Recent Posts From Jason Pye
After months of working through differences, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairs of the respective chamber’s budget committees, announced this evening that they’ve struck a two-year discretionary spending agreement that would avoid the prospect of another government shutdown.
The agreement, dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013,” would spend $1.012 trillion in the current fiscal year and $1.013 trillion in FY 2015, according to a summary of the agreement. It will rollback $63 billion of planned spending cuts between this and next year. The funding measure will not tackle mandatory spending (ie. entitlements), nor does it raise the debt ceiling.
“I’m proud of this agreement,” Ryan said in a joint statement. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”
“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” Murray said. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”
Congress will soon weigh whether or not to extend benefits for unemployed Americans for another year, at a cost of $26 billion. Though the country has seen growth and job creation has picked up the pace, many Americans haven’t been able to find work in what is still a slow-moving economy.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits past the normal six-month period.
“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul, a potential Republican presidential candidate, told host Chris Wallace. “And it really — while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.”
Jon Huntsman, for Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China, criticized Paul on the issue on Monday. “This is language that’s suitable for the Republican primary, plain and simple,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, according to Politico. “This isn’t the language that’s good for all Americans and that gets us closer to solving the problem,” emphasizing the need for bipartisan solutions.
Huntsman, a failed Republican presidential candidate in 2012 who has made rumblings about 2016, may not like the “language,” but he didn’t do anything to prove Paul’s underlying point wrong. Why? Because he can’t.
For the last several months, Republicans have been heavily criticizing President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders and regulatory fiat to subvert the legislative process through executive and regulatory fiat.
President Obama has taken expansion of presidential power substantially further than is his predecessors, including President George W. Bush, and has frequently blurred constitutional lines between the legislative and executive branches. There are many examples of this, from unilateral delays of Obamacare provisions to new environmental rules created by the EPA to military engagements without the consent of Congress.
But is this new “uber executive” also the path to takedown Obamacare? Philip Klein thinks so. In a column last week at the Washington Examiner, Klein explained last week that President Obama has showed a future Republican president the way to dismantle Obamacare.
“The changes instituted by the Obama administration in response to implementation snags have ranged from perfectly legal areas of administrative discretion stemming from the vast regulatory powers granted to the HHS secretary under Obamacare, to more creative interpretations of that discretion, to Obama simply choosing to ignore parts of the law that became inconvenient,” wrote Klein.
“Obama has turned his signature legislative accomplishment into a constantly evolving wikilaw, with editing privileges restricted to himself and a few administration officials,” he jabbed. “He’s largely been able to get away with it due to the difficulties posed by gaining standing in court for legal challenges.”
The Obama Administration is taking the study of behavioral economics and government paternalism to a new level by setting up a task force to come up with ways to determine how best to influence or nudge Americans to make decisions of which it approves, via Richard Williams at Politico Magazine:
So, not only are millions of Americans finding out that they can’t keep their health plans and losing access to their doctor because of Obamacare, many may not be able to keep their prescription drugs. The reason, Scott Gottlieb wrote at Forbes, is because of a quirk in the law that allows states to exclude certain drugs from coverage:
The out of pocket caps on consumer spending only apply to costs incurred on drugs that are included on a plan’s drug formulary. This is the list of medicines that the health plans have agreed to provide some coverage for.
If the drug isn’t on this formulary list, then the patient could be responsible for its full cost (with little or no co-insurance to help offset that cost). Moreover, the money they spend won’t count against their deductibles or out of pocket limits ($12,700 for a family, $6,350 for an individual).
Some of the published lists do not show all of the covered drugs. For instance in California, Blue Shield’s document states that only the most commonly prescribed drugs are shown in its published formulary. Anthem’s published list is also not comprehensive.
Some analysts have tried to look across the plans, but comparisons are as hard for experts to make as they are for consumers.
One study by Avalere Health of 22 carriers in six states looked at the benchmark plans that the Obamacare plans would be tied to. It found that the numbers of drugs listed as available on formularies ranged from about 480 to nearly 1,110.
After months of mostly silence on the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs, which includes obtaining information of Americans’ phone calls and Internet records, leading tech firms have finally spoken out and launched a campaign for reform.
A half dozen firms — including Facebook, Google, Twiter, and Microsoft — have written letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress in which they explain that the federal government must reform laws to protect Americans’ privacy. The firms have also launched a website — ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com — that outlines the principles of reform.
“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” wrote the firms in the letter. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”
“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter continues.
The Hobby Lobby lawsuit pending at the Supreme Court isn’t about abortion or contraception, says former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), it’s about rights.
Obamacare supporters paint this as a case of Hobby Lobby refusing its employees an abortion or contraception, which, they say, is a violation of the employees rights. But that’s not at all what Hobby Lobby has in mind, they simply don’t want to be forced to pay for those things for their employees.
“Forcing Hobby Lobby to pay for abortion services is especially offensive because Hobby Lobby’s owners consider abortion a form of murder. Those who, like me, agree that abortion is an act of violence against an innocent person, will side with Hobby Lobby,” wrote Paul in his weekly column.
“However, this case is not about the legality of abortion. It is about whether someone can have a ‘right’ to force someone else to provide him with a good or service,” he explained. “Therefore, even those who support legal abortion should at least support a business’s right to choose to not subsidize it.”
Hobby Lobby Stores, a craft chain with 578 stores and more than 13,000 employees, filed the lawsuit against the contraception mandate in September 2012, claiming that it violated the religious liberty of the owner and founder of the company, David Green, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).
The Club for Growth, a conservative organization that advocates for free market policies, said this morning that will not get involved in the Republican Senate primary race in Texas, delivering a blow to Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), who filed papers yesterday to run against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
“While Congressman Stockman has a pro-economic growth record, so does Senator Cornyn, as witnessed by his 87% lifetime Club for Growth score,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola via an emailed statement.
The Club for Growth has become a prominent player in Republican primary and general election races, endorsing fiscal conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in their successful campaigns. The organization’s political action committee (PAC) will be a player in the 2014 mid-term, already making endorsements in several races across the country.
“Our PAC evaluates three factors when looking at races that involve incumbents: 1) the strength of the incumbent’s record; 2) the degree of difference between the incumbent and the challenger on economic issues; and 3) the viability of the challenger,” said Chocola. “None of those factors weigh against Senator Cornyn, so we do not expect to be involved in the Texas Senate race.”
From the “Not-So-Breaking News” file comes a report from The New York Times noting that health plans available through the state and federal Obamacare exchanges have offset insurance premiums with higher annual deductibles, hiding the true cost of health coverage and leaving many Americans who purchase insurance on the exchanges with greater out-of-pocket costs:
For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple.
Insurers devised the new policies on the assumption that consumers would pick a plan based mainly on price, as reflected in the premium. But insurance plans with lower premiums generally have higher deductibles.
In El Paso, Tex., for example, for a husband and wife both age 35, one of the cheapest plans on the federal exchange, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has a premium less than $300 a month, but the annual deductible is more than $12,000. For a 45-year-old couple seeking insurance on the federal exchange in Saginaw, Mich., a policy with a premium of $515 a month has a deductible of $10,000.
By contrast, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible in employer-sponsored health plans is $1,135.
“Deductibles for many plans in the insurance exchanges are pretty high,” said Stan Dorn, a health policy expert at the Urban Institute. “These plans are more generous than what’s prevalent in the current individual insurance market, but significantly less generous than most employer-sponsored insurance.”
The last couple of months has been a complete public relations disaster for the White House and congressional Democrats. Poll after poll shows that President Barack Obama’s approval rating has plummeted and Democrats that are now at a disadvantage in the congressional ballot, largely as a result of the botched Obamacare rollout and furor over insurance cancellations caused by the law.
Despite this, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) continues to insist that Democratic candidates will not just run on Obamacare but use it “as an advantage” in the 2014 mid-term election, even though the law’s numbers are at an all-time low.
Sure thing, Baghdad Bob.
Millennials, who are increasingly skeptical of President Obama, still aren’t buying into the law. According to a recent poll by National Journal, young Americans, who are desparently needed to make the math behind the law work, expect that Obamacare will be repealed.