Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cruising the Web

I'm tired of this idea that it is somehow noble for a government figure to say "I take responsibility" for some mess that he or she caused and for the implication to be, well, that's all we need. Yes, Sebelius said that magic words and Hillary Clinton did the same thing on Benghazi but that doesn't mean that all examination and condemnation of what they did should end. There's more to taking responsibility than merely mouthing the words. And with Hillary Clinton, saying the words should not qualify her for a job promotion to the top spot.

John Podhoretz takes on Sebelius's and Clinton's faux claims of responsibility.
But in Barack Obama’s Washington, “taking responsibility” doesn’t mean what it means elsewhere.

When the officials who serve Obama say they are to be held accountable, what they actually mean is that they are willing to take the heat and absorb blame that might otherwise attach to the president himself.

By doing so, by serving as scapegoats and whipping dogs in the arena of public opinion, they demonstrate their fealty to him above all. And that fealty will be rewarded by loyalty in return.

When Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the killings of four Americans in Benghazi as she began to transition out of the administration, her departure became the occasion for a bizarre joint interview with Obama on “60 Minutes,” in which the president all but anointed her his successor.

Remember that, even as she was taking responsibility, Clinton notoriously yelled at a Senate hearing looking into circumstances that preceded the slaughter of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

In the case of Sebelius, we’re told (by Matthew Cooper of National Journal, among others) that the president has given no thought to firing Sebelius, who was an early supporter of his in 2008 — and that he couldn’t do so anyway, because he’d have a devil of a time getting a replacement through a confirmation hearing.

Accountability. Responsibility.

What’s the diff.

CNN is reporting that the White House is telling insurance companies to shut up about all the problems that Obamacare is meeting.
After insurance officials publicly criticized the implementation, White House staffers contacted insurers to express their displeasure, industry insiders said.

Multiple sources declined to speak publicly about the push back because they fear retribution.

But Bob Laszewski, who heads a consulting firm for big insurance companies, did talk on the record.

"The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet," he said.

Laszewski, who's been a vocal critic of Obamacare, said he's been asked by insurance executives to speak out because they feel defenseless against an administration that is regulating their business -- and a big customer.
Government-backed plans accounted for about half of health care policies last year, a number that is expected to grow over the years.
This goes with how Michelle Malkin reminds us of how Kathleen Sebelius tried to keep private insurance companies from saying that they were raising premiums due to Obamacare.
Three years ago, when insurers and other companies had the audacity to expose Obamacare’s damage to their customers and workers, Sebelius brought out her brass knuckles. Remember? As I reported at the time, the White House coordinated a demonization campaign against Anthem Blue Cross in California for raising rates because of the new mandate’s costs. Obama singled out the company in a “60 Minutes” interview, and Sebelius sent a nasty-gram demanding that Anthem “justify” its rate hikes to the federal government.

A private company trying to survive in the marketplace was forced to “explain” itself to federal bureaucrats and career politicians who have never run a business (successful or otherwise) in their lives. Sebelius went even further. She called on Anthem to provide public disclosure of how the rate increases would be spent — a mandate that no other private companies must follow.
Malkin goes on to remind us of several other examples from that period of Democrats in the administration and Congress pressuring private companies to shut up about how Obamacare was forcing them to either trim insurance benefits or raise rates. There is something very despicable about people in the government trying to use their financial leverage over private businesses to stifle their ability to speak out about how those government policies are affecting their business. But then we know that this administration have long held that corporations don't have freedom of speech. It's too bad for them that the Supreme Court has long ruled otherwise going back to the 19th century.

Daniel Henninger outlines the important result of what we've seen in the past couple of weeks with the concentration of the country on the trouble-filled rollout of Obamacare. It's more than a faulty website. There is also the attention that is finally being paid to all the people losing their insurance or having to pay substantially more in premiums and deductibles and copays for their policies. As Henninger writes, we are witnessing the failure of Progressive government.
What made ObamaCare an exemplar of progressive politics and policy is precisely what has been on view this week in news stories and the Sebelius hearing. It's not that the health program was to be administered by the state or that it promised benefits to all. Liberalism did that for decades. What made it peculiarly progressive were the mandates. And not just the law's individual and business mandates to purchase their insurance. The essence of modern Democratic progressivism is: "You will participate in what we have created for you, and you will comply with the law's demands."
That's exactly what they've done with their insouciance of killing the independent insurance market with all their regulations on what insurance companies must include in their policies. And when people lose their plans due to the administration's policies, the administration turns around and puts all the blame on those evil insurance companies.
If this White House and its progressive ecosystem have a political motto, it's this: Get over it.

American progressivism is politics by cramdown. Ask Jamie Dimon. Ask the coal miners the EPA is putting out of business. Ask the union workers waiting for jobs on the Keystone XL pipeline. Ask Boeing BA +0.02% in South Carolina or the harmless tea party groups from towns no one has ever heard of that were shut down by the IRS, or the 20,000 inner-city parents and students who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest obliteration of their charter schools by New York's progressive mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio.

Up to now, most of the events of the Obama presidency have passed in and out of the news as just politics. But with ObamaCare and its details touching so many people all at once, it has become impossible not to recognize that the Affordable Care Act is an offensive ideological exercise, not merely an entitlement program. By Mr. Obama's own admission, this law is the way he wants the world to work in the U.S.—whether in health, education, energy, infrastructure or finance. And what Americans now riding through the ObamaCare hurricane of canceled policies, disappearing doctors and rebooted promises have to be asking themselves is: Do I want to live with this level of personal enforcement in the U.S.?
John Dickerson writes in Slate that one effect of what we've seen in the past couple of weeks is that Barack Obama is "making Republicans look wise." Darn, doesn't the media hate it when that happens? And it's been happening with every report on how Obamacare is affecting so many people.

So is the problem that the job of president is too big for any one man or just for Barack Obama? The former is the spin that we've been hearing as story after story emerges of something that was going on in this administration that President Obama only just found out about. Well, Obama can't have it both ways, as Hughey Newsome argues,
As noted by Vanity Fair, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had six people titled with some variation of “assistant to the President.” President Harry Truman had twelve such advisors. President Obama has more than a hundred assistants with this status.

Has Obama simply put these people in charge of America while he goes golfing? Is this why he feels he can say that “we did not know how big the problem was” when it comes to his failed stimulus spending? Is that why he was reportedly unaware of the mismanagement of diplomatic security leading up to the Benghazi disaster? Maybe this is why the IRS became what appears to be a uncontrollable, runaway political weapon under his watch. It now makes more sense how a simple website, which is supposed to be the conduit to his signature health care overhaul, devolved into the late-night TV show punch-line it now is.

The point is simple: the same people that push government as the solver of society’s problems cannot then imply that the task is too big when government fails to solve those problems. Conversely, those of us who argue that government is too big should be vindicated by these recent events.

If President Barack Obama is as great and smart as his supporters say he is, and even he is caught off-guard when actions within his own administration are unknown to him, is that not a clear sign that he is taking on too much?
Even Joe Klein is dismayed at the incompetence of Obama's administration. This is all so sad for Joe Klein who was so enthusiastic about Obama back in 2008 when there was so little evidence to support his enthusiasm.
Still, I expected more from Obama. I expected more at the Veterans Administration, since the President said that making sure that our veterans received the best treatment really mattered to him. It is remarkable that five years on, Obama still hasn’t resolved the dispute between the VA and the Department of Defense about providing a unified electronic medical records system that would follow active-duty personnel into retirement. The waste, heartache and delay caused by his inaction is appalling.

And I certainly expected more from the Affordable Care Act, since it is the most significant piece of social welfare legislation since the 1960s, and an absolutely crucial piece of our social safety net going forward. It is early days for the ACA and we should reserve judgment about whether this legislation was just too big and complicated a mess to implement. But, surely, SOMEONE–maybe many people–should be fired for these opening pratfalls. And we should also be able to get some of our money back from the private contractors who failed to implement the exchanges.

There is a larger point here. It lies in the nature of government work. It is near-impossible to fire anyone in the civil service–and without the fear of firing, the incentives for hard work diminish. (There are also very few rewards for finding creative solutions.) This is the 130th anniversary of our Civil Service system, enacted by Chester Alan Arthur. It may have been a good thing in 19th century, when even Abraham Lincoln was hiring political hacks to run the post offices–but it has transformed agencies like the VA and HHS into lugubrious sludge glaciers in the 21st century.

The President should set the tone for the way the federal government operates. This President hasn’t done that. He still has three more years in office to get it right, perhaps even to propose some radical changes in the work rules governing federal employment. He could even force DOD and VA to agree on the unified electronic records system that he promised.

Otherwise, there is a danger that the Obama Administration will be remembered as not even good enough for government work.
CNN lays out future problems we may well see with Obamacare. There is the looming death spiral if too few "young invincibles" don't sign up. More and more people will find out that their insurance will go up in price because of all the mandates the administration has required. And these increases won't be limited to those people who buy insurance on the individual market. Don't forget that the employer mandate was postponed a year. In the upcoming year we're going to be hearing about those upcoming changes are affecting most people's insurance coverage. Expect to see story after story of people facing sticker shock for these insurance changes.

And another shocking story about the administration's implementation of Obamacare is how they've left people who sign up on the website open to security fraud. They've violated their own guidelines on security requirements and launched the site without sufficient testing of the site's security. It is shocking that they knowingly launched the site aware of how they were leaving consumers vulnerable to fraud. Politics once again trumped their concern for their program's effects on actual people.

Byron York reports on another major IRS scandal looming about how the agency is giving out money in the Earned Income Tax Credit program without suitably checking if the recipients qualify.
The problem is, the IRS does little to determine whether recipients actually qualify for the money. A recent report by the IRS inspector general says the agency has given out somewhere between $110 billion and $132 billion in improper Earned Income Tax Credit payments in the last decade. In that time period, between 21 and 30 percent of tax credit payments went to people who didn't qualify for them.
And now the IRS is going to be determining who should receive tax credits for Obamacare. Does anyone think they'll do a better job with that?

Jim Treacher has some fun translating Representative John Lewis's defense of Obamacare.