Archive for March, 2017

We Report, You Decide

March 29, 2017

 

Obamacare will implode. So say the GOP president, congressional representatives and local enthusiasts. The popular media focuses on the incongruity of 8 years active oppositions, and over 60 legislative bills to end the Affordable Care Act. And yet it remains “the law of the land.” Stephen Koff of cleveland.com thinks otherwise. In a 3-29-17 article entitled “Did Republicans sabotage Obamacare? Ohio insurers owed $100M they’ll likely never see” he looks at how any success was undermined in advance. Analysis finds this to be worthwhile, especially considering that the current chief executive interprets government to be by decree, without regard of legislative involvement or intent. Most of his priorities are being promulgated and enforced by executive order. As the chief executive, he would differ little from his predecessors in eliding enforcement of existing laws. Could the implosion of the ACA be one of them? Mr. Koff points out that the ACA, like the expansion of Medicare prescription drug benefits during the Bush presidency, relied on government underwriting of risk for its initial years of operation. “One way of protecting them involved a concept known as a risk corridor, a way to guard insurers against inaccurate projections. At the ACA’s full start in 2014 no one truly knew what the enrollment mix would be — young, old, healthy, sick — and how much insurers would have to spend on medical care.” Koff explains “With risk corridors, insurers made their best estimates when they priced their policies and offered them for sale. The projections were based on actuarial principles and double-checked by state insurance officials and HHS. If insurer projections turned out to be wrong even after all that checking and a company made a big gain, the company would have to share part of it with the losers through the risk corridor program, maintained by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, a division of HHS.” But a funny thing happened on the way to affordable healthcare, “Under risk-corridor rules, no company would give up all its gains, and no company would be able to recoup all its losses. But it could recoup enough to stay in business.” “Obamacare passed narrowly when Democrats had majorities in Congress. Republicans never liked it. So in 2014, as both parties hurried to pass a year-end spending measure that was already overdue, Republicans managed to work in a small but meaningful change to the Obamacare rules — specifically, the risk corridor rules. They required that the risk corridors be self-funding, or what is known as budget neutral. That meant any money paid out to insurers would have to come from money coming in from other insurers. Key to this: CMS would not be permitted to draw from other accounts if the risk corridors lacked enough money. Democrats arguably left themselves open to this change by not being more specific when drafting the ACA. Yet it’s clear Republicans knew this would create problems. Some even bragged about it.” The article quotes one of Ohio’s Senators: “”There’s no question,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, “that efforts to undermine the ACA’s risk corridors program drove insurers out of Ohio’s marketplace and starved our state’s CO-OP of the resources it needed to get off the ground, leading to less competition and higher prices for consumers.”” Newark’s 12th congressional district’s representative chose to address his constituents through a spokesperson: “”Obamacare is fundamentally flawed,” Olivia Hnat, spokeswoman for Rep. Pat Tiberi, said when asked about Republicans using the risk corridors to undermine Obamacare. Tiberi is on the House Ways and Means Committee and chairs its subcommittee on health. “The individual mandate is failing to patients in the marketplace,” Hnat said. “No matter how much the government subsidizes care or props up the insurance market, the individual mandate hasn’t worked and it is just one reason why Obamacare is on an unsustainable path.”” Analysis concludes with the article’s beginning. “The provision slipped into a spending bill in late 2014, after the Affordable Care Act was under way, restricted the government in making payments. As a result, some insurers have been forced to pare down their medical networks, cut their markets or leave Obamacare altogether — contributing to the higher premiums for customers and insurer withdrawals that Republicans point to as proof of the program’s failure. Republicans say they were just preventing an ill-advised insurer bailout because, they say, Obamacare was bound to fail. But Democrats and some health policy analysts say Republicans purposely sabotaged the Affordable Care Act by denying promised payments to insurers at a crucial time.” Analysis ends with those inimitable words of Fox News: “We report, you decide”

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The Current State Of The State Of Poverty

March 27, 2017

 

The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies released its State of Poverty 2016 report last week. The first part is a synopsis of sorts, the final pages are the statistics and tables for each category, area, etc. Of note:

The FPM [Federal Poverty Measure] is based on annual household income, and as such, fails to distinguish between longterm and short-term poverty. Using a monthly poverty threshold along with data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a national household survey designed to track participants over multiple years, the Census Bureau estimates the number of Americans experiencing chronic and episodic poverty. The chronic poverty rate is defined as the percentage of the population in poverty every month in a 36-month period, whereas episodic poverty is defined as those in poverty for at least two consecutive months in a 36-month period. [Ohio has a] 16% official annual poverty rate, 32% episodic poverty rate. The episodic poverty rate in the United States is twice as high as the official annual poverty rate. Asset poverty is a measure of the financial cushion needed to withstand a financial crisis (i.e. medical emergency, job loss, etc.) and stay out of poverty for three months. Assets can be liquid or non-liquid. Liquid assets are those which can be easily exchanged for cash (e.g., gold, savings accounts, government bonds). Nonliquid assets typically must be sold (e.g., cars, homes, businesses). A household is considered asset poor if its combined assets are worth less than three months’ living expenses at the federal poverty level (FPL) threshold. Similarly, a household is considered liquid asset poor if its liquid assets alone are insufficient to meet those expenses. Nearly half of Ohio households lack the liquid assets needed to stay out of poverty for 3 months.

A family of two adults and two school-age children in Ohio needs an annual income of at least 146% of the federal poverty level to be self-sufficient. A single parent with 2 children must work 109 hours per week to reach self-sufficiency at minimum wage. A family of one adult, an infant, and a preschooler needs to earn at least $45,715 a year to be self-sufficient. Nearly one third of households led by a single female live in poverty; that rate increases to 43.1% among single women with children under 18. Married couple families where neither spouse works still have a lower poverty rate (9.3%) than single female householder families where the householder works full time.

Food insecurity, defined by the USDA as limited or uncertain access to adequate food, affects millions of people nationwide and hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. Children are particularly affected by food insecurity; nearly one-quarter of Ohio’s youth are food insecure and 20% of those children are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, college students are also affected. Twelve Ohio colleges and universities have food pantries on campus.

Grandparent caregivers often struggle financially since many already live on a fixed income that does not increase when they gain custody. Nearly one in three grandparent households live in poverty while less than one in five traditional parent households are in poverty. Ohio has nearly 40,000 grandparent-caregiver households. One in five grandparent caregivers live in poverty According to a national report, one in three grandparent caregivers who are solely responsible for their grandchildren, without parent involvement, live in poverty. The poverty rate for grandparents decreases in older grandparents (those 60 and older).

Over the last 15 years, the population of Ohio has grown by only 2.4% but the poor population has grown by 54.1% Urban areas have seen a decrease in population over the last 15 year period but a substantial increase in population in poverty Suburban areas have seen the largest increase in poor population between 2000-2015, at 76.0%

 

Some specifically Licking County Statistics:

From 2015:

Overall poverty rate of 12.6%

Children under 18   17.4%

Seniors 65 and older   5.1%

Family poverty rate   9.2%

Married couples with related children   7.4%

Single women with related children   41.9%

Childhood food insecurity rate 2014   21.8%

Children both food insecure and ineligible for food assistance in 2014   7.4%

K-12 students receiving free or reduced price lunch 2016   37.2%

Population receiving SNAP 2015   13%

Population enrolled in Medicaid December 2014   22%

Population having no health insurance 2015   9.1%

Unemployment rate in 2015   4.4%

 

 

 

 

Tiberi’s Teleconference Town Hall

March 21, 2017

Place or space, this is a topic of discussion for many academics and those inclined to the abstract. That discussion itself forms a space (where the topic is discussed). You remember “Space, the final frontier”, in Star Trek, where each week a different topic was broached? And who could forget “MySpace”? The ancient Scandinavians, as well as other northern Europeans, had what they called a “Ding” (thing). The “Ding” was a gathering place where people all came together to decide what is of concern to the group, needed to be named and treated as such, and what is not (in today’s language, what is an issue and what is not, and what to call it – “Leak”, “Alternative Facts”, Trumpcare”, etc.). An etymological vestige of this can be found with a word like “fireplace.” Think giant rock concert without a band or stage (among the rocks!). The naming and deciding were determined at a place, though the gathering as well as the place was referred to as a “Ding”. Independence Hall is a place where representatives of various American colonialists came together and formed a “Ding” that determined what mattered and what didn’t, and what to call it (since this was pre memory chip, they even put down some of what they named in writing, the better to remember the thing). So is a town hall a place? Is a town hall meeting a “Ding”? Ohio’s 12th congressional district representative obviously doesn’t think so. He equates town hall with robo calls by the NRA, boiler room “charitable” solicitations by Bears In The Air, and all the other myriad of menu driven, voice interactive phone and internet connected device conversations (real or imagined). Even the health care providers have gotten in on it, calling their policy holders to remind them they haven’t been getting sick enough! Analysis can almost imagine a late night stand up doing a monologue of Representative Tiberi reclining in his Lazy Boy, eating wings and quaffing a cold one, barefoot in his Crocs while wearing a bath robe (with a monogrammed T just like the president’s), watching old Chuck Norris movies with the sound turned down while conducting one of his teleconference town halls and reaching for a napkin to wipe the zesty ranch dribble; multi tasking at its finest! And why not? After all, communication devices provide a space for folks to comment or vent, located no place. Pre-screening is de rigueur for max constituent convenience and legislative efficiency, all of which can be easily programmed! Analysis likens Representative Tiberi to a long haul truck driver who is constantly on the phone with his wife and kids to stay in touch whenever he can. Ask him and he will tell you that this insures a wonderful relation with his family (as long as he stays on the road away from home). But he loves and cares and provides for the wife and kids! It’s just better for everyone that he not find himself in that place called “home.”

 

Spiritual Break

March 14, 2017

Whatever became of all the statistics and figures that flooded the media after the financial meltdown of 2008? You know, the various accounts of who owns what, and how much of what is earned goes where, etc. Things like that 43% of all Americans have no net worth, perhaps even owe more than they can pay (“choosing” to make health insurance payments via credit card is akin to Pay Day lending). Or that the majority of wealth generated during the first (and following) years of the recovery went to the top 1% of Americans, mostly to the top .6% at that. Have they just ceased to be, gone away? Almost as a Trump precursor, Ohio still preferred the business first gospel of John Kasich, electing him governor although Occupy “occupied” much of the discussion around these matters in 2010. Six years later, as a presidential wannabe, John touted the “Ohio economic miracle” for getting out of recession. Come 2017 he engages his fellow Republicans with Ohio being in a recession. In or out, how are we to know? Today all is “leadership, predominant influence, or domination” by the GOP (the dictionary definition of “hegemony”). Representative government is determined by apportionment of voting districts through this party’s actions. Policies, agendas, and priorities are determined by their super majority legislature, executive and judicial branches of government. Ditto on the Federal level. Is it any wonder all talk of who owns what, and how much, has ceased? How can this be returned to relevance? Today’s news is that Ohio is only second to Nevada in terms of gambling population, yet in the past year the state’s share of revenue from gambling casinos and lottery tickets has dwindled. Also down has been the state’s revenue from income taxes (no mystery there as the governor and legislature have and continue to favor cutting income taxes). In addition, revenue from retail sales taxes has dropped, along with the commercial activities tax. Liquor revenue is the exception, but that is taken by JobsOhio. The recent report by JobsOhio shows a 10% decline in new jobs over previous years (which cannot be verified independently, even by State Auditor Yost, so the reader must take JobsOhio’s word for it). The party of hegemony continues to promote, advocate and act in accordance with cutting taxes and cutting services – locally, state wide and federally. Ditto was done drastically with the speed of business in Kansas, only to have failed miserably. Ostensibly “employers” are saying jobs go unfilled due to lack of skills (even though Skill Games parlors abound). The stock market is at all time record highs. Someone is generating wealth to purchase stock at those prices. Who is accumulating wealth from all these “economically sound and prudent” policies? (refer to above for a clue) The major manifestation of late term capitalism, enabled by the hegemony of “business first” government, is the overwhelming preponderance of positive attitude – if you contribute or support making lots of money, then you are amazing, fantastic, a quality American. If you inhibit or impede that through regulation, criticism or “quality of life” concerns, then you are worthless – demeaned and disparaged. Any wonder? (refer to above for a clue) In Mexico, along the border, are factories and workshops known as a maquiladora. Mass produced assembly line goods destined to fulfill US consumer desire originate there. Security is tight. Little gets out about workers, conditions and practices within a maquiladora. To speak openly is to invite personal hardship. “In another segment of the video [Yoshua Okon’s “Canned Laughter”, 2006], the workers are taking a break, holding hands and meditating. In case the viewer might be tempted to think that this is a union meeting, the counterpoint to the assembly line, Okon explains that the workers he interviewed told him about mandatory “spiritual breaks” in the maquiladoras; they are organized, in his words, for the workers to be “thankful for being exploited.”” (Even Laughter? From Laughter in the Magic Theater to the Laughter Assembly Line by Anca Parvelescu) Does hegemony likewise demand a spiritual break?

Hail To The Promoter In Chief

March 1, 2017

It is trendy to be popular today – a redundancy, of sorts, since popularity determines trend. Populism, a kind of popularity, is trés, trés trendy today. The language of contemporary populism is a pastiche of clichés, hyperbole and lots of good old fashioned jingoism. In this spirit Analysis looks at the presidential address to congress (2-28-17), and the promotional rhetoric surrounding it. The very folks who give breadth to populism would say that when you see “New and Improved” on a product you know the product will contain less and cost more. ‘Nuff said.