On Monday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the state’s budget opting in to the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion program. It was the capstone of a long, hard fought battle by Gov. Brewer to impose the expansion on the state of Arizona and its startled citizenry.
How did we come to the point where a Republican governor in a conservative state would stake her political career on choosing to implement ObamaCare’s massive expansion of the welfare state?
ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion is Optional
PPACA Section 2001 expanded Medicaid up to 133% of the federal poverty line. It also provided federal funding for the increase as follows:
(A) 100 percent for calendar quarters in 2014, 2015, and 2016;
(B) 95 percent for calendar quarters in 2017;
(C) 94 percent for calendar quarters in 2018;
(D) 93 percent for calendar quarters in 2019; and
(E) 90 percent for calendar quarters in 2020 and each year thereafter.
Then came the Supreme Court’s ruling on the individual mandate in NFIB v. Sebelius. Chief Justice Roberts inexplicably upheld the mandate as a tax, a holding that will forever define his legacy as having abandoned originalism. But there was one minor victory for the states:
The common American might be at a much more vulnerable spot now that Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, asked lawmakers for more authority in order to offer liability immunity to companies working closely with the National Security Agency in digital defense programs.
The change in law would allow for mistakes to go unaccounted for in case a company hits the wrong target while attempting to block the home base of a suspicious or seemingly threatening source. While this change in the law seems harmless to some, it could offer protection to companies that act on behalf of the agency, and leave innocent consumers without any access to legal recourse.
Congress was left with the duty of rethinking how private companies are held liable. According to POLITICO, a White House official assured that the Obama administration would be willing to accept a change in the law in order to maintain a company protected while participating in defensive countermeasures online. The source remained anonymous.
While many companies still fight to protect their reputation after news regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs broke, the increased immunity would strip a firm’s only incentive to resist government pressure: its good name.
While certain companies still take their consumers’ privacy into consideration, some fear losing their strong presence in the market, which is why they might be welcoming to the change in the law. Some companies may see this as an opportunity to have their assets protected by avoiding being hit with lawsuits over possible target errors.
If you can’t beat them, force them to join their own thing.
That may as well have been Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) motto in 2009 when he introduced an amendment to PPACA to force members of Congress and their staff onto the ObamaCare exchanges. In the private sector, this practice of dropping large employee groups or terminating employer-sponsored group health plans is referred to as “dumping” employees onto the ObamaCare exchange. Congress and its staff will certainly feel dumped on come January 1, 2014, when they’re left to fend for themselves in the world of government-driven healthcare.
What is the FEHBP?
The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is the group health plan for federal government employees. It’s the largest employer-sponsored plan in the country, covering 8 million enrollees. That’s roughly the size of the entire population of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.
Why Members of Congress and Staff Lose FEHBP Coverage as of January 1, 2014
PPACA Section 1312 explicitly requires that they go to the ObamaCare exchange:
While the nation was fully focused on the NSA scandals and Edward Snowden, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. Republicans who voted no on H. R. 1960, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, included Rep. Justin Amash (MI-03),and Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-04).
Out of the nearly 200 NDAA amendments introduced to the House for voting, only one could have prevented the mandatory military custody of an American citizen without charge or trial: the Smith-Gibson Amendment would eliminate the indefinite military detention of any person taken into custody under the authority of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). This amendment failed by receiving 200 ayes and 226 nays. Out of the 226 votes in opposition to this article, 213 came from Republican congressmen.
Through the NDAA, the U.S. Congress determines how much of the budget can be dedicated to military spending. With the passing of the NDAA of 2014, Congress kept policies that have been in effect since the Bush administration without challenging the request for $614 million required for military construction and civilian infrastructure projects for Guam.
Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein are out with an op-ed that argues that the data-mining and surveillance programs we’ve become aware of over the past week aren’t really as big a deal as many libertarians and conservatives are making them out to be:
President Barack Obama is under harsh attack for stating the obvious: No amount of government ingenuity will guarantee the American people 100 percent security, 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. He was answering a burst of more heated responses from left and right alike to the “news” that for years the National Security Agency has been collecting metadata about Americans’ phone calls and certain foreign Internet communications.
Legally, the president is on secure footing under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed shortly after 9/11 and has since reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities. As he stressed, the program has enjoyed the continued support of all three branches of the federal government. It has been free of political abuse since its inception. And as he rightly added, this nation has real problems if its people, at least here, can’t trust the combined actions of the executive branch and the Congress, backstopped by federal judges sworn to protect our individual liberties secured by the Bill of Rights.
With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.
There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.
A Constitution Without Rights
John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:
It’s been a week since Glenn Greenwald broke the story on the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of calls made on the Verizon network. There have been a lot of arguments made for and against this program over the last week, and the battlelines have been clearly drawn.
First, let’s recap. This sort of surveillance has been around for at least seven years, perhaps even longer. The difference between what was going on with the NSA under the Bush Administration and what is currently going in the Obama Administration is that the former didn’t bother with court orders or warrants to conduct this sort of blanket surveillance.
So when the apologists for the program say it’s “legal,” like Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) did yesterday, they’re referring to the the statutory authority granted via Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, a controversial provision of the law that allows intelligence agencies to obtain a court order to collect this information from businesses. More on this in a moment.
Using this section of the law, the NSA obtained authority from a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to force Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of customers, even if they are not suspected of terrorist activity.
Ronald Reagan was probably the last really great leader to serve as president of the United States. Although disdained and considered a dangerous ideologue by most elites while he was in office, history has given him a pretty good verdict. Reagan restored growth, won the Cold War and, when circumstances forced him to, even stabilized a Social Security system that was on the brink of collapse.
Even among Reagan fans, however, his environmental record rarely gets much credit. Many of my fellow conservative Reagan fans are dismissive of environmental concerns and a roughly equal proportion of environmentalists are disdainful of the conservative goals that Reagan himself emphasized.
This is a shame, because Reagan’s record on the environment, although far from perfect, is a pretty good model for a conservation agenda that just about everyone should embrace. As I describe in the Weekly Standard, the Reagan administration took major steps to end subsidies for environmentally destructive activities, pushed for and negotiated a smartly designed agreement to phase out harmful chlorofluorocarbons and did a good job balancing conservation, recreation, and resource extraction on public land. This agenda saved money while still making very real environmental progress.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a program called PRISM to collect “metadata,” under a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, to spy on Americans’ phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime.
These revelations are nothing new, actually; we are just now getting the details. A YEAR AGO, Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) reported at WIRED’s Dangerroom:
“On at least one occasion,” the intelligence shop has approved Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to say, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while it was collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
At the time, Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez elaborated:
“The standard procedure for FISA surveillance is that “large amounts of information are collected by automatic recording to be minimized after the fact.” The court elaborated: “Virtually all information seized, whether by electronic surveillance or physical search, is minimized hours, days, or weeks after collection.”
The number of bizarre, outrageous, infuriating, and baffling stories flooding the news cycle over recent weeks is so surreal that one could be excused for thinking the online parody site, The Onion, had somehow taken over the mainstream media. The stories provide more compelling evidence as to why big government is dangerous to not only liberty, privacy, and constitutional rights, but to plain common sense. Some stories stoke fear about the rising tyranny of big government, as if they were ripped from the pages of George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984, while others show a level of such confounding incompetence that one wonders why we ever feared such idiots seizing control of the reins of power.
The truth is somewhere in between. While it is clear that there are those within the upper echelons of government that have conspired to seize power and spy on their fellow citizens, it is also clear that the majority of the abuse inflicted by government on those it “serves” comes from the crushing weight of a federal bureaucracy that is fully entrenched with little fear of being fired; wielding power over their fiefdoms and their helpless subjects therein simply because they can. Here are just a handful of the stories we’ve heard of late, each one a testament as to why every American should fear the enormous and metastasizing power of government in our lives, and why we should all fight to take a chainsaw to the size of government, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation: