Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tax Increases, NEA Art For Obama, Newspaper Bailouts

This from American Spectator: If the House Democrats health care bill becomes law, the report argues, it would be a boon to AARP, because while Medicare Advantage plans will be required to pay out 85 percent of the money collected in premiums to claims made by policy holders, the requirement would only be 65 percent for the kind of Medigap policies sold by AARP.

"In other words, under the Democrat bill, seniors could pay as much as 20 cents more out of every premium dollar to fund 'kickbacks' to AARP-sponsored Medigap plans than Medicare Advantage plans," the GOP report charges.

Earlier this month insurer Humana Inc. sent customers who enrolled in the company's Medicare Advantage plan a letter warning them that their benefits would be in danger if the Democratic health care legislation passed. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which not only ordered Humana to stop sending the letters to its customers, but prohibited any other private insurers from doing the same. Except, that is, AARP -- which sponsors a Medicare Advantage program in addition to the Medigap policies it offers, but was exempt from the Obama administration's gag order.


On CNN, Obama said that the new tax on so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans was also not a tax on the middle class, even though some members of the middle class could be affected. Obama also rejected the notion that a penalty for individuals who do not get health insurance, which the health reform plans contain, amounts to a tax increase. [In this way, he thinks he can be keeping his pledge to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. I don't think we are that naive......]
U.S. News and World Report reports: "While they still believe Congress will not succeed in passing a healthcare reform package shaped the way the president and Democrats want, opponents of government-run healthcare are laying the groundwork for lawsuits to stall and eventually kill any Democratic legislative victory—just in case. A broad group of conservatives has begun to explore how to file such lawsuits, who would file them, and what components of the legislation would be challenged, if not all of it".
Courrielche describes the call from the White House to the National Endowment of the Arts this way:

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

It sounded, how should I phrase it…unusual, that the NEA would invite the art community to a meeting to discuss issues currently under vehement national debate. I decided to call in, and what I heard concerned me.

Within 48 hours of this phone call, 21 arts organizations endorsed President Obama’s health-care reform plan. Within days, Rock the Vote started an all out blitz that included a “health care design contest.”

On September 6th, columnist George Will brought the story into the mainstream media when, on “This Week,” he wondered aloud just how many laws the August 10th conference call had broken.

On September 10th, the Washington Times followed the money trail and published the explosive news that of the 21 arts organizations who endorsed President Obama’s health care reform plan…

“…16 of the groups and affiliated organizations received nearly $2 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the 150 days before the conference call. According to a Washington Times analysis of NEA records, more than $1 million of that total came from the stimulus package.


Mr. Obama, in one column, was described as effusive, saying: "I've been fighting alongside of Acorn on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work."

The columnist continues: But the Obama campaign didn't appear eager to discuss the candidate's ties to Acorn. Its press operation vividly denied Mr. Obama had been an Acorn trainer until the New York Times uncovered records demonstrating that he had been. The Obama campaign also gave Citizens Consulting, Inc., an Acorn subsidiary, $832,000 for get-out-the-vote activities in key primary states. In filings with the Federal Election Commission, the Obama campaign listed the payments as "staging, sound, lighting," only correcting the filings after the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review revealed their true nature.

Given his longstanding ties with Acorn, President Obama's protestations of ignorance or disinterest in the group's latest scandal seem preposterous. Here's hoping White House reporters will press the president to clarify just how much he really knows about Acorn and when he knew it.

Michael O'Brien, The Hill: The president said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses. "I haven't seen detailed proposals yet, but I'll be happy to look at them," Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations.

By Kyle Drennin: Appearing on CBS’s Sunday Morning, commentator Ben Stein ripped into CNN political analyst James Carville for claiming anti-Obama protestors were "classless": "the elitist anger of the liberal Democrats is boiling over as some ordinary citizens show they don’t like being pushed around....Contempt for the ordinary citizen is just not American and it does not win elections."

Earlier in his commentary, Stein wondered: "I thought the Democrats were the party of the little guys and those who aren’t classy or well born...So now the Democrats are admitting they’re the party of the rich?" He went on to point out that Democrats have "been getting the lion’s share of very large political gifts for years now. The truth is that the Democrats are the fat cats. I’m impressed that Mr. Carville admitted it. I like him more than ever now."

Stein continued: "I was also interested to see that Mr. Carville, a mere lad of 64, same age as I am, has made fun of the age of the tea party attendees." A clip was played of Carville declaring: " I mean they had every old crank in the country out there." Stein observed: "So now the Democrats don’t think the opinions of senior citizens are worth anything more than ridicule?"


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