President Obama promised to make health care more affordable, but instead he’s done the opposite. The White House and congressional Democrats slipped 20 new taxes into the Obamacare legislation to raise $500 billion to help pay for the new entitlement’s $2.6 trillion cost. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to provide relief.
Mr. Obama claims to want to raise taxes only on “millionaires and billionaires,” but his signature health care law hits the middle class hard. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) analyzed the 2,700-page bill and came up with a comprehensive list of its levies.
“Obama promised no taxes of any kind for those who earn less than $250,000. Obamacare broke that pledge repeatedly,” ATR President Grover Norquist told The Washington Times. “They deliberately hid the taxes and wisely understood that delaying the pain by making the effective date after the election, maybe you could get through the election.”
Until last year, people could pay for over-the-counter medications with tax-free Flexible Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts. No more, thanks to Obamacare’s medicine cabinet tax. Starting on Jan. 1, these tax-free accounts will be capped at $2,500, punishing families who face higher than normal medical expenses. The threshold for deducting those costs will also go up from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of adjusted gross income in 2013.
The left mistakenly thinks companies will just absorb the extra charges from Uncle Sam and not pass them along to consumers. Medical-device manufacturers will be smacked with a 2.3 percent tax in the new year, driving up the costs of things like wheelchairs, stents and pacemakers. Innovative drug companies already are sending Washington $2.3 billion in taxes for a surcharge on their share of sales, which helps explain why prescription-drug spending will see a projected 10.7 percent increase in 2014.
That’s also when health-insurance companies face a new surcharge on sales that will result in an estimated $350 to $400 increase in annual premiums. So much for the president’s promise to reduce the cost of insurance by $2,500.
Americans who refuse to go along with Obamacare by buying a policy not approved by the government will be charged 1 percent of their income in 2014, rising to 2.5 percent in 2016. Employers with more than 50 employees who don’t offer health coverage and have at least one employee who qualifies for a health tax credit will be penalized $2,000 per person. If the employee receives coverage through this exchange, the penalty goes up to $3,000. An employer with a 30- to 60-day enrollment waiting period will have to pay $400 per person.
These new penalties on employers who don’t provide the health coverage dictated by bureaucrats will amount to $113 billion. Expect companies to pay less and lay off more. Growth will be further stunted when January brings a new levy on investment income for those who earn more than $200,000, making the tax on capital gains 23.8 percent and dividends a staggering 43.4 percent.
This monster law already has created 159 new programs and boards in Washington. As Mr. Norquist explained, “It’s a huge increase in the size and scope of government because the government is getting control of 15 percent of the economy.” The Supreme Court needs to reject this unconstitutional power grab and return the money to the people who actually earned it.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
- Critical Time: Justices Hear Arguments Against Obamacare (fox4kc.com)
- Justices Seem to Signal They Will Not Punt On ObamaCare, But Will Rule On Its Constitutionality (minx.cc)
- Obamacare In The Supreme Court 101: Deliberations, Rulings And Impacts (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- ObamaCare on Trial, Day One: A Case of “Inartful Drafting By Congress” (reason.com)
Industry insiders fear rules, taxes
By Ben Wolfgang–
President Obama spoke of the role natural gas must play in America’s energy future during his State of the Union address last week, but industry insiders fear it’s merely lip service designed to distract from what they consider the administration’s behind-the-scenes plan to sabotage the sector.
“They’re trying to make it more difficult for the industry to survive while the president is standing in front of the country saying we’re going to create jobs through hydraulic fracturing,” said Ken von Schaumburg, former deputy counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Bush administration.
At the same time the president boasts of the nation’s vast shale gas deposits, his EPA is poised to make extracting that fuel much more difficult. The agency will this year release a widely anticipated study on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the use of water, sand and chemical mixtures to crack underground rock and release huge quantities of gas. The practice is widely used in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and other states, and has helped revitalize small-town economies and led directly to the creation of thousands of jobs in recent years.
Many in the gas industry fear that the upcoming EPA study will call for harsh new regulations on the process, and many environmental groups – a key constituency for Mr. Obama during this year’s re-election bid – are publicly pushing the administration to outlaw fracking entirely.
The EPA has already dealt a severe blow to fracking with the release of a report last year alleging the process was responsible for water contamination in Pavillion, Wyo. That study was met with ridicule from across the natural gas business because it was put out before being subjected to an independent, third-party review. While the EPA has promised such an unbiased look will be conducted, the study has likely already had a negative impact on the public perception of fracking.
Possibly making matters worse, Mr. Obama has over the past week repeated his calls for increased federal investment in the renewable energy sector, a policy some view as an effort to stack the deck against natural gas.
“Job creators and American consumers should welcome the president’s latest energy promises with suspicion,” Thomas Pyle, president of the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement following Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech, during which he called for an “all-of-the-above” approach toward energy independence that relies heavily on American oil and gas reserves.
“In the same breath that he extolled the virtues of natural gas development and called for higher energy taxes on the companies that produce it, President Obama continues to press for more taxpayer subsidies for Solyndra-style green energy companies,” Mr. Pyle said.
Mr. Obama’s positive rhetoric toward natural gas could also represent a desire to please both sides of the debate, though the move to the middle has, thus far, seemed to satisfy no one. After the speech, environmental groups blasted the administration for being too timid and called for an all-out war on fracking.
“We can’t wait much longer for the clean energy revolution. We need to clean up a fossil fuel industry run amok, by ensuring … natural gas safeguards that go much further than what the president suggested,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement after the State of the Union address.
So far, however, the administration has stopped far short of what the Sierra Club and other liberal groups want to see. Mr. Obama did, however, call for legislation requiring any company drilling on public land to disclose all chemicals used during the fracking process. Several states, such as Texas and Colorado, have already passed disclosure bills, and many leading companies voluntarily post detailed breakdowns of their chemical mixtures to the website fracfocus.org, an online clearinghouse.
Potential state or federal regulations aren’t they only problems confronting the gas industry. The explosion of natural gas extraction in areas like the Marcellus Shale region has glutted the market, keeping prices low for consumers but leading to diminished returns for drilling companies.
Last week, Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest players in the game, announced plans to reduce daily gas production by 500 million cubic feet, an 8 percent drop. The firm said it’s considering slashing production even further and predicts “flat or lower total natural gas production in the U.S. in 2012” as supply outstrips demand.
- Obama loves oil – Not! (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Cabot Cites Obama Speech to Fault EPA’s Dimock Fracking Probe (junkscience.com)
- No energy industry backing for the word ‘fracking’ (junkscience.com)
COMMENTARY | President Barack Obama has suffered the second embarrassment over oil imports within the space of a week. Brazil, whose offshore deposits of oil were sought by the Obama administration, has signed contracts with China for the product.
According to the Washington Times, Brazilian offshore crude may number about 38 billion barrels. Obama went to Brazil last month to put in a bid for the oil, offering loans and other support to develop the oil in an “environmentally responsible matter,” The Hill reported at the time. Republicans criticized that initiative, pointing out Obama has placed roadblocks in the way of domestic development of oil and gas reserves.
Brazil’s decision comes on the heels of Obama’s refusal to permit the building of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada’s tar sands in Alberta to Texas oil refineries, according to the Los Angeles Times. The decision was criticized by Republicans as well as union officials who point out that 20,000 jobs the pipeline would bring would therefore not be created.
Obama’s policy in regard to oil and gas has been a study in incompetence driven by an ideological mania against hydrocarbon fuel in favor of more politically correct forms of energy production. This has not only led to what amounts to a campaign against oil and gas production in the U.S., but embarrassing scandals such as Solyndra, brought on by unwise federal loan guarantees to dubious green energy companies.
This is occurring at a time when Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the world’s oil passes from Persian Gulf fields. The very threat has led to a spike in the price of oil and of gasoline.
Unfortunately, Obama shows no sign of learning from his mistakes. A responsible president would move quickly to exploit more accessible sources of oil, lifting restrictions on domestic production and quickly signing off on the pipeline deal with Canada, an American ally. Obama, however, is doing neither of these things.
A new energy crisis this summer, brought on by turmoil in the Middle East, is not outside the realm of possibility. The bad news is Americans will suffer, just as they did in 1973 and 1979. The good news is Americans are likely to make their ire known at the polls in the fall. But it months of turmoil and agony lay ahead until then.
- Obama in Fantasy Land (mb50.wordpress.com)
- SCO: China gets jump on U.S. for Brazil’s oil (truthsupport.wordpress.com)
- Canada Pledges to Sell Oil to Asia After Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline… (truthsupport.wordpress.com)
- Obama Kills Pipeline, China Jumps In To Buy Canada’s Oil (5440fight.com)
Posted by Jim Hoft
But that didn’t divert President Obama from his mission of appeasement.
President Obama signaled Congress this week that he is prepared to share U.S. missile defense secrets with Russia.
In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.
As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.
Hat Tip Maria
For the record… Obama met secretly with Gorbachev in March 2009 where they discussed ways of reducing their countries’ respective nuclear arsenals.
Hat Tip Chris
- TREASON, anyone? Barack Obama signaled Congress this week that he is prepared to share U.S. missile defense secrets with Russia. (barenakedislam.wordpress.com)
- The Obama presidency, it just gets worse, and worse, and………….. (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- Obama works to destroy America’s military – Tea Party Nation (gds44.wordpress.com)
- Is Obama a Traitor? (loopyloo305.com)
- Russia may target U.S. missile defense sites (marketwatch.com)
- Obama’s Signature Hypocrisy (thedailybeast.com)
- Iranian Missile Test Kills 20-plus Iranians; Russia Rattles Its Nuclear Saber WRT U.S. Missile Defense (nationalspacestudiescenter.wordpress.com)
Simply issue drilling permits, and Gulf oil rigs will do the rest.
By Jim Noe The Washington Times
As news continues to break about the bankruptcy of the government-backed solar- panel manufacturer Solyndra LLC, much commentary has focused on who said what inside the ad- ministration prior to the company’s collapse. But the implosion of a company once touted as a symbol of the booming job creation that would accompany America’s energy future brings larger lessons about our country’s energy and economic needs.
Our country’s energy future hinges in large part on how we manage the gradual transition to a blended energy supply portfolio based in part on next-generation, sustainable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind and others that have yet to emerge. The question we need to ask ourselves as we undertake this long-term process is: What do Americans need now, and where can we find it?
Unfortunately, the administration seems inclined to duck that question, favoring poster-ready solutions like Solyndra over more pragmatic discussions about how best to use our country’s existing resources. Its reluctance is a shame, as it comes at the cost of unrealized energy production and forsaken American jobs – particularly in the Gulf of Mexico region.
How have administration energy policies – so friendly to unproven prospects like the solar-powered Solyndra – treated the proven assets we have in the Gulf of Mexico? Not quite as sunnily, to say the least. A host of new permitting requirements have been developed in the past 1 1/2 years for exploration and development of offshore resources in the Gulf. While meant to promote the safest and most environmentally friendly operations possible – goals heartily shared by industry, whose long-term viability depends on sustainable production – the process by which companies secure permits for exploration and production has become unpredictable and opaque.
While there is robust demand for drilling in the Gulf, the pace of issuing permits for new wells (5.2 per month) has slowed to a trickle not seen since energy demand nearly evaporated during the recessionary days of 2009. What this means in real-world terms is that it can take an operator three months to secure a permit for a new well – a time frame that is insufficient to satisfy demand. On top of that, the backlog of permits awaiting decisions within the Department of the Interior just reached its highest level since the Gulf spill 1 1/2 years ago.
According to the administration’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. energy output is slated to decrease by 250,000 barrels per day per year under domestic energy production policies. EIA forecasts show Gulf production declining 14 percent both this year and next, a drop of approximately one-third of 2010 amounts by the end of 2012.
By the same token, our current energy policies have allowed a historic loss of drilling rigs to occur, jeopardizing our ability to produce our natural resources. Since 2001, 78 jack-up drilling rigs have left the Gulf, leaving 42 currently available. Thirteen rigs have left the Gulf since April 2010 alone. The departure of these high-technology, capital-intensive rigs means our country’s capacity to ramp up production likely has been curtailed for years to come.
The job losses associated with the administration’s reluctance to support offshore production are also severe. According to a study by IHS Global Insight, run by renowned energy analyst Daniel Yergin, “In 2012, the [Gulf oil and gas] industry could create 230,000 American jobs, generate more than $44 billion of U.S. [gross domestic product], contribute $12 billion in tax and royalty revenues, produce 150 million barrels of domestic oil, and reduce by $15 billion the amount the U.S. sends to foreign governments for imported oil.” The study also cites benefits outside of the Gulf, with one-third of new jobs generated in California, Florida, Illinois, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
There is one final lesson to be noted here. While the Solyndra collapse likely will end up costing the American taxpayers who helped fund the company’s expansion, production of our natural resources in the Gulf adds money to the U.S. Treasury – something you don’t see a lot these days. In 2008, the offshore industry paid $8.3 billion in royalties and $9.4 billion in bids on new leases. In 2010, the numbers fell sharply because of the spill and the drilling moratorium, with payments falling to $4 billion in royalties and just $979 million in lease bids. The outlook for 2011 revenues under the current pace of permitting is more on track with 2010 than 2008.
The future of U.S. energy supplies will no doubt hinge on developing resources that are only now emerging onto the scene. Today’s needs call for more tangible action. To boost jobs, energy supplies and U.S. Treasury revenue, the administration should prioritize improvement in the Gulf permitting regime rather than let energy policy be guided by politics.
Jim Noe is senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer of Hercules Offshore Inc., the largest shallow-water drilling company in the Gulf of Mexico. He also is executive director of the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition.
- Push for permits in Gulf of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Is Mexican Gulf Energy Production Recovering? (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s Interior Chokehold on America (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Chevron Strikes Oil in Deepwater Gulf of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Collateral Damage: Lost Gulf Rigs from Obama Obstructionism (10 down, more to go?) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Offshore Energy Leases Fall from $10 Billion to Zero Under Team Obama (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Family firm still struggling, 18 months after Gulf oil spill (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Bernard L. Weinstein: US energy resources worth the investment (mb50.wordpress.com)
- New Oil Finds Around the Globe: Will the U.S. Capitalize on Its Oil Resources? (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: BP Confirms Significant Resource Extension for Mad Dog Complex (mb50.wordpress.com)