It has been increasingly obvious that the implementation of Obamacare has been a disaster and a ‘train wreck’, as characterized by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Rate increases, transparency issues, and abuses of authority have all now been in some way either a part of or a major concern for the implementation. Taxpayers, consumers, and businesses are all feeling the squeeze when it comes to the regulatory burden and additional costs associated with the law. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been involved in multiple efforts to fight against Obamacare and this week, led by Americans for Tax Reform, TPA was proud to sign a letter with other like-minded organizations to support both H.R. 2809, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); and S. 1490, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). These bills would “delay the upcoming harmful provisions of Obamacare, and would suspend all of Obamacare’s costly tax increases on families and small employers.” The fact of the matter is that President Obama and his Administration have selectively enforced the law thus far, announced targeted delays to businesses, and granted special exemptions to certain interests. Obamacare should be delayed in full so that Americans don’t see their taxes raised; individuals aren’t forced to buy insurance they can’t afford; and subsidies are not blindly provided without proper means of verification.
To read the full letter, click 'read more' below
The advancement and access to broadband is an important issue that TPA has been following since the federal and many local and state governments have attempted to get involved with creating broadband networks with taxpayer dollars. There is no doubt that the need for expanded broadband access is real and should be addressed. The continuing problem is that governments at all levels take it upon themselves (with taxpayer dollars) to do the work that the private sector is already doing with private funding. And, the private sector is far more successful than anything the federal, state, or local governments are attempting. TPA has highlighted the Chattanooga EPB as the poster child for failed taxpayer funded networks (read previous blog posting, “Is EPB's gig service a hoax?” here). The latest example of the public sector making an ill-conceived decision to use public resources and funds to expand broadband comes from the city of Baltimore, Maryland. As reported by the Baltimore Business Journal, “The city is hiring a broadband Internet consultant that would help the city develop a plan for expanding Internet service provider options for businesses and residents.” The effort will start with an initial study provided by the consultants, which will cost Baltimore taxpayers more than $150,000.
The hot summer in DC is coming to a close, but the action in Congress will soon heat up as lawmakers will return in less than a month and with issues ranging from the budget, to Obamacare there’s plenty on the agenda. The President, in a pattern we have seen again and again, has decided to attempt to bypass Capitol Hill again as he seeks a new goal of providing high-speed Internet for nearly all schools across the country over the next five years through his ConnectEd program. According to The Washington Post, this is “an ambitious plan to expand high-speed Internet access in schools that would allow students to use digital notebooks and teachers to customize lessons like never before.” The plan is ambitious and down right sneaky because President Obama wants to circumvent congressional approval for the new tax and pass the tax directly through the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The cost of this program is estimated at upwards of $6 billion dollars and the mechanism used to pay for it: raising fees of mobile phone users. The FCC is supposed to be an ‘independent’ agency, but is stacked with Obama appointees including incoming Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wireless users already pay an average of 17 percent in taxes for their wireless (see study here).
EPA building (Washington, D.C.)
One of the key hallmarks of the Obama Administration is their perpetual use of the regulatory process as a means to accomplish goals that cannot be done within the scope of the normal way of passing legislation through Congress. A key element is the direction and power the President gives to his executive branch agencies to carry out these harmful regulatory ‘recommendations’. The latest example is the so-called ‘social cost of carbon’ being used by the Obama Administration as a means to yet again impose more costs on taxpayers and consumers. According to Reason, the social cost of carbon refers to “the economic and ecological damage caused each time we add a ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.” The hitch is that is the figures were put together in 2010 by the White House Interagency Working Group using questionable computer models and outdated information with which projections were being based upon to reach a cost assessment. The original estimation by the group and agreed upon by the Administration was recently revised upwards setting off a chain reaction that has put this issue at the forefront in Congress as many members view this as just another way to burden businesses, consumers, and taxpayers with needless and counterproductive regulations.
The Obamacare 'nightmare' (courtesy Joint Economic Committee)
With much of Washington D.C. on vacation this month, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will remind everybody each week during the congressional recess about the amount of unfinished business politicians still have waiting for them when they return to work. This first edition of the “Recess Watch” focuses on the President’s Health Care law, also known as Obamacare. The President arrives in Martha’s Vineyard on August 10 for an eight-day vacation while Americans everywhere continue to feel the impact of the train wreck implementation of his signature domestic legislation. There has been great concern among many Americans on all sides of the table about the impact the law is having and will have once fully functional. These concerns have manifested themselves into real action taken by stakeholders including insurance companies having tovraise rates due to the increasing costs of Obamacare, employers dropping coverage because they can’t afford it, entities who once supported the bill looking for ways out seeing how it would dramatically change the existing coverage they currently enjoy. Sadly, the group most impacted by the law are average Americans who will be mandated starting in 2014 to carry some form of approved insurance or else face a massive tax (or penalty, or fee depending on who is interpreting the language). As expected, TPA has been vehemently opposed to Obamacare and critical of the way in which the law has been selectively applied, or in some cases not applied, to groups that clearly have garnered favor and special treatment from the Obama Administration throughout his Presidency. Some of the most blatant “waivers” have come in the form of a “blanket exclusion.” A recent exclusion that received a great deal of publicity is the one made with Capitol Hill staff (on both sides) to ensure that their coverage can be retained and won’t face any change as the enrollment for exchanges begins this October. However, the most troubling “selective” treatment came just a few weeks ago on July 4th weekend when it was quietly announced that the employer mandate in Obamacare would be “delayed” giving businesses a temporary reprieve from a law that they long feared would negatively impact their businesses. There are two problems with this and it is important to identify each one in order to clearly understand why this legislation continues to be destructive and loaded with inconsistencies and inefficiencies.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance has been well aware of the promises Candidate Obama made while on the campaign trail in 2008, and then again in 2012 as an incumbent fighting for reelection. The most frequent commitments made by President Obama and his administration were to fix the economy he “inherited” and yet here we are more than four years removed from the previous administration and all President Obama has to show for it is continued high unemployment, less people in the workforce, gas prices climbing, a national debt nearly doubled, and a public that clearly disapproves of the way he has handled the economy.Those of you who thought President Obama would be “focused like a laser” on the economic problems facing millions of Americans have been continuously fooled as this President has not only lacked a focus on the economic troubles many are dealing with, but has been implementing policies that have been a hindrance to the economic recovery. Many individuals have been patiently awaiting better economic times since President Obama said “give it to me,” in 2009 when referring to the fact that he was responsible for the economy. Whether it’s Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, ‘Sue and Settle’, delaying Keystone XL, or tax increases, there can be no denying that the economic recovery is being held hostage by the very regulatory nightmares this administration has designed, championed, and ultimately implemented throughout the course of the last four years. Though this may seem like doom and gloom, there is a silver lining. Last week President Obama vowed to get back to business and do what he felt was needed to get this economy back on the right track. What is this momentous economic solution to help get the recovery moving? The one thing President Obama actually can argue he is good at, giving a speech!
The history of Obamacare so far has been a very rocky road with very little hope of stabilizing. The crafting of the legislation, the passage of the bill, and the Supreme Court challenge, and now the costly rollout and implementation have been marked by hurdle after hurdle and sometimes from very unlikely source. The latest news out of the nation’s capital regarding Obamacare is word that members of Congress are allegedly seeking bipartisan deal that would allow themselves and their staff to be “exempted” from that law. According to Politico, “Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.” While many would doubt this on its face, the fact is that there have been many instances of “waivers” being granted to particular industries when it came to who would have to follow the rules as outlined in the 1,000-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
President Obama released his long awaited budget today (access all budget documents here). Two months overdue and dead on arrival to a dysfunctional and divided Congress, the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget is nothing more than a wish list of things that will never happen. It is important to look through the budget and see where the President’s priorities are. The budget proposes to spend $3.78 trillion in FY 2014. That is $10.3 billion per day, $431 million per hour and $7.2 million per minute. There are two fundamental problems with the budget, there is too much revenue asked for and not enough spending cuts. Even though the budget calls for $24 billion in specific spending cuts, Defense spending alone will be $52 billion above the budget cap for next year saving some programs that should be eliminated such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The President’s budget also wants to raise more revenue via tax increases on the wealthy and a new program to offer preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through higher tobacco taxes.
At midnight tonight (March 1), the sequestration ($85 billion in automatic spending cuts) officially kicks in. The amount of misinformation surrounding President Obama’s the sky-is-falling rhetoric when describing the sequester’s spending cuts is getting out of hand. In fact, it’s now so far removed from reality that the administration has started lamenting supposed cuts to a government agency that no longer exists. Back in September 2012, Congress requested that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) send a detailed report detailing all of the government programs and agencies that would be affected if the sequestration cuts were to occur. Just this week, Reason announced it had discovered a problem with the report. Specifically, “One of the cuts it warns against would affect an agency that no longer exists--and didn't exist when the OMB sent its report to congress.” Oops! The Reason post goes on to detail the government’s significant error: “The first line item on page 121…says that under sequestration the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) would lose $2 million of its $20 million budget. While that’s slightly more than 8.2 percent (rounding error or scare tactic?), the bigger problem is that the NDIC shuttered its doors on June 15, 2012--three months before the OMB issued its report to Congress.” If you need more proof, Reason’s site even includes a screenshot of the government’s page.
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With the fiscal cliff deadline looming, there is no escaping the monetary implications, including massive tax increases and over-due spending cuts. The fiscal cliff is also a symptom of a tremendous breakdown in political leadership in Washington, D.C. Americans are frustrated, and rightfully so, with not only the fiscal consequences of our current condition but also that Congress and the President have seemingly waited until the very last minute to do their jobs. Unlike Super storm Sandy and the snow/ice storms that swept across the country recently, the Fiscal Cliff is man made and Congress and the President willingly put the country in this predicament. Some amount of dysfunction has always been present in our nation’s capital, but the last two years has seen an unprecedented amount of finger pointing and 11th hour legislating that seems to always leave taxpayers as the losers.