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  • Federal Obamacare Officials Once Recognized the Falsity of Their Current Argument about Tax Credits

    September 10, 2014 2:17 PM

    ​The Obama administration has claimed that despite recurring language in the Obamacare law limiting tax credits to people who buy insurance on an “exchange established by the state,” such taxpayer subsidies are also available to people who buy insurance on the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov.  (The availability of tax credits triggers employer mandates and penalties in any state where the tax credits are available, and the tax credits contain work disincentives and marriage penalties, so the tax credits are not a free lunch.)


    Architects of Obamacare like Jonathan Gruber have argued that it is “nutty” to argue that Congress intended to limit tax credits to state exchanges. But this supposedly “nutty” view was once the view of Gruber himself – and, apparently, the federal government itself. When the Department of Health & Human Services issued a contract to create a federal exchange in 2011, the contract assumed tax credits didn’t apply to the federal exchange. (The original contract did not include any functions to allow purchasers to calculate their tax credits, or factor in tax credits before displaying health-insurance prices, and the contract was not amended to apply tax credits to the federal exchange until much, much later.)


    Back in 2012, Gruber had himself admitted tax credits were not available on the federal exchange, contradicting his later statements. A 2012 video caught “Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber saying, ‘If you're a state and you don't set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits.’” In July 2013, that video was “nationally-publicized due to the efforts of CEI’s Ryan Radia,” who helped expose Gruber’s two-faced turnabout. (“The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes, New Republic, Slate and others carried stories” due to Radia, noted the Des Moines Register.)


    Gruber claimed that what he earlier said on the video was just a slip-of-the-tongue—a “speak-o” equivalent to a typo—but it turned out that he publicly made the same exact admission on at least one other occasion in 2012, before that admission became politically inconvenient.


    As Forbes Magazine noted, “the irony is that” by 2013, “Gruber was deriding as ‘nutty’ and ‘stupid’ the contention that the Affordable Care Act required subsidies to flow through state-based exchange,” the very contention he himself made back in 2012. “It’s a ‘screwy interpretation’ of Obamacare, alleged Gruber in an interview with Erika Eichelberger of Mother Jones . . . ‘It’s nutty. It’s stupid… it’s essentially unprecedented in our democracy.’” Less than a week before his video was unearthed, “Gruber was on MSNBC’s Hardball,” where he proclaimed the “criminality” of those who argue tax credits are limited state-based exchanges.


    But as Scot Vorse discovered, the government itself once recognized that credits are limited to state-based exchanges. In light of that discovery, CEI has submitted two FOIA requests, one to HHS headquarters, and one to the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, seeking additional information relevant to the government’s about-face.


  • Taxpayers to Subsidize “Ministry of Truthiness”

    August 27, 2014 10:18 AM

    The Washington Free Beacon reports:


    The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter. The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online. The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.” The university has received $919,917 so far for the project. . . .


    “Truthy,” which gets its name from Stephen Colbert, will catalog how information is spread on Twitter, including political campaigns.


    This seems like a waste of taxpayer money on many levels, and it is conceivable that government officials who are interesting in harassing their critics could make use of this information to violate their free-speech rights (the way the IRS violated the First Amendment by targeting Tea Party and other groups for costly and burdensome investigations, and demanding lots of irrelevant information from those groups that had nothing to do with whether they actually were eligible for 501(c)(4) status).


    It’s not the government’s role to rule to declare ideas “false or misleading.” Under the First Amendment, there’s “no such thing as a false idea,” according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974).


  • Due Process Eroded by Bills like CASA That Let Agencies Keep Fines They Impose

    August 11, 2014 2:42 PM

    Due process is being eroded by recent bills that would authorize agencies to impose massive fines on regulated industries, and then keep those fines for themselves, giving them an incentive to find regulated entities guilty based on weak or equivocal evidence. To protect due process, such fines should be payable to the U.S. Treasury, not the prosecuting agency. 


    I write about one such bill at The Examiner:


    Disturbing provision harms due process in Campus Accountability and Safety Act


    It is a conflict of interest — and sometimes a violation of due process — for a fine to go to the very unit of government that employs the judge or official who imposed the fine. That gives the official an incentive to find the accused guilty in order to enrich the official’s agency. But such fines are apparently authorized by a provision of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) (also known as S. 2692 and H.R. 5354).

  • Federal Official Says Campus Speech Should Be Restricted to Protect Young People’s Brains

    July 31, 2014 6:54 PM

    U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Michael Yaki says that speech on college campuses should be restricted to protect young people’s developing brains. This is yet another depressing example of Progressives turning against free speech. Yaki is a former senior advisor and district director for House Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  (During the Obama administration, the Education and Justice Departments have also sought to restrict students’ free speech and due process rights on college campuses and in the public schools).


    Yaki argues that “how the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information is vastly different from the way that we adults do” and “young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.” 

  • Federal Official Says Campus Speech Should Be Restricted to Protect Young People’s Brains

    July 31, 2014 6:54 PM

    U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Michael Yaki says that speech on college campuses should be restricted to protect young people’s developing brains. This is yet another depressing example of Progressives turning against free speech. Yaki is a former senior advisor and district director for House Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  (During the Obama administration, the Education and Justice Departments have also sought to restrict students’ free speech and due process rights on college campuses and in the public schools).


    Yaki argues that “how the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information is vastly different from the way that we adults do” and “young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.” 

  • Your Tax Dollars at Work: Justice Department Investigates Anti-Obama Parade Float

    July 15, 2014 5:00 PM

    The Justice Department has responded to an anti-Obama float in a parade by treating it as a “discrimination dispute” necessitating federal intervention. One more example of your tax dollars being wasted:


    The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a float that appeared at the annual Fourth of July parade in the small town of Norfolk, Neb. because the float featured a blue flatbed truck carrying a zombie-looking mannequin in overalls on the door of an outhouse labeled “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”


    The Justice Department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team to Norfolk (pronounced “Norfork” by many locals), reports the Omaha World-Herald.


    The Community Relations Service team investigates disputes concerning discrimination.


    To a lawyer like me, the Justice Department’s notion of “discrimination” seems strange. The float’s creator denies any racial animus, and says it is meant as a criticism of the Obama administration over the Veteran’s Administration scandal:


    The man behind the controversial float, Dale Remmich, has explained that the overalls-clad mannequin in front of the outhouse represented himself — not President Barack Obama. The point he was trying to make concerned his frustration with Obama’s mismanagement of the Veterans Affairs Department.

  • Court Ruling Imminent in Challenge to Illegal Obamacare Exchange Subsidies

    July 9, 2014 3:05 PM

    According to the explicit language in the Affordable Care Act, tax credits for purchasing federally-regulated health insurance on the “Obamacare” exchanges are only supposed to be available "through an Exchange established by the State." Since 34 states have not set up an Obamacare exchange (leaving their residents to use the federal Obamacare exchange instead), it seems obvious that the credits are legally not available in those states.


    But the IRS decided to dole out the tax credits in those states anyway, allowing 87 percent of Healthcare.gov customers to receive taxpayer subsidies to purchase health insurance, by arguing the federally-created exchange can somehow be “an Exchange established by the State.”  Don’t laugh; two liberal trial court judges bought the argument in cases like Halbig v. Sebelius, which is now on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and King v. Sebelius, which is on appeal to the Fourth Circuit. Decisions by those appeals courts are expected any day now.

  • Puerto Rico Governor Vetoes Workplace Bullying Bill Passed by Legislature

    July 8, 2014 10:28 AM

    Puerto Rico’s economy has been in recession for years, and its public utilities are on the verge of defaulting on their debts. Judging from a recent New York Times story, tax increases designed to prevent Puerto Rico from defaulting have crushed many small businesses. Hiring, especially by small businesses, is also discouraged by local labor laws that make it harder to discharge problem employees than in any other jurisdiction in America. (Puerto Rico is not an at-will employment state, unlike 49 of the 50 U.S. states. That makes it dramatically harder to fire lackluster employees in Puerto Rico than in the rest of the United States.)


    But that didn’t stop its legislature from recently passing a bill to hold employers liable for vaguely-defined workplace “bullying,” further increasing labor costs. 


    The Governor vetoed it, citing its vague definition of bullying, but his other reason given for vetoing the bill (limits on remedies for private-sector plaintiffs) could actually lead to those provisions of the bill becoming even worse for private-sector employers if it is rewritten and passed once again by the legislature.


     


  • New York Court Voids Cyberbullying Law, Thus Casting Doubt on Proposed Workplace Bullying Law

    July 3, 2014 1:57 PM

    A law firm notes, “Since 2003, twenty-one states have introduced legislation to combat private workplace bullying but none have been passed into law.” However, a bullying bill known as the so-called “Healthy Workplace Bill” (S. 3863) recently passed the New York Senate Labor Committee.


    A recent ruling by the New York Court of Appeals provides additional fodder for critics of overly-broad bullying legislation, such as bills that restrict supervisors’ criticism of employees or hold employers liable for hurtful or offensive remarks by a worker’s peers.


    On July 1, New York’s highest court struck down Albany County’s cyberbullying law, finding it unconstitutionally overbroad even as to minors, in its 5-to-2 ruling in People v. Marquan M. As UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes, the ordinance criminalized “disseminating … personal … information” about any person, if it’s done “with the intent to … annoy …, abuse, [or] taunt” and “with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose.”

  • Red Tapeworm 2014: A Fourth of July Reflection on Presidental Executive Orders and Loss of Liberty

    July 3, 2014 11:28 AM

    In other countries, similar edicts may be known as decrees, orders in council, or fiat.


    -Wikipedia


    This is a special July Fourth Edition of my series Red Tapeworm 2014. It represents Part 15 of a walk through some sections of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State (2014 Edition).


    Executive orders covering the internal workings and operations of the federal government do not make up a big component of the Obama “pen” and “phone” initiative (yet), as I’d noted recently in Forbes; “Memos” do instead, as do agency guidance, blog posts and press releases.  


    Presidential use of executive orders is nothing new. They began with George Washington; they number retroactively to Abraham Lincoln via a 1907 Department of State system.


    Obama’s totals are not high compared to other presidents; as of year-end 2013, he had issued 181, as the figure nearby depicting executive orders issued since 1995 shows. Obama did issue more in his first term than President George Bush did in his second term, yet still fewer overall than chief executives did at any other time depicted.



    Of course he still has two years to go, and orders such as minimum wage mandate for federal contractors and Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information are big ones. He is primarily using the other instruments noted.


    The real question, as economic and social liberty yields in the U.S., is what these executive orders, and those yet to come, are used for; what they do.


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