It’s pretty satisfying to see that Obama was completely done in by his own hubris – when he wasn’t able to get any bipartisan support for his far left schemes, he just pushed them through by abusing the power of the executive branch.
But without a successor to secure those gains, he has built his legacy “on sand,” as perfectly stated by Krauthammer…(more)
The marketplace’s uncertain response to the ACA suggests the program could unravel.
Richard A. Epstein It has been over five years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed into law on March 23, 2010. Today, the major legal challenges are over. In 2012, the Supreme Court sustained the power of Congress to enact the law in NFIB v. Sebelius. Three years later, it held that the ACA allowed for the payment of subsidies for all applicants who enrolled through either the state or federal exchanges. Chief Justice Roberts wrote both decisions. They will not be overturned.
” The issue here is simple enough. Can the plan, which has weathered the legal challenges, survive in today’s highly dynamic economic market? The prospects are uncertain to say the least. Some clear signposts indicate the answer is no.”
But if the legal battle over Obamacare is over, the economic battle over Obamacare has just begun. The issue here is simple enough. Can the plan, which has weathered the legal challenges, survive in today’s highly dynamic economic market? The prospects are uncertain to say the least. Some clear signposts indicate the answer is no. The ACA cannot succeed simply by securing first-time enrollments in its exchanges. Insurance policies are subject to annual renewals. The first year of operations will give information about how the second year will go.
“Market rate insurance will always contain differentials that reflect these risk differences. Liberals may decry the supposed inequity, but in so doing they overlook the decisive advantage of market rate plans. They are stable in ways that Obamacare is not, because customers will not leave plans from which they derive a net benefit unless they can get a better alternative.”
On the insurer side, it has proved unclear whether the premiums collected have been sufficient to cover the incurred losses. No one yet knows how the various new types of coverage required by the ACA will be priced going forward. For plans now running a deficit, belts have to be tightened.
On the insured’s side, a year’s experience could lead many customers to think that they pay too much for benefits they would rather not have. The point is especially true of people who are both healthy and young, from whom Obamacare exacts a heavy cross-subsidy that they won’t pay year after year. Market rate insurance will always contain differentials that reflect these risk differences. Liberals may decry the supposed inequity, but in so doing they overlook the decisive advantage of market rate plans. They are stable in ways that Obamacare is not, because customers will not leave plans from which they derive a net benefit unless they can get a better alternative.
“The government takes it as an article of faith that private plans are inefficient. But that unfortunate mindset leads to additional government oversight. The upshot is reduced business flexibility coupled with an additional layer of administrative costs.”
These forces are now exerting tectonic pressures in many, but not all states. Across the country, many insurance companies are increasing their rates between 25 and 35 percent as they adjust to the “shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act” in the marketplace. But the full story is necessarily far more complicated because a lot more goes into providing an insurance policy than setting the annual premium. Equally critical are the rules on coverage, how high the deductibles and copays are, where the plan facilities are located, and what the options are in the choice of physicians. And, of course, there is the tantalizing question of whether the current round of increases are one-shot adjustments, or whether they represent the onset of a consistent trend that will replicate itself in future years?
Without detailed information, it is not possible to access the peculiarities of the individual plans. But it is possible to predict that the slow death of Obamacare has become more likely. Most obviously, any premium increases within the exchanges can lead potential and current enrollees to direct their healthcare dollars elsewhere, perhaps by doing without any insurance at all or by signing up for Medicaid. Ironically, it will be hard to win these defectors back with advertisement or improvements in plan coverage, because these options are tightly constrained by Obamacare, which by design limits competition only to the choice of various care levels. Ordinary markets allow for innovation on all dimensions of service, and thus have a resilience that is all too lacking in Obamacare.
Here are some instructive results. As of early June, some 1.5 million people dropped out of the exchanges by failing to pay premiums, reducing the number covered from a February 2014 high of 11.7 million enrollees to 10.2 million four months later. That figure was still a substantial increase over the 6.3 million people insured at the end of 2014. But in the next three months, the downward trend continued so that by September 2015, the number of enrollees tumbled to 9.9 million, which was still above the administration’s goal of having 9 million on the rolls by the end of this year. But the current negative trend line is all the more striking given that some 8.3 million subscribers receive a subsidy of about $270 per month, which works out to a program wide subsidy of about $224 billion per year.
At this point, most of the gain in coverage, about 71 percent of the total, has come through the expansion of Medicaid, which in general offers inferior care to that provided by private insurance carriers. The decline in enrollees on the exchanges represents a displacement of ordinary people from insurance plans that they chose for those which come with a government stamp of approval. Read the rest of this entry »
Greg Sargent reports: Speaking at a rally in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recalled speaking with parents of victims of gun violence and condemned opposition to gun control laws. (Reuters)
But the Obama administration has already taken a long, internal look at the same executive-action proposal Clinton has promised to undertake, and has doubts over whether it can be made to work in practical terms, according to current and former senior administration officials.
The administration is still looking at this idea, in the wake of Obama’s announcement after the Oregon shooting that he has directed officials to “scrub” current laws for further actions the executive branch can take against gun violence, those officials say.
But the administration studied the same proposal in 2013 after the Newtown shooting, in the run-up to its release of a number of other executive actions on guns, and decided against including this particular idea out of concerns about its workability, the officials confirm.
The Clinton campaign has pointed to her vow to use executive action to begin closing the long-discussed private seller loophole — which allows for sales conducted by private sellers to proceed without a background check — as proof of her commitment to acting on gun violence. As a Clinton spokesperson put it: “Her willingness to pursue reforms by executive action if necessary is proof of how urgent a priority this is to her.”
The only problem with her gun show loophole proposal is that it would accomplish exactly nothing, because current law already covers her proposal.
Sean Davis writes: In the wake of a mass shooting at an Oregon community college last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced today that she would close the so-called “gun show loophole” with an executive order if she were elected president. The only problem with her gun show loophole proposal is that it would accomplish exactly nothing, because current law already covers her proposal.
“There is zero protection enshrined in law for transactions that happen to occur at a gun show or over the Internet. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The so-called ‘gun show loophole’ simply does not exist. Nor does any sort of Internet gun sale loophole.”
Here’s how Slatedescribed Hillary Clinton’s proposal:
What makes Clinton’s plan particularly noteworthy, though, is her suggestion that she’d be able to go it alone on at least one of the proposals if elected president: the gun show loophole.
And just how would she do that? According to her campaign, even if Congress were unwilling to act, Clinton would be able to use her executive authority to tweak the existing rules to reclassify anyone who sells a “significant number of guns” as someone “in the business of selling firearms”—a distinction that would make those high-volume private vendors who sell guns at gun shows
and over the Internet subject to the same rules as larger, licensed brick-and-mortar retailers. Clinton doesn’t appear to have settled on an answer to the question of just how many guns constitutes a “significant” number, but even if her chosen definition didn’t close the loophole completely, it would at least shrink it.
Such an effort could face legal challenges in the courts and, at the very least, a guaranteed NRA-led political freakout in Washington. And, even if the effort survived both, it wouldn’t come close to ending gun violence in the United States. But for gun safety advocates and like-minded voters who are desperate for action on a problem that can feel politically impossible, Clinton’s outside-the-box plan will be a welcome start.
Slate’s Josh Voorhees characterized Clinton’s plan as “clever,” which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that neither Voorhees nor Hillary Clinton is even remotely familiar with existing federal gun laws.
“Now, if Hillary thinks Congress should pass a law regulating private transactions between private individuals who reside in the same state, that’s her prerogative. But she should at least be honest about what she’s doing and about what authority the president has to do it. The president cannot by fiat eliminate the existing exemption. It can be done only by Congress.”
For starters, the federal government already has the statutory authority to define who does and does not qualify as an individual “in the business of selling firearms.” It derives that authority from 18 U.S. Code § 921. Here’s how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) specifically defines whether an individual is engaged in the business of selling firearms and should therefore be subject to federal firearms licensee (FFL) requirements:
Dealer in firearms — a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business
with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms (18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C));
Here’s the federal statute from which the ATF derives its existing authority to define who is and isn’t engaged in the business of selling guns:
(21) The term “engaged in the business” means—
(A) as applied to a manufacturer of firearms, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the
(B) as applied to a manufacturer of ammunition, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing ammunition as
a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the ammunition manufactured;
(C) as applied to a dealer in firearms, as defined in section 921(a)(11)(A), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms;
(D) as applied to a dealer in firearms, as defined in section 921(a)(11)(B), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging in such activity as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional repairs of firearms, or who occasionally fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms;
(E) as applied to an importer of firearms, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to importing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the firearms imported;
(F) as applied to an importer of ammunition, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to importing ammunition as a
regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the ammunition imported.
Contra Hillary Clinton’s campaign, “high-volume private vendors” cannot legally exist under current law. Under the ATF’s existing definition, it is impossible to sell high volumes of firearms without triggering the definition of a dealer in firearms. The “repetitive purchase and resale of firearms” makes you a dealer, not a private individual. Anything other than “occasional sales” makes you a dealer, not a private individual. Unlicensed dealing is against the law. Refusing to conduct background checks as a dealer (licensed or not) is against the law. Read the rest of this entry »
“I wonder how the Republican establishment will take this: A federal court has the gumption to declare the obvious — namely, that Obama’s immigration policy is unconstitutional, just as Republican candidates argued while seeking votes during the recent midterm election campaign — only three days after 20 Republican senators astonishingly joined with the Democrats to endorse Obama’s policy as constitutionally valid.”
Earlier Tuesday, a federal court in Pennsylvania declared aspects of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional.
According to the opinion by Judge Arthur Schwab, the president’s policy goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority.
This is the first judicial opinion to address Obama’s decision to expand deferred action for some individuals unlawfully present in the United States. [I’ve now posted the opinion here.]
The United States Constitution says the legislative power is held by Congress, not by the president.
“…what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.”
The White House has argued that President Obama’s executive amnesty order last week was made well within the existing law. But in remarks in Chicago tonight, President Obama went off script and admitted that in fact he unilaterally made changes to the law.
President Obama made the admission after getting heckled for several minutes by immigration protesters…. (read more)
“Listen, you know — here. Can I just say this, all right? I’ve listened to you. I heard you. I heard you. I heard you. All right? Now I have been respectful, I let you holler. All right? So let me just — nobody is removing you. I have heard you… (read more)
“Now, you’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That’s true. But what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.”
Michael Gerson writes: There are any number of marvelous things one might do as president, if Congress were not such a checked and balanced mess. But future presidents now have a new method at their disposal: Declare a long-running debate to be a national emergency. Challenge Congress, under threat of unilateral executive action, to legislate on the topic before your term runs out. And when lawmakers refuse, act with the most expansive definition of presidential power.
The supporting arguments for this approach come down to the claim that the American political system is broken — incapable of action on urgent matters because of obstructionism, bad faith and the abuse of legislative procedure. It is the political philosophy of “something must be done.”
“By crossing this particular Rubicon, Obama has given up on politics, which is, from one perspective, understandable. He doesn’t do it well.”
The arguments against this approach often come down to institutionalism. Major policy shifts, in this view, deserve legislative hearings and an open amendment process. The White House should make its views known and issue veto threats. There should be a negotiation between the House and Senate to reconcile a bill. There should be a presidential signature, or a veto and an override debate. The machinery is admittedly creaky, but it manufactures democratic legitimacy. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the many things Obama campaigned on was a promise to restore confidence in the federal government’s competence after the failures of the Bush years. Building a case for expanding, not reducing, the role of big government in American life, while curbing overuse of executive power, scaling back military obligations, and ending intelligence agency abuses, the effort succeeded, and Democrats took power. Five years later, Obama’s campaign to make government better, more responsive, and more accountable is widely recognized for what it was–empty campaign rhetoric. Once in the White House, his administration became more secretive, more adventurous, and more abusive than any in the post-war era.
And the campaign never ended. Employing a variety of tactical maneuvers and rhetorical sleight-of-hand, this administration seeks to provide cover for one power grab after another. Defending Obama’s use of executive orders, his team–with help from the media–are waging a cynical campaign to mislead the American public.
This point can’t be made enough–quantity isn’t the issue, quality is–but that won’t put a dent in the rhetorical armor shielding the White House from charges of overreach. The predictable boasts by Administration officials and talking heads about Obama’s record of issuing fewer executive orders, or less than his predecessors, is meant to fortify effort. Why so cynical? One answer–though this deserves further exploration in a future post–is that it banks on the public’s escapist tendencies, it urges them to tune out.
Barack Obama is constantly mocking the House lawsuit by referencing the fact he’s issued the fewest executive orders of any president over the last century. His spin-squad, paid and unpaid, parrots the argument at every turn. My yell-at-the-TV gripe about this has mostly revolved around the fact that the number of executive orders has nothing to do with anything. The president could issue a hundred executive orders a day — about casual Friday dress codes, the need to label food in the West Wing fridge, about how August 15 will hence forth be known as “Wacky Sock Day” — and no one would care. Or he could issue one executive order during his entire presidency. If that one order was about “Wacky Sock Day,” again no one would care. Read the rest of this entry »
“That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive.”
Yuval Levin‘s post at The Corner is bracing, and revealing, noteworthy not only because of the insights expressed here, but as an example of what team NRO does best: the most lucid writing on these matters you’ll find anywhere.
“…the notion that the president can respond to a failure to get Congress to adopt his preferred course on a prominent and divisive public issue by just acting on his own as if a law he desires had been enacted has basically nothing to do with our system of government.
In one sense, the approach the president is said to be contemplating does fit into a pattern of his use of executive power. That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive. That’s how moving to compel nuns to buy contraception and abortive drugs for their employees became “they’re trying to take away your birth control.” This strategy needlessly divides the country and brings out the worst instincts of people on all sides, but it has obvious benefits for the administration and its allies. Liberals get both the substantive action and the political benefit of calling their opponents radicals and getting their supporters worked up. Obama’s legalization of millions would surely draw a response that could then be depicted as evidence of Republican hostility to immigrants, rather than of Republican hostility to illegal executive overreach that tries to make highly significant policy changes outside the bounds of our constitutional order.
But while the legalization now being talked about fits into that pattern in a sense, the sheer scope of its overreach would put it in a different category as a practical matter…(read more)
The program makes it easy for the president to spy on and blackmail his enemies
Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Most of the worry about the National Security Agency’s bulk interception of telephone calls, e-mail and the like has centered around threats to privacy. And, in fact, the evidence suggests that if you’ve got a particularly steamy phone- or Skype-sex session going on, it just might wind up being shared by voyeuristic NSA analysts.
But most Americans figure, probably rightly, that the NSA isn’t likely to be interested in their stuff. (Anyone who hacks my e-mail is automatically punished, by having to read it.) There is, however, a class of people who can’t take that disinterest for granted: members of Congress and the judiciary. What they have to say is likely to be pretty interesting to anyone with a political ax to grind. And the ability of the executive branch to snoop on the phone calls of people in the other branches isn’t just a threat to privacy, but a threat to the separation of powers and the Constitution.
A wave of retirements by senior federal employees has begun rolling across the government as aging baby boomers who held on to their jobs during the economic downturn are increasingly calling it quits.
With retirement accounts on the rebound, many veteran workers are finding little reason to remain in government, especially at a time when agency budgets are being slashed, workers are being furloughed and morale is tumbling.
The number of executive branch employees retiring this fiscal year, which ends next month, is on track to be nearly twice the total who retired in 2009, according to government figures. And the rate looks certain to accelerate. In 2000, about 94,000 people age 60 and older worked for the government. Last year, the number was 262,000. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama this afternoon addressed recent reports of the National Security Agency secretly obtaining phone records and private data for surveillance.
During his speech he indicated that Americans needed to trust the system of government set up to thwart abuse.
“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”
Obama added that the National Security agents behind the surveillance programs “cherish our Constitution.”
“The last thing they’d be doing is taking programs like this to listen to someone’s phone calls,” he said.
Obama explained that it the appropriate checks and balances were in place to make sure that executive programs were not abused.