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There are but hours left in 2013, which a full two thirds of Americans described as the "worst year ever." Actually, I'm not sure of that exact number, but I was among the ones that did. Thanks, Obamacare!
Anyway, lest you think you're leaving all of the bad stuff behind while you're celebrating the end of the year with stuffed lobster, champagne and terrible decisions, the government has already started in on making your life miserable in 2014. And ready or not, as of midnight, here it comes.
1. The Obamacare Insurance Tax
Those free insurance policies that are now available to every American certainly don't come cheap. I'm not referring specifically to people who are now paying more for sub-par insurance coverage. I'm talking about the brand spanking new "Obamacare Insurance Tax" which is scheduled to hit small businesses at midnight.
At $8 billion in 2014 and $101 billion over the next decade, the insurance tax is larger than ObamaCare's taxes on medical devices and prescription drugs combined. The Internal Revenue Service classifies the tax as a "fee" but it functions like an excise tax on premiums. The IRS collects an annual flat amount specified by the Affordable Care Act to be allocated among the insurers according to market share.”
The CBO has already admitted that the "fee" will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket...just in time for the insured to enroll in Obamacare where they can get affordable, comprehensive coverage for a reasonable price.
2. The EPA's 2014 Regulation-Palooza
You can always count on the Environmental Protection Agency for a wallop in early January, as in each previous year, the EPA heaps greater and greater regulation on American industry in the name of "environmental responsibility." This year is no exception. Starting January 1st, the EPA will be cracking down on "existing coal plans" trying to get them in line with near-impossible EPA standards (they cracked down on new plants earlier this year, stalling production on new plants across the country), and inevitably raising the cost of electricity nationwide. They'll also be unleashing 133 other major and minor regulations, 76 of which relate to your air alone, and all of which will impact your life.
The good news is, at least one regulation from last year will be rolled back. Since the EPA couldn't defeat the free market for fuel, Ethanol and biofuel's 2013 expectations have been rolled back.
3. Higher Food Prices
Speaking of the Administration's renewable fuel standards, it's possible the cost of your Superbowl chicken wings will be taking a spike as a result of the very standards the Administration is rolling back. Before realizing that mandating higher Ethanol content was a mistake, the EPA drove the price of corn sky high, and it's about to hit you in the pocketbook.
Katie Campbell, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid, said the share of corn diverted from food to fuel has gone from 5 percent to 40 percent since 2000, which has created food price volatility...
Those higher food costs hurt food producers in the way of livestock feed, and also hurt consumers.
“As corn comprises nearly 70 percent of the feed given to chickens, our single largest input cost, rising prices directly affect farmers' bottom lines,” Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said. “Since the RFS was aggressively escalated in 2007, average annual feed costs have skyrocketed by $8.8 billion annually for poultry producers.
It's interesting to note that a Clean Air Task Force paper from April of 2013 says greenhouse gas emissions from corn Ethanol over 30 years will be approximately 28 percent higher than from gasoline.
4. Limiting Your Options in Higher Education
Barack Obama ran on a platform that encompassed higher education reform, so that he could easily win the youth vote and avoid having to talk to people who would require convincing when confronted with the possibility of a larger and more bloated government. He has yet to live up to his campaign promises: the Administration has done little to address student debt except to make more federal money available to incoming students, which provides no incentive to schools to lower tuition to match the market, resulting in students taking on more government debt than ever before. The reason no one has made a move to make education more market-friendly is because student loans are a huge moneymaker for the government, raking in a whopping $41.3 billion in 2013 alone.
This year, government will crack down on options cheaper than a four-year public university, ostensibly to save students money, but probably to make sure higher education remains a steadfast breeding ground for Democratic voters. They will now mandate that vocational schools taking government money in the form of student loans meet a "gainful employment" standard, where a certain percentage of their students find jobs within months of graduation. Seems reasonable, sure. But remember, it's only being applied to privately-run, corporate schools - not the ones the government runs and pays for. Of course.
5. Your Nanny State Is Looking Out for You
Perhaps most importantly, your own state is probably getting ready to crack down on choices you might make, saving you from your own terrible decision making skills - at least, according to your state. NYC's Michael Bloomberg made his last act as mayor a ban on indoor use of electronic cigarettes (which produce no harmful secondhand smoke), Illinois now won't let teenagers use tanning beds, California will clip papparazzi, and the federal government, not to be outdone by the states, will now stop you - by law - from buying incandescent light bulbs. Because, you know, you could put an eye out!
So, America, have a happy and healthy 2014. Or, of course, you might find that your government has a little surprise for you if you don't.