Monday, June 21, 2010

Libertarians say government shares blame with BP for oil spill

Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian Party, issued the following statement June 18:

"The federal government and BP share the blame for the large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"When the CEO of BP appeared at a Congressional hearing yesterday, Republicans and Democrats predictably engaged in finger-pointing and blame-ducking, trying to score political points. Their fingers should have been pointed at themselves.

"When President Obama gave his Oval Office speech on Tuesday, there was one important word missing: the word 'liability.' The president never mentioned that, thanks to liability caps provided by the federal government, BP was able to engage in riskier activities than it would have otherwise. If BP had known in advance that it would be fully liable for all damages related to an oil spill, it probably would have taken greater safeguards. When you know that your liability will be strictly limited, cutting corners becomes a lot more attractive.

"The spill will cause a lot of damage to the property and livelihood of people living along the Gulf. We have a well-developed system of civil courts to help people obtain compensation. Unfortunately, the legislative and executive branches have inappropriately trampled on this territory, and they seem to be trying to take the place of the courts.

"The president has apparently convinced BP to put $20 billion in some kind of compensation account. He said in his speech that it will be 'administered by an independent third party.' Will this third party be able to decide what 'legitimate claims' are, and how much they should receive? Assessing damages should be done by courts, not by political bureaucrats appointed in backroom deals between the president and a large corporation.

"The president could have taken the opportunity to talk about getting government out of the energy industry, and allowing the free market to guide the future of energy production. Unfortunately, he instead blamed the free market for government failures, and discussed his hopes of increasing government interference in the energy industry.

"For decades, Libertarians have warned against putting trust in government regulatory bureaucracies like the Minerals Management Service (MMS). While costing the taxpayers a lot of money, these agencies generally fail to deliver the kind of protections they promise, they tend to become corrupt, and they discourage vigilance on the part of citizens by lulling them into a false sense of security.

"When large companies and the government start working together, the results can be disastrous. Congressional liability caps, the MMS bureaucracy, and BP have all cooperated to create a costly disaster that should never have happened."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Democrats' Attempt to 'Buy Off' NRA Shows Bankruptcy of 'Disclose Act,' says CCRKBA

/USNewswire/ -- This week's highly-publicized effort to exempt the National Rifle Association from the effects of the "Disclose Act," H.R. 5175 shows how fundamentally bankrupt the legislation and its underlying philosophy is, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today.

"The attempt by Democrats to essentially buy off the NRA with a tailor-made exemption should be proof enough that the entire measure is morally, if not legally, repugnant and should be rejected by Congress," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. "The exemption clause, if it were to be formally adopted as an amendment to the bill, is probably unconstitutional. We think that is reason enough for Congress to stop H.R. 5175 in its tracks."

The proposed exemption would only apply to the NRA, while essentially sacrificing the First Amendment rights of other effective grassroots gun rights organizations due to their smaller membership numbers.

"This proposed exemption is unconscionable," Gottlieb said, "but it reveals the desperation of its sponsors to pass legislation that would still silence organizations critical of how the Democrat leadership has mismanaged things on Capitol Hill. We are today urging our 650,000 members and supporters to tell their congressional representatives to derail the Disclose Act altogether.

"Congressional anti-gunners like nothing better than to drive wedges between effective gun rights organizations," he continued, "and this week's events prove they can still accomplish that. We are astonished that anybody on Capitol Hill would imagine for a heartbeat that they could buy off one gun rights group at the expense of all the others. To think they could actually get away with such smarmy Chicago-style politics suggests that the Democrat leadership in Congress has not only lost its moral compass, they've lost their minds.

"While it is disappointing that the NRA might have accepted the exemption," Gottlieb said, "it is despicable that the offer was ever made in the first place. If pro-gun Democrats want to shield the NRA from the effects of H.R. 5175, they should simply vote against the entire bill instead of trying to carve out a special exemption. They have insulted and infuriated millions of gun owners who are represented by smaller grassroots organizations, and they need to hear that loud and clear."

With more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms ( is one of the nation's premier gun rights organizations. As a non-profit organization, the Citizens Committee is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local communities throughout the United States.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Small Business Employees Won't Be Able Keep the Health Coverage They Currently Have

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) issued the following statement regarding new regulations from the Obama Administration that outline how existing health plans will be forced to change under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and how this impacts health coverage for small businesses:

"Basic common sense made clear that ObamaCare would present major cost problems and lost insurance coverage and choices for small businesses and their employees. While the President and his supporters denied or ignored these facts during the debate over health care legislation, now internal administration documents confirm reality. Up to 80% of all small businesses may be forced to switch health care plans in order to conform to government requirements. This is staggering, and we anticipate that the costs of these plans will be much higher given the vast array of new requirements that are required by the new health care law.

"The bottom line is clear and was predictable during the debate over ObamaCare: Insurance costs will rise for small businesses, innovative choices will be eliminated, and many individuals will lose their employer-based coverage. That's the economic reality, which flies directly in the face of what President Obama and congressional leaders promised."

The SBE Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit small business advocacy group that works to protect small business and promote entrepreneurship. For more information, please visit:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Health Care Law Lands Devastating One-Two Punch

Up To 117 Million Americans to Lose Their Health Plan;
Employer-Provided Insurance to See 9% Cost Increase Next Year

The promises made about health reform suffered two more hits this week as more and more troubling truths about the impact the Democrats’ recently enacted health care overhaul will have on the American people were revealed – health care costs are continuing to skyrocket and more than half of all Americans with employer-provided health insurance could lose their current health coverage. Those disturbing details are contained within a survey from Pricewaterhouse Coopers and new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury.

Buried deep within the new regulations that will govern employer-provided health coverage is the startling estimate that by 2013, under the most likely scenario, 87 million Americans (1 out of 2 Americans with employer coverage) will no longer be able to retain the health plan they have and like. According to that same regulation, this number could be as high as 117 million Americans (7 out of 10 Americans with employer coverage) being forced to change health plans. And these numbers could be higher if the Obama Administration's assumptions and estimates turn out to be overly optimistic.

So much for the President’s claim that, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” Even the New York Times reported, “the rules appear to fall short of the sweeping commitments President Obama made while trying to reassure the public in the fight over health legislation.”

As if that were not enough, echoing estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing that health insurance premiums for millions of families would actually increase under the Democrats’ health care law, PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that employers and employees will see a nine percent increase in their medical costs in 2011. For the average employee, this increase in medical costs could be as much as $1,200 in 2011 alone.1

No wonder the majority of Americans continue to oppose the health law. It spends one-trillion dollars, increases taxes, cuts Medicare to fund a new entitlement program, increases the cost of health insurance, and forces Americans out of the health plan they have and like.


1 See Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), Employer Health Benefits Survey (2009) (calculating average impact of a 9% increase in medical cost using $13,375 average total employer premium).

Ways and Means Republican Press Office

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Camp Requests Information on IRS Outreach Efforts on Tanning Tax

Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) wrote to Douglas H. Shulman, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), asking whether the IRS would engage in aggressive outreach to notify Americans affected by the health care law’s new tax on tanning services that takes effect on July 1st.

Noting that the IRS recently sent over 4 million postcards advertising a small business health care tax credit that many employers are ineligible to receive, Camp’s letter questions whether similar outreach is anticipated for the new $2.7 billion tax on tanning salons and their customers about which the IRS quietly issued guidance earlier today.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CARE to Obama: Take Wildlife Refuge Cuts Off the Table

/PRNewswire/ -- In a letter delivered to President Obama today, a national coalition of wildlife conservation and sporting organizations has asked the President to take cuts to the National Wildlife Refuge System's budget off the table as he considers cutting federal agency spending by five percent in FY 2012. The coalition called the proposed cuts "wrong and inappropriate" at a time when refuges and the species they protect are dealing with potentially one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is neither the time nor the place to propose funding cuts for the National Wildlife Refuge System or for the Fish and Wildlife Service," said Evan Hirsche, Chair of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). "Agencies are already spread thin responding to the belching oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and the President's proposed five percent budget cut would have dire consequences in the Refuge System's ability to help wildlife recover. The survival of species like the brown pelican, which was only recently removed from the endangered species list, is now looking more bleak than it did just a year ago."

National wildlife refuges protect a host of species that are being decimated in the Gulf of Mexico, including sea turtles, manatees and numerous migratory birds. The FWS is projecting that 20% of its nationwide staff will be deployed to the Gulf at some point to address the ongoing crisis, making it difficult for the agency to address ongoing refuge needs or future emergencies such as floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. Should the proposed funding cuts occur, the problems will be magnified ten-fold. Understaffed wildlife refuges will be forced to make difficult decisions to cut programs that protect wildlife, such as vital scientific monitoring programs. Ultimately, the cuts will compromise the System's congressionally mandated conservation mission.

The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a diverse coalition of 22 conservation, sporting, and scientific organizations representing more than 15 million members and supporters. According to a recent CARE report on Refuge System funding needs, the Refuge System currently faces a $3.7 billion operations and maintenance backlog.

Political News You Can Use

D.C. Leaders Believe in Practical Solutions to the Deficit and National Debt, but Doubt They're Politically Possible

/PRNewswire/ -- The "movers and shakers" in Washington are worried about the national debt and believe there are practical solutions for it, but they're just as convinced that partisan politics will block any progress, according to a new survey by Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.

The research, conducted for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of the Choosing Our Fiscal Future initiative, examined how "beltway influencers," those who set the debate and make the decisions in Washington, view the problem. The more than 300 influencers surveyed broke down into two groups:

-- "Leaders" included high-level federal government staffers in the
executive and legislative branches, as well as media, nonprofit and
interest group executives who are key players in crafting and
implementing policies.
-- "Opinion elites" included politically active citizens in the
Washington metro area. This group may not be formally part of the
government, but they are educated, affluent and regularly participate
in civic activism. They're not decision makers, but they do provide
the context in which decision makers operate.

In light of the national debt gaining more attention, with a presidential commission set to make recommendations this December, strong majorities of both leaders (85 percent) and elites (86 percent) believe the rising national debt is a real threat and agree with the statement that "if we do not get the national debt under control, it will overwhelm the federal budget and damage the economy in the long run." But it's not their top priority - only 13 percent of leaders and 9 percent of elites cited the national debt or deficit as the country's most important problem, falling behind the economy (35 percent of leaders and 37 percent of elites) and jobs (19 percent of leaders and 11 percent of elites). A sizeable minority of both groups also worry policymakers are too focused on the issue right now.

Roughly 8 in 10 of the "beltway influencers" surveyed (78 percent of leaders and 83 percent of elites) say there "are at least several practical policy approaches to meet the country's needs without causing the debt to rise." Just as many believe that "there is no realistic way to address the rising national debt by solely cutting spending or solely raising taxes - both cutting spending and raising taxes are required to reduce the debt" (81 percent of leaders and 76 percent of elites say this).

Yet, "Beltway influencers" are highly skeptical that the political system is capable of addressing this issue. Some 78 percent of leaders and 85 percent of elites and say that pragmatic solutions will be impossible to achieve because of partisan politics. And 99 percent of leaders and 98 percent of elites say that relations in Congress have been a period of partisan conflict, up 15 percentage points since the question was last asked in the summer of 2009.

"The Washington influencers take the nation's financial problems seriously, and they think solutions exist," said Scott Bittle, executive vice president and director of public issue analysis at Public Agenda. "But they're doubtful that the political system can act on this issue - and since this group is part of the political system, that's a troubling perspective."

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive for Public Agenda between Feb. 10 and March 9, 2010. Full results are available at

About the survey

The survey was fielded by Harris Interactive® from February 10 and March 9, 2010. Participants included a total of 303 Beltway influencers, comprised of 150 D.C. opinion elites and 153 D.C. leaders including 50 government (congressional staffers and executive branch), 46 media employees and 57 thought leaders from NGOs, interest groups, foundations and associations. The D.C. opinion elite surveys were conducted online and figures were weighted on age, sex, education, race, household income and education where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the D.C. opinion elite population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for the D.C. opinion elite respondents' propensity to be online. Leadership interviews were conducted via telephone and were not weighted.

Political News You Can Use

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ten Privacy and Consumer Groups Ask Congressional Leaders to Strengthen Privacy Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- In response to a discussion draft of a new privacy bill currently under consideration by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, ten leading privacy and consumer organizations today called for much stronger provisions to protect consumer privacy both online and off.

The groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog, World Privacy Forum, Consumer Action, USPIRG, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Privacy Lives, and the Center for Digital Democracy, raised their concerns in a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher and Ranking Member Cliff Stearns.

Read the letter, released by the groups today, here:

Recognizing that "consumers increasingly rely on the Internet and other digital services for a wide range of transactions and services, many of which involve their most sensitive affairs, including health, financial, and other personal matters," the groups' letter made a number of recommendations for strengthening the draft privacy bill, including the following items:

-- The bill should incorporate the Fair Information Practice Principles
that have long served as the bedrock of consumer privacy protection in
the U.S., including the principle of not collecting more data than is
necessary for the stated purposes, limits on how long data should be
retained, and a right to access and correct one's data.
-- The bill's definitions of what constitutes "sensitive information"
need to be expanded; for instance, to include health-related
information beyond just "medical records."
-- The bill should require strict "opt-in" procedures for the collection
and use of covered data and should prohibit the collection and use of
any sensitive information except for the transactions for which
consumers provided it.

"We are committed to working with you to achieve real privacy protection for consumers," the letter concluded.

In addition to the comments in the letter, the ten groups offered a draft "findings" section to be included in the privacy legislation. Read the proposed findings section here:

"Consumers online are being stealthily tracked, profiled and targeted by marketers -- who are able to obtain personal information regarding their finances, health, ethnicity, and their families," said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "The public should not be placed at risk as they grow to rely on the Internet and mobile phones when making purchases and searching for information. Reps. Boucher and Stearns have launched an important debate that must lead to real privacy safeguards for consumers. Both political parties should work together to revise this proposal and enact landmark 21st Century consumer protection legislation."

"The draft bill has served to launch the debate," said John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog, "but substantial revisions are necessary to provide meaningful privacy protection for consumers. In its present form the bill would lock in a bankrupt 'notice and choice' model and offer few real protections. Enacting no legislation would be better than passing this flawed bill in its current form."

"Consumers need strong privacy legislation that sets the default switch on tracking consumers or selling or sharing their information to OFF, and gives consumers real control of their personal data," said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director of USPIRG. "If a Congressional proposal doesn't protect consumers, and isn't based on all the Fair Information Practices, but only on some limited, industry-approved 'here's our take-it-or-leave-it list,' then make no mistake, we will oppose it."

"We're tired of companies paying lip-service to privacy but using consumers' personal information for whatever they want, without giving consumers any meaningful control," said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America. "We need a law that forces companies to build respect for privacy into their business models, and we believe that they will ultimately benefit from increased consumer confidence."

"It has long been the goal of consumer and privacy advocates to see meaningful privacy protection legislation passed at the federal level, to protect consumers and to strengthen online commerce," said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action. "But this draft, despite all the good intentions of House leaders, is full of holes -- not the least of which are that it would supersede even stronger state regulations and that it does not provide for a private right of action for aggrieved individuals."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is There Any Escape From Medicare?

/PRNewswire/ -- Although people may believe that their insurance worries are over once they qualify for Medicare, both doctors and patients are looking for a private option--especially with Medicare's looming bankruptcy, and ObamaCare's promise to cut half a trillion dollars from it to help fund universal coverage.

Many doctors can't pay their rent on Medicare-allowed fees. Some Medicare patients can't find a doctor willing to see them at all, much less to provide VIP service.

Medicare is supposed to be "voluntary"--except of course for paying the tax. Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) explores what that means, in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. (

The original Medicare law promised that the federal government would not interfere in the practice of medicine. Cost escalation, however, quickly led to price controls, "utilization review," and "quality assurance." Courts held that these were constitutional--because Medicare participation is "voluntary." By accepting money from Medicare, a doctor "volunteers" to be bound by more than 100,000 pages of rules.

Physicians are "opting out" of Medicare at an accelerating rate. Additionally, now that Medicare is requiring onerous procedures to enroll, or to "revalidate" enrollment, more physicians are asking why they should.

Medicare has apparently anticipated this exodus. Its new Provider Enrollment and Chain Ownership System (PECOS) may make it impossible for physicians to treat seniors outside the system--or at least for them to order or refer for any service that might be covered by Medicare.

Seniors can't avoid being "covered" by Medicare Part A without relinquishing all Social Security benefits. Moreover, their private insurance options were destroyed when Medicare went into effect.

Why should anyone want to pay for things that are supposed to be free? It's the only way to escape government oversight and rationing. Some patients might feel that a one-hour visit with a physician focused on their problems might be worth more than the government pays for six 10-minute encounters with a nurse practitioner devoted to a government-approved checklist.

Will government be able to keep doctors from offering--and thus patients from receiving--self-paid care? Apparently, it is trying to do so.