Category Archives: Nevada child welfare

When Parrots Make Policy: Ron Knecht and the Great Trickle Down Hoax

parrot

Ron Knecht is the Nevada state controller.  He is a true believer in the Trickle Down Hoax and associated subsets of this egregious rationale for corporate welfare.  Not sure about the validity of this assertion? Read Knecht’s own words.   Mr. Knecht is most upset about the spending approved by the last session of the Legislature, sufficiently upset to grace Nevada editorial pages with his latest diatribe.

The first proposition in Knecht’s screed is that we are under-reporting the level of Tax Burdens on Nevada citizens.  His second major point is that “substantial empirical research shows that the numbers that determine the impact of government on economic growth and the public interest are total government spending amounts, not only those from particular accounts or sources. Research cited in our Controller’s Monthly Report #1 (at controller.nv.gov) shows that total public-sector spending, including state and local levels, has been too big a fraction of our economy for over 55 years.” [EDFP]

There are two problems with this paean to Koch Corporation Economic Theory. 

Problem One:  The assertion assumes that all government spending has a negative relationship to economic stability or growth.   Gross Domestic Product Formula

For an individual who has an academic background in mining economics, it’s remarkable that he’s possibly forgotten the good old, often cited, GDP formula in which “G” for government is part of the formula by which we measure the economy of both the states and the nation. Nor can we assume all governmental expenditures are counterproductive.  If, for example, the Federal government  decided to close Nellis AFB, what would be the impact on the Nevada economy?   Here’s the answer: (pdf)

As of 2012 there were 32,771 included in the base employment figures. 8,186 active duty military, 20,231 dependents, 289 reserves, civilian employees totaling 868.  There were 563 “non appropriated funds” civilian employees, and 2,055 on-site contract civilians; 579 “other civilians” were employed at the base.  The estimated dollar value of the jobs created at Nellis AFB was $229.7 million.  Expenditures at Nellis (federal and state) totaled $5,071.4 million.

Problem Two: Since the argument that all government spending is necessarily excessive is untenable, Mr. Knecht falls back on a subjective observation: “total public-sector spending, including state and local levels, has been too big a fraction of our economy for over 55 years.”   We’re left with at least two questions about this assertion. First, how big is “too big?”  Secondly, what’s magical about speaking of the last 55 years (since 1960)?

There is no way to objectively answer the initial question, the percentage of state and local spending relative to the GDP ranges from 5.9% in 1948 to 11.4% in 2014.  We could be dramatic and declare that this represents a 93% increase in state and local spending from their own sources over a 67 year period, but then we have to remember we’re speaking of 67 years, and the annual increase is an unimpressive 1.38%.

The percentage of state and local governments from their own sources as a percentage of GDP was 8.4% in 1960.  This would yield a 36% increase over the last 55 year period, an annual increase of 0.6545.   Even if we extend the numbers as globally as does Knecht in his discussion of expenditures and include federal, state, and local outlays, the total expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 25.7 in 1960 and 31.7 in 2014, an increase of 23% over the 55 year period, or  0.4181 annually. [OMB download Table 14.3]

State Local Expenditures GDP There’s nothing particularly dramatic about the state and local expenditures chart, and even less about the total outlays of the federal, state, and local expenditures.

Fed State Local Spending percentage of GDP The annual increases simply do not support the level of histrionics associated with the clamor from right wing politicians for decreased government spending.  Further, there is no reason not to take the numbers back as far as they go – to 1948.  There’s nothing magical about the last 55 years, certainly nothing in the actual numbers, which supports the assertion that we’ve experienced some form of grotesque increase in the level of spending as a percentage of GDP.

Problem Three:  Hyperbole doesn’t equate to substantiation. Knecht continues:

“This continued metastasis of government has slowed economic growth significantly over the last half century, directly damaging the public interest and producing an ever grimmer (not better) future for our communities and children. And Nevada politicians and special interests have played a substantial role in this uncaring destruction, especially those who supported this year’s taxing and spending blowout.

What are the true facts? First, state spending’s (sic) already excessive burden on our lives and wellbeing has increased 10 percent faster in the last decade than the incomes of Nevada families and businesses. (Due to changes in reporting categories, there is no pre-2004 total spending data comparable to figures since then; otherwise, we would use it. Hence, meaningful comparisons to earlier years such as 1992 are not possible.)” [EDFP]

These paragraphs don’t represent an economic argument, they are an ideological one.   Again, there’s an un-anchored assertion, that without the increase in government spending there would have been greater overall economic growth.   Since there’s no empirical data available because we can’t undo the government spending in the last 50 to 67 years, we’re left with an assumption – that all the revenue collected and spent by various levels of government would automatically have been re-invested in productive economic activity.   

The experience of 2007-2008 should have given us an example of what can go wrong when money isn’t transferred in ways described by classical economic theory.  Money didn’t necessarily move from investors into plant expansion and greater employment – too much went to feed the Wall Street Casino, into increasingly sophisticated financial products which had more interest in Bubble Manufacturing than in creating financial stability.  Perhaps in some utopian, and essentially academic, system money not spent on taxes would have been put into research, development, manufacturing, and sales efforts – but in the very real world of modern finance that’s not how the system works.  Mutations such as the management theory of shareholder value, and the rise of the Financialists, insured that the old illusions don’t make a solid foundation for current realistic economic discussions.

Additionally, as noted with the Nellis AFB example, not all government spending is universally considered economically counter productive.  Nor can it be effectively argued that government spending doesn’t enhance economic stability and promote growth.   Investments in infrastructure, such as the national highway system, can lead to decreases in production costs, and increases in output, yielding a net rate of return above that of private capital as shown during the forty year period from 1950 to 1989. [Rand pdf]

Knecht also attempts to create a cause and effect relationship between “excessively burdensome” taxation/spending and stagnant wages.  Welcome to the land of Post hoc ergo propter hoc.   Controller Knecht’s diatribe manages to ignore the effects of “gains in labor productivity, the division of earned income between labor and capital profits, and the allocation of labor compensation among wages and nonwage benefits.” [Brookings]  Nor does he cite the trends related to full employment, declining union density, the misclassification of employees, and the race to the bottom in labor standards. [EPI]  Knecht’s also omitting a new notion, “downward nominal wage rigidity,” in which workers in a buyers market are fearful of losing all employment so will settle for lower wages. [RCM]  [Economist]  Even the hard-right Federalist Society, of which Knecht is a member, cites “reduced labor demand,” “increased labor supply,” (and gratuitously tosses in the Affordable Care Act) as causal factors in wage stagnation.  In short, his simplistic, post hoc ergo propter hoc argument misses the point from the left, the center, and the right.  He might as well argue that wages have grown slowly since the beginning of the general economic recovery,  mid 2009, because Serena Williams won the Wimbledon Tournament on July 4, 2009.

Problem Four: Here’s another leap of logic which borders on the inexplicable.  Knecht’s syllogism appears to be: (1) Nevada has a median state and local tax burden; (2) Local governments are subsidiaries of the state; (3) Therefore, the state is responsible for negotiation results between local governments and local public employees.

“In fact, Nevada’s total state and local tax burden – that’s what matters, not headcounts – has risen to the midpoint: 25th or 26th in the U.S., depending on how measured. Because local governments are subsidiaries of the state and governed by it, legislators and governors bear significant responsibility for local spending too – especially the excesses caused by state laws allowing public-employee unions to drive local spending ever higher.”

There’s almost nowhere to begin with this other than to assume Knecht believes that local employee contracts are to blame for “excesses” in local spending.  Again, we’re in subjective territory.  How much is too much?  How much, for example, is too much to pay a police officer or sheriff’s deputy for being willing to engage with some of the most dangerous people in the state?  For being targets for radical right wing lunatics while the officers are trying to catch a bit of lunch in a pizza establishment?  How much is too much for a firefighter – how many people are willing to run into instead of out of a burning building? 

How much is too much to pay a county social worker?  The average caseload for a Child Protective Services investigator in Clark County is 18. The average case load for those responsible for supervising foster care is 13.  Or, to put it another way social workers are responsible for about 25 children per worker. [LVRJ]  The recommended standards are 12-15 children per social worker in foster family care, 12 active cases per month for initial assessment and investigation for every social worker; 17 active ongoing family cases per social worker with no more than one new case assigned for every six open cases.  The standard for a combined assessment and investigation in ongoing cases is 10 ongoing and 4 active cases per social worker. [CWLA]  

While hard cap number ratios may not reflect the flexibility needed to handle all local cases, recruiting and retaining trained professionals who are responsible for assessment, service planning, implementing and monitoring services, advocacy for children or adults who need basic services, interdisciplinary  and inter-organizational collaboration, record keeping,  and practice evaluation and improvements. [SWorg pdf] And, all this for about $45,000 to $66,000 per year.

Of course, there’s always that pesky teacher’s union – driving up the costs of public education – since there’s no way to run a school without teachers.  The current Clark County salary schedule begins at a non-too-impressive $34,637 and terminates for an “ASC + PhD” on step 15 at $72,331.  The median household wage in Nevada is $53,042.   In the private sector a doctorate in economics will get a person about $98,200 early in his or her career; a doctorate in statistics will get a person about $99,900 in the early years, increasing to approximately $128,000 in the later years.  [Payscale]

Aside from declaiming, without context, that salary negotiations are a significant driver of “excessive” local spending, Knecht also ignores another picky detail – population. In 1960 there were approximately 291,000 residents of the state of Nevada, 285,278 to be more exact.  By 2010 there were 2,839,000 residents.  There was an 895% increase in the population of the state in last 50 years.  This is the point at which “headcounts” do matter, it obviously takes more people to deliver services to 2.8 million persons than it does to provide them to 291,000.

NV Population 1960 2010

And now comes Controller Knecht’s finale, discounting efforts made by legislators to address spending issues in a rational manner:

“…as if hearing every detail of the budget means that politicians make the right decisions. Legislators can’t really know the value of each spending proposal when they hear almost exclusively from proponents, most of them paid for by our tax dollars to advocate for their interest, not for voters, taxpayers and the public interest. They certainly can’t determine its net social value unless they get equally extensive testimony in the same hearings on the damage done by the taxes needed to fund each item – and they never do that.”

There are a couple of features which require untangling in this paragraph. First, a person can be an advocate for social workers and also be a voter, a tax payer, and a person concerned with the public interest.  An advocate for highway funding is also a voter, a taxpayer, and concerned with the public interest.  There is no way to compartmentalize people, their advocacy, and their public spirit.   In Mr. Knecht’s taxonomy anyone who advocates for better police, fire, education, and social services, or highways, health inspections, public mental health services, parks, wildlife, and libraries – is not advocating “for the public interest.”  As if the public interest lies solely in diminishing these services in the name of “smaller government.”  This isn’t an economic argument – it is completely, totally, an ideological statement; and, it’s judgmental to boot.  So also is the term “net social value.”

“Net social value” is one of those buzzwords associated with radical right wing economics of austerity, and unfortunately it comes without any real meaning. [Guardian] It’s related to the economic term “social return on investment,” which is only slightly more precise.  “Social Return on Investment is an analytic tool for measuring and accounting for a much broader concept of value, taking into account social, economic and environmental factors.” [NewEcon]   Knecht’s context seems to place the “net social value” proposal closer to the Cost Benefit Analysis methodology and not quite so analogous to the SROI calculations.  Analysis in these terms can get very mushy very quickly.

For example, in purely economic terms (and ones Controller Knecht may find troubling) one of the best SROI or “net social value” or just old fashioned economic stimulus spending is the SNAP program.  A USDA Study designed to test whether or not SNAP benefits improved the economy found that an increase of $1 billion created about $1.79 billion in economic activity (GDP.) Or, that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates about $9 in economic activity. [USDA]

If we expand the terms to include socially beneficial activities the measurement becomes more difficult to manage. How, for example, do we measure the quantitative benefits of public libraries?  Several states have made the attempt and most have returned results which might be at variance with Mr. Knecht’s ideological preferences.  South Carolina reported that for every $1 spent on public libraries contributed $2.86 in value to the state’s economy.  Florida studied 17 public libraries and demonstrated about $6.40 in economic benefit for every $1 in their budgets. [ALA]

Mr. Knecht assumes that “net social value” cannot be determined unless there  is equal weight given to the opponents of government spending for government services.  This, in turn, assumes that the arguments of the opponents are of equal quality and veracity as those of the proponents.  The evident extrapolation of Mr. Knecht’s argument is that any advocacy of government spending on government services must be self-serving, and therefore cannot be in the public interest. However, what are we to make of a hypothetical argument advanced by public health nurses that the state invest more in the inspection and regulation of out patient surgical centers? Simply because some such centers do not care to be inspected and regulated are we to assume that there would be a “negative net social value” to the increased number of inspections? What are legislators to do?  Knecht advises “focus?”

“Above all, they can’t make the right decisions if they substitute laboring over program details for focusing on the premier fact that government is already so big – even while still growing – that it has slowed economic growth to a long-term crawl and thus damaged our communities and children’s futures. If they really cared, they’d address and fix that first.”

Repeat the drum roll: Larger government = slow economic growth. As we’ve seen earlier in this post, that argument doesn’t stand under even cursory scrutiny.  This is a highly subjective point of view, and informed more by ideology than by economics.   If our legislators “really cared” they’d go over those program details, looking for ways to streamline services without compromising the basics, and in doing so would address issues in education, public safety, public health, and the quality of life in Nevada – without resorting to ideological blinders.  We could use more wise owls, and fewer parrots?

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Filed under Nevada budget, Nevada child welfare, Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

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

The Big Shrug: Nevada Legislature Shifts Burdens to Counties

It might have been worse, the Assembled Wisdom in Carson City could have further raided the treasuries of Washoe and Clark counties, but shifting $52.6 million in expenses from the state to the counties is significant. [related link] See also: [NV Appeal]  Some Shrugs listed below:

State obligations to support Child Protective Services was shrugged off to the counties in SB 480.  “Section 4 of this bill requires each of those counties to pay to the Division of Child and Family Services an assessment for the provision of child protective services not to exceed the limit of legislative authorization for spending on child protective services by the Division in each such county.”

Yes, indeed, the mining lobby shaved millions off the liability of its powerful constituents, but for all the palaver about how much we value our children the Legislature couldn’t find the resolve to maintain state funding for child protective services.

How do we fund the Youth Parole Board responsibilities?  We shrug the costs off to the counties.  SB 476:  “Section 1 of this bill requires each county to pay an assessment for the activities of the Youth Parole Bureau of the Division of Child and Family Services of the Department of Health and Human Services. The amount of the assessment is determined by the Administrator of the Division of Child and Family Services using a formula that is based upon the number of pupils enrolled in public schools in the county.”

Are services needed from the Division of Health, or the office of the State Health Officer?  SB 471: “Section 1 of this bill requires each county to pay an assessment to the Health Division of the Department of Health and Human Services for the costs of services provided in that county by the Health Division or the State Health Officer.”

Public health services are in that realm of governmental functions not often supported by federal funding, outside of health care access programs such as Medicaid and Medicare the federal government has a relatively small footprint compared to its security, commerce, and agricultural programs.  We speak to the necessity of public health and safety — but in this instance the state was unwilling to step up to the plate in order to guarantee the essential safety of its citizens.

And, should we not be able to shrug off the costs of sustaining our institutions of higher education the burden can be shifted to — who else? — the students.  Those considering majors in areas not currently “popular” could easily see their tuition costs rising because the cost of instruction ratio would naturally be higher in those subjects.  We have a bill for that.

SB 449 “Section 2 of this bill authorizes the Board of Regents, in fixing tuition charges and assessing registration fees and other fees, to adjust the amount of the tuition charges and registration and other fees based on the demand for or the costs of carrying out the academic program or major for which the tuition charges or registration or other fees are assessed. The adjustment may be based on factors such as the cost of professional instruction, the cost of laboratory resources and ancillary costs.”

The Powers That Be Representing The Powers Of the Have-It-Alls have made their priorities exceedingly clear.  It is more important to keep taxation low on mining and major national retailers than it is to maintain our funding for schools, child welfare and protective services, youthful offender rehabilitation, and students in our institutions of higher education.  The No New Taxes mantra is more important than sustaining our efforts in these realms.   When the choice is keeping the Chamber of Commerce happy or securing public health, child welfare, schools, and universities — the Assembled Wisdom of the 76th Session marched merrily to the Chamber’s tune.

And we are all poorer for it.

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>Nevada and its Children: The Silver State can do better

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The Children’s Advocacy Alliance gives Nevada a D+ for its care and treatment of children in the state. A recalcitrant child might argue, “But, gee Mom, it’s better than last year!” (When the state got a D-.) There were some good grades in the report, an A- for infant and child mortality, and a B+ because our children generally manage to avoid tobacco and alcohol use. However, the rest of the card isn’t so complimentary, a 50th ranking for child immunizations, and a 49th rating for children without health insurance. [LVRJ]

Desert Beacon will continue to harp on the subject of children’s health care, insurance, and related matters because Other People’s Children Matter. On a purely selfish plane: One of them could grow up to be my auto mechanic, or my surgeon. My accountant or my local deputy sheriff. The carpenter or plumber I hire, or the lawyer I retain. The kid might even turn out to be a local miner or stock brokerage representative. If the little critter doesn’t stay in Nevada she or he may well be a member of someone else’s community; living in someone else’s town, or perhaps stationed on some military base far from here.

Whether the offspring stay in the state or become ‘ambassadors’ elsewhere, I want them to be healthy, well educated, and positive examples of how Nevadans feel about children and their welfare. I want their parents to get them immunized from common childhood diseases; I want their guardians to get involved in their education; and, I want their families to have decently paying jobs to adequately support them. I want them to have adequate, safe, and affordable housing. I want them to be safe going to and from school. I want them protected by fire and police services to the best of our ability. I want them to be the object of the utmost concern by those who are charged with caring for them if for some reason their families cannot.

I don’t want them to receive their medical treatment in an emergency room for anything other than the breaks, bruising, and sprains they get learning to ride their bicycles or adventuring too high up the neighbor’s tree. I don’t want to hear about a family so bereft of means that the fever which should have been attended to by a family physician became a cause for alarm in the ER.

I don’t want for them merely to be able to pass basic learning skills examinations at the expense of being taught to comprehend, synthesize, and analyze the information they’ll be getting the rest of their lives. I don’t want them to go through their formal educations without art, music, and physical education. I want them playing on sports teams, taking field trips, going to public events, and putting on plays. I want them taught by the best teachers we can recruit, and advised by the best counselors and administrators we can retain. I want a licensed health care professional on the premises, and a school safety officer nearby.

I want them washing my already fairly clean vehicle to accumulate pocket funds to attend a state student council convention, and I want them to entertain me on a Saturday afternoon playing in the very best football helmets we can buy. I want their basketball uniforms fresh, sharp, and stylish. I want to be entertained during a long winter at the very least by their effort to put on an evening of drama or debate, even if Broadway or the American Bar Association might not be singularly impressed.

Instead of people complaining that their education is too expensive, I’d like to hear someone say that educating the kids is the most important investment we can make. Instead of people complaining that we can’t afford adequate health care services for children, I rather hear that we can’t afford not to. Instead of listening to their elders speak in generalizations about the cost of health, education, and welfare expenses for children, I’d much prefer to hear them declare their support of specific programs for their benefit.

We’ll be a civilized state the day that we are spending more educating our children than incarcerating them; when we are investing more in preventative health care for them than on our emergency room services. We’ll be civilized when there are no more than 25 youngsters in any secondary school classroom, and no more than 15 in their primary grades. We’ll be a civilized state when we stop speaking of our children’s expense to us in our present circumstances, and start referring to them as our investment in our own future.

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Filed under education, Nevada child welfare, public health

>Coffee and the Papers: Fallout and Foul Ups

>
A little good news: Divine Strake goes “not with a bang but with a whimper.” [LVRJ] Radioactive debris from the Nevada Test Site will not be sailing into the atmosphere for the time being. Update: Statement from Nevada Senator Harry Reid — “…the Department of Defense failed to appropriately consult and work with our communities to demonstrate that the project is safe and sound. They didn’t seek proper community input in the decision and overall didn’t execute the process properly. There were still many questions left unanswered, including the possible environmental effects. Taking these factors into consideration, I support the Defense Department decision to play it safe by canceling Divine Strake. We never want to jeopardize the health and safety of Nevadans.” {Reid Press Release 2.23.07}

Fallout of the political kind: One reporter thinks perhaps the Democratic Presidential Forum held in Carson City this week may have done Nevada more good than it did the candidates. [RGJ] Jon Ralston comments on Forummania. [LVSun] John L. Smith thinks Bill Richardson deserves more attention. [NA]

Old fashioned pollution/fallout: The Queenstake Resources’ Jerritt Canyon gold mine has been ordered to repair mercury emissions control equipment or shut down its ore processing plant. [LVRJ] [EDFP] The requirements set forth in the order at [EDFP] Newmont and Barrick cite increased production costs as a reason for predicting higher gold prices. [RGJ] Hitting lower grades now? Low grade usually equates to higher production costs.

Falling all over themselves? The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services and the Clark County Commission are reviewing the Clark County Family Services report on child welfare cases. The review is intended to assure the public that 55 cases were properly handled by an agency in which foster children may have died or disappeared while in custody, the emergency shelter was routinely over capacity, and overloaded caseworkers failed to perform regular visits. [LVRJ]

Pahrump may have taken itself off the National Register of Silly Places by rescinding the English Only Ordinance — but the debate lingers on. [PVT]
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McConnell v. Reid: Round Three — Senate Democratic leaders intend to offer a resolution to repeal the 2002 Blank Check authorizing the invasion of Iraq. [WaPo] Rep. John Murtha may have added fuel to the fire by publishing his funding plan on a “left-wing” website — “inflaming party moderates.” The problems do highlight the divergence of opinions within the Democratic caucus, with opinions ranging from immediate withdrawal from Iraq to those to who believe Congress cannot limit spending or place conditions on funding. [LAT] One of Murtha’s proposals that moderate/conservative Democrats may want to retain is the notion that troops should not be redeployed to Iraq without adequate time for rest between assignments. An article in this morning’s New York Times illustrates why this is an important consideration. [NYT] One other thing that should be considered is the effect of multiple deployments of National Guard and Reservists — whose family and business concerns are different than those of regular Army forces. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Democratic split means that Congress won’t be able to stop the White House war strategy. [The Hill]

Another sources weighs in on the so-called success of the British forces in Basra — “In a comment entitled “The British Defeat in Iraq” the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005. Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that “did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighbourhood level when British troops were not present”. As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the so-called “Sadrist” factions.” [Independent UK]

The fall of the Italian coalition government illustrates the tensions in European politics about how to deal with the Bush Administration, and the differing perspectives on the occupation of Iraq. The administration holds that Iraq is part of the Afghanistan/anti-terrorism fight — European nations see a profound distinction. [CSM] Meanwhile, the Taliban is threatening “the bloodiest year yet” for foreign troops in Afghanistan. [Guardian UK] The British Government is expected to announce the redeployment of another 1,000 troops to Afghanistan. [Independent UK]

The U.S. is seeking stronger sanctions on Iran for refusing to cooperate with the demand to suspend uranium enrichment. [McClatchy] Neoconservative Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute believes that President Bush will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, and believes the current diplomacy is a “prelude to attack.” [McClatchy] U.S. intelligence on Iran has been “shaky.” [McClatchy] According to a report drafted by a Republican staff member on the House Intelligence Committee: “American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran’s nuclear weapons program” to help policy-makers at a critical time, the report’s authors say. Information “regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons and biological weapons programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive,” and little evidence has been gathered to tie Iran to al-Qaeda and to the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.”[SDUT]
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The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets sees nothing wrong with hedge fund “outsized returns,” and dismisses concerns that excessive borrowing and trading bets by the hedge funds could cause stock market instability. [WaPo] Caveat Emptor!
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Nevada Legislative news at Blue Sage Views
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Update: Wouldn’t you know it — just when I wanted to consult the Magic 8 Ball in the sidebar to see if Joshua Muravchik’s advice to President Bush about nuking Iran would be accepted by the White House — the thing’s “temporarily unavailable.” Update II: The Eight Ball’s gone…until it can be “repaired”… perhaps it wore out trying to figure out who’s in charge of U.S. foreign policy — Bush or Cheney, or both?

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Filed under Divine Strake, Economy, Iran, Iraq, Nevada child welfare

>Who’s watching the children?

>Nevada Governor Jim “Gaffe” Gibbons didn’t listen to a wide variety of authorities and experts on a wide variety of topics before, so a person could suppose it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that he didn’t listen to “child welfare consultants, state appointed panels, and the Clark County Family Services Administrators.” [LVRJ] When the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services asked for $798,000 to fund a training program for case workers, the Governor rejected the request. One of the consultants pointed out that since the state doesn’t require caseworkers to be licensed social workers, the least that should be done is to provide training. Unfortunately, not even the DCFS made training a top tier request — placing the funding for foster families in the first position.

As for the Governor’s position: “Melissa Subbotin, Gibbons’ press secretary, said the fact that the governor didn’t propose spending money on the training “doesn’t mean it’s any less of a priority. But we are faced with a limited amount of funding for an innumerable amount of projects.”

Perhaps the Governor, and the DCFS for that matter, should be looking at this issue not as one of competing priorities, but as two issues that are intrinsically related to one another. If there are no adequately trained caseworkers who can recognize, document, and recommend the need for foster care then funding more foster homes doesn’t necessarily address the issue of child safety. On the other hand, even if all caseworkers are thoroughly trained children will still be at risk if foster care facilities and homes aren’t available.

The very least we should be doing is insuring that the state of Nevada doesn’t meet or exceed the levels of incompetence and miserliness that created nationally publicized problems in Florida a few years ago.
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Super Consultant Sig Rogich is out of town, the Clark County Sheriff’s off enjoying his retirement, and the Case of the Mysterious Gaffe in the Garage remains an enigma. Thus the file folders are returned to the cabinets in the Mazzeo Case. [LVSun] However, not before we discover that the cocktail waitresses gave serious consideration to “cutting off” the booze to the Governor’s little group of celebrants, and that self same Super Consultant has given more than one version of “How I found out.” [LVSun]
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The 1916 theater in Ely is about to get a make-over. Originally a stop on the vaudeville circuit, the theater was closed in 1963 and substantially altered. The current owners plan to make the building a state of the art multipurpose theater. [ET] The other restored theater facility in the region is the 1880 Eureka Opera House re-opened in the early 1990s.
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The National Intelligence Estimate: “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability — A Challenging Road Ahead” available at the DNI site. As predicted, Iran’s activities are judged to be factors intensifying the violence, but the violence itself is “self sustaining” and a product of “Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.”
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Nevada State/Local at Blue Sage Views

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Filed under Ely, Gibbons, Iraq, National Intelligence Estimate, Nevada child welfare, Rogich