Why I’m Ticked at Barack Obama

It’s election time and people are ticked at Barack Obama. Call it Tea Party anger. They’re mad because Obama and congressional democrats want to “take over health care.” They’re mad because they think of Obama as the President of bailouts and stimulus that has destroyed our economy, cost us jobs, and added billions to our national deficit.

Well I’m ticked at Barack Obama, too. I’m ticked because he campaigned as a “president of the people.” He held town hall meetings, and gave campaign speeches from people’s back yards. But this president that I thought was going to be such a great teacher—explaining complex policies and trends over a “fire-side chat”—has instead allowed the GOP to usurp the dialog this election. I’m ticked because, instead of hearing some good news from the stump, I had to spend hours doing research—hours that most people won’t spend—to find out that all this rhetoric is bogus.

But if Obama won’t share the facts with you, I will…

 

The $700 billion Bailout

Whose bill is it anyway?

It’s just like Barack Obama and these tax-and-spend-liberals in congress to increase the national deficit by bailing out big banks! But wait….

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, (TARP), was passed by congress and signed into law on October 3, 2008? Which means it was signed by…

Barack Obama?

Oh, no! President Obama didn’t take office until January 2009. Thanks for playing.

George W. Bush?

That’s right! This most dubious bill with which Obama and the democrats are ruining Americans financial system was actually President Bush’s legislation.

The fact is that the TARP, when it was passed, was an extremely popular bipartisan bill, with the support of 55 congressional Republicans.

But seriously, $700 billion?

Yes, the TARP is commonly known as the $700 billion bailout as that’s the amount of money it allotted for congress to bolster the troubled banking industry in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis. According to the Congressional Budget Office, however, the cost of the expired bill to date has been only $66 billion.

So, why did the TARP cost so much less than all the ads say?

Because the TARP seems to have worked!  The banks have paid back their TARP money, with interest at 8.2%. In fact, AIG recently announced a plan that actually gives the government a good chance of getting paid back in full, if not making money on TARP!

 

Jobs and the Economic Stimulus

Obama’s stimulus bill has cost us jobs!…or has it?

Unemployment is high, really high. And what’s more, we’re still losing jobs. Supposedly, massive job loss is due in great part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the economic stimulus bill, which was enacted February 2009.

I head through a source that I can no longer remember that the popular sentiment is that over half of the stimulus spending didn’t work, which I thought was an interesting number, since nearly one third of the bill was tax cuts! It’s true, you can read the bill.

So, I wanted to know whether the rest of the rhetoric was true: are we really losing more jobs as a result of the stimulus bill? What I found shocked me. Seriously, you won’t believe me, but that’s okay. You can check the Bureau of Labor Statistics, too see for yourself what I found out:

  • From the month the recession began, according to the people who officially determine these things (we’ll get there in a minute), December 2007 until January 2009, one month before the stimulus bill was enacted, we lost 4.4 million jobs.
  • That rate climaxed during the three months prior to the bill being enacted, November 2008 to January 2009, during which time we lost an average of 726 thousand jobs per month.
  • During the same three months the following year, November 2009 – January 2010 the average job loss was down to about 35 thousand jobs per month.
  • Analysis: We’re still losing jobs, a lot of them. But since the stimulus bill was enacted the rate of loss has slowed to approximately 691 thousand fewer jobs lost every month.

Good news: the recession is over!

Did you know that there is an independent organization, called the National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially determines when we are in periods of say, economic growth, slowdown, recession or recovery? It is because of the tremendous slowing of job loss listed above, that according to their calculations, our most recent recession began in December 2007 and officially ended June 2009, a mere 4 months after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was enacted.

It still feels like a recession to me.

And it will for a while. That’s because a recession is characterized by the economy rapidly getting weaker. The fact that the recession is over does not mean that our economy is healthy yet, it simply means that it’s not getting weaker at anywhere near the rate that it was before the economic stimulus was passed.

 

“Obamacare”

We all know the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

  • 30 million people who couldn’t afford health insurance before, are now able to get insured,
  • Including 3.8 million children over the next four years.
  • Insurance companies can no longer deny you because of pre-existing conditions,
  • Nor can they drop your coverage when you get sick, as long as you’ve been paying premiums,
  • Nor can they set lifetime limits on your benefits.
  • And kids getting out of college or the military who can’t afford outrageous heal insurance premiums can stay on their parents insurance until they’re 26-years-old.

But don’t take my word for it—read the bill.

But at what cost, really? Isn’t this bill is going to destroy small business with penalties?

It’s true that during the debate leading up to the health care law, members of Congress considered a mandate requiring employers to offer health care to workers and imposing penalties if they didn’t. But this mandate didn’t make it into the final bill.

Instead, starting in 2014, there will be a fine for large employers—defined as business with 50 or more employees—who don’t offer health care, but only if their workers qualify for tax credits from the government to buy health care. So, according to research the Small Business Administration compiled using data from the U.S. Census, the fine will not affect the vast majority of businesses in the United States. The research showed that in 2007, 5,814,584 firms had fewer than 50 employees, compared with a total just over 6,049,655 firms. In other words, 96 percent of U.S. small businesses are specifically exempted from fines even if they don’t offer insurance to their employees.
As it turns out, some small businesses can actually qualify for tax credits under the new law.

Any employer who has fewer than 25 employees, who are paid average annual wages of less than $50,000, and pays for at least half of the insurance for the workers, qualifies for a tax credit for part of the contributions.

In review:

  • There is no provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that fines on any business that does not provide health insurance for its employees.
  • There will be a fine for large businesses (defined as having 50 employees or more) who do not provide health insurance for their employees, but only if the employees qualify for health care tax credits. This applies to less that 4% of business in the United States.
  • The other 96% of business are exempt from any fines, even if they don’t provide health insurance to their employees.
  • Some small businesses that do chose to offer health insurance for their employees may even qualify for tax credits.

Seriously, you can read the bill!

Alright, but I don’t want to have to go through a panel of government bureaucrats to get to my doctor?

Okay, the panel is real. It’s called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and its set to activate January 2014. But with only 15 members, if every American is going to have to go through them to get to her doctor, these are going to be some very busy bureaucrats. The fact is: the IPAB is an advisory board, they don’t see patients. Further, the IPAB deals only with Medicare, which is already a government-run program.

Great, so these are the politicians who choose whether Granny gets to live or die?

Ahh the ominous “death panel”! It’s a legitimate concern, so let’s ask the question: what does the Independent Payment Advisory Board do, exactly?

According the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health care research organization, the IPAB’s roll is to “submit legislative proposals containing recommendations to reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending if spending exceeds a target growth rate.” The IPBA is prohibited, however, from “submitting proposals that would ration care, increase revenues or change benefits, eligibility or Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including Parts A and B premiums), or would result in a change in the beneficiary premium percentage or low-income subsidies under Part D.”

In review:

  • The new health care law creates a panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
  • The IPBA prevue is limited to Medicare, a program that is already government-run.
  • The IPBA has no decision making power—its roll is limited to advising on how to reduce the rate of growth in healthcare spending.
  • The IPBA’s advising power is even limited: it cannot make suggestions that would ration care or reduce benefits.
  • Finally, no member of the IPBA will ever see a patient.

All of which you would know if you’d read the bill.

But then there’s the elephant in the waiting room: How much is all this going to cost us?

As if our national deficit isn’t already high enough, I’d hate to hear how much all this spending is going to increase it.

Wait… What’s that? Because the government will have to pay less to pick up the people who currently can’t afford health insurance, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will actually reduce the national deficit?

That’s right! The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will cut the national deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years. In fact, the CBO doesn’t like to make predictions beyond ten years, there are just too many variables that cause the predictions to be highly speculative, but it is plausible that the bill would cut the deficit by over one trillion dollars over the next 20 years!

Yeah, it will just increase our premiums, right?

Wrong again! Premiums are not rising due to the new health care legislation.

Quite the opposite is true: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides states with $250 million over five years to improve how states review proposed health insurance premium increases.

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the first allotment of that money: $1 million each in grants to 45 states whose insurance commissioners have the power to regulate rate hikes or to provide meaningful oversight, to help them “crack down on unreasonable health insurance premium hikes.”

Again, allow me to suggest that you READ THE FRACKING BILL!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Why I’m Ticked at Barack Obama

  1. Pingback: This Week in the Blogosphere – Installment #6 | Theologoholic

  2. N W Johnson

    I read the bill. While the IPBA has no explicit power, its implicit power is enormous. What it will actually do is formulate policy, so if it says that it is not cost-effective to provide dialysis to persons over &0 – for example – my buddy Chuck, who is 92, will die and a lifetime of music will be lost forever, before he can pass all of it on to youngsters like me. I’m 71.
    And this will happen, because IPBA is the one that will be advising MEDICARE on what it should cover and how much it should spend for that coverage, and, as I understand it, there is no mechanism in place to appeal an IPBA “recommendation.” Thye people who administer Medicare are not physicians, they are bureaurocratic bean counters and bottom liners.
    This situation, to me, suggests a de facto, if not de jure, death panel.
    Of course it doesn’t say that in the bill. I mean, it wouldn’t, would it.
    But, if a Liberal icon like Barney Frank doesn’t like it, there must be SOME problem with it.

    • Joe

      Thanks for your comments, N.W.! I’m so sorry to hear about your friend Chuck. He will, of course, be in my prayers. I’ll pray that his dialysis continues to work well—better than that, I’ll pray that we are able to build a healthcare system that incentivizes innovative research so that Chuck can lead a healthy life without the need for dialysis—and that he can continue to make a teach music for many years to come. I don’t pretend to know everything about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or understand all of its implications. (One couldn’t, really, as much of the bill hasn’t even gone into effect, and in the meantime it continues to be modified). But I do know that Chuck doesn’t have to worry about the IPBA, because, according to an independent healthcare research organization, the board is not allowed to submit proposal that would “ration care, increase revenues or change benefits, eligibility or Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including Parts A and B premiums), or would result in a change in the beneficiary premium percentage or low-income subsidies under Part D.” You can check out the report, it’s from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: http://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/7961-02.pdf.

      I should say that overall I sympathize with your concern. I think that the last thing we should be doing in economic hard times is trying to figure out how to cut Medicare benefits. In fact, I think that basic medical care should be a right and that, therefore, something like Medicare should be extended to every American, (which is to say, I think the Affordable Care Act doesn’t goes nearly far enough). Unfortunately, under our current healthcare and taxation systems that simply isn’t a possibility. We can’t even afford to pay for Medicare benefits as they are now. The most recent estimate I heard was that at the current rate of growth Medicare would be bankrupt by 2025. So let me ask, what’s your suggestion? How do we continue to give Chuck all the care he needs and still make sure there’s enough left over for young guys like you and me, without involving the money-grubbing, bureaucratic bean-counters? That’s not a rhetorical question, either. If you have any good ideas, I’d seriously love to hear them. Hell, if they’re really great, maybe they’ll invite you to join the IPBA. My guess is we could use some compassionate thinkers on that board.

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