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Posts published in September 2010

The real Medicaid numbers

A generation ago, it was the Cadillac queen on welfare: The woman driving an expensive car to pick up her welfare check, which she'd spend on steak, liquor and lotsa high livin' . . . and it turned out to be, as you might expect on actual reflection, a much-repeated tale that was in fact an urban myth: She didn't exist. If she had, she would have been an oddity, a fluke case.

Maybe this Medicaid story making the rounds in Facebook (a couple of friends there posted it) is actually based on a real incident. It comes from a Mississippi physician who treated a patient in the emergency room, "whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone." His takeaway was that " a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance."

Which drew in some places around the nets a loud, "right on . . ."

The references by the writer to the patient's use of cigarettes, alcohol and junk food - failing to take care of his own health, in other words - were logical. Less so the rest. Most took part replacements of gold are not, contraintuitively, the most expensive but rather the cheapest (and you might assume that kind of dental work wasn't discretionary). The cultural knicknacks may be discretionary enough, but buying them all, even in bulk, wouldn't have mattered: The price of a month's decent health insurance would cost many multiples of what all those items taken together do. But it makes but a rousing emotional story.

A little like one out of Utah that has caught some interest in Idaho. There, state Representative Ronda Menlove proposed that some Medicaid patients (exactly which seems as yet a little unclear) be required to work at community service.

In Idaho, state Representative Steve Thayne, R-Emmett, was quoted as saying, ”I think it would work. Medicaid recipients would be able to demonstrate gratitude or pay back the community. It would, at the very least, give them a sense of self-worth.”

Evidently, they'd be worthless if they couldn't work.

The Twin Falls Times News, in an editorial calling the work-for-Medicaid proposal "a dumb idea," offered the most pertinent relevant information: Who exactly has Medicaid assistance. In Idaho (and this is probably somewhat similar to most states), 63% are children. (Should they be put to work?) 22% are disabled (how about them?). Eight percent, elderly (yes?). And another seven percent, with a wide range of circumstances. Might some of them be able to contribute some sort of community service? Maybe.

And if one can be found, you'll probably be hearing all about standing in for all those lazy Medicaid recipients getting rich off the taxpayers . . .

This week in the Digests

digest
weekly Digest

Economic indicators stayed on their depressed track last week, as unemployment in the Northwest stubbornly stayed high. State government revenues remained depressed as well, and several stories of cutbacks surfaced in all three states. Several new business openings reported, though.

These points remained top of mind even as the region moved definitively into fall campaign mode, and viewers started watching an increasingly steady stream of political video ads.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.

ID XGR: Expanding the watch

A note by way of followup and expansion.

On September 5 we ran a list of legislative races to watch in Idaho, races that seem in a number of cases to be potentially close but also worth watching for other reasons.

Today, the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey came up with an expanded list, which overlapped with those races mentioned here and adding some others as well. A few words about those.

A specific note: The race for House seat 4B, now held by Democrat George Sayler, maybe ought to have been mentioned here as the House seat most likely to be taken over by the opposing party - by a Republican, Kathy Sims. It was left off because the flip seems so likely, but it will probably mark a change - reducing from two to one the number of Democrats in the Legislature from the Idaho Panhandle.

A general note: Popkey lists an array of Democratically-held seats, mainly in the Boise area but also in Lewiston, the Blaine County area and around Pocatello, as at-risk. He's right: They may be, if the Republican tide in Idaho is high enough. In fact, if the tide is high enough, it could sweep all but seven or eight Democrats from the legislature; in the Boise area, for example, only the three in District 19, two others who are unopposed and maybe one or two others beyond that can be considered truly safe. On the other hand, the tide would have to be extremely high for such a result, and it would have little to do with the individual races.

But check out the Popkey list; the rundown gives a good look at state of play.

The Elway poll

Our gradually (over the last half-decade) skepticism about polling is unabated. (A fine Daily Kos blog post evaluating the likely/registered polling screens, out today, does nothing to alleviate that.)

That said, the Seattle Times-Spokesman Review poll out today, conducted by Elway Research, has enough depth and breadth to warrant a close look.

Notable line from the Times story: "The national narrative is: There's this big wave of change coming," Elway said. "We're certainly seeing people who are frustrated and mad, and tea-party voters. But overall, that is not manifesting itself to a huge wave of change in Washington."

Beware of self-fulfilling narratives.

What he’s been up to

In case you've wondered what Bryan Fischer, formerly of the Idaho Values Alliance and more recently moved to a group based in the south, has been up to ...

A useful summary is available. He's speaking at a conservative national conference this weekend.

Crossover numbers and types

The announcement of a committee of people from one party to support a candidate of the other is a campaign staple - most campaigns with any energy at all take a swing at it. Normally, though, it doesn't amount to much. Yes, the people in the crossover group may have some credentials from the other party, but usually not many very major or deep. Even if a number of real, major, highly active member of one party actually do personally support a candidate from the other, they mostly keep it quiet: They'd have a hard time winning any trust in their own party again. (Or worse.)

Considering these groups is a matter of evaluating the people in them. And on that basis, the group of Republicans backing Democrat Keith Allred for governor (over incumbent Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter) is one of the most impressive the Northwest has seen in a long time. And says something about the way Idaho Republican politics is developing.

Allred has positioned himself, from before his candidacy, as a centrist in between the two parties, and has had plenty of friends among Republicans. Some of them have stuck with him throughout, such as former state Senator Laird Noh, who is a co-chair of Allred's campaign.

This week, the Republicans for Allred web site was released, listing a batch of others, some but not all previously announced. Of the 10, five were former state senators (Noh, John Hansen, Judi Danielson, Hal Bunderson, Dennis Hansen), one a former state representative (Larry Bradford), one a former Ada County sheriff (Vaughn Killeen), one a county commissioner (Lloyd Rasmussen of Caribou County), one a mayor (Kirk Hansen of Soda Springs) and one on the non-partisan Idaho Falls city council (Sharon Parry). (Evidently there are others as well, but those are the named highlighted on the "who we are" page.) The batch of a half-dozen former legislators is the most substantial group of partisan elected officials to cross over to an opposing candidacy in a major Idaho race in ... a long time at least.

One curiousity here is the number of officials from the very Republican southeast corner of the state, around the Soda Springs/Preston area (Dennis Hansen, Kirk Hansen, Larry Bradford, Lloyd Rasmussen). And as a group, they're more rural than urban - just two from Ada County.

But the common thread between the 10 feels like something else. Most or all of them would describe themselves as conservatives, more than moderates. All of the senators, for example, were apparently considered conservative enough while they were serving to rise to committee chairs or floor leadership spots. (In 1996 the Idaho Republican Party gave Danielson an award as outstanding Republican legislator.) But they also have a track record as pragmatists, guided to an extent by political philosophy but rules less by it than by the facts at hand. A statement of ideology might be a point to consider, but not the only point. The legislators among them at least tended to be fairly well versed in specific areas of legislative action (Noh to an almost legendary degree in the area of natural resources).

As Republicans in Idaho and elsewhere seem to turn increasingly ideological, this may be an area of real split. And that has some significance when you look at the Allred 10.

The “Gathering of Eagles”

A major, but not yet much noted political event in Oregon: Called "A Gathering of the Eagles" at a ranch at Jefferson. It ranks as substantial because of its placement on the state Republican Party site and the guests invited - and groups involved.

The guests include former (and scandal-ridden) House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. (He will be the keynote speaker, and sign books afterward.)

Coalition members will give three-minute speeches. They include Americans for Prosperity (the national Koch Brothers front group), Freedom Works (the national Tea Party organizing behind-the-scnees group), 912 Project (the Glenn Beck outfit), Tea Party Patriots and a number of Oregon conservative or Republian groups.

What will they be talking about?

Well, here is some of what the host, periodic Oregon candidate (including for governor this year, in the Republican primary) William “Ames” Curtright, has to say while welcoming people the event (what follows are short excerpts):

We may go by many different names; Independents, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, 912 Groups to name a few. ... This unified group would gather together to share fellowship and inspiration; not unlike when our Lord sat and talked with his disciples and like our nations first leaders who outline those spiritual principles. ...

We believe in a Godly nation and a Christian nation. ... We believe that Liberalism and Socialism are the enemy of our people. ... We believe in Vouchers for private education and that government should stay out of education. ... We believe People have the right to bear arms and the duty to overthrow their Government when it fails to perform and when resolution and legislation fail to correct it. We believe administrations who violate our constitutional rights and lawmakers who pass laws they do not read should be held accountable and not only sent home for their wrong doings but punished to the full extent of the law. We the People do not want any more Rinos or half way Republicans. We want true conservative Republicans!

Congress as service

As we get ready to elect members of Congress in another few weeks, reflect on what members of Congress do. They may espouse positions, and cast votes. But that's only a small part of what they do. They're also there to provide some specific services. Some of them do it well, and some ... not so well.

At Ridenbaugh Press, we had cause to reflect on this today.

Our small business produces several periodical subscription publications (you can find them pretty easily around this site), and several federal agencies have for some years been among the subscribers. Mostly, we have no problem dealing with them. But one agency (after some thought, we'll let pass its name) has been difficult in the billing department - not in ordering the publications, or in its willingness to pay, but in the method of payment. We don't take certain credit cards and - in contrast to other federal agencies we've dealt with - that is, this agency said, the only way it will pay.

So we hit a brick wall. For months. Then years.

Finally, yesterday, we decided to call our congressman, or at least his office. He is David Wu (Oregon's 1st district), and his staff patched us through to a staffer who works with the agency in question. He took the information and promised to get back to us.

Before he had time to, the agency did - within hours. It offered to pay its bill in a way we had previously suggested but it had said was impossible. Of a sudden, it was possible. The bill is now paid. Would not have happened that way but for Wu's office.

Get into a jam with the feds, your congressman (or staff) often can help out. Constituent service is an important part of what members of Congress do, and it seldom gets noted, and not all members of Congress are equal in this service. How well will your member of Congress work for you, as opposed to spouting positions (and eagerness to do one often seems inverse to eagerness to do the other)? A point worth thinking about as those ballots arrive.

Points in common

How can you tell when a candidate really thinks he's demonstrably ahead? One of the best measuring sticks is an unwillingness to debate, or at least to cut the number of debates as far as possible.

In the two major contests in Idaho, gubernatorial - between Republican incumbent C.L. "Butch" Otter and Democrat Keith Allred - and the 1st District U.S. House - between incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick and challenger Raul Labrador - debates have or will occur. (The gubernatorial candidates already had one faceoff in Idaho Falls.)

But ... in this last week, we've seen Otter, who's favored in polls for re-election, back off from a Lewiston debate. And Minnick, who has similarly seen some good poll numbers, easing back from a debate set up by KTVB-TV. Both candidates apparently had earlier given tentative approvals to appearing in both events.

The internal polling must be looking good, too.

This week in the Digests

digest
weekly Digest

Labor Day over, the fall season is getting underway - and that means politics are heading into higher gear. Some of that showed up in this week's Digests as candidates either participated in debates (one of them was on the cover of the Oregon Public Affairs Digest) or debated about them.

Of course, that's far from all. A number of reports and suggestions developed during the week, including analysis of the Washington ferries system and the suicide rate in the region.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.