Obamacare's Architects Plugged
Their Ears & Misled Public
American Enterprise Institute
In 1970 the eccentric but insightful economist Albert Hirschman published a book called Exit, Voice and Loyalty. It explored how people respond when a private firm's or a government agency's performance is deteriorating. Some people choose to leave, buying another product or service or leaving the government's jurisdiction. Others use voice, complaining about defects or lobbying for change. Hirschman tended to deplore exit and exalt voice, and urged firms and governments to nurture loyalty so consumers and citizens would stick around and improve things. There's obviously some relevance here to a current government program now performing far below even its detractors' expectations: Obamacare. Central to the goal of Obamacare's architects, universal health insurance, was preventing the possibility of exit. Its individual mandate meant everyone had to sign up for insurance.
Obamacare Workaround Reveals
Unaccountable, Unworkable Law
This week, the administration announced that it would be employing another manual workaround, this time for critical insurer payment systems. In this case, it's not because the payment system is broken. Instead, it's because the part of the system that is supposed to both calculate how much money the government owes insurers in premium subsidy and cost-sharing payments and make the appropriate payments simply hasn't been built yet. What hasn't been built can't be used, but insurers need to be paid in order for the system to function. So the administration has decided to require insurers to estimate how much they are owed and submit payment requests manually. Later, after the systems are built, the plan is to sort out the details and figure out the exact amounts that should have been billed, then reconcile any differences.
Obama & The Suspension of Disbelief
Adding straws of scandal -- Fast & Furious, the Associated Press monitoring, the IRS fiasco, and the NSA spying -- on any presidential back except Barack Obama's would have long ago broken it. Watergate ruined Richard Nixon. Iran-Contra earned a special prosecutor and nearly destroyed the Reagan second term. Katrina's incompetent local and state reactions, coupled with a tardy federal effort -- and the insurgency in postwar Iraq -- ended the viability of George W. Bush in his second term. Second, well apart from scandal, the perception of presidential lying usually ends presidential agendas. Richard Nixon resigned after never telling the truth about the Watergate cover-up. "Read my lips: no new taxes" cost George H.W. Bush his reelection. "I did not have sex with that woman" made Bill Clinton's impeachment likely.
Obama Puts a Happy Face on a Federal Mess
"What we know," said Pres. Obama to a business group a few days ago, "is that our our fiscal problems are not short-term deficits. Our discretionary budget, that portion of the federal budget that isn't defense or Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, the entitlement programs, is at its smallest level in my lifetime, probably since Dwight Eisenhower. We are not lavishly spending on a whole bunch of social programs out there." You could call this Obama's version of the old joke: "Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Saying "we are not lavishly spending on a whole bunch of social programs," aside from Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, is like saying the Titanic had a great voyage, aside from the iceberg. If current trends continue, outlays on these social programs plus interest on the national debt will consume every last federal dollar in a decade.
A Press Shield Law’s Strange Bedfellows
The Wall Street Journal
Luckily, previous 'Free Flow of Information' bills went nowhere. But a new one is picking up steam. Why? Anyone looking for proof that bad policy begets more bad policy need look no further than the all-too-aptly-named Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. The bill may be taken up on the Senate floor as early as this week. The proposed legislation has had predecessors that failed to become law: the Free Flow of Information Acts of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Each, like the current bill, was said by its proponents to provide urgently needed protection for reporters seeking to shield confidential sources from discovery through federal subpoenas -- thereby promoting disclosure of important information, particularly from government whistleblowers. Each of those earlier bills was firmly opposed by members of the intelligence community.
The System Isn't Working; The Website Isn't Fixed
The Wall Street Journal
Great news: The White House says that Healthcare.gov and the 36 federally run insurance exchanges are finally good to go. The only thing missing from Sunday's relentlessly upbeat progress report was President Obama in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner. Sunday's eight-page report was intended to meet Mr. Obama's deadline for fixing the site after its October 1 debut was a calamity. But the more important goal was political--namely, claiming enough progress to prevent Democrats on Capitol Hill from joining the GOP demand for delaying the individual mandate to buy insurance or even the entire program. Most Democrats are eager to believe any good news, which may explain why the Sunday report is so short on basic information. The eight pages are heavy on charts with unverifiable claims--more than 400 "cumulative software fixes"!
Reid's Filibuster Power Play a
Blow to US Constitutional System
John Yoo, American Enterprise Institute
Democrats just made the next Miguel Estrada a Supreme Court justice. Republicans will remember that in 2003 Democrats filibustered a Senate vote to confirm Miguel Estrada to the federal appeals court in DC. Commonly known as the second most important court in the land because of its jurisdiction over the seat of the federal government, that court serves as a farm team for the Supreme Court. Estrada was superbly qualified: Columbia College, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law Review. Sound like anyone? But unlike our current president, Estrada also had the very best of legal experience. He clerked for top federal judges, including Justice Anthony Kennedy of the US Supreme Court, held elite positions in the Justice Department, and co-headed the appellate practice of a major national law firm.
Obamacare Intensifying Doctor
Shortage Crisis as Medicaid Balloons
The New American
With the Obamacare-instigated expansion of Medicaid expected to add almost 10 million more Americans to the government entitlement scheme, the shortage of doctors across the US is set to get much worse, according to experts and estimates cited in news reports. While analysts have been predicting the looming crisis for years, as the extent of the damage becomes clearer and the escalating shortages accelerate, even reliably pro-Obamacare media outlets such as the NY Times are now highlighting the disaster. Talk of radical so-called "solutions" has already started, too. Under Obamacare, passed by congressional Democrats under pressure from Obama despite overwhelming public opposition, state governments were prodded into expanding the Medicaid system using mostly taxpayer-funded handouts from the federal government.
Nobody Wins When You Go Nuclear on Filibusters
Man, I'm so old, I remember when conservatives used to call what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, just did the "constitutional option." By a vote of 52 to 48, with only three Democrats defecting, on Thursday, the Senate, led by Reid, changed the rules to prevent filibusters of virtually all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices. By a simple majority vote -- rather than the two-thirds that Senate rules require -- Reid changed the rules mid-game, to prevent minority-party "obstruction" of the president's nominees. Back in spring 2005, when President George W. Bush had just won re-election, and Karl Rove-ian triumphalism was in the air, Republicans came close to banning judicial filibusters. Though irate Democrats preferred the term "nuclear option," the GOP called the majority-vote rule change "the constitutional option."
'Nuclear Option' Enables Dem
One-Party Control of Healthcare
Last week, I explained that the US Senate's deployment of the "nuclear option," lowering the threshold for approval of non-Supreme Court presidential nominees from 60 votes to 51 votes, does not make it easier for Pres. Obama to use Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board. I need to add this caveat: during his tenure. The nuclear option does enhance the ability of the president and his party to control the healthcare sector well after he leaves office. It's true that the rules change will make it easier for the president to have his IPAB nominees approved by the Senate, particularly through January 2015, when the Democrat caucus holds 55 seats. But if the president and Senate fail to seat anyone on the IPAB, the board's sweeping legislative powers fall to the HHS Secretary. Therefore, he need only retain Kathleen Sebelius as his HHS secretary.
A Government ‘Of the People’ or ‘Over’ the People?
Speaking over the graves of patriotic Americans 150 years ago at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered a short speech that may be the most important in American history. To conclude his two minutes of remarks, Lincoln declared that the Civil War was being waged so "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Largely because of his efforts, it didn't. The Union side went on to win that war after much more bloody fighting, and Lincoln was perhaps the final casualty, assassinated at his moment of triumph. Still, what mattered then, and what matters even more today, is that Lincoln was focused on protecting "government of the people, by the people, for the people." That promise, though, is being threatened again today, this time not by violent interests, but by equally virulent interests.