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Public relations consultants have a line they like to trot out - that Bill Gates once said “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” That might not be a bad idea, business-wise, but in the case of the federal government, our last dollar went out the door a long time ago. So it’s unclear why we’re spending money we don’t have on public relations campaigns we don’t need.
That’s right, while many American families continue to struggle financially and avoid unnecessary expenditures; our federal government is spending millions on public relations. From the “We’re paying for this??” files come stories of how big government is spending your tax dollars on misguided, unnecessary public relations campaigns.
Last week TheHill.com reported:
The Health and Human Services Department has signed a $20 million contract with a public-relations firm to highlight part of the Affordable Care Act.
The article goes on to say that it is international public relations firm Porter Novelli who won the contract to promote the benefits of ObamaCare and waste taxpayer dollars - a firm responsible for both the old and new USDA Food Pyramids and climate change awareness campaigns. CNSNews.com also points out a connection between the Administration and a member of the Porter Novelli leadership team:
The public relations firm hired to conduct the PR campaign, Porter Novelli, is a global firm whose leadership team features former Obama campaign surrogate and Democratic operative Catherine "Kiki" McLean.
It’s almost as if the Administration was expecting to need some good PR to elevate the unpopular Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The funding was called for in Section 4004 of the legislation.
Still, that’s not the only source of taxpayer funds to spin the President’s health care bill. Senator Jim DeMint brings to light additional spending on ObamaCare marketing, this time paid for with stimulus funds:
The Obama Administration awarded Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide two contracts worth $26.5 million in 2010 for the purpose of creating a “publicity center” that would, according to the contract, “market and promote comparative effectiveness” products developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Another bad PR (in every sense) move that surfaced last week involved the government sponsored enterprise (GSE) formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now Brand USA. Freebeacon.com reports:
The government-appointed board behind an aggressive overseas advertising campaign to promote tourism to the U.S. is little more than a corporate welfare program and a slush fund for wealthy Democratic donors, critics say.
Brand USA, formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, is a public-private partnership established by Congress to promote the United States abroad. It is governed by an 11-member board. John Connor, director of the Office of White House Liaison at the United States Department of Commerce, appointed the board members.
All of the board members Connor has appointed have donated to Democrats and Democratic organizations almost exclusively, if they have donated at all.
It’s helpful to think of Brand USA as the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) of tourism. Like Ex-Im, Brand USA is a cunning mix of politically well-connected rent-seekers who use the government’s power to tax those traveling to the U.S. (the very travel they claim they want to promote) to subsidize private companies. The article continues:
Andy Roth, the vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth, also said the government has no business subsidizing corporations’ travel advertising.
“If this is such a good idea, then the companies should be doing it on their own, even if it’s not costing the taxpayers money,” Roth said in an interview with the Free Beacon. “The government should be creating conditions to allow the private sector to flourish, but it shouldn’t be involved.”
On top of that, the burden of paying for this corporate welfare isn’t the jet-setters Brand USA board members imagine will come to their casinos and resorts, the most frequent visitors to the U.S. are coming to visit family members, who are getting taxed for the “privilege.”
I’m so glad that as our economy struggles to recover, the deficit continues to swell, and entitlements hurtle towards bankruptcy, we’re spending money on the things that really matter: growing government, protecting unpopular bills, and tourism. As many Americans continue to make financial sacrifices, it’s nice to know that thanks to the taxes you paid, those at Porter Novelli, Ogilvy, and Brand USA won’t have to do the same.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Yesterday was the final day for oral arguments in the individual mandate case before the Supreme Court. Most experts are saying that we can expect a decision in late June, but there’s no reason to rest on our laurels until then. Just because the Don’t Tread on Me flags are no longer waving in front of the court house doesn’t mean that we don’t need to continue to educate others about what is really in the President’s health care bill and to urge our legislators to repeal it. Go here to learn how you can take action.
And check out some of the great articles below to see what others are saying about the last three days and what comes next:
Sheldon Richman, “Why the Health Insurance Mandate is Immoral and Unnecessary”
The argument, however, contains a fatal flaw. If the medical-insurance market would indeed fail without a mandate, it’s only because of other mandates the government has already imposed. Thus the government has created the rationale for an extension of its own power.
Anthony Fisher & Damon Root, “Obamacare #FAIL: Day 3 at the Supreme Court”
Washington Free Beacon, “Scalia Likens Reading Obamacare to Cruel and Unusual Punishment”
Politico.com, “Justices to Congress: Back to You”
Chicago Tribune, “Justices Suggest Medicaid Expansion is Unconstitutional”
The Wall Street Journal, “The ObamaCare Reckoning: Overturning the Whole Law Would be an Act of Judicial Restraint”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Mr. Clement is asking the Court to conduct "a wrecking operation," before stating that "the more conservative approach would be salvage rather than throwing out everything." The Obama Administration didn't say exactly that, but it did argue that the mandate is indispensable to its supposedly well-oiled regulatory scheme and if it is thrown out the insurance rules should be too.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy doubted Justice Ginsburg's logic, since by taking out only the individual mandate the Court would in effect be creating a new law that Congress "did not provide for, did not consider." To wit, costs would soar without any mechanism to offset them.
"When you say judicial restraint," Justice Kennedy said, "you are echoing the earlier premise that it increases the judicial power if the judiciary strikes down other provisions of the act. I suggest to you it might be quite the opposite." Overturning the mandate alone, he continued, "can be argued at least to be a more extreme exercise of judicial power than to strike the whole."2 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Supreme Court is looking at two important pieces of the PPACA puzzle today. From 10-11:30 am justices heard arguments regarding the “severability” of the individual mandate from the rest of the health care law to determine if the rest of the law can stand should the individual mandate be found unconstitutional. Later, from 1-2pm the court will consider the constitutionality of Medicaid expansion – check out the links from Nick Gillespie and Peter Suderman for great commentary on these two issues.
Regardless of how things pan out between now and the expected June decision (though it could be much longer), we still need to use every opportunity available to urge our legislators in Washington to repeal the President’s health care law. Go here to take action!
The Washington Times, “Supreme Court Considers How to Tinker with Health Care Law”
Peter Suderman, “Can ObamaCare’s Mandate Be Severed from the Rest of the Law?”
Real Clear Politics, “Toobin: Hard to Imagine How Things Could be Going Worse for Obama Administration”
The Wall Street Journal, “Justices Spar Over Health Law”
Audio and Transcripts from Today’s Oral Arguments0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today was the second day of oral arguments in battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Today the Court considered the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The sidewalks around the Supreme Court building were packed today with activists on both sides of the issue. The Left was dominated by activists from NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood who focused on the women’s health/abortion side of the health care law debate, despite the fact that it is an incredibly small part of the overall plan and that so far women have been able to get along just fine in the current “oppressive” climate that forces individuals to take responsibility for their own actions.
Tea Party Patriots rallied those on the Right, and despite the alleged violence of the tea party movement, The Don’t Tread on Me crowd had a difficult time being heard above the drumming, yelling, and aggressive jostling of the opposition. It should also be noted that though the Tea Party Patriots had a permit to hold their press conference, it was almost impossible to do so thanks to groups that did not have permits. Nothing was done to try to enforce or protect the permitted area.
Here’s your daily dose of essential resources to stay abreast of the health care law debate:
Emily Ekins, Reason.com, “54 Percent of Americans Expect New Health Care Law Will Lead to Rationing”
Peter Suderman, Reason.com, “Is the Supreme Court Skeptical of ObamaCare’s Insurance Mandate?”
Nick Gillespie & Jim Epstein, Reason.com, “Why ObamaCare is ‘the Most Important Case’ in 50 Yrs”
Peter Suderman, Reason.com, “The Secret Word for CBO is Banana, Or: How Obama Flip-Flopped on the Mandate”
The Federalist Society, “Randy Barnett on ObamaCare Day 1”
The New York Times, “Vindication for Challenger of Health Care Law” (Randy Barnett)
Michael Cannon, Cato, “IPAB: ObamaCare’s Next Constitutional Hurdle”
Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, “A Bad Day for ObamaCare’s Supporters”0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
President Obama’s health care law heads to the Supreme Court today for 3 days of oral arguments. According to news reports this morning, people have been standing in line since last Friday for a chance to watch the proceedings. Below are some great resources to help you know what to expect over the next few days and some great commentary to help think through the big questions the justices will be examining:
Audio of Oral Arguments 3/26
Transcript of Oral Arguments 3/26
Philip Klein, “Obamacare on Trial: Oral Arguments Schedule,” The Washington Examiner
George Will, “Obamacare’s Contract Problem,” The Washington Post
Representative Kevin Brady, “Obamacare Chart”
Peter Suderman, “ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion Is Also a Problem”
Damon Root, “The 4 Best Legal Arguments Against ObamaCare”
Nick Gillespie and Meredith Bragg, “3 Reasons to End ObamaCare Before it Begins!”
Pessimistic Predictions from Both Sides of the Issue:
From President Obama’s home state:
Andrew Thomason, “Necessary but Impossible Cuts Face IL in Medicaid Spending”
Jonathan Ingram, “Medicaid Expansions Have Already Failed in Illinois”0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
President Obama’s terrible Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has finally reached its terrible twos. The timing couldn’t be more poignant. No sooner does PPACA pass this milestone than it goes to face down the Supreme Court on Monday morning. March 26-28 the Court will hear oral arguments for six hours, far more than the usual one hour allotted a case. The fact that the Court has not held such a long hearing in 45 years is a very real indicator of the gravity of the case.
But we can’t pin all our hopes on this case. Even if the Court were to rule against the unconstitutional individual mandate, it is still possible that they would let the rest of the law stand. A lot hangs in the balance and it could be many months until we know how things stand freedom-wise.
That’s why it is essential that we continue to urge our legislators to repeal the President’s health care law. Not only is the future uncertain regarding the Supreme Court ruling, but there are many components of the bill that are taking effect long before the “official” January 1, 2014 date when the majority of the bill goes into effect. Already, states are being forced to set up health insurance exchanges with several targets to be reached between now and 2014, a very costly and time consuming project. Insurers have been hit with burdensome new regulations that are raising health care costs. The Department of Health and Human Services has been given all kinds of new, broad powers and has already doled out millions from an unlimited slush fund. Small businesses will soon see higher taxes and employers will now be disclosing the value of each employee’s health insurance to the IRS.
If there is some silver-lining to be found in all of this, it is that for those of us who have been fighting the good fight for several years now the recent CBO report is a giant “We told you so”-of-doom, full of “hard truths” that even the law’s supporters are having to face.
Politico.com is admitting that:
1) Some people won’t get to keep the coverage they like …
2) Costs aren’t going down …
3) It’s just a guess that the law can pay for itself …
4) “The more they know, the more they’ll like it” isn’t happening …
Take Action now to help stop the coming Health Care O-pocalypse.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Best Line of the Day
The best line of the day is from the Journal editorial entitled "New York's Mandate Disorder." Here's the line: "One reason U.S. health care is so dysfunctional is that the government rarely learns from its mistakes—or more accurately, government looks at the results, considers them, and then makes them worse."1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
CLASS - The Inevitable Fall of Health Care Reform's Chief Budget Gimmick
The CLASS Act, a long-term care entitlement tucked deep in Democrats’ health care reform bill, has officially been scratched. From the get go, it was clear that the program was little more than the political equivalent of a deus ex machina – a contrived plot device that abruptly solves what otherwise would be an impossible situation.
It’s generally the sign of a bad writer. In this case it was the sign of a bad bill.
The Democrats’ proposed health care reform bill was a budget buster. At a time when government deficits and the national debt were becoming major concerns to the American electorate, this wasn’t going to help its’ chances for passage.
It appeared Democrats’ had written themselves into a corner. The stimulus bill had done little to justify its exorbitant cost, discretionary spending was soaring, and government-run health care programs were hemorrhaging money. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, despite its name, would not have made a tidy ending to that story. The political narrative was quickly going off the rails. Rather than do some significant editing to the plot, Democrats decided to introduce a deus ex machina.
Namely, they started stuffing the health care bill with all sorts of unrelated or tangentially related things in an attempt to improve its bottom line. While student loan reform was probably the most egregious example, the CLASS Act, was perhaps the most dishonest.
CLASS was doomed to fail. The way it was structured made an “insurance death spiral” inevitable – high premiums and a short vesting period would discourage all but the sickest Americans from signing up, this would drive premiums even higher, further discouraging the young, healthy people needed to keep costs manageable.
It’s not as if nobody foresaw these problems.
“This program is intended to be “actuarially sound,” but at first glance this goal may be impossible,” wrote Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ chief actuary in May 2009 “Seems like a recipe for disaster to me,” William Marton, a senior Obama policy official, wrote in October 2009.
The list goes on, but suffice it to say that CLASS’ problems weren’t unexpected.
The troubling part is that Democrats’ threw it in the bill anyway because it provided them an opportunity to game the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) scoring rules and make the health care reform package appear more budget friendly than it was. The way CLASS was written it included a five year vesting period, a time in which the government would be collecting premiums, but would be paying out no benefits. Given that the CBO uses a 10-year budget window to calculate deficit projections, the whole thing came up smelling like roses.
This plot artifice served its purpose admirably. The seemingly inextricable problem had been solved. In large part due to budgetary gimmicks like the inclusion of CLASS, the Democrats’ health reform bill received a favorable CBO score, providing an important talking point to use against those concerned about the deficit.
Now, after the final chapter has already been written, the Obama Administration is dismantling his deus ex machina. “Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time,” wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an email to Congress.
Which leaves us with a very bad ending, to an already ugly story.
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Congress's Motto-Fix It in Post
If that isn't already Congress's motto, it should be. An AP story out today reports that due to a little-known provision in the health care bill that a "married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid." An additional 3 million people could qualify for Medicare in 2014, and that worries Medicare's chief actuary. Others don't seem quiet so worried. According to the story:
A spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee, which wrote much of the health care law, said if the situation does become a problem there's plenty of time to fix it later.
"These changes don't take effect until 2014, so we have time to review all possible cases to ensure Medicaid meets its mission of serving only the neediest Americans," said Erin Shields.
It's one thing to digitally edit out a movie gaffe or rerecord a bit on inaudible dialogue, but wouldn't it make sense to know what the legislation that you're passing does before you pass it? It sounds a bit naive I know, but isn't that better than having to keep correcting the goofs in post?
HT: Demian Brady
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Ryan's Adult Conversation a Sharp Contrast to Dem's Mediscare Tactics
Recently, former President Bill Clinton warned Democrats that they were “going to have to be willing to give up, maybe, some short-term political gain by whipping up fears” about Medicare.
“Whipping up fears” is the nice way to say it. Given that Democrats recently came out with a political ad depicting a Paul Ryan-esque figure literally throwing an elderly woman off of a cliff, scaring the ever-living-bejesus is probably a more apt way to describe it.
Such partisan demagoguery makes a mockery of the very real problem we face. It’s based on a calculation that emphasizes the short-term political success of their party over the long term financial well being of our program.
Fortunately, Republicans are taking a different tack. In a new video: Saving Medicare: Visualized, Ryan ignores the impulse to treat voters as children, opting instead to have an adult conversation about the unsustainable trajectory of Medicare spending and its impact on our debt. Unlike the cheap gimmick of throwing grannie off a cliff, Ryan’s video evokes fear based in reality – that without reform Medicare will bankrupt our country.
In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Thomas Saving and John Goodman, a former Medicare trustee and the President of the National Center for Policy Analysis respectively, unveil just how unsustainable the Democrats’ vision for Medicare is. Recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats have already “[given] the blueprint for how we strengthen Medicare in the Affordable Care Act.” But Saving and Goodman argue that any “strengthening” was nothing more than a parlor trick.
“In terms of the sheer dollars involved,” they argue, “the law’s reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalent of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to age 68 for today's 65-year-olds, to age 71 for 55-year-olds and to age 74 for 45-year-olds. But rather than keep the system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law instead tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying less to the providers of care.”
Once you leave the fantasyland of the written page, paying less to providers will have enormous real world consequences. Reduced payment rates will reduce the amount of doctors who will accept Medicare patients, making it harder for seniors to find a doctor. Once admitted, they will likely face reduced amenities, a lower level of care, and reduced treatment options.
The fact is, there is just no getting around the absolute need to reform Medicare. Democrats can continue to ignore the problem and choose to maximize their political gain by preying on the fears of older voters. But with America teetering on the edge of financial ruin, how much longer can they afford to play these games? After all, what good is winning an election, if you have to force the nation into default to do it?0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts