Wall Street Journal
There has already been a mountain of reports that insurance premiums are rising for many of Americans because of ObamaCare. Premium increases anywhere from 30% to 100% were already predicted, but a new analysis from the Wall Street Journal finds that premiums could rise by as much as 150%:
For a 40-year-old single nonsmoker—in the middle of the age range eligible for exchanges—a “bronze” plan covering about 60% of medical costs will be available for about $200 a month in most places, the proposals show.
Though less generous than “silver” and “gold” plans on the exchanges, a bronze plan would still include fuller benefits than many policies available on the individual market today.
The challenge for the law is that healthy 40-year-olds can typically get coverage for less today, especially if they are willing to accept fewer benefits or take on more costs themselves. Supporters of the law say tighter regulation on insurance practices gives consumers more protection and is worth the extra cost, but they have to persuade people who don’t have an immediate need for health care of that. If only sick people buy into the new insurance pools, prices could shoot up.
In Richmond, a 40-year-old male nonsmoker logging on to the eHealthInsurance comparison-shopping website today would see a plan that costs $63 a month from Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc. That plan has a $5,000 deductible and covers half of medical costs.
We’re heard time and time again that the federal government is having to make tough decisions to avoid the sequester, which are simply cuts to the rate of spending increases. However, Washington is still spending taxpayer dollars on completely wasteful endeavors that the simply should not be subsidizing.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the International Trade Administration, part of the Department of Commerce, spent $300,000 last year to help independent record labels promote their artists and products overseas:
For the first time, the U.S. government’s trade arm is stepping in to help the music business, funding trade missions to Brazil and Asia in recent months for the heads of a dozen independent music labels, which make up one-third of the U.S. music market.
It is a departure for the International Trade Administration, which has been spending $2 million annually to boost exports for the past two decades under its Market Development Cooperator Program but has never before given one of its $300,000 grants to the music industry, instead favoring sectors like machinery, technology and engineering services.
“We need to find new revenue streams,” said Rich Bengloff, president of the American Association of Independent Music, whose idea it was to apply for the grant. He led the trips and arranged meetings with local distributors, mobile-phone carriers, booking agents and ad agencies. “We now need to adjust to a smaller monetization at home.”
Power-hungry states are one step closer to being able to tax Internet purchases. Late yesterday afternoon, the United States Senate cleared a procedural hurdle that would allow state governments to tax online retailers, essentially making them tax collectors, even if they don’t have a presence in their borders.
The Senate overwhelmingly voted to limit debate on the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), setting up a final vote on the measure in the chamber within the next few weeks. Many states want the extra revenue to spend on pet-projects and vote-buying schems. President Barack Obama has, unsurprisingly, also endorsed the online sales tax.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was never the subject of a committee hearing, “discriminates against Internet-based businesses by imposing burdens that it does not apply to brick-and-mortar companies.” The Wall Street Journal also points out that the driving force behind the bill is traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
While House Republicans have made it a priority to protect business owners during negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” there are signs that investment as businesses seeing more economic problems coming:
U.S. companies are scaling back investment plans at the fastest pace since the recession, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery.
Half of the nation’s 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls.
Corporate executives say they are slowing or delaying big projects to protect profits amid easing demand and rising uncertainty. Uncertainty around the U.S. elections and federal budget policies also appear among the factors driving the investment pullback since midyear. It is unclear whether Washington will avert the so-called fiscal cliff, tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin Jan. 2.
Companies fear that failure to resolve the fiscal cliff will tip the economy back into recession by sapping consumer spending, damaging investor confidence and eating into corporate profits. A deal to avert the cliff could include tax-code changes, such as revamping tax breaks or rates, that hurt specific sectors.
The Wall Street Journal does explain that the economy could see a boost when and if a deal is made to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Don’t take that as a sign of approval from businesses and investors, but rather sign of them knowing what exactly they’re dealing with moving forward.
The debate over the “fiscal cliff,” particularly the tax hike for higher-income earners being push by President Barack Obama, is one that is based on an entirely false premise. The argument from Obama and Senate Democrats is that these taxpayers need to pay more to help bring the budget back to a sustainable path. However, the Wall Street Journal explains that tax revenue has been climbing and the real issue is that spending has gotten out of control under Obama:
The nearby table lays out the ugly details. The feds rolled up another $1.1 trillion deficit for the year that ended September 30, which was the biggest deficit since World War II, except for each of the previous three years. President Obama can now proudly claim the four largest deficits in modern history. As a share of GDP, the deficit fell to 7% last year, which was still above any single year of the Reagan Presidency, or any other year since Truman worked in the Oval Office.
Tax revenue kept climbing, up 6.4% for the year overall, and at $2.45 trillion it is now close to the historic high it reached in fiscal 2007 before the recession hit. Mr. Obama won’t want you to know this, but this revenue increase is occurring under the Bush tax rates that he so desperately wants to raise in the name of getting what he says is merely “a little more in taxes.” Individual income tax payments are now up $233 billion over the last two years, or 26%.
Now let’s look at outlays, which declined a bit in 2012. That small miracle was achieved thanks to a 4% fall in defense spending, a 24% fall in jobless benefits, and an 8.9% decline in Medicaid spending.
Written by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Imagine a world in which the Iraq War had gone exactly as marketed. The United States invaded in March 2003. The Iraqis, with the help of Ahmed Chalabi, rapidly transitioned to become a stable, liberal democracy allied with the United States against Iran. The marvelous and smooth transformation had ripple effects throughout the region: a handful of Arab states followed suit, and the United States had drawn down to under 30,000 troops in country by September 2003, setting up a basing agreement with the new Iraqi government to stay indefinitely. Few American lives were lost, the swamp of terrorism was drained, and an oil pipeline has just been completed running from Iraq to the Israeli port city of Haifa.
Imagine, at the same time, that opponents of the war, despite having gotten every major judgment about the prudence and consequences of the war comically wrong, had been vaulted to positions of power and prestige in foreign affairs commentary. Meanwhile, the war’s proponents, despite their support for a strategy that yielded huge strategic dividends for the United States at a low cost, were banished to the wilderness, heard from sporadically on a few blogs and at a think tank or two.
It would be strange, wouldn’t it?
And yet that situation is roughly analogous to the one in which we find ourselves today, except in real life the war was an enormous disaster, just as its opponents predicted, and the proponents of the war are the ones in denial about its implications. Foremost among the salespeople for war who have yet to come to grips with the facts are the members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare, Mitt Romney’s campaign has engaged in mixed messaging as they struggle to find out what exactly the believe or, at the very least, what they think Americans want to hear. The editoral board at the Wall Street Journal isn’t pleased and is pushing Team Romney to get its act together:
Appearing on MSNBC, close Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked by host Chuck Todd if Mr. Romney “agrees with the president” and “believes that you shouldn’t call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?”
“That’s correct,” Mr. Fehrnstrom replied, before attempting some hapless spin suggesting that Mr. Obama must be “held accountable” for his own “contradictory” statements on whether it is a penalty or tax. Predictably, the Obama campaign and the media blew past Mr. Fehrnstrom’s point, jumped on the tax-policy concession, and declared the health-care tax debate closed.
For conservative optimists who think Mr. Fehrnstrom misspoke or is merely dense, his tax absolution gift to Mr. Obama was confirmed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who tried the same lame jujitsu spin. In any event, Mr. Fehrnstrom is part of the Boston coterie who are closest to Mr. Romney, and he wouldn’t say such a thing without the candidate’s approval.
While none of his rivals have landed a punch on the health care issue — though it seems like Rick Santorum is on the right path, it is certainly something that Mitt Romney will continue deal with during his campaign as he bobs and weaves from his own past statements; as the Wall Street Journal notes:
The exchange began when Rick Santorum scored Mr. Romney for lacking health-care “credibility,” since the 2006 Bay State reform “was the basis for ObamaCare.” If the first claim is for primary voters to decide, no one who knows anything about health policy on the left or right would deny the second: When Democrats wrote the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, they borrowed liberally from Mr. Romney’s model.
If the plans are not identical in every detail, they share major phenotypes: an individual mandate to buy health insurance or else pay a penalty; large transfer payments to subsidize the middle class; and much more government control over how insurance plans are structured, how medical services are delivered, and how both are priced.
“This is something that was crafted for Massachusetts,” Mr. Romney responded in Las Vegas, repeating his stock answer. “It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation.” The former Governor says Mr. Obama’s plan “must be repealed” and then states can experiment with their own health-care solutions.
But the larger and more important point is that Mr. Romney continues to defend his Massachusetts plan as a success for precisely the same reasons that President Obama says it should be imposed on all states. In reality, the Massachusetts plan is not a success and its problems are the best refutation of the duo’s arguments.
The reactions on Mitt Romney’s economic proposals are in and they’re mixed for the most part. As noted yesterday, the proposal are most a rehash of what he put out during his last presidential four years ago. The Wall Street Journal isn’t impressed:
Mitt Romney rolled out a major chunk of his economic agenda yesterday, and we’ll say this for it: His ideas are better than President Obama’s. Yet the 160 pages and 59 proposals also strike us as surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament. They’re a technocrat’s guide more than a reform manifesto.
The Club for Growth, which has been critical of Romney on healthcare and his consistency on economic issues, notes that there are parts of the proposal that sound good, but it’s counterproductive when it comes to China:
“Governor Romney deserves praise for his specific plan to put America on a path to economic prosperity.” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Eliminating taxes on savings and investment, pushing for a flatter tax system, and cutting the corporate tax are positive steps. Governor Romney has correctly identified that a lower regulatory burden would create a positive climate for economic growth and has laid out pro-growth specifics on how to accomplish this goal. Unlike President Obama, who has given nothing but empty rhetoric promising more of the same failed policies, Governor Romney has offered specific solutions that demonstrate his potential as President. Every top-tier Presidential candidate should issue a comparable blueprint for Americans to review.”