Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome to the Nanny State of America

"We are Americans and we have a right to disagree with any administration."

--Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady

Thanks, Mrs. Clinton; I do. Disagree.
Funny how each party’s words are baked, fried, skewered, and re-served for crow-eating sessions by the opposition.
I vehemently disagree with the direction this Administration is taking our country, particularly with this week’s signing of the healthcare overhaul many see has a keel-hauling of American society.

Welcome to The Nanny State of America, land of the un-free to chose, and home of the knaves who now must work not only to put food on the table, but also see a larger share of income “appropriated” so that others may suckle from the government teat.

Does the American Healthcare System need to be reformed? No.
There’s always room for improvement, but our level of medical technology is the envy of the rest of the world, perhaps with the exception of the tedious process of getting modalities and procedures approved for use here. The only reason people leave the US for healthcare is to save money, or access care not "approved" for use here.

Does the American system of Healthcare Insurance need fixing? Absolutely. Rancid with fraud, inefficiencies and opacity, insurance scams and draconian practices that stack the deck against patients and policy holders with legitimate claims, Healthcare Insurance and the medical delivery complex it feeds would by any other name be known as extortion and economic rape and pillage.
(Apologies to my English Comp teachers for that longish sentence; William Faulkner, however, is somewhere grinning ear-to-ear.)

There are two, parallel story lines playing out before our eyes.
The small story is how “fixing” healthcare insurance went badly wrong. The bigger story is how personal liberties and a fundament right—freedom of choice—has been lost, purportedly for the sake of another “right,” which has been falsely ascribed as the right to healthcare. I missed that constitutional amendment in my civics classes.

Do we have Americans in need of affordable healthcare? Yes.
Should we be giving up personal liberties so that a fraction of the population can wait in line with the rest of society for a check up? Nossir.

Did anyone in Washington give a moment’s thought as to how shifting much of the financial responsibility for administering this mess onto State budgets would impact regional economies? Apparently not.
In anticipation of a wave of newly-mandated forced-patients, healthcare provider corporation stocks and pharmaceutical company shares enjoyed a marginal pop on Wall Street.

Enjoy it while you can—because as the rolls of insured’s swell the liabilities of insurance providers past the revenues they’re able to earn under these new rules forcing coverage for all, this will soon be one nation, underfunded, with misery and illness for all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Everything You Were Afraid You'd Learn About Healthcare Reform

I'm surprised FB hasn't sustained a meltdown since the weekend's passage of the initial Healthcare Reform Bill, which now goes to the President's desk for signing.


There's more to come in the companion Reconciliation Bill, which must still run the gauntlet of a contentious Congress before either can have the effect of The Law of The Land. 
Jim Trippon with has compiled a fairly cogent summary of the initial tax implications we'll all be confronting if ObamaCare indeed becomes Law:

The health-care bill that passed the House yesterday is funded in part by increases in Medicare and other taxes, and by a reduction in some tax breaks. Will you pay higher taxes as a result? Here's a rundown of the more-prominent changes for individual taxpayers:

• Change in healthcare Flex plans.
Employees will be able to set aside less, tax-free, in employer-provided healthcare flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

As of 2013, that limit will be $2,500 a year, instead of the $5,000 that many employers now allow. The $2,500 figure will be indexed annually for inflation. For someone in the 28-percent tax bracket, that amounts to the 
loss of a $700 tax break. And funds from the plans may no longer be used for over-the-counter medications, unless they're prescribed by a health-care professional.

• A higher Medicare payroll tax as of 2013.
This affects individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 or more, and couples filing jointly with AGI of $250,000 or more. The Medicare tax will rise by 0.9 percent over current rates of 1.45 for employees and 2.9 percent for the self-employed.

For a single person earning $300,000, for instance, that extra tax would translate to $900 a year. Incidentally, those applicable AGIs of $200,000 and $250,000 
aren't indexed for inflation.

{Brent's note: Remember the problem with AMT? Same flaw here.}

• New tax on net investment income.
In the reconciliation act that now moves to the Senate, net investment income among those higher earners—including the self-employed and estates and trusts—would be taxed at 3.8 percent, starting in 2013. According to 
CCH Wolters Kluwer, a financial information publisher, that income includes interest, dividends, royalties, rents, and "gain from the sale of property, and income earned from a trade or business that is a passive activity."

Distributions from IRAs, qualified retirement plans—including pensions and certain retirement accounts such as IRAs and 403(b) plans—would be exempt from the additional tax. (We're still waiting to hear if 401(k) plans are included on that list; the tax expert we enlisted couldn't find it in the language of the bill.)

• Higher medical-expense deduction.
As of 2013, you can only deduct 
qualifying medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, up from the current 7.5 percent. That 10 percent deduction floor remains the same for households subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax. Households in which at least one member turns 65 as of 2013 would be exempt from this change through 2016.

Individuals who don't want to buy health insurance 
will be required to pay penalties that start at $95 in 2014 and increase from there. While these penalties aren't called taxes, many who oppose them construe them as such, and indeed, it'll be 
up to the IRS to enforce collection of the fines.

{Brent note: If it walks and smells like a duck...}
Taxpayers indirectly pay for the various subsidies in the $940 billion plan.

On the other hand, households with incomes at or below four times the official poverty level are slated to receive tax credits for buying health insurance on their own. Those refundable credits are designed to ensure that those individuals and families don't spend more than a certain percentage of household income on premiums. The credits reduce households' liability for health coverage to between 2 percent and 9.5 percent of income, with those making the least paying the lowest percentage out of pocket.

{Brent's note: Way to incentivize upward mobility and aspiring to earn more.}

Jim Trippon appears every Tuesday morning from 7:00a-8:00a CDT on The CNN650 Morning Show. Listen on line at
Additional Comments to this article have been posted on my Facebook page, search "Brent Clanton"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alice in Wonderland = Nancy in Washington

The Washington Examiner has a very thought-provoking piece  looking at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s shocking analogy to describe the process of passing Obamacare. She was visiting with a group of “friendly” bloggers, so her guard was down a little, perhaps, when she told them, "once we kick through this door, there'll be more legislation to follow."
Kick through this door?
Whose doors are being kicked in?
Yesterday we noted that virtually every survey taken in recent months has shown majority opposition to Obamacare. Is it the door to public approval that's being kicked-in?
Is it now the attitude of Congress that when rational argument fails to persuade the majority, it should be jammed down our throats? By kicking-in our doors? What’s next—brown shirts in our neighborhoods? Is the passage of this monstrosity going to be accompanied by a second coming of Kristal Nacht?  Or, as The Examiner observed, are we now watching the re-definition of American democracy using the Hugo Chavez manual on public persuasion?
You’ve got to be wondering at this point how hard House Speaker Pelosi and her thugs are willing to kick? The more we learn more about Obamacare, the more opposition grows.
Yesterday we mentioned Pollster Scott Rasmussen's latest survey, showing 53% opposed to Obamacare. That’s slightly over half—but the ratio has been solidly against this bill since November. Is Ms. Pelosi going to keep kicking, no matter how great the public opposition? What ever happened to representation of the public’s wishes in the halls of Congress??
Here is the scary part: If Nancy Pelosi's admission to friendly bloggers is proof that Obamacare is only the beginning--not the end of the liberal campaign to put bureaucrats between doctors and patients--then you must be asking yourself, what will Pelosi seek next in health care reform?

Is is not logical to assume that as government health care costs skyrocket, a price control system might not be far behind?
Remember how well price controls worked in the 70’s with gasoline prices? Instead of waiting in lines stretching around the block to fill your tank, imagine waiting in lines stretched around the doctors’ offices to get a prescription. And, if you’re on what ever’s left of Medicaid, once you get that coveted piece of paper, good luck in trying to find a place to fill it—Walgreens is already curtailing its acceptance of new Medicaid members at some of its stores.
Price controls always cause shortages, so the inevitable, next step will surely be rationed health care services. Voila: America has become the European epitome in healthcare. You might as well re-design the American flag with just one red star, upside down, and call us the U.S.S.A.
If you don’t think that’s where we’re headed, then explain the "Slaughter Solution" Pelosi is using in this door-kicking campaign. Simply put, by passing a health care reconciliation bill, the House would "deem" itself to have also passed the Senate version of Obamacare. Basically, voting on something without the formality of voting on it.
Why do you think Nance Pelosi likes this method of “leadership?” It's because there’s no accountability, and these spineless bastards we’ve elected to office don’t want to have to come home and face the music about voting for a law the majority doesn’t want.
Do they really think we’re that stupid, out here in “fly-over country?”

Political analyst Stuart Rothernberg, who is respected on both sides of the aisle, says in The Washington Post, "we've leapt to a totally different planet with this deeming. I feel like I've fallen through the rabbit hole: 'Oh, they are going to not pass the bill and just pretend they passed the bill.'"
Who needs Tim Burton’s bizarre version of “Alice in Wonderland,” when you’ve got Nancy Pelosi in Washington?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beck Bites

“Well, there he goes again.”

Former President Ronald Reagan, the underdog in the election against the incumbent in 1980, Jimmy Carter, uttered that now-famous phrase in response to a comment uttered by his opponent. 

The phrase continues to provide traction, ironically to a man who has refuted Mr. Reagan’s description of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” as a “message of hope” in the 1984 elections. Radio potentate Glenn Beck is now on record as stating the Springsteen anthem is anti-American.
Well, there he goes again.

But, you decide for yourself. 
Here are the lyrics of the song penned by Bruce Springsteen:

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man


Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said "Son don't you understand"


I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go

I'm a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A
Born in the U.S.A.

A question for Mr. Beck, and anyone else still with me this far: Since when is it “un-American” to be critical of how things are? If you’re reading closely the words of the song, they are a description of how life was in America for a young man returning from doing his duty in an un-popular war. 

Another irony is that the same sense of discontent Springsteen captured in “U.S.A." is that which foments the demonstrations of Tea Baggers and free thinkers of today, some of whom ascribe to Beck’s other points of view.

Beck needs to hang on to his day job, and not venture off into the tall weeds of songwriting; the nuances are too subtle for him to fathom.

“Born in the U.S.A.” was written about how life was in those turbulent times.
Doubtless, Springsteen could easily pen another half-dozen stanzas from the fodder in the news this week alone.

If he did so, would that make him any less-patriotic—or just another troubadour singing about the times?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thoughts on Texas Independence

It is ironic that this Texas Independence Day, I am observing the date from half a world a way, in another State of the Union that is now wrestling with its own identity and ideas of “independence.”

The Akala Bill is working its way through Congress, which supporters believe would grant rights to Native Hawaiians that are similar to rights granted Native American Indians by the U.S. Government.

Opponents counter by pointing to the Government’s treatment of Indians as a prime example of how Western Culture and the governance it imposed on the Hawaiian archipelago cannot be trusted. Indeed, they say, if Hawaiian’s still had control of their lands and rights, there’d be no need for “rights” from the Federal Government.

It’s a story that bears watching, and resonates with the spirit of independence that was stirring in Texas in the early 1800’s. Texas’ Independence Day, March 2, 1836, was actually proclaimed before hostilities between Texas and Mexico were settled, at San Jacinto on April 21, of that same year. In fact, the grudge between Mexico and its northern neighbor was never really finalized until the Mexican-American War a few years later. The Republic of Texas was established by proclamation in Washington County, and ratified in blood in a swamp in what is now Harris County.

There are interesting layers of colliding cultures that still exist in The Islands, and if you want to experience discrimination, come to Hawaii as an “owlie,” and observe how you’re treated.

Two examples:
In a retail store on Sunday, standing in the checkout line, two of the cashiers were talking back and forth to one another in their native tongue (I have no idea in what language they were speaking…just knew that it was different.) This is not uncommon in Texas, and I have come to enjoy eavesdropping on Hispanics who slip back and forth between English and Spanish.

I asked the cashier waiting on me what language she was using—the lilting rhythm and vowel-rich speech pattern was captivating to hear. She turned to me with a condescending expression on her face and answer, “We speak English here.”
“No, before that—in what language were you talking?” I pressed.
“We only speak English here,” was her practiced reply.

I know what I heard.
And in that moment, I was irritated and offended that the woman would stand and lie to my face because I was different; because I had noticed the difference in language, and deigned myself worthy to ask about it. Her response to my genuine curiosity (and if she’d allowed it, expression of appreciation for the tongue I heard) was insulting, and I actually left the store a little angry that her discriminatory attitude left us both less than whole from our chance encounter.

On Monday, my Bride and I drove the twisting, winding Hana Highway, which follows the coastline of the northeastern side of the Island of Maui. The scenery is spectacular—if you’re in the passenger seat. It’s a real distraction if you’re driving!

The Hana Highway is routed over breath-taking ravines and gorges that are traversed by single-lane bridges erected over 100-years ago.

You have to pull over to one side to allow oncoming cars to pass before proceeding. The locals know that the visitors to The Islands—conspicuous in rental Mustang convertibles or two-wheel drive Jeep Wranglers—will observe the signs unquestioningly.

And so they generally barrel across without pause, even when it’s your turn. Just another small example of rudeness I noticed on the part of the homeboys here.

In Texas when a traveller stops to ask directions, they’re likely to receive more than they bargain for: turns denoted by landmarks, usually sprinkled with local history and lore. Here, a question about a general destination or a local feature is responded to in mono-syllabic answers, and vague pointing.

The best directions to a destination I received were from a fellow with red, curly hair and blue eyes, who’d just moved to the Island within the past couple of months. Guess he knew the feeling.

I hope the Hawaiians find their way to what they’re looking for with the Akala Bill issue, and their quest for identity and independence.
Maybe they’ll pick up some manners along the way, too.