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Sun., Jan. 9, 2011

Obama pulls the plug

Political leaders often face the tension between doing the right thing and doing it the right way. My view is that if the latter is certain to thwart the former, then process should be the victim.

Would it have been better if desegregation were triggered by elected leaders rather than the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision? Sure. But Congress had nearly a century to codify the emancipation of African-Americans and was continuing to drag its heels.

Would it be better for Congress to write rules on regulating carbon emissions? Sure. But while it dithers, I’m hard-pressed to blame the Environmental Protection Agency for moving forward.

Similarly, I supported the Obama administration’s decision to move forward with new Medicare rules that would encourage patients to voluntarily pursue advanced-care directives so they can get the treatment they desire once they are incapacitated. This was in early versions of the health care reform bill, but it was dumped when all of the nonsense about “death panels” arose. This change would save taxpayers a lot of money without compromising patient care.

But President Barack Obama quickly caved when news of his executive order was publicized. Hyperbole about “pulling the plug on grandma” won again. But it is a pyrrhic victory.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, said it well: “For many patients the alternative to this – for example, expressing no wishes and so being left entirely to the mercy of insurers and medical personnel who have their own ‘bottom line’ to worry about –  may be worse.”

In this case, valor would’ve been the better part of discretion. There is nothing noble in the president surrendering to falsehoods.

Compared to What? So after all of 2009 and part of 2010 debating health care, and after all the complaints about the bill being “rammed down our throats,” and after all the worrying over what this would do to the federal deficit, House Republicans plan to hold a vote on Wednesday to repeal reform without holding a single hearing, without offering alternative solutions and without “scoring” from the Congressional Budget Office to see how much the budget deficit would grow if the bill is repealed.

The campaign cry of “repeal and replace” has been dumped for “repeal and … um … somehow replace, but we’ll get back to you with the specifics … some day.”

If I were a member of Congress and were pondering a repeal vote, I’d want to know what a replacement would look like. I might vote yes if I thought better ideas were being pursued. But I’d definitely vote no if it took us back to square one.

Who asked ya? Though it wasn’t queried, the Congressional Budget Office measured the fiscal costs of repealing the new health care law anyway. It’s $230 billion over the first decade.

Not to worry. House Republicans trimmed office budgets by 5 percent, for a one-year savings of $35 million.

Green Fee. Interesting choice of words from Spokane City Council member Nancy McLaughlin in the article about the city’s idea to charge homeowners more or less based on their water usage. She worries that this would penalize people seeking to “maintain their lifestyle choices.” Gotta watch out for those hydrophobics.

It’s odd to see the language of social liberalism invoked by a social conservative to thwart water conservation. When the city pondered extending employee benefits for same-sex partners, she said she was opposed because it was against her values.

In other words, get off the lawn and get into the bedroom.

Seems to me it should be the other way around for public officials. Water usage affects everyone. Partner choice is none of their business.

SATIRE ALERT! I think reading the U.S. Constitution aloud was a swell idea for Congress. The media reported some “glitches,” such as when two pages stuck together, but this served to expose the false patriots. A real American has it memorized. Oh well, at least they didn’t use a teleprompter.

Another “problem” arose when it was pointed out that the Founders treated African-Americans as three-fifths of a person when it came to taxation and legislative apportionment. Members of Congress chose not to read that section, thereby whitewashing the Founding Fathers’ original intent.

Political correctness – it just never ends.

Reading is fundamental. Before tackling the economy, Congress should first read aloud every page of “Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith.

Health care? Recite the Hippocratic Oath. Defense bills? Watch the entire DVD collection of “Band of Brothers.” Spending cuts? “Frugal Living for Dummies.”

Gay marriage? The Old Testament. Oh wait, they already do that.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page.

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