January 31, 2011

Federal Judge in Florida: Obamacare Unconstitutional in Its Entirety

Via Reuters, mostly pre-spin (bolds are mine):

Judge strikes down healthcare reform law

A federal judge in Florida struck down President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul as unconstitutional on Monday in the biggest legal challenge yet to federal authority to enact the law.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the reform law’s so-called individual mandate went too far in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void,” he wrote, “This has been a difficult decision to reach and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”

Referring to a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Vinson sided with governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans, in declaring the Obama healthcare reform unconstitutional.

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” Vinson, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, ruled.

The Obama administration said it would appeal Vinson’s ruling and believed it would prevail on a highly politicized issue likely to end up at the Supreme Court.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe — as other federal courts have found — that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.

The judge jettisoned the junk with a nice jab at a certain former “constitutional law professor” in the process:

Judge uses Obama’s words against him

… “I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that ‘if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of the 78-page ruling Monday.

Much of the 78-page ruling was a discussion of how the nation’s founding fathers, such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, set limits on congressional power. Judge Vinson also hypothesized that, under the Obama administration‘s legal theory, the government could mandate eating broccoli.

White House officials said that sort of “surpassingly curious reading” called into question Judge Vinson‘s entire ruling.

“There’s something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis,” said a White House official who briefed reporters late Monday afternoon, speaking on condition of anonymity.

What’s “odd” is that a constitutional law professor thinks he can say anything during a campaign and it won’t come back to haunt him.

Oh, and now making people buy insurance is conventional? No guys, it’s objectively unconstitutional. The only question is whether higher courts will rule as the Constitution would dictate without the document itself being amended.

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UPDATE: At the Tatler, Stephen Green is taking issue with Reuters’s characterization of the individual mandate as “so-called.” Well, yes and no. My guess is that the words “individual” and “mandate” don’t appear together in the law, so technically the wire service’s use of “so-called” slides by. If it had put “individual mandate” in scare quotes that would have been another matter.

Green also takes issue with the report’s reference the judge being a Reagan appointee and to “almost all” Republican governors being in the group of 26. As to the latter, it passes the accuracy test as long as the group of 26 has 23 or more GOPers, which I think it does. As to the former, if Reuters fails to flag Clinton or Obama appointees in rulings on appeal, that will be another matter.

At AP, ‘Waivers’ Are For Sports, Not Health Care; NYT Saves Outrage for ‘Something Is Worse Than Nothing’ Plans

It would appear that if it weren’t for the center-right blogosphere, Fox News, a few business dailies, a few conservative pundits, and talk radio, very few people would know about the hundreds of waivers granted by the Obama administration to companies, unions, not-for-profits, states, and other entities wishing to be spared the burdens of complying with Obamacare for at least another year.

The latest count as of last Wednesday’s Health and Human Services Department press release was 732, including four states: Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, and Tennessee.

That the waiver situation is not more widely known is largely due to the fact that the establishment press has shown almost no interest in it.

The Associated Press has had five days to cover HHS’s latest release. It is news, as HHS’s release was, as far as I can tell, the first indication that “Over 500 waivers were granted in December.” Here is the result of a search on “health waivers” (not in quotes) at the AP’s main web site at about 10:00 this morning:

APsearchOnHealthWaivers013110at10am

In other words, there’s nothing relevant.

Related searches on “exemptions,” “waiver,” and “waivers” return nothing relevant to HHS’s release.

At the New York Times, a search on “health care waivers”  turns up one relevant item from Friday dealing with how the states are addressing ballooning Medicaid costs, including in certain instances asking for exemptions from certain ObamaCare provisions. But the last time the Times addressed waivers for non-governmental entities was back in early December, and the focus then (“Opponents Take Aim at Limited Health Plans” — note the gun allusion) was on how limited coverage plans like one offered by McDonald’s, which received an Obamacare waiver, are, in West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller’s opinion, “worse than nothing because of the false expectations and the false hope.” The Times’s Reed Abelson opened his story by writing: “Maybe something isn’t always better than nothing.” Less specific Times searches surfaced no additional recent pertinent items.

From what I can tell, the Times has not noted the roster of Obamacare-backing unions which have obtained waivers. JIm Angle at Fox News has noted the situation:

Hundreds of entities from banks to church groups to school districts are saying they can’t live up to the law.

The group also includes dozens of unions chapters, most of which supported passage of the bill — from electrical workers to Teamsters to the Service Employees Union, which organizes low wage workers.

Even a union representing NY Firefighters asked for a waiver, as well as several states whose own health care requirements were lower than the new federal law.

Michelle Malkin recited a roster in her latest syndicated column:

Most noteworthy: One-fourth of all the waivers (182) so far have gone to Big Labor groups across the country.

The Teamsters Union, which hailed Obama last March for “enacting historic health care reform, providing health insurance to millions of Americans who don’t have it and controlling costs for millions more who do,” obtained waivers for 17 different locals.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which celebrated the passage of Obamacare as “an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience,” secured waivers for 28 different affiliates.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — which exulted after the health care law’s passage that “finally, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage will be available for millions of working Americans” — saw 8 of its affiliates win shelter from the Obamacare wrecking ball.

The Communications Workers of America, which sent its workers to lobby for Obamacare on Capitol Hill as part of the left-wing billionaire George Soros-funded Health Care for America Now front group, snagged a waiver that will spare a hefty 19,000 of its members from the onerous federal mandate.

And the Service Employees International Union, which poured $60 million into Democrat/Obama coffers in 2008 and millions more into the Astroturf campaign for the federal health care takeover, added four new affiliates to the waiver list …

A Friday Investors Business Daily editorial (“Where’s Our Waiver?”) makes lots of good points, including this one:

ObamaCare is in effect repealing itself, waiver by waiver. If it’s so great, the Senate should vote on its repeal without fear.

It should not be forgotten that the administration didn’t have to grant a single waiver if it didn’t feel like it. My recall of the law is that there isn’t even a requirement that HHS be consistent in its waiver-granting criteria. If repeal doesn’t occur soon and statist health care proponents seen an opening in the political climate, the waivers may stop a year or two before the January 1, 2014 full implementation date — either selectively or en masse.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

IBD: ‘Where’s Our Waiver?’

In a Friday editorial, Investors Business Daily mocks ObamaCare’s official name, and makes a number of very important points.

Here are the final six paragraphs:

It seems ObamaCare is neither affordable nor comprehensive.

The exemption list even includes 4 states — Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee — that collectively cover 2.1 million workers. As we’ve noted, corporations such as McDonald’s are also on the waiver list, saying ObamaCare makes their plans unworkable and unaffordable.

ObamaCare is in effect repealing itself, waiver by waiver. If it’s so great, the Senate should vote on its repeal without fear.

Defunding should commence, as should House hearings exposing this fraudulent power grab. By the way, these new waivers come a week after Republicans announced plans to investigate the earlier waivers granted to groups for health care reform provisions.

Question: If the provisions these entities are exempt from are a hardship, then isn’t the entire piece of legislation?

How about granting America a waiver?

I’d also like to know more about the 50 entities which attempted to get waivers and were turned down. Equal protection, anyone?

Those who don’t like my repeated references to the T-word are going to have to deal with it, because once again, we are seeing tyranny (“arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority”) exemplified in the waiver process.

Lucid Links (013111, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:01 am

Non-shock of last week, from the UK Independent (“Russians name Muslim convert as prime suspect for airport bombing”; HT Atlas Shrugs):

Security sources have named an ethnic Russian Christian who converted to Islam as the prime suspect in Monday’s deadly suicide bombing at a Moscow airport.

Sources close to the investigation said that Vitaly Razdobudko, a 32-year-old from the southern Russian city of Stavropol, was being sought in connection with the attack, the Kommersant newspaper reported yesterday.

That would be “a former ethnic Russian Christian.”

Another non-shock — The Associated Press whitewashes the Islamist connection, as usual:

The respected newspaper Kommersant on Thursday reported that suspects in the airport bombing included a man identified as Vitaly Razdobudko, allegedly a member of an insurgent group in the Stavropol region of the Caucasus called the Nogai Brigade.

The AP apparently doesn’t want to make its Arab-state paymasters unhappy.

________________________________________________

Good news, via the Daily Telegraph — “A “BLACK Widow” suicide bomber who planned to detonate explosives in central Moscow was killed when a spam text message from her mobile-phone company set off the device early.”

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My instinct since Egypt erupted has been that Mubarak is no angel, but the alternatives appear to be worse. Some items supporting that instinct:

  • Bryan Preston — “ElBaradei: friend of the Muslim Brotherhood”
  • Claudia Rossett — “Egypt: Please, Not ElBaradei”
  • Caroline Glick — “The Pragmatic Fantasy” — “Elbaradei’s support for the Iranian ayatollahs is matched by his support for the Muslim Brotherhood.”
  • At the UK Telegraph — “US Secretly backs uprising in Egypt”
  • Update: Andy McCarthy — “Fear the Muslim Brotherhood”

In the final item, ”US” means “the Obama administration.” It has an eerie three-decade echo: “Carter administration backs Ayatollah over Shah.” That didn’t work out too well (Update: A stronger echo — “Cairo: Anger starting to focus on Israel, US”). Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media (“The New American Fans of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt”) already sees leftist useful-idiot apologists emerging.

Further Update (slightly revised on February 1): From Roger Kimball at PJM, is concerned about Obama advisor Bruce Reidel (“Alfred E. Neuman in the driver’s seat”). That characterization would appear to be an insult — to Mr. Newman. If a bunch of Reidels in the State Department and other influential positions end up having their way, it may end up being fair to say that Obama (and Hillary Clinton) lost Egypt.

____________________________________

Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal:

Cap and Trade Returns From the Grave
The president’s plans for “clean energy standards” amount to carbon controls by other means.

… Mr. Obama has no intention of letting go of his carbon-free world. He instead went to plan B. Specifically, he called in his speech for the nation to “join” him in a “new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.” What the president was in essence calling for—in happier, fuzzier, broader language—is what policy wonks refer to as a “renewable portfolio standard.” This is a government mandate requiring that utilities produce annually a specific amount of their electricity from renewable sources—wind, solar, biofuels.

It’s also cap and trade by another name. Consider: The goal of cap and trade is to impose crushing taxes on fossil fuels—oil, coal, natural gas—thereby forcing utilities to switch to costly renewables. Under Mr. Obama’s new proposal, the government skips the tax part and outright requires the use of costly renewables. The result is the same: dramatically higher energy prices, from carbon-free sources.

This fits the Obama admin template for the next two years: Appear to govern moderately, regulate radically — in this case, in the name of a hoax. Oh, and if you think it’s bad now, wait until you see what he does as a lame-duck Executive Order-generating loser (if that’s what happens) in January 2013, or as a lame-duck two-termer (if it comes to that) in January 2017.

Meanwhile, from earlier this year (warning: pictures of naked bodies at a long distance are at link; I’m not kidding), there seems to a need for “a new kind of climate journalism” in Europe:

Climate activists have begun directing millions in funding into training programs for environmental journalists, with the goal of encouraging what’s known as “advocacy journalism.”

That’s not an issue in the U.S. We already have the Associated Press, the New York Times, and dozens of other outlets practicing climate-nonsense “advocacy journalism” on a daily basis.

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Only in Obamaland: “Rules? We Don’t Have Rules”

FCC seeks to dismiss net neutrality challenges

The Federal Communications Commission is asking a federal appeals court to dismiss two legal challenges to its new “network neutrality” regulations. Those rules, adopted by the agency last month, prohibit phone and cable companies from interfering with traffic on their broadband networks.

The rules are being challenged by Verizon Communications Inc. and Metro PCS Communications Inc., which argue that the FCC has exceeded its legal authority.

The FCC argues that Verizon and Metro PCS filed their challenges prematurely since the new rules have not yet been published in the federal register.

Sure, and they’ll get around to publishing them … oh, eventually … maybe in 2013 or so.

Publishing official rules gets in the way of what the net neutrality nannies will settle for if they can’t have their statist way outright: A regime of uncertainty that puts a freeze on full-blown tech advancement.

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Great unsolved mystery: Why Rob Portman or anyone else thinks that 1.4 million jobs are going to be generated by one provision in a bill described in this January 25 press release (HT Columbus Dispatch; full text of bill; bolds are mine) —

Today, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the introduction of his first piece of legislation, the Job Creation Act of 2011. The Job Creation Act of 2011 would provide needed tax and regulatory relief to the private sector to help create new jobs and provide greater certainty for our economy at a time when it is badly needed.

… “We need to focus on pro-growth policies, like those included in the Job Creation Act, in order to create an environment that fosters job growth and gets Americans back to work. If passed, this legislation will create over 1.4 million jobs, provide nearly $240 billion in tax relief, reduce the deficit by $85 billion and eliminate some of the most burdensome mandates on job creators,” continued Portman.

Over the past two years, Washington has been making it harder, not easier, for companies of all sizes to create jobs. The Job Creation Act of 2011 is a significant step in the other direction which will immediately help companies grow, create jobs and invest in the future. Economists estimate the payroll tax section of the Job Creation Act alone would create more than 1.4 million jobs. The legislation would provide nearly $240 billion in tax relief to foster hiring and investment while reducing the deficit by $85 billion and ending job destroying mandates on job creators.

In case you’re wondering, the word “job” appears 23 times in about 350 words of the full release, its title.

The “payroll tax section” reduces the employer portion of Social Security and the self-employment tax by two percentage points (to 4.2% and 8.4%, respectively) — starting in the second quarter (“The amendments made by subsection (a)(1) shall not apply with respect to compensation paid during the first calendar quarter of 2011″). That means that very highly compensated employees and self-employed folks will get no break; because SocSec taxation stops at the $106,000 in earnings, by April 1 they will already have paid all they are going to pay, but at the higher rate.

Since it piggybacks last year’s last-minute legislation which kept the federal income tax from increasing for everyone (this was commonly referred to as “extending the Bush tax cuts”) and reduced the employee portion of Social Security for one year, Portman’s employer break would end on December 21, 2011.

I want to hear from one of the “economists” who can justify Portman’s from all appearances totally ridiculous estimate that this one-time, very temporary item alone would generate 1.4 million jobs. I’m a big supply-side econ fan, but this is not supply-side econ.

Note

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:02 am

An item on the nation’s fiscal situation appeared here last night. It was removed, because it is being held for possible publication elsewhere.

Positivity: Rejection of euthanasia not unique to Christians, states French bishop

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 12:01 am

From Rome:

Jan 28, 2011 / 07:12 pm

Bishop Bernard Ginoux of Montauban, France has noted that opposition to euthanasia is not unique to the Christian faith.

The French Senate recently voted 170-142 against a bill legalizing euthanasia. Bishop Ginoux reflected on the results, saying, “We are dealing with human beings and the respect for every human life. No one can deliberately kill.”

“Whenever the law allows for killing, it is granting human beings an absolute power over others, those who are the weakest and most defenseless. The fact that it is done by a team in a hospital, even if they are specialists, doesn’t change anything.

“Medicine is supposed to cure, and those who cure must not become assassins,” the bishop said in remarks to the French daily La Croix on Jan. 25. …

Go here for the rest of the story at the Catholic News Agency.

Go here for an English translation of a related La Croix article.

January 30, 2011

AP’s Taylor Ignores Suffering, Obsesses Over Unemployment Rate’s Effect on Obama’s 2012 Reelection

On Wednesday, the Associated Press’s Andrew Taylor covered the latest deficit projections released by the Congressional Budget Office.

In his treatment of the predicted unemployment rate, Taylor betrayed no concern whatsoever about the plight of the millions of unemployed who are in that position largely because the Obama administration attempted to bring about an economic recovery through government “stimulus” and government intervention instead of cutting taxes, or even leaving what appeared to be an incipient recovery in late 2008 continue. Instead, as AP reporters Hope Yen and Liz Sidoti did last September in advance of last year’s poverty report from the Census Bureau, when they fretted over the report’s impact on the Congressional midterm elections, a terrified Taylor spent two paragraphs worrying about the high unemployment rate’s impact on the President’s reelection prospects:

Though the analysis predicts the economy will grow by 3.1 percent this year, it foresees unemployment remaining above 9 percent.

Dauntingly for Obama, the nonpartisan agency estimates a nationwide jobless rate of 8.2 percent on Election Day in 2012. That’s higher that the rates that contributed to losses by Presidents Jimmy Carter (7.5 percent) and George H.W. Bush (7.4 percent). The nation isn’t projected to be at full employment – considered to be a jobless rate of about 5 percent – until 2016.

Along the way, Taylor engaged in another obsession of the wire service and its establishment press counterparts: characterizing potential upward changes to a tax-rate structure that has essentially been in place with few modifications since 2003 as the end of “the Bush tax cuts,” as exemplified in these excerpted paragraphs:

The latest deficit figures are up from previous estimates because of bipartisan legislation passed in December that extended George W. Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and provided a 2 percentage point Social Security payroll tax cut this year.

… CBO predicts that the deficit will fall to $551 billion by 2015 – a sustainable 3 percent of the economy – but only if the Bush tax cuts are wiped off the books. Under its rules, CBO assumes the recently extended cuts in taxes on income, investment and people inheriting large estates will expire in two years. If those tax cuts, and numerous others, are extended, the deficit for that year would be almost three times as large.

Boy, Andrew Taylor sure seems to want tax increases. Maybe we should nickname him “Tax a Trillion Taylor.”

Back on point: Taylor’s and the AP’s consistent indifference towards the individual unemployed stands in stark contrast to how the wire service and the establishment press doggedly pursued the topic during the first few and final years of the Bush administration, when the unemployment rate was far lower than its current 9.4%.

That’s bad enough. But what’s far more offensive is the press’s obsession, most obvious at AP but also evident elsewhere, not with how long-term unemployment is affecting real people and real families, but instead over how it affects one party’s or one president’s electoral chances, especially given that the party they’re worrying about is the one whose policies have extended the suffering. This is at the same time truly shameless, and truly shameful.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that Obama’s policies have piled on the pain needs to explain away this:

ReaganVobamaJobs6qsRecov

Good luck.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

ABC Cap Gains Tax Hit Ignores Charles Gibson’s ‘Finest Hour’ Questions at April 2008 Dem Debate

To add an exclamation point to Brad Wilmouth’s great post last night at NewsBusters (“ABC Pushes for Tax Hike on Capital Gains, Ignores Likelihood of Tax Revenue Loss”) — in ignoring the likelihood that raising the capital gains tax rate would reduce capital gains tax collections, the network also “somehow” forgot now-retired World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson’s aggressive questioning on the topic during an April 2008 Democratic Party presidential debate.

That night, ABC, represented by Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, who was then the host of ABC’s Sunday morning news show, drove leftists crazy (noted at the time in NewsBusters posts here and here), because, as NB’s Brent Bozell noted, “For once it veered from liberal orthodoxy.”

One of Gibson’s “veers” consisted of questions he asked presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton about capital gains taxation. The now-defunct New York Sun characterized it as “Gibson’s Finest Hour” (I would suggest that it might really have been “Gibson’s Only Fine Hour”), and wrote it up thusly (internal link added by me; bolds are mine):

… for a few moments in yesterday’s presidential debate on ABC News, anchorman Charles Gibson sounded like a charter member of the Club for Growth or Americans for Tax Reform. It came when Mr. Gibson questioned Senator Obama about the capital gains tax. Mr. Gibson quoted Mr. Obama as talking about raising the tax to 28% from 15%. “But actually, Bill Clinton, in 1997, signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent,” Mr. Gibson said. “And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?”

Why, Robert Bartley couldn’t have put it better himself. Mr. Obama was totally flummoxed, betraying a fundamental lack of understanding of the Laffer Curve. The Democrat of Illinois spoke of the need to “finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it,” and of the need to “invest in our infrastructure” and in “our schools.”

Mr. Gibson, to his credit, wouldn’t let the point go. “But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up,” he replied to Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama replied by changing the subject, to “a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to.”

Mr. Gibson tried the same question, more or less, on Senator Clinton. She, at least, disavowed raising the capital gains rate above 20%, ruling out a return to the 28% rate contemplated by Mr. Obama. But when Mr. Gibson pressed her on why she would raise it at all, she went into lunk-headed, static analysis mode, displaying a lack of understanding as severe as that afflicting her rival. “You know, Charlie, I’m going to have to look and see what the revenue situation is,” she said.

The Tax Foundation has a transcript of the exchange. The following segment from it is worth excerpting, given the fiscal circumstances largely created as a result of Obama administration policies during its first two years (bolds are mine):

OBAMA: And you can’t take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren, and then say that you’re cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about.

And that is irresponsible. I believe in the principle that you pay as you go. And, you know, you don’t propose tax cuts, unless you are closing other tax breaks for individuals. And you don’t increase spending, unless you’re eliminating some spending or you’re finding some new revenue. That’s how we got an additional $4 trillion worth of debt under George Bush. That is helping to undermine our economy. And it’s going to change when I’m president of the United States.

GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

OBAMA: Well, that might happen, or it might not. It depends on what’s happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I think the biggest problem that we’ve got on Wall Street right now is the fact that we got have a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got it right.

In addition to Gibson’s grilling on cap gains, both he and Stephanopoulos did a creditable job of pushing Obama on the substance and relevance of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah “God D**n America” Wright, and in giving Mrs. Clinton opportunities to pile on. This of course drove the left even further over the edge.

As Bozell further noted at the time, after one single night of decent journalism:

Like an abused spouse, ABC responded by repeating all the leftist complaints on its airwaves and supinely saluting the impressive dexterity of the Obama campaign.

That would appear to explain why Sawyer and ABC won’t mention Gibson’s April 2008 performance. They’re apparently ashamed of it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Ronald Reagan Endorsed Personhood

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

Yes he did (Direct YouTube; related link):

January 29, 2011

AP’s ‘Fact Check’ of HHS Scare Stat Also Factually Challenged

Ten days ago, on the eve of the House vote to repeal ObamaCare, Kathleen Sebelius’s Department or Health and Human Services issued a fearmongering press release saying that “129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage without new health reform law.”

Ten days later, on a Friday afternoon (naturally), the Associated Press’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar finally got around to skeptically evaluating HHS’s claim. Way to be there at crunch time, Ricardo (/sarc).

Here are selected paragraphs from Ricardo’s rendition:

FACT CHECK: Did gov’t stretch health care stat?

It’s a striking statistic.

Without President Barack Obama’s health care law, as many as 129 million Americans – half of those under age 65 – could be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The new estimate by the Health and Human Services Department is more than twice as high as a figure that supporters of the law were using last year.

It just might need an asterisk.

Most of those millions of people are covered by health insurance at work and don’t face any immediate risk of being denied care for their pre-existing medical problems. And as a rule, those who take a new job and sign up in their employer’s health plan are already protected by a 1990s law.

“It’s a hypothetical situation, not an actual situation,” said economist Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change. “Most of these people don’t have a problem, with or without health reform, because they get their coverage through their employment, and employer coverage takes everybody.” The center is a nonpartisan research organization.

… “It’s like trying to estimate hurricane fatalities by the number of people living on the seashore,” said Edmund Haislmaier, a health policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Most people in the path of a hurricane would evacuate, some would hunker down in reinforced homes; only a fraction would face the worst consequences, said Haislmaier.

“People are not going to suddenly face losing coverage if you repeal this law,” he added. The Heritage Foundation supports repeal.

The Obama administration stands by the statistic.

Note how what the press usually referred to before the November elections as the Affordable Health Care Act is now “Obama’s health care law.”

The AP reporter described the Heritage Foundation as “conservative,” but the Center for Studying Health System Change, whose abbreviation is HSC, as “nonpartisan.” Spare me:

HSC is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. HSC helps support the Foundation’s overall mission to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

David Colby, RWJF vice president of research and evaluation, is responsible for administering the Foundation’s funding of HSC. Debra Perez serves as program officer.

As Michelle Malkin’s latest column notes:

… the left-leaning, nationalized health care-promoting Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – has direct ties to the White House. Obama health care czar Nancy DeParle sits on the foundation’s board of trustees.

RWJF is also among the parade of employers, unions, and other organizations which have obtained ObamaCare waivers. Apparently, the Foundation’s philosophy is: “ObamaCare for thee, but not for me.”

As described above, if ObamaCare is ever fully repealed, even without any kind of replacement, the large majority of the 129 million people HHS cited would never see coverage denials.

Alonso-Zaldivar should have noted that HHS’s press release refutes the agency’s own headline — twice:

  • The release’s sub-headline reads: “Without Affordable Care Act protections, in 2014, 1 in 2 non-elderly Americans could be denied coverage or charged more due to a pre-existing condition.” There’s a big difference between being denied coverage and having to pay more to get coverage.
  • The HHS further adds a further qualifier about halfway into the release: “Prior to the Affordable Care Act, in the vast majority of states, insurance companies in the individual market could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions.” So there are three possibilities, not just one.

The furthest Alonzo-Zaldivar will go is to say that HHS’s claim “might need an asterisk.” Might?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Oops: AP Says GDP Report Was Causing Stock Market Rise in AM, Quietly Cites It As Reason for Decline After Close

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 8:23 am

It seems that Associated Press Business Writer David K. Randall made a bad call yesterday. But he only has himself to blame for engaging in what he should have known was wishful thinking.

Shortly after the government’s report on economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2010 came in with an annualized 3.2% reading, Randall put out this this short report:

Stocks edge up after stronger GDP report

Stocks are rising in early trading after a report showed that the U.S. economy is growing.

… The Dow Jones is up 7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,997 in morning trading. The S&P 500 is up 1, or 0.1 percent, to 1,300. The Nasdaq composite is flat at 2,755.

What piffle. First, the report trailed expectations of 3.5%. Second, the “rising” Randall described — 0.06%, on the Dow, 0.07% with the S&P 500, and nothing in the Nasdaq — amounted to mere rounding errors.

By Friday’s close, the markets were down significantly, at which point Randall, along with colleague Matthew Craft, had changed their tune. In a report that also cited the situation in Egypt and a number of disappointing earnings reports as contributors, the pair noted the following in their eighteenth and second-last paragraph:

A lower than expected report on the U.S. economy helped lead to a market sell-off as well. The Commerce Department reported that U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent between October and December. That was below the 3.5 percent that analysts had forecast.

In other words, “Oops.”

If the Randall’s and Craft’s goal is to minimize the impact of the GDP disappointment in readers’ minds, they could hardly have done a “better” job:

  • Their story’s headline (“World Markets Sink as Protests Escalate in Egypt”) doesn’t mention the GDP miss.
  • Many if not most readers won’t get to Paragraph 18.
  • In what would appear to be an attempt to keep it from readers who might skip to the final paragraph after reading the first few, the GDP paragraph is inexplicably sandwiched in between items about specific companies.
  • And of course, many outlets carrying the AP story didn’t carry all of it, dropping later paragraphs (example here).

For the record, this fourth quarter of 2010 was the sixth full quarter after the recession as normal people define it and as the National Bureau of Economic Research defines it ended. Annualized GDP growth during the first quarter of 1984, the sixth post-recession quarter in the Reagan Era, was 8.0%.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Cindy Crawford stops at Children’s

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Cincinnati:

January 28, 2011

The unusual collaboration of a furniture store, a supermodel and a children’s hospital resulted in a $20,000 donation for the hospital Friday.

While in town to support the grand opening of Morris Home Furnishings in Springdale, Cindy Crawford stopped by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Corryville on to present a check from proceeds of the sales of her new furniture collection.

Morris Home Furnishings is the only retailer in Ohio carrying the Cindy Crawford line, which launched this month.

After touring the cancer research labs, Crawford met with MeiLing Rumping and her 6-year-old-daughter, Hannah, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2007 and was treated at the hospital.

“Even just a few years before that it would’ve been difficult to detect, but because of the labs they have here, they were able to quickly find it and start a treatment plan,” MeiLing said.

Crawford said donating to a children’s hospital known for its research has special meaning for her.

Her younger brother, Jeff, died of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when she was 10, and Crawford has focused her fundraising to help hospitals, bone marrow donor centers and other organizations that provide research, education and patient services for leukemia and other childhood diseases.

“At the time it was ‘How long can we keep him alive?’” Crawford recounted. “Now, almost 90 percent of children with ALL are cured. We spend all this money on research … and it does add up.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

January 28, 2011

Uncle Sam’s $2 Trillion Accounting Deficit (‘Uncle Sam’s Dangerous Deterioration’)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:37 pm

The real deficit was $2 trillion last year, shattering all records.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media under the title “Uncle Sam’s Dangerous Deterioration” and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Wednesday.
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A month ago, the federal government put out the real news about its financial condition as of September 30, 2010, the most recently ended fiscal year. Predictably, it was barely noticed, partially because the establishment press is disinterested in such things, and partially because of the report’s exquisitely timed release, i.e., during the week before Christmas.

For 14 years, a law with a poorly predictive name, the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996, has required that Uncle Sam publish consolidated financial statements using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on those statements. For the fourteenth consecutive year, the GAO was unable to render an opinion on them, because “weaknesses in federal financial management” prevented it from doing so. Specifically:

The main obstacles to a GAO opinion were: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

In September, I pointed out that although the reported fiscal 2010 deficit using the government’s own set of accounting rules was going to come in lower than 2009, Uncle Sam’s cash spending deficit (i.e., receipts less disbursements) would come in significantly higher. The GAO’s presentation of the GAAP deficit, with the final two lines below added by me for clarity, proves that contention:

SpendingDeficits2009and2010

The government has been able to concoct an illusion of improvement because the Obama administration’s Treasury Department booked $115 billion in “losses” in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in fiscal 2009 before it had sufficient evidence that setbacks of that magnitude would occur. In fiscal 2010 — shazam! — Treasury’s estimated TARP losses were revised far lower, enabling it to bury a gain of the same amount in its March 2010 monthly statement.

As shown above, after taking this accounting flimflammery out of the picture, the fiscal 2009 and 2010 deficits based on receipts and disbursements were really $1,302.1 billion and $1,409.1 billion, respectively. In other words, last year was about 8% worse than the year before, certainly not better. It is not without cause that radio talker and Liberty and Tyranny author Mark Levin called President Obama “the most profligate, irresponsible spender in world history” on his January 18 program.

Uncle Sam’s GAAP deficit, seen above as “Net Operating Cost,” was even greater, amounting to $2.080.3 trillion. This dwarfed the comparable number of $1.253 trillion in 2009. The increase occurred because the government’s obligations to its military retirees and veterans, civilian retirees, and its functionally bankrupt government service enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exploded. More depressing: In 2008 and 2007, the comparable fully-loaded deficits were “only” $1.01 trillion and $275.5 billion, respectively. Again, a situation that was breathtakingly bad in fiscal 2009 got “progressively” worse in 2010.

How about Social Security and Medicare? Well, there’s bad news and, as is often the case with this bunch, pretend good news. The bad news, as seen here, is that the government’s actuarial liability for Social Security jumped by $270 billion in fiscal 2010 to almost $8 trillion. The program now runs at a deficit during most months. Without changes, Social Security will hemorrhage cash at an ever-increasing rate in the coming years.

As to Medicare, the government claims at that same link that its actuarial liability for that program decreased by $15.3 trillion, a stunning turnaround it attributes to the passage of ObamaCare. Here what the GAO had to say about that assertion:

Significant uncertainties … primarily related to the achievement of projected reductions in Medicare cost growth reflected in the 2010 Statement of Social Insurance, prevented us from expressing an opinion on that statement.

That’s polite accounting-speak for: “Though we can’t prove it, we think it’s a load of rubbish.”

In October through December of 2010, the first three months of fiscal 2011, the government’s detachment from financial reality only increased, and its march toward the abyss accelerated.

Except for seemingly endless unemployment benefits, the Obama administration’s stimulus programs, which really ended up stimulating nothing —  especially not employment — are supposedly over. Logically, federal spending should be going down. Nope. Outlays from October through December of 2010 were about 3% higher than the same three months of last year. That may not seem like much, but given that cash spending in fiscal 2010 was about 20% higher than it was just two years earlier, there’s no excuse for it.

Meanwhile, though federal receipts have increased by 9% over the first fiscal quarter of last year, they’re coming in well behind where they need to be to meet the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent full-year fiscal 2011 projected increase of well over 20%. Moreover, it’s federal income tax collections that are up, while Social Security and Medicare collections continue to plummet, even before this calendar year’s 2% Social Security tax cut kicks in. Social Security and Medicare collections were over 4% lower during the most recent quarter compared to the fourth calendar quarter of last year, and were a stunning 12% lower in December 2010 compared to December 2009.

The irony of all of this is, pun intended, rich. Despite this administration’s egalitarian rhetoric, the combination of upward movements in income tax collections combined with declining Social Security and Medicare receipts is a clear sign that many of the nation’s highest earners are prospering as they never have before, while the Democrats’ supposedly favored “working people” are earning less.

These very real numbers paint a portrait of a country in serious trouble led by an administration that seems hellbent on driving it over the cliff — while the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing ensures that the runaway train remains well-fueled.

It’s up to the new House majority in Washington to stop the train for the next two years, in the hope of finding a new driver in 2013. Putting real teeth into spending reductions in return for raising the debt ceiling would be a decent first step. Frequently using disapproval resolutions to stop the most harmful new regulations would also help.

Any lawful means necessary must be employed. It’s not a stretch to say that our country’s survival as we know it may be at stake.

4Q10 GDP, First Pass: An Annualized 3.2%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:40 am

The BEA’s report is here:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.

That was (/surprise) short of expectations, according to an LA Times item:

The economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2010, the Commerce Department reported, aided by stronger consumer spending and trade. Economists were expecting growth of 3.5% and don’t feel the numbers suggest strong hiring.

This failure to meet expectations didn’t keep the Associated Press from creating an illusion of momentum where there was none:

Stocks edge up after stronger GDP report

Stocks are rising in early trading after a report showed that the U.S. economy is growing.

… The Dow Jones is up 7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,997 in morning trading. The S&P 500 is up 1, or 0.1 percent, to 1,300. The Nasdaq composite is flat at 2,755.

For heaven’s sake, the rises cited are 0.06%, 0.07%, and nothing, respectively. Those are rounding errors.

The real reax: As of about 10:30, the Dow, S&P 500, and NASDAQ were down by 0.5%, 0.7%, and 1.2%, respectively. Update: End-of-day reax, at Investors Business Daily — “U.S. Stocks Slump On Egypt, Earnings, GDP Report”

The sixth post-recession quarter under Reagan came in at an annualized 8.0%. Reagan’s six-quarter post-recession average was 6.5%. Obama’s six-quarter average, subject to revision, is at 2.9%.

More later, if time.

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UPDATE: This one’s pretty straightforward — It was driven by consumption (3.04 of 3.20 points) and net exports (3.44 points), dragged back by inventory declines (-3.70 points), with just a dash (nowhere near big enough to support a powerful recovery) of other private investment (0.50 points).

The inventory decline of $114 billion represents roughly 8% of all inventories. Have businesses underestimated the ongoing strength of consumer spending, or have they cut back properly because the spending spike is unsustainable?

Lucid Links (012811, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:26 am

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence won’t run for President (HT Hot Air) in 2012. That’s understandable.

Better news would be that he’s running to send RINO Senator Dick Lugar into retirement. Apparently, no. If he pursues higher office, it will be to become Mitch Daniels’ successor as Hoosier State Governor.

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Obama Hearts Reagan, according to Time, as covered by Mark Finkelstein at NewsBusters (HT Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place).

I especially like the way Reagan used to bash the rich and oil companies for the supposedly undeserved “breaks” they receive, like Obama did in his State of the Union speech. (/sarc)

Anyway, heart this, in the words of the Congressional Budget Office:

The recovery in employment has been slowed not only by the moderate growth in output in the past year and a half but also by structural changes in the labor market, such as a mismatch between the requirements of available jobs and the skills of job seekers, that have hindered the reemployment of workers who have lost their job. Payroll employment, which declined by 7.3 million during the recent recession, gained a mere 70,000 jobs (or 0.06 percent), on net, between June 2009 and December 2010. (By contrast, in the first 18 months of past recoveries, employment rose by an average of 4.4 percent.)

One of those past recoveries is Reagan’s. Compare this:

ReaganVobamaJobs6qsRecov

This establishment press is positioning Team Obama’s decision to invoke Reagan as a supposedly clever move. It’s better interpreted as a sign of desperation.

I also find the move especially annoying because of this (direct YouTube):

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At the UK Telegraph: “Himalayan glaciers not melting because of climate change, report finds.”

Actually, it’s a half-and-half situation:

Researchers have discovered that contrary to popular belief half of the ice flows in the Karakoram range of the mountains are actually growing rather than shrinking.

The discovery adds a new twist to the row over whether global warming is causing the world’s highest mountain range to lose its ice cover.

It further challenges claims made in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the glaciers would be gone by 2035.

Although the head of the panel Dr Rajendra Pachauri later admitted the claim was an error gleaned from unchecked research, he maintained that global warming was melting the glaciers at “a rapid rate”, threatening floods throughout north India.

The new study by scientists at the Universities of California and Potsdam has found that half of the glaciers in the Karakoram range, in the northwestern Himlaya, are in fact advancing and that global warming is not the deciding factor in whether a glacier survives or melts.

Yet Obama, the EPA, and rest of his administration march along as if globaloney still has a shred of credibility. It doesn’t.

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The Associated Press seemingly can’t help itself, as illustrated in this housing-releated headline — “New-home sales in 2010 fall to lowest in 47 years.”

The headline would make you think that 1963 was worse than 2010. No, it wasn’t. Marty Crutsinger’s clunky first sentence clarifies:

Buyers purchased the fewest number of new homes last year on records going back 47 years.

Crutsinger also lowers the recovery bar when he writes that “… economists say it could be years before sales rise to a healthy rate of 600,000 units a year.”

600,000 would hardly be healthy. Every year from 1983-2007 except 1990 came in at over 600,000. The nation’s population is about 30% higher now than it was a quarter-century ago. The “health” benchmark is at least 800,000.

As illustrated a few weeks ago, 2010 was the not only the worst year for new home sales on record, it was the worst since World War II. Rebound? What rebound?