FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow
By John Solomon and Alison Spann – 10/17/17 06:00 AM EDT
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.
The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.
As the controversy rages between those Republicans who want full repeal and those who want to retain what might be “good” about ObamaCare, we are not asking the right questions. While they are arguing whether or not to keep the ObamaCare subsidies (or the equivalent as “tax credits”), is anyone asking what it is we are subsidizing?
Why has medical care in the United States gotten so expensive? Why did the cost of a hospital stay go from an average of $17,000 in 2000 to $33,000 in 2010, while the average length of stay declined? Why do our hospital stays cost three times more than in other industrialized countries?
The dirty little secret is that having insurance might be a guarantee that the insured pays MORE. And because deductibles have risen dramatically along with premiums, a family needs to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before insurance kicks in. But how does this work?
Most insurance companies have networks of “preferred providers.” One would assume that a “preferred provider” is a doctor or a lab that gives better rates, but the opposite is the case. As an example, one patient spent a day in the emergency room where the total bill came to $12,000. The “preferred provider” rate brought the bill down to $10,000, which happened to be that patient’s deductible. Upon further scrutiny, the breakdown of the bill showed a lab fee of $3,500—labs that would have cost less than 100 cash on the outside.
When the hospital patient advocate was queried, the answer came back, “Your insurance company negotiated $10,000 and, since you have not met your deductible, you are bound it pay it. Paying the cash price is not an option.” She acknowledged that this seemed unfair, but would not budge.
Another patient discovered that his insurance had lapsed and was given a cash price of $75 for an office visit. Once insurance was restored, the submitted fee was $275. Since he had not met his deductible, he was expected to personally pay the higher fee.
Since 92% of people will not incur more than $5,000 per year in medical expenses, the middle class has been fleeced under ObamaCare in so many ways. Many patients have received subsidies. But this just means that taxpayers are forced to pay part of their premiums, and the patients are still stuck with those deductibles and the higher negotiated fees.
So what is really happening?
Insurance premiums have soared, and the insurance companies love it. They keep a percentage of the bloated premiums for “operating costs.” Hospitals are buying physician practices, and Medicaid and Medicare have agreed to pay the hospitals higher fees for the same service in the same location. No government official has been able to explain why.
The ratepayers and taxpayers are the “forgotten men” in our medical system. Hospital and Insurance executives are now commanding compensation that exceeds $1 million. One CEO of a consolidated hospital system in central New Jersey receives $9 million per year. What exactly does he do to merit this high salary? The usual reason for lavish executive pay is that the official brings lots of revenue into the business. The big hospital systems are businesses that profit massively at the expense of patients and taxpayers—although the excess might be called something other than profit if the hospital is tax-exempt (allegedly “nonprofit”).
Our politicians are complicit in this heist, as last year insurance companies and hospitals were among the ten greatest contributors to the campaigns of legislators who allow this scam on the middle class to continue.
The best recommendation would be for patients with high deductibles to hide any connection with an insurance company and negotiate the best cash prices for services. Find a physician who is in no network and who can help navigate where to find cash-friendly sources of medicines, labs, and x-rays.
Patients with their doctors need to take control of medical care once again.
Dr. Alieta Eck graduated from the Rutgers College of Pharmacy and the St. Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. She studied Internal Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ and has been in private practice with her husband, Dr. John Eck, MD in Piscataway, NJ since 1988, affordablehealthinc.org. She has been involved in health care reform since residency and is convinced that the government is a poor provider of medical care.
Dr. Eck testified before the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress in 2004 about better ways to deliver medical care in the United States. In 2011, she testified before a Senate Health Committee chaired by Senators Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul– about ways to avoid non-urgent visits to the emergency rooms. In 2003, she and her husband founded the Zarephath Health Center, a non-government free clinic for the poor and uninsured that currently care for about 300 patients per month utilizing the donated services of volunteer physicians and nurses. It is only open 12 hours per week. zhcenter.org She is working to pass NJ S239, a bill that would provide medical malpractice protection for the private practices of physicians who donate 4 hours per week in a clinic like the ZHC. njaaps.org Dr. Eck was the 2012 President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and serves on the board of Christian Care Medi-Share, a faith based medical cost sharing ministry. She was the Republican nominee for the US Congress for NJ12 in 2014. In March, 2015, she chaired a meeting of the National Physicians Coalition for Freedom in Medicine, about 30 physicians, who gathered in Washington, DC to draft a “One-Page Plan” to restore affordability, promote patient choice and retain quality in medical care. https://aaps.wufoo.com/forms/m11okp2x1yjc8qf/ Dr. Eck spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC in June, 2016 to help unveil the Wedge of Health Freedom, an initiative of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, with President Twila Brase. JointheWedge.com
Anthony B. Kim researches international economic issues at The Heritage Foundation, with a strong focus on economic freedom. Kim is the research manager of the Index of Economic Freedom, the flagship product of the Heritage Foundation in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Read his research.
It’s already been eight years since the Great Recession, yet the U.S. economy has been just inching along, with its productivity flagging and millions being locked out of the labor market.
One critical underlying factor for this lack of economic dynamism has been the startling decline of America’s economic freedom, an unfortunate legacy of Barack Obama’s eight-year presidency.
The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom—an annual global study that compares countries’ entrepreneurial environments—highlights the urgent need for the U.S. to change course. For the ninth time since 2008, America has lost ground.
According to the 2017 index, the U.S. ranks 17th out of 180 rated economies, lagging behind other comparable advanced economies such as Switzerland (fourth), Australia (fifth), Canada (seventh), and the United Kingdom (12th).
The U.S. remains mired in the ranks of the “mostly free,” the second-tier economic freedom status into which it dropped in 2010.
Since 1995, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to limited government and free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating four critical policy pillars, including rule of law and regulatory efficiency.
These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity, and social progress. Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment, and deteriorating social conditions.
In fact, America’s standing in the index had dwindled steadily during the Obama years. This largely owed to increased government spending, regulations, and a failed stimulus program that enriched the well-connected while leaving average Americans behind.
Registering its lowest economic freedom score ever, America continued its string of discouraging trends in the 2017 index. Obama’s Washington-first, government-centric approach to policymaking has inflicted long-term damage to U.S. economic growth.
A substantial expansion in the size and scope of government under the Obama administration—including through new and costly regulations in areas like finance, health care, and the environment—has hit wide swaths of the economy, affecting almost every American in some way and reducing opportunities for nongovernmental production and investment.
The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.
Our nation’s fiscal health has been grossly dented as well. The national debt has nearly doubled since 2009, growing from $10.6 trillion to around $20 trillion. In dollar terms, this is the largest increase in the national debt in U.S. history.
In practice, all of these negative developments that undercut America’s economic freedom have amounted to a gradual slide toward a more heavily bureaucratic state and an increasingly politicized economy over the past eight years.
Today, the imperative to restore America’s economic freedom and thereby revitalize vibrant entrepreneurial growth is stronger than ever. Americans deserve better, and they can do better.
It should be noted that free-market capitalism built on the principles of economic freedom does not just conserve the status quo. In many cases, it overturns and transforms. It pushes out the old to make way for the new so that real and true progress can take place. It leads to innovation in all realms: better jobs, better goods and services, and better societies.
The 2016 election was a game-changer. America has been given an incredible and unique opportunity to move away from Obama’s failed liberal policy agenda and toward an agenda that strives to restore America’s economic freedom and spur dynamic growth.
The Heritage Foundation has introduced such a plan, called “Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda for a New Administration in 2017.”
It is time to act on this plan and once again unleash economic freedom and flourishing in America.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration may no longer enforce a rule requiring individual Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty if they do not, a senior White House official said on Sunday
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” program, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said President Donald Trump “may stop enforcing the individual mandate.”
Separately, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” show, she reiterated Republican promises that no one would lose their health insurance under Obamacare while a replacement is being developed.
“For the 20 million who rely upon the Affordable Care Act in some form, they will not be without coverage during this transition time,” she said.
On Friday Trump signed an executive order concerning the 2010 healthcare law, urging U.S. agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of provisions deemed to impose fiscal burdens on states, companies or individuals.
Healthcare experts had speculated that Trump could expand exemptions from the individual mandate.
by Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times – Tuesday, January 17, 2017
President Obama oversaw the deepest legislative malaise in modern political history, according to the Washington Times Legislative Index, which captures his struggles to find ways to work with a Congress that ranged from lukewarm to openly hostile toward him.
Over the course of his eight years, he has signed just 1,227 bills into law — less, even, than one-term Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush. Digging deeper into the numbers, Congress spent less time in session, handled fewer business on the chamber floors and generally sputtered for much of Mr. Obama’s tenure, according to The Times’ index.
Blame for the poor showing falls across Washington. Some analysts say a Congress with four years of divided control hamstrung Mr. Obama, while others say the president failed to find ways to work with the legislature that voters gave him — particularly after the 2010 elections.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey was among seven states selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for participation in an online purchasing pilot program for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Under the two-year pilot, residents of the Garden State who use food stamps will be able to purchase eligible grocery items online from Amazon and ShopRite beginning this summer.
SNAP online ordering will follow the same rules as in-store purchasing. Participants in the program will be able to use their food stamps to purchase bread, fruit, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products and other produce.
The closing arguments for the Obama years are arriving, and they aren’t helping the outgoing president. A case in point is a new book published this week, one that acknowledges “Obama’s supporters have experienced [his presidency] as a continuous disappointment.”
Those supporters, and others, must have noticed that “for most of Obama’s term, wage gains were largely confined to the rich.” Or that “The administration’s planning in Libya clearly failed” or “It is certain that the actual outcome [of Obama’s Syria policy] was disastrous.”
Even many of President Obama’s proudest achievements look about as enduring as April snow: “If there was a single aspect of Obama’s legacy most vulnerable to reversal, it was his achievements on climate change,” the book says, and “Obama’s regulatory offensive is, of course, vulnerable to reversal by Donald Trump or the Supreme Court, since it rested upon executive action.” The longest chapter is titled “The Inevitability of Disappointment.”
Baby Boomers: your millennial children are worse-off than you. Millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis by the advocacy group Young Invincibles. (Jan. 13)