Months out from the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, and Americans bombarded by mile-a-minute election coverage, it's easy to forget that ACA implementation is creeping up on us. But today, in a great reminder of the real struggles that we'll still face after November 6th, the Congressional Budget Office released a new estimate of how many will be paying taxes for going without insurance. And, fitting the holding pattern, the number is higher than previously expected.
Overall, 6 million Americans will pay "Obamatax," as some have called it. These are middle class individuals, without insurance because their employer may dropped it owing to expenses, and they're unable to afford it themselves. Furthermore, they're just a sliver of the 30 million Americans who will still have zero health insurance to speak of, affordable or otherwise. The remainder of the uninsured, to whom the tax doesn't apply, either are illegal aliens (so the ACA doesn't apply to them), or they don't make enough to pay income taxes.
The agency said the government will collect about $7 billion from the tax in 2016, and $8 billion a year thereafter.
The projections apply to 2016, the point at which most of President Obama’s health care law will be implemented and the penalty for failing to buy coverage will have risen to its full amount of $695 per person or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.
The agency gave several reasons for revising its projections. For one thing, Congress has passed legislation requiring Americans to pay back more health insurance subsidies if they’re overpaid, making buying coverage less attractive.
And some low-income Americans may have less access to expanded Medicaid programs than originally expected. Several states are expected to opt out of expanding Medicaid, after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can’t respond by stripping away all their funding for the program.
The economy is also improving more slowly than expected, leading to lower wages and salaries that could make it harder to buy coverage.
Since 10% of the country still won't be insured, and a number of those people will be paying the government billions a year in taxes -- thereby costing them more money they don't have -- it's safe to say this law hasn't actually made "care" any more affordable. (Scare quotes employed because, of course, the law's premise was widely flawed in conflating "care" with the very different concept of "insurance," the issue it actually addresses.) It's just another broken promise, which does almost nothing to fix the country's still-broken healthcare system.
Today, President Obama heads to Ohio and, in a push for manufacturing votes, he will hit China for subsidizing its auto industry and giving it an unfair trade advantage. It's a fairly standard campaign strategy, appealing to the Rust Belt by talking up American Made and attacking foriegn trade manipulation. Reuters reports:
The new U.S. case filed at the World Trade Organization targets what Washington said were "extensive subsidies" to Chinese auto and auto-parts producers located in designated regions, known as export bases.
"Those subsidies directly harm working men and women on the assembly line in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest. It's not right; it's against the rules; and we will not let it stand," Obama said in the advance text of a speech he was to deliver in Ohio.
It's part of a larger, escalating trade dispute between the American and Chinese governments, with the former upset about the subsidies and the latter taking issue with duties on its exports. The WTO is not expected to issue a decision on the U.S.'s case until after the election, so at the moment, it's mainly just a subject for the stump.
Of course, it does make for a bit of a strange dichotomy in the headlines today: the president may be making his case against foreign auto subsidies, but meanwhile, General Motors is pushing for the U.S. government to sell off its shares, and the Treasury is refusing.
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors' push for the government to sell off its stake in the auto maker, The Wall Street Journal reports. Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company's reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions. Earlier this year, GM presented a plan to repurchase 200 million of the 500 million shares the U.S. holds with the balance being sold via a public offering. But officials at the Treasury Department were not interested as selling now would lead to a multibillion dollar loss for the government, the newspaper noted.
Granted, I'm not fond of the idea of the taxpayers taking such a massive hit, and I can understand why the government won't extricate itself at the moment. But there's certainly something discordant about the president attacking China's protectionist policy while sitting on over a quarter of GM stock. Here's the best articulation of the whole situation, taken from Twitter, naturally:
The owner of 500 million shares of $GM is accusing China of subsidizing its auto industry.— Tony Fratto (@TonyFratto) September 17, 2012
More to file under "What the Heck is Happening in the World:" there are now three major US universities that have received bombing threats today, and apparently they were credible enough to warrant major action. Both University of Texas in Austin and North Dakota State University were evacuated, with the former allegedly receiving threats from someone claiming connection to al Qaida. The two events, however, appear unrelated. More:
This alert was posted on NDSU's website:
"NDSU is requiring all employees and students to leave campus by 10:15 a.m. This includes residence hall students, who, if necessary, should walk to locations off campus. This also includes the downtown buildings and agricultural facilities. NDSU received a bomb threat, prompting this evacuation. Updates will follow."
The University of Texas has issued an alert on its website ordering an evacuation “due to threats on campus.”
The alert posted shortly before 10 a.m. Friday said people on campus should immediately evacuate all buildings and “get as far away as possible.”
University of Texas director of communications Rhonda Weldon said the university received a call about 8:35 a.m. from a man with a Middle Eastern accent claiming to be with al-Qaeda. The man said he had placed bombs all over the campus that would go off in 90 minutes.
Wheldon said all the buildings were evacuated at 9:50 a.m. as a precaution. She said no bombs have been found.
Thus far, nothing has come of either threat, and it's entirely possible that this is a case of some sick people taking advantage of the situation overseas to cause unnecessary fear. Still, though. Makes you wonder how much chaos a day can handle.
It's no secret that the media is often overtly in President Obama's corner, but it's still a little shocking to come across evidence of their efforts to make the Right look bad. Case in point: this clip that The Right Scoop found, which appears to feature reporters coordinating their efforts to trip up Mitt Romney during his press conference, after giving a statement on the violence in Libya. The transcript:
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: …pointing out that the Republicans… *unintelligible* …Obama….
CBS REPORTER: That’s the question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: *unintelligible*
CBS REPORTER: Yeah that’s the question. I would just say do you regret your question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your question? Your statement?
CBS REPORTER: I mean your statement. Not even the tone, because then he can go off on…
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And then if he does, if we can just follow up and say ‘but this morning your answer is continuing to sound…’ – *becomes unintelligble*
CBS REPORTER: You can’t say that..
CBS REPORTER: I’m just trying to make sure that we’re just talking about, no matter who he calls on we’re covered on the one question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you stand by your statement or regret your statement?
Indeed, as Katrina Trinko at the National Review pointed out, most of the questions Romney faced at his presser surrounded the "controversy" over his remarks, rather than the actual foreign policy crisis at hand. It's sad to think that the press is so invested in taking him down, they're ignoring the larger story at hand -- that of a massive national security disaster, and whether it could have been avoided.
Jennifer Granholm was Michigan governor from 2003-2011. During that time, the state experienced major economic decline, an unemployment level higher than the national average, and population loss. She was replaced by Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican elected in 2010. Michigan has since begun to see its greatest level of economic development in a decade. No one misses her.
Of course, failed economic policies weren't any kind of dealbreaker for a speaking slot at the DNC; in fact, one might say they were a requirement. And all's the better that her delivery is in the style of Howard Dean. Yeaaaaah!
Maybe they should have considered choosing someone else to speak favorably about the bailout -- you know, maybe someone who didn't preside over the state during the auto industry's major decline. But hey, her unbridled enthusiasm for the president can't be beat, and that's getting tougher to find these days. Forward!
Update: Completely neglected to point out one of the best parts of this entire video: the woman in the crowd, cheering on Granholm's pro-bailout freak-out, who's holding...a Ford sign. Does it get more ironic?
It's a long-held tradition that, although members of the media may all harbor certain political views, they avoid participating in campaigns out of deference to their craft. After all, the free press exists to keep public figures honest, despite any shared stances, and if a reporter is known to have donated to someone, then there's automatically the assumption that they have that politician's best interests at heart.
Of course, bias in the media is an oft-lamented phenomenon of today, and it's fairly easy to spot. But there's something especially unsettling about the idea that some in the Fourth Estate are not only donating money to the people they're ostensibly keeping honest; they're doing so clandestinely.
One account from the DNC maintains that reporters were using aliases to make donations to the Obama campaign, thereby avoiding the possibility of public disclosure.
The souvenir stand was in a secure area only accessible to those with a media credential and buying campaign gear means contributing to the campaign, so we asked the woman working the cash register whether anyone at the press stand had been making purchases. Her answers were quite surprising.
The woman working at the souvenir stand told us she hadn’t been “too busy” during the day, but had seen business pick up in the past half hour or so. She then asked us whether we wanted to buy anything. When we informed her that our status as a reporter means we don’t buy campaign gear, she suggested a strategy other members of the media have apparently used to pick up their Obama swag.
“Have you ever thought of making up a fake name? That’s what the other guys do,” she said.
Donate if you must; but at the very least, own up to it. The public deserves to know whether its scribes are financially vested in the people they're covering.
Remember the 2008 Democratic National Convention? Then-Senator Obama had no problem attracting a stadium of 84,000 enthralled supporters for his acceptance speech, a speech filled with soaring promises of change and assurances that yes, we can. Ah, the glory days.
But as the Boss said, they will indeed pass you by.
Cut to Charlotte 2012, where the DNC is reportedly mulling a move from the 74,000-capacity Bank of America Stadium (or Panther Stadium, if you're a squeamish Democrat), where President Obama's acceptance speech was initially scheduled to take place, back to the Time Warner Cable Arena with the rest of the convention. They're blaming inclement weather, but there are some real fears that Obama can't pack 'em in like he used to. Only 20,000 adoring fans can fit at the Time Warner Arena -- but at the very least, officials figure they can get that many people to show up.
Forward! Hope'n'change [of venue]!
Speaking at a background briefing for the press, a Democratic official said that the speech would be given in the stadium ‘rain or shine’ before quickly adding a major caveat.
‘We do have a contingency plan, though, for lightning or other severe weather,’ he said. ‘We don't want to put anyone in harm's way so that's really what we're looking for, not if it's going to rain but if it's going to be really bad.
Another official said that the use of the stadium was being reviewed ‘on an ongoing basis and we’ll keep you informed on any decision’.
Democratic convention sources have indicated that the ‘contingency plan’ is at an advanced stage and that a move to the stadium appears certain.
‘It looks like a done deal to me,’ said one convention worker. ‘The decision’s apparently been taken and it’s just a matter of spinning it as being forced on us by the weather.’
Indeed, that spin will be problematic, and perhaps these officials should have checked Weather.com before they preemptively blamed the forecast. Here's the week in Charlotte (as of 1:10PM, Sept. 4):
Thursday has no mention of any potential thunderstorms, and the chance of rain is only 20% -- and that aforementioned official claimed 'Bank of America Stadium, rain or shine," so based on their weather contingency plan, all systems should be go, right?
But hubris led the DNC's planning committee to assume that Obama's popularity remains where it was in '08, and now they're stuck with the imminent, cosmetically disastrous possibility of photos of the boss speaking to empty seats. Perhaps he can only pack in 20,000 this time around -- which is still bigger than his largest 2012 audience of 14,000 to date -- but better to have a smaller crowd, a flip-flop in venue choice, and good optics, seems to be the thinking.
Still...the weather is some poetic justice. At least it appears their embarrassing overplanning won't be vindicated by lightning.
It's all sounding too familiar: once again, President Obama was asked to grade himself on his handling of the economy, and once again, he says...incomplete. Speaking to a local news affiliate in Colorado Springs, CO the Chief Executive declined to give himself a letter A-F, but said he's "invested in" a number of measures that will "help us in the long term." Really:
Say, haven't we heard that before?
Hey, I'll let the August incomplete slide -- he'd only been in office for a year and a half, not quite enough time to see if his policies were sticking. That's fair. But now, at the end of his first term, since it's not better and he can't give himself an A without seeming totally out of touch, he just won't give himself anything at all. His efforts at "recovery" have prompted sluggish growth (or none at all, depending on whom you ask), and his unwillingness to entertain any ideas besides his own hardly speaks to his ability to unite the country, either (unless you count all of Congress uniting to unanimously reject his budget proposals two years running -- bipartisanship!).
Besides that, which of his pet projects are actually helping the economy? Solyndra? The artificial student loan interest rates that actually drive up the cost of college tuition? Bueller?
If, after four years, he can't give an honest, straight answer about how far we've come and where we're going, then why should we risk four more years of an "incomplete" economy?
Back when he was first elected, Obama uttered the infamous line about how he would be looking at a "one term proposition" if people didn't consider themselves "better off" after three years of an Obama presidency. Now, during the election cycle, it's coming back to haunt him, and his surrogates and aides have given some evasive answers when asked if, in fact, we are better off.
It all started with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's awkward flip-flop from yesterday (on Face the Nation: we're not better off, "but that's not the question for this election) to today (in a tweet: We're clearly better off because we're creating jobs! Duh!). What a miraculous reversal in our nation's fortunes -- and in just twenty-four hours!
But despite O'Malley's clumsy attempt to walk back what he said, the question still haunted Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Detroit. Yes, we're better off, he says -- and if it wasn't so hot, he'd tell you why:
Providing conclusive proof of how Obama made us better off ought to be worth a few extra minutes in the heat, don't you think? But no matter -- just trust him. You are definitely better off.
Then there's the bevy Obama staffers who hit the airwaves today with their spin, trying to clean up that hot mess:
Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace and Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod had a similar back and forth. “David, is the average American better off than four years ago?” Wallace asked. Axelrod responded: “I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it’s gonna take some time to work through it.”
But on CNN’s “Early Start” this morning, anchor John Berman elicited a different response from Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse.
“Brad you’ve been shaking your head, as you’ve been sitting off camera, because we’ve been playing all the sound from the last 24 hours of Democrats being asked ‘are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Berman noted. “So, I’ll give you the chance to ask the question: Are we better off than we were four years ago?”
“Absolutely,” Woodhouse said.
On the Today Show, NBC’s Natalie Morales asked Obama campaign deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter: “Let me begin by starting with that central question on a lot of people’s minds, and that is are we better off today than we were four years ago when President Obama was elected?”
“Absolutely,” Cutter said. “Let me just walk you through what life was like four years ago.”
As Jake Tapper notes in that post, answering honestly about how we're not better off is more of a losing strategy than flip-flopping on the issue. But those soundbites are still out there, and most of us know at least one person who's been out of a job, or whose business is still struggling. We're not better off just because an Obama flak says so. Maybe they ought to brave the heat and give a real explanation.
The RNC has a killer new video out today, juxtaposing Candidate Obama's speeches in 2008 with President Obama's speeches in 2012 and, well...he's saying the same stuff. Pretty damning:
When you're even using the same, specific line, "I want to recruit an army of new teachers," you're clearly strapped for content. He has nothing new to say, and he's returning to his old lines because he's hardly accomplished anything in the last four years. He's trying to run on the same promises he made (and subsequently broke) four years ago.
Wouldn't a president who'd accomplished much of anything have new promises to make, and a record to tout? Shouldn't a successful president be able to write a new campaign speech four years later?
Kind of reminds me of this clip of Aaron Sorkin dialogue. He uses the same lines from the West Wing in all his new shows because all his best dialogue came from there:
Somehow, the same words don't sound as good the second time -- and despite the recycled lines from his old hit, Sorkin's newest show, "The Newsroom," is a critical disaster.
Seeing some parallels?