President Obama’s Promise Zones

Promise Zones? Really? The president promised Detroit that he would not let it fail. He promised us that if we liked our doctors and our insurance, we could keep them. He promised us that he would close Gitmo. He promised us that he would lead the most transparent administration in history. I look at his promises like a bad case of gas.  They stink from the moment they are made and eventually they are followed by crap that needs to be cleaned up!

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The Oligarchy Times-The Product Isn’t Good

The Oligarchy Times, volume 1, issue 3

In today’s issue of the Oligarchy Times, we examine the most consistent man in the United States, if not the world. President Barack “Enron” Obama made the following statement on October 23, 2013:

“The product is good. The health insurance that’s being provided is good. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. People can save money, significant money, by getting insurance that’s being provided through these marketplaces. And we know that the demand is there. People are rushing to see what’s available. And those who have already had a chance to enroll are thrilled with what’s available.” (Source: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/obama-shills-obamacare-product-good-call-now#sthash.s6xg4RDg.dpuf)

In almost flawless constancy, President Enron lied, flat out lied.  How can a person state that a largely unavailable product “is good?”  Even if the site is 100% running and available, by all accounts, it is not secure.  In order to go window shopping, you have to give sensitive information.  It is like going window shopping at the mall while naked.

The following is directly from the Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2013

CHICAGO — Rachel Arai is a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom with a second child on the way in February. Her family has never been without health insurance, coverage her family views not as a luxury but as a necessity.

She and her self-employed husband, Devin Stites, want to buy a policy for 2014, but like millions across the country, they’ve found themselves in limbo: With just days left to select coverage that will kick in Jan. 1, they lack the information needed to make a decision on what policy to buy.

The family has health insurance through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. But they’ve been eager to see if they can get a better deal, and possibly a tax credit, through the new Illinois health insurance exchange set up as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The problem: Blue Cross hasn’t told them how much they’ll have to pay for their existing plan in 2014. And HealthCare.gov, the federal website where consumers in 36 states, including Illinois, are supposed to be able to compute their subsidy amount and buy health insurance, has been largely inoperable for many consumers, including Arai.

As the Dec. 23 deadline to obtain insurance coverage approaches, frustration is mounting across the country for people who fear they’ll have little time to assess their health care options or, at worst, not be able to sign up for a plan in time because of the bumpy rollout of the health care law.

There’s not much Arai and her husband can do, aside from wait and hope they get the information they need in time to ensure no gap in coverage.

“I’m really frustrated at this point, (and) I don’t have hours and hours to try and get pricing on my health insurance,” she said. “I’m nervous about the situation, but my hands are kind of tied. I don’t know what to do, and my husband is beside himself.”

For people with chronic conditions or those who require ongoing medical treatment like Arai, the loss of coverage — even for a month — could create a big financial hardship.

How the family and others like them ended up in this pickle is largely a reflection of the technological meltdown that rendered the website all but unusable in its first two months, a reordering of the insurance market spurred by the health care law and the policy reversal that followed.

New regulations under the health law that required all new policies to cover a list of 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care, with no extra charge. That spurred insurers across the country to cancel plans for millions of Americans with private coverage, including about 185,000 in Illinois.

Massive public outcry erupted, prompting the White House to change course. President Barack Obama announced in November that states could allow insurers to offer existing policies for one more year, even if they didn’t meet the new standards.

Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer that issued the majority of plans on the individual market last year, decided it would go along. But it has yet to communicate 2014 rate information to Arai and other customers.

“Every week I call they say next week. The email I got earlier this week said next week. Everything is next week, but next week never seems to come,” Arai said.

Lauren Perlstein, a spokeswoman for the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said the company will notify its members soon of adjusted 2014 rates that reflect new taxes and fees associated with the health law.

In a letter sent two weeks ago to customers, the insurer said it would tack on an additional 4.1 percent to premiums reflect those new fees, plus another unspecified rate adjustment to account for 2014.

The insurer advises them to compare their current plan to new 2014 plans on its website to ensure they’re getting the coverage that is right for them.

Other insurers that sold individual policies in Illinois this year also will offer those plans next year, including Health Alliance, which said it will increase rates on extended plans by 21.8 percent effective Feb. 1.

Humana is offering renewals for small group plans, but still hasn’t made a decision about individual policies, a spokesman said. Aetna said Thursday it would not offer old plans next year.

State and federal officials have urged consumers to keep trying to access the website, which is working far better in December than in its first two months of operation. They also encourage those who need help sorting out their options to contact one of several dozen community groups across the state that have a combined 1,500 trained helpers who can help people navigate the process of signing up for coverage.

That’s little consolation for Fran Schlesinger, 45, of Naperville, who has spent more than 20 hours trying to sign up for coverage on the federal website, including at least seven hourlong calls with federal call center helpers, to no avail.

After her husband lost his corporate job in 2011, her family of six has purchased coverage on the individual market. Their current policy, through UnitedHealthcare, will cost more than $1,000 a month starting in January, up from about $900.

She estimates the family will be eligible for a hefty federal subsidy to buy an insurance policy on the exchange, but the one time out of dozens that she was able to get through the application process, she inadvertently entered an erroneous income figure. The system kicked her application into Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for those with low-income or the disabled

Once she realized her mistake, she made four calls to the federal help line, spending an hour on the phone with a helper each time. But she’s still unable to remove or correct her application, leaving her locked out of the system and unable to compare the private policies her family intends to buy.

“At this point, I’ve thrown up my hands and said I can’t deal with this anymore,” Schlesinger said. “I feel like I’m in one of those hamster wheels, where you cannot get off.”

Pam Lefkowitz, 53-year-old Lincolnwood self-employed IT consultant, called the entire process “the biggest nightmare.”

After two months of failed attempts, the finally was able to view health plans on HealthCare.gov Dec. 2. She didn’t like what she saw.

Although she’ll qualify for a monthly tax credit of about $91 if she buys a plan through the exchange, the policies offered carried higher total out-of-pocket costs than her old plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which she would prefer to keep, depending on how much it costs.

She received an e-mail last week from the insurer saying it would renew that plan and send her information this week on how much it would cost in 2014. As of Thursday afternoon, the letter had not arrived.

“I’m in a holding pattern,” Lefkowitz said. “I’m not doing anything until I hear from Blue Cross.”

——

Even for enrolled, obstacles remain

Even those who have signed up via the health exchanges are running into red tape and roadblocks.

The website also has had a number of back-end issues that affect the way it notifies insurance companies of their new enrollees. The federal government said last week that about 10 percent of the enrollment forms HealthCare.gov submits to insurers have errors, including incorrect information, duplicate forms and, in some cases, missing forms.

That’s down from an error rate of about 25 percent in October and November, before a host of significant repairs were made to the website, officials said. Even so, the continued issues raise the specter that some people who believe they are enrolled in a health plan may show up to a doctor’s office or a hospital and find that insurers have no record of their application.

Administration officials and insurance companies suggest that anyone who enrolls in coverage via the federal website call their insurance company to confirm they’ve signed up. For the plan to kick in Jan. 1, enrollees also are required to pay their insurer the first month’s premium by Dec. 31.

In a nod to the ongoing sign-up problems nationwide, federal officials announced several steps Thursday aimed at helping people who get stuck in health care-law limbo. The Department of Health and Human Services said patients enrolled in special insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions would be able to stay on that coverage until the end of January.

—Peter Frost and Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times

To quote The Thompson Twins, “lies, lies, lies, yeah!”

Lumber, nails, tacks, and shingles

I was having a discussion with several people about the whole “you didn’t build that” thing.  A good friend who is a liberal that believes true discourse is marked by civility, dignity, and respect, pointed out that if it were not for the government providing lumber, nails, tacks, and shingles, referring to infrastructure, we’d not have been able to build our businesses.  I wrote the following in response:

_____ is absolutely right about lumber, nails, tacks and shingles. However, we all need to bear in mind that it was our money that bought all of that. We bought the lumber. We bought the nails, the tacks, and the shingles. We assembled the roads and bridges. We laid the cables and connected the pipes. We paved the roads. We provided our lives in countless conflicts to make sure our land was safe enough to build the things we paid for. Long before there was a government that did these things, people got together as members of communities and built up their towns. Look at the Amish. Without a penny of government money and no advanced technology, they have social programs that build buildings for their children, care for their sick, engage in commerce, and maintain a quality of life that has worked for centuries. We call them backward. I call them successful. Is there a single business or government on the face of the earth that has never changed its business model in hundreds of years and is still in the same line of business? I have something to say to Mr. Obama:

“Nobody in Washington, on either side of the aisle, ever built anything. The only thing that Washington has ever done is take our money and then pay us back with it so that we could build that. The road that led to my in-laws’ office is mine because I paid for it. The only contribution that you have made is the taxes you’ve paid on over $12,000,000 that you, according you own Web site, have earned since 2005. You wrote your books. You traveled to speaking engagements. You worked as a community organizer. Every accomplishment you have made is because you, private citizen Obama, built that. You should be proud of what you actually built and not give the government the slightest responsibility for what every other hard working American like you has built.”

GGW

Today’s entry in The Valley of Wrongness goes to the Infernal Revenue Service.

The letters GGW stand for two things, both of which are equally obscene.  One is Girls Gone Wild and the other is Government Gone Wild.  The text that follows is from Fox Sports’ article, “Win a medal, pay the price.”

Go for the gold — but should you succeed, be prepared to dole out some gold of your own.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards prize money to American medal winners: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze. That prize money is taxed at a rate of as much as 35 percent, Americans for Tax Reform calculated. On top of that, the medals themselves are taxed: You only have to fork over $2 to the IRS for the privilege of keeping your bronze medal, but carve off $236 worth from that gold medal.

Michael Phelps should have no trouble shouldering the tax burden — he makes millions in endorsements. But fellow U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt has won two golds, a silver and a bronze in London. That’s $75,000 in total prize money — and $26,857 owed to the United States Treasury.

Did I say that both GGW’s are equally obscene?  I was wrong.  If a commercial for Girls Gone Wild appears on your TV, you have the option of turning it off.  If you want to own it, you have to choose to buy it.  Government Gone Wild is there whether or not you want it to be there.  There is one big advantage that Government Gone Wild has over Girls Gone Wild.  It will not result in the breakup of your marriage. 

Do you have an entry for The Valley of Wrongness?  Post a link as a reply and add your own commentary.  If it’s really wrong, I’ll post it and give you all of the credit.

Why I am no Longer a Republican

I was a committed Republican since I joined the Army in 1981.  Three years ago, I left the Republican party.  I was disenchanted with a party that was supposed to keep the rights of the people with the people, reduce government spending, increase government accountability, and refrain from the populist notion of evangelizing the world for Democracy, by force if needed.  My president suspended habeas corpus, invented the DHS, blurred the lines between law enforcement and justice, and engaged in corporatism of the worst possible kind.

In my opinion, the last real Republican this nation has had in Washington was Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Not a single candidate, apart from Ron Paul (for the most part), stands for a true Republican platform.  If I were king, this is what I would consider a true Republican platform: 

  • The civil liberties of each person, beings with a unique and identifiable DNA pattern, are protected under the Constitution be they born, pre-born, handicapped, infirmed, or elderly, must be the highest priority of the government, even when that protection inconveniences others.
  • Government should govern at the level closest to those governed; first at the township, then the county or parrish, then the state, and only when the issues involve interstate commerce, civil rights, or national defense, the federal government.
  • Allow no government spending without an accompanying appropriations bill.  If the money is not there or it will not be collected, then the nation must do without the spending.
  • All budgets must be balanced or they will not be signed.
  • All budgets must include the allocation of funds to reduce the national defecit by 5% during the budget period.
  • No person shall be allow to serve as an official advisor to the president without Congressional approval.  That includes the First Lady/Husband and any “czars.”
  • The Department of Defense must be returned to the mission of defense.  When it comes to fighting wars for and in other nations, regardless of their status as allies, we must assume a position of laissez faire.  No soldier should die on the battlefield without a formal declaration of war being in place.
  • Limit the terms of all elected officials and government appointees apart from the Supreme Court.
  • Bar the president from the floors of Congress apart from the delivery of the State of the Union Address.
  • Limit the time and money that can be invested in the campaign of any elected official. An elected official may take no more than sixty consecutive days while on the payroll of the people and under an oath of office to campaign.  Nobody of wealth should be able to fund their own campaign as that is tantamount to buying an office.
  • Apart from brief times of extreme turmoil where no other option exists, demand habeas corpus be the law of the land for all those that stand on our soil or the soil of nations we control.  In other words, no person, regardless of citizenship, shall be held for more than 24 hours without being informed of the reason for apprehension.
  • Restore the process of swift and fair trials.  It is a violation of the presumption of innocence to allow any accused person to languish in custody without due process allowing for a reasonable period of time to gather evidence and perform discovery.
  • Citizenship is a right to those born on US soil and that of our protectorates.  It is a privilege that shall be granted to anyone seeking to live here after they have given sufficient proof of their desire to live as citizens of this country and their not being a threat to the nation and its people.
  • Under no circumstances will the government be allowed to engage in corporatism. Saving a business from failure, no matter how large or vital is a choice the people make.  The government may not make it on their behalf.  That includes businesses such as banking and insurance.
  • Agencies that appear to be redundant or unnecessary will be publicly investigated by a bi-partisan commission and either consolidated or eliminated based on the recommendation of the commission, the vote of Congress, and the signature of the President.
  • Members of Congress may only dwell in Washington, D.C. for a period of time necessary to conduct the business of government, and when that is not the case, they must return to their constituents.
  • The government must afford all Americans equal protection as laid out in the Fourteenth Amendment.  This includes staying out of the business of who can and cannot marry and what marriages entitle people to the benefits of government currently reserved for heterosexual marriages.
  • The government must abide by all requirements placed on private business such as equal employment opportunities, fair labor laws, and corporate governance.
  • Tax shall be levied on all individuals above the poverty limit at a single equal rate.  There will be no tax deductions, shelters, or loopholes.
  • No chattel shall be taxed more than once unless it changes hands as a result of financial consideration.  In other words, no death tax and no capital gains tax. 
  • Unless it is classified as an issue of military secrecy, no business of the government shall be conducted behind closed doors.
  • Finally, the government must be returned to the understanding that it is 100% powerless apart from the powers specifically given to it in the Constitution.