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California workers could suffer under Obamacare
A coalition of 26 states filed a petition recently asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. California should have been the 27th. That’s because no state stands to take a bigger economic hit when and if Obamacare is fully implemented.
For those lawmakers in Sacramento who stubbornly refuse to believe that the president’s makeover of the nation’s health care system is bad for California, they should take a look at a new report released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group.
Annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased to $15,073 this year, according to the Kaiser study. That’s up 9 percent from 2010, which is nearly triple the rate of inflation over the past year, and more than quadruple the increase in average employee wages.
It is hardly a coincidence that this year’s dramatic run-up in the cost of premiums, following several years of relatively modest increases, comes before new Obama regulations take effect in 2012 requiring health insurers to justify to the federal government any increase in premiums of more than 10 percent.
Add to that provisions of Obamacare that already have taken effect, including government mandated health coverage for adult children up to 26 years of age and federally-required coverage of mammograms and other such preventive tests and screens, and its clear that the president’s health care law is driving up employer health care costs.
White House static analysis assumes that employers will not change their behavior though faced with higher labor costs owing to Obama’s expensive new health care mandates.
But that’s just wishful thinking. The obvious reaction by employers to higher health costs for each worker on their payrolls is to hire fewer new employees than they otherwise would. That is, if they do not actually lay off workers to cut costs associated with new federal health mandates.
That’s the very last thing California needs with the state economy shedding jobs in July and August, according to the state Economic Development Department.
Anyone who says that full implementation of the health care law will improve, rather than worsen, the state’s job climate is smoking some of that medicinal marijuana sold in cannabis clubs throughout the state.
“This year’s 9 percent increase in premiums is especially painful for workers and employers struggling through a weak economy,” Kaiser President and Chief Executive Officer Drew Altman said. What remains to be seen, he added, is whether that is “a one-time spike or the start of a period of higher increases.”
If it’s the latter, it’s quite likely the net job losses California suffered in July and August (and probably September) will be a regular occurrence over the next 12 months and beyond.
Meanwhile, the White House promised that the average family of four would save as much as $2,300 a year on its health insurance premiums by 2014, compared with what it would have paid without Obama’s health care law.
Meanwhile, California’s Democratic politicians continue to embrace Obamacare, continue to believe against all evidence to the contrary that it will create more jobs than it destroys here in the Golden State, and reduce, rather than increase, family health care bills.
Joseph Perkins is the business editor of San Diego magazine and a columnist for Pacific Research Institute’s calwatchdog.com.
Sharp Park: A benefit for all
Every so often, circumstances present to government the potential for a win-win, an opportunity to create something that benefits people today as well as generations to come. That might be a cliché, but models do exist of successes and of squandered opportunities.
Building a world-class ballpark at China Basin — despite opposition from one-third of March 1996 voters — launched the creation of a vibrant neighborhood in San Francisco. That was a win.
In 1961, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors withdrew from the then-proposed Bay Area-wide, electrified commuter rail system. That lack of vision was a fail.
Right now, San Francisco, San Mateo County and Pacifica stand before a collective choice to win or fail regarding Sharp Park Golf Course.
Opened in 1931, the 18-hole, par-72 public course was designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who created some of the most famous golf courses in the world, including Cypress Point in Monterey and Green Hills in Millbrae. The former surgeon also co-designed Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., home of the annual Masters tournament.
Sharp Park’s coastal location also is home to the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, both federally protected species. Forces natural and man-made are threatening habitat and breeding areas. By all appearances, Sharp Park is the latest Flanders field between the stereotypes of rich, white, middle-aged golfers and the ponytailed, sandals-and-socks set.
However, Sharp Park does not have to become the philosophical moonscape of trench warfare, where slogans and sound bites obfuscate reasoning. Sharp Park can be a place where golfers from all socioeconomic strata successfully co-exist with sensitive coastal species.
Actually, San Mateo County and Pacifica already have the framework of a plan to do exactly that. The golf course can be reconfigured to support the endangered snakes and threatened frogs, while recapturing some of MacKenzie’s original layouts. Additionally, San Mateo County has already identified private sources willing to underwrite most — if not all — of this proposed peaceful co-existence.
The final act remains with San Francisco, which owns Sharp Park Golf Course. There are those in San Francisco City Hall who would rather eliminate the golf course and “give” Sharp Park in its entirety to the National Park Service to oversee as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. However, the park service has stated that it will accept the property only under very specific conditions — expensive conditions; expenses that any budget-conscious local government should carefully consider.
Meanwhile, San Mateo County is prepared to accept Sharp Park as it exists today. The county will work with Pacifica and all appropriate experts and stakeholders to ensure that Sharp Park is a sustainable natural habitat and a San Mateo County-managed, affordable public golf course.
There is no reason for Sharp Park’s future to include winners and losers. Sharp Park is a rare opportunity for San Francisco, San Mateo County and Pacifica to work together to create a win-win benefiting people today and for generations to come.
Carole Groom is president and Adrienne J. Tissier is vice president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
Obama at work: One president, two days and seven fundraisers
All last week, President Barack Obama continued a cross-country tour to promote his jobs bill. But as the quarterly deadline for fundraising approached, he also found plenty of time to woo the West Coast’s rich and famous in search of their campaign dollars.
In fact, Obama attended seven fundraisers in the space of two days — a crash course cash-crawl that may have grossed his campaign up to $10 million.
On Sept. 25, Obama began his tour at 12:33 p.m. with a fundraiser at the 27,000-square foot, art-draped home of former Microsoft chief operating officer Jon Shirley in Medina, Wash., where 65 attendees paid $35,800 per couple to join Obama at an intimate dinner. Attendees included Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco.
Afterwards, Obama took the stage at 2:38 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle where local basketball greats Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkins hosted a 1,700-donor fundraiser.
Luncheon tickets began at $1,000. A picture with the president went for $7,500.
“I need you to decide right here and right now,” Obama said, “talk to your friends and neighbors and co-workers and tell them, ‘You know what? We’re not finished yet.’”
Obama then flew to the Bay Area, and by 6:15 p.m. was at the Woodside home of John Thompson, chairman of tech company Symantec, who hosted a fundraiser for 350 people at $2,500 per ticket.
At 7:30, Obama’s motorcade departed for the most exclusive and expensive fundraiser, at the home of Facebook exec Cheryl Sandberg and David Goldberg in Atherton. Lady Gaga was there, and 70 donors paid $35,800 per couple to attend. “I’m just letting Zuckerberg know, I’m taking her on the road,” Obama jokingly said of Sandberg (not of Lady Gaga).
On Monday, Obama landed in San Diego and went to a $5,000-a-head fundraiser at the La Jolla home of wealthy philanthropists Mason and Elizabeth Phelps. The event began at 12:30 p.m.
“There is a season for campaigning and it’s coming soon.” Obama told the group.
Obama moved on to West Hollywood’s famous House of Blues, at 4:30 p.m. where a crowd of about 1,000 people paid between $250 and $10,000 to attend. Obama was introduced by Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family.” “Michelle and the girls love them some ‘Modern Family,’” Obama told the crowd.
By 6 p.m., Obama had arrived at West Hollywood’s Fig and Olive to attend a fundraiser hosted by Jeffrey Katzenberg, a DreamWorks studio executive. The event, which cost $17,900 per person, was attended by Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria, will.i.am, Danny DeVito and Judd Apatow.
“It is a remarkable group.” Obama said.
In about 21 hours, Obama chalked up millions of dollars for his re-election campaign.
Charlie Spiering is a Washington Examiner commentary staff writer.
Delta fish rules always smelt of extremism
If you want to understand some of the fundamental things that are wrong with our nation and California in particular, you ought to peruse the 140-page opinion recently issued by Judge Oliver Wanger in the “Consolidated Delta Smelt Cases.” It describes many of the most frustrating elements in our society — abuses of federal authority, bureaucratic micromanagement of our lives and political zealotry masquerading as science.
We all want to protect the environment, but in this case that means letting precious water run into the ocean through the San Francisco Bay, wasted in an arguably futile effort to reduce the salinity of the San Joaquin Delta waters so that this smelt — actually a subspecies that might not even be endangered — might thrive. As the judge ruled, the process is based on faulty science and some officials have acted like zealots, none of which should surprise anyone who has followed global warming and other environmental debates.
Fortunately, Judge Wanger issued a hard-hitting ruling that slapped down the feds and restores some balance to the process.
As reporter Wayne Lusvardi explained, “He ruled the federal government’s case was too small to grant a stay — a court-ordered continuation — of the man-made “X2” line where fresh water and ocean water currently mix in the delta at 46 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge near a spot between the cities of Pittsburg and Antioch.” The line is crucial — the closer it is set to the Bay, the more water must be used to cleanse salt from the Delta rather than for farm, residential and commercial uses.
We used to understand that nature would determine such things, but these days policymakers believe government can move mountains — or at least change salt levels in the Delta, reverse climate changes and restore the economy with massive subsidies. I mention the latter as a reminder of how futile this whole process can be. If the government can’t even jump-start the economy, what hope can it change the natural processes of the Earth?
But the government is capable of messing up real lives in the process of trying to make grandiose changes to the ecosystem.
“While farms and businesses are starved of water, more than 81 billion gallons of water have been allowed to flow out to the ocean — off- limits to human use or consumption, thanks to federal regulators’ environmental extremism,” explained the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed a lawsuit against the federal Delta Smelt plan. “That’s enough to put 85,000 acres of farmland back into production.”
As Judge Wanger ruled, “The scientific evidence in support of imposing any Fall X2 action is manifestly equivocal. There is essentially no biological evidence to support the necessity of the specific 74 kilometers requirement set to be triggered in this “wet” water year. The agencies still “don’t get it.” They continue to believe their ‘right to be mistaken’ excuses precise and competent scientific analysis for actions they know will wreak havoc on California’s water supply.”
But while the ruling documents the insanity of the current process and the thinking behind the regulators and environmental activists who drive such policy, it also offers seeds of hope. It’s hard to fathom how our supposedly free and independent nation ceded so much authority to government regulators and judges. Maybe this is a reminder that Americans ought to put at least as much effort into reversing this trend as they have into saving a tiny minnow.
Steven Greenhut is editor of www.calwatchdog.com; write to him at email@example.com.