Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News/Commentary, Blog posts and publications(...)IWF RSS Reactions to King v. Burwell Arguments<p> Now that oral arguments are over and reporters from inside the courthouse have made it back to their desks, the reactions are coming strong.</p> <p> From Ilya Shapiro,&nbsp;<a href="">Cato Institute</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> The four liberal justices clearly believe that an exchange established &ldquo;for&rdquo; or &ldquo;in&rdquo; a state by the federal government is the same as an exchange &ldquo;established by the state,&rdquo; to quote the relevant statute. Justices Scalia and Alito (and presumably the silent Thomas) equally firmly believe that words mean what they say.</p> <p> So this case, as expected, turns on the views of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, who gave very little away at oral argument. If the government wins here, then not only will Obamacare continue to be rewritten by the IRS, but any executive agency &ndash; and any future president &ndash; will be able to rewrite any law. Accordingly, for the sake of the rule of law, I fervently hope that Roberts and Kennedy decide to enforce the Affordable Care Act as written and let Congress clean up its own mess.</p> </blockquote> <p> From Philip Klein,&nbsp;<a href="">Washington Examiner</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> The plaintiffs in the case, represented by Michael Carvin, have argued that the authors of Obamacare intended to withhold subsidies from those states that didn&#39;t set up their own exchanges as an incentive for them to do so. But that interpretation, Kennedy said, would raise questions relating to the sovereignty of states.</p> <p> Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, seized on this point, arguing, &quot;Our reading is the pro-federalism ruling.&quot; Justice Samuel Alito was more sympathetic to the challengers. He argued that in past cases, the Court has deemed it coercive if the federal government sets consequences for states regarding certain decisions, but then doesn&#39;t realize those consequences because they aren&#39;t clear.</p> <p> However, in this case, he said, states still have the option of setting up exchanges and getting subsidies. Carvin argued that the government interpretation of the law is actually the more intrusive, because of the mandates. Obamacare&#39;s fines against employers that do not offer health insurance coverage are triggered when a worker claims government subsidies to purchase insurance on an exchange &mdash; but in states where workers can no longer legally receive those subsidies, then there are no fines. Carvin argued that under the Obama administration&#39;s interpretation of the law, the federal government is able to unilaterally make decisions about the personnel policies of businesses in every state.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p> From Sarah Kliff,&nbsp;<a href=""></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> There were big surprises at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, where justices heard oral arguments in an Obamacare case that could determine the fate of the health care law.</p> <p> Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned whether the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, a case challenging the legality of Obamacare&#39;s insurance subsidies, even had standing to challenge the Affordable Care Act. Anthony Kennedy raised new questions about constitutionality &mdash; questions that neither the government nor the challengers brought up in their briefs. And Samuel Alito threw a total curve ball, describing an idea for subsidies no one saw coming.</p> </blockquote> <p> National Journal&#39;s Dylan Scott&nbsp;<a href="">reports</a>&nbsp;with some reactions from Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler:</p> <blockquote> <p> The two men who masterminded the latest legal challenge that imperils Obamacare were feeling pretty good about their chances after Wednesday&#39;s oral arguments at the Supreme Court.</p> <p> Michael Cannon, a Cato Institute scholar, and Jonathan Adler, a Case Western University law professor, sat in on the hearing.</p> <p> &quot;I&#39;m optimistic because the two swing justices were very skeptical of the government&#39;s argument,&quot; Cannon said.</p> <p> Adler concurred. &quot;I think we saw today is that the government&#39;s efforts to make this a textual case don&#39;t seem to be appealing to a majority of the court,&quot; he said,&quot; and that the sorts of arguments that could potentially support the government&#39;s position would pose grave risks to other federal programs.&quot;</p> <p> Chief Justice John Roberts didn&#39;t say much during Wednesday&#39;s hearing, and Justice Anthony Kennedy was tough on both sides. He did seem concerned about the federalism implications of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, saying during the argument that it would raise &quot;a serious constitutional problem.&quot; Adler acknowledged is one of the most difficult issues for their side.</p> </blockquote> <p> And of course there are <a href="">these</a> <a href="">blogs</a> from SCOTUSblog. &nbsp;</p> <p> Overall, today was not encouraging for petitioners. &nbsp;Of course, the oral arguments in the 2012 cases&nbsp;<em>NFIB v. Sebelius</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>HHS v. Florida</em>&nbsp;were considered to be a&nbsp;<a href="">train wreck</a>&nbsp;for the government, and then the government ended up winning with the upholding of the individual mandate (although losing the Medicaid expansion challenge). It&#39;s difficult to guess what the Supreme Court will do.&nbsp;</p> <p> <em>This blog entry is cross-posted at <a href=""></a>, a project of IWF.&nbsp;</em></p> HeathWed, 4 Mar 2015 11:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumTop Five Myths about King v. Burwell<p> <span style="font-size: 12px;">On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in </span><em style="font-size: 12px;">King v. Burwell</em><span style="font-size: 12px;">, a case that could have serious implications for ObamaCare. Current knowledge of the case is extremely low: 61 percent of people have heard little or nothing about it, while only 12 percent said they have heard a lot, and 27 percent have encountered &ldquo;just some,&rdquo; according to polling commissioned by Independent Women&rsquo;s Voice (IWV).</span></p> <p> When the public is under-informed, this provides an opening for those with the biggest microphones (like the White House and the mainstream media) to tell only their version of the story. Sadly, the result is often misinformation.</p> <p> As this discussion heats up, let&rsquo;s debunk the top five myths about <em>King v. Burwell</em> that you are sure to hear:</p> <p> <strong>Myth #1: This is a lawsuit against ObamaCare.</strong></p> <p> False:<em> King v. Burwell</em> is a challenge to a rule promulgated by the IRS that allows tax subsidies to flow through federally-facilitated exchanges.&nbsp; The statute clearly says that people are only eligible for subsidies if their state sets up its own exchange. In fact, the challengers in <em>King v. Burwell</em> are simply asking the Supreme Court to enforce the Affordable Care Act itself, which does not authorize health insurance subsidies to flow through federal exchanges. The argument in <em>King v. Burwell</em> is that when the IRS decided to send these subsidies out anyway, it acted illegally.</p> <p> <strong>Myth #2: This lawsuit is purely the result of a &ldquo;drafting error.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p> <a href="">Liberal health experts</a> and <a href="">Democratic lawmakers</a> are on record characterizing these subsidies as &ldquo;conditioned,&rdquo; saying citizens would only receive subsidies if their state established its own exchange. The original expectation could have been that non-establishing states would not receive the subsidies as a punishment for noncompliance and would therefore have an incentive to create their own exchanges.</p> <p> And it is hard to believe that this is a typo when the law says at least six times that the subsidies are available through exchanges &ldquo;Established by the State.&rdquo;</p> <p> <strong>Myth #3: This lawsuit is a project of Big Pharma.</strong></p> <p> Actually, almost the opposite is true: Big Business in the health sector is on the side of the government here.</p> <p> The government has received supporting Amicus Curiae briefs from America&rsquo;s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying organization for the insurance industry, Hospital Corporation of America, and many other health industry interests.&nbsp; Meanwhile, petitioners in <em>King v. Burwell</em> have <a href="">Amicus Curiae briefs</a> from a variety of legal scholars, citizens-rights groups, members of Congress, and states. PhRMA has not filed any briefs in the case.</p> <p> <strong>Myth #4: If challengers win, millions of people will be harmed.</strong></p> <p> Importantly, the potentially affected subsidized consumers simply <em>do not have to be harmed</em> in the event that SCOTUS sides against the government. Congress can pass contingency legislation that will provide a <a href=";mc_cid=c4bc3ec0e0&amp;mc_eid=22cfe9edbc">responsible transition for the affected population</a>. The IWV polling suggests that political pressure to hold harmless current subsidy recipients is strong (75 percent) and partisan (62 percent of Republicans), suggesting that it is basically inevitable that lawmakers act. A targeted, sensible fix could keep this year&rsquo;s subsidies in place and allow affected states, in the future, to transition to a federalist, block-grant style health system.</p> <p> <strong>Myth #5: Nothing good can result from this case.</strong></p> <p> Most media reports about <em>King v. Burwell</em> ignore those who would benefit from a ruling against the government.</p> <p> The subsidies in question trigger some of the law&rsquo;s most unpopular pieces &ndash; the individual mandate and the employer mandate. A ruling against the government would free <a href="">more than 8 million low- to middle-income Americans</a> from the requirement to buy ObamaCare&rsquo;s expensive, mandate-laden health insurance. Approximately <a href="">57 million workers</a> would be freed from the specter of reduced hours and reduced take-home pay as a consequence of the law&rsquo;s mandate on employers being voided.</p> <p> Perhaps most importantly, this case could open the door for serious improvements to our nation&rsquo;s health policies. ObamaCare has been a political stalemate, with both sides of the political spectrum digging in their heels: Democrats don&rsquo;t want to make any changes, and Republicans want nothing short of full repeal. But a ruling against the government in <em>King </em>could break the stalemate and force both sides to negotiate and reexamine a law that is approved by only <a href="">37 percent </a>&nbsp;of the American people.</p> <p> Regardless of our political views, we should all be rooting for the Supreme Court to rule against the government in <em>King v. Burwell</em>. It would set a terrible precedent for an administrative agency to go rogue and dole out monies from the Treasury without Congressional authorization. And furthermore, this case need not result in a crisis, but instead creates an opportunity to change our health laws for the better.&nbsp;</p> <p> <em>Manning is health policy director at the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.&nbsp;</em></p> HeathTue, 3 Mar 2015 12:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCongress Should Fix the ‘Doc Fix’ for Good<p> It&rsquo;s almost time for spring cleaning. But what if I told you this annual drudgery was unnecessary?&nbsp; I wish I could; we all wish there was a permanent fix to the clutter that inevitably accumulates over the course of the year.</p> <p> But there&rsquo;s another annual ritual &ndash; a Congressional vote on the so-called &ldquo;Doc Fix&rdquo; &ndash; that&nbsp;<em>is&nbsp;</em>unnecessary. Instead of putting taxpayers, Medicare patients, and doctors through the redundant rigmarole of a yearly vote to avoid automatic cuts, Congress should permanently fix Medicare&rsquo;s fiscal problems and make the &ldquo;Doc Fix&rdquo; unnecessary forever more.</p> <p> Many people &ndash; even many Medicare patients &ndash; aren&rsquo;t aware that Medicare is in dire financial straits. The Medicare Trustees say the program faces an unfunded liability of&nbsp;<strong><a href="">$28 - $35 trillion</a>&nbsp;</strong>over the next 75 years, meaning the payroll taxes that Medicare takes in (<a href=""><strong>2.9 percent</strong></a>&nbsp;of each worker&rsquo;s pay) will fall dramatically short of the total expected cost of Medicare benefits. &nbsp;</p> <p> In an effort to bring the program more into balance, in 1997, lawmakers created a formula intended to reign in Medicare&rsquo;s costs. This formula, called the Sustainable Growth Rate or SGR, would automatically reduce payments to Medicare doctors, saving the program money over time.</p> <p> Cutting government spending&mdash;particularly spending in a popular entitlement program&mdash;isn&rsquo;t politically popular. So without fail, since 2003, Congress has voted to avoid the SGR cuts. The last time Congress allowed the SGR to automatically take effect, in 2002, Medicare reimbursements decreased by&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>5.4 percent</strong></a>.</p> <p> But, like the dust on your windowsills, the avoided SGR reductions have accumulated over time.&nbsp; Now, because Congress is so far behind in terms of scheduled cuts, without the Doc Fix in 2014, doctors would have faced a pay cut of almost&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>25 percent</strong></a>.&nbsp;</p> <p> So today, allowing the SGR to reduce Medicare reimbursements would have significant consequences &ndash; and not just for doctors.</p> <p> Medicare already only reimburses doctors&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>80 percent</strong></a>&nbsp;of what private insurance does. This means doctors have an incentive to see fewer Medicare patients and more privately insured patients. Last year,&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>28 percent</strong></a>&nbsp;of Medicare patients reported having trouble finding a new primary care doctor.</p> <p> Dramatically reducing Medicare payments to doctors would only exacerbate this problem. &nbsp;That means that more seniors would have difficulty finding doctors they need and would face longer waiting times, which can create real hardship.</p> <p> Still, the annual &ldquo;Doc Fix&rdquo; avoidance isn&rsquo;t the right solution. This process has its own set of problems.</p> <p> Although it&rsquo;s almost a certainty that Congress will vote to suspend the SGR formula, government budget-scoring agencies can&rsquo;t take this into account. They essentially have to pretend that the SGR will take effect. This makes budget projections look healthier than reality, and misleads lawmakers and the public into a false sense of financial security.</p> <p> Furthermore, there are political interests who benefit from the present &ldquo;Doc Fix&rdquo; arrangement. Lawmakers can use the Doc Fix vote to push through other deals (that aren&rsquo;t always in taxpayers&rsquo; best interests), and medical special interest groups can scaremonger their M.D. members to drum up cash to support their lobbying efforts.</p> <p> Rather than continuing this annual ritual, Congress should permanently repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate. Although the cost-cutting formula was well-intentioned, it&rsquo;s now ineffective and counter-productive.</p> <p> As part of this permanent SGR repeal, Congress should make structural changes to Medicare for the next generation of retirees.&nbsp; Structural reform, specifically creating a premium-support option, is the only real way to bring Medicare into fiscal balance.</p> <p> &ldquo;Premium-support&rdquo; means seniors could use their Medicare dollars to buy private insurance instead of participating in the government-run model. The competitive nature of the private insurance market would drive prices down without compromising seniors&rsquo; access to care. Of course, these reforms could co-exist with the option of traditional Medicare coverage, or could be implemented only for younger workers, giving them plenty notice of those changes.</p> <p> SGR repeal, paired with a market-driven reform model, would honor individual choice and reduce costs, and if done right, could put Medicare on a permanent track toward solvency.&nbsp;</p> <p> Spring-cleaning might be an annual chore; &ldquo;Doc Fix&rdquo; doesn&rsquo;t have to be.</p> <p> <em>Manning is director of health policy at the Independent Women&#39;s Forum</em></p> HeathMon, 2 Mar 2015 07:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumEntitlement Society: Students refusing to repay their federal student loans • Cavuto HeathThu, 26 Feb 2015 06:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPolicy Focus: King v. Burwell<p> On March 4, 2015, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in <em>King v. Burwell</em>. The key issue in this case is how the government may provide subsidies to people buying health insurance through government exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. This case could also determine whether millions of Americans are free from the law&rsquo;s onerous mandates and fines.</p> <p> There are effectively two categories of exchanges: those &ldquo;Established by a State&rdquo; (described in Section 1311 of the law&rsquo;s text) and the federal exchange (described in Section 1321).&nbsp; The statute authorizes the federal government to provide subsidies to enrollees in the state-established exchanges, but not the federal exchange.</p> <p> When it became clear that many states &mdash; today as many as 37 &mdash; would not establish their own exchanges, the IRS issued a rule in 2012 allowing those who purchase insurance through the federal exchange to also receive subsidies. Plaintiffs in <em>King v. Burwell</em> claim the IRS acted illegally and did not have authority to do this.</p> <p> Ultimately, it is up to the Court to declare that the Administration must uphold the law as written by Congress, not to refashion the law. A ruling in favor of petitioners in <em>King </em>could free millions of people from the law&rsquo;s most onerous provisions, and could present a great opportunity to move past ObamaCare&rsquo;s political stalemate and to seek a better path forward for healthcare policy.</p> <p> <a href="[1].pdf"><em>Click here to continue reading this 6-page policy focus in PDF.</em></a></p> HeathWed, 25 Feb 2015 14:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumActress Patricia Arquette Demands Equal Pay in Oscar Speech • KOGO News at Noon HeathMon, 23 Feb 2015 14:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumJobs for ISIS?/Dems ask for special Obamacare enrollment extensions • Amy Oliver Show HeathThu, 19 Feb 2015 12:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumObamacare penalty relief for uninsured? • Your World w/ Neil Cavuto HeathMon, 16 Feb 2015 20:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumFor the love of all that’s good, don’t see ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ <p> The erotic romance novel &ldquo;Fifty Shades of Grey&rdquo; by E.L. James quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, selling tens of millions of books within months. The story of a young college grad&rsquo;s sadistic affair with a billionaire CEO obviously appealed to a broad audience, and who can be surprised? Sex sells.</p> <p> Now that the novel is debuting as a movie, I beseech you: Do not go see it. Decent people have no business consuming or celebrating this degrading storyline. Although we don&rsquo;t realize it, consuming sexually violent images affects the way we see others, our relationships, and ourselves.</p> <p> Society recognizes the need to censor the words and images that children see and hear. Why? Because we know that when garbage goes in, garbage comes out. Children repeat curse words, have bad dreams, and emulate the worst behaviors they see in movies and video games. As adults, we have more self-control and trust ourselves to consume various media without being affected. But perhaps we trust ourselves too much.</p> <p> The human mind is a tricky thing: We may think we are unaffected by the sexual images we see, but we are not. Scientists have found that viewing sexually explicit images &mdash; like those in pornography &mdash; drive up dopamine levels. Dopamine is the same drug that makes us feel addicted to sweets and fatty foods; it&rsquo;s a part of our evolved rewards system wherein our bodies are wired to seek out more of the stuff that made us feel good.</p> <p> Of course, there&rsquo;s nothing wrong with feeling good. But dopamine highs brought about by pornography or sex scenes in movies aren&rsquo;t really real. In fact, they can take away from our ability to enjoy our real sex lives. Too much exposure to pornography can cause desensitization, making it more difficult to become aroused absent that stimulation.</p> <p> Then again, &ldquo;Fifty Shades&rdquo; is only one movie, so can it really be harmful? Research would caution that the answer is yes: It can be harmful, perhaps because the story mixes sex &ndash; a powerful ingredient &ndash; into a twisted relationship, and may mislead viewers to think of this relationship as healthy or even desirable.</p> <p> In fact, a study from Michigan State University, published in the Journal of Women&rsquo;s Health found a link between women who&rsquo;d read the &ldquo;Fifty Shades of Grey&rdquo; book series and other unhealthy behaviors, such as binge drinking, eating disorders, and coupling with men who verbally abuse them. Correlation doesn&rsquo;t mean causation, but we should think about why this correlation exists.</p> <p> The center of the relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is sex &ndash; and not just normal sex. The Motion Picture Association of America called it &ldquo;unusual behavior.&rdquo; By this they mean sadism and masochism, basically torture, in pursuit of sexual gratification.</p> <p> Obviously, adult people are free to do as they please. Far be it from me to be your nanny or tell you what your sex life should be like. But even BDSM experts say the book is closer to domestic partner violence than the edgy bedroom fantasies that are meant to be executed with consent and clear boundaries.</p> <p> It was even enough to make the actors uncomfortable.</p> <p> Jamie Dornan, who played Christian Grey, told Glamour magazine, &ldquo;There were times when Dakota was not wearing much, and I had to do stuff to her that I&rsquo;d never choose to do to a woman.&rdquo; And Dakota Johnson described filming the scenes this way: &ldquo;It was emotionally taxing. At first I was like, &lsquo;Oh my God, this is the worst thing ever,&rsquo; and then I was like, &lsquo;All right, let&rsquo;s get on with it.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p> How sad.</p> <p> &ldquo;Fifty Shades&rdquo; teaches that sex is a power play between the sexes, meant not to express love, but used to control someone else. It also depicts the sexes in extreme caricature: an emotionally distant (and sex-obsessed) man and the weak woman who is unable to change him. It&rsquo;s a recycled version of the age-old plot line, &ldquo;Good Girl falls for Bad Boy.&rdquo;</p> <p> The movie threatens to normalize or reinforce behaviors that are not healthy. As Amy Bonomi, chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University and lead author on the aforementioned study said, the relational dynamic in &ldquo;Fifty Shades&rdquo; is consistent with abuse.</p> <p> Anastasia Steele &ldquo;begins to manage her behavior to keep peace in the relationship, which is something we see in abused women,&rdquo; Bonomi says as quoted in the New York Daily News. &ldquo;Over time, [Steele] loses her identity&hellip; becomes disempowered and entrapped.&rdquo;</p> <p> This is not a relationship structure that society should glamorize or celebrate. Even as adults, we should recognize the impact that stories, images, and movies can have on the way that we think and feel &ndash; and we should reject the &ldquo;Fifty Shades&rdquo; narrative as unhealthy, and potentially harmful.</p> <p> You may call me a prude. Fine. But I am a happy prude who finds deep satisfaction in the real world, with no need to retreat to fantasies or unhealthy behaviors to find a high. I know I am better off for not reading the &ldquo;Fifty Shades&rdquo; books or seeing the movie, and I invite you to join me.</p> HeathFri, 13 Feb 2015 15:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPaid Sick Leave Debate • Sam Sorbo Show HeathFri, 13 Feb 2015 09:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCongratulations Lottery Winners -- And Good Luck!<p> According to <a href="">USA Today</a>, three Powerball winners will share a $564 million jackpot.&nbsp; The winners bought their tickets in Texas, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico.</p> <p> In terms of odds, these winners are extremely lucky. The chances of winning this jackpot were 1 in 175 million.</p> <p> But many lottery winners have had very unlucky outcomes&hellip; at least in the long run.&nbsp; There&rsquo;s anecdotal evidence of terrible events befalling lotto winners, from alcoholism, to divorce, even to bankruptcy. And several studies show that winning a lump sum jackpot <a href="">doesn&rsquo;t make winners happier</a> after the initial prize.</p> <p> Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and also a happiness scholar, has argued that winning the lottery can actually make people <em>less</em> happy, as they deal with the stress of managing a pile of unearned wealth that has been dropped in their lap.</p> <p> Family members, friends, even distant acquaintances come with their hands out, expecting to share in the winnings.&nbsp; And unearned wealth can destroy the link between work and merit in the lives of lottery winners. &nbsp;</p> <p> But as Brooks is <a href="">quick to point out</a>, this doesn&rsquo;t suggest that all wealth makes people unhappy. In fact, <em>earned </em>wealth can make people very happy, but the difference, of course, is that people feel some claim to the success they&rsquo;ve earned. They feel that they deserve it, and they manage it differently, with more care and restraint.</p> <p> This is good reminder that while sometimes it surely seems enviable to win the lottery, the truly &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; people of the world are those of us who are free to pursue our own success and happiness, to earn it and be worthy of it, and to enjoy the fruits of our own labor. Opportunity is the real prize, and what we do with it is up to us.</p> <p> For more on this subject, I recommend Arthur Brooks&#39;s book, <a href="">The Road to Freedom</a>.</p> HeathThu, 12 Feb 2015 11:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumSocial Security to go bankrupt in 2016 • Cavuto HeathWed, 11 Feb 2015 07:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhat's worse: hackers knowing your prescriptions or your paycheck? • Cavuto HeathThu, 5 Feb 2015 23:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIs President Obama's budget proposal a plan full of misguided priorities? • KFK Amy Oliver Show HeathThu, 5 Feb 2015 14:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumObama, A Misguided and Unaccountable Lame Duck Leader<p> President Obama&rsquo;s latest budget &mdash; released Monday &mdash; was immediately pronounced Dead on Arrival. But an autopsy of the unrealistic plan tells us a lot about the misguided priorities and unaccountability of our lame duck leader.</p> <p> Instead of heeding the 2014 election results, the President is proposing an increase in spending 7 percent above the bipartisan sequestration caps agreed to three years ago. This is the equivalent of spending an extra $74 billion.</p> <p> Who will pay for this? Despite nonstop rhetoric about &ldquo;middle class economics,&rdquo; the President&rsquo;s plan would raise taxes on middle-income families &mdash; something he has promised not to do. Even the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institute and the Urban Institute (left-of-center research groups), says this new budget plan will do little to help middle-income families and instead will&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>increase the tax burden for many.</strong></a></p> <p> The White House could take some clues from the private sector here &ndash; sometimes a little frugality goes a long way. As I recently discussed on the&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>Fox Business Network</strong></a>, investors are praising Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, for a strong fourth-quarter earnings report. Vital to the company&rsquo;s success is its frugality: Amazon, like any for-profit company, stays lean by cutting out unnecessary expenses. While government can&rsquo;t produce value or create wealth like for-profit companies can, the President ought to be more responsible with taxpayer dollars, since taxpayers are essentially forced investors in our federal budget.</p> <p> Liberal rhetoric suggests that any cut in spending will create hardship for struggling Americans and the economy at large. But the federal government spent $3.5 trillion in 2014, an astronomical amount equal to about 20 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. In those $3.5 trillion, there&rsquo;s a lot of room to chisel away, and also opportunities for major reforms.</p> <p> First, the chisel: Recently retired Senator Tom Coburn provided an invaluable service by publishing an annual &ldquo;Wastebook&rdquo; that highlighted ridiculous government expenditures. His 2014 waste book &mdash; more than 200 pages &mdash; calculated $25 billion in&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>totally wasteful spending on projects</strong></a>&nbsp;such as studies of the gambling habits of monkeys and Swedish massages for bunnies. Private industry would never stand for such irrelevant and absurd waste.</p> <p> Sadly, the President doesn&rsquo;t believe in frugality. He doesn&rsquo;t believe in cutting waste. It&rsquo;s too easy to simply go on promising more new programs and payouts financed by spending more of other people&rsquo;s money.</p> <p> Then again, $25 billion is small beans in Washington. To really restore fiscal balance, we need serious entitlement reform.</p> <p> Two areas of spending comprise&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>49 percent of federal spending</strong></a>: health care programs and Social Security. These areas, and interest on our national debt, are set to grow and consume more and more of the federal budget, which means other priorities, such as national defense, will have to consume a smaller portion in years to come.</p> <p> Unfortunately, the President&rsquo; budget completely ignores&nbsp;the root of our long-term fiscal problem, showing again the Left&rsquo;s unwillingness to responsibly address a coming entitlement crisis that will almost inevitably result in broken promises and unfulfilled obligations. On this issue, they prefer demagoguery to solutions-oriented action.</p> <p> Americans are tired of watching their hard-earned paychecks slashed and stretched and seeing little reward for making prudent financial decisions in their own lives. The economy is slowly recovering in spite of &ndash; not because of &ndash; President Obama&rsquo;s policy agenda, and his legacy will be his generous contribution to the national debt, now $18 trillion. His new budget plan would&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>add another $5.7 trillion</strong></a>&nbsp;to that figure over the next ten years.</p> <p> This unpaid bill will continue to burden Americans in this generation and the next &ndash; and the next. But as the President&rsquo;s latest budget proposal shows, for him and his allies, political expediency sadly trumps fiscal responsibility yet again.</p> <p> <em>Hadley Heath Manning is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum (</em><a href=""><strong><em></em></strong></a><em>) and a contributing author to&nbsp;</em><a href=""><strong><em>Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities, and More Opportunity for Women</em></strong></a><em>.</em></p> HeathWed, 4 Feb 2015 17:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum