Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Congress

'Obamacare' and the rationing myth

Rep Steve King criticizes Obamacare
As part of their ongoing efforts to dismantle "Obamacare," a.k.a. the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, House Republicans are set to vote Thursday on a bill to repeal one of the law's main cost-control features: the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the panel of experts tasked with keeping a lid on rising Medicare costs. But the IPAB is just a more explicit -- and probably less onerous -- way to do something House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposes in his own Medicare overhaul.

The 2010 law includes a wide variety of initiatives and experiments aimed at reining in the cost of medical care. The IPAB, whose 15 members are appointed by the president with the Senate's approval, is essentially a backstop in case those efforts don't pan out. The board's job is to recommend cost-cutting measures each year that Medicare spending is projected to grow faster than the law's targets, starting in 2014. Those recommendations go into effect automatically unless Congress approves an alternative way to achieve the same savings.

The fiscal year 2013 budget resolution that Ryan unveiled Tuesday requires Medicare spending to increase no more than half a percentage point more than GDP starting in 2023. That's a tighter cap than the healthcare law sets with its spending targets. And unlike the healthcare reform law, Ryan's budget plan offers only one significant mechanism for holding down Medicare costs: an insurance-buying exchange where the elderly can shop for subsidized coverage from private insurers. The bill the House is voting on Thursday, HR 5, would provide another: strict limits on medical malpractice claims.

If competition and tort reform don't slow the rapid growth of treatment costs, they won't make much of a dent in Medicare spending. At that point, someone (Ryan's proposal doesn't specify who) will have to cut something (the proposal doesn't specify what) to keep Medicare within the limits the Ryan budget would set.

The "Path to Prosperity" report that Ryan issued Tuesday implies that the premium subsidies would be spared the axe because they would always be large enough to cover the cost of the second-least-expensive insurance plan in the new Medicare exchange. That exclusion would leave payments to doctors, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other providers the most likely targets.

At a hearing Wednesday, however, the Budget Committee's GOP staff director, Austin Smythe, said that the premium subsidies would, in fact, be on the chopping block if costs rose faster than GDP plus 0.5%. That would change the nature of Medicare, ending its longstanding guarantee of affordable health insurance for seniors. The more costs grew above the cap, the less affordable the insurance would be for the millions of seniors on tight budgets.

That's as alarming as the rationing that Ryan says the IPAB would do. Except that it wouldn't. According to a white paper by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the healthcare reform law forbids the board from making recommendations that would "(1) ration healthcare; (2) raise revenues or increase Medicare beneficiary premiums or cost sharing; or (3) otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria."

The law also takes fees for many in-patient and hospice services off the table until 2020, and shields reimbursements for clinical laboratories until 2016. That leaves payments to physicians as the most obvious target, which is why the American Medical Assn. supports repealing the IPAB.

The intent of the measure, though, is to have experts look at the efforts going on across the country to make healthcare more efficient and effective, then apply those lessons to Medicare. That might include new ways to deter fraud, make better use of nurses and physicians' assistants or keep patients with chronic ailments out of emergency rooms and nursing homes.

Granted, there's some mystery about what the IPAB would do if it had to restrain Medicare spending. But at least it's clear what the board couldn't do, and who would be making the decision. You can't say that for the Ryan plan.


The right ending to HBO's 'Luck'

Excuse me, my tattoo is ringing

A federal budget plan, and reality

-- Jon Healey

Photo: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) rips a page from the text of the 2010 healthcare reform bill as he stands in front of the Capitol. Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images

Save the incredible sinking, leaning Washington Monument

David Doyle checks Washington Monument
Pity the poor Washington Monument.  Not only was it damaged in a magnitude 5.8 earthquake last year, but now we learn that it's sinking.  And leaning.

(Thankfully, The Times' story Thursday didn't say which way it's leaning, so we won't have to wade through a comment board full of wisecracks and loony conspiracy theories.)

Fortunately, the leaning is nothing like that tower in Pisa. The sinking? That's another matter:

The obelisk -- which is 555 feet, 5 inches tall -- has subsided only two inches since it was finished in 1884, according to new data from the National Geodetic Survey.

But naturally (if you're of a certain political persuasion, that is), things have gotten worse since President Obama arrived:

Preliminary data collected Wednesday showed that the monument has sunk two millimeters since the last survey was done in 2009.

And you thought the "birther" thing was nasty.  Just wait until Fox News gets hold of this story. Not to mention the fact that Obama has apparently switched the country to the metric system behind our backs.  Must be part of his evil plot to remake the U.S. into one of those European countries.

I can hear Newt Gingrich now:  "Not only do we have $4 a gallon gasoline, but this president has no plan for saving the Washington Monument.  Elect me and not only will I fix it, I'll build a monument to myself right next to it!  And it won't cost taxpayers a thing. Sheldon Adelson will pay for the whole thing!"

Of course, you may think that Washington is a swamp.  But you may not know that that's literally true:

Dave Doyle, the government's chief geodetic surveyor, is trying to determine how much of the sinking is a natural result of building an 81,120-ton stone pillar on reclaimed land, and how much was caused by last summer’s quake.

"People see the Washington Monument sitting on a nice little hill. They think that was always there, and it wasn't; much of it was swampy," he said.

If you know your history, you know that many people weren't keen on building the nation's capital on this land.  Now we know why:

In fact, the entire western end of the National Mall is built on former marshland, meaning the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are sinking at about the same rate as the monument, according to Doyle’s measurements.

If you appreciate irony, though, there's this:

The Capitol and the White House are on firmer ground, and Doyle said there is no evidence they are sinking.

Doyle's a professional, so I'm sure there's no political intent behind his observations about "sinking" and "firmer ground."   My theory, though, is that it isn't so much the firmer ground but the fact that "hot air rises" is holding up the Capitol and the White House.

Anyway, I for one am pleased to see that at least someone in Washington knows what they're doing.  

Doyle's going to keep measuring, and hopefully we're not going to see a real-life version of those History Channel "Life After People" episodes.

George Washington probably would be mad enough at the mess we've made of his country. Let's not ruin his monument too.


Gingrich and Karzai, a couple of never-say-die guys

Legal experts predict a Supreme Court win for 'Obamacare'

Big government won't build you a snore room, that's for sure

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: David Doyle, chief geodetic surveyor with the National Geodetic Survey, at the base of the Washington Monument. Credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

A harsh judgment on obstructionism in the Senate

Harry Reid
It's a classic inside-the-Beltway issue that brings yawns from even some political junkies. I'm talking about the delay in Senate confirmation of President Obama's judicial nominees. It doesn't have the drama or political salience of, say, a deadlock over the debt ceiling, but the obstruction of judges is symbolic of the partisan gridlock that drove Sen. Olympia Snowe back to Maine.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture motion to try to force debate on 17 nominations to federal district courts. That prompted his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to sputter: "We're going to turn to something contentious instead of trying to do something that almost all of us agree on, that focuses on jobs" -- a reference to pending small-business legislation passed by the House.

Jobs bills are arguably more urgent than judicial nominations, but 11 of the nominees have been awaiting action for months. Most recently, they have been held hostage by Republican objections to some of Obama's recess appointments. But stalling judicial confirmations is an old story -- and Democrats played the game to delay or derail judicial nominations during the George W. Bush administration.

Compared to, say, someone laid off because of the recession, a judicial nominee waiting for confirmation isn't a particularly poignant figure. But delays in confirmation do more than inconvenience nominees (for example, by making it impossible for them to take on new legal business); they also slow the administration of justice. Reid was right to call the Republicans on their obstructionism.


Judicial diversity yes, prying no

Make California's courts look like us

Mary Brown, 'Obamacare' foe -- and broke

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo

'Obamacare' plaintiff Brown's bankruptcy: Instant karma?

Supreme Court in Washington
What do you call it when someone who is suing to overturn the healthcare reform law files for bankruptcy, listing $4,500 in unpaid medical bills?

Karma? Fate? A lucky break for President Obama?

Really, you can't make this stuff up. Here's what The Times' David Savage wrote Thursday:

Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama's healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue.

Brown "doesn't have insurance. She doesn't want to pay for it. And she doesn't want the government to tell her she has to have it," said Karen Harned, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business. Brown is a plaintiff in the federation's case, which the Supreme Court plans to hear later this month.

But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills.

Now, you might expect Brown to be a bit, well, chagrined at this turn of events.  But remember, as Savage wrote, she "was passionate about the issue."

And she apparently still is:

Brown, reached by telephone Thursday, said the medical bills were her husband's. "I always paid my bills, as well as my medical bills," she said angrily. "I never said medical insurance is not a necessity. It should be anyone's right to what kind of health insurance they have.

"I believe that anyone has unforeseen things that happen to them that are beyond their control," Brown said. "Who says I don't have insurance right now?"

Who says? Well, Mary, your lawyer for one. Remember: She "doesn't have insurance. She doesn't want to pay for it. And she doesn't want the government to tell her she has to have it."

Oh yeah, that.  Those lawyers, always running their mouths.  

And for that matter, Mary, those aren't your husband's medical bills, at least not anymore.  Now that you've filed for bankruptcy, they are probably our medical bills, aren't they? 

Although it's not as though Brown is totally anti-government: The couple's Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition said her income was $275 a month in unemployment benefits.

So perhaps she intends to put that toward what she owes: "$2,140 to Bay Medical Center in Panama City, $610 to Bay Medical Physicians, $835 to an eye doctor in Alabama and $900 to a specialist in Mississippi."

Or maybe, as the story says, there's that other way out:

"This is a very common problem. We cover $30 million in charity and uncompensated care every  year," said Christa Hild, a spokeswoman for the hospital center. "If it's a bad debt, we have to absorb it."

Although when the hospital center says "we," it means "us"  -- as in you and I, the ones who do pay for health insurance.  We absorb it, in higher premium costs.

It's called the free market, or "there's no free lunch."  (It's also why a single-payer system such as Medicare would've been a better option than the law we've got, but that's another post.)

But it's also why the "individual mandate" requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance was put into the law.

Why that is so hard for Brown and millions of other citizens to understand is beyond me. 

This isn't Charles Dickens' London: We don't have debtors' prisons.  If Brown and her fellow travelers have their way and the healthcare law is ruled unconstitutional, many others will take the risk "of unforeseen things that happen to them that are beyond their control." 

And if they get sick, and have medical bills they can't pay, then they won't pay.  And neither will the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

The rest of us will pay.

You see, Mary, the requirement that everyone buy health insurance isn't big bad government taking away your freedom.

It's just common sense.


Jimmy Carter, shortchanged again

War on drugs' big catch -- 'Viagra man'

$3 billion in U.S. humanitarian aid buys little respect 

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear a challenge to the healthcare reform law. Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images

McCain: Bomb, bomb Iran.... Oh, and Syria

I've never been a big fan of those alternative-history novels in which Hitler wins World War II or Richard Nixon becomes president for life, but recent events have me pondering a hideous prospect: What if John McCain had defeated Barack Obama in 2008? The answer, as indicated by McCain's recent posturing, is that we'd be struggling with a lot more than an economic downturn; we'd probably be in costly and unwinnable wars not just in Afghanistan but in Syria and Iran.

McCain has not only forgotten the lessons of his own generation's war in Vietnam, he's forgotten what this generation learned in Iraq. He is eager not just for Israel to bomb Iran, which would set off a devastating regional conflict likely to drag in the United States, but for Washington to bomb Syria. On Monday, he became the first U.S. senator to call for air strikes on that country, and during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting Wednesday, he admonished Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for failing to show leadership by "focusing on diplomatic and political approaches rather than a military intervention."

Panetta didn't take this sitting down; he said the administration was working to build international consensus, as it did in Libya, rather than taking unilateral action, and that as Defense secretary he has to know "what the mission is. I've got to make very sure we know whether we can achieve that mission, what price and whether or not it will make matters better or worse."

That's the part McCain either doesn't understand or doesn't care to discuss. U.S. military intervention in Syria in any form -- whether airstrikes or arming rebels -- would be extraordinarily risky. Syria is a powder keg of ethnic and sectarian factions with networks in neighboring countries; foreign intervention there would set off a proxy war that would further destabilize the entire Middle East.

To name just a few of the complications: In Lebanon, the politically powerful and heavily armed Hezbollah is committed to upholding the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and it's not unrealistic to think that a broader civil war in Syria could spread to its fragile neighbor. If Assad should fall, it would almost certainly lead to reprisals, and likely atrocities, against Syria's minority Alawite community, the regime's most important domestic backers. The Syrian opposition that U.S. hawks would like to arm is an unknown quantity made up of Islamic fundamentalists and other groups that aren't necessarily sympathetic to U.S. interests. Taking out Syria's air defenses would be nowhere near as simple as taking out Libya's and would require a massive U.S. military commitment; it also presents risks that it would prompt Assad to use his country's stockpile of chemical weapons, which is said to be 100 times the size of Libya's.

I could go on, but I doubt I could say it better than the International Crisis Group, which wrote in a recent report:

Frustrated and lacking a viable political option, Western officials and analysts have toyed with a series of often half-baked ideas, from initiating direct military attacks to establishing safe havens, humanitarian corridors or so-called no-kill zones. All these would require some form of outside military intervention by regime foes that would more than likely intensify involvement by its allies. Even if they were to provoke the regime's collapse, that in itself would do nothing to resolve the manifold problems bequeathed by the conflict: security services and their civilian proxies increasingly gone rogue; deepening communal tensions; and a highly fragmented opposition.

McCain's hawkishness is starting to turn off most of his fellow Republicans, and even if he had won the White House, he might not have been able to fulfill his neocon nation-building fantasies. Fortunately, it will take an alternative-fiction writer, rather than a journalist, to imagine the harm he could have done.


On Iran, patience and power

Holder's troubling death-by-drone rules

$3 billion in U.S. humanitarian aid buys little respect

--Dan Turner

Photo: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talks to the press Monday after calling for air strikes on Syria. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Jimmy Carter, shortchanged again

Is Jimmy Carter the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents? Judging by the amount of taxpayer money he gets compared to George W. Bush, it sure seems that wayIs Jimmy Carter the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents?  It sure seems that way.

Buried in a Times story Monday about how much our retired presidents receive in taxpayer funds was this line:

"Former presidents receive varying amounts for expenses such as an office, staff and travel expenses. The amounts paid in fiscal 2011, including the pension, varied from $517,000 for Carter to $1.3 million for George W. Bush. Secret Service protection costs are not included."

Now maybe Carter doesn't care. Maybe you don't care. Undoubtedly Dubya doesn't care.

But really, now -- a retired Bush is more than twice as valuable as a retired Carter?

I'm thinking, What's a guy got to do to get a little respect?

Carter goes around building homes with Habitat for Humanity. 

Bush shows up in the front row at the World Series.

Carter goes to North Korea and gets a captured American freed.

Bush shows up at the World Series.

Carter irritates the heck out of pro-Israel types everywhere.

Bush shows up -- oh, you know.

Perhaps alone among Americans, I persist in my belief that Carter was a president unappreciated by today's pundits and historians.  Not a great president, perhaps. But not the Edsel of presidents either.

Anyway, it appears that all of our former presidents are headed for some belt-tightening. The Times reported that the proposed Presidential Allowance Modernization Act seeks to amend a half-century-old law that sought to "maintain the dignity” of the office of the president.

The proposal would provide a taxpayer supported pension of $200,000, about the same amount that they now receive. But payments to ex-presidents for outside expenses such as office staff and travel would be cut back if their outside income exceeded $400,000 a year.

Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush collectively received about $3.8 million from taxpayers in fiscal 2011, according to records. 

OK, yeah, that seems like more "dignity" than we can afford right now for these guys. 

Because let's face it: Most of them are well off. And that's a bipartisan position:  Clinton doesn't need the cash any more than the Bushies.

But I'm sticking by Carter. I'm betting an ex-peanut farmer could use the dough.


Jimmy Carter, a president for our time

More legal mumbo-jumbo on medical marijuana

Mitt Romney, the pandering chicken hawk on Iran

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Jimmy Carter. Credit: David McNew / Getty Images

Americans leave Egypt, but not without money changing hands

The departure from Egypt of six American employees of nongovernmental organizations is good news for those involved and may dampen efforts in Congress to cut military aid to that country at a delicate time in Egyptian politics. But the price tag for their release -- $300,000 in bail  per defendant -- makes the  resolution  look more like a hostage deal than a victory for due process. Indeed, the Americans were hostages of a sort, having  taken refuge in the American Embassy in Cairo. One is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The  Egyptian government has not ended its investigation of  the National  Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute (LaHood's group), which walk the fine line between promoting democracy and interfering in Egypt's internal affairs. A State Department spokeswoman warned  that the decision to allow the activists to leave "doesn’t resolve the legal case or the larger issue of NGOs in Egypt," and noted that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton must certify to Congress this spring that Egypt is abiding by democratic principles.

The crisis might be finessed if Egypt's new parliament were to repeal the registration law the NGOs were accused of violating. But the initial reaction from Egyptian politicians  has been criticism of the military government for caving in to the United States. Investigating the NGOs may have been the brainchild of a holdover from the Hosni Mubarak regime, but perceived U.S. interference in the Egyptian judicial process offended even reformists.  Nor are the NGOs necessarily welcomed even by Egyptian parties that took advantage of their expertise in the past.

Meanwhile, the imagery of the Americans' ordeal isn't likely to do a lot for tourism.


Israel's risky option on Iran

Move over, Egypt, Iraq and Syria

The West to Syria's rebels: You aren't Libya

-- Michael McGough

Photo: American activists arrive to the airport to leave Egypt aboard a U.S. military plane, in Cario, Egypt, on March 1, after the government lifted the travel ban. Credit: STR/EPA

Maine's Olympia Snowe decries partisanship -- when it suits her

Olympia Snowe
Olympia Snowe of Maine, one-half of that state's moderate Republican Senate delegation, is taking her ball and going home. Snowe announced Tuesday that she won't seek reelection because she's had it with hyper-partisanship.

"I do find it frustrating," Snowe said, "that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. With my Spartan ancestry, I am a fighter at heart, and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."

The Senate -- and Congress as a whole -- are poorer when moderate Republicans (and conservative Democrats) pack it in. Snowe has demonstrated independence, a stance made more possible (and sometimes necessary) by her Northeastern constituency. But she hasn't always been a maverick.

There was no more partisan split in the Senate than over the confirmation of UC Berkeley professor Goodwin Liu for a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the parties had agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances," Republicans blocked Liu -- and Snowe joined in, questioning Liu's objectivity and complaining, as did other Republicans, about his past criticism of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. As The Times reported, the Liu cloture vote was essentially a party-line affair, "with just one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supporting him, and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who faces a difficult reelection fight, voting with the GOP."


It's class warfare, by Gens. Romney and Santorum

Separating church and state, Kennedy and Santorum

Romney accuses Santorum of (gasp!) appealing to Democrats

 -- Michael McGough

Photo: In this Jan. 8, 2010 photo, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) laughs during an interview with the Associated Press, in Portland, Maine. Snowe, who has served 33 years in Congress, released a statement Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 saying that she will not run for re-election. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

The Supreme Court shouldn't make resume-padding a crime

Xavier AlvarezWednesday was a bad day for liars at the Supreme Court. Even liberal justices seemed unsympathetic to a Pomona man who was prosecuted under a law known as the Stolen Valor Act for boasting at a public meeting that he had received the Medal of Honor. (That wasn't his only whopper. He also claimed to have played professional hockey and to have been injured while rescuing a U.S. diplomat during the Iran hostage crisis.)

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law. One judge drolly argued that if "false factual statements are unprotected, then the government can prosecute not only the man who tells tall tales of winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, but also the JDater who falsely claims he's Jewish or the dentist who assures you it won't hurt a bit. Phrases such as 'I'm working late tonight, hunny,' 'I got stuck in traffic'  and 'I didn't inhale' could all be made into crimes."

Members of the Supreme Court weren't about to salute that parade of horribles.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked the U.S. solicitor general if the government also could punish people who lied about attaining a high school diploma, but Roberts didn't seem to find the idea all that objectionable. Even more revealing of Roberts' attitude was a question he posed to the lawyer for Xavier Alvarez, the Medal of Honor wannabe: "What is the 1st Amendment value in a lie, pure lie?" 

The lawyer fumbled at first but later re-framed the issue in what I think is a persuasive way: "Our founders believed that Congress as a general principle doesn't get to tell us what we as individuals can and cannot say."  Obviously there are exceptions: If Alvarez had lied about his military record to obtain money, he would have been  guilty of the eminently prosecutable crime of fraud. But in itself a  pathetic claim to military glory -- a claim easily debunked by a visit to the Internet -- isn't the sort of statement a free society should criminalize.


Dealing with undocumented drivers

GOP's reckless saber-rattling on Iran

Which political force is more powerful: gas prices or optimism?

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Xavier Alvarez. Credit: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

How about Santorum vs. Obama, winner take all?

The liberal-conservative divide
America, it's time for a little presidential poker. Republicans and Democrats need to go "all in" on Rick Santorum vs. President Obama.

Yep, it's "put up or shut up" time for all you political Texas hold 'em folks out there.

Now, the Obama bet you probably understand. After all, he's the incumbent, and he's running unopposed in the Democratic Party.

But why Santorum? After all, he's not only anathema to Democrats, it's not clear whether most Republicans favor him over Mitt Romney (not to mention Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul).

For the good of the country, though, the GOP needs to run Santorum.

Wait, wait, hold the comments, angry or otherwise. I didn't say "Santorum would be good for the country."  If you're asking me personally, well, it's a secret ballot, but no, I wouldn't put my ink spot next to "Rick Santorum."

But I'm also sick and tired of the partisan divide. It's time to call everyone's bluff.

Conservatives maintain that Obama and the Democrats are destroying the country; that we need to return to Christian values, to exceptionalism, to less government, less regulation, less spending and less taxation.

Sure, Romney touts all that too.  But he just wants the Republican nomination. With that secured, he'll pivot to the center, and pretty soon you'll never know he said half the stuff he did to get the GOP nod. With an Obama-Romney clash, should Romney lose, plenty of Republicans would complain that he wasn't a true-enough conservative.

Santorum, on the other hand, is nothing if not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. He might pivot to the center too, but he's so far right that he can't even see the center at this point. With an Obama-Santorum battle, we'd be able to settle the liberal vs. conservative debate that's stifling government. 

And here's where the "all in" part happens.

If Santorum wins, liberals should acknowledge that the country is on the wrong path. America doesn't want gay marriage, or legal abortion, or government healthcare, or environmental protections. It wants to slash the size of government and reduce or eliminate entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. It wants religion back in public life; it wants the government out of schools. It wants to spend big on defense; it wants to back Israel no matter what. 

However, if Obama wins, all those conservative Republicans would have to acknowledge that they were wrong. That they're not America's voice. That America is OK with gay marriage and a woman's right to choose; it wants affordable healthcare for all, and a safety net that includes Medicare and Social Security.  It agrees with the separation of church and state and believes that while generating good-paying jobs is important, so is protecting the environment. It doesn't want a 1% and a 99% but a 100% that favors social and economic justice for all.

So after election day, that's it. Someone rakes in all the chips. 

If it's Santorum, then Republicans in Congress, the tea partyers and the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity crowd can crow all the way to the inauguration and beyond.

But if it's Obama, those same folks need to face reality. They need to stop the scorched-earth warfare and let him lead.

And we can go back to the old days, when elections mattered.

Did someone say "deal"?


The Dow is climbing! The Dow is climbing!

Issa's House hearings on contraception: Where were the women?

Presidential giants of our generation, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton

 --Paul Whitefield

Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times



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Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
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Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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