Again, if ObamaCare is so great, why doesn’t anyone want it? And why are the “elite” being exempted?
The latest proof of its undesirability comes from … Congressional staffers. I mentioned this before. They, like the IRS, want no part of this costly boondoggle.
So who rides to the rescue? Why Mr. ObamaCare himself, even while he’s telling the rest of us poor, ignorant schlubs how much we’re going to enjoy his legislative legacy:
Members of Congress and Hill staffers will not lose their healthcare subsidies from the government when Obamacare is implemented because of an exception proposed Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management.
Under the current system, the government covers most of the cost of healthcare premiums for members and their staffers. But an amendment to the Affordable Care Act — proposed by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — threw those subsidies into question saying that members and staff must enter into the exchanges or be covered by insurance “created” by law.
The potential for staff losing the subsidies led to concerns of “brain drain” from the Hill if staffers left as a result of the increased costs.
We could use a good “brain drain” from the population that has helped bring us this debacle that even they don’t want. But on to the good part … relatively speaking:
Last week, when President Barack Obama came to the Hill to meet with Senate Democrats, he informed them that he would personally get involved to sort out the confusion, and the White House said that OPM would issue guidelines this week.
The guidelines, released Wednesday, allow for members and staff to retain their subsidies from the government, an exception in exchange for giving up “premium tax credits” that they would otherwise be eligible for under Obamacare.
This is what our government has become … the dispenser of favors to the politically favored. Apparently Congress is “too important to fail” and they don’t want to be losing all those brilliant folks who, over the years, have brought us to this state of affairs.
And yet there are fools who will defend this sort of favoritism. Because, you know, government is just a big candy machine for some … if you have the right coins.
Seems odd, to me, that we have to point this out every now and then. The naive trust some people have in government always perplexes me. It speaks to an ignorance of both human nature and history that is simply profound.
Our latest example? Well, right here from the good old US of A, land of the free, home of the brave … and the DEA:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“Some experts say?” Really? Frankly, if all of them aren’t saying it, they’re wrong. Again, we have laws … you know, rules? … that require federal law enforcement to go through a process to obtain warrants in order to get this sort of information. And if they don’t, if they get it without a warrant and through other means, it is considered to be unusable in a trial.
So to avoid that, they “recreate”. In other words, federal agents, at least those in the DEA, are trained to do what?
I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
Ya think?! Of course they’re phonying up investigations if they’re obtaining “evidence” via illegal means and the “recreating” the investigative trail to “cover up” where the info originally came from.
Question: how many people have ended up in jail due to the lies of DEA agents?
My guess is hundreds if not thousands.
Of course, any abuse has defenders:
But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said.
Can’t imagine why “two senior DEA officials” would defend it, can you? Oh, yeah, their rear-ends are on the line – so move along citizen, don’t peek behind the curtain, nothing to see here.
You see, there’s a difference between acting on a tip and using information that was illegally obtained.
But apparently that nuance is beyond our two senior DEA officials.
I think the signs are clear that most of big government displays varying degrees of ineptness, from slightly to completely. And over the years, the entire scale of government has moved relentlessly to the “completely” side of things.
Here’s a simple example of why few have any trust in government and even fewer believe what it says anymore. In this case it has to do with security and immigration. It has to do with basic competence. It has to do with following and enforcing the law. And it also has to do with a department of government which has done none of those things:
The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country, according to an audit Tuesday that also found the department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.
The findings were revealed as Congress debates an immigration bill, and the Government Accountability Office’s report could throw up another hurdle because lawmakers in the House and Senate have said that any final deal must include a workable system to track entries and exits and cut down on so-called visa overstays.
The government does track arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures — a goal set in a 1996 immigration law and reaffirmed in 2004, but which has eluded Republican and Democratic administrations.
“DHS has not yet fulfilled the 2004 statutory requirement to implement a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts under way to report to Congress in time for the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle on the costs and benefits of such a capability at airports and seaports,” GAO investigators wrote.
Why has it eluded both Republic and Democratic administrations? Basic incompetence coupled with bureaucratic resistance. A combination which leads to ossification – something we see more and more of as government grows more vast and inept. Also note that many of the problems we suffer today are of government’s making. Certainly if we have a means of logging arrivals into the country, having a system that tracks their exit just couldn’t be that tough to do. And DHS has had the mandate to do that since … 1996. 17 years. 17 years and nada. Result? We have no idea how many foreigners we have illegally in this country right now. But they can track a Pakistani Taliban for days on end via drones.
Of course none of this should surprise anyone, because the federal government isn’t now nor has it ever really been that interested in enforcing immigration laws. When it does do so it is almost by whim.
Like I said, this is just one example of the legion of examples where big government exacerbates problems by being inept or just intransigent (or both) in the execution and enforcement of laws. Executive departments really don’t pay that much attention to either the law or Congress. And, as usual, there are no consequences for doing so. The department charged with homeland security during a war on terror has lost track of a million foreigners that have traveled to this country.
And no one seems to care.
You have to read this article by Bill Nojay in the Wall Street Journal. Nojay was hired as the COO of the Detroit Department of Transportation, on contract, for 8 months. His litany of woes is, as Insty notes, almost straight out of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.
It is all but an article of faith on the left and certain pseud-intellectuals that Rand was a crackpot. Yet here we are watching what she wrote become reality:
Micromanagement by the council was endemic; I once sat for five hours waiting to discuss a minor transportation matter while City Council members debated whether to authorize the demolition of individual vacant and vandalized houses, one by one. There are over 40,000 vacant houses in Detroit.
Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel.
When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse. A federal lawsuit charging that the DDOT did not fully comply with the law in accommodating disabled riders had dragged on for years because of idealistic but painfully naïve Justice Department attorneys seeking regulatory perfection. I felt like a guy in the boiler room of the Titanic, desperately bailing to keep the ship afloat for a few more hours while the DOJ attorneys complained from their first-class cabin that their champagne wasn’t properly chilled.
Detroit’s other municipal departments had similar challenges. I would often compare notes with managers trying to run the city’s street lights, recreation programs, police departments and smaller offices. All of us faced similar gridlock.
The “government is the answer” crowd have a lot to answer for when considering Detroit. In that city, government was as much of the problem, in fact, likely the biggest problem the city faced. It couldn’t get out of its own way. And as the city deteriorated and taxes skyrocketed in an attempt to offset the deterioration, the producers finally fled. They shrugged. They said, “no more.” This country is headed in the same direction.
It just may take a little bit more time to reach the depths of Detroit and suffer the same result – but there’s little if any question it’s on the same road as Detroit. It has passed through the stop sign, busted through the road closed sign and is headed toward the cliff. The only control anyone may have now is how fast the whole contraption reaches the edge.
I love it when petty tyrants are struck down:
New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.
An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.
In a unanimous opinion, the four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division said that the health board was acting too much like a legislature when it created the limit, which would have stopped sales of non-diet soda and other sugar-laden beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces.
The judges wrote that while the board had the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages didn’t fall into that category. They also said the board appeared to have crafted much of the new rules based on political or economic considerations, rather than health concerns.
Bingo. In fact, they were instrumental in carrying out the wishes of one man – Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His is a personal agenda that has little to do with health and much to do with what he perceives as his duty to stop people from using substances that he deems harmful.
Thankfully the court said he doesn’t get to do that – at least not without substantial evidence to support his use of a ban. If ever there was an example of “arbitrary and capricious”, Bloomberg’s ban defines it.
But as a rule, petty tyrants don’t like getting their hands slapped. So, instead of seeing the handwriting on the wall, this one will spend more of NY taxpayers money pursuing a loss in a higher court:
The city’s law department promised a quick appeal.
“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
And if you ever wanted to understand why these busy-body do-gooders exist, here’s a fine statement to illustrate the point and the problem:
“We have a responsibility, as human beings, to do something, to save each other. … So while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we’re doing something about it,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the measure was struck down in March.
Uh no, you don’t “have a responsibility” to “do something”. It’s none of your freaking business, sir. What you are doing is interfering in the life of people who haven’t asked you to do so and are therefore violating their right to do as they wish as long and they don’t violate the rights of others. That’s something petty tyrants can’t seem to get through there heads.
Freedom means the right to be fat, unhealthy and to fail. You may not like those things personally, but that indeed is the cost of freedom. If you’d prefer to be free to make your own choices rather than have some nanny make them for you, then you believe in freedom. Mayor Bloomberg does not.
Here’s a perfect example, one which occurred after the bankruptcy filing – because, you know, Detroit doesn’t have enough problems of their own:
The Detroit City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution calling for a federal investigation to see whether civil rights charges are warranted against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, sparked a discussion over the need for city leaders and others to focus more on violence in Detroit.
“We need to have that same level of outrage with respect to the black-on-black crime that takes place in our community,” Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said. “How many people were shot — maybe even shot and killed this past weekend in the city — mostly likely by folks who look just like them?”
Well yeah. And, how about trash pickup, potholes, streetlights, Detroit’s bills, yatta, yatta, yatta.
Instead you have a councilwoman playing for headlines and pushing the agenda of an equally bankrupt “civil rights” organization because … well you tell me why. Because I don’t get it.
Zero Hedge has a very pointed article about Detroit’s decline. In it are listed 25 reasons it’s bankrupt (that, as ZH claims, will leave you shaking your head when you finish). Here are the first 12:
1) At this point, the city of Detroit owes money to more than 100,000 creditors.
2) Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.
3) Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.
5) Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.
6) There are lots of houses available for sale in Detroit right now for $500 or less.
7) At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.
8 ) About one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.
I know, you look at that and say, "these have me shaking my head already … there’s more"? Oh, yeah. Read ‘em all. But here’s the important part. It’s not just Detroit:
9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.
10) Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.
11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.
12) Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, but over the past 60 years the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.
“Oh my”, you’re saying, “I’m already shaking my head. There’s more”? Oh, yeah, much more.
But here’s the important part – a part we’ve been talking about for quite some time”
A while back, Meredith Whitney was highly criticized for predicting that there would be a huge wave of municipal defaults in this country. When it didn’t happen, the critics let her have it mercilessly.
But Meredith Whitney was not wrong.
She was just early.
Detroit is only just the beginning. When the next major financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a wave of municipal bankruptcies unlike anything we have ever seen before.
And of course the biggest debt problem of all in this country is the U.S. government. We are going to pay a great price for piling up nearly 17 trillion dollars of debt and over 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.
All over the nation, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, debt levels are exploding and poverty is spreading. We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and our share of global GDP has been declining dramatically.
We have been living way above our means for so long that we think it is "normal", but an extremely painful "adjustment" is coming and most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.
I agree completely. As I said in my first post about Detroit it is just the dead canary in the debt mine. It was simply the worst off of the bunch. But, remember, we were told this sort of stuff couldn’t happen and to quit worrying about. That debt wasn’t really that important. Well, in a microcosm, Detroit is the end state we can expect for any number of governmental units in this country (and others). It is where everyone is headed, it’s just a matter of the speed in which they get there.
You cannot live as we’ve been living and expect there to be no consequences. Let me modify that. You can “expect” whatever you wish, what’s delivered will be delivered by reality, not your expectations.
Well there are a lot of contributing reasons, but Brad Plumer hits on the major one:
— Detroit is sagging under decades of bad governance. “The city’s operations have become dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption,” Orr wrote in May. “Outdated policies, work practices, procedures and systems must be improved consistent with best practices of 21st-century government.” (Detroit has been a one-party city run by Democrats since 1962.)
Now I didn’t write that or suggest that. In fact, it comes from Ezra Klein’s “Wonk Blog” in the WaPo. Some things just can’t be denied or spun. Detroit is and has been the exemplar of the blue model city for decades. And this is the result.
Of course, Detroit isn’t the only blue city in dire straits. It’s simply the one in the worst shape of all. It has literally imploded. It’s population dropped as people fled the exploding crime and high taxes. 78,000 buildings have been abandoned or have become blighted. Unemployment is rampant. And, uncooperative unions and huge pension debt doomed any recovery.
Over the past few months, Orr has tried to convince the city’s various creditors, including the city’s unions and pension boards, to take far less than they were owed in order to restructure the city’s finances (in some cases, pennies on the dollar). But he was unsuccessful, so now the city is filing for bankruptcy protection.
So now they’re all at the mercy of the bankruptcy court, assuming the Obama Administration’s misnamed “Department of Justice” doesn’t try to take a hand in the restructuring as it did in the auto bankruptcy proceedings.
Looking back at the first cite, Kevyn Orr, the city’s temporary emergency manager makes an interesting point – he claims it is time to move government into the 21st century. Doing so would also include much less power for unions and much less generous payouts for pensions, if a city is to have a chance at fiscal solvency. Not that Detroit is going to get there easily:
“But city retirees, facing the prospect of sharply reduced benefits whether in bankruptcy or under Detroit’s restructuring proposal, think they stand squarely on the moral high ground because despite the poverty of many current and retired members, they have already offered big concessions.”
You can stand on the highest “moral ground” you can find, but reality says if there’s no money, it really doesn’t matter, does it?
That is, of course, unless the fed tries to involve itself in the mess and subsidize pensions and unions – something not at all far fetched.
Detroit is the canary in the coal mine of blue model governance. How many other cities will fold before it is finally kicked to the curb?
The IRS scandal took on new impetus today with a interesting revelation:
Top IRS officials in Washington, D.C. planned and oversaw the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups, according to the 72-year old retiring IRS lawyer who will testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.
Retiring IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull implicated the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, headed by Obama appointee William J. Wilkins, and Lois Lerner, the embattled head of the IRS’ exempt organizations office, in the IRS targeting scandal and made clear that the targeting started in Washington, according to leaked interviews that Hull granted to the Oversight Committee in advance of Thursday’s hearing.
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George will return to Republican chairman Darrell Issa’s committee Thursday along with two central characters in the IRS saga: Hull and Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre, who previously gave Hull’s name to congressional investigators, fingering him as her Washington-based supervisor.
Yup, the rats are deserting the sinking ship. They are certainly not willing to go down with it and so they’re naming names. And contrary to all the claims previously, it seems that Washington D.C. was indeed involved and not just a “couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati” as we were told in the beginning.
It’s usually never the crime itself that hangs politicians, but the attempted (and ham-fisted) cover-up. And that’s precisely what this is beginning to look like. As for being “ham-fisted”, is there anything this administration does that isn’t ham-fisted?
Jonathan Chait certainly thinks so:
Unlike the last time Democrats threatened to change the Senate rules, and backed down without winning anything, this time they won something important: They broke Senate Republicans’ ability to hold presidential appointments hostage. It’s a total victory for the Democrats.
In fact, Chait says the bottom line is this:
Democrats had proposed to change the Senate’s rules to prevent filibusters on executive branch nominations (but not to ban filibusters of legislation or judicial nominees). They’ve won.
Republicans got one face-saving concession: Democrats have to pick new names for the NLRB. This became an issue because Obama tried to execute an end-run around Congress by appointing them to their positions when Congress was functionally, though not technically, in recess, and was struck down by the Republican-controlled D.C. circuit court.
You can obviously tell which side Chait comes down on if you didn’t know before. The D.C. circuit court struck it down not because it is “Republican-controlled” but because the appointments were Constitutionally illegal. By the way, so did the Third circuit court.
But it leaves us with a very interesting question. If the Democrats agreed to have two new appointments made to the NLRB, aren’t they at least tacitly admitting the current two appointments are illegal? And if so, what does that make any rulings the current NLRB made during that time it was illegally constituted? Common sense says those rulings should be invalidated, don’t you think? And that’s what Cablevision is still asking. It was one of the companies this illegally constituted board issued a ruling against:
“The role of Congress is to ensure a balanced NLRB and the Obama Administration bypassed Congress in order to stack the NLRB in favor of Big Labor. Two different federal courts — the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit — have established that the NLRB is illegally constituted and has no authority to take action. The NLRB continues to ignore these rulings, and we ask the Supreme Court to compel the NLRB to immediately halt its unlawful proceedings against Cablevision.”
Will anyone address this? Will anyone actually take action to annul these rulings from an illegally constituted board? Or, as usual, will we see it ignored, the injustice shrugged off and the usual lack of accountability further enshrined in our political culture?