Americans are still worried about death panels

Vox Media is a a left of center media company.

When Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, they knew it wasn’t popular — poll after poll showed pluralities, if not majorities, opposed to the legislation after the bruising national fight that led to its passage. But Democrats had a theory about the law: as time went on, and Americans started to gain coverage, the law’s favorability would rise.

“As that bill is enacted, it’s going to become more and more popular,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) predicted on Meet the Press in March 2010.

“I think that [the law] over time is going to become more popular,” David Axelrod, then a senior adviser to President Obama, declared in September.

Five years later, it’s fair to declare that prediction dead wrong: 83 percent of Americans still hold the same opinions they did in 2010. And of those who have changed their minds, 58 percent of them have become more negative toward the law, a new Vox poll conducted by PerryUndem shows.

If there’s any area of consensus, it’s in misperceptions of the law

If there’s any area of consensus, it’s in misperceptions of the law: 82 percent of Americans either say the price tag has gone up, or aren’t sure (the law’s price has actually decreased as compared with initial estimates), and only 13 percent know the law met its first-year enrollment goals.

Taken overall, the poll paints a frustrating picture for Democrats: most Americans aren’t changing their opinion; those who are have mostly become more negative; and some widely held beliefs about the Affordable Care Act are far from accurate.

But it’s not all good news for Republicans, either: though most Americans dislike Obamacare, more want to see it improved than repealed. Democrats have lost the battle — they haven’t made the health law more popular — but in thwarting repeal, and keeping Obamacare in place, they’re arguably winning the war.

Why opinions are stuck: Democrats and Republicans think the law is having different effects

If you want to understand why the public remains so divided on Obamacare, it’s helpful to look at what they think the health-care law is doing.

floating chart

                                                  (Anand Katakam / Vox)

Overall, 60 percent of Americans think more people have gotten health coverage through Obamacare. All evidence we have suggests this is true: data from Gallup, the Commonwealth Fund,Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Urban Institute, RAND Corporation, and the Kaiser Family Foundation all have similar findings — namely, that millions more people have insurance than before Obamacare’s insurance expansion.

But there’s a stark divide between parties: 74 percent of Democrats agree with the fact that Obamacare has increased health coverage, compared with only 49 percent of Republicans.

Conversely, 54 percent of the country thinks businesses are cutting back on their employees’ hours so they can dodge Obamacare’s employer mandate. (There is evidence of this happening in isolated cases, but not at a widespread level.) Seventy-four percent of Republicans think this is true, compared with 42 percent of Democrats.

A similar divide shows up on insurance costs: 70 percent of Republicans say costs are going up as a “direct result” of Obamacare, while only 33 percent of Democrats agree with this statement. The best evidence we have shows that Obamacare has had a negligible effect on insurance premiums for people who get insurance at work, and that premiums have actually grown slower in the individual market since the start of the insurance expansion.

Most Americans don’t think they have enough information about the law

Fifty-seven percent of the American public doesn’t think they have enough information about the health-care law — and 60 percent don’t think they understand how the law affects them specifically.

Fifty-seven percent of the public doesn’t have enough information to understand the law

Those information gaps matter: the Vox poll shows that people who say they don’t understand how the “law affects me” are less likely to know what’s actually in the Affordable Care Act. When you compare them with people who say they do understand the law’s affects, they are 32 percentage points less likely to to know that the health-care law provides tax credits to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase insurance coverage. And they are 21 percentage points less likely to know that Obamacare bars insurers from denying coverage to people who have preexisting conditions.

So information matters: and one reason a lot of Americans are stuck on the law might be because they don’t understand what it means for them — and whether their health care is changing as a result.

Here’s a surprise: most Americans do know the most important parts of Obamacare

Obamacare’s insurance expansion arguably has three really important policies: the end of preexisting conditions, a mandate to purchase insurance, and subsidies to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase coverage.

The Vox poll shows that a majority of Americans know about these three parts of the health-care law. Three-quarters of Americans know there is a mandate to buy insurance in Obamacare; 64 percent are aware that preexisting conditions no longer exist; and a slim majority, 54 percent, know about the financial help now available to buy a plan.

Awareness levels are similar among Democrats and Republicans, suggesting that some facts about the health-care law have broken through — even if they’re not swaying how voters think about the law.

Death panels? Subsidies for undocumented workers? Those myths persist today.

Twenty-three percent of Americans, for example, think undocumented immigrants can get financial help to purchase health insurance. Fifty-five percent said they weren’t sure, while 20 percent got the right answer: undocumented immigrants cannot get financial help through the marketplaces. (They can’t actually buy coverage through the marketplaces at all, even using their own money.)

Republicans are significantly more likely to believe these three Obamacare myths than Democrats, a sign of how politics colors the public’s perception of how Obamacare actually works. Republicans, for example, are 25 percent more likely to believe that undocumented workers can get financial help under Obamacare and 15 percent more likely to believe end-of-life panels exist.

The myth that’s duped everyone: Obamacare is getting more expensive

Forty-two percent of Americans think Obamacare has gotten more expensive over the past five years. Only 5 percent of poll respondents hit on the right answer: budget estimates for the Affordable Care Act have consistently fallen since it became a law.

Make no mistake: Obamacare spends a lot of money on its tax credits and Medicaid expansion. It recoups some, but not all, of that new spending with hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, which reduce federal health spending. The bulk of the remainder is made up with tax increases. But back when the law was passing, Republicans argued up, down, and sideways that the Congressional Budget Office was sharply underestimating the amount of money Obamacare spends.

In fact, the CBO overestimated the cost of Obamacare — and by quite a lot. In April 2014, itmarked down its Obamacare projection by more than $100 billion. Much of the revision comes down to the fact that health-care costs have grown very slowly during 2009, meaning it’s less expensive for the government to help millions of Americans purchase coverage. Just this month, CBO released new projections showing that Obamacare’s subsidies would cost 20 percent less over the next decade than initially expected.

The government is now spending less on health care than CBO had projected back in January 2010 — a projection that didn’t include any Affordable Care Act spending at all.

Most Americans aren’t directly experiencing the health-care law — or at least don’t think they are

This seems to be the fatal flaw in Democrats’ theory about Obamacare politics: the law has not majorly changed how health care works for the vast majority of Americans.

obama signature

(Wikimedia Commons)

Most Americans continue to get health insurance the same way they did prior to the Affordable Care Act: through their employer, or through a government program (largely Medicare and Medicaid).

In the Vox poll, 16 percent of Americans said they had been helped by the law — the same percentage that said they gained insurance through Obamacare. Another 54 percent thought the law had no effect on their lives, and 28 percent said they’d been affected negatively.

It’s unlikely that the number of Americans who say they’ve been helped by the law will edge up soon — or ever. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 24 million people will have coverage through the marketplaces in 2025, about 7 percent of the projected population (347 million). Obamacare enrollees will always make up a small minority of those with health insurance in America.

PerryUndem Research/Communication conducted the survey among n = 1,067 adults 18 and older nationwide, March 4 through 12, 2015. The survey was administered among a nationally representative sample of adults, using GfK’s Knowledge Panel. The margin of error is + 4.1 percentage points.

Barack Obama And Iran – A Love Story

Obama and ChamberlinThirty two years ago Ronald Reagan introduced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to the world with this quote: “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” Derided by the left as being scientifically impossible and having the potential of reigniting the arms race with the Soviets, “Star Wars” as they called it, became a sufficient worry for the Soviets that it actually hastened their demise.

Later that year in one of my Political Science classes we discussed peace treaties in general and those with the Soviets in particular. Given the history of failed treaties from Munich to Moscow, the professor asked a simple question: “If it’s someone’s goal to kill you, to destroy you, is it unreasonable to expect them to lie about it in the first place?” The obvious answer was no, it’s not unreasonable at all.

That apparently is not a concept Barack Obama has ever picked up on. Today when it seems that we are but days or weeks away from an agreement with the Iranians – not to be confused with a treaty –the obviousness of that reality is crystal clear.

In seeking to garner support for his “agreement” with Tehran, President Obama said this: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon,“

As these words came off of the President’s lips, he had never sounded more like Neville Chamberlain, who on September 30, 1938 told the world: “This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ‘ … We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.” Less than one year later Hitler invaded Poland… not surprisingly, in concert with the Soviets.

Apparently, in Barack Obama’s world, we’re supposed to believe what the leaders of a terrorist state say… but only sometimes. When they endorse an EMP attack against the United States that would leave half the country in a blackout for months… not so much. When they suggest Israel, our strongest ally and the only liberal democracy in the region should be annihilated…nah. When they boast about cheating on the last nuclear agreement they entered into with the West… obviously not.

Of course we all know that Iran has a checkered past… the taking of American hostages in 1979, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, their longtime financial support for Hezbollah and Hamas, the US embassy attacks in 1998 and of course their active support for those fighting the US in Iraq for much of the last decade.

But maybe they’ve changed over the last few years. (Or maybe in the last few hours as apparently just yesterday Supreme leader Ali Khamenei called for “Death to America“.) Maybe they’ve seen the error of their ways, washed their hands of their terrorist proxies and turned over a new leaf… No, not really. At least not according to the governments of Israel in 2012, Peru in 2013 and Uruguay just last month.

One has to ask, how is it even remotely possible that President Obama would consider an agreement with a country with more than three decades of duplicity and active support for terrorism against the United States and its allies?

Why would he want to make life easier for a serial terrorist regime by pushing to drop sanctions against them? How is it even possible he would consider an agreement that would facilitate the world’s most dangerous regime maintaining its nuclear capabilities and beginning a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile neighborhood?

How is it possible that a Harvard trained lawyer would think that a fig leaf of an international “agreement” would somehow keep a duplicitous regime – that boasts of cheating on just such agreements – from actually developing a nuclear weapon?

Is his need to validate his unwarranted Nobel Peace Prize so strong that he will put the world at risk? Does he so feel the need for a foreign policy “victory” of some sort that he will put the security of the United States in peril?

Is his narcissism so great and his belief in his ability to bend the world to his will so absolute that he need not bother to actually pay attention to reality? Is he a Manchurian plant? Or has the marijuana and cocaine he did in school finally caught up with him and started to impair his brain function?

Whatever the explanation, Barack Obama’s willingness to ignore reality that virtually everyone else on the planet can see and plunge the nation and the world into a universe where a messianic regime preparing for the “end of times” is on the road to nuclear weapons is the ultimate betrayal of his office.

If he goes ahead with his agreement with Iran he will not only be seen as the anti-Ronald Reagan, he will rightly go down in history as the 21st century’s Neville Chamberlain. Hopefully the cost of Obama’s folly won’t be nearly as high as that paid for Chamberlain’s appeasement. That might really tarnish his Nobel Prize.

By (Diary)

Moloch Must be Appeased

The Death Cult of the Modern Democratic Party

Moloch idol

Democrats in Washington, DC are tying up both a human trafficking bill and the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for one simple reason: to an elected Democrat Senator there is no higher good than more dead unborn children.

The Senate Democrats’ behavior in this fight has removed all doubt whatsoever about their motives in this regard. The fight here is not about expanding the legality of abortion or access to abortion. It is solely and exclusively about providing more money for abortions, which can only have one inevitable result: more abortions.

Bill Clinton once declared that the goal of Democrats should be to make abortions “safe, legal and rare.” The Democrats’ war against regulations designed to prevent another Kermit Gosnell indicates that they never really meant the “safe” part. And now, by voluntarily putting the entire business of the Senate on hold because they wish to do away with the Hyde Amendment, they have indicated that they never meant “rare” either. Really, what the Senate Democrats want and have always wanted is for abortions to be “legal, frequent, and free.”

Their position on abortion is completely outside the American mainstream. The media prefers to pose gotcha questions to Republican candidates about whether they support abortions in the case of rape and incest because they know this drives a wedge between Republican base voters and the general electorate. Almost never do they ask Democrats if they support taxpayer funding of abortion.

Support for taxpayer funding of abortion is probably the most outside-the-mainstream political position that is held by more than a single United States Senator. This issue has been polled hundreds of times over the last two decades and the polls consistently and persistently demonstrate that between 70-80% of the American public opposes taxpayer funding of abortion.

By way of reference, support for taxpayer funding of abortion is less popular than 9/11 trutherism, completely abolishing social security, the belief that homosexuality ought to be punishable by jail time, and is roughly as popular as the belief that interracial marriages ought to be illegal. Yet, while the people who believe the above things are treated by the media with the same contempt as something they might scrape off their shoes in disgust, people who believe the equally (or more) extreme thing that Americans ought to have their tax dollars used for a purpose that involves them in the killing of the unborn against their will, this is treated as a point of legitimate contention held by reasonable people.

Regardless of how you feel about the legality of abortion, there ought to be something within the soul of every marginally decent person that is horrified by the ghoulishness with which the Senate Democrats are pulling out every stop in the book for the sole and exclusive purpose of increasing the number of abortions that occur in this country. It’s almost unexplainable except in the context of the Old Testament death cults that required the sacrifice of children to an angry god Moloch.

And whether they do this for the sake of appeasing their extremist donors like Planned Parenthood or because they affirmatively believe in the positive good of more abortions, the end is the same for the unborn children who face the butcher’s knife.

In the end, for Democrats, Moloch must be appeased.

By Leon H. Wolf (Diary)

Government Should Pay for Damage Done by Fracking Ban

Southern Tier of New YorkNew York had more electoral votes than any other state in every presidential election from 1812 to 1948. It has lost electoral votes in every redistricting since 1950. It stands at 29 now and has fallen behind California, Texas and soon Florida. Upstate has borne the brunt of the population loss.

Washington can’t figure out why this is happening, and neither can Albany, our state capital. But Neil Vitale knows. Vitale is a farmer in Steuben County in New York’s Southern Tier. He was my personal guest to President Obama’s State of the Union Speech. And it is obvious to him what happened. “What I’ve seen in our area is farmers going out of business often because of regulation and with the unemployment rate so high,” he told me. “People just can’t find work to support themselves, let alone a family. They are leaving in droves.”

New York had a chance to revitalize the Southern Tier. It could have joined the natural gas boom years ago. Its Marcellus Shale would have provided thousands of well-paying jobs that could’ve put many of these families back to work and lifted many out of poverty.

But our governor, Andrew Cuomo, thought otherwise. He banned fracking throughout New York. Now, the only way many of these farmers can see any return on their property is to sell out and leave.

When government gets out of its rightful lane, people get hurt. When it deprives property owners of the value of their land, it causes economic damage. When it severely reduces the value of property and the ability of owners to make money off it, it ruins the economic prospects of a region. This is what has happened in my congressional district of New York and those around it.

That is why I have introduced the Defense of Property Rights Act – to protect citizens’ property rights and better provide means for citizens to seek redress against an overreaching government.  Building on the foundation of previous property rights legislation, the Act provides two real avenues of defense – compensation and legal reform – to ensure these individual constitutionally guaranteed property rights are protected.

The Defense of Property Rights Act would provide an opportunity for citizens to seek compensation when government action significantly impairs the value of their property. This would promote accountability and responsible policymaking by forcing the government to provide compensation to affected property owners as a result of infringing on their constitutionally protected property rights. Today, those individuals are not eligible for relief because the government did not render their property entirely “value-less.”

The proposed legislation also addresses the issue of jurisdiction by streamlining the federal court process and providing concurrent federal and state review. This helps return fundamental fairness to the system and provides a means for aggrieved property owners to pursue such action in a court of the citizen’s choosing, not the government’s.

Currently, through the use of conflicting and limiting standing requirements and jurisdictional ambiguity, many property owners are left in state courts where the burden is on them to prove not only harm, but a “total loss of use” of their property as a whole. This injustice severely limits their opportunities for a remedy and is by its nature fundamentally un-American.

The Defense of Property Rights Act presents a workable solution to an issue that affects us all. I hope my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, in New York and elsewhere, will support this legislation which appeals to the highest of American ideals—freedom, fairness and justice.

Private property ownership and control of personal property are basic cornerstones of American freedom. Property is understood to be an extension of an individual and its use is expressed as the freedom to dispose of it to a person’s maximum benefit. Frédéric Bastiat observed in “The Law” that “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

It is like eminent domain, enshrined in the Fifth Amendment – in which the government pays fair-market value for property it takes for public use. Farmers who can’t derive the benefits of oil or natural gas on their property because of government action are due compensation as certainly as those who are forced to move so a road can be built.

The Defense of Property Rights Act, which is now before the House Judiciary Committee, reaffirms and re-establishes the importance of private property rights and individual control of those rights. Like all the rights guaranteed by our Constitution, property rights are something we as Americans should care deeply about. It is time to stand on the side of the people who do not enjoy these basic rights.

Happy Birthday, Obamacare: 5 Years Later

Five years ago on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

Many of the health care law’s provision took effect in 2013, and Americans have since been experiencing the effects of the law—both good and bad. Millions learned they were not able to keep their original insurance plans and more than 7.7 million received subsidies from the federal exchange.

The Daily Signal examined some of the biggest claims made about Obamacare to see where things stand five years later.


How Does the House Budget Measure Up?

House Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., stands with fellow committee members as he introduces their fiscal year 2016 budget resolution. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom)

Today the House Budget Committee released its fiscal year 2016 budget blueprint. Any good budget should balance within 10 years or less, without raising taxes above the average historical level (roughly 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)). In addition, Heritage policy experts previously established seven priorities for the congressional budget resolution. Let’s see how this budget measures up against these and other areas in critical need of reforms:

Does It Balance at 18 percent of GDP in 10 Years or Fewer? The House budget balances in less than 10 years, by 2024 at around 18 percent of GDP, when you include the budget’s economic impact on the deficit. The budget would put the debt on a downward path, reducing debt held by the public from 74 percent of GDP this year to 55 percent of GDP by 2025, and further to below the average historical debt level within 20 years.

However, with spending and revenue ticking up slightly in 2025, a budget that seeks to maintain sustainable balance would need to go bolder on entitlement spending reform.

To arrive at balance, the budget proposes to cut $5.5 trillion from spending projected under the Congressional Budget Office baseline, including $800 billion in savings from reduced interest payments. By far, the largest savings come from repealing Obamacare and its $2 trillion in projected gross spending over the next decade.

Prioritize Defense Spending. The House budget increases defense spending in fiscal year 2016, but fails to do so in a responsible way.

Budgeting is about prioritizing. It is about making choices.

The fiscal year 2016 budget will allow for $90 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund for defense, an increase of 40 percent from last year. Exploiting the Overseas Contingency Operations loophole to get around the Budget Control Act’s spending cap avoids the politically difficult but very important choices to prioritize defense spending responsibly.

The budget should fund defense spending at the appropriate level based on America’s national security strategy and military capability requirements in the base budget and offset the spending increase for defense with smart cuts in domestic discretionary spending and structural reforms to entitlement programs. While the House budget follows this approach over the decade by increasing defense spending and phasing out Overseas Contingency Operations by 2022 with offsetting savings in domestic spending, fiscal year 2016 will have the greatest impact on budget policy—and here the budget falls short.

Repeal Obamacare. The House’s fiscal year 2016 budget resolution would repeal all of the more than $2 trillion in new Obamacare spending on the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies. It eliminates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and ensures that the law’s Medicare payment reductions are retained as Medicare savings, and not spent on entitlements outside of Medicare.

In addition, the budget would repeal all of Obamacare’s harmful taxes, insurance regulations and government mandates, alleviating the burden they impose on Americans and businesses. However, it would assume that the $800 billion in revenues lost through the repeal of these provisions would be made up through tax reform.

Full repeal of Obamacare is an essential first step towards getting the nation’s health care entitlement spending under control. It is also necessary to achieve the goal of market-based and patient-centered health care reform that empowers individuals.

It is unclear whether House leaders would use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare and advance these reforms, probably the best, near term option for achieving that goal.

Reform Medicaid. Beyond repeal, the budget would reform Medicaid financing and provide states with new flexibility in administering the program for beneficiaries. These changes would reverse the perverse incentives created by the program’s open-ended funding and would allow states to tailor their Medicaid programs to fit the needs of their specific populations. As a matter of policy, Congress should enable Medicaid enrollees to use their Medicaid dollars to purchase private coverage of their choice and control decisions over their care.

In addition, the budget would unify Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) into a single program and extend SCHIP funding, currently scheduled to expire on Oct. 1. Congress should ensure that such an effort does not assume greater federal responsibility.

Reform Medicare. Furthermore, the budget would make long-term, and desperately needed, structural changes to Medicare. The budget proposal would transition Medicare to a premium support program:  a defined contribution financing model, similar to that used today in Medicare Part D. This would allow seniors to purchase health coverage from competing private insurers or an updated version of traditional Medicare. The government contribution to chosen plans would offset beneficiaries’ premium costs. Implementing premium support would increase choice and empower beneficiaries, while putting Medicare on a sustainable fiscal path, thus saving both taxpayers and seniors money.

Unfortunately, the budget proposal would begin premium support in 2024. Medicare’s fiscal challenges are too severe to wait another eight years—the sooner structural changes are enacted the better.

The House budget would also make some smaller, commonsense structural reforms to the existing Medicare program to ease the transition to premium support. These reforms include combining Medicare Parts A and B into one plan, adding a catastrophic benefit, and consolidating traditional Medicare’s complex payment structure. The budget also includes increased spending on apermanent fix to Medicare’s physician payment system, the sustainable growth rate (SGR). Hopefully, the additional Medicare sustainable growth rate spending, now estimated at about $175 billion over ten years, will be fully offset by fiscally responsible cuts in Medicare spending.

Reform Social Security. While the House budget recognizes Social Security’s severe financial problems, it shies away from offering concrete proposals to address those challenges. The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund is projected to be exhausted before the end of 2016, threatening 11 million beneficiaries with drastic and sudden benefit cuts of nearly 20 percent. The Social Security retirement program is also already running cash-flow deficits, thereby increasingly contributing to annual deficits.

Congress should take a stance to protect Social Security’s most vulnerable beneficiaries in the retirement and disability programs from sudden, indiscriminate cuts without burdening younger generations with tax increases or a higher debt burden.

The House budget seeks to recognize this need with a proposed bipartisan commission which would identify specific legislative proposals for Congress and the president to consider. Lawmakers should not shy away from immediately replacing the current cost-of-living adjustment with the more accurate chained consumer price index, raising the early and full retirement ages gradually and predictably, and focusing Social Security benefits on those who need them most by phasing in means testing. To improve incentives for those disabled individuals who are able to work, Congress should adopt a needs-based period of disability and reduce incentives for using Disability Insurance as an early retirement program.

Reform the Tax Code. The budget calls for tax reform that lowers individual and corporate tax rates, broadens the tax base, repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and moves to a more competitive system of international taxation. Reducing marginal tax rates would promote economic growth by improving the incentive to work, save, invest and take entrepreneurial risks. Broadening the tax base by repealing unwarranted tax preferences will improve economic efficiency and fund rate reduction.

Policymakers must take care, however, not to broaden the tax base in ways that worsen the double taxation of savings and investment. The current U.S. tax treatment of U.S. businesses operating abroad places them at a unique competitive disadvantage and encourages firms to sell to or merge with foreign corporations. Repealing the alternative minimum tax would substantially simplify the tax system.

Cap Welfare Spending. The House budget fails to address the means-tested welfare system as a whole.  It’s a nearly $1 trillion system that consists of 80 programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total welfare spending should be scaled back and then capped at the rate of inflation going forward. A cap would require policymakers to prioritize funding and help manage out-of-control welfare spending.

The House budget takes a step in the right direction by restoring the work requirement in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  (TANF) program. It eliminates the TANF work requirement waivers put into place by the Obama administration in 2012.

The next steps should be to strengthen the TANF work requirement, which has been watered down over the years, and then to extend work requirements to other of the government’s 80 means-tested welfare programs. The food stamps program, which has rapidly expanded over the past decade, is a good place to start.

Unfortunately, the House budget simply turns the food stamps program into a block grant. (It also introduces funding reductions to start taking place in fiscal year 2021.) But the block grant approach is not a successful way to reform welfare.

What food stamps needs is a strong work requirement for able-bodied adults that makes it mandatory for them to work, prepare for work or at least look for work in exchange for receiving benefits. This type of work requirement is what successfully reformed TANF in 1996 and is the model to follow for reforming food stamps. A food stamp work requirement was included in welfare reform legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, last year.

Education. The budget released today begins an important conversation on the impact of federal education spending on both college costs and our K-12 education system.

As the House Budget Committee proposal notes, the federal Pell Grant program, which was designed to provide grants to students from low-income families to defray the cost of college, has experienced considerable mission creep in recent years. Specifically, the Department of Education attributes “14 percent of the growth in the program between 2008 and 2011 to expansions that were made to the needs-analysis formula.” As the budget authors note, “increasing eligibility to those with higher incomes drains resources from those who need the most help.”

Expanded eligibility has meant that the Pell Grant program has increased to the point that it covers twice as many students as it did 10 years ago, and as such, no longer allocates funding to the students who need it most.

The House Budget Committee proposal seeks to better target Pell Grants to the low-income student the program was originally intended to help by freezing the maximum Pell award at current levels, in order to put the program on a sustainable path. In addition to limiting growth in the program, Pell funding should be shifted from mandatory funding to discretionary funding to enable Congress to have more oversight of program spending from year to year.

In addition to limiting Pell Grant spending, the proposal also calls for important reforms to student lending, including measures that account “for student loans in a way that reflects their true cost.” To achieve that goal, policymakers should stipulate the use of fair-value accounting in order to ensure that any federal loan program uses a non-subsidizing interest rate. As the Congressional Budget Office  has explained, “the government is exposed to market risk when the economy is weak because borrowers default on their debt obligations more frequently and recoveries from borrowers are lower.” Absent fair-value accounting, it is impossible to determine the extent to which the student loan programs are providing a subsidy to borrowers.

Ultimately, however, policymakers need to turn-off the open spigot of federal financial aid that has been driving college costs for the past three decades.They should begin by eliminating the PLUS loan program.

On the elementary and secondary education front, the budget proposes to eliminate unsuccessful and duplicative federal K-12 programs—a laudable step. Since the 1970s, inflation-adjusted federal per-pupil federal education spending has nearly tripled. In order to ensure that state and local school leaders’ focus is oriented toward meeting the needs of students and parents—not toward satisfying federal bureaucrats—program count and associated federal spending should be curtailed.

To that end, all federal competitive grant programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be eliminated, along with associated spending, starting with those programs that are duplicative and ineffective. At the same time, policymakers should reduce spending on formula grant programs managed by the Department of Education by 10 percent.

Transportation. The House’s transportation budget proposals—while mostly vague—are encouraging. Most importantly, the proposal would seek to downsize the Washington-centric approach that has plagued the transportation system by giving “states more flexibility to fund the highway projects they feel are most critical.” Allowing states—not Washington politicians—to set their transportation priorities would increase much-needed accountability by placing decisions closer to the people who best know their transportation needs.

The proposal also places a limitation on general fund bailouts of the troubled Highway Trust Fund, which has received $62 billion from the general fund since 2008. The proposal would count any transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund as new budget authority, which triggers certain budget rules and places a hurdle in front of any effort to simply throw more money at the problem. Limiting Congress’s ability to prolong the Highway Trust Fund’s financial problems with bailouts will hopefully encourage them to implement long-term solutions, such as devolving spending and taxing decisions to the states. Also encouraging is the budget’s call to target “inefficiencies and duplication” in transportation programs, the elimination of which should always be a priority.

Overall, the budget takes a step in the right direction by giving states more flexibility and acknowledging the fiscal problems afflicting federal transportation policy. Congress should continue by minimizing the spending decisions that are made in Washington and should instead put transportation decisions in the hands of the states, which can most effectively meet their citizens’ needs.

Fannie and Freddie. The budget proposal “envisions the eventual elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and ending their taxpayer guarantee.” As long as these firms remain under direct government control, the $5 trillion in guarantees taxpayers already face will only rise.  Completely shutting down Fannie and Freddie is a long overdue step toward getting the government out of the housing market, but the details of how this goal is accomplished will be critical.  If, for instance, the Senate’s 2014 approach to housing finance reform were adopted, taxpayers would continue to guarantee private investments in the mortgage market. Also, importantly, the budget would account for Fannie and Freddie’s budgetary impact using a fair-value approach, revealing to taxpayers that the government-sponsored enterprise’s impose a real cost on taxpayers.

Title II of Dodd-Frank: Orderly Liquidation Authority.  The budget proposal acknowledges that “although the proponents of Dodd-Frank went to great lengths to denounce bailouts, the law only perpetuates them.”  Title II of Dodd Frank perpetuates bailouts via what’s known as orderly liquidation authority, whereby federal regulators are allowed to seize troubled financial firms and close down their affairs. Title II also authorizes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to hold taxpayers responsible for the most worthless assets on a company’s books. The time-tested bankruptcy system, with its legal protections and judicial supervision, is a far better system that leaves financial responsibility where it belongs: with a firm’s creditors and shareholders.  Eliminating the FDIC’s orderly liquidation authority would protect taxpayers from trillions of dollars in potential financial obligations.

The following Heritage Foundation analysts contributed to this commentary: Alyene Senger (health care), David Burton (taxes), Rachel Sheffield (welfare), Lindsey Burke (education), Norbert Michel (Fannie and Freddie, Dodd-Frank), and Michael Sargent (transportation).

Qualifiers of Obama’s Immigration Program Could Earn $1.3 Trillion

Audience members react as President Barack Obama announces his immigration executive actions at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 21, 2014. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House)

For the parents of U.S. citizens who benefit from President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the value of cash welfare benefits they receive will be greater than the amount of money they pay out in new taxes, according to a study by a conservative researcher.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, presented the results of his study Tuesday in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In the study, Rector focused specifically on a program Obama announced in November that would grant temporary deportation deferrals and work permits to illegal immigrant parents who have at least one U.S.-born child and have lived in this country for the last five years.

The program, known as DAPA, allows work authorization and protected deportation status for three years, but Rector assumes the program will last in perpetuity unless a future president decides to undo it.

Based on that assumption, if 3.97 million illegal immigrant parents earn legal protection, as Rector estimates, they will earn about $1.3 trillion in Social Security and Medicare payments over their lifetime, he says.

They also immediately are eligible for two cash welfare programs: the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit, and can retroactively apply for those benefits for the last three years. Together, Rector reports, the two tax credits can provide up to $7,460 in cash benefits each year for a lower-income family with two children.

Rector calculates the $7.8 billion in total tax credit cash payments to DAPA recipients per year is greater than what newly “on the books” working immigrant parents would pay in taxes.

Assuming about half of the DAPA eligible population already formally works and pays taxes, the second half of that group who becomes “on the books” will add $7.2 billion per year in Social Security and federal income tax revenues.

In addition, DAPA beneficiaries immediately receive Social Security numbers upon being accepted into the program.

They cannot get coverage under the Affordable Care Act, however. But Rector, in his research, assumes that the immigrant parents will stay here long enough—continuing to reapply for the program—to eventually earn health care benefits.

“I am costing out the program as if it continues operating forever,” Rector told The Daily Signal. “And under that assumption, if we keep them here indefinitely, the idea that they would never get Obamacare, or Medicare, or Medicaid or other government benefits is just completely implausible. DAPA is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Obama’s immigration programs are on—at least—temporarily hold due to a federal court order.

Below are two other findings in Rector’s study:

  • The average DAPA eligible family already receives around $6,600 per year in welfare benefits prior to Obama’s executive action, including money from Medicaid and the Women, Infants and Children food program.
  • The cost of retroactive earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit benefits from the last three years for those eligible for DAPA could be as much as $23.5 billion.

The Breakdown of Where Your Tax Dollars Go


Tax dollars paid for about 85 cents of every dollar spent in 2014—the rest was borrowed. Where did all that money go?

Your 2014 tax dollars—which are due next month—went primarily to pay for government benefits.

Major entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and Social Security) devoured more than half of the 2014 budget at 51 percent of spending. Other federal benefits took another 19 percent, meaning that 70 percent of government spending went to pay some sort of benefit to someone. These additional “income security” and other benefits include federal employee retirement and disability, unemployment benefits, and welfare programs such as food and housing assistance.

 Obamacare spending really only kicked in for the first time in 2014. But Obamacare spending alone is expected to grow the major entitlement budget by 44 percent over the next decade. All in all, the total spending increase due to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Social Security and interest on the debt over the next decade is 85 percent. This means that the share of the budget going to entitlement programs will grow even bigger if Congress doesn’t act.

Congress should repeal Obamacare and make common-sense reforms that modernize these outdated entitlement programs. That’s hard, but important work. Common sense reforms will both modernize Medicare, Medicaid andSocial Security and empower people to exercise more choice in spending their health care and retirement dollars.

Check out the 2015 Federal Budget in Pictures for 21 charts on spending, debt and taxes today!

Obamacare enrollment among minorities remains a challenge

Obamacare enrollmentObamacare enrollment went much better this year, but the Obama administration is still struggling to reach highly uninsured minority populations.

The percentage of Latino enrollees remained flat compared to last year — at 11 percent — while the share of black enrollees fell, from 17 percent to 14 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Minorities, and Latinos in particular, have higher uninsured rates than whites, so advocates for the Affordable Care Act prioritized outreach to them this year. Latino outreach hit some bumps during the 2014 enrollment season, as the launch of the Spanish-language version of was delayed.

While officials acknowledged the lack of percentage gains among Latinos and blacks, they said that may not give the whole picture since more enrollees this year declined to state their race when signing up for insurance plans. And they emphasized that more Latinos are enrolled in health plans this year even if they don’t make up a larger share of enrollees.

“Even though the percentage stayed the same for Latinos, the absolute number did go up,” said Meena Seshamani, director of HHS’ Office of Health Reform. “We also need to look at the overall uninsured rate and how that has gone down to a historic low.”

Young people are the other major group Affordable Care Act advocates have targeted, as they tend to be healthier and can thereby drive premiums down. Just like last year, they make up 28 percent of total enrollees. Many had worried that enrollment among young adults would lag, but officials said they think an adequate number have signed up.

“In terms of the number of young people enrolled, we feel pretty good where we are with that,” said Kevin Griffis, HHS’ acting assistant secretary for public affairs.

The data was included in a detailed snapshot of 2015 enrollment the administration released Tuesday. Earlier this week, it was announced that 11.7 million Americans have signed up for health insurance plans on either or state-run insurance marketplaces

Obamacare case shows states’ distrust of federal government

barone-michaelLast Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case challenging the IRS’s decision to pay subsidies to lower-income health-insurance buyers in states with federal insurance exchanges — even though the Obamacare legislation authorizes subsidies only in states with exchanges “established by the state.”

The Obama administration is, thus, in the uncomfortable position of arguing that the president’s signature law says what it doesn’t say. Nevertheless, initial analyses of the oral argument suggest the government might win.

The four Democratic-appointed judges seemed determined to advance arguments that, if you look at the statute as a whole, Congress wanted to pay subsidies to lots of people, even if it didn’t say so.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s questions suggested there may be a fifth vote to uphold the administration’s position. Justice Kennedy asked whether the “established by the state” provision might amount to an unconstitutional commandeering of the state governments.

Commandeering is legal shorthand for the widely agreed doctrine that Congress cannot command the states to adopt legislation. Instead, Congress typically offers the states money if they accept certain conditions. No highway and transportation money if you don’t establish a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, for example, or a minimum drinking age of 21.

Limiting subsidies, as the Obamacare statute does, to states that establish their own exchanges is, thus, not unusual; it’s typical of how Congress gets states to do what it wants. But there are limits.

In the June 2012 National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the Supreme Court also ruled, 7-2, that Obamacare could not compel states to vastly increase Medicaid spending or lose all Medicaid funds. Raising the ante, the court held, amounted to commandeering.

Did Justice Kennedy’s questioning Wednesday indicate that he believes that the disparate treatment of states with and without state health-care exchanges amounts to commandeering? Perhaps, though justices’ questions are not always good guides to their ultimate conclusions.

But if it was, does that mean that Justice Kennedy would allow the IRS to read into the statute authorization of subsidies? Or does it mean that he would regard the provisions for subsidies in some states and not in others as null and void?

But beyond the legal issues, the very existence of King v. Burwell is remarkable politically. For the framers of Obamacare certainly did not expect 36 states to reject the blandishment of federal subsidies and refuse to set up state exchanges.

Over the past half-century, states usually have been willing to jump through Congress’s hoops in order to receive supposedly “free” federal money.

For example, after Medicaid was passed in 1965, 37 states joined the program within two years and by January 1970, only two held out — Alaska, which joined in 1972, and Arizona, which held out until 1982. In the 1980s, as Congress (largely through the backroom work of Henry Waxman) increased the states’ required Medicaid spending, many governors grumbled, but no state dropped out of the program.

In contrast, after the Supreme Court let states reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, 22 states did so. And 36 states refused to set up state health-insurance exchanges, despite Obamacare’s “ established by the state” language.

Governors and legislators are responsive to public opinion, and their increased willingness to forgo federal dollars shows an increasing mistrust of centralized command-and-control government. That’s going to be a continuing factor in politics and government, whichever way King v. Burwell goes.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner.