House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa warned Monday on Fox News that there are no checks in place for Obamacare navigators, the individuals tasked with helping Americans sign up for health insurance. They don’t have to follow any of the rules that every state in the country has for insurance people, he said. In other words, navigators are not bonded, finger printed, or identified in any way that would help prevent felons or identity theft perpetrators from having access to consumers’ personal information.
“This is basically just another form of community organizing paid for with your tax dollars,” Issa said. “ACORN revisited, if you will.”
“What they’re really hired to do is to convince people to get Medicaid under this new program, convince them to get a highly subsidized health care plan,” Issa continued. “They’re not there to sell the merits of the insurance, they’re there to sell the subsidy.”
“This is the federal government at work using federal dollars,” Rep. Pete Sessions added. “I believe that on the very surface of it, it is fraud at its very finest.”
Meanwhile, Press Secretary Jay Carney is criticizing Republican scrutiny of these navigators as talking points meant to sabotage President Obama’s health care law.
But Kathleen Sebelius has admitted that it’s possible convicted felons could be hired as navigators, a number of ex-ACORN operatives are now signing people up for Obamacare, and navigators have been documented as counseling applicants to lie about their income on forms to qualify for a larger subsidy.
Clearly, the scrutiny is more than justified.
Bus driver Max Christensen asked the homeless passengers he transports between their shelter and the food bank to pen him their letters to Santa. For most, all they want for Christmas is a viable way to work hard and support themselves.
Christensen told CNN the reason for his actions was simple:
“They’re all people. They have hearts and they have souls, and they have the same needs that we do.”
CNN used the story for their “Good Stuff” segment, titling the story “Bus Driver Aims to Bring Hope to the Homeless.” While his actions are certainly commendable, there is also a larger story hidden here.
Overwhelmingly, what the homeless put at the top of their Christmas list was not clothes or things but a job, Chris Cuomo reported. These individuals are not looking for handouts or temporary assistance.
Joy Niemi, President of Room at the Inn Homeless Shelter stated:
“They want what everybody else wants. They want a home, they want a job, they want a way to support themselves and to make a living.”
Ending homelessness is like trying to win the War on Poverty or finding a cure to the common cold. However, it is worth noting that what these individuals are seeking is way to find fulfillment through labor and self-achievement. Policies should seek to create opportunities of upward mobility for every American.
Watch the segment by CNN here:
Post Obamacare rollout disaster, it is no surprise that many are questioning President Obama and his ability to run the country effectively. One of the first items on the president’s agenda when entering office was a health care law that made insurance more accessible for all Americans. After seeing how this was done, many Americans are looking at Obama’s agenda wondering if he is really equipped to make major change.
Competency is the major question here. How is it that the government can’t even build a functioning website, and now we are hoping they can handle correctly processing millions of undocumented immigrants and require all employers to verify their workers’ status?
Obama’s broken promises on health care reform are preventing many from pushing through an incomplete/bad immigration reform bill. At the beginning of this year, with President Obama’s second inauguration, many felt that immigration reform would happen this year. But instead, the legislation remains on the backburner in the House.
With a more skeptical American public, many Republicans are using it as a driving point for keeping immigration reform from the floor. If programs that Obamacare implemented are not effectively and efficiently being carried out, then how is it that Americans are supposed to trust them to get immigration reform right?
Until the Obama administration can get Obamacare smoothed out (and I’m not even sure that’s possible), immigration reform may have to wait. The website must be fixed and President Obama will need to address the “if you like your plan you can keep it” lie. Perhaps then we will see accountability and feel more trust in the government’s ability to run various programs effectively.
Maryland is home to a disproportionately large population of bureaucrats and healthcare professionals, as well as a Democrat-controlled state government that has enthusiastically embraced Obamacare from the moment it passed in 2010. It is therefore something of a surprise that Maryland is also home to one of the country's most disastrous state-level Obamacare exchanges. Despite fresh assurances from Gov. Martin O'Malley that most of the website's troubles have been resolved (oops!), some members of his own party are opening contemplating a recommendation of jumping ship to the (also troubled) federal exchange:
The Saturday announcement comes at a critical time for O'Malley, who has been facing increasing criticism over the rollout of Obamacare in Maryland — recently from some in his own party. And though the site has been declared functional, it remains to be seen whether users will feel the same way...O'Malley's office did not go into detail about the technical obstacles that remain for the site, but said that the state would step up its marketing efforts to get more users on board before the end of March, when Americans without health insurance face a tax penalty. The state exchange, with its feuding contractors and prolonged technical problems, could become a political liability if still does not work, political observers said. For most top Maryland Democrats, widespread praise of the effort shifted into silence and quiet disappointment as the exchange struggled after its launch...Some in the party have begun sharpening criticism of the troubled online marketplace. On Friday, two Maryland congressmen urged the state to consider any means necessary to speed progress, including using the federal exchange to reach an estimated 800,000 uninsured residents.
The director of Maryland's broken exchange resigned last week after it emerged that she'd taken an email- and phone-free vacation in the Cayman Islands over Thanksgiving -- while her project was still experiencing a meltdown. Mary Katharine Ham marvels at the sheer audacity of this dereliction:
Pearce went out in style after spending $107 million on a site that still doesn’t work...It’s not like she had a vacation planned for right after the exchange launched assuming things would go fine, which would have been irresponsible enough. She waited until it failed, the heat got turned up on her staff, and then peaced out and claimed she had not e-mail or phone access. Because the Caribbean is so famously remote.
Pearce's exchange has signed up roughly 3,700 people thus far -- laughably short of its 150,000 enrollee goal. The same astounding scene just played out in Minnesota, except the "leader" in question hasn't mustered the dignity to step down:
Last month, while Minnesota's new health insurance exchange site was scrambling to fix glitches and under fire from critics, its director was on vacation. MNsure director April Todd-Malmlov took a two-week vacation to Costa Rica around Thanksgiving. Gov. Mark Dayton defended her right to take a pre-scheduled trip, but critics of the fledgling health insurance exchange pounced....MNsure's woes have continued into December, as some applicants still struggle to navigate system that was supposed to make shopping for health insurance easier and more affordable.
Thank heavens for her "right" to take a tropical vacation while the project she's overseen remains in crisis, failing many users. Just like it works in the private sector, right America? Meanwhile, in Oregon, local media reports are admonishing some consumers to bypass the state's Obamacare program to guarantee coverage on January 1 -- which is to say, the Beaver State's $330 million exchange remains in total shambles. I'll leave you with Jim Geraghty's round-up of state-by-state Obamacare enrollment totals. His bottom line: "Let’s make this simpler. The only states that have reached 10 percent of their enrollment goals are California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island; Kentucky is close." You read that right. Just six out of these 50 United States have achieved ten percent of their overall enrollment targets. The final deadline is March 31, after which the mandate tax kicks in. Some of the states in worst shape are governed by Democrats, putting the lie to the Left's pitiful "Republican obstructionism!" excuse. Click through for the full list.
It would seem so. Why else would he be selling his house in Massachusetts and moving to the Granite State?
Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown plans to move to New Hampshire, the latest sign that he’s considering a U.S. Senate bid there, which would complicate Democrats' effort to hold their majority in the chamber.
Brown, 54, has found a buyer for his Wrentham home and is set to close on that deal this week, Andrew I. Glincher, managing partner and chief executive officer at Brown’s employer Nixon Peabody LLP, said in an interview. Brown will continue to work out of the law firm’s Boston office because he isn’t licensed to practice law in New Hampshire, Glincher said.
Remember, after Brown lost to Elizabeth Warren in 2012, he hinted that his career in politics wasn’t over. “Defeat is only temporary,” he said at the time. Then, of course, after declining to run for governor in Massachusetts, he passed all the legal hurdles enabling him to spend money from his own political action committee in the state of New Hampshire. What’s more, he’s also the main attraction at the Republican State Committee’s holiday party later this month and, as noted above, is moving north permanently. Thus presumably by Christmas he’ll be a full-time resident of New Hampshire (where he also owns a vacation home). His only ties to the Bay State, then, would probably be his love for Boston sports teams and his position at a law firm.
In other words, all his actions since leaving the upper chamber suggest that he’s heavily weighing a bid in New Hampshire. Of course, he’d need to convince the state GOP and the voters of New Hampshire that he does indeed have “nine generations of ties” to the state, which might be rather difficult. But if he does, per NRO, considering three conservatives have already entered the fray and will presumably split the far-Right vote, this makes it a lot easier for a squishier and more moderate candidate like Brown to emerge victorious. And indeed, if he won the nomination, his heavy and at times blistering criticisms of Obamacare would improve his stature, and make him a plausible alternative to his Democratic opponent, who barely won a majority of the vote last time she ran for a U.S. Senate seat. Finally, since Brown isn’t a no-name candidate in New England -- many Granite State voters already seem to know who he is -- it’s not like he’s starting from scratch, either.
So maybe Brown fooled many of us by having his sights set on Jeanne Shaheen’s Senate seat all along? We’ll see.
The 2013 government 'Waste Book' released by Republican Senator Tom Coburn is here and like all of the books before it, details continuing and egregious abuses of taxpayer money.
A little background from the report:
Washington has reversed the wisdom of the old cliché that less is needed when less is wasted. Every branch of government bickered this year over the need to spend more (while continuing to misspend) with an attitude of “waste more, want more!”
Confronted with self-imposed budget cuts necessary to trim years of trillion dollar shortfalls, Washington protested that it could not live within its means. It attempted to take hostage the symbols of America to exact ransom from taxpayers. Public tours of the White House were canceled and Medicare payments for seniors’ health care were cut.
While the President and his cabinet issued dire warnings about the cataclysmic impacts of sequestration, taxpayers were not alerted to all of the waste being spared from the budget axe.
The Department of Defense (DOD) developed a plan this year to constrain pay and benefits for our brave men and women in uniform, who risk their lives to protect us from terrorists,1 for example, while at the same time continuing to pay the salary and other government benefits for the Fort Hood shooter,2 responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11.
First, let's start with look at the priorities of government spending:
DOD grounded the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels,4 yet still spent $631.4 million to construct aircraft they never intend to fly.5
The Army National Guard spent $10 million on Superman movie tie-ins while plans were being made to cut the strength of the Guard by 8,000 soldiers, the real supermen and women who fight for truth, justice and the American way.
As the Smithsonian was closing exhibits at its world renowned museums,6 the federal government was funding the creation of “play zones” at the National Museum of Play, an inventory of toys at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, and a website celebrating romance novels.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cut housing assistance for the disabled elderly while subsidizing thousands of risky mortgages, including more than 100 homes (that cost in excess of half-a-million dollars each) within walking distance of the ocean in Hawaii. And while nutrition assistance was being reduced for many needy families, USDA was spending money on celebrity chef cooks-offs and running up the taxpayer tab on Bloody Marys, sweet potato vodka, and red wine tastings from here to China.
The Department of Interior was counting sheep with high-tech unmanned aerial drones7 after delaying the opening of some national landmarks and closing others early.
NASA ultimately paid more than 17,700 employees—97 percent of its staff— to do nothing for 16 days as a result of the shutdown.8 These hardworking employees, caught in factors outside of their control, should not be confused with the “pillownauts” the space agency hired to lie around in bed and do nothing for 70 days.9
Even the government shutdown could not shut down Obamacare, but the failure of its $319 million website nearly did.10 Millions of dollars more were spent to urge taxpayers to visit the website that did not work—at whiskey festivals and on TV with ads featuring Elvis impersonators. Yet, even the hundreds of thousands who had their plans canceled struggled to sign up for the plans they did not want in the first place. At least one dog was able to enroll, however.
There are hundreds of examples of government waste inside this report, which is 177 pages long, but here are my top ten favorites:
1. $914,000 of your money was given to The Popular Romance Project to "explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks." The was used to pay for programs like "Love Between the Covers" and "The Past and Future of the Romance Novel."
2. The Department of Defense wasted $7 billion of your money by destroying more than 170 million pounds of useable military equipment and vehicles. According to the report, a decision was made to destroy the equipment rather than shipping it home or selling it.
3. The Department of Health and Human Services has spent $319 million of your dollars (so far) on an Obamacare website that doesn't work and that people aren't interested in using. This money was also spent on ridiculous advertisements for Obamacare. Colorado received $20 million for their advertisement campaign featuring an Elvis impersonator. Right now, fewer than 4,000 people in the state have singed up for Obamacare.
4. The National Institute for Health spent $325,525 in a study showing wives should "calm down" to make their husbands and marriages happier.
5. $65 million dollars in "emergency" Hurricane Sandy funds were spent on tourism television ads. Paging Chris Christie. "Instead of rushing aid to the people who need it most, state-level officials in New York and New Jersey spent the money on tourism-related TV advertisements," the report states.
6. The State Department spent $630,000 for "likes" and "fans" on Facebook and Twitter.
7. The government spends $1.5 billion to keep the lights on in empty and hardly used federal buildings they should be selling.
8. $3.6 billion: the amount of money tax cheating federal employees owe to the IRS.
9. The National Science Foundation spent $150,000 to study how to save the human race from zombies.
10. The Environmetal Protection Agency spend $479,000 for what is described as a "frat house" in Maryland."As you glance at each of the entries presented in this report, place your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?" Senator Coburn said in the report. "When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste."
Next time you hear politicians whining about spending cuts and fear mongering about Social Security checks not going out as a result of "draconian policies," please remind them of these examples that add up to billions and billions of dollar in waste. Also as a friendly reality check, the National Debt is $17 trillion and growing.
I'll leave you with this from Nancy Pelosi:"The cupboard is bare, there's no more cuts to make, it's really important for people to understand that."
Five-term Congressman Jim Matheson has announced that he'll relinquish his Congressional seat following the 2014 midterm elections, likely paving the way for a GOP pick-up. The Utah Democrat made his decision public via his Facebook page:
When I launched my first campaign in 1999, I knew that the arc of my public service would have many chapters. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Utah during my time in the United States House of Representatives, but my time in the House should not be the sum total of my service. Today, I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives. Public service has been integral to my life for as long as I can remember. I was raised to value the honor in public service and the responsibility of holding the public trust. My time in Congress has only strengthened these beliefs...
Matheson was one of 34 House Democrats who voted against Obamacare in 2010, and he's labored mightily to distance himself from his party on the issue, evidently to no avail. Phil Klein sums up the resulting take-away nicely:
Get ready to start writing "Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah" https://t.co/yyPx9hKf0h— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) December 17, 2013
Mia Love formally announced her intention to challenge Matheson in May, and has been actively running for the seat ever since. Now that the well-financed incumbent with universal name recognition is stepping aside, this vacancy in crimson Utah will likely vault to the very top of the NRCC's target list. Love burst onto the scene at the 2012 Republican National Convention, where she delivered a short, energetic speech:
In other retirement news, veteran GOP Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) also revealed plans to leave his seat after 2014, handing Democrats a pick-up opportunity. Wolf has been re-elected comfortably for many cycles in his increasingly-purple Northern Virginia district -- which Republicans Mitt Romney and Ken Cuccinelli each carried by just one point in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
RT @kkondik: CRYSTAL BALL RATINGS CHANGE: UT-4 moves from Leans Democratic to LIKELY REPUBLICAN after Rep. Jim Matheson (D) retires— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) December 17, 2013
College and university presidents (who overwhelmingly supported the Obama campaign in 2012) are more skeptical than expected about the President's effort to reform federal financial aid, according to a recent poll. The most controversial part of the reform proposal is instituting a national system of ratings and tying federal funding to highly-rated schools.
Obama administration officials have said that the colleges would be compared to institutions with similar missions. But details on how the system would work have yet to be fully developed or released.
The skepticism of the plan among presidents is striking given how many of them say that they appreciate the way Obama has repeatedly stressed the importance of higher education. Indeed, in a 2012 survey of presidents, Inside Higher Ed found that nearly two-thirds of them planned to vote for the president's re-election -- and that percentage would have been even higher except for strong opposition from presidents of for-profit institutions.
The results of the Gallup/Inside Higher Ed poll, which included responses from 675 college and university presidents, reveal broad pessimism.
In response to the general question "How effective will President Obama's plan to make college more affordable be?" only 2% answered "Very Effective" while 17% answered "Not Effective At All." A plurality of those surveyed, 42%, said it will be "Not Too Effective."
When it came to the question of "In your opinion, will President Obama's plan to make college more affordable have a positive effect on your institution?" only 19% said "Yes" but 50% said "No."
Other highlights of the poll include:
Do you agree or disagree that students will use the new information provided by the Department of Education to make informed decisions in selecting higher education institutions?
Strongly agree: 2 percent
Agree: 11 percent
In the middle: 27 percent
Disagree: 34 percent
Strongly disagree: 22 percent
Do you agree or disagree that the president's strategy to link federal financial aid to an institution's performance on the new rating system is a good idea?
Strongly agree: 3 percent
Agree: 13 percent
In the middle: 30 percent
Disagree: 30 percent
Strongly disagree: 35 percent
The respondents also expressed skepticism about the proposed criteria for the ratings system: 52% agree or strongly agree that President Obama's ratings system will favor the wealthiest institutions despite the fact that the White House has emphasized its purpose as a measure to benefit the middle class.
Reforming higher education, improving college affordability, and restructuring federal financial aid are popular among politicians, academics, and American citizens alike. Regardless, President Obama's plan is doomed to fail unless the leaders of the institutions to be reformed are brought on board as well.
Yesterday, Judge Brian Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, not only struck down Obamacare's contraception mandate as applied to religious non-profit organizations, but also sent a strong signal that federal courts were losing patience with President Obama's many stitches of executive power.
Previous courts had ruled against President Obama's contraception mandate as applied to for-profit entities (see Sebelius v Hobby Lobby), but this was the first court to hold that participating in Obama's scheme to provide free birth control is a substantial burden on the free practice of religion (specifically the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and its affiliate organizations).
The contraception mandate "directly compels plaintiffs, through the threat of onerous penalties, to undertake actions that their religion forbids," Cogan wrote. "There is no way that a court can, or should, determine that a coerced violation of conscience is of insufficient quantum to merit constitutional protection."
Cogan forcefully rejected three key Obama defenses of the mandate. First, on the government's claim that there was a compelling interest in uniform enforcement of the contraception mandate, Cogan wrote:
Tens of millions of people are exempt from the Mandate, under exemptions for grandfathered health plans, small businesses, and “religious employers” like the Diocesan plaintiffs here. Millions of women thus will not receive contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing through the Mandate. Having granted so many exemptions already, the Government cannot show a compelling interest in denying one to these plaintiffs.
Second, the court also rejected Obama's last minute claim that Obamacare's contraception mandate, as implemented for religious organizations, did not, in fact, mandate contraception:
Here, the Government implicitly acknowledges that applying the Mandate to plaintiffs may in fact do nothing at all to expand contraceptive coverage, because plaintiffs’ TPAs aren’t actually required to do anything after receiving the self-certification. In other words, the Mandate forces plaintiffs to fill out a form which, though it violates their religious beliefs, may ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever. A law that is totally ineffective cannot serve a compelling interest.
Finally, the court also rejected the government's argument that Obama's failure to convince Congress to "fix" Obamacare authorized him to enforce his contraception mandate in the manner he did:
Nor is the Mandate the least restrictive means by which the Government can improve public health and equalize women’s access to healthcare. ... The Government could provide the contraceptive services or insurance coverage directly to plaintiffs’ employees, or work with third parties – be it insurers, health care providers, drug manufacturers, or non-profits – to do so without requiring plaintiffs’ active participation.
The Government first argues that the alternatives above are infeasible because the defendants lack statutory authority to enact some of them. This argument makes no sense; in any challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law, the question is whether the federal government could adopt a less restrictive means, not any particular branch within it. It would set a dangerous precedent to hold that if the Executive Branch cannot act unilaterally, then there is no alternative solution. If defendants lack the required statutory authority, Congress may pass appropriate legislation.
Considering how often Obama has justified his expansion of executive power on Congress' failure to do his bidding, yesterday's ruling was not only a huge victory for religious liberty, but a huge win for limited government in all spheres as well.
I wrote earlier this week about Karl Pierson, the shooter at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. Pierson was seeking revenge upon a teacher who removed him from the school's debate team. In an article in the Denver Post, Pierson was initially described as a "very opinionated socialist" by his classmates, but the quote was later shortened to remove the word "socialist."
Senior Editor Lee Ann Colacioppo defended her paper, saying that they did not believe that one of Pierson's classmates would have the ability to understand what a "socialist" is. Pierson had several posts on his Facebook page criticizing Republicans.
The political views of a school shooting shouldn't be an issue--but it's quite weird that the Denver Post would try to edit them out.