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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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Friday
Apr042014

National Center's Hogberg Analyzes ObamaCare Enrollment on Fox Business

While the Obama Administration and its supporters crow about the 7.1 million enrollment numbers for ObamaCare, the National Center’s Dr. David Hogberg could not figure how things logically add up as he went over the numbers with Fox Business Network managing editor and lead anchor Neil Cavuto.

Wondering “at what cost” these enrollment numbers were obtained, David and Cavuto discussed how ObamaCare has not substantially reduced the number of uninsured (two-thirds of enrollees were previously covered elsewhere, leaving only about 1.2 million net new paying enrollees) and how many still must pay for the plans they selected on the exchanges.

David suggested that ObamaCare is more about “political control” as it appears to seek to create a new middle-class entitlement.

This conversation appeared on the 4/3/14 edition of the “Cavuto” program.

Thursday
Apr032014

Have a Koch and a Smile

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We need more Charles Kochs.

Rather than vilifying him, we should be encouraging more Americans of means to follow his example.

Regardless of your politics, regardless of whether you agree with his methods, you ought to agree with Mr. Koch's objective of leaving America in a better state than he found it.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Mr. Koch defends himself (finally!) from the big-government left's slander of him and explains why he decided to engage in the political process.

It is definitely worth a read.

In case you've been living under a rock and missed it, the left decided that attacking Mr. Koch and his brother David makes for a better campaign strategy than trumpeting its successes with health care, the economy, U.S.-Russian relations, Iran and Syria.

Senator Harry Reid recently took to the Senate floor to call the Kochs "un-American" and accused them of trying to buy the elections. How were they doing this? Well, by having the chutzpah to participate in political campaigns like everyone else.

We should probably cut Reid a bit of slack for the comments. He's apparently more familiar with the rental market.

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Mr. Koch does a great job in his column knocking down many of the left's attacks on him.

He demolishes the oft-repeated claim that he's one of the nation's worst polluters, noting that since 2009 alone, his company has earned "over 700 awards for environmental, health and safety excellence... many of them from the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration."

He also effectively rebuts the claim that he's involved in the political process so that he can influence federal policy to his financial benefit. He notes, for example, that despite the fact the Koch benefits from the ethanol mandate, he favors its repeal because it drives up food and energy prices and hurts consumers.

What Mr. Koch doesn't mention in his article, but which I think is important, is that he and his family are engaged in very many philanthropic and charitable activities unrelated to his political activities.

The Koch foundations provide millions upon millions of dollars, for example, to colleges and universities - some 300 of them!

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The left has created a caricature of Mr. Koch that is designed to vilify him, discredit him and, yes, even incite violent action against him. That's a tactic used by despots, not true democrats.

Mr. Koch is repaying the America that has been so good to him by spending his own wealth to ensure that future generations have the same freedoms and same economic opportunities that he did.

For this, he deserves our gratitude, not our condemnation.

We have a Koch... two, actually... Now where's that smile?

Note: Mr. Koch does not underwrite our work nor do we have any expectation he ever will.

Thursday
Apr032014

Rush Limbaugh, Drudge Report Cover David Hogberg's ObamaCare Reports

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Congratulations to the National Center's David Hogberg, whose work uncovering various pitfalls of ObamaCare has been read on the air twice by Rush Limbaugh and cited on the Drudge Report during the past week.

On Tuesday, Drudge linked to David Hogberg's new paper putting the lie to President Obama's claim that "more than 3 million young adults... have gained insurance under [ObamaCare] by staying on their family's plan."

Using data from the Census Bureau, David found strikingly different numbers than those reported by the President: only 258,000 young adults may have gained coverage due to the so-called "slacker mandate."

Rush spent about 8 minutes discussing this on his show Wednesday.

On Friday, Rush discussed another part of David's research, the ObamaCare signup deadlines and related issues.

For fans of Rush and/or David, here are Dittocam captures and transcripts, with links to the original reports.

April 2, 2014 Rush Limbaugh broadcast (transcript here; David Hogberg's original report here):

March 28, 2014 Rush Limbaugh broadcast (transcript here; David Hogberg's original report here):

Rush and Drudge aren't the only media covering David's work. In addition to numerous newspaper, magazine and Internet media citations, David has been a guest on a radio talk show 54 times during the first 90 days of this year.

Wednesday
Apr022014

Health Care Odds & Ends: Bogus Numbers Addition

1. No, 3.1 Million Slackers Did Not Get Insurance Via Their Parents.  I have a new National Policy Analysis up today examining the claim that 3.1 million previously uninsured young adults have gotten covered through their parents’ insurance thanks to Obamacare’s requirement that insurers extend coverage for dependent children up to age 26—also known as the “slacker mandate.”  Suffice to say, the number doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  Further, looking at Census Bureau data yields a very different result:

The Census Bureau shows that from 2009, the year before the slacker mandate began, to 2012, the number of uninsured 18-24-year-olds declined by about 976,000. But not all of those went onto their parents’ insurance. For that age group, Medicaid enrollment grew 271,000 and employer-based coverage increased 447,000 during that same period. That would mean that those newly insured by joining their parents’ coverage were at most 258,000. 

You can also view it as an article at the American Spectator.

2. About That 7.1 Million… President Obama and his supporters are taking their victory lap.  But the good news will be short lived.  First off, we still don’t know how many people haven’t paid their first premium.  If they never do, they won’t be enrolled.  If that’s close to 20 percent, as the New York Times suggests, then the true enrollment number will be closer to 5.6 million.  At this point I’m betting slightly that the number may even be worse that that, since the Obama Administration tries hard not to release data that reflects poorly on ObamaCare and since the administration has shown no inclination to release data on how many have paid their premiums ever.

Second, we still don’t know how many people were previously uninsured before going on the exchange. Apparently the RAND corporation says it is about one-third, which would mean just under 2.4 million are now newly insured.  However, even that number may be large, as other data has shown that those who were previously uninsured have a lower rate of paying their first premium on the exchange than those who were previously insured (see here).  What we do know at this point is that the exchanges do not appear likely to become a powerful force for reducing the rate of the uninsured.  Remember, the Congressional Budget Office most recently said that the exchanges would reduce the uninsured by 6 million.  At present, the exchanges will be lucky to reach a third of that goal.  

3. How ObamaCare Killed Her Dad.  Finally, don’t miss Jeffrey Lord’s recent article in the American Spectator showing how a change in Medicare’s rules under ObamaCare resulted in the death of Amy DiFrancesca’s dad.  Note:  The piece is long, but it’s worth it.

Wednesday
Apr022014

Project 21's Cooper Cheers Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Ruling

In today’s decision in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an aggregate limit on the amount of money a person may contribute to political candidates and committees is unconstitutional.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the federal limits on such contributions — which caps donations at $123,200 over a two year period — “den[ies] the individual all ability to exercise his expressive and associational rights by contributing to someone who will advocate for his policy preferences.”  Such a limit, Roberts added, effectively violates First Amendment rights by forcing a person to pick and choose whom they can support with their campaign donations.

The Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC is being cheered by Horace Cooper, the co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.  Cooper, a former professor of constitutional law, said:

Today’s ruling is another victory for free speech in America.

Restricting the ability of Americans to contribute to the candidates of their choice is not only bad public policy, it’s unconstitutional.

Wednesday
Apr022014

If ObamaCare is Working So Well, Mr. President, Why Has the Percentage of Uninsured Risen?

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Source: "Can Anyone Tell How ObamaCare is Doing?," by Greg Scandlen, The Federalist, March 31, 2014. Survey data is from Gallup.

Tuesday
Apr012014

On ObamaCare I Admit It: Paul Krugman Was Right, I Was Wrong

As the Obamacare exchanges have reached 7 million enrollees, it’s time for me to confess: so much of what I’ve written about ObamaCare is wrong.  So much of it was a futile, misguided attempt to refute the true ObamaCare guru, Nobel laureate Paul Krugmam.

Krugman got so much right in just these two paragraphs:

Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass.

Now that ObamaCare is, indeed, working, I admit to my anxiety and despair. My conservative ideology has been refuted.  As I now see the light, I will no longer be working to head ObamaCare “off at the pass.”

Although this post wasn’t about ObamaCare, Krugman still nails it:

…bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions.Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.

Alas, I am a shill for those oligarchs.  But no more!  I will today be sending the Koch brothers my letter of resignation.  I hope Paul will be pleased.

Finally, Krugman properly quotes Charles Gaba about the 7 million enrollees: “For the moment, however, none of [the objections] matters. This is an outstanding number any way you slice it.”

So, I will celebrate today, not only because the ObamaCare exchanges have reached 7 million enrollees, but because I am now officially a disciple of Krugman

And before you grind your teeth too hard, be sure to look at the calendar.

Tuesday
Apr012014

Ballot Protection Law in North Carolina Increases Minority, Liberal Voter Registration

When states consider and implement voter ID laws, the usual complaint from the left is that requiring someone to have valid government-issued proof of identification disfranchises minorities, the old and young as well as those who are generally thought to support liberal candidates and causes.

If such allegations are to be believed, it now must be noted that lawmakers in the North Carolina state legislature did a pretty poor job of trying to suppress the vote in the Tar Heel State.

According to statistics culled from the North Carolina Board of Elections and reported by the non-partisan North Carolina Center for Voter Education, it’s exactly these allegedly aggrieved groups who are taking the most advantage of the new law’s offer of a free valid voter ID for those who need one.

In the first quarter of 2014 (with reporting ending on 3/20), 260 North Carolina voters made the trip to a Department of Motor Vehicles office and got an ID at no cost.  North Carolina’s voter ID requirement will not be enforced until 2016, but those showing up without proper proof of person at the polls this coming November will be warned about the requirements of the new law that will be in effect the next time they vote.

Of those who are now newly-armed with an ID and ready to vote, 62 percent are black.  Only three percent of these people are over 65, but 34 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29 (unlike with ObamaCare, they cannot vote on their parents’ identification).

Among the newly law-abiding registered voters who sought — and obtained — free state-issued ID, 31 percent classified themselves as independent voters.  Only 12 percent said they were Republican and two percent claimed to be Libertarian.  The largest group of partisan voters to receive ID that will allow them unfettered access to the polls in 2016 were self-declared Democrats.

And, of those who received a free ID, 87 percent were not previously registered to vote and used the same visit to register (meaning that likely less that 13 percent of the people were previously going to the polls without the benefit of ID).

So, after all the bluster, it would seem that the voter ID provisions in North Carolina are successfully helping those who were supposed to be rendered helpless by the law.  If the proponents of the alleged powerless wanted to continue this promising trend of making sure that every vote will count in 2016 and beyond, they’d spend less on lobbying against voter ID and focus more on providing the means for those who need it to get to the DMV and get their free ID.

The head of the state’s NAACP, for instance, recently hosted a major rally in the state capital of Raleigh that was, in part, to protest against North Carolina’s voter ID rules (yet the NAACP asked participants to bring their IDs).  Reverend William Barber’s “Moral Monday” protests are supposed to be a regular fixture in the leftist campaign against ballot box safeguards.

Imagine the progress that could be made if the resources on these negative events could be channeled into the positive change of getting valid ID for North Carolina residents who continue to lack such a basic tool of the modern world.  Think of the larger impact beyond just voting — such as travel and banking — that could be opened up to these people by working with the rules instead of against them.

Leaders of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are applauding this welcome news about how this voter ID law is benefiting the population of North Carolina.  In a deep southern state, they note, it’s good to see that the Obama Justice Department in particular is being shown to be off the mark on their wild claims of voter suppression.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, said:

A well-crafted voter ID law protects the sanctity of the ballot while encouraging participation in the electoral process.  The North Carolina law, according to state officials and non-partisan observers, appears to be doing just that service.

There will always be people on the fringes of society who will refuse to comply, but we cannot let those random elements be co-opted to open the door to fraud that robs law-abiding voters of their voice.

The Obama Administration, for instance, wants to suppress polling place protections by seemingly any means necessary.  But North Carolina’s progress is proof that Attorney General Eric Holder’s animus for voter protections statutes is wrong and the Justice Department’s procedures are counter-productive.

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper, a former congressional leadership staffer and former professor of constitutional law, is the author of “Victims of Voter Fraud: Poor and Disadvantaged are Most Likely to Have Their Vote Stolen,” which pointed out in 2012 that voter ID laws increase black voter turnout and safeguard everyone’s vote.  He added:

The evidence continues to show that voter ID laws do not prevent legitimate voters from having access to the ballot.  In fact, they operate like a welcome sign — providing encouragement to American voters that their votes will count and that they won’t be displaced by cheaters and frauds.

North Carolina, like many other states, shows a similar pattern of anti-fraud measures like voter ID that serve to increase voter participation and not decrease it.

photo credit: iStockPhoto

Tuesday
Apr012014

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Tells Four Lies in One Sentence, Washington Post Grades Two Pinocchios

Wasserman Schultz

"When 99 percent of women used birth control in their lifetime and 60 percent use it for something other than family planning, it's outrageous and I think the Supreme Court will suggest that their case is ridiculous." - Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on MSNBC's The Ed Show, March 25

Debbie Wasserman Schultz may have gotten two Pinocchios from Washington Post "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler Monday for that statement above, but she got off easy.

The 60 percent number is a big lie. The real number is 14 percent.

The 60 percent lie wasn't even the first lie of the sentence. 99 percent of all women do not use birth control in their lifetime. In fact, by age 44, only 86.8 percent of women have ever had vaginal intercourse, even once.

Wasserman Schultz's two lies were meant to support a third lie. It doesn't matter to the HHS contraception mandate debate how many women use "the pill" to regulate hormones or for some other medical purpose other than birth control, because the minute the pill is used for something other than birth control, it falls outside the contraception mandate. And since it falls outside the contraception mandate part of ObamaCare, it doesn't matter what happens to that particular mandate in the courts for those who simply want coverage for a drug to regulate hormones, or for some other necessary medical purpose.

Wasserman Schultz wanted the audience to believe a fourth lie. Wasserman Schultz wanted viewers to believe some people (religious conservatives, of course) are trying to block women's access to routine health care. But nobody is. Even the Catholic Church, which famously objects to artificial birth control, does not object to women taking the pill for non-birth control purposes, and does not object to insurance policies covering the pill for non-contraceptive reasons.

It strains credibility to think Wasserman Schultz is, after years of debate in this topic, unaware that the vast majority of women who take the pill use it for birth control. It is very unlikely she truly believes 99 percent of all women use birth control at some time in their lives (are the lesbians using it too, or doesn't Wasserman Schultz believe in the existence of lesbians? How about the devout Catholics? Women who like children? Women who marry late or never? Women who know they can't get pregnant? And so forth.). And Wasserman Schultz has to know that a drug prescribed for something other than birth control does not fall under a birth control regulation, and two minutes on Google would show her that the Catholic Church does not object to the pill, or insurance coverage for same, for non-birth control purposes.

Kessler's Pinocchios grading scale grades two Pinocchios for "significant omissions and/or exaggerations." Kessler said Wasserman Schultz's ten words ("60 percent use it for something other than family planning") qualified as such.

I say Wasserman Schultz should be graded on her entire sentence: four lies. A "whopper" - four Pinocchios.

Cross-posted on Newsbusters.
Monday
Mar312014

Why Should The Administration Put Out Propaganda About ObamaCare When The L.A. Times Will Do It For Them?

An article in yesterdays’ Los Angeles Times by Noam N. Levey states:

As the law’s initial enrollment period closes, at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage. Some have done so through marketplaces created by the law, some through other private insurance and others through Medicaid, which has expanded under the law in about half the states.

To get that 9.5 million figure, Mr. Levey includes about 2 million on the exchanges, 4.5 million on Medicaid, and 3 million young adults who can now stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, the so-called “slacker mandate.” Let’s start with enrollment in the exchanges:

• At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured.

• A February survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found 27% of new enrollees were previously uninsured, but newer survey data from the nonprofit Rand Corp. and reports from marketplace officials in several states suggest that share increased in March.

Um, 27% is not 33%.  That would mean the number of newly insured 1.6 million, not 2 million.  Furthermore, no where does the article acknowledge that the 6 million figure includes those who have not paid their premiums.  If those who don’t pay their premiums is as high as 20% as the New York Times suggests, then the number of newly insureds will decrease.

The Times then moves to Medicaid:

• At least 4.5 million previously uninsured adults have signed up for state Medicaid programs, according to Rand’s unpublished survey data, which were shared with The Times. That tracks with estimates from Avalere Health, a consulting firm that is closely following the law’s implementation.

It doesn’t track that closely with Avalere.  The latest data from Avalere shows that 2.4 million to 3.5 million people are newly insured under Medicaid due to the ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid.  That is, this does not include those who have signed up for Medicaid and would have qualified for Medicaid if the ObamaCare expansion had never occurred.

Further, even the Avalere data may be inaccurate, going either way.  As Avalere acknowledges:

This analysis compares activities from October through January to application rates from the summer of 2013. There is some evidence of seasonality in enrollment tends, and this analysis does not control for such fluctuations given data limitations.  

While Avalere takes steps to remove double counting, it is possible that some double counting is present as exchanges assess eligibility and then refer such cases to state agencies where determinations are made. In addition, in a limited number of cases, states have reported households as opposed to individual applicants, and this is not adjusted for.  

I don’t have access to the RAND data yet, so I have no way to know how accurate that data is.

The final part of the 9.5 million newly insured is the claim that “An additional 3 million young adults have gained coverage in recent years through a provision of the law that enables dependent children to remain on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26.”

I’m saving that for a longer piece I’m working on—for now, suffice to say it is bogus.

In summary, there are numerous caveats to the data presented in the article, but Mr. Levey mentions almost none of them.  As such, the article is more propaganda than objective reporting.

Sunday
Mar302014

Should Conservatives Choose HHS Mandate, Climate Change Postitions Based on What is Likely to Win the Most Votes?

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Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman claims in a column that the "Hobby Lobby lawsuit hurts conservatives."

His thesis is that voters may be turned off the GOP if Hobby Lobby successfully challenges a federal regulation that they pay for drugs and devices for women that can halt the development of a fertilized human egg.

Chapman writes:

If Hobby Lobby wins in the Supreme Court, conservatives will stand with business owners who regard contraception as forbidden by their faith and exclude it from the health insurance they provide employees. As that policy is embraced by other religious capitalists, it will convey to everyone that if you use birth control, you're at odds with Christianity and the Republican Party.
Chapman says, "getting your way does not always mean advancing your cause. Sometimes winning is a recipe for defeat."

Don't we have enough politicians in Washington and elsewhere who surrender their values to get one more vote, one extra donated dollar, one more bit of favorable publicity?

Why chide private business owners for not jumping into the cesspool with them?

Society is not suffering from a surfeit of ethics.

(And all this assumes, does it not, that the religious freedom position isn't more popular with the public than the pro-HHS mandate position, which says certain employers must provide birth control, early abortion and sterilization procedures for women without co-pays, but not for men? And that the female employees must take part of their compensation in uterus-related services, even if they'd rather have cash?

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Chapman's made this sort of politics-trumps-policy argument before. In 2011, he wrote that Republicans should promote a carbon tax to appease voters. Never mind that a carbon tax is regressive, hurting the poor disproportionately, and that it wouldn't do any good, because even if the human-caused catastrophic global warming theory turned out to be true, a U.S. carbon tax, even a steep one, wouldn't have a measurable impact on global warming.

Some businesses want a carbon tax because they think it will prevent politicians from doing something even more damaging, such as cap-and-trade. Politicians don't have even this argument. If they were to do what Chapman recommended -- hurt anyone not made of money for no perceptible gain just to get votes -- it would be wrong of them to do so.

Chapman isn't the only person ever to make the argument that in politics doing what is popular is more important than doing what is right.

He and the others might defend their position by saying that if you don't get elected, you can't ever do what is right.

Yes, but if you have sold your soul before you even get elected, what are the odds that you will?

(For more on Chapman's carbon tax column, see Joe Bast of the Heartland Institute's commentary, "'Rebutting Steve Chapman’s Column 'Republicans vs. the Environment.'")

Saturday
Mar292014

How Can Senator Patty Murray Be So Ignorant about a Law She Voted For?

Senator Murray on RFRA

For a U.S. Senator who makes laws for the rest of us, Senator Patty Murray was stunningly ignorant in an interview with one of MSNBC's resident feminists the other day, after being asked unbiasedly why she believes the HHS Mandate "should be left intact, for the women who need it."

Murray quickly showed she does not understand the mandate, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the way publicly-held corporations are run.

Susan Jones of CNSNews.com has the story (video at link):

"I've worked hard to make sure that women have access to the right kinds of health care, and it's their choice, not their employer's choice," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday.

"Sitting in that court today, it was stunning to me to recognize that nine people are going to make that decision -- and will decide for a long time to come -- whether women have to question when they go to work every day what the shareholders of that company's religious views could be."

...Murray said the "compelling" question for her is, "Should a private CEO of a corporation or their shareholders' religious rights trump the right of employees?"

If the court rules that private companies have the religious right to deny contraception, could that be extended to immunizations? Murray asked. "It really opens up a wide, wide range of issues that shareholders could decide about what they provide," she said.

"And secondly, the question really is: So do 51 percent of the shareholders get to vote that they don't provide contraceptive coverage? I mean, the thresholds are very interesting here, and it's going to be very difficult, I think, for this court to make those determinations on this case."

Read and learn, Senator Murray:

#1 "The right of employees" - Employees do not have a "right" to birth control coverage paid for by employers, not even under the HHS Mandate, which excludes all males from comparable birth control and sterilization coverage made available to women. If "rights" really were involved here, the HHS Mandate would be unconstitutional, because it excludes roughly half the population.

#2 "Could that be extended to immunizations?" Not likely, Senator Murray. Under 1993's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the federal government can restrict religious rights in any situation in which the federal government can demonstrate a compelling interest (which is likely to include immunizations), as long as it does so in the least restrictive way possible to meet its goals. That said, why don't you know this already? You voted FOR RFRA!

#3: "Do 51 percent of the shareholders get to vote that they don't provide contraceptive coverage?" No. Shareholders of publicly-held corporations have very little ability to make ordinary business decisions for corporations, despite being the owners. If a shareholder of a publicly-held corporation submitted a shareholder proposal mandating the content of employees' health insurance benefits in any way, upon the request of the corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission would throw it out without a vote. The absolute best a shareholder can hope for is passage of a non-binding advisory resolution telling management the opinion of shareholders, which management would be free to disregard. So no, Senator Murray, no employees (or, in the case of the HHS Mandate, employees of the favored gender) would ever have cause to go to work wondering if the shareholders were going to vote to change the terms of their compensation packages. RFRA or no RFRA, the shareholders do not have this power.

I understand that not every American has the time or energy to understand every key national issue in the public square, but there is no excuse for this level of ignorance among United States Senators. Not only do Senators have huge professional staffs to brief them, and no other professional responsibilities to speak of, but in this particular case, the Senator is complaining about a law for which she voted!

Saturday
Mar292014

Noel Sheppard, RIP

Noel Sheppard on CNNNoel Sheppard on CNN in 2012

Shocking news today on the Media Research Center's NewsBusters blog: Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor and VERY popular blogger, passed away yesterday from cancer.

He was 53.

Noel covered an extremely wide breath of topics, all of which he managed expertly. My personal favorites were his posts on climate. Climate's a tough topic to cover, because you have to keep up with the science, the legislation, the economics, and to some extent, the personalities, and you have to figure out a way to discuss all those things together without getting bogged down in the details. Noel not only did that as well as anyone could, but he managed to make it look effortless all the while covering other complicated subjects, often on the same day. I admired him greatly for that.

I admit I also particularly enjoyed Noel's January 7 takedown of Rachel Maddow, a disgraceful woman who makes stuff up. It's a great piece that does the research MSNBC should have done, but did not bother to do, because it is not interested in broadcasting the truth. Noel nailed it, as he always did. While Maddow and her ilk won't improve, I like to think other media personalities are embarrassed for her when they read takedowns like Noel's and try as a result to be far more accurate than she is.

In this respect, we'll never know just how much good Noel did. It's far more than we can calculate.

Please go over to Newsbusters to join in the remembrance of Noel in the posts and comments. Maybe watch a few of his great TV appearances. His life here on Earth was cut short too soon. America will miss him. I know I will.

Saturday
Mar292014

Is It Open Season on Black Conservatives?

Nearly every member of Project 21, the National Center’s black leadership network created to celebrate the diversity of black political opinion, has a story about how their conservative beliefs led to them being ostracized among their black peers (and often at the hands of their black peers).

It happens all the time.  Some black conservatives get angry, some laugh them off and some take them as a matter of course.  But they do happen, and they should not.

This sort of public shaming and/or character assassination at a very public level occurred involving Project 21 members twice in the past few days.

But, as Project 21 member Jerome Hudson pointed out, things are different these days as technology brings the world together and creates more conduits for the truth to come out.  He said:

In the age of social media, liberals can no longer throw the racist rock and hide their hand.

First, and most high-profile, an editor at Ebony magazine – Jamilah Lemieux – sought to deny a black conservative his racial identity in a Twitter attack that also involved Project 21 member Hughey Newsome.  Lemieux’s bosses at Ebony have since apologized for her “lack of judgement on her personal Twitter account” (which, by calling it personal, likely means there will be no further action on their part related to the controversy).

The target was Raffi Williams, the deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee and the son of Fox News Channel commentator Juan Williams.

It started when talk radio host and Huffington Post blogger Avis Jones-DeWeever retweeted to Lemieux that Dr. Ben Carson and Armstrong Williams (no relation to Raffi) were starting a black conservative digital magazine with the Washington Times.  Joyce Jones of Black Entertainment Television asked Raffi, Hughey and Orlando Watson (another RNC media relations employee) for more information about the endeavor and included Lemieux and DeWeever on the tweeted question.

Lemieux posted a snarky reply that “I wish I knew less!”  Raffi replied that he “hoped you would encourage diversity of thought.”  That prompted Lemieux to complain about “a white dude telling me how to do this Black thing.”

When Raffi inquired “who are you referring to as white,” Lemieux retorted: “You.  Now, leave…”

Once again, Raffi is black.  He always has been.

When Lemieux’s tweets began being shared and conservatives took offense to the attack on Raffi and defended him, she referred to her critics as a “house full of roaches.”

Hughey, who was drawn into this controversy simply for being a black conservative and having a Twitter account, commented:

As an African-American conservative, I am disappointed to see such a lack of professionalism from someone associated with an institution as prestigious as Ebony magazine.  More importantly, to resort to personal attacks against someone that has dedicated himself to focusing on uplifting out communities makes me sad.

While some may not totally agree with conservative principles, nobody should question that we need to consider all sides when seeking solutions for the ills that face our communities.

It is a shame that one of this magazine’s editors cannot seem to realize this principle.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a longtime friend of Hughey who actually first introduced Hughey to Project 21 a few years back, added:

Amazing.  An Ebony magazine editor calls an African-American conservative a “white dude” and likened others to cockroaches on Twitter.  But it’s almost playing out on the end among liberals like she is the victim!

Next, there’s been an apparent false implication that Project 21 member Stacy Swimp was cavorting with white nationalists.

In a Facebook post on the morning of March 28, Jimmie E. Greene, a political activist in the Saginaw, Michigan area, posted a photo of Stacy standing with Christian author Christine Weick and Jo Cater of the West Michigan Prayer Center with the note:

A group that promotes white nationalism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), has filed a brief in Michigan’s gay marriage case now in front of the federal appeals court.  They play [sic] to protest as well.

I’m parking across the street to watch this demonstration play out LMAO!!!

Stacy has been an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage.  A court ruling recently legalized the practice in the state of Michigan, and he has participated in press conferences and rallies against that case, the subsequent ruling and advocacy for legalized same-sex marriage in general – including outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit in early March.

Stacy and Greene were friends, but they obviously don’t agree on this issue.  And, by the way, this led to them no longer being Facebook friends.

At first glance, and that’s sometimes all people give to the many Facebook postings they receive, it would seem that this trio was involved in promoting the affairs of the Traditionalist Youth Network, the group that is considered a hate group by the SPLC and did submit a legal brief in the appeal of the Michigan same-sex marriage case.  The wording of Greene’s post also could lead one to believe that Greene is watching a rally by the TYM as he posted the photo.

Does it literally imply Stacy and the others were there supporting the TYM?  No.  Could that be inferred by someone flipping through posts at a random moment?  Absolutely.

There are several facts that prove this possible situation to be false.  For one thing, Greene posted the photo from Carrollton, Michigan – approximately 90 minutes away from downtown Detroit.  An hour later, he posted that he was in Saginaw at a lobbyist breakfast in Saginaw at a restaurant that is also about 90 minutes from the courthouse.

It’s likely that the photo Greene posted was taken at the March 3 courthouse rally.  Not only was Weick photographed that day wearing the same jacket and carrying the same sign, but the photo was taken on a clear day, and the March 28 weather report for Detroit was cloudy and rainy.  The photo has a reflection on the granite of clear blue skies.  And the temperature was too hot for the bundled-up trio in the photo Greene posted.

Also, Stacy, on the morning of March 28, was at physical therapy in Flint, Michigan for treatment related to a serious car accident he was involved in a few months ago.  Flint is approximately an hour away from downtown Detroit.

Stacy obviously wasn’t outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit with those women or any white nationalists.  Neither was Greene in any car parked across the street.  Yet the posting could absolutely make someone think that Stacy was there and that he even supported the brief filed by the TYM – an alleged hate group.

Such an allegation is offensive to Stacy, and it has pretty much ended his friendship with Greene.

Stacy made his own statement about this posting, which said, in part:

I have not been to Detroit today.  Furthermore, these women are not white nationalists.  They are Catholics from Lansing…

This kind of vicious attack is standard of those who despise the religious conscience of Americans who reject marriage redefinition.  Yet they cry intolerance from Christians when they feel wronged.

I will not play the game of slander and personal vendetta, but I also will not allow slander and false gossip to go unaddressed when it can potentially harm so many…

Let us pray for those who bitterly despise us.

Both of these instances of attacks on black conservatives are unnecessary and inappropriate, but they are not surprising.

It happens all the time.  Some black conservatives get angry, some laugh them off and some take them as a matter of course.  But they do happen, and they should not.

Friday
Mar282014

The Secret Sexist Roots of the HHS Contraception Mandate

Sexist Roots of HHS MandateGay rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court during the Hobby Lobby oral arguments, calling critics of a law biased against men "bigots."

It didn't come up in the Supreme Court arguments.

No one is mentioning it in major papers.

But the HHS contraception mandate has a secret sexist past.

And present.

Forget everything you've been told by supporters about how the contraception mandate is necessary to help working families, especially low-income working families, afford birth control, because that's not why the Obama Administration is pushing it.

Here's how we know: the mandate doesn't require that covered companies extend birth control benefits to all employees who want their birth control covered, or even to all lower-income employees.

It only covers birth control methods for women. Under HHS Mandate requirements:

  • If you are a female employee of a company subject to the mandate who wants the full cost of your birth control pills paid for by your insurance: covered.

  • If you are a male employee of the same company who wants his condoms paid by insurance: not covered.

  • If you are a woman wanting a sterilization procedure such as a tubal ligation: covered.

  • If you are a man seeking a vasectomy: not covered.

Birth control, at least to anyone not so blinded by ideology that they cannot perceive basic biology, is the ultimate it-takes-two-to-tango issue. No woman ever got pregnant alone.

So why did the Obama Administration specifically create rules that cover women and not men?

Because the Administration's purpose in pushing the mandate is only tangentially birth control.

Its actual, overriding purpose is to improve the economic and social position of women relative to the economic and social position of men.

Not improve the position of women in absolute terms, or women and men both in absolute terms, but the economic and social position of women relative to that of men.

Don't take my word for it. Look at the Federal Register, where the Administration laid out its reasons for imposing the mandate and for doing it the way it did - a document very significant legally, but also one that the Administration realizes few Americans will ever read.

In it, the Administration says that the lack of mandated birth control coverage prior to passage of ObamaCare created a disparity, and "this disparity placed women in the workforce at a disadvantage compared to their male coworkers. Research shows that access to contraception improves the social and economic status of women."

The next paragraph says that eliminating birth control co-pays "is particularly critical to addressing the gender disparity of concern here."

The next paragraph refers to "gender equity interests" as "compelling."

Another speaks of the need to "lessen the disparity between men's and women's health care costs."

And notice that in yet another paragraph, "gender equality" takes a front seat to achieving the underlying goals of the Affordable Care Act: "...there are significant benefits associated with contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. Such coverage significantly furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and gender equality, and promotes the underlying goals of the Exchanges and the Affordable Care Act more generally."

Notice what all of these paragraphs do not say. They do not say that low-income families have trouble paying for birth control and the HHS mandate is a way to help them. They do not note that while the pill may be only $9 a month at Walmart, that $9 is a lot of money if you make minimum wage. They do not say that both women and men tend to be better off economically if they do not have children to support, or acknowledge that while it is true that only women can get pregnant, it is not true that only women can use birth control or get sterilized. And they also do not say that if anyone actually has a "right" to birth control, then surely both genders have that "right" equally, as men, last I noticed, have equal civil rights to women.

No, the focus is on "gender disparity" - women supposedly not doing as well as men economically and socially, and the need to empower women relative to men.

The HHS mandate is about feminism. Health care is secondary. Perhaps even incidental.

If you still doubt, ask yourself this: If the mandate is intended to help all working families afford birth control, why did HHS purposefully write it to exclude comparable benefits to men?

Thursday
Mar272014

Another Phony ObamaCare Milestone

The Department of Health and Human Services reported today that enrollment in the ObamaCare exchanges had reached 6 million. 

On Wednesday the Administration said that the March 31 deadline would be extended into April for people who had trouble signing up through the website.  But, well, that was yesterday.  From today’s HHS release:

Millions of Americans have gotten health coverage through the Marketplace in the last five months. And there is still time left for you to join them.  But you need to act now.  The deadline to enroll for coverage this year is Monday, March 31.

Of course, once March 31 rolls around, HHS will probably say that there is still time to sign up.  Oh well…if you haven’t noticed that the Administration is making this stuff up as it goes along, then you don’t have a pulse.

There are still plenty of things we don’t know about enrollment, which makes today’s announcement highly suspect.  Most important, how many people have not paid their first premium?  The New York Times reports that number may be as high as 20 percent.  If so, then true enrollment would be closer to 4.8 million.  This matters if for no other reason than it allows the Administration to claim success.  If the true number is 6 million, then Administration lackeys will say, “Hey, look how close we got to 7 million.”  However, if it’s under 5 million, they won’t have much to cheer about.  Indeed, it’s fodder for critics.  Although it’s pretty clear that the Administration has this information, don’t count on them releasing it, especially if it isn’t good.  Rather, will have to wait until insurers start releasing their numbers.

Another important matter we don’t know is how many people who were previously uninsured have signed up on the exchanges.  Estimates vary from 10 percent to 35 percent.  If we assume that there are 6 million enrollees (based on the previous paragraph, that’s a very generous assumption), then the number of uninsured who now have coverage via the exchanges ranges from 600,000 to 2.1 million.  That’s a far cry from 8 million uninsured who would be getting coverage through the exchanges, according to the Congressional Budget Office back in 2012.  Additionally, at least 4.7 million people on the individual market received cancellation notices late last year.  If the number of uninsureds now on the exchange is on the low side, and 13 percent of those who lost coverage in 2013 decide to go without insurance this year, then the impact on the total number of uninsured is a wash.

A few thoughts on the death spiral:

First, increasing enrollment doesn’t mean a death spiral is off the table.  It’s important to have a lot of young and healthy people—i.e. 18-34-year-olds—in the risk pool to keep it stable.  But the last enrollment report showed that 18-34-year-olds comprised only 25 percent of the exchange risk pool, a far cry from the 38 percent the Obama Administration estimates that it needs.  Of the 1.8 million people who signed up since the end of February, about 1.1 million of them (61 percent) would have to be in the 18-34-year-old range to reach 38 percent.

Second, yes, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that lower than expected enrollment by 18-34-year-olds will have minimal impact.  If enrollment of that group is only 25 percent of the risk pool, costs will exceed premiums by only about 2.4 percent according to KFF.  However, others like Seth Chandler say KFF’s numbers are off, and costs will exceed premiums by 4.5 percent.

Another shortcoming of the KFF analysis is that it only accounts for age, but not gender.  Since women typically use more health care than men, it would be best for the exchanges of the number of men exceeded the number of women.  Thus, it is probably a bad omen that 55 percent of enrollees are women and 45 percent men in the last report.   And the disparity gets worse moving up the age brackets.  Of those ages 55-64 (those likely to have the most medical claims) who are enrolled, 59 percent are women and 41 percent men.  

Finally, there is the warning signal of plan selection.  63 percent of enrollees have chosen a silver plan.  For enrollees at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), silver plans tend to offer the most coverage for the lowest price. For persons under 250 percent FPL, ObamaCare offers help with copays and deductibles, but only if the consumer chooses a silver plan. The actuarial value for a silver plan is 70 percent (that is, a silver plan must, on average, cover 70 percent of a policyholder’s medical claims), but when the subsidies for cost-sharing are included, the actuarial value rises to between 73 and 94 percent. As one writer notes, “Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.”

While there is disagreement among conservatives over whether a death spiral will occur, thus far most of the evidence I’ve seen points to one occurring.  That may be why insurers are warning premiums may double in some parts of the nation and why WellPoint Inc. will likely ask for rate increases in the double digits for 2015.

Thursday
Mar272014

ObamaCare "Fix" Shows Democrats Are Clueless

On Thursday five Democratic Senators—Mark Begich (AK), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Mark Warner (VA)—introduced a plan to supposedly “fix” ObamaCare.  Joining them was Senator Angus King of Maine, an Independent who usually votes with the Democrats.

The centerpiece of this fix is “a new lower cost, high-deductible option called the Copper Plan, in addition to the existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options in the marketplace that would give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition, and, most importantly, increase affordability. The new Copper Plan would meet the essential benefits laid out by the Affordable Care Act.”

Seriously?!?  

Last time I checked, people on the exchange were not crying out for more plans with even higher deductibles.  In fact, we’ve had numerous news articles with people complaining how high the deductibles and out-of-pocket (OOP) costs were for the cheapest plans.

They’ve also complained that the plans have “skinny networks”—that is, networks of doctors and hospitals that are very limited compared to the plans that existed before the exchange.

To keep premiums on the exchange as low as possible, insurers had to push deductibles and OOP costs as high as the law allowed and to limit networks.  One reason for this is that they had to cover the cost of providing the ten “essential benefits” required by ObamaCare.  They couldn’t offer plans with lower premiums and deductibles and better networks in exchange for covering fewer benefits.

But it seems like a lot of people are willing to make that trade-off if ObamaCare would let them.  And those people cut across the political spectrum.  For example here is ObamaCare supporter Eric L. Wee yesterday in The New York Times:

…having deductibles that high [$10,000] means this is largely insurance to make sure that we don’t go bankrupt if we become very ill. Yes, the new plan has more coverage, including pediatric vision. But we don’t have children, and I’d trade coverage for things like substance abuse treatment and mental health in return for lower premiums. 

Here is ObamaCare opponent Jim Bulger, whose premium increased 84 percent:

He pays extra for benefits he doesn’t need. He has no plans to have more kids, so he doesn’t need a maternity benefit.

“I’m mentally very healthy — so are my kids. No drugs, no problems with alcohol. I don’t need the mental health benefit,” Jim said.

Any real fix would give insurers the freedom to offer policies that differ on the number of benefits they cover and consumers the freedom to choose such policies.  Doing that, though, would completely undermine all the Democratic and liberal rhetoric about ObamaCare providing “comprehensive” coverage. 

So what the Democrats come up with is a plan that offers a solution no one is asking for, while ignoring the problems people have complained about it.  “Clueless” is a pretty good description of that.

Wednesday
Mar262014

VIDEO: No, Donald Rumsfeld Did Not Call President Obama a "Trained Ape"

Project 21's Bob Parks says, no, Donald Rumsfeld wasn't calling President Obama a "Trained Ape":

Bob says, "It would appear the only people who saw racism in Donald Rumsfeld’s criticism of the Obama Administration’s lack of foreign policy competence are the very people who routinely play the race card, and this time it really didn’t work."

Bob's video is quite funny. I had no idea the left compared President Bush to an ape so many times.

Wednesday
Mar262014

Guaranteed Issue For All Of 2014--Death Spiral Comin' Faster

You’d better sit down, because this is a shocker:  The Obama Administration has extended the deadline to sign up for insurance on the exchanges!

Once you are done catching your breath, here are the details from the Washington Post:

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth….

Starting in about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov. After that, consumers will be able to request one through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide. At that point, the grounds for an extension will become narrower, matching rules for special enrollment periods that have existed for the past few months. Those include people who have a new baby, are getting a divorce, lose a job with health insurance or had a technical problem signing up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.

While the rules appear to get tougher in mid-April (and who knows, that deadline may be extended too) how strict will the Administration be in requiring people to prove that they had a “technical problem signing up for coverage”?  The safe money is it won’t be all that stringent.

In that case, guaranteed issue—the requirement that insurers must sell a policy to any person—is now in effect for all of 2014, not just during the open enrollment period as it was supposed to be under the law.

As I wrote last year:

In a market without guaranteed issue, consumers run the risk of insurers not selling them policies when they get seriously ill. But that risk is largely gone under the exchanges. For instance, a young person who gets a serious illness in June only has to wait until October to sign up for insurance and then wait until January 1 of the next year to receive coverage. Combined, community rating and guaranteed issue give the young and healthy big incentives to forgo insurance until they are sick.

At least there was some risk of getting stuck with big medical costs if one didn’t sign up for insurance during the open enrollment period.  That would have probably reduced the number of young people who decided to forego insurance.

Now, however, young people will probably be able to get insurance all year long through the exchange.  If so, it means that more uninsured people who get sick, say, in July, will sign up in that same month and insurers will be responsible for their costs.

That will only make the death sprial arrive a bit quicker.

Oh, and for your pleasure, here is Secretary Kathleen Sebelius two weeks ago on the March 31 deadline:

Wednesday
Mar262014

Project 21’s LeBon Recaps Supreme Court ObamaCare Challenge

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the combined cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — family-owned businesses challenging ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate under the auspices of free exercise of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed overwhelmingly and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993).

Hobby Lobby won their case to be free not to provide certain contraceptives despite ObamaCare requirements in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Conestoga Wood lost their case in the 3rd Circuit.  A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected before the end of June.

The female justices of the Court’s liberal wing were highly critical of the argument that privately-owned businesses should be allowed to operate under the same exemption the Obama Administration already created for faith-based non-profits and religious institutions.  The RFRA demands the government have a compelling interest to impose restrictions of religious expression and that any impositions create as little burden as possible to those who are aggrieved.

Conservative justices sought to find out from the lawyers on both sides how full contraceptive coverage might be obtained without forcing employers who object on faith-based grounds to do so directly.  Hobby Lobby, for instance, only opposes funding certain forms of contraception believed to end an unborn baby’s life and does not seek to fully overturn the mandate.

For more analysis of yesterday’s arguments, please see Amy Ridenour’s blog post on the proceedings as well as a commentary on the case published earlier this year to learn more about the case in general.

As the justices begin to consider a ruling and craft opinions on the case, Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon — a former senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — said:

For me, as woman and a mother, I believe that the most important issue to convey to people in the Hobby Lobby case is that no one in this case is denying women the freedom to make choices about birth control.

No one is denying a choice — not Hobby Lobby nor the Green family who own the company.  Neither is anyone else, for that matter.

At the same time, no one should deny religious believers the freedom not to be involved in other people’s choices in a way that would violate their beliefs.  The Green family, for example, does not object to 16 out of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives.  They object to four.  They believe these contraceptives are abortifacients and, therefore, terminate life.

The freedom to access birth control isn’t dependent on whether someone’s employer is paying for it.  All Americans have Second Amendment protections regarding the right to bear arms, but these rights are not dependent on an employer buying a gun for them.

Sadly, Justice Kagan got it wrong during yesterday’s arguments when she said, women are “quite tangibly harmed” when employers don’t provide contraceptive coverage.

It seems as though Kagan misunderstands the Green family’s intentions.

photo credit: iStockPhoto