Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SCOTUS ruling gives the States the power to block Obamacare

And the costs of compliance with Obamacare give them a big incentive to do so

If the new health care law wasn't enough of a mess before last week's Supreme Court decision, that ruling actually added another layer of cost, complexity and political contentiousness to the bill.

By striking down part of the law that required states to expand their Medicaid programs, the court tossed a very hot potato into the laps of state lawmakers everywhere.

ObamaCare required states to increase eligibility for Medicaid to 133 percent of the poverty line, or roughly $30,000 per year for a family of four. The expansion would also make childless single men (a notoriously high-cost group) eligible for Medicaid for the first time. In all, about 40 percent of all the people projected to gain coverage under ObamaCare would do so via Medicaid.

But this imposed real costs on states. For example, the Medicaid expansion would cost New Jersey taxpayers roughly $35 billion over 10 years, and New Yorkers as much as $52 billion.

Not surprisingly, many states balked — and now the high court has agreed: Congress can't strip all Medicaid funds from states that refuse the expansion, as the ObamaCare law threatened.

So what will state legislators do now? If they agree to expand their Medicaid programs anyway, they'll be choosing to pile new costs on their state budgets and new taxes on their constituents.

And if a state doesn't expand its Medicaid program, most of those who would've been eligible for Medicaid will now become eligible for subsidies through ObamaCare's health-insurance exchanges. And those subsidies are paid in full by the feds. Thus, New York, for example, would shift most of that $52 billion in new costs back to the federal government.

Of course, if states do shift those costs back to the feds, that will cause the federal cost of ObamaCare to skyrocket. If every state were to refuse to expand its Medicaid program, the feds would save roughly $130 billion in their share of Medicaid costs in 2014, but would have to pay $230 billion more in new exchange-based subsidies — for a net added cost of $100 billion. And that's just for the first year.

Remember, this is a law that already will cost as much as $2.7 trillion from 2014 to 2024, and will add more than $823 billion to the federal deficit — estimates that assumed state taxpayers would be picking up some Medicaid costs. How will Congress react if billions or perhaps trillions of dollars in new costs are added to the federal budget?

Here's another complicating factor: Most states have not yet set up an exchange. Many, especially ones with Republican governors or legislatures, may refuse altogether. By most estimates, as few as 15 states are likely to have exchanges in operation by the 2014 deadline.

ObamaCare gives the feds the authority to step in, setting up and operating an exchange in any state that doesn't set up its own — but there is reason to doubt that they have resources to do so in so many states.

Anyway, federal subsidies are available only through exchanges that the states set up. The feds can't offer subsidies through a federally run exchange.

Thus, if states neither expanded Medicaid nor set up exchanges, that would effectively block most of ObamaCare's new entitlement spending.

One last wrinkle: It is those subsidies that trigger the penalty under ObamaCare for employers who fail to provide workers with insurance. So states that don't set up exchanges could also escape the "employer mandate."

That is, ObamaCare requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance or pay a fine...er, tax. But that tax only kicks in if at least one employee qualifies for subsidies under the exchange. Since subsidies can only be provided via a state-authorized exchange, a state that refuses to set one up could end up blocking the employer mandate altogether. At the very least, expect some employers to sue on this point, leading to yet another Supreme Court challenge.

And if, as expected, ObamaCare drives up the cost of insurance, many employers could end up dropping their current health insurance. So the end result of all this could be even more uninsured than before the law passed.

In short, the Supreme Court's ruling not only guaranteed that ObamaCare will be an issue in this fall's federal elections; it dumped a mess in the laps of governors and state legislators, too.



More conservative activism needed

Don't just grumble, get involved. Conservatives need to match the Greens. The alternative is to get steamrollered by the Greens

“The problem is,” a utility company executive told me, “that there is no one at the table who cares about the ratepayers. There is no one who cares about low-cost energy. Everyone is too concerned about looking PC instead of standing up for the consumer.” We were discussing the “stay” announced last week by the EPA that allows the state of New Mexico more time to find an alternative solution toward meeting the visibility requirements spelled out in the Clean Air Act.

New Mexico has been battling with the EPA over its insistence that the state use selective catalytic reduction technology (CRT) at the San Juan Generating Station, the 1,800-megawatt coal-fueled power plant that is New Mexico’s single largest source of electricity. It also provides power to customers in California, Arizona, and Utah. The state has been arguing for a different plan that would cost less but produce similar results. Bids received for the CRT installation are more than double the EPA’s estimate.

As has been happening across the country, the high cost of the EPA’s mandates, will likely shut down the two older units at New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station. The Public Regulatory Commission will have to allow the utility company to increase rates to cover the lost depreciation of the units—not to mention the loss of the electricity production.

As the millions of people in the Washington DC area who lived without power for days found, living without electricity is “awful.” In his well-worth reading narrative of life without electricity, When the Moore Family Lost Power, Stephen Moore states: “It was awful, but educational. If anything good has come out of this debacle, it is that our household has a new appreciation for how important it is that everyone have access to affordable and reliable sources of energy.”

Environmental groups have complained that they do not have a seat at the table. Jeremy Nichols of the group WildEarth Guardians, stated: “they've got to realize they need to work with us or else it's not going to get any easier for them.”

As the utility executive explained, the ratepayers' needs are not being considered. The meetings will likely take place in some “smoky room” where a deal will be hashed out with no one challenging the premise most of these so-called emission reductions are based on: climate change is a man-made crisis caused by humans burning hydrocarbons.

“Who,” I asked, “should be standing up for the ratepayer?” “The Attorney General,” he told me.

While our meeting started out with complaints about the process, I saw the 90-day stay as a positive. It buys us time—though a 120-day stay would have been better. One hundred-twenty days would put us past the election—though not past a potential lame-duck period.

Actions like the EPA’s insistence that power providers use excessively expensive equipment for miniscule reductions (think of the law of diminishing returns) in pollutants or “haze”—which ultimately shuts down power plants and reduces our access to abundant and affordable electricity—emphasizes the importance of electing a new President come November 6.

With the stay, we may be able to put off finalizing the rules until we have a new President and a new EPA Administrator. If an agreement is reached and finalized within the 90-day time frame, it will be harder to reverse. But if a decision is not made, and another stay is granted, it could be a win. We could have a re-think and sanity could return to electricity costs and pricing.

But winning will take citizen engagement on several fronts. If we sit back and watch, we’ll deserve what we get—which could include outrageously high energy prices.

First, in New Mexico, and other states facing similar circumstances, we need to pummel the Attorney General with phone calls, emails, and letters telling him (or her) to represent us, the ratepayers. He needs to fight for abundant and affordable electricity rather than acquiesce to the politically correct notion that CO2 emissions are ruining the planet. Sadly, in New Mexico, it is not likely that the AG will stand up for us. His website is: http://www.nmag.gov/home

Second, we all need to vote. Mitt Romney may not be our first choice, but he is a choice. Sitting the election out will give us four more years of punitive energy regulation—on steroids.

Lastly, assuming we get a change on November 6, we cannot breathe a sigh of relief, sit back, and relax. We must stay engaged. The era of spectator citizenship is over. We, the people, will need to stay on top of the Romney Administration to insist that he appoint people to positions, such as the Secretary of Energy and the EPA Administrator, who understand the important role energy plays in America. Stephen Moore called it “the central nervous system of our modern economy and our 21st-century lifestyles.”

I am optimistic because I have seen citizen engagement work.

We had a victory in New Mexico with the sand dune lizard. I believe it was citizen engagement that kept it from being listed as an endangered species—which could have severely crippled the economy in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas and reduced oil and gas development throughout the region that produces 20% of the domestic supply.

Like the utility company executive didn’t see the “stay” as a win, not all the oil and gas stakeholders saw the sand dune lizard decision as a win.

Back in December of 2011, the sand dune lizard decision was delayed for six months. Many industry executives would have liked to have had the decision made, not delayed, so they could move on to the next step: court. At the time, I wrote that the “delay” option was a good thing, as it allowed for more public engagement, and it put the decision just months away from the presidential election. I posited that I didn’t think the Obama Administration would want to make a decision that would hurt such a large portion of the state’s economy months before the election in a swing state.

There was more public engagement and last month the decision was handed down. The lizard was not listed.

One of the reasons the lizard was not listed was because of the Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA), in which many in the industry have engaged. Some complain that the CCAs are really extortion, and they are. The CCA requires companies that want to drill in the lizard’s habitat to pay money to an organization for habitat restoration—but they can still operate (albeit at a higher cost, which results in higher prices to the consumers).

However, as the environmental groups have complained, the CCAs are nonbinding. With a new administration and new leadership in the agencies, the CCAs could be abandoned much more easily than the lizard could be de-listed. Again, citizens will need to be engaged to keep pressure on a President-elect Romney to appoint appropriate agency leadership.

The “stay” over the regional haze regulations in New Mexico can be a win. The “delay” over the sand dune lizard was a win.

Likewise, the Supreme Court decision on the healthcare law could be a win—but we have to embrace it and get engaged. Agree or disagree with the decision, it is the decision; it is what we have to work with. The campaign cash that flowed in following the announcement ($4.6 million to the Romney campaign from 47,000 donors in less than a day) shows that, perhaps, the Chief Justice has done us a favor. In opining, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he has reminded all of us of the importance of our vote.

Whom we elect has far broader implications than just who occupies the White House. The President appoints people to leadership positions and they pick the people who implement the rules and regulations—like Al Armendariz. We often call these people “unelected bureaucrats,” when in fact, they are there as a result of our vote.

We have 16 weeks to save America. Are you engaged? Are you talking to your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about the importance of this election? Polls following the SCOTUS decision show that nearly half of the public didn’t even know that a decision had been made or what it was. For us, that translates to an understanding that a large percentage of the population—including nearly half of your friends and family—isn’t paying attention to the news. They need us to talk to them.

Each week as you read my column, you should be outraged. I aim to expose under-covered issues that point out the danger of this administration’s energy policy. In doing so, I’m giving you fresh talking points so you can engage in the process. I also hope to encourage you to keep at it; to not give up. As citizens of the United States of America, we can no longer be spectators. We must get engaged.



Big Government Cripples Incentives to Save, Promotes Risky Culture of Immediate Gratification

Daniel J. Mitchell

America’s political elite is nauseating for many reasons, but perhaps most of all when they blame others for problems that are caused by misguided government policies. A stark example is the way they attacked the Facebook billionaire who moved to Singapore because of punitive taxation and class-warfare policy.

Today, let’s look at an example that affects almost everybody rather than just a handful of rich people. Many people in Washington sanctimoniously say that American households and businesses are too focused on the short term and that we don’t save enough.

But as I explain in this CBNC interview, tax and spending policies from Washington have undermined the incentive to save.




Episcopalians show their continuing contempt for the Bible: "The U.S. Episcopal Church's House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church. The House of Bishops voted at the church's General Convention to include "gender identity and expression" in its "non-discrimination canons," meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry. The move comes nine years after the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based church affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, sparking an exodus of conservative parishes.

Hope'n'Change: More People Went on Disability than Found Jobs in June: "It would have been easy for President Obama to miss the finer points of yesterday's jobs report, given that he only spent 26 seconds speaking about it in Ohio. But do these numbers look like "a step in the right direction" to you? The economy created just 80,000 jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. But that same month, 85,000 workers left the workforce entirely to enroll in the Social Security Disability Insurance program, according to the Social Security Administration. The disability ranks have outpaced job growth throughout President Obama's recovery. While the economy has created 2.6 million jobs since June 2009, fully 3.1 million workers signed up for disability benefits. In other words, the number of new disability enrollees has climbed 19% faster than the number of jobs created"

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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