November 25th, 2014 at 5:03 pm
Jonathan Gruber to Testify Before House Committee
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

For political junkies, the news that MIT professor and ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber has agreed to testify before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee is must see TV.

Gruber has stirred up a hornet’s nest of negative press for the controversial health care law because of statements he’s made at academic conferences over the last few years. Helpfully summarized by the folks at American Commitment, Gruber’s comments include calling American voters stupid and admitting to writing ObamaCare’s text in a tortured way to avoid a straightforward cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Also appearing at the hearing will be Marilyn Tavener, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to explain – presumably with a straight face – why revelations that ObamaCare’s reported enrollment of 7 million inexplicably counted 400,000 dental plans. Republicans suspect a bad faith face-saving move since without the incorrectly included dental plans enrollment would have failed to reach CBO’s benchmark estimate.

All in all, December 9, 2014 should be an entertaining day in Washington, D.C. – if you like to watch contentious oversight hearings.


November 25th, 2014 at 12:51 pm
Obama Won’t Extend Unilaterial Amnesty to Tax Reform
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Sounds like no one prepped President Barack Obama for the obvious question posed by ABC’s George Stephanopolous: “How do you respond to the argument, a future president comes in and wants to lower taxes. Doesn’t happen. Congress won’t do it; so he says ‘I’m not going to prosecute those who don’t pay capital gains tax.’”

After dithering a bit, Obama replied with, “The vast majority of folks understand that they need to pay taxes, and when we conduct an audit, for example, we are selecting those folks who are most likely to be cheating. We’re not going after millions and millions of people who everybody knows are here and were taking advantage of low wages as they’re mowing lawns or cleaning out bedpans, and looking the other way.”

Stephanopolous pressed harder. “So you don’t think it’d be legitimate for a future president to make that argument?”

Without a hint of irony, Obama says, “With respect to taxes? Absolutely not.”

And yet the president has no reason in principle for limiting his successors in office from willfully disregarding whatever laws they don’t like. The former constitutional law professor seems to be completely unaware of the precedent he is setting by unilaterally suspending immigration enforcement. If left unrebuked, this action will teach future Oval Office occupants that the rule of law can – and at times should – be replaced with the whim of one.

The only saving grace in this interview is that the President of the United States seems genuinely clueless as to the logic of his own order. Such is the state of the chief executive.

H/T: Media Research Center


November 25th, 2014 at 9:38 am
Ramirez Cartoon: I’m Not an Emperor…
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


November 21st, 2014 at 10:20 am
Video – Title II: Obama Wants to Regulate the Internet
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses Barack Obama’s misguided push to have the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like a public utility under telephone and railroad laws drafted in the 1930s – long before the Internet (or computers, for that matter) was even invented.

 


November 21st, 2014 at 9:09 am
Podcast: Don’t Let IRS Off the Hook
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht discusses a federal judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit filed by True the Vote against the Internal Revenue Service for targeting the conservative organization and improperly delaying its application for tax-exempt status, how liberals are attempting to silence their critics, and the status of election integrity.

Listen to the interview here.


November 20th, 2014 at 8:19 pm
McCarthy on Amnesty: Obama Perverts Prosecutorial Discretion
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Who better than a former federal prosecutor to judge whether President Barack Obama can unilaterally impose amnesty for illegal immigrants via “prosecutorial discretion”?

Andrew C. McCarthy, now a contributor at National Review, explains: “Prosecutorial discretion means you are not required to prosecute every crime”, but it “does not mean that those crimes the executive chooses not to enforce are now no longer crimes.”

Yet that’s just what President Obama is proposing.

“He is claiming not only the power to determine what immigration laws get enforced and which illegal immigrants get prosecuted – power he unquestionably has,” writes McCarthy. The president, “also claims the power to declare (a) that criminal acts are somehow lawful – that illegal aliens now have a right to be here – just because Obama has chosen not to prosecute them; and (b) that those who engage in this unprosecuted activity will be rewarded with benefits (lawful presence, relief from deportation, work permits, etc.), as if their illegal acts were valuable community service.”

In other words, Obama’s amnesty perverts prosecutorial discretion beyond recognition.

Next up: Consequences?


November 20th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
HHS Caught Padding ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Is anything the Obama administration says about ObamaCare worth believing?

“The Obama administration said it erroneously calculated the number of people with health coverage under [ObamaCare], incorrectly adding 380,000 dental subscribers to raise the total above 7 million,” reports Bloomberg.

The revelation came to light thanks to diligent work by House Oversight Committee investigators.

Bloomberg quotes Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell as saying, “The mistake we made is unacceptable,” but the news agency goes on to report HHS may have been intentionally misleading in its counts in the run-up to the midterm elections.

“Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.” (Emphasis mine)

Along with the Grubergate deceptions, it’s hard to believe that HHS did anything other the deliberately fudge the numbers to help ObamaCare (barely) meet a previous CBO projection. Falling below that threshold would surely have been an embarrassment to the Obama administration, so someone at HHS just changed the rules so the home team could win.

Sounds similar to the president’s approach to immigration, doesn’t it?


November 20th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
GruberGate: All You Need to Know About the Jonathan Gruber Controversy In a Single Two-Minute Video
Posted by Jeff Mazzella Print

At the pace with which new videos continue to surface of ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber insulting American voters and exposing the Administration’s legal and deceitful public relations case for the president’s signature health care law, it truly is hard to keep up. 

Therefore, a big thank you is in order to the good folks at American Commitment, the organization that released the first Gruber video, for compiling everything you need to know about GruberGate, including Mr. Gruber’s most controversial comments – all in this in one handy two-minute video.


November 20th, 2014 at 10:50 am
In His Own Words: Obama Calls Executive Action on Immigration “Illegal” – 25 Times!
Posted by Jeff Mazzella Print

There has been no shortage of commentary in recent weeks and months addressing the illegality of President Obama’s planned executive action on immigration.  Even Obama himself, despite his plans to announce a sweeping new executive order on immigration tonight on prime-time television, has argued that circumventing Congress and acting unilaterally would be illegal.

In fact, Fox News’ “The Kelly File” dug up some 25 instances in which Obama said so on camera over the last several years. 

Watch the video here.


November 20th, 2014 at 9:49 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Environmental Extremism
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


November 19th, 2014 at 7:52 pm
Obama Readies Immigration Announcement
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Thursday, November 20, 2014, could be a day of infamy if President Barack Obama follows through on indications he will act on his own to give some form of legal status to as many as five million illegal immigrants.

Some conservatives say liberals can’t defend Obama’s lawless action, but there is no consensus among the former on what to do if the president intentionally violates his duty to faithfully execute the law.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) calls on his fellow Republicans not to “confirm a single nominee – executive or judicial – outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists.”

Charles Cooke of National Review cautions against adopting The Obama Rule – picking and choosing which law a president will enforce – when the GOP next controls the White House. Among other things, doing so would forever obliterate the Republican claim to defend the Constitution and the principles it preserves.

Of course, all of this could be avoided if a certain former constitutional law professor would step back from the precipice. A little self-restraint would go a long way toward reestablishing appropriate boundaries on what the most powerful man in the world can, and cannot, do.

If so, then tomorrow won’t go down as the day The Obama Rule officially replaced the Rule of Law.


November 18th, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Ahead of SCOTUS Challenge, HHS Murky on State-Based Exchange Definition
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

With its surprising decision to hear oral argument on an ObamaCare subsidy challenge next spring, the Supreme Court of the United States is causing a flurry of activity as some states try to shore up their status ahead of a potentially costly decision.

“The consulting firm Avalere Health estimates that nearly 5 million people would see their premiums spike 76 percent, on average, if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in states that don’t operate their own exchanges,” reports Governing. “That estimate assumes a greater number of exchanges are considered federal, not state-based, but the question of what exactly constitutes a ‘state-based’ health exchange is murky.”

How murky?

“States have the option of running their own exchange completely (a state-based exchange), managing aspects of plan design or consumer outreach (a partnership exchange) or leaving everything to the federal government (a federally facilitated exchange),” according to the website.

Predictably, the federal Department of Health and Human Services isn’t divulging its exact criteria for categorizing an exchange, a stance that leaves states without a clear picture of how to prepare for a possible elimination of subsidies to residents.

Some states, like Nevada and Oregon that switched to Healthcare.gov – the federal website – are still considered to have state-based exchanges because they retain control over functions like plan approval, data collection and quality reporting. Others, like Utah and Mississippi, also fall into the state-based category because they host small business exchanges (but not individual exchanges).

So, the bottom line appears to be this: If the Supreme Court axes ObamaCare subsidies per the law’s text and intent, there’s a good chance President Barack Obama’s political appointees will engage in verbal gymnastics to find ways to define “state-based exchanges” in whatever manner best suits them.

No matter. Getting something fundamentally better than ObamaCare isn’t the Supreme Court’s job anyway. Best to pocket the subsidy win if it comes and work toward a policy consensus among the political branches that delivers real reform.


November 18th, 2014 at 9:12 am
Speaking of Illegal
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


November 17th, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Gallup: New High in Public Disapproval of ObamaCare
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of ObamaCare, the highest number disapproving of the controversial health care law since Gallup began asking the question.

Approval of ObamaCare peaked just before the 2012 presidential election, but has cratered since then.

The culprit is reality.

The beginning of ObamaCare’s nosedive in popularity “occurred in early November 2013”, according to Gallup’s analysis, “shortly after millions of Americans received notices that their current policies were being canceled, which was at odds with President Barack Obama’s pledge that those who liked their plans could keep them. The president later said, by way of clarification, that Americans could keep their plans if those plans didn’t change after [ObamaCare] was passed.”

In other words, the law has continued to grow less popular with each new revelation that it was sold on a pack of lies.

Though completely repealing the entire law seems unlikely because the new Republican Senate majority is less than the number needed to overcome a certain Obama veto, the increasing levels of voter disapproval could convince some Senate Democrats to join Republicans in dismantling large parts.

Unless, that is, they want to risk involuntary retirement when their next election arrives.


November 14th, 2014 at 3:39 pm
WhereToWatch.com – New Search Tool Locates Films and Shows on Legal Sites
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We’ve written extensively on the destructive nature of illegal online piracy, as well as various market and legal avenues to combat it.

In positive news this week, the Motion Picture Association of America launched WhereToWatch.com, a one-stop-shop for consumers to locate legal sites for their favorite films and television shows.  Visitors to the site can (1) search for films and shows on digital downloading and streaming sites, as well as at stores and kiosks;  (2) quickly and easily find theater times and locations for new movies;  (3) watch trailers and access original behind-the-scenes content;  and (4) create settings to receive alerts when movies and shows they want become available from various providers.

Studies show that almost 95% of popular films and shows are already legally available for viewing, via over 100 legal online services across the U.S. Accordingly, there’s simply no need or excuse for anyone to steal the films or TV shows they enjoy on illegal sites, when legal alternatives are now so readily available.

In that vein, WhereToWatch.com offers a welcome innovation.


November 14th, 2014 at 1:32 pm
Ponnuru: What to Do If SCOTUS Strikes Down ObamaCare Subsidies
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

With ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber’s admissions that the controversial health law was sold on a pack of lies, the probability is rising that the Supreme Court will interpret the law as written and eliminate subsidies for millions of people.

If that happens, will Republicans in Congress be ready?

In order to lay the groundwork for an ObamaCare alternative that covers as many or more people than the current law, and costs less, Republicans in Congress could unite behind a framework proposed by conservative health experts James Capretta and Yuval Levin. Similar ideas have been endorsed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the incoming-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the likely next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

If the Supreme Court does strike down the subsidies, President Barack Obama won’t have much leverage since, “Much of ObamaCare would have just self-destructed due to its own design flaws and lack of public support, and Republicans would be offering a way to advance the law’s stated goal of assuring coverage – if not in the highly prescriptive and centralized manner the White House prefers”, writes Ramesh Ponnuru. “Democrats’ favored lines of attack on Republicans over health care – that they have no alternative, that they would take people off the insurance rolls – would have been neutralized.”

Sounds like a strategy worth pursuing.


November 14th, 2014 at 11:56 am
SCOTUS Should Accept Golden Opportunity to Constrain Abusive Plaintiffs’ Lawyers
Posted by Jeff Mazzella Print

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is by now a fading memory for most Americans.  The U.S. Supreme Court, however, will soon decide whether to hear a case stemming from the spill that could, at long last, restrain abusive trial lawyers who game our legal system.

The case involves BP, which immediately accepted responsibility for the spill and asked attorney Kenneth Feinberg to handle claims on a rapid and completely independent basis. Ultimately, Feinberg ordered more than 200,000 payments totaling $6 billion over 16 months.

The problem at issue arose when opportunistic plaintiffs’ lawyers decided that they weren’t receiving their customary windfall.  Consequently, they rushed to court and demanded a class-action settlement, which a federal district court in Louisiana granted.

Then the court appointed a well-connected local Louisiana lawyer to administer claims for what are broadly categorized as “business economic losses.” For example, a restaurant owner on the coast could demonstrate damages by comparing pre-spill revenues and profits versus post-spill revenues and profits. Victims who could establish a decline in revenues and confirm a causal connection between the losses and the spill itself, were entitled to payment.

Unfortunately, the claims administrator also steered vast sums toward businesses whose losses clearly had nothing to do with the spill. BP’s lawyers cite 64 representative examples of such abuse in their writ to the Supreme Court, including:

  • A real estate rental company that leased properties to two Saturn dealerships, which both went out of business because GM stopped making Saturns in 2009, put in a claim and received $238,000.
  • A group of emergency room physicians received $2.3 million after claiming that revenues dropped sharply, but that decline resulted not from the spill, but from a one-time earnings adjustment to accounts receivable over a period of five years.

BP appealed the awards to the Fifth Circuit, but lost in a sharply-split decision. Judge Edith Clement, a highly-respected appellate judge appointed by President George W. Bush, minced no words in her dissent.  She warned that the judiciary itself was becoming a “party to the fraud” against BP

Citing Judge Clement, Cardozo School of Law professor Lester Brinkman, a premier authority in the academic study of plaintiffs’ lawyers, wrote, “Make no mistake; fraud it is.  The settlement agreement entered into by BP to provide compensation to those that suffered loss from the spill, states that in order to be eligible for compensation, claimants must affirm under penalty of perjury, that they suffered ‘damages arising from’ the Deep Water Horizon incident.  But the Louisiana legal system has obliterated these words from the agreement.”

So why should informed citizens care? After all, BP admitted to doing great damage to the Gulf of Mexico.

We should care because if the abusive and greedy plaintiffs’ lawyers triumph in this case, few restraints will remain. If ever there was an example of discarding the rule of law in favor of enriching a politically-powerful group, this case is it.

At issue in this case is a straightforward proposition. Namely, a class-action settlement is grossly inappropriate where large numbers of that supposed class have even not suffered harm. That seems elementary

Unfortunately, different federal courts of appeal have ruled inconsistently in similar cases. That inconsistency alone constitutes one reason the Supreme Court could and should accept the case. Another reason is the important and fundamental legal issue at stake: people who haven’t suffered actual harm should not receive unjustified windfall damages.

Whatever one thinks of BP, the case now before the Supreme Court is a critical one, and its legal position is the correct one. Accordingly, the Justices should take the important step of granting cert.


November 14th, 2014 at 11:43 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

Lee:  Obama to FCC: Let’s Regulate the Internet
Ellis:  Going Deeper on Krauthammer’s Plan to Repeal ObamaCare
Senik:  Liberal Triumphalism Turns to Panic

Podcast:  Obama’s Planned Executive Order on Amnesty
Jester’s Courtroom:  The Tables Have Turned

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.


November 14th, 2014 at 9:35 am
Podcast: Obama’s Planned Executive Amnesty Order
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, discusses President Obama’s refusal to wait for Congress to act on immigration, why proposed executive action presents a separation of powers issue, and what legal challenges and other remedies may await the Obama’s Amnesty decree.

Listen to the interview here.


November 13th, 2014 at 7:12 pm
Repeal of ObamaCare’s Medical Device Tax Coming Soon?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Repealing ObamaCare’s medical device tax is one of the ways to deprive the controversial health law of $30 billion in funding, so it’s no wonder Republicans in Congress are getting ready to do just that.

Unlike other features of ObamaCare – such as the individual and employer mandates – the medical device tax has bipartisan opposition because it threatens up to 43,000 jobs. So, even though President Barack Obama would likely veto any repeal bills that land on his desk, a measure killing the medical device tax might be able to attract enough votes to override him.

If successful, repealing the medical device tax might convince Democrats in Congress that ObamaCare isn’t sacrosanct. Maybe then they’ll be open to trying something else.