At this point, everyone generally accepts that the President’s purported one-year delay in forcing you to lose your individual health insurance policy (and, more importantly, corralling you into the Obamacare exchange) was political grandstanding amounting to almost no practical benefit. At last check, 19 states had rejected the so-called “fix.” For those that have adopted it, congratulations on delaying the inevitable.
The Obama administration has recently tried to reframe the narrative of this fiasco by focusing on the fact that only 5% of Americans purchase an individual health insurance policy. After all, why concern ourselves over the health plan of 14 or 15 million Americans when their sacrifices will benefit the much grander scope of universal utopia?
Last Thursday morning, President Obama issued his latest proclamation in an attempt to save face on his farcical promise. Of course, the “relief” came far too late and with far too many restrictions to have any practical, real-world effect.
It’s become instinctive at this point to assume that every policy decision that comes from the Obama administration is a blatant violation of separation of powers. After all, this is the administration that unilaterally delayed enforcement of Obamacare’s employer mandate in direct violation of the statutory requirements. Many prominent commentators have immediately jumped back on this bandwagon again in this latest Obamacare edict.
But here’s the real legal low-down: President Obama and his executive agencies (HHS/DOL/IRS) have almost unlimited discretion in determining what is considered a “grandfathered health plan.”
Over the weekend, Capitol Hill was aflutter with news that Republicans in the House and Senate were coming together to finally propose a “fix” to Obamacare. The “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” sponsored by Fred Upton in the House and Ron Johnson in the Senate, would essentially overrule the HHS grandfather rules for what insurance plans can continue to exist after certain dates so that people can keep their current plans no matter what, as the President promised. It would be a fix for the millions of Americans being cancelled by their insurers to comply with the new regulations.
Reporters and pundits saw this as a “shift” in strategy, to finally start working with Democrats to reform the calamitous reform rather than stonewall it. I used to think that helpful collaboration would be the better option, but had a change of heart after the implementation proved so disastrous. So I was horrified when I read the headline suggesting Republicans were coming around. As soon as I decide that stonewalling is the best strategy, the party reverses course. Typical! Then I read the story.
Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and current Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller have been the subjects of intense questioning from Congress over the past two weeks over their relation to the Tea Party targeting scandal. For Shulman, questions remain as to whether he may have lied in front of the House Ways and Means Committee in March 2012 when questioned about allegations of targeting that at the time were simmering without mainstream awareness. He appeared to be less than forthright in his responses when questioned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Miller has already tendered his resignation under pressure.
But there’s another IRS scandal waiting to gain widespread awareness, and this time it undeniably has Shumlan’s and MIller’s fingerprints all over it. The IRS is unconstitutionally implementing ObamaCare exchange subsidies in states that refuse to establish an exchange.
What PPACA Says
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.
Internet Analogies: Twice as Many Americans Lack Access to Public Water-Supply Systems than Fixed Broadband
After abandoning the “information superhighway” analogy for the Internet, net neutrality advocates began analogizing the Internet to waterworks. I’ve previously discussed the fundamental difference between infrastructure that distributes commodities (e.g., water) and the Internet, which distributes speech protected by the First Amendment – a difference that is alone sufficient to reject any notion that governments should own and control the infrastructure of the Internet. For those who remain unconvinced that the means of disseminating mass communications (e.g., Internet infrastructure) is protected by the First Amendment, however, there is another flaw in the waterworks analogy: If broadband Internet infrastructure had been built to the same extent as public water-supply systems, more than twice as many Americans would lack fixed broadband Internet access.
California AB 880: “This bill would make it unlawful for a large employer to, among other things…reduce an employee’s hours or work…if the purpose is to avoid the imposition of the penalty. A violation of those provisions would result in a penalty of 200% of the penalty amount the employer would have paid for the applicable period of time.”
ObamaCare’s employer mandate is off to a disastrous start even before it kicks in. The CBO has already scored the measure to cost employers $150 billion in draconian excise taxes over the next eleven years, and there’s no telling how much the compliance costs will total. Most employers are in no position to shoulder this burden. How have they responded? For many, the only hope has been to reduce employees’ hours because the employer mandate and its associated penalty taxes apply only to employees who average at least 30 hours per week. Regal Entertainment Group recently announced that it would join the long line of mega-sized employers to be reluctantly forced down this road.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, many people throughout the country are bracing. Yes, they got the alleged perpetrators, with one in custody and the other in the morgue, but now they brace for the inevitable legislative push that will result in nothing but a loss of liberty for people who had nothing to do with the bombings.
Sounds a lot like gun control, doesn’t it?
Memes are flying fast and furious in the wake of the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, many joking about what Congress and the White House will try to ban. They’re generally meant humorously, but I’m not so sure.
Over this week, we’ve heard about pressure cookers being suggested as bomb housing by such diverse sources as The Anarchist Cookbook and an al-Qaeda guide on making IEDs. As such, could they be the likely target of Washington’s ire?
Even now, statist forces are trying to decide how to keep us safe my taking away our freedoms. Just as they have done with meth, it’s entirely possible that those forces will look at regulation of how many pressure cookers one can buy in a given time frame as a way to curb would be terrorists.
In reality, almost no one buys several pressure cookers over a short period of time…unless they’re building bombs. The fact that multiple publications call for such to be used as housing is really a good reason in some people’s eyes to restrict them in some way.
Of course, there are a few things that will make this more difficult. For one, Sudafed doesn’t exact have a resale value, while used pressure cookers do. Of course, that’s not exactly a deterent for many in Washington, now is it?
Let’s put aside for a minute that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, adds $6.2 trillion in debt, piles on countless new taxes, and has already racked up $31 billion and 71.5 million hours in regulatory compliance costs. Yes, that’s a lot to put aside. But for just a moment assume the role of a liberal with an entitlement mentality. For a law with enormous riches and political capital invested in it, wouldn’t you expect it to at least function on its most basic level consistent with its namesake? In other words, you would expect for the Affordable Care Act to provide affordable coverage.
The latest of ObamaCare’s fundamental flaws to be euphemistically reported as a “glitch” that needs to be “tweaked” is its failure to provide affordable family coverage for a broad group of employees. As a result, Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 3.9 million family dependents may not be able to afford employer-sponsored family coverage or receive subsidized coverage on an ObamaCare exchange.
Understanding the family glitch requires a quick primer on the byzantine regulatory structure governing Obamacare’s subsidies:
We are now only a month into the President Obama lame duck-era, yet the post-election deluge of Obamacare regulations is already well underway. Clearly, these regulations were completed prior to the election, withheld to prevent any political blowback. This should come as no surprise. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest expansive entries into the Federal Register:
Essential Health Benefits (77 FR 70644, November 26, 2012)
Obamacare lists ten broad categories of health benefits as essential health benefits (EHB), to be defined in detail by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has instead put this burden on the states. States are to choose a benchmark plan to serve as the framework for EHB in that state. The states that refuse will have a default benchmark plan assigned to them. Individual health policies sold on state or federally facilitated exchanges (referred to as qualified health plans, or QHP) must actually provide these EHB. For employer sponsored group health plans, only non-grandfathered plans that are insured in the small group market must provide EHB. Any grandfathered, large market, or self-funded group health plan does not need to provide EHB, but they cannot impose any lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of EHB. Welcome to Obamacare.