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CNSNews tells us that Rhode Island’s PUC bypassed an opportunity to purchase power from a proposed wind farm because it would be too expensive, 3x the cost of other energy sources.  This is part of the core problem with “green” technology, it’s too inefficient and too expensive.  With the Democrat’s socialist agenda on the rise, adapting such technologies now without giving them time to develop (read: cap-and-trade) would only seek to further the burden American taxpayers in a time when our economy is weakened and our Socialist overlords have just burdened us with European-style health care.

Too Expensive: Wind Power Contract Rejected by R.I. Public Utilities Commission

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
By Susan Jones, Senior Editor

(CNSNews.com) – The R.I. Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday rejected a contract that would have allowed Rhode Island’s largest electric utility to buy power from a wind farm that’s planned for the waters off the R.I. coast. It would have been the first project of its kind in the United States, the Providence Journal reported.

The three-member commission voted unanimously against the power-purchase agreement, saying the price of power agreed to by the two sides was too high and that the overall deal was not “commercially reasonable.”

According to the Providence Journal, “The crux of the proposed agreement was a sale price of 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly three times the price National Grid pays for energy from fossil-fuel fired power plants and nuclear facilities. Over the 20-year contract, the price would have escalated by 3.5 percent annually, so, by the final year, it would have been 48.6 cents per kilowatt hour. Combined with a 2.75-percent markup on clean energy that National Grid was allowed by Rhode Island law, it would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs to the state’s 480,000 ratepayers over two decades.”

Read report from Providence Journal and see Newspaper Roundup

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Letter from the Capitol has a piece describing how Obamacare is just the first step in transitioning America’s citizens into paying a Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods on top of income tax in order to support our new Democratic Socialist future.  The last section on describing Obama’s impact on history is a lot nicer than I would have put it.

March 31, 2010

ObamaCare: Stalking Horse for VAT Taxation

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says we must live “like good Europeans” as ObamaCare stifles choice & raises costs.  Which may explain why Fidel Castro called ObamaCare “a true miracle” and compared it to Cuba’s CastroCare….

Charles Krauthammer divines the true method behind ObamaCare’s fiscal madness: force adoption of a European-style Value Added Tax, creating a womb-to-tomb European Welfare State, with high taxes, high unemployment & high benefits allocated by government:

American liberals have long complained that ours is the only advanced industrial country without universal health care. Well, now we shall have it. And as we approach European levels of entitlements, we will need European levels of taxation.

Obama set out to be a consequential president, on the order of Ronald Reagan. With the VAT, Obama’s triumph will be complete. He will have succeeded in reversing Reaganism. Liberals have long complained that Reagan’s strategy was to starve the (governmental) beast in order to shrink it: First, cut taxes — then ultimately you have to reduce government spending.

Obama’s strategy is exactly the opposite: Expand the beast and then feed it. Spend first — which then forces taxation. Now that, with the institution of universal health care, we are becoming the full entitlement state, the beast will have to be fed.

And the VAT is the only trough in creation large enough.

As a substitute for the income tax, the VAT would be a splendid idea. Taxing consumption makes infinitely more sense than taxing work. But to feed the liberal social-democratic project, the VAT must be added on top of the income tax.

One reason for a VAT is that, as economist Alan Reynolds writes, the administration’s plan to extract $1.2TR from rich taxpayers over the next decade will not work.  Such filers already pay over 50 percent of income taxes.  Reynolds explains:

President Barack Obama’s new health-care legislation aims to raise $210 billion over 10 years to pay for the extensive new entitlements. How? By slapping a 3.8% “Medicare tax” on interest and rental income, dividends and capital gains of couples earning more than $250,000, or singles with more than $200,000.

The president also hopes to raise $364 billion over 10 years from the same taxpayers by raising the top two tax rates to 36%-39.6% from 33%-35%, plus another $105 billion by raising the tax on dividends and capital gains to 20% from 15%, and another $500 billion by capping and phasing out exemptions and deductions.

Add it up and the government is counting on squeezing an extra $1.2 trillion over 10 years from a tiny sliver of taxpayers who already pay more than half of all individual taxes.

It won’t work. It never works.

The maximum tax rate fell to 28% in 1988-90 from 50% in 1986, yet individual income tax receipts rose to 8.3% of GDP in 1989 from 7.9% in 1986. The top tax rate rose to 31% in 1991 and revenue fell to 7.6% of GDP in 1992. The top tax rate was increased to 39.6% in 1993, along with numerous major revenue enhancers such as raising the taxable portion of Social Security to 85% of benefits from 50% for seniors who saved or kept working. Yet individual tax revenues were only 7.8% of GDP in 1993, 8.1% in 1994, and did not get back to the 1989 level until 1995.

Put simply, taxpayers alter their investment, tax & work strategies to minimize the impact of punitive levies.

Herb London warns of ObamaCare’s threat to liberty.  A WSJ 3/30 editorial explains what I missed last week; ObamaCare does not explicitly call for hiring 16,500 IRS agents.  The figure is a GOP extrapolation from the IRS budget, to derive an estimate of what will be needed to enforce compliance on the new levies; if the IRS is left at present levels of resources revenues will be lost.

A WSJ editorial last week offered emerging examples of diminished health care choice, already underway due to ObamaCare.  At NRO Rich Lowry warns that deteriorating finances will force choosing between guns and butter, and that Obama clearly will choose to preserve the latter.  Nobel economist Gary Becker’s WSJ interview presents an optimist, but one who fears, as in the old joke about optimism & pessimism, that his optimism may be unjustified.

A WSJ editorial notes major companies already writing down their asset values due to anticipated ObamaCare impact–$14B during 2010, according to one consultant.  Naturally, a senior Obama administration hack calls these “irresponsible” while California thug-Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hillbillies) plans an April 21 kangaroo-court show trial of major CEOs.  NRO’s Rich Lowry adds detail on Waxman’s efforts to muzzle companies hit by ObamaCare.

A WSJ editorial today describes just how outrageous this pressure is–companies are required by law to do what Waxman warns them not to do:

So the wave of corporate writedowns—led by AT&T’s $1 billion—isn’t caused by ObamaCare after all. The White House claims CEOs are reducing the value of their companies and returns for shareholders merely out of political pique.

A White House staffer told the American Spectator that “These are Republican CEOs who are trying to embarrass the President and Democrats in general. Where do you hear about this stuff? The Wall Street Journal editorial page and conservative Web sites. No one else picked up on this but you guys. It’s BS.” (We called the White House for elaboration but got no response.)

In other words, CEOs who must abide by U.S. accounting laws under pain of SEC sanction, and who warned about such writedowns for months, are merely trying to ruin President Obama’s moment of glory. Sure.

Presumably the White House is familiar with the Financial Standard Accounting Board’s 1990 statement No. 106, which requires businesses to immediately restate their earnings in light of their expected future retiree health liabilities. AT&T, Deere & Co., AK Steel, Prudential and Caterpillar, among others, are simply reporting the corporate costs of the Democratic decision to raise taxes on retiree drug benefits to finance ObamaCare.

Mark Steyn notes that one firm is heading for incorporation in Canada, no less–yes, CANADA:

In 2003, Washington blessed a grateful citizenry with the Medicare prescription drug benefit, it being generally agreed by all the experts that it was unfair to force seniors to choose between their monthly trip to Rite-Aid and Tony Danza in dinner theater. However, in order to discourage American businesses from immediately dumping all their drug plans for retirees, Congress gave them a modest tax break equivalent to 28 percent of the cost of the plan.

Fast forward to the dawn of the ObamaCare utopia. In one of a bazillion little clauses in a 2,000-page bill your legislators didn’t bother reading (because, as Congressman John Conyers explained, he wouldn’t understand it even if he did), Congress voted to subject the 28 percent tax benefit to the regular good ol’ American-as-apple-pie corporate tax rate of 35 percent. . . . I refer you to the decision last year by the doughnut chain Tim Hortons, a Delaware corporation, to reorganize itself as a Canadian corporation “in order to take advantage of Canadian tax rates.” Hold that thought: “In order to take advantage of Canadian tax rates”—a phrase hitherto unknown to American English outside the most fantastical futuristic science fiction.

Another little-noticed provision in ObamaCare: Money for long-term care will be automatically deducted from worker paychecks unless employees opt out; it is an estimated $146/month payment to give $75 daily care; some cost estimates peg the deduction at $240/month.  Cost at the lower figure is estimated at $100B.

Weekly Standard editor Matthew Continetti sums up what ObamaCare will do to Obama’s historical reputation:

The liberal line is that President Obama has secured his place in history by signing into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. And secured it he has. Henceforth Obama will be remembered as the man who accelerated America’s mad dash toward bankruptcy. He will be remembered as the leader who promoted a culture of dependency. He will be remembered as the figure who sacrificed a dream of national unity upon the altar of big government liberalism. It’s true: Obama is now a president of consequence. And almost all of those consequences are bad.

The fiscal picture was bleak before Obama made it worse. Government debt is 60 percent of the gross domestic product and climbing. The deficit is projected to remain above 4 percent of GDP for the next decade. The week before the president signed his health care reform into law, Moody’s warned that America’s AAA bond rating may be downgraded. The day before the signing ceremony, the nation learned that Warren Buffett is a safer investment than U.S. treasuries. One needn’t look across the Atlantic, where a penniless Greece is a supplicant to the IMF, to see our future. Look to California, where the economy is crippled by high taxes, high spending, and burdensome debt….

Gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.

This tarnished White House complains incessantly about the crises it inherited from its predecessor. Crises? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

The latest public health care horror show from the UK–presaging America’s ObamaCare future: nurses declining to bring a dying patient a glass of water.

CAN’T WAIT, CAN YE?

Bottom Line.  Coupled with America’s rapidly deteriorating financial position, ObamaCare is a massive, potentially fatal economic train wreck in the making.

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WorldNetDaily tells us that the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has brought a lawsuit against the passage of the health care bill H.R. 3590.

Physicians group sues over health-care law

Says it violates Constitution in several ways


Posted: March 29, 2010
11:09 pm Eastern

© 2010 WorldNetDaily

WASHINGTON – The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons became the first medical society to file suit to overturn the newly enacted health-care law.“If the [law] goes unchallenged, then it spells the end of freedom in medicine as we know it,” said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of AAPS. “Courts should not allow this massive intrusion into the practice of medicine and the rights of patients. There will be a dire shortage of physicians if the [new law] becomes effective and is not overturned by the courts.”

The law requires most Americans to buy government-approved insurance starting in 2014, or face stiff penalties. The AAPS says insurance-company executives will be enriched by this requirement, but it violates the Fifth Amendment protection against the government forcing one person to pay cash to another.The group also charges violations of the Tenth Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the provisions authorizing taxation.

AAPS asks the U.S. District Court to enjoin the government from promulgating or enforcing insurance mandates and require Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue to provide the court with an accounting of Medicare and Social Security solvency.

The group bills itself as “a voice for patient and physician independence since 1943.”

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A post over at WorldNetDaily suggests that amnesty will be Obama’s next socialist objective, even in light of today’s killing of an Arizona rancher by a suspected illegal alien.

Next cramdown on taxpayers? It’s amnesty and it’s ba-a-ck!

But former congressman warns violence comes with illegals from south of border


Posted: March 29, 2010
8:58 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily


Tom Tancredo

A former member of Congress says last weekend’s shooting death of an Arizona rancher on his own land is what will happen more and more unless America takes back its own borders – even as President Obama makes promises that ultimately could reward those who break federal laws to gain entrance to the U.S.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., now chairman of the Rocky Mountain Federation and co-chairman of TeamAmericaPac, told WND today, “Janet Napolitano lied and Rob Krentz died.”

He was referring to police reports in Arizona that said Krentz was found shot to death late Saturday on the Arizona ranch that had been run by his family for more than 100 years. Officers are investigating it as a homicide and believe he was shot with a 9mm gun allegedly stolen from a nearby ranch. He had radioed to his brother a reference to an illegal alien on his property before his radio went silent.

“I believe this,” Tancredo told WND. “Every single person who has worked so hard to keep those borders open, the president, in Congress and at every level of government – these people have blood on their hands.”

Obama’s latest promises on immigration came as Congress passed his unprecedented takeover of health care – the effective nationalization of some 17 percent of the nation’s economy.

“I have always pledged to be your partner as we work to fix our broken immigration system, and that’s a commitment I reaffirm today,” he said in a video message to open-borders supporters rallying in Washington the same day Congress approved “Obamacare.”

Read the details how the next election could be stolen, using amnesty, universal registration and a consolidated power grab!

Tancredo had been en route to the border area to visit Krentz and others who have been dealing first-hand with the impact of smuggling – both human and drugs – from Mexico across their land.

He said details about Krentz’s death remain sketchy, but the underlying cause of such violence isn’t a surprise to him.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano insists U.S. borders are secure, Tancredo said, but “the violence in Arizona is beginning to reach the level of some states in Mexico.”

“The violence is here. Our borders are not secure, they can never be secure unless you have the military there,” he said.

Tancredo said Democrats view illegal aliens as votes, and too many Republicans see the illegals as cheap laborers.

But he argued national boundaries are there for a reason, as are federal requirements to obtain immigration documentation through proper procedures. The consequences of not enforcing those laws are harsh, he warned.

“We will suffer, and people will die,” he said.

Border-enforcement advocates such as Vision America fear legislation that could grant a “path to citizenship” for millions of people who have broken federal law to enter the U.S.

“The system ‘broke’ when Washington stopped enforcing our immigration laws and winked at millions of illegals that streamed across our borders every year,” the group said. “Now, the president would ‘fix’ the problem by [making] millions of border-jumpers into citizens who doubtless will return the favor by becoming Democratic voters.”

Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., proposed legislation that apparently included amnesty. However, Graham suddenly dropped his support, saying instead that Obama should produce a bill and bring it before Congress if he wants the issue addressed.

Vision America said amnesty is critical to the Obama administration, because the “left is desperately in need of new voters who will march in lockstep to the drumbeat of big government. That’s why they’re eager to legalize an estimated 11 million illegal aliens (8 million of them potential voters), bestow citizenship on them and get them to the polls.”

Tancredo said  he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Obama’s next agenda item will be amnesty.

“Don’t forget, Barack Obama will do anything – anything – in order to make this country a better place in his socialist system,” Tancredo said.

WND previously reported on the violence that is an everyday occurrence in Mexico and which Tancredo said was becoming more present in southwestern American cities.

Drug-related bloodshed killed more than 4,400 people across Mexico in a year – a body count that could be compared to the U.S. military death toll in Iraq since March 20, 2003.

The Mexican crime syndicate deaths have been especially hideous. Bodies riddled with bullets is routine; one man was handcuffed and decapitated and his body was put in a plastic bag hanging from a bridge. His head was found in a nearby plaza. Drug criminals also murdered a 5-year-old boy by injecting acid into his heart.

Statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, several years ago documented that about 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens.

WND also reported when Eliseo Medina, the international executive vice-president of Obama-supporting Service Employees International Union, said, “We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters.”

During an appearance just months ago, he said, during the presidential election in November 2008, Latinos and immigrants “voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up.”

“Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three? Can you imagine 8 million new voters who care about our issues and will be voting? We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”

According to William Gheen, of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, the plan isn’t that complicated. Democrats will work to make all illegal aliens eligible for health care and citizenship to make them voters.

He said the 2007 amnesty proposal under President Bush failed but the new plan is on an aggressive path to the president’s desk.

Gheen warned the situation could become much worse than simply a huge number of new voters being groomed by one political party.

“We’re in the legalization phase [now],” he said. “In a reparations phase they would use minority voting blocs to extract exorbitant amounts of taxation out of taxpayers,” he said. “When that stone will give no more blood, then we expect it to go to the autonomy phase.”

That would be when concerns that southwestern United States could be reclaimed by Mexico could become reality.

Columnist Michelle Malkin reported on the Krentz death, and participants in her website forum were more than alarmed.

“The MSM and the politicians won’t care,” wrote one. “He was just an old white guy in the way of cheap labor and future Democratic voters.”

“If stuff like this is going on … I say ‘lock ‘n’ load,'” added another.

“As the Democrats prepare to take up immigration – aka, increase the roll of new Democrat voters – the media will continue abet the Left by ignoring the detrimental state of America’s southern border,” said a third.

Added another, “Obama hopes to welcome these people into our country with open arms. I predict, here and now, that illegal immigration will be one of Mr. Obama’s next big pushes, and it will be his political suicide.”

At the left-leaning Center for American Progress, however, a commentary praised the idea of “immigration reform,” and said such actions would “add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.”

“In the program’s first three years, tax revenues would increase from $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion and generate enough new consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs in the United States. The real wages of workers – U.S. born and immigrants – will also rise under comprehensive immigration reform,” the report claimed.

In a recent published commentary, Tancredo said, “Ordinary citizens didn’t buy it in 2005 when George Bush and the Republican Party establishment tried to sell amnesty. Grass-roots Republicans rebelled, and the Minutemen put a big media spotlight on the cross-border traffic in Arizona, Texas and California. Millions of Americans said, ‘First, secure the borders!’

“In 2006 and 2007, so-called bipartisan amnesty legislation was killed in Congress because ordinary Americans took the time to read it and demanded it be defeated,” he said.

“The upcoming amnesty battle in Congress will be brutal. In winning the health-care vote, Obama has tasted blood, and he likes it. Democrats in Congress may be willing to fall on their sword for amnesty after all, now that the November election looks like a disaster anyway.”

But he wondered “if the amnesty lobby will use the same dirty tricks and phony accounting to sell amnesty as they used to sell Obamacare.”

“The answer is yes. And they will play the race card again and again. If you oppose amnesty, you will be discredited as a bigot,” he warned.

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CNSNews has two different stories here and here saying that the lawsuits against the U.S. Government are about to begin as soon as Obama signs the health care legislation (H.R. 3590) into law.  The lawsuits are an attempt by States and other agencies to strike down the required health care insurance law in the latest bill.

Update (1/22 @13:29): Reuters reports that 11 Attorneys General are geared to sue the Government after it is signed.  The full story is at the bottom.

Health Care Legislation: Here Come the Lawsuits

Monday, March 22, 2010
By Susan Jones, Senior Editor

(CNSNews.com) – The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil liberties group, says it is preparing to file a federal lawsuit challenging the “flawed” health care package that passed the House 219-212 on Sunday night.

The law “fails the American people and does not provide permanent protections for the life of the unborn,” the group said in a Sunday night news release.

The ACLJ said it would file a lawsuit “soon” in federal court, challenging the forced mandate that penalizes Americans who choose not to participate in universal health care. “That is unconstitutional, and we believe ultimately it will be overturned by the courts,” it said.

“The fact remains that the actual health care bill just approved does fund abortion,” ACLJ said.

“Those self-proclaimed pro-life Democrats put their trust in an executive order — subject to being rescinded by the president — a move that is not only short-sighted but does not provide the guarantees and pro-life protections secured by statutory language in a law approved by Congress.”

Which President Obama do you believe? ACLJ asked: The president who repeatedly and publicly opposed the pro-life language in the earlier House-passed bill, or the president who now promises an Executive Order to secure the votes he needed to pass a very dangerous health care package?

ACLJ noted that an executive order “is not a legislative fix and does not carry the force of congressionally approved legislation.  It does not supersede law.  It can be rescinded.”

Another concern, the group said, is that the executive order promised by President Obama will put Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in charge of the funding process – and she is a cabinet member “who has a long and documented history of supporting abortion.”

also:

Virginia Is First to Announce Lawsuit Over Health-Care Bill

Monday, March 22, 2010
By Bob Lewis, Associated Press

Richmond, Va. (AP) – Less than eight hours after Congress passed sweeping healthcare reforms, Virginia’s Attorney General became the first to announce a legal challenge against it.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli said early Monday that he will file a court challenge against what he and other conservatives decry as an unconstitutional overreach of federal authority.

Cuccinelli said he would file the lawsuit as soon as President Barack Obama signs the bill passed Sunday night into law.

Earlier this month, Virginia became the first state to finish legislative passage of a law that bucks any effort by President Barack Obama and an allied Democratic Congress to impose federal health care reform in the states.

Similar measures were filed or proposed in 34 other state legislatures.

Cuccinelli is expected to argue that the bill, with its mandate that requires nearly every American to be insured by 2014, violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The attorney general’s office will file suit once President Barack Obama signs the bill into law, which could occur early this week.

“At no time in our history has the government mandated its citizens buy a good or service,” Cuccinelli said in a statement Sunday night.

Word of the impending legal action came as the U.S. House debated late into the evening and passed the landmark reform legislation, 219-212.

Update from Reuters:

States launch lawsuits against healthcare plan

CHICAGO
Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:21pm EDT
Opponents of the proposed U.S. health care bill are pictured  during a rally outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, March  21, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Less than 24 hours after the House of Representatives gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of healthcare, attorneys general from several states on Monday said they will sue to block the plan on constitutional grounds.

Republican attorneys general in 11 states warned that lawsuits will be filed to stop the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers and usurping states’ sovereignty.

States are concerned the burden of providing healthcare will fall on them without enough federal support.

Ten of the attorneys general plan to band together in a collective lawsuit on behalf of Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

“To protect all Texans’ constitutional rights, preserve the constitutional framework intended by our nation’s founders, and defend our state from further infringement by the federal government, the State of Texas and other states will legally challenge the federal health care legislation,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, in a statement.

The Republican attorney generals say the reforms infringe on state powers under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who plans to file a lawsuit in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, said Congress lacks authority under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce to force people to buy insurance. The bill also conflicts with a state law that says Virginians cannot be required to buy insurance, he added.

“If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce,” Cuccinelli said in recorded comments. “If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?”

In addition to the pending lawsuits, bills and resolutions have been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures seeking to limit or oppose various aspects of the reform plan through laws or state constitutional amendments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

So far, only two states, Idaho and Virginia, have enacted laws, while an Arizona constitutional amendment is seeking voter approval on the November ballot. But the actual enactment of the bill by President Barack Obama could spur more movement on the measures by state lawmakers.

As is the case on the Congressional level, partisan politics is in play on the state level, where no anti-health care reform legislation has emerged in Democrat-dominated states like Illinois and New York, according to the NCSL.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate running for governor, said the mandate would cost Florida at least $1.6 billion in Medicaid alone.

All states would receive extra funding to cover Medicaid costs that are expected to rise under the reform, including 100 percent federal coverage for new enrollees under the plan through 2016.

Medicaid is the healthcare program for the poor jointly administered by the states and federal government.

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LetterFromTheCapitol brings us a post explaining that the current threat by Democrats to use reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster would violate the Senate’s “Byrd Rule”.  Reconciliation was designed to only be used for bills dealing with the budget and nothing else.

February 26, 2010

LFTC – ObamaCare: Filibuster Flim-Flam

As for Democrats threatening to use the “nuclear option”–bypassing the 60-vote cloture number that cuts off filibusters, using special rules designed for budget reconciliation votes, which require only 51 votes to pass and cannot be filibustered–Human Events collected quotes from top Democrats, including then-Senators Obama & Biden, warning against ending hallowed Senate tradition.  Enjoy the quotes & watch the video (4:48) at the end.  There is much more to the flim-flam involved here….

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published “The Budget Reconciliation Process: The Senate’s ‘Byrd Rule'” in March 2008; the CRS paper makes clear that the 2001 & 2003 Bush tax bills were exempt from the Byrd Rule because they included sunset provisions that kept the bills within budgetary bounds–they expired within the budget reconciliation time window.  Senator Byrd sent a Feb. 23, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter urging that supporters not use his Byrd Rule to bypass cloture.  In his Feb. 12, 2009 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee Sen .Byrd lambasted both parties for slipping non-germane amendments into reconciliation bills.  Sen. Byrd’s single-page April 2, 2009 “Dear Colleague” letter text contains the operative language (which I could not copy & paste).  Sen. Byrd, author of a history of the Senate, with more than a half century of service that makes him the longest serving senator, is legendary as an authority on the Senate Rules.

Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) explains why GOP tax cuts in 2001 & 2003 could use reconciliation without violating precedent: they did not increase a deficit, but rather returned an estimated revenue surplus to taxpayers:

The first use of this special procedure was in the fall of 1980, as the Democratic majority in Congress moved to reduce entitlement programs in response to candidate Ronald Reagan’s focus on the growing deficit. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, reconciliation was used to reduce deficit projections and to enact budget enforcement mechanisms. In early 2001, with projected surpluses well into the future, it was used to return a portion of that surplus to the public by changing tax rates.

Senators of both parties have assiduously avoided using budget reconciliation as a mechanism to pass expansive social legislation that lacks bipartisan support. In 1993, Democratic leaders—including the dean of Senate procedure and an author of the original Budget Act, Robert C. Byrd— appropriately prevailed on the Clinton administration not to use reconciliation to adopt its health-care agenda. It was used to pass welfare reform in 1996, an entitlement program, but the changes had substantial bipartisan support.

In 2003, while I was serving as majority leader, Republicans used the reconciliation process to enact tax cuts. I was approached by members of my own caucus to use reconciliation to extend prescription drug coverage to millions of Medicare recipients. I resisted. The Congress considered the legislation under regular order, and the Medicare Modernization Act passed through the normal legislative procedure in 2003.

Byrd, for his part, rejects Frist’s analysis, because he believes that the Bush 43 tax bills added to the deficit, which if true would violate the Byrd Rule.  Eyeballing a chart showing the federal budget deficits from 1940- 2009 shows tax revenues slightly higher in 2009 than in 2001, with a dip in the middle; the deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product narrowed to about 1.5 percent of GDP in 2007, before the financial meltdown began and sent the deficit soaring into the stratosphere.

More on the Senate filibuster’s origin & use: Here is Wiki’s filibuster entry–the word comes from European antecedents meaning “freebooter,” giving rise to the imagery of pirating or hijacking a bill.

George Will adds fascinating historical filibuster perspective:

The summit’s predictable failure will be a pretext for trying to ram health legislation through the Senate by misusing “reconciliation,” which prevents filibusters. If the Senate parliamentarian rules, as he should, that most of the legislation is ineligible for enactment under reconciliation, the vice president, as Senate president, can overrule the parliamentarian. This has not happened since 1975, but liberals say desperate times require desperate measures.

Today’s desperation? Democracy’s majoritarian ethic is, liberals say, being violated by the filibuster that prevents their enacting health legislation opposed by an American majority.

GW adds telling numbers:

Liberals also say the filibuster exacerbates the Senate’s flaw as “inherently unrepresentative.” That is, the Founders — who liberals evidently believe were dolts or knaves — designed it to represent states rather than, as the House does, population.

Liberals fret: 41 senators from the 21 smallest states, with barely 10 percent of the population, could block a bill. But Matthew Franck of Radford University counters that if cloture were blocked by 41 senators from the 21 largest states, the 41 would represent 77.4 percent of the nation’s population. Anyway, senators are never so tidily sorted, so consider today’s health impasse: The 59 Democratic senators come from 36 states containing 74.9 percent of the population, while the 41 Republicans come from 27 states — a majority — containing 48.7 percent. (Thirteen states have senators from each party.)

Since there have been 50 states, Republicans have never had 60 senators. There were 60 or more Democratic senators after seven elections — 1960 (64), 1962 (66), 1964 (68), 1966 (64), 1974 (61), 1976 (62) and 2008 (60, following Arlen Specter’s discovery that he is a Democrat and the protracted Minnesota recount). But both parties have been situational ethicists regarding filibusters.

There is more, including, GW notes, that President Obama’s deficit commission requires a 14 out of 18 vote to adopt recommendations!  GW adds: filibusters (a) serve a valid purpose and (b) have never prevented adoption of legislation ardently desired by the majority of the American public:

Filibusters are devices for registering intensity rather than mere numbers — government by adding machine. Besides, has a filibuster ever prevented eventual enactment of anything significant that an American majority has desired, strongly and protractedly?

There is more.  In the quotes linked above my favorite is actually Chris Dodd’s, which underscores Will’s point about major legislation winning bipartisan support:

Chris Dodd 5/18/2005: “I’ve never passed a single bill worth talking about that didn’t have a lead co sponsor that was a Republican. And I don’t know of a single piece of legislation that’s ever been adopted here that didn’t have a Republican and Democrat in the lead. That’s because we need to sit down and work with each other. The rules of this institution have required that. That’s why we exist. Why have a bicameral legislative body? Why have two chambers? What were the framers thinking about 218 years ago? They understood Mr. President that there is a tyranny of the majority.

WSJ columnist Kimberley Strassel explains why passage of ObamaCare is far from a slam dunk, even if the Senate manages to use the 51-vote trick to pass its version, due to a very dicey head count in the House.  Bil Kristol’s mini-blog captures House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s disdain for incrementalism.  Nonetheless, Peggy Noonan casts her gimlet eye on the 7-hour summit and finds Democrats prepared to try to ram their bill through and risk voter wrath in November.

Bottom Line.  The filibuster is a valuable tool of Senate rules. The House runs on majority diktat; the Senate on consent of 100.  While both parties have been guilty of playing footsie with filibusters, using parliamentary sleight-of-hand to ram through the restructuring of one-sixth of the American economy is without comparable precedent.  Voters do not track procedural niceties, but if ObamaCare is rammed through Democrats will answer come November.

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CNSNews brings us a story revealing that the White House is considering adopting a policy that would require bidders of Government contracts to meet certain wage and benefits requirements, favoring unions and crippling opportunities of small businesses.  It has already been shown that unions foster decreased productivity and stifle growth.

In Nod to Labor Unions, White House May Require ‘Living Wage’ in Government Contracts

Friday, February 26, 2010
By Sam Hananel, Associated Press

Washington (AP) – The White House is looking at a new policy that would give an advantage in bidding on government contracts to companies that offer generous benefits and good pay.

But business groups opposing the idea maintain it would shut out smaller businesses from competing for more than $500 billion a year in federal contracts and increase government procurement costs.

The policy is known as “high road” contracting, and it could draw the Obama administration into a larger debate over whether the government should use public purse strings to strengthen the middle class and promote higher labor standards.

Advocates of the plan include unions. They say too many jobs financed by government contracts come with low wages and limited benefits and support companies that violate employment laws.

The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, estimates that nearly 20 percent of the 2 million federal contract workers in the U.S. earn less than the poverty threshold wage of $9.91 per hour. As many as 22 million workers are employed by federal contractors.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the plan under consideration would examine the wages and benefits — such as health insurance, retirement benefits and paid leave — a company pays its employees as a factor in the contract award process.

Another factor would be whether a contract bidder is a repeat violator of labor and employment laws. Businesses with legal violations are already supposed to be restricted under current contracting rules, but the new policy would create a better system for tracking those companies.

A Labor Department compliance office would compile a score on contract bidders based on the new criteria.

The White House’s consideration of the new policy was first reported earlier this month on the political Web site Daily Caller.

Earlier this month, a group of four Republican senators led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine wrote a letter to Budget Director Peter Orszag arguing that imposing such a policy could increase the cost of federal contracting and hurt small businesses.

“These small businesses could choose not to compete for federal contracts, undermining the diversity of the federal contracting base and lessening competitive pressure on larger federal contractors,” the lawmakers wrote.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce goes further, calling the policy a payback to labor unions. Unionized companies that already pay workers higher average wages and offer better health and retirement benefits would be in a better position to compete with nonunion contractors.

“This is an attempt by the unions to force their policy agenda on a wide swath of the economy by rigging the government procurement process,” said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative.

David Madland, director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said there is evidence that better-paid workers are more efficient and productive. Local governments with similar plans found raising standards increased competition because more companies are willing to bid on government contracts, he said.

Madland said raising labor standards and wages also saves taxpayers from hidden costs when employers pay so little that their workers rely on publicly funded health insurance and other safety net programs.

In 2007, Maryland became the first state to adopt a living wage law that requires state contractors to pay a minimum salary to workers. More than 100 other cities and counties have adopted similar mandates. By contrast, the federal “high road” policy would not require the government to prefer companies with higher wages — it would be one factor among other criteria.

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