Category Archives: Politics

TANF in Nevada: Myths and Real Numbers

When the Department of Health and Human Services ran the numbers for TANF recipients in a comprehensive FY 2010 study it reported 10,269 “active case” families in Nevada. [DHHS pdf]  20% of those were single individuals, 35.4% were two member households, 23.7% were in three member households, 12.6% were in four member households, another 5.2% were in five member households, and 3.2% were in six member households.  Thus, 59.1% of Nevada’s active TANF cases involved homes with two or three members.   Thus much for the right wing delusion that people on “welfare” lie about just “making babies” for the lack of anything better to do.  The “average” household size for TANF recipients in Nevada is about 2.6 persons.

Who is receiving TANF benefits?  In Nevada about 41.5% of the active cases did not involve an adult. 48.4% involved one adult, and 10% included benefits for two or more adults in the household.

Looking at the numbers for TANF recipients and the percentage distribution of TANF families by the number of recipient children we find that 45.5% included one child, 28.5% two children, 14.4% three children, 6.4% four children, 3.5% five children.  (Table 4)

The same trend is visible if we look at TANF recipient families in Nevada in which there was no adult eligible for assistance, 43.9% of the cases included one child, 29.2% two children, 15.4% three children, 7.3% four children in the household, and 4.1% with five or more children in the family.  (Table 5)

The picture emerging from the Nevada numbers is further illustrated in subsequent tables for TANF recipients in households with one adult (Table 6) and with more than one adult (Table 7) — most cases involve individuals with one child, and the households receiving TANF support declines thereafter.

Those attempting to imply that TANF beneficiaries are “those people in the inner city…” (a well known Dog Whistle) won’t find much support in the Nevada numbers either.

Of the active cases in FY 2010 35.6% were of Hispanic heritage (of any race), 31.8% were White, and 27.1% were African American. 2.1% were Native American, 1.8% were Asian, and 1.6% were Other.  (Table 8)  To put it another way, 67.4% of Nevada’s active TANF cases were NOT African American households.  If we look at the adult TANF recipients the numbers are essentially the same — 23.7% are of Hispanic descent, 42.1% are White, 26.8% are African American, 2.6% are Native American, and 2.8% are Asian. In short, 65.8% of the adult recipients are NOT African American.  [Table 21]

There are 19,518 children eligible for TANF benefits in Nevada, and 42% are of Hispanic descent, 26.3% are White, 26% are African American, and 1.7% are Native American. [Table 35] Again, the face of welfare in Nevada certainly isn’t predominantly black.  Sadly, these are the figures which cause some to complain that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be repealed or replaced with a more stringent test for U.S. citizenship.  However, this argument can’t be buttressed from these numbers alone because the underlying assumption that the parents of the child are necessarily “illegal” can’t be determined from the overall statistics.  Further, the ramifications of repeal or replacement of the 14th Amendment is a societal and legal discussion which deserves its own forum. And, for emphasis on this point — of the 19,518 children included in active TANF cases in Nevada 98.3% are U.S. citizens, and 1.7% are “qualified aliens.” [Table 40]

And then there’s the Teenaged Mother nonsense — also not in evidence if we look at the numbers from Nevada.  There were 3,875 adolescent recipients of TANF benefits of whom 82.9% were NOT parents, meaning the Teen parents comprised 17.1% of Nevada’s TANF recipients.  [Table 10]

What do we know so far?  We know that large families aren’t “on” TANF, and we know that for the most part these families aren’t African American, they aren’t “illegals,” and we know that most of them aren’t the stereotypical adolescent parents.

Why might older adults in the households receiving TANF benefits not be recipients themselves?  64.8% of the “assistance units” (think of a household) had no adults included in the Nevada TANF program. 24% of these were ineligible because they were receiving SSI benefits, and another 75.4% because they could not prove citizenship.  [Table 12]  There goes that whopper again — non-citizens signing up for “welfare.”   Nevada’s rules are simplicity itself: “All persons applying for or receiving TANF must provide satisfactory evidence of citizenship or qualified non-citizenship status.”  Taking a look at the issue from another direction, of the 7,034 adult recipients of TANF benefits 91.7% are U.S. citizens and 8.3% are “qualified aliens.” [Table 26]  “They” are obviously NOT “coming here to get on welfare.”

One of the more depressing numbers shows up in Table 30, in which we find that of the active case adults (7,034) approximately 41.1% are working.  This says perhaps too much about the level of wages and the kinds of jobs available for TANF households that a person could be holding down a job and still be below the poverty line in terms of TANF eligibility.    We’d expect the 52.4% of the unemployed and the 6.5% of the discouraged workers to be earning less than sub-poverty wages, but not necessarily that 41.1%.

49.8% of the male TANF recipients and 38.9% of the women are employed, and still not earning enough to break over the poverty line.  [Table 30]

And, down goes another bit of right wing mythology about families receiving public assistance in Nevada.

Imagine our right wing friend sputtering, “but but but…they don’t work!”  Not. So. Fast.  In bureaucrat-ese the important element is the PRP, or in English — a personal responsibility plan.  Here is the Federal summary of what’s required in a Personal Responsibility Plan:

“The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) established a framework for creating a time-limited, work-based assistance system that emphasizes a “work first” approach. It requires states to meet federally mandated work participation rates by engaging recipients in federally defined activities. All recipients with a work requirement must participate in one or more of nine “core” activities, of which vocational education is one, for 20 hours per week. Recipients with a child age six or older are required to participate for 30 hours per week and two-parent families are required to participate for 35 hours if they don’t receive federally-funded child care assistance and for 55 hours if they do. For any hours required over 20, recipients can participate in core activities for more hours or in three additional non-core activities, two of which may encompass vocational education — job skills training directly related to employment, and education directly related to employment (for recipients who have not completed high school or the equivalent).”  [DHHS] (emphasis added)

In other words, in order to qualify for TANF assistance the individual must be working, seeking work, in a job training program, or in school.

Now, what do we know?  No, there aren’t any Big Families involved in our major public assistance program, and they aren’t predominantly African American, and they aren’t that stereotypical teen mother, and they aren’t non-citizens or undocumented workers, AND they aren’t allowed to “sit on the stoop drinking beer and listening to boom boxes.”

But wait, how about all those “other benefits” which are commonly tacked on in an attempt to demonstrate that Welfare Queens (not the corporate or ranching variety) are leaching us dry?

Of the 10,269 active TANF cases in Nevada as of FY 2010, some 99.3% were eligible for medical/health care services.  Assistance slides rapidly down hill thereafter.  73.7% were eligible for SNAP (food stamp) benefits, receiving an average of $425.04.  Zero (0%) were receiving public housing, and only 14% were receiving any form of rent subsidy.  7.9% were receiving some form of federally subsidized child care, and another o.6% received state or locally subsidized child care assistance. [Table 13]

The adults are not, as a rule receiving any disability benefits, because of the 7,034 recipients in the report 99.6% received no disability benefits.  [Table 23]  Those ‘reports’ which lump all the possible benefits together and purport to demonstrate that Welfare is a Great Drain, aren’t drilling down to the actualities of TANF benefits and their distribution.

About 4.8% of TANF households in Nevada have some ‘outside’ resources, but as Table 14 demonstrates, not much.  The average child support contribution is $211.04 per month, and for the 22.3% who have cash resources the average is about $202.76.  We can’t add these together because not all households receiving child support payments are those in which there are other cash resources, and vice versa.

The report does tell us that adults receiving TANF benefits are young, but not necessarily very young.  9.4% are under 20, 50.5% are between 20-29, another 25.3% range from 30 to 40, and 12.5% are between 40 and 49.  Only 2.3% are over 50 years of age.  [Table 18]

The pattern holds by gender as well. 1,369 men were TANF beneficiaries, and most were between the ages of 20-49. Only 27.9% were older than 40 years of age.  [Table 19]  5,639 recipients were women, of whom only 10.8% were under 20.  53.7% were between the age of 20 and 29, 23.9% were between 30 and 39, and 11.6% were over 39. [Table 20]

One part of the common perspective is established in the Nevada figures, adult recipients are predominantly single. 63.9% are single, 23.6% are married, and 6.8% are separated.  Another 5.4% were divorced, and 0.3% widowed. [Table 22]

We should also refrain from making generalizations about the levels of education achieved by TANF recipients.  Of the 7,034 adult beneficiaries 1.7% have no formal education, 37.6% have some education between grades 1 and 11; 54.1% have completed grade 12, and 6.6% have some education beyond high school. [Table 25]

There another myth that need challenging — that those who accept public assistance are dooming their souls to a life time of subservience to the government and destroying their work ethic. Again, the real numbers don’t square with the mythology. The TANF families in active cases including children receive assistance for an average of 17.9 months in Nevada. The state of South Dakota has the highest average in the report, some 50 months.  [Table 41]

Even if we consider the stereotypical (and highly inaccurate) face of welfare as the African American teen mother then her 75.3 years of life expectancy would mean that in Nevada she would spend only 17.9 months of her expected 900 months of life on this planet receiving TANF benefits, or about 1.9% of her life span.

If we look at the tables for children receiving TANF assistance in Nevada the picture remains similar. There are 4,266 children receiving benefits (in homes where the adults are not). The number of months for which benefits are paid averages out to 28.1. [Table 42] Hardly a life time of dependency.  Can we argue that the child who received benefits might at some point in his or her life also require assistance as an adult?  One could, but that would require assuming that children once beneficiaries of assistance will necessarily require assistance as an adult.  Even if we accept this questionable proposition, the numbers dictate that the assistance will not be a life time dependency but a short term benefit of 17 to 18 months on average.

As we examine the active TANF cases for Nevada in FY 2010 there are several issues that should be resolved by the figures.  Welfare in Nevada is NOT  Black, it is not necessarily a teen mother, it is not undocumented workers, it is not a life time subservience, it is not lucrative, and it is not draining the Yankee Work Ethic (whatever that might be) from the souls of the recipients.

Only in the highly generalized, ideological, world of right wing propaganda does the mythology drive the perception of welfare as a trap net.  The real numbers tell a very different story, in which we do provide a safety net for our citizens, and by extension our economy.

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Questioning, Questionable, Values

** Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) would like to do something about the backlog of paperwork stalling veterans’ benefits, and has signed onto the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S.2091) also sponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), David Vitter (R-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).  Details of the bill can be found at Senator Casey’s web page.   Just a thought — but before we send “boots on the ground” into another armed conflict it might be advisable to consider the requirements necessary to provide services to the veterans of that conflict BEFORE leaping into the fray?  Do we really value the service of our members of the Armed Forces?

** Oh, spare me the rhetorical flourishes!  “Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over the agency’s roundup of his cattle will go down in history as a high-profile clash of Old West values with today’s federal regulations on the use of public lands and natural resources.” [LVRJ]  Or, might we opine that the squabble will be added to the list of Cranky Old Welfare Queens who want to graze their privately owned cattle on public land — at public expense?  And, what, pray tell, is an “Old West value?”  Before contributing a Hollywood stereotypical opinion on the matter — please note that the original ‘cowboys’ were vaqueros, Mexican, Spanish speaking cattle hands.  As for land use issues — the introduction of barbed wire restricting open range was a particular sore point [LIOW] exacerbating the trouble between farming and ranching interests.  Or, is Bundy harkening back to the Good Old Days when his hands could apply wire cutters to fencing around crop lands, decimating the neighbor’s alfalfa crops?  Was THAT an old west value?

**  The real face of poverty in America?  Recommended reading: Clarence Page’s contribution on the subject, reprinted in the Las Vegas Sun.  While the Republicans may be using “Urban” as a code word for African American, and “welfare” takes on a darker hue, the numbers are revealing –  of those participating in the WIC nutrition program 10.3% are Native American, 2.72% are Asian, 19.3% are African American, and 60.94% are White. [USDA]

Families receiving TANF aid are 31.8% White, 31.9% African American, and 30% Hispanic ethnicity. [HHS]

Do we value the lives of our neighbors — or just a little more or less so depending on the pigmentation?

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TR knew something about anarchists…

TR on Anarchism

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Bundy’s Lazy WQ Socialist Cows

Lazy WQWho knew? Cliven Bundy is a Socialist!  Because who but a banner waving Socialist would presume that public land was theirs for the taking without payment?  And, then there are those Socialist Cows munching on public property at no expense.  The Bureau of Land Management administers about 245 million acres of public land, and manages grazing on approximately 155 million acres by issuing permits — an estimated 18,000 permits for 21,000 allotments on BLM lands. [BLM]

Bundy’s gripe is with the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act which authorized the Bureau of Land Management to create regulated districts.  Further, he wants the use of public lands — but he doesn’t want to pay for the use — like the other 99.9% of ranchers.

“The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Under this formula, as modified and extended by a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM); also, any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. (An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.) The grazing fee for 2014 is $1.35 per AUM, the same level as it was in 2013.
The Federal grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted each year according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.  In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined.” [BLM]

Not to put too fine a point to it, but what Mr. Bundy wants is a free ride.  While 99.99% of western ranchers include the grazing fees in their accounting as a cost of doing business, Mr. Bundy wants a government subsidy (in the form of non-payment of the grazing fees).

Better still, Mr. Bundy has reiterated his attack on capitalism (which generally accepts that there are costs incurred in doing business) and staunchly declares he will Never Back Down. [ABC]  But wait, there’s more!

“It’s not about cows, it’s about freedom,” Utah resident Yonna Winget told ABC News affiliate KTNV in Las Vegas, Nevada.” [ABC]

Yeah, it’s all about Freedumb!  The freedumb to graze cows free of charge on federal (public) land, while every other rancher in the county pays the required grazing fees and doesn’t trespass his or her cattle on the allotments.

Thus, the Welfare Queen of Clark County, Nevada, wants to avoid paying the grazing fees because he doesn’t agree with the BLM rules and regulations — and I’d like to cut back on the income taxes I pay because I don’t agree with the brackets….

It is truly heart-warming (in the electrification sense of the term) to know that there are people who can get a free ride from the government, who can break the law with impunity, and who can threaten violence when called to account, if they don’t agree with the administration of the laws of the land, and the lands.

Meanwhile back at the Lazy WQ, Mr. Bundy doesn’t have to go to all the effort of moving his Socialist Cattle, because….. Freedumb!

 

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Financialism at its Finest: The Flash Boys

If you haven’t already picked up Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,” please do so: “Now in “Flash Boys,” Lewis reveals how a new crop of investment firms has conspired with the big banks and the stock exchanges to use high-speed computers and complex software algorithms to skim pennies from the real investors who provide equity capital to the economy.” [WaPo]  Get that — about REAL investors?

Back in the not so good old days, the function of investment banking was to assist the distribution of capital from areas of excess (savings) to areas of need (loans) to commercial and industrial enterprises.

If we didn’t learn much else from the Mortgage Meltdown in the Wall Street Casinos of 2007-08, or from the Flash Crash of 2010 — we were given a rather stark reminder that the business of Wall Street is now Wall Street.

Note that in Flash Boys, the object of the game is to game the system and make money by skimming from REAL investors.  Remember those “job creators?”  Real investors buy stock, buy bonds, and otherwise provide the capital upon which our economy rests.  Financialists couldn’t care much less if the American Widget corporation makes a dime in profits from the sales of its products — but they do care deeply about the price of AW Inc’s stock.

In the interest of not giving away the story line, I’ll stop here and let you make up your own mind about the depths to which Wall Street has sunk into its own mire of manipulations.   Before listening to the chatterati on what passes for business news on cable — here’s some recommended background:

James B. Stewart, “Flash Boys, Gone in 0.001 Seconds,” New York Times, April 11, 2014.

Ted Kaufman, Delaware Online, News Journal, “Flash Boys should and will make your blood boil,” April 12, 2014.

Raju Kane, “Cracking the Money Code,” DNA, April 13, 2014.

Will Deener, “Telling the Ugly Truth,” Dallas Morning News, April 6, 2014.

If you’ve checked out these reviews, and are still inclined to accept the chatterati’s rationalizations for the “front-running” — read skimming — then the best advice might be to have the TV turned off, and consider that the explications tend to run toward vapidity like, “this adds liquidity to the markets….”

Any time you hear the word “liquidity” (a) remember that it just means cash/money, and (b) that it’s the standard line tossed out to the uninformed in the hopes that they will stay that way.

The second way to judge the pontification from the pundits is to ask yourself — Do I understand the point being made? If the answer to that question is “no,” then consider why — most likely because you were inundated in a tsunami of Wall Street jargon, and then told if you didn’t understand the mash-up you are obviously NOT a sophisticated investor and should switch to the Cartoon Network as a venue more suitable to your intelligence.

Another common Wall Street retort is that Lewis’s books are “popular,” as if explaining complicated processes in readable vocabulary isn’t “academic,” and therefore of less merit.  This line of petulance is most often associated with faculty commons and the interminable squabbling of the very academics who deplore ‘popular’ writing.  Merely because a person doesn’t douse you with algorithms doesn’t mean you aren’t getting the information.

And, when Senator Sludgepump or Representative Quagmire tell you that the Job Creators need Deregulation to enhance the liquidity of the markets and facilitate investment — remember that the deregulation and the gaming of the system by the financial sector are the elements skimming profits from REAL investors.

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The Annual Hiatus

Basketball vacation 2Yes, it’s that time of year when the DB goes dark while the proprietor thereof absorbs March Madness.  DB will be back on or around April 10 or so … Please stay tuned, and in the mean time PLEASE visit some of the very fine Nevada Blogs in the SideBar!

 

 

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Let Them Eat Pie In The Sky

Pie in the SkySo, the Senate version of a bill to extend unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed will be on the Senate floor on Friday (maybe), if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) can move through the arcane labyrinth of the Senate Rules. [Roll Call]

The arguments emanating from the GOP side of the aisles would be easier to understand IF anyone from that quarter could explain why it was perfectly acceptable to extend long term unemployment benefits FIVE TIMES during the Bush Administration — but is somehow categorically unacceptable today.

The Incredible Moving Goal Posts

The fact that the Senate Republicans continue to move the goal posts on Senate action serves to remind us why the arguments against the extension are ultimately specious.

The Senate Republicans wanted to add amendments, amendments were allowed, but not enough amendments? Not the right kind of amendments?  The Senate Republicans wanted a Pay For, they got one — on the backs of working people — who would be required to make larger contributions to unemployment insurance programs — that was insufficient, they want MORE… of something.  Whatever. And, whatever is offered by the Democratic leadership we can all bet it will be insufficient to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Ever Outraged GOP.

Right here in the Silver State we have approximately 20,000 individuals who are among the long term unemployed. [LVSun]  They join the estimated 1.3 million [CAP] to  3.8 million now still unemployed or still looking for work in this country. [Guardian]

Let Them Eat Pie In The Sky?

At this point we get to the major question — What’s wrong with extending long term unemployment benefits for people who’ve been out of work for more than 27 weeks?

(1) The incredibly flexible Deficit Argument:

The Republicans won’t vote in favor of extending unemployment insurance benefits because that would increase the federal budget deficit (except the Pay For on offer from the Democrats) unless the Democrats add a provision increasing military retirement cost of living benefits — which would ADD TO THE DEFICIT.  [Roll Call]

Be that bit of illogical thinking what it may, the notion that unemployment benefit insurance payments are swirling into the Black Hole of The Ever Flexible Budget Deficit can’t be sustained when the actual cost to the federal government isn’t increasing. The Congressional Budget Office reported last April:

“Federal spending on unemployment insurance: Annual outlays increased from an average of $33 billion from 2004 through 2007 to $119 billion in 2009 and $155 billion in 2010; they dropped to $93 billion in 2012 and we expect them to decline further over the next few years.”

All you have to do in order to accept the GOP argument that the cost of extending unemployment insurance benefits for 1.3 million long term unemployed people is too much to sustain is simply to ignore the fact that unemployment benefit costs have been declining since 2010.  For those not connected to the Fact Based Universe this should be relatively simple.

(2) Lazy People Argument:  Here they go again!  Somewhere, out there in the Shadow Land of Make Believe there are thousands of lazy shiftless do-nothings who are perfectly happy to be the beneficiaries of public largess — who aren’t members of Congress.  First, this is a Dog Whistle argument, as if receiving unemployment insurance benefits is a form of welfare.  It isn’t, of course, workers have paid into those employment insurance programs.  However, the economic or statutory reality of a program has never stopped the anti-government crowd from splattering the ‘welfare’ label on something, anything, that might remotely help someone.

Secondly, there’s that conception amongst the uninformed that people can make more money not working than by working.  “They” can earn more on ‘welfare,” or “They” can get by not working by simply taking unemployment checks.  The people making these claims have obviously never seriously checked into the eligibility requirements of the Nevada program.

No, in this state, as in most every where else, the Shiftless One cannot refuse employment at a lower rate just because unemployment benefits might be higher — they aren’t and they don’t.   But, we know what the GOP’s thinking?  “They” are those “inner city….. people…..who sit on porch steps….” And, now we’re back at the Dog Whistle.

(3) We’re Just Here To Help You – Have Some Pie From Our Sky.  The problem with pie in the sky is that it is intrinsically  inedible.

In the theoretical world of the Club For Growth and other ultra-conservative outlets, unemployment insurance benefits constitute a drag on employment by being a dis-incentive to work.  Anything which supports a person who is not currently working is automatically classified as a dis-incentive because were the support not available the person would have to work to eat, or something like that.

This also requires the corollary concept that there is work for everyone.  Except that’s not the case, there are now three job seekers for every job opening in the country. [politifact] Thus, the Pie in the Sky model of economic theory falls flat because in the real world of real numbers, two of the job seekers (with or without support) are still going to be looking for work whether there’s an incentive or not.

The second problem with this Pie in the Sky argument is that most people are working, seeking work, or getting discouraged in the process.  Consider, Nevada has an unemployment rate of 8.7%, which means that 91.3% of employment aged people ARE working.  The unemployment rate in the Reno area is 9.1%, meaning that 90.9% are working — [DETR] if the mere existence of unemployment insurance benefits, or any other safety net program,  is such a dis-incentive for working people, why are so many people doing it?

Most of the time the arguments from the ultra-right require the acceptance of a negative view of humanity, a perspective which demands acknowledgment of such furtive claims as “They” are undeserving because “They” are lazy, shiftless, bums who want to watch television and drink beer… without having to specify who “They” might be.  It’s also handy to buy into the well debunked Trickle Down Hoax, in which every tax avoided by a corporate employer, every source of funds left untaxed, and every loophole created in the tax code is magically translated into imaginary jobs.  We tried 30+ years of this and all we got was a Mortgage Meltdown compliments of the Wall Street Casino.

If there are no procedural problems other than those manufactured by the obstructionist GOP leadership in the Senate, and there are not statistical reasons not to extend unemployment insurance benefits for those who have already paid into the systems, and there are no rational economic reasons for not continuing to utilize automatic stabilizers such as the unemployment benefit insurance programs … then why not pass the bill?

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The UnMagic Touch: Adelson and his Money are Soon Parted

AdelsonBecause having the imprimatur of Las Vegas gambling titan Sheldon Adelson was so helpful since he started moving major money into politics — $1.3 million from 2007 to 2012, and $93.1 million to Super PACs [CPI] — members of the Grand Old Party are lining up at his door yet again. [LV Sun]

The three Governors, Christie (NJ), Walker (WI), and Kasich (OH Goldman Sachs), led by the former FL Governor Jeb Bush, would like more of Adelson’s largesse directed their way.

Perhaps these three remember that Mr. Adelson dumped some $16.5 million into the campaign (cum Book Tour) of one Newt Gingrich?   If memory serves, Mr. Gingrich put his campaign stops on hold sometime in April 2012.

Then there was another $4 million bestowed upon George “Macaca” Allen in Virginia — “Independence Virginia PAC — and another bust, as Allen lost the election to Tim Kaine. [MJ]

$2 million of Adelson’s bank account went to the ever entertaining Allen West (Freedom PAC) — Mr. West accused his opponent of “cheating to beat him,” but finally gave in when a recount actually showed even more votes for Congressman Patrick Murphy. [TP] Thus wasting more of Adelson’s $1 million contribution to the Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition PAC.

Lest we forget, Adelson also provided another $1 million toward efforts to elect Rabbi Shmuley “Shalom in the Home” Boteach in his 2012 NJ congressional race — Boteach lost to Rep. Bill Pascrell. Adelson was a bit luckier with the portion of the money that went to NJ Rep. Joe Kyrillos.

The Adelsons donated $500,000 to Scott Brown’s campaign.  Anyone heard from Brown in Massachusetts?  Well, no, not that he’s now carpetbagged it into neighboring New Hampshire after taking his licking from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

And who could forget all the PAC donations headed toward the Presidency of Willard Mitt Romney?  What presidency of Willard Mitt Romney?

The electoral count was Obama 332, Romney 206.  Clobbered?

Not that the presidentially inspired members of the GOP are likely to take this advice — but doesn’t it look like taking Mr. Adelson’s money doesn’t exactly equate to election success?

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The Republican Unicorn: The Replacement Plan

UnicornOH! the horror… more Nevadans are now getting health care insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  The Reno Gazette Journal reports:

“Nevada Medicaid enrollments under federal health care reform have surpassed initial projections and are on pace to reach 500,000 by summer, a mark initially not expected to be reached until the end of the 2015 fiscal year, a state official said.”

Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act there were approximately 642,000 Nevadans without health insurance.  The expansion of Medicaid allows those who are earning  below 138% of federal policy guidelines to sign up for Medicaid.

For two person family the members of which are U.S. citizens between the ages of 19 and 65, who are not eligible for Medicare, the income line would be $21,404 per year, the income eligibility level for a single individual would be $15,856. [ME2014 pdf] A person working for $7.50/hr for a 50 week year would earn $15,000.

Since this is an election year, the Republicans will no doubt tell us all that they have an alternative, and indeed they did craft one earlier this year.

A side by side comparison of the Affordable Care Act and the Republican alternative:

ACA and GOP health plansIn the Republican “alternative du jour” people who don’t get health care insurance from their employers would end up paying more because in the GOP proposal the tax credit increases only by age and not by need.  This means that lower income individuals would be paying more for health care insurance.  [See example here]

Would those who have endured some of the questionable practices of insurance administration be protected under the Republican alternative?  Not really.  Under the Affordable Care Act an insurance corporation may only charge a 64 year old person 3 times what they would charge a 21 year old. Under the provisions of the Republican alternative they could charge 5 times more.

Then there’s the issue of a “coverage gap.”  If a person were to lose a job the compensation for which included health care insurance, the subsequent “gap” in coverage would allow the corporation to exclude the person from coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition if the individual did not purchase a private plan immediately.

In sum, the Republican alternative isn’t really “patient centered” a better term might be insurance corporation centered:

“There are many other problematic things the Republican plan does, like eliminate the health law’s taxes on health insurance, drug and device companies; allow insurance companies to sell plans that don’t cover maternity, mental health or other types of care; and allow insurance companies to impose annual limits on benefits.” [NYT]

Before we get too excited about the Republicans actually offering up an alternative to the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights, we should remember that 2014 is an election year.  A person could waste precious moments in this life counting the number of Republican “working groups” which have developed GOP health insurance reform plans.  However, that exercise would expend synaptic effort unnecessarily because the GOP has yet to form any viable legislative strategy for enacting their ‘reforms.’

Harken back to January 30, 2014 — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced to the GOP conclave that “This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House,” Cantor said during a presentation in which he outlined four areas — healthcare, jobs, helping the middle class and creating opportunities — where Republicans would offer “big, bold ideas.” [The Hill]   Now, hold this thought, because something happened to those “big, bold ideas” between January and March.

No sooner did the House Majority Leader pronounce, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and pass it on the floor of the House..” then the silent fog of actual inactivity enveloped the House Republicans.  By February 21, 2014 those big, bold ideas apparently disintegrated into a host of piece-meal bits of proposed legislation: “In a memo to members laying out the House agenda for the remainder of the winter, Cantor noted that the replacement is being finalized, and said that in the meantime, Republicans will work to target parts of the law with which they disagree.” [Roll Call]  Repeal and Replace, appears to be getting fuzzier by the month, a point not lost on columnist Jonathan Chait:

“Carping from the sidelines is a great strategy for Republicans because status quo bias is extremely powerful. It lets them highlight the downside of every trade-off without owning any downside of their own. They can vaguely promise to solve any problem with the status quo ante without exposing themselves to the risk any real reform entails. Republicans can exploit the disruption of the transition to Obamacare unencumbered by the reality that their own plans are even more disruptive.”

Meanwhile, more people are finding affordable private health care plans on the state and national insurance exchanges and more lower income citizens are signing up for the expanded Medicaid program.  And, the calendar marches on:
House Calendar 2014

And so, what has the House been working on?  On January 9 and 10, 2014 the GOP toyed with some headline generating legislation (H.R. 2279) delaying the implementation of the ACA and calling for ‘transparency.’   On January 23rd they launched on the ‘security’ of the health care exchange. (H.R. 3362).  Then they were back to the Ban The Abortion theme in the consideration of H.R. 7 on January 28, 2014, as if the Hyde Amendment has somehow been misplaced.

Do we see all that legislation to Repeal and Replace so avidly promised in January and then all but forgotten by March?  The Health and Technology Committee didn’t even meet during the month. [docs.house]

The lovely thing about a Unicorn is that it can be any color which delights a person’s imagination.  The same can be said of the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act — it can contain just about anything the audience wants to hear, because “facts are still being gathered,” or “provisions are still being drafted,” or “committees are still giving it consideration,” or “the dog ate my homework.”

Until the Republicans unveil their comprehensive alternative to the Affordable Care Act the Repeal and Replace slogan is just that — sloganeering.  And until the Republicans can demonstrate their capacity to LEGISLATE (read govern) there is no reason to take their propositions seriously.  While we wait for the Republicans to chase their Unicorn, we can applaud the fact that more of our fellow citizens have health insurance coverage, and wonder what the Republican Party will be able to do for the next five years.

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Filed under Economy, Health Care, health insurance, Medicaid, Nevada politics, Politics

This Could Get Interesting? Nevada District 2 Primary

Donkey RunningThe candidates have filed, and we’re off to the Nevada Races.  At the top of the ticket we have our Congressional candidacies, complete with the ever-present visage of Janine Hansen (IAP) of the Hansen Family Party running in the 2nd Congressional District race. Her last foray into the fray was a 2012 race against incumbent Republican state senator Pete Goicoechea for his District 19 seat; she got 19.5% of the vote in the general election.  Hansen espouses an anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and for that matter, anti-government philosophy.

Incumbent Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is running unopposed in the GOP Primary (June 10), which should come as no surprise to anyone. That the former president of the Nevada Mining Association (2007-2008) and career politician would be the ‘man in waiting’ for future elections isn’t surprising either.

There will be a hotter primary for the Democratic candidates.   Dr. Vance Alm, MD (Reno) filed on March 5th saying on his web site: “I can no longer sit by and watch America falter and fall from its position as World Leader. I want my children and grandchildren to have opportunities similar to those I enjoyed. Complacency, apathy and cynicism; saying things such as, “It’s not that bad”, “I don’t care” and “It just doesn’t matter” need to be replaced with a desire and goal to once again make America the indisputable greatest nation on earth.”

Brian Dempsey (Gardnerville) offers more specificity in his issues section of his campaign site.  His position on economic development is generalized, but does emphasize small business: “Nevadans have been facing high unemployment rates for too long.  We need to find solutions to bring companies to our communities that will create jobs.  Our country was founded with an entrepreneurial spirit.  We need to focus on helping start-ups and small businesses grow.  With their growth, Nevada can recover economically and begin to grow again.”

Ed Lee (Reno) has also filed but his web site is apparently a work in progress.  “Watch this space.”

Kristen Spees (Incline Village), an estate planning attorney,  filed for the primary, her message in part: “My platform is based on government transparency and simplified politics.  I want residents to be informed about what is going on in the government and I want everyone to be able to make well-founded decisions when voting.  Transparency provides information for citizens about what the government is doing and it promotes accountability.   I want to simplify politics by teaching and informing residents about the pros and cons of important issues…

Superficial Analysis

Representative Amodei’s problem is not “how to get elected,” he’s been able to do that successfully since his race against Ernie Adler, his issue may be how to keep from getting sucked into the far right whirlpool of LoonyBin-ness Tea Party, Gold Standard, Anti-Government rhetoric with which the 2nd District is awash.  His problems will obviously surface in the general election IF his ultimate opponent (and not the IAP) manages to identify him with far right stances on the Affordable Care Act, and banking deregulation.

The Democratic Party candidate’s problem will be equally obvious.  There aren’t that many Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District.  There are 110,795 ‘active’ Democratic registered voters in the district, 17,202 IAP voters, 2,933 Libertarians, and 2,840 categorized as “other.” There are 144,255 registered ‘active’ Republicans.  56,714 are registered as ‘non-partisan.’ [NVsos pdf] Expecting all those independent voters to vote on the Democratic side is utterly unreasonable.

Department of Unsolicited Advice

Representative Amodei’s been successful so far at being all things to all people, his messages are highly generalized and verge on consisting entirely of talking points without drilling down beyond the surface ideological level.

The Democratic candidate who emerges from the primary with one hopes a bit more name recognition than the current “Who?” level, might do well to:

(1) Run on, rather than away from, “Obamacare.” Thus far Representative Amodei has been a good little GOP soldier, voting for every House Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. [BallotP]   Amodei can continue to run as a ‘repealer’ IF no one calls him on the specifics.  For example: Does he really want to allow insurance corporations to be able to raise premiums more than 10% without scrutiny?  Does he really want insurance corporations to be able to deny health insurance based on pre-existing conditions (like being a woman)?  Does he really want to tell parents that their 21 year old son or daughter can no longer remain on the family policy?  Does he really want to make their grandparents pay out of pocket for preventative screenings?  Does he really want to allow insurance corporations to refuse to cover immunizations for children? Does he really want to allow insurance corporations to able to rescind policies when a person become ill or has an injury?

IF Amodei’s answers are ‘yes’ to these specifics then he’s on the defensive.  If his response is “we, the GOP, have another plan.” Then he can be reminded, none too gently, that the repeal and replace slogan has already been used — and suspiciously enough the ‘replace’ part only shows up during election seasons, thence to fade and die in the actual legislative part of the process. If he does try to sell the “GOP Plan” he can be reminded early and often that the GOP plan is more expensive, and covers fewer American families than the current system.

(2) Run on a platform of economic development for the 21st century not the 19th. Amodei’s on record saying: “I pledge to advocate for changes in federal tax and spending policies that will reduce the burden on struggling American Families and the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.”  This core statement is relatively little more than the old “Tax and Spend Democrat” refrain.

If Nevada families are struggling — and they are — then is that tax burden all that much of  a burden to the average Nevadan earning about $50,000 per year?  The chink in the Amodei/GOP armor is that the tax burden of late has been shifted toward the middle class, those self-same small business owners and their employees, he purports to defend.   Republicans in general, and Amodei specifically, need to answer why they support subsidies for millionaires and billionaires and multi-national corporations when the burden has been shifting to the middle class.

It would be refreshing to hear a Democratic candidate for Congress dump the Austerity/Trickle Down Economics Hoax, and start talking about creating demand for American products and services.  Here’s where the advocacy of increasing the minimum wage comes into play.  If we increase the minimum wage closer to a living wage this (a) helps American families and (b) creates demand for local businesses who offer goods and services in the state.

(3) Run toward reasonable gun safety regulation, and respond to the NRA attacks with calm arguments — no one, except people who were never going to vote for you anyway — believes that felons, fugitives, juveniles, and the severely mentally ill should have easy access to firearms, and these categories of individuals are prevented from gun ownership under current Nevada statutes.  Advocate background checks to insure that these individuals aren’t obtaining guns, and thereby improve the enforcement of what is already in the statute books.

(4) Refute the Welfare Queen Mythology.  There are some quick references which will inform all but the most obtuse that if we are really looking for “waste, fraud, and abuse” in federal spending — it isn’t to be found in the Food Stamp (SNAP) or ‘welfare’ programs.  Speak to revising federal procurement policies which could minimize those single source no bid contracts.  Does, for example, Representative Amodei support the latest incarnation of the  “Ryan budget?”  If ‘yes,’ then does that mean he has espoused the philosophy behind that presentation — before Rep. Ryan started back-pedaling for all he was worth? [TP]  Interesting, isn’t it, how when a Republican is caught out being a boor, he or she responds, “I was inarticulate….?”

(5) Get real about the national debt.  The trend is actually declining. Yes, the number looks astronomical, however — if I am $8,000,000 in debt that’s a big deal, but if one of the Koch Brothers were $8,000,000 in debt that’s pocket change.  The National Debt is hauled out during campaigns as a banner to wave before people to whom candidates feel no necessity to  explain that (a) we owe most of the debt to ourselves, (b) we are still considered the safest place to invest on the planet and people want to invest in our Treasury bills and notes, and (c) we have the largest economy on Planet Earth and we can handle a great deal more debt than Greece, Portugal or any other location the doom and gloom contingent can hold up as an exemplar.

And, remember, even a charismatic, sharp, and well organized Democratic candidate will be running an uphill battle in the 2nd Congressional District.  Go ahead, ‘run as a Democrat,’ at worst it might secure some votes otherwise lost in the shuffle, and at best it will force the Amodei campaign to offer more than sloganeering to the constituents.

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Filed under Nevada news, Nevada politics, Politics