Free Markets, Free People
nyone who remembers the recent passage of ObamaCare remembers the size of the bill – over 2,000 pages – and the fact that almost no one knew what was included in its pages. Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “we’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill”.
There was very little if any debate on the bill and it ended up being rammed through Congress under the reconciliation process. We’re still finding out all of the little poison nuggets in that mess of a law.
Then November shows up and the American pubic spanks the Democrats for doing business the way they did, taking away 63 seats and a majority in the House in a bloodbath of an election. Quit spending like drunken sailors and focus on jobs and the economy the people said.
And the Democrats learned what? Nary a freakin’ thing. They’ve never passed a budget for government this year in Congress – one of its main functions – but instead have passed a series of continuing resolutions to keep it funded. That last continuing resolution is about to run out and – back up to their old tricks — Congressional Democrats have advanced a 2,000 page, 1.1 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that is designed to fund government (and lard out the pork) through 2011.
Instead of bringing up a straight spending bill that funds government at its current levels (or, here’s an idea, maybe 2008 levels so they could show the American people they’re serious about cutting spending? Nah.), we get 1.1 trillion in pork, payoffs and profligacy.
Same old Democrats doing the same old thing as though November never happened.
And they’re not alone:
Despite strong opposition from Thune and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), several Senate Republicans are considering voting for the bill.
“That’s my intention,” said retiring Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) when asked if he would support the package.
Bennett said earmarks in the bill might give some of his GOP colleagues reason to hesitate but wouldn’t affect his vote.
“It will be tough for some, but not for me,” he said.
GOP Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), George Voinovich (Ohio) and Susan Collins (Maine) also told The Hill on Tuesday they would consider voting for the omnibus but want to review it before making a final decision.
And there you have it. If Bennett wonders why he’s soon to be unemployed, it couldn’t be more plainly obvious than his remarks about this. And as for the other “usual suspects”, apparently they don’t much care about the November message either (and if you happen to have one of those people as your Senator, you might want to remind them of that message).
This is the “business as usual” nonsense that has to stop and stop now. This Congress has all but abrogated its budget responsibilities for the entire year and now, on the eve of a government shutdown and the end of their session, they decide to act. But not with a continuing resolution to keep essential government services funded until the new Congress can meet to take up the budget, but with a 2,000 page pork laden, 1.1 trillion debt-fueled monstrosity that will be allowed little debate and passed without most knowing what the hell they’re voting for. On that principle alone, I’d vote “no”. “No” until I can read and consider the bill, debate it, amend it and do what is supposed to be done before passing legislation.
There are a few things that have leaked out concerning what is in the bill:
The 1,924-page bill includes funding to implement the sweeping healthcare reform bill Congress passed earlier this year as well as additional funds for Internal Revenue Service agents, according to a senior GOP aide familiar with the legislation.
Obviously that doesn’t cost “1.1 trillion”, so there’s an awful lot more (I wonder if the IRS agents mentioned are those whose job it will be to enforce health insurance compliance through the tax system?).
So here we are again, faced with a debt-fueled, pork laden 1.1 trillion dollar last spending fling by Democrats and you have 4 Republican Senators thinking about supporting this nonsense in contravention of the will of the people. For those like Bennett, Bond and Voinovich (both of the latter I believe are retiring) there’s probably nothing that can be done to punish them or change their mind. That’s the problem with the lame duck session of a Congress. And it is, as I’ve pointed out before, a major problem. There is no accountability mechanism for those who’ve been defeated or are retiring so they can do pretty much what they wish. This is their last fling and they’re going to go out as they’ve always been – earmark addicts and debt spending fanatics who really don’t give a rip about what Americans have said they want.
Collins, of course, is always ready to side with those who spend like fools and have gotten us in the shape we’re in. And unfortunately Maine GOP voters have yet to ensure Collins understands their new priorities. She’s not up for re-election again until 2014. With that cushion and no apparent pressure from her constituency, she appears to feel free to proceed as usual. However, we can’t afford “as usual” anymore.
Many think that stopping this bill and insisting that it be a clean, clear continuing resolution to fund government is a priority. I’d be one of those. But the GOP worries that if it does so, and government gets shut down right before the holidays, they’ll be blamed and suffer for it as they did when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton went toe-to-toe one year over spending and shutting down government.
I’m not so sure, given the current conditions, that Democrats would enjoy the same wide-spread support now that they did then. Not given the midterms, not given the message very forcefully sent by the electorate and certainly not given this deficit building monstrosity of a bill being considered.
That’s a quote from Michelle Obama during the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act. It is also a quote out of context. So let’s be fair – here’s the entire quote:
“But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well,” Mrs. Obama said. “We can’t just leave it up to the parents. I think that parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway. I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.”
Unlike it is being characterized in some places, she’s essentially claiming it is the job of government to aid parents in ensuring that children are properly fed at school.
Hate to be a party pooper, but in reality it isn’t the job of any government our founders envisioned. It is a job that government has assumed because a) it put itself in charge of schools and b) it decided it had to feed children while they are at school.
In fact, as benign as you may consider that, it is just another indication of the creeping reach of government. Michelle Obama is using the force of law to do what she and the legislators who approved this bill have decided constitutes “good nutrition” regardless of what parents think. The fact that it may actually be “good nutrition” and a benefit doesn’t change the fact that parents wishes or desires aren’t a part of this at all.
In fact, what most parents think they have a “right” to is deciding what their children will or won’t do, eat, participate in or undergo. Somehow government constantly wedges its way into this “right” and attempts to usurp a lot of those decisions. And it is when it finally establishes that position of power that it begins banning things like bake sales in schools and the like.
I know that most are going to view this law as a “good thing”. But looking at the following, you tell me what say parents are going to have concerning this program:
The law increases spending on school nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over ten years and encompasses a range of provisions, including offering qualified children breakfast, lunch and dinner at school, as well as meals during the summer. It also includes a pilot program for “organic foods.”
No one wants hungry or malnourished children. But for the most part, given the other food programs that are available to single mothers and low income families, I would guess the problem is vastly overstated. This is feel good legislation that lets the do-gooders pat themselves on the back and adds yet another layer of government intrusiveness. It also assumes more and more responsibility for the children of others while requiring less from the parents. In essence, and as we all know, there is going to be a certain segment of the population that abrogates their responsibility to feed their children – when they’re perfectly capable of doing it — to take advantage of such a program when in fact they could (and should) shoulder the responsibility themselves (not to mention the bonding benefits of the “family dinner”). And it thus becomes just another dependency welfare program at that point.
People who agree with this sort of interventionist government program are going to claim the usual – $4.5 billion is but a drop in the budgetary bucket and it is “for the children”.
Of course it takes many drops to fill a bucket, and no one said creeping tyranny wouldn’t come cloaked is seemingly benign programs. Personal responsibility, of course, is not one of the virtues this sort of a program encourages. And that is a virtue that government should be stressing instead of further inserting itself in our lives.
Before we proceed today, let’s take note of a couple of things.
One, President Obama has made an executive decision to freeze federal payrolls for 2 years at a savings of $5 billion over those two years. Good for him. Of course the left is outraged, disingenuously claiming this will adversely effect jobs and the economy. Hardly.
While that money won’t be available to be spent by federal employees, it won’t be borrowed either. Or, it won’t be taken from the pockets of taxpayers who can now spend it directly on creating jobs or buying goods.
"Saving" the money doesn’t make it disappear, it simply means federal employees won’t be spending it (those who earned it will) or we don’t add $5 billion to the deficits of those 2 years.
Bigger political question? Is this actually an act of triangulation? Are we seeing this as the first indicator of an administration attempting to move to the center by getting out in front of the GOP on something? Doing this before the big bi-partisan meet today between Obama and the GOP gives Obama the advantage of saying "OK, I’ve done something to reduce the deficit, what about you" (to which the GOP can say "earmarks"). Whether this is a political anomaly, just gimmickry or an actual move toward the center remain to be seen.
And two, on the GOP side, and in front of the meeting today, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell got their talking points out in an op/ed in the Washington Post. In sum they say the overwhelming message from the election says focus on jobs and the economy.
Perhaps the most important paragraph in the piece was this:
Despite what some Democrats in Congress have suggested, voters did not signal they wanted more cooperation on the Democrats’ big-government policies that most Americans oppose. On the contrary, they want both parties to work together on policies that will help create the conditions for private-sector job growth. They want us to stop the spending binge, cut the deficit and send a clear message on taxes and regulations so small businesses can start hiring again.
I think that’s mostly right. Cooperation for cooperation’s sake isn’t what is being demanded. Cooperation with a focus on jobs and the economy is. And it is also clear, as Boehner and McConnell state, that the American public wants some sort of workable plan to stop the huge deficit spending and to settle the business climate to the point that corporations and small businesses feel confident enough in it to begin hiring and expanding again. That means settling any number of outstanding issues like proposed tax increases.
Bottom line? Don’t expect much cooperation from either side on things like energy, immigration, health care and the like except at the very margins. However, there seems to be some signaling from Obama that he may be interested in more substantial cooperation when it comes to the jobs, economy and government spending/taxation. If so, it would mean that Obama has set his cap for reelection in 2012 and believes that this is the route to accomplishing that (engage the GOP, give a little here and there, do high profile things like freeze government worker pay, and hope the economy and unemployment improve fairly significantly in the next 2 years so he can claim credit).
My guess is he now realizes that his agenda items are DOA. But I also think he’s satisfied that what he has managed to get passed (ObamaCare and the like) is probably pretty safe from GOP meddling. So he’s defining the area in which he’ll work and essentially demanding the GOP cooperate. It will be difficult for the GOP to refuse that.
It is going to be interesting to watch the two sides maneuver over the next two years. In ‘94 much the same sort of situation existed. Bill Clinton was deemed irrelevant. He came roaring back via smart politics and GOP mistakes to be reelected easily.
We’ve already talked about the new narrative the left is trying to impose – the “GOP in charge” narrative, in which the GOP will be tagged with every failure of government even though Democrats still control the Senate and Executive branch. But that won’t matter if the GOP House moves aggressively to do what Boehner and McConnell outline in their op/ed. Make Democratic Senators defeat GOP House legislation. And if it manages to get through the Senate, make Obama veto it.
Obama claimed that the difference between ‘94 and ‘10 midterms was “you’ve got me”. That led to the worst “shellacking” in recent memory and much worse that ‘94. Another difference between ‘94 and ‘10 is the new media. If the GOP sticks with its guns, makes every attempt to carry out what it said is the people’s message and is thwarted by the Democrats, that story will actually be told.
It will indeed be interesting to see how the big meeting goes today. I don’t expect much in terms of substance, but if Boehner and McConnell are smart they’ll essentially relay their op/ed message to Obama and then stand back and see how he chooses to react.
For the moment, popular sentiment is on the side of the GOP. They need to retain it by actually doing something. If they don’t and the left succeeds in painting them in a negative way, 2012 could see the backlash from hell, 4 more years of Obama and possible Congressional gains by Democrats.
Is this a tacit admission that despite all the whistling past the graveyard that many Democrats are doing by "guaranteeing" they’ll win in November, the White House expects a GOP majority in at least one chamber of Congress?
If they’re not smoking the same thing as Joe Biden, then yes, it is.
What would that agenda look like?
They are talking about a new, more incremental approach, championed by former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to fulfilling campaign promises on energy, immigration and on closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The new White House chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is far more steeped than Mr. Emanuel in the culture of the Senate, where comprehensive approaches to some of these issues have fared poorly. White House officials hope Mr. Rouse’s expertise will help navigate smaller measures through the chamber.
"We weren’t able to do a lot of those other things even with this Congress. That obviously calls for a new approach," one White House official said.
Ya think? If indeed the GOP is able to take the House and narrow the majority in the Senate, they’ll run into a new obstacle – the GOP legislative agenda. And most expect that agenda to butt heads on everyone of the issues outlined above as priorities for the administration.
Energy will most likely be limited by Republicans and climate change will probably not be a part of any such legislation. As Ryan Lizza points out in The New Yorker, Obama and the Democrats stood on the dock and watched that ship sail a while ago. And most believe it hit an iceberg and sunk, never to be seen again or until the next all Democratic Congress and administration manage to get themselves elected to office – which ever comes first.
Immigration will also most likely not see a comprehensive plan offered. Instead, whatever the administration wants will run smack dab into the “secure the border first” demand from the GOP.
Same with GITMO – the GOP and many Democrats are not going to be happy or comfortable moving terrorists into the homeland from Cuba.
Then there’s the real priorities that one hopes the GOP will focus on instead:
Retiring Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.), the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said nothing would get done on immigration and climate change until the economy has fully recovered, and that the incoming class of Republicans would be in no mood to compromise on economic measures.
And that’s precisely the way it should be – in fact, must be, considering that lack of focus on what concerns the people out there in fly over land as reflected in town hall meetings and Tea Party protests says "it’s the economy stupid". The GOP had better heed the point and act.
The underlying question of interest is what Obama will we see when and if the GOP have a majority in the House? Will he be more conciliatory, drop the anti-GOP rhetoric and be prepared to try to work with Republicans? Or will he turn harder to the left, whine about obstructionism and use his bully pulpit to further demonize the opposition in hopes of garnering enough sympathy votes to squeak him through the 2012 election?
At the moment I’m inclined toward believing the latter is much more the real Obama.
Anyway, it appears reality is beginning to settle in a bit now. I’m sure Joe Biden is exempted from that since he’s rarely seen reality much less recognize it. But this announcement seems to point to some understanding that the window is almost closed to the grand, costly and socialistic programs that the liberal side of the spectrum holds so dear.
Note the operative word – "may". It doesn’t say it will, it doesn’t say it might, it says it "may" drop it because of the type of health insurance it offers and the impact of new regulations governing what amount of money must be spent by insurance companies for care. Specifically:
The requirement concerns the percentage of premiums that must be spent on benefits.
Last week, a senior McDonald’s official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain’s insurer won’t meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.
It is called the "medical loss ratio", but in reality it is government telling a business how it must spend its money. What the business is telling the government is, given the type of insurance offered by the business, driven primarily by the type of business it does, it won’t be able to comply with the regulation and will have to drop it’s present coverage altogether.
Of course this is bad news for the administration which is still out there pushing the lie that if you like your insurance nothing changes and you get to keep it. Naturally this flies right in the face of the lie and it’s such a high profile company that, well, something has to be done.
Like, make them an exception to the rule maybe? You know, special interest government. If you’re big enough and you can cause us enough embarrassment, we’ll “except” you from that which we require all the other drones to comply.
And that appears to be exactly what’s in the works if Jonathan Cohn is to be believed:
By this morning, both McDonalds and the administration were saying the story is overblown. McDonalds says it has no plans to drop the coverage and that it’s been in discussions with the administration over how to make sure it can keep offering the policies. The administration is saying much the same thing–that it’s aware of the issue, has been talking to industry representatives, and has already made clear these plans will be exempt from some of the early regulations on insurance.
Of course those plans obviously aren’t yet exempt since one assumes the legal team at Mickey D’s was able to successfully interpret how the new law would apply to them. So what Cohn is really saying is “nothing to see here citizen, move along, nothing to see” – a fairly routine attempt at spinning a situation in which the administration got caught with its pants around its ankles on the road in front of a school into one that’s “no big deal”.
But it is a big deal. And, if “these plans” are exempt, why? And which plans aren’t exempt. Is Burger King off the hook too? How about Taco Bell?
More importantly, where does the government get off telling a business how to spend its money? Cohn tells us it is because the want to make sure executive salaries and perks aren’t excessive and overhead is kept to a minimum. I say it is plain and simple unwarranted government intrusion that is becoming all too familiar since this administration has been in charge:
More important, the administration has yet to finalize the rule about how insurance companies spend their money (or what is known as the "Medical Loss Ratio".) It’s entirely possible the administration will phase in the requirement slowly. Most likely, then, McDonald’s employees who like these plans will get to keep buying them, at least for the immediate future.
Good thing we can read the bill now to find out what’s really in it, isn’t it?
If you want to know why we get stuck with bad law, the conduct of the 111th Congress might provide the perfect case study on the subject. On the surface you’d think, with Democratic majorities in both chambers and a Democratic president, that it would work like a well-oiled machine.
But that’s not been the case. While Democrats have consistently tried to blame the problems of Congress on Republicans, most Americans understand that the GOP comes in for only a small part of the blame. Most of the problems with its lack of accomplishment fall directly in the lap of Democratic infighting and disagreement.
Even when Democrats had filibuster proof margins in both chambers, they only passed a portion of their agenda. Part of it is because they spent so much time and political capital on the health care reform abomination. That sort of sucked the air out of everything else. And, the election of Scott Brown to the Senate finally put Democrats there in a position that required they finally consider the opposition when crafting their legislation – a distasteful but necessary added requirement (they’d much rather fight among themselves and blame the Republicans who had absolutely no power to stop anything prior to Brown’s election).
After wasting most of two years, the Democratic leadership is faced with two realities – the probability that they’ll lose their House majority in the upcoming elections (as well as some seats in the Senate) and only a lame duck session remaining to pass legislation they deem critical to their agenda. That leaves them with about 6 weeks to jam pending legislation through the Congressional process (at the end of the session, any legislation not acted upon is in effect “killed” and must be introduced again in the next Congress). In the Senate that means these Democratic priorities:
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wants the Senate to consider a package of tax-relief extensions he has been working on all year.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is intent on passing a renewable electricity standard.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says his cybersecurity bill should also come up for a vote, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has called for ratification of the New START arms-control treaty with Russia.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) says he intends to hold Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to a promise to schedule a vote on legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from taking action to curb carbon gas emissions for two years.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, told reporters Friday that leaders would also bring up a bill to address Chinese currency manipulation.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, hopes Congress will pass food-safety legislation Reid tried to bring to the floor last week. Democratic leaders pulled the bill even though they could have had enough votes to stop a Republican filibuster.
And, of course there’s the Defense Appropriations bill to which Reid has added the contentious DREAM act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, assuring quick passage won’t happen. None of the legislation listed is “minor”. All deserve extensive review and debate. Neither of those things will happen as the Senate leadership tries every parliamentary trick in the book to limit both and push the legislation through before the end of the lame duck session. The House is no better and actually would add to the legislative backlog in the Senate if it does manage to pass its education bill.
Also remember that this Congress, for the first time in anyone’s memory, will not be passing a budget, but has punted that responsibility (or shirked it if you prefer) to the next Congress. They have cobbled together and passed a CR (continuing resolution) which will keep government functioning and spending that 7 million dollars a minute it has become so used to spending.
This Congress has been, in my estimation, one of the worst in history. Not because they didn’t pass megatons of legislation – I’m actually fine with fewer laws and less intrusion. Instead its about what they did pass and how they passed it. Additionally its about what they didn’t do (they’re responsible to present a budget but didn’t because of political consideration – that’s shirking your duty where I come from) and what they’re about to do (try to cram mountains of legislation through in a 6 week funnel which will most likely be ill considered, undebated, costly and poor in quality – although if ObamaCare is any indication, not lacking in quantity.
This isn’t how it is supposed to work. It is, however, all the reason you need to change the leadership and majority party. I remember Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi charging that George Bush was “incompetent”. Their leadership of the 111th Congress has redefined the word.
In a few words it can be summed up by "deny funding".
Republicans will try to block money requested by the Obama administration to implement Democrats’ signature Wall Street and healthcare reforms in a stopgap spending measure expected to clear Congress next week. The GOP is seizing on the administration’s funding request as an opportunity to send a message to voters that it wants to reduce government spending and provide a check on President Obama.
Given they don’t have the votes to repeal it and override the presidential veto which is sure to follow any such attempt, this is about their only choice. How effective it would be – both politically and in reality – remain unknown. As one might imagine, the blowback potential is significant.
The first test – since Democrats haven’t passed a budget – is a continuing resolution (CR) necessary to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. It is needed to prevent a government shutdown. Republicans are planning to target those parts of the spending request which apply to funding parts of the new legislation:
The Obama administration has asked appropriators crafting the CR to include roughly $20 billion in new spending, according to GOP appropriators.
That request includes $250 million for doctors, nurses, physician assistants and other primary-care health workers. In asking appropriators for the money, the administration said the increase in health workforce funding is needed to meet the demands of the newly insured under the Democrats’ healthcare act.
The administration also requested $14 million for the Treasury Department so it can carry out the new Wall Street reforms.
Says Sen. Lamar Alexander:
“If the question is whether to approve money to fund certain parts of the healthcare law, that’s certainly one way to try to limit its impact,” he said.
Indeed, without majorities or the White House, this is the only avenue that’s really open to the GOP.
Of course that’s brought the usual obstructionist charges from Democrats:
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) blamed Republicans for the need to resort to a stopgap spending measure in the first place.
“I’d much prefer doing individual bills, but with the Republicans blocking everything, that’s hard to do,” Leahy said.
Yeah, bi-partisanship is a bitch, huh Senator – especially when you can’t just ram things through with an filibuster proof majority as you once could. Someone get him a little cheese for that whine.
In the meantime this is the best way for the GOP to lessen the impact of the bad legislation this administration has passed, until they can gain the majorities and the White House and work toward repeal.
POLITICO points out that the House Republicans are planning to announce their election agenda within the next two weeks. That ought to be an interesting exercise. This is supposedly a result of their “America Speaking Out” initiative, an online, grass-roots effort to build ideas from voters across the country.
Two things that have leaked out sound great but most likely will have about the same impact as PAYGO:
One of the GOP proposals would require bills to have a specific citation of constitutional authority, on the heels of criticism that Democrats breached their constitutional limits in Congress with big-ticket bills like health care reform. If a member questioned whether the House had constitutional authority to pass a bill, that challenge would receive debate and a vote.
The second major initiative would encourage — though not require — members of Congress to read bills before they vote. According to a senior House GOP source, Republicans plan to push for a new rule that would require the House to publish the text of a bill online at least three days before the House votes on it, also giving the public an opportunity to review legislation.
The first is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. That nag fled decades ago. Obviously I’d like to see the Constitution followed as it should be, but I find it highly unlikely that a body of lawyers would have any trouble rationalizing almost anything they come up with as “Constitutional”. I mean, look around you.
The second is, well, window dressing. While it sounds great, I have little confidence that a 2,500 page bill posted on line for 3 days allows anyone enough time to read it much less understand and react to it. I cannot think of any bill that Congress considers and debates that couldn’t wait a month for enactment (other than perhaps some funding for a natural disaster, etc). In that time a real reading could be done, and the appropriate debate among “the people” could take place. What effect even that would have on the House is unknown, however, it certainly would raise the visibility of the debate to much different levels than now and provide a little accountability so sorely missing.
We’re still digging horse apples out of the ObamaCare law. It was passed in haste precisely because of the crap it had hidden inside. Yet there is no reason whatsoever that bill couldn’t have been available on line for 30 days prior to House action. None. Making that a requirement (and if there’s a schedule that the House feels it must keep on certain reoccurring items like the budget – adapt. Move the House work schedule for that bill back a month) would certainly go a lot further to keeping House members honest and between the ditches than anything.
The rest of the agenda remains veiled in generalities:
Other bills and initiatives that are likely to be launched alongside the agenda include tax policy proposals, health reform proposals and jobs-related measures, though GOP aides involved declined to release any specifics ahead of the unveiling.
POLITICO says some of them will be designed to appeal to the Tea Party vote. The first is obviously designed to do that – but is it really something which can and will be enforced? And if it is, will it actually have an effect. Again, you’re asking a body of lawyers to vote on their interpretation of what the Constitution says, and most are going to fall back on “precedent”, i.e. the fact that in the past what many say is an unconstitutional expansion of government – see Commerce clause – has been upheld by the Supreme Court. How in the world would this change that?
Anyway, given my dissatisfaction with the first two, the GOP does indeed need to roll out reasons to vote “for” them, rather than just against Democrats. And most importantly, if they’re able to successfully appeal to the voters to vote “for” them, they better damn well execute.
America’s new “Health Care Czar”, aka Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, has issued a letter to the insurance industry telling them not so politely to shut up or pay the consequences.
The letter, sent to Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans — the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies – makes it clear in no uncertain terms that any complaints that ObamaCare is causing insurance premiums to rise is unacceptable:
"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."
But that’s not the real problem, that’s just the warning. Then there’s the threat:
"We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014."
One has to wonder though, whether Sebelius will also track the misinformation put out by the administration and her department. Such as the implication that no such increases are caused by the law or that any such increases are “minimal”, i.e. in the 1 to 2% range.
As Time magazine’s Karen Pickert points out, Sebelius ignores the fact that individual insurance plans cover different types of populations. So that government and "some" industry and academic experts think the new law will justify increases averaging 1 percent or 2 percent, they could justify much larger increases for certain plans.
Or as Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, "It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."
In other words, mandated coverage – with which the law is loaded – costs money. Whether or not you want it isn’t the point. You’re going to get it and as expected, that means the cost of your insurance premium will go up. If, for instance, you’re carrying a minimal coverage policy with fewer benefits than those mandated by ObamaCare, your insurance coverage is about to change dramatically and so is the cost.
But insurers better shut up about the increased cost or, at least, not blame it on ObamaCare or, per the HHS Secretary’s threat, they’ll be “excluded” from the government takeover underway.
As Michael Barone notes today in his Townhall column:
The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.
"The rule of law, or the rule of men (women)?" economist Tyler Cowen asks on his marginalrevolution.com blog. As he notes, "Nowhere is it stated that these rate hikes are against the law (even if you think they should be), nor can this ‘misinformation’ be against the law."
That, however, doesn’t apparently stop an administration with increasingly totalitarian tendencies from threatening insurers with the loss of their business if they don’t comply and keep their explanations to themselves.
This is outright thuggery. As Barone points out, this certainly isn’t the first example we’ve seen, nor is it most likely to be the last. This is pure and blatant intimidation. There’s no place for this sort of nonsense in democratic republic one of whose founding principles is freedom of speech.
Secretary Sebelius should withdraw the letter immediately and apologize for the threat she issued to the industry as a whole. She should also understand that she doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t “misinformation” or how insurance companies choose to present the inevitable premium increases driven by ObamaCare to their customers.
If she feels there is misinformation out there that is actionable, then she has a court system on which to rely. My guess is she knows she hasn’t a case and thus is reduced to threatening insurers instead, hoping they’ll be cowed into compliance.
Your “hope and change” government at work.