Thursday, October 31, 2013
Also known as... Halloween!
All Hallows Eve...
And as always... looking forward to heading over to the home of "He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned" so as to be a part of something amazing!
Indeed, I've just returned home from BJ's; two big bags of candy for "His" house and a box of "Cow Tails" for here!
So... will I get any newsbites in before heading across the river...? Let me give it a shot!
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
"Collaborating" With The New York Times...
Running for New Jersey governor in 2009, Chris Christie hammered the Democratic incumbent, Jon S. Corzine, for using “one-shot gimmicks” to balance the budget, called it “unconscionable” to take away property tax rebates and railed against issuing more debt for transportation projects, promising to “start saying no to spending.”
* YES... THAT WAS THEN... THAT WAS CHRIS CHRISTIE 2009... CANDIDATE CHRISTIE 2009...
But in four years in office, Governor Christie, a Republican, has relied on the same kind of short-term strategies, diverting money for things like affordable housing and property tax rebates to balance the budget, and tapping funds intended for development of new sources of energy to keep the lights on in state buildings.
* THAT'S BECAUSE HE'S A SCUMBAG.
Mr. Christie made headlines when he declared he was canceling construction of a tunnel under the Hudson River to halt runaway costs, but he has issued more debt for transportation projects than any of his predecessors.
* I DO HOWEVER TAKE ISSUE WITH THE WORD "ISSUED." I'D SAY "SUPPORTED." (AFTER ALL, HE DIDN'T DO IT BY EXECUTIVE FIAT... DID HE?)
Overall spending has risen 14%...
...and while state surpluses nationwide are growing, New Jersey’s has shrunk to its lowest percentage in a decade.
* TELL ME MORE ABOUT THESE "SURPLUSES."
The state’s bond rating is among the worst in the country.
* HAS IT GONE DOWN SINCE CHRISTIE HAS BEEN IN OFFICE...??? (HEY... I CAN BELIEVE SOMEONE IS A SCUMBAG AND STILL BE FAIR TO HIM!)
Mr. Christie’s record is drawing scrutiny now, not only because he is emphasizing that he “restored fiscal sanity” to the state as he seeks re-election next week, but also because of his possible presidential candidacy: As a Northeastern Republican, he needs a way to connect with the party’s conservative base, and a strong message of fiscal management could help him offset skepticism about his positions on social issues.
* YES... BY ALL MEANS... LET'S STICK TO FISCAL MANAGEMENT!
Wall Street ratings agencies and nonpartisan commissions...have been sounding warnings about Mr. Christie’s financial management since early in his tenure. The governor has promoted a “Jersey Comeback,” but an analysis of budgets across the country in June rated New Jersey and Georgia as highest in “fiscal stress,” in a category called “What Recovery?”
“He’s posing as a fiscal conservative, and he’s not,” said Gordon MacInnes, a Democratic former state senator and now president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning group. “He talks about a mythical fact that he has produced four balanced budgets. Well, every governor since 1947 has done that, as the Constitution has required them. That’s not the question. The question is, do you balance current spending on current revenues? Or do you borrow against the future to pay for current services?”
Spending continues to expand. Mr. Christie’s budget for 2014, at just shy of $33 billion, will reach the second highest amount in state history and more than Governor Corzine’s did in his last two years in office.
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)
Mr. Christie’s critics give him credit for progress in one key area: working with the Legislature to pay more toward the state’s pension obligations. His administration argues that the state would be in catastrophic shape had he not done so. The governor and the Legislature also limited the size of arbitration awards and the amount by which towns could increase property taxes, and required public employees to contribute more toward their benefits. The administration says these measures will slow the growth of property taxes over time.
“The governor did this without a care for the political fallout from special interests that his predecessors and Democratic legislatures cowered and caved to year after year,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Mr. Christie. “That delay and lack of courage carried serious and lingering consequences, which Governor Christie addressed aggressively to date and will continue to meet head-on.”
* AND I APPLAUD THE GOVERNOR FOR... er... DOING HIS JOB... FOR ACTING AS A TRUE CONSERVATIVES ON THESE ISSUES. (WHERE CHRISTIE DESERVES KUDOS HE'LL GET 'EM FROM ME!)
And some of those who have watched New Jersey’s finances spin out of control over the previous decades — when governors had to raise taxes even in good economic times to satisfy budget demands — say he is moving the state in the right direction.
“You can’t deal with it all at once,” said Joseph J. Seneca, a professor of economics at Rutgers and a former chairman of the New Jersey Council of Economic Advisors. “New Jersey got itself into its fiscal problems and an underperforming economy over many years. It’s going to take some time to get back, but I think the important first steps have occurred very effectively.”
But a recurring pattern has emerged in Mr. Christie’s approach to budgeting that concerns ratings agencies: The governor bases his spending plans on robust revenue growth, despite evidence of a weak economy. And because he has pledged not to raise taxes, when those revenues fail to materialize, he is left scrambling to drain money from other accounts to balance the state budget, relying on the gimmicks he once derided Mr. Corzine for using.
During the past two years, he took $175 million from the money paid to states to settle complaints of mortgage fraud, intended to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. (Nationwide, New Jersey has the second-highest percentage of homes in foreclosure.) Last year, he planned to take $166 million that towns were supposed to spend to build affordable housing. (The towns have sued to stop him, so the governor may have to fill an even bigger hole.)
* IS IT JUST ME OR DO YOU GUYS READ THIS AND ALSO REACT BY THINKING, "HOW IN THE HELL IS THIS LEGAL?"
Christie relied on an accounting switch earlier this year, announcing that instead of sending out property tax rebates in May, as has been the custom, the state would send them out in August, pushing $400 million onto the next budget.
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)
This year’s budget also counts on a one-time bonus of $120 million that he expects to be paid by a company hired to run the state lottery.
(*ROLLING MY EYES*)
Mr. Christie has been especially aggressive about taking funds dedicated to energy efficiency, to developing renewable energy and to reducing costs for rate payers. He has taken roughly $700 million in so-called clean energy funds, dumping most of that into the general fund, and using a smaller percentage to pay utility bills in state buildings. The transfers began small — $42.5 million in fiscal year 2011 — then more than quadrupled over the next three budgets.
* AND FRANKLY IN ONE SENSE I'M APPLAUDING ALL OF THIS RE-ROUTING OF MONEY. THE THING IS... DO IT HONESTLY... BE FORTHRIGHT... BRAG ABOUT IT, DON'T "HIDE" IT SO THAT WE HAVE TO READ ABOUT IT IN THE NEWSPAPER!
That money came mostly from a “societal benefits charge” on ratepayers’ electric and natural gas bills, and from auctioning off carbon dioxide emission allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which Mr. Christie pulled out of soon after taking office.
* AGAIN... HURRAY FOR CHRISTIE HAVING PULLED OUT OF THIS NONSENSE... THE "REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE."
He has similarly drained money intended to fix the state’s aging roads, bridges and public transit system. When he was elected, the Transportation Trust Fund, which for three decades has paid for capital improvements, was depleted. Mr. Christie rejected calls to raise the gasoline tax and instead asked the Corzine administration, then in its lame-duck period, to issue debt to fill it. When that began to run out, he replenished it with money that had been intended for building the Hudson rail tunnel to connect North Jersey and Manhattan, which he had canceled.
* OK. FAIR ENOUGH. INDEED... KUDOS!
He issued $4 billion in bonds, but said that to avoid future borrowing, he would increase the amount the state contributed toward the transportation trust fund every year. But when revenues came up shorter than his projections in 2013, he took the turnpike tolls intended for those contributions to the trust fund and used them to help balance the overall state budget. For fiscal year 2014, he again eliminated the planned payments.
* NOW HE'S BACK TO BEING A SCUMBAG.
In late 2012, the State Budget Crisis Task Force, a bipartisan panel led by Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and Richard Ravitch, a former lieutenant governor of New York, warned that New Jersey’s reliance on the one-shot practice had led to “structurally unbalanced budgets.” The report argued that the pension overhaul was in trouble: The state would have to come up with $5.5 billion a year in annual payments by 2018, and current budgets did not suggest where that money might come from. With a small surplus, then projected at $648 million, there was “little room for error” in revenue projections. “This pushes difficult budget choices off to future years and is ultimately unsustainable,” the report said.
The projected surplus has fallen since then, to about $300 million, or less than 1% of the overall budget. (By contrast, the national average has been higher than 6% since 2011.) New Jersey’s rainy day fund, too, has been empty since the recession.
The report on fiscal stress last spring, by the Federal Funds Information for States, a non-partisan group that relies on states’ own reporting of their finances, found that unlike most states that had pulled themselves out of the recession years, New Jersey was struggling more this year, given its lower-than-expected tax collections and little surplus to cushion it.
That was not the only warning sounded.
In 2011, ratings agencies downgraded the state’s bond rating — it is still among the worst in the nation — out of concern about the low surplus.
* WELL... THAT ANSWERS A PREVIOUS QUESTION!
In recent years, they have also issued alerts that the governor’s inflated revenue predictions were threatening another downgrade.
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)
This spring, the Christie administration acknowledged in a prospectus for potential investors that even its signature pension overhaul would present a “significant burden on all aspects of the state’s finances.” “No assurances can be given as to the level of the state’s pension contributions in future fiscal years,” it said.
Still, Mr. Christie’s optimism abides. Next month, the state will begin allowing online gambling. The legislative budget office says that Wall Street analysts expect it to bring in $40 million in tax revenue in its first 12 months. Mr. Christie’s budget is counting on it to bring in $180 million in just seven.
* WE'LL SEE...
The Office of Legislative Services “has been unable to identify any independent source that endorses such an estimate,” the budget office director, David Rosen, told the Legislature in May. “And despite several explicit requests, the Executive has offered no analysis to support its estimate.”
Well, gang... you read yesterday's stand-alone...
Hopefully you read yesterday's newsbites...
What do you think?
To those of you who are my age or thereabout, have you ever seen anything like the last five years? Is this not above and beyond the usual muck of politics... the lies, the incompetence, the waste, the contempt for the very rule of law?
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it.
* HE LIED.
But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under ObamaCare...and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.
* THUS... OBAMA THE LIAR...
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC News that 50% to 75% of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the "standards" mandated by the new health care law.
* REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE PLANS ARE "LIKED."
One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80%.
* WELL... EVENTUALLY THE PLAN IS TO MAKE IT 100% SO AS TO USHER IN SINGLE-PAYER.
And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
* AND IF "YOUR" COSTS DO HAPPEN TO GO DOWN, IT'S BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS ADDED YOU (OR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY) TO THE OBAMACARE "WELFARE" ROLLS - MEANING YOU'RE BEING SUBSIDIZED... ADDED TO THE FINANCIAL BURDEN TAXPAYERS NOW CARRY... ADDED TO THE DEFICIT SPENDING THAT ACCOUNTS FOR WHAT... THIRTY-SOMETHING.. FORTY-SOMETHING PERCENT OF OPERATING BUDGET FUNDING...?
* SOUND LIKE A GOOD PLAN TO YOU, FOLKS?
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date - the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example - the policy would not be grandfathered.
* BAIT AND SWITCH. GRANDFATHERED DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN GRANDFATHERED.
Buried in ObamaCare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40% to 67%” of customers will not be able to keep their policy.
* SMOKING GUN, FOLKS! THEY KNEW THIS IN JULY 2010 FOR SURE AND SINCE IT TAKES TIME TO COME TO CONCLUSIONS IT'S A SURE BET THAT THEY KNEW LONG BEFORE THIS.
And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40% to 67% range.”
* NOT 5%... NOT 7%... NOT 9%... BUT BETWEEN 40%-67%. FOLKS... YOU WERE LIED TO.
That means the administration knew that more than 40% to 67% of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.
* UH... YEAH... OBVIOUSLY THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS. (THUS "SMOKING GUN.")
Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
* THAT'S BECAUSE OBAMA IS A LIAR.
“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates...
* YES... WE'RE BEATING A DEAD HORSE... THEY LIED... THEY LIED... THEY LIED... DELIBERATELY SO.
Laszewski estimates that 80% of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.
* HEY FOLKS... YOU KNOW HOW EACH TIME YOU BUY A NEW CAR THEY TRY AND SELL YOU OPTIONS AND UPGRADES AND FINALLY AN EXTENDED WARRANTY? YOU'RE ABLE TO SAY NO AND YOU USUALLY DO, RIGHT? WELL... NOT WITH OBAMACARE!
The White House does not dispute that many in the individual market will lose their current coverage...
* THE COVERAGE THEY PROMISED THEY COULD KEEP IF THEY WISHED...
...but argues they will be offered better coverage...
* ISN'T "BETTER" IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER...?
* PLUS... "MORE" DOESN'T ALWAYS EQUAL "BETTER." FOR EXAMPLE... SINGLE MALES BEING FORCED TO BUY POLICIES WHICH PROVIDE PREGNANCY COVERAGE...
* HELL... MENOPAUSAL WOMEN BEING FORCED TO BUY POLICIES WHICH PROVIDE PREGANCY COVERAGE...
...and that many will get tax subsidies that would offset any increased costs.
* AND THIS IS GOOD...??? A GOVERNMENT THAT CAN'T COME CLOSE TO MEETING CURRENT OPERATING EXPENSES ADDING MORE UNFUNDED LIABILITIES TO ITS LEDGER IS GOOD...?!?!
"The consumers who are getting notices are in plans that do not provide all these protections – but in the vast majority of cases, those same insurers will automatically shift their enrollees to a plan that provides new consumer protections and, for nearly half of individual market enrollees, discounts through premium tax credits,” said White House spokesperson Jessica Santillo.
* TAX CREDITS ARE SUBSIDIES. "CREDITS" ARE DEDUCTIONS FROM THE FEDERAL COFFERS! AGAIN, FOLKS, THESE PEOPLE ARE BASICALLY BRAGGING ABOUT EXPANDING DEFICITS, EXPANDING DEBT, AND EXPANDING THE WELFARE STATE!
“Nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people out of their health plans: The law allows plans that covered people at the time the law was enacted to continue to offer that same coverage to the same enrollees – nothing has changed and that coverage can continue into 2014,” she said.
* TOTAL BULLSHIT! IF YOU HAVE A PLAN YOU LIKE AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAYS IT'S GONNA BE ILLEGAL FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANY TO OFFER THIS PLAN FROM NOW ON... (*DEEP BREATH*)... THEN YOU'LL NO LONGER HAVE THE OPTION OF KEEPING THIS DISCONTINUED PLAN!
* FOLKS... WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO REBEL AGAINST THESE PEOPLE?! WHEN WILL THE LIES, MANIPULATIONS, AND BETRAYALS PUSH YOU PAST THE BREAKING POINT?!
The Affordable Care Act will not affect most traditional employer-based plans...
* MEANING WORKERS WHO HAD INSURANCE... WHO DIDN'T NEED OBAMACARE!
...but many of those who purchased insurance policies on their own will see higher premiums.
* AGAIN, FOLKS... MARY AND I PAY $1,327/MO. NOW... WHAT WILL OBAMACARE MEAN FOR US NEXT YEAR? I FEAR NOTHING GOOD.
This is in part due to the 10 "essential" health benefits insurance providers are now required to include. NBC's Peter Alexander reports:
Individual insurance plans with low premiums often lack basic benefits, such as prescription drug coverage...
* WHICH MAKES PERFECT SENSE FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE WHO DON'T REQUIRE COSTLY REGULAR MEDICATIONS!
...or carry high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.
* WHICH IS WHAT I'D LOVE TO BE ABLE TO PURCHASE BUT EVEN BEFORE OBAMACARE SUCH PLANS WERE UNABLE TO BE SOLD IN NEW YORK.
The Affordable Care Act requires all companies to offer more benefits, such as mental health care, and also bars companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions.
* THUS... WE'RE NO LONGER TALKING ABOUT "INSURANCE." YOU'RE ALREADY SICK! THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS FORCING AN INSURANCE COMPANY TO SIMPLY EAT A GUARANTEED LOSS RATHER THAN STEPPING UP TO SHOULD THE BURDEN OF SUCH PEOPLE DIRECTLY.
George Schwab, 62, of North Carolina, said he was "perfectly happy" with his plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield, which also insured his wife for a $228 monthly premium. But [last month], he was surprised to receive a letter saying his policy was no longer available. The "comparable" plan the insurance company offered him carried a $1,208 monthly premium and a $5,500 deductible.
And the best option he’s found on the exchange so far offered a ["mere"] 415% jump in premium, to $948 a month.
* CHANT IT WITH ME, FOLKS... O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A!
"The deductible is less," he said, "But the plan doesn't meet my needs. Its unaffordable."
"I'm sitting here looking at this, thinking we ought to just pay the fine and just get insurance when we're sick," Schwab added. "Everybody's worried about whether the website works or not, but that's fixable. That's just the tip of the iceberg. This stuff isn't fixable."
Heather Goldwater, 38, of South Carolina, is raising a new baby while running her own PR firm. She said she received a letter in July from Cigna, her insurance company, that said the company would no longer offer her individual plan but promised to send a letter by October offering a comparable option. So far, she hasn't received anything.
"I'm completely overwhelmed with a six-month-old and a business,” said Goldwater. “The last thing I can do is spend hours poring over a website that isn't working, trying to wrap my head around this entire health care overhaul."
* TOO BAD, HONEY... THE BORG ARE HERE... RESISTANCE IS FUTILE...
Goldwater said she supports the new law and is grateful for provisions helping folks like her with pre-existing conditions, but she worries she won’t be able to afford the new insurance, which is expected to cost more because it has more benefits.
* SHE... "SUPPORTS"... THE LAW. UH-HUH. OK...
"I'm jealous of people who have really good health insurance," she said. "It's people like me who are stuck in the middle who are going to get screwed."
* WELL... AT LEAST THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH HER SEX DRIVE! (HEY... SHE ADMITS SHE SUPPORTS GETTING SCREWED!)
Richard Helgren, a Lansing, Mich., retiree, said he was “irate” when he received a letter informing him that his wife Amy's $559 a month health plan was being changed because of the law. The plan the insurer offered raised his deductible from $0 to $2,500, and the company gave him 17 days to decide. The higher costs spooked him and his wife, who have painstakingly planned for their retirement years. "Every dollar we didn't plan for erodes our standard of living," Helgren said. Ultimately, though Helgren opted not to shop through the ACA exchanges, he was able to apply for a good plan with a slightly lower premium through an insurance agent. He said he never believed President Obama’s promise that people would be able to keep their current plans.
* SMART MAN!
"I heard him only about a thousand times," he said. "I didn't believe him when he said it though because there was just no way that was going to happen. They wrote the regulations so strictly that none of the old polices can grandfather."
* OR AT LEAST VERY FEW...
For months, Laszewski has warned that some consumers will face sticker shock. He recently got his own notice that he and his wife cannot keep their current policy, which he described as one of the best, so-called "Cadillac" plans offered for 2013. Now, he said, the best comparable plan he found for 2014 has a smaller doctor network, larger out-of-pocket costs, and a 66% premium increase.
“Mr. President, I like the coverage I have," Laszweski said. "It is the best health insurance policy you can buy."
* MAKE THAT "HE LIKED THE COVERAGE HE HAD. IT WAS THE BEST ONE COULD BUY."