Friday, March 23, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - March 23, 2012

Why Economics Can't Explain Our Cultural Divide - Charles Murray [AEI]
Some reviewers of "Coming Apart," my new book about the growing cultural divide between America's upper and lower classes, have faulted me for ignoring the role of the labor market in undermining once widely shared values involving marriage and hard work.
As these critics see it, the loss of our common culture is a result not of cultural changes but of shifts in policy and the economy. Over the past four decades, they argue, the U.S. has shipped high-paying manufacturing jobs overseas and undermined the labor unions that could protect workers' pay and benefits. Working-class earnings fell more than 20% from their high point in 1973, men were no longer able to support families, and marriage eroded accordingly. Demoralized workers fell out of the labor force. The problems of the new lower class would fade away, they suggest, if only we would use public policy to generate working-class jobs at good wages.
There are two problems with this line of argument: The purported causes don't explain the effects, and whether they really were the causes doesn't make much difference anyway... Read the Rest


The GOP Budget and America's Future - Paul Ryan [Wall Street Journal]
Less than a year ago, the House of Representatives passed a budget that took on our generation's greatest domestic challenge: reforming and modernizing government to prevent an explosion of debt from crippling our nation and robbing our children of their future.
Absent reform, government programs designed in the middle of the 20th century cannot fulfill their promises in the 21st century. It is a mathematical and demographic impossibility. And we said so.
We assumed there would be some who would distort for political gain our efforts to preserve programs like Medicare. Having been featured in an attack ad literally throwing an elderly woman off a cliff, I can confirm that those assumptions were on the mark... Read the Rest 
Obama Still Lying About Mother's Health Insurance Problems - Jonathan Tobin [Commentary]
Last summer, a brief stir was caused when a book published by New York Times Janny Scott uncovered an uncomfortable fact about President Obama: He had been lying about his mother’s health insurance problems. During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his signature health care legislation, the president used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. But as Scott discovered during the course of writing her biography of Anne Dunham, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, it turned out that her correspondence showed that “the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.”
At the time the White House chose not to dispute Ms. Scott’s findings. But apparently the Obama campaign thinks the public’s memory is mighty short. As Glenn Kessler writes today in the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, the president’s much ballyhooed campaign biography film “The Road We’ve Traveled,” narrated by Tom Hanks repeats the same line that Scott debunked. Though the film’s script tries to avoid repeating the president’s false claims from 2008, as Kessler says, any reasonable person would infer from the movie that the president’s mother died because her insurance was denied... Read the Rest
The Federalist Solution - Jonah Goldberg [Real Clear Politics]
The bleating about broken government and partisanship continues: “Why can’t those boobs in Washington agree on anything?” We’re constantly told that the way to fix the country is to dethrone the Left and the Right and empower the middle. Americans Elect, No Labels, the Gangs of Six and Fourteen, conservative Democrats, and liberal Republicans — handing things over to these middling mincers and half-a-loafers is supposed to be the answer to all of our problems. It’s as if we should just put Nelson Rockefeller’s mug on the dollar bill and be done with it.
But what if the real compromise isn’t in forcing the Left and the Right to heel? What if instead the solution is to disempower the national elites who think they’ve got the answers to everything?... Read the Rest
Please Stop Apologizing - Bill Maher [New York Times]

(Ed Note: This is the first and maybe the last time I'll say one of the best things I read this week was written by Bill Maher - but I cannot agree with him more here (except for the final shot at Mitt, of course). I hate that Republicans have of late decided to join in the obnoxious practice of trying to turn every off-color joke or awkward quip into a national scandal...)
THIS week, Robert De Niro made a joke about first ladies, and Newt Gingrich said it was “inexcusable and the president should apologize for him.” Of course, if something is “inexcusable,” an apology doesn’t make any difference, but then again, neither does Newt Gingrich.
Mr. De Niro was speaking at a fund-raiser with the first lady, Michelle Obama. Here’s the joke: “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”
The first lady’s press secretary declared the joke “inappropriate,” and Mr. De Niro said his remarks were “not meant to offend.” So, as these things go, even if the terrible damage can never be undone, at least the healing can begin. And we can move on to the next time we choose sides and pretend to be outraged about nothing... Read the Rest

ObamaCare's Costs Are Soaring - Ron Johnson [Wall Street Journal]
One year after the passage of ObamaCare, this paper published an op-ed I wrote ("ObamaCare and Carey's Heart") about how America's health-care system saved my daughter's life, and describing how implementing this law will limit innovation, lead to rationing, and lower the quality of care. Now, two years out, I would like to focus on the budgetary disaster.
As a candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly claimed that his health-care plan would lower annual family health-insurance premiums by $2,500 before the end of his first term as president. But the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that the average family premium has increased $2,200 since the start of this administration... Read the Rest


 A Gasoline Nightmare - Victor Davis Hanson [National Review Online]
Obama is barnstorming the west — blasting oil companies, trying to convince voters that he supports an “all of the above” policy, and reminding them that drilling has increased since his tenure. But that won’t work for five reasons.
1) No one believes that Obama is sincere. In 2008, in the hope-and-change adulation days when he was running for president, he talked about skyrocketing energy prices as a necessary cost for his vision of a desired cap-and-trade law. Energy secretary–designate Chu talked about the desirability of high European-like gasoline prices. And soon-to-be interior secretary Senator Salazar infamously bragged that even $10-a-gallon gas would not change his mind about new offshore drilling. All that has been so widely reported that one can even hear it at the gas pump — where those filling up mumble that Obama wanted these high gas prices... Read the Rest
 Re-Gendered Ike - Andrew Ferguson [Weekly Standard]
Last week the chairman of the House administration committee, Dan Lungren of California, sent a letter to the National Capital Planning Commission, one of the many administrative bodies charged with safeguarding Washington’s “memorial core.” Lungren’s tone was polite but firm. Soon the commission will decide whether to approve a design, concocted by the très chic architect Frank Gehry, for a memorial to Dwight Eisenhower in the nation’s capital. “The memorial, as currently envisioned,” Lungren and a colleague wrote, “does not adequately commemorate [Eisenhower’s] accomplishments nor does it enjoy the necessary level of support to be accepted as a national tribute to General and President Eisenhower.” Lungren is a powerful chairman with some say over $100 million in taxpayer money being spent on the memorial, and reading the letter we liked to think that we detected beneath the good manners the slightest undercurrent of menace: “Gee, that’s a nice appropriation you got there. Hate to see something happen to it.” Perhaps our imagination was overheating again. But we can hope.
For without some kind of serious intervention, by Congress or an outraged public, Gehry’s appalling design will become a reality, rising unpleasantly at the foot of Capitol Hill, adjacent to the National Mall, for years to come. How appalling is it? For a clue, consider the rave review it received in an unintentionally comical notice from the (always unintentionally comical) art critic for the Washington Post. He praised Gehry for de-emphasizing the “masculine power” that has traditionally marred Washington’s memorial architecture. (And you thought the Washington monument was just an obelisk?) Gehry, the critic discovered, “has ‘re-gendered’ the vocabulary of memorialization, giving it new life and vitality.” A re-gendered Ike! Don’t anyone tell Mamie... Read the Rest 
The Spin On Al-Qaeda - David Ignatius [Real Clear Politics]
Among the last known images of Osama bin Laden is a video seized at his compound the night he was killed, which shows the al-Qaeda leader hunched before a television screen studying a video of himself. It's testimony to bin Laden's obsession with the media side of his war against America.
This modern face of bin Laden's jihad comes through clearly in a 21-page letter from his media adviser, an American-born jihadist named Adam Gadahn. The letter is undated, but it appears to have been written after November 2010, in the last six months of bin Laden's life... Read the Rest
Ryan's Budget Proposal as GOP Blueprint - Kevin O'Brien [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
Yet again, House Republicans rush in where Senate Democrats fear to tread.
Yet again, there's a budget floating around Washington. Yet again, it's the creation of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan. Yet again, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants nothing whatsoever to do with it.
So, yet again, no one on Capitol Hill really has to be serious about considering how best to deal with federal spending, the national debt, the current deficit or any sort of planning or prioritizing... Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

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