Not only did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) give Democrats a convenient political distraction from the Obamacare meltdown, the “nuclear option” was also very obvious power grab that gives President Barack Obama virtually unchecked power to whomever he wants to his cabinet or to federal courts.
But the executive appointments that can now be made without any real check in the Senate are not just innocuous posts. Sam Baker of National Journal noted last week that the elimination of the filibuster gives President Obama the ability to make appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), otherwise known as “death panels.”
“The IPAB is technically supposed to submit its first proposed cuts in January, but Obama hasn’t even nominated anyone to the board yet. Nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate, which until today required 60 votes—and Republicans were highly unlikely to help confirm anyone to the board,” wrote Baker on Thursday.
“But now that the Senate has moved to a 51-vote threshold for executive appointments, Obama will likely be able to fill the board and move ahead with one of the most significant cost-control measures in his signature health care law—if he wants to,” he noted, adding that Senate aide confirmed that the filibuster change applies to IPAB.
Not only did President Barack Obama tell Americans that they could keep their health plans under Obamacare, he also said on numerous occasions that they could keep their doctors. Like his health plan promise, there was no ambiguity or nuance to the statement.
“Under the reform that I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you’ll keep your doctor,” said President Obama on July 29, 2009. “If you like your health care plan, you will keep your plan.”
“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he said, again, on March 10, 2010. “I’m the father of two young girls –- I don’t want anybody interfering between my family and their doctor.”
Despite that promise by President Obama, many Americans are losing their doctors. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network, leaving many seniors without access to the doctors they liked and trusted:
The already small chance of Congress passing any sort of entitlement reform in a budget agreement before the mid-December deadline may have gotten a little smaller thanks to a prominent labor leader.
In a speech before the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka promised that Big Labor would “never stop working” to end the careers of congressional Democrats who support entitlement reform.
“Let me just say this one for the record. No politician — I don’t care the political party — will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it. And this warning goes double for Democrats,” said Trumka, according to the Washington Examiner. “We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career.”
For all the Democrats’ complaints about conservative groups and organizations making it difficult for Congress to get anything done, labor unions have long had a stranglehold on the party. Since 1990, Big Labor has given $751.8 million to Democratic candidates, which is 92% of their contributions. And in 2008, they worked heavily for then-candidate Barack Obama, who promised them their long-desired legislative goal, card check.
When the Affordable Care Act was working its way through Congress, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promised that the law would bring down healthcare costs and have a positive impact on the federal budget deficit. Unfortunately, those promises aren’t panning out, according to one of the trustees of Medicare and Social Security, and taxpayers will be worse off.
“Even before the president signed the ACA into law, non-partisan analysts demonstrated that the belief it would reduce federal deficits was based on a misunderstanding of government accounting,” wrote Charles Blahous, a trust of the two major entitlement programs and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
“The ACA’s projected savings from Medicare payment reductions were in effect being doubly committed: once to extend Medicare solvency and a second time to fund a massive coverage expansion,” noted Blahous. “Both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Medicare Chief Actuary alerted Congress to the problem at the time.”
One of the most notable absences from the debate over funding the federal government has been Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and House Budget Committee Chairman.
Aside from participating in a photo op last week with other House conferees ready to negotiate with their missing Senate counterparts, Ryan has been relatively quiet as of late, which is peculiar since he is one of the most prominent Republicans in Congress and the architect of two House-passed budget plans.
But Ryan spoke out about the budget stalemate yesterday in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and urged President Barack Obama to talk with Republicans, who he said are ready to negotiate, and also noted precedent for such discussions in a divided government. The Wisconsin Republican also talked up the idea of reforming entitlements, which are the drivers of federal spending.
“The president is giving Congress the silent treatment. He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling,” wrote Ryan in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a shame—because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough.”
Ryan noted that President Obama is misleading the public he says that negotiations on the debt ceiling would be “unprecedented,” pointing to agreements forged under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He also pointed out that President Obama himself has negotiated on the debt ceiling in the past, citing the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was passed with bipartisan support and backed by the White House.
There’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the government shutdown that started today. Democrats in both chambers of Congress have been complaining about how it will slowdown basic services and hurt Americans. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what services and programs are affected.
Reason magazine put together the video below back in 2011 listing the departments, agencies and programs that will continue running during a government shutdown. Medicare will continue running and Social Security checks will still go out. The IRS will, unfortunately, continue to operate. The United States Postal Service and the TSA will also work through a shutdown.
Non-essential government workers will be furloughed, though it’s likely that they’ll get paid when an agreement is reached on spending. President Barack Obama and Congress will, unfortunately, continue to receive their paychecks during a shutdown.
Check out the video from Reason:
The Treasury Department announced on Monday that the $16.7 trillion debt limit will be reached in mid-October, meaning that Congress will once again have wade into the tumultuous politics that come with the issue.
House Republicans may hold a “clean vote” on the debt ceiling to show that there isn’t support for raising the borrowing limit without some sort of trade off, either further spending cuts or a showdown on ObamaCare. It could lead to a stalemate similar to what we saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.
Record budgets deficits that President Obama has overseen and a growing national debt are something about which Americans should be concerned. But the focus on the debt ceiling misses the larger point — specifically entitlement spending.
Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, recently took a look at various estimates of the true cost of the national debt, including unfunded liabilities, and what she found is nothing short of speechless:
Fiscal policy discussions generally focus on the current year’s budget numbers: $1.0 trillion budget deficit and $16.0 trillion national debt.
As alarming as these numbers are, they fail to account for the far greater fiscal challenges of unfunded liabilities. Here is some key evidence from various studies:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that you should celebrate ObamaCare when you’re sitting down with your friends and family this Independence Day.
During a press conference yesterday, Pelosi marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision upholding major parts of ObamaCare as a reason to “observ[e] health independence” and said that the law “captures the spirit of our founders.”
“Soon we will all be leaving for the Fourth of July recess next week. When we celebrate Independence Day, we also will be observing health independence. This week, this marks one year since the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. It captures the spirit of our founders, a spirit they wrote in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Pelosi told reporters. “The Affordable Care Act offers just that, a healthier life, the liberty to pursue a person’s happiness, to be free of constraints, be job-locked because they are policy-locked.”
“So, we have had Social Security, Medicare, and now health independence,” she added. “And that’s something our Members will take home to celebrate over this Independence Day.”
The new narrative being pushed by the media is that President Barack Obama’s new budget is an olive branch of sorts to congressional Republicans. Politico ran with the headline, “President Obama’s risky ‘goodwill’ gambit,” which highlighted some of the proposed changes to Social Security.
The Associated Press noted the frustration from some on the Left in its piece, “Liberals balk at Obama’s 2nd term overtures to GOP,” which also focused on the proposed cuts to entitlement programs.
While it’s true that the only real measure of good news from the the White House’s budget is the changes to Social Security, there is absolutely nothing here in terms of compromise or reform. The White House has made that much clear by telling Politico — in a separate article from the one mentioned above, of course — that Republicans can take the Social Security changes in exchange for more $1 trillion in tax hikes or leave it:
And Gene Sperling, the director Obama’s National Economic Council, on Wednesday afternoon emphasized that the proposal is ”not an à la carte menu” for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and congressional Republicans to choose what they like and discard the rest.
“You can’t decide to only pick out the concessions the president has made and not include the concessions from the Republican side that need to be part of a bipartisan deal that can pass both houses,” Sperling said.
Every now and then, you’ll read a story about how politicians are targeting 401(k) accounts as an extra source of revenue to deal with the long-term entitlement crisis or to guard against losses during an economic downturn. Back in 2009, leftist groups pushed Congress for more government involvement in the private retirement system, including some sort of public alternative — because, you know, Social Security has worked out just peachy.
The proposal out of Cyprus that would give depositors a “haircut,” a high-percentage levy on their deposits, has prompted fears in the United States that some future administration or Congress could eventually put financial assets, such as bank accounts and 401(k), in their crosshairs. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) has proposed legislation that would prohibit the federal government from taking such an action.
But could something like that ever actually happen in other European Union countries? Over at Reason, Ed Krayewski points to an thought-provoking and troublesome op-ed out of Ireland that wonders what the future of that country’s depositors looks like: