Archive for Constitution

Is Obama Administration Blocking Mergers Of Republican CEO’s?

Looks like it

Like all mergers, the proposed $45.2 billion Comcast CMCSA +1.28% merger with Time Warner Cable TWC +0.97%—the largest and second largest cable providers in the nation—has its advocates and critics. There are certainly important questions about what impact the merger would have on consumers—but there are equally significant issues associated with the highly politicized approval process.

The Obama Department of Justice, led by Eric Holder, must review the merger and decide whether to approve or block it. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and Justice Department have a long track record of pushing the rule of law aside and making decisions based on politics. Will the proposed Comcast merger with Time Warner TWX +0.81% Cable receive the scrutiny it deserves, or simply be fast-tracked for approval based on politics?

Let’s look at some history—which is detailed in a new Frontiers of Freedom report. In 2009, the Obama Administration gave Solyndra, a failing California solar panel firm, a $536 million “loan.” Shortly thereafter, Solyndra was fully bankrupt. Prior to the loan, Solyndra executives and board members gave generously to Barack Obama, including Tulsa oil billionaire and Obama bundler George Kaiser, one of Solyndra’s main investors.

United Health Group is expecting higher earnings thanks to ObamaCare. After United supported passing the plan, one of its subsidiaries, Quality Software Services, Inc. won a contract of $90 million for the rollout of Healthcare.gov. United Health’s Executive Vice President Anthony Welters and his wife are significant Obama donors and bundlers. The Administration did not perceive any conflict of interest in providing the nation’s largest health insurer with the keys to Healthcare.gov.

If money buys favors from the Obama Administration, a lack of it produces the opposite.

In 2011, AT&T announced it would seek permission from the government for a $39 billion merger with T-Mobile. Processing the application was expected to take at least twelve months. But within five months, the Department of Justice announced it had filed a lawsuit blocking the friendly merger.

Enter AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson, well known to be a free market Republican favoring pro-growth tax reform and opposing Obama-style redistributing income from the working class. Mr. Stephenson has a long history of Republican giving, and averaging the three election cycles between 2006–2010, AT&T employees supported Republican candidates by 60%.

Key government players during merger talks were Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Renata Hesse, now Deputy Attorney General for Anti Trust at DOJ, and of course, Attorney General Eric Holder, who runs the most blatantly politicized DOJ in history.

FCC Chairman Genachowski is a longtime technology advisor for Barack Obama, serving on his transition team. Obama appointed him FCC Chairman in 2009. He and his wife, another Obama appointee, are long time Obama donors. Ms. Hesse, then in charge of the AT&T merger at FCC, has donated more than $6K to Obama for America. In a policy forum last year, Ms. Hesse stated the Obama Administration’s approach to antitrust was “vigorous enforcement.” But does that apply evenly across all merger applications?

On February 14, 2014, Comcast announced intent to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal worth $45.2 billion—$6 billion more than the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. This merger would also result in an approximate 40% market share. Overseeing this application at DOJ will be vigorous enforcer Deputy AG Hesse. As with AT&T, will the FCC and Department of Justice deny the Comcast merger, and in record time?

If AT&T is “red,” Comcast and Time Warner Cable are deep “blue.” In 2012, Comcast employees donated $465K to the Democrat National Committee vs. $114K to the Republican National Committee and supported Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by nearly four to one. Time Warner donations were $442K Obama and $28K Romney.

You get the drift. They’re so slimy.

- Aggie

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Obama Administration Desperate For Money, Stealing Tax Refunds From Children If Parents Failed To Pay Up Back In The 1970s

Yes, folks, an authoritarian, lawless regime can do stuff like this. If you like your tax refund, you can keep your tax refund.

I am alerting you to this, because who reads the Washington Post? :) Readers of BTL will make it go viral.

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

Mary Grice
Mary Grice

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy.

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Since the drive to collect on very old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were more than 10 years old. Those debts were owed to many federal agencies, but the one that has many Americans howling this tax season is the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

“It was a shock,” said Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

CAN YOU IMAGINE THE HOWLS IF THE G. W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAD DONE THIS????? The accusations of racism? Lawlessness?

Hey O-Bots, what if Granny didn’t pay? Do you suppose the government can come after you?

Grice filed suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court in Greenbelt this week, alleging that the government violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for a $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number.

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

They are doing this because they can.

Grice, who works for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in Takoma Park, in the same apartment she’s resided in since 1984, never got any notice about a debt.

Social Security officials told her they had sent their notice to her post office box in Roxboro, N.C. Grice rented that box from 1977 to 1979 and never since. And Social Security has Grice’s current address: Every year, it sends her a statement about her benefits.

“Their record-keeping seems to be very spotty,” she said.

Ya’ Think???? Are you suggesting that the government is maybe a touch incompetent? Hey, here’s a thought. Let’s given them an additional 1/6th of our economy to manage – our health care system – and see how it goes. Maybe if they can’t raise enough dough there, they can come after saps like you and me.

Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.

“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid.”

Grice, the middle of five children, said neither of her surviving siblings — one older, one younger — has had any money taken by the government. When Grice asked why she had been selected to pay the debt, she was told it was because she had an income and her address popped up — the correct one this time.

You see? They took it because they could. Plain and simple. They wanted, they took.

Think Ms. Grice’s case is a fluke?

In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.

“It was never Mike’s money, it was his mother’s,” Brenda Samonds said. “The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter. We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.” The government mailed its notice about the debt to the house Mike’s mother lived in 40 years ago.

And for all you math whizzes out there, cogitate on this for a moment: How much employee time was spent stealing $189.10 from Brenda and Mike Samonds of Glenarm, Illinois? Because I will bet you a nickel that they spend more, for more, finding and collecting that money than they acquired in stealing it. If we really want to add to the Treasury, perhaps we should fire 10% of all IRS staffers?

Here’s a nice quote:

“I’ll put in the request,” a Social Security clerk told Verbich, “but in reality, you’ll never get anything.”

In other words: We take because we can.

Grice was also told there was little point in seeking a waiver of her debt. Collections can only be halted if the person passes two tests, Clark said: The taxpayer must prove that he “is without fault, and [that] repayment of the overpayment would deprive the person of income needed for ordinary living expenses.”

In other words: We are an authoritarian regime and you have no recourse.

The Moral of the Story? Never, ever overpay your taxes. Pay what you owe, fair and square, when it is due. They cannot confiscate your refund because your father happened to die in 1960, and your mother may or may not have received too much money in benefits, if there is no refund due.

- Aggie

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Brave Man Stands Up To Eric Holder

Let’s send him cookies when he ends up in prison.

- Aggie

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Obama’s IRS Lies And The MSM

In fact, the IRS did not hassle “progressive” groups

IRS agents testified before Congress that the agency’s political targeting did not apply to progressive groups as Democrats and the media have claimed, according to a bombshell new staff report prepared by the House Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa.

IRS agents testified before Oversight that ACORN groups were scrutinized because the agency thought they were old organizations applying as new ones. Emerge America was scrutinized for potential “improper private benefit.” No evidence exists that the IRS requested additional information from any Occupy Wall Street group.

“Only seven applications in the IRS backlog contained the word ‘progressive,’ all of which were then approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups received unprecedented review and experienced years-long delays. While some liberal-oriented groups were singled out for scrutiny, evidence shows it was due to non-political reasons,” according to the Oversight staff report, which was obtained by The Daily Caller.

“[T]he Administration and congressional Democrats have seized upon the notion that the IRS’s targeting was not just limited to conservative applicants,” the report states. “These Democratic claims are flat-out wrong and have no basis in any thorough examination of the facts. Yet, the Administration’s chief defenders continue to make these assertions in a concerted effort to deflect and distract from the truth about the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt applicants.”

“[T]here is simply no evidence that any liberal or progressive group received enhanced scrutiny because its application reflected the organization’s political views,” the report stated.

Big surprise.

- Aggie

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Identify The Difference Between Wisconsin Prosecutors And The KGB

From the Wall Street Journal, this depressing story of Democrats run amok.

I am so appalled by this that I am reprinting it in full. This poor woman is alone and persecuted by the state apparatus. Read this, and then explain to me why the US is better than Putin’s Russia or any other authoritarian regime.

‘My greatest fear,” says Kelly Rindfleisch, is that most people “look at my story and think, this is just politics. And it’s only going to get worse until all of us are impacted.”

The resident of Columbus, Wis., is sitting at a restaurant in Chicago, talking for the first time to a reporter about the four-year criminal investigation that has stolen her life savings, isolated her from friends and former colleagues, and put her in danger of losing her home. As a midlevel staffer for then-Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker, she became collateral damage in the pursuit of Mr. Walker by Milwaukee prosecutors. When the secret investigation turned up nothing on the governor, prosecutors made Ms. Rindfleisch their consolation prize.

In October 2012, she pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office for sending fundraising emails during the workday for Brett Davis, a candidate for lieutenant governor. She is now appealing that conviction, but she is also a target of prosecutors’ continuing pursuit of theories of illegal political coordination between conservative groups and the Walker administration. A leak about that secret probe (which she won’t discuss) recently cost her only means of income.

In slacks and a boxy sweater, the 45-year old Ms. Rindfleisch has a defeated tone but still sounds incredulous about the process that began with her looking for a job to pay the bills and ended with prosecutors turning her life into a “deterrent.” It’s a cautionary tale about what it’s like to get caught in the grinder of modern winner-take-all politics.

The story began in January 2010 when Ms. Rindfleisch was hired as a policy adviser for Mr. Walker’s Milwaukee County executive’s office. To make her mortgage payments, she took a second job as a part-time fundraiser for Mr. Davis. Mr. Walker was gearing up to run for governor in 2010 but endorsed no one for lieutenant governor.

Then in May 2010 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story about Darlene Wink, a constituent-services coordinator in the county executive’s office who had posted pro-Walker comments on the newspaper’s website. Investigators from the district attorney’s office soon seized documents and a computer from Ms. Wink’s office.

Affidavits in support of search warrants that we’ve seen from that period show that prosecutors and chief investigator David Budde used this as an opening to investigate others who had corresponded with Ms. Wink. Eventually they happened onto a senior aide to Mr. Walker, Tim Russell, and his correspondence with Ms. Rindfleisch.

On Nov. 1, 2010, the day before Mr. Walker was elected governor, investigators from the D.A.’s office, including Mr. Budde, returned with a warrant for the office computer’s hard drives. “Our chief of staff wasn’t there so I was the one who had to deal with it,” Ms. Rindfleisch says.

Investigators told her they were looking into her work for Mr. Davis and had search warrants for her house and car. “I said I needed to contact county corporation counsel and they wouldn’t let me. . . . I assume that they’re using the John Doe secrecy order to justify that.” Under Wisconsin law a John Doe is a kind of grand jury probe bound by secrecy, though somehow details about the targets always seem to leak. (It was widely reported in 2012 that Mr. Budde had a Recall Walker sign in his front yard.)

“They took away my phone and kept me in my office against my will” while taking the computers, Ms. Rindfleisch says. One investigator, Bob Stelter, “pulled me into the room and told me how much trouble I was in.”

She soon learned the issue was her fundraising work for Mr. Davis. Though she had not used county resources—she used her personal computer, personal phone and email accounts to do the fundraising—she didn’t always leave the building. “For me, it didn’t make sense to take five minutes to get outside to respond to an email for 30 seconds and then spend another five minutes to get back inside,” she says. “The only thing I was using was time.”

Though her hours were supposed to be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., she says she never left at 4 p.m. and averaged 9-10 hours a day in the office. According to prosecutors, her work for Mr. Davis was perfectly legal but her presence in a government building when she sent the emails was a felony. With that threat dangling, the D.A.’s office gave Ms. Rindfleisch immunity to talk about anything related to Mr. Walker and told her that investigators would “look favorably” if she cooperated.

“I had answered all their questions truthfully and provided any factual information I had knowledge of,” Ms. Rindfleisch says, but they kept asking the same questions and intimating that she was holding back. “In one of the interrogations, they had the gall to bring up my dad. . . . They were going through my emails, and my dad’s obituary was in there. . . . I wanted to say, my dad would be disgusted by what you are doing, that you are destroying everything he put his life on the line for” fighting in World War II.

As an older single woman, Ms. Rindfleisch says, prosecutors may have seen her as an “easy target” who could be pressured to implicate others. “I know who they were targeting. They were targeting Tim Russell, Jim Villa and John Hiller who were the three closest to the governor. . . . I felt they were trying to intimidate me into providing speculation that would implicate [them] in some wrongdoing. But I didn’t have any knowledge of anything they’ve done wrong.”

When her cooperation produced nothing against Mr. Walker, Democratic District Attorney John Chisholm charged Ms. Rindfleisch in January 2012 with four felony counts of misconduct in public office. “I had been told again and again and again that if I cooperated they would look favorably on this. And instead they charged me with four felonies that could have amounted to 12 and a half years in prison.”

Fundraising in a public building is a misdemeanor under section 11.36 of the Wisconsin criminal code. But in Ms. Rindfleisch’s case, prosecutors opted for the much less specific misconduct charge in order to convict her of a felony. Section 946.12 of state law bars public officials from acting in a way that is contrary to their duties and confers a “dishonest advantage” on themselves or others.

By then the political environment was vicious. Wisconsin was inflamed over Mr. Walker’s union reforms and election recall fervor was at its peak. “One of the Madison stations broadcast my address and this was at the height of the recall and they were trying to get signatures,” she says. She was unable to pay her legal bills.

“I was in a deep, deep depression,” Ms. Rindfleisch says. “I knew I wouldn’t make it through [a trial], having to sit there and listen to people talk about me, and I knew that emotionally I couldn’t do it. So Frank [Gimbel, her lawyer] got me the best deal he could,” pleading no contest to one felony. At her plea hearing, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher would only accept the deal with a guilty plea. “The judge sentenced me to [six months in] jail and three years probation, which is completely inconsistent with what other people have been sentenced to.”

It was, however, consistent with what prosecutors requested in a sentencing memo written by assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf. Like many criminal defendants, Ms. Rindfleisch had “positive aspects of her life,” he wrote, but with the exception of a minor detail she “provided no information deemed useful by prosecutors.” While that doesn’t mean she was untruthful, he continued, “it is my judgment that her loyalties rested and continue to rest” with the Republican Party and Friends of Scott Walker.

The memo asked the judge not to be swayed by Ms. Rindfleisch’s good character, but to see her work as an “aggravated offense” that “is properly addressed with a jail sentence as a condition of probation.” “Deterrence,” he added, “is a key component” of her sentence.

At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Landgraf spent most of his time discussing issues unrelated to her charges—spending over an hour on a 78-page slideshow largely composed of emails and other allegations of coordination between the county executive’s office and the Scott Walker for Governor campaign. No charges were ever filed against Ms. Rindfleisch related to her communications with the Walker campaign.

As for residual loyalty with Mr. Walker and the GOP, there’s no evidence of that. Mr. Walker has declined multiple opportunities to speak on Ms. Rindfleisch’s behalf, and her former colleagues have been similarly silent.

“I liquidated my entire retirement, $75,000, to pay part of my legal fees,” she says, and she now owes thousands of dollars in taxes on the money she withdrew. She asked Phil Prange, a friend and fundraiser for former Gov. Tommy Thompson, for help with a legal defense fund, but prosecutors heard about it and called to ask him about it. After that, there was no more help. “They cut off any means I had of being able to pay for those bills . . . They did everything they could to financially devastate me,” she says. (Mr. Prange declined to comment.)

And they’re still doing it. In February, prosecutors disclosed her as a target of the current John Doe investigation by failing to redact her initials (as well as those of Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe ) on court documents. If this was an accident, it also conveniently exposed two of the prosecutors’ main political targets. Despite her plea deal, Ms. Rindfleisch has the right to challenge the process used for evidence gathering and she is now appealing her conviction on grounds that the search warrants were overly broad. Mr. O’Keefe has spoken out against the current Doe investigation in statements to this newspaper.

Last month, a court released some 27,000 pages of Ms. Rindfleisch’s personal emails at the request of Wisconsin media outlets. That exposed thousands of personal emails irrelevant to any public interest in the case, further isolated her from friends and made it impossible for her to get a job. When the news of the second John Doe probe broke, the man she had been working for doing online marketing stopped returning her calls. She worries about defaulting on her mortgage. Her probation officer has asked if she has considered changing her name.

Ms. Rindfleisch realizes she is taking a risk in speaking publicly about her case. “I have no doubt there will be repercussions for me for talking. They’ll figure out a way to do it. But it’s going to be harder for them to try to do that. If they put me in jail at least people will know exactly what they are doing,” she says, referring to reprisals by prosecutors.

“I’m not telling my story to help [Scott Walker], or to hurt him,” she adds. “I don’t care who is doing it, the right or the left. I don’t want this to happen to anyone. I’m hoping that by telling my story I can wake people up to realize what’s happening.”

Ms. Levy is a senior editorial writer for the Journal who has been following the John Doe investigations in Wisconsin.

I truly believe that before we get on our high horse about Putin or anybody else, we ought to take a look in the mirror.

- Aggie

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The Quote Of The Day

A new game: Best Quote Of The Day Today’s winner, Darrell Isa! Unfortunately, opening the link starts a noisy ad, so might want to avoid at the office.

The Internal Revenue Service’s tea party targeting program is still withholding approval of 19 organizations’ nonprofit status, nearly a year after the scandal was revealed, the agency’s commissioner testified Wednesday to Congress — where he faced fierce criticism from lawmakers who said he is stonewalling.

John Koskinen, the man President Obama tapped to clean up the embattled agency, also said it will take years to respond to all of the document requests from Congress. He told Congress that even complying with a subpoena for emails from just a handful of key employees couldn’t be done before the end of this year because it takes time to have attorneys delete protected taxpayer information.

SEE ALSO: House lawyer: IRS’s Lerner can be held in contempt
Republicans signaled that they are moving ahead with plans to hold former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner in contempt of Congress. They released a memo from the House counsel saying the committee made her aware that it expected her to answer questions at a hearing earlier this month, and that she endangered her legal standing by again refusing to testify.

“The American people believe the IRS is now a politicized agency, because the IRS is a politicized agency,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

- Aggie

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Deconstructing ObamaCare

Ezekiel Emmanuel helpfully provides clues.

Bear in mind that this is a pro-Obama, pro-ObamaCare piece.

To control costs and improve quality in health care, [hah! - Aggie] the White House economic team believed that we had to change the way physicians are paid. About 85% of payments to physicians are fees for individual services—which gives doctors incentives to order more tests and interventions. Fee-for-service puts volume above value; it rewards treating sickness rather than promoting health.

“Bundled payments” are widely recognized as a promising new approach to paying doctors. If fee-for-service payment is like ordering a la carte, bundled payment is like a prix fixe menu: It puts all the costs for an episode of care together for one price. A bundle payment for, say, a hip replacement would include X-rays beforehand, the surgeon’s fee, the artificial hip itself and rehabilitation therapy afterward. Since the doctors are paid one fee for the entire episode of care, regardless of how many tests and scans and drugs they order, they no longer have an incentive to provide unnecessary care for a few extra bucks. When implemented in hospital settings, bundled payments have been shown to encourage providers to improve efficiency and eliminate unnecessary procedures without stinting on care.

We presented the idea of phasing in bundled payments, especially for chronic conditions, to the rest of the White House reform team, where we found some strong support. But then we hit a brick wall. Many of our colleagues who worked for Medicare feared that creating the bundles would be too hard and warned that Medicare didn’t have the computer infrastructure to handle it.

The arguments went back and forth, but the Medicare bureaucracy wouldn’t budge. Ultimately, the ACA authorized 10 demonstration projects that could be expanded if they worked—a good start, but a far cry from the more ambitious bundling plan many of us had hoped to see.

Ok, let’s deconstruct. Dr. Emmanuel is telling us that physicians are corrupt and steal money by ordering unnecessary tests. These procedures line their pockets. His solution is to change the way they are paid, such that they can only charge for one broad treatment – cancer or fix broken wrist, but not break it out into those pesky payments which are simple to abuse. My question: What prevents unscrupulous physicians from simply skimping on treatment in order to maintain their lifestyles? Why wouldn’t they order insufficient testing and treatment? He’s already told us they are crooks, but they are not dumb crooks, are they?

Dr. Emmanuel uses another example to show just how corrupt President Obama is. Hey, he could have been a doctor!

Another clash, over what health wonks call the “tax exclusion,” vividly demonstrated that good policy can overcome politics.

In 1954, the Internal Revenue Service created a tax exclusion for health insurance premiums, which is why health benefits offered through an employer aren’t subject to income or payroll taxes. This makes an additional dollar of health insurance (which isn’t taxed) more valuable than an additional dollar of wages (which is).

Economists—liberal and conservative alike—overwhelmingly denounce the tax exclusion. It drives costs higher while keeping wages down, it is regressive, and it is a major drag on the federal budget—lowering revenue by a whopping $250 billion a year.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain proposed eliminating the exclusion and replacing it with a $5,000 tax credit to help families buy health insurance. The Obama campaign ran more than $100 million worth of ads pounding McCain, accusing the GOP nominee of “taxing health benefits for the first time ever.”

Get it? Obama spent 100 million bucks saying that McCain was a big, bad wolf because he wanted to correct a situation that everyone believes is stupid. So what did our hero, Barack Obama, do?

Once Obama was in office, his advisers split on the issue. The economists wanted to limit the exclusion, but the political team didn’t want to touch it. David Axelrod, the president’s political guru, even showed us a montage of Obama’s campaign commercials to remind the economic team of his stated position. The president himself repeatedly insisted on the principle of fidelity: Campaign promises weren’t to be contravened without a very good policy rationale.

One Friday in July 2009, the president made a surprise appearance at a meeting of key health-care advisers. When the discussion moved from pleasantries to substance, I argued for limiting the tax exclusion. Obama already understood that this would raise revenue to fund the expanded coverage, but that wasn’t reason enough to change his position. So I tried a different argument. If reform was to succeed, it had to control rising health-care costs, which threatened to overwhelm the economy. Limiting the tax exclusion, I argued, was the most powerful lever the president had to control costs on the private side.

Ultimately, Obama authorized a new tax-exclusion policy despite the heartburn he knew it would cause his political base—particularly labor unions. We proposed a tax on high-cost “Cadillac plans,” which will begin in 2018. Reversing a campaign position took a lot of guts, but this was good policy, and the president showed leadership in endorsing it.

Hem. That’s one way to spin it. Another is that he lied in order to get elected, then changed his promise in the face of reality. Like he has done again and again. If you like your plan you can keep your plan, stupid.

And this last little bit shows you just how classy Rahm Emmanuel is, Ezekiel Emmanuel is, and Barack Obama is:

Late one summer afternoon, I met my brother Rahm—then the White House chief of staff—in his West Wing office. We chatted, and then he asked in his usual staccato, “What else is going on, Zeke?”

“I’m also working on the medical malpractice proposal I told you about,” I began.

He immediately cut me off: “Shut the f— up! We are not doing malpractice. Period. Every time the AMA comes in here, they don’t talk about malpractice.” Their first, second and third priority, he said, was the formula used by Medicare to determine doctors’ pay. “We don’t need to do malpractice for the doctors, and I am not alienating the president’s base for nothing,” he barked. “Stop it.”

He concludes with this little gem:

Despite multiple near-death experiences, the law the president signed in 2010 was historic—and I’m proud to have done my small part. It isn’t perfect; no legislation in a democracy will ever be. But it was heartening to learn that sometimes, sound policy can trump politics when politicians show leadership.

Wow. Isn’t that fascinating? His view is that …politicians showed leadership and we have a terrific example in ObamaCare. It’s an alternate universe, isn’t it? A more objective way to look at this data would be to observe that Obama and the Democrats shoved a bill through Congress without a single Republican vote. They did so without reading or understanding what they had put together and passed. The final result was such a mess that they had to break every single campaign promise associated with the bill. There was nothing noble or encouraging in any way about what happened here. It wasn’t “democratic” and it damaged our “democracy” by pointing out that we don’t really have a democracy or the rule of law.

- Aggie

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Bad Apple Insurance Plan™ Renewal To Be Extended For 2 Years

Because some people are more equal than others

We have already established that this is a nation of powerful men, not laws. Continuing that theme, Obama will extend the Bad Apple Insurance Plans™ for an additional two years in order to help the democrats in the mid-terms. Then he will extend it again so Hillary can win the White House in 2016.

Americans who kept health plans that don’t comply with Obamacare requirements will be able to renew those policies for two more years, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Obama administration, which has been deliberating the issue since November, is expected to announce today the extension of the health plans, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the decision wasn’t yet public.

Insurers sent letters to policyholders canceling the health plans as the new government exchanges opened Oct. 1. The letters caused a political headache for President Barack Obama, who had promised during the debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that people who liked their health plans wouldn’t have to change them. About 2.6 million Americans received the cancellation notices, according to a study published March 3 by the journal Health Affairs.

“It’s clearly been a damaging gaffe that the president doesn’t want to hang around the neck of fellow Democrats this fall,” John Gorman, the executive chairman of Gorman Health Group, a Washington consulting firm, said in a phone interview.

Amid the growing criticism, Obama announced Nov. 14 that state insurance commissioners could allow insurers to extend policies that didn’t comply with the law. Insurance company executives have said they expected the White House would allow renewal of the plans, which don’t comply with rules such as offering coverage for maternity care or limiting out-of-pocket spending.

Allowing people to renew old health plans may mean that some young and healthy Americans won’t have to sign up for plans in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, leaving a sicker and older population of customers.

“Exchange enrollment will be lower than expected,” Brian Wright, an analyst with Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. Inc. in New York said by e-mail.

Only 28 states permitted the old plans to continue to be offered, so residents of the other 22 states are less equal. But none of us reside in a democracy any longer, because we don’t have the rule of law.

- Aggie

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It’s Constitutional, Bitches

Not ObamaCare (obviously).

The Constitution!

The infamously liberal Federal Ninth Circuit Court of appeals has struck down a California law practically banning people from carry a gun in public for self defense in the Peruta v. San Diego case. The decision struck down requirements of “need” or “cause” to carry a handgun in public based on violent threats to a person as unconstitutional. In other words, the State cannot restrict an individual from carrying a firearm because a government official doesn’t think they face enough threats to justify doing so and affirms carrying a gun in public for self defense is in fact a protected right under the Second Amendment.

So, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” means what it says? I’ll be damned.

From the decision:

The Second Amendment secures the right not only to “keep” arms but also to “bear” them—the verb whose original meaning is key in this case. Saving us the trouble of pulling the eighteenth-century dictionaries ourselves, the Court already has supplied the word’s plain meaning: “At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’” Heller, 554 U.S. at 584.3 Yet, not “carry” in the ordinary sense of “convey[ing] or transport[ing]” an object, as one might carry groceries to the check-out counter or garments to the laundromat, but “carry for a particular purpose—confrontation.”

It’ll have to go to the Supremes for sorting out, but what a kick in the nads to the gun control crowd. That alone makes this a happy day—and I had to drive in and shovel out from a blizzard.

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What Is More Of A Legal Problem – A Traffic Jam In New Jersey Or Siccing The IRS On Citizens Engaging In The Political Process?

Ask the FBI!

THE FBI’S IRS OUTRAGE
The Journal reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is unlikely to file any criminal charges in the targeting of conservative political organizations by the Internal Revenue Service. Yet Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents many of the targets, says that the FBI has never contacted any of her clients to discuss their treatment at the hands of the IRS. “Shouldn’t law enforcement talk to the victims in an investigation?,” she asks in an email. “That’s like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled,” notes a Journal editorial.

The press corps suddenly cares a great deal about cancelled meetings in New Jersey state government. Perhaps they should be asking why the FBI at first promised that the official in charge of the IRS investigation, Valerie Parlave, would meet with Rep. Jim Jordan of the House Oversight Committee and then—after contacting a senior political appointee at Justice—declined to make her available.
Beyond the harassment of Tea Party groups and the leaking of confidential taxpayer data to political opponents, the IRS case also involved senior government officials falsely assuring Congress for a year that there was no targeting. IRS brass then falsely and publicly claimed that the targeting was the work of low-level employees. Yet when it comes to allegations of misleading Congress, the Obama Justice Department was more interested in trying to prosecute baseball pitcher Roger Clemens for comments about steroids than it was in pursuing a case involving the use of the nation’s tax-collecting authority against the President’s opponents.

The WSJ is shocked and dismayed. I am dismayed, I supposed, but certainly not shocked. We live in a banana republic, under the thumb of a lawless and vindictive administration. Nothing surprises.

- Aggie

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The Fix is Out

Presidential oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The namesake of ObamaCare’s oath of office:

“What are you going to do about it?”

The president’s “fix,” announced last Thursday in a somber news conference, allows insurance companies to renew policies that do not meet the minimum care standards of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which go into effect on Jan. 1.

So far, only 13 states have said they will cooperate with the administration’s initiative, however, and some have refused. The debate has turned mostly on questions of actuarial policy. But the bigger problem states must consider is that the fix itself is unconstitutional. And even if the president did have the authority to take such action, state compliance with it would still break the law.

First, the fix exceeds the president’s discretion in implementing the law and amounts to legislation from the White House. The president has no constitutional authority to rewrite or unbundle statutes, especially in ways that impose new obligations on people, as the fix does.

This is laughable. The author, a scholar of Constitutional law, seems to be laboring under the notion that the president’s role is to “preserve, protect, and defend” this dusty, crumbling “charter of negative liberties”. How quaintly 18th, 19th, and 20th century. President namesake-of-ObamaCare done told us that the purpose of the Constitution (if any) is to permit (insist) that government intervene “on our behalf”.

Bend over, cause he’s going to intervene in our be…halves but good.

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Above All, Change The Subject

Democrats go for Nuclear Option

Talk about killing two birds with one stone! They have changed the subject and they have brought us even more Liberal Fascism. Very competent.

The partisan battles that have paralyzed Washington in recent years took a historic turn Thursday, as Senate Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations, severely curtailing the political leverage of the Republican minority in the Senate and assuring an escalation of partisan warfare.

Saying that “enough is enough,” President Obama welcomed the end of what he called the abuse of the Senate’s advise and consent function, which he said had turned into “a reckless and relentless tool” to grind the gears of government to a halt.

While “neither party has been blameless for these tactics,” Obama said in a statement to reporters at the White House, “today’s pattern of obstruction .?.?. just isn’t normal; it’s not what our founders envisioned.” He cited filibusters against executive branch appointments and judicial nominees on grounds that he said were based simply on opposition to “the policies that the American people voted for in the last election.”

“This isn’t obstruction on substance, on qualifications,” he said. “It’s just to gum up the works.”

The rule change means that federal judge nominees and executive-office appointments can be confirmed by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote supermajority that has been required for more than two centuries.

The change does not apply to Supreme Court nominations. But the vote, mostly along party lines, reverses nearly 225 years of precedent and dramatically alters the landscape for both Democratic and Republican presidents, especially if their own political party holds a majority of, but fewer than 60, Senate seats.

[Follow our live blog for the latest updates.]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of a power grab and suggested that they will regret their decision if Republicans regain control of the chamber.

“We’re not interested in having a gun put to our head any longer,” McConnell said. “Some of us have been around here long enough to know that the shoe is sometimes on the other foot.” McConnell then addressed Democrats directly, saying: “You may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”

He added later: “The solution to this problem is at the ballot box. We look forward to having a great election in 2014.”

I don’t share McConnell’s optimism because I believe the public is deeply stupid. Truly stupid. The only thing that gives me hope is the fact that ObamaCare is a disaster for young families. Check this out:

…A number of the nation’s top hospitals — including the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, and children’s hospitals in Seattle, Houston and St. Louis — are cut out of most plans sold on the exchange.

In most cases, the decision was about the cost of care.

In Seattle, the region’s predominant insurer, Premera Blue Cross, decided not to include the children’s hospital as an in-
network provider except in cases where the service sought cannot be obtained anywhere else. “Children’s non-unique services were too expensive given the goal of providing affordable coverage for consumers,” spokesman Eric Earl­ing said in an e-mail.

For example, a pediatric appendectomy at Children’s costs about $23,000, he said. At another community hospital, the cost is closer to $14,100. Melzer said his hospital often bills more than community hospitals for comparable procedures because the children it treats are often gravely ill, so even a routine tonsillectomy may be more complicated.

But as a result, families like Jeffrey Blank’s, which has relied on Seattle Children’s since his daughter, Zoe, received a diagnosis of a rare bone disorder, face difficult decisions. Under some of the new law’s health plans, the family would no longer be able to take Zoe to Children’s for her routine checkups, or it could count as an “out-of-
network” visit, saddling the family with huge bills.

“It just stresses me,” said Blank, 53, a self-employed massage therapist who is sorting through his options but readily admits that his family has benefited from other parts of the health law. “I hope things continue wonderfully for my daughter and that she doesn’t need the level of care she got after her diagnosis, but there’s this unknown.”

If you go to the link, you will see the little girl with her parents. She is blind, a result of her bone condition not having been diagnosed early enough. Apparently her skull fractured and damaged her optical nerve. The parents are obviously O-bots, and although they are frightened for her future, they aren’t willing to completely condemn the horror of their apparently only child not being able to access care at the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The only reason that I hold hope for our future is that I believe that most of us have family members with serious medical conditions. Or we have dear friends with various medical conditions. For example, think about your own life. Do you have a child or a grandchild with leukemia or diabetes or a heart ailment or or cystic fibrosis or cerebral palsy or autism or Down Syndrome? A teenager or young adult that has developed a psychosis? How about a niece or nephew? How about the child or a friend or colleague? See what I mean? Illnesses distribute across populations. If you have access to great medical care, then some of the strain is lifted. If not, the sadness of the condition is compounded by the understanding that you or your family members or friends are not able to get top notch treatment for the condition.

The second reason for hope is that young adults are being ripped off by ObamaCare. Yes We Did! We Stole From Them! So maybe someday they’ll wake up.

- Aggie

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