Marco Rubio

Today in Liberty: Join Amash’s Rebel Alliance, Celebrate Human Achievement

“Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.” — Will Rogers

— Why buy coverage when you don’t have to?: Serious question. Obamacare’s individual mandate is meaningless, at least for the first two years. So meaningless in fact that Americans can escape it by claiming virtually any hardship. “Filed for bankruptcy in the past six months? Had medical bills you couldn’t pay in the past two years? Been a victim of domestic violence? Received a shut-off notice from a utility company? If you don’t want to buy insurance under Obamacare, you don’t have to. No penalty,” Politico explains. “The individual mandate may be the most despised part of Obamacare, but the reality is that it’s much smaller than people think. It’s riddled with exemptions, hardships and other loopholes that allow millions of people off the hook for enrollment by March 31.”

— Keep Calm and Join the Rebellion: Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) end of quarter money bomb began this morning. As of 7:15 am, he’s already raised $6,021.14. Amash is facing an establishment-backed primary challenger. “We’ll fight their army of starched collars and pinstripe suits with a different type of army — the grassroots,” the campaign says via Facebook. “The great news is that we far outnumber them. For every $1,000 check a lobbyist can cut to Brian Ellis, I’m confident there are 100 grassroots supporters who can send Justin $35 at www.justinamash.com.

NSA Story Causes Politicians to Break Ranks, Gives Voters Hope

The story of Edward Snowden/NSA data collection is difficult for anyone who understands the need for surveillance as a security measure, but who also abhors the thought of living under a “surveillance state.” Whistleblowing takes great courage but carries the unfortunate side effect of exposing anything that may have been good about the program — which, in this case, is, admittedly, hard to find given the domestic thrust of the NSA’s activities.

But what’s particularly interesting is how the program has not only gotten the average citizen to reexamine what they’ll live with in the name of security, but how it has started to align and divide lawmakers and politicians who must take a stance on behalf of their constituencies and — hopefully — their own consciences.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek offers an interesting piece detailing just how the NSA fiasco has gerrymandered the usually predictable party lines:

While some leading Democrats are reluctant to condemn the dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records, the Republican Party has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency’s broad powers. But the lines are not drawn in the traditional way.

The Republican National Committee and civil libertarians like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have joined liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on one side of the debate — a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations.

Failed $831 billion stimulus bill signed five years ago today

Believe it or not, folks, it’s been five years since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 stimulus measure spent $831 billion on infrastructure, tax credits, and other policies that largely served as taxpayer-funded giveaways to core leftist constituencies

Passed in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the stimulus bill was based on the Keynesian notion that the government, through spending on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects and other purported economic multipliers, could drive aggregate demand and create jobs.

Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, the economic advisors who developed the stimulus plan, argued that these policies would help bring the United States back from the brink of economic depression. In their January 2009 policy paper, the two economists claimed that the unemployment rate would not exceed 7.9% with the stimulus bill, while it would reach 8.8% without it. Because, you know, counterfactual.

They were wrong.

Even with the $831 billion stimulus bill, the unemployment rate rose from 7.8% in January 2009 to 10% in October of that same year, at which point Romer declared that the measure had already had its greatest impact. In fact, unemployment didn’t fall below 9% until October 2011.

The infamous Romer-Bernstein chart shows the unemployment rate falling to 5% in December 2013. In reality, the December 2013 unemployment rate was 6.7%, nearly 2 points higher.

Administration considers another illegal Obamacare change

Two weeks after the Obama administration unilaterally delayed enforcement of the employer mandate until 2016, the Washington Examiner reports that discussions are underway to extend Obamacare’s “risk corridors” provision to ease concerns being expressed by uneasy insurers:

“The Obama Administration may extend beyond 2016 a federal reimbursement program for health insurance companies that lose money by participating in the newly created health care exchanges,” reports Susan Ferrechio. “Industry insiders told the Washington Examiner a plan to extend the Affordable Care Act’s ‘risk corridors’ are under discussion, but that administration officials have not made a final decision.”

The risk corridors provision — one of the “three “Rs” of Obamacare — guarantees payments from the from the federal government to insurers if the risk pool isn’t properly balanced with the young and healthy people who are intended to offset the costs of sick and unhealthy consumers. The payments come from a fund into which insurers contribute, and it was originally scored as revenue-neutral, meaning that there wouldn’t be any cost to taxpayers.

Conservatives miss the point on weed and CVS

Yesterday, the drug store chain CVS announced that it would no longer sell tobacco products. The move drew sharp reactions and generated controversy, for and against. President Obama took time away from his busy schedule of campaigning, golfing, and vacationing to praise the decision.

As predictable as the sun rising out of the east every morning, some conservatives took the opportunity to attack President Obama and proceeded to look like fools in the process.

One of the conservatives (the term is used loosely in this case) who chimed in on this pressing controversy was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “Many of the same people applauding #CVS for not selling tobacco are ok with making it easier to buy and smoke pot,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag, “#makesnosense.”

For starters, it appears Rubio is not familiar with the difference between the private sector making a business decision and government policy. CVS can choose whether or not to sell tobacco products. If customers have a problem with this decision they can shop at another retailer.

If someone wants to buy and consume marijuana, however, they may go to prison under current laws. I understand this is a difficult concept for Rubio to grasp, but it is entirely consistent to applaud a private company’s decision to no longer sell tobacco and to oppose throwing people in jail for smoking a joint.

Today in Liberty: Senators want congressional approval of Afghan missions, gun rights could surface again at SCOTUS

“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism….The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.” — Ronald Reagan

— Senators to rollout resolution on future Afghanistan missions: A bipartisan group of senators will hold a press conference today at 11 am in the Senate Radio/Television Gallery to discuss the introduction of a measure that would require congressional approval for military missions in Afghanistan after 2014. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) appears to be the primary sponsor of the resolution, but he will be joined at the presser by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

— House GOP backs down from debt ceiling demands: House Republican leaders don’t have enough support in their conference to try to get concessions from the White House in exchange for a debt ceiling increase. The admission comes a day after key House conservatives urged Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to avoid debt ceiling “theater” and pass a clean bill.

Deal reached to slow Iran’s nuclear program

Obama's Iran statement

News broke late Saturday evening that a historic deal had been reached between Iran and six countries — including the United States, Russia, and China — that would limit the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

The “historic” deal would require the regime in Teheran to destroy its 20 percent uranium and freeze the 3.5 percent stock the country has currently produced for its nuclear energy program.

The Washington Post explains that 20 percent uranium is “needed for research reactors that produce isotopes for cancer treatment and other applications, such as agricultural to enhance fertilizers.” The paper notes that this level of enrichment is “only several steps away from being boosted to weapons-grade levels at more than 90 percent.”

In return, there would be no further sanctions against Iran for at least six months, provided that the regime allows daily inspections and follows through on the destruction of the higher levels of enriched uranium.

“These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” said President Barack Obama in a televised statement late Saturday evening. “Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.”

Rubio wants repeal of Obamacare’s bailout for insurance companies

There is a provision in Obamacare that was key to getting insurers to back the law that protects them from financial losses they may incur if too many sick and unhealthy people end up in the risk pool.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to introduce legislation, likely this week, that would repeal the “risk corridor” provision of the law, which would get taxpayers off the hook for a bailout in the event that insurers faces losses:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the provision could amount to a bailout of the insurance industry, which stands to lose if the troubled Obamacare exchanges fail to enroll enough people to make the system financially viable. Obamacare enrollment has already been stymied by glitches at the healthcare.gov sign-up site and it could be dampened again under an administrative fix President Obama proposed this week to resolve problems with millions of cancelled policies.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said the Tea Party-aligned senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate is concerned that the fix Obama proposed would increase the likelihood that insurance companies would need a federal bailout. And the existing law would effectively give Obama a blank check to deal with it, he said.

“We need to protect taxpayers from having to bail out anyone as a consequence of Obamacare,” Conant said in an email exchange with the Washington Examiner. “Rubio’s bill will fully repeal the ‘risk corridor’ provision in Obamacare, preventing a bailout.”

70% of voters support individual mandate delay

The problems with the federal Obamacare exchange website have driven even more Americans to back a one year delay of the individual mandate, a controversial provision of the law that requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage.

Obama Administration delays individual mandate enforcement for six weeks

Amid the fury over the embarrassing launch of the federal health insurance exchange, the Obama Administration has announced a delay in the enforcement of the individual mandate, the provision of ObamaCare that requires nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance or face a punitive tax.

The delay, announced late Wednesday, aligns enforcement of the individual mandate with the end of the open enrollment period for the exchanges, which ends on March 31, 2014. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated on Monday that the temporary delay was in the works.

Prior to the delay, an uninsured individual would have had to purchase health insurance coverage by February 15 to avoid the individual mandate tax. The tax for 2014 is $95 or 1% of gross income, whichever amount is greater. But the delay now brings the mandate inline with the end of the exchanges.

“What the administration is doing today is probably best described as a tweak to the individual mandate: They are allowing anyone who purchases coverage during open enrollment (up through March 31) to not face a tax penalty for those three months they spent uncovered,” Sarah Kliff explained at the Washington Post. “This is only true for people who buy coverage through the marketplace.”

“How much this change had to do with HealthCare.gov’s technical problems isn’t totally clear. On the one hand, it certainly helps alleviate some of the time pressures on the administration if it can give shoppers six additional weeks to purchase coverage. On the other, it’s easy to see this change getting made in any situation,” she added.


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