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August 21st, 2014 at 2:38 pm
Avik Roy Updates His ObamaCare Alternative

Credit Avik Roy for being open-minded.

A week after unveiling his ambitious – and controversial – reform of ObamaCare, Roy, a well-respected health policy expert, is incorporating some of the best criticisms as amendments to his plan.

Most of the changes are highly technical, and not worth delving into in a short blog post. For readers interested in specifics, here is the link to Roy’s updates page.

What’s refreshing about Roy’s response to his fellow conservatives is his willingness to defend his ideas, but not to the point of brushing aside legitimate improvements.

As to the biggest concern – that preserving ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges makes it possible that Democrat congressional majorities in the future might use them as a springboard to a single-payer system – Roy replies, “No health-reform plan can singlehandedly prevent Democrats from doing whatever they want if they ever again have 2009-size, filibuster-proof majorities. But if that’s the standard for constructive GOP reform plans, well, let’s just call it a day.”

Roy’s point is well taken, but it highlights a central tension among conservatives whenever federal policymaking is considered – Which is more important: Market efficiency or federalism?

Policy wonks like Roy tend to favor efficiency as a way to lower spending and improve citizen-customer experiences. Constitutionalists like myself tend to favor federalism and the policy diversity that it affords. Of course, different regulatory regimes produce market inefficiencies. However, that just may be the price of freedom.

Roy should be applauded for trying to make his ObamaCare alternative as strong as possible. Time will tell whether conservatives will come to favor an efficient, federally-regulated national market, or continue to favor a system that lets states and their citizens decide what works best for them.

August 21st, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Judge Orders Release of Fast and Furious Documents

Soon the American people may finally get some clarity about the Fast and Furious scandal.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the Department of Justice must provide a list of documents related to the gun-running scheme that it says are protected by executive privilege. The list will be turned over to investigators at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Disclosing the list will allow House investigators to challenge DOJ’s privilege claim for shielding each document, a case-by-case process that will likely result in at least some transparency into the murky program that enabled Mexican drug cartels to kill a U.S. Border Agent and scores of Mexicans.

H/T: National Review Online

August 21st, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Ninth Circuit: IPAB Challenge Must Wait

Uncharacteristically, a three judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has given constitutional conservatives a reason to smile.

The Ninth Circuit, a bastion of liberalism that gets routinely reversed by the Supreme Court, ruled that a constitutional challenge to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is not yet “ripe” for judicial review. Ripeness is the term judges use to denote when a case has a live issue that a court of law can decide. In the IPAB case, the agency hasn’t yet been created, so any challenges to the harm it might do must wait until they actually occur.

And make no mistake, there is much to fear from a fully functioning IPAB. For example, “IPAB is not dependent upon annual appropriations from Congress, need not follow traditional administrative processes, and is not subject to judicial review. As if that were not enough,” writes Jonathan Adler, “[ObamaCare] provides that Congress may dissolve IPAB only if it follows a specified procedure during a seven-month period in 2017 – a statutory provision even the Obama administration has acknowledged could not hold up in court.”

Each of the characteristics of IPAB cited by Adler above are intentionally designed to separate the agency from legislative, judicial and ultimately public control. This is dangerous because “IPAB is authorized to develop self-executing recommendations for limits on Medicare reimbursement rates and other cost controls should the rate of Medicare spending growth exceed a specified target.” That is, IPAB is empowered to ration care for Medicare beneficiaries without any oversight. If allowed to go into effect, IPAB could very well be the biggest step toward a European-style, centrally controlled nationalized health system.

So, how is a loss today really a win for the future? By dismissing the current challenge to IPAB for lack of ripeness, the Ninth Circuit panel is allowing those opposed to the agency to fight another day. At the trial level where this case began, the district judge was not so kind. He ruled against the challengers on the merits, foreclosing future attacks when IPAB actually gets going.

By allowing the challengers to refile later, the Ninth Circuit – at least for the time being – is leaving the door open to another, perhaps more successful assertion of constitutional principle.

August 20th, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Paul Ryan: Regulations Hurt the Poor

Conservatives typically – and correctly – fault the regulatory state for increasing the cost of doing business and impeding job creation. But what about the argument that businesses don’t pay taxes (or regulatory fees), people do?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is making a powerful case that the two go together in a way that could reduce the government’s footprint and decrease poverty.

“The regulatory part of Ryan’s anti-poverty plan goes after ‘regressive’ federal rules – those that have an outsize economic impact on low-income households,” reports The Hill. “Supporters of his plan say regulations are ultimately borne by ordinary consumers and households who pay extra when new restrictions are piled on to the products and services they use. The poor end up spending a greater share of their income to cover the added expense.”

The argument that regulations are regressive – that they take a bigger bite out of a poor family’s budget than anyone else’s – is an especially attractive one to liberals such as Cass Sunstein, the former chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House.

In a recent column, Sunstein said Ryan’s regulatory reforms “point in helpful directions, and they suggest the possibility of bipartisan cooperation on some important questions.” Among these is taking into consideration the human cost of regulations on a segment of society that can least afford it.

To be sure, neither Ryan nor Sunstein advocate eliminating all regulations, and how they would implement such reforms would likely differ substantially. Still, the fact that a well-known, serious conservative and his liberal counterpart see common ground on pulling back government and lifting up the poor is a development worth watching.

August 19th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Laughable Indictment Could Actually Help Perry in 2016

Today, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry had to suffer the indignity of turning himself into local law enforcement on absurd charges that he abused his office.

The upshot is that this whole politically motivated affair is very likely about to end without any further dents to Perry’s public image.

In fact, it might even help him.

The water cooler version is that the Democrat who runs the state’s Public Integrity Unit got mad that Perry vetoed funding after she served jail time for drunk driving and refused to resign. Apparently, an Austin-based grand jury thought that was enough to issue two felony indictments for abuse of power.

No serious person who has actually looked at Texas law thinks this will stand up in court. The case is so bad that even liberal pundits are taking the opportunity to defend a staunchly conservative Southern Republican.

As a matter of history, this is at least the third time a sitting Republican official has been the target of a politically motivated criminal prosecution, according to John Fund. The other two – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – were both eventually acquitted.

That’s a track record Perry can take comfort in, especially since Texas governors enjoy virtually unlimited discretion to veto appropriations bills. Knowing this, Perry can pledge to “fight this injustice with every fiber of my being” because he knows the prosecution doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

When the dust settles and the national media spotlight dissolves, Perry might actually be in a better situation politically than before. Already he’s gained a lot of renewed interest as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate for his deft handling of the current border crisis. Add this martyr-making moment to the mix, and Perry might be ready to audition for the role of Comeback Kid.

August 14th, 2014 at 8:35 pm
Indiana Jumps on the Halbig Bandwagon

Add Indiana to the list of states arguing that ObamaCare’s subsidies can’t be used on Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange.

The challenge is the same mounted by other states contesting the IRS’s unilateral decision to go against the clear language of ObamaCare which makes subsidies available only on state-based exchanges, a restriction intended to induce states to shoulder the implementation costs for fear of angering residents by exposing them to ObamaCare’s real costs.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence will decide whether Indiana’s case has merit in October. Precedent from other circuits isn’t all that helpful, since the D.C. Circuit upheld the statutory scheme while the Fourth Circuit sided with the IRS.

The silver lining: Whatever Lawrence and the appellate circuit decide will further fragment ObamaCare’s implementation, increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will weigh in.

Whenever that happens, hopefully there will still be five votes to uphold the plain meaning of the law.

H/T: Indianapolis Star

August 14th, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Like IRS, CMS Emails Go Missing

It looks like Lois Lerner – the former IRS manager at the center of the scandal targeting conservative groups – isn’t the only Obama administration official who lost emails subpoenaed by Congress.

Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is now believed to have deleted emails sought by congressional investigators trying to understand why Healthcare.gov had such a horrendous rollout.

“In order to stay below the agency’s Microsoft Outlook email size limit, Tavenner would regularly delete emails after copying or forwarding them to her staff for retention,” says the MSNBC report that broke the story. “However, Tavenner didn’t follow that procedure every time, meaning some emails never made it to her staff for safekeeping before being deleted.”

That could turn out to be a costly oversight for Tavenner.

As Jillian Kay Melchior points out, “Federal law tasks heads of all federal agencies with ‘mak[ing] and preserv[ing] records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities.’”

Unlike Lerner who claims her IRS computer crashed taking with it unrecoverable emails – a claim disputed by IT experts inside and outside the tax-gathering agency – Tavenner, at best, is pleading that she’s too busy to follow the law. At worst, she’s the latest Obama administration official caught skirting her legal obligations to hide inconvenient truths.

To my knowledge, Tavenner isn’t considered an overt Obama loyalist, so it’s possible that the missing emails are a genuine oversight by a busy administrator. The trouble is, Tavenner works in an administration seemingly filled with people who are unwilling to comply with the kind of document sharing necessary for the people – through Congress – to understand and judge what unelected bureaucrats are doing. One of the tragedies of bad behavior by some is the suspicion it casts on everyone else on the team.

So be it.

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has already pledged to hold hearings on alleged wrongdoing by agency heads when Congress returns from its August recess.

Don’t be surprised to see a hearing scheduled to get the truth about Tavenner’s missing emails.

August 12th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Signs Emerge that ObamaCare Enrollment Is Dropping

It looks like the Obama administration’s much celebrated achievement of 8 million ObamaCare enrollments is actually dropping over time.

“The nation’s third-largest health insurer [Aetna] had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20,” writes Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily. “At the end of June, it had fewer than 600,000 paying customers. Aetna expects that to fall to ‘just over 500,000’ by the end of the year.”

While no other insurance company has publicly reported declines as steep as Aetna, many others have not denied it is happening during recent conference calls discussing earnings.

Some attrition in ObamaCare signups is to be expected since a number of major life events could cause a change in status. Getting a new job with health benefits, for example. But the Obama administration’s refusal to publicize monthly enrollment numbers makes it impossible to get a clear picture of how well the law is working.

Which may be precisely the goal.

August 11th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
HHS to Fund Coming ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Companies

What makes conservatives so sure that the Obama administration will bailout insurance companies losing money under ObamaCare?

“According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program,” writes U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “One large insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout ‘fund.’”

Thwarted by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who refuse to appropriate money for this part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services “figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers,” says Rubio. “The effect is to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.”

Whether it’s the CIA lying about spying on congressional investigators or IRS officials conveniently losing potentially damaging emails, executive branch officials in the Obama administration are destroying the ability of anybody outside their clique from being able to trust anything they say.

August 7th, 2014 at 6:18 pm
Would President Romney Be Allowed to Disregard the Law?

Robert Delahunty, a former Department of Justice attorney, poses an interesting counterfactual to those defending President Barack Obama’s possible legalization of 5 million illegal immigrants.

“One has to wonder how those who consider such non-enforcement to be constitutional would react if a President Mitt Romney announced that his Internal Revenue Service would simply stop collecting capital gains tax on the rich, or that his Environmental Protection Agency would no longer seek to impose legal penalties on polluters,” writes Delahunty.

Delahunty’s thought experiment is worth elaborating. If it’s true that presidents can assume lawmaking powers when Congress refuses to implement his will – a point I’m only granting for the sake of argument; Articles I and II of the Constitution clearly foreclose this possibility – then it stands to reason that any Republican running for president in 2016 can simply campaign on a promise not to enforce any law he does not like. Why worry with winning control of Congress? All any political party needs to do is win one race – the presidency – and the entire executive branch can be put in the service of the party’s platform.

It’s an outcome so at odds with our constitutional system that in saner days it would have been ruled out as a serious option as soon as it was floated. But we are in transformative times. Future presidents and their would-be advisors are taking notes. If President Obama is allowed to get away with such a regime-shattering power grab – and unilaterally importing 5 million new citizens would be just that – then there is very little reason to justify limits on even bigger abuses hereafter.

August 7th, 2014 at 3:24 pm
The Coming ObamaCare Bailout

Because of ObamaCare’s mismatched incentive structure, some savvy commentators are warning of an impending, multi-billion dollar bailout of the insurance companies selling health care policies under the law.

“Pre-ObamaCare,” writes Dan McLaughlin, “insurers had to price their policies mainly by reference to market forces (albeit in an already heavily-regulated market)… Guess wrong and you lost money. But under ObamaCare, consumers no longer have the choice whether or not to buy policies, and insurance companies no longer face any risk of losing money, because they’ve been promised a bailout. Money will still be lost, but it will be taxpayer money, and you never run out of that, do you?”

McLaughlin is talking about ObamaCare’s “3 R’s” – reinsurance, risk corridors and the risk adjustment program. I’ve written about this multi-year, $20 billion bailout before. In different ways, each is designed to subsidize insurers for lost revenue traceable to the health law’s dysfunctional mandates. The threefold scheme was buried in the legislation to buy the support of large insurance companies who would have refused to participate without it.

Now the bill is coming due.

Based on interviews and documents containing discussions between Obama administration officials and insurance industry executives, a House Government Oversight report reveals that insurers are expecting the following payments:

1)      $640 million from the Risk Corridor program for the 2014 plan year

2)      $346 million from the Risk Adjustment program

The reinsurance program redistributes money among private insurance companies, as determined by the federal government.

The numbers quoted above are two to three times higher than originally anticipated because of the high level of adverse selection – i.e. too many older and sicker enrollees, not enough younger and healthier ones. The latter group is avoiding enrollment, preferring to pay ObamaCare’s relatively low penalty. But even that is a mirage. Reports are surfacing that as many as 25 million uninsured Americans are getting ObamaCare penalty waivers for next year; further increasing the federal budget deficit.

Bailouts can be nice, if they apply to you. But as a governing strategy, they eventually bankrupt the entire system.

August 6th, 2014 at 1:36 pm
Vermont Latest to Fire ObamaCare Website Maker

After nearly a year of failed attempts, Vermont is firing CGI Federal – the company that bungled both the federal healthcare.gov and Massachusetts’ online insurance exchange – as its web designer.

“With Vermont still lacking a fully functioning health website more than 10 months after its glitch-plagued debut last October, Vermont officials said late Monday that they were pulling the plug on CGI’s CGI Technologies and Solutions’ contract,” reports Newsweek.

The decision will cost CGI almost $20 million, but at least Vermont has agreed not to sue the company for damages.

Vermont’s announcement follows several other states that have abandoned their original – and very expensive – ObamaCare websites. Some, like Nevada, Hawaii, and Oregon, are planning to cut their losses and transition to the federal healthcare.gov website. Others, like Massachusetts, Maryland, and now Vermont, are switching to new contractors hoping to recoup at least some of their investments.

Of course, there are success stories. State exchanges in Kentucky and Connecticut are routinely cited as well-functioning websites – though even these have glitches. However, the prevalence of so many high-profile failures indicates that this massive experiment in public-private partnerships has resulted in a huge transfer of wealth with precious little to show for it.

August 4th, 2014 at 2:21 pm
Obama’s CIA Caught Spying on Congress

Obama’s CIA Director was caught lying to Congress about spying on a Senate investigative committee, and so far it looks like his only punishment will be an apology tour.

In March, CIA Director John Brennan took issue with a line of questioning by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) alleging that the agency had hacked into a computer system used by Senate investigators. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that,” he said.

His cover blown, Brennan is facing bipartisan calls for his resignation. Despite his earlier claim, the embattled director is hoping his apology will quiet the critics and spare him the same fate as David Petraeus, his predecessor who was hounded from office by revelations of an extra-marital affair.

I’m no fan of firing people to make a point, but one does wonder what Congress could and should do now that the CIA – an executive branch agency – has been shown to be spying on a portion of the legislative branch.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds provides some answers.

“Congress can, of course, charge Brennan with contempt of Congress, or refer him for prosecution under the False Statements Act. But in both cases, the decision to prosecute would be made by Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to see his role not as administering justice, but as running interference for the Obama administration and protecting its officials from consequences.”

Perhaps better, then, to make the agency as a whole feel the brunt of punishment for acting badly. “Probably the best that Congress can do is to punish the entire CIA by using its budgetary power to make employees’ lives worse: Cutting back on bonuses, raises, conferences, and other perks.”

None of these answers are completely satisfying. Punishing everyone for the misdeeds of a few can be precisely as unjust as the initial bad act. The truth is we want and need competent, honest public servants whose tenure in office won’t trigger massive expenditures of time and money cleaning up their messes. Until the man in the Oval Office sets a better example for following the rule of law, we’ll likely continue to see his subordinates faithlessly executing their duties.

July 31st, 2014 at 2:46 pm
Federalism on the Firing Line

With so much attention on the turf war between Congress and the President, it’s easy to overlook another, equally disturbing separation-of-powers crisis – the swift erosion of federalism.

Just as the U.S. Constitution assigns certain powers and duties to the three coequal branches of the federal government (legislative, executive, and judicial), so too does it differentiate lines of responsibility between the federal and state governments. This latter idea is known as federalism, and it’s in pretty bad shape according to a thought-provoking essay by Richard Epstein and Mario Loyola.

In particular, the practice of conditioning receipt of federal money on capitulation to federal regulations is turning states into mere enforcement officers.

“Federal officials exert enormous influence over state budgets and state regulators, often behind the scenes,” write Epstein and Loyola. “The new federalism replaces the ‘laboratories of democracy’ with heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all solutions. Uniformity wins but diversity loses, along with innovation, local choice, and the Constitution’s necessary limits on government power.”

Both parties are guilty, but the Obama administration has accelerated the trend. Poison pill programs like Common Core, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the federal highway system and the Clean Air Act all condition money for popular programs on local officials committing their states to dependency status.

“Federal ‘assistance’ to the states currently accounts for 30 percent of state budgets, on average,” according to the authors. “Since the early 1980s, the federal government has transferred about 15 percent of its budget to the states, which is almost as much as the federal deficit in an average year.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Annual federal transfer payments to the states roughly equal the yearly federal budget deficit.

Of course, eliminating the deficit isn’t as simple as zeroing out all federal-state spending relationships. Much of the logic of federal transfer payments hangs on the idea that poor states are funneled the resources they need to close the gap on some quality of life indicators with rich states. Until relatively poor states like North Dakota are allowed to fully exploit their natural economic advantages – such as being able to extract and export its huge oil reserve – ending redistribution without removing wealth-inhibiting regulations doesn’t make sense.

However, seeing the connection between the deficit and transfer payments to states does highlight the unsustainable nature of our current federalism-destroying arrangement. If we as Americans want to have more financial flexibility at the national level, we first need to remove the barriers to economic opportunity at the state and local level.

July 31st, 2014 at 1:59 pm
Wisconsin Supreme Court Vindicates Scott Walker’s Reforms

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s campaign for reelection just got a whole lot easier.

Earlier today the state’s seven member Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Act 10 – the controversial union-busting law championed by Walker and the GOP-led legislature – is constitutional, reports NPR.

In upholding the law’s curtailment of certain state employees’ collective bargaining rights – in particular teachers’ unions – the majority reasoned that, “No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not a constitutional obligation. The First Amendment [right of association] cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.”

The decision vindicates Governor Walker’s goal to free Wisconsin taxpayers from being held hostage by public employee unions who demand ever increasing compensation, and threaten to strike if unsatisfied. Throughout the country, public employee unions have abused the privilege of collective bargaining to bring many states to the brink of insolvency. Armed with this decision, Walker can consolidate his policy victories and begin to tout Wisconsin as a model for other states to follow.

July 31st, 2014 at 1:10 pm
House Passes Bill to Sue Obama

The House of Representatives made history today when it passed a bill allowing Congress to sue the President of the United States for failing to implement a federal law, reports the L.A. Times.

The legislation authorizes House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file suit in federal court demanding that President Barack Obama enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to purchase ObamaCare-compliant health insurance or pay a penalty.

House Republicans have been critical of President Obama’s unilateral delays in enforcing the mandate – now scheduled to go into effect in 2016 – because it spares Democrats and the Obama administration substantial political pain. If the law is so great, Republicans reason, then it should go into full effect.

As with other anti-ObamaCare measures to pass the House, this bill has virtually no chance of clearing the Senate where Democrats are in the majority. Still, it’s very presence helps Republicans draw a clearer contrast over where each party stands on the rule of law; in particular the president’s ability to pick-and-choose which parts of a statute he will – as he swore upon taking office – to faithfully execute.

July 28th, 2014 at 8:11 pm
A More ‘Proportional’ Response than Impeachment?

Add First Lady Michelle Obama and various members of the Democratic Party to the chorus of politicos discussing the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama.

The First Lady warned a group of donors that, “If we lose these midterm elections, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we started because we’ll just see more of the same out in Washington – more obstructions, more lawsuits, and talk about impeachment.”

A series of fundraising email blasts was then sent on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee begging immediate donations to thwart a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate. “ALL GIFTS TODAY ARE TRIPLE-MATCHED!” blared the emails.

Despite all this, impeachment is still seen in most quarters as far-fetched. Simple math says the GOP needs at least 67 senators to ensure conviction (since the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote). For context, the GOP needs to pick up six seats just to get 51 members and control of the chamber.

Beyond counting noses, there’s a concern that impeaching the president at this stage would be disproportionate. Better, say thoughtful critics like Byron York, for Republicans to pass legislation that overturns the executive orders and policy directives they loathe – such as deferred action – and dare Democrats in Congress to vote to defend Obama.

Though York doesn’t think impeachment should be an option at all, his ‘proportionate’ thesis dovetails nicely with what Andrew McCarthy has written about in his book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. McCarthy says that although pursuing impeachment is justified, it won’t work unless the groundwork has been laid with the public to show conclusively that Obama can’t be trusted to follow the law. It’s hard to imagine a better way to make that case than with a string of presidential vetoes usurping Congress’ constitutional power to legislate.

Should that come to pass, perhaps the only proportionate action left to take would be impeachment.

July 24th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
ObamaCare’s Eligibility Verification System Open to Abuse

The Government Accountability Office set up a sting operation to test whether ObamaCare’s eligibility verification system is open to abuse.

GAO discovered a resounding Yes.

“Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts,” reports National Journal.

Investigators had the most success when using ObamaCare’s online and telephone enrollment systems. These improper enrollments resulted in subsidies totaling $30,000 annually.

The findings of the sting operation bode ill for the controversial health reform law. The failure to correctly match applicants to subsidies indicates that ObamaCare’s expensive digital architecture is failing in one of its most basic tasks.

And the failure could be costly.

Assuming most ObamaCare applicants are not attempting to defraud taxpayers – but rather are just trying to comply with the law’s individual mandate – incorrectly receiving financial help this year could result in a heavier tax bill next year. That’s because the IRS is tasked with settling accounts on ObamaCare subsidies, with taxpayers required to pay back any subsidies they weren’t eligible for when calculating their income tax liability.

So far, the IRS hasn’t rewritten ObamaCare to cushion the blow from bad drafting – like it did when it made subsidies available to citizens in states without a state-based exchange.

Apparently, that kind of face-saving deference is only extended to government-growing ideologues; not every day Americans just trying to play by the rules.

July 24th, 2014 at 12:07 pm
For GOP, Successful 2014 Could Pave the Way for an Even Better 2016

There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about a conservative ascendency on Capitol Hill this year.

Unless something unexpected happens, the House of Representatives looks safe to remain in Republican hands after the 2014 midterm elections.

The real question is whether the GOP can wrest control of the U.S. Senate. The party needs to pick up six seats – and defend all those it holds – to unite with the House against President Barack Obama’s liberal agenda.

How likely is it that Republicans can pull off the takeover?

“To win six or more Democratic seats, Republicans start with the best possible candidates in West Virginia (Rep. Sherry Moore Capito), South Dakota (former Gov. Mike Rounds), and Montana (Rep. Steve Daines),” writes Fred Barnes. “These open Democratic seats are regarded as near-certain GOP takeovers, but they wouldn’t be if Republicans were stuck with second-tier candidates or worse.”

In political jargon, first-tier candidates are people who can interact with the media well, raise money, avoid unnecessary errors and gaffes and generally present a likeable personality to voters.

In order to win control of the Senate, Republicans also need to compete in slightly more difficult races.

“Then there are the four red states with Democratic incumbents–Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska,” says Barnes. “Once again, Republicans are blessed with able, attractive candidates. As a result, all five races are tossups or lean Republican.”

Controlling both legislative chambers would give Republicans the ability to show Americans a sharper contrast with Obama’s policies. For the first time since the president took office, the GOP – and in particular the conservative intellectual leadership that drives the party’s policy agenda – would be in a position to pass alternative solutions for job growth, health care, etc. Having two years to work out the details would be an excellent test drive for ideas ahead of the 2016 presidential contest when contenders could adopt the most popular proposals.

Come Election Night, we’ll see whether that process of refinement begins or is once again put on hold.

July 21st, 2014 at 8:11 pm
Rick Perry to Send 1,000 National Guard Members to Border

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry announced today that he intends to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard members to the state’s southern border to reduce crime in areas teeming with illegal immigrants.

The decision came after several failed attempts to get similar assistance from the Obama administration.

If implemented, the decision will cost Texas taxpayers about $12 million a month. Though he could empower Guard members to arrest and detain illegal immigrants crossing into Texas, Perry has not committed to doing so.

Instead, the Guard is likely to play an assistance role to federal Border Patrol agents. “We think they’ll come to us and say, ‘Please take us to a Border Patrol station’ [for processing],” says the head of the Texas National Guard.

The move makes sense since Texas has absorbed many of the 57,000 unaccompanied minors that have crossed the border with Mexico since last October. The additional hands will, if nothing else, beef up the law enforcement presence in places where crime is on the rise, giving Border Patrol agents much needed assistance in steering and clearing the area.

Given the federal government’s duty to secure the border and the Obama administration’s failure to do so, this is probably the best Perry – or any other governor – can do for the time being.