By: Gregory Kane
This Memorial Day, there’s one gravesite I’ll make sure to visit. The only problem is, I don’t know where it’s located.
But I’m sure the object of my search is definitely dead. That would be the thing I call the Great American Backbone. Remember when this nation, and its leaders, had backbone?
That backbone must be dead. How else do you explain Mexican President Felipe Calderon swaggering into Washington D.C. earlier this month, proclaiming Arizona’s law requiring cops to question those legally stopped about their immigration status “discriminatory,” and getting a standing ovation from some members of Congress?
How else do you explain the silence from most members of Congress after Calderon urged them to pass another law banning assault weapons, as if he had the business to presume to tell us how to run our country?
Calderon is the one who can’t get a handle on drug gangs waging a veritable insurrection in his country. You’d have thought those Democrats who cheered him on would have mentioned that, but they were too busy groveling.
It was the most craven display since Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan chumped members of the National Association of Black Journalists – at their own convention. That one happened in 1996.
The NABJ had invited Farrakhan as the keynote speaker. He spent most of his speech dissing the journalists, talking about how their “failure” to go to bat for him when the “white media” criticized him. After he got through telling them how worthless they were, the journalists rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
I’m betting most of them were Democrats.
The nation’s leading Democrat, President Obama, was no better than those in Congress. After Calderon expressed his disapproval of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 during a press conference in the Rose Garden, Obama was quick to second the motion. Here’s what Obama should have said to Calderon:
“It’s inappropriate for you as a head of state to comment on our nation’s internal matters. Furthermore, Mr. Calderon, our nation liberalized its immigration laws considerably by passing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.
“The result has been an influx of immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East that has transformed America into the most ethnically and racially diverse country in the world. Your country, on the other hand, has mostly Mexicans, and, compared to ours, a rather draconian immigration law.”
Yes, that’s what Obama should have told Calderon, and would have told him, if he had the backbone. But Americans who cast ballots in the presidential election of 2008 didn’t go for backbone. We went for change, hope and the audacity of hope. We had little use for backbone, and in Obama, we’ll never get it.
But my search for the gravesite of the Great American Backbone may be premature. Maybe it isn’t dead. Maybe it’s simply fled the Democratic Party and taken up residence in … Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
It was Cornyn who chided both Calderon and Obama for the Mexican president’s stepping out of line with his comments. It was Cornyn who mustered the backbone to tell Mr. “We Send Back Them” that if he wants to be part of America’s debate about illegal immigration, then he’s more than welcome to move to this country and apply for citizenship.
When Obama and the rest of the nation’s Democrats were getting seconds and thirds of wuss juice, Cornyn was in the line getting an extra dose of backbone. I hope he has enough to spread around to the Democrats.
Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
By Art Moore
The Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport the son of a Hamas founder who told of his conversion to Christianity and decade of spying for Israel in a New York Times best-seller.
“Son of Hamas” author Mosab Hassan Yousef revealed on a blog hosted by his publisher he is scheduled to appear June 30 before Immigration Judge Rico J. Bartolomei at the DHS Immigration Court in San Diego.
Yousef said the DHS informed him Feb. 23, 2009, he was barred from asylum in the U.S. because there were reasonable grounds for believing he was “a danger to the security of the United States” and “engaged in terrorist activity.”
An incredulous Yousef said the U.S. government’s belief he is a terrorist is based on a complete misinterpretation of passages of his book in which he describes his work as a counterterrorism agent for the Israeli internal intelligence service Shin Bet.
Yousef said he’s not so much worried about himself as he is “outraged” about “a security system that is so primitive and naive that it endangers the lives of countless Americans.”
“If Homeland Security cannot tell the difference between a terrorist and a man who spent his life fighting terrorism, how can they protect their own people?” he asked in his blog post.
Yousef said whatever Judge Bartolomei decides will be appealed, “and this insane merry-go-round can go on like that for decades.”
Yousef’s asylum case – A 088 271 051 – was filed Aug. 22, 2007, about seven months after he arrived in the U.S. from Israel.
The office of DHS Senior Attorney Kerri Calcador, who is handling the case, referred WND’s request for comment to Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack, who said the agency is barred by policy from commenting, or even confirming or denying the existence of any case.
WND tried to reach Yousef for further comment, but he was not available.
As WND reported, Yousef worked alongside his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, in the West Bank city of al-Ghaniya near Ramallah while secretly embracing Christian faith and serving as one of the top spies for Israel’s internal security arm. Yousef was recruited by Shin Bet in 1996 at the age of 18 while at an Israeli detention facility.
Since publicly declaring his faith in August 2008, he has been condemned by an al-Qaida-affiliated group and disowned by his family.
His chief Shin Bet handler, “Captain Loai,” has confirmed his account and praised him in media interviews for disrupting dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts by Hamas, saving hundreds of lives.
Yousef said he recently received a document from DHS in which attorney Calcador pointed to passages in his book as evidence of terrorist activity.
Calcador cites a passage in which she says “a member of Shin Bet shows the respondent a list of suspects implicated in a March 2001 suicide bombing and asks the respondent whether he knows the individuals. The respondent indicates that he does know five of the people on the list and states that he previously drove them to safe houses.”
In the DHS document, Calcador concludes, “At a bare minimum, evidence of the respondent’s transport of Hamas members to safe houses … indicates that the respondent provided material support to a [Tier I] terrorist organization.”
Yousef’s response: “Is she kidding? Either Homeland Security’s chief attorney has zero reading comprehension, or else she intentionally took the passage out of context. And I am not sure which is worse.”
Yousef explained his job as a Shin Bet agent required him to be involved with his father’s activities.
“So when he asked me to go with him to pick up these guys when they were released from the Palestinian Authority prison, I went,” he said.
He insisted that no one at the time – not his father or even Israel – knew the five men were involved in suicide bombings.
He further argued he was the one who later provided Israel the evidence that connected the men to the terrorist bombing at the Hebrew University cafeteria in July 2002.
“And Homeland Security would do well to remember that there were five American citizens among the dead,” Yousef said of the attack. “Apparently the agency needs also to be reminded that I was the one who located the terrorists and led to their arrest or death.”
For that, he said, Homeland Security “today tells me ‘thank you’ by trying to deport me!”
He explained it was “part of his job” to pose as a terrorist and participate in “terrorist meetings” with Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, his father and other Hamas leaders.
“I passed on to the Shin Bet all the information I gathered during those meetings and saved the lives of many people – including many Americans,” he said.
‘Exposing the weaknesses’
Yousef said his intent for writing the blog post was to alert Americans to the danger they face.
“I believe that God is using this situation to expose the weaknesses of Homeland Security and to put pressure on it to make changes that can save lives and preserve freedom,” he said.
Hamas rally on 22nd anniversary in Gaza
He recalled that when he arrived in America Jan. 2, 2007, he “walked into the airport like anyone else on a tourist visa.”
When he went to the Homeland Security office seven months later, he said, he knocked on the door and told them, “Hey, guys, I am the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, my father is involved in a terrorist organization, and I would like political asylum in your country.”
He said the officials were shocked.
“I wanted them to see that they have huge gaps in their security and their understanding of terrorism and make changes before it’s too late,” Yousef explained.
Yousef said that when DHS demanded evidence of his claims, he presented a draft of his book “Son of Hamas.”
“Surely this would make everything perfectly clear,” he thought. “They would discover that I was an intelligence agent, not a terrorist. That I tracked down terrorists and put them in prison. That I was an asset, not a threat.”
But Homeland Security, according to Yousef, doesn’t “get it.”
He said the FBI, in contrast, “has a much better understanding of terrorism and recognizes me as a valuable asset.”
“They told Homeland Security that I am not a threat and advised them to drop the case. But Homeland Security shut its eyes and stopped up its ears and told the FBI, ‘You have nothing to do with this. It is our job,'” Yousef said.
The agency’s performance, he asserted, “should worry the American people.”
“If Homeland Security cannot understand a simple story like mine, how can they be trusted with bigger issues?” he asked. “They seem to know only how to blindly follow rules and procedures. But to work intelligence, you have to be very creative. You have to accept exceptions. You need to be able to think beyond facts and circumstances.
“Homeland Security has absolutely no idea of the dangers that lie ahead,” he said.
‘Imagine suicide bombers in America’
He warned the U.S. is not prepared as al-Qaida adapts its strategy to lessons learned from terrorist groups like Hamas.
Suicide Bomber Hits Southern Israeli Town Of Dimona
“For nearly 30 years, I watched from the inside as Hamas dug its claws deeper and deeper into Israel. They started awkwardly, clumsily, but they got good at it. And al-Qaida is becoming more like Hamas,” he said.
The strategy of Hamas, Yousef explained, has always been to destroy Israel through a “slow bleeding war.”
“They don’t have nuclear bombs, so they send a suicide bomber here, another one there. And over the years, they severely damaged the economy and gave Israel a bad reputation all over the world,” Yousef said.
While al-Qaida began with massive attacks like 9/11, Osama bin Laden “understands how effective the Hamas strategy will be on American soil,” he said.
The U.S. has experienced nothing like Israel has endured, said Yousef, and the country is not ready.
“Try to imagine attacks by suicide bombers and car bombers, attacks on schools, in shopping malls, in the gridlock of rush-hour traffic, week after week, month after month, year after year, here and there, in big cities and rural towns,” he said.
“No one feels safe anywhere. There seems to be no reason behind the attacks, no pattern. Everyone is a target.”
Having been raised on the inside of this kind of environment, from both sides, he said he is only asking Homeland Security “to be humble and listen, so they can learn.”
“Exposing terrorist secrets and warning the world in my first book cost me everything,” he said. “I am a traitor to my people, disowned by my family, a man without a country. And now the country I came to for sanctuary is turning its back.”
Democrat Bill White Would Disenfranchise Thousands of Overseas US Military Members
AUSTIN — Today, the Friday before Texans remember America’s fallen heroes on Memorial Day, the Bill White campaign attempted to defend his past statements on military voting rights by referring to a 2003 Houston Chronicle article quoting Bill White on military members and their sacred right to vote.
…Bill White stated his support for military voters’ right to vote in local elections and described his support by saying, “Military voters have every right to vote where their children are enrolled in school. Military personnel should be allowed to cast ballots in local elections that determine city or county taxes, police and fire protection, etc.”
“Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that White’s statement is the very opposite of supporting the military,” said US Air Force veteran and Texas GOP spokesman Bryan Preston. “When I was stationed in Tokyo for four years, my home of record remained Texas. Bill White would have disenfranchised me because I didn’t have children at the time, and if I had, they would have been with me and attending a Department of Defense school at my overseas base.
Thousand of military families serve together at US military bases all over the world, from Italy to the UK to South Korea and Japan. And liberal Bill White’s attitude seems to be that even if they have spent their entire lives in their stateside home of record, that time serving their country at Yokota or near the Korean tripwire would cost them their right to vote back home. That’s a travesty. It tells us quite a bit about how little Bill White really knows about the lives of sacrifice that our military families endure to keep us free.”
Our serving military families endure a great deal on all our behalf. We should encourage them to vote, not find ways to restrict their rights as Bill White would.”
More info here.
By: John Stossel
I ride my bike to work. It seems so pure.
We’re constantly urged to “go green” — use less energy, shrink our carbon footprint, save the Earth. How? We should drive less, use ethanol, recycle plastic and buy things with the government’s Energy Star label.
But what if much of going green is just bunk? Al Gore’s group, Repower America, claims we can replace all our dirty energy with clean, carbon-free renewables. Gore says we can do it within 10 years.
“It’s simply not possible,” says Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy.” “Nine out of 10 units of power that we consume are produced by hydrocarbons — coal, oil and natural gas. Any transition away from those sources is going to be a decades-long, maybe even a century-long process. … The world consumes 200 billion barrels of hydrocarbons per day. We would have to find the energy equivalent of 23 Saudi Arabias.”
Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: “I educated myself about math and physics. I’m a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics.”
Bryce mocked the “green” value of my riding my bike to work:
“Let’s assume you saved a gallon of oil in your commute (a generous assumption!). Global daily energy consumption is 9.5 billion gallons. … So by biking to work, you save the equivalent of one drop in 10 gasoline tanker trucks. Put another way, it’s one pinch of salt in a 100-pound bag of potato chips.”
How about wind power?
“Wind does not replace oil. This is one of the great fallacies, and it’s one that the wind energy business continues to promote,” Bryce said.
The problem is that windmills cannot provide a constant source of electricity. Wind turbines only achieve 10 percent to 20 percent of their maximum capacity because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.
“That means you have to keep conventional power plants up and running. You have to ramp them up to replace the power that disappears from wind turbines and ramp them down when power reappears.”
Yet the media rave about Denmark, which gets some power from wind. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says, “If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark.”
“Friedman doesn’t fundamentally understand what he’s talking about,” Bryce said.
Bryce’s book shows that Denmark uses eight times more coal and 25 times more oil than wind.
If wind and solar power were practical, entrepreneurs would invest in it. There would be no need for government to take money from taxpayers and give it to people pushing green products.
Even with subsidies, “renewable” energy today barely makes a dent on our energy needs.
Bryce points out that energy production from every solar panel and windmill in America is less than the production from one coal mine and much less than natural gas production from Oklahoma alone.
But what if we build more windmills?
“One nuclear power plant in Texas covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Manhattan. To produce the same amount of power from wind turbines would require an area the size of Rhode Island. This is energy sprawl.” To produce the same amount of energy with ethanol, another “green” fuel, it would take 24 Rhode Islands to grow enough corn.
Maybe the electric car is the next big thing?
“Electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be.”
There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, “Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they’re within reach of the average family.”
That was in 1915.
In 1959, The New York Times said, “Electric is the car of the tomorrow.”
In 1979, The Washington Post said, “GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical.”
I’m still waiting.
“The problem is very simple,” Bryce said. “It’s not political will. It’s simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There’s no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It’s a conspiracy of physics.”
Examiner Columnist John Stossel is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
By Dick Morris and Judge Andrew Napolitano
With a Democratic Attorney General in Washington, a Democratic president, and both houses of Congress solidly in Democratic control, it is obviously futile to hope that the possible bribery of Joe Sestak to induce him to withdraw from the Senate race against Arlen Specter will be fully investigated. But, as the facts of this scandal grudgingly emerge from the White House and from Congressman Sestak, there is an alternative way to pursue justice.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General, Tom Corbett — who is the Republican nominee for Governor this year — has ample jurisdiction to convene a grand jury to get to the bottom of the scandal and answer the key questions:
1. Who offered a job to Sestak?
2. What job was proffered?
3. And did the president know of the offer?
Corbett’s jurisdiction stems from the concept of universal jurisdiction, now accepted virtually everywhere. The concept is simple. If someone on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River fires a pistol across the Hudson and the bullet from the pistol hits someone on the NY side, where did the crime take place? For about 600 years, the answer would have been in NY, where the harm was caused. Under the Reagan administration, and in response to urgings from the Meese Justice Department, the courts began to accept the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. This principle gives jurisdiction to law enforcement in the place wherever any act occurred that may have resulted in a crime. Thus, under our scenario above, the shooter could be prosecuted in NJ or NY.
Thus, if Cong. Sestak was in one of his homes, in PA or VA, when he received a telephone call offering him a job if he withdrew from the PA Senate primary against Sen. Arlen Specter, law enforcement authorities in PA and VA — both of which have Republican state Attorneys General — can subpoena Cong. Sestak to testify before a state grand jury and compel him to answer the who, what, when, and where that everyone has a right to know.
The people of the United States and, particularly the people of Pennsylvania, want these questions to be answered honestly. They will not settle for a Democratic stonewall that refuses to let the truth emerge.
Under our federal system, we need not tolerate giving one party the power to be the prosecutor, judge, defendant, defense attorney, and jury. We can open the process to checks and balances.
Corbett should make it possible for the truth to emerge by convening a grand jury and summoning Sestak, Emanuel, and anyone else who may have been involved to answer questions under oath.
by Patterico (Big Government)
The following is a document that James O’Keefe sent to me last night and has authorized me to publish. It is O’Keefe’s version of events in New Orleans. I believe this is the first time anywhere that he has publicly given his full statement of what occurred.
The document was drafted by lawyers based on O’Keefe’s statements, and was intended to be offered as the factual basis for his plea. O’Keefe confirmed for me that this document is an accurate account of what happened.
What Really Happened in New Orleans
On January 25, 2010, Messrs. James O’Keefe, Stan Dai, Joe Basel, and Michael Flanagan (collectively “Defendants”) entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building located at 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana (“Hale Boggs Building”), with no intent to commit a felony, but rather an intent to engage in political speech with respect to pending national healthcare legislation (the “Healthcare Bill”). During the several days before their entry to the Hale Boggs building, Defendants discussed opportunities to engage in independent journalism and political advocacy. One of the ideas raised during those discussions was a method to test the truthfulness of Senator Landrieu’s statements as to the reason for the inability of Tea Party members and other Louisiana constituents to contact her staff on the telephone to discuss her vote on the Healthcare Bill. The Defendants were advised that this was a recent story in the news in New Orleans.
Prior to the Defendants’ arrival in New Orleans there had been picketing of the Senator’s office by Tea Party Members and others. The controversy about Senator Landrieu’s phones was described in a prior news article as follows:
“We were stunned to learn that so many phone calls to Senator Landrieu have been unanswered and met with continuous busy signals,” Perkins said. “We asked them to call their Senators. They could get through to Senator Vitter, but not Senator Landrieu.”
“Our lines have been jammed for weeks, and I apologize,” Landrieu said in interview after giving a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
As a result, the Defendants devised what was, in retrospect, a poorly thought out plan to test the veracity of Senator Landrieu’s statements. The plan settled upon was for two of the Defendants to dress as telephone repairmen and, wearing an audio and video camera hidden in one of the hard hats they wore as part of their disguise, enter Senator Landrieu’s office and interview her staff while a third Defendant recorded the interviews using a second audio and video camera.
The group devised a plan involving disguises because they believed that if they simply entered Senator Landrieu’s office and identified themselves as journalists they would not likely receive truthful answers. They thought it likely that Senator Landrieu’s staff would be more candid with a repairman than a reporter. Looking back, the Defendants now recognize clearly that this plan was imprudent, and produced unintended security concerns and consequences that none of the Defendants anticipated. The Defendants agree that they should have anticipated these consequences and regret that they decided to proceed in that fashion.
Upon entering the Hale Boggs Building, the Defendants presented their real drivers license identifications to security officials and were not questioned as to the purpose of their visit to the Hale Boggs Building or where in the Hale Boggs Building they were going. Before passing through security, the Defendants placed all of their equipment (including all recording and video devices) through the security x-ray machines, as requested by the Hale Boggs Building security employees.
After passing through the Hale Boggs Building security checkpoint, the Defendants proceeded to the 10th floor, where Senator Landrieu’s office is located. Senator Landrieu’s office was and is open to the public and the Defendants entered through its open door. They spoke with members of Senator Landrieu’s staff, then separately left the Senator’s office and exited the Hale Boggs Building.
A short time later, the Defendants were “detained” by Federal Marshals. They believed they would be released when the US Marshals realized that they were journalists and immediately explained to the commanding US Marshal that they were journalists investigating whether Senator Landrieu wasn’t answering her calls.
Despite truthfully explaining, in detail, to the FBI and Federal Marshals that their purpose was solely to ask questions (and record the questions and answers) of Senator Landrieu’s staff regarding recently published statements by constituents that calls to Senator Landrieu’s staff concerning her vote in favor of the pending Healthcare Bill were not being returned and about the Senator’s public statement that her office phones had been “jammed,” Defendants were charged in a criminal complaint with a felony:
by false and fraudulent pretense enter and attempt to enter real property belonging to the United States of America with the intent to commit a felony: to wit, willful and malicious[s] interference with a working and use of a telephone system operated and controlled by the United States; in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section(s) 1036(a)(1), 1362, and 2.
At approximately 8 pm, the Defendants were taken from the Federal Building to the St. Bernard Parish Jail. The Defendants remained in jail overnight and were then transported the next afternoon in red jumpsuits and hand and leg irons back to the Hale Boggs Building where they were “arraigned” before Magistrate Judge Louis Moore, Jr., who released them on personal bonds of $10,000.
O’Keefe clarified to me that he and his companions entered only the public reception area of Sen. Landrieu’s office.
O’Keefe’s attorney Michael Madigan is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday tomorrow morning to discuss the prosecution.
More to come later today, including a post about the First Amendment implications of the judge ordering the destruction of the footage of O’Keefe’s foray into Landrieu’s offices, and a post about New York Magazine’s retraction of the errors I highlighted here the other day.
American troops serving at home and abroad have given their lives, their limbs and years of service to a grateful nation. Many of those who have passed away are buried with honor in Arlington National Cemetery — more than 300,000 veterans in total — but far more have been laid to rest in memorial sites and private plots around the country. Here is a look at the final resting places of some of the most famous American warriors who have served since the nation’s founding.
Before he was president, George Washington led the Continental Army in the six-year fight against British troops. Washington is interred at his home in Mount Vernon, Va. Nathanael Greene, one of Washington’s top generals, was felled at the age of 44 by sunstroke shortly after the war ended. He is buried in Johnson Square in Savannah, Ga. The great American naval hero of the war, John Paul Jones, died in France and was buried there, but was later exhumed. His hallowed remains are now enshrined at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
INDIAN AND MEXICAN WARS
Andrew Jackson fought bravely in the War of 1812 and in numerous engagements with Indian tribes, dying in 1845 of a series of ailments after serving two terms in the White House. He’s buried on his estate, the Hermitage, in Nashville, Tenn. Future president Zachary Taylor fought Indians from Indiana to Florida to Texas and later became a hero of the Mexican-American War. He is interred in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Ky.
Though Arlington National Cemetery was created during the Civil War, few of its great generals are buried there — not even Robert E. Lee, who once owned the property. Ulysses S. Grant lies in Grant’s Tomb in New York’s Riverside Park. Gen. Winfield Scott, an important Union strategist, is buried at West Point, where he is joined by George Armstrong Custer, who survived the Civil War but died at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
After the war, Gen. Robert E. Lee became the President of Washington College in Lexington, Va. (now Washington and Lee University), and is interred at the school’s Lee Chapel. His ablest commander is buried in the same city in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, though the Confederate tactician lost an arm in battle, and the arm is buried elsewhere.
WORLD WAR II
Commander in chief of the Pacific fleet, Chester W. Nimitz: was later promoted to Chief of Naval Operation. He was buried at Golden Gate Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif, in 1966. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was president of both the U.S. and Columbia University, and buried in the chapel at his presidential center in Abilene, Kan., in 1969. The top general in the Pacific theater, Douglas MacArthur, was laid to rest in the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Va., alongside his wife.
James Stockdale was the highest-ranking officer held as a POW in Vietnam and spent more than seven years in confinement. When he passed away in 2005 he was buried at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md. William Westmoreland, the commanding general in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, died just two weeks after Stockdale and was laid to rest in the cemetery at West Point. Charles Beckwith, who is credited with creating the special operations team Delta Force, was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Tex., upon his death in 1994.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Jason Dunham, a Marine corporal, received the Medal of Honor for smothering a grenade with his helmet and body while wrestling an insurgent in Iraq. He lies in a private cemetery in Alleghany, N.Y. (image) Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor was awarded the Medal of Honor after jumping on a grenade in 2006 to shield his sniper team in Iraq; he is buried in Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery, San Diego. (image) Another SEAL, Michael P. Murphy, died bravely in a firefight in Afghanistan and was buried in Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, N.Y.
Yet more than 125,000 American troops are buried on foreign soil in 24 permanent cemeteries, including two of the country’s finest warriors. Gen. George S. Patton survived World War II and asked to be buried with his men. He was laid to rest in a U.S. military cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg, after his death in 1945. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who, like his father, was awarded the Medal of Honor, led the assault on Utah Beach and is buried in the military cemetery in Normandy, France.
by Robert E. Moffit
According to surveys, no group of Americans is more skeptical of Obamacare than senior citizens—and with good reason.
While bits and pieces of the massive law are designed to appeal to seniors—more taxpayer subsidies for the Medicare drug benefit, for example—much of the financing over the initial ten years is siphoned off from an estimated $575 billion in projected savings to the Medicare program. Unless Medicare savings are captured and plowed right back into the Medicare program, however, the solvency of the Medicare program will continue to weaken. The law does not provide for that. Medicare is already burdened by an unfunded liability of $38 trillion.
Medicare Advantage plans, which currently attract almost one in four seniors, will see enrollment cut roughly in half over the next 10 years. Senior citizens will thus be more dependent on traditional Medicare than they are today and will have fewer health care choices.
Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, Congress deliberately created a gap in Medicare drug coverage (the so-called “donut hole”) in which seniors would be required to pay 100% of drug costs up to a specified amount. Obamacare provides a $250 rebate for seniors who fall into the “donut hole” and requires drug companies to provide a 50% discount on brand name prescriptions filled in the hole.
In 2011, Obamacare will also impose a new tax (a “fee”) on the sale of these brand name drugs in Medicare and other government health programs, ranging from $2.5 billion in 2011 to $4.1 billion in 2018. Meanwhile, the law will freeze payments to Medicare Advantage plans and restrict physicians from referring seniors in Medicare to specialty hospitals where physicians have an ownership interest. In 2013, the law eliminates the tax deductibility of the generous federal subsidy for employers who provide drug coverage for retirees. This could further undercut provision of employment-based prescription drug coverage for seniors.
Fewer Plan Choices
With the freezing of Medicare Advantage payments in 2011, Congress has set the stage for a progressive reduction in seniors’ access to, and choice of, the popular Medicare Advantage health plans.
In 2012, the law will begin reducing the federal benchmark payment for these plans. In 2014, these health plans must maintain a medical loss ratio of 85%, and the secretary of Health and Human Services is to suspend and even terminate enrollment in plans that miss this target.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage by 2017 is estimated to be cut roughly in half, from a projected 14.8 million (under current law) to 7.4 million. Since there are serious gaps in Medicare coverage, including the absence of catastrophic protection, roughly nine out of ten seniors on traditional Medicare already need to purchase supplemental insurance, such as Medigap. Without Medicare Advantage, millions more seniors will have to go through the cumbersome process of paying two separate premiums for two health plans.
Less Access to Physicians
In 2011, the new law provides a 10% Medicare bonus payment for primary care physicians and general surgeons in “shortage” areas. This is a tepid response to a growing problem.
With the retirement of 77 million baby boomers beginning in 2011, the Medicare program will have to absorb an unprecedented demand for medical services. For the next generation of senior citizens, finding a doctor will be more difficult and waiting times for doctor appointments are likely to be longer. The American Association of Medical Colleges projects a shortage of 124,000 doctors by 2025.
Obamacare has not ameliorated the growing problem of projected physician shortages and has surely made it worse. Under the new law, physicians will be even more dependent on flawed government payment systems for their reimbursement. Moreover, the congressionally designed Medicare physician payment update formula, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), initiates cuts that are so draconian that Congress goes through annual parliamentary gyrations to make sure its own handiwork does not go into effect.
Payment Cuts Mean Rationing
The new law also dramatically expands Medicaid, a poorly performing welfare program with low physician reimbursement rates, and this expansion will account for roughly half of the 34 million newly insured Americans. Furthermore, the law creates an Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will recommend measures to reduce Medicare spending.
Formally, the board is forbidden to make recommendations that ration care, increase revenues, or change Medicare beneficiaries’ benefits, cost-sharing, eligibility or subsidies. For the board, reimbursement for doctors and other medical professionals seems the only target left. But payment cuts can effectively ration care.
More Medicare Payment Cuts
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):
Over time, a sustained reduction in payment updates based on productivity expectations that are difficult to attain, would cause Medicare payment rates to grow more slowly than—and in a way unrelated to—the providers’ cost of furnishing services to beneficiaries. Thus, providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantial portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries).
Indeed, creating a real problem for seniors, the CMS Actuary estimates that roughly 15% of Medicare Part A providers—the part of the Medicare program that pays hospital costs—would become unprofitable within ten years.
Under the new law, seniors are going to pay higher taxes. The higher taxes on drugs (effective in 2011) and medical devices (effective in 2013) will affect seniors especially, as they are more heavily dependent on those very products. Older people, of course, have higher health costs than younger people. But the existing tax deduction for medical expenses will be raised from 7.5% to 10% of adjusted gross income in 2013. The reduced tax deductibility of medical expenses is waived for seniors only from 2013 to 2016. Likewise, older people have larger investments than younger people—and thus high-income older persons will be more heavily impacted by the new 3.8% Medicare tax imposed on unearned or investment income (effective 2013).
New federal health insurance taxes—both the premium taxes and the excise taxes—will also impact older workers and retirees. The federal premium tax (effective 2014) will be applicable to Medicare Advantage plans and health plans offered to federal retirees in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). Likewise, starting in 2018, there is a new 40% federal excise tax on “Cadillac” health plans (defined as $10,220 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage). This will also apply to FEHBP plans, which enroll federal retirees.
A Better Policy
Forcing doctors and hospitals to comply with new rules and shaving reimbursement for treating senior citizens is not real reform. If Congress is going to reduce Medicare and impose a hard cap on Medicare payments to restrain per capita cost growth, at the very least it ought to channel those savings right back into the program to enhance Medicare’s solvency and lay the fiscal foundation for real reform. Seniors deserve better than what Obamacare gives them.
Mr. Moffit is director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.