Free Markets, Free People

AT&T


I’ll take that bet

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- Outer Space) has made a prediction that just doesn’t ring true for me.

“I predict that by November those who voted for healthcare will find it an asset and those who voted against it will find it a liability,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Uh, yeah, I don’t think so.

Anyone been following the first effect of this bill?  Billions of dollars in new charges against the earnings of businesses who were able, previously, to write off a subisdy and all of health care coverage they paid (for prescription drugs for retirees) that they can no longer do.

Now you’re probably saying, “libertarian dude – I thought you were against all government subsidies”.   I am.  And there’s nothing different about this.  I’m actually rather pleased to see the subsidy ended.  However that’s not the point of the post.  This development runs counter to two promises the administration and Congress made concerning this bill -a) your coverage wouldn’t change and b) it would cost less.

In fact, given the fact that accounting laws require companies to immediately restate their earnings when the law changes and they take on an increased tax burden.  What the likes of AT&T, Deere and Caterpillar are doing is complying.   That means a) if you work for AT&T or the others your coverage will change (most likely it will end and they’ll end up on Medicare’s much less generous drug program) and b) it will cost more.

How much more?  Well, if you look at the loss Caterpillar will take, it works out to about $1,200 dollars per employee.  That 100 million they’re talking about in increased cost has to be made up somewhere.  If that’s true about all large companies – even those with union contracts which aren’t ending anytime soon – then that equals one heck of a lot of PO’d pensioners.  Certainly not a good sign for those that voted for this, is it?

As I covered previously, Verizon has sent word to its employees that coverage may cost more.  That gives the company a couple of choices – it can maintain the level of coverage and raise the price to meet the increased cost, or it can cut benefits to match the present cost.  Either way, either a) or b) end up being incorrect.

This has Democrats a little flustered.  And Henry Waxman, (D-Odius) has decided that these evil corporations must answer to him for this since all those billions in charges they’re having to take against earning wasn’t the intent of this legislation – so he’s going to have hearings to get to the bottom of this.  After all, according to Waxman, in the letter he sent to these businessmen their findings just can’t be right (I mean, face it, these businesses want to take a hit against earnings of billions of dollars just to show the Dems up, huh?):

“They also appear to conflict with independent analyses. … The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, asserted in November 2009 that health care reform could reduce predicted health insurance cost trends for businesses by more than $3,000 per employee over the next 10 years…”

You’ve got to love it – Waxman’s strongest case is an association comprised of some CEOs who “asserted” – got that?  “asserted” – that health care reform “could” – again, “could” – reduce cost trends.

In other words, instead of actually doing the work of checking with authoratative sources that could have actually run the numbers and vetted the requirements of the law, he, Waxman, went with the assertions of a bunch of CEOs because they said what he wanted them to say.  Reminds you a bit of the IPCC, doesn’t it?

Another entity with a bit more credibility has actually taken a look at the law and its impact and come up with this interpretation:

The Employee Benefit Research Institute says this exclusion—equal to 28% of the cost of a drug plan—will run taxpayers $665 per person next year, while the same Medicare coverage would cost $1,209.

In a $5.4 billion revenue grab, Democrats decided that this $665 fillip should be subject to the ordinary corporate income tax of 35%. Most consulting firms and independent analysts say the higher costs will induce some companies to drop drug coverage, which could affect about five million retirees and 3,500 businesses.

And that brings us back to Schumer.  Why does Schumer think that it will be all unicorns and rainbows for those who voted for this monstrosity?

“It’s going to become more popular and here’s why,” Schumer said. “The lies that have been spread, they vanish because you see what’s in the bill.”

[...]

“The No. 1 lie that bothers people is that you’ll lose your insurance if you have it now and are pretty happy with it,” Schumer said.

Yeah, well, so far, not so good on that front, huh Chuck?

And fyi – polls aren’t supporting the Schumer claim either.   Most are running against the bill.  The one mentioned in the article with the Schumer quotes has it 50-46 against.  My guess is that was before the news broke about the charge offs and the effect on pensions.

But hey, it’s all theirs now and they can whistle past the graveyard if they want too – it’s not going to change what happens in November one bit.

~McQ


About Those Previously Condemned Wiretaps

No surprise to some, but a complete surprise to others I’m sure:

The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, this time against a lawsuit by AT&T customers who claim federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.

Disclosure of information sought by the customers, “which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Friday in San Francisco.

Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign’s “unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency.”

The promise of transparency has been the most consistent casualty of the Obama administration. No bills thus far have been posted on the web 5 days prior to signing. The Treasury Department refuses to disclose how TARP money has been spent. And now this – something, as the EFF points out, which was unceasingly criticized by candidate Obama when the Bush administration was in power.

Now, that said, perhaps what the Obama Justice Department has discovered is argument the Bush administration was making at the time were valid. The case in question is an extension of the September case:

Like the earlier suit, the September case relies on a former AT&T technician’s declaration that he saw equipment installed at the company’s San Francisco office to allow NSA agents to copy all incoming e-mails. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say the declaration, and public statements by government officials, revealed a “dragnet” surveillance program that indiscriminately scooped up messages and customer records.

The Justice Department said Friday that government agents monitored only communications in which “a participant was reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.” But proving that the surveillance program did not sweep in ordinary phone customers would require “disclosure of highly classified NSA intelligence sources and methods,” the department said.

It would appear the Obama Justice Department has examined the case and the evidence and, amazingly, has come to the conclusion that what the Bush administration claimed – that the taps were aimed only at al Qaeda and/or affiliated organizations – was correct, and is now defending that. They’ve also concluded that disclosure of the information involved in the case would be harmful to national security.

What I now wonder is if “secrecy” suddenly is ok? And since it is the Obama administration – the increasingly opaque Obama administration – saying the taps were used only on bad guys, are they now ok? And will that be enough to mollify those on the left who were so outraged when the Bush administration was accused of doing all of this?

And finally, I wonder if the NYT will devote the time and space to this defense of what it termed “illegal wiretapping” in the past as it did when it surfaced during the Bush administration?

~McQ