Morning Must Reads -- Congress becomes a death panel for Obamacare 

New York Times -- Obama to Offer Aid for Families in State of the Union Address


President Obama seems determined not to admit any mistakes.

Like most of the stories out today previewing the State of the Union speech, writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s piece talks about how Obama will take credit for rescuing the nation from another Great Depression, starting to rebuild the economy, and restoring Americas leadership in the world. He is also going to be “tough” and “populist.”

Except for expanding the Bush bailouts, his first year claims will be on subjective terms – he’ll be looking for an E for effort on health care, the environment, and Wall Street regulation. He will also rail against the “special interests” that he says have thwarted his efforts to help him build his more equitable version of American society, invoking his disused “New Foundation” concept. (Not the good special interests, like Pharma, Big Insurance and labor, that helped write the health bill, but other, bad special interests.)

He’s going to have a tough enough time talking his way out of his first year, but what about year two?

Stolberg gets a sneak peak at Obama’s new pitch for “creating good jobs, addressing the deficit, helping the middle class and changing Washington.”

That means increasing the child-care deduction by $900 (not counted towards your tax refund), capping student loan payments for recent graduates, encouraging companies to offer 401(k) programs and providing limited federal assistance program for eldercare.

Very small beer.

While voters may like to hear some more modest aims from the president after the failure of his more grandiose goals, he won’t give up on grandiosity. Obama will instead be offering anxious middle class members a sweetener to help swallow the rest of the plan.

“‘In no way does this represent a trimming of the sails,’ one adviser said on Sunday, referring to the package.

Instead, the White House wants to use Wednesday’s address to explain how initiatives like the health care overhaul fit into his broader plan for job creation and the economy.”


Wall Street Journal -- Narrower Targets Set for Health Overhaul

Part of the president’s plan to pass a health bill was that by not having a defined set of goals, he could take credit for whatever passed and avoid dispositive defeat.

The president knew he had to give up the shell game at the end and make declarations about his plan – which taxes, cuts, and entitlements he favored. It seemed like a safe time to act two weeks ago because the plan looked certain to pass. Then Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley and Democrats ditched what the president had finally revealed.

The Obama team is trying to revive the old it-can’t-be-dead-if-you-don’t-know-what-it-is game by saying that the bill is only sleeping and will be reborn as a beautiful butterfly.

But with yet another moderate Democrat from the Hillbilly Firewall, Marion Berry, D-Ark., announcing his retirement today, we see how absurd the idea of hatching another partisan plan in secret negotiations would be. The political climate went from brisk to deep freeze for Democrats since the House voted on the last version of the plan in November.

Just as Obama once planned on getting credit for whatever passed, Democrats know that they will all get the blame for whatever would be produced.

Republicans are complicating the process by offering alternatives and asking for a bipartisan bill.

Writer Janet Adamy looks at what the White House claims is happening with the health-care chrysalis.

“White House officials notably didn't emphasize that any revised legislation should include a major expansion of health insurance. …White House adviser David Axelrod, appearing on ABC News's "This Week," said the president didn't want to abandon several elements of the current bills. These include extending the life of the Medicare insurance program for the elderly, which the bills propose to do through payment cuts to health providers, and issuing tax breaks to help small employers provide insurance.”


New York Times -- Independent Group to Look at Ways to Reduce Debt

There will be a bipartisan shadow group checking the work of the 18-member presidential deficit reduction commission.

Writer Jackie Calmes explains that the group, announced with bipartisan fanfare, could cause problems for Obama’s panel, already widely seen as little more than political butt cover by deficit hawks.

“The blue-ribbon group of 18 to 20 members will be led by Pete V. Domenici, a Republican former senator from New Mexico who for years was the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Alice Rivlin, a Democrat and former budget director for both Congress and President Bill Clinton who is also a former vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.”


Washington Post -- Stakes are high as government plans exit from mortgage markets

Writers David Cho, Neil Irwin and Nina ElBoghdady look at what’s going to happen when the Federal Reserve and Treasure knock out the $1 trillion in support to the mortgage market in the coming months. When the Fed and Treasury stop buying mortgages, rates are expected to jump, loans are expected to become more scarce, sales are expected to decline. The question is: How much?

“Administration and Fed officials expressed confidence that rates will rise only modestly -- perhaps a quarter of a percentage point. They attribute their optimism to the lengthy notice they have given the market. The markets already should have anticipated the government's exit by adjusting interest rates higher. Yet mortgage rates have been falling slightly the past few weeks.

The optimism at the White House and the Fed, however, is not shared across the government. A few senior policymakers at the central bank view the economic recovery as still too fragile, suggesting that purchases perhaps should expand further. These dissenters also warn that mortgage rates could shoot up, perhaps to 6 percent or higher, because private investors buying securities would demand a greater rate of return than the Fed. To reach it, lenders may have to raise rates for consumers.”


The Economist -- Leviathan stirs again

The Economist likes fair markets more than free markets and has some icky feelings about America’s Tocquevillian tendencies.

This was, remember, the publication that did more than any other to legitimize the cause of global warmism before the movement’s precipitous fall in recent months.

So it should not go unnoticed that this week’s edition warns unambiguously (there’s a hungry blob on the cover) about America’s trend toward statism in the Era of Obama and before.

“[George W. Bush] ran for office believing that ‘when somebody hurts, government has got to move’. And he responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 with a broad-ranging “war on terror”. The result of his guns-and-butter strategy was the biggest expansion in the American state since Lyndon Johnson’s in the mid-1960s. He added a huge new drug entitlement to Medicare. He created the biggest new bureaucracy since the second world war, the Department of Homeland Security. He expanded the federal government’s control over education and over the states. The gap between American public spending and Canada’s has tumbled from 15 percentage points in 1992 to just two percentage points today…”

--My column on the Republicans' new electoral approach is here.

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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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