Much of the Obamacare law, lengthy as it is, practically consists of “details TBD by the bureaucracy.” Kathleen Sebelius’s Department of Health and Human Services has now determined one of those details: Organizations that offer health insurance will have to cover contraception, including abortifacients, the moral or religious qualms of those organizations notwithstanding. Churches narrowly defined are exempt from the requirement, but hospitals, universities, and other organizations with a religious character must comply with it. It would be no great hardship for those of Notre Dame’s employees who disagree with the historic Christian proscription of contraception to pay out of pocket for it. As Michael Gerson notes, the decision to allow no exemptions partakes of both radicalism and malice. Obama has also betrayed those liberal Catholics who supported, or gave cover for, him and his health-care law. The Reverend John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, is among those liberals upset by the administration’s action. Gerson goes too far, however, when he complains that “Obama has made Jenkins — and other progressive Catholic allies — look easily duped.” It is not Obama who is primarily responsible for that perception.
President Obama, cowering before the environmentalist Left, has “delayed” (read: “attempted to kill”) the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have connected Canadian oil producers with American refineries. There are many good reasons that Canadian pipes are preferable to Arab ships as a source of crude, but Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is a bitter opponent of the project, while the Natural Resources Defense Council lobbied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block the pipeline on the grounds that it “undermines the U.S. commitment to a clean-energy economy.” Republicans had been pressing the White House to get the pipeline moving, but the president protested that he needed more time to study the project — which has been in development since he was Senator Obama. The project he is studying is his reelection, and he has calculated that his prospects would be considerably diminished if he were to lose even a part of the green vote. Meanwhile, the United States, held hostage by these parochial concerns, is denied a new and nearby source of energy, thousands of pipeline-construction jobs, and billions of dollars in infrastructure investments — real investments, not Solyndra-style “investments.” Republicans should not let this matter drop, and indeed should make a portfolio of energy issues central to their critique of the Obama administration.
A handful of left-wing House Democrats have introduced the Gas Price Spike Act, under which oil companies would be taxed at 50 to 100 percent on profits deemed to be higher than reasonable (with the receipts spent on “green” energy). What does that mean, exactly? In prose that sounds like a saxophone solo, the act explains: “The term ‘reasonable profit’ means the amount determined by the Reasonable Profits Board to be a reasonable profit.” Okay, nothing to worry about there. The problem is that oil is a boom-and-bust business, with wildly fluctuating prices governed by fast-changing international events. Will the board give oil companies a refund when the price suddenly drops? No, that would make sense. Fortunately, the bill stands no chance of passage in a Republican-run House, but if the Democrats regain control, don’t count it out; President Obama has made clear that no one is entitled to any profits he finds excessive. But surely its sponsors realize that the bill would defeat its own purpose, because with the profit outlook dimmed, oil companies would reduce production and exploration, which would make gas more expensive at the pump, and . . . hey, wait a minute! You don’t think that was the point all along, do you?
White House memos recently published in The New Yorker reveal that the Obama administration leaned on economists, including James K. Galbraith, to monkey with their numbers and call for a larger stimulus in 2009. Which is to say that the president, a lawyer, and his chief of staff sought to overrule their pet economists on a technical economic question for purely political reasons. There is much else of interest in the memos, including the fact that the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, doubted the plan’s efficacy and did not believe that it was even logistically possible for the federal government to spend the $1 trillion that the most aggressive stimulators wanted to see moved out the door. What remains unknown is just how many of the economists the administration contacted were willing to pick up their shovels for Obama.