Thursday, December 26, 2013
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By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
Like one of those Polaroid instant photographs developing slowly in your hand, the details of Obamacare are coming into focus bit by bit. With each week, we learn more about the serious problems that Obamacare is causing for millions of Americans.
First hit were those whose individual insurance plans purchased in the private market did not meet Obamacare’s definition of “comprehensive.” President Obama said that only a small percentage of people would lose their old insurance plans this way. In reality, HHS estimated that 40-67 percent of individual policy owners would lose their coverage.
Next came tens of millions of people employed by small businesses. Their old insurance plans are being cancelled and the new plans have higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower provider networks. An estimated half to two-thirds of the people who get their insurance through their employer’s small group plan will have lost their current insurance by 2015.
As Obamacare forces insurance companies to cancel policies and replace them with more expensive alternatives that conform to government criteria, more people are forced out of the private market and into the Obamacare exchanges.
President Obama said that the plans available in the exchanges would be better and more affordable. Under Obamacare, all insurance plans must offer the same basic set of benefits, including maternity care, pediatric benefits, and addiction services. That makes all of the plans more expensive. Many middle class families, who don’t qualify for premium subsidies, will pay more for the plans in the Obamacare exchanges than they were paying before.
There is another side to health care costs that is just coming into focus now, too: high deductibles and high out of pocket costs. Many people choosing new plans from the Obamacare exchanges or from their employer’s offerings are finding that their insurance won’t begin paying for care until they’ve spent $5,000, $10,000, or more of their own money toward the deductible first. And once the deductible is met, the coinsurance (the amount the plan pays) may be as low as 60 percent, leaving the individual to pay the rest of the bill for their care. Most plans today have an “out of pocket” cap to prevent people from losing everything in the event of a serious health problem. But in the exchanges, some plans are offered with out of pocket protection only for care provided in-network. If you go to a doctor or hospital outside of your network, your insurance plan may pay nothing.
The President promised you can keep your doctor, but you might have to pay a lot more to see him or her. To keep costs down, insurers are cutting back their provider networks. People are finding that the doctors and hospitals they rely on are not part of their new network. In Georgia, one of the five insurers offering plans on the exchanges has just one hospital in the entire state in its network. In California and New York, major plans exclude the world-class Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
These narrower networks mean that millions of people, including those with serious illnesses, will lose access to the pediatricians, family doctors, specialists, and hospitals they trust. So while people with serious illnesses or chronic conditions can indeed buy insurance plans in the exchanges at the same rate as anyone else and cannot be turned away, whether they can keep their doctors as the President promised is a different question.
Many people with serious and chronic illnesses will also be shocked to learn that drug costs are much higher under Obamacare. Lower premium plans have higher out of pocket costs for medications, and insurance may pay as little as 50 percent of drug costs after the higher deductibles are met. The retail price of some medications used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and other conditions can be thousands of dollars per month. Patients may pay considerably more for drugs under Obamacare plans than they paid under previous plans.
Low-income individuals and families face a different access issue: the single option available to them on the Obamacare exchanges in many states is Medicaid. In fact, the vast majority of those who have enrolled via the exchanges so far have actually enrolled in Medicaid, not an insurance plan. In many places, doctors are refusing to see new Medicaid patients because of the drastically below-market payments they receive for their services to those patients. Coverage without access is not the good health care uninsured Americans were promised.
One of the most visible signs of trouble with Obamacare was the disastrous rollout of the web site portal that was supposed to make learning about and buying insurance plans in the exchanges as easy as shopping at Amazon.com. While it’s now possible for more people to access the web site, many very serious problems remain. The site still has extremely poor security, endangering the private information of users. The back-end of the site (really the most important part) sends garbled information to the insurance companies for nearly a third of all applications. Medicaid applications are not being sent to state authorities properly. The payment system, where individuals pay their premiums and the government pays the subsidies, hasn’t even been built. Because insurance companies and states have bad data, no payments, and no way to verify information about applicants, a significant percentage of people who think they’ve enrolled in an Obamacare plan or Medicaid will find themselves without insurance coverage on January 1.
As the true picture of Obamacare becomes clearer, Americans are responding with some of the lowest approval ratings the President and his health care plan have seen to date, notably among women and younger voters, key Democrat constituencies. Most Americans, according to recent Gallup polls, believe that Obamacare should be repealed or scaled back. An AP/GfK poll showed that nearly half of those with employer-provided insurance said their plan was changing and getting more expensive – and three-quarters of those said it was because of Obamacare. As the truth about Obamacare become clearer, it will be Democrats at the ballot box next year that really feel the pain.
Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This article was published in the Washington Jewish Week, December 26, 2013.
Washington, D.C. (December 19, 2013) — The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement today in response to the introduction of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated, “We congratulate Senators Kirk and Menendez and their colleagues on their bipartisan achievement and we call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring this bill to the Senate as the first order of business in 2014."
Brooks continued: "It's no secret that a large majority of Senators have been ready for months to do what the House did in July: pass a strong, sensible Iran sanctions measure. While hopes were raised by the administration's triumphalism after the announcement of an interim accord between Iran and the P5 + 1 nations, the threat of a nuclear Iran still grows daily.
"As regrettable as it is that President Obama has threatened to veto this sensible, bipartisan measure, we are hopeful that the Senate, like the House, will support Iran sanctions by a margin sufficient to overcome a presidential veto."
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks was a guest on TLV1's Politely Rough, an Israeli radio show. His segment covers the hot issue of Iran and the Interim Agreement, as well as a discussion on the past, present and future of the Republican Party in the U.S. and its relationship with American Jews and the State of Israel. Listen here!
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Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement today regarding efforts by top Senate Democrats to block consideration of stronger sanctions against Iran.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson are preventing the Senate from considering legislation to impose stronger sanctions on Iran. In August, the House passed a bill that would impose stronger sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and limit Iran’s access to money in overseas accounts, among other provisions, to reduce the funds Iran has available for its nuclear program. Senate action on similar language has been promised but has been delayed repeatedly by the senior Democrat Senators who control the agenda.
“Determined to prevent consideration of a bipartisan amendment strengthening sanctions, Senator Reid has delayed the Defense authorization bill until the last minute and is now trying to ram the bill through the Senate without allowing any amendments at all. Senator Johnson has stalled action on the sanctions bill before his committee.
“We call on the Senate Democrats to allow Senators to vote on Iran sanctions legislation. Sanctions are the most effective method so far for bringing pressure to bear on the Iranian regime. They brought Iran to the negotiating table and they are our best means of keeping the pressure on Iran to stop their nuclear program. It is time for the Senate to take action on tough Iran sanctions.”
Washington, D.C. (November 23, 2013) - Responding to President Obama's announcement of a flawed deal with Iran, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:
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"Tonight, Americans saw how much damage a President with naive, misguided ideas can do to our nation's security and reputation. No matter which of the conflicting reports are correct as to the deal's specific provisions, the whole world can see the very alarming bottom line: President Obama's diplomacy is giving cheer to Tehran's rogue regime and causing alarm among our friends in the region - including Israel, Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states. Congress and the American people need to speak out against this flawed deal."
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Washington, D.C. (November 21, 2013) -- A White House official is quoted as making inaccurate and inflammatory statements about Israel during a conference call yesterday with think tanks and advocacy groups sympathetic to President Obama’s Iran proposal.According to a report in JTA
, the official agreed with a conference call participant’s statement that Israel’s position regarding the P5+1 negotiations with Iran - demanding a total halt to enrichment and the dismantling of all of Iran’s centrifuges - was a path to war. The official said that insisting that Iran take concrete steps to halt its efforts toward a nuclear weapon would “close the door on diplomacy” and “essentially lead to war.”
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:
“This White House misunderstands completely the intentions and determination of the mullahs who rule Iran. President Obama assumes that the Iranian leaders negotiate in good faith and will respond to positive incentives. That has never been the case.
“The Iranians want nuclear weapons and they have been working toward that goal with stealth and subterfuge for many years. Severe economic sanctions have had the most success in limiting Iran’s ability to move their nuclear weapons program forward. Sanctions must be tightened, not relaxed, to force Iran to end its development of nuclear weapons. President Obama’s plan will leave Iran with the time and the materials it needs to covertly continue its efforts and to break out a nuclear weapons capability in the near term.
“The White House must stop blaming Israel for speaking the truth to the international community about Iran. Yesterday’s comments from the administration official show again that this administration is naïve about Iran and putting daylight between the U.S. and Israel at a critical time.
“Israel has bravely taken a firm position on this question because the Israelis understand very clearly the existential threat that a nuclear Iran poses to them. Other American allies, including the Saudis and the French, also believe that Iran cannot be permitted to reach its nuclear weapons goal. A nuclear Iran would be a vastly destabilizing actor in the region, a direct threat to our Mideast and European allies, and a threat to energy resources upon which the entire Western world relies.
“Anything short of a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program is what will lead to war.”
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State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State
Palgrave/MacMillan, October 2013
Reviewed by Shari Hillman
Last November, 138 members of the U.N. General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ presence in that body from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” (Germany, Australia, and the U.K. were among the 41 abstentions. The U.S., Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Micronesia were among the nine “no” votes.) This unilateral push in the U.N., rightly condemned by the U.S. and Israel, was the latest effort by the Palestinian Authority to move forward the issue of Palestinian statehood.
In State of Failure
, Jonathan Schanzer has written the first in-depth examination of a question that badly needs asking: Are the Palestinians prepared for statehood? Or more specifically: Is the PA “an efficient, transparent, or financially viable authority that is prepared to function as a government for the Palestinian people?”
Clearly it is not, as news reports from time to time demonstrate, but that hasn’t deterred international donors and supporters of the PA.
One example: a leaked European report
revealed in October that the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly $2.7 billion in European aid between 2008 and 2012. Less than a week after that news broke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated Europe’s commitment to pouring yet more aid into the PA.
Such policies only encourage the corruption and dysfunction in the PA and ultimately hurt the Palestinian people.
Schanzer provides us with a detailed history of the Palestinian Authority that examines how its leaders have failed their people by not developing the infrastructure and political culture that could support an independent state. He holds the U.S. and Europe accountable for their contributions to these failures. (The idea that the PA was the antidote to the even more terrible Hamas did not move Palestinian state building forward.) And while the author does not minimize the difficulties that Israeli occupation and security needs posed and continue to pose for the Palestinians, his focus in this unique book is on the internal issues that have kept the Palestinians stateless and suffering.
First among them is the fact that the Palestinian Authority was born out of the PLO, a terrorist organization. Led by Yassir Arafat from 1969 until his death in 2004, the PLO was built on deception, corruption, secrecy, violence, and fierce loyalty to the leader, not exactly the characteristics needed for efficient government administration. As head of both the PLO and the PA, Arafat kept control through short chains of command that all led back to him, chains that were based on family ties, tribal alliances, patronage, and force. All money flowed through his hands to those he favored, all power was granted by him.
That singular control over money has been one of the most serious problems for the Palestinians and for the donor countries that have supported them. Top PLO leaders have been fantastically enriched while the average Palestinian got nothing. Salam Fayyad, who served as finance minister and later as prime minister, tried earnestly for years to find and account for Arafat’s assets, to set up a national PA treasury, and to bring PA finances up to accounting standards. The U.S. and other donor states were reassured by his efforts and by his personal integrity. Ultimately he was defeated by the PA’s political culture and Arafat’s monopoly on power, and later by Abbas’ enmity.
Schanzer offers some recommendations that perhaps should be obvious to an objective observer of Palestinian history: don’t expect terrorists to turn into administrators; develop private enterprise to replace foreign aid; require the Palestinians to allow a free press, to establish an independent judiciary, and to allow real economic development not dependent on patronage relationships. The Palestinians need not only a functioning government and a viable economy, he writes, but a legitimate public administration and an active civil society. None of these are currently in place.
As long as the U.S. and Europe continue to send billions in aid to the PA while failing to hold the Palestinians accountable for state-building, for ending incitement and terrorism, and for responsible financial practices, the Palestinians will be left either stateless or with a failed state. Their story will continue to be one of corruption and human misery instead of development and peace.This review first appeared in the September-October 2013 issue of the
RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the
Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
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By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
Comparisons of Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are not meant as a compliment to either man. But it is inevitable to compare them, especially when examining their foreign policies. These two presidents share a perspective on America’s role in the world that is at odds with the idea of strong, confident American leadership. Both reduced American power in the world, contrary to America’s national interests and moral principles.
In the 1970s, Carter believed that America’s options in foreign policy were limited by what he saw as the inexorable forces of modernization shaping events in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Given our “detente” with the Soviet Union, he felt it was time to move the U.S. away from worries about Soviet expansionism and toward a new role: Acting as “midwife” at the birth of new, modernizing democracies led by “populist,” progressive movements.
In practice, he undermined traditional autocracies that had been stable governments, friendly to the U.S., and allowed their countries to fall to armed insurgents, mostly financed and trained by Moscow. Because of his flawed ideology, he misread the intentions, values, and worldviews of other international political actors, as Jeane Kirkpatrick noted at the time. His policies created more dangerous problems for this country. Carter opened the door to communist expansion into Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Southeast Asia and to the fall of the Shah of Iran to Khomeini’s theocrats.
Obama’s ideology is likewise flawed. He is convinced that America’s foreign policy options should be limited, in humble penance for past crimes, real or imagined, that America committed (particularly those he can blame on President George W. Bush). Obama rejects the idea of American exceptionalism. He wants to pull the U.S. out of military entanglements and shrink the size of our military, preferring the process of negotiations and “diplomatic solutions” to the use of American power.
His policies have led to a string of bad outcomes in the Middle East. We have abandoned the Iraqis and the Afghanis to the anti-Western sectarian forces with the biggest guns. Obama’s inexplicable preference for the Muslim Brotherhood over both Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian military leadership has helped fuel great instability in Egypt, including pogroms against Christians. His handling of the Syrian civil war did nothing to help the 100,000 civilians killed there and the millions of refugees. Instead, he strengthened Assad by turning him into a nonproliferation partner and gave the Russians the kind of foothold in the region they haven’t had since they left Egypt in 1973. And most frightening of all, Obama’s insistence on pressing Congress not to enact tougher sanctions on Iran, coupled with his starry-eyed view of the new president, Hassan Rouhani, has allowed that country to move its uranium and plutonium processing to a point where they may be weeks, rather than months or years, from developing nuclear weapons. Our long-time allies in the region, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are rightfully deeply concerned about U.S. policy and what it means for them.
Obama has withdrawn the U.S. from pursuing its own national security interests and from standing with its allies. He has left the field to the wolves — Russia, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaida.
In World War II, the United States took up the mantle of world leadership. It has made us the main target of anti-Western, anti-democratic forces (the “Great Satan”) and the envy of our allies. We accept these facts because we are the only country with both the physical ability and the philosophy to lead on a global scale. Our strength — military, diplomatic and economic — has helped liberate whole countries, contributed to a strong global economy and improved the daily lives of millions of people around the world. We have not acted solely for our own gain, but out of moral principles grounded in the truths that all men are created equal and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” We are, in fact, an exceptional country.
At an international “town hall” forum sponsored by MTV in February 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was challenged with this question: “[H]ow do you feel about representing a country commonly perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics?”
“We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated fascism. We defeated communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.
“And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, ‘Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us?’ No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”
That statement reflects a self-understanding of America that has shaped our foreign policy for most of the last century, through both Republican and Democrat administrations. The exceptions have been the Carter years and the Obama years.
The criticism of Obama’s foreign policies, like that of Carter’s before him, is not about the bumbling mistakes of someone new to the international stage. It comes from an understanding that the core ideology on which those policies are based is deeply flawed. By making the U.S. smaller in the world, we do not endear ourselves to old opponents or old friends. We empower our enemies and weaken our friends. Ultimately we endanger ourselves physically and leave others unprotected. That is not the American way.
This article was published in the Washington Jewish Week, November 7, 2013.
Washington, D.C. (November 5, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) congratulates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on his landslide reelection. Christie demonstrated an ability to win broad-based support, including strong bipartisan support in the Jewish community.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Governor Christie has brought significant, positive change to New Jersey, including education reform, tax relief, and pension reform. He did it by reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats in the state legislature for the benefit of the people of New Jersey. Democrats in Washington could learn something from the success of that cooperation in Trenton."
He continued, "Under Governor Christie's leadership, New Jersey has demonstrated that Republican ideas work. Today, the voters thanked him by choosing him to continue to lead the state. We commend the Governor on bringing people together to improve the lives of the citizens of New Jersey and we warmly congratulate him on winning reelection."
Washington, D.C. (October 25, 2013) - The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to news that the Obama White House is urging Congress to delay a new Iran sanctions bill.
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RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Despite President Rouhani's 'charm offensive,' Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability continues unabated. By moving aggressively to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran, Congress enhances the prospect that the regime will alter its dangerous course."
The House of Representatives passed a bill tightening restrictions on oil sales in July and the Senate Banking Committee has already delayed consideration of comparable legislation once at the Obama administration's request.
"The Obama administration continues to waffle and send mixed messages in its dealings with the Iranian regime, and that has emboldened the regime while stirring deep concern among our allies," Brooks observed.
"When the Senate reconvenes next week, we hope that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson and Majority Leader Harry Reid will press forward on strong sanctions against Iran. We cannot soften the U.S. position on sanctions unless and until the Iranian regime stops talking and takes measurable, concrete action to end the pursuit of nuclear weapons."