American Elephants


How Healthy Are Your State’s Finances? by The Elephant's Child

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The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has published a new study on the fiscal condition of the states. They rank each state on their fiscal health based on short-and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations including unfunded pension liability and  healthcare  benefits. Growing pension obligations and increasing healthcare costs are straining budget planning.

Many states are facing big jumps in insurance premiums. Humana is seeking a 50% ObamaCare price hike in Michigan, deductibles are going up. Silver plan deductibles of $6,000 and $7,000 are not uncommon.

Ranking the 50 states is based on five separate categories.

  • Cash solvency: Does a state have enough cash on hand to cover its short term bills?
  • Budget solvency: Can a state cover its fiscal year spending with current revenues, or does it have a budget shortfall?
  • Long-run solvency: Can a state meet it’s long-term spending commitments? Will there be enough money to cushion it from economic shocks or other long-term fiscal risks?
  • Service-Level solvency: How much “fiscal slack” does a state have to increase spending if citizens demand more services?
  • Trust Fund Solvency: How much debt does a state have? How large are its unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities?

The top five states, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota rank in the top five. Pensions and healthcare will be long term challenges, but these states are considered fiscally healthy. The top five have changed since last year. Wyoming moved up and edged Florida out, but Nebraska moved up to second place.

Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut are in the bottom five largely owing to low amounts of cash and big debt obligations. That little bright red spot at the bottom is Puerto Rico.



The Mounting List of Obama Administration Scandals: by The Elephant's Child

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— The new head of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important?”

“What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience?”

American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett excoriated McDonald: “The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain.”

“We also disagree with the substance of his comment because wait times are very important to not just the satisfaction quotient, but in some cases the veterans health,” he said in a statement.

Well, clumsy, at best. Then there was the new study that established that between 1012 and 2015, less than 10 percent of new hires were actually physicians. Lots of lawyers and public affairs officials though.

The Wall Street Journal reported that there were 4,201 errors which mistakenly declared living veterans dead — terminating their benefits. A simple paper mistake for the VA, a nightmare for the vet who has to straighten out the mess.

— Congress is currently attempting to impeach IRS Director Koskinen. It seems the IRS is still trying to keep conservative organizations from gaining the tax-free status to which they are entitled. And as well, they were just never able to find the emails and other documentation that was requested under FOIA requests. A lower court had accepted the IRS statement that targeting had stopped, but it seems that no one has been held to account and the targeting continues today.

Kim Strassel notes that the “IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups for not pushing back hard enough.” They smugly claimed the conservative groups had blown their chance for nonprofit approval when they turned down the “fast track” status if they just agreed to give up their political speech rights. (A Treasury Dept idea.)

A new lawsuit asks a federal court to force the IRS to obey the law.

The IRS also improperly paid out $15.6 billion through the Earned Income Tax Credit Program. The OMB notes that this is a “high risk” program for improper payments, but the IRS says they are “taking steps” to reduce error.

— Federal Bureaucrats announced earlier this year they plan to change the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. The goal is to save money by getting doctors to alter their treatment choices to the cheapest drugs available. More than 300 cancer clinics have closed over the past decade as Medicare has shrunk payments for cancer care. This would seem to be a venture in bad medicine, which is a usual result in socialized medicine. Those who see “single payer” as a desirable outcome should have some real second thoughts.

The Obama administration frames this experiment as a way to stick it to drug companies and save taxpayers money. They believe that doctors are not prescribing the “right” drugs—meaning the least expensive ones, even if they are the least appropriate. They suggest that doctors are motivated by money, and not their patients’ best interests.

Surely you have noticed how often the administration sneers at “Big Pharma.” The object is not to save lives, but to place the blame for getting rid of cancer-ridden patients before they cost too much money.

— Obama is planning to release another 22 or 23 long time Guantanamo detainees to about half a dozen countries. These are the “worst of the worst” and can be expected to return to the battlefield fairly promptly. Obama is motivated by the opinion of the European  Left who always opposed the Iraq War and assume that Gitmo is an American torture chamber, rather than the model prison it actually is. Not all of the foreign destination countries are ready to be identified, Obama wants to empty Guantanamo by this summer.

— Last year, Congress went to considerable trouble in crafting and passing a consensus bull to replace the outdated and unworkable No Child Left Behind. One of the goals was to reduce federal interference in education which remains a state and local issue. Obama is ignoring the law that he signed, and attempting to rewrite the implementation rules that claim powers specifically denied by the statutory language.

The law specifically states that the federal government may not use it to “mandate equalized spending per pupil for a state, local educational educational agency or school.” But that’s what the Education Department is attempting to do. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chairman, confronted Education Department John King in a hearing telling him”The plain fact of the matter is that the law specifically says you cannot do it.”

This remains a nation of laws, no matter how much Obama tries to arrogate power to himself by simply claiming them. He says his agenda “can’t wait” for Congress to act.

— ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has spent at least $18.5 million to fly “unaccompanied children” caught crossing the border illegally, to locations inside the U.S. The numbers shed light on the extent of a program that concerns lawmakers and the federal courts that the federal government is effectively aiding smugglers. The administration has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of minors, and claims their actions are appropriate. They are transporting minors to facilities run by HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. ICE said about 10,000 children have been transported by charter flights.

— Obama’s Big Transgender Restroom Diversion is pure Saul Alinsky, the communist who has directed the Left in how to manipulate the American people. “Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.” If there is a problem (no GDP growth) for which you have no answer, change the discussion and hit them with something new.

Members of the transgender population, about 0.3% of this nation, have managed to relieve themselves for generations in existing restrooms. Imagine the cost of revamping millions of public restrooms, and for such a tiny slice of the population. Now this has become a national cause, a provocation drummed up to divert attention from far more pressing issues.

— I posted “President Obama’s Legacy in 9 Simple Charts from the Federal Reserve“at the end of September last year. Not much has changed.



It’s Not Really About Transgenderism by The Elephant's Child

The Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has added a new rule change to the Affordable Care Act. All health providers receiving taxpayer dollars must perform sex-change operations or lose their federal funding.

Can government possibly become any more absurd? Sex-change operations do not change anyone’s sex. That is not possible. Sex is determined by your DNA and cutting off temporarily offending organs does not change sex, but merely mutilates. Transgenderism is a dysphoria, or mental problem. Other dysphorias are Anorexia, whose victims see themselves as fat and essentially starve themselves to death. Bodily dysphoria has led victims to amputate healthy limbs, or if they cannot find a surgeon who will do it, amputate Cat mantheir own. Several cases who identify as cats have been reported.

The new rule sates that under Title IX any hospital receiving funding from HHS must “treat individuals consistent with their gender identity.” The administration sent letters to every school district in the country mandating that they open bathrooms lockers rooms and showers to all students, regardless of their biological sex.

The drive for transgender bathrooms is part of the Cultural Marxist attack on modesty and personal privacy. Children should be taught from an early age that sexual behavior is harmless physical gratification, completely unimportant. There are no consequences of physical gratification that cannot be prevented or “taken care of” by a visit to the doctor. Marriage and the family are only lifestyle choices, and not different from any other. Useless people can be disposed of by physician assisted suicide, minor misbehavior should not mean punishment and things like shoplifting, drug use, petty theft, fraud, or forgery should be misdemeanors.

Cultural Marxism demands a compliant state-dependent population who will vote as they are told, and request ever more comforts from an overpowering government. You can see the results in Venezuela, where a hamburger costs $170, and food is getting desperately short. And there’s Cuba, of course. Lots of examples. The kids are being trained in government controlled schools, or haven’t you noticed the nuttiness going on in our colleges? A generation of progressives went a little crazy in the sixties, and they have never really recovered. They don’t want to be told what to do, they want to protest and man the barricades and really want a real revolution, as long as there isn’t any violence and nobody hurts anyone’s feelings.



Even If You Are Really Tired of Politics, There’s Still Some Humor To Be Found! by The Elephant's Child

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Polls apparently told Hillary that voters, besides finding her untrustworthy, doubted her ability to grow the economy. So, in Kentucky, wooing a crowd, she promised that she and her husband would restore the economic prosperity of the 1990s. She has an assignment for her husband, she said, if they return to the White House. The former president, she told voters, will be “in charge of revitalizing the economy.”

“Because, you know, he knows how to do it,” she said. “Especially in places like coal country and inner-cities and other parts of our country that have really been left out.”

Mrs. Clinton mentioned her idea for her husband while speaking at a rally outside a home in northern Kentucky. Earlier this month, she said she had told Mr. Clinton that he would need to “come out of retirement” to help put people back to work.

It has been 24 (almost) years since the newly elected Clintons moved into the White House, so Hillary can probably be excused a lapse of memory. They came to Washington D.C. with a plan that they would be co-presidents, and the American people would get a wonderful two-for-one deal. The American people wasted no time in letting the Clintons know that they did not elect Hillary to be a co-president, and that simply was not going to happen.

Hillary made a lot of noise about not staying home to bake cookies, and other ‘don’t try to make me the “little woman” comments,’ but she fell in line. First Ladies usually have a cause they support — Laura Bush supported Libraries and reading, Ladybird Johnson espoused highway beautification, and wildflowers, Michelle has attempted to change what school kids have for lunch. I had to consult Google to find out what Hillary’s cause was — silly me, it was HillaryCare! One might consider that as food for thought. Besides, it was a Republican Congress that forced Bill Clinton to go along with their efforts to fix the economy, he just bowed to the inevitable.

Also interesting is that at the same time that Obama is out talking about the success of his tenure in office and his revitalization of the economy, the two Democrat candidates are talking about how awful the economy is and how the American  people have suffered.



Another Dismal Jobs Report From an OverRegulated Economy by The Elephant's Child

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The American economy added the fewest number of jobs in April—in seven months.  The job gains in April were the smallest number since last September, and below the average of 200,000 new jobs. Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 160,000 jobs, a disappointing number when the population continues to grow. The numbers for February and March were revised to show 19,000 fewer jobs than originally reported.

The unemployment rate held steady at 5.0 percent, but that was because more people were dropping out of the labor force.

A separate report explained why the U.S. economy isn’t adding as many jobs as it used to. Wayne Crews from the Competitive Enterprise Institute rolled out his annual report card on federal regulation called “The Thousand Commandments.” Rules and regulations from the federal government are now imposing $1.9 trillion in annual costs on the U.S. economy. Add to that official government spending which adds up to $3.9 trillion—that’s a big chunk of taxpayer money going to the government.

Remember, the government has no money of its own. Every cent comes out of taxpayers’ wallets. That means that people have less and less to spend, and when the people don’t spend, business suffers. It’s not enough that sales are down, but the government feels it necessary to tell businesses what to do and how to do it.

The Left has a great deal of trouble understanding this simple fact of life. They believe it is their task to tell businesses how to operate, under what circumstances, and what rules, and then are simply astounded when the number of new jobs fall and business isn’t prospering and creating jobs. Simply demanding extra paperwork means somebody has to take time away from other more useful tasks to fill out more reports. That costs money. Hoover Institution senior fellow John H. Cochrane reported in early May that:

Sclerotic growth is America’s overriding economic problem. From 1950 to 2000, the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 3.5% annually. Since 2000, it has grown at half that rate—1.76%. Even in the years since the bottom of the great recession in 2009, which should have been a time of fast catch-up growth, the economy has only grown at 2%. Last week’s 0.5% GDP report is merely the latest Groundhog Day repetition of dashed hopes.

Here’s the problem. Republicans talk about cutting regulation and a free market economy, and most people doze off before they even get to the nitty-gritty. But if you want creativity, businesses hiring and expanding, that’s how it happens. Progressives think that it happens by federal agencies demanding more hiring and making more rules for how they should go about it. They assume that anyone working in a government agency is by nature smarter and more attuned to the real world than people who actually work for a living.

A perfect example is a study that shows many employers are hiring more freelancers to avoid having to pay for the increased costs of health insurance caused by the Affordable Care Act. “Nearly one-third of companies intend to work towards “eliminating”  healthcare benefits because of the ACA and 60 percent intend to hire more freelance employees than full-time people. We told them that ObamaCare was going to cost lots more than they expected, but they didn’t believe it.

 



The Feminist War on Gender Is Creating Massive Problems. by The Elephant's Child

I vaguely remember reading a book long ago by a newly enlightened feminist on her conversion to feminist activism. She had grown up in a family where her father was most definitely the head of the household, the man in the family, who got the Sunday paper first, was served first at the dinner table, and looking back she was troubled by the injustice of it all. Well, poor baby.

N.O.W., the National Organization for Women, was born back in the Sixties, 1966 to be exact, when everyone was protesting about something or other, mostly about their fear of being drafted. Their focus has consistently been on gender equality, and that’s where we lose interest.  Women appreciate the wider range of occupations open to them, but recognize that there are many jobs for which they are just not well-suited. Most women appreciate the difference between the sexes and wouldn’t want it any other way.

N.O.W., AAUW and the National Committee on Pay Equity marshal their forces every April to promote the annual feminist holiday known as Equal Pay Day. Hillary tried to make a big deal of it in a speech yesterday, adding the race card.  It is a verifiable falsehood, says economist Mark Perry at AEI:

based on the false assumption that women are paid 23% less for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity.

Equal Pay has been the law since 1966, but the feminists soldier on, trying to open all military combat roles to women. The Marines justifiably object. Former Attorney General Eric Holder invented rights for the transgendered — to protect cross-dressing and transsexualism under federal civil rights laws.

But the feminist drive to eliminate gender is really getting into the weeds with combat roles, and gender dysphoria. They are doing great damage to the gullible. The American College of Pediatricians felt it necessary to come out with a statement that “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Parents are under pressure to “help their children to transition,” as a grateful woman who had parents with patience wrote in January in the Wall Street Journal: “The Transgender Battle Line: Childhood.” A former transgender wrote yesterday in The Federalist about his alarm at the attempt to redefine gender norms.

So of course the White House had to jump into the controversy with a big promotion on “Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys so that Our Children Can Explore, Learn, and Dream Without Limit“— urging toymakers, children’s magazines, and organizations like Girl Scouts and Netflix to “raise awareness about gender stereotypes,” once again increasing the focus on something better left alone.

“We’re hosting the conference because we know that the TV, movies, and videos that kids watch, and the toys with which they play, can have a real impact on the skills they develop and their aspirations,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a post on the White House blog. “This impact goes beyond child development. This affects the quality of our workforce, and has the potential to affect our economy for decades to come.”

There are all kinds of dysphorias, from anorexia, which has killed some of its victims, to bodily dysphorias which has led its sufferers to cut off limbs, or in the case of one man to change his face to that of a cat with surgery, tattoos and piercings. It is a psychological problem and treatment is at best uncertain. Many, after some time, recover. For those who have had surgery to complete their transformation it is much more difficult if they lose the urge to be the opposite sex. North Carolina has passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom according to the sex they were born with.

Faux outrage, as everybody wants to demonstrate how opposed to ‘discrimination’ they are. Women have had to put up with male predators  invading their bathrooms, and see only danger in liberal insistence on changing tradition and good sense.

This is all an outgrowth of the feminist war on gender. There are two genders, male and female. Live with it.



It’s all Falling Apart, Or Is It Just Us? by The Elephant's Child

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Everybody’s angry, we are told. The comments on most websites that discuss the news or politics have turned dark and mean and accusative.  It is a strange political year. Very accomplished Republican governors have dropped out, the people with real qualifications have given up, apparently because the public wants an ‘outsider’, because they no longer trust the ‘insiders’. So we are in the process of choosing a new president. The Democrats’ bench is thin. There are no particularly successful governors, and Democrat run states are basket cases. They have turned to an elderly socialist and an elderly former first lady with many titles and few accomplishments.

I think we misunderstand the “anger” and misplace the blame. We have entered a new age of instant, incomplete, biased, false and true information that we don’t know how to sort or how to manage. Our schools claim to be teaching “critical thinking” but mostly teach “social justice” instead —unfortunately there is no such thing.

Newspapers are dying, but proliferating online. Added to the formal gleanings from the journalism profession, ordinary people are adding their thoughts and opinions on blogs. But who can you trust, and how do you find real information?

Fact-checking websites like Politifact and Snopes have multiplied, but they don’t always get their facts right. Photographs have always been able to deceive, which is why you hate some photographs of yourself, but with Photoshop to alter them, a photograph no longer represents reliable truth. And now there is Twitter for instant connection to the latest in — what? Smart remarks or the latest in real insight? And there’s Facebook for selfies and what you had for dinner last night. And many, many more social media websites, and of course, the Kardashians.

The general impression is that everything is falling apart. America is in retreat internationally as the threats grow. We recognize the threats, but they cannot be called by name. As the terror and attacks increase, we reduce the size and capability of the world’s finest military to its state before World War II. The administration lies. The Media lies. The Constitution is deliberately ignored.

Police are attacked as they attempt to protect the people, cities declare themselves “sanctuary cities” and refuse to obey federal law.  The president releases convicted criminals because convicting people for selling dangerous addictive drugs that ruin lives is racist. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to convicted criminals.

The feminist drive to eliminate gender proceeds and there is no longer sanctuary even in the bathroom. Political correctness is judged more important than accuracy and government is more the problem than any solution. The administration expects to fix human nature by more closely regulating the people, and giving themselves more power.  We know that’s not going to work, but what will?




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