Archive for October, 2009

Dump Dede: a concurring opinion

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

I came to this conclusion some time ago, but I’m a little late to the party in publishing it, so it looks like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon. My bad.

A few months ago I blogged about why a RINO (Republican In Name Only) congressman, while often frustrating to conservatives, is still better than a Democrat, even a conservative DINO. Supporting a conservative sounding Democrat will backfire, and so will supporting an uncompetitive independent or third-party conservative “spoiler” when such draining of ordinarily Republican support from the Republican nominee allows the Democrat to win with a plurality. The statistics quoted in the post make the case.

Next week’s three-way special congressional election in New York pitting liberal Republican State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava against Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman for a seat vacated by a Republican has the attention of conservatives in general and the tea party movement in particular. Tea party people are challenging conservative but establishment Republicans to abandon the Republican nominee and support Conservative Hoffman. So are the Big 3 of conservative talk radio – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, and St. Louis talker Dana Loesch. They are mercilessly attacking the Republican National Committee, its congressional campaign arm and revered national figures, like Newt Gingrich, who continue to support the liberal Republican nominee. Many other conservative but establishment Republicans, though, have broken ranks with the party hierarchy and endorsed Hoffman. These include Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Fred and Jerri Thompson, Steve Forbes, Dick Armey, Rick Santorum and Rep. Mike Pence, as well as St Louis’ Rep. Todd Akin and 3rd District candidate Ed Martin.

Gingrich, for his part, makes some valid points. In addition to reasoning like that in my earlier post, Newt notes that Scozzafava was the choice of the local Republican Party organization, not someone that the national party crammed down their throats. What business is it of outsiders to tell the congressional district whom to nominate? Especially in this down time for the party, it needs to appeal to both moderates and conservatives, not one at the expense of the other.

Another election next week, the New Jersey governor’s race, is a similar 3-way race, where a conservative independent threatens to drain enough support from Republican challenger Chris Christie to allow corrupt Democrat incumbent John Corzine to sneak back in with a plurality. That contest is a typical contest in which the independent candidacy only serves to spoil another candidacy. Christie is plenty conservative, especially for a blue state like New Jersey. Conservatives there should unite behind Republican Christie.

But the New York election is different – different enough to be an exception to the rule. First, Scozzafava makes other RINOs (like Olympia Snowe) look like Religious Right ideologues. ACORN and the left-wing Daily Kos actually endorsed her because she was more liberal than Democrat Owens, who is plenty liberal in his own right. Moreover, Conservative Hoffman is surging and has a genuine shot at winning. Recent polls show Scozzafava running a poor 3rd, double digits behind Hoffman and Owens, who are  within the margin of error of each other.

It has happened in New York before. In 1970 Conservative Party candidate James Buckley won the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by Sen. Robert Kennedy at the time of his assassination, defeating appointed liberal Republican incumbent Charles Goodell and liberal Democrat challenger Richard Ottinger.

Here the worst case scenario is that Democrat Owens wins by a slim plurality, taking over a Republican-held seat (albeit by a Republican liberal enough to be appointed to a high position in the Obama Administration) and switching momentum to Democrats. But that isn’t as bad as it sounds. Owens would merely serve a partial term in a house already dominated by his party. 2010 is likely to be a strong Republican year in which the party can retakes its rightful seat, and do so with a nominee chosen by Republican voters in a primary, not handpicked by party hacks. That nominee would likely be conservative, probably Hoffman himself.

But the polls suggest that Hoffman has a real shot at winning (the best-case scenario) and Scozzafava does not. Ironically, Republican Scozzafava is now the spoiler.

I stand by my earlier post that it’s better to settle for a RINO than to hand the election to a Democrat, even a supposed DINO, and I disagree with the harsh attacks on Gingrich and others who stick with Scozzafava. But this is a rare exception to the rule. As Loesch says in her special web site devoted to this contest, it’s time to dump Dede.

Health care lessons from the Swiss

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Supporters of Obamacare keep changing the target, much like a street hustler’s shell game. First, they held out neighboring Canada as a model. But when horror stories of denied care and long waits in Canada surfaced, they claimed Obamacare would be more like England. And when horror stories from England surfaced, Democrat media claimed it would be more like Switzerland, a model probably chosen because information about its plan is pretty scarce over here.

Well, last month I had the opportunity to attend a gathering that featured two women from Switzerland, who were there to tell us what their everyday lives were like, and to answer our questions about life there. These women knew very little about U.S. politics and had no underlying political agenda to taint their observations. I took the opportunity to ask them how they liked their health care and how their plan worked.

The initial response of both of them (and the end of the story as far as the main-stream media is concerned) was that they were very satisfied with their health care. They were unaware (either from their own experience or that of their acquaintances) of any significant waits for treatment, any refusal to provide desired treatment, or of any Swiss acquaintances going to another country to seek medical treatment.

One of the ladies offered (and the other agreed) that there were several important reasons that made their health care so good.

First and foremost, the ladies’  plan was so good because it was so well funded. It turns out that (a point not mentioned by Obamacare proponents) there isn’t so much a Swiss health care system as there are 23 separate systems, with each canton (analogous to our states) having its own health care system. The Swiss experience in other cantons, both noted, would be different. Though not wealthy themselves, the ladies live in the canton of Graubunden (also called Grisons), where chic alpine ski villages St. Moritz, Davos and Arosa are situated. The area is a mecca for wealthy people, including many bankers and doctors who work elsewhere in Switzerland or even in nearby foreign countries. Graubunden lures and retains lots of wealthy residents by consciously having lower tax rates than its neighbors. Low tax rates, she noted, applied to huge amounts of income produced lots of revenue (sounds a lot like Reaganomics) for funding deluxe health care for relatively few people (Graubunden’s total population is under 200,000).

Next, they explained, their health care is good because they have good doctors, because Graubunden’s health care system pays its doctors very well. This high pay, along with the canton’s low tax rates, beautiful scenery and desirable lifestyle, attract highly paid highly skilled medical professionals. Doctors from other countries (especially Germany) flock there. In contrast, Obamacare is to be funded in part by paying doctors less (in spite of a larger patient load). Medical schools are already experiencing drops in enrollment of students from the U.S.

The ladies also insisted that a key to successful health care plans in Switzerland was the compulsory purchase provision, which may be unconstitutional in the U.S.  Every Swiss resident is obligated to buy health insurance. People there don’t get to game the system by only buying it when they need it. This works in Switzerland because of an ingrained Swiss cultural trait not common in the U.S. The Swiss are compliant, conforming people. If the law says you do it, you do it. When another member of the audience asked what the penalty was for not buying the insurance, the Swiss women were perplexed. “What do you mean, ‘What if somebody doesn’t?’ Everybody does. It’s compulsory.” Uh, good luck with that in the U.S.

Finally (and somewhat related to compulsory purchase), Swiss health care systems are not strained by the demands of undocumented immigrants. While Switzerland does have immigrants (the ladies estimated as much as 20% of its population), those immigrants are documented and buy the insurance just like everyone else. Those who follow Swiss immigration procedures are welcome, but the Swiss have zero tolerance for undocumented immigrants. The ladies explained, when Swiss authorities find them, they “send them back.” U.S. politicians don’t have the backbone for such a policy, and many even encourage illegal immigration for political gain.

So, while universal health care in the wealthy Swiss canton of Graubunden is a genuine success story for government-run health care, it probably wouldn’t work nearly as well in a country with the economics, demographics, culture and size of the U.S.