Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How much more are people paying for health insurance under Obamacare?

Here’s a story from the Charlotte Observer that explains how expensive Obamacare really is.

Excerpt:

Across North Carolina, thousands of people have been shocked in recent weeks to find out their health insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year – and premiums for comparable coverage could increase sharply.

One of them is George Schwab of Charlotte, who pays $228 a month for his family’s $10,000 deductible plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

In a Sept. 23 letter, Blue Cross notified him that his current plan doesn’t meet benefit requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act and suggested a comparable plan for $1,208 a month – $980 more than he now pays.

“I’m 62 and retired,” Schwab said. “This creates a tremendous financial burden for our family.

“The President told the American people numerous times that… ‘If you like your coverage, you can keep it,’” Schwab said. “How can we keep it if it has been eliminated? How can we keep it if the premium has been increased 430 percent in one year?”

And another:

Michael Hood, 46, who lives near Winston-Salem, is another of the Blue Cross customers who is suffering sticker shock after receiving a recent renewal letter.

He and his wife, who is expecting their third child, now pay $324 per month for a plan with a $10,000 family deductible. The comparable plan suggested by Blue Cross for next year would cost $895.27 per month with an $11,000 family deductible. Their annual payment would rise from $14,000 to $24,000.

Self-employed as part owner of a medical device distributorship, Hood said he and his wife “try to live a healthy lifestyle and keep our medical costs down.” They chose the high-deductible plan to keep their premium low.

Hood said his income is about $85,000 a year, which would mean he might be able to qualify for a subsidy. He said he checked the online marketplace, which has been operating only sporadically this week, and didn’t think it looked like his family would be eligible.

One of the pluses of any new plan is that it will cover maternity care, which his current plan doesn’t. But “is that really worth paying $1,000 a month more for?”

“I’m angry that legislation has been passed that is forcing me to purchase something that otherwise I would not have to purchase,” Hood said.

“The President told us Obamacare would make health insurance affordable and reduce costs. It is now impossible for our family to afford private health insurance.”

I keep hearing from my friends in other countries how their media is reporting that Obamacare is enormously popular, and that Republicans are trying to hold up this great policy that Americans all want out of meanness and spite. I doubt that these foreign journalists are actually reporting the facts about this health care policy. The facts show a completely different picture.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Obama’s fiscal cliff deal leaves us on a path to 200% debt to GDP

From The Hill.

Excerpt:

The nation’s long-term fiscal outlook hasn’t significantly improved following the recent agreement between Congress and the White House over tax and spending issues, according to a new analysis.

The “fiscal cliff” deal, combined with the debt-limit agreement of August 2011, only slightly delays the United States reaching debt-to-gross domestic product levels that would damage the economy and risk another fiscal crisis, according to a report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation released on Tuesday.

The agreement “may have prevented the immediate threats that the fiscal cliff posed to our fragile economic recovery, but we haven’t remotely fixed the nation’s debt problem,” said Michael A. Peterson, president and COO of the Peterson Foundation.

“The primary goal of any sustainable fiscal policy is to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy and put it on a downward path, and yet our nation is still heading toward debt levels of 200 percent of GDP and beyond,” he said.

The report concludes that the recent round of deficit-reduction measures won’t make major improvements because they fail to address most of the major contributors to the debt and deficit, including rapidly rising healthcare costs. 

[...]At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, lawmakers and budget experts agreed that rising healthcare costs, such as Medicare, must be addressed this year as part of efforts to overhaul the tax code and entitlement programs.

“Until spending in those areas is reduced, tax revenues are increased, or policymakers implement a combination of both, the United States will continue to have a severe long-term debt problem,” the report said.

“Reforms should be implemented gradually, and fiscal improvements must be achieved before our debt level and interest payments are so high that sudden or more draconian reforms are required to avert a fiscal crisis.”

The latest deal that stopped income tax increases for those making $400,000 a year or less may have only improved the burgeoning debt situation by a year.

Scheduled spending cuts from the 2011 budget deal, combined with the fiscal cliff agreement, put the debt on track to reach 200 percent of GDP by 2040, five years later than was projected prior to the passage of the two deals. 

The recent deficit-reduction measure gave the nation an additional year before hitting that 200 percent threshold, the report showed. 

I saw an interesting interview featuring Captain Capitalism in the Washington Times. He thinks that the debt spiral is irreversible.

Excerpt:

DDG: What was your take on the “solution” we saw earlier this month to the so-called fiscal cliff crisis?

Clarey: Band-Aid put on a cut aorta.

DDG: My concern is that inflation is distorting all levels of American society. For example, as prices skyrocket from monetary dilation at the Fed, we have this effect where as Rose Wilder Lane says, everything becomes increasingly more expensive and government starts creating laws and fines just for the purpose of revenue generation. So the formation of a police state and this loss of freedoms is in large part a result of government wanting to get more and more revenues to finance outlays that are being dilated as a result of the inflation they themselves are creating. What’s your take on this?

Clarey: I don’t know if it would be at the police state yet where the federal government comes in and confiscates wealth, as much as it is something much more clandestine. The government likes inflation in that it increases asset prices. Thus when somebody sells an asset – land, stocks, bonds, et cetera – they have to pay a capital gains tax.

Forget whether there was an actual real rate of return for the investor, the government gets to tax the real capital gains and the inflationary capital gains. Inflation also erodes the value of the federal debt, forcing the costs on US treasury holders. However, unless things change, the government will be forced [to cope with] with a simplified problem: Does it inflate its way out of its debts or does it confiscate wealth to pay for it?

I can’t read Paul Krugman and Barack Obama’s minds – if any exist – but I believe they will opt to go the inflationary route to solve the country’s debt problems. If they went the wealth-confiscation route, that would mean nationalizing people’s IRAs, 401(k)s and brokerage accounts much like they did in Argentina and Bulgaria. I fear however, because of their political ideology they have no problems doing both.

I am expecting inflation to continue in the near term, followed by seizing retirement accounts if the Democrats take back the House in 2014. The amnesty of 12 million illegal immigrants should give them that. So, if you have a plan to escape this, you’d better execute it in the two years. The clock is ticking.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

EPA study finds that water in Dimock, PA is safe to drink despite fracking

Here’s an excerpt from the EPA press release that exonerates fracking:

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

[...]Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap. EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

The Washington Times explains the context of this report.

Excerpt:

Closely watched tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have found that the drinking water in Dimock, Pa., is safe to drink, despite concerns from some residents and environmentalists that nearby fracking had contaminated supplies.

For the past seven months, EPA sampled water at private wells serving 64 homes in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town, the primary setting of the anti-natural-gas documentary “Gasland.”

EPA found hazardous substances such as arsenic and manganese in water supplies at five of the homes in question, but said Wednesday that the residences have or will soon have treatment systems “that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap.”

Agency officials also said EPA will conduct no further testing and will stop delivering fresh water to Dimock residents.

“The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement. “Throughout EPA’s work in Dimock, the agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”

[...]In its Wednesday announcement, EPA made clear that the pollutants it identified occur naturally in the area.

Remember the EPA is one of the most politicized, anti-business agencies in the government. If I were President, the first two agencies I would eliminate are the EPA and the federal Department of Education. And yet even the EPA could not find anything wrong with fracking. That means that there is nothing wrong with fracking.

Why do people think that secular leftists are guided by reason and science? It seems to me that they are always embracing fashionable nonsense that isn’t proven out by the experimental data. Let’s make our policy based on what the experimental evidence shows.

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Canadian government to limit environmentalist obstruction of energy development

From Fox Business: the Canadians embrace federalism.

Excerpt:

The Canadian government released details Tuesday of its plan to dramatically streamline reviews for big energy and mining projects, capping the timeline for federal reviews and ceding more regulatory oversight to the country’s provinces.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said for months it would move to speed up the regulatory review of big energy, mining and infrastructure projects. It has expressed frustration at the sometimes-lengthy review timelines for big projects.

Mr. Harper’s government said in its annual budget announcement last month that it would cap federal reviews. Resources Minister Joe Oliver released details Tuesday, saying that federally-led hearings would be applied only to major initiatives that risk some environmental harm.

Further, the government said it was prepared to hand over more responsibility for the review to Canadian provinces, so long as their regulations meet or exceed federal standards. Canadian provinces already enjoy considerable regulatory oversight.

“It is counterproductive to have the federal and provincial governments completing separate reviews of the same project,” Oliver said in a speech in Toronto.

[...]The government had previewed in its budget last month that reviews for major projects would be limited to 24 months. Meanwhile, regular inter-provincial pipeline reviews, as conducted by the National Energy Board, would be limited to 18 months.

Oliver said Tuesday that Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB) proposed Northern Gateway pipeline – which envisions shipping oil from Alberta to Canada’s West Coast — would benefit from the quicker review. The line has been mired in stiff opposition from native groups in British Columbia, and the government has accused foreign-funded environmental groups of tying up the project in regulatory hearings. Government officials said the new rules would also limit who could participate as intervenors in the review process.

[...]In Toronto, Oliver said the current process is unworkable, with over 40 federal departments involved in reviews. He said he would pare that back to only three federal agencies: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; the National Energy Board; and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The Canadian process, as it stands, forces investors to go “through hoops and hurdles as far as the eye can see,” Oliver said. “We simply have to turn that around.”

Canadians don’t want to scare businesses away from Canada – they want the jobs to come to Canada. That’s the exact opposite of what Obama’s socialist “Environmental Protection Agency” does – they regulate energy development, in order to block it or slow it down.

And Canada lowered corporate taxes to 15% compared to our 35% – and their revenues held steady.

Canada: Corporate tax cuts, not stimulus spending

Canada: Corporate tax cuts, not stimulus spending

They cut their corporate tax rate, but then businesses saw the lower rate and just kept on expanding in order to make more money. As businesses grow, they pay more in taxes. So government revenues from taxes haven’t dropped at all, even with the lower corporate tax rates! More businesses moved in to Canada to capitalize on the lower tax rates, generating revenue for the government. More workers moved off of unemployment and welfare as demand for labor grew, and they started paying income taxes and sales taxes, generating even more revenue for the government. Do you know what makes consumers more confident, so that they spend more? Having a job.  Not being dependent on government.

Look at their unemployment rate:

Canada and US unemployment rates

Canada and US unemployment rates

When we embraced “stimulus” spending, they went for the corporate tax cuts. Our unemployment rate used to be LOWER than theirs, before Pelosi and Reid took over Congress in January 2007. Now we are HIGHER than they are. That’s not rhetoric – that’s data. Even though Canada’s economy is linked to ours, and has suffered as a result of that, they have been signing free trade deals left, right and center. They did this in order to decouple themselves from our collapsing economy, massive debt and devalued currency. Barack Obama, of course, opposes free trade. He has to – he’s in the back pocket of the socialist labor unions.

Free trade empire: (click for larger image)

Canada: Free Trade Empire

Canada: Free Trade Empire

What a contrast Canada’s energy policy makes with Obama’s politicized “Cash for Cronies” energy policy. But then again, Canada hired a conservative right-wing capitalist economist to run their country. We could have just done the same and put in economists like Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams to run our economy, but we put in an unqualified community organizer instead.

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Fact check of Obama’s budget: is there really $4 trillion in deficit reduction?

Here’s a story from the House Budget Committee, where Paul Ryan is the leader.

Paul Ryan made these two charts to help him discuss Obama’s new budget with Obama’s budget director.

Debt Increase in President's Budget
Debt Increase in President’s Budget

And:

Actual savings is 410 billion, not 4 trillion
Actual savings is 410 billion, not 4 trillion

Watch these clips to see Paul Ryan and Scott Garrett use the charts to do nasty things to Obama’s budget director.

Clip 1 of 3:

Clip 2 of 3:

Clip 3 of 3:

Guy Benson discusses both videos at Townhall.com.

Excerpt:

Ryan does a masterful job of puncturing Zients’ arguments, but let’s reiterate a few points that may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

(1) The White House is claiming that spending cuts within the Budget Control Act of 2011 — which is entirely separate from the FY 2013 budget — should count as savings “achieved” by their new proposal.  This is silly on its face, but crosses into laughable territory when one recalls that throughout much of the debt fight, President Obama adamantly opposed a cuts-for-debt-ceiling-hike quid pro quo.  He was on the record in favor of — demanding, in fact — zero cuts. Republicans dragged him into the BCA against his will; now he’s trying to take credit for that past action in next year’s budget.

(2) The White House says Obama’s budget “saves” $850 Billion by not fighting two wars at peak spending levels for another full decade.  This money was never proposed because the scenario is pure fiction.  These risible “savings” represent a White House bear-hug of Moon-Yogurt accounting. “Heaven help us” is right.

(3) Zients’ isn’t able to recall how much money this budget adds to the national debt.  You’d think the White House Budget Director would have that figure committed to memory (he likely does, but doesn’t want to admit it on camera), but let’s help him out:  The budget he’s defending adds nearly $11 Trillion to the debt, on top of the roughly $5 Trillion increase over which this president has already presided.  I seem to recall an infamous Right-wing zealot calling this sort of governance “unpatriotic.”

Next, we have Rep. Scott Garrett, a strong conservative from Northern New Jersey, asking Zients when the president’s budget comes into balance.  Zients refuses to directly respond to the question, perhaps because the correct answer is “never”…

Indeed, the closest Obama’s budget ever comes to balancing (expenses = revenues) within the ten-year projection window is 2017’s annual deficit of $617 Billion, which is still more than double the size of President Bush’s average annual deficit. Finally, Garrett lures Zients into a trap over Obamacare.  Garrett asks if a family making less than $250,000 per year (“the rich” cut off) is subject to a tax increase if they fail to comply with Obamacare’s individual mandate…

The president sold Obamacare to the public by characterizing the resulting mandatory pay-out as a “fine,” not a tax increase.  He even mocked George Stephanopoulos’ suggestion that it met the dictionary definition of a tax hike.  Once the law passed, however, the administration’s lawyers pulled an about-face and have defended the mandate in court by arguing that the fine is, in fact, a tax increase after all.  Zients has apparently reverted back to the outmoded argument, thus undermining his own administration’s legal defense of their signature “accomplishment.”

What I find frustrating is the media does such a poor job of vetting these “4 trillion dollar” claims that Obama makes. Sometimes, I wonder why anyone listens to mainstream media at all. What do you really learn?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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