ObamaCare

Four Christian colleges and a group of nuns are at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver today, arguing that the Obama administration should not mess with their health plans to provide abortion drugs to their employees, the Associated Press reports.

Oklahoma’s Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Mid-America University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University, and Colorado’s Little Sisters of the Poor, believe that signing away their coverage to another party makes them “feel complicit in providing the contraceptives,” the AP says.

A bit of humor in this legal fight:

The nuns’ lawyer, Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the government is free to provide contraception coverage on its own without needing any action at all by the religious institutions. The government, he said, simply wants such coverage to come through the institutions’ own plans.

“It’s our plan, that’s what they want to control,” Rienzi said.

“Millions of people around the world get contraceptives with no nuns involved. It’s almost laughable.”

Read the AP story.

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Casey Mulligan, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and author of “Side Effects: The Economic Consequences of the Health Reform,” recently gave a speech in which he essentially explains in easily understood terms how the Affordable Care Act is a tax on full-time work, and a huge downer on our economy.

It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how Obamacare is dragging down our American workforce. Portions of his speech are reprinted below with permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College:

So what are the tax distortions that emanate from the ACA? Here let me simply focus on two aspects of the law: the employer mandate or employer penalty—the requirement that employers of a certain size either provide health insurance for full-time employees or pay a penalty for not doing so; and the exchanges—sometimes they’re called marketplaces—where people can purchase health insurance separate from their employer. The mandate or penalty is intended, of course, to encourage employers to provide health insurance. And the exchanges are where the major government assistance is provided, since those who purchase insurance in an exchange typically receive a tax credit. As I’ll explain, taken together, the penalty on employers and the subsidies in the exchanges add up to a tax on full-time employment—a tax that you pay if you work full time but not if you work part time or don’t work at all. And the problem with that, of course, is that by taxing full-time work—which is the same as subsidizing part-time work and unemployment—you get less of the former and more of the latter two.

How does this full-time employment tax work with regard to the employer mandate? As I mentioned, the penalty applies only in the case of full-time employees and only to employers that don’t offer health coverage, and it applies only in those months during which those full-time employees are on the payroll. If an employee cuts back to part-time work, the employer no longer has to pay the penalty. The dollar amount of the penalty doesn’t depend on whether the employee is rich, poor, or middle class—if he works full time, the employer must either provide insurance or pay the penalty. And the penalty is indexed to health insurance costs, so every year those costs increase more than the economy and more than wages, the penalty will increase more than the economy and more than wages.

The current penalty is usually described as $2,000 per year per full-time employee. But it’s really more than that, because the penalty, unlike wages, is not deductible from business taxes. So in terms of a salary equivalent, the penalty is closer to $3,000 a head. Needless to say, this penalty reduces competition in the labor market: It discourages employers from competing for full-time employees—which, if you’re an employee, is a bad deal. Also there are a lot of employers who are not going to pay the penalty because they don’t meet the size threshold of 50 or more employees, and employees are going to suffer because these small employers won’t want to become large employers and therefore subject to the penalty.

Furthermore, this mandate or penalty—and by this time it should be clear that we can think of it as a tax on having a full-time employee—disproportionately harms low-skill workers. Think about it this way: How many hours does a worker have to work each week to produce the $3,000-per-year of value to justify keeping his job or being hired? For a minimum-wage worker, that comes to eight hours a week, all year round—one day of work a week for the government due to the ACA alone. Higher-skilled employees can obviously produce $3,000 worth of value in less time, so the penalty will have less of an impact on them.

What of the tax distortions that come from the subsidized health insurance exchanges or marketplaces? To begin to think about this, imagine paying full price for your health care. How does full price work? Well, you pay the full price. The health care provider doesn’t look at your tax return and adjust the bill accordingly. So we would never call paying full price for health care an income tax of any kind. Or imagine there is a discount on the full price—for instance, 30 percent off for everybody, regardless of income. In that case it’s still not an income tax. No matter how much you earn, you pay the same price. But what if the discount (or subsidy) is tied to your employment situation? Not to your income, but to your employment situation. That’s how the exchanges work. If you have a full-time job with an employer that offers coverage—which is the case for most employees in our economy—you don’t get the subsidy offered through the exchanges. If you want to get the subsidy, you need to become a part-time worker or spend time off the job. In other words, this discount, too, is a tax on full-time employment. Of course, no politician ever calls it a tax. But when you are in a group of people that doesn’t receive a subsidy that people in another group receive, that’s a tax. …

In describing the size of this tax, again I find it useful to think in terms of how many hours per week somebody has to work to create enough value to replace the government subsidy he is losing because of his full-time status. There are a number of full-time workers who may have to work ten, 20, or even 30 hours a week to create the value they would get for free if they worked part time or didn’t work under the ACA. In the old days, working part time meant you earned less, and your family had less to spend than if you worked full time. Under this new system, on the other hand, if you have a family of four and make $26 an hour, dropping to part time can actually improve your financial condition by qualifying you for well over $1,000 per month in subsidies through the health care exchanges—an amount that exceeds what you would make by working the extra eleven hours per week. This is an economically perverse situation. We have decades of research showing that when you tax something, you get less of it. So if you tax labor, you get less labor. …

I have estimated that employment will be three percent less over the long term because of the ACA, and that national income—or GDP, if you like to think of it that way—will be two percent less. If you look at the productivity costs alone—forgetting the fact that there will be a number of people not working anymore—they come to $6,000 per person who gets health insurance because of the law. And I’m not beginning to count the payments needed for health care providers.

In conclusion, I can make you this promise: If you like your weak economy, you can keep your weak economy.

Read the full article.

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Indiana’s Grace College and Seminary and California’s Biola University will make their case for opting out of Obamacare’s abortion-pill coverage at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Christian schools, which won their challenge in a lower court nearly a year ago.

Alliance lawyer Gregory Baylor said the schools “simply want to abide by the Christian faith they espouse and teach. The government should not punish people of faith for making decisions consistent with that faith.”

Read the alliance statement.

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After more videos came forth of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber pretty much putting his foot in his mouth, two universities took swift action in “rectifying” the situation.

The first, the University of Pennsylvania, took down a 2013 panel discussion featuring Gruber back on November 10. They put it back up, however, fairly quickly.

Last Monday, the University of Rhode Island removed their own Gruber video, “a 2012 discussion where Gruber explains how the law was passed to ‘exploit’ the American voters’ ‘lack of economic understanding.’”

Dave LaVallee, assistant communications director at the school, initially told National Review Online that the university was “currently investigating” why the video was deleted.

On Friday, URI posted the following explanation:

On Monday, November 17, the Associated Press – Broadcast News Center requested clearance to use a video of a lecture presented by MIT Professor of Economics Jonathan Gruber at the University of Rhode Island on October 30, 2012, as part of its Honors Colloquium series. The speakers in the series, or their representatives, require the University to sign contracts that specify distribution approvals and/or language relating to their presentations including the posting of videos to the University’s website. In reviewing the Gruber contract before responding to the AP request, it was clear that the University needed written permission to post the lecture to its website. The University, therefore, immediately removed the lecture from its website and contacted the agency holding the copyright of Professor Gruber’s lecture to secure permission to repost. The agency will not provide its consent to the University to repost the video.

Interesting how the contract/permissions issue didn’t seem to be much of a concern before last Monday.

h/t to Douglas Ernst.

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The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear oral argument tomorrow morning in Geneva College v. Burwell, one of the cases brought by religious employers seeking to get out of Obamacare’s mandate to provide abortion pills and other birth control they object to on religious grounds.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Presbyterian college in Pennsylvania, said Tuesday the school “simply wants to abide by the Christian faith it espouses and teaches.”

A lower court halted enforcement of the mandate on Geneva’s student and employee health plans last year. For background on the case, see the alliance’s fact sheet.

Read the press release.

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The name Richard Weinstein has been mentioned quite a bit over the last few weeks on television and radio. How come? Very simple: Because Rich has proven yet again that an average joe can do what the mainstream media can’t … or, more accurately, won’t.

I’ve known Rich since our college days, with one enduring memory being us (with several other friends) battling traffic on I-95 en route to the old Spectrum in Philly — to see the band Yes on their “comeback” 90125 tour. (Anyone remember “Owner of a Lonely Heart”?) He’s an incredibly bright — and funny — guy, and he’s quite stupefied by all the attention he’s been getting.

That’s because, again, he can’t believe no one in the media — or, at least someone with more time and resources than he — didn’t find the (damning) videos of Obamacare architect (and MIT professor) Jonathan Gruber way before he did.

1) What’s your background?
I’m an investment advisor and financial planner her in the Philly area. I own a small business and work out of my house. Nothing sensational. Just kind of a regular guy. Have two kids, two dogs, two cats. Big lacrosse fan. Not much different than anyone else.

I have an accounting degree and MBA, and I also got my CFP certification. So, I have a pretty strong academic background.

2) How did you become interested in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?
I’m pretty much an outsider to the law just like everyone else. My insurance got cancelled and I had to go find a new plan. I was kind of irritated because the president said without qualifiers that “If I liked my plan…” So, I though the law wouldn’t impact me- probably just like everyone else that heard that. So when I lost my plan, I started paying attention. The Admin clearly wasn’t telling the truth and the media was cheerleading. I saw these Architect people getting on the air and figured maybe they left a paper trail. Its not a paper trail but boy oh boy…

3) What has been the reaction by mainstream media types when you bring up what you discovered?
Most tell me that they don’t have the staff to get into the weeds like I did. It’s kind of disappointing actually. I get the feeling they all kind of knew this stuff was going on but nobody could really get the “money shot.”

4) Now that many of these videos have gone viral, what’s been the reaction by the media (as a whole)?
I think there were two in July and there are probably three more from this week. The media is really on to it and to me now. Funny, but nobody from the NBC, CBS or ABC has called. Mostly Fox, CNN and some Internet outlets. Everyone wants the next bomb shell. But people are catching up… and that’s good. The Daily Caller got an excellent video today that I had but I think it was being held back by a major network to make a big splash tonight. They got beaten to the punch a bit.

5) So far, what’s the “biggest” name to reach out to you?
You want me to name drop? Jake Tapper, Neil Cavuto, “Fox and Friends.” Sorry, lost my train of thought as I literally just got a call from Byron York.

I’ve turned down four on-camera interviews so far. My face should not be on the poster of what’s going on right now. Dr. Gruber’s face should be. Plus, I have a face for radio.

6) You mentioned on a recent radio appearance that you have some more video discoveries. Can you give us a little teaser as to what they’re about?
For now, I’m concerned about trying to get people to drink out of a fire hose. I have soooo much. I’ve been on this for a year. If I go too fast people’s eyes will glaze over. So, for now I think focusing on the “stupid” videos is pretty strong. But there’s much more and I guarantee the American people are going to be angry.

7) In your opinion, what will be the ultimate fate of ObamaCare what with the new Republican Senate and the upcoming Supreme Court case?
That’s a good question. But that’s kind of a policy question and I’m trying to stay away from those issues. I just want the American people to know what’s out there and make their own decisions. What happens to the ACA is not in my hands. Either the Supreme Court will decide on the Halbig/King/Pruitt cases, or the Congress will figure out how to work on this.

**********

Most recently this past Wednesday, Rich was a featured guest of Philadelphia radio host Chris Stigall alongside — wait for it! — Sharyl Attkisson at the Philadelphia-adjacent Newtown Theatre. Check out the audio from the event.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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IMAGE: YouTube screencap of Glenn Reynolds’ (Instapundit) book An Army of Davids.