Monthly Archives: March 2017

U.S. Anti Missile Defenses: Too Little, Too Late? Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its report on American anti-missile defenses.

While former Presidents Clinton and Obama worked to halt missile defense, over thirty nations have acquired or seek to acquire ballistic missile technology, noted former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Ramussen.

In 2011, Rasmussen  discussed NATO’s needs for missile defense.

“As we sit here discussing missile defense, some people elsewhere are discussing missile attack.  Over 30 states already have, or are developing, missile technology. These missiles can be fitted with conventional technology, or with weapons of mass destruction.  Some of them can already reach parts of NATO territory.  Others can threaten NATO interests.  And all the time, technology is advancing.  Ranges are increasing. Accuracy and payloads are increasing.  And the number of countries with proven capability is increasing. We cannot ignore these trends.  We cannot afford to have even one of our cities hit.  We cannot take the risk of doing nothing.  Missile threats are real. And our defense must be real…At the same time, this will demonstrate that we will not be coerced or intimidated by proliferation programmes.  This is why NATO needs missile defense.  It is why we agreed that missile defence is a core element of our collective defence.  And it is why we have decided to develop a missile defence capability to protect NATO European populations, territory, and forces.”

The ability to defend against an incoming missile by means other than the threat of launching a counter attack against an aggressor helps eliminate the threat of a nuclear exchange escalating out of control.  Ellen Tauscher,who served as  the State Department’s Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile defense, explained that “it presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of cold war thinking and move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.”

The threat comes from both long-range ICBMs and theater-range missiles. Frank Rose, who served as the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Arms Control, stated that “…The threat from short-, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles is likely to increase both in quantitative and qualitative terms in the coming years, as some states are increasing their inventories, and making their ballistic missiles more accurate, mobile, and survivable.”

The rapid and vast upgrading of the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals, at the same time that America’s deterrent has been allowed to age into unreliability, is also a threat President Obama chose to ignore.

The threat has clearly moved to an imminent stage. The Washington Free Beacon reports that “North Korea could soon have the capacity to launch an attack on Hawaii that would devastate America’s Pacific military bases, accelerating the need for the United States to upgrade missile defenses in the area…Defense officials have warned that North Korea is on the brink of producing an ICBM that could target the United States…Pyongyang has worked for years to improve its missile capabilities, launching an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles in 2016 while conducting its fifth nuclear test in September 2016.”

The United States has some anti-missile capability. According to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency “Missile defense technology [is] being developed, tested and deployed by the United States … to counter ballistic missiles of all ranges—short, medium, intermediate and long. Since ballistic missiles have different ranges, speeds, size and performance characteristics, the Ballistic Missile Defense System is an integrated, ‘layered’ architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets.”

The problem is one of numbers.  Limited by a lack of budgetary support, and in the face of increasingly large threats, America’s capability is not sufficient to meet the expanding threat.

America’s options against North Korea in particular may be growing more limited. The Pukguksong-2 missile tested on February 12 by North Korea utilized solid fuel and was launched from a mobile platform, the BBC notes.  These two facts render the probability of a successful pre-emptive attack on a missile about to be launched highly unlikely. A comprehensive missile defense system, which former Presidents Clinton and Obama worked against, is urgently required.

10th City joins Vernuccio/Novak Broadcasting Family

We welcome the tenth station to the growing network carrying the Vernuccio/Novak Report! Richey Florida’s 88.3 fm joins Las Vegas, Nevada (92.1 fm,) Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1640 am & 102.1fm),  Tampa, FL. (92.1 fm),  Macon Georgia ( 810 am & 98.3 fm ), Boulder, Colorado  (100.7 fm),  Philadelphia/southern NJ (1360 am),  Long Beach, California at 101.5, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 90.3, and in Pittsburgh at 107.3 fm. Also available on IHeart and Spreaker.

U.S. Anti Missile Defenses: Too Little, Too Late?

The New York Analysis of Policy and Budget examines America’s lack of an adequate anti-missile shield, and the imminent threats of an attack. 

The potential of a nuclear missile strike against the United States is a rapidly increasing probability. For decades, the means to defend against that threat have been short-circuited by presidents and politicians who reflexively oppose adequate defense spending

Reuters  reports that North Korean sources claim that they are accelerating their capability to launch nuclear strikes.  Some experts believe the North Koreans may be able to hit the United States. “This includes developing a ‘pre-emptive first strike capability’ and an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.”

Unfortunately, despite decades of urging, America has only a limited capability to defend itself against a missile strike.

Thirty-four years ago, President Reagan first announced his “Strategic Defense Initiative,” (SDI) designed to provide an anti-ballistic (ABM) missile shield to protect the U.S. from nuclear attack.  Some historians believe the announcement was at least one factor in the Soviet leadership’s realization that they could not win the Cold War.  The move was resoundingly criticized by left-wing politicians and pundits, who pejoratively labelled the concept “Star Wars.”

SDI was never built, and even less capable systems were only marginally deployed. President Clinton cancelled a follow-up program known as “Brilliant Pebbles” and Barack Obama, first as a U.S. Senator, then as President, did everything possible to defund and even reduce various elements of ABM defenses.  in 2007, then-Senator Obama advocated cutting the anti-ballistic missile program budget by a greater amount than its entire allocated budget.

The Wall Street Journal  quoted Mr. Obama’s 2001 comment: “’I don’t support a missile defense system,’ Mr. Obama said in 2001, when he was old enough to know better…Many Democrats have held that view since dismissing Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. But engineers have proved they can hit a bullet with a bullet: 65 of 81 U.S. antimissile tests have succeeded since 2001…”

Two incidents stand out: Obama’s reversal of U.S. agreements with Eastern European nations to deploy ABM facilities, and his infamous “whisper” caught on an open microphone to Russian leader Medvedev, in which Obama promised that he would further cut U.S. missile defenses after his re-election.

President Obama proclaimed on Sept. 17, 2009, that he was unilaterally stopping the plan. The date he announced this was the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. The President’s decision infuriated Warsaw’s leaders, who had to expend significant political capital to gain approval from their voters.  The resulting loss of Eastern Europe’s trust in the White House directly led to the Czech Republic’s withdrawal from related agreements.

It is ironic that the media, which has incorrectly criticized President Trump’s attempt to get NATO members to pay their fair share of defense spending as being the alliance, made very little mention of President Obama’s betrayal of agreements with U.S. allies in Eastern Europe.

Moscow continues to develop its ABM capability.  Russian media widely covered the combat-ready status of a new ABM facility in Kaliningrad in late 2011. The Russia and India Report publicationrevealed in 2016 that “Russia plans to overhaul its missile defence system and is developing a state-of-the-art anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defence shield… Colonel Andrei Cheburin, speaking on January 23, said Russia’s anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system was being completely overhauled over the past few years. ‘I think that in the near future our country will have a truly ultramodern missile defence system,’ he concluded…In autumn of 2012, Russia’s defence authorities stated that the functional ABM system, the A-135 Amur, was being given a major upgrade. Colonel General (Retired) Viktor Yesin, then chief of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, told RIA Novosti that the missiles were being replaced with new ones with an improved design. All the other elements of the system, including the detection and tracking components, were also being revamped. The missiles would use launch silos currently mothballed, he added.”

The report concludes tomorrow

Trump Restores and Expands NASA’s Key Missions

President Trump’s signing of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, the first comprehensive NASA authorization passed by Congress in more than six years, indicates again the White House emphasis on manned space flight, including a return to the moon and human exploration of Mars by 2033, and deep space exploration by robotics as well.  It confirms the President’s desire to reduce the Obama-era use of NASA for activities involving climate change issues. (See the New York Analysis of Policy and Government’s recent examinations of President Trump’s space proposals)

Under the measure, NASA is slated to receive $19.5 billion, a $.2 billion increase. Spending on the space agency only represents 0.5% of the federal budget.

At the signing, Trump stated “With this legislation, we support NASA’s scientists, engineers, astronauts and their pursuit of discovery “America’s space program has been a blessing to our people and to the entire world. Almost half a century ago, our brave astronauts first planted the American flag on the moon. That was a big moment in our history.  Now this nation is ready to be the first in space once again. Today we’re taking the initial steps toward a bold and brave new future for American space flight……It continues support for the commercial crew program, which will carry American astronauts into space from American soil once again — been a long time. It supports NASA’s deep space exploration, including the Space Launch System and the ORION spacecraft.  It advances space science by maintaining a balanced set of mission and activities to explore our solar system and the entire universe.  And it ensures that through NASA’s astronauts and aeronautics research, the United States will remain a total leader in aviation.”

The Act was passed unanimously by Congress. According to the White House, “It authorizes the development and execution of a long-range plan for deep space human exploration; invests in robust science, technology and aeronautics portfolios; and endorses the Agency’s successful efforts to nurture a new commercial market that will boost our economy and create more jobs. Additionally, it guarantees vastly improved health care for the heroes who risk their lives in the exploration of space.”

Demonstrating bipartisan support for the measure (and also for an important state industry) Senator Nelson (D-Florida): stated:  “It puts us on the dual track.  We have the commercial companies going to and from the International Space Station, and we have NASA going out and exploring the heavens.  And we’re going to Mars.”

NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot stated “We would like to thank President Trump for his support of the agency in signing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017. We also want to express our gratitude to a bipartisan Congress for its thoughtful consideration of the agency’s path forward. We are grateful for the longstanding support and trust of the American people, which enables our nation’s space, aeronautics, science, and technology development programs to thrive. Our workforce has proven time and again that it can meet any challenge, and the continuing support for NASA ensures our nation’s space program will remain the world’s leader in pioneering new frontiers in exploration, innovation, and scientific achievement.”

Business Insider outlined several key aspects of the measure, including:

  • An uncrewed launch of SLS and Orion (key elements in returning Americans to space) by next year ,
  • A crewed mission to the moon in 2021, and further trips to the moon and Mars after that date;
  • A road map to send people to Mars by 2033;
  • Expanding permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit;
  • Leadership in advanced avionics on Earth;
  • Sending a rover to Mars in 2020,
  • An orbiting satellite to Europa;
  • Hunting for exoplanets; and
  • Researching the use of nuclear-fueled spacecraft; and finding killer asteroids.

The measure also mandates that NASA “search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.”

Kremlin Corruption Sparks Outrage

In 1993, Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, who was a key figure in breaking up the USSR and who served as Russian president from 1991 to 1999, said that “Corruption in the organs of power and administration is literally eating away the body of the Russian state from top to bottom, according to John Kramer writing for the Eurasia Center.

Over the weekend, protests were held to focus on corruption charges against Prime Minister Demetri Medvedev, who is said, according to the BBC,  to possess mansions, yachts and properties that he couldn’t be expected to afford on his salary. It is alleged that  Mr Medvedev even “had a special house for a duck on one of his properties – and on Sunday, some demonstrators held up images of yellow rubber ducks.” Mr Medvedev’s spokeswoman called the allegations against him “propagandistic attacks”.

Americans may particularly remember Mr. Medvedev as the recipient of Mr. Obama’s infamous “whisper” at a conference in which the former president promised to weaken U.S. ABM defenses after his re-election.

Bloomberg news notes that the independent  Ekho Moskvy radio station reported that  “60,000 people participated in 82 protests around the country. The number of detentions in Moscow — and the heavy presence of riot police — was the highest seen “since demonstrations erupted in winter 2011 and spring 2012 against alleged vote-rigging in parliamentary elections and Putin’s return to the presidency for a third term. Putin, 64, is likely to seek a further six years as president in elections next March, though he hasn’t officially said he’ll run.”

Alexei Navalny plans  to run for Putin’s job in 2018 but the Kremlin has attempted to short-circuit his candidacy by levying potentially false embezzlement charges against him. This past weekend, He was arrested after arriving on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street. Authorities convicted the nationally-known opponent of the Putin regime of disobeying police. He was fined 20,000 rubles ($352) for organizing what authorities described as an unsanctioned protest and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Along with Navalny, in excess of  1,000 people were detained. The protests were the largest since demonstrations erupted in 2011 and 2012, when many Russians were enraged about vote-rigging in parliamentary elections and Putin’s gaining the presidency for a third term. (Bloomberg reports thatPutin, 64, is likely to seek a further six years as president in elections next March, though he hasn’t officially said he’ll run.”

Although Russian state television and pro-Putin publications completely ignored the protests on Sunday, The U.S. and the European Union condemned the Kremlin’s handling of the events.  The U.S. State Department  issued a statement strongly condemning the arrest of the protesters, noting that “Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values. We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads.” According to the Russian semi-official news source RT, the Kremlin “rejected calls by foreign countries and organizations, particularly the US and the Council of Europe, to release protesters detained on Sunday.”

The Institute of Modern Russia reported in 2013 that “Transparency International has ranked Russia 133rd in its recently-published 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index…According to economist Alexandra Kalinina…corruption in Russia remains ‘not a problem, but a business.’ Corruption has penetrated all levels of government and most other aspects of life in Russia. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, corruption in Russia is worse than in many African countries…According to Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, the most corrupt spheres in Russia (in terms of household corruption) are healthcare, education, housing and communal services. In comparison, independent experts from RBC magazine name law-enforcement agencies (including the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate) as the most corrupt sphere in Russia, which is followed by healthcare, education, housing and communal services, and social security services.At the government level, however, the five top areas for corruption are.. Government contracts and purchases, Issuance of permits and certificates, Law-enforcement agencies Land distribution and land relations, [and] Construction.”

Kramer’s Eurasian Center analysis sounds similar to complaints of those in the United States who point to big government as a corrupting factor: “an analysis of political corruption in both the USSR and post-communist Russia reveals that in each state it exhibits strikingly similar (albeit not identical) characteristics, including: (1) manifold opportunities for corruption arising from the massive role of the state in regulating societal life…The distinctive hybrid character of political corruption in Russia today derives precisely from its roots in both the communist and post-communist periods.”

Russia Continues Threats vs. Europe, NATO responds

Largely undiscussed in the American media, Russia is increasingly threatening the security of Europe. Putin is continuing his massive investment in modern weapons. He has formed wholly new military divisions, and has deployed theater nuclear weapons to his borders with European states.

The threats extend beyond the raw exercise of military might. An ABC/Associated Press report  cites Djukanovic, Montenegro’s former prime minister, calling on the European Union to stop Russia’s “destructive” influence in the Balkans, following what prosecutors said was a thwarted attempt to overthrow its pro-Western government and kill the tiny country’s most influential leader. Djukanovic warned that the Kremlin “is waging a kind of war against Europe and the West as a whole.”

Montenegro is scheduled to formally join the NATO alliance as its 29th member. Since 2009, NATO and Montenegro have worked closely together through the Membership Action Plan, which helps nations prepare for possible future membership. Stoltenberg said the decision reflected Montenegro’s “unwavering commitment to our common values and to international security” but advised Montenegro to continue on its reform path, “on defense adaptation, on domestic reform, especially rule of law, and to continue to make progress in demonstrating public support for Montenegro’s NATO membership.”

A further indication of Putin’s consistent effort to rebuild the Soviet Empire can be seen in South Ossetia, technically part of Georgia. In 2008, Russian forces moved to separate the region from Georgia’s national government.  The Russian news source RT reports that “The Russian government has approved an agreement with the Republic of South Ossetia that would allow certain military units of the latter nation to become the part of the Russian military forces… soldiers and officers of the South Ossetian units that will be included in the Russian military forces…In March 2015, Russia and South Ossetia signed a key treaty under which the two nations agreed to partially join their military forces…The treaty…is very similar to the agreement with the Caucasus Republic of Abkhazia signed in 2014.”

NATO’s just released 2016 annual report states that “At no time since the end of the Cold War has the NATO Alliance faced greater challenges to our security than it does today..Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine…marked…the start of a new era… So today, the Alliance must engage in both collective defence and crisis management at the same time. Allies have implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War. In the last two years, NATO’s deterrence and defence posture has changed significantly, and the Warsaw Summit in July 2016 was an important landmark in our adaptation. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000; established a 5,000 strong Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, ready to move within days; and set up eight small headquarters in the eastern part of our Alliance. We are currently deploying four multinational battlegroups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, with contributions from 17 different Allied countries – including Canada and the United States…

“As the challenges to Allied security continued to evolve, Allied leaders agreed at the NATO Summit in Warsaw that a further shift in NATO’s posture was warranted. As part of this shift, Allies agreed to establish a rotational forward presence in the Baltic and Black Sea regions to demonstrate solidarity, determination, and an ability to act in defence of NATO territory. NATO’s forward presence will include multinational battlegroups deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively. It will also include a multinational brigade for training, led by Romania, that will contribute to NATO’s deterrence and defence in the Black Sea region. Significant additional contributions by other Allies send the message that NATO stands as one, and that an attack on any single Ally will be considered an attack against all. These troops will be under NATO command and control, which will include a multinational divisional headquarters in Poland. NATO’s forward presence will be an integral part of NATO’s deterrence and defence posture. During peacetime, the multinational forces in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will train with national defence forces in those countries to enhance interoperability and improve their ability to operate locally. In case of aggression, these forces will respond in accordance with the right to self-defence, in coordination with the national forces of the host nation.

“The forward presence in the Black Sea region will include a multinational framework brigade for integrated training, as well as measures to strengthen NATO’s air and maritime presence in the region. Romania is the framework nation for the multinational brigade, which is being developed with contributions at the battalion level from Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey. Other significant contributions have been announced by Canada, Germany and the United States.”

As previously reported in the New York Analysis of Policy and Government, Russian provocations have also prompted Sweden and Finland, not officially part of NATO, to enhance their relations with the alliance. According to the a Finland study, “Finland needs to adapt yet again to changing circumstances…Finland shares the broader strategic concerns of its EU partners, along with the rising challenges to both East and South of the continent. However, the EU does not possess the institutions and capabilities to deal with the full range of these strategic concerns by itself… As an unsatisfied power, Russia has made unpredictability a strategic and tactical virtue, underpinned by an impressive degree of political and military agility. Russia has adopted a revisionist stand towards the norms and principles governing the European order…”

The report notes that any move to join—or not join– the alliance should only be considered jointly with Sweden.

Sweden, for its part, has moved closer to NATO, in response to Moscow’s significant threats. Moscow has moved air and missile forces close to Sweden, and is considering deploying much of its large tactical nuclear forces to the region as well. Russia possesses a ten to one advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons.  Moscow has engaged in simulated attacks on Sweden, and its intelligence forces constitute an ongoing threat.

Why Obamacare has to be Replaced

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its review of the reasons Obamacare had to be replaced.

Government mandates for the inclusion of coverage for treatment modes unwanted and unneeded by many serves to unnecessarily increase costs.

Cato Institute study notes:

“Like the federal government, all states increase the cost of health insurance by requiring consumers to purchase certain types of coverage, whether or not they want it. Many states require consumers to purchase coverage for services that many consider quackery, such as acupuncture (12 states), chiropractors (44 states), and naturopathy (4 states). Thirty-three states require consumers to purchase at least 40 types of mandated coverage. States have also required consumers to purchase coverage for medical treatments that later proved harmful to health, such as hormone replacement therapy (4 states) and high-dose chemotherapy with autologous bone marrow transplant for breast cancer (at least 1 state, Minnesota). States impose many additional regulations on insurance pools, from premium taxes to rules limiting insurers’ ability to manage utilization. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, on average, state regulations increase the cost of health insurance by 13 percent. States prevent individuals (and employers) from avoiding unwanted regulatory costs by prohibiting them from purchasing health insurance from states with more consumer-friendly regulations.

Another approach ignored by those who enacted Obamacare was tort reform. A study by the South Carolina Policy Council analyzed the problem. “…medical malpractice tort reform…seeks to obtain a better balance between holding doctors accountable for mistakes and protecting physicians from frivolous lawsuits. In practice, medical tort reform seeks to cap the amount of monetary damages awarded in medical negligence cases. The impetus for this is escalating costs for doctors and insurance companies, on the heels of multimillion dollar settlements to individuals and multibillion dollar settlements to states…Estimates of the cost total of medical malpractice civil cases range from $252 billion (by the Tillinghast-Towers Perrin actuarial firm) to $865 billion by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI). PRI’s estimate includes $589 billion in wasteful spending that accounts for lost future productivity and lost sales ($367 billion) caused by less innovation. While not all tort costs are wasteful — tort law is imperative in a free market system to maintain the rule of law — there is plenty of room for reform…doctors feel they must practice defensive medicine in order to avoid being sued. This practice entails prescribing tests or treatments for patients whose symptoms would not ordinarily require such procedures…Dr. William Jackson, a radiologist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, says most people would be amazed at how many defensive medicine lab tests are ordered every day.”

As the Republican majority in Congress moves to address the Obamacare crisis, conservatives are asserting that marketplace concepts such as interstate competition, tort reform, and consumer choice in treatment coverage is not being emphasized in the initial phase. GOP leadership is emphasizing a gradual approach, centered around tax credits for purchasing private policies.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) reintroduced… a bill to repeal most of the 2010 health law without replacing it, a measure that cleared the last Congress when President Barack Obama, a Democrat, was in office. Conservative groups view that bill, which Mr. Obama vetoed, as a gold standard. GOP leaders’ decision to back away from that bill now that Mr. Trump is president is causing friction. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) amplified the message when he left a Thursday afternoon meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and a handful of other Republicans and said the House bill couldn’t pass the Senate and needed to be changed.”

But Congressional leadership favors a three-part approach, notes the Wall Street Journal. “The leaders plan to first pass the current bill repealing much of the law and offering some Republican-backed elements in their place…The second phase would have Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price use his administrative power to undo other ACA provisions. The third step would be the hardest—persuading enough Democrats to go along with a set of non-budget health-care bills that would take 60 votes to pass the Senate.Mr. Trump has said letting insurers sell policies in every state would be part of the third phase. But conservatives insist that proposal should be included in the current legislation, since they doubt the likelihood of winning over enough Democrats to pass it.”

Conservatives do approve of portions of the reform bill, reports Townhall, “Compared to Obamacare, GOPCare reduces the role of the federal government in the healthcare system, gives more authority and flexibility to states, spends less, taxes less, regulates less, and coerces less. The individual and employer mandates are gone. Infamous tax hikes like the medical device tax are gone (and in other cases, delayed or reduced). Obamacare’s subsidy system is dismantled by 2020 and supplanted with refundable tax credits for lower-to-upper-middle-income individuals and families, ranging from $2,000 to $14,000 annually…Caps on tax-free contributions to Health Savings Accounts are also raised considerably, almost doubling under this bill.  The conservative Republican Study Committee is out with a pretty balanced memo on the positives and negatives of the draft legislation, noting several shifts towards more coverage and more spending over the weekend.”

Some of the very few popular portions of Obamacare would be maintained. “People with pre-existing conditions are protected…Also, lifetime expenditure caps from carriers remain disallowed, and adult children are permitted to remain on their parents’ plan through age 26.

 On the other hand, conservatives are concerned that the growth in Medicaid may be unchecked. Fiscal conservatives opposed the expansion…Obamacare’s status quo would remain in place until 2020, at which point the new law would ‘transition Medicaid into a system in which each state receives a certain amount of money for each of its residents in the program and has more flexibility over how the program functions. That allocation would revert to per person spending levels from 2016 and then grow each year at the rate of medical inflation. However, states would still receive enhanced Obamacare-levels of spending for individuals who were grandfathered in by having enrolled in expanded Medicaid before 2020…Many conservatives want the Medicaid expansion done away with entirely.”

One conservative source, The Daily Signal, emphasizes: “The key problem with the draft House health care bill is that it fails to correct the features of Obamacare that drove up health insurance costs. Instead, it mainly tweaks Obamacare’s financing and subsidy structure. Basically, the bill focuses on protecting those who gained subsidized coverage through the law’s exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion, while failing to correct Obamacare’s misguided insurance regulations that drove up premiums for Americans buying coverage without government subsidies.”

 

Obamacare Repeal Delayed

As we went to press, The House of Representatives has announced that it will delay its vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The debate over how to replace the already collapsing Obamacare system has been one of the most contentious in the current Congress. There is little dissent in the need to undo the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) passed in relative secrecy. (Former speaker Nancy Pelosi’ comment “We have to pass the bill before you can see what’s in it” ranks as one of U.S. history’s most memorable examples of legislative incompetence.)

The reality is, no matter which party took control of the federal government in 2016, Obamacare would have required major surgery—or perhaps even a mercy killing. A Heritage analysis outlines the massive problems:

  • 5 million lost prior insurance plans—President Obama’s promises that “you can keep your plan” and “you can keep your doctor” were completely untrue, and private sector enrollment increased by only 2.7 million, and exchange enrollment is only half of what was projected.
  • Average deductibles are $12,000
  • Premiums have increased by 25%
  • 70% of counties have no choice of insurance providers
  • 78% of Obamacare co-ops have failed, at a cost of $1.9 billion
  • Medicaid spending has increased by $1 trillion—paid for by an equal amount of tax increases. Medicaid patients under Obamacare have received a lesser quality of care
  • 5 million full time jobs were lost because the Affordable Care Act actually serves as a disincentive to hire full time employees

Obamacare hurt both young and old.

Although allowing young people to remain covered under their parents’ coverage until age 26, once they aged out, they were forced to buy policies that were overpriced due to mandated coverage of issues not typically affecting them. Indeed, a key part of the financing strategy for Obamacare was the subsidization of young, healthy individuals for the rest of the covered population.

At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors were hurt because, as Heritage outlines, Obamacare cuts $716 billion  from Medicare over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and uses these “savings” from Medicare to fund other entitlement expansions mandated by Obamacare. Medicare becomes a cash cow for Obamacare, and the Medicare “savings” from payment cuts are not put back into making Medicare solvent. Such massive payment cuts do impact Medicare benefits, as well as seniors’ access to those benefits.

Dissent against Obamacare by seniors, unless repeal occurs, is expected to grow dramatically. As noted by Modern Healthcare:  in December: “A bipartisan coalition of hundreds of healthcare organizations is urging the new Congress to immediately repeal an advisory board that has not yet been filled but would be charged with finding cuts to Medicare. The Independent Payment Advisory Board was created by the Affordable Care Act. During debate of the ACA, some opponents labeled the board a ‘death panel’ that would make decision about end-of-life treatment. It is actually meant to make cuts to Medicare in the case that spending growth exceeds projections.”

It is reasonable to assert that Obamacare’s failure is attributable to the imposition of government-centric solutions to a health insurance affordability problem significantly caused by government action.

Laws and regulations that prohibit competition by health care insurers across state lines guarantee monopoly practices and prices. The National Conference of State Legislatures  reports that “Insurance firms in each state are protected from interstate competition by the federal McCarran-Ferguson Act (1945), which grants states the right to regulate health plans within their borders. …The result has been a patchwork of 50 different sets of state regulations; the cost for an insurer licensed in one state to enter another state market is often high.”

The Report continues tomorrow

Nuclear Terrorism Threat Grows, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its look at nuclear terrorism.

NATO officials are not alone in their concern about nuclear terrorism.  Last year, at the Nuclear Security Summit  U.S. officials expressed concern that atomic weaponry could be obtained by terrorists, particularly from Pakistan.

Heather Von Behren, The U.S. State Department’s chief of the counter nuclear smuggling unit in the International Security and Nonproliferation bureau during the Obama presidency, noted:nuclear terrorism is a threat to our collective security… The seizure of weapons-grade nuclear material in Georgia in 2010 and Moldova in 2011 suggests that these types of materials could still remain in illegal circulation.  In addition to locking down material under government control, the international community is working together to investigate smuggling networks, remove nuclear and other radioactive material from the black market, and arrest individuals involved.”

The threat is not new, nor restricted just to ISIS. The Combatting Terrorism Center reported in 2009 that “Al-Qa`ida has made numerous statements about a desire to obtain nuclear weapons for use against the United States and Western interests [1]. While many of these statements are rhetorical hyperbole, the scale of the potential destructiveness of nuclear weapons, the instability and “nuclear porosity” of the context in Pakistan, and the vulnerabilities within Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security arrangements mean that the risks of terrorist groups gaining access to nuclear materials are real. Moreover, militants have recently attacked a number of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, including an August 21, 2008 incident at the Wah cantonment, widely understood to be one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly sites.

“When Pakistan was developing its nuclear weapons infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s, its principal concern was the risk that India would overrun its nuclear weapons facilities in an armored offensive if the facilities were placed close to the long Pakistan-India border. As a result, Pakistan, with a few exceptions, chose to locate much of its nuclear weapons infrastructure to the north and west of the country and to the region around Islamabad and Rawalpindi—sites such as Wah, Fatehjang, Golra Sharif, Kahuta, Sihala, Isa Khel Charma, Tarwanah, and Taxila . The concern, however, is that most of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are close to or even within areas dominated by Pakistani Taliban militants and home to al-Qa`ida.

“The Pakistani Taliban and al-Qa`ida are more than capable of launching terrorist attacks in these areas, including within Islamabad and Rawalpindi. They have also proved that they have good intelligence about the movement of security personnel, including army, ISI and police forces, all of whom have been routinely targeted. A series of attacks on nuclear weapons facilities has also occurred. These have included an attack on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha on November 1, 2007, an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear airbase at Kamra by a suicide bomber on December 10, 2007,and perhaps most significantly the August 21, 2008 attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly sites. The significance of these events is difficult to overstate.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP)  uses radiation portal monitors, a detection device that provides a passive, non-intrusive means to screen trucks and other conveyances for the presence of nuclear and radiological materials. These systems are capable of detecting various types of radiation emanating from nuclear devices, dirty bombs, special nuclear materials, natural sources, and isotopes commonly used in medicine and industry. CBP notes that “As the nation’s primary border enforcement agency, CBP must do everything in its power to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering this country.”