Newt’s Obamacare Shutdown Fantasy

April 9th, 2010 at 12:34 pm David Frum | 124 Comments |

| Print

Newt Gingrich’s speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference yesterday was Important with a capital “I” for a reason noted by almost none of the reporters present.

The speech marked the point at which an idea that has been floating in the blogosphere and on talk radio jumped the talk/politics barrier to be endorsed by someone aspiring to national office.

The text of Gingrich’s speech is not yet available online, so I cant link or quote exactly, but if I heard him right on C-Span radio, he proposed that a Republican majority Congress refuse to appropriate the funds required for the newly enacted healthcare plan.

In other words: follow a 1994 style Republican takeover with a 1995 style government shutdown. It worked the last time!

I find it hard to imagine that Republicans would actually put such a plan into action, although of course you never know. Will they really refuse to appropriate the money so that seniors – who will have been paying nothing for routine doctors’ visits in the months before January 2011 – will resume paying? WIll they halt the scheduled staged elimination of the “doughnut hole” from Medicare Part D? Seems unlikely. And if they do, they will have set the country up for a constitutional and budgetary crisis that can only end in abject and embarrassing Republican defeat.

But even if they do none of these things, the “defund” idea is harmful, and here is why:

Like the “repeal” slogan before it, the “defund” slogan substitutes for any attempt to think through HOW Republicans will fix the flaws in Obamacare if they have the chance.

HOW will we prevent the pre-programmed Obama tax increases on investment income and payrolls from going into effect?

HOW will we protect the states from the huge unfunded mandate that is Medicaid expansion?

HOW will we rollback the destructive wave of over-regulation within the mandates that the administration is now empowered to impose?

These are problems that we should be thinking about now. If we gain majorities in November, we should be ready to act in January. By deluding ourselves with grandiose but empty slogans in the spring, we guarantee that we will arrive in the majority – if we do – utterly unprepared for the real world problems embedded in a serious project to redress the wrongs done by Obamacare.

Those of us who favored some kind of healthcare compromise get called all kinds of unpleasant names in intra-Republican debates. We might as well be cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Yet it’s the people who are talking biggest who are really showing the way to surrender: because the unreality of their fantasies of total resistance implies an eventual actual policy of total acceptance.

Recent Posts by David Frum



124 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    CO Independent // Apr 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    ……btw CO Independant (and that Independant is a joke….right?)….I’m going to explain to you at no cost why the entire Norquist/Cheney cut taxes endlessly and let the deficit spiral out of control until it get so bad that something has to be done about it strategy (ie. cutting programs) has a flaw…….you see when the spaghetti ultimately hits the fan regardless of who is president or in control of congress it is politically a much softer option to increase taxes than cut programs…….why is that?……well you see cutting programs affects probably 60-80% of the population to a greater or lesser extent not to mention the vast army of contractors sucking at the Pentagon and other government teats who are generously endowing politicians of all stripes……Conversely, increasing taxes only seriously affects 10-20% of the population….it slightly affects the next 30% but not so they’d notice relative to the bennies they receive, and for the last 50% it’s a non event….Is this forming an electoral picture for you oh Independant one or do I have to do a connect the dots schematic?

  • CO Independent

    A random sampling of foundations from a 30 second google search for those too lazy to do so:
    1. http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/03/The-Obama-Budget-Spending-Taxes-and-Doubling-the-National-Debt
    2. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703906204575027181656362948.html
    3. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/10/21/2009-10-21_drowning_in_debt_obamas_spending_and_borrowing_leaves_us_gasping_for_air.html

    Conservatives rightly pounded GWB for his excessive spending. Moderate Republicans and whack jobs did not. Nevertheless, Obama and the democrats make GWB look positively thrifty. Obama: public debt on entering office $11 trillion. Today, less than 15 months later $12.8 trillion of debt on the books. Obama and the Dems are currently running the federal government at a run rate of approximately $250 billion/month in new debt. We are on schedule to blow through the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by October, 2010, and to hit $15 trillion of on the books debt by Obama’s second anniversary in office.

    In addition, Obama and the Dems issued a full taxpayer backstop to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s $5 trillion in outstanding debt obligations. (Previously, taxpayer obligations were limited to $400 billion.) In any meaningful accounting system this $5 trillion debt would have to be moved onto the books of the federal government. Of course the government won’t do so, but the debt is still there.

    The numbers don’t lie. By Obama’s second anniversary in office, U.S. Treasury’s debt obligations will have gone from $11 trillion to $15 trillion on the books and $20 trillion including the two FM obligations. Obama and the Democrats will have saddled the U.S. with an additional $9 trillion in debt obligations, nearly doubling the national debt in two short years.

  • sdspringy

    As usual the Otto’s of the world whine about the deficits, and debt and the stupidity of Republicans. Which begs the question how was this all possible with Democrats present as well. Were the Dems not present for any budget votes in Congress? Were the Dems out smarted by the intellectual Bush’s and thus hoodwinked into voting for greater spending.

    And since 2006 the Dems have had control of the Budget, yet deficits continue. Hows that possible?
    Was Pelosi actually a Bush puppet, allowing Reps, unrestricted access to the formation of the budget?

    The Dems and Libs want the boogey man to be a Republican, yet the budget process starts in Congress, the Presidents have no authority to add line items to the budget. That can only be done by Congress. Presidents don’t write budgets.

    So any attempt to blame Reagen for budget excesses requires a large amount of ignorance of how Congress works. Congress was dominated by Dems during Reagens term in office.
    But certain person posting excel at ignorance.

  • Rabiner

    CO Independent:

    Why don’t you look at the differences in REVENUES between when Obama took office and now? Government spending hasn’t increased that much since Obama became President. Rather revenues due to a deep and prolonged recession has caused a huge decline in Revenues.

    You’re blaming Obama for having to issue a full taxpayer backstop on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt rather than seeing them fail? I’d love to not have to deal with the issue but if those 2 companies fail, that’s another collapse of the banking system and housing market. Not to mention a complete freeze on credit for car loans, student loans, and other purchases.

    By just looking at debt in a myopic way you’re failing to see the big picture that these actions were necessary or at least prudent to prevent collapse of our markets.

    Sdspringy:

    Lets see what’s been the major drivers of the deficit from 2006-2008 when you blame Pelosi and democrats for not solving the budget: Tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 and Medicare Drug plan that was never funded with increased revenue streams (taxes) in 2005. Democrats couldn’t repeal any of those policies since Bush would veto, yet you blame democrats for the deficit.

  • nhthinker

    The Democrats are working to fix our deficit problem by spending more money than we have.
    Spending more is intended to make American society start borrowing and lending more money.

    Adding more seed corn to a field that is already planted during a poor growing season is not a good use of seed corn.

    We don’t want bankers to lend for emotional reasons. BUT all the government programs are less about encouraging making a profit and more about relieving emotional distress.

    The economy is still hyper-inflated. Since the mid-90s, huge amounts of jobs in finance and housing were created based on a false government support of home ownership for people that were not financially responsible enough to convince a private bankers that they would pay off their loans. These finance and housing jobs are still unwinding. Manufacturing was already unwinding. Entertainment and restaurants are growing industries in the US but not supportable in a down economy.

  • CO Independent

    @ Rabiner

    Seriously, can’t you please do 30 friggin’ seconds of research before you post comments, if for no other reason to avoid looking like a complete moron. Try Wikipedia or at least Google. You can’t just make s**t up.

    >> Why don’t you look at the differences in REVENUES between when Obama took office and now? Government spending hasn’t increased that much since Obama became President. Rather revenues due to a deep and prolonged recession has caused a huge decline in Revenues.

    Bush’s last budget was $3.1 trillion, in 2008 for budget year 2009. Obama’s 2009 budget was $3.5 trillion and his 2010 budget is $3.8 trillion. That’s a 22% percent increase in SPENDING in 2 freakin’ budget years. Bush, who was no fiscal conservative, increased the budget from $1.9 trillion to $3.1 trillion, which is about 63%, in 8 years. During Bush’s 8 years GDP went from just shy of $10 trillion to just north of $14 trillion, a 40% increase. During Obama’s tenure GDP has been flat to negative.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget

    >> You’re blaming Obama for having to issue a full taxpayer backstop on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt rather than seeing them fail? I’d love to not have to deal with the issue but if those 2 companies fail, that’s another collapse of the banking system and housing market. Not to mention a complete freeze on credit for car loans, student loans, and other purchases.

    Yes, I fault Obama and the Democrats for throwing $5 trillion down a bottomless rat hole. Study Japan’s 20 year long deflationary spiral. This is exactly where we are headed if we continue down this path. The two FMs and lots of big banks are loaded up with toxic debt that will never be repaid. This debt needs to be discharged and written off before a recovery can begin. Let them fail. The laws of supply and demand ensure that new banks will rise. Separately, to the best of my knowledge the two FMs have nothing to do with car loans, student loans, or other credit. They are restricted to mortgage operations.

    >> By just looking at debt in a myopic way you’re failing to see the big picture that these actions were necessary or at least prudent to prevent collapse of our markets.

    No, they were not. All we’ve accomplished it to replace the housing market credit bubble, which burst in 2008, with a government credit bubble. This is the last bubble. It will burst, like all bubbles do, and when it does our sovereign credit goes down the tubes with it. Watch Greece and learn, because sovereign default is coming our way soon, most probably by hyperinflation rather than explicit default. There’s an old saying in macroecon: deflation is the midwife of hyperinflation.

  • sinz54

    CO Independent:

    I don’t want to rehash the whole issue of TARP one more time.

    If you don’t understand the economic catastrophe that would have resulted if the financial markets had collapsed, then there’s nothing more to be said.

    You’re a Randian, expecting that once our mixed economy collapses around you, then real capitalists and free market purists will appear to rebuild America. Sorry, history shows that’s not how it works. An economic collapse isn’t followed by democratic capitalism. It’s followed by dictatorship. Yes, some of those dictatorships still have vibrant private sectors. But they’re dictatorships all the same.

  • sinz54

    CO Independent:

    Now having said that TARP was necessary (because a modern economy can’t function without a financial/credit market), I will also say that the bailout of General Motors was unnecessary. This country has functioned quite well without Studebaker or American Motors. We could live without GM too. Heck, let Honda buy up those GM factories, and they’ll do a better job running them.

    Like FDR before him, Obama viewed the economic crisis not only as an immediate problem to be solved (and I wished him well on that), but as an opportunity to introduce more elements of Social Democracy into the country, figuring that folks were so scared they would agree to almost anything. The same Democrats who had accused Bush of using fear (of terrorism) to push unrelated elements of his agenda, were now using fear (of economic collapse) to push unrelated elements of their agenda.

    The GOP could have drawn this sharp distinction. They could have said YES we’re for saving the credit markets with TARP, but NO we’re not for bailing out state and local public employee unions. Instead they said NO to everything, proving that they are letting ideology trump Economics 101.

  • ottovbvs

    CO Independent // Apr 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    “Today, less than 15 months later $12.8 trillion of debt on the books. Obama and the Dems are currently running the federal government at a run rate of approximately $250 billion/month in new debt”

    ……….In the last calendar year that Bush was in Office the deficit was 1.4 trillion…….. some of this of course was occasioned by the fact he left office with the country in the worst recession since the thirties and this has required exceptional expenditures by BOTH administrations to prevent the country slipping into depression …….Obama is not running the govt with approximately 250 billion of “new debt” monthly or otherwise we’d be looking at annual deficits of over $4 trillion (ie. existing “Bush” deficit rate $1-1.4 trillion + 250 billion/month “new debt” = $3000 annually therefore total $4trillion +)……the reality is about 70% of the current deficits (exluding exceptional recession related expenditures) were contracted during the Bush admin (off the books wars, Part D, etc) while the balance is almost entirely amelioration of the recession……..so can we stop the mickey mouse numbers CO “Independant” which largely seemed to be culled from Heritage

  • ottovbvs

    sdspringy // Apr 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    “Were the Dems not present for any budget votes in Congress? Were the Dems out smarted by the intellectual Bush’s and thus hoodwinked into voting for greater spending.”

    …..So that’s the truth……those thuggish Democrats forced Bush and Reagan to take on all this expenditure……yeah right ………Actually the Dems voted against a lot of this stuff whichis why DeLay and co had to hold house votes on the floor open for hoursto twist the arms of his own members

  • ottovbvs

    CO Independent // Apr 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Rabiner

    >> You’re blaming Obama for having to issue a full taxpayer backstop on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt rather than seeing them fail? I’d love to not have to deal with the issue but if those 2 companies fail, that’s another collapse of the banking system and housing market. Not to mention a complete freeze on credit for car loans, student loans, and other purchases.

    “Yes, I fault Obama and the Democrats for throwing $5 trillion down a bottomless rat hole.”

    ……So CO “Independant” having just narrowly rescued the US financial system from complete collapse and in the midst of the worst recession since the thirties YOUR solution is to allow Fannie/Freddie to collapse with all that implies for the financial system, the housing market, and the economy generally………you’ve just explained why you guys are basically not fit to govern

  • ottovbvs

    CO Independent // Apr 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

    “No, they were not. All we’ve accomplished it to replace the housing market credit bubble, which burst in 2008, with a government credit bubble. This is the last bubble. It will burst, like all bubbles do, and when it does our sovereign credit goes down the tubes with it. ”

    ……….Err….. no it won’t because as I’ve explained to you a couple of times(alhough it doesn’t seem to penetrate your ill informed hysteria) the administration (in fact any administration) is going to take the tax rate up from 19% of GDP to certainly 22% and maybe as high as 25% for a short while to deal with the problem……this combined with the strong recovery now underway is going to subtantially raise tax receipts and when combined with some mild inflation (2-3% a year) to devalue the debt…..how do I know it’s going to happen?…..because this is exactly what happened last time we experienced this scenario when Reagan left office leaving oceans of red ink……both the subsequent administrations (Read my lips Bush senior) and Clinton both raised tax rates to lance the boil!!

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Apr 11, 2010 at 9:08 am

    CO Independent:

    “Now having said that TARP was necessary (because a modern economy can’t function without a financial/credit market), I will also say that the bailout of General Motors was unnecessary. This country has functioned quite well without Studebaker or American Motors. We could live without GM too.”

    ……Meanwhile Sinz continues on his quest to de-industrialize America and hand over large parts of it’s car market to the Japanese who CO “Independant” claims are running their own country into the ground…..hard to make these people up isn’t it.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Apr 11, 2010 at 9:03 am

    CO Independent:

    I don’t want to rehash the whole issue of TARP one more time.

    “If you don’t understand the economic catastrophe that would have resulted if the financial markets had collapsed, then there’s nothing more to be said.”

    …….One of the occasions I agree with Sinz…..this guy has no contact with reality

    ……Sorry for the number of posts but a lot of Reality pills to be dispensed this morning.

  • captn

    Very well done, otto. Now go take a well deserved nap…the guys will be back tomorrow, and you’re going to need the rest.

  • sinz54

    ottovbs: Meanwhile Sinz continues on his quest to de-industrialize America
    Honda has an entire division, Honda of America manufacturing, operating factories right here in America. The Honda Accord I bought in 1986 was built in Marysville Ohio.

    http://corporate.honda.com/america/public-policy/investing-in-america.aspx

    A trained workforce isn’t going to go to waste.

    Liberals had the opportunity to create inspiring new infrastructure projects with their stimulus package. They could have rebuilt our roads. They could have built new airports and passenger terminals. They could have built new nuclear power plants which would reduce global warming. They could have wired even the tiniest rural towns in the boondocks with high-speed Internet. All that infrastructure would have made America more competitive–with tens of thousands of jobs. THAT is how you “re-industrialize America.”

    Instead, most of the stimulus package went to bail out state and local governments (without demanding that they streamline their operations as a quid pro quo), and to bail out the UAW indirectly by bailing out GM. Essentially we bailed out the industries of the past.

    Meanwhile, our roads are crumbling, our bridges are on the verge of collapse, our air traffic control system is dangerously overloaded, and America–the nation that INVENTED nuclear power–is lagging far behind Japan and France in its use. But thanks to the liberals, GM will now turn out electric minicars that all those Americans who park their cars on the street or in parking lots won’t be able to recharge.

  • mikethewaiter

    When will my party start putting PEOPLE first. Anybody who has EVER haggled with an insurance company knows what scoundrels they are…

  • ottovbvs

    captn // Apr 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    “Very well done, otto. Now go take a well deserved nap”

    ……as it happens I’m heading off to the west coast tomorrow morning for a couple of weeks sailing and other activities so others will have to dish out the reality pills

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Apr 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    “Honda has an entire division, Honda of America manufacturing, operating factories right here in America. The Honda Accord I bought in 1986 was built in Marysville Ohio.”

    …………..Honda make fine automobiles but that’s no reason why we should hand over to them, Toyota, Nissan etc the US auto market on the cheap…..perhaps you’d like to hand over to the Chinese the manufacture of our military vehicles next (much of whose engines and systems almost certainly come from GM) ……your defeatism is depressing……a nation of 310 million who essentially universalized automobile ownership is very capable of sustaining a domestic auto industry

    more from Sinz

    “Instead, most of the stimulus package went to bail out state and local governments (without demanding that they streamline their operations as a quid pro quo), and to bail out the UAW indirectly by bailing out GM.”

    ………..What is this compulsion Sinz, that you and others have to make complete fools of yourselves in public by pontificating away about subjects about which you clearly know so little…..in fact the stimulus package of $820 billion was divided up into three components (Tax cuts ~175 billion….Transfer payments ~ $270 billion…..Infrastructure investment ~$375 billion)……the entire GM bailout of roughly 70 billion all came from TARP(some 40 billion of it during the Bush presidency) not the Stimulus bill…… and GM has already announced plans to pay back 10-12 billion of this during 2010

  • Oskar

    Newt Gingrich and John Edwards are the vilest swine in politics-smug and self-righteous bastards who two-timed on cancer stricken wives. To hell with the both of them!

  • ottovbvs

    sdspringy // Apr 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    “So any attempt to blame Reagen for budget excesses requires a large amount of ignorance of how Congress works. Congress was dominated by Dems during Reagens term in office.
    But certain person posting excel at ignorance.”

    ….btw Springy if the Democrats were imposing all that additional defense expenditure on poor, weak, defenceless little Ronald you might want to think about how this narrative squares with the one of big, tough, cowboy Ronnie who defeated the Soviet Union in the cold war by creating an arms race they couldn’t win……if the Dems did it all it was really them that won the cold war according to this narrative…..right?

  • Rabiner

    This is pretty entertaining. I like how CO Independent is getting his comments blown up since they are so unrealistic. People who claim we never should of done TARP or the auto-bailout have no concept of the interconnected economy that is the United States. 10% of employment is related to the car industry and a complete collapse of GM would of done a few things: increased costs for the other 2 American car companies since suppliers would be producing less units, many manufacturers of intermediate parts would have to either go out of business or lay off numerous workers, car dealerships would close. While car dealerships did close regardless the amount to close was far reduced by the bailout.

  • CO Independent

    @ Otto

    >> ……….In the last calendar year that Bush was in Office the deficit was 1.4 trillion…….. some of this of course was occasioned by the fact he left office with the country in the worst recession since the thirties and this has required exceptional expenditures by BOTH administrations to prevent the country slipping into depression …….Obama is not running the govt with approximately 250 billion of “new debt” monthly or otherwise we’d be looking at annual deficits of over $4 trillion (ie. existing “Bush” deficit rate $1-1.4 trillion + 250 billion/month “new debt” = $3000 annually therefore total $4trillion +)……the reality is about 70% of the current deficits (exluding exceptional recession related expenditures) were contracted during the Bush admin (off the books wars, Part D, etc) while the balance is almost entirely amelioration of the recession……..so can we stop the mickey mouse numbers CO “Independant” which largely seemed to be culled from Heritage

    1. Writing: Did you go to the James Joyce school of writing or something? In the English language we structure words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs which are organized around a central though. Your writing is like mental vomit. It is painful to read and utterly incoherent. Yet you seem to be proud of this.
    2. Spell Check: Independent, not Independant. Spell check
    3. Research. Do you just make s**t up? Do 30 seconds of research before you post.
    March 2010: 333 billion in treasury issuance (http://www.zerohedge.com/article/us-government-issues-333-billion-net-marketable-debt-march)
    February 2010: 222 billion (http://www.zerohedge.com/article/budget-deficit-hits-record-high-interest-us-public-debt-hits-record-low)

    In case you think these months are somehow an aberrations, the national debt was approximately $12 trillion at the start of the calendar year on January 1, 2010. Today it is $12.85 trillion. That’s $850 billion in 3 months, which correlates to an annual rate of $3.4 trillion. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. These are the facts.

  • ktward

    CO Independent // Apr 12, 2010 at 10:20 am:

    In case you think these months are somehow an aberrations, the national debt …

    Dude. ‘…an aberration..’. Not ‘…an aberrations…’.

    And I wouldn’t even dream of pointing out this petty error (among several others) had you not just absurdly pointed your little holier-than-thou grammar finger at otto.

    If you wish to be considered a serious voice of discourse, then stick to the serious issues. Blogging is full of grammar/spelling typos. Get over it.