Now, here is something to laugh (or at least smile) about. Enjoy!
March 30, 2010 • 4:00 PM 0
Now, here is something to laugh (or at least smile) about. Enjoy!
March 30, 2010 • 2:07 PM 1
“So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling, some cracks opening up in the earth? Turned out it was a nice day. Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall.” –President Obama, March 25, 2010, Iowa
It was so uplifting to hear the POTUS using opposition to the new Healthcare Law as the punch-line for a joke. He is just so cool! Of course, the very next day, Mr. Obama and his cronies seemed to have lost some of their comedic ebullience when, among others, 3M, Deere, AT&T and Caterpillar all announced substantial non-cash charges in the first quarter as a result of provisions in the new Healthcare Law.
Oops! Armageddon seems to have a sneaky sense of humor, although Henry Waxman, (D-CA), doesn’t seem to be laughing. A grumpy Mr. Waxman has ordered these evil companies to Congress to be questioned. He demands that they document how any negative impact from the beneficent new Healthcare Law could have possibly been calculated. How dare they!
But the real kill-joys last Friday were the Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee. They released a “Timeline of Major Provisions in the Democrats’ Health Care Package.”
Here are some of the “pre-Armageddon” bits. The entire timeline is here.
States and Federal officials review premium increases
Impose 10% tax on indoor UV tanning (7/1/10)
Medicare cuts to inpatient psychiatric hospitals (7/1/10)
Requires plans to cover, at no charge, most preventive care (plan years beginning 9/23/10)
Medicare Advantage cuts begin
No longer allowed to use FSA, HSA, HRA, Archer MSA distributions for over-the-counter medicines
Medicare cuts to home health begin
Wealthier seniors ($85K/$170K) begin paying higher Part D premiums (not indexed for inflation in Parts B/D)
Medicare reimbursement cuts when seniors use diagnostic imaging like MRIs, CT scans, etc.
Medicare cuts begin to ambulance services, ASCs, diagnostic labs, and durable medical equipment
Impose new annual tax on brand name pharmaceutical companies
Americans begin paying premiums for federal long-term care insurance (CLASS Act)
Health plans required to spend a minimum of 80% of premiums on medical claims.
Prohibition on Medicare payments to new physician-owned hospitals
Penalties for non-qualified HAS and Archer MSA distribution double (to 20%)
Seniors prohibited from purchasing power wheelchairs unless they first rent for 13 months
Employers required to report value of health benefits on W-2
New Medicare cuts to long-term care hospitals begin (7/1/11)
Additional Medicare cuts to hospitals and cuts to nursing homes and inpatient rehab facilities begin (FY12)
New tax on all private health insurance policies to pay for Comparative Effectiveness Research (plan years beginning FY12)
Medicare cuts to dialysis treatment begins
New Medicare cuts to inpatient psychiatric hospitals
Hospital pay-for-quality program begins (FY13)
Medicare cuts to hospitals with high re-admission rates begin (FY13)
Medicare cuts to hospice being (FY13)
By 2013, the provisions of the “Democrats’ Health Care Package” is looking very “Armageddonish”. Despite this, Mr. Obama repeated a shortened form of his Armageddon joke to Matt Lauer on the Today Show on Monday. Look around, Mr. President, no one is laughing.
March 3, 2010 • 3:45 PM 0
I know that President Obama says that “the time for talk is over”, but I just can’t help myself. So here goes.
Last night on Fox News, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) explained how Republicans could impede the Healthcare Bill reconciliation process in the Senate. He stated that even though a reconciliation bill requires only a simple majority to pass, there is a way to delay the final vote. The given time for debate of a reconciliation bill is 20 hours. However, unlimited amendments can be offered to a reconciliation bill at any time during the debate time, or after the “20 hour clock” has expired. Time spent in offering amendments during the debate itself are not deducted from this “20 hour clock”. Hence, offering amendments during debate will actually stop the “20 hour clock”. After each amendment is voted on, the debate clock would restart. Amendments can continue to be offered after the “20 hour clock” of debate has ended. These need to be “germane” amendments. (The Senate Parliamentarian rules on the relevance of the offered amendment). To dispense with each amendment, according to Senator Santorum, takes approximately 20 minutes. As long as amendments are being offered and must be voted on, the final vote cannot be taken. This is called a “vote-a-rama”. It can be thought of as a “filibuster by vote-a-rama”.
Jeff Davis, legislative expert, has a thorough discussion of this process at, of all places, The New Republic site. It is worth reading to better understand the process. Below is an excerpt of the article from The Patriot Room blog:
Interesting lesson on what the GOP could do if Democrats try reconciliation. Here’s a portion:
Some critics of the modern filibuster process have expressed a “bring it on” mentality towards the prospect of filibuster-by-vote-a-rama, since it would require Republicans to be physically present during their dilatory tactics, like in an old-school Mister Smith Goes to Washington filibuster. But it would also require most Senate Democrats to be present at all times, to prevent any Republican amendments from actually passing and torpedoing the deal. So under the current precedents, the vote-a-rama will last until the opponents of the bill are physically unable to continue standing up and offering amendments.
What a mess – almost sure to widen Americans’ “trust deficit” with government.
President Obama is expected to ask for an “up or down” vote on Healthcare Reform, thus initiating the reconciliation process. The potential fallout from using the “nuclear option” has been discussed in various places by various authors. They all agree that the outcome will be grim for the Democrats. I agree.
In the days to come, however, what is most important is the degree of opposition that the Senate Republicans will offer. If they can continue to delay the ultimate vote until the Congressional Easter break, we the people will at least have the opportunity for one more shot to make our voices heard by our elected representatives. Indeed, if that opportunity is given to us, we must take complete advantage of it.
The actions of the House, of course, are still in question. Should Speaker Pelosi be unable to convince her members that the problems with the Senate Healthcare bill will be fixed, but only after the present version is passed by the House, then the “filibuster by vote-a-rama” may be unnecessary. We can hope that the original close vote in the House to pass their version of healthcare reform cannot be repeated under the present circumstances.
This is not the time to surrender, Sparrows. As this process unfolds, stay engaged. Encourage or shame your elected representatives, as the case may be. If we are to go down, at least we can go down fighting.
March 2, 2010 • 12:58 PM 1
Obamacare Version 4.0 snuck up on us.
This morning Fox News reported that on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will announce a “smaller version” of his Healthcare plan that may include some “Republican ideas”. He really was listening during the bi-partisan “Healthcare Summit”. Uh-huh.
There seems to be some confusion among the Democrats about exactly how much “smaller” Version 4.0 will be. Nancy Pelosi opined that it will be “big enough”. So, smaller, but not that much smaller. A price tag of around $1 trillion over the next ten years is still probable. The prevailing opinion is that this scaled back version would still seek to cover an additional 30 million people over the next ten years. (Note the important point that healthcare coverage does not equal actual healthcare). This plan is expected to still include mandates for everyone to buy health insurance, and it would still include government regulations on insurance companies and employers. Despite excluding a government-run health insurance plan that would “compete” with private companies, the mandates and regulations nevertheless smack of a government take over of the health insurance industry.
Including the Republican ideas for tort reform and buying across state lines might be a step in the right direction, depending on how they are actually implemented. During the “Healthcare Summit”, Mr. Obama seemed to be willfully misunderstanding the difference between allowing people OUT of a state to buy elsewhere vs. allowing companies INTO a state in order to sell policies. Melody Barnes, a White House policy advisor, parrots the President’s position:
“We’re going to be borrowing from those conversations…to come up with a bill that we hope can receive bipartisan support,” Barnes said.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Friday that the White House would work on GOP ideas for health reform over the weekend. Barnes identified two: tort reform and allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines. (My emphasis).
The Democrats seem to artlessly misstate the Republican idea of buying health insurance across state lines, pretending that they are proposing the same thing Republicans are—they are not. This provision as the Democrats interpret it begs the question: What will be done, if anything, about state mandates? As long as these are in place, increasing the number of companies that are allowed to compete within a state would make no appreciable difference in the cost of coverage, since they, too, will be required to only provide policies that meet the mandates of a state. This will not create true competition, nor does it offer true freedom of choice. And how Mr. Obama and the Democrats will define “tort reform” is anyone’s guess.
Putting lipstick on a pig does not come close to describing what Obamacare Version 4.0 will attempt to do. It’s more like gluing feathers onto a pig in an effort to convince us that it is really a kosher turkey! No matter how it is spun, passing this kind of bill creates the foundation for socializing American healthcare. Will it be enough to garner the necessary Democrat votes in the House? Maybe. Will it convince the American people that it is a bi-partisan bill? I don’t think so. Bottom line—kill this turkey, because it’s still the same pig it always was, and this pig just can’t fly .
March 1, 2010 • 4:18 PM 2
There has been much discussion, especially following the “Healthcare Summit”, about using “reconciliation” to pass Obamacare in the Senate. The justifications for using the measure, even over the objections of its author, Senator Robert Byrd, (D-WV), are variations on the theme, “We won. You lost.” Reconciliation is “fair”; it is “majority rule”. Besides, the GOP used it more times than the Democrats ever did.
It is informative to read about how “reconciliation” has actually been used in the Senate since its inception. “Reconciliation” was designed for budgetary items, i.e., spending measures, taxation issues and extraneous items. Historically, “reconciliation” has been used for relatively small details within a bill. In fact, when the GOP, during the presidency of George W. Bush, considered using “reconciliation” to confirm judges to Federal benches, thereby circumventing the filibuster which takes a two-thirds majority to overcome, Democrats howled about how ruinous such a move would be. The GOP demurred in the face of Democrat criticism, and as a result, many judges failed to be confirmed, leaving a paucity of judges within the Federal system under President Bush. Interestingly enough, as is noted below, only a simple majority is required to confirm a judicial nominee under the “advice and consent” article of the Constitution. (My emphasis in bold italics).
Nominations of Supreme Court justices and courts of appeal judges are now driven by staff working in the White House. (Nominations of federal district judges, on the other hand, are more likely to start with a member of Congress serving the district where the vacancy occurred, especially if the congressperson belongs to the President’s party.) There are no objective criteria for whom a President might nominate; nothing in the Constitution even requires that a nominee have any legal training. The staff evaluates a candidate based on prior opinions (if the nominee has judicial experience), writings and speeches, and background to determine ideological compatibility with the President’s goals, as well as the likelihood that the candidate could be confirmed by the Senate.
Judicial nominations are forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts its own review (using its staff and those of its members) of the merits of the nominee. Hearings are held in which the nominee, as well as other persons knowledgeable about the nominee’s qualifications, offer statements and answer questions posed by Committee members. After the hearing, the Judiciary Committee votes on whether to recommend confirmation of the nominee by the full Senate. A nominee who fails to win a majority of Committee votes usually sees his prospects die, unless the Committee chooses to forward the nomination to the full Senate without recommendation. The full Senate, once a nomination is sent to it, will debate the merits of the nominee and schedule a final vote on confirmation. On rare occasions, as happened when charges of sexual harrassment surfaced at the last minute against Clarence Thomas, a nomination might be sent back to the Judiciary Committee for further hearings. A simple majority is required for confirmation. The average time in recent decades between a presidential nomination of a Supreme Court justice and a final vote by the Senate has been a bit over two months.
It remains to be seen whether the Senate will employ “reconciliation” in order to pass Obamacare, or whether it will risk the House approving the bill already passed in the Senate. If the Senate does eventually use “reconciliation” to pass a bill that will impact around 1/6th of the U.S. economy, it is unimaginable that any justification they offer will satisfy an, understandably, furious electorate.
February 17, 2010 • 2:56 PM 0
President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion US in loan guarantees on Tuesday to help build the first U.S. nuclear power plants in nearly three decades, a move he says “is only the beginning.” So reports Canadian CBC News. This sounds like (suspiciously) good news. So, what’s the catch?
First of all, public funds will be used to guarantee 80%, or more, of industry loans in the case of default. In an industry that has had both loan repayment and cost overrun problems in the past, a loan guarantee of this type puts the taxpayer at risk. (I thought Obama wanted to avoid risk, hence all of the regulation of the financial sector!?!) Furthermore, the nuclear energy industry has other demands it wants the Government to meet.
“The industry also continues to press for regulatory changes to speed the time it takes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve a nuclear application. Industry officials say the long process of winning regulatory approval discourages potential investors. Utilities like Constellation and Exelon, which operate nuclear plants, also continue to press for a cap-and-trade bill that would give the plants a competitive advantage over coal and natural gas plants that emit carbon dioxide. And Connaughton said the industry would press for an even higher level of loan guarantees. “
Second, Obama pointed out in his announcement that constructing nuclear power plants will create crucially necessary jobs… in about two years. Ummm, guess we hope people can hang on for that long?
Then there is the problem of storing the waste generated by nuclear energy production. Since Mr. Obama closed the Yucca Mountain long-term waste storage facility, what are we to do about the ‘waste’ problem? Carol Browner, Energy Czar has the answer. Yesterday, she explained about “on site” storage and that it was a “very safe” way to store nuclear waste. Yet, in January 2006, she was far from definite about the safety of using the Yucca Mountain facility.
“Carol Browner expressed reservations about using nuclear power because of the so-called ‘waste’ problem at the C-Span-televised 35th anniversary meeting of former EPA administrators in January, 2006. On January 19, 2001, Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner moved to finalize stringent water radiation exposure standards for Yucca Mountain to the White House for signoff.”
Finally, Mr. Obama intimated that now that he has agreed to constructing new nuclear energy plants, he expects the Republicans to work with him in a “bi-partisan manner” to pass a Climate/Clean Energy Bill.
Can we say “quid pro quo”? At this point, Republicans have nothing to lose by supporting Mr. Obama’s nuclear power initiative while at the same time opposing any Cap and Trade Bill. After all, we will have no energy benefit for a number of years from nuclear plants, but we will all immediately, and negatively, be impacted by a Cap and Trade Bill.
NOTE TO SELF: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
January 26, 2010 • 3:34 PM 0
All this talk about “pivoting” by our basketball loving President started me thinking about the word, “pivot”. The basketball term, as I believe Mr. Obama uses it, is defined as:
–The stationary foot around which the ball handler is allowed to pivot without dribbling.
In other words, a pivot foot remains planted, in fact it must remain planted according the rules of the game, while the player seeks to find a way to either pass or shoot the ball. Actually, I am impressed with the choice of “pivot” to characterize the change in Mr. Obama’s focus. It is truly apt, since it seems as if he either plans to pass the ball to others, or simply freeze in place, attempt a long-distance shot in the direction of the basket and hope for the best.
Speaking of freezing, the White House has announced a spending “freeze” of discretionary spending that will save $250 billion over the next 10 years. There are varying opinions about this plan. Here is how I look at it. Say I spend $20 per week on bubble bath, (a discretionary expense because I do not really need bubble bath). Now, my husband comes home one day and says, “Honey, I just had my salary cut by 5%. We’re going to have to adjust our budget or we’re going to be spending more than we take in.” This is analogous to what is happening to the Federal Government. Tax receipts have been declining at the same time that Government is spending more than it is taking in. Okay, back to my example. After my husband’s announcement, I begin to think about how to adjust our budget and come up with the following brilliant plan. I will “freeze” my discretionary spending on bubble bath! After much research, I find that the cost of bubble bath increases by approximately 10% per year, (a purely hypothetical amount), so in the first year alone I will be saving $104. In ten years I will have saved at least $1040! And here is the best part-I don’t have to give up bubble bath altogether to realize these savings, I just have to find bubble bath that will continue to cost no more than $20 per week. Now, who in their right mind thinks that this will solve my personal budgetary crisis? Following this model simply puts my family further and further into debt. Freezes do not work unless income increases. Barring that, spending must be cut not frozen.
However, neither increasing tax receipts nor spending cuts are what Mr. Obama has in mind. Instead, in his new-found populist incarnation, he is proposing new programs to help the “middle class” that seem to involve tax credits, i.e., less tax revenue coming to the Government from these families.
“There are immediate steps we can take to reduce the strain on family budgets by helping middle class families manage their child and elder care responsibilities, save for retirement, and pay for college,” the White House said in a statement.
Will these programs be the “Hail Mary” shot that finds the basket? I suppose it depends on whether the team playing defense is alert enough to successfully block it. At the same time, there seems to be no shortage of those on Obama’s team waving their arms and shouting, “I’m open. I’m open”. Perhaps, the POTUS will pass the ball to one of them.
For example, David Plouffe, newly appointed White House political adviser, is convinced that he can win the game by continuing big Government programs and spending. (Oh, yeah, pass the ball to him!)
Then there is Thomas Friedman, the author of Hot, Flat and Crowded. He attended the December “Jobs Summit” at the White House and seemed to have a great time yukking it up with the POTUS. Today, on Fox Business, Don Imus asked Mr. Friedman how Government could create jobs. Good question, albeit rather rhetorical. Mr. Friedman launched into a description of a program that would use tax money to fund a program to educate high school students on how to be innovators and entrepreneurs. He went on to say that since the job creators are small businesses and entrepreneurs, this program would increase both and hence increase jobs. Although, he admitted, not in the short term-ya think? (NOTE: I had heard about the outcome of one of these pilot programs. Of the two top winners of a high school innovation competition, one, after attending an H&R Block tax class, had “invented” tax software to help high school students with their taxes; the second had “invented” a t-shirt with a distinctive logo. Ummmm, does anyone expect a job boom to sweep the country as a result of these kinds of ideas? Perhaps “teaching” innovation is not as simple as it sounds.)
However, Mr. Friedman is in good company. Consider T. Boone Pickens whose current advertisements are pushing for the passage of H.R. 1835. This bill provides tax payer dollars to retrofit semi-trailer trucks and buses with natural gas engines. On Fox Business this weekend, Mr. Pickens spent a great deal of time trying to convince John Stossel that his ideas would lead to jobs and bring us a step closer to energy independence. Perhaps he is right, but if so, the private sector would be a much better place to support and implement such a plan. In fact, Mr. Stossel reported that the private sector is right now sponsoring a competition with the goal of creating an automobile prototype that is production-ready, attractive, manageable, responsive, safe and uses fuel at the rate of 100 m.p.g. Guess what? The competitors are very close to creating one, and without a single taxpayer dollar or piece of legislation supporting them.
Tomorrow, Mr. Obama will give his first State of the Union address. Reportedly, it will include the 3R’s of “Rescue, Rebuild, Restore”. Hmmm, I would wager that none of those things will be cheap, and that all of them will involve spending more money than any of us have. So, would someone from our team please steal the ball from this guy while he’s still trying to pivot-and then score with it? This game is just too important to lose.
January 20, 2010 • 11:55 AM 0
“He Did It”, reads the Boston Herald headline. Scott Brown (R) has been elected by a 5% margin to fill the U.S. Senate seated vacated by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D). The Democrats have now lost their super majority in the Senate. How did this happen, especially in a state that elected Barak Obama by a margin of 26% a mere 15 months ago? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
Democrat opinions vary among:
-Martha Coakley ran a lackluster campaign with a sense of entitlement.
-Coakley made the campaign a popularity contest and lost. (This from Barney Frank)
-It was Obama’s fault. (So says one of Coakley’s internal pollers)
-The voters had a “turn out the incumbants” mentality. (Hmmm…)
-And my favorite is from Steny Hoyer. People were angry and frustrated by the Republicans. (Someone will have to explain that one to me)
On the other hand, when the voters who elected Scott Brown are interviewed about why they voted for him, this is what they say:
-I was tired of having them jam legislation down our throats.
-It was time to end the one-party rule in Washington.
-The Healthcare Bill needs to be killed.
-I wanted to send Washington a message.
-In their arrogance they were not listening to us. Maybe they will listen now.
To whichever view one subscribes, (the truth is probably a mixture of both), there is no doubt that the win by Scott Brown changes the landscape in Washington. Now, the ball is in the court of the Leftists. How they play that ball will impact whether they suffer a wholesale loss of power come November, 2010. There have been observations that the revolution that founded our country began in Massachusetts, and that, once again, a revolution has originated there. Time will tell whether that is true. However, from the Democrat responses to the election of Scott Brown so far today, it certainly seems like some on the Left have interpreted this election outcome as a warning aimed at them.
For today, I am reveling in this win that Massachusetts delivered to all of us. God bless the Bay State! And, to Scott I say, “Keep on truckin’, brother, keep on truckin’.”
January 5, 2010 • 5:27 PM 0
One of my 9.12 listmates forwarded me the link to this video that identifies what we, as Americans, will be working toward for the 2010 elections. The video is moving and looks to me like something that ought to run over and over on television during October 2010. In the meanwhile, please watch it to encourage your own hearts.