Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cruising the Web

The National Journal looks at whether Senate Democrats are going to have sufficient votes to push through the nuclear option on judges. There may be enough Democrats who fear that they will change the rules just in time for the Republicans to perhaps take back the Senate and the White House and use those rule changes against Democrats. And, as the outrage over Obamacare grows and threatens Democrats up next year, they may have enough fear of payback that they won't support such a change.

Gosh, they'll really do anything to promote Obamacare, won't they? Hollywood was set to get on board to promote the law, but those plans are on hold while the administration waits for the website to become more functional. Who knew that the federal government needed an Entertainment Advisory Council to insert propaganda into popular culture? It really is rather insidious.

But that's not all of the administration's propaganda efforts. They're paying millions to WebMD in order to get favorable comments about Obamacare on the medical site. And then there is the whole "brosurance" messaging effort to convince young people that all the hot guys are getting Obamacare insurance.

USA Today reports that doctors don't even know if they're in the approved exchanges or not.

We're starting to get leaks from within the administration not to expect to be ready by the Nov. 30 promised deadline.
Software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project.

The insurance exchange is balking when more than 20,000 to 30,000 people attempt to use it at the same time — about half its intended capacity, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal information. And CGI Federal, the main contractor that built the site, has succeeded in repairing only about six of every 10 of the defects it has addressed so far.
What's one more broken promised for this thing?

Bjorn Lomborg analyzes the myth that Obama had totally bought into that federal subsidies of so-called green technology will bring untold benefits. In fact, those subsidies mean that such green energy is costing governments three times as much money per energy unit as fossil fuels.

Charles C. W. Cooke ponders where the failure of Obamacare ranks on the hierarchy of failed federal government policies.
The last 100 years have certainly thrown up a few turkeys — Prohibition, the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act, and the short-lived Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 all come to mind — and yet Obamacare stands out as being potentially even worse because, as David French recently noted, it has the disadvantage of being unprecedently partisan. This, after all, is a law that bears a president’s name. This is to say that if it fails, not only will it hurt a swathe of innocent citizens — as many other messy initiatives have — but it will also discredit for a generation the worldview of its architects. And this, as Joe Biden might say, is a “big f***ing deal.”
Politico tries to figure out how the White House could have so mucked up its oversight of the rollout of Obamacare. They weren't asking the right questions and ignored the warnings that they did receive. But, I'm sure that these same people will totally be able to flip around and fix the problems they've been ignoring in the program for years.

Charles Ornstein at Propublica describes the second stage of sticker shock that is going to hit consumers of health care in the new year and find out that, not only their monthly premiums are increasing, but so are their copays and deductibles. And the federal subsidies aren't going to be much help there.
Chris Jacobs, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, brings up another point. The sequester law, which calls for spending cuts in the federal budget, requires reductions to the cost-sharing program. But the Obama administration has not said how it will carry those out — whether it will cut the cost-sharing subsidies or make insurers absorb the cuts.

“Someone (either carriers, consumers, or both) isn't being told by this administration that they're going to have to pay more — billions of dollars more,” Jacobs wrote to me. “And just as millions of people didn't like discovering in recent weeks that the ‘like your plan’ promise was hollow, they won't like learning about other hidden costs not being disclosed either.”
And then there are the consequences for small business.
Even more problematic is how businesses are already responding to the new law. The White House continues to deny any relationship between hiring and ObamaCare. The poll finds 27% of franchise businesses and 12% of non-franchises have already replaced full-time with part-time employees in anticipation of the law's employer mandate. ObamaCare defines a full-time employee as someone who works 30 hours or more a week.

The survey also reveals that the "49er" effect is very real. These are businesses that will cap their full-time payroll workforce at 49 employees to avoid ObamaCare's insurance mandate for companies with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers. Of firms with between 40 and 70 employees, a little over half say they are likely to "make personnel decisions to keep" their "workforce below the threshold of 50 full-time employees and avoid the requirements and penalties associated with the new health care law."
Who knew that businessmen make decisions based on how federal regulations will affect their businesses?

Dana Milbank has some fun with the lame efforts by my senator, Kay Hagan, to plug up the hurt that her support of Obamacare is putting on her reelection efforts. She can't even lie fluently any more.
Another North Carolina reporter asked Hagan what she is telling constituents whose premiums have doubled or whose plans have been canceled.

Deep inhalation. “Well, a lot of people, I, I am encouraging everybody to go on the site, uh, uh, I — look through it, find out what the benefits are,” she began. She also said constituents could call her office, “and we will certainly, uh, do what we can to help those individuals and put them in contact, uh, with the right — with the right person, and, and, and help them.”

News reports about the law in Kagan’s home state have been brutal: businesses cutting workers’ hours, 160,000 people receiving cancellation notices, hardly anybody signing up for the health-care exchange.
I'm sure that North Carolinians who have lost their insurance will be comforted by her advice to go on her website to find out about those fabled Obamacare benefits.

Holman Jenkins has a whole series of questions for President Obama. Maybe the obsequious press will find it in themselves to ask some of these questions.
Your feelings are hurt because the press is dwelling on those left worse off by ObamaCare, but the Affordable Care Act, in truth, makes care more affordable only for some and then only by shifting the cost to others. For society as a whole, health care will only consume a bigger share of national income—an additional $10 trillion in the next eight years, according to the Medicare actuary. The chances of health care becoming more affordable are nil and whether the act will even improve the health of the uninsured is doubtful. Your Federal Trade Commission exists to punish consumer fraud. Shouldn't you turn yourself in?

Then add in how government subsidies of ethanol have been an ecological disaster.
The government's predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant.
The only benefits accrue to corn farmers and the politicians catering to them.

Robert Samuelson nails why the JFK mystique continues to this day despite his rather mediocre record as president.
Camelot was that brief interlude when we thought we could impose our will. That is its magnetism. It was less an innocent time than a simplistic one. We thought we could engineer the future and discovered that the future wouldn’t cooperate. Our continuing seduction by the Kennedy narrative presumes that had he lived, the future would have been better. He would have grasped the folly of Vietnam, embraced the new youth culture and advanced civil rights. This subtext sustains the Kennedy fascination.

It requires us to suspend disbelief, for there was a great contradiction at the core of Kennedy’s brief presidency. Though he projected mastery, he followed events more than he led them. It takes a huge leap of faith to think a second term would have been much different.

Greg Sargent reports that House Democrats are leaning towards voting for the GOP bill put forth by Fred Upton to allow insurance agencies to continue insuring people on the individual market for those who already had policies. The White House opposes such a proposal and Democratic leaders in the House are trying to threaten those House Democrats.
House Democratic leaders are privately warning rank and file Dems that a vote for this bill – and other anti-Obamacare legislation – could alienate leading Democratic donors heading into 2014, a source familiar with internal discussions tells me. “Votes against the Affordable Care Act are going to turn off a lot of these top national progressive donors,” the source said in characterizing the arguments.
Dem leaders are also pressing members internally with the case (which they are also making publicly) that the Upton plan would essentially preserve the worst aspects of the individual insurance market — allowing discrimination against people with preexisting conditions and allowing higher charges to women — thus undermining Obamacare’s protections, the source says.
But will such threats be enough to bolster the bravado of House Dems facing an election next year where all their votes to support this disaster will come back to haunt them?

Brandeis, in a misguided effort to buy brotherhood by partnering up with the Palestinian Al Quds University, is now embarrassed by a rally sponsored at that school in which students staged a neo-Nazi rally calling for violence against Israelis. Brandeis officials have no comment. When will American Jews learn that they won't be able to appease or buy the friendship of groups that want to kill them?

The history of second terms indicates that it's going to be difficult for Obama to bounce back.