Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The double standards never stop<
It has been federal for three years. It has brought chaos to the labor markets. It has cost people their livelihoods and it is more unpopular than ever.
So why does “Obamacare” (officially known as the “Affordable Care Act”) remain so irresistible for so many of our fellow Americans? Because at its core Obamacare is not about health care, so much as it is about the redistribution of wealth, and for those who are on the receiving end of the redistribution the agenda is completely irresistible.
When the federal government doles-out cash, it’s difficult to say “no.” That’s why many of our nation’s top business consulting firms are cashing-in, as state government officials hire the consulting firms to figure out how to set up the new federal health care bureaucracies, complete with their own state-specific websites and call centers.
How difficult and costly could it be, do you suppose, to set up a website and a call center for the residents of one individual state? In the world of private enterprise, most small to midsize companies doing business within a specific region of the U.S. would be foolish to spend much more than a hundred thousand dollars for their customer service website and the infrastructure for a call center, and in many cases the project could be completed for much less.
But with Obamacare, the “customer service” element has become more of a “corporate welfare” element. Companies, careers, and personal fortunes are being made by people who are the states, as firms bill the individual states millions of taxpayer dollars for the website and call center set-ups (and the Obama administration frequently offers to reimburse the states for the set-up costs).
Take for example a company called Leavitt Partners, LLC. Founded by the former Republican Governor of Utah (and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) Michael Leavitt, the company describes itself as a “healthcare intelligence business,” and is focused solely on state-by-state Obamacare compliance (they have already completed Utah’s insurance exchange start-up).
We’re talking here about Michael Leavitt, the former Utah Governor who last year endorsed and campaigned on behalf of Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate who pledged to “end” Obamacare. Yes, that Michael Leavitt is making millions advising the states on how to comply with the monstrosity that his pal Mitt wanted to eliminate.
How much money is in play for these companies? Consider that last fall representatives from Leavitt’s company traveled north and proposed to build an exchange for their tiny nieghboring state of Idaho, a state with a population of less than 1.7 million people. Once the Leavitt representatives unveiled their proposed price tag to build an exchange - $70 million-an incredulous member of Idaho’s state insurance task force asked “does Governor Leavitt really believe that this is a good idea?”
Company associate Brett Graham replied with the nuanced explanation that “Governor Leavitt doesn’t like the feds dictating to the states,” however, the Governor also believes that the states should “stand inside the circle with the feds rather than stand outside of it”- which was an artful way of saying “yes, Governor Leavitt likes this and wants to get paid to show you how to do it.”
Leavitt’s proposal was not the most expensive that the sparsely populated Idaho received. The global accounting and consulting firm KPMG weighed-in with a price tag of $77 million, and when a state official asked what the residents of Idaho would get in return for such a large expenditure, KPMG representative Andrew Gottschalk was vague: “It’s hard to explain exactly what you get…It’s hardware, it’s software, there’s infrastructure, there’s people and staffing” he stated. “There would likely be a call center. It’s all kinds of things… there’s a lot of stuff….but it’s hard to be specific.”
States spending millions of taxpayer dollars, and receiving “all kinds of things” and “a lot of stuff” in return. That’s our present-day reality with Obamacare. Along with Leavitt Partners and KPMG, global consulting firms Maximus and Mercer are also cashing-in. These firms employ well educated, highly skilled professionals with JD’s, MBA’s, and advanced degrees in information systems and healthcare management, most of whom would undoubtedly reject the idea that they are welfare recipients. As the Maximus corporate website states, “we leverage our extensive experience and strong commitment to ethics to provide high quality services and solutions.”
This is the reality of Obamacare. It’s wildly unpopular for the masses, but irresistible for those on the receiving end of the money grab.
Self-Wrecking Pols Take 'Public' Out of 'Republican'
Since the dawning of Obama Nation in 2008, Republicans have made significant gains at the state level — historic victories in 2010, and even small gains made last year, which at the federal level was a debacle for the GOP. Republicans now control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion in 25 states; Democrats have such universal control in only 13 states.
“This is significant. While we may expect more of the gridlock in Washington that we have seen over the past two years,” wrote Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason in Politico, “. . . the states, over three-quarters of which are completely controlled by Republicans or Democrats, are unobstructed from moving in whichever direction the party in power chooses.
Republicans, therefore, have many opportunities to connect with the voters, to show voters their best side.
Right now, in a number of state capitols, Republican legislators are at risk of giving up the game by using their legislative power to enact new laws to frustrate and undermine citizen-initiated ballot measures.
To be blunt, neither Republican nor Democrat career politicians much like the idea of citizens having any involvement in politics — save voting for them or mailing them a big, fat check. And the thought of voters making real decisions by proposing and imposing reforms through the citizen initiative or challenging legislative enactments by forcing a voter referendum is absolutely anathema.
But voters very much like making decisions; they know that even their own favored parties and politicians need the discipline of a independent, democratic check. Without initiative and referendum, the citizenry loses all manner of control over runaway spending and taxes, crony corporate welfare schemes, excessive nannyism and government corruption.
No wonder voters don’t like it when politicians try to silence their voice.
But that is precisely what is happening in several Republican-controlled states — none more critical for congressional and also presidential success than Ohio.
Last week, Senate Bill 47 passed the House of Representatives with every Republican member voting yes and every Democrat voting no. Two weeks ago, the bill had passed the state Senate with one Republican (bless him) joining every Democrat in voting no, with every other elephant approving the legislation.
SB 47 would reduce the amount of time initiatives or referendums have to gather signatures from voters, which makes it tougher for voters to get to decide issues.
And it throws a few other rods into the engine of petitioning, as well. For example, it would re-impose an unconstitutional residency requirement already once struck down by a court and previously deemed unenforceable by state officials.
Why would Republican legislators want to do such a thing? Unions have beaten them at the ballot box on a referendum and some initiatives.
Meanwhile, grassroots conservatives and Republicans and libertarians join liberals, Democrats and independents in opposing this anti-initiative legislation. Not a single person or group, except for the bill’s Republican sponsor, testified in favor of SB 47.
If Kasich signs this bill, will these supporters of basic citizen democracy vote for him for governor in 2014 anyway? And if they don’t, will they be more or less willing to vote Democrat or Libertarian or Constitution Party for president in 2016?
In Idaho, Republican legislators got whupped by the powerful state teachers union on three citizen referendums on last November’s ballot. Voters sided with the teachers. I would have sided with legislators, but in a democratic republic, these are issues the people of Idaho decide.
When we lose a vote, the answer isn’t to end the practice of voting.
Nonetheless, Idaho legislators were busy, last week, passing Senate Bill 1108. Though only three of the 26 states with statewide initiative and/or referendum have a more difficult petition signature threshold than Idaho, SB 1108 would raise it higher yet. In addition to satisfying the current statewide signature requirement, SB 1108 would add a requirement to run 18 additional petition drives to qualify in 18 legislative districts.
Not a single Democrat voted for the bill. Anti-tax and property rights conservatives weren’t with the state teachers union or Democrats on the referendums, but they have been making common cause with them in opposing this assault on a constitutional citizen check on big government.
Maybe it doesn’t matter in a state as red as Idaho. But dissing citizens doesn’t seem helpful to the GOP brand. Or to maintaining a grassroots base of energy for actually mobilizing neighbors and friends for winning elections.
I grew up in Arkansas, which just last November voted Republicans into majorities in both houses of the legislature for the first time since Reconstruction (the century before last). There have been some good bills passed, I trust, but Monday the full state senate will vote on an awful one: Senate Bill 821.
The legislation is designed to attack fraud in petitions, and it appears from reports that there were indeed forged signatures on petitions turned in for a couple of 2012 ballot initiatives. The problem is that no one has been charged with a crime. Instead, legislators are slapping a cumbersome and expensive new state registration and training program on future initiative and referendum petitions.
The frightening result of any transgression of the new Labyrinth of rules and regs embedded in SB 821 is that the perfectly valid petition signatures of registered Arkansas voters would be thrown out and discounted, right along with the bad. A simple technical mistake made by someone working for the campaign — petition circulator, manager, clerk, notary public — can deny voters a signature and, thus, a vote.
Will Arkansas Republicans throw this monkey wrench into Arkansas’s long, proud tradition of initiative and referendum? Will they allow this law to pass on their very first watch?
Republicans have the opportunity to prove to voters close to home that they are different — indeed, better — than Democrats, who haven’t always been very nice to small-d democracy, either. But in Ohio, Idaho and Arkansas (and elsewhere) Republican politicians seem bent on taking whacks at democracy . . . and, in the process, losing future elections.
Politics is a struggle over hearts and minds. The Republican Party now points its weaponry at the hearts and minds of its own supporters.
Targeting Multinationals, the OECD Launches New Scheme to Boost the Tax Burden on Business
Daniel J. Mitchell
I’ve been very critical of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Most recently, I criticized the Paris-based bureaucracy for making the rather remarkable assertion that a value-added tax would boost growth and employment.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The OECD has allied itself with the nutjobs from the so-called Occupy movement to push for bigger government and higher taxes.
The OECD, in an effort to promote redistributionism, has concocted absurdly misleading statistics claiming that there is more poverty in the US than in Greece, Hungary, Portugal, or Turkey.
The OECD is pushing a “Multilateral Convention” that is designed to become something akin to a World Tax Organization, with the power to persecute nations with free-market tax policy.
The OECD supports Obama’s class-warfare agenda, publishing documents endorsing “higher marginal tax rates” so that the so-called rich “contribute their fair share.”
Now the bureaucrats have concocted another scheme to increase the size and scope of government. The OECD just published a study on “Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” that seemingly is designed to lay the groundwork for a radical rewrite of business taxation.
In a new Tax & Budget Bulletin for Cato, I outline some of my concerns with this new “BEPS” initiative.
"…the BEPS report…calls for dramatic changes in corporate tax policy based on the presumption that governments are not seizing enough revenue from multinational companies. The OECD essentially argues that it is illegitimate for businesses to shift economic activity to jurisdictions that have more favorable tax laws. …The core accusation in the OECD report is that firms systematically—but legally—reduce their tax burdens by taking advantage of differences in national tax policies."
To elaborate, the BEPS scheme should be considered Part II of the OECD’s anti-tax competition project. Part I was the attack on so-called tax havens, which began back in the mid- to late-1990s.
The OECD justified that campaign by asserting there was a need to fight illegal tax evasion (conveniently overlooking, of course, the fact that nations should not have the right to impose their laws on what happens in other countries).
The BEPS initiative is remarkable because it is going after legal tax avoidance. Even though governments already have carte blanche to change business tax policy.
So what does the OECD want?
"…the OECD hints at its intended outcome when it says that the effort “will require some ‘out of the box’ thinking” and that business activity could be “identified through elements such as sales, workforce, payroll, and fixed assets.” That language suggests that the OECD intends to push global formula apportionment, which means that governments would have the power to reallocate corporate income regardless of where it is actually earned."
And what does this mean? Nothing good, unless you think governments should have more money and investment should be further penalized.
Formula apportionment is attractive to governments that have punitive tax regimes, and it would be a blow to nations with more sensible low-tax systems. …business income currently earned in tax-friendly countries, such as Ireland and the Netherlands, would be reclassified as French-source income or German-source income based on arbitrary calculations of company sales and other factors. …nations with high tax rates would likely gain revenue, while jurisdictions with pro-growth systems would be losers, including Ireland, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Estonia, Luxembourg, Singapore, and the Netherlands.
Since the United States is a high-tax nation for corporations, why should Americans care?
For several reasons, including the fact that it wouldn’t be a good idea to give politicians more revenue that will be used to increase the burden of government spending.
But most important, tax policy will get worse everywhere if tax competition is undermined.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc
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Posted by JR at 1:35 AM