Fake Town Hall’s

Recently,  Delegate, Peter Farrell along with State Senators, Tom Garrett and Bryce Reeves hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Louisa Arts Center on Monday, April 14th supposedly to talk about their accomplishments in the latest state legislative session.

The real purpose of this meeting was to hold a revival meeting for their conservative faithful and avoid talking about how they are holding the states budget hostage because of their refusal to consider let alone discuss Medicaid expansion as part of the states budget process.

It’s worth noting that this meeting  was primarily publicized though this Republican’s supporters email notice, although there was a short public notice buried on page 4 in our local paper the Central Virginian  the week before.

 

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Even before this Town Hall meeting took place, Mr. Farrell along with several other Delegates were busy practicing their deceptions in a phone conference town hall the week before, hosted by House Speaker Bill “ALEC”  Howell.

This telephonic Town Hall consisted of a litany of talking points in response to their own questions, and was essentially a practice run for their deceptions about holding the states budget hostage over Medicaid expansion in Delegate Farrell’s April 14th meeting.

That very same day, Senator Garrett took the lies and misrepresentations about Medicaid expansion in this telephone “Town Hall” to new levels with this op-ed printed in two local papers, the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Where he makes several confabulations; that Medicaid expansion is Obamacare, that Obamacare and Medicaid are broken, along with repeating Delegate Farrell’s and Speaker Bill Howells, disingenuous claims that because of unspecified “concerns” about the fiscal stability of the ACA and Medicaid expansion that this is not a good program for the people of Virginia.

In this telephone Town Hall, Speaker Howell went on to blame the evenly divided …. I mean Democratic dominated Senate for trying to shove the Affordable Care Act and state Medicaid Expansion down our throats without any discussion, holding the States and local communities budgets hostage in the process.

Predictably, the Louisa Town Hall turned out to be another dog and pony show for the benefit of their faithful, vs. being a good faith effort of any of any of these representatives to inform their constituents about any of the issues.

It’s worth noting that none of the subsequent editions of the Central Virginian that have come out since this Town Hall meeting took place made a single mention of this meeting.

So unless their readers happened to read the two recent letters to the editor Louisa’s Town Hall Meeting and GOP holds the state for ransom over Medicaid which turned out to be the only local “coverage” of this event that discussed what actually happened at this meeting.

If I didn’t know better, one would think that the CV wants their readers to believe that this meeting never happened. A strange set of circumstances, especially since one of their reporters was present and was taking pictures of the event and talking to our representatives.

Are we left to conclude that Town Hall meetings featuring Louisa Counties State Delegate and 2 State Senators happen so frequently that they are no longer considered news worthy?

Meanwhile the Richmond Time Dispatch thought it worth sending out a reporter to cover this event, who noted that the only topic the audience wanted to discuss was Medicaid expansion and how it affected the states budget, and why were they refusing to include it in the budget negotiations?

His comments below sum up the dynamics of the meeting and the Republican’s rationale for holding them.

“Welcome to the echo chamber, an endless loop of messages about the health care debate from legislators to their grass roots which reinforces already rigid positions that serve to undercut any chance for compromise. Across Virginia, the message in the health care debate is orchestrated by the boundaries of House of Delegates and state Senate districts, and  is literally unfolding by the book

In the case of Republicans, it’s publications such as the “State Legislators Guide to Repealing Obamacare,” by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, of which House Speaker Bill Howell is a major project chairman.”

“The organization urges politicians to take this fight to the people: “Hold public hearings and establish standing legislative committees to examine Obamacare’s implementation and impact.” Bolstering the Republican-created, Republican-dominated General Assembly panel which claims it has the ultimate say on any Medicaid-backed plan for Virginia.  ALEC also recommends legislatures serve as a “check on agency and executive branch implementation of Obamacare.”

Meanwhile, over in Charlottesville, Republican Delegates Steve Landes and Rob Bell were headlining their own version of the “greatest misinformation show on earth” the following week in the Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building backed by a cadre of green shirted Americans for Prosperity supporters who were surprised to discover that despite their best efforts to pack the house, that they were outnumbered by local citizens.

 

Not to be outdone, Delegate Farrell and Senator Garrett will be taking their misinformation campaign  for a second run,  at J. Sargent Reynolds Community Campus on the 28th.

 

Farrell_Goochland_bottom

After talking to locals in Goochland and Henrico counties, there wasn’t any public notice about this event in any of their local papers, and it was the lowest attended of the 3 regional Town Halls.

About the only good news was that the green shirted Americans for Prosperity folks failed to make their appearance at this meeting like they did in Charlottesville.

Make no mistake that our state Delegates and Senators leading these Town Hall’s are conducting them directly out of the ALEC playbook, setting the stage for taking their “model legislation” used as a blueprint for influencing state lawmaking all the way down to the local level.

While they were busy distracting us with their fake Town Halls, and holding the states budget hostage, another plan was being quietly set in motion, through the efforts of folks like Speaker Howell, and Louisa’s own Pat Mullins, Chair of the Virginia Republican’s.

ALEC is making plans for the public launch of this program called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) which will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties.”

The new organization will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement their proposals.

And just in case you’re tempted to dismiss this is some kind of tin foil conspiracy talk, you should know this has already happened in Chesterfield County, where Ben Knotts, the director of coalitions for one of ALEC’s allies, Americans for Prosperity a national conservative organization founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch spoke at the meeting urging county residents to oppose a 4.5 cent increase in the counties proposed budget.

Prior to this meeting, the group has been robo-calling Chesterfield residents, urging them to oppose this increase in the county’s proposed budget.   Several people attending this meeting publicly called him out as a representative of the Koch Brothers, and not a local citizen who has legitimate interests in the affairs of Chesterfield County.

By allowing state politicians, like Delegate Farrell and Senators Reeves and Garrett to continually misrepresent themselves on issues like Medicaid expansion in their ALEC based Town Halls and whose interests they are actually representing, we are enabling them and their supporters to set the stage for taking over our government at the County and Town level.

This is what will happen in county after county and in small town after small town if we allow Local County and town politicians to represent  the interests of ALEC and Americans for Prosperity and not yours.

The only way you can stop this from happening is to pay close attention to what is going on at the local level and having a long enough memory to remember to vote them out of office in 2015 when these State representatives come up for re-election.

Jon Taylor

 

GOP holds the state for ransom over Medicaid

Ted Cruz has nothing on the Republican members of Virginia’s General Assembly. Like Cruz, they are holding Virginia’s budget hostage unless the governor removes expansion of Medicaid from it.

Without a budget, Virginia’s government will be closed statewide on July 1. No one will be able to get licenses or permits, receive unemployment benefits, go to school, call a police officer, go to a state health facility, etc., etc. The impact on Virginians will be more far-reaching than the federal government shut-down

During a recent Town Hall Meeting in Louisa, Senators Tom Garrett and Bryce Reeves, and Del. Peter Farrell, all voiced their disapproval of the expansion of Medicaid. They cited the cost as one of their main reasons, although the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost from 2014 through 2016 and gradually decrease to 90 percent in 2020.

We the taxpayers, hospitals, and state government are currently footing all of the bill for people who would be covered under Medicaid Expansion. They couldn’t cite one example of when that happened in the past. The money that has been set aside for Virginia will go to other states and we will continue to pay.

Hospitals, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and corporate leaders have contacted legislators to persuade them to expand Medicaid. They know it makes good business sense. In FY12, Virginia spent $112 million on indigent care. The expansion of Medicaid would result in a savings of 50 to 80 percent of that amount.

Sen. Reeves says he supports a healthcare savings plan. An individual in the audience suggested that everyone should put aside money for medical care. If you can’t afford food and other immediate necessities of life, how can you afford to put aside money for healthcare?

Sen. Garrett said he was against the expansion of Medicaid because of the amount of fraud uncovered. He also said it wasn’t the recipients who were responsible for the fraud; it was the providers. Potential recipients of much needed Medicaid should not be denied healthcare because of scam artists. Seems to me like there should be more scrutiny of the providers instead of punishing those who need Medicaid.

According to a Harvard Medical School study, someone dies every 12 minutes as a consequence of not having health insurance. Garrett, Reeves and Farrell don’t seem to care about that.

In my opinion, the only reason they won’t approve expansion of Medicaid is they are merely following the Republican Party line to disapprove the Affordable Care Act at all costs. They aren’t taking into consideration the needs of the almost 460,000 Virginians who need Medicaid.

They also don’t seem to remember that Democrats won the major positions in Virginia during the last election. Obviously, the majority of Virginians support Obamacare. Otherwise we would have a Republican governor and Attorney General.

It’s time our representatives started supporting the people instead of the party. Call your General Assembly members and tell them Virginia needs to expand Medicaid. We can’t afford not to.

Deanna Nicosa

Louisa’s Town Hall Meeting

Time to reflect on Monday’s Town Hall meeting with Del. Peter Farrell, and State Senators Bryce Reese and Tom Garrett.  The three Republican Virginian State representatives spent the first half of the meeting talking about bills they have introduced in state government that had nothing to do with Medicaid Expansion.  Then they began a Q&A session from constituents where the only topic of discussion was Medicaid Expansion.

Missing from the Town Hall meeting was the discussion of how inequality of wealth correlates with citizen health; a strong economy brings a country out of poverty resulting in citizens living longer and healthier.  In “Inequality for All” Robert Reich’s states that “over the past 40 years our government has destroyed the middle class by deregulation and privatization.”  A deregulated Wall Street made it easy for investors to gamble and lose people’s money, maximize corporate profits by firing workers and sending their jobs overseas to cheaper workforces.  For years this practice worked and stock prices rose significantly.

Americans were brainwashed into thinking “if they bailed out Wall Street that would help the economy.”  However, the bailout did nothing for the average citizen because nothing trickled down from Wall Street.   Americans were brainwashed into thinking “high tax rates reduce the growth of our economy;” actually, high taxes on the wealthy elite enabled America to expand the prosperity of the middle class and increase economic growth for average citizens and the wealthy.  Americans were brainwashed into thinking “Government was the problem and Free Markets were the solution.”  Voters forgot about the Great Depression … having occurred because of unregulated investors and unconstrained greed that concentrates wealth at the top.  Over the last 40 years, the top 1% of the population went from owning 6% of our nation’s wealth to owning 25%.  As the middle class disappears, the government needed to play a bigger role in social services to citizens hurt by corporate greed … hence the need for Medicaid Expansion for the working poor.

Inequality of wealth and health continues in America … recently McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decision permits the wealthy elite to buy elections, to own the US Government, and to make laws that help them accumulate more wealth.  The wealthy oligarchy seeks to end Social Security, end Medicare, and end Medicaid because these humanitarian programs don’t make profits.

Our Virginia House of Delegates is following the same ‘modus operandi” as the oligarchy that seeks to gut our Democracy.  They inhibit any solution of improving America’s economy; they point fingers to blame others for destroying the middle class; they applaud the removal of medical safety nets for Americans that are in need.  They refuse to negotiate with the democratically elected leaders to make them look weak when they actually are fighting to keep the middle class alive.

So the question to Farrell, Reese and Garrett is “Who do you represent in state government … the wealthy elite or the average citizen of Virginia?” Your answer is directly linked to the Medicaid Expansion.

Mark Chapman

Fear of the Unknown

Fundamentalists writing to The Central Virginian are quite skilled at  making others points for them. Considering how often it happens, one has to ask, is it because they are completely unaware of the contradictions of their arguments?

Take Bob Jones response to how FOX’s corrosive style of covering current events not only influences other media outlets, it reinforces and hardens existing social stereotypes and prejudices. Their brand is not about bigotry per se, it’s about the manipulation of bigotry for profit and gain.

Many like him belligerently believe that Fox News is “the most fair, accurate, and balanced news organization in existence today“, while simultaneously claiming only Kool Aid drinkers believe that “politicians and government can act to solve social and economic problems.

Others, like Jerry Reynolds take it even further, contending that FOX “reports the news as it happens“, and they are “virtually the only news outlet that has not been co-opted by this government“, citing various conspiracies only they know about. This cultural affectation has several defining characteristics.

Starting with the unshakable confidence that ones personal beliefs supersede all other evidence. This fundamental lack of humility has another name, vanity – an unwillingness to engage in any personal reflection or self examination whatsoever. An “Original Sin” accompanied by a determination to couch those beliefs in stark terms, a worldview where everything is black and white, and not subject to any nuance.

All sprinkled with choice paranoid convictions that hidden forces like the “liberal media” conspire to keep them down. It is a way of looking at the world characterized by an intense and irrational dislike of outsiders, people who think or act differently.

Their fearful outlook is so reliant on compliance, conformity and obedience to authority that it distorts any ability to interpret the world around them, a perspective which remains in force only as long as people can be convinced to suspend their capacity for independent rational thought.

And because so many remain fearful they remain incapable of conceiving that it’s our diversity which gives us our strength, not our similarities. While folks like Jerry might find it convenient to believe that some view them as a “despised Christians”, they overlook a more painful possibility, that they are pitied for having lost their compassion and humanity.

While conservatives were busy railing against tyrannical governments and social dependency, they overlook the fact that it was the actions of the Republicans primary voting constituency, the most fearful, who elected so many infective politicians, completely unwilling and incapable of addressing our many problems.

The only Kool-Aid drinkers here are the inflexible personalities of the conservative party, who live in a world of absolutes based on beliefs—unwilling to comprehend proven facts because they “believe” otherwise—in a world with no room for change. The tree in their front yard didn’t evolve over the past 30 years it was there 6000 years ago.

We can only hope with education of the younger generation, facts will prevail and the Kool-aid drinkers will disappear.

Suzanne Johnson

How much would prices go up if WalMart paid a living wage

This video crunches the numbers, and shows how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker (single, one dependent, working 30 hours/week) earn a living wage. The amount will surprise you.                                                                 www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/04/walmart_living_wage_if_the_company_paid_its_employees_more_how_much_would.html

Empire’s of Economic Pain

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when comes to discussing the impact that Corporations and their one size fits all mentality has on the economies of local communities and our lives these graphics paint a disturbing picture.

Largest Employers

It’s no secret that the American economy is largely based on consumer consumption, or that many of the businesses we shop and eat at are Big Box stores.  Wherever these businesses have set up in local communities like Louisa County they inevitably become an economic drain on the local economy.

WalMart

WalMart in particular, has cost Louisa County and surrounding jurisdictions approximately $ 900, 000 in hidden expenses because they refuse to pay their employees a living wage.  Few of them make enough to afford basic necessities like food, shelter and health care. Which means local jurisdictions have to pick up the slack; starting with medical assistance programs like CHIP and Medicaid, along with programs like, energy assistance, school lunches and food stamps.

This figure cited in this graph doesn’t take into account the additional cost of lost sales tax revenue because local towns and rural counties like Louisa were “persuaded” into giving these companies long term relief from paying their fair share of local taxes.  In addition, rural communities often subsidize the costs of infrastructure needed to support these Big Box outfits like; roads, electricity, telephone/internet, water and sewage. Rarely do these corporations pay their fair share of the costs or taxes.

Employer Profits

To add insult to injury, most of the profits made by these corporations make in local communities don’t go back to the local communities, or to their employees. They are overwhelmingly going to their top executives. In the case of WalMart, a lion’s share of local profits goes to the 6 heirs of the Walton family fortune.  Their most recent annual report admits that everywhere they go they are most effective, in creating poverty in local communities. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/26-6

This is a standard business practice of WalMart and large business in this county and around the world. It is built around a concept known as “economic extraction“, where the wealth of the state and local community is extracted and redistributed upwards to deserving corporations, executives and other connected official. At the state level this is accomplished primarily by avoiding paying local and state taxes. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/20/1286217/-That-Sucking-Sound-It-s-The-73-Billion-Dollar-Corporate-Robbery-of-The-States .

Walmart Sux

Another way for corporations to enhance their ability to extract wealth from local communities is to quietly and behind the scenes support the enactment of thousands of laws and regulations at the state and local level. Their primary purpose, to hide the immediate or obvious impact of how much of the communities wealth is being sent on a one way voyage. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/26/1275645/-How-Ohio-Pulled-4-Billion-from-Communities-and-Redistributed-It-Upwards.

For those of you aren’t familiar with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, you should be. They are supposed to be a non-profit tax exempt organization dedicated to the promotion of “model legislation” which assists legislators in developing workable regulations.  http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2013/12/06-american-legislative-exchange-council-jackman  What they really are doing is abusing their tax exempt educational status to assist big business in enacting their extractive economic agendas, particularly at the state level.

Basically their mission is to privatize this country, state by state. http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/bill-moyers-american-legislative-exchange-council-hard-work-privatizing-america Since an overwhelming majority of their state and even Congressional members are Republican’s, it would be safe to say they are a politically oriented non-profit group, one who just happens to be in favor of extractive economic practices.

ALEC may pretend to be “non partisian“and apolitical organization, their not. They are heavily dependent on massive corporate support to carry out their “mission”. They are further backed by the ultra right wing Koch Brothers, through their front group “Americans for Prosperity” While AFP just happen to be the primary backer of the allegedly independent Tea Party.  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/kochs-form-new-dark-money-group-hide-political-activities-public?paging=off

It’s through this confluence of extreme wealthy and rabid mega-donors like the Koch Brother’s and Sheldon Adelson, along with a host of shadowy non-profit organizations, and corrupt politicians promoting extreme economic and social policies that have provided the basis for thousands of state regulations.

More so than any other factor, these groups have contributed to the continued economic pilfering of local communities, promoting rising inequality that continues to crush what is left of the American middle class. http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-inequality-crushing-workers-families-and-communities?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

The economic slippage experienced by most American communities  especially over this past decade, continues unabated and is showing no signs of letting up. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/04/1213717/-Wage-earning-Americans-are-losing-ground-in-race-to-the-bottom-and-the-slippage-is-not-over-yet

Decreasing Worker Wages

For decades, the business community and their political supporters have taken pains to conceal the impact that this loss of earning power has on the local economy and the ability of the  people living in those communities to prosper. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/30 half_of_americans_living_below_or_near_poverty _line_partner/  The simple truth in this country is that more and more Americans, particularly those in rural communities like Louisa are  finding themselves sliding downwards, barely making  enough money to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and access to health care.

Mega-business like WalMart are able to perpetuate this vicious cycle of wealth extraction because of the economic wealth generated from these practices gives them unprecedented ability to leverage, or purchase political loyalty at the federal, state and increasingly at the local level.  While Republican’s as a whole are unquestionably by far the worst actors in this morality play.

Make no mistake, they have been aided and abetted by equally corporate conserva-dems in a no holds barred campaign to eliminate any challenges to their continued acquisition of wealth and power. It’s almost as if the fictional race from the Star Trek series, the notoriously greedy Ferengi have been put charge of our local economies.

This long tide of economic policy changes spans several decade’s and has lead us to today’s state of affairs, marked by ever increasing economic inequality. Levels of inequality that exceed the levels of economic disparity seen just prior to the Great Depression, and era of low wages, stagnant job growth, and a lack of affordable education, and health care. http://www.commondreams. org/view/2013/11/26-4 The parallels between the two are scary.

Most of the jobs that have been created in Louisa County, particularly over the past decade are relatively low paying ones. Economic earning which contribute to the downward spiral called the “new normal“.  A deadly social confluence, where low wages, low  aspirations, expectations, and living paycheck to paycheck go hand in hand. For many living in Louisa County this has become a way of living that few would dare question.

There are many threads that make up the tapestry of their efforts to keep local communities like Louisa in perpetual economic servitude. On the political front, it starts with a decade’s long resistance to any change in the Federal minimum wage. As the previous chart indicates, most workers understand that their earning power has decreased substantially over the past few decades, and they are not happy about it.

Voters want change

If the recent Facebook survey from the Central Virginian indicating that 54% of the local inhabitants now approve of a minimum wage hike has any statistical validity, people around here are just starting to recognize a working wage as a basic necessity, and are finally catching up with a national trend.  Meanwhile, Corporations and their media and political lackeys are doing everything possible to undermine the ability  of working folk to survive.

Like the Republican House’s efforts to repeal overtime. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/14/1208923/-Shock-Doctrine-While-RW-screams-conspiracy-theories-House-GOP-votes-to-END-OVERTIME-PAY-for-workers  Or trying to deny healthcare to millions of working folk by redefining full time employment.  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/04/03/1289404/-House-Republicans-to-hold-vote-on-yet-another-way-to-yank-health-coverage-from-workers

A recent letter to the editor in the Central Virginian talked about Republican’s new found appearance of concern for the plight of the rapidly shrinking middle class. Such concern includes a wide range of “fake” solutions.  Starting with bogus reasons not to raise the minimum wage, to giving federal subsidies to employers to “create jobs“, and eliminating child labor laws.http://www.alternet.org/economy/8-phony-gop-solutions-poverty-will-only-bring-more-economic-pain?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark.

Other recent proposals to harm working folks include, the state of Florida eliminating sick leave, http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/06/17/2165671/rick-scott-paid-sick-leave/ and turning programs such as food stamps over to the states, and replacing public schools with voucher schools. Or the state of Oklahoma banning minimum wage increases, and paid sick days or vacation days. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/15/3426716/oklahoma-ban-minimum-wage-paid-sick-leave/

The truth is that Republican’s “we care about you” proposals are nothing more than a smokescreen concealing the fact that their proposal will only bring about more economic pain and suffering.  Like how the House of Representatives in a time of high unemployment recently slashed food stamp programs to the bone, while providing additional tax breaks for their corporate patrons like the Koch Brothers. http://www.thenation.com/blog/178247/farm-bill-cuts-8-billion-food-stamps-preserves-handouts-koch-industries

The good news is that states with Democratic majorities or Governor’s are starting to find creative ways to resist Republican’s deliberate attempts to inflict more pain and suffering, and are restoring some of the food stamp cuts. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/03/26/states-use-farm-bill-loophole-to-stem-food-stamp-cuts-2/

Other Democratic states have recognized the relationship between workers earning a living wage, and their ability to have access to affordable education, and health care. While poverty caused by rising levels of economic inequality only increase the potential for long term dependence on public assistance. They are leading the way in this social change, and have raised their minimum wages well above federal levels.

The Massachusetts House http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/04/02/massachusetts-house-debate-minimum-wage-hike/Aye6m8gpQvlElrrmAoImwJ/story.html recently voted to raise their minimum wage above the $ 10.10  proposed by President Obama. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/us/politics/president-heads-to-michigan-to-press-minimum-wage-increase.html?_r=0

States around the country are starting to wake up to the simple fact that when people are paid a working wage, it means a better standard of living for them and their families, improves the economy and making it less likely that either they or their families will become dependent on public assistance in order to survive.

Should you live in a Republican dominated state like the Commonwealth of Virginia, and  happen to find yourself out of work, with your and your family going hungry, you just might be out of luck. Because the same mindset which drove the House Republicans to make draconian cuts to food stamp cuts, and trying to repealing the Affordable Care Act over 50 times is also behind the Republican dominated House of Delegates continued resistance to Medicaid expansion.

Jon Taylor