The unforeseen difficulties of implementing the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) have key proponents scrambling for answers.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), one of the leading writers of the Obamacare legislation, now calls the program “complex beyond comprehension. We had hoped that somehow, someone would've come up with sensible procedures for how the thing is supposed to work, but no such luck. The system's as opaque as the day we passed it. Our high hopes are crashing down around us.”
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius blames Republicans for the mess. “Instead of rolling up their sleeves and helping us figure out how to implement this they're just standing aside and letting us flounder,” she complained. “In a way they could be considered traitors to the common good.”
A few of the steps Republicans could be taking according to Sebelius include “appropriating additional funding to cover the unexpectedly higher costs of the program. While it had been our hope that comprehensive health care coverage would lead to lower costs, this sadly, has not turned out to be the case. “
Especially rankling to the Secretary has been the widespread refusal of states to establish the insurance exchanges called for in the law. “The law gives states the option to set up their own exchanges,” Sebelius pointed out. “Unfortunately, the majority of states controlled by the GOP have declined to take up this option. It's like they're saying 'you made your bed, now lie in it.' I say, we've already done our part. We came up with the idea. Now it's their turn to do their share to make it happen.”
Majority of Democrats Have Favorable View of Income Tax
A recent Washington Post-ABC poll revealed that a majority (53%) of Democrats have a favorable impression of the federal income tax. Inasmuch as the cost of complying with this tax exceeds $400 billion per year and amounts to more than 20% of the revenues collected, this finding is a bit surprisng.
Even the liberal leaning Brookings Institution has characterized the federal income tax code as “a hopelessly complex mess, antithetical to growth, and crammed with conflicting incentives.” Though simplifying the code would save millions of man-hours of labor and billions of dollars expended on needless paperwork each year, it would also blunt the ability of politicians to trade tax breaks for campaign donations.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), enforcers of the tax code, are notorious for their robust approach to squeezing every dime they can out of those they deem worthy of paying larger amounts. The IRS has asserted that they have the authority to intercept emails, tweets, and other online communications without having to obtain a warrant. The IRS contends that the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches makes no mention of electronic media.
As obnoxious as the IRS is to individual rights to privacy and liberty, the IRS is also perceived favorably by a majority (56%) of Democrats. As one Democratic poll respondent explained, “they only go after rich people who don't want to share their money. What's not to like about that?” “Every year they send me a refund check,” said another. “They're okay in my book.”
In contrast, the poll showed only a minority of Republicans (30%) and Independents (33%) have a favorable view of the federal income tax.
President Proposes Mandatory IRAs, 401(k)s
As part of his budget proposal, President Obama is asking Congress to compel all working Americans to establish tax-deferred retirement accounts—either Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) or 401(k) “defined contribution plans.”
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew explained that “the President is trying to inject a modicum of personal responsibility into the whole retirement planning scenario. The amounts that can be provided by Social Security are limited and may not even be available to the next generation. Yet, fewer than 10% of those eligible for these special tax-deferred retirement accounts take advantage of their opportunity. By forcing them to participate we would be priming them for the idea that they should take more care for their own post-employment years.”
At the same time that workers will be required to establish these accounts they will be barred from accumulating more than $3 million in them. “No one needs more than that amount to secure a comfortable retirement,” Lew declared. “Should a taxpayer be so lucky as to see his investment grow to exceed the $3 million threshold he shouldn't mind if the government siphons off the excess to fund other pressing needs.”
Senator's Pitch for Liberty Fails to Move Minority Audience
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's efforts to sell liberty to a mostly minority audience at Howard University collided with the enticements of the entitlement mentality. His vision of “getting the government off your back” failed to resonate with students who expect the government to provide for them.
“You say you're working to get the government to leave us alone,” said one student during the question and answer phase of Paul's talk. “I don't want to be left alone. I want the government to take care of me. In your ideal world I'd be on my own. I'd have to work for everything I want. I don't see why I should prefer that to the world President Obama is creating where the good things of life are free for the taking.”
The Senator did receive some modest applause for his suggestion that America reduce its foreign military commitments, but his hope that this would lead to lower government expenditures did not go over well. “I like the idea of cutting back on bullets and bombs,” said one student. “This is money the government could be spending on people like me. They could buy me a house and a car with the kind of cash they're wasting trying to conquer other countries.”
Obama Calls for Federally-Funded Pre-School for Four Year Olds
Saying that too many of our children are ill-prepared for the world of the future, President Obama urged Congress to enact federal funding for pre-schools.
“We need to replace the idiosyncratic influences of our 'do-it-yourself' methods of child rearing with a more cohesive approach,” the President said. “Leaving so much of the responsibility on each individual family is a formula for chaos. Different parents seek to instill different value systems. The result is that clashes of these value systems impede coordinated progress toward the collective well-being of all.”
“In addition to providing an environment for the inculcation of better values, a federally-funded pre-school program would alleviate a significant amount of parental suffering,” Obama added. “Having a place to ship your four-year-old off to each day for a few hours gives the parents extra free time they can spend on more satisfying pursuits while their child is under the capable care and instruction of trained education professionals.”
Future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) endorsed the President's proposal pointing out that “as Melissa Harris-Perry said on TV the other day, we've got to get past the notion that children belong to their parents. Children belong to the community. China understands this and has been pursuing an even more aggressive intervention with its children in order to ensure that a more uniform system of rearing the young contributes to a stronger and more unified nation. We need to get moving if we are to keep pace.”
EPA Blames Sequester for Release of Personal Info on Farmers
Under criticism for handing over personal data on farmers and ranchers to environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency defended its actions as “cost-effective under current budget constraints.”
“Normally, we'd harry these despoilers of the environment ourselves,” said Bob Perciasepe, Acting EPA Administrator. “But with the budget being hemmed in by the sequester we have to seek other ways of achieving our objectives. We saw arming these environmental groups with potentially useful information as a way of multiplying or leveraging our forces. We thought we'd get more bang for the buck, so to speak.”
Man Faces Charges for Shooting Bear
A 76-year-old Massachusetts man is facing weapons charges for shooting a bear in his backyard. Richard Ahlstrand of Auburn Massachusetts shot the bear when the 400 lb. animal attacked him as he was tending the bird-feeders he keeps on his property.
According to Massachusetts authorities, Ahlstrand should have called animal control officers to handle the wayward bear. “The State employs professionals trained in safe animal removal,” Rufus Bustard, spokesman for Massachusetts Attorney General. “A phone call would have brought these professionals to the scene within a matter of hours.”
Bustartd dismissed Ahlstrand's assertion that he had only seconds to defend himself as “self-serving. Even if true, the value to society of the life of a 76 year-old vs. that of the bear is by no means certain. Maybe a jury will let him off, but it is our job to represent the interests of the wildlife that may be endangered by people like him.”