Friday, April 24, 2015
What Today's American Politics Tells Us
By Alan Caruba
There is something very disquieting occurring in American politics today. Most dramatically, the Democratic Party is offering a candidate who is a moral cesspool filled with lies and a history of behavior that would render anyone unthinkable for the highest office in the land. Something is very wrong when Hillary Clinton is, at this point, the only candidate for President the Democrats will be able to vote for and, worse, an estimated 47% of them will vote for her.
What we are witnessing is a Democratic Party that has been debauched by decades of socialism, an economic and political system that has failed everywhere it was implemented.
By contrast, what is being largely overlooked is the wealth of political talent—Rubio, Walker, Paul, et al---that the Republican Party has to offer as an alternative. Instead of obsessing over the different aspects of its candidates, we should be celebrating the fact that voters will be able to choose someone of real merit for whom to vote.
While the brain-dead media talks about the Republican candidates, seizing on every small element of the policies they are individually offering for consideration, the contrast with Hillary Clinton widens into a gap as large as the Grand Canyon. Her campaign thus far has been an exhibition of media manipulation. She talks of “income inequality” as if it has not existed from the dawn of time and is based on the socialist utopia of everyone being equally poverty-stricken. Who wants to live in a nation where you cannot become wealthy if you’re willing to take the risks and work hard to achieve it?
It is this gap between those concerned with the very real threats to our nation’s security and welfare that lies at the heart of the months ahead in the long political campaigns. We can, at the very least, give thanks that President Obama cannot run again. We must, however anticipate that he will do everything in his power to initiate or expand policies that do not bode well for the nation.
Why anyone would vote for a party that foisted ObamaCare on us, driving up the costs of healthcare though numerous taxes and impacting the healthcare industry in ways that have already caused many physicians to seek retirement or be forced to process their patients as rapidly as possible to pay their bills? The fact that the Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz is calling for the repeal of ObamaCare is reason enough to give him serious consideration.
Similarly, conservatives resist amnesty programs that would load the voting rolls with those who entered illegally and now, because they’ve been here for several years, we are supposed to consider them comparable to those who did so legally. Republican candidates who resist this understand that a nation with no real citizenship standards and borders that do not close off easy access rapidly ceases to be a nation. At the same time, these illegals are competing for jobs with those who are legal by birth and naturalization.
It’s a wonder to me that this nation is $18 trillion in debt, has over ninety million unemployed, and the nation continues to “redistribute” money from those who are working to those who are not. These programs are a huge magnet for the illegals, but it is the states that must struggle to fund their educational systems and Medicaid. Meanwhile our infrastructure goes old and in need of repair.
Beyond our shores, thanks to the foreign policies of the President, the United States is no longer the leader of the free world. As the Middle East slips into anarchy Obama wants nothing more than to give Iran the right to have its own nuclear weapons with which to pursue its hegemony of the region. Lift sanctions? Why would we want Iran to have more money to fund the terrorism that it uses to expand its influence? Closer to home, White House efforts to accept Cuba ignores its dictatorship, its record of providing weapons to our enemies, and years of hostility.
This represents a deliberate effort to undermine and weaken the moral principles on which our nation has been founded and risen to leadership in the past. Who is more widely criticized in our society than the evangelicals who have high moral standards and the Tea Party movement that is seeking to slow the obscene growth of the federal government?
We need to worry about a nation where marijuana is legalized and thus able to affects the mental capabilities of those who have used it since its heyday in the 1960s? Where is the need to reexamine the moral issues involved in the murder of babies in the womb? From 1973 through 2011, there were nearly 53 million legal abortions nationwide. In 2011, approximately 1.06 million abortions took place.
In March I noted that “More than a quarter of births to women of childbearing age—defined here as 15 to 44 years old—in the past five years were cohabiting couples, the highest on record and nearly double the rate from a decade earlier, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2011 to 2013.”
“And here’s a statistic that really caught my attention: “Cohabiting parents now account for a clear majority—59%--of all births outside marriage, according to estimates by Sally Curtin, a CDC demographer. In all, 40% of the 3.93 million births in 2013 were to unmarried women.” Moreover, “It is mostly white and Hispanic couples who are driving the trend, not black couples, experts say.”
This speaks to the breakdown of the institution that is most essential for a healthy, successful society, the dissolution or downgrading of marriage and the births that occur outside of it.
American politics—always a national debate on where we are and where we’re going, is critical to the future. Right now America is at risk of becoming a place where our founding morals, values, and traditions are being cast aside.
Your vote was never more important.
Here Is How California's Obamacare Exchange Hid Mismanagement and Incompetence
Aiden Hill’s introduction to the secretive culture at Covered California came in his first days on the job. He had just been hired to head up the agency’s $120 million call center effort when he emailed a superior April 18, 2013, and got a text message in reply:
"Please refrain from writing a lot of draft contract language in government email … And don’t clarify via email … No email"
Later, concerned about contractor performance, Hill conducted an Internet search for “best practices” information to forward a superior. Afterward he got this text:
"Aiden—Please stop using government email for your searches"
Hill saw the text messages as a deliberate effort to avoid a paper trail subject to public disclosure. And he says some higher-ups grew increasingly upset by his efforts to flag alleged incompetence and waste.
“They stuck their head in the sand and pretended the contractors could fix things by the launch date, which they couldn’t and didn’t,” says a former Covered California call center manager who worked under Hill and asked not to be named to protect his status at a different state job. “It was always say that everything was fine and we’re going to make it through the process.”
The officials allege it was conflicts of interest that led some executives to tolerate “egregious taxpayer waste.”
“None of us wants to see … pockets lined of contractors that didn’t do what they were supposed to do but got paid every dime,” says a third Covered California official who still works at the agency.
An Associated Press report in 2013 found that millions in no-bid Covered California contracts went to firms with professional ties to agency Executive Director Peter Lee. At the time, a spokesman told AP that Covered California “was under pressure to move fast” to meet tight federal deadlines and “needed specialized skills.”
Covered California would not answer our questions about potential conflicts of interest.
AP also found Covered California uniquely positioned to keep its spending details secret—“the most restrictive” among the 16 state exchanges with “authority to conceal spending on contractors performing most of its functions … potentially shielding the public from seeing how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent.”
After Hill escalated his concerns about contractors, Covered California abruptly terminated his contract in August 2013. He left determined to expose the dysfunction, and did so during an unusual presentation at a public board meeting.
“I’m here to tell the board and the public that Covered California executives have been engaging in a cover up,” declared Hill at the Feb. 20, 2014, meeting, speaking from the audience during a question-and-answer period.
“They knew back in August of 2013 that there were serious readiness issues with Covered California. … When I and others persisted in challenging these contractor performance issues, our own contracts were prematurely terminated and we were threatened with legal action if we spoke out.”
After that public display, Covered California hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations that management “engaged in a cover-up” and “knowingly allowed two contractors to engage in waste, fraud and abuse.”
The firm conducted 45 interviews with 25 witnesses. Last December, Covered California notified Hill that the independent probe concluded “the evidence did not support” any of his claims.
Hill calls the inquiry a sham and says investigators failed to interview key witnesses he suggested. Covered California declined to answer our questions on this topic, or any other.
Covered California: A Sales Organization
Kevin Knauss is a certified Covered California insurance agent and Affordable Care Act supporter. In spring of 2013, he says he was “jazzed” about the promise of Obamacare and began blogging “happy stuff.”
Since then, he has seen many success stories. One is a San Francisco graduate student with AIDS who had trouble getting insured until Obamacare. In December 2013, he not only was able to get a policy on the Covered California exchange, but he also got a tax dollar subsidy to help buy it. The very first week the policy took effect, he ended up with a two-week emergency hospital stay.
“He still had to pay the deductible, but he would have ended up owing a lot more money without insurance,” says Knauss. “And San Francisco General Hospital got paid.”
But Knauss has also seen a flip side. He’s been shocked by the amount of time he’s spent helping weary Covered California consumers. “Early on, it wasn’t unusual to spend four hours during the day on hold with Covered California just trying to resolve minor issues,” he says.
Today, there’s less hold time but daily examples of confusion. “I’ve got one family … their Covered California account shows three different effective dates.” In another case, “I found out a woman’s plan had been terminated, but they couldn’t tell me why.”
Knauss’ once-cheerful blog has turned into a consumer chronicle of Covered California’s tribulations. He says the agency is masking its shortfalls because it is, in essence, a sales organization.
“I know their enrollment numbers aren’t right. They’re marketing themselves [to] generate fees.”
To some degree, state health insurance exchanges are forced to market themselves. After starting up using over a billion federal tax dollars, the law requires them to be self-supporting this year. To do so, Covered California collects commissions.
The agency wouldn’t answer questions on this topic, but previously indicated it planned to charge a 3 percent fee on premiums in 2014 and later hoped to reduce that to 2 percent. Because too few people enrolled, published reports say Covered California could not reduce its 2015 fee, and maintained it at $13.95 per person each month.
“I didn’t think it would turn into as much of a marketing machine and corporate entity. I thought there would be more transparency,” says Knauss.
Marketing Covered California can be tricky considering formidable obstacles are still dragging it down.
Design flaws involving the $454 million computer system are responsible for giant backlogs, misinformation and poor interface with California’s version of Medicaid coverage for the poor.
Computer glitches forced a delay in adult family dental plans and caused a confounding flurry of mail. One family reportedly received 18 notices in one day; 14 said they were covered and four said they were not. Consumer advocates found a customer who got 40 notices in less than a month.
And when tax season rolled around, 100,000 customers got inaccurate tax forms—or none at all. That mirrored similar problems at HealthCare.gov, which sent 800,000 incorrect tax statements.
Covered California wouldn’t answer our questions about various computer snafus. A spokesman previously told reporters, “We are dealing with a multitude of information that is going back and forth. … There can be discrepancies between what’s on our record and what is on the health plans’ records.”
The Big Picture
We asked Covered California to describe its accomplished goals, but the agency declined to do so. In a recent press release, the agency said that 800,000 households received federal subsidies last year to make health care more affordable. Subsidies averaged $436 per month.
“The assistance provided through the Affordable Care Act helped bring health coverage within reach for more than a million people, and it changed lives across the state,” Executive Director Lee said in a statement.
There’s little doubt that Covered California has improved circumstances for many formerly uninsured, like the graduate student with AIDS. But few predicted that would come at the expense of so many others now paying more for fewer choices and less coverage.
“In my case, it’s not looking good,” says Hill, the former Covered California project manager. “While my coverage went down [due to Obamacare], my premium went up—by 71 percent,” he says. “So much for competition.”
More rate increases are ahead. A recent study found the vast majority of Covered California customers—84 percent—face premium hikes this year.
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Posted by JR at 12:43 AM