Category: Politics

Gallup’s Top 10 and Bottom 10 Well-being States

A Gallup article, released a couple of days ago, showed the results of their annual well-being statistics.  I find it interesting that seven of the top ten states in well-being were states that ended up “blue” on election day this past November.  It’s also interesting that eight of the bottom ten states in well-being were states that ended up “red” on election day.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Top 10 States gallup.com

Bottom 10 States gallup.com

Sequester the Molester

For the past few months, the United States federal government has been dealing with a very annoying issue:  The Sequester.  It may seem a bit complicated to the casual political observer, so I’ll try to sum it up as simply as I am able:

In 2011 the United States needed to raise the debt ceiling (borrow more money) to pay for its bills.  The Budget Control Act of 2011 was signed.  It stated that the debt ceiling could only be raised if congress made enough cuts in the budget to offset the borrowing.  If congress failed to act, the debt ceiling would still be raised.  However, there would be automatic spending cuts in all areas of government spending, to offset the borrowing.  This is called sequestration.

There were two purposes for this: 1- To force to congress to act, and 2- To do it in a objective manner in which no one really gets exactly what they want.

The first sequestration was supposed to take effect at the beginning of January. Congress, in effect, punted- passing a bill that would delay the sequestration for another couple of months.  If congress can’t get a spending deal made soon, the sequestration (cuts) will take effect March, 1st.

“Why can’t congress just get their act together?” you may be asking yourself.

So here is a letter I plan on writing to the federal government:

“Dear Government,

Please cut spending….

As long as it’s not education.  I’m a teacher.  Plus I’ll be getting a master’s soon and I don’t want the interest on my my student loans to go up.

Also, please don’t make cuts to the Department of Defense or Homeland Security or Border Patrol or any defense program.  We can’t risk weakening the country’s defense.  I also have family members with careers in the military.  I don’t want them to struggle either.

Oh, and don’t make cuts in Medicare either.  My 90 year old grandmother depends on it, and some of my family members soon will.  I really don’t want life to be hard on them either.

And please don’t cut Medicaid.  I have had several friends around my young age who have used or are using Medicaid to help provide insurance for themselves or their children.  You can’t take that away from them.

Please don’t make cuts to the Labor Department either.  I’d had to rely on unemployment once, and so have many good-willed people who come across tough times.  We can’t punish them and their families for being fired or laid off.

Don’t make cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs either.  This country has many citizens who are retired soldiers and depend upon the V.A. for medical treatment.

Don’t cut Agriculture because No Farms=No Food.

Don’t cut Energy Programs because I’m tired of paying high gas prices.

Don’t cut Disaster Aid because I can’t imagine what I’d do if a natural disaster happened to me.

Don’t cut Infrastructure either because I love the Interstate System.  I can get anywhere in the U.S. very quickly because of it.

And finally, don’t cut Social Security because I want to retire some day and I want Social Security to be there to help insure that I have a comfortable life after retirement.

Feel free to cut anything else besides that.

Sincerely,

Todd

P.S.  Don’t raise my taxes either.  Make somebody else pay for comforts in life, or just cut programs for people less-fortunate than me.

That leaves you with about 3% of government spending to play with.  Have fun!”

Fact:  We all want deficit reduction… AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T AFFECT US OR THOSE WE CARE ABOUT.

We will continue to “punt the ball” as long as we are not willing to accept actions made by congress that will make our lives a little less comfortable.  That means losing funding for a program that provides insurance for your children, or helps you retire, or protects our country better, or maybe even employs you.  It means paying a little more in taxes, or not getting that awesome tax credit you get.  It means sacrifice and compromise.

But if we can’t figure out we’ve always got Sequester the Molester forever hanging over us, whispering into our ears, “It will be easier if you just don’t fight it.”

Sequester the Molester

Fast Reaction to the Presidential Debate

Image

The results are in:  Kinda boring opening debate.

We’ve just wrapped up the first of 2 presidential debates (next week’s debate is between the VPs).  To be honest I was a little underwhelmed.  The first 20 minutes sounded like a couple of accountants talking about boring accountant-ish blah.  Be honest, were you not thinking to yourself at some point, “This is kind of boring”?

Romney will likely benefit the most in the polls from this debate- he definitely was the candidate on the offensive tonight.

Obama looked like he was just putting in the time- punch in, punch out.  He didn’t pull out any of the big guns like the 47%, Bain Capital, killing of bin Laden (mostly because this was a debate about the economy), or Massachusetts’s poor jobs record under Romney.

I’m guessing the Obama campaign strategy for this was to not appear argumentative, just sound smart, don’t make any gaffes, save the fireworks for last, and fly under the radar because the last presidential debate will be the most important one.

It will be interesting to see how much of a hit, if there is one, that Obama will take in the polls.  After Romney shot himself in the foot with the 47% video, Obama was starting to pull away a tiny bit in the battleground states that matter most like Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Seems like a rather dangerous strategy for the Obama campaign. However, it could provide him an advantage going into the last debate, given that most campaigns try to lower their candidates’ expectations going into debates in order to make viewers “pleasantly surprised” if the “underdog” performs well.

Or it could just be that Obama made a mistake by not taking Mitt Romney and this debate too seriously, because he didn’t really look like he was giving his best effort out there.

So here’s too hoping that the last debate between Romney and Obama will be a little more spirited.  Either way, I’m probably more excited to see the snappy Paul Ryan and loose-cannon Joe Biden slug it out next week.

Obama: You didn’t build that! (In Context)

Last Friday, President Obama appeared to be taking a shot at business owners in a campaign speech.  The line that got the President in trouble was this: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”  The speech was aimed at garnering support for the President’s proposal that those whose personal incomes surpass $250,000 should pay more in taxes.

At first glance, this looks like the President really is discrediting our countries great entrepreneurs- DEFINITELY a PR nightmare for the President.

The question is however, what is the “that” that Obama is referring to in his statement.  Again I turn to Politifact for the full context of the speech.  I won’t put the entire speech on here, but I think it’s important to take a look at the paragraph surrounding the controversial line”

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Now that it’s in context, you can see the President wasn’t talking about companies people build; but rather roads and bridges, the unbelievable American system, and the internet, etc.

The point that he’s trying to get across, albeit very poorly, is that if you have been successful, you have had help along the way.  Someone else built the internet, roads, bridges, education system, etc. – all services that enable business owners along the way toward success.

President Obama goes on further to say this:

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative…”

Kind of contradictory to how Obama’s opponents are painting this speech – like he gives no credit to the entrepreneur for his or her own “initiative”.  However, Obama does give them credit.

A friend of mine, (a conservative one, by the way), had this to say about the controversy:

This kind of selective editing in politics happens far too often from both the left and the right.  The only thing that’s worse than selective editing, however, is spreading it.

Was Obama really attacking entrepreneurs and business owners?  No.  Did he have a terrible placement of words and create a gaffe for himself?  Absolutely.

So when you see the post on Facebook, etc.  Just remember what the great President Lincoln has to say:

Tea Party Hypocrisy

Isn’t the Tea Party controlled GOP supposedly the party of fiscal responsibility?  Then why do they keep wasting time and tax-payer dollars trying to repeal Obamacare?

Recently, the Tea Party driven U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal Obamacare.  This is the 33rd time in 18 months that they have voted to repeal at least a part of the law or de-fund it.  That is almost twice a month.

Republicans call it a “symbolical vote”, which to me sounds more like “a waste of time”.  The reasons for continuing to press this issue is purely political- the representatives in the House have to be able to go to their constituents in November and say, “Hey look, I tried”.

We, the tax payers, are paying members of Congress to work; not to continually make silly “symbolical votes”, just to score some political points.  The House has voted almost twice per month since 2010 to ruin Obamacare.  Think about all of those tax dollars wasted arguing the same points, making the same speeches and tallying the same votes again and again.

Look, whether you agree with Obamacare or not, you’d have to be blindly biased to agree with the House voting repeatedly to scrap the law.  Even when the House passes it, they know there’s not a chance that the Senate will pass it.  And even if the Senate did, do they really expect Obama would sign a bill repealing it?

And what about Mitt Romney’s and the GOP’s promise to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare?  Seems to me that the GOP is stuck on “Repeal” mode and lacking a little in the “Replace” department.  What plans have Mitt Romney or other GOP leaders suggest to replace Obamacare?  I honestly would like to know.  Anybody?  It’s really easy to be the party of “NO”, but it’s not that easy coming up with solutions that work.

Getting Obamacare Straight

Just a quick thought today about Obamacare 🙂

So lets get this straight:

Barack Obama passes health care reform, which requires citizens to buy insurance, which was the Heritage Foundation’s idea in 1989, was supported within the past 20 years by President George H.W. Bush, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney

And now that he passed it, they’re all against it?

Facts and Myths about Obamacare

So recently the Supreme Court upheld The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka Obamacare.  It was interesting to see all of the reactions on Facebook and Twitter (which I think were much more numerous and intense than when Obamacare was first passed.) Unfortunately, based on the reactions that I saw, it seems like there are quite a few myths or just simple misunderstandings about Obamacare.  In this post, I will attempt to debunk some of the myths, and explain a few things which I like about it.  And even though, I understand you might not favor it as much as I do, I still hope you can read this post with an open mind.

Myths:

  • Obamacare is a “Government Takeover of Healthcare”, Universal Healthcare, or Socialized Medicine.

From what I’ve seen, this seems to be the most common misconception.  Some people think that Obamacare is something similar to the healthcare systems used in various European countries or Canada.  They hear horror stories about women with breast cancer waiting years to see a specialist, or waiting 12 hours in the E.R. Some say that the government will take control of hospitals or doctors or decided which insurance company you can use.  Obamacare does none of this. Socialized Medicine/Universal Healthcare is where all citizens receive healthcare which is regulated and paid for by the government.  As much as I personally wish we had Universal Healthcare, and although the government will help pay for the cost of insurance for those who don’t make too much, Obamacare is nothing like it.  We still have private insurance companies. One of my favorite websites, Politifact.com (which dedicates itself to separating fact from fiction in politics) declared this myth as their “Lie of the Year” in 2010 and wrote a great articleabout it.

  • Obama is a smoker (here just for fun.)

Obama Smoking

Obama quit smoking in 2010.

  • If you don’t pay the individual mandate, you can go to jail.

Simply not true.  I have heard numerous Fox News personalities including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity promulgate this idea.  Again Politifact debunked this with another article.

  • Obamacare is unconstitutional.

If it is upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States it is, in fact, constitutional.  No matter how much we hate it, this won’t change.  Can we stop arguing this point?

  • Obamacare will add billions or trillions of debt to the federal deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan, widely respected agency that projects and reports the effects that federal laws have on the budget, reports that Obamacare will lower the deficit by about $124 billion over 10 years. Whereas, if Obamacare were to be repealed, the CBO projects it would increase the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.  Yet another Politifact article here.

What I like about Obamacare:

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher rates to those with pre-existing conditions.

Why?  Suppose you are uninsured and get pregnant, or get cancer.  You are going to either have one huge medical bill or possibly die.  In the past insurance companies could deny you coverage for having a pre-existing condition.

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from establishing annual and lifetime spending limits.

Why?  Again, suppose you get cancer.  This time you are covered.  Most insurance companies, have annual and lifetime spending limits.  If the cost of health care you receive exceeds these limits, then you are on your own.  Obamacare eliminates these limits.

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from dropping patients when they get sick.

Why?  Yes insurance companies really can drop you if you get diabetes, cancer, etc.  Seems like a no-brainer.

  • Insurance companies must spend a certain percent of premium dollars on your health care.  If an insurer fails to meet this requirement, there is no penalty, but a rebate must be issued to the policy holder.

Why?  This requires insurance companies to actually spend most of your money on healthcare, instead of bonuses for executives, lavish trips, etc.  Just this year, customers already received rebate checksfor an average of about $151 per family.

  • The establishment of  “health insurance exchanges”.

Why?  Health Insurance Exchanges  are basically places (call centers, websites, brochures, etc.) that the government sets up where customers looking to buy insurance can see insurance companies, the services they offer, prices, and benefits, side by side.  Anyone who has ever bought insurance for anything, knows that it’s difficult to know if you’re getting the best deal.  With so many companies that have different sites, different lingo, etc.  It can be very confusing.  This will make it easier to get insurance, make insurance companies more competitive, and thus lower coverage prices (hopefully).

  • Restaurants are required to display the calorie content of their foods on menus, drive-through menus, and vending machines
  • Children will be permitted to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday.
  • All insurance plans must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
  •  Subsidization (government helps pay) of insurance premiums for individuals in households with income up to 400% of the poverty line.

Why?  Many people are worried about the individual mandate and being able to afford insurance if they don’t have it.  Heck, it even makes me feel a little uneasy.  This should help ease all of our fears.  What exactly is the poverty line?  Well, if your annual income is below a specified amount, you are considered as being under the poverty line.  The graph below shows each amount.

So lets say that you are single.  If you make less than $44,680 (11,170 x 4), then you are eligible to receive a little help from the government to pay for insurance.  How about a family of 4?  You get help if your household income is less than $92,200 (23,050 x 4).

As you can see, unless you are doing pretty well financially, you will most likely qualify for some government assistance in paying for health care.

You may ask, “How will the government afford this?”  The answer is simple: a combination of spending cuts and taxes.  First of all the individual mandate is a tax.  Individuals who refuse to get insured for some reason, will be paying a penalty of $95 or up to 1% of their income in 2014.  In 2016, this jumps to $695, or 2.5% of income.  The limit for families is $2085.  There are exemptions to this mandate for financial hardships or religious beliefs, however.

There will also be a $2,000 per employee tax penalty on employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer health insurance to their full-time workers.

Individuals making over $200,000 or couples making over $250,000 will be taxed, an additional 0.9%.

There is also a A 10% sales tax on indoor tanning that took effect in 2010.

As far as cuts, there will be spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that will amount to over $62 billion in cuts over ten years.

This article explains how it will be funded very well.

Final Thoughts:

I can certainly see why some people don’t like Obamacare.  The individual mandate, although constitutional, is somewhat unprecedented.  Never before has the federal government imposed a tax for not doing something.  Although, as I stated before, the mandate does scare me slightly, I believe it is a good thing.  Simply put, it requires that everyone be insured, which will in turn lower the costs of health care.  I might go more in depth as far as how that works in another post on another day.

I can also see how there is disagreement on how Obamacare should be funded.  There may be too many taxes (mainly on the wealthy) and not enough cuts for some people’s liking.  The bottom line though, is that it will be paid for, and will actually lower the deficit.

For me personally, the positives outweigh the negatives.  I just hope that after reading this, you might be able to see the positives that usually aren’t very well portrayed on places like Facebook, Twitter and family reunions (in Utah anyway :s ).  If you have reasons for not liking the act, please comment below.  I’m always interested in hearing other points of view.