About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

WSJ Letter Published - GOP Truce

Below is my letter to the editor that was published today in the WSJ under the heading GOP Factions Must Call a Truce in Order to Triumph. Subscribers to RTE will recognize that the letter is based on the two posts that detailed the House & Senate votes on the Ryan-Murray budget deal that were posted right before the Christmas message.
Dear Editor,

Fred Barnes's Dec. 20 op-ed "The Lucky House Republicans," regarding the passing of the Ryan-Murray budget deal, describes what I hope is happening in the Republican Party, namely that the establishment Republicans and the Tea Party Republicans have called a truce and are concentrated on the common opponent—the Democrats in 2014.

The House and Senate votes clearly produced two GOP teams based on overall voting records—the establishment Republican Team A consists of 164 House members and nine senators for a total of 173 centrist moderate politicians, and the Tea Party Republican Team B consists of 62 House members and 36 senators for a total of 98. Looking the list over, there are very few exceptions to this political description based on their overall voting record.

Now the teams should follow the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Any criticism of a fellow Republican will take away from this focus, produce destructive sound bites, and only help ensure a long time in the wilderness.

We can expect both teams to vote like they did on the budget deal when the debt-ceiling confrontation comes up in February as well as all other budget and appropriation matters. This should be accepted with no further criticism by anyone on either team. These people on both sides have told us with vote after vote what they believe. We just have to get through the next 10 and a half months before a new Congress is elected after the American people (i.e., 21% of the electorate, assuming a 40% turnout) decide which way they want to go.

This gives both teams time to present their respective plans so people have a chance to see the substance with which to judge their futures. Every senator and all but seven congressmen cast votes on this budget issue so only a handful of people will not know where their elected representatives stand.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas & New Year's Message For Ukraine

click on photo to enlarge
On Christmas night 1776 George Washington crossed the Delaware with a column of Continentals just prior to their surprise attack on the morning of December 26 against the Hessian mercenaries occupying Trenton.  The Battle of Trenton was brief mostly because the unsuspecting Hessians were surprised that the icy Delaware could actually be crossed (see painting above) – two thirds of the Hessians were captured with very few American losses.  This first major victory of the Revolutionary War increased moral & as a result many soldiers scheduled to be released from active duty on December 31 reenlisted in the Continental Army.
Of course America was in the early stages of our history.  We had gone through the bondage to spiritual faith & spiritual faith to great courage stages.  We had moved to the courage, fighting for our liberty stage.
Today the people of Ukraine are just about @ the same point in their fight for liberty that America was on Christmas 1776. 
Starting with mostly students on November 21 Ukrainian pro-liberty advocates have protested the government's sudden lurch away from joining the EU in favor of returning to the tyranny & repressiveness of Russian influence & corrupt control.  Hundreds of thousands of freedom seeking Ukrainians have descended on Kiev's Independence Square known locally as the Maidan (the Square).  Behind barricades they have set up a self governing city within Kiev.  This is a recurrence of similar demonstrations in 2004, known as the Orange Revolution, that successfully overturned fraudulent election results.  Those demonstrations were led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who has spent the last two years in jail on trumped up political charges by the current regime.  For many this is a second tour of duty after having participated in the Orange Revolution.  This time there is no single leader of the movement – should sound very familiar to Tea Partiers.  These people are fighting, with no sign of quit, for democracy, individual rights, & the rule of law.  In brief – they are fighting for the freedoms Americans have known for over 200 years & that they want to see in Ukraine for themselves.
My interest in Ukraine started about two years ago when Google began providing statistics regarding RTE's readership.  First, I was astonished @ the total readership.  Second, I was equally surprised to see that Ukraine had the second biggest readership after the U.S. – on one recent day more people in Ukraine had read RTE than any other country in the world.  I know that many pro-liberty protesters in Ukraine use Facebook posts & blogs to communicate with each other.  I am just so humbled & honored to think that RTE has played even an infinitesimal part in this revolution for freedom.
So it is to Ukraine, & specifically the libertarian people behind the barricades in the Maidan, that I dedicate this Christmas & New Year's message – namely, it is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Senate Budget Vote Completes Formation Of Republican Teams

Following Tuesday's Senate cloture vote that passed 67 to 33 the Senate passed the Ryan-Murray two year budget deal that passed the House last week.  The Senate vote was 64 to 36.  BO's signature makes it law.
So now the Republican Teams are set.  The establishment Republican Team A for Aye (or Yea) consists of 164 House members & 9 senators for a total of 173 centrist moderate politicians.  Looking the list over there are very few exceptions to this description based on their overall voting record.
The Tea Party Republican Team N for Nay (or Noe) consists of 62 House members & 36 senators for a total of 98.  Looking over this Senate list makes me suspicious of Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, & of course Mitch McConnell.  Feel free to let me know of any other suspicious senators you feel should be added.
Notable disappointments who voted for the resolution include from the House – Gus Bilirakis, Marsha Blackburn,  Dave Camp, Jeb Hensarling, Darrell Issa, Tom Price (GA), Joe Wilson (SC), & Rob Woodall; & from the Senate – Saxby Chambliss, Orrin Hatch,  Ron Johnson,  Rob Portman, & Johnny Isakson.  I was disappointed with Democrat Joe Manchin's Yea vote also.  I didn't include several on this list who have disappointed so many times that they can't be taken seriously – i.e., they are permanent disappointments.
The complete Senate vote is below & the complete House vote was presented in the last post.
We know we can count on the Democrats to vote for every big spending program imaginable as they mindlessly & irresponsibly follow the Death of Democracy path hoping to escape with their own standard of living intact.  The Team A establishment Republicans will vote to effectively slow this destruction but following them we will end up in the same ruinous place as if we voted for Democrats - just a little later.  The Tea Party Republicans will vote for financial responsibility that will result in economic growth, wealth creation, & restoring the middle class to prosperity – but this will take hard work as it always has & is unappealing to many who are use to the welfare lifestyle. 
We can expect all of these groups to vote as described above on the debt ceiling confrontation that comes up in February as well as all other budget & appropriation matters.  This should be accepted with no further criticism by anyone on either Team – it does not help & these people have told us with vote after vote what they believe.  We just have to get through the next ten & one half months before a new Congress is elected after the American people (i.e., 21% of the electorate) decide which way they want to go.
This gives both Teams time to focus on presenting their respective plans so people have a chance to see the substance with which to judge their futures.  Every senator & all but seven congressmen cast votes on this budget issue so I don't know one person in this readership who does not know where their elected representatives stand regarding which Team they are on regardless of how financially responsible they tell you they are.  Don't believe them – check the vote & any perceived defections from Team A to N carefully.
By agreeing to the truce proposed in the last post @ least Teams A & N will not do more harm than good between now & the fall of 2014 & both sides will have a fair chance to prevail without self-destructive sound bites.  Just from the numbers we can tell that Team A is ahead which means America is currently losing.
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 1st Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary
Question: On the Motion (Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.J.Res. 59 )
Vote Number: 281 Vote Date: December 18, 2013, 04:28 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Motion Agreed to
Vote Counts: YEAs 64
NAYs 36
Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs ---64
Baldwin (D-WI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Portman (R-OH)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs ---36
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kirk (R-IL)
Lee (R-UT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Truce - The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend

"They are using our members, & they are using the American people for their own goals.  This is ridiculous.  If you are for more deficit reduction, you are for this agreement."  - House Speaker John Boehner speaking to reporters after a closed door GOP meeting that reviewed the Ryan-Murray proposed two-year budget deal
"We have adults here in Washington that can deal with big problems." – House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions emphasizing that the aforementioned budget deal demonstrated that the Republicans were capable of not shutting down the government on January 15
"It's a huge mistake to trade sequester cuts now for the promise of cuts later."  KY Senator Rand Paul expressing my thoughts exactly
  click on graph & table to enlarge
I love it when the comments precede the post.  In this Shakespearian case – "Hi Doug - Hope all is going well!  Just a quick note to let you know I am waiting with bated breath for your posting re Paul Ryan & the budget deal with Murray."  Seems this long time subscriber knew this one was coming.
Paul Ryan's budget deal with Patty Murray follows every other budget Ryan has made the past five years in that they all are frauds because every one of them has increased the deficit & the national debt despite Ryan's claims to the contrary.  This one could not leave the sequester alone which would have automatically reduced domestic & defense spending to $967-billion from $986-billion in fiscal year 2013.  As a result of the Ryan-Murray deal such spending will increase to $1,012-billion in 2014 & $1,014-billion in 2015 for a total spending increase of $62-billion for the two years above the budget caps agreed to in August 2011 – see table above.  To dispel any illusions re how draconian the sequester was please refer to the above table that shows spending going up even with the sequester in place – even the $986-billion was exceeded the first year by $2-billion.  Ryan is no budget hawk @ all & never has been.
The Ryan-Murray budget deal was mainly criticized by the Heritage Foundation, AFP, Freedom Works, & the Club For Growth because Ryan claimed it was indeed deficit reduction & did not raise taxes.  Referring to the deal's $85-billion in fee hikes to airline passengers & cuts in pensions of both federal workers & military personnel Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) said ". . . it's a fee increase to fuel a spending increase, rather than reducing deficits."  The $62-billion increased spending occurs the next two years & as always the bogus cuts occur 8 to 10 years from now meaning never.
Nevertheless the deal passed the House by a vote of 332- 92 (see below for the actual vote) @ 6:25 PM the night before the House went into recess for the Christmas holiday.  It now goes to the Senate for another last minute vote on Tuesday.  No wonder the above graph shows such a low rating for Congress.   
This is just another proof positive that the current Congress just does not have it within them to act financially responsible.  All of the above is the small potatoes part of the budget process, which never touched entitlements.
During all of this Boehner finally got some fire in his belly & it is all directed toward the Tea Party.  Now Boehner is the last person in the world to lecture anyone on deficit reduction.  I'm sure everyone even with the shortest of memories will recall the first major vote of Boehner's speakership in 2011.  Republicans had campaigned in 2010 to reduce spending by $100-billion.  After being sworn in, that was quickly & bogusly clarified to mean $100-billion on a prorated fiscal year basis that ultimately turned out to be $300-million in real spending cuts after all the smoke cleared.
As far as the complaints that Heritage & the others made before the deal was finalized – Ryan-Murray had telegraphed the main points of the deal long before it was finalized.  I received messages from AFP several days before the deal was finalized that very accurately described the final deal.  Also isn't it better to make your voice known before a deal is finalized so changes can be made?
The main thing Republicans received from the Ryan-Murray deal was avoiding another government shutdown & keeping ObamaCare's problems front & center in people's minds – these are two political basics right now but they are not enough to win the day & should be considered defensive. 
The Democrats received something too.  They wanted to move beyond the budget deal (i.e., not waste any more of BO's remaining time in office dealing with government shutdowns) & get on with comprehensive immigration reform, the farm bill (that includes expanding food stamps), & raising the minimum wage – these are all winning issues for Democrats & @ this point in our country's history could be fatal to the Republican Party & accordingly should be considered offensive (in more ways than one). 
Putting this all aside the House establishment Republicans (the 169 Ayes below – Team A) & the Tea Party Republicans (the 62 Noes below – Team N) should follow the principle the enemy of my enemy is my friend
This requires Teams A & N working out a truce that starts by recognizing that even combined they cannot defeat BO's policies for the next three long years.  The truce would allow Ryan to continue his budget work, un-criticized by the Tea Party who would accept that the point of Ryan's work is to keep the government open & not cause problems that the Republicans would undoubtedly be blamed for –this approach will provide the best chance to unseat Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.  The truce would also forbid Ryan from declaring such work reduces the deficit unless it really does – Ryan's claims of financial responsibility infuriate the Tea Party & people like me.  Of course Boehner should stop criticizing the Tea Party also.  The two Teams should try to be helpful & not unduly controversial while letting ObamaCare collapse & in the interim voting for each issue as they see fit.  Ryan's budget work will attract enough Democrat support to keep business as usual rolling along in DC with issues like raising the debt ceiling coming up in February.  Most important each Team should make their own plan for all of these topics & consistently present them so every American is familiar with their alternatives.  Once the 2014 election campaign starts (& 2016 presidential campaign for that matter) both Teams can take the gloves off & campaign on their own principles & plans with the best Team winning the most congressional seats & fielding the Republican presidential nominee.  The public will have a clear choice based on principles instead of infighting sound bites & once again if the Republicans select a Romney-like candidate I'm sure many Tea Partiers will either stay home or vote for a third party candidate – but with the truce we @ least have the best turn @ bat possible.
As far as a deficit reduction plan I suggest that Four Points Highlight The Needed Change In Mindset first presented on RTE in January 2012 is a good starting point.  One of the four points even includes Ryan's Medicare premium support idea that was later so watered down by Mitt that it was barely recognizable.  We have the possibility that some from Team A will come over to Team N.
The chance of such a truce being drawn is remote because both sides hate each other so much.  Although I support Jim DeMint's Thirty concept I don't believe Republicans have to destroy each other along the way – the actual elections, starting with the primaries, provide plenty of opportunity for that.  Team A has to admit they are a group of centrist moderates & Team N has to accept that, without further criticism until a Republican candidate for president is found who has a chance to win – not like Dole, McCain, or Romney.  To the extent that something like this proposed truce does not happen the Democrats chances of winning everything increases proportionately.
We will learn which Team the Senate members are on after Tuesday's votes on the House budget bill – one vote for cloture that needs 60 votes & the other vote on the actual bill that needs only a majority.  It will be very interesting if the Senate does not pass this bill – cloture could be the sticking point.
Although many establishment Republican pundits like Karl Rove think Republicans are not only in & of themselves a winning alternative to the hapless Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections they think it is odds on that a Republican will win the presidency in 2016.
At this last stage of Death of Democracy only a giant mindset change of the American people away from government dependence would give anyone other than a Democrat a chance @ victory in 2016.  First – the Democrats will run a woman (Michelle Obama or Hillary) & if the statistic of 54% of the 2012 electorate being women is repeated they will have a tremendous immediate advantage.  Second – BO won 70% of the needed 270 electoral votes in Democrat gimmee states like CA, NY, & IL; he won 32% of the needed electoral votes in another group of reliable Democrat states by over 5% each, meaning that a repeat performance by Michelle or Hillary would put them over the top without the need of contesting any of the so-called battleground states like OH, FL, NC, or VA.
With regard to the 2014 mid-term elections the December 11 McClatchy-Marist poll found that not only are most Americans unhappy with the job Congress is doing they are particularly dissatisfied with Republican members of Congress by a net eleven points.  See the two graphs below – one shows congressional Republicans with a 22% approval rating & the other shows congressional Democrats with a 33% approval rating.
To have any chance Teams A & N must bide their time without destroying each other & come up with credible plans consistently presented as well as an inspirational presidential candidate in 2016.  But if we don't have a giant change in mindset of the American people we have nothing anyway. 
   click on graphs to enlarge
(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

      H J RES 59      RECORDED VOTE      12-Dec-2013      6:25 PM
      QUESTION:  On Motion to Recede and Concur in the Senate Amendment with Amendment
      BILL TITLE: Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes

Ayes Noes PRES NV
Republican 169 62   1
Democratic 163 32   6
TOTALS 332 94   7

---- AYES    332 ---

Barrow (GA)
Bera (CA)
Bishop (NY)
Bishop (UT)
Brady (PA)
Brady (TX)
Braley (IA)
Brooks (IN)
Brownley (CA)
Carson (IN)
Castor (FL)
Clark (MA)
Collins (GA)
Collins (NY)
Davis (CA)
Davis, Rodney
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Hastings (FL)
Hastings (WA)
Heck (WA)
Herrera Beutler
Huizenga (MI)
Jackson Lee
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, E. B.
Kelly (IL)
Kelly (PA)
King (NY)
Kinzinger (IL)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Maloney, Carolyn
Maloney, Sean
McCarthy (CA)
McMorris Rodgers
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Miller, George
Murphy (FL)
Murphy (PA)
Pastor (AZ)
Peters (CA)
Peters (MI)
Price (GA)
Price (NC)
Rice (SC)
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ryan (OH)
Ryan (WI)
Scott (VA)
Scott, Austin
Scott, David
Sewell (AL)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Smith (WA)
Swalwell (CA)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (PA)
Van Hollen
Wasserman Schultz
Wilson (FL)
Wilson (SC)
Young (AK)
Young (IN)

---- NOES    94 ---

Brooks (AL)
Broun (GA)
Clarke (NY)
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Frankel (FL)
Franks (AZ)
Gingrey (GA)
Heck (NV)
Johnson, Sam
King (IA)
Lee (CA)
Negrete McLeod
Pingree (ME)
Poe (TX)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Smith (MO)
Smith (NE)
Thompson (MS)
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)

---- NOT VOTING    7 ---

Bishop (GA)
Brown (FL)
Castro (TX)
Davis, Danny
McCarthy (NY)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ObamaCare and the Unemployed

click on graphs to enlarge
Over the past five years we have learned to not pay much attention to the government's official unemployment rate – U3 - the proportion of the civilian labor force that is unemployed & actively seeking employment.  The unreliability of this measure has always been true but in normal economic times U3 would suffice to give an accurate portrayal of the health of the job market.  It breaks down in severe economic conditions like BO has induced on America the past five years.
Even though I have found U6 to be the most comprehensive measure of labor resource unemployment & underemployment available I have recommended that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) add a U7 category.  U6 includes the total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force including discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work, plus the people working part time who want full time employment.  My proposed U7 would include all of U6 plus those employed full time who make a fraction of their former pay.  U6 & U7 give the most complete picture of those relying on their wealth spend down to live on which is an excellent measure of the unhealthiness & misery of the economy.
The BLS provides more than enough employment data every month & I know many in this readership pour over it.  For November U3 was 7% & U6 was 13.2%.  The civilian noninstitutional population increased by 608,000 in the past quarter & the civilian labor force shrunk by 192,000 during this same time.
The above two graphs provide further insight.  The graph on the left shows that the long term unemployed – 27 weeks or longer – has hovered around 40% of those unemployed for well over four years.  These are the people that may never work again especially if they are over 50.  The graph on the right shows a higher percentage of the unemployed have dropped out of the labor force than found a job each rolling quarter for the past four & a half years.  This is a new phenomenon that was not observed from 1967 until it started as shown on the above graph.  Source – The Roosevelt Institute. 
Obtaining healthcare insurance under ObamaCare is an added complication for the over 20-million people who fall under the U6 unemployment classification as well as those who have jobs but are working for a fraction of their former compensation with no benefits.  It is also no bargain for many who have maintained uninterrupted employment the past five years.  Nearly a third of the previously unemployed who found jobs in November were in the leisure & hospitality field with an average weekly wage of $351.26 & the retail field with an average weekly wage of $520.42.  Source – BLS.
Now when most who are in the U6 category choose to sign up for healthcare insurance under ObamaCare they most likely will be eligible for the expanded Medicaid program – the taxpayer paid (free) joint federal-state healthcare-insurance program for the poor & disabled.  But even this comes with two problems.
The first problem is that only about half the states are participating in the Medicaid expansion meaning that the unemployed or underemployed in those states will have to sign up relying on subsidies to cover the costs of the healthcare insurance plan they select.
The second problem is that the ObamaCare website may not be processing people who qualify for expanded Medicaid because the website is not able to transfer Medicaid applications to the states for verification & logging the applicants in accurately.
In addition to people in the U6 category employed people's troubles start when enrolling in ObamaCare when they learn their unsubsidized premiums can be as much as 2% to 9.5% of their income (actually IRS defined modified adjusted gross income) for people between 100% & 400% of the federal poverty level & their annual maximum out-of-pocket costs can total $6,350 for individuals & $12,700 for families – not cheap by many people's standards who could wonder where they will get this type of money. 
People whose income falls between 100% & 400% of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $45,960 for individuals) qualify for subsidies known as Advanced Premium Tax Credits & people whose income falls between 100% & 250% of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $28,725 for individuals) may be eligible for Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies which can help lower deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, or any other costs the insured is required to pay.  More rules - In order to receive Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies the insured must purchase a Silver plan on the Exchange.
It was about two months ago that Tammy Bruce first alerted everyone to the problem of the high deductibles of the ObamaCare Bronze plans (generally the plan with the lowest premiums) – typically deductibles in the $5,000 range before the plan would start to pay.  People are finding that what they thought was going to be insurance that covered teeth cleanings & routine eye examinations is really insurance with several thousand dollars of deductibles meaning it is not really what they were hoping for @ all – they are paying something for nothing as far as they are concerned.
The purpose of insurance is to protect the insured from a catastrophe they cannot afford to pay for themselves.  Over the years as the entitlement state has grown in America & people got more & more use to thinking they are not paying for anything themselves insurance has come to mean every routine healthcare maintenance item imaginable.  In this sense it is ironic that for many people the policies listed under ObamaCare are more in line with the classic definition of insurance than the free no-charge plans people envisioned when they were totally for the law.
BO has brought the country further toward destruction in five short years than we could have ever foreseen.  It has now become obvious that ObamaCare will take additional money from an already strapped citizenry whether through tax payments made to cover people under Medicaid or by direct payments by people who cannot afford them for premiums & deductibles or tax-fines for not signing up.
Compelling people to participate in such a program described above is just another deprivation of our personal freedoms that may ultimately be BO's undoing – if there is any fight left in us @ all.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Link Between Menial Jobs, Poor Education, & The Minimum Wage

graph from Steve Sailer – click on graph to enlarge
A little over a week ago I watched the men from a lawn service company rake (actually blow) the leaves off my neighbor's lawn.  These men who cut the grass all summer & now rake leaves are all in their prime earning years & the still active owner of the company is well past retirement age.  They, & many more like them, are doing jobs I did when I was 12.
Now it is true that this endeavor required someone to make the riding tractor, blower, truck, & trailer to transport the equipment but it still seems to me like an inefficient use of resources – both human & mechanical.  What a shame for mankind.
I wondered about the real opportunity cost of raking leaves this way – why was there no 12 year old boy in this scene, what else could these men have been doing that would advance the standard of living of our country, & why were these men @ this point in their lives doing such a job (& had been for years)?
At least part of the answer lies in the above graph that was released last week.  The graph displays the mean of the Math, Science, and Reading test scores from OECD's 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  This triennial test measured how well 510,000 fifteen year old students from 65 countries & locales representing 80% of the world economy compare with each other.
In general the U.S. slipped further in the rankings from 2009 & is below the OECD average (black line on the graph) - but you will get a better insight by focusing on the red lines that show Asian-Americans in the same league with others @ the top of the graph & Hispanic-Americans & African-Americans near the bottom of the entire graph.  Of course it was these last two groups that threw BO over the top in his winning the 2012 election.
Also released last week was information showing that the movement to raise the minimum wage continues to intensify as more & more people realize that minimum wage jobs are all they qualify for in this global economy.  This impetus to increase the minimum wage is rooted in America's poor government school system typified by the inferior education results from PISA & is caused by grown men having to make a living doing the work previously done by 12 year olders.
You can debate whether or not minimum wage laws deter the hiring of America's youth but the minimum-wage impetus today is not to help entry level youths get good paying jobs (for them) but rather to provide somewhat of a living wage for people who could never compete in the global economy.  Union contracts are also tied to minimum wage rates so increases in the minimum wage also raises the wages of union workers by a similar percentage.
NJ, MD, CA, Washington state & DC are just some of the places where minimum wages have recently been raised & many of these places have written into their laws automatic indexing of their levels to inflation.  BO also jumped on raising the minimum wage as a reliable Democrat vote getter that he hopes will change the subject from the ObamaCare website.
All of this was vividly brought home to me when I had occasion, also last week, to hire a plumber to repair my hot water heater.  This is the second time this young man in his twenties has helped me out by providing a service that takes knowledge, skill, honesty, & a business manner that he definitely has – he is the owner's son.  After he finished the job he explained that the company has had an opening for a skilled plumber for several months but they just can't find one who has the previously mentioned qualifications (especially honesty) that would make his father feel comfortable putting this person in someone's home. 
Now all of this deterioration of America didn't start in the last five years but it sure has accelerated since BO purposely brought his government-dependent debilitating onslaught to our unsuspecting country.  And he will continue to do so – if we let him.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Supporting Congressman Steve King

One problem many of us have is that our own congressman &/or senators are not worth supporting – in fact we would rather work against their re-elections.
Over the years I have suggested supporting people in other states or districts where your support would do more good for the country. 
For years Carol & I have supported Iowa Congressman Steve King & I recommend that you consider doing the same.  In 2012 Steve was in a very tough race against Christie Vilsack (wife of the former Governor & current Secretary of Agriculture) in a redrawn district.  Steve has let me know that once again BO/Pelosi are targeting him in 2014 because of his outstanding congressional record including his vociferous support of the FairTax.  Steve's loss would be terrible.
Click here to donate to Congressman King's re-election campaign.  It is not too early - his opponents have already started their fund raising being led by statist, out-of-state groups from the east coast.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Earning Fairness

click on image to enlarge
Click here to hear American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks explain how to combat BO's incessant false & misleading references to fairness & fair share of taxes with an approach that gets people thinking about the real meaning of fairness.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

ObamaCare's Shoes Keep Dropping

None of us can claim to be great soothsayers just by figuring there would be more shoes to drop re the problems with ObamaCare.  Here is another batch that has developed over the past week – many of which pertain to the insurance exchanges – the electronic marketplaces that sell healthcare insurance policies to people who can't get coverage through an employer or government program.  I couldn't help but notice that none of the problems – old or new - have anything to do with the healthcare outcome of patients but rather they are concerned with pricing, payments, websites, & preserving & extending the political careers of people who could not care less about us.  In this regard BO announced on Friday that the open enrollment period for 2015 will begin on November 15 – right after the 2014 midterm elections thereby camouflaging as much as possible the insurance premium rates for 2015.
1.  Although ObamaCare itself has no requirements for doctors payments to be lowered, insurers have started to notify doctors who are considering joining or have joined the insurance exchanges that their payments will be reduced in some cases to levels below Medicare rates & even below Medicaid rates.  It turns out that the insurance plans that are listed on exchanges are really HMO-like closed networks.  Nearly all of the healthcare insurance premiums competitively priced on the exchanges were determined by each insurance company using a closed HMO-like narrow network of doctors who agreed to lower their normal fees.  My family doctor calls these doctors "nuts."
You don't have to think long & hard to see problems with this arrangement.  First, it places doctors on the exchanges in an assembly line mindset – they can't afford to spend much time with their patients meaning there will no longer be time for personal relationships with your doctor.  Second, the fee structure will ensure that the best doctors do not join the exchanges meaning that people who sign up for a healthcare insurance policy through the ObamaCare exchanges will not be getting what they thought – good healthcare @ bargain basement prices.  Third, this arrangement will lead to a two tier healthcare system in which low-income people are insured either by policies bought on the exchanges or expanded Medicaid & the higher-income people will get their healthcare through private medical practices with higher payments to doctors.  This is one of the set-ups to get to universal single payer healthcare - when the best doctors in the private practices cannot get their licenses renewed unless they join the exchanges – from there doctors retire, those remaining raise their rates so that the insurers are no longer competitive with their low-income clientele & it all unravels into single payer universal healthcare formerly known as the public option.
2.  Reacting to BO's most visible attack yet on seniors - to cut $150 billion from the Medicare Advantage program over the next ten years to help pay for ObamaCare - UnitedHealth Group announced it has cut thousands of doctors from its HMO network including more than 200 doctors @ one cancer center in Florida & 2,200 doctors statewide  in Connecticut.  Humana, Aetna, & WellPoint are evaluating similar moves.  Fewer doctors means having longer waiting times for appointments, & a combination of longer travel times to see a doctor & overall less convenience for the elderly patients in the Medicare Advantage program – some 13.1 million people many of whom are very sick in constant need of care.  Add these people to the list of those who couldn't keep their plan if they liked it.  Cutting funding & reducing the number of doctors can only result in rationing of care.
3.  BO has indicated that the next waiver that may be granted is to about 16 million union members who do not want to pay the part of ObamaCare known as the transitional reinsurance tax - an annual $63 per person (in 2014) fee charged to 190 million people covered by private healthcare insurance policies.  The reinsurance tax is a very obscure part of ObamaCare - it's a tax on healthcare insurers that goes into a fund that will pay subsidies to insurance companies if needed because the insurers underestimated the premiums charged on the exchanges.  Sounds like double talk but that is what it is.
Currently the federal government & 35 states operate so-called high risk pools that cover people who cannot get commercial healthcare insurance – a total of 300,000 people or 0.095% of the population.  In order for the ObamaCare premiums to not be too high for these high risk people a $25 billion fund capitalized by this reinsurance tax is to be established. Proceeds from the fund are intended to compensate insurance companies whose costs turn out to be higher than expected.
To summarize – 190 million taxpayers will pay into a fund designed to subsidize insurance companies who make pricing mistakes.  16 million union workers are asking for a waiver from this tax & very well may get it.
I don't remember this feature of ObamaCare being spelled out during the campaign to enact the healthcare law – do you?
Senator Marco Rubio calls this a bailout of insurance companies @ the expense of taxpayers.  Add the union-waiver insult to the injury.  Rubio plans to introduce legislation to repeal the reinsurance tax.
4.  The details of the health insurance tax (HIT), an even more obscure tax than the reinsurance tax, have started to surface.  The HIT will impose a fee on insurance companies that insure the 84% of small businesses who do not self-insure, the 17% of large companies who do not self-insure, & consumers who buy their own policies.  It is expected that the HIT costs of insurers will be passed on to these policy holders through higher premiums meaning it is predominantly a hidden tax.  The HIT is estimated to increase insurance costs in 2014 by $150 per employee & $360 per family.  Large companies that self-insure (about 83%) will escape this tax because they are not commercial insurance companies.
5.  What would one of these posts be if it did not include an update concerning the problems with the federal ObamaCare website.  Testifying before the House Energy & Commerce subcommittee Henry Chao, Deputy Chief Information Officer @ CMS, said that @ least 30% of the federal website pertaining to back office functions transferring subsidies to insurers has yet to be built meaning that there currently is no mechanism to transfer money (subsidies) from the government to the insurance companies starting in January.
6.  At another House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing it was pointed out that applicants using the insurance exchanges never see the following statement that is "under the covers" in that it is part of the source code (a collection of computer instructions specifically designed to facilitate the work of computer programmers that is understood by a computer but not necessarily by a human):  "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system."  Democrats on the committee tried to defuse this revelation by saying the health status information on the application is limited - but the broad way this statement is worded leaves no doubt that it can be used for disadvantage & evil.  The statement can serve no good purpose & if that is not true than why is it included in such a hidden way?
"You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system."
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/hidden-source-code-obamacare/#8cacMhOFSjLVUHse.99
"You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system."
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/hidden-source-code-obamacare/#8cacMhOFSjLVUHse.99
"You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system."
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/hidden-source-code-obamacare/#8cacMhOFSjLVUHse.99
7.  The political furor caused by the healthcare insurance policy cancellation letters sent to current policy holders continued to devastate the minds of politicians who had supported ObamaCare.  Even after BO back pedaled with a "fix" saying that people could keep their policies that had previously been cancelled because they did not comply with ObamaCare 39 Democrats voted with all but four Republicans for the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013 (known as the Upton bill after sponsor Fred Upton of MI) the next day.  This bill not only allows people to permanently keep any plan they had but also allows insurance companies to sell any plan to new customers – not just those people with cancelled policies.  See vote below.
The four Republicans who voted against the act were Thomas Massie (KY), Jim Bridenstine (OK), Paul Broun (GA), & Ralph Hall (TX).  These four comprise the handful of House members who still won't accept anything short of a full repeal of ObamaCare.  The split is smaller than the one that produced the harmful shutdown last month that diverted attention away from the ObamaCare problems & most likely cost Republicans the Virginia governor's race.  One side says the Upton bill does not do enough to fix the long-term problems with ObamaCare & the other says it is a good first step toward protecting people who need healthcare insurance.
Congressman Broun was the most adamant saying "I voted against the Keep Your Health Plan Act because I am serious about putting a stop to ObamaCare, & this bill does nothing to address ObamaCare in the long-term.  We need to focus on real reform that will actually lower costs and deliver quality care, not waste time with another delay or 'fix.'"
Now nothing resembling either argument will ever make it to the floor of the Senate let alone get past BO's veto pen.  With all the problems ObamaCare is having doesn't it make sense to appear helpful, like voting for the Upton bill, & then just get out of the way & let ObamaCare continue to destroy itself?

(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

      H R 3350      RECORDED VOTE      15-Nov-2013      1:34 PM
      QUESTION:  On Passage
      BILL TITLE: Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013

Ayes Noes PRES NV
Republican 222 4   4
Democratic 39 153   8
TOTALS 261 157   12
---- NOT VOTING    12 ---
Green, Gene
McCarthy (NY)
Miller, George

The thirty-nine Democrats who voted for the Upton bill – all had previously supported ObamaCare:
• Ron Barber (Ariz.)  • John Barrow (Ga.)  • Ami Bera (Calif.)  • Tim Bishop (N.Y.)  • Bruce Braley (Iowa)  • Julia Brownley (Calif.)  • Cheri Bustos (Ill.)  • Jim Costa (Calif.)  • Peter DeFazio (Ore.)  • Suzan DelBene (Wash.)  • Tammy Duckworth (Ill.)  • Bill Enyart (Ill.)   Elizabeth Esty (Conn.)  • Bill Foster (Ill.)  • Pete Gallego (Texas)  • John Garamendi (Calif.),  • Joe Garcia (Fla.)  • Ron Kind (Wis.)  • Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.)  • Dave Loebsack (Iowa)  • Dan Maffei (N.Y.)  • Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.)  • Jim Matheson (Utah)  • Mike McIntyre (N.C.) Jerry McNerney (Calif.)  • Patrick Murphy (Fla.)  • Rick Nolan (Minn.)  • Bill Owens(N.Y.)  • Gary Peters (Mich.)  • Scott Peters(Calif.)  • Collin Peterson (Minn.)  • Nick Rahall (W. VA)  • Raul Ruiz (Calif.)  • Brad Schneider (Ill.)  • Kurt Schrader (Ore.)  • Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.)   Krysten Sinema (Ariz.)  • Filemon Vela (Texas)  • Tim Walz (Minn.)