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The Obama administration is deploying a fog of useless statistics to obscure the true state of Obamacare. They're hiding the real information and releasing big numbers that don't mean anything. It doesn't matter how many people "selected a plan" -- it matters how many people wrote a check. It doesn't matter how many people visited the website, or called a call center, or "liked" Obamacare on Facebook. None of those numbers speaks to the crucial issue: will enough young, healthy people sign up and overpay? Or will the system collapse under the weight of new Medicare recipients, the poor, the old, and the sick?
A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant--offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.
HHS is boasting of enrollment for November that was four times as high as October, yet 62% of the total was in the state exchanges, some of which are marginally less prone to crashing than the federal version. Then again, 41 states posted sign-ups only in the three or four figures, including eight states that run their own exchanges. Oregon managed to scrape up 44 people. Among the 137,204 federal sign-ups, no state is reaching the critical mass necessary for stable insurance prices.
The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard. ...
HHS is trying to conjure the appearance of progress and specificity even as it conceals everything that is relevant to ObamaCare's performance. The bureaucracy will tell you it fielded 3,495,276 inquiries at the federal call centers and that 28,412,684 people visited Healthcare.gov. But it will not tell you the demographics and health status of new beneficiaries, or what type of plans they're selecting, or HHS's enrollment goals over time.
According to the poll, 57 percent of millennials disapprove of Obamacare, with 40 percent saying it will worsen their quality of care and a majority believing it will drive up costs. Only 18 percent say Obamacare will improve their care. Among 18-to-29-year-olds currently without health insurance, less than one-third say they're likely to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
More than two-thirds of millennials said they heard about the ACA through the media. That's a bad omen for Obamacare, given the intensive coverage of the law's botched rollout. Just one of every four young Americans said they discussed the law with a friend or through social media. Harvard's John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll, said the president has done a poor job explaining the ACA to young Americans.
As Obamacare crashes and burns everyone should remember that zero Republicans in Congress voted for it. The Democrats had to use extraordinary measures to push the bill through after Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate and the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority. Republicans have done everything they could for several years to stop Obamacare, so don't blame them for the consequences. As Jammie Wearing Fools tells the Democrats:
You own him, folks. See you next November.
The Obama presidency has been a disaster for America, domestically and around the world. The only good thing to have come from it is that Obamacare has completely trashed the notion of Big Government competency.
And no, Obamacare isn't like Katrina:
I can think of a whole bunch of non-parallels:
1. Bush's political party didn't design and enact Hurricane Katrina.
2. Bush didn't have 5 years to craft his response to the hurricane.
3. Bush didn't have the power to redesign the hurricane as he designed his response to it.
4. The Republican Bush believed he could not simply bully past the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana and impose a federal solution, but the Democrat Obama and his party in Congress aggressively and voluntarily took over an area of policy that might have been left to the states.
5. The media were ready to slam Bush long and hard for everything -- making big scandals out of things that, done by Obama, would have been forgotten a week later (what are the Valerie Plame-level screwups of Obama's?) -- but the media have bent over backwards for years to help make Obama look good and to bury or never even uncover all of his lies and misdeeds.
6. If Bush experienced a disaster like the rollout of Obamacare, the NYT wouldn't use its front page to remind us of something Bill Clinton did that looked bad.
But don't worry, some poll numbers are looking good for America!
The most interesting opinion survey we've seen about the ObamaCare cataclysm is one that's only indirectly about ObamaCare. Gallup asked Americans: "Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?" Only 42% of those surveyed said it is the federal government's responsibility, vs. 56% who said it isn't.
More telling is the trend. Gallup has been asking the question since 2000. "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare," the firm reports. The proportion answering "yes" peaked in 2006 at 69%--27 points higher than today's number. Then it began declining, to 64% in 2007 and 54% in 2008.
The current 42% is the lowest figure ever recorded, but the percentage answering in the affirmative hasn't risen above 50% since 2009. Remember what happened in 2009?
Charles Krauthammer dissects the mendacity, paternalism, and subterfuge of Obamacare and in passing notes the cancer at the heart of it all: President Obama's apparent lack of knowledge about anything that's going on in his government. I'd love to see Jay Carney's reaction to that list. Or the President's.
So a law designed to cover the uninsured is now throwing far more people off their insurance than it can possibly be signing up on the nonfunctioning insurance exchanges. Indeed, most of the 19 million people with individual insurance will have to find new and likely more expensive coverage. And that doesn't even include the additional millions who are sure to lose their employer-provided coverage. That's a lot of people. That's a pretty big lie.
But perhaps Obama didn't know. Maybe the bystander president was as surprised by this as he claims to have been by the IRS scandal, the Associated Press and James Rosen phone logs, the failure of the Obamacare Web site, the premeditation of the Benghazi attacks, the tapping of Angela Merkel's phone -- i.e., the workings of the federal government of which he is the nominal head.
It's silly enough that Obamacare requires single men, infertile people, and old people to buy insurance plans that include maternity care, but don't worry! People under age 30 are exempt. Yes, the people who are most fertile and most likely to have babies are exempt from the requirement to buy insurance that pays for having babies.
[Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)]: You also brought up the issue that when you were in Kansas [as health Commissioner and governor] that you fought against discriminatory issues... As far as [ObamaCare's] essential health benefits, correct me if I'm wrong: do men not have to buy maternity care?
[Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius]: Policies will cover maternity coverage. For the young and healthy, uh, under ythirty year-olds will have a choice also of a catastrophic plan that has no maternity coverage.
Ellmers: But men are required to purchase maternity coverage.
Sebelius: Well, an insurance policy has a series of benefits whether you use them or not...
Ellmers: And that is why health care premiums are increasing, because we are forcing them to buy things that they will never need. Thank you.
Sebelius: The individual policies cover families. Men often do need maternity care for their spouses and for their families, yes.
Ellmers: A single male, aged 32, does need maternity coverage. To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?
(HT: James Taranto.)
So healthcare.gov is 500 million lines of code? That suggests a level of brokenness that cannot be fixed. Here's a great visualization that compares the 500,000,000 lines of code in healthcare.gov with some other substantial codebases.
A commenter at Ann Althouse compares the mass protests in Wisconsin in 2011 to the current government shutdown:
People in WI who supported the Capitol Disruptions back when Act 10 was passed should be reminded of that when they object to Republican instransigence on ACA. I don't see how the two points of view are any different.
This is what Democracy Looks Like, indeed.
I would love a Journolist to ask a Democratic Politician this very question when they complain about Republicans: Back in , when Wisconsin Governor Walker passed anti-Union legislation, Democrats did everything they could to slow implementation. Did you think that was a good idea?
Why was it ok for pro-union Democrats to shut down Wisconsin -- while holding control of zero branches of the state government -- but it's wrong for Republicans in the House to shut down the federal government?
I like this formulation: just as "you are what you eat", government is what government spends. The government class is always in favor of higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government, in the same way that businessmen are in favor of higher share prices. We are what we spend. Emphasis below is mine.
And the debit side has to include much more than such obvious disasters as Solyndra. The government does support pharmaceutical and medical research in many ways -- but how many potentially useful pharmaceuticals and medical products have been kept off the market by the federal regulatory apparatus and the enormous costs it imposes on effective and defective products alike? (And how much damage has been done by the FDA's incompetent policing of defective products that do reach the market?) How many businesses have not been started, and how much innovation forgone, because of the state's rapacious appetite for capital? For a sense of scale, consider that, as of October 2011, the world's largest hedge-fund company was Bridgewater Associates of Westport, Conn., with $77.6 billion under management. That total is well less than Medicare loses to fraud year in and year out. You'd have to combine the assets of the three largest private-equity firms to match what Medicare loses to fraud in a typical year, whereas the holdings of venture-capital titans such as Andreessen Horowitz are hardly even rounding errors on that amount.
Would you invest with a firm with that record?
Government is what government does, and what government does is what government spends. Our government is a corrupt HMO with an underfunded pension plan attached, and a few aircraft carriers in tow. Contra Professor Mazzucato, the confiscatory taxes the federal government wishes to impose upon Apple et al. are not being used to replenish any such "innovation fund" as may exist in her imagination, but to prop up the corrupt, wasteful, and destructive programs that make up the great majority of its spending. Federal support for basic science research is pretty low on the list of things that small-government conservatives are worried about, and George Will is not entirely misguided in his admiration for the National Institutes of Health. But the neo-Nehruvian dream of the state as main entrepreneur cannot intellectually survive even the most modest attempt to balance benefits against costs.
President Obama says that raising the debt limit doesn't increase our debt. He's right, in the same way that raising the limit on your personal credit card doesn't increase your personal debt. Raiding the debt limit is a necessary condition for increasing our national debt, but the debt only actually increases when we spend the money.
What the big spenders in government object to is that the debt limit debate is a second vote on spending that is divorced from the specifics of what the money is spent on. Our politicians like to bribe us with our own money by promising all sorts of great programs every time they write a check. When the debate is on the debt limit itself rather than on those "amazing" government programs they have a harder time convincing us.
"Now, this debt ceiling -- I just want to remind people in case you haven't been keeping up -- raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy. All it does is it says you got to pay the bills that you've already racked up, Congress. It's a basic function of making sure that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved."
Obama went on to suggest that "the average person" mistakenly thinks that raising the debt ceiling means the U.S. is racking up more debt:
"It's always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we're running up our debt, so people don't like to vote on it, and, typically, there's some gamesmanship in terms of making the President's party shoulder the burden of raising the -- taking the vote."
The President is right, and rather honest in admitting that he doesn't like the spotlight that the debt limit debates puts on our wasteful spending. Still, I think it's a useful function.
Syrian dictator Assad's brutal campaign of chemical warfare against the Syrian people demands a strong response from America and the rest of the civilized world. Too bad President Obama is incompetent and incapable of effectively wielding global leadership or American power.
Aside from ideological and political differences between myself and Obama, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the President is not able to perform the duties of his office in a credible, competent manner.
The president is a spent force, both domestically and internationally. Congress should help by voting to cut our losses; it should resist opening the door to the uncertain consequences of a military campaign conducted, without conviction or clear purpose, by this commander in chief. If Republicans can limit the president's authority to wander and blunder on the world stage, there is a moral obligation to do so.
Of course Syria should be viciously punished for using chemical weapons, but who trusts this president to do so in such a way that also sends a clear message to Iran? No one does. Why would they? Better to leave Iran with a modicum of doubt than let them witness any more of the tepid uncertainty, lack of conviction or absence of moral clarity from President Obama.
The only thing worse than no response from America is a floundering response, so Congress should stop it while they can. We don't need to go through the half-hearted lobbying effort in Congress, which will just underscore the incompetence and incapabilities of this administration. Republicans should vote to end this disaster now. A vote of no confidence is in order.
Detroit may be the first, but it certainly won't be the last city or state to shift employees or retiree health care costs onto Obamacare. Cities and states are drowning in debt, but they can't print money like the feds can... so guess who will get stuck with these unfunded promises?
Unfunded retiree health care costs loom larger than ever for localities across the country, and the health law's guarantee of federal subsidies to help people with modest incomes afford coverage has made the new insurance markets tantalizing for local governments. A study issued this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found 61 of the nation's major cities wrestling with $126 billion in retiree health costs, all but 6 percent of that unfunded.
"The Affordable Care Act does change the possibilities here dramatically," said Neil Bomberg, a program director at the National League of Cities. "It offers a very high-quality, potentially very affordable way to get people into health care without the burden falling back onto the city and town."
But if large numbers of localities follow that course, it could amount to a significant cost shift to the federal government. Authors of the health care law expected at least some shifting of retirees into the new insurance exchanges, said Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University who closely follows the law. "But if a lot of them do, especially big state and local programs," he said, "that's going to be a huge cost for the United States government, and it's mandatory spending."
Unlike many of our debts, promises of health care are hard to pay for with inflation. The cost of health services will rise along with inflation.
Despite dire warnings it doesn't appears that sequestration has hurt job growth, weak as it is.
Since the $80 billion cuts to defense and domestic programs took effect a little over four months ago, the economy has added an average of 183,000 jobs a month. That number is well below what would be expected after the recession officially ended in June of 2009, but it's slightly higher than the 181,000 average monthly job gains since the labor market began improving in October of 2010. Job growth has also been stronger during the four post-sequester months than it was over the previous 12 months, when it averaged 174,000 gains a month.
Though the federal government payroll is shrinking due to layoffs, attrition, and furloughs --bad for the affected workers but good for the country.
In one possible sign of sequestration's effects, the federal government is still shedding jobs. The New York Times pointed out that federal employment has dropped by 40,000 jobs over the past four months, including 5,000 in June, the most recent month for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has provided data.
Furthermore, Rampell notes, federal workers affected by sequestration are more likely to be furloughed than fired outright. The number of federal employees working part-time for economic reasons jumped to 148,000 in June, from 58,000 the year before, a likely affect of the sequester. Rampell also provided evidence that the industries most dependent on defense spending are lagging behind all others in term of job gains.
I suggest another "meat-cleaver" "across the board" cut next year! How about 5%?
One of the biggest criticisms of sequestration was that the cuts were "dumb", like a "meat-cleaver" rather than a "scalpel". However, I always thought this bluntness was a feature not a bug; based on initial results it appears that I was right as usual! Sequestration is squeezing everything and eliminating a lot of waste. Read for details of wasteful spending eliminated, but here's an example:
The Justice Department, for instance, cut more than $300 million in what it called "expired balances." In essence, this was money that had been allocated to the department in past years but wasn't spent. When those years ended, the money expired; without Congress's permission, it generally couldn't be spent on anything new.
But, with Congress's permission, it could still be "cut."
So, instead of saving money by furloughing FBI agents and prison guards, the department lost only what it wasn't free to spend anyway.
Well great, now the "expired balances" are gone. Success! Here's another:
The [Department of Homeland Security], for example, cut $7.8 million for a grant program that helped prepare for disasters. But it told Congress that this program had $36 million waiting in the bank, "neither dedicated to a project nor an activity." And it said the program was duplicative, anyway. Other federal programs were already doing the same thing. "There is no impact from this reduction because of the duplication," the department told Congress.
Do you think that duplicate program would ever have died without sequestration? Nope!
Uniform, "dumb" cuts force people to scrutinize everything rather than letting Congress make politically-motivated horse-trades that are usually designed to benefit rent-seeking insiders.
The Texas legislature has failed to pass a law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy due to a Democrat filibuster featuring a legislator who had a baby as a teenager.
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, spent most of the day staging an old-fashioned filibuster, attracting wide support, including a mention from President Barack Obama's campaign Twitter account. Her Twitter following went from 1,200 in the morning to more than 20,000 by Tuesday night.
"My back hurts. I don't have a lot of words left," Davis said when it was over, and she was showered with cheers by activists who stayed at the Capitol to see her. "It shows the determination and spirit of Texas women."
Determination to kill babies, I guess.
Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to lead the effort because of her background as a woman who had her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.
How awful would it be to be Davis' child, knowing that she would have preferred to abort you? Ugh.
A statistical analysis shows that the IRS suppression of the various Tea Party groups may have been sufficient to win the 2012 election for Obama. The corruption of the IRS is an embarrassment to the country. I believe that only the institutional death penalty will be capable of restoring Americans' faith in our tax collection system.
In a new research paper, Andreas Madestam (from Stockholm University), Daniel Shoag and David Yanagizawa-Drott (both from the Harvard Kennedy School), and I set out to find out how much impact the Tea Party had on voter turnout in the 2010 election. We compared areas with high levels of Tea Party activity to otherwise similar areas with low levels of Tea Party activity, using data from the Census Bureau, the FEC, news reports, and a variety of other sources. We found that the effect was huge: the movement brought the Republican Party some 3 million-6 million additional votes in House races. That is an astonishing boost, given that all Republican House candidates combined received fewer than 45 million votes. It demonstrates conclusively how important the party's newly energized base was to its landslide victory in those elections, and how worried Democratic strategists must have been about the conservative movement's momentum.
The Tea Party movement's huge success was not the result of a few days of work by an elected official or two, but involved activists all over the country who spent the year and a half leading up to the midterm elections volunteering, organizing, donating, and rallying. Much of these grassroots activities were centered around 501(c)4s, which according to our research were an important component of the Tea Party movement and its rise.
The bottom line is that the Tea Party movement, when properly activated, can generate a huge number of votes-more votes in 2010, in fact, than the vote advantage Obama held over Romney in 2012. The data show that had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 - 8.5 million votes compared to Obama's victory margin of 5 million.
Cities love to borrow and spend, and they can borrow at low interest rates because bondholders are first in line to get paid when there's a shortage of money. But what happens if the "bond" is severed and unions cut to the front of the line?
Unions seem determined to fight municipal bond market investors over who should shoulder the burden for Detroit's debts, setting up a lose-lose situation for blue politics.
If the unions win, it could lead to an implosion in the municipal bond market across the country as lenders realize that money lent to struggling cities may never be paid back. As Walsh notes, this outcome would upend standards that "such bonds are among the safest investments and that for 'general obligation' bonds cities could even be compelled to raise taxes, if that's what it took to make good." This would be disastrous for other cities, which would find it much harder to borrow money, and would likely need to pay exorbitant interest rates to do so.
If the unions lose, however, it would deal a major blow to support from their own members. Detroit's pensioners would begin to wonder why they pay dues to a union that can't guarantee the pensions or benefits they were promised. A similar dynamic all but destroyed unions in the private sector as striking union members saw their jobs shipped away to China.
Thieves fighting over the last scrap of loot.
Ted Cruz is right: it's time to abolish the IRS and institute a simple Flat Tax. Get rid of the corruption by simplifying the system.
"I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on postcard," he explained in a Fox News interview over the weekend. "Put down how much you earn, put down a deduction for charitable contributions, home mortgage and how much you owe. It ought to be a simple one-page postcard, and take the agents, the bureaucracy out of Washington and limit the power of government."
Cruz proposed a flat tax during the 2012 election, but he said he would keep a standard deduction for lower-income earners, as well as deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations.
Leftists are quick to brush the IRS scandal aside as "bad customer service" while conservatives call for a special prosecutor to indict the obvious criminals, but what if they're both wrong? The actions of the IRS may not have broken any laws, and perhaps no one in the White House knew anything about anything. If so, that's even worse, and it won't be solved by a special prosecutor.
This column is generally on Kudlow's side here, which is to say that we share his outrage about the IRS abuses. But we're uncomfortable with his framing. What if congressional investigators, or a hypothetical special prosecutor, fail to find evidence of crime, conspiracy or direct White House involvement? Then guys like Crook and Scheiber will crow that they were right all along.
But they aren't. This may turn out to be one of those cases in which the real scandal involves what is legal, not illegal. Obama's endless demonization of his political adversaries and lack of respect for the gravity of his own office certainly aren't illegal. The media smear campaign against the Tea Party was protected by the First Amendment. And the IRS could have violated the constitutional rights of countless Americans without running afoul of any criminal statutes in the process.
The scandal here is that an agency of the federal government used its fearsome authority to benefit the party in power. If it did so unthinkingly, that is even more disturbing than a criminal conspiracy.
Uh oh, another problem with Obamacare. Apparently it contains provisions that encourage employers to offer "skinny" plans that cover routine medical care but not surgery, hospital stays, or having a baby. Obamacare is exactly the opposite of insurance! Too bad no one read this monstrosity before it became law. Good job, America.
People buy insurance to pay for low-probability, high-cost and undesirable events. It doesn't make sense to hold onto enough cash to replace your house if it burns when you can buy an insurance policy that will cover that unlikely disaster.
But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has a different idea of what insurance is. In response to an American Society of Actuaries report that health premiums would rise 32 percent under ObamaCare, she said, "Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don't pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus." ...
But as the Daily Beast's Megan McArdle commented, "Coverage of routine, predictable services is not insurance at all; it's a spectacularly inefficient prepayment plan." ...
People stuck with these policies will have insurance that pays for the equivalent of oil changes (up to six a year!) but not for the equivalent of wrecked car. Just the opposite of real insurance.
Elected politicians can be maddening enough, but even worse are the legions of unaccountable bureaucratic overlords that really run America. We need to drastically cut the number of non-military federal employees and reduce the rule-making authority of the uncountable agencies. Congress should stop delegating it's responsibility to unelected bureaucrats.
There were times this past week when it seemed like the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.
Clearly, there was a degree of willful blindness in these claims. However, the suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today's government may be an illusion.
The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency. ...
The rise of the fourth branch has been at the expense of Congress's lawmaking authority. In fact, the vast majority of "laws" governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats. One study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations. ...
The judiciary, too, has seen its authority diminished by the rise of the fourth branch. Under Article III of the Constitution, citizens facing charges and fines are entitled to due process in our court system. As the number of federal regulations increased, however, Congress decided to relieve the judiciary of most regulatory cases and create administrative courts tied to individual agencies. The result is that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court. In a given year, federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings, including trials, while federal agencies complete more than 939,000.