White House

Ben Carson should apologize for what?

Ben Carson

Once upon a time, there was an idealistic notion in this nation that the people should speak up when they recognized that government was not serving the people. Politicians theoretically had to answer to constituents, and the press. The press honestly did act as a watchdog, making sure that the government and politicians didn’t overstep boundaries or engage in unlawful practices.

And then the people elected Barack Obama.

Instead of the people speaking freely about the ills of government, it has become “racist” to suggest that the president could possibly make a mistake. Tolerance is acceptable, as long as one agrees with the president’s supporters. Government agencies may be used to harass, monitor, or otherwise bully detractors into silence.

And when someone has the audacity to speak against the president’s agenda in his presence, apparently that person can expect to be asked to apologize for it.

Ben Carson delivered a speech last year that was hailed by conservatives because it shredded quite a few of Obama’s policies, and the hated ObamaCare. The bonus was to watch the president squirm while those words were spoken, and then paint a smile on his face at the end while shaking Carson’s hand. But someone obviously wasn’t amused.

It’s come to light that Carson received a phone call from the White House stating that he should apologize to the president for his remarks. The poor president was offended.

Only two House Democrats support Obama’s budget

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) did something yesterday that no House Democrat would dare do. The South Carolina conservative presented President Barack Obama’s tax and spend FY 2015 budget for a floor vote.

The budget unveiled by President Obama last month relies upon $3.5 trillion in higher than expected revenues to the federal government over the next 10 years. The increased revenues rely on rosy economic growth scenarios as well as $1 trillion in new taxes to finance a budget that never comes into balance.

The White House’s budget, however, failed to gain any real support when it was presented on the House floor. It was defeated by a 2 to 413 vote. The two votes came from Reps. Mary Kaptur (D-OH) and Jim Moran (D-VA).

President Obama’s budget was just one of several offered as amendments on the floor yesterday before the final vote on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Path to Prosperity.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-NM) offered the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ alternative budget, which, believe it or not, is worse than the White House’s proposal. That measure did remarkably better — which should tell you exactly how far left the much of Democratic Party has drifted — but still failed, 89 to 327.

Charlie Cook: Democrats probably shouldn’t spike the football on Obamacare

The White House and congressional Democrats have been eager to tout the Obamacare “enrollment” numbers, hoping that it will convince a skeptical public that the law isn’t as bad as Republicans say it is.

This football spiking, so to speak, isn’t convincing political analysts and prognosticators that the 2014 mid-term election will be any easier for Democrats, among them is Charlie Cook, founder of the eponymous Cook Political Report:

My Cook Political Report colleague David Wasserman has come to call this election environment “2010 Lite.” He sees this as an environment that is tough for Democrats, but perhaps a bit less tough than 2010, with different circumstances and minimal exposure to losses in the House, but greater exposure in the Senate. Although Obama’s numbers might be about the same as in 2010, the Republicans’ brand damage might offset it a touch. As in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, is front and center. Some polls indicate the law is less unpopular, though for every poll that shows the ACA numbers improving, two show the public’s feelings remaining unchanged. At best, one can say that the improvement is inconclusive; mark me down as a skeptic.

Today in Liberty: House to vote on Ryan budget, Second Amendment hero passes away

“Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff. That’s it, in a nutshell. Everyone should be free to live their lives as they think best, free from meddling by politicians and government bureaucrats, as long as they don’t hurt other people, or take other people’s stuff.”Matt Kibbe

— White House suggests amendment to limit free speech: While Shaun McCutcheon was touting last week’s big win for the First Amendment, White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer preached doom and gloom, suggesting that a constitutional amendment to limit free speech “may be the only option” to undo recent court rulings.

Robert Gibbs predicts demise of Obamacare’s employer mandate

Robert Gibbs

In a speech at an insurance industry event in Colorado, Robert Gibbs, a former White House official, predicted that the Obama administration will permanently nix Obamacare’s employer mandate, a destructive provision of the law that has been delayed twice already:

“I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect. It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go,” he said to a notably surprised audience.

The employer mandate has been delayed twice, he noted. The vast majority of employers with 100 or more employees offer health insurance, and there aren’t many employers who fall into the mandate window, he said.

Killing the employer mandate would be one way to improve the law — and there are a handful of other “common sense” improvements needed as well, he said.

The employer mandate is a provision of Obamacare that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees, defined as someone who works at least 30 hours a week, to offer health insurance benefits or face a punitive, $2,000 per worker tax.

Ryan’s budget increases spending by $1.2 trillion

There are certainly some things to like about the budget proposal rolled out yesterday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The “Path to Prosperity” attempts to return Medicare to solvency, for example, and repeal Obamacare.

Ryan claims that the budget “cuts $5.1 trillion in government spending,” a line that has been repeated in media reports on the proposal. But this is a budgetary trick. The House Budget Committee may slash projected federal outlays, but Nicole Kaeding of the Cato Institute explains that the proposal would actually increase spending by $1.2 trillion:

How can spending both be “slashed” and increased by $1.5 trillion? It’s because of the bizarre way that Washington discusses spending, which is known as baseline budgeting.
[…]
In Washington, all spending proposals are compared to the CBO’s baseline projections. The CBO releases these projections a couple times a year, which are based on their estimates of current federal law. Every proposal is then compared to this baseline. Inside-Washington discussions of spending cuts or increases are relative to CBO’s figures.

But this is a very different way of thinking about budgeting than used by families, who don’t assume that their income will go up automatically every year. Families prioritize, and they cut back when they need to make the books balance. Sadly, few proposals in Congress make tough trade-offs and cut actual levels of spending.

Insurers continue to warn of premium increases

While President Barack Obama and his supporters were trumpeting the 7.1 million Obamacare “enrollment” mark, an almost meaningless given that up to 20% of purported enrollees haven’t paid, health insurance companies were, once again, warning of potentially shocking premium increases for 2015:

[I]nsurers have already said that the first group of new enrollees under Obamacare, as the law is widely known, represent a higher rate of older and costlier members than hoped. To keep their health plans from losing money in the coming years, many expect monthly premium rates to rise by double-digit percentages in some parts of the country.

That could set the stage for a public outcry ahead of congressional elections this year, giving ammunition to Republicans and creating new friction with the White House that could endure into the 2016 presidential election.
[…]
“I do think that it’s likely premium rate shocks are coming. I think they begin to make themselves at least partially known in 2015 and fully known in 2016,” said Chet Burrell, chief executive officer of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “That will be different in different parts of the country. I don’t think it will be uniformly the same.”

The rate increases will be determined on a state-by-state basis, and the percentages of young and healthy people who selected plans in some states were better than others.

A third of Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured

One of the measures of “success” for Obamacare will be the number of uninsured Americans who signed up for health plans on the state and federal exchanges.

Taking into account the disruption to the health insurance market because of the law and other ways the administration could have approached reform, there’s not one way to look at this question. But it’s still an important gauge, given that access to health coverage for the uninsured was one of the driving themes behind Obamacare.

Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant, says it’s one of the two major questions on which we should judge the success of the law.

“Obamacare was enacted, and the private health insurance market fundamentally changed, so that we could cover millions of people who previously couldn’t get coverage,” he noted. “To what extent have we reduced the ranks of the uninsured––how many of these people who enrolled were previously insured and how many of them were previously uninsured?”

The White House still doesn’t know how many people who were previously uninsured signed up for health plans. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday that the administration ” expect[s] there to be a good mix of people who were previously uninsured who now have insurance,” adding that this is a hard figure to measure.

AP poll: Obamacare support falls to record-low 26%

As the White House gloats about the latest Obamacare “enrollment” numbers (hint: they’re not actual enrollment numbers), a new Associated Press/GfK survey finds that support for Obamacare has dropped to its lowest level on record:

Public support for President Barack Obama’s health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed.

The lack of support for the law is obviously a big problem for Senate Democrats, who are scrambling to retain their majority in the chamber. That’s why a handful of Democrats — including vulnerable members, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AK), up for reelection this year — are pushing so-called “fixes” to Obamacare.

But it’s not all good news for opponents of Obamacare. The survey also found that public opposition, though still high, has dropped slightly since the law was passed:

The poll found that much of the slippage for the health care law over the last four years has come from a drop in support, not an increase in opposition.

Amash hints at anti-NSA amendment should proposed reforms fall short

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a fierce critic of NSA, may once again try to push an amendment to end the intelligence agency’s bulk metadata collection program if dueling legislative proposals pushed by the White House and House Intelligence Committee don’t rein in the controversial intelligence agency:

“We don’t have enough information about the administration’s proposal to really understand where they’re going with it,” Amash said Wednesday.

“We’ve seen some of what the House Intelligence Committee has put out. … Based on what I’ve read about it, it appears to expand the NSA’s authority,” he said. “It doesn’t end bulk collection but actually puts more Americans in danger of having their constitutionally protected rights violated.”
[…]
Amash said Wednesday that he is waiting to see what happens with [the USA FREEDOM Act] before deciding whether to push his amendment once again.

“We’ll do it if we need to do it,” Amash said.

“I’d like to see comprehensive legislation like the USA Freedom Act go forward,” he said. “We are certainly willing to consider adding ideas from the Intelligence Committee, from the administration, to that legislation, but if no legislation is going to go forward to protect the rights of Americans, then I’m certainly open to offering further amendments.”


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