Archive for the ‘Ohio’ Category

Is Home Rule Homeless?

June 19, 2017

The recent news out of the Ohio legislature is the bait and switch (again) of the local government fund to balance the state budget. Jackie Borchardt, for Cleveland.com (6-16-17), headlines Ohio Budget Pulls $35 Million from Cities to Spend on Opioid Crisis. “Combined with a provision to give money to villages and townships, the budget halves the state’s local government revenue stream directed to the 614 of Ohio’s 940 municipalities that levy an income tax. Cities, counties, villages and townships were already anticipating an $89 million hit over two years because of declining state revenues.” Essentially, in exchange for agreeing to levy income tax on their residents (and guest workers) cities were promised a chunk of the state funding (“Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney said the city-specific funding is a “bonus payment” that would be better spent on treatment programs for people addicted to opiates”) Borchardt provides background perspective: “The fund was established in 1934 in a deal with local governments to create the state sales tax. When the state began collecting personal income tax in 1972, the legislature agreed to give a share to municipalities because the new state tax would make it more difficult to raise local taxes.” “In 2011, Kasich slashed the local government fund in half to help patch an $8 billion budget hole. The fund went from 3.68 percent of the state’s general revenue fund in 2011 to 1.66 percent today. The last state budget diverted $17 million from the city-specific funding stream to pay for statewide law enforcement office training and a state database tracking shootings involving officers. It also temporarily redirected about $24 million to townships and villages.” Reporting for the State House News service (6-14-17) Andy Chow headlines Local Government Group Criticizes Latest Budget Proposal. “Local governments are likely to see a loss of $150 million in funding from just the local government fund distribution and projects. The Ohio Municipal League’s Kent Scarrett says there are a lot of seemingly small changes in the Senate budget bill that could result in big cuts.” Unrelated, but certainly intimately connected and very relevant to the state legislature budgeting process is the continued legal struggle over Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis law. 6-15-17 Robert Higgs updates the situation with National Coalition Joins Cleveland Fight to Save Fannie Lewis Law (Cleveland.com). “Named for the longtime Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, the city ordinance was enacted more than a decade ago to help combat poverty and to ensure that residents participate in the city’s economic development – and share in its prosperity.” “The Fannie Lewis law requires that on projects of $100,000 or more, at least 20 percent of construction hours be performed by Cleveland residents. At least 4 percent of that work must be done by residents considered to be low-income. Failure to meet the requirements results in a fine equal to 1/8 of 1 percent of the total contract cost for each percentage by which the contractor misses the goal.” “A year ago the Ohio General Assembly approved a bill that would have barred cities from enacting local hiring regulations in contracts for public improvements as Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis law does. Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law last May. Cleveland sued the state last August, shortly before the law was to take effect, claiming it violated home rule powers guaranteed in the Ohio Constitution. In January, Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Russo issued a permanent injunction that blocks the state from ever enforcing the law. That led to the state’s appeal.” “The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions on Tuesday filed a brief in the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals arguing in favor of the city’s position.” “”Cities across the country are under attack by overreaching state legislatures, and a preemption threat to one city is a threat to all,” Michael Alfano, campaign manager for the coalition, said in a statement. “Whether in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, or North Carolina, the rights of cities like Cleveland to enact laws that reflect community values must be defended.”” Analysis finds there to be no coincidence that one of the “national conversations” currently ongoing (after the 2016 presidential election) is over the urban/rural cultural divide. It likewise is no coincidence that cities are gerrymandered (and isolated) with Democratic party expectations by GOP dominated state legislatures (currently in the majority across most of America). Likewise, Analysis finds it no coincidence that “cities across the country” are effected by such budgeting. Remember ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) of which Ohio’s governor and legislators are members? You know, the lobbying group that offers legislative templates that legislators have copied verbatim, even forgetting to change the name of the state to their own for which they are making law. Alfano raises suspicions as to the origins of such budgeting solutions. From ALEC’s home website’s “State Budget Solutions”: “Smart budgeting is vital to a state’s financial health. The ALEC State Budget Reform Toolkit offers more than 20 policy ideas for addressing today’s shortfalls in a forthright manner, without resorting to budget gimmicks or damaging tax increases.” Newark, of course, is at one with all this. Mayor Hall chose not to involve himself with the Ohio Municipal League’s initial complaint on Governor Kasich’s original budget manipulation, and the city council prefers to constantly defer to the state on most matters, even ones that have been voted on by its citizens through a ballot initiative (think marijuana, medical as well as misdemeanor). So much for getting the roads paved any time soon (but there will be a new bridge over 16 with “Downtown” written on it, in case one is lost).

Pat Tiberi: What Are Your Priorities To Create Jobs?

June 9, 2017

6-6-17 LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero headline’s California’s Economic Boom Isn’t Helping L.A.’s Housing Shortage. Notable regarding the economic boom California is experiencing in the face of multi year drought, devastating natural catastrophe’s, etc. is “Seventeen percent of the nation’s job growth and 24 percent of its gross domestic product increase between 2012 and 2016 can be attributed to California, according to recent data parsed by Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “Those are very striking numbers,” he says. This week’s “Best & Worst State Economies” report found that the Golden State ranked fifth for startups, fifth for the percentage of high-tech jobs and second for “innovation potential,” which includes high-tech jobs and research and development investment. Last year the state became “the sixth largest economy in the world, boasting a GDP that’s comparable in size to the U.K.’s and even larger than those of France and India,” according to the report.” Romero also covers the income disparity: “Yet by one federal standard, about one in four people in the Golden State is poor. And L.A. County’s $2,600 median rent for a two-bedroom apartment far outpaces the ability of the average Angeleno (median individual income is about $28,000) to live indoors. Housing prices in the Bay Area are even worse. Thus, L.A. County this year has seen a 23 percent increase in the number of people living on the streets.” This is followed with “Economist Levy says, indeed, these conditions can and do coexist in California, a place of enormous wealth and nation-leading poverty. “A strong economy can’t by itself eliminate poverty or build housing,” he says.” On 5-24-17, in an article by Karla Lant, the World Economic Forum headlines How California Is Winning The Renewable Energy Race. Of note: “On May 13, 2017, California smashed through another renewable energy milestone as its largest grid, controlled by the California Independent System Operator (CISO), got 67.2% of its energy from renewables — not including hydropower or rooftop solar arrays. Adding hydropower facilities into the mix, the total was 80.7%. Sunny days with plenty of wind along with full reservoirs and growing numbers of solar facilities were the principal factors in breaking the record. The CISO controls 80% of the state’s power grid.” and “While California is certainly leading the nation, other states and cities are following suit. Atlanta will run on 100% renewables by 2035, and Chicago will power all city buildings with renewables by 2025. The Las Vegas government has them both beaten, as it’s already 100% powered by renewables, and Nevada itself has a goal of 80% renewables by 2040. Massachusetts will be 100% renewables-powered by 2035, followed by Hawaii in 2045.” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, on 6-7-17 Dan Gearino of the Dispatch headlines State Legislators Still Hope For Compromise With Governor On Clean-Energy Bill. “A proposal [House Bill 114] that would weaken clean-energy standards is now in the Ohio Senate, and a key lawmaker says he hopes to come up with a version of the bill that Gov. John Kasich would support.” This after the moratorium imposed on these standards. Locally connected: ““We are trying to come up with a compromise with the governor,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.” Not mentioned in the economic news from California is that California is also not a Right To Work State.  Ohio, on the other hand… Jackie Borchardt for Cleveland.com on 2-13-17 headlined ‘Right-To-Work’ Bill Introduced In Ohio House. Of note: “Rep. John Becker, a Clermont County Republican, introduced the latest iteration on Monday with the support of 12 House Republicans. Under House Bill 53, public sector employees could opt out of joining a union or paying dues. Conversely, unions could opt out from representing employees who don’t join. Currently, employees cannot be required to join unions. But state law allows collective bargaining agreements to require “fair share” or agency fees. The fees are lower than union member dues payments and cannot be used for services beyond contract negotiations.” With the final line being “Last month, legislative leaders from both parties questioned the need for right-to-work legislation. Opponents say right-to-work laws lower union membership and wages and don’t lead to job growth as promised.” Which brings us to yesterday’s headline from the State House News Bureau’s Jo Ingles (6-8-17) New Bill Would Make Big Changes To The Ohio Bureau Of Worker’s Compensation. Ingles writes “State lawmakers are considering a new bill to reform the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. It would make key changes to the program, like reducing extended injured worker benefits for retirees. And it would also change the name of the agency.” The name would become the Office of Employee Safety and Rehabilitation. Ingles quotes Republican Rep. Mike Henne ““It’s about giving them the appropriate care when they are injured. It’s about getting them back to work, for the employee and the employer and it’s about getting them the appropriate benefits when they can’t return to work.”” Makes it sound like Ohio’s workers are just a bunch of slackers and the economy isn’t growing on account of this, doesn’t it?

“Lies, plain and simple”     James Comey

 

 

Why Donald Trump Needs People To Be Poor

June 6, 2017

In his inimitable, deeply personal manner Newark’s US Representative, Pat Tiberi, emailed his constituents a survey. “What are your priorities to create jobs? Your priorities are my priorities. Your thoughts are important to me.” followed by the GOP house menu. The survey presents the appearance of propriety as the party is now the government, no need to bother. The party itself is now evolving with the “old” guard (McCain, Kasich, etc.) and the new populist/nationalists, again, presenting the appearance of being irreconcilable. Trump came in forming a weird coalition of uber wealth (his cabinet is the richest ever) and those who appear to have not so much (really?). Those who appear to have not so much either find their modicum of success to be a plateau or are without success altogether. Each triumphs the Trump presidency for a different reason. All the statistics from the “Occupy” days haven’t disappeared and the ubers’ wealth is superfluous, i.e. it is not generating more wealth. The not so’s find their overcapacity to work is, in an odd way, superfluous, i.e. that there either is not better compensation for their work, or the expenditure of greater work effort will not greatly improve their economic position. Recent developments in the automotive sector may help shed some light on this. The last couple of years have shown continuous and steady sales of various automotive products. In spite of this, Ford sacked its CEO and is restructuring for change. GM is pondering splitting its stock like airline seating – first class and coach. According to classic capitalist theory, nothing is awry. An investor purchases a scrap of paper and yearly the company selling the paper pays out a dividend. Where’s the hitch? What is destabilizing the auto companies is that the value of the piece of paper hasn’t gone up. In short, the superfluous wealth tied up with this “investment” is not promising a large enough return. Put crassly, the money needs to make more money. In today’s global economics, the auto industry is akin to the stationary industry of 50 years ago. Making an envelope is not all that complicated. Though there once was a steady demand for paper envelopes, nothing would make the producer’s stock price rise dramatically, as the competition was equally adept at producing envelopes. Imagining Ford and GM to be making envelopes brings us back to the weird coalition that supports Donald Trump. The ubers demand a greater return on their wealth. The not so’s would like a greater return on their participation in this enterprise. Unlike colonial imperialist times, no new market or supplier will magically manifest itself in today’s global economics. Everyone, everywhere has access to a mobile device which will tell them what something on Ebay can be gotten for. So the classic “buy cheap, sell dear” model is well worn. Other approaches are available that will make America great again and cause stock value to rise (saving jobs but not necessarily creating them). Early on in their schooling children are taught the Disneyland version – discover something everyone wants and you’ll be a star. This is John Kasich’s methodology in dealing with the drug epidemic in Ohio through research funding. Another approach is by making what is public private, and vice versa. The health care debate swirls around this interpretation, and now the Trump presidency is calling for it with appeals to make America’s infrastructure great (and private)  again. But the tried and true (historical) approach to increasing the value of what you already have is to make sure others ain’t got it. Exclusivity is priceless. This technique increases the value of superfluous wealth without the risk of needing to expend it, creating something new, or tying it up in mundane, long term low yielding envelope company stock. The likewise tried and true method of making people poor (making sure other’s ain’t got it) is through creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without. The without can be anything from job skill capacity, place of residence, genetic background, right language or learning, etc. This is the glue that bonds the coalition of uber wealth and those who appear to have not so much. Each are looking to enhance the value of what they have, at the expense of some other. Neither are very happy with what envelope sales generate. Analysis concludes by reminding the reader that “creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without” is the classic definition and function of racism.

Fundraisers

June 5, 2017

Mention the name Kirkersville today around central Ohio and the response is similar to the mention of other names in other parts of the country, like Waco, Orlando, or Virginia Tech. For readers unfamiliar with Kirkersville, an individual with a history of violence related offenses (and incarceration) shot and killed two unrelated women co workers of a nursing home as well as the village police chief. The shooter was likewise shot and killed in the calamity. A search of  the perpetrator’s home in Utica turned up a veritable arsenal of firearms and ammunition. The tragedy that unfolded in Kirkersville has been reported, updated, re-reported and analyzed, all in hopes that “it will never happen again.” Laws are being “introduced” to facilitate this. This past weekend, in addition to more post-event investigative reporting, the Newark Advocate dedicated another Sunday editorial to Kirkersville. Newark News Analysis dares to call attention to a regular daily Advocate feature from June 2, 2017 (prior to the editorial but after the tragedy in Kirkersville). The Local News Briefs calls attention to local events, announcements, news items that are published in the public interest. The following appeared on the same day, sharing the same column space, separated only by two sundry announcements (a street closing and a summer reading series):

Chipotle having Kirkersville shooting fundraiser

NEWARK – A benefit day for the families of the three victims of the Kirkersville nursing home shooting will be Tuedsay, June 6, at the Chipotle Restaurants in Heath, Newark, Reynoldsburg and Blacklick.

Customers who tell the cashier they are supporting the fundraiser will have 50 percent of their purchase divided between the families of Eric DiSario, Marlina Medrano and Cindy Krantz.

Gun raffle supports Utica K-9 Unit

UTICA – A gun raffle and fundraiser to support the Utica Police Department K-9 Unit will have a drawing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Utica Fire Department.

First prize is a SAI Saint Tactical AR-15, second prize is a RFM-870 Combo, third prize is a Ruger American 9mm and fourth prize is a Glock 26 CGW. Other door prizes will also be given.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the police department and Utica Mill and Hardware Store.

 

Newark News Analysis finds the Newark Advocate’s de facto editorial stance to be no stance at all. Cosmetic tweaks are demanded while the status quo remains unchallenged. Who does the Advocate advocate for?

Why I Would Prefer Not To (Talk To My Brother)

May 25, 2017

Guns and butter, part of the political choice. Butter comes from the milk of a cow which grazes on the earth. Guns originate with metallic ore, part of the composition of the very same earth that nourishes the cow. Both are a product of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Guns and religion, part of today’s American politic. Unlike guns or butter, religion is never considered a “product” of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Religion, by definition, is not of this earth though found extensively upon it, and only within the social make up of its human inhabitants. Many human-like behaviors, social or individual, are “found” with other creatures populating the earth. Religion has yet to be identified as one of them. Religion is not attributed to ants, ospreys, whales or the great apes. Today, the American politic swirls around loyalty and fidelity. Religion without these is not. Religion, not being of the earth, begs a different origin. The Judeo/Christian creation myth charges humans with dominion over the earth. It likewise requires fidelity and loyalty by doing what you are told. This link of loyalty and fidelity with “to do what you are told” runs deep within Western social evolution. It is fundamental to law, military organization and government institutions – the stuff of politics. It is not integral to the free market though capitalism is lost without it – the stuff of violence. Religion placates the disparity. For those who have done what they are told, loyalty bestows the social self esteem that bonds a brotherhood. Semper fi. In this all, the gun is very telling. Within the cliché of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is the creation origin account that humans have been given dominion over the earth along with the onus “to do what you are told.” The implication of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work having some say has no cotton with this religious perspective. Guns and religion differ fundamentally from guns and butter in that they are not the same. Guns and butter are products of human interaction with the earth. Guns and religion compliment each other, make demands on each other, excuse each other. Religion sanctions the human to differentiate the gun from any intent. Since it is of the earth over which humans maintain dominion, the gun is unintentional. Only humans are held responsible to do what you are told. And killing is telling some being to die. Along with cows, the gun is part of the dominion humans have been given over the earth, as it (the gun) is of the earth. The gun is simultaneously exceptional in that it enables dominion over the earth. Religion privileges its use by providing an alibi, an excuse. “To do what you are told” is just such an alibi. Loyalty becomes sacrosanct within this brotherhood of the gun. “To do what you are told” now has become a, if not the, political choice. To which Herman Melville’s Bartleby responds “I would prefer not to.” What other response is there when politics has become guns and religion?

Move Over Golden Calf, There Is A New American Idol

May 11, 2017

The other morning, as part of the ongoing reality TV show called Our Government, an interviewed Texas congressman justified the apprentice president’s firing of the FBI director by saying James Comey was getting too much face time on TV. As FBI director he shouldn’t be so popular. News broadcasters, who make up the interviewers, often attribute the apprentice president’s electability to popularity, on being a populist. Recently Ohio’s Secretary of State and newest Ohio Governor wannabe spoke in Newark on Monday the 8th (Husted addresses Newark GOP on Ohio governor’s race, Newark Advocate’s Sydney Murray, 5-10-17). Covering the speech Mr. Murray writes: “But before he entered a life of public service, he was adopted as a baby and grew up in a working class family in the small town of Montpelier, Ohio. At one point, Husted said his dad lost his job and they had to leave Ohio, something he doesn’t want for anyone else’s family. “I want to help Ohio. And more importantly the people, with a bright future, and no matter how you grew up, I wanna make sure that Ohio is a place where you can live the American Dream.” Husted said.” On 5-7-17, writing for McClatchy, Julie Carr Smyth headlines “Ohio elections chief Jon Husted joins 2018 race for governor”. Ms. Carr Smyth reports “Capitalizing on divisive remarks that came back to haunt high profile Democrats, the Republican says Barack Obama was right when he said midwesterners cling to religion and guns and that Husted’s family “would firmly fit in Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.’” Clinton used the reference in her presidential campaign against Donald Trump, whom Husted voted for.” Analysis of these short bits of insight shows that in addition to voting Jon Husted intends to emulate the apprentice president’s formula for success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! And like the apprentice president’s penchant for exaggeration and hyperbole, he likewise intends to outdo the current governor’s formula (being a mail man’s son from McKeesport Pa. aw shucks and all). Analysis finds this all creates a new form of reality show government, where the contestants for public office will each try to out populist the other. This revival of the American Idol campaign for popular support will leave the discerning electorate aghast at the derogatory costuming of contestants, the various made-up sets masquerading as the current conditions of the state of Ohio, capped by each idol’s uplifting songs of redemption for a future state-wide resurrection. “no matter how you grew up [with or without guns and religion], I wanna make sure that Ohio is a place where you can live the American Dream.” Amen.

Encore (Non) Performance

April 19, 2017

“Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” (Ohio’s current Governor John Kasich in his 4-4-17 State of the State address). Future Ohio Governor wannabe (but current Ohio Attorney General) Mike DeWine addressed the opioid epidemic in Pickerington recently (DeWine would require opioid education as governor Trista Thurston , Reporter for Gannett’s Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, 4-19-17). The current governor touted his Start Talking initiative as counter acting the opioid drug epidemic in Ohio. The wannabe governor touts a mandatory K through 12 “Just Say No” curriculum to counteract the epidemic (following the trail of tears footsteps of Nancy Reagan and Ohio’s DARE program). “”I don’t know any other way of doing it,” DeWine said. “It can be done without a great burden on the schools.”” Another unfunded mandate on Ohio’s public schools (sans charter/private) embraces the current governor’s three basics (fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation). In addition, Thurston notes “The communities faring the best throughout the epidemic, DeWine said, are the ones where people have watched it get so bad and decided to do something themselves.” (without state involvement, or cost). DeWine sees the state’s role in terms of his recently begun pilot program, “Since about half of the children in foster care throughout the state are there because one or both parents are addicted to drugs”. “The pilot program will provide specialized services, like intensive trauma counseling, to children. It will also offer increased access to drug treatment to parents of children referred to the program.” “So far $5.5 million has been committed to the pilot.” In his State of the State Governor Kasich committed $20 million from the Third Frontier Commission to develop a high tech silver bullet solution [no pun intended]. “The current opioid crisis is different than other drug epidemics, DeWine said, because it’s impacting everyone.” Thurston concludes her report by quoting the wannabe governor: “”We have a crisis,” DeWine said. “If ten people were dying a day of some strange new plague, we would treat is as a health crisis.”” So why don’t you? What’s stopping you? Analysis finds that treatment for a public health crisis of this dimension would be in terms of beds in detox and rehab centers, beds that were immediately accessible. It would be in state budgeted funding for all the children affected by the loss of caregivers produced by this epidemic (essentially Ohio’s new orphans), not just a pilot enterprise. It certainly wouldn’t emphasize nor rely on high tech silver bullet solutions, K-12 curriculum additions, or Start Talking programs.

Underage Alibi

April 12, 2017

As previously posted, Ohio’s tax revenue continues to come in far short of the previous projections. Previous budget income tax cuts were passed based on the Reaganomics that income tax cuts will yield job growth, spur investment, etc. Analysis finds this logic to be disingenuous with the actual policies implemented by the GOP (whether legislative or executive). In a 4-11-17 Ohio Public Radio piece entitled “Lawmakers Scrutinize Kasich’s Proposed Tax Cuts As Ohio’s Revenue Miss Mark Again” Karen Kasler records the following interview observations: “The state says its March tax collections came in $203 million dollars below estimates. That brings the total shortfall for this fiscal year to $615 million – more than half a billion dollars. And it’s led by income tax revenues that are $448 million dollars less than had been projected. Budget director Tim Keen admits those numbers are a surprise, but says there are a few things that could be to blame – including the withholding growth rate, which he calls shockingly low. “Our withholding out of people’s weekly or biweekly paychecks is much lower than we expected, which is driving a good portion of the underage,” Keen said.” In answer to questions regarding the previous projections and the actual lagging economy by State Senator Vernon Sykes “Keen responded by saying that tax cuts have increased the state’s competitiveness. And he also said slow population growth has hurt revenues, but that lowering the income tax can help with that.” Also in Ohio news this past week is the deportation proceedings of Maribel Trujillo Diaz, a 41 year old Hamilton mother of 4 who sought refuge in Ohio 15 years ago and is an upstanding citizen (according to her church and fellow citizens). Indeed, this obsession with deportation has been national news for quite some time, 2016 as well as 2017. Analysis finds part of the GOP’s disingenuous logic to center on the justification of an improved economy as a result of various tax cuts and tax shifting while ““Our withholding out of people’s weekly or biweekly paychecks is much lower than we expected, which is driving a good portion of the underage,”” It is not rocket science to conclude that although the tax cuts may have spurred low unemployment numbers during the Kasich administration, the actuality that these jobs pay little accounts for the “underage”. Even more disingenuous GOP logic is the alibi that “slow population growth has hurt revenues” while actively hunting down those who contribute to the state’s population count as well as revenue in order to jail and expel them.

The State Of The State Of Ohio’s Opioid Epidemic

April 6, 2017

A blizzard of angst filled soul searching follows the presidential election, current administration, continuing to this day with “how did this happen?” Etc. Many are not so surprised, more bemused in that all of this was in plain sight. Intentions as well as actions today are simply a continuance of what was stated, promised, and actively displayed before. ‘Nuff said. Within his recent (4-4-17) State of the State address, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich’s lips pronounced “Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” This mantra was repeated multiple times, even more through fragments. Sounds pretty clear. No mystification of priorities, intent, or course of action here. He also had this to say about Ohio’s Opioid drug epidemic, though he didn’t call it that (Name thing I guess. Been there, done that with the current pres’): “Last year, Highway Patrol troopers had their largest single heroin, meth and prescription pill seizures. Ohio was one of the first states to create prescribing guidelines for doctors. We’ve linked our medical providers into our pharmacy system to slow doctor shopping and for the first time we’re registering pharmacy technicians. We’ve expanded access to the overdose-reversal drug to first responders, pharmacies and families of those addicted. And we created Start Talking! to encourage more adults to talk to children about the dangers of drugs. In all, we’re spending nearly $1 billion a year.” And “That’s why today I’m asking the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. These funds will target existing, proven ideas that simply need an extra push to be brought to the fight — ideas like using a simple device that connects to someone’s ear that can relieve pain and block the effects of opiate withdrawal.” Finally “We love our children and care about our neighbors, so we’ve got to deliver this message to them: “Don’t do drugs or you will destroy your life and you will destroy the purpose for which the good Lord created you.”” Not a word, or dollar, for rehabilitation. Analysis considers the implications of this abdication of leadership, the vacuum formed by Kasich’s overriding priorities, intent, and course of action. Indeed, historically US public health epidemics have been met by an equally public response of sanatoriums, recovery centers, and public health initiatives (all notably absent with the governor’s approach). History has lectured us extensively on what happens in a leadership vacuum (South East Asia, Syria/Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Add to that Kasich and the GOP’s historic preference (and reliance) on a religious response to education, social welfare and public health concerns. Here is some of what Kevin Lewis O’Neill writes in an essay entitled “On Hunting” (Critical Inquiry Spring 2017):

““We hunt men,” Alejandro said, “to save them.” Locked up inside a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation center for his use of crack cocaine, Alejandro participates in his pastor’s hunting parties or grupos de caceria. At the outer edges of today’s war on drugs, Christian vigilante groups scour the streets of Guatemala City with singular intent: to pull users out of sin by dragging them into rehab. And so, in the middle of the night, when the capital is an absolute ghost town, three or four recovering users drive with their pastor to the house of an active user.” “As a part of economic restructuring – which has included the privatization of state enterprises, the liberalization of trade, and the relaxation of government regulation [sound familiar?]– less than 2 percent of Guatemala’s total health budget addresses issues of mental health, with its hospitals flatly denying medical service to those patients seeking support for substance abuse.” “Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers, when taken in the aggregate, have six thousand beds.” “Guatemala’s prisons sit at 250 percent capacity; the hospitals do not accept users; and Guatemala’s only mental institution understands drug use to be well outside the scope of its mission.” “More important than numbers, however, are the visceral truths that Pentecostal Christianity promises its people: Salvation is real; hell is eternal; and Jesus loves you. Another imperative also follows. Often stamped onto Pentecostal print media, with an allusion to sin as well as the hunt, it announces: escape for your life. One effect of this faith is a growing network of informal and largely unregulated Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers. These sites warehouse users against their will inside of onetime garages, factories, and apartment buildings. Each has been repurposed for rehabilitation with razor wire, steel bars, and iron gates. Inside, pastors practice teoterapia, or theological therapy. This is a mix of Pentecostal theology, twelve-step programming, and self-help psychology. Its working assumption is that captivity will give way to conversion. It does not. Yet this bald fact has not slowed down the growth of these centers, and for good reason. Again, these centers provide a practical solution to a concrete problem. Drug use is up. State resources are down. And Pentecostalism is the discourse of change. [Sound familiar?] The net result is a shadow carceral system infused with Pentecostal imperatives about not just sin and salvation but also about who can be hunted and why. It is a theological construction that carries concrete consequences. Today more Guatemalans find themselves literally tied up in Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers than locked up in maximum-security prisons.” Lest the reader think that, not being Pentecostal or Guatemalan, Ohio’s Governor along with the current US Attorney General are not in the hunt. Au contraire, “there are some thirty thousand men in Philadelphia alone with warrants out for their arrest.” (O’Neill)

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”