Federal Government Pays Dead Workers

The Administration of Barack Obama has ordered the creation of a government-wide “do not pay” database in light of reports that the Federal government makes more than $120 million in payments each year to people who are dead.

According to The Washington Post, over the past five years, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has made between $100 million and $150 million in payments to the annuities of dead Federal employees. The number of improper payments made has increased 70 percent in the past five years, the article said.

Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland attributes the mistake to the OPM’s failure to track individuals who are attempting to cheat the system by continuing to collect benefits after a family member’s death.

The OPM is reportedly attempting to stop and recoup payments in several ways, including conducting weekly and annual matches of its data against the Social Security Administration’s death records and occasionally checking records for annuitants 90 years and older to determine whether they are still alive.

In total the Federal government mistakenly paid out about $125 billion in fiscal 2010 as unemployment insurance and Medicaid payments increased. Agencies reportedly recovered about $687 million mistakenly paid to delinquent government contractors and beneficiaries.


GOP Candidates Answer Questions From The Public

Beyond Texas Governor Rick Perry’s stumbles when he tried to pin the image of a flip-flopper on Mitt Romney and called into the question the motives of anyone who opposes subsidies for illegal aliens, Thursday’s GOP Presidential debate did little to shake up the field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

Questions for the Fox News/Google 2012 GOP Presidential Candidate debate on Thursday were submitted by ordinary citizens via YouTube and then narrowed down by Internet voters, thereby giving synopsis of what real people care to know about the candidates.

The first question — how can it be made easier for small businesses to operate — gave Perry and Romney the opportunity to walk through their now-familiar rhetorical fencing match. Perry answered with his standard “just look at what I’ve done in Texas” approach and Romney mentioned that he has had a real job and has created a jobs plan.

Perry and Romney also clashed over things they had written in recently-released books and whether they were backing away from them. But Perry’s fumbled when he tried to point out issues Romney has flipped on.

“I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with,” Perry said. “Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of…against…the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment…was it was…before he was before these social programs, uh, from the standpoint he was standing, uh, for Roe vs. Wade before he was against Roe, uh, Roe vs. Wade…uh…he was…uh for Race To The Top…

“Uh…[pause]…he’s for Obamacare and now he’s against it…I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and, and, and wait to see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to…”

Not until about 17 minutes into the debate was the question asked that co-anchor Chris Wallace of Fox said got the most votes by an overwhelming margin.It was directed to Congressman Ron Paul from Brandy and Michael in Spencer, Ind., and concerned the growing scope of the Federal government.

Paul said “By vetoing every single bill that violates the 10th amendment.”

Wallace told Paul he had a little more time to expand.

“Well, I’ll tell you what, that is the subject that is crucial because government is too big in Washington, D.C. It’s run away. We have no controls of spending, taxes, regulations, no control in the Federal Reserve printing money,” said Paul. “So if we want government, whether it is medical care or whatever, it is proper to do it at the local level as well as our schools. But there’s no authority in the Constitution to do so much what we’re doing. There’s no authority for them to run our schools, no authority to control our economy, and no authority to control us as individuals on what we do with our personal lives.”

The issue of border security brought heated discussion between Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Perry contended that his plan of putting “boots on the ground” in his State has helped to alleviate the immigration problem, despite criticism from other candidates that he is soft on illegal aliens.

“I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn’t want to build a fence — he gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about, bi-national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for bi-national health insurance,” Santorum said.

All of the GOP candidates expressed a need to cut Federal ties in dealing with education. The idea of school choice and options of Federal money for charter schools and a non-public option seemed to be a unifying theme among the candidates on the issue.

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who has been a favorite among many Tea Party supporters, got little airtime during the debate. When she did, she focused heavily on issues of smaller government.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received acclaim from his colleagues on stage when a question asking who on the stage would make a good vice presidential nominee was delivered. Perry answered that he would like to “mate” Cain and Gingrich to create the ideal Vice President.

New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was included for the first time in a 2012 GOP debate on Thursday, and the Libertarian candidate took a stab at Barack Obama’s job creation efforts with the best line of the night.

“My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current Administration,” he said, followed by laughter from other candidates and the audience. “Balance the Federal budget now, not 15 years from now, not 20 years from now, but now. And throw out the entire Federal tax system, replace it with a fair tax, a consumption tax, that by all measurements is just that. It’s fair. It does away with corporate income tax. If that doesn’t create tens of millions of jobs in this country, I don’t know what does.”


Senate Rejects Stopgap Spending Bill

The stopgap spending bill that passed in the House early Friday morning failed in the Senate.

The GOP-authored funding measure was defeated in the Senate 59-36 because of a measure in the bill that takes disaster funding from green energy programs.

“With FEMA expected to run out of disaster funding as soon as Monday, the only path to getting assistance into the hands of American families immediately is for the Senate to approve the House bill,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said trying to convince the Senate to pass the measure, according to The Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said earlier that the GOP plan is “not an honest effort at compromise.” Reid blasted Republicans for “holding out on Americans who have suffered devastating losses.”

The standoff and threat of government shutdown if a temporary spending measure is not passed will likely have a negative impact on the economy as investors become nervous about government stability.

Stopgap Spending Bill Passed

A 219-203 vote, just after midnight Friday, pushed a new spending bill through the U.S. House of Representatives that allows the Federal government to operate past Sept. 30.

The bill has remained controversial over the past several weeks as embattled House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took flak from both sides of the aisle while attempting to get it passed. House Democrats were leery of new Republican measures in the bill pairing $3.65 billion in funding for disaster relief with a $1.5 billion spending cut to the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, which offers loans to car manufacturers to encourage the production of energy-efficient cars.

Among many Republicans, the concern has been the level of domestic spending agreed to in August — and reflected in the bill — which is more than the GOP’s budget resolution had allowed for the coming year. Boehner was able to convince all but 24 Republicans. A closed-door party meeting Thursday afternoon was described as a “call to arms” and bid to bring “the team” back together, according to POLITICO.

The difficulty passing the recent bill is representative of deep divisions in the House over how lawmakers should continue to fund Federal programs while the government is broke. Stopgap spending bills are necessary because the House and Senate have stalemated over how to fund government through the whole year. Without the short-term measures to buy time for further negotiations, the government will shut down at month’s end.

Democrats See Losses In Their Future

Many House Democrats expect a glum future for their party leading in to the 2012 election season.

According to POLITICO, interviews with dozens of House members of both parties have revealed a shift from Democratic optimism last spring to a grim dismay at the challenges facing Democrats in 2012.

“We never said winning the House would be easy. It’s hard, tough work and it should be; the stakes for the American people are high,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider told POLITICO. “[DCCC chairman Steve] Israel promised the caucus one thing — the House would be in play. And the House is in play far earlier than anyone expected it to be because of Republicans’ vote to end Medicare, their lack of focus creating jobs, their obstructionism and their hyperpartisanship. The DCCC is working 24/7 recruiting excellent candidates and helping them and our members build top-notch campaigns. This work will pay off in November 2012.”

According to the article, Democrats need to net 25 seats to take the Speaker’s gavel from John Boehner, but a gain of that many seats has occurred just six times in the past 20 election cycles — and just once in a Presidential election year.

The party is hopeful that Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seems to give many independents a skin-crawling feeling, will get the GOP nomination to tip the scales back in their favor.

“If they nominate someone [for president] who’s off the edge, doesn’t believe in global warming, doesn’t believe in evolution, doesn’t believe in Social Security, they’ll be in big trouble,” said former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Martin Frost. “If they nominate Mitt Romney, things will be a lot tougher.”

Even if the GOP picks a hard-to-run candidate, redistricting following the 2010 election cycle has given the party a competitive edge when it comes to 2012 House elections, the article says.



Australian Study: Smiling As Powerful As Antipsychotics

An Australian study has found that laughter may be the best medicine for patients suffering from dementia.

The SMILE study, conducted in 36 Australian residential aged-care facilities, used staff members acting as “Laughter Bosses” who worked with humor practitioners with comedic and improvisation skills — not unlike “Clown Doctors” used in hospitals to aid recovery and lift mood in children. The teams worked with residents suffering from a number of dementia-related ailments and found that laughter may be just as effective as mood-enhancing drugs in relieving patient agitation.

The idea for the study came from Jean-Paul Bell and Dr. Peter Spitzer, co-founders of the Australia-based Humor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides clown doctors as humor therapy for sick children.

According to the study, between 70 and 80 percent of dementia patients suffer from troubling agitation that hinders caregiver efforts, often leading to unmet patient needs. Traditionally, patients are treated with antipsychotic prescription drugs, which cause thousands of deaths and strokes each year. The study found that, through humor therapy, agitation dropped by about 20 percent among patients, comparable to results achieved through pharmaceutical treatment.

Agitation decreased not only during the 12-week humor-therapy program, but remained lower at a 26 week follow-up. Happiness and positive behavior rose over the 12 weeks of the program, but dropped as soon as humor practitioner visits ceased.

Big Brother In The Passenger Seat

If your vehicle is equipped with OnStar, Big Brother may be watching you while you’re traveling down the highway per new terms in the company’s agreement with General Motors drivers.

Before the change, the terms and conditions said that OnStar could collect information on vehicle location only during a theft recovery or in the midst of sending emergency services to a driver. Now, the company says that it has the right to collect and sell personal, yet supposedly anonymous, information on vehicles, including speed, location, seat belt usage and other information. This information will be sought by law enforcement agencies and insurance companies.

Those who believe that simply canceling the service protects them from OnStar spying are incorrect, as the company claims the right to keep connections for data collection open unless it is specifically asked to shut them down.

OnStar is a subsidiary of the General Motors Corporation, the vehicle manufacturer that received nearly $10 billion in Federal money via a bailout.


Lost Generation Of Obama

Despite the fact that American youths turned out in record numbers for the 2008 Presidential election seeking “hope” and “change” and the promise of a brighter future, the latest reports from the Census show that young people in the country are now the most disenfranchised by the current state of affairs.

According to The Associated Press, American youths, in record numbers, are opting to live with their parents, delaying marriage, buying fewer homes and often raising children out of wedlock.

Census data released Thursday shows the impact of a recession that “officially” ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.

Nationally, employment among young adults ages 16 to 29 stood at 55.3 percent, down from 67.3 percent in 2000 and the lowest since the 1940s. Young males who lacked a college degree were most likely to lose jobs due to reduced demand for blue-collar jobs in construction, manufacturing and transportation during the slump. Among teens, employment was less than 30 percent. The employment-to-population ratio for all age groups from 2007 to 2010 dropped faster than for any similar period since the government began tracking the data.

Lackluster performance in the President’s promise for a bright future has shown in polls as American youths — once excited about a young, minority President — have become more cynical about the political landscape before them.  A Gallup poll released earlier this month showed Obama’s support among adults ages 18 to 29 went from 59 percent to approval to 46 percent.

“The group that just graduated from college – who were in college for the first campaign – they have a little bit more cynical look because they remember why they voted for him,” Dr. Adam Chamberlain, assistant professor of politics at Coastal Carolina University told The College Fix. “They were stimulated by his campaign ideas of change and wanting to see a new type of government arise from this, and that didn’t happen, of course.”


American Hikers Released From Iranian Prison

Two American hikers who have been held in Iranian prison for more than two years were each released on $500,000 bail ($1 million total) Wednesday, according to reports.

The release ends a standoff between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his rivals in the country’s judicial system. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested after crossing an unmarked Iranian border two years ago. They were sentenced last month to eight years imprisonment in the country.

Ahmadinejad announced plans to release Bauer and Fattal last week, just ahead of his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly in New York. One judge had signed the paperwork Saturday, but Ahmadinejad left for that meeting in New York on Monday with the two Americans still behind bars, according to ABC NEWS.

The release followed a power struggle in Iran since Ahmadinejad’s announcement of a fast release. Iran’s judiciary, which is directly controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reminded the public that only the courts have the power to control the release’s timing.

Bauer and Fattal were released to Swiss and Oman officials, who also handled arranging the payments of the bail because of the United States’ economic sanctions on Iran.

Justice Department Gets Royal Treatment At Conferences

An audit at the Justice Department unveiled more than $121 million in wasteful spending on conferences in 2008 and 2009, including $4,200 muffin purchases and $8.24 cups of coffee.

Recently implemented rules require the Department to investigate incidences of wasteful spending at taxpayer expense. A report released on Tuesday outlines some of the department’s most wasteful expenditures.

The report concludes that the government body made no “reasonable” attempt to avoid wasting taxpayer dollars:

This is because the OJP(Office of Justice Programs) Financial Guide circularly defines “reasonable” prices as the prices that would have been incurred under the circumstances at the time the cost was incurred by a prudent person. As shown by the high cost of individual meals and refreshments incurred by the OJP and OVW (Office on Violence Against Women) events reviewed – $47 and $76 lunches and $8 cups of coffee – we do not believe that event planners took the steps necessary to minimize meal and refreshment costs.

The report also said that while the Justice Department spent more than $600,000 to pay event planners, no real evidence existed that it conducted cost benefit analysis when picking meeting places for conferences.

The statement says:

Another justification offered for food and beverages at conferences is that hotels sometimes agree to waive meeting space rental fees provided that DOJ purchase a minimum amount of food and beverages for the event. For the reviewed conferences, this minimum amount ranged from between $25,000 and $50,000; however, conference planners spent much more on food and beverages than what would have been required for free space…Although free meeting space may provide an opportunity to save money, no component or event planner reviewed assessed whether the cost of meals and refreshments was less than the cost that meeting space would have been had it not been provided by the hotels for free. Without a cost-benefit analysis that compares the value of free meeting space to the cost of meals and refreshments, we could not determine whether conference costs were reduced by a component or event planner ordering a set amount of food and beverages and receiving meeting space at no cost.

As public outrage begins following the release, many politicians have also voiced concerns over massive bureaucratic spending. According to CNN, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — a longtime advocate of reducing the reach of bureaucratic agencies — released a statement following the report denouncing the agency’s extreme waste.

“Sixteen-dollar muffins and $600,000 for event planning services are what make Americans cynical about government and why they are demanding change. The Justice Department appears to be blind to the economic realities our country is facing. People are outraged, and rightly so,” he said.

Fed Institutes “Operation Twist”

The Federal Reserve has reached back to the 1960’s trying to implement a policy that will lower interest rates to spark economic growth.

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee voted 7-3 Wednesday to embark on what’s informally called “Operation Twist,” taking the unusual step of shifting $400 billion into longer-term bonds, according to POLITICO.

The Fed issued a statement outlining its intentions:

The Committee intends to purchase, by the end of June 2012, $400 billion of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 6 years to 30 years and to sell an equal amount of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 3 years or less. This program should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and help make broader financial conditions more accommodative. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate.

According to reports, the Fed has taken it upon itself to fix the economy because of running stalemates between the Administration of Barack Obama and Congress. Many lawmakers believe the latest action is very risky, saying that further intervention by the Fed will erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers.




Gays In Military May Now Admit Sexual Preference

Tuesday marked an official end to the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, opening a new era in which gays are allowed to openly serve in the military.

“Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love,” said President Barack Obama in a speech. “As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.”

The President said he was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because he believes that it will enhance national security and increase military readiness.

“Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them,” said Obama.

Former service members separated from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” based solely on their sexual orientation will be eligible to reapply to return to military service. Gen. Gary S. Patton, chief of staff for the Pentagon’s repeal implementation team, said their applications will be evaluated using the same standards as all other candidates, and decisions will be based on needs of the service.

The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains that nothing will change now that the policy has been officially repealed except that homosexuals may now freely admit sexual preference without fear of discharge.

Oversight Committee To Investigate Crony Capitalism

In light of controversy surrounding White House involvement with failed energy company Solyndra and wireless start-up LightSquared, Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said on Tuesday that his committee plans to investigate government loan programs to private corporations.

“I want to see when the president and his cronies are picking winners and losers… it wasn’t because there were large contributions given to them,” the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Tuesday morning on C-SPAN.

Issa, the GOP’s self-proclaimed “chief watchdog” said that the committee plans to seek answers to questions like how a company that requires Federal subsidies can still afford to make large contributions to political campaigns. The government has provided hundreds of loans to companies in the tech, green energy and automotive industries.

Issa is also poised to investigate LightSquared, a wireless company, amid allegations that the White House pressured an Air Force general to revise testimony before a closed congressional hearing to aid the company after information surfaced demonstrating interference between the company’s products and military GPS. Emails between the company and the White House show a close relationship between LightSquared’s CEO Sanjiv Ahuja and top level Democrats. Administration officials met with executives from the company on the same day that the CEO wrote a $30,400 check to the Democratic National Committee.

Issa said that the reason crony capitalism is dangerous is that politicians pick businesses as “winners” for ideological reasons or simply because the companies supports them politically, and disregard any true market indicators that will be the true measures of success.

Howard Dean Goes Against Dems On Obamacare

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean swam against the current of his party and backed a McKinsey & Co. survey that said Obamacare will cause a third of private businesses to drop their employee health coverage.

Dean told MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “The fact is it is very good for small business. There was a McKinsey study, which the Democrats don’t like, but I do, and I think it’s true. Most small businesses are not going to be in the health insurance business anymore after this thing goes into effect.”

Democrats have discredited this study, mainly because it goes against Obama’s assertions that most Americans who don’t want to change healthcare providers won’t have to, but businesses dropping coverage will force most employees to do just that.

The President also said his health proposals will not add “one penny” to the deficit, but the figures in the study that Dean supports suggest that 30 percent of employers — not the government’s original figure of just 7 percent — would drop private coverage as a result of Obamacare. Doing so will result in an overall price increase of roughly $1 trillion for Obamacare, a definite addition to deficit spending.

Protesters Occupy Wall Street

About 1,000 people gathered on Wall Street Saturday afternoon to protest bank bailouts and corporate favoritism, according to the International Business Times.

By Sunday, between 300 and 400 people hung around Chase Manhattan Plaza for a protest dubbed “#OccupyWallStreet.” An additional group of people marched uptown on Broadway with signs reading “end corporate welfare” and “we are too big to fail” and others denouncing capitalism.

The protest was originally organized by Adbusters magazine as a call to end political favoritism for bankers and corporations; it was referred to by organizers as a “Tahrir Square moment for America.”

Organizers characterized the event as follows:

The group is mainly young, with a tendency toward black T-shirts, bicycles, and hand-rolled cigarettes. A few have accents from Spain and Greece, through which they share stories from this year’s uprisings in those countries. They vary in their levels of experience with the modified-consensus process that the Assembly employs—together with its concomitant courtesies, no-nos, and hand signals. There are those who have never done anything like this before, and then those who are coming freshly-inspired and well-rehearsed from taking part in the three-week Bloombergville encampment earlier in the summer. There’s a contingent from the LaRouchePAC, and there’s a big, bearded man in the back who, against the wishes of some, keeps snapping photos. A police car cruises by from time to time, but it doesn’t stop. Their stories are ordinary, but in a charmed sort of way. One regular at the Assembly moved to New York from North Dakota on a whim, and without a job, a few months ago after finishing a master’s degree and breaking up with his girlfriend; almost immediately he found out about September 17 and has been working on the Arts & Culture Committee full-time. Another is a filmmaker who has just been in Egypt interviewing the leaders of the Tahrir Square protests. Yet another is a Vietnam vet from Staten Island with a sagely smile. Still others drift by through the park, stop to listen, and then keep walking, or stay.

Many young people were involved in the protest. While it did not reach the height of protests recently witnessed in Europe, it has raised concerns that the current economic crises in the U.S. could spark such violence.






Obama Vows Tax Increases On High Earners

President Barack Obama on Monday spoke at the White House Rose Garden about his proposal to cut the Federal deficit and pay for his American Jobs Act.

Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka supercommittee, has until Thanksgiving to produce a plan to cut deficits over the next 10 years by at least $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion. The White House and standing Congressional committees have until Oct. 14 to make recommendations to that panel. The President’s announcement Monday was the first part of that process.

Obama claimed that his plan will cut $2 in spending for every dollar spent by reducing military spending, government waste and reforming tax laws. The Administration claims that the plan pays for the President’s jobs bill and produces savings of more than $3 trillion over the next decade, on top of the roughly $1 trillion in spending cuts signed into law in the Budget Control Act – for a total savings of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. The Administration says that the plan will reign in deficit spending by 2017.

Obama again asked Congress to pass his bill immediately, saying that it includes ideas from both sides of the political spectrum.

“There shouldn’t be any reason for Congress to drag its feet, they should pass it right away,” the President said.

Obama denied that his tax proposal was class warfare, saying it was simply fair for those who have done well to pay their “fair share.” The President called on the supercommittee to undertake comprehensive tax reform, and laid out five principles for it to follow: lower tax rates, cut wasteful loopholes and tax breaks, reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion, boost job creation and growth, and follow the “Buffett Rule” that people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay. The plan also calls for an end to 2001 and 2003 tax breaks for top earners and fewer deductions for those making more than $250,000.

Obama also said that he not allow Medicare to be touched as a means by which to reduce the deficit without first making sure that wealthy Americans have “paid their fair share.”

Romneycare Put Massachusetts Economy In Critical Condition

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston has released a report that shows former Governor Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare reform bill has had ill effects on employment.

Romney signed the Massachusetts healthcare reform law titled An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care. Romney claimed the law would not only expand coverage to all Massachusetts residents but would also reduce healthcare costs. The law was  used as the blueprint for President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Beacon Hill study finds that the unintended consequences include devastating already cash-strapped employers in the State.

The study said:

…supporters of the Massachusetts reform plan argued that it would enable all residents to obtain high quality health insurance, ease the financial burden on hospitals for providing care to the uninsured, lower the cost of health insurance and eliminate ‘job‐lock’ by providing portability of insurance through the Connector [government approved insurance provider]. A key concept that proponents used to generate support was that of ‘shared responsibility.’ To be effective, said supporters of the new law, any health care reform proposal requires individuals and families, employers and government to share the burden of expanding coverage. As this study will show, this view of ‘shared responsibility’ has economic consequences.

The institute concedes that “shared responsibility” — which essentially equates to more regulators, more regulation and burdensome mandates on all — has caused many employers to move to other States and dissuaded potential new employers from considering the State as a place to operate.

The study said:

The state economy created 18,313 fewer jobs in 2010 than it would have had HCR [healthcare reform] not been in place. Keeping people employed under the health care reform law also hurt profit margins, causing firms to reduce investment in Massachusetts. We estimate that investment in Massachusetts was from $21.28 million and $29.32 million lower in 2010 as a result of HCR. The job losses have crimped income and wage growth in Massachusetts. Real (price‐adjusted) disposable income is, on average, $2.48 billion or $376 dollars per person lower in 2010 than it would have been without HCR.

According to the study, the law has harmed both the private sector and public services. The measure that was supposed to save money has cost an estimated $4.3 billion shared between the public and private sectors and taxpayers. The high cost shows up in rising labor costs for employers and higher insurance premiums for individuals — an increase of about $81.13 per year on single healthcare plans and $246.55 per year on family plans. The taxpayer paying higher premiums for his own insurance is also paying higher property and sales tax in the state for public sector insurance.

The study said:

These growing costs have absorbed a larger portion of state resources. In the private sector, the same resources could have been used to fund investment, job creation and consumer spending, which would have yielded better economic performance. In the public sector, state local governments could have saved money through reduced health insurance premiums and reduced spending, thus also reducing the need for recent sales and property tax increases.

The study concludes that many employers have opted to “vote with their feet” and do business in States not yet crippled by government healthcare mandates. The study suggests that when reforms take effect nationwide via Obamacare, the same consequences will occur.

The study said:

When states or the national government adopt policies that raise costs, local employers are put at a disadvantage and many opt to relocate to other jurisdictions. For firms with a global focus that might mean moving operations out of the country. When policies adopted at the state level impose costly mandates, companies and workers can respond by moving across state lines. The ability of firms and workers to migrate in response to such policies causes short-term jobs losses and long‐term reductions in wages and living standards.

PA Judge: Insurance Mandate UnConstitutional

A Federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled against President Barack Obama’s plan to require all Americans to purchase health insurance or face penalties, saying the mandate exceeds the powers granted both the President and Congress by the Constitution.

Federal District Judge Christopher C. Conner said the Federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce does not give it the power to force individual citizens to unwillingly purchase any product, including health insurance.

Barbara Goudy-Bachman and Gregory Bachman, a married couple with children, opt to pay for health-related expenses out of pocket with savings, and sued Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the mandate. The couple, who are self-employed, dropped their own health coverage because it exceeded the cost of their mortgage payments. They said the 2014 mandatory insurance infringed upon their right to choose a proper method of caring for their family.

The Judge’s opinion did not agree completely with the couple on all issues, but did challenge the right of Federal government to meddle in personal affairs. An excerpt from the opinion follows:

This court’s role in that system is to assess the matters presented before it on the basis of the constitutional text and Supreme Court guidance, consonant with the principles of stare decisis. See Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803). The minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exceeds Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The court does not reach this conclusion because the alternative would be disastrous to this nation’s future, such as the Bachman’s prediction of America evolving into a socialist state. These suggestions of cataclysmic results stemming from Article III authorization of an individual mandate are both unproductive and unpersuasive. Should the Supreme Court determine that the Commerce Clause extends to anticipatory mandates, or, that the health care market is unique for purposes of Commerce Clause analysis, the Supreme Court will delineate clear limits to that power. Until that occurs, the minimum coverage provision of the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.

The case will join the ranks of 30 different lawsuits in various Federal jurisdictions around the country challenging the Obama healthcare plan. Separate lawsuits have already reached appeals courts in Richmond, Va., Atlanta and Cincinnati. The issue will most likely ultimately land on the bench of the Supreme Court.





Study Finds More Children Treated For Overdose

A study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has found that the number of children who received emergency medical treatment after unintentionally ingesting prescription drugs has increased greatly in recent years.

The dramatic increase has convinced the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch a new initiative — PREVENT — in order to combat the amount of prescription drug accidents among children. Randall Bond, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s, studied patient records from 2001 to 2008 in the National Poison Data system, an electronic database of all calls to members of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Bond studied children 5 years old and younger exposed to a potentially toxic dose of a single pharmaceutical agent, either prescription or over-the-counter. A total of 453,559 children were included in the study.

“The problem of pediatric medication poisoning is getting worse, not better,” said Bond, who also directs the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s. “More children are exposed, more are seen in emergency departments, more are admitted to hospitals, and more are harmed each year.”

According to the CDC, more than 70,000 emergency department visits result from unintentional medication overdoses among children younger than 18 each year. About one in 180 2-year-olds are treated for medication overdoses. About 80 percent of all child-related medication incidents among children under the age of 12 are due to unsupervised children taking medications on their own, and 10 percent in this age group are due to medication errors.

Bond attributes the rising number of incidents to a rise in the number of medications around younger children. A 1998 survey found that half of adults had taken at least one prescription medication in the preceding week and 7 percent had taken five or more. In 2006, the same surveyors found that 55 percent had taken at least one prescription medication in the preceding week, and 11 percent had taken five or more. The doctor considers the increased number of medications in the home along with carelessness as the two biggest factors in child-medication poisoning.

“Prevention efforts at home have been insufficient,” Bond said. “We need to improve storage devices and child-resistant closures and perhaps require mechanical barriers, such as blister packs. Our efforts can’t ignore society’s problem with opioid and sedative abuse or misuse.”

Obama Plays Political Chess With Jobs Bill

The Administration of President Barack Obama is continuing its “pass this bill now” attitude in relation to the President’s jobs bill, but it’s being met with trouble even within his party.

According to an article published by The Hill, Democratic lawmakers are disappointed with several of the President’s proposals to pay for the $447 billion stimulus package, including an elimination of tax breaks for the oil-and-gas industry.

According to reports, traditionally conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats have lashed out against the White House’s proposal that short-term economic stimulus will have long-term positive impacts on the economy.

“The White House probably expected stronger support from Democrats than it’s gotten so far,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “After all, this bill’s top selling point, according to the president, was both parties should like it. Yet, so far, the only thing both parties in Congress seem to agree on is that there’s got to be a better way. It seemed like the only Democrats who were even willing to talk about it here on Capitol Hill were tearing it apart.”

At a Thursday White House press briefing, the President’s plan for pushing his bill through came into question. Though the he has urged Congress to “pass this bill” more than 100 times, Obama has yet to discuss the bill with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).  A reporter at the briefing asked Press Secretary Jay Carney about Obama’s reasoning for avoiding discussion with the Republican leader.

“I didn’t know you were working for the Speaker on his scheduling. The fact is — he will talk to the Speaker, but it is — the President has put forward a detailed piece of legislation. The elements of that plan are very clear. The Congress can and should act on it very quickly. It’s not complicated. The proposals are very simple. And they reflect — they are the kinds of proposals that have gained bipartisan support in the past,” Carney said.

Obama has, more than once, mentioned a bridge in Boehner’s district — the Brent Spence Bridge — that will receive repairs as a result of the $447 billion jobs proposal.  Many people believe that this is no coincidence, but more of a political chess move by the President to pressure the House Speaker to urge Congress to pass the bill to avoid angering his constituents at home.

The Brent Spence Bridge connects Cincinnati with Covington, Ky., making Obama’s political highlighting of its disrepair bad public relations for both McConnell — the Republican senator from Kentucky — and Boehner.


$19 Billion In Unemployment Insurance Wasted

The Department of Labor on Wednesday announced that it will award $191 million to States to provide “unemployment insurance program integrity and technology infrastructure systems” amid reports that the agency spent about $19 billion on payments made in error over the past three years.

“I was pleased to join Vice President [Joe] Biden today in announcing efforts to reduce government waste, fraud and abuse,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press release. “We owe it to the American people, especially those who rely on unemployment insurance as a safety net, to be responsible stewards. This funding will help ensure state UI programs have integrity and run efficiently.”

The Federal program monitored by agencies on a State-by-State basis are expected to come under more scrutiny now than ever, though Solis said that there will be no real expansion in benefit denial, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Improper payments usually occur when recipients claim benefits even though they have returned to work, employers or their administrators don’t submit timely or accurate information about worker separations, or recipients don’t correctly register with a State’s unemployment agency.

According to The Journal, Indiana had the highest error rate, with improper payments accounting for more than 43 percent of the total amount paid. The Labor Department will also target Virginia, Indiana, Colorado, Washington, Louisiana and Arizona in particular for their high error rates.

Republican Novice Beats Seasoned Democrat In “Deep Blue” NYC

In a clear sign of President Barack Obama’s unpopularity, New York voters in a district that traditionally supports Democrats — the President carried it with 55 percent there in 2008 — have elected Republican political novice Bob Turner to fill sexting Representative Anthony Weiner’s former seat.

Turner, a retired media executive, beat Democratic State lawmaker David Weprin in a 53 to 47 percent victory early Wednesday morning. Turner said the victory was a message to Obama that his failed policies are angering Americans.

“We’ve been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it loud and clear,” he said in a speech. “We’re ready to say, ‘Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.”‘

Despite being endorsed by The New York Times, raising about twice the campaign funds that Turner did and being Jewish in an area with a largely Jewish population, Weprin could not score a victory for Weiner’s seat. Many people attribute his loss to his support of Obama on many issues, including uneasy relations with Israel. Weprin also voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, a move that shut down support from socially conservative Democrats in the district.

Most analysts say Obama probably will win more votes in New York state in 2012 than the GOP candidate, but that if Republicans can win in “deep blue” New York City districts like Turner has just done, there could be major upsets for the Democrats in the Presidential election.

TSA: Children May Keep Shoes On, Sometimes

Children 12 years old and younger may soon get to keep their shoes on at airport security checkpoints and will be patted down by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials using “less invasive methods.”

The information comes from testimony to Congress from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said the new practices will roll out in coming months. Napolitano said the changes may not, however, be all-encompassing to ensure “unpredictability” in security screening.

Reports that the TSA does not use common sense when it screens air travelers abound. Young children and the elderly will still be subjected to random blanket searches, according to Napolitano’s rule of exception. Last year, the government began using a more invasive pat-down than what had been used in the past, involving screeners’ feeling travelers’ genital and breast areas. The newly “modified” child pat-down will now involve several trips through the metal detector and imaging machines, to get a “clear picture” to ensure the child is not carrying explosives.

These steps, which are aimed at quelling dissent against invasive TSA procedures, come within a week of the agency’s announcement that it will spend $44.8 million to expand its digital strip-search technologies to more airports in the United States.

“Currently, there are nearly 500 AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology] units at 78 airports nationwide. Today’s purchase of 300 millimeter wave units is off of an existing contract with L-3 Communications and includes the option to purchase an additional 200 units. President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget included the purchase of 500 units, and the President’s fiscal 2012 budget requests funding for an additional 275 units,” said a TSA press release.

Another Department of Homeland Security (DHS) development announced in Napolitano’s address is a massive expansion of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. A DHS press release said:

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign originally partnered with the NFL in January 2011 during the Super Bowl XLVI, and is now expanding the campaign to the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, and San Diego Chargers with digital and video materials displayed at each stadium. Similarly, the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign partnerships with MLB began last season and has now expanded to the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. The USTA has announced their partnership with the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign for a second year, and have displayed digital and print materials during all matches. Other partnerships with the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign have been recently launched by the states of Florida and Maryland, the cities of Baltimore and Newark, the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, and state and major urban area fusion centers across the country.