Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: October 7, 2009

Grant For Firefighters Goes To … ACORN?

Apparently the funds were intended to be used for the improvement of fire safety in low-income and poor households (e.g. adding smoke detectors). But somehow or another ACORN managed to beat other grant applicants for the funds, by a rather wide margin:

Nearly $1 million in Homeland Security funding typically earmarked for fire departments has been awarded to ACORN, despite a clear signal from Congress that it intends to cut off federal funding to the embattled group …

It was one of only three such grants issued to the state and made up almost 80 percent of the firefighting money earmarked for Louisiana, prompting one of the U.S. senators fr-m the state to demand that the funds be taken back.

That Senator, who cited the O’Keefe-Giles prostitution sting as a reason for revoking the grant, was David Vitter. Predictably, thanks to Vitter’s problems with fidelity, his involvement evoked this response:

When asked how the money would be spent, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring issued a statement criticizing the senator, who confessed in the past to having used an escort service.

“Senator Vitter knows a lot more about prostitution rings than anyone here does, so we’ll defer to him on any matters pertaining to the videos attacking ACORN,” the statement read. It did not explain how the group plans to spend the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Had to see that one coming, didn’t you, Senator?

Nevertheless, how ACORN was able to secure a grant making up 80% of Louisiana’s firefighting money from the federal government is an awfully curious question. Considering that Congress has been systematically defunding the organization over the past several weeks, and that ACORN has no firefighting expertise to speak of, one wonders how other more deserving applicants were overlooked.

One such group might have been the St. Tammany Parish Fire District No. 3, which applied for a $120,000 grant to purchase smoke alarms for low-income families after a January fire killed four children in a home that had no working detectors.

“We wanted to buy smoke detectors to spread to homes all over the community to prevent that fr0m happening again,” Chief Charles Flynn said in an interview Tuesday.

“I have no problem with not getting a grant, I’ve lost grants before,” said Chief Flynn, one of the fire officials who complained to Mr. Vitter in a letter.

“My issue is ACORN in New Orleans. Their mission statement says nothing about fire safety or fire prevention. It bothered me that ACORN got $1 million and there are so many smaller and bigger departments that have a need for that money.”

The Monroe Fire Department was the only squad in Louisiana to receive a grant and will be awarded $192,000. The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office will receive $62,000.

ACORN received $997,402, slightly less than the maximum allowable grant of $1 million. A total of $35 million was available for the grants project to fire districts across the country this year.

This story just screams corruption with a capital “C”. I’m sure Congress will get right on that. [/sarcasm]

[HT: Hot Air HL]

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CBO Says Baucus Bill Won’t Add To Debt – But It Will Leave 16 Million Uninsured

The Washington Post’s “Capitol Briefing” breathlessly announces:

A health-care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would expand health coverage to nearly 30 million Americans who currently lack insurance and would meet President Obama’s goal of reducing the federal budget deficit by 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The bill would cost $829 billion over the next decade, but would more than offset that cost by slicing hundreds of billions from government health programs such as Medicare and by imposing a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance policies starting in 2013.

All told, the package would slice $81 billion from projected budget deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO said, and continue to reduce deficits well into the future.

That, of course means:

And the CBO report lends a huge political boost to the Finance Committee’s work: distinguishing it as the only one of five bills drafted by various congressional committees that meets every important test established by President Obama and key Democratic leaders.

– It would cost less than $900 billion over the next decade;

– It would vastly expand coverage; and

– It would keep Obama’s pledge that health reform will not increase budget deficits by “one dime” now or in the future.

Whooo hooo! Happy days are here again!

A couple of things to remember: In 1967, official estimates said Medicare would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual price was $110 billion. And it and Medicaid now have about 50 trillion in unfunded future obligations. Secondly, the reason it doesn’t add to the deficit is it cuts Medicare and will force businesses to either pay an excise tax or drastically cut benefits for those who have what the elite have determined are “Cadillac” plans. Of course what that means is if you like your plan, you can keep it, but your no longer going to like your plan (because it could cost you up to 40% plus more to maintain that plan).

And then there’s this: I thought the whole stated purpose of this “reform” was to ensure the uninsured were insured. Yet the CBO report says:

By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 29 million, leaving about 25 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants).

So 16 million US citizens remain uninsured. But fear not – CBO has figured that into the equation as a revenue raiser:

… penalty payments by uninsured individuals, which would amount to $4 billion;

Not to mention you could be spending a year in jail as well.

And those unfair “Cadillac plans” will add to that revenue stream as well (except, apparently, if it is a union plan):

….penalty payments by employers whose workers received subsidies via the exchanges, which would total $23 billion;

And here’s what to be really careful of when assessing this boondoggle that still leaves people uninsured (but does provide yet another law to put people in jail):

The proposed co-ops had very little effect on the estimates of total enrollment in the exchanges or federal costs because, as they are described in the specifications, they seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments. As a result, CBO estimates that of the $6 billion in federal funds that would be made available, about $3 billion would be spent over the 2010–2019 period.

As the CBO once said on its initial scoring, this bill would have to run, unchanged, for 10 years for it to unfold, cost wise, as they’re saying it will unfold. That means co-ops, not the public option.

If the public option is included, all the savings supposedly found in this bill go out the window and costs skyrocket. And Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid say that the final bill will have a public option.

~McQ

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Jobless Rate Key To 2010 Results?

Neil King thinks the unemployment rate will be on of the keys to outcomes in 2010.

“Unemployment is the leading economic indicator when it comes to politics,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “Anytime unemployment hits double digits, it’s hard to see the party in control having a good election year.”

Economists generally predict that the number of people out of work will continue to inch up next year, even if the economy begins to rebound. Most see the jobless rate peaking at around 10.5% in the summer. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said Sunday that his own hunch was that the economy would turn around over coming months, but that unemployment would “penetrate the 10% barrier and stay there for a while before we start down.”

As Dale has noted, if we were calculating unemployment as we did in 1974, we’d be in the 17% area. That means a lot of voters are hurting and the one place they can voice their displeasure is at the ballot box. Additionally, by 2010 the “we inherited this” gig will have been up for some time. Democrats in Congress have been in charge for almost 4 years now. Politically that means this is their economy. The last time unemployment was over 10% during a midterm, the Republicans lost 26 seats in the House.

Then there’s the stimulus which was touted to be the answer to unemployment. The current administration promised that passing it would keep unemployment down in the area of 8%. But after its passage it didn’t even slow the growth of unemployment, a fact Republicans are sure to point out in the coming year.

As it turns out, Democrats may be happy to just lose 26 seats. Republicans are targeting 54 vulnerable Democrats, 49 of which come from districts John McCain carried in 2008.

Add in Afghanistan, health care, cap-and-trade and the huge expansion of government and the fact that Congress is deeply unpopular, losses in the 40s might not be as out of the question as one might think (think of an energized Republican base and a dispirited Democratic base with independents leaning to the GOP side).

~McQ

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Afghan “Straw man”?

President Obama claims to be dispensing with “straw men” arguments concerning A’stan:

President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.

Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,” as White House officials later described his remarks.

The problem is, that leaves some version of the status quo as a viable alternative, and, as every expert to include the Commanding General there has told us, the status quo isn’t working.

This is what I was talking about when I said he’s just as likely to dither for months making a decision and then make a decision in which he appears to be doing something while not even getting anywhere near to fully resourcing McChrystal’s request. Or said another way, he’ll send more troops, but only enough troops to keep A’stan from getting worse than it is now, but not enough to do the mission McChrystal has outlined.

That’s what he appears to be setting up here. Reading between the line, the implication is that he’s not going to give McChrystal all he wants and he’s building the case by attempting to introduce something less than what most see as the only two viable courses of action – fish or cut bait. All in or fold.

This is what I’ve been afraid of since his election. There’s little will, on his part or that of his party, to do what is necessary in Afghanistan. All the rhetoric about it being the “necessary war” was just that – rhetoric to beat his opponent and their party over the head with.

If that’s the case – then get our troops the hell out of there and deal with the long-term effects of doing that. The effects will be profound. But reinforcing failure, and that’s what I’m hearing here, is just not an option.

Calling the narrowing the choices to the two most viable options “straw man arguments” doesn’t make it so. Certainly Obama has the final say – but the only viable choices remain the only viable choices whether he likes that or not. Doing anything in between is a recipe for continuing failure and will be seen as trading blood for time – political time – because he doesn’t want to make the hard decisions required due to the political implications (I’ve been saying he’ll delay any profound decision, like pulling out, until his reelection is safely in the bag).

The one thing that’s different about the job of President is that when it comes to foreign affairs and the job of Commander in Chief, the people expect the President to put aside all political considerations except what is best for the US.  His job is to act in the best interest of the country. We haven’t seen that yet in President Obama’s foreign policy and, unfortunately, I hold little hope as I watch the Afghanistan discussion unfold that politics will be divorced from the upcoming decision on our strategy there.

~McQ

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