Obama’s Record

September 10th, 2011 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

From the Wall Street Journal.

These are not of course all Obama’s fault. But it shows the challenge he will face with re-election. At present his best advantage is the comparative weakness of the Republican contenders.


Belushi and Obama

August 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Enjoy this mashup of John Belushi in Blues Brothers, with Obama talking about the credit downgrade.

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Perry v Obama

August 16th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Texas Governor Rick Perry could well win the Republican  nomination. Already former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has pulled out after a poor showing in Ohio.

The Atlantic looks at Perry and Obama on jobs:

If Texas Governor Rick Perry is the Republican nominee for president, the 2012 election will have a striking parallelism. President Obama would ask voters to overlook a bad national economy for which he’s not fully responsible. The Republican challenger would ask voters to credit him for an impressive state economy for which he is also not fully responsible.

There are two themes here. One is that the likelihood of a politician to take ownership over an economy is directly proportional to the health of the economy. The other lesson is that even as political leaders can try to guide an economy, they are ultimately victims, or beneficiaries, of its underlying fundamentals.

The Texas miracle is, like so many miraculous things, complicated upon closer inspection. Texas accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s new jobs since June 2009. This impressive statistic is the result of geology, geography, history, and politics.

Texas is only 8% of the US population, so 40% of new jobs is an impressive figure.

Texanomics is well-suited to a recession stemming from a financial crisis. When consumers’ balance sheets are hurting, they seek out low cost-of-living. That’s Texas. When companies don’t have access to credit, they hire cheaper labor. Texas again. When young couples look to start a family, they’re drawn to affordable housing, nice weather, and industries that hire: Energy and aerospace in Houston, health care and military in San Antonio, tech and education in Austin, and communications and more energy Dallas.

And the politics:

That the stimulus was a PR-failure says more about the strength of the downturn than the weakness of the administration. But that’s an economist’s distinction, not a campaign platform. The president’s message to voters asks them to see the successes of his policies by imagining how bad things would be without them. In a rotten economy, Obama has to run on a hypothetical. The governor’s economic message is simpler. It’s reality. It’s “Look at Texas.” Perry isn’t entirely responsible for the state’s economic record. But he’s a record worth claiming.

Perry is at 39% to win the Republican nomination on In Trade. Next is Romney on 32%.

Obama’s price for re-election is at 52%, down from 56% a few weeks ago.

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How much of a bump will Obama get?

May 4th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The more I read about the Osama operation, the more you realise what a risk it was. This wasn’t some dumb luck, or bombs hitting the right place. It is a story of intelligence agencies piecing together a puzzle over many months, and then havign enough trust in the intelligence, but also the SEALs, to send a team in.  If the mission had turned out the same as Jimmy Carter’s helicopters in Iran, then Obama would probably be joining Carter as a one term President.

But the mission was flawless – no soldiers dead, no civilians dead, no neighbour destroyed etc.

Now this will not guarantee Obama is re-elected, but it sure will give his poll numbers a boost for a fair while. And it will pretty much permamently put heed to any notion of him not being tough enough on the war on terror.

Nate Silver blogs:

Historically, the correlation between a president’s overall approval rating and his rating on foreign affairs is stronger than is the case with his rating on the economy. If you place the two variables into a regression equation, it finds that foreign affairs is the more important component, although both are clearly statistically significant.

That is a surprise, as common wisdom is economic issues trump everything.

Unless the economic indicators significantly outperform consensus expectations, the election is still liable to be fairly close, with Mr. Obama hardly assured of coming out on top.

I think one of the boggest factors will be the quality of the Republican candidate also. Donald Trump is threatening to turn the race into a joke.


Is Bin Laden dead?

May 2nd, 2011 at 2:27 pm by David Farrar

President Obama about to hold a press conference. Have heard a rumour he will announce that Osama bin Laden is dead. Will find out in a few minutes.

1440: Obama yet to speak, but the Osama speculation is now widespread and being reported. A good day for mankind, so to speak. Not the end of terrorism, but a major blow. Yay. Obama now expected on at 1450 NZST.

1443: Seems the US has his body. I guess this means Donald Trump won’t demand a copy of the long form death certificate :-)

1510: It seems he was killed in Pakistan, not far from the capital. No statement yet.

1536: It’s now official, with Obama making his statement. I wonder if the delay was teleprompter broke down :-)

More seriously while this is news that will be welcomed by hudnreds of millions, my thoughts are with the families of the 9/11 victims. For them, this is more personal. Today is the equivalent of having the guy who killed your Mum or Dad sent to prison for life. The guy primarily responsible for their deaths is no longer a threat to anyone else.

1539: The operation was only launched today on Obama’s orders. No US deaths and they got Bin Laden’s body. Obama is about to shoot up in the polls. He is no Jimmy Carter.

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Born in the USA

April 29th, 2011 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Responding to critics’ relentless claims, US President Barack Obama has produced a detailed Hawaii birth certificate in an extraordinary attempt to bury the issue of where he was born and confirm his legitimacy to hold office. He declared, “We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”

By going on national TV from the White House on Wednesday (local time), Obama portrayed himself as a voice of reason amid a loud, lingering debate on his birth status. Though his personal attention to the issue elevated it as never before, Obama said to Republican detractors and the media, it is time to move on to bigger issues.

Maybe now people will STFU on this issue. It has been the right wing equivalent of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists on the left.

I suspect Obama finally released his long form record as Donald Trump has started championing the birthers claims.


Obama v Reagan

January 17th, 2011 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

The Republican Presidential Primaries will be held in early 2012, and there is huge jockeying for position already. Obama has relatively low approval ratings but nearly two years out from the presidential election these count for little.

In 1982 Ronald Reagan, now considered one of the most popular politician of all time, faced a tough economy and a democrat controlled congress. As the chart below from USA Today shows, Obama is clearly ahead of where Reagan was at the same time in his presidency.


This is a fascinating tracker poll. You can track any president against any other using the compare chart.

Tracker polls like this are interesting because they point to historical precedent. So when the media start talking about low approval ratings for Obama it pays to be skeptical as to how much influence this has on his reelection campaign.

Also worth noting that Obama’s approval is on the rise.


Obama chalking up some wins

December 28th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Obama has done exactly what he needed after the mid-term drubbing, and chalked up some wins. And he has done it by going both right and left. His three major victories are:

  1. A deal with the Republicans on cutting taxes to stimulate the economy
  2. Ratification of an arms reduction treaty with Russia
  3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

It’s a nice combination of something for everyone. Almost all Americans like treaties which reduce the number of nuclear weapons. Those sympathethic to the tea party movement will like the tax cuts and the liberals will hail the repeal of DADT.

His net approval rating is now just a -2% average.

The Republican’s main problem is finding the right challenger. A generic GOP candidate out polls Obama, but the moment you put a name in there, Obama leads. This article divideds up the potential candidates as being populists or managers. Populists include Palin, Huckabee, and Perry, Managers are Romney, Daniels, Barbour with Gingrich and Pawlenty (my pick) being a bit of both.

A recent poll has Obama vs Palin being a 54% to 39% landslide for Obama. If Bloomberg enters the race as an independent, then it is 47% to 31% to 18%.

Another poll has Obama beating Romey 47% to 40%.

The net favourability ratings for Obama and the three leading Republicans are:

  1. Huckabee +11%
  2. Obama +5%
  3. Romney +3%
  4. Palin -15%

So Huckabee has some popularity, and is a rare person who can rally the christian base without scaring off liberals. However fiscal conservatives do not trust him, and hard to see the tea party rallying behind him.

If the economy picks up in time for 2012, Obama will be hard to defeat – unless the Republicans can find a candidate who appeals to both their religious and fiscal conservative wings – but also does not scare off independents and moderates.

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Obama’s tax cuts

December 10th, 2010 at 8:37 am by David Farrar

This week Obama stuck a deal with Republicans which sees him try to revive the US economy with tax cuts instead of extra spending. Labour in NZ should take note. Obama has agreed to:

  • Extend the Bush tax cuts for two further years which were due to expire at the end of 2010
  • Reduce for one year the Social Security payroll tax from 6.2% to 4.2%
  • Increase the threshold for the death tax from $1m to $5m ad reduce the rate from 55% to 35%

It will be interesting to observe the President’s poll ratings in the next month.

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Balancing the US Budget

December 5th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Barack Obama established a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to come up with ways to reduce the huge fiscal deficit. They have 18 members – 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans on it.

So what has this bipartisan group recommended:

  • $200 billion of domestic and defence savings by 2015
  • Tax reform that reduces rates, simplifies the code and broadens the base to reduce the deficit
  • Measures to control long-term health cost growth
  • Mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement
  • Ensure social security solvency for next 75 years

This would achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020, reduce the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015 and caps revenue at 21% of GDP (note NZ is well over 30%).

Obama, to his credit, has not rejected it. Sadly Congressional Democrats look likely to – which will impose future generations with horrific levels of debt and interest on the debt.

The situation in NZ is not so dire, but we still need bold measures to stop borrowing $250 million a week.

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For Gilbert & Sullivan fans

October 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This is very enjoyable. It’s pro-Obama, but done in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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Who would have thought

October 15th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Yahoo News reports:

A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday immediately stopping enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, suspending the 17-year-old ban on openly gay U.S. troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ landmark ruling also ordered the government to suspend and discontinue all pending discharge proceedings and investigations under the policy. …

the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban’s enforcement.

So who would have thought that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would not be killed off by Obama (who had promised to do so), but instead by the Log Cabin Republicans.

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Presidental Approval Comparison

September 20th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

18 months into the first terms, the presidential approval ratings for various Presidents was:

  1. Eisenhower 75%
  2. Bush GWH 74%
  3. JFK 67%
  4. LBJ 65%
  5. Bush GW 65%
  6. Nixon 55%
  7. Ford 48%
  8. Carter 43%
  9. Clinton 43%
  10. Reagan 41%
  11. Obama 41%
  12. Truman 34%

Reagan, Clinton and Truman all went on to win another term, so maybe Obama is following their strategy of not peaking too early!

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Obama aide on Key

September 11th, 2010 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A senior member of the Obama Administration has praised the Prime Minister as a “key player” on the international stage, who has developed a “real chemistry” with the US President. …

Speaking at a seminar on United States-New Zealand relations in Washington, Dr Campbell said Mr Key had “animated the discussions” and “drove the deliberations” at the President’s Nuclear Summit in April.

Labour, and many in the wider left, have been underestimating John Key for years and years, and still do so. This is partly why they lost the 2008 election – they were convinced Clark would destroy Key in the debates.

Even today they have their fantasies that he is some sort of smile and wave lightweight, whose only asset is his smile. And you compare that to Campbell’s assessment that Key drove deliberations at the US convened nuclear summit.

Dr Campbell said the Obama Administration had at first considered the US-NZ relationship was “profoundly underperforming”.

The change of regime in both counties has probably helped :-)

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September 4th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Very watchable attack ad on Obama. The production quality is excellent.

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McChrystal sacked

June 24th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

US President Barack Obama has fired top Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal over inflammatory comments that angered the White House and threatened to undermine the war effort.

Obama relieved General McChrystal of his command after a private, 30-minute meeting at the White House and named General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, to replace him, a senior administration official said.

That’s a smart decision, Petraeus is well regarded. Ironically it is technically a demotion for Petraeus, but I suspect he won’t mind being closer to the action.

Republicans love Petraeus. If things do not progress well in Afghanistan, any other appointment could have seen greater attacks on Obama’s strategy.

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Will McChrystal be sacked?

June 23rd, 2010 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The tiff between General Stanley McChrystal and the White House is the most extraordinary airing of military-civilian tensions since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command a half-century ago.

Which doomed any chance of Truman standing again for President. Mind you he was justified – MacArthur was a great general and leader, but he was refusing to follow orders.

The White House summoned McChrystal to Washington to explain disparaging comments about his commander in chief and Obama’s top aides. The meeting, set for tomorrow, is a last-ditch moment for the general once considered the war’s brightest hope.

If not insubordination, the remarks in a forthcoming Rolling Stone magazine article were at least an indirect challenge to civilian management of the war in Washington by its top military commander.

The comments are pretty much inexcusable. The military are sworn to not be partisan and to be loyal to their elected Commander in Chief.

However if Obama sacks McChrystal, he may doom his own strategy for Afghanistan. It will be fascinating to see what he does,

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Obama and Leno

May 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I do like the annual tradition of the President having to make fund of himself (and others) at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

My favourite lines are about how is still popular in the country of his birth, and how glad he is to see Jay Leno, as his ratings have fallen even more than his.

The US presidency is the most powerful position in the world, and this semi-requirement to take the piss out of yourself is a healthy one. It is unthinkable that this would happen in Russia or China.

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US gives up on space

April 26th, 2010 at 8:09 am by David Farrar

Gwynne Dyer writes:

In the real world, the United States is giving up on space, although it is trying hard to conceal its retreat. Three Americans with a very special status – all have commanded missions to the Moon – have made their dismay public.

In an open letter Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13 and Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, condemned President Barack Obama’s plans for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as the beginning of a “long downhill slide to mediocrity” for the United States.

What has changed?

The letter was timed to coincide with Obama’s visit to Cape Canaveral to defend his new policy, which abandons the goal of returning to the Moon by 2020, or indeed ever.

The idea of a permanent base to the Moon was a good investment in the future.

So for the next decade, at least, the United States will be an also-ran in space, while the new space powers forge rapidly ahead.

And even if some subsequent administration should decide it wants to get back in the race, it will find it almost impossible to catch up.

And that is why the first man on Mars will be probably Chinese or Indian, not American.

I suspect he will be right. And the nationalism that will surround that will be massive.

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President Ron Paul?

April 16th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fans of libertarian Ron Paul have got very excited by this Rasmussen poll:

Pit maverick Republican Congressman Ron Paul against President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 election match-up, and the race is – virtually dead even.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds Obama with 42% support and Paul with 41% of the vote. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Could a 77 year old libertarian from Texas really beat Obama?

Five Thirty Eight puts it into context:

But as regular readers of this website will know, the person conducting the poll can have a profound impact on its results. Rasmussen, in particular, has had a substantial Republican-leaning house effect thus far this year. Perhaps they will turn out to be right (although their idea of trying to apply a “likely voter” model 2.5 years in advance of an election is dubious). But it would be wrong to take a Rasmussen poll (or any other) at face value without taking into account this context. …

After adjustment for house effects, Obama’s lead over Paul is not 1 point but more like 10. This result is closer to that obtained by a PPP poll in November, which had Obama ahead 46-38 against Paul (PPP’s 2012 polls have also had a very slight Republican-leaning house effect.)

Paul’s 9.9-point deficit is not awful — it’s better than of Newt Gingrich (-12.2), Jeb Bush (-13.4) or Sarah Palin (-14.4) do — but lags behind the performance of Mitt Romney, who is just 5.6 points behind, or Mike Huckabee, who is down 6.6. It also lags behind the performance of a so-called generic Republican, who is actually slightly ahead of Obama.

This is what is interesting. A generic Republican candidate beats Obama by 1.9%. But the moment you name a specific candidate, Obama leads by 5% or more. At this stage I think Obama will be re-elected – due to the lack of electable Republican candidates. But if they do find someone without serous baggage, then it is definitely game on.

Back to the Rasmussen poll, the Tea Party movement gets stronger:

Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters now consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement, an eight-point increase from a month ago. Another 10% say they are not a part of the movement but have close friends or family members who are.

The TP movement was derided or ignored for months, but it has become the most powerful grass roots movement in recent times. It dwarves liberal counterparts such as Move On.

When it comes to major issues confronting the nation, 48% of voters now say the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than Obama is. Forty-four percent (44%) hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.

Again, there may be some house bias, but that is still a powerful result.

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Johansson on Obama

April 9th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

For those interested in US politics.

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How many weeks since an Obama Press Conference

April 7th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

In New Zealand, the PM has a formal press conference every week, and often several standups on top of that.

How many weeks do people think have gone by, since President Obama held a full press conference at the White House?


Editorials 30 March 2010

March 30th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has advice for the Catholic Church:

A Vatican newspaper claims the hailstorm of allegations of priestly sexual abuse is a conspiracy aimed at the present Pope and the Catholic Church.

Ironically, it targets the “media” as leading or cheerleading this conspiracy, the New York Times being the latest to publish a historical claim, from up to 70 young, deaf boys who allege abuse by an American priest now dead.

It is unfortunate the messenger is being criticised rather than the message heeded. There is much still to be done for the church to put this sin behind it. …

Some calculate the total number of priests and the relatively small number of offenders over many years and then compare that to percentages for the secular world.

Their argument is that church-linked offending is no greater than the sad reality of society’s norm. But it is a forlorn and defensive mindset.

As the Economist magazine has argued, if you preach absolute moral values you will be judged against absolute moral standards.

The church cannot accept relative failure or relative consequences, particularly under this Pope who argues forcefully for an end to relativism.

If it is true to itself, the Catholic Church cannot be satisfied with being as good as, or not as bad as, other parts of society.

If any conspiracy exists, it is the one in which sexual offenders were protected and victims abandoned by those in authority.

A new conspiracy is needed, one which confirms in deeds the Pope’s words to the Irish. Responsibility must be taken by those who hid wrong.

I’m just glad I was raised Anglican!

The Dom Post focuses on the Mary-Anne Thompson affair:

The most alarming aspect of the Mary Anne Thompson affair is not that a senior public servant falsified her CV, but that the former head of the public service halted inquiries into her falsehood years before it was exposed.

This is the point I made a couple of days ago.

But within minutes of Mrs Bell questioning her about the doctorate she claimed to have obtained from the London School of Economics, Thompson withdrew her application for the post.

Mrs Bell undertook further investigations on her own initiative and advised Mr Wintringham that there was no record of Thompson gaining a doctorate. But, instead of initiating a formal investigation, Mr Wintringham told Mrs Bell to stop her inquiries.

He was, he subsequently said, concerned that further inquiries could “damage both the defendant’s considerable professional reputation and the reputation of the commission as well”.

He was right about the first. He was wrong about the second. What has damaged the commission’s reputation is not Thompson’s fraud, but Mr Wintringham’s failure to properly investigate a matter of obvious concern.

Really it was a disgraceful decision – and one made worse by his failure to even leave a file note on the issue for his successor. You’d expect better from the most junior HR manager, let alone the State Services Commissioner.

The Press hails a triumph for Obama:

The United States health reform controversy continues to swirl with such intensity that it is difficult to decipher the dispositions of the antagonists. However, one thing is sure – President Barack Obama has won his place in history, if only because of the health bill’s emergence into law.

No other president has pushed through such important reform in this field and most have not dared to try. Obama’s handling of the process was less than stellar and it has united his opponents, but the result is legislation that will transform a fundamental foundation of American society.

Hmmn. I wonder if they have read the law change. It isn’t that dramatic.

And the ODT takes issue with Pita Sharples:

The thrust of his speech clearly implied that for tribal Maori, democracy does not work and does not sit comfortably with Maori cultural concepts.

Historical fact suggests this argument does not wash in national politics, since Maori candidates have long been elected to general seats and the specific provision of Maori electorates has ensured at least a foothold in Parliament.

The notable absence of Maori at local body level has been regrettable, but why that is so cannot merely be attributed to “prejudice, cultural arrogance, and institutional racism”.

Relatively few people are aware that in Parliament, Maori are over-represented in relation to their proportion of the adult population.

So I find it hard to see how the democratic system is failing Maori.

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Obama in Afghanistan

March 29th, 2010 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

President Barack Obama has told American forces during his surprise visit to Afghanistan that US lives would be at risk if the Taleban retake control of the country.

Not just US lives.

Karzai promised that his country “would move forward into the future” to eventually take over its own security, and he thanked Obama for the American intervention in his country.

He told Obama he has begun to establish more credible national institutions on corruption and made clear he intends to make ministerial appointments more representative of the multiple ethnic and geographic regions of the country, according to a US account of the meeting.

Obama’s trip was intended to emphasise US demands that Karzai deal with corruption and cut the flow of money from poppy production and drug trafficking that is sustaining the insurgency. The US also wants Karzai to create an effective, credible judicial system and to halt cronyism and rewards for warlords in government hiring.

I think Iraq is on track to be a relatively successful country by 2020. Afghanistan, I am not so sure about – but I agree with Obama this is no time to quit.

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Compulsory Medical Insurance

March 25th, 2010 at 1:01 am by David Farrar

One of the things that many may not realise around Obama’s Healthcare Reform, is that it does not in fact create a public health system. To increase health insurance coverage, it has made it illegal not to have health insurance, with limited exceptions such as hardship or religious belief.

If a Republican President had tried to make private health insurance compulsory, I suspect the left would have decried the reform, instead of supported it. And i guess the right would have supported it, instead of opposed it.

13 states have filed lawsuits claiming it is unconstitutional to force people to take our private health insurance. I suspect this issue will get to the Supreme Court, and you do have to think there is a reasonable chance that may breach the Bill of Rights.

What I find ironic, is that Obama’s reforms have now made the US system almost the polar opposite of the Canadian system.

You see in Canada, it is illegal in some provinces to even have private health insurance. And federally there are laws that forbid hospitals from charging private rates (even if a private clinic).

So effectively in Canada it is illegal to have private health insurance, and now in the US it will effectively be illegal NOT to have private health insurance.

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