- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2013

The lousy sign-up website cost a bundle, a fact that will not disappear no matter how much the White House pivots from one issue to the next to deflect public interest away from Obamacare. Numbers persist on the radar. Consider that HealthCare.gov has been allocated $1 billion in federal funds for its development and startup, a sum divided between 10 major contractors. That information comes from a Bloomberg Government Analysis released in late October. Meanwhile, $684 million has been spent to promote the health care law; that figure is from state and federal data compiled by The Associated Press.

And while there is fancy footwork from both the White House and a friendly media suggesting future debt reduction because of health care reform, Obamacare is still going to cost $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

But now we must venture to the global scale.

Despite spending more than twice as much as many other nations on health care, the U.S. does not boast the most long-lived citizens. Oh, woe is us: America languishes near the bottom of life expectancy ratings among 34 nations, according to the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based economic and social policy research center.

Where do people live the longest? Switzerland is in first place, followed by Italy, Japan and Iceland. But the U.S?

“Despite the fact that the U.S. spends vastly more per capita on health care than any other country, Americans’ life expectancy is only 26th highest,” points out 247wallst.com, in its own analysis of the findings.

And the numbers: Switzerland spent $5,457 per person on health care, Italy spent $3,012. The U.S. spent $8,508. Life expectancy in Switzerland, incidentally, is 82.8 years, in Italy 82.7 years, and in America, it’s 78.7 years.

BIZARRO OBAMACARE WORLD

Republicans and Democrats remain in two opposite worlds as far as Obamacare goes.

A Gallup poll released Friday reveals this: “While 90 percent of Republicans want Congress to repeal or scale back the law, 65 percent of Democrats would like to expand the law or keep it as is.” And Americans themselves? Still not good: 57 percent also would repeal or downsize Obamacare.

PERRYCLAUS

Party like it’s Christmas? The Lone Star State is intent on being a national role model of sorts. Earlier this year, Texas passed a “Merry Christmas Law” that allows displays of traditional religious symbols and Christmas greetings in public venues — a phenomenon that is taking a while to soak in. The Frisco Independent School District outside of Dallas, for example, recently issued stringent “Winter Party Rules” for elementary schools that banned all references “to Christmas or any other religious holiday,” and even red and green decorations. Then someone reminded the earnest organizers that there was, well, a law against that.

Candy canes and Tannenbaums have been reinstated.

The Austin-based Liberty Institute, meanwhile, intends to ensure the public knows such celebrations are A-OK. The advocacy group will stage a four-hour, public “Merry Christmas Texas” party at the state Capitol building Monday, billing the big doings as an “education and celebration event.” State legislators and officials from the institute and Texas Values — its sister nonprofit — will be on hand, along with Santa Claus, Christmas displays and Christmas cookies, the groups say.

“Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion,” says Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the Merry Christmas bill into law in mid-June, and entertained a king-sized Santa himself at the governor’s mansion on Sunday.

KERRY GOES SOLO ON IRAN

Hey, what about Iran and the centrifuges and all that worrisome stuff? Questions about the interim deal with Iran have not gone away. The elusive Secretary of State John F. Kerry himself journeys to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for an appearance before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to supply an answer, or a reasonable facsimile therein.

“I continue to have serious concerns that the agreement the Obama administration negotiated does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and our allies. The deal does not roll back Iran’s nuclear program, but instead allows Tehran to keep in place the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability,” say Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and committee chairman.

Mr. Kerry is the sole witness, incidentally.

“Under the agreement, the international community relieves the sanctions pressure on Iran while its centrifuges continue to enrich uranium,” Mr. Royce continues. “This hearing will be an opportunity for committee members of both parties to press Secretary Kerry to explain why the Obama administration believes this sanctions-easing agreement is the right course.”

CULTURAL MOMENT: THE PETITIONS CONTINUE

Though it was shuttered during the government shutdown, the popular White House “We the People” public petition site is rolling again. There are 73 petitions now posted for consideration, reflecting a, uh, variety of interests. Among the current active entries, verbatim from the list:

“Not allow the FDA to control premium cigars,” “Include Licensed Naturopathic Physicians as primary care providers” in Obamacare, “Invite Neal Boortz, the author of The FairTax Book, to spend one hour talking with the President about tax reform,” “Pardon Edward Snowden,” “Save the white-tailed deer,” “Save our commissaries,” “Execute Caramel, the Thanksgiving turkey who was pardoned by President Barack H. Obama,” “Create a direct funding mechanism for NASA on tax forms similar to the Presidential Campaign Fund.”

THE MUTATING MEDIA

“I believe this program matters more than ever. Just think about the name, ‘Reliable Sources.’ These days everyone and everything is a source. People with cell phones publish news. Presidents, athletes, celebrities, they all bypass the press by making their own YouTube videos and Vines. Advertisers are producing things that look like news, and news organizations are producing things that look like ads. And the ways that we consume all of this are rapidly changing. These days everyone’s a source, but who is reliable? What’s reliable? And how do these sources shape our views of the world?

That’s what this show is about.”

— Mission statement from Brian Stelter, 28, who officially began hosting the long running CNN media analysis show “Reliable Sources” on Sunday.

POLL DU JOUR

57 percent of Americans say President Obama and Congress have cooperated “less than usual” this year; 5 percent say they have cooperated “more than usual.”

56 percent say it’s “not likely” that Obamacare will be repealed next year; 39 percent say it’s likely the health care law will be repealed.

53 percent say it’s not likely legislation to reduce the federal deficit will be passed next year; 42 percent say it’s likely the deficit legislation will be passed.

46 percent say it’s not likely immigration reform legislation will be passed; 49 percent say it’s likely immigration reform will be passed.

43 percent say legislation requiring universal background checks on all gun sales is not likely to be passed; 53 percent say this gun reform legislation will be passed next year.

Source: A United Technologies/National Journal poll of 1,003 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 21 to 24 and released Friday.

Annoyance and clairvoyance to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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