HHS: Bailing out Obamacare insurers an ‘obligation’…

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Ominous signs for the future of Obamacare

The Department of Health and Human Services attempted to reassure private insurers on Thursday that they’ll be able to recover losses from participating in Obamacare by claiming it was an “obligation” of the U.S. government to bail them out.

At issue is a provision within the law known as the risk corridors program. Under the program, which runs from 2014 through 2016, the federal government is to collect money from health insurers doing better than expected and use those funds to provide a federal backstop to other insurers who incur larger than expected losses from rising medical claims. The idea was to provide training wheels to insurers in the first years of Obamacare’s implementation, and to take away any incentive for insurers to cherry pick only the healthiest customers.

Republicans, fearing that this could turn into an open-ended government bailout in the event of industry-wide losses, included a provision in last year’s spending bill that limited the program, requiring HHS to pay out only from the pool of money collected, rather than supplementing it with other sources of government funding. President Obama signed that bill.

Now that insurers have been able to look at medical claims, what they’ve found is that enrollees in Obamacare are disproportionately sicker, and losses are piling up. For the 2014 benefit year, insurers losing more than expected asked for $2.87 billion in government payments through the risk corridors program, but HHS only collected $362 million from insurers performing better than expected. Thus, the funds available to the federal government only amounts to 12.6 percent of what insurers argue that they’re owed.

So insurers are not happy. And now the industry lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans — which happens to be helmed by Marilyn Tavenner, who previously oversaw the implementation of Obamacare as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — is aggressively fighting for more money.

In a statement issued Thursday, the same day that the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth announced it may exit Obamacare due to mounting losses, Tavenner said, “We’ve been very clear with the administration about the serious challenges facing consumers and health plans in this Exchange market. Most recently, nearly 800,000 Americans have faced coverage disruptions as a result of the significant and unexpected shortfall with the risk corridors program. When health plans cannot rely on the government to meet its obligations, individuals and families are harmed as a result. The administration must act to ensure this program works as intended and consumers are protected.”

In an effort to reassure the industry, CMS, the HHS agency Tavenner previously led, issued guidance reiterating that HHS would use money collected from insurers in 2015 and possibly 2016 to make up the $2.5 billion shortfall that exists in 2014.

But what happens if there still isn’t enough money, and after 2016, the program is taking in less than the money sought by insurers?

HHS said it, would “explore other sources of funding for risk corridors payments, subject to the availability of appropriations. This includes working with Congress on the necessary funding for outstanding risk corridors payments.”

The agency further added: “HHS recognizes that the Affordable Care Act requires the Secretary to make full payments to issuers, and HHS is recording those amounts that remain unpaid following our 12.6 percent payment this winter as fiscal year 2015 obligation of the United States government for which full payment is required.”

In reality, this doesn’t mean much at all. Risk corridor payments for 2016 won’t be due until mid-2017, and by that point, it will be an issue for a future Congress and future president. Nothing that a previous administration’s HHS said in 2015 will really matter.

That said, this is another demonstration that for all of Obama’s sanctimonious rhetoric about taking on insurance companies. In reality, his signature legislative achievement was to put government in bed with private insurers. And now that his pet project backfired, he wants taxpayers to take care of those very insurance companies he spent years railing against.

Neil Cavuto embarrasses student who wants free college and has no idea how to pay for it

I don’t mean to be Captain Obvious, but we live in a day and age where entitlement thinking is running amok, and the youth of our nation are so twisted up with the “gimme, gimme, gimmes,” they drop their brain in the toilet and flush it down the drain.

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

Fox Business host Neil Cavuto confronted a student demanding free college and a $15 minimum wage for student workers on campus with all sorts of facts and figures, which turned into one of the most painful to watch, cringeworthy interviews ever.

If this girl represents the norm for young, college aged kids these days, it’s time to weep for our future.

From TheBlaze:

Keely Mullen, an organizer for the Million Student March movement, joined Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto on the air Thursday to discuss the movement’s demands for free public college, student debt cancelation and a $15-an-hour minimum wage for student workers. In the awkward 9-minute interview, Cavuto repeatedly cited facts and figures that seemed to fluster the student.

When asked who would pick up the tab for the demands she listed, Mullen said, “The 1 percent of people who are hoarding the wealth and causing a catastrophe students are facing.”

“If the 1 percent just had their taxes raised a few years ago back to almost 40 percent then to pay for the healthcare law, they had them raised another few percentage points, then they had their deductions limited to raise another couple points — depending on the state or locality — they’re pushing over about 50 percent in taxes,” Cavuto told Mullen. “How much more do you think they should pay?”

This question, asked near the beginning of the interview, became the main focus of the discussion, but Mullens wasn’t really able to provide a true answer.

Mullen did say the rate should be raised to “enough until we have a system where not one in two families are threatened with poverty.” And when asked if she and her friends and family would pay more in taxes for her demands, she said “we already are.” However, according to Forbes, 45 percent of households pay no federal income taxes.

“They’ve done studies on this, Keeley, I don’t want to get boring here, but even if you were to take the 1 percent and take all of their money — tax it 100 percent — do you know that couldn’t keep Medicare, just Medicare, in this country going for three years?” Cavuto asked. “Did you know that?”

“Yeah, I don’t believe that,” Mullen said in response. “Yeah, I’m sorry, that just sounds completely ludicrous to me.”

Kelley doesn’t seem to understand one of the most fundamental rules of the universe, which is sad for a girl her age:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

“Free college,” is as mythical a creature as the unicorn that poops rainbow-colored ice cream cones, because the price for education is always being paid by someone.

If a student isn’t paying for it, the rest of us who are working to provide for our families are. Why should hard working Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck be forced to pay for some stranger’s care or education?

Sure, they say the middle class and lower income people won’t be affected, but when top earners — who typically own the businesses where we all work — are taxed so heavily they flee the country, who’s going to be left with the bill?

To make matters worse, when these earners leave, they’re taking jobs with them, which means increased unemployment. How can the average Joe pay his own bills, plus pay out the backside for taxes so some entitled brat can go to college, if he has no work?


This is why liberalism is a mental disorder. It defies logic.

Economist warns worldwide business tax next step in globalization…


By Richard W. Rahn

Are you aware that the American government has been slowly giving away its power to international bureaucrats to determine how its businesses and citizens are taxed?

Most wars do not turn out the way the people who started them intended. Setting aside the hot military wars, look at the consequences of the “war on drugs” and the “war on money laundering and tax evasion.”

The global war on money laundering and tax evasion has failed in the three decades since it began in earnest, and it is now on its way to undermining the rule of law around the world, the legitimate role of financial institutions, and the right of sovereign governments to determine their own tax policies.

The new anti-money-laundering laws and regulations have resulted in millions of Americans who live abroad and others living outside their home countries being unable to get bank accounts and other financial services in the countries where they live.

Rather than protecting people who need financial services, government regulations are increasing their misery. Banks avoid potential government fines by dumping customers, whose source or use of their money is too difficult to figure out. International money-laundering expert, Burke Files, reported to me from Mombasa last week that in central Africa “more and more money is leaving the banking system to seek alternative remittances.

The money is now out of the system and being shipped in bulk currency, and the remitters are being forced to pay about 9 percent — from what was 3 percent to 4 percent.” The Financial Stability Board based in Basel, Switzerland, released a damning report last week on the decline in corresponding banking as a result of excess money-laundering regulations.

The first federal laws on money laundering and international prohibitions were passed three decades ago, with the excuses that the law enforcement authorities needed them to fight the drug war and other assorted criminality, even though money laundering is almost impossible to tightly define — being a crime of intent rather than action.

In 1998, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — which has been captured by the global big-government, high-tax lobby — published a report titled “Harmful Tax Competition,” which was widely and rightly ridiculed because it ignored the fact that competition is good, including tax competition.

Imagine how much higher tax rates would be in New York, Illinois and California if their rates and inefficiencies were not at all disciplined by better-managed states that do well without state income taxes, such as Texas and Florida. Other things being equal, both individuals and businesses tend to move from high-tax places to lower-tax places around the globe as a rational response to bloated and oppressive government.

The statist bureaucrats at the OECD and their big-government masters were undeterred in their fight for higher taxes on others (despite their own tax-free salaries). They claimed that they were only trying to make sure that money from Americans and others was not being hidden in foreign banks to evade taxes. The non-American banks then agreed to implement withholding on payments to Americans and others so that the governments would get their tax money.

The OECD first agreed to it, but then reneged, demanding to know the names of the banks’ clients. This showed it was not just about money, but control over others by the political class. Having no choice, the banks agreed. So then the OECD started going after corporations, claiming it was “unfair” that they had some of their activities in low-tax jurisdictions. Now the international political class is demanding that they determine where and how much a company should be taxed. But this is still not enough for these greedy politicians and bureaucrats, who are now demanding a “global minimum corporate tax,” as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio advocated in the Nov. 2 Wall Street Journal.

Most businesses are taxed at individual — not corporate — rates, because they are set up as sole proprietorships, partnerships and LLCs. You can be sure that the next effort will be to establish a minimum tax for all businesses everywhere on the globe, which will be quickly extended to all individuals. What right does the United States or France have to tell other countries what their tax rates must be? As global taxes are increasingly implemented, Americans and citizens of other countries will lose their democratic right to determine their own taxes — and Americans will be right back where they were under King George III. What happened to “no taxation without representation”?

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.

Obamacare Threatens ‘Bigger Fines’ if You Don’t Sign Up



The Obama administration is sending a new message to people on the Obamacare e-mail list. Sign up for health insurance by December 15 or face big fines.

“Important,” the new email warns subscribers. “The penalty for not having health insurance is increasing. If you don’t sign up for coverage, you’ll risk having to pay $695 per person or more for the year.”

Since the new enrollment period is in session, email messages from the Obamacare website have increased urging more people to sign up for coverage or face fines. When asked about the fines faced by Americans without insurance, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that he was unaware of any plans to reduce the penalties.

“I’m not aware of any plans to change the penalties that would be levied,” Earnest said, during the daily press briefing reminding reporters that some people would be fined more for not having health insurance than the actual the cost of health insurance itself.

“I think we’re going to continue to be creative … we’re going to be aggressive about making sure we get the word out,” he said.

Failed Syrian rebel training program cost US taxpayers $2 million per fighter – report

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Newly acquired documents show the Pentagon spent nearly $400 million, or $2 million per fighter, on its failed train-and-equip program, according to USA Today. The Pentagon claims the actual cost was $30,000 per trainee.

USA Today reported the train-and-equip program was abandoned after the department had already spent $384 million on it. “Of the 180 Syrians vetted, trained and equipped, 145 fighters [remained] in the program,” the report stated. Of those 145 fighters, 95 were in Syria.

When asked to comment on the findings, the Pentagon disputed that it had spent $2 million per fighter, saying the actual cost was far lower – $30,000 per trainee. They added that the “vast majority” of the funds had gone to buying weapons, equipment, and ammunition, of which some was is still in storage.

“Our investment in the Syria train and equip program should not be viewed purely in fiscal terms,” Navy Commander Elissa Smith told the news outlet in an email. Smith said some of those trained fighters had been calling in air strikes, and that ammunition designated for trainees had been given to other forces fighting the Islamic State instead.

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According to the documents outlining the program’s $501 billion budget, $204 million was supposed to be spent on ammunition, $77 million on weapons, $62 million on mobility, $47 million on services, $46 million on construction, $40 million on strategic lift/shipping, $13 million on equipment, $6 million on communications, and $6 million on facilities and maintenance.

The program was intended to graduate 3,000 trained and equipped New Syrian Forces fighters in 2015, and 5,000 annually afterwards, to combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). However, President Barack Obama abandoned the program earlier this fall.

In documents and interviews, USA Today was able to confirm that two of the four training camps designed for the program never hosted even a single recruit.

In September, it was revealed that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group, considered to be extremist.
While the training has stopped, the US will continue to give equipment and weapons to the leaders of ‘vetted’ groups of rebels who are already fighting IS “so that over time they continue to re-claim territory,” Smith told USA Today.

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The rebel training program’s $500 million budget was in addition to the $42 million the Pentagon had already spent in 2014 to set it up.

The findings come as the Obama administration announced it was set to deploy up to 50 US special operations troops in northern Syria to assist in the fight against IS. It marked the first time the administration openly said it would send ground forces into Syria.

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The Associated Press reported the White House has put no timetable on how long the American forces will stay in Syria, although Obama has previously said he expects the campaign against IS to last beyond his presidency.

Obama inherited two military conflicts and will hand off a third to his successor. He recently announced plans to maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2015.

In July, the National Priorities Project, a non-profit, non-partisan federal budget research group, reported that America’s war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers roughly $4 million an hour. Their research found more than $700 billion has been spent on the war since the George W. Bush administration authorized the invasion in 2001, including more than $35 billion in fiscal year 2015.

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The initial budget for the Afghan war was over $20 billion for 2001/02. The budget dropped to $14 billion over the next two years as spending shifted to the war in Iraq. Expenditures on the Afghan war took a back seat to Iraq war spending before ballooning to more than $100 billion in 2010, when the cost of the Iraq war began to decline. Spending in Afghanistan continued to top $100 billion annually until 2013, when it began falling by increments of $10 billion, finally reaching its current budget of $35 billion.

Ted Cruz: Close IRS, Put 90,000 IRS Agents at Southern Border



DES MOINES, Iowa — GOP presidential candidate

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 93% said with the flat tax plan that he supports, the IRS can be abolished, and America can put those 90,000 IRS employees to work down at the Southern Border.

“We need to padlock that building. Take all 90,000 and move them down on the southern border,” Cruz said of the employees currently working at the IRS building. “Imagine if you traveled thousands of miles in the blazing sun, you’re swimming across the Rio Grande, and the first thing you see is 90,000 IRS agents; you’d turn around and go home, too!”

Cruz addressed Iowa voters at the Iowa GOP Growth and Opportunity Party event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, along with nine other GOP presidential candidates.

He said he believes in the simple flat tax. “The simple flat tax says for every American–every individual, a family of four–the first $36,000 of income you earn, you pay zero,” he explained.

“All taxes on the first $36,000 are zero,” he repeated. “Above $36,000 dollars, everyone pays a simple flat tax of 10 percent.”

“It’s simple, and it’s fair,” he added, stating that more words are in the IRS tax code than in the Bible.