Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

A Letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder:

I would ask you to block any legislation from the Michigan Lame Duck Legislature which would overturn the will of the constituents as determined through the November 6th vote or endorsed by petition and thereby blocked from being placed on the ballot due to deliberate legislative action passing it in the Michigan House and Senate pre-November 6th. As you already know proposals passed through elections require a two-thirds legislative vote to overturn them or alter.

It bothers me to have to write to you and urge you to block something which will subvert the will of your constituents in favor of a political party and which should also be very apparent to our State Senators and Representatives. I should not have to pen this email to you as they should know by now which is the more important of the two choices . . . we the constituents who they “should represent” in the Michigan State House/Senate or a gaggle of special interests such as big business, PACs funded by the Koch Brothers etc., or the 1% of the Household Taxpayers making greater than $500,000 annually in income. It was far greater than 51% of those who voted favorably in this last election for the proposals. It was those who also signed petitions to place other proposals on the ballot which were deliberately blocked and passed by legislative action in the State Legislature so they could later be overturned or changed in Lame Duck session. Do not allow the Legislature to:

– Change the intent of the Michigan One Fair Wage initiative by delaying and diminishing an increase in the minimum wage, something which came about as a result of a constituent Initiative.

– Change the intent of the Michigan Time To Care initiative by delaying and decreasing the amount of a worker’s earned sick leave, something which came about as a result of a constituent Initiative.

– Weaken the authority of the Michigan State Attorney General to bring suit or interfere with the Michigan Courts.

– Weaken the authority of the Secretary of State in monitoring elections and associated practices within Michigan.

– Block the new, popularly elected, State of Michigan Governor by diminishing the authority of the position making it less than what it is today under yourself.

I am adding my voice to the tens of thousands in Michigan calling upon you to act responsibility in representing us the constituents of your state and veto any and all changes to the recent proposals passed through a vote and those deliberately passed through legislative action (to be overturned after the election) before the November 6th election and endorsed by petition.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

run75441

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Increase in Uninsured Children

I get the alerts from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families weekly. The news much of the time is a reflection of the number of attacks on families and children who have lesser means to provide for healthcare themselves and depend upon Medicaid, ACA, and CHIPS for care. Since the election of Trump, McConnell and Ryan have been strutting around like the cocks on the walk demonstrating their machismo as they hold women, children and families hostage. Tough guys both and it is easy to threaten women and children.

For the first time in a decade, the number of uninsured children rose in the US. It is not much of a surprise to me as Republicans made it miserable for many in states which did not expand Medicaid, held CHIPS hostage, and threatened those applied to become citizens with denial if they used the nation’s healthcare.

Some Stats:

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families:

– An estimated 276,000 more children were uninsured in 2017 than in 2016
– Three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in non-expansion Medicaid coverage states for parents and low-income adults. The uninsured rates for children increased at almost triple the rate in non-expansion states compared to Medicaid expansion states.
– Nine states experienced statistically significant increases in their rate of uninsured children (SD, UT, TX, GA, SC, FL, OH, TN, MA).
– Texas is #1 again. Texas has the largest share of children without health coverage with more than one in five uninsured children in the U.S. residing in the state.
– States with larger American Indian/ Alaska Native populations tend to have higher uninsured rates for children than the national average.

Some History:

The funding for CHIP expired September 2017 and Republicans and Trump were playing cat and mouse with Democrats to extend it while they looked for ways to repeal the ACA or weaken it. As Joan Aker the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families stated;

“The majority of uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but are not currently enrolled. The name of the game here is to make sure that families are aware that their child has a path to coverage and that these kids get enrolled and stay enrolled.”

2017 was tumultuous for families dependent on Medicaid, CHIPs, and the ACA. Added to this was Trump’s hostility towards immigrant families. 25% of the children living in the United States have a parent who is an immigrant. For “mixed status” families, the fear of interacting with the government deters them from enrolling their children in government sponsored health coverage.

Conclusion:

Again, Joan Akers of the Center for Children and Families: “The nation is going backwards on insuring kids and it is likely to get worse.”

If we can get the Democrats in the House off their butt and start to represent “their constituents” as determined by the founding fathers who designed the House to represent the population, we may be able to put in place the foundation for future healthcare gains. Instead, we have the House Representatives playing the secret ballot game for House Speaker with a promise of a Dean Wormer double-secret ballot come January.

Under Trump, Number Of Uninsured Kids Rose For First Time This Decade

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Cindy Hyde-Smith Says She Never Lost Faith in Mississippi

Some humor, sarcasm, and disappointment.

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (The Borowitz Report)—Celebrating her election victory on Tuesday night, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said that, despite predictions that her state was ready to turn the page on its shameful past, “I never lost faith in Mississippi’s racists.”

“For weeks, we’ve been hearing national pundits say that Mississippi was ready to enter the twenty-first century,” Hyde-Smith told a crowd of supporters at her victory rally. “Tonight, with your help, we proved them wrong.”

Hyde-Smith said that, despite the media’s unearthing of a cavalcade of embarrassing comments and actions from her past, “I never doubted that, at the end of the day, the people of Mississippi would listen to the racist voices in their heads.”

Choking back tears, Hyde-Smith thanked her supporters for honoring Mississippi’s storied heritage of hatred and cruelty.

“Mississippi voters do not want to tear down the relics of our Confederate past,” she said. “As such a relic, I am eternally grateful.”

Exit polls showed that Hyde-Smith performed extremely well with voters who described themselves as bigots, and dominated among those who could not correctly spell “Mississippi.”

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Aetna and CVS Merge

Nearly one year after agreeing to merge in a bid to reinvent healthcare for Americans, CVS Health and Aetna sealed the deal on Wednesday, bringing together one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains and one of the largest health insurers.

CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo: “Today marks the start of a new day in health care and a transformative moment for our company and our industry. By delivering the combined capabilities of our two leading organizations, we will transform the consumer health experience and build healthier communities through a new innovative health care model that is local, easier to use, less expensive and puts consumers at the center of their care.”

Despite warnings from provider groups, patient advocates, economists, and antitrust experts of the combination harming competition and patients, the $69 billion merger scored approval from U.S. Justice Department antitrust enforcers and insurance regulators in 28 states. On Monday and surprisingly for me those regulators who always appear to be going after someone of some business, New York regulators became the last to sign off on the deal.

This is another example of the healthcare enterprise, big business, etc. getting ready for government sponsored single payer, Medicare-for-all, public option, etc. (whatever you wish to call it) having the power to negotiate pricing/costs of delivered healthcare if legislators actually decide to have such power. Otherwise, it becomes a simple cost shift to the government which will result in higher taxes and uncontrolled costs for healthcare which can be had for far less cost in our equivalent European neighbors countries. Other bloggers and many readers here and other places are used to calling out for these popular memes without definition.

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CSX Slowly being Disassembled by Mantle Ridge Hedge Fund

CSX connects most major U.S. cities east of the Mississippi River. Since 2017, the railroad has laid off 6,000 employees, cut back on capital spending, and slashed the number of trains it runs and discontinued hundreds of the routes it serves.

Together CSX and Union Pacific serve major U.S. cities west of the Mississippi River and together they discontinued service on 197 out of 301 cross-country routes that the two rail giants partnered on in September 2017.

The results of these actions leaves shippers who want to send goods across the country no “direct” means to send a container by rail from Houston to Baltimore. Instead, CSX will take the container as far as Chambersburg, Penn. And the rest of the way will be by a container trucker going the remaining 77 miles to Baltimore. The same exists if the shipper uses Norfolk Southern. Norfolk will take the container only as far as Harrisburg, Penn. And the container will be transferred to a container trucker for the balance of the 76 miles to Baltimore.

Why would CSX owners do this when the need still exists? The cost cutting brings short-term profits and a soaring stock price. Between the beginning of 2017 and the end of this year’s third quarter, CSX labor expenses declined by 18% and the value of its stock rose by 106 percent. Rather than increase the price on its route, CSX can maximize profits and minimize capital and maintenance costs by cutting service in the aggregate. The cut in Labor cost is just an add on when compared to the cuts in Overhead costs.

Side Note: So much for common carrier and public utility laws. “The term utilities can refer to the set of services provided by these organizations consumed by the public: Coal, electricity, natural gas, water, sewage, telephone, and transportation. Broadband internet services (both fixed-line and mobile) are increasingly being included within the definition” while a “common carrier offers its services to the general public under license or authority provided by a regulatory body. The regulatory body has usually been granted ‘ministerial authority’ by the legislation that created it. The regulatory body may create, interpret, and enforce its regulations upon the common carrier (subject to judicial review) with independence and finality, as long as it acts within the bounds of the enabling legislation.”

E. Hunter Harrison is the man who figured out how-to pump-up profits by cutting service. Over the course of his career at the Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific Railways; Harrison implemented his trademark program: “precision scheduled railroading.” Besides cutting capital (engines, cars, etc.) Overhead (maintenance of equipment, facilities rail beds, costs associated with Labor, etc.) and Labor costs; precision scheduled railroading means less service, fewer and longer trains, fewer routes, and ignoring some major cities.

Side Note: This is the same type of cuts in service many politicians and competitors of the USPS are pushing for today. Railways like the postal service are utilities and are vital to the community. The purpose of both mail and railroads was to provide a service as a public utility. Railroads being granted exclusivity for certain routes and governed by common carrier law. Someone is purposely asleep at the switch and abating the destruction of infrastructure.

Why would CSX cut service drastically? Hedge fund Mantle Ridge and founder and CEO Paul Hilal. Mantle Ridge had and still has only one investment, an initial $1.2 billion stake in CSX stock purchased in late 2016. The $1.2 billion is now worth nearly $3 billion as of the last quarter. In January 2017 with Mantle Ridge’s investment, Hilal pushed CSX to hire his partner Harrison and implement precision schedule railroading (nothing to do with schedules and more to do with providing service).

CSX agreed to Hilal’s demands. Shareholders salivated at the thought of Harrison boosting CSX’s profits right into their pockets and showed large support for Harrison’s leadership at CSX. Harrison saying that “shareholders took a much more active role than I’ve ever seen before. They wanted change.”

Of course, they wanted change at CSX for short term profits or rent taking. They will leave CSX a shadow of its formal self. The loss of the necessary infrastructure promoting the transportation of goods in the US will be born by its citizens in increased costs and impinge upon national security.

On a similar note and action . . . October 15, 2018 Sears faced a deadline for payment of $134 million on its debt. It didn’t have the money, so it filed for protection from its creditors. Eddie Lampert — the largest shareholder in the company, with nearly half its shares — stepped down as CEO. Another corporate pirate who will strip the assets of the company and leave Sears a shell of its former self.

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Passed on the Romaine Salad This Year

My wife was in charge of making the salad for Thanksgiving. For her easily done as she makes her own Italian dressing. I bought enough Romaine Hearts to feed 20 people. On Wednesday, we pitched them all as CDC said not to eat any Romaine as it was contaminated with E. Coli. We moved on to Spinach and Arugula.

It is not the first-time leafy vegetables have been removed from the grocery shelf and the dinner table. Indeed, if you glance at the attached chart, it has happened frequently over the years. Since 2006, there has been at least one outbreak of E. Coli yearly caused by leafy vegetables.

The Center for Investigative Reporting on its website Reveal was one of the first to break the story of why it has become hazardous to eat vegetables in the US. “5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteria.”

Congress legislated actions to be taken in 2011 after several out breaks of E. Coli and the resulting illness. The testing of the water used to irrigate the fields growing the plants was to start in 2018. Six months before people were sickened by the contaminated Romaine, in response to pressure from the farm industry, and Trump’s mandate to eliminate regulations, the FDA delayed the water-testing rules for at least four years.

This particular outbreak originated in Yuma Arizona and is believed to be from irrigation water which is typically a prime source of food contamination and foodborne illnesses. When livestock feces flow into and contaminates a creek, the tainted water can seep into wells or is sprayed onto produce which is then harvested, processed, and sold at stores and restaurants. Salad leafy greens are particularly vulnerable and they are often eaten raw and can harbor bacteria when torn. In 2006, most California and Arizona growers of leafy greens signed agreements to voluntarily test irrigated water which minimizes the risk of contamination.

Farm groups contend the testing of water is too expensive. Some farmers contend the whole thing is an overblown attempt to exert government power on them. Postponing the water-testing rules would save growers $12 million per year. It would also cost consumers $108 million per year in medical expenses, according to an FDA analysis.

Go Figure . . .

Reveal: “5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteria.” The Center for Investigative Reporting.

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House Democrats are Backing off on Nancy Pelosi

Most recently, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) gave his support for Pelosi for a major infrastructure bill early in the next Congress and a commitment to let Higgins lead the charge on a proposal to let Americans buy into Medicare at age 50. I am hoping they design the Medicare buy-in as it is not cheap in its present form and doses not include vision or dental.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) abandoned her quest to be the House Speaker. Instead, Fudge will head up the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections which Pelosi will recreate and Fudge will chair. Marcia Fudge:

“Leader Pelosi has granted me the opportunity to create the record necessary to satisfy the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, so that the protections of the Voting Rights Act will be reinstated and improved. She has also assured me that the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic party, Black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table. I am now confident that we will move forward together and that the 116th Congress will be a Congress of which we can all be proud. I now join my colleagues in support of the leadership team of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.”

An important role considering what has happened in Florida since 2000 and in Georgia recently with striking voters from the rolls by then Secretary of State Kemp who was also running for Governor.

As PGL pointed out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has backed Nancy Pelosi.

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District Federal Court Rips Administration on Census

I have had enough court time to last a life time. While mine was not fun and it was a battle, this I find hilarious. It is a well placed shot across the bow of someone who believes they are impervious to society, the courts, and morality.

The census case arrived in front of Manhattan District Federal Judge Furman requesting that he delay proceedings. Calling it the ‘latest and strangest effort’ in its crusade to delay proceedings in the case. He said what made the request ‘most puzzling, if not sanctionable’ is that the Trump administration had made a similar request before the trial started, and had been rejected by not only the district court judge, but by an appeals court and the Supreme Court.

Furman pointed out, “when the Supreme Court announced last week it was taking up the case, “it knew that this Court had completed trial, and it presumably expected that the Court would enter final judgment before the date that it set for oral argument.”

Bashing the administration for taking its request to an appeals court before he had a chance to rule on it. The appeals court again denied that request as premature.

“If Defendants’ motion in this Court comes close to the sanctionable line, that filing would sure seem to cross it,” Furman wrote in his order.”

Other quotable quotes?

– “Unless burdening Plaintiffs and the federal courts with make-work is a feature of Defendants’ litigation strategy, as opposed to a bug, it is hard to see the point. To borrow from Camus, “[o]ne must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

– “Tellingly, this time, Defendants do not even attempt to argue that they are entitled to the extraordinary relief of a stay of all proceedings under the traditional factors…In fact, the words ‘harm” and ‘injury’ do not appear anywhere in their motion. That is for good reason, as the notion that they — or anyone else — would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ without a stay is laughable.”

– “Defendants’ motion makes so little sense, even on its own terms, that it is hard to understand as anything but an attempt to avoid a timely decision on the merits altogether.

– “Enough is enough.”

State of New York vs US Department of Commerce

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Solow on Friedman’s 1968 Presidential Address and the Medium Run

Mark Thoma had this up on Facebook. and pulled this from Tim Taylor’s Conversable Economist. It is an interesting read.

“Fifty years ago in 1968, Milton Friedman’s Presidential Address to the American Economic Association set the stage for battles in macroeconomics that have continued ever since. The legacy of the talk has been important enough that in the Winter 2018 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, where I work as Managing Editor (Tim Taylor), we published a three-paper symposium on ‘Friedman’s Natural Rate Hypothesis After 50 Years.'”

What was the key insight or argument in Friedman’s 1968 address? Friedman offers a reminder that interest rates and unemployment rates are set by economic forces. Friedman uses this idea to build a distinction between the long-run and the short-run. In the short run, it is possible for a central bank like the Federal Reserve to influence interest rates and the unemployment rate. In the long run, there is a “natural” rate of interest and a “natural” rate of unemployment which is trying to emerge, gradually, over time from all the various forces in the economy.

The rest you can read for yourself at Tim’s site.

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More House Speaker Details on Who Will Lead

A Rehash

Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

Nancy LeToureau at Washington Monthly detailed a Pelosi experience giving her remarks on Twitter. “On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Nancy Pelosi, Nov 13, 2018 on Twitter:

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

Nancy LeToureau: These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

The Letter’s 17

On the same day, some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House. There are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments; however, the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership has different motives.

About a dozen incumbent Democrats and a half-dozen incoming Democrats are preparing a letter pledging to not support Pelosi on the House floor for speaker. The members also intend to note another contingent of Democrats who privately say they won’t support the longtime California Democrat but won’t sign the letter, according to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), one of the ringleaders of the effort to block Pelosi.

Sources (HuffPost) familiar with the letter say there are currently 17 names on it, but the group is trying to get more than 20 members before releasing it. Currently on the letter, though not certain to stay on it, are:

– Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
– Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
– Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)
– Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
– Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
– Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas)
– Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)
– Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.)
– Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
– Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)
– Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.)
– Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.)
– Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.)
– Max Rose (D-N.Y.)
– Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.)
– Ben McAdams (D-Utah)

There is another contingent of Democrats ― including Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Dan Lipinksi (D-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) ― who are seen as likely to vote against Pelosi, but who appear to be hesitant to sign the letter.

In comparison, just “How progressive Is Nancy Pelosi” when compared to the 17?

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) writes; “not only has Pelosi consistently been in the top third of the most liberal Democrats in the House, Pelosi is a lot more liberal than Republican Paul Ryan is conservative.” The insurgency against Pelosi amongst House Democrats consists of people who are to Pelosi’s right on the ideological scale. The 17 Democratic signatories on the anti-Pelosi letter when compared to FiveThirtyEight’s DW NOMINATE ranking / Trump scorecard shows that only two of those people have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Pelosi has.

The person from that group who’s being floated as a potential replacement for Pelosi, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, is accused of being openly hostile to LGBTQ rights. Osita Nwanevu of the New Yorker: “The anti-Pelosi stuff in Congress is mostly backed by centrist & conservative Dems who want to cave to the right’s sexist & latently anti-LGBT messaging (‘San Francisco values’) against her.”

Do We Want to Be a Part of the 17?

One sure way of dampening the forward progressive movement of the Democrats in the House is to have open warfare amongst ourselves on leadership when the leader is already more progressive than the upper third of Democrats in the House and much of the 17. Such fighting will give rise to questioning of the ability of new and incumbent representatives to gain bi-partisan agreement in the House for passage of Democratic bills. If they can not agree amongst themselves without open warfare, then we have already lost even before the new session has started.

This is not the time to kick the most experienced Progressive House leader out the door. It is time to start grooming new and younger leadership who have returned to the House over the last decade. First term representatives should spend time learning the politics of the House, the Democrats and Republicans, and avoid the conflict being led by those to the right of Pelosi. Only two of the 17 have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Nancy Pelosi.

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