December 29, 2009
Janet Napolitano’s point of view about the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an American airliner with over 300 souls on board appears to differ from that of President Obama’s.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the thwarting of the attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit airline flight Christmas Day demonstrated that “the system worked.”
Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” how that could be possible when the young Nigerian who has been charged with trying to set off the bomb was able to smuggle explosive liquid onto the jet, Napolitano responded: “We’re asking the same questions.”
Napolitano added that there was “no suggestion that [the suspect] was improperly screened.”
Obama had played it cool on the attempted plot when it happened, then yesterday he spoke about the reviews he had ordered of terrorist watch-lists, but today’s statement was much harsher.
Apparently as an answer to the blistering attacks from critics over Napolitano’s flippant remarks about the state of our domestic security system, President Obama struck a harsher tone today (December 29, 2009) on the attempted terrorist bombing over Detroit, telling reporters in Hawaii that “a systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable,” adding that he would “insist on accountability at every level.”
The no-fly-list system is “not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said, according to reports from Hawaii.
Two days after the successful attempt (read that carefully) to blow up the airliner, I called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. I hope Obama’s statement about insisting on accountability at every level includes Napolitano.
December 27, 2009
An argument frequently used by health care reform supporters is that since we have to buy car insurance, the requirement should also extend to buying health insurance. Those against this health care reform bill would retort with “yea, but you don’t have to buy the car” but it didn’t explain the legal footing for it.
I read a rather lengthy piece written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Hatch points out that federal government can regulate commerce, but cannot force people to participate in commerce. The car insurance is a regulated aspect of the voluntary purchase of a car. Likewise, we cannot be forced to purchase health insurance and we cannot be fined for not participating in it.
Here’s how Hatch explained it.
The Congressional Budget Office examined the 1994 healthcare reform legislation, which also included a mandate to purchase health insurance. Here is the CBO’s conclusion: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy a particular good or service….Federal mandates typically apply to people as parties to economic transactions, rather than members of society.”
In other words, Congress can regulate commercial activities in which people choose to engage, but cannot require that they engage in those commercial activities.
If there is no difference between regulating and requiring what people do, if there is no difference between incentives and mandates, if Congress may require that individuals purchase a particular good or service, why did we bother with the Cash for Clunkers program? Why did we bother with the TARP or other bailouts? We could simply require that Americans buy certain cars or appliances, invest in certain companies, or deposit their paychecks in certain banks. For that matter, we could attack the obesity problem by requiring Americans to buy fruits and vegetables.
Some say that because state governments may require drivers to buy car insurance, the federal government may require that everyone purchase health insurance. Simply stating that point should be enough to refute it. States may do many things the federal government may not, and if you do not drive a car, you do not have to buy car insurance. This legislation would require individuals to have health insurance simply because they exist, even if they never see a doctor for the rest of their lives.
The defenders of this health insurance mandate must know they are on shaky constitutional ground. The bill before us now includes findings which attempt to connect the mandate to the Constitution. I assume that they are the best arguments that this unprecedented and novel mandate is constitutional.
Hatch continues shooting holes in Reid’s bill by pointing to the unconstitutional aspects of “excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored insurance plans differently in some states than in others. ”
The Constitution allows Congress to impose excise taxes, but requires that they be “uniform throughout the United States.” This is one of those provisions that will be dismissed with pejorative labels such as archaic by those who find it annoying. But it is right there in the same Constitution that we have all sworn that same oath to protect and defend and we are just as bound to obey it. And frankly, a good test of our commitment to the Constitution is when we must obey a provision that limits what we want to do.
As if the above constitutional nails were not enough to seal the coffin on Reid’s health care bill, Hatch moves on to the subject of states rights with regard to the limitation of federal powers upon individual states.
Others have observed that the legislation requires states to establish health benefit exchanges. It does not ask, cajole, encourage, or even bribe them. It simply orders state legislatures to pass legislation creating these health benefit exchanges and says that if states do not do so, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish the exchanges for them.
But as the Supreme Court said in FERC v. Mississippi in 1982, “this Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations.” The Supreme Court reaffirmed a decade later in New York v. United States that “The Framers explicitly chose a Constitution that confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not States.” In that case, the Court struck down federal legislation that would press state officials into administering a federal program.
And more recently, in Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court stated: “We have held, however, that state legislatures are not subject to federal direction.” And yet, this legislation does what these cases said Congress may not do. It commands states to pass laws, it regulates states in their capacity as states, and it attempts to make states subject to federal direction.
In its present form, it would appear Harry Reid’s health care bill (actually, it’s an insurance reform bill) is dead on arrival.
Orrin Hatch spoke the above on the Senate floor December 11, 2009.
You can watch Orrin Hatch speak on the issue, followed by Randy Barnett,
Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown University Law Center, who also speaks on the unconstitutional aspects of the health care bill.
December 10, 2009
December 10, 2009
President Obama was in Oslo today to humbly accept the Nobel Peace Prize. A record number of nominations, in all 205, have been made for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Institute said
The tally includes 172 individuals and 33 organisations, besting the 2005 number of 199 nominations.
Apparently, you don’t have to actually do anything to be eligible for nomination. The Nobel web-site only says:
The candidates eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize are those nominated by qualified individuals.
The right to submit proposals for the Nobel Peace Prize shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:
The requirements for being an eligible nominator are more stringent than becoming a nominee. We look to 2007’s winner, Al Gore, for his amazing climate change work as confirmation of that fact. As such, the Nobel Foundation should probably review their nominator qualifications.
Nobel rendered the prize to the level of Cracker Jack prize when it awarded Al Gore. Apparently not satisfied cheapening the award with Gore’s give-away, Nobel has now rendered the prize absolutely meaningless by giving one to Obama for.. uh.. nothing.
If either of these two gentlemen had any honor, they would have rejected the award. But we knew they wouldn’t, didn’t we?
The Nobel Committee has insulted every past award winner for their amazing achievements and contributions. Being awarded with the prize now takes on a different meaning when the recipient realizes they are joining the ranks containing these two clowns.
What a farce and what an insult.
December 3, 2009
The Congressional Budget Office released a study about how Harry Reid’s Senate bill will affect insurance costs and found that premiums in the individual market will rise by 10% to 13% more than if Congress did nothing. If left alone, family policies are projected to cost $13,100 on average. Under ObamaCare it will jump to $15,200.
Playing along with Reid and his ilk, the New York Times told its readers there is “No Big Cost Rise in U.S. Premiums Is Seen in Study” and the Washington Post tried to prop it up by saying, “Senate Health Bill Gets a Boost”. Obama’s White House put their unique spin on it by stating the CBO report was “more good news about what reform will mean for families struggling to keep up with skyrocketing premiums under the broken status quo.”
From the Senate floor Finance Chairman Max Baucus said,
“Health-care reform is fundamentally about lowering health-care costs. Lowering costs is what health-care reform is designed to do, lowering costs; and it will achieve this objective.”
Well, Not Quite
What Baucus and the White House left out some very important points about the report. What they don’t want you to know is that the CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly as they are now. Costs will not be going down. Not only that, the whole purpose of Reid’s reform bill was to fix the individual market which is expensive and unstable due mostly to the fact it does not receive favorable tax treatment which are given to job-based coverage.
The CBO’s report is confirming that new coverage mandates actually drive premiums higher. Democrats are claiming that these higher insurance prices will be offset by new government subsidies. How do they do that? Government subsidies come from you and me through taxes, that’s how.
About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium, whose cost will be offset by subsidies.
For you thinkers out there, yes, you got it, the bill will increase costs but it will then disguise those costs by transferring them to taxpayers from individuals. Higher costs can be made to fade away because on the government balance sheet. The Reid bill’s $371.9 billion in new health taxes are also apparently not a new cost because they can be passed along to consumers, or perhaps will be hidden in lost wages.
What’s that called?
This is the paleo-liberal school of brute-force wealth redistribution, and a very long way from the repeated White House claims that reform is all about “bending the cost curve.” The only thing being bent here is the truth.
The CBO is almost certainly underestimating the cost increases. Based on its county-by-county actuarial data, the insurer WellPoint has calculated that Mr. Baucus’s bill would cause some premiums to triple in the individual market. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association came to similar conclusions.
Prices for the individual market are regulated community rating. With it, insurers charge nearly uniform rates regardless of customer health status or habits. The CBO doesn’t think this will have much of an effect, but costs inevitably rise when insurers aren’t allowed to price based on risk. This is why today some 35 states impose no limits on premium variation and six allow wide differences among consumers.
Amanda Kowalski of MIT, William Congdon of the Brookings Institution and Mark Showalter of Brigham Young have found similar results. In a 2008 paper in the peer-reviewed Forum for Health Economics and Policy, these economists found that state community rating laws raise premiums in the individual market by 20.9% to 33.1% for families and 10.2% to 17.1% for singles. In New Jersey, which also requires insurers to accept all comers (so-called guaranteed issue), premiums increased by as much as 227%.
The Real Crime
The crime is there are plenty of reform alternatives that really would reduce insurance costs. According to CBO, the relatively modest House GOP bill would actually reduce premiums by 5% to 8% in the individual market in 2016, and by 7% to 10% for small businesses. The GOP reforms would also do so without imposing huge new taxes.
Once again, the CBO comes in with the unbiased truth, independently backed up by brains at MIT, the Brookings Institution and Brigham Young. And once again, Reid and his Democrat Party spin and distort the facts to doctor up this pig while hoping we won’t notice.
The Democrats tell us it’s all about “lowering costs.” The truth is it doesn’t. It raises them. Clearly, Obama, Reid and Nancy don’t care. They’re really only interested in creating yet another government run program. Time after time, history shows it amounts to being an incredible waste of money.
December 3, 2009
US newspapers are grappling with declining print advertising revenue, falling circulation and the migration of readers to free news online, while several major US publishers have declared bankruptcy.
These conditions have led Senator Henry Waxman (D-CA), to declare the newspaper industry is suffering “market failure” and the government will need to help preserve serious journalism essential to democracy.
Waxman, chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
During a meeting on journalism in the Internet age hosted by the FTC he had this to say:
The newspapers my generation has taken for granted are facing a structural threat to the business model that has sustained them. The loss of revenue has spurred a vicious cycle with thousands of journalists losing their jobs. The depression in the media sector is not cyclical, it is structural. While this has implications for the media it also has implications for democracy. A vigorous free press and vigorous democracy have been inextricably linked. We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure.
Acknowledging that talk of government support for the press raises “red flags,” Waxman stressed it is not the job of Congress to “deny the evolution of media.”
As we look at these various solutions, government’s going to have to be involved in one way or the other. Eventually, government is going to have to be responsible to help resolve these issues and our whole society depends very much on reaching some resolution of the problem.
Without endorsing any proposals, Waxman noted various proposed remedies, including new tax structures for publishers, providing non-profit status, changing anti-trust regulations or eliminating a law that bars owning a newspaper and a television station in the same city.