Thursday, February 04, 2010

Morning Must Reads from DCExaminer

Wall Street Journal -- Public Health Tab to Hit Milestone
If you’re worried about the government takeover of health care, you’re too late.

Writer Peter Landers explains that for the first time ever, more than half of all health spending will come through the government.

Government actuaries report that 50.4 percent of the more than $2.34 trillion spent on health care will come from taxpayers in 2011.
But this isn’t really a health-care story. This is a deficit story.
It also helps explain why the president may be willing to get bipartisan on health care. If he doesn’t, Medicare will gobble up all of his other priorities as Baby Boomer start soaking up more and more services.

But some aren’t worried:
‘There is nothing inherently wrong with crossing this threshold, especially in light of the recession. These data show that government programs are working as intended,’ said Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. ‘However, these projections do reinforce the need to enact comprehensive health reform, like the legislation passed by both chambers, that lowers costs for individuals and businesses and improves coverage.’

New York Times -- LaHood Backtracks on ‘Stop Driving It’
Even Joe Biden must have winced when he heard about Treasury Secretary LaHood’s gaffe -- telling the drivers of more than 4 million Toyotas that may be subject to a rare but serious problem with their accelerators to immediately dump their cars at their local dealers for repairs.
Toyota stock imploded and a creeping unease turned into panic for some drivers. By the time he hit the pack of reporters outside, LaHood was ready to retract the statement.

But the news just keeps getting worse for the world’s number one carmaker. Toyota has expanded its product concerns to now include the brakes on the Prius. But look at it this way – it may be a bummer to read a bunch of smug bumper stickers in traffic, but it least it means that the Prius is in front of you.

Writers Mark Leibovich and Matthew Wald do not explore the question of whether it’s appropriate for Hood to be on a crusade against one of the top competitors of the government’s car company, but do give you a sense that LaHood may have outlived his usefulness as a symbol of phony bipartisanship.

Note Rahm Emanuel (who had to call LaHood “f---ing developmentally disabled” because of his promise to the Special Olympics) use of the past imperfect tense.

“Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, defended Mr. LaHood. ‘I think and the president thinks Ray’s been a great secretary.’

When he misspoke, Mr. Emanuel said, ‘he immediately realized he’d said it.’ When some officials make an error like that, Mr. Emanuel said, ‘Usually these things take days. He did it in five minutes.’”

New York Times -- National Prayer Breakfast Draws Controversy
Writer Laurie Goodstein doesn’t tell you exactly how today’s National Prayer Breakfast is connected to the imprisonment of homosexuals in Uganda, but takes plenty of time to raise concerns about the involvement of President Obama and others in the event.

Goodstein’s argument seems to be a claim by undercover author Jeff Sharlet that The Fellowship, the Capitol Hill Christian group that hosts the breakfast, was the motivating force behind a Ugandan bill that would have made certain homosexual acts punishable by death. This claim hasn’t apparently been confirmed elsewhere but has become a rallying cry for gay activists who believe that the Ugandan model is what American evangelicals are hoping to pursue here. But, again, no context from Goodstein.

It’s an ironic story given Obama’s message today: that we must not demonize our political opponents.
“The Family has no identifiable Internet site, no office number and no official spokesman. J. Robert Hunter, a member who has spoken publicly about the group, said that it was unfair to blame the Family for the anti-gay legislation introduced by David Bahati. Mr. Hunter said that about 30 Family members, all Americans, active in Africa recently conveyed their dismay about the legislation to Ugandan politicians, including Mr. Bahati.”

USA Today -- Obama's budget curbs border program
An interesting nugget from writer Mimi Hall: the Obama budget shifts money away from securing the U.S.-Mexico border -- fewer agents, no expansion of the existing physical barriers, and a reduction in electronic surveillance.

Where is the money going?
“In the wake of the failed attempt to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, Obama's budget for next year calls for $371 million for 500 more body scanners, 275 more canine teams and an unspecified number of new air marshals.

Former Homeland Security department policy chief Stewart Baker says in paying for more aviation security, the White House "has decided that some of the border defenses are more expendable. ... We're taking some risks there."

Wall Street Journal -- U.S. Announces Helmand Offensive
Allied forces are hoping to drive the Taliban out of their stronghold of Marjah in the Helmand Province without an attack or to provide a decisive victory in a high-profile attack that conspicuously features Afghan forces.

Taking the unusual step of advertising the attack – even issuing press releases and giving the mission a name (Which mean “Operation Together” in Pashtun) – NATO commanders hope to demonstrate that the Afghan government has clout.

U.S. Marines are hoping the civilians clear out so they can kill as many bad guys as possible without running afould of the Pentagon’s rules of engagement.
Writer Michael Phillips explains:

“That is what happened in 2008 in Garmsir, a Taliban-held town further south in Helmand province. The locals fled to the desert during a month of fighting between a Marine battalion and dug-in insurgents. With little reason to worry about civilian casualties, the Marines were able to use their superior firepower, including helicopter gunships and mortars, to oust the insurgents.”

Column on “punching bag bipartisanship” is here.

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