Friday, March 26, 2010

Why do conservative think tanks and Wall St. hate freedom? 

According to this Politico story, David Frum was forced out of AEI because of "donor pressure" after his infamous "Waterloo" post, which claimed the GOP never intended to negotiate in good faith with Obama on health care, because they wanted him to fail in order to weaken him politically.

Bruce Bartlett can relate, and chimes in with his story and an anecdote:

I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush's policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.
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Since, [David Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

Paul Krugman finds Bartlett's claims to be "quite believable", and points to other recent conservative support for the initiatives that were incorporated into the Democrats' health care plan:

I find this quite believable; back in 2003 Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, which is supposedly harder-right than AEI, proposed a health care reform consisting of... drumroll... an individual mandate coupled with subsidies to make insurance affordable. In short, Obamacare.

After feigning apocalyptic outrage over the Democrats' non-radical health insurance reform, Republicans want to (hilariously) invoke Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn rule"-- you break it, you own it. Well, there's a flip side to that. If these reforms supported by conservative think tanks prove even mildly successful (given the way the right framed the stakes), Democrats can claim all the credit.

And we'd be remiss not to point out that before the Health Care vote Newsbusters dutifully pimped a pessimistic market prediction by CNBC's Jim Cramer. (In recent years Cramer has become perfectly wrong in his prognostications. In other words he's become a zanier version of his old partner, Larry Kudlow.)

Kudlow asked Cramer to elaborate on his theory ObamaCare could send the financial markets reeling or "topple the stock market," as Kudlow described it.

"First, it is the single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher," Cramer said. "And a lot of this has to do with what's not being talked about enough with how it's going to be paid and also about what it will do to small business formation. This bill is a disaster for both."

In the days after the bill passed, stocks rose mildly.

Let's recall that when Obama began his health care push a year ago Cramer and other conservatives were squealing like stuck pigs about the stock market's descent, and predicting more wealth destruction. The President, of all people, suggested it was a good time for Americans to invest in stocks (for the long term). Since then, stocks have risen over 70%. One of the few dips that occurred during this upwards move occurred after conservatives became bullish after Sen. Scott Brown's election. Then some of them (like Kudlow) were bearish when it looked like Congress would pass a bill. Now we're sitting at (approximately) 16 month highs. What gives? Why are they so consistently wrong?

(Note: I'm not suggesting a correction won't occur. After all, an Oliver Stone movie about Wall Street is coming out this year. But obviously the conservative pessimism in March 2009 and their optimism after Brown's election were way off base. The anticipation of a market crash after the hcr measure passed was also wrong.)
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Update: More here from the Miami Herald (H/T Flaming Liberal):

The lawsuit against the health care overhaul filed Tuesday by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is focused on a provision that has long been advocated by conservatives, big business and the insurance industry.

The lawsuit by McCollum, a candidate for governor, and 12 other attorneys general, focuses on the provision that virtually all Americans will need to have health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. The lawsuit calls this an "unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals." It states the Constitution doesn't authorize such a mandate, the proposed tax penalty is unlawful and is an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states."

"The truth is this is a Republican idea," said Linda Quick , president of the South Florida Hospital and Health care Association. She said she first heard the concept of the "individual mandate" in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain , a conservative Republican from Arizona , to counter the "Hillarycare" the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson , secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008 , Thompson said, "Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance." Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney , who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage. "Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate," Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. "But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian." Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.

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3 Comments:

The problem is with Car insurance you dont have to own a car. This is a positive law you did something ( bought a car) to require your action (must have insurance). This is not that; simply by existing you are being forced to do something.

I would have thought that the great Oyster would have worked this part over a bit better being a philosopher and all perhaps he should put down the absinthe

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:10 AM  

Oyster,

Again, Bruce Bartlett displays bitterness and anger as his defining trait. He's not a particularly good source because he's essentially jumped sides -- he regards the expansion of government spending as inevitable, and thinks the only thing the GOP should stand for fiscally is a VAT tax as opposed to tax increases on the wealthy. It's small wonder he was pushed out of a conservative think thank.

As for Frum, I'll note he reportedly wasn't doing a significant amount of work for AEI, and was probably canned on that basis, not because of "donor pressure" over a single blog post. If they'd wanted to oust Frum over ideology, they'd have done it long before now.

By Blogger Owen, at 8:41 AM  

Owen, I'm not invested in either Frum or Bartlett. I'm looking at their explanation for the pattern and sequence of events over this health care debate.

What explains the radical claims made in opposition to a non-radical bill? Please don't tell me "principle". At least Bartlett was "principled" when conservatives were limply voicing concern over Bush's expansion of the Medicare part D entitlement.

Frum says the opposition to the health care bill was a strategic political decision to weaken Obama. That explanation matches up pretty well with what I observed.

Most of the best sources on the right are acting as if this health plan-- which incorporates conservative think tank ideas-- literally presages the end of the world as we know it. That's cuckoo. If there's a "sane" conservative voice with an alternative explanation of this phenomenon I've been exploring (the overreaction by the right to a non-radical law change), I'm all ears.

About Frum: if he'd been a laggard for so such a long time, as Charles Murray claims, they could've ousted him long ago. Choosing to do so right after a much-ballyhooed blog post makes it look political. And is being slothful at a think tank an offense requiring immediate action? Why not just not renew his fellowship next year? And why would you kick him out at a time when you know your motives will be questioned and you're bound to look vindictive? Much more likely that Frum lifted the veil a bit, and the powers-that-be wanted him punished.

By Blogger oyster, at 12:17 PM