STUMP » Articles » Friday Trumpery: DOL pick, take two » 3 March 2017, 08:45

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Friday Trumpery: DOL pick, take two  


3 March 2017, 08:45

Just a note: stuff is going on in real life, which is why I haven’t updated on the Nevada pensions yet. They will come when I have time.

In its place, something I put together well ahead of time:


7 things Trump’s new DOL pick knows about benefits

1. Hearings
To become Labor secretary, Acosta needs to get a majority vote in the Senate, at a time when Democrats are facing intense pressure from constituents to vote against all Trump nominees, and a few Republican senators are crossing party lines to vote against some nominees.

Acosta has already gone through Senate confirmation processes to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, to become the assistant attorney general for civil rights, and to become the U.S. attorney for South Florida.

2. Claim data
Acosta testified at the 2011 Medicare and Medicaid hearing that the South Florida health care anti-fraud office was as productive as it was because it had persuaded Medicare program managers to provide access to Medicare claim data, with the patient names stripped out.
3. Math
Acosta testified at the 2011 hearing that health care fraud investigators need predictive analytics tools, or statistical data, to look for unusual billing patterns.

“[With]credit cards, if your spending patterns deviate at all, they call you up,” he said, according to the hearing transcript. “Why can Medicare not do the same thing?”

4. Visual aids
Acosta testified at the 2011 hearing that he likes to bring members of Congress and others along on health care fraud-fighting ride-alongs, and that he likes to show guests a wheelchair stored in the fraud-fighting unit’s facility.

“The wheelchair was billed again and again and again,” Acosta said. “The same wheelchair not used by patients. We call it the million-dollar wheelchair, because it was billed that many times.”

5. Long-term care facilities
At the 2009 Senate hearing, Acosta talked about federal Medicaid standards for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He described efforts to market antipsychotic drugs to nursing homes for off-label uses, and efforts to identify and investigate long-term care facilities “that provide services so substandard as to constitute worthless services and constitute a complete ‘failure of care.’”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 includes provisions that were supposed to support efforts to fight health care fraud, protect patients’ privacy, and improve health data security.

At the 2009 and 2011 hearings, Acosta did not talk about the HIPAA data security provisions, but he did talk about the HIPAA fraud-fighting and patient privacy provisions.
7. Private health insurers
Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington often talk as if health insurers are a necessary evil, and they sometimes seem to have a hard time understand the insurers’ point of view.

Acosta testified at the 2009 and 2011 hearings that his office worked regularly with private health insurers, because health care fraud schemes frequently affect private health insurance plans.

So…. this is all about health care stuff. Okay, fair enough, but that’s not really in the purview of the Department of Labor.

I guess this mainly shows he’s familiar with bureaucracy and dealing with Congress?



Unfortunately, Alex Acosta, the replacement for Andrew Puzder at the Department of Labor, is vastly more appealing to the left than Puzder was. The Acosta selection represents a win for the left and a defeat for conservatives.

At first blush, this might seem an odd assertion. Acosta was a law clerk for the excellent Justice (then Judge) Alito. He was associated with two great conservative organizations — the Federalist Society and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He has the endorsement of Sen. Cruz, with whom he attended Harvard law School.

At the same time, though, Acosta has been praised by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and by several large unions. Of Acosta’s selection, Trumka gushed, “In one day, we’ve gone from a fast-food CEO who routinely violates labor law to a public servant with experience enforcing it.”

I put more weight in the reaction of the unionists than I do in Acosta’s conservative connections. Their enthusiasm is based on what Acosta did as a member of the National Labor Relations Board in the early 2000s. This seems more relevant than a clerkship years earlier, a friendship formed in law school, and organization memberships.

Acosta was in frequent contact with left-wing civil rights groups. If they complained that DOJ wasn’t bringing enough of a certain kind of case — say, discrimination claims based on disparate impact — his typical response would be to order the bringing of two or three such cases. According to my information, the facts were not important. What mattered was raising the number of the particular category of cases that civil rights activists had expressed interest in.

The Hispanic community had a strong interest in Executive Order 13166. Signed by President Clinton in August 2000, it requires federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those service.

Acosta promised Latino organizations that he would issue favorable guidance for complying with the Order. When he encountered opposition in the Justice Department, Acosta said it was too late to oppose what he wanted because the White House had already signed off informally. Thus, the Justice Department signed off.

Acosta was loath to bringing cases civil rights activists didn’t like. The best example is the voting rights lawsuit against Ike Brown, the notorious African-American political boss of Noxubee County.

Brown’s blatant violations of the Voting Rights Act are set forth in detail by a federal judge in this opinion. But the case that gave rise to the opinion probably wouldn’t have been brought if Acosta had had his way.

Why did Acosta behave the way he did at DOJ? Is he a liberal on the issues he dealt with or, having established good conservative credentials early in his career, was he trying to curry favor with the other side, perhaps in anticipation of a “confirmation moment” like the one that now has arrived?

It doesn’t matter. Either way, his service as Secretary of Labor would pose a large and obvious risk for conservatives.

The Department of Labor plays a key role in areas of major interest to conservatives, especially immigration, wage and hour law, and civil rights. The left had its way, and then some, under Tom Perez, President Obama’s Labor Secretary.
Gheen noted that Acosta has been backed in the past by the National Council of La Raza, a left-wing civil rights group. It endorsed him to head up the Civil Rights Division under President Bush. As discussed above, Acosta rewarded them.

Acosta’s confirmation is virtually assured. Republicans won’t block a Trump nominee, and Acosta’s record guarantees him sufficient support from Democrats.

It will be imperative that the White House watch Acosta carefully to make sure he undoes Tom Perez’s mischief and does none of his own. Unchecked, the Labor Department can undermine key elements of the Trump agenda.

I don’t think DOL is really a priority for the Trump administration. We’ll see.


Okay, that’s just for silliness.

Here’s something more serious about the prior DOL pick:

Puzder describes family threats, ‘intense disappointment’ after failed nomination

Andy Puzder described on Monday the pressure his family received during the confirmation process before he withdrew his nomination as President Trump’s labor secretary, hinting that his family received death threats while expressing “intense disappointment” at his failed nomination.

Puzder told radio host Hugh Hewitt in his first interview since withdrawing his nomination on Feb. 15 that the pressure on his family was “pretty tremendous,” most of which came from Democratic activists. His family was harassed at their Tennessee home, which prompted a visit from an FBI terrorist team. Puzder, who is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, withdrew his nomination after at least three Republican senators were set to vote against him.

“The pressure on my family was really pretty tremendous,” Puzder said. “There were a lot of things done outside of the process, for example, the payroll account at our company was hacked. Fight for $15 sent eight to 10 demonstrators to our front door when I was sitting here one Saturday afternoon.

“There was an envelope left at our house addressed to my wife that had white powder in it, a pink piece of paper with ‘Trump’ written on it, and here, obviously, the white powder was in a plastic bag, but you open the envelope and a little powder came out,” Puzder explained. “There was also, I’m told — I didn’t see it — but I’m told there was a paper doll with a noose around its neck and … it was addressed to my wife, not addressed to me, which really shows the cowardice of these people. We had an FBI terrorist team come to the house. We had a couple of fire engines with hazmat teams in the neighborhood to pick up this envelope and take it in to have it analyzed.”

While the DOL pick may not be a priority for the Trump admin, it sure as hell is a priority for unions.

And we know what happens when you cross the unions.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin: A labor model for Trump?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s crackdown on collective bargaining could serve as a model for President Donald Trump’s plans to overhaul the federal workforce. But any such move by the new president would risk a fight with already wary labor leaders.

Walker, the chief promoter, said he spoke last week with Vice President Mike Pence about “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” with the union law and public workforce overhaul and “apply it at the national level.”

“They look at not only what we did with [the collective bargaining law] but even some of the civil service reforms, the two combined, so they can hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance,” Walker told The Associated Press in an interview last week. A spokesman for Pence declined to comment.

Under Walker, the state’s 2011 law barred collective bargaining over working conditions and big pay increases for most public workers. It also required them to pay more for health care and pension benefits. The measure led to massive protests and an unsuccessful attempt to recall Walker in 2012. His legacy includes a 2015 law that made Wisconsin one of at least 27 states with so-called right-to-work laws that generally prohibit businesses and unions from requiring all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues.

Oh right. Well.

I guess they don’t have the gunpower they used to.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka shrugged off the idea of Trump making a Walker-style assault on the federal civil service because, he said, even the Republican-controlled Congress won’t allow it.

“Most people understand that if he does that in a Republican administration, it can also happen in a Democratic administration,” Trumka said in an interview. “And that wouldn’t be so good, would it?”

Sure, go for it. overnment employees shouldn’t have unions.

The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money. When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. F.D.R. considered this “unthinkable and intolerable.”

Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. Instead their elected representatives must negotiate spending and policy decisions with unions. That is not exactly democratic – a fact that unions once recognized.

Private unions are hurting for a variety of reasons, and I think right-to-work may actually help them, because they’ll actually have to provide benefits to members instead of strong-arming people to be members — which led to their political unfavorability. Closed shop rules helps unions in the short term, and weakens them in the long run.

Kind of like state-established religions. Religiosity is much higher in the U.S., where there is competition for converts, than in the European countries with state-supported churches.

But that’s getting a bit far afield.

Public unions, on the other hand, drive all sorts of political shenanigans…. like the whole public pension mess. But you knew that.

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