Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ABRACADABRA … WHAMMY … POOOOOF …

Wrinkle in Health Law Vexes Lawmakers’ Aides

WASHINGTON — As President Obama barnstorms the country promoting his health care law, one audience very close to home is growing increasingly anxious about the financial implications of the new coverage: members of Congress and their personal staffs.

Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.


But the law does not provide any obvious way for the federal government to continue paying its share of the premiums for the comprehensive coverage.

If the government cannot do so, it could mean an additional expense of $5,000 a year for individuals and $11,000 for families under some of the most popular plans.

Not surprisingly, that idea is unpopular on Capitol Hill.


“It’s a very serious concern,” said Representative Billy Long, a Missouri Republican who said staff members were “freaked out” at the prospect of paying the full cost of insurance out of their own pockets.

“They’re thinking about leaving government service,” said Mr. Long, noting that some staff members already lived in group houses and cramped apartments to make ends meet on Capitol Hill salaries. “They’re thinking about taking jobs other places. We have tried, and tried, and tried to get the answer on what they’re going to be paying. The Office of Personnel Management cannot tell us.”
The personnel office arranges health insurance benefits for federal employees.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service pinpointed the problem 10 days after President Obama signed the health care law in March 2010. Since then neither Congress nor the administration has addressed it.

With the exchanges scheduled to open in just nine weeks, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a creative interpretation of the health care law that would allow the federal government to kick in for insurance as private employers do, but so far an answer has proved elusive.

The issue is politically charged because the White House and Congress are highly sensitive to any suggestion that lawmakers or their aides are getting special treatment under the health law. The administration is already under fire from Republicans for delaying a requirement that larger businesses offer insurance to their full-time employees.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health insurance program, covers more than eight million people, including government employees and their family members. It offers dozens of competing plans and has been cited as a model by members of both parties.

In battles over the health care law in 2009-10, Republicans proposed a requirement for lawmakers and aides to join the exchanges, and Democrats accepted it.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who proposed an early version of the idea, said he wanted to make sure that “members of Congress and Congressional staff get their employer-based health insurance through the same exchanges as our constituents.”

It has been a headache for many in Congress ever since.

Democrats and some Republicans wish the issue would simply disappear.

The 2010 law generally requires lawmakers and aides who work in their personal offices to get coverage through the exchanges. That implies that they would no longer receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The law is silent on the question. It does not clearly authorize the government to pay premiums for federal employees who obtain insurance through the exchanges. Nor does it authorize the government to reimburse federal employees who buy health insurance on their own.

David M. Ermer, a lawyer who has represented insurers in the federal employee program for 30 years, said, “I do not think members of Congress and their staff can get funds for coverage in the exchanges under existing law.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “they could buy coverage on an exchange, pay for it on their own and be reimbursed later by the government. You would need a law to appropriate money for that.”

At a Congressional hearing in April, House members pressed the administration to say what would happen to their health insurance if they went into exchanges.

Jonathan Foley, a senior official at the United States Office of Personnel Management, deflected the questions. “That is right now a subject of regulation,” Mr. Foley said. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment.”

Edmund D. Byrnes, a spokesman for the personnel office, echoed that statement on Monday. “Nothing has changed,” Mr. Byrnes said. “We are still working on a regulation.”


In its work plan for the next six months, the personnel agency said it was developing a proposed rule “regarding coverage for members of Congress and Congressional staff.” The agency said it hoped to issue the proposal in October.


That is rather late, since the exchanges are supposed to open on Oct. 1.

The requirement to get coverage through an exchange applies to lawmakers and people who work in “the official office of a member of Congress.” Aides who work for Congressional committees and in leadership offices, like those of the speaker of the House and the majority and minority leaders of the two chambers, are apparently exempt — though neither Congress nor the administration has said for sure.

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said the Senate was responsible for the provision requiring lawmakers and many aides to get insurance in the exchanges.

“We had to take the Senate version of the health care bill,” Ms. DeGette said. “This is not anything we spent time talking about here in the House.”

Another House Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “This was a stupid provision that never should have gotten into the law.”

In the current political climate, any effort to clear up the confusion excites suspicion. Tea Party groups say that lawmakers are seeking special treatment or an exemption from the law, an assertion flatly rejected by Democrats.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who helped write the 2010 law, said, “The federal government, as our employer, should provide the same contributions it makes to our current health plans.”


The Office of Personnel Management could establish that policy administratively, without legislation, he said.

THE TOOTH FAIRY AND OTHER TALES FOR THE LOW INFORMATION VOTER


70 Straight Days: Treasury Says Debt Stuck at Exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 … 


That is approximately $25 million below the legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60 that Congress has imposed on the debt.(CNSNews.com) - According to the Daily Treasury Statement for July 26, which the Treasury released this afternoon, the federal debt has been stuck at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 70 straight days.
The portion of the federal debt subject to the legal limit set by Congress first hit $16,699,396,000,000.00 at the close of business on May 17. At the close of every business day since then, it has also been $16,699,396,000,000.00, according to the official accounting published by the Treasury Department.
If the debt had increased by even $30 million at any time during those 70 days, it would have exceeded the statutory limit. But, according to the Treasury, the debt did not do that. Instead, it remained precisely $16,699,396,000,000.00.
Even though the government's official accounting of the debt has not budged for 70 days, the Treasury has continued to sell bills, notes and bonds at a value that exceeds the value of the bills, notes and bonds it was redeeming.
In fact, according to the Daily Treasury Statement for May 17, the Treasury had by then already redeemed approximately $4,776,995,000,000.00 since the beginning of the fiscal year (which started on Oct. 1, 2012). As of that same day, the Treasury had already sold $5,354,508,000.000.00 new bills, notes and bonds during the fiscal year. That represented a net increase in publicly circulating U.S. government debt instruments of $577,513,000,000.00 for the fiscal year.
As of July 26, according to the latest Treasury statement, the Treasury had already redeemed approximately $6,128,368,000,000.00 in bills, notes and bonds during this fiscal year. But, at the same time, according to the statement, the Treasury had sold an additional $6,759,148,000,000.00 bills, note and bonds--for a net increase of $630,780,000,000.00 for the year.
Thus, the value of U.S. Treasury debt instruments circulating in the public has increased $53.267 billion since May 17--even though the Treasury says the debt has remained exactly at $16,699,396,000,000.00 during that time.
WHEEL-BARROW MONEY
How could the value of extant U.S. Treasury securities increase by $53.267 billion during a 70-day period when the federal government’s debt subject to the legal limit has remained constant at $16,699,396,000,000.00—just $25 million below the legal limit?
On May 17, the day the debt began its long stay at $16,699,396,000,000.00, Treasury Secretary Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. In the letter, Lew said the Treasury would begin implementing what he called “the standard set of extraordinary measures” that allows the Treasury to continue to borrow and spend money even after it has hit the legal debt limit.











OK ON THE LEFT, OK ON THE RIGHT … OK ON THE FIRING LINE … DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY!


Guns in school: Ark. district arming more than 20 teachers, staff … don't worry be happy … 


Danny Johnston / AP
Cheyne Dougan, assistant principal at Clarksville High School, Ark., in this July 11 photo.
By Andrew DeMillio, The Associated Press
CLARKSVILLE, Ark. - As Cheyne Dougan rounded the corner at Clarksville High School, he saw three students on the floor moaning and crying. In a split-second, two more ran out of a nearby classroom.
LESSON ONE: THE BUSINESS END 
"He's got a gun," one of them shouted as Dougan approached with his pistol drawn. Inside, he found one student holding another at gunpoint. Dougan aimed and fired three rounds at the gunman.
Preparing for such scenarios has become common for police after a school shooting in Connecticut last December left 20 children and six teachers dead. But Dougan is no policeman. He's the assistant principal of this school in Arkansas, and when classes resume in August, he will walk the halls with a 9 mm handgun.
Dougan is among more than 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees in this town who will carry concealed weapons throughout the school day, making use of a little-known Arkansas law that allows licensed, armed security guards on campus. After undergoing 53 hours of training, Dougan and other teachers at the school will be considered guards.
"The plan we've been given in the past is 'Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'" Superintendent David Hopkins said. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, "That's not a plan."
ISRAELI TEACHER AND HER CLASS … ON A FIELD TRIP 
After the Connecticut attack, the idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across the country. The National Rifle Association declared it the best response to serious threats. But even in the most conservative states, most proposals faltered in the face of resistance from educators or warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums.
In strongly conservative Arkansas, where gun ownership is common and gun laws are permissive, no school district had ever used the law to arm teachers on the job, according to the state Department of Education. The closest was the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County, which for years has kept several guns locked up in case of emergency. Only a handful of trained administrators - not teachers - have access to the weapons.
Clarksville, a community of 9,200 people about 100 miles northwest of Little Rock, is going further.
Home to an annual peach festival, the town isn't known for having dangerous schools. But Hopkins said he faced a flood of calls from parents worried about safety after the attack last year at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Hopkins said he and other school leaders didn't see why the district couldn't rely on its own staff and teachers to protect students rather than hire someone.
Danny Johnston / AP
In this photo taken July 11, a Clarksville schools faculty member, wearing a protective mask, rear center, carries a practice handgun toward a classroom in the city's high school in Clarksville, Ark.
"We're not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won't have to have unless something happens. We've got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas," Hopkins said. "Hopefully we'll never have to use them as a security guard."
State officials are not blocking Clarksville's plan, but Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the idea of arming teachers and staff. He prefers to hire law enforcement officers as school resource officers.
There are other dissenters, too. Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, called the idea of arming teachers "awful." The risk of a student accidentally getting shot or obtaining a gun outweighs any benefits, she said.
"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Morey said.
Participants in the program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.
The Nighthawk training includes drills like the one Dougan participated in, with various role-playing scenarios involving shooters on campus. Dougan and other teachers in the program practiced using "airsoft" pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.
"There's pressure on you, because you're shooting real bullets if this actually happened," said Dougan, who has three children attending Clarksville schools. "I was nervous to start, but once it started and I was going through what they had taught us, it just took over."
The training is narrowly tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus.
Sydney Whitkanack, who will enter seventh grade this fall, said she's grown up around firearms and doesn't mind if teachers or staff are armed at school.
"If they're concealed, then it's no big deal," said Whitkanack, who was an actor in the training scenario. "It's not like someone's going to know 'Oh, they have a firearm.'"
The district will post signs at each school about the armed guards, but the identities of faculty and staff carrying weapons will be kept secret, Hopkins said.
Sherry Wommack said the program is one reason she's taking her son, an incoming eighth-grader, out of Clarksville's schools before the school year begins. Wommack said she doesn't believe teachers should make life-or-death choices involving students.
"I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers," Wommack said. 
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related:
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.















WEINER'S ACTIONS DOGGING NEW CAMPAIGN MANAGER …


Anthony Weiner’s Campaign Manager Calls it Quits

SOMETHINGS ARE DIFFICULT TO ESCAPE … I WAS A CHARMING COMPANION 
Anthony Weiner speaks with reporters in Staten Island on a visit to homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy on July 26
WEINER'S NEW CAMPAIGN MANAGER STARTING A NEW PROMOTIONAL THRUST
New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner lost a key member of his already tiny staff when his campaign manager quit Saturday. The New York Times was first to report news that 31-year-old Danny Kedem decided to pack his bags following a week of embarrassing revelations that Weiner continued to exchange racy messages and photos with women after he resigned from Congress in 2011. Weiner confirmed the news Sunday morning: "Danny has left the campaign,” Weiner said. “He did a remarkable job.”
THE CAMPAIGN HAS HAD BIGGER MOMENTS WEINER TOLD A GROUP IN CHINESE MANDRIN
The departure isn’t really as significant in what it means for campaign operations—Weiner is well-known as as a micromanager—but it's a huge public relations blow a little more than six weeks before the primary, points out Politico. It’s possible more embarrassing revelations are to come. New York Post. Weiner has admitted to sending racy messages to at least three women since he left office.
WEINER'S STAFF OFFERS AID AND ASSISTANCE TO SIDNEY LEATHERS
Sydney Leathers, the women with whom Weiner exchanged messages and photos, regularly sought out wealthy men from sites like Sugardaddyforme.com, in which she described herself as a “22-year-old SugarBaby,” according to the
WEINER'S PARTING STATEMENT TO HIS CAMPAIGN STAFF

Monday, July 29, 2013

PAULA DEEN, DJANGO UNCHAINED AND SWEET, SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSS …

I'M NOT CERTAIN  I UNDERSTAND JUST WHAT THE PROBLEM IS WITH PAULA DEEN… ?????


SUPERSIZING OBAMACARE AND THE RAPE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC

THE OBAMACARE (ACA) IS GOING TO MAKE CITIES SOCIAL GULOGS … 

City of Chicago’s cash cushion plummets, debt triples, arrests drop, water use rises

Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2012 with $33.4 million in unallocated cash on hand — down from $167 million the year before — while adding to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show.
Last week, Moody’s Investors ordered an unprecedented triple-drop in the city’s bond rating, citing Chicago’s “very large and growing” pension liabilities, “significant” debt service payments, “unrelenting public safety demands” and historic reluctance to raise local taxes that has continued under Emanuel.

The 2012 city audits explain why. They show that an unallocated balance that was $167 million a year ago because of Emanuel’s aggressive cost-cutting efforts has dropped to $33.4 million.

Budget Director Alex Holt blamed the $133.6 million drop on “honest” budgeting and ending the long-standing practice of carrying “ghost” vacancies. (READ: SLUSHFUND)

“We’re trying to be more transparent about what we’re really spending and taking in — not just carrying a bunch of people who took up money in the budget and left money on the table at the end of the year,” Holt said.

“Let’s be straightforward about what we’ve got to spend and not pretend we’re gonna hire for a position we haven’t hired for, who know how many years when those resources are need to provide other services. ... This is about matching revenues with expenses. You don’t want to over-tax people.”

In last week’s report, Moody’s noted that the city’s total fund balance at the close of 2012 was $231.3 million and that Chicago has just $625 million in “leased asset reserves.” Had the city fully funded its $1.5 billion “actuarially required contribution” to its four under-funded city employee pension funds in 2012 alone, “these two reserves would have been entirely depleted,” Moody’s said.

The “unassigned” balance is $33.4 million. Experts recommend a cash cushion of at least $200 million for a budget the size of Chicago’s, according to the Civic Federation. The city ended 2009 with an unallocated checkbook balance of just $2.7 million.

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338 per resident.

Last year, now-retiring City Comptroller Amer Ahmad argued that the city’s debt load was not “troubling” because, “We still have a very strong bond rating. Our fiscal position is getting better every year and we are aggressively managing our liabilities and obligations.”

He can no longer say that after the triple-drop in Chicago’s bond rating.

The audits by the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche provide a treasure trove of information about city finances and operations.

Interesting nuggets include:

■ The number of “physical arrests” by Chicago Police officers declined again — from 152,740 in 2011 to 145,390 in 2012. That continues a six-year trend that coincides with the hiring slowdown that caused a dramatic decline in the number of police officers. Police made 227,576 arrests in 2006. The number of arrests has been dropping like a rock ever since.

The Chicago Police Department has long argued that it doesn’t measure the success of crime-fighting strategies simply by the number of arrests.

■ Emergency responses continued their steady rise — to 472,752. That’s up from 300,971 in 2006.

■ O’Hare Airport operating revenues were up by $23.2 million, a 3.3 percent increase, thanks to rising terminal rental and use charges. Operating expenses rose $19.1 million because of rising personnel and contracting costs. Airline ticket taxes known as “passenger facility charges” generated $154.5 million in 2012.

The number of passenger “enplanements” rose by a modest 37,000 — to 33.24 million. That’s despite a continued decline by O’Hare’s two largest carriers — from 8.7 million passenger boardings in 2011 to 7.4 million in 2012 at United Airlines and from 7.6 million to 7.2 million by American.

In 2003, United and American together accounted for 67.7 percent of O’Hare enplanements. Now, it’s just 44 percent.

■Budget-oriented Midway Airport is thriving, spelling potentially good news if, as expected, Emanuel chooses to revive the $2.5 billion deal to privatize Midway that collapsed for lack of financing.

Midway boardings rose from 9.45 million in 2011 to 9.78 million last year. Operating revenues were up just $462,000 because of decreased landing fees and terminal use charges. That’s even though concession revenues rose by $1.8 million due to an increase in parking, restaurant and auto rentals. Operating expenses rose by $4.2. Ticket taxes generated $43.9 million.



■The 55 percent subsidy to retiree health care that Emanuel wants to phase out and retirees are suing to maintain cost the city $97.5 million in 2012.

■ Daily refuse collections declined from 3,983 tons in 2011 year ago to 3,763 in 2012. Last year’s 52-ton increase had reversed a five-year trend. The amount of garbage generated by the 600,000 Chicago households was 4,451 tons a day in 2006 to 4,240 in 2008.

■Thanks to last year’s record heat and drought conditions, average daily water consumption rose by 23 million gallons — to 793 million gallons — reversing a steady decline. In 2006, Chicago’s 1.04 million households were guzzling 884.9 million gallons-a-day. Operating revenues in the city’s water fund were up by $122.1 million or 29.6 percent, thanks to Emanuel’s 25 percent increase in water rates.

■ Chicago’s 165 tax-increment-financing districts had a collective balance of $1.5 billion. Most of that money is uncommitted, fueling an aldermanic demand Emanuel has rejected: to declare a TIF surplus and use the money to reduce some of the 3,000 layoffs at Chicago Public Schools.

■ The condition of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds is growing ever more precarious. The firefighters pension fund has assets to cover just 25 percent of liabilities, followed by: Police (31 percent); Municipal Employees (38 percent) and Laborers (56 percent).

■Chicago’s historical collections and works of art are valued at $13.2 million.

■ Chicago’s principal private employers were: J.P. Morgan Chase (8,168 workers); United Airlines (7,521); Accenture LLP (5,590; Northern Trust (5,448); Jewel Foods (4,572) and Ford Motor Co. (4,187). The 2012 city payroll was 33,708 — down from 40,297 in 2006.

By July 31, Emanuel must release a preliminary city budget. It’s almost certain to include another massive deficit — strengthening the city’s case in contract talks with city unions — that will have to be closed with more layoffs, service cuts and new revenues.

Emanuel’s 2013 budget held the line on taxes, fines and fees — beyond those set in motion the year before and annual increases in parking meter rates locked into the 75-year lease. The mayor also eliminated 275, mostly-vacant jobs while making strategic investments in tree-trimming, rodent control and children’s health and after-school programs.

But, aldermen warned that it was the calm before the storm: a painful solution to the city’s pension crisis that will require both new revenues and concessions from city employees.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley postponed Chicago’s day of reckoning by balancing his final budget with $330 million in Skyway and parking meters reserves and other short-term fixes. That left just $76 million remaining from the widely-despised, 75-year, $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago parking meters.


Detroit Looks to Health Law to Ease Costs

As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law.

Officials say the plan would be part of a broader effort to save Detroit tens of millions of dollars in health costs each year, a major element in a restructuring package that must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers.

Similar proposals that could shift public sector retirees into the new insurance markets, called exchanges, are already being planned or contemplated in places like Chicago; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Stockton, Calif. While large employers that eliminate health benefits for full-time workers can be penalized under the health care law, retirees are a different matter.

“There’s fear and panic about what this means,” said Michael Underwood, 62, who retired from the Chicago Police Department after 30 years and has diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Underwood, who says he began working for the city when employees did not pay into future Medicare coverage, is part of a group suing Chicago over its plan to phase many retirees out of city coverage during the next three and a half years. “I was promised health care for myself and my wife for life,” he said.

Unfunded retiree health care costs loom larger than ever for localities across the country, and the health law’s guarantee of federal subsidies to help people with modest incomes afford coverage has made the new insurance markets tantalizing for local governments. A study issued this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found 61 of the nation’s major cities wrestling with $126 billion in retiree health costs, all but 6 percent of that unfunded.

“The Affordable Care Act does change the possibilities here dramatically,” said Neil Bomberg, a program director at the National League of Cities. “It offers a very high-quality, potentially very affordable way to get people into health care without the burden falling back onto the city and town.”

But if large numbers of localities follow that course, it could amount to a significant cost shift to the federal government. Authors of the health care law expected at least some shifting of retirees into the new insurance exchanges, said Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University who closely follows the law. “But if a lot of them do, especially big state and local programs,” he said, “that’s going to be a huge cost for the United States government, and it’s mandatory spending.”

Many cities are also wrestling with unfunded pension programs for retirees. But health care has become an easier target for cuts, in part because of generally stronger legal protections for pensions. Still, changes to retiree health care are playing out in courtrooms. The suit Mr. Underwood joined, filed last week in Chicago, claims that the health care benefits were also protected.

The Chicago plan, announced in May, would phase some of the city’s 11,800 retirees and their family members not eligible for Medicare out of city coverage by 2017. While some may seek insurance through new employers or through their spouses’ workplaces, others will probably be shifted to the insurance exchanges. Much of the plan for the next few years is in flux, but the changes are expected to contribute to a larger effort to save Chicago $155 million to $175 million a year in retiree health care costs by 2017.

“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, our retirees will have more options to meet their health care needs,” said Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, adding that most of the city’s retirees over 65 were already covered by Medicare. “We will ensure that they have all the information needed to navigate the options available going forward, while saving vital taxpayer dollars.”

Under the health care law, starting in October every state will have an online insurance market where people can shop for private plans. These policies will have to include 10 broad categories of benefits, including emergency services, hospitalization and prescription drugs.

People earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level can get federal subsidies to help with the cost of premiums, but only for policies bought through the new markets. The premiums will vary, depending on how much coverage a plan offers.

This year, 400 percent of the poverty level is $45,960 for an individual and $62,040 for two-person households.

Cities may also provide moderate monthly stipends to help retirees with the cost of health insurance bought through an exchange. Detroit, for instance, has proposed doing that.

But retirees say they worry about what the costs would actually amount to and whether the coverage would be as generous as some have received through city plans.

A 60-year-old single man with an income of $45,000 might have to pay $4,275 a year, or about 52 percent of his total annual premium, for a midpriced plan bought through an exchange, with the balance covered by the federal subsidies, according to an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. A couple who are both 55 with a combined income of $60,000 might have to pay $5,700 a year, or 42 percent of their total premium. In both examples, additional out-of-pocket costs of up to $6,350 per person could apply, depending on how much medical care they needed.

Professor Jost said that even with subsidies, insurance policies bought through an exchange could be more expensive for retirees than public sector health plans. Most exchange customers are expected to choose plans that cover 60 percent to 70 percent of medical costs for the average person, compared with public sector plans that have sometimes covered much more.

“These are people who stayed in the public sector all their lives because the benefits were more generous,” he said.

Some city plans, like those in Detroit, cover 80 percent to 100 percent of costs, officials said.

“The truth is, my health care is very good, with only $20 for prescriptions and $10 co-pays to see a doctor,” said Thomas Berry, 60, a Detroit Police Department retiree. “That was part of the promise that was made, and I don’t want to lose it.”

But some municipal retirees could actually end up spending less on coverage bought through the online markets than they do now. Several states have already approved rates for health plans to be sold through the new markets that are lower than what analysts had expected. But rates have yet to be announced in many other states, including Illinois and Michigan.

In an added wrinkle for Detroit, Michigan is among the states that so far have opted out of expanding Medicaid under the health care law. In such states, people with incomes below the poverty level — $11,490 for an individual and $15,510 for a couple — would not be eligible for the federal subsidies to help buy coverage through an exchange.

The law’s authors had intended for such people to become eligible for Medicaid, if they did not have it already. But the Supreme Court ruled last year that the expansion was an option for states, not a requirement. This potentially leaves a group of retirees who would be ineligible for either Medicaid or a subsidy.

In any case, officials in Detroit and elsewhere say the old insurance plans are no longer feasible. Detroit has more than 19,000 retirees — nearly twice as many people as currently work for the city — and 7,500 of them are younger than 65.

“I’m applauding Detroit,” said Dan Miller, the controller in Harrisburg, Pa., who added that in the future a similar plan might interest his city, where a state-appointed receiver is seeking to restructure hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. “I’m hoping that Obamacare turns out to be a great solution, and I would love for our city to have the opportunity to do that.”

PSYCHOPATHIC ELECTED OFFICIALS, BUREAU-O-CRATIC PAPER-SHUFFLERS AND THE RABBIT


The Magician’s Rabbit And Bureaucratic Idiocy

·         July 26, 2013 


ALICE IN WONDERFUL IS VERY PREDICTABLE COMPARED TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

The long arm of the Federal government has reached inside Marty Hahnes’ magic hat and pulled out a handful of bureaucratic idiocy.
Hahne performs magic shows for children in southern Missouri under the name of Marty the Magician. For his big finale he pulls a rabbit out of a hat — a time-honored magic trick with little risk to the rabbit, magician or audience.

In 2005, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector cornered him after a show. She asked to see his license. “License for?” Hahne asked. “The rabbit,” was the reply.
To keep his rabbit in the magic act Hahne was told he had to purchase a $40 annual license, take the rabbit to the veterinarian and submit to surprise home inspections. And for a kicker, if Hahne planned to take the rabbit out of town for an extended period of time, he had to submit an itinerary to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His rabbit travels with him in a small cage adorned with USDA-mandated stickers, indicating which end is up.
But this year, the idiocy got worse. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne was told he had to submit a disaster plan covering what would happen with his rabbit in the event of every conceivable emergency: fire, flood, tornado, faulty air conditioning, ice storm, power failure.
Luckily for Hahne, a professional disaster plan writer heard about his plight and offered to write a plan for his rabbit. It must be completed by July 29. As of last week, it was 28 pages long and growing. But it was still short, considering what the USDA requested it include, according to Kim Morgan, the professional who volunteered to write the plan.
While Hahne, thanks to Morgan, is responding with a serious plan, some other magicians are responding to the requirement with all the seriousness it deserves. “I’ll take a piece of paper and put down, ‘Note: take rabbit with you when you leave.’ That’s my plan,” magician Gary Maurer said.

The original law requiring the licensing dates back to 1966 and applied to laboratories that used animals in research. But the paper-shufflers in Washington, D.C., and the psychopathic elected class expanded the law with amendments and regulations so that the original four-page law grew so that there are now 14 pages just for rabbits. It grew exponentially under George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina and now applies to all licensed exhibitors.
And you think you live in a free country?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

WHEN DOES THE KETTLE CALL THE POT BLACK(?) … WHEN ITS ERIC HOLDER!


NYT Labels AG Eric Holder Defender Of 'Minority Voters,' Ignores Poll Showing Minorities Back Voter ID Laws 

recent poll shows that more than eight out of ten non-white voters are fine with their state government requiring a photo ID at polling places. Yet, that fact was completely omitted from a front-page Friday New York Times story by Charlie Savage and Adam Liptak which dutifully praised Obama Attorney General Eric Holder's push to gum up Texas's voter ID law in federal courts.

Additionally, it seems that the MSNBC crowd is on board with voter integrity laws as well.  Sixty-five percent of respondents, who described themselves as "very liberal to liberal," thought that showing an ID before voting was a "good thing."  So, this isn't a legitimate issue.  It's only relevant in the liberal boardrooms of America's news media.
Here's how Savage and Liptak began their story (emphasis mine):
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday moved to protect minority voters after last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a central part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the Justice Department asking a court to require Texas to get permission from the federal government before making changes.
In a speech before the National Urban League in Philadelphia, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the request would be the first of several legal salvos from the administration in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal,” he said, “to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”
Last month’s ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, did away with a requirement that Texas and eight other states, mostly in the South, get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing election procedures. On Thursday, the administration asked a federal court in Texas to restore that “preclearance” requirement there, citing the state’s recent history and  relying on a different part of the voting rights law.
Republicans harshly criticized the announcement, in a sign that both parties view the battle over voting laws as important to future elections.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas cast Mr. Holder’s remarks as an attempt by the Obama administration to weaken the state’s voter-integrity laws and said the comments demonstrated the administration’s “utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances.”
“This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Mr. Perry said in a statement.
From the jump, Savage and Liptak painted Holder in a heroic pose. Sure, Rick Perry was given some ink for his rebuttal, but with that out of the way, the boosting of Democratic talking points continued (emphasis mine):
For years, Republicans across the nation have pushed for tougher voter identification laws, shorter voting hours and other measures they say are intended to reduce voter fraud. The efforts have intensified across the South, from Texas to North Carolina, after the Supreme Court’s ruling freed many states and localities from federal oversight. Democrats have said the steps are intended to reduce voting by minorities, students and other heavily Democratic groups.
State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Democrat of San Antonio, who is the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, said racial discrimination in Texas was not a thing of the past.
“The fact that intervention in Texas is the Department of Justice’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision speaks volumes about the seriousness of Texas’ actions,” Mr. Fischer said.
“Texans should be proud that the resources of the federal government will be brought to bear to protect the voting rights of all,” he added.
Of course, requiring a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote is a race and ethnicity-neutral requirement of the law, applying equally to all citizens regardless of melatonin level. Most folks realize this, of course, and that's why a new Marist poll shows overwhelming support for voter ID laws, even among demographic groups that skew Democratic.
According to their July 25 poll, eighty-two percent of whites and 83 percent of non-whites think voter ID is a good thing.  Seventy-seven percent of 18 to 29 year olds also agree.  Concerning men and women, it’s virtually the same – 82 percent and 83 percent agree that it’s beneficial for Americans to show identification before voting.
IN SOME PLACES A VOTER ID LAW IS AS USELESS AS A TIT ON A BULL 
In short, voter ID laws are universally accepted as a positive component to our voting process. It isn’t racial, sexist, or ageist. There’s nothing to show that these voting lines split Americans drastically in either direction.  It’s a non-issue in the heartland of America, which is a world apart from the rarified air of the New York Times newsroom.

















Saturday, July 27, 2013

WHAT PART OF "NO" DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?


States seek to nullify Obama efforts - Tal Kopan - POLITICO.com

Barack Obama is shown. | AP Photo
Nullification supporters say it’s the best tool they have to beat back the federal government. | AP Photo

Infuriated by what they see as the long arm of Washington reaching into their business, states are increasingly telling the feds: Keep out!
Bills that would negate a variety of federal laws have popped up this year in the vast majority of states - with the amount of anti-federal legislation sharply on the rise during the Obama administration, according to experts.
The “nullification” trend in recent years has largely focused on three areas: gun controlhealth care; and national standards for driver’s licenses. It’s touched off fierce fights within the states, and between the states and the feds, as well as raising questions and court battles about whether any of it is legal.
(Also on POLITICO: President Obama vs. Texas)
In at least 37 states legislation has been introduced that in some way guts federal gun regulations, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The bills were signed into law this spring in two states, Kansas and Alaska, and in two more lawmakers hope to override a governor’s veto. Twenty states since 2010 have passed laws that either opt out of or challenge mandatory parts of Obamacare, the National Conference of State Legislatures says. And half the states have OK’d measures aimed knocking back the Real ID Act of 2005, which dictates Washington’s requirements for issuing driver’s licenses.
“Rosa Parks is the beacon of light: If you say no to something, you can change the world,” Michael Boldin, the Founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, which favors states’ rights, told POLITICO.
“Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be, ‘We, the people?’” he added. “Over the past few years you’ve seen this growing…People are getting sick and tired of federal power.”
(Read more: POLITICO's coverage of gun control)
In fact, the state-level anger at the nation’s capital has reached such a fever pitch that many of the bills do not even address specific federal laws, but rather amount to what is in effect “preemptive” nullification, wiping out, for instance, any federal law that may exist in the future that the states determine violates gun rights. The flurry of such efforts was spurred by fear on the part of states that in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that Congress would pass restrictive gun control legislation.
Supporters of nullification say it’s the best tool they have to try to beat back an intrusive federal government that they say is more and more trampling on the rights of states.
But critics respond that the flood of legislation to override the feds is folly that won’t stand up in court and amounts to a transparent display of the political and personal distaste for President Barack Obama. And in some cases, the moves in the states has provoked an administration counter-offensive: Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Kansas after it passed the “Second Amendment Protection Act” threatening legal action if necessary to enforce federal laws.
(PHOTOS: What’s in Obama’s 2014 budget)
Even some conservatives - certainly no lovers of the Obama administration - warn that the states are going down the wrong path with nullification, distracted by a what lawmakers think is a silver-bullet solution, but that likely won’t stand up in the courts, when in fact there are much better (and legal) ways for the states to resist.
While most states have wrapped their legislative sessions for the year, the fight on these bills is taking only a brief pause. In Missouri, for example, lawmakers are preparing for a veto session in September, where supporters of a gun measure that would eviscerate any future congressional attempts to regulate gun ownership are planning to attempt to override the governor’s veto. The nullification battle has also spilled over into the courts, with more challenges and rulings expected during the year.
In Kansas, state Rep. John Rubin sponsored successful legislation that dictates that federal gun laws do not apply to firearms and accessories made in Kansas and that never leave its borders, and makes it a felony for any federal agent to enforce those laws within the state.
(Also on POLITICO: CVS will help promote Obamacare)
The Republican lawmaker told POLITICO his bill is about states’ rights - not gun rights.
“The federal government doesn’t have the authority to do a lot of what it’s trying to do these days, from regulating guns within state borders, as my bill deals with, or telling us what kinds of light bulbs to put in our lamps,” Rubin said.
He noted a rise in the number nullification bills.
“I think we have the Obama administration to thank for that.” Rubin said. “The more federal overreach in Obamacare and elsewhere, the more [the administration] chooses to act in ways we believe are unconstitutional, the more we’re going to push back. I would encourage any state to assert to the strongest possible extent against the Obama administration, or any federal administration, rights clearly reserved to the states.”
But opponents of sweeping nullification measures paint them as misguided, often politically motivated, and likely unconstitutional attempts to zero out reasonable and well-intended federal initiatives.
And that’s not just coming from the left. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, argues that nullification is not the answer to states’ concerns.
Continue Reading“There are a rising number of people who are frustrated with what Washington is doing, which is a perfectly legitimate and, in my opinion, correct view of, ‘How do we push back?’” Matthew Spalding, vice president of American Studies for Heritage, told POLITICO. “Unfortunately, there’s a minority in that group that thinks nullification is the answer, by which they mean good old-fashioned, South Carolina, John C. Calhoun nullification. That’s deeply mistaken and unfortunate.”
(PHOTOS: Obama’s top 20 jabs at the GOP)
Spalding said states’ better options include legal challenges, not funding federal laws, or even refusing to enforce them - but not overruling federal laws with state ones.
“Ironically, the people who say they are trying to defend the constitution are doing something to undermine it,” he added. “This is sort of a Hail Mary pass. These are in most cases state legislators who are very frustrated. They’re figuring out how to stop these things, how to turn the course of the nation, in my opinion for good reason, and they’re being told the Supreme Court just upheld [Obamacare], this guy has been reelected, what can we do? And someone comes around and says, ah, you can nullify law.”
Another nullification opponent, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said it’s prepared to fight the recent crop of state gun bills in the courts.
“They are outrageous,” said Brady Center legal director Jon Lowy. “It’s disturbing that there are [state] legislators who are so willing to violate the [U.S.] Constitution but also that they have so little concern for public safety. They [nullification measures] would greatly threaten public safety if they weren’t so patently unconstitutional, so we expect that courts will rather quickly wipe them off the books.”
(PHOTOS: Obama’s second term)
Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, told POLITICO that the wave of nullification bids is the result of a “highly polarized” political atmosphere in the country.
“Wen you get that polarization you’re going to get these sort of radical proposals,” he said. “So you’re seeing an increase in these sorts of things. A state, or a city, for that matter can refuse to enforce a federal law and even refuse to expend any money to help the feds enforce any law, but that doesn’t mean that they can stop the feds from enforcing their own laws.”
Looking ahead, the next skirmish over nullification will likely be in the Midwest this fall. Missouri lawmakers are gearing up for a contentious September veto session, with opponents of the state’s gun nullification bill hoping to keep it off the books and proponents saying they have enough votes to override the governor’s veto.
(PHOTOS: Obama’s first term in cartoons)
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Doug Funderburk, predicted a bipartisan override, and said the law was needed to push back against the long arm of the federal government encroaching on Americans’ rights.
“It’s time for the states to assert their authority … as the parent in the relationship with the federal government, to take back that role,” Funderburk said.
On the other side, state Rep. Jill Schupp, a vocal opponent of the bill, said, “If we overturn the governor’s veto, I think what we’re saying is Missouri is its own sort of Wild West state. When extremists get involved and put forward legislation like this, it makes all of us come to a grinding halt in terms of reasoned discussion. To make a move that precludes us from having reasoned gun legislation and is an attempt to nullify federal law certainly makes us look like a laughingstock on this issue.”

A COMMENTARY …


It is common for many people, especially politicians and judges, to
think of the Constitution in fragmented terms, isolating this part
and that part to suit the particular needs of any given situation
however, the entire Constitution is, when properly construed,
consistent throughout. If we take the Bill of Rights, for instance,
those Amendments do not add or subtract anything from the Original Constitution, the fact is that they were already Rights prior to the writing and ratification of the Constitution. The federal government ONLY POSSESSES those powers delegated to it, this fact is evident in Article 1, Section 1 when it declares those powers to be VESTED in Congress. The word VESTED is defined as FIXED, meaning the powers of Congress are cannot be based on any contingency authority except those which are expressly delegated, this, by definition, would exclude the idea that there can be a broad interpretation of implied powers available to Congress.

The structure of the entire Constitution is articulated concisely within the 10th Amendment, it defines the foundation of limited government, it reinforces the doctrine of the federal system that the Constitutional Compact, agreed to and ratified as a Contract between the States, created. It is not merely that the 10th Amendment acts as a barrier against federal intrusions on the liberties of the individual and the authority of the States, the 10th Amendment expounds the entire Constitutional Compact of federalism. Without doubt, the Congress and Supreme Court have used an extremely broad interpretation through the doctrine of implied powers, yet there is no other principle that serves as the foundation of the entire purpose and plan of the original Constitution and it is fully expressed in the 10th Amendment. That principle is that the federal government only possesses those powers that are specifically delegated to it by the Constitution and no others. When the Framers wrote the 10th Amendment, all they were doing was reiterating the entire principle upon which the government of the United States rests.

The Constitutional Compact, created by the States, deputized the federal government and delegated to it certain limited and enumerated powers. Many of the Framers believed that since those powers were indeed limited and were enumerated within the Constitution that the Bill of Rights was unnecessary and could, in fact, cause several issues in the future due to the specificity of the Bill of Rights. They were concerned that the Bill of Rights would be interpreted as the only Rights or that they would be used to limit the Rights of the People and the States through a broader interpretation that there were no other negatives issued against federal powers except those first 10 Amendments. Of course, the 9th Amendment, the sister to the 10th, gave an extremely broader view of the Rights reserved to the People, explaining that there were Rights that were not enumerated within the Constitution, but were nonetheless, just as as exacting as though they were enumerated.

Therefore, since it is completely impossible to list all the Rights of the Citizens of these States united in a Compact of Union, there exist Rights that the government cannot define or legislate to contravene. The fact that there is an absence of those Rights enumerated does not, in any sense or construction, deny the fact that those Rights do indeed exist and are just as inalienable and therefore, un-restrainable as those that are enumerated within the Bill of Rights. Indeed, James Madison stated: ''It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.''

The solution to this potential problem is the 9th Amendment to the
Constitution: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Of course, the 9th Amendment has been essentially ignored by the Courts, and, I might add by those who, for whatever reason, would deny all manner of Rights to other Americans. This denial of Rights has occurred on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. It is therefore, beyond doubt that the
Framers of the Constitution believed and asserted that there are
additional fundamental rights, that are protected from governmental infringement, which exist along with those fundamental rights specifically mentioned in the first eight Amendments to the Constitution.

Since the Constitution only conferred those limited powers that are enumerated in the Constitution itself, it was assumed that the federal government could not reach beyond that which was granted to it. The Framers of the Constitution, using the normal rules of statutory construction, insisted that by forbidding the federal government within certain areas, would allow it to act in areas that were not specifically forbidden by the Constitution. The remedy to such a possibility was the 10th Amendment, which is a bulwark against the government using implied powers to deny or restrain the limitation of any of the Bill of Rights. Thus, as a statutory construction or interpretation, this rule, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, prevents the inference that the Bill of Rights might, in an instance of misconstrued interpretation, imply that the federal government has powers other than those enumerated, and as such, could be used by the government to limit or infringe upon the Rights declared within the Bill of Rights.

It is once again time to put this rogue federal government back in it's place, that place being a deputized agent of the States under the Sovereignty of the People. No longer should this government operate as though it's actions were independent of and outside the parameters of the Constitutional Compact that the States agreed to and were the sole parties of when they formed this government. This government is the servant not the master, it is the creature not the creator!

NULLIFICATION, INTERPOSITION AND IF NECESSARY SECESSION!