The amount of money the federal government takes out of the U.S. economy in taxes will increase by more than 30 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to the Budget and Economic Outlook published today by the CBO.
At the same time, according to CBO, the economy will remain sluggish, partly because of higher taxes.
“In particular, between 2012 and 2014, revenues in CBO’s baseline shoot up by more than 30 percent,” said CBO, “mostly because of the recent or scheduled expirations of tax provisions, such as those that lower income tax rates and limit the reach of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and the imposition of new taxes, fees, and penalties that are scheduled to go into effect.”
The U.S. economy, CBO projects, will perform “below its potential” for another six years and unemployment will remain above 7 percent for another three.
CBO: Had that portion of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 that is attributable to neither the aging of the baby boomers nor the downturn in the business cycle (on the basis of the experience in previous downturns) not occurred, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2011 would have been about 1¼ percentage points higher than the actual rate of 8.7 percent. In other words, the real unemployment rate is 10%.
Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney may not have intended that the mandatory health insurance law he signed in 2006 would look like the Obama health law. But the Massachusetts law does a lot more than cover the uninsured (a worthy goal). The law broadens the powers of government to dictate treatment decisions and even interferes in where and how patients die. The result will be a breathtaking shift of decision-making from the doctor at bedside to the state.
The Massachusetts law has come under fire for soaring premiums, now the highest in the nation. A 2011 Beacon Hill Institute study concluded that 18,000 fewer people were employed in the state, because employers required to provide coverage left the state or stopped hiring to avoid the cost. But the cost cutting has begun, and the results are alarming.
Chapter 305 of the 2006 law created councils and regulatory bodies charged with cost-cutting, and after several years they have produced a plan. Here are key components:
Mandatory electronic medical records: All physicians must comply by January 2015 as a condition of keeping their medical license.
Comparative effectiveness: A state board — with unions, consumers, employers and other nonphysicians on it — will synthesize medical research into guidelines and ensure that all insurers and doctors follow them. These guidelines will lay out what care is “medically necessary” and include “how to address individual patient cases and circumstances.” Massachusetts says it and its bureaucrats can make better decisions than highly trained physicians at bedside. (Roadmap to Cost Containment pp. 10, 21,36)
Massachusetts’ End of Life Program: Sec. 41 of Chapter 305 of the Massachusetts law creates an expert panel to deal with how and where people die. The state will launch an aggressive public relations campaign to get hospitals and doctors to encourage palliative care, hospice care, and death at home. In Massachusetts, only 24 percent of people die at home. The state says that is too low. (Roadmap, pp.32,33, 41,90,)
Sometimes a patient doesn’t die at home because the doctor doesn’t foresee that death is imminent. A 2006 Emory University study found that doctors treat patients who are expected to die less intensively than patients who are expected to survive, but often doctors can’t predict who is near the end.
The benefits of hospice care are obvious. But physicians also worry that some patients will break down at the mention of hospice care and lose the will to fight their disease. Ultimately, the question is how involved should government be in how we die, especiall when the goal is to cut costs?.
Ending fee-for-service insurance options: Massachusetts will push patients into “medical homes,” to limit access to costly specialists and diagnostic tests, and substitute nurse practitioners and physicians assistants for doctors.
A 2008 Congressional Budget Office report noted that. if cost control is the priority, medical homes are likely to present the same problems as those HMOs of 20 years ago.
HMOs would withhold physicians’ fees until the end of the year and give it back only to the physicians who met targets for limiting referrals or diagnostic tests. Ultimately, what a doctor prescribed for a patient came out of the doctor’s own pocket at the end of the year, setting up a conflict between you and your doctor. (Roadmap, p. 14)
Perhaps Governor Romney didn’t read Section 305 of the health law he signed, or couldn’t anticipate how it would undermine the doctor-patient relationship.
The Massachusetts cost-cutters claim that care could be cut by 20 percent to 30 percent without doing harm. President Obama’s former budget director Peter Orszag made the same claim to defend deep cuts to Medicare funding.
Don’t believe it. Wherever these cost cutting strategies — the same ones that are in Romneycare and Obamacare — are used, the results are deadly. An important study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (February 2011) based on all hospitals in California shows that seniors treated in hospitals providing more intense care and spending more have a better chance to recover and resume their lives. In fact, 13,813 elderly patients with pneumonia, congestive heart failure, stroke and hip fractures who died at low spending hospitals would have survived and gone home had they received more care. That’s a lesson for Massachusetts and the nation.
Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “The Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It.”
If elected president, Mitt Romney might consider ending a tax break that helped the former Massachusetts governor accumulate his fortune, an aide suggested Tuesday. The comments came as the Romney campaign made available more than 500 pages of tax-return data for 2010 and 2011 amid signs the issue was hurting him with some voters.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice dumped documents related to Operation Fast and Furious on congressional officials late Friday night. Central to this document dump is a series of emails showing Holder was informed of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder on the day it happened – December 15, 2010 – and that he was informed the weapons used to kill Terry were from Fast and Furious on the same day.
An email from one official, whose name has been redacted from the document, to now-former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke reads: “On December 14, 2010, a BORTAC agent working in the Nogales, AZ AOR was shot. The agent was conducting Border Patrol operations 18 miles north of the international boundary when he encountered [redacted word] unidentified subjects. Shots were exchanged resulting in the agent being shot. At this time, the agent is being transported to an area where he can be air lifted to an emergency medical center.”
That email was sent at 2:31 a.m. on the day Terry was shot. One hour later, a follow-up email read: “Our agent has passed away.”
Burke forwarded those two emails to Holder’s then-deputy chief of staff Monty Wilkinson later that morning, adding that the incident was “not good” because it happened “18 miles w/in” the border.
Wilkinson responded to Burke shortly thereafter and said the incident was “tragic.” “I’ve alerted the AG [Holder], the Acting DAG, Lisa, etc.”
Then, later that day, Burke followed up with Wilkinson after Burke discovered from officials whose names are redacted that the guns used to kill Terry were from Fast and Furious. “The guns found in the desert near the murder BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about – they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store,” Burke wrote to Wilkinson.
“I’ll call tomorrow,” Wilkinson responded.
This is hardly the first time new evidence has come out that directly contradicts Holder’s congressional testimony. These new emails are written evidence that Holder was aware of Fast and Furious about five months before he testified in Congress that he had only learned of the gunwalking program a “few weeks” before a May 3, 2011, House Judiciary Committee appearance.
Some investments listed in Mitt and Ann Romney’s 2010 tax returns – including a now-closed Swiss bank account and other funds located overseas – were not explicitly disclosed in the personal financial statement the GOP presidential hopeful filed in August as part of his White House bid.
The Romney campaign described the discrepancies as “trivial” but acknowledged Thursday afternoon that they are undergoing an internal review of how the investments were reported and will make “some minor technical amendments” to Romney’s financial disclosure that will not alter the overall picture of his finances.
At least 23 funds and partnerships listed in the couple’s 2010 tax returns did not show up or were not listed in the same fashion on Romney’s most recent financial disclosure, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.
The campaign has stressed that Romney has paid all required U.S. taxes on his foreign funds.
Many of the funds are affiliated with Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm Romney ran for 15 years. Several others are apparently unrelated offshore entities based in the Cayman Islands and Ireland.
As Ben Domenech notes in his Transom, Mitt Romney’s advisors have now advised him to support “a $2 gas tax, a VAT, and open Taliban talks.” Add to that list not repealing Obamacare. Norm Coleman, an advisor to Romney, went on record saying
We’re not going to do repeal. You’re not going to repeal Obamacare… It’s not a total repeal… You will not repeal the act in its entirety, but you will see major changes, particularly if there is a Republican president… You can’t whole-cloth throw it out. But you can substantially change what’s been done.
Four years ago, Mitt Romney attacked John McCain for having a campaign run by lobbyists. Now, it turns out two of his closest advisers and surrogates lobbied for Freddie, a point which seems to undermine the notion that Gingrich’s work on behalf of the group would be a disqualification.
It’s also interesting to note that while Gingrich’s contract specifically identified him as a consultant, other ex-lawmakers were specifically working as lobbyists. And while Romney (and others) have questioned the veracity of Gingrich’s claims, Mitchell Delk, a former chief lobbyist for Freddie Mac, told Bloomberg News in a November interview that he hired Gingrich as a consultant during an earlier stint between 1999 and 2002 to provide feedback on Freddie Mac initiatives.