Scott Walker Joins Tea Party Patriots for a ‘Tele-Town Hall’ Tonight

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker join will joining Tea Party Patriots “for a national tele-town hall meeting tonight.” “Over the last four years, all Scott Walker does is win,” TPP President Jenny Beth Martin said. “Any Republican who can win three elections in four years – in a blue state – will be a force in 2016, and we look forward to hearing his conservative vision for a post-Obama America.” According to TPP, “The call will run from 8-9 p.m. EDT Monday, March 16. Anyone may take part by clicking here.“


Scott Walker Tells Tea Party Activists He Hasn’t Flip-Flopped on Ethanol

“Scott Walker continued to defend himself against suggestions that he’s flip-flopped on a key issue for Iowa, the state that will host the first presidential nomination voting in early 2016, as he spoke Monday evening with Tea Party activists nationwide. On a conference call organized by the Tea Party Patriots, the Wisconsin governor and likely Republican presidential candidate said he’s been unwavering in his view that corn-based ethanol should eventually lose government protections and incentives. Walker’s potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have sought to highlight the times he has changed his views, including on ethanol and immigration. Such so-called flip-flops proved to be a significant vulnerability for the last Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in 2012…”


Walker Defends Himself, Calls His Ethanol Position ‘Consistent’

“…Walker admitted that he opposes – and still does – mandates in his state of Wisconsin and told the Tea Party Patriots teleconference participants that he said in Iowa ten days ago that the federal mandates should be phased out. Iowans tend to look favorably at ethanol mandates because it derives from the plentiful corn crop. Tea party members are inclined to oppose the government mandate. But Walker only talked about half the answer he gave in Iowa. Speaking at an agriculture summit, the likely Republican presidential contender also said ethanol mandates are “something I’m willing to go forward on – continuing the Renewable Fuel Standards and pressing the EPA to make sure that there’s certainty, in terms of the blend levels, or in terms of the levels set.”


Scott Walker denies ethanol flip-flop

“Scott Walker freely admits that he has shifted to the right on immigration over the past two years, aligning himself with the GOP base, but the Wisconsin governor was adamant Monday night that he has not also flip-flopped on ethanol. On a telephone town hall meeting sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, the all-but-declared Republican presidential candidate insisted that, when he spoke out against ethanol mandates during his 2006 run for governor, he was specifically referring to state-level standards, not federal ones… Jenny Beth Martin, despite the tough question on ethanol, also referred to Walker as “a conservative hero” during the call, which was heavy on solicitations for donations to her group…”


Walker says no need to moderate views to win voters

“…“To win the center, you don’t have to go to the center, you have to lead,” Walker said in a telephone town hall meeting with activists. Walker’s comments, part of a fundraising event for Tea Party Patriots, came days after he spent the weekend in New Hampshire, where he and one of his leading 2016 rivals, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, competed for positioning in the early stage of the race. In the Granite State and elsewhere, Walker has been angling to be seen as the right’s favorite contender and casting himself as a fresh face with a populist streak, in contrast to Bush, the son and brother of former presidents who has broken with the GOP’s conservative wing on education and immigration. Still, Walker faced some challenges Monday about his own ideology, including the notion that he has flipped from his previous positions on several fronts in order to appear more conservative. During the question period on the call following his opening statement, Walker was asked by Jenny Beth Martin, the president of Tea Party Patriots, a national conservative grass-roots organization, why he once opposed a Wisconsin effort mandating ethanol should be used in midgrade gasoline but said in Iowa recently that he would “go forward on continuing the [federal] Renewable Fuel Standard.” “From our standpoint, our position’s consistent,” Walker responded. “We’ve talked about not wanting a mandate.” He said while he would like to see the federal standard phased out, he is agreeable to not abolishing it immediately. Walker began his remarks Monday by recalling the 2012 recall election in his state, which he won and came a year after he championed controversial changes to Wisconsin’s labor laws, including an end to collective-bargaining powers for some public employees…”



Those Given Second Chance to Sign Up for Obamacare Not Clamoring to Buy It

“Though several million people are being hit with new federal fines on their taxes for going without health insurance are getting a second chance to sign up, it is unclear if they will take advantage of the special enrollment period that opened Sunday. Fines payable to the IRS are the stick behind the offer of taxpayer-subsidized private insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Virtually everyone in the country is now required to have coverage through an employer or a government program, or by buying individual policies. This is the first year fines are being collected from uninsured people the government deems able to afford coverage. Tax preparation company H&R Block says the penalty averages about $170 among its affected customers. It usually is deducted from a person’s tax refund. Those penalized are mainly the kind of people the law was intended to help: low- and middle-income workers who do not have coverage on the job or are self-employed. Roughly 4 million people are expected to pay fines, according to congressional estimates. Many more will qualify for exemptions. Travel agent Charles Baxter of Phoenix said his tax refund was reduced by $247 for being uninsured in 2014. He had not heard about the second chance to sign up for 2015 coverage. Baxter says he will take another look now, but is not sure whether he will opt to buy insurance. Much of his income goes to help take care of his mother, who has health problems. “I may have to see if any of the health care costs have changed, to where I might be able to squeeze it in,” he said. “But so far, it’s not looking like it.”…”


HHS touts drop in uninsured rate under Obamacare, 16 million gained coverage

“Approaching the five-year mark of Obamacare, the administration said Monday its signature law resulted in the largest drop in the uninsured rate in 40 years, with a net 16.4 million people gaining coverage since its main provisions kicked in. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 extended coverage in three key ways — subsidizing private coverage on health exchanges, expanding Medicaid in states that opt in and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. Health and Human Services Department said 14.1 million adults have gained health insurance since the insurance portals opened, dropping the uninsured rate from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent between October 2013 and March 4 of this year. “That’s quite simply a historic reduction in the uninsured rate,” said Meena Seshamani, director of HHS’s Office of Health Reform. “Today, we know that the Affordable Care Act is working.” Researchers said their figures included all streams of insurance, including people who got covered through their jobs, but argued the drop was “primarily driven” by Obamacare. HHS said 2.3 million adults ages 19-25 got on their parents plans between 2010 and October 2013…”


‘Obamacare’ cuts uninsured rate by more than a third

“It’s become quite predictable: whenever there’s a sudden burst of complaints from the right about “Obamacare” being a “failure,” we’re confronted with fresh evidence that critics of the Affordable Care Act have the story backwards. More than 16 million people who did not have health insurance before have gained it through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government said Monday. More than 14 million adults have health insurance either from the new exchanges or through expanded access to Medicaid, the Health and Human Services Department said. Another 2 million young adults aged under 26 got health insurance because of a provision that allows their parents to keep them on their health insurance plans, HHS said. If there were any consequences whatsoever for political leaders make false claims, or if there was any expectation that rhetoric about health care should reflect reality in some way, Republicans might be in real trouble right now. The full HHS report is available online here (pdf). All told, as Sarah Kliff noted, this rapid improvement in expanding access has pushed the nation’s uninsured rate from 20.3% to 13.2%, which represents “a 35-percent decline in the number of Americans who lack insurance coverage.” “Nothing since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid has come close to this kind of change,” Richard Frank, assistant secretary for evaluation and planning at Health and Human Services, said. That history matters. By any sane measure, the Affordable Care Act is clearly working, but let’s also not forget the scope of the law’s success – we’re now talking about the Democratic health-care reform initiative having a greater impact than any American law in a generation…”


Affordable Care Act adds 16.4 million to health insurance rolls


Administration: 16M gained health coverage under ObamaCare

“More than 16 million people have gained health insurance because of ObamaCare, leading to a 35 percent decline in the uninsured rate, according to an Obama administration analysis released Monday. Since the law’s major provisions took effect in 2013, the uninsured rate has fallen from 20.3 to 13.2 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services analysis, based on Gallup survey data, finds. The 16.4 million total includes 14.1 million adults and 2.3 million aged 19-25 who were able to stay on their parents’ plans and get insurance under the law. The administration says it is the largest drop in the uninsured in four decades. The analysis is the latest effort from the Obama administration to show that the health law is working as the Supreme Court weighs King v. Burwell, a case threatening subsidies for around 7.5 million people…”


Obama administration: 16.4M have gained health insurance


Clearest sign Obamacare is working?

“Regardless of what you think about Obamacare, it’s working on one front: The number of uninsured American adults has dropped by 16.4 million. The reduction in the number of Americans lacking health insurance means that only 13.2 percent of U.S. residents now lack coverage, down from 20.3 percent before the law went into effect, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Because the numbers only include adults, there are likely many more uninsured children who gained health coverage during the past year, although that data wasn’t available. “In my experience this is a historic drop in the uninsured,” said Dr. Richard Frank, the agency’s assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, in a conference call to discuss the study. “Nothing since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid has come close.” Those who gained health coverage include 2.3 million young adults between the ages of 19 to 25, thanks to the provision in the health-care law that allows people to remain on their parents’ plans until they turn 26, the study noted…”


Of Obamacare’s Many Taxes, What Hurts Most

“At tax time, more of us are looking anew at the Affordable Care Act. Some of us are doing so as we hunch over our tax returns. Yet many of the panoply of taxes added by Obamacare are not open and obvious. They are more like those Lois Lerner emails, or Hillary Clinton’s for that matter. In fact, there could be a new competition for what is Obamacare’s most unfair tax. As one editorial noted, some say it is the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices, increasing their cost, hurting the industry, and designed purely to collect revenue. Another pure revenue raiser is the 3.8% net investment income tax. Depending on your income, it adds a 3.8% tax on top of your interest, dividends and capital gains. While this one may be politically safe since it purports to target only upper income people, it is hard to explain this to someone with a modest income who sells their lifelong property and ends up with an extra 3.8% tax on top of their capital gain tax. Such a person might be in that upper income category just once year. There are many Obamacare taxes, so many, in fact, that can even be debated how many there are. In terms of tax filings this year, Obamacare is creating a tax-filing backlash. Yet most of the approximately 85% of Americans who have health insurance and who make less than $250,000 a year can relax. Most of the new taxes are unlikely to hurt you or impact your pocketbook. Even so, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, which is one reason the IRS has a 21-page Publication 5187 on the Health Care Law: What’s New for Individuals and Families…”


How Pizza Became a Growth Stock

The secret? The Domino’s CEO cites a mea culpa ad campaign, digital delivery and unlikely new markets.

“Here’s a question that has been puzzling Patrick Doyle, the CEO of Domino’s, for months, as he puts it: “How do we list the calorie content of our pizzas on a menu when we have 34 million different variations of pizza?” The new menu labeling law, a creation of the Affordable Care Act, could require his company to do just that. It’s a textbook case of a mindless and arcane regulation, of Washington bureaucrats imposing on businesses costs that will have no effect on public health. “We’ve been voluntarily doing menu labeling for over a decade,” Mr. Doyle says. “We even have an online calorie calculator we call the ‘Calo-Meter’ for every possible pizza order, and it tells customers what happens if they substitute, say, sausage for mushrooms, because we strive to be very nutrition-conscious.” That isn’t good enough for the feds. The Food and Drug Administration is now insisting that every one of the chain’s 5,000 stores post menu boards on the wall with calorie counts. “It’s crazy and it doesn’t help consumers,” Mr. Doyle says, because “90% of Domino’s orders arrive by phone or Internet and are for delivery, so fewer than one of 10 customers will ever see these signs.” The signs will cost about $2,000 at every store, and each change of menu will require new ones. That is about $10 million of extraneous costs nationwide for Domino’s. Thank you, Washington. Other than that, Mr. Doyle is having a good day when I visit him at the Domino’s world-wide headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. And a very good year, with sales up 12% in the past quarter alone. The headquarters are a few miles up the road from where the original Domino’s Pizza opened in 1960. Mr. Doyle, who is 51, is tall, stocky, affable and appropriately a Michigan man through and through, having grown up in Midland and earned a degree at the University of Michigan. In his five years as CEO, annual sales have climbed to $9 billion from about $2 billion. Some 250,000 workers wear a Domino’s uniform and sell roughly one billion pizzas each year. During the Super Bowl, Domino’s was taking a dizzying 1,400 orders a minute….”


‘Doc Fix’ Is Latest Spending Battle for Conservatives

“As the House returns Monday for its first legislative week after Republicans caved on the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, GOP leaders are gearing up for their next battle: the Sustainable Growth Rate. SGR, as it’s more commonly known, deals with the payment formula for Medicare doctors. If the current “patch” expires on March 31, Medicare payments to doctors would be reduced by 21 percent. The only problem is the last time Congress extended the so-called “doc fix,” they didn’t exactly have the votes — a conundrum leaders solved by quickly voice voting the measure before members on the floor even realized what had hit them. While an internal memo obtained by CQ Roll Call points out that Republicans don’t expect to deal with SGR legislation until the week of March 23, this week will be key in deciding whether Congress does another short-term patch, or whether it can actually get a long-term legislative solution. For quite a while now, aides and lawmakers have expected another patch — Congress has now opted for a short-term SGR solution 17 times — but there have also been some rumors that a deal could come together where the SGR formula would be repealed and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would be extended. Republicans could win on some yet-to-be-named changes to the Medicare payment system, while the extension — even potential expansion — of the Children’s Health Insurance Program would be a carrot to Democrats. Fiscal conservatives, however, are already raising flags over the impact of a long-term deal, which could add to the deficit billions more than another short-term patch. “Far from a gimmick, the annual Medicare ‘doc fix’ process has saved taxpayers $165 billion since 2003,” Dan Holler, the communications director for Heritage Action said in a statement earlier this week. “Any permanent solution must be financed with permanent Medicare savings, period.” Holler went on to say that Americans didn’t hand Republicans a historic House majority to engage in “more deficit spending and budget gimmickry.” “Any deal that only offsets a fraction of the cost, like the one currently being discussed behind closed doors and leaked to the press,” Holler said, “is a non-starter for conservatives.”…”


GOP Leadership, WSJ Both Flip On Spending Battle Over Doc Fix

“Congress is reportedly considering a deal to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula for Medicare, but at the cost of $200 billion — a turnaround for House leadership and others that have supported deficit-neutral repeal in the past. The SGR, passed by Congress under former President Bill Clinton, is supposed to require Congress to follow a formula to cut Medicare reimbursements to physicians to keep entitlement spending down. But in order to keep physicians from refusing to see Medicare patients at all, Congress has passed a “doc fix” now 17 times to prevent the cuts from taking place. “Any deal that only offsets a fraction of the cost, like the one currently being discussed behind closed doors and leaked to the press,” Heritage Action communications director Dan Holler said in a statement this week, “is a non-starter for conservatives.” The version of repeal on the table costs taxpayers over $200 billion and would also reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another 2 years, as an incentive for Democrats to agree to the reform. But GOP leadership is also on board with the repeal this time around, even though it would add to the deficit. That’s a quite a departure from just several years ago, when SGR repeal was being considered as a part of Obamacare. Now-Speaker John Boehner, of course, vehemently opposed Democrats’ plan in 2009 to repeal the SGR without completely paying for it…”


Supreme Court Will Never Decide Obamacare’s Fate

“There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether the Supreme Court will save or destroy the president’s health care law, known to many as Obamacare. At least one writer went so far as to suggest the court might be preparing to undo the nation’s safety net. To suggest that such talk is absurd is a gross understatement. Remember, we have no idea what the Court will decide. Some people following the oral arguments closely concluded that supporters of the law have reason to be optimistic. Just a few years back, however, the analysts watching the oral arguments concluded that the Court would rule against Obamacare — and they were wrong. Chief Justice John Roberts surprised everyone and found a creative way to keep the law alive. The Court might be similarly creative again this year. They have great latitude on what to decide and how the decision will be implemented. It’s even possible to imagine them ruling against the law but staying the order for a year or two giving Congress a chance to deal with it. But the larger issue is that the Supreme Court does not have the final say on it. Public opinion and the reality of how the law works will ultimately decide its fate. That scares some supporters of the law. They fear a scenario where the Court undoes a major piece of the Obamacare puzzle and makes the whole law unworkable. Since the law has never been popular with voters, they assume that the current Congress would not replace it. There’s some truth to that. The law was passed over voter opposition only because the Democrats had a unique and temporary hold on both the White House and Congress. There’s no way today’s Republican-controlled Congress would support anything like President Obama’s pet plan. But, even if the Court sides with the Administration on the current case, the health care law will remain vulnerable as long as it is unpopular. If consumers continue to see it as more of a burden than a benefit, the unpopular parts of the law will eventually disappear. And there are many unpopular parts of the law. The biggest, of course, is the individual mandate. It’s not just that people are being forced to buy insurance that’s troubling to many; it’s the fact that the mandate forces people to buy more insurance than they need. That makes it more expensive than most people want (or are able) to pay…”


GOP governor: ‘Turmoil’ if court strikes down ObamaCare subsidies

“Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, says that there will be “turmoil” if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies under ObamaCare. Mead said the elimination of subsidies for people who buy ObamaCare on the federal exchange would cause problems both state governments and the private sector. “If on June 30, if that’s when the case comes down, and they say no more subsidies for federal exchanges … it is going to cause a lot of turmoil,” Mead said at a press conference, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “Not just for the state, and for those people, but for the private sector as well.” Mead’s public comments are a frank acknowledgment of the problems that many Republicans fear will occur, despite their strong opposition to ObamaCare, if the court strikes down subsidies that help around 7.5 million people afford coverage. The case, King v. Burwell, threatens ObamaCare subsidies on the roughly three-dozen federally run marketplaces, including Wyoming’s…”


Analyst warns governor’s retiree health plan could cost more

“Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for state workers to contribute half the cost of their retirement health benefits could end up costing taxpayers more if California raises salaries, according to an independent budget analyst Monday. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor wrote in his report that the state could end up paying more over time if current and future state workers are asked to help pay for their health benefits. He warned that when the state began requiring higher pension contributions from employees in 2013 it ended up offsetting the cost to employees with pay increases. Taylor is urging lawmakers to get engaged and suggests swapping out the benefit for alternative compensation, such as higher pay. “If the state provided a dollar-for-dollar offset to all employees – or even a 75 cents-on-the dollar offset – the state’s costs for retiree health prefunding and increases in pay and salary-driven benefits would be more than total retiree health normal costs,” the analyst wrote. California faces an estimated $72 billion unfunded liability – one of the biggest in the nation – for more than 800,000 state employees and their families to provide health coverage once workers retire from civil service and for those who have already retired. The benefit, which has been phasing out of the private sector but remains a recruitment tool for government workers, has grown increasingly burdensome to taxpayers. State costs have quadrupled since 2001…”


Ted Cruz: In 2017, GOP president will sign legislation ‘repealing every word of Obamacare’

“As the administration touted new health insurance enrollment numbers on Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas predicted a Republican president would undo the entirety of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement upon taking office in 2017. “I believe in January of 2017 a new Republican is going to enter the White House and in 2017 is going to sign legislation repealing every word of Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said, speaking at the “Politics and Eggs” event in Manchester, N.H. Mr. Cruz, who is considering a presidential bid of his own, tweaked “graybeards” in Washington and people who predicted the fall 2013 battle over the law, spearheaded by Mr. Cruz and other conservatives in Congress, that led to a partial shutdown of the federal government would guarantee Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would keep his job as majority leader in the U.S. Senate. “If that had happened, there’d be a lot of voices on TV going, ‘I told you so. We told you so. That numbskull Cruz persisted in fighting against Obamacare and look what happened,’ ” he said. “Well, the old rule: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” He said in 2014, Republicans won an “epic, historic, tidal wave” election and said Obamacare was the No. 1 issue. “And it’s interesting — it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in Washington that energizing and mobilizing millions of people across this country, elevating debate about the disasters — all of the people who’ve lost their jobs, lost their health care, lost their [doctor] because of Obamacare may have played some part in an historic tidal wave that changes control in Washington based on the exact issue that energized and mobilized those millions of people,” he said…”


House vets chairman: VA impeding congressional oversight

“The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday accused the inspector general and other officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs of withholding reports from his panel, despite pledges to be transparent. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the VA’s actions were impeding the ability of Congress to oversee a department rocked by a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up delays. At a hearing Monday night, Miller said more than 100 requests for information from the VA remain outstanding, including 63 that are months past due. VA officials have challenged the need for some of the information he has requested, Miller said, and withheld others based on “unfounded fears” that the information might be publicly released. Miller said he won’t tolerate anyone interfering with a congressional investigation…”


VA refusing to comply with Congress on transparency, reforms, lawmakers say

“Lawmakers slammed the Veterans Affairs Department on Monday night for refusing to comply with congressional requests, saying that the department needs to be more open to committee oversight if it ever hopes to regain trust among members and veterans after last year’s waiting list scandal. VA officials, however, said trust must be rebuilt by members of Congress as well, after some have regularly leaked documents to the press after receiving them from the department. An increasingly frustrated Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, said he will no longer accept refusals or excuses for delays from VA, which is still trying to figure out the extent of bureaucratic bungling and poor treatment of veterans. Mr. Miller said there are more than 100 outstanding document requests made by the committee. Of those, 63 are months overdue, he said.

“Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding, when this committee requests documents, I would expect production to be timely, complete and accurate,” the Florida Republican said. “I do not expect a litany of questions about the purpose of a request, a negotiation about how or when it will be answered, or a tutorial from VA officials about how the committee should do its business.” The problems also extend to the department’s watchdog agency, where Mr. Miller says the inspector general has declined to provide documents or evidence uncovered in its investigations and even failed to release reports to the committee…”



Civil Rights Commissioner: Will AG Nominee Enforce Immigration Law?

“Before voting to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, the Senate must ask her for a “definite statement” on whether she supports President Obama’s executive amnesty; and whether she will enforce immigration law as written by Congress, says Peter Kirsanow, a Republican member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In a March 14 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Kirsanow says Lynch “should not be confirmed” if she fails to explain exactly where she stands on Obama’s executive actions and how she will enforce the law as it is written. Kirsanow previously expressed concern that Lynch, during her confirmation hearing, stated that “everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here,” shares the same “right and obligation to work.” “This statement is contrary to U.S. immigration laws,” Kirsanow wrote in his letter to McConnell. “Illegal aliens are prohibited from working in this country. Yet the nominee for the office ultimately charged with enforcing those laws asserts otherwise.” Kirsanow also cited the negative impact of illegal immigration on black employment, both in job opportunities and in wages, particularly for black males who are more likely than other groups to hold low-skilled jobs. “The obvious question is whether there are sufficient jobs in the low-skilled labor market for both African-Americans and illegal immigrants. The answer is no,” he said….”


Immigration Push Back: Don’t Confirm His Judges

Here’s a strategy that would unite Republicans and get Obama’s attention in a way that shutdowns don’t.

“Congress’s approval of unconditional funding for the Department of Homeland Security was an embarrassing setback in Republicans’ struggle to respond to President Obama’s unilateral rewriting of U.S. immigration law. The collapse of the GOP’s plan to tie DHS funding to annulling the president’s immigration orders left the party with two options: sit back and hope that a federal judge’s temporary injunction against the November order is made permanent and is upheld on appeal, or come up with a new plan to force Mr. Obama’s hand….”



“A so-called “war on the American worker” has intensified in the Golden State.

Massive layoffs are being spearheaded by the multi-billion dollar Southern California Edison utilities company, which is terminating scores of American IT workers and replacing them with immigrant IT workers, from a slew of foreign counties, who are willing to work for far less compensation. These immigrants are in the U.S. on an H-1B visa program. “We don’t need foreign workers. We have plenty of Americans who are fully capable and equipped to carry out these jobs. It’s an absolute issue of corporate greed; nothing more nothing less,” former Edison employee and Marine Pat Lavin told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview late last week. Lavin is a stalwart Democrat who serves as a business manager and financial secretary for the the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #47. “Edison are master liars,” Lavin cautioned, quipping that he “caught them telling the truth last week and they tried to lie their way out of it.” Lavin spoke with Breitbart News as one of the California Edison workers laid off in the scandal that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have hammered the company for. Grassley called the layoffs “heartless” and Issa argued that this appears to be an abuse of the program. America is facing a surplus of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers who are unemployed or have been laid off from work due to companies, like SoCal Edison, that have been outsourcing American jobs to immigrants. According to an article from Robert Charette in IEEE Spectrum, the so-called “STEM Crisis”—where tech leaders like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claim they need to import cheap foreign labor—is a “myth.” Increasing the number of H1B visas being imported into America to take jobs from American workers is something that right now is largely supported by the Democratic Party and also has backing from establishment Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. It’s also likely to become a major issue in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries…”


Outsourcing in America

“You’ve spent twenty plus years loyally working in Information Technology (IT) for Southern California Edison, and eighteen months ago your boss tells you that they are going to study outsourcing but not to worry, “your position is safe.” On the one hand you are worried because you know many stories of American IT workers losing their jobs to outsourcing, but on the other you feel comforted that you’ve been loyal to SCE and provide a critical service. Then eight months ago they tell you that they are outsourcing most IT functions and that they want you, get this, to train your guestworker replacement. If you say no, SCE will terminate you with cause and you would lose not only a severance package but also eligibility for unemployment insurance. This is the common story I heard from many workers at SCE. The work that the 400 SCE IT employees do isn’t disappearing, instead it and their jobs are being taken over by foreign guestworkers here on H-1B visas. Those guestworkers are employed by the two leading India-based outsourcing firms, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys. The SCE workers are wondering: “Why should I lose my job when the work still needs to be done? Why is the government doing this to me and my family?” Adding to the injustice of losing their jobs, the SCE workers are being forced to do something that is so common in the industry it is a term of art: “knowledge transfer,” an ugly euphemism that means being forced to train your own foreign replacement. The SCE workers are, “demoralized; in disbelief; beyond furious; down in the dumps; feeling anguish; depressed; feeling dehumanized; feeling humiliated; worrying about the future; worrying about paying the bills.” The SCE workers rightly place the culpability squarely on SCE executives, the president, and Congress. One worker simply said, “Shame on Edison for doing this and shame on our politicians for enabling it.” H-1B visas are temporary work permits issued by the U.S. government that are good for up to six years. The intent is for these visas to be used only when an American worker cannot be found. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor states, “The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.” In practice, the H-1B visa has been used for years to undercut American workers with lower-wage, and often lesser-skilled, workers brought in from overseas. How does this happen? Congress sets the wage floors for H-1Bs, and it has set it far below market wages. And the Department of Labor has chosen not to investigate the rampant abuse of the program. As a result, over the past decade, outsourcers like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys have become the dominant users. Just over the past four years, Tata and Infosys received more than 33,000 new H-1B visas. That’s 33,000 jobs lost due to those two companies alone. They use the program to replace American workers domestically while using their H-1B workforce stationed in America to facilitate the transfer of work and jobs to India. These are not immigrants in waiting, the firms sponsor virtually none of their H-1B workers for permanent residence (greencards). Instead of a way to fill skills gaps, the H-1B program has become a way to suppress wages and pad profits. The practice of replacing American workers with cheaper H-1B guestworkers is widespread. It is so endemic in the H-1B program that last year the majority of the visas went to outsourcing companies. Indian Government officials have dubbed the H-1B as the “Outsourcing Visa.” Why do companies replace Americans with foreign guestworkers? The SCE workers rightly believe the motivation is “pure greed.” According to a recent consulting report commissioned by SCE, the typical SCE IT worker is earning $110,000 while government records show Tata pays its H-1B workers $66,000 and Infosys pays $71,000. The savings go beyond just wages. H-1B workers have very limited bargaining power since the  employers control their work permit. It should come as no surprise that H-1B workers are easily exploited. Those significant cost savings far outweigh the one-time H-1B legal and administrative fees of about $5,000 per worker.  The SCE workers I spoke to have a message for Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez: use your statutory authority to investigate and stop the H-1B abuse. If you find abuse debar those employers from using the program…”


H-1B battle to take center stage in Senate on Tuesday

“The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the H-1B visa that will bring together the temporary visa’s most outspoken critics and supporters. The hearing was called by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chairman, and will occur as the tech industry pushes for adoption of the I-Squared Act. The bill would raise the base cap for H-1B visas from 65,000 to 195,000 and eliminate the cap on people who earn advance degrees from U.S. schools in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Grassley has long sought visa reforms to give U.S. workers preference in hiring. On the opposite side of the issue is fellow committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chief advocate of the I-Squared bill. I-Squared has 10 Senate co-sponsors — six Republicans and four Democrats. They include Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is a possible presidential candidate. Joining Grassley on Tuesday to denounce the temporary visa program will be Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who heads the immigration subcommittee and has become particularly outspoken about the visa’s impact on highly skilled workers. Grassley’s problems with the H-1B visa are reflected in some of the witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing. They include Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, an organization which has been critical of the H-1B program. Other critics include Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University and Jay Palmer, who was an employee of Infosys when he triggered a federal investigation into that company’s use of B-1 visas, or visitor visas, for work that requires an H-1B visa. Also set to testify is John Miano, the founder of the Programmers Guild and an attorney who has challenged the government’s expansion of the Optional Practical Training program. He is listed as testifying on behalf of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. Another person scheduled to testify is Hal Salzman, a Rutgers University professor who studies STEM workforce issues and is a critic of the H-1B program. Others scheduled to testify, possibly in support of an expanded H-1B visa.


Tu casa es mi casa

“AMERICA is a country built by immigration, but nothing in its history compares to the rise in its Hispanic population. Changes to immigration law in the 1960s triggered a decades-long surge in arrivals, taking the Hispanic population from just 7m in 1970 to 57m today, a number that is set to double by mid-century. At that point one in four Americans will be of Latino descent. In relation to the population of the day, there have been proportionally larger surges in the past, notably involving European migrations in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Two factors make the rise of Hispanic America different. Never before has such a large group of new arrivals lived so close to their ancestral homelands, linked to grandparents in the same time zone by cheap flights and Skype. Secondly, America is entering an era of white decline. For almost two centuries, from the time of George Washington’s presidency to the election of Ronald Reagan, whites of European descent made up at least 80% of the population. That share is below two-thirds now, and the white majority is set to become a minority by 2044. That brings both challenges and opportunities. Today’s Hispanics lag behind whites when it comes to education and wealth. But they are strikingly young, lowering America’s median age and offering workers to fill the labour market when other rich countries face greying decline. Politicians too often discuss Hispanics as almost a single-issue group, as victims or villains of immigration. But five-sixths are legal residents and recent Latino growth has been mostly from births, not new arrivals. Hispanics are dispersing across the country and their political clout will only grow: nearly 1m US-born Latinos reach voting age annually…”


Texas Senate revives ‘sanctuary cities’ immigration debate

“The Texas Senate on Monday revived a divisive immigration enforcement bill that bans so-called “sanctuary cities,” rekindling an issue that rocked the Legislature in years past with emotional debates over racial profiling. While similar measures have failed to pass in previous years, and this one still has a long way to go, newly-emboldened Texas Republicans have promised to get tough on illegal immigration. The term “sanctuary city” has no legal meaning; it is typically used to describe local governments that ban police from asking about a person’s immigration status. A bill by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would prohibit local governments from prohibiting such bans. Perry said police shouldn’t be barred from using all tools at their disposal when enforcing the law. “These criminals swarm into our major cities knowing full well nothing will be done to them,” Perry said. “The rule of law is important. … A society without law is anarchy.” Civil rights activists warn immigration status inquiries are likely to lead to racial profiling of minorities. And some law enforcement groups warn it will likely cause some crime victims to not call police if they fear be asked about their immigration status….”


Los Angeles police officer charged with smuggling man into U.S. from Mexico


Jeb Bush Flips And Flops On Amnesty

“Republican presidential aspirant Jeb Bush has different positions on amnesty depending on which audience he’s talking to. Bush visited New Hampshire this weekend and discussed his amnesty position at a business roundtable held at Integra Biosciences. In front of the business crowd, Bush supported a path to “legal status” for illegal immigrants — a buzzword for non-citizenship that would allow illegals to work for companies that want cheap labor. “The best plan, the most realistic plan, the grown-up plan, once you control the border … is to say, ‘Let these folks achieve, earn legal status,’” Bush said. “If we just keep people in the shadows, we’re not going to solve our immigration problems.” But sometimes Bush supports a path to outright citizenship, like when he was in New York City chatting up PBS host Charlie Rose. “You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it,” Bush told Rose in 2012. “And so, either a path to citizenship, which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives; Or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind.”…”



Federal agencies make $125B in improper payments last year

“Federal agencies made $125 billion in improper payments last year, including tax credits to people who didn’t qualify, Medicare payments for treatments that might not be necessary and unemployment benefits for people who were actually working, said a government report released Monday. The level of improper payments was a new high after several years of declines. In addition to fraud, the errors included overpayments and underpayments, as well payments made without proper documentation. While the errors were spread among 22 federal agencies, three programs stood out: Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Together, the three programs accounted for more than $93 billion in improper payments, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. “This taxpayer money was not spent securing our borders, it was not spent on national defense, and it was not spent contributing to a safety net for those in need,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “This is a problem that is going to get worse year after year if we do not get a handle on it now.” Johnson’s committee held a hearing Monday on reducing improper payments by improving death records maintained by the Social Security Administration. Social Security has no death record for 6.5 million people who would be at least 112 years old, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general…”


The Federal Government Has Hit the Debt Ceiling. Now What?

“As of Monday, the federal government was once again forced to operate under a debt ceiling, a limit that will impose real restrictions on federal spending until Congress agrees to increase the ceiling. Last year, Congress passed legislation to suspend the debt ceiling until today, which allowed the government to take on as much debt as it needed to operate. But as of today, the ceiling is back, and the government can’t exceed the total debt level that it has as of now. While the final debt figure for today will come out later this week, it’s expected to be a limit of about $18.2 trillion. But the government has some wiggle room for handling its debt situation while Congress considers whether and how to raise the debt ceiling, a process that could still take months to sort out. Most importantly, the Treasury Department can use “extraordinary measures” to cope with the debt, which are several tools the government has used before when up against its borrowing limit. For example, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress on Friday that as of Monday, he would stop issuing new debt to fill up the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, and the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan. Those funds are used to pay out tens of billions of dollars worth of retirement benefits to federal workers each year. “These actions have been employed during previous debt limit impasses,” Lew wrote. The action means a real short-term hit to the two pension funds, but it’s one Congress can compensate for later. According to a Congressional Research Service report, federal workers contribute some to their pensions, but the federal government contributes huge amounts itself, and borrows money from other accounts to do so…”


Foreign holdings of US Treasury debt hit $6.22 trillion

“Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in January despite a cutback by investors in China, the largest foreign owner of Treasury debt. The Treasury Department said Monday that foreign holdings increased 1 percent to $6.22 trillion. China trimmed its holdings for a fifth month, reducing them 0.4 percent to $1.24 trillion after a 0.5 percent cut in December. Japan, the No. 2 foreign buyer, boosted its holdings by 0.6 percent in January to $1.24 trillion. Before rounding, the Chinese total is $500 million higher than the Japanese. Foreign governments, primarily through their central banks, account for two-thirds of the foreign holdings. For January, the total held by foreign governments rose 0.3 percent in January to $4.12 trillion. In addition to the increase by Japan, other countries who padded their holdings in January included oil exporting nations and Caribbean banking centers, a group that includes the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. The expectation is that demand for Treasury securities, still viewed as one of the world’s safest investments, will remain strong this year. While U.S. interest rates are still low, they are expected to climb this year once the Federal Reserve begins to raise interest rates….”


Obama’s Claimed Wage Gains Go To Supervisors, Not Ordinary Workers

“President Barack Obama has been touting wage gains for middle-class Americans, but new data shows that the small gains are being won by managers and supervisors, not by ordinary wage earners. The blog Zero Hedge pointed out the wage discrepancy in the February 2015 jobs report released March 6. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that non-supervisory workers — who comprise roughly 80 percent of company employees — stalled during the second half of 2014, as inflation of 1.6 percent ate most of their total 2 percent gain that year. Those gains, moreover, fell sharply to a 1.5 percent toward the end of the 2014. But supervisors, including managers, saw their wages nudge up 3 percent in latter part of 2014. That’s a good increase, partly because inflation dropped in late 2014 down to almost zero, and energy prices fell, despite Obama’s efforts to penalize Americans’ use of gasoline…”


White House defends Obamas’ two flights to ‘different airports’ in L.A.

“The White House said Monday that taxpayers paid for first lady Michelle Obama and President Obama to fly on separate planes to Los Angeles on the same day last week because they were traveling to “different airports” on slightly different schedules. “They flew into different airports,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “It’s also my understanding that the first lady actually left to get back to Washington, D.C., before the president even arrived in California.” Mr. Obama flew to Los Angeles International airport last Thursday on Air Force One, arriving around 4 p.m. local time for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Mrs. Obama, meanwhile, flew across country on a different plane earlier in the day to Burbank, California, to tape an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ show. The two airports are about 28 miles apart…”


House Dems angry over Obama’s classified trade meeting

“House Democrats are criticizing President Obama’s administration for holding a classified briefing on trade with top administration officials, saying it’s an attempt to push a trade program in secret. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will meet with House Democrats on Wednesday in a classified briefing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members will be allowed to attend the briefing on the proposed trade pact with 12 Latin American and Asian countries with one staff member who possesses an “active Secret-level or high clearance” compliant with House security rules. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told The Hill that the administration is being “needlessly secretive.” “Even now, when they are finally beginning to share details of the proposed deal with members of Congress, they are denying us the ability to consult with our staff or discuss details of the agreement with experts,” DeLauro told The Hill. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) blasted the classified briefing. “Making it classified further ensures that even if we accidentally learn something, we cannot share it. What is USTR working so hard to hide? What is the specific legal basis for all this senseless secrecy?” Doggett said to The Hill. “Open trade should begin with open access,” Doggett said. “Members expected to vote on trade deals should be able to read the un-redacted negotiating text.” In an interview with The Hill earlier this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Obama could attract a lot of Democratic votes on trade — if handled the right and “transparent” way. It’s not unusual for the administration to discuss trade negotiations in classified meetings. Leaks of information can give trading partners an advantage in the talks, and could also tip off lobbying groups. Senior Democratic aides representing pro-trade lawmakers vehemently pushed back against their party’s criticisms of the White House. One called the complaints “bizarre” and said “it just makes no sense.” “For some inexplicable reason, they seem to think that by shutting down the only chance Congress has to shape the contours of trade agreements, that’ll lead to greater transparency,” the aide said. Another senior Democratic aide said that the briefing is classified because it’s “like a briefing on any international agreement — just like the Iran negotiations.” “It’s impossible to go into the detail members are asking for in an unclassified setting,” the aide said…”


CBO: Food stamp cuts would hit poorest the hardest

“Rolling back federal spending on food stamps would hit those at the very bottom of the income ladder the hardest, according to a new study from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO examined three separate options for cutting food stamp spending by 15 percent in 2016 — or slicing roughly $11.5 billion from the $77 billion currently projected to be spent on food stamps that year. The budget scorekeeper found that families making under $15,000 would receive $600 less a year in food stamps if the maximum benefit was capped. More targeted options — reducing the income threshold needed to qualify for food stamps, or how quickly benefits decline for higher income — would have less of an impact on the poorest recipients. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who had asked the CBO

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