Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Florida Senate axes Rick Scott’s Medicaid expansion

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the one-time foe of President Obama’s health care law, rocked the health care policy world by announcing plans to participate in the legislation’s expansion of Medicaid. At the time, I criticized Scott, while noting that the decision would ultimately be left in the hands of the state legislature. On Monday, the Florida Senate joined the state House in saying no to the expansion, effectively killing it.

The decision by the legislature, if final, would mean about 1 million fewer beneficiaries on the Medicaid rolls. As I previously wrote, ” After the Supreme Court decision, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that adding 11 million people to Medicaid would cost $643 billion over the next decade — meaning a back of the envelope estimate is that Scott’s decision could ultimately cost federal taxpayers about $58 billion over the next decade.” Now, that decision has been blocked.



Beware liberals' hyperbole

Gregory Kane

Not that I planned it this way, but for the past year I've been quite the frequent visitor to Johns Hopkins Hospital. The shortest, quickest route from the venerable Baltimore institution back to my home in the northwest section of the city takes me past a collection of buildings far less venerable.

One is the Maryland State Penitentiary, a building that has been around since the 19th century. Another is the Central Booking and Intake Facility; in linguistically simpler times, we called this the Baltimore City Jail. I call the series of edifices "the house of reprobates." And yes, the Maryland State Penitentiary does have a death row.

During a recent drive home from Hopkins -- I ALWAYS always seem to get done in the middle of afternoon rush-hour traffic -- I saw a lone protester standing in front of the entrance to the Central Booking and Intake Facility. He held up a sign that read, "The death penalty is a hate crime." In a flash, I was reminded, once again, of why I just love liberals, progressives and leftists.

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The main reason I love them is that they say and do things, constantly, to make me glad I'm not one of them. Take the lone protester, for instance. As I mentioned, it's the Maryland State Penitentiary that houses the state's death row. The protester should have been on the other side of the complex, where the penitentiary is located. But his problem with geography was less pronounced than his problem with hyperbole.

That brings me to yet another quality about liberals-progressives-leftists that I love: Their yen for hyperbole causes them to frequently cram their feet down their throats.

"The death penalty is a hate crime," is it? There are probably grade-schoolers who can point out the flaw in the logic. A careful reading of the Constitution -- which liberals-progressives-leftists seldom read but love to rewrite -- reveals that the death penalty is not only not a hate crime, but also not even a crime.

The Fifth Amendment states that "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The 14th Amendment adds: "no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty property without due process of law."

So, in two different amendments, we learn that the death penalty is perfectly legal if the person being executed has been given due process of law. Liberals-progressive-leftists conventiently forget this language when, with their flair for hyperbole, they claim that capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

When they're not using hyperbole, this same bunch tends to make cheap, tawdry appeals to emotion, since they have so few facts to back up their arguments. In the death penalty debate, they drag in racial disparity, knowing race to be a topic that rouses emotions. When they couldn't show that blacks convicted of murder were being executed disproportionately, they tried to move the goal posts.

Those who ended up on death row, they claimed, were more likely to have gotten there if they murdered whites.

Felony homicide is the path that leads most miscreants to death row. FBI stats show that the majority of felony homicide victims are white; the majority of those who commit felony homicide are black. The liberals have yet to talk about this particular racial disparity. That's because they won't even acknowledge the disparity. They can't talk about what they won't even acknowledge.

The death penalty is a "hate crime"? It looks more like opponents of capital punishment have resorted to cheap demagoguery.



Why do the Koch Brothers get all the sunshine?

Here's a couple of data points that bear serious thought this week by transparency advocates celebrating Sunshine Week and by everybody else who cares about protecting and preserving a free and independent press:

1,130 - Number of results for search term "Koch Brothers" on The New York Times web site.

64 - Number of results for search term "The Tides Foundation" on The New York Times web site.

For the few stray souls out there who don't know, the Koch Brothers are Charles and David, principals of the Koch corporate conglomerate and chief bete noirs of President Obama, liberal journalists covering national politics and Citizens United obsessives everywhere.

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It's equally certain that few reading this post know anything at all about the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, even though its roots go deep into the radical student movement of the 1960s and it has helped fund or startup virtually every significant liberal, progressive and radical cause in the years since.

Similar results appear from the same searches on The Washington Post web site, which turns up 277 links to the Koch Brothers and 11 for Tides. And on the New Yorker web site, Koch Brothers generated 35 links and none for Tides.

The contrast was even more dramatic on the Common Cause site, where the Koch Brothers were linked 4,560 times versus one for Tides.

What do these search results tell us? Only that it appears the Koch Brothers are of vastly heightened interest to two of America's greatest daily newspapers and to the dean of campaign finance reform advocacy organizations than is the Tides Foundation.

Which is curious, considering that it is all but certain nobody in these two August newsrooms or among the leadership of Common Cause would reject the proposition that "the rich" have far too much influence in American politics, thanks to their wealth.

Consider these numbers, derived from multiple searches of foundation grant databases, IRS Form 990s and other public records:

Three Koch foundations made a total of 181 grants worth $25,405,525 in 2010 (most recent available records). The one Tides Foundation made a total of 2,627 grants worth $143,529,590 in 2010.

Put otherwise, for every one grant made by a Koch foundation, Tides made more than five grants.

There are important qualifications to these numbers, including that the two Koch brothers also contributed to numerous political candidates, there may be other Koch-controlled foundations that didn't surface in this study, not all of the grants included here went to political or ideological groups or causes, and the two men may have significant influence on yet other foundations not under their direction.

What is crystal clear is this: The Koch Brothers get vastly more attention from two of the nation's elite media outlets and the grand sire of the "too much money corrupts" school of campaign finance reform than an obscure foundation that bankrolls multiple legions of leftist political groups and causes.

Might we conclude then that, like the collectivized creatures of Animal Farm, some of the rich money in American politics is more equal than others?



False hopes in the new employment numbers

White House economic adviser Alan Krueger greeted last Friday's employment numbers with optimism, noting that they suggest "the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction." His sanguine assessment echoes previous Obama administration claims in 2010, 2011 and 2012 that the recovery was just around the corner. Could it finally be for real?

To be sure, the report's top line contained signs of hope, such as better-than-expected net job gains and a modest tick downward in the unemployment rate. But this bit of good news was tempered by the fact that more Americans gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force last month (296,000) than took new jobs (260,000).

And at 63.5 percent, the share of Americans participating in the labor force -- that is, either working or looking for work -- has fallen again to last year's low, which had not been seen since the Carter era. What's more, this ominous trend obscures the labor market's true condition because the unemployment rate goes down every time someone stops trying to find work.

Unfortunately, there is worse news than this. One of the most important but least-covered stories of the 2012 election was the labor market depression currently being experienced by Americans between the ages of 25 and 54. These are the Americans in the midst of making something of themselves -- building careers and lives, reaching their peak earning years, forming families, and providing the economy with vitality and innovative thinking. Sadly, this is no longer the case in the Obama era.

It was dispiriting enough that 5.2 million Americans aged 25 to 54 lost their jobs in the Great Recession, which ran from December 2007 through June 2009. Far more unsettling is the fact that in the time since -- after three years and nine months of the Obama "recovery," during which millions of lost jobs were restored -- not a single net job has been regained in this age group. In fact, the number of midcareer adults working today is still lower than it was not only in June 2009 but also in May 1997, despite a 20 percent increase in U.S. population over the last 16 years. And the number of Americans in this age group neither working nor seeking work has surged in recent months to a new all-time high, after falling sharply last fall and creating new false hopes.

Nearly all of the jobs regained in the Obama recovery have gone to the over-55 age group. The "gray jobs" recovery has emerged through a combination of workers aging and near-retirees hanging on longer than they once did. This suggests that America is losing a generation of workers -- millions with blank years in their resumes that make them less employable. In the long term, their lack of job experience will diminish their value as replacements for the growing number of older and highly experienced workers who will eventually retire. In the longer term, today's lost young adults threaten to become impoverished wards of the state in retirement.

This reality underscores the inefficacy of the 2009 stimulus package. If it accomplished anything, it appears only to have allowed employers to hang on to their oldest and most experienced employees. The continued stagnation also demonstrates the need for President Obama to put job creation ahead of ideological objectives such as the abolition of coal, the establishment of futile renewable energy projects and tax changes whose primary purpose is to punish someone rather than raise revenue. Stop killing the job market, and it might just come back to life.



The TSA is just theater

Today the NY Post published an exclusive titled "Former Newark Airport TSA screener says the job does little to keep fliers safe" in the article the former TSA agent states:   "We're [the TSA] not any big deterrent. It's all for show."

Well, you don't say! At the cost of approximately 8 billion dollars annually, according to TSA News, it is one hell of an expensive show. The budget cuts and sequester didn't seem to affect the show too much either as the TSA just ordered 50 million dollars in new uniforms.

CNS reported on March 5:

    "The impending sequester did not prevent the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)  from acting in late February to seal a $50-million deal to purchase new uniforms for its agents--uniforms that will be partly manufactured in Mexico.      The TSA employs 50,000 security officers, inspectors, air marshals and managers. That means that the uniform contract will pay the equivalent of $1,000 per TSA employee over the course of the year."

Well at least the TSA will look good while groping us if nothing else.

Just last week the TSA made the news because an undercover TSA inspector got a fake bomb through security at Newark Liberty International Airport. The fake improvised explosive device was stashed in his pants and he cleared two different layers of security and managed to be cleared to board a commercial flight.

CBS New York reported:  "The incident was part of an undercover inspection at Newark and followed an abysmal performance on an audit last October."

    The audit found that Newark TSA agents:

    * Followed proper pat down procedures just 16.7 percent of the time.

    * Confiscated banned items from carry-on luggage just 25 percent of the time.

What's worse is that the TSA evidently didn't catch 3 out of 4 fake bombs. The NY Post reported:  "Only one member of the four-man "Red Team" that purported to bring explosives onto planes on Feb. 25 was caught, according to the report. That actor was detected with an IED hidden inside a doll, though sources told the Post that it had wires sticking out of it and was quite obvious."

I have written 10 different articles on the TSA over the years and spoken about the "joke of security" that it is. I have stated time and time again both on my radio program as well as in my lectures "it isn't a question of if we will suffer another terrorist attack but, rather, when." Once again, I must refer back to the NY Post interview where the former TSA agent stated:

    "What are the chances of you being on a flight where something happens? We always said it's not a question of if terrorists get through - it's a question of when. Our feeling is nothing's happened because they haven't wanted it to happen."

That sounds familiar. What I found to me one of the most disturbing things in the interview was where the former agent explained:      "These are the employees who could never keep a job in the private sector. I wouldn't trust them to walk my dog."

He explained the education level needed to work as an agent as well:    "Did you know you don't need a high-school diploma or GED to work as a security screener? These are the same screeners that TSA chief John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refer to as a first-class first line of defense in the war on terror."

"First line of defense?" That is a joke. As my friends and family know I hate to fly, if I can drive there I'll opt for the car ride rather than being in the air. It's not due to a fear of flying as much as that I know the truth behind our so-called security.




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