cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Many of us have heard of the ‘Cadillac tax’, as it is called, that is part of Obamacare (the inappropriately named Affordable Care Act). That tax is designed to hit those with ‘rich’ health care benefit plans. It assesses a significant penalty tax to discourage employers from retaining the health plans that cover most ‘everything’ from first dollar forward. Those typically have been thought of as being the plans negotiated and/or sponsored by unions for their members, although some non-union employers use very generous health plans, also.
102 since January 1st…homicides in Milwaukee, that is. That is about one every 2 1/3 days. 102 killings in 236 days! That pace will see nearly 160 deaths by years’ end. The majority of those occur in the inner city. I don’t know how many have been solved versus how many are unsolved, but that doesn’t change the facts.
Clarence Darrow, an attorney who was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, is quoted as saying: “When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”
We have been hearing about a shortage that has an astounding story behind it even though it refers to a shortage of relatively small creatures defined as “pollinators”. We are in danger of losing some of the things we dearly love to eat since these “pollinators”, typically honey bees, have been declining in numbers.
Take-aways from the first two Republican debates if you’re interested in my thoughts…
Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law 50 years ago today by President Lyndon Baines Johnson who praised former President Truman for getting that ball rolling. Here we are five decades later observing the two programs that are an integral part of life in our country, and that are huge federal budget items.
Health care insurers have been in a merger frenzy; fearful apparently that they might either get taken over or get lost in the dance of elephants. The top five in size have now succeeded in making that group the top three presuming that all requisite governmental approvals are received. These three will control a significant majority of the total market.
We are involved in the ‘Drone drama’ whether or not we wish to be involved. Drones have captured much of our attention. We were watching the audience at a recent July 4th Concert in Woodland Park, CO where a drone was being used to gather video to be used later in advertising, etc.
Madison lived up to its reputation yesterday when the Alliant Energy Center was filled with enthusiastic supporters of Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont. Sen. Sanders is a self-described “democratic socialist” and is in the race to become the next President of the United States. He almost makes Hillary Clinton ‘seem’ conservative; almost.
The long awaited, or so it seems, decision on ObamaCare by the U.S. Supreme Court has been published and in a 6-3 decision the Supremes have upheld the language and say that the magic four words (established by the state) were ‘ambiguous’ but that all who enroll have access to the premium assistance given their view of the totality of the law.
Dynasties seem all the rage these days. Hillary and Jeb are banking on their belief that dynasties haven’t fallen on hard times. Mark Belling hit on this yesterday and made the point that both campaigns use only the first name of each candidate. We see Hillary and we see Jeb. We don’t see Clinton and we don’t see Bush.
The federal government has been hacked and it seems rather likely, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, that this was done at the hands of China. We have known of China’s organized approach to hacking and we have been shown pictures of the buildings from which all this activity seems to be driven.
Mandatory voting; an interesting subject and especially interesting since it was mentioned a few days ago by President Obama who seems to think that people ought to be required to vote so that they would lose their right to complain about the outcome of the election. I doubt seriously that those deciding to not vote are the ones who, the next day, complain about how the election turned out. I also doubt that the President thinks that to be the reason he might like mandatory voting.
We spend a lot of time, many of us anyway, on trying to promote the candidate(s) of our choosing. Many spend a lot of money on that effort, as well. For some, this is an exercise of personal power as we see with the billionaires who throw tens of millions upon tens of millions of dollars into the fray. For the majority, this is an exercise in the use of freedoms guaranteed us by our Constitution. For whatever our reasons, many of us are thoroughly engaged in the outcome we favor. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Some of those outcomes hang with us; I still remember the field of flowers suddenly being destroyed in the flash of an atomic bomb explosion that took Barry Goldwater to the loser’s position in the first election in which I became an active volunteer.
Right-to-work has taken center stage within the Wisconsin Legislature. As was to be expected, this became an immediate political football with the Democrats decrying the possibility and the Republican leadership saying they can pass it and will pass it.
President Obama has taken a shot at Staples, Inc. because this company has had the audacity to try to find the best ways to work with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while obeying the law and delivering good results for its stockholders. He has said they are “undercutting” his law and says further that large corporations should not use the health insurance issue as an excuse for cutting wages.
Those signed up for ObamaCare this year are averaging $268 per month in premium forgiveness. There are some 6.5 million people in that category. That totals nearly $21,000,000 annually in subsidies paid by the government to the health plans providing the coverage. It is easy to see why the major health insurance companies were so eager to jump onto the ObamaCare bandwagon. Their revenue streams have taken a significant jump and their profits have increased also.
It is surprising to learn (tongue firmly in cheek), but our Congress is fighting over the budget numbers for the Homeland Security Department. I had to think hard about just what this Department is responsible for and who it oversees. If there is going to be a budgetary lapse, just who will be affected and at what cost to our country?
The Wisdom of Solomon would be handy for our U.S. Supreme Court as it decides the issue raised concerning government subsidies to help pay for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. A look at the current information for Wisconsin gives some background:
Republicans reportedly will test the waters on changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by proposing to move the definition of full time from the current 30 hours per week back to the traditional 40 hours per week. They feel this is the slam dunk issue if one exists.
The following came to me this morning from a good friend and I thought it worthy of being shared. My comments are found at the very bottom of the piece.
A largely unanticipated issue has apparently been recognized: medical debt appears to be a significant issue on credit reports. That is not too surprising except that it affects about 20% of the people in the country to one degree or another.
The December 9th Opinions page in our Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured an article written by Stephen T. Parente titled “Obamacare spikes are coming”. It discusses the relatively hidden things in that law that will almost assure a major spike in the cost of health care coverage that will hit in 2017 and after. Mr. Parente is the director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota. He is also a professor of health finance at the U of M. With his credentials having been displayed, we can proceed to the expectations he sheds light on:
With the defeat (a/k/a dumping) of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), there are some amazing numbers floating around:
Let’s hear it for OPEC…and especially for OPEC’s continued greed and perceived lack of alternatives. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has decided to avoid reducing the production of its member countries which almost assures a continued slide in the price of gasoline that you and I pay at the pumps. I paid $2.689 as a Costco member yesterday; I cannot remember paying this little for a long time (little, of course, being a lot more than I used to pay).
Where does anyone begin to review and assess what our President did last evening? He, of course, claims that what he did was completely within his legal authority. He told us that he wasn’t doing anything that every Republican president since Reagan did with Executive Orders.
The Washington world is one of intrigue, broken promises and broken laws. That promises to be demonstrated more and more as we find ourselves watching the final two years of the Obama Presidency with a Republican-dominated Congress.
The Capital Times in Madison seems to have difficulty in accepting the fact that Governor Walker managed yet another victory. Oh, it accepts the fact that Walker has won three times in a row but it somehow has managed to reach the conclusion that even if Walker won, his policies lost.
Considering the hand that was dealt, the Republicans came out of this dust-up in better position than expected. The Bush tax rates were largely codified permanently and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was made permanent without the need to have it annually updated for inflation. The AMT will now be automatically updated.
This video (click here) will show you, in a few short minutes, the predicament we've permitted ourselves to get into, and it is sobering at the very least.
Paul Ryan, as you already know, made Mitt Romney his selection in the race for the Republican nomination. That may be enough of a push to assure a significant victory for Romney in our election.
Uncertainty is at the root of much of the disruption we face today in the various markets that exist in our economy. When that is coupled with energy costs, we have the makings of a tough summer and fall right when we will elect or re-elect a president.
Private sector adds 233,000 jobs was the headline on the story in the morning Journal Sentinel. Then followed the statement: Unemployment rate unchanged at 8.3% after 3 strong months.
Eric Hovde is officially in the race to replace Sen. Herb Kohl (D) who is not running for re-election. Hovde has a lot of competition and will take his lumps as the long-time politicians who are his opponents in the Republican primary work him over. Hovde has made a lot of money, so he is similar to our other Senator, Ron Johnson (R), in that he can provide a lot of funding from his own bank account if need be, and that is likely to be needed given the number of hands already reaching out for contributions.
The latest step in the dance that has been ongoing for a long time took place yesterday in the Whitehouse when President Obama met with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu.
General Electric announced a tough new program that required its employees with company vehicles to use Chevrolet Volts or lose their company auto privilege. This involved GE buying tens of millions of dollars worth of these electric vehicles.
President Obama has published his version of a 2013 budget, even though his Democrat-controlled Senate is unlikely to do the same since they haven't for well over 1,000 days in spite of the requirement they do so.
There is little secret that this White House wants to control virtually everything about our lives. Health care, of course, has been the big target since PPACA (a/k/a ObamaCare) was passed in the dead of night.
The last, I hope, Republican Presidential candidate debate was televised last evening. I watched a good portion of it after returning home late in the evening. First, I thought that John King of CNN did a decent job of spreading time around and of staging the questions.
I meet every other week with a group of men in a Bible Study group and breakfast usually follows. Those breakfasts often get to political discussions since there are some very strong thoughts in this group that has some quite-active Republican members. That discussion this morning centered on Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney and the relative standing of each in the polls and in public opinion.
The Federal agencies involved have just released the final regulations that govern how the simplified Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) for PPACA must be written and displayed. This is a small part of the PPACA bill (aka ObamaCare) that covered some 2,100 pages without really saying anything in detail about that program. All the detail is now being formulated by the agencies, all of which are unelected and therefore beyond the public's reach so far as expressing displeasure.
What if Newt Gingrich would not continue his slash and burn attacks on Mitt Romney? What if Newt would put the need to remove President Obama from office above his personal, and seemingly petty, needs (compared to the public's needs)? Would that make a difference in the polls that now seem to indicate Obama could beat Romney in the Fall elections?
The phrase "in the eye of the beholder" seems particularly appropriate for today. I watched only part of the State of the Union address last evening. That was a blessing for which I am most thankful, so I doubt that I'll watch the recording that I made.
As I read the morning Journal Sentinel today, I was struck by the political inferences across the main section even though this publication claims to be unbiased. (1) Dan Bice continues on the 'expose Walker' bent that he has made standard fare of late. His "sources say" that charges will be issued in the coming days and that they likely will involve Walker operatives. He mentions that "at least eight" of Walker's "former aides and associates have hired criminal defense lawyers". "Insiders" have told Bice that the "next phase is focusing on the role of some of Walker's closest associates". (2) There is now an 'issue' over whether or not Wisconsin is in a deficit or not in a deficit. The gap of some $3.6 Billion that Walker encountered when he took office was closed by the Walker government but that was on a cash basis. So now we are exposed to the fact that under GAAP accounting there is still a deficit and that this fact was used recently in a petition to the federal government to gain its permission to cut some 50,000+ people from a state health plan if necessary. I don't recall the continuing series of articles during the former government's time in office that traced the ever-increasing budget deficit or that condemned the use of various 'funds' (transportation and patient compensation, for example) to make possible increased state spending. (3) A story on the national 'health care overhaul' from the Associated Press states that Wisconsin is among the states "lagging" in implementation of the wonderful new PPACA legislation that has yet to withstand U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny. This story mentions some 500,000 Wisconsinites who have no health insurance but does not indicate that this state is among those with the lowest uninsured population in the nation. Nor does it bother to mention that each of these 500,000 people have access to health care under federal laws that have been in force for years. Maybe this was simply accidental story selection. Maybe not.
We are witnessing one of the worst types of political campaigns this year. We are watching as politicians try to convince one group that it is being intentionally victimized by the other group, and that it would really be part of the "Haves" if it weren't for the political tricks being played on it. Class warfare, pure and simple.
The union workers (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 516) at the Manitowoc Company have been fighting with the company for the past two months to get a new contract. There have been at least three votes of which I am aware. Each time the proposed deal was voted down, the union and company went back to the table and came up with a revised contract proposal. In the meantime, the company hired temporary replacement workers.
Rick Perry left the field of Republican candidates this morning. He asked his supporters to back Newt Gingrich. Given Perry's showing, his tossing his support to Gingrich will do very little to help Gingrich. One of Newt's former wives, Marianne, will speak tonight on national television, and that won't help Newt either.