- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2013

Add this one to the list of government-shutdown victims, fresh from the official White House website: “Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, the information on this website may not be up to date. Some submissions may not be processed, and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries.”

Among the features that are no longer working: the popular “We the People” heading, which allows just about anyone to create a public petition that could ultimately draw a response from the White House if it garners 50,000 or more signatures. And no more presidential proclamations for the time being, photos of the day or transcripts from the daily press briefing. Wait, does this mean the White House is not being transparent? Heavens.

But these online travails don’t rival the Affordable Care Act national website, which appears to have taken on a personality of its own. A truculent and moody one. The site offers a handy-dandy voter-registration feature to its millions of visitors, but continues to balk at the idea that these consumers might like to take care of a little actual business. Sharp-eyed information-technology analysts now say that the earnest public must first create unwieldy “accounts” before they can browse the insurance coverage possibilities, and thus the long, unproductive waits.

Some say it’s intentional.

“Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies,” points out Forbes contributor Avik Roy.

“Health and Human Services bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away,” he notes, adding in summation: “Political objectives trumped operational objectives.”

AND THE WOEFUL NUMBERS

The Obama administration spent a minimum of $684 million to promote the Affordable Care Act. But the effort of feel-good TV spots does not appear to have resonated much with the American public the way, say, a viral homemade video of a cat riding a Roomba vacuuming device did. Indeed. A mere 51,000 people completed their enrollment applications for the health care options during the first week the Healthcare.gov website was online, this according to two sources inside the Department of Health and Human Services who shared the numbers with the Daily Mail.

“The best advertisement for libertarianism ever is Obamacare. No organization, legislation or plan in memory makes a stronger argument for the inferiority of government to the private sector,” says Roger L. Simon, founder of PJ Media.

SNICKERING MASSES

“Does the media have some sort of a bias against strong conservative evangelicals or maybe a strong Catholic, or people of faith?”

That’s what David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcast Network wanted to know in a recent broadcast.

“I think that’s absolutely accurate, and I think the current world in which we live in, specifically with the American media, ‘snark’ is valued. And it’s very easy to come after people of faith no matter what their religion is, whether it’s Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim,” replied NBC News reporter Luke Russert, son of Tim Russert, the now-decased former host of “Meet the Press.”

The young Russert has already witnessed some vilification, apparently. Faithful folk, he said, are “tagged with this label of being puritanical and not understanding of others and different viewpoints.”

He condemned such reporting as lazy, and “something that just feeds the snickering masses in that regard . Issues of faith are very complex. When you cover them as a journalist, you simply can’t, I feel, stereotype somebody as fitting into a box.”

PERRYFIED

“Washington needs to change, but the president keeps playing politics. When I look around this country, I see another story. Conservative governors are reforming taxes and regulations, helping small businesses grow. Conservative leadership is putting people back to work, and families are building their futures. We need more of that — and less of Washington.”

So says a flinty Texas Gov. Rick Perry, red power tie blazing, in a new advocacy ad for Americans for Economic Freedom, a nonprofit group he founded with funds left over from his 2012 presidential run. Of interest: the group’s advisory board includes Newt Gingrich, economist Arthur Laffer, beer kingpin August Busch III and Marc Rodriguez, chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

LURCHING ALONG

Crisis management is one thing. Crisis government is another. Someone has actually sat down, done the math and figured out the toll of temporary solutions as the wrangling and brinkmanship between House Republicans and the White House continues over the shutdown and debt ceiling.

“The repeated cycle of lurching from crisis to crisis has significant costs to the U.S. economy,” says a report released Monday by Macroeconomic Advisers, an independent research firm, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonprofit group. The findings were based on such indicators as GDP growth, the unemployment rate and corporate credit spread.

Among other things, the report concludes that crisis-driven government and the uncertain fiscal policy has increased the unemployment rate by 0.6 percent, or the equivalent of 900,000 jobs. The analysis also said that a two-week partial government shutdown would directly trim about 0.3 percentage points from fourth-quarter growth.

“Partisan divided government has failed to address our long-term fiscal challenges sensibly, instead encouraging policy that is shortsighted, arbitrary, and driven by calendar-based crises,” said Joel Prakken, who led the research. “Based on this report’s findings, we can assert confidently that the crisis-driven fiscal policies of the last several years have damaged our still-struggling economy.”

POLL DU JOUR

74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are handling negotiations over the federal budget.

47 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of independents and 90 percent of Democrats agree.

59 percent of conservatives and 87 percent of liberals also agree.

61 percent of Americans overall disapprove of the way congressional Democrats are handling the negotiations.

90 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

78 percent of conservatives and 48 percent of liberals also agree.

53 percent overall disapprove of the way President Obama is handling negotiations over the federal budget.

87 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

75 percent of conservatives and 32 percent of liberals also agree.

Source: A Washington Post/ABC News poll of 1,005 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 9-13.

Proclamations, cat videos to jharper@washingtontimes.com