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Doug Smith: The Slavery of free (stuff)

17 Mar

“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”

(I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts)

Virgil

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Doug Smith: Author, historian, patriot and history, politics and society contributor to Free State Patriot

free

Take it to the bank: anyone wanting to give you free stuff does not have your best interest at heart. The hawker outside restaurants in resort towns offering you free meals or tickets to come hear a 90-minute presentation about a wonderful time share opportunity is not there so you can go to a theme park free. He is there to hook you with freebies, and get you snagged into paying 1000 times the cost of those tickets for decades to come.

TANSTAAFL. There aint no such thing as a free lunch.  That should have been Article 1 of the Constitution; another truth we hold self-evident.

Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson did not undertake, like Caesar, to bequeath their fortunes to the poor. Instead, they tossed out a salad bowl of “free stuff” that they could not pay for. And thus, begins the trap. People get used to the free stuff, and like it. It takes away motivation and incentive to work to earn it themselves. It creates a sense of entitlement, because the government always gave it to us. Plans are made, lives are lived, on the premise that the government will give us its money for X.

But one of the secrets of governments is that governments have no wealth, produce no wealth, and can only seize and distribute the wealth of others. The kings and queens of old did not mine gold, or grow food, or breed horses.  The started a pyramid scheme. Learn to fight. Beat someone up, and make him share his wealth with you. Do this enough, and you can hire other people to fight for you, and you won’t even have to fight anymore. Steal enough from the producers to pay enough fighters to keep them in line, and you are off and running. Declare yourself the lawgiver, and your fighters the enforcers of the law. Better yet, make nice with the church, and make what you do sound holy (Divine right of Kings, Jesus was an immigrant, social justice), and you can wrap up the most blatant theft in a ribbon and wax poetic about it.

Of course, for the system to work, it is necessary to keep the fighters happy so they will keep the serfs in line, and to keep the serfs just at subsistence so they can grow your food, breed your next generation of serfs, but not dare to rebel against you because you are the source of what food they get to keep. Don’t let them figure out that absent them, you and your fighters will starve because you could not grow a tomato.

The system worked for centuries.

In the light of that historical glimpse, consider Social Security. FDR took money he did not have from people who could not resist him, or at least did not, took their gold so they could not resist his printing of money, and decreed a government run retirement system. The first woman to draw a check only paid in for one month. Over the years, as the system metastasized, more and more people came to rely on that little check as their only hope of having money in retirement. Government, as is its wont, was wasteful and inefficient with the money, so the return was tiny, less than putting the money in a savings account for 40 years. But since people relied on it, and did nothing else to prepare (in many cases,) now there is an unspoken bargain that people who have relied on the contract for their entire working lives cannot change now. So, they, of course, are slaves to the system. They cannot support eliminating or changing the system, for they are the serfs to the dead hand of FDR.  Never mind that the system, as government systems do, grew to include payments to far more than just the working folks who paid into the system for 40 years, and returned about 1% on the money paid in by those who do pay it in. Never mind that Galveston TX, opted out of Social Security in the 70s, and has paid a return 3 times higher than the same amount in Social Security to their employees. Never mind that the system is so inefficient that we are eating our seed corn.

Many are already retired and drawing it. Many are too near the end of their working lives to start a strategy that does not include Social Security.  Woe betide any politician who dares to say we can do better, and we must do differently.

The serfs are trapped on the land. When the lord of the manor comes to tell them that the money is gone, and he must cut their dole down by 30%, they have no choice about it. He has the swords, after all. And the fruits of their labors.

And they are slaves, serfs, to the freedom of free stuff.

Once the government starts to give away free stuff (or rather, steal it from some, to give it to others, for remember, government does not produce wealth) it is extremely hard to stop. Think of one government freebie we have ever stopped giving away.

We can have free men. Or we can have free stuff. Combining the 2 has not worked out well.

I fear the government, especially when it is bearing gifts.

 

 

Obama forces Chris Christie into embarrassing U-turn to allow Ebola nurse to leave New Jersey quarantine tent

27 Oct

OBAMA ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL THE STATES?????

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  • New Jersey governor said Monday that the CDC has cleared a nurse on 21-day quarantine to go home after she tested negative for Ebola twice
  • The health care worker was held after returning from Sierra Leone, and threatened a federal lawsuit to get herself released
  • A 21-day Ebola quarantine order for Americans returning from western Africa was put in place by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
  • Under White House pressure, Cuomo changed his rules to allow home quarantines for those with no symptoms
  • Obama aides already lobbied Christie to rethink New Jersey’s rules after the nurse twice tested negative for Ebola 

Chris Christie was forced on Monday to allow a nurse being kept in a tent in a hospital parking lot to go home after intense White House pressure to relax a mandatory 21-day quarantine the New Jersey Governor had imposed at a state level.

The embarrassing turnaround came after Obama chaired a White House meeting on the rules and successfully lobbied Christie’s New York counterpart, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to relax their quarantine rules – even as Americans grow more concerned about the possibility of a pandemic emergency.

Cuomo gave in on behalf of New Yorkers. But as of Sunday Christie was still pushing for more aggressive measures to protect New Jerseyans, saying he had ‘no second thoughts’ about the policy. 

Christie is a likely entrant into the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary, and the intergovernmental Ebola skirmishes will provide both major political parties with new ammunition.

Nurse Kaci Hickox tested negative for Ebola twice, but she had remained in a forced hospital quarantine as of Monday morning.

The governors of New York and New Jersey announced last week mandatory quarantine for people returning to the United States through airports in their states who are deemed 'high risk' but the rules have now been relaxed to allow self-quarantine at home.  New Jersey, led by Chris Christie, pictured,  first resisted pressure to roll back the new rules but caved under pressure from the White House today

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, says mandatory 21-day quarantines are 'a little bit draconian'

The two states each have one of the five airports where passengers who have spent time in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea are allowed to enter the United States.

Illinois, home to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, also has a similar quarantine order in place, in open defiance of the White House.

The Obama administration pushed back on Sunday, following the latest all-hands Ebola meeting in the White House.

‘We have also let these states know that we are working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers that will protect the American people against imported cases, while, at the same time, enabling us to continue to tackle this epidemic in West Africa.’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on the CBS program ‘Face the Nation’ that state-level quarantines send a message to health care professionals that volunteering in the Ebola hot zone will present new levels of inconvenience when they return. 

The New York Times first reported that aides to Obama were lobbying Christie and Cuomo to relax their new rules.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) says he doesn't know how his 'mandatory' quarantine would be enforced

There has been sharp criticism of the guidelines after Hickox was forcibly quarantined in a New Jersey hospital isolation unit, even though she had displayed no symptoms and had tested negative for Ebola.

Under the new New York guidelines, medical professionals who have had contact with Ebola patients can now be quarantined at home instead and receive twice-daily monitoring, if they have no symptoms.

Family members will be allowed to stay, and friends may also visit with the approval of health officials.  

Senior administration officials had called the initial decision on Friday by the governors to impose such rules ‘uncoordinated and hurried.’ 

Meanwhile, Hickox, the first nurse forcibly quarantined in New Jersey under the state’s new policy, said her isolation at a hospital was ‘inhumane,’ adding: ‘We have to be very careful about letting politicians make health decisions.’

Hickox is now suing and has now hired Norman Siegel, a high profile civil rights attorney, to challenge the order.  

Christie on Sunday defended quarantining as necessary to protect the public and predicted it ‘will become a national policy sooner rather than later.’

‘The government’s job is to protect safety and health of our citizens,’ Christie said on Fox News Sunday. ‘I have no second thoughts about it.’

In a  telephone interview with CNN, Kaci Hickox, the nurse quarantined at a New Jersey hospital because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, said the process of keeping her isolated is 'inhumane'

In a telephone interview with CNN, Kaci Hickox, the nurse quarantined at a New Jersey hospital because she had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, said the process of keeping her isolated is ‘inhumane’

Nurse Kaci Hickox was the first medical professional to be quarantined in New Jersey immediately upon returning to the United States from West Africa, where she had worked in treating Ebola patients.S he lashed out at Christie for giving her a diagnosis of sorts as 'obviously ill.'

Previously, Christie had characterized Hickox as ‘obviously ill.’

‘I’m sorry, but that’s just a completely unacceptable statement in my opinion,’ Hickox said Sunday during a phone interview with CNN. ‘For him—a politician who’s trusted and respected—to make a statement that’s categorically not true is just unacceptable and appalling.’

Cuomo also came under scrutiny over the weekend for criticizing Craig Spencer, a doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, for not obeying a 21-day voluntary quarantine. However, on Sunday, he called the health care workers ‘heroes’ and said his administration would encourage more medical workers to volunteer to fight Ebola.

Under the revised protocols Cuomo detailed on Sunday night, the state also will pay for any lost compensation if the quarantined workers are not paid by a volunteer organization.

‘My personal practice is to err on the side of caution,’ Cuomo said. ‘The old expression is, ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” 

‘We’re staying one step ahead,’ Cuomo said. ‘We’re doing everything possible. Some people say we’re being too cautious. I’ll take that criticism.’

For much of the weekend, the governors had been under fire from members of the medical community and the White House in what they saw as an overreaction. 

President Barack Obama gives a hug to Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, the day she was declared free of the virus

Patient Nina Pham is hugged by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outside of National Institutes of Health (NIH) . Pham, the first nurse diagnosed with Ebola after treating an infected man at a Dallas hospital is free of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (left), director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the mandatory, 21-day quarantining of medical workers returning from West Africa is unnecessary and could discourage volunteers from traveling to the danger zone

‘The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci made the rounds on five major Sunday morning talk shows to argue that policy should be driven by science — and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. And even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

He said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa — an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made.

‘If we don’t have our people volunteering to go over there, then you’re going to have other countries that are not going to do it and then the epidemic will continue to roar,’ Fauci said.  

Fauci said that close monitoring of medical workers for symptoms is sufficient, and warned that forcibly separating them from others, or quarantining them, for three weeks could cripple the fight against the outbreak in West Africa, an argument that humanitarian medical organizations have also made

The New York-area quarantine measures were announced after Spencer returned to New York City from treating Ebola victims in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center Thursday to be treated for Ebola. In the week after his return, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant.

Hospital officials said Sunday that Spencer was in serious but stable condition, was looking better than he did the day before, and tolerated a plasma treatment well.

Hickox, the quarantined nurse who just returned from Sierra Leone, said she had no symptoms at all and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation.

‘It’s just a slippery slope, not a sound public health decision,’ she said of the quarantine policy. ‘I want to be treated with compassion and humanity, and don’t feel I’ve been treated that way.’

Hickox has access to a computer, her cellphone, magazines and newspapers and has been allowed to have takeout food, New Jersey Health Department officials said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Hickox a ‘returning hero’ and charged that she was ‘treated with disrespect,’ as if she done something wrong, when she was put into quarantine. He said that she was interrogated repeatedly and things were not explained well to her. 

Commuters ride inside an L train subway car. This is the same train line that Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who tested positive for the Ebola, had taken to visit a bowling alley in Brooklyn

Official questions mandatory quarantines on health workers

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is on a trip to West Africa, said returning U.S. health care workers should be ‘treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done.’

In other developments, President Barack Obama met Sunday with his Ebola response team, including ‘Ebola czar’ Ron Klain and other public health and national security officials. 

According to a statement released by the White House, Obama said any measures concerning returning health care workers ‘should be crafted so as not to unnecessarily discourage those workers from serving.’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered twice-daily monitoring for 21 days of anyone returning from the Ebola-stricken areas.

The World Health Organization said more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the outbreak that came to light last March, and nearly half of them have died, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Three US states impose Ebola quanantines

New York City Council District 7 Community Liason Fidel Malena hands out flyers about Ebola risk near the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

New York City Council District 7 Community Liason Fidel Malena hands out flyers about Ebola risk near the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

Postal worker Keven Ngo, wearing a protective mask and gloves, prepares to deliver to the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer in Harlem

 

Mark Caserta: Obama’s policies are on November ballot

16 Oct

economy chart

Oct. 15, 2014 @ 09:20 PM

No doubt when President Obama told Mitt Romney during the first 2012 presidential debate that he “liked” the term “Obamacare,” he was confident the appellation would be revered as an historic accomplishment for his administration.

Certainly Democrats have been willing to spend your hard-earned tax money to preserve the president’s aspirations. Bloomberg Government reports the cost of HealthCare.gov has now exceeded the $2 billion mark, while the total cost of Obama’s health care reform is more than $73 billion.

But nowadays it’s difficult to find a Democrat who openly supports any of this president’s policies in their election campaigns, much less Obama’s signature health care legislation. But in a recent speech, President Obama assured Americans his policies were indeed on November’s ballot.

“I am not on the ballot this fall,” President Obama said. “But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

Yes, there are people who now have healthcare who didn’t prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

But millions have been forced off their existing plan (despite Obama’s promise this would never happen, winning him the esteemed Politifact “Lie of the Year” Award) into health care exchanges where they’re experiencing less coverage, higher deductibles and fewer choices in providers.

In fact, if the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had scored the ACA correctly, it probably would never have passed! According to Forbes Magazine, 12.5 percent fewer people are uninsured by 2014, rather than the 37.3 percent projected by the CBO.

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Additionally, of the millions with canceled coverage, 1 million remain uninsured. And Americans are experiencing far higher premiums than originally estimated while nearly $7,000 will be added in taxes/fees over a decade even for families in the lowest 20 percent of household income.

And all around the country businesses are preparing for the impact of the employer mandate under Obamacare. Understand, these companies will not simply absorb these additional costs. They’ll either cut expenses or raise prices.

Currently hundreds of employers are cutting back on employee’s hours to avoid paying for health care, forcing these individuals into purchasing coverage from an exchange or pay a fine.

And many people still don’t realize the IRS will be the enforcer for ensuring everyone meets their “shared responsibility payment” as decreed by the individual mandate of Obamacare. And Americans have already seen what IRS leadership is willing to do to propagate this president’s ultra-liberal agenda.

Now, there are points in the ACA which should remain, such as coverage for “pre-existing” conditions. But Democrats failed to engage in the necessary conversation about allowing the free market to work in the insurance industry by instituting healthy interstate competition and tort reform.

Instead, they went right for socialized medicine.

Simply put, Barack Obama and complicit Democrats passed legislation that forces Americans into purchasing a product, despite their wants or needs, so they can “redistribute” the assets as they deem “fair.” They’ve taken the “care” out of health care and made it health “control.”

So Democrats may want to run, but they cannot hide. They gave us Obamacare.

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Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page

Trouble Looms for Obama, Democrats with Election Day 2014 Approaching

15 Oct

three amigos

By Gary Langer

Oct 15, 2014 7:01am

(Evan Vucci/AP Photo | Danny Johnston/AP Photo | Melinda Deslatte/AP Photo)

Barack Obama and his political party are heading into the midterm elections in trouble. The president’s 40 percent job approval rating in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll is the lowest of his career – and the Democratic Party’s popularity is its weakest in polling back 30 years, with more than half of Americans seeing the party unfavorably for the first time.

The Republican Party is even more unpopular. But benefitting from their supporters’ greater likelihood of voting, GOP candidates nonetheless hold a 50-43 percent lead among likely voters for U.S. House seats in the Nov. 4 election.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

These and other results are informed by an array of public concerns on issues from the economy to international terrorism to the Ebola virus, crashing into a long-running crisis of confidence in the nation’s political leadership. Almost two-thirds say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track. Even more, three-quarters, are dissatisfied with the way the political system is working.

Scorn is widely cast: Among those who are dissatisfied with the political system, two-thirds say both sides are equally to blame, with the rest dividing evenly between Obama and his party, vs. the Republicans in Congress, as the chief culprits. But as a nearly six-year incumbent president, Obama – and by extension his party – are most at risk.

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Beyond his overall rating, Obama is at career lows in approval for his handling of immigration, international affairs and terrorism (long his best issue) in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Approval of his handling of the conflict with Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria has plummeted by percentage 15 points in the last two weeks, amid questions about the progress of the air campaign now under way.

Further, while Obama’s negative rating on handling the economy has eased, more Americans say they’ve gotten worse off rather than better off under his presidency; the plurality is “about the same” financially, for most not a happy outcome. Even with the recovery to date, 77 percent are worried about the economy’s future, and 57 percent say the country has been experiencing a long-term decline in living standards – all grim assessments as Election Day looms.

economy chart

WHY ERIC HOLDER QUIT? PRESIDENT’S “HEAT SHIELD” GONE.

28 Sep

It’s oddly fitting that Attorney General Eric Holder – a stubbornly independent career prosecutor ridiculed by Barack Obama’s advisers for having lousy political instincts— would nail his dismount.

 holder

But Holder, who began his stormy five-plus-year tenure at the Justice Department with his controversial “Nation of Cowards” speech, has chosen what seems to be the ideal (and maybe the only) moment to call it quits after more than 18 months of musing privately about leaving with the president and senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, a trio bound by friendship, progressive ideology and shared African-American ancestry.

It was now or never, several current and former administration officials say, and Holder – under pressure to retire from a physician wife worried about a recent health scare, checked the “now” box. “It was a quit-now or never-quit moment,” one former administration official said. “You didn’t want confirmation hearings in 2015 if the Republicans control the Senate. So if he didn’t do it now, there was no way he could ever do it.”

Holder—described by associates as President Obama’s “heat shield” on race and civil rights—sprung it on the president over the Labor Day holidays. Obama didn’t bother to push back as he has in the past, even though staffers say he winces at the prospect of a long confirmation battle, whomever he chooses for the nation’s top law enforcement job.

Holder’s announcement gives Obama several weeks to pick and vet a successor who would face confirmation hearings in the lame-duck session after the midterms. Holder has “agreed to remain in his post until the confirmation of his successor,” a top Justice Department aide said, as an insurance policy against GOP foot-dragging.

His timing also has a personal dimension. The keenly legacy-conscious Holder has never been in better standing, leaving on arguably the highest personal note of his tenure, after a year of progress on his plan to reform sentencing laws and just after his well-received, calming-the-waters trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots in August. In a background email to reporters, a senior Justice Department official struck a victory-lap tone, writing, “The Attorney General’s tenure has been marked by historic gains in the areas of criminal justice reform and civil rights enforcement. The last week alone has seen several announcements related to these signature issues.”

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That’s a striking contrast to the defensive posture of the last few years, when Holder became the first sitting Cabinet official to be found in contempt of Congress. Hill Republicans, who have warred with Holder for years, greeted his departure with don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out glee. “I welcome the news that Eric Holder will step down as Attorney General,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, in an email. “From Operation Fast and Furious to his misleading testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Department’s dealings with members of the media and his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, Mr. Holder has consistently played partisan politics with many of the important issues facing the Justice Department.”

***

At the moment, there’s no obvious replacement, several officials close to the situation told me. W. Neil Eggleston, the new White House counsel, will lead the search with an assist from Jarrett, Holder’s longtime ally and defender. Obama and his team would probably prefer a known and trusted quantity—like Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a potential future Democratic presidential candidate who served as the head of the department’s civil rights division under Bill Clinton. But Patrick, who is friends with Obama insiders like David Axelrod, who still advises his old boss informally, has repeatedly told them he’s not interested, and – for now—he seems to mean it. When asked by reporters today, Patrick snapped, “I am going to finish my term and then head into the private sector.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. is a favorite of Obama’s, and a person valued as a team player inside the West Wing—not as widely known but someone who might have an inside track, thanks to Obama’s penchant for picking trusted insiders over high-profile outsiders. But liberal critics have faulted Verilli for his halting performance defending the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court, as well as his mixed scorecard overall.

In recent days the president’s team has also taken a close look at California Attorney General Kamala Harris, an African-American woman who would likely pursue the same civil rights agenda championed by Holder—but may opt to stay in her state to pursue gubernatorial ambitions.

Other names under consideration, but considered less likely, according to check-ins with half a dozen current and former West Wingers: Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney in Manhattan known for his aggressive Wall Street prosecutions; Ron Machen, the young U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.—a job once held by Holder; Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general; former Joe Biden aide Neil MacBride, an ex-federal prosecutor in Virginia who is now a partner at the law firm Davis Polk; ex-White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, another Obama favorite; and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, another former head of the civil rights division—and currently the only Latino candidate mentioned by insiders.

There’s also at least one high-profile long-shot on the informal list being circulated inside Obama’s camp: former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who left Washington in 2013 to take over the massive University of California system, according to one Democrat with close ties to the White House. Napolitano was the original choice for the job at the start of Obama’s first term – a favorite of then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Holder, who had considered himself the sole front-runner for the job, was startled during the 2008-09 transition period when he was handed a Department of Justice binder that included headshots of himself and Napolitano as potential AGs.

Glenn Thrush is senior staff writer at Politico Magazine

Exclusive: Angry with Washington, 1 in 4 Americans open to secession

19 Sep

By Scott Malone

A girl holds a U.S. flag next to a sculpture after a naturalization ceremony in New York July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A girl holds a U.S. flag next to a sculpture after a naturalization ceremony in New York July 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

 BOSTON (Reuters) – The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.

The urge to sever ties with Washington cuts across party lines and regions, though Republicans and residents of rural Western states are generally warmer to the idea than Democrats and Northeasterners, according to the poll.

Anger with President Barack Obama’s handling of issues ranging from healthcare reform to the rise of Islamic State militants drives some of the feeling, with Republican respondents citing dissatisfaction with his administration as coloring their thinking.

But others said long-running Washington gridlock had prompted them to wonder if their states would be better off striking out on their own, a move no U.S. state has tried in the 150 years since the bloody Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the South.

“I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done,” said Roy Gustafson, 61, of Camden, South Carolina, who lives on disability payments. “The state would be better off handling things on its own.”

Scottish unionists won by a wider-than-expected 10-percentage-point margin.

Falling public approval of the Obama administration, attention to the Scottish vote and the success of activists who accuse the U.S. government of overstepping its authority – such as the self-proclaimed militia members who flocked to Nevada’s Bundy ranch earlier this year during a standoff over grazing rights – is driving up interest in secession, experts said.

“It seems to have heated up, especially since the election of President Obama,” said Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who has studied secessionist movements.

‘OBAMACARE’ A FACTOR

Republicans were more inclined to support the idea, with 29.7 percent favoring it compared with 21 percent of Democrats.

Brittany Royal, a 31-year-old nurse from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, said anger over the “Obamacare” healthcare reform law made her wonder if her state would be better off on its own.

“That has really hurt a lot of people here, myself included. My insurance went from $40 a week for a family of four up to over $600 a month for a family of four,” said Royal, a Republican. “The North Carolina government itself is sustainable. Governor (Pat) McCrory, I think he has a better healthcare plan than President Obama.”

By region, the idea was least popular in New England, the cradle of the Revolutionary War, with just 17.4 percent of respondents open to pulling their state out.

It was most popular in the Southwest, where 34.1 percent of respondents back the idea.

That region includes Texas, where an activist group is calling the state’s legislature to put the secession question on a statewide ballot. One Texan respondent said he was confident his state could get by without the rest of the country.

“Texas has everything we need. We have the manufacturing, we have the oil, and we don’t need them,” said Mark Denny, a 59-year-old retiree living outside Dallas on disability payments.

Denny, a Republican, had cheered on the Scottish independence movement.

“I have totally, completely lost faith in the federal government, the people running it, whether Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever,” he said.

Even in Texas, some respondents said talk about breaking away was more of a sign of their anger with Washington than evidence of a real desire to go it alone. Democrat Lila Guzman, of Round Rock, said the threat could persuade Washington lawmakers and the White House to listen more closely to average people’s concerns.

“When I say secede, I’m not like (former National Rifle Association president) Charlton Heston with my gun up in the air, ‘my cold dead hands.’ It’s more like – we could do it if we had to,” said Guzman, 62. “But the first option is, golly, get it back on the right track. Not all is lost. But there might come a point that we say, ‘Hey, y’all, we’re dusting our hands and we’re moving on.'”

Who’s paying the new Obamacare tax? You

31 Aug

So who’s surprised?

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it required health insurers, hospitals, device makers and pharmaceutical companies to share in the cost because they would get a windfall of new, paying customers.

But with an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 — the first time the new tax is being collected — the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: taxpayers.

States and the federal government will spend at least $700 million this year to pay the tax for their Medicaid health plans. The three dozen states that use Medicaid managed-care plans will give those insurers more money to cover the new expense. Many of those states — such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee — did not expand Medicaid as the law allows, and in the process turned down billions in new federal dollars.

Other insurers are getting some help paying the tax as well. Private insurers are passing the tax onto policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Medicare health plans are getting the tax covered by the federal government via higher reimbursement.

State Medicaid agencies say they have little choice but to pay the tax for health plans they hire to insure their poorest residents. That’s because the tax is part of the health plans’ costs of doing business. Federal law requires states to pay the companies adequate rates.

“This situation results in the federal government taxing itself and taxing state governments to fund the higher Medicaid managed care payments required to fund the ACA health insurer fee,” said a report by Medicaid Health Plans of America, a trade group.

Meanwhile, many Medicaid managed-care companies have seen their share prices — and profits — soar this year as they gained thousands of new customers through the health law in states that expanded Medicaid. More than half of the 66 million people on Medicaid are enrolled in managed-care plans.

AND THEN I TOLD THEM

STEEP COSTS FOR STATES

A KHN survey of some large state Medicaid programs found the tax will be costly this year. The estimates are based in part on the number of Medicaid health plan enrollees in each state and how much they are paid in premiums. States split the cost of Medicaid with the federal government, with the federal government paying, on average, about 57%.

• Florida anticipates the tax will cost $100 million, with the state picking up $40 million and the federal government, $60 million.

• Texas estimates the tax at $220 million, with the state paying $90 million and the federal government, $130 million.

• Tennessee anticipates it will owe $160 million, with the state paying $50 million and the federal government, $110 million.

• California budgeted $88 million, with the state paying $40 million and the federal government, $48 million.

• Georgia estimates the tax on its plans at $90 million, with the state paying $29 million and the federal government, $61 million.

• Pennsylvania predicts the tax will cost $139 million, with the state paying $64 million and the federal government, $75 million.

• Louisiana estimates the tax will cost $27 million, with the state paying $10 million and the federal government, $17 million.

Texas is believed to be the only state that has not yet agreed to cover the tax for its health plans, according to state Medicaid and health plan officials. “The premium tax is just another way that the costs of the Affordable Care Act are pushed down to states and families,” said Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Medicaid program.

Medicaid officials in other states complain that paying the tax reduces money they could have spent on covering more services or paying providers.

 sebelius

DIMINISHING RETURNS?

“I do not feel I am getting anything in return for this,” said Tennessee Medicaid Director Darin Gordon.

Officials won’t know exactly how much states owe until the Internal Revenue Service sends bills to insurers at the end of August and the Medicaid plans submit those to states.

The health insurer tax is estimated to bring in at least $100 billion over the next decade from all insurers, government auditors estimate.

Most non-profit Medicaid health plans are exempt from the tax, which the trade group says gives the non-profits a competitive edge vying for state contracts. “We consider this tax so badly construed that it should be reconsidered because it makes no public policy sense,” said Jeff Myers, CEO of Medicaid Health Plans of America.

The trade group, which represents both non-profit and for-profit Medicaid plans, also opposes the tax because it takes money from Medicaid programs that could be used to pay plans to improve care, he said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declined to comment on how states and the federal government are covering part of the tax.

Timothy Jost, a consumer advocate and law professor at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, said the lawmakers intended to cover the costs of the law by including as many groups paying in as possible.

While it may be unusual for the federal government to essentially tax itself, Jost said, the situation is no different from the federal government paying a contractor to provide a service, then having that contractor use some of those dollars to pay state sales tax or federal income tax.

“This tax should not have surprised anyone, and it should have been worked into contract prices,” he said.

Paul Van de Water, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said neither health plans nor states should be complaining about the taxes because both are benefiting from the law.

“States are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act because with more people getting insured, it is driving down their uncompensated care costs,” he said. He noted that is true even in states that did not expand Medicaid under the health law.

“People always like to get a benefit and not have to pay for it,” he said. “If we did not have this tax, we would have had to raise the money somewhere else.”

3 YEARS LATER

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation

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