Jason Pye

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Cronyism: White House advisor intervened to expand Obamacare’s health insurance bailout to limit dramatic premium increases

Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has uncovered correspondence between White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and a health insurance company executive after he gave a “heads-up” that the Obamacare bailout wouldn’t be enough to avoid the “unwelcome surprise” of higher than expected premium increases.

Chet Burrell, President and CEO of Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, reached out to Jarrett on April 4 at 10:20 am to bring the issue to her attention. Katherine Branch, the White House advisor’s assistant, replied less than 30 minutes later to ask if he was available to talk to Jarrett later that afternoon.

Burrell and Jarrett apparently had that little chat. He followed up the next day with a summary of the issue he talked with her about. The document attached in the email expressed concern over the budget neutrality of Obamacare’s “risk corridor” program, known to many as the insurer “bailout.”

The risk corridor program guarantees payments from the from the federal government to insurers if the risk pool isn’t properly balanced with the young and healthy people who are intended to offset the costs of sick and unhealthy consumers. The payments come from a fund into which insurers contribute, and it was originally scored as budget-neutral, meaning that there wouldn’t be any cost to taxpayers.

Given the unlikelihood of many insurers contributing to the program due to unbalanced risk pools, Burrell suggested that insurance premiums would rise, and spark a negative public reaction, unless the administration was willing to “clarify” (read: provide more funding) the bailout rule.

Stop the NSA: There is a new push in Congress to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs

There may finally be a passable piece of legislation in Congress to end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add some much-needed oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

After working with the White House on compromise language, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rolled out legislation — a new USA FREEDOM Act — today that would protect Americans’ civil liberties from the NSA’s spying programs:

Leahy’s bill would prevent the possibility of that broad collection by requiring agents use specific terms in their searches.

It also requires the government to disclose the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive, which firms have said is critical to restoring people’s trust in their products.

Finally, Leahy’s bill would also add a panel of special civil liberties advocates to the secretive court overseeing intelligence operations, which currently only hears arguments from the government.

In announcing the bill, Leahy trumpeted support from tech companies including Apple and Google, which have teamed up with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, as well as privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Watch Reason’s absolutely amazing response to the call for a disastrous minimum wage increase

So, last week, Funny or Die released a video featuring actress Kristen Bell as a Mary Poppins who is struggling to work as a nanny on a $7.25 hourly wage. Basically, it’s a nearly 3-minute video making the case for President Barack Obama’s $10.10 minimum wage increase.

“Just a $3 increase can make a living wage,” Bell, star of Disney’s hit animated flick Frozen, sings to the tune of “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the 1964 film, Mary Poppins. “It makes a living wage. It makes a living wage.”

Well, Reason TV respond with its own Mary Poppins-style short. In the video, Remy, a comedian who frequently works with Reason on videos that parody current events and policy in hilarious videos and equally funny songs, plays a chimney-sweeper who explains the unintended consequences of a minimum wage increase.

“Just 3 pages of Econ. And perhaps your mind will change. When free people arrange
Voluntary exchange,” Remy says. “Just 3 pages of Econ. With this talk of ‘living wage,’ tell me, what do you folks pay?”

Watch the video below:

They there go again: D.C. gun grabbers are trying to prevent law-abiding citizens from defending themselves after court ruling

In case you haven’t heard, on Saturday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public, one of its most onerous gun control laws.

Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. ruled that the law was unconstitutional, based on the precedent set in the landmark Supreme Court rulings in Heller and McDonald, and that the District couldn’t deny law-abiding citizens the right to carry. D.C. police responded by granting full reciprocity to permits from other states, at least temporarily.

But the District is fighting back. They want the Imperial City to be a mostly Second Amendment-free zone. Lawyers for the District are seeking a stay of the Scullin’s ruling while they work on an appeal:

The city’s motion suggests that the judge’s order could make it more difficult for law enforcement to guard against a variety of threats, including presidential assassinations.

“The public interest is not served by rushed legislation on a foundational public-safety issue or by allowing any and all ‘dangerous or deadly’ concealable weapons to be carried in public, without reasonable restrictions being imposed, during the pendency of any appeal and/or new legislation,” the D.C. motion (posted here) states.

Obamacare train wreck update: Enrollees who automatically re-enroll could be left with an unwelcome surprise next year

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in June that it would allow consumers to automatically re-enroll in their Obamacare plan for 2015, saying at the time that it would simplify the process for those who were happy with their government-mandated coverage.

Well, as it turns out, that HHS may be setting up millions of Obamacare consumers for a big headache next year:

Automatic renewal was supposed to make the next open-enrollment under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul smooth for consumers.

But unless the administration changes its 2015 approach, “they’re setting people up for large and avoidable premium increases,” said researcher Caroline Pearson, who follows the health law for the market analysis firm Avalere Health.

It could be a new twist on an old public relations headache for the White House: You keep the health plan you like but get billed way more.

Part of this deals with the changes to benchmark plans. As it is right now, the second-lowest cost “silver plan” is the benchmark to which subsidies are tied. Avalere Health recently found that the benchmark silver plan will lose that status in 2015 in six of the nine states it analyzed. The problem is the benchmark plan will change in many areas of the country, meaning that customers will have to pay more to keep their plans.

Here are 8 fundraising emails the DCCC sent on Monday referencing Boehner’s lawsuit and the nonexistent threat of impeachment

Monday was another busy day at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). They sent out another round of fundraising emails that use Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) threat of a lawsuit and the White House’s fake concern about the “threat” of impeachment to motivate the Democratic Party’s base into sending them money.

Between Friday morning and Sunday night, the DCCC sent out, by our count, 11 fundraising emails that mention the “I” word. On Monday, they blasted out eight more emails to their list. Though not all of them mention impeachment (most of them do), the emails are part of the same fundraising campaign.

We keep emailing

Barack Obama just emailed me!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

We keep emailing

As you can see, this from DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY) and he cares so much that he just wants to “make sure” you’ve seen that email from “Barack Obama.”

 

CRUSHING blow

Today in Liberty: Obama may take more unilateral action on immigration, Medicare and Social Security are still very, very broken

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” — Milton Friedman

Audit the Pentagon: The Defense Department is wasting your money, and it’s time for Congress to put a stop to it

In the film Independence Day, President Thomas Whitmore, played by Bill Pullman, is absolutely stunned to learn that the Defense Department had constructed a massive complex, known as Area 51, to hide the existence of aliens.

“I don’t understand, where does all this come from?” he asks. “How do you get funding for something like this?” Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) sarcastically replies, ”You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?”

While there isn’t an alien threat (or is there?), the Defense Department has become rife with waste. Businessweek takes note of a recent Government Accountability Office that documents the spending problems at the Pentagon:

Across the military, the average major Pentagon acquisition comes in at 40 percent over budget, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. In spite of the Pentagon’s well-documented history of profligacy, the Congress continues to enlarge its responsibilities. The DOD’s mandate now includes wide-ranging scientific and medical research and international infrastructure projects, diffusing the focus on its core mission—like buying planes that don’t set themselves afire on the runway. That’s a disservice to America’s military and a burden to the country’s taxpayers.

Hypocrites: House Democrats only want transparency and government oversight when a Republican is in the White House

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee aren’t even trying anymore to pretend like they care about the White House’s lack of transparency. They’ve long defended the Obama administration from scandals, often appearing like they don’t care that the White House tried sell a lie to Americans about Benghazi or that the IRS targeted organizations simply because of their political views.

But a lesser controversy brought out a revealing admission from a couple of Democrats on the House’s primary oversight committee.

During a Friday hearing on alleged violations of the Hatch Act by the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, Delegate Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC) blasted her Republican colleagues on the committee for trying to get to the bottom of this latest controversy.

Holmes is upset that Republicans have subpoenaed David Simas, director the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, to testify over the use of a taxpayer-funded government office for partisan political activity. The White House, however, has refused to comply, absurdly and arrogantly claiming executive privilege. Simas has missed the two recent Oversight hearings on the matter.

“I agree that there are circumstances where you don’t need wrongdoing, but you need a predicate for a subpoena. You need more than a fishing expedition,” Norton complained. “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation of powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation of powers government.”

Fire Harry Reid: New polls show Republicans winning the majority in the Senate

A round of new polling released on Sunday shows that Republican candidates have the edge in enough Senate races to take the majority in the upper chamber in the 2014 mid-term election and then some.

The poll was conducted by YouGov in coordination with CBS News and The New York Times finds that Republicans would win the eight Senate seats, handing them a 53-seat majority. The Upshot notes that, based on the new round of polling, Republicans have a 60 percent chance of taking control of the chamber.

Here’s a look at the most relevant races:

State Democrat

Poll

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