Tag: big government

Exactly What Is Max Baucus Saying Here? (Updated)

At a packed Cato Institute briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, Jonathan Adler and I debated ObamaCare expert Timothy Jost over an admittedly wonky issue that nevertheless could determine the fate of ObamaCare: whether Congress authorized the IRS to subsidize health insurers, and to tax employers and certain individuals, in states that refuse to establish one of ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges.”

I want you, dear Cato@Liberty readers, to help us get to the bottom of it.

Adler and I claim that Congress specifically, repeatedly, and unambiguously precluded the IRS from imposing those taxes or issuing those subsidies through federal “fallback” Exchanges. We maintain the below video shows ObamaCare’s chief sponsor and lead author–Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)–admitting it. Jost says Baucus’s comments have “absolutely nothing” to do with the matter. You be the judge, and tell us what you think.

A bit of background will help to frame what’s happening in the video: Both sides agree this issue hinges on whether the statute authorizes “premium assistance tax credits” through both state-created and federal Exchanges, or only state-created Exchanges. The video is from a September 23, 2009, Finance Committee markup of ObamaCare. In it, Baucus rules out of order a Republican amendment on the grounds that medical malpractice lies outside the committee’s jurisdiction. Sensing a double-standard, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) notes that Baucus’s underlying bill directs states to change their health insurance laws and to establish Exchanges, matters which also lie outside the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, and asks why aren’t those provisions also out of order. Okay, go.

I might note that these are the only comments anyone has unearthed from ObamaCare’s legislative history that bear directly on the question of whether Congress intended to authorize tax credits in federal Exchanges.

Baucus’s response is hardly a model of clarity. But I can see no possible interpretation other than Baucus is admitting that (A) the statute makes tax credits conditional on states establishing an Exchange, and therefore does not authorize tax credits through federal Exchanges, and (B) that this feature was essential for the Senate’s tax-writing committee to have jurisdiction to legislate in the area of health insurance.

But maybe I’m wrong. What do you think Baucus is saying? Since we don’t enable comments on Cato@Liberty, post your interpretation here on the Anti-Universal Coverage Club’s Facebook page. Or post it on your own blog and send me a link.

For more on this issue, see what Adler and I have written for the law journal Health Matrix, the Wall Street JournalUSA Today, the Health Affairs blog, and National Review Online.

Update (August 22, 2014): I blogged over at DarwinsFool.com that I have changed my mind on the Baucus-Ensign colloquy. Not that it matters much. The D.C. Circuit placed no weight on Baucus’ comments and ruled for the plaintiffs anyway.

‘Dems and GOP Agree, Government Needs More Money’

That’s the (fair) title of this blog post over at National Journal’s Influence Alley:

The federal government needs more money. That’s one thing both parties can agree on, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday. The rub, of course, is how to get it.

Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa. said at a National Journal panel on Tuesday morning that there’s no question that more revenue is needed. Democrats say they can raise the money by letting upper-income tax cuts expire, while Republicans say economic growth alone will help raise the cash.

“We need more revenue,” said Roskam, the House GOP’s chief deputy whip. “If you can get the money to satisfy obligations, that’s an area of common ground.”

Let’s hear it for duopoly, eh, comrades? Without it, we might suffer political parties that question whether those government “obligations” are wise, or necessary, or constitutional; or that point out governments don’t have needs, people do; or that reject the premise that politics is an exercise in deciding who needs what; or that argue for eliminating entire spheres of government activity. Can you tell I’ve just watched a presidential debate?

‘The Obamacare Cases Keep Coming’

Jonathan Adler at National Review Online:

During oral arguments in the Supreme Court challenge to the individual mandate, NFIB v. Sebelius, the plaintiff’s lawyer Paul Clement warned the justices not to make the same mistake they made in the 1970s with Buckley v. Valeo. In Buckley, the Court upheld portions of the post-Watergate campaign-finance reforms while invalidating others. The result was a muddled statute that Congress and the courts would repeatedly revisit for years to come. Repeating this approach with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Clement cautioned, could produce similar undesirable results. It’s too soon to know how quickly Congress will revisit the PPACA, but Clement’s warning already seems to be coming true in the courts…

More than three months after the Court’s decision, over three dozen legal challenges to the PPACA or its implementation are pending in federal courts, and more are sure to come.

At a Cato briefing on Capitol Hill this Wednesday, Adler and I will be speaking about one of those cases.

D.C. Employers: ObamaCare ‘Exchange’ an ‘Undefined, Untested, More Expensive Entity’ Offering ‘Standardized, Cookie-Cutter Coverage’

More than 150 local employers have written a letter to the District’s ObamaCare board, protesting the destruction of D.C.’s individual and small-group health insurance markets:

Those of us who may have had doubts about the health reform law were comforted by President Obama’s repeated assurances that, “If you like your health plan…you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” But, by dismantling and recasting the separate health insurance marketplaces that serve small employer groups and individuals in the District, D.C. policymakers would take away the option of keeping the health plan that they now have. Rather, to continue to offer health benefits to employees after 2013, small employers like us would have no choice but to go to an undefined, untested, more expensive entity to obtain coverage. Especially in these uncertain economic times, many employers, and their workers, must be given the time to adjust their budgets for the estimated price increases of the Exchange. In addition, many of us have long-established relationships with health insurers we know and are guided by broker advisors who understand our unique needs. We do not want to be forced to buy the standardized, cookie-cutter coverage that would be offered through a government-run Exchange…

Indeed, forcing all consumers seeking Individual or Small Group health coverage to go to the Exchange to purchase health plans runs counter to the ACA’s essential promise of more – not less – choice…The diversity of small employer health plans currently available in the District cannot be replicated in the standardized plans offered by the Exchange. Small employers rely on choice amongst a wide array of health plans available in the current commercial marketplace and the flexibility to design contributions to complement each employer’s unique budgetary and financial situations…With the many changes that will be required of employers of all sizes under the new federal health care reform law, it seems unreasonable to add to those concerns by eliminating the commercial marketplace which we know for an undefined, unfamiliar and untested Exchange-driven marketplace.

In addition, we cannot ignore the significant costs of administering the Exchange which will undermine one of the key goals of the federal law - affordability.

Signatories include such notorious right-wing groups as the Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence:

  1. ACDI/VOCA
  2. AIDS United
  3. Allen & Associates
  4. Alliance Insurance Services
  5. American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
  6. American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Inc.
  7. American Bakers Association
  8. American Cleaning Institute
  9. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  10. American Immigration Lawyers Association
  11. American Insurance Association
  12. American Road & Transportation Builders Association
  13. American Society of Association Executives
  14. Andre Chreky, the salon spa
  15. Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington
  16. Ashcraft & Gerel LLP
  17. Association for Competitive Technology
  18. Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
  19. Axar Management
  20. Beacon Consulting Group, Inc.
  21. Blue House Design
  22. Bogart
  23. Brady Campaign and Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence
  24. Brawner Management, LLC
  25. Building Owners and Managers Association International
  26. Capital Medical Associates
  27. Center for Constitutional Litigation, P.C.
  28. Center for Nonprofit Advancement
  29. CGH Technologies, Inc.
  30. Chef Geoff’s
  31. Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind
  32. Combined Properties, Incorporated
  33. Communications Development
  34. Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
  35. David All Group
  36. DC Chamber of Commerce
  37. Development Gateway, Inc.
  38. Distilled Spirits Council
  39. Elizabeth M. Ross and Kenneth M.H. Lee, M.D., P.C.
  40. Entertainment Software Association
  41. Environmental Law Institute
  42. EOP Group, Inc.
  43. Euroconsultants, Inc.
  44. Federation of American Hospitals
  45. Good Neighbors, LLC
  46. Government Accountability Project
  47. Hemsley Fraser Group
  48. High Noon Communications
  49. History Matters
  50. Howard Eales, Inc.
  51. Howard W. Phillips & Co.
  52. ICI Mutual Insurance Company
  53. Innovators Network Foundation
  54. Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
  55. J. Todd Miller & Associates, Inc.
  56. Kaludis Consulting Group, Inc.
  57. Katz, Marshall & Banks LLP
  58. Knightsbridge Restaurant Group
  59. LEVICK
  60. LimeLeap Solutions
  61. Marvin A. Address & Associates, Inc.
  62. McBride Real Estate
  63. McClendon Center
  64. MCLA Inc.
  65. Metro TeenAIDS
  66. Metropolitan Washington Road & Transportation Builders
  67. Miller & Shook Companies
  68. National Association for Gifted Children
  69. National Association of Health Underwriters
  70. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
  71. National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
  72. National Council for Interior Design Qualification
  73. National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association
  74. National Mining Association
  75. National Propane Gas Association
  76. Navista, Inc.
  77. NetChoice
  78. Pacific Cargoes
  79. Park Limited
  80. Passion Food Hospitality
  81. Promundo-US
  82. Radio Television Digital News Association / Foundation
  83. Regis & Asociates, PC
  84. Reiter & Hill
  85. Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington
  86. RULG-Ukranian Legal Group, P.A.
  87. Sabin Vaccine Institute
  88. Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates
  89. Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP
  90. The Council for Responsible Nutrition
  91. The Episcopal Center for Children
  92. The Farm Credit Council
  93. The Ford Agency, Inc.
  94. The Gabriel Company, LLC
  95. The Prime Rib, Inc.
  96. Timothy A. Price, MD, PC
  97. Triad Communication / TRC Real Estate
  98. U.S. Grains Council
  99. U.S. Soccer Foundation
  100. United Fresh Produce Association
  101. Vinyl Siding Institute, Inc.
  102. Vogel, Slade & Goldstein, LLP
  103. Waterman and Associates
  104. Wenderoth, Lind & Ponack, L.L.P.
  105. Widmeyer Communications
  106. Appleseed Foundation
  107. Atelier Architects
  108. Bockorny Group
  109. Bond & Pecaro
  110. Bonner, Kiernan, Trebach & Crociata
  111. Bonstra Haresign Architects
  112. Capitol Process Services, Inc.
  113. Carr Workplaces
  114. Casey Trees
  115. Clement’s Pastry Shop
  116. Communications Development Incorporated
  117. Computer World Services
  118. Colonnade Condos
  119. Compressus
  120. Environmental Design & Construction
  121. The Fund for American Studies
  122. Fund for Global Human Rights
  123. Futures Industry Association
  124. Hartman-Cox Architects
  125. Hecht, Spencer and Associates
  126. The Herald Group
  127. I. Gorman Jewelers
  128. International Center for Research on Women
  129. International Dairy Foods Association
  130. International Franchise Association
  131. James E. Brown & Associates, PLLC
  132. Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital
  133. Jewish Women International
  134. King Branson LLC
  135. Land Trust Alliance
  136. Law Resources
  137. MAG America
  138. Man-Machine Systems Assessment, Inc.
  139. McBee Strategic
  140. McBride Real Estate Services
  141. Medical Device Manufacturers Association
  142. Medical Society of the District of Columbia
  143. Metropolitan Engineering, Inc. | Shapiro – O’Brien
  144. National Institute of Building Sciences
  145. North American Millers’ Association
  146. North American Securities Administrators Association
  147. Pascal & Weiss, P.C.
  148. Poker Players Alliance
  149. Potomac Communications Group, Inc.
  150. Public Properties
  151. Rust Insurance Agency, LLC
  152. Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access
  153. Salsa Labs
  154. Society of the Plastics Industry
  155. Springboard Enterprises
  156. Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  157. The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars
  158. Washington Partners, LLC

One might add the Center for Science in the Public Interest, whose president emeritus complains, “the only option the board publicly considered has been this unpopular and unnecessary plan to close the private marketplace to many businesses.”

Why Sebelius Campaigns So Hard for Her Boss — and Why He Won’t Fire Her

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been campaigning so enthusiastically for President Obama that she – whoops! – broke a federal law that restricts political activities by executive-branch officials. Federal employees are usually fired for such transgressions, but no one expects that to happen to Sebelius. Heck, she got right back in the saddle.

Every cabinet official (probably) wants to see the president reelected, and no president relishes dismissing a cabinet official. But in this case, there’s an additional incentive for Sebelius to campaign for her boss and for Obama not to fire her.

ObamaCare creates a new Independent Payment Advisory Board that – “fact checkers” notwithstandingis actually a super-legislature with the power to ration care to everyone, increase taxes, impose conditions on federal grants to states, and wield other legislative powers. According to legend, IPAB will consist of 15 unelected “experts” who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Yeah, good one.

In fact, if the president makes no appointments, or the Senate rejects the president’s appointees, then all of IPAB’s considerable powers fall to one person: the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The HHS secretary would effectively become an economic dictator, with more power over the health care sector than any chamber of Congress.

If Obama wins in November, he would have zero incentive to appoint any IPAB members. The confirmation hearings would be a bloodbath, not unlike Don Berwick’s confirmation battle multiplied by 15. Sebelius, on the other hand, would not need to be re-confirmed. She could assume all of IPAB’s powers without the Senate examining her fitness to wield those powers. If Obama fired her, or the voters fire Obama, then the next HHS secretary would have to secure Senate confirmation. Again, bloodbath. That makes Kathleen Sebelius the only person in the universe who could assume those powers without that scrutiny.

No wonder she’s campaigning so hard. No wonder Obama won’t fire her.

New Video Shows that Obamanomics Is a Failure

I’ve narrated a video on why Keynesian economics is bad theory, I’ve also narrated a video specifically debunking Obama’s failed stimulus, and I’ve put together a post with data from the Minneapolis Fed showing how Reaganomics worked far better than Obamanomics.

But this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation does all that—and more—in only about six minutes.

By the way, for those who like gory details, a previous video in the CF&P Foundation’s Economics 101 series looked at how the so-called stimulus was a rat’s nest of waste and corruption.

Not that anybody should be surprised. Big government facilitates corruption in the same way that a dumpster attracts rats and cockroaches.

My concern is long-term trends. Politicians should be complying with Mitchell’s Golden Rule, which means reducing government spending as a share of GDP (to put it in terms that make economists feel warm and fuzzy, gov’t exp/GDP should be decreasing).

What irks me about Obama is that he wants to increase the burden of government spending, which means the numerator in the equation is going in the wrong direction. And he wants class-warfare tax policy and more red tape, which makes it even harder for the denominator to move in the right direction.

And if that ratio continues to deteriorate, as both the BIS and OECD are predicting, then it’s just a matter of time before the United States becomes Greece.

‘There Isn’t a Single Honest Health Economist Who Agrees with the LA Times’ on IPAB

I blogged previously about Mitt Romney’s claim that ObamaCare creates “an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” President Obama conceded the point when he responded that the Independent Payment Advisory Board “basically identifies best practices and says, let’s use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.” The president admitted the whole point of IPAB is to let a bunch of experts decide what practices are “best,” and to stop paying for what isn’t.

I am not aware of a single fact-checker who has grasped that basic point. Not PolitiFact, not the Associated Press, not FactCheck.org, not The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker, not this Washington Post health reporter. The Los Angeles Times called Romney’s claim “erroneous” and writes:

This is a myth advanced repeatedly by critics of the Affordable Care Act and debunked consistently by independent fact-checkers…the panel is explicitly prohibited from cutting benefits for people on Medicare. And there is no provision in the law that empowers the advisory board to make any decisions about what treatments doctors may provide for their patients.

Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine and economics at Stanford University, responds:

The media “fact check” business is incredibly tiresome given how pedantic and downright inaccurate it is, but I wanted to weigh in on this one before it hardens.  The LA Times somehow thinks that the ACA (aka Obamacare) will have no effect on determining what care patients can get, and consequently dings Romney for saying it will.  There isn’t a single honest health economist out there who agrees with the LA Times on this one.

Bhattacharya explains that IPAB will be able to influence care by cutting payments to providers. But that’s not the half of it. IPAB has the power to do exactly what the fact-checkers think it can’t: deny specific treatments to Medicare enrollees. It can even raise taxes and do other things the fact-checkers think it cannot.

I explain why the fact-checkers are wrong at this Cato Institute policy forum at noon on Thursday (October 11). Join us. Pre-register now at that link.