STATES TELL FEDS TO POUND SAND

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State nullification efforts chip away at the monster government

by MICHAEL BOLDIN | MARCH 31, 2015

The Internal Revenue Service gives subsidies when it wants. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Environmental Protection Agency redefine words on a whim in an effort to give themselves more power and more control over your life. “Legislating from the bench” has been superseded by this even more dangerous “lawmaking” by unelected, unaccountable federal agencies.

As Chapman law professor Ronald Rotunda noted recently, we “have come a long way towards governance by bureaucrats.” Some states, however, are taking positive steps in 2015 to thwart the effects of these unilateral — and wildly unconstitutional — acts.

The following is an overview of state legislation to thwart federal overreach that’s moving forward right now.

Federal gun control

Even though the ATF has, at least temporarily, backed down on a proposed M855 ammo ban, gun rights advocates should be alarmed. More of this should be expected moving forward, that is, more gun control no matter whom you elect to Congress.

In Arizona, however, a bill that would effectively block in practice any additional restrictions on the natural right to keep and bear arms has already passed the state Senate by a 17-12 vote and is due for further consideration in the state House in the near future. A similar bill passed the Montana Legislature and is going to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk, and another in Tennessee is up for a do-or-die vote in committee this week.

Other states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have seen legislation introduced, but not yet considered. Should any of the bills pass into law, they’d join Idaho, which in 2014 was the first in the country to pass legislation specifically designed to thwart any new federal gun control measures.

Broader bills have been introduced in other states, with the goal of addressing not just new federal gun control measures, but nearly all of them. Missouri HB1341 would make any federal gun control measure — past, present or future — invalid and unenforceable in the state. And two Texas bills, HB413 and HB422, would work together to do almost the same. Should either pass, they’d join Alaska, which passed a similar law in 2013.

Self-ownership

The Food and Drug Administration has a lengthy process for approving new treatments for people. In some situations, however, that long process can actually kill people.

Take, for example, the case of Mikaela Knapp, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She and her husband, Keith, launched a social media campaign to lobby drug firms and the FDA to give her access to a new gene therapy. Their efforts gained national attention and generated 200,000 signatures on a petition, but failed to win access to the treatment. The 25-year-old newlywed died a few months later.

In 2014, Arizona residents approved Prop. 303, a measure that now allows people the “Right to Try” some experimental treatments not yet approved by the FDA. They joined Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana and Michigan in passing such legislation.

In 2015, governors in Wyoming in Arkansas have already signed a Right to Try act into law. Bills in Virginia, Montana, Indiana, Utah and Mississippi have also passed the full legislature and are awaiting a signature from each state’s governor.

“These laws are a no-brainer,” said Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center. “When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try, has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should nullify the FDA like this.”

Farming

The total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2014 was recently said to be at least $620 million. According to the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a nonprofit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, this includes items like nondairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions, along with clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products.

Federal regulations resulting in a de facto ban on hemp farming has created a situation where the U.S. is the world’s No. 1 importer of hemp, while China and Canada are the top two exporters in the world.

And while the Feds now “allow” hemp farming for “research purposes,” some states and individuals have taken action beyond what is permitted and are now harvesting crops for commercial purposes.

Hemp is already being farmed in both Colorado and Vermont. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business. One week later, the first license went to a small nonprofit group that hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural Department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there, too. A law by Gov. Nikki Haley in South Carolina in 2014 authorizes the same. Another passed this year in North Dakota is awaiting a signature from Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Hemp farming bills have also passed the New Hampshire House, the Washington State Senate, and committees in Connecticut and Missouri. Legislation has been introduced and will be up for consideration soon in Texas, Florida, Maine and elsewhere.

Surveillance

Former National Security Agency chief technical director William Binney called the agency’s practice of “parallel construction” the “most threatening situation to our constitutional republic since the Civil War.” This is the process whereby federal spying data is being handed off to local police for use in everyday law enforcement work, not just for investigating “terrorists.”

In 2014, Utah and New Hampshire passed bills to ban each state from participating in this practice. And this year, bills in Texas, Alaska, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina and elsewhere have been introduced to ban all “material support or resources” to all federal bulk warrantless spying programs.

Passage would ban participation in parallel construction, but also take things further and withhold other resources like water, electricity or even trash pickup from state or local governments or agencies to any federal agency involved in the wholesale surveillance of anything and everything you do with your phone or Internet service.

Legislation to help block a recently revealed nationwide license plate tracking program has already passed the Virginia Legislature and the Montana House. Similar legislation is up for consideration in New York, Missouri, Vermont, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Obamacare

While the legal world awaits an opinion this summer from the Supreme Court in the King v. Burwell case, some states are considering bills that will help bring down the federal takeover no matter what the court opines.

Bills passed in the Arizona House and introduced in Texas would ban a crucial enforcement mechanism for the federal act, and set the stage for pulling the rug out from under it and bringing it down.

What’s next

Sometimes, however rare, a federal court will stop a federal agency from unilaterally giving itself more power. Sometimes, a federal agency will back down on a newly proposed rule, like the recent M855 ammo ban from the ATF, because of heavy public pressure. And even more rarely, although I can’t remember anything of note, Congress will actually repeal a law it passed, giving up its own power.

The truth of the matter is this: Federal courts cannot be trusted to limit federal power, and federal politicians cannot be trusted to limit their own power. Only the states and the people can do it now.

While these moves by states give liberty-lovers hope, there is no silver bullet to stop the runaway freight train that is the federal government. But instead of waiting years for a lawsuit, or a convention, or any other national-level process, these state nullification efforts chip away at the monster government right now — one state at a time.

What this gets down to is the power of the people. When enough people tell the Feds to pound sand, and enough states pass laws backing them up, there’s not much the Feds can do to force their unconstitutional laws, rules, regulations or mandates down our throats.

ON OBAMACARE, IT’S THE PRESIDENT WHO REFUSES TO EMBRACE REALITY

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BY PETER SUDERMAN

Obamacare turns five years old this week, and to mark the occasion, President Obama took after critics of the health law, noting their ongoing opposition while briefly laying out the reasons he believes it to be a success. “It’s time to embrace reality,” he said, according to The Hill.

The president ticked off a string of points in support of the law: an additional 16 million insured, 50,000 fewer preventable deaths, slow growth in health premium costs, and lower deficit projections as a result.

The law, he said, is “working even better than expected.”

One could reasonably quibble with much of this, because not all of the points President Obama cited are clearly or fully attributable to Obamacare.

Health spending growth, for example, is indeed down, and this is driving much of the decline in the deficit, but at least a sizable portion of the decline—perhaps most of it—can be attributed to the recession. One study in Health Affairs last year concluded that about 70 percent of the health spending slowdown is a result of the economy, not any structural changes to health care delivery. Obamacare may be due some credit, but not too much.

Similarly, it’s true that a government report estimated that between 2010 and 2013, deaths from “hospital-acquired conditions” were reduced by about 50,000. But it’s hard to fully pin this on Obamacare when the report states up front that “the precise causes of the decline in patient harm are not fully understood.” 

Meanwhile, the 16 million insured figure comes from a March report by the Department of Health and Human Services, and it is a total of those who gained coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges, Medicaid, employment, and the individual market place, which means it’s not wholly attributable to the law. And it tallies those who signed up for coverage rather than those “effectuated enrollment”—those who have already paid their premiums. The actual number is probably not too far off from what President Obama stated, but, once again, Obamacare isn’t the entire story here.

So Obama is overstating the case, and, of course, leaving out points against the law.

For example: About half of the people who received subsidies through the law last year will have to pay them back through their taxes this year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study this week. On average, those who owe will have to pay a little more than a quarter of their subsidy back. A few will have to pay back the entire subsidy.

On the flip side, a little less than half will end up getting money back, but even that will be complicated by the fact that the federal government and California, which runs the biggest state exchange, sent out nearly a million tax forms related to the health law with incorrect information, leading the administration to ask many to delay filing their taxes as a result. California has already issued 120,000 correct tax forms, but there are still “tens of thousands” who haven’t gotten updated forms, according to the L.A. Times.

Whitehouse.gov

Beyond that, there are additional questions about whether the Internal Revenue Service is even equipped to handle all the new paperwork required by the law. According to the Chicago Tribune, roughly a quarter of tax filers will have extra filing requirements due to the health law.

And then there are the poll numbers for the law, which is still unpopular, just as it has been throughout the five years it has been law. Polls differ on the exact contours of public opinion about the law, but all the polls in the Real Clear Politics opinion survey show that oppositions outweighs support by at least seven points; on average, the opposition is 10.5 points higher than the support.

If the law is truly working so well for so many people, if it is, as Obama has now taken to saying, working better than expected or anticipated, then why does it remain so stubbornly unpopular?

When the law was being debated in Congress, many supporters of the law argued that it would grow popular once it passed. When that didn’t happen, Obamacare backers insisted that it polled poorly because the major benefits had yet to kick in.  When the major benefits kicked in, they argued that the botched launch of the exchanges was killing support.

These excuses no longer work. The coverage expansion has arrived, and while the precise numbers aren’t clear, there’s no denying that far more people are covered now than two years ago. The exchanges are still incomplete on the back end, but the consumer-facing part of the system works well enough. The health insurance subsidies have arrived, and are being doled out to millions, and so have the insurance rules restricting insurers from charging or denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.

Obamacare’s major benefits have gone into effect and had time to work their way through the system—and yet the law remains widely disliked. Obama’s message about the law, meanwhile, remains the same as always: It’s great, and people should stop resisting and recognize how great it is.

After five years, in other words, President Obama has not changed his message, even in the face of consistent broad public opposition, even as the various theories for why it remains unpopular have fallen away. Obamacare is simply not well liked. This is the political reality—and President Obama still refuses to embrace it. 

Nothing to see here: Obamacare to cost $50K per person covered

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Buried deep inside the latest CBO budget outlook report there is some shocking (by which I mean not shocking to anyone who has been paying attention) information on the effects of ObamaCare. You can forget about all the promises that were made by the administration and their Democrat allies during the debate… they were lying clearly inaccurate in their estimates. So how bad is it? The Daily Mail came out with the first report.

It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.

The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization’s new ten-year budget outlook.

The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head.
If you want to read the report yourself, it’s tucked away back in Appendix B of the document. (.pdf format) The total bill over ten years is closing in on the two trillion mark, and the various taxes and fees imposed under Obamacare are only going to make up for $643B of it. So I guess we really did have to pass the bill to find out what was in it.

At this point it is worth asking if maybe the entire fight could have been avoided without crafting such an elaborate system. Assume for arguments’ sake that the Democrats were going to win on the general subject of having some form of massive government program for health insurance. Assume further that the insurance industry was going to agree to go along with some new government mandates about having to cover pre-existing conditions and older children living at home, etc. in exchange for an assurance that they would have a bunch of new customers paying them. At that point, the bill could have been chopped down to about ten pages in length.

The plan is covering 27 million people with estimates of that growing by 25% over the next decade. A mid-range quality health care plan through most employers – including the employer contribution – can be had for roughly $5,400 per year. That works out to a little less than 150 billion dollars to just buy all of those people a health plan under the old system and the insurers would have been thrilled. The crippled, complicated government web site could have been stripped down to just ask how much you make each year and, based on that, issue you a voucher for a health insurance plan from a company that covers your area. We wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have come in at one heck of a cheaper rate and the debate would be over.

Rather than an exit question, we’ll just close with an observation. You were lied to. Again.

Did Obama just blame Republicans? *(IS DEAR LEADER TALKING ABOUT OBAMACARE?)*

Did Obama just blame Republicans?

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BY PAIGE WINFIELD CUNNINGHAM

President Obama slammed Republicans Wednesday for continuing to war against his signature healthcare law five years in.

“It’s working, despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund and defame this law,” Obama said in a speech commemorating the Affordable Care Act’s anniversary of passage.

“We’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law, but we also know beyond a shred of doubt the law has worked,” he said. “Deficits have been slashed, lives have been saved.”

It’s been half a decade since Democrats in Congress passed the healthcare law and it remains arguably the most controversial piece of legislation passed during Obama’s tenure. Democrats spent this week touting its provisions extending coverage to millions of Americans, while Republicans aired their many ongoing complaints about the law.

There’s one thing members of both parties agree on: Major reforms are still needed in how healthcare is delivered and paid for.

Obama focused on that common ground in the first part of his speech, announcing a network of healthcare providers, payers, advocates and localities his administration is trying to bring together to share ideas on how to improve the quality and cost of care. More than 2,800 organizations — including seven of the country’s 10 biggest insurers — have signed on to the network so far, officials said.

But he also addressed the continuing disputes over the law that Republicans have focused on for years.

He reminded Republicans that some of the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act — most notably its individual mandate to buy coverage — were once supported by some conservatives, although its Medicaid expansion and some other big parts of the law stem more from liberal thought.

“The Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it,” he said.

While the law has extended health coverage to millions of Americans — and no serious experts dispute that — Republicans charge that it’s still causing more problems than it’s solving.

But Obama sharply criticized the GOP for trying to undermine the law but failing to introduce their own comprehensive alternative. Republicans have introduced many separate bills aimed at reforming healthcare, but have been unable to unite behind one big plan.

And the president condemned the proposed GOP budget the House is voting on this week, which would repeal the entire healthcare law and cost millions of Americans federally subsidized health plans they’ve purchased in the law’s new insurance marketplaces.

“For folks who are basing their entire political agenda on repealing the law, you gotta explain how kicking people off their health insurance is supposed to make us more free,” Obama said.