Category Archives: Rural Nevada

The Moderate Heller Myth: Health Insurance Edition

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has cultivated his “moderate” image to the point that this adjective is attached to him with remarkable consistency — when if a person does even a perfunctory piece of research on his actual voting record what emerges is the model of a hard line conservative.  There is a pattern.  The Senator expresses “concerns” with a bill; then announces with ranging degrees of fanfare his opposition to a bill “in its current form,” then when the rubber grinds on the road surface the Senator votes along with the Republican leadership.

Why would anyone seriously believe he would support fixing the Affordable Care Act’s problems and not ultimately support what is now being called the “skinny repeal” version in the Senate based on the following voting record:

In 2007 then Representative Heller voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (HR 4).  Then on August 1, 2007 he voted against HR 3162, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization.  The next day he voted against HR 734, the Prescription Drug Imports bill.  On March 5, 2008 he voted against HR 1424, the Mental Health Coverage bill.  Further into 2008 he voted “no” on HR 5501, the bill to fund programs fighting AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, and “no” again on the concurrence version of the bill in July.   If he had a ‘flash’ of moderation during this period it happened in the summer of 2008 when he voted in favor of HR 5613 (Medicaid extensions and changes), HR 6631 (Medicare), the latter including a vote to override the President’s veto.  By November 2009 he was back in full Conservative mode.

He voted against HR 3962 (Health Care and Insurance Law amendments) on November 8, 2009, and HR 3961 (Revising Medicare Physician Fee Schedules and re-establishing PAYGO) on November 19, 2009.

In March 2010 Heller voted against HR 4872 (Health Care Reconciliation Act), and HR 3590 (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).  He also voted against the concurrence bills.

January 19, 2011 he voted in favor of the Repealing the Health Care bill (HR 2).  He also signaled his stance on Planned Parenthood when he voted in favor of H.Amdt. 95 (Prohibiting the use of Federal funds for Planned Parenthood) on February 18, 2011.    He was in favor of repealing the individual mandate (HR 4), of repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund (HR 1217).  May 4, 2011 he voted to repeal funding of the construction of school based health centers (HR 1214).

There was another “soft” period in some of his initial Senate votes in 2011, especially concerning the importation of medication from Canada (interesting since many prescription drugs are manufactured in other overseas sites).  See S. Amdt 769, S. Amdt 2111, and S. Amdt 2107 in May 2012.  On March 31, 2014 he voted in favor of HR 4302 (Protecting Access to Medicare).

He was back riding the Republican rails in September 2015, supporting an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, (S. Amdt 2669) which failed a cloture vote.   Then on December 3, 2015 he voted in favor of another ACA repeal bill (HR 3762).    If we’re looking for patterns in this record they aren’t too difficult to discern. (1) Senator Heller can be relied upon to vote in favor of any legislation which deprives Planned Parenthood of funding for health care services, (2) Senator Heller can be relied upon to vote in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, and (3) Senator Heller’s voting record, if it illustrates any ‘moderation’ at all, comes in the form of dealing with prescription drug prices, but even that is a mixed bag of votes.

Thus, when he makes comments like the following:

“Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either,” the statement read. “That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans — particularly those living in rural areas — with dwindling or no choices.

“Whether it’s my ideas to protect Nevadans who depend on Medicaid or the Graham-Cassidy proposal that empowers states and repeals the individual and employer mandates, there are commonsense solutions that could improve our health care system and today’s vote gives us the opportunity to fight for them. If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it.”

We should examine them with some caution.   If he is referring to rural Nevada voters as ‘victims’ of the Affordable Care Act he might want to note that before the ACA there was one insurer in the northern Nevada rural market and if there is only one now that’s really not much of a change, much less a “nightmare.”  Nor is he mentioning that the proposed cuts to Medicaid will have a profoundly negative effect on rural Nevada hospitals. [DB previous]

That Graham-Cassidy proposal isn’t exactly a winner either:

“The new plan released Thursday morning and written by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) would block grant about $500 billion of federal spending to the states over 10 years to either repeal, repair or keep their ObamaCare programs.”

We have no idea if the number is an accurate estimate of what would keep the health care systems of all 50 states afloat — no one seems to want to ‘score’ anything these days.  Additionally, Americans should be aware by now that when Republicans chant “Block Grant” they mean “dump it on the states, wash our hands, and walk away” while the states struggle to keep up with demands to meet needs and provide services, operating on budgets which cannot function on deficits.

Then, there’s that perfectly typical Hellerian comment: “If it is improved, I will support it,” leaving the issue entirely up to Senator Heller’s subjective assessment if “it” has improved his re-election chances enough to go along with it while not upsetting his very conservative base.  Meanwhile, the media persists in repeating the “Moderate Heller” mythology, and we haven’t even begun to speak of his actions to thwart and later repeal any common sense regulations on the financial sector.

 

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Filed under conservatism, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada Test Site, Politics, public health, Republicans, Rural Nevada, SCHIP

Trump’s BIA Budget Massacre

1.6% of Nevada’s population is Native American, not a major demographic group when measured against the majority white (75%) and Hispanic populations (26.5%), or even the African American population (9.6%). [Census] However, that doesn’t mean this group doesn’t have some significant housing, health, education, and law enforcement needs on behalf of the Washoe, Paiute, Shoshone, and Utes (among others) who live in this State.  Worse still, the proposed Trump Budget stands to make their situation definitely more difficult.

“Overall, Trump’s proposal increases defense spending significantly and cuts deeply most programs for the poor. Trump’s budget slashes federal Indian country appropriations by more than 10 percent. For example, at $2.488 billion, Trump’s request for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs budget alone is a $300 million cut from Obama’s FY 2016 budget, which was the last full year appropriation (we have since operated on continuing resolutions). Trump’s proposal also cuts more than $50 million for the Indian country housing programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and zeroes out $8 million from the BIA budget for housing. For the Indian Health Service, Trump’s budget eliminates roughly $150 million.”  [IndC]

Consider for a moment the effects of a $300 million cut for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Drilling down, let’s look at the situation in Native American Housing, from which the administration seeks to cut some $58 million.  According to a HUD report issued in January 2017, housing needs are particularly acute in tribal areas in three major categories: System deficiencies (plumbing/electrical), physical condition, and overcrowding.

“Physical housing problems have declined enough to be negligible for the United States, on average—incidences typically of 1 to 2 percent—but not for American Indians and Alaska Natives in tribal areas. For example, 2013 American Housing Survey data show the U.S. average share of households with plumbing deficiencies was 1 percent, but this study’s household survey shows the share for AIAN populations in tribal areas was 6 percent; the share with heating deficiencies was 2 percent for the United States but 12 percent for AIANs in tribal areas; the share that was overcrowded was 2 percent for the United States but 16 percent for AIANs in tribal areas (exhibit ES.2). The only problems in which the incidences were nearly the same were electrical deficiencies (about 1 percent for both) and cost burden (36 percent for the United States versus 38 percent in tribal areas).” [HJ pdf] (emphasis added)

In summary, physical housing issues? 1-2% for most of the US population; but 16% for Native Americans.  “Heating deficiencies?” 2% for most of the US population; but 12% for Native Americans.  These numbers don’t appear to indicate a rationale for a $58 million slash in available funding.

Indeed, if we look at efforts of Native Americans to keep the furnace running in the winter is on the administration chopping block:

“The budget would eliminate programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income households pay to heat or cool their homes. In 2016, 150 tribal groups and more than 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds.”

There’s nothing like a cold house in the fall and winter to create an environment for disease, but again, Native Americans are on the losing end of the administration budget.

“The chronically underfunded Indian Health Service (IHS) offers care through a network of hospitals, clinics and health stations managed by IHS, tribes or tribal organizations, and urban Indian health programs. If the proposed budget passes, Medicaid, the national and state program that covers low-income individuals, could see its budget cut by $610 billion over the next 10 years. Mark Trahant, a journalist, academic and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes who has covered NA/AN affairs for 30 years, is concerned.

“In Indian Country, more than half of all Indian kids who go through Indian Health Service have their insurance through Medicaid,” he said. “Thirteen percent of Medicaid is Indian care.” [VOA]

Medicaid is not just an issue in terms of the national health care insurance proposals, but obviously has profound implications for health care services for Native Americans.   The proposed budget is not merely “austere,” but in relation to Native Americans it is downright cruel.

“The cutbacks to tribal programs are cutting into the bone and fail to recognize very real and critically important needs,” Fawn Sharp, the president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said Tuesday at a tribal conference in Portland, Oregon. “It is so severe that it’s absolutely illogical and unreasonable.”

Logic and reason have only a very tenuous connection to the administration’s budget proposals for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and associated programs which benefit Native Americans.

There’s something particularly egregious about a budget which presumes that programs for those in need, as the case of many Native Americans, should be slashed right into the bone so that tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners in the United States can be implemented. [CNNmoney]

This is the Trickle Down Hoax on steroids.  By some magical manipulation of the tax code in favor of the wealthiest among us, “jobs” are supposed to be created in remote reservation areas; exactly those regions not favored with infrastructure, transportation, education, and resources favorable to investment.   The TDH advocates argue that the economic development problems are the result of tribal land ownership patterns, a lack of natural resource exploitation, and government “interference.”

It’s hard for a white person to understand the relationship of Native Americans to land.  To the average white person land is real estate, it can be bought, sold, transferred, and allocated at will.  It’s just another ‘thing.”  There’s no single definitive Native American perspective about land, but this comment is at least illustrative:

“Us women have been taught that this Mother Earth has taken care of us, so we have to be like her essence. She never abandoned us, she is here, she nurtures us every day, she protects us, she feeds us, she clothes us.” [ICMN]

Tribal lands can be allocated for the use of tribal members, but it’s still tribal land.  It still has “essence;” it is nurturing, protective, and sustaining.  Perhaps as close as a white person can come to understanding this concept is to imagine one is living in a church, or some sanctified property.  The property may be inhabited by specific people for specific reasons, but it is still a communal sanctified place.  Further, while the majority in our society see wealth as a measure of personal worth, this isn’t a value prized among Native Americans who frown on that which is self-serving and avaricious.  There are enterprise activities on tribal lands, but again, these are tied to the benefit perceived to accrue to the tribe, and not individuals.

The glories of the Profit Motive as maintained by the TDH advocates and other “free-marketeers” are as foreign to many Native Americans as the idea that a child should come into the world while the family conducts its ceremonies would be to them.

For all intents and purposes, the administration’s proposed budget flies in the face of basic Native American values.  While purporting to encourage ‘individual initiative’ it guts those social programs that sustain the lives of the individuals who have difficulty amassing “wealth” in the white sense of the term.  While supposing that the budget encourages ‘economic development,’ it slashes funding for communal needs (housing, health services, education, nutrition) which underpin development of any kind.  As for ‘natural resource exploitation:

It’s highly unlikely one of the TDH advocates would fully appreciate the following:

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” – Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

Nor would they understand the concept expressed in this quotation, which they might even dismiss with scorn:

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.”  – Chief Maquinna, Nootka

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Filed under Health Care, Native Americans, Politics, privatization, public health, Rural Nevada

All Quiet on the Humboldt

When last we heard from Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) it was in early May at which time he smoothly flipped his vote on the disastrous ACA replacement bill, with a convoluted explanation that “it” wouldn’t hurt Nevada…and then came the CBO scoring.  The District 2 Congressional representative has kept his head down like a ground squirrel in his burrow by the side of the highway.  This prevents him from dashing into the roadway, or as constituents might call it — holding an in person town hall meeting.

Tossing statistics about like so much confetti doesn’t remove the cold fact that the bill for which Amodei voted cuts $839 Billion with a B from the Medicaid expansion.  Cue the GOP lament that there are “able bodied” people who benefit from the Medicaid program, a program initially meant to serve the desperately poor.  The expansion aided people who may not be homeless without a tent but who were certainly desperate in terms of their ability to afford health insurance for themselves and their families.  These are the people who waited until the medical situation was so dire expensive emergency room treatment was required; who used the emergency rooms as a form of walk in clinic for the lack of any more available alternative; who went without any medical attention whatsoever — 48,000 who died according to the Harvard study because health insurance was unaffordable.

Representative Amodei may not have believed the ACA replacement bill would have profound impacts on Rural health services, but other politicians from other states have pointed this out with remarkable clarity.

Missouri, for example, refused the Medicaid expansion, and the results aren’t positive, as described by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill:

“Well, we have, first, more than 2 million Missourians live in rural areas of our state. And 41 percent of our state’s hospitals are in rural areas. We know that they are under particular stress right now, particularly in states like Missouri that have refused the money that has been offered them for their Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. We know that there’ve been 78 rural hospitals closed, including three in Missouri. We know that 74 percent of those hospitals were actually in states that refused to accept the Medicaid money that was offered by the federal government back to the federal taxpayers in those states.”

Arkansas which accepted the Medicaid expansion also has some issues related to its rural hospitals:

“The ACA’s crafters essentially made a deal with hospitals: The ACA cut Medicare reimbursements, but the reduction in uncompensated care through the Medicaid expansion helped offset some of those cuts. Without that offsetting boost, some of the state’s smaller rural hospitals might not be able to survive. A hospital like Baxter — the fifth most Medicare-reliant hospital in the nation, according to Moody’s, thanks to the community’s significant proportion of retirees — would be forced to make dramatic cuts in services without the Medicaid offset. “The expansion of Medicaid through Arkansas Works is one of the key components that’s been able to help us through the change in the ACA,” Peterson said. “Not just Baxter, but it helps all of rural Arkansas.”

What is true of Missouri and Arkansas is true for rural health care in general:

Of the more than 11 million people who have gained Medicaid coverage through the ACA expansion, nearly 1.7 million live in rural America, according to new CBPP estimates (see Appendix Table 1).  The expansion population is more rural than the population as a whole: rural residents make up 12.1 percent of the population of expansion states but 14.1 percent of expansion enrollees in these states.  In at least eight expansion states, more than one-third of expansion enrollees live in rural areas: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia.

The Medicaid expansion has been a lifeline for rural areas in other ways.  The ACA coverage expansions, especially the Medicaid expansion, have substantially reduced hospital uncompensated care costs: uncompensated care costs as a share of hospital operating budgets fell by about half between 2013 and 2015 in expansion states.[8] Reductions in uncompensated care and increases in the share of patients covered by Medicaid have been especially important for rural hospitals.

Nevada hasn’t been immune from the problems associated with a lack of access to affordable health insurance and uncompensated care:

“Rural residents are themselves a public health challenge, as they are generally older, more isolated and less likely to be covered by insurance than their urban counterparts. They’re also more likely to smoke, suffer from obesity and hypertension and die from complications of diabetes.

But preventive care that could head off medical emergencies is hard to come by in many areas. Nevada’s rural and “frontier” counties – a term used for the state’s most-remote and sparsely populated regions – and reservations face severe shortages not just of doctors and primary care services, but also nurses, EMTs, dentists and substance abuse and mental health professionals. And in some areas, the numbers are dwindling, despite efforts to reverse the trend.”

 

And so, there are rural hospitals in Representative Amodei’s district — Elko, Lovelock, Battle Mountain, Yerington, Winnemucca, Ely, Fallon and others — wondering what effects will be felt if the GOP adopts the framework in the House bill for which Amodei voted.   Residents in Tonopah watched as their hospital closed in August 2015, an unfortunate testament to the perils of privatization.  The question which might, and should be raised, to Representative Amodei in some town hall (should he ever emerge) is how does the Republican version of health care insurance “reform” protect rural hospitals from financial pressures endangering rural hospital administration.

Ah, but all this is “old news” now that the Representatives voted on an unscored bill in their haste to get something, anything, done and have tossed the blazing ball into the lap of the Senate — in which we might expect Senator Dean Heller to lament the inadequacies of the measure to the Heavens, and then vote along with Senate leadership for the final (probably dismal) result.

Let’s guess that Senator Heller will announce his ‘profound misgivings and questions’ and then after consultations with some officials, reverse his position and do what he has always done — vote against any augmentation of health insurance affordability for his constituents (see his votes on SCHIP on multiple occasions.)

And so it remains — all quiet on the Humboldt — as Representative Amodei and Senator remain quiet (unless we count Heller’s scripted telephone town hall) on an issue of profound significance to District 2’s health care service providers.

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Filed under Amodei, health insurance, Heller, Medicaid, Medicare, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Rural Nevada

GOP Air Balls: ACA Repeal would increase Nevada uninsured by 95%

Trump Favorite Picture This ought to be just a little chilling:

If Republicans go through with their plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act using a similar model as their failed 2015 Obamacare repeal, the number of uninsured would double, a new report by the Urban Institute report warns. (pdf)  Taking into account the two or so year delay GOP lawmakers say they will include in the repeal bill, the non-partisan think tank estimates that in 2019 the number of uninsured nonelderly people would rise from about 29 million to nearly 59 million.  [TPM]

And the numbers represent what? Answer:

Eighty-two percent of the people becoming uninsured would be in working families, 38 percent would be ages 18 to 34, and 56 percent would be non-Hispanic whites. Eighty percent of adults becoming uninsured would not have college degrees. [UrbanInst. pdf]

Percentages have a way of sounding bland, so some clicking on the Plastic Brain results in approximately 33,040,000 of those people who would lose their health insurance by 2019  being non-Hispanic white people.  47,200,000 would be those without a college education, and thus presumably not in a position to secure the kind of employment providing the resources to find individual health plans.

If the 2015 bill is used as the framework or model, then the Urban Institute projects that there will be 762,000 uninsured individuals in Nevada only 18% of whom would be eligible for assistance; causing a 95% increase in the number of uninsured in Nevada.   Those Nevada politicians who have been denouncing the Affordable Care Act (read Rep. Mark Amodei R-NV2) may want to pause before “taking credit” for creating a 95% increase in the number of Nevadans without health insurance.

It’s important to recall that the Big Lie about the Affordable Care Act is that it is “socialized medicine.”  In reality it’s an Insurance Law. It doesn’t create a nationalized health care system – it merely increases the number of people who have “access” to health care by providing more people with the capability of purchasing health insurance policies.

Senate Democrats have already signaled that should the “Straight Out Of The Gate Repeal and Replace” come from the majority Republicans the GOP can expect no assistance from the Democratic side of the chamber. [TPM]

And, then there’s the politics of the repeal.  If the GOP decides to use the Reconciliation Process (needing only 51 votes for repeal) then Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) raises a question:  “What we are trying to figure out is what the restrictions on reconciliation,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) told TPM. “Does reconciliation allow for a replacement? And it may or may not.” [TPM]

If the process doesn’t allow for “replacement” then the Republicans have chucked the insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, insurance coverage for mental health, insurance coverage maternity care, protections from junk insurance policies with maximum limits, and other popular features of the ACA.  They may also be chucking hospitals under the bus.

One private equity spokesperson noted last November, “… hospitals, especially those in rural areas, could be tremendously hard hit if the replacement rolls back the progress made under the ACA to insure patients and incentivize them to get care before their illnesses require emergency room visits or hospitalization.”

Thus, with the lack of any specificity from Republicans about the nature of the “replacement” we could posit some serious problems for the members of the Nevada Rural Hospital Partners – in Winnemucca, Fallon, Battle Mountain, Boulder City, Carson Valley, Ely, Winnemucca, Incline Village, Hawthorne, etc.   A 2016 report for the American Hospital Association provides some general conclusions from which we can contemplate the effect on Nevada’s rural health providers:

”The loss of coverage would have a net impact on hospitals of $165.8 billion  with the restoration of Medicaid DSH reductions; The ACA Medicare reductions are maintained and hospitals will suffer additional losses of $289.5 billion from reductions in their inflation updates; Full restoration of Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital  (DSH) payment reductions embedded in ACA would amount to $102.9 billion.”  [AHA pdf] 

The technical term for these losses might be “ouch?”   There is a point at which rhetoric meets the road.  It’s all well and good to bellow “Repeal and Replace?” Or, “Get Rid of Socialized Medicine.”  It’s another thing entirely to puzzle out the impact of repeal on all the stakeholders in this issue – the customers and patients, the health care providers, the hospitals and clinics, the insurance companies, and the investors who have an increasing stake in privatized health care in this country.

There are some elements of the Affordable Care Act which could be improved.  However, the Burn the Barn Down political pandering on full display among Republicans isn’t leading to any current and serious discussions of how to make these improvements viable.  And, this is chilling for policy holders, insurance companies, health care providers, hospitals and clinics, and the investors therein.

Perhaps the Pottery Barn rule applies to Republicans: If you break it you own it.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Rural Nevada

Amodei’s Land Grab

Amodei Privatization Land “Congressman Mark Amodei will give an update to the Elko City Council Tuesday on possible issues that might impact the City and Elko County, according to Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson.

Amodei’s topics have not been outlined for the City. However, past subjects have included lands issues and sage grouse.” [EDFP]

If he’s set on discussing land issues, then we might guess he’s off to thread another precarious choice between the Bundyite Bunch and the BLM.  Back in late April, 2014 Representative Amodei was praising the BLM for backing off the confrontation with the Rampant Bundys, recalling his words:

“That is a leadership-type thing where you say, ‘We are getting our butts kicked and we are taking our team off the field and getting out of the stadium,'” Amodei said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s not a win, but probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.” [LVSun]

Two years later Amodei’s tone changed, he didn’t support the Bundys and he definitely didn’t want to be labeled anti-park:

“Amodei, however, said the (1) report attempts to use the Bundy sideshow to score political points rather than take a serious look at important issues such as (2) land access, ecosystem health and local economies.

“They don’t speak for me on anything to do with public lands,” Amodei said of Bundy and his acolytes. (3) “I want it to be about the resources, not about some guy who is or isn’t paying his grazing fees.” [RGJ] (numbering added)

Parse with us now. (1) When faced with a report bearing uncomfortable factual inclusions, such as Amodei’s opposition to funding and maintaining national parks and monuments, deflect the issue to the Bundy Bunch – who want no federal involvement in public land administration (grazing, forests, parks, monuments, …) and announce one’s inclination to talk about substantive land issues.  The 2nd District Representative had an opportunity to vote on the SHARE Act, a privatization proposal in Congress this year, but was absent for the vote.

“Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) sponsored H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015, which contains harmful measures undermining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. The bill includes language that could allow the use of motorized vehicles, road construction, and other forms of development within protected wilderness areas, and it blocks input from public stakeholders in National Wildlife Refuge management decisions. This legislation also includes provisions that would weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic lead in ammunition, fishing equipment. Additionally, this bill would undermine international commitments to combat ivory trafficking, thwarts our ability to effectively manage marine resources, and cuts the public out of management decisions impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. On February 26, the House approved H.R. 2406 by a vote of 242-161 (House roll call vote 101). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.” [LCV] (emphasis added)

(2) Representative Amodei has the big three listed — “land access, ecosystem health, and local economies.” However, in terms of access notice the underlining in the SHARE bill – when management decisions are to be made the PUBLIC is cut out of the process. This raises the question that if we are speaking of public access to public lands and the public is cut out of the management decision process, then whose access are we talking about?  Since the GOP sponsored bill passed the GOP controlled Congress, then it’s reasonable to assume the GOP doesn’t want input from PUBLIC organizations concerning management decisions – leaving the field (literally?) to the mining, logging, privatization, and other commercial interests?

And, if rivers are dredged or fouled, forests are cut down, wildlife is endangered, hunters are denied access, fishing enthusiasts are turned away, then it must be for the sake of the “local economies?” Unfortunately, Representative Amodei’s comments as reported offer no explication of his priorities.

(3) But then, there’s Representative Amodei’s infamous quote: “…we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ] Are heavily armed men taking over a federal wildlife refuge and threatening violence just “frustrated?”  So, perhaps it would be logical to infer that Amodei’s heart is with the “frustrated” members of those “local economies” which seek to exploit public resources?

Amodei is quick to cite his support for the National Park Service budget, and his support for the hazardous fuel mitigation efforts on public lands, but part of what got him on the Anti-Park list is explained: “Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada..[RGJ]

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that cash strapped states (like Nevada) might not eventually want to capitalize on the exploitation of public lands in the state, quite possibly at the expense of small ranching concerns, outdoor sports participants, and wildlife in particular.

A sneak peak might be on display with his bill to place BLM lands in trust with Nevada tribes:

“The House Natural Resources Committee approved the Nevada Native Nations Land Act, H.R. 2733, which Amodei introduced to provide more opportunities for economic development and protection of natural resources in the regions.

“(Wednesday’s) vote puts us one step closer to placing Nevada public lands back into local control — rather than in the hands of Washington bureaucrats,” Amodei said. “My bill carefully balances the unique needs of our Nevada tribal nations with those of local ranchers, land owners and businesses.” [RiponAdv] (emphasis added)

There he goes again, getting land out from under the “Washington Bureaucrats.”  The only salvation in this legislation is that Native Americans, who generally have a better standard of stewardship than the Koch Brothers,  are the ones holding the lands in trust.  We might also safely conclude that this “one step” is the first of many in which Representative Amodei seeks to place Nevada public lands under local control.

From local it’s one more step to private.

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Filed under Amodei, Interior Department, koch brothers, National Parks, Native Americans, Nevada politics, public lands, Reservations, Rural Nevada

Amodei Quacks Like A FLAG-waving Duck

Amodei 3

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) doesn’t like being categorized as “anti-public land,” or more precisely lumped in with the Bundy Boys.  However, his sponsorship of legislation and other activities have him on the Anti-Public Land list:

“Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada, opposition to the creation of the Basin and Range National Monument, membership in Federal Lands Action Group and a statement about the Malheur occupation.

The statement, attributed to Amodei and two other members of the action group, said the lawmakers didn’t condone the Oregon action but added, “we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ]

Duck looks The poor little Republican has been cast amongst the Bundys.  How did he end up bunched up with them?  First, he’s a “FLAG” member.

“Rep. Amodei is a FLAG member and introduced H.R. 1484, the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864—which would seize Nevada public land for state control. In 2015, Rep. Amodei also introduced H.R. 488, which would cripple the Antiquities Act by blocking the extension or creation of national monuments in Nevada, unless authorized by Congress. Rep. Amodei has also cosponsored four other bills aimed at curtailing the Antiquities Act and seizing public lands. In response to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Rep. Amodei signed on to a joint statement that condemned federal officials for law-breaking, rather than condemning the actions of the armed militants.” [CAP]

So, what is FLAG, and how does it relate to the Anti-Public Lands crowd?  The organization is the brain child of two Utah Representatives, Stewart and Bishop, who announced its creation on April 28, 2015.  And, the purpose?

Today, Representatives Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) launched the Federal Land Action Group, a congressional team that will develop a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control. […] This group will explore legal and historical background in order to determine the best congressional action needed to return these lands back to the rightful owners. We have assembled a strong team of lawmakers, and I look forward to formulating a plan that reminds the federal government it should leave the job of land management to those who know best.” [Stewart]

Who were among the first members of the FLAG group? “Other members of the Group include Representatives Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).” [Stewart]

We should assume the group means what it says.  It wants to transfer public land to local ownership and control.   Towards this end the FLAG group held its first “forum” in June 2015, and among the speakers was a representative of the “Independent Institute.”  Board members of this organization include a private equity manager, a person from Deloitte & Touche USA, a member of the Howley Management Group, the Botto Law Group, a managing director of Palliser Bay Investment Management, Reditus Revenue Solutions, Audubon Cellars and Winery, Berkeley Research Group LLC, and the former chair of Garvey International.  [II.org]  This isn’t a list that inspires one to ask if they are primarily interested in public land for the sake of conservation.

Prof. Elwood L. Miller (UNR) was on the initial panel, adding a touch of accounting expertise to the argument that the federal government is too bureaucratic and caught up in procedural questions to be a good steward of public lands.  Attorney Glade Hall added the usual federal control isn’t constitutional argument. “It is a patent absurdity to assert that such full powers of governance cover 87 percent of the land surface of a state of the Union and at the same time assert that such state has been admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original states in every respect whatever,” Hall said.” [STGU] A sentiment echoed by the head of the Natural Resources Group, whose book on the “theft” of the environmental issue is available from the Heritage Foundation.

In short, there was nothing to remind anyone of a fact-finding operation in this inaugural panel sponsored by FLAG.  It was of, by, and for individuals who want to ultimately privatize federal lands.

It’s also interesting that the panel members offered these opinions based on personal experience, or “talking to people,” but nothing in the presentations was offered to demonstrably prove that the federal government has no authority (beyond the usual crackpot interpretations spouted by the Bundy-ites and allies) or is actually and provably incompetent to manage public lands.  The guiding assumption – however poorly demonstrated – was that the local agencies could do a better job. Period.

If anyone is still unsure of the ideology driving FLAG, please note that the Heritage Foundation and the Mercatus group aren’t the only players supporting the efforts.  There’s also the John Birch Society (They’re still around) touting the confab on Facebook.  Additionally, there’s the ever-present American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) imprimatur on the project.

One segment of ALEC testimony from a February 2016 FLAG meeting can serve as an illustration of their argument:

“Bureaucratic inflexibility and regulatory redundancy make it almost impossible for the federal government to handle the lands in its charge for optimal environmental health. Any change in strategy on how to manage the lands, such as harvesting trees on forest lands to reduce wildfire fuel loads and prevent pest infestation, can take years to adopt and implement. By the time the federal government is able to act, it is often too late.”

Examples? The argument is made that three factors are responsible for the severity of wildland fires – poor logging practices, overgrazing, and over aggressive fire control. At this juncture, we could well ask how, without regulatory control, can better logging practices be promoted throughout the region? Or, if the Bundy Bunch isn’t convinced by the Federal authorities to pay their grazing fees and not trespass on BLM lands, then how is a state with less in the way of resources supposed to take on the task? 

However, the most intriguing element of the ALEC position is this: Further, they have operated with budget shortfalls for over a decade calling into question whether they even have adequate funds to get the job done.”  At this juncture it’s appropriate to ask – and who is touting cutting the federal and state budgets?  Who, if not ALEC?  Thus, the federal government can’t do a better job because the funding has been cut, and because the funding has been cut it can’t do the job?  Circular Reasoning at its finest, looped in with the obvious cuts and shaving from state budgets.   The ultimate argument would be that neither the federal government nor the state governments can “do the job” and therefore the lands should be transferred to private hands.  Nothing would please the Koch Brothers more?

The second way one gets attached to the Bundy-ites is to get mealy and smushy about their activities.  As in, “we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ]  It’s past time to get specific.  Exactly what constitutes “heavy handed federal agencies?”  Are they agencies which are tasked to collect grazing fees?  How long is an agency expected to wait for a person to decide to pay those fees? 

Exactly what constitutes a “violation of rights of hardworking people?”  Exactly what rights have been violated?  How is it a violation of my rights to have to pay the same grazing fees, or have to move cattle from overgrazed areas, just like every other rancher in a given area under Federal management?  Freedom, rights, and independence are easy words to toss around, but without actual evidence of real violations of RIGHTS then the argument is hollow.

Bundy rally And, one lands on the anti-public lands roster by sponsoring legislation like Representative Amodei did in April 2015:

“Most recently, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV) introduced a “large-scale” public lands bill, which would allow the state of Nevada to seize and sell off public lands. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, also requested $50 million in the federal budget in order to facilitate immediate transfer of public lands to state control.”  [TP]

Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then there’s no reason to list it as anything other than a duck.

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Filed under agriculture, Amodei, ecology, koch brothers, National Parks, Nevada news, Nevada politics, Politics, privatization, public lands, Rural Nevada

Cliven Bundy: How Can We Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Bundy Riders

Let’s Talk Nevada covered the adventures of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in Mesquite, NV complete with pictures, and an interesting exchange:

“Cliven Bundy’s son, Ryan, stated there is no place in the U.S. Constitution that allows the federal government to hold land and he asked Paul what he would do to correct that problem. Paul agreed that public land should belong to the states and local governments, but that private ownership is best.”

Tricky Answer: The notion that the federal government may not own land, (pretty well covered by Article IV, section 3, clause 2 if we want to get specific about it, put to one side for the moment) – Notice that Senator Paul really didn’t answer the question.  What Bundy 2.0 wanted was reassurance that his outlandish right wing theory was correct, but what he got was pure corporate libertarian-speak. The candidate didn’t say he would actually do anything about the reversion of public domain lands, to the state, to the locality, or to any other public entity. He merely recited the corporate mantra that private ownership is always best.  If Bundy 2.0 was listening carefully, the response could easily mean that corporate interests would be able to purchase land and then charge users (ranchers) for the use of the property.   If for-profit entities were in charge, does Bundy 2.0 believe they would be under any compulsion to perform  land management activities other than that which would enhance the corporate bottom line?  Re-seeding? Noxious weed control? Grazing management? Would Bundy be able to evade paying for land use under corporate control, as his father has tried to avoid paying grazing fees?  And, if a higher bidder came along – would Bundy be looking for grazing property elsewhere?

But wait, there’s more:  There was more than a question from the audience.  Politico reports:

“The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul’s stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)”

Cliven Bundy seems to have picked up the point about state ownership, “The state already owns the land…”

“The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech.

“I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.” [Politico]

How nice of Mr. Bundy to be so “educational?”  He doesn’t claim ownership, he claims “rights.”  Bundy 1.0 apparently understands that private ownership means private responsibilities – for fire prevention and fighting, grazing management, re-seeding, and maintenance – and he doesn’t want to pay for these.  He’d like the state to do it and let him put his livestock on the ground for free. Because? Freedom. Freedom as in Free loader.

Reprise:  Little wonder the Rand Campaign staff was anxious to tell us that the session between the Bundys and the candidate wasn’t “scheduled.” The candidate has already had to back away from Mr. Bundy once before:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told supporters shortly after the standoff, according to video footage captured by an onlooker. He recounted a time he drove past public-housing in Las Vegas “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom.” [Politico]

Thus much for any outreach to African American voters? So, are the Bundys “in tune with” the Paul Campaign? [MSNBC]

And even more:  Last June two Las Vegas Police officers were gunned down by anti-government extremists.  Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were assassinated and the motivation was reasonably clear:

“…a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a Nazi swastika the couple placed on one of the police officers they ambushed Sunday at a pizza restaurant. They pinned onto the other officer’s body a note saying something to the effect of “this is the beginning of the revolution,” Second Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters.” [CNN]

Later reports said the Millers were too much even for the Bundyland bunch, not necessarily because of their views, but because of Jerad Miller’s criminal past.

“Jerad Miller was eager to support Bundy, who was confronted by federal officials after years of refusing to pay grazing fees. On April 9, he wrote on Facebook:

“I will be supporting Clive Bundy and his family from Federal Government slaughter. This is the next Waco! His ranch is under seige right now! The federal gov is stealing his cattle! Arresting his family and beating on them! We must do something. I will be doing something.”

I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon. They don’t seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons. So don’t tell you that they need people. We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7. How dare you ask for help and shun us dedicated patriots.” [MJ]

And here comes another Rand Paul connection:

“Jerad Miller’s Facebook “likes” include the NRA, American Patriot Media Network, Support the 2nd Amendment, The Patriot Party, Rand Paul 2016, Ron Paul, the Washington Examiner, Legalize Weed, Draft Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, American Crossroads, and Allen West.” [MJ]

Granted, any campaign gets its share of whackies. However, the Millers were making connections which the Paul campaign isn’t avoiding: Guns + Ultra Libertarianism + Candidates who espouse the connections between guns and ultra-libertarian views.  And, if one Paul campaign in Nevada could create chaos, there were some people imagining what a second one could do to the state’s clout in national elections.  (AB 302, SB 421, 2015)

The Ron Paul Campaign, which made the 2008 Republican state caucus such an interesting debacle for all to watch unfold, could be the prologue to a 2016 version of chaos created by Rand Paul’s version?  Efforts to convert Nevada’s caucuses into primary elections failed in the latest session of the Legislature. [Ralston]

In Nevada it’s hard to find room to wield a fly swatter without slapping at least one Tea Party enthusiast.  However, with that enthusiasm comes some perilous ground:  Association with dead beat rancher and resident racist Cliven Bundy; Association with the circumstances that left two police officers murdered in a Las Vegas pizza parlor; and, Association with one of the most controversial (but entertaining for Democrats) presidential season caucuses the Republicans have ever convened.  However, there are 496 days until the next presidential election so the GOP could find ways to skirt the impact of the Paul campaign in the Silver State.

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Filed under conservatism, elections, Nativism, Nevada legislature, Nevada news, Nevada politics, public lands, Republicans, Rural Nevada