Morning Must Reads — Butter, Then Guns

New York Times — Obama Facing Doubts Within His Own Party on Afghanistan

If the president wants to get liberals on board with a health plan that will look more like Mitt Romney’s than Henry Waxman’s, he is going to have to heed their calls on Afghanistan.

Writers Eric Schmitt and David Sanger look at the state of political play after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi practically dared the president to seek a troop increase that the Pentagon will soon be requesting. Military leaders, though, are increasingly alarmed about a vague but growing mission, a crumbling local government, and a more effective enemy. They warn that without a substantial increase now, U.S. casualties will worsen and the chance to build a new nation over the coming decade will be lost.

While Obama is working to keep his team together to avoid a health humiliation – which could be months of cajoling and wheedling – the plan on Afghanistan seems to be to kick the can and hope the Afghans can get their acts together.

“[Pelosi said] she was eager to see a report due from the White House in two weeks on benchmarks to measure the success of the administration’s six-month-old strategy. The White House has begun to indicate that it could be weeks or perhaps much longer before Mr. Obama decides whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Administration officials say they want to do a complete review of the effectiveness of the last troop increase, which will put the American presence at 68,000 troops by year’s end, an all-time high. They are also digesting a strategic assessment of the Afghan mission that General McChrystal has submitted.

A delay on deciding whether to increase American troop levels would also have the political advantage of pushing down the road a split within Mr. Obama’s party while he is trying to build coalitions for overhauling the health care system.”


Wall Street Journal — A Clear Signal on Total Cost, Less Clarity on How to Pay

We remember the trillion-dollar tango from the stimulus debate. The White House wanted to get the number below the $1,000,000,000,000 line (before interest payments) and the number dropped below $800,000,000,000 under a Senate compromise.
The president made sure to bring his health-care ask in under the trillion mark and was also most adamant about not increasing the national debt beyond the $9,000,000,000,000 it is already expected to increase in the next decade.

Writer Janet Adamy explains that while Obama has finally provided a price tag, his suggestions for paying the cost are vague at best – cuts that improve service in Medicare and some new taxes on insurance companies. Those ideas would still likely come up about $500,000,000,000 short.

“The House version of the health-care legislation calls for about $470 billion in cuts to wasteful or abusive Medicare spending over a decade to help pay for expanded insurance coverage. That doesn't factor in an increase in Medicare spending to adjust how doctors are paid through Medicare, which Democrats view as distinct from the overall Medicare changes. When that is included, the net savings from Medicare in the House bill is $246 billion.

The Senate Finance Committee's proposal to tax insurers for generous health plans would generate at least $150 billion over a decade, according to people familiar with the plan.

The White House said the speech wasn't intended to spell out every aspect of how the president would pay for the plan. Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the president was still considering a series of other ways to fund the plan that he outlined earlier.”


Wall Street Journal — Government Becoming Insurer for More People

One way to expand Medicaid is a long, deep recession and huge unemployment.

Writer Janet Adamy breaks down the latest Census estimates on health insurance that finds that between the Baby Boomers getting on Medicare, the massive expansion of S-CHIP bringing many more kids into the system, the number of people falling into Medicaid, another 4.4 million people joined government insurance rolls last year to bring the new total to 87.4 million – 29 percent of the population.

The percent of uninsured remained steady around 15 percent, with the remaining 55 percent privately insured.

Widening the government net during bad times expanded public options, but what about those who would be targeted by a mandate?

“The 46 million figure, often cited in debates about overhauling health care, is hotly disputed. Many experts say the number is probably higher now because rising unemployment is causing more people in the U.S. to lose insurance provided through jobs. Others say the problem may be overstated because some of the uninsured can afford to buy insurance but don't.

President Barack Obama has backed away from the 46 million number. In his address to Congress on Wednesday, he estimated the number of American citizens who can't get coverage at more than 30 million.

That number includes millions of people who are eligible for government insurance but haven't enrolled, or who can afford coverage but chose not to buy it. About 25% of the uninsured are eligible for Medicaid or state-run children's health insurance programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Washington Post — Shout Draws Focus to Illegal-Immigrant Issue

How do you keep illegal immigrants from getting in on Obamacare, which includes having the IRS check to make sure that everyone is covered, without identifying who the illegal immigrants are?

While President Obama may not have been strictly lying, as Rep. Joe Wilson said, but at the very least he was being blithely optimistic.
Writer Alec MacGillis looks at how Wilson’s poor manners have helped refocus the debate.

“House Republicans have proposed amendments to close potential loopholes, but those measures have so far failed in committee. House Democrats say that the stricter rules could prevent eligible people from getting coverage and that eligibility regulations would be drawn up by federal officials. The bill's opponents say such a process would be inadequate.

‘The other side appears to be saying, 'Trust us, [the government] will do the right thing.' Well, the trust issue is the core problem in immigration — the political class is telling the public, 'We'll do the right thing,' and the public doesn't believe them,’ said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter immigration policy.”


New York Times — Heckler’s District Mostly Supports the Outburst

It’s always funny when the New York Times goes down south. And writers Robbie Brown and Carl Hulse do not disappoint with their reportage from the cradle of secession, where people think Rep. Joe Wilson might have shown better manners but think that somebody had to call President Obama out for playing loose with the facts.

“‘Give Obama hell,’ said Bob Allen, 52, a construction worker in Columbia. ‘I’m proud of my congressman.’

Marie Briggs, 77, a retiree from Sumter, which is in a different district, said, ‘I guess you would say it was a mite disrespectful, but I say, ‘All the way.’

Mr. Wilson hit a nerve on the issue of illegal immigration. Even South Carolina supporters of a health care overhaul expressed concern about extending coverage to illegal immigrants. Ms. Wahl accused Latino newcomers of worsening crime in Swansea.

‘And now they want health care,’ she said.”

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