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Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out

Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013
Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As discontent in the Democratic party grows over the implementation of Obamacare, government officials say they’re bringing in experts from silicon valley to help find a way out of the fiasco that signing up has become.

Tonight, in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says the administration’s handling of President Obama’s signature legislation is a “how-to” lesson in destroying credibility in record time.

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I’m not a big fan of sports analogies. But sometimes they work.

The late Casey Stengel comes to mind after watching President Obama and his team back-pedal, step up to the plate to accept responsibility, and then point the finger of blame at somebody else.

The administration has had three-and-a-half years to get things ready for this day—for this roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Forty-two months to have developed and tested and retested the billion-dollar, new technology that would allow millions of people to effortlessly sign on to, in so many cases, get the the kind of healthcare they’ve never had before.

More than 15,000 days to develop a pretty good sense of how much it would cost to work with insurance companies to gauge whether it would be cheaper or more expensive; to explain  in authoritative detail after detail to a country still divided over the issue.

If Casey Stengel were able to comment today, I suspect it would be similar to what he said about his inept New York Mets in 1968.

“Been in this game a hundred years, “ he said. “But I see new ways to lose ‘em I never knew existed before.”

Where in the world were these people in our nation’s capitol? You know, if there had been only six months to lay all the groundwork, we could say, “well, they did the best they could in the time allowed.”

I know the issue became red meat for conservatives. I know it went to the Supreme Court before becoming the law of the land. I know that had to be distracting.

But good grief! If we have the technology to bug the phone of the Chancellor of Germany, listen in to conversation all over Brazil and in France and who knows where else, you’re telling me we can’t build an Obamacare web site that works?! That works from the beginning?

Instead, look at what we have. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointing her finger at the Canadian company who built the system.

Yeah, Canadian.

And that company pointing back at the administration and other companies who helped out.

Sebelius telling us no one—simply no one—and certainly not the President, knew before October 1st this thing would blow up as it did.

Only now is our government turning for advice to the world leaders in computer technology from Silicon Valley.

Today, we learn that we get an extra 45 days to sign up before facing a penalty. But not, we are told, because of the computer “glitch.” Of course not. It's because the public was confused about sign up dates. Really?

Meantime, insurance company insiders are telling CNN that they knew a long time ago that this thing was going to fall like a tent in a hurricane.

Also, today we learned that Sebelius and company are going to start a grassroots effort to boost enrollment in the system so many have already been turned away from.

Where was that effort six months—a year—ago? Honestly!

I believe our country is in desperate need of a well-run, cost-efficient, national healthcare system. But if what we’ve seen so far is any indication...Obamacare will be none of those things.

When he was with the Yankees, Casey Stengel sent a guy down to the minors because he was striking out too much. “Mister,” Stengel told a reporter, “that boy couldn’t hit the ground if he fell out an airplane.”

I think the same can be said about some key people in Washington. Its time to stop the strike outs and get some people on the team who can hit home runs. We’re obviously overdue.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

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Last Update on May 22, 2015 07:28 GMT

THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index for April this morning.

CALIFORNIA OIL SPILL

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) -- Officials have closed a 160-square-mile section of ocean to fishing because of the oil spill on the Santa Barbara coast.

The announcement was made yesterday in an update on efforts to clean up the spill that spread an oil slick across 9 miles of sea.

The closure affects a 23-mile by 7-mile area offshore between Goleta and El Capitan Beach because of oil contamination.

State wildlife officials had previously closed two miles of shoreline to fishing and shellfish harvesting.

Officials say more than 8,300 gallons of the oily mess have been raked, skimmed and vacuumed -- just a fraction of the crude that escaped from a broken pipeline.

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the ruptured pipeline Tuesday, and as much as 21,000 gallons reached the sea.

FEDERAL RESERVE-LEAK PROBE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A powerful congressman is compelling the Federal Reserve to provide documents related to a possible leak of market-moving interest-rate information to a financial newsletter.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who heads the House Financial Services Committee, announced yesterday he had issued a subpoena to the Fed. He says the central bank has repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the panel's questions and document requests.

The committee's Republicans are investigating whether confidential information was deliberately leaked from the Fed's interest-rate policy meeting in September 2012. The Fed told the committee in March that its own investigation found no evidence that sensitive information was deliberately leaked from the policy meeting.

The Fed inspector general, an independent watchdog, and the Justice Department have been reviewing the handling of the internal probe.

OBAMA-TRADE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says his trade agenda took "a big step forward" yesterday when it cleared a key Senate hurdle.

The legislation would let Obama negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but not change.

Obama says his trade plan is good for American businesses and workers, and contains safeguards to ensure strong labor and environmental standards.

The president says the trade deal is "going to open up access to markets that too often are closed," even as those other countries are selling goods in the United States.

The president spoke during a meeting with his Cabinet.

DODD-FRANK BANKING RULES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican senators have advanced legislation that would ease rules on smaller banks and other requirements of the landmark law reining in Wall Street and the financial industry after the 2008 crisis.

But it received no support from Democrats, making its chances of Senate passage slim.

The 12-10 party-line vote came yesterday in a sometimes rancorous session of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the committee's Republican chairman, authored the legislation that would bring a sweeping rewrite of the 2010 law that arose from the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession. That law, known as Dodd-Frank, was enacted by a Congress controlled by Democrats despite Republican opposition.

The law tightened government oversight of banks and financial markets to avert another crisis and another taxpayer bailout of banks.

CONGRESS-SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans controlling a key Senate panel have ignored veto threats and approved an overall freeze on the annual operating budgets for domestic agencies while padding war accounts with $36 billion for the Pentagon.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran offered the proposal. It allocates slightly more money to domestic agencies and foreign aid accounts than a competing plan by House Republicans. But Democrats say it's not nearly enough, and they uniformly opposed it.

Nonetheless, Democrats voted 26-4 to advance the first of 12 annual spending bills to the full Senate, a measure funding energy programs and Army Corps of Engineers water projects. Most Democrats, however, voted against a second bill for veterans programs, saying it doesn't provide enough funding. That measure advanced by a 21-9 vote.

IRS-TAX PREPARERS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The IRS is refunding a total of $10 million to thousands of tax preparers who paid to take a competency test.

A federal court struck down IRS regulations in 2013 that sought to require some tax preparers to get training and take a test. An appellate court upheld the ruling last year, saying the IRS lacked the legal authority to mandate the testing.

The IRS said about 89,000 tax preparers paid $116 apiece to take the test. The agency said Thursday it is issuing refunds to those preparers.

The Obama administration has proposed giving the IRS the authority to regulate paid tax-return preparers. As it now stands, there are no federal rules governing who can charge clients to prepare their tax returns.

PAYPAL'S FUTURE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- As PayPal prepares to split from its corporate parent, its new chief executive is promising to expand the popular online payment system with a variety of services that consumers can use when shopping on their phones or in traditional stores.

PayPal will be spinning off from parent company eBay later this year while facing new competitive challenges. Alibaba, Amazon and even Facebook are promoting online payment systems, while Apple Pay and Google Wallet are competing to handle transactions in stores and on mobile devices.

At a press event Thursday, CEO Dan Schulman announced initiatives aimed at helping merchants sell goods on websites and through mobile apps. The company also touted a recent partnership with Burger King that lets consumers pay for their meals with a smartphone app.

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