KNIGHT: Supreme opportunity to right a wrong – Washington Times

KNIGHT: Supreme opportunity to right a wrong – Washington Times.

High court should repeal law before it sickens the nation

By Robert Knight – The Washington Times

In March, the Supreme Court will hear the challenge by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. A ruling is expected by midsummer.

Although many provisions don’t kick in until 2014, this 2,700-page mess is already giving America’s health care system a bad cold, which will morph into pneumonia if the law is not overturned. A few of the symptoms already have emerged:

Adding costs: Some doctors are charging patients extra fees for basic services such as processing forms. Without malpractice tort reform, which Obamacare rejected, doctors themselves are facing higher insurance fees along with anticipated bureaucratic regulatory costs.

Reducing coverage:Faced with a mandate to ignore pre-existing conditions, insurance companies have dropped child-only coverage.

Hiking premiums: Health insurance premiums have risen across the board by an average of 9 percent in 2011, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, with Obamacare accounting for about 20 percent of that increase. Costs are slated to rise annually under Obamacare. In 2014, a new tax on fully private health coverage plans kicks in, raising costs another few percentage points. President Obama’s promise during an interview with AARP in July 2009 that, “If you are happy with the health care you’ve got, then keep it” should become the signature punch line for late-night comedians.

Enriching D.C. firms: An army of lobbyists has made millions hounding Washington lawmakers, and the lobbying continues. In 2009 and 2010, 1,251 organizations reported that they had employed lobbyists for and against various provisions of Obamacare, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Violating federalism: More than half of the states are in open rebellion, with many refusing to create federally mandated state exchanges and 27 states (the 26 plus Virginia in another case) are suing the federal government.

Unilaterally ignoring part of a law:In October, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius scrapped the long-term care program known as the CLASS Act, which the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy had championed as a cost-saving measure while conservatives claimed that it would break the bank. The Obama administration finally found CLASS’ budget-busting reality too much to ignore. Conservatives cheered.

But wait. How can the administration toss aside a provision in a law passed by Congress and signed by the president? The White House does not have authority to order a do-over. Just because conservatives rightly oppose this boondoggle does not mean its demise came through a constitutionally sound remedy.

Picking winners and losers: More than 1,000 waivers were issued, exempting groups from a rule prohibiting them from offering maximum payouts to individuals of less than $750,000. The waivers were all over the place, going to the Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday restaurant chains, the Chickasaw Nation, Aspen Snowmass, the Maharishi University of Management, the Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and big insurers such as Aetna. As the Daily Caller reported, 38 out of 204 waivers granted in April went to restaurants, nightclubs and hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district.

Dozens went to unions that heavily supported Mr. Obama’s election campaign. The largest was snagged by the American Federation of Teachers, with 351,000 members covered. Waivers also went to the Teamsters, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Communications Workers of America, the Laborers’ Union and United Food and Commercial Workers.

After a wave of public criticism, the waiver program was halted, with no new applicants or extension requests accepted after Sept. 22. “Millions of Americans are now in plans that cannot impose annual limits below $750,000, and that limit will increase in the coming years until 2014 when no annual dollar limits will be permitted for non-grandfathered plans,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Translation: If you’re not in by now, you’re out of luck.

Killing jobs: Fearing higher mandated costs, many companies are laying off employees or delaying new hiring. Shortly after Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010, firms such as Caterpillar, John Deere and AT&T announced that it would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, which would lead to layoffs. Back in February, testifying before the House Budget Committee, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf conservatively estimated that Obamacare could cost 800,000 jobs over the next decade.

It’s already doing so, and here’s an example: More than 700,000 Americans have hip or knee replacements each year, and as baby boomers age, the numbers are likely to rise. Michigan-based Stryker Corp. makes many of those devices, but thanks to a tax provision tucked into Obamacare, Stryker faces nearly $100 million in new costs starting in 2013. So the company has announced it will begin laying off 1,000 employees. In rust-belt Michigan, that’s a very unhealthy development.

In March, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, sponsored the Health Care Waiver Fairness Act (H.R. 984), which basically would exempt every American from Obamacare, but it hasn’t made it out of committee. Back in January, the full House passed the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R. 2) sponsored by Majority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, which would have nullified Obamacare. It was euthanized on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s operating table.

While we all wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in, Obamacare is lurching across the nation’s health care system like Frankenstein’s monster, leaving destruction in its wake. It’s not just the costs, but the top-down concept. Obamacare effectively turns free citizens into dependents of an overweening government.

Let’s hope and pray the court sends Obamacare into cardiac arrest so America’s economy – and promise of individual liberty – can get into the recovery room.

Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

Another Part of Obamacare Increases Premiums

Another Part of Obamacare Increases Premiums.

Even without Obamacare, the United States faces rising health care costs and an economy struggling to recover from the recent downturn. Despite its supporters’ promises, the health care law does not solve these problems. A study released today by the National Federation of Independent Business highlights the impact of Obamacare’s new health insurance tax alone on Americans’ health care costs and the health of the economy.

Obamacare institutes a premium tax on health insurers that offer full coverage beginning in 2014. Before it became law, Heritage expert Edmund Haislmaier wrote that such a tax would increase health care costs, increase taxes, create new inequities, be disingenuous, create perverse incentives, distort the market, and expand federal power.

In a recent study by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman showed that this tax will increase insurance premiums by, on average, 1.9 to 2.3 percent in 2014. The impact will grow with time, reaching 2.8 to 3.7 percent by 2023. Like the nominal premium increases occurring due to already-enacted parts of Obamacare, these may sound insignificant on their own. But the cumulative impact—in conjunction with cost increases that would have occurred anyhow—will be much higher premiums for families and individuals: “For small group coverage, this will on average increase the cost to cover an individual by about $2,800, and a family by about $6,800 over a ten-year period, beginning in 2014.”

The NFIB study released today shows the effect that premium hikes will have on employment and job creation. As NFIB researcher Michael Chow explains, “For a small business owner who does not self-insure, this increase in premiums will be borne by both the employer and the employee, each of whom contributes toward financing the insurance.” The report shows that the new tax will reduce private sector employment in 2021 by anywhere between 125,000 and 249,000 jobs.

Of the jobs losses, 59 percent will come from small firms with fewer than 500 employees, and 25 percent will come from the smallest firms with fewer than 20 employees. The tax will also reduce real gross domestic product by $18–26 billion in 2021.

The main purpose of the health insurance premium tax is to raise federal revenue to pay for the costly parts of Obamacare, including its expansion of Medicaid and creation of new federal subsidies. The tax is projected to collect $90 billion in new revenue through 2020. But, as Haislmaier warns, “This insurance premium tax would create a new, permanent federal tax that could, and likely would, be increased by Congress in future years as the growth in new government spending in the legislation outstrips the growth of revenues to fund that spending.”

The health insurance premium tax isn’t the only provision of the health care law that hurts the economy. All told, Obamacare’s job-killing provisions will tax job creators, reduce investment, and cause the most harm to low-income workers. According to Heritage economists, “The best way to prevent further erosion of the economy is to repeal the new law.”

Alyene Senger contributed to this post.

WOLF: Hey loser, get a job or else – Washington Times

WOLF: Hey loser, get a job or else – Washington Times.

If Obamacare prevails, then what’s to prevent Obamajobs?

By Dr. Milton R. Wolf

Liberals assure us that we need not fear the Obamacare individual mandate. It’s simply a way to ensure that individuals behave responsibly, they say. Fine, if it’s such a great idea, then let’s mandate that every individual be responsible and get a job. Unemployment problem solved.

At the core of every policy decision is a fundamental question: Can Americans be trusted to be free? We like the word freedom, but we use it so loosely and even in such contradictory ways that it risks losing its meaning.

Liberals say that man is not free until he is free from want and so the government must guarantee his comforts – everything from housing to health care, cellphones to sustenance. But this notion inherently contradicts itself. For the government to provide for all wants, or even just the important ones – and our leaders know the difference – they must plunder the property of other would-be free Americans. Worse yet, by attaching strings to every giveaway, they plunder the liberty of those on whom they lavish their largess. This notion of freedom destroys freedom. So a better definition must exist.

Freedom is man’s power to exercise his own faculties as he chooses as long as he prohibits no other man from doing the same. Law exists to ensure that no man takes another man’s life – other than in self-defense – or deprives him of his liberty or property. If it is wrong for one man to plunder, then surely it is equally wrong for a group of 20 men to plunder. And if it’s wrong for 20 men to plunder, then it’s equally wrong for 100 million men to plunder – even if they have codified it into law.

Consider, then, the Obamacare individual mandate. It is perhaps the most egregious use of government force in our lifetime, if not our nation’s history. It makes a mockery of American freedom. You cannot be trusted to determine your own health insurance needs, your governing betters declare, so they will take that liberty from you, as well as a good measure of your property. As government-run health care continues its inexorable decay, many of you will ultimately pay with your lives.

President Obama to his credit, you may recall, actually campaigned against the abomination that is the individual mandate. “I mean, if a mandate was the solution,” declared Mr. Obama as a candidate in 2008, “we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.” Yet once ensconced in power, he could not resist that intoxicating compulsion to demand his subjects’ obedience, to bend men’s wills like a potter molds clay.

Where must rulers like this go to find their solace? Surrounding themselves with mere mortals as we who cannot be trusted to choose health insurance, light bulbs or even lemonade vendors without government intervention, it must be enormously burdensome to be in sole possession of the enlightenment to guide each man’s destiny. Is there a mountaintop high enough? A gilded castle large enough? The irony, of course – and I wonder if he realizes it – is that these same people whose decisions Mr. Obama so distrusts are the very ones who decided to make him into a president.

In his brilliant satire, Dr. Paul Hsieh, the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, an advocacy group for free-market health care reform, suggests that the same heavy-handed principles of Obamacare be applied to Mr. Obama’s new jobs program (“Let’s Model ObamaJobs After ObamaCare!” Pajamas Media, Sept. 7). Impose a “hiring mandate.” Impose fines on companies that don’t provide jobs. Implement price controls. Institute more public-private partnership. In short, let the government take over.

Dr. Hsieh, a diagnostic radiologist, understands that government health care is about government, not health care. So, too, is the president’s government jobs program.

“My singular focus is the American people. Getting the unemployed back on the job, lifting their wages,” declared Mr. Obama on the 961st day of his presidency. Rather than embracing American freedom, however, this president feels free to micromanage your company. He knows better than you whom you should hire. How else can you explain his proposed tax credits for companies that hire the people of his choosing? Nice token.

Meanwhile, sitting in the gallery as an honored guest of the president was the crony corporatist Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric Co.’s chief executive officer, whose well-connected company earned $14.2 billion in profits last year but legally paid nothing in taxes – zip, zilch, zero – as in the total number of jobs Mr. Obama’s America created last month. Mr. Immelt must have had a good laugh at the bread crumbs this president was offering the common folk.

Once again, our government is poised to bribe Americans – with their own confiscated money – to do their rulers’ bidding. This isn’t Mr. Obama’s invention, of course, or even a phenomenon limited to Democrats. Republicans, too, have perpetrated their own carrot-and-stick attempts to manipulate would-be-free Americans’ behavior. We may be sympathetic to the rulers’ stated goals and even be the recipients of their rewards, but something of liberty dies with each attempt to coerce a free man, especially when it comes with false promises of prosperity, be they jobs or health care.

American sovereignty must reside in its people, not its government, lest we violate that radical 18th-century, self-evident idea that all men are created equal. Otherwise, we surrender our freedom to enlightened poseurs whose ideas are anathema to liberty and common sense.

I mean, if a mandate is the solution for health care, why not solve unemployment by mandating everybody get a job? You’ve got to be firm with these people. Right, Mr. President?

Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a cousin of President Obama‘s. He blogs at MiltonWolf.com.

BACON: Good intentions bring terrible results – Washington Times

BACON: Good intentions bring terrible results – Washington Times.

What’s holding back black Americans? Government, not discrimination

By James A. Bacon- The Washington Times

After nearly a half-century of government-led exertion to lift black Americans out of poverty, how are they far- ing? New data and research tell the story. According to census data, 26 percent of blacks, compared with 10 percent of whites, lived in poverty in 2009. The unemployment rate for blacks is 16.7 percent, more than twice the rate for whites. And a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project finds that black men in the middle class are 37 percent more likely than white men to tumble down into the bottom 30 percent of income earners.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute concludes that wealth destruction suffered by Americans during the Great Recession hurt blacks more than others. According to “The State of Working America’s Wealth,” the median net worth of black households slid to $2,200, compared with the median net worth of whites at $97,900. Forty percent of black households had zero or negative net worth.

Liberals, race hustlers and others committed to the idea that America is an unjust society in need of remediation have a ready explanation: Blacks continue to suffer discrimination. Racism may be more subtle than when Bull Connor unleashed the dogs upon civil rights marchers, they say, but it is still pervasive and damaging. Yet that narrative is getting harder and harder to maintain. Indeed, it is dawning upon many that blacks remain mired in poverty precisely because their political leaders have looked to government for salvation. And government – far from rescuing blacks from poverty – has kept them trapped in it.

Uncle Sam still transfers hundreds of billions of dollars yearly to the poor and downtrodden in the form of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance program, nutritional assistance (food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, fuel assistance and a host of narrow-bore programs aimed at ameliorating the hardships of poverty. Social scientists have long warned of the corrosive effect of welfare upon black Americans’ family structure, self-reliance and initiative. If that’s where government “help” ended, the condition of blacks today might not be so dire.

One reason blacks suffered such devastating financial losses in recent years is that much of their net worth was tied up in real estate. When the housing market imploded and equity values collapsed, much of their net worth evaporated. While people of all races experienced equity losses, black homeowners suffered more than others. A 2010 study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that among recent borrowers, 8 percent of blacks and Hispanics, compared with 4.5 percent of whites, had lost their homes to foreclosures. (Of course, the foreclosure crisis is far from over – those percentages have climbed higher since.)

While the causes of the housing bubble are complex – low interest rates, financial innovations on Wall Street and a general decline in lending standards fed the frenzy – government policy played a supporting role. Under a bipartisan banner of promoting homeownership, government agencies encouraged subprime lending to households that had no business having mortgages. Then, after the crash, Obama administration policy prolonged the financial agonies of homeowners facing foreclosure through a mortgage-modification program that spared some homeowners but caused others to deplete their savings by making payments they couldn’t afford.

The latest canard is the notion that everyone should be entitled to a college education. President Obama has ramped up loans and grants for college students to unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, no one seems to be checking how many are graduating. Many Americans, including blacks in disproportionate numbers, are not academically prepared for college and never make it through. The result is a silent college dropout crisis. States a recent study from the American Institutes for Research: “Much of the cost of dropping out is borne by individual students, who may have accumulated large debts in their unsuccessful pursuit of a career.”

In tacit acknowledgment that there is a big problem, the Obama administration is targeting for-profit colleges, where tuition costs and defaults tend to run higher, for criticism. But the underlying premise, that government should help pay for anyone to get a college education, is as flawed as the premise that everyone should own a house. The result of good intentions gone awry is a generation of college dropouts living in modern-day indentured servitude.

The do-gooders have all the best of intentions, of course. They just don’t pay attention to results. In the name of compassion, they keep blacks hooked on initiative-sapping welfare dependency. In the name of building the American dream, they promote homeownership for people who lack the financial wherewithal to keep up payments. In the name of equal opportunity, they dispense college loans to people who will never graduate. Lord, deliver us from those who would save us.

James A. Bacon is the author of “Boomergeddon” and publisher of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog at baconsrebellion.com.

GHEI: Obamacare, a death panel for jobs – Washington Times

GHEI: Obamacare, a death panel for jobs – Washington Times.

Government health care takeover imperils economic recovery

By THE WASHINGTON TIMES and Nita Ghei

Rep. Nancy Pelosionce said we’d have to wait until the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed before we’d know what was in it. The San Francisco Democrat was right. Only now is it becoming apparent just how much the Obamacare law is oppressing small business, the engine of job growth in this country.

The situation is growing worse. The unemployment rate is 9.2 percent – and rising – while consumer confidence sits at its lowest level in seven months. A recent Heritage Foundation analysis found that the recovery began to stall shortly after Obamacare’s enactment. In August 2010, unemployment was supposed to fall to 8 percent by the end of 2011. At the time, that was a reasonable prediction given that the economy had added almost 230,000 jobs in April 2010. Obamacare was signed into law that month, but it took more time for businesses to absorb its impact – and the economic slowdown has been measurable.

Through 2010, the gross domestic product grew at a clip of 2.9 percent. In the first quarter of this year, that figure dropped to 1.9 percent. In the second, it crawled at 1.5 percent. Last year’s vain hopes of a “recovery summer” have given way to the present bummer summer. It’s not going to get any better until the job market improves, but employers aren’t interested in hiring because they just don’t know what’s going to happen when Obamacare’s regulations kick in. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey determined that almost 40 percent of small businesses named the health care bill among the top five challenges they faced.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses asked companies employing fewer than 50 people what they expected. While none of these businesses plan on dropping health insurance for their employees, one in eight employers have found the plans they used to offer their workers terminated or they have been told the plans will go away in the future. This means either the employer will have to find a plan that is more expensive – making each additional hire more costly – or letting their employees find insurance on the taxpayer-subsidized exchanges Obamacare will establish. In either case, that means costs go up.

Obamacare thwarts potential hiring in three ways, as the Heritage study points out. The law excludes firms with fewer than 50 employees from its mandates, so companies aren’t going to expand and hire if it means exceeding that cap. Companies that employ more than 50 workers already will see their costs rise as they must provide insurance that meets the government-defined minimum requirements or pay a penalty. The biggest problem of all, of course, is the uncertainty Obamacare creates.

Employers still have no clear idea what plans and what coverage will pass muster under the law and what won’t. They don’t know how much it will cost, making long-term planning difficult. The combination of almost-certain labor cost increases and a murky regulatory environment is a recipe for a stagnant economy. We’re already starting to feel the side effects of the Obamacare prescription for a disease we never had.

Nita Ghei is a contributing Opinion writer for The Washington Times.

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