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Posts published in July 2013

An era of limits and immigration reform

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The debate over immigration reform in the House and the Senate is an interesting lens to examine the future of austerity.

How so? Immigration is about immigration; secure borders, global migration pattens, and a path to citizenship for more than 11 million people living in the United States without a legal status. The Senate bill is a compromise that calls for an unprecedented buildup of border security, some 20,000 new agents, in exchange for that citizenship route. (Borrowing language from the Iraq war buildup, Senators are calling it a “surge.”)

Think about what that means: The United States can’t afford to invest in education, health, or infrastructure, but it can spend big bucks on border security. The Congressional Budget Office scores the cost side of the ledger in the Senate bill this way: “Appropriate $46.3 billion for expenses related to the security of the southern U.S. border and initial administrative costs.”

The Senate compromise also limits eleven million people’s right to participate in the health care system, while, at the same time, taxing them for services not rendered. This part of the bill is just mean. The CBO says “the net budgetary effect of decreasing the number of unauthorized residents would be relatively small—the small savings for Medicaid, child nutrition, and refundable tax credits would be more than offset by a slightly larger reduction in revenues paid by, or on behalf of, unauthorized residents.”

But at least the Senate bill is not all about costs. Despite what immigration critics say, historically immigration has always boosted the U.S. economy. (It’s not even a close call.) The CBO says the Senate bill would decrease the deficit by $158 billion in the next decade. That’s probably understating the economic benefit of moving undocumented workers from off-the-book jobs into the mainstream economy.

The House approach to immigration reform is to break apart the coalition of security in exchange for citizenship. Louisiana’s Rep. John Fleming said in The Hill newspaper that one reason Republicans oppose the Senate's immigration bill is because they don't trust President Obama to enforce the border enforcement provisions in that bill. (Even though Obama won’t be president when most of the law kicks in.) (more…)

Idaho’s most influential?

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Without question the most powerful and influential native Idahoan on the national political scene today is Bruce Reed. He currently is Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, was once the executive director of the Simpson/Bowles Commission charged with addressing America’s fiscal challenges, and headed up the Democratic Leadership Council which is where he first met President Bill Clinton.

President Clinton made him director of domestic policy and Reed became one of the President’s must trusted advisors. He also is facing what psychologists like to call a classic “approach/approach conflict.” More on that in a moment.

Besides being exceptionally bright, Reed is also a gifted writer and superb maker of memorable phrases. No doubt this is partly a function of his obtaining an M.A. in English Literature while attending Oxford on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship.

Reed literally cut his teeth in politics on his mother’s knees as Mary Lou Reed served as a State Senator from Kootenai County for ten years. She is also a founding member of the Idaho Conservation League, which turns 40 this year. His father, Scott, is a distinguished lawyer who specializes in, among other subjects, water law. Scott’s only Idaho peer on this subject may be Twin Falls attorney John Rosholt.

Reed was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, graduating from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1978, and from there went to Princeton, where he graduated in 1982. Following the completion of his M.A. at Oxford he landed a job in 1985 as a speechwriter for future Vice President Al Gore, for whom he worked for four years.

He then took on the task of editing the magazine, The New Democrat, for the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization comprised primarily of centrists Democrats who quietly worked to reclaim their party from the more liberal elements that predominated in the 70’s and early 80’s. He became policy director of the DLC in 1990 and 1991 during Clinton’s chairmanship, then became the deputy campaign manager for the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992.

During his tenure as director of the Domestic Policy Council he helped write the 1996 Welfare Reform bill which he called “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.” He is the author of such memorable phrases as “end welfare as we know it” and “change you can, Xerox.” (more…)

Portland building ages

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Here's a map to ponder over a while: Showing the age of buildings in Portland. There's actually some correspondence to politics (not all of Portland is equally Democratic).

The map, developed by Justin Palmer, can be found here. As on most political maps, the deeper blue is Democratic, and that seems generally reflective here.

A short article in the Atlantic's web site also notes, "When making the map, Palmer was pleasantly surprised by a few patterns, such as the way older and more developed neighborhoods tended to follow historical streetcar lines. Then there's Interstate 205 acting like a wall separating two oceans of different-era structures, which the map's creator is still scratching his head about."

A player or a tap dancer?

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Raul Labrador, Idaho's first district Republican member of Congress, has been giving some good television. After going mano a mano on Meet the Press (July 7) with the New York Times' David Brooks, on July 10 he got into it with a whole panel on MSNBC's WOW.

Topic A being, of course, immigration, on which Labrador has been a significant national figure almost since he arrived in Congress: A Latino Republican with actual expertise in the field.

On WOW, Labrador shot back, “If you want to have a debate on the discussion, we can do that. I actually have my own mind. I was an immigration lawyer for 15 years. I think I know more than you do about immigration and on immigration reform. So let’s not try to insult people when trying to have an honest discussion about what’s happening in America.”

Labrador does in fact have expertise on immigration law. Discerning exactly what he proposes to do about it, however, is trickier.

He has said, “I hope we’re going to get a bill. I think immigration reform is necessary.” The main immigration measure in Congress now is the bill recently passed the Senate (opposed by both of Idaho's senators); Labrador said he opposes that bill, partly because it would provide legal status for 11 million people not legally in the country, and that it was inadequate on providing security. The bill, House Republican leadership has said, is DOA in that chamber.
In the House, Labrador was for a time part of a Group of Eight (not to be confused with the Senate's Group) working on a bill there, but in early June he very publicly quit it, citing disagreements over how health care for immigrants would be paid for. He said he would continue to work on the issue.

Blame (or credit) for failure to get a bill passed, he has said, should be placed at the doorstep of the Democrats, not the Republicans. He also said, last weekend on “Meet the Press,” that "If we don't do it right, politically it's going to be the death of the Republican Party," (more…)

Where’s the outrage?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Anyone who doesn’t believe the U.S. Congress – and more than a handful of states – aren’t screwing us over big-time isn’t paying attention. From student loans to national defense to control of our own health decisions – we’re being politically raped.

Taxes are being shifted to the least able to pay – personal rights are being attacked as never before in our times – anti-abortion Republicans are acting like safecrackers in the night – legislatures are running amok creating and passing bills with no prior public notice – Congress has turned its back on our repeated requests for action on dozens of issues we want solved – politicians at both levels are acting with a “voter-be-damned” attitude because they’ve perverted election districts to assure themselves near-lifetime job security.

No one – no one- can argue with these statements. Proof is overwhelming. Much of the congressional and legislative system is unresponsive to the electorate. And yet – something’s not happening. There’s no significant outrage. Anywhere. No one’s taking to the streets in numbers large enough to affect change. Recall petitions aren’t circulating by the hundreds. Few new faces are coming forward to challenge the bad guys – and bad women. Tens of millions of people are being hurt – some severely – and yet – silence.

Though I’ve been silent, too – stewing about this for many months – the North Carolina legislature finally sent me screaming over the edge this week. Late at night – with absolutely no advance notice – even to Democrats in the same legislative body – NC Republicans attached another Draconian anti-abortion rider to a motorcycle safety bill – a motorcycle safety bill - and rammed it though. No notice. No hearing. Not even on the agenda or bill reading calendar. Just whipped it out of the committee chairman’s drawer, slapped it on the table, waived the legal requirements for public notice and public hearings, and shot that sucker into the system. As we used to say, “wham-bam-thank you, Ma’am.”

North Carolina Republicans have used dishonest – and I’d bet illegal – maneuvers before in their handling of legislative matters. But never like this. And never with a subject that is of such deep, personal interest to millions of people in the state. Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas “lawmakers” have used this same underhanded “bum’s rush” scheme, too. All Republicans. The subjects are always the same: anti-abortion or limiting voting access for minorities. And many of them look you straight in the eye and say, “We’re doing the Lord’s work.” Yeah, if your lord’s name is Vader. (more…)

Diamondfield

Diamondfield

These days most written works of history - those atleast going back more than just a few decades - mostly are reliant on the written record. Writers go back over what's been written about the subject before, consult material from the times, original documents and first-person accounts where they're available. But mostly, writing history that runs back beyond living memory involves going through the paperwork and, if the writer is very lucky, finding some new paperwork no one has seen before, or maybe finding a new interpretation of it.

In writing the new book Diamondfield about the life and tribulations of Jack Davis, Max Black has gone through the written record, and found both new interpretations and masses of new records that no one - neither of the two previous authors who wrote at book length about Davis' murder trial and legal case - has examined before, not since the 19th century at least. That along is reason enough for a re-examination of the case.

But Black also did something more remarkable. He tracked down the location - information never positively determined for more than a century, and thought to be lost - where the murders in question took place. He found in the ground there one of the bullets involved in that shooting, a bullet that an expert concluded had been there for more than a century. And he found a gun that was involved. And quite a bit more long thought to be lost and irretrievable.

This is a remarkable piece of detective work, more than reason enough why I'm pleased to be publishing this book.

The Diamondfield Jack case may be unfamiliar to you if you're not an afficianado of the Old West, but anyone interested in the time and place will pick it up immediately. The context was the great cattle and sheep conflict (between opposing ranchers, not the animals) around the 1880s in south-central Idaho. (There were other similar conflicts, range wars really, in Wyoming and elsewhere.) The shootings of two sheep herders was the trigger for the case; Jack Davis was a gunman employed by the cattle interests, and accused of the killings. The two men were in fact killed by cattle workers, but not by Davis, and the Davis murder case dragged on for years, even years after two other men had themselves confessed to the killing. Davis came within minutes of being hanged, before eventually receiving a pardon. He left Idaho, and went on to a remarkable life in Nevada and elsewhere around the west.

The story long has been poorly understood, and the reasons for it tell a lot about early Idaho and how it developed as it did. Black, after putting together more of the pieces than anyone had before, lays it all out in clear fashion.

Max Black doesn't come to this by professional circuits. A long-time Boisean, he served in the Idaho Legislature for a couple of decades, and in his private life worked in insurance. But he brought to his search for the facts an unusual determination, and that was enough to unearth what no one had before.

What he's come up with here is a book worth reading for what it says about Idaho, for what it says about the old west, for what it says about one of the country's most notorious murder cases, and what it says about what determination in search of the facts and the truth really can do.

We’ve aided their duplicity

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Some years ago, I got a call from a friend who was serving in elective office. He’d decided to run for re-election and wanted to talk about his future plans.

I approached our coffee session with thoughts of what sort of fund raising would be needed, how to reactivate former volunteers, how to get him appearances in front of local groups and how many days were left for neighborhood walks and door-knocking. Typical election topics that must be discussed before announcing. Decisions that need making. I was prepared for what I thought the conversation was to be about. I was not prepared for what he had to say.

“My wife and I have decided to get a divorce,” he said. “Do you think we should do it before the election or after? What effect do you think it will have on voters? Will it make a difference?”

POW!

Needless to say, that morning’s pre-campaign discussion was about a subject that had not crossed my mind. But – at that time -it was central to his decision to run again. It could’ve been a killer.

Move the calendar up about 40 years. We have Senator david Vitter (R-LA) – re-elected though he’s a multiple adulterer with a string of prostitutes. We have Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC) – a long-term adulterer elected to Congress after his multiple intercontinental romps at taxpayer expense as South Carolina Governor while lying to his staff and constituents about it all. Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner – forced out of office for sexual misbehavior on his smartphone – now running for mayor of New York City. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is running for New York City Comptroller against a former madam he jailed when he was New York Attorney General before he was forced out of office for his own $80,000 prostitution activities. After which he had two national TV shows. And a best-selling book.

There are other multiple adulterers like Newt Gingrich, the ex-speaker of the House – but you get the point. It used to be politicians were deathly afraid of even a hint of scandal or family problems. Many stayed in unhappy marriages because of fear of a tarnished public image. Now, they seemingly thrive despite outright escapades with hookers, South American girlfriends, sexting, adultery and other sins of the flesh.

Now I’ll be among the first to admit cultural standards have changed. We are – for the most part – a more accepting nation than we used to be. In most respects, we’re a more forgiving people. But have we lowered the bar for morality to the point we would shun a friend for some of this behavior but elect strangers to determine national governmental policies while committing the same sins? (more…)

Why bother?

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

News flash: Republicans will sweep all the statewide and federal offices on the 2014 ballot.

No follower of Idaho politics will be stunned by this statement, nor will any disagree. Neither should this be taken as a criticism of the Democratic Party’s relatively new chairman, Larry Kenck. He knows the process of his party returning to parity with the GOP will take years of basic precinct level grunt work.

Privately, he would probably concede the Democrat’s poor prospects because he has been around long enough to know that party’s can provide some organization, some funding, and ancillary services such as media training and marketing support.

But, party organizations seldom produce the most important ingredient - quality, competent individuals with a driving passion to effect change.

He knows also that the huge Republican majority in Idaho has led to factionalism, harsh divisions and petty squabbling that leaves the average voter wondering what is it that the Republicans are imbibing in their drinking water.

Likewise, he knows the antics of major Republican officeholders, along with the dismantling of state support for properly funding an education system that truly prepares Idaho students to compete in the global marketplace has provided a “golden opportunity” to nail the “no nothings” and the troglodytes to the wall.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter appears ready to run for a third term despite a record of zero accomplishment (name one significant thing he has done while in office?). Yes, he is personally charming, and yes he loves to be on the road with the Capitol for a Day program. There is something grossly wrong, however, when on his watch the state has fallen to last in the nation in per pupil expenditures for education and he brags about Idaho paying the lowest minimum wage.

When one starts defining “success” in negative terms, i.e., “I stopped the growth of government,” or despite a massive shift of education funding to the backs of local taxpayers who vote for over-ride levies to make up for dwindling state support becomes “we never increased your taxes,” look out my friends because you’re being taken for a ride. (more…)

Fixing the Great American Health Mistake

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The Obama administration’s decision last week to delay a mandate for large employers to provide health insurance or pay fine is both meaningless and significant.

It’s meaningless because it impacts such a small number of employers. Nearly all employers with more than 50 employees already provide health insurance. And those that do not, are unlikely to change course because of the penalty (even at $2,000 per full-time employee that costs far less than insurance).

But it’s significant because it highlights The Great American Health Care Mistake. This country should have never forged health care to work. It was an accident, a way to avoid wage controls during World War II. No other country in the world has such a crazy system. And it makes no sense to let our employers make decisions about our health care. All the basic stuff: What kind of coverage we buy, what should be covered, or even our provider networks and, therefore our doctors.

This mistake let Americans “pretend” that health insurance did not have a cost. It was a quiet part of our compensation, but because it’s not measured by the employee (although that will change soon), it wasn’t something we were willing to spend money on ourselves.

But employer-sponsored insurance is declining. It’s a trend that began before federal health care reform. The percentage of Americans who receive health insurance through employers dropped from 69.7 percent in 2000 to just 59.5 percent in 2011, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

And even when company insurance is offered, more employees are saying, “no thanks.” In 2000, 81.8 percent of employees who were offered coverage enrolled. A decade later, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study reported, only 76.3 percent did.

The reason for the decline in both employer and employee participation is simple: Insurance costs are out-of-sight. The study said the premium for employee-only coverage doubled from 2000 to 2011, increasing from $2,490 to $5,081. Family premiums went up by 125 percent, from $6,415 to $14,447, during the same time period.

Across the country, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study did not find a single state where employee-sponsored insurance actually increased, and 22 states saw decreases of 10 percent or more. (more…)

How long a shot?

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Mike Simpson, the Republican now representing Idaho's second district for his eighth term, has become one of the state's most successful politicians. No one has held a U.S. House seat as long since Democrat Compton White more than half a century ago, and no one longer since the early statehood days of Addison Smith and Burton French.

So is the primary challenge unveiled in week's district-wide tour, by Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, actually a threat?

The first snap answer, and maybe the considered answer too, based on the recent record, is that it's a long shot.

General elections have posed no challenge to Simpson since his first win for the House in 1998, the race that was his closest, against former Democratic Representative Richard Stallings; he's won in landslides every time since. More or less a centrist within his party, he drew no primary opposition in his first four races for re-election, and in 2008 two challengers could draw only 14.8% between them. But Simpson's lofty 85.2% dropped to 58.3% in 2010, the year of the Tea Party, when three candidates ganged up on him. That looked like an indication of some in-party weakness. The heaviest vote getter among them, Chick Heileson, pulled 24.1%; but when he ran again in 2012, he drew just 30.4% against Simpson. That may indicate Simpson lost some in-party strength, then regained much of it.

What does all that suggest for 2014? Well, like 2010, it will be an off-presidential year, where party activists – in this case, conservative activists – will be disproportionately represented in the primary. And unlike 2010, the Republican primary this time will be voted by registered party members. The results in the 2012 primaries didn't indicate that necessarily meant a conservative sweep, but the full import has to be tested in an off-presidential year. One of Smith's most visible supporters was the lead architect of Republican primary registration, former legislator Rod Beck. (more…)