Washington State May Push Workers Into Health Exchanges, Costing U.S. Government Millions
By MIKE BAKER 04/24/13 04:10 AM ET EDT http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/washington-workers-health-exchange_n_3145568.html
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- In a move that would capitalize on provisions under President Barack Obama's health care law but could cost the federal government millions of dollars, Washington state lawmakers have found a creative way to pass a large chunk of their health care expenses along to Washington, D.C. – and analysts say others are likely to follow suit.
The plan threatens to affect the federal budget and the pocketbooks of some part-time workers, as it would push a group of employees out of their current health care plans and into an exchange developed under the Affordable Care Act.
Observers say the shift seems to run counter to the intent of the new health care law. Supporters, however, say it's a viable strategy for governments to pursue as they manage the insurance rules related to part-time staff.
Washington state appears to be the first major government to seriously explore the possibility of pushing workers into the exchange – but it probably won't be the last. Rick Johnson, who advises state and local governments on health care policy at the New York-based consulting firm Segal Company, said he expects it will be an option some governments will look at in the years to come.
"I can see that as one of the solutions out there," Johnson said.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Health and Human Services declined comment, and it's unclear whether the federal government accounted for this possible outcome.
While Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern about the Washington state plan this year, it is drawing growing interest among a bipartisan group of political leaders in the state. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who supported the Obama health care law while in Congress, has reservations about the plan.
But the former congressman said federal rules don't dictate how employers and employees should handle insurance coverage and indicated that he may consider supporting the idea in the future.
"It's one of those ideas that's premature for us to launch this year, but I don't think we should take it off the table," Inslee said Tuesday.
The Washington state proposal has come before lawmakers as governments around the nation are formulating strategies to manage those who don't work 40 hours a week, since the federal law requires employers to provide coverage for those working at least 30 hours.
Virginia, for example, is requiring all part-time employees to work fewer than 30 hours, which will help the state avoid penalties for not providing health coverage. Florida, facing a potential $300 million penalty for not covering workers who have 30 to 39 hours a week, is moving to extend coverage to those employees.
Washington state is in a less common situation, since it already provides coverage for part-timers down to 20 hours a week.
Budget writers in Olympia say their plan would save Washington state $120 million over the next two years. However, it would consequently push more health care costs onto the federal government, since many low-income part-time state employees and education workers would likely qualify for federal subsidies.
Under the proposal, which has been advanced as a way to help deal with a $1.2 billion budget shortfall, Washington state would make policy changes and secure agreements in which staffers who work between 20 and 30 hours a week would get extra compensation but lose state health coverage. They would then be eligible to get health care in the federal plan, without any consequence for the state.
K-12 workers would have to adopt new bargaining agreements to implement the change, though the state would help by offering sweeteners that would be equivalent to as much as a $2 per hour raise.
Rick Chisa, political director at the Public School Employees of Washington, said the union is open to shifting some workers to the exchange but didn't feel that the current proposal – an inducement valued at perhaps $200 a month for someone working 25 hours a week – provided an adequate incentive, especially if it may be taxed as compensation.
He said the change may eventually make sense for cafeteria workers and teacher's assistants who are on the low end of the pay spectrum, but union leaders also want to see what the insurance product will end up looking like in the exchange before making that move.
"We want to make sure that we're not selling workers short and being mesmerized by a shiny $2 bill," Chisa said. He said it was "very unlikely" for such a shift to happen this year.
The shift could be a problem particularly for part-time workers who have larger family incomes.
Steve Hodes, who works 24 hours a week doing policy work for the Employment Security Department, said he would not qualify for insurance subsidies because his wife makes a decent salary working as an attorney.
He suspects he and his family might be on the hook for thousands of dollars in new expenses if he was moved to the exchange, though solid numbers are elusive since the exchange doesn't exist yet.
"They don't have a clue how much it is," said Hodes, 63.
Under the federal law, large employers who don't provide coverage to full-time workers will face penalties, but they won't face penalties for not covering employees who work under 30 hours a week. Thousands of part-time government employees in Washington state work between 20 and 30 hours a week and currently qualify for state medical coverage.
Observers have been concerned about how private employers will handle the new health care law and the possibility that some may shed insurance coverage. The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants, for example, began experimenting last year with putting more workers on part-time status.
Virginia is doing something similar, with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell directing that all part-time state employees work less than 29 hours weekly. That is creating a financially crippling problem for many of Virginia's 9,100 adjunct faculty members at the state's 23 community colleges on 40 campuses statewide.
"I've never anticipated getting rich off being a teacher," said J. Gabriel Scala, an adjunct English professor at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond.
"But the rent has to be paid. And I have to eat. And gas has to be put in the car – and $17,000 a year isn't going to do it," she added.
The efforts appear to be the beginning stages of governments working to manage their costs under the health care law.
Washington Democratic state Sen. Jim Hargrove, one of the budget writers who helped develop his state's plan, said lawmakers were considering the option as a way to help both employees and the state budget.
"We're looking," Hargrove said, "at what the possibilities are."
AP Writer Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/HiPpEV
In Florida, a food-stamp recruiter deals with wrenching choices
By Eli Saslow, Published: April 23http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-florida-a-food-stamp-recruiter-deals-with-wrenching-choices/2013/04/23/b3d6b41c-a3a4-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_print.html
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A good recruiter needs to be liked, so Dillie Nerios filled gift bags with dog toys for the dog people and cat food for the cat people. She packed crates of cookies, croissants, vegetables and fresh fruit. She curled her hair and painted her nails fluorescent pink. “A happy, it’s-all-good look,” she said, checking her reflection in the rearview mirror. Then she drove along the Florida coast to sign people up for food stamps.
Her destination on a recent morning was a 55-and-over community in central Florida, where single-wide trailers surround a parched golf course. On the drive, Nerios, 56, reviewed techniques she had learned for connecting with some of Florida’s most desperate senior citizens during two years on the job. Touch a shoulder. Hold eye contact. Listen for as long as it takes. “Some seniors haven’t had anyone to talk to in some time,” one of the state-issued training manuals reads. “Make each person feel like the only one who matters.”
In fact, it is Nerios’s job to enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds. Alleviate hunger, lessen poverty: These are the primary goals of her work. But the job also has a second and more controversial purpose for cash-strapped Florida, where increasing food-stamp enrollment has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion each year into the state. The money helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers. It also adds to rising federal entitlement spending and the U.S. debt.
Nerios prefers to think of her job in more simple terms: “Help is available,” she tells hundreds of seniors each week. “You deserve it. So, yes or no?”
In Florida and everywhere else, the answer in 2013 is almost always yes. A record 47 million Americans now rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, available for people with annual incomes below about $15,000. The program grew during the economic collapse because 10 million more Americans dropped into poverty. It has continued to expand four years into the recovery because state governments and their partner organizations have become active promoters, creating official “SNAP outreach plans” and hiring hundreds of recruiters like Nerios.
A decade ago, only about half of eligible Americans chose to sign up for food stamps. Now that number is 75 percent.
Rhode Island hosts SNAP-themed bingo games for the elderly. Alabama hands out fliers that read: “Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home.” Three states in the Midwest throw food-stamp parties where new recipients sign up en masse.
On the Treasure Coast of Florida, the official outreach plan is mostly just Nerios, who works for a local food bank that is funded in part by the state. She roams four counties of sandbars and barrier islands in her Ford Escape, with an audio Bible in the CD player and a windshield sticker that reads “Faith, Hope and Love.” She distributes hundreds of fliers each week, giving out her personal cellphone number and helping seniors submit SNAP applications on her laptop.
On this particular morning, Nerios pulled into the Spanish Lakes retirement community near Port St. Lucie, Fla., and set up a display table in front of the senior center. She advertised her visit weeks in advance, but she can never predict how many people will come. Some events draw hundreds; others only a dozen. Her hope was to attract a crowd with giveaways of pet toys and hundreds of pounds of food, which she stacked high on the table. “What person in need doesn’t want food that’s immediate and free?” she said.
She watched as a few golf carts and motorized scooters drove toward her on a road lined with palm trees, passing Spanish Lakes signs that read “We Love Living Here!” and “Great Lifestyle!” The first seniors grabbed giveaway boxes and went home to tell their friends, who told more friends, until a line of 40 people had formed at Nerios’s table.
A husband and wife, just done with nine holes of golf, clubs still on their cart.
An 84-year-old woman on her bicycle, teetering away with one hand on the handlebars and a case of applesauce under her other arm.
A Korean War veteran on oxygen who mostly wanted to talk, so Nerios listened: 32 years in the military, a sergeant major, Germany, Iron Curtain, medals and awards. “A hell of a life,” the veteran said. “So if I signed up, what would I tell my wife?”
“Tell her you’re an American and this is your benefit,” Nerios said, pulling him away from the crowd, so he could write the 26th name of the day on her SNAP sign-up sheet.
She distributed food and SNAP brochures for three hours. “Take what you need,” she said, again and again, until the fruit started to sweat and the vegetables wilted in the late-morning heat. Just as she prepared to leave, a car pulled into the senior center and a man with a gray mustache and a tattered T-shirt opened the driver-side door. He had seen the giveaway boxes earlier in the morning but waited to return until the crowd thinned. He had just moved to Spanish Lakes. He had never taken giveaways. He looked at the boxes but stayed near his car.
“Sir, can I help?” Nerios asked. She brought over some food. She gave him her business card and a few brochures about SNAP.
“I don’t want to be another person depending on the government,” he said.
“How about being another person getting the help you deserve?” she said.
Did he deserve it, though? Lonnie Briglia, 60, drove back to his Spanish Lakes mobile home with the recruiter’s pamphlets and thought about that. He wasn’t so sure.
Wasn’t it his fault that he had flushed 40 years of savings into a bad investment, buying a fleet of delivery trucks just as the economy crashed? Wasn’t it his fault that he and his wife, Celeste, had missed mortgage payments on the house where they raised five kids, forcing the bank to foreclose in 2012? Wasn’t it his fault the only place they could afford was an abandoned mobile home in Spanish Lakes, bought for the entirety of their savings, $750 in cash?
“We made horrible mistakes,” he said. “We dug the hole. We should dig ourselves out.”
Now he walked into their mobile home and set the SNAP brochures on the kitchen table. They had moved in three months before, and it had taken all of that time for them to make the place livable. They patched holes in the ceiling. They fixed the plumbing and rewired the electricity. They gave away most of their belongings to the kids — “like we died and executed the will,” he said. They decorated the walls of the mobile home with memories of a different life: photos of Lonnie in his old New Jersey police officer uniform, or in Germany for a manufacturing job that paid $25 an hour, or on vacation in their old pop-up camper.
A few weeks after they moved in, some of their 11 grandchildren had come over to visit. One of them, a 9-year-old girl, had looked around the mobile home and then turned to her grandparents on the verge of tears: “Grampy, this place is junky,” she had said. He had smiled and told her that it was okay, because Spanish Lakes had a community pool, and now he could go swimming whenever he liked.
Only later, alone with Celeste, had he said what he really thought: “A damn sky dive. That’s our life. How does anyone fall this far, this fast?”
And now SNAP brochures were next to him on the table — one more step down, he thought, reading over the bold type on the brochure. “Applying is easy.” “Eat right!” “Every $5 in SNAP generates $9.20 for the local economy.”
He sat in a sweltering home with no air conditioning and a refrigerator bought on layaway, which was mostly empty except for the “experienced” vegetables they sometimes bought at a discount grocery store to cook down and freeze for later. He had known a handful of people who depended on the government: former co-workers who exaggerated injuries to get temporary disability; homeless people in the Fort Pierce park where he had taken the kids each week when they were young to hand out homemade peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, even though he suspected some of those homeless were drug addicts who spent their Social Security payments on crack.
“Makers and takers,” Lonnie had told the kids then, explaining that the world divided into two categories. The Briglias were makers.
Now three of those kids worked in law enforcement and two were in management. One of them, the oldest, was on his way to visit Spanish Lakes, driving down at this very moment from Valdosta, Ga., with his wife and two kids. Lonnie placed the SNAP brochures in a drawer and turned on a fan to cool the mobile home.
His son arrived, and they went out to dinner. Lonnie tried to pay with a credit card, but his son wouldn’t let him. Then, before leaving for Valdosta, the son gave his parents an air conditioner, bought for $400. Lonnie started to protest.
“Please,” his son said. “You need it. It’s okay to take a little help.”
The offer of more help came early the next morning. Nerios reached Lonnie on his cellphone to check on his interest in SNAP.
“Can I help sign you up?” she asked.
“I’m still not sure,” he said. “We have a lot of frozen vegetables in the freezer.”
“Don’t wait until you’re out,” she said.
She was on her way to another outreach event, but she told Lonnie she had plenty of time to talk. She had always preferred working with what her colleagues called the Silent Generation, even though seniors were historically the least likely to enroll in SNAP. Only about 38 percent of eligible seniors choose to participate in the program, half the rate of the general population. In Florida, that means about 300,000 people over 60 are not getting their benefits, and at least $381 million in available federal money isn’t coming into the state. To help enroll more seniors, the government has published an outreach guide that blends compassion with sales techniques, generating some protests in Congress. The guide teaches recruiters how to “overcome the word ‘no,’ ” suggesting answers for likely hesitations.
Welfare stigma: “You worked hard and the taxes you paid helped create SNAP.”
Embarrassment: “Everyone needs help now and then.”
Sense of failure: “Lots of people, young and old, are having financial difficulties.”
Nerios prefers a subtler touch. “It’s about patience, empathy,” she said. While she makes a middle-class salary and had never been on food stamps herself, she knows the emotional exhaustion that comes at the end of each month, after a few hundred conversations about money that didn’t exist. Nowhere had the SNAP program grown as it has in Florida, where enrollment had risen from 1.45 million people in 2008 to 3.35 million last year. And no place in Florida had been reshaped by the recession quite like the Treasure Coast, where middle-class retirees lost their savings in the housing collapse, forcing them to live on less than they expected for longer than they expected. Sometimes, Nerios believes it is more important to protect a client’s sense of self-worth than to meet her quota.
“I’m not going to push you,” she told Lonnie now. “This is your decision.”
“I have high blood pressure, so it’s true that diet is important to us,” he said, which sounded to her like a man arguing with himself.
“I can meet with you today, or tomorrow, or anytime you’d like,” she said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m really sorry.”
“You don’t have to be,” she said. “Please, just think about it.”
She hung up the phone and began setting up her giveaway table at another event.
He hung up the phone and drove a few miles down the highway to his wife’s small knitting store. They had stayed married 41 years because they made decisions together. She was an optimist and he was a realist; they leveled each other out. During the failures of the past three years, they had developed a code language that allowed them to acknowledge their misery without really talking about it.
“How you doing?” he asked.
“Just peachy,” she said, which meant to him that in fact she was exhausted, depressed, barely hanging on.
She opened the knitting store three years earlier, but it turned out her only customers were retirees on fixed incomes, seniors with little money to spend who just wanted an air-conditioned place to spend the day. So Celeste started giving them secondhand yarn and inviting customers to knit with her for charity in the shop. Together they had made 176 hats and scarves for poor families in the last year. The store, meanwhile, had barely made its overhead. Lonnie wanted her to close it, but it was the last place where she could pretend her life had turned out as she’d hoped, knitting to classical music at a wooden table in the center of the store.
Now Lonnie joined her at that table and started to tell her about his week: how he had been driving by the community center and seen boxes of food; how he had decided to take some, grabbing tomatoes and onions that looked fresher than anything they’d had in weeks; how a woman had touched his shoulder and offered to help, leaving him with brochures and a business card.
He pulled the card from his pocket and showed it to Celeste. She leaned in to read the small print. “SNAP Outreach,” it read.
“I think we qualify,” Lonnie said.
There was a pause.
“Might be a good idea,” Celeste said.
“It’s hard to accept,” he said.
“We have to take help when we need it,” she said.
Celeste looked down at her knitting, and Lonnie sat with her in the quiet shop and thought about what happened when he opened a barbershop a few years earlier, as another effort of last resort. His dad, an Italian immigrant, had been a barber in New Jersey, and Lonnie decided to try it for himself after a dozen manufacturing job applications went unanswered in 2010. He enrolled in a local beauty school, graduated with a few dozen teenaged girls, took over the lease for a shop in Port St. Lucie and named it Man Cave. He had gone to work with his scissors and his clippers every day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, standing on the curb and waving a handmade sign to advertise haircuts for $5. He had done a total of 11 cuts in three months. But what tore him up inside had nothing to do with the lonely echo of his feet on the linoleum floor or the empty cash register or the weeks that went by without a single customer. No, what convinced him to close the shop — the memory that stuck with him even now — were the weeks when old friends had come in to get their hair cut twice. He couldn’t stand the idea of being pitied. He hated that his problems had become a burden to anyone else.
He wondered: Sixty years old now, and who was he? A maker? A taker?
“I’m not ready to sign up for this yet,” he said.
“Soon we might have to,” she said.
He tucked Nerios’s business card into his back pocket.
“I know,” he said. “I’m keeping it.”
© The Washington Post Company
Fed-Up Immigration Agents Sue Obama Admin. For Right to Do Their Jobs
Aug. 23, 2012 1:30pm
This photo provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, in New Jersey, shows agents taking a person into custody during operation Cross Check III. (Credit: AP)
A group of immigration agents filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration Thursday, saying they are sick of being told not to do their jobs, a feeling intensified by the president’s new non-deportation policy and a previous memo directing them not to arrest certain illegal immigrants.
A total of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and deportation officers filed the lawsuit in federal court to try to do away with both initiatives, The Washington Times reports.
Since taking office, President Obama has taken drastic measures to loosen the nation’s immigration laws. In addition to the president’s new executive order that protects younger illegal aliens from deportation, the Obama administration has shut down numerous Border Patrol stations, ended a crucial ICE program that allowed local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law and actually instructed Border Patrol agents not to make arrests.
The 10 U.S. ICE agents and deportation officers said Obama’s policies have put them between a rock and a hard place. They can either enforce the law and be reprimanded by their superiors, or fail to enforce the law and violate their own oaths of service. In fact, a 1996 law requires the agents to demand proof of legal status from individuals they suspect are in the country illegally.
High-profile attorney Kris W. Kobach, who is also secretary of state in Kansas and a staunch promoter of Arizona’s immigration law and other immigration crackdowns, is representing the agents.
“ICE is at a point now where agents are being told to break federal law, they’re pretty much told that any illegal alien under age of 31 is going to be let go. You can imagine, these law enforcement officers are being put in a horrible position,” Kobach told The Washington Times.
Last week, thousands of illegal immigrants lined up to take part in the Obama administration’s “deferred action” program and began submitting their applications to the Department of Homeland Security. Once again, the program allows illegal aliens who are 30-years of age or younger and have a decently clear criminal record to avoid deportation and acquire work permits.
“The Directive commands ICE officers to violate federal law,” the lawsuit states, “as detailed below, commands ICE officers to violate their oaths to uphold and support federal law, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, unconstitutionally usurps and encroaches upon the legislative powers of Congress, as defined in Article I of the United States Constitution, and violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law, as required by Article II, Section 3, of the United States Constitution.
Not surprisingly, ICE wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit. But don’t expect President Obama or his administration to back down at all — they have continually defended the legality of his new immigration policies.
More from The Washington Times:
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July, Rep. Steve King warned of the possibility of a lawsuit and asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano if she would rescind the order before it came to that.
“Representative, I will not rescind it,” she replied. “It’s right on the law. It’s the right policy. It fits within our prosecutorial priorities. And although it came out of the Department of Homeland Security, let me say that president is four square behind it, embraces this policy as the right thing to do.”
She said the administration doesn’t have the ability to issue a stay of action for a broad category of people, but said the new policy is different because it invests decisions on a case-by-case basis with agents and officers, who are instructed not to pursue cases for those who meet the guidelines she laid out.
Ms. Napolitano said she’s acting in accordance with Supreme Court rulings that have established a wide latitude for discretion by the executive branch, and said federal law directs the administration to establish immigration enforcement priorities.
But in their 22-page complaint, the agents say they’ve been told in broad terms to ignore a whole class of illegal immigrants. They said they have been instructed not to bother asking for proof, but to take an illegal immigrant’s word that he would qualify for the president’s policy.
One of the instances included in the agents’ lawsuit is the case of ICE Agent Samuel Martin, who picked up an illegal alien from an El Paso County jail and was assaulted as the man tried to escape. The illegal alien also reportedly assaulted a second agent.
Here’s the kicker. When they brought the man to ICE’s processing center, so-called “supervisors” told Martin that the illegal alien had to be released to comply with the Obama administration’s new policies — not the president’s “DREAM Act” but a previous memo from ICE Director John Morton who instructed agents only to give priority to criminals and repeat offenders. Keep in mind, assaulting a federal officer is a federal crime, punishable by up to 8 years in prison.
Another veteran ICE agent was recently threatened with suspension for arresting and illegal alien and refusing to let him walk — against the orders of his superiors.
It is because of instances like this that Chris Crane, the president of the National ICE Council, says morale is in the toilet among ICE agents.
“They feel like they’ve become the enemy because literally we have this situation where individuals that have broken U.S. immigration law as well as often times criminal law at the state or local level — they’re being released, no questions asked, but our own officers are being threatened with their careers being taken away if they go out and enforce the laws on the books,” Crane last month.
Additionally, Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, the group funding the lawsuit, said the current administration’s amnesty-style policies could also affect the U.S. job market.
“Without immigration enforcement, the labor market would be filled until wages fell either to the global average or the federal minimum wage,” he said. “These agents are protecting every working American’s level of income and wages.”
The Washington Times points out, “The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of Texas, argues the administration policies fail to pass muster on three grounds: they infringe on Congress’s right to set immigration policy; they force ICE agents to disregard the law; and the Homeland Security Department didn’t follow the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to write regulations and put them out for public comment before taking big steps.”
Read the entire lawsuit here.
Cost of Food Stamp Fraud More Than Doubles In Three Years
April 1, 2013 http://cnsnews.com/blog/joe-schoffstall/cost-food-stamp-fraud-more-doubles-three-years
In 2012, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said that food stamp fraud totals $750 million each year - a number that more than doubles the cost of trafficking reported in a 2006- 2008 USDA study.
Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, told the Huffington Post last year that food stamp fraud totals around $750 million each year.
The $750 million number is more than double the amount in total dollars of fraud detected annually in a 2006-2008 study on trafficking - a type of fraud that involves selling Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to food retailers for cents on the dollar.
"This is $750 million that isn't being used to provide food to individuals and families and that issue isn't lost on us. We want to maintain the confidence of American taxpayers because everyone is challenged in this economy - the payers as well as the folks who are benefiting from the program," Concannon said.
CNSNews.com reached out to the USDA to verify this number. A spokesperson stated via email, "In 2011, program costs totaled $75.7 billion. Using the most recent data on trafficking available, USDA estimated that trafficking would be 1 percent of $75 billion, or approximately $750 million."
This number is $420 million more per year than a report released in March of 2011 that wrote on fraud within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from 2006-2008.
"Trafficking diverted an estimated $330 million annually from SNAP benefits – or about one cent of each SNAP dollar – between 2006 and 2008. About 8.2 percent of all stores trafficked," states the Extent of Trafficking in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (2006-2008).
That's an increase from $330 million annually in 2008 to $750 million in 2011. The "USDA doesn't tolerate fraud which is why we are aggressively strengthening our anti-fraud policies and tactics," said the USDA, noting the rate of fraud is at 1 percent of total expenditures.
CNSNews.com previously reported that in January 2009 there were 31,939,110 Americans receiving food stamps. As of November 2012, there were 47,692,896 Americans enrolled, an increase of 49.3 percent.
No furloughs for ObamaCare officials
By Sam Baker - 04/24/13 01:35 PM ET
The office implementing most of President Obama's healthcare law is not furloughing its workers as a result of sequestration, its director said Wednesday.
Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said Wednesday that his office has not cut its workers' hours and pay as a result of the automatic budget cuts that went into effect in March.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of politicizing the sequester by targeting highly visible programs like airport security and White House tours.
The fact that ObamaCare officials haven't been furloughed shows that the cuts are political, Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) said Wednesday.
"We're talking about at least a 15 percent furlough of current air-traffic controllers, resulting in delays and perhaps safety concerns, but yet this has been a selective political item by the administration," Harper said.
Agencies across the federal workforce have furloughed their workers, cutting their hours and pay, as a result of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Furloughs have caused airport delays, and extend all the way up to the White House budget office and the West Wing.
Cohen said the implementation office has still been affected by the sequester because it is under a hiring freeze.
"We have been working very hard to avoid the necessity for furloughs," Cohen said. "We are under a hiring freeze, so I can't hire, I can't replace people who leave, which is a serious issue for me in terms of trying to run a program."
A hiring freeze is "not the same" as cutting the pay of existing employees, Harper said.
"Are you telling me, then, that this administration is furloughing air traffic controllers vital to public safety in this country, and yet you're not furloughing anybody in your agency?" Harper asked during a hearing of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee.
"Well, in effect we are, because we can't replace people who leave," Cohen replied.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/295877-official-no-furloughs-for-office-implementing-obamacare#ixzz2RPab57HM
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Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.
The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”
Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.
(Also on POLITICO: GOP pulls contentious Obamacare bill)
Democrats, in particular, would take a public hammering as the traditional boosters of Obamacare. Republicans would undoubtedly attempt to shred them over any attempt to escape coverage by it, unless Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) give Democrats cover by backing it.
There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
(Also on POLITICO: Baucus will continue ACA push)
Plus, lawmakers — especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts — are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is worried about the provision. The No. 2 House Democrat has personally raised the issue with Boehner and other party leaders, sources said.
“Mr. Hoyer is looking at this policy, like all other policies in the Affordable Care Act, to ensure they’re being implemented in a way that’s workable for everyone, including members and staff,” said Katie Grant, Hoyer’s communications director.
Several proposals have been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, which will administer the benefits. One proposal exempts lawmakers and aides; the other exempts aides alone.
When asked about the high-level bipartisan talks, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said: “The speaker’s objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.”
Reid’s office declined to comment about the bipartisan talks.
However, the idea of exempting lawmakers and aides from the exchanges has its detractors, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a key Obamacare architect. Waxman thinks there is confusion about the content of the law. The Affordable Care Act, he said, mandates that the federal government will still subsidize and provide health plans obtained in the exchange. There will be no additional cost to lawmakers and Hill aides, he contends.
“I think the law is pretty clear,” Waxman told POLITICO. “Members and their staffs should get their health insurance through the exchange; the federal government will offer them health insurance coverage that they obtained through the exchanges because we want to get the same health care coverage everybody else has available to them.”
Waxman has been working on this issue with congressional colleagues and the Obama administration.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said if OPM decides that the federal government doesn’t pick up “the 75 percent that they have been, then put yourself in the position of a lot of entry-level staff people who make $25,000 a year, and all of a sudden, they have a $7,000 a year health care tab? That would be devastating.”
Burr added: “And that makes up probably about 30 percent of the folks that work on the Senate side. Probably a larger portion on the House side. It would drastically change whether kids would have the ability to come up here out of college.”
Yet Burr, a vocal Obamacare opponent, is also flat-out opposed to exempting Congress from the exchange provision.
“I have no problems with Congress being under the same guidelines,” Burr said. “I think if this is going to be a disaster — which I think it’s going to be — we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.”
The developing narrative is potentially brutal for congressional Democrats and the White House. The health care law, controversial since it was passed in 2010, has been a target of the right and, increasingly, the left. There are concerns about its cost, implementation and impact on small businesses. If the two sides agree on a fix, leadership is discussing attaching it to a must-pass bill, like the government-funding resolution or legislation to hike the nation’s debt limit.
Republicans, though, haven’t been able to coalesce around a legislative health care plan of their own, either. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed a bill this week that would shift funds from a health care prevention fund to create a high-risk pool for sick Americans. That bill couldn’t even get a vote on the House floor as conservatives revolted, embarrassing Cantor and his leadership team. GOP leadership pulled the bill.
But the secret talks about exempting Capitol Hill hands from the exchanges has the potential to be even more politically risky. During the 2009-10 battle over what’s now dubbed Obamacare, Republicans insisted that Capitol Hill hands must have the same health care as the rest of the American people. The measure was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who spent months negotiating the details of the health care law but later became a major Obamacare critic.
The mandate on health exchanges doesn’t cover everyone. Aides in lawmakers’ personal offices must obtain health care through the exchanges but not committee staff. Lawmakers and aides older than 65 are covered by Medicare.
OPM also has to decide where the members and staffers would be covered. According to several people who have spoken with OPM officials, lawmakers would probably be in the exchange of the state they represent. But staffers would sign up in the state where they usually live — that means district office employees would join home state exchanges, and Capitol Hill staffers would mostly be in Washington, Virginia or Maryland.
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.
Hostages on the tarmac!
You're ignoring the sequester. The president isn't happy.
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Jets taxi into takeoff position at Los Angeles International Airport. Flight delays have been reported throughout the nation because of the furloughing of air traffic controllers. (David McNew, Getty Images / April 22, 2013)
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April 24, 2013
Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that "People are going to be hurt," he did not add, Trust me, I'll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week's furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious.
The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester's small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make ... more cuts to expenditures. And while we're at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve ... the Earth will fly into the sun.
Earlier this month, then, you could anticipate a White House effort to enrage the public when that same public preached blasphemy to McClatchy-Marist pollsters: The percentage of Americans who didn't think the sequester cuts are affecting the economy rose by 13 points over the prior month (from 27 to 40 percent), while the percentage who did think the cuts harm the economy fell by 11 points (from 47 to 36 percent).
The president and his allies in Congress hadn't anticipated that. They've spent March and April listening for fury from citizens who are, um, ignoring the sequester. Some of those citizens instead are marveling that the stock market (as measured by the S&P 500 Index) has shot up 10.7 percent in not-exactly-sequester-ravaged 2013.
So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year's roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president's men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let's stall some flights on the tarmac!
Sure enough, travel delays have followed. We're less certain, though, that this hostage-taking will cut the way the White House expects: The scheme relies on citizens being — how to put this delicately? — stupid enough to think that the Federal Aviation Administration can't find a more flier-friendly way to save $600 million.
To believe that, though:
• Americans would have to ignore the plan that U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., delivered in early March to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, detailing how LaHood's FAA could save twice that amount — $1.2 billion.
• Americans would have to ignore House Republicans who note that LaHood's supposedly destitute FAA is spending some $500 million on consultants — and $300 million on travel and supplies.
• And Americans would have to ignore Democrats' refusal to accept congressional Republicans' offer to give the administration more flexibility in sequester cuts — an offer House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., reiterated during a meeting Monday with the Tribune editorial board. No, the White House doesn't want flexibility. The White House wants what the president predicted March 1.
Who knows, maybe congressional Republicans will wind up wearing the jacket for this latest mess; they usually do. Although voters have such a poor opinion of them that it's doubtful their approval rating can fall lower. The notion that, having agreed to tax hikes to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, they'll surrender to the White House — Yes, yes, more tax hikes, and please, let's end the sequester's real-life curbs on spending growth — at the moment looks fanciful.
A different scenario: The longer this intentionally imposed air traffic slowdown drags on, the more incompetent LaHood and other administration officials look. They've had a year and a half to prepare for a sequester that the White House proposed, and that the president signed into law. Yet their idea of good management is to subject thousands of civilian air controllers to rolling furloughs? These officials' plan for winning Americans' hearts and minds is to toy not only with flight schedules, but also with a moribund economy that relies on the efficiency of U.S. air travel?
We note that, except for some party leaders who have no choice but to back their president, not many Democrats are, pardon the phrase, flying to his side.
Some of them may think this game of chicken is politically dangerous.
Or they may be thinking about another kind of danger: the first air scare that occurs because an understaffed, overworked control tower makes a mistake.
Obama resists Republican bid to see gun smuggling operation documents
Reuters ^ | April 24, 2013 | by David Ingram
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 7:42:31 PM by Oldeconomybuyer
President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as "Fast and Furious" on the U.S.- Mexican border.
Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government's two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts.
"That is how it has worked for 225 years," said Gershengorn, referring to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was skeptical and told Gershengorn, "There are three branches here, not just two." She did not say how she would rule, but questioned Gershengorn for more than twice as long as she did House of Representatives lawyer Kerry Kircher.
(Excerpt) Read more at reuters.com ...
'Climate of Fear'? Obama's ATF pick facing probe over retaliation claim
fox ^ | 4/25/13 | Barnini Chakraborty
Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 8:34:49 PM by Nachum
WASHINGTON – An independent government watchdog agency is investigating allegations that President Obama's nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives retaliated against employees for whistle-blowing, FoxNews.com has learned.
The allegations against B. Todd Jones, a Minnesota federal prosecutor who also is serving as acting director of the ATF while his nomination is pending, include claims that he mismanaged the prosecutor's office and presided over a "climate of fear." Specifically, he was accused of retaliating against whistle-blowing with "a suspension and a lowered performance appraisal."
In a letter dated July 20, 2012 to the Office of Special Counsel, employees at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota first claimed that they were being mistreated and that the office had turned into a “hostile work environment.”
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
President's pick for French ambassador folded over ties to poker ring: sources
By KAJA WHITEHOUSE and JENNIFER GOULD KEIL
Last Updated: 7:45 AM, April 26, 2013
Posted: 5:05 AM, April 26, 2013http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/ring_bets_off_bam_diplo_pick_folded_tHxkdAt1iQIxc6GWZ7X7jJ
The Manhattan billionaire President Obama wanted to appoint ambassador to France turned down the prestigious position over ties to an alleged Russian mob-run poker ring that was laundered through a Carlyle hotel art gallery, sources told The Post.
Marc Lasry, who runs the $12 billion investment firm Avenue Capital in Midtown, withdrew on Tuesday because of his close friendship with Illya Trincher, 27, who was busted last week with 30 others, including Trincher’s pro-poker-playing father, Vadim, and brother Eugene.
The feds last week accused Illya Trincher of running the New York arm of the $100 million betting and money-laundering racket with world-renowned Manhattan art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad.
HIGH STAKES: Investor Marc Lasry, outside his Upper East Side mansion yesterday, was President Obama’s pick for French ambassador, but is said to have declined over a pal’s alleged role as head of a poker ring with art dealer Helly Nahmad.
“Marc Lasry is a big-time gambler, in golf and poker,” a source told The Post. “He’s a ‘master of the universe’ type, and he was friends with the kid Trincher.”
Lasry, 53, turned down the post only days after the White House asked the FBI to probe whether he was tied to anyone involved in the criminal enterprise, sources said.
His name surfaced in FBI tapes probing the matter as a person who likes to play in exclusive high-stakes poker games, sources said.
Because ambassadorships require Senate approval — normally a pro-forma step — Lasry faced the prospect of being grilled about the ring.
“It’s not that he committed a crime, but it opens a can of worms,” a source said.
In mid-March, Bill Clinton, a close friend of Lasry, said at a fund-raiser that Lasry was Obama’s pick for the ambassadorship. Once a big Clinton donor, Lasry was one of the few Wall Street honchos to stick by the Democrats in 2012, raising nearly $1 million for Obama’s re-election campaign.
The hedge-fund king and other high-rollers can wager up to $2 million in the poker games, which were held in apartments worth $20 million or more, sources said.
The ring took bets “from celebrities, professional poker players and very wealthy individuals working in the financial industry,” the criminal complaint says.
Among the defendants is a Russian national, still at large, who also is accused of trying to fix the 2002 Winter Olympics skating competition.
Others arrested included “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom, who has organized poker games for celebs including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
Nahmad, himself a high-stakes gambler, allegedly helped launder “tens of millions of dollars” from the bookmaking ring through his Carlyle hotel gallery.
Nahmad controlled his family’s $3 billion art collection.
Lasry has been known to play in informal games with other wealthy investors, including Boaz Weinstein, founder of hedge fund Saba Capital Management, and David Bonderman, head of private-equity giant TPG Capital.
“I have a rule. Never play cards with Marc for money,” Bonderman told the trade publication Institutional Investor in 2007.
The publication reported that Lasry often hosts winner-take-all card games in his Upper East Side mansion, where the stakes can get as high as $20,000 per hand.
Last year, Lasry spoke on Bloomberg TV of his love for poker.
“Poker is math, so I enjoy playing it because I think there’s a lot of math involved,” he said. “And it’s fun. It’s fun to play with others.”
The White House had no immediate comment on the Lasry gambling allegations.
Lasry said “no comment” when asked about the gambling yesterday as he rushed into his home on East 74th Street.
A spokesman for Avenue Capital said, “Marc withdrew because it was becoming difficult to receive a waiver of the ‘key man’ provision from Avenue Capital’s investors, and he would have had to divest himself of his Avenue Capital business holdings.”
Lasry told Avenue Capital investors on Tuesday that he was staying put at the hedge fund, which invests in distressed debt.
In a letter, the Moroccan-born financier cited “recent speculations regarding the possibility that I might be asked to serve as the next US ambassador to France.
“I am very grateful to have been considered, but I would like to put the speculation to rest and let you know that I will be remaining at Avenue,” he wrote.
Lasry’s withdrawal raised eyebrows because he was known to badly want the ambassadorship. Before he withdrew, Lasry was planning to move his family to France and turn over management of Avenue to others.
In March, Avenue appointed its first chief investment officer since Lasry founded the firm with his sister, Sonia Gardner, in 1995.
A source close to Clinton said, “Lasry loves playing cards. He played in a celebrity poker tournament for Clinton’s foundation.
“I can’t believe that Obama admits in a book that he snorted cocaine and yet Marc Lasry can’t be named ambassador to France because he played cards.”
Additional reporting by Geoff Earle, Bruce Golding and Lia Eustachewich firstname.lastname@example.org
Blogs: New York Times vindicates Andrew Breitbart
'I wish to God that Andrew Breitbart were alive to see this,' one person wrote. | Reuters
By KEVIN ROBILLARD | 4/26/13 12:14 PM EDT Updated: 4/26/13 6:42 PM EDT
Lee Stranahan, a Breitbart disciple who also investigated the Pigford case, was jubilant.
“I wish to God that Andrew Breitbart were alive to see this,” Stranahan wrote. “He fought this fight for years, was totally right and never got credit for it.”
“NYTimes Confirms: Massive Fraud at USDA in Pigford; Breitbart Vindicated,” blared the headline on Breitbart’s eponymous website.
(Also on POLITICO: 'This Town': A Washington takedown)
The Times’ A1, above-the-fold story — which involved Freedom of Information Act requests, interviews with former administration officials and database work — shows how political appointees in the Obama administration’s Justice and Agriculture Departments turned a potential government court victory into $1.3 billion settlement for Hispanic and female farmers — some of whom never even claimed discrimination in court. The story also detailed how the feds relied on a flawed payout system for black farmers that was ripe with fraud and revealed that career officials in the Agriculture Department had opposed the program.
The original black farmers’ case, called Pigford v. Glickman, and the unfair treatment of many of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit became a personal cause for Breitbart, who died in 2012 of a heart attack. The conservative provocateur published a December 2010 report about the case, entitled “The Pigford Shakedown,” and also spoke about the program at CPAC and other events.
(Also on POLITICO: Turbulence at The Times)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who the Times portrays as a driving force behind the settlement, said the payments were justified and fraud was minimal. “We weren’t just writing checks for the heck of it,” Vilsack told the paper. “People were not treated fairly and, in fact, even today there are damages as a result of folks who weren’t treated fairly.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey noted the ultimate vindication is still out of reach.
“Perhaps now that The New York Times has exposed this, a few lawmakers might get shamed into doing something about it,” he wrote. “That would really put a smile on Andrew’s face.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/new-york-times-andrew-breitbart-90681.html#ixzz2RccU17tf
Noam Chomsky: Obama’s Inexplicable ‘Attack’ On Civil Liberties ‘Goes Well Beyond Anything’ Imagined
by Andrew Kirell | 1:51 pm, April 28th, 2013» 43 comments
In an interview with AlterNet this past week, America’s most well-known left-wing intellectual slammed President Obama for his inexplicable “attacks” on civil liberties in the forms of various laws expanding upon the executive powers set forth by President George W. Bush.
Speaking with the liberal blog’s Mike Stivers, Chomsky expressed dissatisfaction with the current president’s record on civil liberties: “I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don’t seem easy to explain.”
For an example of Obama’s civil liberties abuses, Chomsky cited Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, in which the administration petitioned the Supreme Court to put an end to legal groups giving any “material assistance” — including advice to turn nonviolent — to terrorist organizations.
“The case in question was a law group that was giving legal advice to groups on the terrorist list, which in itself has no moral or legal justification; it’s an abomination,” Chomsky said. “But if you look at the way it’s been used, it becomes even more abhorrent … And the wording of the colloquy is broad enough that it could very well mean that if, say, you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that’s material assistance to terrorism…. Obama wants to criminalize that, which is a plain attack on freedom of speech. I just don’t understand why he’s doing it.”
He called that and the 2011 NDAA bill’s “indefinite detention” provision part of the president’s “very serious attack on civil liberties.”
On the fact that President Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, Chomsky lamented that “I don’t know what base he’s appealing to. If he thinks he’s appealing to the nationalist base, well, they’re not going to vote for him anyway. That’s why I don’t understand it. I don’t think he’s doing anything besides alienating his own natural base.”
He then likened the president to a previous gang of executive officials who were widely criticized as abusive on civil liberties policy:
“What it is is the same kind of commitment to expanding executive power that Cheney and Rumsfeld had. He kind of puts it in mellifluous terms and there’s a little difference in his tone. It’s not as crude and brutal as they were, but it’s pretty hard to see much of a difference.”
Read the full interview here.
>> Follow Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) on Twitterhttp://www.mediaite.com/online/noam-chomsky-obamas-inexplicable-attack-on-civil-liberties-goes-well-beyond-anything-imagined
The More Illegal Immigrants That Go On Food Stamps The More Money JP Morgan Makes
By Michael, on April 28th, 2013 http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-more-illegal-immigrantsthat-go-on-food-stamps-the-more-money-jp-morgan-makes
Recently uncovered documents prove that the Obama administration has been working with the Mexican government to increase the number of illegal immigrants on food stamps, and when more illegal immigrants go on food stamps JP Morgan makes more money. As you will read about below, JP Morgan has made at least 560 million dollars processing Electronic Benefits Transfer cards. Each month, JP Morgan makes between $.31 and $2.30 for every single person on food stamps (and that does not even include things like ATM fees, etc). So JP Morgan has a vested interest in seeing poverty grow and the number of people on food stamps increase. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been aggressively seeking to expand participation in the food stamp program. Under Obama, the number of people on food stamps has grown from 32 million to more than 47 million. And even though poverty in America is absolutely exploding, that apparently is not good enough for the Obama administration. It has now come out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided the Mexican government with literature that actively encourages illegal immigrants to enroll in food stamps. One flyer contains the following statement in Spanish: "You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children." The bold and the underlining are in the original document in case you were wondering. Overall, federal spending on food stamps increased from 18 billion dollars in 2000 to 85 billion dollars in 2012, and at this point one out of every five U.S. households in now enrolled in the food stamp program. When people illegally or fraudulently enroll in the food stamp program, it makes it harder for those that desperately need the help to be able to get it.
It is certainly a good thing to help fellow Americans that are suffering. It is a crying shame that more than a million public school students in America are homeless. That should not be happening in the "wealthiest nation on earth".
But today we have a system that has turned poverty into big business. According to an article posted on Breitbart.com, JP Morgan has made at least 560 million dollars (and probably much more) processing EBT cards...
A new report by the Government Accountability Institute finds that JP Morgan has made at least $560,492,596 since 2004 processing the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards of 18 of the 24 states it has under contract for the food stamp program.
A Daily Beast article provided some more specifics about the monster profits that JP Morgan is making...
Just how lucrative JP Morgan’s EBT state contracts are is hard to say, because total national data on EBT contracts are not reported. But thanks to a combination of public-records requests and contracts that are available online, here’s what we do know: 18 of the 24 states JP Morgan handles have been contracted to pay the bank up to $560,492,596.02 since 2004. Since 2007, Florida has been contracted to pay JP Morgan $90,351,202.22. Pennsylvania’s seven-year contract totaled $112,541,823.27. New York’s seven-year contract totaled $126,394,917.
These contracts are transactional contracts, meaning they are amendable based on changes in program participation. Each month, the three companies that administer EBT receive a small fee that can range from $.31 to $2.30 (or higher depending upon the number of welfare services on an EBT card and state contractual requirements) for each SNAP recipient.
So the more people that are out of work and that need to turn to the government for food, the bigger profits that JP Morgan makes.
What makes all of this even more insulting is that many of the jobs that JP Morgan could be providing to Americans to help alleviate this poverty are being shipped overseas instead. As I noted in a previous article, many EBT card customer service calls are being routed to call centers in India by JP Morgan.
So why doesn't anyone do anything about this?
Well, it turns out that JP Morgan has the politicians that oversee the food stamp program in their back pocket. The following is from a recent Money Morning article...
And the bank has taken steps to make sure the SNAP program remains a growing source of revenue. JPMorgan's political donations to the members of House and Senate agricultural committees, the ones with legislative responsibility for the program, soared from just over $82,000 in 2002 to nearly $333,000 as of 2010.
What a wonderful system we have, eh?
And surely JP Morgan just loves the fact that the Obama administration is actively encouraging illegal immigrants to apply for food stamps.
What you are about to read should absolutely shock you. At a time when the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt, the Obama administration is making it abundantly clear to illegal immigrants that their immigration status will not be checked when they apply for food stamps. The following is from a recent Judicial Watch press release...
Judicial Watch today released documents detailing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the Mexican government to promote participation by illegal aliens in the U.S. food stamp program.
The promotion of the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), includes a Spanish-language flyer provided to the Mexican Embassy by the USDA with a statement advising Mexicans in the U.S. that they do not need to declare their immigration status in order to receive financial assistance. Emphasized in bold and underlined, the statement reads, “You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.”
The documents came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to USDA on July 20, 2012. The FOIA request sought: “Any and all records of communication relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals, and migrant communities, including but not limited to, communications with the Mexican government.”
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that USDA officials are working closely with their counterparts at the Mexican Embassy to widely broaden the SNAP program in the Mexican immigrant community, with no effort to restrict aid to, identify, or apprehend illegal immigrants who may be on the food stamp rolls.
You can see a copy of the flyer right here.
So who pays for all of this?
You do of course.
The Obama administration is doing all that it can to promote illegal immigration, and big banks such as JP Morgan just make bigger profits the more illegal immigration that we see, but it is you and I that end up with the bill. This was put beautifully in a recent article by Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com...
Nearly $75 billion of taxpayer money is spent each year on federal food stamps, and it turns out some of that is alarmingly being handed out to illegal immigrants -- people who contribute nothing to the federal tax base in America but who seem to be experts on collecting social welfare benefits of all kinds. If you are working for a living, you are buying food for illegals who are being actively recruited by Obama and the democratic party so that they will vote more democrats into office.
When we reward illegal immigration, what happens?
That's right - we are just going to get even more illegal immigration.
According to WND, we have already started seeing a huge increase in illegal immigrants coming across the border since Congress began debating the amnesty bill...
Illegal border crossings have doubled, and possibly even tripled, since the latest congressional push began toward comprehensive immigration reform.
In reporting first published by Townhall.com’s Katie Pavlich, border patrol agents in the Tucson/Nogales sector claim illegals are coming here in much higher numbers in just the past few months.
“We’ve seen the number of illegal aliens double, maybe even triple since amnesty talk started happening,” an unnamed border agent said to Townhall. The data from Customs and Border Protection cited in the report shows 504 illegals were detected crossing in that sector between Feb. 5 and March 1. Only 189 were caught on camera, and just 174 of the 504 were apprehended. Of those spotted on camera, 32 were carrying huge packs believed to contain drugs and several were heavily armed.
If that bill is passed, it is being projected that it will bring 33 million more people into this country...
The pending Senate immigration bill would bring a minimum of 33 million people into the country during its first decade of operation, according to an analysis by NumbersUSA, a group that wants to slow the current immigration rate.
By 2024, the inflow would include an estimated 9.2 million illegal immigrants, plus 2.5 million illegals who arrived as children — dubbed ‘Dreamers’ — plus roughly 3.4 million company-sponsored employees with university degrees, said the unreleased analysis.
The majority of the inflow, or roughly 17 million people, would consist of family members of illegals, recent immigrants and of company-sponsored workers, according to the NumbersUSA analysis provided to The Daily Caller.
We have made legal immigration a complete and total nightmare while leaving the back door completely wide open at the same time.
We greatly punish those who are trying to do things legally while at the same time we are greatly rewarding those that are cheating the system.
What kind of sense does that make?
Shouldn't we insist that everyone come in through the front door?
Those that are coming over our borders illegally know what the score is...
Linda Vickers, who owns a ranch in Brooks County, which is Ground Zero for the immigration debate, pins the blame directly on talk of 'amnesty' and a 'path to citizenship' for people who entered the U.S. illegally.
She recalls one man being arrested on her ranch not long ago.
"The Border Patrol agent was loading one man up, and he told the officer in Spanish, 'Obama's gonna let me go'."
Border Patrol agents report that immigrants are crossing the border, and in some cases surrendering while asking, “Where do I go for my amnesty?”
We are already becoming a poverty-stricken nation. We simply can't afford to feed millions upon millions of illegal immigrants as well.
As I write this, the U.S. national debt is $16,758,107,082,298.63.
We now have a debt to GDP ratio of about 105 percent.
In the United States today, the amount of money that is deposited in our banks is about 9.3 trillion dollars. If we took every penny of that and used it to pay off the national debt, we would still owe more than 7 trillion dollars.
We are stealing more than 100 million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day to pay our bills, and yet everyone seems to think that this is "normal" somehow.
The truth is that what we are doing is absolutely criminal, and we should all be ashamed.
For much more on our exploding national debt, please see the following article: "55 Facts About The Debt And U.S. Government Finances That Every American Voter Should Know".
In the end, it should be apparent to everyone that our system is failing. Our government is corrupt, our big banks are consumed with greed and most average Americans are so addicted to entertainment that they have absolutely no idea what is going on.
What would those that bled and died for this country think about what we have become today?
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April 28th, 2013 | Tags: Benefits, Electronic Benefit Transfer, Federal Spending, Food Stamps, Illegal Immigrants, JP Morgan, Mexican, Money, Obama, Poverty, Spanish, The Obama Administration | Category: Banksters, Government Debt
UNPRECEDENTED Shortages Of Ammo, Physical Gold And Physical Silver ».
UNPRECEDENTED Shortages Of Ammo, Physical Gold And Physical Silver ».
It’s official: Obama spends more time on recreation than economy
BIZPACReview.com ^ | 4/29/2013 | Cheryl Carpenter Klimek
Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 9:05:55 AM
A report released by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), has concluded that President Barack Obama has spent twice as much time on vacation and golf as he has in economic meetings throughout his entire term in office.
That may come as no surprise to some, but the nonpartisan GAI actually conducted an analysis which found Obama spent ...read more here.
(Excerpt) Read more at bizpacreview.com ...
Mel Watt Picked For FHFA Post By White House To Replace Ed DeMarco
Posted: 05/01/2013 1:43 am EDT
BOSTON -- President Barack Obama will nominate Mel Watt, a longtime Democratic congressman from North Carolina, to oversee government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a move that may give the White House greater control over housing policy.
Obama will announce his nomination of Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said. The nomination, subject to Senate approval, would thrust the Yale-educated lawyer into the center of U.S. economic policy as the government weighs how best to maintain the housing recovery while reducing the government’s role in propping up home prices and providing loans.
FHFA regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bailed-out mortgage financiers that together own or guarantee about half of all outstanding U.S. home loans. The federal government backstops more than nine of every 10 new mortgages.
Watt was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, where he has served on the chamber’s financial services committee. On the banking panel, he perhaps is best known for trying to stamp out predatory lending. He’s also championed access to home loans for low-income borrowers and those with spotty credit.
If confirmed by the Senate, Watt would replace Edward DeMarco, a career civil servant who has supervised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on an acting basis since 2009. Top White House officials had promised consumer advocates before November’s presidential election that they would oust DeMarco early this year.
A low-key and unassuming economist, DeMarco has been vilified by some members of Congress, liberal groups and state attorneys general for a variety of alleged sins, most notably his continued refusal to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive distressed borrowers’ housing debts.
Watt would be the second person Obama has nominated to replace DeMarco. A previous nominee, Joseph Smith, at the time North Carolina’s banking regulator, failed to win Senate confirmation after Republicans questioned his independence from the White House. One called him a “lapdog".
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over the past three years, DeMarco has worked to return Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to profitability while also reducing their balance sheets and influence over the property sector and setting the stage for an overhaul of how the U.S. economy funds home mortgages.
Since their government rescue during the height of the financial crisis in September 2008, the companies have cost taxpayers about $122 billion. The U.S. Treasury has provided them nearly $188 billion to keep them afloat, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have returned about $65 billion in dividends.
In 2012, the twin housing giants reported record profits as rising home prices and fewer delinquencies spurred about $28 billion in combined earnings. Virtually all of the companies’ profits flow to the Treasury. The White House recently projected that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will over the next 10 years help to reduce the federal government’s debt as they pay off taxpayers and return excess profits to government coffers.
While some advocates attempt to lobby policymakers to keep the companies in conservatorship so they can help pay down the debt and be used to spur greater access to credit, DeMarco has been shrinking their portfolio of loans and securities and trying to bring private capital back into housing finance.
Private investors, funds and lenders fled the housing market in the wake of the financial crisis. Securitization of non-government guaranteed mortgages ground to a halt. Only the federal government enabled borrowers to continue purchasing or refinancing their home loans at historically-low rates.
An abrupt end to the government’s backstop of the housing market would send interest rates soaring. A continuation of the current situation may take taxpayer resources away from other, more economically productive sectors.
DeMarco has instituted a variety of schemes to get investors and lenders comfortable with owning non-taxpayer backed mortgages. He’s also tried to lay the groundwork for a future without Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose dominance over the housing market extends from their balance sheets to the basic plumbing of how loans are made, securitized and sold to investors.
DeMarco at times has butted heads with the Obama administration, which has tried to convince him to adopt policies aimed at aiding borrowers and reducing foreclosures. DeMarco has argued that he is mandated by law to “preserve and converse” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s assets, rather than look out for the entire housing market.
Some officials in the Obama administration have expressed displeasure at the DeMarco-approved lawsuits targeting more than a dozen of the world’s largest financial institutions for selling hundreds of billions of dollars of allegedly dodgy mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The lawsuits and demands have helped chill lending, officials have said.
Many Democrats have argued that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be used to advance policies that would aid the broader housing market, and by extension the economy. Republicans are opposed to using the mortgage financiers as tools for economic or social policy.
Industry executives and Washington lobbyists view Watt as a potential FHFA chief who would go along with Obama administration requests.
For that reason alone, Watt may face an uphill climb to confirmation due to potential Republican opposition. Since its creation in 2008 the FHFA has never had a Senate-confirmed director.
Obama to Pick Wheeler for FCC, Watt for FHFA
Text Size Published: Wednesday, 1 May 2013 | 7:47 AM ETBy: Reuters with AP
President Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama will nominate venture capitalist and former wireless and cable lobbyist [/color] Tom Wheeler on Wednesday to head the Federal Communications Commission, and Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The planned nominations were disclosed by a White House official.
After decades in and around Washington telecom circles, Wheeler would take the reins of the FCC as the industry prepares for a major reshuffling of ownership of radio airwaves and as the agency tries to catch up to rapidly changing technology.
He has the rare support of both industry groups and a number of consumer advocates.
Wheeler has served as an informal adviser to Obama in recent years and has been a big fundraiser for his political campaigns. He went into the venture investing business after years at the helm of the National Cable Television Association and then the wireless industry group CTIA.
Wheeler did not respond to a request for comment. He will succeed current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who plans to leave for the Aspen Institute think tank in coming weeks.
"Tom Wheeler is an experienced leader in the communications technology field who shares the president's commitment to protecting consumers, promoting innovation, enhancing competition and encouraging investment," the White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday in disclosing Wheeler's nomination.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, will take over as acting chairwoman until the Senate confirms the nomination, the official said. She will preside over a commission that includes one other Democrat and one Republican because Obama has yet to fill another open Republican seat on the usually five-member commission.
Wheeler's lobbying past has concerned some public interest groups as well as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat who wanted his former staffer and now junior FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to get the post.
But overall, consumer advocates have embraced Wheeler's candidacy, noting that he joined both trade groups while the industries they represented were young and competing against established technologies.
"He's interested in competition and promoting new technologies," said Andrew Schwartzman, a prominent Washington public interest advocate, who said Wheeler understands the need to challenge market leaders. "His mind-set is of somebody who favors the little guy."
At the same time, many in the telecommunications industry have touted Wheeler's private-sector experience, noting that he founded and invested in many tech-based companies and expressing hope that his lobbying experience will make him more sympathetic to letting markets, not the government, set the industry's pace.
In a 2011 blog, Wheeler hinted that he favored a controversial and ultimately shelved merger deal between AT&T and T-Mobile, sparking speculation that he may be open to more consolidation in the wireless industry.
However, the blog post also suggested the FCC would have been able to levy heavier regulation over the newly merged company because of monopoly concerns.
On Tuesday, few industry groups or companies commented on Wheeler's upcoming nomination before it was formally announced.
The National Association of Broadcasters, whose relationship with the FCC has cooled as Genachowski shifted the agency's focus to expanding broadband access, simply said Wheeler had "the experience and temperament to serve the agency with distinction."
Watt's nomination for the FHFA also was expected to be announced Wednesday.
If confirmed by the Senate, the 20-year veteran of the House would replace Edward DeMarco, an appointee of President George W. Bush who has been a target of housing advocates, liberal groups and Democratic lawmakers.
The North Carolina Democrat's nomination comes at a crucial time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government sponsored mortgage-finance enterprises that the government rescued at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 as they teetered neared collapse from losses on soured mortgage loans.
Taxpayers have spent about $170 billion to rescue the companies. So far, they have repaid a combined $55.2 billion.
Fannie and Freddie together own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans. Those loans are worth more than $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 percent of new mortgages.
The nomination also comes as the housing industry is making a comeback. Home prices are up, foreclosures are down and housing construction is on the rise. Moreover, Fannie Mae had its biggest yearly profit last year, earning $17.2 billion.
Watt, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, played an influential role in the passage of a financial regulatory overhaul in 2010. That legislation, however, did not address the fate of the major mortgage lenders, an issue likely to come up during Obama's second term.
Watt represents the Charlotte area, home base of behemoth Bank of America. He becomes yet another high-profile African-American and the second North Carolinian nominated by Obama in three days to a top government post. On Monday, Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, to head the Transportation Department.
Watt, who has a consistently liberal voting record, is expected to face Republican opposition to his confirmation. The White House was already lining up supporters who might hold some sway with GOP senators.
Obama's $2.5M Hotel and 'Vehicle Rental' Tab on Last Mexico Trip
1:35 PM, May 1, 2013• By JERYL BIER
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As the White House first announced in March, Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Mexico and Costa Rica later this week. The trip is billed as "an important opportunity to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America." And at yesterday’s White House press conference, the president stated that he is "very much looking forward to taking the trip down to Mexico" this week.
But the trip won’t exactly be cheap for taxpayers, assuming the costs mirror those incurred by the American taxpayers for President Obama's last trip to Mexico, for the G-20 summit in June 2012. According to recently discovered documents relating to the costs of that trip, taxpayers paid nearly $2.5 million for hotel and “vehicle rental.”
The first government document is a contract with a travel agent for the hotels required for the president's delegation and entourage for the conference:
Commerce nominee tangled in massive bank collapse that cost depositors millions
By Judson Berger
Published May 02, 2013
May 2, 2013: President Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, where he announced his pick for Commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, right. (AP)
President Obama's nominee for Commerce secretary was embroiled in a massive bank failure more than a decade ago, in a collapse that cost depositors and federal insurers millions of dollars.
The 2001 collapse of Superior Bank FSB now appears likely to re-emerge, more than a decade later, as Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker prepares for a confirmation hearing and Republicans already draw attention to the bank implosion.
Pritzker's family, which founded Hyatt and is one of the wealthiest in the country, co-owned Superior Bank at the time of its collapse. The lawyer who represented depositors in the case told FoxNews.com on Thursday that the Pritzker family enjoyed a "special deal" while the "little guys" ended up "footing the bill."
"The message of our Cabinet members should be people who do the right thing," attorney Clint Krislov said Thursday. "And it should not be a message of, if you're very wealthy you get a special deal and you get to sit on the Cabinet, too."
Uninsured depositors at the Illinois bank are still owed roughly $10 million, according to federal records -- after a court challenge was rejected in 2007, those savings may never be recovered. The collapse also cost the FDIC, which insures banks, nearly $300 million.
The failure, according to federal regulators, was triggered by a pattern of risky lending.
The Office of Thrift Supervision took the rare step of shuttering the Hinsdale, Ill., bank on July 27, 2001. The office said at the time the bank "suffered as a result of its former high-risk business strategy," including "significant volumes of subprime" mortgage and auto loans.
What happened after the collapse, though, is what triggered the lawsuit involving Krislov.
The Pritzker family, as part of a settlement to shield itself from liability, agreed to pay $460 million to the federal government. But the family was subsequently able to claim part of a separate $125 million settlement from the bank's accounting firm.
Krislov said the family was first in line for the money, followed by the depositors.
"That is what is fundamentally troubling," he said. "They got a priority ahead of depositors while depositors were still short."
An FDIC representative, though, suggested to the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that the sheer size of the $460 million settlement justified the trade-off.
"If it means $30 million is turned over to the Pritzkers, I think it's hard to dispute that it's not advantageous for creditors of that failed institution," the spokesman said.
Pritzker's involvement with the bank's questionable lending practices is unclear. She served as chairwoman of the bank from 1991 to 1994, after her uncle Jay went in with another wealthy family to buy Superior in the late '80s.
A spokeswoman told The Washington Times last year that Penny herself was never accused of wrongdoing -- though there were concerns with the bank's operation dating back to the early '90s.
Krislov said he wrote to Penny Pritzker after his clients lost their suit asking her to pay the remaining $10 million to the uninsured depositors.
"I just figured it was the right thing to do," he said, adding that he never heard back.
The Pritzker family also reportedly struck a deal in 2011 that allowed them to enjoy a discount off the $460 million settlement.
The FDIC insures depositors for up to $100,000. In the case of Superior, those with accounts above that amount were still repaid part of their uninsured savings.
The history of the bank was glossed over in Thursday's announcement at the White House, though the Republican National Committee blasted out old news clippings from the saga.
Obama, during the nomination ceremony, cited Pritzker's "extraordinary experience."
"Penny is one of our countries' most distinguished business leaders. She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries, including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She's built companies from the ground up," Obama said.
Pritzker is on the board with Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was co-founded by her dad. She's also chairwoman of Pritzker Realty Group. She previously served on Obama's jobs council, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the president's 2008 and 2012 campaigns -- she held positions with both campaigns.
Pritzker is also one of the wealthiest people in the country. Forbes pegs her net worth at $1.85 billion, and lists her as the 277th wealthiest person in the U.S.
Krislov acknowledged the family has done some "very terrific things" in philanthropy, but said: "She would not be my first pick" for Commerce.
The White House did not return a request for comment.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/05/02/commerce-nominee-tangled-in-massive-bank-collapse-that-cost-depositors-millions/#ixzz2SAZBAQVx
Obama: The fall
By Charles Krauthammer, Published: May 2
Fate is fickle, power cyclical, and nothing is new under the sun. Especially in Washington, where after every election the losing party is sagely instructed to confess sin, rend garments and rethink its principles lest it go the way of the Whigs. And where the victor is hailed as the new Caesar, facing an open road to domination.
And where Barack Obama, already naturally inclined to believe his own loftiness, graciously accepted the kingly crown and proceeded to ride his reelection success to a crushing victory over the GOP at the fiscal cliff, leaving a humiliated John Boehner & Co. with nothing but naked tax hikes.
Thus emboldened, Obama turned his inaugural and State of the Union addresses into a left-wing dream factory, from his declaration of war on global warming (on a planet where temperatures are the same as 16 years ago and in a country whose CO2 emissions are at a 20-year low) to the invention of new entitlements — e.g., universal preschool for 5-year-olds— for a country already drowning in debt.
To realize his dreams, Obama sought to fracture and neutralize the congressional GOP as a prelude to reclaiming the House in 2014. This would enable him to fully enact his agenda in the final two years of his presidency, usually a time of lame-duck paralysis. Hail the Obama juggernaut.
Well, that story — excuse me, narrative — lasted exactly six months. The Big Mo is gone.
It began with the sequester. Obama never believed the Republicans would call his bluff and let it go into effect. They did.
Taken by surprise, Obama cried wolf, predicting the end of everything we hold dear if the sequester was not stopped. It wasn’t. Nothing happened.
Highly embarrassed, and determined to indeed make (bad) things happen, the White House refused Republican offers to give it more discretion in making cuts. Bureaucrats were instructed to inflict maximum pain from minimal cuts, as revealed by one memo from the Agriculture Department demanding agency cuts that the public would feel.
Things began with the near-comical cancellation of White House tours and ended with not-so-comical airline delays. Obama thought furious passengers would blame the GOP. But isn’t the executive branch in charge of these agencies? Who thinks that a government spending $3.6 trillion a year can’t cut 2 percent without furloughing air-traffic controllers?
Looking not just incompetent at managing budgets but cynical for deliberately injuring the public welfare, the administration relented. Congress quickly passed a bill giving Obama reallocation authority to restore air traffic control. Having previously threatened to veto any such bill, Obama caved. He signed.
Not exactly Appomattox, but coming immediately after Obama’s spectacular defeat on gun control, it marked an administration that had lost its “juice,” to paraphrase a charming question at the president’s Tuesday news conference.
For Obama, gun control was a political disaster. He invested capital. He went on a multi-city tour. He paraded grieving relatives. And got nothing. An assault-weapons ban — a similar measure had passed the Congress 20 years ago — lost 60 to 40in a Senate where Democrats control 55 seats. Obama failed even to get mere background checks.
All this while appearing passive, if not helpless, on the world stage. On Syria, Obama is nervously trying to erase the WMD red line he had so publicly established. On Benghazi, he stonewalled accusations that State Department officials wishing to testify are being blocked.
He is even taking heat for the Boston bombings. Every day brings another revelation of signals missed beforehand. And his post-bombing pledge to hunt down those responsible was mocked by the scandalous Mirandizing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, gratuitously shutting down information from the one person who knows more than anyone about possible still-existent explosives, associates, trainers, future plans, etc.
Now, the screw will undoubtedly turn again. If immigration reform passes, Obama will be hailed as the comeback kid, and a new “Obama rising” narrative proclaimed.
This will overlook the fact that immigration reform has little to do with Obama and everything to do with GOP panic about the Hispanic vote. In fact, Obama has been asked by congressional negotiators to stay away, so polarizing a figure has he become.
Nonetheless, whatever happens, the screw will surely turn again, if only because of media boredom. But that’s the one constant of Washington political life: There are no straight-line graphs. We live from inflection point to inflection point.
And we’ve just experienced one. From king of the world to dead in the water in six months. Quite a ride.
Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.
Read more: Jamelle Bouie: Why Obama struggles to ‘beat’ the GOP E.J. Dionne Jr.: Obama needs to hope again Dana Milbank: A presidential bystander Greg Sargent: No, Obama can’t bend Congress to his will Jonathan Capehart: Obama’s real ‘leadership’ problem Jennifer Rubin: Obama’s condescending press conference
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NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE www.nationalreview.com PRINT
How Obama Betrayed America
Obamaâ€™s support for the Muslim Brotherhood belongs at the forefront of our political debate.
By David Horowitz
â€śIf we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future.â€ť
â€” Madeleine Albright, secretary of state (1997â€“2001), Clinton administration
It is a judgment on Barack Obamaâ€™s timorous, apologetic, and irresponsible conduct of foreign affairs that Madeleine Albrightâ€™s words, spoken little more than 15 years ago, now sound as antique as a pronouncement by Harry Truman at the onset of the Cold War, the great challenge America confronted bravely and without equivocation generations ago. Obama has set in motion policies meant to make America far from indispensable â€” a diminished nation that â€śleads from behind,â€ť if at all; a nation with a downsized military, chronically uncertain about its meaning and its mission as it skulks in the wings of the world stage.
Albright made her statement about Iraq when Democrats were still supporting their countryâ€™s confrontation with the sadistic dictator Saddam Hussein, and before they defected from the war, shortly after its battles were under way. Obama opposed Americaâ€™s war with Iraq and then opposed the military surge that finally brought victory. As president, Obama presided over the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, against the wishes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who wanted a continuing military presence â€” withdrawal paid for in the blood of thousands of American men and women in arms. Obama thus turned that benighted nation over to the malign influences of Americaâ€™s chief enemy in the Middle East, Iran.
Far from shouldering his responsibility as the commander-in-chief of Americaâ€™s global War on Terror and embracing it as this generationâ€™s equivalent of the Cold War, Obama showed his distaste for the entire enterprise by dropping the term â€śWar on Terrorâ€ť and replacing it with an Orwellian phrase â€” â€śoverseas contingency operations.â€ť Minimizing the Islamist threat to the United States is not an oversight of the Obama administration; that is its policy.
It should not have been difficult for Obama to make the nationâ€™s defense a priority when he became Americaâ€™s commander-in-chief in January 2009. The American homeland had already experienced a devastating attack, which terrorists have been constantly trying to repeat. The number of foreign states openly supporting terror has steadily risen during Obamaâ€™s tenure. The most dangerous Islamist regime, Iran, is building nuclear weapons, while Washington dithers over pointless negotiations. As secular governments give way to Islamist regimes in Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq, and with the Taliban on the rise in Afghanistan and an American withdrawal imminent, the parallels to the early Cold War are eerie, the implications equally dire. Yet instead of policies that put U.S. national security first and are pursued without hesitation or apology, Obamaâ€™s time in office has been marked by retreat and accommodation and even support of Islamist foes â€” most ominously of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which swept aside an American ally with Obamaâ€™s help and is busily creating a totalitarian state.
Obamaâ€™s Foreign-Policy Disasters
In the four years since Obamaâ€™s first inauguration, almost three times as many Americans have been killed in Afghanistan as in the eight years of the Bush administration. Withdrawal, not victory, has been Obamaâ€™s goal from the outset, and now it is the only outcome possible. During the Obama years, there have been more than 8,000 Islamic terrorist attacks on â€śinfidelsâ€ť across the globe, a 25 percent increase over the number when the fighting in Iraq was at its height. In the face of this bloody and intensifying Islamist offensive, Obama has tried to convince the American people that the war against al-Qaeda has been essentially â€śwonâ€ť â€” by him â€” and that the terrorist threat is subsiding. Denial of the war that Islamists have declared on us, and of the threat it represents, is the heart of the Obama doctrine and has guided this nationâ€™s policies for more than four years.
Obamaâ€™s desire for rapprochement with the Islamist regime in Iran has prompted the administration to drag its feet on the sanctions designed to halt Tehranâ€™s nuclear program. For the same reason, the president and his administration were silent when hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran to call for an end to the dictatorship and were met by an orgy of violence from the mullahsâ€™ thugs. Because of the White Houseâ€™s moral and political timidity, its denial of the Islamist threat, and its conviction that America (presumably an even greater predator) has no right to condemn another nation, Iran reached its tipping point and went the wrong way.
The administrationâ€™s denial was glaring also in its response to the massacre of 13 unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood by an Islamic fanatic and terrorist, Nidal Malik Hasan, who three and a half years later still has not been brought to trial. Hasan infiltrated the American military and, despite open expressions of hatred for the West, was promoted to the rank of U.S. Army major. The Obama administrationâ€™s Kafkaesque response to an obvious case of Islamist violence against the U.S. was to classify the terrorist attack as an incident of â€śworkplace violence,â€ť and thus to hide the fact that Hasan was a Muslim soldier in a war against the infidels of the West.
#page#This inability to name our enemies was on display again on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, as jihadists staged demonstrations and launched attacks against American embassies in Egypt and other Islamic countries. In Libya, al-Qaeda terrorists overran an American consular compound and murdered the U.S. ambassador and three brave staffers. The attack took place in a country that had recently been destabilized by Obamaâ€™s own intervention to oust its dictator. Again, Obama had denounced a military intervention in Iraq as senator; that intervention, unlike his Libyan adventure, had been authorized by both houses of Congress and a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution. As president, Obama had invoked the principle of non-intervention to justify his passivity in the face of atrocities in Syria and Iran. But in Libya he conducted an unauthorized invasion of a country that posed no threat to the United States and was not, as Syria is, in alliance with the mullahs of Iran and the terrorists of Hezbollah. The chaos that followed Obamaâ€™s Libyan intervention led directly to the rise of the local al-Qaeda, which planted its flag atop the same American outpost in Benghazi it later destroyed.
The events in Benghazi were a stark revelation of the consequences of a foreign policy without a moral compass. The battle over the embassy lasted seven hours. Although the Obama learned about the attack shortly after it began, and although the embattled Americans inside the compound begged the White House for help, and although U.S. fighter jets were stationed in Italy only an hour away, the president, in one of the most shameful acts in the history of that office, denied help by leaving his post, so that only silence answered their desperate calls. The president and his administration then went into cover-up mode, lying to Congress and the American people, pretending for weeks afterward that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Mohammed video, whose director they then threw in jail.
Before his overthrow, the dictator Moammar Qaddafi warned that his demise would unleash the forces of the Islamic jihad not only in his own country but throughout North Africa. This was a prophecy quickly realized. In the aftermath of Obamaâ€™s intervention, al-Qaeda in Mali took control of an area twice the size of Germany. In Tunisia and Egypt, jihadists emerged as the ruling parties, with the acquiescence and even assistance of the Obama administration. In Syria, a savage civil war metastasized unimpeded, killing tens of thousands and eventually pitting a fascist regime allied with Iran against rebel forces largely aligned with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.
As these disasters unfolded, the White House not only did not oppose the Islamists but armed and enabled them. Obama had previously intervened in Egypt, the largest and most important country in the Middle East, to force the removal of its pro-American leader, Hosni Mubarak. He then promoted the Brotherhoodâ€™s ascension to power by portraying it as a â€śmoderateâ€ť actor in the democratic process. As the Middle East situation deteriorated, the Muslim Brotherhood became the chief beneficiary of Americaâ€™s financial, diplomatic, and military support. This same Brotherhood was the driving force behind the Islamist surge, the mentor of Osama bin Laden and the leaders of al-Qaeda, and the creator of Hamas. Rather than being quarantined, the Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo has received hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and F-16 bomber jets from the Obama administration that had facilitated its rise to power.
Appeasement of Islamist Enemies
To allay concerns about the emergence of the Brotherhood, Obamaâ€™s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, uttered this justification for its acceptance by the White House: â€śWe believeÂ .Â .Â .Â that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to non-violence, that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency.â€ť In these words, Clinton was referring to an organization whose spiritual leader, Yusef al-Qaradawi, had recently called for a second Holocaust of the Jews, â€śAllah willing, at the hands of the believers,â€ť and to a party that was calling for the establishment of a Muslim caliphate in Jerusalem and for the destruction of the Jewish state. Soon after Clintonâ€™s endorsement, the Muslim Brotherhoodâ€™s presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was elected Egyptâ€™s new leader and was referring to Jews as apes and pigs. Secure in the support of the American administration, he wasted no time in abolishing the constitution and instituting a dictatorship with no serious protest from the United States. Senator John Kerry, shortly to be Hillary Clintonâ€™s successor as secretary of state, had visited the new dictator only months before this destruction of Egyptâ€™s civic space. Kerry assured the world that the new Muslim Brotherhood regime was â€ścommitted to protecting fundamental freedoms.â€ť
As in Egypt, so in Syria. Both Clinton and Kerry promoted the ruthless dictator Assad as a political reformer and friend of democracy just as he was preparing to launch a war against his own people. (Meeting with Assad, Kerry called Syria â€śan essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.â€ť) Shortly thereafter, the dictator began a series of massacres of his own population. Obama ignored the resulting tens of thousands of fatalities and the international calls for a humanitarian intervention â€” just as he had ignored the desperate struggle of the Green Revolution in the streets of Tehran three years earlier. The chaos in Syria has now led to the emergence of al-Qaeda as a leading actor among the rebel forces, under the revealing name â€śthe Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.â€ť The very name indicates the potential scope of the disaster that the Obama administration is presiding over in the Middle East.#page#
Republican Retreat On National Security
Until the â€śnew politicsâ€ť presidency of Jimmy Carter, the Democratic party during the Cold War would never have tolerated such abject capitulations to totalitarian forces. And when Carter showed such doubt and denial, the Republican party could be counted on to defend the morality of American power and carry the fight to the enemy. The Republicans did so with the conviction that they were expressing the deepest convictions of the American people.
In domestic politics, the American people preferred Democratic promoters of the welfare state to Republican proponents of fiscal restraint. The same electorate switched its vote, however, when the issue was protecting the American homeland. While voters made Democrats the majority party in the peopleâ€™s House for 38 of the 42 years of Americaâ€™s Cold War with the Soviet Union, in 28 of those years they elected a Republican to be their commander-in-chief. Moreover, three of the four Democrats who did make it to the White House â€” Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson â€” were militant anti-Communists and military hawks who on national-security issues held views indistinguishable from those of Republicans.
Given that the most durable lesson of postwar electoral history was that Democrats win national elections on domestic policy and that Republicans win on national security, it seems incomprehensible that the Obama administration has been able to degrade American power virtually without Republican opposition. At the Republican partyâ€™s 2012 convention in Tampa, its nominee, Mitt Romney, failed to mention the Islamic jihad and devoted only one sentence to the fact that, in order to appease Americaâ€™s enemies, Obama had thrown Israel, Americaâ€™s only dependable ally in the region, â€śunder the bus.â€ť Romney did not mention Obamaâ€™s role as enabler of the Muslim Brotherhood or the millions of dollars his administration had given to the Palestinian jihadists on the West Bank and in Gaza, whose official goal was the destruction of Israel and its Jews. He did not mention the calls by the Islamist leaders of Egypt and Iran for the destruction of the Jewish state and the completion of the job that Hitler started.
Romney devoted exactly two sentences to Obamaâ€™s appeasement of the Russians and his abandonment of Americaâ€™s Eastern European allies, which were harmed by the presidentâ€™s reneging on Americaâ€™s commitments to their missile defense. About the Korean peninsula, a flashpoint in national security and a theaterÂ for the current administrationâ€™s diplomatic dithering, Romney said nothing.
While Romney failed to confront a vulnerable Obama on national-security issues and gave Obama a pass on his shameful betrayal of his embassy in Benghazi, no other Republican campaign was likely to make the holy war that Islamists are waging against us, and Obamaâ€™s feckless national-security policies, a focal point of their attack. At one time or another, there were ten Republican candidates for the nomination that Romney won. Each of them participated in at least three of 20 public debates; two of the candidates participated in all of them. There were candidates for social conservatism, candidates for fiscal responsibility and job creation, candidates for libertarian principles and moderate values. But there was not one Republican candidate whose campaign was an aggressive assault on Obamaâ€™s disastrous national-security decisions and how they had imperiled Americaâ€™s interests and its basic safety.
The extent of the Republican retreat on national security was dramatized by an incident that took place a few months before the election. In aÂ letter to the Justice Departmentâ€™s inspector general, Representative Michele Bachmann and four other Republican House members asked him to look into the possibility of Islamist influence in the Obama administration. The letter expressed concern about State Department policies that â€śappear to be a result of influence operations conducted by individuals and organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.â€ť The letter then listed five specific ways in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had actively assisted the Muslim Brotherhoodâ€™s ascent to power in Egypt, producing in the Middle East a decisive shift toward the jihadist enemies of the United States.
The letter specifically asked for an inquiry into the activities of Huma Abedin, Hillary Clintonâ€™s deputy chief of staff and principal adviser on Muslim affairs. It was a reasonable, indeed a necessary, request. Members of Abedinâ€™s family â€” her late father, her mother, and her brother â€” were all identifiable leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. For twelve years prior to being hired by Hillary Clinton, Abedin herself had worked for an organization founded by Abdullah Omar Naseef â€” a major Brotherhood figure, a close associate of Abedinâ€™s mother â€” one of the three principal financiers of Osama bin Laden, and a man dedicated to promoting Islamic-supremacist doctrines. A second figure with Muslim Brotherhood ties occupying a high place in the Obama administration was Rashad Hussain, deputy associate White House counsel, who had responsibilities in the areas of national security and Muslim affairs. And there were others.
#page#In other words, people with high-level Muslim Brotherhood connections occupy positions of influence in the Obama administration on matters related to national security and Muslim affairs â€” at the same time Obamaâ€™s policies have encouraged the dramatic rise of the previously outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. Yet when the congressional letter surfaced, Bachmann and her colleagues came under savage attack as McCarthyites and â€śIslamophobes,â€ť whose request for an inquiry was itself deemed un-American. These attacks came not only from the Washington Post, leading Democrats, and such well-known apologists for Islamists as Georgetownâ€™s John Esposito, but also from Republicans John McCain and John Boehner. Without bothering to address the facts the Bachmann letter presented, McCain said, â€śWhen anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches vicious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are, in ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poor because of it.â€ť In other words, Bachmann and her colleagues were bigots. Said Boehner: â€śI donâ€™t know Huma, but from everything that I do know of her she has a sterling character. Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.â€ť In other words, asking reasonable questions about a woman with undeniable ties to the Muslim Brotherhood who stands at the center of American policy was more dangerous than allowing those ties to remain unexamined.
In the hands of todayâ€™s leftists, the terms â€śMcCarthyite,â€ť â€śIslamophobe,â€ť and their equivalents are not descriptions of a political pathology but rather bludgeons wielded to shut down inquiry into behavior that may be harmful to the United States. Instead of rejecting these slurs as they are used to invoke a brutal cloture on a matter of national security, Republican leaders participated in the successful effort to suppress the debate.
The Betrayal of Iraq
Why this lack of conviction on a matter combining internal security and foreign policy, traditional pillars of Republican strength? The answer can be found in the way the Republicans allowed themselves to be intimidated and then silenced as the Left put forth its version of â€śthe lessons of Iraq.â€ť The moment when Republicans lost the national-security narrative â€” and abandoned their role as defenders of the homeland â€” came in June 2003, just six weeks after the Saddam regime fell. That month, the Democratic party launched a national television campaign claiming that Bush lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was â€śunnecessary,â€ť â€śimmoral,â€ť and â€śillegal.â€ť
Until that moment, the war in Iraq had been supported by both parties and was regarded by both as a strategic necessity in the larger War on Terror. Removing Saddamâ€™s regime by force, moreover, had been a specific goal of U.S. policy since October 1998, when Bill Clinton, a Democratic president, signed the Iraqi Liberation Act.
In his time on center stage, Saddam launched two aggressive wars, murdered 300,000 Iraqis, used chemical weapons on his own citizens, and put in place an active nuclear-weapons program. He was thwarted only by his defeat in the first Gulf War. As of 2002, his regime had defied 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to enforce the Gulf War truce and stop Iraq from pursuing its ambition to possess weapons of mass destruction. In September 2002, the U.N. Security Council added a new resolution, which gave the regime until December 17 to comply with its terms or face consequences. When Iraq failed to comply, Bush made the only decision compatible with the preservation of international law and the security of the United States: He prepared an invasion to remove the regime and the weapons of mass destruction it was reasonably presumed to possess. The Iraqi dictator was provided the option of leaving the country and averting war. He rejected the offer and the U.S.-led coalition entered the country on March 19, 2003. (I recounted the story in Unholy Alliance.)
The use of force in Iraq had been authorized by both houses of Congress, including a majority of Democrats in the Senate. It was supported in eloquent speeches by John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Gore, and other Democratic leaders. But just three months into the war, Democrats turned against an action that they had authorized and began a five-year campaign to delegitimize it, casting America as its villain. It was a fundamental break with the postâ€“World War II bipartisan foreign policy that had survived even Vietnam.
With the support and protection of Democratic legislators, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the major TV networks now undertook a relentless five-year propaganda campaign against the war, taking relatively minor incidents like the misbehavior of guards at the Abu Ghraib prison and blowing them up into international scandals, damaging their countryâ€™s prestige and weakening its morale. Left-leaning news media leaked classified national-security secrets, destroying three major national-security programs designed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. (For more on this, see my work with Ben Johnson, Party of Defeat, and Douglas Feithâ€™s War and Decision.) Every day, the New York Times and other left-leaning media provided front-page coverage of Americaâ€™s body counts in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped to fuel a massive â€śanti-warâ€ť movement, which attacked Americaâ€™s fundamental purposes along with its conduct of the war. The goal of these campaigns was to indict America and its leaders as war criminals who posed a threat to the world.
#page#The principal justification offered by the Democrats for their campaign against the Iraq War was that â€śBush liedâ€ť in order to persuade them to support an invasion that was unnecessary, illegal, and immoral. This claim was the only way Democrats could explain the otherwise inexplicable and unconscionable fact that, for domestic political reasons, they turned against a war they had supported, following the lead of an anti-war primary candidate, Howard Dean, who appeared to be on his way to winning their presidential nomination. It was only then that Kerry and Edwards, the eventual nominees, reversed themselves on the war; they were followed by the entire party, which saw a partisan advantage in attacking Bush over an increasingly difficult situation on the battlefield.
The claim that Bush lied was false. Bush could not have lied to Kerry or the congressional Democrats about WMDs in Iraq, because Kerry and other Democrats sat on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and had access to the same intelligence data that Bush relied on to make his case for the war. When the Democrats authorized and supported the war, they knew everything that Bush knew. The claim that he lied to get their support was itself the biggest lie of the war. Its only purpose was to hide the Democratsâ€™ own perfidy in abandoning the nationâ€™s mission for partisan gain, and to discredit the president and turn the country against him, at whatever cost, in the hope of winning the 2004 election.
Republicans didnâ€™t lose control of the national-security narrative simply because Democrats betrayed a war they had authorized, however. Republicans had the option of standing fast, as they had done since the attack on Pearl Harbor. They lost control of the narrative because they never held the Democrats accountable for their betrayal. They never suggested that the Democratsâ€™ attacks on the war were deceitful and unpatriotic, aiding our enemies and risking the lives of our troops in the field. The Bush White House failed to defend itself from the attacks, and the Republicans as a whole failed to expose the Democratsâ€™ lie and to describe their reckless accusations as the disloyal propaganda it clearly was. â€śBetrayalâ€ť and â€śsabotageâ€ť â€” the appropriate terms for Democratic attacks on the motives of the war â€” were never employed. Republicans did not accuse Democrats of conducting a campaign to demoralize Americaâ€™s troops in the field, even when Kerry during a presidential debate called it â€śthe wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.â€ť (How did that sound to a 19-year-old Marine facing down Islamic terrorists in Fallujah?)
The Republican Failure and the American Future
The Republicansâ€™ failure to defend their president and the war turned a good war into a bad one. It turned a disloyal opposition into a patriotic movement. It crippled Americaâ€™s ability to protect other peopleâ€™s freedom and defend its own. If the war against a dictator like Saddam Hussein was illegitimate and immoral, then American resistance to any outlaw states could be portrayed â€” and opposed â€” as reckless and unjustifiable aggression.
In failing to fight the political war over Iraq, Republicans lost their legitimacy as the party that had always taken the hard, sometimes unpopular steps to protect national security, as they did in the mid 1980s when they held the line against Soviet efforts to support Sandinista subversion and subjectÂ El Salvador to a bloody Marxist guerilla war. Losing â€” and to some degree failing to fight â€” the war over the war in Iraq is why Republicans are mute today in matters of foreign policy and why they have not challenged Barack Obamaâ€™s dangerous course of appeasement and drift, particularly in the Middle East.
The Joint Chiefs had suggested that a military presence of 20,000 troops in Iraq was necessary to keep it free of Iranâ€™s control, but the demand for such a presence became problematic when the Republicans allowed the Democratsâ€™ narrative of â€śBush lied, people diedâ€ť to succeed. When 2008 presidential candidate John McCain suggested that maintaining troops in a postwar Iraq was a prudent measure, candidate Obama attacked him as a warmonger. â€śYou know,â€ť Obama said, â€śJohn McCain wants to continue a war in Iraq perhaps as long as 100 years.â€ť This refrain became a constant theme of the winning Obama campaign â€” Republicans are warmongers, and dangerous.
That is why three years later, when Obama withdrew from Iraq, no Republican dared accuse him of betraying the Americans who gave their lives to make Iraq independent, even though Iraq as a consequence fell under the sway of Iran and was providing air space for Iranian weapons headed for Syria..
How far America has fallen since Madeleine Albright called us the indispensable nation that stands taller and sees farther becomes ever more apparent with each new international crisis. We are not only losing the war with enemies whose stated goal is our destruction, we are led by a political party that constantly finds excuses not to take these enemies seriously, and never has to account for its disgraceful conduct because its potential opposition is mute. The only way to reverse this trend is to mount a campaign to put Obamaâ€™s support for the Muslim Brotherhood at the forefront of the political debate, and to educate Americans about the real dangers we face. Americans need to become aware of the Islamic-supremacist threat, of the malignant designs of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of the disasters that may lie ahead because of the Obama administrationâ€™s policies of appeasing and enabling our enemiesâ€™ evil ambitions.
â€” David Horowitz is author of Radicals: Portaits of a Destructive Passion.
The ObamaCare Train Wreck Is Already Here
Posted 05/06/2013 07:18 PM ET
Medical Overhaul: Democrats fret about a "train wreck" when ObamaCare goes into effect next year. But the law is already a disaster for workers who've seen their hours and benefits cut as employers try to avoid its costs.
As IBD's Jed Graham reported late last week, government data clearly show that businesses are already cutting worker hours and benefits in advance of ObamaCare's employer mandate, under which every business with 50 or more full-time workers will have to provide government-approved insurance.
Graham found that overall benefits climbed just 0.1% in Q1, the smallest gain since 2001. Benefits in the service sector dropped 0.3%, the first quarterly decline in more than a decade.
As the IBD story notes, benefits climbed steadily even through the recession and the first years of the very weak Obama recovery. So the only real explanation for the cutbacks now is that employers are trying to make room for ObamaCare costs.
In addition, Graham found that retailers are cutting worker hours "at a rate not seen in more than three decades." Again, the culprit is clearly ObamaCare.
The average workweek in April was 2% shorter than it was a year ago, marking the "steepest sustained decline since 1980."
Even the liberal press is starting to take notice of ObamaCare's ill effects on the workforce.
The New York Times recently reported on a family-owned bakery that figures ObamaCare will eat up more than half its annual profits. The owners are looking at "outsourcing certain jobs to reduce the staff."
A Los Angeles Times story last week noted that companies are cutting back on part-time hours so they can avoid the ObamaCare mandate, which kicks in for employees working 30 hours or more.
"Not only will these workers earn less money," the Times noted, "but they'll also miss out on health insurance at work."
The story pointed to research from UC Berkeley, which found that some 2.3 million workers risk seeing their hours cut back thanks to ObamaCare.
Meanwhile, publicly traded companies are starting to explain to shareholders the impact ObamaCare will have on their businesses and how they'll respond.
A recent Krispy Kreme filing, for example, notes that unless it cuts back on the number of workers subject to the law, it will get hit with up to $5 million in new health care costs.
AAA Parking says it will likely switch half its full-time workers over to part time because of ObamaCare.
And the Federal Reserve's recent Beige Book reports that employers across the country are citing the uncertainties surrounding ObamaCare "as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff."
Businesses are right to worry. Despite its official name — the Affordable Care Act — the law is likely to drive small business premiums up.
How far up remains to be seen, but insurers in Maryland and Rhode Island are already pushing for double-digit increases.
And if too few businesses agree to buy ObamaCare insurance, rates could go even higher, causing further damage to jobs, work hours and benefits.
A couple years ago, a reporter asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whether ObamaCare's employer mandate would hurt job growth, particularly among small firms close to the 50-worker threshold.
"I think that this will actually be a great incentive" to increase jobs, was her response. "I don't hear anything from people who say, 'Oh, I would never grow my business past this threshold,' but are very enthusiastic about the notion that this is a competitive issue."
We seriously doubt any business actually told Sebelius they were enthusiastic about ObamaCare's employer mandate back in 2011.
And even if there were a few, they've likely lost their enthusiasm now that they face the imminent reality of this disaster.
Read More At Investor's Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/050613-655037-the-obamacare-train-wreck-is-already-here.htm#ixzz2Sc8n5dWP
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