Saturday, March 27, 2010

What you don't know, and neither does your Congresscritter

Yes the vim, vigor and vituperation surrounding the Health Care Bill has been astounding!  Well, mostly on the against side of things, on the for side it has been the usual platitudes of 'how much this needs to be done' and 'how good it is' and 'you will find out what is in it after it is passed'.  Unfortunately that latter is paraphrased from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and if that had been spoken by, say, some Fifth Earl West San Francisco it would sound like an aristocrat explaining that the workings of government are just too complex for the 'little people' to understand.

Companies are pretty fast off the mark in 'understanding' things as their bottom line is something they care about, so they adjust the fastest to try and absorb the hits from changes in the tax code so as to properly structure their companies as to make a profit.  Any profit.  Thus the following are now taking charges to their bottom line this year to try and stay ahead of the curve:

1) Caterpillar Inc. - $100 million (Source: WSJ 25 MAR 2010)

2) Deere (of John Deere) - $150 million (Source: CNBC 25 MAR 2010)

3) AT&T - $1 billion (Source: Yahoo News 26 MAR 2010 article by Barbara Ortutay)

4) AK Steel (mentioned in the Yahoo News article above)

5) Valero Energy (ibid.)

6) 3M Co. - $85 - $90 million (ibid.)

That Yahoo News article is just full of fun stuff like this passage:

Under the 2003 Medicare prescription drug program, companies that provide prescription drug benefits for retirees have been able to receive subsidies covering 28 percent of eligible costs. But they could deduct the entire amount they spent on these drug benefits — including the subsidies — from their taxable income.

The new law allows companies to only deduct the 72 percent they spent.

AT&T also said Friday that it is looking into changing the health care benefits it offers because of the new law. Analysts say retirees could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers as a result of the overhaul.

Changes to benefits are unlikely to take effect immediately. Rather, the issue would most likely come up as part of contract negotiations between the company and unions representing its employees and retirees. AT&T is the largest private employer of union workers in the U.S.

Hey!  I thought the 2003 Medicare Bill was too big for a Nation at war, that we couldn't afford it, and that the shift to private plans, being something the government could allow also means the government could fool with it in the future.

Which it has done.

And if you like your health care plan and are getting it from an employer?  Its either changing, benefits are being reduced or just going away... so forget about keeping it.  That promise was a lie as anyone who looks at the system could tell you when you start doing wholesale changes to mandates and such.

Now a bit more for the above on folks losing benefits due to this bill from AP via Google 26 MAR 2010 in an article by John Funk:

The health care law signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday prohibits companies from writing off the subsidies starting in 2011, meaning they will no longer be able to deduct them from their taxable income.

For example, if a company spent $100 on benefits, including a $28 government subsidy, it could write off the full $100 on its taxes under the old rules. The new rules would allow the same company to write off only $72.

The follow-up health care bill to reshape parts of the overhaul would delay the changes until 2013.

As many as 1.5 million to 2 million retirees could lose the drug benefits provided by their former employer because of the tax changes, according to a study by the Moran Company, a health care consulting firm.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, said between 6 million and 7 million retirees currently get the benefits. But the number of companies offering them has been dwindling for years.

Generally, retirees would prefer to stay with prescription drug coverage provided by their companies as opposed to enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan, said Marilyn Moon, a health care economist with the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research.

She said most of the company-sponsored plans are more generous and almost none have the coverage gap that comes with Part D plans.

Private plans more generous than what the government can do?  And they keep the retired better cared for without having to spend US taxpayers money?  And the benefits are more generous than what the US government can do under Medicare?

Say, why is Medicare such a great system for retirees if it is stingy, can't fully reimburse medications, costly and, oh, going broke with the approaching retirement of the 'Baby Boom' generation? Because it is what people will be falling back to, once the bite of this stuff fully takes place.  Notice that most of that starts to disappear just before an election year and then fully in place after it?

But the kicker is what those companies that DON'T change their benefits will do, and its a real kicker:

Consumers Energy, a Michigan gas and electric company with 2.9 million customers, said it will not take a big first-quarter charge because, like most utility companies, it can try to recover the added costs from its customers through rate hikes.

It has got to suck to be in MI with such bad tax codes and businesses fleeing Detroit that the city wants to turn some of the abandoned lots back into farmland (Source: AP via Washington Times 09 MAR 2010) .  Costs too much to turn the Motor City into the Farm City, however, so get used to vacant lots and abandoned buildings in Detroit for the foreseeable future.  Just watch RoboCop and you will get the idea, there.  So if you live in Detroit you will pay for the unsubsidized health benefits of Consumers Energy via rate hikes in gas and electric bills.  And through increased federal taxes, too.

Ed Morrisey at Hot Air (25 MAR 2010) hosted a video clip of Bill O'Reilly trying to get a straight answer on who collects the penalties if you don't enroll in Obamacare and he also put up the bill so you could search it yourself.  He came up with the IRS on p. 345 of the bill under its Section 5000A powers given to it by Congress in 1986.  Dutifully I looked that up:

From Title 26 (26 USC 5000) which is under Subtitle D – Miscellaneous Excise Taxes – Chapter 47 Certain group health plans, which has this as its taxing provision:

Sec. 5000. Certain group health plans

(a) Imposition of tax

There is hereby imposed on any employer (including a self-employed person) or employee organization that contributes to a nonconforming group health plan a tax equal to 25 percent of the employer’s or employee organization’s expenses incurred during the calendar year for each group health plan to which the employer or employee organization contributes.

There you go, Section 5000A of Title 26!  So if you get income that isn't employment income, say you get unemployment benefits or are rich and live on the earnings of off-shore accounts, you don't have to comply.  You have just gotta love how the very poor and very rich are BOTH able to get away from this junk, but the middle class gets screwed.  But don't worry, we Daniel Foster on 26 MAR 2010 at NRO (h/t: Morgen Richmond at BigGovernment)has found out that whatever the bill may say in one place, it might just contradict in another as found in the Joint Committee on Taxation on 21 MAR 2010 on p. 33 :

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code.68 The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

Yes, that's right, there is no penalty for not getting a health care plan that can be assessed against you.  Basically its 'pretty please sign up or if you want to pay a fine you can but if you don't that is a-ok, too'.  Thus we will get 16,500 brandy-new IRS agents to... send you imploring letters to please, please, pretty please get health care and, if you could, send some cash to the IRS for your trouble, would ya?

Oh, joy!

Oh, rapture!

Then at the CampaignSpot at NRO on 24 MAR 2010 Jim Geraghty found the tampon tax:

b) TAXABLE MEDICAL DEVICE.—For purposes of this section— (1) IN GENERAL.—The term "taxable medical device" means any device (as defined in section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) intended for humans. (2) EXEMPTIONS.—Such term shall not include— (A) eyeglasses, (B) contact lenses, (C) hearing aids, and (D) any other medical device determined by the Secretary to be of a type which is generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use.

Yes and in that latter category is: tampons.  That sort of thing was brought up months ago... last year around this time if memory serves, but Harry Reid decided to keep such language in the bill.  Say, you can get a pacemaker, but if you need special lenses to see your way around the house, you gotta shell out for those through the nose. PLUS 2.3%  Good job!

From AP via Hot Air on 24 MAR 2010:

Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

Yes the 'For The Children' folks who pushed this from Congress were lying.  Young adults are under that too, so sorry.

It was such an important thing to do, they forgot to do it.

I am sure, very, very sure, that the Harry Reid Bill to bring us Obamacare will be chock-a-block with goodies like this because this landmark legislation was so important, so damned necessary, and had to do so very much that no one in Congress could bother to read it.

Just like the 'stimulus' which hasn't stimulated a damn thing save the pocketbooks of Congressional cronies.

I really do think that such behemoth bills should be read out on both floors of the Chambers of Congress.

So that it goes completely on record as having been read out so there are no excuses, no blathering, NOTHING that can be used to defend the passage of such bills.

It is one thing to have a bleeding heart.

It is quite another to slit one's wrists to prove just how much you care.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Where Progressivism gets you

Image Courtesy: Getty Images via US News


The first Progressive in the White House.

He had his problems with opponents in politics and could describe them quite well, these people whom he did not trust, as seen in Chapter 3 of his autobiography (at Gutenberg):

When I went into politics, New York City was under the control of Tammany, which was from time to time opposed by some other—and evanescent—city Democratic organization. The up-country Democrats had not yet fallen under Tammany sway, and were on the point of developing a big country political boss in the shape of David B. Hill. The Republican party was split into the Stalwart and Half-Breed factions. Accordingly neither party had one dominant boss, or one dominant machine, each being controlled by jarring and warring bosses and machines. The corruption was not what it had been in the days of Tweed, when outside individuals controlled the legislators like puppets. Nor was there any such centralization of the boss system as occurred later. Many of the members were under the control of local bosses or local machines. But the corrupt work was usually done through the members directly.

Of course I never had anything in the nature of legal proof of corruption, and the figures I am about to give are merely approximate. But three years' experience convinced me, in the first place, that there were a great many thoroughly corrupt men in the Legislature, perhaps a third of the whole number; and, in the next place, that the honest men outnumbered the corrupt men, and that, if it were ever possible to get an issue of right and wrong put vividly and unmistakably before them in a way that would arrest their attention and that would arrest the attention of their constituents, we could count on the triumph of the right. The trouble was that in most cases the issue was confused. To read some kinds of literature one would come to the conclusion that the only corruption in legislative circles was in the form of bribery by corporations, and that the line was sharp between the honest man who was always voting against corporations and the dishonest man who was always bribed to vote for them. My experience was the direct contrary of this. For every one bill introduced (not passed) corruptly to favor a corporation, there were at least ten introduced (not passed, and in this case not intended to be passed) to blackmail corporations. The majority of the corrupt members would be found voting for the blackmailing bills if they were not paid, and would also be found voting in the interests of the corporation if they were paid. The blackmailing, or, as they were always called, the "strike" bills, could themselves be roughly divided into two categories: bills which it would have been proper to pass, and those that it would not have been proper to pass. Some of the bills aimed at corporations were utterly wild and improper; and of these a proportion might be introduced by honest and foolish zealots, whereas most of them were introduced by men who had not the slightest intention of passing them, but who wished to be paid not to pass them. The most profitable type of bill to the accomplished blackmailer, however, was a bill aimed at a real corporate abuse which the corporation, either from wickedness or folly, was unwilling to remedy. Of the measures introduced in the interest of corporations there were also some that were proper and some that were improper. The corrupt legislators, the "black horse cavalry," as they were termed, would demand payment to vote as the corporations wished, no matter whether the bill was proper or improper. Sometimes, if the bill was a proper one, the corporation would have the virtue or the strength of mind to refuse to pay for its passage, and sometimes it would not.

A very slight consideration of the above state of affairs will show how difficult it was at times to keep the issue clear, for honest and dishonest men were continually found side by side voting now against and now for a corporation measure, the one set from proper and the other set from grossly improper motives. Of course part of the fault lay in the attitudes of outsiders. It was very early borne in upon me that almost equal harm was done by indiscriminate defense of, and indiscriminate attack on, corporations. It was hard to say whether the man who prided himself upon always antagonizing the corporations, or the man who, on the plea that he was a good conservative, always stood up for them, was the more mischievous agent of corruption and demoralization.

There! He gives two distinct classes of those he does not like: Tammany controlled politicians and conservatives. Nice and easy to describe about how the payoffs and blackmailing went on for the former, and how the latter stood up for corporations in every instance. Honest and straightforward. You can disagree with TR but you always know exactly his stance and why he takes it.

Fast forward 90 or so years.

Image Courtesy: National Ledger

Nancy Pelosi on the Tea Party, 07 AUG 2009 at Newsmax:

The mainstream media were quick to jump all over conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh when he likened President Barack Obama's healthcare logo to a swastika and compared the Democrats to the Nazis.

They were much quieter about Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reference to a swastika when she claimed that hecklers at a pro-Obamacare town hall meeting were carrying swastikas.

During her recent visit to a San Francisco hospital, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter asked her whether there is "legitimate grass-roots opposition" to the Democrats' healthcare plan.

"I think they are Astroturf," she responded.

Then she referred to hecklers at a town hall meeting: "They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on healthcare."

Yes those Tea Party National Socialist Democratic Workers Party affiliates who always show up! Nice to know those folks wanting less spending and less government are all for National Socialism... hey... wait a second... that is just the opposite of what the NSDAP wanted. If any Nazis did show up for a health care meeting they would be all for it!

But she is able to finally clarify her remarks!

From NewsBusters on 28 FEB 2010 reports on Nancy Pelosi being interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas from ABC News:

VARGAS: Is the Tea Party movement a force?

PELOSI: No - No what I said at the time is, that they were -- the Republican Party directs a lot of what the Tea Party does, but not everybody in the Tea Party takes direction from the Republican Party. And so there was a lot of, shall we say, Astroturf, as opposed to grassroots.

But, you know, we share some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C., as -- it just has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interest, whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it's on pharmaceuticals and the rest.

VARGAS: So, common ground with many people in the Tea Party movement.

PELOSI: Well, no, there are some. There are some because they, again, some of it is orchestrated from the Republican headquarters. Some of it is hijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of our concerns that we have about the role of special interests and many Tea Partiers, not that I speak for them, share the view, whether it's -- and Democrats, Republicans and Independents share the view that the recent Supreme Court decision, which greatly empowers the special interests, is something that they oppose.

Ok, that is relatively incoherent even for Speaker Pelosi. But she is all against special interests! Hates them with a hatingness that cannot be compared with anyone else's hate!

Yes! Special interests... like the marsh mouse.

Marsh mouse?

From the Washington Times 12 FEB 2009 we get this from an article by S. A. Miller:

Talk about a pet project. A tiny mouse with the longtime backing of a political giant may soon reap the benefits of the economic-stimulus package.

Lawmakers and administration officials divulged Wednesday that the $789 billion economic stimulus bill being finalized behind closed doors in Congress includes $30 million for wetlands restoration that the Obama administration intends to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents the city of San Francisco and has previously championed preserving the mouse's habitat in the Bay Area.

The revelation immediately became a political football, as Republicans accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to keep so-called earmarks that fund lawmakers' favorite projects out of the legislation. Democrats, including Mrs. Pelosi, countered that the accusations were fabricated.


"The speaker nor her staff have had any involvement in this initiative. This is yet another contrived partisan attack," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. "Restoration is key to economic activity, including farming, fisheries, recreation and clean water."

Republican lawmakers said they learned of the marsh money when asking about how various agencies plan to spend stimulus money. The vitality of the mouse has been an issue for Mrs. Pelosi and other California Democrats since the early 1990s.

Special interests need to be fought!

Unless, of course, you happen to like them, then you just let them slide with a 'fabricated charge' accusation for a marsh mouse habitat.

Or this bit from the National Ledger by Tom Fitton on 14 MAY 2007:

US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) isn’t the only Democratic leader in hot water for using her influence in Congress to enrich her husband (and, potentially, herself.) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who promised a new era of ethics enforcement in the House of Representatives, snuck a $25 million gift to her husband in a $15 billion Water Resources Development Act recently passed by Congress.


In this case, the special interest may have been Pelosi’s wealthy husband, Paul Pelosi. And the pet project involved renovating ports in Speaker Pelosi’s home base of San Francisco. Paul Pelosi just happens to own apartment buildings near the areas targeted for improvement, and will almost certainly experience a significant boost in property value as a result of Pelosi’s earmark.

Remember that if a Republican had come into the House riding on making it one of the most ethical Congresses ever and draining the swamp of special interests, and then did something like this, then there would be a storm of charges about 'hypocrisy' from the Left. Nancy Pelosi? Gets a pass...

Yes she does ask for quite a few of them... 56 on her lonesome, 48 with other members and 104 that she sponsored (Source: Legistorm)

Say, what was it that TR was saying about blackmailing politicians to get legislation through?




Special interests?

What would Teddy do?

Image Courtesy: Buzzle

Progressivism just sounds so nice, so evolutionary. Yet when you go from Teddy Roosevelt to Nancy Pelosi, it seems to have gone in reverse. Both say they don't like special interests, payoffs, bribes and such... but which one actually went after them? The great opponent to the Tammany Machine? Or the marsh mouse supporter?