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Michael Barone - Democrats lose their big bet on health exchanges

Words mean what they say. That's the basis for the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Halbig v. Burwell invalidating the Internal Revenue Service regulation approving subsidies for Obamacare consumers in states with federal health insurance exchanges.

The law passed by Congress, Judge Thomas Griffith explained, provided for subsidies in states with state-created exchanges, but not in states with federal exchanges. That's factually correct, and under the Constitution, the government can't spend money not authorized by Congress.

This has not prevented Democrats from calling the decision "judicial activism," which makes as much sense as the claims that the Supreme Court decision overturning the Obamacare contraception mandate cuts off all access to contraception.

"We reach this conclusion," wrote Judge Griffith, "with reluctance." Judge Roger Ferguson, writing for the Fourth Circuit whose King v. Burwell decision upholding the IRS was announced the same day, wrote that those challenging the government "have the better of the statutory construction arguments."

One has a certain sympathy with both judges. They're being asked to overturn a regulation that has paid most of the cost for health insurance for some 4.7 million Americans. But the problem arose not from sloppy legislative draftsmanship.

Under previous court decisions, Congress can't force state governments to administer federal laws. So congressional Democrats, seeking to muscle states into creating their own health insurance exchanges, chose to provide subsidies only for those states. Those opting for the federal exchange would have to explain to voters why they weren't getting subsidies.

This attempt to muscle the states failed. In August 2011, when the IRS issued its regulation, only 10 states had created their own exchanges, and 17 states explicitly refused to do so. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius kept extending deadlines to force states to create their own exchanges.

Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration bet that they could force the states to do their will. When they lost their bet, the administration ignored the Constitution and ordered the spending of monies that Congress never authorized.

This was lawless behavior, and reckless as well. It promised to individuals acting in reliance on government regulations money that was subject to being clawed back if a court applied the statute as written.

The alternative was, to be sure, politically unpalatable. The administration could have gone back to Congress and asked it to authorize subsidies in states with federal exchanges. House Republicans, now in the majority, would have demanded other changes in the law.
So today the strongest argument for upholding the administration's reckless regulation is that people might be hurt if the law is enforced as written. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says Congress meant to give money to lots of people — so who cares what the law actually says?

The irony here is that the Obama Democrats, in passing Obamacare in its present form, and in betting that it could pressure the states into doing their will, have discredited big government generally and have weakened the federal government's power to commandeer and control the states.

They expected Obamacare to be popular. Give people what Mitt Romney called "free stuff," and they'll be grateful.

It hasn't turned out that way. Most Americans have bridled at Obamacare's centralized command-and-control approach and have instinctively preferred more market-based or locally regulated alternatives. The fiasco of the healthcare.gov rollout and the administration's multiple suspensions of various provisions of the law have sapped confidence in big government's competence.

On the legal front, it has generally escaped notice that in its NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding Obamacare, the Supreme Court also invalidated its Medicaid provisions — and by a 7-2 vote that is unlikely to be overturned by one or two new Democratic-appointed justices.

Obamacare provided that states must accept new Medicaid provisions requiring higher spending or lose all their federal Medicaid money altogether. Not valid, said the justices. Congress can't take command of state governments by threatening to cut them off if they don't spend more.

Few legal experts thought this challenge to the statute would prevail. But it did, and it provides a basis for discouraging or challenging any future massive expansion of federal programs that require, as most do, matching spending by the states.

The Obama Democrats have succeeded in expanding government, temporarily. But they've also discredited it and provided a basis for limiting it in the future.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 10:10

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Sanborn — Lakes Region Residential Sales Report, June 2014

People often ask if we see a lot of cash transactions on houses so I thought I'd take a look and see how often it occurs. According to the MLS, so far in 2014 of the 409 residential sales 181 of those were cash deals compared to 159 for the first six months of 2013. That means 44 percent of sales are in good old greenbacks. And just so you don't get visions of some guy with Tommy Bahama shorts, a Panama hat, and sunglasses driving up in a Caddy and coming in with a big suitcase of $100 bills to buy a waterfront, 110 of those sales were for properties under $250,000. Just 37 were for waterfront properties with 6 of those being in excess of $1 million.

Not everyone has a bag of money under their bed. Conventional financing accounted for 161 or 39 percent of the transactions this year. That compares to 197 or 44 percent of the sales in the first half of 2013. FHA, Rural Development, VA type loans were used in 61 (14 percent) of the transactions this year compared to 81 (18 percent) times in the same period last year. I get a call every now and then from someone looking for a seller to do owner financing. Seller financing just doesn't happen a lot. In fact, it happened only once so far this year and just three times all of last year. Rehab type loans are a little tough to get so there were only two of those in the first half of this year and last.

According to the MLS, there were 66 bank owned sales so far this year compared to 88 bank owned in the first six months of 2013. So it seems like the bank owned properties are becoming fewer, but still too many!

Condo sales are down a tiny bit so far this year with 86 sales compared 89 in the first half of 2013. Cash accounted for 49 of those sales this year and 44 sales last year. Buyers used conventional financing on 31 sales this year and 41 in the first half of 2013. Because of the strict government regulations, FHA loans only accounted for 5 transactions this year and just 2 in the first half of last year.

Waterfront sales continue to be a big part of our market with 74 lakefront homes and 73 shared private water access homes selling in the first six month this year. For the first half of last year the numbers were 78 and 79 respectively.

In the communities covered by this Lakes Region Real Estate Market Report, there were 87 single family residential homes sold in June at an average price of $290,778. That compares to 98 sales last June at an average price of $332,836. For the first six months of the year there have been 409 transactions at an average sales price of $299,893 with a median price point of $204,100. That compares to 444 sales at an average of $275,314 and a median of $180,000 for the first six months of 2013. I guess this is the new normal folks. It certainly isn't stellar, but at least it is steady.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 7/20/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 06:54

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Susan Estrich - False equivalence

The "crossfire" mentality that defines public discourse today has the obvious problem of ignoring the fact that most of us land somewhere in the middle, turning every debate into a shouting contest between the extremists who generate passion and ratings, and rarely reflecting the views of the majority in the middle. I've been saying for years that it might be just as entertaining, and certainly more productive, to see where ideological opposites find common ground. But until someone actually attempts it, we will keep spiraling down into extremism and incivility.

That, in my mind, is bad. What's worse is that our crossfire, right and left, mentality can create a sense of equivalence when there is no basis for it.

Survivors and deniers do not belong on the same platform.

Evolution is not debatable.

Israel and Hamas do not stand in the same shoes.

Poor Israel. Until the past day or two, the death toll scoreboard so widely reported in the media was running so lopsidedly in Israel's "favor" that Israel was being chastised because too few of its soldiers and civilians had died. But that is not for want of trying.

Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, one so close to Ben Gurion airport that American airlines were banned from flying there. Israel is being punished for investing in shelters (where families are literally living) and building a sophisticated missile defense system — in other words, for protecting its people. Hamas uses children and families as human shields for terrorists.

Israel gets cast in the eyes of the world as an aggressor, but this is not about conquering foreign land. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. This war is about finding and destroying the tunnels that were built to smuggle terrorists and weapons into Israel — more of them than anyone expected and some of them clearly built to target Israeli communities.

Israel is seeking to defend itself, seeking to stop the rockets and attacks. Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel, and they are willing to sacrifice their own wives and children to do it.

So how did Israel become the aggressor?

The murder of three Israeli teenagers was followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen. Equivalent? No. The Israelis suspected of murdering the Palestinian boy have been arrested and charged with terrorism. The Palestinians responsible for the death of the Israelis? If they ever are identified, it doubtless would be to celebrate them.

There are real human beings suffering on both sides. The fact that a father would use his child as a human hostage hardly means that the child deserves to die. If a ceasefire could be negotiated, if the tunnels can be shut down, if an international body can disarm Hamas, the people of Gaza would be infinitely better off. They might be able to share in the economic growth and energy of the Israeli economy, instead of living in dire poverty. Their children could sleep safely at night, instead of worrying about whether their homes will be targeted and whether their parents will protect them.

Israel wants peace. Gaza desperately needs it. And yet its leaders prefer to fight Israel, to send rockets that mostly miss, to expose their children to missiles that mostly don't miss — rather than recognize Israel and make peace.

And Israel is to blame for that?

A friend forwarded an e-mail to me from a relative in Israel, a wise and thoughtful e-mail, not from a "hawk" or a "hardliner," but from a man who is living with sirens in the background and wondering how it is that the world press could be painting Israel as the villain in this fight.

It is a troubling question. I don't like any of the answers. Maybe it's just the crossfire culture. Or maybe it's because it's Israel.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - Questions: Why . . .

Why is it that Mexico can jail an American Marine who made a wrong turn, beating him, chaining his arms and legs to his cot, and holding him for over three months before he can even go before a judge for a hearing?

Why is it that Mexico can be used as a highway from various Central American countries to illegally cross the border into the United States, and we don't protest to Mexico?

Why is it that this administration, and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, seems to believe we should have "open borders"?

Why does this administration act surprised that 60,000 young people have recently crossed into this country, when over six months ago, our department of Homeland Security requested funding for this anticipated event?

Why is it that our nation's sovereignty is being ignored for political purposes?

Why is it that our only true ally in the Middle East can have three of their teenagers kidnapped and brutally murdered, and be under endless rocket attacks, and our president doesn't tell the attackers to cease, but tells our ally to "act with restraint"?

Why is it that our Secretary of State has not made a forceful demand to Mexico to stop allowing its citizens, and transients, to cross our borders illegally?

Why hasn't our president demanded that Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi be released months ago? Why hasn't the Secretary of State also done so?

Why did it take over a year and a half to capture one of the leaders of the Benghazi attack?

Why is the leader of that Benghazi attack being accorded all the "rights" of an American citizen who may have committed a far less grievous crime, let alone an act of war?

Why hasn't the Ft. Hood shooting that killed 13 people and wounded over 30 others been called an act of war, when not doing so has deprived victims and their families of benefits that they are rightfully entitled to?

Why did this administration leave Iraq without a "Status of Forces" agreement?

Why hasn't a Status of Forces agreement been reached with the president of Afghanistan?

Why is there no outrage in the press over the appointment of (a political crony and donor to the Obama Campaign) Barbara Bosserman, to "investigate" the IRS scandal?

Why hasn't the president openly advised IRS employees to come forward and speak truthfully about the targeting of conservative groups?

What are the odds of seven IRS employees, all key to the investigation of targeting, having their hard drives crash and the information on them not be retrievable? (Note: A "nerd" friend claims those odds to be 1 in over 78 billion)

Why has the current administration "stonewalled" and not answered the question about who authored the talking points Ambassador Rice used concerning the Benghazi attacks?

Why has no one been held to account for the Justice Department's mis-representation of facts to a court, in order to obtain a warrant to spy on a reporter for Fox News, and his family?

Why has the press/media generally acted as a fan club for the president, ignoring blatant abuses of power?

Why does the media continue to cite the "recess appointments" made by Presidents Bush and Clinton, without pointing out that such appointments are authorized when the Senate is not in session? (President Obama's recess appointments were made when the Senate was in session. See Article 1, Section 5, Para 2, of the Constitution).

Why does the media not point out that the Articles of Impeachment for President Andrew Johnson were for his making a recess appointment when the Senate was in session?

Why has the media not kept up a drum beat about Senate Majority Leader Reid implementing the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate; stripping away the 60 vote rule needed to close out a filibuster? (This historic change has far reaching effects as it allows the party in power to exercise what is called the tyranny of the majority. The late Democrat Senator Robert Byrd stated, "In the hands of a tyrannical majority and leadership, that kind of emasculation of the cloture rule would mean that minority rights would cease to exist in the U.S. Senate." The change instituted by Reid essentially allows any nominee submitted to the Senate to be rubber stamped by the majority party.)

Why was the decision made that our military personnel, with 10 or 15 years of faithful service, and experience, would be mustered out in an effort to reduce the size of the military and to allow continued recruitment of younger, untrained personnel?

Why do we not have answers to these questions? Think long and hard about your answer.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - Will blabbermouths wake Democrats up?

It is often said, believed and undoubtedly right that the Republicans' ace in midterm elections is apathetic Democrats not showing up at the polls. But that once predictable waltz into November is threatened by blabbermouths of the right's seeking self-aggrandizement by hurling darts at the sleeping Democratic bear.

It's not that they don't know better. It's that their fame and fortune rests not on electing Republicans but on nurturing their brands. Brands don't take summer vacations.

Recent calls to impeach President Obama and unsubtle attacks on users of birth control have been bombastic enough to crash through the wall of midterm inattention that surrounds two large and very reliable groups of Democratic voters: African-Americans and single women.

As any self-respecting Republican strategist understands, the ground game is to keep these potential voters disengaged. Leave the older, white conservative voters who predictably show up to determine the midterm results. Let the political planets revolve on their appointed paths and find a lounge chair beside the pool.

But now you have Sarah Palin demanding to impeach Obama. African-Americans are hardly alone in finding such talk emblematic of a civic culture in decline, but this group tends to take it more personally. It also enjoyed the recent experience of having helped save Mississippi pork-meister Thad Cochran's bacon in a runoff election with a tea party challenger. That was a power surge that calls for impeachment could recharge come November.

Thus, the conservative Wall Street Journal got rather personal in blasting Palin over talk of removing Obama. "Progressives would like nothing better than for Republicans to try to impeach Mr. Obama, so they could scare up otherwise demoralized Democratic voters to come to the polls this November," an editorial said.

It is right, of course.
Next up at bat but playing the part of the ball are single women. Single women now represent 25 percent of the potential electorate and half of voting-age women. In 2012, nearly 3 in 4 voted for Obama. But their participation in elections drops off dramatically in nonpresidential years.

And that's why Republicans should find the Hobby Lobby case so worrisome. For single women, the part that soared over the fence of distraction was not so much the Supreme Court decision, regrettable though it was. Rather, it was the circus of insulting taunts against sexually active women that surrounded it.

On Fox News Channel, you had Jesse Watters expounding on single women as "Beyonce voters." He explained, "They depend on government because they're not depending on their husbands."

You have to get the full picture. On the set, Watters was flanked by four leggy dolls giggling appreciatively at his wit. Fox News can transform the most average white guy into an hombre.

But when it comes to birth control, most women have no sense of humor at all. Many of the younger ones work like dogs for meager pay, often raising children at the same time. For them, an unwanted pregnancy can be economically disastrous. And of course, the unmarried sisterhood is a diverse club, including many older widows, independent careerists and divorced mothers trying to make it through the day. They're not laughing, either.

Don't worry if you missed the Fox News performance. The liberal site ThinkProgress has thoughtfully posted the video.

Democratic strategists are up nights trying to get distracted Democratic voters to circle Nov. 4 on their calendars. Social media open new pipelines, but the right's entertainment-industrial complex provides a much-needed prod to find a pencil.

So go ahead, Fox News. Tell a quarter of the voters that they are sluts for wanting a sex life. Make Nancy Pelosi's day.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 229

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