Archive for the ‘Federal’ Category

Obamacare is proving just how super-efficient our federal government can be

Throughout the Obamacare debate — which ended just over three years ago — we heard a lot of talk about how the federal government was so much more efficient at delivering health insurance than private firms are. This argument required a willing suspension of disbelief for anyone who has ever even heard of the federal government, much less its innumerable examples of wasteful spending. But that’s what we were told.

And I was reminded of that line of argument when I read this blog post by health-insurance expert Bob Laszewski about the mounting costs of building the health-insurance exchanges that will be central to delivering Obamacare beginning next year.

In California alone, Laszewski reports, federal grants for building an exchange already total $910 million. In New York, it’s $340 million just for establishing an enrollment and eligibility process. All told, this year the feds have awarded $3.3 billion in grants to build and market exchanges — and that doesn’t include …

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Oh, that dreaded, awful sequester

With the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester set to kick in Friday (March 1) unless an alternative deal is reached, be ready to hear about all the terrible, horrible, unfathomable effects of cutting … less than 3 percent of all federal spending.

To put things in perspective, economist Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute (and a double Dawg) prepared this graph from Congressional Budget Office data:

Mitchell sequester cut graph

Note that, even after the sequester, spending continues to rise every year — in large part because the sequester doesn’t touch entitlements, which are the fastest-growing part of the budget.

Will there be an effect on some people? Of course: The only way there wouldn’t be is if the feds were simply taking tens of billion dollars a year and lighting them on fire. But as far as a modest measures for beginning to curb runaway spending go — and not even this White House is denying any longer that this country has a spending problem — we will hardly see anything more modest …

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Money-losing Postal Service to lose a little less money

The good news: The U.S. Postal Service proposes to take a solid step to address its annual shortfall by eliminating most mail delivery on Saturdays, saving an estimated $2 billion per year.

The bad news: That deficit isn’t $2 billion a year. It’s $16 billion a year.

There are skeptics that even the move to reduce Saturday deliveries (you’ll still see your postman at your mailbox on Saturdays if you’re expecting certain things, such as express mail and mail-order medications) will be all that effective. As Ed Morrissey notes at Hot Air, it depends in part on whether delivery trucks have the spare capacity on Mondays to handle the additional mail, or whether more drivers will require more trips back to the post office to complete their rounds.

And, as former U.S. comptroller general David Walker tells CBS News, the USPS still must “look at more fundamental changes in its infrastructure, its compensation costs, its retirement obligations, and also what it does and who does its …

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Senate immigration reform tries to be everything to everybody

The package of immigration reforms unveiled today by four GOP senators and four Democratic ones has been pitched as “comprehensive.” And it certainly is comprehensive — so all-encompassing, in fact, it seems to include everything both side wants, even the things that would seem to be mutually exclusive.

For example, the package’s first “pillar” stipulates that a revised “path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here” is “contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays.” For the left, the the key bit is the “path to citizenship.” For the right, it’s “securing the border.” (I’m speaking in broad terms for both groups, obviously.) Those two goals aren’t necessarily in conflict; it depends on how you try to accomplish them.

That’s where the contradictory details come into play. The Republican senators point to the package’s “commission comprised of governors, attorneys general and community leaders living along the Southwest border” and suggest this …

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What Phil Mickelson has in common with low-income Americans

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson has been in the news lately for complaining — and then apologizing about complaining — about the marginal tax rate he faces under new tax laws at both the federal level and in his home state of California. He claimed he now pays more than 60 percent of his income in taxes.

Presumably, he apologized because now is not the most popular point in U.S. history for questioning the wisdom of the government for taxing sharply the income of Americans who earn tens of millions of dollars a year. And as someone who earns a goodly chunk of his millions precisely because of his popularity (think endorsements), Mickelson has to consider such things.

So perhaps readers will be more interested to know that Mickelson has nothing on low-income Americans when it comes to watching his take-home earnings dissipate with each additional dollar. But not only because of tax rates.

Based on data released earlier last fall by the Congressional Budget Office, the

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Paul Ryan tackles one of GOP’s biggest post-election problems

For the second time in two elections, an older Republican presidential nominee selected a younger running mate with the intent of injecting some energy into his campaign. Then, shortly afterward, his campaign staff began working to muzzle that younger running mate.

That’s about as close as you’ll get to putting Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin in the same sentence — although, like Palin, Ryan seems intent on using his boost in national profile to grab a big role in the national debate moving forward, likely to position himself for a future run at the top of the ticket.

I give Ryan better odds at staying in that conversation all the way until the next election than Palin did after 2008 (although she certainly remained relevant through the 2010 midterms and was a central figure in the tea party’s rise to prominence). If he does, it will be because he seems to have a keen understanding of one of the GOP’s key problems moving forward from the election he helped fight. I’m talking about …

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REVEALED: What the IRS form for Obamacare might look like (click on link to see it)

OK, this is not an actual IRS document: It’s a mock-up of one by Americans for Tax Reform. But it incorporates requirements from Obamacare in the kind of form you can expect if President Obama is re-elected and Obamacare is fully implemented. Bottom line: Your 1040EZ form is getting longer and less EZ.

Yet another reason we should move Tax Day to the day before Election Day.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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Hurricane Sandy prompts two sharply divergent views on how society should respond

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Occupy Wall Street, the group alleged to be the left’s answer to the tea party. But you might hear more about these messages yesterday from the group expressing apparent approval of the wrecked state of New York City post-Hurricane Sandy:

Go outside. Meet your neighbors. Talk. Share a meal. When capitalism retreats, our communities flourish. #sandy #nyc

No subways. No electricity. No chains. #capitalism #sandy #nyc

As capitalism halts, we experience “an exceptional period of mutual support and common care.” http://ow.ly/eSX4t #sandy #nyc @StrikeDebt

I don’t think the person tweeting from the OWS account really believes things would be better in a world with so much physical destruction (although, in light of the way OWS treated the Manhattan park where it held its famous rallies last year, I may be giving him/her too much credit). I do, however, think these messages betray an astounding lack of recognition that free-market capitalism …

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The Obama pitch: Don’t ask us for a plan, just reject the GOP’s plan

With Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, the entire presidential campaign will — or should — boil down to this exchange between Ryan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a House hearing on President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget back in February (text of transcript courtesy of Real Clear Politics):

Ryan: Here’s the point. Leaders are supposed to fix problems. We have a $99.4 trillion unfunded liability. Our government is making promises to Americans that it has no way of accounting for them. And so you’re saying yeah, we’re stabilizing it but we’re not fixing it in the long run. That means we’re just going to keep lying to people. We’re going to keep all these empty promises going.

And so what we’re saying is, in order to avert a debt crisis — you’re the Treasury Secretary — if we can’t make good on our bonds in the future, who is going to invest in our country? We do not want to have a debt crisis. And so it comes down to confidence and …

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NYT’s Keller gets it half-right on need to reform entitlements

In a column addressed to his fellow baby boomers (sorry, this Gen-Xer peeked anyway!) New York Times columnist Bill Keller says one way for his generation to shed its reputation of entitlement and selfishness is, well, to be less selfish about entitlements.

He refers to a study by the Democratic think tank Third Way that examines the tremendous growth of, as Keller puts it, the federal government’s “safety-net programs that provide a measure of economic stability for the aging and poor: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.” The growth of this spending, he and Third Way argue, is crowding out federal spending for “‘investments,’ which includes maintaining our national infrastructure, keeping our military equipped, helping assure that our work force is educated to a high standard, and underwriting the kind of basic scientific research that is too risky or long-term to attract private money.”

The answer, he suggests, is for liberals to embrace reforms of the entitlement …

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