The illegal implementation of ObamacareThe Obama administration has repeatedly flouted legal requirements or acted outside the scope of its delegated authority when implementing Obamacare. I’ve argued as much in numerous blog posts, congressional testimony and in a chapter on what I call the “Ad Hoc Implementation of Obamacare” in a new book, “Liberty’s Nemesis: The Unchecked Expansion of the State.” David Bernstein also makes this case in his book, “Lawless,” as have others such as Iowa law professor Andy Grewal.
Criticism of the Obama administration’s implementation of Obamacare from the administration’s critics is not particularly surprising. Although some of us may have criticized equivalent Bush administration lawlessness, there’s not much newsworthy about an administration taking fire from across the aisle.It is more notable when a prominent defender of the Obama administration acknowledges that the administration has colored outside the lines, and not always with good justification. So those interested in Obamacare and the administrative law should give Nicholas Bagley’s new paper on“Legal Limits and the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act” a careful read.  The paper’s still in draft form — and in my view bends over backward to provide the most charitable read of the administration’s actions — but still concludes that the administration has violated the law repeatedly in implementing the ACA, even if not quite as often as some administration critics have claimed.Bagley writes:

Taken as a whole, then, the record refutes the claim that President Obama has systematically disregarded the ACA’s text or displayed contempt for legal constraints. He hasn’t. To the contrary, the law still has bite. On occasion, however, the administration has strayed beyond legal limits. Two episodes raise especially serious legal concerns: the administrative delays and the decision to finance cost-sharing reductions out of an appropriation governing tax refunds. In both cases, Republican recalcitrance threatened to undermine the president’s signal achievement. And in both cases, the president appears to have broken the law.

Note that by “administrative delays” Bagley is actually referring to multiple decisions made over many months, including the multiple delays of the Obamacare employer mandate and the so-called “if you like it you can keep it” fix. Characterizing all of these delays as a single episode — one of the eight he examines — seems to stack the deck a little bit.  Nonetheless, Bagley’s candor about the paltry legal justification for these actions is refreshing, even if he insists on stressing that there are still lots of legal rules the administration hasn’t violated. (As Mike Stern quipped, “Think of all the buildings Nixon didn’t break into.”)

Where Bagley finds admirable restraint, I suspect calculation. It seems to me the administration has strayed from the ACA’s text law when and where it thinks it’s difficult for critics to obtain judicial review, though other explanations are possible, too. In any event, the paper helps further a discussion about the appropriateness of what some consider administrative “self-help.” This is not the first administration to take liberties with a statute when Congress refused to cooperate (see, e.g., what the Bush administration did with the Clean Air Act), and it won’t be the last.

A real question is whether the Obama administration’s actions with regard to the ACA are an augur of what is to come in the future. I hope not, but there are reasons for concern. As Bagley notes in the paper, it is increasingly rare for legal commentators to flag the legal violations of those on their own “side,” and that’s a problem.

Nowadays, the president can often count on support (or at least silence) from like-minded attorneys, legal academics, and other expert commentators. During the ACA’s rollout, for example, almost no Democratic lawyers spoke out against the Obama administration’s controversial legal moves, just as almost no Republican lawyers spoke in defense of them. Law, I fear, is increasingly seen as simply another move in a partisan game—a raw extension of politics with less persuasive force of its own. If that’s the view of law that has enabled Congress to disregard legal conventions, why won’t that same view lead to presidential disregard of similar self-help conventions?

At the end of the day, the story of the ACA’s implementation leaves me equally encouraged and unsettled. Law still matters; it’s not politics all the way down. At the same time, the Obama administration’s legal violations don’t appear to be idiosyncratic expressions of a particular president’s governing style, but more-or-less inevitable reactions to polarization and the breakdown of governing conventions. While I’m skeptical that self-help conventions will reliably discipline such lawbreaking, I’ve got no better answers about how to restrain the president. That’s why it’s hard for me to shake the fear that we are entering an era marked by the relentless chipping away at the rule of law. I don’t want to seem alarmist: for now, such chipping away is modest. But it appears poised to become a durable feature of American governance, with consequences I can’t begin to anticipate. In contrast to some,162 I can’t view that trend with equanimity. It seems to me that the rule of law is a terrible thing to waste.

On that last point, we certainly agree. Let’s just hope the next administration doesn’t view the Obama administration’s efforts as a “how-to” guide for executive unilateralism.

Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in constitutional, administrative, and environmental law at the Case Western University School of Law, where he is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation.

Millionaires Get Obamacare Tax Credits

“Essentially, what you’ve got is a system where the government is handing out an income support benefit without determining whether or not somebody has assets,” Heritage Foundation health policy expert Ed Haislmaier says. (Photo: John Fedele Blend Images/Newscom)

Millionaires are qualifying for Obamacare subsidies meant to assist low-income Americans who are unable to afford health care, thanks to a flaw in the law.

Carolyn McClanahan, a financial adviser and medical doctor in Florida, told CNBC she has advised at least five of her millionaire clients to enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act because their taxable incomes make them eligible for government subsidies.

Those clients, McClanahan said, each have a net worth ranging from $1 million to $3 million.

Because eligibility for Obamacare tax credits is determined by income, not net worth, assets aren’t taken into account. This allows the financial adviser’s millionaire clients to save between $4,600 and $8,800 in annual premium payments—with taxpayers covering those amounts.

CNBC also reported that wealthy individuals with taxable incomes low enough to meet another Obamacare subsidy threshold are qualified to receive tax credits to help cover copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles.

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in health policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal:

Essentially, what you’ve got is a system where the government is handing out an income support benefit without determining whether or not somebody has assets. If a person has significant assets, they don’t really need income support, because they can tap their assets if they need more money to cover their expenses.

All of McClanahan’s clients retired before turning 65, meaning they no longer receive health insurance through their employers but are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Although each client’s net worth was in the millions because of investments and real estate, CNBC reported, their taxable incomes were low enough after retirement for them to qualify for the tax credits.

“It’s not so much a loophole as it is a logical consequence of the design, which is really more of a welfare benefit design than a health care design,” Haislmaier said.

This isn’t the case solely for Obamacare’s subsidized exchange coverage; Medicaid has a similar workaround.

Haislmaier pointed out that the Affordable Care Act also removed asset tests from Medicaid’s eligibility requirements, except for long-term care benefits.

This means states that have adopted the Medicaid expansion, which was intended for poor individuals, now may enroll wealthy individuals who have low incomes. Haislmaier said:

That creates a number of interesting interactions, where somebody can have, for example, significant assets but low income and therefore qualify for tax credits or Medicaid if they’re in the right income range and their states adopted the Medicaid expansion.

A major reason for these effects, he said, is that the Affordable Care Act was set up as an income-related welfare benefit and tied to the tax code.

“Basically, the people who designed the ACA were a subset of liberals who were focused on issues of income to the exclusion of other considerations,” Haislmaier said. “So this functions in the way it was designed and written.”

The only way to fix the problem, he said, is to overhaul the law and redesign it so that assets are accounted for.

Obamacare has been a disaster since it was rushed through Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Everyone remembers: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

From the embarrassing website issues to the millions of Americans losing their health insurance, Obamacare has set a trend of failures in its quest to make insurance more available and affordable.

Obamacare Penalty An Economic Disaster For Millennials

It is no secret that the brunt of Obamacare falls on the millennial generation’s shoulders, as they have seen their premiums continue to rise in order to offset older Americans more expensive healthcare needs.

Millennials are facing a whole host of crippling economic issues in 2016 and they have just received another blow. The Obamacare penalty is increasing this enrollment period to around $1,000 or 2.5 percent of taxable income, according to an independent study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

As millennials are transitioning out of college and working on establishing a career in a bumpy economy they have to take a serious look at their ability to meet Obamacare’s health insurance requirements or take the penalty.

Open enrollment ends January 31 and time is quickly ticking away.

Unfortunately for the Obama administration, there has been little ability for them to sell Americans on the need to purchase health insurance rather than take the penalty and this is certainly true for the millennial generation.

Although, many millennials are aware of the looming penalty increase for not being insured they are finding it hard to afford the insurance premiums currently available according to recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The major issue with the Obamacare insurance plans are the high deductibles. They are still far too expensive, leaving many carriers with thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Most young adults find that even the cheapest plans are costing them around $100 a month, totaling over $1,200 for the year, are just too much. Most millennials are having the make the tough choice to save a few hundred dollars, take the penalty, and go without insurance.

A recent study by How Much showed that 51.8 percent of millennials only have $1,000 in savings and this year’s Obamacare penalty could severely cripple millennials ability to handle a medical, automotive, or financial crisis.

As my father says, “Obamacare is a completely failed crap boon-doggle” and it is becoming worse and worse for the financially struggling millennial generation. Obamacare is yet another economic roadblock initiated by Democrats that is setting millennials up for a life time of financial hardships.

Salvator J. La Mastra V is a political author, commentator, and campaign strategist. Salvator specializes in millennials and the youth vote. His first book “2012 for Twentysomething’s: A Young Voter’s Guide to the 2012 Elections” was endorsed by Karl Rove. Mr. Rove, the architect, stated “La Mastra’s guide is a great tool to help these young adults educate themselves on the issues, mobilize, and get involved.” Salvator is featured as an opinion editorialist on The Daily Caller and a guest editorialist for Investors Business Daily. He believes his 80 million strong generation requires a new train of thought when it comes to beltway politics and campaigning and he offers this unique perspective where others cannot.

The Meaning of Donald Trump

In the first of a three-part series by Sean Trende on the Donald Trump phenomenon, RealClearPolitics examines the roots of the GOP frontrunner’s coalition.

Even without knowing how the Iowa caucuses will end – it is still entirely possible that the Trumpenproletariat, which is only loosely connected to the political process, will not show up to vote – it’s safe to say that the political commentariat has collectively blown the call with respect to Trump. This will be true even if Trump ultimately fails to win a single primary or caucus. After all, almost all of us believed that the billionaire businessman would fade by the fall, then by the winter, then in the weeks before Iowa. It now seems as if Trump is headed for a second-place finish in Iowa, at worst, something few would have seen as plausible last summer.

But this raises the further question: What is the meaning of Trump’s rise? I think we’re in danger of blowing the call here once again. The go-to explanation has been to see this in the vein of the various uprisings within the Republican Party since 2010, most prominently in primary fights to find the so-called “true conservative” of that year. The GOP’s failure to rein in its base, the story goes, is the culprit behind the rise of Trump.

There’s some truth here, but the full story goes much deeper, as Trump isn’t really the candidate of the base (by which I mean voters who usually vote, and usually vote Republican). To really understand this, some history:

By the time Ronald Reagan finished his second term, the Republican Party was an unwieldy coalition of various geographic, economic, and ideological factions. There were the traditional “Main Street” Republicans from small towns and cities in the Midwest; the “Establishment” Republicans in the Northeast; suburbanites concerned about economic growth and high tax rates, added to the party by Dwight Eisenhower; and the religious right, a relatively new addition during Reagan’s term.

There were other groups as well, but two additional ones are of particular interest for our purposes. First, there were what we might call the ideological conservatives. These groups had found their hero in Barry Goldwater in 1964 and remained in the GOP in a relatively junior role through 1980. While Reagan wasn’t their perfect candidate (it’s hard to believe now, but conservatives were often disappointed in the Gipper during his presidency), he was far better in their eyes than Richard Nixon or Gerald Ford.

The foregoing groups – who in truth overlapped a fair amount – had a variety of interests that clashed. The glue that held them together was the Cold War. This was especially true of the second group of particular interest for this article: what we might call the populists. These were in many instances the Reagan Democrats, although it was Nixon and Eisenhower who initially brought these voters into the Republican fold. These voters didn’t necessarily care for Reagan’s economic policies, but they liked that he spoke their language, stood, at least in theory, for “traditional values” – a notion liberals have long conflated with religious fundamentalism but which isn’t really coterminous – and most importantly, “stood up to the Russians.” More broadly, Reagan seemed interested in redeeming the country for “losing” Vietnam. One might say that in the eyes of these voters, he made America great again (“It’s Morning in America”).

Ever since the Cold War ended, these factions have been warring with one another to varying degrees. The ideological conservatives have grown in importance, moving through the Gingrich Revolution of the 1990s (which explicitly viewed itself as finishing the transformation begun by Reagan), into the spread of groups such as Club for Growth during the 2000s (which notched a number of wins – and losses – pre-2009 that we would today call “Tea Party” wins), through the search for the “true conservative” candidates of primaries starting in 2010.

Most of the recent media focus has been on candidates who embark upon these ideological searches for purity. This is perfectly sensible, given that most of the upstart candidates, especially in 2010, won their primaries because they left little room to their right.

So it is natural, to some extent, that Trump also gets lumped into this category. It is also incorrect. The candidate for those seeking purity is Ted Cruz, who stands as sort of a pure refinement of the Gingrich Revolution. His core support is among the true believers, and his strategy is explicitly pitched to them (he believes, for example, that he can win by motivating millions of conservative voters who sat out the 2012 election).

Trump is different. He actually harkens back to the earliest post-Cold War insurgency against the Republican Party: The Pat Buchanan challenges of the 1990s. Journalists tended to focus on Buchanan’s opposition to illegal immigration, but in so doing they missed the breadth of his appeal, which was planted squarely in the populist aspect of Reaganism. Buchanan, like his Nixon White House counterpart Kevin Phillips, lambasted the party for giving up its fight for the “little guy” and selling out to the rich (Phillips, in fairness, positioned himself further to the left than Buchanan). Buchananism stood as a challenge to what had become Republican orthodoxy not only on issues such as immigration, but also on trade, tax policy, foreign policy and a host of other economic issues.

Throughout the past few decades we’ve seen this insurgency move through the Ross Perot movement and into the candidacies of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Here’s what I wrote in 2012, in the wake of the Iowa caucuses:

Rick Santorum may well be the future of the Republican Party. While I find it highly unlikely that he’ll be the nominee this time out, there’s a good chance that the Republican coalition will fundamentally change in the next 20 years and move toward Santorum’s style of politics. Twice in a row now, the party has toyed with nominating a candidate who combined social conservatism with economic populism; Santorum’s speech last night was essentially a northern version of a speech Mike Huckabee could have delivered in 2008.

We’ve already seen white working-class voters move toward the Republican Party over the past several decades — a shift perhaps epitomized by the GOP’s special election victory in New York’s 9th Congressional District. If a more credible Santorum/Huckabee candidate could emerge, the party would reciprocate by moving toward these voters. This would have major implications for our political dynamic, and could deal the Democrats a serious blow in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

On the other hand, the Democrats have been moving toward a top-bottom coalition of “New Economy” professionals and minority voters. A Santorum/Huckabee-esque Republican Party would probably hasten the exit of upscale suburbanites from the Republican coalition, and potentially reinvigorate the New Democrat approach to governing that dominated the party’s politics in the ’90s.

This is the strand of Republicanism in which Trumpism largely finds its roots. Think of it this way: Club for Growth, which Huckabee routinely railed against, would likely love Cruz, but I find it hard to believe that they would be excited about a more protectionist candidate like Trump.

Obviously, Trump represents a metamorphosis from Santorum and Huckabee in that he at best offers lip service to social conservatism. But poll after poll shows he draws his strength from the same sorts of downscale, less-educated voters with loose ties to the Republican Party; in other words, he is drawing in new voters (while likely pushing other voters out).

This confusion among analysts and campaigns has had consequences. While there certainly has been a strong element of nationalism and populism within the Tea Party, Trump has not been attempting to rile up those who are angry that the GOP is not sufficiently ideologically pure. In fact, Trump’s support has largely been spread across the party, with substantial strength among moderate and liberal Republicans.

So the attempts to attack him for his lack of conservative bona fides have been ineffective because they were largely directed at voters who were not likely to vote for Trump in the first place. Likewise, attacks on his buffoonish-ness, his hair, and his more-than-occasional mean-spirited comments had little effect on his supporters, many of whom feel looked-down-upon by business, media, and political elites in both parties because they themselves don’t look right or talk right. His attacks on Megyn Kelly didn’t hurt him much because his supporters aren’t the most dedicated Fox News watchers. Again, those are more likely to be Cruz voters.

I’m not at all certain where the Trump train ends. It has been a crazy primary season, and if I’ve been correct about one thing, it is that the race has been largely chaotic. The establishment won’t give in to Trump easily (its moves toward him right now are likely an attempt to deal with Cruz first, before trying to get its preferred candidate into a one-on-one with Trump), and we have yet to see what will happen when the behind-the-scenes Bush/Rubio/Christie/Kasich knife fight draws to a close.

What I am certain of is that the Trump candidacy represents a huge move for a very real strain of Republicanism.

Thursday: Trump, Ted Cruz and the Missing Whites

Friday: Why Trump? Why Now?

Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

Side Effects of Obamacare

We’re beginning to see the side effects of Obamacare. Here’s a post by Chris Conover detailing the side effects of Obamacare in North Carolina.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC is expecting to lose more than $400 million on its first two years of Obamacare business. According to this morning’s News and Observer, “The dramatic deterioration in Blue Cross’ ACA business is causing increasing alarm among agents and public health officials.”  In response to its bleak experience with the Obamacare exchange, the company has decided to eliminate sales commissions for agents, terminate advertising of Obamacare policies, and stop accepting applications on-line through a web link that provides insurance price quotes–all moves calculated to limited Obamacare enrollment.

What can we learn from North Carolina’s experience?

Obamacare Losses Made the Entire Company Unprofitable in 2014

First, these are not nickel and dime losses. BCBSNC reported an operating loss of $50.6 million in 2014–the first such loss in 15 years. Why? Because its Obamacare policies lost $123 million despite$343 million in various insurer bailouts (the so-called “Three R’s“–risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors).

What makes this shocking is that BCBSNC is the state’s dominant insurer, covering 72% of the large group market. If a deep-pocketed insurer such as this cannot make a go of Obamacare, that does not bode well for many smaller carriers who do not have large profits on other lines of business with which to absorb whatever losses are generated by policies sold on the Obamacare exchanges.  Indeed, part of the explanation for why over half of the Obamacare co-ops have already failed is that they lacked the deep pockets of the largest and most experienced insurers in the business.

The fact that one of the nation’s largest insurers, UnitedHealthcare also has raised doubts about its ability to carry plans on the healthcare law’s exchanges beyond 2016 makes clear that this problem is not unique to North Carolina.

The Problem is Getting Worse, Not Better

A large carrier such as BCBSNC can afford to absorb a temporary hit to its profits. But the evidence in NC is that Obamacare losses are growing over time rather than shrinking–a clearly unsustainable business model. It may just be a matter of time before BCBSNC too abandons its Obamacare policies as a line of business.

Obamacare losses were $123 million in 2014. Year-end final figures for 2015 may not be announced until late February. But the most recent news suggests they will be at least double the losses experienced in 2014 [1].  This mirrors the experience of UnitedHealth, which recently announced it expects to lose more than $500 million on the Obamacare exchanges in 2016 — after already losing $475 million in 2015.

Because of its enormous losses, BCBSNC was able to convince the state’s insurance commissioner to allow a 32.5% average increase in its rates for the 2016 Obamacare policies now being sold. It remains to be seen how effective this is in forestalling future losses. However, as shown below, it should be obvious that higher premiums is going to limit the willingness of at least some Obamacare plan members to secure or maintain their coverage.

Special Enrollment Period Enrollees Are a Problem

One other thing made clear by the recent news is that BCBSNC is facing the same problem being experienced all across the country. People who buy their coverage during these special enrollment periods cost twice as much as Obamacare customers who secure their coverage during open enrollment (which this year lasted from November 1-January 31).

The special enrollment period is open to people whose circumstances have changed, such as getting married, having children, losing/changing jobs or similar situations. However, many such individuals evidently are staying insured only for several months, generating a lot of medical bills and then discontinuing their coverage.

Again, this is not unique to NC: earlier this month, in response to complaints by insurance companies, Obamacare administrators eliminated six additional conditions that allowed people to sign up for health coverage outside of the general enrollment period.  According to UPI, these steps will ”make it more difficult for persons without health coverage to financially manipulate or abuse the Affordable Care Act.”

These steps presumably will be good news for the bottom line of insurers such as BCBSNC. But they by no means eliminate various ways in which people have figured out to game the system. More importantly, they clearly do not bode well for the future of Obamacare. Enrollment has been ratheranemic. To the degree that Obamacare plan membership was artificially boosted by people willing to pay its high premiums just for a few months until their immediate medical needs were taken care of, any efforts to stem such abuse will inevitably result in even more anemic enrollment numbers.

t’s critical to remember that the reinsurance and risk corridor subsidies to insurers were only temporary programs designed to terminate at the end of this year. In the meantime, various taxes on insurers are continuing to be phased in. As a consequence, University of Minnesota economist Stephen Parente has calculated that the cost of the least expensive policies on the Obamacare exchanges will more than triple in NC between 2016 and 2017!

That is, the average premium for Bronze policies with very narrow provider networks (to make them affordable) will climb from $1,777 in 2016 to $4,336 in 2017. The average premium for Bronze catastrophic policies (i.e., very high deductibles, again to make them affordable) will grow from $783 in 2016 to $2,929 in 2017.

Dr. Parente’s model shows that higher premiums are likely to result in a 2% decline in the number of people with non-group coverage in 2017 relative to 2016. The number of uninsured is likely to rise by 5%. This is not a temporary situation: nearly-identical numbers are projected in every year through 2024. In short, 2016 may well be the year of peak enrollment in Obamacare, with declining numbers going forward after this.

Bottom Line: The Side Effects of Obamacare

In light of Obamacare’s “crumbling facade” (as the Washington Examiner recently put it), Aetna recently sent a letter to the Obama administration warning the exchanges could collapse next year “unless some fundamental flaws are corrected.”  In light of the bleak news coming out of BCBSNC, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin likewise has indicated his intention to send a letter next week to DHHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to express his concerns on “this matter of very high priority concern.”

We will see if these pleas make any difference. Given the willingness of this administration to ignore strong public opposition to this misguided law at its inception and its continued insistence on implementing the law in the face of persistent opposition by a majority of the public, by various states and by a majority in Congress, I am not holding my breath.

READ CHRIS’ BOOK,  The American Health Economy Illustrated (AEI Press, 2012), available at Amazon and other major retailers. With generous support from the National Research Initiative at the  American Enterprise Institute, an on-line version complete with downloadable Powerpoint slides and companion spreadsheets has been made available through the Medical Industry Institute’s Open Education Hub at the University of Minnesota.

Follow @ConoverChris on Twitter TWTR -0.67%, and  The Apothecary on Facebook. Or, sign up to receive a weekly e-mail digest of articles from  The Apothecary.

READ CHRIS’ BOOK,  The American Health Economy Illustrated (AEI Press, 2012), available at Amazon and other major retailers. With generous support from the National Research Initiative at the  American Enterprise Institute, an on-line version complete with downloadable Powerpoint slides and companion spreadsheets has been made available through the Medical Industry Institute’s Open Education Hub at the University of Minnesota.

 Trump, Cruz and Carson 'Tea Party' down South

Getty Images

GOP Candidates, Cruz, Carson and Trump met with Tea Party members in South Carolina.Despite the fast-approaching Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and the New Hampshire primary eight days after that, South Carolina has seen a surge in presidential politicking over the past several days.

With last week’s Fox Business GOP debate in Charleston and NBC’s bareknuckled Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders Sunday night passion-fest in the same city, folks down this way — despite the freezing temperatures — are starting to warm up to the idea that they soon will be getting their own Cecil B. DeMille close-up in the unfolding dramedy otherwise known as the race for the White House.

Raising the interest level and stakes in South Carolina these days is the fact that the state’s Feb. 20 GOP primary will no doubt play a bit of a canary-in-the-coal-mine role for some of the more beleaguered campaigns as they struggle to stay alive heading into the delegate-rich Super Tuesday primaries on March 1.
Along with the two highly covered Charleston debates, some very interesting marks on the GOP side of the political stage were hit — or missed — at this year’s South Carolina Tea Party’s yearly convention at the Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach.

Not quite a five-star venue where you would find well-suited and -coiffed movers and shakers elbowing one another for face time with a potential leader of the free world, Springmaid is an informal, down-home, Cracker Barrel, K&W Cafeteria, buffet-line kind of place more suited toward regular folks not dressing to impress and wary of those who do. The one exception for the Tea Partyers, of course, is their own quite well-dressed, albeit mysteriously coiffed, front-running populist billionaire, whom folks down here still affectionately call “The Donald.”

These South Carolina Tea Partyers are no latecomers to the Donald Trump bandwagon either. One year ago, the current GOP front-runner spoke to this same group and brought the house down when he mentioned that he was toying with the idea of getting into the race. A lot has happened since then. Trump not only entered the race; he quickly began to dominate it. And these South Carolina Tea Partyers have been with him every step of the way. For his part, Trump genuinely seems to consider these Carolina proud, red-white-and-blue gun-owning, American-flag-pinned, God-fearing, regular folks as his base.

Although South Carolina Tea Party founder and convention organizer Joe Dugan expresses an unbiased amount of pleasure toward all six presidential candidates who showed up for this year’s convention, he seems particularly proud that last year’s event unofficially marks the beginning of Trumphenomena nationwide.

Dugan’s personal story about his own foray into national politics seems to mirror that of many I spoke to during this year’s convention. Outraged about the way he saw the country going, Dugan, 70, a former industrial engineer, climbed down off the retirement shelf five years ago and rolled up his sleeves to see what he could do about it. Now he’s on a first-name basis with, and speed-dialed into, any number of GOP candidates who could very well wind up being president of the United States.

For the record, Dugan says he invited all the GOP presidential candidates this year but only Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore decided to attend.

Keeping their distance: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina RSVPed for the event but apparently changed her mind at the last minute, said Dugan.

Like most of his fellow Tea Partyers, Dugan simultaneously vents steam from his eyeballs and ears when he talks about so-called conservatives whom he says speak the Tea Party language during election cycles but then quickly become part of the Washington insider club. When I ask him if he has any concerns that Trump might forget about his Tea Party friends if he gets to the White House, Dugan confidently cuts me off, saying it would never happen. President-elect or not, Dugan says Trump has already promised him he’d return to the Tea Party convention again next year.

Candidates address the South Carolina Tea Party Convention

During Saturday’s session before a packed room, Cruz received a robust reaction to an impressive, note-free defense of his record in Washington, focusing on national security, the convention’s theme. Later, toward the evening, with Cruz long gone, Trump ended his standard, take-no-prisoners stump speech with a few sidebar references to Cruz receiving that $1 million loan from Goldman Sachs. Trump, hearing some boos and catcalls from Cruz supporters scattered throughout the room, quickly wrapped up his speech and left.

Despite the potential backfire within the Tea Party ranks of his attack-Cruz strategy, Trump seems to have this ability to be able to excite folks who would never think of attending a political meeting, Tea Party or otherwise.

Leaving the Springmaid Beach Resort on his way to the airport and his private jet, Trump was greeted outside by about 100 motorcycle riders who call themselves “Bikers for Trump.” These decidedly non-tea-drinking bikers — whose unofficial home base is a bar a few miles south of here — just showed up because they knew Trump was in town. It’s hard imagining any of the other candidates, Tea Party favorites or not, inspiring that kind of spontaneous combustion.

Carson also received a healthy reaction from the Tea Partyers this year, but he didn’t appear until Monday, when the crowd had fallen off a little. So it’s a little difficult figuring out where he currently fits into the mix.

Tea Party chief Dugan said he purposely does not conduct a straw poll during the convention in order to keep the event more substantive and issue-based. Not having any such moral parameters, as I left the event on Monday afternoon I unsuccessfully tried to bribe a young Tea Partyer at the front door to see which campaign buttons were selling the best. Dugan has his people trained pretty well.

On Saturday night, after convention activities had ended for the day, a sizable group of younger Tea Partyers trekked over to Myrtle Beach’s legendary Barrel Bar just a mile from Springmaid. A few of my spies at the Barrel told me they heard a lot of buzz about both Trump and Cruz, but gave the edge to The Donald. Apparently, the Trump supporters were a little louder and aggressive, too. (Go figure.)

I will stay on the story and get back to you after I spend a little more time conducting some scientific polls and, of course, developing my spy network down at the biker bar.

By Jim Mills, contributor to The Hill.

Mills is a freelance writer living in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He is the co-author, with Fox News anchor Bret Baier, of The New York Times bestseller “Special Heart.” He can be reached at

Outsiders force the evolution of the two-party system.

Trump, Sanders reshaping our parties
Getty Images Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are pushing the dominant parties further apart.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. is unlikely to ever get a multi-party political system, but the divisions exposed in the current presidential campaign herald significant shifts in the two parties that we do have.

As Donald Trump — and for that matter, Ted Cruz — force establishment Republicans to the sidelines of the party’s primary race, there is talk about the end of the Republican Party as we know it.

Meanwhile, as independent Bernie Sanders narrows the gap with establishment Democrat Hillary Clinton in the first primary contest in Iowa and holds on to his lead in the second in New Hampshire, he increases his chances of shifting the momentum of the entire race in his favor.

The disaffection with establishment politicians so long visible in the low favorability ratings for Congress has finally bubbled up to the contest for the White House. Voters are saying they will no longer stand for business as usual.

However, this does not mean we can redraw the political map in the way that, say, Spain did last month, giving almost the same amount of support to two upstart parties as they did to the two establishment parties that have dominated national politics since the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s.

Spain has a voting system that more or less translates the proportion of the vote won to the proportion of seats in Parliament.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a system that in congressional elections makes the candidate with the most votes the winner. For the White House itself there is an Electoral College system based on results in each state that amplifies the gap in the popular vote between the two main parties and virtually excludes third parties.

So there’s no chance that an upstart party like Podemos in Spain, which is not yet two years old, could get any representation in Congress, let alone get one-fifth of the seats as Podemos did last month.

Nonetheless, Trump, Cruz and Sanders are transforming the political landscape by pushing the Republican Party (even further) to the right and the Democratic Party significantly to the left.

Hillary Clinton is trying to follow Sanders to the left, but will have difficulty convincing voters because of the centrist legacy, or baggage, she has from Bill Clinton’s presidency.

The operating model for forcing evolution in the major parties is the Tea Party movement. Its strident rhetoric, insistence on ideological purity over political compromise, and above all its willingness to put up alternative candidates in primary races, even if that means losing a seat, has radicalized and energized a narrow party base to push the Republicans to the extreme right.

There has been no similar movement on the left since Occupy Wall Street fizzled out, but a recent report in The Atlantic suggests the New York-based Working Families Party would like to fill that role.

The left-wing party has enjoyed success in New York because of that state’s “fusion-voting” system, allowing a candidate to appear on more than one party line on ballots. This leaves the WFP free to nominate their own candidate or to endorse the Democratic candidate if he or she has come far enough in their direction.

This backfired in the state’s 2014 gubernatorial election when the party nominated the incumbent Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, who frustrates many progressives for his on-off commitment to their policies. Democratic Party rebel Zephyr Teachout went on to get a third of the primary vote and Cuomo reneged on his promises to WFP.

Nonetheless, WFP President Dan Cantor is aggressively pushing expansion of the party into other states in order to move the Democrats to the left. The party, which has endorsed Sanders as its candidate, plans to be in 11 states by the middle of next year.

Cantor argues that most good ideas in American politics — votes for women, bans on child labor, unemployment insurance, Social Security — started with third parties like Free Soilers, the Liberty Party, the Populist Party, or the Socialist Party.

“That’s where these things germinate, and then when you do well, they get adopted by one of the major parties,” Cantor told Atlantic writer Molly Ball, “or in very rare cases the major party collapses.”

Very rare, indeed. The last time a major party collapsed was the Whig Party in the 1850s, as Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party took over its constituencies and gave us today’s two-party system.

While there is talk of the Republican Party collapsing if Trump wins the nomination, it doesn’t seem very likely in a single electoral cycle. It remains to be seen whether Trumpism will become an extended political movement.

Likewise, it is still a long shot for Sanders to get the Democratic nomination. If Clinton wins the nomination and then the general election, the Vermont senator could fade into history as a small blip and Clinton’s centrist tendencies would probably reassert themselves.

However, even if they lose, Trump and Sanders may have set something in motion that will indeed reshape U.S. politics in the years to come.

Never, ever trust the liberal media to put politicians on a mainstream-to-extreme political scale. In their minds, Nancy Pelosi sits on the center line of the political fulcrum. By that measurement, Jeb Bush looks like a fire-breathing extremist. And Ted Cruz, the original Cro-Magnon.

Media interview Take January 13, the morning after the State of the Union. NBC Today host Matt Lauer was interviewing Gov. Nikki Haley, who gave the Republican response. She had made a comment about disliking the “angriest voices” in politics – that is, Donald Trump. “Some very conservative voices in your party were not so happy,” Lauer observed. Then he added, “Some people on the far right of your party wanted you to deliver a full-scale partisan political attack [on Obama]. You didn’t see that as your mission, did you?”

So to be “far right” is to want a Republican response to Obama that actually responds to Obama. From there, Lauer moved on to complaining to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the House had voted to repeal the “Affordable Care Act.” “I think it’s the 62nd time that’s happened, and obviously the President vetoed it. Did you put out what you consider to be any kind of alternative?” They’ve put out several alternatives, and by pretending they haven’t, Lauer is merely echoing Obama talking points.

On that same show on that morning, Today host Savannah Guthrie interviewed Hillary Clinton about the emerging threat from socialist Bernie Sanders. But there was no reference to a “far left.” In fact, you’ll never find that label attached to anyone on the far left, be it Hillary or Bernie or Barack. There’s just “passion.” “There’s a lot of passion on the Democratic side for Bernie Sanders. Are you telling those voters to get real, he can`t be elected; or to get real, he can’t do the things he says he can do?” Later, Guthrie followed up: “Are you suggesting that Bernie Sanders is out there promoting a fantasy that can’t come true?”

Socialism is a fantasy that never comes true, to be sure, but that’s not what Guthrie meant. She meant: Are Democrats too idealistic in their pursuit of socialism?

On January 15, CNN host Erin Burnett marveled that today’s conservatives would still revere Ronald Reagan, since in his day “he tripled the national debt. Yet he grew government. Yet he raised taxes. These guys would hate that guy.” No. They don’t. She brought on liberal historian Douglas Brinkley, the court historian for John Kerry for President in 2004. Since Reagan’s era, he said “It’s kept getting more right and more right and more right. So today Reagan would be kind of a centrist Republican. He’d be more like Jeb Bush, maybe even more liberal than Jeb Bush on some issues.” Burnett said, “More like Hillary Clinton, dare I say?” Dare we say this is pure idiocy? This is your political brain on drugs. Ronald Reagan would look at Obama’s socialist schemes and massive debt pile-up and form a Tea Party two seconds later. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported a poll of Iowa voters by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register that asked likely voters in the Democrat caucuses if they would use the word “socialist” to describe themselves. Forty-three percent said “Yes,” more than the numbers who identified themselves as capitalists, 38 percent. It’s unlikely Erin Burnett or Savannah Guthrie will pass that number around. Or observe how Lyndon Johnson today would be more like his fellow Texan Ted Cruz than those presently in control of the Democratic Party.


By Brent Bozell and Tim Graham on

Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center More from Brent Bozell
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media


Sarah Palin endorses Trump


This is an opinion of one Tea Party member about Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. My personal opinion is that political and celebrity endorsement have little to do with the final outcome of elections.

An Ohio-based tea party activist predicts that Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump won’t have the impact that some may think.

On the contrary, says Tom Zawistowski of the Portage County Tea Party, it could actually hurt Trump more than help him.

“Simply because Sarah Palin is so caustic to the independent voter and the Democrats,” he says of the endorsement. “So I’m not convinced this is a home run for Donald Trump.”

Ted Cruz grilling in IowaPalin rose to prominence in 2008 when U.S. Sen. John McCain chose the former Alaska governor as his vice presidential nominee. She became a major figure of the tea party movement and a vilified target of the Left, especially among feminists and liberal media.

“Are you ready for the leader to make America great again?” Palin told Trump supporters Tuesday in Ames, Iowa.

The endorsement came just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses and was seen as a political blow to Sen. Ted Cruz, who is tied with Trump in the state.

Donald Trump 2Cruz responded to the Trump endorsement by saying he “loves” Palin and will always be her fan. That comment came after Cruz’s communications director told CNN that the endorsement was a mistake because Palin “has been a champion of conservative causes.”

Cruz and Trump are in a political battle for Iowa delegates. RealClearPolitics is following seven separate polls in Iowa that overall show Trump with a 1.5-percent lead over Cruz.

Zawistowski, who supports Cruz, tells OneNewsNow that Cruz is good on the campaign trail and is meeting people face-to-face in Iowa.

“And I think they know who he is and they know who the real Christian is in the race,” says Zawistoski.

Written by Chad Groening (

Jeffrey Toobin

Appearing on Wednesday’s At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan on CNN to discuss the latest revelations that some of the email on former Secretary of State’s server was considered highly classified, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin ended up downplaying her culpability in her behavior as he asserted that she was “suffering from” the tendency of government agencies to “overclassify” information.

Toobin: “She is now suffering from that because people are saying there’s all this classified information she’s dealing with, but there is not a bright line between classified and unclassified, and you can see, at least to a certain extent, why she was not clear on what was what.”

After Toobin explained that, even if classified information was not marked as classified, she could still be prosecuted if she should have known it was classified, co-host Kate Bolduan followed up:

And that question almost depends on who you’re talking to. Because when you talk to the Hillary Clinton campaign, they point out that this kind of gets to the heart of where this has been dispute between the State Department and the intelligence community over what was classified and what should have been classified at what point. I mean, this really gets into the weeds. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering who’s going to decide. Who gets to decide?

The CNN legal analyst called the overclassification of information a “minor but real scandal” as he began his response:

Well, the FBI is going to decide if she’s prosecuted. I mean, ultimately, that’s the decision I think everybody cares about. I mean, one of the, you know, minor but real scandals in the U.S. government has been for decades is that people overclassify things, is that a lot of information that is not all that sensitive is treated as classified.

He then suggested an excuse for Clinton as he added:

She is now suffering from that because people are saying there’s all this classified information she’s dealing with, but there is not a bright line between classified and unclassified, and you can see, at least to a certain extent, why she was not clear on what was what.

Bolduan recalled the Clinton spin as she concluded the segment:

Even if it’s not legally clear, we’ll see what the political ramifications are with all of this coming out. And definitely the campaign has been pointing out, they believe this is an inspector general with an axe to grind, is kind of the way they’re pointing to it.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, January 20, At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan on CNN:

11:43 a.m. ET
JOHN BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, I want to bring you into this. More sensitive than top secret. Those are tough words.


BERMAN: Which have some political baggage with them just weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. Where’s the line between this being a political problem and a legal problem?

TOOBIN: Well, the Clinton campaign and her representatives have said all along that she has never mishandled information that was marked, that she was told was classified. Now, if you take classified information and put it in an email and send it to someone, it’s not marked classified, but it’s still classified. You get the distinction?


TOOBIN: Her problem now is, is that if this information is so highly classified the government, the FBI may say, “Well, you should have known, even though it wasn’t marked.” If someone hands you a diagram for how to make a nuclear weapon, and it’s not marked classified, you should know that. Now, the question is, is this information so obviously classified that she should have known and treated it as classified and not handled it on the server?

BOLDUAN: And that question almost depends on who you’re talking to. Because when you talk to the Hillary Clinton campaign, they point out that this kind of gets to the heart of where this has been dispute between the State Department and the intelligence community over what was classified and what should have been classified at what point. I mean, this really gets into the weeds. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering who’s going to decide. Who gets to decide?

TOOBIN: Well, the FBI is going to decide if she’s prosecuted. I mean, ultimately, that’s the decision I think everybody cares about. I mean, one of the, you know, minor but real scandals in the U.S. government has been for decades is that people overclassify things, is that a lot of information that is not all that sensitive is treated as classified.

She is now suffering from that because people are saying there’s all this classified information she’s dealing with, but there is not a bright line between classified and unclassified, and you can see, at least to a certain extent, why she was not clear on what was what.

BOLDUAN: Even if it’s not legally clear, we’ll see what the political ramifications are with all of this coming out. And definitely the campaign has been pointing out, they believe this is an inspector general with an axe to grind, is kind of the way they’re pointing to it.

Written by Brad Wilmouth for Media Research Center.