Obamacare and the Odious Anti-Constitutionalism of Chief Justice John Roberts

June 28, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

I was going to write a long post about the three rotten Supreme Court decisions in two days at the end of this last week –Obamacare, “Disparate impact,” and gay marriage (I support SSM, but Kennedy’s opinion is a judicial farrago.), but Dan sums it all up quite nicely for me, even though he’s only talking about Obamacare.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I feel compelled to comment on the Supreme Court’s latest Obamacare decision, though I could sum up my reaction with one word: disgust.

  • I’m disgusted that we had politicians who decided in 2009 and 2010 to further screw up the healthcare system with Obamacare.
  • I’m disgusted the IRS then decided to arbitrarily change the law in order to provide subsidies to people getting insurance through the federal exchange, even though the law explicitly says those handouts were only supposed to go to those getting policies through state exchanges (as the oily Jonathan Gruber openly admitted).
  • I’m disgusted that the lawyers at the Justice Department and the Office of White House Counsel didn’t have the integrity to say that handouts could only be given to people using state exchanges.
  • But most of all, I’m disgusted that the Supreme Court once again has decided to put politics above the Constitution.

In…

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#Obamacare: the only candidate to answer my question

June 26, 2015

ted_cruz

Yesterday, in the wake of the Court’s abominable decision in King v. Burwell, I posted a question to some of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination:

I then pointed out that I would be interested to see not which candidate (1), if any, answered me, but which would give me the most direct, unequivocal answer. Nearly 24 hours later, only one has replied:

Senator Cruz wins for not only being the first and only candidate to answer me, but for giving me the direct, no-bull answer I was seeking. The senator isn’t my first choice for the nomination, but he’s gained quite a few points for quickly answering a stranger’s question.

2016 will turn on three key issues: national security, the economy, and Obamacare. The candidate who has the best positions for all three will get my vote.

Footnote:
(1) Or their staff, let’s be realistic, though I’ve read that Cruz and Rubio handle their own Twitter accounts. Regardless, Cruz’s was the only campaign to give an answer.


King v Burwell: The SCOTUS saves #Obamacare, again.

June 25, 2015
x

These guys would probably do a better job.

Sigh.

The Supreme Court decision most everyone was waiting for, a ruling in King v. Burwell about the legality of Obamacare subsidies for insurance purchasers on federal exchanges, has just come out (PDF).

Spoiler: the administration won. The anti-constitutional monstrosity lives on.

I haven’t much to add to a legal analysis of this decision. For that, I recommend you read William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, whose post on the decision will be updated as the day goes by.

I will say, however, that this is the second time a majority lead by Chief Justice Roberts has twisted and tortured the plain meaning of words and the processes of reason in order to achieve a desired result –preserving the Affordable Care Act. In the first,  he beat the square peg of the Obamacare penalties for not having insurance into the round hole of constitutional logic by declaring them simultaneously a tax and a fine. The goddess Reason wept.

Now, however, he and his colleagues on the majority have magically decided that the obvious meaning of the plain language of the law, that subsidies are only available through an exchange established by a state, is somehow ambiguous. To top it off, they ignored the unambiguous evidence offered by Jonathan Gruber, one of the key architects of the ACA, that the intent was to use the lack of federal subsidies to coerce states into establishing exchanges. Law and legal reasoning be damned, the Court’s role was to save Obamacare:

Given that the text is ambiguous, we must turn to the broader structure of the Act to determine the meaning of Section 36B. “A provision that may seem ambiguous in isolation is often clarified by the remainder of the statutory scheme . . . because only one of the permissible meanings produces a substantive effect that is compatible with the rest of the law.” United Sav. Assn. of Tex. v. Timbers
of Inwood Forest Associates, Ltd., 484 U. S. 365, 371 (1988). Here, the statutory scheme compels us to reject petitioners’ interpretation because it would destabilize the individual insurance market in any State with a Federal Exchange, and likely create the very “death spirals” that Congress designed the Act to avoid. [at 15]

In fact, we know this is not true. The text is not ambiguous, and the Democrats knew the “death spiral” was in there. Reasoning from Gruber’s own words, they designed things so it would be a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of opponents of the ACA. “Nice insurance industry you have there. Be a shame if you didn’t agree to set up an exchange and the whole thing crashed for a lack of subsidies.” Trouble is, more states than expected refused to set up an exchange, so it was the Fed that had to illegally provide subsidies to prevent a death spiral. As Professor Jacobson said on Twitter:

This is disgusting and disheartening, but not wholly unexpected. After the last Obamacare decision, it wasn’t likely a Court majority would cut the legs out from under the ACA, no matter what. That is left for us to do in 2017, when a Republican Congress has a Republican president — and us ready to hold their feet to the fire to repeal this damned thing.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Justice Scalia’s flaming dissent, per Legal Insurrection:

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

Indeed.


Bookshelf update: Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled”

June 4, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

book cover attkisson stonewalled

 

Attkisson is an award-winning investigative journalist who spent roughly 20 years with CBS before leaving in 2014. For her determined pursuit of the truth and information government and corporate officials would rather keep hidden, she’s been called a “bulldog,” a term she regards as a compliment. While Stonewalled deals with the scandals and evasions of the Obama administration and its allies, Attkisson has a reputation as a bipartisan bulldog — a pain in the tuchus to Democrats and Republicans, alike. This is what a good journalist should be.

I’m about half-way through Stonewalled and, so far, it’s been equal parts enjoyable, infuriating, and even frightening. Before discussing scandals such as Fast and Furious and the Obamacare rollout, as well as the almost equally scandalous supine attitude of mainstream journalism toward the administration, Attkisson opens with the story of her discovery that her work and personal computers, and her phone, had been hacked by a government agency during her investigation into the Benghazi massacre. Though she hasn’t yet identified in the book who she believes is responsible, I’ll note that she has filed suit against  the Department of Justice and the US Postal Service. Discovery, as they say should be interesting.

I’m reading her book in Kindle format; it’s also in soft (forthcoming) and hardcover. Regarding the Kindle edition, I’ve spotted just one lone typo and no formatting problems, which is very good for an e-book. Her writing style is straightforward, almost Hemingway-esque in its directness. If Ms. Attkisson reveals any ax to grind, it’s her firm belief that information paid for with taxpayer dollars belongs to the public, not the government.

I’ll post a review when I’ve finished.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


#Obamacare Chronicles: Ohio Medicaid expansion costs $3 billion in first 15 months

April 30, 2015
Kasich 2016?

Kasich 2016?

Well, this should be a big help to Governor Kasich’s potential presidential campaign. Nothing like a budget-busting entitlement to advertise one’s bona fides as a fiscal conservative:

Americans’ tax burden is already $3 billion heavier because of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

By putting more able-bodied, working-age childless adults on Medicaid than Kasich projected, Obamacare expansion is reducing incentives to work and threatening traditional Medicaid recipients’ access to care faster and at greater cost than anticipated.

After Kasich expanded Medicaid unilaterally, a state panel approved $2.56 billion in Obamacare spending for the expansion’s first 18 months. The money was meant to last until July, but it ran out in February.

Kasich’s Obamacare expansion cost $323 million in March — 84 percent greater than estimates revised just six months earlier.

Using monthly figures released by the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Republican governor’s Obamacare expansion cost slightly more than $3 billion from January 2014 through March 2015.

Kasich’s Obamacare expansion is on track to cost more than $4 billion by the end of June.

With federal taxpayers on the hook for all benefit costs and Ohio facing a growing state share in 2017, Obamacare expansion may soon consume 10 percent of Ohio’s budget.

Governor Kasich rammed through the Medicaid expansion after the legislature declined to do so. In other words, placing his will above that of the people’s elected representatives. And what has his superior judgment brought the people? Costs far higher than expected. Right now, they’re spread across the backs of taxpayers in all 50 states. (Gee, thanks, Governor.) In a few years, however, the federal subsidies decrease and an increasing portion will be born solely by the taxpayers of each state. As the article points out, that could amount to 10 percent of Ohio’s budget, just for Medicaid. (And if the history of government entitlements is any indication, that figure is low.)

Massive cost overruns and a huge open-ended burden on state finances. Heck of a calling card for a spot on the Republican ticket, John.


#Obamacare Chronicles: two-thirds of subsidy recipients had to repay the government

April 28, 2015
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

This should make some people mad:

Nearly two in three Americans who bought subsidized health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges this year had to pay some of the federal dollars back, according to new data from H&R Block.

That’s because they presumably collected more federal aid than their income qualified them for. In that case, consumers must either pay some of it back or — in most cases — the IRS will subtract it from their tax refund.

Policymakers have expressed concern that low-income people could struggle with paying back the subsidies — or suffer if their tax refunds are greatly reduced because of overpayments.

The average amount consumers owed back to the government was $729, cutting their potential tax refunds by almost one-third, said the tax preparation company.

The article also mentions that 25% of Obamacare subsidy receivers received larger refunds because their income was less than expected. Good for them.

BUT… It’s the angry people who will remember this: they were forced to give up policies and medical providers they liked and that met their needs for more expensive policies and more restricted networks that didn’t meet the needs they had and met “needs” they didn’t have. (1) Then they were forced to pay even more, giving back some of the tax refund (2) they thought they were getting, maybe even had already spent. And this will happen again in 2016, an election year.

Angry people have long memories.

Footnote:
(1) Like maternity coverage for elderly couples. Really.
(2) I know you have trouble with the concept, progressives, but the money belongs to the one who earned it. The government just takes it. And so a refund is just giving a person back his own money — without interest.


Kasich for President? Er… No, thanks.

April 24, 2015
Kasich 2016?

Kasich 2016?

There’s something about the Ohio governor I just don’t like, and I think the words “sanctimony” and “arrogance” have something to do with it. In The Washington Examiner, Philip Klein explains why limited-government conservatives should say “no” to John Kasich:

A 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for states to reject Obamacare’s costly expansion of Medicaid — as many governors prudently chose to do.

But in February 2013, despite campaigning on opposition to Obamacare, Kasich crumbled under pressure from hospital lobbyists who supported the measure, and endorsed the expansion. When his legislature opposed him, Kasich bypassed lawmakers and imposed the expansion through a separate panel — an example of executive overreach worthy of Obama.

Kasich cloaked his cynical move in the language of Christianity, and, just like a liberal demagogue, he portrayed those with principled objections to spending more taxpayer money on a failing program as being heartless.

“Why is that some people don’t get it?” Kasich asked rhetorically at an October 2013 event at the Cleveland Clinic, which lobbied the administration heavily for the expansion so that it could access a stream of money from federal taxpayers. “Is it because they’re hard-hearted or cold-hearted? It’s probably because they don’t understand the problem because they have never walked in somebody’s shoes.”

Ugh. That’s a cheap shot worthy of Obama, Reid, and Schumer. It couldn’t possibly be that one opposes the expansion of Medicaid because it represents a looming fiscal disaster for states that do enlarge the program. It couldn’t be because Medicaid has been shown to be no better than having no insurance at all, and that it increases the strain on emergency rooms. Nor could one reasonably object on principled limited-government, constitutional grounds, since the entire Obamacare project represents an anti-constitutional monstrosity.

Nope. It had to be because you’re a callous monster. But thank God John Kasich has the heart you lack, you Grinch.

There’s another problem, too. It’s that Kasich has, like Obama, shown the instincts of a tyrant. No, he’s not had anyone carted off to camps nor had himself crowned king, but his decision to expand Obamacare slapped in the face the principle that laws should be written by the people elected by The People to write them. In other words, the legislature. Article 2, section 1 of the Ohio Constitution reads, in part:

The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a general assembly consisting of a senate and house of representatives but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose to the general assembly laws and amendments to the constitution, and to adopt or reject the same at the polls on a referendum vote as hereinafter provided.

In other words, the power to write, amend, and repeal laws was granted by the people of Ohio to the legislature and reserved to themselves — none was granted to the governor. Yet, when the elected representatives of the people declined to expand Medicaid, Ohio’s chief executive –not “chief lawmaker”– forced his way around them to do it anyway. Like the old saying goes, it may have been legal, but it sure wasn’t right. That’s the “tyrannical instinct” I was talking about.

And if that gives you an uncomfortable feeling that reminds you of the shenanigans used to pass Obamacare, you’re not just imagining things. Having experienced enough of that under Obama, I don’t want to go through it again when “President Kasich” decides he knows best.

Thanks, Governor, but I’ll pass.


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