Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Hidden Impact of Obamacare and the Economy

Obamacare has delivered another sucker punch to the middle class. This time it’s sticker shock. 
Now that a few people can get past the tech problems of and actually see the real cost of insurance plans available, they are finding that Affordable Care is big hit to the family budget.  

And when the family budget gets hit in the solar plexus, guess what happens to consumer spending and the economy. 

In California, policies for about 900,000 Californians are being canceled because of Obamacare’s mandates and about 2/3rd of these do not qualify for subsidies, according to The Chicago Tribune.  

The result—these folks will be paying higher premiums.

In Alabama, premiums have doubled for some middle class families like Courtney Long, a stay-at-home mother of four. She told WHNT News. “It’s devastating. I started crying,” said Long. “I mean, we have worked so hard to get out of credit card debt, get ahead on the car loan, transfer our mortgage to a 15 from a 30 year mortgage… and for what?”

In Tennessee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued an analysis of a White House report and found the following:

— Today, a 27-year-old man in Memphis can buy a plan for as low as $41 a month. On the exchange, the lowest state average is $119 a month — a 190 percent increase.

— Today, a 27-year-old woman in Nashville can also buy a plan for as low as $58 a month. On the exchange, the lowest-priced plan in Nashville is $114 a month — a 97 percent increase. Even with a tax subsidy, that plan is $104 a month, almost twice what she could pay today.

— Today, women in Nashville can choose from 30 insurance plans that cost less than the administration says insurance plans on the exchange will cost, even with the new tax subsidy.

— In Nashville, 105 insurance plans offered today will not be available in the exchange.

In Washington State, Obamacare will increase the underlying cost of individually purchased health insurance by 34-80 percent on average, according to Forbes.  The list goes on and on and includes Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Georgia and North Carolina.  But premiums are just the beginning.  The deductibles are outrageous, too.

A piece in Saturday’s The New York Times tells the story of Doug and Ginger Chapman, ages 55 and 54, a middle class couple “sitting on the health care cliff.”  Their annual income of around $100,000 a year makes them ineligible for a subsidy in New Hampshire (if they earned under $94,000, it would cut their costs by half). They have to replace their family insurance which includes the two of them and their two sons. The premium cost alone, not including any deductible is $1,000 a month, or 12 percent of their income. 

The Times’ analysis found the following:

“The cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income. Experts consider health insurance unaffordable once it exceeds 10 percent of annual income. By that measure, a 50-year-old making $50,000 a year, or just above the qualifying limit for assistance, would find the cheapest available plan to be unaffordable in more than 170 counties around the country, ranging from Anchorage to Jackson, Miss.”

The other group that gets disproportionately hit is the young, according to Forbes.  For a 40 year old, the 2013 average deductible was $4,045, and the cost increased 29 percent to $309. For a 64-year-old man, the cost of a plan with a $3,494 deductible increased 64 percent to $806.

The Real Impact of Obamacare is Yet to Come

If even a fraction of the middle class and upper middle income earners divert some of their discretionary dollars to pay for health care, it will have a significant impact on consumer spending.  What will that mean for the economy? Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation’s GDP, although experts say that number is likely to decline.

The top 20 percent of income earners account for about 40 percent of all spending in the U.S.  When you increase the costs of health care and the new taxes associated with Obamacare, you can hear the wallets closing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sorry GOP, an 'R' Is Not Enough

by Dr. Milton Wolf

17 Dec 2013

I’ve been a Republican all my life—a loyal Republican. The problem is, our party has not been loyal to its own principles. That is why I am running for the United States Senate.
The Republican Party faces an identity crisis. What do we really stand for? Conservatives within the party, like myself, believe we should re-embrace the Constitution and stand unapologetically for the divinely-inspired American Idea of individual liberty, limited government, and free-market values.

The GOP establishment, on the other hand, believes we should stand simply for the letter "R." They claim that America’s problems will be solved if we just elect more people with Rs behind their names, but their own history shows otherwise.

Since the Reagan Revolution gave way to the “kinder, gentler” GOP (translation: surrender Republicans), conservative victories have been few and fleeting. Even the 1994 Contract with America is no exception. Within six years, the cumulative budget of the 95 major government programs slated for elimination had increased by thirteen percent. And that’s when spending really took off.

The harsh realities of the 2000s give lie to the current GOP establishment claims. Voters gave Republicans the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and even the Supreme Court, and what did we get in return? The largest expansion of spending, borrowing, regulations, and debt our nation had ever seen. These Republicans—who call themselves conservatives—delivered the largest expansion of government in the history of America until Barack Obama came along.

The GOP establishment claimed in the 2000s that we were on the verge of a permanent Republican majority if we would just coopt the Democrats’ issues (translation: surrender to Democrats). And so, it was the GOP establishment that gave us the largest expansion of Medicare in the history of the program. It was the GOP establishment that gave us "No Bureaucrat Left Behind" for our schools. It was the GOP establishment that gave us the bank bailouts. And it was the GOP establishment that opened the White House doors for Barack Obama.

The letter "R" did not save America.

Today, America is in serious trouble because the establishment members of the GOP have, at best, proven themselves ineffective at stopping the Democrats’ unbridled expansion of government. In reality, these Republicans have been complicit with tax hikes, earmark spending, endless borrowing, and debt ceiling increases.

I am running for the United States Senate with the courage of conviction that the Constitution and the American Idea are not only the last best hope for America but also our path to return to greatness. I’m challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, who has been in Washington for 46 years. He calls himself a conservative but has voted for tax hikes, earmark spending, debt ceiling increases—eleven times!—and even voted to put Kathleen Sebelius in charge of ObamaCare. Sen. Roberts has been in Washington so long that earlier this year when he voted for Barack Obama’s $600 billion tax hike, he actually tried to sell it as “tax relief.”

This senate race in Kansas exemplifies the larger choice that the Republican Party faces. Is it enough to call yourself a Republican or even call yourself a conservative but still vote with and give aid and comfort to the Democrats whose singular mission is to expand government?

America’s fate hangs in the balance, and so does yours. As government expands, liberty contracts. And as liberty slips away little by little, prosperity contracts as well. We are witnessing this in America today. As the government reaches deeper into your doctor’s visit, into your gas tank, into your mortgage, into your children’s school, and into the rest of your life, it also reaches deeper into your paycheck and deeper still into your prospects for a better future.

Freedom itself is the most powerful engine of prosperity in human history. That’s the American story. Those poor souls throughout the ages who have been denied freedom have suffered immeasurably, and it does not matter if it was taken from them by force or voluntarily surrendered upon the altar of false utopian promises. History remains unmistakable: Freedom works. And yet, the GOP establishment cannot summon the courage or demonstrate the ability to effectively fight for it.

I will.

President Ronald Reagan understood our enduring struggle for freedom and fearlessly fought for it. Of the Republicans in the Congress, he famously wrote in his diary: “We had rabbits when we needed tigers.”

Indeed, we still do.

Dr. Milton Wolf is a constitutional conservative and practicing physician running for the United States Senate in Kansas. His website is Follow him at @miltonwolfmd.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Poverty is Winning the War on Poverty

We have spent $15 trillion “fighting” poverty since 1965 and we are currently spending $ 1 trillion a year ― an amount equal to about $22,000 per poor person or $88,000 for a family of four. Yet our poverty rate today (16%) is higher than when we started (14%)! If there has been a War on Poverty, poverty won.

Is it not obvious that we are subsidizing and enabling a way of life? To put it bluntly, we are paying young women to have children out of wedlock. We are paying them to be unemployed. And we are paying them to remain poor.

Is Poverty Really The Result Of Bad Luck?

Christian Aid's Poverty can be eradicated poster
On Thanksgiving eve, a Nicholas Kristof editorial instructed us on how to think about poverty in The New York Times. The main reason there is poverty, he tells us, is bad luck.

We don’t choose our parents, after all. Or the household or neighborhood we are born into. Here are a few of his observations, with my emphasis added:
“As Warren Buffett puts it, our life outcomes often depend on the ‘ovarian lottery.
[T]he difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline, but also by an inextricable mix of luck, biography, brain chemistry and genetics.
[S]uccess in life is a reflection not only of enterprise and willpower, but also of random chance and early upbringing.”

So what’s the solution to this problem? It is apparently very simple: All we need is love. (Kristof’s column is actually titled “Where Is the Love?”) And just in case you are not motivated in that way, Kristof draws on the work of Harvard professor John Rawls to give a rational philosophical reason to spend more on welfare programs.

But before getting into that let’s pause for a moment. Is being born really a matter of luck? Doesn’t that take willful activity on the part of two parents? And is the inability of parents to support their children really a matter of luck? Or is it the result of bad habits and undisciplined behavior?

Let’s grant that some people do have bad luck. But bad luck usually strikes randomly. Absent hurricanes and tornados, we don’t expect misfortune to befall entire neighborhoods ― to say nothing of entire cities.

Kristof’s particular focus is on Food Stamps, given the debate in Congress over whether to cut spending on the program. So let’s concede that misfortune can cause some people to be hungry. But does that include the entire city of Dallas?

Every single child attending public school in Dallas, Texas is getting a free lunch and a free breakfast. The reason: There are so few children who don’t qualify for free or subsidized food that it made administrative sense just to give free meals to everybody. And as I wrote previously, the trend around the country these days is to add a free supper as well. So the only time kids will need Food Stamps is on weekends.

By the way, Dallas is not like Detroit. The economy is booming. As Texas Governor Rick Perry is fond of pointing out, Texas has created almost half the new jobs in the entire country over the past decade. So why, in the midst of all this growth and prosperity, is every school child in the city living in a home where the parents cannot afford to put food on the table?

At some point you would think that even New York Times editorial writers would come to suspect that the welfare state is not relieving poverty. It is creating it.

We have spent $15 trillion “fighting” poverty since 1965 and we are currently spending $ 1 trillion a year ― an amount equal to about $22,000 per poor person or $88,000 for a family of four. Yet our poverty rate today (16%) is higher than when we started (14%)! If there has been a War on Poverty, poverty won.

Is it not obvious that we are subsidizing and enabling a way of life? To put it bluntly, we are paying young women to have children out of wedlock. We are paying them to be unemployed. And we are paying them to remain poor.

Now let’s turn to the rational (non-emotional) argument for the welfare state. Kristof writes:
“John Rawls, the brilliant 20th-century philosopher, argued for a societythat seems fair if we consider it from behind a ‘veil of ignorance’ — meaning we don’t know whether we’ll be born to an investment banker or a teenage mom, in a leafy suburb or a gang-ridden inner city, healthy or disabled, smart or struggling, privileged or disadvantaged. That’s a shrewd analytical tool — and who among us would argue for food stamp cuts if we thought we might be among the hungry children?”
Warren Buffett, by the way, makes a similar argument.

And in both cases, it’s a surprise that these two very intelligent men cannot think of any other policy options. Remember, behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance you don’t have to worry about what is politically practical. You can choose any public policy you like.

So wouldn’t a rational person ask how public policy could be changed so that fewer children are born to alcoholic mothers who don’t read to them or encourage their mental development?

It appears that government doing nothing would have vastly decreased the odds of being born as a child of such mothers. During the Reagan years the Council of Economic Advisors tracked the reduction in Post-World War II poverty as a function of economic growth. The conclusion: if there had never been a War on Poverty, the poverty rate by the mid-80s would have been significantly below where it actually was.

Bringing those estimates forward, if there had never been a welfare state, economic growth alone should have virtually eliminated poverty by now.

Today, Buffet and Kristof standing behind a veil of ignorance ― about to be born into the United States ― would have a one in two chance of experiencing a birth paid for by Medicaid. Absent the welfare state, their odds of needing charity to be born would have been on the order of two or three out of 100.

Of course now that we have created the welfare state, and the culture that depends on it, it’s virtually impossible to end it and ask everyone on the dole to go cold turkey. But we can do something else. We can privatize it.

More on that in a future editorial. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Designed to Fail - Obamacare Paves Way to Single-Payer

Harry Reid and Tom Coburn Agree: Obamacare Was Designed to Fail, Pave Way for Single-Payer

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

GOP’s Winning Strategy: Fund the Government, Not Obamacare

Bryan Baumgart - Chairman, Douglas County Republican Party

October, 8, 2013

It was said it couldn’t be done. It was said it shouldn’t be done. Yet on September 20th, House Republicans set their plan in motion by passing H.R.2682 (The Defund Obamacare Act). A plan that would fully fund the federal government; sparing Americans from both a government shutdown and the impending Obamacare train wreck. In the end, Senate Democrats chose to refuse the funding and allow the government to be shut down.

Today the Republican strategy picks up steam as vulnerable Senate Democrats are placed squarely on the hot seat. After Democrats refused funding for the entire federal government, Republicans responded by passing partial funding bills on popular issues (with bi-partisan support). Senate Democrats have vowed not to negotiate and continue to kill funding for these popular issues such as veterans benefits, cancer research, pay for our National Guard and Reserves, funding for nutritional food programs for low-income women and children, disaster relief, etc.

These are certainly not winning positions for vulnerable Senate Democrats in 2014. You can bet Republicans will continue to push Democrats hard for their refusal to negotiate. Cracks have already begun to surface as an exception was made to unanimously pass the “Pay Our Military Act” to fund our active-duty military as well as civilian Defense Department employees and contractors. It was immediately signed into law by the president.

Working against the Democrat’s strategy to shut down the government is the fact that it hasn’t been particularly painful for American voters. Forbes estimates that only 13% of the government has actually shut down. In an effort to sway public sentiment, President Obama has ordered national parks and monuments barricaded, select government websites shutdown, as well as Amber Alerts and access to the open ocean. A Park Service Ranger was recently quoted as saying, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” This order came from the White House. When President Obama forbade priests and chaplains from celebrating religious services on military bases, the House overrode his order by a vote of 400-1 and dared Senate Democrats to side with the president.

The plan has all but backfired on Democrats as stories surface of World War II and Vietnam War vets facing arrest for viewing their own memorials. Once again, not behavior that vulnerable Senate Democrats want to be associated with, particularly from independents who are undecided about who to blame for the shutdown. The Republicans aren’t shy to shine the spotlight on the issue either. A new website has been set up by Senator Ted Cruz’s PAC called ( The site calls for legislation to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs. If vulnerable Senate Democrats don’t cave and support the funding it benefits their Republican opponents in 2014. If they do cave, the Republican argument becomes: You have voted for funding for our active military and then again for the Department of Veterans Affairs, why are you holding out on funding other important issues such as opening our national parks or feeding the needy?

The Republican strategy remains focused on motivating Democrats to compromise and accept either delays or significant limits on Obamacare. In the interim, Republicans can take solace in knowing that not only has Obamacare not received the necessary additional funding for implementation, but until Democrats are willing to negotiate, some of their key issues remain unfunded such as the Environmental Protection Agency and furloughs at the National Labor Relations Board. In the end, the Republican strategy is likely to end with both beneficial compromise on Obamacare and a significant advantage heading into the 2014 election cycle.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

The American Healthcare Reform Act

The centuries-old oath taken by health care professionals reads, “Do no harm.”  It is time for Washington lawmakers to take a similar approach when working to fix the problems that exist in our broken health care system.  Simply repealing the President's health care law is not enough—it must be replaced.

Conservatives recognize that patient-centered reforms rooted in free markets are the best way to lower costs and solve problems in our health care system.  That is why the Republican Study Committee (RSC) is proud to bring forward a pragmatic, practical, and portable free-market alternative to the current health care system.  Simply put, our bill is a better way forward. Specifically, H.R. 3121, the RSC's American Health Care Reform Act:
  • Fully repeals President Obama's health care law, eliminating billions in taxes and thousands of pages of unworkable regulations and mandates that are driving up health care costs. 

  • Spurs competition to lower health care costs by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines and enabling small businesses to pool together and get the same buying power as large corporations.

  • Reforms medical malpractice laws in a commonsense way that limits trial lawyer fees and non-economic damages while maintaining strong protections for patients.

  • Provides tax reform that allows families and individuals to deduct health care costs, just like companies, leveling the playing field and providing all Americans with a standard deduction for health insurance.

  • Expands access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), increasing the amount of pre-tax dollars individuals can deposit into portable savings accounts to be used for health care expenses.

  • Safeguards individuals with pre-existing conditions from being discriminated against purchasing health insurance by bolstering state-based high risk pools and extending HIPAA guaranteed availability protections.

  • Protects the unborn by ensuring no federal funding of abortions.

Repeal and Replace Obamacare: It's Time for Reform 

Obamacare is a train-wreck full of broken promises that is increasing health care costs and interfering with the doctor patient relationship. Obamacare must be stopped. We recently sat down with Americans from across the country to ask their opinions of Obamacare and how it is affecting them in the workplace. 

There is a better way to the one-size-fits-all approach of Obamacare. That is why the Republican Study Committee (RSC) isproud to bring forward a pragmatic, practical, and portable free-market alternative to the current health care system without the unworkable taxes and mandates forced on American families through the President’s health care law.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Health Stats: Comparing US to Universal Healthcare

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis: 

            U.S.                    65%
            England               46%
            Canada                42%

Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months:
            U.S.                      93%
            England                15%
            Canada                43%

Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:
            U.S.                      90%
            England                15%
            Canada                43%
Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
            U.S.                      77%
            England                40%
            Canada                43%
Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million people:
            U.S.                      71
            England                14
            Canada                18
Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in "excellent health":
            U.S.                    12%
            England                2%
            Canada                6%
            And now for the last statistic:
            National Health Insurance?
            U.S.                   NO
            England              YES
            Canada              YES

*statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization; published by Investors Business Daily.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

School Vouchers Equal Better Outcomes for All

from The Platte Institute for Economic Freedom: 7/2/2013

Indiana Leading the Way on Vouchers

In 1875, the Speaker of the House of Representatives James G. Blaine introduced an amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the use of state funds at private religious schools. While the amendment failed on the national level, 37 states-including Nebraska-adopted these amendments for their state constitutions.[1] While these amendments have long been an impediment to those who support school vouchers-state-sponsored certificates of specified dollar amounts that parents can use for private school tuition[2]-a recent ruling on Indiana's expansive voucher program indicates that vouchers may not fall under Blaine amendment constraints, which would open the door to vouchers in Nebraska.

The Indiana Supreme Court case examined whether Indiana's voucher program, which is available to low and middle-income families, was constitutional. The court held that it was, as the state funds "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."[3] Such a precedent could make it possible for other states with Blaine amendments to introduce voucher programs without violating state constitutions, giving parents more choice and control in how their child is educated.

Twelve states currently have voucher programs, but Indiana's is the most expansive. It is a statewide program with a maximum voucher amount of $4,500 for students in grades 1-8.[4] A family of four earning less than $42,000 annually can receive up to 90 percent of the maximum state voucher; families making up to $62,000 annually receive 50 percent.[5] Since its establishment in 2012, participation in the program has grown 140 percent, jumping from 3,919 students to 9,424. In the Indianapolis area in particular, the number of students receiving vouchers increased 94 percent, from 644 to 1,262.[6] Such results demonstrate a critical need for more educational options for students and parents, and Indiana's response is one to be emulated.

Voucher programs introduce choice and competition into education. With vouchers, private schools are no longer open only to those who can afford it, and the playing field is leveled so parents with limited means that want to send their children to private school have opportunities to do so. In addition, a marketplace of educational choice compels both public and private schools to focus on advancing student achievement and meeting parent expectations.[7] Research also suggests that public schools improved when subject to the competition introduced by vouchers. A study of public schools in Florida found "that public schools subject to more competitive pressure from private schools raised their test scores the most following the introduction of Florida's voucher program."[8] Therefore, the positive benefits of vouchers extend even to those who choose to remain in the public school system in some cases.

Voucher programs have shown success in raising student outcomes in their own right. Students in Washington DC's Opportunity Scholarship Program-which provides vouchers to low-income students through a lottery-had a graduation rate of 91 percent, 21 percent higher than those without vouchers. DC voucher students also had higher student achievement and parental satisfaction, even while spending only $7,500 per pupil, while DC public schools spent $29,409 per pupil in 2010.[9] More than 20,000 students in Milwaukee's voucher program also saw positive results, achieving a graduation rate 18 percent higher than their public school counterparts between 2003-2009.[10]

The Indiana court ruling provides Nebraska a unique constitutional opportunity to implement vouchers and give Nebraska parents more opportunities for their children. Every child deserves to have a choice in where they go to school, and it is time to give all of Nebraska's children that choice.


[1] Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., School Choice: The Blaine Amendments & Anti-Catholicism, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Accessed June 13, 2013,; Blaine Amendments, "States." Accessed June 13, 2013,

[2] Jordan Cash, "Vouchers and Tax Credits," Platte Institute for Economic Research, August 28, 2012. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[3] Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson qtd. in Mark Guarino, "Indiana's expansive school voucher program upheld: A model for others?" Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2013. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[4] National Conference of State Legislatures, "School Voucher Laws: State-by-State Comparison." Accessed June 13, 2013,

[5] Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson qtd. in Mark Guarino, "Indiana's expansive school voucher program upheld: A model for others?" Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2013. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[6] Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson qtd. in Mark Guarino, "Indiana's expansive school voucher program upheld: A model for others?" Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2013. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[7] David N. Figlio and Cassandra M.D. Hart, "Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 16056, June 2010. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[8] David N. Figlio and Cassandra M.D. Hart, "Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 16056, June 2010. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[9] Jason Richwine, "D.C. Voucher Students: Higher Graduation Rates and Other Positice Outcomes," Heritage Foundation, July 28, 2010. Accessed June 13, 2013,; Patrick Wolf et al., "Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Final Report," United States Department of Education, June 2010. Accessed June 13, 2013,; Andrew Coulson, "Census Bureau Confirms: DC Spends $29,409/pupil," Cato Institute, June 26, 2012. Accessed June 13, 2013,

[10] John Robert Warrem, "Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee, 2003-2009," University of Minnesota, School Choice Wisconsin, January 2011. Accessed June 13, 2013,

Increasing Legal Immigration is the Answer

This afternoon the Senate voted 68-32 to pass its sweeping immigration reform bill. The bill is a solid improvement over the current immigration system. It legalizes most of the unlawful immigrants here and provides larger pathways for legal immigration in the future.
Under today’s immigration rules, very few of our ancestors would have been able to immigrate here legally. 
The bill does have flaws – many of which I’ve written about in detail. It doesn’t increase lawful immigration enough. The guest worker visa programs for lower skilled workers are too small, restricted to certain sectors of the economy, and governed by confusing bureaucracy. Under today’s immigration rules, very few of our ancestors would have been able to immigrate here legally. The Senate’s immigration bill takes us a small step closer to our traditionally more open immigration policy.

It shovels gargantuan amounts of security resources toward the southern border in an attempt to halt future unlawful immigration that could otherwise cheaply be halted with an expanded guest worker visa program. The border “surge,” as many are calling it, is truly embarrassing, especially for a country with such proud immigrant traditions. There are certainly legitimate security concerns, but the extra enforcement will just drive up the price of smuggling and marginally decrease unlawful immigration of peaceful workers at enormous cost.

Worse, the bill creates a mandatory employment verification system called E-Verify. Those seeking work here will have to use this proto-national ID system to ask the government for permission to work. Government audits of the system find that its inaccuracy rate hovers at around a quarter of a percent. Independent audits, the most recent carried out in 2009, found error rates 3 to 4 times as high as that. As the system is expanded it will place an unfair burden on American businesses, saddling them with costs, and incentivizing illegal hiring without even a cursory I-9 form as has happened in states that have already mandated E-Verify.

Even with those flaws, this bill still does a lot more good than bad. Millions of new Americans will finally be able to live and work openly without fear of deportation. Millions of more highly skilled workers, merit-based immigrants, and their families will be able to become Americans. Americans will have more freedom to hire whom they want and more buyers for their goods and services. Our economy will grow more quickly, wages will increase, and the fiscal state of the federal government will improve over the medium-term.

Despite all of these benefits, this bill will face an uphill battle in the House of Representatives. The first round of a major political brawl has been concluded; time for the toughest round to begin.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Local Governments & Businesses Can't Afford the Affordable Care Act

When Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) in April blamed ObamaCare for the fact that it was cutting some of its workers' hours, backers of the law mounted a furious backlash against the theater chain, among other things filling its Facebook page with boycott threats.

"Greed and selfishness make me sick," one of them said.

Darden Restaurants (DRI) felt this intense heat last year after suggesting it might shift to more part-time work to minimize the cost of the law's mandate that companies offer coverage to all their full-time workers. CEO Clarence Otis even blamed its lowered outlook for 2013 in part on "recent negative media coverage" over "how we might accommodate health care reform."

Yet while private companies are getting all this unwelcome and hostile attention, local governments across the country have been quietly doing exactly the same thing — cutting part-time hours specifically so they can skirt ObamaCare's costly employer mandate, while complaining about the law in some of the harshest terms anyone has uttered in public.

The result is that part-time government workers — many of them low-income — face pay cuts that can top $3,000 a year, and yet will still be left without employer-provided benefits.

Here is just a small sampling of local news reports about what local government officials are saying about ObamaCare, and the steps they're taking to avoid or minimize its costs.

Phillipsburg, Kan.: "School administrators here say they are alarmed and confounded by the looming new costs they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," according to the Kaiser Health Institute News Service. Chris Hipp, director of a Kansas special education cooperative, warned that ObamaCare's costs "could put us all out of business or change significantly how we do business," adding that "we are not built to pay full health benefits for noncertified folks who work a little more than 1,000 hours a year."

Dearborn, Mich.: "If we had to provide health care and other benefits to all of our employees, the burden on the city would be tremendous," said Mayor John O'Reilly, explaining why the city is cutting its more than 700 part-time and seasonal workers down to 28 hours a week. "The city is like any private or public employer having to adjust to changes in the law."

Indiana: "What I'm seeing across the state is school districts, unfortunately, having to reduce the hours that they are having some of their folks work, primarily so they don't have to worry about the (ObamaCare) penalties, or they don't have to provide them health insurance, which would be very, very costly," said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials. Ft. Wayne Community Schools, for example, are cutting yours for nearly three-quarters of its part-time aides.

Omaha, Neb.: "The biggest problem is everyone said that ObamaCare is only going to help cut costs. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Mike Kennedy , who serves on the board of Millard Public Schools, just outside the city, and figures ObamaCare will raise its costs by $400,000. A neighboring school district is reducing hours for up to 281 part-time employees to avoid $2.5 million in new costs, which will result in pay cuts of up to $3,300.

Long Beach, Calif.: "We are in the same boat as many employers," said Tom Modica, Long Beach's director of government affairs. "We need to maintain the programs and service levels we have now." So the city is going to cut hours for 200 part-time workers so it doesn't have to pay $2 million to provide health benefits.

Salt Lake City: "With new provisions in the Affordable Care Act, there was going to be a significant burden upon Granite School District and our taxpayers to offset the cost of benefits," said spokesman Ben Horsley. He says covering the district's part-time workers would cost about $14 million, and so about 1,000 will have their hours cut to 29 a week.

Cape May County, N.J.: "A number of people in the nation who read it are recognizing how detrimental (ObamaCare is) to government and private employers out there," said Gerald Thornton, the county's finance director who is trying to figure out how to budget for the law.

Virginia: "The Commonwealth of Virginia is grappling with the same issues that many businesses in the private sector are as they struggle to deal with the costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act," Paul Logan, a spokesman for Gov. McDonnell, said. The state is requiring that about 7,000 part-time government workers put in no more than 29 hours a week.

Texas: "The Affordable Care Act has added so much complexity and administrative burden that there is nothing affordable about it," said Jared Pope, who is consulting with Texas municipal governments on ObamaCare. Dallas expects its health costs to climb $2.1 million next year. Plano is cutting hours to avoid $1 million in new costs.

Kern County, Calif.: "It will affect multiple departments, a majority of departments," said the county's deputy administrative officer Eric Nisbett, explaining that unless the county cut worker hours for 800 employees, ObamaCare would cost it up to $8 million a year.

Allegheny County, Pa.: "There's frustration and anger and sadness and resentment, you know, but you don't have a voice," said adjunct English professor Clint Benjamin in the wake of the Community College of Allegheny County's decision to cut hours for about 400 adjunct faculty and other employees so it wouldn't have to pay $6 million in ObamaCare-related fees next year.

Medina, Ohio: "We feel bad as a city administration and as a council in having to cut hours from 35 to 29," Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said. "We have the budget to pay the people, but we do not have the budget to pay for the health care." If they hadn't made that cut, the city faced up to $1 million in new health costs courtesy of ObamaCare.

Birmingham, Mich. Commissioner Gordon Rinschler may have summed up best the reaction that countless businesses and governments are having to ObamaCare, saying: "We simply can't afford the Affordable Care Act."

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Step-By-Step Immigration Reform

By Bryan Baumgart-Douglas County Republican Party Chairman


Critics of immigration reform call for securing our borders first, but with effective reform, securing our borders on the basis of immigration isn’t necessary.

Rather than a comprehensive approach, I prefer a step-by-step approach to reform with an emphasis on “risk verse reward”…or as we like to call it in the field of behavior modification…“Principles of Behavior”. Our solutions should be incentive based.

First let’s analyse what is driving current behavior.  What is the incentive to bypass the legal immigration process?  As we know, the current system is extremely convoluted and expensive. It takes far too long and is rife with unintended consequences.

For example, a friend and former co-worker of mine from Brazil had spent years and thousands of dollars working through the system. When he was approached with an outstanding job opportunity with a different company, he was faced with the decision of turning down the offer or starting the immigration process all over again. In the end, he felt like it was just too much time and money to throw away. He was left stuck, extremely frustrated, and he lost out on a great opportunity to advance his career.

The first step in effective reform must be simplifying the legal immigration process. This is likely the most difficult step, but a legal immigration process that is affordable, timely, and efficient serves as an incentive rather than a deterrent.

The next question is what becomes of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in our country? Critics decry amnesty, but deportation is not a realistic option and neither is tearing families apart over a misdemeanor. Continuing to ignore their presence has proven to be a mistake. The people screaming, “No Amnesty” are the very same people upset about footing the bill. It’s a consequence of refusing participation in the system.

The only realistic option is to offer a pathway to citizenship. Not granting instant citizenship, but allowing undocumented immigrants to self-report and enter the now simplified legal immigration process just like everyone else. Providing a temporary work or school visa allows families to stay together while they work through the immigration process. Paying taxes, obtaining insurance and healthcare, and legally participating in the system helps to empower these hard working families and encourages them to buy into the American Dream. Being welcomed and becoming part of the system provides the incentive to assimilate and proudly view oneself as American.

The next step, indexing visas to meet the economic demand of the country. As a country that has thrived on capitalism, it only makes sense to allow legal immigration to meet the labor demands of American businesses. When these businesses are allowed to thrive, so does our country. They create more jobs and provide more revenue.

The final step is much easier. Effectively implementing E-Verify measures by cracking down on employers with strict penalties. The incentive for employers to seek cheaper labor is a reality we must face. It is an unintended consequence of government interference in the market with the implementation of minimum-wage laws. Indexing visas to ensure labor supply meets demand is a good start, but until the risk outweighs the reward, don’t expect employers to voluntarily comply with the law. Once employers do comply, the lack of job opportunities available to undocumented immigrants serve as an incentive to self-report and enter the now much simpler legal pathway to citizenship.

Finally, to be clear on securing our borders. I do favor securing BOTH of our borders, but on the grounds of national security, not immigration. Without the incentive for illegal immigration, securing our borders is not necessary. The only people who would be interested in sneaking across our borders would be the people who mean us harm. Thus…it’s an issue of national security.

"Under today’s immigration rules, very few of our ancestors would have been able to immigrate here legally." - CATO Institute

Friday, June 14, 2013

Broaden Immigration Reform Beyond Enforcement

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Affordable Care Act Not So Affordable to Low-Wage Workers

Obamacare may be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, but the employee could still face a federal requirement to get health insurance or face a fine. Just another oversight in the law that could have been avoided had Democrats followed traditional practice and taken the House and Senate versions of the bill to a conference committee. It was rushed and snuck through. Now that it was passed, we are all starting to find out what is in it. And it doesn’t look pretty.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's called the Affordable Care Act, but President Barack Obama's health care law may turn out to be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, including employees at big chain restaurants, retail stores and hotels.

That might seem strange since the law requires medium-sized and large employers to offer "affordable" coverage or face fines.

But what's reasonable? Because of a wrinkle in the law, companies can meet their legal obligations by offering policies that would be too expensive for many low-wage workers. For the employee, it's like a mirage — attractive but out of reach.

The company can get off the hook, say corporate consultants and policy experts, but the employee could still face a federal requirement to get health insurance.

Many are expected to remain uninsured, possibly risking fines. That's due to another provision: the law says workers with an offer of "affordable" workplace coverage aren't entitled to new tax credits for private insurance, which could be a better deal for those on the lower rungs of the middle class.

Some supporters of the law are disappointed. It smacks of today's Catch-22 insurance rules.

"Some people may not gain the benefit of affordable employer coverage," acknowledged Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group leading efforts to get uninsured people signed up for coverage next year.

"It is an imperfection in the new law," Pollack added. "The new law is a big step in the right direction, but it is not perfect, and it will require future improvements."

Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, the 2-million-member service-sector labor union, called the provision "an avoidance opportunity" for big business. SEIU provided grass-roots support during Obama's long struggle to push the bill through Congress.

The law is complicated, but essentially companies with 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer coverage that meets certain basic standards and costs no more than 9.5 percent of an employee's income. Failure to do so means fines for the employer. (Full-time work is defined as 30 or more hours a week, on average.)

But do the math from the worker's side: For an employee making $21,000 a year, 9.5 percent of their income could mean premiums as high as $1,995 and the insurance would still be considered affordable.

Even a premium of $1,000 — close to the current average for employee-only coverage — could be unaffordable for someone stretching earnings in the low $20,000's.

With such a small income, "there is just not any left over for health insurance," said Shannon Demaree, head of actuarial services for the Lockton Benefit Group. "What the government is requiring employers to do isn't really something their low-paid employees want."

Based in Kansas City, Mo., Lockton is an insurance broker and benefits consultant that caters to many medium-sized businesses affected by the health care law. Actuaries like Demaree specialize in cost estimates.

Another thing to keep in mind: premiums wouldn't be the only expense for employees. For a basic plan, they could also face an annual deductible amounting to $3,000 or so, before insurance starts paying.

"If you make $20,000, are you really going to buy that?" asked Tracy Watts, health care reform leader at Mercer, a major benefits consulting firm.

And low-wage workers making more than about $15,900 won't be eligible for the law's Medicaid expansion, shutting down another possibility for getting covered.

It's not exactly the picture the administration has painted. The president portrays his health care law as economic relief for struggling workers.

"Let's make sure that everybody who is out there working hard and doing the right thing, that they're not going to go bankrupt because they get sick, that they're going to have health care they can count on," Obama said in a Chicago appearance last summer during the presidential campaign. "And we got that done."

White House senior communications advisor Tara McGuinness downplayed concerns. "There has been a lot of conjecture about what people might do or could do, but this hasn't actually happened yet," she said. "The gap between sky-is-falling predictions about the health law and what is happening is very wide."

The administration believes "most businesses want to do right by their employees and will continue to use tax breaks to provide quality coverage to their workers," she added. Health insurance is tax deductible for employers, and the health law provides additional tax breaks to help small businesses.

Virtually all major employers currently offer health insurance, although skimpy policies offered to many low-wage workers may not meet the requirements of the new law. Companies affected have been reluctant to telegraph how they plan to comply.

"It clearly isn't going to be a morale-boosting moment when you redo your health plan to discourage participation," said Stern, the former labor leader, now a senior fellow at Columbia University. "It's not something most want to advertise until they are sure it's the right decision."

The National Retail Federation's top health care expert said there's no "grand scheme to avoid responsibility" among employers. "That is a little too Machiavellian," said Neil Trautwein.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged it's "a possible outcome" that low-wage workers could find coverage unaffordable because of the wrinkle in the law.

It might have turned out differently, added Trautwein, if Democrats had followed traditional congressional practice and taken the House and Senate versions of the bill to a conference committee. They could have worked out such quirks. But leaders determined that path was fraught with political peril after Democrats lost their 60-vote Senate majority in 2010.

"I can't help but thinking, they would have figured out a few more of these corners that don't meet," Trautwein said.