Cass Sunstein: Pay No Attention to my Pro-Death Past

Ben Johnson, The White House Watch

Theologians often debate the “age of accountability,” the time in a person’s life when he becomes accountable for his actions before God. Obama’s Regulatory Czar, Cass Sunstein, has a unique answer: It must be at least 49.

When Texas Republican Congressman Michael Burgess confronted Sunstein with his own writings, which suggest the government should deny older people medical care, Sunstein said he had written the paper so long ago he should not be held accountable for it.

“I’m a lot older now than the author with my name was,” Cass cooed, “and I’m not sure what I think about what that young man wrote. Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So, I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago.”

Cass Sunstein, 56, wrote the paper “Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay” in the long-forgotten days of July 2003, when he was a mere 48-years-old.[1]

The paper was published while Sunstein was at the University of Chicago, before he was recruited to Harvard Law School by then-dean Elena Kagan.

Some ObamaCare Recipients Are More Equal than Others

In his 2003 paper, Sunstein criticized the government for protecting human life as though all lives were equal. Specifically, Sunstein said the government’s method for determining who received medical treatment should be changed; he suggested replacing the “value of a statistical life” (VSL) – which viewed all lives as equal – with the “value of a statistical life year” (VSLY). That means the government should allow young people to receive medical care, if necessary while allowing older people to die, because they will live longer after the procedure is completed.

“No program simply ‘saves lives’; life-extension is always what is at issue,” Sunstein lectured. “If the goal is to promote people’s welfare by lengthening their lives, a regulation that saves 500 life-years (and, let us say, twenty five people) is, other things equal, better than a regulation that saves 50 life-years (and, let us say, twenty five people).”

He laid bare his preference: “I urge that the government should indeed focus on statistical life-years rather than statistical lives,” he wrote. “A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people.”

“Older people are treated worse for only one reason: They are older”….

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Don’t Like ObamaCare? Stay Poor

Ben Johnson, The White House Watch

Some of us have long argued the Obama administration is pushing a two-track system of financial bondage for the nation: tremendous profits and options for the ruling class, with cradle-to-grave socialism for the penniless underclass. In between, the middle class will be squeezed into non-existence.

Enter Neal Kumar Katyal, the acting Solicitor General and former assistant to Elena Kagan. Katyal told the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Wednesday that there is a simple way to avoid being forced to purchase individual health care insurance or being penalized for failing to do so: make less money.

The federal government is being sued by the Thomas More Law Center to prevent the implementation of ObamaCare. (You can listen to the oral arguments here.) Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who was appointed by George W. Bush, asked Katyal how the government could justify forcing people to purchase any good or service. Katyal stated Congress had this authority under the “necessary and proper” clause and the Commerce Clause.

Judge James Graham, who is part of the three-judge panel, said, “I’m having difficulty seeing how there is any limit to the power [of Congress under the Commerce Clause] as you’re defining it.”

Sutton said, correctly, that current law allows someone to avoid onerous government regulations by going out of business. However, Obama’s health care plan would force people to participate in commerce, then regulate those decisions.

Katyal had an imaginative retort:

If we’re going to play that game, I think that game can be played here as well, because after all, the minimum coverage provision only kicks in after people have earned a minimum amount of income. So it’s a penalty on earning a certain amount of income and self-insuring. It’s not just on self-insuring on its own. So, I guess one could say…someone doesn’t need to earn that much income.

Sutton interjected, “That wasn’t in a single speech given in Congress about this…the idea that the solution if you don’t like it is make a little less money.”

That may be due to the fact that virtually no one read the bill before voting on it. But it may be due to the fact that the argument sounds elitist, condescending, and mildly totalitarian – socialism as interpreted through the Marie Antoinette school of political charm.

Obama’s Vision: A Nation of Hardship Cases

Under the new health care program, every American must obtain health care insurance or pay the government-imposed penalty of $695 per person or up to $2,085 per family. The bill extends Medicaid coverage to those who make up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level beginning in 2014. The government will provide a bevy of subsidies to those who wish to purchase private insurance plans and who earn up to 400 percent of the poverty level. (This means your tax dollars will go toward paying the insurance premiums of a family of four that makes $88,000.)

However, the bill contains a “hardship exemption” for those who could not find an insurance plan that will cost less than eight percent of their income. Natyal’s solution for those who do not want to go bankrupt paying ever-rising insurance premiums or their juxtaposed government penalties is to become poorer.

Phil Klein notes in the Washington Examiner that “earning less isn’t necessarily a solution, because it could then qualify the person for government-subsidized insurance which could make their contribution to premiums fall below the 8 percent threshold.”

There is another reason this is no solution: If enough people begin to avoid federal manipulation, government will immediately “fix” the system for those who are “slipping through the cracks.”

Perhaps most important in Katyal’s “let them eat Medicaid” argument is what it inadvertently admits about this administration. The Left has two solutions: join the ranks of the super-rich (whether in crony capitalism or government), or become a ward of the State.

War on the Middle Class

The wealthiest Americans need no health care plan: they will always be able to afford coverage. George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Teresa Heinz Kerry will never lack the greatest medical care money can buy. Our poorest citizens have Medicaid or SCHIP programs provided at taxpayer expense. ObamaCare will open these rolls to a growing number of people. As long as the indigent do not get too sick, too old, or too expensive to keep alive, they will be guaranteed health care, as well.

That leaves the middle class to divine a way to creatively lose money, pay for health care instead of other necessities, or hit the lottery. The individual mandate just greased the ladder of success.

The arrangement should hardly surprise. Under managed cartels – whether the New Deal or Obama’s Czardom – Big Government saddles up with Big Business to divvy up the nation’s purse. Regulators call in the largest businesses to set federal standards that put their competitors out of business. Government officials then retire and go to work for the same corporations.

The ones who pay are the inconsequential millions in the middle.

Obama’s policy for the middle class is slow, malign neglect until it dies a painful death. Rising premiums – which private insurance companies are stockpiling against the day the nation moves into full national health care – price them out of the market. Increased regulations, environmental red tape, ergonomic standards, collective bargaining chits to Obama’s labor allies, and insurance mandates dry up the job market and, with it, the middle class’ hopes of advancement. Unemployment and underemployment shrink their income, while three-year-long unemployment benefits render them unemployable. Soaring food and energy prices hit them harder than ever. Sky-high gas prices – which Congressman Darrell Issa has argued are an intended result of Obama’s policies – may herd the American people onto high-speed rail cars and other forms of public transportation. A third round of inflation Quantitative Easing is scheduled to destroy their savings and frugality.

In this bleak environment, they will now….

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Federal Employees Say Inept Obama Officials Politicize Their Agencies

Ben Johnson, The White House Watch

Barack Obama’s political appointees are inept, incapable, and needlessly politicize the basic functions of whole segments of the federal government. That is not the assessment of firebrand conservatives but the result of a recent survey of high-placed career federal employees.

The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council, polled 148 Senior Executive Service members. These federal managers ranked Obama’s political appointees at only 2.0, down from the 2.3 rating enjoyed by the Clinton and Bush administrations. At least 10 percent more managers gave Obama’s appointees a D or F than failed Bush or Clinton’s teams. National Journal reports 20 percent gave such low marks to Clinton/Bush, as opposed to “more than 30 percent” for Obama.

More damning than the dry statistical data are the descriptions of federal employees of Obama’s team. According to one manager the political appointees are far more involved in day-to-day affairs, but “the effectiveness, skill and knowledge has dramatically decreased” since January 2009. Some said Obama’s appointees attempt to “break organizations.” One said the administration’s overseers “have a divide-and-conquer strategy, and there are way too many industry fingers allowed in decision-making.” Another said this led to “politicization of normal agency functions.”

The survey comes on the heels of remarks by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, who said CIA employees have a strong current of “dissent and dislike,” because….

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