Free Markets, Free People

Obama Administration


US drops out of top 10 for economic freedom

I’m not sure that this will surprise anyone, given the size and intrusiveness of our government:

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Obviously the decline began before the Obama administration, but the policies of this administration have certainly hastened the decline and are certainly a primary reason for the US dropping out of the top 10:

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

And that’s certainly been the case these past 5 years.  Regulation has exploded, government intrusiveness has increased, freedom is in retreat.

Bottom line:

Despite financial crises and recessions, the global economy has expanded by nearly 70% in 20 years, to $54 trillion in 2012 from $32 trillion in 1993. Hundreds of millions of people have left grinding poverty behind as their economies have become freer. But it is an appalling, avoidable human tragedy how many of the world’s peoples remain unfree—and poor.

The record of increasing economic freedom elsewhere makes it inexcusable that a country like the U.S. continues to pursue policies antithetical to its own growth, while wielding its influence to encourage other countries to chart the same disastrous course. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom documents a world-wide race to enhance economic opportunity through greater freedom—and this year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction.

Drastic action needed, dithering and inaction expected, continued decline the result.

~McQ


ObamaCare’s net effect so far? More cancellations than enrollments

Not that anyone should be surprised:

Even without the full number of enrollments, Obamacare’s current net effect is clearly in favor of cancellations. Millions are already seeing Obamacare’s adverse effects — largely due to more mandates for more services.

The mandates?  Well they’re one of the major reasons for most of the cancellation notices – their plan just doesn’t have all the benefits your wise and caring public servants think you should have:

The health-care law requires that all insurance plans cover 10 “essential benefits,” eliminating millions of plans that don’t fit the bill and boosting costs for consumers that have to purchase coverage for services they may not want or need.

All plans must include maternity coverage, for example — including plans for men and post-menopausal women. Even customers without children must purchase plans that cover pediatric services. Other newly established essential benefits include hospitalization, mental-health services and preventive and wellness services.

While a grandfather clause allowed plans purchased before Obamacare passed in 2010 to continue, HHS estimated that 40-67 percent of plans would eventually lose their status and cost millions of Americans their insurance plans.

So you see little horror shows like this family’s acted out all over the nation.

And those cheap affordable plans?  How are they working out so far (if you can even get one).  Well with high deductibles, not so hot (but all the men have maternity coverage, that’s a plus):

Experts are worrying that some new enrollees will be discouraged from seeing doctors if they have to pay the full charge, rather than simply a copayment. In Miami, for example, 40 percent of bronze plans require consumers to pay the full deductible before coverage kicks in, according to an analysis by online broker eHealthinsurance.com, a private online marketplace, for Kaiser Health News. The average deductible among the examined bronze plans in Miami is $5,735.

Patients in those plans who haven’t yet met their annual deductibles would have to pay the full cost of the visits, unless they were for preventive services mandated by the law. A typical office visit can run $65 to $85, while more complex visits may cost more.

So, as Ed Morrissey puts it:

Put it this way: If the average deductible is $5,735 and a doctor visit is $85, it would take sixty-eight doctor visits before the insurance kicked in — more than one visit per week. And it would start all over again every year.

So how’s ObamaCare going?

About how you’d expect a politically driven piece of law from an incompetent administration to go.

However the apologists have a different reason in mind:

“[S]outhern White radicals vowed to stop implementation of the Obama-care law leading one to wonder if Tea Party members would oppose affordable healthcare if it came from a nonBlack [sic] President,” writes Browne-Marshall.

Yeah, that’s the reason.

~McQ


Coming in 2014 whether you like it or not

Just for an intro:

A Russian expedition ship carrying global warming scientists got stuck in ice earlier this week. Now a Chinese ice breaker sent to rescue the scientists is frozen too just miles away.

Yes friends, “global warming”, “climate change” or whatever the alarmists choose to call it next year, will be with us and with a vengeance.

You see, “if you like your insurance you can keep it” Obama has said it will be one of his highest priorities.  There’s gold in that thar air.  It is an as yet untapped revenue source that, well, he’s bound and determined to tap – science, or lack thereof, be damned.

Nevermind that 13 new Obama taxes go into effect this next year and will likely stunt economic growth … again.  Global warming produces an entire new opportunity to gouge taxpayers “for their own good” — you know, just like ObamaCare.  And, of course, the grab will be couched in language much like ObamaCare.  They’ll promise the moon.  They’ll deliver misery. The only institution which will benefit?  Government.

What will be chipped away?

A little more of your freedom.  Your liberty.

It is obviously okay now for government to just engage in bald faced lies and get away with it.  Obama’s “if you like your insurance …” lie led the parade of Pinocchio awards by that renowned right-wing rag the Washington Post. Result? Nada? Penalty? Nada?

Lesson learned by the perpetrators of the lie?

Hey, it’s okay, there are no penalties and it works.

Next up?

Global warming (and your wallet).

You’ve been warned.

~McQ


It took almost 6 years, but Peggy Noonan is finally waking up …

Seriously, if I were her, I’d be embarrassed to write this:

Everyone is doing thoughtful year-end pieces on President Obama. Writers and reporters agree he’s had his worst year ever. I infer from most of their essays an unstated but broadly held sense of foreboding: There’s no particular reason to believe next year will be better, and in fact signs and indications point to continued trouble.

I would add that in recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run.

“Have begun to worry?!”  Really?!  Just now?!

The guy has been clueless since the beginning and Peggy Noonan is just now beginning to worry.  My goodness where has she been?  We’ve watched a raft of failures in both domestic and foreign policy, an economy and job market that continue to suck, and an imperial presidency in which the incumbent prefers to rule by decree rather than as the Constitution outlines.  And then there’s his signature law – ObamaCare.

And Noonan is just now starting to worry.

Lord save us from the chattering class.  Blinders firmly in place, they’ve ignored this incompetence for all these years and now, when it is sort of safe to actually point it out, they’re “discovering” it.

They’re as clueless as this president.

~McQ


Brutal polling tells the story

Barack Obama is a failed president:

Barack Obama is facing poll numbers that are now in the same territory as President George W. Bush’s following Hurricane Katrina.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released numbers on Tuesday showing that just 38 per cent of registered voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, with a whopping 56 per cent saying they disapprove.

The president has lost his landslide electoral edge among young voters, too, with a negative 41–49 per cent rating among 18- to 29-year-old voters. His once formidable support among Hispanics has also evaporated: They now support him by an historically small 50–43 per cent margin.

Worse for Obama’s fast-approaching legacy-building years, the public believes he is not ‘honest and trustworthy,’ by a 52–44 per cent score. A smaller majority, 51 per cent, said he lacks ‘strong leadership qualities.’

Respondents said by a 41–38 per cent gap that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year Democrats have had a winning posture in the Quinnipiac poll.

And what is he engaged in doing?  Embarrassing the US taking “selfie” photos at a funeral.

The amazing lightness of being clueless.

~McQ


More ObamaCare fallout

First let me thank all the great QandO readers who sent their condolences upon my brother’s passing.  They are greatly appreciated.

Now on to the nasty business of government and politics – in particular, the abominable law called ObamaCare:

An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate, the head of the state’s largest medical association said.

“It doesn’t surprise me that there’s a high rate of nonparticipation,” said Dr. Richard Thorp, president of the California Medical Association.

Why?  Because doctors refuse to work for a pittance.  They provide something of value and believe they should be compensated accordingly.  But with price fixing by the government, they’re just not going to get their just compensation.  So they’re not going to play the game and join in.

California offers one of the lowest government reimbursement rates in the country — 30 percent lower than federalMedicare payments. And reimbursement rates for some procedures are even lower.

In other states, Medicare pays doctors $76 for return-office visits. But in California, Medi-Cal’s reimbursement is $24, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ear, nose and throat doctor.

In other states, doctors receive between $500 to $700 to perform a tonsillectomy. In California, they get $160, Mazer added.

Only in September did insurance companies disclose that their rates would be pegged to California’s Medicaid plan, called Medi-Cal. That’s driven many doctors to just say no.

In fact, as pointed out above, only 30% of the state’s doctors have opted in.

Gee, let’s see the left take the doctor’s side here, okay?  Aren’t they the ones always wanting the raise the “minimum wage”. Well, as is obvious here, the “wage” offered is below the “minimum” doctors believe they should be payed.  The left ought to be out in the street in protest of this travesty.

Higher pay for doctors!  After all, most of them are small business owners and … oh, wait, that makes them the bad guys.  I forgot.  The left isn’t going to protest this because these guys are privileged or something.  Nevermind the fact they provide jobs for others and can’t pay them more than they receive.

I’m sure trying to think this through and come to an equitable solution will shred a few brains on the left.

~McQ


Why the GOP Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About The Polls

There’s been much discussion amongst the punditry about the precipitous decline in Pres. Obama’s poll numbers. The fact that his RCP average has dropped below 40% for the first time, or that Hispanics and white women have seemingly soured on Obama and the Democrats, is causing much buzz. Most alarming, are the numbers on millenials:

Young Americans are turning against Barack Obama and Obamacare, according to a new survey of millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are vital to the fortunes of the president and his signature health care law.

The most startling finding of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics: A majority of Americans under age 25–the youngest millennials–would favor throwing Obama out of office.

[...]

Obama’s approval rating among young Americans is just 41 percent, down 11 points from a year ago, and now tracking with all adults. While 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, only 46 percent said they would do so again.

When asked if they would want to recall various elected officials, 45 percent of millennials said they would oust their member of Congress; 52 percent replied “all members of Congress” should go; and 47 percent said they would recall Obama. The recall-Obama figure was even higher among the youngest millennials, ages 18 to 24, at 52 percent.

To be sure, these numbers don’t bode well for the survival of Obamacare, or for the Democrats chances in 2014. But I don’t think they necessarily mean that the GOP will reap the benefits.

For example, with respect to younger voters, Kristen Soltis Anderson makes some interesting points over at The Daily Beast:

The way young voters feel about Obama doesn’t just matter in 2014 or even 2016. Despite the conventional wisdom that young voters don’t matter in politics, the way a voter first looks at politics when they come of age resonates throughout their voting behavior through their lifetimes. Just last month, Pew Research Center released a study showing that if you came of age under Nixon, you’re more likely to vote Democratic, even to this day. Came of age during the Reagan years? You’re still more likely to lean Republican.

[...]

Harvard rolled out a chart of party identification by age, which showed that in November 2009, some 43 percent of those aged 18-24 called themselves Democrats. Four years later, that has fallen to 31 percent. A huge drop to be sure, but that doesn’t mean people were necessarily changing their minds; it mostly means last election cycle’s bright-eyed kiddo has had a few birthdays. Our gender and race don’t change much year to year, but each of us is constantly moving up in our age bracket. And sure enough, when you look at the Harvard survey’s 25-29 year olds, they’re as Democratic as ever.

That doesn’t mean that this block of voters won’t ever change their minds and views, but it does suggest that, however low their opinion of the Democrats and their leader is now, they are more likely to remain loyal to that party and change it from within.

Another way to look at this is, those who voted for Obama because they wanted to see the ACA enacted and implemented, among other changes he promised, are going to suddenly change their minds about state vs. market solutions just because of a failed implementation. If anything, they are likely to seek out more capable technocrats as their political leaders, and to express greater interest in single-payer health care.

Even so, Anderson makes another great point, i.e. that not all millenials are the same:

To better understand what’s happening with today’s “youth vote,” first consider this fact: someone who turned eighteen on election day last year would have been just six years old on September 11, 2001. They would have been eighth graders during Obama’s first election.

I’ll violate some rules of decorum here by revealing my age: I am 29 years old. I’m a few short months away from aging out of “the youth vote” entirely. And I have about as much in common with today’s high school seniors as I do with my own parents. We researchers and pundits lump 18-year-olds and 29-year-olds into the same bucket when we talk about the “youth vote,” but the truth is that the back end of the “Millennial” generation has little memory of “hope and change” at all.

In short, provided that the GOP can deliver a compelling alternative to the Democrats, it’s possible that they can pick up some of those young voters. Of course, they aren’t called the stupid party for nothing, so don’t expect much on this front.


Lawless and Unbound

A primary reason for structuring our government with the checks and balances it has was to prevent a concentration of power. The POTUS was specifically limited because of the position’s duties, and the danger exercising them could mean to the freedom of the people. America didn’t want a king. Well, we may gotten one anyway.

The House of Representatives held a hearing yesterday on the Obama Administration’s exercise (or non-exercise) of it powers, and asked whether or not the Executive branch was properly following the “take care” clause of the Constitution. AllahPundit provides some commentary on the hearing, focusing Prof. Jonathan Turley’s testimony:

If you have time for only one snippet, though, skip to 2:33:00 for his list of Obama’s five most egregious violations of separation of powers. Some are familiar to you — declaring that he wouldn’t deport illegals who might qualify for DREAM, refusing to enforce the employer mandate, etc — but the ones about him shifting money around without regard to how Congress has appropriated it might not be. Turley makes two valuable points here. One: Courts tend to give the executive a wide berth in separation-of-powers challenges on the theory that Congress has the power of the purse and can defund any executive agency it likes. But that’s not true anymore, he says. Obama, by defying appropriations, has claimed some of that power for himself. What check does Congress have left? That brings us to point two: Even if Congress can’t stop Obama, the courts can. The problem there, though, says Turley, is that O and the DOJ have argued successfully in many cases that no one has standing to sue him because no one can show an injury from his power grabs that’s concrete enough to justify a federal lawsuit. So the courts can’t check him either.

The only check left, it would seem, is through elections. Which isn’t a check at all on a term-limited President. Of course, there’s always the impeachment route, but that doesn’t seem likely (despite what some in the media think). Turley thinks it’s not even being considered:

Now, I was the lead witness but I was testifying in through the haze of a raging flu. So I went back and checked. Impeachment was mentioned in passing but it was quickly discounted. Indeed, I specifically testified that, as someone who testified at the Clinton impeachment, I did not view such a measure as warranted given the ambiguity of past decisions. Indeed, the references to impeachment were made in the context of the loss of meaningful options for Congress to respond to such encroachments when the President reserved the right to suspend portions of laws and fought access to the courts in challenging such decisions. Yet, the Post simply reported that the word impeachment came up (not surprisingly) in a discussion of the options given by Framers to Congress in dealing with unlawful presidential conduct.

During the hearing, not only did I discount impeachment as an option, but a Democratic member specifically asked the panel about the references to impeachment. No one could remember how it came up but it was clear that no one thought it was a substantial issue — or significant part of the hearing.

[...]

In a discussion of checks on the presidency, impeachment is one of the enumerated options given to Congress. Notably, past judicial opinions involving such separation of powers controversies have also discussed impeachment with the power of the purse as devices given to the Congress. In discussing impeachment with these other powers, courts were not advocating impeachment or suggesting that it was a viable solution in that given case.

In the end, since the Senate is held by the same party as the President, impeachment isn’t a serious option. But the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress remains a serious issue. At this point, the only options left would seem to be either shutting the government down, or refusing to pass any new laws since the POTUS won’t execute them anyway. And whither goes the Republic.


Clueless and incompetent

That’s a dangerous combination but that pretty aptly describes the ObamaCare roll out (ObamaCare is a name that the administration and Democrats would now like to distance themselves from).

It seems now that “no one knew” that the roll out was going to be a disaster because, well, no one knew.  Gee, maybe they should have asked the IT guy:

A key player in the development of the Obamacare website said Tuesday that up to 40 percent of IT systems supporting the exchange still need to be built.

The revelation from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao occurs as the administration works to meet its Nov. 30 deadline to shore up the website.

40% of the supporting systems … still need to be built?!

And no one knew?  That’s freaking mindboggling.  You have a system that is 40% incomplete, you’re the head of a department charged with rolling out the system and you don’t know it’s not even close to being ready?

“It’s not that it’s not working,” Chao told lawmakers at an Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee hearing. “It’s still being developed and tested.”

Phenomenal.  If incompetence could be bottled, this administration could corner the market.

Financial management tools remain unfinished, he said, particularly the process that will deliver payments to insurers.

The update hits hardest at Democrats, hopeful that the system would function smoothly by the end of the month.

Chao said that the consumer portion of the website, including account registration, plan shopping and enrollment functions, won’t be affected by the ongoing development effort, but that “back office” functions including accounting and payment systems were not yet complete.

Did this boob tell anyone?  And if he did, didn’t they listen?  How do the insurance companies get paid?  And until they are, how can any insurance plan go into effect?

My goodness … why wasn’t Chao sounding the alarms?

Oh, wait, see, he really didn’t know either:

He also told lawmakers he didn’t see a spring report that warned of potential stumbles and foreshadowed many of the problems that thwarted the website’s launch.

“I was aware some document was being prepared,” he said, but had no knowledge of a report until it was leaked to The Washington Post and obtained by POLITICO.

Chao told the House Energy & Commerce oversight subcommittee that he may have answered questions for the study but was not involved in any briefings on it.

The report, which independent consulting firm McKinsey conducted for CMS, described a process that relied too heavily on outsider contractors, didn’t provide enough time for complete testing and failed to hand authority to one decision maker. Chao’s limited knowledge of the report feeds lawmakers’ frustrations with the site’s fractured management and unclear controls.

These are the people who would run your healthcare (and everything else in you life if you’d let them) and make it both cheaper and better (and a good number of Americans swallowed that snake oil and ordered another bottle).

Oh, by the way, speaking of trust in government, did you know the jobs numbers were faked by the Census Bureau on the eve of the 2012 election?

~McQ


Is the Obama presidency failing?

Edward Luce, writing in the Financial Times, certainly seems to think so:

Anyone wondering about the scale of the anti-Obama backlash should look at its impact on the 2016 US presidential race. Both major parties are looking for candidates with genuine executive experience. The Republican list of hopefuls is filling up with sitting governors. Among Democrats, hopes rest mainly with Hillary Clinton. Should Elizabeth Warren, the popular senator from Massachusetts, enter the fray Mrs Clinton’s riposte would trip off the tongue. Ms Warren has no governing experience, she could say. And we all know the risks of that.

Having authored an inspirational politics, President Barack Obama’s difficulties are spawning a new fashion for perspiration. Given its limited powers, the strength of the US presidency derives largely from its occupant’s credibility.

Faith in Mr Obama’s competence was already negative. Doubts now extend to his personal integrity. A majority of Americans tell pollsters that they no longer believe he is always telling the truth. Were Mr Obama in a different system, he would be fending off a leadership challenge or facing a snap election. Since the US constitution rules out those options, Mr Obama is in danger of becoming a permanent lame duck.

I’d say that was a pretty fair summary of the depth of Obama’s problems.  It reminds many of the George H. W. Bush “read my lips” moment, only on steroids. In both cases, personal credibility suffered.  It is also interesting to read the first paragraph.  Suddenly the experience of actually having run something or done something besides promote yourself all your life is in demand.

But Luce makes some important points – especially with the line, “Given its limited powers, the strength of the US presidency derives largely from its occupant’s credibility.”  Mr. Obama has trampled his.  And, unfortunately for Democrats, he continues to do so.  Luce gives a bit of insight for that as well:

But Mr Obama’s problems derive chiefly from his tendency to react politically to events, rather than from a lack of time. His fumbling response to the woes engulfing the Affordable Care Act show how hard it is for him to kick the habit – even if the remainder of his presidency depends on it.

Pinpoint accuracy in describing the major problem of this administration.  As I’ve said many times, it is all politics all the time with them.  And for such a politically astute group while on the campaign trail, they are incredibly inept in the use of politics while governing.  That’s mainly because the only experience they have is with politics – certainly not with governing.

Finally:

Mr Obama has continually promised more from his signature healthcare reform than it can deliver. In addition to telling Americans that they could keep their insurance if they liked it – a pledge that millions now know was untrue – Mr Obama said the law would extend coverage to the one in six uninsured Americans, reduce costs for the other five and improve delivery for all six.

There ought to have been more scepticism about whether he could make a thing universally available, higher quality and cheaper all at the same time. Only price controls and public provision could conceivably have done that. And Mr Obama had ruled those out early on.

There ought to have been?  There was plenty of skepticism at the time among those who actually took the time to think it through.  And so far the only promises that have been kept are those the skeptics said would happen.  The fact is this was panned by the entire right, but that argument against was virtually ignored by the main stream press who, on the whole, thought this was a dandy idea.  There was plenty of skepticism … just no one willing to listen to it.  Instead, they chose to listen to the snake-0il-salesman-in-chief.

So is Obama’s presidency failing?  Of course it is.  It is a presidency built on a cult of personality.  And once that which held it together and gave it its strength and resiliency is destroyed, the whole house of cards collapses.  Mr. Obama’s credibility is in tatters.  While there are those who will claim this is recoverable, it’s not.  Even if they finally get the website fixed, they then have to deal with the sticker shock so many are going to experience when they see higher premiums and higher deductions and feel lied too again.

Is the Obama presidency failing?  In a word, ‘yes’.  And if, as Luce claims, Obama is relegated to “permanent lame duck status”, so be it.  That may give the country an outside chance to survive this administration.

~McQ

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