Larry Sabato giving us a view from above this morning on C-SPAN2:
Specifically, GAO Forensic Audits and Investigative Service Acting Director Seto Bagdoyan testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about a GAO investigation that tested Obama administration claims about the internal controls the federal government has set up to prevent fraudulent Obamacare coverage and subsidies.
GAO investigators used fictitious identities and documents to apply for Obamacare coverage on 12 separate occasions. The Obama administration granted coverage and subsidies to 11 of 12 fraudulent applicants. Additionally, as of July 2014, the GAO reported that fake documentation sent for two enrollees had been "verified".
“The total amount of these credits for the 11 approved applications is about $2,500 monthly or about $30,000 annually. We also obtained cost-sharing reduction subsidies, according to marketplace representatives, in at least nine of the 11 cases,” Bagdoyan said.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare is set to spend $1.4 trillion on Obamacare subsidies over the next ten years.
Obama's complete failure to prevent fraud in his signature domestic accomplishment even had some liberals questioning the administration. "This lack of oversight just isn’t acceptable," Indiana University School of Medicine professor Aaron Carroll (no relation) blogged, "The GAO should be checking this stuff, and the administration should be responding to it. Let’s see what happens."
Carroll should not hold his breath. Obama has every incentive to get as many "beneficiaries" signed up for Obamacare no matter how fraudulent they are. Democrats have made the number of "Americans" enrolled in Obamacare the defining metric for the law's success. There simply is no penalty for signing up fake people.
True, the IRS will supposedly fine people who "knowingly and willfully" provide false information $250,000. But no one believes the IRS will ever enforce those penalties. Carroll's co-blogger Nicholas Bagley, an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan, explained to Vox, "The money at stake in any given case is too small, and the process for imposing civil money penalties too cumbersome, to justify much in the way of governmental enforcement."
"I would be surprised if the government decides to spend a lot of government resources on this," added Washington and Lee University law professor Timothy Jost.
In fact, the federal government has a long history of ignoring fraud in welfare programs. Just look at the Earned Income Tax Credit. According to the Inspector General of the Treasury Department, the IRS mails out somewhere between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion in fraudulent EITC payments every year. That comes out to about 22 to 26 percent of the entire EITC program.
As long as a program's success is defined solely by how many people are benefitting, the federal government will continue to shell out billions in fraudulent payments every year. Obamacare only made that situation much, much worse.
Democrats seem to be having a trouble prioritizing as the 2014 midterm cycle heats up. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Iowa and U.S. Senate candidate, is a perfect example. Over a period of two years, he decided to skip 75% of committee meetings that directly dealt with veterans’ health care. In one instance, Braley’s absence on the committee was due to him attending three fundraisers for his campaign. (via Des Moines Register):
Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his own campaign.
A few months later, news reports exposed systemic problems in patient care that have since resulted in the resignation head of the federal department of veterans affairs.
Republicans argue that Braley, who missed 15 of the 20 Veterans' Affairs Committee meetings in 2011 and 2012, has shown a lack of commitment to conditions within the health care system for veterans.
Democrats who back Braley, a trial lawyer and seven-year congressman who is now running for U.S. Senate, say he has been an outspoken voice for veterans and it's wrong for his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, to "try to inject partisan politics into veterans issues." He missed the veterans affairs meeting on the day of the three fundraisers because he went to another congressional hearing, aides said.
At 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn't attend.
Braley's aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking scandal.The congressional record marked Braley "present," but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.
On the same day, Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House, records from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation show. He attended all three, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register.
Well, that’s embarrassing. Although, one could argue that President Obama gets the failing grade in optics for traveling to various fundraisers as Israeli troops enter Gaza, Ukrainian separatists allegedly having the ability to down commercial airliners, and the various scandals, namely the ones centered on the IRS and Veterans Affairs (VA), that continue to plague his administration.
On the day of his absence, Braley attended a $2,500 breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, an afternoon $1,000 per person fundraiser at a law firm, and an evening $2,500 per person fundraiser on K Street, according to the Register.
At the same time, veterans were dying, or lingered in anguish on those infamous VA wait-lists.
The plot thickens, via NBC News:
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say that their investigators have learned that the hard drive belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner was "scratched" and that data was recoverable, according to a release from the committee. The release says that it's unclear if the scratch was put there deliberately or accidentally. Republicans are now accusing the IRS of not being forthcoming after they said in court filings that the data on Lerner's hard drive was unrecoverable....Whether Lois Lerner's emails and data were lost has become the most recent focus in Republicans' investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the tax-exempt office of the IRS. Lerner pled the fifth during two appearances before the House Oversight Committee, which called her to testify about that targeting.
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp unloads on the IRS:
Despite early refusals to make available IT professionals who worked on Lois Lerner’s computer, Ways and Means Committee investigators have now learned from interviews that the hard drive of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner was “scratched,” but data was recoverable. In fact, in-house professionals at the IRS recommended the Agency seek outside assistance in recovering the data. That information conflicts with a July 18, 2014 court filing by the Agency, which stated the data on the hard drive was unrecoverable – including multiple years’ worth of missing emails. “It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). “The Committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS.” It is also unknown whether the scratch was accidental or deliberate, but former federal law enforcement and Department of Defense forensic experts consulted by the Committee say that most of the data on a scratched drive, such as Lerner’s, should have been recoverable...Further complicating the situation, the Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that this declaration may not be accurate. A review of internal IRS IT tracking system documents revealed that Lerner’s computer was actually once described as “recovered.”
Wow. It sure would be nice to get these IT experts on the record in sworn, public testimony -- if only to witness Democrats' epic excuse-making. Allahpundit snarks that even if a video emerged of Lerner beating her hard drive with a hammer, Elijah Cummings and friends would still be sneering about GOP "conspiracy theories." Based on these reports, it sounds as if the IRS at first tried to deny investigators access to these professionals, who've since revealed that Lerner's hard drive wasn't irrevocably "crashed" when the matter was brought to their attention in 2011 -- less than two weeks after Congressional Republicans first began asking questions about the agency's (since-admitted) abusive targeting practices. According to the release, the IRS decided against "utilizing outside experts to recover the data" at that time. Why? IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently testified under oath that the IRS did everything it could to recover all of Lerner's files (before being forced to concede that they hadn't actually done everything). Lerner's lawyer has said the same, asserting that "every effort" was made to do so. This new evidence suggests that was not the case. A few questions: (1) What happened to the hard drive? After it was "scratched," and someone allegedly made the call not to mine its recoverable data, was it then proactively destroyed? Or is it still floating around somewhere? Camp's memo says the IRS "believes it was recycled." (2) How does a hard drive get scratched, exactly? And how often does that sort of thing happen -- unintentionally, that is? I'm not alone in wondering, either:
@allahpundit i guess my next question would be: How often are hard drives physically scratched?— Vox's Research Dept. (@AceofSpadesHQ) July 22, 2014
Let's not forget that the IRS now claims a group of more than a dozen agency officials who dealt with Lerner also experienced hard drive "crashes" (scratches?), resulting in lost emails. What are the chances of that happening? No, really. What are they? Here's another weird one, via a Washington Post piece that posed a series of questions to the IRS from a professional IT entity:
1.) What happened to the IRS’s IT asset managers who appear to have disappeared at a key juncture?
Ordering the destruction of a hard drive and documenting that process would be handled by trained, certified IT asset managers, according to IAITAM. But the group’s records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were shuffled out of their positions around the time of the May 2013 inspector general’s report that detailed the agency’s targeting practices. IAITAM said investigators need to “determine if these in-house IT asset managers were removed from the picture as the IRS email investigation heated up.”
That timing seems...suspicious, no? Oh, and mere days after the IRS' Inspector General report blew this scandal wide open, why was Lerner poking around trying to figure out whether the agency's internal instant messaging system was archived anywhere, meaning that conversations could be traced? "Not a smidgen of corruption," the president insists. Americans don't believe him, and for good reason. I'll leave you with this Reason TV parody song, which amusingly pays tribute to all of these head-spinning "coincidences:"
Another tragedy this week: a civilian airliner carrying 58 people crashed in Taiwan on Wednesday, killing nearly everyone on board:
BREAKING: Taiwanese news agency: Plane crashes in emergency landing, killing 51 people, injuring 7.— The Associated Press (@AP) July 23, 2014
Taiwan's Central News Agency says a plane has crashed in a failed emergency landing, killing 51 people.
The news agency cited the head of the fire department in the Taiwanese county of Penghu as saying that seven people were also injured in the crash.
The report cites the Civil Aviation Administration as saying the flight crashed Wednesday with 54 passengers and four flight crew and was operated by a Taiwanese airline, TransAsia Airways.
The report says the plane likely crashed when an attempt to make an emergency landing in the city of Magong.
UPDATE: It appears "heavy rain" might have prompted the attempted emergency landing:
Taiwan was battered by Typhoon Matmo early Tuesday morning, and the Central Weather Bureau was advising of heavy rain through the evening, even though the center of the storm was in mainland China.
The flight was heading from the capital, Taipei, to the island Penghu, halfway between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait. Pictures from the airport showed a handful of firefighters using flashlights to look at wreckage in the darkness.
UPDATE: Buzzfeed reports there could be more survivors:
UPDATE: But obviously nothing is confirmed:
Status of 58 people on board crashed flight in Taiwan is 'uncertain,' Civil Aeronautics Administration says - @Focus_Taiwan— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) July 23, 2014
UPDATE: More from AFP:
The island's local fire chief put the death toll at 45 while media reports said 47 were killed.
"The control tower lost contact with the aircraft soon after they requested a go-around (second attempt to land)," Chen told reporters.
The commercial domestic flight was carrying 54 passengers and four crew, officials said.
It was flying from Kaohsiung and had been delayed due to bad weather, according to Shen.
Try not to be overwhelmed by the irony in this post.
Last night on CNN the spokesman for the terrorist group Hamas, Osama Hamdan, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting like Hitler.
"He's reflecting a new image for Hitler," Hamdan said. "They [Israelis] are acting in the same way killing Palestinians just because they are Palestinians."
As a reminder, Netanyahu is Jewish and Hamdan represents an Islamic terrorist group that denies the Holocaust. Hamdan is accusing Israel of doing exactly what the Palestinians are actually doing. Hamas is trying to kill Jews solely because they are Jews. Israel meanwhile, is simply defending itself. Further, Hamas works under the direction of the Iranian government, whose leaders want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
It should also be pointed out that in the interview Hamdan made the argument that Israel is targeting houses, mosques and hospitals, but failed to admit Hamas has placed rocket launchers in those places for the exact purpose of being able to go on television and falsely blame Israelis for targeting civilians. People are dying in Gaza and the responsibility for why lies solely with Hamas, a terrorist group that values dead civilians for propaganda purposes more than they value human life.
Over the past two years we've seen numerous firearm manufacturing companies leave liberal states with new gun control laws. Maryland is the latest to state to face tough consequences for its new harsh and irrational gun control law. Beretta, a firearms company that has been in the state for decades, is headed to Tennessee with hundreds of jobs in tow.
Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.
The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.
Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.
"While we had originally planned to use the Tennessee facility for new equipment and for production of new product lines only, we have decided that it is more prudent from the point of view of our future welfare to move the Maryland product lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility," Cooper said in a news release announcing the move.
Last year Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law extreme gun control measures despite strong objections from the public. Currently Beretta employs 400 people in Maryland. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, overall the firearms industry employs more than 200,000 people, has an economic impact of over $33 billion each year and provides the federal government with more than $4 billion in excise taxes each year.
Retiring Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2016, she said today in an interview with Real Clear Politics. In her view, there’s lots of chatter about “various men” running, she explained, but virtually nothing about women.
Perhaps, then, she and other conservative women shouldn’t be so easily discounted:
Bachmann made the revelation during an interview, in which she was asked for her view on whether any Republican women might seek the Oval Office in 2016.
“The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running,” she replied. “They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”
Bachmann entered the last presidential race in June 2011 as a long-shot contender but was able to use her sway with elements of the Tea Party and an effective media campaign to rise temporarily toward the front of the Republican pack in a deeply fluid race.
Some Republicans might understandably balk at this suggestion. Yes, she defeated her rivals in the Ames Straw Poll in 2011, but despite this largely feel-good victory, her campaign never really got off the ground after that. What chance realistically, then, does she have? The field in 2016 will presumably be stocked full -- and overflowing with -- solid GOP candidates: former and current governors, youthful senators, and perhaps even a certain world-renowned surgeon. Is there room, in other words, for another tea party candidate in the mix, especially one who flamed out so early during the 2012 cycle?
Then again, Bachmann, by her own estimation, is a prolific fundraiser who has something almost none of the other presumed GOP candidates have: experience.
“Like with anything else, practice makes perfect,” she said. “And I think if a person has gone through the process -- for instance, I had gone through 15 presidential debates -- it’s easy to see a person’s improvement going through that.” …
“I haven’t made a decision one way or another if I’m going to run again, but I think the organization is probably the key,” she said. “To have an organization and people who surround you who are loyal, who are highly competent, who know how to be able to run the ball down the field in state after state -- because now I think the primary process will be very different this time. It will tighten up; it will be a much shorter run than it was before.”
To her point, Christie et al. have never debated 15 times in front of a national television audience before...
Parting thought: Since we now know, as of today, that former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) is pretty much all-in in 2016, is a Bachmann/Santorum ticket currently or possibly in the works? Hmmmm.
A federal judge dismissed Sen. Johnson’s (R-Wis.) Obamacare lawsuit Monday on the grounds that the senator had no legal standing in the case. Johnson filed the suit in January, claiming that the Office of Personnel Management took illegal and bias actions when it allowed congressional members and their staff to continue receiving federal health care subsidies while on the Obamacare health exchanges.
The OPM’s regulation violated Obamacare and also trounced on the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, according to Johnson’s complaint.
“The ACA provides that as of January 1, 2014, the only health insurance plans that Members of Congress and their staffs can be offered by the federal government are health insurance plans “created under [the ACA]” or “offered through an Exchange” established under the ACA…..
[T]he OPM Rule does not treat Members of Congress and their staffs like the Members’ constituents. Instead, it puts them in a better position by providing them with a continuing tax-free subsidy from the federal government to pay a percentage of the premiums for health insurance purchased through an ACA Exchange….”
Judge William Griesbach said the challenge could not be accepted in a court of law due to Johnson’s lack of cognizable injury, or legal standing, in the case:
Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to decide every legal question that may arise. Instead, federal courts may resolve questions only when they are presented in justiciable “Cases” or “Controversies.” U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. “As used in the Constitution, those words do not include every sort of dispute, but only those ‘historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process.’"
If every judge followed the constraints of the Constitution so affably, the nation might be in a much better position than it is now. Johnson, however, was disappointed that a "legal technicality" stopped the judge from addressing important constitutional issues.
The suspension of service into Ben Gurion International began as an ad hoc precautionary measure by several US carriers, following reports that a Hamas rocket landed within one mile of the airport. Soon after, the FAA instituted a 24-hour ban on US to Israel flights, over the objections and assurances of Israeli officials. European carriers are now following suit:
BERLIN (AP) - European Aviation Safety Agency 'strongly recommends' airlines avoid Tel Aviv airport.— Phil Elliott (@Philip_Elliott) July 22, 2014
Germany and France's largest airlines Lufthansa and Air France say they're suspending all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns amid the increasing violence. Lufthansa said Tuesday evening that it was suspending all Tel Aviv flights for 36 hours, including those operated by subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss. The company says it made the decision as a precaution to protect the safety of its passengers and crews. Air France says it was suspending its flights until further notice for the same reason....Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel. Several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.
It's unclear as to why the FAA's moratorium only lasts 24 hours; Hamas continues to reject ceasefire terms, and Israelis overwhelmingly support their military's campaign against the terrorist organization. With IDF military objectives still on the table and Hamas' bloodthirsty intransigence, the conflict shows few signs of slowing -- let alone stopping -- in the immediate future. As the death toll mounts, Hamas supporters and sympathizers constantly harp on the "disproportionate" casualty count, noting that far more Palestinians have died than Israelis. They conveniently elide the primary reasons for that gap: Israel's 'Iron Dome' missile defense system and bomb shelter protocols have proven to be extremely effective at protecting civilians. Hamas, by contrast, intentionally and diabolically surrounds its arsenal and leaders with civilians. To recap: Hamas is actively targeting Israeli civilians, and failing. Israel is bending over backwards to protect Palestinian civilians, while Hamas publicly exhorts said civilians to risk their lives to frustrate and complicate attacks against terrorist targets. When Israel's safeguards against civilian casualties fail -- as is inevitable in war -- Hamas gleefully exploits the dead to pummel Israel in the court of public opinion. These tragedies are uniquely inevitable in this conflict because Hamas is knowingly putting innocents in harm's way. The terrorists are storing rockets in schools, using hospitals as their command centers, and reportedly traveling in ambulances "packed with children:"
With this conflict about to enter its third week, winning the PR war is the best Hamas can hope to achieve. Their weapon of choice, however, seems to be the cannon fodder of their own people, performing double duty in also sounding the drumbeat of Israeli condemnation. If you can't beat Iron Dome, then deploy sacrificial children as human shields...There are now reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are transporting themselves throughout Gaza in ambulances packed with children. Believe it or not, a donkey laden with explosives detonated just the other day.
Craven and intolerable. That same Wall Street Journal editorial asks whether many adult Gazans forfeited their right to 'innocent civilian' status by overwhelmingly electing a known terrorist cartel to represent them. It's a difficult, but legitimate, question. But anti-Israel forces will brush all of this highly relevant context to the side, opting instead to morbidly trumpet the number of the dead -- focusing on women and children for PR purposes. They will blame Israel, not Hamas' cynical degenerates, for these deaths. Of course, many of Israel's foes are willfully blind to the truth, and would obstinately ignore it even if it were conclusively presented through evidence. That's because many of Israel's foes irrationally despise Jews, and they're merely using the Israeli government as a proxy target for their bigotry. This isn't a specious smear. It's betrayed by their own actions. I've written pieces over the last two weeks about the sickening anti-Semitism on parade in Paris and Boston. Additional reports pile up by the hour. Canada:
A group of Canadian Israel supporters who were violently beaten last week by a crowd shouting anti-Semitic slurs said they continue to be bullied on the Internet and in the media by those who claim that they were looking for a fight. A family of six pro-Israel supporters demonstrating in downtown Calgary was assaulted late Friday by a crowd of around 100 protestors who were demonstrating against Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip...The pro-Palestinian protestors shoved flags into Hamilton’s face and taunted her with shouts of, “kill Jews, “Hitler should finish you off,” and “baby killers.” “I heard my mother screaming because six or seven guys had jumped on my brother,” who is 19 years old, Hamilton recalled. “He had a Star of David on his shirt and they were ripping it off, biting him, and scratching him, and stomping on him on the ground.”
In a video taken at a large anti-Israel rally in Berlin this past Thursday, hundreds of protesters can be seen chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own” (“Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein“).
It is uniquely horrifying that those words -- "Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight" -- are echoing in Berlin, of all places. Click through for video of a German Imam caustically praying for the annihilation of "Zionist Jews," asking Allah to "count them and kill them to the very last one. Don't spare a single one of them...make them suffer terribly." As I've written about the disgusting proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents around the globe, Israel critics have responded on Twitter, arguing that pro-Israel counter-protesters provoked the outbursts by showing up. This excuse is not only a laboratory pure example of the "heckler's veto," it also fails to explain the content of the slurs. Many of these barbarians aren't chanting, "shame on Israel." They're shrieking about despising and killing Jews. For them, none of this is about ceasefires, or rockets, or blockades, or land swaps. It's about an ancient, insatiable, and savage hatred. Fortunately, as Dan noted earlier, a large majority of Americans stand with Israel in this hour of terrible hardship. (Democrats are the least likely partisan group to call Israel's actions justified, but a plurality still do). The Jewish state may be a loathed scapegoat in many corners of the world, but not here. In fact, a Pew Research survey released last week showed that Americans' pro-Israel sympathies remain near all-time highs:
Self-described conservative Republicans split (77/4) in favor of Israel; liberal Democrats are the least pro-Israel cohort measured, at (39/21) -- still nearly a two-to-one margin.
Proponents of the Export-Import Bank, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), claim the corporate welfare bank is essential for protecting American jobs, but a new Heritage Action analysis of Export-Impot Bank annual reports show that $16 billions worth of loans have gone to state-owned foreign airlines since 2009 alone.
The Export-Import Bank has inked deals with 34 with foreign government owned corporations since 2009, including deals with China, Egypt, and Kazakhstan.
The biggest of the loan guarantees, at more than $2 billion, went to the National Aviation Co. of India for commercial aircrafts from Boeing, which just happens to be the banks biggest corporate welfare customer. Air China has also signed deals worth $1.8 billion with the Export-Import Bank since 2011.
Defenders of the Export-Import Bank, like Warren, claim the coporate welfare program creates American jobs. But whatever jobs are created for subsidized corporations are just lost elsewhere by non-subsidized American businesses.
This is why President Ronald Reagan proposed shrinking the Export-Import Bank saying at the time, "We’re doing this because the primary beneficiaries of taxpayer funds in this case are the exporting companies themselves–most of them profitable corporations."
If the Progressive movement and their Democratic Party want to become the part of corporatism, then conservatives and the Republican Party must offer the American people an alternative by fighting corporate welfare in all its forms, including the Export-Import bank.
Speaking with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), dismissed Hillary Clinton as an intimidating candidate for president in 2016. First, he challenged her record as Secretary of State:
"The truth of the matter is she was the secretary of state during an administration that has had virtually no successes on foreign policy," he said.
Voters seem to agree. A recent Politico poll reveals that 32 percent deem her tenure as Secretary of State “poor.”
Barring her foreign policy record, Rubio’s second slight against Clinton was a more intriguing one:
"I just think she's a 20th century candidate," he said. "I think she does not offer an agenda for moving America forward in the 21st century, at least not up till now."
The criticism was not supposed to be a jab at Clinton’s age, but that must certainly be in the back of many voters’ minds. The former First Lady is now 66-years-old, meaning she would be well into her seventies were she to reach the White House. What’s more, after Clinton was hospitalized last year for a blood clot in her head, some questioned whether she is healthy enough to run for president.
Rubio, on the other hand, is 43-years-old and has seemingly not faced any major health scares. He has not decided on a presidential run, yet will make up his mind by early 2015, he told NPR.
With Clinton, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren as the only Democratic names being thrown around for 2016, clearly the Republican Party has age on its side this time around.
It’s time to fire Harry Reid. Or so says the Republican National Committee -- which today launched its brand new campaign to wrestle control of the upper chamber from Democrats by explicitly targeting the Senate Majority Leader.
RNC National Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski issued the following statement this morning:
Today the RNC launches our #FireReid campaign.
Under the control of Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has failed to listen to the American people and do what’s in their best interest. In fact, the U.S. Senate has failed to do much of anything that doesn’t serve Harry Reid’s quest to remain in power.
For example, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed over 290 bills, including 40 jobs bills, that are stuck Harry Reid’s Senate. He won’t put them to a vote, even though they could put Americans back to work.
Likewise, Harry Reid has refused to let his Republican colleagues introduce amendments to legislation, a normal part of the lawmaking process. It’s his way or the highway. Or more accurately, it’s billionaire SuperPAC donor Tom Steyer’s way or the highway.
The RNC has put together a rather long list of all the reasons why Harry Reid must go. Blocking bills, breaking promises, and cutting off debate are only some of the grievances they document. But at the same time, they’re also trying to tie him to what they describe as the president's "failed" agenda; and as a result, will take their message to a dozen or so key battleground states to make their case:
The RNC will take this message to Senate races across the country. Beginning this week, we will launch robocalls in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Those calls will tell voters that the only way to stop Obama is to vote Republican and fire Reid. The calls will remind them that a vote for their respective Democrat Senate candidate is a vote to rubberstamp the failed Obama-Reid agenda.
The ongoing Fire Reid campaign will use a variety tactics, including research briefings, social media, videos, interviews, and infographics to highlight where Harry Reid, empowered by a Democrat majority, has failed Americans: ineffectual leadership, ethical lapses, gridlock, ObamaCare, Keystone, and more.
The message is simple: if you want to get America moving in the right direction, you have to fire Reid in November.
The Supreme Leader is not happy.
Kim Jong-un’s latest ire comes from a Chinese-made YouTube video that has North Korea demanding its removal from the internet. The video, which features Kim’s head superimposed onto dancing bodies, shows the dictator waltzing his way through a variety of hilarious situations.
However, North Korea is not quite amused. As the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo reports, “the North feels the clip, which shows Kim dancing and Kung-Fu fighting, 'seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority.'" Please.
The newspaper says that after North Korea asked China to stop the video from spreading, "Beijng was unable to oblige."
In one segment, Kim pirouettes in a dance studio — before being hit with a kick delivered by President Obama. Other world leaders also make appearances, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
And while a couple of sequences make fun of Kim's fascination with weaponry, we'll note that the video doesn't accuse the North Korean leader of not having rhythm.
We should all know by now that Kim Jong-un takes himself very seriously.
The gratuitous anger over this video closely follows North Korea’s fuss about the release of a Hollywood comedy in which two journalists plot to assassinate Kim. North Korean officials even described the release of the James Franco and Seth Rogen film an “act of war” promising “merciless retaliation.”
The Mirror describes the bizarre nature of Kim and his cronies:
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) describes itself as a socialist state based around the country's official ideology of Juche - a philosophy of self-reliance initiated by the state's first President Kim Il-sung.
However, the country is widely viewed by the international community as a totalitarian dictatorship, with an elaborate cult of personality operating around the ruling Kim family.
Among some of the bizarre boasts, it was claimed that Kim Jong-il - father of the current leader - had a supernatural birth, invented the hamburger and in his first ever round of golf shot 38 under par – including five holes in one - before gloriously retiring from the sport.
The truth is that Kim Jong-un is a despot, but often viewed as a figure of fun in the West.
The video has already amassed nearly 900,000 views and counting:
UPDATE III (See other updates below) - The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled in the opposite direction on this precise issue, increasing the likelihood that we're ultimately headed to SCOTUS.
This is big. Really big:
BREAKING: Huge blow to Obamacare. DC Circuit says law restricted subsidies to state exchanges.— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) July 22, 2014
DC Circuit: "the ACA unambiguously restricts...subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges 'established by the State.'"— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) July 22, 2014
A full-blown Obamacare earthquake. The 'second highest court in the land's' judgment may not be final -- the administration will almost certainly appeal for an en banc hearing before the full court, and there's always SCOTUS -- but for now, it is the binding decision. What does it mean? George F. Will wrote a column summarizing the Halbig case and its potential implications earlier this year:
Someone you probably are not familiar with has filed a suit you probably have not heard about concerning a four-word phrase you should know about. The suit could blow to smithereens something everyone has heard altogether too much about, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ACA)...If [the lawsuit] succeeds, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate...Because under the ACA, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage because of an individual’s preexisting condition. Because many people might therefore wait to purchase insurance after they become sick, the ACA requires a mandate to compel people to buy insurance. And because many people cannot afford the insurance that satisfies the ACA’s criteria, the ACA mandate makes it necessary to provide subsidies for those people. The four words that threaten disaster for the ACA say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.
So the IRS, which is charged with enforcing the ACA, has ridden to the rescue of Barack Obama’s pride and joy. Taking time off from writing regulations to restrict the political speech of Obama’s critics, the IRS has said, with its breezy indifference to legality, that subsidies shall also be dispensed to those who purchase insurance through federal exchanges the government has established in those 34 states...Some of the ACA’s myriad defects do reflect its slapdash enactment, which presaged its chaotic implementation. But the four potentially lethal words were carefully considered and express Congress’s intent. Congress made subsidies available only through state exchanges as a means of coercing states into setting up exchanges.
Democrats in Congress passed a law that explicitly limited Obamacare subsidy eligibility to consumers who purchased plans on state-level exchanges. They did so in order to coerce and bribe states into setting up their own marketplaces under the law. (Another attempt at coercion, mandatory Medicaid expansion, has been struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court). Given the controversial law's unpopularity, a majority of states declined to establish exchanges, forcing the federal government to create the infamous federal version -- with Healthcare.gov as its centerpiece. Subsequent New York Times reporting indicated that HHS never expected to have to set up any exchange at all, let alone for 36 states. That's because they were laboring under the belief that the law's sticks and carrots would compel every state to implement marketplaces on their own. Many did not, and the plain text of the law clearly states that anyone buying coverage through any system other than a state-based exchange would not be eligible to receive generous taxpayer subsidies, which relieve much of the heavy cost burden for many consumers (even with the subsidies, many enrollees say they're struggling to pay).
Faced with this predicament, the IRS decided that Congress' true intent was for all exchange consumers to have a shot at subsidies if they were financially eligible, so it simply decreed it to be so in the form of a regulation that effectively rewrote a major provision the law. Today, the Court ruled that the law says what it says, and that the IRS overstepped. This decision, at least for now, plunges Obamacare into chaos -- and furious Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. When you ram through a lengthy, hastily slapped-together, unpopular law without reading it, unintended consequences sometimes arise. And this one's a biggie. Then again, as Will notes in his piece, a strong case can be made that this passage of the law was very much crafted intentionally, even if today's fallout was 'never supposed to happen.' Congress debated how to phrase the subsidy eligibility language, and ended up passing the Senate's version -- a move made necessary by the anti-Obamacare election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. A previous House version's verbiage had been much more encompassing. But it didn't pass. Obamacare did. If it stands, this ruling not only strips subsidy eligibility from many Americans (which could/will touch off a breathtaking adverse selection death spiral), it liberates tens of millions from the unpopular individual mandate tax. Why?
The individual mandate tax only applies in jurisdictions where consumers are eligible for subsidies. Thirty-six states are now off the table on that front, if this decision holds. The Court went out of its way to acknowledge the potentially drastic consequences of its ruling, ultimately concluding that it's not the judiciary's job to clean up messes made by legislators via ex post facto revisions:
Halbig will trigger a political firestorm that will feature much gnashing of teeth from Obamacare supporters. They ought to point fingers at Congressional Democrats for passing the law that they did, and at the president for signing it. They shouldn't, but will, berate these judges for their ability to read text as it's plainly written. To paraphrase the former Speaker of the House, they passed the law to find out what is in it. And this is what's in it. For more background on the case and its ramifications read this analysis from conservative healthcare wonk Michael Cannon. I'll leave you with this good question:
Next question: what happens to all those people who complied w/ mandate, took subsidy, bought insurance this year?— Brian Faughnan (@BrianFaughnan) July 22, 2014
And how many of those people's coverage is actually in jeopardy of being much more expensive, or even dropped, because of Healthcare.gov's millions of data discrepancies? What a mess. For these logistical reasons alone, this saga isn't over. Stay tuned...
UPDATE - Relevant point. Harry Reid's filibuster power grab helped stack this full Circuit Court with Obama nominees who may be inclined to reverse the panel's 2-1 decision. Thus, overreach could salvage a migraine caused by overreach, and an appeal is on the way:
Reid's nuclear option, which put 3 new Obama-appt judges on the DC Circuit, could save Obamacare.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 22, 2014
Gird your loins, SCOTUS. This storm's blowing your way.
UPDATE II - This is the exact same conclusion the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reached in 2010. The law says what it says, prompting some MSM snark:
Oh, look: CRS wrote in April of 2010 that subsidies could only be applied to health plans bought via state exchanges. pic.twitter.com/UUU71Bp1Sm— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 22, 2014
POLITICO Chief Political Columnist Roger Simon is accusing Texas Governor Rick Perry of sending National Guard troops to the border so they can "shoot small children."
Rick Perry sending 1,000 National Guard troops to border to shoot small children. Could make good headlines -- in Russia.— Roger Simon (@politicoroger) July 22, 2014
First off, lets just mark this under most asinine statement of the day. Second, funny how Simon conveniently ignores why Perry is sending the troops: to stop cartels and gang members who actually shoot and murder small children from entering the United States. Here's one example:
Border Patrol documents newly obtained exclusively by Townhall detail the crimes MS-13 and other gang members in the Nogales processing center admit to committing.
In an interview with Border Patrol agents, 15-year-old self admitted MS-13 member with the last name Aguilar said he killed a member of rival gang 18th Street six months ago with a fully automatic Uzi before coming to the United States.
"He claims he walked over to the wounded rival, and emptied the magazine into the rival's body," interview documents show.
Aguilar also admitted to, "being involved in extortion for the gang," and "collecting money from local vendors and threatening them if they refused to pay."
Finally, the smear from Simon that National Guard troops are interested in "shooting small children" is abhorrent and disgusting. Border Patrol alone has gone above and beyond agents' job descriptions to care for children pouring across the border without their parents in a humane way. The National Guard will no doubt do the same.
It’s been almost a week since Israel launched its ground offensive into Gaza. Since that time, scores of IDF soldiers have been killed (including at least two American “lone soldiers”) and the civilian death toll (since the fighting first broke out) has now eclipsed 600. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strenuously argued that despite the high costs of war, the world’s only Jewish state, surrounded by hostile and malignant actors, has a right to defend itself. This is a sentiment both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have publicly affirmed.
But the politics of the situation became somewhat inflamed over the weekend when Secretary Kerry was caught on an open mic. Speaking to an aide before an appearance on Fox News Sunday, he said Israel’s excursion into Gaza was “a hell of a pinpoint operation.” This has raised suspicions, especially on the Right, that the administration isn’t fully backing Israel. The State Department vehemently denies this allegation.
Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that the American public stands firmly behind our Middle Eastern ally. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Israel’s actions are warranted, according to a freshly-released CNN poll:
Monday Palestinians officials reported more killed, bringing the death toll to around 550. It's unknown how many were militants, but the United Nations has estimated that 70% are civilians. Israel announced Monday that seven more of its soldiers were killed, bringing to 25 the number of Israeli soldiers who have died. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed.
According to the poll, 57% of the public said the Israeli actions against Hamas, the Palestinian organization that runs Gaza, are justified, with just over a third saying they are unjustified.
Forty-three percent of those questioned said Israel's using about the right amount of force, with 12% saying they're not using enough. Nearly four in 10 said Israel is using too much force in Gaza.
"Attitudes toward Israeli military action have been extremely stable over the years," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In 2012, an identical 57% thought that Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza were justified. And in 2009, the number of Americans who felt that way was only a few points higher, at 63%."
Not surprisingly, Republicans strongly support military engagement in Gaza:
Forty-five percent of Democrats questioned said that Israeli's military actions in Gaza are justified. That number jumps to 56% among independents and 73% among Republicans.
For what it's worth, the poll was conducted last weekend, and more than 1,000 U.S. adults participated.
UPDATE: Read Guy's post over at Hot Air about the appalling rise of anti-Semitism...in the United States.
I'll say this for Sen. Mark Pryor, the Arkansas Democrat who votes with Obama 90 percent of the time: At least he didn't go the full Reid by calling millions of Americans liars. No, he merely dismissed the documented phenomena of canceled policies and increased premiums as "anecdotal" evidence against the law for which he cast the deciding vote:
Various polls have shown that Americans who were negatively impacted by the healthcare overhaul far outnumber its beneficiaries. Millions of plans were cancelled due to Obamacare's regulations, including tens of thousands in Arkansas, in spite of repeated promises that consumers would be allowed to keep their preferred plans, with more many more dropped policies looming. The administration itself predicted that as many as 93 million Americans would eventually be stripped of their existing coverage. Also, numerous polls and studies have indicated that most Americans have experienced a rise in costs, including for many of the newly insured. The law was sold by people like Pryor as a robust and across-the-board premium reducer. Both Barack Obama and his eponymous healthcare law are deeply unpopular in Arkansas. Let's review some additional "anecdotes," shall we? Premium increases in Florida:
Florida Blue, the state’s dominant health insurer, snagged more than one in three consumers on the health law’s exchange this year, but many could face rate hikes as the carrier struggles with an influx of older and sicker enrollees, said the company’s top executive...“We will be under tremendous financial pressure initially given the age, risk profile and high utilization of the new membership,” he said. “It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be.” ... About 23 percent of those who bought exchange policies from Florida Blue this year were in the 18-to-34 age category, Geraghty said. That compares to 28 percent nationally. Initial federal projections were that 40 percent of enrollees nationally would be young adults.
We've been writing about Obamacare's risk pool and demographics problems for months. Now here's a story about a man in Oklahoma who's had a nightmarish experience trying to cancel his Obamacare plan. Thanks to Healthcare.gov's back end data problems (which won't be fixed anytime soon) and lack of customer service (hours of waiting on hold), it took him three months to terminate coverage that he no longer needed, and even then, he was stuck with a bill he shouldn't have owed:
Meanwhile, a legally-mandated and transparency-minded Obamacare database website...isn't working:
A long-awaited federal database designed to reveal doctor payments from the drug and medical device industries is plagued with confusing error messages, according to a report. Physicians told ProPublica that they are seeing long waits and error messages when trying to look up their entries on a preliminary version of the Open Payments website. "Doctors say it is taking them as long as an hour, sometimes longer, to verify their identifies and log in," reported Charles Ornstein with ProPublica. Those who make it through the system and do not have relationships with industry are reportedly met with the message: "You have the following errors on the page. There are no results that match the specified search criteria."
But never mind all that. Everything is working "incredibly well," we're told. People "love" Obamacare! In fact, I think it was Senator Mark Pryor who once gushed that Obamacare was "an amazing success story." What many Americans wouldn't give for an exemption like the free pass just extended to US territories by HHS -- after years of insisting that they didn't have the legal authority to grant such a waiver. Turns out the administration's definition of what counts as a "state" depends on the political imperative of the moment. Speaking of which, keep an eye on this court decision, which should be arriving any day.
Last night, an official Environmental Protection Agency Twitter account sent out a rather curious tweet:
"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is currently the top free app in the iTunes App Store. In the game, players create a "celebrity" avatar and attempt to make said character famous.
The tweet was posted for more than an hour before it was eventually taken down.
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle raised an eyebrow to the bizarre tweet. Rep. Dingell (D-MI) was confused as to what a "Kardashian" was:
I'm the last original author of the Clean Water Act, but I have no idea who/what a Kardashian is and I rarely play games. You OK, @EPAwater?— John Dingell (@john_dingell) July 22, 2014
Whereas Rep. Stockman (R-TX) was a little more blunt:
I hope the Kardashians don't mind being associated with something that spends millions without contributing to society. @EPAwater— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) July 22, 2014
There has been no further word as to how the EPA's rise to online superstardom is progressing.
UPDATE: Rep. Dingell has been hilariously informed as to what a "Kardashian" is.
Staff has now informed me of what a Kardashian is. I'm only left with more questions.— John Dingell (@john_dingell) July 22, 2014
Yesterday Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border with Mexico. Last night in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott stressed that the focus of the troops will be to stop cartels and criminals who have been operating with impunity as Border Patrol resources continue to be overwhelmed.
"This is one of the most important things I can convey. The purpose of adding more boots on the ground is not to address women and children, it's to address this growing reality that a lot of people coming across the border are here for criminal purposes. They're killing, they're raping, they're robbing, they're doing all kinds of harsh criminal activity," Abbott said. "Right now you should consider them [National Guard troops] to be a force multiplier."
Further, Abbott said the federal government and President Obama have "turned their back on Texas," but stressed that this is not simply a Texas issue but instead one that affects the entire country.
"This is a United States of America issue. Look at all of the different states in the country that are reacting to the situation," Abbott said. "The President has turned his back. Remember Greta it was two weeks ago the President was in Austin, Texas just a few hundred miles away from the border and he had his hand out taking money from people for political purposes and he could not trouble himself to go down to the border to see first hand for himself, the catastrophe that he is partly responsible for creating."
The US Department of Agriculture conducted a large experiment with school breakfast programs in public schools from 1999 to 2003, alternately providing either universal breakfasts or breakfast-in-class programs aimed at both expanding access and eliminating the stigma associated with the school breakfast program. Policymakers have long been concerned with low participation rates in the breakfast program and these experiments were designed to combat that problem.
It worked: participation in the school breakfast programs rose. The problem, a new study finds, is that the expanded participation brought largely no benefit to those it was intended to help.
As authors Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and Mary Zaki of Northwestern University write:
Despite the increase in breakfast consumption under BIC, we find no positive impact on most other outcomes. In contrast to the earlier, quasi-experimental literature, we find no positive impact on test scores and some evidence of negative impacts. Similarly, there appears to be no overall positive impact on attendance rates or child health. There is suggestive evidence that BIC may improve behavior and health in some highly disadvantaged subgroups, though.
The authors urge that their results don't speak against the effectiveness of the school breakfast program as constituted, but merely against efforts to expand the program. They find that the increase in participation resulted largely from students who merely substituted school breakfasts for those they were already getting at home - and that a certain percentage of the increase in participation was from some children eating two breakfasts. The authors write that "the realtively modest measured benefits suggest that policymakers should carefully consider how to trade these off against the increased program costs."
Author James Bovard recently noted:
A 2006 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study concluded that "making universal-free school breakfast available" failed to change "students' dietary outcomes" or reduce the number of kids who skipped breakfast. Similarly, a 2006 Journal of Child Nutrition and Management study and a recent University of North Carolina study concluded that providing universal free breakfasts failed to improve academic performance.
This is a relatively small issue - "efforts to expand access to the federally-provided school breakfast program have largely been ineffective" - but it speaks to the challenge conservatives face in the public policy arena. Some children, and especially at-risk children from low-income families, are malnourished and the federal government has attempted to come up with a policy to increase participation rates in a program aimed at combating the problem; who could be against that?! But it turns out that federal efforts in this arena have been largely a waste of money, and sometimes actively harmful to the very children it's intended to help.
Pointing out that a relatively small program with a modest budget aimed at helping poor, at-risk children might be a waste of money is going to be unpopular. But one small, ineffective, well-intentioned program here, another small, ineffective, well-intentioned program there, and suddenly we're looking at a large, ineffective, well-intentioned government leviathan. In an era where the deciding electoral metric is "cares about people like me," it's hard to build a message that all those well-intentioned programs might not actually work well.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking the border crisis into his own hands and announced late yesterday afternoon that he's deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border in hopes to stem the wave of illegal aliens pouring into the United States with a focus on stopping criminal aliens who are exploiting overwhelmed resources. The troop deployment will bolster the ongoing law enforcement operation known as Operation Strong Safety, which is "focused on combatting criminal activity in the region resulting from the federal government's failure to adequately secure the border," according to Perry's office.
This deployment builds upon Operation Strong Safety by providing additional personnel that will work seamlessly and side by side with law enforcement officials. It also builds on the National Guard's existing border presence, which has been utilizing air assets to patrol the region looking for illegal activity.
The statistics on crimes committed by illegal aliens since 2008 in Texas are staggering.
Since 2008, more than 203,000 criminal aliens have been booked into Texas county jails. Over the course of their criminal careers, these individuals have committed more than 640,000 crimes in the state of Texas alone, including more than 3,000 homicides and nearly 8,000 sexual assaults.
"There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government's failure to secure our border," Perry said yesterday during a press conference. "The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America."
"It's been approximately a month since I visited a federal detention facility in McAllen and saw first hand the human tragedy unfolding on our southern border. The plight of these unaccompanied alien children has rightfully captured national attention as we learn details of their harrowing journeys," Perry said. "Equally as concerning however is the fact that unaccompanied children only make up 20 percent of those apprehended crossing the border illegally. As the brave men and women of the Border Patrol are pulled away from their law enforcement duties to give humanitarian aide, drug cartels, human traffickers, individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities."
It has been extensively reported at Townhall that violent gang members from MS-13 and 18th Street are being housed at federal Border Patrol processing centers and that they are exploiting overwhelmed resources in order to recruit more members and to gain easy access to the United States.
The IRS may be changing its tune a little bit when it comes to former head of tax exempt groups Lois Lerner's "lost" emails. IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane testified yesterday on Capitol Hill that all of the emails may not have been destroyed and that IRS officials need more time to look into what emails they still have.
According to Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, they're not sure yet what emails are still available for review and that further investigation is necessary. However, Issa said in an interview with Greta Van Susteren last night that there are more crashed hard drives at the IRS and that many questions surrounding Lerner's correspondence with other IRS officials and employees remain.
"They don't know what they should know because they haven't even looked and even today they're giving us ambiguous answers," Issa said.
Yesterday former advisor to President Bill Clinton, Lanny Davis, called for a special prosecutor to look into the IRS scandal.
Headlines broke in April surrounding an investigative report that revealed 40 veterans had died waiting for appointments at the Pheonix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Further examination affirmed that this was not a singular instance, but rather a widespread case of bureaucratic corruption.
Between the falsification of waiting lists, the retaliation against whistle blowers, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, all eyes have been on the VA the past few months. Should it come as a surprise, then, that numerous commissions, GAO investigations, hearings, and IG reports previously spoke to the inefficiencies of the VA? Nothing was done about this deep, institutional problem until it was too late.
Peter Schuck, Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School, has written a book titled “Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better” which chronicles the deep structural flaws that undermine the vast majority of federal agencies. Though the VA is a perfect case study for what he describes in his book, Schuck analyzes a large number of domestic programs and develops criteria for assessing their effectiveness.
At last week’s “Fixing the US Department of Veterans Affairs” panel at the American Enterprise Institute, Schuck outlined several features that contribute to the defective nature of large government service programs:
1. Ever-increasing budgets: In the case of the VA, the budget has doubled in real terms over the past 10 years. Big government agency budget hikes are often driven by demographics and interest group politics.
2. Little to no evaluation of cost effectiveness: Less than one percent of the federal budget is devoted to evaluating the effectiveness of the other 99 percent of the federal budget.
3. Outdated information systems: The storage of information is often antiquated and is usually paper driven. Record keeping is chaotic and files are lost. Additionally, the data relied upon to formulate policy is almost invariably much poorer than the data private market actors use to inform their decisions.
4. Rigid conditions for workforce: Schuck describes these government programs as having “rules so rigid, they would make a strong union blush.” It is very difficult to discipline workers and nearly impossible to fire them. If a problem arises, employees are often simply relocated.
5. Workforce size: The number of employees in these programs are not commensurate with the demands that are placed on them. Demand for service increases as qualifications for benefits ease.
6. Benefits take the form of entitlements: This reduces the amount of discretion that policy makers can exercise when adjusting benefits to accommodate emerging needs and changing costs.
7. Growing resistance of private actors to participate as contractors or workers: The programs are poorly managed and the reimbursement formulae are too often outdated and inflexibly managed.
8. Strong resistance to change: Implementation of reform is impeded by systematic obstacles that are deeply embedded in our governmental system. In terms of the VA, it is almost impossible to relocate a hospital to an area where veteran needs are far more pressing.
9. Fraud, waste, and abuse: Corruption as an extreme form of fraud is endemic and occurs in all of these agencies to some considerable degree.
10. Incentives: The incentives that drive these agencies are often very perverse. The objective of officials is often not to serve the goals of the program, but rather to achieve “bureaucratic objectives that are congruent only on occasion with the public interest that they’re supposed to serve.”
These problems are structural and have little to do with which party is in charge in Washington. Schuck aims to identify the endemic pathologies at large government agencies in order to take appropriate steps toward reform.
Watch Peter Schuck discuss his book on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart:
Additional reading: Check out Jim Geraghty's new book, "The Weed Agency: A Comic Tale of Federal Bureaucracy Without Limits."