Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Majority Caucus chair, State Senator Russell Fulcher, is doing a favor for the voting public as well as the media by challenging incumbent Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter in a contest for the Republican nomination. He could also be doing Otter a favor.

For 104,000 Idahoans who would be eligible for an expanded Medicaid program, however, Fulcher is ensuring their needs will not be met. Real suffering even unnecessary deaths, will occur.

By challenging his party’s sitting governor what looked like a dull run-up to a third almost uncontested term suddenly has created the magic “buzz” candidates and their campaigns like to generate, but few do.

The Meridian senator has already generated extensive coverage by a media desperate for the good copy a hotly contested race between Tea Party conservatives and status quo regular Republicans will provide.

The media loves intra-party fights.

Now the perception (whether true or not) is a real horse race is shaping up. The result should be more scrutiny of the candidates, their issues and stances. An attentive voter can be the beneficiary if this translates into a more informed vote.

Many political pundits were surprised by the Otter campaign’s bland response to Fulcher’s announcement which more or less said “we’ll see you down the road.” If ever there is a good time for an incumbent to start defining his challenger its right at the get-go when they announce.

Governor Otter’s campaign manager, the normally competent Jayson Ronk, missed one of the best opportunities to frame what the race will be all about.

Fulcher will sound a familiar theme borrowed from Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential race: “a choice, not an echo!”

Like Tea Party candidate Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney challenging Rep. Mike Simpson in the second congressional district, he will claim he is the true conservative, not the incumbent.

The glib five-term State Senator from District 22 is counting on true blue Republicans (Only those previously registered as R’s will be able to vote in the May primary) responding to his message that the Governor sold the state down the river by registering Idaho’s insurance exchange with the hated ObamaCare program.

The real victims of Fulcher’s challenge, however, will be the estimated 104,000 Idahoans eligible for Medicaid under new rules being promulgated. In addition this expansion would greatly relieve most every county’s indigent fund that pays a large share of the cost for medical treatment that the poor cannot afford. For Fiscal Years 2014, 2015 and 2016 the Federal government would pay 100% of this expansion cost estimated to be $750 million each year.

The problem is the Legislature sees this as Phase II of ObamaCare and another invasive Federal intrusion. If it approves participation at the end of the three years the state is supposed to start picking up 10% of the cost.

So the Legislature has already foregone FY 2014. Fulcher’s challenge of Otter premised on Otter’s supposed cave-in to the Feds on a state-run insurance exchange virtually guarantees the governor will not support FY 2015 and 2016 participation in the Medicaid expansion despite a $1.5 billion infusion of federal funds into the state. The estimated savings for state and county taxpayers in FY 2015 is $80 million.

Make no mistake, folks, a New England Journal of Medicine study in 2012 claims that for every 172 new enrollees in Medicaid there is one less death. Therefore one can plausibly lay 600 deaths directly at the feet of Governor Otter, Senator Fulcher and Idaho legislators who in their blind hatred of Obama and ObamaCare are saying they don’t care.

What’s puzzling is that Otter, while succumbing to Fulcher’s pressure with regard to Medicaid expansion, turns around and invites the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to speak at a fund-raiser in Coeur d’Alene on December 6th openly taunts and derides for their 18th

Fulcher has to be happy about this “arrogance” on Otter’s part, knowing full well that arrogance was a major issue contributing to unknown State Senator Don Samuelson’s upset of three-term GOP Governor Robert Smylie in the 1966 GOP primary.

Most of the time gubernatorial decisions and legislative concurrence does not mean life or death for people. Every once in awhile though playing politics has real life or death consequences. The issue of Medicaid expansion is just such an instance.

While Senator Fulcher’s challenge to Governor Otter’s bid for a third term promises to be entertaining one hopes the media and the voter understands it has already had sad consequences for the some 600 Idahoans who the study says will die because of lack of access to an expanded Medicaid program our governor and legislature turned its back upon.

Think about it.

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Carlson Idaho

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Most of us move many times in our lives. For whatever reason exists at the moment. Life’s exigencies as it were. In the process, we’re deluged with changes in nearly everything. New environment – new and different shopping – new geography and place names to learn – sometimes different local customs or practices – new driver’s licenses or passports. Leaving friends. Meeting new people. The whole moving experience is often change top to bottom. We get used to it.

I’ve moved many times. Many and often. Across town, state-to-state, coast-to-coast and border-to-border. Life’s adjustments caused by relocating have been regular and varied. So often, in fact, I thought our most recent was just another “pack-‘em-up-and-move-‘em-out.” Wrong.

The first time we moved to the edge of the Pacific was a decade ago. We did it because we’d never lived there. Simple as that. Lots of exciting new things to experience and a very different living environment. My flat land artist wife has been ocean-smitten for years. So when the moving bug hit this time, like Brigham Young, she pointed westward and the family wagons moved. And we learned all over again.

Coastal living – Oregon coastal living – is a whole new deal. Take shopping, for instance. Most communities are small with limited store selection. If you want a Costco or Mode or Best Buy, you have to drive more than 50-75 miles inland. Then back. There may be an occasional Safeway or Fred Meyer but most grocery outlets are small, regional types like IGA or Ray’s or Grocery Outlet or Mom & Pop’s.

Prices for everything – everything – are higher. It’s a lifestyle premium you pay for rainfall that can exceed 90 inches a year. Yes, Virginia, 90! And there’s the fog and cold and other things that aggravate your arthritis and rheumatism. Lots of seniors try living near the ocean but find some of the frailties of age can make it a painful experience. So they either develop a tolerance or move inland again.

You can’t just go to a store near the ocean and buy anything you want or need at any time. One June, I was looking for a long-sleeved shirt at the largest chain store in Brookings and was told they only carried long-sleeved shirts between September and April. If I really wanted one in June, it would be a 180 mile drive. Until September, of course.

Medical care is most often sketchy. Hospitals – where they exist at all – are small and specialists are few. So major medical needs result in 100-200 mile drives inland or, in the case of a real emergency, air ambulance. Cost for that? Don’t even think about it.

You get used to two-lane highways at all times. Or occasionally one-lane. No Interstate or beltways. And you know, in nearly all cases, North and South are the only ways out of town. Until you get to the next two-lane heading East which could be many miles away. In the small coastal towns, don’t even think of trying to turn left off Highway 101 from May through September. Backs up local traffic for miles.

Then there’s mold and mildew. Everywhere. In, around and through everything. If you store household goods commercially, you must have heated and climate-controlled lockers. Dehumidifiers are as standard in most coastal homes as air conditioners further inland. Houses that look in good shape outside can have rotten footings and mold-despoiled electrical systems. You learn to deal with mold and mildew. Or you move away from the coast.

Winds can be a problem. In some of the more exposed places they can hit 50 to 70 miles-an-hour during the larger storms. Things in your yard that aren’t battened down disappear regularly. Replacing all or part of wind-damaged roofs or fencing is as permanent a job security as being a mortician. And a not-unexpected additional homeowner cost.

Weather can change on a dime. We’ve experienced 75 degrees on Christmas day followed by a dusting of snow on New Year’s Eve. It can rain for an hour – a day – three weeks straight. Living permanently near the Pacific requires a change of wardrobe. Rainproof outerwear or slickers. Water-tight shoes and boots. You keep an umbrella in the car at all times. Even though most “coasters” think using one is for tourists.

These are just some of the issues you face when taking up permanent residence near Oregon’s Pacific shoreline. Very different from the blue skies of August when you and the family spent that week in a rented condo and you thought maybe this would be a good place to retire. That week doesn’t really represent the struggles of year-round residence. Over a 12 month period, living by the sea can be a very trying experience. It ain’t for sissies.

So, here we are. Again.

“Why,” you ask? “Why do it again given all those drawbacks – the irritation – the problems?”

Well, I’ll answer that. In a bit. Right now, the sun is out. The sky and the ocean are blue as a baby’s bright eyes. And the surf’s really pounding. Gotta go. I’ll get back to you.

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Rainey