Graph: Barack Obama’s Pre-Midterm Slide In Popularity Rivals George W. Bush’s

The Washington Post ran a timeline graph today superimposing the approval rating trends of Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush through their second terms. The graph, supplied to the paper by Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster at Public Opinion Strategies, also includes Barack Obama’s approval rating through the first ten months of his second term.

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What’s interesting is how closely Obama’s approval rating through his second term mirrors that of George W. Bush – a potentially dire sign for Congressional Democrats and State governors seeking office in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

“[I]f you believe that at least some portion of a president’s legacy is built on — or broken by — the state he leaves his party in when he departs office than Obama’s poll standing matters a whole heck of a lot as we get closer and closer to 2014,” writes the Post’s Chris Cillizza.

“The loss of the Senate majority and a smaller minority in the House after November 2014 would make any attempt to rack up second term accomplishments before he left office extremely difficult for Obama. Combine that with the reality that Obama’s second term has not exactly been larded with major wins to date and you understand why Obama and his legacy are on the ballot in 2014 — even if his name is not. And that means his poll numbers matter. A lot.”

Cillizza points out that every midterm election from WWII to 1986 saw the President’s party lose an average of 48 House seats and seven Senate seats during midterm elections, and that the trend has dipped only slightly since then. Add in an unpopular President who appears to be doubling down on an equally unpopular agenda, and the potential for turnover in 2014 is ripe.

News That’s Too Bad To Spin: Obamacare Has Enrolled 3 Percent Of Its Target Customer Base

If you started a company with a fully subsidized startup cost and were granted free publicity months ahead of your product launch that got your product in front of every eligible buyer in the United States, would you be disappointed when your product achieved a 3 percent market share in its first month?

What if the court system had cleared a path for your ambitions to reach monopolistic proportions by giving you permission to dictate to your competitors what they could or couldn’t sell? What if the government set the wind at your back with buyer mandates and a guaranteed market presence in all 50 States?

Even assuming all your startup costs had been paid by a mysterious benefactor and you had no financial skin in the game until the day your widgets hit the market, would you even want to stay in business after you mustered a 3 percent market share? Or would you cut your losses before you incurred any and try your hand at something else?

Government doesn’t have to play by any of the rules that force free markets to be profitable, so it can cruise along indefinitely — or until its financiers grow restless enough to revolt against its policies — by pumping money into a sinking ship.

And according to a Reuters report Monday, that’s the shape of things in the early going for Obamacare, which has managed to enroll only 3 percent of the number of people the Department of Health and Human Services predicted it would. The kicker is that 3 percent is an optimistic figure, one that derived from Obamacare enrollment statistics in the 12 States where online health insurance exchanges are “mostly working smoothly,” according to the report.

HHS expected the State-managed exchanges to enroll 1.4 million people for 2014. They’ve enrolled 49,100 instead. Of course, the enrollment period is ongoing through March 31 of next year. But there’s no universe in which the sign-up rate will accelerate rapidly enough to come anywhere near the 1.4 million target by the time the enrollment period ends.

“Supporters of Obamacare and health insurers fear that scant participation in the private insurance exchanges will prevent them from becoming a sustainable new individual market, including the right mix of young and healthy members to offset coverage for older, sick people,” Reuters observes.

And those are the “supporters.” Far down in the same article, another revealing nugget demonstrates just how doomed the as-implemented configuration of the Affordable Care Act truly is: Part of the paltry 49,100 tally of new Obamacare enrollees includes people who’ve signed up for Medicaid.

And when the Obama Administration finally divulges some numbers on how many people have signed up in all States, as is expected later this week, those numbers – however meager they will appear – will nonetheless be inflated by the White House’s inclusion of anyone who’s put insurance in his or her online shopping cart at Healthcare.gov.

“Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a health plan once they’ve submitted [sic] a payment,” The Washington Post reported Monday. “That is when the carrier sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills.

“When the Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.”

Lest you need some evidence that the Administration is doing everything it can to spit-shine the Obamacare disaster with unsustainably deceitful tactics, check out the latest “glitch” in the online marketplace: About 8,000 would-be shoppers at the Washington State Obamacare website were informed they would qualify for a healthcare subsidy on their tax returns.

But after following through with their Obamacare purchase, those same customers were informed the prices they’d been quoted were too low and that they don’t, in fact, qualify for the generous subsidies and low prices on which they made the decision to buy the coverage in the first place.

“That led many enrollees in the Washington exchange to select generous insurance plans they likely won’t be able to afford once their subsidies are reduced,” reports The Hill. “Those 8,000 individuals likely will need to go through the entire application process again to see what plans at what prices they qualify for under the correct tax subsidy.”

Student Borrowing Increases More Than Fourfold Under Obama

A recent report shows the total debt load borne by borrowers of Federal student loans has increased 463 percent since President Barack Obama began his first term. And it grew at a rate that outpaced student borrowing in the George W. Bush era by more than 500 percent.

CNS News, which crunched the numbers last week, reported that the current balance of outstanding student debt has reached $674.6 billion, compared with $119.8 billion in January 2009, at the start of Obama’s first term.

The dramatic jump isn’t simply coincidental with Obama’s Presidency; it’s a result of it. As CNS observes:

Direct federal student loan spending began to rise rapidly in fiscal year 2010, when the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act — one of the two laws that make up Obamacare — gave gave the federal government complete control over federal loans for education, the Direct Student Loan (DL) program.  This aspect of HCERA became effective July 1, 2010, when the amount of outstanding loans stood at $178,806,000,000. Since then, the balance has increased by 277 percent.

As private lenders have bowed out of the student loan market, thanks to an absence of profit motive as government continues to keep interest rates artificially low, the government itself has begun to play an increasingly prominent role as a primary lender.

And the government doesn’t hold borrowers to the same repayment standards that banks do.

“The problem is further complicated by Obama’s willingness to use debt forgiveness programs to absolve certain students of their obligations,” writes The Daily Caller’s Robby Soave. “The president has frequently championed and expanded such programs, which allow graduates to unload their debt burdens if they work for certain government agencies for lengthy periods of time.”

It’s just one more example of the Obama Administration’s push to expand the welfare state in a calculated effort to capture a greater swath of the broad American middle class.

No Duh, Feinstein! Dem Senator Breaks With Obama To Back ‘Keep Your Coverage’ Bill

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is breaking rank with the Obama Administration by throwing her support behind a bill that would require insurers to continue offering coverage to current customers who are happy with their existing health plans.

Feinstein said today she’s co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) because, well, it forces the Obama Administration to honor the President’s infamous –and broken – promise that, under Obamacare, people could keep their coverage if they liked it.

“This bill provides a simple fix to a complex problem,” Feinstein said Tuesday in a statement supporting the measure, which would require insurers to honor their current policies “indefinitely.”

Here’s the full text of that statement (H/T: San Francisco Chronicle):

I have decided to cosponsor Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) legislation: Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act. This bill provides a simple fix to a complex problem. This bill will extend the grandfather date for individual insurance plans so that individuals who have insurance policies they like can keep them indefinitely, unless the individual chooses another plan or the insurer stops providing health insurance in the individual market.

Specifically, the bill requires the following:

· Insurance companies must continue to offer—indefinitely—all currently existing insurance plans as of December 31, 2013, on the individual market;

· Future renewal notices must clearly inform customers they have the choice to keep their current plan or shop for insurance in a health exchange, such as Covered California; and

· Insurance companies must clearly state why the plan does not meet new minimum benefit standards.

Since the beginning of September, I have received 30,842 calls, emails and letters from Californians, many of whom are very distressed by cancellations of their insurance policies and who are facing increased out-of-pocket costs.

For example, a father from Rancho Mirage called and said: ‘I work three jobs to pay the bills for my wife and daughter. I got a letter that my plan is going from $420 to $943. I went to HealthCare.Gov, then Covered California. I researched my premiums. A policy almost identical to my old one is being offered for $863. I’m now being forced to come up with over $400 a month with 30 days’ notice. Let me spell it out: I do not have the income to afford this.’

Too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. We must ensure that in our effort to reform the health care system, we do not allow unintended consequences to go unaddressed.

I believe consumers should be allowed to choose their plans, and they should be adequately informed about those choices. Consumers must be told what their coverage does and does not include so families don’t find themselves paying for an insurance policy they believe is comprehensive when in fact it is not.

The Affordable Care Act is a good law, but it is not perfect. I believe the Landrieu bill is a commonsense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market from being forced to change their insurance plan. I hope Congress moves quickly to enact it.

Obama Has Lost America On Immigration Reform

A Pew survey released Friday shows Americans are increasingly frustrated not only by President Barack Obama’s overall performance, but by his handling of almost every matter of policy that has confronted his Administration throughout the ineffectual, scandal-plagued first year of his second term.

Surprisingly, few Americans are fans of Obama’s stance on immigration reform.

According to Pew:

Only about a third of the public (32%) approves of the job Obama is doing on immigration policy; 60% disapprove. Obama’s ratings for this issue among Democrats are mixed: About half (53%) approve of his handling of the issue while 42% disapprove.

Interpreting the reason for that kind of lopsided disapproval among all Americans, as well as for the lack of clear consensus among Obama’s Democratic supporters, is a murky exercise. It’s possible that some who are dissatisfied think Obama’s not being progressive enough; that he shouldn’t wait for Congress to open a path to amnesty when the President could just bypass the rule of law by issuing an executive order.

But the fact that Democrats aren’t closing ranks with Obama suggests an alternate explanation: people don’t like what Obama and the Congressional Gang of Eight are selling.

Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle made exactly that point over the weekend, writing that “Obama’s immigration disapproval rating has skyrocketed as he has ramped up his efforts to lobby Congress for the passage of an amnesty — particularly the Senate’s ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill.”

Boyle continues:

As the American people have learned more and more about the Gang of Eight bill and the effects which amnesty and a drastic influx of millions of new workers would have on the hurting economy, they have grown more and more outraged with what Washington, D.C., is doing regarding immigration reform. In February — before Obama and lawmakers like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and DIck Durbin (D-ll.L) began their push for immigration reform — the President’s immigration policy approval rating among the American people, according to Pew, was higher than his disapproval rating. His approval rating on immigration then was 44 percent, whereas his disapproval rating was 43 percent.

Over the next several months, the Obama administration worked with the Senate Democrats and a handful of Senate Republicans to develop the more-than-thousand-page-long Gang of Eight bill. The administration helped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rush the bill to the floor with hardly any substantive review from members, staffers, the media, and the American people.

In mid-June, before the Senate bill passed and as its ultimate passage became questionable, Obama’s Pew Research disapproval rating on immigration spiked up to 47 percent, and his approval rating on the issue dropped to 43 percent.

That’s a big swing in public opinion over a brief period of time. But it mimics the President’s freefall in most other policy arenas.

“The new survey finds that majorities disapprove of the way Obama is handling four of five issues tested, with terrorism the lone exception (51% approve, 44% disapprove),” the Pew study observes. “For every issue, including terrorism, his ratings are lower than they were earlier this year.”

Indeed. George Will riffed on the Pew study Sunday on Fox News, saying Obama’s fifth year in office – highlighted by the poor reception Americans have given the launch of the Affordable Care Act – is more disastrous than any other President’s except for Richard Nixon.

“Well, it is one thing for Bill Clinton to say ‘I feel your pain.’ It is another thing for Barack Obama to say ‘I feel your pain that I have caused,’” said Will. “And for him to say it was caused by a situation – that’s the word he used in the operative sentence – we, this week, marked the one-year anniversary of his reelection.

“Has there ever, with the exception of Richard Nixon in 1973, been a worst first year of a second term?”

 

Government Redistributed $2 Trillion From Upper Income Classes To Poorest In 2012

A new report from The Tax Foundation shows that the Federal government redistributed more than $2 trillion in income from the Nation’s highest earners in 2012 to the bottom 60 percent of income earners.

The extensive study, released Nov. 8, reveals that low-income Americans receive $5.28 in government spending for every dollar they pay in taxes, while high-income families receive $.25 for every dollar they pay. The shrinking middle class shows signs of sliding toward the lower-income bracket, with middle-class income earners receiving $1.48 back for every tax dollar they pay to the government.

The study targets the effectiveness of government schemes, taken as a whole, to shore up the needs of lower-income Americans by seizing and reallocating the wealth earned by top earners.

“While the distribution of the tax burden is a frequent topic of debate — especially in Washington, D.C. — there is little attention given to the distribution of spending programs,” the authors explain. “And rarely has there been any attempt to analyze the totality of tax and spending programs across all levels of government. This study seeks to fill this void by analyzing the distribution of both taxes and government spending at both the federal and state and local levels.”

Here are more of the report’s key findings:

  • As a group, the bottom 60 percent of American families receive more back in total government spending than they pay in total taxes.
  • Government tax and spending policies combine to redistribute more than $2 trillion from the top 40 percent of families to the bottom 60 percent.
  • The total amount of redistribution has increased slightly over the past 12 years. Middle-income and working lower-income families were the biggest beneficiaries.
  • Lawmakers can remove equity as an issue in tax reform by matching any loss in progressivity on the tax side with an equal increase in progressivity on the spending side.

As noted above, there’s an increasing tendency on the part of government to include more middle-class Americans in the entitlement culture – a tendency The Tax Foundation says is deleterious to the Nation’s economic backbone.

“Interestingly, we find that the biggest net beneficiaries of this increase in redistribution from 2000-2012 are middle-income families and working lower-income families (those in the second quintile). These were the families most targeted by economic stimulus programs and more generous tax credits,” the authors note.

“…These findings have particular relevance to the current tax reform debate because distributional issues are one of the key sticking points to reform proposals that would cut marginal tax rates while broadening the tax base. But tax progressivity is only half the picture, because progressivity can be achieved through both taxes and spending. Thus, if moving to a flatter, more economically neutral tax code reduces progressivity in the tax code, overall progressivity of the fiscal system can be maintained with slight adjustments to federal spending.”

In other words, a flat tax would be more equitable for all Americans, regardless of their income, and would negate much of the tax inequity that serves as pretense for the government to its base of financially-dependent citizens.

Salon Chooses Veterans Day To Publish Hit Piece On Culture Of Easy Patriotism

Grandpa’s funeral isn’t the best time for someone to point out his secret drinking problem to family and friends.

Similarly, Veterans Day isn’t the best time to publish a screed against the sometimes-well-meaning, sometimes-facile culture of loosely-defined patriotism that permeates American media and feeds public opinion about what our enlisted men and women do, without question, on behalf of all Americans.

But Salon’s Justin Doolittle went ahead and did just that today, serving up a rant against corporatist professional sports leagues that recruit high-profile athletes and events for their crowd-pleasing, patriotic agenda.

Some of Doolittle’s arguments make fine points, taken out of context. “Freedom has become one of those politically charged terms that means whatever people need it to mean,” he writes.

Hard to argue with that.

But that’s immediately followed by this:

The “freedoms” most Americans think of when they hear the term are enshrined in constitutional and statutory law. They are in no way dependent on the size, scope or even the existence of the U.S. military.

As a Platonic ideal, sure: freedom exists independently. But for people to live free – that takes fight.

The majority of Americans are privileged to live as civilians, removed from the real implications of what happens when someone wants to take by force that which others possess. That’s a testament to the global appeal of the American dream, and to the efficacy of that dream for those of us fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America.

Statutory law enshrines nothing when the rule of law cannot be secured through the defense of the people who live under the law. The Constitution is itself only as vital as our Nation’s will and ability to preserve its sanctity for the people who’ve inherited its promise of opportunity and freedom. The sad and frightening threats to our Constitution that emanate, increasingly, from the seat of American power demonstrate how insidious a thing it is to confuse the perception of freedom with the real thing.

People who have served their time in the military aren’t perfect; they’re flawed human beings like everyone else. Many of them live with flaws that stem directly from the emotional, intellectual and physical scars they sustained during their time in service.

What powerful men are doing to our Nation – and to our military – is troubling. But today is not the day. Ideology aside, today is not the day to take on companies that send out feel-good signals in support of our fighting forces – even if those companies’ motives have more to do with dollars than with patriotism.

Veterans are not the target today. Veterans Day is a time to say something nice; to do something nice as an honoring acknowledgement of those who’ve fought in the U.S. military.

If you don’t have something nice to say; if, in fact, you have something pretty nasty to say about the military; about patriotism; about the rah-rah culture that stands up for our troops, go ahead and say it.

Just say it tomorrow. The spotlight isn’t yours today. It’s a cheap move to try and steal it on the very day when no one should be looking in your direction.

High Obamacare Traffic Causing Crashes? Not So Much: Only 18 Percent Of Uninsured Have Visited Healthcare.gov

Gallup reported Friday that only 18 percent of all Americans without insurance have even visited Healthcare.gov — the Federal Obamacare website — or any of the State-run websites that sell Obamacare coverage. And even among those uninsured who express interest in buying health insurance soon, only 22 percent report they’ve yet taken a peek at an Obamacare insurance exchange website.

That news stands at odds with early claims by the Administration of President Barack Obama that the Healthcare.gov site crashed early and often because of tremendous consumer demand to find out more about what the site is selling.

From Gallup:

The health exchange websites are not only fraught with the technical problems that have led to so much news coverage in recent weeks, but have also generated relatively little interest or use among uninsured Americans — the primary target group for the exchanges. The majority of uninsured Americans are unfamiliar with the exchanges and relatively few have tried to access them to date, even among those who say that eventually, they will most likely get their insurance through an exchange website.

Fewer than a quarter of all uninsured Americans have so far even attempted to visit an insurance exchange site, according to a new Gallup poll.

That throws an enormous wrench into the workings of Obama’s argument that the Affordable Care Act is designed chiefly to benefit those Americans who have grown accustomed to living without heathcare coverage. The uninsured, after all, are supposed to be Obamacare’s core beneficiaries.

“These results undermine the Obama administration’s confidence in Obamacare to reach its target audience,” writes Lara Seligman on The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog. “The exchange sites are not only fraught with technical problems that have led to long wait times and error messages for users, but have also failed to generate interest among uninsured Americans.”

In the days following the rollout, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blamed the website’s crash problems on pent-up consumer demand, describing the supposed door-busting rush to buy insurance “sort of a great problem to have.”

Last week, the House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed that the extent of the demand required to crash the site, on the day it launched, was only 1,100 visitors at a time.

 

Berkeley Bans Use Of ‘Illegal Immigrant’

The student government at the University of California at Berkeley student government has banned the term “illegal immigrant,” citing its implicit racism and negative cultural  associations.

Considered one of the Nation’s top public universities, a place of free intellectual discourse where boundless freedom exists for ideas to flourish or die on their own merits, Berkeley’s student government nonetheless will not officially countenance use of “the I-word” in academic writing or in communications between faculty, students and staff.

The university is the second California school to ban “illegal immigrant” this year; the University of California at Los Angeles student government passed a similar resolution over the summer.

Berkeley’s student government voted 18-0 to ban the term, with one student senator abstaining because he felt the resolution was toothless and unenforceable, and that supporters of the measure on campus had not afforded its opponents the respect they themselves were demanding.

According to The College Fix, which obtained minutes of the SGA meeting, the resolution “stated the word ‘illegal’ is ‘racially charged,’ ‘dehumanizes’ people, and contributes to ‘punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color.’ The ‘I’ word is legally inaccurate since being out of status is a civil rather than criminal infraction,” the resolution also states.

Show, Don’t Tell: Obama Uses Words, Not Action, To Say He’s Sorry For Obamacare

If President Barack Obama were “sorry” for lying to everybody about his healthcare law’s destructive effect on existing insurance policies – the policies he pledged everyone could keep if they liked – he wouldn’t be getting on TV with Chuck Todd to say “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”

He wouldn’t chase a heartfelt mea culpa with an increasingly feeble self-acquittal of how great his plan really will be, one day, when people finally realize he knew what was best for them at a dark time, when everyone lacked faith that there was room for equivocation and nuance in his oft-repeated words: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away from you, no matter what.”

He’d be going to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), urging the Democratic leadership in Congress to modify or repeal the law. He’d call Attorney General Eric Holder off a defense of Obamacare in a legal challenge from Oklahoma’s attorney general. He’d reach out to Congressional Republicans attempting to ameliorate the effect of millions of Americans’ policy cancelations by urging bipartisan support for the Keep Your Health Plan Act, which aims to keep current policies active – if only for another year.

Action, not words.

Here’s a great piece from Time magazine’s “Swampland” blog on Obama’s talking-point reversals as the President has cast about for a defensible Obamacare narrative in the wake of his favorite law’s disastrous launch.

At this point, it almost seems as though Obama isn’t interested in salvaging anything about Obamacare itself. Rather, he seems to be trying to salvage his credibility and the damage he’s done to Democrats, who are staring down a mob of angry constituents as 2014 approaches.