The Biggest Waiver
“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” –James Madison
When it comes to ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi has a way of putting things that, in a roundabout and unintended way, sheds light on reality. For instance, before the law passed, she told us, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Then last week, she declared, “[W]hen we celebrate Independence Day we’ll also be observing health independence. … It captures the spirit of our Founders.”
Memo to Nancy: There’s a difference between dependence and independence.
Just in time for Independence Day, Barack Obama announced that he would use his despot-like executive power to delay for one year the employer mandate until 2015. That, of course, just happens to be after the 2014 elections, thereby sparing Democrats much inconvenience. So much for their month-old 2014 strategy to “own ObamaCare.”
The mandate requires that businesses with 50 or more employees provide government-approved health insurance for their employees or pay a penalty of $2,000 per employee. The requirement is already costing businesses and thereby creating unemployment. On the other hand, the individual mandate, which the Supreme Court upheld as a “tax,” remains in effect for 2014. The mandates are the heart of the law – the reason Obama can claim “universal coverage.” How can one work without the other?
In short, the law isn’t even fully in effect but has become exactly what one of its authors, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), labeled it earlier this year: “a huge train wreck.” Or as Chris Jacobs of the Heritage Foundation put it, “It is hard to understate the impact of today’s devastating admission from the Administration that, after three years, it still cannot implement Obamacare without strangling businesses in red tape and destroying American jobs.”
In related news, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the federal government infringed on the religious liberties of the Green family of Oklahoma by forcing their company, Hobby Lobby, to comply with ObamaCare’s contraception mandate. The Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), unmoved by such trivial things as the constitutionality of its actions, finalized the mandate the same day the ruling was handed down, compelling the Tenth Circuit to issue a restraining order preventing the government from enforcing its mandate against Hobby Lobby.
The HHS mandate, supposedly rewritten to provide broader religious exemptions, was finalized in almost the same form in which it was originally presented two years ago. There are currently 60 lawsuits that challenge the mandate, and 21 temporary halts to its enforcement have been granted.
None of this, however, stopped the American Library Association from willingly becoming a mouthpiece for ObamaCare, agreeing to use 17,000 public libraries as information centers and way stations for uninsured individuals to sign up for the program. This tragic conversion of America’s public library system into a political tool to promote an unpopular government program shatters the concept of an institution dedicated to the free and open dissemination of knowledge. Further demonstrating that their shamelessness knows no bounds, Team Obama also attempted to recruit several professional sports organizations as ObamaCare propagandists. The NFL has, wisely, refused to sully its brand.
And, finally, in case you forgot just how expensive ObamaCare will actually be, a recent analysis conducted by The Wall Street Journal of insurance coverage to be sold in the law’s new exchanges revealed that few low-rate policies currently available for healthy people will still be available once the law is fully implemented, thus forcing individuals to pay more for their health insurance.
It would seem Nancy Pelosi’s idea of celebrating ObamaCare dependency couldn’t be more wrong.
This Week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ Award
“[N]ow we the people must … live up to the words of that Declaration of Independence, and secure liberty and opportunity for our own children, and for future generations.” –Barack Obama
As much as Obama resembles George III, he might be more careful what he wishes for.
By way of update on our 2013 Independence Day Campaign, though we’re still counting checks, we currently stand about $39,000 short of our goal. Please, if you’re able, help us get over the top.
Government and Politics
News From the Swamp: Tax Reform?
“The Senate’s two main tax writers, Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Orrin Hatch, announced the principle that they are going to rewrite the tax code from scratch and that the supporters of every tax preference will have to justify its continuation,” reports The Wall Street Journal. In many ways that should be welcome news, but at the same time we aren’t exactly expecting miracles to come out of the Senate any time soon. Besides, since Barack Obama’s massive tax hike in January, he’s done nothing but clamor for even higher taxes.
In order to maintain current revenue, the two senators explained in a letter, “Every $2 trillion of individual tax expenditures that are added back to the blank slate would, on average, raise each of the seven individual income tax brackets by between 1.3 and 2.2 percentage points from what they would be under the blank slate. Likewise, every $200 billion of corporate tax expenditures that are added back to the blank slate would, on average, raise the top corporate income tax rate by 1.5 percentage points from what they would be under the blank slate.”
We favor a simplified system chiefly because Washington controls us most through the tax code, favoring some groups and punishing others, all while snatching the first fruits of our labor. Liberty requires the least possible interference through taxation and the ensuing redistribution of wealth. Indeed, that issue was one of the main drivers behind our forefathers winning our independence from Britain.
Speaking of tax punishment, Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversaw much of the political targeting of Tea Party and Patriot groups, remains on paid administrative leave. Yet the House Oversight Committee decided that she waived her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when she issued a self-serving statement before Congress and then refused to answer questions. Lerner has since responded through her lawyer by demanding immunity as a condition for her testimony. However, whether she again refuses to testify, simply doesn’t show up or is granted immunity, it seems that the Oversight Committee is putting together much of the background of the IRS’s practices without her.
Perhaps the IRS scandal may prompt the Senate to do something meaningful on tax reform. Surely, there can’t be any objective citizen who thinks that fewer and less powerful Lois Lerners would be a bad thing.
New and Notable Legislation
The stopgap measure to hold student loan interest rates at an artificial 3.4 percent expired July 1, effectively doubling the borrowing rate overnight. Senate Republicans propose to link rates to financial market benchmarks just as they were in “the old days,” but Democrats are wary of such free market ideas. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office refused to be any part of attempts to “reduce the deficit on the backs of students and middle-class families.” He’s perfectly content, however, with raising the deficit on their backs. The federal government essentially nationalized the student loan industry by way of a provision within ObamaCare, and the cost of tuition has continued its dramatic rise. Coincidence? We think not. But the doubled interest rates, coupled with a dismal job market, offer a bleak future for many college attendees, some of whom may derive greater benefit from vocational training than from taking on years of crushing college debt in pursuit of an often dubious college degree.
“President Obama had some unsolicited advice for Africans on Sunday: Be wary of foreign powers – including the United States. So this is what our $100 million presidential junket is buying us? In the most mind-boggling statement yet on his latest trip abroad, America’s chief spokesman and the leader of the free world warned the African continent against assuming ‘folks come here and they’re automatically benefiting Africans. And that includes the United States. Ask questions in terms of what we do.’ It was as patronizing to Africans, who know all about Western aid rackets and do-gooder carpetbaggers, as it was insulting to Americans. What kind of president goes overseas to warn the locals about the people who elected him? Yet, that was pretty much the message he delivered in Capetown, South Africa, in the same week the nation that has done more to help more people in more countries all over the world celebrates its 237th birthday. … Only a leader with deep misgivings about America’s role in the world – evidenced in everything from his own apology tours to the first lady’s admission that she wasn’t proud of America until her husband won the presidential nomination – would say such a thing, anywhere.” –Investor’s Business Daily
From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File
While on his $100 million trip to Africa, Barack Obama visited the infamous “Door of No Return” at Gorée Island in Senegal. It was a door through which countless Africans boarded ships in chains, leaving their land bound for slavery in the New World. A visit to such a place would indeed be moving, no matter what one’s heritage, as slavery is an egregious affront to Liberty and the dignity of Man.
But the door wasn’t quite what Obama said it was. Shocking, we know. In fact, the door was used not for slaves but for garbage. According to Ralph Austen, a professor at the University of Chicago who has researched the subject, “There are literally no historians who believe the Slave House is what they’re claiming it to be, or that believe Gorée was statistically significant in terms of the slave trade.”
Well, other than that, Obama’s story was accurate.
This Week’s ‘Braying Jenny’ Award
“There are some prison elements to [being first lady]. But it’s a really nice prison. You can’t complain, but there is [sic] definitely elements that are confining.” –Michelle Obama
We can’t wait for her to be released on parole.
Jobs Report for June
On the surface, there was some good news in June’s jobs report, with 195,000 jobs created. But the headline unemployment rate remained at 7.6 percent, while the U-6 rate – a more complete measure that includes those who have given up looking for work – jumped significantly from 13.8 percent to 14.3 percent.
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey put it in perspective: “Even if the jobs [numbers] weren’t ‘weak,’ it’s still a stagnation result. The American economy needs to add 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. At this pace, it would take over 22 months just to make up for the million people who joined the discouraged-worker ranks over just the past year. It would take more than seven months just to make up for the number of people who moved into the involuntary part-time ranks this month alone. We’re still mired in the Great Stagnation, and will be until we start getting consistent job-creation reports at the 300K level.”
Income Redistribution: Fed Pumping Could Continue
It looks like the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing (QE) program may enjoy more lives than a very old cat. Already in its fourth iteration, QE – the Fed’s alleged attempt to help the economy recover by increasing the money supply – has printed more than $2 trillion. Evidence of success, however, is neither pervasive nor persuasive. The news appeared to be good when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted in June that a wind-down of the program might be in sight. Unfortunately, not all is as it appears.
According to the Washington Examiner, several Federal Reserve officials “reaffirmed … that the central bank does not want to take away monetary stimulus too soon, counter to the impressions left by Chairman Ben Bernanke’s press conference.” Or, as Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker put it, the Fed “is not only leaving the punch bowl in place, we’re continuing to spike the punch.” This is hardly comforting given that U.S. monetary policy is already drunk on spending, and these inflationary tactics promise stimulus but fail to deliver. Even Lacker noted he’s begun “feeling an affinity for Charlie Brown, trying time after time to kick the football that Lucy kindly offers to hold for him, only to yank it away.” Of course, as many without free access to treasury printing presses can easily tell you, inflating the money supply without a concomitant increase in demand is hardly a recipe for recovery. Unfortunately, it seems Bernanke is “banking” that maybe, just maybe, this time Lucy won’t yank the ball. We’re not holding our breath.
Around the Nation: Not Out of the Woods Yet
If you read the headlines last week, you would think that happy days are here again as the net worth of American households finally exceeded the previous peak we reached in 2007, before that nasty recession kicked in. The credit for this success was generally extended to rebounding home prices and a surging stock market, both of which accrued to the plus side of the balance sheet for many Americans who still had homes and investments.
Yet while the headlines presented the good news, buried in the final paragraphs of most of the accompanying stories was a caveat: The $70.35 trillion net worth of 2013 is worth less in real terms than the previous record of $68.1 trillion set six years ago. Factoring in inflation (see above on Quantitative Easing) and the population increase since then, the news isn’t nearly so good. In truth, we’ve recovered only 62 percent of our losses, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
To be fair, there are families who thrived during the past half-decade, but there are millions more who lost a great deal – jobs, savings, investments and now health insurance. The only entity that’s consistently doing better is the federal government, which shows no signs of slowing down its expansion despite incurring trillions in debt. Once that red ink is taken into account, argues American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Hassett, per capita net worth for Americans is only about one-third of what it was in 2007. It seems we may not be through with the “Great Recession” anytime soon.
NSA Spies on Allies, Too
Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which reported the first leaks about the NSA’s phone and email data collection programs last month, released more information this week about NSA activities. The Guardian reports, “US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as ‘targets’. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.”
Our European allies at least feigned outrage at the revelation that their beloved Barack Obama isn’t living up to expectations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned, “Unacceptable, it can’t be tolerated.” But President Snoop brushed aside their concerns, explaining, “They’re seeking additional insight beyond what’s available in open sources.” Obama added that, really, it’s all about him anyway: “I guarantee you that in European capitals there are people who are interested, if not what I had for breakfast, then at least what my talking points might be, should I end up meeting with their leaders.”
Meanwhile, in a rare comment on current events, former President George W. Bush weighed in on Edward Snowden, saying, “I know he damaged the country and the Obama administration will deal with it. I think he damaged the security of the country.”
Perhaps. But on a final note, the feds are compiling a database of your postal mail, too.
Editorial Exegesis – Egypt
“The latest military coup in Egypt stops a slide into one abyss but is hardly a guarantee that it will avoid a future one. A better future will depend on the wisdom of the kind of generals who have not proven to be very wise in the past. The generals led by chief of the armed forces Abdul Fatah al-Sisi deposed President Mohammed Morsi, the man from the Muslim Brotherhood who was elected only a year ago. His election was the best feature of his rule, which had descended into incompetence and creeping authoritarianism. Mr. Morsi won the election narrowly over a Mubarak-era political leftover, but he soon reinforced fears that the Brotherhood would use its new power to build an Islamist dictatorship. He tried to claim near-absolute powers by decree to force through a draft constitution written by Islamists and boycotted by everyone else. The result was political polarization, with the opposition and military uniting against the Brotherhood supporters who were Mr. Morsi’s last defenders. The millions of Egyptians who took to the streets were also protesting chronic gas and food shortages and a sinking economy. The uprising shows that the worst fate for Islamists can be to take power and thus be accountable for results.” –The Wall Street Journal
Department of Military Readiness: More Obama Sequester Hypocrisy
During his $100 million junket to Africa, Barack Obama pledged $7 billion to fight power outages in sub-Saharan Africa. These American taxpayer funds for Power Africa will be distributed over the next five years. No doubt, as Obama perceptively noted, electricity is “fundamental” to much of modern life. But while Obama can spend millions to promise billions for other nations, there are significant military cuts here at home.
The Air Force slashed flying hours by a third this summer, making it harder for pilots to gain the experience needed to be at the ready. It’s probably too quick to blame the cuts for a recent surge in aircraft crashes, but Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage says, “Clearly, [the Obama sequester] exacerbates our challenge of safe, effective operations. Any time you reduce the amount of flying time that these youngsters get, that reduces their proficiency; you run a higher level of risk.”
But while the Air Force and other branches may be short of critical training for war fighters, there is no shortage of sex-assault and other sensitivity training seminars.
On a far less serious but more symbolic level, the Associated Press reports on more Obama sequester cuts: “Independence Day celebrations [were] canceled at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and at the Army’s Fort Bragg, both in North Carolina. The annual July Fourth celebration also [was] scrapped at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga.” In fact, even when a private company offered to do the show at Camp Lejeune for free Obama’s government refused.
Combined with the cancellation of flyovers at academy graduations, military air shows for the public and other such programs, these cancellations are designed not just to make the Obama sequester as painful as possible but also to specifically demoralize our fighting forces. After all, why would Obama want to celebrate Liberty?
Second Amendment: Free Magazines and a Freed Teenager
Two interesting developments arose from stories on opposite sides of the country last week. In the waning days before Colorado’s new restrictive gun laws took effect on July 1, gun parts manufacturer Magpul took to the skies as part of an event billed “A Farewell to Arms.” Some 1,500 lucky attendees received a free 30-round AR-platform magazine from Magpul, which previously announced they are moving out of Colorado and taking hundreds of jobs with them in the wake of the laws’ passage.
The 30-round magazines are significant because new laws prohibit the sale of magazines holding more than 15 rounds; however, possession of larger magazines is legal provided they were acquired before the deadline. Radio personality Dana Loesch did the “airlift” of the free magazines, which Magpul also sold at the event for latecomers.
The law also factors into our next story, in which a West Virginia eighth grader learned he is to be spared criminal charges stemming from his refusal to change a T-shirt bearing a pro-gun message. The boy faced a year in prison for “obstructing an officer,” which was one of two charges filed against him after the April incident. While the shirt did not violate the dress code of his Logan County School District, a teacher and principal both asked him to change it or turn it inside-out; once he refused, the police were called.
The other charge lodged against the boy was one of “disrupting the educational process.” But we’ve learned too much about how far America’s schools – even those in rural areas thought of as the backbone of the country – have abandoned the “educational process” in favor of PC indoctrination. Here’s hoping the punishment applied in the parents’ upcoming civil suit will deliver a good lesson to the district.
Faith and Family: A Texas-Sized Abortion Debate
In the wake of heinous revelations about abortionist Kermit Gosnell and his House of Horrors, Texas is leading an effort to enact stronger late-term abortion restrictions. Last week state lawmakers came within minutes of passing sweeping legislation that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. The effort was foiled, however, by abortion activists including Democrat Senator Wendy Davis, who orchestrated an 11-hour filibuster and is being hailed on the Left for her “heroic” act. She even accused Republicans of using abortion to “boost their own political careers” – which happens to be exactly what she’s doing.
State senators had until midnight June 26 to vote on the proposal. While they did eventually pass the measure with a 19-10 vote, it wasn’t approved until 12:03 a.m. – three minutes past deadline. And as National Review’s Charmaine Yoest explains, you can blame an unruly mob for the delay: “Because abortion activists had succeeded in creating so much chaos in the chamber, the Senate was unable to maintain an orderly process. The filibuster actually ended at 10:30, leaving an hour and a half in the legislative session to consider the bill. But mob rule took over with the protestors in the galleries overwhelming the number of police there to keep order.”
These are the same mobsters who chanted “Hail Satan!” (they are doing his work) as pro-lifers sang the hymn “Amazing Grace.” And some lawmakers are being told, “I hope you’re raped,” “I hope your daughter’s raped” and “I hope your family members are raped.” It’s a pathetic but predictable display of barbarism coming from those on the Left who have no respect for the unborn or for civilized behavior.
Democrats might have won a battle, but they haven’t won the war. Texas is still poised to pass legislation restricting abortions. Republican Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back to take part in a 30-day special session which began Monday, and they’re moving quickly – the House Committee approved late-term abortion restrictions on Wednesday that will be voted on in the full House next week. We commend those Texas legislators for not giving up, and for fighting the good fight.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working hard to ensure that Americans have safe food to eat. Evidently, that includes not only endeavors from food stamps to stinkbug research, but also others that seek to let us know that the government “cares.” The latest case is that of a children’s magician in Missouri, who received a letter from the USDA requiring him to develop an emergency evacuation plan. For his rabbit. “I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA,” he said, “telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc.,” and “what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.”
Much to the consternation of the illusionists in Washington, however, a bureaucratic magic wand is rarely enough to do the trick. But at least the magician isn’t mandated to provide his rabbit with health insurance.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team