Nine months ago, after Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) released a plan that purportedly reduced federal deficits by $1.85 trillion over ten years, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) explained at a Budget Committee hearing exactly why he was skeptical of the purported savings:
There are very few if any occasions when Congress has ever actually moved into the second year of one of the budgets that it has adopted. Because each year Congress would go in and adopt a new budget with a new first year and a new set of out years. And then the next year there would be another first year and a new set of out years. And the out years are all interesting projections and interesting assumptions and claims about what we will or should do in our budget, but they are not the reality. The reality is the first year.
Crapo then pressed a Democratic staffer to explain what, if any, deficit reduction happened in the first year of the Murray budget:
Crapo: In terms of the overall budget deficit reduction that is achieved, whether it is through the taxes or the spending reductions that are claimed in the budget, what percentage of those are achieved in the first year? In other words, you are talking about a $1.85 trillion deficit reduction over ten, how much of that happens in year one?
Dem staffer: There are spending savings in year one, but in total it is about no [sic] in the first year.
Crapo: It’s about what?
Dem staffer: It’s zero in the first year in total because there are spending savings and spending costs.
Crapo: So I didn’t understand you. It’s zero in the first year?
Dem staffer: Yes, sir. On net, sir.
Crapo: Which confirms my worry.
Judging the deal unveiled Tuesday by the same standard conservatives judged the Democratic budget this past March, House Budget Committee Paul Ryan's (R-WI) deal is a step in the wrong direction.
Not only does the Ryan deal increase spending by $63 billion over the next two years ($45 billion in 2014 alone), but the offsetting savings are just a meager $6.5 billion over that time. That means in the first two years of this deal, the only years that this deal is likely to serve as good law, the Ryan deal will add more than $56 billion to the deficit.
Taking a step back, lets break down the larger elements of the deal and see if any of them advance the cause of limited government:
- $63 billion in more spending over the next two years. A guaranteed step towards bigger government.
- $12.2 billion in pay cuts (in the form of reduced pension benefits and increased pension contributions) for federal workers. A long-term step towards limited government.
- $13 billion in increased fees for airline travel. A long-term step towards bigger government.
- $28 billion in Medicare provider cuts starting 8 years from now. A speculative step toward smaller government that probably will never happen, and even if it does, Republicans have previously argued such price-control style Medicare reforms will only drive more providers out of the Medicare system entirely.
Now, there are some other minor provisions in the deal that are positive ($2.5 billion in waste and fraud prevention is undeniably good). But if we look at just the big ticket items in the deal, and then discount future spending cuts as good conservatives always do, it is hard to see how this deal advances limited government at all.
If anything it looks like a step, all be it a small one, towards bigger government.
This week's Obamacare headlines have been dominated by HHS' announcement that 365,000 Americans have selected a plan through Obamacare's federal and state exchanges -- well short of the administration's projected goal of 800,000 enrollees by December 1st. Allahpundit explains why that government's official number is misleadingly high:
Three huge caveats to the 365,000 figure. One: As Phil Klein notes in the excerpt, by HHS’s own admission, some of them are duplicates. And the fact that they felt obliged to admit that in a report that they’re desperately trying to spin as good news suggests that “some” isn’t an insignificant number. Two: As you hopefully already understand, “sign-ups” aren’t the same as “enrollments.” HHS’s original targets for O-Care were based on the assumption that people would be fully enrolled with their new insurers and ready to go with coverage on January 1. But because they’re desperate for positive publicity, they tweaked that metric so that anyone who’s tried to sign up and gotten as far as choosing a plan, even if they haven’t actually purchased it yet, counts in terms of them hitting their target. The actual number of people who’ve enrolled, not just “signed up,” is a well-kept secret. Three: As you also know by now, even if you’ve pulled the trigger on a plan and enrolled with an insurance company, your enrollment isn’t valid until you’ve paid your first month of premiums.
The duplication issue is part and parcel of the 834 error rate snags that continue to plague Healthcare.gov's back end. The "selected a plan" verbiage is a flat-out trick, which we've discussed many times. Obamacare administrators are counting people who've browsed the website and placed a plan in their virtual shopping cart -- but who never finished the process by checking out -- as "enrolled." That's a bogus metric. It's even more bogus when you recall the last point in bold. People are not covered unless and until they've made their first premium payment. I've made this point before, which Kathleen Sebelius helpfully reinforced during Congressional testimony on Wednesday:
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX): What if that patient doesn’t make the premium payment? You said they’re covered Dec. 23, but they never write the check. They never make the payment.
Sebelius: Then they’re not covered. They are not enrolled, and at every point along the way, on the website they are told until they make the payment—
So far more important than HHS' raw, ginned-up enrollment figures is the composition of that pool. First, are enough new sign-ups coming from so-called young invincibles? Early clues aren't looking promising, and the White House's radio silence on this point is the most damning evidence of all. If the risk pool looked healthy, Obama and Sebelius would be shouting it from the rooftops. Instead, they're saying nothing (probably because they can see the data that backs up this assessment). And second, how many of these "enrollees" have made the requisite payments to guarantee coverage starting in January? That's been another mystery, with one small (and worrisome) data point emerging last week. Now we're getting more information on this question, and if industry sources' estimates are even close to accurate, they foretell another Obamacare catastrophe. Via lefty journalist Charles Ornstein:
“There is also a lot of worrying going on over people making payments,” industry consultant Robert Laszewski wrote in an email. “One client reports only 15% have paid so far. It is still too early to know for sure what this means but we should expect some enrollment slippage come the payment due date.” Another consultant Kip Piper, agreed. “So far I’m hearing from health plans that around 5% and 10% of consumers who have made it through the data transfer gauntlet have paid first month’s premium and therefore truly enrolled,” he wrote me. “It naturally varies by insurer and will hopefully increase as we get close to end of December and documents flow in the mail,” added Piper, a former official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “But overall I’m hearing it’s a small portion so far. And that, of course, is a fraction of an already comparatively small number of people who have made it through setting up an account, getting verified, subsidy eligibility determined, plan selected, complete and correct data transferred to the insurer, and insurer set out the confirmation with invoice for consumer’s share of the first month’s premium.”
A fraction of a fraction. This is devastating news, piled atop similar "enrollment" confusion involving people who think they've signed up for Medicaid through Obamacare, but whose applications are stuck in transaction error purgatory. Allahpundit wonders why the administration isn't freaking out about this disaster, concluding -- probably correctly -- that they're playing politics. They know they're in deep, deep trouble, and have decided not to call attention to it. Their PR mess is bad enough as it is. Once a bunch of Americans start to realize they're not actually covered in January, Sultan Obama will decree some additional extra-legal "fix" to temporarily patch over the problem. Then again, his previous on-the-fly improvements haven't necessarily made realities on the ground any better. January is going to be a rough month for a lot of unsuspecting people. I'll leave you with with a graph from American Action Forum. It charts the first two months of Obamacare enrollments, compared to both Medicare Part D's sign-up rate and the White House's expected trajectory for Obamacare:
Bear in mind that the gold line is based upon HHS' inflated figures. For reasons explained above the real 'actual' numbers are almost certainly much, much lower.
Are stories like these why teachers unions are struggling to retain members and keep their coffers full?
The Michigan Education Association is going to arbitration to try to force the West Branch-Rose City school district to pay a former teacher who was convicted of molesting a student a $10,000 severance buyout.
The father of the victim is outraged, calling the union’s efforts on behalf of the sex criminal “ludicrous” and saying any school money due to the teacher should go to his son, who is “out there trying to make it in this world all messed up.”
Neal Erickson, a former math teacher at Rose City Middle School, was convicted this summer of raping a young student over three years, from 2006 to 2009, and sentenced to 15-30 years in prison.
The case sparked community outrage when several of the district’s teachers wrote letters of support for Erickson, pleading for a lenient sentence. A school board member, Mike Eagan, also drew the public’s ire when he sat with the Erickson family at the pedophile’s sentencing.
Try wrapping your head around that one. A public school teacher was convicted of child molestation over a three year period and now the union is fighting tooth and nail to procure the rapist a severance package. I’m speechless. If anything, the school district should be giving the victim -- and his family -- some sort of financial compensation. Under no circumstances does this man deserve anything, let alone taxpayer money, from his local community. They’ll pay enough as it is keeping him behind bars for the next couple of decades.
Nonetheless, the union believes they have a strong case:
Erickson was placed on paid administrative leave when state police launched an investigation in October 2012. Erickson was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct in December 2012.
On March 26, 2013 WB-RC officials offered a $10,000 buyout for any qualifying teacher who left the school district that year, an incentive superintendent Dan Cwayna said the district had used in the past to encourage needed staff reductions.
While its not clear when Erickson’s employment was terminated, the union’s action suggests he was still on the payroll when the buyout was offered and accepted it.
The school district declined to pay him the money, prompting the union’s action.
The details are somewhat hazy but the long and short of it is this: the union filed a grievance shortly after the school district failed to pay their client. And they’re ostensibly not backing down:
The union’s decision to file for arbitration in the case is step two in the resolution process. Regardless of what the arbitrator decides, both the school district and the union have the right to appeal it through the court system.
Click on the very first link of the piece. Politico reports that union leaders maintain they "don’t protect bad teachers.” But I find that very hard to believe considering a union in Michigan is literally fighting for -- and defending -- a child rapist. Stunning.
In a letter sent late Wednesday, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa reminded Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime.
Issa's Committee has been looking into the details of how Obamacare was implemented, along with the major problems with Healthcare.gov and has requested a number of documents from HHS, none of which he's received. The documents requested pertain to companies hired by HHS to build and operate Healthcare.gov.
"The Department [HHS] subsequently instructed those companies not to comply with the Committee's request. The Department's hostility toward questions from Congress and the media about the implementation of Obamcare is well known. The Department's most recent effort to stonewall, however, has morphed from mere obstinacy into criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation," Issa wrote.
The letter details a contract between HHS and Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. (CCSI) forcing the company to get approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before cooperating with Congress, making it nearly impossible for lawmakers to get documents from the company directly. CCSI has been citing the contract as the reason why they cannot turn over requested documents to Congress. In the letter, Issa indicated this refusal by CCSI under the thumb of HHS could be criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation.
"The Departmen't instruction not to cooperate with congressional investigations relies on language in the contract with CCSI which precludes contractors from sharing certain data with third parties. Moreover, the Department explicitly forbids the release of documents without authorization from CMS. That argument -- that the language in the contract between the Department and a private company supersedes Congress' constitutional prerogative to conduct oversight -- is without merit," Issa wrote. "In fact, it strains credulity to such an extent that it creates the appearance that the Department is using the threat of litigation to deter private companies from cooperating with Congress. The Department's attempt to threaten CCSI for the purpose of deterring the company from providing documents to Congress places the officials responsible for drafting and sending the letter on the wrong side of federal statues that prohibit obstruction of a congressional investigation. Obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime."
Issa instructed Sebelius to inform HHS officials to immediately stop directing employees and contractors not to turn over Healthcare.gov documents to Congress. He also reminded Sebelius that a subpoena was issued to her on October 30, 2013 and requires a response.
"Private citizens and companies cannot contract away their duty to comply with a congressional request for documents," Issa said. "Furthermore, the Department's instruction to CCSI and other contractors not to respond to congressional document requests runs afoul of a federal statute that prohibits interfering with an employees' right to furnish information to Congress. Under that statute, any effort to enforce a contract that prevents a federal employee -- or in this case, a contractor -- from communicating with Congress is unlawful."
Thursday, the Oversight Committee will hold a hearing about Obamacare's impact on premiums and provider networks as millions continue to see skyrocketing insurance rates, loss of health insurance and a loss of preferred doctors.
Believe it or not, MSNBC ran some pretty powerful video of an Ohio focus group, made up of swing voters who had supported the President using some pretty uncomplimentary language to describe him:
According to previous supporters, Obama has "turned out to be just another politician"; "he's a big disappointment."
These people are pitiful in their disillusionment and disappointment, but frankly, it's hard to feel too sorry for them. After all, what did they really know about President Obamas's record before he moved into The White House? Did they realize he had been an Illinois state senator a scant four years before being elected the leader of the free world? Were they aware that he was the most liberal member of the US Senate -- which means he was to the left of Barbara Boxer, Teddy Kennedy, and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders?
Did they know that he had never run anything but a US Senate campaign (in which he ran largely unopposed) and a presidential campaign (in which he ran against John McCain -- so again, largely unopposed)? Did they realize he had no demonstrable "work product" from his life besides two books written about himself?
Or did they just know that he proclaimed admirable sentiments in a mellifluous voice with skillful rhetoric? And that "everyone" -- meaning the press and popular culture -- seemed to swoon over him?
At great cost, let's hope America's learned a valuable lesson. Though it can be fun to have a President who can make good speeches and seem cool, it's essential that s/he has a solid record of leadership and achievement in a position of responsibility; understands economics; and possesses at least a shade of realism and commitment to promoting American strength and interests in foreign affairs. Of course, just a little humility would occasionally be nice, too.
Well it seem that the very people who passed the healthcare law are not happy with the way the website was implemented and do not trust it for their own staffers. Capitol Hill staffers who used the DC healthcare exchange, known as DC Health Link, have now been told to confirm their enrollments in person instead of relying on the data provided by the website.
An email was sent earlier today warning staffers, “it is essential that you confirm your coverage in DCHL through the Disbursing Office.” The email then continues, “Do not rely on your ‘My Account’ page or other correspondence from DCHL…Please do not assume you are covered unless you have seen the confirmation letter from the Disbursing Office.”
These staffers only have until Monday to sign up for the D.C. healthcare exchange. The portal that they have had to use has experienced several technical issues (SHOCKING) over the past few weeks. The only reason they have through Monday is because there was an extension granted for those who had problems due to the glitches.
If those who voted for this incompetent legislation can’t even have their staffers sign up without issues, how is it that the rest of us are supposed to have an easy experience? It’s a good thing Sebelius asked for an investigation into her own website today! Ha
Despite the attempt by the Texas state legislature to ban the very word "Christmas" from an elementary school "winter party," it seems the vast majority of Americans are still in full support of celebrating the religious holiday in public schools.
A Rasmussen report released Wednesday has the details:
"Despite school administrators’ concerns nationwide, Americans strongly believe that Christmas should be a part of public schools. They feel just as strongly that religious symbols should be allowed on public property.
Seventy-five percent (75%) of American Adults think Christmas should be celebrated in public schools, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 15% disagree, while 10% are not sure."
Stories, such as the recent case where Jesus was removed from the nativity scene at the South Carolina Air Force base, should not be understood as the national perspective on the presence of Christ in the public holiday. Only ten percent of Americans polled did not support celebrating Christmas in the classroom. The so called, "War on Christmas" might not be as much of an uphill battle as many are being led to believe.
Planned Parenthood is out with their latest annual report and the numbers prove, yet again, that they aren’t in the business of women’s health, they’re in the business of abortion.
From 2012-2013, according to the report, Planned Parenthood performed 327,166 abortions, provided prenatal services for 19,506, and made a measly 2,197 adoption referrals. In other words, for every adoption referral, they aborted 149 babies. How exactly are they giving women a choice?
Compared to years prior, however, the numbers “once again show a business in decline,” says Rita Diller, national director of American Life League’s STOPP International project, LifeNews reports.
These are the figures she provided LifeNews:
PPFA reported a substantial drop in its clinic numbers between December 2012 and December 2013. At the end of 2012, it had 750 centers, while it reports “more than 700? at the end of 2013. Its affiliate numbers are down as well, dropping from 73 to 69 over the last year. Affiliates are entities that operate Planned Parenthood centers within a set geographical area.
Planned Parenthood reported a 6.7 percent decrease worldwide in customers for its “sexual and reproductive healthcare and education.” In the U.S., it reported seeing 10,000 fewer unduplicated customers than in 2011.
One of the most glaring numbers was the steep decline in prenatal services-a 31.97 percent decline from the prior year.
In addition, Planned Parenthood’s highly touted cancer screening services dropped 14.22 percent from the 2011 numbers.
Even its abortion business showed a slight decline, reaching the lowest level in four years. PPFA reports that it committed 327,166 abortions for 2012-a 2.0 percent decrease from the year before.
“Planned Parenthood continues to demonstrate by its numbers that it is being rejected by the American public and becoming ever more dependent upon tax-dollar subsidies,” Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League and founder of STOPP International said, according to LifeNews. “It is truly time for all taxpayer funding to be removed from Planned Parenthood.”
Aisha Harris, a writer for Slate has decided that it's a bad thing that Santa Claus is mostly portrayed as being a jolly white male. The Santa figures in her house growing up, she explains, had darker skin like she did, but the Santas elsewhere were white. In Harris' world, this is a travesty, so she's come up with a genius idea: transform Santa into an adorable penguin figure wearing a Santa hat and coat.
According to Harris, the fact that Santa Claus is white has caused undue amounts of "insecurity and shame" among minority children. Hence, penguin Santa.
St. Nicholas, whom the modern day "Santa Claus" was based upon, was a real person. He was Greek and born in what is now roughly Turkey. He did not have an African or Asian complexion. He, among other things, encouraged giving to the needy and once punched a heretic. It makes sense that Santa Claus is primarily portrayed as a white human male because, well, St. Nicholas was a white, human male.
It is absurd to edit the ethnicity of a historical figure simply to appease others, regardless of who the figure was. While penguins are certainly plenty cute, they're not an appropriate substitute for the image of St. Nicholas.
As Kevin reported this morning, just 365,000 people have "signed up" for Obamacare since the exchanges launched on October 1.
A new report from President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services details that 365,000 people combined [pdf] have "selected" plans on the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces. It'll take almost 3 million sign-ups in the month of December to hit the Obama Administration's stated goal of signing up 3.3 million people by the end of 2013.
The total Obamacare signups reported by HHS is still short of what was projected to be a "low target" for October alone.
Meanwhile, more than 6 million people have lost their health insurance thanks to Obamacare and cancellation letters are still hitting mailboxes on a daily basis. MyCancellation.com has compiled a number of Obamacare cancellation horror stories (beyond frustrations with healthcare.gov, blowing the "this is just a website problem" argument completely out of the water) from regular, everyday Americans on their website and Twitter feed. Here are a few of the most recent examples.
In case you're wondering, liberals and the Obama administration are still called Obamacare a "success."
Do you have an Obamacare cancellation story? Send it in.