Archive

postsArchive for the ‘’ Category
April 18th, 2014 at 4:10 pm
Issa to Investigate Pro-ObamaCare ‘Census-Gate’

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Government Oversight & Reform Committee, wants the Census Bureau to explain why it failed to tell Congress that it would change the way it measures whether people have health insurance in the same year ObamaCare goes into effect.

The new survey produces a lower uninsured rate than previous versions asked by the Census Bureau. The concern is that the new lower numbers will make ObamaCare enrollment figures now and the in the future appear to be higher than they would have had the same questions been asked.

“A two-percent adjustment in the nationwide uninsured rate would represent a change in status for six million Americans and could be used in misleading arguments about the coverage impact of the Affordable Care Act,” Issa wrote in a letter to the Census Bureau.

Politically-motivated shenanigans are nothing new for ObamaCare, but this latest revelation indicates that even a highly respected agency like the Census Bureau – which researchers in several fields look to for objective data – is being used to push the narrative that the controversial health law is a historic success; data to the contrary notwithstanding.

H/T: Washington Examiner

April 17th, 2014 at 1:58 pm
Sebelius Back to Kansas as a U.S. Senate Candidate?

Say it ain’t so!

Soon-to-be-former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against her old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas,” reports the New York Times.

It’s hard to see how this news is anything other than an attempt to put a softer spin on Sebelius’s disastrous tenure as the face of ObamaCare.

Considering how much the Left loathes her mismanagement of Healthcare.gov – driving down public confidence in government to record lows – it’s no surprise that friends of Sebelius are trying to rehabilitate her image by saying the former two-term Kansas governor could be just the candidate to topple Roberts.

Making the GOP spend money and time on a race they would otherwise win easily could burnish Sebelius’s ‘good soldier’ credentials. Actually winning the seat would give Democrats their first U.S. Senator from Kansas since 1939.

Still, whatever goodwill Sebelius had as governor has been forgotten long ago. In the current reality, it’s difficult to see how she could step down from such a bad job at HHS into an underdog Senate campaign and emerge as anything other than a twice rejected public servant.

April 17th, 2014 at 11:50 am
IRS Assuming Control of Your Tax Preparation? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In recent weeks, we’ve highlighted the pernicious effort to make the Internal Revenue Service not only the nation’s tax enforcer, but also its tax preparer:

This IRS scheme is part of a broader, ongoing campaign to socialize the tax preparation business in America entirely, which would ultimately make it the nation’s one-stop-shop tax preparation service.   That would obviously create a conflict of interest with the IRS serving as both tax preparer and tax collector, and it would surely result in higher tax calculations to facilitate wasteful federal spending.”

Believe it or not, however, some continue to assert that it’s an idea whose time has come.  Because, according to ProPublica, Barack Obama supports it and the Europeans do it.  And allegedly, the notoriously tax- and bureaucracy-loving Ronald Reagan was also an enthusiast.

But Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform, one of the most informed and cogent tax experts in contemporary public discourse, throws cold water on the idea in a new commentary entitled “Top Seven Reasons the IRS Shouldn’t Do Your Taxes for You”:

The basic argument is always the same: the IRS has all this information on you anyway, so wouldn’t it just be easier and better if they simply prepared your taxes for you?  Wouldn’t that be better than having to pay some rent-seeking middleman?  This flawed line of thinking fools many a reporter this time of year, but it’s refuted pretty easily once you scratch beneath the surface.”

In trademark fashion, Ellis details those seven reasons in clear, convincing form.  It’s well worth the quick read on an issue that is becoming increasingly important.

But his conclusion is worth particular emphasis:

The bottom line. These tired, annual articles from white collar lefty pseudo-academics living in the Beltway all ignore the really big story here: namely, that it’s a giant conflict of interest for the IRS to determine your tax liability, and then to be able to seize your wages and assets in order to collect that tax liability.  To ignore that is to be criminally-naive about the way the IRS goes about its business.  It betrays either a lack of knowledge of how the tax system actually works, or it’s a giant con job by people whose common cause with the IRS is growing the size of government.

Demonizing the tax prep industry doesn’t change any of the arguments from above.  It does, however, provide a thin shield of self-righteousness for what is otherwise a fool’s errand.”

April 15th, 2014 at 6:31 pm
Suspicious Timing of Census Bureau’s New Health Insurance Questions Helps ObamaCare

After compiling three decades-worth of responses to health insurance questions, the U.S. Census Bureau is about to implement a new version that will make it impossible to compare insurance coverage data before and after ObamaCare.

Coincidence?

It gets better.

“An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a ‘total revision to health insurance questions,’ and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured,” reports the New York Times.

In practical terms this means “it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.”

According to the Times, the new survey has been in the works for awhile. But there is no explanation given for why it is going into effect in the same year when millions of Americans are transitioning to the ObamaCare regime. The controversial health law was sold as a way to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Why would the non-partisan Census Bureau make it impossible for observers to see whether ObamaCare actually achieved its goal?

Whatever the official line, it’s difficult to understand the timing of this development as anything other than a naked attempt to avoid accountability.

April 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
Will Sebelius’ Replacement Follow Her Lawless Lead?

Here’s a suggested question for GOP Senators to ask Sylvia Burwell – President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services – at her confirmation hearing next month.

Studies by the RAND Corporation and Goldman Sachs estimate as much as 20 percent of the claimed 7.5 million ObamaCare enrollments have not paid their first month’s premiums.

When enrollees start seeing how much their deductibles are – commonly $3,000 to $5,000 – many more may choose to stop paying ObamaCare’s higher out-of-pocket expenses.

If that happens, it’s really bad news for doctors and hospitals.

“Section 1412 of the health law gives consumers a 90-day ‘grace period’ before their subsidized plan is canceled for nonpayment. But insurers only have to keep paying doctors and hospitals for 30 days. The next 60 days of care on the care provider,” explains Betsy McCaughey.

“[I]t could pose a significant financial risk for medical practices,” the American Medical Association warns.

The HHS Secretary has no express power to bail out such care providers.

However, under the previous Secretary, the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t shy away from spending $8 billion without congressional authorization to hide Medicare Advantage cuts before the 2012 presidential election.

This and many other extra-legal actions by Secretary Sebelius have come to define HHS as the most powerful domestic federal agency.

Ms. Burwell, Do you think the absence of express authority to bail out care providers in the above situation limits you in any way from spending money for this purpose?

April 14th, 2014 at 11:10 am
“Sons of Fannie Mae”: WSJ Shares Our View of Current Fannie/Freddie “Reform” Legislation in Senate
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

For weeks, CFIF has detailed the hazard presented by two proposed Senate bills – Johnson/Crapo and Warner/Corker – claiming to offer home finance “reform” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It was therefore refreshing to see The Wall Street Journal reach the same conclusion this morning in its opinion piece entitled “Sons of Fannie Mae.”  While reform of Fannie and Freddie is indeed critical, the latest attempt from Senators Tim Johnson (D – South Dakota) and Mike Crapo (R – Idaho) isn’t the answer.  “The bad news,” it reads, “is that the Senators want to replace Fan and Fred with multiple private mortgage bond issuers that would each also have a  taxpayer guarantee.”

It continues:

While Johnson-Crapo claims to end Fan and Fred’s “affordable housing” requirements, the bill is larded with provisions to encourage and subsidize loans to non-creditworthy borrowers while driving up the price of housing.  The bill includes a new 0.1% tax on federally insured mortgages that will be distributed to housing slush funds across the bureaucracy.”

The bill also promises to continue subsidizing mansions that don’t need help:

On that point, Johnson-Crapo also ensures that the universe of loans eligible for subsidies will continue to grow.  Under their proposal, the FMIC could raise the size of mortgages eligible for federal insurance as home prices rise.  But it bars the agency from ever lowering this so-called conforming loan limit.  Guess what would happen the next time a President runs for re-election?

According to the National Association of Realtors, February’s median sales price of an existing U.S. home was $189,000.  Yet Fannie and Freddie offer mortgages up to $417,000 across the country and in high-cost areas they run as high as $625,500.  That means that with 20% down a borrower can get taxpayer help when paying more than $780,000 for a house.  In most places that’s called a mansion.

Beyond the obvious reasons wealthy buyers don’t need subsidies, the “jumbo” market for mortgages above the conforming limits has been thriving.  At times in the last year jumbo rates have been lower than conforming rates and even now are within four-tenths of a percent.”

Fortunately, the piece ends on a high note, highlighting superior alternative legislation from Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R – Texas):

Some of our friends say the political window to kill Fannie and Freddie is closing, and Johnson-Crapo is the only vehicle that can do so because it is the only one that has White House support.  We’re not so sure.  Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling has a better reform in the House, and a GOP Senate might be able to cut a better deal next year.  The Senate should go back to the drawing board and come up with a reform that doesn’t use the demise of Fan and Fred to create a dozen mini-me replacements that could grow to become the same monsters.”

Well said.

April 11th, 2014 at 2:44 pm
IRS’s ‘Big Brother’ ObamaCare Enforcement Coming into View

As Tax Day approaches, consider the bright side – at least there’s no ObamaCare form you have to fill out.

That changes next year.

“According to the agency, the IRS plans to include a specific line on the 1040 forms for taxpayers to ‘self-attest’ whether they purchased insurance,” reports Fox News. “It will most likely include a worksheet for taxpayers to calculate how much they owe – essentially either a flat penalty or a percentage of their income.”

Next year the penalty is either $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater.

The IRS plans to confirm whether taxpayers are telling the truth about purchasing insurance by getting enrollment records from insurance companies.

So along with increased paperwork, we can all look forward to a greater amount of government surveillance into our insurance (and eventually our health) records.

All in the name of helping us. Thank you, Big Brother.

April 11th, 2014 at 1:10 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  The “Equal Pay for Equal Work” Myth
Lee:  From the NAACP to Mozilla: Anonymity and First Amendment Freedom
Ellis:  Obama’s Medicare Politics Show Ryan Is Right on Policy

Video:  Will Labor Unions Take Over College Football?
Podcast:  Actions Speak Louder than Words: Obama’s Threat Against Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine
Jester’s Courtroom:  This Lawsuit Is Gnarly, Dude

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.

Tags:
April 11th, 2014 at 7:11 am
Video: Will Labor Unions Take Over College Football?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF’s Renee Giachino takes aim at the recent National Labor Relations Board ruling allowing college football players at Northwestern University to unionize.

April 8th, 2014 at 4:43 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Titanic ObamaCare
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.

April 8th, 2014 at 12:44 pm
Why the NCAA Should Defend Against Athlete Unionization
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, discusses what is wrong with the NLRB’s regional ruling that scholarship football players are employees and eligible to form a union.

Listen to the interview here.

April 7th, 2014 at 7:12 pm
Tech Industry May Cut a Deal on Immigration, Killing Gang of Eight Bill

With the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill dead-on-arrival in the House of Representatives, the tech industry may be ready to break ranks and cut a deal.

So far, Silicon Valley – one of the wealthiest segments backing comprehensive immigration reform – has held out hope that their goal of expanding H-1B visas for foreign-born workers will come to fruition when House Republicans finally get around to passing the Senate’s bill.

But with the Gang’s bill looking less and less likely to get even a vote in the House, immigration’s tech supporters are exploring other options. The announcement came in the form of an op-ed published by the leader of Compete America, the industry’s immigration-focused political action committee. In it he called on both houses of Congress to pass the SKILLS Act, which would give Compete everything it wants, but would also leave its members with no real reason to stay in Washington pushing for the rest of the Senate’s bill.

That possibility drew a swift rebuke from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who wrote in a letter to Compete America, “I am troubled by recent statements suggesting that some in the technology industry may shift their focus to passage of stand-alone legislation that would only resolve the industry’s concerns.”

The daylight emerging between the tech industry and its comprehensive immigration reform allies presents an opportunity to House Republicans, says Byron York. “If the House were to pass H-1B expansion, the GOP would win support from at least some in the tech world. And Democrats would be standing in the way of admitting more high-skilled workers into this country.”

Liberals like Durbin know that the only way to legalize a controversial pathway to citizenship is to hold hostage popular reforms like expanding the H-1B visa pool. This turn of events may be just what House Republicans need to make that ploy crystal clear.

April 7th, 2014 at 2:47 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn:  Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Myron Ebell, Director, Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – United Nation’s Flawed Report on Climate Change;

4:30 CDT/5:30 EDT:  Robert Zarate, Policy Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative – Responding to Russia’s Aggression against the Ukraine and What’s Next?;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Why the NCAA Should Defend Against Athlete Unionization;  and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute – Assessing ObamaCare Four Years After Its Passage.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

April 5th, 2014 at 9:15 pm
Bipartisan Support for Repealing the Employer Mandate?

It sounds like there may be a growing bipartisan consensus to repeal ObamaCare’s onerous employer mandate.

“Republicans don’t like the mandate because they oppose the idea of government telling private sector entities what to do, but they also don’t support the lack of tax incentives for individuals who don’t pay for health care through an employer,” says The Street. For their part, “[s]ome Democrats don’t mind dumping the employer mandate because they would prefer to move away from businesses making health insurance decisions for individuals.”

The employer mandate is poised to hit small and growing businesses especially hard, since employing 50 full-time workers – defined as working 30 hours or more a week – triggers requirements to offer costly ObamaCare-compliant insurance plans.

This creates an obvious incentive to cut hours for people already at the margins, in effect robbing them of extra work and extra pay. Because of this liberal pundits like Ezra Klein have called for the full repeal of the employer mandate (and deplored the politically-motivated delays that have made ObamaCare’s implementation so arbitrary).

Of course, repealing the employer mandate isn’t a painless option. While it would no doubt free countless human resources directors from nimbly trying to anticipate the next extra-legal maneuverings of the Obama administration, it would also be a huge hit on ObamaCare’s financial scorecard.

“If you take [the employer mandate] out the congressional budget score looks a lot worse,” one academic supporter of ObamaCare tells The Street. That’s because the buck for subsidizing health insurance would move from private employers to the public treasury via a massive migration to ObamaCare exchanges. The individual mandate, remember, would be still be in effect. If that happens, expect ObamaCare’s price tag to soar.

So while it may be tempting for Republicans to ally with Democrats and vote to repeal the employer mandate, doing so could be used to charge the GOP with willfully spiking federal spending. Better, it seems, to just get rid of the whole law and start afresh.

April 4th, 2014 at 1:15 pm
Report: ObamaCare to Increase Large Employer Costs Up to $186 Billion

A new study by the American Health Policy Institute demonstrates that when it comes to ObamaCare’s disruption of the health insurance industry, the worst is yet to come.

The study looks at 100 large employers – defined as employing 10,000 workers or more – to estimate the direct and indirect costs of complying with ObamaCare’s costly mandates. (Due to extra-legal delays by the Obama administration, the employer mandate will go into effect starting in January 2015.)

When factoring in all of the direct mandates and fees – for example, covering children up to age 26 and accepting all enrollees regardless of preexisting conditions – as well as indirect costs – such as medical device companies and insurers passing on compliance costs to businesses in the form of higher prices – the total cost of complying with ObamaCare will be between $4,800 – $5,900 per employee. The net cost of ObamaCare for all large employers is projected to range from $151 billion to $186 billion.

Large employers employ about 52 million American workers, or about one-third of the nation’s workforce. You don’t have to be a Harvard-trained CFO to realize that companies “have a significant incentive to make fundamental changes to their health offerings” because of ObamaCare. The most obvious choice is to pay the $2,000 per employee penalty for not offering health insurance, and let employees try their luck on an ObamaCare exchange.

ObamaCare advocates insist that the law isn’t designed to separate workers from their health insurance, but the incentive structures buried within it tell a different story. Skeptics can be forgiven if the implementation phase looks like a coordinated effort first to get people into government-run exchanges, and eventually, under government-run health care.

H/T: Daily Caller

April 4th, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Latest Jobs Report Confirms Desperate Need for U.S. Corporate Tax Reform
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

April 1 marked an important milestone in America.  Not because it was April Fools’ Day, but because it marked the second anniversary of the United States claiming the inglorious title of the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate.

The U.S. hasn’t achieved comprehensive tax reform since 1986.  Ronald Reagan was early in his second term as President, Michael Jordan was still five years away from his first NBA title and Pixar animation studios first opened.  Over the ensuing three decades, however, our international trading partners and competitors have accomplished reform, particularly in their corporate tax codes.  As a result, America’s 39% rate unfortunately stands as the world’s highest.

Americans can rightfully claim, “We’re number one” in many areas, but it’s simply unacceptable that the highest corporate tax rate remains one of them.  It constitutes a continuing drag on business growth, job creation and wage increases.  And as yet another disappointing jobs report today confirms, we cannot afford to maintain the status quo.  Numerous studies show that a lower corporate tax rate creates jobs and economic growth, so we must shift our current strategy away from government bailouts, welfare and unemployment checks, and more toward restructuring the tax code and empowering the private sector to hire.  Our world becomes increasingly interconnected each day, and we simply cannot cede competitiveness to other nations whose tax codes are far more appealing to new businesses.  The U.S. spent the 20th century building an economy that was the strongest and most powerful in the world, but lack of action on tax reform jeopardizes that global standing.

Moreover, this isn’t a partisan issue.  Republicans and Democrats, including Barack Obama himself, agree that it has been too long since we have undertaken comprehensive tax reform.  Accordingly, there’s no excuse for further delay.

Let’s not let another three decades pass us by without corporate tax reform.  Let’s instead achieve a code that actually encourages businesses to grow and hire workers.

April 4th, 2014 at 10:28 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Ellis:  Paul Ryan Is Ready for a Promotion
Lee:  Activist Demands Imprisonment for “Climate-Change Liars”
Senik:  Democrats, The Party of Superstition

Podcast:  Economics Through Lens of Film and Popular Culture
Jester’s Courtroom:  Lawsuit Calls Bluff and Rakes Plaintiff Through Coals

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.

April 4th, 2014 at 9:27 am
Podcast: The Rise of Green Politics
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Rupert Darwall, finance and public policy expert, discusses the politics of climate change, how green politics made Europe vulnerable to Putin, and his book, Global Warming: A Short History.

Listen to the interview here.

Tags:
April 3rd, 2014 at 3:58 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: April Fools
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.

April 1st, 2014 at 6:48 pm
ObamaCare Promotion Driving Up Medicaid Applications

“According to a recent study by Avalere, the average application rate [for Medicaid] has increased 27 percent among non-expansion states and 41 percent for those expanding,” writes Angela Boothe of the American Action Forum.

For example, Tennessee – a state that chose not to expand its Medicaid program under ObamaCare – is still experiencing severe pressure on its budget due to high numbers of people trying to enroll. Though only the beginning of April, the Volunteer State has already enrolled the maximum number of people it projected to cover for the year. Adding to the pressure on state budget writers is the reality that by refusing to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare – which covers 100 percent of the increased costs until 2017 – part of the expense for covering the new enrollees falls on the state. If you work in a non-Medicaid state agency in Tennessee, beware bean counters wielding knives.

The Avalere report highlights the fact that ObamaCare creates a unique burden for non-expansion states like Tennessee. Because of the controversial health law’s media saturation, millions of people are aware that they are probably eligible for some sort of government assistance to purchase health coverage. Of these, many are discovering that they already qualify for Medicaid, even before ObamaCare was enacted. The awkward situation for states like Tennessee is that ObamaCare is still expanding Medicaid, just without any extra financial help.

If non-expansion states like Tennessee continue to see record Medicaid enrollment increases this year, don’t be surprised if anti-ObamaCare governors and legislatures start to rethink their opposition to expansion. Of course, as I’ve explained elsewhere, it would be a serious mistake to swap a three-year federal bailout for decades of increased costs by expanding Medicaid on ObamaCare’s terms. But for desperate lawmakers looking for a quick fix, ObamaCare’s “free money” may be too tempting to pass up.