Three primarily political reasons drove the Obama concession yesterday to allow insurance companies to continue to cover customers whose plans don’t meet ObamaCare standards. And none really had anything to do with doing what was right for the citizenry. He wasn’t really doing anyone any favors except Democrats. He was, as usual, focused solely on limiting political damage.
One reason that drove the concession was the usual – an attempt to start shifting the blame. As Megan McArdle points out:
This may be a near-perfect specimen of that Washington perennial: the nonsolution solution. Insurers are already warning that they can’t simply allow people to stay on their old plans, firstly because all plans have to be approved by state insurers who haven’t signed onto this, and secondly because getting their computer systems to reissue the canceled policies is a hefty programming task that may not be possible to complete by the end of the year. But that’s not the administration’s problem, is it? They can say, “Hey, we changed the rule — if your insurer went ahead and canceled your policy anyway, that’s not our fault!”
Blame shifting is as natural to this administration as breathing is to the rest of us. While they take more heat, they can now pass some of it off to insurers who were simply following the law as the Democrats and the administration had written it. Now they’re the bad guys. As you might imagine, the insurance industry is furious. And insurance regulators? Well, they’re left wondering what is what.
Reason number two for the concession was Congressional Democrat panic. Karl Rove has some thoughts on that:
Mr. Obama’s assertion in the NBC interview that “the majority of folks” whose coverage is canceled will “be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper” is also likely to be false. The higher premiums that result from ObamaCare’s bells-and-whistles coverage mandates may be offset for some by subsidies, but most people will pay more.
This problem will get worse and poses a dilemma for Mr. Obama and Democrats. A March analysis by Healthpocket.com estimated that less than 2% of individual plans comply with ObamaCare’s mandates. A Nov. 7 study by McClatchy Newspapers suggests as many as 52 million people, including many covered by their employers, could lose their plan.
As the 2014 election approaches, these people will be (a) losing coverage or have lost it already, (b) shopping for new policies, (c) suffering sticker shock over higher premiums and deductibles and (d) wondering why Mr. Obama called their previous policy with doctors they liked “subpar.” Then, next September and October, they’ll be told about premium increases for 2015.
Democrats know this, and that is why they’re pushing so hard for a delay in these cancellations. They’re really not so much interested in a “fix” as they are in enough time to avoid the consequences of the law in 2014. So they’re very willing to grab this totally short-term political “solution” by kicking the can down the road in order to weather the 2014 midterms. By the time this rears its ugly head again in full, they’re hoping the elections will be over.
Again, this isn’t about people losing coverage. This is about Democrats losing office.
And finally the third reason was a real need to get out in front of the Upton bill in the House. Kimberley Strassel covers that:
The primary purpose of the White House “fix” was to get out ahead of the planned Friday vote on Michigan Republican Fred Upton’s “Keep Your Health Plan Act.” The stage was set for dozens of Democrats to join with the GOP for passage—potentially creating a veto-proof majority, and putting enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to follow suit.
The White House couldn’t risk such a bipartisan rebuke. Moreover, the Upton bill—while it lacks those GOP joy words of “delay” or “repeal”—poses a threat, since it would allow insurers to continue providing non-ObamaCare policies to any American who wants one. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s version of the bill would in fact (unconstitutionally) order insurers to offer the plans in perpetuity. Both bills undermine the law’s central goal of forcing healthy people into costly ObamaCare exchange plans that subsidize the sick.
The president’s “fix” is designed to limit such grandfathering, but that’s why it is of dubious political help to Democrats. Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s announcement, several Democratic senators, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan —whose poll numbers have plummeted in advance of her 2014 re-election bid—announced that they remain in favor of Landrieu-style legislation.
But it’s not going to happen. Obama has already said he’d veto the Upton legislation. There’s a message there for Mary Landrieu as well.
This was all about Barack Obama, as usual. It is a result of raw political calculation – his only seeming area of competence. He’s now managed a political solution which serves him about as well as any solution can in the mess he and his administration have made of this atrocious law. He’s found someone else to shift the blame too, he’s quieted Democrats, at least for the moment and he’s politically pre-empted a GOP move that would have seriously damaged his signature legislation and dumped his leadership and credibility ratings even lower.
For him, this is about as good as it gets.
The trade deficit grew in September to $41.8 billion from $38.7 billion in August.
Initial jobless claims rose 3,000 last week, to 339,000. The 4-week moving average fell 4,250 to 344,000. Continuing claims were unchanged at 2.874 million.
Nonfarm business productivity for the 3rd quarter rose 1.9 percent. Labor costs declined by -0.6%.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 4 points to- 33.9. in the latest week.
The Fed’s balance sheet rose $55.8 billion last week, with total assets of $3.907 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $19.2 billion.
The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply decreased by $-32.4 billion last week.
Gallup, fresh of noting that President Obama’s trustworthiness and decisiveness have been found wanting, says the Affordable Care Act, which has never been popular, is now even more unpopular:
Americans’ views of the 2010 healthcare law have worsened in recent weeks, with 40% approving and 55% disapproving of it. For most of the past year, Americans have been divided on the law, usually tilting slightly toward disapproval. The now 15-percentage-point gap between disapproval and approval is the largest Gallup has measured in the past year.
That 15% gap shows a decided shift in popular opinion to the negative about the law. And say what Democrats might about running on this next election, they know as well as anyone that a 15 percent shift on any one issue is significant. Especially an issue to which they are the sole reason for its existence and therefore the sole party to blame.
The top three reasons given for disapproval were, “Government interference/Forcing people to do things” at 37%, “Increases costs/Makes healthcare less affordable” at 21% and 11% disapproved because they’d lost their insurance.
Of the three reasons, all of which are significant, perhaps the last one is the most significant. These are people who are likely to have nothing good to say about the law or the architects of the law. And because it effects them personally, may take political action (i.e. vote) to satisfy their anger. It may not be the most positive motivation in the world, but it can certainly be devastatingly effective.
The fact that the President is attempting to unilaterally thwart the provisions of his own law to save his and his party’s collective hides, notwithstanding, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Expect the insurance industry to consider lawsuits to kill the requirements. And there will likely be other legal challenges. Of course that will then let the White House do its favorite thing to do and attack and demonize them. But the only reason this predicament exists is a result of the Democratic party’s agenda.
That more negative evaluation may not have as much to do with the content of the law as the implementation of it, in particular how that squares with the president’s earlier characterization of how the law would work.
Some Democratic members of Congress, as well as former President Bill Clinton, are urging the president to support legislation that would rewrite portions of the law to allow Americans to keep their insurance plan if they are being dropped from it, as a way to honor his pledge. At this point, it is not clear whether the president will seriously consider that, or attempt to adjust how the law is administered without rewriting pieces of it.
Additionally, many members of Congress from both parties are asking the administration to extend the deadline by a year for Americans to get health insurance before facing a fine, given the ongoing technical issues with the exchange websites, which are still being fixed. The White House recently extended the deadline by six weeks.
How the administration handles these challenges to the implementation of the law, plus any new ones that emerge in the coming months, could be critical in determining the trajectory of the “disapprove” line in Gallup’s trend chart for the healthcare law.
Obviously this was written before the President’s announcement today. Politically it appears to be panic-city at the White House and among the Democrats. When you have Howard Dean – Howard Dean for heaven sake – questioning the legality of the president’s announcement today, you know there’s trouble in Democrat-land. How long it will last is anyone’s guess at this point, but I think it is safe to say, we’re nowhere near the end of this debacle.
The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.8% last week, with purchases down -1.0% and re-fis down -2.0%.
The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations indicates inflation expectations for the next year of 1.9% in October.
The Treasury Budget for October shows a deficit of $91.6 billion for the month.
I’m not sure why a majority of America once did consider Obama a strong and decisive leader, but then there are a lot of things I can’t explain. But Gallup’s latest poll makes it clear than President Obama is no long considered a strong and decisive leader, at least for the moment:
After six messy weeks — defined chiefly by the partial government shutdown and troubled rollout of the federal government’s healthcare exchange website — President Barack Obama’s reputation with the American public has faltered in some ways, but not in others. Most notably, for the first time in his presidency, fewer than half of Americans, 47%, say Obama is a “strong and decisive leader,” down six percentage points since September.
The current spin coming from the White House and Democrats says this is all a cumulative bump in the road that had to be suffered. The disastrous ObamaCare rollout, the government shutdown, the perceived lie about keeping one’s healthcare insurance if they wanted it have all, as Obama’s favorite preacher would say have “come home to roost”.
The question, however, isn’t when will this pass, but whether it will pass at all? Is this just a bump in the road for the Obama team or is it the “new normal” for him?
There’s no question the trend in his approval ratings the past few months have been anything but encouraging. One thing politicians have learned throughout the ages that they’re unlikely to keep their job if they lose the trust of their constituency. There’s obviously very little reason for Obama to be concerned about losing his job, however, loss of trust now, barely into his second term, could mean his second term agenda is all but dead on arrival. His desire to push immigration reform and climate change legislation wouldn’t even get our of the starting gate. That’s because other politicians, the ones he needs to get the job done for him, will have no fear of defying his wishes and facing the wrath of the people.
So how has Mr. Obama’s trustworthiness done? Not well:
Similarly, the share of Americans who view Obama as “honest and trustworthy” has dipped five points. Exactly half of Americans still consider Obama honest and trustworthy, but this is down from 55% in September and 60% in mid-2012 as Obama was heading toward re-election.
He’s at 50% and sinking. And you’ve got other Democrats taking the lead in trying to fix the ObamaCare debacle while he seems to be doing what he usually does – dither.
The hit, then, to both his trustworthiness and decisiveness are a bit of a double whammy to his ambitious agenda. And it may not be recoverable as Gallup points out:
Of more concern for the White House, Obama’s once-positive image as a strong and decisive leader has suffered, in addition to his longtime reputation for being honest and trustworthy. Of these, the decline in Obama’s honesty rating may be the most noteworthy because Gallup has previously found that this dimension is one of the most important drivers of his overall job approval. Thus, the recent controversy over whether the president honestly described Americans’ ability to retain their own healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act could have the most significant implications for his presidency.
As Insty would say, indeed. Taking hits in decisiveness and trustworthiness are not hits you shrug off. They represent core qualities or a lack thereof and once lost, they’re very hard to regain. Mr. Obama is seen more and more to be lacking those qualities. That doesn’t bode will for him in the next 3 years.
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 2.3 points in October to 91.6.
ICSC-Goldman Store Sales rose 1.2% for the week, and 2.3% for the year. Redbook, meanwhile, shows a retail sales drop from 3.8% to 3.3% on a year-ago basis.
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index was unchanged at 0.14 in September, with the 3-month moving average at -0.03.
First, let me say my heart goes out to the people of the Philippines. This was a horrific and very deadly event. And I can even understand their representative to the UN letting emotion carry the day when he said before the UN:
“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness.
“We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here.
Well, emotion aside, no we can’t. As Bjorn Lomborg has said any number of times, the cost of doing what those who want to “stop this madness” want done would literally end life as we know it, ruin economies and yield, at best, marginal results. Or said another way, we can’t afford their desired programs and even if we could, they wouldn’t have much effect.
Then there is the reality of the day. Right now, for instance, carbon emissions in the US are at 1994 levels (and have dropped in most places around the globe due to the downturn in the global economy). Then there’s the inconvenient fact that warming around the globe has paused for ten years and some climate scientists say it may stay paused for another 2o years. And your guess is likely as good as theirs as to what the climate will do then. Oh, and arctic ice? Back with a vengeance. It is hard, in the middle of possible 30 year pause in warming, to claim a single event has been caused by … warming. But someone always will.
Finally, look on this side of the globe. Hurricanes and tornadoes are down – a lot:
Summer is almost over, and as of Tuesday morning, not a single hurricane had formed this year. Tornado activity in 2013 is also down around record low levels, while heat waves are fewer and milder than last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Meteorologists credit luck, shifts in the high-altitude jet stream, African winds and dust.
So it is possible that the “local” weather, in this case “local” is a rather relative term, in our tropics was cooler than the weather in the tropical region of the Philippines. Luck or the way the climate works? Is that something man has control over? Or, is it something that an increasing number of scientists seem to be concluding – that various “local” climatic events have more say over our weather than does CO2?
Since I don’t accept the science is settled on this issue, I think we have a lot to still learn about our climate and how it works and what effects it. To this point, I’m not convinced that a single trace gas that, until recently science said was a lagging indicator of warming, is not the culprit that spawns super storms like Haiyan.
If you thought Hugo Chavez was bad, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, is Chavez without the charisma. But Maduro learned all of Chavez’s tricks to stay in power, and one of them is to claim to be involved in a perpetual war against outside forces who are bent on destroying their socialist paradise. In this case the “high prices” in Daka stores (equivalent to our Best Buys) gained the ire of Maduro who sent the military in to seize the stores and require them to offer “fair prices” on their electronics:
Members of Venezuela’s National Guard, some of whom carried assault rifles, kept order at the stores as bargain hunters rushed to get inside.
Daka’s store managers, according to Maduro, have been arrested and are being held by the country’s security services. Neither Daka nor the government responded to requests for comment.
Of course, Daka is unlikely to continue to serve Venezuela if it can’t make a profit – something most socialists governments have never understood. But let’s look at the real reason this is happening:
“I have no love for this government,” said Gabriela Campo, 33, a businesswoman, hoping to take home a cut-price television and fridge. “They’re doing this for nothing but political reasons, in time for December’s elections.”
Maduro faces municipal elections on Dec. 8. His popularity has dropped significantly in recent months, with shortages of basic items such as chicken, milk and toilet paper as well as soaring inflation, at 54.3% over the past 12 months.
“This is more like government-sanctioned looting,” said 42-year-old Caracas-based engineer Carlos Rivero. “What stops them going into pharmacies, supermarkets and shopping malls?”
It is exactly like government-sanctioned looting. And the engineer’s point is telling – what industry in Venezuela can feel safe given the actions of this government? Why would any foreign entity ever invest or take the chance of establishing itself in Venezuela? Each election would put them on a target list for seizure depending on how poorly the head of the government viewed his popularity and how much he felt it necessary to boost his reputation.
The one entity whose job it is to protect you from force and fraud is engaged in both “legally”.
Why would anyone feel safe?
This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss Obamacare and the end of antibiotics.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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