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:
It’s no secret that Washington is addicted to spending. Though, it’s true that the budget deficit is expected to decline this year, after four consecutive years of $1+ trillion deficits, the decline is spending isn’t because of any actual spending restraint, it’s a result of gridlock in government.
But declining budget deficits don’t reflect the desires of many members of Congress. According to a new report from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), the net-cost of legislation introduced in 112th Congress (proposed increases less proposed cuts) would have increased the federal budget by $1.3 trillion.
Despite the large increase in federal spending proposed last year, the “BillTally” report has some encouraging findings. Demian Brady, director of research at NTUF, noted that there was a increase in legislation to cut spending.
“The 112th Congress saw a sharp rise in the number of bills to reduce federal spending, with 221 introduced in the House and 127 in the Senate,” wrote Brady. “This is the highest number of spending-cut bills NTUF has recorded since the 105th Congress (1997-1998) when there were 265.” The report also found that legislation to increase federal spending is “being introduced at a much slower pace than in the previous Congress.”
Americans spend $1.8 trillion each year — nearly $15,000 per family — complying with regulations passed down by the federal government. That’s the estimate given by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in the latest edition of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.
“The 2012 Federal Register ranks fourth all-time with 78,961 pages, but three of the top four years, including the top two, occurred during the Obama administration,” noted the statement accompanying the report. “The 2010s are on pace to average 80,000 pages per year—up from 170,000 in the 1960s and 450,000 in the ‘70s.”
“There are more federal regulations than ever—the Code of Federal Regulations, which compiles all federal regulations, grew by more than 4,000 pages last year and now stands at 174,545 pages, spread over 238 volumes. Its index alone runs to more than 1,100 pages,” CEI added. “Government has added more than 80,000 regulations in the last 20 years—3,708 in the last year alone. That’s one new rule Americans must live under every 2½ hours. Today, 4,062 sit in the pipeline. Those will add at least $22 billion in compliance costs and probably much more.”
The cost to Americans as result of the regulations is perhaps the troubling aspect of the report. But another startling point is the way in which these rules and regulations are being imposed on Americans. Because the Obama Administration cannot pass many of these regulations through Congress, it is bypassing the legislative branch altogether, meaning that there is little to no oversight by Congress.
The report also notes that there has been a jump in “economically significant rules” — those that bring $100 million or more in compliance costs — on President Obama’s watch.
Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:
Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.
But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”
It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.
Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.
If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.
In two days, the sequestration axe will either drop, or it won’t. Personally, I am about as close as you can get to the situation, and I have no idea how it will turn out. While the “national security” argument against sequestration was gradually left behind, the arguments against the cuts have become increasingly economic in nature. These arguments are problematic at best and disingenuous at worst.
A while back, I proposed a couple of ways to gradually cut more than sequestration does, therefore creating less pain in the current fiscal year; but as dieting often fails, cutting swiftly might be the only surefire method to actually cut spending. Putting the cuts into perspective, as George Will did in his article this weekend, $85 billion from a $3.6 trillion budget, or 2.3%, is miniscule. The “draconian” cuts merely return us to 2006 levels.
I have been advocating deeper cuts for some time now, and as a defense contractor, am prepared to lose my job as a result (although I don’t expect to). I will try to be as objective as possible herein as I offer a couple of personal thoughts as we draw closer to the actuality of sequestration:
“Congress should be cutting spending, reducing the regulatory burdens that are crushing the economy — freedom works, and it is time we put it back to work.” — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Just a couple of days after President Barack Obama laid out his agenda for the next year in his State of the Union address, I sat down with Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents California’s Fourth Congressional District, to get his thoughts on the proposals being pushed by the White House, the Senate’s refusal to pass a budget, ObamaCare, and a few other issues.
On the State of the Union, Rep. McClintock, who has been among the staunchest defenders of economic freedom and the Constitution in Congress, was dismissive of President Obama’s agenda. “[W]e heard this song before,” he noted. “I think that his words have to be measured against the last four years of his deeds.”
He rhetorically asked, “What have been his policies? Higher taxes, much higher spending, out of control deficits, crushing business regulations. And what have those policies produced? Family take home pay has declined over these past four years, the unemployment rate is higher than when we started — it would be much higher except for the millions of Americans who have given up even looking for work.”
“What did he propose? More of the same,” Rep. McClintock stated. “Taking bad policy and doubling down on it doesn’t make it good policy.”
Last week, United Liberty Editor-in-Chief, Jason Pye, wrote a column discussing why the 22nd Amendment, the one that limits the president to two terms, would never be repealed; despite the fact that there is been a fair amount of press and attention given to the introduction of a resolution by New York Dem, Jose Serrano, that would do precisely that.
Without getting into specifics, Mr. Pye simply said the reasons why this would never happen were “pretty obvious,” and that it was a non-issue. He is correct. And for many of the regular readers of UL, I’m sure it is pretty obvious, but I thought I would take a moment to specifically talk about why it won’t happen for some of the readers who might not fully understand the process.
As many of us know, there are exactly two ways in which the Constitution of the United States can be amended: either by Constitutional Convention, or by a 2/3 vote by Congress with a 3/4 ratification vote by the various state legislatures.
No amendment has ever been passed by a Constitutional Convention, and it seems very unlikely that it would ever happen. In order for it to happen, 2/3 of the state legislatures would have to vote for and call for it. With our polarized electorate, and since many of the states themselves seem so polarized, it just seems like an all-out impossibility.
Today is the start of a new Congress. That means Speaker Boehner is up for reelection as speaker. Rumors are circling that there are enough Republican Congressmen willing to remove Boehner from the role of speaker. Whether that’ll happen or not remains to be seen, but Boehner is toxic for the GOP needs to be replaced.
He has shown that he has no backbone. He has shown that he has no willingness to stand up against the president. A spineless coward does not need to be the Speaker of the House.
The GOP has a lot of rebuilding to do. They control one house of one branch of government. The leader in that position needs to be someone who can articulate a clear viewpoint and work toward that end.
This approach of opposing Obama until the very last minute and then giving them exactly what they want isn’t working. Democrats are getting exactly what they want out of Republicans, and they are getting it in a way that lets them blame the GOP for everything that goes wrong.
This can’t continue.
I don’t write this post in support of a specific member of Congress that could challenge him. The people in the House that I actually like (which are few and far between) aren’t the type of people with broad support within the party. (That’s par for the course when you lean libertarian.)
Instead, I write this as someone who can use some common sense to see that Boehner is doing everything in his power to ruin any chance of a Republican victory in 2014. Or 2016. Or maybe even 2018.
Replacing Boehner is the right thing to do. He’s proven himself inept and unqualified. If the GOP is going to turn this ship around, they first need to throw Boehner overboard.
The good news about our economy is that it hasn’t been struck down by some mysterious act of God. Acts of Government plague our nation – and acts of Government are entirely within our power to change.
Today I will not recite the dismal statistics behind the failed economic policies of this administration, nor the reasons why these policies have failed. The current Presidential campaign has plenty of that, and the fact is that every single American already knows the answer to Ronald Reagan’s simple question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago.”
Today, I would instead like to look ahead to what the 113th Congress and the 45th President of the United States must do if we are to restore prosperity to this country.
I’d like to outline seven measures that I believe are absolutely essential to repair our economy and restore America as the most prosperous and productive nation in the world.
FIRST AND FOREMOST – IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID.
Unless and until we dramatically reduce federal spending and the accompanying tax and debt burden, government will continue crowding out private capital and destroying job creation.
Three numbers tell the story very nicely: 39, 32 and 82. Thirty-nine percent is the rate of inflation and population growth combined over the last ten years between 2002 and 2012. Thirty-two percent is the growth rate of revenue in the same period – despite the tax cuts and the recession. Not quite keeping up with inflation and population growth, but pretty close. Eighty-two percent is the figure that’s killing us. Eighty-two percent is the growth of federal spending.
Google has taken some heat lately over censorship issues. No doubt we’ve all heard by now of the famous “The Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube that, whether it did or did not cause attacks on our embassies, has been a center of controversy.
It stirs up debate on censorship, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on censorship.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the whole First Amendment, but if you break it down to an even simpler form…
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about censorship. But this isn’t about Congress. This whole issue is about Google and whether or not Google should censor the opinions of its users.
I love censorship. I censor things all the time. If you decide to get obnoxious in comments on this blog, I’ll censor you. I try not to, because I want to encourage debate, but if your comments take away from the debate, yeah, I’ll censor you.
I censor things in my home as well. I censor what TV shows my kids see. I use parental control software to censor what Internet content is available.
Censoring content, whether on my web site or in my home, is my right and my responsibility. The same applies to Google. If something posted to a Google property is inappropriate, Google has a right and a responsibility to censor the content.