Thursday, October 31, 2013

Health insurance cancellation notices soar above Obamacare enrollment rates

- The Daily Caller - -
Posted By Katie McHugh

Hundreds of thousands of Americans who purchase their own health insurance have received cancellation notices since August because the plans do not meet Obamacare’s requirements.
The number of cancellation notices greatly exceed the number of Obamacare enrollees.
Insurance carrier Florida Blue sent out 300,000 cancellation notices, or 80 percent of the entire state’s individual coverage policies, Kaiser Health News reports. California’s Kaiser Permanente canceled 160,000 plans — half of its insurance plans in the state — while Blue Shield of California sent 119,000 notices in mid-September alone.
Two major insurance carriers in Pennsylvania, Insurance Highmark in Pittsburgh and Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia plan to cancel 20 percent and 45 percent of their total plans, respectively.
Nearly 800,000 New Jersey residents’ health-care plans will not longer exist in 2014, forcing insurers to create new ones for individuals and small business owners that hew to the Obamacare’s new regulations, The New Jersey Star Ledger found in early October.
“I don’t feel like I need to change, but I have to,” Jeff Learned, a television editor in Los Angeles, told Kaiser Health News. Learned now needs to scramble to find a plan to coverage his teenage daughter, whose health problems have required several surgeries.
More Americans have lost their individual health coverage in Florida and California than have gotten past the login screen on, according to The Washington Post, which reports that 476,000 applications have “been started,” but not completed.’s dysfunctional website has helped enrollment grind to almost a complete halt. (RELATED: contractor: We had only two weeks to test site)
But it’s difficult to determine exactly how lopsided the rates of cancellations versus the rates of enrollment are — the Obama administration jealously guards the official enrollment numbers, refusing to release them to even the law’s loyal Democratic supporters.
“It’s screwed up,” New York Rep. Charlie Rangel said of the White House’s secretive maneuvers.
Several states have released Obamacare enrollment data, however, revealing extremely low rates. South Dakota reported that only 23 people enrolled in the exchanges, a mere 0.0000276 percent of that state’s population. North Dakota enrolled only 20 residents.
Alaska, meanwhile, comes in at seven total enrollees, or 0.000957 percent of Alaskans.
Sources inside the Department of Health and Human Services told The Daily Mail that only 6,200 Americans signed up for coverage the day launched, while only 51,000 applied in the first week. (RELATED: Obama administration will not release number of Obamacare enrollees on opening day)
During his campaign to pitch the law to voters back in 2009, President Barack Obama vowed that Obamacare would merely lower costs for Americans with health insurance while providing coverage to the uninsured.
“[N]o matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period,” Obama said to an audience at the annual conference of the American Medical Association. “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
“Again, [the Affordable Care Act] is for people who aren’t happy with their current plan. If you like what you’re getting, keep it. Nobody is forcing you to shift,” he later added.
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The Reality of America's Finances

The Reality of America's Finances

When Washington raised the debt ceiling this week, the Beltway media breathlessly reported that the fiscal crisis had ended. Lawyers danced in hallways, bureaucrats twerked on the Metro, congressional aides kissed strangers in the streets — the Tea Party has been defeated! It was like VJ day for wonks.
As our political class exchanged high fives and reporters praised a return to “sanity,” I wondered how these odd creatures defined insanity.
America’s fiscal crisis is not that our debt ceiling was too low, the fiscal crisis is that our debt is too high. When I mentioned this to left-leaning folks, they seemed indifferent. “Obama lowered the deficit.” “I think Bush spent more.“ “It’s Reagan’s fault!”
So I made this infographic:
America's Finances
Since most graphs look like this, I focused on just three big numbers: Deficit, revenue and debt.
The analogy is imperfect, but imagine the green is your salary, the yellow is the amount you're spending over your salary, and the red is your Visa statement. Then imagine your spouse runs into the room and shouts, “great news honey, our fiscal crisis is over. We just got approved for a new MasterCard!” Your first call would be to a marriage counselor or a shrink.
The chart is brutally bipartisan. Debt increased under Republican presidents and Democrat presidents. It increased under Democrat congresses and Republican congresses. In war and in peace, in boom times and in busts, after tax hikes and tax cuts, the Potomac filled with red ink.
Washington likes to talk about sustainability. Forget sustainable — how is this sane?
Yet when a conservative hesitates before raising the debt ceiling, he's portrayed as a madman. When Paul Ryan offers a thoughtful plan to reduce the debt over decades, he's pushing grannies into the Grand Canyon and pantsing park rangers on the way out.
Since posting this chart to Twitter, the reaction has been intense. Some on the right think I’m too tough on the GOP while those on the left say it doesn’t matter or it’s all a big lie. Others tell me that I should have weighted for this variable or added lines for that trend. They are free to create their own charts to better fit their narrative and I’m sure they will. But the numbers shown above can’t be spun by either side.
Math doesn’t care about fairness or good intentions. Spending vastly more than you have isn’t good when done by a Republican or a Democrat. Two plus two doesn’t equal 33.2317 after you factor in a secret "Social Justice" multiplier. And if our current president accumulates debt at the rate of his first four-plus years, the national debt will be $22 trillion by the time leaves office.
So post this chart to Facebook, Pinterest or on your local grocery store’s bulletin board. If enough people see it, maybe — just maybe — those who want to increase the debt will be viewed as the “crazy” ones.

Report: U.S. Spent $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years

Report: U.S. Spent $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years


New research from the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee shows that over the last 5 years, the U.S. has spent about $3.7 trillion on welfare. Here's a chart, showing that spending versus transportation, education, and NASA spending:

"We have just concluded the 5th fiscal year since President Obama took office. During those five years, the federal government has spent a total $3.7 trillion on approximately 80 different means-tested poverty and welfare programs. The common feature of means-tested assistance programs is that they are graduated based on a person’s income and, in contrast to programs like Social Security or Medicare, they are a free benefit and not paid into by the recipient," says the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee.
"The enormous sum spent on means-tested assistance is nearly five times greater than the combined amount spent on NASA, education, and all federal transportation projects over that time. ($3.7 trillion is not even the entire amount spent on federal poverty support, as states contribute more than $200 billion each year to this federal nexus—primarily in the form of free low-income health care.)
"Because the welfare budget is so fragmented—food stamps are only one of 15 federal programs that provide food assistance—it makes effective oversight nearly impossible, at the same time disguising the scope of the budget from both taxpayers and lawmakers alike. For instance, it is easier for anti-reform lawmakers to oppose food stamp savings by obscuring the fact that a household receiving food stamps is often simultaneously eligible for a myriad of federal aid programs including free cash assistance, subsidized housing, free medical care, free child care, and home energy assistance.
"In the UK, six of the nation’s welfare programs have been consolidated into a single credit and total benefits have been capped at £26,000 (about $42,100 per family) in an effort to both improve standards and decrease net expenditures. A similar reform concept in the United States—combining welfare spending into a single credit—would still result in a surprisingly large welfare benefit while reducing expenditures and allowing for reforms that encourage self-sufficiency. For instance, a CATO study found that an average household in the District of Columbia currently receiving the six largest federal welfare benefits (Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, etc.) receives assistance with a converted cash value of $43,000. In Hawaii, it’s $49,000. Hypothetically, if net benefits from these myriad programs were combined into a single credit and capped at even 95 percent of that very large amount, it would save taxpayers billions while enabling reforms to promote self-sufficiency, reduce the penalty for working, and make the system fairer for taxpayers."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Heckuva job, Kathleen Sebelius

Heckuva job, Kathleen Sebelius

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addresses an audience during a forum on mental health policies that marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's signing of the Community Mental Health Act, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, at the JFK Library and Museum in Boston. | AP Photo
In a more rational world, Sebelius would be forced out, the author says. | M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Little did they know it, but Republicans fighting to defund or delay Obamacare had an ally in spirit in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Her explanation for why the Obamacare website doesn’t work is that she couldn’t possibly have been expected to make it work in the mere 3½ years since the law passed. She told The Wall Street Journal the website ideally needed five years of construction and one year of testing and instead had only two years of construction and almost no testing.

Latest on POLITICO
That means with the proper development time, would have had a flawless launch … on Oct 1, 2017. Needless to say, had Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested a four-year delay in Obamacare as his fallback in the defunding fight, he would have been scorned as an unbending fanatic, although he just might have been giving Sebelius the breathing room she needed.
(PHOTOS: 10 quotes from Kathleen Sebelius)
Kathleen Sebelius is to the Obamacare rollout what FEMA Director Michael Brown was to the Hurricane Katrina response. She’s not saddled with a notoriously mockable vote of confidence from her boss (“heckuva job, Brownie”), but Brown was gone two weeks after the storm, whereas Sebelius looks to be in place for the grim duration of the effort to right
In a more rational world, she would resign or be forced out. Instead, she’s the spokesperson for fixing the technological disaster that occurred on her watch. Sebelius told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that HHS has “asked the contractors to bring their A-team to the table.” Asked why HHS didn’t get the A-team in the first place, she said, “We had hoped they had their A-team on the table.” Apparently they spent several hundred million dollars on what she now considers the B- or C-team.
It wasn’t that Sebelius should have known that the website wouldn’t work; she knew it wouldn’t work, at least if a test done days before it launched was any indication. According to a report in The Washington Post, the website was crashed by a few hundred users during the test. Insurers urged that the national rollout be delayed in light of the website’s continuing unworkability, but all other considerations fell before the imperative to get under way on Oct. 1.
(Understanding Obamacare: A guide to the ACA)
Sebelius says she felt the fierce urgency of now. “There are people in this country who have waited decades for affordable health care coverage,” she told CNN. Yet it does no good to the uninsured or anyone else to rush out a website that doesn’t work. The administration clearly wanted no further delays that could give fodder to opponents of the law. Perversely, it gave them, instead, the most powerful symbol of government dysfunction of the Obama era.
The feel-good stories of — the kinds of stories that are the lifeblood of any government program — are tales of superhuman perseverance. In her CNN interview, Sebelius cited Janice Baker, the first person to sign up in Delaware. It took Baker seven hours over 11 days; Delaware Health and Social Services officials celebrated when she made it through and they had finally scored an enrollee.
Baker’s experience is typical. Deborah Lielasus, featured in a promotional video for, took three days to sign up. Daniel McNaughton, a student tech whiz who appeared in another video, was one of two enrollees found by the Miami Herald in the entire state of Florida. No wonder President Barack Obama had to include at his event representative people “looking forward to enrolling” and “planning to enroll” — someday.
(PHOTOS: Obamacare online glitches: 25 great quotes)
Sebelius minimizes the website as one small part of Obamacare, but it is central to the exchanges that are, in turn, central to the law. She says that there are three ways to sign up for insurance: through the website and also via the phone and paper applications. But the call centers depend on the website, and if paper were such an efficient alternative to online, would operate by postcard.
The bottom line is that a law sold on the promise that you can keep your insurance if you like it has almost certainly dumped, or is about to dump, more people off of insurance than it has signed up. As insurers leave the individual market for the exchanges and bring their policies in compliance with Obamacare’s new rules, they drop their old individual policies en masse. If people who had been covered under them want to stay insured, they have to go to … you guessed it … the non-functioning
“I was optimistic that things would go smoothly,” Sebelius told Gupta of her feelings on Oct. 1. “I felt that the day had finally come.” It had, and she only needed a few more years to be ready.
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

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ObamaCare 2016: Happy Yet?

ObamaCare 2016: Happy Yet?

The website problems were finally solved. But the doctor shortage is a nightmare.

Three years after the disastrous launch of the Affordable Care Act, most of the website troubles finally have been ironed out. People are now able to log on to the government's ACA website and to most of the state health-insurance exchanges. The public has grudgingly come to accept higher insurance premiums, new taxes and increases in part-time workers who were formerly full-time. But Americans are irate anyway—because now they're seeing the health-care law's destructive effect on the fundamental nature of the way their care is delivered.
Even before the ACA's launch in 2013, many physicians—seeing the changes in their profession that lay ahead—had begun talking their children out of going to medical school. After the launch, compensation fell, while nothing in the ACA stopped lawsuits and malpractice premiums from rising. Doctors must now see many more patients each day to meet expenses, all while dealing with the mountains of paperwork mandated by the health-care law.
David G. Klein
The forecast shortage of doctors has become a real problem. It started in 2014 when the ACA cut $716 billion from Medicare to accommodate 30 million newly "insured" people through an expansion of Medicaid. More important, the predicted shortage of 42,000 primary-care physicians and that of specialists (such as heart surgeons) was vastly underestimated. It didn't take into account the ACA's effect on doctors retiring early, refusing new patients or going into concierge medicine. These estimates also ignored the millions of immigrants who would be seeking a physician after having been granted legal status.
It is surprising that the doctor shortage was not better anticipated: After all, when Massachusetts mandated health insurance in 2006, the wait to see a physician in some specialties increased considerably, the shortage of primary-care physicians escalated and more doctors stopped accepting new patients. In 2013, the Massachusetts Medical Society noted waiting times from 50 days to 128 days in some areas for new patients to see an internist, for instance.
But doctor shortages are only the beginning.
Even before the ACA cut $716 billion from its budget, Medicare only reimbursed hospitals and doctors for 70%-85% of their costs. Once this cut further reduced reimbursements, and the ACA added stacks of paperwork, more doctors refused to accept Medicare: It just didn't cover expenses.
Then there is the ACA's Medicare (government) board that dictates and rations care, and the board has begun to cut reimbursements. Some physicians now refuse even to take patients over 50 years old, not wanting to be burdened with them when they reach Medicare age. Seniors aren't happy.
Medicaid in 2016 has similar problems. A third of physicians refused to accept new Medicaid patients in 2013, and with Medicaid's expansion and government cuts, the numbers of doctors who don't take Medicaid skyrocketed. The uninsured poor now have insurance, but they can't find a doctor, so essentially the ACA was of no help.
The loss of private practice is another big problem. Because of regulations and other government disincentives to self employment, doctors began working for hospitals in the early 2000s, leaving less than half in private practice by 2013. The ACA rapidly accelerated this trend, so that now very few private practices remain.
When doctors are employed like factory workers by hospitals, data from the Medical Group Management Association and others indicate, their productivity falls—sometimes by more than 25%. They see fewer patients and perform fewer timely procedures, exacerbating the troubles caused by physician shortages. Continuity of care also declines, since now a physician's responsibilities end when his shift is over.
Of those doctors still in private practice, many have taken refuge from the health-care law by going into concierge medicine, where the patient pays an annual fee (typically $500-$3,000 a year per individual) to a primary-care physician. This doctor provides enhanced care, grants quicker appointments and spends more time with each patient, working with a base of 300-600 patients instead of the 3,000-5,000 typical in the ACA era. Doctors and patients who can afford it love concierge medicine: It allows treatment to be administered as the doctor sees fit, instead of as if the patient is on an assembly line with care directed on orders from Washington.
Patients who can't afford concierge medicine but have seen their doctor take that route are out of luck: They have been added to the swelling rolls of patients taken care of by the shrinking pool of physicians. So even people with "private" insurance have found that the quality of their health care declined. Nowadays, many are forced instead to see a nurse or other health-care provider. The traditional doctor-patient relationship is now reserved primarily for those who can pay extra.
Concierge-type care was easily expanded to specialists. The top surgeons now simply opt out of Medicare or become "out of network" providers, allowing them to bill patients directly. Many have joined the plastic surgeons and ophthalmologists who work on a straight fee-for-service basis.
Equally important: With the best and most successful doctors disappearing into concierge medicine or refusing new Medicare and Medicaid patients, replacing these experienced physicians with bright young doctors to work with the "general public" has become difficult. Why? Because such doctors are hard to find—going into medicine doesn't have the professional allure it once did.
With an average of $300,000 in student loans, eight years of college and medical school, and three to seven years as underpaid, overworked residents, a prospective physician in the ACA era would be starting a career at age 30 in a job that requires working 70-80 hours a week in an assembly-line fashion to earn perhaps $100,000 a year. No wonder so many qualified individuals these days are choosing careers on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley instead of medicine.
It is also no wonder that three years ago members of Congress got themselves exempted from the Affordable Care Act. They may have passed the law, but they're not stupid.
Dr. Allen, a pediatric heart surgeon, is a former professor and surgical director of the Children's Heart Institute in Houston.

HHS Predicted Obamacare Exchange Sign Up Would Take 28 Minutes

White House approved HHS 28 minute estimate for Obamacare exchange application time in April
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius / AP
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius / AP
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated consumers would take an average of 28 minutes to sign up for Obamacare, according to a notice the agency sent to the White House in February.
The American Action Forum revealed Thursday that HHS earlier this year predicted consumers would need less than 30 minutes to complete online applications for the health care insurance marketplace. HHS reported those projections to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The process has not proven so easy in practice. Since its rollout on Oct. 1, the Obamacare exchange has been plagued with technical issues and “glitches,” resulting in few enrollees and long wait times. Obamacare “success stories” applaud the rare cases in which people were able to sign up over a period of several days.
“After more than two months of review, the government estimated it would receive more than 3 million individual responses and it would take the public 1.4 million hours to complete the required paperwork,” said Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy for the American Action Forum, in a blog post on the group’s website.
“In other words, HHS assumed the public would spend just 28 minutes to complete the ‘Online Application,’” he said.
“HHS also estimated these burden hours would cost no money,” Batkins added.
When using the exact estimates that 3,035,433 responses would take 1,480,944 hours to complete, the time increases slightly. Dividing the number of total hours by the number of applications equals 0.48 hours, or precisely 29.2 minutes.
“According to the actual accounts of navigating and applying for insurance, the time spent online has ranged from seven hours to several days,” Batkins said.
HHS sent the estimate to the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on Feb. 5, 2013, and the White House approved it on April 30.
The enrollment process includes 90 pages of applications, which HHS predicted could be completed in less than a half hour.
The eligibility application requires standard personal information, such as name, address, income, and Social Security number, though the government assures family members of applicants that their immigration status will not be solicited. The privacy section states: “We won’t ask any questions about your medical history. Household members who don’t want coverage won’t be asked questions about citizenship or immigration status.”
The eligibility application also includes an option for voter registration and asks, “Does anyone in the household want to register to vote?”
Five days before the launch of, President Obama praised the website, comparing the consumer experience to making a purchase on Amazon.
“Visit,” he said on Sept. 26. “It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side by side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, the same way you shop for a TV on Amazon. You just go on and you start looking. And here are all the options.”
According to reports, just days before it was set to launch, the website crashed with just 100 people using it, and IT executives warned that the website was not ready.
Three weeks into the exchange, Consumer Reports is advising Americans to stay away from, due to its technical problems.
“It is clear there were many missteps with the rollout of,” Batkins said, “but perhaps the first mistake was assuming it would take less than 30 minutes to complete the online application.”

System Failure

By The Editors
The rolling fiasco that is the launch of the health-insurance “exchanges” — the government-run online marketplaces at the heart of the Affordable Care Act — is something the Obama administration is attempting to explain away as a “glitch,” but it now threatens to throw an entire AutoZone worth of wrenches into the Rube Goldberg machine that is Obamacare. Health and Human Services managers close to the project privately say that hitting early enrollment goals will be all but impossible. The White House has called the situation “unacceptable” (yet it is accepted); insurance companies attempting to use the system are in a state of panic; only a handful of states have their own working exchanges; and the federal exchange is snarled up in Washington’s usual managerial incompetence. Nobody knows how long it will take to fix the problems, or whether they even can be fixed. The president has said that there is “no excuse” for this mess, but there is no one taking responsibility either, nor any credible timetable for getting it sorted out.
In retrospect, those Republicans who sought a delay of Obamacare’s implementation would have been doing the Obama administration — to say nothing of the country — a favor had they been successful.
The problem is not only crash-prone servers that make signing up for the exchanges a Sisyphean task. A larger problem is that they are running on faulty data. The exchanges are there to facilitate transactions involving consumers, the federal government, and insurance companies, but information is not reliably transmitted among the three. For example, faulty programming has led to miscalculations of subsidies that consumers are to receive under the program, which means that a great many of them will get premium bills that are far different from what they expect. (Far higher or far lower? Bet on the former.) Insurers are not receiving enough accurate information to process applications from consumers. As of October 19, not one person in New York State had been able to complete a purchase through that state’s exchange. Consumers are not getting accurate information about the plans that are available to them.
The deeper problem for Obamacare is that in order for the new ACA-compliant insurance plans to succeed, a very large number of healthy young people need to enroll — paying much higher premiums than they would have paid before Obamacare — in order to offset the costs incurred by extending subsidies and coverage to the old and the sick. If the insurance plans offered under Obamacare attract too many old and sick people and too few young and healthy people, they will not be financially viable. But young and healthy people do not have much incentive to comply with the ACA in the first place, and the catastrophically dysfunctional enrollment process has given them a very strong incentive to wait it out.
Uninsured Americans subject to Obamacare’s individual mandate are required by law to sign up for new policies by February 15 or face a fine. Those seeking new policies beginning in January of the coming year must sign up by December 15. It is unlikely that the defects in the system will be repaired by December or by February.
And those are just the computer-system problems. The deeper problems with the bill will not be repaired by December or February or by two summers hence, because the administration is not interested in repairing them. Obamacare will leave many Americans paying premiums that are twice as high — or more than twice as high — as those they paid before, and facing prosecution if they do not buy those more expensive plans. This is being done in the name of improving the market for insurance, while in fact converting insurance from a hedge against disaster into a universal system of prepaid health care at a substantially higher cost than the old one.
One of the reasons for that higher cost is that the new program is just a front for the old program: Medicaid, an expensive and dysfunctional mess of an entitlement. In Oregon, the 56,000 people who enrolled in health-care coverage under the new law in the first two weeks of October went exclusively into Medicaid — not one person was enrolled in a private insurance plan. Illinois has sent more than 100,000 into Medicaid under the program. Medicaid’s perverse incentive structure has ensured explosive growth in its spending over the years, while, more perverse still, its attempts to reduce costs by restricting providers’ payments to below-market levels means that few Medicaid recipients actually have access to care — and fewer still to very good care.
Republicans may have failed thus far in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, but the administration is in the midst of a much more significant failure: a failure to execute its own vision with a minimum degree of competence. The president can blame software developers and vendors all he likes, but this is his mess, and if he can’t clean it up — and he can’t — then it is up to Congress to do it for him. Repealing and replacing Obamacare remains a live issue, and Republicans would do well to pursue it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

GOP Must Get Wise to Obama's Hard-Ball Tactics: He Won't Give In

Judging from the speech President Barack Obama gave following the deal to end the government shutdown, Republicans better get wise to the president’s next fiscal gambit when the three-month stop-gap budget and debt measures come due.

As was the case with his hard-line defense of Obamacare, the president likely will be inflexible on ending sequestration budget caps, pushing for massive tax hikes, and permitting only the most inconsequential entitlement reforms.

Obama is interested in busting the GOP in 2014. He’s not interested in true budget restraint or other economic-growth measures.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans
Example: This week, instead of a conciliatory work-together message for the negotiations ahead, Obama gave us another Republican scold speech: “All of us need to stop focusing on lobbyists and bloggers and talking heads on radio, and professional activists who profit from conflict.”

But of course, it was Obama who wouldn’t negotiate. And it was Obama and his followers who demonized the GOP with words like “hostage,” “ransom,” and “terrorists.”

Another example: Out of nowhere in his post-shutdown speech, the president pledged to “close these corporate-tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and freeze up resources for the things that do help us grow, like education and infrastructure and research.”

Huh? Where did this come from? There’s no discussion of corporate tax reform in the whole speech, except for this one derogatory mention. So don’t count on progress for the single biggest growth and jobs creator, namely full-fledged business tax reform. It may be in Obama’s budget, but it’s not really on his agenda.

The real agenda is to jack up taxes on businesses and the wealthy. On top of this year’s $700 billion tax hike, the Democrats are going back to the $1 trillion tax-hike idea mentioned in recent years by Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.

True pro-growth tax reform should broaden the base, lower marginal rates, and simplify the code. The Democratic objective, however, is to raise as much additional taxpayer money as possible.

Why? Well, of course, to provide the spending fuel after they get rid of the budget capping sequester.

The Obama democrats are manic about this. They know that the sequester has effectively stopped their grandiose spending plans, and is actually bringing the discretionary budget back to 2007 levels.

In fact, the real budget-winning move of recent years was the Republican reverse bait and switch (the bait came from the White House) in 2011 to embrace the sequester and implement it. It’s the only true pro-growth fiscal measure we’ve seen in the Obama years.

Closing tax loopholes is a good idea so long as it is accompanied by lower marginal tax rates on the other side. (Repatriating over $1 trillion in overseas corporate profits at a minimal sanction of 5 percent would also help grow the economy.)

So companies, wealthy entrepreneurs, and small-business owners shouldn’t be fooled when they hear the president talk about closing tax loopholes. Why is he saying this? That’s easy:

He wants to spend more money on his pet projects. More for the teachers’ unions, the local construction unions, the quick-fix, shovel-ready infrastructure projects, the clean-energy Solyndras, and all the other oddball social programs put in place by this administration.

Government spending cuts amount to tax cuts, which provide economic stimulus. But Obama and the Democrats want no part of it. Step back and read the president’s economic speeches in August and September.

You see a pattern: Raise taxes on business and successful entrepreneurs, kill the sequester, and use the new tax revenues to spend more and grow the government — and probably even finance Obamacare, which is going bankrupt even before it starts, and has become the laughingstock of the country with its catastrophic breakout.

Finally, while Obama again may occasionally say otherwise, the Democratic party opposes all manner of entitlement reforms. All. That includes the chain-CPI reform (which would lower benefits), Medicare means testing, longer retirement eligibility, and higher co-pays for federal-employee benefits.

Labor doesn’t want this stuff. House and Senate Democrats don’t want it. And I seriously doubt if the president would push for it. Which means, in terms of the new budget conference (another fiscal cliff?) due to report in mid December, the GOP better be super careful not to end the sequester budget caps in return for phony entitlement reforms.

Republicans had no coherent message going into the shutdown fiasco. But they can change that. They can now adopt a clear policy that maintains the sequester budget caps, pushes hard for pro-growth tax reform, and makes no apologies for rolling back the taxing, spending, mandating, budget-busting behemoth that is Obamacare.

The budget and debt battle of the next three months is actually going to be war. Obama knows this. Does the GOP?

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans

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Four Things We Think We Know About Obamacare

Don's Tuesday column

                 THE WAY I SEE IT   by Don Polson  Red Bluff Daily News   10/29/2013

Checkin’ on the government—FUBAR Supreme

It was a toss-off line I heard in an episode of “Branded” on Saturday morning: “Since the government’s checkin’ on me, I’m gonna do a little checkin’ on the government.” Thankfully, our news media—always eager to dig dirt and sully conservatives or Republicans in the process—have rediscovered their collective “bloodhound” noses and are “checkin’” on the massive disaster of the Obamacare website rollout. Had they been equally eager to dig in the dirt of Obama’s other massive government catastrophes like the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack, “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, the despotic unleashing of the IRS on Obama’s political opponents, and the lies told by Obama mouthpieces, including the President—we might not have the Obamacare fiasco staring us in our collective faces.

We had a glimpse into the cause for reticence by news media to report unflatteringly about Obama when CNN Newsroom anchor Carol Costello made a stunning, if cryptic, revelation. In a discussion over the firing of national security official Jofi Joseph, she agreed with another panelist’s contention that the administration “can be thin-skinned.” She said, “President Obama’s people can be quite nasty. They don’t like you to say anything bad about their boss, and they’re not afraid to use whatever means they have at hand to stop you from doing that, including threatening your job.”

The Obamacare website rollout foul-ups have been described as glitches, kinks, and so on, even by President Obama, but World War II sayings are better. One phrase, “Systems Normal, All (Fouled) Up,” or SNAFU for short, would certainly apply. I believe, however, that the more appropriate one would be FUBAR, or “(Fouled) Up Beyond All Recognition” (originals substitute another word for “fouled”). If you don’t see it that way, you are either paid to put a happy face on this fiasco, limiting yourself to ever-shrinking sources of Obama-friendly information, or are blinded ideologically by belief in Obama and his utterances (Obamacare: “It’s really good”). In any case, such self-deception reminds me of “Baghdad Bob,” Saddam Hussein’s mouthpiece during the Iraq war, who uttered inanities to gathered reporters about how the American military forces weren’t anywhere inside the city, while the split screen showed our tanks rolling through Baghdad streets.

Later in the same “Branded” episode, Chuck Norris’s character dresses down an ethically challenged rancher by telling him “You know, you have yourself an empire but you don’t have a title.” We now truly have a government and governing class that considers itself entitled, even endowed, by law, regulation and executive/judicial fiat, with the right to arbitrarily query, direct, restrict and punish otherwise free-born Americans. How else to take HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s astoundingly arrogant utterance, speaking of vocal critics of the disastrous Obamacare rollout under her watch, “I don’t work for those people.”

Well, I happen to be one of “those people” whose collective taxes pay her salary and benefits and have quite a few criticisms of her job overseeing Obamacare. My health care and health insurance is quite personal to me; I wouldn’t put it past politicians in Sacramento to decide to save the state billions of dollars and move retired state employees, their spouses and families off of current health plans and dump them onto the kind graces of Obamacare exchanges. It happened decades ago when they reneged on assurances given workers that, upon hitting age 65, they would be able to keep their state-provided health insurance, rather than be forced into Medicare. Sounds a lot like the smug (and ultimately empty) assurances Obama uttered over and over about keeping health plans and doctors we like.

About the website fiasco, it may be possible to have it running smoothly in the mid-to-late November time frame but I’m quite doubtful based on what I’ve read.’s 500 million lines of code are more than online vendors like Amazon and Apple combined. In April, HHS predicted consumers would need less than a half an hour to complete online registration—not half a day or half a week (Sam Batkins, American Action Forum: “time spent online has ranged from seven hours to several days.”

It also turns out that crass political considerations entered the timeline for putting the web portal together: Obama’s people didn’t want insurers to know of mandatory covered health items before the 2012 election so that it wouldn’t leak to reporters and the public how much higher the monthly premiums would be. We are now seeing “sticker shock” from California to Illinois to Florida as individuals learn their policies are being cancelled, and will pay 30, 50 or even 70+percent more. Obama’s minions and mouthpieces assure us we’ll have more health issues covered—yeah, like the elderly couple forced to pay for maternity care.

Then, as October 1 approached, they were determined to force people to provide personal information, cross checked with other agencies, all to make sure applicants would only see their premium cost after the subsidy. SNAFU! GOP Congressman Fred Upton: “And unless the system gets fixed by Jan. 1, a lot of folks are going to be very angry as they’re left out in the cold.” FUBAR, supreme! African-American pediatrician, Dr. Ben Carson, said that Obamacare is “the worst thing since slavery,” for the intrusive, controlling and despotic nature of the law.

From “Les Miserables”: “Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again!”

Do not read this post, by order of King Barry the First

- The Daily Caller - -
Posted By Jim Treacher

This morning, His Majesty magnanimously took some time out of his busy day to perform his most important task as King of America: Condemning the common rabble who resist his will.
I’ll skip past the first few minutes of his lies, blamethrowing, and other nonsense. Here’s where he goes after me and mine:
(use link for video):

“And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do.”
And that’s to destroy America.
He should’ve been more specific. He’s just fine with the lobbyists, bloggers, talking heads, and professional activists on his side. Hell, he’s a community organizer by “trade.” No, it’s only the ones who disagree with him who need to shut up.
The only guy angrier than a leftist who just lost is a leftist who just won. It’s not enough that he got what he wanted. He’s seething that anybody has the gall to oppose his decrees.
I love being scolded by an autocrat who just got done calling anybody who disagrees with him a hostage-taker, and then turns around and says $#!+ like, “We don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country.” See, it isn’t incredibly ugly, hyperpartisan rhetoric when he says it.
Barack Obama is either completely insane and doesn’t realize he does exactly what he accuses his opponents of doing, or he’s the biggest troll in the history of the world. I guess it could be both?
Hang in there, King Barry:
(Use link for video):

(Hat tip: Ed Morrissey)

Article printed from The Daily Caller:
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Copyright © 2011 Daily Caller. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 28, 2013

State media, Jerry Brown ignore CA’s worst-in-nation poverty rate

State media, Jerry Brown ignore CA’s worst-in-nation poverty rate

By Chris Reed
media blackout efxIf you were a resident in the state with the nation’s highest poverty rate, wouldn’t you think you’d be aware of that fact? That a higher percentage of your family, friends, neighbors and others in your community struggled to make ends meet than the same folks in any of the other 49 states?
Of course. But here in California, where the incompetence of the media can scarcely be exaggerated, almost nobody is aware that the Golden State is no. 1 in economic misery.
This malpractice is nothing new. On the debate over whether California should encourage hydraulic fracturing of its massive oil reserves, the state media never note that the Obama administration considers fracking safe. On the debate over education policy, the state media never note that Gov. Brown’s prescription for education reform — local control — is the same flawed, status-quo-reinforcing policy choice that led to the two big education reform moments of the past 30 years. On AB 32, the state’s landmark 2006 climate-change law, the Los Angeles Times waited until March 2012 to note that it was a risk to California’s economic competitiveness to force its energy costs to be higher than rival states and nations. On this front, the L.A. Times trailed the New York Times by years.
So on the economy, why would the fact that California has the highest effective poverty rate in the nation be mentioned? If key details are routinely ignored on other big stories, why change the template on poverty and human misery?

The governor thinks he’s the bomb. Why won’t media push back?

Which brings me to my Sunday U-T San Diego editorial.
“… what one would never guess from his press clippings is that Brown presides over the state with by far the nation’s highest poverty rate. According to a 2012 Census report, once the cost of living is factored in, nearly one in four state residents — 23.5 percent — live below the poverty line. And according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measure that includes those who have given up looking for work, California has the second worst unemployment rate in the nation. More than one in six Californians who want to work full-time — 18.3 percent — can’t find such jobs.
“How anyone can look at this picture and conclude the Golden State has solved its economic miseries is baffling. Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are doing well. San Diego and Orange counties are much improved. But the Great Recession never ended in the Central Valley, Imperial County or the Inland Empire. Nor did it end for millions of Latino and African-American families in the minority neighborhoods that don’t reflect the tidy picture offered by the national media.
“Brown, alas, won’t acknowledge the depth of our economic woes. Such is his hubris that he’d rather enjoy the fawning than push back at the narrative of a booming, healthy California. Last month, he even gave a boastful interview to The Los Angeles Times that carried this headline: ‘Gov. Brown sees his ambitious agenda as a template for nation.’”
A normal newspaper would see a politician being this boastful and choose to point out the counter-narratives that undercut his claims. But not the L.A. Times’ reporting staff. Or its editorial page. Or its Sacramento columnist George Skelton.

What’s news vs. what’s not news: Aaauuugghh!

I have seen pack journalism my entire professional life. But I have never seen anything like the last few years out of Sacramento. I don’t think that the following four questions are only ones that would occur to a partisan individual. I think they’d occur to anyone who is reasonably well-informed.
Why isn’t it relevant that the Obama administration considers fracking safe?
Why aren’t Jerry Brown’s education policies placed in historical context?
Why did it take more than five years for a small part of the media to admit AB 32 was risky?
And on poverty, why isn’t the fact that California is worse off than Mississippi and West Virginia front-page news? Or back-page news? Or news at all?
I await sincere answers. But what do I expect, at least from Sacramento journalists? Snark.
- See more at:

Historical perspective on global temps

Some historical perspective on global temperatures (use link for better chart views)

One thing that Climategate does is give us an opportunity to step back from the details of the AGW argument and say, maybe these are heat-of-the-moment stuff, and in the long run will look as silly as the Durants’ allergy to Eisenhower. And perhaps, if we can put climate arguments in perspective, it will allow us to put the much smaller nano arguments (pun intended) into perspective too.
So let’s look at some ice.
I’m looking at the temperature record as read from this central Greenland ice core. It gives us about as close as we can come to a direct, experimental measurement of temperature at that one spot for the past 50,000 years. As far as I know, the data are not adjusted according to any fancy computer climate model or anything else like that.
So what does it tell us about, say, the past 500 years? (the youngest datum is age=0.0951409 (thousand years before present) — perhaps younger snow doesn’t work so well?):
Well, whaddaya know — a hockey stick. In fact, the “blade” continues up in the 20th century at least another half a degree. But how long is the handle? How unprecedented is the current warming trend?
Yes, Virginia, there was a Medieval Warm Period, in central Greenland at any rate. But we knew that — that’s when the Vikings were naming it Greenland, after all. And the following Little Ice Age is what killed them off, and caused widespread crop failures (and the consequent burning of witches) across Europe. But was the MWP itself unusual?
Well, no — over the period of recorded history, the average temperature was about equal to the height of the MWP. Rises not only as high, but as rapid, as the current hockey stick blade have been the rule, not the exception.
In fact for the entire Holocene — the period over which, by some odd coincidence, humanity developed agriculture and civilization — the temperature has been higher than now, and the trend over the past 4000 years is a marked decline. From this perspective, it’s the LIA that was unusual, and the current warming trend simply represents a return to the mean. If it lasts.
From the perspective of the Holocene as a whole, our current hockeystick is beginning to look pretty dinky. By far the possibility I would worry about, if I were the worrying sort, would be the return to an ice age — since interglacials, over the past half million years or so, have tended to last only 10,000 years or so. And Ice ages are not conducive to agriculture.
… and ice ages have a better claim on being the natural state of Earth’s climate than interglacials. This next graph, for the longest period, we have to go to an Antarctic core (Vostok):
In other words, we’re pretty lucky to be here during this rare, warm period in climate history. But the broader lesson is, climate doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t even stand stay on the relatively constrained range of the last 10,000 years for more than about 10,000 years at a time.
Does this mean that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? No.
Does it mean that it isn’t warming? No.
Does it mean that we shouldn’t develop clean, efficient technology that gets its energy elsewhere than burning fossil fuels? Of course not. We should do all those things for many reasons — but there’s plenty of time to do them the right way, by developing nanotech. (There’s plenty of money, too, but it’s all going to climate science at the moment. :-) ) And that will be a very good thing to have done if we do fall back into an ice age, believe me.
For climate science it means that the Hockey Team climatologists’ insistence that human-emitted CO2 is the only thing that could account for the recent warming trend is probably poppycock.
And that, if you will allow me to return full circle, means that the Fat Fingers argument is probably poppycock too.

As Good as It Gets?

As Good as It Gets?

ObamaCare supporters go through the stages of grief.   

In a much-discussed post titled "Five Thoughts on the ObamaCare Disaster," the Washington Post's Ezra Klein manages to cycle through the first three of Elisabeth K├╝bler Ross's five stages of grief:
Denial. "In the weeks leading up to the launch I heard some very ugly things about how the system was performing when transferring data to insurers--a necessary step if people are actually going to get insurance. I tried hard to pin the rumors down, but I could never quite nail the story, and there was a wall of official denials from the Obama administration. It was just testing, they said. They were fixing the bugs day by day."
Anger. "Medicare Part D was, at this point in its launch, also considered a disaster. . . . Today, Medicare Part D is broadly considered a success. But Medicare Part D had something the Affordable Care Act doesn't: An opposition party that decided to be constructive. The federal health-care law's not going to get much help from the Republican Party."
Klein neglects to note that Medicare Part D, enacted in 2003, was a bipartisan bill. It's true that most Democrats voted against it, but there were 16 Democratic votes in favor in the House and 11 in the Senate. In both chambers enough Republicans voted "no" that the Democratic ayes were necessary for passage. Even for those who voted "no," coming around to support a new entitlement is much less of an ideological stretch for a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican. And many Republicans now in Congress owe their seats to the backlash against ObamaCare.
Klein is also angry at the administration, demanding: "Is anybody going to be held accountable? Is anybody going to be fired? Will anyone new be brought in to run the cleanup effort? Does the Obama administration know what went wrong, and are therr [sic] real plans to find out? . . . Heads should roll."

Best of the Web Today columnist James Taranto says in the long run, the GOP will win the argument about entitlement reform. Photos: Getty Images
Bargaining. "One thing has gone abundantly right for the Affordable Care Act: The Republican Party," Klein writes. "Their decision to shut down the government on the exact day the health-care law launched was a miracle for the White House. . . . The law has been knocked off the front page by coverage of the Republican Party's disaster."
There's no denying Republicans have had a horrendous couple of weeks. But as we've noted, Sen. Ted Cruz's rationale for the futile effort to defund ObamaCare was his belief that once it got started, it would be successful, at least in political terms--that it would deliver enough benefits to enough people as to ensure its continued political support.
The current Beltway standoff will be evanescent, assuming it is resolved before it turns into a real economic crisis. ObamaCare will still be with us. Like an injection of morphine to someone suffering from a crippling degenerative disease, the diversion no doubt made the past two weeks more comfortable for the White House. But the underlying problem isn't going away.
Depression is next. Getty Images
Klein does hold out hope that things will get better. After acknowledging off the bat that "so far, the Affordable Care Act's launch has been a failure," he qualifies the statement: "But 'so far' only encompasses 14 days. The hard question is whether the launch will still be floundering on day 30, and on day 45." How about day 1,000? CNBC reports Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini "said it could take three years or so before the marketplace's problems are fully sorted out."
The more interesting question, it seems to us, is whether this is as good as ObamaCare gets. Klein's acknowledgment of disaster, candid though it is, is limited in its scope. He addresses only the technical problems, not ObamaCare's screwy economic assumptions.
ObamaCare promised a free lunch: universal (or near-universal) coverage at lower cost without any diminution of quality or choice. It's a perpetual-motion machine. But even the Supreme Court can't strike down the laws of physics. If a large number of people benefit from ObamaCare--itself a big if--somebody has to pay. Much of the burden was supposed to fall on young, healthy people, who frequently do not have medical insurance. To compensate for price controls on premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions, their premiums would be jacked up. Somehow higher prices are supposed to induce them to get insured.
Those who do manage to get onto the website and get insurance quotes are experiencing "sticker shock," the Chicago Tribune reports:
Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance. But even he wasn't prepared for the pocketbook hit he'll face next year under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
If the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today.
"I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I'm being penalized. And for what?" said Weldzius, who is not offered insurance through his employer. "For someone who's always had insurance, who's always taken care of myself, now I have to change my plan?"
The Washington Examiner has a roundup of other ObamaCare horror stories:
-- Enormous rate increases. A research group found that a 30-year-old male nonsmoker "will see his lowest cost insurance option increase 260 percent."
-- Some who already buy their own insurance are receiving cancellation notices--and offers for expensive new policies. The Christian Science Monitor reported on a North Carolina family who had been buying Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance for $380-a-month. "BCBS is offering them a new plan for three times the cost, $1,124.50 a month, still with an $11,000 deductible," reports the paper.
-- A California couple said that the Obamacare policy suggested to them included a 40 percent increase in their doctor's office co-pay. "Our co-pay skyrocketed from 0 percent to 40 percent and the maximum out-of-pocket increased an additional $2,300," according to a letter in the Fresno Bee.
Of course, some people will be eligible for subsidies, which creates its own set of perverse incentives. Kathleen Pender, a personal finance columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, advises that "people whose 2014 income will be a little too high to get subsidized health insurance from Covered California next year should start thinking now about ways to lower it to increase their odds of getting the valuable tax subsidy":
Take, for example, Jacqueline Proctor of San Francisco. . . . Proctor estimates that her 2014 household income will be $64,000, about $2,000 over the limit. If she and her husband could reduce their income to $62,000, they could get a tax subsidy of $1,207 per month to offset the purchase of health care on Covered California.
That would reduce the price of a Kaiser Permanente bronze-level plan, similar to the replacement policy she was quoted, to $94 per month from $1,302 per month. Instead of paying more than $15,000 per year, the couple would pay about $1,100.
If anything, ObamaCare's technical problems have delayed its economic shock. That's by design, Forbes's Avik Roy argues: forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you're eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare's insurance plans would scare people away.
Even the New York Times, in a well-reported front-page story Sunday, acknowledged the administration cut corners in the website design for political reasons:
To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November's elections. The Republican-controlled House blocked funds. More than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways.
The stakes rose even higher when Congressional opponents forced a government shutdown in the latest fight over the health care law, which will require most Americans to have health insurance. Administration officials dug in their heels, repeatedly insisting that the project was on track despite evidence to the contrary.
Some pro-ObamaCare commentators, including at the Times, are still dug in. Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman asserted Sunday that soon "ObamaCare will be working fine." And the day after that damning news story, columnist Bill Keller waved away the failure:
Unless you've been bamboozled by the frantic fictions of the right wing, you know that the Affordable Care Act, familiarly known as Obamacare, has begun to accomplish its first goal: enrolling millions of uninsured Americans, many of whom have been living one medical emergency away from the poorhouse. You realize those computer failures that have hampered sign-ups in the early days--to the smug delight of the critics--confirm that there is enormous popular demand. You have probably figured out that the real mission of the Republican extortionists and their big-money backers was to scuttle the law before most Americans recognized it as a godsend and rendered it politically untouchable.
It turns out there is at least one diehard who still thinks Ted Cruz was right.