Obamacare Pt. 3 & 4: Steal from the Young, Give to the Old

Medicare: Good for Seniors, Bad for Policy

Obamacare and Medicare go hand in hand. Medicare is the most covered subject in the new Obamacare law.  Title III covers improving the quality and efficiency of Medicare. Medicare reform is a hot topic issue under the Obama administration, and this law leaves many questions about how the Medicare Trust will be expanded over the next 20 years. Most of the reform to Medicare under Obamacare focuses on lowering costs to seniors and ending massive overpayments to insurance companies.  In order to understand the changes Title III brings to Medicare, let’s start with the basics of the Medicare program.

Medicare Basics

Medicare is a government-run program for seniors age 65 and over, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Rental disease (ERSD). There are different coverages under Medicare called Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. Part A is hospital insurance including inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some healthcare costs. Part B is medical insurance including doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventative services. Part D is prescription drug insurance. Private companies contract with Medicare to provide you with Part A and Part B benefits.

You may notice that I skipped Part C, as this is a private coverage option called Medicare Advantage (“MA”). MA plans include HMOs, PPOs, Private Fee-for-Service, Special Needs, and MMSAPs. Most MA plans also offer prescription drug coverage. MA is actually the reformed portion of Medicare that is covered under Obamacare. Most of the problems that need to be fixed come under MA, and this stems from where MA plans claimed to give “free” coverage to seniors. This “free” coverage in all actuality drove up the cost of the plans and subsequently drove up Medicare costs. Let’s look at how Obamacare plans to fix Medicare under the new law.

Medicare + Obamacare, Title III = Messy

Obamacare plans to reform Medicare to help seniors afford prescription medications (e.g., the Part D drug coverage limit where seniors must start paying out-of-pocket for prescriptions). In 2012, seniors received a 50% discount on brand-name drugs and 14% discount on generic drugs covered under Medicare Part D. This is continued under Obamacare, and increases coverage every year until the hole is filled in 2020. Seniors will only pay normal drug co-pays after that (whatever that is supposed to mean).

Additionally, Obamacare is supposed to stop excess spending on MA.  MA is currently causing a burden on the taxpayer that is disproportionate to the actual amount of people being helped by the program. MA is run by private insurers and costs about $1,000 more per person on the program. Obamacare plans to extend the life of the Medicare Trust fund to at least 2029. This 12-year extension is needed due to reductions in waste, fraud, abuse and program costs. In the end, Medicare beneficiaries are expected to save about $4,200 over the next 10 years due to lower drug costs, free preventative services, and reductions in growth of health spending.

You might be thinking, “This sounds great! I’m glad Grandpa Joe will be getting all of the coverage he needs with no further expense to anyone else.” Wrong. It is the younger generation that will be feeling the heat from this reform of MA and reform of Medicare under Obamacare – not the government. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at how Obamacare’s Medicare changes affect you.

Crushing the Younger Generation One Baby Boomer at a Time

I want to preface this section with the fact that I have nothing against the older generations.  These generations will inevitably be reduced to using the healthcare coverage associated with Medicare – how I wish our generation could be so accustomed to use in the future.  What I do believe is this – the older generation has failed the younger generation and we let them do it.  We are the reason Obamacare is occurring right now. We are the reason the older generation is getting away with this abomination of a law. The older generation has failed to run this country with the dignity and respect that an American politician/representative/Senator/Cabinet member/Supreme Court Justice/Vice President/President should - and we let them do it. When are we going to stand up and fight for what is truly right for our generation?

Rant over. Now let me show you exactly how Obamacare’s Medicare reform is screwing over the younger generation (i.e., you and me).  Obamacare relies heavily on the younger generation’s involvement in the healthcare exchange. As former President Bill Clinton stated recently, “This only works if young people show up.” He is right. And, Obama agreed with the former President: “The way pools work, any pool, is essentially those of us who are healthy subsidize somebody who’s sick, at any given time. We do that because we anticipate at some point we’ll get sick and we hope that the healthy person is in our pool so those costs and those risks get spread. That’s what insurance is all about.” Kind of, Mr. President. Health insurance is a completely different insurance from auto, home, or life insurance. We count on health insurance to cover those costs associated with medical expenses (i.e., check-ups and doctors visits). We do not expect an auto insurer to pay for costs associated with keeping a car maintained, though it would be a wonderful spectacle to observe. Insurance is provided in cases of unplanned instances – that is what insurance should be.

You would think in a capitalist market that shopping around would be a valid opportunity given to the younger generation, especially considering the younger generation is the most important participant. You would be wrong. In order to fund the ever-so-rising costs of Medicare, the healthy (young and old, but mostly young) are required to sign up for Obamacare and pay higher-premium plans. Sure, it covers more – but why do you need all of it? Simple answer: you don’t. But it is necessary for you to pay more into the system so that the older generation can pay less.

Let me turn to Obamacare supporters’ arguments to the above: subsidies. Most of the younger generation will get taxpayer-provided subsidies for those premiums. This is true. However, they will not get subsidies on the deductibles. This means that the younger generation will still be paying thousands upon thousands each year before the insurers will pay their first dollar of benefits.  What does this mean? The younger generation will never get benefits.

Let me turn to my argument against Obama supporters’ arguments: taxes. I am a tax gal, and I look at whether there is redistribution in taxes in general. You will be surprised to learn that there is already a redistribution of funds from the younger to the older generation through the tax system. Elderly households receive more government benefits and pay less tax. Younger households receive less government benefits and pay more tax than they receive back. After doing some research on the actual number for redistribution, it is assumed that over $9,000 per household is transferred from the younger to the older generation.  Obama just accelerates this redistribution. In addition, many of the young people under Obamacare will not qualify for subsidies (which cut off at $48,000 for a single adult).

My Overall Thoughts (and Final Points) on Obamacare

Obamacare is bad policy and will not work in this crippled American economy. On the surface, it only screws over the rich and the young. In depth, it screws over everyone (young, old, rich, poor, white, black). Even the politicians tried to exempt themselves from the policy to no avail. This law was thrown together too quickly so that President Obama would have a lasting legacy. Obama needed something to cover up the failed economy, high unemployment rates, and tragic Benghazi scandal. Obama needed this to propel him into being a rockstar President.

Obama pushed this law for what it could not afford – you can keep your doctor, you can keep your healthcare plan, you will have reduced premiums, you will pay less taxes. Obama could not promise these and in fact had no right to promise these items to the American people. Obama was not a businessman – he was a lawyer. Think about that.

Obamacare fails to work because it pits the young against the old. The younger generation is taking the brunt of the economic failures from the Obama administration. Job creation is extremely important at this time, yet the President failed to mention this topic during the 2014 State of the Union address. Most of the jobs available right now are part-time positions with no advancement (thank you, Obamacare). Most of the younger generation, though educated, are having to work two part-time jobs unrelated to their degrees just to get by in this economy. This isn’t the younger generation Obama wanted for his Obamacare plan…in fact, I don’t believe he knew how bad the economy was until the roll-out of Obamacare occurred.  Remember, Obama was not a businessman – he was a lawyer. Lawyers look at the outcome, businessmen look at the growth. If Obama was a businessman he would have found no potential for growth under Obamacare, thus no outcome would occur. Obama, just like our Congress, was blinded by an unattainable outcome.

It is important that our generation understands that we must be the change we want to see in this world. We cannot rely on the politicians in office to do this for us anymore. Get involved in politics and reading law – it might help you one day. My four-part Obamacare segment is complete. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a line here or on any other social media outlet. Also, if you want, follow my blog through email! You will get all of my posts earlier than I post them on social media. Thanks for reading!

Obamacare Pt. 2: If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It (Or Not…)

RULES, MANDATES, TAXES, PENALTIES: ARE WE “FREE?”

If you have yet to read my post from Sunday, January 19th, I highly recommend you do so before reading today’s post. You will have more of an insight into the Individual Mandate (“IM”) and how you could possibly be taxed by Obamacare for failure to purchase healthcare under the new law. You can find “Obamacare Pt. 1: Steal from the Rich, Give to the Poor” at http://wp.me/p49Dtk-aa. If you have read this and now semi-understand the IM, today I will be talking about key parts of Obamacare that seem to coincide: the Employer Mandate & Expansion of Medicaid. Let’s start with the Employer Mandate.

EMPLOYER MANDATE BASICS.

Similar to the IM, the Employer Mandate (“EM” for simplicity) is a per-month fee for employers with over 50 full-time equivalent employees who do not provide healthcare coverage to such employees.  The EM is also considered a “shared responsibility fee” (like the IM) and is a tax penalty to ensure that applicable large employers are providing healthcare to employees.  If the employer does not have at least 50 full-time equivalent employees, these penalties do not apply (in fact, some small businesses may qualify for a health insurance tax credit). If an employer does have at least 50 full-time equivalent employees that are not provided health insurance, and at least one of the employees receives a tax credit or cost sharing subsidy, then the employer will be taxed $2,000 per employee not covered (with the first 30 full-time employees exempt from this calculation). This penalty increases each year with the growth in insurance premiums.

What happens when one of these employers provides healthcare insurance but it is not affordable to the employee?  There are two different instances in which an employer could be penalized if this occurs:

(1) If the employer provides healthcare coverage but it does not cover 60% (bronze level insurance) of healthcare expenses, then the employee has the opportunity to obtain different coverage in the Healthcare Exchange and receive tax credits or subsidies. If this happens, the employer of that employee is charged $3,000 annually for each full-time employee receiving a tax credit, up to a maximum of $2,000 times the number of full-time employees (minus the exempt 30). This penalty, like the penalty above, is increased each year with the growth in insurance premiums.

(2) Additionally, if the employer provides healthcare coverage but the employees have to pay more than 9.5% of family income for the employer coverage, the employees have the same opportunity to join the Healthcare Exchange and receive tax credits or subsidies. If this happens, the employer of that employee is charged $3,000 annually for each full-time employee receiving a tax credit, up to a maximum of $2,000 times the number of full-time employees (minus the exempt 30). This penalty, like the penalties above, are increased each year with the growth in insurance premiums.

So starting in 2015**, employers that have over 50 full-time equivalent employees will have to pay this per-month fee as 1/12 of the $2,000 or $3,000 amount for either not providing affordable healthcare insurance or any healthcare insurance at all.

FULL-TIME V. FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT.

Note that I said “full-time equivalent employees” (“FTEs” for simplicity) when describing the type of employees to which the EM applies. FTEs include those at full-time status (30 hours or more per week) plus the combined number of part-time employees divided by 30 hours. A list of those that are not included in the FTE calculation are seasonal employees, independent contractors (1099 filers), and business owners. On top of this, in order to determine the number of FTEs for a particular month (which is necessary under Obamacare), the employer must combine the number of hours of service for all employees not employed at least 30 hours per week for a month and then divide that number by 120. This calculation results in the number of FTEs for that calendar month. I do not want to go too far into this calculation, as it is not the basis of my argument (which I promise I have an argument, you just have to wait until the Medicaid section). I will leave you with an example of how this calculation would work.  The Washington Post’s article entitled “Small Business Advice: How to Count Full-Time and Part-Time Employees Under Obamacare” explained this calculation in more simpler terms than I ever could:

For example, if the aggregate number of hours for all employees who do not work on average 30 hours per week is 1200, the number of FTEs for that month would be would be 10 (1200/120). The employer would then add those 10 FTEs to the number of employees who are employed on average at least 30 hours per week, to determine if the employer is an “applicable large employer.”

The term “applicable large employer” is based on a controlled group. If a corporation owns a subsidiary then that subsidiary’s employment would count toward the controlled group’s employment as a whole. In short, all subsidiaries (i.e., sister companies, daughter companies) owned by a holding company (i.e., parent company) will become one with the parent company for purposes of the EM under Obamacare.

WHO MUST ACTUALLY BE COVERED UNDER THE EM?

The EM covers FTEs. The actual coverage provided by the companies does not cover FTEs. In order to make a company an “applicable large employer” under Obamacare, the amount of employees must be 50 full-time equivalent employees. In order to make a company provide coverage under Obamacare, 95% of the full-time employees must be provided affordable healthcare coverage. Thus, FTEs do not matter for coverage purposes. FTEs only matter when trying to prove a company’s “applicable large employer” status. Got it? Good.

Even though the EM does not start until 2015, the numbers that matter for the EM start in 2014. The EM is based on a look-back period of 3 to 12 months. Therefore, employers must start calculating their full-time employee and full-time employee equivalent base now. A problem for companies is the tax deduction associated with the EM. The problem? There is no tax deduction. If the employer provided coverage for all full-time employees through an Employer Shared Responsibility Plan, then the employer contributions to employee premiums would be tax deductible. For some companies, the costs might outweigh the benefit. That being said, it might be better to take the hit on taxes rather than take the tax deduction for providing all employees with coverage.

To anticipate the inevitable tax, most large employers have reduced full-time and part-time employees to under 30 hours per week. According to Obamacare statistics, 10,000 companies out of 6,000,000 will actually need to provide insurance to full-time employees or pay the EM. That statistic looks wonderful on paper, but it does not actually provide the number of employees that are currently employed by those 10,000 companies. Large conglomerates will be reaping a large tax which will result in reducing the pay and hours for the average worker making just above minimum wage. I am not sure how this will be beneficial to our economy. Obamacare is digging a grave for job growth and the individual’s potential to make a living. Whether it be through the IM or EM, the government is sucking the life out of the economy one tax dollar at a time.

TRANSITIONING FROM THE EMPLOYER MANDATE TO MEDICAID

Medicaid is a joint funded program by the federal and state government to provide healthcare to low-income Americans. Obamacare provides for the expansion of the Medicaid program by increasing the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to allow for additional people to receive healthcare.  States can opt into the Medicaid expansion or opt out and keep the Medicaid program the same.  So, how does Medicaid apply to large employers within a state? Employers are not penalized for employees signing up for Medicaid. Employers are penalized for employees receiving tax credits or subsidies for healthcare policies (as discussed above). Without the expansion of Medicaid, employees within a certain percentage of the FPL are bound to turn to tax credits and subsidies. Employers will be responsible for a larger percentage of tax associated with these costs.

Great. Why does this matter to you? Tennessee is one of the states that chose not to expand Medicaid. Tennessee is not the only state that did not expand Medicaid. If you are reading this and located in a different state, I have included the states and their current decisions below:

Expanding: AZ, AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, D.C., HI, IL, IA, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, OR, RI, UT (just occurred 3 days ago), VT, WA, WV

Not expanding: AL, AK, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS, LA, ME, MS, NE, NC, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WI, WY

Still Considering: MO, NH, PA

There are plenty of reasons why Medicaid is good and bad for our country as a whole. Let’s take a look at the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare and determine possibilities as to why Tennessee avoided expansion.

EXPANDING MEDICAID BASICS.

Medicaid is a joint program funded by both the federal and state governments to provide healthcare to low-income Americans. Every state has it’s own eligibility requirements (on top of those federally mandated) as to who qualifies for coverage under Medicaid. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must be a member of an eligible group (e.g., children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, elderly) and you must meet the financial eligibility requirements for that eligible group. Depending on your financial situation, it could be the difference between affording insurance and receiving Medicaid.

Prior to Obamacare, all states were federally mandated to cover pregnant women and children earning under 133% of the FPL. Children are also covered under the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) program, which works closely with Medicaid. Parents and adults without dependent children were not covered in most states, as they did not fall below the financial eligibility requirement threshold of making under 100% of the FPL. Seniors gain a large advantage through Medicaid.  If a senior qualifies for Medicaid then he or she also qualifies for Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage. Medicaid also covers benefits not covered under Medicare, such as nursing home and personal care services.

Under Title II of Obamacare, the law calls for an expansion of the Medicaid program and provides healthcare to all Americans earning under 138% of the FPL ($15,281 single individual with no children; $23,550 for a family of four). The federal government picks up 100% of the Medicaid tab in the first year. After this and through the year 2020, the federal government provides 90% and the state picks up the remaining 10%.  This is one of the temptations to the states in providing for the expansion. If the federal government is going to pick up most of the tab, why not agree to an expansion and allow for more people to be covered under Medicaid? The question I would rather you ask is “Where is the government getting the money to pick up this tab?” Is it the EM, the IM, a combination of both, China? I am not sure that the government knows where this money is going to come from at all. It seems our country’s deficit might continue to rise if many states continue down a path of expansion.

Every state does not have to agree to expand Medicaid. The federal government wanted to make Medicaid expansion mandatory, and it provided that states must adhere to the expansion or lose all existing Medicaid funding. Twenty-six states sued and the Supreme Court agreed that this provision was too coercive. The Court claimed that the “all-or-nothing” provision should not apply at all. The expansion was to be optional and at the discretion of each state – without the worry of losing money for existing Medicaid. So, as you saw from the list above, most states opted in and other states opted out.

PROS AND CONS OF EXPANDING MEDICAID.

There are many different pros and cons provided by both sides (Republican and Democrat) as to why Medicaid expansion is either good or bad for this country. I am going to list out a few for you so you can make your own decision.

Pros:

(1) It provides revenue to the state choosing to expand Medicaid. Because the state chooses to expand, the state will receive more funding to support the Medicaid program. This will provide for an influx of funding for the state.

(2) It will result in savings to the state choosing to expand Medicaid. Some states claim to be able to either generate a revenue or save a lot of funds by hosting the expansion. One of these states is Michigan, though I am unsure as to how it is saving money while it’s capital of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. Either way, many other states are claiming that by expanding the coverage it will save a lot of funding that is normally appropriated to uninsured healthcare recipients down the road.

(3) Rejecting the Medicaid expansion means that other states will receive more money. By rejecting the money given to them, states are handing additional funding over to states that do choose to expand Medicaid.

Cons:

(1) Accepting federal funding for expansion of Medicaid results in further debt for our country. No explanation needed.

(2) There is a potential trade-off between managing costs and limiting access to healthcare. When a state manages costs of healthcare (i.e., limiting reimbursements to healthcare providers) there is a trade-off that limits access to healthcare. Medicaid is already becoming a trade-off in many state budgets, as it has taken over priorities such as education, emergency services, etc.

(3) Higher taxes reduce economic growth. If states do not want to balance spending programs then states must generate revenue through taxes. Taxes reduce economic growth. Most states cannot afford any type of stunt in economic growth at this time.

My POV: This will actually cost more than states are expecting. States might see savings in the beginning, as federal funding will be at 100%. After this, Medicaid spending will catch up with savings. Additionally, any rejection for expansion does not increase the amount of money given to another state that might choose to expand. The federal portion of Medicaid is based on a formulated calculation. Those funds rejected by states unwilling to accept the expansion of Medicaid do not go into a general fund for redistribution. States that do expand Medicaid are actually perpetuating the fiscal crisis in our country thereby leading this country into a further deficit.

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN TO MEDICAID?

In my opinion, Medicaid expansion is not smart.  Medicaid is struggling to provide healthcare to those currently on the program today.  I know that it sounds like a wonderful idea to add those that are under the FPL percentage to Medicaid.  The underlying problem is not where the FPL should be set. The underlying problem is fixing Medicaid. I would push for Medicaid reform and do away with the expansion entirely. Here are a few other reasons I like Medicaid reform over expansion:

(1) Lesser dependence by the states on federal government funding. It is bad policy to mix state and federal funding to the point of no return. This is bad policy and this is bad healthcare policy. There is no need to sustain a failing program that needs to be fixed.  Pumping this program with billions of (soon to be) wasted dollars is not the answer.

(2) Review eligibility levels and scale down where necessary. As mentioned in the beginning of the Medicaid discussion, states are allowed to extend eligibility past the federally mandated eligibility requirements. Most states have done this and the amount of funding has continued to climb over the years. This funding could be used to supplement education, emergency services, criminal justice, etc. In order to have the funding to balance the state budget, state officials should focus on bringing the original purpose back to the Medicaid program.

(3) States should come up with an alternative to Medicaid. Medicaid has always been defined as a “one-size-fits-all” program. You wouldn’t want to wear a “one-size-fits-all” pair of jeans would you? Everyone is different, just like every state is different. Every state has a different population with different needs. Thankfully the states know what their constituents need through the failing program of Medicaid. The states should be able to come up with a program that is tweaked to provide for their citizens’ needs.

FINAL THOUGHTS.

I highly recommend that you do your own research on this law. Everyone has different opinions about it but not everyone understands why they have that opinion.  Become educated and stay informed on the issues that are going on around you.

I would love to hear your perspective on anything I have talked about today, last week, or any week before this. I appreciate you for reading this post and hopefully you will continue to read my blog.  I plan to tackle Obamacare’s changes to Medicare next week – you will not want to miss it! Thanks again!

**As of 2/10/2013, this date has changed to 2016 for medium-sized businesses. More information will be provided later.

Obamacare Pt. 1: The Individual Mandate – Steal from the Rich, Give to the Poor

OBAMACARE: THE DIRTIEST WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE?

Today I embark on a journey into the unknown (and sometimes unseen) land of Obamacare. Do not worry if you have not yet read this policy – Nancy Pelosi is probably still in the same boat. Let’s start with the basics of Obamacare.

Basics of Obamacare

Actual Title: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Aliases: Obamacare (note: this is my personal reference to the law, as Obama himself uses the term), Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), Taxcare

Creation: Signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010; upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 5-4 vote on June 28, 2012

Initial Goal: “To give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance & reduce growth in health spending in United States.” [note: this was not supposed to override or replace private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare]

Rollout of Law: Enacted in 2010; starts rollout in 2013-2014 and continues throughout the year of 2022

Actual Document: Obamacare has ten titles spanning over 1,000 pages with most key provisions under Title 1, which is around 140 pages.  Most of the bill encompasses the problems associated with Medicare.  Prior versions of Obamacare as a bill were 2,400 pages. The final document as produced, however, is actually around 1,000 pages (depending on the website or PDF document).

Favorite Lines from Obamacare Deliberations: (1) “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” – then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D); (2) “If Obamacare had been fully implemented when I caught cancer, I’d be dead.” – GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain (R); (3) “I have no problem with folks saying, ‘Obama cares.’ I do care. If the other side wants to be the folks that don’t care, that’s fine with me.” – President Obama (D), responding to Republican use of the term “Obamacare”; (4) “He’s the baby daddy of Obamacare.” – Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) referring to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney; (5) “If I’m the godfather of this thing, then it gives me the right to kill it.” – GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R); (6) “I just see a huge train wreck coming down.” – Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.); (7) “I’m a physician. I’m quite worried about the privacy of medical records…I’m quite worried that your medical records now will be evaluated by the IRS.” – Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) after IRS scandal

Obamacare: A Big Effing Deal

In the words of Joe Biden, Obamacare is a big effing deal. From additional taxes to unnecessary burdens, you or someone you know will be affected by this law. The next few years of this law’s rollout will not be pretty.  I’m not sure it was the appropriate time to rollout a massive tax on the American people during an economic slump. No matter what statistics the government alleges, everyone is experiencing some sort of decrease in funding or income at this time.  This tax burden hits the younger generation harder than any other generation – as we are left to save the baby boomer generation from themselves. This will be tough considering the job market is tougher to break into than the healthcare market. All in all, I have already come to an educated conclusion that Obamacare is a failure.

During the next four weeks, I will set forth the facts of Obamacare in four different segments. I will not provide my opinion on each of these segments until the end of each. Whether you agree or not, I could care less. I do, however, care that you are educated as to what this law will provide and what it fails to provide.  I care that you understand what we as a country are getting into with Obamacare. Finally, I care that our generation is knowledgeable of this law as it will affect us more than any other generation.

I do not have a list of each of the four segments that I will cover in Obamacare. The available information is never-ending and I am sure that I will not be able to cover everything in these four parts. At this time, however, I am confident in my knowledge of the Individual Mandate (which starts on or around page 143 of Obamacare). I covered this topic somewhat in depth within my tax LL.M. program at University of Denver. Because my background is in tax law, you will have to bear with me if I use terminology that is hard to comprehend. I will try my best to put it in plain English, but if I fail to do so on some of it you will have to give me a break.  If you do not recognize the term, look it up.  It might do you some good to do your own research anyway considering this is a confusing topic as is. I do not want to waste anymore time or space on this blog post with senseless information – let’s begin.

Individual Mandate: A (Large) Tax on American Citizens

The Basics

Starting in 2014, individuals are required under Obamacare to either obtain health insurance, get an exemption from obtaining health insurance, or pay a “per-month fee.”  The health insurance obtained must be the “minimum essential coverage” that complies with the rules set forth under Obamacare.  “Minimum essential coverage” includes most employer-based coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP program funds, private insurance (unless your insurance does not comply with Obamacare rules, hence all of the talk of rejection letters from private insurance companies), and all insurance within your State’s healthcare marketplace.

If an individual fails to meet the requirements of obtaining health insurance or an exemption the individual is then hit with a “shared responsibility fee,” also called the Individual Mandate (or “IM” as I will refer to it from now on to save space).  The IM is just one of around 20 new taxes created under Obamacare and goes toward funding Obamacare and subsidizing hospitals that will have unpaid hospital emergency room costs.  The IM also provides as a “downpayment” into the healthcare system that you will eventually have to pay into in the future.

Although the IM goes into effect on January 1, 2014, a 3-month continuous grace period provides relief to most Americans searching for health insurance on the marketplace.  Thus, if you fail to obtain health insurance by March 31, 2014, you will have a penalty applied to your taxable income for each month that you do not have health insurance. This is considered the “per-month fee” paid into the system.  However, there is a catch: you must obtain this health insurance by March 15, 2014.  If you obtain this insurance by that date you will be covered starting April 1, 2014. If you obtain your insurance after March 15, 2014, your coverage actually begins on May 1, 2014, and you will be susceptible to the “per-month fee” as you are not covered by April 1, 2014. Instead of a 3-month continuous grace period, this should have been labeled a 2.5-month grace period to avoid confusion.  Let me inform you again – make sure to get covered by March 15, 2014. If you do not, you will be charged for a portion of the IM. I guarantee this will cause confusion, and I guarantee the IRS will collect a ton of penalties during this time.

In order to collect this fee, the IRS will withhold the money from your income tax return refund. There is no other way for the IRS to enforce this provision.  The IRS cannot enforce jail time, liens or any other means of collection.  You must have a refund in order for the IRS to collect the IM.

The IM was meant to be a “trade-off” between the American people and government. The requirement to obtain healthcare is considered the people’s trade-off for the new benefits, rights, and protections including the requirement for those to obtain insurance that could not afford it otherwise.  Proponents of the IM were met with backlash from 26 different states, several individuals and the National Federal of Independent Business.  All combined sued over the unconstitutionality of Obamacare and more specifically the IM. On one side the government claimed that the law was regulating an area that everyone was already in (as purchasing healthcare was already inevitable).  On the other side those against the law claimed that the law forced Americans to enter a market and purchase something against one’s own will. Both sides clashed in the Supreme Court case of National Federation of Independent Business Et. Al. v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Et. Al., 567 U.S. ___ (2012).

The Court Case of the Century

National Federation hinges on two key parts of Obamacare – Medicaid expansion and the IM. I do not wish to talk about Medicaid right now as I’m sure that will be a topic for a later post. I will be focusing on the IM. This case is around 200 pages long and includes opinions from each of the Supreme Court Justices. I actually read this opinion after it was produced for the American public to read. I will not go into too much detail about this case so as to not bore you.  I will, however, give you a brief synopsis of why the Supreme Court voted to uphold the IM and thereby uphold Obamacare.

The first holding in the case involved the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act provides that “no suit for purpose of retaining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person.” 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a). The government used a tactic to reply to the suit basically implying that those suing must pay for the alleged tax before suing for a refund. The government lost on this notion.  Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion for the Court, stated that the government never intended this law to be a tax but instead labeled it a “penalty.” Thus, the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply to the instant case.  However, for purposes of the Constitution, the labeling of “penalty” does not control the Court’s ruling as to whether this is a “tax” from a constitutional standpoint.

Moving forward, the second holding in the case involved whether the IM was a valid use of Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3. In order to regulate commerce, there must be something actually in commerce to regulate. According to the Court, most cases involve the regulation of commerce to reach an “activity.” E.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 560. The IM does not regulate an activity.  Instead, the IM creates an activity by requiring Americans to purchase into a marketplace for healthcare.  Congress already has a pass to regulate what people do; Congress should not have a pass to also regulate what people do not do. If the Court were to uphold the IM under the Commerce Clause, it would give powers to Congress to regulate and compel commerce. That is too far outreaching and the Court could not foresee that being in and of itself constitutional.

Furthermore, the Necessary and Proper Clause argument does not hold muster in this case. Each of the prior cases decided by the Court upholding laws under this Clause involved “exercise of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power.” The IM allows Congress to step outside of its bounds and create the power to regulate the healthcare marketplace. According to the Court, even if the IM is a “necessary” means to carry out the healthcare plan, such expansion of Congress’s power is not “proper” way to go about doing so.

The third holding involves the taxing power of Congress and whether or not the IM should be considered a tax on the American people. According to supporters of Obamacare and Obama himself, this IM has never been a tax on the American people.  However, if the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause did not stand (which as I previously explained, both did not stand), the government would have to take the alternative stance that the IM was a tax after all. The government cites the Constitution in claiming that the IM may be upheld within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. Taking this argument, the Court had to decide whether the IM was a tax on those people refusing to purchase healthcare.

The Court first comments on the labeling issue – penalty v. tax. The use of “penalty” disallowed the government’s argument under the Anti-Injunction Act. On the other hand, the use of “penalty” would not disallow the government’s further argument that the IM was in fact a tax. Next, the Court starts to delve into the main issue – whether this penalty could be an undercover tax. In order to support this stance, the Court claims that the penalty does not punish unlawful conduct. The penalty is not too high, the payment is not limited to willful violations, and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through normal means of taxation. Finally, the Court ends with explaining why the Direct Tax Clause does not apply. Basically, the tax is on health insurance and is not like the type of taxes covered under the Court’s previous cases.  Thus, the Court agreed that the IM could be construed to be a tax and the government won the battle for Obamacare on this notion.

The rest of the case involves Medicaid and I am not open for discussion on this just yet. In the end, the government both won and lost it’s case. The government won the case in court on a 5-4 vote (5 for: Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan; 4 against: Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito), but the government lost the case with a majority of the American people by handing the citizens the nation’s largest tax in history.

So, what does all of this actually mean?

This means that if you do not have health insurance then you will be taxed for not having health insurance. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Here is a list of those that are exempt from the penalty enforced by the IRS:

(1) Unaffordable coverage options exemption: If you are paying more than 8% of your household income for health insurance, you are exempt from taking part in the healthcare purchase altogether.

(2) No filing requirement: If your income is below the threshold for filing taxes (i.e., $10,000 for singles in 2013 and $27,800 for married filing jointly with two children in 2013). Thus, if you are under these amounts, you will not have to “obtain minimum essential coverage” as you will technically have no income tax return to file.

(3) Hardship: If the Affordable Insurance Exchange finds you to have suffered a hardship making you unable to obtain coverage then you are exempt from coverage.

(4) Short Coverage Gap Exemption (i.e., 3-month Continuous Gap): Remember that this is actually a 2.5-month rule - not a 3-month as the government would like for you to believe.

(5) Religious Conscience: These are administered by the Social Security Administration.

(6) Healthcare Sharing Ministry

(7) Not Lawfully Present in the United States: You are an undocumented immigrant or are not a U.S. citizen, nation or alien lawfully present in the United States

(8) Incarceration

(9) Indian Tribes: Members of federally recognized Indian tribes 

The above nine exemptions are not required to get healthcare from the market exchange. If you are required to have healthcare and refuse to do so, here are the taxes that will be imposed on your income tax return refund:

2014: $95/person/year or 1% of your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), whichever is greater

2015: $325/person/year or 2% of your MAGI, whichever is greater

2016: $695/person/year or 2.5% of your MAGI, whichever is greater

2017: Increases by rate of inflation/person/year or 2.5% of your MAGI, whichever is greater

By 2017, the amounts should eventually level off. The government, however, could amend the percentage attributable to your MAGI.  The word “amended” is used over 100 times in the Obamacare law. It is possible that this legislation is never exempted from further amendments. Here are a few additional random facts regarding the tax:

(1) The total penalty can never exceed the national average of the annual premiums of a bronze-level insurance plan offered through the healthcare marketplace.

(2) The maximum penalty per family is no more than 300% of the minimum penalty amount (using 2016′s numbers – $695 x 300% = $2,085). [as an aside, children under the age of 18 are assessed at 50% of the minimum penalty]

(3) The penalty is also prorated for every month you do not have coverage, though there is no penalty for the 3-month continuous gap rule.  As an example, if you are not covered for six months out of the year you are responsible for half of the penalty.

(4) If you are under the age of 26 you are still allowed to piggy-back off of your parent’s insurance plan.  Remember that if your parent is over the age of 65 and receiving Medicare, you are no longer eligible to be covered under their plan.

(5) If you make less than $45,960 (individual) or $94,200 (family of four) [both of these are considered to be up to 400% of the federal poverty level for 2014 and you must file an income tax return to qualify] you may be eligible for free or low-cost health insurance due to cost assistance subsidies like Tax Credits. These Credits reduce premium costs and cost-sharing subsidies that lower cost-sharing on copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. Subsidies are not available to employees or their dependents if an employer offers “affordable” coverage to meet the “minimum essential coverage” standards under Obamacare. The average marketplace subsidy per subsidized enrollee is said to start at $5,290 in 2014. These subsidies offset your premium costs and lower out-of-pocket expenses. However, as a reminder, these subsidies are considered to be picked up through taxing the American people. Think about this – who is paying for these taxes?

My Thoughts on Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

I believe the smartest person during the deliberations and implementation of Obamacare was Chief Justice Roberts. This is not to say that I agree with what he put forth in the National Federation case, as I am not sure he completely agreed with his own argument. It was an extremely smart move on his part to join the four liberal Justices and justify the IM as a tax on the American people. By implementing the IM as a tax, the Court provided the fatal blow to Obama’s credibility as the leader of this country. Obama ran his campaign on a string of lies, starting and ending with Obamacare. This just shows what kind of person, and what kind of Congressional leaders, we have running our country today.

Moving forward with the case, it is apparent that the IM is unconstitutional.  Anyone who can read our Constitution knows this to be true. It forces the American people to pay into a healthcare system that was created in order for Obamacare to be carried out. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of originalism and finding the original intent behind the Constitution. Another fan of this theory is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  In case you did not know this by now, or you could not realize this by my Second Amendment arguments in one of my previous posts, I am also one of Justice Scalia’s biggest fans. Though some of his theories might be outrageously concocted, I believe that his examples are sound and actually make good points. Let me put forth one of his arguments during deliberations in the National Federation case: “Could you define the market – everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore you can make people buy broccoli.” In his argument, Justice Scalia is trying to determine why the administration defines the healthcare market so broadly in Obamacare. Just because the government believes that the failure to purchase healthcare is included in the unenumerated problems the Constitution authorizes Congress to solve does not mean that this is essentially an activity that Congress can regulate. If it is determined later on down the road that broccoli provides essential vitamins and nutrients that prevent cancer, can Congress through the ruling under National Federation consider this an “unenumerated problem” that can be solved through a new law? I’m not sure I can answer that. I’m not sure I would want to answer that.

I highly recommend you either take the time to read this case or read a summary of this case. It is actually a good read and gives you the background to many of our country’s cases surrounding the Commerce Clause and Congress’s taxing power. Plus, why would you want to take anything I am saying as fact? Educate yourself and make your own decision on this matter.

So far, I am also convinced this legislation has a Robin Hood complex (“steal from the rich, give to the poor”). Or in other terms, an approach that “steals from those that do and gives to those that don’t.” I asked you to think about who will pay for those subsidies given to those that cannot afford the healthcare policies provided under Obamacare. The answer is those that can afford it – the “rich.” So, if you are receiving a tax credit from the federal government to support your healthcare you can thank those that are “well off” in our society for making that happen. As a possible preview into a future post, the IM also targets the younger generation. Young, healthy people subsidize older, sicker people. Most experts explain that younger people will eventually expect and receive the same treatment later on down the road.  I beg to disagree with those experts, but I will save that for a later segment.

I am not completely sure what next week’s post will have to do with as I am still making my way through Obamacare. You can be sure, however, that I will have an opinion and I will make you think twice about this law. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for next week’s post. Thanks for reading!

Are You a Racist, Bigot, or Bully? Maybe… But Probably Not: Understanding Misused & Overused Terms in Society

RACIST. BIGOT. BULLY.

Let me start this post by saying that this might be a sensitive topic for most people.  I am sure at one time in your life you have been called one of these terms or dished out the term as an insult to another.  If you are easily offended by the use of these terms, you should probably stop reading this post. I’m serious… don’t read this. You will be even more offended by my outlook on these words and I don’t need any of your negativity ruining it. Still reading anyway? Prepare to be offended even more than you probably were by reading this post’s title.

You may have noticed the terms above – “racist,” “bigot,” and “bully” – are in “strike-out” form. This is because these terms in our society are misused and overused.  The terms are not even given their intended meaning anymore.  We loosely throw out these words on a daily basis and have no idea what they truly mean. I want to change this. I want to change the way you think about these terms. I want you to use them sparingly and when they make sense. I want to open these terms back up for usage.

In order to make you understand these terms better, I have to start with a background on each.  After giving a brief synopsis, I plan to give you the reasons our society makes us believe we embody these terms.  And, finally, I want to tell you how each of these reasons is either misused, overused, or both and how our generation can fix it (because I truly believe we have to be the change in this world now – our fathers and theirs cannot do it for us anymore).  Let’s start with my favorite – “racist.”

RACIST.

“The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”

The term “racism” started as a scientific study in the 1800′s to determine the racial classification of human existence. Most documents from this era claim that whites were good and blacks (or African Americans, if you prefer this terminology) were bad. If you don’t believe me, reference the book “The Outline of History and Mankind” by Christoph Meiners (who was, in my opinion, the definition of “racist”). If you have not read this book, this next sentence alone should have your blood boiling. This book not only classifies the difference between whites and blacks, but also considers the whites to be the superior race because their skin is more beautiful. I just don’t even know where to begin with this guy, so I will leave it at that.

Moving forward, racism was used to describe a number of historical events including The Trail of Tears and the Holocaust. The most notable form of racism during our country’s time is that of slavery – which resulted in the tearing apart of both the white and black races in one swift movement. Slavery led to segregation, and segregation led to the Civil Rights Movement. This is as much of a background on racism that I want to provide. I know there are other circumstances in which racism has impacted this country, but I want to focus more on the term “racist.”

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Racist.

As noted above, the term “racist” means “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” Nothing more, nothing less. I am going to list a couple of recent examples that show why people are called “racist” today. After the reason, I will list as to why I disagree with the reason. You might agree, you might disagree. That’s the point of this post. Have an opinion. Either way, you can find my examples below.

1. You disagree with Obamacare (or you disagree with Obama in general).  In December of 2013, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry stated that the term “Obamacare” itself is a racist word. According to Harris-Perry, “the word was conceived by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man — to render him inferior and unequal and diminish his accomplishments.” Continuing on, Harris-Perry dug herself into a deeper hole after admitting that President Obama himself had used the term – but only because “if you can’t beat them, you’ve got to join them.” If this is true, then I guess the “wealthy white men” that coined “Reaganomics” in the 1980s should be ashamed of themselves, too. The fact is that President Obama pushed for this socialist form of healthcare – therefore, his name is on the finished product (whatever that is.. like I said in one of my past posts, Nancy Pelosi is still reading it).  It would be no different if another President (white, black, or both in the President’s case) had pushed for this healthcare policy.

As far as merely disagreeing with the policy and being called a “racist,” that you are not. Anyone that disagrees with this policy is right to do so – it is bad policy. Do not let the media fill your head with junk either by pushing Obamacare on you or calling you a racist for resisting the policy. I do not want to go too far into Obamacare as it will be my topic of discussion over the next 4 weeks (you’re welcome…), but just know that because you disagree with a particular policy it does not make you a racist. You have not had a “belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”

2. You comment on Florida State University’s Quarterback’s Speech… and he happens to be an African American (cough.. A.J. McCarron’s mom.. cough). This was the major focus after FSU’s Jameis Winston gave his post-game interview with a newscast regarding his team’s BCS Championship win. During this post-game interview, a tweet surfaced from A.J. McCarron’s mom asking the following: “Am I listening to English?” The media had a field day with this twitter post and blasted A.J.’s mother for being a “racist.” What? That is illogical at best. Personally, I could barely understand the kid. Nothing against his race, and everything against his dialect. I could not believe that someone with poor speech was allowed to represent FSU in the media. I don’t care that he is the QB and played a “wonderful” game. I hope he is smarter in the classroom than his dialect shows on the football field.

As for A.J.’s mother, she apologized if she offended anyone in the process of expressing her opinion of the post-game interview speech.  As for me, I will do nothing of the sort.  FSU, as many other universities in the United States, should really focus on prepping members of sports teams for the press in order to avoid inevitable backlash.

Get it Right – “Racist” Means…

The above reasons are just an overview of what this country associates with the term “racist” today.  I actually had a larger list than just the two above.  However, I don’t have the time or the brain power to continue to move forward through all of them.  There are more pressing issue to get to, like the term “bigot” (which is next).  Just remember, “racist” means “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”  Let’s stop using the term to define situations that do not fit. If you are having a tough time trying to discern the difference, look back to history and find where the term actually does fit.  Use the word to your discretion – you might just realize the term disappears from your vocabulary altogether.  If you still cannot find similarities from events in history, the word probably doesn’t fit in your vocabulary.

BIGOT.

“One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”

There is not much history to cover when it comes to the term “bigot.” The word was first associated with the religious word “hypocrite.” The term has since evolved to encompass intolerance based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.  So, if we are keeping score with the last term, all racists are bigots but not all bigots are racists.  Good, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s move forward to an example seen in today’s society of how this term defines people and their actions.

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Bigot.

For this word, I have one recent event that shows why a person might be called a “bigot” today.  There are many others (including the recent Meryl Streep speech designating Walt Disney as a “gender bigot” – read it if you haven’t), but I am going to save the time and space in this blog to address the most obvious event. Agree, disagree, stay indifferent – I don’t care. Just make your own educated opinion.

1. You are an opponent of same-sex marriage (a.k.a. the “Phil Robertson”). Everyone has heard of the Duck Dynasty controversy (or, if not, you could read one of my past posts on the subject) and Phil Robertson’s statements regarding same-sex marriage.  As far as I am concerned, after reading the GQ article I can confidently state that Phil is not a bigot. How is he not a bigot you ask? He seems to be extremely partial to his religion (Christianity) and intolerant of those that commit the sin (according to the Bible) of homosexuality. If everyone stopped reading at this point in his interview, we would all believe that Phil is a bigot – which is what all of the media sources wanted you to believe.  If you continue on with the article though, Phil claims the following: “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.” This does not seem to be the hatred or intolerance that we would see in an actual bigot. If you want to see a bigot, look to those vile creatures at Westboro Baptist Church and then look at what Phil said. Nothing can compare.

Not all opponents of same-sex marriage are bigots. Furthermore, characterizing such opponents as “bigots” might not be the right terminology to use when trying to win people over on the same-sex marriage issue.

Get it Right: “Bigot” means…

Just remember that “bigot” doesn’t always mean someone who is intolerant of someone else’s beliefs. This term also associates someone who has an unconditional hatred or intolerance of someone else’s beliefs – someone who has no respect for that other party due to that hatred and intolerance. Learn this and learn how to use the term properly. If you cannot use it properly, do not use it at all.

BULLY.

“A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.”

Last but not least, I want to talk about the most abused word in the English language – “bully.” The word itself was coined in the 1500′s to mean “sweetheart,” but changed in the 1700′s to a negative connotation. There are many circumstances in which this term is used including cyberbullying, gay bullying (or “gay bashing”), school bullying, etc.  Bullying results from an act of repeated, aggressive behavior on the bullied, or the victim, in order to gain power over such victim. The reasons for such behavior stem from differences in class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, size, strength, etc. So, if we are keeping score with the last two terms, all habitual racism and habitual bigotry is bullying but not all bullying is racism and bigotry. Let’s move on.

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Bully.

For this section, I have three short examples of recent complaints of “bullying” within this society. Agree, disagree, stay indifferent – I don’t care. Just make up your own mind.

1. You disagree with someone about something (a.k.a. Real Housewives of Some City Syndrome). Most people call these “opinions.” Disagreeing with someone is not bullying. Being told something you do not want to hear is not bullying. Being criticized by your friends for dating a loser is not bullying. I could go on and on and on and on – but I won’t for your sake. If someone disagrees with you, this is simple social interaction. Learn to stand up for yourself. Stop calling this situation bullying when it obviously is not deserving of such a word.

2. You choose not to invite someone to an event that occurs in your life (i.e., wedding, bar mitzvah, baby shower). A nonverbal action that does not result in an intended gain of power of another person is not bullying. End of story.

3. You punch someone once in the hallway of your school, at a bar, or walking down the road. Like I said before, bullying is a habitual pattern of activity. One punch is not going to result in bullying. However, just because it isn’t bullying doesn’t mean it cannot be labeled something else (ahem, assault and battery for one).

Get it Right: “Bully” means…

Just remember the words habitual, pattern, aggressive, and intentional when it comes to defining “bully.” With all of the wolves crying out “bully” it is no surprise that so many people that are actually being bullied have been overlooked.

FINAL THOUGHTS.

Even if you do not agree with a word I just said, I can at least hope that you learned something about each of these three terms – “racist,” “bigot,” and “bully” – that you did not know before you read this article. I believe that our generation must be the change we see in the world. A minor change can have major results.

I will be doing a 4-part segment on Obamacare starting next Sunday. If you have any questions you would like for me to try and answer about Obamacare within my posts let me know. If you have any comments about this post, leave me a message below. I promise I won’t construe your disagreements with bullying.

The Second Amendment – Gun Rights vs. Gun Control: Good Luck With That

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I briefly spoke of the Second Amendment in my last article while simultaneously criticizing the writer of another article for an oversight error in numbering the Amendments.  I do, however, want to touch on the subject of the Second Amendment because it is a hot-button issue around both campaign and election season.  The language (above in bold) is kept simple by our forefathers so as to not construe the message of an individual’s rights.

Brief History of the Second Amendment

I don’t want to spend too much time on this area (considering it is plastered on the internet for you to find elsewhere), but I do want to look at the Second Amendment to the extent that our forefathers cover it in the Constitution and other documents.  It is important to remember that the Constitution was not the only document in history that spoke of the Second Amendment’s contents.  Each forefather had a specific reason for placing this in the Constitution, and that reason was exemplified in other documents during that time.  For example, The Federalist Papers by James Madison spoke of “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, The Federalist Papers 299 (Arlington House ed. n.d.).  As an additional example (just to show merit), Patrick Henry argued during the Virginia ratifying convention that “the great object is, that every man be armed…. Everyone who is able may have a gun.” 3 Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 386 (1836).  This (along with other framers’ thoughts not mentioned herein) shows that the framers of the Constitution meant to protect an individual’s rights to bear arms.

Gun Rights: No Government Should Take Away MY Guns

After reading the framers’ intentions, it is easier to transition into the argument to protect American citizens’ right to bear arms. The Second Amendment obviously covers the issue on gun rights, but what other arguments are being used as a catalyst to propel gun rights to the forefront of a political debate? Here is a list of those rights, and why it might be a reason to entertain the discussion.

(1) Criminals will find a way to obtain guns through illegal measures (like they already do today).  In my humble opinion, this is a valid point. What will stop the criminals from bypassing legislation put into place and finding (through No. 5 below) these guns on their own? Criminals already break the law by committing crimes, so what is one extra notch on their gun-toting belt?

(2) Victim gun possession will deter criminals from committing their crime. If you don’t believe this argument, you haven’t read the story of Jan Cooper of Anaheim, California – the gun-wielding grandma that shot at an intruder to protect herself and her wheelchair-bound, WWII veteran husband from potentially inflicted harm.  Here is the article if you don’t believe me (also covered on NBC and CBS if you have something against Fox News): http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/06/12/grandma-72-shoots-at-intruder-misses-in-calif/. This is one of my favorite arguments for gun rights.  There are numerous stories out there like Jan Cooper’s, and I am not sure the ending would quite be the same if Jan did not have her firearm in hand.

(3) Police are often too busy to protect citizens from (all) crimes committed. I’m going to add another mitigating factor – police officers are too damn lazy to answer all calls for crimes committed. Please see the above link re: Mrs. Cooper if you don’t believe it.  If the police do not get there in time, the police are not held responsible for the crime committed. Protect yourself.

(4) Ban my guns? You are a socialist or totalitarian. This seems to be the most used line by the Republicans (or those supporting gun rights) against the Obama administration’s legislation on gun control.  By restricting a right professed in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, anyone that would dare take away one of those rights either must be a socialist, a tyrannical leader, or an idiot. Taking away an Amendment requires another Amendment to rectify that situation (e.g., Prohibition and the 18th/21st Amendments).  As that is a whole other argument, I will leave our congressional leaders with four words: Good luck with that.

(5) Banning guns will create a “black market” excursion for these items (i.e., more organized crime; “War on Guns”). As I stated in No. 1 above, criminals will find other means to being criminals.  Just because a criminal cannot find or purchase a gun on the free market does not mean that the same criminal cannot turn around and purchase that gun from an underground, or “black,” market. This black market would lead to additional problems for the government (which is dealing with figuring out what ObamaCare is) and police officers (who already don’t have time to answer your calls about an intruder).  Again, four words: Good luck with that.

Gun Control: Eh… Some Regulation MIGHT Work Today

Now that I have completely blown your mind about gun rights, let’s look at the five opposite arguments for gun control.  Here is the list as to why you (and our government) should entertain the discussion for gun control.

(1) Most violent crimes are committed with guns. Take away the gun, take away the criminal.  This is a valid argument for those entertaining the thought of gun control.  If there are no more guns in this world, then there will be no more criminals.  A new utopia.

(2) Victims holding guns may be in more danger than before as the criminal could kill the victim in self-defense. I’m honestly not sure how I can defend this ill-worded argument, but I will try because I have to remain neutral for now. Scratch that… I can’t.  That’s just stupidity. But if you have an opinion on why this is a valid point, leave me a comment below.

(3) Crimes that were once less dangerous can now be more dangerous with the addition of a gun.  This argument is geared toward drug crimes. A person selling drugs is more than likely using a gun to protect himself or herself from harm in the event that the drug deal “goes bad.” The drug crime itself is a less dangerous crime.  If the drug crime goes bad and the gun is used it is a more dangerous crime.  Reducing or eliminating the gun by gun control laws will in turn keep the drug crime just that – a lesser crime. This could also correlate with No. 1 above of the gun control arguments.

(4) Suicide and crimes of passion are easier to commit with a gun on hand.  This is true. Both suicide and crimes of passion are committed in the “heat of the moment.” It seems that eliminating the gun would reduce the amount of crimes of this nature.  It is important to keep in mind though that most women attempt suicide by overdose or cutting of wrists, which would not eliminate the amount of suicides for women at all.  This is more geared toward the number of men that commit suicide by lethal weapon (which is extremely higher than women). If you want the statistics on this, visit The Community Counseling Service’s page at http://www.hsccs.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=13737.

(5) Insane people, children who have been bullied, or other disgruntled people could use guns for the wrong reason. This argument stems from the number of mall shootings, school shootings, work shootings, and every other possible shooting of a nature in which the person was angry or upset.  Let’s take school shootings since it appears to be the most recent.  From Colorado to Connecticut, these shootings are stemming from the fact that somehow children and teenagers are getting their hands on firearms. A link to most of these situations is not the fact that the children had guns, but that these children and teenagers were suffering from psychological problems before reaching for the gun. I’m not saying that bullying or being treated unfairly is right. What I am saying, however, is that these children should stop and reach out for help before reaching for the gun. Most children and teenagers do not know there is an outlet for help at all.  If you or someone you know has been bullied and you are thinking there is no other way out, please go to http://www.stopbullying.gov for more information or to get help.  Either way, I could see how this argument would be a major focal point of the Obama administration during a time such as this.

My Thoughts on Gun Rights vs. Gun Control: My Guns ARE My Right

After going through the arguments for and against gun control, I am happily content in stating that guns are my right and my right is found under the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights.  Gun control is a nasty subject – as it is an “all or nothing” analysis.  I do not like a government that takes away the rights of the citizens without so much as a blink of an eye.  Our forefathers would be ashamed.

If the guns are not necessary, take away Obama’s guns that are protecting him. Oh… that isn’t going to happen? Some criminals might still get to him with their illegal guns? Then there is no need for me to remain unarmed if the President refuses to disarm his Secret Service.  Is my life not as important as the President’s? Also, look at what happened in Chicago. Chicago has one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation and still winds up with not one but four of the “Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods.”

Our government, however, continues to believe that Chicago-like gun control laws are the answer to the gun problems we have in our country today.

Four words: Good luck with that.

Hiking the Federal Minimum Wage…is a BAD Idea: A “Hot Topic” Issue Among All Americans Today

This is by far one of my favorite “hot topic” issues occurring in the United States right now: hiking the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00.  Let’s not waste time and start from the beginning.

What is the Federal Minimum Wage?

The federal minimum wage is contained under the Fair Labor Standards Act (or the FLSA for those of you who like acronyms). If you would like to read more on how the FLSA was created, here is the link to the Department of Labor’s website explaining it’s creation – http://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/flsa1938.htm. If not, continue reading. The FLSA is subsidized by the Fair Minimum Wage Act (sorry, no need for acronym here) which phases in an increase to the standard federal minimum wage set in the FLSA.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, was created as an addition (or a “rider”) onto the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, & Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007.  This act implemented three increases in specific years through the year of 2009. Here is a chart taken from the Department of Labor as to how the increase has gone in the past few years:

Prior to 7/24/2007: $5.15

7/24/2007 to 7/23/2008: $5.85

7/24/2008 to 7/23/2009: $6.55

7/24/2009 to Present Day: $7.25

There are numerous exceptions to this law, including state minimum wage laws that superseded the hourly wage above if higher than the federal minimum wage. Those exceptions, however, are not of importance in this blog post.  It is important to remember that each year the federal minimum wage increased by $.70 each year in between 2007 to 2009.  If this increase were to continue up until today’s time, the federal minimum wage would currently be $10.05 (7/24/2013 to 7/24/2014).

Political Campaign Leverage – Is it the Elephant in the Room?

All math set aside, raising the federal minimum wage has been a large part of both the Democrat and Republican future political campaigns. Democrats are pushing for a larger wage in order to make amends for the backfire that happened with Obamacare (don’t worry, I will cover that one day when I can figure out what the hell these idiots passed; Nancy Pelosi still has no clue).  Republicans are skeptical of raising the minimum wage because it has a cause-and-effect reaction by the businesses to either (a) fire a number of employees to make up for that amount expended, or (b) raise the prices of products and charge the consumer with the increase in the federal minimum wage standards.  Either way, this is not going to be a pretty political campaign for either side.  The Democrats will probably never get past the healthcare issues to move onto this topic and, even if they did, their reasoning behind increasing wages is useless. The Republicans will look like jackasses trying to defend why the federal minimum wage shouldn’t be increased for the other 99%. So, who’s right? If you do your own research and educate yourself, you will come to a conclusion. Your conclusion might differ from mine, which I will set out below. If so, I would love to hear your take on the federal minimum wage and why it SHOULD be increased.  However, here is why I believe it should not be increased for now.

Why the US Government Should NOT Increase the Federal Minimum Wage

(1) The retail and fast food industry were not meant to provide longstanding jobs for the American people. These jobs are not meant to be careers. These jobs are for 16-year-olds wanting to support their movie and shopping habits. These jobs are not for 25-year-olds with 4 kids, a mortgage, and an SUV. This is just not the job for you. There are other options out there to support these expenses. You did not choose to do so and the government should not have to pick up your slack. Hurtful as it may be, someone had to say it. Additionally, the government’s increase of the federal minimum wage is keeping the man down.  The government is saying “You will never do better, you can never dream bigger.” You will always be what you never truly wanted to be. Congratulations.

(2) There are other more deserving industries that should be eligible for a pay raise. By raising the federal minimum wage, the government is essentially taking away the minimal, yet larger, amount of money that other industry’s employees are making.  Some industries, such as paralegals, nurses, etc., that have to provide certification to work will be making less than the everyday retail and fast food worker. Let me repeat: the certified workers that provide vital healthcare and legal document work will be making LESS money than those that flip burgers and stock shelves. If that doesn’t peak your interest and change your mind I don’t know what will.

(3) Increasing the federal minimum wage will decrease the amount of help those get from necessary government benefits.  You might think that this sounds great. Keep reading.  Government assistance for housing, food and healthcare would be reduced overall if the federal minimum wage increased, and would result in a significant benefit taxpayers and states’ budgets.  I love this statement and it sounds wonderful for the Democratic party’s campaign – look for it in 2014. I don’t particularly like that the people are using these benefits and a significant tax break sounds wonderful. However, I would rather these workers use the government benefits now rather than accompanied with unemployment benefits.  Big businesses have already cited that an increase of almost double the federal minimum wage (or even anything over $10.00/hour) would result in decreasing jobs across the board.  Unemployment will rise and with unemployment comes a number of other necessary government benefits.  This will be an extremely large tax burden resting in the taxpayers’ pockets.

(4) Raising the federal minimum wage kills jobs. Raising the minimum wage kills jobs for the younger generation and for those that are not as skilled in a certain area. Most employers are not going to be willing to hire those from either of those categories because it will be too expensive a task to train the employee. Like you read in my first blog post (wishful thinking), I am currently an unemployed attorney. I do not have a position because I am either overqualified for certain positions because of my Masters of Law in Taxation or underqualified for other positions in my tax field because I do not have enough experience. I know the feeling of not being “skilled” in a certain area. Most firms are not willing to train someone like me let alone take me in as a new hire. Most firms want lateral attorneys that know the bulk of what they are doing. Either way, I am willing to bet more than 75% of college graduates have been through or are going through this today. It is already happening, and it will get worse if the government raises the federal minimum wage. The result will be drastic.  Taking away jobs from the younger generation and the not-so skilled workers will result in a massive caving in of what is left of the middle class.

(5) And finally, raising the federal minimum wage kills jobs. This reason is SO CRUCIAL that I stated it twice. The higher the federal minimum wage, the higher the unemployment rate. Increasing the federal minimum wage by almost double will increase the big businesses’ expenses by just as much. Increasing business expenses will result in decreasing the employees of the company.  If the government increases the federal minimum wage, the business will resort to finding ways to use less employees in order to maintain their budget. So, here is the information I believe to be true in the end:

Increase federal minimum wage –> Increase business expenses

Increase business expenses –> Decrease employees of company

Decrease employees of company –> Higher unemployment rate

What the US Government SHOULD Do instead of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage

The US Government SHOULD focus on job creation. The job market is ugly. Work on creating jobs and prepare to be amazed at what our country’s citizens can do with a paycheck.

***Sorry for this post being a day late… I was busy celebrating my NFC North Championship win with the Green Bay Packers (Go Pack Go)! Leave me a comment if you even make it to the end of this blog post. Thanks!

First Amendment + Duck Dynasty = Gossip Column News?

A week or so ago I wrote a piece entitled “V.E.E.P. – It’s a Movement, Not a Sitcom,” where I set out a pretty easy guideline of how to evaluate and understand a piece of news or legislation in our country today. I stressed the importance of four key methods (i.e., validate, educate, extrapolate, politicate) and why you should use them in your everyday life. However, I failed to give an example of how these four methods work together and give you the correct answer you need. Thankfully I was able to experience first-hand these methods in action through a gossip column website called Crushable.com.  Crushable.com prides itself on producing “unapologetically pop culture obsessed” material that is “smart, funny and genuine, combining celebrity news, style and a wide spectrum of content that appeals to an engaged, entertainment-obsessed audience.” Additionally, this site claims to have editors that are “skeptical but never mean.”  

On Crushable.com, however, I was surprised to find a piece on politics and the Constitution within the four corners of this website. A site that prides itself on celebrity news and gossip should focus on just that and not dwell on other aspects that the website’s editors know nothing about.  Either way, I was interested in what the young woman, an editor at Crushable.com, had to say.  The piece, entitled “Here’s Your Constitutionally-Mandated Update on the Duck Dynasty Controversy,” seemed to be argumentative from the start.  This editor, who shall remain nameless until you find the link to the gossip column’s editorial piece on this blog, was in no way a peach in dealing with this controversy.  I would label this editor more “liberal” than “skeptical.” In any sense, this girl knew nothing about the Constitution, the politics surrounding the controversy with Duck Dynasty, or the information about what had actually happened within the controversy itself. So, I thought I would take what I know about my last article’s methods – V.E.E.P. – and have some fun with the editor.

Please read the following before continuing this blog entry, as it will help you to understand my arguments better: http://www.crushable.com/2013/12/20/entertainment/duck-dynasty-homophobia-official-statement-response-freedom-of-speech-second-amendment/  Finished? Okay, let’s begin. During my first of many reviews of this article, I realized she had made many mistakes that are common to those that are not familiar with the law. I labeled them out clearly for you below.

1. First (not Second) Amendment

The first, and most obvious, mistake is that she replaced the First Amendment language with the Second Amendment heading. You only missed this in the article because this was NOT her first draft – this is actually her second draft thanks to me. Here is the reading of the text that you did not see, before I informed the editor of her mistake: “Turns out that according to some of our commenters, even writing about this controversy is violating the Second [underlined emphasis added] Amendment, aka Freedom of Speech.” A simple validation of the difference between the First and Second Amendments would have helped this editor to understand the Second Amendment was incorrect.  Even her prior high school education could have told her that this was the incorrect Amendment. The editor quickly apologized after I pointed out this mental mistake to her, even though the website is supposedly “unapologetic” to its readers. If anything, this editor should apologize to the readers that are taking this garbage seriously.

2. First Amendment Language & Actual Meaning

The second error in the above statement is that the First Amendment is about “Freedom of Speech.” The editor believes that the First Amendment was “initially designed to protect members of the press and individuals from persecution for sharing their opinions.” Persecution? Are we being burned at the stake like witches? No. The First Amendment has nothing to do with persecution and everything to do with legislation passed by Congress.  The First Amendment does not guard against all free speech. I repeat, the First Amendment does not guard against all free speech. Now that this is clear, the First Amendment does guard against Congressional legislation that abridges free speech (subject to certain limitations, like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater).  The First Amendment has nothing to do with persecution or lack thereof when it comes to freedom of speech. So, in the case of Phil from Duck Dynasty and the A&E network, A&E had a right to tear up Phil’s contract and pull Phil from the television show. But, Phil still has a right to speak his mind – this is after all a “free country.” Just as he is entitled to his religious-based opinion on homosexuality, the American people are entitled to not purchase A&E products or to not watch the A&E network.

3. The 2010 Video of Phil’s Remarks on Homosexuality

The third error the editor makes in this argument is providing the video of Phil preaching against homosexuality in a sermon. Duh. Of course he is going to do this. This is a religious-based belief that Phil and I am sure the rest of the congregation in that room on that day held. However, this is not merely the mistake in her argument. The main mistake is that she doesn’t put any blame on A&E’s involvement in the controversy.  All of the blame goes on Phil, and the blame is still being placed on him today by this editor.  The editor throws the video out there just to spark hate and anger toward Phil, but doesn’t exactly explain why this video matters.  I will tell you why it matters – it matters because this gives cause that A&E knew about Phil’s beliefs prior to putting Duck Dynasty on the air. Though the editor does not want to “buy into the argument” that I provide regarding A&E, I buy into it and this is my blog. So, here it goes. The A&E network and its executives knew Phil Robertson and the Robertson clan’s view on religion and The Bible. I am suggesting that A&E was not being honest with its viewers (along with others not watching the show) by terminating Phil’s contract at this point.  The network knew his views were no different from 2010 to now. It just seems odd that A&E would cave to the public turmoil now that Phil’s views are on paper, even though Phil’s views have been on video even before the airing of Duck Dynasty’s first episode.  Additionally, someone from the A&E network had to sign off on Phil’s involvement in GQ magazine. This person should be fired from his or her position – not Phil.

4. Fox News Target

The final error I want to discuss in the editor’s article is the targeted anger toward the Fox News network. By this point in her argument I am now fully aware that she is a liberal trying to spread her liberal agenda to the mass market. However, I am not buying it. Apparently this editor believes that Fox News “tells people how to act and what to say on their program, frequently even giving viewers the tools to register their own disapproval, like contact information and complaint lines to oppose the supposed War on Christmas.”  This poor girl is either clueless or brainwashed by the liberal mass media. She cannot see that EVERY news network (i.e., CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News included) pushes their political agenda on its viewers.  That is the reason why Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch CNN. Like I pointed out in my last argument, no one should fully take everything a media piece has to say with any merit – or at least without educating yourself and doing your own research. If someone would have done that with this editor’s piece (before edited), we would all think that the Second Amendment is about freedom of speech. This editor needs to start thinking for herself and not what CNN tells her to think.

 

I will leave you with this last line, which is actually my favorite line, from the editor’s piece:

“Look at me, I’m used to it! I know that when I write a post, people aren’t legally entitled to firebomb my house, but they are entitled to leave nasty comments completely misunderstanding the law.”

Though we are not legally entitled to firebomb your house, Ms. Editor, you have firebombed our minds into the next oblivion. Your lack of validation, education, extrapolation, and politication has definitely blown my mind. I only misunderstand the law because you have taught me to do so. Congratulations – YOU are making your readers stupid. Next time, stick to the gossip and leave the politics to the political bloggers, like myself. Now, go take a government class and firebomb your mind with knowledge.

 

 

To all of my readers, I will be writing every SUNDAY from now on about any hot topic issue that is in the news that week. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some of you soon.