Monday, September 30, 2013

Like the Yankees sputtering through the last few games of a season filled with injuries and frustration, ObamaCare is limping its way toward its official launch next Tuesday, dragging with it an ever larger trail of disappointments.

Supporters of the health-care overhaul can still celebrate the opening of 50 state exchanges next week, where individuals unable to otherwise find “affordable” insurance can shop for federally subsidized plans.

Oops, not 50 exchanges: Vermonters will be able to look at plans on their exchange in October, but they won’t actually be able to buy them until November. Exchanges in Minnesota, Oregon and Utah also won’t be fully functional either, and several other states are rushing to fix last-minute “glitches.”

So let’s just say that next Tuesday, lots of states (including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey) will open their exchanges for business. But those exchanges may have some problems, too.

For example, the software that determines how much people actually have to pay for insurance can’t actually calculate the price. Nor can the system verify your income or whether your employer offered you “affordable” coverage, so they’ll have to just take your word about whether you’re eligible for subsidies.

Plus, the security systems for the program’s new data hub haven’t actually been tested, so your personal data could be at risk. Hey, nothing’s perfect.

Still, part of the law will almost start on time. Then again, a lot of its other provisions have had to be dropped or postponed.

Like the CLASS Act. This was the long-term-care insurance program included in ObamaCare as a special tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Alas, as far back as 2011, the administration indefinitely delayed its implementation, and Congress repealed it in a bipartisan vote last year.

The Obama team itself postponed the Small Business Health Option Program until at least 2015. That program was designed to help small employers provide their workers with a choice of health plans.

But in April the administration had to admit it couldn’t provide those options.

Most significantly, of course, the administration has postponed until 2015 the law’s employer mandate, the requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide their workers with health insurance or pay a fine.

But the law’s individual mandate remains in effect, meaning workers may now face a situation where they’ll be legally required to buy their own insurance or pay a penalty because their employers take advantage of the delay and don’t provide coverage.

Even before the employer-mandate delay, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that as many as 11 million workers could be dumped by employers who choose to pay the penalty rather than the cost of insurance. Other estimates suggested it could be as high as 35 million. And with no employer penalty at all, expect even more employers to decide it makes sense to drop coverage.

Well, that’s what those exchanges are there for, right?

Now, about the promise that if you like your current insurance plan, you can keep it: Sorry.

Just last month, more than 106,000 New Jerseyans now insured under what are known as “basic and essential” health plans learned that they’ll likely lose their coverage, because these cheaper plans don’t meet ObamaCare’s mandates. Those Garden Staters will have to buy much more expensive insurance.

Well, at least they will be able to buy those expensive policies on an exchange.

Most other ObamaCare promises are also dead letters. We were once told it would provide universal coverage, ensuring every American has access to affordable health insurance. Nope: The Congressional Budget Office says more than 33 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023.

(And every time CBO revisits this issue, it raises its estimate.)

Also, premiums won’t really go down by $2,500 as the president once promised. While premiums will vary greatly from state to state, and subsidies will shift some costs from individuals to taxpayers, most Americans will likely pay more in premiums for ObamaCare plans than they do for their employee plans today.

Then there were all those times when the president assured us that ObamaCare was good for business and would create more jobs and economic growth. Uh-uh: Instead, we’ve seen employers shift workers from full-time to part-time jobs in order to avoid ObamaCare’s new costs.

Last month, NBC News reported that “employers around the country, from fast-food franchises to colleges, have told [the network] that they will be cutting workers’ hours below 30 a week because they can’t afford to offer the health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.”

Joseph Hansen, president of the 1.2-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers, warns that ObamaCare will “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the middle class.”

All in all, as ObamaCare gets ready to start its rookie season, it’s not looking ready for the big leagues.

This article appeared in the New York Post

We’re all paying more at the pump. It’s hurting consumers and dangerous for the fragile economy. And, it’s because of a Washington handout to corn farmers and big Wall Street banks – all disguised as a measure to promote renewable energy and clean-burning fuels.

The Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) mandates an ever-increasing floor of ethanol be mixed with gasoline. The bill, which was expanded under President Obama, ensures a baseline level of demand for ethanol, distorting the market and sending the price of corn substantially higher. That’s because gasoline refiners have to purchase ethanol, regardless of the price.

So, corn prices tripled, which has factored its way into the prices of other agriculture products. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the impact of the RFS is so broad that ethanol subsidies account for 10-15 percent of the rise in overall food prices. In terms of the overall economy, the RFS is expected to cause a decline of $770 billion in GDP in 2015 alone. That’s real economic activity, which translates to real jobs and incomes for Americans throughout the country.

And, hardly anyone in Congress or the Obama administration thinks the current law is working.

TheEnvironmental Protection Agency, which is run by leftist environmentalists, said that it does not “foresee a scenario in which the market could consume enough ethanol […] and/or produce sufficient volumes of non-ethanol biofuels to meet the volumes of total renewable fuel and advanced biofuel as required by statute for 2014.” So, in other words – Washington has once again imposed unachievable burdens on the private sector.

But what may be worse than this indirect subsidy to corn farmers is the way that big Wall Street banks are exploiting it at the expense of consumers. That’s because if a gasoline refiner cannot meet the demands of the RFS, it can purchase credits, called renewable identification numbers (RINs), in a “marketplace.” But unlike transparent marketplaces like Amazon, the market for RINs is opaque and dominated by speculators with no interest except driving the price higher.

The New York Times recently reported that, “the price of the ethanol credits skyrocketed 20-fold in just six months.” A credit that went for 7 cents at the start of the year traded for $1.43 in July, according to Bloomberg. And that price is simply passed along to consumers at the pump – a large factor keeping gas prices above $3 per gallon nationwide for 1,000 consecutive days.

But Congress has approached the RFS from a weak position, intimidated by powerful lobby groups who like these handouts. Though the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton (MI), has assigned four members to find a solution, just one – Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) – has called for full repeal. The others – Reps. John Shimkus (IL), Lee Terry (NE) and Cory Gardner (CO) – are calling for “reform.” Such reform could even get attached to the must-pass bill that will raise the debt ceiling. According to recent reports, that could even include a one-year delay to the RFS mandates.

While a one-year delay will certainly help the stagnant economy, it does little but push the can down the road. As long as the RFS exists, it will damage the economy. Congress is just debating the degree to which they will let that happen. Conservatives in Congress need to stop trying to save the RFS – and repeal it in its entirety. Doing that will relieve some of the pain at the pump, stop the increase in food prices and save Americans $770 million in economic activity in 2015.

U.S. gives Iranian president a 2,700-year-old artifact worth over $1 million

From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer

Rouhani.jpgThe naivete of the kuffar is endlessly amusing

There is nothing wrong with the U.S. returning an item that had been looted in the first place. The problem is that the Infidels are the ones who are always making gestures of good will, granting concessions, etc. These gestures are never, ever reciprocated: Islamic supremacists expect the Infidels to pay tribute, but would never dream of doing it themselves.

"Rouhani home with US ‘gift’ of silver griffin: reports," from AFP, September 28 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
Tehran (AFP) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday brought home a 2,700-year-old Persian artifact the US administration gave him as “a special gift" to Iranians, media reports said. 
“The Americans contacted us on Thursday and said 'we have a gift for you',” Rouhani told reporters upon arrival at the airport in Tehran, the ILNA news agency reported.
“They gave it back as a special gift to the Iranian nation.”
Rouhani was speaking of a 7th century BC silver Persian drinking cup in the shape of a winged Griffin, a legendary creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion.
It is reported to be worth more than a million dollars.
After being looted from a cave in Iran, the cup was seized by US custom officials in 2003 when an arts dealer attempted to smuggle it into the country, according to a State Department tweet.
Mohammad Ali Najafi, head of Iran's heritage organisation who accompanied Rouhani to New York, welcomed the news.
"We hope this will mark the beginning of the return of other artifacts," he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Rouhani made history on Friday by speaking on the phone to US President Barack Obama in the first contact between Iranian and American leaders since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Teaching The Test: The Coming Common Core Disaster

by / Personal Liberty Digest

Teaching The Test: The Coming Common Core Disaster
PHOTOS.COM
The new national education standards adopted by 45 States and the District of Columbia and now slipping into America’s schools are a collectivist’s dream.

Called Common Core, it is an attempt to create a Federally controlled education system designed to turn children into mind-numbed drones devoid of imagination and inculcated with a progressive culture of redistributionist economics, social justice, the mainstreaming of perverted lifestyles, secular humanism and radical environmentalism. It is a one-size-fits-all scheme that will dumb down students to the lowest common denominator.

Proponents of the program — people like radical Education Secretary Arne Duncan (champion of ridiculous zero-tolerance policies that lead to expulsions over breakfast tarts bitten into and papers torn into the shape of guns) — claim the goal is to prepare all students for entrance into community college. Never mind the fallacious logic that all children need a college education or even that a college education has much value in today’s part-time Obamacare economy, the truth is Common Core’s curriculum will create a group of students ignorant but well-prepared and well-versed in taking tests, as teachers will be evaluated on their students test scores rather than whether the children are learning anything useful.

Cash-strapped States grasped onto Common Core as a lifeline. President Barack Obama offered them hundreds of millions of dollars in “stimulus” funds and relief from the insidious No Child Left Behind standards that were to hit in full force in 2014. They did so sight unseen, based on the recommendation of two progressive lobbying groups, the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) — the groups that hold copyrights over the standards. The standards were written by the leftist ACHIEVE, Inc., without input from State legislators, school boards, teachers or parents.

In addition to Federal “stimulus” dollars, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has dumped nearly $200 million into Common Core through the NGA, CCSSO, ACHIEVE, teachers’ unions, nonprofits and State and local school boards that are pushing Common Core. For more on the crony capitalist nature of Common Core, go here and here.

So what has Gates to gain from doing such a thing? In order to comply, schools will be purchasing a computer for every student and the software needed to run the curriculum, education program and testing system. In fact, Gates as much as admitted this in 2009 at the National Conference of State Legislators:
Fortunately, the State-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and chief State school officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.
This is encouraging, but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.
Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests: next-generation assessments aligned to the common core. When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching.
For the first time, there will be a large uniform base of customers eager to buy products that can help every child learn and every teacher get better.
In other words, Gates sees millions of new customers eager to buy products created by Microsoft that align with copyrighted standards established by a nonprofit he controls.
The Federal and grant money that has so far been poured into Common Core implementation will cover only about half the costs. The rest must be accumulated through local means. In addition to computers for every student, Common Core requires school systems to install a group of “master teachers” who will be charged with coaching, monitoring and assessing classroom teachers and ensuring their ability to teach the tests.
So what about the education students will be receiving from Common Core?

Newsmax
Cruz, Republicans Vow to Hold Firm on Obamacare Demands
Image: Cruz, Republicans Vow to Hold Firm on Obamacare Demands
A conservative challenge to the president's health care law has the federal government teetering on the brink of a partial shutdown.

The Senate has the next move on must-do legislation required to keep the government open past midnight on Monday, and the Democratic-led chamber is expected to reject the latest effort from House Republicans to use a normally routine measure to attack President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Congress was closed for the day on Sunday after a post-midnight vote in the GOP-run House to delay by a year key parts of the new health care law and repeal a tax on medical devices as the price for avoiding a shutdown. The Senate is slated to convene Monday afternoon just 10 hours before the shutdown deadline, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already promised that majority Democrats will kill the House's latest volley.

A House GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, said the House would again rebuff the Senate's efforts to advance the short-term funding bill as a simple, "clean" measure shorn of anti-heath care reform provisions.

Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills known as continuing resolutions have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn't otherwise win. But with health insurance exchanges set to open Tuesday, tea party Republicans are willing to take the risk in their drive to kill the law, so-called "Obamacare."

"You're going to shut down the government if you can't prevent millions of Americans from getting affordable care," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

A leader of the tea party Republicans, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, insisted the blame rests with Senate Democrats.

"The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, `I refuse even to talk,'" said Cruz, who led a 21-hour broadside against allowing the temporary funding bill to advance if stripped clean of a tea party-backed provision to derail Obamacare. The effort failed.

The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have eliminated the federal dollars needed to put Obama's health care overhaul into place. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and set the measure back to the House.

The latest House bill, passed early Sunday by a near party-line vote of 231-192, sent back to the Senate two major changes: a one-year delay of key provisions of the health insurance law and repeal of a new tax on medical devices that partially funds it. The steps still go too far for the White House and its Democratic allies.

Senate rules often make it difficult to move quickly, but the chamber can act on the House's latest proposals by simply calling them up and killing them.

Eyes were turning to the House for its next move. A senior leader vowed the House would not simply give in to Democrats' demands to pass the Senate's "clean" funding bill.

"The House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it, and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at again," said McCarthy, the No. 3 House Republican leader.

He suggested that House Republicans would try blocking a mandate that individuals buy health insurance or face a tax penalty, saying there might be some Democratic support in the Senate for that.

On the other hand, Democrats said the GOP's bravado may fade as the deadline to avert a shutdown nears.

Asked whether he could vote for a "clean" temporary funding bill, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he couldn't. But Labrador added, "I think there's enough people in the Republican Party who are willing to do that. And I think that's what you're going to see."

A leading Senate GOP moderate called on her fellow Republicans to back down.

"I disagree with the strategy of linking Obamacare with the continuing functioning of government - a strategy that cannot possibly work," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

McCarthy wouldn't say what changes Republicans might make. He appeared to suggest that a very short-term measure might pass at the last minute, but GOP aides said that was unlikely.

Republicans argued that Reid should have convened the Senate on Sunday.

Yet even some Republicans said privately they feared that Reid held the advantage in a fast-approaching end game.

Republicans argued that they had already made compromises; for instance, their latest measure would leave intact most parts of the health care law that have taken effect, including requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and to let families' plans cover children up to age 26. They also would allow insurers to deny contraception coverage based on religious or moral objections.

Tea party lawmakers in the House - egged on by Cruz - forced GOP leaders to abandon an earlier plan to deliver a "clean" stopgap spending bill to the Senate and move the fight to another must-do measure looming in mid-October: a bill to increase the government's borrowing cap to avert a market-rattling, first-ever default on U.S. obligations.

In the event lawmakers blow the Monday deadline, about 800,000 workers would be forced off the job without pay. Some critical services such as patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent, and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.
Op-ed:
Shut her down…and shut Obama and Reid up for added measure 
By: Diane Sori

Deadlocked…and yet the Senate was too preoccupied to come back on Sunday and do their job of working on behalf of the American people…a job they were elected to do.

Waiting until 2 pm this afternoon to return to session…a mere 10 hours before a possible government shutdown begins…Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had the audacity to tell ‘We the People’ that the Democratic majority Senate will reject the new House compromise bill even BEFORE any Senators see or read it.

Talk about partisan rhetoric, liberal whining, and foot stomping when he does NOT get his way…now add in a dose of Nancy Pelosi’s ‘you have to pass it before you can read it’ rantings and Harry Reid’s true motives become obvious…the same anti-American motives as Barack HUSSEIN Obama has.

“The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists” whined Reid as the reason why the Senate will NOT approve the House bill…a bill that keeps the government up and running after the October 1st date when we 'supposedly' run out of money, while at the same time delaying the dreaded ObamaCare for one year.

'Extorted by Tea Party anarchists'...NO..I don't think so for the Tea Party is comprised of true American patriots…something Reid knows NOTHING about. And what Reid does NOT understand or simply refuses to understand is that the reason the House will NEVER approve any Senate bill as long as the monstrosity known as ObamaCare remains in its current form is that 57+% of the American people do NOT want it at all…meaning the House is voting according to the will of the people…something the Senate and Harry Reid refuse to do.

And so thankfully, the House Republicans did NOT back down and in a rare Saturday night session they stood strong and united against the Senate bill, voting 231-192 in favor of a one year delay of ObamaCare, and by a margin of 248-174 they voted to repeal the medical device tax, with 17 Democrats voting along with the Republicans on this section. And this was nice to see after 23 Republican Senators went RINO on us during the previous round of Senate voting.

And when the night was over ALL 229 Republicans…along with two Democrats (Rep.McIntyre-NC and Rep. Matheson-UT)...passed a second continuing resolution…a short-term stop-gap measure really…but one that would avoid an early Tuesday morning government shutdown.

But now showing what a narrow-minded uncompromising individual he really is…just like his buddy Obama…Harry Reid has rejected the new House bill outright BEFORE it even reaches the Senate floor…rejecting a bill that is a good meld and compromise between what the Republicans want and what the Democrats want as it funds the government through December 15th yet delays…NOT defunds…the implementation of ObamaCare for one year.

And delaying ObamaCare for one year is especially important in light of the fact that Obama himself delayed it for one year for BIG business (in fact Obama has signed seven bills to change provisions in the original ObamaCare)…so in all fairness it should be delayed one year across the board for the American people as well. But ‘Prince’ Harry obviously does NOT understand the rules of fair play nor is he even willing to address compromise.

“After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one,” Reid whined after the House vote was announced, but in reality ALL delays have come from the Democratic side. And to make this forthcoming NO vote in the Senate even more grievous is that in addition to the delaying of ObamaCare by one year, in a separate but attached bill the Republican proposal included wording to the affect that in the event of a government shutdown that our military must still get paid…and Harry Reid being the true liberal that he is says that will be rejected by the Senate also.

So while it’s nice to know that Reid knows the Senate vote even BEFORE they do, his total rejection of continuing paychecks for our military…agreed to in a unanimous House vote…shows his true character and dislike for those who defend our country…again just like Barack HUSSEIN Obama does

And we all know that these marching orders NOT to even consider let alone compromise on the new House bill come directly from Barack HUSSEIN Obama himself…from the very man who has NO trouble talking to and compromising with our enemies…but then again in his eyes ‘We the People’ are the enemies…the enemies of his socialist agenda and the enemy of his blood brethren.

And so this afternoon when the Senate rejects the House short-term stop-gap bill, we know the in-the-pocket-for-Obama media will blame the Republicans for the sure to follow first government shutdown in nearly 20 years, even while the House immediately moves to construct and pass another bill that would challenge ObamaCare.
 
So let the shutdown begin…in fact it’s most welcomed for in reality it will take a government shutdown…NOT just the threat of a shutdown…to get Barack HUSSEIN Obama and Harry Reid down from their media appointed pedestals and force them to the negotiating table where they will have to take the Republicans seriously while the Republicans work to clean-up Obama and Reid’s economic mess.

And what’s truly sad is that in today’s America real policy discussion and negotiation can only happen when both sides are forced to the table because both sides have much to lose.