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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How to bridge the gap between House, Senate on ethics bill

A ban on lobbyist-to-legislator gifts with several big exceptions, or a $100 cap with fewer exceptions? That’s the main question legislators must answer by midnight Thursday if they are going to pass ethics reform this year.

The proposed ban originated in the House, the cap in the Senate. Either one would be an improvement over the status quo of unlimited gifts. But, ultimately, legislators must pick one approach. And the best approach would be an even tighter version of the $100 cap.

House Speaker David Ralston has called a cap, rather than a ban, a “gimmick.” Referring to the $100 cap senators imposed on themselves on the first day of this session, Ralston has wondered aloud: Does it limit gifts to $100 per day? Per hour? Per minute? He opted instead to sponsor a bill with a ban.

The speaker was right to question the Senate rule’s lack of specificity. But with only three days left in this session, and with his bill looking dramatically different as senators send it back to …

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March Madness, Georgia-style

One by one, the field gets smaller. Some advance, while others don’t. Long-shot dreams are realized, while some sure-fire bets fall by the wayside.

Yes, the Georgia legislative session is winding down.

Hey, I couldn’t have been talking about basketball in Georgia this time of year. (Thanks for nothing, Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, Panthers, Eagles, Bears, and any other Division I schools I left out.) But if you read the foregoing and thought of the usual kind of March Madness, feel free to discuss how your brackets are doing in the thread below. I hope they’re doing better than mine; they almost have to be.

Or use the thread below to talk about whatever else is on your mind.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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Broun’s wrong about ’slight’ difference between Ryan, Obama plans

Congressman Paul Broun, R-Athens, is the only announced candidate in the election next year to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss. I met with him last week while I was in Washington, and the thing he talked about over and over was cutting federal spending.

“I expect to win” next year’s election, he told me. “Georgians know I have the record. I have the will to say no to out-of-control spending. And I’m the only person who can be in this race who has done so, and they’ll elect me to the U.S. Senate.”

Asked about the possibility that two or three of his fellow House members could join him in the race, Broun replied: “I hope they’ll see the wisdom of staying where they are instead of losing to me.”

Strong words, as were the ones Broun wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Monday. In the op-ed, Broun criticized House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s latest budget — the one Democrats have railed against as Draconian — as instead being inadequate.

“Spending [under the …

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Senate plan to ban ‘assault weapons’ appears dead for now

If the bill forthcoming from Senate Democrats is any indication, it appears there’s little appetiate in Congress to decide what constitutes an “assault weapon” and ban it. From the Washington Post:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chief sponsor of the [assault weapons] ban, said Tuesday that her proposal won’t be included as part of a bill encompassing several proposals that the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week and that the Senate is expected to begin debating when it returns from a two-week recess in early April.

In addition to the assault weapons ban, the Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan proposal to make gun trafficking a federal crime; a bipartisan bill to expand a Justice Department grant program that provides funding for school security; and a Democratic proposal to expand the nation’s gun background check program.

Instead of including the assault weapons ban in the final bill, Feinstein said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has …

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GOP’s reform report arrives at a debate already well under way

The Republican National Committee has released its “autopsy” on the 2012 election and outline of how to win future federal elections, and it appears to pull no punches. But I have a bone to pick with the way it is being reported, for instance by the Associated Press story linked by my AJC colleague Jim Galloway:

In calling for the GOP to develop “a more welcoming conservatism,” the report rebukes those who remain in denial about the seriousness of the problem and those who are unwilling to broaden the party’s appeal.

A just-concluded gathering of conservatives in Washington cheered speaker after speaker who urged the GOP to stick to its guns and, instead, largely blamed the 2012 defeat on Romney or the way he ran his campaign.

I don’t know whether the AP reporter was at CPAC, the “just-concluded gathering” to which the story referred, and which I attended. But that second paragraph, in my view, completely misrepresents the take-away from the conference.

To say the attendees …

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CPAC 2013: Hearing from some of the possible next GOP standard bearers

We’re approaching the midpoint of CPAC 2013, and we’ve heard from about half of the people expected to be contenders in 2016 (at least, those who are on the agenda — and no, Donald Trump isn’t one of the people I have in mind). We can begin to see the ground these potential candidates are beginning to stake out.

The first of these possible candidates was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio covered the waterfront of long-held conservative beliefs, on  both fiscal and social issues. “Our challenge,” he said, “is to create an agenda applying our principles.” The broad outlines of such an agenda from him mostly included conventionally conservative stuff. If there is one theme he wants to own, I’d say it is American exceptionalism.

He cited a different book: “The China Dream,” recently written by a Chinese army colonel. The gist, Rubio said, is that “China’s goals should be to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent military and economic power,” and that the 21st century …

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CPAC 2013: Who deserves the blame for the 2012 debacle?

The central question facing those attending or speaking at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference this week is why they failed to produce a GOP challenger who could beat a relatively weak incumbent in President Obama last November. For some, it’s about policies, for others it’s about message, for still others it’s about the candidate himself, and for those who don’t fall into one of the first three groups it’s about the nuts and bolts of campaigning — technology, infrastructure and everything that falls into the category known as the “ground game.”

Each of these debates matters, because the GOP had significant failures in each respect in 2012. Anyone who wants to see conservative politicians elected to implement conservative policies needs to pay attention.

While there are differing opinions among the folks here concerning each of those items, the most passionate disagreements I saw Thursday, by far, were those pertaining to the consultants who run many a campaign. …

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CPAC 2013: Where does conservative military policy go from here?

Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster last week, in which he demanded the Obama administration clarify if it believes it has the authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil with drones, sparked blowback from some of his fellow Republicans, including Sen. John McCain. That has sparked debate about whether the GOP is moving in a new direction regarding foreign and military policy, or drifting apart into two, ahem, warring camps.

But foreign-policy and military experts speaking on a Thursday morning panel at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference sounded a relatively consistent line of thinking, albeit more about the use of force overseas while largely staying away from the topic of domestic drones.

“The proper natural end of war is your peace, the peace according to you, the peace you want,” said Angelo Codevilla, professor of international relations at Boston University. “Victory is that achievement. And defeat is in fact letting the enemy achieve his version of peace. …

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Morehead eyes private money to sustain UGA’s rise

In January, as the University of Georgia was wrapping up the search for its new president, I came across an open letter former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote to the people of Purdue University, whose presidency he had just assumed.

The letter made so many good points about the role and future of higher education that I considered writing a column about it, along the lines of: “I don’t know who the next president of UGA should be, but he or she should think like this.” Before I did, UGA announced its next president. And he was thinking about Daniels’ letter, too.

In particular, Jere Morehead noticed this part of the missive:

“We should all remind ourselves every day that the dollars we are privileged to spend come, for the most part, from either a family or a taxpayer. We measure many activities by FTEs, full-time equivalents; we should likewise see every $10,000 we spend as an ‘STE,’ a student tuition equivalent. Any unnecessary expenditure of that amount could instead have …

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