Jason Pye

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Census Bureau changes report methodology to help Obamacare

When you’re worried about how the game is going, you just change the rules to get the outcome you want. At least that appears to be the Obama administration’s thinking with Obamacare, a law has seen a number of politically convenient delays and changes over the last several months.

The latest example of the administration trying to game the numbers comes by way of the Census Bureau, which, according to The New York Times, has adjusted its methodology to produce a lower number of uninsured Americans (emphasis added):

The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.

The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

Today in Liberty: Conservatives want Obamacare replacement vote, Bloomberg to spend $50 million on anti-gun group

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” — Thomas Jefferson

— House conservatives press for Obamacare replacement vote: Republican leaders suggested earlier this year that they would bring to the floor an Obamacare replacement bill, only to back away not long after. House conservatives are now pressing leadership to live up to the rhetoric and hold a vote on an alternative before the August recess. “At the end of the day, we feel it’s really important to bring a bill to the floor that is a true replacement to the president’s healthcare law,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told The Hill. “Look, leadership’s come a long way in the last six months on that, and we’re continuing to talk to them to try to get to a point where we actually have a vote on the House floor by the August recess.”

OH-08: John Boehner’s “electile disfunction”

Winteregg ad

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has an “electile dysfunction” problem, according to his conservative primary opponent, J.D. Winteregg, who has rolled out a humorous new ad spoofing Cialis commercials.

“You make a great team. It’s been that day since the day you met. But your electile dysfunction, it could be a question of blood flow,” says the narrator. “Sometimes, when a politician has been in D.C. too long, it goes to his head, and they just can’t seem to get the job done.”

The ad features video of Boehner and President Barack Obama laughing with each other and shaking hands mixed in with couples hanging out and flirting. The narrator highlights a list of Winteregg’s more conservative positions, including pledges to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

“Other signs of electile dysfunction include skin discoloration, the inability to punch one’s self out of a wet paper bag, or maintain a spine in the fact of liberal opposition,” the narrator continues. “If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention.”

IRS to revisit rules for tax-exempt groups

It may be too early to declare a victory in the war against overreaching bureaucrats, but the Internal Revenue Service has decided to scrap proposed rules that would have had a chilling effect on political speech and legitimized the agency’s targeting of conservative groups:

The Internal Revenue Service is prepared to rewrite a proposed rule regulating the political activities of non-profit groups to address complaints from the right and left that it goes too far, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Monday.

“In all likelihood we will re-propose a redefined rule and ask for more public comment,” Koskinen told USA TODAY’s Capital Download. It’s a process he predicts will take “until the end of the year and beyond” to complete. The proposed regulation of groups known as 501(c)(4)s drew a record 150,000 comments before the deadline in late February.

He said the new rule would take into account backlash from conservative Tea Party groups as well as some liberal advocacy organizations that the agency’s proposal – intended to address concerns that the tax-exempt groups were engaged in partisan warfare – would bar, even voter education and registration programs.

The IRS had already postponed implementation of the rules due to the record response the powerful tax agency received. More than 150,000 comments were submitted, with opposition coming from both the political right and left.

Deficits to grow by $7.6 trillion over next 10 years

The Congressional Budget Office expects budget deficits to grow by $7.62 trillion between 2015 and 2024 despite a rise in tax revenue. That, according to updated budget projections released yesterday.

The nonpartisan fiscal research office expects budget deficits to hit $492 billion in 2014, or 2.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), and $469 billion in 2015 before beginning to rise again. By 2020, the budget deficit will hit $804 billion, or 3.5% of the economy.

The main drivers of federal spending are entitlements, known budget language as “mandatory spending” or “autopilot spending,” and debt service. These budgetary items will consume nearly 74% of the federal budget over the 10-year budget window.

Though tax revenues will eclipse $4.9 trillion, or 18.3% of GDP, by 2024, spending will continue to rise at an unsustainable pace. The federal government will spend nearly $6 trillion in that same year. The federal government will spend nearly $48.2 trillion over the course of this timeframe.

Added together, taxpayers will be hit with $7.62 trillion in budget deficits over the 10 year budget window. The share of the national debt held by the public will eclipse $20 trillion by 2024. This, despite higher than average tax revenues collected by the federal government.

The Congressional Budget Office warns of potentially dire consequences if federal lawmakers don’t act soon to deal with the threats to the United States’ long-term prosperity.

Jeb Bush for President? Thanks, but no thanks…

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush knows that the nation is wary of putting another Bush in the White House, so why is he considering a run for president? That’s a question that many are asking, even as Republican donors are reportedly trying to draft the former Florida governor for 2016 after Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) became a less viable candidate.

Nevermind that Jeb Bush would have a tough time convincing Americans to elect another member of his family for president. Sure, each candidate rises and falls on his or her own merits, but there’s no question that the “Bush brand” was damaged after George W. Bush’s presidency, making Barack Obama’s ascendence to the Oval Office a possibility.

Regardless of how the nation views President Obama as it approaches the 2016 cycle, Jeb Bush would have a hard time overcoming voter fatigue with his family. This is a reason why Christopher Caldwell recently wrote that the Republican donors working behind the scenes to draft him “are nuts.”

Bush will have problems with Republican Party’s conservative base, something that has already become apparent after his comments on immigration. His backing of Common Core education standards is also a nonstarter with grassroots activists.

IRS targets Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty

The Internal Revenue Service is still targeting conservative and liberty-minded groups, nearly a year after now-disgraced agency official Lois Lerner admitted to the inappropriate scrutiny.

In an email on Thursday, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) told supporters that Campaign for Liberty is now under fire from the IRS. The powerful tax agency, he says, has just hit the liberty-minded nonprofit with “a hefty fine” and “demanded” that it “turn over sensitive contributor information.”

“This is one of the toughest letters I’ve ever had to send,” Paul wrote to supporters. “For years, people have joked that the three most feared letters in the English language may well be these … I – R – S.”

“But today, I’m not laughing,” said Paul. “Just days ago, the IRS handed Campaign for Liberty a hefty fine and DEMANDED we turn over sensitive contributor information.”

Paul explained that failure to comply with the IRS’s demands could mean additional fines that could severely impact the work that Campaign for Liberty is doing and possibly force the group to shut down.

Because Campaign for Liberty is a 501(c)(4), donor information is supposed to be confidential. The organization, like many others targeted by the IRS, promotes economic and individual liberty and focuses its efforts on grassroots activism and education. It does not endorse candidates, in which case the organization would have to disclose

Obama administration takes three Muzzle “awards” for free speech suppression

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression released its annual “Jefferson Muzzles” recognizing federal, state, and local governments agencies for the most egregious instances of infringements of the First Amendment in the last year.

Taking the top dishonors in this year’s list of winners is Department of Justice and the White House Press Office. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security share an “award.”

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice was given the top dishonor for its war on leakers and whistleblowers. This crackdown has put reporters and, by extension, the First Amendment in its crosshairs.

The Thomas Jefferson Center cites the subpoena of Associated Press journalists’ phone records as well as the targeting of Fox News correspondent James Rosen as examples of the Department of Justice’s overreach. Though the department has responded to the controversy by issuing new guidelines, there still could be problems down the road.

“[T]he protections [the guidelines] provide are not absolute and some significant exceptions exist that, if exploited, could result in a repeat of last year’s shameful actions,” the Thomas Jefferson Center explains. “Should such temptation ever arise, we hope this 2014 Jefferson Muzzle will inspire the Department of Justice to fully consider the importance of a free press to our nation.”

Bob Woodward on IRS scandal: “There’s obviously something here”

Bob Woodward

In a panel discussion on Fox News Sunday, Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal, said that there is “obviously something” to the Internal Revenue Service’s target of conservative groups and that President Barack Obama should take a strong stand rather than dismiss the scandal.

Though Woodward questioned whether some members of the House Ways and Means Committee should be making public declarations that former IRS official Lois Lerner has committed a crime, he declared that “[t]here’s obviously something here.”

“[Y]ou know, we should dig into it. There should be answers. It’s quite correct,” Woodward told host Chris Wallace. “And for the President to take that position is very, very unusual, and say there’s ‘not a smidgen’ of evidence here.”

The House Ways and Means Committee referred Lerner to the Justice Department last week for criminal prosecution, alleging that the disgraced official “impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration” and may have leaked confidential taxpayer information.

Today in Liberty: Cantor unwilling to fight for Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, Obama’s 442 tax hike proposals

“It is impossible to enumerate a priori all the rights we have; we usually go to the trouble of identifying them only when someone proposes to limit one or another. Treating rights as tangible claims that must be limited in number gets the whole concept wrong.” — David Boaz (Politics of Freedom: Taking on The Left, The Right and Threats to Our Liberties)

— Cantor backing away from cronyism: The Hill notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor isn’t going to spend political capital over the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, a government-backed entity known for rampant cronyism. (They also read websites which mention them, at least that’s what our Google Analytics reports tell us.) “Cantor…has privately told members he does not intend to get involved this time around,” The Hill reports, “a message that some see as an indication that he is wary of battling conservatives angered by a number of his recent legislative moves.” It looks like House conservatives are going to make Ex-Im reauthorization their big issue this spring, part of a push to end corporate welfare and change the narrative about the Republican Party.

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