Saturday, June 28, 2014

Are the working poor any better off under Obamacare? Will they pay their premium?

How many people  have actually gotten health care coverage under Obamacare?  It is hard to say.  The Administration said 8 million enrolled but we don't know how many of those paid their premium. Also the Administration has not released numbers in over two months, so they must be embarrassing or they would be crowing. This article makes an informed calculation that the number is less than 4 million: Obamacare Exchanges Are ‘Disappointing’ With Fewer Than 4 Million Newly Insured. The Government Hoped for 26 Million.

No doubt some people who needed health insurance are now covered under Obamacare. Those probably most benefiting are the middle-class people  with pre-existing conditions. There have no doubt been winners and losers under the program.

One thing I have not seen discussed anywhere is that those who previously did not have health insurance did not, not have health care. Among the working poor, having insurance may not make them any better off.  I have worked with low-income people in one way or the other most of my adult life.  In my experience, few low income people go without health care. If they earn too much for Teencare, there is a safety net. They often are served at a United Community Health Service facility for their primary care such as the Vanderbilt Clinic at Vine Hill. These programs have a sliding fee program making care affordable. Here is what the Vine Hill clinic says about their program:

Vine Hill Clinic offers a full range of primary care services, including chronic disease management, pediatrics, social work services, and preventative services such as annual physicals, well child exams and immunizations. Our clinic also offers basic dental services to our patients such as cleanings, fillings and extractions. Our Medical Staff who specialize in pediatric and adult care are here to serve you. Patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment. "Walk-in" and Open Access appointments are available each day. Open Access appointments are similar to “walk-in” appointments, except Open Access appointments are available for scheduling starting at 8:00 am for that day. This way you can come in at your appointment time and it will prevent you from having to wait very long to be seen. Medicare, Medicaid (TennCare) and most private insurance is accepted. Discounts are available for those without health/dental insurance who meet income guidelines. Patients can also obtain low cost or free prescriptions and most lab tests provided on site are discounted or free.
There is also a program called "Bridges to Care" that is much better than Obamacare. I have encountered several people using this program. I know someone who has had heart problems and various other health issues and has had all of her health care cost paid for under this program.

Also, the emergency room is a source of care for people with no insurance. Part of the logic of Obamacare is that reliance on the emergency room by the uninsured is driving up health care cost.  No doubt that is true.  But I predict that we will see little decline in emergency room use unless some disincentives are put in place to discourage emergency room use. Those who now rely on the emergency room for non-emergency care could use a health clinic now, instead of the emergency room. I was around when TennCare was an expansive health care program, not just Medicaid like it is now.  Under the old TennCare, the working poor still relied on the emergency room.  Part of the reason is that the working poor often work jobs where it is difficult to take off work for a doctors appointment and the emergency room is open 24 hours a day. Part of it may simply be habit.

There are no doubt many admirable hard working responsible working poor people.  But there is also a way of thinking that accompanies poverty in our welfare state. Middle class people or the working poor with middle class values would be mortified if they could not make their car payment and a car was repossessed. It is not uncommon to hear something like this from a poor person: "I bought that car, and I hadn't had it six months until the transmission started slipping, so I just stopped making the payments and said, 'you can come get it.'" They say this with pride.  They do not view a repossession of a car as a failure.

Not all, and I don't know the percentage, but I know it is a common attitude among the poor that they do not think about debt the same way middle class people do.  They do not worry about $50,000 of medical bills. They have no assets and get by day by day.  They are not going to go without cable TV to pay a hospital bill.

I don't doubt that many of the people now covered by Obamacare will make sure they maintain their insurance premiums and will be grateful to have health insurance.  When it come to the working poor, I am not so sure. Even it they made that first insurance premium payment, if they must choose between a new Titans starter jacket and making that second insurance payment, many of them will choose the new Titans jacket.

The income tax penalty is not going to make a lot of difference either. They just do not think that far ahead. They have never learned delayed gratification. Also, many of them either legitimately don't pay taxes or have learned how to cheat on their taxes so they don't pay taxes.  As the penalty increases, no doubt the working poor with middle class values and the middle class will be motivated to comply and avoid the penalty, but not the working poor with lower class values.

Instead of just comparing the number of people who now have insurance who before did not have insurance, I think a better measure of the success of Obamacare is how many people now have health care or much better health care than they did before Obamacare. I bet it is not many.  A less comprehensive approach to changing the health care delivery system, could have helped those few.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Where Do You Fit in the Political Typology? Take the Pew Research Center Quiz.

Are you a Steadfast Conservative? A Solid Liberal? Or somewhere in between? Take this quiz to find out which one of Pew's Political Typology groups is your best match compared with a national survey of over 10,000 U.S. adults conducted by the Pew Research Center. To see how Pew's analysis groups the electorate into eight categories rather than just a conservative-liberal divide, follow this link

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oink! 2014 Tennessee pork report documents $609M in taxpayer waste

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog, NASHVILLE — Tennessee officials wasted $609 million in taxpayer money last year, according to the 2014 Tennessee Pork Report, which a free market think tank released Wednesday. The Beacon Center of Tennessee releases the annual report every summer.

Beacon President Justin Owen said this year’s report reveals the highest amount of taxpayer waste in the publication’s nine-year history, which places blame on a large variety of state and local government entities.

PORK: Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham,<br />;Beacon Center Policy DIrector Lindsay Boyd, <br /><br />/>and Beacon President Justin Owen introduce the 2014 Pork Report at a press conference Wednesday in Nashville.
PORK: Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham,
Beacon Center Policy DIrector Lindsay Boyd, and Beacon
President Justin Owen introduce the 2014 Pork
Report at a press conference Wednesday in Nashville.

So how do government officials traditionally behave when they make this infamous list? Do they show embarrassment or remorse or do they get mad and defensive?

“It’s a mix,” Owen told Tennessee Watchdog at a press conference Wednesday. “I would say some realize they’re making mistakes and have started to clean up their act, but others think it’s OK to do what they’re doing, particularly on the waste side when you’re talking about spending money on stupid projects or things that aren’t wise for taxpayers.”

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is the recipient of this year’s “Pork of the Year,” after Owen said it handed out $200 million in wrongfully paid unemployment benefits. Felons, dead people and gainfully employed state workers were among the recipients, Owen said.

This year’s Pork Report also cites 16 Tennessee Watchdog stories written over the past year, including:
STUCK WITH THE STICKS?: An artists' rendering of <br /><br />the sticks that will be placed in downtown <br />Nashville, at taxpayer expense, at a cost of $750,000.
STUCK WITH THE STICKS?: An artists’ rendering of the 
sticks that will be placed in downtown Nashville, at
taxpayer expense, at a cost of $750,000.
The report also details how local governments and public utilities in Tennessee wasted $7.5 million more than they had last year and frequently bypassed competitive bidding requirements.

In the report, Beacon staff members recommend their own solutions to taxpayer waste, including establishing independent commissions that would analyze the state budget line by line.
“At the local level, officials can create audit committees to analyze their budgets, maintain sufficient rainy day funds, impose debt disclosure requirements for taxpayers and overhaul financial management systems altogether,” Owen said.

Thanks to Tennessee Watchdog for permission to reprint this article. 

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

School Board meeting of 6/24/2014: The another-battle-over-charter-schools meeting.

The school board produces great agendas that contains all of the reports and handouts that are given to the school board members. To get your own copy of this 248-page agenda, follow this link.

In case you missed it, Nashville has now joined a program where all children will get free breakfast and free lunch. Of course we know there is "no such thing as a free lunch" but it will be free to the consumers of the lunch. Will Pinkston commends the administration for joining this program. One of the reasons for this change is to remove the stigma of those who accept free lunch.  In my view this is a mistake.  The stigma of accepting free lunch provides an incentive for people to earn enough money so they are no longer eligible for free lunch. It may encourage children to do better than their parents so their children do not feel the stigma of a free lunch. Stigma is not a bad thing. When we removed the stigma of having children out of wedlock, out of wedlock births soared.  If free lunch is a right rather than charity given to the disadvantaged, then people feel entitled to it.  Free lunch, free healthcare, free phones, make people feel entitled to the wealth of others and makes them ungrateful for the assistance they get. This is one more step along the path that is turning America into a European style welfare state where everyone is a ward of the State.

Charter School Motion discussion starts at time stamp 10:14.  Dr.Alan Coverstone , Executive Officer of the Office of Innovation, recommends two brand new charter schools for approval and one conversation charter and two high schools which are "pathways" from existing charter schools, meaning the new high schools are a continuation of a  K-8 charter for the students of the existing charter who enter grade 9. Three applicants are recommended to be denied. The recommendations are followed but the vote is close on some of them.

One of the criteria for approving new charter schools is that they relieve overcrowding. Another criteria is a conversion charter where a charter takes over a failing school. Mr. Coverstone makes the case that it is less costly to approve a new charter rather than build a new school in a high growth area. To see agenda information on the schools denied and approved go to page109 of the agenda.

Amy Frogge attacks the renewal of Rocketship's charter and her attack is refuted by Michael W. Hayes (see time stamp 50.05). Their charter is renewed with Frogge voting "no." I think Ms Frogge votes against all charter applications. There is "no" vote on almost all of the charter applications and I assume that "no" vote is from Frogge but it is not a recorded roll call vote and the video does not clearly show who the "no" vote came from but I am almost sure it was Frogge. 

There is an attempt on the part of Pinkston to amend the terms of the approval of a new charter school.  Valor Collegiate applies for a K-8 charter to start with grade 5 and then add lower grades. Next year they would add K and grade 1. Pinkston says this is a "Trojan horse" for a middle school. He wants them to start with grade K. This application is approved but just barely with four "no" votes. The "no's" are Speering, Pinkston, Frogge, and I could not determine the other person who voted "no."

The school calendar is approved. For parents wanted to view the calendar see page 7 of the agenda.

Below is more information from the school board. It seems that if a charter school cannot be defeated by a vote to deny them a charter, that some members of the school board want to bog them down with so much bureaucracy and regulations so they are no more efficient than a regular public schools. 

School board member: Charters must be more transparent
by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, June 24, 2014 - Nashville charter schools would be required to document and publish their finances, funding sources and conflicts of interest more thoroughly under a policy overhaul floated by a Metro school board member. 
But the measure is already getting pushback from critics questioning the purpose behind the effort, arguing that it would establish a double standard apart from the district’s traditional public schools. (link)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Metro Council Agenda for July 1, 2014 is now available

The Metro Council Agenda for July 1, 2014 is now available at this link. Check back and I will tell you what is on the agenda.

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Joe Carr not invited to big tea party rally

There is a big  tea party rally taking place in Sevierville soon with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the headliner. Joe Carr is not invited and was told he could attend if he bought a ticket. Tea Party Rally Won't Include Alexander's Tea Party Challenger.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Join a conversation about gentrification on June 30th.

Many advocates of affordable housing, neighborhood activist and advocates of the poor have a knee-jerk reaction opposed to what is called "gentrification."  Gentrification is a shift in the population of an urban area and an increase in property values. Upper middle class and wealthy people move into the urban core and poor people move out. Certainly gentrification does lead to fewer "affordable" homes. Small home such as many of those modest homes that remain in neighborhoods like Woodbine and Madison get torn down and replaced by much bigger homes. A $75,000 home may go off the market and be replaced by a $375,000 home. The older better quality homes get purchased and restored to their former glory and triple in value.  In the neighborhood in which I live, many homes have been gutted to the wall studs and completely rebuilt except for the shell.  In some cases beneath a shell of aluminum siding is original quality wood siding and Victorian features.

What happens to the working poor and the welfare class who were living in these homes?  They move to Antioch or other suburban areas in many cases. In the car-dependent suburbs it is more difficult to serve the poor than in a dense urban environment.  The concern of displacing low income people is a legitimate concern and the shrinking of housing stock that is affordable is a legitimate concern. A city needs housing in a variety of price points so that the working poor as well as younger middle class and people like firemen, and policemen, and teachers can live in the community where they work.

In addition to policy concerns about affordable housing and concern for the poor, there is often a resentment of homeowners who live in a modest neighborhood who sees homes in the neighborhood torn down and replaced with much larger new homes that are out of character of the neighborhood. While that is understandable, in some cases so many of the old homes have been torn down and replaced that now the out of character homes are the remaining two-bedroom, nine hundred square foot houses with aluminum siding or the modest 1200 square foot brick ranch style homes.  I do not think that neighborhoods should be allowed to stop transition of a neighborhood to a neighborhood of larger and better homes.

Gentrification  has its positive points.  From purely aesthetics and historic preservation, gentrification restores and protects the housing stock and makes for a prettier community. Also many of the homes being replaced which were hurriedly thrown up in the decade after World War II never were quality homes and they are being replaced with better housings. Gentrification also slows urban sprawl.  If people who want to buy a $500,000 home can't get it in Nashville, then they likely will move into adjacent counties. and commute to Nashville. Also having more people with more disposable income means more business opportunity and more coffee shops, and restaurants, and neighborhood pubs, and all kinds of businesses and a more vibrant community. This creates new jobs and opportunities for people to escape poverty. Probably the most important positive aspect of gentrification is the impact on the tax base.  A larger city almost always has higher cost of government than a smaller city and there is always more demand for public services as a city grows. To meet the needs of the city and demands of the citizens for services requires more revenue.  If the tax base grows revenue comes from growth, if not then it comes from tax increases. A $375,000 home can bring in five times the property tax revenue of a $75,000 home, and also all of the new business they sprout up to serve a population with disposable income, pay taxes that was not paid before.

While I support good zoning and land use planning, I think we should be cautious when we let planning replace markets in guiding development. If planning is used to prohibit what the market would determine is most advantageous, then development may not occur at all and decline may occur. While we plan, we should always be mindful of protecting the property rights of others. Also, it is wise to be mindful that what is though of as good planning today, may be realized to have been a terrible mistake in the future. Much of our strict separation of uses, urban sprawl and commercial corridors with vacant buildings and inadequate development was the result of planning that had unintended consequences. Gentrification and the related issue of maintaining an economically diverse community and a stock of affordable housing can be a complex issue with both positive and negative aspects. If you are concerned about the future of Nashville, I urge you to join the conversation June 30th.

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CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN guest at 1st Tuesday, July 1.

From 1st Tuesday:

If you have been watching, MAJOR stories affecting politics in Washington DC have been coming at blistering pace !!! 
Marsha Blackburn
On Tuesday, July 1st - 1ST TUESDAY welcomes back CONGRESSMAN MARSHA BLACKBURN,  our lady playing a leading role in the eye of the storm !! 

1]PAUL RYAN publicly questions the integrity the IRS Commissioner -- so, what's next ?
2] CANTOR loss shocks -- Republican House Leadership sees major changes -- so, what's next? 
3] BOEHNER is preparing to sue Obama -- so, what's next?
4] SUPREME COURT rulings rattle Obama and other DC power players -- so, what's next?
5] THAD win shocks -- DC based Conservative groups poured in $11MM - and lost --so, what's next?   
6] OBAMA swaps GITMO prisoners without telling Congress - so, what' next ?
7] ISIS crisis - Obama now wants $500MM for rebels -- so, what's next?
8] NOVEMBER elections could result in a Republican Senate - so, then what?

WHO knows what will be the HOT TOPICS will be tomorrow?? Next week ????  
But we will be hearing from the Congressman who does know what is going on behind the scene and what to look for next !  

Talk about  MAJOR LEAGUE politics and power ! This is BIG TIME STUFF with near term decisions having long term consequences.   All I can say is ---BE at 1ST TUESDAY on Tuesday !!!!!!!

No doubt, there will be plenty of other topics to discuss when Marsha comes. Seating is becoming limited. 
As with June's event when Gov. Haslam returned, this event will also sell out ! 

Visit our website at and click on the Shopping Cart. 
Seats are $20 for Members and $25 for Guests. 
As usual, we will meet at WALLER Law - 511 Union Street 27th floor - 
Doors open at 11AM for Coffee and Social time. Lunch at 11:30AM. Marsha will hit the podium at NOON.
Strap in and get ready .... it will be a day full !!!! 

For those who want to spend some special time prior to our event with Marsha and several other special guests, there will a prior event to attend hosted by LEADERS OF TENNESSEE  -- the PAC that most believed changed the balance of power in the TN Legislature.

Monty Lankford, Founder of LEADER of TENNESSEE PAC .....  says the $$$ raised will be target 2014 Nashville candidates for the TN Legislature !! 

Doors open at 10:30AM for this special gathering !   
Contributions of $100 are requested.   $200 or more will get you lunch for you and a guest !! 
If you haven't secured your seat already.... Please make plans to join us on Tuesday, July 1st

MAKE PLANS to join us EARLY for an hour with Marsha !  Bring a friend ! 
Let me if you plan to come for the early $$-raiser with MARSHA and special guests ! 

See you on Tuesday,  July 1st !!  

Tim Skow

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George-Sorus-funded MoveOn to host "Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition" movie Party in Madison

I just received an invitation from "Carmen M" of Madison to attend a "Movie Party in Madison: America has a Koch problem."

"We're getting together to watch Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition," said the invitation. "This acclaimed new release pulls back the curtain on Charles and David Koch, yanking them out of the shadows and exposing them for what they are: a self-interested, ultraconservative demolition crew hell-bent on crushing the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and so much more. Will you join us?"

The thought came to me, "I wonder if George Sorus funds MoveOn?" I did a goggle search and low and behold, he does.  Wikipedia reports George Soros gave $1.46 million to the organization. Um, do MoveOn members not see the irony in blasting the Koch Brothers for supporting conservative causes when they have their own benefactor supporting them? I guess not. Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle "black?"

My view of the Koch brothers is, God Bless them. These two men made it rich in America and they are giving back to society and trying to preserve the same America that made their wealth possible.  No rich person has a moral obligation to share their wealth but I think it is admirable when they do. I can think of no cause more worth supporting than keeping America a free constitutional republic and advancing free enterprise. They could support hunger in Africa or fight to find a cure for a disease, but freedom and free enterprise have ended more hunger and cured more diseases than all of the philanthropy in the world. If I was filthy rich, I would do just like the Koch brothers.  They should be applauded and honored for their contribution to the cause of freedom.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

VU Study sides with Charters; no evidence charter exodus is higher.

Over a year ago the anti school choice members of the School Board alleged that the reason most charter school so outperform regular schools is because the poor preforming students exit the charter and return to a regular school midyear. Thus when it comes to year-end testing, the poor performing students are gone. They must have really believed it to be so because they hired a team of Vanderbilt researches to research the issue. 

Well, the results are in: "We found no evidence of any pattern of push-out or forced exit of potentially poor-performing students from charters," said Claire Smrekar, associate professor of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt. Smrekar helped oversee the project. (link)

The 75 page report analyzed the data and says poverty is the result of student school mobility and that the number of exits midyear from a charter is about the same as other school with students of the same socio-economic demographic.

Not happy with the results of a study, School Board member Amy Frogge questioned the integrity of the researchers. To read the Tennessean story follow this link.

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