Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cruising the Web

Remember how the administration argued before the Supreme Court a couple of years ago how absolutely, completely vital the individual mandate is to Obamacare. Well, think again. As Abby McCloskey and Tom Miller write in the WSJ today, "the individual mandate goes poof." The numbers of people signing up are falling way short of what the administration anticipated as necessary for the system to work. And only about a quarter of those people signing up were previously uninsured. So we're not helping the people that the entire health care system was up-ended in order to help. And the individual mandate hasn't turned out to be the magic elixir the administration thought it would be.
The ineffectiveness of the individual mandate is trumped only by its unpopularity. Two-thirds of Americans support getting rid of the individual mandate completely, according to a recent ABC News poll. This month, the House of Representatives voted again to delay enforcement of the individual mandate for a year, with support from 27 Democratic defectors.

The Obama administration already has been forced to delay, drop or revise a host of other requirements in the law, such as the employer mandate, minimum benefits standards, and nondiscrimination rules. Until now, the White House has refused to delay or repeal the unpopular individual mandate because it was supposed to hide the full "on-budget" costs of ObamaCare. Its architects hoped that the mandate could force millions of Americans to pay for the law's expensive coverage and cross subsidies through higher premiums instead of higher taxes. But they always lacked sufficient political support to try to make the mandate powerful enough to accomplish this.

Expect the mandate to turn into even more of a "suggestion" before votes are cast in this November's congressional elections. With the mandate illusion off the table, the Affordable Care Act can no longer hide what it truly is: another unfunded liability for taxpayers.
Politico provides a brief outline of Obamacare delays. This is why is is no surprise any more when the administration decides that they can delay whatever part of the bill is creating political problems for them. The WSJ counts up to 38 delays.
Liberals say they believe in a living Constitution, and apparently they think the Affordable Care Act is a living document too. Amid one more last-minute regulatory delay, number 38 at last count, the mandate forcing nuns to sponsor birth control is more or less the only part of ObamaCare that is still intact....

By the way, as part of this delay HHS will make no attempt to verify real enrollment problems and will instead rely on what the agency calls "the honor system." No one will be asked why they need an extension.

All of this is an invitation for people to game the system and wait until they become ill or are injured to sign up for insurance. Much like the rules that destroyed the individual insurance markets in states like New York, Washington and Kentucky, ObamaCare's mandates prevent Americans from being accountable for their own health-care decisions. The new delay ensures that the uncertainty will be built into higher premiums, and insurers must act on incomplete information.

This pattern of dishonesty and political improvisation has come to define ObamaCare, which is the law for some people, sometimes, except when it isn't. Nothing HHS claims can be trusted, and little that the President of the United States promised about his signature law has turned out to be true.
Rich Lowry calls Kathleen Sebelius, who promised the House two weeks ago that the administration would not extend the Obamacare enrollment period and now has indeed done so, the "Baghdad Bob of health insurance."
A few weeks ago, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs, emphatically told reporters there were “no plans to extend the open enrollment period.” She underlined the absurdity of the very notion with a slam-dunk legal argument: “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”
As if that would be an obstacle. The enrollment extension is in the same spirit as the administration’s partial enactment in 2012 of the DREAM Act through executive fiat — after President Barack Obama said in 2011 he didn’t have the authority for such a change. He rebuked those who suggested otherwise for perpetuating “the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true.”

It is a testament to the Obama administration’s audacity that it doesn’t just defy the critics’ view of its lawful authority, it defies its own view of its lawful authority.
Harry Reid's excuse-making about why people haven't signed up for Obamacare is lovely. Apparently, it's all because there are some people who "are not educated on how to use the Internet." Of course, Reid's excuse-making ignores the fact that the people missing from Obamacare sign-ups are young people - the people most likely to know how to use the internet.

The Onion posted a Vladimir Putin essay entitled "Thanks For Being So Cool About Everything" that is less satire than mind-reading.
I totally owe you one, no question about that.

Now, of course I get that you in the international community had to issue some sort of response. After all, you had to at least look like you were trying to fight for the people of Ukraine as we rolled armed vehicles into their country, made it clear that any dissent would be punished, and essentially rendered an entire people totally and utterly powerless in the face of a bigger, stronger country’s national interests. I totally get that. But I’m just relieved that you decided on a response as harmless as humanly possible, with no real and tangible repercussions on myself or my government. You really have no idea how much stress that lifted off my shoulders. It was a real lifesaver.

I also understand that moving forward, you’ll feel pressure to call a lot of high-profile NATO meetings, make statements to the UN, suspend this summer’s G8 summit, that sort of thing. I also get that all that kind of stuff is just a formal procedure you have to follow, because really, at this point you’ve laid your cards on the table. So I just want to thank you ahead of time—honestly, from the bottom of my heart—for ensuring that I can just concentrate on doing whatever I want in any formerly Soviet region that is of geopolitical, military, or economic value to Russia without having to worry one iota about suffering any consequences. Thanks for making that 100-percent clear to me.

There is one thing I want to say though, and I feel a little silly admitting this, but there was actually a moment earlier when I did feel a little dread. For one unnerving second there, I thought you imposed sanctions on Russia’s broad national economy, but then I saw the sanctions were just directed at a few of my advisers and some bank I don’t care about. Boy, talk about a major relief!

Really, this whole thing has gone so smoothly that my only real regret is that I just wish I had known earlier that you guys were this mellow about hostile military takeovers. It makes me wonder what took me so long to get around to this.
Read the rest. It is so smack on accurate that it's not even all that funny. Just disturbing.

Jim Geraghty ponders why progressives never seem to be held to account for failing their own values and rules. The list is quite extensive.
Many progressives organize their worldview in the reverse order: They pick the good people — themselves — and everything else is negotiable. And as it’s currently practiced, liberalism doesn’t really require much of anything. Or, when liberalism starts asking sacrifices and commitments of its adherents beyond liking and sharing on Facebook, the energy and enthusiasm disappear. Close observers of Obamacare have noticed that the Millennials and other young people who voted for Obama in droves aren’t willing to pay several hundred dollars a month for health insurance.

The currency of progressivism isn’t policies, and it certainly isn’t results. It’s emotions....

As long as a particular position or stance lets progressives feel good about themselves, they will embrace it. Thus the measuring stick of Obamacare is not whether it’s actually providing the uninsured with health insurance — the majority of the uninsured remain oblivious to even the most basic facts about the law — but whether a liberal feels that it’s a sign that he cares about the uninsured more than other people.

Liberals will deem Obamacare a failure only if it stops making them feel good about themselves.
Ed Morrissey highlights a video of Senator Patty Murray saying that it is "stunning" that the Supreme Court might find a government regulation is unconstitutional. Apparently, she has missed that whole lesson on judicial review that my students just took a test on yesterday. I'd be happy to give her a tutorial. And, as Morrissey points out, the whole argument by feminists that the HHS mandate was necessary in order for women to gain their birth control.
Well, that problem wouldn’t exist had Congress not given HHS the power to mandate that employers provide specific products and services to their employees in the first place. Prior to the passage of ObamaCare, most employers already provided some form of health insurance to their employees, and most of those already covered birth control, albeit with co-pays. Those employers who object to abortifacients found other health plans, but that doesn’t prevent men and women from acquiring birth control of their own volition — or finding other work based on competitive compensation packages, for that matter. This became an issue only when Democrats forced the creation and participation of a command economy in health insurance and gave bureaucrats the power to issue regulations such as the HHS contraception mandate, for no rational reason except as political demagoguery.
Morrissey links to this National Journal story that, before Obamacare was enacted, 85% of company-supplied health insurance covered contraceptives. So it is hard to argue that there was some overriding, compelling state interest to mandate that all employers cover contraceptives.

I've always found it suspect that the administration chose contraceptives as the one drug that must be provided free to employees. What about diabetes or heart medicine? What about colonoscopies or mammograms? That's why I've always regarded this particular mandate as designed more as a political tool to create a wedge issue rather than a real concern.

Time Magazine looks at parents who admit stealing from their children's piggy banks. When I saw the headline, I thought it was a metaphor, but it was about literally stealing from piggy banks. I don't find that all that surprising given on how parents are stealing from their children's futures by resisting any reform of entitlements.

On a related topic, Jeff Jacoby looks at how public pensions are destroying state and municipal budgets around the country.
In the average state, an average career government employee receives combined pension and Social Security income higher than 72 percent of that state’s full-time working employees, Biggs calculates. The figure is lower in some states, including Massachusetts (45 percent); in others, such as Pennsylvania (87 percent) or Oregon (90 percent), it’s much higher. Bear in mind that these sums don’t include health care benefits, which typically boost retirees’ income by thousands of dollars.

And how much is a full-career public employee pension worth in dollars and cents? In the average state, those lifetime retirement benefits — again, not including health coverage — have a present value worth $768,940. In many states, they’re worth even more — $848,735 in Massachusetts, for example, and more than $1.3 million in Nevada.

For the average career government employee retiring today, pension benefits will equal 87 percent of their final salary. Those benefits are eating taxpayers alive, as the pension bomb ticks ever louder.

Harry Reid, who has amazingly made a fortune while being a public servant, has found a new way to funnel money to relatives. He used campaign funds to buy jewelry that his granddaughter makes to give gifts to his campaign supporters. And I know you'll be shocked, shocked to learn that this isn't the first time that Harry Reid has used campaign funds improperly or that he has made money illegitimately that he had to apologize for.