Big Government Protecting Itself

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has quietly transferred 500 of his managers into the state public employee union. Governor Patrick will be leaving office after the upcoming election and the governorship is expected to be turned over to the Republicans. This move prevents the Republicans from downsizing the Massachusetts bureaucracy. Placing the managers in the state public employee union will also qualify them for a series of 3 percent raises and insulate them from firing when the next governor takes over.

The article reports:

While smaller clusters of management positions have been converted into union positions in the past, this is the largest sweep into the union in at least two decades, according to administration and union officials.

Rolling the managers into the 22,000-member union will effectively protect them from any house-cleaning that might occur when the next governor takes office in January — a particular likelihood if Republican Charlie Baker were to take over after eight years of Democratic leadership.

Union employees generally have to be removed “for cause,” while managers serve at will.

Obviously, this move will make downsizing the Massachusetts state government more difficult for the new governor. It will also increase the cost of state government, although Patrick administration officials have stated that the cost to the state would be “less than $500,000.” When did we reach the point where $500,000 was not significant?

Let The Squabbles Begin

The Boston Globe posted an article today about the fight among the New England States for ObamaCare grants to set up websites. Originally, Massachusetts was given a $45 million federal innovation grant to build a state-of-the-art consumer platform for President Obama’s insurance program.

Massachusetts is a bit of a ‘techie’ state, and it was hoped that they would share the technical knowledge used to build their ObamaCare website with the other New England states. That sounds like a very reasonable idea in theory. Unfortunately, in practice it didn’t work.

The article reports:

Massachusetts has failed to produce a successful computer model to share, and in the meantime Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, built by Deloitte LLP, is working so well that the state is now offering its computer system as a model for other struggling states.

Counihan said five states have expressed interest in piggybacking off Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, but not Massachusetts.

“Some states were trying to build a Maserati. We built a Ford Focus,’’ Counihan said. “It might not be as glamorous but it runs. It can get you to the store.”

So what’s the problem? The article explains:

Connecticut health care officials are now mounting a campaign to collect a portion of a $45 million federal innovation grant that was awarded to Massachusetts to build a state-of-the-art consumer platform for President Obama’s insurance program.

…But, Rhode Island state Representative Joseph McNamara, a Democrat on the General Assembly’s Permanent Joint Committee on Healthcare Oversight, said he thinks Rhode Island could benefit from the money. Federal grants for the Rhode Island insurance marketplace end by July 2015, when the state would face a $24 million shortfall, he said.

“It’s a liability that we’re starting to discuss right now,” McNamara said. “We would appreciate any assistance from our friends in Massachusetts.”

Somewhere along the way, someone needs to remind these states that this is not ‘free’ money. It comes off the backs of overtaxed taxpayers who are paying upwards of 40 percent of their earnings in taxes. At some point we need to admit that ObamaCare is costing considerably more money than anticipated and repeal it. Unfortunately, as long as states are willing to fight over federal tax money in order to avoid spending their state tax money, the federal deficit will continue to grow.

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I Love The Irony In This

Yesterday the Daily Caller posted an article about the impact of ObamaCare in Massachusetts–the home of RomneyCare. RomeyCare was supposed to be the model for ObamaCare, but when you look closely at RomneyCare, there are some significant differences. Neither one did what was promised, but at least RomneyCare did not totally wreck healthcare in Massachusetts. It has taken ObamaCare to do that!

The article reports:

Starting in 2007 — over a period of three years — Massachusetts spent $3,449,520 developing a first-in-the-nation online health exchange, which allowed the state’s citizens to purchase health coverage. And when President Obama campaigned for the passage of his own federal health law, he leaned on the Massachusetts experiment as a model for the nation.

But the changes mandated by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, have actually gutted the effectiveness of Massachusetts’ once-working model.

Thanks to Obamacare, in 2012, Massachusetts began a transition to a new federally compliant health exchange, budgeted to cost $69 million. But to date, not one person has purchased health care through that federally funded exchange.

…The Massachusetts legislature didn’t even vote until June of 2013 to authorize the Connector Authority to change from their original functioning exchange over to the new system. Shortly after that vote, as The Boston Globe reported, officials started warning the Health Connector that the website would not work.

…On the unsubsidized side, Connector Authority spokesman Jason Lefferts told the Daily Caller, “We have worked with carriers to define the most similar plan to current coverage. The members will get a notice with the details. If they like it, all they do is pay the bill and they are all set. If they don’t, they are able to shop for a new plan. This new mechanism will allow these people to keep coverage without having to go through the website. All members will get notices within the next week.”

Yet four and a half months after the launch date of the new exchange, there remains no end date in site for the fixes.

Yang summed up the current situation at the last board meeting: “We have to work harder,” she said, according to the Boston Globe. “That means I need to tell the staff members they’re not doing a good enough job and I’m telling them that, even though they have been doing this tirelessly for months, and they’re exhausted.”

RomneyCare was no bargain, but it has taken ObamaCare to ruin it completely.

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The Boston Globe Gets It Right

I live in Massachusetts. I don’t plan to live in Massachusetts too much longer as my husband will be retiring at the end of this year, and the Massachusetts tax structure does not make retirement here a reasonable option. Real estate taxes are high, the temporary increase in the rate of the state income tax has been with us for more than twenty years, and if the current governor has his way, things will only be getting worse.

Today’s Boston Globe posted an editorial by Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. The article is entitled, “Manage money from previous tax hikes first.” That pretty much says it all, but she goes on to explain what she means.

The article reminds us of some of the history of tax increase in Massachusetts:

In 1989, Governor Michael Dukakis returned from the presidential campaign trail and demanded tax hikes to fund a billion-dollar budget increase; supporters rallied at the State House, some of them dressed as giant crayons, to protest potential cuts to the arts. The legislative leadership was able to get the votes for the tax package only after promising that the new income tax rate, increased from 5 percent to 5.75 percent, would be temporary. The Legislature raised the rate again the next year, “temporarily,” to 6.25 percent.

…Instead, in 2011 a formula created in 2002 dropped the rate to 5.25 percent, where it remains — 24 years after the first “temporary” increase, and 12 years after the voters demanded a rollback to 5 percent.

Ms. Anderson further reminds us:

The Massachusetts tax burden is the fourth highest in the nation per capita, eighth highest relative to personal income. The state is not suffering from a lack of taxes; it is suffering from a lack of accountability for the taxes already paid. The ongoing scandal over electronic-benefits cards is a maddening example of this.

I think taxpayers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts might be a little less grumpy about their tax rate if we didn’t routinely see stories about the Commonwealth’s waste of taxpayer money. Part of that waste is due to the fact that politicians like to spend other people’s money, but another part is the fault of the voters who keep electing the same people year after year. Until someone holds the Massachusetts legislature accountable, they will continue to be out of control. It also would help to have two viable political parties in the Commonwealth, but that may be a pipe dream!

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Something To Consider

From Kevin Cullen the Boston Globe yesterday:

Just before Christmas, a woman who brought her 7-year-old to Dr. Leonard Rappaport at Children’s Hospital took out some notes. One of the sheets of paper had a list of 66 names crossed out. When Rappaport congratulated the woman for getting her Christmas shopping done, she told him it wasn’t a gift list, but a list of mental health professionals who wouldn’t see her son because they weren’t taking new patients or wouldn’t take her insurance.

That is my fear concerning Obamacare.

 

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The True Cost Of A Broken Immigration And Deportation System

On December 9 of this year, the Boston Globe posted a story detailing some of the problems with our current system for deporting dangerous criminals. The article tells the story of Huang Chen, a Chinese citizen who was here illegally, jailed for choking, punching, and pointing a knife at Qian Wu in 2006. Chen was put in jail in Texas and released after three years because the government of China would not allow him to be deported back to China. After being released, he went after Qian Wu. No one warned her that he had been released. Chen killed Qian Wu early in 2010.

The article reports:

A yearlong Globe investigation found the culture of secrecy can be deadly to Americans and foreigners alike: Immigration officials do not notify most crime victims when they release a criminal such as Chen, and they only notify local law enforcement on a case by case basis. And even though immigration officials have the power to try to hold dangerous people longer, that rarely occurs.

The article explains:

More than 20 governments from Jamaica to China routinely block deportation of their citizens, even dodging calls from US immigration officers seeking to expedite the process, and critics say they suffer few consequences. Some, such as US Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, argue that the United States should stop accepting diplomats from countries who do not repatriate their citizens, but the State Department has shown little interest, preferring to work through diplomatic channels to deport immigrants. Federal officials have refused to issue visas to only one nation, tiny Guyana in South America.

The article lists a few examples of criminals that were released only to commit murders. We need to remember that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens. It seems to me that as we watch government expand exponentially and the cost of government increase exponentially, we are also watching the government forget its original purpose.Enhanced by Zemanta

Rest In Peace Charles Colson

The Detroit Free Press reported today that Charles Colson died yesterday. Charles Colson was Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man” and eventually went to jail after he pleaded guilty to efforts to discredit Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg. The former hatchet man became a born-again Christian and founded Prison Fellowship, an organization that has helped millions of prisoners and their families.

When Mr. Colson became a Christian, there were many people who believed it was a ploy to obtain a reduced sentence, but Mr. Colson’s actions proved them wrong.

The Boston Globe commented in 1973:

“If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everyone.”

I wonder if they knew how correct they were.

Charles Colson enriched many lives after his conversion. He was a beautiful example of a person who had fallen from the height of power and decided that his role was to serve others. He is an inspiration to anyone who has read his story.

I would like to mention at this time that I recently heard an interview with someone in the Nixon Administration that convinced me that everything I thought I knew about the Watergate Scandal was wrong. During that time, the only media we had was the mainstream media, and the media was generally very critical of President Nixon. I wonder if the story would have been different if we had had the alternative media at that point. What the Committee to Re-elect the President did (bug the DNC) was illegal and stupid. The cover-up was also illegal and stupid. I just wonder if more was made of the incident that should have been. It just seems that there were many other forces at work during that time. Just for the record, I was still a liberal at that time and in response to the Watergate scandal, I voted for George McGovern.

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Tackiness Prevented

Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe posted an article today about the decision last week by US District Judge Richard Leon to block a Food And Drug Administration (FDA) rule that would require cigarette manufacturers to put graphic images on cigarette packs showing the dangers of smoking.

A few disclaimers here–I don’t smoke–never have–I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but I don’t think smokers should be forced to stand in the freezing snow outside a restaurant to enjoy a cigarette. (However, they do need a separate section of the establishment with a separate ventilation system,)

However, required graphic images on cigarette packs is a bit much even for a non-smoker like me.

The article points out:

The FDA’s gruesome new labels are not designed to provide consumers with useful information about the hazards of smoking. After 45 years of mandatory Surgeon General’s warnings, every non-comatose American knows perfectly well that cigarettes are a noxious health risk. That’s why the share of Americans who smoke at least occasionally has fallen to an all-time low of 19.3 percent, or less than 1 in 5 — a far cry from the more than 42 percent who were smokers in 1965. No one, not even Big Tobacco, disputes Washington’s right to require cigarette makers to disclose pertinent facts about their product’s dangers. Those disclosures, it’s clear, have been effective.

The government has no power to require the cigarette companies to put graphic images on their cigarette packs. To me, the requirement that there be an anti-smoking warning is a stretch.

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The Double Standard At Work

The Boston Globe is reporting today that Boston will ban smoking in public housing, beginning in September 2012.

The article reports:

The policy is aimed at protecting nonsmokers, especially children, from breathing in secondhand cigarette smoke from neighboring units, which can cause asthma attacks, respiratory infections, lung cancer, and heart disease.

“We feel this is in the best interests of our residents,’’ said the Boston Housing Authority’s spokeswoman, Lydia Agro. “When you have buildings with multiple apartments next to each other, there is no way to contain the smoke.’’

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… WTSP Channel 10 in Tampa Bay, Florida, reports that the Florida law requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test is a violation of the 4th Amendment.

The article reports:

In 2003, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from Michigan backed that up saying, “Michigan law authorizing suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients was unconstitutional.”

…As we 10News reported Wednesday, attorneys from the ACLU are already working on a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of these drug tests.

First of all, I would like to state that as someone who has never smoked or used illegal drugs, I don’t have a horse in this race. I do, however, possess a rather ironic sense of humor, and I think looking at these two stories together is very interesting. Which is more harmful to a child–a parent who smokes or a parent who uses illegal drugs? Before you answer than, consider the people the parent comes in contact with in obtaining illegal drugs. Smoking is legal; illegal drugs are illegal. Why is the ACLU fighting the drug test and not the smoking ban? This seems a little odd to me.

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I Understand The Desire To Report The News But I Wonder About This…

Yesterday the Boston Globe reported the name of the person who told the FBI where to find James “Whitey” Bulger. Whitey Bulger had been a fugitive since 1994. He fled Boston when he was tipped off by a former FBI handler about a pending indictment on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges.

Whitey Bulger had a lot of questionable connections in both the worlds of crime and law enforcement. Some of those connections are still alive and well. My concern is whether or not the Boston Globe put that person in danger by reporting that she is the one who told the FBI where to find Whitey Bulger. When he was operating in Boston, he was not known as a very nice person. Hopefully his reach does not extend her location.

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