3:32 PM EDT, November 1, 2013
Facts and opinions:
Fact: The Affordable Care Act's ("Obamacare") miserable rollout has caused leading Democrats to call for delayed implementation of its various effective dates, including the individual mandate.
Opinion: While Obamacare has suffered initial wounds concerning its not-ready-for-primetime website, the law's major promoters must be pleased with the serial cancellations occurring in the individual and group markets.
Remember, the authors of the law are all about ending America's preference for employer-provided health care. Rather, proponents desire an expansion of government health care. The President has in fact repeatedly stated his preference for a single-payer system. And these folks are winning: hundreds of thousands of employees are presently being dropped from employer rolls and onto the rolls of the state and federal exchanges. While up to 2 million (and counting) of those in the individual market have received cancellation notices from their carriers. (This despite the President's oft-repeated and false promise that you would be able to keep your current coverage if you wanted to…). Further, Obama-ites must be equally pleased with the decisions of numerous GOP governors to accept the ACA's Medicaid expansion and the millions of federal dollars that come with the new enrollees (albeit for only the next three years, after which time the states will be required to pick up some percentage of the additional spending).
Fact: The latest Virginia polls have former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe leading Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by 5-8 points. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis pulls an almost identical margin (8-10 points) depending on the day and sample size.
Opinion: Sarvis' numbers reflect the considerable damage a well-intentioned but weak third party candidate can inflict in an important race. Cuccinelli was the first state attorney general to sue in order to overturn Obamacare. But he is a strong social conservative presently experiencing the daily attacks of the Democratic Party's familiar "war on women" narrative. McAuliffe is the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton stalking horse come to Virginia in order to turn that purple state blue.
The closing days of the campaign have been predictably negative. Cuccinelli has been associated with the ethics issues surrounding outgoing GOP Governor Bob McDonnell and the fallout from the recent government shutdown in federal employee rich Northern Virginia. On the other side, McAuliffe's weak ties to Virginia and unsuccessful experience in the private sector have given Republicans plenty of ammunition to use in their negative ads.
Here's hoping that those conservative/libertarian types who have been considering a vote for Sarvis will reconsider. Let's (further) hope the 30,000 or so Marylanders who have escaped to Virginia over the past three years will understand the electoral calculus and vote for Cuccinelli. This is a high stakes national race. The winner's party will enjoy great momentum in the lead-up to next year's mid-terms.
Fact: The process of sequestration (across-the-board budget cuts) has hit hard in a town where automatic yearly spending increases are the norm. And neither pro-defense Republicans nor pro-domestic spending Democrats are happy with the "new" status quo.
Opinion: The real question is whether the President is so interested in providing relief (and a deliverable to his progressive base) that he would consider real entitlement reforms in exchange for sequestration relief.
The smart money says "NO". It is difficult to believe the President would support major entitlement reform without significant new taxes. Such has been his stated position since the negotiations that led to 2011's Budget Control Act – and the inclusion of what few in Washington dared believe would ever come about: unthinking, automatic cuts.
Fact: JP Morgan will pay $5.1 billion to settle a number of suits arising from the sale of mortgage backed securities prior to the great Wall Street panic of 2008.
Opinion: It's real easy (and real populist) to beat up on the Street's mega banks for their roles in the mortgage meltdown. But as stated in this column two weeks ago (a piece that generated tremendous reader feedback), the Feds sure have a short and selective memory.
Recall it was the federal government that went hat in hand to JP Morgan at the most sensitive point in the economic collapse. The ask? Please save our butts by buying Bear Sterns and Washington Mutual, two firms at the center of the mortgage backed security industry. Oh, and we need a quick answer; the economy is threatening to implode at any second. And thus JP Morgan both pulled a negligent federal government out of the fire and set itself up for today's financial shakedown. By the way, if all this reminds you of the Feds threatening banks to make ever greater numbers of sub-prime loans and then subsequently suing those same banks for making those same bad loans, you may proceed to the head of the class.
The bottom line: only the supreme arrogance of federal regulators and their defenders in Congress could make mega Wall Street banks even marginally sympathetic characters. Wow!
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and Member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, the author of "Turn this Car Around"--a book about national politics. His email is email@example.com.
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