Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 22, 2011

GOP–pay attention to this poll

Pay attention to this because it is important:

The portion of Americans who say they believe the U.S. is on the wrong track is higher than it was at any point during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent after the 1981-82 recession, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. The ABC poll showed the wrong-track number during Reagan’s first term peaking at 57 percent in October 1982. The Bloomberg poll shows 66 percent of Americans think the U.S. is going in the wrong direction now.

This is the number I continue to talk about because to me it is the truest indication of the mood of the country.  The mood is obviously critical to the re-election, and wrong track polling has consistently indicated the way previous elections are going to go.  There is a threshold that portends bad news for the incumbent, and we’re well past that.  The question is, will it stay there?  The answer seems to be, by all indications and forecasts, yes.

As the public grasps for solutions, the Republican Party is breaking through in the message war on the budget and economy. A majority of Americans say job growth would best be revived with prescriptions favored by the party: cuts in government spending and taxes, the Bloomberg Poll shows. Even 40 percent of Democrats share that view.

This should be something every GOP politician should have tattooed on his or her inner eyelid to help them focus.  Concentrate on the message about the economy – it’s a winner.  Wander off into wedge issues and you give your opponent an opening and a way to distract the public.   If you do that you deserve to lose.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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ObamaCare will allow middle class retirees to go on Medicaid

Good thing we passed this ObamaCare monstrosity so we could finally find out what is in it.  More and more surprises, as the Daily Caller points out:

President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.

The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department.

Brilliant.  The states, which pay over 40% of Medicare costs, are, of course, not thrilled by this revelation.

Governors have been clamoring for relief from Medicaid costs, complaining that federal rules drive up spending and limit state options. The program is now one of the top issues in budget negotiations between the White House and Congress. Republicans want to roll back federal requirements that block states from limiting eligibility.

Medicaid is a safety net program that serves more than 50 million vulnerable Americans, from low-income children and pregnant women to Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes. It’s designed as a federal-state partnership, with Washington paying close to 60 percent of the total cost.

Early retirees would be a new group for Medicaid. While retirees can now start collecting Social Security at age 62, they must wait another three years to get Medicare, unless they’re disabled.

Some early retirees who worked all their lives may not want to join a program for the poor, but others might see it as a relatively painless way to satisfy the new law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance starting in 2014. It would help tide them over until they qualify for Medicare.

Remember, they have a mandated requirement to carry insurance.  They’re not eligible for Medicare and they’re retired.  COBRA is very expensive.  But the new rules in ObamaCare make those who are drawing up to $64,000 a year in retirement eligible for a program that is supposed to serve only the very poorest among us:

The Medicare actuary’s office roughed out some examples to illustrate how the provision would work. A married couple retiring at 62 in 2014 and receiving the maximum Social Security benefit of $23,500 apiece could get $17,000 from other sources and still qualify for Medicaid with a total income of $64,000.

That $64,000 would put them at about four times the federal poverty level, which for a two-person household is $14,710 this year. The Medicaid expansion in the health care law was supposed to benefit childless adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level. A fudge factor built into the law bumps that up to 138 percent.

The actuary’s office acknowledged its $64,000 example would represent an unusual case, but nonetheless the hypothetical couple would still qualify for Medicaid.

Now you’re saying, “wait a minute, they’re at 4 times the poverty level with their income and it clearly states that only those who are at 138% can get Medicaid – that’s exactly what $17,000 represents.

Oh, didn’t I tell you?  ObamaCare’s new law doesn’t count Social Security as income.  So in essence, our mythical couple only claims $17,000 a year income and qualifies.

So, they look at the options – let’s say COBRA would run $1,000 a month for the two of them for sake of argument (it could be much higher) and simple math.  They’re looking at an outlay of $12,000 a year.  Medicaid, however, is probably less than a $100 a month and copays.  A thousand a month or a hundred a month – you make the call.

Here’s the bottom line truth:

Former Utah governor Mike Leavitt said bringing early retirees in will “just add fuel to the fire,” bolstering the argument from Republican governors that some of Washington’s rules don’t make sense.

“The fact that this is being discovered now tells you, what else is baked into this law?” said Leavitt, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George H.W. Bush. “It clearly begins to reveal that the nature of the law was to put more and more people under eligibility for government insurance.”

It is hard not to interpret it that way, isn’t it?  Everyone claims they didn’t know this was “in there”.  Really?  And it literally has been discovered recently.  Not only does it make you wonder what else is “baked into this law”, but it makes you realize how really “half baked” this law is.

This is a law that has to be repealed in full.  It is terrible law.  It continues to see little surprises like this pop to the surface.  And, as governor Leavitt points out, these sorts of revelations do indeed point to the real nature of the law – that is to make more and more people dependent on government.

Any presidential candidate who is wishy-washy on this issue doesn’t deserve the time of day, much less your vote.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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30,000 troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan

I’m all for winding down our commitment in Afghanistan, but it should be for solid reasons to do with the security and stability of that nation and not because of US politics.  Alas I fear what we’ll hear tonight has been decided for exactly that reason and no other.

Barack Obama is set to reject the advice of the Pentagon by announcing on Wednesday night the withdrawal of up to 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by November next year, in time for the US presidential election.

The move comes despite warnings from his military commanders that recent security gains are fragile. They have been urging him to keep troop numbers high until 2013.

The accelerated drawdown will dismay American and British commanders in Kabul, who have privately expressed concern that the White House is now being driven by political rather than military imperatives.

And, of course, they’re entirely right.  Obviously military commanders are going to argue for more, not less – and most people understand that.  They will always say they need more.  But in this case, what they’re arguing is they need to keep what they have.  The so-called “surge” has barely been completed and full deployment of those assets is only months old.  We’re in the middle of a “fighting season”.  Certainly it would be better to announce and begin these withdrawals, whatever their size, in the colder months when the fighting is naturally less.

But to the point – “listening to the generals” is apparently only something Republican Commanders in Chief should do.  Obama has decided, for entirely unmilitary reasons, it is time to pull the plug on any hope of holding our gains in Afghanistan.  Note, I didn’t say get out of A’stan.  30,000 troops isn’t even close to a full withdrawal (100,000 there now).  However, it is a margin of difference between consolidating and keeping what we’ve driven the Taliban out of and being too thinly spread to do that.   In fact, that was the whole purpose of the surge (just as in Iraq) – take and hold.

The withdrawal has created deep divisions in Washington. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued for a modest reduction – at one point as low as 2,000 – citing the advice of US commanders in Afghanistan that they need to protect gains made during the winter against the Taliban.

But senior White House staff, conscious that the president has an election to fight next year, argued in favour of a reduction that would send a signal to the US public that an end to the war is in sight.

General Petraeus and his staff have made clear the risk of pulling out 30,000 troops this soon.  Obama has chosen to ignore their advice for political reasons.  Some will attempt to characterize this as a “gutsy call” when in fact it is anything but that.  It is the antithesis of a gutsy call – it is a decision driven by political and not military reasons.  In fact, it would appear the military’s reasons for wanting a much smaller withdrawal weren’t really considered at all.  That is to say, this was a decision made on a timeline, reality be damned. 

Interestingly, this was the “good war”, the “necessary war”, the “war we ought to be fighting” when Mr. Obama was a candidate.  As with much he does, he’s taken a swipe to satisfy political critics and is now pulling out to satisfy others.  The war (or is it a “kinetic event?”)?

It’s a “distraction.”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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