Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gangster Gov't Stifles Critics Of ObamaCare By Michael Barone



'There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it's actually from a letter sent last Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans — the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.

Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the ObamaCare law passed by Congress last March.

She acknowledges that many of the law's "key protections" take effect later this month and does not deny that these impose additional costs on insurers. But she says that "according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact ... will be minimal."

Well, that's reassuring. Er, except that if that's the conclusion of "some" industry and academic experts, it's presumably not the conclusion of all industry and academic experts, or the secretary would have said so.

Sebelius also argues that "any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law." But she's pretty vague about the numbers — "up to $1 billion in 2013." Anyone who watches TV ads knows that "up to" can mean zero.

As Time magazine's Karen Pickert points out, Sebelius ignores the fact that individual insurance plans cover different types of populations. So that government and "some" industry and academic experts think the new law will justify increases averaging 1% or 2%, they could justify much larger increases for certain plans.

Or as Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, "It's a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."

But Sebelius has "zero tolerance" for that kind of thing. She promises to issue regulations to require "state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases" (which would presumably mean all rate increases).

And there's a threat. "We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014."

That's a significant date, the first year in which state insurance exchanges are slated to get a monopoly on the issuance of individual health insurance policies. Sebelius is threatening to put health insurers out of business in a substantial portion of the market if they state that ObamaCare is boosting their costs.

"Congress shall make no law," reads the First Amendment, "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

Sebelius' approach is different: "zero tolerance" for dissent.

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone's business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration's transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

"The rule of law, or the rule of men (women)?" economist Tyler Cowen asks on his blog. As he notes, "Nowhere is it stated that these rate hikes are against the law (even if you think they should be), nor can this 'misinformation' be against the law."

According to Politico, not a single Democratic candidate for Congress has run an ad since last April that makes any positive reference to ObamaCare. The First Amendment gives candidates the right to talk — or not talk — about any issue they want.

But that is not enough for Sebelius and the Obama administration. They want to stamp out negative speech about ObamaCare. "Zero tolerance" means they are ready to use the powers of government to threaten economic harm on those who dissent.

The closing paragraph of Sebelius' letter to AHIP's Karen Ignagni gives the game away: "We worked hard to change the system to help consumers." This is a reminder that the administration alternatively collaborated with and criticized Ignagni's organization. We roughed you up a little, but we eventually made a deal.

The secretary goes on: "It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start." In other words, shut your members up and play team ball — or my guys with the baseball bats and Tommy guns are going to get busy. As Cowen puts it, "worse than I had been expecting."

The Democrats' Fannie Is Showing



Irresponsibility: After the global financial crisis, no politician would dare chide another for too much "safety and soundness." But in 2004, 76 Democrats actually asked President Bush not to manage Fannie Mae responsibly.

There are smoking guns and then there are smoking bazookas. The June 28, 2004, letter from Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and dozens of other House Democrats to President Bush, posted by Moe Lane on last week, forever squashes Democratic claims about the mortgage crisis not being their fault.

"We urge you to reconsider your administration's criticisms of the housing-related government sponsored enterprises (the 'GSEs') and instead work with Congress to strengthen the mission and oversight of the GSEs," states the missive of nearly a page and a half, signed by a rogues' gallery of 76 House Democrats.

They include not only Frank, current chairman of the House Banking Committee; but Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., now being probed for reportedly laundering TARP money in her husband's bank; and erstwhile House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is charged with more than a dozen counts of violating House rules and federal laws.

Almost comically, the letter states that the Democrats are unhappy the Bush administration is "emphasizing only safety and soundness," claiming that "an exclusive focus on safety and soundness is likely to come, in practice, at the expense of affordable housing."

And the Democratic representatives charged that "because Congress has not been willing to jeopardize the GSEs' mission, the administration has turned to attacking the GSEs publicly."

Such attacks could mean "negative opinions in the financial markets regarding the GSEs, raising their cost of financing."

It turned out, of course, that the negative opinions of Fannie Mae, and its evil twin Freddie Mac, in the financial markets were due to the GSEs taking a lead role in crippling the global economy.

The GSEs used the taxpayer-funded financial power of the federal government to give ultralow rate mortgages to millions of Americans with rotten credit ratings — which ended up poisoning the portfolios of investors around the world.

That Fannie and Freddie are disasters is, of course, today undeniable. Even Frank last month told Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto regarding Fannie and Freddie, "I think they should be abolished."

In an election year in which voters are sick of governmental largesse and Uncle Sam's mismanagement of everything, and in which even Frank's "safe" seat in Taxachusetts is endangered, Frank doesn't dare say anything less.

Six years ago was another story: "Join us," Frank and the 75 other Democrats were demanding, "in advocating for more innovative loan products and programs for people who desire to buy manufactured housing, similar products to preserve as affordable and rehabilitate aging affordable housing, and more meaningful GSE affordable housing goals."

They insisted that President Bush "place a high priority on working with the GSEs to close as many loans as possible this year" and reiterated "that an exclusive emphasis on safety and soundness . .. is misplaced."

The 9.6% unemployment that Americans now suffer is directly connected to the many years of Democrats' demagoguery. They said that any attempt to rein in Fannie and Freddie was anti-poor and anti-minority — fiscal soundness be damned.

With the worst attributes of government entity and private business, Fannie Mae holds about $6 trillion in mortgages. These GSEs' reduced capital requirements and exemptions from state and local taxes let them eventually corner about half of the entire U.S. mortgage market.

President Bill Clinton added a "Trillion Dollar Commitment" to give 10 million poor Americans their own homes, and he intensified President Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act.

The cumulative result was that banks and other lenders were pressured to give mortgages to unqualified borrowers in the name of social and racial justice. Last year, the Obama administration raised Fannie and Freddie's $400 billion borrowing cap.

Every single politician who signed this letter is guilty of taking part in the gross financial mismanagement of this country. They betrayed the trust of those who elected them, and that trust should be rescinded this November.

The Era Of Health Care Rationing Begins By Sally C. Pipes



The cancer drug bevacizumab, or Avastin, is pricey but well worth it to insured patients. ASSOCIATED PRESS

The cancer drug bevacizumab, or Avastin, is pricey but well worth it to insured patients. ASSOCIATED PRESS View Enlarged Image

Supporters of health reform said it would never happen. Maybe they got caught up in their own rhetoric. Maybe they just didn't want to believe it was possible. But rationing in America has started.

This week, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to revoke approval of the drug Avastin for the treatment of advanced breast cancer. Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter has described the anticipated move as "the beginning of a slippery slope leading to more and more rationing under the government takeover of health care."

It seems that even loyal Democrats have noticed the Obama administration's not-so-subtle policy shift toward rationing. According to Politico, many of the 34 House Democrats who voted against the health reform bill are aggressively touting their "no" votes in campaign ads.

The FDA claims its decision won't be based on cost, but Avastin isn't cheap — a full regimen costs about $100,000 a year.

Jean Grem of the FDA's Oncology Drug Advisory Committee was cited in the Wall Street Journal explaining why she voted to deprive breast-cancer patients of Avastin: "We aren't supposed to talk about cost, but that's another issue."

Two years ago, the FDA approved Avastin for breast cancer on the condition that further research would show the drug extended life expectancy. Everyone expected the drug to maintain its approval. Avastin has proven to be a wonder drug for countless women with stage IV breast cancer, slowing the disease's progression and dramatically extending life.

But when no significant increase in "overall survivability" was reported this summer, an FDA advisory panel recommended that Avastin's approval be withdrawn. Top FDA officials must decide by Friday whether they will accept or reject the panel's counsel.

No cancer drug has ever been taken off the market based solely on "overall survivability." Traditionally, calculations of a drug's effectiveness have been based on tumor response and progression-free survival rates.

Here, Avastin is a miracle drug. In the manufacturer's critical phase III study, tumors shrank in nearly 50% of patients receiving the medicine. Patients who received Avastin in conjunction with chemotherapy lived nearly twice as long as would otherwise be expected without their disease worsening.

For some patients — known as "super-responders" — an Avastin regime translates into years of additional life.

If the FDA strips Avastin of its approval, it's likely that private insurers and Medicare would stop covering the medicine, effectively removing Avastin from the anti-breast cancer arsenal.

Government rationing doesn't stop at Avastin.

Medicare coverage for Provenge, a drug for advanced prostate cancer, is also in jeopardy. Like Avastin, Provenge is expensive. Created using a patient's own white blood cells, the drug costs $93,000. The FDA has already approved Provenge as safe and effective, yet Medicare officials are currently deciding whether it will pay for the medicine.

If officials decide Provenge isn't worth covering, it will mark the first time Medicare has refused to pay for an FDA-approved anti-cancer drug.

The outrage over the administration's campaign against expensive but effective drugs has not been muted. Major cancer advocacy groups like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance have come out in strong support of both Avastin and Provenge.

It's terrifying to think that distant, faceless bureaucrats are now making Americans' health care decisions. Welcome to Obama-Care.

• Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her new book, "The Truth About Obamacare" (Regnery), was just released.

The Shariah Threat



Islamofascism: A panel of national security experts concludes that Shariah law is a totalitarian ideology that is being used by advocates of tolerance to undermine the security of the United States.

Challenging the prevailing political correctness regarding tolerance, outreach and endless apologies to the Muslim world for defending ourselves against terrorism, the 177-page report by the Center for Security Policy, "Shariah: The New Threat To America," objectively analyzes the assault on the West by Islamofascism and warns of the grave threat posed by those who seek to use Shariah law to undermine America's legal system, Constitution, national security and way of life.

The report, whose authors included former defense, law enforcement and intelligence officials such as Clinton administration CIA Director R. James Woolsey and Andrew C. McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney in New York, a career counterterrorism prosecutor during the Clinton administration, was released Wednesday at a Capitol Hill press conference.

The report concludes the Shariah system is "totalitarian" and incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, our system of democratic lawmaking and the constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience, individual liberty and freedom of expression, including the right to criticize Shariah law itself.

We have seen evidence of Shariah creeping into our culture and our legal and financial systems. In June 2009, a New Jersey state judge decided that a man who punished his wife with pain for hours and repeatedly raped her was not guilty of criminal sexual assault, citing the man's religious beliefs. The ruling was reversed by an appellate court. Maybe it won't be down the road.

In November 2009, a high school senior was suspended in order to protect him from violence when he wrote an essay criticizing perceived special treatment for Somali Muslims in his school. In Dearborn, Mich., Christian missionaries were arrested for proselytizing at an Arab festival. In Minnesota, the state accommodates Shariah's prohibition on interest payments by buying homes from realtors and reselling them to Muslims at an up-front price. Since when does government structure financial transactions to accommodate a single religious code? Apparently in the Constitution there is no separation of mosque and state.

Shariah is used around the world to condone barbarities such as the stoning and subjugation of women and the execution of homosexuals. It does not support freedom of speech, conscience or religion or even equal treatment under the law

The report cites the 1991 document from the Muslim Brotherhood in North America describing a covert process of Islamic "settlement" in the United States. The plan is to carry out a "grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated," the document stated.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who would build a mosque within shouting distance of Islamofascism's greatest triumph, the destruction of the World Trade Center, is similarly a fierce advocate of Shariah law and the role it can play in undermining the West.

Rauf has written that "it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Shariah that are required to govern." Is making America an Islamic state his ultimate goal?

At an Iftar dinner at the White House celebrating Ramadan, President Obama said Rauf had a legal right to build his mosque from which Shariah will be preached and gay and lesbian Muslims will not be welcome. But we too have a right — to keep our eyes open and not be lulled into complacency in the name of tolerance.

In Remembrance Of Constitution Day By Thomas Krannawitter



Constitution Day — Sept. 17, the day 39 delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention signed and submitted to Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) a new constitution for consideration — used to be familiar to many Americans. But as the Constitution's authority has faded in our public life, its birthday has faded too.

Don't think the authority of the Constitution is ignored? Consider the irony of today, Constitution Day:

In a 2004 spending bill, Sen. Robert Byrd attached a mandate that every educational institution accepting federal funds must sponsor a Constitution Day program. But the Constitution nowhere authorizes Congress to tell schools what they must teach. Nor does it authorize Congress to fund educational institutions — that's supposed to be the job of state and local governments, or the private sector.

Constitution Day, as now enshrined in federal law and celebrated by colleges and universities under threat of that law, is arguably unconstitutional.

So what happened? The Constitution has suffered two blistering critiques, both of which undermine its integrity: First, the Constitution is outdated, no longer relevant for modern America. Second, it is racist and immoral because it offered protection for Negro slavery.

Progressives leveled the first charge more than a century ago; the second became the battle cry of the modern civil-rights movement. Well-educated, well-intentioned, public-spirited men and women who wanted to advance justice, as they understood it, progressives and civil rights activists took aim at the Constitution.

From their point of view, the greatest political good is "social justice," meaning an egalitarian redistribution of wealth coupled with an inegalitarian distribution of civil rights, all supervised by bureaucratic experts whose interest is, allegedly, the public good rather than their own. The Constitution, by this measure, is an impediment to justice and therefore bad.

This is why Woodrow Wilson, among the most impressive of the progressives and the first president to hold a Ph.D., criticized the Constitution as "political witchcraft." He argued that the Constitution should be understood as a "living" document whose meaning evolves with time. In its original form, the Constitution was an instrument of evil, designed to keep America frozen in the icy environs of 18th-century racism and favoritism for the rich. For progressives, originalism is regressivism.

Persuaded that the Constitution is fundamentally defective, all three branches of government today violate it, routinely, usually by exercising powers nowhere found in the Constitution. And what does government say about this? The executive and legislative branches typically don't say much about the Constitution, because they don't need to (unless a liberal president risks impeachment, then even the most progressive politicians fret over the original intent of "high crimes and misdemeanors").

Congress doesn't need any progressive theory of a "living" constitution to do its work. It needs only a majority vote. The president doesn't even need that. He needs only a pen to sign a bill into law, regardless of its constitutionality. Exhibit A: ObamaCare.

The judiciary is different. Often it cannot avoid confronting the Constitution because of its peculiar job, judging constitutional disputes and explaining those judgments in written opinions. This has led to a new industry in our law schools, where progressive scholars invent fantastic interpretations of the Constitution used by progressive judges to extract progressive results from the very unprogressive language of the Constitution.

But those who pervert or ignore the Constitution all of a sudden find themselves seeking cover from political attacks. Circumstances have combined — political, economic and military — providing a window of opportunity to highlight the Constitution and its conspicuous absence in public policy and law.

Waiving Constitution banners at "tea parties," however, isn't enough. The Constitution is in need of a moral and intellectual defense. It needs teachers of constitutionalism.

To be effective, that defense must persuade the public mind and the public's representatives that the progressive and civil rights critiques have been answered and fully refuted, a tall task yet to be done. The critiques of the Constitution run deep, informed by sophisticated evolutionary theories of human nature and backed by intelligentsia who populate our universities and influence public opinion.

Constitutional apologists, therefore, are in need of study and learning. Only then can we teach. But if we can teach Americans why critics are wrong and why the Constitution is good and deserves to be defended — with our lives, fortunes and sacred honor, if necessary — we celebrate Constitution Day in a fitting way, by helping "we the people" deserve the Constitution bequeathed to us by the Fathers of 1787.

• Krannawitter teaches politics at Colorado Christian University.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sticky Situation

I am currently stuck in a bind. I have fallen behind on my utility payments. I wish I was able to get my hands on about $3,000.00, so that I can be both caught up on that, and maybe get ahead a little bit. If anyone out there has a suggestion, please let me know. Like many others out there, my credit is not the greatest, but I can hope that something can be worked out.

I apologize for bringing my personal matters up, but I had to get it off my chest. Again, thank you for stopping by and checking out the Phillips Philes. Take care, and have a great day!