Saturday, February 22, 2014

Video clip of the day

Alternate headline: One of these Minnesota pols is not like the others

Via Hot Air

Just a friendly townhall in Mankato Minnesota with Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Walz and Rep. Collin Peterson talking the farm bill immigration and, of course, ObamaCare.

Skip to the 1:20 mark for pricelessness.

KEYC - Mankato News, Weather, Sports -

(Click on link below if embed no workie)

The lawmakers fielded other questions as well, talking debt and immigration reform, but it was the question about the struggling health care law that everyone in the audience wanted to see answered.

The question: "I thought the Affordable Care Act would save $2500 per family. What happened?"

After Sen. Klobuchar and Rep. Walz looked at each other, laughter broke out in the room.

Rep. Peterson quickly picked up the microphone to say, "I voted 'no', so I'll let these guys handle that," to the applause of the crowd.

Both Klobuchar and Walz said they were aware of the problems, and wanted to find ways to fix it.

Walz says, "This health discussion has got to be broader, it's got to point out where there are weaknesses and failures, it's got to make sure we're not leaving people behind or distorting the system. But don't pretend there was some type of safe harbor before this where everything was just peachy keen."

Walz is simply echoing the law’s patron saint Nancy Pelosi who urged passage of ObamaCare so we could indeed point out the law’s many weaknesses and failures… weaknesses and failures like losing the health insurance plan you liked, losing the doctor you liked and those sky-rocketing premiums you don’t like.

Congratulations to the statists of the Democratic Party who’ve upended a flawed system that the vast majority of Americans were happy with and turned it into an unholy mess.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Video clip of the day


Alternate headline: Syrian peace talks, pretty much the goat rope you expected.

If this doesn’t represent the biggest waste of time in the foreign policy department, we scarcely know what does.

Of course, a very public yet hollow threat of military force against the Assad regime in Syria last fall paints one-self into a corner whereby Vladimir Putin comes riding to the rescue in the form of engineering peace talks.

Wait. What? Secretary of State John Kerry expresses all the faux outrage he can muster yesterday when he decries the efforts of Syria, Hezbollah and Russia in thwarting the progress of the peace talks.

From CBS News:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of stonewalling in peace talks and called on Russia to push its ally to negotiate with opposition leaders.

"Right now, Bashar al-Assad has not engaged in the discussions along the promised and required standard that both Russia spoke up for and the regime spoke up for," Kerry said during a press conference in Jakarta with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

He said Assad's team "refused to open up one moment of discussion" of a transitional government to replace Assad's regime.

"It is very clear that Bashar Assad is trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table in good faith," Kerry said

Peace talks last week in Geneva ended with no progress toward breaking the impasse in the nearly 3-year-old conflict in Syria.

Kerry also had harsh words for Assad's allies in Moscow.

"Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are in fact enabling Assad to double down," he said.

Our "smart power" producing results as predictable as the sun rising in the East.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Your California high-speed choo-choo update


It must be comforting for statists to know that defenses of their failed
progressive policies and programs like the Affordable Care Act and
California's high-speed choo-choos no longer contain any of the old fig
leaves about controlling costs, granting equal access or how good this or
that will be for the environment. No, the mask has fallen, gratefully
so, and now our big government betters can finally admit to their core
philosophy and that's an undying love for authoritarianism.

But first let's take the opening paragraph of this article penned by Tom
Zoellner an associate professor of English at Chapman College up in Orange
County for the Los Angeles Times:

Who doesn't love a train? Who cannot fail to be seduced by the most
appealing vehicle in human history - the rail-induced sensuality of "Brief
Encounter," the desperate heroism of engineer Casey Jones, the creative
muscle of the Big Four railroad barons, the plucky fortitude of Thomas the
Tank Engine and the Little Engine That Could, all wrapped up in gleaming,
rocking steel, punctuated by a high, lonesome whistle?

How can we harsh this when this is pretty much the defense of high-speed
choo-choos we would expect to be given by an English major, a major of which
qualifies him to speak expertly on the most expensive public works project
in U.S. history.

Back to the article:

And yet California voters have been expressing morning-after regrets since
they voted for Proposition 1A, which promised them a bullet train from Los
Angeles to San Francisco. Backers said a Concorde-like fuselage would rocket
us to the Bay Area in 21/2 hours and for the low, low fare of $55. A
Disneyland ride for grown-ups! And did we mention that it's carbon-friendly?

Invoking an amusement park is a charming touch but what is the inherent
advantage to a 2-1/2 hour trip when the flight from L.A. to San Francisco is
less than half that. 2-1/2 hours on anything, be it Space Mountain or It's
a Small Worl
d is about 2-1/4 hours too long.

The carbon-friendly claim is
dubious at best. The raw material manufactured and transported way out
there in the Central Valley (where the first leg of the project will be
built) will not be delivered on the backs of unicorns and, further, this
claim appears to be blissfully ignorant to the fact that the overwhelming
source of electricity is still coal and fossil fuels and will remain so for
the foreseeable future.

More Zoellner:

The reality has proved more problematic. The California High-Speed Rail
Authority stumbled first by promising a smooth construction schedule and a
$32-billion price tag. The ensuing lawsuits and engineering revisions have
fouled up the timeline and bumped up the price to the current reckoning of
$67.6 billion (and it'll probably be more expensive than that). The rail
authority's latest business plan assumes ever more riders and ever less
revenue but still suggests the project will ultimately be self-sustaining.

Zoellner misuses "probably" for "will" because as we all know that $68
billion price tag is only for laying down the tracks and does not even include the
stations/depots, electricity-delivering infrastructure or even the
choo-choos themselves.

Zoellner then goes on to bemoan the rapid drop in
popularity of the project over the years. There is a simple reason for
this: the rail authority lies. They lie about the cost, they lie about
the projected ridership, they lie about private funding of the project and
they lie about how the construction contractors are chosen. They are liars.
We simply don't know what other term to use. Please get back to us if you
have a better one.

Before getting into the litany of real world problems faced by high-speed
choo-choos Zoellner offers up this gem:

And yet lessons from around the world provide some hope that this romance
can be saved. High-speed rail systems generally cost far more than was
promised, take longer to build than is logical, have multiple construction
headaches and require tempestuous adjustments along the way. But once all
the drama is over and the engines are keyed, high-speed trains mostly do
outstanding work.

Admittedly, when defending the indefensible, falling back on romance is our
go-to as well.

But here is where all pretenses of legality, abiding by the rule of law and
general western-recognized trappings of a constitutional republic are cast
aside because, dammit, what we really need is some authoritarian

Not enough Mussolini. This is an unattractive lesson: Big trains like this
get built with an autocratic touch. Japan's Shinkansen train went online in
1964 after enormous domestic resistance only because of the bluster and
persistence of an all-but-forgotten bureaucrat named Shinji Sogo, nicknamed
Old Man Thunder by his underlings.

So far in California, the high-speed rail authority has hemmed and hawed
more than blustered. It planned for an early groundbreaking, to create a
physical reality that would be hard to stop, but that's been a no go. Gov.
Jerry Brown's two-fisted support for the bullet train, and his idea of
diverting carbon cap-and-trade revenue for high-speed rail, is the kind of
sharp-elbowed move that may be the only way a project like this could ever
get built.

The biggest persistence question is this: Will there be U.S. presidents for
the next 15 years who, like Obama, will keep stimulus money flowing for the
project, even through flying flak?

Will there be a president whom for the next decade and a half will keep
throwing tens of billions of dollars into a public works black hole because
of a combination of political expediency (CA's elite statist class has gone
all in on high-speed choo-choos - their very credibility counts not on this
thing actually working, only that it gets built) and a religious-like
fanaticism towards Keynesian economic stimulus.

As we alluded to before, when you are at the end of your rope and you have
nowhere else to turn, a good bet to rally the troops is to invoke Thomas the
Tank Engine and a brutal 20th century fascist dictator who was allied with
one of the most evil regimes known to mankind. Hey, we didn't go Godwin's
Law, Zoellner did.

We imagine there was a sigh of relief when Zoellner typed Mussolini:
There, I said it. It must feel good to out yourself with respect to a yen
for unbridled and un-checked top-down authoritarianism as it's a
characteristic we've known about the liberal-left for years now.

A huge hat tip to KT of The Scratching Post for giving us the head's up on this and the following commentary on the current state of California politics:



Monday, February 10, 2014

Omelets across America*


*One in an unfortunate series that takes a look at the human toll exacted by the Affordable Care Act and which flies in the face of glib statist rationalizations that the implementation of ObamaCare is akin to “… a few broken eggs…”

Good news: If your liked your pre-existing condition, it looks like you will be able to keep your pre-existing condition.

From KING5 TV in Seattle:

"Administrators at Seattle Children's today said they predicted this would happen, and it's even worse than they expected," says the local news anchor. "Patients being denied specialty treatment at the hospital by insurance providers on the Washington health benefits exchange. Children's filed request on behalf of 125 of their patients. Of those, they say they got only 20 responses, eight of which were denials. Dr. Sandy Melzer says all this comes after reassurances of certain unique specialty cases would still be covered."

Dr. Sandy Melzer says, "Well, some of the patients who were denied are ones who clearly would fall into that unique category. A two-year-old with new significant neck mass that was being evaluated for infection or malignancy, an older child with a chronic severe medical condition requiring multidisciplinary care here, a baby that had a skull abnormality."

The anchor explains, "Children's went ahead and treated those cases anyway, but Dr. Melzer said they can't afford to keep doing that it way."

Another day, another broken promise. Don’t know about you but this all sounds rather death panel-y to us.

Just wish there was someone around to warn about the massive disruptions to the medical care system that would be wrought by ObamaCare.

Curious to know to what degree the parents of these children being denied care are experiencing buyer’s remorse if they voted for Obama back in 2008.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

This Olympic moment


OK. OK… we get it. It’s the Olympics and not only is it presentation of the Olympics, it is the presentation of the Olympics in a country like Russia where the major western broadcasting network, NBC, is going to do its best to dress up the more unsavory aspects of its host nation’s history.

However, tens of millions of Kulaks and other citizenry slaughtered willfully or left to starve because of horrible governing policy and countless other dissidents and “counter-revolutionaries” shipped off to the Gulags to rot for eternity might have a different term for the period between 1917 and 1989 than a “pivotal experiment”.

From the opening ceremonies as narrated by NBC:

What was the 20th century but a case study in the evils of collectivism in whatever permutation or terminology be it Marxism, Stalinism, Communism, Fascism or Maoism…?

From apologies to white-washing, the anti-anti-communists of this country and of the west continue to beclown themselves a quarter century after the true believers, themselves, pulled the plug on their wretched, de-humanizing and deadly “experiment”.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hey, you, in the white... you're ready to be a poet, right?


While we were out at sea, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office dropped this bombshell with respect to how the Affordable Care Act was going to effect the nation’s employment numbers.

From McKnight News Service:

The full-time work force will lose roughly 2 million people overall by 2024 as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to new figures from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO report, released Tuesday, came one week after an expert told lawmakers that nursing home staff are among those most likely to have their hours reduced due to the ACA.

The employer mandate places a total of 2.6 million workers at risk of reduced hours, according toChen's written Congressional testimony. This number is similar to the CBO's projection that the full-time workforce will lose 2.5 million workers. However, the budget office said this erosion will mostly be due to expanded insurance options, not the employer mandate.

For example, the availability of government-subsidized, low-cost health plans available through the online marketplaces might lead some workers to work less, the CBO stated. This is because the premium subsidies decrease as the beneficiary's income increases.

While there are “anecdotal reports” of employers limiting workers' hours, there is “no compelling evidence” that the ACA has caused an increase in part-time employment, according to the report. Still, critics of the employer mandate — and the ACA generally — seized on the CBO figures to support their arguments. The report doubled the CBO's 2010 estimate of how much the health law will reduce labor use. The new numbers are from new research and more in-depth analysis, according to the budget office.

The White House and their allies immediately went into spin mode touting how all this actually liberated workers from “job-lock” and how people who normally would not leave their job for fear of losing their employer-based health insurance.

Now, we suppose it’s terrific that people are able to pursue their dreams as an artist, a photographer or graphic designer but please also bear in mind that you will be subsidizing this job transition and most perniciously, from the italicized sentence above, we are now told it’s a good thing that your tax dollars will be going to subsidize economic inactivity.

And for an economy that possesses the lowest labor participation rate in 40 years, the term “job-lock” is a particularly curious term. The term job-lock, in our thinking, would apply to better economic times when a job or career change would entail less risk… that risk, of course, being all your own. As it stands, currently, however, there are 10 of millions of Americans who wish they had this job-lock problem the administration and its water-carriers claim to be combating.

To Twitter:

Seriously. Can't have it both ways, so what's it going to be, guys?

Those last couple of tweets reminded us of the mentality behind the rationalizations of this devastating CBO report. In the linked article, they talk specifically of how hard this will hit the nursing home work force where 7.5% will see their hours reduced.

These folks aren’t the 50-something suburbanite with equity in his home and a nice 401(k) nest-egg where a career change would be viewed as a liberating aspect as he glides into retirement with both kids now out of the house and on their own. This is the Harvard faculty lounge worldview of this situation which pervades the White House. This, however, is not reality.

This will impact, most forcefully, the working class like the nursing home workforce with a still-limited skill set and not yet much in the way of upward mobility. Living paycheck to paycheck and supporting families, they can ill-afford to be "liberated" from job-lock. The Harvard faculty lounge doesn’t want to be bothered with their well-being no matter how many of them are tending to the lounge’s yards, pools and children.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Was it a bug or a feature?


We’ve often railed about the completely illiberal notion of forcing people, under the threat of a rectal exam by the IRS, to part with their hard-earned scratch to line the pockets of for-profit entities, in ObamaCare’s case, the health insurance industry.

We may not be railing for too much longer if the following case of AETNA becomes a larger trend and Big Health simply drops out of ObamaCare.

Hello, single payer!

From CNBC:

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told CNBC on Wednesday that Obamacare has failed to attract the uninsured, and he offered a scenario in which the insurance company could be forced to pull out of program.

He said that so far, Obamacare has just shifted people who were insured in the individual market to the public exchanges where they could get a better deal on a subsidy for coverage. "We see only 11 percent of the population is actually people that were firmly uninsured that are now insured. So [it] didn't really eat into the uninsured population."

Add to that it’s not the right type of uninsured. Indications are that there are simply not enough young healthy people signing up, the so-called young invincibles, who won’t be a drag on the healthcare system but whose money is needed to offset the cost of the old and sick. This is the adverse selection we have been talking about for years now.

So what’s going to happen? Back to the article:

The company will be submitting Obamacare rates for 2015 on May 15.

"Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they're double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program?" Bertolini asked in a "Squawk Box" interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Those questions can't be answered until we see the population we have today. And we really don't have a good view on that."

Let us help out with that answer: Yes.

We simply cannot wait until that May date and the shrieks of protestation and threatening language that will emanate from the White House and from the offices of Health and Human Services, and, in particular, the HMFIC of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius. This will be fun.

More from AETNA’s honcho:

For Obamacare to work better, it needs more flexibility and choice of insurance programs, Bertolini said. "We need to make it a lot more simpler for people. There needs to be more choice. When you get more choice, you make it more of a market and you get more people in the program."

You know, if only some people were around to warn that top-down, centralized planning would actually restrict choice and flexibility. Yes, Bertolini is certainly correct: getting the government out of the equation will greatly improve the situation but that horse is out of the barn with scant chance of corralling and returning it to its original locale. We will forthwith refrain from the use of any other tortured analogies.

Years from now, when we look back at how it is we got to a single-payer system, we will ponder this: was it all part of the grand plan to design a federal healthcare system that after a few years or even a decade or two, simply imploded unable to hold up under its own weight or was it simply due to monumental incompetence and hubris thinking that the strings of 1/6th of the nation’s economy could effectively be pulled by the smartest kids in the room?

Programming note: we will be out of pocket for a few days but hope to be back up and running by Thursday or Friday.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Omelets Across America


A few weeks into October when the ObamaCare roll-out disaster was unfolding
before this nation's eyes, a liberal friend commented to us that the abysmal
state of the front end of the ObamaCare online exchanges was akin to
breaking a few eggs.

As we lumber on into February, the focus has gone
from the website glitches to just how many people have "enrolled". Yes, we
are using air quotes as this term is rather nebulous and the term that
should really be applicable here is "who the hell has actually been able to
pay their first premium?"
That's the only thing that counts. No one
rides for free or words to that effect.

As it stands, however, from the figures that have been released to media
outlets, it appears that the majority of enrollees that the administration
is claiming have signed up for ObamaCare were previously insured, i.e., the
reason they have signed up for ObamaCare is that their previous insurance
plan was cancelled. In fact, one report finds that only 11% of enrollees
were previously uninsured
. This flies directly in the face of two of the
central justifications for ObamaCare: insuring the uninsured and, of
course, if you liked your current health insurance plan, you could keep
that plan.

Oh, but back to those broken eggs which as you read above are piling up at
an alarming rate. Let's put a human face on this disaster of a law and
take a look at what ObamaCare means to everyday people like these at this
automotive repair shop in Pittsburgh.

We'll just call this sort of thing Omelets Across America:

Ugh. Cannot embed video but it can be seen here. We've added the transcript below:

Outside Simonetta’s Collision and Car Care in McKeesport, it's a frigid 2 degrees.

Inside, Gary Simonetta's employees are getting ready for a meeting he’s been dreading for months.

“What I have here is the benefits sheet from last year. What you were on in 2013," said Charles Moore, co-owner of Triangle Benefits Service and the broker who has handled the company's group health insurance for 19 years. "Here is the new plan we had to switch to that takes into account the Obamacare regulations.”

For the first time, employees were finding out how the Affordable Care Act will affect their medical coverage and how much they'll pay for it.

Last year’s 6 percent premium increase has now exploded to an average 32 percent jump.

"That 32 percent increase includes increasing the deductible, as well to try and get something modestly priced,” Moore explained.

Jeff and Dave used to have a $1,250 deductible. Since Obamacare went into effect, it's now jumped 60 percent to $2,000.

That's nothing compared with Brian, Christy and Judy who have kids. They'll pay twice that at $4,000.

"This was the best option we could find," Moore said.

Co-pays are up too.

Pediatric dental and vision exams are covered -- a bonus for some employees, but not for others. Generic drugs are also significantly cheaper.

Employees took time weighing in on what they thought of their new deal.

"The deductible is terrible," said Dave, a 47-year-old with no kids. "I mean, how many people can come up with that deductible money if they go into the emergency room?"

His monthly premium goes up modestly by $50.

Christy's not so lucky. The monthly premium for the mother of two jumps $260, or 30 percent.

"Eight-hundred and $95 a month for health insurance, that's coming out of my pocket," she said. "That's a house payment for most people."

Brian actually saves $77 a month, but the 39-year-old with one child said he can't afford his new $4,000 family deductible.

"It's going to be a pretty big hit in the pocket," he said.
And 42-year-old Jeff's in the same boat.

“They call it the affordable health plan," he said. "There's nothing affordable about it. I can't afford it."

Jeff's new premium is only $28 more a month.

But he said he'll have to suck it up if he ever gets hurt because his new deductible is too much.

"Wake up, America. This isn't acceptable. It's not acceptable," he said.

But it's Judy, the 53-year-old mother of one, who gets hit the worst.

Her premium goes up from $929 a month to $1,316 – 42-percent increase added to her new $4,000 deductible.

"How do you add all that together?" she asked.

"What are you going to do?” questioned Channel 4 Action News anchor Wendy Bell.

“I don't know,” she replied with tears in her eyes.
With tears in her eyes, Judy responds slowly... "I don't know."

Back in the shop, Simonetta has his own worries. His monthly premium just jumped $584.

"The small business is the heart of America. How's that going to affect everybody? It's not good," Simonetta said.
And Moore, the broker, agrees.

"One size does not fit all in medical insurance. And unfortunately, that's one of the big down sides to the Affordable Care Act," he said.

Downsides that leave Judy wondering if she can afford to ever get sick.

"I don't know how President Obama thinks he's helping us," she said. "Because we can't afford this. We can't afford to pay these co-pays, to pay these deductibles, on what we're making."

That all kind of sucks, huh?

And all this time we thought the Affordable Care Act was just cover for the ability to soak the rich. Boy, were we wrong. Turns out it was also a clever ruse to soak the working class like these folks. Well, to borrow a well-worn progressive phrase, "Equality for All?"

To ease your conscience, don't think of them as people, rather eggs.