EDITORIAL: Blowing smoke over global warming – Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Blowing smoke over global warming – Washington Times.

Legend has it that Washington was built on a swamp, and its sweltering summers add credence to the story. Lately, global warming adherents have been capitalizing on the city’s sultry weather to advance their belief that the use of fossil fuels is responsible for rising temperatures baking the planet. Beware of warmists who point to localized summer heat as proof of climate change across the entire world: They’re only making hay while the sun shines.

Eco-ideologist Al Gore posted an account on his blog Friday of a US Airways passenger jet becoming stuck at Reagan National Airport when its tires sank into the heat-softened tarmac while waiting to take off. Temperatures reached 100 degrees at the airport on July 6 when the incident occurred. A passenger with a phone camera posted a photo of the trapped plane, which Mr. Gore used to bolster his argument that carbon dioxide — the gas essential for all plant and animal life — is capturing the sun’s heat and threatening the global ecosystem.

Relying on anecdotes of hot summer temperatures as evidence of global warming can be treacherous. The scorching heat in the eastern United States grabbed the headlines during the last week of June, but few noticed that on June 27, 116 cities from Montana to Florida measured record low temperatures. Orlando International Airport, for example, saw an overnight low of 64 degrees, shattering the previous record of 66 set in 1920. As sticky as June proved to be, it didn’t match the record set in 1933 when atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration was less than it is today.

It’s easy to forget that at 3.8 million square miles, the United States comprises less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Sizzling thermometer readings here don’t indicate temperature patterns elsewhere. Sweden’s Meteorological and Hydrological Institute recently reported that Swedes shivered through their chilliest June since weather statistics were first recorded in 1786, with an average daytime high of 56 degrees — three degrees below normal. At about the same distance from Washington as Stockholm, Anchorage, Alaska, hasn’t once seen the temperature rise to its normal average of 65 for this month, and is on pace to set a record low average temperature for July.

The severe thunderstorm that knocked out power to millions along the East Coast two weeks ago has provided fodder for policymakers like Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to push their anti-industrial agenda. On July 11, Mr. O’Malley said, “A grid that was resilient for the weather of [the past] is not resilient enough to withstand violent storms that climate change and global warming in our atmosphere are causing today,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would take issue with the governor’s assertion. The body published a special report in March admitting long-term weather trends “have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.”

Complaining about the weather is human nature, but those looking for someone to blame for summer heat should tell it to Mother Nature.

The Washington Times

CBO report shows Obamacare’s ballooning costs | Campaign 2012 | Washington Examiner

CBO report shows Obamacare’s ballooning costs | Campaign 2012 | Washington Examiner.

byPhilip Klein Senior Editorial Writer

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office provides us with fresh insight into how much worse President Obama’s national health care law made our nation’s spending crisis.

When Democrats were reverse-engineering the health care law to meet Obama’s pledge that it would cost “around $900 billion,” one of the accounting tricks they used was to delay the enactment of the major spending provisions until 2014, to make the legislation appear cheaper over the CBO’s 10-year budget window (which at the time ran from 2010 through 2019). Today, the CBO released its updated budget and economic outlook that includes three additional years. Though the report doesn’t isolate the cost of Obamacare, it contains countless examples of how the law will put pressure on the budget.

As demonstrated by this chart, overall, spending on federal health care programs will more than double, from $847 billion, or 5.5 percent of GDP, in 2012, to $1.8 trillion, or 7.3 percent of GDP, by 2022. Notice the spike starting in 2014, when Obamacare’s major spending provisions are scheduled to take effect.

It’s true that a combination of health care inflation and the retirement of baby boomers would have driven up spending over the next decade no matter what. But Obamacare (formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) still made things worse.

Some highlights from the CBO:

— Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility will make the program far more costly: “Spending for the program will climb again in 2013 and will shoot up rapidly in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act. By 2022, under current law, federal outlays for Medicaid are expected to total $605 billion, more than twice the 2012 amount; spending will equal about 2.5 percent of GDP, compared with 1.7 percent this year.”

— Obamacare’s insurance exchanges and additional provisions will drive up the costs of other health care programs: “In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government operates other programs through which it subsidizes the provision of health care…Provisions in the Affordable Care Act will significantly increase the scope and scale of such benefits in the coming decade. In CBO’s baseline projections, federal spending for mandatory health care programs other than Medicare and Medicaid rises from $26 billion this year to $161 billion in 2022.” In the decade from 2013 to 2022, the cost of the exchanges alone will total $645 billion.

—   Obamacare will help make the Medicare prescription drug benefit more expensive: “(F)ederal spending per beneficiary for Part D will double, largely because of a combination of rising drug costs and the more generous benefits enacted in the Affordable Care Act.”

— The CLASS Act, which was responsible for half of the deficit reduction in Obamacare at the time of passage, will no longer produce revenue because it was suspended: “In its August 2011 baseline projections, the agency anticipated that the CLASS program would begin collecting premiums in fiscal year 2012 and that net receipts from the program between 2012 and 2021 would total $76 billion. In the absence of that program, the government will not receive that income.”

Defenders of Obamacare’s finances will argue that the legislation ends up reducing the deficit due to a combination of Medicare cuts and tax increases Yet as I noted last week, even if those policies go into effect as planned, nearly all the money raised will be used to pay for the new Obamacare entitlements rather than deficit reduction. Today’s CBO report reinforces the fact that Obamacare dramatically drives up spending and adds to our long-term debt obligations.

Another unpleasant surprise from Obamacare | Diana Furchtgott-Roth | Columnists | Washington Examiner

Another unpleasant surprise from Obamacare | Diana Furchtgott-Roth | Columnists | Washington Examiner.

Whatever the disadvantages of the new health care law, Obamacare proponents appeared to be on solid ground when they said that it would extend affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. No longer.At yesterday’s hearing of the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Cornell University economics professor Richard Burkhauser showed that in 2014, millions of low-income Americans may be unable to get subsidized health insurance through the new health care exchanges.

It’s true that under Obamacare, firms with more than 49 workers have to offer affordable health insurance coverage to full-time employees or pay a penalty. But the coverage only has to be for an individual policy, not a family policy.

And what most people don’t know is that if a worker receives coverage for a single person from his employer, his family will not be able to get subsidized health insurance coverage under the exchange.

This is because, if one member of a family receives employer-sponsored health insurance, other members of the family cannot receive subsidized coverage under the exchange.

Other family members would have to purchase full-price health insurance, which would be prohibitively expensive for those at low incomes, those who are supposed to be protected.

Burkhauser testified that, for a four-person family at 133 percent of the poverty line earning $28,000, purchasing a family health insurance plan would cost 43 percent of family income, without government subsidies.

If that family earned $53,000, reaching 250 percent of the poverty line, the plan would cost 23 percent of their income.

About 13 million dependents of workers with single coverage would potentially be affected, according to Burkhauser. That’s 26 percent of the estimated 50 million uninsured workers.

This perverse incentive has a number of consequences, none of them foreseen by Obamacare architects.

Workers with families will prefer to work for firms that do not offer health insurance. In that way, they can qualify to purchase family coverage through the exchange, using government subsidies. For a family at 133 percent of the poverty line, premiums will be capped at 2 percent of income.

If the firm does offer health insurance, the worker with dependents will prefer that the coverage is unaffordable. That’s not a typo — if the coverage is unaffordable, then the employee will be able to buy health insurance for his family on the exchange.

A firm that offers unaffordable coverage will have to pay a penalty of $3,000 per worker. But workers would prefer to receive a lower salary, have the employer pay the $3,000 penalty, and be able to buy subsidized health insurance on the exchange.

This causes substantial disincentives to marriage. Say that Jeff, who receives health insurance from his employer, wants to marry Jane, who is buying her health insurance from the exchange. If they married, then Jane would no longer be able to buy subsidized coverage from the exchange.

Or, take Sally and Steve, married with two children, earning below 400 percent of the poverty line (about $90,000 for a family of four). Sally is a stay-at-home mom.

Come 2014, Steve’s employer will only be required to provide affordable coverage for him. If they were to get divorced, Sally could buy subsidized family coverage through the exchange.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2019 another 3 million people will be covered by the health exchanges because of employers dropping coverage.

But with employer affordable health coverage only applying to singles, this number will be far greater, resulting in higher costs for the new law and higher federal budget deficits.

Yes, health care will be affordable for low-income Americans — but only if they’re unmarried.

Examiner Columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth (dfr@manhattan-institute.org), former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Obamacare will put patients’ records at risk | Examiner Editorial | Opinion | Washington Examiner

Obamacare will put patients’ records at risk | Examiner Editorial | Opinion | Washington Examiner.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t kidding a few years ago when she said Congress had to pass Obamacare so the rest of the country could discover what was in it. Ever since then a steady stream of bad news has emerged as people pored over the 2,700 pages of Obamacare legalese. Just last week Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., found a new shocker that ought to be especially worrisome to anybody who cares about protecting the privacy of their medical records. As part of its implementation of Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new federal regulation to require private health insurance companies to give the government all of the health records of every person they insure. The rule is shrouded in the usual bureaucratese, but, as Huelskamp pointed out in a Washington Examiner op-ed, “abstract terms are used to distract from the real objectives of this idea: no matter which ‘option’ is chosen, government bureaucrats would have access to the health records of every American — including you.”HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims the government must have the records in order to evaluate the performance of health insurers. Aside from the absurdity of having federal health bureaucrats judge the job performance of anybody else, the proposal raises a gigantic red flag: Federal and state governments have proven repeatedly in recent years that they are all but incapable of fully protecting sensitive records of individuals.

Remember this headline, “Personal info of 26.5 million veterans lost?” It happened in 2006 when a federal data analyst took a computer disc home containing the Social Security numbers of the veterans. It was lost when the bureaucrat’s home was burglarized. Or how about the incident in 2007 when a disk containing the Medicaid records for 2.9 million Georgians disappeared? In 2009, it was Medicaid claims data for 68,000 Californians. Last year, the Medicaid records of more than 280,000 Pennsylvanians were compromised when a couple of flash drives went missing.

No matter how strenuously and often President Obama and Sebelius promise things will be different when the Washington bureaucracy gets its hands on your health records, it’s impossible to think there won’t be similar episodes in the future. The difference will be the magnitude of people affected and the inability of the victims to do anything about it. As Huelskamp observed, “What happens to the federal government if it loses a laptop full of patient data or business information? What recourse do individual citizens have against an inept bureaucrat who leaves the computer unlocked? Imagine a WikiLeaks-size disclosure of every American’s health histories. The results could be devastating, embarrassing — even Orwellian.”

The Kansas congressman wants Congress to withdraw funding for the proposed regulation. That certainly should be done as soon as possible, but the more important point is this: There would be no need for such incremental defunding actions if Obamacare were no longer on the books.