I weep: our foreign policy has been reduced to hashtags

April 25, 2014
Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Well, I weep and I mock.

For those not familiar with Twitter, “hashtags” are labels preceded by a number sign, as in “#politics.” They were developed to make it easier for people to search for related messages on the system, though people also use them as asides to provide commentary, humor, or snark.

A few weeks ago, the United States Department of State, faced with the slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine by Russia, apparently decided that hashtags were also effective tools of superpower diplomacy. Thus we saw this from State’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki:

My reaction, you’ll be surprised to learn, was one of dismay and disgust. This is hardly the serious diplomacy one would expect from a department once headed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Hay, Dean Acheson, and George Schultz. One would think that, having been roundly mocked here and overseas (You mean you didn’t hear the giggling from Moscow?), the State Department would have given up on managing our foreign affairs like it was a popularity contest, complete with cheerleading. But, no. No, some genius at State decided this was a winning strategy and deployed it again, only this time with an exhortation to Putin:

“Promise of hashtag??” You have got to be kidding me. “Yes, Vlad, be nice to Ukraine. You wouldn’t want to fail the spirit of the hashtag, would you?” Someone last night speculated that an intern forgot to substitute the real hashtag in place of the placeholder word “hashtag,” but that’s immaterial. The whole idea that anyone should think that using catchy social media slogans as a tool of diplomacy would be seen as anything other than self-inflicted humiliation is laughable. That the “strategy” originated at the highest levels of State is infuriating.

And so I couldn’t resist commenting:

And then I offered examples of the promise of hashtag and its power in US foreign affairs:

Others pointed out that the promise of hashtag was global. For example:

Indeed, Lincoln ended the Civil War with it:

But this one, I think, summed up the depth and gravity of State’s strategic thinking in this crisis:

While this baby speaks for me:

But I did offer Ms. Psaki and her co-workers a friendly and much-needed hint:

No, they do not, and it’s in part because people who think they do are in charge of our foreign policy that the world has become a much more dangerous place. It’s a common joke that both sides make to wish for the day “when the adults will be in charge, again,” but, in this case, it’s no longer a joke.  We’re facing foes around the globe who operate via the calculus of power, will, and national interest, while we are represented by community organizers who treat serious matters of state as occasions for virtual rallies.

Argh.

RELATED: More at Twitchy here and here. Jonah Goldberg on Obama’s foreign policy.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Glorious #Obamacare success story! Alabama widows kicked off their insurance plans!

April 17, 2014
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

The law of unintended consequences (1) strikes again. First widows; are orphans next?

(Transcript via The Weekly Standard)

“More than two dozen widows who were married to retired Madison county employees, lost their health insurance coverage earlier this year. And now one commissioner says it’s time to give it back to them. The change was sparked by the new federal health care law, but whether or not coverage can actually be restored really isn’t clear,” said the anchor.

Says the reporter, “Madison county commissioner Roger Jones says no one realized just how much the new federal health care law would change things, especially for the spouses of some of his former employees.”
 
“A lot of these people are on fixed incomes, low fixed incomes. Some of them are living on Social Security and very little else and health insurance is very important to them,” says the county commissioner.

Essentially, the county had self-insured and provided coverage to the widows of its former employees. It’s a nice benefit, something I gather isn’t all that common.

But things changed when our glorious new healthcare act became law and we started to find out what was in it: Madison county discovered that, thanks to all the new requirements, it would cost them an extra $25,000,000 to cover the widows. They didn’t have the money, so guess who lost their insurance?

Apologists might argue that the county or state could raise taxes and fees to cover the expenses, or, even if they couldn’t, the widows still have Medicare and Medicaid (Oh, joy.) available, thanks to the ACA. So it’s not really a problem, right? Just a few bugs to work out.

But that’s not the point. These people had an insurance plan that met their needs, and the county was honoring its promise to its employees. There was no good reason for government to come in like a bull in a china shop and wreck those arrangements. Now, thanks to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party (2), you literally have widows on fixed incomes left without health insurance. And who knows how many places in America this story or ones similar to it are playing out?

This thing is an anti-constitutional monstrosity and it has got to go.

RELATED: More from Hot Air on the difficulties of restoring coverage to these people.

Footnote:
(1) Also known as: “Things that inevitably happen when a bunch of arrogant fools think they can control by bureaucratic ukase a complex, varied economy composed of millions of individuals with highly varied needs.”
(2) Remember, kids, not a single Republican voted for this mess, and we’ve been warning it would be a train wreck from Day One.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Well, scratch Mike Huckabee from the 2016 contenders list

April 13, 2014
Foot, meet mouth

Foot, meet mouth

Not that the former Arkansas governor and current FOX host was on my list, anyway (1), but making statements as facile, lazy, and, yes, ignorant as this should give anyone pause:

Fox News personality and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee stunned a New Hampshire crowd on Saturday by likening the federal government’s treatment of airport passengers to the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong-un.

‘My gosh, I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States,’ he told a partisan crowd at the inaugural New Hampshire Freedom Summit.

‘When I go to the airport, I have to get into the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID in a couple of different forms to prove that I’m not going to terrorize the airplane,’ he deadpanned.

In a speech filled with jokes, Huckabee seemed deadly serious.

Really, Mike?

Look, the TSA can be infuriating, it’s definitely ineffective, and it should be disbanded, but as if we were in North Korea? Please, spare me the hyperbole.

North Korea is a nightmare realm ruled by an alcoholic man-child whose subjects fear him as a god. It is a bizarre mix of Confucianism and Stalinism in which all bend to the will of the Dear Leader, lest they die by flamethrower. It is a land of starvation and cannibalism, where multiple generations of whole families are consigned to a vast gulag of prison camps. In fact, all of North Korea is a prison masquerading as a nation.

And to compare the United States to that, even if just to get your point across through the shock value?

That’s just stupid, Mike, and I don’t vote for stupid.

via ST’s Hot Headlines

Footnote:
(1) He rubs me the wrong way, giving me the impression he’s a right-wing statist who would keep feeding Leviathan, not much better than the left-wing statists running the show right now. Others, of course, may well see him differently. Big tent, and all that.


Worst Department of State, ever

March 26, 2014

This is someone’s brilliant idea of an effective strategy to deal with Putin over Ukraine:

Word of advice to Secretary Kerry and President Obama: Communitarianism is not a foreign policy and shaming is not an winning tactic when you’re dealing with an ex-KGB officer. Know what I’m saying?

BTW, the person in the photo is Jen Psaki, the official spokeswoman for the United States Department of State. Way to work the gravitas, there, Jen.

PS: I’ve saved a screen cap in case they delete it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Michael Barone’s last line will leave a mark

March 21, 2014
"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Writing in The Washington Examiner on Hispanics and Obamacare, political analyst Michael Barone notes the precipitous decline in support among the group for the ACA (from 61% in favor to 47% since September, 2013). He then wonders if this experience will sour Hispanics on big government overall, thus threatening their majority allegiance to the Democratic Party. His closing is quiet, but brutal:

I think that Obamacare may be discrediting Big Government generally among Hispanic voters. They may have assumed that government in the United States was competent and functional. They have been finding out that Obamacare has been about as competent and functional as government in Mexico.

Ouch! That’s going to leave a mark. smiley black eye

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


John Kerry focuses the State Department like a laser… On climate change

March 10, 2014
We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Because, as we all know, Man-caused climate change the Dread Demon Carbon Dioxide is the “world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” a threat we have to deal with now and with all our efforts. Not nukes in the hands of Iranian mullahs yearning to bring about their version of the Apocalypse. Not jihadist terror groups also jonesing for a few kilotons of their own. Not H-bombs and rockets in the possession of Kim Jong Un, who, when not feeding relatives to the dogs and ordering the execution of Christians, might decide to restart the Korean War. Not Vladimir Putin, who, with thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal, has decided to start dismembering neighboring states and daring the West to do something, anything about it. Not a rising, hyper-nationalist, aggressive, nuclear-armed China, which is rattling sabers at its island neighbors and looking to challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific.

Nope. Global warming is the greatest threat to America, and so Secretary Kerry has ordered our ambassadors around the world to make that their top priority:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on American ambassadors around the world to make the fight against climate change a top priority ahead of new UN talks next year.

In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: “The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.”

“Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department.

“It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy,” he added in the document seen by AFP.

He urged all “chiefs of mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.”

Note that the environment has been one of the “central causes” of John Kerry’s life, his personal mission. Thus the Department of State, charged with conducting the nation’s diplomacy, is now at the service of John Kerry’s personal tilt at the windmill. Silly me for thinking State’s job is to pursue the nation’s interests, not one dull man’s obsessions.

Of course, Kerry probably thinks his cause is the nation’s. It’s solipsism as foreign policy.

I ask again: Have we ever had a more fatuous, dunderheaded  bore as secretary of state than John Kerry?

Via Doug Powers, who provides illustrative examples of the Kerrys’ “Green lifestyle.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Really? They couldn’t pay to have a good model made?

March 3, 2014

Apparently Hillary Clinton’s infamous reset button was swiped from a hotel swimming pool. Couldn’t they at least have ordered from Amazon?

And the woman who headed this team wants to be the next President of the United States.

The monkey speaks for me:

"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”


#Obamacare: insurance companies have no idea who you are

January 9, 2014

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Just a glitch, ya know. A glitch that, so far, has left 13,000 people without the coverage they paid for:

Insurance companies are still trying to sort out cases of so-called health insurance orphans, customers for whom the government has a record that they enrolled, but the insurer does not.

Government officials say the problem is real but under control, with orphan records being among the roughly 13,000 problem cases they are trying to resolve with insurers. But insurance companies are worried the process will grow more cumbersome as they deal with the flood of new customers who signed up in December as enrollment deadlines neared.

More than 1 million people have signed up through the federal insurance market that serves 36 states. Officials contend the error rate for new signups is close to zero.

Insurers, however, are less enthusiastic about the pace of the fixes. The companies also are seeing cases in which the government has assigned the same identification number to more than one person, as well as so-called “ghost” files in which the insurer has an enrollment record but the government does not.

But orphaned files — when the insurer has no record of enrollment — are particularly concerning because the companies have no automated way to identify the presumed policyholder. They say they have to manually compare the lists of enrollees the government sends them with their own records because the government never built an automated system that would do the work much faster.

“It’s an ongoing concern,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. “Health plans can’t process enrollments they haven’t received from the exchange.”

So, you can’t keep the health plan you liked, and now you can’t get the service you were forced to pay for because the government can’t process the records properly.

As Instapundit likes to say, “We’re in the best of hands.”

via Townhall

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Hospital not paying doctors and staff, blames #Obamacare contractor

January 2, 2014

"Seen over Fordow?"

“Obamacare reveals its true face”

Oh, this is just grand. On top of all the other problems we’ve suffered through so far with Obamacare, now a hospital treating Medicare patients hasn’t been reimbursed by the government and thus hasn’t been able to pay its staff for weeks. Over Christmas. The blame? Apparently it lies with the same contractor hired by the Obama administration to build the back-end payments system for healthcare.gov:

Dozens of employees at a hospital in northeast Houston have had to make it through the holidays without getting paid for weeks. The CEO of Saint Anthony’s Hospital on Little York is blaming a new Medicare payment contractor for his payroll problems.

Nearly 150 employees, ranging from doctors to nurses and administrators, haven’t been paid in nearly a month, and the CEO says it’s not his fault.

(…)

The hospital is strapped for cash not because its not making money, but because Leday says a new Medicare payment facilitator named Novitas Solutions is taking too way long to pay out Medicare claims to the hospital.

Leday says he’s owed nearly $3 million in payments from Medicare and can’t make payroll.

According to the ABC-13 article, the Texas AMA says that other community hospitals in the state are facing similar payment problems with Novitas. So, what happens to Medicare patients when unpaid doctors stop providing services because they haven’t been paid, or the pharmacists stop filling prescriptions? Aren’t these the very people this anti-constitutional monstrosity of a law was supposed to help? Or should we just make physicians serfs of the state, as one Democrat proposed?

Via Jeryl Bier, who adds this about Novitas’ link to healthcare.gov:

Novitas’s direct connection to Healthcare.gov stems from an emergency, no-bid contract for “financial management services” awarded in August and first reported by THE WEEKLY STANDARD in September.  The services required included accounting, tracking of accounts receivable and accounts payable, documenting funds collected by CMS, and data validation, among other things.  CMS justified the no-bid award because the “prospect of a delay in implementing the Marketplace by the operational date of January 1, 2014, even for a few days, would result in severe consequences, financial and other” and that the services required were “beyond what was initially anticipated and beyond CMS’ currently available resources.”

In light of Novitas’ performance in Houston, I can’t wait to see what this government contractor no-bid crony can do for the whole nation.

PS: There’s a video report at the ABC link.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Antarctic ‘research’ fiasco – ‘would you, could you, in a boat’?

December 30, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

The climate change movement is falling apart and ending in farce, as this “scientific expedition” shows. BTW, click through for photos of ships sunk in the Antarctic in recent years. Maybe we should worry about the ecological damage incompetent visitors are doing.

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

This will be a top “sticky” post for awhile since interest is high – new stories will appear below this one – Anthony

UPDATE:Josh channels the boat people

UPDATE2: Another irony is discovered, this one doubly deep.  See update 2 below.

UPDATE3: see WUWT and Weatherbell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy

UPDATE4:AMSA: Helicopter rescue of Akademik Shokalskiy likely to commence shortly

(It’s off again, then now its on again, with report the helicopter has landed)

UPDATE5: All the passengers (tourists and scientists) are off the ship

UPDATE6:Tough questions need to be asked

UPDATE7: Trouble on the rescue ship – reaching open water not so easy

AIT_Mawson

Former Akademik Shokalskiy has been renamed in Al Gore’s honor. Satirical image by: Ollie Cromwell @TheRedRag on Twitter

As we reported previously on WUWT here and here, the saga of the “climate scientists/tourists trapped…

View original 873 more words


Great Moments in Journalism: “No, really?” division

December 27, 2013
No way!!

The deuce you say!!

horrific crime occurs in Chicago:

An 18-year-old man was charged with first-degree murder Thursday after police found a decapitated man early Christmas morning in the Hermosa neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Officers responding to a homicide call found the decapitated 41-year-old man about 2 a.m. Wednesday inside a basement apartment in the 2500 block of North Kildare Avenue, police said.

And the local CBS station makes sure to nail down the crucial details:

The man was dead at the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. He was identified as 41-year-old Silvestre Diaz-Hernandez and lived at the apartment.

Good thing they pointed that out; otherwise, I’d have never drawn that conclusion from the word “decapitated.” I can only imagine the look on the ME’s face when asked “And what is the victim’s condition?”

via ST on Facebook


Breaking: Sebelius now says you *can* buy catastrophic insurance

December 19, 2013
Obama foreign policy advisers

Obamacare planning experts

Remember, one of the excuses offered for the massive private insurance cancellations under Obamacare was that the existing policies –the ones you chose of your own free will– just weren’t good enough. So the government had to cancel them in order to encourage force you to buy better ones.

Which is why they are now going to let us buy insurance worse than the policies that they killed. Genius:

The Obama administration said Thursday it would allow millions of Americans whose insurance policies had been canceled to purchase bare-bones plans next year, in another eleventh-hour tweak to the law likely to cause consternation among insurance carriers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of six senators in a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal that people whose policies had been canceled because of new requirements under the health law would be allowed to purchase ‘catastrophic’ plans. Those plans had previously been restricted to people under the age of 30 or individuals who qualified for a set of specific hardship exemptions.

Call me a reactionary, right-wing, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing bitter-clinger, but wouldn’t it have been simpler and better to let people keep the blasted plans they already had and liked? I must be missing something that’s obvious to Our Betters in Washington.

I’d call this a clown-car operation, but then I’d have to find a clown to apologize to.

via Allahpundit

UPDATE: Good point from National Journal’s Clara Ritger: this is an exemption to the individual mandate, the core of Obamacare.

The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.

They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

(…)

This change could have a more long-term impact. Catastrophic-coverage plans were priced with a 30-and-under consumer base in mind. And with thousands who were barred from the market due to preexisting conditions expected to purchase the new coverage, allowing people who already had coverage to go without it could upset the balance of the risk pool. The Affordable Care Act exchanges need enough healthy people to balance out the costs of care for the sick or premiums could rise in 2015, creating a “death spiral” and jeopardizing the law’s success altogether.

So… What, pray tell, happens to the mandate, now? Isn’t this one huge crack in the dam?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: Today’s winner of the “You’ve got your nerve” contest

December 6, 2013
No way!!

No way!!

Only in the progressive-statist bureaucracy would a merit bonus be given for failure:

The head of Colorado’s state health exchange has asked for an end-of-the-year raise and bonus even though the website has enrolled fewer than half the people who were supposed to purchase health insurance through December.

Patty Fontneau, president and CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, currently earns $190,549. Her chief operating officer and chief financial officer earn $164,800 each.

The salaries are supported by taxpayers.

Fontneau received a $5,000 raise in 2012 and is eligible for annual bonuses of up to 10 percent with salary increases of 3 percent, according to documents from Connect for Health Colorado.

The CEO’s salary increase was discussed among the organization’s board of directors in an October executive session, and it has not yet been granted by the board.

By Ms. Fontneau’s standards, I suppose the head of Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange should be granted her weight in gold.

Maybe we could give them all gold participation stars, instead.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: Cover Oregon reduced to telling people to use a fax to apply

November 25, 2013
"An Obamacare navigator ready for action"

“An Obamacare navigator ready for action”

Forward!

KOIN 6 News confirmed Cover Oregon has added dozens of extra fax lines to handle the paper applications being sent in by fax.

On Wednesday, King said they had received about 24,000 paper applications. That number now is closer to 30,000. But many people complained of busy signals when trying to send in their application by fax.

Michael Cox, the Cover Oregon spokesperson, said their office has one fax number but it’s an electronic interface that can handle more than one call at once. When a fax comes in it takes two seconds per page to be transferred into the server.

When the paper applications began, Cover Oregon was only able to take 500 applications per day. It was upped to 1000, and this week increased to 1500 per day.

Cox said he’s absolutely confident Cover Oregon has the capacity to deal with the applications.

Because nothing says “health care of the future” like using technology invented in the 19th century.

(Don’t forget, all those faxed-in applications still have to be entered into the nonfunctional exchange.)

via Hot Air


#Obamacare site security: worse than we thought?

October 31, 2013
"Obama foreign policy advisers"

“Obamacare implementation team”

I told you there was never “just one roach.” Just two days after learning of at least one easy hack to access private data at healthcare.gov and just one day after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius swore up and down that site security was her department’s top priority, we have the former head of the Social Security Administration telling us the administration deliberately broke privacy laws to rush the site out by October 1st:

In an interview with NBC News, a former top government official raised his own questions about the site’s security, and about the healthcare.gov’s privacy protections. Michael Astrue, the Bush appointee who served as head of the Social Security Administration from 2007 until early this year, said that the Obama administration exempted the website from many federal privacy protections, potentially making the personal data on healthcare.gov accessible to a range of government and private entities, including the Department of Homeland Security to credit agencies.

“There were shortcuts taken on the information technology,” said Astrue, “and there were shortcuts taken in terms of adherence to the laws that protect our rights.”

According to Astrue, concerns about privacy protections were the subject of debate within the administration before launch. But Astrue said that his warnings that the site’s design should not contravene the Federal Privacy Act were ignored. “I was extremely upset,” said Astrue. “First of all they were violating the statute. Second, there would be real world consequences for Americans.”

Three weeks after healthcare.gov launched, administration officials granted 13 exemptions to the Privacy Act permitting sensitive personal data being entered into healthcare.gov and the state health insurance exchanges to be shared with agency contractors, consultants, the Department of Homeland Security, state and local governments, employers and family members. The exemptions are displayed in fine print on healthcare.gov.

“Don’t worry,” the administration might say. “The people handling this data will only access it at need and would never, ever abuse it. I pinky swear!” Well, after revelations about the IRS leaking confidential tax returns and NSA employees spying on ex-spouses and lovers, let’s just say I don’t have much confidence in this “official promise:”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News, “When consumers fill out their online Marketplace applications, they can trust that the information they’re providing is protected by stringent security standards and that the technology underlying the application process has been tested and is secure.”

But let’s assume for the moment that all these people at all levels, federal, state, and private, are all honorable and would never misuse their privileges. There’s still the very big question of technological security, itself. We know now the prime contractor, CGI Federal, told the government last summer that it was very concerned about the lack of adequate security testing. The government itself was worried about a “high security risk.” And we know that obtaining user information during the system’s first three weeks of operation was frighteningly easy. Just how secure are all these various computer systems at all these myriad levels? And what about the pipes and hubs through which the data has to flow? How about software bugs no one knows of yet, maybe introduced by the very fixes HHS is working on?

And what about the thousands of users, themselves? How many of them, not malicious but still careless, are using easy to crack passwords? Their child’s first name? Their birthdate? Their driver’s licence number? As Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) told Sebelius:

“You have exposed millions of Americans because you all, according to your memo, believed it was an acceptable risk,…”

This structure has a million potential holes in it, just waiting for data thieves to strike, and Astrue’s description of the administration’s cavalier attitude toward security turns this from a worry to a disaster in the making.

PS: I don’t know about you, but I’m stunned that it’s NBC reporting this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare roll-out: Covered California – “We speak Asian!”

October 26, 2013

Really, @CoveredCA? With the large numbers of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and other East Asians living in this state? Via Twitchy:

 

And here’s a screenshot, in case they delete it.

Yeesh.


How lame is the Obama White House?

October 24, 2013

So lame, they can’t even slander someone right.

They’re an embarrassment to the Chicago Way.

via Instapundit


The Obamacare chronicles: Building the moocher class, subsidy by subsidy

October 14, 2013
"Turn right for Obamacare"

“Turn right for Obamacare”

I’ve talked before about the perverse incentives built into Obamacare (Browse this category for more examples), but those have been largely about the incentives provided to businesses to cut hours and stop hiring full-time workers thanks to the onerous burdens imposed by the ACA. But now we have an example from the other end, that of the victim consumer of Obamacare.

The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the situation of people caught in a trap by Obamacare: On the one hand, the coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, along with its ban on lifetime benefits caps, has caused a tremendous rise in insurance rates. (For example. And again.) On  the other hand, people making up to 400% of the poverty level are eligible for varying degrees of subsidies — money provided by our taxes and federal borrowing.

The problem is that some people are caught on the wrong side of the subsidy boundary: if you make 401% of the poverty level, your rates may triple, you may be forced to buy coverage you don’t need, but you also get no subsidy. Like they used to say on Starkist commercials, “Sorry, Charlie!”

But, hey, no worries! The Chron’s Kathleen Pender has the solution for you: earn less, so you can get a larger subsidy. Her main example deals with the Proctors, a San Francisco couple in their 60s who make just above the 400% mark and so do not qualify for subsidies, but are suffering huge increases in their insurance premiums. Pender covers tax and IRA strategies the couple can follow to get them under the magic boundary and greatly reduce their direct insurance costs. But the kicker comes in this line:

You can also consider reducing your 2014 income by working just a bit less.

Yes, you read that right: Obamacare makes the cost of individual policies so high that it is in the economic interests of some people to become less productive and earn less, because they need that government subsidy to survive economically — or to survive at all.

This is what economist Dan Mitchell has described as the “poverty trap.” While the quote below talks about welfare benefits and the disincentives they create to earn more and be more productive, I think it applies equally to the Obamacare subsidy question:

Most people focus on the huge burden that the food stamp program imposes on taxpayers, which surely is significant, but there is another economic cost that is equally worrisome, and it applies to all income redistribution programs. Whenever the government gives people money simply because their incomes are below a certain level, that creates a poverty trap. More specifically, because people lose benefits for earning more income, they are penalized with very onerous implicit marginal tax rates for climbing the economic ladder.

I highlighted that last sentence because it illustrates perfectly the situation faced by the Proctors and others; if you substitute “insurance premiums” for “marginal tax rates,” you’ll see what I mean. And, heck, let’s call those insurance premiums what they are: a tax. You’re required under penalty of law to pay them, even if the money goes to a company, rather than the government. For you and me, there’s no effective difference.

(And you should read and bookmark Mitchell’s post. He has another that contains a chart that graphically shows how welfare traps people in poverty.)

Pender’s article, in short, reveals the insidious heart of Obamacare: it creates incentives for people to become moochers, infantilized wards dependent on the government, rather than productive, self-reliant citizens building wealth for themselves and others.

And, in my darker moments, I suspect that’s the whole point.

PS: Before anyone goes after me for mentioning the Proctors, I’m not blaming or criticizing them. It’s the Democrats and their anti-constitutional monstrosity that put them in this bind. They’re free to act in their own best interests given the circumstances in which they find themselves, and I’ll not throw stones. It’s the people who created this mess who deserve the brickbats.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


US, Russia, reach sham deal over Syrian chemical weapons

September 15, 2013
"I won"

“I won”

With John Kerry as our lead negotiator, so you know it’s good:

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.

The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.

Kerry said that the first international inspection of Syrian chemical weapons will take place by November, with destruction to begin next year.

Senior administration officials had said Friday the Obama administration would not press for U.N. authorization to use force against Syria if it reneges on any agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

The Russians had made clear in talks here between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry that the negotiations could not proceed under the threat of a U.N. resolution authorizing a military strike. Russia also wanted assurances that a resolution would not refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court for possible war-crimes prosecution.

President Obama has said that the unilateral U.S. use of force against Syria for a chemical attack last month remains on the table. But consideration of that action, already under challenge by a skeptical Congress, has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Geneva talks.

The rest of the article contains the usual blather about how inspections must be thorough, that there will be consequences for non-compliance, the international community has spoken, etc., etc. Note that the French are already circulating a resolution for “further measures” if Syria doesn’t live up to the deal. Naturally, those “further measures” are left undefined. It’s the 90’s inspection shell-game in Iraq all over again, just updated with new faces.

A Syrian government minister is much more honest:

“This agreement, an achievement of Russian diplomats and the Russian leadership, is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends,” Ali Haidar told Russian news agency RIA.

“We welcome this agreement. From one point of view, it will help Syrians exit the crisis, from another, it has prevented a war against Syria, having taken away the pretext for one from those who wanted to unleash (it),” he said.

(h/t Power Line)

Assad himself wasn’t available for comment; he was too busy laughing his head off.

This wasn’t only a victory for Syria, where the regime survives, they get to keep their chemical weapons (1), and an American attack is off the table for the rest of Obama’s term; this is a big win for Moscow, too. First, and regardless of how Team Smart Power spins it, the whole world a Nobel Peace Prize winner nearly bumble into war and then practically fall all over himself to grasp the life-preserver thrown to him by the ex-KGB tyrant. So much for American leadership and credibility.

Putin also showed he can deliver, where Obama can’t: his client is protected from the wrath of the Americans, he keeps his nice naval base at Tartus, and any future negotiations over Syria and its fate go through the Kremlin, not the White House. Oh, and while he’s at it, he’s letting the Iranians know that he has their back, too.

Mark Steyn called it: “American exceptionalism” has, under Obama, become American Ineffectualism:

Putin has pulled off something incredible: He’s gotten Washington to anoint him as the international community’s official peacemaker, even as he assists Iran in going nuclear and keeping their blood-soaked Syrian client in his presidential palace. Already, under the “peace process,” Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower.

There’s no way around it: this is an utter humiliation and we look absolutely foolish. A declining regional power has totally outplayed the world’s sole remaining superpower to reestablish itself in a region from which it was shut out 40 years ago. As Iowahawk put it, Putin is just doing donuts in Obama’s front yard. No wonder American allies in the area are looking to cut a deal with the new boss.

It’s going to be a long three years until the next election, isn’t it?

Footnote:
(1) Come on. You don’t seriously think Assad will really have to give those up, do you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Krauthammer: Russia playing chess with rank amateurs

September 10, 2013

Those amateurs being President of the United States Barack Obama and his Hundred Acre Wood foreign policy crew. Charles Krauthammer on Russia checkmating Obama:

“Because I think the Russians were playing chess here with a set of rank amateurs and understood that [Kerry's] gaffe gave them the opening they wanted,” Krauthammer said. “There are two issues here: chemicals and the retaining in power of Assad and of the Iran/Hezbollah/Assad/Russian axis dominating the region.”

Krauthammer continued:

“The Russians clearly, immediately saw that this enabled them to achieve their two objectives. Keep Assad in power. After all, if we’re going to have negotiations, we have to essentially recognize Assad. It’s not that Assad has to go, he’s the guy that’s going to have to provide the protection for any inspectors, locate the sites, he’s going to have to be in there. He’s going to be a negotiating element in this. He will remain in power and the Russians are going to have their air base, the naval base, everything that they have.”

“[President] Obama has seized on this because it’s the only way he saves face,” he added. “That’s a high price to pay, but I assure you he will seize that. It will be his policy as of now and as of his speech tomorrow [Tuesday] night.”

Krauthammer said this before Putin scotched a possible deal through the UN, making Obama, who had just jumped at the chance, look even more foolish.

If Putin is playing chess, Obama hasn’t even learned how the horsey moves.


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