Big government

US Congress members: A look at perks and pay

Lawmakers Opens a New Window. this week decided to put an initiative to raise their pay on hold – amidst opposition in both parties Opens a New Window. – but they still enjoy six-figure pay and a host of other perks and benefits. The measure would have raised their salaries by $4,500. Lawmakers have not been given a pay raise since 2009. New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports the measure, as she says it would prevent some lawmakers from wanting to keep “dark money loopholes open.” She also said everyone should get cost of living increases to account for changes in the U.S. economy. The current salary for most lawmakers is $174,000. It would be closer to $210,900 had Congress received pay raises annually since 2009, according to data from the Congressional Research Service. Some lawmakers, however, receive more. Click here to see who does, and what other perks and benefits members of Congress receive.

..courtesy of our tax dollars.

Analysis: Trump order could cut your cost of health care and drugs

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order soon that could require insurers and hospitals to disclose the prices they’ve negotiated for various services. He hopes such transparency will increase competition and drive down health spending. The health care industry is less supportive. The nation’s top health insurance lobby, for instance, claims the president’s plan is “bad transparency” that could actually cause prices to go up. Government mandates are problematic. Transparency as a concept is beneficial. When private-sector organizations have been able to pull back the curtain on insurers’ and providers’ prices, they’ve unleashed competitive forces that have yielded significant savings for them — and for the rest of the health care system. Hospitals are often reluctant to make their prices public because they don’t want to — or can’t — compete against lower-cost providers, like retail health or urgent care clinics. Such clinics aren’t perfect substitutes for emergency rooms. But the clinics, which typically publish their prices on something akin to a restaurant menu, can deliver care for many common illnesses at significantly lower cost. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the average “low-severity emergency room visit” cost more than $400 out-of-pocket. That same visit was just $37 at a retail clinic. A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at all emergency room visits in New Jersey between 2006 and 2014 — and discovered that people living close to a retail clinic were up to 12.3 percent less likely to visit the ER. The authors concluded that the state’s health care system would realize $70 million in savings a year from reduced ER usage if retail clinics were more readily available. Price transparency also helps employers — who provide health coverage to half the country — rein in health spending. Take what the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which covers 1.3 million current and retired state employees and their families, has done to try to strike a harder bargain with health care providers. CalPERS identified 41 hospitals across the state that were able to provide quality knee and hip replacement procedures for $30,000. Patients could opt to get care at facilities that charged more than that price, but they’d have to pay the difference out of pocket. Previously, prices for knee and hip replacements had varied widely. Some hospitals charged as much as $100,000. The CalPERS program prompted beneficiaries to flock to lower-cost hospitals, increasing their market share by 28 percent. Other hospitals began lowering their prices in response, to try to attract more business. Prices for knee and hip replacements fell by more than 20 percent over two years, saving CalPERS around $6 million. Grocer Safeway has implemented a similar program for lab services that’s yielded savings of between 10 percent and 32 percent, depending on the test. Price transparency can also save patients themselves a great deal of money. Patients tend to choose the most affordable option for care when they’re given relevant information. Consider prescription drugs. According to the Association for Accessible Medicines, when patients have a choice between branded and generic medicines, they choose the cheaper generic 97 percent of the time. Or take diagnostics. In 2007, the state of New Hampshire launched a website where patients could compare cost and quality for various procedures. The ability to access price information saved patients around $8 million on X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans over five years, according to a University of Michigan study. Transparency could even save patients money indirectly. A study published by the journal Health Affairs found that yearly health spending was about $700 lower for patients who chose a “low-price” physician, compared to those who chose high-price physicians. The savings were due to the fact that low-price physicians tended to order less expensive tests and scans. Americans are smart shoppers. But in the health care market, they typically don’t have access to the pricing information they’d need to be savvy consumers. It shouldn’t take a presidential directive to get them that information, which would do wonders to reduce health costs in this country.

Agreed..  But, glad President Trump (hopefully) will issue such a directive soon.  Thanks to Sally C. Pipes for that outstanding op/ed.  Sally is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care” (Encounter 2018). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

Tucker Carlson: The real reason Obama intel officials don’t want you to know how they spied on Americans

On Tuesday, the Washington Post, our hometown newspaper here in the nation’s capital, published an op-ed by former FBI Director Jim Comey. In the piece, Comey explains that whatever surveillance the Obama Justice Department conducted on the 2016 Trump campaign was entirely justified and within bounds — nothing weird about it at all. Yes, American citizens were monitored electronically without their knowledge, but it wasn’t spying. Of course, it wasn’t “spying.” It was “investigating.” It was done for your own good. And if you don’t like it, you’re unpatriotic and possibly, mentally ill. That’s Comey’s position. What the op-ed did not contain was any evidence at all that what he said is true. Comey is a bitter partisan with a long history of shading the truth. But he suggests you’ve got to trust him anyway. It’s your duty to trust him. Okay, well, here’s another idea. We could see for ourselves exactly what happened in 2016. We could declassify all the relevant information and then make it public. That way, we wouldn’t have to take anyone’s word for what happened — Comey’s word, President Trump’s word, or anyone else’s word. The president has suggested doing just that. The left is outraged by the idea. “Trump has every reason to believe Barr will use his new powers to aid the President’s anti-deep state propaganda efforts,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes said to viewers. “Trump giving Barr unilateral authority over classification is just a huge deal in the world of Intelligence agencies. Barr will be able to override other agencies’ independent classification determinations. And the goal of all this here seems pretty clear. It’s basically to give Sean Hannity material for his television show. So the plan, as it appears now, is essentially a kind of purge of the ideologically suspect members of the intelligence apparatus.” It’s a purge, like Joseph Stalin! Unless we stop the release of this information, people will die! That’s what they’re telling you. Just another day of balanced news coverage on MSNBC. Keep in mind, as you watch and rewatch that clip, that Chris Hayes is not a flack for the CIA. He’s a member of the national press corps. But he isn’t arguing for openness — just the opposite. Hayes is using his position as a public advocate to argue against giving the public more information. These are not military secrets, by the way, or the names of U.S. agents working undercover overseas. The information in question is about how the FBI spied on Americans while investigating crimes that we now know did not occur. So what could possibly be the justification for keeping all of that secret? Really, the only justification would be to protect the intel agencies from embarrassment. That’s what they fear. And that’s exactly why the former director of the CIA, John Brennan, and so many others are anxious to preserve the veil of secrecy. “I think it’s critically important that the counterintelligence professionals continue to carry out their responsibilities and resist these unwarranted and very, very irresponsible efforts to try to undermine what they’re doing,” Brennan said on MSNBC. So John Brennan thinks it’s risky, unwarranted, “very irresponsible” to let American citizens know whether their law enforcement agencies abused their power. That kind of transparency is, again, irresponsible. What if we applied the same standards to John Brennan himself? You know that after leaving the White House, Brennan was allowed to keep his security clearance, and that clearance increased his value as an employee once he entered the private sector. It allowed him, among other things, access to classified information, which he could then selectively leak to his colleagues at MSNBC. So how does giving classified information to John Brennan help American national security? Well, it doesn’t. It helps only John Brennan. Keep in mind, this is a man who has accused his political enemies of treason, a death penalty offense. “This is nothing short of treasonous, because it is a betrayal of the nation,” he said of Trump last year. “He is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Treasonous is defined as a betrayal of trust, as well as aiding and abetting the enemy. And so that was the word that came to my mind.” That was for Trump’s “crime” of holding a press conference with Vladimir Putin last summer in Finland. He was talking with the Russian president. This is not stable behavior. John Brennan is exactly the sort of person who should not have a security clearance.

Agreed 100%!  Thanks to Tucker Carlson for that spot-on op/ed.  Having spent more than two decades in the intel community myself,  I wholeheartedly agree with Tucker’s assessment.  John Brennan is a self-righteous, partisan, agenda-driven hypocrite who has NO need to retain his clearance, and frankly is an embarrassment to the intel community.  For more of this article, click on the text above.

HHS proposes rollback of Obama protections for transgender patients

The Trump administration wants to roll back protections for transgender patients, frightening LGBT activists who fear a loss of care while enthusing conservatives who say an Obama-era rewrite stretched existing law. The previous administration issued 2016 regulations that said laws barring health care discrimination on the basis of sex should include gender identity. Religious groups sued over those rules — an outgrowth of Obamacare — and federal courts in Texas and North Dakota enjoined them from taking effect. The Trump administration says they’re taking a position that comports with those decisions, adheres to existing law and slashes billions of dollars in unnecessary paperwork. “When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” said Roger Severino, director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.” The proposal will escalate a simmering fight between LGBT advocates and President Trump, who earlier this month issued a “conscience” protection rule to shield health workers who object to participating in certain procedures. Also, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued rules on homeless shelters this week that defer to local and state law in considering how a person’s sex should impact accommodations. Advocates fear that transgender people will be turned away or forced to use a bathroom that doesn’t comport with their identity.

And this is where we are in 2019 in America..  The Trump Administration is exactly right for taking this step.  For more, click on the text above.

Alan Dershowitz: Congress is not above the law when it comes to impeachment – Don’t weaponize the Constitution

The mantra invoked by those Democrats who are seeking to impeach President Trump is that “no one is above the law.” That, of course, is true, but it is as applicable to Congress as it is to the president. Those members of Congress who are seeking to impeach the president, even though he has not committed any of the specified impeachable offenses set out in the Constitution, are themselves seeking to go above the law. All branches of government are bound by the law. Members of Congress, presidents, justices and judges must all operate within the law. All take an oath to support the Constitution, not to rewrite it for partisan advantage. It is the law that exempts presidents from being prosecuted or impeached for carrying out their constitutional authority under Article 2. The same Constitution precludes members of Congress from being prosecuted for most actions taken while on the floor of the House and Senate or on the way to performing their functions. The same Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, bestows immunity on judges for actions that would be criminal or tortious if engaged in by non-judicial individuals. None of this means that these government officials are above the law. It means that their immunized actions are within the law. The Constitution, which is the governing law, precludes Congress from impeaching a president for mere “dereliction” of duty or even alleged “corruption.” Under the text of the Constitution, a president’s actions to be impeachable must consist of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The framers of the Constitution considered broadening the criteria for impeachment to include maladministration in office. But this proposal was soundly rejected, on the ground that it would give Congress too much power to control the president. Yet Democrats who are now seeking to impeach the president, despite the absence of impeachable offenses, are trying to do precisely what the framers of the Constitution forbade them from doing: exercising control over a president that is not authorized in the Constitution itself. Consider, for example, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has said the following: “Impeachment is about whatever the Congress says it is. There is no law that dictates impeachment.” It is she, and other like-minded members of Congress, who are claiming the right to be above the law. That is a dangerous claim whether made by a president or by a member of Congress. The framers of the Constitution did not want a weak president subject to the political control of Congress. Members of the Constitutional Convention explicitly expressed that view in rejecting criteria for impeachment short of criminal conduct. In the absence of the specified criminal conduct, the remedy for a non-impeachable president lies with the voters, not Congress. There are other constitutionally authorized remedies as well. These include reasonable congressional hearings conducted under the oversight powers of Congress. These hearings, too, must not be conducted for partisan purposes, but rather for legitimate legislative purposes, such as enacting new laws that evidence of the hearings show are necessary. The current hearings do not meet these standards. They are obviously calculated to obtain partisan advantage in the run-up to the 2020 election. Another option would be for Congress to appoint a nonpartisan expert commission, such as the one appointed following the 9/11 attacks. This commission could look deeply and objectively at all the issues growing out of the 2016 election, particularly Russian efforts to interfere in the American political process. The commission’s goal would not be criminal prosecutions, but rather preventive measures to assure no repetition in the 2020 and subsequent elections. Unfortunately, we live in a time of extreme partisanship, and no one seems interested in nonpartisan truth or in measures that help all Americans rather than only one party. The time has come to stop weaponizing the Constitution and our legal system for partisan advantage. Impeachment would be a lawless response to undertake, as is the use of partisan committees to obtain an electoral advantage. No one is above the law, but no one is beneath the legal protection of the law as well. Both parties should operate within the law for the benefit of the American people.

Agreed!!  And well said, Sir.  Dr. Alan M. Dershowitz, the author of that outstanding legal op/ed, is Felix Frankfurter professor of law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School. What you may find surprising is that Dr. Dershowitz is a proud liberal who makes a point to let folks know he proudly voted for Hillary.  He is one of the few intellectually honest liberals out there, who was recently DISinvited from appearing on CNN.  So, we’re happy to post his article here.  His latest book is “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.” Follow him on Twitter: @AlanDersh Facebook: @AlanMDershowitz.  Please consider this your Read of the Day.  If you read only one thing today here at The Daily Buzz, then READ THIS!!…and then forward it to all of your friends and family members, especially those who are Democrats or who watch MSNBC or CNN…and watch their heads explode.    🙂

President Trump Signs Order Cracking Down on Welfare-Dependent Legal Immigration

President Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday cracking down on welfare-dependent legal immigration to the United States in an effort to protect American taxpayers. The order signed by Trump will enforce existing 1996 laws known as the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act” and “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” which were signed by then-President Bill Clinton. The order ensures that federal agencies will enforce the existing 1996 laws which seek to save American taxpayers by having their public welfare funding benefits reimbursed when they are used by a legal immigrant. The first function of the order mandates that a family member or business sponsor of a legal immigrant looking to permanently resettle in the U.S. is responsible for paying back the welfare costs previously used by that immigrant. For example, if a visa holder has used $10,000 in food stamp benefits while living in the U.S., when a family member sponsors them for a green card, that family member will be notified of the legal immigrant’s welfare costs to taxpayers and obligated to pay back the amount. If the sponsor of a legal immigrant does not pay the welfare cost, the Treasury Offset Program will take the money out of the sponsor’s taxes for that year. Federal officials said implementation of this order would begin in September. A senior administration official told Breitbart News that the order to enforce Clinton’s 1996 law will drive down welfare-dependent legal immigration to the U.S. which has cost American taxpayers billions over the years. “This is a historic, transformative action to restore the foundational principle of U.S. immigration law: that those seeking to join our society must support themselves financially,” the official said. “This executive action will dramatically curb ‘welfare tourism’ and protect U.S. benefits for U.S. families,” the official continued. “It will also ensure that immigrant sponsors cannot continue the practice of bringing in large numbers of welfare-dependent immigrants: because they will be financially liable. Congress passed these laws – but they were effectively never used. Now they will be.” The second function of the order ensures that the income a sponsor to a legal immigrant is taken into consideration when a legal immigrant is applying for federal welfare. Currently, only the income of legal immigrants is considered by federal agencies when the national is applying for public benefits. Under the rules set out by Clinton’s 1996 law, the Trump administration will make certain that the income of both the legal immigrant and their sponsor is considered when applying for benefits. “Newcomers will not be able to live on free federal healthcare, housing, and other welfare at taxpayer expense,” the senior official said. A senior administration official said Trump’s order also will help prevent illegal aliens from obtaining federal welfare benefits.

Excellent!!  And really, this is only putting teeth into welform reform legislation that then-President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law back in the ’90s, but it’s never seriously been enforced.  So, the Dems and liberal media will be hard-pressed to beat up on Trump over this.  But, hey..  If they do, and didn’t say anything at the time Clinton signed it into law, then they’re brazen hypocrites.     🙂

Peggy Grande: Three lies the left needs to stop telling

In Hans Christian Andersen’s fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor, in his pride and arrogance, was conned by imposter tailors to believe he was wearing an elegant, ornate, finely tailored suit, when, in actuality, he was wearing nothing. While it’s easy to mock the foolishness of the emperor, the real tragedy in the story was his subjects, who loyally lined the street to see him parade by in his new “suit,” applauding and cheering as if he was in his finest royal regalia. They were told only fools would not be able to see his new clothes, and so, afraid of being labeled as fools, they pretended they saw his finery. When instead they saw nothing. (Well, actually, they saw everything!) Similarly, the parade of Democratic politics is finally being exposed for what it is – a pompous, yet empty display of purported finery, which has been largely applauded and accepted by those who refuse to see that much of what they believe is based in bias not fact. Yet now the Democratic “emperors” are finally being seen as wearing nothing but empty promises and piety. And it is long overdue. Now that the charade is over, there are three lies the left needs to stop telling: Lie number one is the inflated narrative of Russian collusion, which has now been deflated by the release of the Mueller report. Not only was this “witch hunt” unfounded at its beginning, but it was also tainted, biased and politically motivated in the middle, and in the end was exposed as a complete waste of taxpayer money. It was a two-year distraction without merit at best, and potentially an attempted coup at its worst. Though time will tell what additional revelations will still come as a result of this report, the “collusion delusion,” at least as far as Donald Trump is concerned, is over. The political elites and media talking heads had it wrong all along – dead wrong. They are seething that their concentrated efforts didn’t uncover anything worthy of impeachment and are now left holding nothing but their bruised pride. The American people are moving on. It’s time for the mainstream media and a few outlying members of Congress to do the same. Lie number two is that there is no crisis at our southern border. “It’s fabricated,” says the left. Donald Trump has “manufactured this crisis.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are we being overrun by thousands of people who are arriving with no documentation to prove who they are, but much worse, we are turning a blind eye to human trafficking – right here at home. In fact, we may actually be facilitating it by incentivizing migrants to arrive with children. If people arrive in a “family unit,” they are processed differently and given priority entry. Without documentation, we have to take the word of the child and the “parent” as to their identity, although a few select border control crossings are starting to use DNA testing to determine a familial connection. Who knows how many children have been taken from their families and used by smugglers to walk with unrelated adults across the border and then taken right back to Mexico in order to be used by the next smuggler. We may be complicit in the very act we accuse countries all around the world of wrongly engaging in. Where is the outrage about this from the left? This needs to stop. Immediately. We need to end this tsunami of illegal migration and start legally controlling the wave of immigrants again. Regardless of how often we are told by the left it’s not an issue, we have eyes to see the footage of the migrant caravans, and are smart enough to know that when we incentivize people to break our own laws, they will. And they are. The left knows it. Why won’t they tell us the truth? And lie number three is that America is ready to move toward socialism. As the 2020 Democratic candidates step over themselves to be the one furthest to the left, much of the rest of the nation watches this rush to irrelevance and wonders who will be buying what they’re selling? Even Joe Biden, the supposed Democratic frontrunner, can’t make a compelling argument as to why he should be our next president, nor can any of the other nearly two dozen candidates. Why? Because when they speak of “changing directions” or “undoing the Trump era,” I’m not exactly sure who wants that. If we look sheerly at the statistics of what has been achieved economically in the past few short years, it is truly remarkable. And even the president’s greatest critics know it. The average, hard-working, middle-class voter, doesn’t want a change of direction. They don’t want to return to the Obama-Biden era of more government control, increased regulation, higher taxes and additional intrusion into their lives and businesses. What they actually want is more of what they are getting now – rising wages, energy independence, nearly full employment, fairer trade globally and a national economy that is booming – and is the envy of the world. The left wants less of that. The rest of us want more of that – much more..

Agreed!!  And well said, Peggy!  Thanks to Peggy Grande for that outstanding op/ed!  Peggy is author of, “The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years”, a keynote speaker, political consultant and media contributor. She was the executive assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1989 to 1999. Follow her on Twitter at peggy_grande.        🙂