News Stories We're Reading
**Written by Doug Powers
Lots more Obama/Nixon similarities at MOTUS. If the Obamas get a dog named Checkers the circle will be complete.
That said, Jim Treacher writes why it’s ridiculous to compare Obama to Nixon:
Nixon was a Republican!
Another difference: Nobody died in Watergate. Let alone a United States ambassador being murdered by Islamic terrorists, and then the administration incessantly lying about it to cover up their own incompetence.
**Written by Doug Powers
Florida parents are right to be outraged at the outrageous privacy violations that took place late last week in at least 3 Polk County, Florida schools.
I just got off the phone with Rob Davis, senior director of support services for the district, who confirmed to me what Florida education activists blew the whistle on here: Students were indeed subjected to iris scans without their parents’ permission.
The schools involved:
Daniel Jenkins Academy
Davenport School of the Arts
Davis told me that “it is a mistake on our part” that a notification letter to parents did not go out on May 17. He blamed a secretary who had a “medical emergency.” Instead of verifying that parents received the letter and ensuring that any families who wanted to opt out had a chance to so, the schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions to take iris scans of an unknown number of students as part of a “pilot” security program for students who take the bus to the three above-named schools.
Davis told me those unauthorized scans took place on May 22 and May 23 last week, right before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Schools were notified that Stanley was coming. But not parents.
In addition, the district had planned to conduct a pilot scan program with another security company, Blinkspot. Students who ride seventeen school buses were planned to be a part of the scanning regime.
Davis says all of the data has been destroyed.
So has the trust parents have in these negligent educrats violating family privacy in the name of “safety.”
Davis says the district’s superintendent and attorney met on Tuesday. Lawyering up is probably a good idea.
The vigilant parent who blew the whistle on Facebook writes:
have been in touch with the principal at my son’s school this morning regarding the iris scans. She verified everything my son told me, she says the scans were completed on May 22. She said that she was following instructions from the Polk County School Board (PCSB), and that she knew very little, if anything, about this before it occurred, she just did as she was told. She gave me the name and number for her two contacts at the PCSB whom she said were pulling these strings on this “security pilot program”.
By the time we were able to make a phone call to PCSB (a time span of about 1 hour), the secretary told us that this pilot program had been suspended. When we did get a return call from one contact, she reiterated that the program has been suspended, like this should appease us. My husband continued to ask where our son’s private scans were, and she said the company was instructed to destroy the information. When we asked how do we know this has happened, there was no answer.
It is interesting that this letter went home on Friday afternoon at 3pm. Like I told you originally, everyone was gone by 4pm when I tried to make calls. So when exactly did this program get suspended? As of Friday afternoon, it was still in effect. Are they trying to say that somehow it was suspended by Tuesday morning (Monday being a holiday)? It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It’s not, it’s the invasion of my family’s Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission. This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.
This is of a piece with the threat that the federalized Common Core student databases pose to students and families. See my reporting on that here.
If you see something, say something.
Remember: BOLO is our watchword now.
Obamacare “Navigators”: Another Sebelius Snitch Brigade?
by Michelle Malkin
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius controls a $54 million slush fund to hire thousands of “navigators,” “in-person assisters” and counselors who will propagandize and enroll Obamacare recipients in government-run health insurance exchanges. This nanny-state navigator corps is the Mother of all Community Organizing Boondoggles. It’s also yet another Obama threat to Americans’ privacy.
A reminder about Secretary Sebelius’ sordid snooping history is in order here. In August 2009, HHS and the White House Office of Health Reform called on their ground troops to report on fellow citizens who dared to criticize their federal health care takeover. Team Obama issued an all-points bulletin on the taxpayer-funded White House website soliciting informant emails. Remember?
“If you get an email or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com,” the Obamacare overlords urged. The feds even singled out conservative Internet powerhouse Matt Drudge because he had featured a video compilation of Obama and other Democrats — in their own words — exposing the “public option” as a Trojan Horse for government-run health care and the elimination of private industry.
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn protested at the time that “these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program.” The flagging operation was shut down, but a plethora of federal disclosure exemptions protect the Obama administration from revealing what was collected, who was targeted and what was done with the database information.
White House lapdogs dismissed the concerns of conservatives as paranoid delusions. Now, fast-forward three years. In light of the draconian IRS witch hunt against tea party groups and the Justice Department’s plundering of journalists’ phone records and email accounts, every tax-subsidized Obama “outreach” initiative warrants heightened scrutiny.
Obamacare navigators will have access to highly personal data from potential “customers” to assess their “needs.” That means income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and sensitive medical information. They’ll be targeting both individuals and small businesses. Anyone they can lay their grubby hands on. Who’s getting the navigator grants and training? “Community groups” in 33 states that naturally include socialized medicine-supporting unions and Saul Alinsky-steeped activist outfits.
On Capitol Hill last week, a top Obamacare official told GOP lawmakers that navigators will not be required to undergo background checks. Criminal records are not automatically disqualifying — and that includes identity theft. The federal rule-makers will require online training of a measly 20 hours. Health care regulations watchdog Betsy McCaughey adds that navigators “don’t have to know math or insurance, but rules announced April 5 specify you have to match the race, ethnicity and language preferences of the neighborhood that will be targeted.”
The Obamacare navigator corps smacks of ACORN redux, stocked with demographically tailored Democratic Party recruitment operatives, not objective, informed insurance experts.
Sebelius and her enforcers promise strict neutrality and clean conduct. The bureaucrats say there will be severe consequences for violating citizens’ privacy or breaking any other laws. Pffft. The Office of Special Counsel determined that Secretary Sebelius herself violated the federal Hatch Act prohibition on exploiting her HHS leadership position for partisan activity last fall. She then tried to cover up her breach after the fact by classifying the event in which she electioneered for Obama as a “personal” appearance.
Consequences? What consequences?
Sebelius has zero credibility when it comes to reining in overzealous partisans. But she’s darned good at unleashing them. During the White House pressure campaign for Obamacare, Sebelius goaded her “brothers and sisters” from the brass-knuckled SEIU. SEIU goon Dennis Rivera joined her on a White House conference call in which he lambasted tea party activists as the “radical fringe” of “right-wingers” whose protests amounted to “terrorist tactics.”
Now, the SEIU is on the board of directors of Enroll America, the left-wing, Obamacare advocacy nonprofit for whom shakedown artist Sebelius has been soliciting funds.
Sebelius’ corruptocracy runs deep. While she was governor of Kansas, an independent inspector general reported that her appointed health policy board had “applied pressure to alter an audit report, restricted access to legal advice and threatened to fire her for meeting independently with legislators,” according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Team Sebelius was also embroiled in a ruthless vendetta and obstruction campaign against then-GOP Attorney General Phill Kline, who unearthed damning evidence that the Sebelius administration had shredded key documents related to felony charges against Sebelius’ abortion racketeering friends at Planned Parenthood.
Sebelius notoriously threatened private companies and insurers who increased rates to cope with Obamacare coverage mandates. She bullied private companies to meet discriminatory and arbitrary disclosure demands. And she lashed out at newspapers that dared to report on the true costs of the Obamacare regulatory leviathan.
You can’t trust sleazy Sebelius to navigate anything with her broken ethical compass. This is worse than the fox guarding the henhouse. She has unfettered authority and a bottomless budget to weaponize legions more foxes who will serve as Obamacare’s eyes and ears on the ground. The snitch brigade lives.
Earlier this month, the House and Senate agriculture committees passed their respective versions of the legislation they hope will govern U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years. Although both chambers have attempted to promote their bills as a cheaper, more sensible policy than what would occur if the current programs were simply extended, neither proposal is a good deal for American consumers or taxpayers. In a new paper, Cato scholar Sallie James argues that the bills are still far too costly, and they make little or no acknowledgment (much less practical moves) toward shrinking the role of the federal government in agricultural affairs.
- “Farm Bill ‘Reform’ Is in the Eye of the Beholder,” by Sallie James
- “Five Reasons to Repeal Farm Subsidies,” by Chris Edwards
- “Food Stamps and the House Farm Bill,” by Tad DeHaven
Comprehensive immigration reform legislation has moved through the Senate committee process and is about to be considered on the Senate floor. The legislation has potentially significant effects on how many people pay US taxes and receive federal benefits, which inevitably prompts questions about its ultimate effects upon federal finances. A battle of numbers has broken out, with the legislation’s advocates advertising anticipated favorable effects and its opponents alleging unfavorable ones.
Because of my position as a Social Security trustee, I am occasionally asked to describe the effects immigration reform will have on program finances. My short answer is probably an unsatisfying one: basically, it depends. This primer walks through some of the variables that will affect the results.
Point #1: The projected effects of immigration reform on Social Security depend on one’s initial assumptions about how reform will affect net immigration levels. This might seem like an obvious point but it’s very important. The Social Security trustees are set up to analyze Social Security finances but not every other aspect of federal law that might affect them. We are not immigration policy experts any more than we are income tax policy experts or farm program experts. If we are handed a specific set of assumptions about what immigration reform will do to immigration levels, the SSA actuary’s office can translate that into an estimate of effects on program financing. But the results will be driven by those starting assumptions about immigration levels, which in turn rely heavily on what immigration experts tell us will happen. Any such findings should thus be interpreted as a projection of Social Security financing effects assuming certain changes to immigration levels arise from legislation.
Point #2: All other things being equal, more immigration is generally good for Social Security finances. A caveat should be issued with this statement; the measured improvement in Social Security finances is mostly real; a small piece of the apparent improvement is illusory.
The “real” reasons that more immigration is good for Social Security are various, but many of them are rooted in immigration’s improving the program’s ratio of taxpaying workers to recipient beneficiaries. The immigrants themselves embody more workers paying Social Security payroll taxes, and if they also contribute positively to US fertility rates and thus to the stock of future taxpaying workers, so much the better.
Also important here is that under current tax and benefit schedules, those now entering the Social Security system are projected to contribute more in taxes than they will receive in benefits (in present value). This is true even though the Social Security system faces an overall excess of scheduled benefits over projected taxes; that imbalance exists, however, because of obligations to those already in the system.
It’s actually highly likely that the positive contribution made by those now entering the Social Security system as workers will be substantially greater than now projected. This is because it’s unlikely that the current Social Security shortfall will be corrected by cutting benefits for current recipients. More likely, younger workers will wind up paying even more in taxes and receiving less in benefits than now scheduled. If current beneficiaries are held completely harmless in a solvency solution, the subsidy provided by young workers to Social Security could equal as much as 4% of their lifetime wages.
These facts actually underlie an important and much underappreciated point: workers now entering the Social Security system will bolster its finances somewhat as things stand now, but they will improve it substantially more if we enact comprehensive Social Security reforms that align its tax and benefit schedules.
On the other hand, a small piece of immigration’s apparently positive contribution to Social Security finances is illusory. This is because immigrants will generally pay taxes into Social Security first before later receiving benefits from it. Both the higher taxes and the higher payments are financially significant, but current Social Security accounting methods miss some of the latter. For example, if we measure out for only 10 years, we’ll see some immigrants’ tax contributions but not the additional benefits obligated to them, thereby exaggerating our estimate of their positive contribution. The further out we look, the more this illusion fades but it never goes away completely. For example, the trustees’ “higher immigration” scenario published in 2012 shows an improved program actuarial balance of 8.3% in the first 25 years, with the improvement declining to 7.5% over 75 years. More immigration still has a positive effect in the long run, but it gradually becomes less so over time.
Generally though, higher levels of immigration are good for Social Security finances, all other things being equal.
Point #3: Illegal immigration is currently a net plus for Social Security finances. To the extent that reform increases the likelihood that those now illegally present will file for benefits, Social Security finances could worsen. Many do not realize that many of those illegally present in the US already pay Social Security payroll taxes and are theoretically eligible for benefits under current law. SSA estimates that there were roughly 3.1 million “unauthorized immigrants working and paying Social Security taxes in 2010,” contributing roughly $13 billion in Social Security taxes. As SSA also notes, though, “a relatively small portion of those (unauthorized immigrants) who potentially could draw benefits do so.” Reasons include the individuals’ reluctance as well as the practical difficulty of substantiating previous periods of unauthorized work. With total benefit payments to unauthorized immigrants amounting to only $1 billion in 2010, the net result was a net positive financial contribution of $12 billion to Social Security. Basically, millions of unauthorized immigrants now pay payroll taxes into Social Security but for the most part they don’t claim benefits.
If reform made it easier for such individuals to acquire legal status, many of them would continue to pay payroll taxes while claiming benefits in increasing numbers. This would worsen Social Security finances. On the other hand, reform could also increase the tax compliance of now-unauthorized individuals. SSA estimates that 3.9 million such unauthorized immigrants “worked in the underground economy in 2010.” If these individuals newly began both to pay payroll taxes and to claim benefits, the net effect on Social Security would depend on their wage profiles. This phenomenon is explained in the next point.
Point #4: High-wage immigrants bolster Social Security finances; low-wage immigrants weaken them. While as a general rule more immigration is good for Social Security, specific effects depend greatly on the wage profile of the immigrant population. This is because the Social Security benefit formula is progressive; it offers much more generous benefit returns on the contributions of low-wage workers than those of high wage workers. As a result, high-wage workers improve Social Security finances. Low-wage workers embody a net cost, at least in the long run.
Even within this general trend, there are countervailing effects of which to be aware. While high-wage immigrants contribute positively to Social Security by paying in more than they take out, their higher wages also indirectly create some system costs by causing higher benefit payments to be made to others. This is because Social Security benefits are generally indexed to grow with national average wages. To understand this effect, imagine a country with two native-born workers we’ll call A and B. Pretend that they are joined by person C, a high-wage immigrant. C’s arrival causes national average wage levels to rise, and since everyone’s benefits are indexed to national average wages, benefits for persons A and B rise as a result. So while C personally makes a positive contribution to Social Security finances, C also indirectly creates costs by causing higher benefits to be paid to others.
The opposite effect exists for low-wage immigrants. They receive more in Social Security benefits than they pay in taxes, but they also bring the national average wage down and with it the average benefit payment for everyone else. This second effect produces some system savings but in a certain sense it’s the worst of all worlds: low-wage immigrants both pose direct costs to the Social Security system and also cause the Social Security benefits of the native-born population to be slightly smaller. In contrast, high-wage immigrants are a win-win: they contribute more to Social Security than they take out, while their positive contribution to the national wage average causes Social Security benefits for the native-born to be slightly higher.
Point #5: Younger immigrants are better for Social Security finances than older ones. This is true for several reasons. First, younger immigrants will spend more future years as taxpaying workers before they become beneficiaries. Second, because older immigrants have fewer remaining years of earnings and thus lower total remaining earnings, the Social Security system is more likely to perceive older late-career immigrants as low-wage workers and pay them a higher benefit return on their contributions. And third, younger immigrants have more remaining years of potential child-bearing during which they can add further to the ranks of contributing workers.
Considering all factors together in the abstract, I cannot give a reliable answer as to whether immigration reform will improve or worsen Social Security finances. I can, however, say this: if immigration reform leads to increased total immigration by young, fertile workers who ultimately achieve high earnings levels, it will help Social Security finances. If instead it leads primarily to current unauthorized individuals filing new claims for benefits while increasing future immigration of older low-wage workers, it will worsen Social Security finances. To get a better sense of which will happen, one would need to turn to an immigration expert rather than a Social Security expert.Image: Photo Credit: iStockphoto Author: Charles Blahous Publication Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 Display Date: 05/29/2013 Hide Photo / Caption: 0 admin
House Oversight Committee subpoenas Benghazi documents; Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Holder lied under oath
**Written by Doug Powers
It’s a two-fer Tuesday!
The letter and subpoena gives sets a deadline of Friday, June 7, 2013, for Secretary Kerry to provide all documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points, to or from the following current and former State Department personnel:
1. William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State;
2. Elizabeth Dibble, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
3. Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
4. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management;
5. Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;
6. Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary for Management;
7. Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson;
8. Philippe Reines, Deputy Assistant Secretary;
9. Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning; and,
10. David Adams, Assistant Secretary for State for Legislative Affairs.
From The Hill:
The panel is looking at a statement Holder made during a back and forth with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917.
“In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said during the hearing.
However, NBC News reported last week that Holder personally approved a search warrant that labeled Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.
The panel is investigating whether NBC’s report contradicts Holder’s claim that he had not looked into or been involved with a possible prosecution of the press in a leaks case.
What? The Republicans don’t have any faith in how Holder’s investigation of himself might play out?
Breaking: Eric Holder arrests self in DOJ sting; releases self after forgetting to read self Miranda rights
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) May 28, 2013
Stand by for historic levels of transparency stonewalling.
**Written by Doug Powers
**Written by Doug Powers
Last month, a 22,000 member United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers — the same one that endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and lobbied for passage of Obamacare — called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
The list of those unions who are starting to realize they may have sawed off the same branch they were sitting on is growing:
Some labor unions that enthusiastically backed President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are now frustrated and angry, fearful it will jeopardize benefits for millions of members.
Union leaders warn that unless the problem is fixed, there could be consequences for Democrats facing re-election next year.
“It makes an untruth out of what the president said — that if you like your insurance, you could keep it,” said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “That is not going to be true for millions of workers now.”
“We’re concerned that employers will be increasingly tempted to drop coverage through our plans and let our members fend for themselves on the health exchanges,” said David Treanor, director of health care initiatives at the Operating Engineers union.
And by “there could be consequences for Democrats facing re-election next year” they mean “we expect an across-the-board waiver from the law we lobbied for pronto!“
One for the “epic backfire” file:
Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant, said the real fear among unions is that “a lot of these labor contracts are very expensive, and now employers are going to have an alternative to very expensive labor health benefits.”
“If the workers can get benefits that are as good through Obamacare in the exchanges, then why do you need the union?” Laszewski said.
I’m sure the Dems will desperately try and work out an agreeable “fix” to the problem well before the 2014 elections.
Until then, we’ll close with the obligatory Obama promise:
**Written by Doug Powers
**Written by Doug Powers
Here’s one of the more ridiculous exchanges from today’s congressional hearing in regards to why the former IRS commissioner would have visited the White House 118 times in two years:
Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly: There would be many reasons you might be at the White House. What would be some of the reasons you might be at the White House?
Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman: Um, the Easter Egg Roll with my kids. Questions about the administrability of tax policy they were thinking of. Our budget. Us helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid.
Reason number one for why he visited the White House 118 times between 2010 and 2011 was the Easter Egg Roll? It’s almost like he’s daring everyone to dig deeper.
Keep an eye on the woman behind Shulman’s left shoulder after he says “Easter Egg Roll” — I don’t think she’s buying it:
In fairness to Shulman, the IRS had been tipped off that the Easter Bunny at the roll might lean right.
During the same hearing, Massachusetts Dem. Stephen Lynch ripped Shulman and the inconsistency in his testimony to shreds. Michelle documented one of the finer moments:
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) May 22, 2013
**Written by Doug Powers
In case you missed it, here’s Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday before voting NO on the SchMcRubioGrahamnesty amnesty package backed by GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
Stay vigilant and stalwart, Sen. Cruz.
The Obama crony in charge of your medical records
by Michelle Malkin
Who is Judy Faulkner? Chances are, you don’t know her — but her politically connected, taxpayer-subsidized electronic medical records company may very well know you. Top Obama donor and billionaire Faulkner is founder and CEO of Epic Systems, which will soon store almost half of all Americans’ health information.
If the crony odor and the potential for abuse that this “epic” arrangement poses don’t chill your bones, you ain’t paying attention.
As I first noted last year before the IRS witch hunts and DOJ journalist snooping scandals broke out, Obama’s federal electronic medical records (EMR) mandate is government malpractice at work. The stimulus law provided a whopping $19 billion in “incentives” (read: subsidies) to force hospitals and medical professionals into converting from paper to electronic record-keeping systems. Penalties kick in next year for any provider who fails to comply with the one-size-fits-all edict.
Obamacare bureaucrats claimed the government’s EMR mandate would save money and modernize health care. As of December 2012, $4 billion had already gone out to 82,535 professionals and 1,474 hospitals; a total of $6 billion will be doled out by 2016. What have taxpayers and health care consumers received in return from this boondoggle? After hyping the alleged benefits for nearly a decade, the RAND Corporation finally admitted in January that its cost-savings predictions of $81 billion a year — used repeatedly to support the Obama EMR mandate — were, um, grossly overstated.
Among many factors, the researchers blamed “lack of interoperability” of records systems for the failure to bring down costs. And that is a funny thing, because it brings us right back to Faulkner and her well-connected company. You see, Epic Systems — the dominant EMR giant in America — is notorious for its lack of interoperability. Faulkner’s closed-end system represents antiquated, hard drive-dependent software firms that refuse to share data with doctors and hospitals using alternative platforms. Health IT analyst John Moore of Chilmark Research, echoing many industry observers, wrote in April that Epic “will ultimately hinder health care organizations’ ability to rapidly innovate.”
Question: If these subsidized data-sharing systems aren’t built to share data to improve health outcomes, why exactly are we subsidizing them? And what exactly are companies like Faulkner’s doing with this enhanced power to consolidate and control Americans’ private health information? It’s a recipe for exactly the kind of abuse that’s at the heart of the IRS and DOJ scandals.
As I reported previously, a little-noticed HHS Inspector General’s report issued last fall exposed how no one is actually verifying whether the transition from paper to electronic is improving patient outcomes and health services. No one is actually guarding against GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). No one is checking whether recipients of the EMR incentives are receiving money redundantly (e.g., raking in payments when they’ve already converted to electronic records). And no one is actually protecting private data from fraud, theft or exploitation.
But while health IT experts and concerned citizens balk, money talks. Epic employees donated nearly $1 million to political parties and candidates between 1995 and 2012 — 82 percent of it to Democrats. The company’s top 10 PAC recipients are all Democratic or left-wing outfits, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (nearly $230,000) to the DNC Services Corporation (nearly $175,000) and the America’s Families First Action Fund Democratic super-PAC ($150,000). The New York Times reported in February that Epic and other large firms spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for the Obama EMR “giveaway.”
Brandon Glenn of Medical Economics observes “it’s not a coincidence” that Epic’s sales “have been skyrocketing in recent years, up to $1.2 billion in 2011, double what they were four years prior.”
It’s also no coincidence, as a famous Democratic presidential candidate once railed, that the deepest-pocketed donors “are often granted the greatest access, and access is power in Washington.” That same candidate, Barack Obama, named billionaire Democratic donor Faulkner as the only industry representative on the federal panel overseeing the $19 billion EMR “incentives” program from which her company benefits grandly.
The foxes are guarding the Obamacare henhouse. The IRS vultures are circling overhead. The shadow of tyranny and the stench of corruption are unmistakable. If you see something, say something. BOLO is our watchword.
-- The state D-N-R has created a new program to improve Wisconsin fishing by expanding the walleye population. Talk about this topic(author unknown)