Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daugaard's Death Panel of One

You remember when the ACA was passed despite false shouts of death panels that will kill Grandma and Grandpa?  It turns out that never really happened.  (I know, you are all shocked.)  The only death panel that has emerged from the debate over expanding coverage of Medicaid is from the Governor; a panel of one.  

The Governor's inability and unwillingness to expand Medicaid in South Dakota will lead to the deaths of many South Dakotans according to a recent report released on Northern Plain News.  The article reports, 

A recent study published in the online journal Health Affairs says 38 to 95 South Dakotans are at risk of dying each year the state fails to expand the federal/state health coverage for the poor.
Further, the study estimates nearly 39,000 South Dakotans would be covered by an expansion. 
The study also estimates that prior to the Affordable Car Act, 118,760 South Dakotans were uninsured but that number drops to 98,143 following implementation of the ACA.
The Governor's decision to not expand Medicaid fails basic levels of moral reasoning.  On a utilitarian level, the expansion would actually improve South Dakota's economy, improve access to healthcare for thousands, reduce the financial burden on counties, and save lives.  On a deontological level, expansion saves lives, and that is a universal action that can and should always be followed.  The Governor's arguments about cost were addressed, the Governor's compassion for the state's working poor have been found lacking, and now the Governor's decision has allowed him to play the role of Sarah Palin's death panels in regards to South Dakota's citizens.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Daugaard Is Begging Young People To Stay in South Dakota

Governor Daugaard turns to the editorials of the state's newspapers to try and beg young people to stay in South Dakota.  His main arguments (stop me if you have heard this one before), low unemployment and low taxes.  Exactly what every 20-something is primarily focused on right now.   He seems to also be aware of the main counter to this plea: But the wages in South Dakota are so low.  His response; adjusted per capita income.  
Now some people will say, “There may a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live in South Dakota.” Actually, when it comes to per capita personal income, we fare pretty well. Nationally, we rank in the top half and we do better than states like Texas, Florida and Wisconsin. 
And, if you adjust the per capita personal income to consider the low cost of living, we are the fifth best in the nation. If you adjust for lack of income taxes, we rank second in the nation.
If this seems a bit convoluted to you, it is because it probably is.  Per Capita income is based on adding in all the income earned and then dividing it by the number of people.  The problem with that focus is that a few very wealthy can skew it.  If farms are doing well, then that will have an impact on per capita income.  If there are several wealthy individuals moving here for a tax shelter, then per capita income would go up.  None of that would be a real benefit for people still trying to survive on $8 an hour.

Bernie Hunhoff explains all of this back in 2011 when he debunked the myth of everything is cheaper in South Dakota.  He wrote in South Dakota Magazine:
But between you and me, I just haven't noticed that K-mart prices its lawn chairs and cranberry juice any cheaper in South Dakota than the rest of the country. It's well-documented that housing costs are on par with all but the high-cost areas of the USA, unless you live in one of those cool little West River towns like Fairfax or Bonesteel where the fishing is great and you can still get a decent old house for $12,875. Our energy prices were once lower, but they are catching up with the rest of the nation....
Wages are considerably lower in South Dakota. We generally rank around 50th in that category, so people working for wages are likely being squeezed here. Business owners, farmers and ranchers may or may not feel the same pressures, depending on their industries and their luck.
When you start to do a side by side comparisons of the mean annual wages offered in South Dakota for fields and compare that with neighboring states like Minnesota and Iowa and North Dakota as offered through the Bureau of Labor and Statistics May 2013, you may get a clearer picture.  I decided to look at some of the broad fields that employee a lot of blue collar workers (since they are the ones most likely to be paid hourly).

South Dakota Construction and Extraction Occupations- $34,420
Minnesota Construction and Extraction Occupations- $51,690
Iowa Construction and Extraction Occupations- $41,240
North Dakota Construction and Extractions Occupations- $47,650

South Dakota Production Occupations- $30,800
Minnesota Production Occupations- $35,790
Iowa Production Occupations- $33,440
North Dakota Production Occupations- $38,340

South Dakota Office and Administrative Support Services- $28,080
Minnesota Office and Administrative Support Services- $36,180
Iowa Office and Administrative Support Services- $32,200
North Dakota Office and Administrative Support Services- $32,700

The income tax rate for a single person in Minnesota for income listed above fall into 7.01% of income earned over $24,000 (These are rounded figures.)  When you figure in income taxes, I still come ahead in Minnesota.  In Iowa, the rate is 6.8%.  In North Dakota the 2014 rate was 1.51% for most and up to 2.82%.  I guess you can make the call if no income taxes is enough to offset the low wages.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lessons for Dr. Bosworth in Regards to Debate

I have tried extremely hard to stay out of the whole Dr. Bosworth situation to keep my family out of the fray.  I can't let this one go.  Cory Heidelberger over at Madville Times recently filed a challenge to Bosworth's nomination for the Republican primary.  He did so after many people began to study her petitions and noticed discrepancies that would be enough to disqualify her.  The biggest issue that seems to have come out of the petitions is the possibility that Bosworth and her husband may have falsified some of the petitions.  If this did happen it would be considered a felony.  

Dr. Bosworth decides to take the low road and go after Cory with personal attacks.  First, she claims that he is an outsider because he is living in Washington at this time.  Second, she brings up an incident from Cory's past while teaching at Madison High School.  Finally, she makes this wild accusation about Cory using one of her children by registering him through Google to drive web traffic?  The announcement was posted on South Dakota War College.  I know Cory well enough that I will allow him to respond to each of these charges.

I really hope Dr. Bosworth reads this, because I would like to offer some basic Debate 101 advice.  There is a quotation that I put up in my room from time to time from Addison Whitcomb:

“When you resort to attacking the messenger and not the message, you have lost the debate.”
I tell my students every year to make the arguments about points raised and never let it get personal.  The moment it becomes personal, is the moment that you lose the debate round.  You disagree with the ideas and not the person.

Another excellent quotation about debate that relates to this brouhaha  is from Nelson Mandela:

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.
Your press release fails to deal with the initial claims brought up by Heidelberger and goes for the grade school, playground tactics of a tactless child.  You come off looking immature and in no way Senate worthy material.

You still have not explained why thousands of signatures were not counted.  You still have not clarified  about the issue with the dates on the petitions brought up by Heidelberger and the time you were supposed to be out of the country.  These are serious concerns that many Republican voters have right now.  Your actions make it look like you are hiding.

I have to admit that I have encouraged students to try and needle other debaters if you knew that they would explode and lose all focus in the debate because it would ensure the other team will loss the debate.  You have now lost the debate Dr. Bosworth.  I leave you with a wonderful quotation from Mos Def:

I'm not shy about heated debate or passionate discourse, but when people get crazy or rude, that's a buzz kill. There's got to be a better code of conduct, some basic etiquette.
I hope everyone can find some basic etiquette.  

Daugaard's Focus: Improve Credit Rating and Not Citizen's Life

Last week Jonathan Ellis reported in the Argus Leader that in a recent interview with Governor Daugaard that Daugaard's main focus is for a AAA rating.  That is it.  The AAA rating is as much vision as Daugaard could seem to muster.
But there you have it: One of Daugaard's big goals if he wins again is a credit rating. Fiscal conservatives eat this stuff up. It's another story about their legendary penny-pinching governor, the guy who slept in a van on his honeymoon and who didn't put air conditioning in his home because it was too expensive. 
It's confirmation for Democrats as well. They've complained that Daugaard wants to pile up money in reserve funds instead of spending it on priorities, such as education. To them, Daugaard is a caretaker governor who lacks vision.
 That seems to sum up Daugaard's approach to government.  If it means investing in the people of South Dakota, then the answer is no.  If it means putting more and more money into the reserve fund, standing on principle, and watching tens of thousands of South Dakota citizens continue to go without insurance coverage then the answer is "you betcha ya!"  That is why we need a new governor.  Someone like Joe Lowe knows that to grow South Dakota, we have to have smart investment.  Investment in things like education and the people of the state.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Money Is Not Speech

It seems that the five Supreme Court Justices are lacking in simple communication theory.  The recent McCutcheon decision is just one more example how the Robert's court is very, very confused on this issue.  The recent ruling will further empower the tool of money is being used to purchase and create policy in America that favors those with the proper tools; cold, hard cash.  Justice Breyer pulls back no punches when he makes the travesty of this ruling absolutely clear in his dissent:

Today a majority of the Court overrules this holding. It is wrong to do so. Its conclusion rests upon its own, not a record-based, view of the facts. Its legal analysis is faulty: It misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake. It understates the importance of pro­ tecting the political integrity of our governmental insti- tutions. It creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. Taken together with Citi- zens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. 310 (2010), today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve. 
The talk that money is speech is simply wrong.  Money is the tool used to get your speech heard.  The question must be one of should we regulate the tools being used and how they are used.  The clear answer is yes.  The government has always agreed in regulating tools.  Cities have sound ordinances that prevent people from playing loud music after certain hours.  Governments regulate bill boards and other advertisements and even ban certain types of advertisements (tobacco and other limits).  Laws are passed that place restrictions on when you can and can't use your cell phones while in a moving vehicle.  So, why does the Supreme Court feel the need to treat money, a tool, as if it is of the same level of actual speech?

The second misstep in the majorities thinking is that if money is speech, isn't it also a requirement that the person using that speech take ownership of it?  If I want to rant about the evils of the GOP, I can, but people will know who said it.  If I refuse to take ownership of the message, is it protected?  If the Supreme Court wants to claim that money is a tool to allow for free speech and association with a candidate, than the person associating with the candidate must be willing to be recognized and open with the communication.

Despite the fact that Isaac Latterell will tell you he needs more of your money to be an effective leader because he is not getting enough of it from lobbyist and big donors, money as a tool for communication must be heavily regulated.  The flood of money into the institution of of our government simply erodes the trust of the people in our government.  That is compelling enough of reason to regulate the tool of money.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Hobby Lobby Slippery Slope

The issue of Hobby Lobby vs. Sibelius has brought many interesting issues to light.  The Displaced Plainsman examines the issue through the lens of the free market.  To me the issue of Hobby Lobby refusing to follow a law over religious objections is a slippery slope for corporations and businesses to not follow other governmental mandates because of a religious exemption claim.  

One step toward the downhill slide of the slippery slope is the idea that non-religious corporations can be granted religious protections.  Amy Davidson with The New Yorker wrote back in 2013, 

The other way to look at it is that Hobby Lobby is making a broad claim, not a narrow one, about the character of contraceptive coverage: that it is different, that it is distinctly more of a religious question than a health one. In this sense, the Hobby Lobby case is about whether the Supreme Court will privilege a particular set of religious beliefs about contraception. 
Hobby Lobby argues that the law already grants exemption to religious institutions, like churches; the Administration has even come up with a work-around for religiously affiliated entities, like Catholic hospitals, in which the payment for contraception is essentially made by the insurance company. Why can’t it have one, too? There is also a well-developed definition of what a religious organization is, which Hobby Lobby doesn’t meet (and of a corporation, which it benefits from). It might as well ask why it can’t choose which taxes it does and doesn’t pay. Congress made a choice, largely political, and also guided by a couple of centuries of constitutional history, about what could and should be asked of religious organizations. It didn’t just ask every synagogue, mosque, and church what it was and wasn’t willing to cover.  (emphasis is mine)
It seems that one justice in particular is taking up mantle that all corporations are religious human beings that should have their rights protected.  Justice Alito asks the question and gets the response as reported on NPR (probably one of the best places for Supreme Court coverage on radio or TV):
Alito focused on a different question: Why for-profit corporations should be barred from making claims that their religious rights are being infringed. "You say they can't ever get their day in court?" 
He was told by the government that precedent has been clear that business are not given the same religious protections when it comes to exemptions from certain laws.  Justice Elena Kagan sees the danger in Alito's thinking (from the same NPR report)
Justice Elena Kagan observed that using that reasoning, an employer might have a religious objection to complying with sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws and child labor laws, to name just a few. 
So, I guess that businesses all over will hope for the Supreme Court's ruling.  It means that now they will be able to turn the rights of workers back to the early 1800's.  That would only be the Christian thing to do. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Latterell Is Full of a Lot of (Confusing) Talk and Little Explanation

I consider Isaac Latterell to be one of the far more right Republicans in the State.  A person that would probably make Phil Jensen proud.  His focus is not really on the people of District 6, but more on making a conservative name for himself on issues involving the actions of the federal government and passing anti-abortion bills that are unenforceable and would have no impact on the number of abortions in South Dakota.  A person that seems to follow the edicts of Rand Paul.  However his latest stand against corporate financing in politics very interesting; confusing, but interesting.

In his latest blog entry, Latterell posts that there needs to be more money in politics.  First he talks about the evils of lobbyist and how they spend too much money in Pierre to buy your vote and pass laws that benefit the corporations or get funding for special actions that occur outside of the normal system.  This is interesting since he still has not explained why he voted for a pork laden hog-housed bill that spent around 2.5 million in a 100% unconstitutional fashion. The question is sitting on his blog waiting for an answer.

Then he talks about why there should be more money from the average voter and less from PACS and special interest groups.

The answer surprised me, and is the reason I confidently state that there is not enough money in politics. With 105 legislative positions in the state, less than $1 million was spent on all campaigns to elect them–whereas millions are spent each year on ads and lobbyists for these special-interest laws. 
Where would you guess this small amount of money that is spent on candidate campaigns comes from? If you said the people they represent, I’m sorry–that’s rarely the case. One typical candidate report I just looked at showed that only 11% came from regular individual contributors. The vast majority came from special interest groups who have paid lobbyists.
This is a confusing statement considering when you look at where Mr. Latterell received most of his funding. $1,500 from Jim Latterell, $1,500 from Don Frisco, Xcel, SD Realtors, SD Corn Growers, SD Ethanol, and Black Hill Home Builders PAC is not exactly going around to District 6 voters and asking for financial support.  

His solution to the problem:  Write him a paycheck or hire your own lobbyist

To be clear, I do not think increasing salaries is the answer. What I am advocating for is a group of people in the district gathering together on a set of clear principles, and contributing 1% of their income to good government. They could hire a lobbyist who will work for their principles and actually answer to them.

We don’t want special interest money to be the dominant force in politics, because we all ultimately work for whoever signs our checks. We can’t have our politicians spending 40% of our income but receiving the majority of their contributions from special interests. Because when it comes to government, you get what you pay for–and right now, someone else is paying!

That’s why I say there’s not enough of our money in politics. If we as individuals would voluntarily spend even $10 a month on good government, hiring lobbyists or candidates instead of them coming to us, we would overwhelm the special interest money (both federal and state), and have people in Pierre and Washington not just claiming to work for us, they would literally work for us.
 He is right in one area.  We need to take more responsibility in whom we send to Pierre.  It is never a good thing to be left with candidates like Isaac Latterell, who are the only ones left running, and not people whose primary concern is the people of his or her district over scoring political points.  I am glad to hear that Mr. Latterell is willing to stand up against PAC money or money from special interest corporate groups.  I am sure he will accept none of it this election cycle.