December 10, 2013

Latest Fiscal Times Column (‘Deficit Reduction: Far Less Than Meets the Eye’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:03 pm

It’s here.

I didn’t get to mention the high likelihood that Obamacare-related spending overruns are likely to make things worse than the Congressional Budget Office believes they appear.

AP’s Report Bemoaning Income Inequality Says You’re ‘Rich’ If You’ve Ever Earned $250K

Monday evening at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, Hope Yen, with the help of lead AP pollster Jennifer Agiesta and three other reporters, tagged 20 percent of Americans as “rich.”

To do so, she reinvented what it is to be “rich” or “affluent.” It apparently has nothing to do with how it is normally defined, i.e., based on current net worth (assets owned minus debts owed). Ms. Yen’s and AP’s yearning is apparently to base it on whether you’re in a household which has had annual earnings above $250,000 — ever. Really. The purpose of the piece appears to be to go after this segment of the population, such as it is, because they aren’t knee-jerk supporters of limitless government spending, and won’t spend money on consumption to improve the economy like Keynesians think they’re supposed to. Be on the lookout for a clearly misused word (HT to emailer Alfred Lemire; bolds are mine throughout this post):

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RIP …

Filed under: General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:38 pm

Bill Mallory.

Melissa Harris-Perry’s Side-Splitter: ‘Obamacare’ a Term ‘Designed by White Men’ to Delegitimize’ Obama

On the broadcast station of the self-proclaimed (in the web page’s window title) “news, video, and progressive community” known as MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry held forth on the significance of the term “Obamacare.”

She now believes, unlike some in the administration who have seem to want to disown the term, that progressives ought to be loud and proud about it as in-your-face taunt directed at those who believe it will fail (which she obviously can’t imagine happening). But it’s her rant, acting as if she’s giving the speech of her life, about the term’s origin that both pathetic and side-splitting:
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NYT, Boston Globe Discover Years-Long Homelessness Growth in Gotham and Massachusetts

This month, the Boston Globe and the New York Times have published items on the growth of homelessness in the state of Massachusetts and New York City, respectively. Based on the content of each, it’s clear that the topic was ripe for coverage in 2012, but got little if any. I wonder why? (/sarcasm)

The Globe’s regular-length news story by Megan Woolhouse and David Abel cited the state’s “record numbers of homeless families” as “another example of an uneven recovery” from a recession which officially ended almost 4-1/2 years ago. The Times published the first of what will ultimately five parts on the plight of one homeless family, with special emphasis on Dasani, their 11 year-old daughter. The Globe cites “federal budget cuts” and “a legacy of the Great Recession” as negative factors. The Times’s Andrea Elliott needlessly marred her otherwise compelling profile by hyping newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio while taking swipes at “the wealthy” and “Reagan-era cutbacks,” as excerpts after the jump will demonstrate (bolds and italicized comments are mine):

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Nobody’s This Stupid and Incompetent

What consumers can see on the Obamacare website is bad enough. The landmines that they can’t see are far worse.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Sunday.

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How do you get your arms around the catastrophe known as Obamacare? Is it even possible?

At this point, I’m not sure it is. The list of individual disasters which threaten to ruin one-sixth of the U.S. economy and what has been, up until now, the best healthcare system in the world is exhaustive, and exhausting.

The examples I will identify here barely scratch the surface.

First but by no means foremost, we have the supposedly new and improved HealthCare.gov. Except it’s not, even the visible part. Stories still abound of people still failing to get in or to get through the enrollment process.

But that’s okay, because nobody with any expectation of privacy should be using the web site anyway. A well-known “white hat hacker” (i.e., one of the good guys) told CNBC and the Washington Free Beacon that its security exposure is even greater now than when the site debuted on October 1. The situation is so embarrassing that White House won’t even brief Congress, which last time I checked was supposed to oversee executive branch activities. Meanwhile, the administration’s press lapdogs won’t even mention the word “security” in their web site reviews.

What consumers can see is bad enough. What they can’t see is far worse.

The transmission of enrollment data from HealthCare.gov to participating insurance companies is so botched that “up to 30 percent of the people who have enrolled on healthcare.gov only think they have enrolled.” Starting on January 1, barring some kind of miracle, those affected who go to their doctors are “going to find out the hard way that their attempted enrollment failed and they don’t actually have coverage.”

Then there’s the fact that “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet finished building the part of the website that would transfer billions of dollars in subsidies for plan premiums and cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.” That characterization made by Reuters is far too kind. On November 19, Henry Chao, CMS’s deputy chief information officer Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told a House committee that “the payment systems, they still need be built.” At best, that would mean they’ve hardly started.

The “fix” for this complete lack of a system is something out of fairyland, and dumps a huge, unplanned workload on participating insurance companies:

Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to “true up” payments …

Imagine the hours upon hours of bickering we’ll see between government bureaucrats and insurance company officials before, or if, this gets resolved. No one can possibly believe that the Obama administration won’t capitalize on this new opportunity to bully the industry it loves to hate. (Aside: I wonder how the folks in the insurance business who salivated over “all those new customers” they would gain feel about being in bed with Team Obama now?)

Months ago, we learned to HealthCare.gov enrollees will be on the “honor system” in submitting their personal and income data. Now we discover that the Internal Revenue Service, which is supposed to at least apply a sniff test to what users submit, “doesn’t have the system to check what your income is, to see what subsidies you are eligible for,” potentially opening the system up to massive fraud. Anyone who believes it can’t happen isn’t aware of the IRS’s multibillion-dollar failure to stop illegal aliens from taking bogus chid-care credits.

President Barack Obama has done very little to ensure that his “signature achievement” would get off the ground successfully. How little? Try “almost nothing.” According to a study by the Government Accountability Institute, the President only met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius one time since the Affordable Care Act became law. That was way back on April 21, 2010 — and even that was a joint meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Meanwhile, this non-working clunker’s waste, likely fraud, and cronyism will almost certainly send its cost over the $1 billion mark — all for a site which some IT experts claim should have cost less than $10 million.

Obamacare’s damage is already spreading to the rest of the economy. Large company CEOs are saying that the uncertainties it is imposing  are “harming the economic rebound.” (Yeah, I know. What economic rebound?) Black Friday weekend’s pathetic sales results make the concern I expressed several weeks ago that we could see a no-growth fourth quarter all too real.

This enterprise’s screw-ups, missed assignments, unaddressed problems and management failures have collectively created a level of disarray I have not seen in my lifetime — one which promises to sustain itself well into next year, if not longer. It’s likely that all we’ve seen so far represents the very small tip of a huge iceberg aimed straight at the economy and our civil society. Just wait until consumers get turned away because there’s no record of their enrollment, doctors and hospitals don’t get paid, and the frauds begin to be exposed.

Considering that the people involved are supposedly our best and brightest — as they and their media lapdogs constantly remind us — is it really possible that utter stupidity and incompetence fully explain what has transpired? I think not. Until someone can prove otherwise, the default position has to be that chaos is what they want, and that they will continue to work to deepen it.

Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (121013)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Amid persecution, Christianity growing in ‘Global South’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Washington:

Dec 5, 2013 / 05:10 pm

Researchers say the Christian population is growing in regions that experience anti-Christian persecution, though this threatens their ability to contribute to societies.

“Persecution is growing because Christianity is growing in the places where people are persecuted,” said Todd Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Speaking during a Dec. 5 media call, he characterized anti-Christian persecution as “growing fast.” His research estimates that one in five Christians, 500 million people, currently live in countries where Christians are likely to be persecuted. By 2020, their numbers are expected to rise to 600 million, 25 percent of the Christian population.

Johnson noted that the Christian population has significantly shifted from Europe and North America to the “Global South”: Africa, Asia and Latin America.

He also observed a change from 20th century anti-Christian persecution, which was predominantly state-based.

“Persecution in the 21st century is both state-based and society-based,” Johnson said. “Persecutors today represent a wide variety of ideologies: communist, national security state, religious nationalists, and Muslim majorities.”

However, Muslim majority countries’ persecution of Christians makes up only 25 percent of all such oppression.

Johnson is one of several scholars who will be taking part in the upcoming conference, “Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.” The conference, which will be held Dec. 13-14 at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, aims to highlight Christianity’s political, religious and economic contributions.

Timothy Shah of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, also participated in the media call, explaining that the Rome conference intends to “get behind the headlines” about global anti-Christian persecution and ask “fundamental questions” about trends in persecution and their impact on society and global stability. …

Go here for the rest of the story.