Category Archives: family issues

It’s Been A Long Time Coming: Trump wasn’t built in a day.

The Mueller Hearing, July 24, 2019, laid bare the current differences between the modern renditions of Republicans and Democrats in a stark flash illuminating what’s been going on since 1964 (at least) and why there are no silver bullets to resolve the Constitutional issues.  The hearings took 7 hours, the problems it highlighted are freighted with 65 years worth of history. Viewed from this perspective, Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the major symptom.

If there’s a handy label for the current political shape of the Republican Party I’m not aware of it, but what we are looking at is an amalgam of revitalized Dixiecrats and long range planning by the National Association of Manufacturers as described in the 1971 memo authored by Lewis Powell.

There are more than enough tomes on both the rise of corporate power, and the insidious spread of racist political foundations, to fill library shelves.  All we need do is see the spectacle of GOP apologists for Russian interference in our elections as another mile marker on an already paved road.

Part of the pavement is composed of the vestiges of those states where the decision in Brown v Board of Education was not well received, and those states where the battle flag went back up when it was discovered that they really were going to have to integrate their schools and public accommodations.  Does anyone believe it’s an accident Senate Majority Leader McConnell is jamming through judicial appointments of those who are hedging on whether Brown was correctly decided?  Does anyone cling to the fiction that the anti-abortion culture war alliances don’t trace back to school desegregation orders? Does anyone doubt the blatant racism of Stephen Miller’s immigration proposals?

Trump hasn’t changed the racist nature of modern Republican political ideology, he’s just said the quiet part out loud.

The other part of the mixture recalls the days when the National Association of  Manufacturers decided to move their headquarters to Wasington DC.  The road map was drafted in Lewis Powell’s 1971 memo, the “American economic system is under broad attack.” Powell advocated a long term, gradual but steady, advance of corporate interests.  It wasn’t too difficult to combine the residual McCarthyism with the call for “less government” to achieve the unlikely scene of so-called populist ultra-conservatives avidly supporting a racist president against the Commies and Socialists in a hearing room; it just took time and patience.

Please give latitude to my cynicism. Impeaching Trump would be a very constructive activity, but it won’t solve the problem. The GOP will simply find another, possibly less boorish, model who will be all the more dangerous for being better able to keep his (And it will be his) thumbs and mouth under control, one who won’t say the quiet part at decibel levels associated with aircraft engines.

The better view may be to take a longer approach, and one which draws from their own playbook. Hit’em where they think they’re strongest. In this instance, hit Trump on the very issue he intends to ride to a 2020 victory…immigration.

He’s already doubled, perhaps tripled, down on the racism embedded in his approach as he angles toward a base turnout election.  When an opponent is digging himself into a hole, hand him a larger shovel.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to brand Trump’s policies as racist, which they patently are. Nor should it be too much effort to clothe him in these soiled philosophical garments. “Yes, the stock market is doing well, but what are we to make of the fact that some children are being detained away from their parents in squalid conditions?”  Some message discipline required, but if Democrats can tag every interview with a brief inquiry about children in cages, US citizens being detained, or why the Republicans won’t discuss DACA recipients, the frog may start to boil?

Then we can add the health care issue. There is no GOP plan to replace the ACA.  Add one measure of immigration attack (Why won’t the GOP listen to Dreamers? Why are children locked away?) to one measure of specifically what is your plan to cover those with pre-existing medical conditions?  What is your plan to provide maternity care? Mental health and addiction abatement care? Why can’t we address gun violence as a question of public health and safety?

As once members of the left avoided the term liberal because the right wing talkers besmeared it, let right wingers know how the racist, heartless, radical label grates?

We could strengthen and broaden the Democratic message, and take an opportunity to begin a longer phased approach to reclaiming the social contract binding citizens to their government.  Patience. Discipline. Progress. It’s possible. A pendulum swings both directions.

 

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Filed under conservatism, family issues, Gun Issues, Health Care, Immigration, Politics, racism

Trump’s Childcare Plan: Advantage to the Advantaged

Econ value of tax deduction

NBC offers this summation of a crucial portion of the Trump and Clinton child care proposals:

“Trump: Working parents – and parents who stay home to care for children – can deduct the costs on their taxes via the Earned Income Tax Credit. The campaign estimates that middle class families could receive a $1,200 tax break.

Trump also proposes a Dependent Care Savings Account that allow the accumulation of funds and are tax deductible and appreciate tax free. Dependent care accounts already exist but must be used by the end of the year and only available through an employer.

Clinton: She wants to cap child care costs at ten percent of a family’s income. To do that, she’d rely on tax cuts or state block grants for the government to subsidize costs exceeding ten percent.”

Fuzzy stuff:  Notice the portion of the Trump explanation which says  the family can deduct the costs on their taxes via the Earned Income Tax Credit.”  Tax deductions and tax credits are two very different animals.

“Deductions reduce taxable income and their value thus depends on the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, which rises with income. Credits reduce taxes directly and do not depend on tax rates. However, the value of credits may depend on the taxpayer’s basic tax liability.” [TaxPolicyCenter]

Drilling down we find some more variations:

“Some tax credits, however, are fully or partially refundable: if their value exceeds a person’s tax liability, the excess is paid to the filer. The earned income tax credit (EITC) is fully refundable; the child tax credit (CTC) is refundable only if the filer’s earnings exceed a $3,000  threshold.” [TaxPolicyCenter]

The problems with interpreting Trump’s proposal is the conflation of a tax credit with a tax deduction.  It’s either a deduction or a credit but it can’t be both at the same time.   And, some families need help before April 15th:

“Experts say that Trump’s plan is a good start and a recognition that the issue is important to women and families, but Vivien Labaton, co-executive director of Make It Work Action, said Trump’s plan offers less than Clinton’s.

“His childcare proposal is really designed for the Ivanka Trump’s of the country more than the working families who need help,” Labaton said.

She said any plan, including Trump’s, that offers a tax rebate won’t work for many lower income families. Many struggling families don’t make enough to pay taxes and other struggling families who do pay taxes need up-front relief up before tax time.” [NBC]

And, from the Los Angeles Times:

“On child care, Trump would lessen the burden by giving parents a tax deduction for the average cost of child care in their state. For example, his campaign said a family earning $70,000 and paying $7,000 a year in child care would get an $840 tax cut — or about a month’s worth of day care. But the deduction would provide the greatest benefit to wealthier families, who pay more income tax. Low-wage workers, who often spend a disproportionately large share of the income on child care, pay little or no income tax. For families that pay no income taxes, Trump would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by as much as $1,200 a year. But a once-a-year-check from the government is not always helpful for families struggling week-to-week to pay their childcare bills.”

When comparing the proposals on their potential immediate and positive impact on working families, score the point for Secretary Clinton.

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Filed under family issues, Hillary Clinton

Income Inequality Matters for Nevada’s Children

child poverty

We ought to be embarrassed.  The Kids Count Data Book 2015 edition is out, and the numbers aren’t pretty.

“Nevada ranks 47th among states in overall child well-being, up one spot from last year. The study found that Nevada ranks 43rd in family and community development indicators, like children living in high-poverty areas; 46th in health statistics, like low birthweight babies; 46th in economic well-being, including parents lacking secure employment; and 50th in educational achievement, including 69% of Nevada’s children not attending pre-school.” [LVSun]

Yes, there we are, ranked down there with Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.   Overall, things aren’t looking up for children, and there’s an explanation:

“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said in a statement. “While we’ve seen an increase in employment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and cannot support even basic family expenses.” [LVSun]

And why might this be a correct assessment of the situation? There has been income growth since the end of the Great Recession, but the recovery has benefited those at the top –thus much for anything trickling down:

“The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.” [EPI]

Nevada has made some improvements – if bouncing off the bottom is an indication of progress – in health, for example, 5% fewer children are without health insurance, and education in which 69% of our kids aren’t attending pre-schools, up from a previous 72%.  But, the economic picture is bleak at best.  23% of the youngsters live in poverty, 34% are in families experiencing what’s euphemistically called “employment insecurity,” and 39% of the kids live in a situation in which housing costs are eating up the family budget.  [AECfnd]

If we tread deeper into the income inequality waters we can see why the numbers for Nevada youngsters didn’t improve. Here’s the answer: “In four states — Alaska, Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming — average income increased exclusively for the top 1% and declined for the bottom 99%.” [247Wallst]  So, in the Silver State, not only did all the income growth get sucked up by the top 1% during the recovery, but the bottom 99% actually saw their incomes decline.

Most analyses get the first part right.  In the last downturn the bottom fell out of the construction sector in Nevada; the housing bubble burst, and employees were laid off.  Laid off employees have less discretionary income to spend, and less income equates to fewer purchases.  Fewer purchases yield less economic activity in the community, and everyone starts to go down hill.  When we get to the middle part of the explanation some analysts start getting fuzzy.

First Law of Staffing

The question in the middle is how to encourage more employment.  For the umpteenth time here’s the answer:  There is no rational reason to hire anyone to do anything unless the DEMAND for goods and services is greater than the capacity of current staffing levels to provide an acceptable level of customer service.  Amen. Again.

The Small Business Chronicle offers some very sound advice which expands on this generalization.  Their five step process asks: (1) Are your projects or other business activities getting done on time? If yes, then you probably don’t need any additional employees. If no, or the business is thinking of more marketing to drive up revenues then ask (2)  if you were to increase your marketing efforts could your present staff handle the additional work load? The next step (3) is to look at your overtime records. One sure sign that the business is understaffed is increased overtime from current employees.  In the first step the business owner gauged the project or work time, in the next (4) step it’s important to look at the issue from the customer or client’s perspective – if the business is monitoring customer wait time and it seems (or is reported to be) excessive, then the business is understaffed. Finally, in Step (5) a savvy business owner will determine if the increases in demand are continual or seasonal. If seasonal, then temporary employee hiring may be the solution.

What’s not under consideration here?  The advice offered above didn’t include a question about whether Nephew Lester needs a job. Familial ties are wonderful, but they don’t constitute a reason to hire an employee.  Hiring veterans is a healthy business practice – but again, no matter the benefits, if his or her skills aren’t necessary to get things done or made on time, and if a barrel of overtime isn’t on the current books, there’s no rational reason to make a new hire.  Tax breaks for hiring the unemployed are fine – but just as in familial or socially beneficial cases, there’s NO reason to hire anyone for any tax break if there is insufficient good old fashioned demand for the products and services.   It’s at this point that the conservative, trickle down, no new taxes, barrage of talking points becomes almost ludicrous.

tax incentives accounting There is a wonderful leap of logic, stretching that term to its extrapolated limits, in asserting that more tax incentives, tax breaks, tax forbearance, tax limits, tax deductions, and tax treatments will magically yield more employment.   What is required is to believe that if a company is more profitable it will automatically hire more people.   Yes, a more profitable firm is capable of hiring more but NOT if there is no increased demand for the goods or services.  A more profitable firm has the potential for more hiring – but not if it is corporate policy to put more effort into mergers and acquisitions than into actual plant expansion. A more profitable company may hire additional workers but not if the firm has decided that it will put its revenue into stock buy-backs, dividends, or management compensation. Potential may be a powerful argument, but unless it is translated into a realistic appraisal of company or corporate intentions and vision it’s as ephemeral as a fruit fly.  And it’s not really useful for putting food on the table for the kids.

And, now we return to the economic problems of children. If the jobs available for their parents are seasonal, temporary, or permanent but low wage then all the job “expansion” in the nation isn’t going to improve their prospects.

Seasonal employment is relatively easy to understand.  It’s everything from harvest time to Christmas sales.  The sector of the labor market into which more parents are finding themselves is the temporary work force.  About 75% of Fortune 500 firms are relying on third party logistics companies to handle their warehousing, and employment in transportation and materials moving and production now accounts for some 42% of temporary hiring. [NELP]   The advocates of temporary hiring note that only about 3% of the workforce is on temporary status, which is true but doesn’t include the fact that temporary employment grew from just a bit over 0.5% in 1983 to over 2.5% as of 1999. [BLS] Further, the trend is increasing as this graphic from Staffing Industry illustrates in YOY growth from 2013 to 2015:

temp jobs trendsAs this sector of the labor market increases the “employment security” of parents becomes more tenuous.  As long as this trend continues we’ll likely find more youngsters in that “parents lack secure employment category.” 

There’s no reason to believe that corporations in Nevada are functioning any differently than those in the rest of the country in terms of staunch adherence to the Shareholder Value Theory of Management, the interest in mergers and acquisitions rather than plant expansion in general, and the interest in utilizing temporary labor for logistics, warehousing, and service jobs.

In sum, there’s no rational explanation for hiring (temporary or permanent) which doesn’t relate directly to demand – and there’s no reason to expect demand to increase if the jobs created are temporary, low wage service or retail sector, and with reduced hours or misclassification of employees. Meanwhile the kids need housing, clothing, food, medical attention, and school supplies.

We ought to be embarrassed, but we probably won’t be until we can shake the 1% awake to the fact that profitability doesn’t necessarily equate to employment. To the fact that potential employment isn’t actual employment. To the fact that temporary employment isn’t secure employment, and to the fact that taxation has precious little to do with hiring the parents of Nevada’s children.

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Filed under Economy, family issues, Nevada economy, Nevada news, Nevada politics, poverty, Taxation

Fourth Down: Senate GOP continues filibuster of Paycheck Fairness Act

September 15, 2014 … the fourth time the Republicans in the United States Senate have voted to continue their filibuster of S. 2199, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The vote was 52 yes, 40 no, and 8 not voting.

Every one of the 40 “no” votes on the cloture motion were Republicans, including Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).  [rc 262]

“The legislation punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination.” [TheHill]

There’s a little trick in here.  On September 10, 2014 the Republicans voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor, agreeing to a cloture motion [260] in a 73-25 vote during which Senator Heller voted “yes.”  However, that was insufficient to prevent the Republicans from voting down a September 15th cloture motion on the same measure.  Watch out for mailings suggesting Republican Incumbent X voted “in favor” of the Equal Pay Act, especially if vote number 260 is referenced.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) complained the Democrats were taking up time with “political show votes.”  Additionally, the GOP objects to the bill as a “giveaway to trial lawyers,” a constant complaint whenever worker’s rights are under consideration, and would remove caps on punitive damages for businesses found in violation of the law.  [TheHill]  

Ladies are free to cite the EEOC regarding the number of filings alleging pay discrimination.  Such filings constituted 1.0% of all EEOC charges in FY 2010, 0.9% in FY 2011, 1.1% in FY 2012, and 1.1% in FY 2013.  This is hardly a situation in which anyone could reasonably contend there is a Giveaway to Trial lawyers involved.

Nor is this some form of Show Vote, unless, of course, we want to show precisely how adamant the GOP is in its opposition to requiring equal pay for equal work.

S. 2199 may also be considered a bill to protect middle class working families in which both spouses are employed.  For example, the median annual wage in Nevada for an accountant working in the financial services sector is $61,710.  Assume for the sake of this example that both spouses are accountants, doing the same work, during the same year.  If they both earn $61,710 then the family has annual resources of $123,420.  If she is only earning 75% of his salary, then she’s making $46,282, and that would add up to a total family income of $107,992.  In other words the family is missing out on  $15,428 annually.  That’s $15,428 not being spent on household goods, clothing, groceries, transportation, or being saved for health related issues, education, or retirement.  Not to put too fine a point to it, but the Republicans seem satisfied with a system in which family incomes are reduced by the differential between pay for men and women, without regard to the economic impact this has on aggregate demand for goods and services.

For a party claiming to be “pro-business” this is certainly not evidence of even a modicum of basic economic comprehension.  Senator Heller may offer excuses – like the phantom litigation specter – but his vote on September 15, 2014 is actually one which removes spending capacity from consumers, and that’s not “pro-business” in a consumer driven national economy.

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Filed under equal pay, family issues, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Heck’s Hobby Lobby Hopes Dashed By SCOTUS

Joe HeckNevada’s 3rd District Representative, Joe Heck (R), made this remark concerning the Hobby Lobby Decision:

“Heck said he agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday in the Hobby Lobby case. The high court said businesses that are family owned or closely held don’t have to provide health care coverage for birth control because the companies have religious objections.

Heck said the ruling was narrowly written to accommodate religious beliefs that life begins at conception and he didn’t believe it should be broadly interpreted to apply to companies that aren’t closely held.” [LVRJ]

Here’s what makes the Congressman’s commentary unreasonable.

#1.  What is the standard for “religious objections?  Since the Hobby Lobby Decision as crafted by Justice Samuel Alito doesn’t specify a standard by which the merits of a religious objection are to be discerned, we might safely assume that a mere assertion of a religious objection is sufficient.  This is certainly at odds with the most obvious “religious objection” standard in another part of the federal government — the military.

In order to attain a “1-O” status with the U.S. military, there is a strenuous test for religious convictions.  According to the American Bar Association:

“Applicants must demonstrate that their beliefs upon which their conscientious objection is based are the primary controlling force in their lives. They must produce evidence in their written application (and during their subsequent hearing before an officer) demonstrating that neither the avoidance of military service nor expediency is the motivating factor in their claim. To this end, DoD Directive 1300.6 lists numerous factors to consider in examining the merits of a servicemember’s application, such as his or her training in the home and church, participation in religious activities, and general demeanor and pattern of conduct.”

The revised DoD Directive 1300.6 (pdf) which replaced the 1968 version in 2007, goes on for some twenty pages of specifications regarding the applicants’ qualifications for conscientious objector status.  One of the more common phrases associated with the qualification is that the beliefs must be “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

In the case of a member of the Armed Services who wishes separation or reassignment based on religious scruples there is a process which begins with an extensive interview with a service chaplain, followed by a review by an investigating officer; there will be consultation with the Staff JAG, and then a hearing. Following the informal hearing, the investigating officer will file a report which will be forwarded to the commander.  The report and recommendations flow through the chain of command to the officer designated with the authority to make a final decision on the matter.  The separation from service or reassignment may be granted if it is concluded during the process that the individual’s beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

No such test appears to have been applied to the objections of Conestoga or Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby simply asserted that its religious beliefs precluded funding for insurance benefits which included birth control and abortion.

If there is no test or evaluative process by which my religious objections — to anything — may be reviewed, then what is to prevent me from asserting that my religious beliefs prevent me from considering anyone for employment who is of a faith other than my own?  May I assert my ‘religious conviction’ that those who don’t keep Kosher (or Halal) are impure, unclean or otherwise unemployable. May I cut off from service any  who “partakes of any blood?” (Lev 7:22)

Who is to determine if my beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held,” or if they are a simply an expedient way to refuse service to Jews or Muslims?  Or, might my objections (see Leviticus) be such that I can refuse service or employment to Basque Christians, on the grounds that many of them  make and consume blood sausage.

If this argument sounds frivolous, it is no more so than the case cited by Justice Ginsberg in her dissent — Newman vs. Piggie Park Enterprises.  The proprietors of Piggie Park (restaurant chain) objected to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 partially on the grounds that it “contravened the Will of God.” “Defendant Bessinger further contends that the Act violates his freedom of religion under the First Amendment “since his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” [USDC -DColumbia]  The Supreme Court ruled against Piggie Park Enterprises in March 1968.

Herein we have a closely held family business, the patriarch of which had religious objections to integration, who contended that religion trumped the application of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  If this sounds close to the characteristics of the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Cases it’s because they share obvious elements — just entirely different conclusions.  In short, without a test or process by which religion can be separated from convenient religiosity the adjudication of religious objections becomes highly subjective.

#2.  The decision was neither narrow, nor tightly drawn.  For all the palaver in the decision about the “narrow-ness” of the judgment, the reasoning left the door wide open to further litigation concerning the applicability of religious objections to contraception, as evidenced by some 30 cases piling up in the judicial system in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.  [DMN]

Immediately in line after the ‘closely held businesses,’ are the non-profit organizations, such as Wheaton College, Notre Dame University, and others for whom even filling out the form to take advantage of the Administration’s accommodation for them is ‘unconscionable.’ [WaPo]  It should be asked — if the Hobby Lobby decision was such a narrow thing, then why did the Supreme Court almost immediately grant an injuction against the contraception mandate accommodation on behalf of non-profit Wheaton College?  Representative Heck hopes, or at least asserts, that the Hobby Lobby ruling only applies to closely held firms — but in its action on behalf of Wheaton, the line immediately shifted out from under Representative Heck’s assertion and right into the realm of non-profit organizations.

#3. The decision blurs the understanding of earned benefits.  The objections from those who describe themselves as religious to procuring health insurance plans which cover contraception for their employees appear to contend that they are being forced to subsidize medication of which they do not approve.

This has several unfortunate threads entangled in it. Contraceptive prescriptions are subject to approval by the FDA, not the Chamber of Commerce.  They are used for many other reasons that simply to avoid pregnancy.  Are we allowing a corporation to determine that even though a female employee has endometriosis, menorrhagia, or polycystic ovarian syndrome the medication prescribed by her physician is not to be covered because of the employer’s objections? [DB]

The health insurance offered to company employees is part of the total compensation package.  The company may pay for part of the premiums, the employee also contributes.  Does the company’s contribution determine who will control the inclusions in the insurance benefit, or the employee?  In the Hobby Lobby Decision the Supreme Court ruled that the employer’s money speaks louder than the employee’s contribution…even though the insurance may be handled by a third party administrator.

#4. The ruling broadly asserts the efficacy of one and only one religious perspective on life.  If a person happens to believe that life begins at conception then the judgment of the Court is acceptable. However, there are those who hold that life doesn’t begin until the newborn takes its first independent breath.   There’s nothing narrow about a Supreme Court decision which sanctions the view of one particular religion, thus denigrating the views of others.

In short, the decision combined with the Wheaton injunction allows corporations and non-profit entities to require their employees to either follow the proscriptions of the institutional faith or individually procure health insurance benefits on their own.  This is close to, if not identical with, forcing employees to follow the faith of their employers — and not their own individual consciences. Such an imposition is hardly the prescription for religious liberty.

As much as Representative Heck may wish to place a happy, non-threatening spin, on the Hobby Lobby decision, he whiffed on this one while the Supreme Court moved home plate.

***

See also:  Department of Defense Instruction, 1300.6, May 31, 2007. (pdf) John P. Jurden, Conscientious  Objectors, GPSolo, Jan-Feb 2005.  Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 256 F.Supp. 941 (1966), July 28, 1966. Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 377 F.2d 433 (1967), April 24, 1967.

Sherman & Zoll, “After Hobby Lobby…”, Dallas Morning News, July 6, 2014. Jonathan Adler, Supreme Court grants Wheaton College an injunction against contraception mandate accommodation,” WaPo, July 3, 2014.  “Joe Heck calls Hobby Lobby Decision Reasonable,” Nevada Democratic Party, and Las Vegas Review Journal, July 1, 2014.

 

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, family issues, Health Care, Heck, Nevada politics, Politics, religion, women, Women's Issues

Things that could get me to toss confetti in 2013

ConfettiThere are things that could get me to toss confetti for 2013.   Not many, mind you, which would justify the consequent vacuuming, but a goodly handful.

#1. The Senate of the United States of America does something constructive with the FILIBUSTER rule.   The original rule was intended to prevent the willful trampling of minority points of view, but the abuse of the rule is now part of the clichéd “Washington Gridlock.”  There is a delicate balance between Majority Rule and Minority Rights, but Obstruction for its own sake is not a laudable occupation.

#2. The Republicans in the House of Representatives eschew the  Hastert Rule , under which a majority of the majority party caucus must agree to the passage of a bill before a vote can be taken on the House floor.  This might have been a lovely idea if the current majority party caucus weren’t the replication of that other cliché– a wheelbarrow load of frogs.  Governance requires compromise, and compromise demands the admission that we don’t always get everything we want.  Ideological posturing is not a substitute for principled discourse.

#3.  Someone in a position to do something about it finally figures out that arguments over raising the debt ceiling are academic at best and consummately silly at worst — rather like announcing that because I overspent my budget for this holiday season I’m going to chop up my credit cards and not pay the bills.  Aside from being the most fiscally irresponsible action imaginable, it’s also a manifestation of the idea that the full faith and credit of the United States is some kind of bargaining chip in ideological squabbling.

#4. The National Rifle Association (aka No Rational Argument) stops pretending to care about the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and honestly announces that its ultimate intention is to promote the sale of as many firearms as its manufacturing donors can create.  After that, it should be far easier to discuss comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning military style assault weapons.

#5. More people, perhaps even more people in the national media, stop referring to “The” government and start calling it what it is — OUR government.   “The” government calls to mind the institution which cracks down on Moonshiners, or enforces school integration, or ignores calls to make Jefferson Davis’s birthday a national holiday.  “The” government didn’t decide to integrate public schools — “our” government did. “The” government didn’t decide to enact regulations to prevent air and water pollution — “our” government did.  And, “The” government didn’t create the Food Stamp (SNAP) program — “our” government did that.  And so it goes.  Continual references to “The” government is an unfortunate holdover from the Reaganesque caricature of government designed to promote the financial health of the economic elite by appealing to the discontent with those laws “our” government enacted to promote OUR general welfare.

#6. Our representatives on Capitol Hill learn to say “____ isn’t the end of the world as we know it.”  I could do with a great deal less hysterical hyperbole.  “This is the Largest Tax Increase In The History of the Universe!”  Probably not.  “This is the worst violation of human rights ever!” Probably not that either.  “This will create the worst calamity known to man.” Probably not.  “This will destroy our ____.”  Again, probably not.  Excuse me while I chuckle at the pomposity of this meaningless prognostication.

#7.  Journalists who seek to inform me via the television set prove to be (1) knowledgeable about the subject under discussion, and (2) include fact checking as part of the “context” of which they speak so often.  If a statement made by a politician is factually inaccurate, they will tell me; and I hope they’ll be able to offer a correction.  I really don’t care if they are correcting the record in the wake of Left Wing Larry or Right Wing Richard’s pontification.  The object of the exercise should be to impart accurate information so far as it can be known — I can get my “entertainment” elsewhere.  Bluntly, the “he said, she said, and then he said” reactions from professional chatterati or elected representatives is less entertaining than a good professional wrestling match, which at least has the grace to admit it’s a scripted farce.

#8. Somebody finally declares the Culture Wars over and done with.  Our contemporary version appears to incorporate a toxic dose of good old fashioned misogyny.  Women make up about 51% of our population and telling them they cannot have an abortion (even in the cases of an ectopic pregnancy or as the result of a rape) is paternalistic to the core.  Worse still would be telling them that their employer can decide if their health insurance plan covers contraceptive medication.

#9.  On a related note, it really doesn’t do to blame God for everything.  I’d cheer the week that some blowhards weren’t showcased in the media for pronouncing God’s Wrath for … whatever.  Hurricane Katrina — God’s wrath for a Gay Pride gathering? Really?  God’s wrath because we don’t pray hard enough?  That certainly doesn’t explain the attack on congregants in the Knoxville Unitarian church.  God’s Wrath because we don’t have organized  prayer in schools? Huh?  No one at Columbine High School, Platte County High School, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech University, or Sandy Hook Elementary knew how to pray and practiced it regularly? Spare me the Westboro Wannabes who “know” the mind of God better than a six year old child.

#10.  The confetti will fly when we begin to have a serious discussion about global climate change without having to incorporate the phony “science” offered up by the fossil fuel industry.  No, there isn’t a “controversy” here. And, no reputable science deflects our responsibility as human beings for the contamination of which we are clearly capable.

Speaking of the Almighty, there’s an old story about the man caught in a flood which seems appropriate at the moment.  “Why, he cried out to God, am a trapped in these flood waters?”  The Almighty, sorely tired of listening to the wailing, said, “I sent you warnings.” “When?”  “When?” responded the Deity. “When indeed.” “I sent you warnings on the radio. You ignored me. I sent you warnings in television broadcasts, and you ignored me. I even sent a deputy sheriff to personally advise you to evacuate. And, you ignored him too.”  ….

We’ve been visited with major named storms, watched ice caps diminish, seen glaciers disappear… and all together too many people are ignoring the warnings.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, ecology, energy policy, family issues, Federal budget, filibuster, Filibusters, Global warming, Gun Issues, Health Care, national debt, pollution, public health, racism, religion, VA Tech, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Republican YOYO Home Economics: Medicaid Slashed, Other Support Burned

Former President Clinton advised the delegates to the 2012 Democratic Convention to listen carefully to what the Republicans were offering in regard to Medicaid, and those of us in Nevada should be “listening with both ears.”  Here’s the description of the Medicaid program as stated by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the program:

“Provides health care coverage for many people including low income families with children whose family income is at or below 133% percent of poverty, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, certain Medicare beneficiaries, and recipients of adoption assistance, foster care and some children aging out of foster care. The DHCFP also operates five Home or Community-Based Services waivers offered to certain persons throughout the state. The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS) determines eligibility for the Medicaid program.”

Listing those categories focuses on the aims of the program — it is to serve (1) low income families with children; (2) elderly Nevadans; (3) low income Nevadans over 65 years of age; (4) families receiving assistance for adopted children; (5) children in foster care.  Who was enrolled in Nevada’s Medicaid program as of fiscal year 2009:

What services were provided to those enrolled in Nevada’s Medicaid program?

During fiscal year 2010, 68.1% of the spending from the Medicaid program went for acute care, 25.6% was allocated for long term care, and 6.3% was used for “disproportionate care – hospital payments.”

The spending for long term care breaks down as illustrated in the following chart:

11.1% of the long term care funding was allocated to facilities for the intellectually disabled, 2.9% went to services for the mentally ill — and notice — 86% was used to provide home health & personal care, and nursing facility care.  In other words, 86% of Nevada’s Medicaid expenses for long term care went toward serving those least able to care for themselves.  The other 14% was used to provide intermediate and long term care for those unable to care for themselves because of intellectual limits or mental illness.

Here is exactly why President Clinton told his audience to “listen up:”

My view is get the federal government out of Medicaid, get it out of health care. Return it to the states.” – Romney, South Carolina GOP Primary Debate, Jan. 20, 2012.

In case anyone is remotely confused about what that statement from the former Massachusetts Governor means, he’s speaking about transforming the Medicaid program into Block Grants.

More specifically, the former Governor is adopting the block grant proposal for Medicaid set forth in his running mate’s “Path to Prosperity” budget plan:

“The plan also would repeal health system reform law provisions that will expand Medicaid coverage starting in 2014. Instead, states would receive block grants, which would free states “to tailor their Medicaid programs to the unique needs of their own populations,” the budget says.”  [AMA]

The tailoring is to be done with less cloth:

The Ryan budget would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health programs. Reduced spending would increase the number of uninsured dramatically, Park* said. “Those who retain coverage will have benefits scaled back and have higher cost-sharing.” [AMA] (emphasis added)

We can drill down further into what Governor Romney and Representative Ryan have in mind for the Medicaid program by looking at the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Ryan position:  Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—from 2 percent of GDP in 2011 to 1¼ percent in 2030 and 1 percent in 2050.

Now is the moment to recall that 58% of those who receive Medicaid assistance for their health care needs in Nevada are children, and the AAP isn’t thrilled at cuts to that constituency:

“American Academy of Pediatrics President Robert W. Block, MD, said the proposal would undo investments in health programs for children. More than half of Medicaid recipients are children, but their care accounts for up to only one-quarter of the program’s costs.

“Whether considering fiscal year 2013 federal spending bills or reviewing long-term budget proposals, Congress must seize this opportunity to invest in the future of our country by protecting children’s health,” Dr. Block said.” [AMA]

Dr. Block has reason to be concerned, if we return to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis we can see why.  In two paragraphs from their analysis of the Ryan “Path” the non-partisan office explains why the proposal would make deep cuts, and place greater burdens on the states:

“The specified path (Ryan Plan) would cause federal spending on Medicaid and CHIP to decline relative to GDP in coming decades, rather than to rise sharply as in the other policy scenarios that CBO has analyzed, and would include no exchange subsidies (see Figure 3). As a result, by 2050, such spending would be 76 percent below what would occur for Medicaid, CHIP, and exchange subsidies under the baseline scenario and 78 percent below what would occur under the alternative fiscal scenario. Because spending on CHIP and exchange subsidies represents a relatively small share of the amounts in the baseline and alternative fiscal scenarios, most of the reduction would have to come from the Medicaid program.” [CBO] (emphasis added)

The Republicans do, indeed seem serious about eliminating Medicaid as a federal program and shifting the expenses for health care access to low income elderly, the disabled, the intellectually disabled, elders in nursing facilities, and children in poverty to the states.  The CBO explains the nature of this shift:

The responses of the states would be of particular importance. If states were given additional flexibility to allocate federal funds for Medicaid and CHIP according to their own priorities, they might be able to improve the efficiency of those programs in delivering health care to low-income populations. Nevertheless, even with significant efficiency gains, the magnitude of the reduction in spending relative to such spending in the other scenarios means that states would need to increase their spending on these programs, make considerable cutbacks in them, or both. Cutbacks might involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost-sharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care. (emphasis added)

Translation: Even if the states were able to achieve all the vaunted efficiencies a “flexible” plan might provide — the cuts proposed are so deep and so drastic that citizens in the United States who are lower income elderly or the disabled in nursing homes, and those who are low income and living in foster care, or families in poverty — would have reduced access to care. Period.

These aren’t generic numbers and pie in the sky statistics we’re talking about, we’re speaking of 25,841 elderly Nevadans, 40,898 disabled Nevadans, 55,626 adult Nevadans – mostly women, and 168,070 Nevada children.

So, here’s a question for Governor Romney and Representative Ryan — If no matter how much efficiency the state of Nevada squeezes from your block grants for Medicaid, Nevada and the other states will still have to either appropriate significantly more revenue, or drastically reduce services — how is your plan anything other than a proposal to shift the burden of health care costs, for the least able among us, from the federal treasury to the state treasuries and the pockets of low income Americans?

Where, Governor Romney and Representative Ryan, does the Nevada Legislature start cutting? From the acute care services for adopted or foster children? From the acute care for pregnant women? From acute care for children in poverty who have asthma, autism, broken arms, or sprained ligaments?  From the long term care for the elderly who need home health care services and personal care to avoid institutional living?  From the long term care for the indigent mentally ill?  From elderly residents of nursing facilities?  From disabled children who need home health care? Where?

Perhaps cuts aren’t the only option. Must the Nevada government raise the eligibility standards such that only those living at “25%” of the official federal poverty level can receive assistance?  Here are the 2012 guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services —

How much more should a family of four living on $1,920.83 per month  have to pay for basic health care?  How much more should a young man and his pregnant wife living on $1,260.83 per month have to pay for pre-natal care, and expenses associated with the birth of their first child?  For a political party which lauds its “Pro-Life” stance — asking low income families to dig deeper to pay for health care to make up for federal and state budget issues (while proposing more tax cuts for the top 1% of American income earners), makes it sound as though the GOP is the Pro-Birth, not Pro-Life party.

How much more should a young family have to pay for health care before the cost of health care begins to impinge on the capacity to put a roof over their heads?

Or their ability to put food on the table?  It’s likely going to cost our young family with two children under the ages of 19 approximately $366.40 to $578.40 per month to keep everyone fed. [USDA] Our hypothetical family might be lucky to have $764.43 per month remaining after housing and food for utilities, clothing, transportation costs (auto payments or bus fare) — that $764.43 translates to about $25.48 per day to cover ALL the basic family needs listed previously… including Health Care.  But wait, the Romney/Ryan budget cuts nutrition assistance too, drawing fire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.” [The Hill]

And what other program do the Republicans fantasize about turning into a Block Grant Program and then cutting?  Housing subsidies. [TO.org]  There was some discussion of the Ryan proposal on this topic at the March 21, 2012 House Budget Committee hearing:

“Rep. David Price (D-NC) asked Donovan what the implication of the Ryan budget cuts would be on HUD programs such as public housing, Choice Neighborhoods, HOME and others.  Donovan responded that, under the proposed Ryan budget, approximately one million households could lose their housing.  Of the one million households at risk under the Ryan budget, Donovan estimated that 585 thousand would come from the Housing Choice Voucher Program, 425 thousand from the Project-Based Voucher Program, and 110-180 thousand from homeless assistance programs.  He also mentioned that an estimated 17 thousand jobs would be lost from CDBG, and cuts to the HOME program would mean tens of thousands of new affordable housing units would not be built.”  [CLPHA] (emphasis added)

So, no help for financially fragile families for health care, or housing, or food — or anything, but tax payers in the top 1% of all our income brackets will get more, yet more generous, tax breaks.  Little wonder the Bishops were annoyed.  Less wonder Sister Simone Campbell from Nuns on the Bus received a standing ovation at the Democratic National Convention.

A person doesn’t have to be Roman Catholic to find the Republican proposals supported by Governor Romney and created by Representative Ryan astonishing in their parsimony and appalling in their avarice.

Perhaps one has to be incited by the fact that a family in Las Vegas might have an air-conditioner, or a DVD player, or a functional motor vehicle — “Look,” cry the miserly, “They have nice stuff, and they got it by doing nothing.” Not. So. Fast.   As of 2010 not that many Nevadans were receiving public  assistance. [Census] In fact, about 3% of Nevadans were receiving public assistance. [Census pdf]

Thus much for the Miserly Myth that “They’re all sitting around collecting welfare, and learning to be dependent on Guv’mint.”  Perhaps we should add the usual follow up, “and they’re doing it on my hard earned tax dollars.”  The latter portion is correct, we do pay taxes which support assistance programs for fragile families.  However, the Grinches among us appear to believe they are the only ones chipping in.

S’cuse me Mr. Grinch, but I really don’t mind paying a fractional portion of my income to insure NO child goes to bed hungry, NO elderly person with dementia is left alone, NO foster child is left with an untreated case of pneumonia, NO pregnant woman is without pre-natal care, NO family is homeless, NO mentally ill person is abandoned, NO disabled child is without care.

This is what Democrats mean when we say, “Just Say No.”

References and Resources:  * Edwin Park, CBPP.  Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s Specified Paths, March 2012. (pdf) “House Republican Budget Seeks to Slow Medicare, Slash Medicaid,” American Medical Association, April 2, 2012.   Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts, Database.  “Public Assistance Relief,” Census, Department of Commerce, pdf.  “HUD Secretary Defends FY13 Budget Before House Appropriators,” CLHPA.   “Four Ways Romney and Ryan Would Roll Back the 20th Century ,” Jake Blumgart, AlterNet, September 5, 2012.  “What Paul Ryan’s Budget Actually Cuts,” Brad Plumer, Washington Post, August 12, 2012.  USDA, Cost of Food Plans, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, May 2011 (pdf).  ASPE, Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Poverty Guidelines 2012. Congressional Budget Office, “The Long-Term Budgetary Impact of Paths for Federal Revenues and Spending Specified by Chairman Ryan,” March 2012, pdf.   Kaiser Family Foundation, link to interactive database for state health care statistics.

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, family issues, Health Care, health insurance, Medicaid, Nevada budget, Nevada child welfare, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Romney