Thursday, May 16, 2013
Given that Bitcoin first broke into mainstream attention when Gawker explained how to use it to buy drugs, perhaps the surprise is that it took federal regulators this long to take action against it.
In the wake of the Gawker story two years ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Bitcoin as an “online form of money laundering” and called for the authorities to shutter the Bitcoin-based drug market Silk Road. Yet until recently, the feds have taken a relatively hands-off posture. Agencies have issued guidelines and signaled that they are monitoring the situation, but none have taken active steps to force Bitcoin intermediaries to comply with federal regulations.
That hands-off stance may have started to change this week when the feds took action against Mt. Gox, the world’s leading Bitcoin exchange. Many people use Dwolla, a PayPal-like payment network, to send dollars to their Mt. Gox accounts. They then use those dollars to buy Bitcoins. On Tuesday, Dwolla announced that it had frozen Mt. Gox’s account at the request of federal investigators. It’s the first federal action against the currency.
CNet has confirmed that the asset seizure was initiated by Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Internal cost estimates from 17 of the nation’s largest insurance companies indicate that health insurance premiums will grow an average of 100 percent under Obamacare, and that some will soar more than 400 percent, crushing the administration’s goal of affordability.
New regulations, policies, taxes, fees and mandates are the reason for the unexpected “rate shock,” according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released a report Monday based on internal documents provided by the insurance companies. The 17 companies include Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Foundation.
The report found that individuals will face “premium increases of nearly 100 percent on average, with potential highs eclipsing 400 percent. Meanwhile, small businesses can expect average premium increases in the small group market of up to 50 percent, with potential highs over 100 percent.”
One company said that new participants in the individual market could see a premium increase of 413 percent when new requirements on age rating and required benefits are taken into account, said the report. “The average yearly cost for a new customer in the individual market grows from $1,896 to $3,708 — a $1,812 cost increase,” it added.
The key reasons for the surge in premiums include providing wider services than people are now paying for and adding less healthy people to the roles of insured, said the report.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, who previously lobbied on behalf of Obamacare, said that one of President Obama’s costly new health-care reforms would have “catastrophic” consequences for innovation and that he plans to fight against it.
Lechleiter condemned Obama’s “dual eligibles” rebate plan at the annual Eli Lilly shareholder meeting Monday in Indianapolis.
“He said it would have fairly catastrophic consequences to the industry,” Eli Lilly spokesman Greg Kueterman told The Daily Caller.
Eli Lilly is a major drug maker and the world’s largest manufacturer of psychiatric medications.
Obama proposed in his 2013 State of the Union address a plan to require drug makers to offer the same tax rebates provided to Medicaid recipients to low-income Medicare recipients who are considered “dual eligibles” because they are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
“We’ve always spoken out about the fact that we don’t think these kinds of rebates are the right thing to do,” Eli Lilly spokesman Kueterman said.
“Dr. Lechleiter said this plan would have ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the American pharmaceutical industry, estimating that it would cost the industry somewhere between $100 billion and $135 billion,” National Center for Public Policy Research Free Enterprise Project director Justin Danhof, who was present at the Eli Lilly shareholders meeting, said in a statement. “Enacting Obama’s plan would rip billions from innovation and dearly cost American patients. Using $100 billion in additional costs as a baseline, he said drug companies would spend $15 billion less on drug innovation — an unacceptable cut.”
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The economist Milton Friedman warned that the United States cannot have open borders and an extensive welfare state. He was right, and his reasoning extends to amnesty for the more than 11 million unlawful immigrants in this country. In addition to being unfair to those who follow the law and encouraging more unlawful immigration in the future, amnesty has a substantial price tag.
An exhaustive study by the Heritage Foundation has found that after amnesty, current unlawful immigrants would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services and pay more than $3 trillion in taxes over their lifetimes. That leaves a net fiscal deficit (benefits minus taxes) of $6.3 trillion. That deficit would have to be financed by increasing the government debt or raising taxes on U.S. citizens.
For centuries immigration has been vital to our nation’s health, and it will be essential to our future success. Yet immigrants should come to our nation lawfully and should not impose additional fiscal costs on our overburdened taxpayers. An efficient and merit-based system would help our economy and lessen the burden on taxpayers, strengthening our nation.
A properly structured lawful immigration system holds the potential to drive positive economic growth and job creation. But amnesty for those here unlawfully is not necessary to capture those benefits.
We estimate that when those who broke our laws to come here start having access to the same benefits as citizens do — as is called for by the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill — the average unlawful immigrant household will receive nearly $3 in benefits for every dollar in taxes paid. The net annual cost is $28,000 per unlawful immigrant household.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Shortly after President Obama finally released his proposed budget a couple weeks ago, Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, launched a stinging attack on the president not over the president’s call for more taxes and spending or because the president’s budget never balances and adds trillions to the national debt, but because the president actually proposed modestly slower growth in Social Security benefits. A “shocking attack on seniors,” Representative Walden called it, accusing the president of “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors.”
It is true that the president’s proposal for “chained CPI” is not immune from criticism. It is likely to save far less than advertised — certainly not enough to deal with our massive and growing debt — and it would mean a huge tax middle-class tax hike over time, as workers were pushed into higher tax brackets more quickly. But that’s not what Walden said.
“They seem to have a lot of reasons they’re not going to cut spending.”
This could be viewed as just another example of Representative Walden’s penchant for being a big-spending Republican. (He has a lifetime score of just 62 percent from the anti-spending Club for Growth.) Or perhaps it was just reflexive and mindless partisanship. Anything President Obama proposes, Republicans must oppose (and vice versa, of course).
But in many ways, Walden’s remarks illustrate a problem with the current Republican party as a whole. Too many Republicans don’t really want to cut spending — or, at least, not spending that benefits their own constituencies.