Half in US Get Govt Benefits; 50 Countries Abusing Christians; ObamaCare Slashes Healthcare Jobs

Sunday, 27 Oct 2013 03:28 PM

By Special From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Venezuela's Maduro Accuses Two Former Diplomats
2. Healthcare Industry Already Cutting Jobs
3. 'Common Sense Tax' Could Boost the Economy
4. 50 Countries Cited for Persecuting Christians
5. Half of Americans Get Government Benefits
6. Renters Shunning Electric Vehicles
 

1. Venezuela's Maduro Accuses Two Former Diplomats

 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's patently absurd allegation that Otto Reich and others posed a threat to his safety if he visited New York was actually designed to divert attention from the failures of his regime.

That's the view of Ben Cohen in an opinion piece for Commentary magazine.

Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez as president, and "in the five months since Maduro won the presidency in an election widely regarded as fraudulent, barely a day goes by without him excitedly unveiling some new American plot to unseat him, or assassinate him, or destroy Venezuela's groaning economy," Cohen observed.

Maduro had indicated that he would speak at the United Nations General Assembly's annual gathering in New York in September. But after a state visit to China, he landed in Vancouver, Canada, and decided to fly back to Venezuela instead.

He said he canceled the New York trip because of what he called threats to his safety.

One alleged plot could have led to violence in New York, he claimed in a national address, and another could have threatened his physical safety.

"The clan, the mafia of Otto Reich and Roger Noriega once again had planned a crazy, terrible provocation that can't be described in any other way," Maduro said.

Reich, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, and Noriega each served as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs in the George W. Bush administration. They were featured in Oliver Stone's "South of the Border" as enemies of Chavez.

Maduro accused Reich in March of planning the assassination of Henrique Capriles, Maduro's opponent in the presidential election, as part of a plot to overthrow Maduro's ruling party. Reich's rebuttal at the time is worth citing, according to Cohen, "simply because it is equally applicable now."

"Though Maduro's strategy is not original, it is not as dull-witted as it appears," Reich said. "With the election in Venezuela scheduled for April 14, less than a month away, every day that the media focus on nonexistent conspiracies is one day less that Venezuelans hear there may be a peaceful, honest, and democratic alternative to the Maduro regime.

"Every day Venezuelans talk about foreign devils, they don't discuss shortages of water and electricity, of cornmeal and cooking oil, of soap and diapers, of antibiotics and insulin. It is one day less to wonder how Caracas became the third most violent city in the world and about the 150,000 Venezuelan victims of homicide in the 14 years of 21st century Socialism."

Noriega told the Miami Herald that Maduro "needs a boogeyman."

Editor's Note:



2. Healthcare Industry Already Cutting Jobs

 

More than 41,000 healthcare workers have been laid off so far this year, and much of the blame goes to Obamacare.

The cuts have affected mostly hospital staffing in response to reduced reimbursement rates for Medicare patients under the sequester, and cuts for some providers under the Affordable Care Act, according to an article by Kevin D. Williamson for National Review Online.

Private insurers are also reducing payments.

The sequester will probably be repealed at some point, but the effects of Obamacare will likely remain, Williamson warns.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is required by the healthcare reform act to reduce the growth of Medicare spending. The bill also bars the IPAB from raising Medicare premiums or rationing care, so most of any savings will come from reduced Medicare payments to providers.

Also, the aging of the U.S. population means that a larger share of healthcare will be paid at Medicare rates in future years. That will put financial strain on hospitals, so hospitals have begun cutting back.

Some hospitals will reportedly be forced to close due to the reduced Medicare payments.

The job cuts will pose problems for the economy as well as healthcare. The number of jobs in healthcare — including not just doctors and nurses but clerical staff, billing specialists, and others — grew by 63 percent from 1990 to 2008, accounting for one out of every four jobs created during that period.

Also, healthcare is a sector that has enjoyed relatively strong growth in inflation-adjusted wages in recent decades.

"Losing that means losing a big piece of the employment picture, not just in total jobs but in real income," observes Williamson, author of the new book "The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome."

"Which puts us in a difficult position: Cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending will have ill effects on the job market, but not cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending will bankrupt the country."

Editor's Note:



3. 'Common Sense Tax' Could Boost the Economy

A new tax proposal that two economists call "simple, transparent, and fair" could spark new investment and job creation in the United States, they say.

Our current tax system is "unfair, distortionary, wasteful, and a user's nightmare," according to John Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. "Most important, it's limiting our country's economic potential.

"But can we have a far simpler tax system that generates at least as much revenue and is more progressive? Yes, it's called the Common Sense Tax (CST). It's designed to be revenue-neutral and to kick-start the economy."

The plan includes just two taxes. One is a payroll tax at a flat 13 percent rate.

Today's FICA tax is highly regressive, since it levies a 15.3 percent tax on wages up to $113,700, half payable by the employee and half by the employer.

To assure that middle- and low-wage workers benefit immediately, the CST levies the payroll tax only on employers.

The second tax is a personal income tax with a 25 percent rate on income over $100,000 for married households and $50,000 for individuals. That would immediately end income taxation for two-thirds of American households.

The CST is revenue-neutral because it taxes all income above the thresholds and eliminates all deductions and tax breaks except the charitable deduction, Child Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit, Goodman and Kotlikoff maintain in an article for The Fiscal Times.

Another provision of the CST would tax corporate income at the personal rather than the business level — corporate shareholders above the threshold would pay taxes on income earned on their behalf by the corporation as it is accrued.

The United States currently has the world's highest statutory corporate tax rate. But with the CST, there would be no explicit corporate tax, which "would make the United States the world's most business-friendly country," the authors assert.

They conclude: "This would stimulate substantial new investment and job creation in the U.S., leading to higher wages for U.S. workers.

"In addition to being simple, transparent, and fair, the Common Sense Tax would improve incentives to work and save, eliminate an entire army of corporate and personal tax accountants and lawyers, and make April 15 just another day for most Americans. Most important, it would help grow the economy."

The Fiscal Times calls the CST a "tax reform plan that both parties can like."

Editor's Note:



4. 50 Countries Cited for Persecuting Christians

North Korea has once again been cited as the nation where Christians suffer the most extreme persecution — but at least 49 other countries persecute Christians to some extent, according to a new report.

Open Doors USA has released its 2013 World Watch List ranking 50 nations where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst.

Open Doors USA states that it "works in the world's most oppressive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these dark places."

For the World Watch List, the focus is on persecution of Christians "for their faith, not persecution for political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons."

North Korea is No. 1 among those nations cited for "extreme persecution," the position it held on last year's list. Open Doors estimates that 50,000 to 70,000 North Korean Christians are currently held in prison camps, where many are tortured.

Saudi Arabia is No. 2; last year it held the No. 3 spot. Non-Muslim public worship is prohibited in the kingdom, and conversion from Islam to another faith is punishable by death.

Afghanistan moves from No. 2 to third. Christian converts there face intimidation, beatings, loss of employment, even prison, according to Open Doors.

Iraq, which was in ninth place last year, is now No. 4, Somalia moves from fourth to fifth, and Maldives remains at No. 6.

Other nations cited for "extreme persecution" are Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, and Syria.

Of the 12 nations that Open Doors asserts are guilty of "severe persecution," eight are overwhelmingly Muslim countries. That group also includes Nigeria — where Muslims constitute approximately half the population — Ethiopia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Notable among the 23 nations cited for "moderate persecution" are Egypt, India, China, Kenya, and Colombia.

Syria constitutes the most ominous change in rankings, moving from No. 36 last year to No. 11 on the new list. The biggest improvements came in Comoros, which went from No. 24 to 41, and China, which went from 21 to 37.

Editor's Note:



5. Half of Americans Get Government Benefits

Newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in the fourth quarter of 2011, nearly half of all Americans — 49.1 percent — received benefits from one or more government programs.

Out of a population then estimated to be 306.8 million, 151 million received benefits from at least one government agency.

More than 82 million people lived in a household in which one or more people received Medicaid benefits, and 46.4 million people got Medicare benefits.

Nearly 50 million people received Social Security payments, 49 million got food stamps, 20.2 million got Supplemental Security Income, 13.4 million lived in public or subsidized rental housing, 5 million received unemployment compensation, and 3.1 million got veterans' compensation.

About 23.2 million people were in the Women, Infants, and Children program, and 5.8 million received benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, according to the data released on Oct. 22.

Other funds paid out in the last three months of that year include those for Railroad Retirement benefits, workers' compensation, and veterans' educational assistance.

The figures for means-tested programs such as food stamps and Supplemental Security Income include anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits from the program.

The Census Bureau also reported that out of 118.8 million U.S. households, 29.5 percent received Medicare benefits, 20 percent got Medicaid benefits, and 32 percent received Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits.

Also, 15.4 million households, or 13 percent of the total, received food stamps.

When and if Obamacare is fully implemented next year, a new benefit program will begin — Americans earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level for their households will qualify for a federal subsidy to purchase health insurance.

Editor's Note:



6. Renters Shunning Electric Vehicles

Rental car drivers are steering clear of electric vehicles largely due to "range anxiety" — renters' fear that the battery will die before they can return the car or reach a charging station.

Slow demand is the main reason Enterprise, the biggest U.S. auto renter, has just 300 electric vehicles (EVs) in its fleet. That is 40 percent below a target it set in 2010 when it ordered 500 of Nissan's electric Leafs, Lee Broughton, head of sustainability at Enterprise, told Bloomberg.

"Range anxiety makes [renters] think they can't get to a charging station," he said.

Hertz said in 2010 that it would have from 500 to 1,000 EVs in its fleet by 2011, including the Leaf and GM's Chevrolet Volt. It has fallen short of that due to lower than expected customer demand, said spokeswoman Paula Rivera.

Most EVs run out of battery power in less than 100 miles. The Leaf models in Enterprise's fleet are expected to go about 75 miles before needing a charge.

Tesla's Model S has a maximum range of about 300 miles, but it rents at Enterprise for $300 to $500 a day — about 10 times the cost of renting a Leaf.

"It's fairly clear that we are going to need a bigger range battery at an affordable price at some point for EVs to take off," said Broughton.

Sales of EVs have also been sluggish. About 140,000 plug-in EVs are on American roads, well short of President Barack Obama's original goal of 1 million by 2015.

GM sold approximately 23,000 Volts last year, a small fraction of the millions of vehicles sold, despite a $7,500 federal tax credit. Nissan reportedly sold less than 10,000 of its electric Leaf models.

The Washington Times called the Volt "the Obamacar" and observed: "The Chevy Volt is a classic tale of top-down thinking, the story of subsidy, crony engineering and rejection by the market. The Volt is the president's economic policy on four wheels."

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Editor's Note:



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