If the dollar has little value, then donate a few.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Doubble down!!!

The quick top 18 facts about the lottery.  I had a bill a few years ago that said you were not eligible to win if you were on government benefits.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tax pledge is Obama's friend

 While it may be hard to think of right now, I think Obama may be the last straw for liberalism for some time.

You see, for liberalism to succeed it has to do a few things, Create victims and then subsidise them with more government. To this end, I will say Democrats have been masters. In the last election homosexuals, single parents, the jobless, minorities. All were told they could  not do it on their own. Their only hope, their only way out, their only salvation is if big daddy government makes it happen. Not yourself, not free enterprise, not churches, not personal responsibility.

If you try on your own, you will fail without subsidies, If you succeed, you didn't build that. If you follow a moral code (other then on you make up yourself by doing what ever feels good) then you are a radical bible thumping zealot.

If you want a job. Only government creates jobs.

If you want to get married. Only government can perform the ceremony.

If you want to have indiscriminate sex, only government can provide for you and your children.

If you want to sit around and get high all day, government will legalize and subsidise you.

If you want to have "Safe" sex. Only government can buy pills/condoms for you.

If you are sickly, the only way you can afford insurance is if government makes you buy it.

If you want to retire, only liberals will make sure you get everything you want.

The problem for liberalism is, Obama won. Now he has to do it and pay for it. Even with all the tax increases in the world Obama cant even provide for the services we promised now. Where is the money going to come from?

At some point liberalism will collapse under its own weight. Had Romney won, the left could have said "Those evil Republicans are cutting all we were going to give you". ...But he didn't.

Until now, Obama has gotten by on no budgets, continuing resolutions on spending and saying Republicans wont deal on Taxes. More or less just kicking the can down the road. Republicans complied thinking they were going to win in the next elections and they would fix it then. That didn't happen, but as expected, sooner or later, the party comes to an end and the piper expects to be paid. That time is now.  I seriously doubt anyone can keep kicking the can for 4 more years. We are nearly upside down on the interest payments alone.
Obama doesn't want the budget or control of the budget but Republicans are trying to make sure they give it all to him by doing a version of  "We are open on what ever tax/spending  increases you want but the budget has to head toward balance." Even with his tax increases,That covers less then 3% of the problem. There is no way Obama can make it happen without taking responsibility for the failures of liberalism or reversing his support among those groups.

 Obama just keeps going back to "I mean it. I really am going to increase taxes on the job producers! Republicans? come fight me on it! You aren't going to break your no tax pledge are you?" That is Obama's only hope for a distraction. A fight over taxes.

So far, Republicans have been playing Mexican standoff saying "Go for it. See how it works" They both know it could send us deeper into recession and grow joblessness but Republicans think they have nothing to lose. They tried being the responsible adult. It didn't work. Now the parents are letting the children learn what happens when they only eat candy. They just have to  make sure the kids also show up to see Obama playing dentist.

I even think a government shut down could favor Republicans if the Repubs hold to the plan of a package deal, don't fall for the Bush trap (Pass tax increases and do the cuts later) and keep giving the budget back to Obama

If they hold strong, it could be the death blow for liberalism. The kids might finally grow up and the fear of the dentist trip will make them start to brush their teeth. In the end, liberalism fails.

Thought of the day

We had "Generation X" then  "Generation Y". I think we are now moving in to "Generation  whine".

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The new head football coach at UT is.....

Everyone keeps asking me (because I represent the area that covers UT) who the new UT head football coach will be.

The fact is, yes,  I do know.

I wasn't going to tell but I think the deal is all but done and is now just waiting for the signature of Big Jim on the contract to make it official, so I might as well.

The new head football coach at UT is going to be Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.  Yes, its true. Ron always wanted to be the head man running the most important group of people in the state. Now he will be. When reached for comment Ron was heard saying how sideline beats sky box for viewing the games, the pay is much better and  the bonuses and buyouts were to die for (did someone say free hot dogs??)

 Of course his new "team" will probably have to take a pay cut to get to the rate where his old one is but Ron thinks he can make it happen. Ramsey also went so far as to assured the press that dealing with players in trouble with the law and some that act like they play for the other team is old hat for him.

Still to be worked out, head lobbyist Anthony Haynes for UT is asking for a few minor concessions from the state for next year....But I am sure it can all be worked out next session. Well before kick off.

More as the story develops.

We will see...


Tennessee ranks 12th in a best run/worst run state survey by Wall st. 24/7.

Here we grow again.

Tennessee is on the grow population wise. Tennessee has the nation's 17th largest population, having added more than 140,000 residents over the past two and a half years.

The Volunteer State will have a total of 6,486,827 residents on Dec. 1.The full rundown can be seen here.

There is a reason

I was asked why I didn't report on the Memphis administrator who changed grades so their students could play football or the scandal on the Memphis teacher who was taking qualifying exams for other people so they could become teachers in Memphis.

The reason?

Its Memphis. After a while its like beating up the little kid down the street. Its no longer fun or funny. Its just cruel.


The Cato institute ranks the governors on spending and fiscal policy. You can see the reasoning and download the full report here or the table here.

Will there be sirens?

I just recieved notice there has been A statewide Tea Party " JUST SAY NO TO OBAMACARE" rally has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 5th at noon on the east side of the capitol building in Nashville.  This rally is to show opposition to health care exchanges for ObamaCare.

This could get interesting.

Thought of the day

If I owned a gun company I would name it "constitutional freedom arms" just to hear some people say "We don't want you to have constitutional freedoms in churches. schools, parks or courthouses. We don't even want you to have constitutional freedom in the trunk of your car."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Play time is over.

Nashville News, Weather
  Great job Phil Williams of news channel 5!!

Thought of the day

Do liberals realize how silly they sound when they say the election proves we are no longer a Christian nation even though they spent the last two years coming unglued on anyone who dared question Obama's faith?

Monday, November 26, 2012

More proof Krispy Kreme is awesome!!

Thought of the day

Arguing over what gets covered in a new health care plan is like arguing about leather or suede seats for your new Ferrari when you only make $250.00 a week.

Travel log ,final post

Morocco is a real study in contrasts. You have the sun bleached dry deserts, you have the mountains that dump large amounts of snow. You have the rocky plains where nothing grows and you have mile after mile of developed farm lands. You have slum/shacks made of old pallets and plastic wrap (with satellite dishes on top of course) and you have sky scrapers and super malls.
In front of my dream fish tank (filled with exotic fish) at the largest mall in Africa.

The one thing you don’t see is a mean spirit to the people. Almost all of the people, young and old, were very friendly and helpful. Taxi drivers, door men. The gambit. The cultures are different then what many people may think. Yes, there are those devout to their religion and traditions, they love their country and their king, but they were not of ill will toward foreigners.

While the people are just like many people here in the states. Some difference may be seen in the way they present themselves in public. They all dress very neatly. Men and woman both all dressed very sharply in whatever they were wearing. If it was a burka, it was clean and well pressed. Same for the men who wore the traditional djabas (sp?) . If they wore western garb it was neat and clean. Button down shirts and ties, long pants. Many of the men wore sports warm ups or or other modern fashions and both loved shopping for shoes, boots, watches and the latest phones.
The shops don’t seem to open till much later in the day (10 AM for most places) but stay open a little later. While there were exceptions, I saw very few woman actually working in sales. It was mostly male dominated.

The calls to prayer could be heard 6 times a day but I don’t think it really was a huge thing for people. Not that they didn't pray. Just that they didn't stop whatever they were necessarily doing to go do it. If they were not busy and around a mosque I think they went or stopped and prayed. If they were busy they just kept on doing what ever it was they were doing.

It seemed like the barber shops only opened when other places were closing down. I guess the tradition for men was go to work, hustle all day and then get a hair cut at night and go out.

The men sat inside the shops, smoked and watched soccer or outside in front of the tea houses in long rows and watch the single woman strut by in their finest. And strut they did. But it was all very classy. They were all dressed very nice and classy. Not all half dressed or falling out of their clothing like some do here in the states but more like how someone might dress to a business meeting, in fine fitting fashion with about half the woman wearing a scarf over their hair. Showing skin was kept to a minimum and I don’t think I saw anything exposed above the ankle for the first 10 days I was there.

 Older woman and families eating out at night were a rare sight but when they did eat out I don't doubt what they ate was served with olives. I swear I have seldom seen so much love for olives in my life. They put them in everything.There are entire shops that cater to the wide variety and spicing for olives. It was different.

I am not sure when school started but I seemed like the kids went to school for longer hours. While someone told me they are only required to go to school for 6 years, I am not sure that was common in the cities. Some families also had their children going to school well into the night but when they got out after that it seemed like they sort of went free. I would see kids say 8 or 10 years old riding scooters in regular traffic, selling cigarettes etc..

While scooters are one of the key forms of transportation No real sign of helmets anywhere were seen for the entire trip. Just the opposite for litter. Litter seems to be a common thread with developing countries I have visited.

Sightings of the police were an anomaly but I never felt like my being or belongings were ever in any real danger from any person or ill will toward me. I doubt the people are all that litigious as things like open holes in sidewalks were common sights.

 Very common.

Traffic, while crazy, routinely stopped on its own to let pedestrians cross the crowded streets. I guess the rule that the pedestrian is always right is strictly enforced (as in a cab driver could lose their license if they hit one sort of strict). While the shop keepers and business people loved the hustle, when the deal was made they shook hands stuck to it and delivered what was ordered with a smile They often would go above and beyond to try and make sure you were satisfied after the sale.

A fun trip to be sure but as always its great to be back in the USA!

The arguement

This is a great article and response on where and why, what I call the "God haters of the left" want to take arguments on faith. It starts with an age of earth question followed by shots about men riding dinosaurs and then..... 

Do you believe in the Virgin birth? Then how can we trust you with oversight of HHS programs and youth sexual education? If you won’t swear allegiance to the principles of biological reality and sexual autonomy then you are a freak and a menace.

Do you believe there was a purifying flood as the Bible describes? Is that established in the geologic record? How can you be trusted to oversee the Department of the Interior, the Geological Survey or BLM?

Did Moses part the Red Sea? You must be kept away from the National Weather Service.

Do you believe Jesus walked on the water to his disciples in the boat? Then how can you oversee a Navy that relies on conventional flotation physics to design its ships?

Do you believe He ascended after His resurrection? You are disqualified from commanding the Air Force: It relies on Newtonian physics for its understanding of aerodynamics.

Do you believe in resurrection at all? How can we trust you to make life and death decisions if you believe life is just a dress rehearsal and we all get a do over?

Only creativity limits the attacks on traditional faith and the grounds to exclude believers.

The gambit’s offensiveness and sinister portent is obvious. The canine-Pavlov types pursuing Rubio may understand the logical ends of their position or not. But the logic leads, whether they grasp or not.

So, let me hazard an answer to the GQ interviewer. It’s directed to the specific question, but adaptable to those that are sure to come.

Our best science says the earth is 4.5 billion years old. I don’t have a good reason to question that. I don’t know what a “day” is in the account of Creation. But I do believe in a God of miracles and mysteries. So I’m not going to scratch your inquisitional itch by denouncing anyone’s literal belief in the biblical account.

Does that trouble you? Why? I accept the laws of science and physics, and I admire the people who work to understand and reveal them. If, as a public official, I propose to substitute prayer for research, Bible verses for nuclear codes, or religious rites for rigorous testing, then, you can get concerned.

But until that point, the faith I hold somewhere in my mind and heart is between me and my God. If you want to force me to sign a loyalty oath denying it, you can go to Hell, figuratively speaking.

I hate to say I told you so, but.....

Some times I hate being right so often. It just gets boring.
You may recall less then 7 days ago, there were calls to excise the Republican party of values voters. The claim was it would help Republicans win the day. The reasoning was if people just saw where we stand on the the economic issues alone we would really show how we are different.

 I countered and said....

Do you know who and what is left if we take out all the social issues? At best, the money and foreign policy issues. The John McCain gang of 8 types. The ones who no one really sees much of a difference between us and the liberal party with.

The irony is, it is the social moderates that let us down again and again, even on the money issues. It is they who cross lines to increase taxes, increase spending, Not the social conservatives. In fact I will throw down a challenge. Name the last social conservative that was the swing vote on a big tax increase?


Can you do it?

I have yet to get a list of names on that challenge but, as if on cue, Lindsy Gram and the same old list of anti values hero's jump forward with their willingness to cave in and increase taxes.

Yes, the anti values hero's do what they do best. Prove me right by letting me down.

Now for part two of my prognostication.

I said ....

Ever hear those who can't stand social conservatives calling out those of their own that cross over and vote for tax increases or increases in spending in the same way they go after social conservatives? I am still waiting.

I bet I will continue to wait.

I had a friend who once told me "Stacey, there are people in this party who will run 10 miles to kick a social conservative in the groin even though they agree with them on 99% of financial issues but those same people will shut up, smile and take it as one of their own stands right in front of them and smacks them in the face on taxes".

They were right but the funny thing about  prognostication. It really is easy. Just look at history and expect it to repeat itself 95% (or more) of the time.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

3 big trends for education

For some reason a big chunk of my old friends got into education for carriers. As I have been on vacation and doing the old "So what have you been up to?" type Q and A with a bunch of them a few themes seem to keep coming up.

"Education is in transformation" seems to be the common among them.

One theme I heard more then a few times was how most teachers feel like a shorter carrier is in their future. No so much because they hate the job but more because they feel they are going to be pushed out  because of their increased cost to the school system. The people doing the pushing is often their fellow teachers. Older teachers often get double to triple the pay of a new teacher. Those wanting to negotiate for more pay in their contract realize the high earners, in a way, suppress their potential to argue for more money. buy out packages may make "30 years in" a thing of the past.

Two, Tenure, especially among college professors is going to be a thing of the past. Similar reasons (cost) only this time the reason is insurance. Tenured professors get onto the insurance system. Many colleges already wanting to direct their spending elsewhere see a surplus of qualified staff out in the local labor pool that they can get to teach most classes without offering full time benefit packages.

Three, (And I think the big one) is the Internet. Especially at the higher levels. Web sites like this one are the future of education. Colleges are all going to on line education.  The bigger the college, the more integrated their on line education program is. The Harvard's of the education world already have ALL of their classes available on line.

 Many of my high school teacher friends said they even used Kahn (the link) to prep for classes on how to teach tough subjects more effectively. While Tennessee has had a rough start going to on line education I think it will continue to go in this direction at all levels.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Haslam makes decision

Governor Bill Haslam has finally made public where he stands on the major issue facing our state. How the state and the legislature will deal with and help pay for the fallout is still undecided.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

As we

As we wake up this morning, be thankful that we got to sleep.

As we get up, be thankful we can still get out of bed.

As we go to the bathroom, be thankful we have running water.

As we hop in the shower, be thankful we have hot water and not a cold bucket from the river.

As we get dressed, be thankful we have more then one thing to wear.

As we wait for dinner, be thankful to the cook.

As we cook, be thankful for the ability to be of use.

As we wait, be thankful we still have time in life to show our patience.

As we sit at the table, be thankful it is not a dirt floor.

As we look at our plate, be thankful there is any food on it.

As we look around at friends and loved ones, be extra thankful, there are many who wish they had a special someone or anyone, to share a meal.

We are lucky, we have an abundance of blessings. There are those who would give anything to have half of what we have. Let us all be thankful for what we have been given by Gods grace alone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thought of the day

Tennessee will never secede from the union as we would have to take Memphis with us.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DCS and UT team up on child abuse

Knoxville, TN (AP) - A seven-year-old boy was at the center of a Knox County Courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him.
The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the Judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the Judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the University of Tennessee football team, whom the boy firmly believes, at this time, is not capable of beating anyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Arab spring hits Moracco

So I am snoozing away after my night of fun at world famous "Rick's Cafe" in Casablanca.
When I am awoken by what sounded like a group of men fighting outside my hotel. And then it got louder and louder with more voices and then I heard a man with a bull horn yell something in Arabic and then a large crowd of voices repeated what he said and then the voices got louder and more aggressive sounding. I pop my head out my window and what do I see but a mob scene with tons of people waving signs and chanting something that doesn't sound all that friendly.

Oh boy, here we go! What pops into my head? Pack? Run? lock the door? Heck no. Being the crazy/stupid/adventurous American I figure "What the heck, I'm going to go down and take some pictures. This should be fun". I throw on some clothes, go down and click a few pix.  A few guys start running over to me waving their hands yelling in Arabic. I put my camera in my pocket and get ready for anything. I suddenly realize I am one of about 5 english people I have seen in 2 weeks. They stop short and and start talking. Of course, I don't understand what they are saying. Luckily, they call over a third guy who speaks English.  

He says don't worry, the cameras aren't set up yet, but they are just rehearsing to shoot a movie about the US and Iran and the guys don't want anyone taking pictures. I say OK, go back inside and put my heart back in my chest.
Later in the day as I go through the movie set gates I speak to a gentleman who speaks English.
"Whats the movie called?" I ask. 
"Desert Dancer"  he replies, it is supposedly a pretty big budget English film. He asks what I am doing on the set and I reply I am staying at the hotel in the middle of the street. He chuckles "Boy I bet you thought the Arab spring went all sorts of wrong this morning didn't you!"

You bet I did.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Because you cant win without them.

I always laugh after an election when you hear moderates call out the base of the party. "Throw out the Pauliacks!, The Rush listeners!, The pro lifers!, The church crowd!,The pro family supporters!"  Yes, because they were the real problem. Those were the ones that crossed over to vote for the other side. That was all the news leading up to election day. Not a moderate crossing part lines to sing the presidents praises as the hurricane hit his state.

Do you know who and what is left if we take out all the social issues? At best, the money and foreign policy issues. The John McCain gang of 8 types. The ones who no one really sees much of a difference between the liberal party with.

The irony is, it is the social moderates that let us down again and again, even on the money issues. It is they who cross lines to increase taxes, increase spending, Not the social conservatives. In fact I will throw down a challenge. Name the last social conservative that was the swing vote on a big tax increase?

Can you do it?

I sure can't.

Ever hear those who can't stand social conservatives calling out those of their own that cross over and vote for tax increases or increases in spending in the same way they go after social conservatives? I am still waiting.

 If I have heard it once while trying to motivate a voter, I have heard it a thousand times. "He's no different then the other guy" Those voters are the toughest to motivate to vote.

 Those elections then becomes nothing but a bidding war to see who can buy the most voters. As we saw with this last election and the one before it, You can not win a bidding war with Santa Clause. You can not win a war offering work when the other side is offering no work. You can not win offering responsibility for their actions when the other side offers the illusion of having to take no personal responsibility for their actions.

The anti values crowd thinks the values crowd should stay silent. In the closet and hope for scraps at the end. Why? Are the liberal ideas somehow better? Are they cowards to put our ideas up against theirs? Cant the pro child idea win against the pro death crowd? I think it can. Cant the traditional family crowd win against those who would tear the traditional family apart? I think it can.  Cant the responsibility crowd win against the 1960s drug culture and the pain it causes? I think it can.

When we shown the contrasts we win time and again.

Remember hearing about the Nixon defeat caused by him running against the counter culture or with "the silent majority". I sure don't.

Ever hear the story of how the "christian coalition" costing Reagan votes and the election? Me either.

Do you recall hearing about all of the sweeping losses when gay marriage was on the ballot a few years ago? Me either.

In Tennessee for the last 10 years we have been pretty wide open going after the values votes. How many Republicans are we down over that time? Oh yea, We're Not down. we are probably up almost 50 big seats across the state.

 When you talk to actual voters on those terms, the vast majority agree with us. When you start talking supply side vs. demand side economics the vast majority of eyes glaze over.

I do recall the "Read my lips, No new taxes" moderate pledge costing tons of people their election previous to that.
The anti values crowd seem to think we don't need a coalition of the social issues,  We do.  Desperately. The moderates in our party don't seem to realize that it is they themselves who have a history of pushing out and disenfranchising more people then they have ever brought in to the party. Its not the other way around.

Yet the 5% always seems to want to push out the 95% of our party for the sake of their "party purity ideal". The tail always wants to wag the dog and silence the bark and muzzle the bight.   The problem is when the thieves are at the door, all you have left to defend our country with is a soft little lap dog that no one cares much about.

I will take the pit bull.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Obamacare update

The Governor's Legislative Director has informed him tonight that the deadline for states to declare whether they are going to run their own health insurance exchanges has been extended by the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services to December 14th instead of the previously set deadline of November 16th.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

We are lucky.

I have been thinking a lot lately and reading inputs from all over. I understand some people are still upset because of the loss. Look at the up side. We will get over it and win again. God has a way of making things work out his way, in his time. We are lucky in that regard.

On the other hand, I know people whose side won the election and they are still bitter.

They have a hatred they can not cure no matter what they do. Not by winning, drinking, running around,  calling names, tearing down, punishing others, stealing what they did not earn, no matter what happens around them.

 It must be hard for these souls to live with that kind of selfish, bitterness and unforgiveness inside. I like to say it's like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. 

We are lucky we dont have their problems.

Travel log (Part 4)

The train from Fez to Tangier's rolls through an agricultural country side that is lush and green. The freshly plowed fields are not separated by fences as they are in the states but more divided by water lines or rows of giant aloe Vera plants shooting 6 to 8 feet up into the air, bramble bushes with 6 inch spikes or caucuses .similar to the large pancake shaped ones you see in the states except they grow much thicker and taller. 

Tangiers, while quite old, is not like the other cities visited so far in that it is more of an all new port city.  If you didn't know better you could easily mistake it for any other busy bustling city in the modern world. Cars zipping up and down over crowded streets, double and some times triple parking on corners. They don't have many/any traffic lights or police force except around the embassy but they do have guys in fluorescent yellow work vests all over the place. I think it is some sort of government make work program. Some do about everything, direct traffic, help cars park, give directions, sweep the streets mow grass in the parks, others just find a tree or a bench and lay down and sleep.

While I m not much of a non shell fish lover I had probably one of the best fish dinners I have ever had,. It was about 3 or 4 different full fishes, calamari, shrimp, salad  awesome hush puppies the entire 9  yards all for less then 10 bucks. I loved it!

A light walk along the beach edge taught me a lesson about Moroccan time. A 10 minute walk is really about 2 hours and 10 minutes. Each way. Ah well, it builds the apatite.

Dreaming of another spectacular meal by the shore and then
It was off to a quick trip to  the grotto of Hercules. The trip took us past the royal palaces and embassy of many of the saudi aristocracy. Lets just say, money is no object. Their palaces (of what you could see) were quite opulent and well maintained many overlooking the ocean and beaches that were well in excess of half a mile deep.

At the grotto of Hercules the clear ocean water crashed onto the shore as fishermen tried their luck with giant 20 foot fishing poles from the shores edge.   . Is it just me or does the cave opening look like the profile of a giant man with his mouth open facing left?
I know if I wanted to feel like a giant on my own, all I have to do is go to the hotel shower where low ceiling height is clearly a factor

Next stop? The best overlook of the city.

 and where was the best overlook of the city you might ask? Why where else would you expect it to be except the terrace of the McDonald's of course! What else would you expect ?

 And for you "Pulp fiction" fans out there, do you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Morocco?

A short while later, it was of to a Christian/Muslim/Jewish church (That's right, they do all 3 types of services there) where many famous artists, spies, politicos and writers are buried.

I know several of my Democrat friends would love to see this one. Yes. Its a real George Bush gravestone (No, no relation). It has been glued back together after someone broke it.

Tomorrow It is off to Casablanca.

For the wonks on Obamacare.

I have been getting a lot of e mails and questions about Obamacare and what the governor wants to / is forced to do / what the state can and cant do.

Here is a webnar on Obamacare in Tennessee put out by the KATO institute and the Goldwater institute on why we should not implement. .

And below is a letter sent to me responding to some general questions arguing we have to.




310 Great Circle Road


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about

Insurance Exchanges in Tennessee

1. Could Tennessee “opt out” to avoid the implementation of an exchange? If not, what are the options?

No. Federal law requires that all states participate in an insurance exchange by

January 1, 2014. The only question for states to decide is who will run the exchange.

The Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year upheld most of the Patient Protection and

Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including the requirement for states to participate in an

exchange. The question now is which level of government (state or federal) will run the

exchange, not whether there will be one.1 Thus, Tennessee must decide (a) allow the

federal government to run the exchange; (b) enter an agreement with the federal

government to operate a “Partnership” exchange; or (c) stand up a state-based exchange.

2. What is the deadline for a decision about a state-based exchange? Also, did HHS

recently extend this?

Governors face a deadline of November 16, 2012 to submit to the U.S. Department of

Health and Human Services (HHS) a “Declaration Letter” regarding their intention about the

operation of state-based exchange. While the November 16 date is not in statute, HHS has

reiterated since the election that it will be holding states to this deadline. However, HHS did

push back the deadline for states to actually submit the technical “Blueprint” for a statebased

exchange to December 14, 2012 or an application for a “Partnership” exchange to

February 15, 2013.

3. If the Governor submits a Declaration Letter on November 16, 2012, can Tennessee

withdraw at a later date? What are the consequences of doing so?

Yes. Tennessee could always change direction and decide not to operate an exchange. If

we were to submit a Declaration Letter and later back out, we would not have any liability to

repay any federal grant funds that we accepted. The Governor’s letter can also make the

1 1 Under PPACA § 1321(c), the federal government will operate the insurance exchange in Tennessee if the state

does not do so.

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declaration contingent upon legislative approval and resolution of our outstanding questions with the federal government. However, if the Governor does not submit a Declaration Letter by November 16, 2012, then Tennessee loses the option of running a state-based exchange in 2014.

4. Is HHS’ deadline of November 16th truly enforceable?

Arguably, no – but this may not have practical relevance. Even though the November 16, 2012 deadline may have been arbitrarily chosen, we would probably need to begin to release procurements soon anyway if we hoped to meet statutory deadlines and prevent the implementation of a federally-run exchange in Tennessee.

5. Do we have enough information from the federal government to make a decision?

No, states do not have enough information at this point to make a clear decision. However, it’s worth pointing out that the only way a state’s options are further restricted after November 16 is if it declares its intent to let the federal government run the exchange. If a state signals that it wants to preserve the option of the state itself running the exchange and is willing to make plans accordingly, it could arguably await forthcoming federal regulations and related guidance before making a final call.

6. How much will the State have to pay to implement a state-based exchange?

The State will likely have to pay some portion of the costs for determining eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program or “CHIP” (i.e., TennCare and CoverKids in Tennessee) under either a federal or state-based exchange. However, the federal government will award “establishment” grants under PPACA § 1311(a) to cover the other costs of developing, implementing, and operating an exchange through December 31, 2014.

7. Could Tennessee move forward with an insurance exchange in 2015 or thereafter if the state does not operate one in 2014?

Yes. However, the State would probably have to pay the full costs to create and implement an exchange after 2014.

8. Regardless of who pays, how much will it cost to design and implement an exchange?

We estimate that it could cost about $70-90 million to design and implement an exchange. The actual costs could be higher because of the shortage of qualified contractors and the resulting increase in their bids (due to competition among states and federal purchasers).

9. How much will it cost to operate an exchange each year?

We estimate that the costs will be between $20-$40 million. However, costs will vary proportionally with enrollment, which is inherently uncertain.

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10. Which will cost less for Tennesseans: a state or federal exchange?

A state exchange would probably cost less. If Tennessee were to operate an exchange, then we would leverage existing resources in order to keep the actual costs at the lower end of this range. Tennessee typically also incurs substantially lower labor and contracting costs than the federal government. For these reasons and based on our historical experience, we believe that a state-based exchange would be less expensive than the federal exchange.

11. Who pays the costs for either a federal or state exchange after 2014?

The PPACA requires all insurance exchanges to be financially self-sufficient by January 1, 2015.2 Thus, any insurance exchange will need to charge fees to users and/or the insurance industry in order to cover its costs.

12. Who verifies eligibility in an insurance exchange?

In a state-based exchange, Tennessee would establish the policies and procedures as to what level of documentation from an applicant constitutes adequate proof of eligibility. We would supplement this process with any eligibility data that the federal government may make available through the new “data hub.” In a federal exchange, the federal government would set the standards as to what constitutes proof of eligibility and would make determinations under those policies. Based on our experience to date, the state standards are more rigorous than those under consideration by the Obama Administration.

13. Who controls Medicaid eligibility in each of the options?

Under any of the options, Tennessee would determine the income limits for the Medicaid/TennCare program. Under a state-based exchange, Tennessee would also control the policies and procedures as to what level of documentation from an applicant constitutes adequate proof of eligibility. In contrast, the federal government would control these “program integrity” rules in a federal exchange.

The choice of a federal versus state exchange may have substantial state budget implications. For example, if the Obama Administration were to use less rigorous program integrity controls than the state, then a federal exchange would enroll in TennCare and CoverKids many individuals who would otherwise be unable to demonstrate their eligibility under our current state processes. Because the state pays part of the costs of providing services to these individuals, federal mismanagement could result in millions of dollars in new obligations on our state budget. To put this into perspective, the State must pay an average of $15 million in state dollars for 10,000 additional TennCare enrollees (which reflects an increase in enrollment of only 0.8% over current levels).

14. Who determines tax credit eligibility in an exchange?

A state-based exchange has the option of determining eligibility for the tax credits under the final rules issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A state-based exchange could

2 PPACA § 1311(d)(5).

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also delegate this function to the federal government. In a federal exchange, the federal government would conduct all such determinations.

For reference, the PPACA authorizes new premium assistance tax credits for residents whose incomes are between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (i.e., about $44,700 for a single individual and $92,200 for a family of four in 2012) and who do not have access to affordable coverage.3

15. What are the implications of Tennessee’s Health Care Freedom Act to the decision as to whether to operate a state-based exchange?

While the Health Care Freedom Act at TCA § 56-7-1016(d) states that “No public official, employee, or agent of this state or any of its political subdivisions shall act to impose, collect, enforce, or effectuate any penalty in this state that violates the public policy set forth in this section,” federal law assigns to the IRS the exclusive role in imposing, collecting, and enforcing such penalties. See 26 USC §§ 5000A and 4980H as added by PPACA §§ 1501(a) and 1513(a), respectively. Thus, the Health Care Freedom Act does not prohibit a state-based exchange in this context.

16. Can Tennessee shield employers and residents from penalties by not operating a state-based exchange?

The argument that employers and residents would face no tax penalties under a federal exchange is based on a July 2012 paper by Jonathan Adler and Michael Cannon.4 Adler and Cannon argue that the plain language of the PPACA does not allow federal exchanges to determine eligibility for premium assistance tax credits – and, in the absence of these tax credits, employers and residents in jurisdictions with a federally-operated exchange would generally not be liable for penalties under the PPACA.5 On this basis, they argue the IRS’ final rules on the tax credits,6 which allow federal exchanges to determine eligibility for the tax credits, are illegal.

While Adler and Cannon have sparked an interesting debate, these issues may not be resolved for several years. Under the Anti-Injunction Act,7 an employer in a jurisdiction with a federally-facilitated exchange may be able to bring suit and make the argument advanced by Adler and Cannon only after the IRS actually imposes such penalties. Since the IRS will not assess such penalties until 2015 (for the 2014 tax year), federal courts are unlikely to hear such cases for some time – and the appellate review of any federal district court and tax court decisions could take several additional years.

3 By way of comparison, the median household income in Tennessee is roughly $43,300.

4 This article is available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2106789.

5 If the federally-facilitated exchange provides access to the tax credits, then the IRS would assess penalties to employers with more than 50 employees if they meet the criteria outlined in 26 USC § 4980H as added by PPACA § 1513(a).

6 77 Fed. Reg. 30377 (May 23, 2012) (to be codified at 26 CFR § 1.36B–0 et seq.).

7 26 USC § 7421(a).

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While states may not be in a position to delay decisions pending the outcome of this debate, they could change course at any time pending the future resolution of these issues.

17. Why would Tennessee make a choice on an exchange if we didn’t make a choice on the benchmark plan for the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) package?

The Governor noted in his letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dated September 30, 2012 that HHS provided no real meaningful choice or state flexibility regarding the EHB. For this reason, the Governor elected not to choose among the constrained set of options permitted by HHS. The decision regarding the insurance exchange – albeit still a constrained one - arguably involves a different level of state discretion and operational flexibility and could have a bigger impact on our citizens and state budget.

18. How much more control would Tennessee have in a state-based exchange compared to a federal exchange? What guarantees do we have that HHS will respect this?

First, the HHS final rule on qualified health plans8 allows state-based exchanges a broad degree of discretion in defining the criteria for qualified health plans. Indeed, the ability to set these criteria would help states ensure that local or “domestic” insurers are able to compete on a level playing field with the multi-state plans.

Second, HHS has also indicated that they will allow states broad discretion to pursue a “One Family, One Card” or bridge option to allow all members of a family the option to use the same network of health care providers even if they are eligible for different programs. Additionally, HHS has signaled that they will allow states the flexibility to design and implement market-based wellness programs.

Washington, DC will almost certainly have some power over a state-based exchange, and the key question to Tennessee is whether the amount of state flexibility here is worth the investment of time and talent to implement a state-based exchange.

19. Will the federal government be able to set up exchanges if a large number of states refuse to implement state-based exchanges?

Given its large budget and the private-sector talent that it has retained, the federal government will likely provide some limited form of an exchange.9 Due to the

8 77 Fed. Reg. 18310 (March 27, 2012) (to be codified at 45 CFR § 155.1000 et seq.). Accord PPACA § 1311(e).

9 One related note: the population (not just the number) of states that refuse to set up exchanges may be an important factor in the ability of the federal government to stand up exchanges. The federal government may soon reach “critical mass” in this regard: the New York Times reported that as of August 4, 2012, “Governors of 13 states with nearly one-third of the United States population have sent letters to the Obama administration saying they intend to set up exchanges.” See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/us/us-officials-brace-for-huge-task-of-running-health-exchanges.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

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aggressive implementation timelines, though, the federal exchange will likely not be the most efficient or effective – which may have fiscal implications to the TennCare program as described above.

20. Under what circumstances would individuals have to pay back the value of the tax credits?

Under the final IRS rules, individuals may have to pay back the full value of any advance payments of the tax credits that the federal government makes to an insurer on the individual’s behalf. This “claw back” provision applies to families who may have an income equivalent to below 400% of the federal poverty level when they apply for the tax credits but whose year-end incomes are above 400% of the poverty level. This IRS rule applies equally to federal- and state-run exchanges.10

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thought of the day

We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.

Robert E. Lee

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Separated at birth?

Brilliant, lazy or crazy art marketing for Tennessee ECD?


Justin Wilson smacks Economic developments hands  for giving out taxpayer money without any controls or safeguards in the Tennvesco.

The Comptroller’s report says "the program was launched without adequate safeguards in place to determine that the companies receiving start-up funding were actually eligible to do so. Those safeguards are still lacking."
Tennessee's Department of Economic and Community Development is responsible for monitoring the program, but current ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty recused himself from that oversight — he has a stake in one of the TNInvestco firms — and designated another member of his staff to provide oversight. According to the Comptroller's auditors, that oversight is sorely lacking in a number of areas...

...."Without adequate documentation, top ECD officials might have difficulty determining if the required investment strategy benchmarks are being met and if investments are free from fraud, waste or abuse," the Comptroller's report says. "Furthermore, the lack of documentation raises questions about how accurate reports can be provided to the governor’s office."

Government does a poor job of being a banker, running businesses or picking who should win in business. I have often thought if you put them in charge of running the Sahara desert they would find  way to screw up sand. Government working with its eyes closed and no controls can make it even  tougher and quickly looks more and more like crony capitalism.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Travel log part 3 (out of the dez off to Fez)

Left the Sahara desert  and cruised to Fez. or Fes (as some here seem to spell it). The trip over the mountains was, shall we say, an adventure. We were dropped off by our bus driver with a local taxi driver.  The older gentleman seemed quite nice and  very friendly. At first I thought "Wow, a Mercedes cab".  Then I got in and pulled the door closed and the seat belt that had replaced the handle fell off in my hand.

 It should have been a sign.

The car had over 600K on the odometer. The first driver took us a total of about 2 miles and then hopped out and  traded places with another driver. He said "This is the driver who will take you the rest of the way, good bye". He should have added  "and good luck!" The new driver must have been a frustrated race car driver who couldn't speak a word of English.

Let the fun begin.

Up into the switch backs of the curvy mountains at the top speed the little car would go. The temp dropped quickly and it started to snow. Hard. This did not deter our driver. Nor did our lack of heat in the car. or a lack of a front window defroster.  In fact, he rolled down the windows in the snow. Sitting in the back the snow was blowing in the window so hard it literally started to pile up inside the car. I wanted to ask for ski goggles but he didn't speak English and my Arabic is about as weak as his English. I think he wanted it down to try to keep the windows defogged but it was not working.

"Up! Up!  Window up!" I kept repeating, as if the more I said it would somehow break down our language barrier. No such luck. I am not sure even if he did understand he would have rolled the window all the way up as it would have stopped him from being able to wave his hand out the window as he cussed at whatever vehicle or farm animal crossed our path.

After  a while it was just better to laugh, hunker down and hang on. About 6 hours later we came out of the mountains and were in Fez.

There, everyone was quite friendly and seemed to act as if they knew each other, Our driver pulled over to ask directions (I think) and the person he got directions from  just gave us some papayas to eat. That was cool.

We entered through the "Blue gate" into old town Fez.
Old town Fez is a thin, twisting maze of alley like roads packed with mile after mile of little 6x10 shops. Carnival barkers at every door yelling to you in a host of languages trying to get you to come and check out their stuff, pack animals hauling supplies and kids playing in the alleys.
Some of the shops are quite elaborate. If you are into clothing or fabric it would be heaven. The women dressed in their traditional garb to a T. Shops selling beautiful silk gowns or gentleman's djalabas (Think the wardrobe of star wars jedis) were about every 10th shop.
And no shop wasted an inch of space. Good fun if you are like me and enjoy finding a good deal or interesting gifts. Tomorrow its off to Tangier's....Isn't that where they invented the outlet mall?? 

Its all in the branding

I have often said Democrats do a better job of branding and messaging and we need to change that

From the article...

The Democrats are masters of political language, and as you may have noticed, they just won. Basically, they have two tricks. They concoct a simple negative label for anything they want to defeat and then relentlessly shriek it in unison. You know the drill: "racist," "homophobe," "bigot," "right-wing lunatic," etc.

Then, they sanctify with positive language whatever lunacy they're in the mood to shove down our throats today. Consider the irrefutable beatific glow of "economic justice" and "social justice." Once something is defined as "justice," you're automatically the bad guy for resisting. What's wrong with you? Don't you want justice?

Thus, tomorrow if we all wake up and discover that Democrats are now demanding that squirrels be allowed to vote in the name of animal justice, you can be sure that in a few years time, squirrels will be voting. After several thousand screeching editorials, marches, rallies, rap songs, videos and Oscar-winning movies starring Tom Hanks as Bushy-tailed Ben, we'll all agree that animal justice is the next great frontier in civil rights and go nuts for squirrels.

The article goes on to suggest some ideas and terms we can use to turn the tide. I myself like saying how we need some "preborn justice"  or "religious justice"only the destructive party could be against that.

Don Quixote rides again

  The modern day Don Quixote rides again in the form of one John Jay Hooker.

Tell a lie enough times

The media keeps doing stories about how that "Evil" Gary Loe did all those negative mail pieces talking about how his opponent did not support voter ID laws, while his saintly opponent and the Democrats ran such an up and up, all grass roots, campaign with only enough money for one positive mail piece. that won the whisker thin 3 way race.

Gee, I guess they forgot to report on all those "Republicans will throw granny off the cliff" mail pieces they did. Its extra sorry  in the fact that at the state level we have about nothing to do with medicare but if the paper actually ran one straight "fact check" during the campaign it might have sunk their chosen candidates campaign.

Ah, you all know the Democrat adage by now, tell a lie enough times, and with the medias help, people will begin to begin to believe it. Also of note, it is now, after the race,  finally  being reported that a former Knoxville News Sentinel reporter was working on the democrat campaign during the race. I guess its no wonder Gary couldn't get a bit of earned media while his opponent got several write ups.

 It's a "team" game.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gee, I wonder why they dont feel welcome?

UT says many former military are the best of the best students, but for some reason they seldom seem to stay until graduation.  They say they don't feel welcome at the university. UT does not understand why. Could it possibly be because they get crap for transferability from UT with their military credits?

Now, most state two year degrees get you automatically transferability as  junior in your field. Not so for the military. I have known former solders with a military associate degree get less then a semesters worth of credits transferred into UT.

I have been trying to work with UT to get the same thing for those in the military with 2 year degrees that  other two year colleges grads get.

So far, No dice from UT.

UT, how bout some love for the military guys and girls? You may not be able to get as much of their GI bill money but your graduation rates would go up.

Latest trip log (Sorry politicos)

Off to the Sahara desert today. It was quite a bus ride we drove through many small towns and villages that dot the High Atlas mountains. After a while they all started to looked similar, mostly pueblo style construction made of what appeared to be mud and straw with bamboo roofing frames. Donkeys pulling carts, kids playing soccer on a rocky field. What I found most interesting though was the vast plains of really pretty much nothing then in the middle of nowhere there would be a house with a big earthen wall built around it called a casbah (see “the clash” For more details) .

From a distance you could see inside the walls was a large garden. I guess it is a status symbol as when a tour guide asked if I had a house with a garden and I said yes I had a house, but no garden. You could tell he was let down as if saying “Don’t worry kid, one day you can get a garden” .

Although something like 98% of the population is Muslim I thought the people were quite progressive. Most houses had a satellite dish out beside the house. and even listened to modern American music. I had to chuckle as I heard one song that is actually censored on the local Knoxville radio station being played unedited here.

The road system was pretty good (On lane each way) and seemed to hum along nicely. You shared the road with cars, heavily loaded buses, trucks, a lot of scooters and bicycles.

Often you would also people just walking along the side of the road or goat and sheep herders out in the middle of nothing. And when I say nothing I mean nothing. No houses, no civilization for miles and miles, just rocky fields but there they would be, just out there trucking along. as if it was nothing. It also looked like they were setting up for irrigation as there was what appeared to be pumping stations all along side of the highways.

Police were few and far between. In fact, the only ones I saw were either at the palace or at checkpoints in the middle of nowhere. I never could understand what they were doing out there as the traffic wasn't that heavy and all they would have us do is stop the vehicle and then go on. It was like some mid highway break check.

It seems like the Berber people (or tribe) are a large and proud part of the population. Most of the people we spoke with seemed to find a way of working it into the conversation. They loved to tell about their hand made carpets and their sweet mint tea they call “Berber Whiskey”. They say you can tell order Berber woman as they often have tattoos down the middle of their face. My guide told me this was a tradition started years ago when children were very young, if they were kidnapped, their families could still recognize them years or decade later. It was a tradition that just stuck around. Some woman wear vials, some do not. If the face is not covered it means they are single and depending on the color of clothing they wore you could see if they had children or not. Interesting.

. The camel trek to our nomad tent encampment was a nice change from the bus trip to the edge of the desert. The desert was expansive, just like out of “Laurence of Arabia” Big, spectacular dunes, scenic vistas and sunsets.

Possibly its just me but the sky seemed an extra dark blue in the desert. The night was so clear you could see the various satellites as they drifted across the night sky, I almost slept out under the stars as I lay in the sand and looked up to the heavens for hours after sunset. It was very settling. There was no moon out at night and a finger nail moon could only be seen just previous to sunrise.

               My first time night skiing on a sand dune was shall we say sloooooooow.

My guide was a nomad who had lived there his entire life and had begun doing tours about 20 years ago. He said he never much liked school so he just became a guide. He claimed to know tons of languages and rattled off about 10 different ones off the top of his head.We talked about life, family and such. He kept saying "Clear mind" in a foreign language. I took it as a compliment.  An interesting fellow to say the least.