Tag Archives: government

30 shocking but true survey results about Americans today…

You will be shocked at what some Americans actually believe.  For example, close to 90 percent of us believe that we are eating a healthy diet, and yet more than third of the population is officially obese.  65 percent of all Americans say that they are dissatisfied with the government, and yet nearly a third of us would be willing to submit to a “TSA body cavity search” in order to get on an airplane. As another example of what might be called “changing with the times,” when George W. Bush was president, 61 percent of Democrats considered NSA surveillance to be “unacceptable”, but now that Obama is in the White House, only 34 percent of them consider it to be “unacceptable”.

Do these survey results shock you?

As you will see below, Americans are angrier and more frustrated with government and with their lives than ever before, but we also exhibit almost unbelievable levels of sloth and apathy.  Some of the numbers below are funny, and others are absolutely stunning.  They all say something about who we have become as a nation, and they are all true results.

#1 According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, 52 percent of Americans “do not think the economy is fair to those willing to work hard”.

#2 70 percent of all Americans do not “feel engaged or inspired at their jobs”.

#3 According to another recent Rasmussen Reports survey, 59 percentof Americans believe that “less government involvement in the economy” would help reduce the size of the income gap in this country.  (And those 59 percent are actually correct.)

#4 20 percent of all government workers and 26 percent of all Obama supporters consider the Tea Party to be “the biggest terror threat” that America is facing.

#5 Approximately 30 percent of all American workers have $1,000 or less saved up for retirement.

#6 A worldwide survey conducted by the Worldwide Independent Network and Gallup found that 24 percent of people around the world consider the United States to be the biggest threat to peace.  Pakistan was in second place with just 8 percent.

#7 60 percent of Americans report feeling “angry or irritable”.  Two years ago that number was at 50 percent.

#8 36 percent of Americans admit that they have yelled at a customer service agent during the past year.

#9 29 percent of Americans believe that “cloud computing” involves an actual cloud.

#10 A survey of employers that currently pay minimum wage to at least some of their employees found that 38 percent of them would start laying off employees if the minimum wage was raised.

#11 One survey found that 56 percent of Americans believe that it is okay for the government to track “the telephone records of millions of Americans” in order to keep us safe.

#12 When George W. Bush was president, 61 percent of Democrats considered NSA surveillance to be “unacceptable”, but now that Obama is in the White House, only 34 percent of them consider it to be “unacceptable”.

#13 67 percent of Americans support the use of unmanned drones in “homeland security missions” inside the United States.

#14 One survey found that 51 percent of all Americans agree with this statement: “it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”

#15 Close to one-third of all Americans would be willing to submit to a “TSA body cavity search” in order to fly.

#16 65 percent of Americans are dissatisfied “with the U.S. system of government and its effectiveness”.  That is the highest level of dissatisfaction that Gallup has ever recorded.

#17 Only 8 percent of Americans believe that Congress is doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

#18 70 percent of Americans do not have confidence that the federal government will “make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014”.

#19 According to a survey conducted by the National Geographic Society, only 37 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 24-year-old age range can find the nation of Iraq on a map.

#20 Close to 25 percent of all Americans do not know that the United States declared independence from Great Britain.

#21 Right now, 29 percent of all Americans under the age of 35 are living with their parents.

#22 According to one survey, 24 percent of all U.S. teens that have a sexually-transmitted disease say that they still have unprotected sex.

#23 Approximately one out of every five teenage girls in the United States actually wants to be a teenage mother.

#24 The percentage of Americans that “believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth” is actually higher than the percentage of Americans that believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

#25 According to one recent survey, only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

#26 It is hard to believe, but 56 percent of all Americans are considered to have “subprime credit” at this point.

#27 89.7 percent of all Americans believe that they are eating a healthy diet.  Meanwhile, approximately 36 percent of all Americans are obese.

#28 44 percent of all Americans do not have a first-aid kit in their homes.

#29 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies stored up at all.

#30 53 percent of all Americans do not even have a 3 day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.  What will they do when a major crisis or emergency strikes?  Do they actually believe that the government will swoop in to save them if something happens?

[by Martin Snyder for THE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE blog]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

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Two BILLION in Obamacare loans questioned…

Several leading GOP members of Congress are asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, under whose watch the Healthcare.gov website rollout has experienced one fiasco after another, to explain the $2 billion in taxpayer money loaned to various non-profit interests to get health insurance CO-OPs up and running – and whether the taxpayers will get any of that back.

Just when the Obamacare experience appears to be able to go no lower – the website malfunctions, millions of policies being canceled outright, tiny signup numbers via the government’s online offerings, prices for health policies skyrocketing, and more – come these penetrating questions about government loans to start-ups in the healthcare field.

“Out of the $1.98 billion awarded to CO-OPs, what amount does HHS expect to be repaid? What is the period of time by which HHS expects these funds to be repaid?” were among the questions presented to Sebelius by Sen. Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Lamar Alexander, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Sen. Michael Enzi, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families; Sen. Tom Coburn, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; and Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Oversight.

The letter noted it’s not the first time members of Congress have asked for information about the HHS program called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, which has been used to loan that massive sum of money to non-profit health insurance issuers that offer qualified health plans in the individual and small group markets.

Two dozen of those groups have been given the money, the members of Congress note, for start-up costs and solvency, “which help CO-OPs meet state insurance solvency and reserve requirements.”

“When we wrote to you in May 2012, we noted that there was little evidence that the CO-OP program would promote greater competition and lower costs in most state insurance markets, and we questioned whether HHS had significantly underestimated the financial risk … The responses to our letter from CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner – which were delivered on your behalf more than nine months after we sent our letter – did little to assure us that HHS or CMS was prepared to address these issue.”

The scanty information that was available was not reassuring, the members of Congress said.

An inspector general’s report, for instance, said “11 of 16 CO-OPs reported estimated start-up expenditures … that exceeded the total start-up funding ultimately provided,” producing a “risk that CO-OPs could exhaust all start-up loan funding before they are fully operational or before they earn sufficient operating income to be self-supporting.”

They also note that at least one of the CO-OP plans was denied a license by the state of Vermont to operation.

With the letter today, the senators want to know whether the government, on behalf of the $2 billion in tax money, monitored licensing processes and how many have or have not been granted that status.

They also want to know: When the plans will be operational, and will those plans be within budget?

They also ask: Is there a detailed explanation of those start-up costs? What does the “problematic launch” of the healthcare.gov website mean to the operations? Have all the required reports been submitted? Are the operations meeting their required milestones?

“Please provide all documents related to (1) the Vermont CO-OP’s failure to obtain an insurance license and (2) HHS’s decision to terminate the Vermont CO-OP loan,” they ask.

Earlier this year, a number of Republican senators asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent audit examining the effectiveness of CO-OPs. The members also requested GAO evaluate efforts by CO-Ops related to covering the uninsured, providing lower-cost plans, and repaying loans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[by Bob Unruh, writing for WND]

NORM ‘n’ AL Note:  If you were planning to start a business, imagine the reaction you might get from a typical banker when you said the following: “My business is going to be a non-profit; I need to show a level of solvency to begin with, so I need the loan for that; I have all these start-up costs, so the loan has to cover those; a business just like mine was denied a government operating license; and 11 out of 16 non-profits just like mine were not able to become operational with the start-up funding that I’m asking for.”  (Who could possibly say no to a business plan like that?)  When your banker stopped laughing at you and your proposal, he would usher you to the door and request that you not bother the bank any further with such nonsense.  And the US government loaned TWO BILLION on those terms!

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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If you don’t trust our president, you’re among a large and growing majority…

Our president is a game player.

We know he likes golf and basketball…but most of us are now wishing those were his only game interests.

Most of the time, he is playing games with the American public. All of us. Even his own Democratic party brethren are now beginning to have serious reservations about staying on his team. Why? Because the games Obama plays always involve deception. He will tell you something with a straight face and mean none of it. He will lie to Democrats as easily as to Republicans.  (“If you like your health plan, you can keep it.”)

Here is a sampling of The Obama Games:

Game:  COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM
Stated purpose:  “To fix America’s broken immigration system, to grow our economy, and to give undocumented youth and their families the chance to earn their citizenship.”
Actual purpose:  The creation of tens of millions of newly minted Democrat voters.
Payoff:  A voting coalition that will permanently keep progressives in power in America.

Game:  HEALTHCARE REFORM
Stated purpose:  “Comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable health coverage for everyone, and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices.”
Actual purpose:  Massive takeover of one-sixth of the entire US economy, and ultimately the establishment (through Obamacare’s intentional and inevitable destruction of private health insurance) of a true “single payer” system…i.e., socialized medicine.
Payoff:  A permanent, vast increase in government control over virtually every aspect of the lives of American citizens. Since so many things affect people’s health, once the government is paying for all healthcare, it will progressively regulate and control the lives of individuals to minimize their health risks — what they can eat, what they do, what they drive, what kind of entertainment they watch, everything.

[NORM ‘n’ AL Note:  You have to remember two things. One, Democrats believe that government is always the answer. Always. Which means that more government is much better than less government, and is in fact required if the government is going to provide all the “solutions” to problems most of us didn’t even know we had. And two, in order to accomplish #1, the government needs power. Lots of power. Always more power. The government needs to run not just itself, but all of us, too. So it needs us to provide our implicit consent in order to get more power. If we do not object to something, then by default, we consent to it.]

Game:  SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND LGBT RIGHTS
Stated purpose:  “To support equal rights for all Americans, and to offer hope to young people who are being bullied or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Actual purpose:  To lock in the “gay community” as a voting bloc and source of ongoing financial support while further marginalizing and disempowering conservative Christians.
Payoff:  Consolidate an important part of the permanent progressive voting coalition.

Game:  ENERGY, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
States purpose:  “To take unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate, and protect our environment.”
Actual purpose:  Use ideologically driven, environmental pseudo-science as a basis for energy and environmental policies — such as blocking the Keystone pipeline — that cripple development of America’s prodigious oil, gas and coal reserves and cause energy prices to skyrocket. Meanwhile, Obama pretends to be enthralled by alternative energy, about which he knows virtually nothing, because supporting and funding it serves as a subterfuge for weakening, through over-regulation, America’s once-powerful energy sector.
Payoff:  Maintain and increase US dependence on foreign energy as part of the Obama grand strategy of reducing the power, stature, and influence of America as the world’s “sole superpower,” which he and other anti-American leftists regard as predatory and destructive of world peace and justice.

Game:  GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION
Stated purpose:  “To better protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence in America.”
Actual purpose:  To make it more difficult and expensive, or even impossible, for American citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Payoff:  Since a well-armed populace is historically the #1 citizen check on tyrannical government — and the reason our founders enshrined it in the Second Amendment — banning or reducing civilian ownership of firearms leads inevitably to greater opportunity for oppression by government. [More government power, as we noted above, is always the goal when Democrats are in office. Republicans generally want LESS government, not more. Democrats are always SURE that THEY KNOW BEST, and therefore MORE GOVERNMENT is always better than less. Remember Hillary’s often-repeated statement that “it takes a village” to raise a child because old-fashioned parental families are just not up to the task? If you do, you should also be sure to remember Bill Cosby’s response, which was “But in every village there are always some idiots.”]

Game:  THE STIMULUS
Stated purpose:  “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed to stimulate the economy in the midst of the Great Recession, save existing jobs, immediately create shovel-ready projects, and to invest in infrastructure, education, health, and renewable energy.”
Actual purpose:  A slush fund to further the Democrats’ tax-and-spend policies, pay public employee union pension and healthcare costs, fund pet projects like Solyndra and Lightspeed, and provide pork for Democratic districts and states.
Payoff:  At an astronomical price tag of over $800 billion, the stimulus failed to help the economy, reduce unemployment, or create “shovel-ready jobs.” (Obama himself admitted in 2010 that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”) But the almost trillion-dollar spending spree spread the wealth around to Obama’s friends and supporters while creating the appearance of doing something to help an economy ravaged largely by the policies of the Democrats themselves.

Game:  FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
Stated purpose:  “To maximize voting and to counteract Republican voter suppression in the form of Voter ID laws that tend to discriminate against minorities.”
Actual purpose:  To get the Justice Department to sue states over the most reasonable and common-sense election laws requiring that voters identify themselves, for the sole purpose of enabling and encouraging every possible form of vote fraud and abuse — including voting after impersonating a registered voter, repeat voting, non-citizen and illegal-alien voting, felon voting, voting in more than one state, and so on — since statistically such fraudulently cast ballots are usually Democratic. [In other words, Democrats don’t really care if your vote is illegal, they just want to be sure you vote. And the more times, the better.]
Payoff:  Rampant voter frauds and abuses which considered collectively in all their various forms are likely sufficient to make up the margin of difference in a close election and bring victory to Dem candidates.

Game:  THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON WOMEN
Stated purpose:  “Women’s rights are being denied or abridged by Republicans, whose desire to deny women’s contraception is rooted in an unconstitutional imposition of their religious views on other citizens, and which threaten the basic rights of women.”
Actual purpose:  This game, fabricated entirely by the leftists when contraceptives, a complete non-issue, was forcibly inserted in the presidential debates by the Obama-supporting establishment media, claims women’s rights are being thwarted by misogynistic Republicans. In reality, the only “war on women” is the one supported wholeheartedly by the Democratic Party; they support feminist-inspired “no fault divorce” which leaves millions of children fatherless and mothers destitute, and abortion, which harms countless women and kills more than a million babies (half of which are female) every year in the US.
Payoff:  Women swung the election in 2012, when 55 percent of female voters cast their ballots for Obama compared to 44 percent for Romney.

Game:  SUPPORT ARAB SPRING, OPPOSE DICTATORS, HELP FORGE MIDEAST PEACE
Stated purpose:  “To support the many democracy uprisings throughout the Arab Muslim world, help depose dictators, and encourage and advise Israel in achieving a lasting peace with its Palestinian neighbors.”
Actual purpose:  In virtually every conflict in the Middle East, Obama has inexplicably supported the wrong side, from Egypt to Libya, and has inserted himself into the brutal Syrian civil war, providing support for the Muslim Brotherhood and even for Al Qaeda affiliates. Yet he mysteriously failed to support, in word or deed, the genuine 2011 Iranian revolt when thousands of anti-government demonstrators called for an end to the terror-sponsoring regime that rules the country. Many were shocked that Obama stood on the sidelines and said nothing when the protesters urgently needed his support in overturning one of the most evil governments on earth.
Payoff:  The only payoff resulting from Obama’s actions with regard to the various Arab Spring uprisings has been the growth and expansion of Islamic radicalism.

Game:  NEGOTIATE WITH IRANIAN LEADERS
Stated purpose:  “President Obama is willing to negotiate with Iranian leaders in hopes of bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East by convincing Iran to give up its quest for nuclear weapons.”
Actual purpose:  Iran, the world’s leading terrorist nation, which routinely and openly threatens to annihilate the state of Israel and kill its people, is playing a game for more time to develop nuclear weapons.
Payoff:  In the short term, both sides appear to win. Obama gets to act out his narcissistic delusions of grandeur and to step in to assist “peace in our time” with his self-perceived brilliant diplomacy with Iranian leaders. In reality the real winner is Iran, because it gets the time it needs to complete development of a deliverable nuclear bomb. The loser is Israel; living under the very real threat of an imminently nuclear Iran, it must decide to attack that nation’s nuclear installations on a preemptive basis before the bombs arrive in its own cities.

[from an article by David Kupelian in WhistleBlower magazine]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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When government tries to do more and more, it actually does less, and does that badly…

“There’s not much sense in regarding the government as untrustworthy and inept, and then giving it more opportunities to screw up.”  – The Chicago Tribune  

“We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.”  – NORM ‘n’ AL

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The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a great advance in fostering access to medical insurance. It would contain costs, guarantee coverage, simplify consumer shopping and make the entire system more rational. Now that it is being put into practice, however, it’s a giant, exasperating mess.

Just one example: In North Dakota, WDAY-TV reported that only 30 people have signed up for coverage on the new federally run exchange. But 35,000 people will lose their existing policies. That was not quite what was promised during the congressional debate.

Some of the fault lies with the Obama administration for promising more than it could deliver. But some of the fault lies with the American people, who sometimes demand more of their government than it can reasonably provide. The technical and management snafus with Obamacare may be fixed in time. The deeper problems in the effort won’t be so easy to solve.

In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. Today, the figure is just 19 percent. It may be no coincidence that the decline in confidence occurred at the same time Washington was steadily expanding its role in a wide variety of spheres, from health care to housing to education.

When the government tries to do more and more, it raises hopes that are hard to meet. It gets further from its essential responsibilities, like defending the nation from foreign threats, fostering a sound national economy and facilitating interstate transportation.

It also spends more and more. In 1964, federal outlays accounted for 18.5 percent of gross domestic product. Today, they take 22.7 percent. But it doesn’t tax accordingly. This year, government revenues are lower as a share of GDP than they were back then, before the creation of the Great Society.

Why the discrepancy? Americans like getting things from Washington more than they like paying for them. Our leaders accommodate that taste by running big deficits every year, leaving much of the cost to be borne by future taxpayers.

But often, what the citizenry gets from Washington falls well short of expectations. Obamacare is a good example. Its introduction may have been bungled in several ways, but making big changes in a sector that constitutes one-sixth of the entire economy is a mammoth task, with great potential for error and harm.

That’s an argument for leaving most matters to private markets, with Washington establishing sensible basic rules, along with subsidies to help the needy. It’s also an argument that any changes should be incremental, to minimize disruption.

This logic applies to all sorts of federal involvement. Activists often decry the failure of private markets. But the question in most cases is not whether private markets function ideally. It’s whether legislation and bureaucracy will yield a better outcome.

Clifford Winston, an economist at the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, concludes that three decades of empirical evidence “suggest that the welfare cost of government failure may be considerably greater than that of market failure.” Good intentions are not enough.

In a nation of 50 states with vastly different political colorations and cultures, there is also a lot to be said for federalism. What suits the people of Massachusetts is bound to be a lot different from what Texans will embrace.

A single national policy means one or the other gets their way. Letting each state choose its own path allows each to satisfy its preferences. Not only that, but if mistakes are made, the harm is confined to a relatively small area — and other states can learn from the experience.

But the first step toward better federal policy is for Americans to realize the limits of what it can do and the costs it imposes when it goes beyond those limits. There’s not much sense in regarding the government as untrustworthy and inept, and then giving it more opportunities to screw up.

[A recent editorial in The Chicago Tribune]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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How would you grade HEALTHCARE.GOV at this point in time?

I was challenged by people who commented on my last post to opine on the troubled rollout of the federal health insurance exchange HealthCare.gov, and I will oblige.

The best place to start is President Obama’s remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday.

Shortly before the president’s appearance, White House officials let it be known that the “president will directly address the technical problems with HealthCare.gov – troubles he and his team find unacceptable.” But in that Rose Garden appearance, the president did not explain what the technical problems with HealthCare.gov were, though he did acknowledge their existence and stated “there is no excuse” for them.

He then promised that in a techno-surge he would recruit the best information technology talent in the country to come to the rescue and fix the problems. It made me wonder why the A-team, as the White House now calls it, was not enlisted in the first place.

President Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. How would he have graded a student’s performance on, say, a term paper or test that the professor viewed as “unacceptable,” especially when there was “no excuse” for the paper’s deficiencies?

One would hope that the grade would have been F, even under modern grade inflation. I certainly would affix that grade to such inexcusably deficient work.

But who exactly should be assigned the F for the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov?

At the Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama noted, “There’s no sugar coating it, the Web site has been too slow, people are getting stuck during the application process, and I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.”

That makes it sound as if the president was surprised and then angered by the poor performance of HealthCare.gov. Indeed, in a television interviewTuesday with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN, the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, appears to suggest as much, even though HealthCare.gov is reported to have crashed days before the start on Oct. 1 when only 100 people tried to register simultaneously.

As someone who has lectured on corporate governance and served on corporate boards, I find Secretary Sebelius’s statement astounding. Is this how the project was managed? They knew the Web site was not working and yet decided to go ahead with it anyway, without the president’s personal O.K. for so strategic and risky a decision?

Once elected, a president becomes chief executive of a giant federal enterprise. Anyone familiar with corporate management would have thought that for as ambitious and technically a complex project as the initial rollout of HealthCare.gov – so important to many uninsured Americans and so politically important to the White House – the chief executive would have remained in very close touch with the management team overseeing the project and thus would have been briefed daily or at least weekly on the progress of the project and especially on any problems with it.

Woe to the members of the management team in a corporation if problems with a project are hidden from the chief executive when they become known, exposing the chief executive to embarrassing public relations surprises. Heads would roll. The board, however, would assign the blame for such problems not primarily to the management team and instead to the chief executive himself or herself. He hired and supervised the team.

From that perspective, the blame for the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov goes to its entire management team, to be sure, but primarily to the chief executive on top of that project. In my view, not only the proverbial buck stops on the chief executive’s desk, but, for the management of this particular project, the grade of F goes there as well.

It is worth reminding readers, however, that grades on midterm papers or tests do not constitute the overall grade in a course. Students receiving an F on a midterm paper or test often end up with a respectable overall course grade, spurred on in part by that very failure.

Similarly, with enormous effort and, one hopes, constant future supervision by the chief executive, there is hope that the technical problems encountered so far can be fixed in time, with the celebrated A-team of software experts now on the scene.

Finally, it bears emphasizing that the ill-fated rollout of HealthCare.gov should not be taken as a commentary on the concept of health insurance exchanges in general, nor on the Affordable Care Act.

The idea to use means-tested public subsidies to assist low-income Americans to purchase competitively offered private health insurance sold through health-insurance exchanges has been popular among policy analysts and policy makers of both political parties since the 1970s. Any such exchange will have to have roughly the same kind of architecture and tasks as those required for HealthCare.gov, as is shown in the sketch below.

HEALTHCARE.GOV structure needed...

Particular versions of this general construct were built into the Clinton health plan in the 1990s and the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (Part D of Medicare). It was also part of the health reform plan proposed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, during the presidential campaign of 2008 and of the Patients’ Choice Act proposed by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, in 2009.

Indeed, it has been the foundation of every health reform proposal in the United States other than the single-payer Medicare for All idea since the 1970s. And it would be the core of the defined contribution plan now being proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, for the Medicare program.

Now, it may be argued that private electronic health insurance exchanges – for example, eHealthInsurance.com – have long been available to Americans in the market for individually purchased private health insurance, obviating the need for a new HealthCare.gov. That would imply an unfair comparison.

EHealthInsurance.com is a purely passive exchange that merely lists the policies and estimates of their premiums for sundry health insurers listing on the exchange. It does not grant subsidies toward the purchase of health insurance and establish eligibility for those subsidies, nor does it guarantee prices. It simply refers interested individuals to insurers to purchase policies, which are not community rated but actuarially priced. Such an exchange can be quite simple.

If one wants to couple means-tested federal or state government contributions toward private coverage – as the health-reform plans proposed by both parties do – then by necessity the insurance exchange must ping and interact with numerous other Web sites, each with its own software language of various vintages.

The sketch below illustrates that construct, but only for the most important linkages that must be pinged. HealthCare.gov probably has to ping still other sites. Such an exchange is incomparably more difficult to establish and prone to computer glitches than is, say, eHealthInsurance.com.

Alternative structure...

 

But several states did manage to establish on time such complex health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, with only minor rollout glitches of the sort one would expect. Somehow they managed.

With proper management and more energetic work earlier on, and untainted by the political desiderata reported to have affected the architecture of HealthCare.gov, that Web site’s management team should have been able to achieve the same success. It did not, hence the midterm grade F.

[by Uwe E. Reinhardt, an economics professor at Princeton. He wrote this piece for the New York Times]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

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Myths and misunderstandings about the government shutdown…

Back in the 1970s, the comedy group Firesign Theater used to perform a sketch featuring a New Age huckster named Happy Harry Cox who inveigled money from his followers by warning them that they labored under mass delusions that only he could correct. “Dogs flew spaceships!” he bellowed in his radio advertisements. “The Aztecs invented the vacation! Men and women are the same sex! Our forefathers took drugs … Yes! That’s right! Everything you know is wrong! Especially about the government shutdown!”

OK, he didn’t really say the part about the government shutdown. But he should have. Because, really, practically everything the chattering classes have told you on the subject is nonsense. Let’s look at some the myths:

The government is shut down.

No it isn’t. The troops are still fighting in Afghanistan. The NSA is still reading your email. The staff at the U.S. embassy in Caracas is still putting its fingers in its ears and waggling them at the Venezuelan government. The Postal Service is still running your magazines through shredders. By most estimates, 85 or so percent of the government is still functioning. Whether that’s a good thing is, of course, debatable.

This kind of thing never used to happen.

Actually, it used to happen all the time. What’s unusual is the quiet stretch since the last shutdown, when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton were facing off in 1995. Before that, there 18 shutdowns in 19 years as various Congresses and presidents squabbled over raising the national debt limit. My personal favorite is the one in 1982, when Congress didn’t feel like working late to pass a spending bill the night before the new fiscal year started. The Republicans were all going to a barbecue at the White House, while the Democrats had a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner to attend.

Well, it wouldn’t happen if not for all these crazy ideologues who’ve been elected the last few years. In the old days, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill would have just had a drink after work and settled everything.

More likely they would have broken some bottles over one another’s heads. The federal government shut down seven times while Reagan was president and O’Neill speaker of the House. No wonder, the way they talked about each other. O’Neill called Reagan “an absolute and total disgrace” and added that it was “sinful that this man is president of the United States.” Reagan, in his diary, wrote that budget negotiations with the speaker were an ordeal because “Tip O’Neill doesn’t have the facts of what was in the budget. Besides he doesn’t listen.”

Maybe arguments over spending are inevitable. But it’s just plain wrong to hold laws on other subjects hostage to debt-ceiling negotiations, the way the Republicans are doing with Obamacare.

Over the years, government shutdowns have been triggered by attempts to change the laws on, among other things, abortion, civil rights, welfare, oil-drilling and which government agency’s economic forecast should be used for budget planning. And even if you think debt-ceiling fights should be restricted just to spending issues, the fact is that virtually everything Congress or the president does can be turned into a spending issue, because it all requires funding.

That’s just partisan sophistry that would make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.

Wrong: The Founding Fathers not only foresaw but approved of this tactic. That’s why the Constitution puts the president in charge of running the government but reserves to Congress the ability to rein him in through the power of the purse string.

James Madison, one of the principal authors of the Constitution, was quite explicit: “This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Are you saying you’re smarter than President Obama? Because he thinks it’s wrong to play politics with the debt ceiling.

No, he doesn’t. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he sternly said of the attempt to raise the ceiling. “It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills.” Oops, my bad. That was Sen. Obama, back in 2006, when the president who wanted to increase the debt was named Bush. I guess everything he knew was wrong, too.

[by Glenn Garvin, writing for The Miami Herald. This piece was reprinted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

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Another exciting episode about US Department of Endless Bureaucratic Transactions (US DEBT)…

Endless self-centered bungling...what a great system!

 

 

New episode...CLICK HERE!                                   CLICK ABOVE for this exciting episode…

 

 

This week on “The Government,” Will and his coworkers come face-to-face with an Inspector General, and he isn’t happy about how the Department of Every Bureaucratic Transaction (DEBT) has failed to rein in irresponsible spending. From lavish conferences to botched uniform designs, bureaucrats haven’t exactly been good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Below are the real-life examples of wasteful spending that the Inspector General finds so egregious.

  • IRS Spent $11K On A “Happiness Expert” To Lead A 90 Minute Workshop. “The IRS hired 15 speakers to present at the conference in Anaheim, Calif., including $11,430 for positive psychology guru Shawn Achor — referred to as a ‘happiness expert’ by the sources — to lead a 90-minute workshop” (Kelly O’Donnell and Andrew Rafferty, “2010 IRS Conference Featured ‘Happiness Expert,’ $17K Art Session,” CNBC, 6/4/13)
  • IRS Credit Cards Used For Wine, Romance Novels, Diet Pills And Pornography. (Stephen Ohlemacher,”IRS Credit Cards Used For Wine, Pornography,” The Associated Press, 6/25/13)
  • IRS Spent $119 On Nerf Footballs That Were Never Used. “The Internal Revenue Service lacks sufficient oversight of agency credit cards issued to employees, leading to purchases such as $119 in Nerf footballs sitting unused in a filing cabinet, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.” (Richard Rubin, “Audit Finds $119 of Unused Nerf Footballs in IRS Cabinet, Bloomberg, 6/25/13)
  • The U.S. Army Wasted $5 Billion In Camouflage Development. (Eloise Lee and Robert Johnson, “After Wasting $5 Billion Dollars, The Army Is Eyeing These New Camouflage Patterns,” Business Insider, 9/25/12)
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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by
NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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