The Georgia political blog Peach Pundit has issued a challenge to readers to find out if the “healthcare navigators” hired in Georgia to “educate” and sign people up for the Affordable Care Act are as corrupt as these Texas navigators caught on tape counseling people to lie about their income by the indefatigable videographer James O’Keefe.
I did a little research and found a range of credibility among the nonprofit groups that are either receiving federal tax dollars directly or are “partnering” with the people who received grants to provide navigation in Georgia. But their credibility is not the real problem, as I’ll explain below.
According to Georgia Health News, SEEDCO and UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Science and Cooperative Extension are receiving federal grants to provide navigators in Georgia.
In the (not so) private market, individual insurers are also “navigating” their customers through the health care exchanges with no federal grant money — unless you count the fact that they’re taking advantage of Obamacare by raising rates while simultaneously claiming victimization from the law, despite getting huge new pools of customers. New customers’ premiums are largely paid for by their current customers through federal subsidies mandated by the law — so what’s not to love? The insurers are putting on a good show of complaining, but what they’ve been doing under the sheets with the infamous Ms. Fed at the Crony Capitalism Motel would blow away the usual black light hotel bedsheet Primetime exposé.
My little family of two is facing a premium increase of between 180% – 240% next December for virtually the same high deductible plan we have now — and I know that the government and the private insurers are heading off to Vegas together to blow that wad on a good steak dinner together, despite all the finger-pointing on both sides, such as this blindingly insane class war Cokie Roberts/Kaiser Family Foundation video you really have to watch to believe.
Do note that we’re self-employed and buy our own insurance, so we don’t really count as humans under the ACA. Think of us as the lab rats, the 5% already thrown into the nearest cages and hooked up to the electrodes. What happens to us now will be happening to people in group plans later on, a timeline I still cannot believe is legal, unless by “legal” you mean “first screw all the people without lobbyists.”
“Navigation” seems like a new concept to many people, but within the government subsidized healthcare/welfare industry — Medicaid, Medicare (yes, it is subsidized), WIC, Section 8, EITC and so on — there are always people doing some type of “navigation.” In our current bifurcated economy, where the rich advocate for the poor to live like kings, navigators paid for by taxpayers help poor people sign up for every other-person’s tax dollar for which they could possibly qualify. Many of these expenditures are a healthy and noble — supporting the truly disabled, for example — but when people play the system, we’re not only losing money to them; we’re paying navigators to teach them how to most efficiently pick our pockets. And there is a lot of intentional deception that goes on, deception that gets systematically overlooked by the government employees administrating these programs. Many of the most suspect Welfare Maximization Accomplice grants are laundered through university research — for example, I know of a university-based program in Florida geared exclusively at signing up illegal immigrant families for public benefits, though nobody would admit that out loud.
Academics play bag man in fiscal crimes against taxpayers all the time, reaping government grants and career advancement by pretending they are doing research, when what they’re really doing is handing out other people’s money, then using big words to declare the handout a success. Studying themselves playing Daddy Warbucks with taxpayer sawbucks is how sociologists and others climb the tenure ladder. They choose their favorite nonprofit, “partner” with them, then praise the nonprofit’s excellent performance in solving social problems, even if the executive director made off to Jamaica with all the money.
So long as it was stolen in a spirit of helping the poor, Professor Poodle can still brag about his commitment to the underclass when he’s not busy fuming about Fox News at the Departmental Nondenominational Solstice Holiday Party.
The fraud angle of all this ballooned under community organizer Obama, by design. Every rebranded ACORN worker out there offering free Obamaphones to welfare cheats is a navigator. So I’m glad to see James O’Keefe doing what he does better than anyone — giving people a glimpse of the underbelly of our corrupt welfare state.
But fraud is a feature, not a bug of this system. Another round of firing allegedly “rogue” employees for doing precisely what they were hired to do in the first place is the only reaction we can expect from the powers-that-be. The rogue navigators aren’t really rogue –they represent the very spirit of the thing.
The real problem with navigators is what they are actually navigating — the collapse of boundaries between big corporations, big nonprofits, and the government. So it doesn’t matter so much whether the entity doing navigation has a good reputation or a bad reputation: the activity itself fuels the belief that the highest calling of civic life is to transfer as much money as possible from working, taxpaying people to people who avoid working and paying taxes. In a way, the Sharpton-level fraudsters handing out government-subsidized-iphones to crack dealers are the least harmful actors on the stage: they are expendable clowns, while the real damage is being done with subtle efficiencies by Chamber types who span the political spectrum.
In Georgia, the groups involved in government-subsidized healthcare navigation have a range of reputations.
Georgia Watch is a well-known consumer organization boasting a transparent track record of their activities. Their board of directors (readily accessible on-line) includes Clark Howard, who has a great and very much well-earned reputation for advocating fiscal responsibility. Their tax records are up to date, and they are responsive to questions posed to them.
Still, there are problems with what they’re doing, which I’ll get to below.
On the other hand, SEEDCO, which recently received $2.2 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to provide navigators in Georgia, has an extremely troubling record of padding claims about numbers of clients served. How troubling? The New York Times actually went after them; the federal government actually filed charges against them, and they were actually found guilty of those charges, something that happens to big nonprofits wasting/stealing tax dollars about as frequently as the moon turns to blue cheese. Luckily for SEEDCO and their extremely well remunerated CEO, Barbara Dwyer Gunn, the feds settled on the hilarious punishment that they must pay back a fraction of the taxpayer money they fraudulently pocketed and agree to actually follow, you know, laws from now on.
This is a fabulous example of white collar criminals getting away with a slap on the wrist. But you won’t hear much whining about this sort of prosecutorial lenience from the usual sources because Ms. Dunn (400K plus a year) is a “social justice” worker running a noble “nonprofit” helping the “underserved.”
B.D.G.: her salary sure wasn’t docked for tax fraud
Incidentally, SEEDCO funnels taxpayer dollars to some Georgia nonprofits that also offer an incomplete or not very credible face to the public. For example, recent tax filings by the Asian American Resource Foundation Inc in Suwanee do not list the names of board members. Nor does the group’s website, though it boasts of “an 11-member Board of Directors, which is comprised of a diverse and committed group of African American, Asian and Caucasian men and women from the business and faith-based communities within greater Atlanta.”
Is this really a problem? Yes, it is, because AARF receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal HUD grants and has done so over a number of years, during which time they continued filing those incomplete 990 tax forms. Their tax forms state vaguely that the group “provides education to the unskilled with state grant and support shelter for homeless or the poor with federal HUD grant.” This really smacks of dialing it in. If AARF was some small, amateur nonprofit, I’d allow that filing mistakes were made. But when it’s my money going into somebody’s pocket and they produce a tax return like that — well, if I hadn’t worked in the nonprofit service provision industry in Atlanta for years, I guess I’d be surprised by that kind of systematic non-compliance.
But I did. So I’m not.
Other SEEDCO grant recipients in Georgia that fail to offer much information about how they’re spending our money include SPARC, the Single Parent Alliance and Resource Center (SPARC). I couldn’t find a record of their 990s on the comprehensive GuideStar site. Yet SPARCC boasts of involvement in VISTA/AmeriCorps, which is a federal program that provides select nonprofits with free (ie. taxpayer funded) full-time workers and more free (taxpayer funded) money for supervising those workers.
In other words, it is a program that gives free activists and boatloads of administrative money to left-wing nonprofit organizations, courtesy of the taxpayers.
SEEDCO gives grants to these agencies and many more like them — but the money they are giving away is taxpayer money. In 2011, the taxpayers gave them $31 million, virtually their entire budget, and they played kingmaker with it, handing it out to left-wing groups that do various types of activism. Much of their work is touted as “job readiness”, but the real business they’re in is coalition-building for political ends under the flag of “social justice” or “anti-poverty” or “family assistance.” Such coalition building on our dime has been the major racket of the Left since the Clinton administration (actually longer, but the contemporary movement dates to then).
The worst thing is that, at some point, this became an uptown game, and everything else in the economy ceased to exist. Once the health insurance companies and home mortgage banks jumped into bed with the feds (joining academia and big nonprofits in there), the result was unelected, unaccountable mega-coalitions like the ones below — chewing off larger and larger portions of government activities and control over tax dollars. Big corporations love this scheme because they can pretend to be “socially responsible” while protecting their interests with elected officials, who also want to appear socially responsible while they reward their friends sitting on the same boards. Foundations such as Annie E. Casey provide a charitable public face for the corporations that donate to them and for the politicians who give these silk-stocking “nonprofits” our money — and control over bigger and bigger parts of government.
Taxpayers aren’t just squeezed out: they are now demonized.
Here are some examples of “nonprofit” partnerships paid for by demonized taxpayers:
• Michigan Association of United Ways
• TheAlvinandFannyB.ThalheimerFoundation • TrinityWallStreet
• United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta
• United Way of New York City
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Georgia Department of Human Services
- Louisville Metro Department of Community
- Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
- Maryland Department of Human Resources
- New York City Department of Housing
- New York City Department of Small Business Services
- New York State Department of Health
- New York State Department of Labor
- New York State Office of Children and Family Services
- New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
- Tennessee Department of Human Services
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- U.S. Department of the Treasury
What are these lists? The first block is corporate and government partners of The Center for Working Families, the Georgia branch of a national nonprofit that claims to help “working families” gain “independence” through all the usual pathways: green job training funded by government referendums, plus maximization of the welfare state through “application assistance for over 21 [programs] such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF, Together RX, PeachCare for Kids and utility assistance” and “Referrals for comprehensive services including childcare, training, education and certifications, rental assistance and legal assistance.”
In other words, navigation. They maximize public benefits for people. We pay for it coming, and we pay for it going. Doubtlessly they’re in on healthcare navigation too.
I’ve worked with many such nonprofits, and the only people getting anything other than more welfare benefits out of it are the people employed by the agency itself. And there is real human tragedy behind this: CWF actually boasts on their website of having helped a whole 19 clients “create or expand” a full-time “microenterprise.” That’s approximately two jobs invented for each massive corporate or government “partner.” The “entrepreneur” page features a picture of a woman operating an ice cream truck, hardly stable employment, and the page notes that some of the businesses actually existed before CWF provided more resources. And doubtlessly that’s the best they can do.
The rest of their work is the sort of government-mandated job preparation stuff we’re already paying for two, three, five, or ten times over through K – 12 education, community colleges, colleges, and public social service agencies. Organizations like CWF are uniquely valuable to the Democratic party agenda, however, because they spread tax money around to high-powered activists in the community who “pay back” at election time. And for the most part, the money and services go down a rat hole — something I also watched in Atlanta year after year after year when I worked in social service advocacy and “outreach.”
CWF’s annual budget? 2.9 million in 2011, the latest reporting year.
The second list, above, is the partnerships of the Asian American Resource Foundation, which, like CWF, also receives money from SEEDCO and also from the state and from HUD.
And the third list is SEEDCO’s own corporate and government partners and donors, none of whom, apparently, bothered to notice while SEEDCO screwed the taxpayers blind.
Like all ingrates, SEEDCO also fails to acknowledge their biggest donor: you.
Don’t expect an invitation to their next black-tie gala, either.
We are living in the age of Faux-lanthropy. Faux-lanthropy is a polygamous marriage between big business, big nonprofits, and the big welfare state — a union of super-rich leftists, crony capitalists, dumb-yet-dangerous Marxist academicians, and the unproductive poor, all united against the dwindling middle. To understand the way this works in detail, read my report on faux-lanthropists and the Recovery Act at America’s Survival — Obama Stimulus Dollars Funded Soros Empire. In short: the super-rich partner with government social welfare advocates and their academic poodles to create poverty programs and services that are then paid for by ordinary taxpayers, who are endlessly demonized.
The ugliest, most cynical examples of faux-lanthropy are spawned in the financial services industry, where billionaires who cashed in on the mortgage bubble then got bailed out by the taxpayers now play in the platinum sandbox of New York City. The Big Apple effectively exterminated its last middle class resident around the time Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went belly up, so there’s nobody to harsh the vibe as former investment bankers play Lady Bountiful to gang-bangers on our dime while sending their own kids off to tony private schools in Millbrook.
But this sort of behavior happens in Georgia, too. SEEDCO is an example of faux-lanthropy, but so is Georgia Watch, despite the good people on their board and the good deeds they tout on their website. They are just as bound up in promoting the interests of certain crony capitalists as their less ethical peers. If anything, the fact that they have reputable leaders makes it worse.
Such is the seduction of “doing good.”
You simply can’t claim to be “advocating for consumers” when your board is loaded with big businessmen engaging in political partisanship on an issue that affects millions of consumers negatively and enhances your board members’ bottom lines positively. That flies in the face of Georgia Watch’s entire mission, and I’m astonished that they don’t see that and — at the barest minimum — include disclaimers on their website about their board members’ fiscal interests.
You also can’t claim to be objectively evaluating the effects of the new healthcare exchanges when you’re taking money from a corrupt entity like SEEDCO to promote the new healthcare exchanges. I reached out to Georgia Watch last week and asked them to disclose the money they are receiving from SEEDCO (cough, the taxpayers) on their website, and Elena Parent, their Executive Director, wrote the following back to me:
We are going to be completely overhauling our website soon. Right now posting things on it isn’t easy. I’m happy to tell you we are funded for 1/4 of a navigator which is $15,000 all in (salary, travel, equipment, benefits) through the SeedCo consortium.
You see, it’s really hard to change a website. I wonder if Georgia Watch accepts that excuse from the big industrialists who don’t sit on their board. And yes, Ms. Parent, that is an awfully teensy-weensy grant from SEEDCO, but you don’t really need the money and you are prominently listed on their homepage as their Georgia partner, thus granting your (state) political credibility to them and their (federal) government influence to you, which is the real point of such partnerships.
There’s more than one type of currency in lobbying . . . and other political acts.
One of the awful things that happens in nonprofit advocacy is that people start to believe their own hype. There’s nothing nonprofit about the nonprofit world: 99% of it is just political lobbying for this or that client group and this or that special interest. The salaries are outrageous and the graft is greater than anything private industry has managed to accomplish since the Gilded Age.
That’s why all sorts of big businesses do more and more of their business and political work — and lobbying — through 501-c3s, foundations, and coalitions, right and left.
Georgia Watch’s board of directors:
- Natalie Allen, International Anchor, CNN
- Phil Baldwin, CEO, CredAbility
- Raymond P. Carpenter, Carpenter & Associates, LLC, Chairman, Georgia Watch Board of Directors
- Beth Cayce, Founder & CEO, CaraVita Home Care
- Dennis Creech, Executive Director, Southface Energy Institute
- Leonce Crump, Pastor, Renovation Church
- John Dalton, MD, Orthopedic surgeon, Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow
- Kathy Floyd, Advocacy Director, AARP of Georgia
- Clark Howard, Nationally Syndicated Host, The Clark Howard Show
- Jimmy Hurt, Attorney, Hurt Stolz
- Allie Kelly, Sr. Vice President, Georgia Conservancy
- Danny Orrock, Counsel, Crawford Communications
- Charlie Tanksley, Founding Partner, The Barnes Law Group, LLC
- Martha Wilber, MD, Associate Medical Director, Kaiser Permanente
So Georgia Watch is a big cheerleader for Obamacare. Why is this a problem? Well, for one thing, they have Kaiser Permanente on their board, and if that doesn’t scream “conflict of interest,” I don’t know if those words mean anything at all. Now, it’s fine to have Kaiser (and the AARP) on your board, but don’t then pretend you don’t have skin in the game.
These “champions of Georgia consumers” have also been silent on Obamacare’s negative effects on consumers.
When Georgia Watch goes after Georgia Power or some of the other industries they monitor, they apply a very different set of standards than the ones they practice themselves. I have no particular love for Georgia Power or any other company that engages in crony capitalism while monopolizing a service I must purchase, but I also see no difference between Georgia Power profiting from their government monopoly in energy and Kaiser Permanente profiting from their new government monopoly in healthcare (yes, it’s essentially a single-payer monopoly they divvy up with other big healthcare insurers — all the worst aspects of our old system and the worst aspects of socialized medicine, rolled up into one).
The hypocrisy is galling. Here, for example, is what Georgia Watch says is wrong about Georgia Power’s new nuclear plant — the one they are fighting in the courts “on behalf of consumers”:
In a series of cases before the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to monitor the cost of constructing two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle, Georgia Watch is working to protect consumers. A legal dispute between Georgia Power and its Plant Vogtle contractors over cost overruns from project design issues and schedule delays could end up costing Georgia Power ratepayers $400 million or more! In a brief filed at the Commission on August 3, 2012, Georgia Watch once again called on Commissioners to approve a risk sharing mechanism as a means of protecting ratepayers. Currently, the entire cost of overruns is unfairly borne by ratepayers alone.
This is Georgia Watch’s battle cry: consumers are being soaked; prices are too high; Georgia Power is forcing the public to shoulder its expenses and overruns; it’s unfair.
And here is what Georgia Watch says about Obamacare’s overruns (such as: the $600 million website fiasco; forcing some consumers to shoulder costs before others; duplicative spending on dubious navigators; the horrible lies about “keeping your plan,” and most importantly, the lies about saving money, while middle-class people like me get throttled with 200 – 300% price increases):
They say . . . nothing.
Actually, it’s worse than that: they’re behaving as if none of these things are happening to consumers. They’re running cover for their own board members while pretending to be a consumer advocacy organization. Isn’t it funny how many millions of words have been spilled over the alleged astro-turfing of the Tea Party by the Koch brothers, while huge crony industries on the Left escape similar scrutiny when they really astroturf issues — carrying water for the government, and even using our tax dollars to do it?
Unfortunately, as with the probable outcome of James O’Keefe’s latest exposé, nothing much changes when the system is jerry-rigged to maximize dependency on the government. That’s what navigators for the new healthcare law — and many other programs — are really doing. So to expect something different from them is sort of like trying to turn a sow’s ear back into a pig. It’s just as impossible as all the other things you try to do with the darn thing.