Monday, May 16, 2016

Well, We Wanted The Government To Be Run Like A Business

One of the undoubted reasons behind the improbable rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders is that many of us have become totally fed up with how the political establishment goes to great lengths to feather its own nest, while at the same time giving the rest of us a royal screwing.

Here's the latest example.

Congress Declares Itself a Small Business in order to Qualify for Obamacare Subsidies

No, that's not a joke. Read on for the disgusting details.

Remember way back when, when obamacare was being debated, that there was a large outcry when it became apparent that Congress had exempted itself and its employees? In response, Congress removed itself from its existing health insurance coverage - the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program - and required members of Congress and staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchange system.

But then they discovered the flaws in obamacare (remember "We have to pass the bill so we can find out what's in it"?). The chief one that affected Congress was the cost.
Obamacare’s insurance subsidies for ordinary Americans are generous, but capped by income. No one with an annual income over $47,080 gets a subsidy. That’s well below typical Capitol Hill salaries. Members of Congress make $174,000 annually, and many on their staff have impressive, upper-middle-class paychecks.
That's bad enough. What followed is even worse.

Below is a history of how our elected representatives assholes have tried to circumvent the same rules they shoved down our throats. It will no doubt sicken and disgust you, but shouldn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention.
Act One—Congress Has a Panic Attack

Realizing what they had done, congressional leaders sought desperately to get fatter taxpayer subsidies in the Obamacare exchange system. In a nutshell, they wanted special funding unavailable to other Americans. The standard excuse was that, without a special “sweetener,” a Capitol Hill “brain drain” would ensue; the best and brightest would flee to the private sector to get more affordable employment-based coverage.

From 2010 to 2013, House and Senate leaders schemed to get extra taxpayer subsidies—past “the Tea Party rabble”—without a lot of noise, and secure a nice, quiet “administrative” remedy from the Obama administration.

Their hopes centered on a compliant Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency that administers the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, providing the unauthorized relief. No recorded votes. No ugly floor fights.

Act Two—Congress Gets Taxpayers’ Money Without Appropriating It

(In 2013, outsiders pointed out) that neither the Affordable Care Act nor Chapter 89 of Title V (the law governing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) authorized the transfer of monies in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program trust fund for use in health plans outside of the program.

(Furthermore, obamacare exchanges) are only open to individuals and small employers. No large employers can participate in the exchange... There is no provision, therefore for large employers, including the largest—the United States government—to pay for exchange coverage... “OPM initially ruled that lawmakers and staffers couldn’t receive the subsidies once they went into the exchanges.”

But, at a July 31 closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats, President Barack Obama had promised he would “fix” the mess they made of their health coverage. 
So, on Aug. 7, 2013, just as Congress was getting out of town for the August recess, the Office of Personnel Management ruled that members of Congress and staff enrolled in the exchange program would get Federal Employees Health Benefits Program subsidies, even though they were no longer in the program.

Act Three—Congress Magically Becomes a Small Business
In a second iteration of its rule-making, the Office of Personnel Management declared that Congress and staff were eligible to enroll in the Washington, D.C., “SHOP” Exchange, a health insurance exchange reserved for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The exchange offers special insurance subsidies to participating small businesses.

The problem was, of course, that Congress is not a “small business,” at least under any clinically sane definition of the term, and no section of the Affordable Care Act provided for any congressional exemption from the ban on large employer participation in the SHOP exchanges. It’s hard to imagine a more arbitrary ruling.

Act Four—Congressional Bureaucrats File False Paperwork

In filing to get the special insurance subsidies for enrolling lawmakers and their staff members in the D.C. “SHOP” Exchange, congressional officials claimed that the Senate and House each had only 45 employees. That false information allowed both chambers to meet the magic number requirement.

In Feb. 2015, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, attempted to subpoena these un-redacted documents, only to be stymied by all nine committee Democrats and five Republicans.
But thanks to those pesky outsiders - notice the recurring theme here - the truth was uncovered.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that unnamed officials who administer benefits for Congress made clearly false statements when they applied to have the House and Senate participate in D.C.’s ‘SHOP’ Exchange for 2014. Notably, they claimed the 435-member House had only 45 members and 45 staffers, while the 100-member Senate had only 45 employees total. Rather than a good faith clerical error, this was an intentional falsehood, which makes it a crime under both federal and D.C. law.
Of course, nothing much will come of this. How many government insiders were prosecuted for the Fast and Furious gunrunning debacle, or the IRS selective prosecution of conservative organizations, or the four dead Americans in Benghazi, or the use of private unsecured email servers for transmission of classified information, or ... well, you get the idea.

It's reached the point where Congress can, with a straight face, declare itself a small business, and no one bats an eye.

I weep for my once-great country.


Anonymous said...

This is another good reason I'm voting for Trump.

He's NOT a politician & he couldn't be much worse than these lying, cheating bastards. Both Democrats and Republicans are members of the same band of scoundrels who are only out for number 1.

Sadly, most Americans will either not hear of this, won't care or are so ignorant even if their noses are rubbed in this dirt they won't realize it.

I'm weeping too, CTT!

Old NFO said...

It's truly time for term limits... sigh

CenTexTim said...

Toejam - I don't think even Trump; will be able to change the culture of entitlement that has taken such deep roots in DC. I think NFO is right - we need term limits.