Obama administration

White House spin can’t change reality of Obamacare spending

The Obama administration’s PR machine continues to use any kind of number to state that the Affordable Care Act is a success.

The president’s latest effort to lead the public to believe the healthcare law was a success consisted of his insistent remarks regarding the number of Americans who picked plans through the Exchange website. He called them “enrollees,” but the actual number of sign-ups that paid for their plans was never reported.

The latest statement coming from the Obama administration that touts ObamaCare as a success is associated with the latest Congressional Budget Office report. According to Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, the new report “demonstrates the Affordable Care Act is working”:

Wrong.

The ACA is still going to cost taxpayers, a lotAccording to Billy House of the National Journal, “the nation is doomed to return to trillion-dollar shortfalls by 2024 if lawmakers don’t alter existing tax and spending policies…the rising debt [will] have serious consequences.” How has President Obama addressed the nation’s bleak financial future? By creating an unsustainable healthcare program and no original framework to help alleviate the nation’s financial woes as evidenced by the 442 tax hikes Obama has proposed since taking office.

Keystone XL delay puts Democratic Party ahead of national interest

Barack Obama

The State Department announced on Friday afternoon that it will extend the review period on the proposed northern route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, citing “on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.”

“The agency consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, and the Department and relevant agencies are actively continuing their work in assessing the Permit application,” the State Department stated in the release, adding that it “will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”

The State Department and other federal agencies are determining whether the TransCananda-backed Keystone XL pipeline is in the United States’ “national interest.” The new northern route, proposed after President Barack Obama rejected the original track, was submitted in September 2012.

The State Department didn’t give any indication of how long agencies need to assess Keystone XL, which has already been extensively studied. State recently concluded that pipeline would have little impact on the environment, also noting that alternatives would result in higher carbon emissions.

Some observers have already surmised that a decision on the pipeline may not come until after the 2014 mid-term election.

Healthcare.gov users advised to change passwords

HealthCare.gov Heartbleed password prompt

Since the recent revelation about “Heartbleed,” a code exploit in OpenSSL encryption that allows hackers to access personal information, a number of websites have asked users to update passwords to protect themselves against any potential security breach.

The National Security Agency reportedly knew about Heartbleed for years and used the exploit to get around security encryption to access online accounts. The controversial intelligence agency, however, apparently never told anyone that about the security risk.

Though they say that “[t]here’s no indication that Heartbleed has been used against HealthCare.gov or that any personal information has ever been at risk,” federal officials are now advising users who have accounts on the federal Obamacare exchange to change their passwords:

CBO sees a bigger river of red ink under Obama’s budget

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that budget deficits will be nearly $1.7 trillion greater under President Barack Obama’s budget than the estimates released last month by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The two agencies frequently conflict on budget projections. The OMB sort of takes a guess on what economic growth will look like over a 10-year period and scores a president’s tax and spending agenda based on those estimates. The CBO, however, is more restrained in its approach.

The discrepancy between the two reports is due to the CBO’s assumption that current law remains largely unchanged. The nonpartisan fiscal research agency also believes that tax revenues will be $1.8 trillion lower than the OMB, which is due to less rosy economic projections over the next 10 years (2015-2024).

President Obama’s budget estimates that budget deficits over the next decade will come in at approximately $4.93 trillion (Table S-1 of the OMB report). But the CBO estimates that deficits will be significantly higher, at $6.56 trillion (Table 1 of the CBO report), or $1.64 trillion greater than the administration’s estimate.

Here’s a look at the year-by-year differences:

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.

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.”

Coalition to Reduce Spending blasts Paul Ryan’s budget hypocrisy

A nonpartisan group focused on reducing spending and the national debt has blasted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for having a “short-sighted view of the nation’s spending crisis” and “hypocrisy” for not putting defense spending under the same scrutiny as other parts of the federal budget.

Ryan penned an op-ed this week for Real Clear Defense in which he decried President Barack Obama and administration official’s “cuts” to the Defense Department and the military. The Wisconsin Republican argued that his budget “would change course,” spending “$274 billion more than the President’s request.”

Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, says that Ryan’s criticism is off the mark, offering it as an example of why Republicans lack credibility to claim that they can deal with the United States’ fiscal woes.

“With his Wednesday statements, Rep. Paul Ryan offers a stunningly shortsighted view of the nation’s spending crisis and shows clearly why so many Republicans have no credibility on the spending issue,” said Bydlak in a press release.

“Ryan seems to be working from the clichéd and dubious assumption that President Obama is ‘gutting’ the military,” he said. “President Obama and Defense Sec. Hagel have a different approach to military funds, to be sure. But Pentagon-budget slashers they are most certainly not.”

House committee refers Lois Lerner for criminal prosecution

The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday afternoon to refer Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, revealing that the disgraced former IRS official at the center of congressional investigations went out of her way to target a specific conservative group:

The big surprise in the referral letter concerning Ms. Lerner: Lawmakers say she personally intervened to compel IRS actions against Crossroads GPS, the biggest and best-known conservative tax-exempt group in the 2012 election cycle.

The GOP referral letter, signed by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), says that Ms. Lerner pushed IRS officials to deny an application for tax-exempt status by Crossroads in 2013. Around the same time, she also pushed other officials to audit Crossroads’s activities to date.

“The evidence shows that without Lerner’s intervention, neither adverse action would have been taken against Crossroads,” the letter states.

Though that’s the surprise in all of this, it’s just one part of the story. Ways and Means charges that Lerner “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, which is very illegal.

Report: Eliminating duplication in federal government could save taxpayers $45 billion

money down the drain

Most politicians like to beat on their chests when it comes to eliminating government waste and unnecessarily programs. But when it comes to actually doing it, they sound a lot like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had the audacity to claim last year that “the cupboard is bare,” adding that “[t]here’s no more cuts to make.”

The fact is that there’s plenty of cuts that could be made, and the federal government could save taxpayers billions of dollars just by eliminating duplication. That, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan federal audit agency.

The GAO report identified 26 areas of fragmentation, duplication, or overlapping federal programs that, according to the report “span a broad range of government missions and functions.” That is in addition to the 162 areas identified in previous reports.

To give you an idea of how nonsensical the federal government is, the report, for example, found that 11 different agencies did autism research from FY 2008 to FY 2012. The funds awarded to these agencies totaled nearly $1.2 billion.

Another example is overlapping disability and unemployment payments. Simple reforms to address this problem would save taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who sponsored the law which requires the annual audit, said the areas identified in the report could taxpayers $45 billion over the next five years, adding to potential savings already identified by the GAO.

Holder’s idea of “common sense” gun control: gun tracking bracelets

During a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder floated some ideas of “common sense” gun control efforts the Obama administration is considering. Among the Orwellian ideas that Holder mentioned are gun tracking bracelets for gun owners, via the Washington Free Beacon (emphasis added):

“I think that one of the things that we learned when we were trying to get passed those common sense reforms last year, Vice President Biden and I had a meeting with a group of technology people and we talked about how guns can be made more safe,” he said.

“By making them either through finger print identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon.”

“It’s those kinds of things that I think we want to try to explore so that we can make sure that people have the ability to enjoy their Second Amendment rights, but at the same time decreasing the misuse of weapons that lead to the kinds of things that we see on a daily basis,” Holder said.

See and hear Holder’s comments for yourself:


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