Obamacare: The White House Viewpoint

 

Will Obamacare provide affordable health care or not?

If it does, who will get it?

I received a link to this video in a White House broadcast email today. I think you need to see it and add it to your list of considerations concerning this plan.

I have no idea how accurate it is, or what parameters are being used to come up with these figures. Feel free to add links to other legitimate information in the com boxes.

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Obamacare as a Tax

 

The Supreme Court says that Obamacare is a new tax on Americans.

President Obama agrees.

That is the basis for the Court’s decision to allow the mandates forcing the American people to buy insurance stand. They are not, in the Court’s view, a mandate to purchase a product. They are, rather, a tax on the American people.

Ok then, let’s look at Obamacare as a tax.

Based entirely on what I saw when I went to the website yesterday, this new tax is a hefty one.

Let’s look at the lower end of the income spectrum first. Based on what I saw when I visited the healthcare.gov website, if you have a family of four with two children under the age of 18, and your family income totals less than $35,000 per year, your premium for Obamacare will be somewhere around $1200/year. That comes to a hike in your monthly taxes of about $100/month.

I am using Oklahoma figures for this estimate, and Oklahoma did not set up a health care exchange. It may be better for those in other states. I hope so.

My husband and I had a monthly income even lower than this when our kids were little. We qualified for free and reduced lunches at school. A car with 100,000 miles on it was new to us. My husband did all our auto repairs himself, in the driveway in front of our house. I carefully balanced meals to keep us well fed and the grocery bills do-able. Both my husband and I went without clothes, new glasses (even when we were having trouble seeing) and dental work so the kids could have those things.

I can tell you that an extra $100/month tax hike would have been a big bite for us back then. It would have had to come out of necessity money.

Now, let’s go to the other end. Consider those “wealthy” families of four with two kids under 18 who have a combined family income of $90,000 per year. Housing/automobiles/education/clothing/food/gasoline/etc are all massively more expensive now than they were even a few years ago. If the house hunter shows I watch on HGTV are accurate, home ownership (at least on the coasts) is totally out of sight for the family that makes $35,000/year and barely in sight for the $90,000 earners.

If a simple three bedroom one bath house costs between $200,000 – $300,00 and even a modest new car costs over $20,000 and a community college with the kid living at home costs $4,000-$5,000/year and gasoline hovers around $4/gallon, as does a gallon of milk, then $90,000 only seems rich to those who are barely scraping by.

Add another $6,000 or $7,000 in annual taxes for healthcare that was previously paid for by your employer (this is a bit of conjecture that employers are going to be less inclined to provide health insurance after Obamacare sinks in) and things start looking almost as dicey for these $90,000 earners as it did for my husband and me back in the day.

The point here, at least for me, is that the primary winners in the Obamacare sweepstakes are the insurance companies and a few favored recipients such as Planned Parenthood. In exchange for guaranteed minimum coverage and paying for abortions they get government enforced enrollment in their wares and their premiums become a tax.

I’m not talking here about the serious considerations of cost to the tax payer in terms of government expenditures to underwrite this plan. That is going to come around and bite us in a more indirect, but perhaps more damaging way as time goes by.

I personally think that there were any number of better ways to provide health care for those who didn’t have it. I also do not believe that Obamacare is going to “contain” rising health care costs. I think that, by underwriting them, it will probably turn health care costs into something akin to the defense budget and largesse to corporations — an ever-enlarging pork barrel that devours the treasure of this nation.

Will Obamacare “work?”

Probably. At least somewhat.

I think that it will provide health care insurance for most Americans.

But it is also going to eat into their personal finances. What our elected officials don’t seem to get is that the American people are stretched financially like a piano wire already. They’re having to work more than one job each, just to make ends meet. Every passing year, inflation (which government formulas no longer accurately represent) eats deeper into their already stretched budgets, and every passing year, their incomes stagnate or fall.

Good jobs keep going away. For decades now, the news has been about this or that American corporation leaving this country to go use cheap labor elsewhere to manufacture its wares, which it then sells to the American people.

We are being robbed.

Will Obamacare fix this?

Does it even address it?

No and no.

What it does do is underwrite a medical care system that is deeply flawed and overpriced. It puts insurance companies on the government dole and uses a new direct tax on the American people to pay for that.

I have always believed that this country had to address the need for affordable health care. I am not a neocon. Far from it. I personally know people who forego necessary medical care because of costs. In fact, I have been one of them.

However, this plan is more an accommodation to special interests than a solution for those problems. There is a limit on what the budget of the ordinary American can absorb. I think this plans pushes a lot people painfully close to that limit.

The question, of course, is what Obamacare will look like in years going forward. The tinkering with this plan has not even begun. There is also the question of whether or not it will be repealed by future Congresses.

Personally, I doubt it. Once the plan locks in and the special interests start getting their take, the political will to either repeal or reform Obamacare will vanish like smoke in your morning coffee.

See also: Obamacare Threatens to Hit Many Pocketbooks; Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices in Rural Areas

I Didn’t Sign Up. But the Obamacare Website Seemed to Work for Me

 

I didn’t sign up because I already have health care coverage.

However, I did go to the Obamacare website at healthcare.gov and put myself through the steps. I got to the point where I select a plan and click “buy.”

It worked ok for me.

I dunno. Maybe I didn’t go far enough with it.

Or maybe I have a magic touch.

What I did learn is that the premiums for health care are no bargain. If health insurance wasn’t affordable before Obamacare, it will become a major burden, at least for the middle class, after Obamacare. The premiums I was offered were actually higher than what my employer pays for my insurance.

I played with the numbers a bit, and if I had an income under $35,000 and a family of four with two children under 20, the premiums would become affordable. This is because the government pays a tax credit directly to the insurance company, which subsidizes the health insurance costs of the family. That’s part of where the huge increases in government spending come in.

Obamacare appears to be set up a lot like Medicare, except that Medicare actually is a big cost reducer for the citizen taxpayer. The best plan that I was offered also included the messiness of paying at least 10% of my health care costs out of pocket. Ten percent of the cost of treatment for cancer or something equally serious puts most people into bankruptcy territory.

Beginning in 2015, employers who offer health insurance are going to have to meet the coverage requirements of Obamacare. I imagine that will lead to considerable sticker shock for these employers and that many of them will stop offering health care to their employees.

That will push people who had previously had their health care subsidized by their employer into paying for their own costs through Obamacare. Many of these people will earn enough money that they don’t qualify for the tax credit. They will face a sudden increase in expenditure for health care, and, based on what I saw on the web site, it won’t be a small one.

I am not talking about wealthy people. I mean households with a combined income of say, 90,000 dollars or more. These are people who have to make car and mortgage payments, deal with ever increasing costs in everything from gasoline to tuition, and who fall through all the cracks when it comes to getting help. Obamacare is going to squeeze them.

To summarize: I think Obamacare will be an expensive problem for both the middle class and the government. The people it will help the most are lower-income working couples with young children who make too much money to get other forms of aid and don’t get employer-sponsored health insurance.

I need to add a serious disclaimer to these conclusions in that this is a cursory take on a complicated program. Also, I went through the web site as an Oklahoman and Oklahoma has not set up health care exchanges. Maybe I got higher premiums because of that.

But my takeaway from visiting the web site is that, yes, I at least can use the web site, and, yes, I think Obamacare itself has serious flaws regarding costs to the taxpayer, both in terms of coverage and the costs to our government.

Southern Baptist Convention Files Suit Against HHS Mandate


The Southern Baptist Convention has joined dozens of other religious organizations by filing suit against the Obama adminstration’s HHS Mandate. Southern Baptists are the second largest denomination in America, with over 16 million members.

My question: Where are you Marymount Loyola?

From the CBN News:

The Obama administration has said churches and a narrowly defined category of religious organizations are exempt. But the administration is still threatening devastating penalties to many other ministry organizations, like Christian colleges, missions organizations, and family ministries.

“The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as ‘religious employers’ is senseless,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a written statement.

“These people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith – if they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition,” Rienzi said.

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We’re Not Living in Mad Max Land

The shut down continues.

The stock market responds to the shut down with a rumble, but basically keeps its head (so far), and people around the world are scratching their heads over the American shenanigans.

I hadn’t thought much about the response of non-Americans to all this. But for those who are wondering: We aren’t living in Mad Max land here in the USA. Our governance, and the powers that go along with it, is divided into so many pieces that it can clank along quite nicely, even if the money from Washington is cut off for a while.

In that sense, it is a misnomer to call this a “government shut down.” What it is, is a (hopefully temporary) stoppage in federal funding for select programs. I say select programs because Congress has evidently made a list of things that it will fund despite the fight.

The shutdown is entirely partisan in nature. The Ds and the Rs are fighting over who’s the boss. All the issues and rhetoric are just fluff. That’s what the fight is really about. I think it’s quite clear that the side that decided to throw down was the Rs. They initiated the fight. When they claim otherwise, that’s just spin.

The Ds, for their part, appear to be unwilling to talk with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Everybody hates everybody else, and nobody cares about much of anything outside their personal vendettas against one another.

What the Rs have in this battle is veto power. They control one house (the House of Representatives) in Congress. The Ds control the other house (the Senate) and the presidency. It takes all three of these bodies to make a legitimate law.

Legitimate laws are different from Presidential executive orders, which are end runs around the legitimate authority of Congress. Legitimate laws are also different from agency rules, which are not always, but can be, another end run around Congressional authority. These orders and rules amount to a kind of presidential fiat which, in my opinion, subverts the power of the people and turns the president into something akin to an elected dictator. For a list of President Obama’s executive orders, go here.

For instance, the First-Amendment-busting HHS Mandate is not a law. It is also not an executive order.  It is an agency rule, written by an appointed committee and signed by the president. Congress has always had the power to reject this rule without even addressing the underlying Affordable Health Care Act. It simply has not — primarily because of blind partisan loyalties — had the will. It is interesting that this HHS Mandate has fed significantly into this budget crisis.

The Rs can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Democrats in the Senate and the signature of the Democratic President. The Democrats can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Rs in the House.

The Ds and the Rs both have enough clout to unilaterally stop laws from passing. Neither of them can pass a law without the other. The increasing abuse of executive orders by each subsequent president for the past several decades has shorn Congress of much of its legitimate Constitutional power. When Congress refuses to enact a law, the President often just writes an executive order and does whatever he wants, anyway.

Congress has also ceded much of its war-making powers to the president. In fact, Congress has ceded most of its power as a policy-making body to the presidency. I think the major reason for this is that members of Congress no longer act as individuals. They are entirely divided along partisan political lines, the country be damned. They have eschewed their rightful concern for the American experiment in representative democracy to promote party ideologies.

The battle of the budget is over one of the few major powers that Congress has not, in its blind party loyalties, ceded to the presidency: The power to fund government.

The Rs are using their veto power to stop the bulk of the federal budget from passing into law. But they are allowing funding for a select groups of agencies and functions. I believe this is largely determined by the political heat they feel when they don’t fund these things.

Congress has become so divided along partisan lines that it is no longer able to assert its policy making authority, except in these destructive partisan standoffs that damage both the country and the institution of Congress itself. This creates a vacuum of power that is increasingly being filled by presidential fiat.

I, for one, would support moves by Congress as a body to reassert itself and its rightful authority in the governance of this country. However, these party-loyalty bear and bull fights do not enhance Congressional powers. They make a mockery of them. Until the people we elect can see beyond party loyalties and begin to act on behalf of the needs of this country and its people, Congress is only going to grow weaker and the presidency will move further toward an elected dictator.

You can find contact information for members of Congress and the President here.

See shut down news from around the web. Keep in mind that even though one house of Congress passes a bill, it is not law until the other house passes it and the president signs it:

House Approves Back Pay for Furloughed Workers

66 Questions and Answers about the Shutdown

Shut Down will Stall Home Loans for Thousands

Shutdown Losers and Not Quite Losers

Boehner: No End to Government Shutdown without Concessions

Stock Market Shaken by Shutdown, but Debt Default Would be Much Worse

Don’t Believe the Debt Ceiling Hike: The Federal Government Could Survive Without an Increase

Global Reaction to Shutdown: USA Looks Dumb and Dumber

What the Rest of the World Thinks About the Shutdown

Shutdown News


A few tidbits of news on the shutdown. Caveat: These lists are almost certainly incomplete since the situation is constantly changing.

Which Lawmakers are Giving up Their Pay During the Shutdown

What’s Affected by the Shutdown? 

While We’re Living with This Shutdown, the Big Brains in Congress are Already Planning the Next One

The Real Reason for the Shutdown: They Hate Each Other

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Republicans Blaming the Democrats

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President Obama Blaming the Republicans

Government Shuts Down

 

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

The morons in Washington have managed to bring the government to a standstill. I don’t know if they’ll turn around and do some quick maneuver to stop the free fall or not. I do know that people I represent, people who have bills to pay and families to support, have already been given notice that their jobs are forfeit because of this.

I knew from jump street that the Affordable Care Act was a goldmine for Planned Parenthood. It was right there in the language of the bill. I am also absolutely opposed to the HHS Mandate. At the same time, I know that the President is correct when he says the economy is fragile (at best) and that the credit rating of this debtor nation is at stake. Think what happens when your credit card company raises your interest rate and multiply that by the national debt.

I haven’t written about this before now because I am conflicted.

All I know for sure is that I love this country and I believe that the people we have put in office — of both parties — are doing damage to my country. I honestly question if they care about this country or the American people. It appears that the only thing they want to do with the power we have given them is play political games, serve their various special interests and try to hype things in an unending quest for power and dominance over the other political party.

I’m going to let you good people discuss this as thoroughly as you wish. Just be kind to one another in the process. Good people can look at the same situation and come away with different ideas. That is part of our strength, because different ideas lead to better decisions.

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

In this case, the frogs are the American people.

We deserve better than this.

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—After three years of ducking crises with last-minute deals, Congress finally ran out of ways to patch over its differences. Unable to meet a midnight Monday deadline for funding the government, lawmakers allowed it to shut down.

The White House ordered federal agencies to suspend a vast array of activities shortly before midnight, after a day of frantic legislative volleying left Senate Democrats and House Republicans at an impasse over government spending and the 2010 federal health-care law. The next steps to resolve the stalemate remained unclear.

Markets that have slipped recently face a test on Tuesday morning of how they will view the developments, given that a larger deadline for Congress—over the need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit—is less than a month away.

Many federal workers reporting to their agencies Tuesday morning will undertake a half-day of shutdown preparations before more than 800,000 employees in the government’s workforce of about 2.9 million are sent home. While essential functions such as law enforcement and air-traffic control will continue, a large array of federal activities, among them Internal Revenue Service audits and surveillance for flu outbreaks, will be suspended.

Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ


In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.


I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.


American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.


The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

 

Hobby lobby zps8425ff5aI’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond. 

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month. 

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual. 

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate. 

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What has happened to change his mind? 

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War. 

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them. 

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing. 

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear. 

Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

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