July 24, 2014 6:09 PM
This week, an unprecedented circuit split emerged in Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell over whether health insurance premium assistance is available in states that didn’t set up health insurance exchanges. Many commentators have since claimed that there’s no way Congress intended to deny premium assistance to residents of the 36 so-called “refusenik” states that have not set up their own health insurance exchanges.
But in January 2012, Jonathan Gruber—an MIT economics professor whom the The New York Times has called “Mr. Mandate” for his pivotal role in helping the Obama administration and Congress draft the Affordable Care Act—told an audience at Noblis that:
What’s important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that's a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this.
July 24, 2014 3:16 PM
General Counsel Sam Kazman talks about what the Halbig decision means for the Affordable Care Act, as well as broader principles such as taxation without representation and the rule of law. Click here to listen.
July 24, 2014 12:04 PM
Almost anyone can fraudulently obtain taxpayer subsidies to cover most of the cost of their health insurance on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. That’s the gist of recent news coverage in The New York Times, Reason, and Associated Press. The fraud is possible because the government doesn’t check’s people’s eligibility, or verify the claims they make in their applications, contrary to what former HHS Secretary Sebelius certified in January.
Applicants can submit a fake name and social security number, and no one even checks—not the government, not insurers, not Obamacare contractors. This is the finding of a recent investigation by the federal Government Accountability Office, as described in The New York Times and Reason magazine.
This matters because most of the cost of health insurance policies on the exchanges is picked up by taxpayers through tax credits, to the tune of billions of dollars a year. (87% of Healthcare.gov customers are getting taxpayer subsidies to purchase health insurance, with taxpayers on average footing 76% of the bill.)
July 23, 2014 1:56 PM
Libertarians are justifiably excited about the prospects of ridesharing companies such as Uber and equally justified in their disgust of regulators intent on preventing the expansion of ridesharing services. However, supporting the regulatory accomodation strategy that Uber appears to have adopted and supporting free market policies are two very different things. Over at The Skeptical Libertarian, I attempt to briefly outline these concerns and urge libertarians to keep their eye on the prize: dramatic transportation services deregulation. Read it here.
July 22, 2014 2:21 PM
America’s Energy Advantage has responded to my July 1 post criticizing its stance on the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. That bill would liberalize liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, while AEA opposes such exports because they would supposedly raise the raise the price of the LNG used by AEA’s members.
What’s ironic is that, in its response to my post, AEA relies on a study that actually demonstrates the broad beneficial effects of exports. This study is the NERA’s Macroeconomic Impacts of LNG Exports from the United States. AEA claims that, despite being a pro-export study, the NERA study actually enforces their view, that LNG exports should be limited. According to AEA, “Once one looks beyond the surface-level conclusion “exports provide net benefits to the U.S. economy,” at winners and losers…the NERA report shows that the “losers” in this scenario are ALL other sectors of the U.S. economy and consumers, while the “winners” are producers and exporters of LNG.”
July 21, 2014 1:54 PM
Whomever it is that decides the dates for the ever multiplying obscure holidays apparently designated today, July 21, as “Junk Food Day.” While the origin and intended purpose of the day is a mystery, it’s a good opportunity to address the myth of junk food. I say myth because junk food is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. There is food that is less nutritious or perhaps higher in calories than what people normally think of as “health foods,” but calling food “junk” implies that is without value. As Professors Stanley Feldman (of London University and the Imperial College School of Medicine) Vincent Marks of the University of Surrey, put it in their book Panic Nation,“[e]ither something is a food, in which case it is not junk, or it has no nutritional value, in which case it cannot be called a food.”
Over the last year, the news about the so-called obesity epidemic in the US gives one reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Headlines have declared that abdominal obesity rates among kids are “levelling off” and studies show that folks with higher BMIs may not necessarily be at greater risk of dying from heart disease than those with “normal” BMIs. But that hasn’t stopped self-styled health advocates from declaring that we’re “losing the war” on obesity and calling for greater restrictions on what, where, and how food can be sold or advertised.
Whether it’s warning letters on soda, junk food taxes, pressuring food makers to reduce ingredients like salt or caffeine, or restricting sales and increasing prices on alcohol, proposals by public health advocates have one thing in common: people are not smart enough or strong enough to consume in moderation foods and ingredients that can make up an unhealthy diet when over-consumed. Which foods they consider “junk” are based on “accepted wisdom” about what constitutes an unhealthy food. However, the track record for these advocates as well as government agencies in implementing “accepted wisdom,” about nutrition is less than stellar.
July 21, 2014 1:22 PM
This is Part 19 of a series taking a walk through some sections of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State (2014 Edition)
In the recently released Spring 2014 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations, published twice a year by the Office of Management and Budget, federal departments and agencies reported 3,348 rules in the pipeline.
These were composed of 2,389 Active (proposed and final) rules: 518 Completed ones and 441 Long-term rules.
At year-end 2013, the situation was similar. The Fall Agenda found federal agencies, departments, and commissions recognizing 3,305 regulations overall. As is true every year, many of these rules have been in the pipeline for quite some time.
President Obama declared during his 2012 State of the Union address that he had issued fewer rules in his first three years than his predecessor had. This was technically true with respect to total rules finalized per the Federal Register up to that point (but Obama’s proposed rules are mounting).
The president’s claim also held together somewhat with respect to the overall number of rules in the Unified Agenda pipeline at that time, as can be seen nearby But note that Obama referred to first terms: while Obama issued fewer rules than Bush did in his first term, Obama’s first term (2009-12) brought more rules than Bush issued in his second term (2005-08).
Let’s step back a bit. The all time high count for rules in the Agenda was 5,119, twenty years ago in 1994. Bill Clinton was president.
July 21, 2014 12:17 PM
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it appears that former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis may have violated the Hatch Act—which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty—by soliciting funds for President Obama’s reelection campaign during work hours.
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darell Issa (R-Calif.), broke the story when it released a voicemail of Solis calling a Department of Labor subordinate “off the record” to get help for Obama’s 2012 campaign. The release of the voicemail came as a result of a larger investigation into the Obama administration’s political activity during the 2012 election cycle.
July 21, 2014 6:46 AM
In addition to 100 final regulations, 62 proposed regulations made their way to the Federal Register last week.
July 18, 2014 5:10 PM
In January 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the core provisions of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order, vacating rules that required broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Since then, the FCC has published a notice of proposed rulemaking, while many have called for the agency to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under the Communications Act. Two of the main purported justifications for this reclassification are that U.S. Internet speeds are lagging behind those in other developed countries and that U.S. broadband providers have spent too little on upgrading and expanding their existing networks.
But according to data from Akamai – which operates a content distribution network responsible for serving between 15 and 30 percent of the world’s Internet traffic – neither of these claims hold true.