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Friday, April 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

So the President had another victory-lap press conference yesterday to announce that Obamacare is a success and the debate is over, done with, kaput. Has anyone ever had so many victory laps trying to convince the public what a success something has been? Of course, he had to mislead people right from the beginning was to say that 35% of the sign-ups were under 35. That might have been a truly meaningful statistic since it represents a big jump from previous estimates of how many young people were signing up, but, as Guy Benson points out, that number also includes children who are not paying into insurance coffers. But isn't it impressive that they have such specific information on the age of those signing up, but couldn't be bothered to collect information on how many of those signing up didn't have insurance before Obamacare. Then there was Obama's strident ridicule of Republicans for daring to continue to criticize and campaign against Obamacare.
Finally, in response to one of the aforementioned terrible questions, the president recommended that his party robustly defend Obamacare, while simultaneously averring that it's time to "move on" and deal with other issues. A telling contradiction. We love Obamacare and will defend it passionately, but it's imperative that we change the subject! The American people, he said, are more interested in more jobs, a growing economy, and improving wages than re-fighting the Obamacare battle. Perhaps he's unaware that the latter is empirically impeding the former litany of goals he laid out. Perhaps not. The important message is that Obamacare is working, resistance is futile, and we ought not waste our energy on it anymore.
Just remember that all the horror stories being told about people losing their coverage or being lost in the paperwork involved in Obamacare are probably all just lies.

Ross Douthat writes that, for purposes of honest debate over Obamacare, we should agree on what the standards for success should be.

If you've been dismayed by the story of the Census changes, the WSJ finds another suspicious element in the whole story. For comparison purposes, it would be smart to run both the old and new questions concurrently for a few years so researchers would be able to judge the impact of the change and find a way to smooth out statistical comparisons pre- and post-changes. It turns out that there are other question changes concerning income and poverty in the new Census proposed questions. And the Census Bureau plans to run the old and new questions concurrently for several years. But they are deliberately not doing that for the health insurance questions.

President Obama will go into the record books as the president who added more regulations to the federal government than any other president. And such statistics explain our sluggish economic growth.
Drawing largely on government statistics, Mr. Crews estimates that the overall cost of regulatory compliance and its economic impact is about $1.9 trillion annually. This means that the burden of complying with federal rules costs roughly the annual GDP of Australia, Canada or Italy.

This regulatory tax makes U.S. businesses less competitive, but it also burdens every American because it is embedded in the prices of all goods and services. Mr. Crews estimates that "U.S. households 'pay' $14,974 annually in regulatory hidden tax," or 23% of the average income of $65,596.

All of this is the fruit of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and the manifold other expansions of government that have marked the Obama years. By far their greatest and most tragic cost has been slower economic growth, which has meant fewer jobs, lower incomes and diminished economic possibilities for tens of millions of Americans.

Boy, it sure says something about the MSM that even President Obama's press secretary thinks that the toughest interview Obama got in 2012 was from Jon Stewart.

Kirsten Powers exposes how Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been treated by many liberals for her criticisms of how Islam treats women compared to how novelist Anne Rice was treated when she criticized Christianity.

Sean Trende explores how Democrats might actually pick up seats in the Senate this year.

Before the President takes credit for a smaller deficit as reported by the CBO, he should thank the House Republicans for forcing him to accept automatic sequester cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011.
Many conservatives don’t appreciate how much spending has actually fallen. It hit nearly 25 percent of GDP in the first year of the Obama stimulus but is now close to 21 percent. More than half of that cut came out of defense, but the programs that liberals care about — green-energy subsidies, foreign aid, job training, and transit grants — have also been whacked.

Entitlements haven’t been touched, of course, and Obamacare is the biggest expansion of the entitlement state since the 1960s. But the best way to force Democrats to modernize these programs is by draining funding for everything else.

The key now, as Mr. Boehner tells me, “is to hold the line on those spending caps and don’t let Barack Obama slip out of them. It’s our best leverage right now.” Obama wants a $100-billion-plus infrastructure bank, but, sorry, Mr. President, the spending caps you agreed to make that a non-starter.

The worry is whether Republican appropriators can live within the discipline that the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposes. Spending restraint is the best way to hold the line on taxes and debt, and if we can get the economy growing at 4 percent — where it should be — the spurt of revenue from more people working could produce a balanced budget over the next several years.

So who brought the budget deficit down? The much-maligned tea-party movement and the people they put in control of Congress back in 2010 to right the ship. The April budget update from the CBO is a reminder of how the tea partiers helped save the country in those dark early days of the Obama presidency. They deserve to take a bow.
If the Republicans weren't so inept at publicizing their policy successes, they would be getting this message out there.

Even Hillary Clinton doesn't know what her accomplishments were as Secretary of State.

Now sharing a picture of one's daughter practicing yoga while wearing a T-shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones" got a professor at Bergen Community College suspended on forced to meet with a psychiatrist. Why do so many educrats have absolutely no common sense?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cruising the Web

James Taranto ponders why the Democrats have intensified their demagoguery on race.

Joe Biden does it again as he told Bostonians at a memorial for last years marathon bombing that "it was worth it."
let me say to those 'quote survivors,' my God, you have survived and you have soared. It was worth it. I mean this sincerely - just to hear each of you speak. You're truly, truly inspiring."
Does the man have no monitor on what comes out of his mouth and how it sounds? Can you just imagine if a Republican had been similarly inept in his remarks?

IBD explains why you shouldn't have much faith in the CBO's projections that Obamacare will cost $104 billion less over the next ten years than previously thought.
That drop rests almost entirely on the CBO's belief that premiums will remain virtually flat next year, which then lowers the insurance subsidy costs.

But the CBO somehow missed the fact that the industry is already warning of double-digit rate increases across the country next year. Right now, in fact, it's pushing for changes to minimize the rate shock. A sharp spike in premiums will drive ObamaCare's costs up far beyond the CBO's current estimate.
Next, the CBO claims 12 million uninsured will gain coverage this year because of the law.

Never mind that this is a huge downgrade from the CBO's original estimate, which had 21 million added to insurance rolls this year. Just to hit 12 million, the CBO assumed that at least 83% of those who got coverage in the ObamaCare exchanges were previously uninsured.

That's despite a growing pile of evidence to the contrary. The latest Rand Corp. survey finds only a third of exchange enrollees lacked coverage. If Obama's 7.5 million enrollment number is true, that means just 2.5 million came from the ranks of the uninsured.

The CBO likewise assumes that almost all the new Medicaid enrollees previously lacked coverage. But Rand's survey found that only half of the 6 million added to Medicaid lacked insurance before.

CBO's number crunchers need to look up from their computer models to see what ObamaCare is doing in the real world.
Megan McArdle has a restrained reaction to the news that the Census Bureau is revising their health insurance questions in a way that will make it impossible to have any direct comparison of how many formerly uninsured people gained insurance after Obamacare was implemented.
I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.
And she's not comforted that White House advisers had a role in approving the new questionnaire.
I find it completely and totally impossible to believe that this problem didn’t occur to anyone at Census, or in the White House. It would be like arguing that the George W. Bush administration might have inadvertently overlooked the possibility that when the U.S. invaded Iraq, there would be shooting. This is the biggest policy debate of the last 10 years, and these data are at the heart of that debate. It is implausible that everyone involved somehow failed to notice that they were making it much harder to know the effect of this law on the population it was supposed to serve. Especially because the administration seems to have had a ready excuse as soon as people reacted to the news.

Even if the administration genuinely believes this is defensible, why would they give anyone reason to believe that it is cooking the books? Because those charges are being made, and they’re a lot harder to dismiss than the complaints about birth certificates or dark intimations that the administration has simply made up its enrollment figures out of whole cloth.

I just don’t get it.

I mean, I can certainly think of explanations, but I can’t quite bring myself to believe the worst of them. Which leaves me with the only slightly-less-utterly-appalling conclusion: At some point, very early on in the process, folks noticed that asking the new questions would make it difficult to compare Obamacare’s implementation year to prior years, and decided that assessing the effects of the transition wasn’t nearly as important as making urgent changes to … questions we’ve been asking basically the same way for a decade and a half.

No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense, either. Let’s go back to inexplicable, shall we?

If the administration is really serious about transparency and data-driven policy, as I’ve been told for a year now, then it will immediately rectify this appalling mistake and put the old questions back into circulation double-quick. But we’re more likely going to hear the most transparent and data-driven administration in history citing these data -- without an asterisk -- to tout the amazing impact of its policies.
Of course, that is what is going to happen. They know and we know that the great majority of people won't be interested in a technical explanation of changes in data-gathering that are skewing results. All the Democrats need is a good sales line for a 30-second ad that they can flash up there with a mention of how the data come from the Census Bureau and presto, change-o, they've got their evidence of how much Obamacare has improved the situation for the uninsured in America.

And apparently, Republican senator Judd Gregg warned about this sort of problem back in 2009 when he learned that the administration was taking more control over the Census Bureau.

The UNC academic cheating scandal may be leading the NCAA to change their rules for evaluating what constitutes aa scandal they should be investigating.

A decision in the Sixth Circuit rightly slaps down the EEOC and the zany methodology they'd used to go after Kaplan for using background checks for employees.
Such is the case with last week's hilariously caustic rebuke of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The EEOC had sued Kaplan, the for-profit education company, for using "the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses," as Judge Raymond Kethledge cheekily put it in the first sentence of his ruling in EEOC v. Kaplan.

Despite its own practices, the Obama EEOC has made a cause of suing private companies because it claims that credit and criminal background checks discriminate against minorities. In 2012 the agency issued "guidance" to get companies to think twice before using criminal checks but stopped short of doing the same for credit checks.

That didn't stop it from suing Kaplan for using credit checks, which the EEOC claimed had no business necessity and resulted in a "disparate impact" on blacks. A federal judge tossed the case, but the EEOC is so convinced of its virtue that it appealed. Bad idea.

Judge Kethledge eviscerated the EEOC like a first-day law student, writing that Kaplan had good reason to conduct credit checks on "applicants for positions that provide access to students' financial-loan information" because employees had "stolen payments" and "engaged in self-dealing."

As for proving disparate racial impact, Judge Kethledge noted that "the credit-check process is racially blind; the [credit-check] vendor does not report the applicant's race with her other information." But the EEOC had relied entirely on Kevin Murphy, a consultant who assembled a team of five "race raters" to look at the drivers' licenses of a sample of applicants and then classify them by race. If four of the five agreed on the race of the individual, the applicant was classified by that race.

The district court had found that Mr. Murphy's methodology lacked, to put it mildly, "standards controlling the technique's operation." The EEOC "responds that the relevant standard was Murphy's requirement that four of five raters agree on an applicant's race," wrote Judge Kethledge. "But that response overlooks Murphy's own concession that the raters themselves had no particular standard in classifying each applicant; instead they just eyeballed the DMV photos."

Thus do President Obama's enforcement police attempt to prove discrimination—by pointing at photo IDs and guessing. As Judge Kethledge put it in closing: "We need not belabor the issue further. The EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself."
A high school science teacher has been suspended from his job at a Los Angeles high school because he...helped students with their science projects.

Rich Lowry ponders the hounding of Condoleezza Rice.
If Condoleezza Rice were as self-pitying and politically crass as Attorney General Eric Holder, she would be wondering aloud what it is about her race and gender that accounts for the hostility of her enemies....

The Minnesota professors say that it is in a “spirit of free expression” that they ask for the reversal of Rice’s invitation. Because nothing says free expression like shutting down someone’s lecture.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz explains why liberals' victory lap over Obamacare is quite premature. And any politicians who pretend to be excited about the CBO's projections of lower federal deficits this year are also quite premature in their celebration.
But CBO also expects things to get worse in a hurry. In just the next two years, with no more federal budget sequester to limit spending, annual outlays will grow by almost $500 billion, driving federal spending above $4 trillion for the first time. In that fiscal year of 2016, federal deficits will resume their upward march. By 2023 we will be back to the annual trillion-dollar deficits that characterized the Obama first term. The debt subject to limit, now $17.5 trillion, would need to rise to more than $27 trillion by 2024 to cover all the expected spending. Of course a growing economy would be a great help in financing the looming spending increases, but the current White House is more concerned with reallocating wealth than with allowing people to create it.

While we're getting depressed, we should also note that the $17.5 trillion that many people think of as the federal debt only scratches the surface of the future obligations promised by politicians. Last year legendary investor Stanley Druckenmiller calculated the net present value of Beltway commitments and concluded that "the future liabilities are $205 trillion, not 17."

How long the world's investors will continue to finance U.S. debt is a question. But whether a reckoning occurs sooner or later, eventually all of this spending and debt must be paid for with higher tax collections.

So as bad as you feel reviewing this year's tax return, remember that things could be much worse. And they soon will be, unless the next President is committed to reform in Washington and revival in the rest of the country.

Well, isn't this just typical? The Census Bureau is changing how they measure how many people are uninsured just in time so that it won't be possible to measure how many people have gotten health insurance under Obamacare.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

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. Thus, officials said, 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.
Coincidence? And what are the chances that Obama supporters will cite the lower numbers as proof that Obamacare is working regardless of what the small print says? As the WSJ writes today,
The FDA would never approve a new drug whose maker completely changed the clinical trial protocol in the middle of the experiment, yet that is what the White House has done. How many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? What about employer-sponsored insurance? It will be much harder and in some cases impossible to know.

Robert Pear of the New York Times NYT +4.69% obtained internal Census documents that note that the new CPS system produces lower estimates of the uninsured as an artifact of how the questionnaire is structured. One memo refers to the "coincidental and unfortunate timing" and that, "Ideally, the redesign would have had at least a few years to gather base line and trend data."

Ideally, the White House would have provided those years. For changes this substantial, standard procedure would be to ask the new and old questions concurrently. With an overlap, researchers could study changes over time using the long-term historical information without introducing bias, as well as interpret emerging developments with new tools.

The Census says the new CPS is more accurate, and demographers and statisticians of all persuasions have argued for years that the old version overreports the number of uninsured relative to other surveys. But the inflated figures served the politicians who were plugging national health care, and Democrats in 2009 and 2010 used them to exaggerate the problem amid the push to put more of American health care under government direction.

As with the IRS targeting of conservative political groups, this sudden change will undermine public trust in the supposedly nonpartisan institutions of government. Muddying a useful source of information about ObamaCare's results is definitely unfortunate, but our guess is that it wasn't coincidental.

And, of course, Jay Carney says that there are no plans for the administration to release any further information about the people who have signed up for Obamacare on the federal exchanges. They wouldn't want to release any information to indicate how many of those people have actually paid for their insurance or how many were previously uninsured or are now on Medicaid. They'll want to keep those sorts of details as secret as possible.

Wow, look at these poll results from Democratic pollster PPP: Greg Abbot is leading Wendy Davis in the race for Texas governor among women voters. I guess basing your whole campaign on your support for late-term abortions is not the appeal to women voters that Democrats thought it was.

Jeff Jacoby asks a good question: Why aren't feminists angry at Brandeis for rescinding their invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak and receive an honorary degree? After all, she has devoted her life, despite death threats, to the rights of women in the Islamic world.
But it happens routinely. People prepared to label opposition to employer-paid contraceptives a “war on women” are generally much less willing to channel their outrage at the savagery of honor killings or child marriages in non-Western societies. “They fear treading on cultural toes,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the film’s featured advocates. “We’re constantly having to remind them that cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”

For Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage as a young teen, this is no abstract theory. She is haunted by the memory of her sister, Ravina, who committed suicide rather than “dishonor” her family by leaving the husband she was forced to marry. Also highlighted in the film is Raquel Saraswati, who embraces Islam as a source of strength and peace in her life, yet feels “afraid all the time” of the backlash against those who challenge “honor-based” violence against women.

Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

And this is also quite typical. President Obama wishes Jews a happy Passover by sending out a picture of...himself and his family.

The contrast between Illinois and its neighbors among the Great Lakes states is quite marked.
Start with Illinois's 8.7% jobless rate, which is the country's second highest after Rhode Island's 9% and has fallen by a mere 0.7 percentage points since Mr. Quinn began his second term in January 2011. That's when Illinois increased its flat income tax to 5% from 3% and the corporate rate to 9.5% from 7.3%.

The nearby chart shows the jobless-rate trend in five Great Lakes states since 2010. Note the sharp decline in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder and a GOP legislature cut corporate taxes. In the last three years, the rate has fallen to 7.7% from 11% in the Wolverine State, to 6.5% from 9.1% in Ohio, to 6.1% from 9% in Indiana, and to 6.1% from 7.7% in Wisconsin. Only Illinois has raised taxes, while Ohio cut taxes, Michigan and Indiana have passed right-to-work laws and Wisconsin famously reformed collective bargaining.

Illinois has also recorded the slowest personal income growth in the Great Lakes. Between 2012 and 2013, personal income rose by 2.1% in Illinois versus 2.7% in Wisconsin, 2.5% in Michigan, and 2.3% in Ohio and Indiana.

But get this—about a third of Illinois's personal-income growth last year was driven by "transfer receipts" (i.e., food stamps, workers' compensation, disability, welfare, Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, earned income tax credits, unemployment benefits). According to BEA, these payments increased 5.2% in Illinois in 2013, the third most in the U.S., while wages and salaries ticked up only 1%.

Some 31,000 Illinois workers left the state's labor force in 2013, while Michigan's workforce expanded by 2,000 and Indiana's grew by 11,000. Illinois also lost about 9,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year while Michigan gained 17,000 and Ohio and Indiana each added 12,000.
You think that a state's economic policies don't matter? Well, the ongoing laboratory in democracy taking place in those Midwest states says otherwise.
But in the end, Landrieu's much bigger problem is authenticity. Can she succeed by campaigning against a president she has supported so much? Landrieu has many assets in the race -- she has been able to shower Louisiana with federal money and will undoubtedly bring even more pork dollars to the state in coming months. In the final count, that could well mean victory for her. But Landrieu has an authenticity problem she just can't shake -- it's been building for the last six years -- and if she loses, it will be because she couldn't oppose Barack Obama and support him at the same time, and still win the support of Louisiana voters.

Mary Landrieu is including fakery in her campaign ad, but her real problem is how she's trying to separate herself from President Obama and the Democratic Party despite her support for them on every important vote.

Pro-union supporters on the Los Angeles School Board are now aiming to close down two very successful charters that have been achieving great success in educating minority students. It is so shameful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Social Security Administration backs down from the program that was seizing tax refunds of people who might have been overpaid when they were in children or whose parents might have been overpaid. The Washington Post had written about this last week and it just took the outrage that that story engendered for the Social Security Administration to rethink its policy. What I found funny from the original Post story was that this change in the law to allow the SSA to go after people decades later had been inserted into a farm bill in 2008 and no one will fess up that they were responsible for writing that provision. Perhaps it's time for all provisions in a law to have a footnote explaining which congressman or senator wanted that provision inserted into the law. That might produce some valuable transparency. Maybe some politicians would balk at some of what they do if it could be traced back to them. I would fully endorse such a change in congressional procedures.

The Supreme Court will hear the case next week on whether lying in politics is protected by the First Amendment. And former Senator Mike DeWine who is the attorney general of Ohio has produced briefs on both sides of the law.

Obamacare is increasing health-insurance premiums at the fastest rate in decades. And, as the LA Times notes, this especially burdens the working poor.

Mayor de Blasio seeks to mold New York City into his own version of what the ideals of progressivism should be.

Maybe Jay Carney could explain to President Obama why his wife chose flexibility over a higher salary. Obama doesn't seem to think that women want that.

ABC discovers the story of Halbig v. Sebelius, the case wending its way through the courts that could eventually gut Obamacare. The essential question is whether the words of the law matter.

The Lilly Ledbetter lie that will not die.

Ed Morrissey notes the one accomplishment of Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State - she helped Boeing sell jets to Russia. And scored a major donation from Boeing to her husband's foundation plus a fundraiser for her super PAC.

At least eight members of the House Ways and Means Committee of both parties have not paid some of their taxes. Of course.

The Daily Beast explains why being a doctor has become the "most miserable profession."

Meet the man whose goal in life is to make sure that the first primary takes place in New Hampshire.

Forget the health of the city and its economy or, of course, the taxpayers. This is what the SEIU is asking for of San Francisco for government employees.
-- A 15 percent raise over the next three years.

-- A $21-an-hour minimum wage for all city workers.

-- Fully paid health coverage for single workers, 98 percent paid coverage for couples and 85 percent coverage for families.

-- A free clinic just for city workers to go along with the health coverage.

-- A free $50,000 life insurance policy for SEIU workers. Seven other city unions already have free life insurance.

The union has dropped its call for a $76-a-month commuter subsidy and premium pay while off on paid holidays.

The city is countering with a 2.5 percent raise over two years, and no clinic, no free life insurance and a health care package of 93 percent coverage for singles and couples and 83 percent for families.
The average SEIU worker gets $33 an hour, plus benefits. But now they need more.