, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez were blasted by Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, for supporting Heath Mello, a candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Mello deviated only slightly from the Democrats’ abortion orthodoxy, but that was too much for NARAL. The DNC made it clear that the endorsement was from Sanders alone and not the DNC as a whole. (Mello went on to lose to Republican incumbent Jean Stothert.) And Doug Jones, the newly-sworn-in U.S. senator from Alabama, wouldn’t know what a sensible abortion regulation was if it came dressed as an opportunity to win in a deep red state by a comfortable margin (instead of by barely more than 1 percent) against an accused child molester opponent, Roy Moore.

One wonders if the phrase, “Life unworthy of life”—Lebensunwertes Leben—rings a bell or means anything to these ghouls.

The broader lesson in all this is quite simple: Compromise on abortion isn’t possible. The pro-life and pro-choice positions are mutually exclusive. A country dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”—one of which is life itself—cannot long abide a regime, ensconced in law, which permits the murder of children in utero with impunity and is regarded by many with utter apathy. Or, shockingly, as a positive good! As Lincoln said in his famous “house divided” speech of 1858, a nation cannot exist half-slave and half-free, or, in this case, half-pro-life and half-pro-choice: “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

This also means that those on the Right who are tempted to think that the Left can be an ally in some way if the question of abortion is simply bracketed and pushed aside need to stop being so delusional. If it weren’t abundantly clear before, one would have to be willfully blind at this point not to realize that abortion is the lodestar of the modern Democratic Party, the locus upon which it turns—its central sacrament. And religious zealots don’t compromise on their beliefs.

Democrats will not budge on the nonsensical idea that abortion is “health care” and that a woman should be free to have a “doctor” exterminate the life within her womb. So committed are they to ensuring the continued existence and expansion of the “right” to abortion, they cannot even concede that the barbaric procedure should have to conform to basic anti-discrimination principles. (Ask yourself: Would Democrats allow any other policy besides abortion to be administered with bias based on some immutable characteristic?) Discrimination, hate, and picking on the little guy are first-order evils to our sophisticated man of the Left—except when the little guy being discriminated against and destroyed with the vilest hate imaginable is a fetus with Down Syndrome.

A party that will contort itself so dramatically to keep the machinery of death running smoothly simply cannot be reasoned with, and at the first opportunity, it will betray all “Never Trump” conservatives and squishy right-wing folks who think it can be. Recognizing this, the Right should press the issue, continuing to methodically tighten its legal, cultural, and political vise grips around the Left with the goal of extinguishing abortion—just as we did chattel slavery in the 19th century.

The Democrats make a mockery of the principle of equality even if abortion is left out of the picture—i.e., because they think it most plausibly means “equality of outcome” when the only real and possible equality is formal or procedural equality—but this is beyond shameful and morally retrograde. We cannot allow the Left’s eugenic mindset, a mindset that exists because of the Left’s principles, not in spite of them, to once again take root in modern America.

The Left clearly cannot break this fever, so the Right should do it for them by crushing them at the ballot box, in court, and in the culture. Down syndrome babies and babies everywhere deserve no less.