Last summer, Congress and President Obama, reacting to the scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs, rushed through a law giving the Secretary of Veterans Affairs a speedier process with which to fire underperforming executives. Problem solved? Not so fast. There’s a wee thing called due process – which has created a loophole for bureaucrats in the crosshairs to retire instead of being fired.
Joanne Butler | All Articles
While Julia Pierson’s resignation from the top spot at the Secret Service was no surprise; the roots of her resignation were no surprise to me either. As I see it, she was promoted as a result of managerial panic concerning the 2012 sex scandal involving agents doing presidential advance work in Cartagena, Columbia.
On Wednesday, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Science (both institutions receive a combination of federal and private funding) issued a report on how America’s medical system lacks proper end-of-life care. (You can read a summary here.) While I agree that end-of-life care is an issue worth discussing, I think the report’s recommendations contain a basic flaw: having a patient register his/her preferences with the doctor. It’s a lawyer -- a professional third-party advocate -- the patient needs, not a doctor.
Andrew Biggs, a policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute (former George W. Bush appointee at the Social Security Administration) recently wrote yet another of his doom-and-gloom articles about the long-term fate of Social Security’s retirement system. I too worked at Social Security (as a career employee) but I don’t share his priorities. If Biggs took an afternoon off from AEI’s hushed offices for a subway ride, he’d see why. Amongst the hoi polloi, he’d see lots of fat people – very fat people: workers, tourists and (sadly) kids. If I were Biggs I’d be more worried about this population’s health care costs than whether Social Security will be there for them in thirty years.
Ben Franklin is the prototype for the celebrity-as-politician. His autobiography is still in print; if he were alive, he’d be on Drudge’s columnists’ list, and command speaking fees that would turn Hillary Clinton green with envy. A popular T-shirt has a quote erroneously attributed to Franklin: 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.'
If the sun’s setting on the Export-Import Bank, they have only themselves to blame. Back in the early 1990s I did a training stint there and it’s when I first heard the ‘Bank of Boeing’ joke. Fast forward to last week, when Eric Cantor lost in his primary and Boeing’s stock dropped by 2.3 percent. Which raises the question, given his connections to the big business wing of the GOP, could Cantor’s loss be a death knell for Ex-Im?
With Father’s Day approaching and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation last week, I am reminded of a promise my late Dad (WWII vet, bronze star medalist) demanded I make when I was in 8th grade: That I never send him to a VA hospital. I expect if my Dad were here today, he’d be calling me to say ‘see, I told you.’ My question: where were the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars when the problems began to bubble up last year and earlier this year?
Lost in the cheering over from President Obama’s hype section over last Friday's jobs report was a major factor: the millions of unemployed on the federal disability rolls. If we added them, plus those who have given up looking for work, then April’s unemployment numbers don’t look so bright – a shameful prognosis in the sixth year of the Obama administration.
The news that China’s economy is on track to overtake the U.S. economy this year must have put a grin on one American’s face: Bill Clinton. It was his efforts at the end of his second administration that opened U.S. markets for Chinese imports. But is Hillary smiling? I’m not so sure.
Thanks to Cliven Bundy, there’s a song that’s been rattling around in my brain non-stop: "Razzle Dazzle Them" from the musical Chicago. No, it’s not Richard Gere’s wimpy movie rendition in my mind, but Jerry’s Orbach’s con brio delivery from the Broadway original. But the bottom line of Fred Ebb’s lyrics is the same: “Razzle dazzle them, and they’ll never catch wise.”
There are three takeaways from yesterday’s special election in Florida, where an admittedly not-great Republican candidate -- David Jolly, just divorced, with a much younger girlfriend in tow -- won against a (seemingly) stronger female Democrat. The Republican won because of demographics, Medicare, and a strong data-driven ground game.
Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote about the House Republican agenda for 2014, which included a passing reference on expanding access to charter schools. Note to Mr. Cantor: you should meet my hair stylist here in Wilmington. Not for a haircut (though her skills are excellent), but because she’s a great example of the impact of charter schools on a family.
Although the recent Congressional Budget Office report on long-term unemployment has gotten a lot of play in the media, I wonder if anyone has actually read it. You can read it here. It’s not long, only 15 pages (the impact of Obamacare on the labor market is on page 14), but you might need a Xanax to get through it – it’s that depressing If you don’t feel up to reading the report, then look at the graphs – they’re just as depressing as the text.
As the story of Bob and Maureen McDonnell unfolds, I’ve been thinking about another former Virginia governor: Jim Gilmore. Full disclosure: Gilmore appointed me to the board of a small Virginia public college – not because I was a big donor, but because of my campaign work and resume. Gilmore came from a very modest background (his father was a grocery store meat cutter and later store manager), but he and his wife, Roxane had no obsessions about being glamorous. They seemed perfectly at ease in being middle-class folks.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, I have a modest proposal for getting younger people to sign up for Obamacare: liposuction discounts. I’m not saying insurance should pay for liposuction, but as insurance companies routinely offer discounts for joining health clubs, etc., I thought lipo discounts might be attractive to the twenty and thirtysomething crowd. (My husband suggested discounts on silicone implants, but I think lipo is a more gender-neutral procedure, as you’ll see in a moment.)
On this, the 101st anniversary of Richard Nixon’s birth, I’m reminded that the issue of ‘income inequality’ has been around for decades. It may have been called other names in the past (such as ‘guaranteed annual income’) but the basic problem remains unchanged: what’s the right role for government vis-à-vis the poor?
Thank God for the World Series and football – they give us something more entertaining to watch than the legions of Democrats with their frozen grins (as if they’ve had one too many plastique procedures) numbly repeating that all is well. Reminds me of a (very young) Kevin Bacon at the end of "Animal House," when the Faber College homecoming parade runs amok. Like Dean Wormer, President Obama is learning that indeed all is not well.
As the government shut down last night, here’s one outcome that nobody’s mentioned: an uptick in federal retirees. Call it Shutdown, Act II.
Last week, thanks to the actions of an obscure George W. Bush-appointed federal district judge in Florida, the United States took a significant step forward in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid fraud. If you missed the story, that’s understandable, as it received little attention from the general press.