Phil Gramm

Several dozen organizations filed “friend of the court” briefs for the lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. And virtually none of these briefs are likely to have much impact. But, based on what transpired at oral arguments, one brief appears to have gotten the attention of conservative justices. That is deeply worrisome, because the brief betrays some fundamental misunderstandings of how health care actually works.  The brief comes from the American Action Forum, a conservative advocacy group that opposes the law, and has the signature of 101 economists and policy experts.

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God knows Rick Perry was his own worst enemy as a presidential candidate--always spoiling for a fight but never mentally agile enough to win one. But Perry entered the race with one substantial asset: He was really good at raising money. Perry had reportedly raised more than $100 million in campaign contributions since he entered the Texas governor's mansion in 2001. Paul Begala estimates that Perry ended up spending at least $1,477 for every vote he received in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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With Mitch Daniels officially out of the presidential race, it seems like the entire GOP is emulating Ethelred the Unready. Well, not quite everyone. In a contrarian move at odds with the Reluctant Republican ethos of the party, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will actually make it official by declaring his candidacy today in Des Moines.  Along with the obligatory yawn-inducing “can you win Iowa?” question, Pawlenty almost certainly will be asked again about his ability to compete financially with Mitt Romney, the Daddy Warbucks of the truncated Republican field.

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With few declared candidates and no clear frontrunner, the Republican presidential primary appears to be as muddled as ever. But I actually think things are shaking out in a way as to clear the path for Tim Pawlenty. My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda.

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Paleo Wacko

In 1984, Ron Paul ran for the United States Senate. It was an audacious gamble. Paul, who represented Texas’s twenty-second congressional district, had to give up his safe House seat to compete in the state’s Republican Senate primary.

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Phil Gramm today has an op-ed urging Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He concludes with this flourish: There is one more overwhelming reason freedom is so critical in health care. In the end, even the greatest health-care system in the world fails. At 92, my mother decided to stop going to the hospital, stop going to the doctor, stop taking her medicine, and to die in her own bed. It was a free choice, and she made it. For her family, it was a painful choice, but she died as she lived—proud and free. Government bureaucrats did not make that decision; she did.

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Phil Gramm is a pompous and self-righteous man. The Wall Street Journal gave him some 2000 words on Friday, and he used 1000 of them to defend the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 from the fault that has been assigned to it for knocking down the regulatory defenses against against Wall Street legerdemain. And who does he summon to protect him history? His good friend Bill Clinton, as if he were a credible witness to have anything to do with honesty about the past. I looked at the ID line at the end of Gramm's op ed to find what he was doing now? Who was paying his keep?

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McCain advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin slammed Obama's tax plan today, saying, "Obama has proposed a ‘tax cut' for 95 percent of people when, literally, almost 40 percent pay no federal income taxes at all." He cited a recent New York Post editorial labeling Obama's tax cuts "welfare." It is true that Obama has proposed several tax credits that include families who earn too little to owe income taxes, a group that include about half of families with children. But many of these families work and pay thousands of dollars in other taxes.

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Visible Hands

When Hank Paulson, a successful investment banker turned Republican treasury secretary, caps his career by nationalizing two financial institutions so large that even Norman Thomas in his socialist heyday would have paused before taking them onto the government's balance sheet, and a conservative central banker agrees to bail out an insurance company to the tune of $85 billion, you know that a fundamental change is underway. The day when that engine of capitalism, the financial market, was allowed to operate more or less unimpeded by government has passed.

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Quick question, per this interview in which McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin disparages McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm: If, as Holtz-Eakin says, Gramm wasn't in any way speaking for McCain because only McCain speaks for McCain, why on earth should we believe him (Holtz-Eakin)? Why would Holtz-Eakin's words be any more reliable than Gramm's? Isn't he just as far from being John McCain as Phil Gramm is?

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