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News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & the USA. Upholding the rights granted by God & guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, "republican" principles / ideals, transparent & limited "smaller" government, free markets, lower taxes, due process of law, liberty & individual freedom. All content approval rests with the ARRA News Service Editor. Opinions are those of the authors. While varied positions are reported, beliefs & principles remain fixed. No revenue is generated for or by this site - no paid ads accepted - no payments for articles. Fair Use doctrine is posted & used.
Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
Contact: editor@arranewsservice.com (Pub. Since July, 2006)
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pelosi Urges Congress to Uphold Constitution by Passing Gun Control

NRA-ILA: Anti-gun U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently urged members of Congress to uphold their oath to "protect and defend" the Constitution by passing harsher gun control laws.  Yes, Pelosi is proposing that Congress should support the Constitution by radically violating it.  Such is the deconstructionist mindset of modern-day gun-control advocates.

As reported CNS News, Pelosi made the plea in a press release marking the one-year anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado shootings.  Said Pelosi:  "In Congress, there can be no more fitting memorial to the lives lost in Aurora, in Newtown, and across the country than a concerted effort to enact commonsense gun safety legislation.   We must uphold our oath to 'protect and defend' the constitution and all Americans by expanding background checks and keeping dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands."

As most Americans know, the Constitution was conceived and inherently designed to ensure that the government does NOT attempt to overpower the people with its own agenda or unduly restrict not only the Second Amendment, but any other of our precious, Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

The CNS News article also noted that the phrase "to protectand defend the Constitution" that Pelosi cited as the reason Congress must enact stricter gun control laws is actually not found in the oath that members of Congress take, but is, instead, a part of the Presidential Oath of Office; a small but significant mistake on Pelosi's part.

When Pelosi took her oath of office, she did so by saying:  "I do solemnly swear that I will supportand defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God.]"

Clearly the Constitution and the Second Amendment need support and defense against Pelosi's illogical grandstanding and anti-gun agenda.

Tags: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California, Constitution, Aurora, Colorado, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Bankrupting America Launches New Web Series “The Government”

Arlington, Va.Bankrupting America, a project of Public Notice, today launched the pilot episode of a multi-part web series titled, “The Government,” which follows the day-to-day office life of a federal agency trying desperately to spend their way to a bigger budget.

It’s the fourth quarter at the Department of Every Bureaucratic Transaction (DEBT) and the race is on to use every last dime of taxpayer money. If they don’t spend it, they lose it. And with just a few weeks before the fiscal year ends, DEBT is under-budget and time is running out.
Reports show that government agencies have wasted millions of dollars on happiness experts, romance novels, portrait artists, lavish conferences and other frivolous perks. In addition, an agency inside the Department of Defense recently issued a memo underscoring the importance of meeting their spending targets and exhausting 100 percent of their resources at a time when hundreds of thousands of employees are facing furloughs.

Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice, issued the following statement on “The Government”:
“The broken budgeting system in Washington rewards waste and abuse with more tax dollars and creates a spend-it-or-lose-it culture that has spread throughout every agency. This web series highlights the serious problem of spend-it-or-lose-it by exposing the absurdity of how the federal government is operating and urging lawmakers to push for reform. The president speaks frequently about being responsible stewards of the taxpayer dollar. That won’t happen until we end spend-it-or-lose-it.”

“The Government” is part of Bankrupting America’s Spend It Or Lose It campaign, which includes an online petition calling on Washington to revamp the budgeting process and stop wasting tax dollars by rewarding fiscally irresponsible behavior. The campaign was launched last week to coincide with the explosion of government spending that occurs each fiscal year in the fourth quarter.

Sign the Spend It Or Lose It Petition and take a stand against Washington’s broken budgeting process.

Check out the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #CutItOut.

Click here to learn more about the history of “spend it or lose it” budgeting and here for a full weekly breakdown of government spending from 2010-2012.

Background:
IRS Division Managers Defend Spending Because Unused Funds Would Have Lapsed: “The [IG] report found IRS officials paid thousands of dollars to pay motivational speakers, who were flown to the conference on the taxpayer dime, sometimes in first class. … The funds came from a $132.7 million pool that division received to hire about 1,300 employees. Division managers told TIGTA that they actually made over 1,500 hires during that fiscal year, the majority of which were front-line employee. But since the hires had not been on board for the full year, the division had unused funds that would have lapsed at the close of fiscal 2010.”(Peter Schroeder And Bernie Becker, “IG Report Finds Broad, Wasteful Spending On IRS Conferences,” The Hill, 6/5/13)

IRS Video Production Unit Costs Taxpayers $4 Million A Year: “The Senate’s top tax-writer wants answers from the IRS about a ‘Star Trek’ spoof that the tax-collecting agency has now apologized for making. … Baucus also questioned why the IRS had a video production unit at all — especially at its reported $4 million a year price tag. The ‘Star Trek” parody and a separate takeoff on “Gilligan’s Island” cost around $60,000 in tandem, the IRS has said.” (Bernie Becker, “Baucus to IRS: How did the ‘Star Trek’ video happen? Who’s responsible?,” The Hill, 3/27/13)

IRS Spent $11K On A “Happiness Expert” To Lead A 90 Minute Workshop: “The IRS hired 15 speakers to present at the conference in Anaheim, Calif., including $11,430 for positive psychology guru Shawn Achor — referred to as a ‘happiness expert’ by the sources — to lead a 90-minute workshop” (Kelly O’Donnell and Andrew Rafferty, “2010 IRS Conference Featured ‘Happiness Expert,’ $17K Art Session,” CNBC, 6/4/13)

IRS Credit Cards Used For Wine, Romance Novels, Diet Pills And Pornography. (Stephen Ohlemacher,”IRS Credit Cards Used For Wine, Pornography,” The Associated Press, 6/25/13)

Lavish Spending At GSA Commissioners Reception: “Tangherlini, who is conducting an extensive review of GSA’s day-to-day operations, became alarmed by the cost of the Nov. 17, 2010, event and referred it to Miller for review. The Arlington celebration pulled out all the stops: a $7,697.22 ‘commissioners reception’ for high-ranking officials; 4,000 picture frames showing time and temperature at a cost of $28,364,45 to taxpayers; five passenger buses, two minibuses and a van for $5,390. And a whopping $20,578. 24 paid for 4,000 drumsticks for a team-building exercise.” (Lisa Rein, “GSA spent more than $270,000 to entertain employees who got performance awards,” The Washington Post, 7/19/12)

DOD Agency Races To Achieve Its Goal Of Spending 100% Of Available Resources This Fiscal Year. “‘Our available funding balances remain large in all appropriations — too large to spend’ just on small supplemental funds often required by existing contracts, the June 27 e-mail said. DISA’s budget is $2 billion. ‘It is critical in our efforts to [spend] 100% of our available resources this fiscal year,’ said the e-mail from budget officer Sannadean Sims and procurement officer Kathleen Miller. ‘It is also imperative that your organization meets its projected spending goal for June. . .’” (Al Kamen, “Defense Agency Looking For Ways To Spend,” The Washington Post’s In The Loop Blog, 7/10/13)

Emails Encouraging Spending Are “Common Practice Among Government Agencies.” “A DISA spokesperson e-mailed to say that these e-mails are ‘common practice among government agencies’ and that many congressional “financial and procurement timelines . . .are designed to ensure that agencies” spend 80 percent of their funds before the last two months of the fiscal year, or by August 1.” (Ibid)
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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. 

Tags: Bankrupting America, The Government  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Feds Push Web Businesses To Surrender User Account Passwords

Ron Wyden
Ran Paul
"If I have Internet service and they want my records on somebody, they don’t tell me or a judge. We have no idea. There is no probable cause. This person might be relevant, which could mean anything, however tangential. If I don’t reveal those records, I go to jail. If I tell my wife they are asking for my records, I could go to jail. This secrecy on millions of records, this trolling through millions of records is un-American. It is unconstitutional." - Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

"The authority of the government is essentially limitless" under the Patriot Act's business records provision. - Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Dr. Bill Smith, Editor:: While "computer geeks," "web designers," etc. may have noted the following CNET article, most other people did not note this latest example of Big Government seeking access to private passwords so they can access your accounts, web sites, customers, etc. This should be of concern to all, regardless of politics, except for those who perceive themselves to be both in power and to have a right to control others. If you have a website, image opening your site to discover that someone, maybe a government agent, has changed it or has embedded tracking codes on the site. Or maybe your email server and all your email accounts have been cracked or your online business contacts compromised. Now consider the potential damage to political candidates who are not agreeable to the incumbent or a future government leaders or to the people behind those leaders. And, what about proprietary information that is compromised, shared, or even destroyed?

By the end of the article, those of us who lived, worked and made a living off the front end of the development of the Internet and computers, may find ourselves yearning for the "old" days of paper and secured physical vaults where at least a legal warrant had to be approved by a judge and provided to us before our proprietary information and other property was invaded, taken or even vandalized.

Decades ago in the classroom, discussing the advances of technology with my students, I joined a growing number of concerned professors in asking the following type reflective questions: Is all technology good for us? Should limits be placed on its expansion? Should we be defining limits on the potential encroachment by government via technology on our property and personal rights?

The following article by Declan McCullagh is long but well worth the read. I am sure he would appreciate your comment on the original CNET site. The article is being shared in full for educational purposes under the Fair Use Doctrine. It is very apparent that the author is both concerned and wishes his information to be shared.

Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords
Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.

by Declan McCullagh, CNET: The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.

If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.

"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."

A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"

Some of the government orders demand not only a user's password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts."This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?" --Jennifer Granick, Stanford UniversityA Microsoft spokesperson would not say whether the company has received such requests from the government. But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, the spokesperson replied: "No, we don't, and we can't see a circumstance in which we would provide it."

Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests for those types of data. But a spokesperson said the company has "never" turned over a user's encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic. "We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously," the spokesperson said.

A Yahoo spokeswoman would not say whether the company had received such requests. The spokeswoman said: "If we receive a request from law enforcement for a user's password, we deny such requests on the grounds that they would allow overly broad access to our users' private information. If we are required to provide information, we do so only in the strictest interpretation of what is required by law."

Apple, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to queries about whether they have received requests for users' passwords and how they would respond to them.

The FBI declined to comment.

Some details remain unclear, including when the requests began and whether the government demands are always targeted at individuals or seek entire password database dumps. The Patriot Act has been used to demand entire database dumps of phone call logs, and critics have suggested its use is broader. "The authority of the government is essentially limitless" under that law, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Senate Intelligence committee, said at a Washington event this week.

Large Internet companies have resisted the government's requests by arguing that "you don't have the right to operate the account as a person," according to a person familiar with the issue. "I don't know what happens when the government goes to smaller providers and demands user passwords," the person said.

An attorney who represents Internet companies said he has not fielded government password requests, but "we've certainly had reset requests -- if you have the device in your possession, than a password reset is the easier way."

Cracking the codes
Even if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user's original password is hardly guaranteed. The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password.

Algorithms, known as hash functions, that are viewed as suitable for scrambling stored passwords are designed to be difficult to reverse. One popular hash function called MD5, for instance, transforms the phrase "National Security Agency" into this string of seemingly random characters: 84bd1c27b26f7be85b2742817bb8d43b. Computer scientists believe that, if a hash function is well-designed, the original phrase cannot be derived from the output.

But modern computers, especially ones equipped with high-performance video cards, can test passwords scrambled with MD5 and other well-known hash algorithms at the rate of billions a second. One system using 25 Radeon-powered GPUs that was demonstrated at a conference last December tested 348 billion hashes per second, meaning it would crack a 14-character Windows XP password in six minutes.

The best practice among Silicon Valley companies is to adopt far slower hash algorithms -- designed to take a large fraction of a second to scramble a password -- that have been intentionally crafted to make it more difficult and expensive for the NSA and other attackers to test every possible combination.

One popular algorithm, used by Twitter and LinkedIn, is called bcrypt. A 2009 paper (PDF) by computer scientist Colin Percival estimated that it would cost a mere $4 to crack, in an average of one year, an 8-character bcrypt password composed only of letters. To do it in an average of one day, the hardware cost would jump to approximately $1,500.

But if a password of the same length included numbers, asterisks, punctuation marks, and other special characters, the cost-per-year leaps to $130,000. Increasing the length to any 10 characters, Percival estimated in 2009, brings the estimated cracking cost to a staggering $1.2 billion.

As computers have become more powerful, the cost of cracking bcrypt passwords has decreased. "I'd say as a rough ballpark, the current cost would be around 1/20th of the numbers I have in my paper," said Percival, who founded a company called Tarsnap Backup, which offers "online backups for the truly paranoid." Percival added that a government agency would likely use ASICs -- application-specific integrated circuits -- for password cracking because it's "the most cost-efficient -- at large scale -- approach."

While developing Tarsnap, Percival devised an algorithm called scrypt, which he estimates can make the "cost of a hardware brute-force attack" against a hashed password as much as 4,000 times greater than bcrypt.

Bcrypt was introduced (PDF) at a 1999 Usenix conference by Niels Provos, currently a distinguished engineer in Google's infrastructure group, and David Mazières, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University.

With the computers available today, "bcrypt won't pipeline very well in hardware," Mazières said, so it would "still be very expensive to do widespread cracking."

Even if "the NSA is asking for access to hashed bcrypt passwords," Mazières said, "that doesn't necessarily mean they are cracking them." Easier approaches, he said, include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in -- which has been done before -- or installing a keylogger at the client.

Questions of law
Whether the National Security Agency or FBI has the legal authority to demand that an Internet company divulge a hashed password, salt, and algorithm remains murky.

"This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?" said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society. "I don't know."

Granick said she's not aware of any precedent for an Internet company "to provide passwords, encrypted or otherwise, or password algorithms to the government -- for the government to crack passwords and use them unsupervised." If the password will be used to log in to the account, she said, that's "prospective surveillance," which would require a wiretap order or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order.

If the government can subsequently determine the password, "there's a concern that the provider is enabling unauthorized access to the user's account if they do that," Granick said. That could, she said, raise legal issues under the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former federal prosecutor, disagrees. First, he said, "impersonating someone is legal" for police to do as long as they do so under under court supervision through the Wiretap Act.

Second, Kerr said, the possibility that passwords could be used to log into users' accounts is not sufficient legal grounds for a Web provider to refuse to divulge them. "I don't know how it would violate the Wiretap Act to get information lawfully only on the ground that the information might be used to commit a Wiretap violation," he said.

The Justice Department has argued in court proceedings before that it has broad legal authority to obtain passwords. In 2011, for instance, federal prosecutors sent a grand jury subpoena demanding the password that would unlock files encrypted with the TrueCrypt utility.

The Florida man who received the subpoena claimed the Fifth Amendment, which protects his right to avoid self-incrimination, allowed him to refuse the prosecutors' demand. In February 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, saying that because prosecutors could bring a criminal prosecution against him based on the contents of the decrypted files, the man "could not be compelled to decrypt the drives."

In January 2012, a federal district judge in Colorado reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that a criminal defendant could be compelled under the All Writs Act to type in the password that would unlock a Toshiba Satellite laptop.

Both of those cases, however, deal with criminal proceedings when the password holder is the target of an investigation -- and don't address when a hashed password is stored on the servers of a company that's an innocent third party.

"If you can figure out someone's password, you have the ability to reuse the account," which raises significant privacy concerns, said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

Tags: Technology, United States, Policy, Privacy, Regulation, Legal, FBI, passphrases, hash function, NSA, passwords, truecrypt, encryption, surveillance, national security agency To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obamacare Exchanges "Not Like Travelocity" | Obamacare National Marketing Campaign To Cost Nearly $700M

Editorial Cartoon by William Warren
Today in Washington, D.C. - July 26, 2013
The Senate is not in session today and will reconvene on Monday, when it will take up the nomination of James Comey to be FBI director.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 98-1 to confirm Derek West as Associate Attorney General and voted 56-42 to table (to kill) a motion from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to recommit S. 1243, the Fiscal Year 2014 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, to the Appropriations Committee with instructions that it be reported back with an amendment to limit spending levels to $45.5 billion.

The House convened at 10 Am for two minutes and set the next meeting of the House at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Yesterday, the House voted 265-155 to pass H.R. 2218 to amend subtitle D of the Solid Waste Disposal Act to encourage recovery and beneficial use of coal combustion residuals and establish requirements for the proper management and disposal of coal combustion residuals that are protective of human health and the environment.

Is the White House Spoiling for a Government Shutdown?  Well, now we know why the president won’t dismiss the idea of a government shutdown – his White House is busy mapping out a strategy that could make one happen.

According to the Washington Post, “[s]enior White House officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown” this fall. “Under this scenario, the president might refuse to sign a new funding measure that did not roll back the sequester.” The sequester he proposed and insisted on, that is.

This emerging White House strategy is consistent with recent administration threats to veto any spending bill unless Congress agrees to the president’s demand for a broader budget deal with higher taxes and higher spending – the type of explicit threat to shut down the government rarely seen in Washington.

This is a radical reversal for the president who, previously said: “[B]y law, until Congress takes the sequester away, we’d have to abide by those additional cuts.  But there’s no reason why we should have another crisis by shutting the government down in addition to these arbitrary spending cuts.” (Statement by the President on the Sequester, 3/1/13)

Republicans are no fans of the sequester and voted to replace it – twice. Senate Democrats have passed no legislation to replace the sequester, and the president has put no pressure on his party to do so.

If the president truly wanted to replace the arbitrary cuts he insisted on, he would work with the House to enact smarter spending cuts and reforms that strengthen our economy. He wouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless he gets another tax hike to pay for more of the ‘stimulus’-style spending he’s touting.

Every day, there’s a new story on the “train wreck” that the implementation of Obamacare is turning into and how it’s failing to live up to the promises Democrats made about it.

Just a month ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a press release touted the exchanges created by the health care law,  “In the same way that websites like Travelocity allow consumers to compare multiple options according to features and price, the new exchanges will give millions of now uninsured or underinsured Americans a way to enroll for health insurance.” Yesterday, in a story headlined, “New health insurance markets: Not like Travelocity,” the AP wrote, “You may have heard that shopping for health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will be like using Travelocity or Amazon. But many people will end up with something more mundane than online shopping, like a call to the help desk. Struggling with a deadline crunch, some states are delaying online tools that could make it easier for consumers to find the right plan when the markets go live on Oct. 1.

Ahead of open enrollment for millions of uninsured Americans, the feds and the states are investing in massive call centers. ‘The description that this was going to be like Travelocity was a very simplistic way of looking at it,’ said Christine Ferguson, director of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange. ‘I never bought into it.’ . . . The Obama administration, which will be running the markets or taking the lead in 35 states, has yet to demonstrate the technology platform that will help consumers get financial help with their premiums and pick a plan. . . . It's a complicated transaction with different components, including arranging financing and picking the right product, each with its own choices and trade-offs. You may need a glossary of health insurance terms. And there's another layer. One part of the process involves applying for federal benefits — with consequences if you lie to the government, or maybe just make a mistake.”

As the ever expanding set of regulations and complications of Obamacare comes to light, it’s little wonder Americans continue to sour on this law. National Journal wrote last night, “Opponents of President Obama's health care law overwhelmingly believe the Affordable Care Act will worsen the quality of their care, and even a plurality of the law's supporters don't think it will improve their health care . . . . These findings from this week's United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll underscore why the law has become so politically precarious for the White House. . . . Those who disapprove of the measure feel more strongly than those who approve. In a new CBS News poll released Wednesday, the majority of respondents, 54%, said they disapprove of the health care law, while only 36% approved. But the poll also explored the intensity of those feelings: Only 15% ‘strongly approve,’ 21% ‘somewhat approve,’ 18 percent ‘somewhat disapprove,’ and 36% ‘strongly disapprove.’ . . . Overall, this week's poll found just 18% of Americans believed the law will improve their health care ‘at least somewhat,’ one-third believe it will make their care worse, and 41 percent think it won't have much of an impact at all. Among the 36% of respondents who want to repeal Obamacare, two-thirds think it will make their health care worse.”

With Americans’ rightful continuing skepticism of this law, the Obama administration is apparently pulling out all the stops to spend taxpayer money to sell the law to Americans paying for it. According to the AP, “The campaign won’t come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million.” The Washington Post described the form some of this taxpayer-funded marketing would take: “In Connecticut, selling Obamacare involves airplanes flying banners across beaches. Oregon may reel in hipsters with branded coffee cups for their lattes. And in neighboring Washington, the effort could get quite intimate: The state is interested in sponsoring portable toilets at concerts.” Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal noted that Teddy Roosevelt, “[t]he long-suffering presidential mascot for the Washington Nationals baseball team starred in a video promo last night with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to promote Obamacare.

The video aired before the Nationals game last night with the Pittsburgh Pirates.” And today, Reuters describes “the first wave of 2,000 community organizers in California getting trained to persuade more than 1 million uninsured people in the state to sign up for subsidized health coverage under President Barack Obama's reform law. . . . Among U.S. states, California will have the largest force deployed in a massive national outreach effort costing hundreds of millions of dollars. These thousands of foot soldiers will have to promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the face of widespread political opposition and public skepticism. . . . Opponents of the health reform law have criticized the public funds spent on mobilizing tens of thousands of people like Kayali into what they say is a highly politicized campaign.”

Speaking about Obamacare yesterday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “[G]oing around telling people Obamacare’s ‘working the way it’s supposed to,’ or that it’s ‘fabulous’ or ‘wonderful,’ as several of our Democrat ... have done ...  doesn’t change reality. It’s just words. It doesn’t change the fact that recent surveys show only 13%  of Americans now believe the law will help them. Or that about half believe it will make things worse for the middle class. Or that actuaries are now predicting cost increases of 30% or more in my home state of Kentucky. . . . So, if the President is ready to ‘pivot’ from campaign mode to governing mode, he can start by dropping the misleading claims and admitting what pretty much everyone knows: that a lot of Americans are going to feel pain once this ocean-full of tomorrows finally crashes ashore. Americans are worried. I don’t blame them.”

Leader McConnell called on the president to sign a bill that would delay both the employer and individual mandates in Obamacare. “It would be a great first step . . . a delay that would give Republicans and Democrats the chance to start over and work together this time on bipartisan, step-by-step health reforms that could actually lower costs.”

Tags: Obamacare, exchanges, marketing campaign  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fill Inspectors General Vacancies

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced legislation to reduce lengthy vacancies in federal offices of inspectors general. The Verifying Agency Conduct and Needs Through Inspectors General Act (VACANT Inspectors General Act) would require the nomination of a person to each Inspector General (IG) position within 210 days of a vacancy, or the authority to fill the job would be transferred to Congress.

“Inspectors General play a valuable role in the oversight of government efficiency and effectiveness. They also investigate allegations of fraud and other illegal activities. IGs enable Congress to improve programs, conduct thorough oversight, and reduce waste of taxpayer dollars. Congress is committed to reducing IG vacancies, and this legislation will encourage this President and future Presidents to make this a priority as well,” Boozman said.

“Inspectors Generals are taxpayers’ best advocates to fight waste, fraud and abuse throughout the federal government,” Shaheen said. “Making sure we have our watchdogs in place is absolutely critical to putting our fiscal house in order and managing the government as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

“Inspectors general play an important role in rooting out waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency within the federal government,” Ayotte said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help reduce vacancies and ensure that these critical oversight positions are held by well-qualified, experienced individuals.”

Recent IG vacancies have extended for years. The nomination for IG of the State Department occurred on June 27, 2013, following a 1,989 day vacancy that began on January 16, 2008, during the previous administration. Vacancies at other cabinet-level agencies stretch back to 2011.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 seeks to prevent vacancies that stretch beyond 210 days. The VACANT Inspectors General Act puts teeth behind this law. For vacancies that go 210 days without a nomination, this bill would provide the Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore the authority to appoint an IG based on recommendations from the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and the Council of Inspector Generals for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). A similar process is used to select the non-partisan director of the Congressional Budget Office.

In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court affirmed that Congress has the ability to appoint officials – such as Inspectors General – with authorities that are essentially of an investigative and informative nature, such as the power to conduct audits and investigations, issue subpoenas, produce reports, and provide recommendations. Therefore, under the bill, congressionally-appointed IGs would have the same authority as all other IGs, except for the power to make an arrest without a warrant for certain crimes, or to seek and execute warrants for arrest, search, and seizure.

Tags: bipartisan bill, inspector Generals, IG, vacancies, VACANT, Supreme Court, John Boozman, Arkansas, Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampsire, Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Economy? It Must be the GOP's Fault, Right?

Alan Caruba, Contributing Author: Oh goody, the President is about to launch another series of speeches to address the economic stagnation for which he is to blame. Just what we all need—another speech. He is going to blame Republicans for the failure of his economic policies and he going to do it because it works. We know it works because his approval rating continues to hover around 47%, but dipped to 41% in a recent poll.

Obama spent the four years of his first term blaming George W. Bush until it became a joke along with his dependence on Tele-prompters. The only question facing the White House and all of the rest of us is how long will it take for this stagnant, nearly moribund economy to turn around? Don’t hold your breath.

The public is remarkably docile and history tells us that our grandparent’s generation endured the Great Depression from 1929 until the beginning of World War II in 1941. Because of his great popularity, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected four times, starting in 1932, despite the obvious failure of his economic policies. Like Obama, the media of that era loved FDR.

The current economic malaise has affected everyone in some fashion—losing a job, having a job converted to a part-time status, having work hours limited, possibly facing foreclosure on their home, experiencing extremely low interest rates on their savings, the higher cost of gas and groceries, all without seriously affecting Obama’s job approval ratings or popularity.

Obama is going out on the road to maintain and bolster what popularity he retains because there is a huge portion of the population that continues to ignore the failure of his stimulus program, the Benghazi scandal, the growing scandal within the Internal Revenue Service, the revelation that the NSA is tracking and retaining records of all our electronic communications, and most obviously the lavish lifestyle of Obama that permits him take his family on an “official” trip to Africa that cost of $100 million, soon to be followed by another vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

Some economists are beginning to write about an economic recovery, but as experienced by most people, it is a phantom recovery. On July 15, Mort Zuckerman, the editor-in-chief of US News & World Report, had a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal titled “A Jobless Recovery is a Phony Recovery.” He noted that the failure to recover from the financial crisis of 2008 has been “the longest and worst recession since the end of World War II”; one that has “been marked by the weakest recovery from any U.S. recession in that same period.”

Zuckerman said “the jobless nature of the recovery is particularly unsettling” and cited surveys that demonstrated the lack of fulltime versus part-time jobs. While the official government unemployment figure is 7.6%, Zuckerman cited data that, as of June, put it at 14.5%, up from 13.8% in May. “The 7.6% unemployment figure so common in headlines these days is utterly misleading.”

That, however, has been Obama’s special genius. He knows how to mislead people and he does so effortlessly, telling lies that a school child would not get away with or, in the case of the Benghazi scandal, drowning it in lies and then putting distance between the event long enough to see it sink below the public radar or even concern. The mainstream media has long since abandoned any coverage of it.

Not even the nation’s soaring debt merits coverage by the mainstream media. It now stands at $17 trillion dollars, exceeding the Gross Domestic Product by easily three trillion, meaning that the nation is taking in far less than it is spending. Indeed, the nation has avoided even more debt only because of the draconian “sequester” that capped government spending. After Congress returns from its August recess, the battle over raising the debt limit will ensue.

As the Heritage Foundation recently calculated, your personal share of the national debt is $53,769. This debt will cause families to lose up to $11,000 of their income every year at the same time high government spending will eliminate opportunities for career advancement, will paralyze job creation, and lower wages and salaries. Many will not be able to borrow money as interest rates increase.

It’s not like there haven’t been voices in the political wilderness warning of these outcomes. One notable voice has been David A. Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director from 1981 to 1985, and currently the author of “The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America.”

“Over the last 13 years,” Stockman wrote in a New York Times opinion editorial, “the stock market has twice crashed and touched off a recession: American households lost $5 trillion in the 2000-dot-com bust and more than $7 trillion in the 2007 housing crash. Sooner or later—within a few years, I predict—this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by the egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.”

The largest bankruptcy of an American city, Detroit, just made the headlines and it wasn’t caused by Republicans. Democrats have run Detroit since January 1952. In combination with its public service unions, its mayors and city government, all Democrats, destroyed the city.

President Obama is going to hit his perpetual campaign trail to tell Americans that the economy is turning around, is gaining momentum, and that his policies of the first four years have worked. They have not. At some point enough American will have to stop listening to Obama’s siren call — “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
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© 2013 Alan Caruba. Alan is a writer by profession; has authored several books, and writes a daily column, "Warning Signs" disseminated on many Internet news and opinion websites and blogs. He is a contributing author at ARRA News Service.

Tags: the economy, e3conomy, PResident Obama, speech, GOP's Fault, Alan Caruba To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Washington Contraband

by AF "Tony" Branco

Tags: Washington Contraband, Barack Obama, blame Washington tour, 17 trillion debt, IRS scandal, $800 billion stimulus, Benghazi, fast and furious, NSA, Obamacare, AF Branco, editorial cartoon To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obama's Running On Empty

Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: Since his reelection eight months ago, President Obama has been coasting, and it's showing. His approval ratings are tanking. His signature legislative accomplishment, Obamacare, is as unpopular as ever. Seeking to regain his footing ahead of some critical budget battles in the months ahead, Obama decided to give yet another speech on the economy.

But how many times can this White House "pivot to the economy"? By one analysis, they've tried well over a dozen times. In fact, ABC’s Rick Klein said in February that Obama has "pivoted enough to have spun himself around, more than a few times."

Indeed, Obama's worn-out message seems to be wearing thin even among his loyal media cheerleaders. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank summed it up well, writing: "…just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of ideas. … And so the president, it seems, is going into reruns."

Leadership requires more than just good speeches.

Phony Scandals?
There were a couple of things in Obama's speech yesterday that warrant some discussion. Yesterday the president declared that Washington has been distracted by an "endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals." Really?

When the IRS scandal broke, President Obama condemned the targeting of Christian, conservative and Tea Party groups as "outrageous." Obama said, "There is no place for it, and [those responsible] have to be held fully accountable." He went on to say, "I have got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it, and we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this."

Is this the phony scandal he referred to yesterday? More than three-quarters of the American people think this "phony scandal" deserves a special prosecutor.

Maybe Obama was referring to Benghazi. If that is a phony scandal, why has his administration gone to such extraordinary lengths to prevent the survivors from testifying? If it was phony, he should want everyone to know the facts.

The American people do not think these are "phony scandals." A June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 58% of Americans questioned the Obama White House's honesty and integrity as a result of the Benghazi scandal, and 55% felt the same way as a result of the IRS scandal.

Obama's Alternate Reality
After rehashing his class-warfare rhetoric, Obama then offered his audience a false choice between his left-wing agenda and a grossly distorted view of conservative values, saying, "That's not the vision I have for this country. It's not the vision you have for this country. That's not the America we know."

This is coming from a man who is clueless about what America is. He is committed to "fundamentally transforming" America into a European-style, socialist welfare state. He doubled down on Obamacare yesterday, even as members of his own party are turning against it.

America was founded on the notion that our liberty comes from God. But Obama is extremely uncomfortable with the concept of American exceptionalism. According to Obama, America is no more exceptional than England or Greece.

He has denied our Christian heritage. Speaking before foreign audiences, Obama has said, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation," and "If you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

That is a bizarre and inaccurate statement. There are more Muslims in Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso and Kazakhstan! Yet Obama has the audacity to lecture us about the right vision for America.

More Bad News For Obama
[Yesterday] President Obama delivered yet another major address on the economy. According to one top White House advisor, today's speech was just the beginning of "a series of speeches" Obama will deliver over the next few weeks.

Why now? Some reports indicate that the White House is hoping it can frame the agenda for upcoming budget fights. Congress is getting ready to head out of town for its August recess. And with top congressional leaders gone, Obama can dominate the headlines. But based on the latest polling data, it appears as if Obama is really in damage control mode.

We reported [previously] the latest Marist poll that found Obama's approval rating at a post-reelection low -- a dismal 41%, and another poll that found many Democrats have turned against Obamacare. The news isn't any better today. For example:
  • According to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, only 29% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.
  • While Mr. Obama is trying to take credit for an improving economy, Americans aren't buying it. Just 31% believe the economy is likely to improve next year.
  • Only 34% said they believed Obamacare is a good idea. Anyone who thinks Obamacare is a good idea should talk to part-time workers in Florida, Nebraska, Ohio and communities across the country where hours and paychecks are getting slashed thanks to the new law.
  • Asked whether they wanted Obama or Congress to take the lead in setting policy for the country, 38% said Obama, while 48% said Congress. That's an interesting finding because the liberal media constantly tries to inflate Obama's standing by noting that he's so much more popular than Congress. Yet the American people would still prefer Congress set the agenda rather than Obama!
In other news, Obama's program to aid struggling homeowners is a failure. According to a new report, nearly half of the mortgages modified under Obama's 2009 program are in default again. And taxpayers are still losing billions on Obama's bailout of "Government Motors."

Instead of just talking, maybe Mr. Obama should sit down and read a few economics textbooks!
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Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

Tags: President Obama, running on empty, phony scandals, alternate reality, Gary Bauer, Campaign for Working Families To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

NLRB: The Little Labor Board That Could… Destroy Your Job

Rick Manning
by Rick Manning: The Obama Administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the wool over the eyes of naïve Senate Republicans in agreeing to pull back two objectionable appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in exchange for the dropping of any filibuster threat against replacement nominees.

Within 24 hours of the deal, President Obama submitted two new nominees who the White House admitted had been co-selected by AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka. They have already been reported out of committee and will face rubber stamp Senate votes next week.

But to pour salt in the wound, the White House might nominate failed nominee Richard Griffin for the post of General Counsel to the NLRB, reports the Huffington Post.

Griffin was the most objectionable of all nominees largely because he faces a civil RICO suit from some of the members of the union where he worked as its General Counsel. Now, Griffin is likely to find himself as the lead attorney for the NLRB, while hapless Senate Republicans wonder what hit them. Remember that it was Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon who brought about the attack on the Boeing Corporation for having the audacity of opening an airplane manufacturing facility in the right to work state of South Carolina. So, as the saying goes inside the Beltway, being the General Counsel ain’t mashed potatoes.

The determination of Big Labor and the Obama Administration to put their hand-picked co-conspirators into place in the NLRB points out the extraordinary power the “independent” board enjoys.

Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) has introduced legislation that would strike to the heart of the NLRB’s power. Scott would simply strip away the NLRB’s adjudicatory authority. This simple action would take away the very capacity of this unaccountable, politically appointed Board to create employment law through their decisions.

Some may ask, why is taking away the NLRB’s power so important. The answer is found in the desperate maneuvers by the Senate majority at the behest of the Big Labor masters to pack the Board with pro-union members. Majority Leader Reid was willing to fundamentally change minority rights in the Senate in order to get nominees to this obscure Board in place.

Based upon the high stakes games played around the NLRB, it would be naïve to dismiss the Board’s power to impact the employment market as inconsequential. In fact, the NLRB over the course of the Obama Administration has proven to be the most effective government advocate for enacting Big Labor’s agenda.

For example, there was the Board’s ruling against Prime Healthcare Services, a California-based hospital company that was forced to continue collecting union dues even after the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement, a decision that overturned a half-century of legal precedent.

Then there was the agency’s ruling against Kent Hospital — in which the board held employees were no longer permitted to opt out of paying the percentage of union dues spent on political activity.

One could go on, but they underscore the most compelling reason to pass Representative Scott’s legislation. The only way to rein in big government is to strip it of its power, and there is no better place to start than with the NLRB.

The NLRB may be a little Board, but it has a big impact on the rules that govern how an employer and employee can interact in the workplace.

It is time for Congress to pass Representative Scott’s legislation to return the NLRB back to the obscure status that it was always intended for it.
----------------
Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. This article was also shared on NetRightDaily.

Tags: NLRB,  board, destroy jobs, big Labor, Rick Manning, Americans for Limited Government To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Terry McAuliffe & Greentech - It Was All A Show

The Franklin Center: Whistle-blower speaks out against Virginia democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe's GreenTech and its questionable dealings with cash-for-visas on MWC-TV - "More Questions About GreenTech." "We would stand over the car with tools in our hand and look like we were doing something to the car, but we wasn't doing anything," said the former employee.

Editor;s Suggested Additional Articles:
- Investigation Targets Homeland Official’s Relationship To VA Gov Candidate Terry McAuliffe's Company
- McAuliffe company pressed Homeland official on 81 investor visas
- VIDEO: Fox News looks at possible scandal involving GreenTech funder, Homeland Security

Tags: Greentech,  Horn Lake, Mississippi, all electric autos, more questions, whistle-blower, It Was All A Show, Terry McAuliffe, 2013, democrat, candidate, Virginia, governor To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obamacare Advertisers Hit Pay Dirt

The Obama Administration Is Spending $700M To Gloss Over Obamacare’s ‘Drastically Higher Rates,’ And Taxpayers Are Footing The Bill
A $700 Million Campaign Involving ‘Porta-Potties, Coffee Cups And Airplanes’
‘The campaign won’t come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million’ “As President Barack Obama’s health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage. The campaign won’t come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources.” (“‘Obamacare’ National Marketing Campaign To Cost Nearly $700 Million,” AP, 7/24/13)

“The long-suffering presidential mascot for the Washington Nationals baseball team starred in a video promo last night with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to promote Obamacare. The video aired before the Nationals game last night with the Pittsburgh Pirates.” (“HHS Drafts Teddy Roosevelt To Promote Obamacare,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/24/13)
  • “‘Our participation included the opportunity to throw out the first pitch and create a PSA for use exclusively on the big screen on that night,’ said HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters. A Nationals spokeswoman agreed, saying ‘it was a onetime showing of the PSA last night in conjunction with the HHS group ticket sale’ and there are no further plans to use the video.” (“HHS Drafts Teddy Roosevelt To Promote Obamacare,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/24/13)
“… [in] Washington, the effort could get quite intimate: The state is interested in sponsoring portable toilets at concerts.” (“Q: What Do Porta-Potties, Coffee Cups And Airplanes Have In Common? A: Obamacare,” The Washington Post, 7/10/13)

“In Connecticut, selling Obamacare involves airplanes flying banners across beaches.” (“Q: What Do Porta-Potties, Coffee Cups And Airplanes Have In Common? A: Obamacare,” The Washington Post, 7/10/13)

“Oregon may reel in hipsters with branded coffee cups for their lattes.” (“Q: What Do Porta-Potties, Coffee Cups And Airplanes Have In Common? A: Obamacare,” The Washington Post, 7/10/13)

“Cover Oregon, the state of Oregon's health insurance exchange program required by Obamacare, began a $3.2 million ad campaign last week to inform Oregonians about the October 1 launch of the exchange. Included in that campaign is a minute-long TV ad featuring a song titled ‘Live Long in Oregon’ and Portland singer-songwriter Laura Gibson.” (“Oregon Obamacare Exchange Program Spends $3.2 Million on Ad Campaign,” Weekly Standard, 7/12/13)
CBS: “It sort of contributes to the feeling that the Affordable Care Act is a jalopy they’re trying to roll out of the driveway here at barely operational for the president. So that’s not good.” (CBS,’ ‘This Morning,’ 7/3/13)

‘Drastically Higher Rates’ For Young Adults -- Premiums Could Be ‘Seven Times More Expensive’
‘Starting next year, a 30 year-old earning $35,000 per year would have to pay $2,739 annually for a cheap ‘bronze plan’ … seven times more expensive than in the cheapest state, Nebraska’ “…the anticipated rates under Obamacare are far more expensive than the existing rates for a healthy 30 year-old. Starting next year, a 30 year-old earning $35,000 per year would have to pay $2,739 annually for a cheap ‘bronze plan’ on the new health insurance exchanges, even after receiving subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator. That’s more expensive than any state in the current system, and seven times more expensive than in the cheapest state, Nebraska, where premiums are currently as low as $349 annually.” (“GAO Report Points To Obamacare ‘Rate Shock.’” Washington Examiner, 7/24/13)

“…the Obama administration has to convince nearly 3 million young and healthy Americans to purchase insurance by offering them drastically higher rates than the current market — the one from which they’re currently opting out.” (“GAO Report Points To Obamacare ‘Rate Shock.’” Washington Examiner, 7/24/13)

“Interviews here with more than two dozen single workers of modest income between 24 and 31 years old suggest that insurance plans will be a hard sell.” (“New Health-Care Law's Success Rests On The Young,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/25/13)
  • ‘For some people, however, the math doesn't work. … “I'm not going to pay for that,” said Mr. Scarboro, age 30’ “For some people, however, the math doesn't work. The $29,000 annual pay that Jonathan Scarboro expects to earn this year as a $14-an-hour, full-time mechanic at Velocult—a combination bike shop and cafe-bar—is too high for a subsidy. The cheapest plan would cost him $147 a month and carry a $6,350 deductible for many services, including hospital care. For $172 a month, he could buy a plan with a $2,500 deductible. ‘I'm not going to pay for that,’ said Mr. Scarboro, age 30. ‘It breaks down to: Can I afford it? And, am I getting my money's worth?’” (“New Health-Care Law's Success Rests On The Young,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/25/13)
  • ‘“I'm healthy, so it's not in the budget,” Mr. Meiffren said’ “For Mr. Meiffren, the cheapest available insurance plan he could buy with the subsidies would cost him $116 a month, with a $6,350 annual deductible. His subsidy would total $14 a month, based on his $25,000 annual income. ‘I'm healthy, so it's not in the budget,’ Mr. Meiffren said after the lunch rush. He lost a full-time job—and his insurance—last fall.” (“New Health-Care Law's Success Rests On The Young,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/25/13)

Tags: Obamacare, Advertisers, pay dirt,  government funds,  taxpayers money To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Reactions to Obama’s Speech | CBS: ‘More Americans Than Ever Want Obamacare Repealed’

Today in Washington, D.C. - July 25, 2013
The Senate reconvened at 9:30 AM. Following two hours of morning business, the Senate began consideration of Derek West to be Associate Attorney General. and at 12:30 PM, voted 98-1 to confirm West.

The Senate then resumed consideration of S. 1243, the Fiscal Year 2014 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill.

Yesterday, over the objections of the most liberal Democrats, the Senate finally passed a bipartisan student loan bill (H.R. 1911), put together by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). The bill passed by a vote of 81-18. Prior to the vote, the Senate rejected two alternative proposals offered by liberal Senators Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Boehner Praised the Senate Passage of the Bipartisan Student Loan Reforms which paralleled the principles of the previously passed House bill. Boehner said, “I’m pleased that Senate Democrats finally joined Republicans to pass a bill to provide a permanent, market-based solution on student loans. This bipartisan agreement is a victory for students, for parents, and for our economy, and it is consistent with the House Republican bill passed in May. I’d like to thank Chairman Kline and, especially, Representative Virginia Foxx for their work on this issue, as well as the bipartisan Members of the Senate that completed worked on this measure. The House will act expeditiously.”

The House convened at 9 AM and took up and passed at 11:41 AM by a vote of 265-155 H.R. 2218 To amend subtitle D of the Solid Waste Disposal Act to encourage recovery and beneficial use of coal combustion residuals and establish requirements for the proper management and disposal of coal combustion residuals that are protective of human health and the environment. No other floor business was planned for today.

Yesterday, the House passed (315-109) H.R. 2397 — "Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and for other purposes" after today passing the following additional amendments (see prior list of passed amendments):
LaMalfa (R-CA)(235-188) - Amendment No. 51 - Provides that none of the funds made available in this act may be used to pay any fine assessed against a military installation by the California Air Resources Board.
Mulvaney (R-SC), Van Hollen (D-MD), Coffman (R-CO), Murphy, Patrick (R-FL) (215-206) – Amendment No. 55 - Reduces funds made available in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget by $3,546,000,000 to better correspond with the President’s request. Protects all amounts made available for the National Guard and Reserve Component Equipment modernization shortfalls for homeland defense and emergency response.
Walorski (R-IN) (238-185) – Amendment No. 62 - Prohibits any funds made available by this Act from being used to transfer or release detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen.
Bonamici (D-OR) (264-154) – Amendment No. 65 - Prevents the retirement, divestment, transfer, or preparation to do so of C-23 aircraft used by the National Guard and to designate $34 million for the sustainment and operation of the C-23 aircraft in a viable state.
Brooks (R-AL) (Voce Vote) – Amendment No. 72 - Prohibits funds from this Act to be used to implement or execute any agreement with the Russian Federation concerning the missile defenses of the United States.
Speier (D-CA), Wilson (D-FL), Chu (D-CA), Eshoo (D-CA), Keating (D-MA), Brownley (D-CA), Esty (D-CT), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Walz (D-MN), Meng (D-NY), Maloney, Carolyn (D-NY), Braley (D-IA) (voice Vote) – Amendment No. 74 - Provides funds to identify individuals who were separated from the military on the grounds of a disorder subsequent to reporting a sexual assault and, if appropriate, correcting their record.
Speier (D-CA), Schrader (D-OR), Wilson (D-FL), Chu (D-CA), Eshoo (D-CA), Keating (D-MA), Brownley (D-CA), Esty (D-CT), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Walz (D-MN), Meng (D-NY),Maloney, Carolyn (D-NY), Braley (D-IA) (Voice Vote) - Amendment No. 75 - Provides $10 million in additional funds to increase training for investigators to properly investigate sexual assault related offenses.
Radel (R-FL) (Voice Vote) – Amendment No. 97 - Prohibits the use of any funds with respect to military action in Syria to the extent such action would be inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution.
Massie (R-KY), Amash (R-MI), Yoho (R-FL) – Amendment No. 98 (Voice Vote) - Provides that no funds made available by this Act may be used to fund military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.
Kilmer (D-WA) (277-142) – Amendment No. 67 - Protects DoD civilians' security clearances.
Pompeo (R-KS) (409-12)– Amendment No. 99 - Ensures none of the funds may be used by the NSA to target a US person or acquire and store the content of a US person’s communications, including phone calls and e-mails.

After passage of after passage of the Department of Defense appropriations bill, Speaker John Beohner (R-OH) said, “This measure is critical in our efforts to provide our men and women in uniform the resources they need to help protect our country, and I’m pleased it passed in bipartisan fashion. I am particularly pleased that members on both sides of the aisle worked together to preserve critical intelligence tools that have proven successful in preventing terrorist attacks and keeping America safe. This measure responsibly provides the necessary resources for our deployed troops in Afghanistan as well as the resources and authorities our military and intelligence professionals need to respond to the security challenges in Syria, Iran, North Korea and other dangerous places around the world. I commend Chairmen Rogers and Young for their work on this bill and call on Senator Reid to bring it to a vote on the Senate floor so we can do right by our troops, our intelligence professionals, and their families.”

Reactions to President Obama's Speech 
The Heritage Foundation addressed "three major whoppers Obama tried to sell yesterday": 1. Obamacare is going great, 2. "I cut the deficit in half", and 3. Middle-class income is stuck in the '70s.

Reacting to President Obama’s more of the same speech yesterday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “[T]he President himself said his speech probably wouldn’t change any minds. Even the advisors who endlessly hyped this thing more or less conceded there wouldn’t be any ‘there’ there – no groundbreaking proposals, no tack to the center, no promise to finally start working collaboratively with Congress. Well, they were right. So, really, what was the point?

“Look: this President’s a good campaigner. . . . But, at some point, campaign season has to end – and the working-with-others season has to begin. At some point, you have to stop promising an ‘ocean of tomorrows’ and start actually working with the representatives of the people. Because let’s be clear: Americans aren’t worried about how many tomorrows there are to come, they’re worried about what those tomorrows will bring. The bills in tomorrow’s mail. The cuts in tomorrow’s paycheck. The affordability of tomorrow’s health costs. These are things that can’t be addressed with reheated speeches or clever quotes. They require actually working with people – including those you might not always agree with.

“For instance, going around telling people Obamacare’s ‘working the way it’s supposed to,’ or that it’s ‘fabulous’ or ‘wonderful,’ as several of our Democrat friends have done – well, that doesn’t change reality. It’s just words.”

And President Obama really needs to spend more time considering the reality of his signature, unpopular law.

The reality is Americans still don’t approve of Obamacare and don’t think it will help their families. CBS reports, “A new CBS News poll finds more Americans than ever want the Affordable Care Act repealed. According to the poll, 36 percent of Americans want Congress to expand or keep the health care law while 39 percent want Congress to repeal it - the highest percentage seen in CBS News polls. The poll also found a majority of Americans - 54 percent - disapprove of the health care law, 36 percent of Americans approve of it and 10 percent said they don't know about it. . . . The poll also found just 13 percent of Americans say the health care law will personally ‘help me’ while 38 percent said they believe the law will personally ‘hurt me.’” A National Journal poll sheds more light on that aspect: “The share of Americans who believe that President Obama’s health care plan will ‘make things better’ for the middle class, their own families, and the country overall has tumbled sharply since last September, underscoring the administration’s formidable public-relations challenge as it prepares to roll out the sweeping legislation’s key remaining elements. . . . [J]ust 35 percent of those surveyed in the new poll said they believed the law will benefit ‘people like you or your family,’ while 46 percent expected it would make things worse for them. That’s a decline from last September, when 43 percent expected improvement and 40 percent anticipated harm. Two other measures found even greater slippage. Just 36 percent of those surveyed say the law will ‘make things better’ for the middle class, while 49 percent say they expect it will ‘make things worse.’ That’s another steep decline from September, when 45 percent said it would help, and 40 percent said it would hurt, the middle-class. Likewise, the share of adults who say the law will benefit the country overall fell by a comparable amount. . . . Just 41 percent expect benefits for the country, while a 48 percent plurality believe the law will make things worse.”

It’s not hard to see why, as almost every day Americans the reality of Obamacare in stories about the law hurting workers. The Washington Post reports, “For Kevin Pace, the president’s health-care law could have meant better health insurance. Instead, it produced a pay cut. Like many of his colleagues, the adjunct music professor at Northern Virginia Community College had managed to assemble a hefty course load despite his official status as a part-time employee. But his employer, the state, slashed his hours this spring to avoid a Jan. 1 requirement that all full-time workers for large employers be offered health insurance. The law defines ‘full time’ as 30 hours a week or more. . . . The impact on Pace and thousands of other workers in Virginia is an unintended consequence of the health law, which, as the most sweeping new social program in decades, is beginning to reshape aspects of American life. . . . The state has more than 37,000 part-time, hourly wage employees, with as many as 10,000 working more than 30 hours a week. Offering coverage to those workers, who include nurses, park rangers and adjunct professors, would have been prohibitively expensive, state officials said, costing as much as $110 million annually. ‘It was all about the money,’ said Sara Redding Wilson, director of Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management. . . . At a Capitol Hill hearing on the employer mandate Tuesday, Jamie T. Richardson, vice president of White Castle System, the Columbus, Ohio-based burger chain, said complying with the 30-hour rule would mean a 35 percent increase in the company's health-care costs. He said White Castle would probably adopt a policy ensuring that new hires work no more than 25 hours a week if the mandate goes forward as expected in 2015. . . . Officials in Utah’s Granite School District, which includes about 70,000 students in the Salt Lake City area, said their new policy limiting part-timers to 29 hours a week affected about 1,200 workers. Extending benefits to all of them would have cost the district $14 million annually, officials estimated.”

In northern Wisconsin, WJFW-TV reports, “ObamaCare will dig into the pocketbooks of part-time workers at one of the Northwoods' biggest employers. If Trig's Supermarkets hadn't cut part-time work hours, it would have been out of business within a year. That's what a consultant told the company. About two-thirds of the 1,100 Trig's employees are part-time workers. But if they work more than 30 hours a week, the president's health care legislation technically considers them full time. That means Trig's would be forced to provide health insurance to those workers. The report said keeping the work schedules as they were AND providing that health coverage would have been disastrous to the company's bottom line. ‘Doing nothing was not an option. It would have put us out of business. Within a year, it would have put us out of business. There's no doubt about that. So obviously we've had to make some changes,’ says Angie Dreifuerst, Trig's' Vice President of HR, Benefits, and MIS.”

Discussing these stories, Leader McConnell said, “So, if the President is ready to ‘pivot’ from campaign mode to governing mode, he can start by dropping the misleading claims and admitting what pretty much everyone knows: that a lot of Americans are going to feel pain once this ocean-full of tomorrows finally crashes ashore. Americans are worried. I don’t blame them. Just last week, as I often do, I met with employers from around Kentucky who expressed continued concerns about the impact this law will have on their operations. They want the Democrats who run the Senate to follow the House’s lead in delaying Obamacare for everyone – both businesses and individuals. They know it just makes sense to do so. And I know they want the President to sign the bill when it passes. I agree – he should. It would be a great first step toward implementing the permanent delay our country needs – a delay that would give Republicans and Democrats the chance to start over and work together this time on bipartisan, step-by-step health reforms that could actually lower costs.”

Tags: House, Defense Appropriations, Senate Student Loan bill, Reactions, President Obama's speech, Washington. D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

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