Tag: states

Mar 30

The Fix We’re in For: Bridges and our Infrastructure

Yesterday I put up a post about a report that was to be released today, the report is now public and it isn’t a pretty picture as noted by those who put it together.

And this report is only on the Bridges around this Country and broken down by States.

This is well known by many, especially us who work in the construction industry and understand what is built needs constant maintenance, even our military understands that with preventive maintenance programs

This has been ignored for way too long. With tens of thousands of construction workers laid off or on spotty contract jobs wondering what’s next. Thousand of contractors scrapping the bottom trying to inject projects. Engineers and architects, along with other construction white collar personal doing likewise, out of work or just hanging on.

Here’s the report:  

Jul 01

Unemployment Rates for Ohio and Other States, and Tips for How You Can Help

In January, the Associated Press reported that Ohio’s unemployment rate stood at 10.9% as of December 2009.  That rate has fallen slightly in the six months or so since that news article, standing now at 10.7% according to the Dayton Daily News.

The number of unemployed workers in May dropped to 641,000 from 652,000 in April. During the past 12 months, the number of unemployed has gone up by 22,000 from 619,000. The May 2009 unemployment rate was 10.3 percent.

Anyone looking to call this an improvement needs to explain that thinking, because these are more than likely seasonal jobs that either have disappeared or will disappear.

For my home town of Cleveland, the unemployment rate is even worse: 17.1 percent according to Simply Cleveland.  (In the interests of fuller disclosure, I have been unemployed since at least December of 2007, existing on financial aid and what food I can get from food pantries.)

Cleveland has an unemployment rate of 17.1%, compared the national average of 6.9%.

According to our Cleveland Trends data, the number of Cleveland, Ohio jobs has decreased by 28% since November 2008.

Graph Showing Employment Decline

Apr 28

Vermont legislature passes bill that could pave the way for statewide public option or single payer

Crossposted at DKos and other blogs

Once again, the states are leading the way on health care reform.  This past week, the Vermont House and Senate passed two versions of a bill that would essentially get a consultant to design three systems for health care in Vermont: something similar to Canadian single payer, something similar to a private system with a public option, and something similar to the recently passed federal health insurance bill.

Mar 13

Kucinich tells his side of the story on Democracy Now!

In a lengthy interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, Congressman Dennis Kucinich explained why he would not vote for the present health care bill and defended his position against attacks from people on the left like Markos Moulitsas.  He also spoke about the subjects of Afghanistan, campaign finance, and the passing of activist Granny D.

I mean, I have a responsibility to take a stand here on behalf of those who want a public option. There’s about thirty-four members of the Senate, at least, who have signed on to saying they support a public option. If I were to just concede right now and say, “Well, you know, whatever you want. All this pressure’s building. Just forget about it,” actually weakens every last-minute bit of negotiations that would try to improve the bill. So I think that it’s really critical to take this stand, because without it, there’s no real control over premiums. Without it, we have nothing in the bill except the privatization of our healthcare system.

Oct 08

Medicaid is No Public Option

The news broke late yesterday afternoon that the Senate Finance Committee sought to broker a compromise measure regarding the Public Option.  Giving each individual state a choice of whether or not to provide a public option appeals to fiscal conservatives and red state legislators whose most coherent reservation regarding health care reform is a concern over cost.  Still, these kind of messy federal/state mandates reinforce substantial inequality.  A Medicaid-style measure like this would mean that those who lived in most well-funded blue states would have superior health care coverage, while those who lived in most, if not all red states would have their health care costs still largely dictated by private carriers, many of which hold near-monopolies in individual states.  If the aim of reform is to level the playing field for every American, this falls well short of the stated objective.  

Today’s Politico contains a brief, but noteworthy column written by Ben Smith, which underscores the controversy regarding Medicaid reform.  


The Medicaid expansion would, in a stroke, add 11 million people to the program’s ranks by raising the income cap, and one key negotiating point at the moment is the share of that cost the federal government will pick up.

The income cap, however, is only one facet to increasing eligibility.  Many states, particularly red states, do not extend coverage to single adults at all, no matter how dire their need.  Coverage is often provided only to adults with children and sometimes Medicaid coverage is granted to children only, leaving their parents with nothing.  As a result of this, many adults are forced to file for SSI disability to obtain Medicaid coverage, since doing on is the only means by which they might attain any health care coverage at all.  However, this removes individuals from the workforce, reduces tax dollars paid into the tax system as condition of employment, and places a drain upon the never-ample General Fund out of which all Medicaid expenses are paid.  Removing these strict qualifying factors might costs more in the short term, but the long term consequences are much more detrimental.  Someone pays the cost when a person goes bankrupt from enormous medical bills or visits the Emergency Room without insurance, having no means to pay at all.  Still, to simplify this unnecessarily as another annoying example of the red state/blue state divide would not be a fair telling of the truth.    

Republican governors haven’t been the only ones raising doubts.

Tennessee Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen has been an outspoken foe of the plan, and a senior Republican aide notes that two more left-leaning Democrats are also raising complaints.  According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland “warned on a recent visit to Washington that the ‘the states with our financial challenges right now, are not in a position to accept additional Medicaid responsibilities.’

“Strickland said that he wants a health care package that is inclusive and provides for all citizens’, but he adds that if Medicaid is expanded, he hopes to see the Federal Government assume the greater portion of the costs, if not the total costs.'”

And New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch last week refused to sign a letter than other Democratic governors sent to congressional leaders urging passage of a health care bill this year, because it failed to “address concerns regarding potential cost shifting to the states,” according to a spokesman for the governor quoted by the media.

States do have to adhere to balanced budgets and in times of economic famine like these cannot resort to deficit spending.  However, budget priorities are often disproportionately skewed away from social services and relegated to other matters, which are just as wasteful, if not more so than any pork barrel project pushed by a House or Senate member.  Before Republicans and Democrats criticize Washington for its excesses or its financial demands, they would be wise to start first in their own backyards.  Citing specific instances of pork barrel projects is a rhetoric device which borders on cliche, so I will spare you another retelling of it.  Needless to say, room could be made even in a much reduced year of tax revenue.  The obscene amount of tax breaks and concessions made to foreign automakers in order to entice them to build auto manufacturing plants is a good place to start.  Those states who have never made an attempt to reform their image as little more than an endless supply of cheap labor have shortchanged themselves in ways they seem incapable of comprehending.      

A more streamlined approach would, in my opinion, be best.  Each state sets its own criteria regarding Medicaid in accordance to how the program was set up in the 1960’s and I have no doubt that similarly messy compromises would likely typify the efforts the states willing to institute a public option.  Most red states would opt out altogether, of course.  I will note that a complete reliance on the superior wisdom and judgment of the Federal Government might be naive, but I have rarely seen any state government be more efficient.  What I have seen is a multitude of red states whose efficiency and collective wisdom resembles a Banana Republic combined with a slap-stick comedy routine.  That they are the ones who are so quick to  shoot barbs at Washington, DC, strikes me as biting the hand that feeds you.  Many of these states would have nothing if it hadn’t been for the generosity of Capitol Hill and many of their universities would find themselves without needed funding if they couldn’t achieve Federal Government grants.  So it is here that I’m afraid I can’t muster much sympathy for those Governors who rarely pay more than ten percent of the cost of Medicaid anyway.  The real lesson to be learned here is that long-term gain is much more important than the facade of short-term cost reduction.