Politics: December 2012 Archives

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn issued this statement Sunday evening, December 30, 2012, regarding negotiations over the renewal of expiring tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush Administration. Emphasis added:

No agreement has been reached because too many politicians in Washington want to raise taxes in order to grow the government rather than decrease the deficit. If politicians want to raise taxes and stop spending cuts without offering alternative cuts, which is precisely where we are now, they should have the courage to be transparent and make that case publicly, not in secret.

We're stuck because many in Congress want to move toward Clinton-era tax rates but not Clinton-era spending. According to numbers provided by the White House, total federal spending is more than twice what it was during Bill Clinton's final year in office. As a percent of GDP, federal spending was 18 percent then compared to 24 percent now. If Congress wants to turn off sequestration we should replace those cuts with smart, targeted cuts. Our government throws away at least $350 billion every year through waste, fraud and duplication. Replacing across-the-board cuts with targeted cuts would not be difficult if Congress had the courage and political will to act.

In the final few hours before the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Reid should offer the American people an open, transparent and unlimited floor debate in the United States Senate. I have no doubt that if a balanced plan was brought to the floor in this fashion it would pass by an overwhelming margin.

The news release reminds that Coburn issued his own $9 trillion deficit reduction plan, Back to Black, in July 2011.

SOMEWHAT RELATED: Dave Barry's 2012 in review:

Speaking of troubled, in ...


... there is much fiscal-cliff drama in Washington as Congress and the White House -- after months of engaging in cynical posturing and political gamesmanship while putting off hard decisions about a dangerous crisis that everyone knew was coming -- finally get serious about working together to come up with a way to appear to take decisive action without actually solving anything.

MORE: Sen. Coburn appeared on CBS Face the Nation Sunday, December 30, 2012, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Mother Jones, a left wing magazine, has been reporting on a feud at FreedomWorks between former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the chairman of FreedomWorks, and his allies on one side, and FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe and his supporters on the other. Kibbe and Armey co-wrote Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto in 2010. Armey's resignation from FreedomWorks was announced in early December. Stacy McCain has the story and the links.

Reports say that Armey attempted to get Kibbe removed but that the board encouraged Armey to leave with a reported payout of $8 million.

Dick Armey at the March on Washington, September 12, 2010, S3016625

FreedomWorks was arguing for Tea Party ideals for many years before the Tea Party came into existence in 2008. The group has positioned itself as a servant to the Tea Party movement, providing training, research, and networking to help Americans turn their concern about Washington's fiscal insanity into effective grassroots action.

FreedomWorks has been an effective watchdog, helping to vet candidates by digging deep into their records on fiscal issues, calling attention to the Romney campaign's power grab at the 2012 Republican National Convention rules committee, critiquing the Boehner debt plan and facilitating the grassroots development of an alternative. FreedomWorks VP for health care policy Dean Clancy provided the rationale for states to exercise their prerogative not to set up an Obamacare state exchange.

Matt Kibbe at BlogCon 2012, S3016535

I have gotten to know FreedomWorks mainly through a series of BlogCons -- informative workshops for bloggers. I marched with Dick Armey at the 2010 March on Washington and enjoyed the hospitality of the Kibbes at a post-march gathering at their home. I've had the pleasure of getting to know some of their great staffers, analysts like Dean Clancy, and organizers like Tabitha Hale (now with the Franklin Center), Sarah Desprat (now with Twitchy), and Kristina Ribali. FreedomWorks has made it possible for me to meet and get to know fellow bloggers from coast to coast. So it's worrisome to hear reports of turmoil.

The dispute, as I understand it, centers around this question: Should FreedomWorks judge every politician by their free-market principles, praising when possible, castigating when necessary, without regard to the politician's party affiliation or political connections? Or should FreedomWorks be pragmatic, take it a bit easier on old friends who wield power at the Capitol, even when they oppose us on our key issues? The former view seems to be held by Kibbe and his allies; the latter by Armey and his supporters.

A few reactions:

1. Why aren't the two factions working with their friends in the blogosphere and legacy media to get their side of the story out? Why is Dick Armey telling his story to a far-left magazine, rather than American Spectator? Why haven't Matt Kibbe and FreedomWorks communicated with the many bloggers who attended one or more BlogCons?

2. Back in 2010, I was surprised to learn that Armey was involved with FreedomWorks, particularly with their emphasis on holding elected officials accountable, even the Republicans. Armey won a seat in Congress in 1984 as an economics professor and came to Washington as a reformer and an outsider, but a decade in Washington changed him. Armey gets much of the blame for the failure of the 1997 attempt by Tom Coburn, Steve Largent, and others to oust Newt Gingrich as speaker. The coup and Armey's double-cross is described in detail by Coburn in his book Breach of Trust. In light of that history, I found many of Armey's statements in Give Us Liberty highly ironic. If the reported reasons behind the FreedomWorks dispute are true, I can't say I'm surprised about Armey's departure.

3. If someone can come up with $8 million to pay someone to go away, why doesn't there seem to be money in the conservative movement to sustain the conservative voice in new media and legacy media?

MORE: Since writing this, I've found a couple of right-of-center sources that covered this dispute back at the beginning of December: The Blaze had a story on December 4, mainly regarding the nature of the payment to Armey -- from a private party, not from FreedomWorks or its affiliates. A search for blog entries about this dispute mainly turns up items on left-wing blogs. The same day, Ace of Spades HQ had an item linking to the initial story in Mother Jones.

Roll Call had an item about two other senior resignations from FreedomWorks following Armey's departure, as did Outside the Beltway. Dave Weigel kicked himself for getting scooped.

Erick Erickson wrote about the story today at Red State:

Armey was willing to go in and try to take charge, but was willing to give up the fight for money and then run off to a left-wing publication to tell his side of the story.

If Dick Armey and his friends are concerned about "harm" "done to the movement," perhaps they should not be willingly talking to a left-wing publication that has been pretty clearly looking to harm the conservative movement and bring down conservative groups.

UPDATE 2013/01/03: Blogger Rusty Weiss notes the attempted intervention of Armey and his allies on the board in support of establishment GOP candidates -- for example, Orrin Hatch, whom FreedomWorks attempted to defeat in the nomination process. Weiss notes the irony that Armey had, in April 2012, signed a letter with Kibbe and Armey ally C. Boyden Gray opposing David and Charles Koch's efforts to gain control over the Cato Institute, as it would harm Cato's credibility and "undermine our community's intellectual defenses."

UPDATE 2013/01/09: Dick Armey tells the Daily Caller he thought he was talking to Media Resource Center (a conservative group that documents left-wing bias in media, headed by L. Brent Bozell), not Media Matters (a left-wing, George Soros-funded group headed by David Brock).

And here's the leaked packet from FreedomWorks December 2012 board meeting, containing budget and financial reports and other statistics, shows a tremendous growth both in donations and in number of people engaged with FreedomWorks in some way. By every measure, 2012 was a wildly successful year for FreedomWorks.

On Monday in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Oklahoma's free-market policy think-tank, hosted a forum on health care, highlighting the value of transparency and direct payment in medical pricing, and the accomplishments of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City in providing high-quality health care for reasonable prices.

The Surgery Center, founded in 1997, began posting its prices online a few years ago. The prices only apply to those paying up front (either on their own behalf, or covered by a self-insuring employer), but not to those who have the Surgery Center file an insurance claim for payment. The flat fee covers fees for the surgeon, anaesthesiologist, and facility, initial consultation, and uncomplicated follow-up care. Any hardware and implants needed are quoted in advance and priced at cost -- no markups. The center's website sets out the rationale behind their approach:

It is no secret to anyone that the pricing of surgical services is at the top of the list of problems in our dysfunctional healthcare system. Bureaucracy at the insurance and hospital levels, cost shifting and the absence of free market principles are among the culprits for what has caused surgical care in the United States to be cost prohibitive. As more and more patients find themselves paying more and more out of pocket, it is clear that something must change. We believe that a very different approach is necessary, one involving transparent and direct pricing.

Transparent, direct, package pricing means the patient knows exactly what the cost of the service will be upfront. Fees for the surgeon, anesthesiologist and facility are all included in one low price. There are no hidden costs, charges or surprises.

The pricing outlined on this website is not a teaser, nor is it a bait-and-switch ploy. It is the actual price you will pay. We can offer these prices because we are completely physician-owned and managed. We control every aspect of the facility from real estate costs, to the most efficient use of staff, to the elimination of wasteful operating room practices that non-profit hospitals have no incentive to curb. We are truly committed to providing the best quality care at the lowest possible price.

The forum began with a screening of a short Reason.TV story about the Surgery Center.

It's remarkable that the chairman of the ear, nose, and throat department at Integris Baptist Medical Center, but "prefers to do his procedures at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma."

Some companies have found they can provide better employee surgical care more cost effectively by paying places like Surgery Center directly (and in some cases also paying for travel costs and lodging) rather than paying for conventional insurance.

The forum was broadcast on Ustream and is archived for watching at your leisure. The session starts at 4:40 into the video, introduced by OCPA vice president for policy Brandon Dutcher. You can find it embedded on the OCPA blog or directly on the Surgery Center of Oklahoma's Ustream channel.

(Note to the cameraman: Next time don't be so shy -- get up close!)

Pat McGuigan's story on Oklahoma Watchdog about the forum includes a note on how the center deals with people who can't afford the published price (even though it's typically far more affordable than the same procedure at a non-profit hospital).

In dialogue with CapitolBeatOK, [Surgery Center founder] Dr. [Keith] Smith said the center's approach is helping to restore an old-fashioned medical ethic for provision of charity care. Many referrals to the hospital come from churches and other groups helping the poor. Patients are encouraged in those cases to pay what they can, while physicians and anesthesiologists can (and often do) waive their fees for individuals in need.

Surgery Center does work with insurance companies, but that triggers a separate pricing structure. Dr. Smith explained, "We take on a lot of risks when we file with insurance companies, so we have to charge for that risk."

MORE: Dr. Smith has a frequently updated Tumblr blog commenting on health costs and policy.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from December 2012.

Politics: November 2012 is the previous archive.

Politics: January 2013 is the next archive.

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