East coast earthquake…

I was at a local greasy-spoon for lunch when Mrs. Crucis texted me to say that a 5.8 earthquake had hit near D.C. I mentioned it to my waitress, a thirtysomething woman.  She got a blank look on her face and asked if that was going to affect us here near KC.

I replied, “It’s near Washington, DC.”  Still a blank look.

Finally, I said, “No. We’ll be OK.”  That satisfied her.  Evidently the fact we’re over a thousand miles away was over her head.

Response to yesterday’s post

See yesterday’s post concerning a bill to create health insurance pools for Missouri.  I sent the link to the Breitbart “Big Government” webpage to Chris Molendorp and asked for his comments.  The text below is his reply.

From:  Chris Molendorp
Date:  August 22, 2011 10:35AM
To:    Mike Watson

Yes.  Thank you for the email.

The fact of the matter is this:  Health Exchanges will be forced upon us by the federal government if the brief filed by Attorney General Chris Koster-as well as the 11th Circuit ruling-holds up.  In short, the individual mandate is unconstitutional(and I believe that just like you do).  However, the balance of the bill is not unconstitutional.  Poorly written, yes.  A large tax increase, yes.  A horrible piece of legislation, yes.  But still allowed as law of the land.

IF that scenario holds, Missouri policy makers have no choice but to intervene.  Period.

My bill does several things to preserve a private marketplace.

First, we build a coverage firewall between a private health insurance policy and a standard Medicaid offering.  The federal bill expands Missouri’s eligibility from 19% of the Federal Poverty Level to 133%.  This is DEVASTATING for budget makers.  The current Medicaid budget in MO is $6.8 billion.  I must provide a reasonable private market alternative for small business owners to look into the exchange for group coverage.  If left to individual employees to find coverage themselves, the medicaid rolls will explode.  A family of four that makes $80,000 will qualify for medicaid.  I have no possible way to pay for that long term once the federal medicaid subsidy phases downward starting in 2017.

Second, an exchange designed by HHS will eliminate your insurance agent/broker relationship.  You will receive policy information and advice from a government bureaucrat, not an independent business person of your choosing.  Why?  Because HHS will promulgate an exchange that is built upon the Medicaid model-not private insurance offerings.

Third, my bill is revenue nuetral.  I extend the current per member per month fee health insurance companies pay for the MHIP(MO HIgh Risk Insurance Pool).  I couple that with some federal grant money and premium collections to make an exchange NON dependant upon state general revenue funds.  Highway patrol, state parks, public education-and on and on and on-all rely on state general tax revenue.  My exchange avoids an additional line item drawing upon these funds.  I would predict HHS will hit our general revenue for creation.  In fact, the Mass Connector in Boston, required a $25 million general revenue loan for start up.  Thanks Romney!  I cannot do that in Missouri; I will not do that in Missouri and I have created a way to keep the liability to general revenue at zero.

Fourth, a handful of insurance companies have built a large part of their business model administering Medicaid for state governments.  My exchange encourages the NON-medicaid plan administrators to stay in the marketplace.  If HHS promulgates a medicaid style exchange only people like Molina Health Care will have a reason to participate.  Not that theres anything wrong with Molina or other carriers who choose to make money in that business model.  But you could say goodbye to folks like BlueCross, Cox Health Plans of Springfield, Anthem of St. Louis, Aetna, United HealthCare and Coventry-they are all goners if there is no rational business model going forward.  They have communicated to me that its hard to conceptualize a business model long term in Missouri if a medicaid style promulgation takes place.   They have no real chance to participate when the plan administrators for these government plans are already in place and on contract.  Thousand of layoffs and tens of millions of dollars lost in premium taxes Missouri collects on insurance companies are at risk. 

Fifth, an exchange is in and of itself not liberal.  KC Livestock Exchange, a farmers market, Expedia, Travelocity, esurance.com and Progressive are all examples of commerce built in an exchange format.  In fact the Heritage Foundation has advocated for this kind of free-market concept in the health insurance marketplace.  So has Newt Gingrich and his Healthcare Transformation Group-a group I’ve had excellent discussions with over the last year.  I would respectfully argue the conservative nugget and best part of the bill is indeed the concept of shopping exchanges.  In fact, in 2007, several very conservative state senators introduced an exchange bill-I think it was SB 556-to enact an exchange in Missouri.  I’ve considered these folks’ ideas during this process.

Sixth, my bill goes away if the entire federal healthcare bill is thrown out.  I have a nullification clause built in to HB 609.    So, the only guy who wasted his time was me.  Who really cares about me?  Better to waste my time worrying about this than other more important people.  If the Supremes dump PPACA, HB 609 gets dumped too.  No harm, no foul.  Unless, of course, the Supremes keep this as the law of the land.  And I don’t have any requirement to purchase insurance.  None.  You want to be uninsured and negotiate with a hospital-great, do so.  In fact, I will introduce HB 609 again and hope to add some language that tips my cap to Prop C.  I voted for Prop C as did you.  So, why would I require you to buy insurance.  Would be inconsistent, right?

Kathleen Sebilius or Chris Molendorp?  The known or the unknown?  Excercise our sovereignty by doing the heavy lifting of designing the unfunded mandate seems preferable to waiting for the unfunded mandate to be forced upon us-without funding.

It is a Hobson’s Choice; it is the burden of governing a state in 2011.  I choose to govern wisely and prudently instead of waiting for the great unknown.  I was elected with the task of balancing a state budget; anticipating future changes to public policy and I think folks want me to protect private decisions in a private market setting.  HB 609 attempts to do that in a reasonable way. 

I’ve voted with the GOP on every single non binding  healthcare resolution in the General Assembly during my tenure.  My healthcare voting record in Jefferson City was the same as Jane Cunningham’s until HB 609’s final days.  And, I would mention, EVERY single House member voted to support my HB 609.  That’s every economic Republican, every moderate Republican, every Tea Party Republican and every movement conservative Republican.  All factions within the GOP supported my bill. 

Chris

 I responded with the text below. 

Chris, I’ll post your reply tomorrow on my blog and to the CCRCC FB page as well to give you a fair hearing.

I’ll have to think on this awhile.  I’m not against the “pool” concept—if it can provide sufficient competition and profit for the carriers.  I don’t want to end up in a single or limited carrier environment.  But it must also be available at a cost to individuals that’s not ruinous.

I have a personal interest.  My wife and I are retired but not yet eligible for Medicare.  If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t sign up for MC, but my options are limited.  I currently receive health insurance via my employer.  I built a fund, while working, to pay for two years of retirement insurance.

But, next year when we are Medicare eligible, will my employer still provide health insurance for us?  I don’t think so. If they do, the cost will be higher than my pension.

So I’m caught betwixt a rock and a hard place.  I still am unsure what I’ll do.  I suspect I’ll have no choice but to sign for Medicare.  If so, I’ll add supplemental insurance—if that is still available.

I’d really like more options and at an affordable cost. So far, I don’t see any.

Mike Watson
Raymore, MO

It’s going to be an “interesting” year.  I hope it won’t be in the form of a Chinese curse.  Medicare and Medicaid WILL change.  No one at this time can truly foresee what those changes will be. Regardless of the media and liberal hype, we have no choice.

State Insurance Pools

My wife sent the article below to me.  It certainly creates a number of questions.  As disclosure, Chris Molendorp is my local Missouri State Representative.  I’ve met him, and have a correspondence relationship.  I asked him to initiate a bill for create Missouri’s “Don’t Tread on Me” vanity license plate. He did so and, what some call the Tea Party flag, the Gadsen Flag, is now available as a license plate for Missourians.

Molendorp sought and received Tea Party support the last election cycle and has, so far, supported Tea Party initiatives and concepts.  I guess that’s why this article so greatly disturbs me.

Despite Will of Voters, Missouri Lawmakers Move to Implement ObamaCare Exchanges

Missouri state representative Chris Molendorp filed a bill last session to set up a health insurance exchange.  HB 609 was passed unanimously by the House and by the Senate committee it was assigned to.  It was never brought to the floor of the Senate.  Why?  Sen. Jane Cunningham said it was because she actually read the bill and was shocked at what it contained.

In 2010, Sen. Cunningham sponsored the Health Care Freedom Act, a referendum that sought to protect Missourians from the now infamous ‘individual mandate.’ The Act was placed on the ballot in August 2010 as Proposition C; the first time any Americans got to vote on the measure and they passed it with 71% of the vote. (Full disclosure: I managed the campaign to pass Prop C.)

Cunningham read HB 609 to basically gut everything passed by the voters of Missouri in Prop C.  Specifically, it yielded authority to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC 46 different times.  Beverly Gossage provides a substantive case against insurance exchanges in The Missouri Record, and in it she draws attention to a statement by Micheal Cannon of the CATO Institute:

I am continually surprised by how many people around the country mistakenly believe the new law requires states to create an Exchange. The authors of the law knew full well that such a requirement would be unconstitutional. Instead, the law asks states to do the heavy lifting of creating these bureaucracies, offers them considerable sums of money, and as a fallback position allows the federal government to create an Exchange if a state declines to do so.

Appearing before the Senate Interim Committee on Health Insurance Exchanges, Director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, John Huff, testified several times that problems with the federal exchanges could be fixed if Missouri took the initiative (and the federal grant money) and just designed its own exchange.  Otherwise, he feared, Washington would just force us into a one-size-fits-all exchange.

Or not.

We learn from POLITICO that,

A quirk in the Affordable Care Act is that while it gives HHS the authority to create a federal exchange for states that don’t set up their own, it doesn’t actually provide any funding to do so. By contrast, the law appropriates essentially unlimited sums for helping states create their own exchanges.

In other words, if states do not set up their own exchange, the feds have no money to do it themselves.

Already Kansas and Oklahoma have given back their federal grants intended for state based exchanges.  Florida and Louisiana have stated they will not set up an exchange at all.

Given the overwhelming vote that Prop C received last year, Missouri legislators would be well advised to tread lightly around paving the way for an individual mandate that was flatly rejected at the polls. The specter of a federal exchange if we fail to act doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

 I’ve forwarded the link to the article above to Molendorp and asked for his comments.  The Legislature is out of session at this time so it may be awhile before I receive a reply.  When I do, I’ll post it here and on FaceBook.

I sincerely hope Molendorp has some valid reasons for this bill.  Missouri’s democrat Governor accepted the federal dollars to create a state pool instead of sending the money back like Kansas and other states have and others plan to do.

Too much to expect, I suppose, for a democrat to refuse federal money.                            

Friday Follies for August, 19, 2011

The libs and state media are up in arms over Rick Perry’s “almost treason” comment the other day.  They claim that Perry was threatening Bernake.  In his speech, Perry was about to say, “treachery,” but in mid-word changed it to “almost treasonous.”

To those who’ve never traveled outside the BosWash corridor,  that “almost treasonous” term is common usage. It portrays the feeling that Washington is out-of-touch and is actively working against the welfare of most of the country.  Some, including myself, would have preferred Perry continued and used “treachery.”  It was more appropriate to the conditions we see in Washington—a betrayal of trust.

It got the libs so upset they are soliciting prostitutes, “exotic” dancers, and gays to claim Perry visited strip joints, spent time with prostitutes and was gay.

This ad appeared in a sleazy little “alternative” paper in Austin, TX.  Ads for “personal services” and solicitiation of prostitution are its normal fare.

We really shouldn’t be surprised something like this has appeared. It a common lib/dem tactic.

***

It’s a sad sign of the politicization of NASA.  The Obama administration ordered NASA to verify that human caused global warming was true.  Instead, NASA discovered that the original data used to justify the myth had been falsified.  

That could not happen.  So the overseers of NASA came up with this idea. 

Aliens Could Attack Earth to End Global Warming, NASA Frets

Published August 19, 2011

We’ve all heard of the ravaged rain forests and the plight of the polar bear. But as far as reasons for saving the planet go, the one offered by scientists Thursday is truly out of this world.
A team of American researchers have produced a range of scenarios in which aliens could attack the earth, and curiously, one revolves around climate change.
They speculate that extraterrestrial environmentalists could be so appalled by our planet-polluting ways that they view us as a threat to the intergalactic ecosystem and decide to destroy us.
The thought-provoking scenario is one of many envisaged in a joint study by Penn State and the NASA Planetary Science Division, entitled “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis.”
It divides projected close encounters into “neutral,” those that cause mankind “unintentional harm” and, more worryingly, those in which aliens do us “intentional harm.”
Extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) “could attack and kill us, enslave us, or potentially even eat us. ETI could attack us out of selfishness or out of a more altruistic desire to protect the galaxy from us. We might be a threat to the galaxy just as we are a threat to our home planet,” it warns.
Sigh…

***

When Obama stopped in rural Illinois for a meet ‘n greet, a farmer complained about the massive federal paperwork he had to produce.  Obama told him to call Washington.

A reporter did just that to see if anything could be done.  This is what happened.

Obama’s unhelpful advice

At Wednesday’s town hall in Atkinson, Ill., a local farmer who said he grows corn and soybeans expressed his concerns to President Obama about “more rules and regulations” – including those concerning dust, noise and water runoff — that he heard would negatively affect his business.

The president, on day three of his Midwest bus tour, replied: “If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear.”

When the room broke into soft laughter, the president added, “No — and I’m serious about that.”

When this POLITICO reporter decided to take the president’s advice and call USDA for an answer to the Atkinson town hall attendee’s question, I found myself in a bureaucratic equivalent of hot potato — getting bounced from the feds to Illinois state agriculture officials to the state farm bureau.

Here’s a rundown of what happened when I started by calling USDA’s general hotline to inquire about information related to the effects of noise and dust pollution rules on Illinois farmers:

Wednesday, 2:40 p.m. ET: After calling the USDA’s main line, I am told to call the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Here, I am patched through to a man who is identified as being in charge of “support services.” I leave a message.

3:53 p.m.: The man calls me back and recommends in a voicemail message that I call the Illinois Farm Bureau — a non-governmental organization.

4:02 p.m.: A woman at the Illinois Farm Bureau connects me to someone in the organization’s government affairs department. That person tells me they “don’t quite know who to refer you to.”

4:06 p.m.: I call the Illinois Department of Agriculture again, letting the person I spoke with earlier know that calling the Illinois Farm Bureau had not been fruitful. He says “those are the kinds of groups that are kind of on top of this or kind of follow things like this. We deal with pesticide here in our bureau.”

“You only deal with pesticides?” I ask.

“We deal with other things … but we mainly deal with pesticides here,” he said, and gives me the phone number for the office of the department’s director, where he says there are “policy people” as well as the director’s staff.

4:10 p.m.: Someone at the director’s office transfers me to the agriculture products inspection department, where a woman says their branch deals with things like animal feed, seed and fertilizer.

“I’m going to transfer you to one of the guys at environmental programs.”

4:15 p.m.: I reach the answering machine at the environmental programs department, and leave a message.

4:57 p.m.: A man from the environmental programs department gets back to me: “I hate to be the regular state worker that’s always accused of passing the buck, but noise and dust regulation would be under our environmental protection agency, rather than the Agriculture Department,” he says, adding that he has forwarded my name and number to the agriculture adviser at IEPA. (The Illinois EPA.)

Well, you get the idea. It was a complete runaround.  It’s obvious that Obama has never had to deal with his own bureaucracy.  There is much more about the reporter’s efforts at the Politico Website.  Go there and read it all.

***

On a final note, here’s something to chuckle over during the weekend.

Creating Jobs and other Liberal Myths

I have a list of editorial cartoons that I check each day.  Most are good, some are so-so, some I haven’t a clue to their point.  But usually, it’s very clear what they are trying to say.  Glenn McCoy below is a good example.
Debt Star One
Liberals continue to perpetuate the myth that government creates jobs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They point to the increase in governmental employment as if that was something to be proud of.  The truth is that each government employee is paid by money taken out of the private sector.  When there is less money in the private sector, there are few jobs.  Money has to go INTO the private sector to create jobs and the opposite is happening.

I glad those government employees aren’t in the unemployment line.  But I do resent it when it is at the cost of MY job.  I’d much rather see them employed in the private sector at my side.

Instead, they are an impediment to private sector job growth and employment.

The DrudgeReport headline at this time is: Vacation Time: Jobless Claims Up. Recently, earlier this week, another Obama administration talking head made the claim that unemployment payments helped the economy by putting money in circulation.  As best that I remember, he said, “The unemployed can’t afford to save so they have to spend their payments. That puts money into circulation.” 

This quote, among others, is from a liberal front man urging the government to lengthen unemployment payments another 99 weeks.  If I remember correctly, unemployment already can be stretched out to about three years and this money-grabber wants another 99 weeks added to that!

The fallacy is that putting money into circulation creates jobs and increases employment.  They continue to ignore that the funds for those added payments must come from somewhere.  In effect, the trail of the taxes that pays those additional unemployment payments takes money out of the economy.  At every step from the taxpayer’s check, through the IRS, through the bureaucracy, money is lost through waste and duplication.

I note that last weeks unemployment is once again above 400,000.  Who knows, once the previous week’s 399,000 figure is examined a bit more closely, it too will be above the 400,000 mark…just it did about about month ago.

Obama is on a road tour with his two Canadian built and purchased buses and at a stop a farmer complains about the amount of federal paperwork he must complete just to farm.  In response, Obama blames Washington apparently clueless that HE is Washington. He and his bureaucracy is the reason why this farmer is inundated with federal regulations.

Clueless.  I tried to find a better adjective to describe my opinion of Obama.  Arrogant? Yes. Uninformed? No, I can’t really say that.  Information is readily at hand nor can be be said to be ignorant for the same reason.  It isn’t ignorance when he refuses to even acknowledge facts that are contrary to his beliefs.

Obama’s approval ratings dropped below 40% this week. There’s been rumblings in the DNC about him among rumors of a primary challenge.

But perhaps the worse slap of all came from Maxine Waters and the Black Congressional Caucus who complained that Obama wasn’t helping Blacks enough and that the Caucus would drop their support if something wasn’t done.

When the BCC drops their support, you know Obama is in trouble at home.  At this point, ANYONE could beat him in the next election.  I can not imagine anyone who’d be worse.

Well…Ron Paul would come close.


Wednesday Quickies

I have an appointment this morning so I don’t have my usual amount of time to write a blog.  Here are a few things to tide you over ’til tomorrow.
***

Obama finally says he has a jobs plan.  After two and a half years in office, he fiiinally has a plan.  I’m not surprised what it is.  He’ll tell us…as soon as his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard is over.  In a couple of weeks. Glenn McCoy explains…

Same ol’, same ol’.

***
Speaking of jobs plan, Chuck Asay chimes in…


Yeah, guess who’s paying for those black buses?  Us.  A friend of mine called Obama’s bus, Debt Star One.

***
After the sellout by Boehner and McConnell, the opinions of the country is firming as Gary Varvel explains.


I think Gary Varvel is being polite.  Clowns is not the label I’d put on Congress.


Well, I’m off. Y’all play nice now.

Military Retirement in Obama’s Cross-hairs

I retired from a large telecommunications company, not the military.  On a percentage of base pay, the military retirement pay rate is much better than mine…50% of base pay after 20 years and going up for every year over 20 years.  My pension works out to be around 22% and I had to wait until I was at least 62 years of age.

I don’t begrudge the military for their pension and benefits.  They earned them.

The Obama administration, however, don’t hold those same views.  They want to change the military retirement system, replacing the pension with a 401K.  That would be OK if the 401K were in addition to the military pension.  But that’s not what is being planned.

CBS News had this piece on their website.

Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed

WASHINGTON – The military retirement system has long been considered untouchable – along with Social Security and Medicare. But in these days of soaring deficits, it seems everything is a potential target for budget cutters. A Pentagon-sponsored study says military pensions are no longer untouchable – they’re unaffordable.
CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports high-level, closely-held meetings are taking place at the Pentagon regarding a radical proposal to overhaul retirement for the nation’s 1.4 million service members – a bedrock guarantee of military service. 
The proposal comes from an influential panel of military advisors called the Defense Business Board. Their plan, laid out in a 24-page presentation “Modernizing the Military Retirement System,” would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they’d get a 401k-style plan with government contributions.
They’d have to wait until normal retirement age. (Emphasis mine: Crucis) It would save $250 billion dollars over 20 years. 
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office says it’s very important that the military attack its retirement issues. “We’re talking about an underfunding that starts to look like hundreds of billions of dollars in the next 20 years. And if you want to maintain the core mission which is to defend the nation and have the strategic capabilities we need, we can’t have all their money tied up in retirement programs.”

Advocates say the new system would not only save money — but would also be fairer. It would give benefits to those who serve less than 20 years. Right now, they walk away with nothing. And it would give more money to those in combat or high risk situations.

The proposal leaves a lot of blanks to be filled in, including whether to exempt current service members so their plans won’t change.
CBS News spoke to some active duty troops who agreed costs must be cut – but worry the number of experienced soldiers will dwindle with no incentive to stay enlisted for 20 years.
The proposal is in early stages and would require Congressional approval. But it’s clear that military retirement is no longer untouchable. A Pentagon spokesman said the military retirement system “is a fair subject of review” but no changes will be made “without careful consideration.”
There appears to be two components to this proposal. First to replace the current pension with a 401K type savings plan. The individual creates a savings plan and the government “may” provide matching funds up to a limit.  That limit is 10% for most private sector 401K plans.
That right there is a radical change.  Individual members must now pay for their own retirement.  Many would say that is a good thing given all the news about the abuses of retirement systems by public sector unions.

But the military is not a union.  In a sense, they are not government employees, either, they are employees of every man, woman and child in this country.

The second part of this plan is to delay retirement until “normal” retirement age.  I assume that would be age 65. That would delay forcing payments from the government for a couple of decades.  At this time, a member of the military could retire as early as age 38 or 39.  The new plan would delay retirement for those members another 25 years or more.

There is an implied assumption that military members would take their “401K” with them at the end of their military careers and it would continue to grow.  For many, that would probably be true.

But the military is not like a civilian job.  It is dangerous. Many are killed and severely injured just in normal peace time training accidents. In several years in the last decade, the military had more deaths from non-combat causes than from combat related deaths.  That little bit of data was well hidden by the state media.
Like I said, I do not begrudge the military.
There are at least two faults that I see with this plan.  First, as I said, it delays actual retirement to age 65 or whatever is the norm over the years. (Dems already plan on raising SS retirement age from the existing age of 66.)

Second, the military pay is very poor.  Say they pay 10% of their pay into such a plan, their rate of savings is less than that of their civilian counterparts.  I saved into my 401K for over twenty years. I’m not drawing from it and it doesn’t come close to the to 50% of my last base pay.  It’s more like 4-5%. Combine that with my pension and I now have only 25% of the pay when I was still working.

And my wife and I are much, much better off than many at our age.
I don’t see any new benefit for our military with this plan.  I do see the government paying less and putting the burden of retirement on the military members.  You cannot treat the military as if they were the same as civilian employees unless you want their performance to be similar to that of a civilian—a 9 to 5 job with weekends and holidays off.
That is not a military force ready and prepared to go in harm’s way for the nation.

But it is typical of the liberal mind-set who are eager to cut military costs to provide more funds to their vote-buying schemes.