Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People


Imperial White House cancels Medicare Advantage cuts to help Dems in mid-terms

The White House has once again bowed to screaming Democrats worried about the mid-term elections and this time cancelled cuts to Medicare Advantage. As you recall, these cuts were made to pay for ObamaCare:

The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.

The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.

Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.
Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.

The healthcare law included $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, in part to pay for ObamaCare.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said that the cuts weren’t necessary because of an “an increase in healthy beneficiaries under Medicare.” That, of course, makes little sense. Medicare is a mandatory insurance program for people 65 and older. How that demographic suddenly got “healthier” remains a mystery, but there you have the “reason” for the decision. Well, that and mid-term elections.

As for cost, someone needs to explain how ObamaCare is to be funded if the mechanisms set in place to pay for it keep getting delayed or cancelled.

When CBO analysts most recently looked at the gross cost of expanding Medicaid and giving subsidies to individuals to purchase insurance through the new exchanges — the bulk of the law’s spending — they came up with slightly more than $2 trillion for 2015 through 2024.

After deducting some offsets from the law — such as penalty payments from employers and individuals due to insurance mandates — CBO estimated the net cost at nearly $1.5 trillion.

The CBO hasn’t done a standalone deficit analysis on Obamacare since 2012, but at that time, its analysts estimated the law would reduce deficits by $109 billion, once all tax increases, cuts to Medicare and other savings are taken into account.

When referring to the “cost” of Obamacare, the fair thing to do is cite the $2 trillion figure — and no, that isn’t just because it’s a higher number. The gross figure represents how much the federal government will have to spend on expanding coverage through Obamacare, at least according to the CBO. If the government weren’t spending $2 trillion on insurance coverage, that’s money that could be going to reducing the deficit, spending more on infrastructure or a host of other theoretical policies.

As mentioned above, that $2 trillion cost had about $500 billion in offsets. But the penalty payments from employers and individuals has been delayed and now the $200 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts/offsets is cancelled, or so says the imperial presidency. That, of course, doesn’t change the cost, it only increases it.

Short term political pandering aimed at winning elections as usual from this administration. Ironically, it has been more effective than the Republicans in dismantling portions of the atrocity known as ObamaCare. So, thanks to the mid-terms, Republicans get one of the cuts they wanted reversed cancelled. Of course they won’t get credit for it – but then that’s the plan isn’t it?

And, this is all likely temporary anyway, even though the White House and Dems won’t spin it as so:

“The changes CMS included in the final rate notice will help mitigate the impact on seniors, but the Medicare Advantage program is still facing a reduction in payment rates next year on top of the 6 percent cut to payments in 2014,” said [AHIP] president Karen Ignagni.

But it will get them through the election cycle, won’t it?

~McQ

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Defining the alarmist problem

While doing a  review of Rupert Darwall’s book “The Age of Global Warming”, Charles Moore does an excellent job of succinctly identifying the alarmist movement’s core origins and core identity:

The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won’t last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America’s natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome’s work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.”).

These beliefs began to take organised, international, political form in the 1970s. One of the greatest problems, however, was that the ecologists’ attacks on economic growth were unwelcome to the nations they most idolised – the poor ones. The eternal Green paradox is that the concept of the simple, natural life appeals only to countries with tons of money. By a brilliant stroke, the founding fathers developed the concept of “sustainable development”. This meant that poor countries would not have to restrain their own growth, but could force restraint upon the rich ones. This formula was propagated at the first global environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972.

Indeed, the resulting grouping was a natural one.  Eco radicals out to ‘save the world’ from evil capitalism (and man) and poor countries looking for a way to extort billions from rich countries without having to do anything of note to help themselves.

The G7 Summit in Toronto in 1988 endorsed the theory of global warming. In the same year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up. The capture of the world’s elites was under way. Its high point was the Kyoto Summit in 1998, which enabled the entire world to yell at the United States for not signing up, while also exempting developing nations, such as China and India, from its rigours.

The final push, brilliantly described here by Darwall, was the Copenhagen Summit of 2009. Before it, a desperate Gordon Brown warned of “50 days to avoid catastrophe”, but the “catastrophe” came all the same. The warmists’ idea was that the global fight against carbon emissions would work only if the whole world signed up to it. Despite being ordered to by President Obama, who had just collected his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the developing countries refused. The Left-wing dream that what used to be called the Third World would finally be emancipated from Western power had come true. The developing countries were perfectly happy for the West to have “the green crap”, but not to have it themselves. The Western goody-goodies were hoist by their own petard.

The UN was the natural forum for this push and the IPCC, headed by an railway engineer, the natural “scientific” instrument.  We know how that story has turned out to this point.  No global warming registered for 17 years and 6 months despite all the dire, but apparently scientifically groundless, predictions.  The irony, of course, is it is those who have been skeptical of all of this are the one’s called “deniers”.  And the alarmists have become so bankrupt and shrill that some of them are calling for the arrest of “deniers.” One supposes since the alarmist cause most closely resembles a religious cult, the call for arrest is on the grounds of heresy … or something.

Meanwhile, “green energy” – the eco radical solution to all – continues to not be ready for prime time, while fossil fuel becomes cheaper and more plentiful.

Yet somehow, the so-called “elites” have decided – based on what, one isn’t sure – that the threat to the globe is real.  More irony.  On the one hand, the eco radicals don’t care at all if it costs lives since they’ve been convinced for decades that it is man that’s the problem.  Less of us is a “good thing” in their world.   On the other hand you have the elites, aka, politicians, who see an opportunity to both expand government power and create revenue literally out of thin air.  The fight is over who will get the money.

Meanwhile the reputation of science – real science – will suffer because of this very political cause and the actions of some scientists to serve it.

Scientists, Rupert Darwall complains, have been too ready to embrace the “subjectivity” of the future, and too often have a “cultural aversion to learning from the past”.

And that is a complete disservice to science.  Given all of that, who are the real deniers here?

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 06 Apr 14

This week, Michael and Dale talk about Brendan Eich and Obamacare.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

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There is absolutely no problem with voter fraud, say the Democrats … repeatedly

However, as with most such utterances by that crew, they’re simply wrong:

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has found thousands of instances of voter fraud in the state, thanks to a 28-state crosscheck of voter rolls. Initial findings suggest widespread election fraud.

765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in N.C. and the other state in the 2012 general election.
35,750 voters with the same first and last name and DOB were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in both states in the 2012 general election.

155,692 voters with the same first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state – and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.

The second point is key, as double voting is election fraud under state and federal statutes. Punishment for double voting in federal elections can include jail time.

No one said the fraudulent voters were smart (seriously, same DOB, SSAN and name if you’re going to commit fraud? Brilliant!), but what they did was certainly election fraud. And this is one state.

The findings, while large, leave open the question of just how widespread double voting might be since 22 states did not participate in the Interstate Crosscheck.

But remember – voter fraud is just not a problem. The integrity of our voting system, per the Dems, is air tight. And no, the dead don’t vote:

In addition to the above, the crosscheck found that more than 13,000 deceased voters remain on North Carolina’s rolls, and that 81 of them showed voter activity in their records after death.

Well, not many of them.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Apr 14

Challenger reports that layoff announcements in March were 34,399, down from 41,835 in February.

The Gallup US Payroll to Population rate fell -0.4 points to 42.7 in March.

The US trade deficit rose to $42.3 billion in February from $39.3 billion in January.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 16,000 to 326,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 319,500. Continuing claims rose 22,000 to 2.836 million.

The PMI Services Index rose 2 points to 55.3 in March.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.5 points to -30.0 in the latest week.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose 1.5 points to 53.1 in March.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI rose 0.5 points to 53.5 in March.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $9.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.236 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $4.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply grew $20 billion in the latest week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

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Another reason you should never believe a thing this administration says

Because, as we’ve learned over the years, it’s likely either spin, just not true or both.

For instance, we have the President claiming victory for ObamaCare because it has 7.1 million enrollments.  Note the word – “enrollments”:

‘The goal we’ve set for ourselves – that no American should go without the health care they need … is achievable,’ Obama declared.

The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.

‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’

And, as is usual with this man, he simply declared he’d won and simply threw out “facts” that haven’t at all proven true. Essentially lies in a bigger lie:

‘“The bottom line is this,’ said Obama: ‘The share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth in the cost of insurance is down. There’s no good reason to go back.’

Of course the “share of Americans” with insurance isn’t up (over 7 million lost their insurance when their plans didn’t qualify under ObamaCare) and costs are certainly not “down”.

Jay “Baghdad Bob” Carney took it from there (Carney is a perfect name for the position, he’s like a carnival barker):

‘At midnight last night we surpassed everyone’s expectations,’ he boasted, ‘at least everyone in this room.’

While he took great pains to emphasize that the total would grow – saying ‘we’re still waiting on data from state exchanges’ – he dodged tough questions about other statistics that reporters thought he should have had at the ready.

Those numbers included how many Americans have paid for their insurance policies, and are actually insured. Also, he had no answer to the thorny question of how few signups represented people who had no insurance before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

But as usual, when ever they drop something like this in a news cycle, the devil is in the details.  For instance, an unpublished RAND study that suggests that relatively speaking, very few of the enrollees were previously uninsured:

The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.

And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month’s premiums.

If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

So effectively, assuming the numbers are correct, less than a million are newly insured.  And, as we’ve read in the past, most of them are Medicaid subscribers.

In other words, we’ve gone through all this hell, all this disruption, the higher costs, the lesser insurance plans, the IRS enforcement, etc. just to enroll 858,298 people – most of whom have ended up on a program that existed prior to this atrocity.

Perhaps the biggest laugh line of all, however, comes from David Axelrod, who declared that ObamaCare was totally going to change “the attitude that government can’t do anything“.  Of course he only felt comfortable saying that on MSNBC.  One can certainly understand why.

Meanwhile, for the most part, the RAND study goes unpublished and, for the most part, unexamined.  The King has declared victory – the big lie has been established – debate over.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 Apr 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.2% last week. Purchases were up 1.0%, but re-fis fell -3.0%.

The ADP national employment report estimates that 191,000 new private payroll jobs were created in March.

The Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index rose 2 points in March to 23.

February factory orders rose a better-than-expected 1.6% helped by a 13.4% increase in aircraft orders and a 3.0% rise in autos.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

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Answering the IPCC

In the past couple of weeks we’ve all been “treated” to climate change alarmist screeds calling for the arrest of “deniers.”   Hey, just because you have a bi-line in a publication doesn’t mean you’re particularly smart.  In fact, I’ve always found that “true believers” who voice no skepticism about much of anything to be, well, not the brightest bulb in the room.

However, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there “denying” climate change.  The climate of the world is in constant flux and few if any deny that.  The denial is of the claims – the assertions – that trace gas CO2 is the major culprit and that man is the major reason for all the CO2.    That man’s activities are driving climate change, not natural forces.

Of course all this recent alarmist activity has been designed to coincide with the UN’s IPCC report on climate change.  As you might imagine, they’ve become a little gun shy at the IPCC after so many of their previous claims have been found to be either groundless or wrong.  So this report is couched in a mountain of qualifiers like “could”, “may”, “might” etc.  They still claim they’re right, but they aren’t quite as specific about it as previously.  Instead they use the qualifiers to help put fear in people without really having to take responsibility for their claim.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book for those who perceive themselves to be on very shaky ground but still have an agenda to fulfill.

Thankfully there are a few “denier” organizations (skeptical is the word most normal folks would use) who are monitoring the IPCC and the screechy alarmists and answering even their caveated claims.  For instance:

IPCC: “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”

NIPCC: “Flood frequency and severity in many areas of the world were higher historically during the Little Ice Age and other cool eras than during the twentieth century. Climate change ranks well below other contributors, such as dikes and levee construction, to increased flooding.”

IPCC: “Risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations.”

NIPCC: “There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.

IPCC: “Risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding.”

NIPCC: “No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. What changes have been observed tend to be beneficial.”

IPCC: “Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.”

NIPCC: “Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations benefit plant growth-promoting microorganisms that help land plants overcome drought conditions, a potentially negative aspect of future climate change. Continued atmospheric CO2enrichment should prove to be a huge benefit to plants by directly enhancing their growth rates and water use efficiencies.”

Etc, etc., etc.  What it seems you get from the IPCC is pseudo-scientific and blatantly political claims.  The UN has decided that “climate change” is a huge and threatening problem (and a grand method of redistributing national wealth from the 1st world to the 3rd world).  Consequently it has decided to make “science” bend to the political agenda they’ve put forward.  And compliant “scientists” are apparently willing to do their bidding.

Meanwhile, as Anthony Watts has pointed out, no one among that group of IPCC “scientists” can answer the most basic and troubling question.  Why hasn’t it warmed, as predicted, in 17 years and 6 months in the face of higher CO2 levels, and, in fact, is trending toward being cooler? One chart points the the alarmist problem in a nutshell:

So tell us again, oh ye Chicken Littles of the alarmist creed, why we should believe a single thing you claim about climate change when you and your predictions (and models) have been so awfully wrong for almost 2 decades?

~McQ

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