This…Actually Won Money…Money…Money…

The US Department of Health and Human Services and Young Invincibles teamed up to spend a sum of some thousands (we think $5,000 but it’s not clear, if you can interpret the beaucra-speak from the contest prizes rules and press release let us know) on this mess…


Even the White House joined in the fun of ripping off a pop song to try to turn it into political propaganda for an age group that so far  is largely not interested in buying into Obamacare.

Here’s why the video isn’t worth whatever price the government and its unwitting partner paid:

1. The video, which received financial compensation, makes heavy and unattributed use of a copyrighted song by Jessie J without attribution. We’re pretty sure if a Tea Party group had used a copyrighted song to illustrate a point against the Affordable Care Act, that concerted teams of IRS agents, left-wing activists, media types, lawyers, FBI swat teams, heavily armed Predator drones, even Eric Holder himself would descend on the Tea Party group to capture those involved and dispense whatever mob justice seemed appropriate at the time.

2. The video’s chorus asks you to “Forget About the Price Tag” for a program that’s been plagued with upward cost estimate revisions since the president claimed it would cost only $90 billion per year. Coming up on 5 years and 5 revisions later the current estimate stands at $2.7 trillion (3 times the president’s original figure) factored in a 10-year CBO projection. Forget about that price tag, indeed…

3. The program’s signature product website healthcare.gov cost taxpayers more than $600 million, and was nowhere near ready for prime time on the administration’s launch date of October 1 of this year. Negligence and gross mismanagement abounded, but no one has been held accountable. But forget about the price tag; we guess it “ain’t about the uh-cha-ching cha-ching.”

4. Speaking of “cha-ching cha-ching,” the $600 million the federal government blew on a non-working website still has NO payment transfer mechanism to pay insurance companies those subsidies the federal government promised. As one observer has pointed out, the Armed Forces of the United States mobilized, deployed, fought, and defeated the Axis Powers, winning World War II in less time than it took the government to develop a non-functional website.

5. In a lilting exhortation, our singer says “there’s no excuse to be uninsured.” But the law applies to all Americans. You get a government-approved health plan, or you get fined. But “just stop for a minute to think.”  Do the super-wealthy like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet really need to purchase individual health insurance?

6. “Keep your mind at ease and get some security.” Like the 5 million+ people who had an individual health insurance policy and have had their plans cancelled due to the Obama Administration’s implementing regulations for the Affordable Care Act? But don’t worry about the “yeah bla-bling bla-bling”!

7. “We just wanna make it more fair with affordable health caaaare.”  But having an insurance policy that has the Obama administration’s gold (or maybe even red!) star seal of approval, does NOT mean you will be getting any health caaaare. It means you have coverage and now have to find a doctor that participates with that insurance program.

8. When coverage expands? Well coverage so far has only contracted with millions of cancellation notices and the president’s extra-legal request that insurers extend policies that his law, as his administration has chosen to implement it, are barred from having…  Even as Obamacare enters maturity as a federal program, the CBO projects we will still have 30 million some uninsured Americans.  But wasn’t that close to the number of uninsured before the government seized control of the health insurance industry?

9. “Take advantage of this opportunity!” What opportunity? Insurance actuarial tables work thusly: a population or risk pool pays premiums. Premiums are used to pay for the bad things that happen to members of the risk pool. Young people in general have far fewer health care requirements–and thus many could benefit from a plan offering catastrophic coverage and socking money into a Health Savings Account, which they control, for later in life when their needs, unfortunately, are destined to change. But like Social Security, the young are paying higher premiums into a program that will pay NOW for sicker people and will not have enough future money coming in to pay for the young when they advance in age and require more costly care.

10. “Why is everyone so oblivious?” Well, many aren’t. A recent poll suggests that only 1 in 4 young people (the target of the video) plan to sign up for “Obamacare,” suggesting that at least the remaining 3 out of 4 aren’t so oblivious and can do the simple math above and see that the program is not a good deal for them. It’s too bad we can’t count the video author among the un-oblivious.

11. “I know we’re in our prime. About time we opened our eyes.” Agreed!

We think the video’s author, Erin McDonald, could have gotten more benefit and closer to the truth if she had stuck with words from the original song:

“Seems like everybody’s got a price” (Like the Louisiana Purchase–Right, Sen Landrieu?)

“…when the sale comes first, and the truth comes second” (Ain’t that the truth? Right, Pres Obama? And your close to 40 recorded promises of “if you like your doctor/health plan you can keep your doctor/health plan.”

“It’s not about the money, money, money//We don’t need your money, money, money.” While Obamacare is precisely about the money, money, money, we’d much prefer a government that espoused this idea!

“Money can’t buy us happiness//can we all slow down and enjoy right now.” This sounds an awful lot like freedom to us. If government would stop worrying about what you and I do with our money and stop trying to steal it to buy votes, corruption, and political power, perhaps we could all just “make the world dance.”

US Senate Says “Presto” And Free Money Appears!

Senate Proposed Marketplace “Fairness” Act Limits Personal Freedom, Choice

Freedom Forge Press

Yesterday the US Senate approved its version of the “Marketplace Fairness Act.” The proposed law seeks to require online retailers to collect and pay sales taxes to state and local jurisdictions. On the face of it, it seems like a good idea. After all, shouldn’t individuals buying goods across state lines have to pay sales tax? It’s only fair because if they went to their local store they would have to pay sales tax. Right? People who rudely seek a deal across state lines rob schools, police, and firefighters of their state and local tax funding.

Enter Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Dick Durban (D-Illinois), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) with the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which should be renamed the “Free Money from Thin Air Act.”

In the world before the bill, retailers did not have to collect and pay sales taxes on goods sold online to out of state customers. That is, unless, and we are over simplifying here, a) the seller had a physical location in the same state as the buyer; or b) the seller’s state had an agreement with the buyer’s state that would require sales taxes to be collected and paid to the buyer’s state.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is one group lobbying Congress in favor of the law.  According to the NCSL, states lost an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 alone from their inability to collect taxes on online and out-of-state purchases. $11.4 billion of that figure is estimated to be lost from an inability to tax online sales. To make up for lost revenue, many states passed “sales and use” tax filing requirements. When filing state tax returns, residents would have to report on the amount of goods and services they purchased from outside their home state and pay their state’s sales tax. That attempt was about as successful as starting a fire with two wet sticks.

As a solution, states could opt to step up enforcement on their own residents who were not paying the sales and use taxes.  But we can only imagine how well the voting public would reward their politicians for dumping this increased tax bill on their laps. Plan B would be to impose the tax collection requirements on the seller of the goods and services. This is a more attractive option for politicians because the out of state sellers often have no local representation and no ability to hold politicians accountable for their actions. The only problem to date has been that if the seller resides in another state it is well outside the reach of the clutches of the home state’s taxing agency thanks a Supreme Court ruling that said such taxation was not constitutional unless authorized by Congress,

Enter the Senate with its “Free Money from Thin Air Act,” which if passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president would provide the very authorization needed to overrule the Supreme Court and permit states to levy taxes on out of state businesses.

And it is only out of fairness (the bill’s name is the Marketplace FairnessAct didn’t you know?!) that states are requiring out of state Internet sellers collect and pay the same taxes as their in-state competitors. The politicians say it’s very unfair for the “bricks and mortar” store to have to inconvenience their customers by collecting taxes when the buyer can order the same item from an out of state online seller and avoid the sales tax. This argument completely overlooks the problem of shipping costs from the out of state seller’s point of view. Many customers have come to expect free shipping from online retailers. So adding a local sales tax on top of a shipping cost will place the online out of state store at a disadvantage. Where is the “fairness” now?

More than once, advocates of the law say, it’s not a new tax, it’s a “due” tax. But if the tax bill hasn’t been collected in the past, it seems like the Senate is expecting the $23 billion to materialize out of thin air–with no impact to consumers. If the issue is state budget pressures, one solution could be to stop dumping unfunded mandates (e.g., Obamacare) onto state budgets. This would relieve the pressure from state budgets without expecting consumers to fork over another $23 billion in “taxes due.”

Of course there’s no reasonable way to comply with the law without some complex tax accounting software. This may explain why Amazon.com made a sudden U-turn from its vigorous opposition to applying state and local taxes to its sales and now supports the law. Trying to find the answer to this reversal and new found friend for politicians doesn’t require much sleuthing. Amazon isn’t looking for tax fairness, it’s looking for customers. Amazon’s convenient new Tax Collection Services offers online merchants a convenient 3% fee for figuring out all that tax mess.  Three percent of $11.4 billion is likely a rich enough potential customer base to come out in support of the new taxing measure.

As usual, Congress, and in this case Democrats and several Republicans in the Senate show an abysmal intelligence of how commerce works outside of their DC dreamland. A few oversights that the Senate made:

1. Complexity. Suddenly, online retailers would be required to have a working knowledge of nearly 9,600 state and local tax laws and regulations affecting everything from different tax rates for different goods and whether certain items are exempted from sales taxes.

2. Enforcement. The bill authorizes state taxing authorities to target online retailers with audits to verify compliance. Businesses simply do not have the financial resources to put into defending and answering auditor’s questions from a variety of taxing authorities.  Not to mention that responding to audits takes them away from much more efficient uses of their time, like running their businesses. The Senate was generous to limit the audits to one from each state. (The Government speak looks like this: “single audit of a remote seller for all State and local taxing jurisdictions within that State”)

3. Ambiguity over what a “State” means. Most people grew up (at least those who were in school since 1959) understanding there are 50 states. This bill extends the “state” definition to include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and “and any other territory or possession of the United States.”

4. Native American Tribes recognized as state taxing authorities. “And any tribal organization (as defined in 18 section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b)).” There are 566 such tribal organizations.

5. What does an “audit” mean. State taxing authorities–to include the 550 new states the Senate found–can engage in all kinds of harassment of businesses without initiating a formal audit.

The bill introduced by Sen. Enzi was supposed to limit a small business’s risk of visits from state tax auditors to one per state. But with final bill markup, a small business is potentially at risk of more than 600 audits with the expanded definition of what a “state taxing authority” means.

The Wall Street Journal reports asking Senator Enzi’s office for clarification on the above issue. When the answer (today!) was that the Senator was still trying to figure out the answer when the bill was passed last night reminds us of the “have to pass the bill in order to find out what’s in it” stupidity started by then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when referring to ambiguity in the Affordable Care Act.

The proposed law serves as another example of Washington ignorance of the private economy. It also illustrates the politicians’ ongoing search for free money at the expense of the freedom of small business owners who operate across state lines. While the search goes ever on and on, 69 Senators waved a magic wand and expected “free money” to come flying out of a magician’s hat. Sixty-nine Senators want you the taxpayer to believe their illusion that they’ve found a cost-free way to fund state and local budgets without harming consumers–ignoring the fact that the money will come from somewhere.

These politicians think they’ve done their part to spread the pain of state and local sales tax in a way that makes the process “more fair” for brick and mortar and online retailers. But they’ve failed to consider a more reasonable alternative–that instead of simply spreading around the tax pain, they could have acted to reduce or eliminate the tax pain by eliminating wasteful spending, ending duplicate government programs, and pretending that unfunded federal mandates such as education, Obamacare, and environmental regulations magically fund themselves

Obama Hears, Addresses “Voices” of Opposition

While speaking at a commencement ceremony in Ohio, President Obama stated that college graduate and young people should disregard any “voices” that constantly warn against government tyranny.

“The voices”, according to the president, say that government is a source of tyranny and bad things. That “tyranny lurks just around the corner.”  The president urges his audience to reject these “voices,” because accepting that tyranny is possible means that our experiment in self rule is just a sham and that people can’t be trusted.

The the president expresses in this speech illustrates his utter ignorance of America’s founding and the very points of federalism, divided government, checks and balances on power, and the concept of natural rights–those given to men and women because we are born, not because some government grants them to us.

In Federalist No. 51, James Madison writes, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But men are not angels. In this line, he acknowledges that some government is necessary. But he goes on to write, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  But angels do not govern the affairs of men, nor are they working in modern government. Thus government power must be controlled.

The president implies that those who fear government tyranny and speak their concerns seek only to “gum up the works” to getting things like gun control, government healthcare, and other legislative agenda items pushed through Congress.

Perhaps the president fails to recognize what tyranny is, we are glad to help him out.

Source: Dictionary.com

Government (at all levels, not just federal) has engaged in a variety of oppressive behavior in the last few years. Examples abound such as banning the sale of sodas of an arbitrary size, banning legal gun owners from having or purchasing guns with more than 7, 10, or more bullets in an ammunition magazine. The government enacted a mono-partisan take over of healthcare, passing a law of approximately 2,000 pages with so many fill in the blanks for the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the federal bureaucracy that the current count of regulations issued to fill in the legislative blanks stands at nearly 20,000 pages, a tower of paper more than 7 feet tall. The president has, despite taking an oath to the contrary, arbitrarily selected what federal laws he will enforce and which he will not.

The president signed a law authorizing the indefinite detention of US citizens without trial and without right of judicial review. His Department of Homeland Security has amassed more deadly hollow point ammunition at a rate faster than used by the US military in conducting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. His Department of Justice is involved in an illegal gun running scandal that resulted in Mexican drug cartels obtaining weapons which were used to murder a US ATF agent and Mexican citizens. Instead of submitting to Congressional oversight, the White House asserted executive privilege to avoid having to answer for its bad acts.

Finally, the US government has recently involved itself in a number of warrant-less, paramilitary raids on American businesses for trumped up charges (The Gibson Guitar factory raid is just one of several examples). While no actual wrongdoing is found, the government refuses to file charges, return seized property, or allow a judicial hearing on the actions that took place.

The examples above do not inspire confidence that government is a merely a benevolent, nurturing force for good. Despite the president’s urging to the contrary, government and the intention of individuals running it are not always noble or pure. And that is why the entire framework of setting up the federal government is one that restricts its powers. The federal government is granted power by the Constitution via enumerated powers–those specifically given to it. Those powers not granted are reserved to the states or to the people. No matter what politicians benevolently promise, that’s how the system should remain.