Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Insurance Mandate in Peril

First Congress said it was a regulation of commerce. Now it's supposed to be a tax. Neither claim will survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

From Randy Barnett in the Wall Street Journal:
A"tell" in poker is a subtle but detectable change in a player's behavior or demeanor that reveals clues about the player's assessment of his hand. Something similar has happened with regard to the insurance mandate at the core of last month's health reform legislation. Congress justified its authority to enact the mandate on the grounds that it is a regulation of commerce. But as this justification came under heavy constitutional fire, the mandate's defenders changed the argument—now claiming constitutional authority under Congress's power to tax.

This switch in constitutional theories is a tell: Defenders of the bill lack confidence in their commerce power theory. The switch also comes too late. When the mandate's constitutionality comes up for review as part of the state attorneys general lawsuit, the Supreme Court will not consider the penalty enforcing the mandate to be a tax because, in the provision that actually defines and imposes the mandate and penalty, Congress did not call it a tax and did not treat it as a tax.

.The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) includes what it calls an "individual responsibility requirement" that all persons buy health insurance from a private company. Congress justified this mandate under its power to regulate commerce among the several states: "The individual responsibility requirement provided for in this section," the law says, ". . . is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce, as a result of the effects described in paragraph (2)." Paragraph (2) then begins: "The requirement regulates activity that is commercial and economic in nature: economic and financial decisions about how and when health care is paid for, and when health insurance is purchased."

In this way, the statute speciously tries to convert inactivity into the "activity" of making a "decision." By this reasoning, your "decision" not to take a job, not to sell your house, or not to buy a Chevrolet is an "activity that is commercial and economic in nature" that can be mandated by Congress.

It is true that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause broadly enough to reach wholly intrastate economic "activity" that substantially affects interstate commerce. But the Court has never upheld a requirement that individuals who are doing nothing must engage in economic activity by entering into a contractual relationship with a private company. Such a claim of power is literally unprecedented.

Since this Commerce Clause language was first proposed in the Senate last December, Democratic legislators and law professors alike breezily dismissed any constitutional objections as preposterous. After the bill was enacted, critics branded lawsuits by state attorneys general challenging the insurance mandate as frivolous. Yet, unable to produce a single example of Congress using its commerce power this way, the defenders of the personal mandate began to shift grounds.

On March 21, the same day the House approved the Senate version of the legislation, the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation released a 157-page "technical explanation" of the bill. The word "commerce" appeared nowhere. Instead, the personal mandate is dubbed an "Excise Tax on Individuals Without Essential Health Benefits Coverage." But while the enacted bill does impose excise taxes on "high cost," employer-sponsored insurance plans and "indoor tanning services," the statute never describes the regulatory "penalty" it imposes for violating the mandate as an "excise tax." It is expressly called a "penalty."

This shift won't work. The Supreme Court will not allow staffers and lawyers to change the statutory cards that Congress already dealt when it adopted the Senate language.

In the 1920s, when Congress wanted to prohibit activity that was then deemed to be solely within the police power of states, it tried to penalize the activity using its tax power. In Bailey v. Drexel Furniture (1922) the Supreme Court struck down such a penalty saying, "there comes a time in the extension of the penalizing features of the so-called tax when it loses its character as such and becomes a mere penalty with the characteristics of regulation and punishment."

Although the Court has never repudiated this principle, the Court now interprets the commerce power far more broadly. Thus Congress may regulate or prohibit intrastate economic activity directly without invoking its taxation power. Yet precisely because a mandate to engage in economic activity has never been upheld by the Court, the tax power is once again being used to escape constitutional limits on Congress's regulatory power.

Supporters of the mandate cite U.S. v. Kahriger (1953), where the Court upheld a punitive tax on gambling by saying that "[u]nless there are provisions extraneous to any tax need, courts are without authority to limit the exercise of the taxing power." Yet the Court in Kahriger also cited Bailey with approval. The key to understanding Kahriger is the proposition the Court there rejected: "it is said that Congress, under the pretense of exercising its power to tax has attempted to penalize illegal intrastate gambling through the regulatory features of the Act" (emphasis added).

In other words, the Court in Kahriger declined to look behind Congress's assertion that it was exercising its tax power to see whether a measure was really a regulatory penalty. As the Court said in Sonzinsky v. U.S. (1937), "[i]nquiry into the hidden motives which may move Congress to exercise a power constitutionally conferred upon it is beyond the competency of courts." But this principle cuts both ways. Neither will the Court look behind Congress's inadequate assertion of its commerce power to speculate as to whether a measure was "really" a tax. The Court will read the cards as Congress dealt them.

Congress simply did not enact the personal insurance mandate pursuant to its tax powers. To the contrary, the statute expressly says the mandate "regulates activity that is commercial and economic in nature." It never mentions the tax power and none of its eight findings mention raising any revenue with the penalty.

Moreover, while inserting the mandate into the Internal Revenue Code, Congress then expressly severed the penalty from the normal enforcement mechanisms of the tax code. The failure to pay the penalty "shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure." Nor shall the IRS "file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section," or "levy on any such property with respect to such failure."

In short, the "penalty" is explicitly justified as a penalty to enforce a regulation of economic activity and not as a tax. There is no authority for the Court to recharacterize a regulation as a tax when doing so is contrary to the express and actual regulatory purpose of Congress.

So defenders of the mandate are making yet another unprecedented claim. Never before has the Court looked behind Congress's unconstitutional assertion of its commerce power to see if a measure could have been justified as a tax. For that matter, never before has a "tax" penalty been used to mandate, rather than discourage or prohibit, economic activity.

Are there now five justices willing to expand the commerce and tax powers of Congress where they have never gone before? Will the Court empower Congress to mandate any activity on the theory that a "decision" not to act somehow affects interstate commerce? Will the Court accept that Congress has the power to mandate any activity so long as it is included in the Internal Revenue Code and the IRS does the enforcing?

Yes, the smart money is always on the Court upholding an act of Congress. But given the hand Congress is now holding, I would not bet the farm.

Mr. Barnett is a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown and the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).

Why Physicians Oppose The Health Care Reform Bill

After the debate has ended and the lobbyists have moved on to their next clients, health care will be left the way it started, a physician and a patient sitting in a room trying as best as they can to prolong health and forestall sickness. Fortunately the many victories and losses claimed by both ends of the political spectrum will not change this shared pursuit.

So then why has reform that promises to get millions more in a discourse with their doctors been so polarizing? Making sure more Americans have health insurance can only be a major victory, right? Too bad the medical establishment is not celebrating. In fact, the mood in those exams rooms is downright morose.

In tens of thousands of exam rooms all over the country physicians are struggling to make sense of the 2,000-plus pages of the reform bill. A recently released poll of more than 2,000 physicians, conducted by Athenahealth and Sermo, is alarming. The poll, part of a broader Physician Sentiment Index, indicates that 79% of physicians are less optimistic about medicine since the passage of health care reform. Fifty-three percent indicate they will consider opting out of insurance plans with passage of the bill. Worst of all, 66% indicate that they will consider opting out of all government-run programs. The same reform bill that will provide "care for all" may drive away more physician caregivers than attract previously uninsured patients. What a predicament that would be.

Many may find the data from the poll puzzling. How could physicians be so pessimistic about a bill that clearly has so many positives? For one, the bill addresses none of the issues most consistently ranked by physicians as the most critical for lowering costs and improving access. Tort reform, streamlining billing and payment, and fixing the flawed government formula for calculating physician reimbursement are given little, if any, serious attention.

What physicians knew then and certainly know now is that instead of fixing these issues, the government will be forced to take the path of least resistance to save money (that is to say the path with the least special interest resistance). That means reducing physician reimbursement, just as the country is counting on even more physicians to be available.

Physicians knew the health care bill had a "gotcha" buried deep inside. The only way it could be called "budget-neutral" was to implement significant reductions in physician payments. So just as we are hoping more physicians become available to treat the influx of 31 million more patients, the government is implementing a massive reduction in physician reimbursement (a 21% reduction in physician reimbursement went into effect April 1 after several years of no adjustments for inflation, meaning physician reimbursement has been declining for several years already).

In a moment of complete legislative hypocrisy, the proponents were touting one health care bill that included cost estimates that assumed a massive reduction in payments while another bill moved its way through Congress that would reverse those cuts (the bill reversing the cuts was ultimately defeated, meaning the cuts did go into effect). At some point, basic supply and demand will kick in, and there will be insufficient physician resources for treating patients.

But what of the much-touted American Medical Association's support for the bill? The AMA, which counts less than 10% of its $300 million dollars in revenue from physician membership dues (the rest comes from a government sanctioned monopoly whereby the AMA sells the billing codes upon which the entire health care system relies) had little choice but to endorse the bill, lest the government retract its exclusive license on billing codes. Again physicians know what the public does not: Less than 15% of practicing physicians are AMA members, so any AMA support is more a reflection of the AMA's financial interests than what physicians in this country truly want. This is a situation that proved opportunistic to proponents of the bill but could prove painful for America's health care system.

Indeed this might be a pyrrhic victory. Health care without active physician participation is no health care at all. Many physicians are investing in electronic health records and billing technologies that alleviate some of the huge administrative brunt that threatens the independent medical office and enables them to fare better in the uneven fight with insurers. These technologies do hold great promise in ensuring these projections remain just that, projections, and not reality.

But still, as the Athenahealth-Sermo poll shows, many physicians are ultimately faced with the choice of opting out of government insurance programs or going out of business. A significant number of physicians are realizing they cannot stay in business--let alone remain independent--if they continue to accept artificially low government reimbursement rates.

Many states are recognizing this impending crisis, and rather than addressing the causes of medical inflation are resorting to an "easy," short-sighted fix: Make participation in state and federal insurance programs a condition of medical licensure. Far from a theoretical proposition, Massachusetts' health care system is so over budget that the state legislature is considering a bill that would mandate physician participation, in effect making physicians state employees.

Can anyone say socialized medicine?

Daniel Palestrant, MD, is founder and chief executive officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Sermo, the largest online physician community, where more than 112,000 physicians collaborate to improve patient care.

Baron Hill protest Friday April 30 in North Vernon

From Maerk Holwager of the We the People Jennings County Group:

A message to all members of We the People of Jennings County

Baron Hill will be in North Vernon at the Whitefront Cafe around 12:30pm on Friday April 30, 2010. We have protested him everywhere else in the district, now lets do it in our town. I will be at the City Building Parking lot at 11:30am. We will make our way to the Whitefront by 12:00pm. The City Building is where the North Vernon City Police is located. My cell is 812 498 5847 call for directions or more info.

Mark Holwager

Be there if you can to support the Patriots of Jennings County-SP

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Update on the TEA Party Rally on April 15

I apologize for being so late in posting this update on the Jackson County/9th District TEA Party rally on april 15.  I have recently returned to work and have been quite busy, so this has been my first opportunity to get pics posted.

We had about 200 Patriots from throughout the Indiana 9th District present in Seymour for the Tax Day Rally.  Speakers included Jim Lucas (running for District 66 Stae Rep), Eric Schansberg (representing Travis Hankins), Mike Sodrel and Todd Young.  Marianna Torres, a native of Peru, spoke to the folks about what being in the USA meant to her - it was very moving.  Yours truly gave a synopsis of the new Healthcare "Reform" taxes and fess.  Jon Stahl explained how the left wing radicals of the 60s are now in the seats of power in our government by following the playbook of Saul Alinsky and his "Rules for Radicals".  After the speakers a number of the Patriots marched along US 50.  It was a GREAT rally, thanks to all who came, especially those from Clark, Jefferson, Harrison and surrounding counties!

Photos taken by Steve Bobb.

Jim Lucas speaks

Eric Schansberg


Todd Young

Mike Sodrel

Business says vast tax increases 'inevitable' under Obama budget

From The Hill:
Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.

The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.

“If the President’s budget demonstrates the administration’s long-term governing priorities, then it's hard not to conclude that this spending boom is deliberate,” the letter from the Tax Relief Coalition said.

“It is an effort to put in place programs and spending commitments that will require vast new tax increases going forward, and give the political class a claim on far more private American wealth,” it said.

The chief lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers signed the letter, as did Business Roundtable President John Castellani.

Dick Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist are also signatories.

Obama’s budget proposal would increase marginal tax rates on individuals whose incomes are above $200,000, and families with incomes about $250,000. It would also raise taxes on dividends and capital gains.

On business, Obama’s tax proposals include the elimination of “deferral,” which will increase the taxes U.S. corporations pay on their subsidiaries. The administration also wants to change the way “carried interest” is paid, which would raise taxes on hedge fund managers. Carried interest is now taxed at the 15 percent rate as capital gains, but the administration would like to have it taxed as ordinary income, which would hit the deep-pocketed fund managers.

The business groups warned that imposing those taxes on an economy they said is still struggling “will delay our recovery and slow down both economic and job growth well into the future.

“This budget is a prescription for slower economic growth, prolonging high unemployment levels and making U.S. companies less competitive on world markets,” they wrote.

The Senate Budget Committee on Thursday approved a new spending plan that seeks to reduce the deficit from $1.3 trillion to $545 billion by 2015, but this depends on Congress offsetting the expense of patching the Alternative Minimum Tax that would otherwise hit millions of middle-class taxpayers this year.

The budget committee’s resolution would impose tougher restrictions on spending than Obama’s plan.

Sebelius: We don’t know what ObamaCare costs will be

At Hot Air:
Think of this as a companion piece to the sudden recognition that massive government interventions cost more than they save. On Wednesday, Kathleen Sebelius appeared before the House Appropriations Committee to discuss the appropriations for high-risk pool subsidies that ObamaCare provides to the states. The bill appropriated $5 billion for this program, but as Sebelius tells the committee, that was just a spit-balling number. In reality, no one has the faintest clue how much money will actually get spent on this program, via Breitbart TV and Naked Emperor News:

CMS is the actuary for Medicare and Medicaid, which warned that the forecasting in ObamaCare was hopelessly optimistic, and this appears to be one of those areas in which they’ll be proven right more quickly than most. The states will face billions of dollars each in new mandated Medicaid spending. What’s the likelihood of them not joining a subsidy program to cover high-risk enrollees? About the same probability of Obama scheduling a prime-time press conference tonight or skipping his golf game tomorrow. Not only will the $5 billion disappear twice as fast as Sebelius and the Obama administration predicted, it may go even faster than that.

But don’t worry — Congress knew exactly what they were doing when they passed the bill. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Liberals and the Violence Card

From Rush Limbaugh at The Wall Street Journal: Conservative protest is motivated by a love of what America stands for.
The latest liberal meme is to equate skepticism of the Obama administration with a tendency toward violence. That takes me back 15 years ago to the time President Bill Clinton accused "loud and angry voices" on the airwaves (i.e., radio talk-show hosts like me) of having incited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What self-serving nonsense. Liberals are perfectly comfortable with antigovernment protest when they're not in power.

From the halls of the Ivy League to the halls of Congress, from the antiwar protests during the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq to the anticapitalist protests during International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, we're used to seeing leftist malcontents take to the streets. Sometimes they're violent, breaking shop windows with bricks and throwing rocks at police. Sometimes there are arrests. Not all leftists are violent, of course. But most are angry. It's in their DNA. They view the culture as corrupt and capitalism as unjust.

Now the liberals run the government and they're using their power to implement their radical agenda. Mr. Obama and his party believe that the election of November 2008 entitled them to make permanent, "transformational" changes to our society. In just 16 months they've added more than $2 trillion to the national debt, essentially nationalized the health-care system, the student-loan industry, and have their sights set on draconian cap-and-trade regulations on carbon emissions and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Had President Obama campaigned on this agenda, he wouldn't have garnered 30% of the popular vote.

Like the millions of citizens who've peacefully risen up and attended thousands of rallies in protest, I seek nothing more than the preservation of the social contract that undergirds our society. I do not hate the government, as the left does when it is not running it. I love this country. And because I do, I insist that the temporary inhabitants of high political office comply with the Constitution, honor our God-given unalienable rights, and respect our hard-earned private property. For this I am called seditious, among other things, by some of the very people who've condemned this society?

I reject the notion that America is in a well-deserved decline, that she and her citizens are unexceptional. I do not believe America is the problem in the world. I believe America is the solution to the world's problems. I reject a foreign policy that treats our allies like our enemies and our enemies like our allies. I condemn the president traveling the world apologizing for America's great contributions to mankind. And I condemn his soft-pedaling the dangers we face from terrorism. For this I am inciting violence?

Few presidents have sunk so low as Mr. Clinton did with his accusations about Oklahoma City. Last week—on the very day I was contributing to and raising more than $3 million to fight leukemia and lymphoma on my radio program—Mr. Clinton used the 15th anniversary of that horrific day to regurgitate his claims about talk radio.

At a speech delivered last Friday at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., the former president said: [T]here were a lot of people who were in the business back then of saying that the biggest threat to our liberty and the cause of our domestic economic problem was the federal government itself. And we have to realize that there were others who fueled this both because they agreed with it and because it was in their advantage to do so. . . . We didn't have blog sites back then so the instrument of carrying this forward was basically the right-wing radio talk show hosts and they understand clearly that emotion was more powerful than reason most of the time."

Timothy McVeigh was incensed by the Clinton administration's 1993 siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. It's no coincidence that the bombing took place two years to the day of the Waco siege. McVeigh was not inspired by anything I said or believe and to say otherwise is outright slander. In the aftermath of the bombing, I raised millions of dollars for the children of federal employees killed in that cowardly attack through my association with the Marine Corp Law Enforcement Foundation.

Let me just say it. The Obama/Clinton/media left are comfortable with the unrest in our society today. It allows them to blame and demonize their opponents (doctors, insurance companies, Wall Street, talk radio, Fox News) in order to portray their regime as the great healer of all our ills, thus expanding their power and control over our society.

A clear majority of the American people want no part of this. They instinctively know that the Obama way is not how things get done in this country. They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

Indiana Republicans Battle For Conservative Mantle

From Real Clear Politics:
In competitive primaries around the country, Republicans are attempting to prove they are the most conservative candidate in the race. Look no further than Arizona, where Sen. John McCain -- the party's presidential nominee just two years ago -- is being challenged by J.D. Hayworth for not being a "true" conservative.

The same thing is happening in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist appears on the verge of exiting the race altogether because of the popularity of the more conservative Marco Rubio.

It's also true in the open seat race in Indiana, where former Sen. Dan Coats, former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman continue to battle for the conservative mantle less than two weeks before the May 4 primary. Coats was recruited by the national party and is widely considered the favorite, but all three have led Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) in general election polling.

With Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) retiring, the eventual Republican nominee will be favored to win the general election. Before President Obama's 1-point victory in 2008, Indiana had voted Republican in all but three presidential elections dating back to 1928.

It's a culturally conservative state, and in general, more conservative Republicans turn out for midterm GOP primaries. To prove their conservative chops, each has unveiled a major endorsement in the past week. On Friday, Hostettler announced the support of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has a nationwide network of supporters.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who was the first senator to publicly back Rubio, entered the fray on Tuesday by endorsing Stutzman and raising -- as of last night -- $77,000 for him through his Senate Conservatives Fund PAC, which supports only "rock solid conservatives."

"Marlin Stutzman can win this race," DeMint states in a fundraising solicitation. "He is surging in the polls and there is still time to elect a true conservative who will stand up to the establishment in both parties."

The Coats campaign responded by rolling out its own conservative endorsements this week: James Dobson, founder of the conservative group, Focus on the Family, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who previously indicated his support for Coats weeks earlier when the former senator was set to enter the race.

"Dan Coats' integrity and conservative record make him the best candidate for the job," Pence stated in a press release. "Dan is a proven conservative leader who is trusted by Hoosiers."

When asked whether Pence would actively campaign or fundraise for Coats, a Coats spokesman responded simply: "Stay tuned."

Pence himself considered running for the seat, but declined before Bayh's retirement announcement. Bayh's exit, the landscape of the state and subsequent polling moved the seat into vulnerable territory for Democrats. RCP now ranks the race as Lean Republican.

Government report: New healthcare reform law could lead to higher prices, employers dropping coverage

At The Hill:
A new government report from Rick Foster, the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), finds that President Barack Obama's new healthcare reform law would cost $828 billion over the next decade while saving $577 billion. Foster notes that CMS's projections do not take into account changes to the tax code that have been enacted. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that over the next 10 years, the healthcare package would decrease the deficit.

The CMS analysis, provided to The Hill on Thursday, concludes that the healthcare overhaul will reduce the number of the nation's uninsured from 57 million to 23 million.

However, the report raises several warnings about the impact of healthcare reform.

Foster states, "The additional demand for health services could be difficult to meet initially with existing health resources and could lead to price increases, cost shifting, and/or changes in providers' willingness to treat patients with low-reimbursement health coverage."

The report also suggests that some employers will stop offering their employees healthcare coverage benefits: "A number of workers who currently have employer coverage would likely become enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program or receive subsidized coverage through the [Health] Exchanges. For example, some smaller employers would be inclined to terminate their existing coverage, and companies with low average salaries might find it to their -- and their employees' -- advantage to end their plans..."

Foster claims that the law's penalties on employers who don't offer their workers health insurance "are relatively low compared to prevailing health insurance costs."

The CMS analysis projects that the Hospital Insurance trust fund would last until 2029 under the new law -- a dozen years more than the prior assessment of 2017. But Foster suggests that some of the savings in the law are unrealistic, indicating Congress will adjust the law's new provider reimbursements in the coming years.

Republicans in March criticized Democrats for moving forward with a vote on the controversial health legislation before CMS finalized its projections. Foster informed lawmakers that his office needed time to assess the law, and was unable to complete its analysis by the time Congress voted on the bill. Congress is bound by numbers released by CBO, which released its cost estimates before the final House and Senate votes.

Foster became embroiled in controversy in 2003 when his assessment of the Medicare drug law was significantly higher than CBO's. That cost estimate did not surface until the bill had been cleared by the GOP-led Congress.

Report: Health overhaul will increase USA's tab

From AP at USA Today:
President Obama's health care overhaul law will increase the nation's health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation.

A report by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department said the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance — adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls.

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs. It also warned that Medicare cuts may be unrealistic and unsustainable, driving about 15% of hospitals into the red and "possibly jeopardizing access" to care for seniors.

The mixed verdict for Obama's signature issue is the first comprehensive look by neutral experts.

In particular, the warnings about Medicare could become a major political liability for Democratic lawmakers in the midterm elections. Seniors are more likely to vote than younger people and polls show they are already deeply skeptical of the law.

The report from Medicare's Office of the Actuary carried a disclaimer saying it does not represent the official position of the Obama administration. White House officials have repeatedly complained that such analyses have been too pessimistic and lowball the law's potential to achieve savings.

The report acknowledged that some of the cost-control measures in the bill — Medicare cuts, a tax on high-cost insurance and a commission to seek ongoing Medicare savings — could help reduce the rate of cost increases beyond 2020. But it held out little hope for progress in the first decade.

"During 2010-2019, however, these effects would be outweighed by the increased costs associated with the expansions of health insurance coverage," wrote Richard S. Foster, Medicare's chief actuary. "Also, the longer-term viability of the Medicare ... reductions is doubtful." Foster's office is responsible for long-range costs estimates.

Republicans said the findings validate their concerns about Obama's 10-year, nearly $1 trillion plan to remake the nation's health care system.

"A trillion dollars gets spent, and it's no surprise — health care costs are going to go up," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., a leading Republican on health care issues. Camp added that he's concerned the Medicare cuts will undermine coverage for seniors.

The health care law, passed by a divided Congress after a year of bitter partisan debate, would create new health insurance markets for individuals and small businesses. Starting in 2014, most Americans would be required to carry health insurance except in cases of financial hardship. Tax credits would help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while Medicaid would pick up more low-income people. Insurers would be required to accept all applicants, regardless of their health.

A separate Congressional Budget Office analysis, also released Thursday, estimated that 4 million households would be hit with tax penalties under the law for failing to get insurance.

The U.S. spends $2.5 trillion a year on health care, far more per person than any other developed nation, and for results that aren't clearly better when compared to more frugal countries. At the outset of the health care debate last year, Obama held out the hope that by bending the cost curve down, the U.S. could cover all its citizens for about what the nation would spend absent any reforms.

The report found that the president's law missed the mark, although not by much. The overhaul will increase national health care spending by $311 billion from 2010-2019, or nine-tenths of 1%. To put that in perspective, total health care spending during the decade is estimated to surpass $35 trillion.

Administration officials argue the increase is a bargain price for guaranteeing coverage to 95% of Americans.

The report's most sober assessments concerned Medicare.

In addition to flagging the cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and other providers as potentially unsustainable, it projected that reductions in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans would trigger an exodus from the popular program. Enrollment would plummet by about 50%, as the plans reduce extra benefits that they currently offer. Seniors leaving the private plans would still have health insurance under traditional Medicare, but many might face higher out-of-pocket costs.

In another flashing yellow light, the report warned that a new voluntary long-term care insurance program created under the law faces "a very serious risk" of insolvency.

The TRUTH will out! - SP

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Contract From America!

The Contract from America

We, the undersigned, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items, work to bring each agenda item to a vote during the first year, and pledge to advocate on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (82.03%)

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69%)

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution. (64.90%)

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%)

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries. (56.39%)

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51%)

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38%)


Get involved. Sign the Contract. Join the movement. Make sure your voice and your priorities are heard. Together, we can and will make a difference.

Go here to sign the Contract! - SP

Thanks For What?

An editorial from Investors Business Daily:
Downsizing: Rather than protesting the greatest expansion of government in U.S. history, Tea Party attendees should be thanking Big Government for all it's done. At least, that's what President Obama thinks.

As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the president said he was "amused" by the Tea Party faithful gathering in cities across America to protest soaring government spending, ballooning debt and the explosion in taxes that will be needed to pay for it all.

"You would think they'd be saying thank you," he said.

And why should they be thankful? As the president himself said on his weekly radio address a week ago, "one thing we have not done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000; that's another promise we kept."

In fact, that wasn't his promise at all.

Here's what candidate Obama really said in September of 2008: "Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

Got that? "Not any of your taxes." The claim of no tax hikes on those below $250,000 as a result of the current administration's policies is completely and utterly false.

A report from the House Ways & Means Committee's GOP members notes that, since January 2009, Congress and the president have enacted $670 billion in tax increases. That's $2,100 for each person in America. At least 14 of those tax hikes, the report says, break Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on those earning less than $250,000. Roughly $316 billion of the tax hikes — 14 increases in all — hit middle-class families, the report says.

This comes in addition to recent data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing U.S. spending and indebtedness growing at an alarming rate. Government spending now totals 25% of GDP, a quarter above its long-term average. By 2035, it will hit 34% of GDP at current trends — a 70% increase in the real size of government in just 25 years.

More spending means more debt. In 2008, total federal publicly held debt was about $8.5 trillion — an amount Uncle Sam took 220 years to accumulate. By 2020, that will soar to $20.3 trillion, a 139% jump. No surprise the Government Accountability Office last week said the U.S. is on "an unsustainable long-term fiscal path."

So let's see: The administration and its allies in Congress pass what can only be called the most financially irresponsible series of bills in our nation's history, imposing a crushing tax burden on our children and our children's children, while lowering all Americans' standard of living, and we should thank them for it?

This is the delusional thinking that's led to the Tea Party Movement's soaring popularity. The hundreds of thousands that turned out around the country on April 15 were objecting to the systematic ruin and loss of liberty that massive fiscal irresponsibility brings.

Given all this, no one should be shocked that 52% of Americans in a recent New York Times/CBS Poll said President Obama's policies are moving the U.S. towards socialism. It's that serious.

The president can belittle people all he wants. That's his prerogative. But he ignores Tea Partyers at his own political peril. They will not go away or be mollified by the usual prevarications.

Democrats ridicule Tea Party followers as yahoos, racists and illiterates, a mob willing to be led. They are anything but. Indeed, they have shown their seriousness by putting out their own "Contract From America."

It's a common sense document, proposing 10 concrete steps to bring sanity back to our government and make it accountable once again. Sadly, the mainstream media won't cover it. But if you're interested, go to, and see if you don't agree.

Spending, Not Tax Cuts, Is the Real Driver of the Fiscal Mess

From Andrew Biggs at The American Enterprise Institute:
It’s hard to argue that our looming budget problems derive from ‘too little taxes’ when by any historical standard taxes will rise to record levels even before the fiscal gap is addressed.

To balance the budget over the next 25 years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says, would require an immediate and permanent increase in tax revenues, or reduction in spending outlays, equal to 5.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). To put that in context, that equals a 29 percent increase in all federal tax revenues relative to historical levels. That means not just income taxes, but payroll taxes, corporate taxes, capital gains and dividends taxes, and other sources of revenue. And it doesn’t mean just a 29 percent increase in tax rates, but—to account for the disincentive effects of higher taxes—even higher rates so that total revenue rises by 29 percent. That’s a pretty big deal.

When you go out over longer periods—50 years and 75 years—the CBO projects an even larger ‘fiscal gap’ of 6.9 percent and 8.1 percent of GDP, respectively.To solve that budgetary shortfall it helps to know what’s driving it in the first place. The causes of our looming budget deficits have been the subject of some disagreement. While everyone recognizes the rising costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, some on the left have blamed much of the looming shortfall on tax cuts passed during the Bush administration. President Obama himself has said that “extending the Bush tax cuts will cost three times as much as what is needed to fix Social Security's solvency over the next 75 years.”

Yet a CBO projection on the future fiscal gap shows that spending, not tax cuts, is the real driver. The chart below compares average federal revenues and outlays over the next 25 years with those over the past 25 years. (The time frame chosen matters little; the qualitative results are the same regardless of whether we look at 25 years, 50 years, or some other period.)

From 1984 through 2009, federal tax revenues averaged 18.3 percent of GDP while spending averaged 20.7 percent of GDP, for a typical annual budget deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP. (Nobody said we were angels in the past, either.)

Over the next 25 years, however, the CBO projects that tax revenues will increase to 19.9 percent of GDP. That’s equivalent to raising all federal taxes by about 9 percent. And this is under CBO’s “alternative fiscal scenario,” which assumes that the Bush tax cuts are extended and the Alternative Minimum Tax is indexed to reduce its intrusion on the middle class. Without these assumptions, tax revenues would rise even higher.

The real driver of the fiscal gap is rising federal spending, which will increase from an average of 20.7 percent of GDP over the last 25 years to 25.3 percent of GDP over the next quarter-century. That’s a 22 percent increase, for anyone who’s counting. Most of this spending increase will be driven by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as the Baby Boomers retire, the population ages, and healthcare spending rises.

Now, just because spending is driving the fiscal gap doesn’t logically mean the imbalance has to be solved by cutting spending. But it’s hard to argue that our looming budget problems derive from “too little taxes” when by any historical standard taxes will rise to record levels even before the fiscal gap is addressed. Moreover, to the degree that you care about the effects of higher tax rates on the economy, and the effects of a larger government share of spending on individuals’ abilities to lead their own lives as they wish, cutting spending might be the place to start.

Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. From 2008 to 2009 he served as principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration and as secretary of the Social Security Board of Trustees.

FURTHER READING: Biggs explained “Why Immigration Can’t Save Social Security,” “Obama Budget Rigs Healthcare Numbers,” and “How Different Is Grandma’s Spending?” He decried “Shooting the Messenger: CBO in the Crosshairs” and warned of the “Entitlement Apocalypse.” His scholarly work includes a recent dive into “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits.”

America's Constitutionalist Revolt

From Larry Kudlow:
So much is being written in the mainstream media about who the tea partiers are, but very little is being recorded about what these folks are actually saying.

We know that this is a decentralized grassroots movement, with many different voices hailing from many different towns across the country. But the tea-party message comes together in the "Contract From America," the product of an online vote orchestrated by Ryan Hecker, a Houston tea-party activist and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots.

With nearly 500,000 votes recorded in less than two months, this Contract forms a blueprint of tea-party policy goals and beliefs.

Of the top-10 planks in the Contract, the No. 1 issue is protect the Constitution. That's followed by reject cap-and-trade, demand a balanced budget and enact fundamental tax reform. And then comes number five: Restore fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government in Washington.

Note that two of the top-five priorities of the tea partiers mention the Constitution.

Filling out the Contract, the bottom-five planks are end runaway government spending; defund, repeal and replace government-run health care; pass an all-of-the-above energy policy; stop the pork; and stop the tax hikes.

What's so significant to me about this tea-party Contract From America is the strong emphasis on constitutional limits and restraints on legislation, spending, taxing and government control of the economy. Undoubtedly, the emphasis is there because no one trusts Washington.

As I read this Contract, tea partiers are reminding all of us of the need for the Constitution to protect our freedoms. They're calling for a renewal of constitutional values, including -- first and foremost -- a return to constitutional limits on government. The tea partiers who responded to this poll are demanding a rebirth of the consent of the governed. The government works for us, we don't work for it.

All this makes me think of President Reagan, who never quite succeeded in gaining a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, or for limits on spending, or for a two-thirds congressional majority for any new tax hikes. But throughout his presidency, and for many years before, the Gipper argued for constitutional limits on government, especially government spending.

And now this message is being echoed perfectly in the tea-party Contract From America. In effect, it picks up where Reagan left off.

The tea partiers, whom I call free-market populists, desire a return to Reaganism. In particular, their demands for a balanced budget (third plank), for restoring fiscal responsibility (fifth plank), for ending massive government spending (sixth plank), and for stopping the pork (ninth plank) all underscore the populist revolt against runaway government spending, and therefore runaway government power.

There are mentions in the Contract of tax reform and stopping tax hikes. But it is pretty clear to everyone nowadays that the massive run-up in spending of recent years will inevitably result in an equally massive tax-hike movement -- that is, unless the spending is strictly curbed and reduced.

Yet the tea partiers don't trust Congress to do this, so they want to bring in constitutional restraint.

A recent survey by the Brookings Institution spells out this spend-and-tax problem with great clarity. Under current spending trends, tax-the-rich efforts to bring the deficit to just 3 percent of gross domestic product -- not balance, mind you, but 3 percent deficit -- would require a nearly 80 percent marginal tax rate on the most successful earners. And if taxes are raised across-the-board, the marginal rate would rise to nearly 50 percent for the top earners, with state and local tax burdens bringing it up to 60 percent. Otherwise, a European-style value-added tax (VAT) would become necessary.

The tea partiers know this, and they don't like it one bit. And so, at bottom, they have formed a constitutionalist movement to revolt against big government and big taxes -- and oh, by the way, to stand against big-government control of large chunks of the economy, such as energy and health care.

Harking back to the Founders' principles of constitutional limits to government is a very powerful message. It's a message of freedom, especially economic freedom. The tea partiers have delivered an extremely accurate diagnostic of what ails America right now: Government is growing too fast, too much, too expensively and in too many places -- and in the process it is crowding out our cherished economic freedom.

It's as though the tea partiers are saying this great country will never fulfill its long-run potential to prosper, create jobs and lead the world unless constitutional limits to government are restored.

Now, as the tea partiers rally across the country, the big question is only this: Will the political class get it?

The New Currency Is Obedience

The latest from Doc Zero:
Tax Day 2010 saw massive demonstrations beneath the still-rising star of the Tea Party, coupled with a darkly amusing sideshow: hilariously incompetent attempts by left-wing operatives to infiltrate the demonstrations, setting up fraudulent photo ops to discredit the Tea Party. The most notorious organizer of these activities, “Crash the Tea Party” founder Jason Levin, turned out to be a middle-school teacher, and is now under investigation by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

Crash the Tea Party produced nothing more than a bit of low comedy, but Levin began the operation with lofty goals. He boasted of having “65 leaders in major cities around the country,” who were attempting to create a vast network of foot soldiers for their grand attack on Tea Party credibility. Jim Treacher over at the Daily Caller has preserved Crash the Tea Party’s manifesto for posterity. (Check out that link, and note the incorrect use of the semicolon in the first paragraph – very encouraging from an educator! I guess his training to work in the “media lab” put more emphasis on Stalinist theory than punctuation.) You can see from this manifesto that Levin and his chums didn’t see themselves as the low-wattage goofballs they turned out to be. They were hardcore warriors in the crusade for social justice, man.

Why are these people so intensely furious at the Tea Party? After all, it’s a community of concerned citizens, peacefully exercising their right to free speech in an attempt to promote positive social change. Their vision of positive social change is obviously quite different from that of an Obama-supporting leftist, sincere liberals should respect the Tea Party’s actions in principle, responding in kind with peaceful demonstrations of their own.

Of course, Levin’s group might have considered the tiny size of their counter-demonstrations against the massive Tea Party protests and concluded they would look ridiculous… but I think they also grasped a hidden truth, which average middle-class liberals do not like to contemplate. It is revealed between the lines of a mission statement that addresses a grassroots movement of outraged taxpayers as if they were a military enemy.

The past two years have seen a profound change occur in the American system. Our basic currency is no longer the dollar. People like Jason Levin understand the nature of our new currency, which is obedience.

Obama Democrats worship central planning. They have repeatedly expressed the belief that only powerful, maternal government can be trusted to allocate the most essential resources, or manage vital industries. The free market is a playpen, filled with the stuff that isn’t serious enough to merit direct control by the Mother State. When a particular toy causes the children of the electorate to scream, it is quickly snatched out of the pen. The free market can’t even be trusted to deal with airline fees for carry-on luggage… which turned out to be a market response to previous government action. You are expected to sit quietly and swallow your tears if Mother State chooses to beat you over the head with one of your toys.

Central planning is useless if nobody follows the central plans. Where the free market is persuasive, organizing resources by responding to demand and exploiting opportunity, central planning is coercive. It must compel obedience to its designs, and compulsion is always necessary. If people were eager to follow those designs of their own free will, there would be no need for central planning in the first place.

Obedience to the just laws of a minimal government doesn’t replace the currency of freedom – it enhances its value, by creating an environment of trust and cooperation. Your time is made more valuable by the knowledge you are protected from murder, theft, and fraud. This broadens the options available to you in life.

When the economy falls under political control, the practical value of your freedom shrivels. Success becomes determined by the favor of the State, and the exercise of political power. For example, labor unions are rewarded for their loyalty to the Democrat Party, including proposed public bailouts of their unsustainable pension plans, and exclusive access to government contracts. Such transactions work both ways, as powerful constituencies trade votes for obedient service from politicians.

The Tea Party is the living incarnation of disobedience. It is driven by the words and deeds of people who refuse to submit. Its members demand the return of money and power appropriated by an out-of-control federal government. They won’t allow their lives to be sculpted by the knives and chisels of penalties and subsidies. They speak out against an ugly reality that President Obama’s supporters don’t like to confront: political control of the economy consists of directives, which require submission, which can only be assured through punishment. No matter how benevolent the stated goals of such a system might be, there is nothing benevolent about the methods it must use to attain them.

A Russian dissident once said that the gulags weren’t an unfortunate side effect of Communism – they were the point. Jason Levin and his Crash the Tea Party minions understand this, and embrace it, because they hate the people who will be ground into fertilizer for the system they support. By helping to suppress a powerful enemy of the regime, they enjoy the exhilaration of despite, while also serving as volunteer guards for the Treasury where our new currency of obedience is stored.

Bill Clinton Links Talk Radio, Tea Parties to Non-Existent Terrorism

From Rush Limbaugh:
RUSH: Let's go back, April 24th, 1995, Mississippi, Minnesota.

CLINTON 1995: We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that -- by their very words, that -- violence is a acceptable. You ought to see -- I'm sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of (pounding podium) reckless speech and behavior.

FOLLOWERS: (applause)

RUSH: That was Bill Clinton, blaming me for the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th, 1995. Yesterday we had the tea parties, and the Drive-By Media (I'm sure to its great chagrin) is filled with stories about how festive and how peaceful and how unthreatening all of the tea parties were. The effort to infiltrate these tea parties fizzled. They have stories on that that they probably do not like having to report. And, ladies and gentlemen, it's very clear that these citizen uprisings -- genuine grassroots citizen's uprisings -- are far more powerful than an attempt to drum up fake opposition to them from the White House. Yet, Bill Clinton is back in the game, expanding that threat via this sound bite.

CLINTON 2010: There was this rising movement in the early nineties that was basically not just a carefully orchestrated plot by people of extreme right-wing views but one that fell into fertile soil because there were so many people for whom the world no longer made sense. They wanted a simple, clear explanation of what was an inherently complex, mixed picture full of challenges that required not only changes in public policy, but personnel conduct and imagination about the world we were living in. So demonizing the government and the people that work for it sort of fit that -- and there were a lot of people who were in the business back then of saying that the biggest threat to our liberty and the cause of our economic problems was the federal government itself.

RUSH: So there you have it: Bill Clinton once again trying to rebirth his empty threat from 1995. He starts out tracing the plot that started in the eighties to "demonize government." I have a question. We have two more sound bites of the president here specifying right-wing talk radio, but I have a question: How come we're supposed to draw (on the basis of no evidence), a connection between conservatism and terrorism, conservative ideology and terrorism? Where is that connection? Yet we are told we must reject, despite tons of evidence, the connection between Islamist ideology and terrorism. So we can't call Islamist fundamentalists "terrorists." We can't even use the word. But we can have ex-presidents and current presidents running around trying to associate conservatives with nonexistent terrorism at peaceful tea parties. Somebody needs to explain this to me.

Read it all for Rush's excellent analysis of how these people continue using the Alinsky method to try to demonize us BEFORE anything has happened so they can blame us when it does (no matter WHO may do it!). -SP

Friday, April 16, 2010

The clock is run out. The time is now. Conservatives must unite immediately to save Indiana.

From Red State:
Time’s up conservatives. We must now unite and we must now rally to save Indiana from the Democrats. The time is now. There can be no more waiting.

For months conservatives have sat on the sidelines in the Indiana Senate race. The NRSC dragged former Senator Dan Coats from North Carolina to Indiana and put him into the race. They said he would be warmly re-embraced by the Indiana conservative grassroots. They said he could raise between $500,000.00 and a million dollars. They said he was a perfect fit.

Now, like in Florida, we must save the NRSC from itself and save Indiana from the Democrats.

No more sitting on the sidelines. The numbers are in. Coats is not raising the money they said he could raise. He’s not even close to the low ball expectation others set for him. He is not getting the grassroots support they said he could get. He is going to lose the NRA endorsement to the Democrat more likely than not.

Conservatives nationally must drop what they are doing, focus on Indiana, and rally to Marlin Stutzman. The election is 19 days away.

Across Indiana, Marlin Stutzman is gaining traction. He is winning straw poll after straw poll. He is raising money. He is getting endorsements across the state from legislators, pro-life groups, farmers — real people in Indiana and experienced Republicans.

The conservative grassroots in Indiana have made the call — not me, not national leaders. It is time to rally to them. I stepped up. I made the call to go with Marlin Stutzman when others were telling me to go with Coats.

I’ve prayed for him. I’ve given him money. I’ve spent my time pounding the keys on my keyboard for him. It is your turn.

Get up conservatives. Get up and fire up. We must unite. We must do it now. There is no time left. The primary is on the horizon, just 19 days away on May 4, 2010.

Stop dithering. Stop debating. Stop waiting for Coats to deliver what the NRSC said he would deliver and that we now know he cannot.

Go with Marlin Stutzman. He will not disappoint you. Let’s help him and together put Indiana in the GOP column come November. Coats cannot win. Marlin Stutzman can and will.

I aim to win. I hope conservatives nationally will aim to win too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Support for Repeal of Health Care Plan Up To 58%

New poll from Rasmussen:
Three weeks after Congress passed its new national health care plan, support for repeal of the measure has risen four points to 58%. That includes 50% of U.S. voters who strongly favor repeal.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters nationwide finds 38% still oppose repeal, including 32% who strongly oppose it.

For the previous two weeks following passage of the controversial plan, 54% of voters have favored repeal and 42% have opposed it.

But only 38% of voters think it is even somewhat likely that the health care bill will be repealed. Fifty-one percent (51%) see repeal as unlikely. Those figures include 11% who say it’s very likely to be repealed and 18% who say repeal is not at all likely.

Still, 52% believe the health care plan will be bad for the country. Thirty-nine percent (39%) think it will be good for the country, and one percent (1%) more say it will have no impact. These numbers have changed little since the March 21 House vote to pass the health care bill.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

Rasmussen Reports will track support for the repeal effort on a weekly basis for as long as it remains a significant issue. New updates will be released each Monday morning. Prior to passage of the law, Scott Rasmussen wrote a Wall Street Journal column explaining “Why Obama Can’t Move the Health Care Numbers.”

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters believe repeal of the health care bill will be good for the economy. Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree.

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans and 54% of voters not affiliated with either major party favor repeal. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Democrats are opposed. Republican support for repeal is up eight points from a week ago, while Democratic opposition is down seven.

Ninety-four percent (94%) of those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement favor repealing the health care bill.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of the Political Class oppose repeal, while 75% of Mainstream voters think repeal is a good idea.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Democrats and most unaffiliated voters (53%) say repeal of the bill is unlikely. A majority (54%) of Republicans feel otherwise and think repeal is at least somewhat likely.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of the Political Class says repeal is not very or not at all likely.

Seventy percent (70%) of Democrats say the health care plan will be good for the country. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of GOP voters and 56% of unaffiliateds disagree.

Generally speaking, the partisan and demographic breakdowns have shifted little since passage of the health care bill. Those groups who opposed the bill tend to support repeal and those who supported the bill oppose repeal.

Most voters have believed for months that the quality of health care will suffer if the plan becomes law and that costs will go up.

Voters strongly believe the health care reform plan will cost more than official estimates, and 78% expect an increase in taxes on the middle class to pay for it.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters believe America is already overtaxed.

The Onerous Compliance Cost of the Internal Revenue Code

On Youtube (hat tip to Instapundit):

Sunday, April 11, 2010

66% Say America Is Overtaxed

From Rasmussen:
When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes.

Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.

Lower income voters are more likely than others to believe the nation is overtaxed.

Not surprisingly, the tax issue provokes a wide gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream American voters believe the nation is overtaxed, while 74% of those in the Political Class disagree (see more about the Political Class and Mainstream Americans).

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans believe the nation is overtaxed. So do 73% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Democrats are evenly divided on the question.

Among those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, 96% believe the nation is overtaxed, and only one percent (1%) disagree.

These figures help explain why candidate Barack Obama promised to cut taxes for 95% of all Americans during Election 2008. Shortly after the election, Scott Rasmussen wrote a Wall Street Journal column noting how Obama won the White House by campaigning like Ronald Reagan. Currently, only eight percent (8%) believe their taxes will be cut during the Obama presidency, while 46% expect a tax hike.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

According to Fiscal 2011 federal budget documents, taxes paid to federal, state and local governments totaled 25% of GDP in 2009. Total government spending totaled 36% of GDP.

Forty-three percent (43%) of voters believe that the average American should pay about 10% of their income in taxes in exchange for the services provided by the government.

In Fiscal Year 2009, 50% of all federal spending went to national defense, Social Security and Medicare. When the cost of veterans affairs are included, that number grows to 53%. Five percent (5%) paid interest on the federal debt, and 42% was used for everything else in the budget.

However, only 35% of voters believe that the majority of federal spending goes to just defense, Social Security and Medicare.

Forty-four percent (44%) say it’s not true, and 20% are not sure.

“These figures highlight a massive failure of leadership from both Republicans and Democrats among the nation’s political elite,” Rasmussen says. “Given the amount of political chatter about the budget in recent years, it is almost beyond comprehension that neither party has seen fit to highlight the basics, so that the American people can make reasoned choices on the fundamental issues before them.”

Rasmussen’s new book, In Search of Self-Governance, has received positive reviews from across the political spectrum and is available at Rasmussen Reports and If you’d like Scott to speak at your conference or event, contact Premier Speakers Bureau.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on the issue of taxes. Thirty-four percent (34%) trust Democrats more on the issue. Republicans also are trusted more on health care and the economy.

Sixty-five percent (65%) believe that the middle class pays a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy. A national sales tax remains unpopular, and most oppose ‘sin taxes’ on junk food and soft drinks.

Just 23% of voters favor a more active government with more services and higher taxes.

Health care act's two ticking bombs

From Fortune:
A week ago, a good friend -- let's call him Anthony -- related a remarkable story about shopping for health insurance in two states, New York and Arizona.

For Anthony and millions of other consumers, New York represents the ultimate nightmare for finding affordable coverage, pairing outrageously high prices with a tiny roster of offerings. By contrast, Anthony found fabulous bargains and a rich variety of policies in Arizona's desert sun.

So it would be wonderful for folks like Anthony if the historic health-care reform law scuttled the rules that created the disaster in New York, and made America's insurance markets a lot more like Arizona's.

But amazingly, the bill imposes a New York-style regime on the rest of the nation, then makes a gigantic bet that the results won't mimic those of the Empire State.

That's the problem with Obamacare: It's staking its entire success on a complex web of subsidies and penalties designed to pull young and healthy Americans into the insurance system, even as their policies get more expensive. As we'll see, that's an extremely risky wager.

Let's look at the great deals Anthony found, then handicap whether they'll flourish, or more likely, vanish under the new law. Anthony commutes back and forth from New York City to the Phoenix area, where he started a real estate business. He's a handsome, strapping six-footer in his early 40s.

Anthony first looked for individual health insurance in New York. The rates shocked him: around $1,200 a month for a basic HMO plan from carriers like Aetna and Empire, and over $1500 for a point-of-service policy that allow customers to choose out-of-network doctors in exchange for higher co-pays.

To make matters worse, Anthony wanted an inexpensive, high-deductible policy, but he couldn't find a suitable one in the New York individual market.

So Anthony went shopping where he works -- in Arizona. There, he found a far wider menu of offerings, including the inexpensive, high-deductible policies that best fit his needs. To obtain the lowest rates, Anthony needed a battery of tests to prove to the insurer that his health was excellent. From his annual checkup, Anthony learned his cholesterol was high.

So he went on a crash campaign to lower it, working out on the elliptical machine at his health club, swapping cheese omelets for oatmeal and raisins at breakfast, and devouring Fage Greek yogurt, a favorite discovery on his adventure in healthy eating.

Last year, thanks to his youth, good health history and newly tamed cholesterol, Anthony qualified for a $5,500 deductible plan with a premium of just $100 a month. (The policy in Arizona closest to the New York point-of-service coverage costs around $300, versus $1500.) "The system in Arizona gave me a major financial incentive to improve my health," says Anthony.

New York's fair pricing problem

What accounts for the huge price differences between Arizona and New York?

Two regulations enormously inflate prices in New York (and, incidentally, rates aren't much lower in Albany or Syracuse than in Manhattan), especially for young, healthy folks such as Anthony -- just the kind of people who must buy in for the insurance pools to succeed.

The first regulation is Guaranteed Issue. In New York, and several other states including Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, carriers must accept all customers regardless of their medical condition. It would be illegal in New York to offer the deal Anthony got in Arizona -- a lower rate in exchange for lowering your cholesterol.

The second premium-swelling rule is Community Rating. In New York, all customers pay the same rate regardless of either their age or medical status. As a result, someone Anthony's age or younger pays an identical premium for the same policy as a 64-year-old customer, although they actually cost a fraction as much in medical claims. So older patients effectively get a big subsidy, and the young pay far more then their actual cost.

It gets worse. Because of guaranteed issue, patients know they can enroll in a plan anytime they get cancer or diabetes, so they have little incentive to sign up when they're healthy. Community rating assures that they can re-enroll at premiums far lower than the actual costs of the tests and procedures they require. Hence, the pools of the insured in states like New York and Vermont consist of an extremely high proportion of sick people. (This PricewaterhouseCoopers report describes how the guaranteed issue and community rating could drive up premiums.)

As the old and ill flood the plans, the rates rise even further, pushing out more and more of the young and healthy in a cycle of rapidly rising premiums and sicker and sicker customers.

"There is no question that the combination of community rating and guaranteed issue drives up premiums in states that now have those regulations," says Thomas Snook of actuarial consulting firm Milliman Inc.

The Arizona bargain

By contrast, Arizona -- and most other states, from Pennsylvania to Tennessee -- doesn't have guaranteed issue or strict community rating. "The individual market is a bargain in states without those regulations," says health care economist John Goodman of Dallas think-tank the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Young, healthy customers like Anthony get a good deal on insurance for a simple reason: They don't cost much. But their premiums flow into a big pool that supports the patients who are getting older and sicker. That's how classic insurance is supposed to work.

Starting in 2014, Obamacare will impose both Guaranteed Issue and Community Rating on the entire nation, including Arizona and the other states that don't have those regulations now. The Community Rating law will not be as strict at the one in New York: Insurers will be able to charge three times as much to a 64 year old, versus someone 18 or 20.

But that will still raise rates for the young, since they normally cost just one-sixth of patients in their 60s. (To gauge the huge difference in premiums between states, check this report from AHIP, the health insurers' industry association.)

The Administration is convinced that even though premiums rise for the young, more of them will buy insurance. Why? Well, first, Americans who don't buy coverage are fined. Second, lower and middle-income Americans get lavish subsidies to help pay for the inflated health insurance costs.

All carrot, no stick

Making sure the stick and carrot work will require enormous calibration.

"Rates will go up for young people in states like Arizona, not enough to make them leave the system, especially with the new fines and subsidies," says John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a research group owned by UnitedHealth. "But the fines may be too weak to prevent the young and healthy from dropping their plans."

For now, the penalties start at $600 and by 2016 they will rise to $1500 for a someone making $60,000. And if the insuree can't find a policy that costs 8% of his income or less, he's exempted from all fines. That's just $400 a month.

Let's say Anthony's premium rises to over $300 a month by 2016. Will he keep his policy?

First, he's earning too much as a single -- say $60,000 -- to get any subsidy at all. And second, even if he has to pay a fine, it's a lot less than paying almost $4000 a year for insurance.

So the success or failure of ObamaCare depends on how much premiums rise for the young and healthy under the new rules. Be warned: They could explode. That's what happened in New York.

Representation Without Taxation

From Doctor Zero at Hot Air:
A correspondent recently raised the question of reforming the American electoral system so that only those who pay income tax are allowed to vote. It’s a provocative notion, even though it Ain’t Gonna Happen… at least, not on this side of a systemic breakdown that puts everything on the table.

Let’s explore the idea as a thought experiment. If taxation without representation was an outrage that sparked the Revolution, why is representation without taxation acceptable? It’s logical to suggest that only those who pay for government benefits should have a vote in selecting our representatives. Allowing net tax consumers to vote seems like an inherently dangerous practice, given their numbers – we’ve reached the point where 47% of American households pay no income tax – and their strong motivation to support politicians who promise endlessly increasing benefits. When politicians loaded with vast public funds to purchase votes meet up with a population eager to sell its votes for benefits, a grim marketplace will inevitably develop.

This is a formula not only guaranteed, but designed, to produce an unsustainable entitlement state. The high-rolling politician secures victory by defeating the productive, and creating a dependency class large enough to smother taxpayer revolts at the ballot box. Restricting the vote to those who pay into the system would break this fiscal short circuit. It would also tend to cut down on voter fraud, since the IRS puts a great deal of effort into tracking people who owe taxes.

Americans are understandably queasy about removing anyone’s voting rights. The Left has long wanted to extend the franchise, to include constituencies with a reliable appetite for increased government spending, such as convicted felons and illegal immigrants. If a damaged, desperate future America placed restrictions upon voting, the effort to repeal them would begin immediately, in a blaze of savage intensity… which would continue into a state of permanent civic unrest. It wouldn’t be hard to keep the dependency class whipped into a violent frenzy with daily reminders of the nation’s outrageous refusal to let them vote.

Beyond the ethical and political considerations, there’s another deep flaw behind the theory of requiring taxation for representation: it wouldn’t solve our problem. It’s not welfare, as conventionally understood, that is killing us. How much of that 47% who don’t pay income taxes are living in desperate poverty? The truth is that middle-class entitlements are the unsustainable tumor which fills the beds of Hospice America.

Social Security, Medicare, and now ObamaCare will swell to consume the entire federal budget, along with much of the wealth produced by the entire planet, within the next two decades. That’s the fearful nature of the deficit tornado spinning over Washington D.C. Charity for the destitute is not unsustainable, even when it’s pumped through the corrupt and wasteful digestive system of the federal government.

ObamaCare isn’t a system of health-care vouchers for the poor, financed by a tax on the middle and upper classes. It’s a complete takeover of the insurance industry, designed to ensnare both the middle and lower classes, with the ultimate goal of directly controlling fifteen percent of our economy. The old system of tax-and-spend welfare isn’t good enough for the Left any more, and the public long ago soured on it anyway. Both liberals and conservatives have always understood that massive entitlements for the middle class, such as the left-wing Holy Grail of socialized medicine, were the endgame. They only disagree in their perception of which game would be ending.

Our method of selecting representatives is less important than the rules they live under, after they’re elected. What is the wise choice between a Constitutionally-limited hereditary monarchy, and a democratically-elected Congress with effectively unlimited taxation, spending, and regulatory powers? Our reverence for the Republic is only returned in full when our democratically elected representatives exercise limited powers, within the boundaries of laws they cannot break, or redefine to serve their ambitions.

The way our politicians reach Congress and the White House is important. What they do after they get there is even more important. The illusion that we can control them with the threat of future elections should have died forever in the squalid back-alley birth of ObamaCare. Its birthing cries drowned out the objections of sixty percent majorities, and shattered the eardrums of business managers, from Caterpillar to AT&T. Insulation from electoral consequence is purchased daily in that grim marketplace I mentioned earlier, where votes and piles of taxpayer money change hands.

Representation without taxation is not our fatal problem. People from every income group should accept the responsibility to vote wisely, and insist on absolute fidelity to the Constitution – that mighty covenant between free men and the lawful republic they defied the guns of empire to raise. Our legislators and President are meant to be the guardians of our freedom, not the engineers of our lives… or merchants who trade entitlements for power. The thick web of puppet strings which spread from our titanic State reach deep into the 53% who still pay taxes. Ignorance and ideology led us to this moment, not just the selfish votes of our permanent dependency class. The government needs to shrink, not the electorate.