Budget & Medicaid Expansion Lies

Virginia’s special legislative session was called to order because the General Assembly failed to pass a fiscal budget during the regular session. It ended because the Republican dominated House of Delegates refused to include any discussion of Medicaid expansion in the budgetary discussions.

Initially they disingenuously claimed that they will only discuss it after they have passed a “clean” budget, which coincidentally won’t include Medicaid expansion.

Less than 2 days after this special session was called to order, the House of Delegates has shown the people of the Commonwealth the lengths they are willing to go obstruct any discussion of health care expansion in Virginia when they quickly passed their version of the states budget and then voted to adjourn.  http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/house-approves-own-budget-plan-then-recesses/article_a9dc9440-b460-11e3-aeaf-001a4bcf6878.html

They are trying to make it impossible for any discussion about Medicaid expansion to take place for another two years until the next budget is being discussed, while holding the economy of the state, county and local jurisdictions hostage.

This entire debate is a proxy for Republican’s efforts ongoing efforts to kill “ObamaCare” at the state level, particularly in Southern and conservative states regardless of the cost to their citizens, and is nothing more than an attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act in the Commonwealth as hundreds of thousands fall into the Medicaid expansion gap with the following results.  http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2014/01/30/opting-out-of-medicaid-expansion-the-health-and-financial-impacts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opting-out-of-medicaid-expansion-the-health-and-financial-impacts

Just before the special legislative session started, Delegate Farrell sent out this flier to the Republican faithful on his mailing list.

Ferrall petition 3 21 2014 front

Over the past few months, there has been a consistent pattern to his deceptive communications with his constituents in the 56th District. Starting with the “results” of his pre-legislative voter survey http://freepdfhosting.com/6bee95374c.pdf   limited exclusively to his conservative Republican base.

One set of messages for faithful and another for the unbelieving independents and Democrats.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been receiving periodic letters from his office, as does my mother in-law. Those letters are  different from the fliers and emails sent to his base which cover a wide range of conservative issues, including many lies and distortions about Medicaid expansion.

In contrast, the letters I have received from his office are focused on one issue, and made no mention of Medicaid expansion. In my case, I can only assume that I have been identified on some database as a hunter, and presumably am very concerned about gun owner’s rights. While my elderly mother in-law gets updates about seniors issues.

Many other Democrats and independents in his district are receiving similar “issues based” mailings.  What Delegate Farrell is doing is conducting a sophisticated dis-information campaign designed to mislead Democrats and independents about the nature of his actions, while indoctrinating his conservative Republican supporters.

For these actions, he deserves to be called to the carpet and voted out of office.

Jon Taylor

Medicaid expansion improve’s economy

Medicaid extension beneficiaries aren’t slackers, in fact, you probably meet these people every day when you dine out, pick up some milk at the grocery, get your car repaired, visit a friend who has home care or just go shopping.

These people work at jobs, but they may be forced to work part time or for a low wage. Their dilemma is that they are exempt or make too much money to be covered by the Medicaid program and they make below the Federal Poverty Level so they are ineligible to shop for insurance on healthcare.gov.

Not extending Medicaid coverage means that they will probably not be covered by an insurance plan at all. They may get ill and need to see a doctor. Without insurance, they will probably go to the emergency room and receive indigent care, which costs the hospital thousands of dollars. Like all of us, they need healthcare, but their employment situation prevents them for taking advantage of the coverage and tax credit that is being offered under the Affordable Care Act.

The Medicaid Extension that is being offered to the states by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act is a good deal. It pays 100 percent of the expansion costs for the first three years and no less than 90 percent of the costs after that until 2022. It will be a financial asset for Virginia’s budget.

The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and will not be repealed. People in all 50 states are now getting coverage through the healthcare.gov or state exchanges. This cannot and will not be rolled back.

Virginia is turning away five million dollars a day by rejecting the Medicaid expansion. Our tax dollars are being sent to Kentucky and Maryland and 23 other states for Medicaid expansion. If coverage was expanded, it is projected that 30,000 new health care jobs would be created in Virginia. Why shouldn’t Virginia benefit from this federal money? After all, 20 percent of our state economy comes from federal jobs and military programs. These too are federal dollars.

Many state representatives object to expansion because they think it will cost the state more money, but clearly it will save the state money (five million dollars a day.)

Another objection is that there aren’t that many Virginians who need this coverage. In fact, there are 12,600 people eligible for expansion in the 22nd Senatorial District (Bryce Reeves) and 14,400 in the 17th Senatorial District (Tom Garrett)and 18,970 in the 56th House District (Del Peter Farrell) All of these districts include some parts of Louisa County. Clearly, we need this kind of coverage for many citizens in Louisa.

It is important for all of us to think about this issue that affects our neighbors and the working people who live in our community. Please reach out to your state senator and state delegate and encourage them to vote to expand this coverage when they come back in session on March 24.

Your representatives can be reached by phone or email. Delegate Peter Farrell (56th) 804-644-0264804-644-0264 (http://delegatefarrell.com/contact) Senator Tom Garrett (22nd) 434-944-7770434-944-7770 (district22@senate.virginia.gov ). Bryce Reeves (17th) 540-645-8440540-645-8440 (district17@senate.virginia.gov  )

As Christians and good citizens, we are our brother’s keepers. This expansion will not cost Virginians or Louisans a penny, but will grow local economies by adding health care jobs and by bringing federal tax monies back to Virginia.

Joanna Hickman

Peonage in Louisa County

Letter to Rusty McGuire on his Community Service Proposal

First of all, the decline in crime rates in Louisa County, VA (or in most other cities and towns in America) is NOT THE RESULT OF THE EFFORTS OF TOWN, SHERIFF OR STATE POLICE AGENCIES, but a combination of other factors that are totally unrelated to the presence and arrests of police personnel, because the removal of offenders from communities by police is not a deterrent to others committing crimes, according to the current research.   If police personnel in Virginia were so successful in deterring criminal activity, we would not have larger prison populations and longer prison sentences (not to mention Virginia’s horrendous record on failing to parole its offenders).  Police can be accredited with the significantly large number of minority arrests and prosecutors with the world’s largest prison population.  But if crime is down so much, why isn’t there a proportionate decrease in budgets of the jails, town, sheriff or state police in Louisa County?

How misguided is the Commonwealth Attorney’s office decision in implementing a new policy for any person who enters a plea agreement in circuit court on a felony, regardless of the amount of time to which the offender is sentenced that requires the offender to find FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT within 30 days of their release or to begin serving 20 hours of community service (i.e., free, unpaid work in their community) EVERY WEEK they remain UNEMPLOYED.  Since the 30 day requirement for finding work is already a requirement of their probation, this is no change in the existing policy and is a completely unrealistic requirement for any offender, when there are simply no jobs for those with no criminal record, let alone a felony.

There are no jobs for many college grads, very experienced and seasoned employees in various occupations with no criminal backgrounds, so there is very little hope that any of these offenders will find decent employment, paying them a living wage in this state or anywhere else, UNLESS they have family, friends or someone willing to give them a decent job.

I am a mature, African American woman with no criminal background, extensive experience in several areas, and masters and doctoral level degrees, but have had very little success in obtaining and/or maintaining substantive, full-time employment throughout the entire twelve years that I have lived in this area.

So, the likelihood of these offenders finding gainful employment within 30 days of their release or any other reasonable amount of time in this depression era employment environment is simply not fathomable or realistic.  Hence, you can expect that most of these offenders will be forced into this utterly ridiculous free labor pool (akin to slavery and peonage of yesteryear) to be made available to local businesses.

And of course offenders will say they cannot find work because there aren’t any jobs or jobs that they can even get to because there is no source of transportation in this county and they have no money to pay for transportation to and from work if they could find a job anywhere in the area or neighboring cities/counties.

I have no idea where McGuire got the idea that keeping people busy when the research have already proven that people remain productive citizens in their communities when they are able to find sufficient community support upon release to assist them in re-entering their communities, have meaningful work at living wages enabling them to manage their basic living expenses and provide a stable lifestyle for themselves and their families – none of which can be met by being forced to become a free source of labor to local business owners and nonprofits.

People were always quite busy in slavery and peonage, neither of which was beneficial to their wellbeing or to their families.

Offenders don’t have a problem getting back to work OR WANTING TO WORK.  They have a MAJOR PROBLEM getting someone to give them a chance to work (MAKING A LIVING WAGE) and a chance to regain the rights and privileges of a normal citizen.  This is INHERENTLY more difficult for members of any minority group because the majority of employers are Caucasian.

Indeed, it is totally unlikely that forcing offenders into free labor under the guise of community service will, in itself, prevent recidivism, especially with no firm agreement or commitment from any of these employers to hire any of these free laborers.  It is nonsense to say that they are not being forced to participate because they will face parole or probation violations if they do not.

This policy will, however, signal Louisa County, Virginia’s return to the horrific servitude encountered under the old peonage system of labor exploitation and slavery and will serve to further disillusion offenders trying to make a living. This is the 2013 version of filling the void for free labor that slavery left and that we watch on TV as we staunchly condemn labor exploitation in places like Bangladesh and China.

Gloria Pope

Behind the Legislative Shutdown

The Republicans dominated House of Delegates shows absolutely no signs of budging from their standoff over expanding Medicaid, having adjourned without approving a budget, bringing us closer to a government shutdown. Virginia has already forfeited $360 million in federal funds, monies paid by the states taxpayers. With each passing day, the Commonwealth walks away from another $5 million, and ~ $ 110,000 in tax revenues generated by 20,000 to 30,000 additional health-care jobs.

Republicans do not offer any alternative to business groups like the Chamber of Commerce who say accepting these federal funds will help Virginia’s economy, or dispute the figures of the non-profit Commonwealth Institute that 1,600 more people in Louisa County would now have coverage. http://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org

Sen. Stosch (R-Henrico), claims “Medicaid expansion is based upon too many uncertainties in the ACA … we reject it in favor of a Virginia solution — private insurance know as Marketplace Virginia,” a solution similar to Arkansas’s. This could pass the Senate, where every Democrat and some Republicans have expressed support. Others like Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin) falsely claim “You can put all the lipstick you want on this pig and call it by another name; it’s still Medicaid expansion.

The House of Delegates budget did not include health care coverage by that name or any other. Peter Farrell, Louisa’s delegate, says we should discuss Medicaid expansion only after they have passed their budget. While the Washington Post claims House Speaker Howell is leading the Republican’s effort to punish their own constituents to score political points.

The got the punishment part right, and missed who would be on the receiving end. According to the Commonwealth Institute it won’t be the rural districts which comprise most of the House Republicans base. It will be the heavily populated Northern Virginia and the Tidewater regions.  While each district has roughly 16,000 people who are eligible for Medicaid expansion, 21 of the 35 districts above this average are Democratic ones.

Beyond that, most of these districts have another 10 to 30,000 additional Medicaid expansion eligible residents. House Republicans have no problem railing against accepting federal funding when it suits them, Even though most of the funding they accept has far less than the  100% and later 90% “guaranteed” level of funding offered by Medicaid expansion. In fact, much of their current FY 2015-2016  budget is built around changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

Coming to $195 million this year and $51 million over the next two years, by the very law they seek to boycott — when it’s politically convenient. Their willingness to negotiate Medicaid expansion after the fact is the moral and financial equivalent of rolling a patient out of surgery while leaving organs on the operating table.

The General Assembly faces major decisions in this coming special session whether to proceed with Marketplace Virginia or some other plan. A decision which ultimately comes down to money and those matters including Medicaid expansion should by definition be part of the budget negotiations.

As the House of Delegates who roared into March like a pride of angry lions continues to drag out their ideological battles they are endanger our financial rating, making it clear that their objections to Medicaid expansion were never about principles, but rather a determination to make lambs of us all.

Jon Taylor

FOX Derangement Syndrome & Medicaid Expansion

Most of the Republican distortions and lies seen in our local paper, The Central Virginian appear to originate from a peculiar cultural delusion commonly known to the rest of the world as FOX derangement syndrome. A unique form of cognitive disorder cheer lead by a cadre of blond talking heads, who’s only qualifications apparently consist of being blonde, and not particularly swift ones at that.

Foxes Dumb Blondes

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, understanding how this virus affects us all is the first step in making informed decisions.

No one should ever believe everything they read and hear, especially those of us who are old enough to have witnessed the past four decades of cultural, social and political changes. Particularly the rise of Reagan Republicans, economic greed, the Christian right, and a news media which over the past few decades has consistently failed to inform us.

Many simply accept whatever information they hear on the news media, and especially Fox News  as the gospel truth, particularly viewers who are 65 years and older.

Since it’s inception, Fox News has been a corrosive influence on viewers of all ages ability to understand the world around them. Their style of dismissing all other sources of information has been slavishly copied by many other mainstream media outlets, and has lead to the creation of  a self reinforcing feedback loop where viewers are only exposed to the things they already believe.

thank you fox news

Information which confirms opinions you already have isn’t news — it’s Fox News.

This brand of “fair and balanced” cultural indoctrination has lead the way in accelerating the nation’s polarization, and is one of the primary reasons why our families and the nation continue to be divided by their viewing habits. . Fox’s aging audience remains the countries largest reservoir of class and racial privilege,  a damaged legacy hopelessly addicted to tribal thinking.

A way of looking at the world characterized by an intense dislike of “outside” groups. Which is important, because Fox’s brand of dog whistling is not about bigotry as such. It’s about the manipulation of bigotry, and the manipulation of those stereotypes against “outsiders“.

A cultural phenomenon mirrored by the rise of the Christian right within the Republican Party. Religious zealots who have moved from the parties’ fringes to becoming their primary voting constituency. A dangerous confluence of  bitter old men and religious ideologues whose worldview drives virtually all of the Republican parties agenda; from care of the poor, the sick and elderly, women’s rights, human rights, and voting rights.

Fox viewers and the Christian right have become partners, joined at the hip, consistently on the wrong side of morality and social progress, united in their determination to remain relics of the past. Who would be lost in their own angst and anger without constant reassurances from FOX and Friends that their voices are the only ones which really matter in our society.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been implementing Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” for over 40 years; stoking up so much anger, class and racial resentment that this country has become divided along ideological lines that have not been seen in this country since just before the Civil War.

It has been noted in several studies that Fox News not only consistently misinforms their viewers.

Fox_50 percent lies

And the misleading nature of their messaging, makes them essentially  the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

Thanks to the Supreme Courts, Citizens v. United ruling in 2010, and their recent decision to do away with any meaningful limitations on political funding,  the Republican Party has a virtually inexhaustible supply of money to spread their manipulative messages.

Allowing them to use compliant media outlets like Fox to further their  biased messaging , while continuing to fund to their candidates in Congress all the way down to the state and county level.

Especially since 2010, Republicans have demonstrated their determination to abuse their bought and paid for political power by manipulating laws at the State and Federal level, changing whatever they don’t agree with, further isolating themselves and their supporters from the mainstream of society in the process.

In practical terms, the function purpose of Fox News is to indoctrinate what Joseph Stalin’s called societies “useful idiots.” Their sole purpose is to stir up fear, constantly reminding tribal members of the conservative tribe that they must all band together lest they be swept away by the tides of change, and the deviancy of “outsiders”.

Here in Virginia, look no further than the arrogance displayed by the Republican dominated House of Delegates during their special legislative session. Where they openly displayed their contempt for the legislative process with fraternity house antics, as they clapped and laughed their way over to the closed Senate Chambers to deliver their latest “budget bill”.

Their complete avoidance of any discussion about the budget shows the depths of their deception and fear about what will happen once the public begins to understand the positive impact that Medicaid expansion will have on the states economy.  Then like petulant children, they posted “Gone Home” signs on the Senate doors and adjourned their special session.

gone home

Recently, Speaker of the House Bill Howell addressed the Stafford County Board of Supervisors requesting they approve a resolution supporting withdrawal of the Virginia Medicaid expansion budget from Gov. McAuliffe’s latest state budget. Claiming that if this was not done, House Republicans would not approve the budget and state government would shut down on July 1, 2014, and local jurisdictions like Stafford would not receive state funding for education, social services, transportation, etc.

Essentially telling them, “Nice place you have here, shame if something were to happen to it.

According to Howell, the reason for the Republican majority’s position are concerns that in the future, the federal government will not be able to pay its share of the states Medicaid funding.  Considering that Virginia derives ~25 percent of its budget from government funding, and that for decades, the Commonwealth has had one of the highest levels of per-capita federal funds received of any state his pious concerns about the sustainability of federal support for Medicaid expansion funding in the Commonwealth are disingenuous distractions.

At the end of his term in office, President Eisenhower warned us about the influence that the Military-Industrial Complex has over our government.  Today, along with Wall Street financiers, and unlimited political funding of ideologue’s  like Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell  they are affecting our lives in a manner which makes his words seem like a serious understatement.

Politicians like Speaker Howell are able to continue stacking the deck in their favor because he and his party have convinced the most unhinged elements of our society to come out in droves and support them at the polls. In the meantime, over these next few elections we must choose between two radically different visions.

On one hand a fearful tribal mindset scarcely removed from the Dark Ages. On the other; a fact based recognition of how the world operates, a starting point to where we can begin demanding that both parties’ start representing our interests and address our many social and economic problems.

Anything else is simply empty words — just like Fox News.

Jon Taylor