“It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.” —Benjamin Franklin (1777)
IN TODAY’S EDITION
- House Democrats have a plan in the 116th Congress: Stop Trump.
- Romney is sort of right, but also a lot wrong in criticizing Trump.
- Daily Features: On the Web, Columnists, Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Opinion in Brief, and Short Cuts.
- Featured Analysis: The cost of ER care is making Americans sick.
As that old adage states, elections have consequences. Those consequences will begin to be felt today as the 116th Congress is seated amidst a partial government shutdown. The most significant change is in the House, where Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will take over as speaker for the second time as Democrats reclaim the majority. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will preside over a Republican majority that grew two seats stronger, with newer members more likely to support President Donald Trump’s agenda. Oh, the clashes we’ll see.
So what’s on the agenda for Pelosi and House Democrats? To put it succinctly, two things: pushing socialism and destroying Trump.
Prior to the midterm elections, Pelosi sought to tamp down impeachment talk, calculating that it wouldn’t play well with voters. But since securing the House majority, she has changed her tune, now signaling that impeachment is indeed on the table. Thursday Pelosi cryptically stated, “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.” Impeachment or not, Pelosi’s agenda is clear: Do everything possible to prevent Trump from winning reelection in 2020. Hence the shutdown.
As the partial government shutdown nears two full weeks, Pelosi and the Democrats have stubbornly refused to offer any true compromise spending proposal by steadfastly rejecting any deal that provides funds for construction of a border wall. While the $5 billion Trump demanded for a wall is a mere pittance when compared to the overall budget, the Democrats’ refusal is purely a political play. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will do everything in their power to prevent Trump from following through on his biggest campaign promise. For Democrats, this fight over the border is a calculated effort to severely damage Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. They can’t let Trump get a win on his signature campaign issue. They couldn’t care less about strengthening our nation’s border security and protecting Americans.
Thus, for the foreseeable future, Americans have a lot more political gridlock to look forward to, as coming to any legislative compromises will be tough sledding. Indeed, it’s foreboding that the transition to the 116th Congress comes in the midst of a shutdown. If Democrats were bad over the last two years, how much worse will they be with a House majority?
To be a conservative in the Trump Era is … interesting, in the sense of the saying, “May you live in interesting times.” In some ways, it’s a balancing act — of supporting President Donald Trump’s policies while trying to reconcile that with his glaring character flaws. This balancing act can be very tricky, and newly elected Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has mishandled that balance.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Romney hit Trump over his character deficiencies. Memo to Romney: Everyone knew what those flaws were; they were baked into the cake in 2016, as they are today. Anyone who followed celebrity gossip over the last 30 years knew Trump was a womanizer. He’s rude and bombastic — or, some could say, a typical New Yorker. Indeed, Romney weighed in on Trump in much the same way in a 2016 speech.
But, again, all of that was weighed prior to the 2016 election, which Trump won. Primarily, that victory was because of the political conditions at the time. Far too many conservatives who declared themselves “Never Trump” ignored those conditions, part of a pattern of tactical and strategic incompetence that has at best delayed the achievement of conservative objectives and the advancement of conservative principles.
For all of Trump’s flaws, he got results. In 2012, Romney was a gentleman, even as Democrats smeared him as a racist Hitler wannabe. He lost. John McCain went so far as to admonish his own supporters for attacks on Barack Obama he felt were unfair. His repayment for that personal decency was to be labeled a racist and “out of touch.” He lost, too.
Furthermore, Romney is being very naive if he thinks the folks who viciously trashed him in 2012 have had a true change of heart. Does he really believe that, had he won the 2012 election, he would not be facing a form of “the Resistance” due to the “racism” of beating the first black president in an election?
No conservative denies that the country would have been better off had Mitt Romney won the 2012 election. It would have been even better off had he won the 2008 nomination and election. But it’s worth remembering that if he had shown the Democrats or the Leftmedia a tenth of the fight that Donald Trump is showing today, he very well could have won either of those elections. A little righteous anger toward Harry Reid and Candy Crowley would have made a difference, as would have following our advice on how to attack Obama.
Yet when Romney is showing a willingness to fight, it’s not against Democrats who smeared him or the media that was complicit in perpetuating those smears. Instead, he’s battling the president of his own party, who is actually fighting the Left and the biased media to implement a number of the policies Romney himself campaigned for in 2008 and 2012. Romney may gain the temporary approval of the Washington Post editorial board, but he traded a fair amount of goodwill from those who supported his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs to get it.
It was a bad deal by a good man.
ON OUR WEBSITE TODAY
- About That Crazy Cabinet Meeting… — One of the biggest hurdles to Trump’s agenda is that he gets in his own way.
- The Left’s Strange Alliance With Islam — The Left sides with the “Religion of Peace,” ignoring its horrific record on individual rights.
- Video: End Racial Preferences at Colleges? — Asians sue Harvard for discrimination in a case that may end college racial preferences.
BEST OF RIGHT OPINION
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.
- Socialism rising: Democrats take House pushing massive government expansion, as party lurches left (Fox News)
- No deal to end shutdown; Trump says “could be a long time” (Associated Press)
- Top Democrats refuse to reveal their holiday travel during the shutdown (Washington Examiner)
- Senate confirms dozens of stalled Trump nominees hours before the 115th Congress ends (Washington Examiner)
- Trump administration issues fewest new regulations in history (PJ Media)
- House Democrat rules package could mean more spending, higher taxes (The Daily Signal)
- Border Patrol treating 50 illegal immigrants per day for “serious illnesses” (The Daily Wire)
- House Democrats slip abortion language into bill to end partial shutdown (Washington Examiner)
- Thirty “transgender” regretters come out of the closet (The Federalist)
- Humor: Opinion: Trump is doing the right thing, but he’s doing it as Trump, which means it’s still bad (The Babylon Bee)
- Policy: Seven reasons to say goodbye to teachers unions (Foundation for Economic Education)
- Policy: Why America cannot afford to pull out of Afghanistan (The Daily Signal)
For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.
PROFILES OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT
America’s oldest living veteran, Richard Overton, died in his home town of Austin, Texas, last Thursday at the age of 112. Overton was a veteran of World War II, where he served in the Pacific Theater with the all-black 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, fighting on the islands of Guam, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. Of the bloody battle on Iwo Jima, Overton later said, “I only got out of there by the grace of God.” We don’t doubt many of his fellow Patriots said the same.
Born in 1906 near Bastrop, Texas, Overton moved to Austin after the war, where he worked in furniture stores and later for the state treasurer’s office. In a 2013 interview — at the spry age of 107 — Overton credited God for his long life, while also admitting to his lifelong whiskey and cigar-smoking habits. “I drink whiskey in my coffee,” he said. “Sometimes I drink it straight. I smoke cigars [and] blow the smoke out; I don’t swallow it.”
In 2017, the city of Austin gave the honorary name “Richard Overton Avenue” to Hamilton Avenue, where he had lived for 72 years. A year earlier, Overton’s neighbor Helen Elliott said, “He considers himself our neighborhood watchdog, and he knows everything that’s going on. I don’t think the neighborhood would be what it is without him. He’s our legend, our icon.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recognized Overton as “an American icon and a Texas legend,” stating, “With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him. Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
Indeed. Rest in peace.
For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.
For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.
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When the clock struck midnight and Monday turned to Tuesday, it signaled a new year — and, for many Americans, a new deductible to fulfill on their health insurance plan. Those who had the misfortune of needing an ER visit in the first days of last year likely found out a few weeks later that they owed a significant bill that (of course) fell completely within their deductible. It will be no different this year, as it’s a symptom of a serious disease in our health care system.
One Maryland family visited the ER in January 2018 and incurred a $1,375 bill for 10 minutes with a doctor and two generic drugs that totaled $1,075 by themselves. The reason we know about the plight of this Maryland family as well as that of others around the nation is a year-long “crowdsourcing” research project conducted by long-time health policy writer Sarah Kliff for the Vox website.
Kliff, whose original intent in collecting these bills was to study so-called “facility fees” charged by hospitals, ended up with nearly 1,200 of them — tabs from every state in the union, although California led the way. And what Kliff found about “facility fees” and other charges submitted to patients (often after their insurance companies applied the costs to the policy holder’s deductible or copay) would probably fill up a book.
We’ll grant that those who submitted bills to the left-leaning Vox site were likely ones who advocate for a single-payer or “Medicare for All” system — so perhaps this sample was more extreme than most people have to endure. Moreover, shifting payment from patients to taxpayers won’t do anything to reduce costs; in fact, remitting them to the bottomless well of taxpayer money will only further enrich those who are already profiting from the system unless the costs are placed under control, and Congress has been loathe to cut costs. For example, it’s been up to the Trump administration to pitch ideas that would curtail payments to Medicare providers.
Providers would argue that the primary reason ER prices are so high is that sufficient staff and resources need to be on hand to deal with any and all emergency situations, whether a significant event with multiple victims and a variety of injuries like a school-bus accident or someone’s simple case of the flu. Even when no one ends up walking in the door, these professionals have to be paid and supplies kept in stock — hence, markups and “facility fees” are necessary to minimize financial losses from non-paying patients. And while insurance companies hire their own auditors who are familiar with the health care profession to check large-scale medical invoices on admissions that run into the high five or six figures, the average ER visit that’s a couple thousand dollars doesn’t receive that sort of scrutiny. It’s only because these patients have shared their hospital bills with Kliff — bills that created a database for her research — that we’ve learned about the extent and range of these “facility fees.”
A portion of the Vox lament is already being addressed in rules published by the Trump administration over the summer. As of Tuesday, hospitals — which just a few weeks ago were “concerned” and “unsure” about how they would meet this deadline — are now required to post online their “standard charges” for various procedures.
However, these come with a caveat: As one of this author’s local hospitals warned, “The information provided … is a comprehensive list of charges for each inpatient and outpatient service or item provided by a hospital, also known as a chargemaster. It is not a helpful tool for patients to comparison shop between hospitals or to estimate what health care services are going to cost them out of their own pocket.” Nor is it very convenient in an emergency situation such as many families face during a year.
These reforms and the advocacy created by the Kliff research spurred Congress to begin action in the last session, and while nothing made it out of the 115th Congress, the new Congress with its partisan split may see this as one issue both sides can tackle by mandating hospitals to be more transparent about costs up front. It would be our preference for the free market to handle this, as people need to have the information available to them to make a more informed choice. After all, savvy hospitals may market this drive toward transparency as a way to appear more family-friendly and bring in more patients to their networks and clinics for the non-emergency and preventative-care visits for which they can more easily plan and have the proper personnel and supplies available — perhaps preventing future ER visits.
Even the government knows being able to plan care would be a good way to drive down its cost.
OPINION IN BRIEF
Ed Feulner: “Today, more than 130 positions on the U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals are vacant. To put that in perspective, it’s more than twice as many vacancies as there were under President Clinton or President George W. Bush. Vacancies are 52 percent higher today than they were in July 2016, when Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, said we faced a ‘vacancy crisis.’ What makes today’s vacancy situation any less of a crisis in Mr. Booker’s eyes, other than the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Vacancies are 88 percent higher today than they were in September 2015, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, warned that ‘we are heading into a judicial vacancy crisis.’ He’s oddly silent now, despite the situation becoming roughly twice as serious. Or is it only a crisis when his party controls the White House?”
Upright: “Good character is not an impediment to success. But it is not sufficient for success, either.” —Jim Geraghty
For the record: “If Senator Romney wants to sound off against Trump’s excesses and character flaws, he should by all means do so in response to Trump’s tweets or statements or actions. But by forcing a ‘Love Trump or Leave Trump’ choice on Republicans, he’s actually doing the work of both the most ardent Trumpists and the most viciously antagonistic members of the Democratic party and the media.” —Ben Shapiro
Friendly fire: “Though [Dean] Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump. Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.” —former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson
Fake news: “Extreme weather and dire climate reports are intensifying the mental health effects of global warming: depression and resignation about the future.” —NBC News
Alpha Jackass: “Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump.” —Rep. Hank Johnson
Alpha Jackass II: “Donald Trump supporters are older, less educated, less prosperous, and dying early. Their lifespans are decreasing, and many are dying from alcoholism, drug overdoses, liver disease, or simply a broken heart caused by economic despair.” —Hank Johnson
Non Compos Mentis: “What’s [Mattis] done for me? How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. … I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan. I want results. … I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” —Donald Trump going over the top regarding Defense Secretary James Mattis
Civility: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.” —Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on her mother’s negotiating style
And last… “If you’re searching for enlightenment in politics, you should probably find a better religion.” —David Harsanyi
Join our editors and staff in daily prayer for our Patriots in uniform — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — standing in harm’s way in defense of Liberty, and for their families. We also humbly ask prayer for your Patriot team, that our mission would seed and encourage the spirit of Liberty in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher