Obama Africa Safari Cancelled After Spending Scrutiny

| June 14 2013

Spending Daily | June 14, 2013

Obamacare Fines May Hurt California Workers

CHCF Center for Health reports, “For many businesses Obamacare is downright intimidating. The requirement to provide coverage to full-time employees or potentially face thousands of dollars in fines is what’s really worrying some large companies. Most employees at large businesses already receive health insurance through their employer. But there are still some exceptions. Barbara Andridge is a sales associate at a Walmart near Sacramento. She’s not sure if she’s eligible for the company’s health insurance program because her hours are all over the map — from eight hours one week up to 36 hours the next. To qualify for company benefits she says she’d have to be working at least 30 hours per week. …Some health care advocates are concerned there will be even more employees like Andridge applying for Medi-Cal once Obamacare kicks in next year. They fear companies will limit hours for workers just to avoid having to pay for their health insurance. ‘Employers should not be able to skirt their responsibility simply by exploiting a vulnerability in the law,’ says Steve Smith with the California Labor Federation. …Smith says AB 880 is aimed at preventing low-wage workers who lose hours — and their health care coverage — from turning to Medi-Cal. The fines would vary under the measure, but on average businesses with more than 500 employees would face a $5,500 penalty for each worker who enrolls in Medi-Cal. Smith says the state would collect the fees and use them to offset repeated budget cuts to the Medi-Cal program.”

 

American’s Confidence In Congress Is At Lowest Recorded Point

Gallup reports, “Americans’ confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%, ranking the legislative body last on a list of 16 societal institutions for the fourth straight year. This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record. Americans remain most confident in the military, at 76%. … The percentage of Americans expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress is the lowest for a trend that dates back to 1973. The high point for Congress, 42%, came in that year. Confidence in Congress has been at its lowest points for several years, while it was higher in the mid-1980s and in the early 2000s. … Historically, members of each major party expressed greater confidence in Congress when their party held control of both houses. During most years of the Republican-controlled House and Senate in the early to mid-2000s, Republicans were at least slightly more likely than Democrats to express confidence in Congress. After the Democratic Party took over both houses in 2007, however, Democrats began reporting more confidence than Republicans in the institution.

 

Health Insurance May Be Out Of Reach For Low-Wage Workers

The Associated Press reports, “It’s called the Affordable Care Act, but President Barack Obama’s health care law may turn out to be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, including employees at big chain restaurants, retail stores and hotels. That might seem strange since the law requires medium-sized and large employers to offer ‘affordable’ coverage or face fines. But what’s reasonable? Because of a wrinkle in the law, companies can meet their legal obligations by offering policies that would be too expensive for many low-wage workers. For the employee, it’s like a mirage — attractive but out of reach. …Many are expected to remain uninsured, possibly risking fines. That’s due to another provision: the law says workers with an offer of “affordable” workplace coverage aren’t entitled to new tax credits for private insurance, which could be a better deal for those on the lower rungs of the middle class. Some supporters of the law are disappointed. It smacks of today’s Catch-22 insurance rules. … The law is complicated, but essentially companies with 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer coverage that meets certain basic standards and costs no more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income. Failure to do so means fines for the employer. (Full-time work is defined as 30 or more hours a week, on average.) But do the math from the worker’s side: For an employee making $21,000 a year, 9.5 percent of their income could mean premiums as high as $1,995 and the insurance would still be considered affordable.”

 

Fewer Americans Believe They Will Be Better Off In A Year

Gallup reports, “Fewer Americans are now optimistic about their future personal financial situations, with 57% saying they will be better off in a year, down from 66% who said so last October. Optimism still surpasses pessimism, as 29% expect to be worse off a year from now — although that is up from 11% who said so last fall. Americans’ optimism about their financial future has returned to its January 2012 level, after spiking in May and October of last year during the 2012 presidential campaign. The 29% of Americans who expect to be financially worse off a year from now is the highest recorded in five years, — although it is only slightly worse compared with January 2012. One in 10 Americans say they expect their financial situation to stay the same.”

 

Congressional Panel Investigates Deeper Into IRS Scandal

Reuters reports, “Congressional investigators probing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative political groups will interview a key Washington IRS official on Friday and want to speak with as many as 20 more people, sources told Reuters on Thursday. IRS lawyer Carter Hull will be deposed by congressional lawyers on Friday, said sources close to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives committee taking the lead in an inquiry that involves several panels on Capitol Hill. In an earlier interview with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a lower-level worker from the IRS office in Cincinnati criticized Hull for micro-managing the processing of applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups when they began emerging in 2010. …Some Republicans have alleged there were political motives behind the practice and are trying to find evidence linking it to the White House. An audit last month from the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration, which monitors the IRS, found no evidence of political or White House involvement. The congressional panels are conducting their own investigations.”

 

Golden Hammer: Federal Regulators Given Large Bonuses And Gifts On Taxpayer Dime

The Washington Guardian reports, “The federal agency charged with guarding against abuses in the commodities markets is facing questions about its own excesses. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has tripled its budget since 2008, increasing its payroll by $50 million over the last two years alone while handing out $1.2 million in bonuses and even lining up a contractor to reward its employees with $50 gift cards. And the independent federal agency, which is free from the normal civil service system compensation limits, pays a whopping 82 percent of its employees a six-figure salary. The agency defends its spending, saying its responsibilities have grown substantially since the financial crisis in 2007-08 and that attracting talent with expertise in commodities is expensive. And, it adds, it buys gift cards for its best employees only occasionally. The CFTC’s explanation, however, doesn’t sit well with some key members of Congress who are dubious about the agency’s latest budget request seeking an increase to $315 million in 2014 at a time when other federal budgets are shrinking from sequester budget cuts.  House Republicans, in fact, voted Thursday to cut the CFTC budget nearly in half to $194 million.”

 

“Why (Sigh!) Farm Subsidies Survive”

Robert Samuelson writes in The Washington Post, “The farm bills now before Congress — one from the Senate, the other from the House — attest to, if nothing else, the inertia of politics. There is no “public interest” (a phrase often meaningless in Washington) in having government subsidize farmers. Food would be produced without subsidies. The uncertainties and insecurities faced by farmers from unpredictable weather and global markets, though often compelling, are paralleled by the uncertainties and insecurities faced by many industries from disruptive technologies, erratic business cycles and shifting public tastes. Yet, unlike most industries, agriculture is lavishly subsidized and protected by government. The explanation is force of habit. Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, when there were plausible reasons to aid farmers, government has consistently accorded agriculture special treatment. The politics of doing so long ago became self-perpetuating. Without the massive subsidies, the Agriculture Department would be far less important. So would the congressional agriculture committees and the crowd of farm groups (sometimes, it seems, one for almost every crop) that lobby for benefits. And certainly the farmers who receive payments and protections feel entitled to them.”

 

Budget Talks Need A Reboot

Kimberley Strassel writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Step No. 1 in any recovery program is admitting a problem. Think of this week’s reboot in budget talks as a Republican effort to push Democrats into rehab. White House officials and GOP senators met quietly this week to talk budgets. The discussions were vastly different from those in the past. The GOP, with a lead from Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, is demanding that before anybody talks fixes, both sides first admit there’s a problem. ‘This is all about forcing the reality of just how big the hole gets,’ says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, one of a dozen Republicans who met on Tuesday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other officials. …That neglect has been a gift to Democrats, allowing them to talk only within the coming 10-year budget window—the period before entitlement programs go nuclear. The White House gets to claim it is committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare, as the president offers token adjustments to make the programs look better in the near-term. To this day, Mr. Obama insists we need a mere $1.5 trillion more in deficit reduction (for a supposed grand total of $4 trillion) to make everything hunky-dory.”

 

IRS Spending Panel To Be Headed By Tom Udall           

POLITICO reports, “New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall will take over the appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Udall replaces the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).The new position gives Udall the power of the purse over the embattled IRS. Before the agency’s announcement last month that it targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, IRS senior leadership had appealed to the subcommittee for additional funding for enforcement and taxpayer service programs.”

 

Obama Africa Safari Cancelled After Spending Scrutiny

The Washington Post reports, “When President Obama makes his first extended trip to sub- Saharan Africa this month, the federal agencies charged with keeping him safe won’t be taking any chances. Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency. Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet­proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close. …The president and first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counterassault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. But officials said Thursday that the safari had been canceled in favor of a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner.”

 

Is A $2,000 An ‘Affordable’ Deductible?

CNN Money reports, “Until now, much of the debate swirling around Obamacare has focused on the cost of premiums in the state-based health insurance exchanges. But what will enrollees actually get for that monthly charge? States are starting to roll out details about the exchanges, providing a look at just how affordable coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be. Some potential participants may be surprised at the figures: $2,000 deductibles, $45 primary care visit co-pays, and $250 emergency room tabs. Those are just some of the charges enrollees will incur in a silver-level plan in California, which recently unveiled an overview of the benefits and charges associated with its exchange. That’s on top of the $321 average monthly premium. For some, this will be great news since it will allow them to see the doctor without breaking the bank. But others may not want to shell out a few thousand bucks in addition to a monthly premium.”

 

BankruptingAmerica.org is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.

 

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