Monday, October 28, 2013

High premiums and cancellations - not website problems–are real Obamacare scandals

Healthcare monopolyThe continuing revelations of the meltdown of the Obamacare website have obscured news of a problem that is much more difficult and perhaps impossible to fix with President Obama’s namesake health care plan. New information suggests that there are at least three separate problems that threaten the viability of the entire Obamacare premise. In fact, early signs point to the possibility that more Americans will be uninsured under Obamacare than before. As Rep. John Barasso (R-Wy.) said on the Sunday, Oct. 27 edition of ABC’s “This Week, the problems with are “the tip of the iceberg.”

First and most obvious, health insurance premiums have not decreased due to the Affordable Care Act as Barack Obama promised. Instead, an analysis of HHS data by Forbes found that few Americans will see decreases in average premiums. The HHS data, which detailed premiums for 27-year-olds and the average-age exchange participant for each state, found that premiums for the younger group would increase by an average 97 percent for men and 55 percent for women. Forty-year-olds, which were used to approximate the average participant, saw an increase of 99 percent for men and 62 percent for women.

For the majority, the higher premiums are not offset by subsidies according to the Forbes data. Twenty-seven and forty-year-olds would have to earn almost 60 percent less than the median income of their age group (around $40,000) to qualify. Members of the middle class, who do not qualify for subsidies, face a combination of higher insurance premiums as well as higher taxes built into the law to pay for subsidies for the poor.

The website, which says in its Facebook page that it is “a group of private citizens with no funding from any party,” doesn’t dispute that premiums have increased, which it says is “a sore subject with many readers.” Instead, Obamacarefacts acknowledges that the requirements “to cover high-risk consumers,” cover “Americans with pre-existing conditions” and community rating to prevent “higher rates based on health status or gender” have caused premiums to increase. Other factors, such as eliminating benefit caps and requiring plans to cover children up to age 26 also serve to increase premiums.

Obamacare’s high premiums contribute directly to the second problem, the fact that more than half of the enrollees on the health insurance exchanges are signing up for Medicaid and not private insurance. CNN reported on Oct. 27 that government data showed that, of the 700,000 applications on the health insurance exchanges so far, most have enrolled in Medicare. The report raises the prospect that not enough healthy, younger Americans are signing up to pay the high prices that will theoretically support the premiums of older and unhealthy Americans. CBS News confirmed that in Washington, of the more than 35,000 people newly enrolled, 87 percent signed up for Medicaid. In Kentucky, out of 26,000 new enrollments, 82 percent are in Medicaid. In New York, Medicaid accounts for 64 percent of 37,000 enrollments.

The combination of high premiums and difficulties with the web site may explain why young, healthy consumers aren’t opting in. Older Americans and those with health problems have more of an incentive to invest the time required to successfully apply for an Obamacare policy.

Gail Wilensky, a former Medicaid director, told CBS News, “Either the private insurance enrollments come up somewhere around the expected amount or there's going to be a problem. ... You need a volume and you need a mix of people that are healthy as well as high users in private insurance, in order to have it be sustainable.”

The third problem is that the Affordable Care Act actively works to decrease the number of people in private insurance. Because Obamacare mandates a list of essential health benefits for insurance plans, many existing policies do not meet the new standard in spite of President Obama’s promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies. In California, Kaiser Permanente is canceling 160,000 policies. Florida Blue is canceling 300,000 policies. As many as 16 million Americans may lose their coverage according to an estimate in the New American. Forbes notes that the cancellations in three states – Florida, California, and Pennsylvania - are more than the total number of Americans who have applied for coverage under Obamacare.

When policies are canceled, people have the choice of paying higher premiums through Obamacare or being uninsured. One such American is Kirsten Powers, a liberal columnist and Obamacare supporter. The 44-year-old Democrat’s policy with a $2,500 deductible was canceled, she noted on Fox News, adding that she can get a similar policy, but the premium will increase from $160 to $300 per month.

Democrats have responded to the premium increases by noting that the new and improved policies are much better than the ones being canceled and that part of the increase will go to help the uninsurable. To voters who relied on President Obama’s promises of lower rates and keeping their old policy, that may not be much of a consolation.

As Kirsten Powers lamented on Fox News, “I don’t think that’s quite the way they sold it.”

Originally published on

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In search of Senate RINOs

examinerOf late the Republican Party has become distracted from the battle against Obamacare by an intraparty witch hunt for RINOs, shorthand for “Republicans in name only.” It is believed by many that the RINOs are destroying the party and undermining the efforts of “true conservatives” to stymie Barack Obama and his Democratic minions. Join us then as we go on safari to the Senate to hunt the fabled Republican RINO.

When RINOs are discussed, the name of John McCain (R-Ariz.) is usually at the top of the list. The list of grievances against McCain is long and includes belief in global warming, putting his name on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that was struck down in the Citizens United ruling, and even voting to consider new gun control measures this year. McCain has long been a moderate Republican who was willing to reach across the aisle. In 2005, he was a member of the Gang of 14 and in 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry offered McCain the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket. McCain told the New York Times in 2008 that Kerry was “a liberal Democrat” and “I am a conservative Republican. So… that’s why I never even considered such a thing.”

But is McCain a conservative? Several conservative organizations provide scorecards on how members of Congress rate based on actual votes. The most famous of these is the American Conservative Union. On that scorecard, McCain has a lifetime average of 82.84 out of a possible 100. In 2012, he scored 92. (The Republican average was 77.83 percent. The overall Senate average was 39.28 percent.) The Club for Growth ranked McCain at 85 percent overall and 90 percent in 2012. On the Freedomworks scorecard, McCain scored 44. (Of the 45 Republican senators, only seven scored 90 or better on the Freedomworks scale. The Republican average was 68 and most Democrats scored zero.)

President Reagan famously said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” Using the Reagan standard, John McCain is a friend and ally of conservatives. As confirmation, McCain is listed as an ACU Conservative, a title bestowed on senators with scores higher than 80.

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is Senate minority leader and also often considered a RINO. In the deal that ended the recent government shutdown, McConnell was accused of securing a $3 billion earmark to build a dam on the Ohio River near Paducah, Ky. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) have since said that they, not McConnell, requested the appropriation in order to avoid canceling contracts that would cost taxpayers $160 million.

When it comes to the scorecards, McConnell gets a 90.09 lifetime average from the ACU with a score of 100 for 2012. The Club for Growth gives him a 74 for 2012 and lifetime 84. He gets a 71 from Freedomworks. McConnell, who faces reelection in 2014, would meet Reagan’s 80 percent rule. Sen. McConnell is listed as a Defender of Liberty by the American Conservative Union, confirming his 100 for 2012.

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also been frequently tagged as a RINO. Graham called for an end to the government shutdown in mid-October and has been accused of supporting amnesty for illegal aliens because he favors immigration reform.

Graham earned an 89.12 lifetime average from the ACU with a 92 in 2012. According to the Club for Growth scale, he has a lifetime score of 77 and an 86 for 2012. He scores a 41 on the Freedomworks scale. Graham, who is also running for reelection in 2014, is also listed as an ACU Conservative.

Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from the blue state of New Hampshire, earned a lifetime 85.5 from the ACU with a 76 in 2012. The Club for Growth gives her a lifetime 92 and an 86 in 2012. She gets a 59 from Freedomworks. Ayotte’s 76 score is not good enough to be labeled as a conservative by the ACU, but it is still markedly better than the Democratic senator from New Hampshire, Jeane Shaheen, who scored zero in 2012 and has a lifetime average of 4.5.

Georgia’s two Republican senators are also alleged RINOs. The retiring Saxby Chambliss has a 92.03 lifetime ACU score while Johnny Isakson is at 87.57. Their Club for Growth scores are 83 and 78 percent respectively. Chambliss received a 47 from Freedomworks, while Isakson scored 47.

As a comparison, the lowest Republican on the ACU survey was Susan Collins (R-Maine) with 20 percent. Her score was less James Webb (D-Va.), the highest Democrat at 32 percent. Olympia Snowe, also a Maine Republican, also had 32 percent.

Even though Collins can be fairly described as a RINO, she does have saving graces for Republicans. Writing on Newsmax, Christopher Ruddy points out that she is pro-gun and is rated B-plus by the NRA. She also voted against Obamacare, for the Bush tax cuts and their extension, for the Iraq War resolution, and is generally pro-military. She is also a fiscal conservative who supports a balanced budget amendment and spending caps.

Tea Partiers should be leery of ousting moderate Republicans like Collins. When fellow Mainer Olympia Snowe retired in 2012, she was replaced by independent Angus King. The Maine Sun Journal reported last May that King voted with Democrats 90 percent of the time. A dozen Democrats have broken with the party more often than King.

A review of 2005 list of RINOs in Human Events yields similar results in other states. The top ten list includes four senators (including Collins and Snowe), four representatives, and two governors (including then-governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney). Of the ten, only Susan Collins is still serving. Of the remaining nine, only one, Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who later switched parties, was replaced by another Republican. In the other eight cases, the RINOs were replaced by authentic Democrats. One, Mike Castle, a popular Delaware Republican, was defeated in the Republican primary for Joe Biden’s senate seat in 2010. He lost to Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party favorite, who subsequently lost to Democrat Chris Coons amid revelations of her experiments with Wicca.

Republicans would do well to look at the voting records of elected officials before writing them off as RINOs. Many of the senators often derided as “liberal” Republicans are actually among the most conservative members of Congress. Others represent blue or purple states where a staunch conservative could not win.

There are worse things than having liberal Republicans in Congress. They could be Democrats.


Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Monday, October 21, 2013

Millions of poorest Americans get no Obamacare subsidies

Lost among reports of the difficulties of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges is the news that President Obama’s health insurance reform law is actually making it harder for the very poor to get insurance coverage. The architecture of the law and the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision that struck down a portion of the Affordable Care Act have combined to create a gap for low income Americans that deprives them of Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies as well as no-cost coverage under Medicaid.

Danielle Morgan, the 23-year-old married mother of four in North Carolina, is one of those affected. Danielle’s husband is a full-time Bible college student with no income. Danielle told Examiner that she works to support their family, but her employer does not offer health insurance. The family has not had health insurance in the past, but Danielle was hopeful that the new health insurance marketplaces would allow her to purchase an affordable policy for her family and avoid Obamacare’s fine.

Even though Danielle is employed, President Obama unilaterally delayed the portion of Obamacare that requires employers to provide their employees with health insurance. The employer mandate will only apply to companies with more than 50 employees when it goes into effect in 2015.

The problem of insuring low income workers is made worse because Obamacare bans the “mini-med” policies that cover an estimated 1.4 million Americans according to an estimate by Politico. These plans were used by many employers, such as McDonald’s, to provide low-cost health coverage for low-income workers who cannot afford to pay their share of a traditional health insurance plan. Because the plans have annual limits for payouts and do not provide the federal minimum essential coverage, they do not qualify as health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Many workers formerly insured by “mini-med” plans will likely become uninsured unless new “skinny” plans can be designed that meet the requirements of the law.

After several attempts at logging on the exchange, Danielle finally went to Kaiser’s online premium and subsidy calculator. What she found shocked and dismayed her. The premium for her family would be $5,711 per month for a Bronze plan. She also found out that her family would not qualify for a subsidy even though they are below the poverty line.

Danielle and her family fell into a gap created when the Supreme Court struck down Obamacare’s mandatory Medicaid expansion. In the 2012 ruling, the Court held that the federal government could not force the states to expand Medicaid to low income families. If states voluntarily expanded their Medicaid programs, the federal government promised to pay the full cost for three years and 90 percent thereafter. Twenty-five states, including North Carolina and Georgia, chose not to join the Medicare expansion. .

The Winston-Salem Journal estimated on Oct. 19 that as many as 300,000 North Carolinians under the poverty line may be affected by this Medicaid gap. Bloomberg, also on Oct. 19, noted that the number of Americans affected by the gap is estimated at 5.2 million nationwide.

According to the News Observer, North Carolina officials cited the cost of Medicare as well as systemic problems such as cost overruns and billing delays in rejecting the growth of the program. North Carolina’s Medicaid program cost $14 billion last year. The state’s portion was $3 billion, which represented about 15 percent of the state’s budget according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In Georgia, Medicaid spending also makes up 15 percent of the state budget according to Georgia Health News.

“So much of our state revenue has been eaten away by the Medicaid budget,” said Justin Burr, a Republican member of North Carolina’s House health care committee. “I certainly don’t think we need to expand an entitlement program.”

The ability of the federal government to honor its promise to pay its share of new Medicaid costs is also in question. The federal government has been operating at a budget deficit for years. As the federal debt mounted during Barack Obama’s administration, congressional battles over spending have become increasingly frequent and acrimonious. In the final analysis, increased spending for the Medicaid expansion may force tax increases at both the state and federal level.

Since the unveiling of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, many Americans have experienced cases of sticker shock. Even many Americans who qualify for federal subsidies have found that premiums are much higher than expected. Both CNN and the Fiscal Times list high prices among the top complains about Obamacare. In many cases, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are higher as well.

Danielle, who has a minor heart problem, says that she has not had health insurance in her adult life. She was worried about having to choose between paying the Obamacare fine and finding money for the health insurance premium for her family. There at least, there is some relief. Due to her family’s low income, she is exempt from the fine even though she will remain uninsured.

“It would be great to get coverage for just basic family doctor care at a reasonable price, Danielle said. “It just doesn’t make since to pay almost six grand for one or two visits a year with the cash price being a fraction of that.”


Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lessons Republicans should learn from the government shutdown

The Republican Party suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of Barack Obama yesterday. The Republicans essentially got nothing in the deal to end the government shutdown and were barely able to keep the spending caps of the sequestration, one of their few victories, in place.

The past few weeks have seen Republican approval plummet to record lows in several polls including those by Gallup and NBC News/Wall Street Journal. A new Pew poll released Oct. 16 shows that Tea Party support among Republicans has fallen by nine points since June. Independents disapprove of the Tea Party by a 19 point margin. GOP supporters feel betrayed by the deal. Reactions range from anger at “RINOs” or the Tea Party to resignation that the Republican Party is totally ineffective and unworthy of support.

While there is very little upside to the debacle in the short term for Republicans, it does provide them with a few hard lessons to learn. If the GOP can take these lessons to heart, it may eventually save itself and the turn the country around in the process.

Lesson 1. Check your math. The inevitability of defeat in the defund battle could be summed up in the mathematical expression 45<55. Forty-five Republican senators are less than 55 Democratic senators. The Republican will always lose in the Senate unless they can sway Democrats to vote with them. In the defund battle, there was little, if any, effort expended on pressuring red state Democrats to join the Republicans.

It does not matter if the Republicans are standing for principle. It does not matter how courageous they are. In an election, math trumps everything. The only way to win is to change the math. Subtract votes from the Democrats and add them to the Republicans.

Dividing the party into “RINOs” and Tea Partiers is counter-productive. Neither faction can win without the other. Division only subtracts from the Republican votes and gives the Democrats a larger majority.

Lesson 2. Pick your battles. The Republicans are a minority party. They cannot take on the majority party head-to-head and win. Even if every RINO and every Tea Partier is united in the cause, 45 is still less than 55 (see lesson 1.)

Republicans should take a lesson from General George Washington. Rather than wasting time and resources on a head-to-head battle that has no chance of success and will likely destroy their force, Republicans should fight smaller battles when they have a reasonable chance of winning.

In the early days of the American Revolution, Gen. George Washington faced the world’s most powerful army with a ragtag band of militia. Washington did not march his men straight into the British cannons. Rather, he acted to preserve his army and made strategic withdrawals when the conditions were unfavorable. His most famous retreat came in August 1776 during the Battle of Long Island in which a fog that many attribute to divine intervention saved the Continental Army.

Washington picked his battles and attacked when conditions were favorable. A few months later on Christmas Day 1776, he made his famous crossing of the Delaware to surprise the British at Trenton. As Washington grew stronger and received reinforcements from the French, he was able to fight the British more directly. It was only after the Americans outnumbered the British that they were able to surround them and force their surrender at Yorktown.

If the Republicans had chosen to make a stand over congressional exemptions or the mounting federal debt rather than over defunding Obamacare, the results might have been different. While only a slight majority disapproves of Obamacare, a staggering 94 percent of voters in an Independent Women’s Voice poll opposed the exemption. Likewise, 61 percent told Gallup that the federal budget deficit worried them “a great deal.” These are bipartisan issues where the Democrats would be vulnerable to a “flank attack.” The Democrats would be forced to vote with the Republicans or go on record against strong public opinion.

Lesson 3. Pay attention to polls. Polls should not be used to determine your principles, but they are invaluable in determining a strategy. As Examiner reported in September, a poll commissioned by Republican congressmen themselves found that 71 percent of Americans opposed shutting down the government to fight Obamacare. Scores of other polls gave the same warning.

While Republicans claimed to be fighting for what the people wanted, they were instead ignoring the people’s mandate to keep the government opening. As a result, they paid dearly in terms of public approval.

Lesson 4. When your enemy is about to destroy himself, don’t stop him. The rollout of the Obamacare exchanges was an unmitigated disaster. Even worse for the Democrats, high premiums across much of the country challenge the underlying economic assumptions behind the law.

Fortunately for the Democrats, much of the country was distracted by news coverage of the government shutdown. If the Republicans had simply stood by as President Obama’s signature law imploded, they might have improved their chances of winning the Senate in 2014. Instead, generic congressional ballots, which had been tied before the shutdown, uniformly shifted toward the Democrats according to the Real Clear Politics roundup of polls.

Lesson 6. Think long term. The Constitution requires a majority to pass laws. The Republicans are a minority. Therefore, their focus should be on becoming a majority (see Lesson 1.)

Long term Republican success depends on appealing to moderates as well as the party’s base. Gallup’s most recent party identification poll gives Republicans 20 percent and Democrats 30 percent. Forty-seven percent of the electorate is independent. The party makeup in the states is similar. Neither party can win without winning independents. It is these moderate voters who decide elections.

A successful Republican strategy will appeal to both the party’s base and the country’s moderates. A politician or a party that cannot appeal to both the base and moderates is what is known as a loser.

Thinking long term also includes having an endgame or a Plan B. When the initial Republican demand for defunding Obamacare was rejected, the Republicans seemed totally unprepared. The party was trapped with no way out. With approval ratings falling fast, the Democrats could have demanded almost anything to reopen government and the Republicans would have had no choice but to take the deal or let Obama lead the nation into a default for which the GOP would surely take the blame.

It would have been wiser to have positions to fall back to when the initial demand failed. These strategic withdrawals should have been accompanied a common message that focused on what the Democrats were doing to harm the American people, not what other Republicans were doing to harm the party.

Lesson 7. Perception is political reality. Communication shapes perceptions. President Obama and the Democrats refused to negotiate, but the public perception was that Republicans wanted the shutdown so they took the lion’s share of the blame.

While Republicans dithered and squabbled, Daniel Henninger notes that Team Obama launched a withering assault of tweets to complement friendly news coverage. The Democrats never strayed from their message that “Tea Party Republicans” were threatening to destroy the economy. Without a coordinated response from the Republicans, Obama’s message became the defining story of the shutdown. Republicans must learn to use the social media to counter Democratic propaganda in both the mainstream media and the twitterverse.

By focusing on the long-term and uniting with disaffected moderates against President Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans still have a chance to make a comeback before next year’s midterm elections. A strong showing could change the equation in the Senate (Lesson 1). The structure of the races favors Republican gains in the Senate, but a strategy of tilting at windmills is likely to result in yet another missed opportunity.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A path forward for Republicans

As the government shutdown goes through its third week, poll after poll indicates that Republicans are taking the brunt of the blame. As Examiner noted last week, an NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll found approval of the Republican Party at a historic low. Generic congressional polls (summarized on Real Clear Politics), which have been in a dead heat all year, have turned against Republicans since the shutdown. Recent polling shows a consistent advantage for Democratic candidates.

Through it all, Republicans have made no headway in defunding the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the negotiations to reopen the government have shifted toward a new Democratic demand to undo the sequester cuts from last January. The sequester represented a rare GOP victory during the Obama era. It also worked. As Stephen Moore pointed out in the Wall St. Journal, the sequester law actually reduced spending and cut the deficit by about half. Removing the sequester’s spending limits would represent a major defeat for Republicans.

The government shutdown also tarnishes the Republican reputation for fiscal responsibility, an area where Republicans polled well before the shutdown. The shutdown is costing an estimated $160 million per day on the conservative side. Higher estimates rise to more than $1 billion per day in lost growth and other factors. To add insult to injury, the House voted last week to give furloughed federal workers their back pay, which means that federal workers will be paid for doing nothing if the Senate passes the bill.

Defunding Obamacare, which, as noted in Examiner last month, would require the votes of a minimum of five Democrats in the Senate (overturning President Obama’s certain veto would require the votes of 54 Democrats in the House and 21 in the Senate), is beyond the reach of the GOP and the party is taking heavy damage from its stand. Since the original goal of defunding Obamacare is clearly unattainable, where should Republicans go from here?

The Republicans should look to the Hippocratic Oath for guidance: “First, do no harm.” The government shutdown must be ended to avoid irreparable harm to the Republican Party, but, by the same token, the Republicans cannot accept a deal that ends the sequester while offering nothing in return. A return to the status quo would be acceptable, if humiliating. Writing in the Guardian, Grover Norquist proposed a deal in which the sequester is lifted temporarily in exchange for entitlement reform. Republicans should get what they concessions they can, but they must end the shutdown before it leads to a default.

After the government is reopened, Republicans need to make some strategic changes. Railing against Obamacare and just saying no don’t work. If they did, Mitt Romney would be in the White House.

First and most important, the Republicans need to start listening to the American people. The American people oppose Obamacare, but they opposed a government shutdown by even larger margins. As Examiner reported in September, 54 percent opposed Obamacare, but 71 percent opposed the shutdown. Republicans have traditionally criticized the Democrats for their attitude that “we know what’s best for you,” but the GOP has fallen into the same trap and is paying the price for it.

Second, Republicans need to change the focus of their argument. Arthur Brooks points out that Republicans cede the moral argument to Democrats and focus on materialistic concerns such as debt or abstractions such as free markets and capitalism. To the contrary, the left uses emotional arguments, caring for the poor, to advance policy agendas that actually hurt the poor. Brooks’ concern is borne out by CNN exit polls that show a staggering 81 percent of the voters who thought caring about people was a candidate’s most important quality voted for Barack Obama.

In Brooks’ view, the answer is to focus on how conservative policies help people. This does not require changing conservative principles; instead it means reframing arguments to say, “We will fight for you and your family” rather than fighting against things, such as Obamacare.

When the government shutdown is ended, Republicans will be able to return the focus to why Obamacare is bad for the American people. This should be an easy task given Obamacare’s disastrous debut. The much-vaunted health care exchanges are plagued with glitches that make it difficult for consumers to log on and purchase insurance. Consumers who are actually able to navigate the exchanges often find that their insurance premiums have gone up due to the new law. As the Chicago Tribune notes, deductibles, the share of medical bills that the consumer must pay before insurance kicks in, are also increasing. This means that not only are Americans paying more up front for health insurance, they are paying more when they go to the doctor as well.

The Republicans should be talking about how these premium increases affect families across the country who are still reeling from the Great Recession and its lackluster recovery. They should be standing with Americans like Adam Weldzius, the 33-year-old single father in the Chicago Tribune article who has to choose between an insurance premium that doubles or a deductible that triples.

Finally, Republicans must go beyond saying “no” and communicate a positive vision for the future. It isn’t enough to want to repeal Obamacare, for example. Rising health care costs will still be an issue if and when the Affordable Care Act goes away. Karl Rove presented some ideas for conservative health care reform in August and Examiner covered the topic last year, but these have been the exceptions. For the most part, the Republican message on health care has been negative.

Finally, Republicans need to remember who the real adversary is and focus their attention on President Obama and the Democrats rather than bashing each other. To defeat the Democrats and repeal Obamacare, the Republicans must unite and find a common voice. Interparty bickering and squabbles drown out any positive message that the Republicans try to convey to voters.

As President Reagan was fond of saying, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” Nevertheless, Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Cornyn have had their reputations trashed and been the victims of vicious personal attacks. Yet, when their records are examined, the American Conservative Union gives them lifetime ratings of 82 percent, 89 percent, and 93 percent respectively. All three have consistently voted against Obamacare.

The shortsightedness of the Republican Party threatens not only the possibility of GOP control of the Senate after the 2014 elections, but continued control of the House as well. A few simple midcourse corrections might persuade Americans that the Republican Party is a viable alternative to the Democratic habit of taking money from Americans to fund programs that harm them.


Originally published as Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shutdown may threaten GOP House majority

government shutdownA new poll released Oct. 10 shows that the government shutdown has had a devastating impact on the Republican Party. The NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll found public approval of the Republican Party at historic lows.

The new poll found that 24 percent approved of the Republicans while 53 percent disapproved. Approval for the GOP has fallen eight points since June. The high point for the Republicans was in December 2001 with 57 percent approval. Tea Party approval declined to 21 percent from 26 percent in June. This also represents a historic low. The Tea Party’s highest approval was in June 2010 with 34 percent.

The poll found Democratic approval at 39 percent with 40 percent disapproval. Democratic approval numbers were unchanged since June. President Obama’s approval stands at 47 percent, which is identical to his approval rating in June. Obama’s high was in February 2009 and his low was in 2006. The high for the Democrats was in 2000 and their low was in 2006.

The poll found that Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown by a 22 point margin over President Obama (53-31 percent). Forty-six percent consider the shutdown extremely serious even though 68 percent had not been directly affected.

A strong majority, 70 percent, believe that Republicans are putting their political agenda ahead of what is good for the country. Fifty-one percent believe the same of President Obama.

In another disturbing trend for Republicans, the poll showed a drop in the preference for Republicans in Congress. In the poll, voters preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress by 47-39 percent. For much of the past year, the two parties have been deadlocked in the poll for congressional preference. Currently, 70 percent disapprove of the Republicans in Congress while 59 percent approve of the Democrats.

These trends show clearly that the Republican Party is taking the brunt of the blame for the government shutdown. As Examiner reported previously, the makeup of Senate races in 2014 gives the GOP an edge, but plummeting approval ratings from the government shutdown may threaten Republican chances for a Senate takeover.

If the shutdown continues or the nation defaults, it might even become likely that the Republicans lose their majority in the House of Representatives in the next election. In 2012, House Democrats actually received more votes than House Republicans, but Republican advantages due to redistricting allowed them to retain the majority.

There were few winners in the poll. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the Republican senator who pushed the strategy of defunding Obamacare, gained slightly. Cruz’ approval rating now stands at 14 percent. His June approval was 10 percent.

Barack Obama is the biggest winner. At 47 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval, the president is the only figure or group with a higher approval than disapproval.


Originally published on Elections Examiner

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oklahoma lawsuit may deal Obamacare ‘fatal blow’

Healthcare monopolyThe Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate in 2012, but now another lawsuit is challenging the Affordable Care Act on different grounds. The new lawsuit, brought by the State of Oklahoma, has its roots in a legal paper by Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute. The paper, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA,” argues that, according to the language in the law, Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies can only be applied to state exchanges, not exchanges set up by the federal government.

As Dick Morris explained in The Hill on Oct. 8, Section 1311 of the ACA establishes state health insurance exchanges. Section 1401 stipulates that refundable tax credits, the subsidies, are available only for health insurance purchased in Section 1311 exchanges, those set up by the states. Morris argues that the intent of Congress was to establish subsidies as an incentive for states to set up their own exchanges.

Only 16 states and the District of Columbia elected to form state health exchanges in spite of the promise of subsidies. One of these states, Oklahoma, filed suit in Pruitt v. Sebelius, challenging an IRS ruling that extended both the individual and employer mandates to all states according to The suit claims that the employer mandate to provide health insurance to employees or pay a fine should not apply to states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges. It also challenges the subsidies.

Although filed in 2011, a stay was issued until the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The federal government moved to dismiss the lawsuit after the stay was lifted, but a federal judge let stand the complaints against the employer mandate and subsidy. The court also ruled that the State of Oklahoma has standing in the suit as a large employer. The case is currently pending before the Eastern District United States Court of Oklahoma.

If the court eventually sides with Oklahoma, John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis argues that it would be a “fatal blow” to Obamacare. “With so many states declining to set up exchanges,” he says, “Obamacare will be a disastrous failure if the courts agree with them.”

A victory for Oklahoma would also likely apply to other states, such as Georgia, that decided not to set up their own health exchange. As reported by Examiner, Governor Nathan Deal announced Georgia’s decision not to create an exchange in November 2012.

If the courts rule that the employer mandate and insurance subsidies do not apply in states with federal exchanges, it would destroy the delicate balance of the law in those states. Employers would not be fined if they declined to provide coverage for their employees. While the mandates for Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” would still apply in all states, subsidies would not be allowed in states with federal exchanges, making the cost of insurance prohibitively expensive.

While a court decision would not strike down the Affordable Care Act immediately, it would render the health law virtually nonexistent for employers in a majority of the country. While the individual mandate and fines would still apply, the lack of subsidies would mean that more people and companies would choose to opt out of purchasing insurance and the risk pool would shrink. Obamacare depends on young people buying expensive insurance to subsidize older and less healthy people.

If young, healthy people opt to pay the fine and employers choose not to provide health insurance, Obamacare will likely collapse under its own weight in short order. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, a new health care fix would require a bipartisan agreement, unlike when Obamacare was passed in 2010 with Democratic majorities in both houses and no Republican votes.

It seems as though Congress should have actually read the bill before they passed it.

Originally published on Elections Examiner

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Canada to the rescue at Salute America Air Show

2013-08-05 19.06.01As the 2013 air show season draws to a close, it was set to go out with a bang at the Salute America Air Show near Atlanta. The show, held on Oct. 5-6 at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta airport in Dallas, Ga. (airport details can be found on featured a variety of aviation acts. Saturday night’s show included rare twilight aerobatic acts.

Many 2013 air shows were canceled due to the sequester budget cuts enacted earlier this year. The military jets and helicopters often featured at local air shows were in short supply due to the cuts in the defense budget. For the first half of the summer, the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels were grounded, prompting the cancellation of many air shows. The Thunderbirds resumed flying in July when the Air Force found money to fund the unit. At Wisconsin’s Oshkosh air show, the FAA charged the Experimental Aircraft Association to operate a temporary control tower at the field.

It is ironic then that the only active duty military aircraft featured at the Salute America Air Show were a pair of Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets. A star attraction was the Royal Canadian Air Force Hornet Demonstration Team which performed daylight and twilight routines. A second CF-18 was on hand as a static display.

Although no U.S. military aircraft were present at the Salute America Air Show, the pilot of the Canadian CF-18 unfurled an American flag from his cockpit in a show of friendship as he taxied in from his first performance on Saturday. In a return salute, a Lucas Oil skydiver in an American flag parachute streamed a Canadian Maple Leaf flag from his back later in the day.

Aficionados of World War II aircraft thrilled to a North American P-51 Mustang and Chance Vought F4U Corsair. Both warbirds performed separately and then joined for a formation flight in front of the crowd. The P-51, flown by Stan Musak, is a veteran of both WWII and Korea. Although Corsairs are also famous for their service in WWII, this particular airplane was built in 1945 and served primarily in Korea. The Corsair was flown by Jim Tobul.

The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team also performed in both the daylight and twilight shows. The team, sponsored by Aeroshell, a division of the Shell oil company that produces aviation lubricants and fuels, flies vintage North American T-6 Texans that were used to train military pilots in WWII. The four airplanes wowed the crowd with their coordinated formation aerobatics.

A second aerobatic team to perform was Team Aerostar. The team uses Yakovlev Yak-52s, Soviet-era Russian military trainers. After watching the three Russian airplanes perform, airshow fans could go to the vendor area to get a firsthand look at what it is like to fly formation aerobatics at the AOPA/Redbird Simulator trailer.

There were several solo performers as well. Lucas Oil sponsored Mike Wiskus and his Pitts biplane as well as a team of skydivers. “Skipper” Hyle performed in another AT-6 Harvard, the British version of the Texan trainer. Chuck Coleman flew an Extra 300L and Gary Rower demonstrated another WWII trainer, the Super Stearman biplane. Gary Ward performed in the ultramodern, carbon fiber MX-2.

Another popular performer was Bill Braack in the Smoke-n-Thunder jet car. The car is powered by a Westinghouse J34-48 jet engine that was originally used to power a North American T-2 Buckeye trainer jet used by the U.S. Navy. The 26 foot long car can be driven to almost 400 miles per hour by the engine’s 6,000 pounds of thrust.

During the day show, Braack in the jet car raced Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts. In the evening show, Braack thrilled the crowd with bursts of afterburner in a nighttime speed run down the runway.

The final act of the show was aerobatic pilot and musician Elgin Wells flying his one-of-kind Starjammer. The Starjammer is an aerobatic airplane that is equipped with lights and speakers for a unique after-dark performance that must be seen to be appreciated. A fireworks display followed Saturday’s show.

There were also many static displays for airshow patrons to enjoy. In addition to the Canadian Air Force CF-18, there were two vintage DC-3s. One was in the livery of a classic airliner while the other was a restored U.S. Air Force AC-47 gunship owned by the American Flight Museum. Phoenix Air, a local Georgia company that contracts with the military, also had one of its Learjets on display. Civil Air Patrol recruiters were on hand and a variety of general aviation aircraft that included a Pilatus PC-12, a classic Stinson 108, and Hughes 600N helicopter.

In a normal year, airshows are one of the largest spectator sports in the United States with tens of millions in attendance. Airshow fans can only hope that by next year, the federal budget crisis will have been averted and the 2014 season will see a return of the U.S. military demonstration teams and aircraft that are so popular.

If you would like to see more pictures as well as videos from both the day and night performances at the Salute America Air Show, please visit and like the Aviation Examiner Facebook page.


Originally published on Aviation Examiner