Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shuster Asks Questions in Wake of Gulf Oil Spill

Congressman Shuster asks Interior Secretary Secretary Salazar about the government's response to utilizing new technology in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shuster Encourages his Constituents to Speak Out

Congressman Bill Shuster is pleased to announce the launch of a brand new social networking initiative that will give Americans the ability to engage in the process of building a new policy agenda for the nation:

“Americans from across the country have been speaking out but Washington isn’t listening. Democrats have pursued a partisan agenda instead of dealing with the issues that impact the lives of my constituents on a daily basis. America is ready for a new agenda in Washington and the nation deserves a Congress that acts to implement the priorities of the people not the partisan political whims of Speaker Pelosi and her friends.

The time has come for a new agenda – and a new way of doing business in Washington. It’s time that the party in power remembers that this is a government by and for the people. It’s time the priorities of the American people drive the agenda in Congress.

That is why I am joining my Republican colleagues to introduce, a never before seen social networking site based on cutting edge technology that will give my constituents and all Americans the ability to discuss issues, promote ideas and enter into a dialogue with their neighbors and Republican members of Congress.

The ideas debated on this site, combined with the bedrock principles congressional Republicans share will help create the agenda that will change the way Washington works for the better. I invite my constituents to take part in the dialogue.”

In addition to this statement, Congressman Shuster wrote a blog post on Liberty Pundits expanding on the "America Speaking Out" project. The media is welcome to link to this post on their websites.

Follow Congressman Shuster online on Facebook at, on Twitter at, and on YouTube at

Obama Medicare Mailer to Seniors Heavy on Rhetoric, Light on Facts

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that seniors will soon be receiving a health care information brochure that looks more like taxpayer-funded propaganda. Recognizing that the vast majority of Americans, especially seniors, are opposed to their health overhaul, the Obama Administration has unleashed a public relations campaign aimed at Medicare beneficiaries and what the government takeover of health care “means for [them].”

Not surprisingly, the Obama Administration failed to tell seniors that their Medicare program would be cut by more than one-half trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Also absent from this mailer is any reference to the more than one-half trillion dollars in tax increases, including new taxes on retirement income.

However, the Obama Administration did use Medicare funds to advertise a number of policies that will have little to no impact in seniors’ lives, mostly because they are ineligible for them, including: early-retiree subsidy for retirees under age 65; high-risk pools; a prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions for children under age 19; allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26; funding for community health centers; and a federal long-term care insurance program in which retirees are ineligible to enroll.

Moreover, the piece included a number of misleading and/or inaccurate statements, many of which ignored the analysis of the Administration’s very own Medicare actuaries, including:

  1. MYTH: The new health care law “will provide you and your family with greater savings and increased quality health care”

    FACT: The Democrats’ health overhaul jeopardizes seniors’ access to providers and eliminates Medicare health plans for millions of seniors.

    Medicare’s own actuaries found that the one-half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts are so drastic that they caution: “providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries).”

    The Medicare actuaries also warn that the $206 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program will result in seven million Medicare beneficiaries no longer being able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

    Moreover, Medicare’s own actuaries found that the one-half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts are so drastic that they caution: “providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries).” The Medicare actuaries also warn that the $206 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program will result in seven million Medicare beneficiaries no longer being able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

  2. MYTH: Because of the new health law “you will see new benefits and cost savings” and “Medicare will continue to cover your health costs the way it always has”

    FACT: According to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Medicare actuaries, seniors in Medicare health plans will see their benefits cut and costs increase because of the Medicare cuts made in the Democrats’ health overhaul. Currently more than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries receive their Medicare benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan.

    CBO notes that “Medicare Advantage plans …provide their enrollees with extra benefits” that traditional Medicare does not offer (e.g. dental and vision coverage, reduced copayments, lower premiums, etc.). However, because of Democrats’ drastic Medicare cuts, the non-partisan CBO predicts the value of extra benefits received by seniors enrolled in MA will be slashed by $816, on average, in 2019.

    The Medicare actuaries also predict that, “The new provisions will generally… result in less generous benefit packages. [Medicare Advantage] plans use rebate revenues to reduce Medicare coinsurance requirements, add extra benefits such as vision or dental care, and/or reduce enrollee premiums for Part B or Part D of Medicare.” These rebates, which fund these extra benefits, will be gutted by the $206 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.

  3. MYTH: “The new law creates a program to preserve [employer-based retiree health plans] and help people who retire before age 65 get the affordable care they need.”

    FACT: Retirees and workers’ health benefits are jeopardized by the Democrats’ health law.

    Immediately following passage of the health overhaul, some of America’s biggest companies began warning that the tax changes to the retiree drug subsidy program in the Democrats’ health care bill will reduce earnings by billions of dollars, threatening their ability to offer and retain retiree health benefits. reported more bad news for American retirees as a result of the Democrats’ new health care law. After reviewing internal company documents, found that four major U.S. employers (AT&T, Verizon, Deere and Caterpillar) are considering “dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.") These companies currently offer health benefits to well over 2.3 million employees, retirees and their dependents -- a figure which exceeds the population of 15 states as well as the District of Columbia. An AT&T report notes that they spent $4.7 billion on medical costs but would be taxed a much lower amount ($600 million) under the Democrats’ law for not offering their 1.2 million employees, retirees, and their dependents’ health care benefits – a savings of $4.1 billion for the company. estimated Caterpillar could reduce its expenses by 70% if they eliminate health benefits and instead pay the tax.

    Unfortunately, the retiree reinsurance program in the Democrats’ law that is touted in the Obama Administration’s brochure will not protect these retirees. The Department of Health and Human Services’ own regulations warn that the new law’s subsidy for retiree insurance is vastly underfunded and will run out of money, stating, “Because funding for this program is limited, we expect more requests for reimbursement than there are funds to pay the requests.” Furthermore, the Administration’s own actuaries estimate that the funds for this program could run out as soon as next year.

  4. MYTH: “The new law provides affordable health insurance through a transitional high-risk pool program for people without insurance due to a pre-existing condition.”

    FACT: Despite that fact that Medicare beneficiaries are already insured and have no use for a high-risk pool, the Obama Administration’s statement must be selling a different policy, because it certainly doesn’t reflect what was just signed into law.

    First, the Obama Administration actuaries note that the Democrats’ high-risk pool program is significantly underfunded. The actuaries predict, “By 2011 and 2012 the initial $5 billion in Federal funding for this program would be exhausted, resulting in substantial premium increases to sustain the program...”

    As a result, 19 states have refused to participate for fear they will be forced to pick up the tab when the federal funds run out. Even states choosing to participate are planning to deal with the unsustainable funding levels. For example, New Mexico plans on limiting the number of enrollees to 1,500, just a fraction of the estimated 50,000 uninsured New Mexicans with a pre-existing condition.

    Further, the Democrats’ health law allows the Secretary to establish waiting lists to enroll in these insurance pools, which does nothing to “provide affordable health insurance” to anyone.

  5. MYTH: “More Affordable Prescription Drugs”

    FACT: CBO predicts that Medicare Part D premiums will increase because of the Democrats’ law. However, only a small portion of seniors will actually see any real direct benefit, because just one-in-ten beneficiaries are responsible for prescription drug spending in the "donut hole."

    CBO predicts that Medicare Part D premiums will increase because of the Democrats’ law. However, only a small portion of seniors will actually see any new benefits. Most seniors will just have to pay more to receive the exact same benefits they have today.

  6. MYTH: “Your choice of doctor will be preserved.”

    FACT: The Democrats’ health law, which this brochure is touting, did nothing to address the Medicare physician payment formula (“SGR”).

    A physician survey found that because the new health law included no long-term physician payment solution but left a 21% cut to Medicare physician rates, nearly 7 in 10 physicians would no longer participate in Medicare if the cuts go into effect.

    American Medical Association President J. James Rohack, M.D., said current Medicare law with no long-term physician payment solution “will also exacerbate the existing physician shortage, as physicians retire early or are forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they can treat – right as the baby boomers enter Medicare.”

  7. MYTH: The Medicare cuts are “a result of reductions in waste, fraud, and abuse.”

    FACT: Being able to get health treatment is not wasteful, nor is it abuse.

    Medicare’s own actuaries found that the one-half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts are so drastic that they caution: “providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries).”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

ObamaCare’s “Bait and Switch” on Small Business Employers

Only 12 percent of small businesses would benefit from the ObamaCare tax credit

The Administration’s claim of a small business tax credit under ObamaCare was fraudulent. What the president failed to tell everyone was pretty important information. The credit drops off sharply once a company gets above 10 workers and $25,000 average annual wages.

Zach Hoffman, a furniture owner in Illinois, pays about $80,000 a year to insure his 24 employees. He thought his company would qualify for ObamaCare’s small business tax credit. After doing the math, he discovered his company won’t qualify for the tax credit, and he would have to eliminate 14 jobs and cuts salaries to get the most from the credit.

ObamaCare includes a tax credit of up to 35 percent of insurance premiums for small employers if they offer health insurance in 2010. It is temporary and available to businesses with 25 or fewer employees and an average annual wage base of $50,000 or less, but the value of the credit drops considerably after 10 employees. Even the Congressional Budget Office estimates only 12 percent of small employers would benefit from the credit.

Business groups, such as National Retail Federation, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and National Federation of Independent Business, have already panned it because it is too restrictive, too limited, and too complex and won’t help small business owners create jobs.

For previous ObamaCare Flatlines, go to the Hlouse Republican Conference site

Shuster statement on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011

Here is Congressman Shuster's statement on the Armed Services Committee's successful mark of the Nation Defense Authorization Act for FY2011:

“I believe the committee has produced an NDAA that upholds Congress’ commitment to support our nation’s warfighters. Specifically, I am pleased the committee supported amendments to provide our troops in Afghanistan with additional life saving combat enablers and the tools our troops need to protect forward operating bases from attack. I am equally pleased that the committee has continued its support for military families with a 1.9 percent basic pay raise.

“That said, I do believe it is equally important to mention that the committee missed an opportunity to take a strong stance against changes to detainee policy and the Administration’s troubling revisions to our national nuclear posture. Lastly, I believe the committee could have done more to ensure the deployment of a robust comprehensive missile defense system, which is critical to the protection of our interests at home and abroad as we face emerging nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea.”

More statements from Republican members of the committee can be found on their website.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Holden, Shuster Join Forces to Protect Health of Highway Workers

Bipartisan Bill Calls for National Standard for Engineered Glass Beads

Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA) has joined with his colleague Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to introduce legislation to impose a federal standard on manufactured glass beads used for reflective highway markings. The standard would apply to all road construction projects that receive federal funding.

“In 2008, more than 27 million pounds of glass beads were imported from China - the world’s leading exporter of glass beads. A significant number of shipments of glass beads from China were found to contain high levels of both arsenic and lead,” said Congressman Holden. “We believe it is time to act.”

Each year more than 500 million pounds of glass beads are used on U.S. highways to stripe or re-stripe pavement markings. In recent years, imported glass beads used for this purpose have been shown to contain high levels of heavy metals including lead a reproductive toxicant and arsenic a known human carcinogen and poison.

As glass degrades over time from the pounding of traffic, snow plows, trucks and weather, toxic materials can leach out of the glass and run-off into nearby soil and water tables. In addition, the exposure to workers who deal with the application of glass beads that contain high concentrations of heavy metals is an increasing concern.

“Today more than a dozen states have independently imposed standards on their procurement of glass beads for highway use but it is time for a national standard,” said Congressman Shuster. “I am pleased to have been able to work with my colleague Tim Holden on this important legislation that will help safeguard the lives of highway workers and help keep public roads be safe and free of high levels of arsenic and lead.”

“The objective of this legislation is not to halt imports of engineered glass beads, but to make sure beads we use are environmentally friendly and don’t pose a health risk to highway workers,” Shuster added. “This legislation will create a national procurement standard to achieve this goal.”

In response to environmental and health issues, several states have already adopted regulations that require the use of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic glass materials. In particular, California, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming have established procurement standards for the safety of glass beads used in highway markings in their states. Several other states have proposals under review. The U.S. military, led by the Air Force, has set standards for procurement of glass beads, and the European Union, China, Australia, and several Canadian provinces have also set standards limiting heavy metal concentration.

Want to cut wasteful government spending? Now you can with YouCut

Today the House Republican Economic Recovery Working Group launched YouCut, a first-of-its kind initiative that empowers people with the ability to vote online and on their mobile devices for spending cuts they want the House to consider. Everyone knows that Washington has a spending problem. YouCut is an effort to start addressing the culture of spending in Washington that has produced a formidable national debt. Start voting now online here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shuster Statement on Unemployment Report

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Bill Shuster released the following statement on the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report:

“290,000 jobs have been added to the economy, but the unemployment rate remains 9.9%; a stark reminder that we are nowhere close to the economy President Obama promised when he signed the trillion dollar stimulus into law.

I agree with Republican Leader Boehner and a growing number of Americans that Democrats in Congress have no coherent agenda to create jobs and are set in the outmoded and wrong way of thinking that big government, not the American people, holds the answer to our economic woes.

To lower the unemployment rate and create a strong economic recovery, Congress needs to stop the wasteful spending that continues to pile on debt that weakens the foundation of our economy and shifts the bill to our children and grandchildren. Speaker Pelosi must stop job killing policies like Cap and Trade and reverse the government takeover of healthcare that will reduce quality of care, increase taxes and shift even more power to the federal government.

House Republicans have a jobs-first agenda that will cut spending, reduce the size of government and create private sector jobs. I invite my constituents to see some of our proposals online at the Republican Solutions website.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

IBD Editorial: America's Two-Tiered Recovery

From Investor's Business Daily online:

Economy: The recession is over, having ended last summer as we predicted, and now both parties will talk up recovery for different reasons. But it's not that simple. The private sector is only now getting back on its feet.

In March 2009, we predicted an imminent recovery from the brutal recession the U.S. entered in December 2007. It wasn't a tough prediction to make: The Fed had basically started printing money, pushing short-term interest rates to zero in late 2008 and causing the yield curve to go steeply positive.

An upward-sloping yield curve is in fact the most reliable indicator of a coming rebound. Given that, a recovery in GDP was baked into the cake well before the new administration took office.

Which is why we can only shake our heads as President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid and other Democrats congratulate themselves for the turnaround.

If anything, their $862 billion stimulus and $700 billion corporate bailout, not to mention the $10 trillion in deficits projected over the next decade, have blunted the sharp rebound that would have created hundreds of thousands more jobs than we have now.

Yet Harry Reid has the chutzpah to accuse Republicans of "making love to Wall Street," a laughable claim given that his own party took twice as much from big Wall Street firms as the GOP.

Then there's Nancy Pelosi, touting her party's policies: "It is all about a four-letter word: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. We are all about jobs." Really, Madame Speaker? Since Democrats took control of Congress and the White House, we have had one financial meltdown, one steep recession and the loss of 8 million jobs, half of them in the last year alone.

OK, but didn't the economy start to recover last summer? Yes. But which economy are we talking about? The public sector is expanding rapidly and adding jobs. But that's come at the expense of the private sector, the economy in which most Americans live.

Far from recovering last summer, the private economy is only now emerging from its downturn (see chart). It suffered six straight quarters of year-over-year decline — the longest such string since the Depression. In the first quarter, it grew at a modest 2.8% — the first gain since 2008's second period. Hardly rip-roaring.

For those who call this a "V-shaped" recovery, we agree only to a point. Yes, the overall economy has retraced lost ground. But, again, private sector GDP, as the chart shows, tells a different story. It remains well below its peak in the fourth quarter of 2007. Indeed, even after the first quarter's gain, private output is still $233 billion, or 2.1%, below its previous quarterly high.

Better than anything, this explains why we've lost 8 million jobs since the recession began. And why it took until March of this year for the job market to actually start growing again.

In other words, the real economy continues to suffer — thanks to the incompetence of our government and its regulators. What matters isn't the public sector, which only consumes wealth. It's the private economy, where all wealth is created.

Debates over whether this recovery looks like a "V" or a "U" thus miss the point. Our concern is for the future of the private sector, which is grim if current trends continue.

The Fed has added $2.3 trillion to its balance sheet, while flooding the economy with more than $1 trillion in newly created dollars. This is a monetary stimulus the likes of which have never been seen.

What happens when the central bank starts to unwind it? The answer is, interest rates will rise sharply and the recovery will be derailed. This year we'll most likely see a decent rebound with 3% growth or more. But next year is anybody's guess.

The private economy faces so many other imponderables and potential pitfalls that it's safe to say this is the most uncertain period since World War II. What about the collapse of public finance around the world? The planned tax hikes on entrepreneurs? The coming 60% jump in capital gains taxes? What about the soaring new costs to pay for ObamaCare?

For a truly healthy economy, the private sector needs capital, entrepreneurial talent, fair regulation and low taxes. Most of all, it needs a governing class that recognizes that our country was built on free markets, not big government.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Marcellus Shale: Reigniting state’s energy potential

By Congressman Bill Shuster:

In 1859, the first commercially successful oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania and our state became the leading producer of oil in America for over a generation. Now, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to recapture its past by becoming a leading producer of another energy source, shale gas.

The Marcellus Shale, which underlies a vast majority of the state, is the largest unconventional natural gas reserve in the world. There is enormous economic potential for Pennsylvania to take advantage of this reserve as new drilling techniques have unlocked vast resources previously impossible to reach. Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale will generate $14 billion and has the potential to create 98,000 jobs in 2010 alone, and will bring in $800M in state and local tax revenue.

Natural gas is a key energy resource in our quest to become more energy independent. Just a few years ago, we thought domestic production of natural gas had peaked. With the discovery of the enormous amount of shale gas underlying Pennsylvania and several other states, and the mastery of technology necessary to reach it, we have enough domestic gas reserves to last us over a century, allowing us to produce, not import a greater share of our energy needs.

Activity is picking up in Pennsylvania, with numerous companies beginning exploration and operations throughout the Marcellus. They bring with them job potential not only for those directly involved with drilling operations, but for other industries as well. From steel to rail, other industries are already responding to the needs of the growing gas industry. This will lead to more jobs and economic growth throughout the state. It is important that we recognize the enormous potential shale gas holds for Pennsylvania and encourage this growing industry with smart policies that encourage economic development.

The state of Pennsylvania has been doing a good job of this so far, balancing the needs of development with the protection of our environment. Natural gas drilling is effectively regulated at the state level by the Department of Environmental Protection. I believe the state continues to be in the best position to manage and regulate the industry. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to take over at the federal level and may restrict drilling activities that would limit the potential growth and positive impact on the state.

The federal government is considering regulation of a critical drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, which is necessary to recover gas from the Marcellus Shale. Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for 60 years; over 1 million wells have been hydraulically fractured and there has never been a single documented case of groundwater contamination. The practice is regulated effectively at the state level and there is simply no need for the federal government to step in with unduly burdensome regulations.

The successful development of natural gas represents one of our best opportunities to reignite Pennsylvania as a center for innovation and economic growth . In this sense, we stand at a crossroads that will define what our state will look like for generations to come. Will we choose to develop the Marcellus Shale and give our children the chance to prosper or will we allow government, red tape and bureaucracy get in the way? The choice is clear and the choice is development of natural gas.

Morning Must Reads