How Washington math ‘works’

This is how Washington works: If Congress does not increase funding by as much as someone wants, that’s a cut. If Congress doles out money one year, but fails to continue to do so, that’s a cut. If Congress stops penalizing people for not buying health insurance, and some of those people choose to not buy it, those people have lost insurance coverage.

That’s why you see news reports heralding the “fact” Medicaid cuts in the current Senate ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill would cost Nevada $16 billion over the next decade, and 200,000 could “lose” health insurance.

That’s why even nuns are calling for ObamaCare to be left alone. Nuns? Didn’t nuns sue because ObamaCare requires them to provide contraceptive coverage?

The local paper quoted one of those nuns as writing: “We have seen early and avoidable deaths because of a lack of insurance, prohibitive costs and lack of quality health care.”

Pay no heed to the fact that studies found “uninsured patients were about 25% less likely than those with Medicaid to have an ‘in-hospital death.’” Or that, “Medicaid patients were also more than twice as likely to have a major, subsequent heart attack after angioplasty as were patients who didn’t have any health insurance at all.”

Insurance coverage does not necessarily equal better health care.

A vote against ending ObamaCare is a vote for keeping it until it collapses and is replaced by single payer. Apparently, four of Nevada’s Washington delegation are already on board.

 

 

Western congressmen seek reduction in size of national monuments

Two weeks ago the 17 members of the Congressional Western Caucus — which includes Nevada’s Rep. Mark Amodei — took Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke up on his request for feedback on what to do about all the national monuments created in the past two decades, sending him a letter with specific recommendations about 27 of those monuments.

These recommendations called for vastly scaling back the size of two monuments created by President Obama in his last year in office at the urging of then Sen. Harry Reid — the 300,000-acre Gold Butte in Clark County and the 700,000-acre Basin and Range in Nye and Lincoln counties.

The letter repeatedly points out that the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to create monuments, was passed in order to protect prehistoric and Indian ruins and artifacts on federal land in the West and the law limits such designations to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects.” While earlier monuments averaged 422 acres, several of Obama’s designations exceeded a million acres, the letter notes.

Zinke’s review of the monuments comes at the behest of President Trump, who in April asked for the review in an executive order, giving Zinke till Aug. 26 to comply.

As for Basin and Range, the congressmen point out it is larger than Rhode Island and was created as “a personal favor to then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. According to a former Obama adviser, ‘it is only due to Harry Reid that [Basin and Range] is getting done.'”

The letter quotes opposition to the monument from the Nevada Farm Bureau, as well as Lincoln and Nye County commissioners.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman called the monument “an excellent example of hypocrisy,” noting that Reid insisted on local consent for the construction of a nuclear waste repository in Nye County at Yucca Mountain, which many in Nye favor, while ignoring the lack of local consent for Basin and Range, which many opposed because of its impact on recreation, grazing and mineral exploration.

The letter also points out that one of the motives for creating Basin and Range was to provide a buffer for an “art” project on a strip of private land, which has nothing to do with protecting antiquities.

A view of “City,” artist Michael Heizer’s monumental work of land art in the Nevada desert. (Tom Vinetz / Triple Aught Foundation / LACMA via LA Times)

According to a Washington Post article in 2015, Reid, who for two years could not get Congress to go along with his proposal to put the land off limits, asked Obama to create a national monument partly as a buffer for a giant earthen and concrete art project called “city” and described as “reminiscent of a ceremonial Mesoamerican city stretching across an expanse of desert nearly the size of the Mall” in Washington. The “artist” has been working on it for 50 years and allows only VIP visitors and journalists to view his work.

“Explain it to me,” the paper quoted Reid quoting Obama.

“I can’t,” Reid said he replied.

Though both Amodei and then-Rep. Cresent Hardy, in whose districts the monument is located, opposed it, Reid persuaded Obama, who owed him a favor or two for such things as ObamaCare and ending the filibuster for judicial nominations.

The WaPo story ends thusly:

“This was on nobody’s radar screen, and it certainly wasn’t part of the plan,” said one person close to the president who has been involved in the discussions. When the question of possible controversy was broached, Obama said: “I don’t care. I want this done.”

Reid visited (Michael) Heizer’s art installation and its remote environs in 2007. He said he went “to check off a box.” But the visit changed him. “I became a convert. … You have this magnificent work of art that this man spent half a century working on. And that’s quite a story.”

The caucus letter recommends the monument be reduced to about 2,500 acres — “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

As for Gold Butte, the letter notes the designation specifically bans grazing and suggests it was “political retribution” against the Bundy family, whose cattle have grazed in the area for more than a century. Cliven Bundy and four of his sons are currently in jail awaiting trial on charges growing out of an armed standoff in 2014 when BLM agents attempted to confiscate their cattle.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the monument designation bypassed Congress and the public.

In January, Amodei and Sen. Dean Heller introduced the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act, which intends to prevent the threat of executive action designating or expanding national monuments without Congressional approval or local support.

“Whether you agree with our proposals or not, I have always supported a public and transparent process which includes input from interest groups, local communities, and elected representatives,”Amodei said at the time. “Unlike all of our Nevada lands bills that allow stakeholders an opportunity to voice their concerns and ultimately reach a consensus agreement that achieves bipartisan support, the Obama Administration has repeatedly bypassed Congress and local input.”

Heller said, “Late last month, without even having a say in the matter, Nevadans witnessed the executive branch quickly lock up hundreds of thousands of acres of local, public land with an effortless stroke of the pen. No matter which political party is occupying the White House, these types of unilateral federal land grabs by the executive branch should not be allowed.”

The caucus letter quotes former Rep. Hardy as stating: “If you want to protect the petroglyphs, and you want to designate that as the monument, that’s what the Antiquities Act was set up to do, is protect the minimum possible footprint of that of what you’re trying to designate. Not an extra 300,000 acres on top of the 50-100 acres that you could have protected.”

The letter itself did not state any specific size for Basin and Range.

In concluding remarks, the congressmen argue: “The Antiquities Act of 1906 is broken and in desperate need of reform. No one person should be able to unilaterally lock-up millions of acres of public land from multiple-use with the stroke of a pen. Local stakeholders deserve to have a voice on public land-use decisions that impact their livelihoods.”

BLM pix

Editorial: Repeal ObamaCare and let states handle health insurance

The bad news for those who live in Clark, Carson City and Nye counties is that companies offering ObamaCare-compliant health insurance policies have requested 38 percent premium increases in 2018. The good news for those in the rest of Nevada is that their ObamaCare premiums will not be going up because there are no companies offering such policies.

In pulling out of those counties Anthem stated the “individual market remains volatile” and “planning and pricing for ACA (Affordable Care Act)-compliant health plans has become increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market …”

As libertarian economist F.A. Hayek warned years ago, central planning, such as ObamaCare, which dictates to private companies to whom they must sell their services and at what price, cannot possibly work. There are too many abstract factors that only a free market can account for. Witness the lack of willing ObamaCare insurance sellers in 14 Nevada counties.

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents six of the counties without an ObamaCare option, said, “Sadly, this news isn’t shocking. It represents another symptom of the sickness that is killing America’s health care system. While there are plenty of arguments on how to fix this, regardless of your political views, it’s clear the status quo isn’t working and is in need of serious repair. Once again, I’m left wondering, when is Congress going to put the issue ahead of the politics? I will continue to focus on the facts and the policy options to be applied in Nevada. As always, my goal is to ensure that any reform package increases Americans’ access to quality and affordable care, while paying respect to rural communities like ours that are being hit the hardest.”

The House version of ObamaCare repeal and replace is currently stalled in the Senate, where Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is balking at supporting it due to the potential reduction in Medicaid funds for Nevada. Gov. Brian Sandoval opted to expend Medicaid under ObamaCare, and Heller is reluctant to retrench.

Apparently Nevadans are of two minds when it comes to deciding what to do about ObamaCare.

According to a recent American Medical Association survey, when asked straightforward whether ObamaCare was a good or bad idea, fully 45 percent of Nevadans say it was a good idea, while 37 percent say it was a bad idea.

But when you get down to whether Congress should change that law, the opinions are more varied. When asked, “As you may be aware, in order for the health care legislation passed by the House to become law, the United States Senate must review and pass the legislation. Do you think the U.S. Senate should …”

Seven percent said pass the House legislation as is; 23 percent said make minor changes to it and pass it; 27 percent said make major changes to it and pass it; 33 percent said Congress should not pass any part of the House legislation, thus leaving ObamaCare in place

So, 33 percent say leave it as is, while 57 percent call for some changes.

But when asked about specific changes being proposed, the Nevadans surveyed largely opposed those changes.

They opposed dropping the mandate to buy health insurance. They opposed dropping various federal subsidies and eliminating the ObamaCare requirement that all health plans sold must provide a standard set of government-established benefits, including mental health services, addiction treatment, maternity care and preventive health services with no out-of-pocket costs.

Nevadans favor providing federal funding for states to cover people with pre-existing conditions, the survey says.

Frankly, Congress should repeal ObamaCare and turn over policing of health insurance to the states, which under the 10th Amendment is the proper jurisdiction for wielding power in this arena. Congress should merely exercise the power of the Commerce Clause to assure health insurance can be sold across states lines.

Leaving the status quo in place is not an option, as rising premiums and deductibles and a lack of willing sellers attests.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Nate Beeler cartoon

No ObamaCare premium increases in 14 Nevada counties due to central plannig

The bad news for those who live in Clark, Carson City and Nye counties is that companies offering ObamaCare-compliant health insurance policies have requested 38 percent premium increases. The good news for those in the rest of Nevada is that their ObamaCare premiums will not be going up because there are no companies offering such policies.

In pulling out of those counties Anthem stated the “individual market remains volatile.” The company said that “planning and pricing for ACA-compliant health plans has become increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance, including cost-sharing reduction subsidies.”

As F.A. Hayek warned:

This is, perhaps, also the point where I should briefly mention the fact that the sort of knowledge with which I have been concerned is knowledge of the kind which by its nature cannot enter into statistics and therefore cannot be conveyed to any central authority in statistical form. The statistics which such a central authority would have to use would have to be arrived at precisely by abstracting from minor differences between the things, by lumping together, as resources of one kind, items which differ as regards location, quality, and other particulars, in a way which may be very significant for the specific decision. It follows from this that central planning based on statistical information by its nature cannot take direct account of these circumstances of time and place and that the central planner will have to find some way or other in which the decisions depending on them can be left to the “man on the spot.”

Newspaper column: Democrats doubly wrong in effort to gag free speech

Supreme Court justices listen to President Obama rebuke them in 2010 State of the Union speech for Citizens United decision a week earlier. (AP pix)

Democrats keep pounding on a solution in search of a problem.

In January of 2010 the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to prohibit political campaign spending by corporations and unions. In the case of Citizens United v. FEC the court struck down a law under which the Federal Election Commission barred the airing of a movie produced by Citizens United that was critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Within the week, in his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama lambasted the justices to their faces, saying the court had reversed a century of law. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities,” he said. “They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

During her losing campaign against Donald Trump, Clinton said she would consider supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision to “prevent the abuse of our political system by excessive amounts of money …” even though she outspent Trump by two-to-one, $1.2 billion to $600 million.

In 2014 every Democrat present on the floor of the Senate voted to pass a constitutional amendment that would have empowered Congress and the states to pass laws abridging the freedom of political speech.

Nevada’s long-serving Democratic Sen. Harry Reid argued in favor of that amendment, saying “the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced.”

His successor, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, has taken up the cudgel, also calling for a constitutional amendment. “The U.S. Constitution puts democratic power in the hands of the American people — not corporations or private companies,” she said. “Since the Citizens United decision, big corporations have gained unprecedented influence over elections and our country’s political process. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation; it’s critical that we end unlimited corporate contributions if we are going to have a democratic process and government that will truly work for all Americans.”

Newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen stated shortly after her election, “Washington hasn’t been listening to the concerns of Southern Nevada because unlimited dark money flooding our elections is drowning out the voices of real people in our community.”

Both Democratic Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus have expressed support for a group called “End Citizens United.”

The Democrats in the Nevada Legislature also waded in with a resolution urging Congress to overturn Citizens united. It passed without a single Republican vote.

First, the Democrats are wrong on principle. The fact that an expenditure is coming from a group instead of an individual does not negate the First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely, because it also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.

An assembly is not just a crowd of people on the street, it is also an organization, a corporation or a union.

Second, their premise that excessive spending overwhelms and subverts the system is demonstrably wrong.

Not only does the spending gap between Clinton and Trump demonstrate the fallacy, but just this past week an obscure special election for a House seat in Georgia underscored the error of their rationale.

In that race Democrat Jon Ossoff outspent his Republican opponent Karen Handel by seven-to-one and still lost by 4 points.

And talk about special interest money. Democrat Ossoff, between March 29 and May 31, reported receiving 7,218 donations from California, but only 808 donations from Georgia. Overall, he got $456,296.03 from Californians, compared to $228,474.44 from Georgians.

Even when all the third party money is accounted for, spending in support of Ossoff amounted to $30 million, compared to $21 million for Handel.

The Democrats are not only losing elections, but are losing the argument about the effectiveness of the influence of outside money. Being able to spend your own money on political speech is a fundamental aspect of free speech, but the ability to buy repeated messages does nothing to increase the persuasiveness of those messages.

The fundamental principle of democracy is that voters can listen to the free and unencumbered debate and discern what is best for themselves and the generations to come. To deny that is to deny and denigrate the foundation of this nation.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Let’s play the blame game

(AP pix)

No matter what happens it is Trump’s fault.

Freshman Nevada Congresswoman and soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Senate Jacky Rosen put out the most mind boggling press release in recent memory after Anthem announced it was pulling out of the ObamaCare health insurance business in 14 Nevada counties, leaving about 8,000 residents in those counties with no ObamaCare option.

Her statement reads:

“These health insurers pulling out of Nevada is a direct result of President Trump and Republicans in Congress creating partisan chaos over health care. The rush to pass this reckless legislation has already caused so much instability on the exchange that thousands of rural families in Nevada will now have zero options. This exodus from Nevada’s health exchange creates a crisis for patients in rural communities who were already struggling with access to affordable health care as it is. All signs point to President Trump and Republicans in Congress continuing to sabotage the Affordable Care Act for political reasons, which means we can only expect to see additional health insurers exit the Silver State Health Exchange. It’s time for Republicans to give up on this obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy and instead work across the aisle to work on finding real, bipartisan solutions to improve our health care system.”

Of course, as The Wall Street Journal reported online Wednesday afternoon, the company is pulling out due not to something that might happen in the future, but due to the nature of ObamaCare.

The paper said Anthem’s decision was due to the volatile individual market, which is due to the ObamaCare rules and restrictions. The company said that “planning and pricing for ACA-compliant health plans has become increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance, including cost-sharing reduction subsidies.”

As Forbes points out, the Senate health care bill keeps cost-sharing subsidies through 2020, and if they are reduced insurers could increase rates by 15 to 20 percent, shifting the cost the consumer instead of the taxpayers.

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents six of the counties affected, said:

“Sadly, this news isn’t shocking. It represents another symptom of the sickness that is killing America’s health care system. While there are plenty of arguments on how to fix this, regardless of your political views, it’s clear the status quo isn’t working and is in need of serious repair. Once again, I’m left wondering, when is Congress going to put the issue ahead of the politics? I will continue to focus on the facts and the policy options to be applied in Nevada. As always, my goal is to ensure that any reform package increases Americans’ access to quality and affordable care, while paying respect to rural communities like ours that are being hit the hardest.”

 

 

Nevadans seem want it both ways with ObamaCare

Nevadans appear to be a bit schizoid when it comes to deciding what to do about ObamaCare, according to an American Medical Association survey released Tuesday.

When asked straightforward whether ObamaCare was a good or bad idea, fully 45 percent say it was a good idea, while 37 percent say it was a bad idea.

But when you get down to whether Congress should change the law as is being currently debated the opinions are more varied:

As you may be aware, in order for the health care legislation passed by the House to become law, the United States Senate must review and pass the legislation. Do you think the U.S. Senate should …

7% Pass the House legislation as is
23% Make minor changes to it and pass it
27% Make major changes to it and pass it
33% NOT pass any part of the House legislation which would mean keeping ObamaCare in place

2% Other.    7% Don’t Know    1% Refused

So, 33 percent say leave it as is, while 57 percent call for some changes.

But when asked about specific changes being proposed, the Nevadans surveyed largely opposed the changes.

They opposed dropping the mandate to buy health insurance but allowing insurers to charge 30 percent higher premiums if they have not had continuous coverage. I wonder how Nevadans would have responded if asked only about the mandate.

They also opposed dropping various federal subsidies and eliminating the ObamaCare requirement that all health plans sold must provide a standard set of government-established benefits, including mental health services, addiction treatment, maternity care and preventive health services with no out-of-pocket costs. No choice.

The exceptions included: providing federal funding for states to cover people with pre-existing conditions through separate high-risk insurance pools; allowing health insurance to be bought across state lines so there is more competition between health insurance companies to provide more options at a cheaper cost; and, change Medicaid from an entitlement program to a federal grant program so federal spending would be cut, and states could decide how to best use federal dollars to cover their low-income population.

Then there is the CBO report:

The Senate bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law, slightly fewer than the increase in the number of uninsured estimated for the House-passed legislation. By 2026, an estimated 49 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.

So, millions might choose to not buy expensive health insurance, whose premiums and deductibles are skyrocketing every year, if they are not coerced into doing so.

The Roberts court said states may not be coerced in following the dictates of Congress, but individuals are not so fortunate.

Meanwhile, many senators, including Nevada’s Dean Heller, seem to be willing to let ObamaCare stand because replacement legislation is either too weak or too stringent. You can’t drive a stake through the heart of a government entitlement when the perfect is the enemy of any improvement.