cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
There are 100,000 people who have coverage under the Basic Health Plan in Washington State. The director of that program has been directed to cut that enrollment by 36,000 people. Why is that necessary? It seems the State of Washington has a budget problem and needs to cut this program's funding nearly 50%.
What does that have to do with Wisconsin? Our state has a big budget problem, and that problem is likely to grow rather than diminish. Our state has a similar program that provides health insurance coverage to the poor using tax-based subsidies. This program is one of the typical state-run Medicaid programs.
Given all the hoopla yesterday concerning GM's "bankruptcy", I found myself wondering about Ford Motor Company. Of the former "Big 3", two have been put into bankruptcy. Chrysler is nearing its emergence from that process with Fiat as its new owner.
Where does all this leave Ford, the only company that wasn't interested in a politically-tinged bailout.
Kennedy Middle School Discussion...
I mentioned some weeks ago that I had been receiving e-mails from parents of KMS students, and from school district residents who had no KMS students, that were expressing their concern about the manner in which that school was being run. Some were concerned about the perceived lack of a strong drug message being delivered while others were concerned about the attire observed on some students. Still others expressed concern over their perception that there were few rules that were enforced, and that those weren't necessarily enforced uniformly. Others reported fights that didn't result in any visible corrective actions being taken.
Most all of us recognize, after the fact, when a "tipping point" has been passed. The tipping point might be of a personal nature or it might be of a business nature. For example, if we lose a job, we might look back and tell ourselves what it was that caused that final decision. Or, we might look back on a business decision and see that it was the final piece that either made or broke a deal.
The tipping point can also be of a political nature. We are in the midst of so much political debate and change of such a significant measure that it is quite difficult to see when we're approaching a tipping point.
65 years ago I was a small child unaware of the sacrifices that were being made that would permit me to grow and live in a free country. Today is the 65th anniversary of "D-Day"; the day that our allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy under withering fire from the well dug-in enemy. There were women in uniform close on their heels working as nurses and pilots but not being committed to combat roles.
That was a time when our enemies were easily separated from our friends. We were a proud nation and we were committed to helping our friends battle for their continued freedom. Our soldiers and sailors and airmen were fighting a global war. Men from Wisconsin's 32nd Division were spending more than a full year under combat without a day of relief on the islands of the Pacific fighting against the men from the country of Japan.
The Galen Institute, a health care think tank based in the Washington, D.C. area, recently announced that it would accept amateur video submissions on the subject of health care reform. The theme announced was "do no harm".
The three winners are found here, and I think they're well worth watching since each plays to a different part of the health care reform debate. The first is my favorite of the three since it depicts universal auto care with truths that have, so far, been shuffled under the rug in what is passing for a "debate".
The breadth and depth of the non-budget items that continue to be "found" in the state budget are almost beyond belief. The Journal Sentinel published an article yesterday that delineated some of those:
- Drivers licenses for illegal immigrants- why would they want this when they're driving now? Could it be that these would permit some to vote illegally? If they're illegal, shouldn't something else be happening if they're stopped for a traffic offense?
- Increased minimum auto liability insurance- this will significantly increase the premiums we'll have to pay, it will add money to the pockets of trial lawyers, and it will ultimately cause more uninsured motorists, which will raise our rates some more. Sounds like a great idea, huh?
- QEO abolished- this is obviously a pay-back to WEAC, the teachers' union; it was interesting to see WEAC come back and tell the legislature to delay this until 2010; it must mean that the QEO will be better for the teachers this year during our recession, and then the teachers can begin to negotiate for the larger increases. Arbitrators will be involved when QEO dies, and that'll assure bigger settlements as the economy improves.
- Arbitration language is opened up- thus permitting much larger settlements than would be the case under the language formerly relied upon.
- Choice schools are to be hindered even more and will likely be forced out of business- it is interesting that Rep. Pedro Colon (D) was the one who stuck a stick in the choice schools' eye, even as his constituents want what they have today, total English immersion.
- Traffic stops for no seat belts in use- this will lead to more complaints by citizens who believe they're being targeted.
- Racial profiling data base tracking- this will be coupled with seat belts in the minds of many. Trial lawyers will likely benefit from this, as well.
- State agent access to personal bank accounts- this will require that banks permit the state to determine how much you have in the bank so they can collect their tax money more easily.
- Early release of felons- if they meet the "good behavior" benchmarks. Given a recidivism (return to prison) rate in the high double figures, this makes a lot of sense. We can get the prisoners on the streets sooner so that we can lock them up again. Sounds like a real winner so far as reducing costs, huh? Again, trial lawyers will probably benefit.
- GPS monitoring cutbacks- this will help the bad guy sex offenders work their magic better since they'll no longer be monitored 24/7, but simply once a day. Again, another really neat cost-cutting measure.
There is obviously good reason for all this having been concocted behind closed doors; it stinks!
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday found, in a five to four decision, that the appearance of bias in judges must be avoided. In this case from West Virginia, there was a single person who spent some $3 million dollars to get his favored candidate elected, and that judge then found in favor of that person's company in a trial.
For starters, this seems to be a reasonably clear cut case. The judge should have recused himself but chose not to do so. There is no indication that a court in that case moved to reprimand the judge. This seems a perfect example of judicial bias that was, essentially, bought and paid for.
Kempinski Claim Paid...
Rumors have circulated about the attorney's fees that were amassed by Village President Tom Kempinski in the defense of his campaign finance records. The District Attorney brought action and the case was ultimately settled with penalties being assessed against Kempinski for the "white-out" changes made to his reports. He blamed that on Jim Langer who had been maintaining those records at the time the changes were made.
As we wend our way down the trail of national health care reform, we really ought to reform those areas that are the biggest causes of problems. The blog, Health Care Policy and Marketplace, today had a thoughtful discussion that I felt needed to be shared in that it mentioned the three biggest flaws in our present system.
Obviously, President Obama will be in Green Bay touting national health care reform and making promises that will sound good to the most of us. Unless "reform" encompasses these three flawed areas, there is little likelihood that reform will make much of a difference in the problem. We'll still be paying way too much money for our health care, and we'll either go bankrupt as a nation as the result or suffer lesser healthcare than we ought to receive.
For all our getting, let us get healthy.
The CEO of Safeway Stores published an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning and his story was remarkable. On a purely voluntary basis, 74% of the non-union workforce participate in their "Healthy Measures" program in return for discounts on their health insurance premiums.
It seems like forever, but the World Wide Web, the Internet as we know it, is a relatively recent creation. In the several decades of its existence, major changes have been introduced to our lives. Among those are two that are currently manifesting.
The venerable Post Office is being affected by e-mail and by use of the Internet for shopping services, etc. Catalog mailings have continued to decrease, and, of course, snail mail has diminished considerably. That has reduced the money available to the Post Office and that has caused fewer and fewer employees. The postal service is considering delivery reductions and has targeted the cessation of Saturday mail deliveries since that is the lightest delivery day of the six they provide each week. Of course politicians are opposed since that means fewer union jobs and, for them, lesser contributions. This is an example of why private companies should never be run by government.
Village Board Meeting - June 15th
Just prior to the public comment section of the board meeting last evening, the village president, Tom Kempinski, made reference to the insurance company reimbursement about which I blogged last week. It seemed to me that he had, before that statement, known that something was coming during the audience portion and had also asked that the village attorney be prepared to make a statement to explain the actions that had been taken since he then addressed this subject for several minutes (after mentioning that he heard there was a blog about this although he hadn't seen it).
The state budget, so far, has had 71 earmarks added for various "needs" in the Democrat's districts that total the "chump change" amount noted in the title of this blog. These are the things that the various members of the Assembly wanted as their protection from the "unwashed" in their respective districts so as to be re-elected next year. The earmarks range from the Yahara River Watershed Project at $6.6 million down to three local food pantry gifts of $5,000 each.
$37 million dollars to buy votes. If every man, woman and child in Wisconsin voted, which they don't, that would mean a vote is worth about $7.40. If only 20% of the population votes, then each would've cost $37, etc. Some of the districts receiving this earmark money, based on population and typical voter turnout probably have a price tag of hundreds of dollars per vote cast
Hardly a day has gone by in the past month during which we've not seen some new 'money-grab' coming at us from Madison.
The state senate completed its "rush to the finish line" yesterday and has now set the stage for the assembly and senate conference committee to finalize the budget that will be voted upon and sent to the governor. A piece of good news emerged in that the senate has stripped the changes to 'joint and several' liability rules from its version of the budget. Let's hope that stays out in the final version. It did remove the delayed start date for the ending of QEO as sort of a quid pro quo.
The song by that title had nothing on our state government. When people go behind closed doors, there is no telling what will result.
The Joint Finance Committee did the vast majority of its deliberating behind closed doors. Now, the Senate and Assembly leaders will use the break between today and next Tuesday to hammer out an agreement, again without having to be concerned about the light of day shining on their activities.
"Kids say the darnedest things" earned a lot of money for Art Linkletter quite a few years ago. As I read the following, I was reminded of that television program:
On the subject of:
Our Congress appears to be out of touch with the realities that you and me face every day. We see jobs disappearing, compensation being cut, and costs increasing on virtually everything we consume.
Congress, on the other hand appears to have effectively insulated itself from these "mundane" issues confronted by their collective constituents. Too many people sitting in Congress are so out of touch that they have approved an 8% increase in the budgets each receive with which to pay their staff, run their offices and cover travel expense back and forth to their home offices.
I received an e-mail from a regular reader late last week concerning the first two subjects that follow:
When will the new Kwik Trip open?
I had the opportunity this morning to see my dentist for what I expected would be the removal and replacement of a filling that had discolored. I was seated in the chair while the color of the filling was determined and then the dentist walked in.
He looked closely at the tooth and then stepped back and asked if I had ever had root canal performed on that tooth. I didn't know the answer, so an x-ray was taken of that tooth and it revealed that there was no root canal. It also revealed that there was more filling than tooth and a discussion followed.
The state has need of furloughing employees to work toward solving the budget problems, as we all know. The plan, as proposed, was announced yesterday and it is as follows:
- Monday, October 12, 2009 (Columbus Day)
- Friday, November 27, 2009 (Friday after Thanksgiving Day)
- Monday, February 15, 2010 (President's Day)
- Friday, May 28, 2010 (Friday before Memorial Day)
The Democrats are working feverishly to get the carbon bill called "cap and trade" (or cap and tax) passed at the federal level. This bill is supposedly going to help eliminate the greenhouse gasses that are causing global warming. That is the story line, but that requires that you buy into the premise that global warming exists.
I don't buy that story line; I have seen nothing, other than propaganda, that begins to help me believe that we are in a global warming situation. I have seen much that leads me to believe it doesn't exist.
Is President Obama selling health care reform or life reform?
We're getting decidedly mixed signals as to just what is intended by health care reform as this Administration defines that, due in large part to the fact that this Administration has failed to give us the facts necessary to support any decision other than one made based solely upon emotion. Emotion alone is a very poor cornerstone upon which to build this mysterious health care reform.
Wisconsin has witnessed a bad budget situation made worse through process as well as outcome.
The process was flawed in that it occurred beyond our purview; we were the people who would pay whatever price was to be extracted, but we were not permitted to watch the process. Worse yet, we weren't permitted to participate in the process through the means of open debate and committee hearings.
I was shocked to learn of the death of Billy Mays yesterday. He, of course, was the man who hawked various products on television. If you've not seen his face at one time or another, you must not watch television. I remember OxiClean immediately when I think of products that he pitched.
That news brought to mind my infatuation with those sales people we see at the State Fair year after year pitching this set of knives, or that miracle car wax, or the best salad chopper ever invented, or the magic cloth that soaks up any spill anywhere.
The Obama family has decreed that it is unable to attend a Washington, D.C. church because it would be too disruptive for them to go. They have apparently decided, instead, to attend a nondenominational service when they are at Camp David, MD.
On the other hand, it does not seem to create any problems when they decide to go on a "date night" in New York City.
Tomorrow the world of education in Wisconsin changes. The QEO will be a thing of the past and school boards will be tested when bargaining with their union members.
The average teacher compensation increase across the state was 4.2 % per year during the period of time that QEO was in place. That is not bad by my reckoning considering that the QEO limit was 3.8%. So, we are likely seeing the impact of previously arranged step increases plus the QEO increase.