Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: taxpayer

Swiss banks are now IRS agents

Bloomberg’s note on Monday that Swiss banks were having a hard time complying with the terms of an agreement between the Swiss government and the US Department of Justice hardly caused a ripple of media concern much less outrage. The time for such expressions is long past.

In accordance with the deal cut back in August 2009 the Department of Justice now has the power to force Swiss banks to

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Monumental Hubris in Claim of Taxpayer Victory in GM Bailout

 

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013:

In Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s fawning, obsequious, genuflecting announcement that the president had singlehandedly saved western civilization from a cataclysmic economic disaster, he said that by taking a loss, taxpayers actually scored a victory:

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US Treasury sells the rest of its GM shares at a loss, claims taxpayer victory

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced on Monday afternoon that his department had sold the remaining shares of GM that it acquired following the forced bankruptcy of the auto giant in 2009, and made the $10.5 billion loss sound like it was a victory:

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White House Thanksgiving Day reminder: Let’s all be like Lucy

Last Tuesday the White House issued a Thanksgiving Day reminder: “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of Americans put food on the table.” Then began a litany of statistics and charts along with explanations of how wonderful SNAP is, even getting in a dig at those selfish “House Republicans [who] would cause nearly 4 million Americans to lose access to SNAP next year.”

Harold Maass, writing at the liberal TheWeek.com blog, explained all the reasons why conservatives hate food stamps:

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Contractor behind the Obamacare website is not the only one with problems

Nearly one-quarter of CGI Group’s $1.3 billion in revenues last year came from the United States government which included $90 million to build the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov. Unfortunately, overruns have taken that number up to $112 million, and could exceed

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The Implosion of the Social Security Disability Ponzi Scheme Accelerates

Fresh data just released by the trustees of the Social Security Administration show that the number of people receiving benefits from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund has exploded over the last five years, reducing the surplus in that fund from $216 billion in 2008 to just over $100 billion in 2013. There were 7.4 million recipients in January 2009, but as of October 2013, there are nearly 9 million beneficiaries, not including

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Credit rating agencies downgrade Chicago debt, again

The day after the Illinois state legislature adjourned without dealing with the state’s $100 billion crisis, on Friday, November 8th Fitch Ratings downgraded $8.5 billion of Chicago’s bonds as well as its outlook for future downgrades as “negative.” Said Fitch: “The city has been unsuccessful in its attempts to negotiate a solution with labor unions [or with] the state legislature, which ultimately controls the benefit formulas [of the state’s pension plans].” This is the second downgrade by Fitch since July,

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JP Morgan Buying its Way Out of Legal Troubles

The announcement that a tentative agreement had been reached between the Department of Justice and JPMorgan (JPM) was surprising only in the size of the penalty the country’s largest bank (and second largest in the world) agreed to pay:

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As Obamacare Kicks In, Hospitals are Forced to Reduce Budgets, Cut Jobs

Just as the economy appears to be improving slightly, one of the prime drivers – the healthcare industry – is faltering, according to John Howser at Vanderbilt University Medical Center: “While the rest of the U. S. economy is stabilizing or improving, health care is entering into a recession.”

Vanderbilt is in the process of eliminating 1,000 jobs by the end of the year as it trims its operating expenses, thanks to cuts in reimbursements and employee mandates under Obamacare.

Indiana University Health has already

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The Messy First Day of Obamacare

This article was first published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013:

 

The president anticipated glitches when his key legislative centerpiece was rolled out on Tuesday, and he got them:

In the first week, the first month, the first three months, I would suspect that there will be glitches.

This is 50 states, a lot of people signing up for something. And there are going to be problems. And I guarantee you, there will be problems….

Even fawning CNN had to admit there were problems: “We tried in about 20 different states’ [exchanges]. In 12 of them we hit glitches. Sometimes it made it impossible to sign up. There were error messages….”

And then Obama had the chutzpah to compare the Obamacare roll out with the recent Apple roll out of its new operating system:

Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system and within days they found a glitch, so they fixed it.

I don’t remember anybody suggesting [that] Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t.

There’s just one tiny problem with this analogy. I don’t remember any government agent holding a gun to my head forcing me to buy an iPhone.

But the Obamacare Kool-Aid has affected others, not just Obama. HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the glitches a great success:

We have had a few slowdowns, a few glitches, but it’s sort of a great problem to have. It’s based on the fact that the volume has been so high.

Unspoken is the assumption that Obamacare hits on exchange websites is so high because Obamacare is so popular. Isn’t that like saying that paying income taxes must be popular because so many people file income tax returns?

The problems were rife, all across the country. The moment New York’s new healthcare website was launched at 8AM, it crashed. Seekers “were greeted with error messages … [and] the links for employers, employees and brokers also experienced periodic problems,” according to CBS News. In California an insurance broker scheduled an appointment with two of his clients to be the first in the state to sign up for Obamacare, but had to cancel the appointment when he discovered that he wasn’t “approved” to sign them up, and he couldn’t tell his clients how much they would have to pay for the insurance anyway – the premium calculation bot wasn’t working. Besides, he learned later that his customers’ applications wouldn’t be received by the insurance companies for at least a month. Aside from that, things went well.

In Washington, DC, people trying to determine if they were eligible either for Medicaid or for subsidies to purchase insurance on its exchange will have to wait. In Vermont, that state’s exchange won’t be able to accept premium payments until sometime in the middle of November. In Oregon, only a few specially selected individuals were allowed to get online as its rollout was only a “beta test” – the real rollout would be taking place later.

The administration admitted that its own website was suffering a delay in its online shopping system for small business owners, along with a delay in its Spanish-speaking site. In Colorado, its exchange, Connect for Colorado, was forced to delay certain computer functions, and applicants had to call a hotline to complete the process. In Iowa there were no certified “navigators” to take those calls. Reuters noted that these glitches showed up in 24 of the state exchanges. Maryland’s exchange was delayed for four hours, and Minnesota said it would be late in the day when it would be able to confirm its connection to the federal data base.

So much for the triumphant start. As Joel Ario, a health care consultant who used to work at the Department of Health and Human Services, said: “Nobody is going to say we’re not starting on October 1st. But in some situations you have seen a redefinition of what ‘start’ means.”

Sarah Kliff, a writer for the Washington Post who has been tracking the Obamacare launch for months, said that yesterday wasn’t really “the big day” after all – it was just the beginning of a “soft launch”:

Instead, it’s January 1st, the day that the individual mandate takes effect and any plans purchased on the [exchanges] actually kick in.

The space between October and December is viewed … as a soft launch: the time to make the new web sites live, sort out the kinks and get the sites in prime condition for the beginning of 2014.

Enrollment started on Tuesday but any insurance purchased won’t become effective until January 1. And for those who delay, they have until March 15th to make their purchases or else be faced with paying a fine – oops, a tax, not a fee.

There are some other problems, too. According to the Kaiser Foundation, more than three quarters of those without insurance didn’t even know that the launch date was October 1st. And how about this for a marketing problem: the insurance companies will have to persuade healthy young people to buy insurance they don’t want in order to offset the costs of unhealthy people pouring into the system. Here’s how the Associated Press explained it:

One of the biggest challenges to the law’s success is the ability of insurers to persuade relatively young and healthy people to buy insurance as a way to balance the costs for the sicker people who are likely to get their coverage as quickly as possible.

Previous such rollouts have hardly been successful. When Massachusetts opened its version of Obamacare in late 2006, it took a total of 18 separate interactions – web visits, emails, or phone calls – before an individual could get coverage. After 9/11, the FBI tried – for 12 years – to upgrade its computer system. It began with its Virtual Case File system which was given up for lost in 2005 after $600 million of taxpayers’ money, in favor of its Sentinel system, which finally went live last year.

The task with Obamacare is equally daunting: hooking up the national databases at the Department of the Treasury (the IRS) and the Department of Homeland Security with each of the states’ exchanges. As James Pethokoukis, a writer for the American Enterprise Institute, asked: “What could possible go wrong?”

All of these glitches may be considered in another light: they build the case for a national single-payer health care system that would do away with insurance companies and those messy and confusing state exchanges. Harry Reid, bless his statist heart, was interviewed on Las Vegas’ PBS program “Nevada Week in Review” last month, and was asked “where do we go from here?” Reid, for once, was crystal clear:

What we’ve done with Obamacare is [take] a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.

When pressed by one of the panelists about whether that meant that Obamacare was just one more step towards a single-payer, insurance- and exchange-free health care system run entirely by the government, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

For totalitarians like Reid, Obama, Sebelius, and others, those glitches truly signify success after all.

————————–

Sources:

The Washington Post: Reports of problems precede launch of Obamacare

Associated Press: Under fire, ‘Obamacare’ going live — with glitches

The National Review Online: Obamacare: Wrong in Practice, Wrong in Theory

Reason.com: Eight Things That Could Go Wrong With Obamacare

The Washington Post: The White House says Obamacare begins on Oct. 1. Not really.

The Las Vegas Sun: Reid says Obamacare just a step toward eventual single-payer system

Politico: President Obama: Expect months of ‘glitches’

Reuters: Obamacare launch hits early hitch as web traffic snarls up sites

Associated Press: ‘Obamacare’ exchanges start up as gov’t shuts down

Politico: Obamacare D-Day becomes a soft launch

The Wall Street Journal: FBI Files Go Digital, After Years of Delays

Natural News: Obamacare exchanges hit with over 50 percent fail rate; feds claim the worse the glitches, the bigger the success!

Glitches, as Anticipated, Plague First Day of Obamacare

California insurance broker Jason Andrew planned to help a couple of his clients sign up for Obamacare on Tuesday, the first day of the federal health care roll out, but couldn’t, for two reasons: first, he hadn’t yet been certified by the state to do so, and secondly, he couldn’t get accurate quotes from the state exchange’s computer. Andrew just laughed it off:

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“13th-month” Checks Just One More Indicator of Detroit Corruption

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 27th, 2013:

When Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s interim financial manager by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder back in March, he was picked because he had experience in resurrecting other cities that found themselves in trouble. But it’s doubtful that Orr had any idea of the width, the breadth, and the depth of the corruption and deceit that awaited him when he began.

By June he had a better idea. In announcing that he was going to seek bankruptcy protection he said

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Detroit’s Bankruptcy Hastened by “13th Month” Checks Issued to Pensioners

When Kevyn Orr was appointed as Detroit’s interim financial manager back in March, he launched an investigation into just how deep the city’s financial hole really was. He should have waited until September when,

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Social Security Disability is turning into a Lifetime Unemployment Program

Back in 2011, if Eugene LaPorte knew that the Social Security Disability Insurance program was going to be broke in five years, he probably wouldn’t have cared. He needed the money and he was out of options. When he graduated from high school in Millinocket, Maine, in 1973, he went straight to work for the Great Northern Paper Company, the economic anchor in this small town in northern Maine. He became a supervisor and, just before the company went bankrupt in the early ‘90s, was earning nearly

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“Defund Obamacare” Tours Begin, Putting Pressure on Reluctant Senators

On Monday the Heritage Foundation was joined by two Tea Party grassroots organizations, Tea Party Patriots and For America, on “Defund Obamacare” tours to bring political pressure on Senators who have not yet signed Senator Ted Cruz’s Defund Obamacare Act (Senate Bill 1292). The Heritage tour started in Fayetteville, Arkansas and will visit nine cities by the end of August. The tour backed by Tea Party Patriots and For America will start in Ohio and

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University of California Study: The National Debt is really $70 Trillion

Professor James Hamilton, economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, just published his best estimate of the federal government’s “off-balance-sheet” liabilities and concludes that the real national debt, popularly estimated to be $16.9 trillion, is in fact more than four times larger: $70.086 trillion. This is because of decisions to

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Home Ownership Rates Continue to Fall; New Plans to Reflate Underway

When the Census Bureau announced on Tuesday that the rate of homeownership in the US continued its nearly 9-year decline, pundits were quick to lay the blame on higher lending requirements, bankers reluctant to make loans, increasing interest rates and a weak economy with slow job growth. In addition, young people are living at home longer due to student loan debt and poor job prospects. As a result, according to the Census Bureau, rental rates are climbing as families needing a place to live have few other options.

Having fallen from the peak of 69 percent reached in 2004, current home ownership has dropped to 65 percent, back to where it was in 1995. Robert Schiller, economics professor at Yale, thinks the rate will continue to fall further.

Home prices are increasing not because of demand by new buyers but because of investors seeing the opportunities in buying distressed properties and turning them into rentals. In some places in the country one out of every two home purchases are paid for in cash.

But something else is afoot: fewer citizens are buying into the notion that home ownership makes economic sense and is equivalent to a savings plan that can be turned into income in later years. As Emily Badger noted at The Atlantic Cities, “We have traditionally considered homeownership to be a sign of the health of the economy. But some of these people who would have been homeowners 10 years ago … have concluded that they would rather rent [today]…”

Some have no doubt been so badly mauled financially in the recession that they have few options. Others have long memories and remember the pain and suffering they endured as a result of deliberate government policies instituted to make homeownership possible to millions of unqualified buyers.

One of those with long memories is Henry Cisneros, a key player in developing the “National Homeownership Strategy” while he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Bill Clinton. Unanimously confirmed by the Senate, Cisneros took over at HUD in January, 1993 and by 1997 had boosted the US homeownership rate from 63.7 percent to 65.7 percent. Even after leaving office, his strategies continued blowing up the real estate bubble so that by the time Clinton left office in 2001 home ownership was at 67.5 percent on its way to peaking during the summer and fall of 2004.

In a remarkably candid and forthright article about Cisneros’ role in creating the real estate bubble, The New York Times told the story of a compassionate government bureaucrat with big dreams of providing home ownership to people who couldn’t afford them under current rules. So he changed the rules and invited bankers, realtors and homebuilders to participate in the party guaranteed by taxpayers. In 2008 as he contemplated the damage he had wrought while head of HUD, Cisneros claimed that his intentions were honorable, at least in the beginning, but that his plans to provide low-interest loans and much weaker underwriting requirements through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were hijacked by “unscrupulous participants – bankers, brokers, secondary market people. The country is paying for that, and families are hurt because we … did not draw line.” He expressed regret that his efforts had not only lured people into homes they couldn’t afford, but that his policies ultimately ejected them from those homes as a result. He said, “I’ve been waiting for someone to put all the blame on my doorstep.”

His strategy was to lower underwriting standards by allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to require less documentation and approve higher debt to income levels than normal. He reduced down payment requirements from 20 percent to 10 percent, and then to 5 percent, then down to 3 percent and ultimately to 0 percent. His strategy allowed these unqualified buyers to cover their closing costs with another loan, putting them into a home with truly nothing out of the own pockets. Lenders were happy with the new rules as the US taxpayer stood behind the loans bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Cisneros created a monster.

Once the ball got rolling, it was impossible to stop or even slow down. Said Cisneros:

You think you have a finely tuned instrument that you can use to say: Stop! We’re at 69 percent homeownership. We should go no further. There are people who should remain renters.

But you really are given a sledgehammer and an ax. They are blunt tools.

I’m not sure you can regulate when we’re talking about an entire nation of 300 million people and this behavior becomes viral.

Cisneros drank his own Kool-Aid. He joined with a major homebuilder to develop a housing project in San Antonio, Texas which made him wealthy but which turned sour during the collapse.

Those lessons are about to be learned again as there are new efforts to reflate the ownership bubble. Under the Dodd-Frank Act there’s something called the Qualified Mortgage Rule (QMR) which requires lenders to keep part of the loans they make in their own portfolios – they must have “skin in the game” to reduce the chances of another bubble. But more than 50 organizations tied to the real estate industry are advocating a softening of that rule, putting more government money into the market, with less risk to the lenders. One of those supporting such softening is Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, who sounds an awful lot like Cisneros:

I’m not suggesting indiscriminate access to home ownership, but there are many borrowers who are capable of demonstrating the capacity to pay…

[They include] those who had a job loss or foreclosure, in many cases through no fault of their own [and a result are] being shut out of a rising market.

Gary Thomas, the president of the National Association of Homebuilders, expressed his delight at the softening of the rules:

If what we’re heard about the [weakening of] the proposed QMR rule is true, the we are very pleased that the agencies are moving towards a broad definition that will benefit the American people by ensuring access to safe, affordable options for buying a home.

And then of course there’s the inevitable college professor who hasn’t learned from history, or from Cisneros. Christopher Mayer, professor of real estate at Columbia Business School, exulted:

Having a path that people can become a homeowner is an important path. And it’s really important for middle to lower-income folks who have a hard time saving…

At present efforts to reflate the real estate bubble through relaxing underwriting requirements and low-interest loans don’t appear to be working very well. But Washington has a mission where past experience and lessons and pain and hardship don’t matter. The Cisneros mentality remains alive and well in Foggy Bottom.

 

 

 

CFR Steps Up Attack on the Second Amendment Using Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

When Julia Sweig, the Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), released her memorandum on how to reduce gun violence in the US and Latin America, it revealed not only the CFR’s blatant disregard for American’s Second Amendment rights but also her proclivity to

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Will Scranton be Next?

Following Detroit’s application for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 last week, pundits have had a field day predicting which city would be next. Fox News thinks it’s going to be Chicago, which Moody’s just downgraded because of its $19 billion unfunded pension liabilities. The agency said those liabilities are “very large and growing” and as a result the city faces a “tremendous strain.”

Other cities like

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Key Obamacare Mandate Delayed; Critics escalate attacks

In an online statement posted on Tuesday, Mark Mazur, an assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, said the agency would delay for one year any imposition of penalties onto companies failing to provide insurance coverage for its employees under Obamacare:

We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively. We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action.

This was followed up with a posting on the White House website by Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.