Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Note to Republicans

When it comes to racial issues (and particularly accusations of racism), you are never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never going to win a holier-than-thou contest with Democrats. Ever. Don't even try. It's not entirely fair, I agree. But it's fair in the sort of way the fact that the New York Yankees are usually pretty good is fair: it's a fact of life you have to deal with. So deal with it.

The Trials and Tribulations of an Upstart Challenger

"If I'm going to run against Barbara Boxer, I really need to get a keyboard with an "x" that works."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Presented Without Comment

The question arises: What next? How will the health-care landscape evolve on the heels of Obamacare’s passage? Economic forces provide some clues.

The insurance market will begin to shake up almost immediately, as health-care plans jockey for advantage in advance of the legislation’s full implementation. Insurers will begin pulling out of the individual market, and they will aggressively hike premiums in the small-group market. These consequences are the market’s response to the bill’s new regulations, which effectively prevent insurers from underwriting risk. Insurers are forced to take all comers and, in many cases, they will decide that certain business lines are no longer profitable.

The net result is that two years from now we will likely be looking at an insurance market that has become worse, not better, with premiums higher and more Americans joining the rolls of the uninsured.

Longer term, insurers will begin to consolidate into a handful of very large national carriers backed up by small, state-based plans that try to attract consumers using regional appeal. Health insurance will become a commodity product, one that offers little consumer choice and with benefits that are mostly defined by regulations issued in Washington. Doctors will begin to consolidate their practices into larger groups, or sell their offices to hospitals or large medical chains. That is how physicians will gain leverage on health-insurance plans and take advantage of new reimbursement rules created under the legislation’s Medicare reform.

In the end, there will be only two places for consumers to get health coverage — through a large employer (most likely a union plan) or through the new state-based exchanges. Many large employers with a preponderance of middle-wage employees will move their workers into the exchanges, since the subsidies are richer than the tax exclusion they get through worker-provided coverage. Only employers with sticky union contracts, or those that employ a lot of high-wage workers (e.g., Goldman Sachs) will continue to offer workplace coverage.

Eventually, the federally regulated exchanges will be the only game in town. That was the idea behind Obamacare from the start.

— Scott Gottlieb, a practicing physician, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Everyone Can Probably Stop Picking On Walt Baker Now

I think we've got it: Public Figure + Government Contract + Email Comparing a Black Woman to a Chimpanzee = Job Loss + Public Opprobrium.

A few things:

1. I've seen some commenters making assumptions about Baker--whom, incidentally, I've never met--that seem to me far beyond what this email alone would indicate. These are things like (paraphrasing here) "he's a terrible person," "he's a really evil guy" and so forth. Well, I don't think this email necessarily indicates any of those things. Perfectly nice people can have colossal brain farts. Happens all the time. Also, as they say, there really is no accounting for taste.

2. This doesn't mean that the Job Loss + Public Opprobrium is undeserved. You can't be in that particular position and do something like that without having this happen. It was a perfectly and proper outcome given the circumstances. Everyone is prone to brain farts, yes, but everyone is obligated to suppress them when they are acting in positions of responsibility. I'm sure that brain surgeons are prone to brain farts, too. It's part of their job to make sure that they don't happen during surgery.

3. The moral equivalency I'm seeing from some folks--many of whom I very much like--bugs me. Again, the only connection between the George Bush/chimp stuff and the Michelle Obama/chimp stuff is the chimp. It's the (quite obvious) racism that's the difference.

4. Just so we're clear, I'm one of the (apparently few) people who found nothing particularly racially offensive about the Harold Ford/Playboy ad. I thought it was tacky (and, in fact, I believe that this is what really bothered Bob Corker when he criticized it), but not racially offensive. I am also not really prone to finding a racist or racism under every bed. Stuff like this, for instance, strikes me as just plain silly.

5. Another defense I'm seeing is that this email was "political satire." There is no justification to this. The mere inclusion of the wife of the President of the United States does not make it political. In fact, if you really read the email, there's no political statement at all. The message is just this: black woman + chimpanzee = separated at birth.

Which is, of course, the whole point.

Monday, March 8, 2010

George W. Bush Is Not Black

It's true. He really isn't. He's a white guy. That's why comparing him to a chimpanzee is not the same as comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to a chimpanzee. As lame and uncreative as the chimp/Bush references were and are (and, really, if you are someone who ever thought those were in the least bit funny or clever, you should really reconsider), there was nothing racially tinged about them. There couldn't have been: he's a white guy.

But this...this is as racially tinged--to put it mildly--as you can get. It's not even a close call: it is a direct slur against a prominent black person's appearance by comparing it with that of a monkey (well, a chimpanzee, technially, but not many peopel know that there's a difference). You think the term "porch monkey" just came out of thin air?

The Bush/chimp comparisons were not offenseve--they were just ignorant. This, though...this one hits far, far below the belt.