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Compromise/squish

politicalwords

Compromise: An agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
► Oxford English Dictionary

Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.
► Greg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

I first heard the word “squish” used by a group of college Republicans, to refer to someone who is not an absolutist and is open to compromise. It seems to have remained much more in use on the right than on the left, though there’s no particularly good reason for that: The point it implies is applicable about the same on either side of the fence.

The point is that compromise is caving – that it amounts to giving in and giving up, and an abdication of principle.

Compromise is not that – people who engage in politics often wind up fighting fiercely because they are principled – but it does involve the mature, as opposed to childish, idea that in a society where a variety of people want different things, you can’t (to coin a phrase) always get what you want. The word comes from 14th century France (a compromis), which refers to a willingness by two or more parties to submit to a joint arbitration, as opposed to, in their case, fighting to someone’s death.

Compromise, in other words, is in the DNA of politics in non-dictatorship situations; it is absent in authoritarian states, where only one point of view is allowed ever to win out. Compromise means that two sides have to come together and try to find common ground where they can, and agree each to concede a little in return for a larger agreement – one that can be lived with, if not become beloved, by both sides. The idea of a settlement reached by an easing back of demands, a willingness to make concessions, grew from that.

Compromise may not be as unpopular as it’s sometimes made out to be. In 2017 the Pew Research Center found “In general terms, the public continues to express a preference for elected officials who seek political compromises. About six-in-ten (58%) say they like elected officials who make compromises with people with whom they disagree, while fewer (39%) say they like politicians who stick to their positions. About seven-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (69%) say they like elected officials who compromise. Liberal Democrats (76%) are more likely to hold this view than conservatives and moderates (63%). Republicans and Republican leaners have much more mixed views: 52% say they like elected officials who stick to their positions, while 46% say they like elected officials who make compromises with people they disagree with. By 56% to 41%, conservative Republicans prefer elected officials who stick to their positions. By contrast, a greater share of moderate and liberal Republicans say they like officials who make compromises (55%) than say they like officials who stick to their positions (43%). Those with higher levels of education are especially likely to have a positive view of officials who make compromises.”

Compromises often are messy, incomplete and unsatisfying. The congressional compromises of 1820 and 1850, two of the leading achievements of 19th century American politics, were stopgap measures, entirely pleasing almost no one; but they did keep the nation intact, for a while. (The breakup came when fire-eaters in the South decided they would compromise no more.)

But then in politics, issues are never over, completely: They’re always subject to relitigation. Compromises are temporary fixes but then, in the larger picture, there is never any other kind – even if, at a given moment, one side or another seems to have prevailed utterly.

In a 2016 column, New York Times writer David Brooks said, “Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups – best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right – want to elect people who have no political experience. They want ‘outsiders.’ They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power. Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.”

What this leads to in politics – and in American politics notably – what a failure to compromise often leads to is trench warfare, a long-running series of battles between two dug-in sides, with no reasonable resolution in sight.

The only way out involves climbing up from the trenches and starting some serious, and honest, discussion.
 

Trade wars and fire in the Amazon

jones

What possible connection could the fires in the Amazon rainforest have with Trump’s trade war against China? Well, Brazilian farmers and ranchers are lusting to replace U.S. farmers as China’s go-to supplier of agricultural products. They need additional ground to grow soybeans and other crops to export to China, while China needs a new source of foodstuffs to make up for the curtailment of American-grown imports. So, burn baby, burn.

U.S. farm exports have been a bright spot in America’s foreign trade picture for years, due to the productivity of American farmers. Until recently, China has been a growing market for our agricultural products, increasing by 700% from 2000 to 2017. China bought $19.1 billion worth of U.S. farm exports in 2017, according to the American Farm Bureau.

These sales to China did not come easy. U.S. farmers worked hard to build up relationships with Chinese buyers and reasonably expected increasing sales into the future. Then came the Trump trade wars. Farm exports plummeted to $9.1 billion in 2018 and will continue dropping.

Trump started the trade war to punish the Chinese for stealing American technology. Why not instead work with our allies to collectively target the theft itself, like prohibiting the importation of goods containing stolen technology? It was entirely predictable that China would retaliate against our agricultural sector. American farmers are paying the price for a misbegotten trade fight and that price is steadily increasing.

While U.S. farmers have suffered, Brazilian farmers have greatly increased their China trade. The South China Morning Post reported in May that Brazil’s soybean farmers “have triumphed spectacularly in the US-China trade war.” Their exports to China increased by 30% last year, while U.S. sales dropped by half.

The Brazilians struggled to meet the China demand last year and need to put additional land into production to serve the growing market in China, both for crops and meat products. Most of the Amazon fires have reportedly been started or cheered on by agricultural interests to get more farmable land. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged the deforestation. Our President tweeted that Bolsonaro has “the full and complete support of the USA.”

Farm equipment companies are also suffering from Trump’s trade war because U.S. farm income has fallen along with the loss of the Chinese export market. While our farmers are buying less machinery, the equipment manufacturers have found markets elsewhere, particularly in Brazil where there is an increasing demand.

It is quite likely that American farmers will be unable to win back the Chinese markets they worked so hard to establish over the last couple of decades. Now that the trade relationship with the U.S. has been broken, China may come to regard Brazil as a more strategic and reliable government to trade with. Brazil has the advantage of not being a political adversary of China. And Brazil gives China a new partner in the United States’ traditional sphere of influence in South America.

The Amazon fires are also a global warming threat since the Amazon rainforest has traditionally absorbed about 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The burning rainforest releases carbon dioxide while reducing Earth’s capacity to capture future CO2 emissions.

In sum, the Trump trade war with China is an all-around loser for the United States. The U.S. farm economy suffers, while Brazilian farmers and ranchers take over our markets in China. They expand those export markets by deforesting the Amazon rainforest. That, in turn, contributes to global warming, which will make it harder for our farmers to grow foodstuffs for the world. Who expected a fancy pants New York real estate developer to know how to protect America’s farm economy?
 

Whither thou the F-35

rainey

So, Boise is still wrestling with the issue of whether the U.S. Air Force should put F-35 jets at Gowen Field on the South side of the Boise Airport. Good luck with that.

We can speak to the F-35 issue with some personal experience since we live about 10 miles in a straight line from Luke Air Force Base outside of Phoenix. Luke is the training site for nearly every nation that we’ve sold F-35's to. Pilots come here from all over the world to learn how to handle what I’ve been told is one tough aircraft to fly. Currently, Luke has about 100 F-35's with a full compliment of about 180 due in coming months. Imagine those numbers at Gowen Field. Not hardly.

Our home is nearly under the downwind landing approach to Luke on the Northeast as are thousands of others. So, noise levels aren’t nearly what they are on the takeoff side which is to the Southwest. Most of the time. Occasionally, when prevailing winds shift, we get a taste of takeoffs. That’s when the windows rattle. Not often. Just once-in-a-while.

Boise’s F-35 problem is largely one of its own making. With some terrible assistance from Ada County.

The first airport in Boise was on Boise State University campus. Old dirt strip where Varney Airlines started, grandfather of United Airlines, we’re told. When growth forced re-locating, the plateau on the edge of the desert above town was chosen. So far, so good. And it worked as planned for a long, long time.

But, not now. And that’s where the failures of the City of Boise and Ada County come into play.

As Boise and the county grew, each allowed residential and commercial growth at both ends of the runways, except for the required minimal space for aircraft operation patterns required by the FAA. Soon came cries from folks bitching about aircraft noise. What the Hell did they expect? As subdivisions grew so, too, did the airport with demands brought on by that same growth. Didn’t anyone in local government see what was coming?

Because of increased civilian/military demands, airport facilities expanded. As a former pilot who flew out of there, considering safety and growth values, I’d argue not much more activity can be crammed into that space. Something’s gotta give.

In the Phoenix metro area, with huge residential and commercial growth around the Luke AFB area, government got it right. When we bought our house two years ago, we - and thousands others in about a 20-mile-square area - signed a legal closing document that told us about Luke, expected noise and other conditions of an active flight area. A very active flight area. No future bitching!

Given prevailing winds and angle of the runways at Luke, we really don’t have a problem. But, as you drive past the other end of the runways - to the Southwest - you see no subdivisions for miles. Some industrial and farming allowed. But, no homes.

The dual jet F-35 uses afterburners on takeoff. That about triples normal noise. Once aloft, afterburners are shut down. But, if you’re under planes at takeoff, it’s a bitch. I’d hate to live Northwest of Gowen for 10 miles. Add to that, more often than not, there are multiple takeoffs at the same time. F-35's usually fly in pairs or groups of four.

F-35's should operate out of Mt. Home AFB, some 40 miles South and West. Not Gowen. But, Boise/Ada County officials would come unglued because of expected short-term economic loss.

So, you’ve got the physics of multiple jet aircraft operations in an area with thousands of residents under the flight path or you’ve got some sizeable fiscal loss of those same operations.

From outside, looking in, Mt. Home is the place for the F-35's. Period. That aircraft is going to be around for a long, long time. Just as B-52 bombers will likely fly for 100 years with occasional engineering updates, the F-35 will last for many years with the same sort of re-engineering. It’s a multi-function plane, tailored for USAF, Navy and Marine use. Some fly normally. Others jump straight up. You’re really talking about an aircraft platform with several configurations. Much cheaper to update than to go to a whole new aircraft.

Length of service of the F-35 is not often discussed. It should be. Putting F-35's at Gowen is not a short-term proposition. Once the base is reconfigured for them, they’ll be there a long time.

Future military flight operations should be at Mt. Home where the area is set aside for such. In time, it’s likely the National Guard at Gowen will expand and need more room.

Bringing the F-35 to Idaho should be decided on the basis of needs of the military and safe aircraft operations, not the local economic situation. Put ‘em where they belong. Out there.

Oh, and one more thing. Last week near Tucson, an A-10 Warthog - like those at Gowen - accidentally fired a missile. Accidental, yes. But that happens. No one hurt. But, what if it has been off the Northwest end of Gowen Field. Oh, say near Five Mile Road and Amity. Just sayin’.
 

Show up, ask a question

johnson

Republican Congressman Greg Walden represents a vast swath of Oregon in the House of Representatives. His huge district stretches from the Snake River canyon along the Idaho-Oregon border to the Nevada state line and then west to Medford, at the crest of the Cascades.

Walden, who has been in Congress for 20 years and has never won re-election with less than 56% of the vote, represents an area more than eight times larger than the state of New Jersey. Walden spent August, euphemistically called “the district work period” for members of Congress, actually working, and driving.

Walden held town hall meetings in such exotic places as Heppner and Burns; he met with constituents at the fire hall in Arlington and talked politics at Bob’s Texas T-Bone restaurant in Rufus. Maybe 250 Oregonians live in Rufus and I’m guessing most of them show up at Bob’s – the food was great and the waitress was “awesome” according to a recent Facebook review – with some regularity.

Walden, and for that matter the rest of the Oregon congressional delegation, are unlike most members of Congress. They regularly subject themselves to unscripted interaction with their constituents. Walden has held more than 15 town hall meetings since June, more than any other member of the House, and they are not always mild-mannered affairs.

As Oregon Public Radio reported on Walden’s town hall in Burns: “Harney County resident Lynn McClintock told Walden ‘our economy is becoming weaker because of these [tariffs], farms are struggling and the immigration is being impacted, too, with visas to get them to come and work in these fields.’”

Walden tap danced on the immigration part of the question, but admitted the Trump tariffs were hurting wheat farmers and damaging trade with Japan, but he defended the administration’s tough stand against China. In other words he explained himself one-on-one without a filter, where people could read his body language and gauge for themselves whether he was waffling or leveling.

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden – he has served in the Senate since 1996 and before that was a member of the House – is the king of town halls. After constituent meetings in August in Beaverton, Corvallis, Newport, Bend and east Portland, Wyden now counts 926 town hall meetings since he became a senator. He has long pledged – and actually does – visit every one of Oregon’s 36 counties for a town hall every year.

I’ve attended a couple of Wyden’s meetings in Tillamook and Astoria, where the senator packed the local high school auditorium, made no speech, but instead took every question – many were pointed and specific – for more than an hour.

At Wyden’s town hall in Tillamook County in January – it was a Saturday afternoon and 80 or so people were on hand – the very first question was about Wyden’s support for something called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a confusing piece of legislation dealing with third-party boycotts of Israel. The questioner was measured but firm: if Wyden continued to support the legislation he would never, ever get the guy’s vote again.

Wyden explained his position, in no way satisfied his questioner and then took the next question, and so it went for an hour. There were questions about climate change, local fishing, the Mueller investigation and water quality in Rockaway. A couple of times Wyden reminded the crowd that anyone was welcome to ask a question and he appreciated all the questions, even when someone took issue with him. It was an afternoon of small-d “democracy.”

“There is no better way to empower citizens than to throw open the doors,” Wyden told Politico last year. “The founding fathers never had in mind that this would just be a spectator sport.”

In many ways Oregon is the political flip side of Idaho. Greg Walden is the only Republican in the Congressional delegation and Democrats dominate state offices and the legislature. But, Oregon is different from Idaho in at least one other way. Federal elected officials in Oregon routinely engage with their constituents in wide-open, no-holds-bared encounters.

That almost never happens in Idaho. You can search the official websites of Senator Jim Risch and Congressmen Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson and find no record of the kind of town hall that is routine in Oregon.

Give Senator Mike Crapo credit for being all over Idaho in August with events from Cataldo to Corral, but it’s been a cold day in August since Crapo did an event like Walden and Wyden do almost every month.

Of course Idahoans who live in smaller, rural communities deserve the attention of a United States senator, and Crapo deserves credit for going places where other politicians can’t be bothered, but a visit to the fire department in Cavendish isn’t quite like taking question from anyone who shows up in downtown Lewiston, the north end of Boise or the high school in Pocatello.

Turns out the Idaho delegation are a lot more like the rest of Congress than is the Oregon delegation. There are politicians like Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican in the Senate, who makes a point of visiting every Iowa county – there are 99 of them – every year for a town hall. Grassley gets asked about his support for repealing Obamacare or rubber-stamping judicial nominees, yet he keeps showing up and has for 40 years.

But Grassley, Wyden and Walden are exceptions. Risch, Fulcher and Simpson are the norm.

I reached out to Walden recently to get a comment about all his town halls, but when his communications director realized I might compare Walden’s approach to that of his GOP colleagues in Idaho she demurred. “I do not think we are going to be able to provide a quote at this time for the article since the Idaho delegation are close friends of Greg’s,” she wrote in an email.

In other words, Walden didn’t want to show up his pals, but it seems like he already has.

It makes you wonder if respect for Congress and regard for our political system would improve if elected members of Congress just showed up once in a while and answered questions from people they theoretically work for.
 

The crowd in Boise

stapiluslogo1

Boise’s long-time mayor, David Bieter, has faced light opposition since he first was elected to the job in 2003. This year, in contrast, he faces a crowd. And, likely, a tougher contest.

In some ways, that larger crowd might work to his advantage. But there’s a real chance the shape of this year’s contest could cost him the job in this year’s elections.

Begin with this: The criticism of and opposition to Bieter, who at this point is the longest-serving mayor in Boise’s history, is greater this time around than it has been before. That includes voting sectors that traditionally have been his base, and this is a more recent development. Across issues ranging from development to construction of a new library building, a common thread running through the complaints is that City Hall has stopped listening to the citizens, and rams its agenda through without broad enough consideration, and Bieter has been the focus of those complaints. I won’t try to litigate the pros or cons of that complaint here, but the criticism is more broadly-based than it was in earlier election years.

And it has helped generate anger at city hall, maybe enough to lead to some upsets this time around.

Bieter, who has coasted to re-elections before, drew opposition early this time. His chief opponent appears to be Lauren McLean, a member of the city council and well-connected around town; she has been campaigning hard for months, and her campaign has gotten some good reviews. But there are other contenders too: Adriel Martinez, Cortney Nielsen, Wayne Richey - and two more of note, former Mayor Brent Coles, and Rebecca Arnold, president of the Ada County Highway District. Coles resigned amid scandal, and his entry drew plenty of surprised head shakes. Both Coles and Arnold took direct shots at Bieter, and Arnold warned that McLean would be more of the same kind of administration as Bieter has run. The case for how Coles or Arnold might win the mayorly seems . . . obscure. But the two of them could add to the incoming fire Bieter has to deal with.

The usual political science 101 take on crowded campaigns is that when an incumbent is running for re-election, the campaign is mostly about that incumbent. This means the opposition tends to split the anti-incumbent vote, which tends to help the incumbent prevail.

Boise, however, is one of those cities with a runoff: If no candidate draws more than half of the overall vote in the general election, the top two contenders go into a runoff election.

This year’s election could be different. While the splitting of the opposition field among many more candidates might help Bieter to win at least a plurality of the vote, it won’t necessarily help him win a majority. While re-election contests usually are more about the incumbent than the challenger, those challengers do tend to bring in some personal support, additional votes, of their own. They also can change the content of the debate in unpredictable ways.

If Bieter’s support in town still is strong enough that he can win the first contest outright - with more than 50 percent of the vote - then that’s that. But the larger number of candidates in the field likely makes that more rather than less difficult.

And incumbents who are forced into a runoff tend to lose more often than they win, because the opposition vote, which earlier was split among many candidates, usually consolidates behind the one challenger who remains.

That 2003 contest Bieter won - which didn’t include an incumbent - was relatively simple in its dynamics. This one is much more complex, and more treacherous for an incumbent to navigate.

Mark this as a race to watch in Idaho this fall.

(note: The column was edited to remove a reference to the 2003 election.)
 

Obituary

schmidt

Maybe I’ve grown callous from a career as a family physician. I hope not. Years of talking to people about their aches and pains, their bodily functions, their private feelings and fears might have made me so. I sense people’s shame and I respect their privacy. But I believe somethings need to be talked about and sometimes publicly. One of those is how we die.

The number of people dying from accidental prescription overdose deaths started climbing in 1999. We have all heard how the big drug companies started pushing their drugs on the medical profession in the mid 1990’s. It wasn’t until 2006 that a CDC data analyst saw some numbers and thought there might be a problem. Interestingly, there were also murmurings from state medical examiners that reinforced the impression. But the rate of deaths has only recently begun declining.

Some states have a medical examiner system, unlike Idaho where we have county coroners who are only responsible for their own jurisdiction. I have written before about the variation in Idaho’s county coroner death investigations. The Canyon County coroner only specified type of drug overdose death in 35% of death certificates. Next door Ada County specified 91%. There is little doubt Idaho has undercounted our problem.

But that is the official government system responsible for death investigation and reporting. I appreciate that some are looking to change the system.

But I wonder how the change in local reporting of deaths also might have contributed to the rise in accidental overdoses.

Some of you may remember when obituaries were written by the local newspapers. They were “reported”. I’m sure the youngest or newest reporter got the tedious and uncomfortable job of calling the family and doing some background on the recently deceased. It might have been mundane, but it would have required some sensitivity too. We all deserve that. I believe the profession of journalism has lost some sensitivity. But the balance of privacy, sensitivity and public awareness is the job of a journalist.

In my hometown paper the formula always included age and cause or manner of death. I noticed many times the death was referred to as “natural causes”, which I took to mean cancer, since back then, there was some shame associated with that dreaded disease. That has changed.

But that is truly a “manner of death”, since there are only five categories: natural, accidental, homicide, suicide, or indeterminate. I can appreciate skipping the details of “cause”. But sometimes the cause, say pneumonia or heart attack, was specified. I suppose this was sensitive.

The official report, the death certificate is required to be complete and detailed, but death certificates are not public record. They are shared with people who can demonstrate a need to know, like family or an estate agent. Life insurance companies demand a death certificate.

But in the early 2000’s many papers stopped reporting on deaths and obituaries became paid-for family written pieces. Most families don’t want to share such a tragedy as an accidental overdose or a suicide publicly. I can’t blame them. But it might have helped our communities have an earlier awareness of this wave of deaths.

I have asked some old newspaper guys and they explained this change with the simplest answer: money. Newspapers were being starved for revenue; Craigslist siphoned off the want ad revenue, online news depleted subscriptions, readership declined. They couldn’t afford to hire those young reporters and break them in on writing obituaries.

I really don’t know if more accidental overdose deaths would have been reported locally. Would the community benefit from knowing the young man died from an overdose? Would our awareness of the lethal effect of these drugs have made us a little less likely to demand them from our prescribers? It’s a sensitive question. We should all be a little more sensitive.
 

Overton window

politicalwords

What shall we discuss? Or, what shall we discuss and be taken seriously? A person can throw out almost any idea, but many of those ideas may be batted aside as nonsense. At least, they may be batted aside as nonsense today; tomorrow, the idea might be more acceptable, or even a majority opinion.

That’s the concern of the “Overton Window of Political Possibilities.”
Joseph Overton, an academic at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, developed the concept in the mid-90s. The center described it this way:

“Imagine, if you will, a yardstick standing on end. On either end are the extreme policy actions for any political issue. Between the ends lie all gradations of policy from one extreme to the other. The yardstick represents the full political spectrum for a particular issue. The essence of the Overton window is that only a portion of this policy spectrum is within the realm of the politically possible at any time.”

This doesn’t amount to a value judgment, but it does suggest what’s realistic, as a matter of public policy, at a specific moment.
Same-sex marriage would be a useful case study of how a subject once considered out of bounds – an abomination or a joke if considered at all – could move over time into the window of political realism. Marijuana legalization may be a similar example.

Ideas move in and out of the window with some regularity, over the span of time. Judgment comes into play when we decide which ideas should or shouldn’t move, and in which direction.

Why ideas move is a question for political scientists, and many have weighed in (whether or no specifically citing Overton).

And there are other uses. Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck released a novel called The Overton Window (2010), a political conspiracy potboiler about a powerful elite seeking to take over the United States by moving an unacceptable concept – “one world, ruled by the wise and the fittest and the strong, with no naive illusions of equality or the squandered promises of freedom for all” – into the Overton window.

Whatever the virtues of the novel (few, reviewers seemed to agree), it got the point of the “window” backward: It is not something that can be manipulated by a “wag the dog” strategy, but rather serves as a measure of how the public changes its mind.

Writer Maggie Astor described it this way: “The key is that shifts begin with the public. Mr. Overton argued that the role of organizations like his own was not to lobby politicians to support policies outside the window, but to convince voters that policies outside the window should be in it. If they are successful, an idea derided as unthinkable can become so inevitable that it’s hard to believe it was ever otherwise.”
 

Striking out at red tape, sometimes

jones

Idaho has undertaken a crusade to rid its businesses of government red tape and burdensome, purposeless administrative rules. The Governor and Legislature have celebrated the elimination or simplification of about 40% of the State government’s rules and are taking aim at another 15-20 percent of those pesky regulations.

At the same time, the government has imposed a hefty red-tape burden on working folks who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Idaho voters said last November that the people in this gap should be able to get healthcare under Medicaid without a bunch of bureaucratic red tape. The Medicaid expansion initiative passed with a 61% vote.

However, the Legislature could not resist adding some burdensome requirements to the people-passed law, including a so-called work requirement. Actually, most able-bodied folks in the Medicaid gap are working people. If they were not working and making too much to qualify for Medicaid, they probably would already be getting Medicaid and would not have to worry about how they were going to stay healthy.

The work requirement will not force people in the gap to get a job because most of them already have one or more already. What it will force them to do is to file government reports in order to maintain their Medicaid eligibility. If they don’t file these burdensome reports, they can lose their healthcare.

The needless reports will mostly be filed online. Good luck with that for the thousands of gap folks who don’t have access to the internet. US News rates Idaho 41st in the country for internet access. Arkansas, which ranked 50th in US News, experienced substantial reporting problems when it imposed a work requirement. Many gap folks who were fully employed lost their medical care because they could not navigate the reporting requirement. Talk about a red tape nightmare.

A federal court in Arkansas struck the Arkansas work-reporting requirement down as violative of the Medicaid law. A state can get a waiver for a variation in its Medicaid program if the variation serves the purpose of the Medicaid law. That purpose is to assist low-income people to get medical services. The court ruled that there was no evidence the work requirement served that purpose. In fact, it did just the opposite, depriving them of health coverage.

Courts in Kentucky and New Hampshire have also struck down so-called work requirements as being in violation of the Medicaid law. It is likely the Idaho reporting requirement would also be stricken if the federal government were to improperly grant Idaho a waiver for its work requirement. The suit would provide public-minded lawyers yet another opportunity to get an award of attorney fees for challenging an unwise state law.

The Idaho Legislature provided a fallback in case a person failed to file a proper work report. Rather than totally losing coverage, the person would be liable for a co-pay. I don’t see how that could serve the purpose of the Medicaid law and suspect that it would not suffice to keep the reporting requirement from being invalidated by a court.

Idahoans who disagree with the work-reporting requirement can and should register their opposition on or before September 22. Comments can be submitted to 1115.comments@dhw.idaho.gov.

Take the time to let Idaho’s public servants know that the State’s deregulation process should extend down the financial ladder to those who are working hard at low-paying jobs that do not provide health coverage. The voters did not want this obnoxious requirement and it should be stricken as an impediment to providing the medical care that folks in the Medicaid gap need.
 

Politics and religion?

rainey

A man-of-the-cloth friend asked my advice recently.

“Wait a minute,” thought I. "We supplicants are supposed to be the ones asking his advice when we have issues.” And I wasn’t prepared for his question.

“What do you think about a church study class dealing with politics and religion,” was his query? “I know both are touchy issues.”

“Touchy?” No more than cooking steak for a Hindu picnic. But what surprised me more than his question was the quickness and firmness of my response.

“Not only do I think you should,” I said, “I think it should be part of the faith programs of all churches that feel a responsibility to work in the worldly community of their parishioners. Not so those same parishioners are taught some obligation to vote or think a certain way, but so they can resolve issues of religion and politics that most of us have but are unsure how to reconcile.”

Then, in days following our discussion, I ran across an article by Rachel Held Evans who writes professionally about issues of faith and politics from an evangelical perspective.

Armed with a bundle of recent religious surveys, Ms. Evans concluded many young adults are turning their backs – especially on evangelical churches – because “they perceive evangelical churches to be too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She wrote, “I point to research showing young evangelicals often feel they must choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a set of rules when these same millennials long for faith communities in which they’re safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.”

Ministers wearing jeans, a fancy coffee shop in fellowship hall, larger worship bands and other current “style changes” are not what she means. She points out millennials were raised on advertising and rock bands and have a “sensitive B.S. meter.” It may be those “style changes” are some of the very things causing an exodus among the young.

Evans says many of her peers are being drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with ‘being cool’ and are refreshingly authentic. “We want a truce between science and faith,” she wrote. “We want to be known for what we stand for – not what we're against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the Kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single (political) party or a single nation.”

One more thing from Ms. Evans: “Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from 40-somethings and grandmothers – Generation Xers and retirees. Their messages are clear: ‘Me, too!’”

Just after reading her latest work, the collective worlds of modern Christianity and politics collided full-on for me as Pope Francis stunned many Catholics and much of the rest of the world. When asked about gay men in the priesthood, he responded “Who am I to judge them?” That must have put some new cracks in the old Vatican walls.

Just as many Americans are feeling their recent votes have brought them a political world they weren’t expecting, some are also re-examining recent religious swings away from mainstream churches. They’re looking a second time at the newer, hipper, more flashy services that mask an unforgiving base of rigidity mixed with similar unforgiving political themes. They’re finding churches of the “you’ve-got-questions, we’ve-got-answers” approach to Christianity are more exclusionary than inclusive.

Many years ago, we were told of old-line Baptist – and even Mormon churches – where congregants were told to seat themselves on one side of the aisle if they were Democrats and the other side if Republican. I never experienced that but heard the stories too often to discount them.

A lot of more moderate, mainline clergy are hesitant to introduce the subject of politics in religious study classes. For good reason. Some have either been handed their walking papers after doing so or found themselves with a congregation splintered along political lines. If you wear a turned-around collar, mixing the two can be a career-changer. It shouldn't be.

But, as Ms. Evans writes, “Millennials want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in care of our world and becoming peacemakers. You can’t hand us a latte, go about business as usual and expect us to stick around.”

At the end of any hour-long worship service, congregations walk back out into the other world where they’ll spend 167 other hours before meeting again next week. For one hour. Many will either find their belief system challenged by a world of politics or their politics caught up in their beliefs. Some will try to reconcile the two – some will simply be confused.

Without trying to convert votes like souls, churches have a responsibility of spirituality of citizenship for the family and body as they do for preparing us for life everlasting. We turn to religion for comfort, for perspective, for truth, for relief, for sustenance, for meaning, for the outreach it provides to make us more well-rounded creatures of God.

But, our lives are lived overwhelmingly in a secular world. If churches don’t help us understand and become more comfortable with our surroundings and decisions in that world, they’re avoiding a responsibility to help us become better individuals. We don’t need to be told whom to vote for or what to vote against. We don’t need to be told what Jesus would do. We don’t need to be given lectures about political issues.

If approached in an open, moderate manner – if reasoned discussion can make us better informed – if acceptance of other’s views can be allowed as equally important as our own – if new associations can be made between our American systems of governance and our faith to create more informed, more intelligent participants – the worlds of religion and politics can be very compatible. And we may be better for the experience in both our worlds.