Chicago Tribune: Obamacare is a disaster
As the rollout of Obamacare continues to go from bad to worse, longstanding allies of the President are beginning to go public with their concerns over their healthcare law’s blatant flaws. The Chicago Tribune, who endorsed the President twice, put out a scathing editorial serializing the problems of Obamacare and calling for a rethink of the law.
“If you've tried to sign up online for health coverage under the problem-plagued Obamacare exchange, our sympathies. Many people have tried to create accounts and shop for insurance under the new law. Few have succeeded. Those that have enrolled have found that the system is prone to mistakes. Some applications have been sent to the wrong insurance company…Wait. It gets worse. Those who have managed to browse the marketplace have often been hit by sticker shock. Take Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner and single father from Carpentersville. He sought the same level of coverage on the exchange as he and his 7-year-old daughter have now, with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals. At best, Weldzius found, his monthly premium of $233 would more than double. If he chose a plan priced at the same level, the annual deductible would be $12,700, more than three times his current $3,500 deductible.”
If that opening paragraph wasn’t indicting enough, the paper went further, highlighting the administration’s hypocrisy and mistruths regarding its implementation:
• Illinois officials boasted that insurance premiums here would be lower than expected. But the Tribune reported Sunday that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered for Cook County residents have whopping annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage. That's much more than many families can afford to pay.
• The Obama administration delayed issuing major rules to set up the exchanges until after the 2012 presidential election and refused to push back the Oct. 1 launch date, lest Republicans take political advantage, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
• Sloppy design of the architecture of the computer system, not simply an overload of users, created the problems that are blocking people from applying online for coverage, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. "These are not glitches," an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange told the Times. "The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, 'It's awful, just awful.' ''
Furthermore the Tribune recommends what many have called for, which is a one year delay of the individual mandate. While the President seems determined to watch this “train-wreck” unfold on its own, the collateral damage is beginning to pile up. The President should at the very least take the Tribune’s advice, who conclude “the law has to change.”
It's Time To Repeal The Ethanol Mandate
Even with an energy revolution underway in the United States, the government still makes us pour money into expensive, inefficient, and subsidized energy like ethanol. Due to a law called the Renewable Fuel Standard, consumers are required to fill up their gas tanks with increased amounts of ethanol. This is problematic since forced ethanol consumption means that cars get fewer miles per gallon, gasoline and food prices will increase, and your car’s engine could be in danger as long the Renewable Fuel Standard remains on the books.
Passed as part of the American Energy Act of 2005 and increased in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates that Americans must consume billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol. Today, when Americans fill up their car or motorcycle they are doing so with 10 percent of ethanol. Next year, Americans will be forced to use more than 14 billion gallons of corn based ethanol, a number that could increase ethanol’s percentage per gallon of gasoline by 50 percent. If this law is not repealed, Americans will be forced to consume 36 billion gallons of “renewable fuels” by 2022, almost half of which will be ethanol.
The problem with the Renewable Fuel Standard is simple: mixing large amounts of ethanol in gasoline is economically inefficient and can damage vehicles’ engines. A study by NERA Economic Consulting concluded that the ethanol mandate could increase the price of gasoline by 30 percent and increase the price of diesel by 300 percent. Furthermore, ethanol delivers 25 percent fewer miles per gallon than gasoline with numerous studies showing that ethanol’s corrosive properties damage engines. Increasing the ethanol blend per gallon of gasoline, which is what the EPA is considering, could severely damage older vehicles. Fearing the worse, both auto manufacturers and AAA have come out warning against the new standards.
Another victim of the Renewable Fuel Standard are people that eat food – that’s you. With more and more quantities of ethanol being diverted to fuel instead of food, the price of products like milk, eggs, meat or anything made with corn or its sweeteners has increased. Price-Waterhouse-Cooper along with the National Council of Chain Restaurants concluded that increased ethanol requirements will cost fast food and dine-in restaurants $2.5 billion and $691 billion respectively. This means that, due to the ethanol mandate, every restaurant in the U.S. pays around $18,000 extra for food, inflated prices that are certainly passed to consumers.
To Read More Click Here
Coalition to Congress: End The Renewable Fuel Standard
A broad coalition of organizations released a joint letter calling for Congress to end the Renewable Fuel Standard. Next year, Americans will be forced to use more than 14 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol. Blending this much ethanol into America's gasoline supply forces drivers to pay more for their gasoline and can even damage cars, motorcycles, and anything with an engine.
The full text of the letter and list of signatories is below:
Dear Senator & Representative:
It has come to our attention that Congress is considering legislation this fall to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). We, collectively and individually, believe the only reform to this failed government mandate should be to repeal the RFS. Repealing this mandate would bring certainty to the fuel markets and eliminate the harmful impacts this government program has had on businesses and consumers.
The RFS is a clumsy and misguided command and control mechanism that requires a certain level of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Gasoline has been required to contain 10% ethanol. The EPA plans to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline by 50%. This is a horrifically bad idea. Congress has been working towards ending the counter-productive and costly RFS. Debt limit negotiations or other legislative vehicles moving through Congress at this time should not be used to expand regulatory burdens and impose additional costs on Americans.
The RFS have a number of unintended consequences that harms almost all sectors of the economy and saddles American taxpayers with higher fuel costs and higher food prices. Not only is corn – an important food staple – dramatically more expensive, but the price of milk, eggs, and meat and anything made with corn or its sweeteners will also increase as more and more corn is diverted away from food and animal feed and instead devoted to fuel.
The RFS will increase the cost of gasoline and diesel. A study by NERA Economic Consulting concluded that the new Renewable Fuel Standards will cause a 30% price increase to gasoline and a 300% price increase for diesel in 2015. Additionally, the RFS reduces fuel efficiency. Ethanol has a much lower energy density than gasoline. According to U.S. News, ethanol delivers 25% fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.
Numerous studies show that ethanol’s corrosive properties damage engines. Increasing the blend by 50% will damage newer automobiles and could prove dangerous in older vehicles. Numerous manufacturers have warned against the new ethanol blend and the AAA has issued a warning as well.
The new RFS will make it even more difficult for auto manufacturers to meet CAFE standards. While the CAFE standards have been dramatically increased, the new RFS would mandate the use of fuel that will provide substantially fewer miles per gallon. Consumers will be stuck with the associated costs and taxes.
The RFS is burdensome and unrealistic for most small business owners. Gas stations are almost entirely individually owned and operated (about 95%) and it will be very expensive to either: (i) add additional pumps to sell both ethanol blends, or (ii) install new pumps that can blend both types. Most gas stations make only a few pennies per gallon so their margins are quite thin. We cannot afford to send more small businesses into bankruptcy and to destroy more jobs.
The new RFS create more net harm to the environment than simply using fossil fuels. Ethanol requires fertilizer, pesticides, and large quantities of water. A great deal of energy is expended to create the corn, and then distill the ethanol for fuel purposes. Numerous independent studies have concluded that it is more harmful to use more land, fertilizers, pesticides, and water to grow more corn and more energy intensive to then turn that corn into ethanol that it would be to simply refine more petroleum. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that “The overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel.”
With the recent scandals at EPA showing its lack of transparency and its willingness to break the law to further its agenda, expanding the RFS would only give the EPA another avenue to exercise power over the lives of Americans and further harm the economy. Extending the RFS benefits only EPA bureaucrats and rent-seekers. The RFS imposes higher costs on consumers and small businesses, kills jobs, and harms both the economy and the environment. We should repeal the RFS entirely. Let consumers and the marketplace determine how much ethanol should be blended with fuel.
George Landrith, President
Frontiers of Freedom
Phil Kerpen, President
David A. Ridenour, President
National Center for Public Policy Research
Harry C. Alford, President & CEO
National Black Chamber of Commerce
Independent Women's Voice
Seton Motley, President
Andrew Moylan, Senior Fellow
R Street Institute
David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Jim Martin, President
Marita Noon, Executive Director
Energy Makes America Great Inc.
Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy
Grover Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform
James Valvo, Director of Policy
Americans for Prosperity
Judson Phillips, Founder
Tea Party Nation
Thomas J. Pyle, President
American Energy Alliance
Terry Scanlon, President
Myron Ebell, Director
Lew Uhler, President
National Tax Limitation Committee
Niger Innis, National Spokesman
Congress of Racial Equality
Independent Women's Forum
Joseph Bast, President
Tom Schatz, President
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
The Joke That Is The Renewable Fuel Standard
Blessed with a vast supply of diverse natural resources, the United States government still insists on wasting its and taxpayers time on ethanol. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. Starting next year the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) i.e. the ethanol mandate will require Americans to use more than 14 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol for their vehicles. Putting aside for a minute that ethanol is more expensive and less efficient than regular gasoline, this law has been nothing more than an accommodation to special interest whose ethanol experiment has been a failure to the American consumer.
Click Here to Tell Congress To End The Ethanol Mandate
Getting Less For More
Implicit in the ethanol mandate is the reality that without such a policy, Americans would not use nearly as much ethanol—and for good reason. During most of the past 30 years, ethanol has been more expensive than regular gasoline. Furthermore, ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline. This means that if you put one gallon of gasoline in your car and one gallon of ethanol in your friend’s identical model, you’ll go 15 percent farther than your friend. Responding to an increase in the RFS mandate, some automakers are even installing larger gas tanks in vehicles.
Click Here To Tell Congress To End The Ethanol Mandate
Wait, there’s more
If ethanol is more expensive and less efficient, it is easy to see why the fuel necessitates a mandate but hard to understand Congress’s justification for doing so. Unable to stand on economic grounds, ethanol proponents make claims about reductions in foreign oil and greenhouse emissions. Upon closer scrutiny, these defenses of ethanol also fall apart. A seminal study by Princeton University’s Tim Searchinger and several co-authors found that corn based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years. While burning corn ethanol may produce fewer carbon emissions, growing, harvesting, and refining corn ethanol is a carbon intensive process. Supplementing the ethanol mandate is a tax credit and tariff on ethanol imports. Since the early 1980s, various tax credits have been available to ethanol refiners and import tariffs have been imposed on foreign ethanol (particularly Brazilian sugarcane). However, it was not until the RFS was enacted that ethanol became ubiquitous.
Instead of worrying about Iowa primary voters, policymakers need to look at the facts and see that Renewable Fuel Standard is a joke. Moreover, the law’s implications are more serious now than they have ever been. While there is legislation being proposed that repeals the RFS, more pressure is needed to let Congress know what a farce it really is. Americans shouldn’t have to worry about damage to their car engines from an expensive and inefficient energy source, especially one that is subsidized at their expense.
Click Here to Tell Congress To End The Ethanol Mandate
A Brief History of the Keystone Pipeline
With still no sign of whether or not the President will approve the Keystone Pipeline, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has put out a new release on their website chronicling, somewhat comically, the administrations dithering over the project. The original application for the project was filed with the State Department on September 19 2008 and five years later it still languishes in uncertainty.
A Brief History of the Keystone Pipeline:
On September 19, 2008, five years ago, when TransCanada first submitted its application to the U.S. State Department to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion private infrastructure project that would create thousands of jobs and advance America’s energy security
In April 2010, when the State Department issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which said the pipeline “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation”
In October 2010, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about approval of the pipeline in 2010 and she said, "We are inclined to do so”
Summer 2011, when almost three years had passed since the application and we still didn’t have a pipeline
In July 2011, when the House of Representatives approved H.R. 1938, the North American-Made Energy Security Act, to expedite construction of the pipeline
In December 2011, when both the House and Senate unanimously approved – and President Obama signed into law – a bill requiring approval of the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days unless the president determines the project does not serve the national interest
In January 2012, when after over three years of review, President Obama formally rejected the pipeline’s Presidential Permit and asked TransCanada to reapply
In February 2012, when the House of Representatives approved legislation to remove the president’s authority of the pipeline’s permit
In March 2012, when President Obama personally lobbied the Senate to kill an amendment calling for congressional approval of Keystone XL
In late March 2012, when the president traveled to Cushing, Oklahoma, to take undue credit for the southern leg of the pipeline stating, “I don’t want the energy jobs of tomorrow going to other countries. I want them here in the United States of America
In January 2013, when Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved TransCanada's proposed reroute of the pipeline through the Cornhusker State
In March 2013, when the State Department issued its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement which confirmed the pipeline will have limited adverse environmental impacts
In late March 2013, when the Senate passed a budget amendment urging approval of Keystone XL by a vote of 62-37
In April 2013, when the House of Representatives approved H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, to end the delays and allow the project to move forward
Today, after five years, when the president has still not approved Keystone XL, keeping America waiting for thousands of jobs and greater energy security
To see all the comical GIFS, visit Energy and Commerce's site here
British Prime Minister: Let's get fracking
Facing increased energy costs, British Prime Minister David Cameron wants his country to get off the sidelines and take part in the shale gas revolution. In a recent Op-ed for the Daily Telegraph Cameron sets out the case for Great Britain to embark on a policy that will lower energy bills and deliver prosperity. For years the British government has kowtowed to the environmental left, letting them run roughshod over energy policy and as a result UK residents have seen their electricity prices rise steeply. In an attempt to derail Prime Minister Cameron, opponents are doing their best demonize the practice known as fracking, the method in which natural gas is extracted from the ground, that has been conclusively proven safe by experts.
The Prime Minister sets out 3 simple but compelling arguments for his energy policy:
“First , fracking has the real potential to drive energy price down…Latest estimates suggest that there’s about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying underneath Britain at the moment – and that study only covers 11 counties. To put that in context, even if we extract just a tenth of that figure, that is still the equivalent of 51 years’ gas supply. This reservoir of untapped energy will help people across the country who work hard and want to get on: not just families but businesses, too, who are really struggling with the high costs of energy. Just look at the United States: they’ve got more than 10,000 fracking wells opening up each year and their gas prices are three-and-a-half times lower than here. Even if we only see a fraction of the impact shale gas has had in America, we can expect to see lower energy prices in this country”
“Secondly, fracking will create jobs in Britain. In fact, one recent study predicted that 74,000 posts could be supported by a thriving shale-gas industry in this country. It’s not just those involved in the drilling. Just as with North Sea oil and gas, there would be a whole supply chain of new businesses, more investment and fresh expertise.”
Money for Communities
“Thirdly, fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods. Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10 million – will go straight back to residents who live nearby. This is money that could be used for a variety of purposes – from reductions in council-tax bills to investment in neighbourhood schools. It’s important that local people share in the wealth generated by fracking.”
As mainland Europe continues to pour endless sums of money into subsidized energy, Great Britain seems destined become the energy envy of western Europe if they follow through on the Prime Minister’s plan.
ATR Urges Michigan Legislators to Reject Obamacare Medicaid Expansion
Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to members of the Michigan House of Representatives, urging them to oppose legislation that would have the state go along with Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is a matter in which states have a say. Below is the text of the letter sent by ATR President Grover Norquist to Michigan Legislators:
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our members across Michigan, I write today in strong opposition to the proposals to expand Medicaid spending in the manner proposed and incentivized by the federal legislative monstrosity that is Obamacare.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that lawmakers in Lansing have the freedom to choose to opt out of this ill-advised expansion that is sold as a sweet deal for states, but is proven to be a sucker deal upon full examination of the proposal. Simply put, Medicaid in its current form is already growing at an unsustainable rate and the burden that Obamacare’s proposed expansion would place upon the Michigan would cripple the state economy and likely necessitate further rate hikes on Michigan taxpayers.
Even without being duped into Obamacare’s suggested expansion, Medicaid costs are growing at an untenable clip and your constituents are ultimately on the hook for covering these soaring costs.
Total federal and state Medicaid spending has ballooned from $70 billion in 1990 to an estimated $400 billion today: a whopping increase of 571 percent. Medicaid expansion in Michigan could wind up costing taxpayers $300 million by 2020 in either tax increases or reduced services.
In fact, state funds spent on Medicaid have already doubled in the past 15 years. Expanding this program only serves to diminish available funding for other public services such as education, transportation, and public safety.
Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion imposes hidden additional costs that will undoubtedly be passed down to taxpayers. As Michael Cannon, the Director of Health Policy Studies at the non-partisan Cato Institute, states:
“Medicaid discourages work and charitable effort among the taxpayers who fund it, while discouraging self-sufficiency and encouraging dependence among beneficiaries. Medicaid also imposes costs that stem from overuse of medical care, increasing costs for private payers, and giving patients poorer quality care than they could obtain with private coverage.”
Your counterparts in other state capitals, such as Texas, are wisely rejecting Obamacare’s suggested Medicaid expansion and other detrimental provisions of the bill, which includes 20 new or higher taxes on your constituents. These states are commendably doing all they can to prevent or mitigate the economic and financial havoc wrought by this law. Michigan legislators would be wise to do likewise.
This law is such a clear disaster – Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has referred to it as “a train wreck” – the White House itself has gone so far as to simply ignore and delay key portions of this flawed law.
Members of the House have the ability to ensure the Great Lakes State remains as economically competitive as possible by rejecting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Let’s instead pursue pro-growth policies that grow the economy, create jobs, and, in turn, enable people to get off Medicaid and actually have access to quality care.
Americans for Tax Reform will continue to monitor this issue closely and will educate your constituents as to how their representatives vote on this important matter.
To view a copy of the PDF letter, click here
It's Monday! 12 Numbers to Start Your Week
By the Numbers
26%: The amount disgraced former Italian PM Silvio Burlusconi’s net worth increased by in the past year
$10.2 billion: Fannie Mae’s latest payment to the Treasury Department after being bailed out by taxpayers.
44.1%: President Obama’s approval rating. See “phony scandals.”
100%: Putin approval rating, obviously
42%: New Jersey Democrats approval of Gov. Chris Christie
$18 billion: Detroit’s current liability. President Obama in 2011: “I see a city that's coming back”
52.37%: Joe Flacco’s tax bill after a Super Bowl MVP performance. Should have tested free agency.
233,333: Jobs created per month during the Reagan Recovery
42,100: State Department Jobs estimate for the Keystone Pipeline, CC: President Obama
Enjoy your week.
Congress takes EPA to task over pre-emptive mining veto
The Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight convened a hearing on EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment entitled- A Factual Review of a Hypothetical Scenario. At the heart of the hearing was the concern over the EPA issuing a pre-emptive report designed to discourage any permitting application to exploit the mines vast natural resources. Chaired by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), the majority of witnesses, who expertise ranged from environmental law to engineers, agreed that the report prepared by the EPA was indeed deeply flawed.
L. Lowell Rothschild, Senior Counsel, Bracewell and Guiliani called the EPA’s assessment of Bristol Bay’s Pebble Mine “general” and “limited”. He also criticized the EPA for releasing such a report before an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) could be prepared. The initial EPA report in also profoundly unhelpful since “it is not an in-depth assessment of a specific mine but analyzes ‘scenarios that reflects the expected characteristics of mining operations at the pebble deposit.’”
Dr. Michael Kavanaugh, an expert in chemical and civil engineering, took the EPA to task for being premature in their initial report and quipped it was a “unique document.” The problems in the report that he discovered included: failure to consider modern mining practices, improper use of case histories of tailings dam failures, unreliable dam breach analysis, unreasonable pipeline release scenario, among others. While the EPA has always vowed to let science dictate its approach, Dr. Kavanaugh concluded the reports “limitations raise significant concerns on the scientific credibility of the 2013 BBWA and the appropriateness of using of using this document to inform stakeholders on the future of mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.”
Driving home the point was Daniel McGroarty, President of American Resources Policy Network, saying the report set a “bad precedent” with its use of 20 and 30 year old estimations.
While members of both parties agreed that it was important that the project be approached in an environmentally sound fashion, they were equally critical of the EPA for not allowing its own process to play out.
House Passes Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act
Today the House voted in favor of H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.VA). Having sponsored similar legislation in the 112th Congress, Congressman McKinley’s new bill incorporates elements from previous legislation introduced in the Senate by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). With the EPA showing no signs of slowing down in their war on coal and affordable energy, H.R. 2218 will rein in the EPA and give power back to the states when it comes to making regulatory decisions that affect thousands of jobs and livelihoods throughout the country.
This new legislation empowers state authorities instead of handing more power to an already out of control EPA. States will be given the authority to craft permitting programs and regulating coal ash. Also, the bill makes it explicitly clear that the EPA will not be given any new rulemaking authority when it comes to coal ash standards. Using parts of Senator Hoeven’s bill, H.R. 2218 improves safety standards, requires permitting for coal ash and disposal facilities, expands the public notice and comment requirements, and creates greater transparency and access to data for groundwater data and permitting documents.
On passage of the bill Majority Leader Eric Cantor said:
“Today, we voted with bipartisan support to eliminate costly federal mandates, allow states flexibility in regulating coal ash, and ensure we protect both jobs and our environment.”
In what was hyped as a landmark speech at Georgetown University last month the President outlined an agenda that declared war on coal, called for Americans to pay higher electricity bills, the creation of more Solyndra’s, and to pass cap and trade. According to the International Energy Agency, coal produces nearly forty percent of electricity in the United States begging the question as to why the President continues to relentlessly pursue such an unpopular and costly agenda on affordable energy. As the EPA plans its next job killing assault, the House continues to pass pro-growth energy legislation that protects coal and jobs.