Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Medical Insurance Competition in Ohio

Health Care for America Now, (HCAN), published a report showing the state of health insurance competition in America. Basically, to cut to the chase, it sucks, and Ohio is no different.

According to the report, 58% of the health insurance market in Ohio is controlled by two companies. These companies are Wellpoint, which is run by Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medical Mutual.

The report notes that from 2000 to 2007:

1. The cost of health insurance premiums for Ohio working families has gone up 76%;

2. The average annual combined premium for employers and employees went from $6596 to $11636;

3.Employers saw their portion of annual premiums go up by 75% while employees saw their share increase by 80%; but

4. The median earnings of Ohio workers increased by 9%, from $25017 to $27255.

(You can read the full report here.)

One of the favorite talking points for Republicans is that somehow Obama's plan for a public option for health insurance will "destroy" the marketplace. Well, guess what, in a lot of states, including Ohio, there is not much of a marketplace left to destroy.

Maybe what we need is some good, old-fashioned, Teddy Roosevelt-style, trust busting. Maybe its time, in fact, past time, to unleash the Justice Department's anti-trust division on some health insurance providers.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Brent Larkin is a Law School Graduate and a Political Idiot!

Brent Larkin had a column in Sunday's Plain Dealer berating Governor Ted Strickland for not proposing a tax increase to meet Ohio's budget woes. He also said that Strickland was the worse governor for Cleveland since he has been covering politics.

What's interesting about his rant againt Strickland is the fact that he totally ignores the fact that the Ohio General Assembly has to vote to raise taxes. Under Ohio's Constitution, the Governor doesn't have the power to impose taxes by executive fiat. They have to be passed by the Ohio General Assembly.

At the present time the Ohio General Assembly has one house controlled by the Democrats and the other by the Republicans. There is absolutely no indication that the Republicans who control the State Senate will vote for any sort of tax increase, including the proposals advanced by Larkin. Larkin thinks that Ohio should raise its sales tax by one cent and forego the last year of the five year reduction in the state's income tax passed by, yep, you guessed it, the Republicans in 2005.

Now, of course, Larkin doesn't even mention the fact that the Republicans in the State Senate would have to sign off on any tax increases. Nor does he mention the fact that it was the Republicans who got us in this mess in the first place. No, according to Larkin, all Strickland has to do is just ask the General Assembly to raise taxes and they will just jump to it.

Well, here's a news flash for Larkin, Bill Harris isn't going to support any increase in taxes. The Republicans in the State Senate aren't going to support any increase in taxes. How do I know this? Because if they won't support gambling to help raise revenue, they sure as hell won't support increasing taxes.

Strickland knows this, and he is unwilling to give the Republicans a campaign issue just to make people like Brent Larkin happy. You know, people who use to head editorial boards that endorsed Republicans like Bob Taft and Republicans running for the General Assembly.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where Was The Library Board in 2005?

I walked into the main branch of the Medina Public Library to check out some material. After the very polite woman who was manning the check out counter took care of my materials, she gave me a spiel about how I should contact Governor Strickland and members of the Ohio General Assembly to voice my concern about budget cutbacks. She also gave me a piece of paper that had the phone numbers of Governor Strickland, State Senate Majority Leader Bill Harris, and two State Representatives who I had never heard of and who don't represent Medina County.

This got me to thinking about whether, back in 2005 when the General Assembly enacted a 21% across the board income tax cut, the Medina Library Board protested that action? Did it pass a resolution calling on Taft and the General Assembly not to make those cuts? Did they go on record opposing the cuts? Or did they just assume that those cuts would never impact them?

Right now the State doesn't have the revenue to do what it has done in the past for libraries or anyone else, for that matter. The 21% tax cut, phased in over five years, is costing Ohio about two billion dollars a year in lost tax revenue. We were told, of course, that those tax cuts would bring thousands of jobs into Ohio, which, of course, have yet to materialize. We weren't told, though, that it would end up crippling Ohio's state government.

So, here is my question, what was the library board's position in 2005? If they weren't concerned then, why should I, as a patron, be concerned now?

Both Medina County Dem Representatives Support Energy Bill

Both U.S. Representatives who represent Medina County voted for the recently passed energy bill. Betty Sutton, OH-13, and John Boccieri, OH-16, joined all but two Ohio Democrats in voting for the bill. The two Democrats that didn't were Dennis Kucinich and Charlie Wilson. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

Connie Schultz Advocates for Changes to Copyright Law

There is a column up on the PD website by Connie Schultz in which she argues that the United States copyright law should be changed to protect newspapers. The idea, which she credits to a lawyer from the same law firm that represents the PD and a economics professor from Arkansas, involves prohibiting sites that aggregate news articles from profiting from the aggregation.

The theory is that sites like Newser and The Daily Beast, which link to articles on newspaper sites, are profiting from the aggregation without sharing the revenue with the linked to newspaper sites. Schultz argues that they are basically ripping off the newspapers which produced the original article.

The two men she quotes are proposing some sort of revenue sharing arrangement and a prohibition on aggregation sites linking to stories during the first 24 hours a story is up and running.

Another possibility would be to treat newspaper articles like recorded music. If a radio station plays a record, they have to pay the owner of the rights to the record a fee. They also have to keep records of what they play and when they play it. It is not a perfect system, but it prevents radio stations from making money off the efforts of others.

The problem, of course, is what to do about links to newspaper articles in sites, such as this one, that doesn't generate revenue. If we put a link in one of our posts should we have to pay? On the one hand we are benefiting from the work of others, such as Ms. Schultz, but on the other hand we are not making any money from her work.

In any event, it is a good article and brings up a lot of interesting points. You can go to www.cleveland.com and read the whole article.

Friday, June 26, 2009

More BS From John Kasich

There is a Cleveland Plain Dealer article on John Kasich appearing before the Cleveland City Club. According to the article, Kasich wants to eliminate the state's estate tax, phase out the state's income tax, and this will, of course, lead to a fiscal rebirth for Ohio. Oh yes, and the state's budget problems are all Ted Strickland's fault.

Nowhere of course, does he mention the ill advised income tax cut that the Republicans put through in 2005. You know, the one that cut the state income tax by 21%, causing at least a two billion a year drop in revenues. No, Blowhard John just ignores that fact and blames Strickland for the fiscal mess the state government is in.

Expect more of this type of bs from Blowhard John over the next 17 months until the election. Hopefully, after he is defeated, it will cease, but don't count on it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beacon Journal's Michael Douglas Shows Why Editorial Writers Aren't Politicians

On Father's Day, June 21, the Akron Beacon Journal ran a column by Michael Douglas, who is in charge of the editorial board, blasting Governor Ted Strickland for advocating slot machines at racetracks to raise much needed revenue. Apparently Douglas believes that Strickland should advocate tax increases. Perhaps Douglas is in need of a history lesson, one that Ohio Democrats haven't forgotten.

In 1982, Dick Celeste became Ohio's Governor. Following his election, the Democrats had control of the General Assembly and all the executive offices in the state. They also had the obligation to govern the state during a severe recession.

The Democrats bit the bullet and raised the state income tax. Celeste managed to get re-elected in 1986, and the Democrats held on to the House of Representatives, but in 1984, they lost control of the Ohio Senate. The Republicans used the campaign theme of the supposed 90% tax increase that Celeste had gotten through the General Assembly. It worked, and the Republicans haven't lost control of the State Senate since that election.

Douglas apparently believes that all Strickland has to do is come out for higher taxes and the Republicans in the Senate will just roll over and help raise taxes. There is absolutely no evidence that Bill Harris, and the rest of the Republican leadership in the Senate, will go along with that idea.

What is more likely to happen is that Strickland would come out for a tax increase, the Republicans would block it in the Senate, and the Democrats would lose both the Governor's race and control of the House in 2010. Such a result is way too high a price to pay to make editorial writers happy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Is It Just Me, Or Do Southerners Who Come from Confederate States Tick You Off with Claims of Being More Pro-American?

The picture in this entry is of Rusty DePass, a South Carolina Republican GOP activist, who recently made some news by claiming that Michelle Obama's ancestors were gorillas, and then trying to claim that Michelle actually started that joke with a supposed comment about evolution. The Michelle comment, while obviously racist, is not what has drawn my attention. What has drawn my attention is another stupid comment this bigot made about New York City and the events of 9-11-2001.

Apparently, in the 2008 Republican primary, this guy was supporting Rudy Giuliani. In comments made once when introducing Rudy to some South Carolina Republicans, DePass stated that most of the time South Carolina Republicans didn't care what New Yorkers thought, but that the events of 9-11 had "made them Americans again."

Think about that line for a second. Here is a Republican coming from the state that led the secession movement in the South, starting with John Calhoun. The state that started the Civil War to defend slavery. The state that gave the nation the racist Strom Thurmond. And he has the gall to imply that New Yorkers aren't "real Americans?"

I am so tired of this kind of crap from Southerners. Just because you like to brag about how pro-American you are doesn't change the fact that many Southerners are still pissed off about losing the Civil War. Are still pissed off about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and are really pissed off that an African-American is President.

Here's some suggestions for such Southerners: 1. Stop putting Confederate flag bumper stickers on your cars and trucks; 2. Stop whining about how you are entitled to celebrate the culture of White America, and that flying the Confederate flag is "not about the hate, but about the heritage." Stop implying that Americans who don't agree with you are somehow less American than you are.