Sunday, October 20, 2013

Save the Knives for ObamaCare: Four Ways to Actually Defund the ACA 
Michael F. Cannon/ Townhall Columnist

So, a band of tea-party Republicans led by Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) – and backed by groups like FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, and Club for Growth – pushed a risky strategy to defund ObamaCare that led to a partial government shutdown. As a logical matter, President Obama and Senate Democrats were equally culpable for the shutdown; they could have avoided it by approving one of the House-passed bills that funded the government while amending the president’s health care law. But that was unlikely. The media and public saw the GOP as more culpable, and the GOP caved. ObamaCare glided away unscathed.

Then came the inevitable recriminations between “defunders” and their detractors. If I may paraphrase and/or embellish: The shutdown was a failure! No it wasn’t! You’re stupid! You voted for ObamaCare! Each camp blames the other for the outcome, and for not being sufficiently devoted to fighting ObamaCare.

To put my cards on the table, as a median-voter-theorem enthusiast who opposed the defund strategy before I supported it, I think it’s too soon to judge whether it was a failure. As of today, it has produced no gains, and ObamaCare opponents saw their poll numbers slip.

On the other hand, ObamaCare justifies drastic measures. Opponents spent political capital taking a principled stand against a law whose roll-out has been a two-week-long train wreck. Even die-hard supporters like Ezra Klein have called it a “disaster.” Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs has said heads should roll, and nobody knows whether the administration can get its act together before the health insurance “Exchanges” crater. If it can’t, the defund strategy will make all ObamaCare opponents appear prescient.

Finally, no one has focused on an undeniable success of the shutdown: for one brief, shining moment, my paycheck was larger than my wife’s.

In the end, the defund strategy may prove to be a disaster. Or helpful. As the Zen master said, we’ll see. Here’s the video
 
What’s clear is that the recriminations are unwisely distracting ObamaCare opponents from adding momentum to strategies that are already defunding the law. Here are four things opponents would be better off doing than fighting among themselves:

1. Stop Medicaid expansion in the states.
As envisioned by the ObamaCare’s authors, the Medicaid expansion would account for roughly half of the law’s $2 trillion of new entitlement spending over the first 10 years. After the Supreme Court blocked Congress’ attempt to coerce states into implementing it, however, 25 states refused to do so.

As a result, those states have already defunded almost a quarter of ObamaCare’s new entitlement spending. They are also helping to increase dissatisfaction with the law among hospitals and other providers, who now won’t be receiving the subsidies they were promised in return for their support.

If Cruz, Lee, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth and the rest really want to defund ObamaCare, they should be fighting to block the Medicaid expansion in the 25 states that have already authorized it. Wanna squash Republicans who are soft on ObamaCare? Come visit Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich (R) has all but claimed that Godwants Ohio to expand Medicaid, and is literally trying to do it without the support, and over the objections, of the legislature.

2. Get states, employers, and citizens to challenge the IRS’s illegal ObamaCare taxes.
ObamaCare authorizes Exchange subsidies only through state-established Exchanges, not the 34 Exchanges created by the federal government. As a result, those 34 states that refused to establish Exchanges by law have defunded a further one-third of that $2 trillion dollars. Since those subsidies trigger penalties under both the employer mandate and individual mandate, those states have by law also exempted all of their employers and about 8 million individual residents from those penalties.

Unbelievably, contrary to the clear language of the statute and congressional intent, the IRS is trying impose those taxes and issue those subsidies in those 34 states anyway. The IRS is literally trying to tax, borrow, and spend more than $700 billion without congressional authorization — a more egregious example of taxation without representation than the Stamp Act.

State attorneys general, employers, and individual taxpayers have so far filed four lawsuits challenging those illegal taxes. A federal judge has rejected the Obama administration’s attempt to dismiss the challenge filed by Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt. More than a dozen Indiana school districts filed suit alongside that state’s attorney general Greg Zoeller. A federal court in Washington, D.C., will hear oral arguments on another challenge on Monday.

As National Review editorializes:
may not have a great deal of power in Washington, where they control, in John Boehner’s words, one half of one third of the federal government; but we have 50 states for a reason, and Republican governors lead 30 of them. Republican governors, attorneys general, and state legislators looking to use their offices to the significant benefit of the nation as a whole should be lining up to create a 30-state united front with Oklahoma. Scott Pruitt is fighting for the rule of law, and Republican governors might trouble themselves to give him a hand.
If anti-ObamaCare groups really want to defund the law, they should get governors, attorneys general, employers, and their own members to file additional challenges.
 
3. Educate states about how to block the IRS’s illegal taxes legislatively.
The 34 states that have refused to establish Exchanges can actually block the IRS’s illegal ObamaCare taxes legislatively by suspending the licenses of insurers that accept the illegal subsidies. Since no insurer would then accept one, not a single employer in the state could be hit with the employer-mandate penalties those subsidies trigger.

Legislators in Ohio and Missouri have already introduced legislation based on draft language I offered in my Cato study “50 Vetoes.” The American Legislative Exchange Council has given this “Health Care Freedom Act 2.0” its seal of approval and offers its own model legislation.
 
4. Urge House investigators to subpoena all materials related to the IRS’s illegal taxes.
The House Committees on Oversight & Government Reform and Ways & Means have been investigating the IRS’s illegal taxes for more than a year. This August, House Oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked an IRS witness:
Where the hell is the paper on that?…Where’s the analysis? Congress doesn’t agree with you, at least the House of Representatives, that your rule is consistent with the law. We asked for the analysis. You’ve stonewalled us…Where are the notes, recommendations, [and] analysis that we asked for?
Issa called the IRS representative “pretty close to a useless witness” and threatened that if the agency is not forthcoming, “Not only will I issue a subpoena, but I’m going to have to do a lot more.” Here’s the video:

Yet the Treasury department has still refused to hand over many emails and other communications that, according to my source, show the IRS did almost no analysis of the law before deciding to tax, borrow, and spend $700 billion without congressional authorization. If ObamaCare opponents want to defund the law, they should urge Issa to follow through on his threat to issue a subpoena, and “do a lot more.”

A good test of whether defunders or detractors are more committed to stopping ObamaCare will be which side is the first to put away the knives and get to work.
It might seem like idiocy on steroids, but that’s kinda how our Federal Government operates. Ever thought about helping out a family member by buying them that hunting rifle they’ve been looking at, or that Glock 19 they’ve been talking about getting?

Well, prepare for prison if you buy it for them. A well established, and yet often ignored, law that was designed to stop criminals from getting their hands on guns through a third party might actually make more criminals than it catches.

Anyone here remember the “Fast and Furious” scandal? Ya know, where the ATF and Department of Justice decided to help straw purchasers walk guns into Mexico for drug cartels? Thousands of guns were handed over, with the Fed’s knowledge and consent, to cartels that take hostages, kill civilians, and proliferate drug related violence in the US and Mexico.

Apparently, as evidenced by the agency’s disinterest in conducting investigations into the operation, such government run straw purchases – that benefit drug cartels – are not a terrible threat to public safety. But letting family members purchase each other guns? Whoa. . . We can’t permit such dastardly, and potentially lethal, activity to go unchecked. . .

Last week the Supreme Court heard the case of a Virginia man who legally purchased a gun – then resold it to another legally eligible individual. According to the Washington Times, “Both men were legally entitled to own a gun. Both passed the required background checks. As an ex-cop, Mr. Abramski bought a Glock 19 and obtained a law-enforcement discount. He consulted three federally licensed dealers to make sure he did everything by the book when he transferred the gun to his uncle in Pennsylvania.” Thank heaven the ATF caught that retired police officer who had the audacity to buy a gun for his law-abiding uncle. I know I’ll sleep better tonight.

The intent behind prosecuting straw purchases (unless conducted in conjunction with Mexican drug lords and ATF informants) is supposed to be to keep lawful citizens from purchasing a gun for people who are disallowed from owning a firearm. The High Court is expected to make a decision in regards to whether or not this federal law should apply to situations where the straw purchaser (in this case Mr. Abramski) purchased a firearm for a person who is legally allowed to own a firearm.

The stunning part of the Abramski saga, is that he only became the focus of an ATF investigation because he’s an otherwise law abiding citizen. He just as easily could have driven to Pennsylvania, given the gun to his uncle in exchange for cash with no paperwork or background check, and no-one other than the two family members would have had any knowledge of the deal.

The case should serve as an example of government’s inability to regulate away criminal behavior.

The recent batch of gun control laws passed in states like Colorado and New York, for instance, routinely create criminals out of ordinary citizens rather than preventing deliberate criminal activity. With a stroke of his Mayors-Against-Illegal-Guns fountain pen, Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO) signed a law that turned many of his state’s citizens into potential criminals.

For example, as the great state of New-New-York struggled with recent floods, thousands of Coloradoans found they were running afoul of the state’s newest gun control laws. As homes were left abandoned, and entire communities were cut off from aid, the newest batch of state laws made it illegal for gun owners to have friends or family members “babysit” their legally obtained firearms. Local District Attorneys decided not to pursue any charges.

But not all examples of unintentional (or maybe intentional) criminalization of gun owners have such happy endings. The state of New Jersey convicted an otherwise law-abiding citizen for “illegally possessing” firearms within the city – even though they were legally purchased – because he dared to stop at his mother’s house for a cup of coffee. A concealed carry permit holder, and former Marine, was arrested in New York City after he saw a sign that read “no guns allowed” at the Empire State building, and tried to turn his firearm over to the building’s security desk.

So while criminals obtain weapons from drug dealers, gun runners, and black market sources (not to mention the DOJ and the ATF), the Feds are busy tracking down those nefarious family “straw purchases,” and prosecuting honest people who violate an increasingly complicated web of regulations and restrictions.

Nothing about Mr. Abramski’s actions indicate he was focused on subverting the law, engaged in nefarious business, or out to conduct illegal activities. He merely is a casualty of overzealous attempts from government to regulate away criminality. . . Which doesn’t really work. By their own admission, criminals are not prone to following laws, regulations or even kind suggestions.

Had the retired police officer decided to subvert the law, avoid the background checks, and operate outside the intent of the law, he might still be walking around today without being the center of a Federal Case. Instead, his honest intentions landed him directly in the cross hairs of the ATF.

Because, let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to harass law abiding citizens than criminals.

U.S. quietly gives Pakistan $1.6 billion in aid that was suspended after conflict over bin Laden raid and drone strikes

From Jihad watch / Posted by Robert Spencer

After becoming enraged with the U.S. over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and drone strikes against jihadists, Pakistan has now reaffirmed its commitment to fighting against jihad groups and pledged to root jihadi sympathizers out of its government. What's that? It hasn't done either of those things? And we're giving them the money? Well, that's fine. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

"US quietly releasing $1.6B in Pakistan assistance," by Bradley Klapper for the Associated Press, October 19 (thanks to Lookmann):
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers. 
Officials and congressional aides said ties have improved enough to allow the money to flow again.
American and NATO supply routes to Afghanistan are open. Controversial U.S. drone strikes are down. The U.S. and Pakistan recently announced the restart of their "strategic dialogue" after a long pause. Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is traveling to Washington for talks this coming week with President Barack Obama....

US Debt Spikes Above $17 Trillion After Ceiling Lifted
Newsmax

The government shutdown may have ended Wednesday, but the bipartisan deal that put workers back on the job also suspended the nation's debt ceiling, leaving the national debt soaring at an astronomical rate that is expected to keep growing.

The nation's debt climbed by a record $328 billion on Thursday alone, reports The Washington Times, the first day the federal government could borrow money under the agreement. The debt is now at a record $17.075 trillion and climbing, according to the Treasury Department.

The $323 billion increase is nearly $100 billion over a previous record of $238 billion that was set two years ago, and came as the government replenished its "extraordinary measures” funding from the money it's been borrowing since may while trying to avoid the nation's debt ceiling.

Federal law allows the government to replenish funds when there is new debt space, and the Treasury Department back in May started borrowing $400 billion from other funds while it awaited a final deal from Congress and President Barack Obama.

The nation's debt ceiling caps how much the government can owe, but the new deal basically removes that deal, setting a deadline instead of a dollar amount, so debt can go up by as much as is spent between now and Feb. 17.

Democrats insisted the debt increase be "clean," and allows Obama to pay for bills he and Congress have already amassed without encouraging new spending. But Republicans wanted strings attached, but instead settled on a bill that reopened the government and included earmark projects.

The debt cap increase is the sixth one since Obama took office in 2009, reports Fox News, when the nation's debt was at $10.6 trillion, so the $17.05 trillion mark is an increase of nearly 60 percent.

The debt cap went up three times while Democrats controlled Congress and another three times when Republicans took over in the House.

The mounting debt is alarming experts, who say the nation is entering into dangerous territory.

"Both houses should act quickly to stop the madness," said Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Budget and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, told Fox. She's happy the shutdown is over, but calls the last-minute deal "incredibly disheartening," and says the nation's debt is a "fire" that could "get out of control at any moment."

On Thursday, though, Obama said the deficit is "getting smaller, not bigger," a technically true statement, but Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the nation still has an "unsustainable problem in place."

The high numbers are not easy to understand, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is warning that the future could be dire if the climbing debt rate isn't snowed.

In its analysis, the CBO explained that the government is expanding at historic rates, adn between 2009 and 2012, deficits were larger in relation to the size of the economy than at any time since 1946.

And while experts project the deficit to fall in upcoming years, they say it will climb again because of interest rates and entitlement programs.

As a result, the CBO reports, interest on the debt will rise to five percent of the
The CBO estimates that by 2038, interest on the debt will rise to 5 percent of the gross domestic product, as compared to the historical average of two percent, leaving less money available for spending.

But so-called entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are expected to soar, reports the CBO, doubling by 2038 to equal 14 percent of the GDP and causing spending on everything else to drop.

Rubio complained Obama has resisted making major changes to the programs because liberals don't want changes to them.

And while the debt ceiling is suspended for now, eventually the nation will need to pay its bills, meaning 2014 could look more bleak, reports Reuters. When the new debt cap resets in February to whatever level the debt has reached by then, the new debt ceiling date comes while tax refund checks are being mailed out, and financial experts expect a new cap of at least $17.3 trillion.

Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips said in a report that he thinks the Treasury will run up on the cap by mid-March, but "if revenues are higher than expected or tax refunds are lower than expected, the date could be pushed (out)slightly further."

If the borrowing capacity can be stretched until the end of March, a $30 billion dividend payment from Freddie Mac could allow a bit more breathing space, said Phillips.