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Posts published in “Year: 2015”

First take/Oregonian

It's been a couple of years since we dropped our Oregonian subscription, the combination of price increase and diminished product having become too great a disincentive to continue. We'd start again tomorrow if we could get the paper we had back, say, even five years ago. But that ship seems to have sailed.

And the Oregonian marketing department seems to know it; it's been well over a year since we've heard from them, by phone or mail or anything else, soliciting back our business. Usually, if you're looking for new customers, old customers are a good place to look.

We do look at the paper much of the time - a neighbor shares many copies of it after finishing with it - and the content seems ever thinner. And then there was the report a few days ago about the latest round of buyouts, which eliminated nearly all of the last few publicly-visible and well-regarded (in these quarters anyway) names, like columnist Steve Duin and political reporter Jeff Mapes.

The paper will soldier on. But it will get weaker in all regards. And it's giving people ever fewer reasons to come back, or to hang in there. A sad thing. - rs

A mass in Hell

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The Mass in Hell took place on April 6, 2008. Officiating priest was Father Steve Dublinski, then the vicar general for administration in the Spokane diocese, rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane, my pastor, friend and one hell ‘uv a fine fly fisherman.

I had introduced him to the sacred rites of the most exclusive fraternity a few years earlier, but Father Steve quickly passed me in knowledge and skill. In no way could I claim to be his mentor, nor did I. Largely self-taught, Father Steve approached the challenge with the kind of diligence one more easily might associate with a medieval monk who had just stumbled across a major remnant of one of the lost Gnostic gospels.

Before six months had elapsed he was tying his own flies. Nonetheless, I felt rewarded for being the mid-wife to this new holy alliance Father Steve had embraced so easily for it led to many a wonderful Wednesday in which Father Steve and I would stalk the wily westslope cutthroat up and down the reaches of the nearby St. Joe River or the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday was Father Steve’s day off and it quickly became the day of the week verboten for anyone to schedule anything on my calendar. I also introduced Father Steve to some of the fine literature about his new hobby. His favorite was A River Runs Through It by the Montana born and raised professor of English at the University of Chicago, Norman Maclean.

Father Steve was a Chicago native himself, having been born there on June 26th. While still an infant the family moved to Walla Walla. There Dublinski attended St. Patrick’s Parish and received his early education at the Catholic high school, DeSales. Though more noted for its phenomenally successful football and baseball programs (At one point DeSales had captured ten small school state baseball championships), Dublinski, a tall and lean 6 feet four inches, was a key starter on the school’s basketball team.

Even in high school, though, it was clear to fellow students that this Dublinski (Father Steve had five other siblings) was a cut above others in terms of intellect and interest in philosophy and religion. From DeSales he attended and received his B.A. from Spokane’s Gonzaga University.

While attending Gonzaga he decided to enter the priesthood, a path which required six more years of education four of which he spent studying in Rome. While there Father Steve discovered and to this day loves Italian food.

This led to a second treat besides the Sunday Mass - we all were introduced the night before to Father Steve’s culinary talent and his specialty, pasta carbanara.

That particular weekend the weather in the Hells Canyon of the Snake River that borders Idaho and Oregon for almost 100 miles was a typical blustery and ever-changing April. There had been few sunbreaks during the day and a cool wind was blowing down river as we lit the fire in the grate on the camp site we had established in the old horse pasure adjacent to the Jordan Ranch on Kirkwood Bar.

For a number of years our family’s first hiking/camping outing of the season was into Hells Canyon in part because spring always “sprung”two to three weeks earlier there. This particular year we had invited Father Steve to join us along with our old neighbors from Bainbridge Island, the Rick Richards family. We had taken a jet boat operated by Beamer’s out of Lewiston the 90 miles up the Snake to the Jordan Ranch where we established base camp and took day hikes from there.

That Father Steve was able to make an extraordinary and tasty pasta carbonara with the temperature dropping into the low 40’s and a light rain falling was considered a minor miracle.

On Sunday morning, however, we arose the sounds of chukars clucking in the hills, blue sky, warm sunshine and no breeze. It felt like another Easter morning with the promise of spring and summer overwhelming the senses. At 8:30 a.m. Father Steve laid out a vestment made in Italy and a chalice made in Mexico. A large rock in the corner of the pasure served as the altar in this cathedral of the great outdoors and seven people took part in the most sacred ritual of all---the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. During the prayers of the faithful I thanked the Lord for all the wonderful blessings mine and me enjoy but a special thanks for that day and those there.

It seemed to me that only in Idaho could such a special event like a Mass in Hell occur.

As Christmas in the year of our Lord, 2015, draws ever closer, may each and every one reading this remember what this season is all about: may you find the peace that passeth understanding and obtain the more abundant life that is promised. Merry Christmas from our home to you and all yours.

(Editor’s Note: This column was taken from the introduction to the forthcoming book by the author on Hells Canyon due out next summer.)

First take/debate

Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear Fear. Fear.

Any terrorists out there, anyone at ISIS, watching last night's Republican presidential debate had to be absolutely delighted: Their job of scaring the American people was being done to the utmost by the presidential candidates, just about all of them, of one of America's two major political parties.

I've never heard a collection of presidential candidates sounding so frightened, so on edge, so ready to kill anyone and everyone - out of fear. What becomes most terrifying is letting any of them (with the possible exception of Rand Paul, who sounded the most grounded on this subject) anywhere near any actual military power, much less that of the by-far most powerful nation on earth.

One watcher pondered how it was "A debate about foreign policy in which no actual treaties were discussed. A debate about the most dangerous threats to America and no discussion of home-grown terrorists. A debate about national security that didn’t delve into the costs of war."

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall recounted how the debate painted

. . . the global picture of a country, at least a major fraction of a country, totally unhinged by ISIS and the gruesome massacre in San Bernardino, California. Certainly the first half of the debate was roiled by repeated invocations of fear, the celebration of fear, the demand that people feel and react to their fear. This was logically joined to hyperbolic and ridiculous claims about ISIS as a group that might not simply attack America or kill Americans but might actually destroy the United States or even our entire civilization.

Politically, the GOP has an interest in whipping up this kind of hysteria. But a substantial number of people in this country also clearly need this fantasy vision of a great clash between good and evil which is in its own way only slightly less apocalyptic and unhinged than the philosophy of ISIS itself.

If one of them is elected, I'm not sure who exactly we'd be going to war with. But we'd be going to war with somebody, by damn. We'd be sending those troops in and dropping those bombs.

And on the day after election day, if one of them is elected, the people in every other nation on earth would have good reason to ask: Are we going to sit here and wait to be destroyed, or do something about it first? This kind of super-jingo talk isn't being heard only by Americans, after all. Anyone who perceives a grievance with the United States, and anyone who wants to attack us, heard it too.

And the world takes another spin around the crazy wheel . . . But none of it, and none of this hysteria, is in the best interests of the United States or its people. - rs (image/BillyfabianCow)

Red, brown, black, young

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It's easy to get confused by this year's campaign for president. If you get information from watching television or from Internet rumblings, you might think Republicans are driving toward a massive victory. And why not? Donald Trump packs thousands of people into every one of his rallies and the television ratings for G.O.P. debates are ginormous. So this must be the Republican year, right?

The problem with that narrative is that it misses the demographic shift that's been occurring in America.

Fact is any Republican candidate for president starts off in a deep hole. To win a candidate will have to erase a structural deficit. Sure, it's possible, but it's also growing more unlikely because of the tone coming from the 2016 campaign so far. Why the deep hole? When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 the population of the United States was 80 percent white. Today it's about 63 percent white.

One demographic profile of voters by The National Journal shows how dramatically the country has changed since Reagan's landslide. He won with the support 56 percent of white voters in 1980. "But in 2012, when non­white voters ac­coun­ted for 28 per­cent of the elect­or­ate, Mitt Rom­ney took 59 per­cent of white voters—and lost the pres­id­en­tial race by 4 per­cent­age points. Without a total brand makeover, how can Re­pub­lic­ans ex­pect to pre­vail with an even more di­verse electorate in 2016?"

The country's diversity trend is just beginning. The U.S. Census reports that American Indians and Alaska Natives grew 1.4 percent since 2013, compared to 0.5 percent for whites. "Even more diverse than millennials are the youngest Americans: those younger than 5 years old. In 2014, this group became majority-minority for the first time, with 50.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group," the Census said. So in 13 years the majority of new voters will be people of color and in twenty-five years a majority of all voters.
The GOP's demographic challenge

The Republicans have a long term problem.

"Based on estimates of the composition of the 2016 electorate, if the next GOP nominee wins the same share of the white vote as Mitt Romney won in 2012 (59 percent), he or she would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote," Dan Balz recently wrote in The Washington Post. "Set against recent history, that is a daunting obstacle. Romney won only 17 percent of nonwhite voters in 2012. John McCain won 19 percent in 2008. George W. Bush won 26 percent in 2004."

It's important to remember, however, that presidential elections are 50 separate state elections that determine the electoral college vote. So discount every poll you see that compares one Republican versus one Democrat. Instead think: Which states?

And it's in these state contests where the American Indians and Alaska Native voters are becoming more important, especially as part of a coalition.

Nevada is a good place to start examining these trends. In 2012, Nevada voters were about 65 percent white. Next year's voters are projected to drop to about 60 percent. So it will be possible to build a winning coalition made up of some white voters (a third or so) plus significant majorities from Latino, African American, Asian American and Native Americans.

Other states where such coalitions are possible: Alaska, Arizona, Wisconsin, and, eventually, Oklahoma.

The web site Five Thirty Eight has a nifty electronic interactive calculator that lets you project election scenarios. What happens if more minority voters turn out? Think landslide. More important: Break down the Republican constituencies and see where that party's strength comes from. "Whites without college degrees are now the bedrock of the Republican coalition: They voted for Mitt Romney 62 percent to 36 percent in 2012," Five Thirty Eight reports. "However, their share of the electorate is rapidly shrinking: They skew older and more rural, and we project that their share of the national vote will fall to 33 percent in 2016, down from 36 percent in 2012. Nonetheless, they still factor heavily in battleground states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin."

What's striking about this election so far is that the Republican candidates are not trying to build a coalition with minority voters, young voters, or even fix the gender gap that's been a problem for decades. Millennials are now the largest age group - some 90 million people - and are more independent than previous generations. Most millennials lean toward the Democrats, but even those who say they are Republican see the world very differently than today's Republican candidates. Pew Research Center found: "The generational divisions among Republicans span different dimensions of political values. Some of the most striking generational differences within Republicans concern social issues like homosexuality and immigration, but younger Republicans are also less conservative when it comes to values related to the environment, role of government, the social safety net and the marketplace."

So as we enter 2016 it's important to discount the news coming from the campaign. It's going to be a crazy year with all sorts of scenarios possible ranging from fights at the conventions to third-party runs. Sure, it's even possible, that one of the Republican candidates will whip up magic and unite a coalition of voters. But that would take words designed to reach consensus with the new majority of voters. There will be another GOP debate Tuesday. (I will be live tweeting.) Watch and see if even one candidate recognizes that the road to the White House is red, brown, black and young.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

First take/water


The signing of the final decree of the Snake River Basin Adjudication in August 2014 must have felt to some people like an end of Idaho water history - and it was the conclusion of a major chapter in that history. But by no means the end of all of it.

In fact, in some ways it opened whole new areas for conflict and dispute, which is not a criticism but a way of saying that what the SRBA really did, which was to clarify who had rights to what water, was to nail down facts but not make policy judgments about what should be done with them. The reality is that there's less water in the Snake River basin than Idahoans would ideally like to have, and that means there'll be conflict.

One policy area where Idaho has been notably successful, an arena where other states could usefully draw positive lessons, over the years has been water management. This video (sent our way by former newspaper colleague Steve Steubner, who worked on it) outlines usefully what some of the issues are now and how they're being addressed. At least for now. This is a territory where the debates will be going on for a very long time. - rs

A media swamp

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Along with all the fundamental societal changes going on, over, under and around us these days, the media is wandering into a swamp from which it won’t escape in anything recognizable or familiar. In fact, on the national level, it’s already there.

Though I’ve spent much of my life in and around a lot of media, unless you’re a stranger to these irregular musings, you know I’ve become one of its more severe critics. Trust, balance, accuracy, responsibility - all have eroded. To find such descriptive media qualities, you’ve now got to ignore much of it, and go searching for what little remains that’s worth your time. That search is getting more difficult.

The swamp - as I’ve begun to call it - is this. While all media has traditionally been relied upon to report, some are now taking on the irresponsible additional step of deciding what’s true and what’s not and mixing the two. Rather than report and letting you decide, which as been the basic maxim historically, media outlets have entered into the “we-report-we’ll-tell-you-what-to-believe” mode.

This phenomenon has been around for some time, but it’s being raised to a new level. It now involves more of the traditional “straight down the middle” institutions who’ve used editorial and opinion pages in the past for expressing viewpoints or positions on this, that and the other.

No more. And if you want to pinpoint where much of the change recently began, look no further than the Republican Presidential Primary. In fact, you can hone it down even more. It’s spelled T-R-U-M-P.

For many years, larger newspapers and some TV outlets have used what they euphemistically called “fact check” features. While reporting the basic event, they’d set aside some space or time to “fact check” and note where the subject of their coverage veered into half-truths or no truths. That’s been considered acceptable and with which I have no problem.

But now, things have gone beyond that to glaring headlines of criticism or opinion. Stories now too often lead with something like “Trump crazily attacks Bush.” Or “Trump irresponsibly harkens to practices of Nazis.” Or “The Donald falsely blames Obama for inaction.” A headline designed to get you to read by adding a twist of sensationalism and opinion. Right wing media has done that for many years. Now, more moderate and mainstream media have joined in.

I’ve a theory for this unsavory practice. For what it’s worth, I think Trump - and in some cases Cruz, Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee and others - have made such outrageous statements or claims that editors and publishers finally felt it was time to openly rebut. I used to often feel that way. But an old friend - for whom I have much respect - always said “You report and let the audience/reader sort it out.” He was right. Then.

But the level of political discourse has, I believe, become so filled with half-truths, irresponsible claims and outright lies that much of the media has stepped over the line. Additionally, the fact that Trump - in particular - can utter such bald-faced lies and not lose support, has driven the media into this swamp. He continues his inflammatory and fact-less campaign saying things that should have killed him in the polls. But it hasn’t. And in some polls, his support has risen.

Where my wise friend offered good advice 40 years ago, we’re seeing daily proof that too many people - especially those supporting Trump and Cruz - don’t know enough about their government or true conditions today to be able to “sort it out.” Or don’t care. I’ve watched interviews with more than one Trump follower who acknowledge his lies about something but say all politicians lie and they would just ignore Trump’s B.S..

Trump and some of the others are playing to fears of these folks - educated or not - with racist demagoguery, religious bigotry and offering false promises of security and setting everything right. Back to where it was. Before the fears. In doing so, they’re playing to people who want reassurances - honest or not - that things will “get back to normal.”

The Republican presidential campaign has, thus far, been an embarrassment to the nation, the world and - especially - to what remains of the GOP. It’s been filled with totally unqualified candidates, spouting verbal garbage and showing their ignorance of how our government works. When it works. Billionaires have gutted the party by going around it with their bags of bucks and have tossed Prebius and what remains into the gutter. No one - no one - is stepping up to salvage the Republican Party and restore it as our second national political representative which we badly need.

Still, from a perspective of responsible journalism, there’s no excuse for the national media being both the reporter and the debunking mechanism as it’s now doing. This campaign will - God willing - end some day soon. Whoever’s left standing - Republican or Democrat - is going to have to pick up the pieces and form a functioning government. And we’ll need a responsible media to help inform and restore public faith in that new government. That can’t happen if the national media has made itself into some sort of judgmental messenger.

Trump, Huckabee, Fiorina, Huckabee and some others are - in my opinion - unfit for public office at any level. But a media openly judging and denouncing our affairs as “reporting”scares me even more.

First take/winter

About a month ago meteorologists around the Northwest, and California, started generating news stories about how this might be a wet and somewhat warmer winter, at least in the northern states.

There was this quote from Mike Halpert, the deputy director at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center: “A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter,” said . “While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”

It's certainly working out that way so far, at least as far as the precip is concerned.

The last few weeks have been as consistently rainy as the previous half-year had been dry. If this keeps up, the region may be better positioned for next year than it has for the last few. California's drought is so deep at this point that even a very wet winter won't wholly fix the problem there, but the Northwest may get a breather.

If the wet continues. - rs (photo)

Labrador’s government

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Raul Labrador, the representative from Idaho so visible in the elite media, has given us something there worth chewing over, at the heart of what this country is about, and in the heart of Raul Labrador.

You’ll find it in a December 14 article for the New Yorker by Ryan Lizza on how a smallish group of U.S. House members called the “Freedom Caucus”, for which Labrador is a spokesman, won enough clout to push out one House speaker, John Boehner, and circumscribe his replacement, Paul Ryan.

Ostensibly, the reasons concern policy: The decisions about how the country should be governed. The policy had mostly to do with the budget, and the prospect that an inability to compromise on it, as federal officials have done for a couple of hundred years and more, might shut down the government. The Caucus has insisted on conditions; noncompliance by the Senate and president may result in a shutdown.

Lizza quoted Labrador, “We don’t want a shutdown, we don’t want a default on the debt, but when the other side knows that you’re unwilling to do it you will always lose,” Labrador said. That means he considers a shutdown and fiscal default an acceptable bargaining chip. The article noted, “Unlike many Republicans, Labrador did not see the shutdown as a permanent stain on the Party. He grabbed one of two large poster-board polling charts leaning against his desk; it was titled ‘Before /After 2013 Shutdown’ and showed the Republican Party’s approval ratings quickly recovering.”

Labrador’s point: “Within a couple of months, people forgot what happened. So our favorables went back up, and our unfavorables went back down.” What was important was not that people thought a government shutdown was damaging or wrong or bad, but that (whew!) the voters have a short memory, and therefore a shutdown won’t be a liability for Republicans when they vote.

He then noted that this year, absent shutdowns, favorable ratings for Republicans have fallen from 41 percent to 32 percent. Why? The party was “governing,” he said, with air quotes. (Don’t give me any garbage about how that’s a term of art or some metaphor or joke. It was perfectly clear.) “If people just want to ‘govern,’ which means bringing more government, they’re always going to choose the Democrat,” he said.

Full stop. Re-read those last paragraphs. Or read the New Yorker article (which, as far as I can tell, Labrador has not objected to). Or what Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote: “That is a remarkable theory of the case: Republicans lose ground when they govern along with Democrats, because achieving bipartisan governing compromise inherently represents capitulation to Dems, in the sense that when government functions, it affirms the Dem vision.”

The way to affirm the Republican vision, by that logic, would be to force our government to collapse. That means governing at all is the problem: Republicans shouldn’t do that. If they actually, you know, “govern”, if they perform their jobs in a useful or constructive manner, they’re part of the problem. The alternative being . . . what? Civic vandalism? A sit-in at the Capitol? That our government ought to be damaged so as not to function?

Be clear about this: However much we dislike things our government does or fails to do, there will be a government of the United States as long as there is a United States. No nation ever has been without a government. Someone will rule here. The theory behind our form of government is that we the people, though our elected representatives, rule – that we govern.

Labrador’s view seems to be that the whole project of governing, or at least of self-government, is terrible. And damaging to his political party. So what does he think his job as a member of Congress is? What is he’s accomplishing if he intentionally rejects governing? And if he – and implicitly his allies too – are not governing, then who does he think should be in charge? I’d like to know who he’d hand the reins over to.

When you see him, ask.

First take/fear fear

No big surprise: A New York Times/CBS News poll taken in recent days finds 44% of Americans say a terrorist attack is “very likely” to happen in the next few months.

Depending on how you define your terms, that may be a safe prediction. Increasingly, there are calls (variously from left and right) for defining any mass shooting, as at San Bernardino and Colorado Springs, as a terrorist incident. In that case, the 44% are almost surely right, since mass shootings have been happening a lot faster than that.

But maybe we ought to get rid of the word "terrorist" altogether and call these murder sprees what else they are: murder. Crimes, not an ideological statement or an expression of war.

Murder can be frightening enough when you're brought face to face with it, or personally face the threat. But "terrorism" connotes a sense of impersonal pinpointing that really does scare a lot of people.

Which is just fine if you're a political figure like Donald Trump, who feeds off fear, or any number of other interests that have something direct to gain from it. But this country does not benefit, nor do the people in it, from being perpetually fearful. Alert and prepared to act, yes. But fearful, no. Those who consider themselves loyal Americans but who stoke the fear - and the fear is rising as it is deliberately stoked, not just by perpetrators but by those who exploit as well - should be ashamed, and reconsider if they have any right to call themselves loyal Americans.

And if you need a convincer about that, consider what it is that "terrorists" are trying to accomplish with their acts. Their intent is right there in that noun. Why are so many purportedly patriotic Americans so eager to help them in their quest? - rs (photo)

Governor and the working poor

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The Governor’s proposed plan to avoid recognizing the Affordable Care Act remedy for Idaho’s working poor, as revealed in last Saturday’s Statesman, is just plain dumb.

He cannot seriously expect anybody to believe in it. Further, as stories of needless deaths and suffering from lack of affordable health care continue to mount, the Governor’s continued obstinacy to expanding Medicaid is just plain cruel.

The problem is how to provide adequate health coverage for a defined class of Idaho’s working poor, meaning those who do not receive health care through their employment, do not earn enough to qualify for subsidized private insurance from the state exchange, cannot depend upon a parent or spouse for health care coverage, and who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under existing eligibility requirements. In Idaho there are approximately 78,000 individuals who fall into this category and have therefore remained uninsured. Two solutions are on the horizon.

Option A is to expand Medicaid to cover this defined class. This obvious solution is the intended implementation of the ACA. Federal funds to cover ten years of expanded Medicaid benefits are already built into the Act, so the cost to the state to accomplish and maintain the expansion is exactly zero. The estimated return in federal health benefits paid on behalf of the working poor recipients would be approximately $70 million per year. All that is required to fully implement the Act is state approval.

Option B is to continue the status quo with the addition of the Governor’s proposed care plan. This plan would cover some doctor’s visits for preventive care only, but would not provide coverage for labs, diagnostics, hospital care, prescription coverage, or follow up. Emergency care would still be under county indigency programs. Non-emergency hospitalization and surgery is not covered; there is no coverage for acute outpatient, non-emergency diagnostics, nor any follow-up care.

This means for example, that most cancer, cardiac and diabetic care would not be covered except for emergency flare-ups. To get any kind of follow up care, the circumstances have to qualify as a catastrophic disease or condition. The young woman who died in Idaho Falls from untreated asthma would still be uninsured under the Governor’s status quo plan. Everyone, even the Republicans who were recently quoted, acknowledged that the addition of the new plan to the existing hodge-podge of the status quo would be inadequate.

The cost of this new plan would be at least $30 million per year. In addition, the cost to the counties for indigent emergency care is over $30 million per year, and the cost to the state for catastrophic health care is over $35 million per year. Since the Medicaid expansion would essentially replace all of these status quo resources, these costs to the state and counties, approaching $100 million every year, could be almost completely eliminated.

On the pure numbers, Idaho has already lost in excess of $250 million over the initial two years of the ACA in state and county costs that could have been avoided and federal benefits that would have been paid if Medicaid had been expanded when the ACA was first implemented. Unnecessary deaths sustained by reason of inadequate health care in Idaho – which now are centered upon the 78,000 uninsured – have been estimated at 124 deaths per year.

It is pure sophistry to argue that there is some advantage to turning away close to $70 million per year in federally funded health care benefits for the poorest among us, plus wasting a combined $100 million per year of our own taxpayer money that could be saved, just to maintain a half-baked patchwork of admittedly inadequate state based programs. When the unnecessary death toll is measured against amounts of money we are flushing down the toilet every year, the right wing’s political objections to expanding Medicaid become the height of Luddite ignorance.

Even if the Republicans pull all their rabbits out of all their hats nationally in the elections of 2016, no thinking politician expects the ACA to be repealed outright; too much of it has become too ingrained in too many lives to imagine a U-turn now. With expanded Medicaid under the ACA now in place in 30 of our 50 states, there is no political chance that it could be abandoned in 2017. As even the tightest fisted Republican must acknowledge, adequate coverage for the very poorest among us is a legitimate government function that will be retained.

Given all of this, and whether one is a flaming liberal Democrat, a rock ribbed Libertarian or a teapot Conservative, money is money is money. Approving the Medicaid expansion will solve the problem with Idaho’s working poor, eliminate the wretched consequences of inadequate health coverage, and bring about a potential return to the state, in terms of immediate cost avoidance, potential cost reductions and fund savings at the state and county level, together with inflow of federal dollars for benefits paid to the working poor, of close to $165 million per year.

What can the Guv possibly be thinking?