Brian Kindsvater on Politics!Better hang on for dear life, put the kids to bed, and brace yourself for politics Brian Kindsvater style.
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Brian Kindsvater on politics.
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Brian Kindsvater says Congress should not be allowed to exempt itself from the pains in the butt afflicting everyone else
The latest Congressional folly is exempting itself from Obamacare. Here is how it works for you and me.
We, the regular citizens, either get health insurance from our employer or on our own. If we don't the IRS levies a fine and takes our money. If we are on our own then we can either buy the insurance ourselves in the private market or go through a government insurance exchange.
If your income is not high enough then you can get the government to subsidize part of your health insurance cost.
The documents for the government exchange, to determine if you qualify for a partial or full subsidy due to your income, are burdensome and very intrusive. Bend over because all your private details are being delivered to the feds at the IRS and other agencies.
Members of Congress, being Senators and Representatives, and their staffs, exempted themselves from this invasive burden. They made it so they can say (for political purposes) they are also going through the government exchange, but they also get the benefits of an employer provided policy and the benefits of the government exchange without the downsides.
Congress gets a government subsidy with no income requirement. Congress claims, despite their six-figure salaries plus boondoggles from lobbyists paying for their vacations and other goodies, that they could not get good workers unless their health care costs were subsidized.
Really? Tell that to the mom and pop business down the street who gets fined unless it provides health insurance for its employees, or is having to reduce its workers to part-time status to avoid Obamacare altogether.
Tell that to everyone else in America who has to figure out their own budget to pay for the exploding cost of health care.
There is also no invasive and burdensome paperwork for Congress to file to get a subsidy. You don't get that.
By the way, the "subsidy" Congress gets is a fancy way of saying you pay for it. You get to pay for your health insurance plus part of your Senator's health insurance.
Brian says there should be no special rules for Congress at all. Congress should not even be mentioned in Obamacare, except to state Congressional workers are considered to be private employees under the law who must get their own health insurance and are not entitled to automatic subsidies.
Ironically, there is nothing in the law giving Congress these special privileges. Can you imagine the outrage if they voted an exception for themselves? So they chickened-out and asked Obama to grant Congress and exception, which he did. This is what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says about Congress being in the exchanges:
The Affordable Care Act states, in Subparagraph 1312(d)(3)(D), that, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law . . . the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are–(I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).”This meant Congress could no longer get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, akin to an employer provided insurance program, but instead had to get insurance where everyone else does.
On July 31, 2013, it was reported that President Obama told Congressional leaders he was "personally involved" in getting an exemption for Congress. A week later, on August 7th, the Office of Personnel Management granted the exemption and issued the following press release:
Washington, DC - The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a proposed rule to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that Members of Congress and congressional staff employed by the official office of a Member of Congress choose health plans offered through Health Insurance Exchanges (also called Marketplaces).According to the OPM Benefits Administration Letter, No. 13-204, issued August 7, 2013, the regulations were changed so that Congress would continue to get subsidies to pay for health insurance. There is no income requirement, like you and I have, to get the subsidy. This what OPM said:
Members of Congress and applicable congressional staff will not be eligible for premium tax credits for Exchange plans, but the proposed rule clarifies that the participants will continue to have an employer contribution toward their health insurance premiums. The amount of the employer contribution toward their Exchange premiums is no more than would otherwise be made toward coverage under the FEHB Program.
“These proposed regulations implement the administrative aspects of switching Members of Congress and congressional staff to their new insurance plans – the same plans available to millions of Americans through the new Exchanges,” said Jon Foley, OPM Director of Planning and Policy.
The statute defines “congressional staff” to include those who work for “the official office of a Member of Congress.” Because there is no existing statutory or regulatory definition of the term “official office,” however, the rule proposes that the employing office of the Member of Congress determine whether an employed individual meets the statutory definition. Each Member of Congress and congressional staff will be able to purchase health plans through individual Marketplace in each State where he or she resides.
Along with the proposed rule, OPM issued a Benefits Administration Letter to the House and Senate administrative offices to provide further guidance on the enrollment of covered individuals into Exchange plans. OPM staff will be working with relevant administrative staff in the House and Senate to assist with addressing specific issues concerning eligibility, enrollment and payment processes, with the goal being to ensure that Members of Congress and staff have as smooth as possible a transition to plans offered on Exchanges.
In order to establish that the Government contribution will continue without interruption, we have added new paragraph (h) to section 890.501 of OPM’s regulations.That section states:
(h)(1) The Government contribution for an employee who enrolls in a health benefit plan offered through an Exchange, pursuant to section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Public Law 111-152 (the Affordable Care Act or the Act), or an annuitant whose enrollment in a health benefit plan offered through such an Exchange continues, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8905(b), shall be calculated in the same manner as for other employees and annuitants.Yeah, that is dense, but Congress is counting on you not paying attention to slip this by you. It is important to see what is written to know there is nothing about completing new paperwork or the new income requirement to get a subsidy. Instead, Congress keeps rolling under its prior laws where it got breaks, but you have the new paperwork hassles and income tests requiring you to fork over your private information.
(2) Government contributions and employee withholdings for employees who enroll in a health benefit plan offered through an Exchange, pursuant to section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Public Law 111-152 (the Affordable Care Act or the Act), or annuitants whose enrollment in a health benefit plan offered through such an Exchange continues, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8905(b), shall be accounted for pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8909 and such monies shall only be available for payment of premiums, and costs in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 8909(a)(2).
How Brian Kindsvater would change this: any health insurance subsidy for Congress and its employees is calculated in the same manner as is done for non-government citizens who are also in the health insurance exchanges.
More laws where there is unfairness:
In 1988 Time wrote a story about special exemptions in the law Congress has given itself. They included
Employer red tape. Congress exempted itself from affirmative action and equal opportunity laws. While businesses had to keep track of numerous statistical facts about their employees to ensure they were not statistically discriminating, Congress had no such concerns or fear of crushing liabilities if found to be discriminatory.
Business safety expenses. Sprinkler requirements in buildings do not apply to the Capitol. Is there nothing of value to protect if the Capitol building catches on fire?
One of the biggest sources of red tape and potential lawsuits for businesses is OSHA and its regulations. The details are mind-numbing, expensive to comply with, and expensive to violate. Unless you're Congress and occupational health and safety rules do not apply. Here is the exception:
Title 29 of the United States Code of Federal Reglations, Section 1910.2(c): "Employer" means a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any State or political subdivision of a State;
If your name is Brian Kindsvater, a United States citizen, and you break the law, there are local, state, and federal officials ever eager to enforce the law. Especially if there are fines and money involved.
If your name is Juan Lopez, a Mexican citizen, illegally in the United States, there are local, state, and federal officials eager to give him Brian Kindsvater's money so that he can illegally be in the country.
Is this a great country of what?
Of course it is which, especially compared to nearby third world countries, which is why one-third of the Mexicann population (from what I read) now lives in the United States. That number seems high, but whatever the actual number it is unquestionably high. Tens of millions of people are in the country illegally.
I understand the draw. Everyone does. The United states has historically drawn immigrants from around the world. But there is a difference between legal and illegal immigration.
There is also a huge difference between illegal immigration and mass illegal immigration.
Where else do you get to break the law, and if you break it long enough you are rewarded?
It is like adverse possession of the country.
With adverse possession if you openly live on someone's property long enough you get it from the legal owner.
Illegal immigration isn't taking away anyone's citizenship, but the idea is similar. If you have been in the US long enough, illegally, then all sorts of sympathies arise and there is a push to make the illegal have the same rights as legal citizens like Brian Kindsvater.
Even worse, it pays to be as illegal as possible, by bringing over your entire family. Kicking Juan out of the country is one thing. Kicking out Juan, his wife, and six kids is another. Especially if the kids have become Americanized with little to no connection to Mexico or even the language.
That is a tough call. No one wants to harm the kids. But where is the penalty to the parents?
Spending the rest of Brian Kindsvater's tax money on a 50 foot high border fence, patrolled by $100k per year armed guards with drones flying overhead is also not the answer.
When was the last time you saw a politician make a real effort to help Mexico?
The United States sends billions around the world in various types of aid. Especially military. But what is done to help Mexico improve its standard of living?
Instead of Eric Holder and the FBI gun running weapons to Mexico as part of campaigns like Fast and Furious, if we are going to send the Kindsvater tax dollars out of the country, why not help our neighbor to improve the standard of living so there is less incentive for illegal immigration?
I am not talking about paltry assistance given now. I mean a serious effort to get Mexico up to the standards of Canada.
Unfortunately, the Republicans seem too hung up on spending money on a fence, and the Democrats are focused on promising the moon to Hispanics to try and get their vote (and, callously, to take as many steps as possible to make them "legal" or actually citizens so they will vote Democratic.)
How about getting to the root of the problem? Maybe for political gain no one really wants to get to the root of the problem.
According to Wikipedia, the United States gives more in foreign aid to the Congo than it does Mexico. Our government gives more to the PLO than Mexico, and the PLO is actively fighting our friends in Israel.
Even better than foreign aid? How about encouraging companies to set up shop in Mexico. Why create unbelievably mammoth factories in China, giving money to communists, and shipping goods thousands of miles, when they could have a factory in Mexico that is much closer and which helps reduce illegal immigration?
How Brian Kindsvater would change this: Work with Mexico to create more joint enterprise opportunities that encourage workers to stay in Mexico. Penalize companies who ship jobs, money, and American technology overseas to communist countries. Instead of rewarding illegal immigration by granting drivers licenses and government benefits, reduce the incentives and heavily penalize companies hiring illegal workers. Do not deport families with minor children, but deport individuals here illegally sending income to those in foreign countries.
US foreign aid is about $50 billion dollars per year. This includes economic and military contributions.
For most of our nation'a history the tax dollars of US citizens was not given to people in other countries. This is a recent phenomenon.
Sure, it is good to be charitable when someone is starving. The numbers do not include food aid from the United Nations.
What do we get for tens of billions of dollars each year in economic and military aid? In some countries we get dictators who use the weapons to kill their citizens, until the day they are overthrown and the populace ends up hating America. Remember Iran? What about Iraq greeting our liberating soliders with flowers?
Is there some benefit to fighting terrorists so we do not have more Afghanistan havens for Al-Queda? Absolutely. Except the new haven for people like Bin Laden was in Pakistan which was gleefully stealing err taking billions of dollars from us.
The problem with politicans is they say $50 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the US gross national product of $15 trillion.
That is exactly the problem.
It is other people's money so they don't care about spending it. $50 billion is a lot of money. Many multiples more than Brian Kindsvater will ever see.
But gross national product is intentionally the wrong comparison number. A better number is total tax revenue, from all sources, which is $2 trillion.
Now you see foreign charity as running 2-3% of every tax dollar - a significant amount. Hardly a drop in the bucket.
The amount is even worse considering the massive deficit. The country is effectively borrowing from China and Japan to give money to the Middle East and Africa. There is something wrong with this picture and ultimately it means the price of foreign charity is even higher.
How Brian Kindsvater would change this: The government should prepare a summary each year detailing the amount of foreign aid given to each country, with an explanation of why the aid was given and the benefit to US taxpayers. Being forced to publicly justify the dollars given away should reduce the amount. Aid should be expressly budgeted by Congress every year and not put on autopilot year after year, or handed out by the executive branch.