Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out

Updated: Friday, October 25 2013, 12:16 AM EDT
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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.
Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out
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Last Update on April 21, 2014 07:28 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

BEIJING (AP) -- Asian stocks were mixed today in light trading after Japan reported a jump in its trade deficit and investors looked ahead to economic data this week from China and Korea.

Investors are waiting for the preliminary version of HSBC Corp.'s survey of Chinese manufacturing due out Wednesday for signs of whether an economic slowdown has bottomed out.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $104 a barrel. The dollar gained against the yen and was flat against the euro.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Business events and economic reports scheduled for the coming week

WASHINGTON -- There's only one major economic report due out today. It's the leading indicators for March from the Conference Board.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, housing will be the focus of two reports. The National Association of Realtors will release existing home sales for March tomorrow. And on Wednesday, the Commerce Department will release new home sales for March.

The government will report the weekly jobless claims on Thursday. Also, the Commerce Department will release the durable goods numbers for March. And Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates.

NABE-ECONOMY SURVEY

NEW YORK (AP) -- A quarterly survey from the National Association of Business Economics finds that rising costs for materials and labor appear to be pressuring businesses.

During the first quarter of the year, 31 percent of businesses surveyed reported higher material costs. That's more than double the 15 percent that saw costs rise in the previous survey. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported rising wages and salaries at their businesses in the past three months, up from 23 percent in January.

Yet those who said they raised the prices they charge in the past three months remained unchanged at 20 percent.

The survey of 72 members was conducted between March 18 and April 1.

The survey findings say it appears businesses weren't able to "pass on costs increases, resulting in increased pressure on margins."

FAST TRADING-LAWSUIT

UNDATED (AP) -- Providence, R.I. is suing dozens of Wall Street banks and other financial companies over high-frequency trading.

The suit says stock exchanges, investment banks and others defrauded investors by manipulating market data in favor of split-second stock-trading firms.

The suit's defendants include the Nasdaq Stock Market and the New York Stock Exchange; major banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup; and trading firms including Chopper Trading and Jump Trading.

The lawsuit comes amid heightened government scrutiny into whether advantages in computer hardware and placement enable some to get millisecond timing advances on trades.

The federal complaint was filed Friday in New York on behalf of investors who traded stocks in the U.S. since April 18, 2009.

GENERAL MILLS-LEGAL TERMS

NEW YORK (AP) -- General Mills is scrapping a controversial plan to strip consumers of their right to sue the food company.

The company, which owns Cheerios, Progresso and Yoplait, had posted a notice on its website notifying visitors that using the company's websites or engaging with it online in a variety of other ways meant they would have to give up their right to sue.

The Minnesota-based company said that people instead would have to resolve disputes through informal negotiation or arbitration.

The change was widely denounced on social media after The New York Times first reported it Wednesday. General Mills said in a statement emailed to media outlets late Saturday that it would revert back to its previous legal terms.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit surged nearly 70 percent to a record 13.75 trillion yen ($134 billion) in the last fiscal year as exports failed to keep pace with surging costs for imported oil and gas.

The Finance Ministry reported Monday that exports in the year that ended March 31 rose 10.8 percent over the year before to 70.8 trillion yen ($690.5 billion) while imports climbed 17.3 percent to 84.6 trillion yen ($825 billion).

Resource-scarce Japan's costs for imports of energy have soared since the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant led to the closures of all of its nuclear reactors for safety checks.

Meanwhile, a weakening of the Japanese yen last year further pushed costs for all imports higher, while exports have risen only modestly.

CHINA-AUTO SHOW

BEIJING (AP) -- Global and Chinese automakers are looking to the Beijing auto show to help boost sales in a slowing, intensely competitive market.

Brands from General Motors Co. to Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors are unveiling new and restyled sedans, sport utility vehicles and other models at Auto China 2014 this week.

China is the world's biggest auto market, with 17.9 million vehicles sold last year. But sales growth is forecast to slow from last year's 15.7 percent to 8 to 10 percent this year. And competition is intense, with global automakers jostling with 25 local brands for sales.

Ambitious domestic brands such as Chery Ltd. are losing ground to foreign rivals. Sales by Chinese independent brands shrank 2.6 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter.

KEYSTONE PIPELINE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline before deciding whether to issue a permit.

That could push a decision about the controversial oil pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.

The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline's path through the state. The State Department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.

The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn't starting over.

The pipeline has become a politically fraught issue. Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for taking too long to decide. The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.

BIOFUELS-GLOBAL WARMING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A study paid for by the federal government says biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term.

The research published in the journal Nature Climate Change challenges the Obama administration's conclusions that biofuels are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help fight climate change.

The study is being criticized by the biofuels industry and Obama administration as flawed.

Corn residue is one of the most promising ways to make cellulosic biofuels. Biofuels have struggled to reach the volumes required by law.

The administration and biofuel supporters claim biofuels are better for the environment than are gasoline and corn ethanol.

A 2007 law requires that they release 60 percent less carbon than gas to qualify as renewable fuel.

GENERAL MOTORS-RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Government documents show that General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and warranty repair claims.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn't seek a recall of the 2004-2007 compact cars even though it opened an investigation more than two years ago. The government's auto safety watchdog found the problem caused 12 crashes and two injuries.

The documents, posted on the NHTSA's website Saturday, show yet another delay by GM in recalling unsafe vehicles. It's also another example of government regulators reacting slowly to a safety problem despite being alerted by consumers and the company's warranty data.

GM and NHTSA were criticized for their response to a deadly ignition-switch problem in more than 2.6 million small cars.

OSCAR MAYER-RECALL

NEW YORK (AP) -- Kraft Foods is recalling 96,000 pounds of its Oscar Mayer wieners because they may mistakenly contain cheese.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said Sunday that packages of Kraft's "Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners" may instead contain the company's "Classic Cheese Dogs."

The agency says the product labels are incorrect and do not reflect the ingredients associated with the pasteurized cheese in the cheese dogs. Those products were made with milk and the known allergen is not declared on the label.

It said the problem was discovered by a consumer who notified Kraft on Friday. The company alerted the USDA the following day, according to the statement.

IRS-AUDITS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new government report says the Internal Revenue Service audits less than 1 percent of large partnerships, and that's drawing criticism from Congress.

The Government Accountability Office says the number of large businesses organized as partnerships has more than tripled since 2002, yet hardly any get close scrutiny by the IRS. In 2012, only 0.8 percent were subjected to field exams in which agents do a thorough review of books and records.

The GAO defines large partnerships as those with more than 100 partners and more than $100 million in assets.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan says many of the largest hedge funds and private equity firms are escaping IRS scrutiny.

The report says the audit rate has been persistently low since at least 2007.

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