Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As I went about my normal activities on a typical Sunday morning, it seemed that everywhere I went, I was confronted by anxious and angry people who understood that a monumental event was about to take place that would change the course of the nation forever. Many people between church and Sunday school at the Grace Chapel Presbyterian Church were deeply offended because the vote in the Congress on nationalized health care was to take place on a Sunday. Others were concerned about the tremendous debt and tax burden that was about to be placed on their children and grandchildren. Still others were outraged by the procedural maneuvers that were taking place to make it appear that Democratic congressmen were voting against Obamacare when in fact they would vote for it. But to a man and woman they were uniformly worried about the socialistic direction that the country was taking and were outraged at Mississippi's two supposedly conservative "Blue
Dog" Democratic congressmen, Travis Childers and Gene Taylor

On March 19, 2010, when it became apparent that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had in hand, through various back-room deals, the sufficient 216 votes to adopt the Senate approved version of nationalized health care, Childers and Taylor finally issued weak and tepid statements saying that they would oppose the national health care legislation pushed by the Democrats, thus attempting to appear to their constituents that they were trying to uphold conservative principals and support the views of the voters of their congressional districts. Childers, who is facing a tough re-election challenge from Republicans, issued a carefully worded statement saying that he is "deeply concerned about the legislation's large price tag and the absence of sufficiently strong language to prohibit funding of abortion." Taylor said the country can't afford a new federal health insurance program . . . "[w]ith the national debt nearing $12 trillion and projected to grow far into the future . . . ." Incredibly, according to Mississippi's CLARION LEDGER, both stated that "neither Democratic leaders nor administrative officials" had tried to sway them to vote for the landmark health care overhaul.

Childers and Taylor tried mightily to appear to their constituents that they had "stood up" against Nancy Pelosi (who they had both voted for in the current term of Congress when she was elected Speaker) and had kept faith with their constituents in Mississippi who overwhelmingly opposed Obamacare. However, the people who talked to me were not fooled by the thinly-veiled charade put on by Childers and Taylor. They knew that, throughout the highly publicized and stormy debate over nationalized health care that has been going on for months, both Childers and Taylor have been missing in action and showed no leadership at all on the issue. They knew that in the early stages of the health care debate when congressmen returned to their districts to hold "town meetings" and had to confront angry representatives of newly formed "tea parties", Childers avoided the process altogether and held a "call-in session" instead. And they also know that "Blue Dog" Democrats, while posing as fiscal and social conservatives, either have (like Childers and Taylor) been rendered irrelevant to the congressional process and ignored altogether; or have engaged in routine support of their House leaders through subterfuge - as they did in this case - making it appear that they held out for constraints on abortion but nevertheless voted for the national health care package.
Voters in Mississippi (and I suspect elsewhere) are becoming increasingly aware that congressional Blue Dog Democrats are essentially toothless - and do not bark very much either. As stated by Professor Kenin Unter of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Childers ". . . needs to vote against health care if he wants to keep his seat." Obviously, Speaker Pelosi gave Childers enough slack on his leash to do so and will allow him to continue to pose as a conservative as long as he keeps voting for her as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Monday, March 15, 2010


At one point a few weeks ago, after the special election when Republican Scott Brown was elected to replace the late Edward Kennedy as the Senator from Massachusetts, it appeared that President Obama’s health care bill was dead. However, a decision was made by the President’s men to make a last ditch effort to pass some version of nationalized “health care reform” legislation before the November, 2010, congressional elections. Thus, the debate on what sort of health care we should have in a free society has started anew.

Paul Ryan, the six-term congressman from Wisconsin who has become a leading spokesman for the Republican point of view on health care reform, tells us that

“[u]nder the terms of our constitution, every individual has a right to care for their health, just as they have a right to eat. Their rights are integral to our natural right to life – and it is government’s chief purpose to secure our natural rights. But the right to care for one’s health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than our right to eat, in order to live, requires government to run the farms and raise the crops.”

In making these statements, Ryan alludes to the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”). He also indirectly alludes to the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”).

Congressman Ryan urges with conviction that our Government’s obligation in protecting the health care rights of our citizens would best be met, not by seeking to supply the health care need itself, but by making adjustments in the health care system to unleash competition and choice. In other words, we should reject the health care model promoted by the Obama Administration “in which federal bureaucrats tell us which services are allowed.” We should also reject, he says, “today’s business-government partnership…in which bureaucratized insurance companies monopolize the field in most states.” Instead, we should adopt a health care model “consistent with our constitution in which health care providers compete in a free and transparent market, and in which individual consumers are in control.”

Ryan says that our goal should be to simply reduce health care costs – not to subscribe to the ideology that we should abandon our nation’s traditional free market economic model. In order to reduce health care costs, he advocates and states that:

1. We should end the current discrimination against those who do not get health care insurance from their jobs. “Everyone paying for health care should receive the same tax benefits”;
2. We need “high risk insurance pools” in the states so that (a) those with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage that is not “prohibitively expensive” and (b) so that the costs in non-high-risk pools are stabilized and driven down.
3. We need “portability” – a simple and obvious way to reduce costs. In other words, we need to allow people to purchase health care insurance across state lines – just as they do car insurance and other goods and services.
4. We must establish “transparency” in terms of costs and quality of health care. Ryan tells us that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “an MRI can cost between $400 and $4000, and a bypass surgery between $4700 and $100,000.” He says that if consumers are empowered and allowed to compare prices and quality of services, the free market will solve most of our current health care cost problems.

Paul Ryan made these observations in a recent speech at Hillsdale College on January 13, 2010, and they were adapted for Hillsdale’s monthly publication, IMPRIMIS (which in Latin means “In the first place”). I wonder why we do not adopt Ryan’s simple suggestions, especially since President Obama has said that the federal government will go bankrupt if we do not reduce health care costs.

Monday, March 8, 2010


During the past several days, speculation among pundits and others has intensified over who will be the likely Republican nominee to face President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Newt Gingrich has been on the speaker’s circuit for months, and he has been appearing regularly on Fox News for over two years. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has of late become much more active in his media appearances and in his public pronouncements; and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is clearly running for president. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has his own TV show, while former Governor Sarah Palin has been a contributor on Fox News and recently appeared on Jay Leno’s late-night show, where she gave a stand-up monologue, prompting speculation that she would launch a TV show of her own.

A recent article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL speculated that conservative Texas Governor Rick Perry, fresh from an impressive primary victory in his race for re-election over Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, will surely be called upon to consider a presidential run in 2012 if he wins re-election in November. And this weekend, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah opined that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Haley Barbour, the term-limited Governor of Mississippi and Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, would make “great vice-presidential candidates”.

In truth, it is probable that Perry, Daniels, and Barbour have all contracted some form of “Potomac Fever”, and none of the three would care to evoke the memory of President Calvin (“silent Cal”) Coolidge in the 1920s who, when asked if he would be a candidate for a second term, said:

“I do not choose to run for President in 1928.”

All of those named above have distinguished themselves in the public arena and are qualified to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Still, based not on sentiment but strictly on the evidence, I believe that the dark horse in the race is Haley Barbour – if he reaches for the brass ring. There are several reasons why I have reached this conclusion:

1. Barbour’s record of accomplishments as Governor of Mississippi and his demonstrated ability to govern are impressive, and he has rightly received widespread praise for his steady and effective performance as Governor during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During his tenure as Governor, he has been effective in holding the line on taxes and in “getting things done” in the education and Medicaid fields without raising taxes, despite the fact that he has had to deal with a House of Representatives dominated by Democrats. More recently, under the radar, he is effectively dealing with a severe shortfall in his state’s revenues due to the great recession. In a time when Americans are genuinely concerned about the economic well being of the nation, Republicans will be looking for an effective leader who knows how to govern and will stop the nation’s drift toward socialism.

2. As a former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Chairman of the national Republican Governor’s Association, Barbour has a national presence and is extremely well thought of among rank and file Republicans. While Chairman of the RNC, he worked effectively with Congressional Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, to implement their “contract for America”, which resulted in a Republican takeover of the U. S. House of Representatives. More recently, as Chairman of the RGA, he has received praise for effectively promoting (and supporting with RGA dollars) a Republican resurgence, resulting in the election of Republican Governors in Virginia and New Jersey. Moreover, he has shown himself to be extremely knowledgeable on the issues, and, perhaps better than any other potential Republican presidential candidate on the scene, able to effectively communicate the Republican point of view in such a way that ordinary people can understand the message.

3. Haley is 62 years old, the perfect age to run for president.

4. Significantly, Governor Barbour has a unique ability that none of the other potential candidates have – that is a populist yet traditional ability to appeal to both wings of the Republican Party: the so-called “economic Republicans” and the “social Republicans” as well. As a former political operative of the Reagan White House and as a Deep South person of faith, he will have no trouble coming across as sincere to Republicans whose first priorities are the social issues and the preservation of traditional American values. On the other hand, he never practiced the politics of exclusion during his tenure with the RNC. Likewise, Barbour should be totally acceptable to economic Republicans who want low taxes, and are concerned about the economy and fiscal responsibility in government. His record of accomplishment as a fiscal conservative is extremely attractive, if not impeccable.

5. Finally, Haley Barbour is a “party person” and is one of our own. He began his work within the Republican Party as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Republican Party and ultimately became Chairman of the RNC. Republicans nationally know Haley Barbour and like him.

Every potential candidate for president has some baggage. It could be argued that Governor Barbour cannot be elected president because he comes from a Deep South state with a troubled history of civil rights problems; and because he will be running against an African American incumbent. It could likewise be argued that his pronounced southern accent might also be a problem. If he does run for president, Haley will be required to face these and other such issues in a series of party primaries throughout the land. My bet, based on past performance, is that if he can raise the necessary funds to compete on equal terms with the other candidates, he will acquit himself quite well.

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