Tag Archives: TEA Party

Seven Questions with Bob Moffit, Co-Author of Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America

Released this past Tuesday, the important new book Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America has gotten noticed by Fox News, NPR, Town Hall, National Review, and readers nationwide, who keep it climbing up the Amazon bestseller charts. The Foundry interviewed Heritage’s Bob Moffit—one of the four co-authors—who reveals how the book came together and why it matters.

Josh Shepherd: Other laws passed in the last two years also have their critics. Why devote a whole book to just this one new law?

Bob Moffit: Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) is historically unique. Never before has Congress enacted a comprehensive overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy, affecting all 300 million Americans, in one giant bill over 2,700 pages in length. Never before has Congress enacted major social legislation on a narrowly partisan basis in the teeth of popular opposition. Never before have 28 regionally diverse states united in challenging Washington in the federal courts. Health policy dominated the last election; it will play a major role in the next election. And the outcome of this national debate will shape the life of every person reading these lines.

JS: When did you, Grace-Marie Turner, and the other co-authors first discuss writing a book together about Obamacare?

Moffit: Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, called me during the summer of 2010. After the mass protests and the demonstrations and the backlash from the previous summer’s town hall meetings fresh in their minds, congressional leaders were clearly on the defensive over what they had done in March. Turner pointed out to me that ordinary people, from all walks of life, were desperate to learn as much as they could about what was in the law and how it would affect them, and we needed to make the law accessible to them in plain English, devoid of the jargon that routinely accompanies health policy discussions. She also suggested asking Tom Miller of the American Enterprise Institute and James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. I agreed that they would be terrific collaborators on a project like this.

JS: Tell us about the writing process. How did you all collaborate and still ensure that the book has one voice?

Moffit: We all shared the same basic approach to the subject, and, despite some differences over the significance of items in the law, we all shared the same approach to health policy. We all agreed to write each chapter in the second person. The target of every thought, every sentence, every paragraph was to be: you. This was to make the narrative appealing to the reader and encourage clarity and simplicity in the language. We agreed among ourselves to write chapters on different areas of the law and its impact on different classes of Americans. The writing started over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and continued non-stop until mid-February. Beyond the assigned chapters, we would each review all the draft chapters. Grace-Marie Turner was the project leader. Not only was she the lead writer, but she and her team at the Galen Institute edited and integrated the authors’ different styles into a seamless book. Our editor, Adam Bellow at HarperCollins/Broadside Books in New York City, really helped shape the book and organize the approach that we took in the book. The authors also had sessions where we would meet in person and go over the chapters, sometimes line by line, making corrections and offering suggestions. All the while, the team at the Galen Institute were proofreading, fact-checking, and working to get the book completed on a very tight deadline.

JS: What strengths does each co-author bring to the table?

Moffit: One of the great advantages of our collaboration is that we have known each other for years, and we were familiar with each other’s work in the media and professional journals. But health care is the domestic policy equivalent of China. While I brought to the table a strong background in Medicare based on my duties at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Reagan Administration, Turner had focused heavily on health insurance, the impact on vulnerable Americans, and federal tax policy governing health insurance. Capretta, a former top official at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget during the Bush Administration, was a nationally recognized expert on health-related tax and budgetary issues. And Miller, a lawyer by training, had closely followed the legal controversies, including the court cases and the regulatory issues flowing from the enactment of the law as well as on the impact of business. All of us worked together on the overview of the law and on what we should do instead.

JS: The book gives the facts in clear language, yet there’s a lot to get through. Why should busy American families care about a complex law passed in far-away Washington?

Moffit: This law guarantees that Washington is not far away at all but deeply involved in your personal life. The law will dictate what kind of health plan you have, what medical benefits and treatments you will have, what you will pay in new taxes, what it will mean for your employer and your compensation, and what it will mean for your doctor in his medical practice. Moreover, many decisions that will affect you and your family will be made not by Members of Congress but by bureaucrats you will never know and never meet.

JS: Since last year, Americans have consistently told pollsters that repealing this law is the best route. But could Obamacare be fixed?

Moffit: Repeal is the only answer. You cannot rebuild a health care system based on personal freedom and market competition on bureaucracy and central planning. The poisonous tree yields bad fruit.

JS: What should we do instead to get health care reform right?

Moffit: We have a chapter in our book about what we should do instead, moving to a system that puts consumers in charge of choices, provides new incentives for a properly-functioning market, and fixes policy flaws at the root of many of the problems in our health sector. Just this week, Nina Owcharenko, director of Heritage’s Center for Health Policy Studies, has recently outlined the roadmap for reform in “Restarting Health Care Reform: A New Agenda.” There are a large number of specific policy changes that need to be made. Broadly speaking, if you want to fix the health care system, you need to make tax policy fair and rational, give individual tax relief to persons to buy the private coverage of their choice, promote competition in the health insurance markets (including the right to buy health coverage anywhere in the country), fix the broken entitlements (Medicare and Medicaid) and introduce market forces into those programs to control cost and secure higher quality of care, and encourage state innovation—including health insurance market reform and medical malpractice reform.

Learn more about Why Obamacare Is Wrong for America (a publication of HarperCollins/Broadside Books) at WrongForAmericaBook.com; you can get your copy today at Amazon.com or in bookstores nationwide.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

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Get Up 40 Minutes Early on a Tuesday

Originally published by New Man eMagazine

As Americans, we are blessed to be living in the richest country in the history of the world. Undeniably, one of the key reasons for our prosperity is our many freedoms – notably, the liberty to vote for our leaders.

And in my experience, all it takes to exercise this freedom is to get up 40 minutes early on a Tuesday morning, get to a local polling place, maybe stand in a line for a bit*… and make a decision that will directly impact the budget, policies and personalities who will direct government for at least two years. What a country! Our representative democracy is a unique and powerful system, the first of its kind you could say – only existing today thanks to the blood and sacrifice of America’s finest.

In light of this, it always shocks me when I run into people who proclaim, even proudly: “I don’t vote.” Really? So you’re part of those 40% of American citizens who banter and complain about political leaders or parties or “the system” like everyone else, but can’t take 40 minutes to do the one thing you can do constructively to make a difference? Unbelievable.

Now I know cynicism stops many people from voting. I’ve felt that too. Having moved from Texas to Washington, DC in the past year, it’s actually been heartening to find many talented, visionary people working in politics… but even more discouraging to see their good ideas trampled by the Big Government parade.

True, both political parties are responsible for those spending increases, those new programs, those supposedly “good” things that only serve to part you with more of your hard-earned money. Now that I’m more aware of who’s calling the shots here in DC, I know that I know that I know we are all better off if you choose where your money is spent** – including what charities, places of worship, and good causes to support.

Putting a politician in charge of spending your money presents a scenario which has compromised the best of intentions. It means that some CEO came to Mr. Congressman and made a convincing case as to how to best send your money “back to our hometown.” Unfortunately, that CEO’s small-business competitor did not have the funds to come to Washington.

So the smaller company lost, it missed getting the advantage, and perhaps even shut its doors. Maybe a few dozen jobs were lost… which adds up when you think about 9,499 back room deals (earmarks) that were made in Congress just last year. What happens in Washington, DC really does impact America’s heartland.

This culture of earmarks, or “corporate welfare” as some call it, is not easy to change. But it’s possible. The current political climate has led some of America’s brightest minds in business, community outreach, medicine, the clergy, and even rocket science to seek voters’ support to represent them in Washington. These men and women know how to read a profit-and-loss statement, how to balance a checkbook… how to innovate when an organization has lost it way. Most of our current lawmakers don’t have the first clue about these basics.

I am inspired by many new leaders seeking office. It’s why I am spending my Saturdays lately walking door-to-door, talking to Virginians about who will be on the ballot. It’s why I am listening closely to what candidates are saying about the big issues of our time, from the national debt to the rise of China.

And it’s why I will get up 40 minutes early on Tuesday, November 2. What a great privilege paid for by the bravery of past generations – that in itself makes my vote count.

*Of course, American citizens must be registered to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? Go to the helpful website CanIVote.org for state-specific info.

**There is a small, Constitutionally-limited role for government to play. George Washington was perhaps the first patriot to realize that taxes are necessary for our freedoms to exist. Yet currently government is bloated beyond anything resembling the Constitution.

Channel Your Anger

Never before have I heard my brother so worked up about politics. The week of the health care vote, he’d just gotten back from Haiti—where he’d seen how billions in government aid made only a small difference (but that’s another story… or is it?)

All 2,409 pages of the final health reform bill

Now, returning home, he was mad. Every conversation led back to this 2,409-page health bill. “They really pulled one over on us,” my brother said of the powerful politicos who ignored Americans’ opinions about this bill. “I just feel helpless.”

I know the feeling. This monstrosity has hounded me since I arrived in Washington last year. As an intern in Congress, I scanned thousands of constituent letters on health care. When pro-life concerns began boiling up among both Republicans and Democrats, a letter of protest was drafted and I walked it around to get Representatives’ signatures.

The process was a disaster. The heroes were the “party of no” villains – men and women who fought tirelessly against a

Tom Coburn Nikki Haley Allen West Paul Ryan

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., Governor Nikki Haley, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Paul Ryan

powerful majority. Still the bill passed. Some of us despise how new programs will take our freedoms with new government mandates; some care most about the theft of more personal income via taxes; some rightfully fear how time and courtesy will be lost to greater bureaucracy; and, having dealt with Medicare, health care providers detest the bill for all of the above.

But we’re not helpless. Truth is, our nation has a grand tradition of changing and even repealing laws that do not work. We have a clear, Constitutionally-mandated ability to take away political power from irresponsible leaders: it’s called election day.

Some folks (like my brother) have been politically active for years. If Washington has motivated you to make a difference, here’s some ideas on how to be effective…

1. Vote Every Time. The value of your vote cannot be overstated. Considering all the money spent on election campaigns, lobbying and the costs of running Congress, your vote is easily worth hundreds of dollars. Casting your ballot is not only part of your wealth as an American citizen – it’s the right thing to do, every time. And never forget: the 2000 Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes in Florida.

2. Dialogue with Your Friends. It’s easier to talk about the weather and your health instead of politics and religion. Trust me, I know. Agreeing to disagree is common even among conservative allies, as a friend told me recently: “She knows what I think, and I know her side – we just don’t bring up those issues where we disagree.”

I find the best teachers are people I trust. Whether or not we agree, it’s revealing to ask: what do you believe on these big issues… and why? Through this practice, including plenty of lost debates among friends, mostly I’ve learned how much I have to learn. Which is good.

3. Support Candidates You Believe In. Traditional media is shocked at the effect Tea Partiers are already having on primary elections. Polls, conventional wisdom and even fundraising figures cannot explain how some candidates are coming “out of nowhere” to win races.

That “nowhere” is a place called the heartland of America. We need hard- working average Joes to hold power in Congress, just as we need some current leaders to stay. Rather than complicate your voting decision, here’s a simple suggestion: examine the candidates’ positions and voting records carefully. Then vote for the one who is most consistent with your values. If you want to multiply your impact, volunteer for the campaign. You will not regret it.

On that final health care vote weekend, Washington became a circus of everyday Americans who descended on DC to raise their voices. I waited in a line of hundreds for the opportunity to sit in the House gallery and watch the debate firsthand. During a lull, I learned the folks seated next to me were activists from New Orleans.

“My first rally was outside the ACORN offices,” the man said. “A thousand people showed up to protest them. And I read the paper the next day, not a single mention of it! I knew something was up because even a few animal-rights protesters get front-page coverage. I’m from Nicaragua originally, so freedom is not something I take for granted. I saw how socialism starts small – then it takes over.”

If politics is making you steamed, join the party. Take action to truly make a difference.

Interview with author Joel Vaughan

Joel Vaughan, author of The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition, served with the Christian Coalition for ten years in addition to his experience in political campaigns and organizations. He currently is Special Assistant to the President of Focus on the Family. [Full disclosure: he’s also a good friend, and his wife was my manager when I worked at Focus.]

Josh Shepherd & Joel Vaughan at Values Voter Summit 2009

The Civil Roar: Your book has a provocative title. But you start out saying that you disapprove of “tell-all” exposés. So why did you write The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition?
Joel Vaughan: Well, this isn’t a “tell all” book. It’s a “tell most” book. It’s PG-13 rated at worst. But a history of that great organization deserved to exist, so I wrote one.

TCR: Today the Christian Right finds its voice at Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, as well as other organizations not as religiously motivated (The Heritage Foundation, etc.) Is the message getting out to the culture as effectively as in the glory days of Christian Coalition?
Vaughan: The difference, the gap we face now, is that no one is working in the trenches, to identify voters and organize precincts. That’s what set Christian Coalition apart.

TCR: What do you think of Ralph Reed’s new organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition?
Vaughan: I think it’s much needed, although faces an uphill battle. But if anyone can make it happen, Ralph can, provided he doesn’t get distracted with other things, such as another run for office.

TCR: Who are the current voices in the conservative movement you listen to closely – in media, politics or elsewhere?
Vaughan: Well, you can’t avoid Rush. He’s everywhere – at lunchtime in the car. But he’s as much entertainment for me than informational. I also like Hannity. Glenn Beck is a little scary to me. He’s so convinced that the nation will crash – and maybe it will – but it’s a little much to hear every day. Jim Daly at Focus is a fresh voice who believes in reaching out to those we disagree with in order to present a Christian approach, rather than opening fire on every opponent.

Jim Daly, Juli Slattery, John Fuller

TCR: There are many parallels between present-day politics and the 1994 conservative Republican victory – which Christian Coalition played a big role in winning. How can everyday conservatives help achieve that goal again?

Vaughan: There really needs to be a national organization to motivate, train and activate the workers. I hope Faith & Freedom Coalition can do that, but it remains to be seen. But the parallels are there, no question. November ’94 would have happened even without the CC, I believe, so likely it will again. But after being elected, the conservatives must also govern, which the Republicans who won in ’94 failed miserably at.

TCR: What is the TEA Party movement doing well (or not) as they rally for change?
Vaughan: I really don’t know much about it. But they resent what’s happening to the country, for certain. They need to organize and focus on precincts and voter identification. That’s the key.

TCR: Can economic and social conservatives work together effectively?
Vaughan: If James Carville and Mary Matalin can live together, anything can happen. The econs have to accept the socials as bonafide Republicans, not treat them like unwanted guests at the party, and the socials have to stop ruling out another Republican simply because he’s wrong on one or two issues. It’s a big tent and we all have to work together against a common enemy: liberalism. Having said that, we can fight it out within the party, but be unified in November.

The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition: The Inside Story is available from Amazon and direct from the publisherOnce you’ve read the review here, see more over at the book’s blog. You can become a fan of the book or a friend of Joel’s on Facebook.

[cpac recap] Politics is 75% relationships, 25% policy

First in a series of posts from my time at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2010)…

It’s common for me to criticize talk-show hosts who emphasize emotional connection over actual ideas (when I review Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech I heard live, you’ll get another dose.) But according to Ron Nehring, chairman of the Republican Party in California, that’s almost exactly how you win in politics.

His seminar, part of the training track offered by Leadership Institute at CPAC, was peppered with insights that showed how a “people person” will always succeed in politics:

A 30-second visit in person to a voter is 10 times more effective than any phone or direct mail contact

Barack Obama won a majority of both the Jewish vote and Muslim vote. He won majorities of both environmentalists (who want the U.S. to build nothing) and trade unions (desperate for their workers to build anything.) He did it by showing he cared about people’s needs, not by staying 100% pure to a political ideology.

Americans hire drivers, not mechanics.

Nehring, who has helped keep Republicans together in a hostile liberal environment, closed with four principles to win:

  1. Listen: “You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.”
  2. Learn: “Demonstrate that you’ve really been listening.”
  3. Help: “Your candidacy should help local groups like the Chamber of Commerce, TEA Party, etc. achieve their goals.”
  4. Lead: “Build relationship with all stakeholder groups you could possibly influence – folks on your side and those far outside your comfort zone.”

You can still be a conservative purist, as long as publicly you present the right emphasis: winning candidates, campaigners or (I suppose) even media personalities follow this strategy. Nehring’s ideas clearly line up with what I’ve learned — in seven months on Capitol Hill — about how politics works. Your thoughts?

Entertainers are spiking the TEA Party

I am all for the Tea Partiers – average Americans who are using their free time to advocate for a return to limited government, free markets and traditional values. On the essentials, we agree. In terms of tactics, we currently don’t.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Tea Party movement is moving away from rallies and towards getting candidates elected – which heartens me. Getting together with your neighbors to wave signs (including a few offensive ones Jon Stewart will feature on the next Daily Show) will not make any positive difference. A future post here will be devoted to exactly what we can do to change Congress.

My worry: what if all this conservative energy is being misused by entertainers who pass themselves off as agents of change? I could point to many media personalities. But BlowOutCongress.com is the most outrageous example I’ve seen in awhile.

Started last year by a Dallas-area radio host, the stated goal of the website is: Every single member of Congress, all incumbents in both the House and Senate, must be blown out of office in their next election cycle.

Though my understanding of our political system is not comprehensive, three problems leap out about this wrong-headed initiative:

1. Not only is this goal unattainable, it is undesirable. Freshmen in Congress have a steep learning curve. It is usually not until entering their second term that they have figured out how committees, briefings, personal staff, town hall meetings and their own legislative ideas can work in tandem. If 435 freshmen Representatives were voted in on Nov. 2nd, an army of unelected committee staff members and others on Capitol Hill would suddenly possess a high level of control. Knowledge is power, and this all-freshmen class would not know how the system works.

2. This initiative tries to thwart how our Founders set-up the American republic. To quote BlowOutCongress: “Congress has initiated a dastardly act by programming their email systems to only receive emails from WITHIN their own districts… they block emails that don’t arrive from their own districts.” The job of each member of the House of Representatives is to represent the Americans who sent him/her to Washington.

Seats in the House are based on population, and in the Senate there are two seats per state. If you’re contacting a Senator or Representative who is not your own, you’re wasting your breath — and wasting the valuable time of Congressional staff or interns. No wonder many exhausted “dastardly” staff on Capitol Hill have a low opinion of conservative Americans.

3. Congressmen are not sitting by the phone waiting for your call, and they don’t need any more pen pals. The way talk radio hosts discuss the men and women in Congress, you’d think they were rich royalty who have no bearing on the real world. This is generally false. Many honorable Congressional leaders have fought in wars, served their local communities, stood for justice and generally made society better.

I have faith in the American people, but not in mob rule. America was established as a republic, which differs from unfettered democracy. Truth is, representing the needs of millions in their district feels like a 300 lb. weight to these Congressional leaders. They don’t need our angry calls. They don’t need our reams of research (their staff already read it). Sometimes, in the right forum, they need citizens to call out their arrogance. Always they need our prayers.

In summary: don’t fall for entertainers who are directing so much energy to ineffective causes (perhaps without even realizing it.) Read up on the issues, know what you believe and make a difference by participating in our electoral process — not trying to go around it.

“Write to Your Congressman!” Um, about that…

I’ve always heard talk show hosts, NPR guests, etc. say how important it is to contact your Congressman (or Congresswoman) about your thoughts. Media personalities even start campaigns to “flood” a legislator’s office. But does it make a difference?

A few things I’ve learned so far on Capitol Hill…

7) Those bags of tea that Taxed Enough Already patriots are sending? They don’t get past Capitol Mailing Services. After the anthrax mail threat a few years ago, any potentially hazardous substance sent via mail is removed before delivery to a Congressional office—including tea. The pen is mightier than Celestial Seasonings, better stick with a letter.

IMG_0087


6) Every political-related petition you sign probably ends up in a Congressional office. Interns across Capitol Hill thank you for writing legibly. Printing your letter is even better!

5) Over half the correspondence received shows that constituents are unaware of their Congressman’s position on the issues that concern them. Every Congressional office has an official website with press releases, policy positions, videos, etc.

To be heard, I’d encourage anyone to take a few minutes online and read up on how your Congressman sees the world. If your views match his, and his voting record backs it up, then perhaps no need for “taking him to task” too severely.

3) Even if you are writing on behalf of thousands of people, you should be brief. Your letter will be read and considered much more if you write one page or less.

2) Writing to multiple Congressmen isn’t very useful. When processing any contact (mail, fax, email), the first thing staff do is determine if you live within their district. If not, your contact is forwarded on to the correct Congressional office.

The only official person who will read or reply to your contact is your own Congressman’s office. Sending out multiple letters to various Representatives leads to one office receiving 10 copies of your letter.

2) Speaking of that… write your return address both inside and outside of the letter. A label or typed address is even better! The Congressman’s office really wants to keep in touch with you (if you wrote to your district), and that’s often not possible.

1) The purpose of a Congressional office is to represent on Capitol Hill the views of you and your neighbors. Not an hour goes by without someone asking, “What do our people think on this issue? How will they be affected?” You can bet that the S. Dakota Congresswoman subscribes to and reads the Rapid City Journal—including letters to the editor—just as closely as the Wall Street Journal.

So do contact your Congressman or Congresswoman! Find out who he/she is, read up on their views, and type something up. E-mail may be the best means to get your ideas noticed, since legislation moves very fast through Congress and a timely e-mail can be quickly passed on to relevant office staff.

Thoughts?