You'll recall that Caterpillar once was the proud scene of an Obama photo opportunity early in his presidency, in which Obama promised that because of his manful work in passing the stimulus bill, Cat would be hiring soon. It hasn't happened, of course. So how is Obamacare playing in Peoria?
Caterpillar Inc. said the health-care overhaul legislation being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives would increase the company's health-care costs by more than $100 million in the first year alone.
In a letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, Caterpillar urged lawmakers to vote against the plan "because of the substantial cost burdens it would place on our shareholders, employees and retirees."
Caterpillar, the world's largest construction machinery manufacturer by sales, said it's particularly opposed to provisions in the bill that would expand Medicare taxes and mandate insurance coverage. The legislation would require nearly all companies to provide health insurance for their employees or face large fines.
The Peoria-based company said these provisions would increase its insurance costs by at least 20 percent, or more than $100 million, just in the first year of the health-care overhaul program.
$100 million dollars is a lot of money. That may not seem to be the case to our friends in Washington, especially when you consider that our solons are spending that much money each time they blink, but Caterpillar doesn't have the luxury of turning on a printing press. What will Caterpillar do? It's hard to say, but if I were the average laid-off machinist in Peoria, I wouldn't be betting on getting a job with Cat any time soon. And if they do hire, I would imagine that at least some of the people will be offered work as independent contractors. The people who run Caterpillar are smart enough to understand that it doesn't do a lot of good to plan for the future when people who can affect your future are as mercurial as Team Obama.
Then there's the prodigal speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, who seems to have noticed something:
Excuse me, but it is embarrassing—really, embarrassing to our country—that the president of the United States has again put off a state visit to Australia and Indonesia because he's having trouble passing a piece of domestic legislation he's been promising for a year will be passed next week. What an air of chaos this signals to the world. And to do this to Australia of all countries, a nation that has always had America's back and been America's friend.
How bush league, how undisciplined, how kid's stuff.
You could see the startled looks on the faces of reporters as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who had the grace to look embarrassed, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon. The president "regrets the delay"—the trip is rescheduled for June—but "passage of the health insurance reform is of paramount importance." Indonesia must be glad to know it's not.
We've had a number of these sorts of epiphanies in recent days, especially among people like Noonan who were quite blithe in reassuring us that the man who now occupies the White House would do a good job and was the far superior choice. Those assurances now? How bush league, how undisciplined, how kid's stuff.
The prodigal is starting to see things clearly, though. Here is a sharp observation on the Wednesday interview that Obama conducted with Brett Baier of Fox News:
Thursday's decision followed the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever. It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety.You'd be furtive, too, especially if you were doing what Barack Obama is trying to do, which is to cram down perhaps the most fundamental policy change in the last 50 years with a completely partisan majority, in a time where public opinion is decidedly against such a sweeping change.
What to make of this? I'm somewhat torn. I was a fan of Peggy Noonan for a long time and her two-year infatuation with Obama has been highly frustrating, because she should have known better. She's less silly than the risible David Brooks, but she's a long way from emulating the late William Safire, the New York Times columnist and old Nixon hand who supported Clinton in 1992, came to regret it and said as much. Perhaps Noonan will be willing to step all the way back from where she's been.