If Federal Subsidies Fall at the Supreme Court, Game Over!

Everybody seems to be missing the real issue at stake in the recent decision by at least four Supreme Court Justices to hear an appeal of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirming the applicability of Federal insurance subsidies for qualified individuals who purchase “Obamacare” insurance policies on federal exchanges set up for states whose governments chose not to establish one for their state.

This case, King v. Burwell, involves not a Constitutional question per se but rather a challenge to an IRS interpretation that allows subsidies for insurance purchased on federal exchanges despite statutory language that could be read to limit their availability only to those who purchase insurance only on an exchange which a state has chosen under the law to “establish” itself directly rather than leaving it to the federal government to set one up for it. The plaintiffs in the case (King et al) are Virginia residents who argued that the IRS decision allowing subsidies provided via the federal exchange set up when Virginia’s government refused to establish an Obamacare exchange on its own deprived them of an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance. They claim that absent such subsidies all policies available to them on the federal exchange would cost more than the 8 percent of their income that serves as a trigger for such exemptions.

While the legitimacy of the IRS determination to allow such subsidies would seem to simply involve a federal statutory question concerning the scope of administrative flexibility in interpreting the ACA’s grant of subsidies, the plaintiff’s argument in King v. Burwell opens the door to a much broader impact on Obamacare than just the matter of subsidies. It would be huge if the Supreme Court determines the court was wrong in affirming the IRS interpretation. Estimates indicate that, for the poor and lower middle class, upwards of seven million would lose over $ 36 billion in subsidies. These losses would affect residents of Texas and Florida (the biggest losers) and 32 other states subject to the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision. These states are mostly in the hands of Republican governors and legislatures that oppose Obamacare in principle and the potential “work-around” would depend on those governors and legislators agreeing to “establish” state exchanges possibly “outsourcing” their operations to the existing federal exchange, using their states’ own money instead of the federal funds provided under the ACA because eligibility for those funds just happens to have run out on November 14, 2015! No word as yet on whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid would consider extending that deadline in view of the pending Supreme Court decision.

With no “work around,” moreover, the dominoes at the heart of the ACA would, as noted above, begin to fall. If no subsidies are available in a particular state (or in the 34 states subject to a King v. Burwell reversal), then the premiums on the policies now on offer in the federal exchanges serving those states would exceed 8 percnet of their income and therefore they would automatically become exempt from the individual mandate to purchase any health insurance at all. This result would not just affect the poorest families. Young, healthy college graduates — many burdened by tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt — would be free to opt out of buying any insurance on a federal exchange or otherwise, and the economics of the federal exchange would be severely adversely affected without a balance of relatively healthy individuals to weigh against the insurance claims of more mature families and sub-Medicare elderly. Premiums would go up, enrollments would go down with a ruptured individual mandate.

But that’s not the end of the effects of a Supreme Court decision to invalidate federal subsidies obtained through the federal exchange in two-thirds of our states. The employer mandate under the ACA requires employers of more than 50 full-time workers (currently defined as all those working at least 30 hours per week) to either provide a federally-approved health insurance package or pay an increasingly onerous per-worker tax penalty. For a variety of reasons, some clearly operational, some probably political, the Obama administration gave employers extra time to comply, but the mandate will now begin in 2015 for employers with over 100 full-time workers, and for those with between 50 and 100 in 2016. But if the Supreme Court reverses King v. Burwell by overturning the IRS rule with respect to federal subsidies, which are in fact delivered by means of tax credits which is why an IRS rule is at issue, the employer mandate is just as fatally wounded as the individual mandate, and the biggest Obamacare domino of all falls.

The ruling by a federal court panel majority in another case brought against the IRS rule on Obamacare tax credit subsidies, Halbig v. Burwell, points directly to this conclusion. The majority ruled against the IRS subsidy interpretation (the decision has since been appealed to the entire D.C. circuit Court of Appeals), and along the way to this conclusion, laid out its objections to the IRS interpretation precisely focusing on the effect on both the individual and the employer mandate:
“[B]y making tax credits available in the…states with Federal Exchanges, the IRS Rule significantly increases the number of people who must purchase health insurance or face a penalty.”

The IRS Rule affects (sic) the employer mandate in a similar way. Like the individual mandate, the employer mandate uses the threat of penalties to induce large employers — defined as those with at least 50 employees, see 26 U>S>C> section 4980H9c) (2) (A) – to provide their full-time employees with health insurance. Specifically, the ACA penalizes any large employer who fails to offer its full-time employees suitable coverage if one or more of those employees “enroll…in a qualified health plan with respect to which an applicable tax credit… is allowed or paid with respect to the employee.’ Id. Section 4980(a)(2); see also id. Section 4980h (b) (linking another penalty on employers to employees’ receipt of tax credits).”

Lest there be any mistaking the view of this judicial panel majority as to the impact of their ultimate decision precluding tax credit subsidies to purchasers on the federal exchange, the judges went on to rub it in quite precisely:

“Thus, even more than with the individual mandate, the employer mandate penalties hinge on the availability of tax credits. If credits were unavailable in states with Federal Exchanges, employers there would face no penalties for failing to offer coverage.”

If a majority of the Unites States Supreme Court were to agree with the Halbig v. Burwell majority, the last Obamacare domino would seem to fall, more or less automatically.

And yet the media and even the most ardent supporters of Obamacare seem to ignore this potential effect. Assuredly, the “large employers” and their lobbyists who are funding the Halbig and King cases have not. Not to mix too many metaphors, but it is most important to understand that both the King and the Halbig cases are twin Trojan Horses: ostensibly about killing ObamaCare subsidies, but really all about indirectly but effectively destroying the individual and employer mandate. In the concluding words of the majority in the Halbig case, its ruling against Federal Exchange subsidies “will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal r exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.” (Halbig v. Burwell at p 41.)

All the more so if the Supreme Court agrees.

By Terry Connelly, Dean Emeritus, Ageno School of Business, Golden Gate University

Terry Connelly is an economic expert and dean emeritus of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Terry holds a law degree from NYU School of Law and his professional history includes positions with Ernst & Young Australia, the Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business, New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, global chief of staff at Salomon Brothers investment banking firm and global head of investment banking at Cowen & Company. In conjunction with Golden Gate University President Dan Angel, Terry co-authored Riptide: The New Normal In Higher Education

How CNBC tried to silence Melissa Francis

Melissa FrancisWhen I saw ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber’s comments about how the “stupidity of the American voter” helped grease the wheels of his healthcare legislation, I had to scream at my television. He admitted that advocates had counted on Americans’ “lack of financial understanding” to hide the costs of the bill.

For me, that confession really stung.

As an anchor at CNBC, I questioned the president’s claim that adding millions of people to the health insurance rolls would be free. How was that mathematically possible?If people with pre-existing conditions didn’t pay more, someone else would have to bear that cost. Healthcare isn’t free. The math didn’t add up.

One day, after raising these questions on air, I was called into my manager’s office and told to stop. When I pushed back, my manager explained that my questions were “disrespecting the office of the president.” The rebuke was surprising, but this incident wasn’t the only time I was called up and reined in.

Last week, as Gruber’s comments played on air, I brought my experience at CNBC to light.The response from viewers was overwhelming. Apparently, you all have a lot of pent up frustration on the topic.

The response from CNBC, though, was glib and condescending. In a comment to the New York Post, a CNBC flack made a reference to their prime-time programming and said they are “always on the lookout for high quality comedy writers and actresses.”

So for anyone deciding which financial news channel to watch, know that CNBC is on the lookout for comedy writers and actresses. For their business channel.Here at Fox Business, we are looking out for your money.

Melissa Francis is the host of “MONEY with Melissa Francis” (5 PM/ET & 12 AM/ET), a program that breaks down the day’s top stories and how they impact the American taxpayer. Click here for more information on Melissa Francis.

New GOP Senators are experienced politicians

The new GOP senators are experienced politicians and according to this article in the New York Times by Janet Hook not crazy barnburners. Yet many of them won by their alliances and support of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hosts a gathering of new GOP senators-elect in his office on Nov. 12.

Associated Press

When GOP leaders set out to recruit 2014 Senate candidates who were more pragmatic, experienced politicians, they were trying to win elections. They wanted to avoid the kinds of tea-party candidates who made politically costly missteps on the campaign trail.

That recruitment strategy has yielded another benefit for GOP leaders: Those candidates, now that they are elected, may also be easier for Sen. Mitch McConnell(R., Ky.) to manage in the Senate. The 11-member class of freshman Senate Republicans is thick with legislative experience, and that could make them less likely to turn into the kind of bomb-throwing mavericks that can make a leader’s life difficult.

Five of the freshmen are House members: Reps. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Steve Daines of Montana, Cory Gardner of Colorado and James Lankford of Oklahoma. Three others have state legislative experience: Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and former Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who also served in the legislature. Yet another House member may show up if Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana wins the Dec. 6 runoff election against Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Sens.-elect Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Dan Sullivan of Alaska both have non-legislative government experience on their résumés. The closest thing to a government neophyte in the freshman class is businessman David Perdue of Georgia.

“Although uniformly conservative, these are people with solid institutional credentials,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has worked in and written extensively about the Senate. “The Republican leadership was very insistent on getting
people who are not barnburners.”

That’s a different breed than the stars of the 2010 and 2012 GOP freshman classes: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah. They were bold-stroke conservatives who were openly defiant of the institutional mores and the get-along-to-go-along traditions of the Senate. None of them came with a background in legislative politics, and tea-party activists loved them for it.

The 2014 freshman class, by contrast, is more wedded to promises to “get things done” rather than to lay down on train tracks for ideological principles. For all their ideological and geographic differences, they have shared the formative political experience of 2014: Seeking the support of voters seething with frustration about gridlock on Capitol Hill.

“We are all talking about problem-solving,” said Mr. Lankford after a closed-door party caucus this week. “We have a responsibility to act.”

To be sure, many Democrats are skeptical that this new batch of GOP conservatives will be any more willing to cross party lines for problem-solving coalitions than the party was before the midterms.

For his part, Mr. McConnell is delighted by the sheer size of the freshman class that gave him the path to becoming majority leader–the other side of landslide politics from 2006, when only one new Republican was elected to the Senate.

“Let me just say this is a lot happier occasion than, for example, after the 2006 election when we had class president, secretary and treasurer Bob Corker,” he said after meeting with the new senators Wednesday.

Should Conservative Groups Be Shut Down for Questioning Environmentalism?

Here’s a post by Katie Nielsen of The Heritage Foundation that asks the question: ‘Should Conservative groups be shut down for questioning environmentalism?’

In a recent op-ed for EcoWatch, activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called for all companies and organizations, including The Heritage Foundation, that don’t support a radical environmental agenda to be given a corporate “death penalty.”

Here’s what he argues:

quote I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.” . . .

Any state attorney general with the will, resolve and viscera to stand to up to the dangerous and duplicitous corporate propagandists, has authority to annul the charters of each of these mercenary merchants of deceit.


You know we’re making a difference when liberals question our motives, accuse us of being “mercenary merchants of deceit,” and call on the government to shutter us.

At Heritage, we’re in nobody’s pocket. Instead, we stand on principle, advancing policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Moreover, with 600,000 members, we’re the most broadly supported policy organization in America–and just 5 percent of our revenue comes from corporate donors.

Do you agree with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.? Should Heritage and other groups be disbanded for supporting conservative policy solutions?

Industry Succeeds Where Obamacare Fails

Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute comments in Forbes on how industry succeeds where Obamacare fails.

Walmart is about to get into the health insurance business.

The retail giant’s Sam’s Club division just announced that it would launch a private health insurance exchange for its small-business customers. Business owners shopping at the wholesaler will effectively be able to pick up health insurance for their employees along with their industrial-size tubs of mayonnaise.

Sam’s Club’s chief competitor, Costco, unveiled a similar private exchange for its members earlier this year.

For both consumers and employers, the emergence of private exchanges is great news. Already, these marketplaces are exhibiting tremendous potential to expand consumers’ insurance choices and reduce costs.

Earlier this year, Aon Hewitt, a human resources consulting firm,surveyed companies that provide a fixed benefit for employees to purchase coverage through a private exchange. These firms saw their insurance costs increase at rates 1 to 2 percent below those of their peers that offer traditional insurance benefits.

Over a period of years, slowing the growth rate of premiums by even a few percentage points can yield huge savings.

Another consulting firm, Accenture, recently revealed that three million people signed up for employer health coverage this year through private exchanges. That’s three times more than the consultants previously estimated.

Some of the largest corporate names in the country are now providing health benefits through private exchanges — including Walgreens, Sears, and Darden Restaurants.

From an employer’s perspective, it’s easy to see why these exchanges are an attractive option.

Typically, companies either purchase insurance directly from an insurer or self-insure, whereby they pay for the care their employees consume directly and contract with an outside firm to process claims. Self-insurers typically also purchase an umbrella policy to protect them from the risk of facing catastrophically expensive claims. About 160 million Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance today.

Private exchanges provide several advantages over these existing arrangements.

For starters, companies have long struggled to administer their health plans. And thanks to Obamacare, there are lots of new rules and regulations that make things even harder.

Private exchanges, by contrast, allow employees to get coverage directly from insurance companies — and thus drive down the administrative burden for employers. Further, private exchanges permit employers to offload all their health-cost risk onto insurers.

Employees also stand to benefit from getting coverage through private exchanges. Most employers offer only a few options for health insurance — or even just one.

In an exchange, workers can choose from tens or hundreds of different health plans. They can select a policy with a high deductible, for instance, if they’re reasonably healthy and would like to save on premiums. Or they can pick a policy that covers every office visit, if they have kids who need more frequent check-ups.

Private exchanges may also result in higher wages for workers.

For years, the rapid increase of health premiums has been eating into wage growth. Last year, health insurance costs jumped three times as much as wages.

Private exchanges empower consumers to choose among competing insurance plans. Those principles of choice and competition will lead to lower prices. If employers are spending less on health insurance, they’ll have more money left for other purposes — including wage hikes.

Further, because employers can provide a fixed benefit to go toward the purchase of health insurance in a private exchange, an enterprising employee could sign up for coverage that’s less costly than the value of that benefit — and negotiate to receive the difference in cash, which he or she could put into a tax-advantaged Health Savings Account.

And if lawmakers were to roll back many of the most expensive state and federal essential health benefits mandates on what policies must cover, premiums would fall further — freeing even more money up for pay increase or other investments.

Looking ahead, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that even more employers will turn to private exchanges.

In September, a PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute survey of 1,200 businesses found that one-third of employers are considering providing coverage through private exchanges. Another survey, conducted last year by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative, found that 45 percent of businesses were already using exchanges or were planning on using them.

Accenture is now predicting that one in five Americans will get insurance coverage through a private exchange by 2017. By 2018, enrollment in private exchanges will outstrip enrollment in Obamacare’s exchanges.

That would be quite a feat, especially because the government is literally paying people — in the form of income-based tax credits — to enroll in Obamacare’s government-run exchanges.

Eric Grossman, a Senior Partner at Mercer, a consultancy that operates a private exchange for 52 employers covering 200,000 employees, says that the momentum toward private exchanges will not abate anytime soon.

“The private exchange model is an innovation that has unleashed a wave of transformational change that touches virtually all employers, who must now fundamentally rethink how to provide benefits to their workforces,” he told Forbes.com’s The Apothecary earlier this year. “The bottom line is that employers of all sizes are looking for new solutions to deliver benefits and manage cost.”

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The Cure for Obamacare (Encounter 2013).


How Washington Profits by Pillaging America

Here’s a post by Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute about how Washington profits by pillaging America. 

I’ve been banging the drum for years about Washington being a racket for the benefit of politicians, cronyists, bureaucrats, contractors, lobbyists, interest groups, and other insiders.

I’ve written about horrific examples of bloated spending that line the pockets of the well connected.

I’ve shared disgusting examples of Democrat sleaze and Republican sleaze.

I’ve exposed rampant corruption with insiders getting rich at our expense.

I’ve pontificated about fat-cat bureaucrats who get paid more and do less.

But I’ve never figured out an effective way of combining all these issues.

So I’m very happy that Scott Beyer of the American Enterprise Institute combines these themes in a very good article about our self-serving political class.

Here’s some of what he wrote.

…the nation’s capital today is wealthy and growing. Metro Washington now has six of the nation’s ten wealthiest counties. In 2012, Falls Church became the nation’s richest city… The region’s median household income is $88,233, second in the nation… But while in other cities this might be a success story, in Washington it comes with a catch. Rather than resulting from private industry, it merely underlies the growth of the city’s leading employer, the federal government. The city’s flourishing has seemed especially perverse in recent years, as the rest of America has lagged economically. Every tax dollar spent represents less money in the private sector to create jobs.

That’s all good material, but this pictograph is absolutely superb. It’s a very compelling summary of how Washington has become a fat and happy imperial city.

Very well done.

It should be clear to everyone that Washington is booming, and hopefully they make the obvious connection that D.C.’s wealth comes at the expense of America’s productive sector.

While the pictograph is excellent, Beyer has some other observations that are worth sharing.

For instance, there’s been an explosion in the amount of money diverted to lobbying by firms, as well as a huge jump in the number of politicians who cash in on their contacts.

One growth industry, due to the vast expansion of the federal government’s tax and regulatory rules, is lobbying. Businesses spent $3.24 billion last year on lobbying, up from $1.45 billion in 1998 and $200 million in 1983. Two-thirds of US senators and representatives joined the lobbying industry after leaving office in 2012, up from a small fraction in the 1960s.

Because I support the Constitution, I don’t object to the concept of companies exercising their 1st Amendment rights to petition the government.

But I do wish government was much smaller so that companies didn’t have so much interest in what happens in Washington. Particularly since companies oftentimes get seduced into treating Washington like a profit center.

Simply stated, as I explain in this video, big government is inherently corrupting.

Beyer also makes some important observations about the overpaid government workforce.

…the region houses about 14 percent of America’s 2.1 million civilian federal workforce, one in five of whom earns an annual salary of more than $100,000. In 2012, federal civilian employees’ median salary was $81,704, compared to $54,995 for the private-sector employees; after accounting for fringe benefits, those figures go to $114,976 versus $65,917, respectively.


As a taxpayer, I don’t like overpaid bureaucrats. But as an economist, I’m even more upset that human capital is being misallocated to unproductive purposes.

For more information, here’s my video explaining that the bureaucracy is far too big and paid far too much.

Though if you prefer specific examples, this post contains the charter members of the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame. And if you’re not already sufficiently nauseated, you can clickhere and here to learn more about how you are subsidizing fun and games in Washington.

P.S. But I don’t want folks to get overly depressed, so I also encourage you to enjoythese examples of bureaucrat humor and these examples of politician humor.


Obamacare: Final Nail In The Coffin?

Obamacare Side EffectsHere’s a post from Lorie Johnson at http://blogs.cbn.com/ with a commentary about the midterm election and Supreme Court’s impact on Obamacare.

The future of Obamacare is more uncertain than ever. First came Tuesday night’s midterm wave election of Republicans vowing to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, then today another hit.

In a stunning move, the United States Supreme Court justices announced they will consider a brand new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.  If they rule in favor of the challenge, Obamacare will be obliterated.  That means until the justices render their decision in June, 2015, our nation is in a holding pattern when it comes to health care.

The high court will decide whether the law allows the federal government to issue subsidies to most of the low to moderate income people who signed up for Obamacare.  It appears the law only allows for the subsidies to be given to people who signed up on state exchanges, not the federal exchange.  Most people used the federal exchange, also known as HealthCare.gov.

As you may know, most states “opted out” of Obamacare, meaning they declined to set-up their own exchanges. “Exchanges” are insurance marketplaces.   Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia set-up their own exchanges. Everyone else who signed-up for Obamacare in the other states, nearly five million people, were handed-off to the federal government’s exchange.  Therein lies the problem.  It appears the ACA allows only people who sign up on state exchanges to get the subsidies.  The exact key phrase at issue is, “exchange established by the State.” The law doesn’t say anything about people on the federal exchange getting a subsidy.

The people who drafted Obamacare say their INTENT was to give assistance to people who use the federal exchange.  But that’s not what the law says.  Congress could change the wording of the law to say people on the federal exchange get the assistance, but congress will not do that.   Furthermore, the states that have refused to set-up their own exchanges could change their minds and set them up, but those states have no intention of doing so.

If the Supreme Court rules that the people who signed up on the federal exchange are not eligible to receive government subsidies, that means 4.7 million people, more than half of Obamacare enrollees, stand to lose their financial assistance. That would destroy Obamacare.

The way it stands now is the people on the federal exchange, the one at issue, are getting three-fourths of their healthcare costs paid by the federal government.  Their premiums average 346 dollars a month, but the federal government pays for 264 dollars, so the consumers only pays 82 dollars.

If those consumers lose their government assistance, it will trigger a so-called “death spiral.”  Without financial assistance, many people getting it would drop it.  Then, because of the high price, fewer people would sign-up for it.  That includes healthy people who are less expensive to insure will not buy the policies, so only the really sick people who have a greater need for insurance will be in the program.  They require lots of services, obviously, so that would force the rates even higher, which naturally means even fewer people will sign-up.

People who dislike Obamacare must be feeling pretty good right about now.  First there was Tuesday’s midterm election wave of Republican candidates vowing to repeal Obamacare and now this Supreme Court challenge to its very existence.  Either one could put the law on the ropes.  On the other hand, even if congress passes legislation to repeal Obamacare, the president will certainly veto it.  Then of course, the Supreme Court may decide the people on the federal exchange can be subsided after all.  One thing we know for sure: individuals and businesses are on hold until decisions are made, one way or the other.

The Midterm elections debunked the myths about gridlock and Obamacare

2014 Midterm electionsHere’s an excellent analysis by David Harsanyi at http://reason.com/ about how the Midterm elections debunked the myths about gridlock and Obamacare.

Guess what. Voters don’t really hate “obstructionism.” They hate the other party.

If we’re to believe the media-authored account of the past six years, the GOP has made rigid obstructionism of Barack Obama’s policies its sole agendum. In victory and in concession speeches, candidates of both parties still claim that “dysfunction” has been the biggest problem in Washington.

Where exactly have Republicans suffered for their stubbornness? The reality is that Republicans have been generously rewarded for their tenacity in stopping post-Obamacare progressive policy. Since 2010, the Republicans have pulled together a historic string of victories—with scores of seats changing hands in the House. If anything, what we learned is that politicians are far likelier to be penalized by the electorate for passing unworkable and overreaching legislation than they are for stopping it.

That’s just one myth we function under in Washington. Another talking point we heard a lot leading up to the midterm elections, most notably from Fox News channel’s Juan Williams, revolved around the idea that we were experiencing some broad reaction to a broken Washington—a revolt against incumbency and politics in general.

Though it’s true that most voters tell pollsters they abhor the bickering in Washington, according to exit polls more than a third of those who voted for a Republican congressional candidate claimed to be dissatisfied or angry with GOP leaders in Congress. And a quarter of those who voted Democratic claimed they were dissatisfied with Obama. The reality is that only one party was punished. American voters didn’t oust incumbents; they ousted Democrats. If Sen. Pat Roberts (R- Kan.) could come back to win his race against a candidate whose entire rationale for running was to end partisanship, this was about holding not all elites accountable but Democrats.

For months, we’ve been also hearing how Democratic losses could be chalked up to “structural” problems. The map was the problem! “In this election cycle, this is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower. There are a lot of states that are being contested where they just tend to tilt Republican,” Obama told a local radio station.

That was an arguable contention to start with, but it was certainly shattered by the results. Moreover, you can’t have it both ways. When the president wins, his victory is driven by issues. When Democrats lose, they are untethered from policy or party.

That myth can be put to bed. In 2012, Obama won Colorado 51.49 percent to 46.13 percent. Today 55 percent of voters there have a negative view of the president. While liberal Sen. Mark Udall was beaten handily, a less liberal governor, John Hickenlooper—a man who was lucky enough never to have had to vote for Obamacare—squeaked it out. In Iowa in 2012, Obama won 51.99 percent to 46.18 percent, but Republican Joni Ernst won the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. Maryland, Illinois and Virginia were all Obama country in 2012 and all saw surprisingly competitive races or worse.

When you break it down, this may have been one of the least “structural” losses for any party in a long time.

Another myth we heard for weeks leading up to the elections was that Republicans had abandoned Obamacare as an issue. Turns out some of the biggest winners in the most competitive states—Cory Gardner in Colorado, Ernst in Iowa—were full-throated critics of the Affordable Care Act and never shied away. According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, Obamacare ads dominated TV and radio. The GOP ran about 13,000 Obamacare ads in Senate races in one week leading up to Election Day. When was the last time a single piece of legislation dominated a midterm in that way?

No doubt Democrats will continue to argue that historic Republican gains had nothing to do with the most discussed legislation in America. But it is far more plausible that Obamacare has fathered two colossal-wave elections by the GOP in a mere four years—which, by any measurement, makes it the least popular federal law in our lifetimes.

T. Boone Pickens on Falling Energy Prices

I’ve been on both sides of a lot of oil and gas price swings. Every time, the first question people always ask is who wins and who loses.

The immediate answer is easy. When prices rise, consumers pay more, while the oil industry profits. When the market is flooded like it is now, low prices benefit consumers but hurt the oil and gas industry. For the country, there’s good and bad on either side. Lower energy prices means consumers can spend more money elsewhere, and higher prices drive the energy industry to invest and create jobs. Over six decades, I’ve made a lot of bets on oil and gas. During price swings, I’ve seen a lot of money come and go fast. Thankfully, I’ve made more good bets than bad ones, but the most valuable thing I’ve learned about energy is that the long-term costs and long-term benefits matter a lot more than the swings.

The key for America is that we shouldn’t let ourselves get distracted by falling oil prices when there is much more at stake. For decades, our dependence on OPEC oil has dictated our national security decisions and tied us up in the Middle East at an incredible price. We’ve spent more than $5 trillion and thousands of American soldiers have died securing Middle East oil. That long-term cost doesn’t get factored in to the price at the pump, so it is critical that we not let ourselves lose sight of the problem and continue expanding American energy production.

We have OPEC on the run, but we are still dangerously dependent. We have the domestic resources, but we need to demand that Washington get serious about a national energy plan that takes the real costs of energy into account. We cannot get sidetracked by a false sense of enhanced energy security and lower gasoline prices. We need leadership in Washington on the future of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Keystone pipeline and the questions of whether to lift the ban on crude oil exports and whether to expedite natural gas exports.

There will always be winners and losers. Let’s make sure we’re winners.

T. Boone Pickens is founder and chair of BP Capital.