The Internal Revenue Service And ObamaCare

Yesterday Kim Strassel posted an article at the Wall Street Journal entitled “The ObamaCare-IRS Nexus.” It is subscriber content, but if you google the title, you can read the entire article.

The article details the role of the IRS in the implementation of ObamaCare and the questionable steps the agency has taken in that implementation.

The article reports:

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Halbig that the administration had illegally provided ObamaCare subsidies in 36 insurance exchanges run by the federal government. Yet it wasn’t the “administration” as a whole that issued the lawless subsidy gift. It was the administration acting through its new, favorite enforcer: the IRS.

And it was entirely political. Democrats needed those subsidies. The party had assumed that dangling subsidies before the states would induce them to set up exchanges. When dozens instead refused, the White House was faced with the prospect that citizens in 36 states—two-thirds of the country—would be exposed to the full cost of ObamaCare’s overpriced insurance. The backlash would have been horrific, potentially forcing Democrats to reopen the law, or even costing President Obama re-election.

The White House viewed it as imperative, therefore, that IRS bureaucrats ignore the law’s text and come up with a politically helpful rule. The evidence shows that career officials at the IRS did indeed do as Treasury Department and Health and Human Services Department officials told them. This, despite the fact that the IRS is supposed to be insulated from political meddling.

It gets worse. The article tells us that in late summer of 2010, after ObamaCare was signed into law, the IRS assembled a working group—made up of career IRS and Treasury employees—to develop regulations around ObamaCare subsidies. The early group followed the text of the law and declared that subsidies were for exchanges established by the States.

The article explains what happened next:

Yet in March 2011, Emily McMahon, the acting assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department (a political hire), saw a news article that noted a growing legal focus on the meaning of that text. She forwarded it to the working group, which in turn decided to elevate the issue—according to Congress’s report—to “senior IRS and Treasury officials.” The office of the IRS chief counsel—one of two positions appointed by the president—drafted a memo telling the group that it should read the text to mean that everyone, in every exchange, got subsidies. At some point between March 10 and March 15, 2011, the reference to “Exchanges established by the State” disappeared from the draft rule.

…To summarize: The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency’s actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.

Congratulations. We have become a banana republic. The law is what the political party in power says it is. The IRS is an organization to be used to silence and suppress political opposition. The use of the IRS for political purposes was the second article in the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon.

Why You Seem To Be Earning More And Having Less To Spend

There are a number of articles on the internet today about inflation in America.

The first, at Bloomberg.com describes the impact of inflation on the average Fourth of July celebration:

The CHART OF THE DAY shows an index tracking U.S. retail prices for seven foods commonly consumed while grilling climbed 5.1 percent in May from a year earlier to the highest ever for the month, the latest data from Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Independence Day is the most popular time of the year for Americans to cook outdoors, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. The holiday falls on a Friday this year, increasing chances that revelers will keep celebrating into the weekend. Prices for ground beef are 16 percent higher than a year earlier, while ice cream climbed 1.7 percent and tomatoes soared 12 percent, government data show.

A chart at the Wall Street Journal shows what is happening to gasoline prices:

And finally, a chart at businessweek shows what happens when prices go up:

The American economy is not in recovery. The only reason the Stock Market is rising is because the government is subsidizing it. The Middle Class in America is being squeezed by a shrinking labor force and stagnant wages. We need to put more business men and less lawyers in Congress. Please remember that in November.

 

 

There Are Currently No Consequences For Killing An American Citizen Overseas

On June 2 the Washington Post reported that the Palestinians had formed a new unity government with Hamas. Since Hamas is a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization. U.S. law prohibits dispensing taxpayer money to any Palestinian entity over which Hamas exercises “undue influence.” (Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014)

The Jewish Journal has reported:

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a State Department official involved in U.S.-Palestinian relations told JTA this week that U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that none of the new Palestinian Cabinet ministers have any Hamas involvement, and so continued relations would not violate U.S. law banning interactions with designated terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, Fox News reports:

Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed revenge against Hamas after three teens kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank — including one with U.S. citizenship — were found dead Monday, just north of Hebron.

“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu saying at a hastily arranged security cabinet meeting. “In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families – to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters – our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.”

The leader’s angry words came hours after the search for Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frenkel, also 16, who were snatched while hitchhiking, ended in the West Bank, where Hamas operates. Sources said the bodies were found in a shallow grave in an open field in the West Bank village of Halhul, just north of Hebron.

Why are we sending money to a government that includes a terrorist organization that routinely kills innocent civilians, including Americans?

Time For A Change Of Economic Policy

This is a chart from today’s Wall Street Journal:

The article reports:

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first three months of the year, according to the Commerce Department‘s third reading released Wednesday. That was the fastest rate of decline since the first quarter of 2009, when output fell 5.4%, and matches the average pace of declines during the recession.

GDP was recession-like in the first quarter, although most other data clearly signal that the decline is an outlier,” said Jim O’ Sullivan, economist at High Frequency Economics.

In its third GDP reading, based on newly available data, Commerce said first-quarter consumer spending and exports were even weaker than previously estimated. Consumer spending growth was lowered to 1% from 3.1% previously, largely because health-care spending was weaker than previously estimated.

President Obama has been in office since 2009. His economic policies have been in place for more than five years. It is becoming obvious that those policies have not been effective in reviving the American economy. It is time to send people to Washington who have new ideas that will encourage small business growth and turn the American economy around.

I Thought That One Of The Principles Of Our Republic Was The Protection Of Individual Property Rights

As Iraq collapses and President Obama thinks about what to do, his administration has taken action on a truly pressing matter. Today’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the trademark of the Washington Redskins.

At the end of last year I moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina. As a result of that move, I became involved with a group of constitutional conservatives. I look at things now in the framework of the U.S. Constitution. Aside from being unconstitutional, this is just tacky.

The Independent Journal Review also posted an article on the subject.

The article in the Independent Journal Review reported:

This is how the Obama administration rolls. Get in a confrontation with the president, and some IRS branch patent office makes trouble for you. That’s how “community organizers” do business. That’s the Chicago Way.

The latest example? After Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder made it painfully, abundantly clear that he believes their team name is a tribute to their historic legacy and an honorable reflection of the spirit they aim to incorporate, a lowly patent office clerk just went ahead and cancelled their trademarks.

…The timing of this move is pretty convenient for the president and is a classic example of both the distraction politics this administration is good for and the lack of seriousness of his administration.

This is clearly petty revenge served up by a president who has little regard for the law or respect for free speech. Just because you are “offended” by something, doesn’t mean you get to violate other people’s rights. This move is obviously less about the Redskins than it is about the president’s thin skin.

Impeachment will not work because the Senate is controlled by Democrats and there is no political will for it, but I hope enough people realize the damage this administration has done to the rule of law to vote the Democrats out of office and limit the damage that can be done in the next two years.

Do you suppose anyone has the emails to show where this action originated?

The Obama Administration’s Guide To Handling A Scandal

On Sunday, Real Clear Politics quoted a transcript of some comments made on Fox News Sunday by Kimberley Strassel describing how the Obama Administration handles scandals.

Ms. Strassel totally understands exactly what is going on. The article reports:

CHRIS WALLACE: Kim, why do you think that the White House keeps playing this card?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, because they can’t say that they did know or else the next question is going to be, why didn’t you do anything about it or why were you allowing this to go on? You almost — you have to wonder if there is a scandal manual in the top drawer of the president’s desk. It isn’t just the I heard about it from the media. There is five steps that this administration keeps repeating every time the scandal comes up. Step one is, well, I didn’t know about it, step two is to express great outrage. When that doesn’t work, step three is to fire some low level bureaucrat.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: The study — The study is going …

STRASSEL: The study comes next. Then, you know, we’re going to wait and see what the I.G. says or the FBI investigation or whatever it is. And then when that doesn’t stop, six months later, you say it’s either A, done or B, all the results are the partisan pushed by Republicans. And it just goes on and on. You could take — this is not just the clips of him repeating again and again I didn’t know about this, when you listen to some of his press conferences, they’re eerie. It’s the exact same language every time.

At what point do American voters realize what is going on here?

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The Economic Recovery In One Graph

Today’s Wall Street Journal posted a story about the latest Gross Domestic Product numbers. The article included the following graph:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Gross Domestic Product grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first quarter of 2014.

The article in the Wall Street Journal explains some of the factors responsible for the low economic growth. Some suggested causes were the extremely cold winter which slowed consumer spending, and the sudden drop in exports, declining at a 7.6% pace in the first quarter.

Obviously, this is not the robust economy the President has been claiming.

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Something To Consider

Be forewarned–this is going to be a controversial article, but it is definitely something to think about.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. A website called The Bunker quotes off the record remarks he made at the time:

”These Negroes, they‘re getting pretty uppity these days and that‘s a problem for us since they‘ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we‘ve got to do something about this, we‘ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.” ~Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat)

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, And is “Great Society” to help the Negro… was recorded on a White House taped (and saved) conversation claiming, “I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.”

In a January 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Williams stated:

Even in the antebellum era, when slaves often weren’t permitted to wed, most black children lived with a biological mother and father. During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. “The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, what Jim Crow couldn’t do, what the harshest racism couldn’t do,” Mr. Williams says. “And that is to destroy the black family.”

Cliven Bundy recently stated (as reported by CNN):

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids – and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch – they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” Bundy continued. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Mr. Bundy has been accused of racism on the basis of that statement. My question is simple, “Is that statement racist, or is that statement honest?”

 

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The Complete Employment Picture

Yesterday CBS News posted an article about jobs and employment in America. On Friday the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate has remained at 6.7 percent and that 192,000 new jobs were added in March. That sounds reasonable, but it does not tell the whole story.

The article included the following snapshot of the statistics:

march-jobs.jpg

There are currently 7.4 million Americans who are working part-time because full-time jobs are not available. The economy has not recovered from the 2008 recession, and unfortunately until ObamaCare is repealed, it will not. As long as employers can save large amounts of money by hiring part-time employees that they do not have to provide healthcare for, they will do so. Robert Gibbs suggested this week that the employer mandate would probably never actually go into effect. If the employer mandate does not go into effect, America may see the return of the full-time worker. However, if the employer mandate does not go into effect, and the uninsured do not sign up for ObamaCare (which they have not), then what exactly did ObamaCare accomplish other than totally disrupting the American medical infrastructure?

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The Change In Work Hours In America

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the February jobs report released on March 7. The report shows that employment fell, as it has in four out of the past six months and in more than one-third of the months during the past two years. This is not an indication of a strong, growing economy.

The article reports:

Although it is often overlooked, a key statistic for understanding the labor market is the length of the average workweek. Small changes in the average workweek imply large changes in total hours worked. The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.

…What accounts for the declining average workweek? In some instances—but not this one—a minor drop could be the result of a statistical fluke caused by rounding. Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics only reports hours to the nearest 1/10th, a small movement, say, to 34.449 hours from 34.450 hours, would be reported as a reduction in hours worked to 34.4 from 34.5, vastly overstating the loss in worked time. But the six-month decline in the workweek, to 34.2 from 34.5 hours, cannot be the consequence of a rounding error.

There is a rather strong possibility that the decline in working hours is due to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Under that law, businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees (full time is defined as 30 hours a week), are not required to provide health insurance for their employees. This is one example of one of the many unintended consequences of ObamaCare, although there are many people who would argue that it is an intended consequence.

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Giving Our Children Information They Don’t Need While Not Telling Them What They Need To Know

Camille Paglia posted an article at Time Magazine yesterday entitled, “Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed.” It’s a rather odd concept, but she makes some very worthwhile points.

The article states:

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

The first paragraph is something that was not an issue thirty years ago, the second paragraph involves issues that parents used to handle thirty years ago. Ms. Paglia is looking for a scientific approach to sex education in biology classes and a practical non-agenda driven approach to life issues in single-sex classes. This makes sense. Many parents are not telling their children the truth about the emotional and physical cost of abortion or the emotional differences between men and women.

Please follow the link and read the entire article. This is a very common-sense approach to an issue that has our society needs to deal with in a way that helps our young people grow up to be healthy and productive adults.

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The Mystery Deepens

The world is searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The Diplomat posted an interesting story yesterday about the flight. There were at least two passengers on the plane with stolen passports.

The article notes:

“The counterfeiting of all sorts of identifications is very widespread, particularly out of Thailand,” Steve Vickers, a Hong Kong-based risk consultant, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s pretty easy to pick up a stolen or a counterfeit passport.”

…“Any flight of that size in Asia would be carrying a couple of people with false passports,” said Clive Williams, a counter-terrorism expert at Macquarie University in Australia. “When you think about the number of passports that have been stolen or gone missing around the world, it could be related, but it is probably not.”

This morning, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said that a total of four passengers are being investigated: the two impersonating Kozel and Marald, as well as two other travelers with European passports described as “possibly Ukrainian.”

There are a lot of theories as to what has happened to the plane. One commenter on the article in The Diplomat explained how an empty fuel tank could have exploded. While that explanation is as feasible as any other, it doesn’t explain why the plane would have changed direction and dropped below the radar. I would also wonder if there are any old World War II airfields in the area that could be used without raising suspicion. But what would be the purpose of stealing an airplane? Why has no one demanded ransom or claimed credit?

It is also somewhat odd that we have not heard stories from anyone who is relieved that by some chain of events that they missed the plane. Usually after a plane crash, at least one person comes forward explaining that they got caught in traffic and missed the plane. I personally know a soldier who was coming home from Iraq and had to change planes in an American airport and missed at least three flights because kind, patriotic Americans kept on buying him drinks!

Like everyone else, I really have no clue as to what has happened.

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The Timeline Of The IRS Scandal

This article has two sources, an article posted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday and an article posted by Scott Johnson at Power Line today. Both articles printed the timeline of events surrounding the IRS’s attempt to curtail the free speech of groups that opposed the Obama Administration.

One of the most telling events on the timeline is from the Wall Street Journal article:

• Feb. 11, 2010: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) says he will introduce legislation known as the Disclose Act to place new restrictions on some political activity by corporations and force more public disclosure of contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations. Mr. Schumer says the bill is intended to “embarrass companies” out of exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. “The deterrent effect should not be underestimated,” he said.

All of this was in response to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations to make political donations. This ruling finally leveled the playing field–the unions had been contributing massive amounts of money to political campaigns for years. (See rightwinggranny.com). The actions of the IRS were an attempt to undo the leveling of the playing field that occurred with the Citizens United decision.

Please follow one of the links above to see the timeline. It paints a picture of a genuine attempt to limit free speech in America.

The President may or may not have given any direct orders regarding the use of the IRS to limit free speech, but the ending paragraph of the Wall Street Journal article truly sums up what happened:

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Unfortunately we are dealing with a President who chooses to act more like a king than a president.

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I Might Be A Member Of The Flat Earth Society

I might be a member of the flat earth society. I don”t believe the earth is flat, but I don’t believe that global warming is caused by man either. So Secretary of State John Kerry compares me to a member of the flat earth society. Well, let’s see how John Kerry’s data on man-made global warming stacks up with reality.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article today about what the scientific models have predicted about global warming and what has actually happened.

This is the chart:

wsj-temps-lg2

As you can see, the truth has simply not kept up with the scientific predictions.

The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday that stated:

“Consensus” science that ignores reality can have tragic consequences if cures are ignored or promising research is abandoned. The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker. The recent Obama administration announcement that it would not provide aid for fossil-fuel energy in developing countries, thereby consigning millions of people to energy poverty, is all too reminiscent of the Sick and Health Board denying fresh fruit to dying British sailors.

Before we take actions that negatively impact the economy of the entire world, we really do need to make sure that the science we are using to justify the actions is valid.

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Big Brother Has Plans To Get Bigger

On February 10, The Wall Street Journal posted an article by Ajit Pai about a proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiative.

The article reports:

Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

The FCC has a list of questions for station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters. Those questions deal with the ‘news philosophy’ of the station and how the station ensures that the community gets crucial information. Answering the questions is supposedly voluntary, but the FCC is in charge of renewing the station’s license every eight years, so it is in the station’s best interest to answer the questions.

The article also reports:

The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.

This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?

The bottom line here is that this is a really bad idea. It is an interference with the free press, which used to be considered unconstitutional.

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More IRS Abuses Are Coming To Light

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal posted an article about the IRS targeting conservative groups for audits. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has stated that the committee’s continuing investigation has found that the IRS also singled out established conservative tax-exempt groups for audits. That is not a surprise when you consider the harassment that donors to conservative causes underwent during the run-up to the 2012 election. As I have previously mentioned, my husband and I were audited for the first time in 45 years. The auditors found nothing, but it took them almost a year to find nothing.

The Democrats in Congress are currently attempting to pass laws that would severely limit the free speech of conservative organizations. Under the new guidelines the Democrats are seeking, the voter guides showing the voting records of candidates would be considered unlawful political activity by organizations that have traditionally distributed them.

The article includes the current spin the Democrats are using to attempt to hide what they are doing and what they have done:

“Instead of this prestigious committee using its broad jurisdiction to address critical issues that confront us, it has been consumed by a tireless effort by Republicans to find political scandal, regardless of what the truth holds, as they look toward the November election,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.).

He also chided Republicans for seeking to delay the regulations, noting that “what really remains hidden are donors to groups pouring millions of dollars into campaign advertising.”

The new IRS regulations proposed by the Democrats are a threat to free speech. If they are enacted, most Americans will only hear one side of any political issue.

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Controlling The Message

Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal posted an article on Thursday about the IRS and the 2014 election.

The article reports:

President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election. They’ve been at even greater pains this week to ensure that the same conservative groups are silenced in the 2014 midterms.

That’s the big, dirty secret of the omnibus negotiations. As one of the only bills destined to pass this year, the omnibus was—behind the scenes—a flurry of horse trading. One of the biggest fights was over GOP efforts to include language to stop the IRS from instituting a new round of 501(c)(4) targeting. The White House is so counting on the tax agency to muzzle its political opponents that it willingly sacrificed any manner of its own priorities to keep the muzzle in place.

The article explains that a new rule introduced by the Treasury Department and the IRS during Thanksgiving will recategorize as “political” many of the educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in.

The article further reports:

And an IRS rule that purports to—as Mr. Werfel explained—”improve our work in the tax-exempt area” completely ignores the biggest of political players in the tax-exempt area: unions. The guidance is directed only at 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups—the tax category that has of late been flooded by conservative groups. Mr. Obama’s union foot soldiers—which file under 501(c)(5)—can continue playing in politics.

Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents targeted tea party groups, has filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting documents or correspondence with the White House or outside groups in the formulation of this rule.

The article reports the response:

Treasury sent a letter to Ms. Mitchell this week saying it wouldn’t have her documents until April—after the rule’s comment period closes. It added that if she didn’t like it, she can “file suit.” The IRS has yet to respond.

The abuse of the IRS is continuing. Unless someone in Congress stands up against it or Ms. Mitchell is successful in her quest for information or her lawsuit, the 2014 election is in danger. If the Tea Party and similar groups are silenced, there will be no one to stand for the Constitution during the 2014 campaign.

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Why Leadership Matters

Yesterday Hot Air posted an article about the loss of economic freedom in America.

The article reports:

For going on 20 years now, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have been putting together an annual Index of Economic Freedom by evaluating countries the world over based on ten criteria along the lines of property rights, government spending, freedom from corruption, trade freedom, and the like. They released the 2014 edition of their annaul Index today, and here’s the good news: Worldwide economic freedom has reached record levels, huzzah! The various governments of 114 countries took steps in 2013 that increased their citizens’ economic freedom, and 43 countries all over the world have now reached their highest ranking in the Index’s history. Awesome, right?

But, here’s the bad news: The United States is no longer among the relative elite of these economically free nations. Oof.

What happened? The article points out that a tax rate exceeding 43% cannot even keep pace with the government’s runaway spending. The article also cites the problem of over-regulation by the government which impacts economic and personal freedom.

The article concludes:

As I mentioned earlier today, the Obama administration is currently prepping for the president’s fifth State of the Union address by touting all the sweet executive actions they’ve freshly come up with to spur along the economy should Congress fail to act on their legislative proposals. Yet again, however, the Obama administration’s ideas all seem to center around ways to spend more taxpayer money, increase top-down federal intervention, and layer the regulations on even more thickly — i.e., take our economic freedom even further down the drain — and their only regret seems to be that this spitefully obstructionist ‘Republican’ Congress of ours hasn’t permitted them to do even more of the same.

Leadership matters.

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Crony Capitalism At Work

It is not news that the Obama Administration practices Crony Capitalism, but sometimes it is news to see how far the Administration will go to destroy a business or industry they have decided they do not like.

Breitbart.com posted a story today about the Obama Administration’s war on the private lending industry: third party payment processors (“TPPPs”), payday lenders, and online lenders. The war, referred to in the Administration as ‘Operation Choke Point,’ is designed to destroy these three industries.

The article at Breitbart.com explains:

According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal initiative now known as ‘Operation Choke Point’ is an outgrowth of the President’s Financial Fraud Task Force, established by President Obama by Executive Order in 2009. It also appears to have been kicked off in secret by the Department of Justice, FDIC, and the CFPB in early 2013 without the requisite statutory authority. Officials at the Department of Justice have withheld information about the program from Congress, though they have eagerly shared details with federal financial institution examiners authorized to supervise and discipline the nation’s banks and related financial institutions.

…The members of Congress warned Holder and Gruenberg that these actions were undertaken by their respective agencies without statutory authority. “Your actions to ‘choke off’ short-term lenders by changing the structure of the financial system are outside your congressional mandate,” they wrote. “With the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress acknowledged the need for short-term credit products and did not try to limit online lender’s or storefront operators’ ability to offer such products.”

The article goes on to explain some of the efforts by Congress to obtain information on the program and to fulfill their constitutional responsibility of oversight. Generally speaking, they have been blocked at every turn.

The article concludes:

The Obama administration, by treating Congress with disdain and failing to provide evidence of the statutory authority for its actions, is signaling that it has no intention of stopping. Up next for the administration is the expansion of the tactics used in ‘Operation Choke Point’ to a whole host of industries the Obama administration does not like and has identified for targeting, including manufacturers of guns and ammunition.

When will we get our real constitutional government back?

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If The American Economy Is Recovering Why Do We Need To Extend Unemployment Benefits?

I am not unsympathetic to people who have lost their jobs during the recession. I know that there are a lot of them. I don’t mind paying unemployment benefits to people while they look for jobs. I just don’t understand why unemployment benefits should be paid to people for almost two years. I don’t think that encourages people to look for jobs.

The Wall Street Journal posted an editorial today about the economic impact of extended unemployment benefits. The article reminds us that according to the current unemployment numbers, the unemployment rate is 7 percent–not 10 percent rate as it was when the extension of benefits was originally passed.

The article reports:

This also ignores that states and employers are already paying for this supposed free lunch in the form of higher job-killing payroll taxes under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, or Futa. At least 24 states have been forced to raise this tax since 2010 and the Labor Department says it will rise again in 13 states to repay $20 billion in loans and interest they owe the feds for helping to finance state-funded benefits. This federal tax is applied to 0.6% of a worker’s first $7,000 of annual wages. The rate rises automatically by 0.3% for every year states fail to repay their unemployment insurance loans from Uncle Sam.

…Economist Martin Feldstein long ago proposed a better plan to create a self-insurance component of unemployment insurance with tax dollars going into an employee trust fund for each worker that could be drawn during a bout of unemployment. Workers could keep whatever money was left over at retirement, which would encourage workers to become re-employed more quickly after losing a job.

Instead the current system provides as much as two years of benefits for not working and raises payroll taxes on employers even as some 20 million Americans are still unemployed, underemployed or discouraged from looking for work. None of this will help the economy create more jobs, which is what the jobless need far more than another government check.

The American taxpayer cannot afford to pay people not to work for extended periods of time. We are in danger of losing our work ethic. There was a time in this country when a person would take any job available rather than take money from the government. Unfortunately, we have come a long way from that time. Unemployment benefits should be paid for a long enough time period to allow a person to find a job. Two years is simply too long to pay a person for not working.

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The End Of The Judicial Filibuster

On Thursday the Senate voted to end the filibuster for most presidential nominees.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The vote was a landmark moment for the Senate, a tradition-bound institution that is slow to change and prides itself on giving power to the minority party. Dozens of senators were seated at their desks as the day’s proceedings began, a rarity.

The key midday vote was 52-48, with all but three Democrats—Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—voting for the change and all 45 Republicans opposed.

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted his thoughts on the vote yesterday.

The article at Power Line reminds us:

At a fundraiser earlier this month, he told liberal donors that he is “remaking the courts.”

Recognizing that the filibuster stood in the way of a full radical makeover, Obama personally lobbied three Democratic Senators who were undecided about whether to eliminate it. Obama reportedly told them “how important this was to him and our ability to get anything done for the rest of the term.”

The White House stressed the need to confirm three new judges for the D.C. Circuit, which rules on a wide swath of regulatory issues. Stymied by Congress, Obama plans to push his left-wing agenda through regulatory overreach. He needs liberal judges to prevent the resulting rules from being overturned.

Paul Mirengoff explains in the article that the value of the decision by the Democrats in the Senate to change the rules about filibusters is that is confirms that fact that our courts have become political entities. He celebrates the fact that the passage of this law exposes the fact that our courts have become political. As Americans, we can now go about the business of electing people who will begin to undo the damage that has been done to our government by politicizing our courts. Every Senator who opposed this measure during the Bush Administration and supported it now should be voted out of office just on the basis of being a hypocrite.

Just a side note on this article. I went to my usual site of Thomas.gov to look for more information on the filibuster change. Thomas.gov has been altered considerably and is no longer as user-friendly as it used to be. I am hoping that this is a step in the direction of improvement of the site and not an attempt to make it more difficult for people like me to find out what is going on in Congress.

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Why ObamaCare Will Not Work For Everyone

President Obama sold ObamaCare as a program that would provide healthcare for everyone who needed it, improve healthcare and lower cost for those who already had insurance, and generally do wonderful things for the American healthcare system. The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday explaining why ObamaCare is potentially a death sentence for Edie Littlefield Sundby. On Monday I posted an article about Ms. Sundby (rightwinggranny.com). Ms. Sundby has been fighting stage-4 gallbladder cancer for seven years. Stage-4 gallbladder cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. She has survived with the help of good doctors and good health insurance. Under ObamaCare she can no longer keep that insurance or all of her doctors.

Yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal explained:

Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s chief political spinner, sent out a now infamous tweet on Monday linking to a left-wing website that blamed Mrs. Sundby’s policy loss on UnitedHealthcare. The White House default is always to blame the insurers. But UnitedHealthcare only fled the state because ObamaCare’s subsidized exchanges are meant to steal their customers. As more people are pulled into government coverage, policies like Mrs. Sundby’s are harder to sustain economically, so insurers bail.

…As it imposes these policy cancellations, ObamaCare is also systematically destroying one of the best features of the current individual market, known as “guaranteed renewability at class-average rates.” This meant that once an insurance policy was issued, people could renew their coverage year after year at the same rates as their peer group. So someone like Mrs. Sundby who got sick would not pay higher premiums than average and her insurer could not deny coverage—unless UnitedHealthcare quit the business. This guaranteed renewability is no longer a guarantee thanks to ObamaCare.

…The reason Edie Sundby had to lose her plan is because her needs, and her measure of her own well-being, are different from Mr. Obama’s, and that is now unacceptable.

Healthcare should be a decision made between people and their doctors. The government has no place dictating medical care. If the government wants to provide health insurance and healthcare to Americans without health insurance, it should do that with tax credits–not in a way that disrupts those Americans who already have insurance and doctors they like. We also need to remember that being a profitable company is not a sin–profitable companies employ people and help the economy.

 

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The Realities Of ObamaCare

ObamaCare is more than a political issue. ObamaCare is an issue of life and death for people with serious diseases who have health insurance. It would have been very easy to pass a law that provided people who did not have health insurance with insurance without impacting those people who had health insurance they depended on. Unfortunately the Obama Administration chose to disrupt the health insurance of Americans with insurance in order to provide coverage for those Americans without health insurance.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal posted an article by Edie Littlefield Sundby about how ObamaCare is impacting her healthcare.

Ms. Sundby writes:

For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.

…Two things have been essential in my fight to survive stage-4 cancer. The first are doctors and health teams in California and Texas: at the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, and its Moores Cancer Center; Stanford University’s Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The second element essential to my fight is a United Healthcare PPO (preferred provider organization) health-insurance policy.

Since March 2007 United Healthcare has paid $1.2 million to help keep me alive, and it has never once questioned any treatment or procedure recommended by my medical team. The company pays a fair price to the doctors and hospitals, on time, and is responsive to the emergency treatment requirements of late-stage cancer. Its caring people in the claims office have been readily available to talk to me and my providers.

But in January, United Healthcare sent me a letter announcing that they were pulling out of the individual California market. The company suggested I look to Covered California starting in October.

…Before the Affordable Care Act, health-insurance policies could not be sold across state lines; now policies sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges may not be offered across county lines.

This lady has beat the odds of survival because of very good healthcare. She will now be denied that quality of healthcare under ObamaCare. This is no longer an abstract issue–it is now personal. Not only can she not keep the health insurance she liked, she cannot keep the doctors and the hospital she depended on. ObamaCare needs to be fixed quickly or done away with and replaced with a plan that actually works.

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The Empty Chair In The Oval Office

Bret Stephens posted an article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday  about the leadership style of President Obama. The article is titled, “The Unbearable Lightness of Obama.” Mr. Stephens points out that the President says that he was briefed on NSA eavesdropping in general, but never told the specifics of listening in on foreign leaders. In terms of ObamaCare there was no person with the right technology experience involved in launching the website.

Some other observations in the article:

Besides the Syrian government‘s gains, there was mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s troops had repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilians.

“Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient and disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.”

…”On Saturday, as the shutdown drama played out on Capitol Hill, President Obama played golf at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.”

…”In polo shirt, shorts and sandals, President Obama headed to the golf course Friday morning with a couple of old friends, then flew to Camp David for a long weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry was relaxing at his vacation home in Nantucket.

“Aides said both men were updated as increasingly bloody clashes left dozens dead in Egypt, but from outward appearances they gave little sense that the Obama administration viewed the broader crisis in Cairo with great alarm.”

Please follow the link above to the article to see further examples. The article concludes:

Call Mr. Obama’s style indifferent, aloof or irresponsible, but a president who governs like this reaps the whirlwind—if not for himself, then for his country.

I don’t think this is the kind of leadership America wants, but since the majority of Americans voted for this man, they got what they asked for.

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Gangster Government???

Periodically I post an article on this website that deals with something I have no clue about. This is one of those articles. I understand some of the basics, but the details of this situation are very much in the financial weeds.

Peter Wallison was a guest on the Bill Bennett radio show this morning talking about some recent government actions against J P Morgan Chase. A website called bizjournals.com offers some insight as to what is going on.

The bizjournals article reports:

Warren Buffett came to the defense of JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon Tuesday even as the New York bank is reaching a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department over the sale of mortgage-backed securities ahead of the financial crisis.

…”I think $13 billion is a lot of money, and I think Jamie has done a very good job of running JPMorgan,” Buffett said. “He helped out the economy enormously when he took on Bear Stearns and he didn’t get an indemnification clause. There wasn’t even time for that sort of thing.”

The thing to keep in mind here is that Jamie Dimon originally supported President Obama. Mr. Dimon became a critic of the Obama Administration after the Dodd-Frank bill was passed. The latest charge against JP Morgan is only one of several charges against JP Morgan that have come in the past three or four months.

Evidently the latest charge against JP Morgan is related to the fact that they sold sub-prime mortgages to investors. Somehow the government seems to have forgotten that they were the ones that demanded the writing of these sub-prime mortgages. Mr. Wallison also mentioned that many of the things JP Morgan is charged with are things they did not do, but that the companies they acquired at the request of the government did.

In his interview with Bill Bennett, Mr. Wallison noted that it is very worrisome that the government can go after a company in the way that they have gone after JP Morgan. This tactic could be used to discourage CEO’s of companies from speaking out against the policies of the government.

 

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