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SB-200 is an Obamacare Trojan Horse

April 21, 2011

When you look at the history and content of SB-200 and the actions of the governor, there can be no doubt that the healthcare exchange being put in place is designed to dovetail with the implementation of Obamacare.

On December 31, 2010, Gov. Hickenlooper appointed Sue Birch, formerly of the Visiting Nurses’ Association, as the Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Finance.  She had worked with the Hickenlooper campaign as a health care adviser and had recently finished a fellowship with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Their mission: To help our society transform itself for the better. Sound familiar?

On January 5, 2011, he appointed Joan Henneberry–Ritter’s Executive Director of Health Care Policy and Finance to head the creation of Colorado’s health care exchange. These are among the first of the governor’s appointments.

With his people in place, all the governor needed was the statutory authority to create an exchange. Enter SB-200. My PPC colleague Brian Schwartz wrote back on January 5th about the risks of creating exchanges in advance of Obamacare. Basically, whatever the states do now, their exchanges will be co-opted by Obamacare should the Supreme Court do the unthinkable and somehow reason that the government can force us to buy health insurance.

The argument coming from advocates in government and the healthcare industry–eager for a controlled, guaranteed-revenue market–is that government can create a free market. Absurd as that seems, they pointed to two positions to support it. The first was Utah’s attempt at creating a market exchange. However, Utah’s pilot program was really little more than a government-subsidized website, did not enjoy much success, and has since failed. The second argument is that the Heritage Foundation supports the idea. With this argument the left claims that healthcare exchanges are really a conservative idea. At least some conservatives, such as Rep Amy Stephens, have bought this story hook, line and sinker. The reality, however, is that Heritage worked with then-governor Romney on the Massachusetts exchange under pressure from a very liberal legislature. The result was the mess called Romneycare, a complex story in its own right.

Heritage’s support of exchanges since then is not unqualified, as anyone who cares to research the facts knows. Many other conservative organizations–Cato, Pacific Research, and American Enterprise Institutes among them–are against both the idea of exchanges generally and the creation of exchanges now.

So why an exchange in Colorado and why now? Henneberry provided the answer at a legislative briefing last week. The Department of Healthcare Policy and Finance is forming working groups to implement Obamacare under her direction, including  one which will focus on data collection so that they can better design health plans and develop marketing strategies and funding sources. Behind the scenes, it is full speed ahead on single-payer.

But their current federal grant of nearly $1,000,000 is running out.  They need to apply for a new federal government grant by September to carry them until 2014; they expect to be self-sufficient by 2015 through assessments of premiums.

Does any of this sound free market? Is it clear now why SB-200 is needed to create the new bureaucracy to fill out these working groups and to write new grants?

Who do you think is going to be the executive director of the new exchange created by the bill? My bet is on Henneberry–she already has the title.

SB-200 is a Trojan horse to implement government-controlled, single-payer healthcare in Colorado. The conservative Republicans in the Senate are not fooled, but House Republicans are marching blithely down the road to serfdom.

And taking us with them.

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State Senate Refuses Citizen Identification

April 18, 2011
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The proof of citizenship bill–which would require voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote–was defeated in the senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee today.

Three Democrats voted against the bill:
Betty Boyd
Bob Bacon
Rollie Heath

Other than the perpetuation of voter fraud, what possible reason could there be to oppose this bill?

These three scoundrels do not deserve to represent the good citizens of Colorado.

Liars figure as the 2012 campaign begins

April 18, 2011
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The old saw, figures don’t lie but liars figure, proves true again. As Obama begins his campaign with a predictable onslaught against the rich, the Associate Press releases an article to support him. It has the provocative headline, Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically. Then actually read the article.

The average income on those [top 400 taxpayer] returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

A couple of things to note here. First, the writer confuses the reader with the tax table rate (26 percent) with the actual after-deductions and exclusions tax rate (17 percent). That difference between the advertised rate and final rate is true for all taxpayers. The really pernicious thing, however, is not that there are lots of incentives and exemptions built into the system, but that those incentives influence behavior–as they’re meant to do. The mortgage deduction, for example, encourages people to buy bigger houses than they could otherwise afford. We saw what a disaster that turned out to be. By the way: when politicians and government officials like them, they’re “incentives;” when they don’t, they’re “loopholes.”

Second, notice the writer goes all the way back to 1992 to make his comparison. Why is something almost 20 years old “news?” It is not: it is analysis–or would be, if it weren’t simply pushing a point of view. The point of view is that people aren’t paying enough in taxes.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

I agree in part with this: every citizen who benefits from government and who votes ought to pay something. Voting, owning property, and paying taxes were all intertwined in the original Constitution. No more. The result is the open space fiasco in Boulder last fall, where non-taxpaying students from CU voted to burden taxpayers to buy open space.

The Republicans are for tax simplification, he reports:

House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

I fully agree with that position because it will make filing easier, reduce errors and fraud, remove economic incentives, and increase freedom. Actually, I’d like to see a flat tax of 14%. Notice the subtle point of view: “to pay for.” All your money is the government’s and if they give you a break, somebody has to pay for it. Obama has a better idea:

…Obama said last week he wants to do away with tax breaks to lower the rates and to reduce government borrowing.

That’s a very interesting sentence. Does it mean, as it seems to, that “he wants to do away with tax breaks in order to lower the rates” or is it simply “to do away with tax breaks.” Unfortunately, it is the latter. Here’s the clue, in the concluding sentence:

In all, the tax code is filled with a total of $1.1 trillion in credits, deductions and exemptions, an average of about $8,000 per taxpayer….

And here’s the agenda: Americans are underpaying the government by $1.1 trillion. You, my friend, need to pay Big Brother an average of $8,000 more per person, $16,000 per couple per year. Obama and the left truly believe that we don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. If you don’t believe that, look at how Ritter and the Democrats “closed loopholes” with the Dirty Dozen bills last year.

That’s the agenda, that’s what Obama is running on in 2012. In short, “We’ve given you this wonderful healthcare entitlement and you’re not doing enough to pay for it.”

If the American people buy into that, we are indeed fools and deserve to become tax slaves.

Wake up, Amy!

April 13, 2011

In a new report by a Denver newspaper blog, Monument Rep Amy Stephens said that her healthcare exchange bill, also known as “Amycare,” is not dead. She says,

The bill is still alive. I think everyone has to calm down.

Somehow, I don’t think that resurrection of this Frankenstein is a reason to calm down. The report goes on to state:

A broad and unlikely coalition of Colorado businesses, doctors, consumer groups and insurance brokers joined together to support the bill.

The report goes on to list the organizations: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Colorado Competitive Council, Colorado Concern and the National Federation of Independent Business. Business groups, yes. Doctors, no.

I don’t see a consumer group in the mix. Admittedly, the Healthcare for All Colorado group, a left-wing single-payer advocacy group, is one such supporter.

The business support is not at all surprising, as they will be the beneficiaries of the bill: in the case of business, they will be relieved of having to provide healthcare coverage; in the case of healthcare organizations, government-run healthcare ensures them a steady stream of government income and possibly a monopoly. It’s win-win for the looters.

The losers are Colorado taxpayers who will fund the health insurance and Colorado citizens who will find their health insurance choices increasingly limited until they are left with the government single-payer option under Obamacare. State healthcare exchanges must meet federal guidelines by 2014, no matter how they originated.

Stephens reportedly,

…sounded weary of trying to explain the issue to some Tea Party activists.“You’ll never satisfy some of them because there’s always some new conspiracy,” Stephens said. “I’m elected to be a leader and find solutions.”

This sounds suspiciously like left-wing rhetoric: the Tea Party activists just aren’t smart enough to know what’s good for them, like she does. She talks to citizen groups but she carefully avoids discussing the issues with them. On the other hand, she seems quite chummy with socialist Democrat Senator Betty Boyd:

But Boyd said she and Stephens had come to a new understanding.

Indeed. Yet it is not just the ignorant hoi polloi of the Tea Parties who think exchanges are a bad idea. Heritage has a mixed message on them. Cato is against them, as is the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, Reason magazine published an article entitled Why States Are Shying Away From ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Exchanges. New Mexico’s governor just vetoed it, the Oklahoma legislature killed it, as did the South Carolina legislature. Florida and Idaho won’t touch it. Utah’s exchange–much touted by Stephens as a model–has failed.

In analyzing the effects of state exchanges, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels lists four concerns:

  • Federal regulations –NO timetable
  • Existing state models –NO value
  • Administrative burden –NO money
  • Demand (estimates) –NO clue

The Amycare bill answers none of these concerns. In fact, in true Obamacare fashion, the bill itself gives no details whatsoever of the exchange that would be created by the bill. It simply creates an exchange whose details will be written by the administrators, overseen by a board appointed 7-2 by Democrat single-payer advocates.

I thought we may have gotten through last week when Stephens offered and amendment that

would have said the exchanges could only take effect if Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, secured a waiver from the federal government opting the state out of the federal health care law, something Hickenlooper said he would not do.

That amendment is apparently off the table now, as her handlers wouldn’t go for it.

When is Rep Stephens going to start representing her constituents? It seems she is more beholden to business and healthcare special interest groups.

Wake up, Amy! Is this the issue you’re willing to end your political career for?

Deal or No Deal

April 10, 2011

It seems as though the government was playing a TV game show last week instead of being serious about the nation’s future.

It started off well enough with the Republicans having extended the shutdown for another week in exchange for $12 billion in cuts. Not much, to be sure, but if they continued to do that week by week for the rest of the fiscal year, they could have accumulated something around $250 billion total. Instead, all they got was $38 billion. Really? That was the best Boehner could do?

Let’s compare some numbers.

Total Federal Budget, source: The Cato Institute

The first thing you want to notice is the difference between FY2008 and FY 2011, which we are in right now. Republicans were elected in November, among other reasons, on pledges to reduce spending by $100 billion or to FY 2008 levels, which would translate to about $84 billion. They no sooner got into office in January than the number dropped to $61 billion. After all, the fiscal year starts October 1 so $61 billion is pretty close on an annualized basis. So the story went.

In the end, Boehner settled for something around $38 billion. Pathetic. Democrats, who had grown an already overgrown budget by $84 billion, squealed like stuck pigs, claiming imminent disaster. That’s nothing. The Department of Health and Human Services alone has seen its budget under Obama increase by $200 billion.

My friend Sean Paige, who was living in DC in 1995 during the last shutdown, writes this:

I remember it as if it were yesterday, driving to work one bright winter morning, past a glitzy Northern Virginia megamall, wondering why the hell the parking lot was spilling over on a day when most of the city was normally at the office, shuffling papers and looking busy. Then it hit me. It must be that government shutdown thing I’d been reading about.

If anyone suffered real hardship because of that shutdown, the fat-cat federal bureaucrats certainly didn’t notice. And today, they even get paid more than the private sector worker–so they will notice even less. But what was really happening? Paige continues:

The Clinton White House ordered some selective closures, and pushed on a few pressure points, in order to maximize the public outcry and make Newt Gingrich and his Republican revolutionaries flinch first. The media blew minor inconveniences into major disruptions, manufacturing a sense of hardship and crisis.

In the end, there was no real shutdown. Who was advising Clinton? Dick Morris, who has since seen the light and become a conservative voice of knowledge and understanding. Here’s what he says about Friday’s deal:

John Boehner has just given away the Republican victory of 2010 at the bargaining table….  he has unilaterally disarmed the Republican Party by showing that he will not shut down the government and will, instead, willingly give way on even the most modest of cuts in order to avoid it.

What we see then is history repeating itself. Twice now: in reaction to massive Democratic spending Republicans are elected to the House in overwhelming numbers which changes the leadership. But not the result. Both times, the GOP blinks first. This time, at least, there was no excuse: Tuesday a Rasmussen poll reported that 57% of the population were fine with the government shutting down as long as it led to deeper cuts. Only 31% were opposed. I suspect they work for the government.

They lost the messaging battle. Again. They blinked first. Again. Morris says we’ve learned a lesson:

We need to purify our party and purge it of the likes of John Boehner and all those Congressmen who vote for the budget sellout. The Tea Party must take the lead in this purifying fire. We must not let the RINOs win!

This agreement needs to be ratified by a vote of the House, reportedly Tuesday. Contact your congressperson. Tell them to vote no. Send Boehner a vote of no confidence.

Recall efforts in Wisconsin

April 5, 2011

We elect representatives every two years both at the national and state levels. If you don’t like the kinds of laws they are passing, you generally have to wait until the next election cycle to remove them. That’s what conservatives and independents did in 2010 after the disastrous election of 2008.

If you’re a liberal, however, patience isn’t your strong suit. Why wait? Get out into the streets and protest. If that doesn’t scare the legislators, recall them. That’s what is happening in Wisconsin.

In the United States, recalls only happen at the state level. Along with the initiative, the referendum, and the direct primary, the recall election was one of the major electoral reforms advocated by leaders of the Progressive movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Colorado has all of these reforms as does Wisconsin, arguably the home of progressivism. If an official is successfully recalled, an election is held to pick the replacement.

Recalls were meant to cover bad behavior–the kind of thing officials can be impeached for–yet they can and do in practice also include votes on policy, especially when it involves taxes. Rarely do recall efforts succeed: Only two lawmakers have ever been removed from office through recall in Wisconsin, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Even if not successful in removing a legislator from office, a recall can threaten the legislator into compliance. That kind of bullying is a favorite union tactic and they’re engaging in it full throttle. One block from the capitol, they’ve set up a phone bank to target three Republican senators: not because these three are different from the other GOP senators, but because they are in districts the unions think they can turn. Jose Bucio, an AFL-CIO coordinator from Milwaukee, said the union has no plans to leave Madison or give up on the collective bargaining issue. “We’re here to try to get back what we need,” he said. “The battle’s not over.”

The AFL-CIO does have public employee union affiliates in Wisconsin. Yet in order to win more sympathy, the unions have framed the issue as collective bargaining rights for all unions, not just public employee unions.

And yes, the Republicans are pushing recalls, too. In their case, the basis is the fact that the Democrat senators fled the state and abandoned their duties. “The number of active recall committees is unprecedented,” said Reid Magney, spokesman for the nonpartisan Government and Accountability Board, the body charged with overseeing the process.

Nineteen committees are in the process of collecting signatures. The accountability board recently ruled that committees could accept unlimited donations to support the signature-gathering process–this is certain to help the unions.

Recalls face an uphill battle. I recommend reading the full Green Bay Press Gazette article if you’re interested in all the details. Dennis Dresang, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “You don’t want this done on a whim. You really want it done because there is a serious breach of trust.”

 

It isn’t over in Wisconsin

April 4, 2011

Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” My corollary: It’s never over. Nowhere is that more true than in Wisconsin.

Fiscal conservatives thought they won the war when the Wisconsin legislature passed their bill to restrict collective bargaining by public employees. Yet it was only a battle, and the left, whose primary base of support is unions and unions dues, are fighting back hard. The effort is broad and deep.

First is a legal challenge to the law. Leftist judge Maryann Sumi, who in February refused to order teachers back to work, just Friday issued a temporary restraining order to prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the bill while she reviews the case. Read about it in the Wall Street Journal. You may appreciate these facts related to the legal challenge:

  • Judge Sumi’s son, Jacob “Jake” Sinderbrand, is a field operative for SEIU. Read about him here.
  • The Dane County District Attorney, Ismael Ozanne, filed the suit. He’s another leftist appointed by former Democrat Governor Jim Doyle.
  • The suit prevents Secretary of State Doug La Follette–you guessed it, another leftist–from acting on the bill.

Any fair-minded judge would have recused herself from the case because of the obvious conflict of interest. But for leftist, activist judges this is the perfect opportunity to make law. Morals are for sissies–and conservatives.

Why is a county DA filing a lawsuit?  Because that’s what Democrat lawyers do when the people, through their legislators, pass laws they don’t like. Shouldn’t this be going through the state courts? I would think so;  State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, will appeal the judge’s restraining order.

Finally, who is Secretary of State Doug La Follette? His resume describes him as an environmental activist first and politician second. He is clearly thrilled at not having to act on the bill. (For those unfamiliar with Wisconsin politics, Doug La Follette–a Democrat– is the great-grandson of Republican Progressive Robert M. La Follette. )

It was Governor Doyle’s deficit that got Wisconsin into this budget mess in the first place. And so just as when the tide goes out leaving debris on the shore, so also the detritus of former progressive Democrat administrations litters the political scene in Wisconsin.

Next: recall efforts.

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