The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Bobby Jindal on Why the GOP Can’t Just Run on Repeal Alone


I had the chance to sit down with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal earlier today and discuss his proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. I’ll have more of our discussion transcribed in the near future, but for now, here’s his answer on why he’s introducing a plan, separate from previous GOP congressional plans.

Geraghty: You’re a governor, and you’re introducing a plan to replace and replace a federal law, Obamacare. You’re not in Congress anymore. Lots of folks are going to interpret this, ‘Here comes the rollout for 2016.’ So go ahead. Dissuade the skepticism and cynicism.

Jindal: Simple to get rid of the cynicism in Washington, D.C.! I’d say three things.

One, obviously, the plan is built around several federalism components. So for example, there’s a large role for states and the $100 billion in grants. Secondly, there’s much more flexibility for states in the Medicaid program. When you look at where conservative principles are being applied, they’re being applied at the state level. You see a lot of innovation coming out of the states.

First, I think the plan does build around federalism principles that are consistent with our experiences as Republican governors. Secondly, I said a while ago we’re going to stop outsourcing our brand to D.C. I think it’s incumbent on all Republican leaders to speak up and offer principled conservative solutions to the problems facing our country. I think for too long, people have said, “Oh, health care is a Democratic issue or a liberal issue, same way with education.” I think that’s wrong.

Republicans more often talk about tax policy, foreign policy, defense policy and I think we need to be comfortable talking about health care and education. These are American issues. And so we’re going to be doing more policies out of America Next on education, energy, and other issues. It’s incumbent upon conservatives to make these elections debates of ideas, not about personalities.

Third, I’ve got a particular background in health-care policy, being the [Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals] health secretary, an assistant secretary up here [as the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services], and also the [executive director] of the national bipartisan commission on the future of Medicare. And so this is something I’ve actually got a lot of experience in.

Obamacare is such an important issue in what it’s doing to our health-care system and to our freedoms, it’s an issue we all have to speak out about. As conservatives, we often talk about how there are these big decisions we have to make as a country — whether the debt, taxes, more borrowing, more spending. If we really believe that to be true, we have to have the courage of our convictions and have an informed debate and discussion with the American people and persuade them that there is a different and better way.

There are a lot of smart Republican operatives here in D.C. that would tell you: Just run against Obamacare, don’t offer an alternative, especially with the November elections coming up. That might be good tactical advice, but that’s a lousy way to earn ourselves back into a governing majority. I think if we want the ability to govern, we need to tell people what we would do if we were given that power. That’s as important as winning the election, and maybe more important, to tell people why we want to be in power in the first place.

Tags: Bobby Jindal , Obamacare

Anyone Seen the Guy Who Gave GM $49 Billion in Taxpayer Money?


Also in today’s Jolt:

Has Anyone Seen The Guy Who Gave GM $49 Billion in Taxpayer Money?

Remember Steve Rattner? From his own biography: “Rattner served as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and led the Obama Administration’s successful effort to restructure the automobile industry, which he chronicled in his book, Overhaul: An Insider’s Account of the Obama Administration’s Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry.” You know, the car czar.

Over on his personal website, his most recent article is on challenges to Europe’s economies. He wrote it March 21.

Over on his blog, the most recent entry is from March 17, on the missing Malaysian jet.

Rattner was on ABC News This Week Sunday, but he talked about manufacturing wages, not GM’s problems or the bailout. ABC News did a separate interview with him, asking him how he felt about the “car czar” nickname, but not about GM.

A Google News search reveals Rattner has gone largely unmentioned in the coverage of the GM defective-switch scandal. He’s not saying much on his own venues, and apparently no one wants to ask him any questions about President’s Auto Industry Task Force, just how thorough their review of GM was, and how they managed to miss so many consequential lurking safety issues.

Allow me to spotlight two sentences in Michael Moore’s rant about the GM defective-switch scandal that indicate the mental leap our progressive friends have to make when discussing this story:

Only now, under the newly-configured GM — owned, essentially, by you and me from 2009 through last year — has the truth come out . . . 

I hope someone in the Obama administration will get out the handcuffs, the SWAT teams, or the U.S. army if need be, march into GM headquarters in downtown Detroit and haul away anyone who is there who had anything to do with this. And if they already left town, hunt them down and bring them in to face justice.

“Anyone who had anything to do with this”? Would that include “the owners from 2009 through last year”?

The GM bailout put big government and a big corporation in bed together; now Moore only wants to blame one spouse. To give him a smidgen of credit, he was sufficiently distrustful of GM that he wasn’t cheerleading President Obama’s bailout back in 2009: “Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM?” Of course, Moore wanted President Obama to “immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices” because “things we call ‘cars’ may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.” I guess he walks everywhere. (Friendly reminder: Michael Moore has a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot mansion in Torch Lake, Michigan, that he must somehow heat and cool without any carbon emissions.)

There is plenty of blame to go around here. First there’s the serious accusation that GM hid just how deadly the problem could be:

In particular is the charge from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official that the agency had no knowledge in the link between faulty ignition switches and airbag non-deployments. “GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect,” said David Friedman.

Then there’s the charge that federal safety inspectors and regulators are now blaming GM to divert attention from their own bureaucratic inertia . . . 

However, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook took her former employer to task yesterday, saying, “NHTSA has fallen into a bureaucratic quagmire that it uses to avoid opening investigations and determining safety defects while people are dying unnecessarily on the highway. . . . It is past time for NHTSA to put the public first in its safety defect decisions.” The NHTSA has been faulted for not fully looking into the issue, as they concluded in 2007 that there wasn’t enough evidence to press for an investigation.

Says Friedman, “We believe our defects investigation program and recalls process has functioned extremely well over the years in identifying defects that create unreasonable risks and ensuring that recalls occur whenever appropriate. Even so, we continually seek ways to improve.”

Remember, this administration tied itself at the hip to General Motors’ leadership. Not many CEOs get invited to the State of the Union.

Tags: GM , President Obama , Steve Rattner


Which Embattled CEO Was Michelle Obama’s Guest for the State of the Union This Year?


From the Wednesday Morning Jolt:

Guess Which Embattled CEO Was Invited to the State of the Union This Year?

From this year’s State of the Union Address: “Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker.” That line referred to General Motors CEO Mary Barra, invited by Michelle Obama to the address and sitting near the First Lady.

Barra, top right; Michelle Obama, bottom left.

The news Tuesday:

General Motors chief executive Mary T. Barra on Tuesday deflected a barrage of questions on Capitol Hill about the automaker’s failure to fix a deadly ignition-switch flaw, telling lawmakers that she was unaware of the decade-old problem until early this year.

How early? Before or after she was the First Lady’s guest of the State of the Union?

While she repeatedly apologized for a defect that GM has blamed for the deaths of at least 13 motorists, Barra also repeatedly ducked lawmakers’ sometimes testy queries, saying she is awaiting the results of an internal investigation.

At one point in the hearing, Barra admitted she had not read all the documents submitted by GM to the committee. As Reuters television put it, “many times the head of GM pleaded ignorance to the details behind several GM recalls.”

Finally, “Barra, however, stopped short of promising to reveal the company’s entire internal report, instead saying she would release what GM considered ‘appropriate.’”

Tags: GM , Michelle Obama

Democratic Senator Tells GM Car Owners to Stop Driving Immediately


A reader sends this in and quips, “Blumenthal to Michigan: Drop Dead!”

CBS Connecticut:

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately. Blumenthal believes GM made a decision to hide the defect of ignition switches.

Considering the risk from the switches, Blumenthal’s advice isn’t the most outlandish conclusion in the world. If an owner of one of the recalled cars wants to drive it at all, he should remove everything from the key chain and drive the car to the dealer, very carefully, over the smoothest roads possible, and get the car checked out.

The problem is that we’ve been told for five years that General Motors was a national institution that had to be saved at all costs, including billions of taxpayer dollars. Now Democratic lawmakers are really, really eager to drop the hammer on GM for hiding the danger these cars presented to the public. That may be (and increasingly appears to be) completely justified, except the same crowd told us five years ago that all of us had to chip in to save this company, so they could keep making these cars that Blumenthal wants everyone to stop driving.

UPDATE: Fantastic. Vin Flynn notices that back in 2010, Blumenthal touted his help for General Motors in his campaign ads:

Tags: GM , Richard Blumenthal

Remember When Obama Touted the Now-Recalled Chevy Cobalt?


President Obama, speaking at a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, September 15, 2009:

“That program was good for automakers, consumers, and our environment,” Obama said of the Cash for Clunkers programs, “and the Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM’s most sought-after cars under that program. Dealers across the country started running out of it and needed you to build more.”

All Chevy Cobalts from 2005 to 2010 are being recalled because of fears the

ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine. This risk increases if your key ring is carrying added weight . . . or your vehicle experiences rough road conditions or other jarring or impact related events. If the ignition switch is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy if the vehicle is involved in a crash, increasing the risk of injury or fatality.

ABOVE: President Obama, boasting about the popularity of the Chevy
Cobalts under the “Cash for Clunkers” program, September 15, 2009.

Tags: Barack Obama , GM , Cash for Clunkers


Announcing a Big Change to NR’s ‘Morning Jolt’


With the big changes coming to the Jolt, here is today’s edition, in its entirety, to bring everyone up to speed . . . 

Morning Jolt
. . . with Jim Geraghty

April 1, 2014


Readers, you may have noticed commercials for MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, touting the program as a Morning Jolt.™ That branding effort was, in fact, an early promotion for MSNBC and NBCUniversal’s effort to diversify its morning news assets. Last night that effort took a dramatic step forward — with an additional bit of leaning forward — as NBCUniversal finalized its purchase of the Morning Jolt™ newsletter from National Review, Inc.

In exchange, National Review, Inc. received an undisclosed sum, as well as a second-round draft pick in this year’s National Media Pundit Draft, held May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

And now, presenting our New Morning JOE-LT format . . . 

Why Doesn’t Joe Scarborough Run for President?

Isn’t he awesome? I mean, just layers upon layers of awesome.

So while he’s technically denied that he’s running for president . . . 

Joe Scarborough is running a campaign. It may be a campaign to change the Republican Party, to sell a book or perhaps to enhance his reputation.

But not, he insists, a campaign for president.

“I’m not running, and I’m not considering running,” Mr. Scarborough, a Republican former congressman and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he was on spring break with his children. “I’m not making any Shermanesque statements, but I do not expect that to change.”

. . . that didn’t stop people from speculating recently . . . 

Scarborough’s speech sounds for all the world like a campaign speech — and a not-bad one at that. During the audience Q-and-A, a man stands up and says, “Thank you for giving my wife a tingle every morning.” Scarborough blushes hotly underneath his smooth tan, face scrunching gleefully behind his horn-rimmed glasses. “I categorically deny it!” he says.

. . . and it didn’t stop people from speculating in 2012 . . . 

After the presidential inauguration in January, Joe (no fan of Mitt Romney’s — “I’ve been very critical”) plans on publishing a memoir that will serve — no joke — as a vehicle to test the waters for a presidential run in 2016.

. . . and in 2010 . . . 

There’s no campaign yet, and there may never be, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MSNBC’s morning talk-show host Joe Scarborough have begun trying to figure out whether they could be an independent presidential ticket in 2012 — and who would be better to be on top if it happens.

. . . and in 2009 . . . 

I think I’ve found the new face of the Republican Party. It’s not a new one, entirely, and it’s been hiding out on national television every weekday morning from six to nine.

Joe Scarborough.

Clearly, the only thing that can stop people from speculating about Joe Scarborough running for president is Joe Scarborough actually running for president.


Why Doesn’t Mika Brzezinski Run for President?

As this newsletter noted in a past edition, the conservative movement mostly shrugs its shoulders at America’s increasing obesity rates, choosing to believe that individual responsibility can resolve the issue. But evidence is mounting that resolving this national problem will take more than that. Clearly, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” and “Let’s Drink Water!” and “Let’s Breathe Oxygen” campaigns have had only a marginal effect.

I suspect skyrocketing obesity rates and the resulting costs on our health-care system are issues that we on the right are going to have a tough time addressing. Most of us don’t think this is something the government ought to be involved with, and we rightfully point out that some recent efforts to address this have a distinctly Orwellian tone, like Mike Bloomberg’s war on large sodas. (Brzezinski calls Bloomberg “her hero.”)

Freedom means the freedom to make the wrong choices. Unfortunately, the wrong choice can have really bad consequences, and you wonder how self-destructive a choice must be before others are allowed to intervene to try to steer people away from those bad choices. If your eating habits are near-certain to create health-care costs later in life that you will be unable to afford, racking up huge costs to the Medicare system, is it still your business alone?

This isn’t a job for a first lady; it’s a job for a president. This country needs a commander-in-chief in the war on weight, and that leader is . . . 

Okay, maybe not that guy. Perhaps it will require . . . President Brzezinski.

Seriously, can your morning show hosts do this?


Why Doesn’t Donnie Deutsch Run for — Eh, Never Mind.

I mean, come on.


Why Do Conservative Guests Keep Eyeing MSNBC Contributors Skeptically?

Seriously, it’s almost as if the guy sitting on the left has been psychologically conditioned to greet everything Robert Gibbs says with skepticism.

And will someone please tie down his hands? He’s going to knock somebody out with those hand gestures.


Coming Tomorrow: Thirty-Seven Signs Your Favorite Media Source Is Emulating BuzzFeed in an Effort to Increase Traffic

ADDENDA: You remember what day today is, right?

Tags: Something Lighter , MSNBC

Kurtz: Where’s the Coverage of Washington’s Role in GM’s Mess?


Howard Kurtz, now over on Fox News, raises the question about why coverage of GM’s recall has largely ignored the Washington angle:

. . . The federal government is complicit is more ways than one.

GM, you’ll recall, had to be rescued by the taxpayers in 2009, and the federal stake was so large that the company was dubbed Government Motors when it went through bankruptcy. But bankruptcy rules require a disclosure of all liabilities as well as assets. By hiding the defect in its cars, GM may have committed bankruptcy fraud.

Beyond that, the utter failure of the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency to crack down on the defective ignition switch is an embarrassing failure. But regulatory agencies are a journalistic backwater, drawing a fraction of the coverage lavished on the White House, Congress and politics.

Allow me to submit another motive in the media’s disinterest: The massive GM recalls — now more than 6 million vehicles — would require the media to revise a major storyline from a few years ago — the near-collapse, bailout, and resurrection of General Motors, which has largely been covered as an unvarnished success story for the Obama administration. He writes, “You can’t single out President Obama because the government’s failure to act stretches back to the Bush administration, so it doesn’t make for a left/right slugfest.” That’s true enough as it goes, but the Obama administration somehow missed these multiple massive safety issues while putting together the bailout, which ultimately poured $49 billion into GM, and cost taxpayers $10.5 billion once the last share of stock was sold. Hammer the NHTSA, but at what point does the President’s Auto Industry Task Force look negligent? How did they miss so many consequential lurking safety issues in what was allegedly a thorough review of the company?

In another example of the phenomenon discussed in this piece, a wide variety of voices who are quick to lambaste “corporate greed” and “evil businessmen” — be it Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, health-insurance companies, or any one of many others — are strangely quiet about a car company that manufactured and sold cars with a fatal defect. Why? Because progressives don’t begin from the principle, “a company must make safe products to be a good company.” They begin with “Barack Obama is the good guy.” Barack Obama supported and enacted the bailout of GM, thus that bailout must be a good thing. Thus, GM must be a company worth helping. Acknowledging that GM made dangerous cars, lied about it to the public, and then had the audacity to ask the taxpayers for money while keeping the danger of the cars secret would disrupt the “GM is worth helping, and Obama was right to help them” narrative, so it must be ignored, shoved aside, eyes averted, and so on.

UPDATE: Finally, over in the Guardian of the U.K., some tough coverage of Washington’s role in this, from economics columnist Heidi Moore:

Four years later, in December 2013, GM seemed to justify the cost — and faith — of its bailout. When the US Treasury sold its remaining stake, President Obama wrapped the moment in misty-eyed rhetoric about national pride:

When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: the ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong. Today, that bet has paid off. The American auto industry is back.

We were desperate to believe this.

Less than four months later, it seems foolish that any of GM’s fairy tale was believable to anyone. After the recalls and the estimates of driver deaths, all of that talk — of the reborn American automaker, of bets paid and dollars won — seems like a hollow spectacle.

And it has to make us wonder: how much were US taxpayers and the government complicit in sustaining a company that researchers had already suggested was unable to compete in the modern automotive industry?

“It’s no ‘new GM’ if they’re doing this,” Dartmouth Tuck School of Business professor Paul A Argenti tells me. “If this has been hidden for 10 years, there’s nothing new about the company. It’s old-school GM. It’s stuff you can’t even imagine a company could do in the 21st century.”

Tags: GM , Barack Obama

Guess Who Has No Democratic Opponent in 2014?


Remember about a year ago, when Democrats spent a fortune to defeat former governor Mark Sanford in a special House election? Elizabeth Colbert Busch spent $1.8 million, and the House Majority PAC and the DCCC spent $884,000 on independent expenditures.

The deadline for filing papers for a race for Congress in South Carolina was March 30. No Democrat filed papers to run for Congress in South Carolina’s first congressional district. (Independent candidates have until July 15 to file the papers.)

Unless some independent candidate jumps in, Representative Mark Sanford will run unopposed for Congress in 2014. From an underdog to unopposed in just a year!

Tags: Mark Sanford

After $10.5 Billion Bailout, GM Recalling Nearly 5 Million Cars


You know that auto company that taxpayers spent $10.5 billion to save? They’re recalling 4.8 million vehicles as potentially fatally defective.

The expanding recall order from General Motors is being treated as a Detroit story, not a Washington story. But evidence is mounting that federal safety regulators made critical decisions that kept the defective cars on the roads:

Seven years ago, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration manager recommended investigating the reason for the non-deploying airbags in General Motors’ 2003-2006 Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion cars. This was revealed in a memo issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The chief of NHTSA’s Defects Assessment Division e-mailed other officials in the Office of Defects Investigation in September 2007, saying owner complaints from 2005 and “early warning” data about warranty repairs and injuries justified an investigation. According to an interview between current NHTSA officials and the House committee’s staff, the agency reconsidered after reviewing the data thus deciding not to open a formal investigation.

The officials at Delphi Automotive, the supplier of the ignition switches to the recalled GM cars, told congressional investigators that GM approved the original part in 2002. The approval was despite the fact it did not meet GM specifications. As early as 2001, GM was aware of the ignition switch problems, but no recalls were ordered until earlier this year.

This weekend, ABC News interviewed Steve Rattner, lead adviser to President Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force, and asked him how he felt about being called a “czar” . . . but nothing about the GM recall.

Let’s presume that GM never told President Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force about the safety issue of the switches and the massive liability issue it presented. Did anyone on President Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force ever check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Did anyone on the Task Force even examine whether GM had any safety issues before going ahead with the bailout, which ultimately used $49 billion in taxpayer dollars?

Does anyone in Washington care?

Tags: GM

CFO Survey: We’re Passing on Obamacare Costs to Staff, Customers


The multinational consulting firm Deloitte surveyed 109 North American chief financial officers of major companies from February 7 through 21. Besides a drop in optimism about the economy, the CFOs’ thoughts on health care, and changes from Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act, are particularly interesting:

Last quarter’s findings indicated the ACA had caused 40% of U.S. companies to pass (or to consider passing) health care costs onto staff, and had also caused 32% to increase their focus on wellness management. This quarter shows CFOs expect the use of both tactics to rise as implementation gets closer:

Heavy focus on wellness: Two-thirds of CFOs say they expect to increase their focus on health and wellness.

Passing on health care costs: Sixty percent of CFOs say they plan to pass health care costs on to staff, and 12% expect to pass costs on to customers (Energy/Resources is the most likely to cite this approach).

Changing coverage: Twenty-three percent of CFOs say they expect to reduce the scope of benefits offered to some staff, and 16% expect to reduce the level or value of benefits provided. While just 10% of CFOs overall anticipate offering new coverage to staff not previously offered benefits, more than half of CFOs in Retail/Wholesale expect to do so.

Some drag on earnings: Eleven percent of CFOs say they expect to reduce their earnings forecasts as a result of measures undertaken in response to the Act, roughly the same proportion that had already done so as of 4Q13. The effects appear strongest in Services, where 43% of CFOs expect to reduce their earnings forecasts.

No major impacts on hiring or staffing mix: Just under 7% of CFOs say they expect to constrain hiring, and the same proportion expects to reduce employee hours to create more part-time positions.

It may not qualify as a major impact, but 7 percent of companies constraining hiring and 7 percent shifting workers to part-time is still bad economic news. Even worse, the rest of the survey indicates companies don’t expect to be doing much hiring in the near future:

Domestic hiring expectations declined to just 1.0%, below last quarter’s 1.4% and among the lowest in the history of the survey. The median is again 0.0%, and variability of responses is very high. Forty-two percent of CFOs expect year-over-year gains (comparatively low), and 18% expect 4% cuts (comparatively low).

Country-specific expectations are 1.1% for the U.S. (1.7% last quarter).

Remember the message back in January? “Democrats are confident that a strong economy in 2014 will help them retain their Senate majority.”

Tags: Obamacare , Economy

Don’t Feel Bad, Is Wrong, Too.


Don’t feel bad, has its own problems, too. Right now, the countdown clock on the White House website says there are 16 more days to enroll in Obamacare . . . except that the minutes tick down every second, and the second area is blank:

Of course, with the deadline really shifted to mid-April, as long as an applicant claims that he tried to buy insurance before April 1, maybe the 16-day count is more accurate . . . 

Tags: Obamacare Begins Its Final Day of Enrollment . . . Closed for Maintenance


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Happy Obamacare Deadline-ish Day. CNN’s Jim Acosta logs on to this morning and finds:

Perfect. Old traditions die hard, huh? At least, a lot harder than

Health Care’s Cost Curve Is Turning Into a Squiggly Line, Mostly Upward

May 2013: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending down! Credit Obamacare!

“National health spending grew by 3.9 percent each year from 2009 to 2011, the lowest rate of growth since the federal government began keeping such statistics in 1960,” reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. Early data suggest that the numbers held into 2012. So the curve hasn’t just bent; it has bent more than ever.

September 2013: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending back up again! Blame Obamacare!

Last week, the Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rather different prediction: that “the [Affordable Care Act] is projected to . . . increase cumulative spending by roughly $621 billion” from 2014 to 2022. To be clear, that’s spending on top of the normal health-care inflation that would have happened if Obamacare had not been passed. So much for “bending down the cost curve,” as the president often liked to say his law would do.

November 2013: No, no, health care’s “cost curve” is bending down again! Credit Obamacare!

The White House issued a 29-page report that says, among other things, the once out-of-control health spending trends in the U.S. have been tamed to the point where medical inflation is just over 1%.

Health spending growth is the lowest on record, the report contends, up an average annual rate of 1.3% over the past three years. That’s less than one-third the historical average dating back to 1965.

Today: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending back up again! Blame Obamacare!

Health care spending rose at the fastest pace in 10 years last quarter, a development that could foreshadow higher costs for consumers this year.

Expenses for health care rose at a 5.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. The jump triggered a sharp upward revision in the government’s estimate of consumer spending overall and accounted for nearly a quarter of the economy’s 2.6% annualized growth in the last three months of 2013.

Driving the increase was an $8 billion rise in hospital revenue — more than the previous four quarters combined, according to the Census Bureau and Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS economist Omair Sharif says the increase in hospitals’ income was puzzling because the number of inpatient days dipped 1% during the fourth quarter.

Fewer patients, staying in the hospital less time, and paying more.

In the meantime, thank you, Obamacare.

U.S seniors — those aged 65 and older — have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010.

Gee, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that Obamacare is cutting Medicare?

Finally, way to go, Maryland:

On Tuesday, Maryland will begin the process of replacing its troubled exchange, which has had so many problems since its launch on Oct. 1 that officials have decided it would be better to start anew. Maryland had more than two years to create its first exchange, which has cost $125.5 million to build and operate, according to the exchange’s spokeswoman.

Tags: , Obamacare , Barack Obama , Maryland

Could Michigan’s Eighth District Replace a Mike with a Mike?


Representative Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, surprised the political world by announcing that he won’t run for another term and will instead begin a new career hosting a radio show.

This leaves Republicans in need of a candidate in Michigan’s eighth congressional district, an R+2 district that includes Lansing, the state capital, and Michigan State University. The GOP candidate will be slightly favored in this open-seat race, but it is by no means a sure thing.

I’m hearing the name Mike Bishop mentioned as a potential GOP candidate; he’s a former prosecutor and state-senate majority leader whose last bid for office was a campaign for Oakland County prosecutor in 2012. He lost in the general election to an incumbent Democrat, 45 percent to 51 percent, in a year when Obama was winning the county with 53 percent.

The Detroit News mentions several other potential GOP candidates:

state Rep. Bill Rogers of Brighton, who is term-limited, state Sen. Joe Hune from Livingston County and state Rep. Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills, who is trailing in polling currently in a state Senate race.

Tags: Mike Rogers , Mike Bishop , Michigan

Wait, Mark Warner’s at 46 Percent Against an Unknown Opponent?


Quinnipiac’s poll in Virginia isn’t fantastic news for Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie, but it’s not nearly as bad as the pollster’s interpretation would suggest.

Let’s start with the obvious: Most folks in Virginia don’t know much about Gillespie. Just 20 percent have a favorable impression, 14 percent have an unfavorable impression, and 64 percent haven’t heard enough about him — including 57 percent of Republicans.

So it’s not that surprising that a Democratic incumbent senator, who served as governor before that, holds a big lead over a little-known GOP opponent, 46 percent to 31 percent.

Obviously, Gillespie is going to do everything he can to tie Warner to Obamacare and his vote for the gargantuan, far-reaching law. Quinnipiac found 31 percent say that they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports “the 2010 health care law passed by President Obama and Congress” while 45 percent said they were less likely. Overall, 44 percent of Virginians support the law, 52 percent oppose it.

In short, Gillespie’s going to do everything he can to make the Senate race a referendum on Obamacare, and Mark Warner will do everything he can to make sure the race is about anything besides Obamacare. We’ll see how that battle goes, but Florida Democratic U.S. House candidate Alex Sink might have some thoughts on it.

Don’t think that Obama can swoop in and lock the state down for Warner; just 15 percent told Quinnipiac that Obama’s campaigning for him would make them more likely to vote to reelect the senator, 33 percent said less likely.

Sure, Warner’s favorability is 49 percent, but that’s down from 58 percent in November of 2012.

Finally, note that Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who ran for governor last year, is running in the Senate race this year. Quinnipiac puts him at 6 percent, which is roughly what he received in last year’s race. The final Quinnipiac poll in Virginia last year put Sarvis at 8 percent, but some pollsters put him much higher and in double digits. Third-party and independent candidates usually wilt at the end, particularly in Virginia.

In short, Warner’s certainly the favorite, but it’s early, and these numbers don’t portray an unbeatable incumbent.

Having said that, Warner does take some stances we can all applaud:

Tags: Mark Warner , Ed Gillespie

‘So God Made a Trial Lawyer . . .’


America Rising puts together aspiring Democratic senator Bruce Braley’s “just a farmer” comments with Paul Harvey’s 1978 “So God Made a Farmer” speech . . . 

Separately, they turn the page to another chapter of the long, long, detailed nonfiction book entitled, “Representative Bruce Braley, Jerk.”

Tags: Bruce Braley

What Happens if Christie Really Never Knew All Along?


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

What Happens if Christie Really Never Knew All Along?

New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s knowing about the bridge lane closures and then giving that “I had no idea” press conference would suggest he was either a nut job or an extremely convincing liar. Having said that, most of us on the Right would not accept a Democratic governor’s investigating himself or an “internal investigation” or an investigation by allies. So a lot of folks, fairly or not, will dismiss this investigation.

Howard Kurtz:

The internal report exonerating Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal was big enough news that the cable networks went live to the presser during or after President Obama talking about his meeting with Pope Francis.

. . . Let’s assume, for just a second, that the report was largely on target. It was headed by Randy Mastro, a former New York City deputy mayor, who knows that he will look like a dishonest hack if the federal and state investigations find that Christie was in fact involved in the lane closures.

But if Mastro’s central finding holds up — that Christie didn’t know of the bridge fiasco and wasn’t involved in any coverup — how does that change the national media clamor over the New Jersey governor?

What if all the speculation and breathless cable segments, especially on MSNBC, was wrong, and Christie’s denials (beginning at that marathon news conference) were truthful? Even on the charges of a Hurricane Sandy aid shakedown by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whose account was branded “demonstrably false” by the investigators?

Can you be truly “cleared” after being roughed up in this modern media age? And if he was, would Christie be owed an apology?

Kurtz concludes, “it may be that Christie was innocent in a legal sense but will still pay a huge political price. That may be unfair, but no one ever said presidential politics was fair.” Yes, but notice that certain scandals never stick to certain other figures.

As Brittany Cohan notices this morning, “Today Show talking about Bridgegate. Nothing about gun running, FBI raids, bribery, illegal campaign spending, etc. Because they’re Dems.”

If you’re not familiar with the gun running reference, it refers to this . . . 

[California State Sen. Leland] Yee discussed helping the [undercover FBI] agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder fired automatic weapons and missiles, and took him through the entire process of getting them from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines to the United States, according to the affidavit.

The New York Times greeted that news with a one paragraph summary on page A21 Wednesday with the headline: “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.”

Tags: Chris Christie

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This.


Think of this Jolt section as your late Friday afternoon fun coming early:

Recasting Indiana Jones? I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This

WARNING: This is going to get geeky, and the following may be my most self-indulgent writing since the Twin Peaks analysis.

This is a bad idea, in its current form. But it doesn’t have to be.

Our ever reliable sources are informing us that while Harrison Ford might still play Indiana Jones in the next film of the franchise, the window of making that happen is getting smaller and smaller.

There is a date and if Indiana Jones 5 is not moving forward by then, the studios are 100% prepared to recast a younger Dr. Jones and ready up a new trilogy.

Let’s be realistic, Harrison is not the box office draw he once was and he is only getting older.

Don’t think of it as a reboot but just recasting the same way the James Bond (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) movies have been doing for the better part of five decades.

And who just might be one of the actors that the studio is looking at ? The word is that they are looking at several but Bradley Cooper is at the top of the list.

Like I said, as is, this is a terrible idea. We’ve actually had four actors play Indiana Jones besides Harrison Ford – River Phoenix as Young Indy in the beginning of Last Crusade and then Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery, and George Hall in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. But when you say, “Indiana Jones,” everyone thinks of Harrison Ford. He owns the role. It’s his. Leave it to him.

There’s no need to rehash the criticisms of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull; needless to say, most of the fan base left deeply disappointed, and has likely concluded that it doesn’t want, or need, any more Indiana Jones movies. But we sure as heck would love to see more movies in the tone and style of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So allow me to offer Disney two possibilities.

Option One: Tell a 1930s-1940s-1950s pulp adventure story featuring another adventurer, perhaps someone who’s heard of Indiana Jones or mentions him as a rival. (In Raiders, Indy himself mentions he has rivals going after the same treasures he does: “This is where Forrestal cashed in. . . . He was good. Very good.”) A lot of real-life archeologists are mentioned as “the real life Indiana Jones” or claimed to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones – Roy Chapman Andrews, Hiram Bingham, Percy Fawcett, Howard Carter, Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, among others. Alternatively, let Cooper play one of Professor Jones’s first students, determined to emulate Indy. Maybe even bring in Ford for a cameo; maybe this student is looking for the one treasure Indy never found. Make clear this is a story that’s taking place in the world of Indiana Jones, but that Indy is enjoying retirement with Marion.

Option Two: The other possibility — one I prefer — is to tell a story that takes place in the modern day. Cooper could be a descendant of Indy’s, or just some young archeologist who’s uncovered Indy’s personal papers (his own “grail diary?”). Maybe today’s archeologists dismiss Jones as a bit of a lunatic and reckless daredevil. (See Professor Jones Gets Rejected for Tenure.) But our protagonist — a bit of a stand-in for the audience — thinks Indy is the coolest guy that ever lived and is determined to follow in his footsteps.

Like in the other scenario, he finds a reference to some long-lost treasure that Indy sought but could never locate . . . and of course, a key missing clue has only now been found at some recent archeological discoverythe gold at the Temple Mount, the Egyptian city buried under the Mediterranean Sea, even the ship found underground at the site of the World Trade Center.

Like Indy, our Bradley Cooper character begins with a bit of a mercenary side to him, chasing fortune and glory — maybe even talking aloud to his unseen late mentor, “I hope you’re watching from up there, Indy, ‘cause I’m gonna do what you never could!” — but gradually learns to be a more well-rounded person, caring for others, and learning there’s more to life than just treasure and punching people.

You can still tell a pulp-style Indiana Jones story in today’s world; our globe still has enough far-off dangerous and exotic corners — the mountains of central Asia, the pirate-laden waters of Southeast Asia and the horn of Africa, the jungles of the Amazon, just about anywhere in the Middle East . . . Just remember to include femmes fatales and feisty companions, comical sidekicks, villains that you love to hate, constant fistfights, gunfights, chases, and at least once, a menace of a lot of dangerous animals in a confined space — perhaps the saltwater crocodiles of Ramree Island, Burma.

As you can tell, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about this. My friend Flint Dille — a writer on the old Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons, and all kinds of video games, including the Indiana Jones-esque Uncharted series — invited me to participate in a joint writing project called TikiWikiFiki, a series of interconnected pulp stories set in World War Two era (or immediately post-war) South Pacific. Who knows, maybe if enough copies of this book sell, I’ll get to tell those stories.

Most importantly — and perhaps the element that makes Bradley Cooper the right guy to carry the torch — any new films need to remember to include the two key moments of every Indiana Jones sequence:


Our hero suddenly realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew, eyes bulge, and we share with him a split-second of panic or “oh, crap”

This is what I look like when I’m on cable news and realize the show changed topics without telling me.


Our hero smiles.

This is what I look like when I’ve steered the topic back to the one-liner I wanted to use.

You’re welcome, Disney.

Tags: Something Lighter

Harry Reid’s Campaign Paid His Granddaughter $31,000 for ‘GIfts’


As mentioned in my last two appearances on Greta Van Susteren’s show, at least once a month Harry Reid does something or says something that would get the average Republican thrown out of office:

Now there’s a big new one, Jon Ralston reports: Reid’s campaign has spent $31,000 on various “thank-you gifts” for donors and “trinkets,” paid to his granddaughter.

Over in the House, the rules don’t quite prohibit this, but they do discourage it and establish certain rules:

At times a family member of a Member wishes to sell certain goods or services to the Member’s campaign.

Such a transaction is permissible under the House Rules only if (1) there is a bona fide campaign need for the goods, services, or space, and (2) the campaign does not pay more than fair market value in the transaction. Whenever a Member’s campaign is considering entering into a transaction with either the Member or one of his or her family members, it is advisable for the Member to seek a written advisory opinion on the transaction from the Standards Committee.

If a Member’s campaign does enter into such a transaction with the Member or a member of his or her family, the campaign’s records must include information that establishes both the campaign’s need for and actual use of the particular goods, services or space, and the efforts made to establish fair market value for the transaction.

We’ll see if the Senate Select Committee on Ethics — chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer — even bothers to look at this.

The RNC smells blood in the water:

No one will fire Reid, of course; the only chance he’ll lose the title of “Senate Majority Leader” is if Republicans control the Senate next year.

Ad Features GOP Candidate Shooting Obamacare Bill


Every Democrat and media commentator who objects to this ad running in Alabama, featuring GOP House candidate Will Brooke shooting a copy of the text of the Obamacare law, a.k.a. “The Affordable Care Act” . . . 

. . . will have to explain why they didn’t mind when Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) ran his ad of him shooting the cap-and-trade bill:

Note that in that ad, Manchin promised “to repeal the bad parts of Obamacare.” How’s he doing on that promise?

Tags: Will Brooke , Joe Manchin IT Contractor Announces Higher Profit Forecast


Obamacare is helping American businesses! Well, one of them, anyway:

Accenture, recently chosen as the lead contractor for the Obamacare enrollment website, raised its full-year profit forecast and the lower end of its revenue forecast.

Last month the Washington Post noted the company:

has a record that includes troubled projects and allegations of ethical lapses, a review of the consulting giant’s history shows.

At the University of Michigan, students and faculty members are protesting the school’s use of Accenture to help cut costs, citing a report by a committee of alumni and graduate students that said the firm has “a disturbing pattern of problematic past performance.” In North Carolina, glitches in an Accenture-configured computer system contributed to massive backlogs for food-stamp recipients, leading the Obama administration last month to threaten to withdraw the state’s food-stamp funding.

Tags: Obamacare


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